Sunday, December 31, 2017

Pub Chatter #132



     Homeless animals outnumber homeless people 5 to 1. Shelters take in between 6,000,000 and 8,000,000 dogs and cats every year. Still, it’s not enough. Another 2,700,000  throw away innocent pets are euthanized because there is no room for them in the inn. The Washington Post and the University Of Mississippi pooh-pooh these numbers. They say only 750,000 dogs are euthanized annually. Imagine that, only 750,000! This is an absolute disgrace.

    Ignorance is an unavoidable thing, no one knows everything. But, willful ignorance is a chosen evil. This pet problem can be solved. People are simply unwilling to solve it. Have your pet spayed or neutered. Bob Barker has been telling America that for decades. It’s a simple message but people won’t listen.

     If you wish to be a licensed breeder, learn what the hell you're doing and be a responsible one. If you can’t put in the time, get your pet spayed or neutered. There are free and low-cost programs available that are discoverable with a minimal search. There really is no valid excuse for not choosing one of these options. Spay and neuter programs are like hand washing in health care. They are the #1 way to prevent problems, but not the only ones.

     Consider being a foster parent to a homeless animal. Shelters provide the food and health care for the animals they send to foster homes so there is no monetary cost. It does require love and caring. Adoption is a great idea, but more difficult to do and some shelters make ridiculous demands on prospective parents.

     Shelter dogs are every bit as loving and loyal as those who cost hundreds of dollars. Some breeders won’t like what I’m about to say but designer dogs, cockapoos, goldendoodles, chiweenies, etc...are simply the mutts of yesterday. I hear people say, “I don’t want a shelter dog because I don’t know what I’m getting.” Seriously? You mean you know in advance how that puppy is going to behave? May I remind you shelter dogs were once adorable little puppies. It’s astounding how many Christmas puppies become June’s shelter dogs.

    When you do decide to get a dog, have an idea of what you are getting. A high energy dog will not do well living in a tiny apartment unless you plan on spending a lot of time outside with him. Is shedding a problem for you? Better study. Puppies poop, pee, and chew---consider an older dog if that will inconvenience you. In my opinion dogs, like wine and people, get better with age. Will the dog you want be a good fit for children? Know before tragedy strikes.
     If you do end up with an unexpected litter of dogs, whether you sell them or give them away, beware. Free puppies can end up as bait dogs for dog fighters; a fate worse than death in a crowded shelter. Letting your dog run free is asking for all kinds of trouble all with adverse consequences for the pet.

    We have three dogs that lounge around the Raven and Owl. All spayed and neutered; old and young, long hair and short hair, 2 boys and a girl, each with its own personality and temperament. They all have one thing in common; they are the most loving beings anyone will ever meet. No matter how the day has gone, they meet me with joy and wildly wagging tails---well, not Hydee she doesn’t have much of a tail, she just shakes what she has.

     “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Monday, December 25, 2017

Pub Chatter #131. Christmas Light ----And Dark

The Light Side of Christmas


Soft blanket of white,
Spread o’er our night.
Where trees all aglow     
Let every heart know

The heavenly host sings
Of Peace that He brings
A child from above,
God’s gift of love.

Stars shining bright,
On this holy night.
Tell us again
Of good will to men.

Warmed by the fire,
And songs by a choir,
Fill now our hearts,
With love He imparts.

Love and laughter ring
Glad tidings of a king
A tiny homeless stranger,
Born into a manger.






 The Dark Side of Christmas


Christmas season is the reason
For lights aglow o’er ribbon and bow.
Dare remember this December,
The lost and alone without a home

All is not light, not all is bright
Cupboards lay bare, no joy to share
Where fathers sigh and mothers cry
Send a sign to me and mine.

Beneath the light just out of sight,
Masked by the dark, so cold and stark,
Tears flow bittersweet on the street
Tears none know or see them flow.

Shelters plenty, homes, not any
Forgotten roam, their sidewalk home
Clothes are worn, hope is torn
No Christmas cheer this year.

Step from the light into the night
Brave cold with love grown bold
Extend a hand to every man.

Too many fall to help them all
So for the Son, help one.
Give your heart, make a start


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pub Chatter #130



     We at the Raven and Owl wish to extend seasons greetings to all. However you celebrate, let it be with love. We usually find out too late that life is short and fragile. Each year at this season we are touched with a desire for love, peace, and kindness to our fellow man. Soon we will mourn the season’s passing into a new year of challenges. But, while the season is here, live it to the fullest. Like the trees, cast off the dying leaves of the past and concentrate on the new life being forged in the cold.

     Let us love one another, if only for a day, and forget not to entertain strangers. Warm sentiments are fine, but love and joy are spread by doing. If it is within you, be the hand of God reaching out to the forgotten and hopeless. Kindness is not free, but the intangible rewards are worth the effort.

     If you are having trouble getting into the spirit of Christmas, I suggest reading A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. The story is in the public domain and available free at the Gutenberg Project.  https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm. This version has wonderful illustrations.
     Not a reader? The story of Scrooge is sure to be on television. My favorite has Mr. Magoo playing the part of Scrooge. It’s a fun bit of animation that carries a powerful message of how to truly celebrate Christmas.

     It is here I leave you to the spirits. Merry Christmas.
   

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pub Chatter #129 Dr, Johnson


     You know it’s going to be a bad day in the Emergency Room when you see one of your own staff wheeled through the doors. The day doesn’t get any brighter when that person dies. Dr. Johnson was found down in his garage overcome by fumes from a pesticide he was using. An ambulance rushed him to Memorial Hospital in Frederick where he worked as a General Practitioner. He didn’t survive.
     A tragedy like this is emotionally difficult for even veteran staff in the ER. But, you suck it up and move on. There’s always another ambulance inbound. The staff at Memorial Hospital moved on---all that is except, Dr. Johnson. The good doctor is still making his rounds.
     The nurses and aides who staff the in-patient ward at Memorial report seeing the doctor entering rooms along the west hall. A night nurse reported seeing a man in a white coat matching the doctor’s description standing in the main hallway looking into one of the rooms. There were no other doctors in the hospital at the time. There certainly were none like this one whose form ended at the hem of his white coat. The nurse saw him enter the room and reluctantly followed. The room was unoccupied and the doctor nowhere to be found.
     Another of the nurses reported a similar event, but in this instance, at the bottom of the empty space between the hem of his coat and the floor was a pair of brown shoes. There were no legs, no feet, just brown shoes that followed the doctor.
     I worked at the hospital for three years. During that time I never saw the doctor--face to face. However one night we had a full house on the ward. The main hall runs east to west with about a half dozen rooms on each side of the hall. On this particular night, I was making rounds checking on the sleeping patients. Everything was as it should be on the north side. I reached the end of the hall and started down the south side when I noticed the IV pump was dark in the first room I came to. I walked in and---sure enough, the pump was turned off. I turned it back on and continued down the hall preparing to give an aide a talking to for turning off the pump without okaying it with me.
     I didn’t get far. In the next room, again the pump was turned off. It wasn’t unplugged and the battery dead. It was turned to “OFF.” So was the next and the one after that in every room on the south side of the hall. The nurse aides swore the pumps were on twenty minutes beforehand and that they had not touched the settings. Evidently, this had happened before. Dr. Johnson was the unanimous verdict. Whether this was the doctor’s handiwork or not neither the aides or the LPN on duty would go down that hall alone the rest of the night.  
     Memorial Hospital, like many rural hospitals faced with a shrinking population and a shrinking income, closed it’s ward and Emergency Room last year. I have not heard if the doctor is still working the night shift.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Pub Chatter #128




   Do you believe in ghosts?

     I am unconvinced that ghosts exist as the spirits of people who have died. Which is not to say I don’t believe in ghosts. I am absolutely convinced there is a spirit world that exists in parallel to this physical one. I use the terms spiritual and physical only in the sense that the two worlds are made of different stuff. Spiritual beings are as real and as “solid” as the next person. They see, hear and speak and may be touched. Their substance, however, is not of this earth. I have no objection to calling these beings ghosts--as for their relation to the dead, I am open to persuasion either way.

     My faith in the existence of the spiritual is experimental. That is, it is based on personal experience, not theory or anecdotal evidence. While I tell ghosts stories, I am not out to win anyone over. Real belief is always based on evidence. The type and amount of evidence required to persuade a person is highly individualized. Seeing is believing, but believing has a way of coloring what we see.

     Critics of paranormal investigations say ghost hunters see ghosts everywhere. Their complaint is that if someone believes in ghosts and goes looking for them, it is not surprising they find ghosts wherever they look. On the other hand, it is too easy to say, “I just don’t see it,” when you don’t believe what you are looking at exists in the first place.

