Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Marley & Me - Good Stuff

Read any good books or watched any good movies lately? I have, and in this instance they are one in the same. This past summer I saw on the table next to my mom's chair, a copy of the book "Marley & Me" by John Grogan. She said, "You should read it, it's really good." I don't think she could have been more right.

This isn't going to be a spoilers review, simply a recommendation, so feel free to read on.

In brief it's the story of a big, goofy yellow Labrador retriever and how through all his spastic behavior, finds a very special place in the hearts of the family that raises him. While I believe the book will appeal to a wide range of people, I have to say, if you currently do or ever have owned a dog, this is a must read!

A couple of months after I read the book it was announced that they were going to make it into a movie. Upon hearing this I was both excited and apprehensive. Excited because I enjoyed reading the book so much, I was really looking forward to seeing it played out on the big screen. Apprehensive because if was afraid Hollywood might butcher the novel like they seem so accustomed at doing.

Well, yesterday was the day to find out how they did. I honestly think they hit a home run this time around! Although there were some omissions and embellishments, I think they did a fantastic job of portraying Grogan's novel.

If you decide to go see the movie, and I hope you will, I must encourage you to bring some tissue and be prepared to use it! Don't worry though, there are plenty of laughs to be had as well.

Wishing you all a safe and happy new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Buy a Toy, Go to Jail . . . It's the Law!

About two weeks or so before Christmas we were cruising through the mall when the boys spotted a toy store. Naturally they wanted to check it out. This particular store was not one of the year round types you generally see. No, this was a seasonal toy store. This should have been enough reason to avoid it all together, but the boys curiosity overrode my common sense and we went in anyway.

The first part of the store had several remote control vehicles on display and quite o few of them were being demoed by the handful of employees present. One item immediately captured the attention of Anthony, a small foam bodied RC helicopter. The guy flying it seemed to be having a ball as he ran it through its paces. Up, down, side to side it went, following each of the commands issued by the controller. Anthony really lit up as he took in the flight in front of him.

Now, before I continue, there's something you should know about Anthony and helicopters. He absolutely loves them, and has his heart set on flying one someday. So much so is this passion, that he saved and saved and saved his money last summer until he could afford to buy a very sophisticated flight simulator for the computer. After talking to one of our neighbors who has and flies RC helicopters and further talking with the local hobby stores, he was encouraged to first master the simulator and then move on to the real thing. With a starting price of around$200 for a decent, non-toy, chopper and repairs of $20-$30+ when it crashes, Anthony realized the wisdom behind their suggestions. Since purchasing the simulator he's logged in well over a hundred hours and can fly a virtual helicopter quite well now. He is currently saving his money once again for his first "real" chopper this spring/summer.

Okay, back to the original story. The toy he saw being demoed sure looked like fun. It was small, lightweight and best of all, could be flown indoors safely. This was something that held a particular value when you consider we're in the middle of the long, wet northwest rainy season. Another nice feature to the toy is that it had a price tag of only $34.95 making it downright affordable. Heck, how could you go wrong?

I could see the gears turning inside Anthony's head as he was readying his big sales pitch, when I quickly suggested he consider putting this on his Christmas wish list. Rather than plead his case as to why we shouldn't leave the store without the prize in hand, he consented to do as I suggested. Personally, I think he knew that "Santa" would find it in his heart to bring the helicopter to him and as an added bonus, he would still have all the money he'd saved to put toward the real deal. Either that or he was just understanding and yielding to the wisdom of his dad. . . naaaaa, it was definitely the first one!

It all seemed to be working out quite nicely. Mom, (aka grandma to Anthony), was looking for one other thing to get for him and this was right in line with the budget. Perfect!

Fast forward to Christmas day. The great moment of unwrapping truth came and low and behold, there was a shinny new RC helicopter with Anthony's name on it. With a smile from ear to ear he eagerly removed it from its plastic packaging and went in search for the battery that it required. Thank goodness for a well stocked supply at moms house. With a pair of AA's in hand he opened the cover on the back of the controller to expose the battery slots. As he did this, part of the plastic hinge snapped, which meant once the batteries were installed, the cover would not be able to close. Something of an auspicious beginning we thought, but not the end of the world. A piece of tape would solve that little problem, and it did.

After a quick charge and a couple of adjustments to the controls, it was time for lift off. EUREKA it worked! Up and down it went as the ten year old pilot navigated it around the dining room nearly avoiding a crash landing into the pumpkin pie on the kitchen counter. Another couple of flights and he was buzzing his brothers head as the younger of the two flailed at it like Godzilla going after a Japanese zero. This would continue for what would become the very short life of this small propelled marvel. Less than two hours after opening the package, Anthony went to click the tiny blue on/off switch to the off position, and the danged thing sheared off, rendering the helicopter completely useless.

There sat a very dejected little boy. We fiddled with the thing for several minutes trying to figure out a way to make it work anyway, but there was no use, it was dead. He got the package it'd come in and carefully put it back so that we could return it the next day.

With receipt in hand we went back to the store and told them what had happened. The girl at the counter said, "Just a minute, I'll take it back to the technician to have him look at it." A moment later the "tech" (aka store manager) came out of the back room and said, "This thing has been abused, there's nothing I can do."

"What?!? abused? are you kidding me?" I replied.

This went on for the next several minutes while he told me that it had obviously been mistreated and he certainly wasn't going to exchange something that had been intentionally damaged. To say I was hot would be an understatement. Over and over again I told him how Anthony had done nothing other than try to operate the toy as normal and the cheap piece of crap had just broke. The more I argued, the more he dug in his heals and refused to budge. This is when my "Take no shit 101" training kicked into full gear. (thanks dad) I informed him that I was not going anywhere until he exchanged the toy or refunded my money. Our very heated debate continued and he finally said he would exchange it, but if I tried to bring it back again he would refuse to even talk to me, and there was no way in hell he would even consider another exchange!

This is when I, in no uncertain terms, told him exactly what I thought about his store policy and exactly where he could place his piece of crap helicopter! I also informed him that if he continued to give me any grief, that I would tell each and every one of his customers what a complete ass he was and how I had been treated. At this point he asked, "Do you want me to call security and have you arrested?"

