Friday, September 28, 2012

Flashback Friday

I have never made a secret of my dislike for one of God's most misunderstood creatures. Nobody's perfect, I guess. They should never have been created, let alone become the focal point of the book of Genesis. When we were squirts in Seaton and had to light the candles for church service, we acolytes would go back to the reverend's office after doing our job to look at pictures in books.  While we were glimpsing Eve's nether regions, I was keeping an eye out for that damnable thing hissing in the tree.

My mother was famous for keeping an ax handy for snake nests.  My Dad built a house in a new lot in Seaton and apparently was full of nests that we boys would uncover, then race to Mom for protection.  She swung that baby as accurately as Carrie Nation, and with as much fervor.  Looking back, they were most likely harmless garters but Marj took no chances.  I don't think I've ever seen anything redder than the blood of a snake.  If the sight of roiling dying snakes didn't scar me, then the sight of so many of them writhing in a hole would have.

Before I settled down and not long after I started working at the Mary, I lived for a time in an old converted box car not far from what is now Hawthorne Center.  The old lady who lived there before me had a large strawberry patch, which eventually succumbed to neglect. The suckers must have liked fruit.  This yard was teeming with the bastards, often turning the neighbor's white picket fence red after a mowing, and not because of the strawberries.  They were so big, MINS (Minor In Need Of Supervision) my yellow lab, crashed into the back storm door trying to get back in.  You could see fang indentations in the hard rubber wheels.  We left that god-forsaken snake-pit and headed toward the center of town reasoning that they would get run over by the traffic before they'd advance as far as Grove Street.  We were wrong.

There, the current Mrs. Blythe would enjoy snake wrangling with the kids.  Here is a series of pics with a very young Mackenzie chasing, catching, and corralling snakes one weekend.  Naturally they knew of my fear so it was great fun to chase me or scare in any way possible.    

They would live and hide in the cracks of the railroad ties.  If they didn't slither out they would stay in hiding, plotting for sizing you up for lunch.  Here Kenzie shows little fear as she bends to peer into a crack.

The smart ones would escape from there two fearless snatchers into the pucker brush.  Meanwhile I'd have camera in hand puckering myself.

Upon closer inspection, they spot their quarry.

If you look closely, you'll see that the current Mrs. Blythe has hold of two snakes, one in each hand.  She is sick and demented.  

Size matters.  This is a bi one, as far as garters go.  This is a King Garter.

They would catch them and put them in this aquarium to study or taunt.    

This why I hate snakes, and the current Mrs. Blythe.  

Everyone in a while they would slither past my place that was next to the creek that meanders through G-Burg. 

It was apparent to me that Grove street was too infested for my comfort so I moved across the street to Chambers.  The snakes followed me.  Even found one that had crawled up and into a lilac bush that follows a sidewalk.  Damn thing just climbed up as easy as you please and waited for me to pass by. We built two waterfalls and we found them all over the railroad ties and decorative rocks out there, too.  But I only saw one in BFE. Two if you count Neighbor Tim's.  I must return to that place that doesn't allow snakes.  

I know now that 99% of all snakes are harmless and necessary for pest control.  I read that in a book.   And since I see more snakes than mice, then it must be true.  But, dang, why make them so serpent-like?  Hateful, brutish looking things.  Even a Pit Bull will wag its tale and give you a smile.  But not these filthy things.  Neighbor Tim keeps one in an aquarium in BFE and feeds it mice every couple of weeks.  There have been evenings I have, in my old Presbyterian way, given these poor dumb things last rites, and sprinkled them with Holy Beer.  I think of Neighbor Tim as a most reasonable fellow, someone I like having on my side, a person of character, integrity, and if he weren't already a Marine, I'd say he was very Marine-like in his own way.  But I will never fathom why anyone would want a damn snake in their house.  Field, yes, a living room, no.  Yes, I know they are dry.  Yes, I know they are harmless.  Yes, I know they are beneficial to the ecosystem.  Yes, I know all God's creatures are blessed and sacrosanct.  But you can have your God damned slimey, puppy-killing, acid-spewing, malevolent-staring, split-tongued spawns of Satan.  I'd much rather prefer focusing on the nether regions of Eve.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rest In Peace Marty...Cause You Sure Stirred Things Up While You Were Here

Longtime resident of the Grove Street community was Marty Cross.  Actually it was Martha but she never went by that name.  Descriptions of her are difficult, but suffice to say she was a character in every sense of the word.  She had her detractors, and her supporters.  I was in the latter camp.  One just sat in silence after the initial salutations, she would take off in so many directions you could get whiplash just listening.  She moved into the area and immediately became something of the neighborhood matriarch, often being invited to various shindigs.  One of them was our Hawaiian Party.  She was our guest for Thanksgiving one year.