     I have spent most of my adult life working in what I consider to be the most “haunted” places around---churches and hospitals. It has been my experience that these two places harbor very different types of spirits. Those in hospitals tend to be pranksters out to get people to scratch their heads and wonder what the hell’s going on. Church spirits tend to be malevolent. Who knows, maybe they are spirits of the dead who avoided church all their lives and now are spending eternity in church. That would tend to piss a spirit off. Whatever the case, they don’t want you there.

     This post is a departure from my usual. The Crusader and the Colonel are picking up most of that allowing me to spend more time on my literary pursuit of the supernatural. I am working on a small collection of Christmas ghost stories. It involves mostly blowing off the dust and working the rust off the chains so they rattle better. Anyway, I thought I’d introduce the stories by sharing a few stories of the non-fiction variety. Next Saturday I hope to introduce you to Dr. Johnson, resident ghost physician, at Memorial Hospital in Frederick, Oklahoma.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pub Chatter #127



     The Colonel and the Crusader are doing up the whole Thanksgiving angle this weekend. Since it is front and center in the news, I’m going to talk a little bit about thanklessness. It seems some serious college student athletes (is that an oxymoron?), were doing the sights in China. It slipped their mind that they were no longer hanging on the UCLA campus and shoplifted some shades. With no fear of prosecution stateside, their skills were lacking--they got caught. In China, they will lock you up for that even if you are on the basketball team. President Trump happened to be swinging through Asia and mentioned that he would like the boys released.

     The Chinese, being the gracious hosts they are, said okay and the boys are now back in school in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the father of one of the boys has a history of a mouth that writes checks his ass can’t cash. He says, “It was no big deal.” But, not a word of thanks to the President. My mind, being small and narrow, cannot help but wonder how this scenario would have played out in 2015. Do you think it would have been no big deal if Obama had been the President speaking to the Chinese? ( Okay, we are assuming the Chinese wouldn’t just laugh if he drew a line in the sand.)

     Forgive me, but I think the network news would have broken into regular programming to run the story of the President’s daring rescue. LaVar Ball would have been on CNN singing a chorus of “Obama Shall Overcome.” UCLA would be putting up a statue of Obama with his boot on Xi’s neck. Now, I’m not saying snowflake news, LaVar Ball, UCLA and CNN are racist---oh wait, yes I am. Darn, all I set out to do was call them hypocrites. I guess that’s what happens when you start name calling.

    To top it all off David Crosby publicly announced he didn’t want Trump voters at his appearances. That just brought an end to thirty plus years of me listening to his music. It also means I will be getting rid of a rather large portion of my music collection. Sad how a man who got a new lease on life with his new liver has no more feeling for his fellow man. Maybe he should have gone with a new heart. As the old CSN song goes, “Bye bye baby.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pub Chatter #126



     Riddle me this cape crusaders, opioids are controlled drugs, right? They are closely monitored in hospitals and pharmacies. I’ve worked in places where they are counted by pairs of nurses at the beginning and end of every twelve-hour shift. Sooooo, how did these drugs escape and create an epidemic all by their little ol’ selves?

     I blame unrepentant capitalism. Wherever there is a demand, some ambitious soul will bust a gut to supply it---for the proper remuneration, of course. Truthfully, the familiar devil of supply and demand that is behind this epidemic is not confined to capitalism. He favors no economic theory. People want narcotics and will go to extraordinary lengths to get them. A reliable system of supply will spring up to meet the demand no matter where you live.

     You’ve heard the old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This is never truer that in the procurement of drugs. So, let’s all take a deep breath and admit the opioid epidemic was something we wanted and subsidized--until we got it. Now, it’s a national crisis. You can’t get more American than that?

     Here in Seattle, we are combating the epidemic by opening up safe havens for injection. Public shooting galleries to prevent accidental overdose and disease from dirty needles. Around here we prefer a safe and healthy kind of slow motion suicide. I first thought, “Why not? Over time it would help with the homeless situation on our city streets. My illusion was quickly shattered when someone said that the shooting galleries would make Seattle a “destination” for homeless addicts all over America.

   Here’s a radical idea: try spending money and resources on the demand side of the equation. No demand for a product is its first step to extinction. The government should stop subsidizing opiate use. We can start in medicine chests across the country. Simply order Medicare and Medicaid to stop paying for long term opiate use. Make frequent, unannounced urine drug screens mandatory for everyone receiving any kind of government payments. That means Congress, the courts, government employees and those receiving entitlements. The military already does this and they still believe they live in the land of the free.

     Then, give current users a reason and assistance to quit that is motivated by something other than jail time. Subsidized healthcare should begin with the addicted. However, we must be careful. If hunger, cold, homelessness and no cost rehabilitation can’t motivate a person to seek help, there’s really no help for them. I’m not implying personal worthlessness. I am saying save who we can and admit some cannot be saved no matter what we do or how much we spend. You know, the whole serenity prayer thing.

     Law requires medical professionals to report child, elder, and sexual abuse. Why not drugs? I’m not saying no one needs long term painkillers. I’m saying the government monitors everything else in healthcare why not prescriptions for opioids? Nobody has to stop taking them or prescribing them. But, if Sam wants people to stop, he needs to see who needs it most. In the majority of cases, he holds the purse strings.

     The opioid epidemic, like most crises, is within our power to overcome. The truth is that we are unwilling to do what is necessary to overcome it. After all, we might want a script for Oxycontin when we get old.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pub Chatter #124



     Every November 11th I have a time when I sit quietly and think about this one particular night.

     It was at the start of my 1900 to 0700 shift at Clark AB in the Philippines. I was watching my first in-bound C141A coming in for a landing. The landing lights cast bright halos against Mt. Pinatubo in the background. The crew greased the landing and taxied up to one of the few spots left on the parking ramp. The flight crew cut the engines and hustled off leaving the plane in my care.
     I checked the oil, filled 'er up and kicked the tires. After a quick walk around, I had a call put in for a couple of shops to send out men for repairs the crew wanted to be done. The GI’s riding this flight home stayed on board even though take-off wasn’t until morning. The shop mechanic avoided the cargo bay when we had passengers staying on board, but sometimes, if nothing else was shaking, I’d go sit with them. They were on the way home from 'Nam.
     I was in and out that night. The guys in the back spent a quiet night. I ended up being there all night as the work took longer than expected. The flight crew was back not long before quitting time. We breezed through the preflight, got the engines cranked up and they were back on their way stateside.
     Like I said, every November 11th I think about those guys who stayed with the plane.  They were going home. The big aluminum boxes they were in got draped with a flag just before they got off in the states. They got a nice escort off and went back to their families and funerals.
     I was one of the lucky ones. Not all the guys I spent time with in the service are celebrating Veterans Day today. But guys, we’re thinking about y’all.

Pub Chatter #123



     On Monday my oldest son turns 43. There was a time in my life when I thought that was old. Now, it keeps getting younger every day. I didn’t plan on getting old, it just sort of happened to me. The only thing that really bothers me these days is taking care of young folks whining about their aches and pains. Why when I was their age, I had aches and pains and had to pay to go to the doctor.

     Old people are required by law to bitch about the younger generation at least once a day. That was my jab at the little wussies. On to the business at hand. This week I want to talk books and movies. I’ve decided to leave the political and moral discussions to the Colonel and the Crusader. Friday is the Colonel’s forum. The Crusader will continue to be here on Sunday. That gives me time to write, read and watch movies.


   I’m going to start with a tough one--The Dark Tower. If you are a Constant Reader of Stephen King, bear with me. This is not the Dark Tower that you spent years reading as each volume came out. How could it be? A better question might be why would Hollywood even try? Has a sudden phobia I don’t know about developed against movie franchises? Freddy and Jason got God knows how many movies. The Dark Tower couldn’t get at least seven?
     That said, The Dark Tower is a good action movie. The secret is to divorce it from the books. Bad guy out to destroy the universe vs gunslinging hero is a winning movie formula. In that respect, the movie succeeds. To me, that’s entertainment.
      In telling the story, The Dark Tower makes the same mistake as the new It. It relies on the audience to know the characters and why they act as they do without developing them on screen. If you haven’t read the book, there’s no reason to care about the characters. On the other hand, if you did read the book, you are left feeling flat. Whether or not you have read the books, my advice is to wait for a free version.

     Annabelle Creation is a prequel to the original Annabelle. It dodges not only the book problem but the
original script of the first movie. It does this very well. At the heart of the movie is the “be careful what you wish (pray) for” moral. The doll’s creator, Sam Mullins, tragically loses his daughter when she is run over by a passing car in a fantastically well-done scene. He stops production of the handmade dolls. He and his wife pray for Bee’s (their dead daughter) return to their lives. Oops, they get what they asked for--at least it looked like Bee. Of course, it isn’t Bee. The doll is the evil spirit’s conduit. Priests lock it in a closet lined with pages from the Bible.
     Things get better until Sister Charlotte and six orphan girls arrive to live with the Mullins’. The kids innocently let the demon loose and the dying begins. This one is already out there to rent. Go and get it.

