Thursday, November 22, 2007

A friend at our back deck

I came down with a sore throat this afternoon, shortly after meeting my sister Nicki and family and a friend for Thanksgiving dinner, which we partook at Ted's Montana Grill over by the Streets of Southpoint mall in Durham. It was quite frustrating; seeing as the last time I got sick was during the last days I had off of work, also. So, as I sipped Coke and watched Chocolat with Beth, she cooked me some leftover macaroni and cheese, because I was hungry and she thought it might help more than just Coke alone.

I ate it at the table, a long, heavy, oak (I believe) table with wooden benches and end chairs. The whole time I was eating, the cat sat about a foot away from my plate, looking nonchalant, but secretly waiting for me to let up my guard enough for a bite. Or maybe she was waiting for a chance to lick the plate. We'd gotten into the habit of letting her do so after meals, which, of course, only makes her that much less responsive next time we say "NO!" in very firm words, rudely pushing her head away from our vittles. She was a bit sick yesterday, and so I told her that she wouldn't be getting any people food today.

In the film, Chocolat, a priest tells a parishioner his dog has no soul. I know that many people believe that, but I don't. At least, as far as I believe in the soul in the first place, I don't believe people have what other creatures do not. I guess I believe in some sort of life spirit, though I'm not sure of any divinity attached to it, in every living thing. Certainly, if there is such a thing as divinity in the animal world, our cat, whom we named Squeak, has something of it.

She first started coming by our back deck late last year, if I remember correctly. She was a stray that a neighbor, our retired town manager, C.L. Gobble, took in. The Gobbles gave Squeak to another neighbor to take care of. Tina lives just on the other side of the spring from us. The spring is usually dry and even when it's not, it's only about a half-foot deep. But, as we live on Tucker Drive, we refer to it as Tucker Run. Tina has one of those yappy dogs, a terrier named Grizzly. She named the cat Bear, to go along with that, and kept her outside because Tina's daughter was allergic to cats. It was a meager existence for "Bear," because she was a kitten and wanted friendship, I imagine. So she took to coming over to our place.

At the time, we didn't know she belonged to anyone. We thought she looked to well taken care of to be so, but she was around at all hours, and seemed so skinny, we weren't sure. It got very cold several times winter, so we began letting her in at night. Also, there was a feral white longhair cat that would come by our house at times and s/he was the terror of our neighborhood. The terror of other cats, I mean. She'd chase Squeak up into trees and pretty much scared the bejezus out of her.

Once we learned Squeak belonged to Tina, we began putting her out at night, of which she seemed so sad about. She'd try to run back in before we shut the door and would often stand out there in the cold watching us through the glass. We wanted to just keep her, thinking we'd do a better job taking care of her, but we figured the gift had already been given. But she kept coming by to visit, which we imagined was the best we could get.

Then, one day she stopped coming. Several days passed and we thought Tina might have finally taken her inside or given her away. Then, as Beth tells it, one night just before bed, she went outside because she thought she saw Fifi, our cat who died last year, sitting at the far end of the yard (a good 100 or so feet away), just a silhouette visible against the streetlight. When Beth went out, the shadow of a cat was gone, but there, at the foot of our back steps was Squeak, all tore up, her back legs not working properly.

We brought her in and I called Tina. Turns out the kitty had been struck by a car two and a half days before and had run off into the brush, presumably, they thought, to die. All that time, she had lain in the woods, but instead of giving up, she dragged herself all the way to our back porch, considerably further than our neighbor's. She chose us, the way we see it, so, with Tina's consent, we chose to take her to the emergency 24 hour vet in North Raleigh, to fix her up if possible. We were to keep her if he could.

He could, and did. She had a broken pelvis and a "degloving" injury, meaning the skin had been ripped from her back foot. Her other back foot was banged up as well. The doc put metal staple-stitches in where there was still fur to fix the foot, and gave us some antibiotics and instructions for her care. She got better eventually, and learned to properly use the litter box, eventually, and became a stronger, healthier, and maybe crazier cat that we now call our own.

The white terror disappeared; in probably a tragic fashion. She was a beautiful creature. And we kept Squeak inside for a very, very long time, but we do let her roam now, so long as she comes in at night and when we're away. She's a big cat now, her belly growing in size as mine has done, to the point where we both maybe ought to do something about it. It's hard now to see her as the little kitten that once appeared at our back deck begging for companionship.

Except, she never got her proper cat voice. She might purr like a tomcat, but her meow is still stuck in squeak.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lest auld acquaintance be forgot (Part III)

The blog is a good example of how easy it is to keep in touch other than phoning or writing. My sister Gabriella does so through a Flickr page; my sister Nicki’s partner Laura does so through MySpace. My pals at work (I work in a small room with three other reporters, all younger) all have Facebook pages and keep tabs with each other that way. Because they’ve bugged me so much about it, I now have a page too, but haven’t the faintest idea what I’ll do with it. I had a MySpace page, but having to have (company founder) “Tom” as a friend irked me, even if he was there to help, as did the number of solicitations you get from people wanting to be your “friend” just long enough to sell you something. Still it’s annoying that you can’t contact other people on their MySpace pages unless you’re a member. My cousin Dave has a content-heavy page, and I was tempted to leave a comment, but didn’t feel like signing in.

