Don’t Know Any Dad Jokes, But…

One gray and sad Christmas our family had gathered for the traditional Slatherfest, where our family would wet its beaks with the most delicious turkey, stuffing, and the other junky vegetables the adults would eat. My Dad and Mom were there, my brother and I, and my mother’s parents were also welcomed, as always, to the table-blanketing meal.

Cooking had not gone too well. My mother, out of desperation, perhaps, forgot the number one rule in our family: never let Dad anywhere near the kitchen to “help.”

Did I mention that he had been making sure his beak was already wet?

At any rate, it was time to “test” the bird, and my father tentatively guided it out of the oven to utter the words “it’s perfect,” without piercing its skin-maybe he had X-ray vision? My mom told him he would have to cut into the side to see what the meat looked like, but Dad unfortunately discovered that both of his hands were holding the pan with the turkey in it, and had no room for a knife.

He carefully slid the turkey back into the oven and almost put it onto the rack successfully. The pan collapsed like the worth of the dollar and turkey juice splashed everywhere inside the oven and onto my father’s forearms, which hurt.

“Tis the season to be bullshi-,” my Dad sang through gritted teeth.

After shooing my father out of the kitchen where he belonged, my mother did her best to save the turkey and finish the rest of the dinner by herself.

Dinnertime!! Everyone stormed the table. The bird was plopped onto its cutting board, which presented a problem for my father. What to do with the rest of the slop still in the pan?

My father opted for the truly American solution of dumping the waste into the woods where no one can see it. He upended the pan at the back of our yard, and the juice instantly melted away a circle of snow.

Finally we all sat down to the meal. Jokes and stories were told, everyone laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.

Weee-ooo, weee-ooo. The noise sounded from farther off.

It was getting closer.

It was coming down our street!

The fire trucks were stopping in front of our house!

We watched through the front window in horror, feeling like vermin, as a gang of firefighters stormed around to the back of the house. That was when we finally looked out the back window to see a plume of smoke billowing skywards to paint the world a new hue of gray. It came from the place, duh, where my father had dumped the turkey goop.

At least we all had something to laugh about, looking back.

My Worst Fear: The Bible Belt [shudder]

I open my eyes.

All around me are closely-cropped lawns and guys with flattops.

Passersby in polyester and squeaky patent leather shoes and names like “Vern” and “Lois” greet each other with phrases like “Mornin, Vern!” and “How’s your husband’s carbuncle, Lois?”

Songs by prissy blond dimpled teenagers about the wonderful wholesomeness of shoe-fly pi blare out of speakers I can’t see.

Children-all white-take group pictures in the park displaying the same glow-in-the-dark tombstone teeth.

Someone mentions Bob Dylan and is propelled by glares instantly over the state line.

The last time anyone said anything original or interesting was 1947-a statue commemorates him in a corner of the park but it is only used as a pigeon toilet.

People wash their cars on Sundays, and then golf.

The women knit. And gossip.

Everyone knows everyone, which means no one has the balls to change, lest he or she be labeled an agitator.

The most popular music is by Francis Scott Key or something, and is played by people wearing porkpie hats. One musician might be holding a washboard.

The preacher raises fire and damnation every week. For a town so utterly boring and monotonous, you would think, by his sermons, that it was Sodom. Or Gomorrah. Or both?

The librarian loves to shush people.

The library is now empty. Nothing to see here.

Pleated skirts are still a thing.

So are chinos.

The Carpenters “Top of the World” is now blasting from the speakers I still can’t see, which is good, because if I could I would batter them down with a Louisville slugger. I realize I have entered the lowest rung of Hell.

A little boy with an arrow-straight part carved into the side of his skull stares at me from behind a table. A sign says “Lemonade 50 sents.” The only reason I don’t tell him to go fuck himself is because I know his parents made him this way. So I go ahead and take a dump in the middle of his parents’ lawn. They are not enthused.

With a start I wake up. Everything is broken and I sigh contentedly.

“It was only a dream,” I say to myself.

Kevin and Albert

Kevin was a farmer. He was a serious man, a proud man, and one not afraid of work. Every morning his grime-caked hands laced up his muddy boots long before the sun fjorded a path through the end of the Night. He went out into his fields and worked them until his back was bent. He touched his plants, trying halfheartedly to get to know them. If it would help his situation, why not try? He asked them (in English) what they needed to grow strong and tall. His balance column depended on it.

But they never answered him.

Albert, Kevin’s brother, lived not far away to the northwest. He tended sheep. All day every day Albert wandered with his flock into the hills. To pass the time, he plucked long grasses and stuck them in his mouth. He let his hands pass through the ends of these grasses, turning lazily from side to side. The grasses felt warm in the morning sun, and tickled his skin almost lovingly.

The shepherd had a squarish head he tilted often to one side, as he did when he watched his sheep. He admired their climbing ability, and their sureness of foot. Some of them could do amazing things when they were allowed to bounce free across the hillsides.

All of the ladies downtown found Albert to die for. His deep, dark eyes hid behind curly locks that hung loosely and untamed over his forehead and into his face like dark tendrils of morning fog in the mountains. They concealed a mysterious place–the land inside Albert’s mysterious eyes–and there were few places many of the girls down in the town below would rather visit.

Albert didn’t seem to care. He loved being in the hills with his sheep, all of whom he knew by name.

