Category Archives: musings

Thank God for Bad Samaritans

I own a classic truck.  A good definition of a classic vehicle is that it’s old enough that no one else wants to buy it from you, but not so far gone that it’s ready for the junkyard.   This one’s a 1995 F-150.

Truck

Of course, some dealer would be happy to give me a “good trade” if I bought a new vehicle from them. Some days I’m not sure why I don’t trade it in for something newer.  Typically, these are the days it decides to show its age and act up.

Just the other day, I was driving to an appointment and the truck died in the middle of the road. It was around 8:30 in the morning.  Of course, I was in morning traffic.

It’s a four-lane road, and I’m sitting in the right lane going nowhere with a line of cars piling up behind me and the left lane zooming past.  I can see in my rear-view mirror the cars trying to jockey around me, and I’m avoiding making eye contact with the drivers as they pass (because people are so happy during their morning commute, to begin with).

I try to start the truck a couple of times and let out a few choice curses.   The truck had died on me in a similar fashion about a year ago—the distributor finally kicked the bucket.  My first thoughts were that it died again, and  I should have traded in this piece of crap then.

Luckily I’m near an intersection and there’s a right turn lane.   I decided to push my truck over to let the happy commuters go along their merry way (nobody was honking, but if glares could kill…)

It’s a big truck, and I’m not a big man.  As I’m grunting to get this thing moving (and hoping no one clips my door and kills me),  I’m mentally griping about my fellow drivers:

Where were the good Samaritans?  Surely someone will stop and help me push this beast! 

After significant effort (luckily the road was flat), I get the truck out of traffic and hop back in to collect my thoughts.  I don’t even get a chance to sigh before I look in the rear view mirror and see a car sitting in the turn lane behind me.

Yes, there is a good person out there! 

I wait for the guy to get out of his car.

He looks down at his cell phone and then back up.  He’s just sitting there.

It dawns on me that he’s not stopping to help.  He’s waiting to turn right.

What the hell!

I roll down my window and wave for him to go around.  I guess my truck sitting skewed in the lane, not running, wasn’t a strong enough clue.

Now I’m fuming about the piece of crap truck and my good-for-nothing fellow commuters.  Recriminating thoughts are running through my head:

If I was a young lady, they’d be lining up to help me. 

What about a senior citizen—I’ve got more gray hair than black damn it.

I was full of self-righteous fury. . . until I looked down at the gauge panel and remembered that I needed gas.  I was on my way to the gas station that morning because I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to go into town.  My truck has two tanks, and they were both low.

Surely I didn’t run out of gas.

I flipped the switch to change tanks and turned the key.  The truck fires up.

You know that feeling when you fall on your face, or smack yourself with a rake and look around to see if anyone saw you?  Multiply it by about a thousand, and you’ll know how I felt at that moment.

Sometimes we get caught up in the blame game: Why isn’t someone helping me?  Or we jump to conclusions: It’s the same problem as last time.  We don’t look at the situation clearly and go down the wrong path in our thinking.

All I can say is: Thank God for bad Samaritans!  I would have felt ten times stupider if someone had stopped to help and was standing there when I realized I ran out of gas.

God probably had a good laugh at me that day, and I can laugh about it too—now.  I guess we all need a little reminder that we need to look at ourselves first before pointing fingers.

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Filed under musings, Philosophy, Society

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We’re just now getting rain from Florence here in Charlotte.  It’s supposed to keep falling until Monday or Tuesday as this storm meanders through South Carolina.  Luckily, it is now a tropical storm, so we don’t have to deal with the high winds.

I saw a news show on the local television station yesterday that was talking about hurricane myths.  One myth, according to the show, was that the hurricane category is not a good indicator of the severity of the storm.  I beg to differ.

The hurricane category is a measure of the wind speed.  From my experience, wind speed is the most immediate danger of a hurricane.  High wind speed can blow over trees, rip the roofs off of houses, and send debris flying through the air.  For me, this is the unpredictable part of the storm that can get you killed.

Of course, we’re hearing a lot about rainfall and flooding with this storm, which can be just as deadly.  I don’t want to downplay the danger of flooding, but I don’t think it is as immediate a threat as the wind.  Basically, I prefer one danger to two.

I guess my point is that there will be flooding with every hurricane, but you can have flooding with a bad rainstorm too.  The thing that makes a hurricane scary and dangerous is the wind.  Otherwise, why would they be categorized that way?

And why would the Weather Channel people by playing it up so much?

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Filed under musings, Nature

Anniversaries, Writing, and Fat-boy Pants

Yesterday was my 30th wedding anniversary.  As I tell my wife, it’s been thirty looong glorious years.  It was also her birthday (I’m not saying how many, because I want to live to see another day), and my parent’s wedding anniversary.  As if that wasn’t enough, I finished the latest revision of my book (Now called Quarrel) and am preparing to send it to my editor.

