Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Good Idea

Finding myself inexplicably awake at sunrise, vaguely hungover and wondering what to do about it, I reached for my bicycle and rolled it out onto the porch.  I wasn’t going to ride, necessarily, but I thought I would put her out on the porch for old time’s sake, just to watch the golden-red glow wash over her as the sun got up and began to do its thing.  But it was quite overcast this morning and misty and foggy and looking like some kind of Precursor-of-Winter Sunrise, even though it was, after all, still August.

As I pushed her out the door I realized the front tire was flat.  

“What the hell?” I thought.  “That’s odd.”  It WAS odd.  This is the New Bike.  I have had her for a year now (she may be a him) and never came close to a flat.  Then again, I have yet to put any significant miles on the New Bike.  

“Well, there goes my morning ride,”  I thought.  “Dang flat.”  I started to shuffle towards the fridge.

“Yeah, you can’t ride a bike with a flat tire.  Too bad we don’t know what to do about flat bicycle tires.”

I spun around.  Nobody there.  Toby the Trouble Puppy was sitting there, startled by my sudden spinning about, wagging his tail warily.

“Toby?  Did you hear anything?”  He wagged his tail and stuck out his tongue and yawned a cautious  yawn.  I wasn’t cussing, so he started to relax, meanwhile keeping  his eye on me at the same time. But I HAD heard a voice, clear as a bell.  I looked at the bike on the porch.  I turned and looked at my work bench three feet away.  There was my bicycle tool box, stuffed with all manner of esoteric bicycle tools and also not one but TWO inner tube patch kits, both the glueless and the glue type.  

There was, I could see in the morning light, considerable dust on the toolbox.

“Hey!”  I said to Toby.  “I  know how to fix a flat bicycle tire. “  Daisy the Yellow Dog (getting on in years) stuck her head out from under my bunk to see what was going on.  Seeing me standing in my boxer shorts in the middle of the room talking to myself she stretched and crept back into  her personal  spot in front of the dog fan.  She heaved her best “here we go again” sigh and went back to sleep. Daisy sleeps a lot these days.

“We’ll see about this,”  I said, sounding confident.  I strode over to the refrigerator and reached for the handle.

“Wrong box.”  I whipped around again, going into my best imitation Elvis karate stance.

“Who’s there, dammit!?  Show yourself!”  Toby jumped up from his bed, (the backseat pulled from my Chevy van) and ran under the bunk to hide behind Miss Daisy.  I went to the front door and stuck my head out, looking back and forth with what I hoped was a fierce expression on my face.  “I ain’t playin!”  I shouted, stepping out to where I had parked the bike.

Christy, the redheaded widow from  across the way, was doing a little early morning work in her tiny trailer-park garden.  She turned to see what this sunrise hollering was about.  Seeing me standing there in my underwear, she stood up and came over to my gate.

“Going for a bike ride this morning?  I never see you out on your bike anymore.  You used to live on that thing.  What happened?”

“I have a flat tire.”  She looked down at the big trash can sitting next to the gate. The birds were starting up with their morning racket.  There are a lot of birds around the Park.

“Well, if you recycle all those cans, you should be able to afford a new tire.  Maybe even a whole new bike.”  

“I gotta go inside and put my pants on,” I said.

“Good idea,”  She said.

“Good idea,”  the Voice said.  This time I didn’t even flinch.  I went inside the trailer.  I looked at the pile of empty bottles in a box behind the trailer door.  

“No wonder I’m hearing voices,”  I said to no one in particular.  I reached up into the cupboard over the refrigerator and grabbed a dust rag and a can of WD-40.

I headed over to the work bench.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Halfway House
August 14, 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

Nothing Good Can Come of This

Note from the TPC:  This post originated as a comment over at my friend Brian’s booger,
Mid Life In the Fast Lane  He was ruminating about the coming election, mentioning that in times of uncertainty we can always fall back on the comfort of the number 42 and also how it seems that Hillary Clinton seems to feel herself to be immune to the laws of the land.  

