Saturday, October 31, 2009

Getting rid of stuff can be interesting

Maybe three or four years back I cut down a medium sized tree in the front yard.

Getting rid of the firewood-sized part of the tree was easy. Neighbor Bob snagged it all and took it to camp for firewood. That was a pretty good deal for both of us.

The smaller stuff was a little more interesting. I fired up the chipper/shredder and turned it into a mountain chips.

Mrs. Piccolo wanted me to shovel and rake the chips on to a tarp and haul it down to the way-back, but this seemed like a lot of work because I’d have to spread it out in addition to hauling it down there.

I pointed out that it would be of more use someone else to use in their garden, and she agreed that if I could get rid of it by giving it away, that it would be OK.

I posted a sign on the pile that said ‘free’.

There were no takers over the next couple of days and Mrs. Pic said that I probably should cart the chips down back.

The next morning, she went to work and I had to run a few errands. Before I left, I changed the sign in front of the pile from ‘free’ to ‘these chips for trade’.

In smaller letters below the sign, I wrote that the chips could be yours for either a case of Heineken or a bottle of good Irish whisky.

I left the house for a few hours and when I returned, the chips were gone. The taker had carefully raked the lawn and it looked like the mountain of chips had never been there at all.

I was so overjoyed to get rid of the stuff that I didn’t even think of the beer. I figured that if they had ripped me off that I was still coming out ahead, so I parked, took the sign down and put it into the trash.

When I came outside I noticed a case of Heineken and a paper bag.

Inside the paper bag was a 1.25 liter bottle of Crested Ten Irish and a note. When I went on line, I found out the Crested ten was worth a fortune. Later, when I tasted it, it was so smooth that I knew it was worth every cent someone paid for it.

The note read: My uncle brought bottle this back from Ireland three years ago and my husband doesn’t drink it. I bought you the beer in case it has gone bad. The note was unsigned.

To this day I do not have clue one who snagged the chips and left the whisky and beer.

Damned if I couldn’t give the chips away, but I could trade them for a $25 case of beer and a $100+ bottle of Irish whisky.

Sometimes I can’t figure people out.


If Europe is such a wonderful place, why are there Euro snobs in tis country? Why are they not in Europe where they'd be happy?
A few years ago there was a tsunami that tore up the Pacific Rim pretty badly and it was in the news. Bush was in office, but let’s not talk about him.

I went into a Starbucks for a cuppa Joe and as sometimes happens, I ran into another Euro snob, which seems par for the course. It happens a lot to me there.

Anyway, she asked me why we didn’t do more for the tsunami victims, after all, France had sent over a team of forty doctors and Bush had only sent over three aircraft carriers. After all, what are we going to do? Bomb them?

I turned to her looked and shook my head and gave her a little food for thought.

“Lady,” I began. “Every aircraft carrier has in it about 5500 people, every single one of which has been trained in basic first aid, damage control, search and rescue. These skills can be used ashore. The carrier has in it three separate hospitals with teams of doctors trained to treat traumatic injuries.”

“It is nuclear, so it doesn’t need refueling and can stay on task as long as it’s needed. Its power plant can be used to run shore power. There are aircraft on board that can be used to evacuate casualties. There are also a number of US Marines on board that can be used to restore civil order. The mess facilities routinely prepare well over 16,000 meals a day and can easily produce three times that many, which can be delivered ashore by the on-board helicopters.”

I continued. “We sent three of these ships, along with the USS Comfort and the USS Solstice, huge hospital ships that can tend to the needs of thousands. France pulled 40 third-rate gynecologists out of the whorehouses of Paris and sent them over to represent your beloved France. So what? How many of these ships are there in all of Europe? None. We have almost a dozen”

A few people were watching this unfold, some seemed amused and some looked thoughtful.

I turned to the woman again. “President Bush wanted to send the very best we had, so he was kind enough to give the job to the United States Navy.”

There were a few red faced people there, some were grinning and when I went to get my coffee, a woman charged up and threw a five on the counter and looked at the clerk. “His coffee is on me,” she said.

Then she turned to me and told me that her son was joining the Navy and she had tried to talk him out of it.

She gave me a mother’s look. “I’m proud of him now. Thank you.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

One day while comercial fishing in Alaska

I was rudely awakened from the coma that is called sleep among fishermen. It was a shout from the skipper that we ‘were on the gear’.

Startled out of a wonderful dream involving…never mind, I started out of the top bunk, caught my foot on something and fell out, landing on my shipmate that was climbing out of the bottom rack.

We landed in a heap and, still in a daze, started grabbing our clothes.

We both grabbed the same pair of pants and started pulling them on ala Laurel and Hardy.

When I realized what we were doing, I recognized that they were my pants, so I elbowed my shipmate and with a dumb look on his face, he pulled his leg out of them.

I put my other leg in them and pulled them up, only to find I had put them on backwards. I simply buttoned them on the back, ran out to the galley and wolfed down about 6 eggs, a bushel of spuds, a pound of sausage, and 8 biscuits and washed it down with a gallon of coffee and got into my rain gear and hit the deck.

This whole process took about 5 minutes.

When the day was over, I took off my raingear and sat down and ate.
Nobody said anything about my pants; there were no comments, no laughter, not a single word about my backward pants.

Now at work, I have to be at least somewhat presentable and look fairly civilized, which I don’t mind.

Still, there’s something to be said about having a job where it doesn’t matter if you have your pants on backwards or not.


Instant Karma sucks. I make mine from SCRATCH.


It seems Starbucks shops draw a certain amount of snobs that seem to be above everyone else. The only reason I go there is because their coffee is pretty good, although I’m starting to steer to Dunkin’ Donuts, as the coffee there is OK, and the clientele is a bit easier on me.

As people that know me, I don’t suffer too many fools quietly.

I was in Starbucks, and the woman behind me chided that the coffee there was SO European, and started commenting the usual sophisticate crap about how wonderful Europe was.

I turned on the charm, and with warmth, asked her about Europe and she started telling me about growing up there as a colonel’s daughter and how wonderful Europe was.

Then with true warmth in my voice, I asked her about which part of Europe she lived in. The part we saved or the part where we kicked ass and took names.

She called me a cowboy, and I thanked her. I really was a cowboy for a short time and I’m proud of it.

Then she told me that instant karma was going to get me.

I furrowed my brows.

“Do you mean microwave karma, or instant karma, neither of them of which I use,” I replied. “I make my karma from scratch, the old fashioned way.”

I continued. “I take the course of an entire lifetime of trying to do the right thing to make my karma on. I’m not in this life for the quick here and now, I’m in it for the long haul. That’s how I make my karma, one day at a time, one good deed at a time. I get tired of listening how wonderful Europe is. If it’s so wonderful, then you and your microwavable karma ought to go back there.”

The look on the faces of people listening in made me know I’d put another one into the ten-ring.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The crystal set is still running affer all there years

About 5 years ago, I was talking to one of the neighborhood kids about stuff I used to do when I was a kid. I mentioned making a radio out of a razor blade, a safety pin, a pencil lead, a toilet paper tube a length of wire and an old telephone handset.

He seemed fascinated and really didn’t believe me, so I told him to drop by the next day and we’d do it together.

I started racking my brain, and drew a mental picture from forty years earlier and then drove down to a place that makes electric motors and asked the guy there for wire to make a crystal set with.

He laughed and told me he hadn’t had that request in about 20 years and went into the shop and came out with a coil of wire big enough to make three of them.

“No charge if you’re going to show some kid how it was done back in the day,” he laughed.

I took the wire and went home and found an old razor blade somewhere and dug a safety pin out of a drawer somewhere.

Next, I filled a pail full of water and grabbed an old bayonet and removed the earpiece from an old phone receiver.

Then I went into the basement and snagged a couple of nails, a small square of plywood and took the remaining paper towels off of a nearly empty roll and waited for the kid to show up.

He did, and we went out to the driveway. It was a nice day, if I recall and the pair of us built a simple ‘foxhole’ radio. It only took about twenty minutes or so, including stringing a makeshift antenna. Then I poured the water into the ground, affixed a wire from the radio to the bayonet and stuck it into the wet ground.

The kid put the earpiece to his ear, and the look on his face was one to behold as he heard the news on KDKA radio.

It was pretty ironic, really. The oldest commercial radio station in the country was being listened to on a very primitive radio set.

I learned to make radios like this from a guy that had been an aerial ginner with the 8th Air Force and had been shot down over Europe. He had spent a year in a Prisoner of War camp until he was freed by ground forces.

While he was in the camp, he was the ‘camp radio builder’ and as a scout leader, he taught us a lot of little tricks here and there that he had learned as a POW.

I brought the radio inside and put it in my bedroom and used an antenna that I had run through the attic and a water pipe as a ground, tuned it in and left it there.

It’s been running 24/7 for about 5 years now and hasn’t cost a cent in electricity. When I sleep in the room on quiet nights I can hear a soft tinny little noise coming from the corner of the room. I grin and doze off.