“What’s the sense in giving them names if they’re just gonna end up as doner kebap?” Kevin asked, almost angry, whenever he would hear his brother call his sheep.

“I have to, you know,” Albert paused dreamily, looking to his beloved sheep, “keep them together.”


Time passed and Kevin grew bitter. His only joy was opening up his bottle of freshly-distilled Rotgut every evening, which supposedly helped him sleep better. He was plagued by bad dreams. His back, also, kept him awake on many nights, Rotgut or not. Sometimes he thought of the hussy that left him for hours and hours. Sometimes he had ugly thoughts, convinced not only that his wife had done the deed with someone else, but that this someone else was none other than Albert.

He had seen the way ladies looked to his brother. Never once in all his years had a woman looked at him that way.

There was a lengthy list of things Kevin had never experienced. He had never been able to travel; his farm prevented that. He had never been able to afford nice things, and was lucky most months if he could pay the bills. And, worst of all, he had never enjoyed a period where all of the variables had smiled upon him. It was never just moist enough. It was never just sunny enough. It was never peaceful and free from scavengers enough to be able to say: now everything is in place for my crops to grow like never before and grant me the wealth I deserve.

In particularly dark times he even wondered if maybe he was doing something wrong, though thoughts like these were quickly dismissed. They meant he would have to change something in order to become happy. No one wanted that.

Suns rose and fell over his decrepit, sloppy farm. One day at high noon, when the sun was being especially unmerciful, he stopped pushing the plow behind his haggard oxen and put his hands on his hips. He wheezed. No matter how he pushed himself there seemed no end to the plowing. Then his left arm started to tighten, and he collapsed into a freshly cut furrow, there where slopes of moist, overturned earth mixed with fresh ox dung.


When he awoke he was in his house. He lay on his couch and stared up at the cracks in his crumbling ceiling.

How much longer would his house stand, he wondered.

His brother came in and put a fresh, cool, moist rag on his forehead.

“You’re a sight,” he said.

Kevin groaned. “Been worse,” he said.

“If that’s true don’t you think it’s time to change something?” Albert asked. His voice always bothered Kevin. It was quiet and soothing, almost like a woman’s. He had inherited too much from his mother Evelyn.

“It’s just dumb luck,” Kevin said, shaking his head. “It’s so easy. Sow the seeds. Grow the seeds. Harvest the crop. Enjoy. But something’s always going wrong. Not enough rain. Not enough sun. Too much wind. Planted too early or too late.”

“The lightning storm last summer during the drought that burned everything to the ground. Then came the boll worms, the aphids, and the desert locusts.”

“The soil went bad-too much of the same crops too many years in a row. Remember how long I needed to figure that one out?”

Albert nodded.

“I remember sandstorms. Floods. Cyclones. Wasn’t there also a meteor? And the droughts, all those droughts.”

“I built irrigation canals,” Kevin reminded his brother. “Sure did. But only after two or three crops failed,” said Albert, looking out the window.

He was getting bored again, Kevin realized. His younger brother lacked focus.

“Those irrigation ditches are a pain in the ass to keep unclogged,” Albert looked back at Kevin. “Don’t you think there are just too many signs telling you not to live this way, this latest episode being the icing on the cake?”

“Dad started living this way,” Kevin said coldly. “What’s right for him is right for me.”

“But..”

“You and your damn sheep can go flock yourselves,” cursed Kevin with as much venom as he could muster, which wasn’t much, given the circumstances. Albert began walking to the door.

“Do you think I’d just give up on Dad’s dreams?” Kevin shouted weakly. “He did something extraordinary! I won’t let him and his accomplishments be forgotten!”

“No talkin’ to you..” said Albert over his shoulder. He opened the door and was gone.


Kevin had to face some hard truths over the next few months. If he wanted the farm to survive, he would have to think of something fast. He did his best to work himself back into working shape, but he was preoccupied. How was he to pay his bills and save the farm? He was not getting any younger and had no one to help him take care of his land. How long could he keep it up before dropping into another furrow and never getting up?

One day the butcher, a man named Dave, came to visit. Even though Kevin didn’t like him–he didn’t like anyone–he enjoyed a visit. It gave him an opportunity to curse his fates with someone who might just understand him.

But Dave was doing well, and wasn’t really interested in Kevin’s sob stories. He had actually come to talk business, and was ready to offer top dollar for a few of Albert’s sheep.

“Have you talked to him already?” Kevin asked him.

“Awww, you know his schedule,” the butcher said. “He’s up in the hills for hours before the sun rises. Sometimes he doesn’t come down at all. Once I saw him in town selling sheep milk, and I told him I wanted to talk business with him but he ignored me.”

“Well, he knows what he’s doing,” Kevin said, mad that he could not find a sympathetic ear. “Don’t know what I should do.”

“Just talk to him,” said Dave. “Maybe you could mention that if he gives me his rebellious rams and curious ewes taking care of the herd will be easier for him. No one running off or getting uppity.”

“Yeah, you’re right!” said Kevin. “He can only benefit. And it’s not like we want the whole herd..” Dave the butcher went away a happy man.


“Why not?” Kevin asked, incredulous.

“Dave’s an asshole,” answered Albert. “He can go fuck himself.”

“It’s better for you,” pleaded Kevin.

“I’ll decide that,” said Albert.

Darren, an angry ram, was making his presence felt. He began butting at all the rams around him. Albert stared.

Kevin followed his gaze.