"You want to have me arrested for telling the truth?" I replied, "You go right ahead and do that you @%*!$ " (Insert you favorite colorful metaphor here. I'm sure I used them all!) . At that point I turned around and proceeded to tell several of the customers in the store what they could expect if they bought anything and had a problem with it later. I then grabbed a replacement helicopter and informed him that I was taking it and leaving the original behind and if he wanted to call security he was more than welcome to do so. He grabbed a cell phone and started dialing as I walked out the door. It was obviously a bluff because no security guards came running after me.

Now, you want to know the real comical part of this whole thing is? The replacement helicopter didn't work either! Knowing I'd probably be serving time in Sing Sing for murder, Lisa took the second one back and was able to exchange it for some headphones and Matchbox cars.

I'm including a picture of the store front so that if you ever see it in your area you can avoid the unpleasantness of purchasing anything from it.

I currently have a call into the mall management office to tell them about my experience in hopes that they will take it into consideration for next year when these dirt bags try to set up shop again.

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's Over!

Okay, as promised, here's the recap on Christmas this year.

Thank God it's over!!!

Not necessarily the statement I utter forth each December 26th, but for this time it is absolutely an understatement. Let's see, where to begin. How about the weather we had. By itself, not bad. We ended up with about 18+ inches of snow on the ground. Cool right? It would have been except it meant my older brother Gene and his family weren't able to drive up from California. The mountain passes were socked in with the white stuff and the Portland area roads were an absolute mess with packed snow and ice. As a result, they made the wise decision to stay home and be safe rather than risk getting stuck somewhere along the way. We were pretty bummed, but all knew it was for the best. The up side to this part of the tale is that they might still get to come up here next week.

Next. . . On Christmas eve, my mom's furnace decided to stop working. Oh yeepee! Not that there's ever a good time for this to happen, but the day before she was expecting a whole house full of guests for Christmas dinner, was less than perfect timing. A couple of calls to some heater dudes resulted in a promise that at least one of them could come out, but not until the 26th. Probably just as well though, cause a service call on Christmas day would have cost several arms and legs. The good news part of this, is that mom has a wood stove in the living room and about a three year supply of wood out in the shed. My brother mark took it upon himself to be the official fire master and kept it going throughout the day yesterday. For some reason though, he kept feeding the damn thing like he was intent on making anyone within ten feet of it feel like they were on the outskirts of hell's inferno! I darn near broke a sweat just sitting in the living room. Well, the other good news is the repairman came out today and found a reset switch hidden from view that had been tripped with all the power outages.

This brings up the next little guffa. Mom's power kept going out for a few to several hours at a time. Can you feel the stress yet? We started to make contingent plans to shift the shindig over to our house, but decided at the last minute to chance it at mom's. Fortunately, the power remined on for the entire day. Whew!

The pesky cold that reared its ugly head a few days earlier, was in full swing by yesterday too. My throat felt like someone had walked all over it with a pair of golf cleats on and my head felt about three feet thick. Yep, I was a pretty happy camper. (riiiight)

But you know what? In spite of all the crap that happened on and around Christmas this year, I am still a very blessed man! From a God who loves me, to my wonderful family, to all of you, my dear friends. . . I am a rich man indeed. So, you may ask, "Did iI get what I wanted for Christmas this year?", and the answer to that would be yes, because what I asked for was love, and I got an abundance of that.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ho Ho Ho



If you happen by here today in between the various celebrations of the day, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of all the goings on around here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Snowin' In Them Thar Hills!

It looks like Santa delivered one present early this year, and I'm already thinking about re-gifting it too. As of Sunday, I'm the proud owner of the common cold. ICK!

So far it hasn't been the butt kicking variety, just the underlying pain in the backside type. Headache, stuffed-up, general blech feeling.

On a brighter note, the landscape around here is absolutely beautiful right now. We have about 18 inches of snow on the ground, which as you can imagine, has turned everything as far as the eye can see, white. There was one evening where we got about a half an inch of freezing rain on top of the first layer of snow. That part isn't too thrilling, as most of the tree branches are really, really heavy right now and some have even started to snap under all that weight. Outside of that it's been kind of fun.

This much snow in the Portland, OR area isn't nearly as common as it used to be. In fact, they said there hasn't been this much white stuff on the ground in forty years! It's made driving a bit interesting. Most people (myself included) aren't used to driving in this everyday during the winter months and the city and county infrastructure isn't set-up to handle these type of road conditions either. It makes since. . . why would they have an arsenal of snow removing equipment on hand for something that only happens on a small scale, every five years and to this degree, two or three times a century?

We're in a break today, so I'm going to head over to mom's later to dig out her driveway and take her to the store before she looses her mind from being cooped up for the past several days. Mark's two oldest girls and Gene's middle girl have been stuck there with her too, so I know cabin fever is in full swing over there. If I'm feeling really generous I might offer to take the girls up to the mall for the afternoon.

Did I just say, "Go to the mall?" Maybe I'm getting delirious from a fever. . . ya, that's it!

I'll likely snap some photos to share while I'm out and about today, but thought I'd leave you with one of the boys making snow angels in the back yard the other day.

For some reason, B & W just seemed right for this particular picture.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Return of Wordzzle

After taking the past two or three weeks off from the writing challenge known as Wordzzle, offered up by Raven of Views from the Ravens Nest, I finally found the motivation and a small spark of creativity to join in again. I wanted to participate the other weeks, but for some reason every time I looked at the words I came up blank.

Before we begin, here's a collage for your viewing pleasure. Break out your best Bing Crosby voice and feel free to hum a few bars. . .

♫"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas".♫

Our eight year old, Matthew, announced afterword that Santa was not real. When we asked why he wanted to go see him and tell him what he was wishing for, he replied, "Just in case." Ha. nothing like covering your bases!


