Thursday, March 31, 2011

I wonder where Drag Queen Freddie is these days?

Yesterday on a post on an internet forum I mentioned Drag Queen Freddie, whom I have not seen floating around in a dog's age. I wonder what he's doing these days. Last I heard he was a painting contractor. I hope he's doing well. He's a hoot.

It got me to thinking about him. I really don't know him very well. Every several months I would run into him and generally he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and looked like just another average guy. I was introduced to him by a young woman that was supposed to help me get even with a car dealer several years back. Suffice to say he had one coming.

I was going to con the dealer into ordering a new Corvette for me and then leaving him stuck with it. The payback was eventually cancelled because the sales manager, whom this was aimed at, had taken another job somewhere else.

The young lady was supposed to play the part of the little bimbo I was buying it for. Tokie, the Seeing Eye Cat (see my other blog) was involved and the young woman was supposed to dress and act the part of the bimbo.

In truth, she was a dowdy little country girl, but a pretty good actress. She said she could get help with her end of dressing the part. Apparently she knew Freddie and he helped her out with her clothes and cosmetics and when she called me to show off her outfit, my eyes just about popped out of their sockets.

I asked her who helped her and she pointed to Freddie. He explained that he was an occasional drag queen.

I have seen him dolled up in drag only a couple of times and to tell you the truth, he was a lot more attractive than a lot of real women I have seen. He does a damned good job of disguising himself as a woman and if I didn't know he was a guy I have to admit I'd probably be fooled.

The couple of times I have seen Freddie dolled up he was meticulous in the way he did everything from the clothes he wore to the cosmetics to the body language. If you didn't know it was a guy dressed up, you'd probably look at him and think he was quite an eyeful.

The reason I was thinking of Freddie was that I had to go to the Wally World in Philly this morning and the place gave me pretty damned sore eyes.

I got to thinking that if I had my choice between going into that particular Wally World and seeing what I had to see today or going to another Wally World full of Drag Queen Freddies, I'd choose the latter hands down.

Now, Freddie may be a guy that is dressing up like a woman, but he takes a lot of pride in himself when he does. He wouldn't be caught dead looking like 95% of the Philly women I had to ruin my eyes watching.

While my eyes were burning as I was standing behind a candidate for a mandatory burka with more cottage cheese on one thigh than there was for sale in the entire dairy counter, I flashed that I'd damned well rather be standing behind Freddie.

At least when he gets all dolled up, he takes pride in his appearance.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One shoe in the breakdown lane.

I have to drive the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Pittsburgh to Philly and back in the course of getting to and from work. It's a long haul and over the years I pay attention to the things I see in the breakdown lane.

This is not a new habit, as I have really done this for years. It's actually a good thing in a way because it tends to keep me alert and my mind occupied. Every so often I see something worth pulling over for and checking out and over the years I've scored a few things that have made stopping worthwhile. I have a pretty good gas can I found on the side of the road and a good socket set that must have fallen off of a wrecker.

There is one thing, though that has kept me wondering through all of these years and I generally see it every trip, either going to work of coming home and that is one shoe in the breakdown lane.

Of course, shoes are generally sold in pair as I have yet to see a shoe store that caters to one-legged people. Even people with a prosthetic leg buy two shoes as the prosthetic leg has a foot at the bottom and it is designed to be shod.

When I see one shoe in the breakdown, I generally get pretty alert because I instantly start searching for the other shoe.

I have mentioned this over the years to any number of people and most of them smile and admit that they, too, start looking for the other shoe. A few of them don't, but there are quite a number of people that know exactly what I am talking about over this dopey one shoe business. This is just second nature to a person with a curious nature.

Anyway, on the way to work the other day I was booting along and there it was, one shoe in the breakdown lane.

But this time was different because about ten yards away in the same breakdown lane, there was the other shoe.

I pulled right over and lo and behold, they matched!

After fifty years of wondering about one shoe in the breakdown lane, there was the other one!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A halfway decent rant on .Gov employees.

One thing just about any pension program has to have is sustainability over time.

Right now the issue in Wisconsin over public unions bargaining power is not over at this time. There will be a lot of bellyaching no matter how the issue turns out and the Republicans will get beat up over this issue for years to come.

I wonder if the mean old Republicans that are trying to rein in public union power are doing this to be mean or because they have actually learned to count.

I am not one to upeset the apple cart and if the public unions can figure a way to let some public employee retire and draw double pay for life after a brief period of service, then that's just fine by me. Hell, I'd sign right up. Of course, it is not very likely to happen.

Fact is that pensions are nothing more than money that is being given to someone that is no longer producing, plain and simple. It is a drain on the resource that is supplying it.

Before any of you pensioners go off on that statement and start in on how you gave the best years of your life, yada yada yada, stop and think for a second. What are you doing now? Are you still actively producing in the field you are drawing your pension from? Of course not, you are retired. You are Drawing a pension.

Pensions of most kinds were originally designed to keep a person too old to work from being a burden on everyone else. They were not designed so that a forty-five year old could spend the rest of his life on the golf course. Of course, there are not a whole lot of people in their forties that golf all day, but you can see the point I am making. Most people that retire from a career at an early age do something else for a while. Some start another career and work toward another pension.

A pension fund is a little like a salmon run. In order for it to keep fishermen in fish it has to be taken care of. A salmon run can sustain a limited group of fishermen with a living wage for generations if it is managed properly or it can be overfished make a few people rich for a couple years and the resource ends there.

Same holds true for pension funds. They have to be sustainable. The money has to come from somewhere.


One of the maritime unions used to have a twenty and out policy, whereby after twenty years of service a man could retire from the maritime business and collect a pension. This means that someone that entered the business at the age of twenty could start drawing something at the ripe old age of forty.

That got changed a while back as it wasn't sustainable. They decided that the money wasn't there to be able to pay a person a lifetime pension after only twenty years of service.

Let's look at a forty year old retiree that lives for another thirty-five years at half-pay for life.
Over the remaining thirty-five years of his life, he draws half pay which equals to being 17.5 years of fulll pay, adjusted for inflation over the years. He will collect this pension for 1.5 times the number of years he worked. This doesn't even start to get into the health insurance, etc that goes with the retirement package.

All of this is fine and dandy if the money is there to pay him. I don't care. It isn't coming out of my pocket.

Truth is, the public sector has come quite a way over the past umpteen years. It used to be that the public sector was really a trade-off career. It used to pay quite a bit less than its private counterpart. The trade off was security.

Years ago, the public sector, that paid somewhat less than the private sector was a secure way to go. A person so employed pretty much didn't have to worry a whole lot about layoffs and how well the company was doing. They knew that their check would be there and on time. They also knew that they would be given a modest retirement that would permit them to live out their final years in quiet dignity.

The trade-off meant that while the private sector employee was driving, for example, a Pontiac or Buick with a V-8, the public employee would likely scoot around town in a six-cylinder Ford or Chevy and maybe lived in a somewhat smaller house. Still, there was generally enough income that if the public employee was frugal, they could afford to raise a couple of kids and send them to a halfway decent college.

What has changed over the past several years is that many areas of the public sector have unionized and as a result, have collectively bargained their way up to the point where working for the government seems like it is now the way to go. In many cases the public sector is paying one hell of a lot more than the private sector does, and when you add in the benefit package and early retirement possibilities there is no wonder that the people that used to head for the big money in the private sector are running straight to government jobs.

Now they can have their cake and eat it, too. They can have the Buicks and Pontiacs and live in the big house on the hill and be secure. On top of that, they can retire early!

All this is good until someone asks the ugly question; who is paying for it?

The answer, of course, is that we all are.

My pay is sent directly to the bank electronically. I can actually look at my watch and see if I can go down to the bank and start in on paying bills. Unless I call the bank, I have no way of knowing how much money is in the bank until my pay voucher arrives in the mail a couple of days later. When I open the envelope I grind my teeth when I see how much I have coughed up in taxes.

This has not been as good a year for me as last year was, I have made a little less and paid a lot more in taxes this year, according to my tax papers and records.

While I understand that the taxes I pay are part of the cost of living in as nice a place as the United States, it galls the hell out of me that the powers that be are so damned generous with my wages.

Where is it all going? What is the government doing with my money?

Of course, some of it is going toward paying public pensions, and while I have little or no problem with the way it used to be, the way it is now leaves me a little miffed.

The teachers these days are among the biggest examples. Backed by NEA and other teachers unions, they really irk me. They work 180 days per year and want 100K per annum, which is one hell of a lot of money for a job that gives them summers off and sabbatical leave time.

Teachers seem to think that they are so great because they teach, but there is a lot of truth to the old saw. Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach.(The third part of this old saw is that those that can do neither become administrators.)

The biggest insult of a justification that I have ever heard a teacher use to justify a raise is that back in the 60s teachers were really underpaid.


Not one of those teachers was forced to teach. They agreed to do the job for the pay offered. All of them had college degrees and as a result had other options. They obviously wanted to teach otherwise they would have done something else.