Like I said, you walked up gave her a hug, and then sat and watched or listened to the show.  She would give all of her block friends gifts at Christmas and even cooked for all us a couple of times in her house.  Those dinners ended when it was no longer possible to fit us all in her two-story house.  You see she was a spender and a hoarder, with an affection for dolls.  The UPS truck always stopped to deliver something new and invariably it was either dishes or a new doll.

We heard all about her family she married into and all of the dynamics that entails, as well as all the men who loved her in town, many (according to her) were very important people in town.  We heard all about everyone out at Lake Bracken where she lived before Grove Street and how everyone loved her and her husband, Jerry Cross.  It was never Jerry, or my husband, or Mr. Cross, always Jerry Cross.  Not always diplomatic or prone to soft sell her thoughts, she could be an acquired taste.  I, for one, acquired it.

Whenever I was back I'd stop and say hi.  She wanted to know how I was doing then off she would go in that rambling stream-of-consciousness thing that was like riding a Brahma bull through a field of roman candles.   I saw her in April for the last time.

Marty Cross passed away last month.  There was no obituary notice or funeral.  For all the noise she made in life, her end was quiet and secretive.  Frankly, I liked the old girl.  For someone as bland and vanilla as I am, spice always tastes good.

This is rather mild for her, as her discussions usually went far astray.  She could be talking about one of the neighbors one minute and then just as fast, switch gears to relate a story that happened 40 years ago and start crying.  Sometimes her switches would occur so fast that you'd think perhaps you had blacked out and awakened 20 minutes later.  She'd sit like a princess happy to have an audience and would talk endlessly until you would say, "Well, I gotta go, see ya Marty."  And unless you physically rose and started walking away, she'd keep you there with a question or launch into another story.   We never knew if half what she said was real or fantasy, and I'll bet she didn't either.

I painted a picture of her house that was still hanging on the wall, but becoming more obscured by the boxes, and stuff hanging or laid against whatever was convenient.  We always thought she would die from an avalanche, crushed by the ever growing menagerie of spooky dolls. We never suspected that her end would come with a respiratory problem on the front porch, where she spent a lot of time surveying her block.

I'll miss her.  The world doesn't have enough spice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Best 20 Minutes You'll Spend Today

I thought about posting this on a Friday or Saturday so everyone would have the time to see this, but then again, people are busy on weekends.  Whatever you do, see it through to the end.  It is very likely one of the greatest lectures on creativity I have ever heard.  It is the only one I have ever heard.  But even so, this is something you will relish long after you have listened to it.  Cleese nails this in a way that is funny, yet serious, and the structure of it is nothing less than brilliant.  PLEASE listen to it, it is my public service deed for the year.  (I know the subtitles are annoying, but you can handle it.)  Go grab a cup of coffee (or beer) depending on the time of day, pull up a chair and prepare to thank me for such an interesting post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Recent Sunset Over Shawshank

I like these kinds of posts because there is nothing I have to write. No words can describe other than just seeing for yourself. I took these during a sunset at Shawshank a month ago. They are not photo shopped or enhanced in any way by any photo program. I'll step aside now so you can see one of the most striking sunsets I've seen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mugshot Monday

"You have the right to remain silent..."

This is Aquarious Thomas.  He's not an Aquairus, however. He was born on December 18 which makes him a Scorpio.  Go figure. 

This is Daniel Halter.  He looks like a woman.  

This lady has some sort of skin condition.

Attempted to commit prostitution.  "Attempted" seems to be the key word.  Wake up!

Steady, steady.

This guy's name is Victor Harry George.  Three first names.  Bet he says "What?"  a lot in crowds.

She has a metalic bar through her upper cheek and a fairly gaudy looking tat on her neck.  The bar you can get rid of in a year or so, but not that tat.  

He looks kind of like that guy in Men In Black whose head keeps growing back.  Oh well, watch the movie, you'll see.

Probably not the most flattering picture this guy has ever taken.

This lady was arrested for drug usage.  You can kinda tell.

Holy smokes, look at them things.  Imagine carrying those around all day and slapping around everytime you move your head.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Flashback Friday

Ask me the greatest weekend I ever had and I'll tell you, July 4th weekend in 2007. It was without doubt the greatest one I ever experienced and I've experienced a few.  It was a weekend where Brendan was able to join us from Clarksville, Tennessee while he was on leave there between tours in Iraq.  Joining us also that weekend were Michael and Alhanna.

What we had, then was a good old family get-together.  I recall making plans to attend the 4th of July Car Show in Kewanee which is always held at Francis Park a couple miles outside of town.   I knew he was coming up with his friend Karen from England.  I had asked them to join me if they could at the car show, and if he really felt like it, to wear his uni, just for me.