“He could hurt someone, or one of your precious ewes,” he said. “What’ll you do then?”

“I’ll deal with that when it happens,” Albert answered.

A puffy ewe named Cora skittered over the ridge, too busy to look back.

“She might not come back,” said Kevin.

“And she might just learn something she can use over there,” said Albert.

“Albert, please…,” Kevin begged. “I…”

“This is about the farm, isn’t it?” Albert said, looking in his brother’s eyes. “You need the money to save it, don’t you?”

“Albert, you can’t do this to the memory of our father!”

“Fuck him,” said Albert. “Fuck you and fuck your stupid farm.”

Albert wandered off, his hands reaching to feel the stalks of the grasses his sheep were feeding on. His face rose to the sun, and he basked in its golden warmth.

He didn’t even know why he picked up the rock. He was going to toss it away and go home. But he wasn’t going to toss it away. He could toss it at his brother. But he wasn’t going to toss it at his brother.

“Hey, Albert!” he said, trying to sound friendly. Then he hopped over, more spry than he had been in years, and buried the stone in his brother’s beautiful sun-splashed face. He felt Albert’s hands flay upwards to defend himself, but it was all over. The first blow had been struck. There was nothing there to defend.

Still Kevin kept hitting and hitting and hitting…

He and Dave the butcher became great friends.

The Mentality Of The Modern Man

This piece concerns itself with the values and ideals of humankind in the 21st century. Please refer to the appropriate study materials. As you’ll remember, based on a historical survey of the origins and development of the modern society and its absorption of Christian values, we may safely conclude contemporary humans exude tolerance, gentle behaviour, profound optimism and a lack of obsession with time. They are careful and considerate, concerned for the welfare of his or her or its gender-undefined fellow citizens and creatures in his or her or its environment. They routinely practice fair, decent, polite, and helpful attributes, simultaneously rejecting selfish and pointless ones for the benefit of the larger good.

Humans today rejoice upon the successes of others, to the point where achievers are sometimes rewarded with rides upon massive, winged pink elephants, costs be damned. The realization that our welfare is inherently bound to the fortunes of others is deeply rooted in such species, so much so that each is prone to offer sums of money to downtrodden strangers, from specie of the lowest denomination to many-digitted bills.

Human brains appear to have cast away the self-absorption of previous centuries and aeons, as demonstrated by the near total rejection of material goods and superficiality on a grand scale. Gone are third autombiles, or the 6,000th pair of shoes, the second summer home or the yacht inside the yacht; instead, peoples of the world naturally stride for the well-being of all creatures, which, as we are all aware, does not involve fake body parts or $1,000 T-shirts.

It is particularly refreshing to view today’s youth in current popular ditties, easily viewed in various social media platforms and computer simulations, who all hold hands and sway to the rhythm of the uplifting ballads, and sing with the glory of all the angels in heaven about peace, love, and understanding.

By Elvis Costello.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Why did I eat that Sloppy Joe?

By One Salient Oversight at English Wikipedia.

Many people consider this the worst movie ever made, either this or “The Room” (2003)-I vehemently disagree. Plan 9 is a human odyssey, starring vastly underrated professionals, masters at their craft, who are trapped and under siege in what may as well be called “The Attack of Life Itself.”

Sometimes I wonder if the original title would have been better suited in Mr. Ed Wood’s quest for success on the big screen, but apparently the world was not ready for “Grave Robbers From Outer Space.”

The movie’s taut storyline joins a race of white, humanoid, English-speaking aliens who travel through the vast recesses of space to Podunk, America where they hope to prevent us humans from creating a doomsday weapon which would destroy the universe if it functions better than the Hubble Telescope. If the plot had a weak point, and I vehemently oppose the idea that it might, it would be that the viewer is asked to believe we humans would be interested in such a weapon (which, for brevity’s sake, I shall henceforth refer to as the “Uranium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator”), never mind the ridiculousness of the notion that we, gentle and loving humans one and all, would want to detonate such a device.

To prevent such a catastrophe, the aliens implement “Plan 9”-hence the title (ed.)-which is a scheme to resurrect the Earth’s dead, referred to as ghouls. If there was another weak point in the story, and I highly doubt there is, it is that the viewer is forced to wonder what happened to the other 8 plans, because surely any of them must have been better than this, but that is neither here nor there.

Since they went with #9, we are rewarded with 1), the joy of seeing Swedish professional wrestler Karl Erik Tore Johansson, aka Tor Johnson, lumber clunkily in his zombie persona, a real highlight of the film because that’s how zombies move, and, more importantly, Bela Lugosi (yes, that one), who wasn’t technically “present” for the shooting of the film. Mr. Lugosi, despite the handicap of having succumbed to a heart attack and the dastardly side affects of his morphine and methadone addictions, masterfully conveys a zombie/ghoul/vampire/dead thingy? in practice images director Wood shot for another never-realized project and added in later. One of these scenes was of Lugosi standing in a graveyard-extending his spooky zombie-cape sideways: the graveyard was actually part of Tor Johnson’s suburban home, because why wouldn’t it be.

Other images of Lugosi in the film, like where he creepily approaches the camera with his cloak masking the lower half of his face, were sadly played by Mr. Wood’s wife’s chiropractor, who was taller and thinner than Lugosi and looked nothing like him, and also could not match the latter’s gravitas on stage, much to the chagrin of the viewer (if there were any).