Sometimes I pick up the headset and put it to my ear and marvel at the utile and simplicity of such a device.

Then I remember showing the kid how to build it.

When I was growing up, it was the duty of men to teach boys things, and I don’t hear of men doing things like this any more. Hell, failure to do stuff like that for the neighborhood kids was considered unmanly and made the guy subject to sanctions against his man card.

We watched guys fix cars, paint boats, repair stuff and learned from them. When we got older, they let us help.

Sometimes the men would listen to our problems and give us advice. More than once, I got lectured for doing something dumb, but never got ratted out to my parents.

I don’t see this happening any more.

I wonder what happened?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a creative solution to a problem

On an internet forum, someone was justifiably griping about how his neighbor has been stealing electricity when he’s not there.

It’s a losing deal in a way because the County sheriff is probably too damned busy doing other things to go up some mountainside to check up on someone’s vacation cabin. Even so, it’s possible the sheriff may overlook the theft of electricity.

Even if he does prosecute, the poor homeowner is somewhat screwed because you KNOW a low-life like that is going to vandalize the place once his back is turned.

When the cat’s away, the rats raise hell, so to speak.

It’s time for a little creativity here.

Picture this scenario:

A big, black suspicious sedan pulls up and three guys straight out of Central Casting for a 1930s gangster movie get out. Clad in double breasted pinstripe suits, black shirts and white ties hop out, one of them pulls out a pistol. They grab the guy and stuff him in the trunk and roar off.

There the sad sack lies in the back of the sedan for a couple of days as the Rocky Mountains fade into the rear view mirror. Sometime during the night, they pull over and explain to him that if anyone and they tell him they mean ANYONE vandalizes the cabin that he’s going to wake up as fish food off the Jersey Coast.

The trunk lid goes down and for the next forty hours or so; he’s stuck there as the car drones on and on.

There he lies in his own urine and feces, with his adrenal gland pumping overtime. Terror has set in and he’s shaking like a dog shitting peach pits.

Just before midnight, two nights later, he’s dragged out, put on fishing boat and his feet are placed in a 5 gallon pail and things are not looking good as the low-life pleads for his life. He’s relieved of his wallet and all forms of ID.

He watches the 3 guys mixing bags of Sakrete in another pail. It looks like he’s getting fitted for cement overshoes. As he pleads for his life, the three guys look at each other and decide to reason with the sad bastard.

They explain to him that the cabin belongs to The Bosses FAVORITE nephew.

They also make it very clear that if anything at all damages the cabin and they’ll return and cart him off to feed the fishes. Lightning strike, out-of-town kids on ATVs, ANYTHING.

They stuff the hillbilly back into the trunk and a couple of hours later, they throw him out right in the middle of Times Square, still wearing a shitty, urine soaked pair of pants, smelling totally of fear, starving and very dehydrated.

A cop sees him and when he starts babbling incoherently, blithering away about getting shanghaied by three guys dressed like gangsters in double breasted suits and carted off from Colorado, the cop simply rolls his eyes.

After all, these days no gangsters dress like that. Even John Gotti wouldn’t have been whacked in such an outfit!

So the cop takes him to The Holy Sister’s of the Bleeding Heart homeless shelter where even the nuns chalk him up as a whack job, but clean him up and feed him.

Some how, he makes it back home, and when he does, our homeowner now has a very valuable asset.

The former electricity thief is now the full time guard, watchman and maintenance man of his property.

Let’s do the math.

You could probably get a job like this done, for, say, $15-20,000.

If you own the place for 20 years that’s about $750-1000/ year of first class maintenance and security guard service, and that ain’t a bad deal.

If you haven't got an imagination and a sense of humor, you might as well jump.

The late Blaine Welsh, killed at sea

piccolo plays baseball with the kids.

When I die and have to try bullshit my way past St. Peter, I think I’ve got a pretty good ace in the hole.

Last summer a young man was walking up the street and saw me and came up to me. I recognized him. He was no longer a kid. He was now a young man.

We had a cold one on the porch together and shared a good laugh over something that happened years ago.

About a decade ago, Neighbor Bob used to get home early and the two of us would drop in on kids playing baseball in the nearby vacant lot.

The kids got a boot out of watching us two old goats trying to strike each other out, as we’d both put ourselves on opposite teams to keep things fair.

So anyway, it was the bottom of the 9th, we were two down, two outs and the bases were loaded and the Mighty Piccolo was at bat.

Neighbor Bob was pitching and he knew I never swung on the first pitch.

So he threw a slow ball, and I fooled him when I clouted it out of the park.

It went straight through the neighborhood grouch’s window.
Now, part of the duty of being a responsible adult is stepping up and accepting responsibility for one’s actions and setting a responsible example.

However, the rules for sandlot baseball supersede everything in this case.

In the index of the unwritten rules for sandlot baseball, there is a section under the letter ‘W’. See ‘Windows, broken’.

Under that passage, it clearly states that if a sweet little old lady gets her window broken; all players will rake her leaves and mow her lawn until the debt is paid. Overpayment can be settled up with home made pies, cookies and lemonade.

Under subpart B, it clearly states that if the ball breaks the window belonging to the neighborhood grouch, all players will run like hell.

We all took off like a shot, of course, as we take the rules seriously.

Shortly thereafter, Neighbor Bob, who is in the glass business, approached the neighbor and fixed the window and ‘accidentally’, forgot to bill him.

Of course, that did nothing to appease the old bastard and he raised holy hell and demanded to find out who the culprit was.

The neighborhood kids were starting to get sweated and pressured to give the culprit up, but they didn’t.

One kid was told that if he didn’t tell who broke the window that he wasn’t going to camp. Neighbor Bob and I fixed that one. We approached the father as a team and told him that he ought to lay off the kid.

He balked, and I pointed out that not all of the mischief caused on Halloween was caused by children and that there was a lot of highway yellow paint missing from the DPW barn.

Neighbor Bob then asked the guy why 2 guys in their late 40s would go to bat for a 12 year old kid.

The father saw the light and the kid got to go to camp.

Still, the fact remains, that we knew the kid would have kept his mouth shut and lost out. He was not alone, not one single kid ratted me out.

The secret lasted until a couple of years ago when the old grouch died.

The very fact that the kids thought so highly of me that they didn’t squeal on me is one of the highest honors I have ever received.

I’ll bet you two to one that St. Peter will buy it.


Ever notice whose house gets hit on Halloween?

Another epistle from the Gospel According to Piccolo.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Piccolo meets an old school bank robber

Just a post about an interesting character I met.

A little over 10 years ago, I had business in Baltimore. When I was headed home, I needed gas. I pulled into the basic 7-11 gas station and convenience store.

My eye caught something that looked a little odd. It was an old man that appeared to be in his late 70s and there was something of a disoriented air about him. It caught my interest, so I wandered over to see if he was OK.

He seemed pretty sharp, so I figured he wasn’t some sort of Alzheimer’s case that had wandered off from home. The first thing that came to mind was that he was some sort of expatriate type, say a missionary type that had spent the last forty years in Africa.

Something was odd, yet my instinct told me that he would do me no harm. I asked him where he was going and he produced an address. I broke out my atlas and found it wasn’t very far out of my way. I treated him like a one-legged hitchhiker and told him to hop in.

After I gassed up, I got in myself and told him I’d take him where he was going if he’d tell me why he seemed to be so disoriented.

He told me that he had just gotten out of the Federal pen, which surprised the hell out of me. He didn’t look like a tough guy.

When I asked him why he had been there, he simply said “Bank robbery and failure to show the proper respect to Federal officers during the subsequent discussion.”

“After robbing a bank, you lipped off to the G-men?” I asked, dubiously.

“The discussion was conducted with Tommy guns,” he replied, dryly and I felt a little stupid.

I was smart enough not to ask him why he robbed a bank, lest I get Willie Sutton’s famous answer: “Because that’s where the money is.”

I drove the guy right to where he was going and over the two hour ride, we swapped notes. He told me about the bank robbery and the subsequent getaway and shoot-out, and in return I told him a little about life on the sea.

The most interesting part of our ride together was finding out what he did know about life as a free man and what he didn’t know. He knew all sorts of things one wouldn’t expect a convict to know, yet he didn’t know how to use a credit card to pump self service gas.

When we discussed legal matters, I felt that I was talking to a fairly competent lawyer. I’ve heard there are pretty good law libraries in prisons and it was pretty obvious he was well read, both in matters of law and in general.

The man was pretty bright, and although I was mildly surprised to see he was fairly well educated, I really wasn’t astonished. I just figured he’s put his life in jail to good use.

It was interesting to note that he knew Windows 95, then the current operating system, better than I did and he told me how to fix my broken computer. When I got home, I found out he was right.

I taught him a few odds and ends. He actually wanted to know how to drive an automatic transmission, never having driven one. He seemed disappointed in a way that it was that easy.