     Camino Island is our last stop. I haven’t read everything John Grisham has written, but I have never read anything by him I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. That still stands. I went through the book in about three sittings because I’m too old to sit up reading all night like I used to do.
     The story revolves around the theft of the original, hand-written manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald from Princeton University. The story’s protagonist, Mercer Mann, is recruited to infiltrate the world of the bookstore owner currently in possession of the manuscripts. Mann is a woman. So the point of view is decidedly female. Some Grisham fans say it’s “too girly.” I guess I read too many female points of view books. I liked it.      

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pub Chatter #122



     Three cheers for the proposed tax bill put out by the President. The prospects for its survival are grim, but it may serve as ammunition against tax and spend politicians later. To effectively change the face of the tax code, it is imperative to change the faces in Congress. I don’t know jack about economics, but even I know that one cannot endlessly spend more than you take in. A nation built on this practice will come crashing down. It’s simply a matter of time.

     America’s thirty-five percent business tax is a cry to export business elsewhere. The proposed cut to twenty percent is still not competitive worldwide, but it is an improvement. Hopefully, it will survive and help bring business back home. This is more than a break for businesses. It is a break for everyone. Businesses do not pay taxes--customers pay taxes. If you are a consumer, this is your tax break. The caveat is that should it pass, customers must demand it be passed on to them in the form of lower prices.

     I am a flat tax advocate. Income tax, if we must have one, should be like Social Security tax. If you make a dollar, you pay a percentage--no ifs, ands or buts. Seeing deductions vanish would be a positive. If you really want to tax the rich, eliminate deductions.
     Folks in the Emerald City are already crying about the potential cut in their mortgage interest deduction. Poor little liberals have an average $750,000 mortgage. Cutting the deduction to $500,000 will cost them. Poor dears, they won’t be able to take off from work to march for higher taxes on the rich. If you can afford three-quarters of a million for a house--shut the fork up. Pay your damn taxes and quit whining.

      Okay, enough of that. It has been an exceptional day. I already had the bit about taxes written and couldn’t bear to toss it out. Spent the day with fellow writers at Tacoma Community College. We were there for Write in the Harbor 2017. Murder-mystery writer J A Jance was the speaker at the Friday night and the first hour today. She shared insights about drawing on life experiences and people watching in writing characters. Breakout sessions the rest of the day today. I think I’m ready to press on with the next draft of Trails of Trouble.  Good stuff.
     Speaking of good stuff, we topped the day off by going to Smoking Mo’s for their tenth anniversary. Smoked pulled pork and chicken with mac and cheese, beans and coleslaw. We added deviled eggs with smoked jalapenos and cinnamon apple cheesecake ice cream. Had to hurry home for stretch waist pants. Feeling stuffed, but extremely happy.
     The crusader is here tomorrow.

   

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pub Chatter #121



  “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
 
     Yes, that’s from the Bible. No, this is not the Crusader. This is a bit of reflection on the lost art of how to treat people. Tempers flare quickly in our polarized country and, as a result, common courtesy suffers. The most glaring example is the treatment of our current President.

     Those who know me are well aware of my dislike for the former President. Obama was an abysmal President. That is my estimation of his job performance, not of his worth as a man; that is between him and God. Despite the fact that I totally disagree with everything the man did and tried to do--he was always the President of my country and for that, if for no other reason, he was due all the honor of the office he held.
     That is how America has worked since 1800 when Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams and an opposition party came to power for the first time in the United States. Jefferson and Adams did not like each other--that’s putting it mildly. However, they respected the office and the occupant as the leader of this country.
     Donald Trump was elected by the people of the United States. I know that’s hard for liberals and career politicians to accept. Nevertheless, it is the truth. No one is required to agree with his politics. Everyone is required to honor the office, the country, and the election process. Criticism is fine. Yet, some have chosen the low road of overt threats, wishes of death, and vilification of his sincere efforts on behalf of his supporters.

      The same honor and tribute are due to our flag, our national anthem, our laws and law enforcement officers. Those who cannot muster respect declare themselves unworthy of the same. As a nation, we are deep in debt. We cannot afford to withhold love, honor, and respect for our country or our countrymen.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

Pub Chatter #120



     I found out the other day that I’ll never be a big time movie critic. It’s not really a big disappointment since it wasn’t a life goal to start with. Actually, it isn’t a goal at all. However, I have taken it upon myself to review movies, books, and places so it’s a bit of a downer to see I lack talent and insight.
   I watched The Book of Henry last week. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. There was a line in the film about apathy that deserved an “Amen.” I couldn’t remember the context so I went online to see if I could find it. What I found was that everybody who is anybody totally hated the movie.
     You know what? I still like it. Henry is the smart kid who doesn’t really fit and is too adult for most of the adults in the movie. Henry has a bad habit of standing up for people even those who don’t ask him to do so. Henry is not beyond vigilantism in the face of apathy and legal impotence, but that might be because Henry is dying. He leaves behind a book--a manual for murder. Forget the critics. See the movie.
   
     For those who prefer a good book, I recommend Echo Park, by Michael Connelly. It goes back to 2006, but that’s yesterday as books go. Besides, Harry Bosch and murder are timeless. Bosch is working cold cases. A chance to solve one of his own from thirteen years earlier comes his way. The killer confesses, but can he be believed? Harry must find out. It moves fast. I burned through the book in a couple of sittings. A must read for those who like crime novels.

     We have Gerald’s Game on tonight. It’s pretty good so far. Nice dodge around a woman alone with her thoughts. “Some people call me the space cowboy...” 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pub Chatter #119





   My liberal friends say conservatives are difficult to work with because conservatives are narrow-minded and lack vision. Once again, my liberals friends are wrong but are too sure of themselves to see their error. Conservatives are hard to work with. They have that right. The reasons for this are manifold.

     Conservatives have a natural tendency to resist group efforts. They are private people. They don’t wave a rainbow flag or wear a pink vagina in order to be comfortable with who they are. Private lives, private solutions, and private property are preferred over government action so media coverage is not essential to frighten timid legislators onto their bandwagon.

     There is also the legal aspect of conservative protest. Conservatives need to join hands and sing, “We Shall Overcome,” doesn’t usually manifest itself until well into the second six-pack. By that time the police have already arrived and shut down the festivities.

     Conservative attendance at planned protests is hindered by the fact they have to work. Add to that the fact that they don’t just work nine to five, Monday through Friday and you have problems right away. Besides the everyday demands of family, owning a home and operating a business, conservatives tend to do their own home and auto repairs, fish, hunt and watch sports which cuts into the valuable time available to march in protests.

     Capitalism is a constant barrier for conservative organizers. Conservatives believe in paying for the goods and services they receive as well as those they provide. This makes it difficult to find conservatives angry over losing the “freebies” they get from the government. They are often angry enough to protest the existence of “freebies”, but are too busy and too tired from trying to earn money the government can tax to turn that anger into action. Besides, who is going to buy the gas?

     Conservatives are not as skilled as their liberal counterparts with electronic devices. Their cameras are still in their pockets when some libtard says or does stupid shit worthy of posting on Facebook making it hard to get their message to go viral.

     Above all, conservatives value peace. They don’t want to change the world--they just want to live in it. They don’t want to be troubled about where the city is going to provide safe places for addicts to shoot drugs. They don’t want to be troubled---period. That’s why they own guns. The conservative effort to “love they neighbor” begins with everyone minding their own business and leaving each other the @#@$@ alone to live in peace.

     Conservatives are not apathetic. All you have to do is watch CNN with one to know apoplectic is closer to the truth than apathetic. Conservatives are proactive. They still revere the old saying that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s why they are against electing leaders who talk about changing things and giving away free shit in the first place. Better to do that than making Uncle Sam stop the car and come back there.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pub Chatter#118




   It was an exceptional fall day in western Washington; sixty-seven degrees, clear blue sky, and leaves turning red and gold. Walked along Goldsborough Creek in Shelton, and then visited Schafer State Park for some nice fall colors. Titan and Hydee splashed around in the Satsop River. Finished off the day outdoors with a fire on the patio.

     Watched Don’t Breathe when the dark and cold sent us inside for the night. I liked the movie’s premise. It was sort of a Wait Until Dark kind of thing. Lots of action, but it seemed to me the blind man’s hearing got progressively better as the movie wore on. I’m hard of hearing, but I think I would hear someone take a crowbar to a lock on my house. The basement was a super nice twist in the story. If you haven’t seen it yet--do so.