Okay, on to Wordzzle

The words we had to work with:

The mini: software, lottery, newspaper, mailman, Ringo Starr's drum

The Ten Word: When pigs have wings, moonlight, mystery, tower of Babel, butterflies, bread and butter, beef barley soup, Charley horse, novelty, cold shoulder


The Mini
"A Prize in Every Box"

The software company Jason had ordered the latest version of Guitar Hero from, was running a lottery of sorts in the Sunday newspaper. The promotion was simple. The first five thousand people to place and order would be eligible to win one of Ringo Starr's drums, autographed no less. A week later, Jason was patiently waiting for the mailman to deliver his package with what he anticipated would contain the grand prize.


The Ten Word
"Soup to Win the Heart"

Nate hoped by winning the cooking competition at the Charlie Horse Café he might finally get recognized by Christine. "Ya, when pigs have wings," he thought, "anytime I try to speak to her, she just gives me the cold shoulder. It's as if I'm speaking directly from the tower of Babel!"

The butterflies continued to mount inside Nate's stomach as he served up his entry, beef barley soup with nine grain bread, and butter on the side. It was no mystery that the judges literally, ate it up! While the other contestants were trying to wow the panel of food critics with such novelties as Moonlight Meatless Minestrone and other culinary variations, Nate's simple down home style approach stole the show.

He was understandably pleased to win the first prize ribbon and new set of knives for his efforts, but what he was really thrilled about, was when Christine came up to him and asked if he might share his award winning recipe with her.

Friday, December 19, 2008

January POW Photos

Here are the photographs for our January Portrait of Words writing challenge. If you would like to see the guidelines for posting a story, please click here. The simplified version is as follows: Check out the pictures, interpret them and then write a story based on what you see and/or feel.

A very special thank you goes out to this month's sole contributor of the photographs, Dr John of Dr John's Fortress. Here's a copy of the email he sent to me last month:

Dear Jeff,

For a future time if you need a quick group here are mine. All the pictures are from my personal archive and are over 35 years old. They certainly can be used. Just in case you're busy.

Dr John

The age of these photos, which are scans from actual film, (remember those days before digital?) give them a much different look than the ones I typically pull off of Flickr. I figured they'd be fun to use and also wondered how their style might influence the stories this month. There is one photo of flowers that I almost subbed out because we had one of roses last month, but John was gracious enough to send a whole set to use and I wanted to honor that, so I kept it in. Thanks again John, it's appreciated.

If anyone else would ever like to have one or more of your photographs used, please feel free to email them to me and I'll do my best to include them.

Okay, here are the pics:

Pics without the graphic if you prefer to use them this way:

The fifteenth falls on a Thursday next month and with Christmas and New Years coming up, I've opted to set the posting date later rather than sooner. Therefore, January's stories will be due to be posted between Mon 19th - Wed 21st. Happy writing!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Bunch of Useless Information

I first saw this at Songbird's place and then over at Jay's. Thought I'd give it a go as well.

Sorry I can't give credit to the originator of it, because I'm not sure who that is. I'm also not tagging anyone, but if you'd like to bare your soul to a million or so of your closest friends, then by all means go for it.

It's called the Layer Meme, I have no idea why.


Layer One:
- Name: Jeff B
- Birth date: Yep, I have one of those, and it usually happens around the middle of March
- Birthplace: Right out of my mother's hoo ha, where did you think?
- Current Location: Near Portland, Oregon, USA, North America, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy
- Eye color: Hazel green . . . both of them
- Hair Color: Dark brown, but the gray is trying to get a foothold
- Height: √25' , 5+17/2"
- Righty or Lefty: Mostly right, but I can do a fair amount of things with my left too
- Zodiac sign: Is that thing still around? OK, Pisces

Layer Two:
- Your Heritage: Heinz 57 variety - Hungarian, German, Dutch and Irish mostly
- The shoes you wore today: Snow boots
- Your weakness: Chocolate chip ice cream
- Your fears: Balloons - The damn things freak me out!
- Your perfect pizza: Pesto with Italian sausage and mushrooms
- Goal you’d like to achieve: Having a story published or world peace, whichever comes first

Layer Three:
- Your most overused phrase on AIM: OK, you lost me there. AI what??
- Your best physical feature: Why didn't you ask me this twenty years ago?
- Your most missed memory: Is this some sort of Alzheimer question?

Layer Four:
- Pepsi or Coke: Pepsi, because they make Dr Pepper
- McDonald's or Burger King: This is supposed to be a choice?
- Single or group dates: Sure
- Adidas or Nike: Being a good Portlander, I suppose I should say NIKE
- Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Lipton with a slice of lemon and some sugar please
- Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate, the darker the better
- Cappuccino or coffee: I'm good with plain coffee

Layer Five:
- Smoke: Nope
- Cuss: Asshole! (oops, this was supposed to be a question not a request wasn't it?)
- Sing: Be happy to as long as it isn't "The sound of Music"
- Take a shower everyday: Are you kidding me? Have you checked the price of soap lately?
- Do you think you’ve been in love: Yes - twice
- Want to go to college: Only to watch a football game
- Liked high school: It bored the tears out of me
- Want to get married: Already am
- Believe in yourself: Absolutely
- Get motion sickness: Put me in a small boat in a rough ocean and I'll chum the water
- Think you’re attractive: Better off than The Elephant Man, but far from a model
- Think you’re a health freak: Remember the what's your weakness question
- Get along with your parents: A great big YES!
- Like thunderstorms: Compared to earthquakes I love them
- Play an instrument: Is the radio an instrument?

Layer Six: (In the past six months)
- Drank alcohol: Nope
- Smoked: We did have some pretty hot sex that one night, otherwise no
- Done drugs: Nope
- Made out: Made out of what?
- Gone on a date: Yes - That's right, married people do that too, just with the same person each time
- Gone to the mall: Yep, kicking and screaming
- Eaten an entire box of Oreos: A half dozen perhaps, but I doubt a whole box
- Eaten sushi: Yes, Yummm
- Been on stage: Wow, no
- Been dumped: No, but I've taken quite a few of them
- Gone skating: Only on thin ice with a few of my comments
- Made homemade cookies: No, but that's about to change in the next couple of days
- Gone skinny dipping: I'm sure you will all thank me when I say no
- Dyed your hair: No, but I think a few of my hairs have died
- Stolen anything: Just my wife's heart (are you throwing up yet?)