I wondered why he wasn’t in some sort of a halfway house, but in conversation, I sort of figured out that he was let out in some kind of custody of his family deal. He was going to his son’s house, and mentioned he had a sister that lived nearby.

His grandson was in the landscaping business and he was going to work there. I guess at his age, he’d be planting flowers and doing light duties. I didn’t delve into it, though.

When we got near his exit, he handed me directions and I drove him to his door. I figured I’d give the old timer his privacy, so when someone answered the door and I figured he was at the right place, I drove off.

It was interesting meeting a man that had spent more time in prison than I had on the planet, and it was well worth the twenty minutes I spent driving out of my way.

No moral, no judgment, just an interesting person I met on the way home once.

It's 3 am. Do your childeren know where you are?

1530. Someone sneaked up behind me and put a string around my head.

I shrugged and without looking up said, " 57cm, European, 7 1/8 US."

He said nothing and walked out. Betcha I get ANOTHER hat for my collection.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lottery tickets are some people’s portfolio.

This is another thing I see that makes me think that a lot of poverty is little more than a mentality.

There’s this convenience store I drop into every so often that’s not really in the nicest neighborhood. I really don’t like going in there because it takes forever and a day to get to the register because there are always a number of people there buying lottery tickets.

Like I said yesterday, when I go to sea I buy 4 tickets, one for each drawing of my 2 week tour. It’s somewhat of a joke among the guys and we watch the drawing when we’re not too busy and laugh about the imaginary stuff we’re going to do if I hit it big. It’s just cheap entertainment, and life out here can sometimes use a little help.

I don’t have clue one as to what I’d do if I DID win any real money. I think the most I have ever won was three bucks.

One time, though, I became a short-time millionaire. I said that if I won a million bucks, I'd sit on the hatch combing and eat a dish of ice cream and watch the Jersey shore roll on by.

Right after the drawing, one of the guys handed me a dish of ice cream and I sat on the combing and ate it as the Jersey shore passed by.

Close enough.

Still, in poor neighborhoods I see people lined up to get their share of the damned things. It’s crazy. I’ve seen people buy as many as fifty dollars worth for a single drawing.

Fifty bucks will buy a lot of grub, and will make the difference in upgrading living quarters.

Put aside into an investment, it’ll add up. Hell, $20 a week saved is over a grand in the course of a year.

Over the course of ten years, with interest compounded, it’s enough saved to buy a new compact car or a damned good used one.

Yet, they continue to desperately piss the money away on the off chance they’ll hit it big.

It’s not like the lottery people are trying to screw the poor people with false promises. After all, the odds are posted for all to see. These people must KNOW that they are just throwing their money away, yet they continue to do so.

I guess the excuse some people will make for these people is that they are desperate, and maybe there’s some truth to it, but it strikes me as something a little deeper. I’d just bet some of them are simply looking for an easy way out.

The other thing I often hear about is the poor person that wins millions and is broke a year or two later.
It makes me think that poverty, at least to some, is a mentality of some sort.

Abraham Lincoln once said that most people are about as happy as they want to be.

I’ll bet there’s more than a kernel of truth to that.

I think tomorrow we’ll take a break from poverty and look at wealth.

My other blog is ‘Of Sailboats and Seeing Eye Cats’


Let’s look at Bill Gates and a little guy in S. Cal.

There was this guy hanging out in Marina Del Rey that got a bright idea.

Sailboats were not selling very well, and he got the idea of asking a guy that was selling his if he’d be interested in renting it out for a charter business. The owner agreed, so the guy became a partner in a charter business. The guy was responsible for crewing the boat, the owner was responsible for advertising and insurance.

The guy was pretty slick. He trained a couple of guys and helped them get their Coast Guard captain’s licenses and pretty soon he didn’t have to go to work every day, so he approached another boat owner and repeated the process.

In a few years he was partners in several grass roots charter businesses and was in a position where all he really had to do is hang out on the beach, which ain’t a bad deal.

But let’s look a little deeper. Not only had he made money, but he had created wealth.

He had created a number of grass roots businesses.

Because of him, there were a number of people that had jobs that paid fairly well. The employees had all gotten their licenses thus they were marketable. Some of them eventually went on to bigger and better things and were replaced, creating more skilled people.

The little guy had created wealth.

Bill Gates did pretty much the same thing on a bigger scale.

Bill created a product that changed society like nothing I’ve seen in my life. His operating system for computers is without a doubt the most popular system in the world today.

The system has created more businesses and jobs than anything I can think of. Even a two person cleaning company uses the Windows operating system. It’s almost unheard of to find any business that doesn’t have at least one computer behind it.

Even many small businesses have an Information Technology department of some sort.

The amount of people working because of Bill Gates is astounding when you add all of the peripheral jobs that the personal computer has created.

On his way to becoming a gazillionaire, Bill made a lot of people into multi millionaires, more people yet became millionaires, a lot of people got damned good paying jobs, and so on all the way down to the guy that sweeps the floor at Microsoft.

Gates put a lot of people to work and wound up putting a lot of food on a lot of tables, made it possible for a lot of people to pay mortgages and put their kids through school.

The important part here is not that Bill Gates or the guy in Marina Del Rey made a bunch of money, but that they created wealth.

We are better off because of people like this.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On getting ahead.

I might make a post or 2 about spiraling down.

I have a friend that has been a social worker for three decades or so. She’s seen a lot and once asked me for some ideas on poverty.

Some of it can probably be attributed to laziness, some to lack of gray matter, some attributed to ignorance. Some is just plain bad luck, and some is out and out stupidity. I suppose there are a jillion reasons that some people just don't live very well and others do.

Some of it I can attribute to a lack of planning and thinking ahead.

Take car ownership. Most of us own a car of some sort.

I own a pickup because it fits my lifestyle and occasionally I can use it to make a few bucks here and there. A pickup lasts me for about a decade until it starts to nickel-dime me and I sell it to either some kid for peanuts or scrap it. Generally, the vehicle has pretty close to 200,000 miles on it, and still runs pretty good.

So let’s take a look at someone’s budget. They think, sharpen their pencil and figure that they can afford, say $500/month for a vehicle.

So they go out and buy a vehicle with $500/ month payments.

This is their first mistake.

Every 5000 miles there is a scheduled oil change. While it’s only a few bucks, it has to be done regularly. Also, there are wearing parts like brakes, mufflers, generators, batteries and the like that wear out over the life of the vehicle.

This costs money.

Of course, when the car is new, this really isn’t too much of a problem and much of it is covered by warranty, although generally speaking, preventative maintenance is not.

So you have a 5000 mile oil change coming up, and you scrape the $25 up by shorting something else in your life. At 10,000 miles, you do it again. You slice the meat a little thinner.

You do it again at 20,000 miles.

At 25,000 you realize you’re a little short that month so you put it off and maybe skip it altogether. You catch it at 35,000, and at 40,000 you realize you got away with skipping the 30,000 change so you decide that maybe it’s OK to change your oil every 10,000 miles.

By this time, the vehicle is off of warranty and you need brakes, which cost a few bucks. So instead of coughing up for decent parts, you cheap out and buy bottom of the line brake parts, which wear out quickly and have to be replaced more often than quality parts.

And so the cycle begins and at about 100,000 miles the entire car is now ready for the bone yard. It’s what? It’s five years old and just paid for, and shot.

It’s part of the mentality that creates the cycle of poverty.

Had our family opted for, say a somewhat less expensive car at, say $400/month and tucked the $100/month aside for maintenance, they’d be a whole lot further ahead.

Their vehicle would have lasted twice as long, with fewer repairs. Based on a 5 year note, and the vehicle lasting a decade, they’d have had 5 years of not having to make a car payment.

With $400/ month going toward the next vehicle for five years, we’re talking about having $24,000 put aside for the next vehicle they need. They can pay cash and avoid payments and the interest altogether.

I know we’re talking about a hypothetical situation here and haven’t taken a lot into consideration. I’m using this as an oversimplified example, but I think that a lot of the financial problems people land in is because they don’t take the time out to think out what something is really costing them.

Maybe schools ought to teach basic finance. It might help.

Of course, it’s easy to cop an attitude and blame someone else, but the truth is that many people just don’t think.
Sometimes the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.

One of the things I notice out here about people is their sense of priorities.

There's a guy out here that makes a hell of a lot more money than I do, but never seems to have any. He's living paycheck to paycheck and is constantly either borrowing small amounts of money from the guys or mooching an occasional meal from someone. He's CONSTANTLY working overtime to pay for all of this stuff.

His wife looks like she spends a fortune at the beauty shop, and his kids have all of the right brand sneakers and fad clothing.

His house is huge,he has a lot of toys and his pickup is almost brand new and is the biggest, and most powerful one Dodge makes. I'm sure it gets really lousy gas milage. I once asked him why he got such a big and powerful rig, and he told me, "I do a lot of 4 wheelin'."

Yeah, right. He doesn't live on top of Mt. Shasta. There's not a scratch on that damned truck.

I once asked him to help us move a bunch of plastic buckets and he begged off, telling us he didn't want the bed scratched up.