Also, even if they were so underpaid, how in the hell os overpaying a current teacher going to settle the so-called injustice given to the teachers of the 60s? Virtually all of the teachers that taught in the 60s are now retired. If anyone is entitled to the back pay it is them and not todays breed of teacher.

In fact, by such reasoning we ought to give every black person in the country that can prove that their ancestors were slaves a big, huge compensation check. We all know how that idea will go over. Park it alongside the clown who suggested putting screen doors in submarines.

One other small thing; If you teachers are so great, then why are we raising a generation of idiots that graduate from college that can't read and write, or more importantly, can't count. Raises to teachers should be based on merit, period. If you send a class forward that has actually learned something, fine. If not, too bad.

I don't mind paying government employees that are now too old to work, but I really don't like the idea of paying someone that golfing four times a week or is now working on his second pension and planning on double-dipping in a couple of years. As a society we seem to put a little too much stock into recreation.

It should be noted here that my Old School mother in law proudly kept working as a Registered Nurse well into her 80s. One can call the woman a double dipper because she was collecting Social Security while working full time, but the arguement holds little water. She had to collect her Social Security by law.

I read a story where a correctional officer felt he was getting screwed by the nasty old Republicans because now he had to make a choice between simply collecting a pension or coming into work. He had started drawing a retirement pension and was still coming into work at his job and getting paid his regular wage on top of his pension. Poor baby.

(There are exceptions like Sheila, an old friend of mine from High School. She got out of college and became a state social worker of some sort and worked her required years so she could pull a pension and live her dream. She now works for peanuts at a local non-profit food bank and loves it, but she has dedicated her life to helping others. She'll probably die while helping others. I respect that.)

People are now living a lot longer than they used to and that means that pension plans of all sorts, including Social Security have to pay out a lot more for a lot longer length of time. That means more money. Where is it going to come from? We have already backed up the age of retirement a couple of years for some. The next likely step is reduced benefits. What comes after that?

In addition to that, Congress, with their well known, world renowned generosity with other people's money has allowed an awful lot of people to dip out of the pot they have not paid into.

At present, things are not sustainable. The only solution is to raise more money. Maybe the government will start having bake sales, but it is not likely. What is likely is more taxation.

You simply can not take more out of a pot than you have put into it. You can not run anything of a deficeit for very long.

The answer is that sometime soon Joe Workingman is going to see a whole lot less of his pay come payday and he will notice that there is now a lot more being taken out to pay for things he will never receive. Right now there are a lot of people asking if Social Security is going to even be there when he retires.

The whole issue here that has started in Wisconsin is not that the government is being mean or cruel and doesn't like the working person. The issue here s that someone there has learned to count and the numbers are not adding up to be able to permit state employees to write their own pension plans.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There is a big $hit sandwich being made and pretty soon it is going to be passed around and we're all going to have to take a bite. That means everyone, at least that is getting paid by the taxpayer. It also has to start at the top.

It really is no example for top leadership to cut the pay of the workers and then give themselves a raise as a reward for saving the taxpayers a big chunk of change. Leadership means setting an example and it is time for the top dogs to set one.

That doesn't seem too likely.

Can you picture Congress voting on their own pay cut?

I'm waiting, but I'll know when it is going to happen.

When I hear that Mother Teresa got busted for shooting two cops that were trying to take her in for posession of blow and solicitation of prostitution I'll start watching for Congress to cut their own pay.

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No I do not want to keep the poor and minorities down.

I listened to some crap a while ago about some kind of evil conspiracy to keep the Black man down and it is the biggest bucket of hogwash I have ever heard in my entire life. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Why would I logically want to keep someone down? There is simpy nothing in it for me by keeping a person down, and when you get right down to it, keeping someone down is pretty stupid.

I don't want the poor to stay poor and I don't want the minorities to be kept down. I want them to succeed and get ahead.

The truth is that in this country the poor cost the rest of us a lot of money. They utilize many of the social welfare programs and that has to be paid for somehow. Of course, it comes out of out hard earned tax dollars. Those of us that have jobs, careers and that sort of thing get walloped every year come 15 April right in the back pocket. A good chunk of that money goes to take care of the poor. If the poor stop being poor and take care of themselves then the government (meaning the taxpayers) might just be able to save a few bucks for themselves.

This would be the ultimate win/win situation.

I'd get to see a bigger chunk of my weekly pay because I wouldn't be coughing it every week to the government to give to someone else. Who knows? Maybe I could afford a better brand of beer or something. That would be nice.

Besides, Martin Luther King once said that for every black man in the gutter there was a white man holding him down there.

Assuming what he said is true, I'll let you in on a little secret.

I have a whole lot better things to do than sit in some damned gutter and hold someone down.

For one thing, it would take from the time I spend drinking beer with Neighbor Bob. That's just the beginning of a very long list of things I consider more important than sitting in a gutter. I won't begin to post the list here.

To the guy that was talking about the evil conspiracy to keep the Black man down, all I can say is that if you spent about half the time and effort trying to get ahead instead of whining and feeling sorry for yourself, than we'd both be a whole lot happier.

Then again, there are just some people that are not happy unless they are miserable.

Of course, maybe he is like Brother Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson because HE doesn't want minorities to be successful because if they become successful they will be out of a job.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Mandatory 10-20% down required for housing loans is a good idea

I just read somewhere that the powers that be are considering making a decent 10 to 20% down payment on a home to be mandatory.

It actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. There were a lot of people that got in over their head a while ago and bought homes they could not afford to make the payments on for either little or no money down. When push came to shove, they simply walked away from the loan and left the rest of us to pay it for their irresponsibility.

The banks would get stuck with a home they had to resell at distress rates and they lost money in addition to the aggravation of having to reposess a home and resell it. The person who couldn't afford it, but bought it anyway simply skated away.

Now the do-gooders in this nation of ours are griping that it would make it a whole lot harder for minorities and the poor to get into a house.

That is starting to get old as far as I can see.

Let's look at housing first. Owning a house is not a right given to us under the Constitution. It is simply another thing you buy with your earnings. It is like a car or a table or a can of beans in that respect. You either take a wad of cash out and pay for it or you go to the bank and float a loan. Most people do the latter, as they have not yet amassed the required savings to be able to buy a home outright.

The home mortgage is somewhat of an American tradition. I have attended a number of mortgage burning parties over the years as friends and neighbors have made their final payment and have become outright owners of their family homes.

The other part I'll cover is that the do-gooders are carrying on that minorities and the poor will not be able to own a home. I'm growning pretty tired of hearing that one, too.

Right now I have a neighbor that is putting three-count 'em-3 children through college all at the same time. He didn't just write a check out of the old savings account to do this because he is a working man and has not been able to amass enough money to do this. There are college loans and various scholarships that have been taken advantage of to do this. He reported to me that it would be a whole lot easier if he were a minority. I have heard this said before. I'll probably hear it again somewhere else along the line.

Right now it is a whole lot easier for the poor and the minorities to get a decent education and get ahead. All they have to do is sign up and get with the program. Yes, the loans do have to be paid back, but there are one hell of a lot of non-minority young people right now doing just that. Paying the student loans back.

The opportunity to get out of the cycle of poverty is there to anyone with the brains and drive to take advantage of it. All you have to do is get off of your dead ass and onto your dying feet and go for it. The foundation for a good life is there. All a person does is has to take advantage of it.

Now as far as the banks go, one simply has to look at what they do. They are in the business of making money, which is what just about all businesses are in the business of. The banks make their money by loaning it to people for things they don't have the cash to purchase outright. The most well known examples of this are cars and homes.

They loan money and the borrower pays it back with interest. We all know how that works.

The problem with no money down loans is two-fold. First the borrower really has nothing in it and can simply walk away from the home with nothing to lose. This makes it a bit too easy for someone to be irresponsible and just jump into something they can't afford. When you have nothing invested, you have nothing to lose.

On the other hand, when you are going to cough up, say, twenty-five or thirty grand for a down payment on a house, you generally look a little more carefully as to whether you are going to be able to make the payments on the place. When you have something to lose you tend to act a little more responsible.

Of course, no matter what there will be the few that manage to lose on this deal and they will naturally blame the nasty old bank and say that they have been taken advantage of because they have lost both their down payment and whatever they have paid on the loan. They will claim the bank has gotten rich from people like them.

Let's look at the mean old bank for a second.

The bank really does not want to reposess a home. It is nothing more to them than a big hassle and even with a hefty down payment the liklihood of them making any real money on a reposession deal is pretty slim. The legal fees of reposession, the fees associated with selling the place to someone else and the cost of repairs generally eats up most if not all of the money paid into the home.

When you add in the repairs necessary to make a place marketable all bets are off, as the majority of people that default on a loan generally do not take care of the home in the first place. The horror stories regarding the condition of reposessed homes are pretty well known.

The banks don't reposess a home and then get to sell it the next day as a step right up, move right in with your charming wife and lovely 3.2 children into this beautiful Martha Stewart approved gorgeous brand new home. The place is more than likely a pig sty and needs repairs and/or serious renovation to be marketable. This costs money.