Layer Seven: Have you ever. . .
- Played a game that required removal of clothing: Yes, but it's been quite a while
- Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Isn't that the same thing?
- Been caught “doing something”: Never been the catch-e, but have been the catch-er
- Been called a tease: Are you kidding me?
- Gotten beat up: Ah yes, the joys of being a minority in a southern California grade school
- Shoplifted: I respectfully request to take the fifth amendment at this time
- Changed who you were to fit in: I don't know about changed, but I have adapted to situations

Layer Eight:
- Age you hope to be married: Until the ripe old age of dead
- Names of children: Billy-Bob, Betty-Sue, Gertrude and Hildagard (Oh, you meant my kids . .)
- Describe your dream wedding: Small church, lots of good friends and a big party afterwords
- Where do you want to go to college: I think "Where do I want my kids to go to college?" would be a more appropriate question
- What do you want to be when you grow up: Independently wealthy!
- What country would you most like to visit: Japan

Layer Nine:
- Number of drugs taken illegally: Just one, but I never inhaled!
- Number of people I could trust with my life: I just counted a half dozen without even trying
- Number of CD’s that I own: One more than I did last week thanks to Bond
- Number of piercings: Zippo
- Number of tattoos: Nadda
- Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper: A couple
- Number of scars on my body: Three
- Number of things in my past I regret: Quite a few and none - all at the same time

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Portrait of Words #4

Hey, it's that time again. Time to share some stories with one another through our monthly writing challenge.

For anyone new, here is a quick run down on how it works. Each month I supply a variety of photographs along with corresponding categories for them. (Main Character, Backdrop, Purpose, Item and Wild Card) From these five prompts, we weave stories as our imagination dictates. If you'd like the full blown details please click here. For all of this month's current photos, please click here.

If you're considering joining us...please do! Everyone is welcome to participate.

If you have a story to post this month be sure to sign in on the link box at the bottom of this post. If you're just along for the reading, great! Hope you enjoy my offering, and please do go by and check out what the others have put together.


"A Rose By Any Other Name"

"No more Bets!" called out the dealer waving her had across the table.

Albert watched as the small white marble started the first of its numerous revolutions around the roulette wheel. A few moments later the shinny orb began its descent toward the center engaging in a feverish dance with the red and black numbers while barely noticing the two opposing green ones. Eventually it would come to rest on the number 21. Not only was it odd, but it was also red, which meant Albert's two bets of one and two hundred dollars respectively would give him an additional three hundred in winnings.

Another glance at the watch strapped around his left wrist showed it was five minutes ahead of 6:00pm.

"Any minute now." he thought to himself.

He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small cloth handkerchief to blot the sweat from his forehead. Although the air conditioning kept the casino at a constant sixty-eight degrees regardless of how much heat or humidity was outside, Albert found himself needing to pat his head down every couple of minutes anyway. You'd have thought he was sitting in the middle of a sauna rather than the on the gaming floor of a luxury Atlantic City hotel.

"Congratulations Sir. " the dealer announced as she slid another small pile of chips in front of him. Albert however, didn't seem to notice. "Sir . . . are you alright?" The young woman behind the table inquired.

The old man seemed, at the vary least, flustered. When he looked up he realized the pit boss was heading his way and the play at the table had momentarily stopped. Gathering his composure, he assured the dealer that he was fine. Probably just needed to take a break for a while and perhaps get a bite to eat, he'd tell her. The pit boss seemed to be satisfied that everything was under control and continued his rounds about the floor. Albert slid a his colored chips into the center and asked to be cashed out. The dealer counted out just short of a couple thousand dollars in house chips and told him he could take them to any of the cashiers if he liked or preferably he could hold onto them and come back after dinner to try his luck again. He thanked her, left a couple of twenty-five dollar chips behind as a tip and was on his way.

Rather than heading for one of the many restaurants in the casino, Albert made his way toward the elevators and up to his room. After a brief struggle between the electronic lock and key, he managed to open the door and slip into the room. His eyes immediately shot in the direction of the nightstand where a blinking light indicated there was a message waiting for him. A rush of both exhilaration and apprehension washed over his body as he sat at the edge of the bed and pressed the play button. Nervously he waited for the words. When they came, only two were spoken.

He heard a low raspy voice say, "It's done." (CLICK)

In that instant he knew his most recent wife would be a burden to him no more. Never again would he have to listen to her incessant complaining about every little thing he either did or did not do. Best of all, he and Leena, the woman he'd begun seeing on the side, would be free to live out their affair without fear of discovery.

Albert lay back on the predictably firm hotel mattress, tucked one of the under stuffed pillows behind his head and retraced the plans he and his mistress had concocted. It really was quite brilliant he felt. While he was several hundred miles away, his wife Rose would be at home as she was every Saturday evening. Ironically, she would be waiting for Leena to come by. You see, for the past several months, Leena had taken up the self appointed responsibility of bringing her upstairs neighbors a care package each week. Among other things, it would always include the evening edition of the Palm Beach Tribune and a small bag of dark chocolate peanut clusters, Albert's favorite. Rose always thought it curious that an attractive, unattached woman like Leena, who could easily fill her weekend evenings with much more lively entertainment, would choose to spend one of those nights with the two of them. What Rose didn't know was that some of Leena's lively entertainment did actually take place at the apartment building, but it was typically on Sunday afternoons while Rose was at her weekly bridge game and Albert was doing his own "neighborly business" downstairs.