Which brings me, in the most god awfully-long roundabout way possible, to the point of this entire post. I was working late one night, not too long ago, when a song came on by the band The Cure and the name of the girl who introduced me to the band, M.J. Slazak, popped into my head.

M.J. was on the staff of the yearbook with me in college. We weren’t really friends, but had nothing against each other either. She was a bit punk, or Goth, or whatever they called it then, always wearing black and such, but she struck me as a kind of conservative in nature as well. I seem to recall her smiling a lot.

So, this song comes on and I think, “Whatever happened to M.J.?” And so I did a Google search or two and her name popped up, responding to something on someone else’s blog. I dropped her a note in response, bookmarked the page and put it out of my mind.

The other day I was cleaning up my browser links at work and ran across “The stream behind the house.” It tingled in my brain that I must have bookmarked it for some reason, but I could remember why, so I clicked on it. It took me to that same post of mine, but below it was one from M.J. herself, reacting in shock and surprise to my out-of-the-blue note.

I responded with a few words and reacted to her comment that she’d have to check out my blog by figuring I’d better get back on the blog again and make some posts. Hence, this very, very, very long post which, on advice from crazyjohn, I’ve broken up over several days).

I guess if I’m to try to keep in touch with long lost friends and acquaintances, I’m going to have to make myself more Internet-visible. And a call to George and Jeff wouldn’t hurt either.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lest auld acquaintance be forgot (Part II)

My best friends, growing up, Jeremy Riga, and George and Jeff Burnett, I almost never get up with. I can’t go into cool stories about growing up with them -- it would fill a book. They probably feel like I abandoned them. For me, the problem is either (1) I never feel like I have anything new to report, and as likely, (2) I feel like I haven’t succeeded yet. I have a successful marriage, which isn’t the easiest thing, I suppose, but I’ve been struggling to get by (financially) for some time. My problem has always been one of procrastination. Instead of going out and making my fortune, I always seem to think a magic caravan is just going to appear such as in that tale in the Arabian Nights (I think). On that note, I do buy the occasional lottery ticket. I know my chances of striking it rich aren’t too good that way, but as the old joke goes, chances improve if I buy a ticket.

Moving to North Carolina really severed my relationships. To follow it up, I took a job as a reporter. You meet a lot of interesting people in that job, but make few friends. The friends I have here I met working at non journalism related jobs. But the advent of mainstream e-mail and, of course, the Internet has made it so easy to not only keep in touch with people who live far off and who’ve drifted away, but it’s made it possible for you to find them again, should you care to do so.

I occasionally do.

I’d like to keep tabs with a guy named crazyjohn, which was his blog handle while he wrote one. He did it for exactly a year, and had a good number of adherents. We all met at an end-of-blog party at his basement apartment in Chapel Hill. The assortment of people was so odd -- not the people, most were pretty down to earth -- because their only connection was they were either friends of this guy or read his blog (and lived near enough to stop by). Crazyjohn started the blog to meet an end -- he is heading off to graduate school soon to learn to be a better writer and he wanted to get in practice.

That gave me the idea for my blog, to get back into what I call personal writing, that is, non corporate or journalism writing. I’ve been keeping in touch with the occasional friend or family member with the blog, better so than e-mail. But with all the writing I do at the paper, I don’t blog so much anymore, sort of defeating the purpose.

Of course, I could easily do it more, if only I could keep the length down to a few paragraphs or even sentences, but that is difficult -- it’s just not my style. Maybe I can make it my style. Obviously, this isn’t a good start.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lest auld acquaintance be forgot…

Part I
(The post is too long, so I've broken it up into three parts, which I'll post over the next couple days)

I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to keep up with old friends and acquaintances.

I remember this group of pals I had in fifth and sixth grade at City Honors Middle School. The middle and high school were actually one building, but the big kids took classes on the 2nd and 3rd floors while the young kids were consigned mostly to the 1st floor. In the basement were the lockers and cafeteria and I recall sitting at a table with three guys, Martin Krebs, a friendly kid with a wide grin; Nick Leuer, a red haired kid with a peaked nose, who always had that nose in a book during lunch; and this large black kid named Eddie, I think, though I don’t remember his last name.

That’s because he got kicked out of school, he said, for riding up and down the elevator. The elevator was one of those old-fashioned things, built for room for just one or two people, with a cage, if I remember correctly. It went all the way up to the attic, which I never saw and was off limits. The old hulking building had been used as several types of schools, and even had once had a pool between the 3rd and 4th floors, over the auditorium, if you can believe it, which was filled in after a girl drowned. That was the legend anyways.