We are up in the North Carolina Mountains with some friends, at our favorite getaway spot.

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I love visiting the mountains.  It is so peaceful and rejuvenating, especially after the past week.

What are Fat-boy Pants?

I mentioned about a week ago that I popped the button on my shorts while preparing to attend Supercon in Raleigh.  To add insult to injury, the next day I was trying on my dress pants in preparation for a trip to the corporate office.  A few pair were a bit snug in the waist.

I told my wife that the elves must have snuck in at night and adjusted all my pants.  In my defense, I’ve had some of those pairs of pants as long as I’ve been married (style, what’s that? You mean it actually changes?), but it still stung.  Of course, my wife’s solution was to say, “Just pull out your fat-boy pants.”

I have one pair of pants that is a size bigger than the rest.  We call them my fat-boy pants because I only break them out when the others are feeling a bit snug.  Another reason that I call them my fat-boy pants is that breaking them out gives me the incentive to say no to the sweets.

Unfortunately, I had cleaned out my closest last year and got rid of the fat-boy pants.  I think my words at the time were, “I never wear these things.  I don’t need them anymore.”  Ahhh, somebody’s laughing at me right about now.  Oh yeah, it’s my wife.

Laughter is the key to a long marriage.

When I asked my wife why she’s stayed married to me for so long, she said, “Because you make me laugh.”

I guess popping buttons and giving away my fat-boy pants are just another day filled with laughter for her.  Of course, one of her primary missions in life it to make sure I stay with her to the end, so she only laughed for a moment and then told me that we’re going to start walking farther on our daily walk, and that I needed to get back to the gym.

Right after that, I got on a plane to the corporate office.  And wouldn’t you know it, my first morning there they had the most awesome looking donuts I had ever seen.  Yes, I resisted them, and the cookies for lunch every day, and the Panera Bread chocolate brownie.  Man, getting old sucks.  I used to be able to eat all that stuff and still thumb my nose at those fat-boy pants.

Luckily, all the rules are off when we’re on vacation (Not to mention for our anniversary).  Since we’ve been in the mountains, I’ve had a couple of donuts, ice cream, and some candy.  I know I’ll pay later, but what the heck, you only celebrate your 30th once, right?

And don’t forget the Writing.

I’m also celebrating the last revision on Quarrel.  I finished it up yesterday morning.  I say last revision, but, it’s not over until I get the comments back from the editor.  Still, getting the thing to the editor always seems like the biggest hurdle in the process.  Be looking for Quarrel around Christmas time.

One last thing for yesterday.  My free book giveaway for the Order of the Wolf ended, but you can still get Stenson Blues and The Eastern Factor at a discount until August 9th.

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Filed under Books, Editing, Humor, musings, Philosophy, Writing

I Can’t Afford to Save any more Money

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I went grocery shopping with my wife the other day.  The store had several sales going on:  buy one get one free, buy two get three free, two for five dollars, etc.

As my wife placed each of these items in our cart, I’d ask “do we need that?”  And she looked at me like I was daft and said, “but it’s buy two get three free.” Needless to say, we had a cart full of groceries by the time we made it to the checkout lane.

Yes, I recognize that I am the cart boy.  My job is to push the cart and keep my opinions to myself (Obviously, I need a bit of retraining).  Still, I can’t help wondering how much money do we have to save before we’re not really saving money?  Buy two get three free is an awesome deal, but what if you only need one?  Hopefully, we’ll never need five boxes of Pepto-Bismol.   It would be okay if it were extra bonus packs of Reese’s Cups—Just saying.

I can’t really complain (Even though I am).  My wife doesn’t go shopping all that often and is a frugal shopper.  She actually trained me on how to not spend money(Hmmm, there’s a lesson in there somewhere).  She likes to come home from one of her discount stores and show me the receipt that states how much money she saved.

Whoever came up with that scheme is a genius.  You Saved 23 dollars!  Of course, you had to spend two hundred to do it, but that’s beside the point.

I guess I’m just becoming one of those crotchety old men who complain about money.

Don’t touch the thermostat! 

Turn off that light switch—it ain’t free you know.

What’s wrong with those shoes that a little duct tape won’t fix? 

It tears my stomach up, I tell you (Maybe I will need all that Pepto after all).

I’m not sure how this happened.  I used to blow money like it was going out of style, and now I wear my slippers until I can feel the floor through the soles (and will go through a couple of rounds of duct tape before admitting defeat).

I guess we all have a little Scrooge in us, and it gets worse with age.  I think I need a vacation from it all.   Wonder if I can get a cheap flight to Vegas?  I hear you can drink for free while playing the penny slots.