Well, the plan went something like this: Albert had met up and contracted with a friend of a friend he'd met during his union days with the steel workers local 542. This particular "friend" was known by a select few to provide favors for a certain level of compensation. The favor Albert was seeking would come to the tune of twenty-five grand. As per their agreement, the first fifteen (in cash of course) had already been paid. The remaining ten would be neatly tucked away in an envelope, top drawer of the bedside table at the couples downtown apartment. The friend known only as Tony would go to the apartment at 6:00pm on the appointed night. Once he had completed the job, he would go to the bedroom and acquire the second envelope. At this point, he and Albert's obligations to one another would be complete. A few minutes later, at around 6:15 pm, Leena would drop-in for her weekly visit only to find Rose crumpled on the floor with a blow to the back of her head. Leena would then call the police with a tale of tragedy she'd happened to discover. The police would arrive on the scene, start to investigate the murder and eventually inquire as to the whereabouts of the late Rose's husband Albert. Leena, in the most distraught voice she could muster, would tell the cops that he was up in Jersey on a weekend getaway. They would track down the casino's name and phone number he'd left behind with Rose in case she needed to get a hold of him. They would call with the terrible news. He would be devastated and say he would hop on the next plane back home. An in depth investigation would ensue, but no one would ever be caught or even charged in what the police would dismiss as a random burglary gone terribly wrong.

A smile worked its way across Albert's face as he thought about how perfect his plan was, and now that everything seemed to be falling into place, he decided to stretch out and take a short nap. About an hour later he awoke from some of the most peaceful sleep he'd had in the past four years. He figured he'd hit the shower, maybe grab a quick bite to eat, then hit the tables again before his big acting debut began.

The steaming hot shower was every bit as refreshing as he'd hoped for. Trading in his shorts and flower print shirt for a bit more sophisticated evening attire, Albert was just about ready to greet the town with a new spring in his step. He was nearly out the door when he realized he'd forgotten his wallet. He walked over to the bed stand to grab it when he noticed the light on the phone was blinking again. Apparently another message had come in while he was in the shower.

"That's odd," he said out loud, "I assumed it would take them a while longer to call with the news."

For a moment he thought about ignoring it and listening to it later, but then he figured "what would it matter?" He could listen to it now and then go out claiming he hadn't heard it until later in the evening when he returned.

He hit play and waited for the Palm Beach Police to tell him there had been an accident and to return their call immediately. What he heard however, caused him to instantly buckle at the knees. Instead of the police leaving him a message, it was Rose's voice, and she was panicked!

Through uncontrollable sobs she cried out on the recording, "Oh my god Al, please be there. Pick-up honey . . . It's Leena . . . she's . . . she's dead!"

She went on to tell him that her sister had unexpectedly come to town and taken her out to dinner. She continued telling him, "I knew Leena would be coming over around six, so we tried to get back home, but we were just a little bit late. When we got here, we found her on the floor of our apartment. Oh my god . . . Albert, please pick-up!"

Rose sobbed through a couple more comments that were barely recognizable, but what she said next pierced Albert's ears like a dagger through his heart. "The police found a note in her pocket that had the phone number of the hotel you're staying at . . . Why would she have that number? . . . Oh Albert, please call me!"

By now Albert was shaking as he sat on the edge of the bed taking it all in. His house of cards was crumbling right before his very eyes (or was that ears?). Of all the days for Rose's sister to come for a visit, why did it have to be this one? It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Then he realized if the cops had found a note with his phone number on it, in a dead woman's pocket, they were sure to be coming with questions he wouldn't want to answer.

His mind was reeling, and he was already formulating an escape plan when he heard, "KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK, Mr Montgomery, Atlantic City P D, may we have a word?"


Please consider joining us next month. I'll have the pictures for the next one up on Friday 12/19. Hope to see you there!

(Thank you in advance to Dr John for January's photographs)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Music To My Ears

Time to share the love.

Some of you are frequent visitors of a fellow blogger from New York by way of Memphis. Whether you call him Vinny, Vincent, Bond or (_______) matters not, I like to call him cool. Others of you may not have had the pleasure of getting to know the master of music. Hopefully those of you in the second group will take a moment to go by and say hello. I'm pretty sure you'll be glad you did.

A couple of weeks ago I was catching one of his regular post called "New Music Monday" in which he puts up a couple of songs off one or two CD's he's received for review. He then asks those that are interested to give them a listen and give any feedback that comes to mind. If you like what you hear, you're invited to put your name in the hat for a chance to win said CD. Now how cool is that?

Well, this particular Monday one of the artists being reviewed was Kelly Richey. Apparently she and her band have been getting some pretty glowing press coverage of late. I admittedly, have been living in a musical bubble for quite sometime now and had never heard of her before. The good part of this I suppose, is that I wasn't influenced by anything I'd previously heard. (press wise that is)

Instead I turned on the speakers and sat back taking in some great guitar work and equally quality vocals to go along with it. I left my two cents worth of musical praise and let Vinny know I'd be happy to get a copy of her CD should it make its way across the country to the Pacific northwest. Well, guess what? My name was drawn and the CD was on its way to my mail box.

A couple days later an envelope from the Couch Tunage (AKA Bond's Big Leather Couch) was waiting for me. Now, new music is always a treat, but free new music is even better! I opened the envelope and promptly placed the CD into the player in my truck. BTW- Check out the nice personalized CD sleeve Vinny included. (top of the picture)

After giving it a thorough listening, I'd give Richey a 8 out of 10. Good solid rock and roll with a hint of the blues weaved into the music. I can't say that if I were stranded on an island with only one CD to listen to for the rest of my days that this would be the one, but it will still keep a permante place in my collection.

If you're interested in checking out more about Kelly Richey you can visit her website: www.kellyrichey.com

Thanks again for the tunage Mr Bond.

If you'd like to broaden your musical horizons do go and stop by Bond's Big Leather Couch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Still Kicking

Thought I'd let you all know I haven't fallen off the edge of the planet. For some reason I've been in a very uninspired writing mood of late. No catastrophic life events or any such thing, just sort of a weird word funk. There have been numerous times of sitting down with a pen and a tablet with nothing to show for the effort. A few sentences hit the page and then I find myself looking out into space wondering what else to write. Arrrrgh!!

Heck, I've even been looking for a good meme to participate in. Now that's desperate!