So the elevator was off limits, but Eddie wasn’t one to do what people said, unless what they said generated some kind of fuss. That’s why we liked him, of course. He was strong and when we discovered he could smash an apple with his fist, it was apple smashing time thereafter. One he smacked on the edge and it took off in an arc and dropped straight down in Nick’s cup of chili. Once, we said, “Do this one, Eddie!”, but he was sitting at the end of the table by the wall and when his fist came down on that apple, there was suddenly applesauce all over the wall. And a teacher standing nearby.

So, one way or another, Eddie got himself kicked out of school, and now he’s only a cool memory in my mind. Nick and I went on to graduate from City Honors High School, meaning we just never left -- same building and all. It’s an acclaimed school, but I don’t know if that’s happened since I left, meaning I’d never get in if I was a kid now, or if it was that good back then. I’m no dummy, but I never did apply myself, but there was no test or waiting list for the high school if you had graduated the middle school.

Martin left too, I can’t remember why exactly, except I know he moved to a little town called Springfield (or was it Springville?), about 30 minutes south of Buffalo. I must have had his address, and years later I found it and sent him a post card and we got together once or twice to catch up. He’d become a photographer for the local newspaper and always kept an ear open for sounds of a fire engine or ambulance siren, which he’d follow to its location (like I said, it was a small town). He said once he followed it all the way back to his own street, to find a car had driven into his family’s front porch.

It’s been awhile since I tried to get up with him again. The same goes for other old friends such as Chris "Juice" Jerzewski, whom I used to hang out with in late high school. He built model rockets and we’d go to the park to launch them, some never to return to the earth again -- that we could find anyways. He went to Case Western, which is an army school, or something. It’s been a long time since I tried to call him. Nick Leuer I have no idea what happened to. If I still lived in Buffalo, I’d probably run into him or mutual friends every once in a while -- the town has that big-little city type of atmosphere, where it’s easy to bump into old friends, acquaintances (and enemies). According to Google, there’s a Nicholas Leuer who was to marry a Jill Coppola (a good Italian name) in May 2004. I don’t recognize the church name, but then again, there’s like 600 churches in the Buffalo area.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The back 40

The “back 40” as we like to call the back lot, is entirely overgrown with clover and is in desperate need of mowing. There is clover elsewhere on the yard, but there it’s so thick and strong that the scent of it fills one’s head and makes one want to lie down on it like a bed and sleep. Of course, then you’d wake up crawling all over with creatures of the tick, chigger and mosquito variety; but it would be dreamingly pleasant for a few moments.

The clover and grass and weeds that look grass-like enough to pass for our lawn is so tall from the last two weeks’ rain, I’m not entirely certain the mower will go over it all without choking. Those blades need to be sharpened, for starters, and then there’s the fact we just got rid of our heavy grass and weed trimmer, figuring the yard was too small for it and it too large for our needs. Jay Lamm, a cartoonist who works with Beth needed something of the sort, and so he traded it for a garden variety weed whacker, but it’s electric and so won’t reach out that far regardless. It’ll do just fine around front and the immediate back yard, however.

Anyways, smelling the clover and feeling the cool breeze blowing when it was just humid and almost 90 degrees yesterday was very pleasant, as was getting up at noon and settling down on the couch with the doors open wide to read a book. The Two Towers was on TV last night and so of course I watched it, or at least, I watched the portions of it that don’t mar the book too terribly, of which there are many.

(Of course a book must be changed to make it into a movie, I’ve always understood that. But one needn’t wreak havoc on the characters that way -- when you put aside all the dragons and goblins and magic and fighting, it was the depth and the stolidity of the characters what made it so worthwhile. There were so many parts of those films where I felt I was watching a cartoon; Spiderman had much more depth and strength in its secondary characters than Lord of the Rings ended up with.)

So early this afternoon, I sat on the couch (with the kitty, of whom I shall tell you about in another blog) dozing on the sofa chair, feeling and smelling the breeze, listing to the chatter of squirrels and mockingbirds and reading again, as I have read many times before, about the beautiful country of The Shire, and of the adventures that visit several of its inhabitants and their friends.

Beth and I need to go shopping for groceries in a few minutes. As we always go out of town (because the stores here don’t have half the goods we purchase) into Wake Forest, which is about a half hour form here, the trip always takes several hours, especially if we stop to get something to eat first. So the lawn will get to grow a few more inches until Wednesday, when we both have some time off, and perhaps a few inches more if it is raining that day. Since I am working late on Friday and some on Saturday, it would be rough to have to give the yard a full other week to grow -- and I might have to get out a scythe to cut it or call Jay back -- here’s to wishing for no rain and a cool afternoon on Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gone digital

Some pix shot with the D70 (and some with a cheaper Nikon digital) I use at work.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A problem in journalism

The problem with being a journalist is one is perpetually behind. Now, when I work on any number of articles over five, I get literally behind and am forced to do the 12-hour-day (or two) early in the week to catch up. Instead of writing what I have during the latter portion of the week, I use that time to make more phone calls and inquires so that I will eventually be able to produce more content, i.e. articles.