So what good is a truck like that?

I once got to visit him at his place and he has the biggest shop in his garage I have ever seen, yet there was no evidence that he's ever so much as built a bird house.

I seriously wonder what his credit card debt is like.

This guy isn't rich. He's just a poor person at heart waiting for an opportunity to move into primitive squalor.

Of course, when that happens, he'll be the first to ask for some kind of bailout or he'll declare bankrupcy and get to keeep it all, and suckers like me that play by the rules will pay his bills for him.

The part of this that galls the living shit out of me is when some poor bastard that lives frugally and plays by the rules can't get squat if he runs into trouble.

My social worker friend told me that she had to bust her ass and call in all sorts of favors to get a lousy five grand to get somebody's kid a lousy hearing aid.

I just bought myself a new pickup. I paid about a third of what this guy paid, it gets damned near 30 mpg, does everything I want it to and in about a decade when I get rid of it, it'll probably he covered with the little nicks and dings that a working pickup normally accumulates.

I seldom work overtime.

Jeff Foxworthy made me laugh the other day.

He said that rich people have a portfolio of various stocks, bonds, and other investments.

Rednecks buy lottery tickets.

I buy 4 per trip, one each for the four drawings that take place in a 2 week tour. Four bucks for 4 nights worth of entertainment. We sit by the TV and make up things we'd do if we ever win big. The laughter itself is well worth the dollar, and for a buck it's well worth it for the entertainment. There's really not a hell of a lot to do out here at night when we're not actually transferring cargo.

I think tomorrow's post I'll look at the lottery.

A nightly post from the Gospel According to Piccolo

Friday, October 23, 2009

They ought to reprogram all automotive GPS units

so that when you cross a bridge of any size, the unit tells you to pull into the breakdown lane, get out of your car and jump off the bridge. If you are stupid enough to do that, then, damn it, do it!

Please jump off the bridge! Pretty please with sugar and strawberries on top!

We'll all be better off without you dumbing up the gene pool.

I heard today that some woman drove into a river because her GPS told her to.

Yesterday I posted something about stupidity, and I'll hold with it.

I'm sick and tired of having things dumbed up to make them work for stupid people.

Stupid people make everyone else suffer because of their stupidity.

Stupid hurts. Stupid SHOULD hurt, but I'm tired of stupid people laying their pain on me.

Of course, if this gets to court, some idiotic jury is going to give her an award of some size. Just once, I'd like to see a jury do the right thing.

Picture this: The woman who drove her car into the river got her back broken and is going to be in a wheel chair forever. The jury is out. Then they return with a verdict consisting of all 12 jurors standing up and pointing at her and in unison, singing: "Cripple,cripple,cripple...cripple,cripple,cripple."

THAT would be fair.

Or the guy that lost both legs standing up in a roller coaster faces the jury to hear the foreman announce: "This case is dismissed because the plaintiff doesn't have a leg to stand on".

Either of these scenarios are fine by me.

I just bought a GPS for my vehicle and it works pretty good. I like it a lot.

Still, it's only a tool and subject to limitations. You have to pay at least minimal attention and think every once in a while. It's not perfect.

But because this idiot believes something to be 100% fool proof the GPS companies are probably going to have to do somthing that will dumb the system up, therest of us will probably wind up paying.

It's also time to realize that nothing is foolproof because fools are too ingenius. If they made beds out of rebar and concrete, someone would accidentally find a way to snap one clean in two.

Speaking of navigation tools, I'm thinking of bringing my sextant back with me to refresh my celestial navigation skills.

Problem with that is that everyone wants to play with the damned thing.


Why do we drive on the parkway and park in the driveway?


I'm going to lose 5 pounds so I can eat it back on in a single meal.

I want to tackle the ultimate cheeseburger.

Fry up about a pound of back, grab 6 slices of bread and a block of Velveeta and make up three bacon grilled cheese sandwiches. Place these where they will stay warm.

Fry up 2 each 1/3 pound burger patties and slap them in between the grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mmmmmm! Yum!

thus ends the daily epistle from the Gospel According to Piccolo.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


My job has a lot of basic arithmetic involved, basic stuff.

I love it because there is nothing so absolute as numbers. Two plus two is ALWAYS four. Ain't no way around it, and not even a slick lawyer can change it. Even if he tries with smoke and mirrors, all you need is a cheap Wal Mart fan and the truth comes through.

Math is one of the few things you can count on.

Over the years, there have been a few arguments over things that have been done, and I have successfully defended myself simply by saying the magic three words:

Do the math.

It's a double-sdged sword. If I don't do the math correctly, it becomes pretty obvious fast. If I do it correctly, it is a pretty good defense that I did somethin right. If I don't, it becomes pretty obvious where I made my mistake.

Of course, there are another million and one ways a guy can screw up out here, but that's another subject I will save for a later time.

I wish there were a lot more things in life that were as cut and dried as basic mathematics.

Crazy is OK, as most of us out here are a little dingy, anyway. Eliminate crazy and there would be nobody out here to do the work.

Ignorance is no problem. We teach you and you're no longer ignorant. It's the simplest thing we have to deal with out here, and the most rewarding.

Stupid is altogether a different problem. Send us someone out here that's stupid and we're truly screwed. We can't fix stupid no matter how hard we try.

You have to look at things for what they are and not what they should be or what you want them to be. It sometimes takes giving something a cold, hard look.

Take my house, for example. It's a basic, simple Cape Cod.

There's a lot to be said for simple. I have it set up in a basic, simple, fairly easy to maintain layout that fits my needs. It's fairly spartan, really, but there are quite a few homey touches.

Mrs Pic fought that house for well over a decade trying to turn it into some magical thing that it isn't. When she moved out, I had the place operational in about a week.

The first thing I did was to get rid of the junk and fad items that had been amassed over the years and make things simple. I got rid of stuff like the pair of four foot high tables and bar stools that she tried to redecorate with.

That kind of stuff belongs in a huge 8 bedroom house with, say, cathedral ceilings or a house with a huge great room.

It's a basic, simple house, and it needs a basic, simple layout for a basic, simple lifestyle.

There's one hell of a lot to be said for the Keep It Simple, Stupid school of thought.


Tonight I posted the 'Seeing Eye Cat' stories in another blog, titled 'sailboats and Seeing Eye Cats'

Thus ends another epistle from the Gospel According to Piccolo

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The neighborhood I live in.

Is great, but I'll have to tell you that I work my ass off at being a good neighbor, too. Like a lot of things in life, it's a 2 way street.

I'm away a lot and the neighbors look after my place like a hawk.

When I'm home, I'm on call 24/7 in return.

All in all, it's a pretty good deal that pays pretty good dividends.

I'm the guy that gets the 3 AM calls when the water pipe in the house decides to let go. I'm the guy that gets the call at 3 AM that a neighbor has to be rushed to the hospital, and would I stay with the kids?

Antoine came over the other day and told me he had swapped bedrooms around with the kids and that he had a new fire plan. This meant we went through his house and I made mental notes where all his kids slept in case there was a fire.

I paid attention. I really don't expect a fire there, but just the same, it's good to know. Besides, it MEANS a lot to him, costs me no money and is a part of being a good neighbor. He now sleeps just a little easier knowing that someone else knows how to drag his kids out in an emergency.

When one neighbor was rushed to the hospital at 2 AM a couple of years ago, I was awakened and instead of asking a bunch of dumb questions, I pulled on my pants, stuffed my feet into mocs, grabbed a quilt and walked a couple doors down and sacked out on the couch. The next morning, I fed a couple of kids and took them to school. It cost me nothing, just a little interrupted sleep.

I've replaced laundry sinks and hot water heaters, moved cable TV lines, patched roofs and replumbed various water and drain lines.

I also maintain a small grog locker that is accessible to certain neighbors. There's generally a bottle of gin, a bottle of Irish and a bottle of Bourbon in it and certain neighbors hold the combination to the lock on it.

All of this pays incredible dividends.

When I'm gone, I often return to a freshly mowed lawn, and the first day I'm home, I get invited to dinner either at one neighbor or the other's, which is great, as I don't have to go shopping the instant I arrrive home.

Believe it or not, I have not shoveled snow in a decade, as I maintain a neighbor's snow blower, which reminds me that I have to change his oil when I get home and fire it up for him.

All of this costs me very little money, and I get paid HUGE dividends.

It doesn't take much.

Some times you cast your bread on the water and the ducks eat it and swim off, but most of the time you get back poached eggs on toast.

Today the tug changed crews.

It was an interesting perspective, as usually I change with them. Instead I got to see one crew get off and one crew get on.

Although I have done exactly what they did about a jillion times, it was interesting watching it as an observer. I just watched something I have done instead of doing it.

I've worked with every member of both crews and I'd have to say I enjoy a reputation of being someone that will bend over backwards to make things easier for people without getting walked on. I've only had one small spat with one of the tug crew, a captain. I simply ended the spat by shrugging and telling him to do the math. He stopped and thought for a second and promptly forgot about the incident.