 

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Filed under Culture, Humor, musings, Society

What a Difference a Bed Makes!

My Bed

How often do you think about your bed?  For me, it starts creeping into my thoughts about the time yawns become the main part of the evening conversation.  If thinking about beds is yawn-inducing, does that make it a boring subject?  Or maybe relaxing? (yeah, that sounds right)

So I start to think about relaxing in bed, and the yawns take over my brain.  Next thing you know, I’m tucked in up to my neck and snoring away.  (I can only go off my wife’s insistence that I snore.  I’ve never heard it.)  I’m one of those “my head hits the pillow and I’m out” kind of sleepers.  For some reason, my wife has to turn on the television and set the volume at a million to go to sleep.  It’s almost like she’s trying to drown out some noise.

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Anyway, I don’t think about the bed until it’s time to go off to la-la land (Not that stupid movie, but the real la-la land where I can fly and all the women think I’m hot).  I never thought about the bed being an issue until one evening a few weeks ago when my wife asked me about my back.

I’ve had back problems for the last couple of years.  I suffered from a bulging disc (which is better now), and as part of the doctor’s workup found out I have arthritis in my back.  So my back hurts most days, to one degree or another, and I just try to ignore it.  I gave her my standard answer, but this time she didn’t let it go.  “It’s the bed,” she said.

“The bed?”  My writer brain immediately went off on a tangent.  The bed is part of a conspiracy to take over the world.  Once we’re asleep, it sends an inter-dimensional signal to its lizard overlords who open a portal to our bedroom and manipulate our backs.  That way we won’t be able to fight back when they invade.

lizardmen

“I think it’s worn out.”

Oh, yeah it could be that too.  I mean, we bought it 18+ years ago.  There are divots where we sleep.  Maybe it could be the bed is worn out.

So we bought a new mattress about a week ago, and wow, what a difference a bed makes!  Who knew you could wake up in the morning without a backache?

If your bed is more than ten years old, and your back has been giving you problems, you may want to replace it (The mattress, not your back, unless you have cyborg fantasies).  You can fly with the hot chicks every night (don’t tell my wife), and wake up with a (relatively) pain-free back.

Of course, it takes me a few more minutes to fall asleep now, because I keep one eye peeled for those inter-dimensional lizards (just in case).

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Everything has been Done Before

What is so bad about a cliché?

I see the comment sometimes in critiques — “This is a cliché.”  Some people say it so much that pointing out a cliché has become a cliché.  Is that like the pot calling the kettle black?

My first response is usually, “So what?”  I guess I don’t get why people get all in a tizzy about it, especially if it’s in dialogue.  People do still use clichés when they speak, don’t they?  Or is it just us older people who are stuck in our ways.

So what is a cliché?

A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought, a stereotype or electrotype.

It sounds bad, right?  Or is it?  I think originality can be overemphasized in some literary circles over telling a good story.  The best storytellers know and use every trick in the book.  Old or new expression, does it really matter as long as you tell a good story?  After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, right?

Maybe it’s because I live in the south.  We like our clichés down here, and they’re as numerous as fleas on a hound dog.  It’s part of the vernacular.  Telling a southerner to stop using clichés, is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks.   You might as well be talking to a fence post.

So my advice is don’t get your knickers in a twist over clichés.  Just go with the flow and enjoy the story.  The occasional cliché won’t hurt anything (unlike this post).

Oh well, it is what it is.

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Filed under Culture, musings, Philosophy, Writing

I’ve Created a Monster!

frankenstein

No, this isn’t a six-foot-tall Frankenstein’s monster that runs amuck and attacks unsuspecting villagers.  She’s about five foot nothing and sneaks in a “joke” when you’re not looking.

Used to be, I was the one being a smart-ass, telling jokes, and making light of the world around me.  Of course, my children inherited my sense of humor and we’ve formed an alliance of like-minded mockery.  My wife has always been the down-to-earth no-nonsense person that kept us on the straight and narrow.  She was the straight man to our comical antics.

I blame myself for her slide into tomfoolery.  I thought she was like the Rock of Gibraltar in her resistance to our raillery, but it turns out even the strongest stone has its limits.

It started out with the odd joke (and I do mean odd) at the dinner table.  All forks would pause, and three sets of eyes swiveled to study this strange creature who had appeared in our midst.  The jokes escalated into quips, then wisecracks, and finally into full-on mischief-making and horseplay.  I swear if she slides into punning I’m moving out.  A man has to draw the line somewhere.

Now she’s telling jokes and laughing hysterically, and I’m the one with the straight face wondering how this came to pass.  Doesn’t she know her role?  She’s supposed to roll her eyes when I say something stupid, not the other way around.

This straight man gig is for the birds.

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