Last week was a record on the low end -- I only had four articles in the paper, plus an editorial and photo page. Some things I bumped over to this week, making this week more hectic (by week I mean the news cycle week of our paper. Our week runs from Wednesday afternoon to Wednesday morning. Just when I need the two day weekend break the most, my new week begins).

But that’s not really what I meant. I mean one is never able to get to all of the things one would hope to be able to do to cover a community properly. Even though I’ve only been at the paper for a little over three months, I already have faced numerous challenges I’d love to sink my teeth into but did not have the time, resources, or in an occasional case, know-how, to do them.

I’d like to write it off to my own procrastination or slow writing style, but I can’t. For one thing, Beth said she felt this same thing when she was working as a newspaper reporter and editor.

You just never have the time to pursue all the things you want to pursue -- all the things you think you ought to pursue -- and so they perch there on the back of your brain, nagging at you for the eternity you remain employed at any particular edifice.

Some years back I interviewed the descendent of a Franklin County family who ran a mill that was considered historic, at least locally. She gave me some generic photos and sat down and spoke to me about the mill. The conversation was long, but she said nothing of interest. There are people who do that, who reveal all the mundane details of a person or place seemingly unaware (or unwilling) they are leaving out all the elements of a good tale. I never wrote that story and it still nags at me, like seven years later. Was she really that boring? Or did I just lack the ability to draw the good stuff out of her? I suppose I’ll never know.

So that’s a good example. Though in most cases, you don’t even get that far. You don’t even get the initial interview, or background research done, because you need to take a half day or day to do some research, which means you’d have to cut your story list down by five. That’s kind of what happened to me last week -- I wrote a feature based on an old man who walked into the office with three old newspapers. When I pointed to things featured in the papers (one of them was local and so featured half-century-old farming methods and industries) he would say: “I used to farm like that, pulling a plow behind two mules.”

So, after speaking to him for a bit, I sent him on his way. That weekend, I went over the three papers nearly word for word and extracted all the cool bits and pieces I thought would make an interesting story -- things that had some local or state reference, or that the old man had referenced. It took me hours to go through it all, and then to type it up. I re-interviewed the guy (his speaking style was very difficult to comprehend) and photographed him in his yard and put it all together for the paper. It came out pretty nice. Not beautiful, but cool.

I’ve got a few more of those historically-natured type of pieces on the back burner and several are getting pretty singed.

Eren makes me feel a little better. She’s a gung-ho J-school grad who is still in her first year working as a reporter. She works so fast she puts all of us to shame. She pumps out copious amounts of copy, on deadline, but complains of the same emotional/mental burnout I’ve always felt since my first year as a reporter. So, even when the day is done and she’s got time to burn, she’s too tired to think.

I feel better knowing that even someone who has time to spare runs out of steam at the end of the day. Meaning that I really shouldn’t fret too much over not getting to that story or not getting to that bit of personal writing I’d like to be doing every day or so.

Hence this late night entry, for a blog that is getting more and more stale. It doesn’t even matter if anyone reads it. I feel a tiny smidgen of relief just knowing I was able to get in that one extracurricular hour of writing. Even if it kills me tomorrow.

I was going to kill the blog, since I don't seem to have the time or the mental effort to get it these days. But I haven't done so, because I really enjoy my writing as of late and don't want to releagte my one talent solely to the field of work.

I just have this feeling, perched atop my mind like those hard-to-get-to story vultures, that if I kill my blog it'll be the death of me.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A new beginning

So, I've purchased myself a used scanner (Yea Craigslist!) and fully intend on showing off some of my better photos. This one was done with the software that came with the scanner -- I need to configure it to work with Photoshop so I can adjust the photos' levels and colors and all that.

This first test photo was not posed. I shot the candid at Delaware Park for Joan Good around 1990 for a project she was working on about children for her graduate teaching degree.

Look for more good photos to come!

Friday, February 23, 2007


(a found poem)

I don't know just where I'm going
But I'm gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein
And I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the same
When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' son
And I guess that I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know

Heroin Detox Leader
Rapid detox from heroin addiction
Call now for help (888) 987-4673

I have made the big decision
I'm gonna try to nullify my life
'Cause when the blood begins to flow
When it shoots up the dropper's neck
When I'm closing in on death
And you can't help me now, you guys
And all you sweet girls with all your sweet talk
You can all go take a walk
And I guess that I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know

Heroin Treatment & Rehab
Breakthrough methods end addiction
Private, drug-free detox/rehab

I wish that I was born a thousand years ago
I wish that I'd sail the darkened seas
On a great big clipper ship
Going from this land here to that
In a sailor's suit and cap
Away from the big city
Where a man can not be free
Of all of the evils of this town
And of himself, and those around
Oh, and I guess that I just don't know
Oh, and I guess that I just don't know

Drug Detox Program
Home Heroin Detox - Get Safe, Immediate Addiction Relief Today.