The good news is a few projects around the house that have been needing to get done for a while have been completed. (insert a hurray from Lisa here)

I know the writing woes will pass; I went through this same void a long while back, but it is still frustrating in the mean time.

This month's Portrait of Words writing challenge stories are due to be posted starting Monday the 15th. Being that I'm the host of this little event, I better find inspiration quickly! No worries, with the next couple of days off, something will jive.

OK, enough rambling for now. Something of more substance to follow soon. . .


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Juss Chillin

You've probably noticed that I haven't been posting much this past week. That's because I've be kicking back and hanging out with the family. Work was quite and the boys have had the whole week off school, so it's been fun to spend a bunch of time with them.

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun. We had thirteen in total over for dinner this year, and opted for a completely non-tradition menu for a change. Grilled salmon, Caesar salad, Steamed green beans w/ garlic and balsamic, Shrimp cocktail, Twice baked - crab stuffed potatoes, and French onion soup.

Heading over to psycho mom's later today for a turkey dinner. . . yum.

Anyhoo, the picture below should pretty much sum-up the level of stress I've been experiencing this past week. You'll notice I'm kicked back visiting with a good friend up from California, Sally with a nice big smile on my face. Ya, these are the kind of weeks that are a nice change from the normal run, run, run that happens around here.

Hope you've all had a great week too. I'm sure I'll be back to blogging again next week and catching up with you. I had a post tugging at me in regard to the Black Friday chaos that happened in NY, but I decided to either not do it or just postpone it till the weekend was over.

Take care, and talk to you soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is It Done Yet?

This year we've opted for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, partly because my brother Mark's (not the blogging one) oldest girls will be here, and they have decided that eating meat, among other things, is like inviting Satan himself over for a Christmas party. Also, if they don't like a particular food, which is more common than not, they claim to be allergic to it. . . how utterly convenient.! Well, that's all fine I suppose, because they really are good kids, just picky eaters is all.

OK, so I did say that was part of the reason. The other part is probably some sort of repressed fear of cooking another turkey for a large group of people. Strange you say? Strange indeed, so let me explain.

Come back with me nearly twenty years ago if you will. At the time I was in the restaurant biz working as a chef. Needless to say, the family was expecting great things. Heck, even I was expecting some pretty good results. Not because I was some sort of super-stud, know all culinary master, but after a dozen plus years working in commercial kitchens, how hard could a turkey dinner for 10-15 people be?

On the surface everything seemed to be going according to plan. I had safely defrosted the turkey in the refrigerator a few days ahead of time, all the necessary shopping was finished, and I even had all the pre-meal preparations well under control.

In the true spirit of cooking a big Thanksgiving meal, I got up two hours before I went to bed so I'd have plenty of time to get everything set. Snag number one. My dear sweet grandmother "G.G." was already awake and she was getting started on making the stuffing. It was something she'd done for the past seventy years and there was no way on God's green earth I was going to keep her out of the kitchen this day!

In the big picture, this was perfectly fine. I mean this woman could cook the entire meal blindfolded with one arm tied behind her back and it would have turned out fantastic. She truly was one heck of a great cook. In the little picture though, her age had caused her to slow down a bit. Fact is, had she have done the whole thing that year, that Thanksgiving meal would have been the best Christmas dinner we ever had!

So I bit my tongue and let her continue to put the stuffing together while I zipped around the kitchen getting the other things started. Eventually we got the bird stuffed and into the oven, and not too far from target time I had originally intended. The rest of the morning as I recall was relatively uneventful, just general futzing around getting potatoes peeled, casseroles made and the such.


Fast forward to later that afternoon. The table was set, the house was filled with the wonderful aroma of a roasted bird with all the trimmings and the guests were all assembled. The appointed hour had finally come. Chef Jeff's first holiday meal was about to begin.

We gathered round in a big circle and said a word of thanks for the meal we were about to enjoy, then took our seats in hungry anticipation. We started off with our family tradition of shrimp cocktail. It was, as it had been for years and years, fantastic. (side note- This was the one thing I did not make, so I'm not tooting my own horn here) As we finished up our appetizer, everyone, except Gene I'm sure, was saying how wonderful everything looked and smelled. Yes, I was quite smitten with myself at that point.

Ah, the moment we'd all been waiting for had arrived. Time to carve the beautiful golden brown ostrich sized bird that was resting in the center of the table. With a twinkle in my eye, I grabbed the two tinned fork in one hand and the carving knife in the other. Slowly I drew the blade across the plump breast making the first slice. Then it happened, the painful truth became instantly clear that everything was cooked and ready to eat except the severely undercooked bird in front of me!

I swear we all heard that damn bird let out a gobble right then and there. The only thing that surprised me, is that it didn't start flapping its wings and make a couple loops around the living room.

All that puffed up pride of making such a wonderful dinner was gone in an instant. As you can imagine I was completely mortified. Here the great chef had cooked. . . well. . . not cooked the main course! At that point, the only thing more red than my face, was the blood that was still running from the bird. Arrrgh!!!

I remember shoving the bird back in the oven and stomping off in a huff, with my mom trying to console me, saying there were plenty of other things to eat and that it would be fine. She was right of course, but at the time there was no way I was buying it. Eventually the turkey did get cooked trough and as I recall it was one of the juiciest desserts we've ever had.


Well, there you go. The story of my first attempt at Thanksgiving dinner. It certainly was a memorable one, that's for sure. So what am I thankful for this year? I'm thankful that God has given me a sense of humor so that I can look back on that day and laugh at it now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stories, Sotries, Stories

Yes, you may have noticed that I've taken to writing more stories on this blog than anything else. I've really found this world of fiction quite a lot of fun. I will try to remember to mix it up a bit for those seeking more of a grab bag type of site, but for today. . . you guessed it a couple more stories.

A quick sidebar: The new Portrait of Words pictures for December are posted. You can scroll down the the next post to see them or simply click on the link in my sidebar if you like.