Did I Say That Out Loud?
Well, Brian, apparently Ms. Clinton actually IS above the rules.  After all, her husband was President 42...and didn't she murder somebody back in Arkansas?  I never did quite understand that Vince Foster story.  Never cared much, either.  I kind of like the idea of a president who is capable of murder, though.  Don't forget, when I was twelve I campaigned for Nixon.

"You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore"

Somehow, to my jaded old-man vision, the inevitability of Clintonus Secundus seems further insured by the inability of the Republican Party to overcome the Trump Machine.  A big part of me (the conspiracy kook part) cannot help but wonder if the whole thing isn’t some huge set-up.

(Who's eye is that, anyway?")

But to what end?  One has to wonder where the third-party candidate is...the independent who marches triumphantly back from Tennessee into D.C. to claim his rightful crown, I mean throne, no, dangit, his Presidency stolen from him all those too many years ago, victimized by dangling chads and a questionable Supreme Court decision.

"Man, it's getting hot in here."

I have always thought the country (and the world) would today be a far better place if Mr. Gore had instead decided to settle things Tennessee-style, say a duel at ten paces with flintlock pistols.  That’s what Hillary would have done, I like to think.  But it didn’t happen and instead of the Environmentalist President, we got the Howdy Doody Mission Accomplished President.

I...never mind

Sadly, in hindsight, I think we got what we deserved.  And I think Ol’ Man Trump will get what he deserves if he thinks he can beat the Establishment.  He made it this far, sure, but don’t expect to see him at the finish line.  He started out doing his rich buffoon routine, then, to our (and to his, I believe) astonishment, it kept going. It got out of control.  The pundits started taking him seriously (a little)  He’s getting the nomination in Cleveland.  (By the way: Cleveland?)  But he’s a crafty old weasel and he knows he will be in one hell of a bad position were he to win the Game of Thrones.  There is no way he can accomplish a tenth of the things he has promised;  in fact his whole campaign has been a Tea-Party danse macabre that cannot end well for the prima donna.  He’ll find a way out that makes him look like a winner and victim at the same time.
"I'll sue every man, woman and child in this country.  It's going to be huge!"

Many years ago, while I was ruling the roost of high-rise condominium carpenters in Tampa Bay, the Big Man came to town to build a 50 story tower.  We were all agog at the chance to be a part of the magnificent proceedings.  He bought an entire city block with a wave of his hand and within days had the existing buildings demolished and hauled away.  He put out bids for model centers.  We all wanted in but at the point of bidding, it was discovered that condition #1 was that the models had to be installed at the bidder’s expense.  That was a sizeable amount of money, far more than I could ever afford.  I called my mentor, a millionaire many times over.

“I can’t hack it, boss, but if you will cover the materials and permitting, I can provide the labor at my expense.”  Looking back, I probably sounded like a crack-head desperate for a fix.

“Don’t be stupid, Tim Joe.  We don’t want anything to do with that project.”

“But boss!  It’s Trump!”

“That’s right, T.J.  And try to find one person who has ever been glad they did business with him.  That guy screws every single person and institution he gets in bed with.  I have no reason to stand in line to be screwed, and neither do you.  Besides, we have other business to consider.”
Standing in line for you-know-what

He was right.  The only payment the owners of that Downtown Tampa city block ever saw by way of payment was that initial wave of the hand.  The model centers never quite got finished.  Nobody involved saw any profit, in fact the whole mess ended badly and if you look, there is no 50 story Trump Tower in Tampa.  And The Donald sued everybody involved.

So:  an Evil Jester who would be King, or the Dark Sorceress, stepping forth from the shadow of the Throne to claim the Crown?

Either way, it looks to me that what we have to look forward to at the polls this time around is an opportunity to stand in line to get screwed.  And we really do have other business to consider.

The answer?  An American Hero.  A true independent who comes out of nowhere, captures the popular vote and slays these monsters.  A hero who marches up the steps of Congress and kicks some old fart ass.  Where is this superstar?  I don’t know.  But look into your hearts, my friends.  This is the Age of Social Media.  This is the Time of You Tube.  Where Is Our Hero?

Where have all the cowboys gone?