Another thing I try to do out here is to take something that we do day in and day out and put it in a perspective that makes if fun.

More than once I've gotten the tug crew to wave at the guys throwing our lines off and act like they're sailing a cruise ship, complete with the skipper blowing the horn a couple of times.

The line handlers grinned and shook their heads, but yoou can be sure that the next time they tied us up, they stepped a little more lively for us and grinned when they saw it was us.

It's important to be remembered out here as competent, willing to help and make things easier. Making it a little fun is a great bonus.

Good will pays great dividends out here.

Dock shack out of coffee? Send 'em down a can, or at least a partial. The goodwill will generally pay dividends.

A while ago, a dock sent us up enough coffee to supply us for months simply for splicing up a tag line for them. Three minutes work. It was their rope, too.

One of the guys out of smokes? If you've been good to a gauger, he'll often GIVE him a pack or even an entire carton if he has snagged them as sea stores from a ship and he doesn't smoke that brand himself. At the least, he'll run up the store and pick him up a pack.

You have to remember that it's a two way street, and not get greedy.

Thus ends another epistle of the Gospel According to Piccolo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Back at sea.

Late yesterday afternoon, my relief called me and tolld me he'd already had enough fun for one tour and wanted off a day early.

When he called, I figured that everything was covered through the office, and that the chain of command had been used properly.

It hadn't and I was politely informed that I wouldn't be paid the 'early day back' pay. When I heard this, I was already on the road. I was told to work it out with him, which is OK because geerally in these deals, everything comes out in the wash.

I was mildly annoyed, which is par golf. I am annoyed out here constantly, as it is in the Manual for Seamen, Piccolo version.

I actually don't mind being annoyed at all. Please feel free to annoy me with petty little situations that need (or quite often DON'T need) to be rectified.

Just don't piss me off. There's one hell of a difference.

So with the marvel of the age, the cell phone, I called my relief and told him that the office had told us to settle it. I also made it clear I was NOT going to reverse my course, as I had been driving for some time.

It's settled, and fairly, too.

Both sides are happy, which makes this a win/win deal.

I love win/win deals. Both parties come out ahead.

My relief got what he wanted, I got what I wanted.


More about this later.


It's hot here. And what am I doing in this handbasket?


I forgot to send Kudos to Neighbor Bob for what he did for me the other day.

There's always some dope that doesn't get the word...

I met some older woman that knows me, but for the life of me, I can't remember who the hell she is. She asked me how my mother in law was.

She died almost 2 years ago and is very sorely missed. The woman was the best mother-in-law a guy could ask for. She went to bat for me the whole time she was alive. The woman was as close to a saint as anyone I have ever met. Seriously.

Softly, I explained that she was no longer of the living.

Of course, this idiotic, crass, gossippy woman asked me the question that I hate.

"What did she die from?"

Think about it. The woman was well into her 90s. A person that age has a right to a demise without everyone asking stupid questions. She simply died of too many birthdays and some imbicile wants an explaination.

Bob saw my mouth purse up like a salmon seine, and knew I was going to give this woman a civil answer because he knew that if I said what I should have said, it would get back to Mrs Piccolo and there would be hell to pay.

He interrupted me. 'She got in a knife fight the Pink Flamingo club," said Bob.

"What?" was the shocked reply.

"Yeah, she had just won the wet T-shirt contest and the jealous little bitch that took second place pulled a knife on her. The old woman put up a pretty good fight and the little bitch died, but the poor old woman bled out before the paras got there," continued Bob.

Aghast look from the woman, totally shocked.

"Think about it," said Bob. "The woman was in her 90s. She's intitled to die with a little dignity. It's none of your damned business of what she died of."

She looked at me, hoping for support. She got none. I didn't have to say a word, my look said it all, and she quickly left.

Talk about jumping on a grenade for me. I didn't have to get off the hook because I never got ON the hook in the first place.

Thanks, Bob.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Art imitates life or vice versa?

Many of those in the art world explain to us of the ignorant masses that Art imitates life, when sometimes it reallly doesn't.

Several years ago someone was making a movie up in Maine, and the actors were supposed to go to sea as fishermen or something. A local was hired to make sure everything looked OK.

He pointed out that all the actors were wearing NEW rain gear.

What to do?

The entire cast was told to head down to a certain ginmill and find a local fisherman and trade raingear with them. They did, and the fishing fleet had a pretty good night of having Hollywood hotshots buy them a few drinks, to boot.

The next day, the movie stars went to work looking like fishermen,, and the fishermen
went to work looking like movie stars.

Now, THAT is life imitating art.

More later.

Things got funny. There's this cop I've been looking at making laugh. He's a pretty good guy.

Today I did.

There's been an unopened beer in the Miata's glovebox for some time, and I have had a card in my wallet for him for some time.

As I was passing the 7-11, it all came together. He was walking out and the space next to the cruiser was vacant. I drove in.

"Got something for you that every cop should have for that special, satisfying bust," I said. My grin tipped my hand.

""What's that?"

"It's gonna cost you," I said, opening the glovebox. I snagged the beer. "Hold my beer while I get my wallet out," I said and handed him the beer.

The look on his face was precious. Quickly I got my wallet out and handed him a card from a Monopoly game, the one that says: "Go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200."

We laughed ourselves silly, he handed me my beer back and as I was leaving he asked me about the 'Get out of Jail Free' card.

"You nuts?" I laughed. 'I'm keeping it for the day you stop me!" I shot back.

We laughed again.

Doesn't take much to make someone's day, and doing that sure made mine.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Neighbor Bobs beer cans

When it rains, it pours.

Yesterday I wrote about having to ditch a pair of booze bottles, lest there be raised eyebrows and a lecture.

Today I opened the shed and the entire thing was full of bags containing beer cans,

I had forgotten about that. Ooops.

A couple of weeks ago when I was at sea, I got a call from Neighbor Bob, who was then at camp. He was cleaning up for the season and wanted to ditch a bunch of beer cans for the same reason I ditched my booze bottles yesterday.

This was no lousy half-bag of weekend empties from a party, this was a complete decade collection. He's had that camp for 10 years now, and his site is in a pretty heavy traffic area in the campground.

Bob's pretty outgoing, so a lot of people drop by, many of them carrying a beer. The empty of which ends up in Bob's trash bag. Things add up, and Bob sort of lost count. He'd store the empties under his trailer in 55 gallon contractor clean-up bags until it was time to recycle them.

After 10 years, it's time. Mainly because there was probably no more room.

The collection of empties in itself is pretty impressive, but when you think about it, not really excessive. We're talking about an entire decade of empties here. Ten years worth.

Ten years worth of practically ANYTHING will create a pretty impressive pile.

On the other hand, if Mrs Bob saw the pile, she'd blow the whistle and throw out a penalty marker. Fifteen yards. It never occurs to many people to ask a few questions before you pass judgement.

Knowing how to count helps.

Divide the number of bags by ten, divide the quotient of that by the number of days spent at camp in a year and divide that by AT LEAST three, as probably at least 2/3s of the cans came from passers-by and people that dropped my for campfires. Couple that with the help given by camp visitors, and other helpful people like myself and the figure really isn't all that bad.

It's probably not going to win him the Mother Teresa award, but Bob's not really a lush, either.

Anyway, I'm taking the cans to the scrap dealers today and Bob isn't getting a single dime of the money.

I'm spending every nickle of it on beer for Bob to take back to camp with him.

He's been a good neighbor.

More: Wx broke and I took the Miata out for a fall ride to go shopping. It was chilly, and getting near helmet and goggles weather, which sucks. If there is salt on the road, the Miata will stay inside.

That rum bottle I wrote about did NOT come from last Christmas, it came from last HALLOWEEN. Bob just called for something and asked me if I was going to be home for Halloween, and he was disappointed when I said I'd be at sea.

He said the neighborhood was going to miss my Hot Buttered Rum except for Louise, who has a stick up her ass, anyway. She's an idiot that loves to go through life ruining things for everyone else. Last Halloween when I was giving the parents of Trick or Treaters HBRs, Louise started griping and Dottie P. slapped her and cussed her out for trying to ruin my HBR thing.

There was almost a cat fight in my garage. Louise got talked out of calling the cops when I made it clear that I would testify that she had come in and started the trouble. Poor Louise's kids are constantly picked on by the other kids because of her crap. As much as I dislike Louise, I pity her poor kids.

After Bob called, I wandered over to his house. Their daughter now has a driver's license and Bob was eager to have her take over a bunch of local errands, which really would be a win-win situation,

His wife started worriedly talking about how the majority of traffic accidents happen close to home.

With a straight face, I suggested that they could aviod that problem by simply moving.

Bob snarfed iced tea, and his wife, after she figured it out and picked up on my sarcasm, looked somewhat embarrassed. Then she saw the deal as win-win after she got over feeling dumb.

Cool! Bob's life got easier.