But we were discussing the plot…

This zombie uprising was step one in the aliens’ plan, and definitely not a cheap ploy by Wood to cash in on the audience’s interest in zombies and aliens at the time; step two involved the zombies wreaking havoc and inciting chaos, which would logically force humanity to listen to the extraterrestrials who caused the disaster. Otherwise these aliens, whose alienness is marvelously indicated (solely) by their crazy fashion choices, would rub out humanity with armies of undead–but hopefully things would not escalate this far, as Mr. Wood was on a shoestring budget.

I will not spoil the shock ending for you, mainly because I don’t remember it, but I will mention I was on the edge of my seat throughout, or was that when I saw Cinderella III: A Twist In Time (2007)?

The main charater was played by Gregory Walcott, who was also known for having roles, and who brilliantly conveys a tall, muscular, stoic, and somewhat interested human being for most of the movie. Another role is taken by Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira, whose two talents ensured her many many supporting roles in other films, all of witches names escape me at the moment. Despite Google. Lyle Talbot played someone in the film, and was, like, good, but his claim to fame was that he never turned down a role (not even this one). The role of Bela Lugosi was played by Martin Landau, who stole the show and rightfully won the 1994 Best Supporting Actor award for his efforts, although I realize now I am speaking of a different Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie depicting the making of this masterpiece, and not the original.

While we are here however, I must add that the wrestler George “The Animal” Steele’s portrayal of Tor Johnson in the ’94 version somehow surpassed the celestial acting heights the latter reached during the film, especially with his growling.

At this point it would be remiss if I were to neglect to mention the dynamite that held this film together; I speak of course of the narrator, played by Jeron Criswell King (born Jeron Criswell Konig (King-german)). Mr. King was a wildly inaccurate psychic known as The Amazing Criswell*, but went by the appendage Charles Criswell King and was sometimes credited as Jeron King Criswell. [aside-No I am not making this up, why?]

The Criz’ delivers his lines in a dreadfully serious, stentorian manner, and if you are unsure what “stentorian” means then listen to C-dog for two minutes and you will never need (or want) to hear any further examples of it. The Crister also claimed to own a coffin and sleep in it, but that is also neither here nor there.

I would love to mention, as well, with all the attendant glee, that ”Chief of Saucer Operations Thomas Edwards said that the government has been covering up saucer attacks, and a small town has been annihilated.” I gleaned this sentence from Wikipedia, as my memory had somehow glossed over the fact that there was a “Chief of Saucer Operations” in this movie.

Can you imagine him at dinner parties?

“And what do you do, Mr. Edwards?”

“I work for the government,” he says, chin up, proudly. “I’m Chief of Saucer Operations.”

Oh, man…

Also thought this one was pretty good: “Realizing that their weapons are useless, they sneak up behind Clay and knock him out with a wooden club.”

Oh yeah, the “plot,” the events revolve around the pilot Gregory Walcott, played by Jeff Trent, or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter. Somehow this pilot and a beat cop find themselves in the command ship doing what the US government was unable to do the whole movie. They rescue the girl, who was trapped? and Jeff and evil baddie alien #2 Eros fight. If there is another plot faux pas, and I vaguely suspect there might not be, it is that this Eros person has a lot of sway amongst the almost American-looking aliens, yet is still not the commander; this position is occupied by the “alien” known only as The Ruler, which leads to confusion in the heirarchy of the invading alien army of two? three?

Anywho, a fire breaks out which destroys the alien ship. The humans get out just in time [SPOILER ALERT!], and when the ship explodes the zombies logically decompose into skeletons, because that’s what happens.

I also don’t think the Uranium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator is used. Or built. It isn’t mentioned after the, like, beginning.

Further roles include the alien ruler, called The Ruler, played by John Cabell “Bunny” Breckinridge, who was a drag queen, surprisingly, and, if “Ed Wood” is to be believed, actually a hairdresser. Additionally, Dudley Devere Manlove expertly played Eros, and had one other role in the “talkies”-he played someone in another science fiction B movie called The Creation Of The Humanoids. Plus also he did television. And radio, whatever that is.

Sadly, this would be the last time this talented crew would work together. For some, like “Bunny” Breckenridge, it would be their first and last foray into the world of feature films. But just this once, the stars aligned to allow these brilliant creative minds to..um.. create the immortal masterwork known as Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Who’s up for Plan 10?

*-he claimed that Denver, Colorado would be struck by a ray from space that would cause all metal to adopt the qualities of rubber, leading to horrific accidents at amusement parks.[ He predicted mass cannibalism, and the end of planet Earth, which he set as happening on August 18, 1999 (it didn’t).

Burnt Umber

Life is hard.

I know. Wise words, right?

Ofttimes life has the capacity not only to drag you down, put you to shame, give you a wedgie, stuff you into a toilet head first and flush (the dreaded swirly), but also cram you into that old lady in the Black Forest’s oven, where you’ll be proverbially torched like Hell-meat and served up as a smorgasboard for someone with a candy house.

Shoulda known..

Burnt Umber champions that lifestyle!

Burnt Umber is the color of our flag. We march into battle, equipped with our potent weaponry (minus the firing pins), led by clowns who have never read anything longer than a Dr. Pepper label, at the behest of a white male with a swimming pool and a dissatisfied wife at home (the latter needs the heat the former most certainly has), for the good of ?, and fall like the ships in my old Space Armada game for the Intell ‘O’ Vision.