In short, in most cases when a bank repossesses a home it costs them a lot of money and aggravation. The bank really does not want the home, they simply want your money. In fact, they will generally work with you if you hit tough times so they don't have to repossess your home. They simply do not want it.

I know of one such person that found himself injured and out of work for a while that had the brains to go straight to the bank and explain circumstances. The bank altered his payments so he could keep his house and pay what he could afford until he went back to work. Granted, the money was added on and it took him a few of extra months to pay the loan off, but he kept his house. Banks generally have a skilled loan officer there to help with such things that come up.

To put it simply, the banks do not want you to fail because it is simply not in their best interests. The ideal borrower is simply someone that takes out a twenty year loan and quietly makes the 240 monthly payments and takes the deed to the house when the last payment is made.

While requiring a 20% down payment is not going to guarantee that the borrower will pay for a home, it sure increases the odds and at least allows the bank to recover something if the borrower defaults.

I don't have a problem with that

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

There is something going on in the neighborhood.

And I can't for the life of me figure it out.

Police patrol activity has increased and I see a lot more police cars going through the area. I'm not the only one that seems to have noticed it, all the neighbors have and we can't figure it out.

Generally the best way to get to the bottom of something is to out and out ask and see what kind of reply you get so the other day I pulled up to a parked police officer and asked. I got what I expected, vague answers and nothing specific. He didn't seem very receptive to my questions even though I told him the entire neighborhood was wondering what is going on. His attitude seemed to be a bit defensive.

I guess I am just going to have to keep my eyes open a little more. It is obvious that something is going on and that the police are not really talking. I think I'm going to put a bug in the ears of my neighbors to keep their eyes open and their cell phones handy.

My instinct tells me that I really don't have to start running around armed all the time, but I think that on the home front I'll keep something that shoots handy. That's no change, as there generally is something that shoots handy around the Piccolo residence.

I think that the reason that the police are being so vague about things is because they don't want to get people upset and up in arms. I can see their point to a certain degree.

While having a neighborhood up in arms keeping their eyes open for the forces of evil can be a good thing, it can also lead to horrible results. Most people are either untrained or poorly trained and that can be disasterious. There is nothing worse out there than a worked up idiot packing a pistol and either so paranoid that he will shoot anything or worse yet, a guy with an attitude that is out and out looking for an excuse to pop someone.

I sort of figure that the average guy has pretty good judgement and would probably reach for the proper tool if he encountered anything that looked shady; he'd reach for his cell phone and call the police. However, not everyone has that attitude. All it takes to turn something into a real mess is for some idiot that wants to be a hero to decide to take action on his own. Then you have big trouble on your hands. Someone would probably get hurt, most likely the hero and the ensuing legal mess would take years to clean up. Odds are that the bad guys would wind up getting rich and skate, after they took a laughing walk to the bank.

I've wondered whether to try and organize some sort of a neighborhood watch program, but I think that if I do I'll be met with either resistance or some sort of 'duh, gee, whiz' type of childish oversupervision on the part of the local gendarmes. The truth is, if we tried to officially organize something it would probably mean that the police would spend more time watching the watch program people than they would watching around for whatever it is that they are looking for.

I think I know how I'm going to handle this and that is to simply have a little talk with my core neighbors. I'll tell them that whatever is going on, the gendarmes are keeping this under wraps and to simply keep their eyes open and their cell phones handy. This is probably going to be a waste of time because if I know them they are already doing this. The neighbors around here are generally pretty good about stuff like this.

Still, I wish I knew what was going on.

I see a few reasons for the police putting a lid on this, some hold water, some don't. I can see keeping it quiet to keep the people from arming themselves and getting all worried. I can see not wanting some mouth to open and tip off the wrong people. All this makes sense if we are talking about a specific target.

But if there is some kind of increase in crime going on, then it makes sense to put some sunshine on it and get the locals to keep their eyes open. Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, said the following:
"The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence."
There's more than a grain of truth to that. The people have to get involved for the system to work, and the police have to get over the "Us versus Them" attitude that many of them seem to carry with them.
I have seen over the years that the best and most successful police officers have been the ones that are true 'people persons' that actually like to communicate with the neighborhood people and know how to both talk and listen. I used to have a damned good go-to guy on the force. Once in a while he would let me know what was going on. It helped, and it was also a two way street as he knew that letting me know what was going on meant another pair of eyes on the street.
Of course, he got promoted and is now working somewhere else which now is good for him, yet now does me no good. Oh, well.
I think that over the weekend I will just have a quiet little word with the neighbors remind them that keeping their eyes open and their cell phones handy might be a good idea.
Of course, maybe this entire thing is unwarranted. This could simply be a case where the local police department has gotten some money somewhere and has decided to spend it by hiring a couple more officers and stepping up police activity. I sort of doubt this, though.
I don't know what they're looking for but whatever it is, I hope they find it soon. This matter has me concerned.

Update: This is not limited to my neighborhood. According to a few others I have run into over the past day or so it is all over town, so maybe it is a case of getting more money and hiring a few more officers. Still, I've had a word with a couple neighbors about keeping their eyes open and their phones handy.

Another thing. I pitched the Jack Daniels bottles Bob brought by yesterday.(See yesterday's post) When police activity changes it is also generally followed by a major change in attitude on the part of the force. Instead of just seeing if we are actually drinking on the porch, instead of seeing we are not and simply driving off, we will probably get hassled. So at least until things settle down a bit it is time to fly under the radar. That means no fireworks and things of that nature for a while.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Neighbor Bob just came over with a pair of empty Jack Daniels bottles

and about a gallon of iced tea.

I looked up and asked him if it was time to slap Sally-down-the-street around a bit and he nodded. She's been stirring up trouble lately because she doesn't have a life.

Service rifle season is coming up and that means that the gear will come out of the footlocker and be gone over. The shooting mat will be scrubbed, the scope stand gone over and slicked up, the sight smoker will have the orifice cleaned and new carbide loaded and the water bottle filled.

Then the service rifles will be gone over.They will be detail stripped and cleaned well and lubricated properly.

The whole kit and kaboodle will come out and be placed on the porch along with the pair of whisky bottles half fillled with iced tea, which we will be seen drinking out of.

Of course, the other neighbors will see us there cleaning rifles and drinking iced tea and they will wonder why we are drinking our iced tea out of Jack Daniels bottles but will say nothing.

Except Sally, who will be driving by for her Saturday shopping and will instantly call the police and tell them that there are two guys on the Piccolo porch drinking whisky and pointing guns at people.

Needless to say, as soon as Sally drives by we will replace the whisky bottles with a couple of jugs of iced tea and when the police arrive they will find two guys drinking iced tea with a pair of torn down service rifles that they are working laboriously on.

The officer will be annoyed with being called out for nothing and Sally will wind up with another pain in the ass mark on her record.

Something like this seems to happen about every other year.

It's been a while since Sally got her cage rattled and was reminded that she ought to stop creating trouble where there is none and simply go somewhere and get herself a life instead of bringing problems into everyone else's.

Then again, I really ought to simply throw the bottles in the trash and clean the rifles in the basemant because by doing the aforementioned we will simply waste our time.

If any good were to come out of making a fool out of Sally, I suppose I would, but no good will come out of it.

That's because you can't fix stupid.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

I hope I represent Americans well in this blog.

There is a spot that comes with the blog called 'statistics' and every so often when I get bored I check it.

I can see how many hits I have gotten on a certain day, what links they have used to find the blog and what countries they are reading it from. I have a number of occasional overseas readers which is just great.

I would imagine that a number of these overseas 'hit' on this blog come from expatriated Americans; people like GIs and maybe embassy people, but not all of them. I would imagine that a few of the readers are nationals of the country that they are reading this blog from.

To these people I would like to say that I am not an average American by a long shot. Then again, maybe I am.

Our coins have the words 'E. Pluribus Unum' stamped on them. It is Latin and means 'of many, one'.

I am simply one of many people that make this country of ours what is is.

If you ave been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know I have had a pretty varied and somewhat checkered career. I have been a soldier, a commercial fisherman, a carpenter, a cab driver and I am presently employed as a seaman. For a short time I actually worked as a cowboy.

I guess that if anything is recognized as being American, it is the cowboy.

While I would love to be posting my adventures in Dodge City and the shootouts I had with the forces of evil, that was not the case. I didn't get to ride off into the sunset on a fiery white steed, either.

I did, though, have a revolver but it was not strapped to my hip. Generally it was in the glove compartment of the pickup I drove around when I was mending fences which was pretty much a full time job. The couple of times I worked the fence on horseback, the revolver stayed in the saddle bags.

I recall using only twice. Once to put an injured animal down and the other time I used it to put a hole in a board because I was too lazy to get a drill. I did, however gun down a number of tin cans one afternoon.