I had to go shopping today, which I guess is OK.

I picked up some grub and got in line. After a moment or 2, a sweet little old lady fell in behind me. She looked pretty spunky for her age, say mid 80s.

I looked in the magazine rack by the register and saw what I was looking for, a magazine with a movie starlet on it. I skipped the one with the bikini'd teenager, and got the one with the 20-something starlet in the sequined gown.

I looked at the cover, and looked at the old lady a few times until she looked a little nervous.

Then I turned to her and modestly asked her, "Is this really you?"

You should have seen her blush slightly and watched her face light up.

"I used to have hair like that," she said.

"That really is you. I thought so," I answered back. "The picture was taken a couple years back, You can't fool me."

'Thank you," she said.

I knew I had just made her day, and I checked my wallet. Making her day hadn't cost me a cent.

From the Gospel According to Piccolo

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hat trick.3rd lousy day in a row.


Misty day, terrible and I wish to hell I was somewhere else.

Outer Slobivia, Middle of Nowhere, Bumfuck,Egypt or ever a 3rd world place like East Muleshoe, Texas.

God, I hate weather like this.

I hope to hell my sister doesn't call me and tell me how wonderful the weather is down in Florida or I'll scream.

Not much of a post today.

It's later.

Had breakfast with Mrs Piccolo today, and I'll be screwed, blued, and tattooed if she didn't say one damned single word about cholesterol, fat, health, or for that matter, ANYTHING about the fact that I had sausage, eggs and home fries.

This is somewhat fearful, or maybe she is starting to learn. Who knows?

Makes me wish I had ordered what I really wanted. It's been an awful long time since I've had biscuits and gravy.

A couple of days ago, Neighbor Bob told me his wife wasn't feeling too good, so I whipped up a Hot Buttered Rum for her, When I found the rum bottle, left over since last Christmas, there was only 2 snorts in it. I made one for Bob's spouse and put the jug on the counter. It was a 1/2 gallon.

Last night, Antoine dropped by and started in on my liter of Jim Beam, which is fine. The jug was far from full, and Antoine killed it. He's more than welcome to it for all the shit he's done around here and I'm glad to enjoy his company. I joined Antoine by killing the last drink out of the rum bottle. I made myself a hot buttered rum.

Now, I have been a pretty good boy this time home, but I'm going to have to find a way to ditch the bottles because Mrs Piccolo comes by a couple of times a day when I'm gone, and if she finds the bottles, she's going to raise cain and accuse me of guzzling a half gallon and an entire liter in 5 days.

Last year a similar thing happened and I went around and collected about 4 dozen hard liquor bottles from the local bars and put them in the recycleables. Of course, I was accused of drinking 48 bottles in 12 days. Do the math, I'd have been DEAD.

It's a pain in the ass, but ditching the bottles is a whole lot easier than explaining something to someone that has a hard time counting.

World without end, Amen.

From the Gospel According to Piccolo.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More rain

A misty day, which sucks worse than no rain.

I feel weak today, which means I ought to eat like a horse.
Corn bread, fish and eggs sounds pretty good, but biscuits and gravy sound better.

More later.

It's a little later. Should have had some OJ to go with the salmon and eggs. Thc cornbread came out fine.

After breakfast, I decided to open my seabag and make sure I had dug all of my dirty wash out of it.

I came across a beach stone, which I instantly put on my bureau. My bureau is somewhat of a hallowed spot. It contains a few things, all of which are very meaningful, including a vial of sand that came off of the invasion beach of the island of Iwo Jima, a picture of my mother and I taken in Vancouver, BC, and a few other things that are important to me.

The stone will be there as a constant reminder to stay in touch with another side of me that I should revisit often. It also reminded me that I owe a letter of thanks that I have been putting off, and will keep putting off until I'm damned sure that I can write it and that words will not fail me.

I'm thinking of starting another blog as a place to post my adventures with Tokie, who became somewhat famous as the Seeing Eye Cat. The little guy was a hoot, and I really miss him.

If i do, I'll post a link here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rain today.

I had plans to work outside.

The A/C unit needs a scrubbing and there's some chain saw madness to partake of in the way-back, and I had best look at the gutters before old man winter sets in. Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow.

I'm looking at a ride in a hot air balloon in my fairly near future. It might get put off until the spring, as the Wx is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket. I recently asked a number of people what to wear on a hot air balloon ride.

Few of them seemed to know.

Jeans and a T-shirt seemed a common answer, and maybe for some people it is.

There are few areas that I really pay attention to protocol, but when I went up for a ride in a Stearman a while ago, I wore a leather helmut, goggles, a scarf, leather jacket, jodphurs and boots. Like I was supposed to.

Dammit! There are a few things I do right!

Damned few.

I am NOT going aloft in a hot air balloon in a pair of damned jeans and a fucking T-shirt!

No way! No way in hell!

The jeans and t-shirt are for just about any social occasion I can think of BUT that.

Meeting the President? Fine.

Going before the board of directors to make a multi million dollar presentation?

Cool. Levi 501's and a 'Save the Whales' T are just the ticket.

But you do NOT wear a pair of jeans and a T-shirt on your first hot air balloon ride.

I am pretty much an uncivilized bastard most of the time and I'll admit it.

The proper uniform for going up in a hot air balloon is a TOP HAT AND TAILS!!!!

This goes back to my childhood, I suppose.

My parents had moved into the town I grew up in, and there was a drive-in theather there.

The year was 1957 and I was about 6 years old. I guess it was probably a dollar a carload back then.

It was early in my parent's marriage, and I'm sure money was a little tight, but they decided to go to the movies. I guess I was probably expected to sack out in the car, whatever.

Anyway, the movie was 'Around the World in 80 Days' and I remember parts of it well.

It is one of those things that got stuck in my head at an early age, and I swear to God that to this day that there is only one proper uniform for a first time ride in a hot air balloon and that is a top hat and tails.


You can rent this outfit if you can't scrape it up somewhere else.

For women it should be a full length formal gown.

It doesn't mean you have to go to Dior or anything like that. Goodwill for six bucks is just fine.

Maybe more later.

Oh, yeah. One other thing. You do NOT shoot an oversized primate off the Empire State Building with a damned attack helicopter. You use an open cockpit biplane!

So sayeth the Gospel According to Piccolo

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A day off of sorts.

Neighbor Bob and I got the elm tree off of my lawn, which is a plus.

It was already bucked up, thanks to Neighbor Antoine, whom I now owe a jug to for doing that. That saved me about $75 in chain saw rental, as I was NOT going to buck the damned thing up with a homeowner's saw, even though it's waht I used to drop the tree.

I made corn bread this AM for the hell of it, and took Neighbor Bob's daughter to school this AM, as he was jammed up taking his wife to work because her car needed work done on it.

It's chilly now, but I have NOT put the top on the Miata. That's what hats are for.

I think I'll have codfish for lunch.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Neighbor Bob had me over for dinner and too many drinks.

A lot of day to day things happened today which I will not post.

Mrs Piccolo should have gone to a proctologist today, but she didn't.

I would have CHEERFULLY pulled the stick out of her ass.

My sis got where she was going. raise the Lord for hat. Sis is OK in my book.

I bought a GPS today, which is cool. Wanna make a bet?

1'll get you 17 that there will be hell to pay when Mrs Pic finds out that I paid a whole dollar thirty two for it.


Amother epistle from the gospel according to Piccolo

Monday, October 12, 2009

A day of travel

I'm fried. I left the South Shore(Boston area) at 0500.

Arrived in PHG 2030.

It was a long day.

One neat thing.

There was a package waiting for me. 3 books. American Caesar, by Wm. Manchester, Up Front, by Bill Mauldin and a paperback that is supposed to be a TEOTWAWKI classic.

Don't know what TEOTWAWKI stands for?

Google it.

I'm too fried,

Thus ends another chapter of the Gospel According to Piccolo.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

a quiet day of sorts

I was supposed to be on the road home at 0400, but it didn't work too well. My sister got sick.

Tomorrow is another day, and will be a day of travel.

The plan was this: Sis picked me up when I got off of my boat a couple of towns away and I was to stay there for a few days until she went home to Florida, where she lives. I'd catch a ride to Philly and pick up my truck and then I'd drive home to PGH. That's where I live.

We'll see how that works out. Probably it'll be OK if I can keep my patience. My sister travels with three dogs, which is a circus on wheels. In the absence of the dogs, my sister and I travel the same way. We drive until the hallucinations come or until we get where we are going, whichever comes first.

We get that from our father who once drove us as little kids from someplace in Michigan to Boston's South Shore with only stops for gas, pee there or wait until the next empty tank.

Of course, traveling with three dogs changes things, as dogs have to be walked every so often, and they must be fed and watered. Sis is good at that in that she knows where she can get a place to stay that caters to people like that.

The two beagles are pretty good, but the Cocker is totally retarded. I that it would seriously believe that humans are not the only species that suffer things like retardation. The Cocker is retarded.