What are we doing here? How many warnings must go unheeded before someone says, “Hey! Let’s march under a flag of a different color! Let’s march to the beat of different drum!” And everyone will break down into individual discussion groups to decide that it’s best not to stir the pot. Or do any other clichés.

It is the color of Salieri’s mediocre Army in ”Amadeus.” It is the color of failure. The hue of the rust eating away at the floorboards of the car my father picked my mother up in for their very first date-yes, she could see the ground through the holes between her feet and no, she was not impressed.

Burnt Umber is the smell that follows us into our dreams. Burnt Umber graced the skin of our last president. Burnt Umber is the color of our Heart Attack Submarines at Subway, the buns of our Fatburghers at Burgher Thing, and all of our doughnaughts.

Burnt Umber is the film covering the memory of the time we were abused. Burnt Umber is the chorus to our elegy, played by a Burnt Umber zombie, sung in the Burnt Umber Church, under the watchful eye of our shepherd, the good Reverend Burnt Umber.

Nothing depicts any of these ideas better than Jerry Lundegaard, protagonist of ”Fargo” (1996). Strapped for cash, he pays a couple of backwards-ass jailbirds to kidnap his wife, intent on collecting the ransom money from his well-off father-in-law.

Shockingly, the plan works to perfection, unless one counts the endless dead people that “happen” during its execution (haha!). The money is buried in a field in the middle of nowhere, and, fun fact, a woman really froze to death looking for it. The Coen Brothers may be a little at fault here, since the movie began with the words “This is a true story.*”

Anyway, near the beginning of the movie Jerry, a car salesman, takes a car from the lot and transports it to the other middle of nowhere to where the two jailbirds are waiting-it will be the car they use during the crime.

The car, a tan Oldsmobile Sierra, is not called as such by our hero Jerry.

It is a Burnt Umber Sierra.

Onward Christian Soldiers!

*-Perhaps the woman should have stayed till the end, where it was explained that everything in the movie was fictional (yes both things can be true).

The Gates of Freedom-Success in 10 Steps

A truly special, inspiring creature…in an uninspiring form. Do we have what it takes to follow her path to success?

This is not a dog story.

All of us have felt caged in, weighed down, frustrated and angry before. Many of us choose to resort to complaining about it, especially when our paths to success or improvement seem too difficult to navigate, or we lack the strength to continue.

We happen to be taking care of six dogs right now ( and three cats). All of the animals at this place were rejected by society, and life. Most grew up on the streets or in animal shelters, and some of them have extremely troubled backstories, none worse than Berlioz the cat, who arrived here without hair–lost it all because of the nightmares she went through as a kitten/small cat. The people in the shelter had taken to playing classical music all the time in her room; they figured it might calm her. Hence the name.

But Berlioz is merely an example of the pain we all go through in life. As said, all of the animals here, and every one of us as well, have their crosses to bear. But for every problem we face there is a solution waiting for us, if we just take the time and have the patience to find it.

That would mean that our redemption, salvation, land of milk and honey, GI Joe with the kung fu grip–whatever we desire–is already waiting for us behind the obstacles we imagine are so/too difficult to surmount in the circumstances we find ourselves in right now. We may say that these goals are hidden away behind a gate we can’t open, for what ever reason.

1) The back gate-door to doggie freedom.

This gate can mean anything for anyone. For some it is the doorway to a better life with no financial lack. For others it guards a world they would like to reach without pain or shame.

Step 1: Define your gate

For our six dogs, the back gate separates them from the happy place where they can run and chase things and live the way Nature intended so long ago.

For five of our dogs, opening the gate is beyond their abilities, due to their lack of size, of thumbs, of the needed mental wherewithal.

But Negrita is a different dog. She is small-ish; too small to be a medium-sized dog and too large to be a lap dog. Her yellowish-brown eyes are less handsome than other dog’s almond-brown ones. She is maybe not chubby but keeping her that way is a full-time job. She is fast, but our two greyhounds and Podrick–possibly/probably an Ibizan hound–are faster. Negrita is also strong, but she lacks in size and the two mastiffs,Chewy & Espe, treat her like a fly.

What she does have are brains, and she is not afraid to use them. She understands at a very deep level how the words “human” and “benefactor” are related, and ingratiates herself expertly and persistently. It is impossible to be mad at her and difficult to refuse her extra treats.

Negrita looked at this back gate above and decided not to acknowledge it. There is always a solution, and if she really wanted to find it, she would by God find her way out one way or another.

If you had the desire and the brains of Negrita, you might also choose to turn away from the gate and seek freedom elsewhere. Maybe you would analyze the problem and decide to take a step back to look at the problem from a different angle.

Step 2: Collect information

Maybe, just maybe, you might decide to turn around and head back the way you came. Yes, on the right is a high stone wall–no escape there–and on the left is the fenced-in yard you know you can’t escape from, but you know standing around staring at the gate in frustration will not help either.

What would happen if you tried to get behind that wall?-you might ask.

Step 3: Take action

You get to the beginning of the path. Do you still seek freedom? Then you must stay focussed and continue to seek solutions. What about that space there on the right? Where does that go?-you might ask yourself.

Step 4: Keep working/Never Stop Learning

Where does this highway lead to?

Step 5: Be Creative/Ask Questions

What would happen if I went up?

If you’ve come this far you may content yourself knowing you are much farther than 5/6 of everyone else in your group. Now it is time to bear down. Grit and determination are needed.