I'll be damned if he didn't and if I can say so, I was one proud father walking with his kid that day amongst the people and the old cars.  A memorable day that only got better.

Michael and I went up to the depot to spot for trains.

Michael walking the cement abutment on Seminary Street.  Uh, yeah, he was well supervised and never in any danger.

After the car show we all stopped at the DQ for a refreshment.  It was one hot day.

Michael and his giant blizzard. 

After the fireworks at Lake Story, we all congregated at the bar in my garage.

A Hell of a good night at the bar.

It was an ungodly hot day but Brendan acquiesced to my wishes and wore his uniform.

Mackenzie and Karen having a laugh while Michael just got hosed down.

Aha! There's the villain.

Watching fireworks at Lake Story.

And then having our own fireworks display when we got home.  Here's Michael with a sparkler.

Under the heading "It's a small world"  this is Matt Carlson, son of Reverend
Carlson of BFE.  ironically they were my neighbors there.  Matt and Brendan are best buds.

Brendan preparing a multi-pop bottle rocket attack.

Congregating in the front yard.

Brendan and Alhanna.

Missy looking ready to party.

Michael rode with me in Baby back to Galesburg after the car show and we all stopped at DQ.  After that we made our way back to the house where I fired up the grille and we had the usual assortment of burgers, hot dogs and brats.  After going to the fireworks show at Lake Story we then returned home and partied in the garage.  Dave and Matt, a couple of Brendan's friends joined us.  

I have never known a happier few days.  Everyone was having fun, there laughter and joy with us all.  I was deeply touched that Brendan would wear his uni, I recall him fighting the request, and all in all great family day that was enjoyed by everyone.  It was one of those sterling, but rare times when everything came together and made us a single happy family.  I had all the loves of my life with me, a 4-car garage, and it was filled with old cars, a motorcycle, laughing grandkids, my own kids, and, at least for that day, a deep feeling of peace and contentment.  

They say parents are only as happy as their least happy child.  On this weekend, our kids were happy, playful and I was surrounded by everything and everyone who mattered.   Brendan would leave in a day or two and I'd start worrying about him again.  Mackenzie would be continuing with her life and I'd start worrying about her again as well.  And, like usual, the angst of the human condition would resume its place as a shadow that more or less hovers with varying degrees of ominousness.  But for those few hours, it all seemed so far away...   


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lowry Park Zoo - Part 3

This is the final day of the zoo, and I really didn't expect a three day post, but it really was a nice place, well done, with lots of neat exhibits.  Today is the primarily aquatic section.  So, let's go ahead and finish the tour.

You won't find these guys at Brookfield, St. Louis and certainly not at Niabi.  Manatees are simply leg-less and armless walrus looking things without the tusks, too.  They are mammals so breath air but are very much sea creatures.  We have run into them at the beach and seen them in the Bay at the Vinoy, so they are not rare or bashful, but certainly not common.  Graceful, slow and lumbering they look like giant black blobs floating about.

A mother and baby manatee swim about in a nice auditorium aquarium that you can also then go around and see them underwater through windows.  They are victims of boating props a lot down here, and protected with maniacal fervor.

Alternating between food at the surface and then at the bottom, these gentle creatures are fun to watch.

A big old sea bass swims in the aquarium. 

Isn't this the opening scene of Jaws?

Norah soaking up the cultural experience.

That turtle had some age on it and a layer of moss on its shell.

Damnable disgusting snake house with damnable disgusting snakes.  Okay, so they are dry to the touch, and not slimy, they are nonetheless enough to give a girl (or guy) the vapors. 

I couldn't get out of my head the Lizzie Borden song.  Especially the thirty whacks part.

I think this was a rattler.

All bald eagles are cool looking.  

Finally this kitty cat was the final exhibit.  And he was kind of cute because he kind of meowed, in a big cat way, of course.  You can hear him in the video below.

Brendan still hasn't learned that I have my camera with me at all times ready to snap or film.  You can hear him giving a commentary on the turtle's progress of mounting the log.

This eel was swimming in an endless arc in this tank.  Never deviating from the same routine and course.  I wonder what Darwin would say about that?

Lowry commends itself on not having any animals not directly indigenous to Tampa's climate, meaning no polar bears.  Why, then are these little guys around.  I guess there are warmer weather penguins?

I admit to having an irrational fear of these guys.  They do make great boots and belts so there's that.

You have to listen closely but he does meow a couple of times.

That's our trip to Lowry and if you are in the neighborhood, stop by.  Nice place for the family, as long as its not too big.  Thanks for hanging in there all week.