I wore a straw western hat to keep the sun off of my head, but sometimes I opted for a baseball cap. I also wore western boots, jeans and a western shirt and had a bandanna around my neck. This was actually a pretty practical outfiit for that kind of work, but I have to admit that there was a certain amount of pride in being a cowboy so I dressed the part, too.

It was hard work, but it was fun sometimes. There is a certain satisfaction to having been an American Icon at one time in my life, even if it was for a brief period between jobs.

On Saturday nights, I'll admit that I sometimes went into town and drank a few beers but I never did tear up a saloon. Even back then the idea of spending a night breaking chairs over each other's heads wasn't too appealing. Things like that made for painful Sunday mornings if you were lucky enough not to wind up in the hospital.

I guess another image of Americans is that we are all rich, which is really somewhat of a relative thing. If you are living hand to mouth in some third-world slum somewhere unable to find enough to eat on any kind of a regular basis, that someone that is well fed is pretty rich. I've always managed to get enough to eat so to some people I am rich.

The fact is that I work for wages just like the majority of other Americans.

I'll say this, though. The reason I am not wealthy is because I have never aspired to getting rich. I suppose that if I had decided to amass some kind of fortune I very well would have. The opportunity to do this is here for anyone smart enough and willing to work at it. I guess you could say that it is part of the American Dream. It is still very much alive. When you look at Bill Gates, he really is nobody too special. He's just a guy that got an idea somewhere and ran with it. He never finished college and started Microsoft in a garage somewhere.

Unlike a lot of my fellow Americans that get a little cocky and take this country for granted, I do not. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the opportunities given to me to live the way I do. My hero is the American GI, as he generally insures that nobody will take my way of life away from me.

Like many Americans, I am pretty much a do-it-yourselfer. I do almost all of my own work around the house and almost all of the maintenance on my vehicle. When cars were a little simpler back in the day I used to replace my own engines in my back yard or in a friends barn. Why should I pay for someone to do what I can do myself?

I have to say that the part of this country that breeds such a people like Americans is that we are pretty much in posession of certain freedoms and rights. What that boils down to for the most part is that if you don't like something, you are given the opportunity to change it. That holds true to an awful lot. People have changed governmental policies here just by making it clear to their representatives what they want done. If enough people raise enough hell with the elected officials, they generally overcome and get what they want. Sometimes it takes some doing, though.

One of the things we have in this country is a right to keep arms. Since I was a child I have owned firearms and have fired countless rounds but have never injured anyone. The last thing in the world I want to do is to shoot someone. Then again, if the forces of evil decide they want to invade the Piccolo residence then they will be in for a pretty rude reception. I have no desire to be harmed in my own home.

Our constitution also permits that we enjoy a freedom of religion and I believe that to be a good thing. I truly believe in a persons right to worship as they see fit until they try and make their religion into something that I have to follow. Then watch out. I have no time for people that want to force their religion on me, no matter what it is. Although I have Roman Catholic roots, as far as I am concerned, the Pope has no business telling Americans how to run their lives. The same goes for Sharia law in this country. I simply do not want any part of it. If you want to force your religious views on someone else, than just leave. Go away. I don't want you around me.

I believe there is room in this nation for people of just about all faiths and I have a number of friends, acquatinances and co workers that are of varying religions. There are Christians,Jews, Hindus, Muslims and athiests that I can call a friend.

I also have friends that have moved to this country from somewhere else. For example, I sometimes have my hair cut by a Russian-born Jew. He does a pretty good job.

In some respects I am a typical American, but in a few others respects I am far from it.

There are over a quarter-billion of us, and we're all different.

I am just one of these.

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The gas company guys can't help people anymore

because some jerk ruined it for everyone else.

The other night a couple of us caught a little whiff of gas and Nurse Connie called the gas company to report it. They sent a field investigator out at once. He was there in about fifteen minutes which is a damned sight better than police response time in a lot of places. (Not here. Police response time is excellent in this township)

Anyway, he did his thing and tested and it looks like there is a small leak in the main somewhere and they will send a crew out sometime soon to tear the line up and repair/replace it. It's going to be a pretty big suck pill for someone as the main is off the road and it means lawn digging up and things of that nature.

I got to talking with the guy and I told him that just after we moved in they had to replace the line from the street to my house. He glanced at the on-board computer in his truck and told me that it had been noted. My gas line had been sleeved with a piece of plastic tubing.

I remember it well. I came out with a bunch of cold drinks for the guys that were digging the valve up so they could shut the gas to my place off. They had earlier explained to me that I would have to get a plumber or someone to have the pipe from the street to my house replaced.

That's when I looked at the entire crew and asked, "OK, which one of you guys does side jobs?"

They looked at one another and one of the guys mentioned that there was a guy on the crew working a block or two away that had a kid that had a medical condition and that he was always looking for a few extra bucks. The foreman called him up and the two of us made a deal right then and there.

The guy agreed to show up after work and square me away if I picked up the needed components. He gave me a list and about an hour or so later I returned home. I swung by to where the guy was working and he glanced at my purchases and agreed to show up after work.

He was there at the appointed time and we ran the sleeve of plastic tubing from the street to the meter next to the house and in a few minutes the end emerged by the meter where we attached it using the hardware I had just purchased. I was then good to go and the following morning the gas was turned on.

It was a good deal and a win/win situation. The gas guy had made a few extra bucks and I had saved well over a thousand bucks.

I mentioned this to the gas inspector and he gave me a wistful smile and told me that people working for the gas company could not take on side jobs anymore. I asked why.

I was given the usual reason. Some dumbass had ruined it for everyone else.

Some woman found out that her neighbor had gotten a gas company employee to come in after work and take care of his problem. The woman wanted her service taken care of and the gas employee explained to her that he couldn't fix her service with a sleeve because there was a sharp bend in her hard piping and that a sleeve couldn't make the turn. She would have to have her piping dug up and replaced.

She promptly called the gas company and complained and was the first step tooward upsetting the apple cart.

Part two, and the big upset was when someone called the gas company and whined about how much the guy charged him for a couple of hours worth of work.

While I'm sure the off-duty gas company employee charged a fair price for after-hours work, I doubt he was being all that greedy. This is another case where a complainer isn't thinking for even a second. The employee probably saved the complaining customer a fortune and this is yet another case of the old saw "No good deed goes unpunished".

The gas company then sent out a directive prohibiting employees from doing after hours jobs and that ended that.

The first woman, however learned a belated lesson about ruining things for others, though. Before the gas can be turned on the job has to be inspected and you can just bet that the inspector made sure every i was dotted and t was crossed. It cost her a fortune. I don't know what happened to the second clown.

Still, they ruined something for everyone else and that to me is a major crime.

I have posted several times in this blog that the trash guys take very good care of me.

The twit down the street has noticed that and said something to Neighbor Bob about how I seem to get preferrential treatment, which in fact I do. Then again, you have to remember that I take pretty good care of them. One hand washes the other.

Bob handled this well. He told her that if she did ruin things for me that he would make damned good and sure that I found out who was responsible. He then pointed out that I was either a best friend or worst enemy and that she didn't want to wind up on my short list of worst enemies. She's been set up once before and decided that maybe keeping her mouth shut is in her best interests.

my other blog is:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I did something interesting tonight which is why I didn't get to write a full post

I watched a movie on the laptop.

Michael Caine and Robert Duvall were the players.

The movie was "Secondhand Lions"

WHat a great movie!

It is on Utube and in about 11 parts, but it was worth it.

I recommend it.

my other blog is:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Neighbor Bob's wife is going out of her mind.

I just got a call from her accusing me of crapping on her front lawn, which I have emphatically denied. Truth is I didn't.

However, earlier today I spotted a fresh animal mess in Bob's front yard and grabbed a roll of bathroom tissue and stuck a few squares to it and walked off.

She'll figure it our sooner or later.


I think I am going to make bird houses today.

It sounds like a pretty good project and spring is officially here and the birds are coming back.

I've got about five or six cedar boards that ought to make pretty good bird houses and it looks like the rain may hold off for a bit today so I think I'll fire up the chop saw and nailers and get things rolling a little alter on today.


I made seven of them.

I know that the birds will move right in. I know this because I used the plans I got from the United States Government.

I wonder if I can make a few bucks by selling them as Section 8 housing.

Then again it may not be a good idea as the rest of the birds that struggled to be responsible and pay mortgages will be pretty upset. I can't blame them.

Maybe I'll just keep ownership of them and use them as rentals.

my other blog is:

Monday, March 21, 2011

A day of young people in an old people neighborhood

Neighbor Bob showed up looking for a beer as he could probably use one.

His wife goes in for surgery tomorrow.

Instead of the usual out back we opted for a sit in the garage and watch the passers-by. It was a pretty good show.

First there was a couple walking their dog, an 8 month old shepherd type that they told me was a half police, half border patrol animal. He was a pretty good dog. Sharp as a tack and I guess they are thinking of seriously training him.

It's good to see a young couple doing something interesting like that.

The next thing we saw was a father/son going for a bike ride.