OK, time for this week's addition of Wordzzles. Raven started out by giving us one set of words to use and then realized some or all were reruns. By the time she gave us a new list, I'd already written the "Ten Word" story for the first set. What does all this mean? This week I have two "Ten Word" offerings and one "Mini" all with different words. Confused yet? If so, just breath in and out a couple of times and enjoy the following:


Ten Word (group one): moisturizing, pickles, seat belt, flip-flop, Chicago, allergies, doctor, ready or not here I come, computer programmer, dog biscuit

"Take Two Aspirin and Call Me in the Morning"

Doctor Flip-Flop was the allergies specialist at Chicago's Mercy Hospital. In his ten years on staff he'd seen nearly everything from reactionary chemicals in moisturizing creams, to severe repercussions from eating tainted pickles. He'd even had one little boy who'd nearly died after wolfing down and entire box of "Beagle Bites" dog biscuits. Today was a new one though. The receptionist paged him and said a computer programmer had come in with a bad case of hives that had apparently been brought on by the material used in the seat belts of his new SUV. "Ready or not, here I come!" he announced.


The Mini: canary yellow, grizzly bear, out of the frying pan and into the fire, simpleton, Ministry of Crazy Walks

This nature walk put on by "The Ministry of Crazy Walks" was like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire! The simpleton who had set it up told everyone to dress in bright canary yellow. Little did they know, it was the only color that would actually attract grizzly bears!


The Ten Word (group two): pipe organ, ravages of time, lottery tickets, angelic music, five x five, boxes of books, flattery will get you nowhere, yodeling, pig tails, knitting needles
"Pin Drop"

The ravages of time had obviously not been kind to her. In fact, it looked like someone had slipped two big boxes of books into the back of her drawers. Yep, she was your basic five x five woman; Five feet tall and five feet wide! The pig tails and Viking helmet she wore definitely did not help either. Everybody in the audience held their collective breath as she prepared to lower her caboose onto the flimsy little bench in front of the pipe organ.

"You look so much better than that honey." one husband whispered to his wife.

"Your left handed attempt at flattery will get you nowhere with me mister!" she shot back.

Meanwhile, as the bench slowly disappeared beneath the woman on stage you could feel the tension in the crowd mount.

Another man quietly told his wife, "I'll bet I could sell lottery tickets to see how long that baby's gonna hold!"

This garnered only a swift jab from his wife's elbow.

Much to everyone's surprise, not only did the bench remain in tact, but she began to play the most beautiful angelic music they had ever heard. It was absolutely mesmerizing in its quality. Then, just as the audience was being lulled into a melodic trance, for some reason unbenounced to them, the woman on stage began yodeling in the most irritating high pitched voice imaginable. The sound was like having knitting needles inserted directly into the ear drums! Everyone in the congregation sat motionless in shocked disbelief during the next three minutes as she continued. When she finally finished, a rather half hearted applause came from just a smatering of the people.

Without missing a beat, the woman got up, turned and bowed. As she raised back up, the pastor walked up behind her and unzipped the latex "fat suit" she was wearing. The entire congregation gasped as the suit was peeled away and they realized this woman was really the quite petite worship leader who generally led them in their Sunday morning praise songs.

She bowed again and the pastor began his sermon, "Today our message will be about having a critical heart and passing judgement on others. . . "

You coud have heard a pin drop!


Hope you have a great weekend all.

December POW Photos

Time for the photographs for our December Portrait of Words. If you would like all the details for this writing challenge please click here. The simplified version is as follows: Check out the pictures, interpret them and then write a story based on what you see and/or feel.

The November addition of this writing challenge saw some new faces join in and a few more that expressed interest in doing it this coming month. A special thank you to all who have participated so far, Whether you're a writer or a reader, you all make a difference.


I perused the creative commons section of Flickr yesterday and came up with our next batch of photos to work from. Below you will find the names (as they appear in Flickr) of the contributing photographers.

FYI, I obtain the photos from the "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License" section. Flickr's definition of these terms are as follows:

AttributionAttribution means:
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work - and derivative works based upon it - but only if they give you credit.

NoncommercialNoncommercial means:
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work - and derivative works based upon it - but for noncommercial purposes only.

Share Alike Share Alike means:
You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license the governs your work.

In a nut shell. . . use them, give credit where credit is due and don't use them for monetary gain.

Just thought you might want to know we aren't abusing any copyright laws through all of this.


Photo Credits:
(From Flickr.com/creative commons, unless otherwise noted)

Main Character- Bill Adams
Backdrop- clry2
Purpose- Olivander
Item- Shawn Econo
Wild Card #1- Old Shoe Woman
Wild Card #2- Dave77459
Wild card #3- magnuscanis


I decided this month to start including each picture independent of the graphic. Hopefully this will make it easier for those of you that choose to include them within the text of your story. This should save you the step of having to crop them out of the graphic.

This month's stories will due to be posted between December 15-17

Now go put on those thinking caps and get busy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seasonal Haiku

With Thanksgiving a week away and Christmas just around the corner I turn my thoughts to a few Haiku.

When you have turkey,
remember to cook it well
Salmonella kills

Christmas lights are up
Presents are under the tree

Happy Hanukkah
Time to light the last candle
Don't burn your finger

Big expensive gifts
Spend more money than you have
Retailers don't care

Two thousand years past
Jesus came to save the world
Original gift

Time with the family
Crammed into one tiny house
God I need a drink!

When you greet someone
why say happy holidays?
Try Merry Christmas

"Hi, Merry Christmas!"
"Don't bother me with that stuff."
You've been bah humbugged

Snowmen live outside
wearing no pants or undies
Frosty's cold snowballs

Let this season bring
Joy, Peace, Love and Happiness
Warm wishes to you

Mistletoe above
Passionate kisses below
How I love my wife

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Portrait of Words #3

Here we are in the third month of this writing challenge already. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to those that have participated by sharing a story or two and equally to those who encourage us by reading what we've come up with. I appreciate each and every one of you!

For anyone new, here is a quick run down on how it works. I supply a variety of photographs along with corresponding categories for them. (Main Character, Backdrop, Purpose, Item and Wild Card) From these five prompts, we weave stories as our imagination dictates. If you'd like the full blown details please click here. For all of this month's current photos, please click here.