     I’m looking for a beta-reader or two for my new short story. It doesn’t have forever name yet--Homunculus, just won’t do. I hope to get it off to a magazine editor soon so volunteers are appreciated. Email me at crowder98332@gmail.com if you’d like to read and comment.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pub Chatter #117




   “Oh, go ahead, try it. You won’t die. God is holding out on you because He knows when you eat this you will be like Him.” My paraphrase of the devil’s advice to Adam and Eve. Since that day people have lived with a sense of either being oppressed or on the wrong end of false accusations. Nowhere is that more evident than interpersonal relationships, especially race relations.

     Several years ago I worked as an assistant manager of a retail store. One day the manager and I were wandering through the store selecting items for an upcoming newspaper ad. (Maybe it was a long, long, time ago.) We were just about finished when an angry black man came up to us. He said we could stop watching him. He was leaving the store. Until he addressed us, I had no idea he was in the store. I feel pretty sure he went away thinking whitey was racially profiling blacks as shoplifters. I came away thinking WTF is the matter with him, are all black people that paranoid? Perceived oppression and false accusation; poor race relations grow.

     Race relations are not advanced by a constant questioning of one another’s motives or by accusing the other side of being unable to empathize. I have lived in white neighborhoods, black neighborhoods, red neighborhoods belonging to various tribes and in very racially diverse neighborhoods over the course of sixty years. Roles within the community change in accord with dominance, but behaviors do not. According to tribal members on one Apache reservation. there are Apaches, natives and white people in the world. Apaches, of course, being their own tribe. Natives are other native tribal people and everyone else is white---even if they are black, yellow or brown. Why? I was told because everyone outside acts toward natives like white people.

     Don’t believe me? What was the job of the famous black cavalry know as the Buffalo Soldiers? Keeping natives confined to the reservation and/or killing them. These soldiers were not even a generation away from slavery, but more than willing to oppress innocent people because of the color of their skin. Be the white sheep in a congregation that’s black and brown. you may find Christianity doesn’t transcend race in every heart. It’s not one people or one race that’s to blame. It is every single person. Change people and you change the world. Unfortunately, there’s only one person you can really change--yourself.

     Being alike on the inside goes way deeper than blood and bone. It goes to the very core of our nature. No race has a corner on bad behavior--that’s a purely human trait. The golden rule works for everybody because, given the proper circumstances, we all act alike. That behavior may need fixing, but mistrust and hate will not accomplish the goal.
     “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”

     To my shame, I am a cynical old man. People, all people, have to prove themselves to get close to me. If you’re black and I don’t trust you---it’s not because you are black. It’s because you are human. Being white doesn’t make the job any easier. If you were an angel, I’d still be wondering whose side you are on because not all of them are what they should be either.

     Here’s the remedy I’m trying. It doesn’t work very fast. I’ve been working at it for forty years and haven’t gotten far. It goes like this:
     “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”


Monday, October 9, 2017

Pub Chatter #114



     I hear people say that we need to have an honest, open, discussion about race in America. Comments like that make my gluteus maximus tighten because somebody is about to blow smoke up my ass. As a writer, I have a built-in “what if” mode and it suddenly kicked What if we did have a real, honest, discussion? What would it sound like and how badly would it piss people off? I decided to find out. The Colonel and I sat down today to have that discussion.

     America is a unique place. The starting point for this kind of discussion in our country is self-identification. Unlike the Irish, Japanese, Ethiopians or Israelis, we are not simply Americans. We are African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asia-Americans, Native-Americans...etc ad nauseum. I’m going to call myself a Franco-American.

     Now, the idea that we must qualify our identity with a hyphen says a great deal about us. It tells me race is more to us than nationality, religion, or the common bond of country. It also signals an inherent resistance to unity. We like our separate designations. That is a huge barrier to destroying stereotypes and old behaviors.

     The assumption underlying this idea of micro-identification is that people not like us are incapable of understanding us. I’ve already been told a white guy has no clue about racism. Bang your head on that wall for a while and it’s easy to quit trying altogether. Except it’s a lie perpetrated by those who don’t want to understand that someone can have a different point of view and still have worth as a human being. St Paul wrote: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man...” Most of our problems are of our own making and stem from one temptation or another, we have experience and God’s word on it that we all act and think pretty much alike.

     We can talk about diversity all day long, but it’s just that---talk. For all our different colors, languages, cultures and religions we are more alike than most of us are willing to admit. From a scientific or anatomic point of view, most of what you see when you look at a person is dead. The outer layer of skin, hair, and nails is for all intents and purposes dead tissue. It has no circulation, no enervation, and no ability to reproduce itself---dead. So, why is it the dead part of us dominates how we see ourselves and others?

     I only speak for myself. For my part, exposure to the subject of race relations has always been about “fixing” white people. No honest discussion takes place. </a>Rather, grievances are aired and we are handed the government’s list acceptable fixes for our thoughts and practices. We say, “Good talk," and everyone agrees to comply and it’s all a big lie. Nothing really changes because it was an exercise in paper that had nothing to do with shared ideas or values, to begin with. You don’t get anywhere with people that way. It’s like putting a band-aid on an infected wound.

     I have preconceived notions and assumptions about people racially different from me. I am not the least ashamed to say so if for no other reason than that I have never met anyone, of any color, who does not. In trying to sort these out for this blog, it soon became clear to me that the same assumptions that hinder my thinking rosy thoughts about black people, red people, yellow people, and brown people are the same things that keep me from a positive outlook on white people.

     I find my prejudices are more about culture, attitudes, and values than skin pigmentation. Which is not to say race doesn’t play a role in my thought processes. Race is tied to all of these things. However, so is the knowledge that “always” and “never” have little to do with real people. There are common threads, but people defy labels.

     We are out of space for this edition. Be back soon.


 



 

Pub Chatter #115



     I just finished reading Ransom Rigg’s Library of Souls. This is volume three in the story of Jacob’s adventures with the residents of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Jacob, Emma and a peculiar dog named Addington are pursuing Miss Peregrine, her fellow ymbrymes, and the peculiars who have been taken captive by an army of wights. The captives are carried away to Devil’s Acre; a punishment time loop controlled by Miss Peregrine’s brothers who are plotting to take over all of Peculiardom.
     Jacob has gained the ability to control hollowgasts and use them against the wights. However, that is not his most valuable asset. He is heir to his grandfather’s ability to see and handle the soul jars that are hidden away in the Library of Souls. The action is fast with many twists and turns. Peace is Jacob’s greatest challenge. Does he stay with Emma, his true love, or return to his family. You’ll have to read it to find out. Believe me, it’s worth it.

     Saturday morning’s Gig Harbor Writer’s Meetup was fruitful for me. Pushed my new short story forward and hope to complete it soon. We discussed the prospect of competing in NaNoWriMo, that’s National Novel Writing Month. The competition is only with oneself. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the thirty-one days of November. My assignment, should I decide to accept it, will be to write the next Tettias novel---Roads of Battle. I’ve competed in the past, but it’s been a few years.

     Blog readership is up and I want to send special thanks to everyone. Welcome new readers, bless you faithful long timers. Col. Saulteen and I are beginning an online exploration of race relations. Nobody asked for our cracker input, but we never let that stop us. I expect to piss people off. My turn to do the talking because, to tell the truth, I’m sick of listening to the BS floating around. The first of these posts come sometime Monday. You’ve been warned.

     I hope people continue to boycott the NFL and its sponsors. This is a real opportunity for law-abiding citizens to effectively protest the demonization of the police and law enforcement.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Pub Chatter #113



   As surely as the cry for gun control arises from a shooting like that in Las Vegas, there follow tales of acts of selfless heroism and personal sacrifice. If you’ve watched the news today, you’ve seen those stories. I noticed that as hard as the reporters try to make heroes of these people, none of them feels heroic or pretends to be anything but a “regular” person.

     This refusal to accept hero status is not fake humility or false modesty. It is humanity. Mankind has a well documented history of inflicting unspeakable pain and sorrow upon itself. The worst criminals are sometimes those who believe themselves righteous and use the name of God as a mask for their inhumanity. They too are only human.

     There is a war raging within people; a battle between the divine nature of our creation and the corrupt nature that resulted from our fall. These dual natures vie for dominance in our every action, every word, and every thought. That is why we see a man shoot into a crowd and a new groom throw himself between his bride and the shooter side by side.

     That is not to excuse evil. It is only to acknowledge its existence in every man. For those who cry, “Not me,” hear God’s warning to Cain. “...If  thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. Evil is not far below the surface. If you are lucky enough to easily keep it there, good for you. However, control is not easy for everyone or in every circumstance.