Heroin, be the death of me
Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life
Because a mainer to my vein
Leads to a center in my head
And then I'm better off and dead
Because when the smack begins to flow
I really don't care anymore
About all the Jim-Jims in this town
And all the politicians makin' crazy sounds
And everybody puttin' everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds
'Cause when the smack begins to flow
Then I really don't care anymore

End Heroin Addiction
Breakthrough methods end addiction
Private drug-free detox/rehab

Ah, when the heroin is in my blood
And that blood is in my head
Then thank God that I'm as good as dead
Then thank your God that I'm not aware
And thank God that I just don't care
And I guess I just don't know
And I guess I just don't know

The Heroin Song Ringtones
Get The Heroin Song ringtones by 30 Foot Fall instantly!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Still Life of a Reporter

It took me a while, but I successfully gave up drinking Coke. I was exercising often, if not every day, and I was going weeks between ingestions of Tums. Then, my new job happened. And it's all gone to pot.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Lost and Found

As fond as I am of found poems, I'm just as fond of found art. So I was pleased to run across the website, which features found notes, postcards, photos and the like which people have come across in their life wanderings.

What it reminds me of was this little junk shop on the side of 39 North between Louisburg and Henderson that I occasionally stopped by. And by occasionally, I mean like twice. The owner seemed to despair that far fewer came by his little lightless shop than they used to, or at least fewer than he expected to. Outside, among discarded refrigerators, furniture, tires and other junk too large to put on a shelf was a penned off area with the cutest puppies ever to be born in the wild and cared for by a strange man of indeterminate age whose dream of escaping his life as a handyman by renting a shack in the middle of nowhere and selling old Mickey Mouse glasses and old scratched up records by bands you've never heard of was clearly a failure.

I almost got one of those puppies, but we still had Fifi, our aged cat at the time, and she would not have been pleased. I was devoted to that cat and so would not have upset her intentionally. Beth's been taking it pretty hard since she died. It's been several months and she can't even tell the veterinarian why we haven’t been by -- every time she tries to call or pen a note, she can't do it. Thank God for "Squeak," (the subject of another post).

Inside the shop were rows of curios, boxes of clotheslike items, and other junk. I actually left the place with a $15 pair of used binoculars. They were the good kind, but have a loose part that you can hear when you shake them. But a new pair of that quality would be at least three times the cost, if not more.

What I didn't walk out with, to my later regret, was a box of letters and postcards that had been picked up from who knows where. The most interesting item in the box was this letter from a man to his girl. I recall that the man was writing from prison, though not much else, except that he professed his undying love to the girl. At the end of the letter, on the back, he had drawn a picture, using only his pen. It was a cat of some sort -- perhaps a lion. And it was beautiful. I don't believe it was a sketch from a photo; it was like a cougar's face peering from a group of flowers. Seeing that freehand drawing made me really sad. Here was a letter that had been discarded for who knows what reason -- a letter whose author had the raw skill to draw something that touched me through time but was wasting his talent away from behind the bars of a prison cell.

I don't know the story behind the artist and his would be lover, but if I had to guess, I would think that it would have any number of sad endings.

I wish I'd bought that letter, and the box of other ramblings, but I didn't and the place has since closed up, leaving me wondering what happened to those cute puppies, their benefactor, a woman who may or may not have loved a criminal, and a man whose artistic potential most likely never got the recognition, or exposure it warranted.

That's the tale of my piece of found art -- just in case you were looking for a little bit of melancholy to add to your day.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Fat Pen

With the fat pen writing is so easy —
Your slop sure style threatens to run off the page.
As if the quality of it all is too much joy to handle,
infusing these fingers intoxicantly
and then threatening again to drive
off the side of the paper
in a wanton act of irresponsible drunkenness.
But you jerk back just in time
to begin anew the second-by-second struggle
to stay between the lines.
Regardless of its recklessness,
just holding the fat pen is pure smile —
You don’t want to stop, rather let the sentence run on endlessly
to keep those digits buzzing toward
their end-of-run finish.
Will they lose all and careen off the surface?
Or win this stupor’d battle and make it
to that final stopping

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Times can't be that bad

I was driving east on 440 yesterday when I passed this vehicle. I've seen houses being transported before and other structures, almost always it's because they have some inherent value and need to be preserved instead of bulldozed. For the life of me though, I can't figure out what someone would want to save this thing, unless the economy is doing even worse than I thought.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

One for the road

A former co-worker of mine has ended his own blog, one year to the date after he started it. It was always his goal to get back into the writing process, and then get a graduate degree in creative writing. He’s gone through the applications process and will likely soon be heading off to school somewhere.