Try jumping up on the wall, then to the top of the stone wall (upper right in Image #5).

Step 6: Play! Experiment! Solutions won’t get found by not trying

Doesn’t look like much, but let’s see where it goes…

It is so easy to give up. To say you’re not good enough or rich enough or pretty, tall, strong, smart, green or right-handed enough.

But you’ve already come so far. Do not be satisfied with past progress, but if it helps to keep you going, revel! Even better, though, would be to celebrate the freedom and success you’ll enjoy after you’ve reached your goal-as if you’re already there.

Step 7: Stay Positive (NOT “Don’t Get Disheartened!!”)

There will come a time, or times, when you you will find yourself in places where you never dreamt of being. Cleveland comes to mind. Also, maybe you are in a toxic relationship, maybe you are terminally sick, maybe you’re living in a dump next to the dump and walk sidewalks, paths, or even streets filled with dog, cat, cow, pig, lion (who knows?) or bird dumps. Maybe your life is a total disaster area (see picture), but you must always remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t always have to be the disaster unimaginative eyes see: maybe you have a great view, or wonderful flowering trees, or all the materials you need to build your paradise is already there but not yet formed (see picture).

Your paradise, however, will never get built when you devote your energies to focussing on failures, the difficulty of the task at hand, the shitty weather, the aches and pains in your body, the looseness of your socks, etc.. Which is why you must always remain positive, knowing you are mini-steps (3) away from reaching your goal. This includes using the right language. If you tell yourself not to be disheartened you may as well tell yourself to not think of a pink elephant. What are you thinking of? Oops.

Staying positive opens up a universe of possibilities, and one of these just might be the one you’ve been hoping for, even if it doesn’t look that way at the time.

Make a game of it. Any dope can mope. You are on your way..

The answers are there where we seek them



Step 8: Bulletproof Yourself

All of your doubts and fears are only more obstacles you just have to step over, around, or under. Maybe you’ll have to smash a couple? Who knows. They should be used as fuel, because by now you must realize how far you’ve come, and how silly it would be to give up. This attitude preps you for your second biggest step:

Dead end or another chance?

Step 9: Have Faith

Some people have religion, some have a powerful sense of self. Whatever it takes, you need something to fall back on when things are darkest, like when you’ve come so far but seem to have reached a dead end.

You need what some experts call an “Absolute Core Motivator (ACM).” Anytime you arrive at a point where failure looms, or your energy fails, or that bed is way to high on the Cozy-Meter, you may break out that ACM-it’ll help you keep on trucking where there is no road (see picture), and where you have no gas or idea where you should be going. You have exorcized the ghosts of your childhood, made your peace with what- or whoever you were warring with, all of your doubts, fears and negativity have been turned to fuel, and you are supremely focussed on your goal.

Which is good because the time has come for the biggest test of all:

Step 10: Make the Leap

The view from under the bushes, behind the square board in Image #9.

You are small, mortal, vulnerable. You are no genius, no superman/woman, and was not blessed with limitless resources at birth*. However, just the fact that you have come this far shows you have everything it takes to make it as far as you want to go. What are you waiting for? Make the leap.

You did not come this far to not jump, did you?

For those of you you who still view the words on these pages as just that: empty words from a stranger, go back to the picture of Negrita at the beginning. If she is not the smallest of our six dogs she is definitely the shortest-and weakest. She somehow got pregnant when she was too young for it, and her ribs expanded at a disproportionate rate, giving her a permanent “chubby” look. Her legs are short.

She was not dealt good cards for this game of life, but for whatever reason chose to make what she could with the tools she has. Every time I leave the back gate, it is she and she alone who dashes back the way she came, until she eventually leaps under the chicken wire in Image #10 and out to freedom. She follows exactly the path I’ve photographed here-with a few exceptions.

My wife and I figured out the route Negrita uses to escape her Alcatraz, and then I went to work trying to impede this route. I put the metal chairs on the wall in Image #5. I put up the square board in Image #9 so she couldn’t get a running start to leap up under the chicken wire. The bricks you see in Image #10 were too far from the front edge of the wall, and I pulled them closer to make it impossible for the dog to find purchase there. I also pushed the chicken wire down so it would be impossible to leap up underneath it.

No matter.

Whatever I tried was futile. Whenever I leave the back gate I can always be assured that wherever Negrita had been, she will soon be at my side, enjoying her success and her doggie freedom to the best of her ability.

Which is how it should be.

*Also not true, but that will, also, come in time.

Girl You Know It’s True

My brother always loved the Backstreet Boys. And Bobby Brown. And he still knows all of the words and all of the dance steps to ice ice baby [lack of capitalization intentional]. That’s all OK, I guess-everyone has their own tastes…is what I’m supposed to say. But the thing I will always hold over his head was his love for Milli Vanili.

[I can’t believe I’m going to do this paragraph-I’m so old! sobbing emoji] For those of you [sigh] who do not remember, Milli Vanili took the country by storm around 1989-they sang one inane meaningless superficial but ultimately danceable and hey! what else matters? pop smash hit after another seemingly without ever taking off those tight black “tights” even once for proper airing. They won three American Music Awards and one Grammy [Best New Artist] before it was discovered that they had never sang a single note of any of their songs.

Their Grammy stripped, their pride destroyed, they ignored the millions of fans still screaming for more and returned to whatever hole they crawled out of in the first place. Later, one of them even committed suicide.