     We all like to think good is our “normal” nature. That’s why we blame flipping some guy off in traffic on stress or a headache, while we claim returning a lost wallet our “real” self. The evil we do (small as it may be) we excuse. The good we do, we claim.

     “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Pub Chatter #112



     In the wake of tragedy there comes again the cry to ban private ownership of firearms. There are many evils in America. However, owning firearms is the only sin worthy of banishment. Muslim terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, no ban on Muslims or restrictions their travel. Prescription drug overdoses kill thousands. Medicare and Medicaid still pay for opioids by the truckload. Truck bombs are used to terrorize America. No ban on either fertilizer or trucks. Cars slam into crowds. Silence on nuts with cars.

     I’ve seen alcohol kill and maim more people than cigarettes ever did. Yet, one is acceptable and the other is banned in public places. How many children have died from second-hand alcohol? I don’t smoke however, I am opposed to the principle of government knows best.

      A woman has control over her body when it comes to a beating heart in pregnancy (no argument there). I take issue when the government that guarantees her right to stop that heartbeat poops down both legs if she chooses to exercise the same power over her own heartbeat. Then, it’s mobilize the forces to stop her and everybody cheers.

     Our inconsistency has the appearance of herding cats. Looks can be deceiving, but that takes talent. There’s no talent at work behind steering America along its present course. Conservative, white and Christian are wrong, everything else is right. The problem is those damned white, conservatives are armed.

     Armed resistance is a powerful preservative of freedom. There is no restraint on a tyrannical government like an armed population of patriots. The Second Amendment to the Constitution was included for the protection of our hard won freedom. That some evil people use this freedom to commit horrible crimes is inevitable. There are people who corrupt every freedom and turn it for the destruction of others.

    We cannot stop every criminal. In fact, we are hard pressed to stop them until they do something criminal. Even then, whole communities turn a blind eye. Muslim terrorists, illegal aliens, white supremacists, black power militants, gangs of every color, pedophiles, rapists, murderers, they all trouble us because we are a free country. A society without crime and violence sounds great. To mold real people into that society is to destroy every freedom we love. Absolute safety requires absolute control; neither is desirable.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pub Chatter #111



     Alright, folks one more time. I set out tonight to avoid saying anything about the “taking a knee” bullshit. Boom, I’m assaulted by a news story asking does the First Amendment protect the anthem protests. Of course, the answer was “yes.” I agree, however, Americans need to be clear about what “protect” means. The First Amendment protects our right to express ourselves freely. We all have the right to say, “Screw America” if that’s how we feel. You cannot be jailed, tortured or fined for doing so. However, there is no protection against being shunned, criticized or fired from your place of business by your fellow citizens. If you wish to protest, be mature enough to accept the consequences of your action.

     Which brings me to the intended topic of the day----independence. I am one of many people who believe personal liberty is at risk in America. The threat comes not from polar opinions, racial identification, or political ideologies. Competing economic theories are not to blame. It is the thoughtless surrender of our independence.

     Freedom, with all the rights we hold dear, cannot exist without independence. A man cannot be truly free while he is dependant on government for his basic needs. Do not be deceived, when government supplies your food, shelter, healthcare and security; you are not free---you are a slave.

     America has traded generations of independent, self-reliant, productive people for an entitled, who-is-going-to-take-care-of-me, litter of dependants. Recent disasters have dramatically highlighted the change. It infuriates me to see people like the mayor of San Juan whining to reporters that the government isn’t doing enough to take care of her. I get it, I’m old and out of touch. But, does no one today see that the price of surrendering personal responsibility is our liberty?

     “Give me liberty or give me death,” said Patrick Henry. I think the modern corollary goes, “Give me benefits, you want me to die?" America is older but no wiser.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pub Chatter #110



     You just can’t please some people. They express a point of view and when you use the same view to reveal their hypocrisy, you’re the bad guy. Liberals have been selling the notion that all the world is connected. I can buy that idea. Here are six degrees of separation--- of sorts.

     According to NFL’ers, taking a knee has nothing to do with the anthem, veterans and the Constitution. They say it is about the police. Play along for a minute now.
The police enforce the laws drawn up under the Constitution
The Constitution is the basis for the American government
The government’s symbol is the flag
The flag is carried onto the field by vets
Who served in defense of all the people.
People who are protected at home by the police.

     Tell me again how everything is connected, but taking a knee has nothing to do with the flag, veterans or the Constitution. Did I mention how many cops are veterans? Listen NFL’ers. My son is a cop and I’m damned proud of it. I don’t care what color you are, I hope to hell, if it ever comes down to it he shoots first and stays alive. End of story.

     Today I canceled my insurance with USAA. They may look like veterans, but they are still NFL sponsors. I will continue to work through the list of those companies feeding the protest and delete them from my life.

     I support the right of every American to protest anything his heart desires. As an author, I am all for First Amendment rights. However, the First Amendment does not guarantee freedom from the consequences of your actions or words. If my writing slanders someone, I must bear responsibility for my words. If NFL owners and players want to thumb their noses at the values of their fans, they must bear the consequences of their actions.

     Let me share one more liberal concept that doesn’t apply to liberals. A large part of removing the Pledge and prayer from school had to do with the classroom being a captive audience. The protests of the NFL are to a captive audience. The fans have paid their admission, taken their seats and are forced to endure the opinions of the players and owners. Freedom, my friends, is a two-way street. You don’t get freedom without granting it in kind.

     Wake up America, you are being pushed into silence and tacit acceptance of socialism by people whose agenda is the enslavement of all who oppose them. Big Brother wears many faces but has one goal. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Pub Chatter #109



     I was transported back in time for the last forty-eight hours and just got home. Cody came to visit. With two boys in the house, I found myself revisiting some of my favorite sayings. “You boys take that s@#t outside.” “Cody, leave that alone.” “Titan don’t eat that.” “HyDee quit barking at the boys.” “Y’all need a bath.” Just like the old days.

     We went to the Skokomish River to let the boys play. Saw salmon headed upstream. Titan gave chase but didn’t catch any fish. No surprise there. Nobody in my company has caught a fish since the eighties. I knew salmon die after spawning. Today I learned what the river banks smell like when that happens. Not something you think about until you experience it.

     It was nice to get outside and relax. We rolled out a new computer system at work over the weekend. I did well---not a single cuss word. The rollout did delay the blog posts I had written. They finally were posted yesterday and had a good response. Incawhoots is over 6,000 views now. Thank you, faithful readers.

     I have a new short story in the works. The title, for now, is Homoculus. I’ll let you Google it. I thought I’d do a story set in my new hometown of Shelton. Although I won’t call it that in the story, I’ll try to let it show. I really like it here and promise to be nice. Except, when it comes to politics, religion, animal cruelty, taxes, fees, automated answering systems, sports, world news, free lunches, bashing the police and the cost of tea in China.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pub Chatter #108



     The exercise of liberty demands responsibility. Saying or doing whatsoever one will without taking personal responsibility for one’s actions is not liberty, it is a tyranny of the cheapest sort. Any man willing to speak his might must possess the backbone to accept the consequences of doing so without whimpering about unfairness.

     The decision to “bring attention to your cause,” in the workplace is generally frowned upon by both management and customers; and rightly so. Such freedom of expression is unseemly and distasteful. No one should expect to be honored or thanked for it. Americans are free to “take a knee” anywhere for any reason, but no one is required to reward you for it. A reaction is also freedom of expression. Trying to dictate the reaction of others is the true denial of freedom.

     If Americans are offended by athletes exercising their freedom by “taking a knee,” exercise your right to react freely. Don’t go to the games, don’t buy tickets, don’t watch on television and boycott sponsors. If you are not willing to do this, don’t play the hypocrite by complaining. That’s easy for me to say because I’m not a football fan. When it happens in baseball, I’ll feel your pain.

     Professional sports are for our entertainment when they fail to entertain turn away. The world will go on and more worthless college degree holders will line up for welfare. The American public does not exist at the whim of sports teams---although cities stupid enough to build stadiums at taxpayer expense disagree. On the contrary, professional sports exist at our pleasure.

     The greatest bit of wisdom any man can possess is to know that there is a time and a season for everything. Long ago, people were taught this as children. Alas, not every man has this wisdom. In season the fruit of our actions is sweet and cause for rejoicing. Taken too soon, it is bitter and unpalatable. Experienced too late, it is putrid and poisonous to our health.

     Even though everyone has the freedom of expression, responsible adults know that choosing to act contrary to the rules of the workplace can get you fired or at least seriously damage a career. The wealthy owners and stars of professional sports think they are above the rules by which everyone lives.