His blog was pretty popular among a small group of friends and acquaintances, myself included. It was because of his encouragement that I began my own blog, much for the same reasons -- to encourage me to write more. The new journalism job will probably make creative writing harder, rather than easier, because I’ll be writing all the time, and not in a creative writing format (although it certainly requires some creativity to keep it fresh). But I’ll make the effort regardless, because creative writing is my goal.

So this blog will continue, even if his will not. I hope to post less lengthy thoughts and generate more poems or show more photographs in the future.

He’ll be removing his blog from cyberspace shortly, and I wanted to respond to some questions he put in his second-to-last post regarding the nature of his blog and blogging in general.

Some answers for you, CrazyJohn:

How did your persona-as-commentator differ from the "real you"? Did you feel like you were more honest when writing here than your normally are in your life?

I think and write in stream-of-consciousness. But until people get to know you, you have to tamp that down, because they think you’re crazy. So when I first meet people, I’ll often guard how much I let slip out. But in blogworld, you can say what you like, in any old artistic or ridiculous fashion, and as long as it is interesting and different, they tend to appreciate it. I have been more myself writing and commenting on blogs than I have been in a long time.

What should we do with our time now that we can't read/write here anymore?

We should pursue our dreams, as you are.

Any other blogs/websites we should transfer our attention to?

If you live in Raleigh, you ought to catch a cable access show of Monkeytime TV once in a while. I watched it years ago when I lived there, and even ran into the offbeat creator of it outside a bar one night. He came out with a friend, and looked askance at me because I was staring at him. And I said: “Hey, you’re Monkeytime TV,” and he was shocked, because he thought only his friends watched it. He has a Web page, which I have a link to on the right.

In the age of disintegrating communities, did this blog-space feel like a community?

More so than anything I’ve felt in a long time. I shall miss it, but I think we all can get trapped in places and need to be given the proverbial kick in the behind to get moving on again. I totally respect your end-of-blogdom.

Any remaining secrets you want to reveal before the opportunity has past?

I tell everyone I’m a writer, but writing is torturous for me. I want to do it, but my mind refuses. Only the smallest poems or shortest articles come out fluidly, the rest are a chophouse process. My blogs, written in one long breath, are an exception. So instead of me trying to control them, to mash them into a square circle or whatnot, I just let them out as they come and run with it. Perhaps, doing so will help me figure out some control in the future.

If there's fellow-commentators you haven't met in person, did their personalities come through in their writing?

Tough to say. Most of us act differently in different situations regardless; if we’re asked to speak publicly we may come off differently than in a gathering of friends. The blogosphere provides a whole new forum for people to express themselves, and so they may have for the first time in their lives opened up, or they may have been bugged out by the whole throw-some-words-onto-the-net process, or they may have found themselves watching what they say so as not to offend, or otherwise. In the blogosphere, people cannot learn much about you that you don’t want them to know, so in many ways, it’s a less than honest appraisal. But who cares? I liked the community of CrazyJohn, and I shall miss it.

What will you miss the most about this blog community?

The author’s commentary of the life outside his window.

Do you regret saying anything in one of your comments?

I regret not saying things when I couldn’t make up my mind how to respond. My brain is still processing how to answer your question to describe ourselves (as commentators to your blog) so you can feature us on a separate page. What should I say? How should I say it? Which part of me shall represent me the best? I never did come up with an answer for that.

Does participating in a blog-community make us geeks?

Only participating in it would. Unless you’re geographically isolated (or somehow trapped inside your house), you ought to have some interaction with the breathing world for balance. If a solar flare knocked out all our communications tomorrow, who among us could adjust to the real world while we awaited for things to be replaced? Could you pick up a Frisbee and toss it? Could you make friends with your neighbors? Could you find work that doesn’t involve technology? Would we all end up in the library or bar?

Coming to the post-blog party on Saturday, January 20, here in Chapel Hill?

It was a nice time. My second blog party in a year, only this time I had something to say to the other attendees. It was a strange experience, meeting people you’ve only “met” through reading their observations on someone else’s blog.

That's all. Any other messages you want to pass on to all of us?

Not today.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

No, this blog is not yet dead

I just finished the hardest working week of my life. Perhaps there were harder ones, but if so I can’t remember them. But going from worklessness and high levels of stress worrying about having no money and no job, to working 10 to 12 hours a day and experiencing the heavy daily stress about whether I can cut it as a journalist once again when I haven’t picked up a reporter’s notebook in five years took its toll on me this week.

I interviewed for the job the Friday before this. I was offered the job that night. I started work Monday, two days to deadline. By Wednesday, I’d barely had enough time to learn how to work a digital camera (I still don’t know how to program it manually, or turn the flash on or off) or figure out the distasteful Mac software, but I had tracked down enough information for four news articles and pen a follow-up to a wrestling match.