Dear old dad was teaching the boy how to break down the hill into a series of diagonal sweeps. The kid couldn't handle the hill outside my house, but could if he went back and forth, which was fine. In time he will develop the strength which I am losing as time goes on.

Anyway, the kid took a turn a bit too sharp and fell.


I looked out and said loudly "Get back on that horse!"

The father looked at me with an irritated look.

The kid sat there and cried a bit and after a while walked the bike a few feet and got right back on.

I clapped my hands loudly. I think the kid heard, I sure hope he did.

It's good being an old guy seeing spirited young people because it gives me hope that maybe there will be a few stout hearted young people to take over when I am gone.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Last night sucked because I had to sleep alone.

Tonight's dinner sucked. I had a steak and I was loathe to put it on the grill but did so anyway because it was getting old and I didn't want to toss it out as throwing good beef out is a crime here.

Still, eating it brought me no joy because there wasn't a cat to share it with or at least beg for a piece. For me that has alway been part of the fun of eating a piece of steak.

Of course, earlier today we drove past a stray cat and Mrs Pic asked me to stop, which we did. The little guy took off, which is par golf. I have a feeling that I will be taking in service to another cat well before the agreed upon late summer/fall period.

When I say in service to another cat, only another cat person will understand. Cats do not have owners. Cats have a staff of attendants.

I have always maintained that General Officers should be ISSUED both a cat and a dog. The dog, of course, is to lick his hand when things go wrong and give him the encouragement to go on during troubled times.

The cat is to keep him from getting too big for his britches.

Most regrettably,I have said a few mean and petty things about Mrs Pic on this blog over the past two years or so, but I really have to say there is one special thing that amazes me about her. When it comes to the health and well being of a cat there is nobody on the face of the entire planet that is as observant of their health and well being.


That woman kept Tokie (a previous cat) comfortable and in fluids for well over a year and I don't think that during that year she got more than five or six hours of sleep at a time the entire time. She deserves an awful lot of credit for that. There are damned few humans capable of doing what she did and truly appreciate it.

That is all.

Good night.

my other blog is:

The past two days have just been a nightmare.

The day before yesterday the decision to put kitty to sleep was made and we knew it was going to be a pretty rough night. It was but we got somewhat of a miracle in that there was no emergency.

Yesterday morning we put the little guy down.

He died in my arms and he died well. I hope it is as easy for me except for the fact that we treeat our animals better than we treat out people so I figure I won't have it so easy.

My other half and I have decided that there will be no more cats in the house at least until very late summer or the fall which sound a lot better than it is because anyone that knows cats knows good and well that there is another one just lurking around the corner somewhere just getting ready to steal the heart of a good natured slob like me. Cats are conniving animals that way.

We'll see what happens next.


I am watching the Japanese deal with the tsunami and they make me ashamed to be an American in a way.

I see no looting or rioting or panic. They simply wait their turn for things patiently and try and look out for the good of the country as a whole. They seem to share in the suffering.

Unlike the pictures I saw of Katrina in New Orleans a while back where there was widespread looting. I really believe that the National Guard should have been given orders to shoot the bastards right in the head. There is no excuse for that whatsoever.

There is some sort of request to conserve energy there and I'd just bet that the average Japanese family has gone home and unplugged everything that isn't totally necessary for basic survival.

Why, I'd bet that they're even drying their hair with plain old air!

Whoda ever thought!

In this country if they announced that we had to do away with a third of our household energy use or face blackouts I would simply make sure the kerosene lamps were full as there are a lot of idiots that just can't live without their special something, be it hair dryer or electric blanket or something.An announcement like that would only mean that there was going to be a blackout.

Many Americans just do not seem to get it and it is infuriating.

What gets me is that many of these people that would continue energy use in troubled times are the welfare types, many of whom seem to think the world owes them a living.

Anyway, Kudos to the Japanese for giving the word 'civilization' a good name.

my other blog is:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It hass been a baad couple of days.

0915 today my kitty was put to sleep.

Yesterday was a touch-and go day.

Last night he slept with me and I knew it was time.

Mrs Pic was wonderful and neither of us have any regrets.

He died in my arms and died well.

I pray it is as good for me as it was for him.

That is all.

my other blog is:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas (to steal a movie title)

To figure this post out, simply read the one below it that I posted yesterday.

Now we were in Elko, Nevada and headed back to Seattle when it occurred to Blaine that we were in one of the counties in Nevada where prostitution was legal and we were in posession of a pretty good windfall of about a grand.

Frankly it bothered me. I really didn't think much of throwing a grand away in a whorehouse and when I ran it by Blaine, neither did he, but I'll admit it was a temptation.

Still, it really wasn't our money. Of course, we were both fishermen and we considered the acts of Greenpeace to be out and out piracy and giving it to Greenpeace was out of the question.

Still the question remained. What should we do with something that really wasn't ours. We decided that it wasn't worth fighting over so we split it down the middle and decided each according to his conscience.

Had we collected the intended gas money to get home on, I could have lived with that, but this was more than we needed and I have never really been greedy. Although over the years I have fought tooth and nail for what is mine, I have never wanted anything else unless it was something like a lottery winning or some other fluke.

A year earlier in Alaska I had found an unmarked envelope containing $1200 and two grams of cocaine. I simply dumped the coke and held the money for a few weeks, all the while keeping my ears wide open in case the rightful owner said something. After about a month or so, I decided it was mine.

That was different. I figure it was from a drug dealer or someone and I simply accepted it as a semi bona-fide windfall.

Later on I found out that Blaine had rat holed his half and a few months later put it all in an envelope and sent it to a newly made widow with two kids a couple of weeks after her husband was killed.

I'll not post what I did with my half, except to say that what I did with it was honorable.

Still, there was curiosity regarding the local brothels. Nevada is the only place where this is legal and simple curiosity is something to be dealt with. I asked a local and he suggested that we simply go in for a drink as the nearest joint had a well stocked bar. He said that a lot of locals would occasionally drop in for a drink and be left alone.

So we did and it was interesting. The madam didn't bat an eyelash when Blaine told her we were just stopping by for a drink or two to satisfy a curiosity. The place was halfway decent and clean and nobody bothered us. I saw some rather large gentleman that looked like he was most likely the ejecter of unruly patrons and smiled.

We had a couple of drinks and left, but I'll say this for the place; I never felt like I had to watch my back for an instant. It was actually a comfortable place to sit and relax. To this day I would not think twice about going into the bar of a legal brothel for a drink. Oh, yeah. You can't bring a woman into the place, but then again, why would you want to?

We decided not to overnight in Elko even though we would be getting a late start.

We now had clean clothes, beer, some grub and plenty of ice, so off we went, headed north. We were still on a flat open road and I pulled the throttle out so I could simply relax and steer. This was not a modern cruise control by any stretch of the imagination. When we hit an incline I could over ride the throttle with the gas pedal. When we were going downhill there were two choices; throttle back or pick up a lot of speed. What I did depended on how straight the road was and how steep the hill was.

It was around midnight as we neared the outskirts of Boise and we sprang for a motel which was a change. Breakfast was at a local greasy spoon and the owner offered us a pretty good deal on a bag lunch which we took.

It was quite a deal when we decided to eat and I don't know how in hell the place made any money on it considering what they charged. It wasn't a whole lot and the bag contained a humongus sub sandwich that was easily over a foot long, a bigger than usual bag of chips, an apple and a can of soda.

Then the restauranteur offered me something I have never been offered before or since. He offered me a piece of baling wire to tie the sandwich to the exhaust mainfold a half hour before I ate it to heat it up.

I took him up on this and he was right. Blaine and I both had hot subs for lunch.

In a way, this wasn't a first. Over the years I have cooked several meals on road trips on hot exhaust manifolds, but this was the first and only time I have been offered wire with a lunch order.

Although we knew we could easily make Seattle in a day and be there well before midnight, we decided to see if an old sweetie of Blaine's living in Yakima was home. Then I remembered that I knew someone in Yakima and we pulled over next to a phone booth and Blaine called his sweetie first and she was free that evening. I called second and my lady friend begged off.

When I returned to the car disappointed, I casually mentioned that 'Sue was busy that night.' and Blaine turned red and asked me what her last name was. When I told him, he turned red.

Seems it was the same girl. We both laughed.

I figured I'd either get a room somewhere or sack out in the truck, but when I pulled into the driveway to drop Blaine off, 'Sue' came running out with a friend. She had put two and two together and surprised us by calling a girl friend of hers.

A good time was had by all.

The following morning we set sail for Seattle and returned to fisherman's terminal. I pulled up next to a dumpster and we emptied the beer cans out of the bed of the pickup.

In this day and age, it will probably freak out the younger generation, but I had driven most of the 1200 miles from Vegas to Seattle with an open beer between my legs. This was fairly common behavior in those days. These days I would be thrown in jail for this, but back then in order to get busted for drunk driving you really had to work on it in most places. Then again, I was just sipping the beer and not pounding it down. I was never really toasted, at least by the standards of the time.