My late cat, Tokie was a pretty good traveler. I'd get a beer or soda case, the flat kind, and put kitty litter in it and put it on either the passenger's side floor of the back of the pickup in a manner that it wouldn't slide all over hell. Because I had a sliding rear window and a cap on the pickup, Tokie would have he run of the truck. Food wasn't an issue, water was a bitch. We could drive for hours with few problems.

Tokie was a trip. He could walk with me on a leash, which is very unusual for cats. I could bring him anywhere on the leash simply by putting on sunglasses and grabbing a white cane. In his role of 'Seeing Eye Cat' we were seldom challenged, and the pair of us could generally be counted on to raiise a cloud of dust in the middle of a snow storm.

I'm thinking of posting our adventures together on this blog. Be forewarned: If I do, keep liquids away from your computer while you read them. You WILL snarf.

I told my wife that I spent some time with the woman that ran my reunion, and she seemed OK with that, which is fine because everything was on the up and up. It is, too. Although we do not live together, she is still my wife and although she seems not to acknowledge it, my first loyalty is still to her.

When I knew I was geting off the boat, I got in touch with the woman and we decided to meet up and swap notes. When that was decided, it left me in an interesting situation.

What do you say to someone you haven't seen in forty years?

As you may have figured out by now, I can be a bit of a ham actor, and my sense of humor can be very keen. This can get me in one of two situations; either I will end up at the Right Hand of God, or at the paddle store up on Shit Creek.

While we were communicating, I found that she did in fact have a sense of humor, it certainly wasn't of the type that could handle an old salt like me coming on full bore. Truth is, most women can't and the ones that can are either in 2 catagories, stripper-type mentality or a very rare breed. The former are to be avoided at all costs, of course. The latter are priceless and a joy to be around. The latter are generally pretty solid in their self identity and are of the type that can handle virtually anything. They are very few and far between.

Picture this: The imaginary meeting.

Me: Agape, hangdog, very disappointed, sad look.

Her, sensing a major disappointment, her face slowly dropping until she says something like "What did you expect?"

Me: Shrugging, making a 'what the hell'type of recovery, "I was actually hoping for a coked-out stripper because I haven't been laid in six months." This followed by a semi serious sort of look.

I can be as deadpan as Buster Keaton.

This would result in either one of two reactions. One, of course, it total outrage, the other would be gales of laughter followed by a comment along the lines of "You haven't changed in forty years!"

Of course, either reaction would make a great episode of 'Candid Camera', and in reality, it would have been one hell of a laugh, but I wasn't willing to put someone like her in that kind of position because I simply didn't know.

As it happened, I took one look at her and when I saw that she hadn't really changed since the second grade, my face lit up and I gave her a big hug.

Then I got to spend a couple hours with the prettiest girl in Miss Elwood's 1958 second grade class.

It's funny the way we age. The lines on my face were different than hers. Mine have come from too much sun, wind and too many long days at sea. Hers had an emotional look to them. They looked like the ones that come from working with people and all of the bullshit that comes with life ashore.

We both have a divorce apiece behind us, and I'm presently still married to a wife that lives a mile from me, a subject I will cover at a later time, but the mileage Sheila has seems different from mine.

Sort of like highway miles versus city miles.

More later

It's later.

My life has been very cut and dried. My worries have been pretty simple, when you think about it. Go to sea, deal with a fairly simple set of problems and then I'm off for a while.

One could say that the problems I deal with can be dramatic at times, but I'd have to say that it's overrated. truth is, it's pretty cut and dried at sea. As far as personnel go, it's cut and dried there, too. Either you can do the job, or you can't. If you can't, you're history. Simple.

When things DO get nautical at sea, it's somewhat simple, too. You simply do what you have to to survive and nobody generally 'Monday Morning Quarterbacks' you.

Truth is, I simply risk my life from time to time. My emotions really don't fit into the course of things very much because I don't risk my emotions .

The reason I go to sea is that I really can't handle life ashore very well. The bullshit and grind there is too damned frustrating because common sense seems to be in short supply ashore.

Although there politics everywhere, and aboard a boat there is no exception, everyone on board is bound together by common goal, namely reaching the next port and having a safe load or discharge. Ashore it is different. Everyone there seems to be pulling against each other.

It seems that everyone ashore seems to have a different agenda. At sea, the common goal tends to pull us together, as we are literally all in the same boat. The politics at sea tend to be pretty minor, like what kind of Oreos to buy, single or double stuffed, or maybe having to tell a crewman to leave his nasty socks in his laundry bag.

Fairly small stuff in the big picture of things.

My guess is that Sheila's miles are more emotional than mine. She's been in social work for over three dacades, raised a kid as a single mom and put herself through school. She has a double Master's, for Christ's sake.

She's had to make a life full of shoreside politics, people with hidden and open little agendas, empire builders and all sorts of shit I haven't had to deal with, yet her lines are soft and compassionate. It's also obvious she hasn't copped to drugs and/or strong drink along the line, unlike me many years ago.

When I was fishing, we'd put to sea poisoned. Literally poisoned. The victims not of drunkenness, but of alcohol poisoning.

But we were young, wild, in incredible physical shape and would sweat the poisons out of out body in a very short time. I quit living like this decades ago, and healed up, but look carefully. I'd almost bet the faint signs are there on my face. Shiela doesn't show this at all.

Looking at the picture I have of her from second grade, I'd have to say she simply was the prettiest girl in Mrs Elwood's class. She has a round, soft face, Shirley Temple corkscrew curls and the beautific look of a young girl that is still in awe of everything, one of life's true innocents.

Watching a cat have kittens would cause squeals of excitement. Watching a butterfly come out of a cacoon would draw such a look of total fascination and total awe.

Fifty years may have taken it's toll on her body, but the spirit is still there. It's interesting how much we've changed, yet how little we've changed.

Something happened while she was giving me a ride home.

I spotted a deer and we pulled over to watch. It's the first deer I've seen in that town in almost fifty years. The deer are coming back, I guess.

At home, deer are a too common occurance. I have several of them that use my yard as a highway. They are actually more of a pest than anything else, as they eat flowers and decimate gardens. I have to put Irish Spring soap in my flower beds to keep them away.

I watch the deer at home all the time, and even though this is the first one I've seen in this town in nearly five decades, my 6th sense told me to watch something else.

I watched Shiela watch the deer. I'm glad I did.

I saw all of the lines of 58 years of living on the planet disappear. The woman's face changed before my eyes. There was that childish look of wonderment and total awe I had seen before.

Shiela was, for a few fleeting moments, still the little prettiest little girl in Mrs Elwood's second grade class.

This from The Gospel According to Piccolo

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Picking apples with the kids is the plan for the day

Uncle Piccolo is going apple picking with his niece's 2 kids.

A day of lifting small children up into trees. I wish I was about 35 years younger and was the ammo can lift champion for the 3rd Bn, 5th Marines. Hoo-rah!

But I'm not, I'm a 57 year old sailor.

I'm back, and it was a pretty good deal, really. All of the kid lifting was done by their father, who enjoys doing things like that. Supplementary lifting was done by Auntie Sue and others. All I know is that I wasn't lifting children into the air, which is fine by me.

My nephew also snagged some cider, and I'll just bet the clever devil is going to ferment it and make hard cider. Maybe I'll ask him to make apple wine, s drink from my misspent youth. Ah, yes. I well remember the two-dollar buzz. A quart of beer, a jug of Boone's Farm Apple wine, and a shot of whatever was on sale for the change. Two bucks and a guy was good to go.

We got home and I proceeded to bake cornbread, which will make the kids think that I shit ice cream. I guess the last time I was here I baked it to go along with chili or some such thing and the little kids loved it.

I guess this ain't the Old South because years ago it wasn't a treat, it was a basic staple.

Gotta love my sis because she does a good job of telling me what to do to look like a hero.

This morning was a typical family goatfuck, as per SOP.

We were supposed to go apple picking at 0900. Yeah, Right!

We didn't get going until 1100. Trying to get this gang to do ANYTHING on time takes more than an act of congress. A team of Drill Instructors would have a rough go of getting this mob motivated.

I made it a point to be last in the shower because I only take a minute or so to get dressed.

Of course, when I said I was hitting the rain locker, everyone complained that it would make everyone late. Fat chance of that. I can walk into the bathroom and be out dressed in a hell of a lot less time than the rest of the mob, with the exception of my nephew. He's pretty good.

When I came out of the bathroom showered and dressed, my sis was still in the process of getting dressed. Knights in the days of Yore could get into an entire suit of armor faster than one of my sisters can get ready to go anywhere. The other sister is actually pretty good.

She's also one of the most professoinal travelers I know. OK, maybe not professional, but practical. She has that wonderful ability on a long road trip to understand that she's not really likely to have to deal with anyone on the road, so when she's on the final leg of the journey home, she's apt to leave the motel in her pajamas and wear them for the last day of the drive.