     NFL players understand the concept of consequences on the football field. If they screw up a play, they understand the coach and fans are going to give them hell for it. However, they have never been held to this standard in their private lives. In school, college and life outside of professional sports, the rules have never applied to them. They have always been special cases. Lower forms of life are supposed to look the other way. No one should be surprised at their behavior now.

     Be a messenger of freedom. Voice your disgust with the NFL, but allow them the freedom to cut their own throats. The American people are not tyrants or dictators--and nobody’s doormat.

Pub Chatter #107




   Spent Saturday morning at the Gig Harbor Writers Meetup. It was a profitable morning for my new short story. Kimball’s Espresso Cafe closed on September fifteenth leaving us without a meeting place. We have adopted MarKee Coffee and Wine Bar and it serves quite nicely. Tried a MarKee Dark Mocha this morning--yum.

     Last night I started reading Library of Souls. It’s the third installment in Ransom Rigg’s story about Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. I have a bit of a hit against the start that makes me wonder about my own writing. The protagonist in the story has developed/discovered the power to control the Hollowgasts (who are invisible eaters of peculiar children). It’s an intermittent thing that shows up when there’s no other escape. The power became necessary to the story because the antagonists were getting the upper hand. Stephen King did the same thing in Rose Madder. The antagonist was unbeatable against all comers only to turn to a wimp when confronted by the protagonists in the latter pages.

     I don’t believe in all-powerful or never dying antagonists or monsters. Jason, Freddie and the like are poor horror as far as I’m concerned. Of course, their immortality makes for a long series of movies. I’ve noticed film and television are adopting the same type of limitless antagonists--vampires in sunlight...etc. This may sound strange but that kind of story does not reflect reality. To me, it’s not believable. I have met real evil. It is not invincible. Which is not to say it is powerless.

     If you catch me turning my antagonists into wimps as the story goes on---call me out on it. Cry, “cheat” if my protagonists develop superpowers in moments of distress. Make me tell believable stories. I want to scare you, not bore you.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pub Chatter #106




   Got my flu shot for this year. Last year we had four confirmed cases of the flu before the vaccines arrived, so we did a little better this time. I get the shot, always have, but I remain opposed to hospitals requiring workers to get one. It a more invasive requirement than standing for the national anthem and we don't get millions. Besides which, our customers aren’t required to have one and most of the time that’s where healthcare workers pick it up. Choose your poison, but, if you don’t get the shot and you come into the ER with the flu, you get zero sympathy from me. Care, yes. Sympathy, no.
   
      Freedom includes the right to make our own mistakes. Americans want to choose their own course. The problem is that we don’t want to be responsible for where that course takes us. We want no fault life to go with our no fault auto. This has spawned a one sided, narrow thinking, holier-than-thou liberal movement dedicated to caring for us “for our own good.”

     They know how we should look, what we should eat, how we should speak and what we should think. They even know the best statues to look at. They pretty much have our lives planned out. God help us if we want something different. The old time religion has nothing on the Democratic Party when it comes to the condemnation of heretics.

     The good news is that everything is free when you are a liberal. Health care, education, food, shelter, everything. Don’t worry the “rich” will pay for it. The rich being those people with businesses and jobs who pay taxes. What taxes can’t pay for, we can borrow. It’s all good. No consequences. No worries. No freedom. Good ol’ Uncle Sam will take care of us. All we have to do is be good and get in line.

     If only Uncle Sam’s state wasn’t separated from God’s church. God could tell Sam that humans never stay in line. For every group that rises up to demand obedience, there’s two ready to rebel against the whole thing. Folks are made that way. Sometimes you can shame them or pound them into submission, but people will stay up late thinking up ways to beat you next time.

     I don’t tell just anybody this, but I’m a native (second generation) Californian. However, I have this rebel streak that argues for me being abducted by aliens from a Louisiana bayou and left on my parents doorstep. Dixie has my heart. I have no doubts that were I around in 1861, I’d have enlisted in the Confederate Army. Fighting an unwinnable war on the principle that it is the honorable path for free men still fires my imagination. Slavery never enters the equation. That’s why I can tell you with my hand up that the tributes to Lee, Jackson, and Davis around the South are symbols of slavery and oppression only in the imaginations of those who want our compliance more than the exercise of liberty. This kind of ego-centric, self-righteousness hears no reason, sees no other viewpoint, feels neither empathy nor sympathy. It has one end---the spilling of blood.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pub Chatter #105




    Stopped by Smokin’ Mo’s this evening on the way to see IT. Bacon and Bleu salad with smoked chicken was incredible. They always have great food. If you are ever in Shelton, be sure to stop in. The owners are from South Carolina and Oklahoma, so it’s a little taste of home for me. I don’t know of any place else in Washington where you’ll find smoked bologna sliders.

      Hot apple pie ala mode latte in hand, I settled in to watch the new version of IT. Stephen King fan or not, if you haven’t seen it, you need to go. Thumbs up for this one. The movie is strictly the tale of the protagonists as kids in 1989 Derry. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say IT will be back for them to battle as adults in the next installment.
     The characters idiosyncrasies aren’t fully developed, due to time constraints. They are there in the movie, but if you haven’t read the book some of them may not mean much to you and they tend to disappear when the characters finally confront Pennywise. Nevertheless, it is a complete story and can certainly stand on its own without the book.
      There was one set of screams from our all adult audience. Pennywise was creepier in appearance this time around and well played, but I hesitate to say he was scarier. Bev’s father, (played by Stephen Bogaerts), now that dude was creepy. he played the incestuous sleaze bag so well. All in all, I left feeling like I got my money’s worth. Given the price of tickets, I don’t say that often Treat yourself and go seen it on the big screen with the dolby theater sound.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Trails of Trouble Chapter 60



   Bryn jolted awake. Moonlight seeped through the canopy of leaves covering his bed. Silhouetted against the entrance loomed an obscured figure. Bryn’s dagger jumped into his hand as he sprang into a crouch.
     “Relax,” a voice said. It was not the voice that usually gave this advice, but it was a familiar one. “It is good to see you again after so long.”
     “Coryn?”
     “Grandfather?” Faryn said from beside him.
     “Ah, I am not forgotten,” the seer said. Stones clicked and light appeared beneath the seer’s smiling face. “I should feign surprise to find you together.”
     “I can explain,” Bryn began.
     “Can you now?” Coryn said with a chuckle. “There is no need. It was meant to be. However, I think a hug from my granddaughter is in order.”
     Faryn leaped into the old one’s arms nearly knocking him off his feet. Coryn motioned for Bryn to join them. The canopy covering them disappeared; thrown to the wind. Steel glinted in the moonlight.
     “No,” Bryn shouted. “It’s alright.”
     One Eye and Vulryn, their faces painted with sheepish grins, slowly returned daggers to their scabbards. Coryn studied the pair for a moment before bidding them all to sit.
     “So many familiar faces,” Coryn said. “Each face lined with the cares of this world. Duty commands many sorrows; it leads down trails filled with trouble. Tonight, be glad that the Creator has brought us together again. Every trail we shall walk leads from this place and carries us where it wills. Do not be afraid for every trail comes together again.
     “You’re not going to get all preachy, are you?” One Eye said.
     Bryn looked from the seer to the smuggler and back again with knit brow and wonder in his eyes.
     “Yes,” Coryn said. “We know each other. I have known...what name are you using now?”
     “One Eye will do.”
     “I have known One Eye for many years,” Coryn continued. “I remember when he had two eyes. He could see well, but he wasn’t any better looking. Don’t worry, I have not come to preach. I have come to shine a little light into the darkness. Come with me.”
     Coryn led them from the safety of the camp into the jungle night. They walked the highway branches along the banks of Hiddekel until they came to a place they all knew, but never by night.
     The Grove of Ryn, silver in the moonlight, drew them down to the ground. A well of supernatural stillness, deep as solitude and wide as silence, opened in the circle of trees. The four floated on its spiritual surface as Coryn gathered together stones from those strewn about the grove. While they watched, he patiently stacked the stones in the very center of the grove. Then, with a clap of the seer’s hands, fire leaped from the stones in a fountain of blue light. bryn, Faryn, Vulryn and One Eye walked an ever tightening circle around the flames until each claimed a point of the compass around the fire.
     Coryn walked a circuit around them; first left, then right. He stopped to stand behind Vulryn.
     “The King of Valir is fallen. A new king reigns. A forest rises from the desert.”
     Again, he walked; left, then right to stand behind One Eye.
     “The dragon stirs the sea. He roars upon the shore. A lasting peace is buried with the king.”
     Left, then right to Faryn.
     “From the belly of the beast. A nightmare walks the shore. A heart borne wrapped in leaves.”
     Left, then right to Bryn.
     “Abomination walks the land. Beware the dragon’s jaws. A word worth more than gold.”
   