Friday I spent all day at a town retreat where town leaders set their priorities for what they’re going to do for the rest of the year. You know, passing bonds and building sidewalks and lighting football fields all that. I knew maybe two people going into the meeting, and those I’d only met earlier this week. And I was familiar with only two of the (minor) issues discussed the whole, 8-hour day. I felt like Neo, being hooked up to the loading program to learn a year’s worth of Jujitsu training in a minute. Only, instead of martial arts and weapons tactics, I jacked into my brain the history of paving town roads; and the total number, volume and availability of water hookups to present and future town citizens; and the cost per square foot to add drainage to a city block. Stuff like that. A year’s planning worth. With no background knowledge. I took it all in, but I’m kinda worried about neural seepage. Better start writing it down today before there’s permanent damage, eh Johnny-just-Johnny?

I’m not complaining, not really, just tired. Exhausted. I haven’t gotten online for more than a minute all week. So, if I haven’t been blogging, it’s not because I’m giving up. No matter how much I get plugged back into the machine, I never want to wholly give up my creativity to a job again. I definitely will keep the blog going -- even if it kills me.

So, no this blog is not yet dead. Just really, really tired.

Time to go back to bed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Rest in Pieces

I just took apart my Quantum battery. It didn’t seem to be working, so I thought: maybe if I disassemble it and peer at its working parts, I’ll be able to discern what’s malfunctioning, and possibly fix it. Yeah, right.

I had to go through my camera gear this weekend because I accepted a new job on Friday night -- only six hours after I interviewed for it. What turnaround time! As I’ll be returning to my former life as a newspaperman, I figured I ought to dust off all that old equipment and get it into working order. Of course, we’ll be using digital cameras on the job, but my commute takes me through some 20 miles of the coverage area, so having an extra camera available to use -- digital or not -- is a good idea. This way, if aliens land in the middle of the night and bring Elvis back, I won’t be able to send my editor the images instantaneously (I have neither a digital camera or cell phone), but I will be able to record a photo for posterity on good old fashioned film.

I expect I’ll eventually buy a digital camera system, or perhaps an older digital Nikon which lets me use my existing lenses and equipment (the newest line of Nikons won’t work with pre-digital equipment). But until then, I intend to keep my FM2, film, lenses, and flash around just in case.

That’s where the Quantum battery comes in. Though, cumbersome, the rechargeable battery pack I used to clip to my waist during photo shoots was an essential part of my equipment. This thing allowed me to take flash photos up to 50 or 60 feet away with a quick reset. I bought it for $75 used from the now defunct University Camera in Durham right after I moved here. I don’t know how long a new Quantum of that type was expected to last, but the used model I purchased survived thousands of flashes (maybe tens of thousands). It’s especially useful when you need a lot of flash (nighttime) and you need to take multiple shots (weddings, sporting events). So if I ever upgrade to some serious new digital equipment, I’ll probably get another one.

I’ll have to, after “fixing” the old one.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dinner at Bluto's

A friend of mine invited me to a poker game this weekend. He did the inviting in December, to give people plenty of time to respond. I didn’t respond right away though, for several reasons: I was up for a job that would involve work on nights and weekends, and money has been so tight lately (yes, even more so than my usual bare bones budget) that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go even if I was available. As it turns out, that nighttime job was offered to me, which I didn’t take because I was a shoo-in for another job with better working conditions. I soon learned the relative value of the phrase “shoo-in,” however, as well as the value of the idea that the second interview is just a formality and nothing could possibly go wrong to hurt your chances. So, suddenly, I was out of two jobs -- one which I had turned down for the other, the proverbial bird in the bush.

When I’m not making any money, I have a hard time justifying the expense of it, including the cost of putting fuel in the tank of my SUV -- not the most economical vehicle to have even in fat years. But I decided to go anyway because those games never do get too expensive (I’ve played “home games” where $75 is dropped without a thought -- usually my $75). This game tops out at around $40, on a second buy-in, if you are unfortunate enough to lose your first $20 off the bat. It happens.

So my buddy, let’s call him Bluto, will sometimes grill before a game. Food before poker is a good idea if one is going to be doing any drinking. Drunk men don’t win poker games, nor do they make good drivers. My wife asked me to find out if I’d be eating at Bluto’s and I said I wasn’t sure, and she said it would be good because we have no food and no money for food in the house.

He is cooking out, so I’ll have dinner tonight. I guess Beth will eat some apples or cottage cheese. I know, it sounds brutal, but she actually likes cottage cheese as a meal. Not my cup of tea, you know. Of course, even though she’s got some years on me, I’ll probably die first. At the funeral, I picture her being expected to say some words, which she hates (being expected to, not speaking in general) and her quipping that if only I’d taken her advice on the cottage cheese and other healthy meat alternatives, I might have made it to 60. Just so you don’t the wrong idea about Beth, she’s not that type of person who Vegetarian Bible-bashes you to change your lifestyle. Instead she makes small, informed recommendations, which I usually follow, and lets me decide what is best for myself. And in return, I respect her choices, which, since she’s smarter than me on so many levels, may be the most intelligent thing I do.