I heard it was fairly strict in Oklahoma back then, but that's about it.

Looking back on it, although I was probably legally drunk by today's standards, I was never really toasted enough to raise the eyebrows of just about any cop I would have encountered.

A couple of days later I fired up the pickup and headed north to Bellingham to spend a few days with an old girlfriend, but that's another story.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blaine and Piccolo visit Las Vegas.

This goes back to the time when I hit it big fishing and I was still living like a derelict which I still occasionally get accused of but let's not go there.

Anyway, I was the pilot in command of a 1962 Dodge half-ton stepside pickup that I had won in a poker game that I didn't participate in.

What? How did that happen?

Simple. There was this card room in the back of a Seattle area tavern and some gambling addict was losing but knew for sure he was going to make a comeback and needed a loan. I offered him a quick hundred bucks on the title to his truck which he took and promptly lost.

I was now the owner of a beat up '62 Dodge pickup with a soon-to-go slant six engine and an upcoming job at a local auto wreckers which meant I could offer him a trade for services and both of us would win.

A week later I had a low milage engine in the old beast and it was then that I ran into a friend of mine that was living in Fisherman's terminal and was getting some time off from the boat. He offered to split expenses with me if we would go on a road trip to nowhere.

I agreed and I fired the old truck up and off we went.

The first night was out in BFE (Google that) in sleeping bags which was to be expected. That was par golf back then. Road trips meant sleeping bags on the side of the road.

Anyway, the idea of checking out Las Vegas came up and I checked my wallet and decided I could hold up my half with what I had in my pocket. A quick stop at a gas station and a twenty-five cent map and the course was plotted.

We arrived in the East Las Vegas area pretty late after a long haul which means I don't really remember a whole lot about the boring trip in the old pickup. East Las Vegas was not the glamor and glitz of Vegas. It was where the cast-offs were flung. Of course I didn't realize that at the time and we stummped into the nearest gin mill for a couple of beers and as soon as we ordered a couple of beers in walked a couple members of the local motorcycle club.

It wasn't long before one of them in a drunken fit pushed me off of my barstool and perched himself on it.

My pard, Blaine shoved him off of it and calmly told the toasted little thug that he liked his previous company (me) a lot better.

I had recovered my dignity and stood there looking at the thug on the bar room floor and knew what was expected. The outraged coked up thug got up and looked at Blaine and started toward him.

I have a black belt in the little known martial art of bar stool and promptly picked one up. When Blaine's assailant committed himself I stepped in and promptly crowned the bastard and he went down like a sack. We were out of the gin mill like a shot because the guy wasn't alone and we knew that if they were club members they would promptly pit the pair of us in the floor and turn us into ugly little blood clots that would be mopped up when the joint closed for the night.

We got to the pickup and panicking a bit I wound up backing up into a bike and created a small domino effect, knocking down a couple. How we got away is beyond me but we did. We wound up sacking out in the desert which wasn't all that bad except for the rattlesnake that we saw near the truck when we woke up.

Anyway, I got out the map and started fingering out how to get to the strip and off we went.

Vegas runs 24/7 and we arrived on the strip where a drunk promptly caused me to come close to running up on the sidewalk. I was not too pleased and the part that really galled me was that it was some kind of a big shot in a Mercedes, which was the brand of car that the fat cats drove at the time.

Actually it didn't look likke any serious celebrity or big shot, he looked more like some criminal type with a Mercedes and a big ego. My instincts told me to just shine this affront on as it looked like trouble.

We parked somewhere and took a pretty long walking tour of the strip and took in all the glamour and glitz of the casinos and the various places, big and small. The place looked just like it was designed to be in my mind; it was a place that was designed to pluck as much money out of a person's pocket in as little time as possible. Knowing that, I knew it was time to show a little discipline.

Disciplining myself in a gambling situation is pretty easy for me as I am not a gambler of any sort. I figured I'd put a couple of bucks into a slot machine and call it good. That way I could officially say I had gambled in Las Vegas and keep people off of my back when they asked if I had gambled there.

I reached into my pocket and fished out a five and got it broken into quarters and played a couple of slots and decided that it was enough to make me a legitimate gambler.

I had just broken a hundred the day before and back then a hundred bucks went a whole lot longer than it does now. You could have a pretty good weekend on a hundred bucks back then if you were not into cocaine or other expensive vices. You could go into a town and eat, drink and take in a show and rent a room for a C-note back then. Gas was about forty-five cents a gallon in those days.

We ate at a pretty good restaurant, I snagged a carton of smokes and we tipped a couple of beers and then wandered into someplace and saw some kind of show. It wasn't Elvis or anything, just some kind of filler show for early birds. The headliners are generally doing their shows at night.

I had heard that Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame was doing something there and I tried to find out what, but had no luck. Vegas has had a reputation of being good to celebrities that were between gigs.

Anyway, we were headed back to the truck and as we were cutting through the parking lot the little thug in the Mercedes pulled in. I told Blaine to keep his mouth shut and he did. We passed by unrecognized and the little Mafioso wannabe wandered off to where he was going, obviously a little tanked up.

We got back to the truck when Blaine told me he ahd an idea and told me to wait.

I watched him wander past the Mercedes and then onto the parking lot attendent and he spoke to him for a few minutes and returned.

"I told the attendant I heard something like a baby crying in the guy's trunk," he said. "That'll fix him. Watch what happens!"

I knew what would happen. The attendant would call the police and the fire department would arrive and take a can opener to the trunk of the Mercedes. While it doesn't happen daily, compulsive gamblers have done a lot of stupid things like hide a baby in the trunk while they went in for one last hand only to find a dead kid when they got back. The people in Vegas are ready for things of this sort as they really don't like the black eye the city gets from occurances like that.

Inside two minutes the police rolled up, and a couple of minutes later the fire department showed up and they promptly pulled the lid off the trunk of the Mercedes. We well off to one side of the lot and could see pretty much what was going on and at this time the owner returned and we got to watch a pretty good horror show as the somewhat tanked owner demanded to know what was going on.

The attendant was caught in the middle as everyone was asking him all sorts of questions. He was, of course, looking for an out. I saw him point in our general direction with a 'They went thataway!' look on his face. I decided to slip the clutch and leave as I had noticed that Blaine had been a little sloppy in the route he took back to the truck after he had gone to the attendant's little booth. He had not gone as roundabout as he should have.

Blaine was just starting to duck when the attendant pointed at us and started shouting. Fortunately the jaded cop had a 'yeah, sure, kid' attitude so I managed to get out of the lot and onto the street and start to get out of the area but I knew that it would be a very short time before the police AND some petty little mob guy wannabe would be looking for us.

I didn't think anyone had gotten our plate number, but the truck was pretty much one of a kind. It was a 1962 powder blue Dodge half ton that desperately needed a paint job. One of the rear fenders was an entirely different shade of powder blue because it had obviously been replaced somewhere along the line.

I headed east and when we got clear of the immediate Las Vegas area I pulled over and the pair of us laughed the laugh of two men headed to the gallows. We drove off for a llittle while and took stock.

The first thing we decided is that we ought to unass the area and probably the state. Returning to Vegas was out of the question as we had managed to envoke the wrath of a group of motorcycle outlaws, a petty mob guy and the police department in less than two days.

Jail didn't look good, nor did the hospital. The prospect of waking up in a hole in the desert somewhere wasn't something I was very keen on having happen to me, either. It was time to crank up the old Dodge and get the hell out of Dodge. Time to gas up. My hip pocket was low on cash. It was time to break out another Franklin. I reached for my wallet. It wasn't there and I turned as white as a sheet.

"My wallet's gone," I said to Blaine and he turned white, also.

"Oh, God! So's mine!" he replied.

We sat down for a second in shock and thought.

"Mine was missing when we woke up," he said. "I was trying to wait for the right time to tell you."

We figured his had been lost in the scuffle in East Las Vegas the previous evening. Then we figured that mine had been lifted somewhere on the strip a few hours earlier. Returning to search was out of the question. We counted our remaining money and had probably close to thirty five bucks between us.

Things were pretty dim, but not completely black yet and we decided the head east a little further to Lake Mead and see if we could meet up with some kind of stupid hippies that were camping and see if we could crash out there.

We tooled around one of the camping areas ans found the inevitable Volkswagen bus parked in one of the camp sites and dropped in on them and sure enough, we got the OK to sack out there for a couple of days.

What we really needed was cash, lesss than a hundred bucks for gas so we could pack the trip in and head back to Fisherman's terminal in Seattle. When we got there things would be OK because we could live aboard a fish boat and work out rent off and maybe score a ride back to Kodiak or at least as far as Ketchikan where we could likely get a ride across the Gulf of Alaska.

We needed about 1200 miles worth of gas. Simple math based on 15 mpg meant 80 gallons of gasoline at about half a buck per gallon came to about forty dollars. Add another ten bucks to eat on and you have about fifty bucks. Less the thirty we had now and we had to scrape up at least another twenty.