If you're considering joining us...please do! Everyone is welcome to participate.


"Love at First Sight"

Neither of them had considered using a computer dating service before, but it seemed to be going well so far. After a few emails and a couple of phone calls, Pam and Johnathan decided it was time to meet in person. Their previous discussions had revealed,among other things, that each had been married before; Pam to a dirt bag lawyer who'd decided his new legal assistant had more to offer him than his wife of twenty-three years, and Johnathan to his high school sweetheart who'd been tragically killed in a car accident about three years earlier.

Both had admittedly filled out their online applications with a bit of apprehension, and in fact, had it not have been for their children, they probably would have never gone through with it. Pam's daughter, who herself was now married, assured her mother that not all men were as despicable as her father was and she should look for someone who would treat her with the respect she deserved. She also convinced her mom that online dating had lost its astigmatism of a desperate attempt of finding love. It really had become a legitimate way for busy people to connect with others. Pam wasn't sure she completely believed her daughter, but she was at least willing to give it a go.

Johnathan's two daughters had also encouraged him to go online, but from a slightly different angle. They both knew after three years of being alone, it was time for him to find someone to share his life with again. He had been introduced to a couple of ladies in the past two months, but had never really hit it off with any of them. He chalked it up to good intentions by mutual friends with poor results. There just didn't seem to be much spark in him these days, but with his girls blessings, maybe things would be different now.

The "date", as it were, was set. Both of them loved their coffee and decided getting together at the local roasters called the 'Java Hut' would be a safe bet. Johnathan was the first to arrive. He found a couple of chairs and a small table in the corner with a good view of the door. A few minutes later an attractive woman in a long sleeve blue shirt and shoulder length blond hair walked in. There was no question that this is who he was waiting for. As he got up to greet her, Pam spotted him. This was a good first sign they both thought, at least they each looked like the pictures from their profiles online.

After introducing themselves, Johnathan asked, "Shall we get something to drink? A vanilla laté if I remember correctly right?"

Impressed that he'd been paying attention during their previous conversations, she replied, "Sounds goo to me . . . with 2% milk though, I'm trying to watch my figure."

"I don't think you have anything to worry about." he returned. Then he thought to himself, "Good lord Johnathan you idiot, why don't you just look at her ass while you say that!"

Fortunately she understood it for the compliment that it was and just thanked him with a pleasant smile.

They gathered up their coffees and sat at the table Johnathan had reserved earlier. They instantly hit it off and before they realized it, an hour had gone by consumed completely by conversation and the occasional laughter. When their talk took a more serious turn, to their previous spouses, Johnathan suggested they move their conversation to the pathway that meandered through Winchester Park. Pam agreed and off they went.

The calm and peaceful stroll around the lake was a much better choice for the direction the conversation had gone. As uncomfortable as the topic might have started out, it was surprisingly refreshing for each of them to be able to talk with someone else who had experienced first hand, the pain of loss. What really struck them was the candidness with which each one spoke. Although they'd just met, it seemed as if they'd known each other for months. Another hour passed in what felt like a minute. Was it possible that they were really this compatible?

Pam suggested if Johnathan was game, they grab some lunch together.

"I'd love to." he said, "In fact, I know a great place out on the coast if you're up for a little drive?"

"Hmmmm. . . let me check my busy social calendar." she quipped. With a mock look at her watch, she continued, "Hey, look at that. . . looks like I'm free!"

"Great! To the coast we go," he energetically replied.

They opted to take Johnathan's car. It was a exquisite mint-green, luxury-class convertible Mercedes, and with the beautiful weather outside, it just begged to be driven with the top down. Pam was more than relieved they wouldn't be relying on her Ford Taurus to get them there. A trip across town was risky enough, but an excursion all the way to the coast could easily turn out to be a one way trip for it and for them.

About two hours later they pulled into the parking lot at the Sea Cliff Inn. As the name would imply, the views of the Pacific from the restaurant and luxury hotel were stunning to say the least. It was situated about a hundred feet above the pounding surf on a rocky bluff which provided a panoramic shot from the north to the south. They each ordered a glass of chardonnay from the bar and decided to walk out onto the sun deck and wait for a table to open up. The sound of the crashing waves below, mixed with the taste of the crisp salt air enlivened their senses even more. A moment later a young lady approached them and announced their table was available.

The clam chowder was out of this world! It was quite possible the best Pam had ever tried. Of course the ambiance of the restaurant and the company she was keeping could have easily influenced her decision as well. About halfway through the main course, Johnathan noticed Pam starring out the large window next to them.

"Hello. . . anybody in there? . . " he lightheartedly asked.

"Oh sorry," she replied, "I was just lost in thought."

"About what?"

"Oh, I don't know if I should say. It might come off as too forward or too sappy."

"Come on, I can take it. . . try me," he insisted.

Taking another sip of her wine to buy a moment, she started in, "See those clouds outside?"


"I couldn't help but think about the image they formed. If you look closely, you'll see two hands coming together to form a sphere in the middle. Now I know we've only shared one day together, but what I see in those clouds, and our short time with each other, is two lives coming together and forming something special between them."

"Wow!" Was all Johnathan was able to muster.

"See, I knew I shouldn't have said it out loud."

Interrupting her, he said, "no no no, not at all. I feel very much the same way about you too. I was afraid of saying anything too early for fear of jinxing it or that you wouldn't feel the same."

A sense of relief washed over both of them.

It wasn't more than a half dozen steps outside of the restaurant when they simultaneously turned to each other. Without a word being spoken they embraced in a long passionate kiss. It was love at first sight and they both knew it.


Now of you're thinking, "hmmm, this looks like a fun writing challenge." Please consider joining us next month. I'll have the pictures for the next one up on Friday 11/21. Hope to see you there!

Looks like the Mr Linky site is having outage problems again today. As a result the sign in link box may not be available. I'll type in everyone's link so you can find the other writers.

Maggie May
Dr John
B Roan
Betty Gram
Strawberry Jam Anne