Sigh.  I’m getting too old for this nonsense.
Yr buddy,

Monday, April 11, 2016


Where Am I?
Don't ask how it happened.  You don't have to ask; as usual, I will explain everything in exhausting detail but in the meantime just try to bear with me.  My typing fingers have atrophied and seem to be semi-frozen in a half grip around a phantom hammer (but on deeper pondering I suddenly realize that a hammer grip is not much different than that of a handlebar grip) and this of course could easily start me down a trail of a different pondering, but no:  this story is about a trail named Flatwoods.  It is directly behind my hotel room and here, out my fourth floor window, I am stunned to see a deep new old Florida swamp.  It's out there, just feet away.

Cypress and fern and palmetto and water, this is the real deal and I am amazed they let it live...this is a young swamp, the cypress trees are small and unsure of themselves but they are here all the same and this wacky place called New Tampa or North Tampa (they can't seem to decide) is one of those god-awful Florida places where the invasive ruination is so strenuous that one certainly never expects to see anything primitive anywhere nearby but here it is:  Flatwoods Nature Preserve.

Tired Superman
Having driven about six hours across the state (a normal person could make it in three hours but I stop alot to pee and I have a habit of turning down side streets because of a big tree I saw or because I just forgot where I was going) but ultimately arriving more or less where I was headed,  I checked into the hotel and then went out to the van and pulled out my new bicycle.  I lept gracefully into the saddle and fell into a small grassy knoll next to where I was parked.  I lay there a minute, pretending I did it on purpose.  Then I looked around, found no witnesses watching and, righting myself and my bike, did a proper old-man left side pedal mount and headed off.

"I'll just pedal to the trailhead and look around,"  I said to myself.  I have to talk to myself because I am alone. The Voice has been gone for a long time.  "I haven't ridden (rided? rode?) over two blocks in the last six months and my butt can't take too many miles."

Yeah, Right 
Problem is, this hotel is situated (ironically) off the beaten path and by Trailer Park Luck I entered from a back way.  There was a sign, of sorts, and my previous research had told me that the trail was a seven mile loop so what could go wrong?  Well, my research, for starters.

Almost immediately I was immersed deep in the middle of a fathomless maze of trails both paved, gravel, and dirt.  Now, in the interest of honest reporting, the truth probably is (as near as I can ascertain) that if I had stuck to the paved portion, I wouldn't have found myself two hours later pedaling REALLY hard in traffic as the sun started becoming more of a glow than a shine.  My legs most likely (if I had stayed on the paved part) would not right now be soaking in a hot tub of epsom salts to ease the slings and arrows of inadvertedly blundering through a hedge of stinging nettles.

And that was the easy part.

Lost and Lonely Child
Somehow I got turned around.  I kept having opportunities to blast down some kind of clean white gravel road, only to find it taper off  to a pine needle trail going into an abrupt turn.  When these turns erupted I was usually looking at a hawk or a gopher tortoise or, truth be told, just pedaling hard and paying no attention.

And my research (questionable, at best) says they have singletrack!

                                      Goodnight, Irene
This place is several square miles and I managed, in my tentative foray to "check out the trailhead" rode pretty hard for a couple hours.  I exited the park ten miles from my hotel, pretty much lost and now, after two hours in the wilderness, pedaling with all I had left in me in commuter traffic, the sun below the horizon and my water bottle empty.  No lights, of course.

What's it all about?  Man, you tell me.  I really did this.  I really did drive over here in my usual Family Circus fashion of getting around, then go for my first ride in a long time.  It really was an epic three hour ride involving a new bicycle, three wetland crashes and a one hour blast through dangerous traffic.

Fourth Floor, Please
I'm in the elevator.  I've been awake for 24 hours and my legs are bleeding a little, the blood isn't much but it's draining into my socks. I still have on my construction clodhoppers.  The door is about to close but then a pretty old couple approaches and I hit the "Hold" button.  They hesitate.  

"Come on in," I say.  "Are you going up?"

"Yes," says the gentleman.  "I've never seen a bicycle on an elevator," he says.  He and his wife get on.

"My brother Peter rode a bicycle all over the place," says the lady. "He had epilepsy and couldn't get a license to drive a car."

"He was a lucky guy,"  I say.  The elevator doors close.  We're headed up.  

La Quinta Inn, North Tampa