This sounds like chickenfeed these days but back then it was not a minor gimme.

There was still the cooler in the bed of the truck and we had managed to put ice in it earlier that day and there was still some food and a bunch of beer left in it. We gave the foodstuffs to the hippies and hid the beer. We'd sneak off later for that.

Over a campfire the hippie chick cooked up a semi palatable meal and they asked us about ourselves. When I told them i was a fisherman they gave me the look reserved for the dolt that always seems to
fart loudly at a First Communion.

That's where Blaine showed his expertise. He gave the look of a guy that is letting you in on a Brink's job and quietly told the hippies that our being fishermen was a cover. We were wanted by the Feds for trying to sink a Japanese whaler. They believed him.

He then explained that we had been sent inland by Greenpeace to raise funds.

I interrupted him here and said that we were planning on making a bunch of donation cans to put in a few shops to see how it would work out.

You have to remember that the 'Save the Whales' movement was pretty big back then and to these hippies we were heroes.

We were up early the next morning and the girl headed to the camp office and talked the other girl working there into helping us by letting us use their copy machine to print up about 20 labels. Blaine and I hit the trash cans and dumpsters for cans we could use. By 10:30 we had about 20 cans made and by noon we were in the outskirts of Las Vegas in the VW bus, as we were afraid to be seen in our pickup.

We hit every convenience store and gas station we could find and got the OK to park the cans on the counters for a few days. Blaine and I did the talking as we would be the ones to collect them.

By late afternoon we were back in camp where we spent the night and the following day loafing and enjoying life on the shores of Lake Mead.

When we woke up late after our day of leisure we decided to see if there was any money in the cans so wh hopped in the Dodge and off we went. We returned to the outskirts of town and parked the truck in an out of the way spot and collected the cans that were in the area. Then we would move the truck somewhere else and repeat the process. It took us some time that way but kept the truck somewhat out of the public eye.

We didn't open the cans at the time, we figured that we would get out of town before we did because we simply wanted to get out of town as fast as we could. As we gathered them, we'd stuff them into a bag and go on to the next store. By the weight of them, though, we guessed that there would be enough change in them to add up to enough to get home on.

By early afternoon we had them all and were sitting somewhere east, but well out of town. A P-38 can opener came out and we started opening the cans and we were astonished! Not only was there loose change in the cans, but bills, too, and not just ones!

There were fives and tens and even a couple of twenties! We were both flabberghasted. By the time we had counted it all out we had over a thousand dollars, which led us t think that there was probably one other good reason to get the hell out of Vegas. What had started out as petty larceny wwas now felony theft!

We returned to the hippies and handed them fifty bucks for their troubles and they really didn't want to accept it, but we forced the issue a bit. Even still, they would only accept half of that. We were grateful for hiding us out and as soon as it got dark, we hit the road.

It was about 7 or 8 miles to Elko, Nevada and if I recall there was little between Elko and Vegas.

We skirted Vegas pretty carefully and finally got clear of it and onto the open road where there were no speed limits at the time. The old Dodge had a factory installed manual choke, but someone had gotten another similar cable along the way and had installed a manual throttle. I pulled it all the way out and my foot was no longer a slave to the gas pedal. The little slant-six engine started to wind up and we went like the hammers of hell for a couple hours until I knew we were clear and then eased off of the throttle and let the little engine rest a bit.

Somewhere along the line I spotted a fleabag motel that looked like something out of an old horror movie but the sign said 'No vacancy' so I kept moving a bit until I found a likely looking place and we sacked out.

Blaine hadn't been in the sack five minutes when he said there was something in his sleeping bag and to get a flashlight. I didn't have one, but seeing as to how we were on the ground in front of the truck I turned on the headights. Blaine climbed out of the sack and unzipped the entire thing, opened it up and spread it out and started feeling around. There was a hole in the liner and he reached in and there was his missing wallet!

I guess he had slept with his pants on and the wallet had fallen out and somehow slipped in the hole. He didn't know whether to curse the bad luck that had befallen him in losing it or thank the almighty for the good luck at having recovered it.

We woke up and drove the rest of the way to Elko where we stopped for lunch. I also found a place to get cleaned up and decided that we ought to wash our clothes as things were getting a little on the seedy side.
Blaine and I went into the laundromat and we dumped our green GI duffle bags on the floor and started going through our clothes and stuffing them into a washing machine. I was going through a pair of grungy Levis and guess what I found in the pocket?

You got it, the wallet.

Then I remembered that I had changed clothes the night after the scuffle in East Las Vegas and I guess I had forgotten to pull my wallet out of my dirty pants before stuffing them into the duffle bag.

Anyway, the residents of Elko were then treated to the sight of two men stuffing the contents of a GI duffle bag into a single washing machine.

I'd like to say the ride back to Seattle was uneventful, but that would be a lie.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting settled in with Laptop #3

Had to go into get a stress test today and it was a first class pain in that when I got there the cardiologist cancelled and I had starved myself and skipped AM coffee for nothing.

Rescheduled for Friday I guess.

The cat is slowly turning into a miracle with the way things are turning.
He's eating, pooping and just generally being a cat which is what cats are supposed to do. I hate it when people expect cats to act loke either dogs or people. Cats are cats and if you don't like the way they act then just get a damned dog and call it good.

Anyway the cat seems to have his health returning by leaps and bounds at least so far.

I was ready to put him to sleep, but didn't do so because my instinct told me it wasn't time because even though he was obviously sick as hell he wass still just plain being a cat and buggging the living hell out of me.

Had he stopped being a cat I would have put him to sleep in a heartbeat as I hate to see animals suffering. Animals generally let you know when it is time.

Anyway, this is a good thing so we'll leave it at that.

Next on the agenda is to start fixing a few things up here and there but it is still too cold and getting motivated to do anything out in the cold is a chore. The backyard looks pretty good after the winter and maybe I'll just get Neighbor Bob and his 4x4 to haul the final load of wood up to the fire pit for a couple of evening bonfires.

I'm thinking of writing the adventures a friend of mine had in Las Vegas during the old fishing days. He's dead now as are almost everyone I fished or raised cain with back then. Truth is, I am a fugitive from the law of averages.

Maybe I'll post the trip to Vegas sometime soon.

All for now,


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Monday, March 14, 2011

good news

The cat I thought I was going to have to put down magically seems to have rallied.

I remain optimistically guarded.

Still, it looks like a miracle.

Tomorrow I go in for medical tests so expect a shoter one tomorrow, too.

Pic, out.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The hand grenade and the Chinese restaurant

Is a tale I should be ashamed of and would be if it wasn’t so damned funny.

Like most things at the time, it began in Kodiak as I was planning a trip to Seattle for some reason or another. Somebody’s kid asked me if I’d stop in an Army/Navy store and pick him up one of those training grenades.

Of course I was planning on an Army/Navy store trip anyway, so I agreed.

The instant I got off the plane in Seattle I was met by a friend of mine that was somewhat of a jailhouse lawyer in that he was always scheming to get rich at someone else’s expense. It made for interesting company, as listening to schemes and haywire ideas is always entertaining.

He immediately brought me to the nearest ginmill where we met up with a couple of guys I knew that owed me a couple of favors.

They tried to pay me back with a trip to some damned cat house. I tried to beg off, but they insisted and to make this part of a long story short, we got kicked out after I said something that I will not post here.

Getting chased out of a whorehouse by some tall skinny guy wielding a straight razor makes for a pretty good beginning to a trip to Seattle.

We went back to the ginmill and proceeded to get pretty slopped up. I sacked out on my friends couch which was par golf in those days. He offered the couch because he knew that the money he saved me on motels would mean I had more money for beer.

The next day I did most of my shopping, mainly Levi 501s and Pendleton shirts at J.C.Penny’s and from there we made the obligatory Army/Navy store run for a few odds and ends.

There was a small pail of training grenades on the counter and I examined them. They had actual fired fuses in them which meant we could reset the hammers so that the spoon would fly off when the pin was pilled.

I snagged a couple and the clerk made an offer. If I bought the entire pailful I could keep the pail.

I decided that was a pretty good deal as they were cheap anyway so I snagged the pail and the rest of our goods and garbage, paid the man and off we went.

There was a bench nearby and the pair of us busied ourselves by resetting the fuse-hammers in all six or eight of the grenades. Then we put them back in the pail and threw then into the pickup and hit the road.

This was back in the days before everyone had air conditioning and people drove around with open windows.

Later that afternoon some thuggish looking guy cut us off. I was driving and my angry pal told me to pull up alongside that greasy bastard at the next light, which I did. I had nearly gotten into a pretty good accident over that and wanted to at least chew the jerk out.

We pulled up next to the guy at a stale red light and then my pal simply picked one of the grenades out of the pail, pulled the pin and as soon as the spoon flew off he tossed it in the guy’s window.

Panic ensued. The guy stuffed his car into park and bailed out right in the middle of traffic and ducked behind his car waiting for the thing to erupt.

At the same time the light turned green and we drove off feeling pretty good about ourselves.