But let’s leave whimsy aside…

I’ll admit it, I’m kind of a music snob. Many people along the way have reminded me that I will never get anywhere by pointing fingers or riding a high horse, which makes things complicated since I always want to take the high road, which is then OK somehow, but I get confused.

So I will start this piece..um..continue this piece by saying I am listening to classical music right now-The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. I am listening to..um..Summer? Wait, that was Winter! And now Autumn is on, which sounds totally different but ask me again when I can’t see my phone which Season is singing and I’ll have an exactly 25% chance of guessing right.

Thanks to Gravity’s Rainbow, and, like, my ears, I love Rossini, but I find Mozart to die for. Yeah, a lot of how I see Mozart has to do with Milos Forman’s movie, but if I shut the TV off forever and could only hear his music for a while I would die just as happy without the visuals. As a matter of fact, whenever other classical music comes on I generally recognize it instantly as “not Mozart.”

Pynchon made the point in Gravity’s Rainbow that the only thing one feels like doing after listening to Beethoven is “invade Poland.” Ergo: “not Mozart.” Then there’s Strauss, who wrote waltzes, which are wonderfully graceful dances performed equally as well by ceramic figurines on a Dollar Store music box. Definitely not Mozart. Bach is nice when you feel like you want to go completely insane, rip the couch open and eat all the stuffing, but should this not be the case I hear a ton of brooding “Holier than thou” no Mozart. Which brings us to the other classical musicist: Vivaldi.

For any of you daring enough to waste 20 minutes listening to Strauss trying to be Rossini trying to be Mozart and kind of giving up half way through while saying “why don’t we just break this hot mess up into 4 parts and name each after a season that’ll show ’em won’t it?”, this is the music for you!

Start with Spring, which begins, duh! slowly, without much fanfare, as the strings lead the budding return of life back through the last of the icy winter frosts and up into our strained eardrums. Then music happens, seemingly until the 4-5 minutes are up-which is when Summer begins…slowly! There are a lot of violins, and a lot of notes played by violins, and some of them sound quite pleasing together, until the composer guy decides to take a step back and “think” his way out of the season, which also sounds swell. The arrangements, melody, and cinnamon tones all inject the sweaty summer months with more authentic music until it is time, after 5 brief minutes, to bid Summer adieu and welcome Autumn!

The beginning of autumn sounds much like summer, and the ear-aficionado will quickly recognize that all three of these seasons are exactly the same up until that point. More notes are played at the listeners expense, but without causing the pesky nuisance of toe-tapping, or snapping, because the invention of rhythm remained an unreachable 233 years off in the future [Chuck Berry ,“Johnny Be Goode”, 1958]. I realize only now that Autumn has ended several minutes ago, which means it is time for dreadful Winter.

Here Vivaldi does not disappoint. Carrying on with his stated goal of only using strings, the Maestro enters the last season on a somber, dreary note that makes depressing November seem like Mardi Gras. Suicide is palpable-definitely an option. Then the violins start fiddling–you’ll hear what I mean– and the piece returns to familiar old territory: “Let’s just play this thing out!” Vivaldi utters in violin.

Perhaps it should be mentioned that the piece was composed in Amsterdam, though I can’t for the life of me remember where I was going with that smiley face emoji there should be a flamenco dancer emoji like one of them dancers at Mardi Gras you see spinning in yellow who is wearing a real flower and so much make up there is nothing anymore underneath her makeup OMG she is a sentient makeup figure in human form with God only knows what evil plans in her head OMG she HAS NO HEAD!!! and wait, where am I?

Winter has ended but I have no idea when. It must have been during somber while I was out carousing in Rio. Or A-dam?

Which brings me, directly, to Milli Vanilli. I obviously see Vivaldi as not Mozart. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t hear anything in his musicals warranting intense enjoyment. I don’t hear intense anything. I hear un-tense.

I don’t find anything there at all except a series of notes, played in a sensible order, light on the ear, soft on the attention span, undemanding, unchallenging, belonging nowhere else but in an elevator or a perfume shop, out of touch but, like a parfait in summer, with a touch of sweetness.

The Four Seasons is the white bread in the bakery-go hear you some if you’re in the mood for baloney. While you’re at it, Baby, Don’t Forget My Number!

About Jack

Jack Everly was born the moment Paul E. Fitzgibbons died in Vietnam. Throughout my life I have always been measured by my progress in comparison to my tall uncle, whose name I inherited and who made the ultimate sacrifice. Sadly, these comparisons always left me coming up short, and it was soon easy for me to stop trying and to fail again. 

All of us have our reasons for the lack of success that has come to define much of our lives. It took me a long time to realize something needed to change if I ever wanted to achieve anything at all. 

In 1992 I met my wife who was fighting her own demons. For ten years we slogged through the muck, making the same mistakes all of us make all day every day. Then my wife discovered Pilates.

Pilates changed our lives, first in a physical sense and later in a spiritual and emotional one. Everything in Pilates revolves around your core. Without a healthy core, you cannot perform any of the exercises correctly, you won’t make any progress, and you even risk injury. On an emotional level, if you do not care for your emotional core, the essence that makes you who you are, you will never perform any of your life tasks, like relationships or work, correctly, will not make progress and risk emotional injury. 