    Bryn felt eyes on him. He slowly peeked out from one eye. Sunlight flooded in forcing him to close it again. He tried again; one eye, then the other. Two large golden eyes stared back at him. Bryn struggled to sit up.
     “Whoa, General,” Oto said.
     “Where’s the roof?” Fayrn asked.
     Bryn looked up. Oto did the same.
     “I don’t know,” he said.
     “I had the strangest dream,” Faryn told him. “I dreamed my grandfather was here.”
     “And we went with him to the Grove.”
     “How did you know?”
     “Either I had the same dream,” he said. “Or it wasn’t a dream.”
     “No dream,” Oto said.
     Bryn rubbed his eyes and fought back a yawn. The further he swept the cobwebs away, the more convinced he became that Oto was telling the truth. It was too strange to be real and too real to be a dream. If not a dream, then what? Maybe it was a ghostly visitation.The chance that Coryn was still alive was slim at best. A ghost made sense; sort of. He’d never heard of a shared vision, but he supposed it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. The opportunity to ponder it any farther was interrupted by a soldier waving a scrap of paper at him.
     “General Bou,” I have a message for you,” he called. “Captain One Eye said to give this to you.”
     Bryn carefully unfolded the paper. He had battled a dragon, but this was more frightening. As he looked down on the four words scrawled there, the night before began to make sense. The note said simply, “My name is Boryn.” Bryn realized he knew the smuggler when he had two eyes as well. Only he was Sergeant Boryn back then and the other General Bou rarely made a step without the sergeant by his side.
     “God speed, sergeant,” Bryn mumbled.
     “Sir?”
     “Nothing, soldier. Has the captain has left camp?” Bryn asked though he already knew the answer.
     “Yes sir, General,” the soldier said. “He left early this morning going south.”
     “And the seer?” Bryn added.
     “Yes sir, only the seer was going north.”
     “Spread the word,” Bryn ordered. “We are moving out.”
     “Yes sir.” The soldier saluted. “Where to sir?”
     “Down the road to battle.”

Trails of Trouble Chapter 59

     The car was loaded with a few more humans than was deemed safe and Vulryn engaged the drive. Nothing, the car refused to move. The humans had a brake of their own. One Eye picked up the commuwire device and waited for the humans at the top to answer. In his most diplomatic voice he explained to whoever picked up the other end that he intended to send humans up or feed them to the viath in the river at the pleasure of the Lift operators topside. He gave the operators thirty seconds to decide which it would be. The car began to move up.
     “How many died on the way here?” Bryn asked.
     “Only a small handful of extremely stupid ones,” One Eye said. “No great loss.”
   
   The humans garrison that faced Faryn’s force at the Lift exercised more discretion than those at Vix. Once they realized they were outnumbered and surrounded as many as could piled into the waiting car and rode the Lift home. Those left behind surrendered without a fight.
     Faryn’s hundred took up defensive positions in the outlying jungle while Vulryn when to work disabling the Lift. Seeing the Lift fall to an unknown force prompted Raryn’s spies dispatched a runner to warn their king. It turned out to be unnecessary. As arranged, Faryn sent two of the captured men to their leader with a message.
     “Tell them General Bou is back.”

     The message arrived as General Jamal was seeing King Raryn out his door. Captain Jaekel met his commander at the door with the messengers in tow.
     “General, I have two men from the garrison at the Lift.”
     “What the hell?” The general said. “Get them in my office before anyone else sees them.”
     “I want to hear this,” Raryn said.
     Captain Jaekel’s hands trembled as he escorted the soldiers into the office. He didn’t like the general’s clinched jaws and narrow eyes. He mentally began to kick himself for springing this while the bird was still hear. He was destined for a butt chewing for certain.
    General Jamal dropped down behind his desk. His eyes sent rapid fire, random daggers flying around the room and mumbled unintelligibly when Raryn moved a chair to sit along side the general’s desk.
     All right, let’s have it,” he ordered.
     “Lt. Werd, sir. First signal Corps.” The young officer followed with a crisp salute that the general waved away. “We were attacked at dawn two days ago by a large force of Valir. Captain Myder led the bulk of the men to safety in the Lift, but about twenty of us were taken captive.”
    “How many dead?” Jamal asked.
    “Dead, sir?”
    “Dead, leutenient, Jamal said. “As in no longer alive, killed in action, sent to the fortress in the sky. Dead.”
     “None, sir.”
     Color bloomed in the general’s neck. He was on his feet, red face temporal veins throbbing, the muscles in his neck turned to knotted ropes.
     “What!” Jamal screamed. “You let a bunch of freakin’ birds capture the most important strategic post in the Boubouja without a fight? By God you’re going to wish you were dead. You and Myder, is it, are going to pray for death.”
     The leutenient’s eyes rolled to white. His knees gave way and he hit the floor with a loud thud.
     “Those birds, as you call them,” King Raryn rounded on the general. “Are trained as warriors from their youth.”
     With a blur of the general’s hand, Raryn had a knife at his throat; the point wedged just under his beak.
     “Sit down and shut up,” Jamal ordered through gritted teeth. “I’m in the mood to kill someone. It might as well be you.”
     The king retreated to his chair to glare at the humans.
     “Patience,” Raryn told himself. “Perhaps the general would join his men in praying for death.”
     “Get over here,” Jamal snarled at the remaining messenger.
     The man’s knees buckled, but held. He shuffled across the room to tremble at the edge of the general’s desk. The general threw the knife into the desktop, planted his fists on either side of the weapon and stood, head down chuffing until his breathing slowed. When he looked up, the fire in his eyes had cooled to steel.
     “Soldier,” he said. “Tell me the absolute truth and you go back to the ranks. Lie to me even a little and you’ll join your officers, you understand?”
     “Yes sir.”
     “Start from the beginning.”
     “They must have come in the night, sir,” he said. “When we woke up they had the compound surrounded. The sentries were all bound and gagged. Capt. Myder ordered everyone into the car and threw the lever. Most of the men got away. The rest of us were forced into the barracks. Later that day, the leader picked the leutenient and me out and told us to deliver a message to the human general in Ai. She said to tell you, General Bou is back.”
     “Impossible,” Raryn, his nerve returned, said.
     General Jamal shot the king a questioning glance.
     “I can prove it,” Raryn said.
     “In a minute,” the general said. He turned back to his trembling soldier. “She? You said, ‘she.’”
     “The leader of the Valir that attacked us was a female.”
     “This gets better by the minute,” Jamal said and plopped down in his chair. “King Raryn, you have something to add?”
     “I don’t know who is leading these rebels,” Raryn told him. “But, it most assuredly is not General Bou.
     “And you know this, how?”
     “General Bou is chained in the dungeon of my new residence.”

     General Jamal followed the King of Valir through a wooden door and down a series of steps carved into the boggy soil beneath the work crews. Tiny rivulets seeped from the walls to form pools in the lowest points of the floor. Jamal wondered if this bird king realized this soil would never support the marble and stone of his royal fantasies. All these outland species wanted to be human.
     At length they came to a set of bamboo bars. Four Valir sitting at a table just beyond the bars jumped to attention. Their leader quickly opened the lock securing the bars and swung the door open. A few feet farther in they came to a wall of bouja wood held together by iron straps. Another lock was opened and another door passed. The long room beyond the solid door was entirely without light. The prisoners bound to the walls and posts within recoiled from the light thrown off by the torches.
     Raryn took a torch from one of the servants and motioned for Jamal to follow him into the darkness. A post was set into the far wall of the lightless room. Chained to the post, his hands dangling above his head, was a mud covered Valir sitting in his own excrement. The stench was even worse back here. Jamal began to take small breaths through his mouth.
     The prisoner’s right leg was bent outward at an odd angle that made the chains redundant. Jamal knew that leg would never hold the creature’s weight again. Raryn brought the light closer. The prisoner’s uneven face would forever carry the scars of the beating he endured. The wretch narrowed his eyes against the light, but refused to look away.
     “General Jamal,” Raryn said. “May I present General Byryn Bou.”





Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Trails of Trouble Chapter 58




 
   Bryn stopped; looked around. Something was not right. Something was missing. It took a moment to realize One Eye had quit snoring. In the far corner, a single golden eye peered up at him. One Eye shook his head and shifted in his chair.
     “She’ll be here,” he said. “All that pacing is disturbing my sleep.”  
     “It’s the only thing that ever has,” Bryn said.
     “You should try it sometime,” One Eye countered. “It might sweeten your disposition a little.”
     “There’s nothing wrong with my disposition,” Bryn said. “Nothing, that is, that a bit of news wouldn’t fix.”
     “Relax.”
     “You keep saying that.”
     “And you keep ignoring me,” One Eye told him.
     “I can’t afford to relax,” Bryn shot back. “People are depending on me.”
     “That’s exactly why you can’t afford not to relax,” One Eye said with a smile. “It’s something I learned from yo...well, never mind where I learned it. It’s good advice. Come over here and sit down. I promise all your problems will still be there when you get up again.”
     “That’s a relief,” Bryn said. He lowered himself into the chair next to One Eye and leaned back to imitating his friend’s posture. “How’s that?”
     “I don’t think you’re trying very hard,” One Eye said. “But, it’s a start.”
     One by one, Bryn let his tired muscles relax. He eyes lids slid slowly down. Sleep was out of the question, but he felt better.
     “Okay, I’m relaxed,” he said. “No wiser, but relaxed.”
     “Wisdom takes time,” One Eye told him. “For now, let that overgrown sense of right and duty take over.”
     “We can’t stay here,” Bryn said. “We’re no match for Raryn.”
     “And we are dragging a load of human prisoners,” One Eye added.
     “We can’t let them go,” Bryn replied. “Or can we?”
     “We would do well to be rid of them.”
     “And it would force Raryn’s next move,” Bryn sat up. “Tell the troops; we move as soon as it’s light.”
     “Now, leave things to me,” One Eye said. “You get some sleep.”
     “I think I will,” Bryn closed his eyes again. This time he did relax and sleep rushed in to claim him.

     Bryn shielded his eyes from the morning sun as he watched the sick and wounded freed from the cages in Vix wind their way through the trees to the northeast. Their trail would not be hard to follow, but he didn’t think Raryn’s army would bother to pursue them. Bryn didn’t think Raryn could hold the Boubouja without help from the humans. Raryn needed the Lift more than he needed to recapture prisoners. At the moment, the Lift was in the hands of Faryn and one hundred warriors. Once the wounded were safely away from Vix, Bryn would reinforce her. They were still no match for Raryn’s army. However, if they could get the humans back atop the Edge where they belonged and disable the Lift, they might buy enough time to rally an army large enough to restore freedom to Valir.
     “I’m relaxed,” Bryn told himself and thought himself a terrible liar.
     Small columns of warriors fanned out on the flanks of the mass of humans being pushed east by Bryn’s troops. One Eye made sure the humans offered little resistance.
     “Feel free to try and escape,” he encouraged the prisoners before setting out. “My troops have orders to kill any man not with this group. If they don’t, I’m sure our jungle will. Drag your feet on the march and we’ll feed you to the viath.”
     A few who tested his sincerity and were left in pools blood to the efficiency of jungle disposal. There was no attempt at stealth. Human and Valir alike crashed through the undergrowth, snapping fallen branches, trampling saplings and scattering floor litter in a riotous invitation for Raryn to follow.

     Two hundred miles away the invitation was being delivered. A lightly armed signal corps messenger in a sweat soaked tunic shuffled through the throng of workers stacking stone blocks and masons busily chipping away. He passed a rolled sheaf of bark to a sergeant stationed outside the working quarters of King Raryn. The sergeant tucked the message inside his clothes and disappeared inside while the messenger dropped to the ground beside the guards remaining at the door.
     The coming of the king transformed on the sleepy village of Ai into a bustling city overnight. A wall of rough cut timber rose from the southern end of the town towering over the rows of tents and hastily thrown together structures of ground dwelling humans. Human soldiers marched back and forth inside the walls in an endless display of ready power.
     The center of the village was giving birth to a wonder never seen by the Valir. A palace of stone, home to the new king, reached from the site of the old council house to touch the trees. A half dozen species of Tettians carrying rock and wood swarmed over the structure in imitation of the jungle ants. Deep within the mass of movement, King Raryn gave instructions for his new throne.
     “Highness,” a servant said with a bow. “The sergeant at arms is outside with an important message.”
     “Oh, very well,” Raryn said without a glance. “Send him in.”
     The sergeant waited with bowed head to be recognized. Raryn continued his unhurried study of some golden fabric smiling as it slipped smoothly through his fingers. He pulled a hand away long enough to wiggle long fingers in the sergeant’s direction.
     “Well?” Raryn said when there was no answer.
     “A message from Vix,” the soldier said.
     Raryn’s narrowed and a wrinkle crossed his brow. He turned still fondling the gold material, but pleasure was gone from his eyes. Long strides carried him to the waiting soldier.Snatching the message from his hands, Raryn ordered him from the room. The crease in his forehead grew deeper as he scanned the writing. He threw the message to the floor and stalked across the room. The sergeant narrowly avoided being hit by the flying door.        
     “Where did this come from?” the king demanded.
     “H-h-highness,” the sergeant stammered. “A signal corps courier delivered it.”
     “Was the courier from Vix?”
     “Forgive me Highness,” he answered. “I did not ask.”
     “Find him and bring him to me,” Raryn snarled.

     The report was true. The courier sacrificed a couple of fingers to convince the king. Raryn trod across a carpet of fawning toadies on his way to the human fortress. The royal storm caused less damage in human headquarters. Raryn’s demand to see General Jamal barely registered with the sleepy eyed captain manning the desk outside the general’s office.
     “King Raryn,” the general half rose from his seat. “What can I do for you?”
     “What are you doing about the attack on Vix?”
     “Vix? Oh yes, the prison. What about it? Jamal asked.
     “It has been attacked by rebels,” Raryn placed his hands on the general’s desk and leaned closer.
     “I’ve heard nothing about this,” Jamal said. “When?”
     “Yesterday,” Raryn assured him. “You’re entire garrison is dead or taken prisoner.”
     “And how do you know this?’
     “I have an army of my own,” Raryn sneered. “And, I keep my eyes open.”
     “Then, why don’t use use your army?” The general chided.
     “I fully intend to,” Raryn said. “But, we will not be bothered about your troops. I cannot say the same for Lord Zett when word of your lack of interest reaches his ears.”
          Jamal stroked his beard as he stared at Raryn with his heavy lidded eyes. The king’s threat to report him was as hollow as the head from which it rolled. Inwardly, he toyed with the idea of setting the old bird straight. The day for that would come. At the moment, he found the possibility of an armed resistance appealing. It certainly had more charm than the prospect of doing nothing but rotting away in this humid hell hole.

     “Very well.” Jamal leaned back in his chair. “It can’t hurt to have a look.”

     “I intend to do a great deal more than look,” Raryn assured him. “I want them annihilated.”

     “Have you considered where these rebels came from?” The general asked.

     “What do you mean?”

     “I mean, were we mistaken to think the Boubouja was secure?” Jamal lit his pipe and exhaled a cloud of blue smoke toward the ceiling. “If it was secure there should be no resistance left. But, what if the new threat comes from outside?”

     “We hold the Lift,” Raryn reminded him. “How could outsiders get in?”

     “The Lift is not the only way into and out of the Boubouja,” the general said. “It’s merely the easiest to use.”

     “Eeryn? You’re thinking Eeryn is behind this?”

     The general raised an eye brow and gave his head a quick tip.

     “It is possible,” he said. “Even probable.”

     Raryn lowered himself into a chair as he studied the general.

     “Yes, it does make sense,” the king said.


     While Raryn and Jamal readied their troops for a march to Vix, Bryn Bou and the rear guard caught up to One Eye by the shores of the Hiddekel. He had a feeling about where he might find what he was looking for. The building housing the Lift’s machinery was a tall wooden structure with a thatched roof that stood on stilts in the center of the compound. Through the open door, he saw Faryn. His heart began to beat again. Her back was to him as she was explaining the workings to One Eye. He was struck by the realization that he might not know her as well as he believed. He never considered that she might be mechanically inclined.

     “So, it is easily disabled,” she said. “From this end without destroying the Lift altogether.”

     “I like it,” One Eye told her.

     “So do I,” Bryn chimed in. “I don’t know what it is, but I like it.”

     “Bryn,” she cried and charged into his arms. “I missed you.”

     “I wonder,” he teased. “You seem to be doing fine without me.”

    “I was just showing One Eye the locks Vulryn made to keep the Lift from operating without having to destroy it.”

     “It’s just a series of wedges,” Vulryn said as he joined them. “But, they will do the job. We can stop the Lift from coming down whenever we want to. Of course, the humans should be able to do the same thing to keep us from going up.”

     “Let’s see how willing they are to do that,” One Eye said. “I’ll start sending these humans back where they came from.”

     The car was loaded with as many humans as seemed safe, however it refused to move. The humans had their own brake. One Eye used the commuwire to explain to the men at the top that he intended to send humans up or feed them to the viath in the river. He gave the operators thirty seconds to decide which it would be. The car began to move up.

     “How many died on the way here?” Bryn asked.

     “Only a small handful of extremely stupid ones,” One Eye said. “No great loss.”