We spent the rest of the early part of the afternoon finishing up a couple of errands and by then we were famished. Chinese food sounded pretty good so we pulled parked on the street and wandered into the Chinese joint we saw about a half-block earlier.

I noticed my pal stuffed another grenade into his pocket but I forgot about it as I was pretty hungry. We had skipped breakfast and lunch.

Now this wasn’t one of the of the run of the mill Chinese buffets they have these days on every block. This was an Old School chop suey joint that you don’t see much of these days. I mourn their passing as they were great places to eat exceptionally well on short money.

For one thing the place was owned and operated by a family where at least the parents had been born in China. These days a lot of Chinese restaurants are run by second and even third generation Asians. The Chinese accent some of these people use these days is somewhat of a put-on as over the years I have overheard a couple of them in the back room sounding like they came from the corner of ‘Toidy-toid Street an’ Toid Ave.’

The waiter spoke pretty broken English and sounded a lot like something out of an old movie. In the movies a person like this would have had a name like Hop Sing or something along these lines.

We sat down and ordered and the waiter must have noticed the ball cap my pal was wearing. It came from an Alaskan cannery. The waiter asked if we were from Alaska. When I said we were, he seemed interested.

Of course, we knew why. Alaskans have a reputation of being pretty damned good tippers if the service is good. What people generally forget is that they are also the worst if service is lousy. Among people that work with the public, the stories often grow with each retelling.

Anyway, it was pretty obvious that this guy was fishing for a pretty hefty tip and he probably would have gotten one if he hadn’t made it obvious. Another thing Alaskans hate is having someone fish for a tip and this guy had his long lines baited and set. We were being fished. We knew it.

The look of wordless communication my pal and I shared said it all. This waiter was going to get stiffed.

We ate and paid the bill. As we got up to leave the waiter asked us if we had forgotten anything. I was about to innocently say “No.” when my pal looked at him.

“Here’s a little something for you,” he said, pulling the grenade from his pocket and pulling the pin. The spoon flew off and he tossed it to the waiter.

The look of surprise and fear on his face was pretty funny to look at, but the panic that instantly followed was not. It was the most terrified look I had ever seen on someone’s face before.

The waiter went straight into a state of total panic and threw the grenade as hard as he could through the store front window and the safety glass exploded.

The cast iron grenade kept on going where an oncoming car caught it in the windshield putting a pretty good set of cracks in it.

I looked at my pal, and simply shook my head. “Well, Stanley, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us in to,” I said and calmly held my hand out toward the open space where the window used to be.

“After you,” he replied and with that we stepped through the gaping storefront window, passing by a couple customers who were dealing with shattered glass all over their tables.

We walked down to the truck and I snagged my pal’s ball cap and used it to obscure the license plate and we drove off calmly. At the end of the block we make a right and then proceeded to zigzag through the streets of Seattle until we were several miles away. We got on the interstate and headed north towards Bellingham.

When we were safely on the interstate, I looked and picked up the rest of the grenades and dumped them all into my pack.

“It is obvious that these hand grenades should be placed in the hands of someone responsible,” I said.

“Who do you have in mind?” he asked.

“Adam Josten’s eight year-old son,” I replied, solomnly.

“You may be right,” he said. “I guess we did more damage with a dummy grenade than we could have done with a live one.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

A couple hours later we were in Bellingham and maybe I’ll tell you how that went down one of these days.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Combat laptop #3 is up and running.

I snagged a GoBook III on eBay for a good price with a new install of XP Pro which works well in those older notebooks.

The thing looked brand new which is a rarity for a surplus notebook. My guess is that it was either a supply room spare or was issued to someone that didn’t use it.

It seems to be a pretty good deal all things considered except that the battery was DOA. Not to worry, I used the battery out of now in pieces Combat Laptop 1 so I am now good to go.

These old GoBooks are physically tough and can take a pretty good pounding. Combat laptop #1 bit the dust because of the Achilles’ heel of all laptops; where the power supply plugs in.

It was explained to me that almost every laptop has the power receptacle soldered directly onto the motherboard and when that goes, it costs more than a used laptop is worth to repair it.

I guess that when the laptop took a spill with the power adapter plugged in that it broke the connection and that was that.

It would work on battery power only so I had to replace it.

Anyway, now I have a pair of operable machines. I can park one on the boat and keep one here and that means there is one less thing I have to lug back and forth.

Life just got a little easier.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Not a good time for me right now.

This is not a good time for me because I have a cat that is slowly dieing on me which flat out sucks.

I’m going to have to call this one and I really do not like it at all.

The little guy has cancer of the intestine and is having one hell of a time with it because he really can’t pass a whole lot and therefore can’t eat a whole lot.

Normally this would be a simple case of either some type of operation or simply euthanasia if he were younger.

This animal is about 20 years old which is well past the life expectancy of a cat and a major operation would be like giving a heart transplant to a 117 year old man.

Euthanasia is going to be the answer, but the problem is when. The little guy still has an awful lot of spunk in him.

One of the things over the years I have to say about cats is that I see the essence of being a cat. They are the most interesting animal out there if you are an observer of animals.

A cat that is spunky, which is to say all healthy cats, will walk on the first section of his paws. When a cat starts walking flat-footed then something is wrong.

The other thing is that they all have hunting instincts and playful instincts. Rare is the cat that doesn’t react to a dangling string.

This guy hasn’t shown signs of either walking flat-footed or ignoring the string. He is also still leaping up on things, which cats generally do.

It is going to be awfully hard for me to put a cat down that is still behaving like a cat because it shows me that the little guy is not really at the point where he is truly suffering.

Then again, I think I am going to have to throw a part of the human equation into this because my other half is taking this totally to heart and really isn’t getting any sleep over this situation.

It bothers me to no end seeing her sacking out on the couch and knowing that the instant the little guy goes on the move she will be instantly awake to observe every move he makes.

All of the other animals we have had have been put down when they stop being what they are and let me know that it is time. They have their ways and show me their little clues.

This tough old bastard is different because he isn’t showing any signs that he is going to stop being a cat.

I think that I am going to have to put him down a little early because the way things are, it really isn’t right to watch my other half suffer.

She takes things like this too much to heart.

It speaks highly of her.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Biscuits and gravy at 0400 was a pretty good choice

as I did not get home until 2100, which made for a long day.

The ride home was somewhat eventful as I got a call from a reader that wanted to meet up for a quick cup of joe or a drink.

I changed course for his area where we planned on meeting at a road house of some sort. I got off of the interstate and onto US 30 and after a few miles in the mountains the weather went straight down the tubes.

I was climbing a hill and there was something stuck on it so I reversed my course, called and cancelled as it is not worth tearing up a truck and getting hurt over. After all, rescheduling is fairly simple.

The detour added at least an hout when it was all over and done with, but that's OK. It wasn't long ago that I would crash through the boonies and fight weather like it was some kind of personal challenge to get where I was going.

Not so much these days as I have learned that sometimes it simply is not worth it to risk a major accident over something that can be rescheduled.

Besides if I had met the person, I would have had a very limited amount of time to spend. Maybe when I do meet up with him I will not be under the gun and will be able to relax and enjoy his company instead of clock watching.

Anyway, I am home and right now I have a sick cat to deal with.

This is not good, as the little guy is definitly on the way out.

It is already sad to watch because although he has not stopped being a cat and making a pain in the ass of himself, which is what cats do, I can see that he is not his usual self.

I will not get into his medical problems here.

What would be nice would be to watch him go to sleep and simply not wake up, but that isn't going to happen. This guy is one tough cat and had quite a history when he adopted us. He is quite a survivor and therefore will go out horribly unless someone intervenes and give him a merciful out.

That will be my unpleasant duty to take him to the vets for the final trip and to give him a decent burial.

I hope I will know when it is time and not prolong any suffering.

On a good note, the replacement for Combat Laptop #1 has arrived and looks pretty good. I'm charging the battery now and in about 8 hours I will get it on line.

Historically I have had quite a problem with things like getting a battery charged properly. These batteries have a memory and are supposed to be charged for several UNINTERRUPTED hours.

Needless to say, I could lock something in a safe and plug it in and someone will come along and say "Gee. I have to move this!" and they will unplug it and as is my often ranted about situation, I get sent straight back to Square One.

It happened one time aboard my boat when I bought a replacement cell phone.

I made it clear that I wanted the damned thing plugged in for the required time in an UNINTERRUPTED state, plugged it in and left, only to find it moved.

I quietly slipped out and bought another one and came back and gathereing everyone I unplugged the one that had been moved and threw the entire thing into the trash and plugged the new one in to charge.

"What part of the word uninterrupted do you people not understand?" I asked.

Ugliness followed.

Anyway, I have the new laptop in the attic charging and we'll see what happens. If it gets a full charging without someone screwing with it I will go out and buy a lottery ticket as it meaans I am having exceptional luck.

As I write this post the cat has not hopped up on my lap and that is not a good thing.

I might add to this post later.

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