Over time we both learned to take better care of ourselves, we started offering classes, and finally decided in 2011 to open a fitness studio, one of the first in the area with the famous Pilates reformer. The years passed, I first became a trainer and then a personal trainer, started competing in Triathlons and eventually ultra marathons, but something was still missing.

Failure was still following me around like a lost puppy. 

My wife started to work with people and helping them overwhelm their inner demons. She has an almost supernatural gift at seeing what is bothering people before they open their mouths-sometimes before she sees them-and has, after extremely brief exchanges, already figured out a path people need to travel to arrive at their full potential. She was of course the one who gave me my Plan. 

At first she advised me to change my diet to alleviate my awful allergies that had plagued me since the sixth grade, and which had gotten worse since I had moved to Europe (I happened to be allergic to all European trees). Lo and behold-the first year I went vegetarian my allergies were about 80% better.

But this was just a superficial woe I had battled with. Over the last ten years, I have trusted her counsel and followed her plan, which gave me the strength I needed to 1), quit my well-paid job and start at the studio full-time, and 2), put the person I was, in gradual increments, behind me. I opened the door to a glorious future, no matter my age or financial status. There remained one last loose end to tie up.

Souls that die violently are not happy in their afterlife, and emotional ties to these people, usually relatives, can work against you. Everyone wants peace, especially those that have gone before us, and without this peace the soul careens through the universe like a bull in a China shop.

At the same time, running a fitness studio proved to be a Herculean labor. In order to get those bills paid, my wife settled in to a rigorous 6 1/2 day work week where she averaged 14-16 hour days. By 2018, she was at the end of her stores of fortitude, and realized she could not continue living that way if she ever wanted to be happy.

We decided to close the studio. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to all of our customers, as most had become good friends, and watching them grow physically and as people was reward enough for our troubles, but we had more important business to attend to:

How does one achieve freedom and happiness in this life?

We decided to tour the world. 

After three hectic months of selling all of our possessions, up to and including my beloved blindingly yellow Fiat I christened “Carmelo” (Donovan, anyone?), we were off. A though coagulated in the back of my spacious mind that crystallized as soon as we hit Southeast Asia. 

I would visit the spot where my uncle fell. 

On a(nother) hot day near the Mekong Delta, I held a small, personal, and very intense rite which stripped any last hold the spirit of my dead uncle might still have on me and release him to the universe. Afterwards, there was no need for me ever to get frustrated anymore. There was no need to worry about whether I was good enough or not. I had no reason to fear the future or be angry about the cards I had drawn. I could shape my life the way I desired. I was free.

There is still a lot of good in this world. Nature presents us with the most daring, thrilling landscapes and the most magnificent settings for us to enact our plays on/in. Earth is a place to fulfil an ultimate life dream, but not the way we are doing it now.

We all have our battles to fight and crosses to bear. I have chosen to lay my cross aside because, to paraphrase Tom Waits, someone might “need the wood.”* Instead, I spend my time using the gifts I was born with, given to me by whichever deity you prefer, to do said deity justice in his choice of recipient. I choose to live, to love, and to laugh, and have made it my mission to show others how this should and can be done, no matter the circumstances in front of you.

*”Come on up to the House,” from Mule Vibrations.

Never Look Back

Do not turn around. Do not avert your gaze. Do no let yourself be distracted. Heed the plan, heed the rules, heed the strict guidelines no one has prepared and painstakingly not formulated to carve in stone nowhere you can find them. Do not listen to your conscience unless it is telling you to keep going without turning around. Do not listen to the gunshots. Do not listen to the cries of horror from men, women, and children who might look strangely familiar since they are all your brothers and sisters, but are hard to make out from under the advance of your Saint Laurent 30mm Brushed Leather Army Boot ($800)-clad feet.

Your wife depends on you. Her jewelry and golf club memberships depend on you. Your children depend on you. Their pets and toys depend on you. Your shit-brained selfishness and complete ignorance depend on you. Your pickups and Colt 45s depend on you, as do your Confederate flags. If you do not advance persons of color might get all of these.

Do not do research. Do not wonder if anything you are told is really true. You have already come so far, and to turn back now would mean you wasted half, or all, of your life doing something that was wrong. Fly a flag even if you have no idea which one that is, or what it stands for. Hit someone.

Do not open the door. Do not open the window. Do not open the shutters. Do not remove your blinders. Do not go outside or you might get hurt. Outside dogsaresnarling bloodisflowing insultsteargastelescopicbatonswatercannonsshockgrenades ‘n’ hypersonicmissiles fly Fists are clenched and only the sensible ones have no guns. You do not want to get hurt. You do not want to be exposed as being weak and mortal. Worse, you do not want to be unworthy of being a beacon of hope and light. It is best to draw the shade, close the blinds. TV will tell you everything you want to know, and if you don’t like what you’re shown, change the channel.

Do not watch anything but FoxNews, Blaze, The Daily Wire, Breitbart, The Freedom First Press. Do not listen to anyone except William F. Buckley, William Safire, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, Russ Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson, and Stephen Miller (if there is no sunlight around).

Do not expect this to end. Do not expect peace. Do not hope for peace. Peace is a girlie-man, leftist pinko hoax dreamt up by the left-wing fake news. As is mercy, empathy, sympathy (yes these are 2 different things), honesty, tenderness, friendliness, kindness, emotions, feelings, human, shared dialogues, being adult, guilt, and fair-play.

Do not look for sense.

Do not look for sanity.

Do not hope for hope.

Do not look for love.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.