It makes sense, when you think about it, really. Nobody's going to see you and when you get home, you're most likely to go straight to bed anyway. I have to admit that sleepwear is pretty comfy to travel in if you're driving. Coupled with the convenience of drive thru dining and you don't have to deal with anyone. Makes sense to me.

As I write this, the womenfolk are trying to figure out what to do with today's pick your own apples. I'll probably wind up with the Hershey squirts for sure. Apple pie, apple cobbler, apple fritters, whatever else. The amount of apples we snagged is borderline nuts, and it makes me wonder one thing.

What was it like in the old days when the man of the house brought home a brontosaurous?

I bought an yachting cap yesterday and I'm working on getting it broken in right. I finally found the right brand that I can sew my Space Cadet wings on.

I have a couple of them, and they have different uses. The tan one I wear driving. The other white one is pretty grubby and has all the stiffeners and innards removed and there's a Kreigsmarine badge on the front. It looks like a U-Boat commanders cap and when I wear it the guys call me 'Kapitan', as in Kahppy-tahn, as in 'Jawohl, mein kapitan'.

This goes back to an incident in New York Harbor several years ago which I will post later on as I have to go for now.

I'm back.

The yachting cap with the Kriegsmarine cap device is a replacement for a stunt I pulled in New York Harbor. The stunt amused a few ot the guys so they chipped in and actually bought me a repo U-Boat commander's cap, which I wore for a long time until it got blown off of my head and went over the side a couple of years later. The title 'Kapitan' came with it.

Anyway, I was working on this barge and we had a delivery in NY Harbor and were headed down the Kills when the tug had to make passing arrangements via VHF.

The following conversation took place:

Rustbucket:(a 3rd world manned ship. 3rd mate's watch, very broken English) " Rustbucket, Tug Patty Ann."

Tug: "Patty Ann"

Rustbucket: "I see you on 2 whistles."

Tug, bored voice,obviously been picked on by too many foriegn flagged horse's ass mates, "2 whistles it is."

This passing arrangement meant that the tug would have to manuever. A 1 whistle pass would really be easy for both parties. The 3rd mate was being totally lazy and I could tell he had an attitude problem and thought he was hot shit because he was a ship. Truth is, the tug and barge is every bit as hard to handle as the ship.

Me: "Untersee 347, Tug Patty Ann"

Tug: (Mate knew who I was) "Untersee 347"

Me: "Outer doors open, tubes flooded, where do you want the fish?"

Rustbucket: "Rustbucket, Tug Patty Ann. One whistle OK?"

Tug: "One whistle sounds great."

Coast Guard: "Untersee 347, where are you now? I can't see you on the radar."

Me: "Untersee bots do not show up on Radar. Switch to Sonar for our position."

Coast Guard:"Uhh...Roger." His voice changed, making it obvious he had figured out what was going on. "Will pass resopnsibility of you to the Navy."

Me: " Roger, out."

Not a word was said, but next trip the guys on the tug handed me a U-Boat commander's cap and I was then called "Kapitan".

When I wear the cap to this day, anyone that knows the story calls me 'Kapitan' The reason I really wear it is simply because younger sailors expect it.

Thus ends the Gospel According to Piccolo

Friday, October 9, 2009

met someone last night I haven't seen

since 6 June, 1969.

Having missed my 40th HS reunion, I met up with one of the women that made it possible. I knew her in school, we were in several classes together but there was no connection, we were both too different. It was interesting swapping notes, and our lives were very different.

This entire meeting was made possible through plain old dumb luck. I changed crews off the boat I work on a couple of towns away from where I grew up, and my sister was in town and offered to put me up for a few days. I'm a sailor.

I thought I was going to change crews there, and when I figured it out, I told her I'd put a shirt under my matteress pad for her. She asked what that meant, and I explained that it meant I'd do exactly that. I carefully folded a shirt and put it under my matteress pad for a few days. I'm sure she rolled her eyes.

The funny part is when I pulled the shirt out of my seabag and put it on it looked like a pretty good ironing job, complete with GI creases. It's a trick I learned in Boy Scouts, and perfected while living aboard a sailboat years ago. She was impressed.

This woman had gone into social work and has tried to make the world a better place to live. When I found out she had gone that route, I was expecting to find some blithering left wing radical, but was pleasantly surprise to meet a fairly well grounded attractive woman about my age.

As is bent the twig, so grows the tree.

My life was very different that most. I am alive today, which is nothing short of a miracle with my history. By the time I reached 30 or so, I was already a fugitive from the law of averages.

By 35, I had already attended over 50 funerals and memorial services. Mostly memorial services. When you consider that had only attended a half-dozen weddings, my life for the average 35 year old guy was totally backwards. It was then I decided to do something a little safer for a living, and I briefly considered the French Foriegn Legion. Seriously, I considered joining the Legion. Private Piccolo, 2e REP.

One thing I have to say, though. My life has not been boring.

I think that today, I'm going to look up one of the guys that helped with the reunion.

We'll see what happens, I'm presently at my sisters and transportation is going to be a hassle.

My neice has the kid watching duty today. I don't know what the deal is, I don't care. All I know is that a bunch of mothers have dropped off their children and this place is a zoo. Squalling kids all over the place. The official Johnny Weismuller Tarzan yell, followed by the trumpeting of the elephants would fit right in to this chaos.

One thing I noticed, virtually all of the women that dropped their kids off have big asses.

It makes their boobs look small. If they'd lose their ass, they'd all be fairly easy on the eye. As the young women gossip, I hear one of them mention something about a boob job. I will keep my mouth shut, but she ought to save her money and rub toilet paper in her cleavage several times a day instead. After all, look what it's done to her ass.

This looks like the makings of a long day.

Later: My sister has promised me I could use her car just so long as it involves no alcohol, which is a deal and a half. My day WAS going to include alcohol in massive doses if I had to hang here with a houseload of squalling kids. I was going to walk to the nearest liquor store and buy a half-gallon of Jameson's and enesthesize myself if I had to spend the day in a houseful of squalling kids.

Better to wake up with a king-hell hangover than wake up in the booby hatch. The hangover will be gone by noon, but it takes at least ten days of being observed to get out of the booby hatch.

Now the tides of war have changed and it looks like I am going to have to walk to the damned liquor store, as something or another has popped up and there is no vehicle I can use. As usual, it's 5 miles through 4 feet of snow, uphill both ways, and I will return carrying a heavy half gallon of hootch.

Of course, there IS a way to lighten my load. The more I drink, the less I have to carry. If I can kill the whole half-gallon, I can just ditch the bottle in a storm sewer somewhere and just stumble home. Walk? Ha! I'll be OK, the belly knows the way home.


Yet ANOTHER change in plans! I have to go to dinner tonight because one of my relatives was born on this very day, and as the oldest of the generation, I am expected to show up and set a good example.

This, of course, means I will spend the rest of the day listening to 8 children under the age of 5 for the rest of the afternoon with no help whatsoever, chemical or otherwise.

I'll get even with them for this. I'll be back in 20 minutes. The 7-11 is a ten minute walk away. I'll just get a dozen sugar coated doughnuts and a 12 pack of Red Bull, feed it to the kids and leave for the rest of the afternoon.

A couple of these little crumb snatchers are in the terrible twos. God knows what a can of Red Bull will do to them. I don't intend to stick around and find out. Just issue each kid a Red Bull and a doughnut and bail the hell out.

Get back with you later on this.

I'm back now. Some dear soul took pity on me and gave me a snort of Jim Beam.

On the way to the 7-11 I met a guy walking his dog. We started yakking and when he heard that I was stuck in a house with 8 children under 5, he told me I needed a good belt and invited me into his house for a drink.

I asked him why he would invite an old sailor he met on the street for a drink, and he told me that a story like that can't be made up. Besides, I had mentioned that I was a sailor, and he told me he had spent 4 years in the Navy and us sailors had better stick together. He also told me that if the kids got to me to come on back over and that there was a lot more hootch where that came from. Filed under 'G', for 'good to know'.

I never made it to the 7-11.

The dinner party I have to go to tonight is being thrown by my neice's 5 year old for her daddy's birthday, The kid is a character, she's already got a flair for the dramatic. My sis has been cooking all day, so I know the food's going to be pretty good.

This'll be funny. I'm in khakis, the shirt having been pressed under my bunk at sea and worn out for a few hours last night. I threw on a black tie, and a matching pair of khaki pants, add one cheap yachting cap and I am now a distinguished guest. I am now Captain Piccolo of the Merchant Marine, which is who I am in real life.

A wonderful case of life imitating art.

It's a good thing that 52 years seperates me from the hostess of tonight's party. If she was even 20 years older, the pair of us could cause some serious trouble, as we are somewhat kindred spirits. I can easily picture the pair of us bouncing off of each other. She is a riot. Give her, say 20 years and even if I am an old 77 year old goat, I'd bet the pair of us could turn a Good Friday service into something Mel Brooks would be proud to put on the Silver Screen.

Gotta go. Dinner is served.

So sayeth the Gospel According to Piccolo