As it turns out, we will be able to afford to go grocery shopping on Sunday, as I was offered a different job than the other two yesterday evening. I’ll be hitting the bricks again as a reporter for The Wake Weekly in Wake Forest; a burgeoning town north of Raleigh, not the university bearing the town’s name. That’s some 200 miles from here.

But even if I hadn’t had this turn of good luck, and was still broke come Sunday (meaning I hadn’t “cleaned up” at the poker table), I still would have been all right. When one doesn’t have a whole lot of money, one really does look forward to the smaller pleasures in life. In this case, a good grilled meal, some ale to wash it down, a circle of pals, and a friendly game on a warm Saturday night in January.

Maybe I am wealthy after all.

Monday, January 01, 2007

First Post of 2007!

While sitting in front of the TV (that’s an idiot box, for you luddites) watching a Seinfeld marathon, I brainstormed resolutions for 2007. “Why pick the same things you always pick?” I asked myself. “Why carry over resolutions from a previous year?” That just stresses you out. “Instead,” I thought, “why not choose resolutions that you’ll enjoy attempting, that you may actually accomplish?”

1. Drink the rest of the beer in my beer fridge. That may sound like an easy task -- and it could be, seeing as I’m still unemployed I do have the time -- but you never know. Every time I get around to deciding to do some “cleaning,” something happens and more beer makes its way into the fridge. It’s like a magic beer refrigerator in a way. Except that it’s not free magic -- the suds cost money which, even when I’m virtually broke, seems to find its way into my pocket and then my hand and then the hand of the sales clerk.

Now, a beer fridge is a nice thing to have. Beth and I think it’s an attractive selling point for the house, at least for the man, or the dad, or whomever who works his way through the upstairs, looking at all the rooms in that disinterested, male kind of way, follows the real estate agent (often female) and his wife downstairs and into the basement, which is set up pretty decently as a workshop area. There’s the cabinets against the inner wall with a hard ply board nailed to the top for working, plus we have a workbench, half a dozen saws and mauling instruments in the corner, some rakes and a giant shovel which I hauled out of the shed this fall because it does a great job shoveling leaves. Yes, we had that many leaves. So he walks in and immediately perks up. “Ah!” he thinks, “that’s more like it.

Then, oh gloriously then, they all turn left into what the former owners used as a spare bedroom, and see a full-sized pool table done in red felt, a cricket dart board on the wall, boom box, backgammon board, and there, next to the couch, a mini-fridge. “I wonder if…” he thinks to himself, and opens the little door to reveal yes, as many beers as a man can jam into a mini-fridge. Now of course, people buying the home might just turn that room right back into a kid’s bedroom, but, like the TV show “Sell This House” reveals, people have an easier time imagining how much they’ll enjoy a place if you help them out visually. Plus, if they want it, the pool table goes with the sale. No extra charge.

But the beer ought to be fresh, though the guy can’t possibly know whether it is or not, and so it needs constant replacing. Problem is, whenever I have guests over, even knowing in advance that they will most undoubtedly bring beer (as they always have), I still panic at the last second and go out and buy a couple six packs. Then, the guest or guests come, all bearing sixes of their own. Some of said sixes get consumed, and the remainders crowd up the fridge. I’ll have one or two while playing darts or pool, but I usually only drink in company, so after a while, all those beers start to go stale. So, my New Year’s Resolution numero uno is to go through the entire lot, drinking what I can and chucking what is absolutely intolerable. Meaning the horribly stale beer, any skunked bottles and all the Natural Lights.

Empty fridge, here you come!

2. Sell my first country song. Some years ago I was sitting in a brew pub (that I no longer go to because I hate every selection they have) with two friends (who are no longer my friends for reasons I’d prefer not to go into) and we were joking about the hilarity of those “working man” country songs that seem to always involve romantic breakups and pickup trucks, when I started to sing my own make-it-up-on-the-spot lyric about how my dog ran away with my wife. I can’t recall just how the tune went, but it was pretty darn good. Or it seemed that way at the time. Of course, we were in a bar, drinking.

This afternoon, while the wife and I were engaged in a forced absence from our humble abode so complete strangers could walk through the rooms of the house peering into cabinets and commenting on the state of the paint job, we were sitting outside a Remington Grill (temps hit 62 degrees today) reading the paper and being subjected to the most God-awful series of jarring and discordant notes and vocalizations that anyone should ever have to hear. It was the latest -- and who knows, maybe the greatest -- in country music. While I sat there, trying not to gag, I thought to myself: “I could write music that bad.” So, maybe I will.

Well, that’s the list.

I’ve only come up with the two so far, but I welcome one and all to feel free to make some suggestions of their own. Be nice. Or not nice. To quote a tunester comic from Chapel Hill who once wrote a song about being sexually molested by Ronald McDonald (set to the tune of Charlie Daniels’ Uneasy Rider): “It’s the same difference -- makes no difference to me.”