Friday, May 30, 2014

Grits and Eggs

One of the gravest sin of my life is the fact I am not a proud Southerner. While Robert E. Lee was an exceptional military general I consider him a shortsighted traitor despite his well know reservations about slavery and secession. At the sight of a Confederate flag my stomach turns sour with the fact that if you burn away the half-truths and revisionist propaganda the men fighting under that banner were defending the idea that one person could own another human being. I have found most people who sadly reminisce about the dead Confederate States of America are racists rednecks with little to no redeeming qualities beyond the fact I often find them outrageously funny in a perverse way.

My list of sins could continue but there would be no point other than to over emphasize the obvious. I would like to think I slightly redeem myself with my admiration of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, two fine, sophisticated Southern gentlemen who in my opinion could write circles around that womanizer and egotistical dick, Ernest Hemingway. Now, I will admit that if you ask me who I would like to fish or party with you would receive an entirely different answer on that one.

On a sad note, it is a terrible testament on the state of Southern education that if you ask the average person in this misbegotten part of the country about what they think of Williams or Faulkner these days you will get a funny look with them believing they are NASCAR drivers or cast members on some reality show. See, a liberal education has never been that popular in this part of the country. The overly enthusiastic embrace of religion and the outright worship of firearms has left little time for such things as sissy intellectual niceties.

Anyway I digress, the one aspect of the often nebulous concept of being a Southerner I do readily embrace is when it comes to our cuisine. And for the purpose of this seditious rant I will center my attention on the food that is almost exclusively identified with the American South and that is none other than grits.

For those who do not know grits is made of ground corn and originated with the Native Americans. In the coastal regions of the southeast United States, especially in the Low Country of South Carolina, a dinner of boiled shrimp and grits served with collar greens and corn bread is considered a gourmet meal of the highest order. Being that I was raised in the shadow of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Charleston, South Carolina, my family cooked grits the way they did in the Holy city by using milk instead of water.

There was a rather curious tradition when it came to grits in my family. When my maternal grandfather sat down for a full breakfast he would spoon his bowl of grits over his standard two fried eggs. He would then commence to mash and thoroughly mix the two until the liquid yolk had turned the off white corn mill a dark yellow. Being a young boy in awe of his grandfather there was never any doubt that this was the normal practice for the morning meal so I quickly learned to followed his lead. I've got to admit I found the taste of grits and eggs delicious and like my grandfather whenever I had time for a real breakfast would mix the two and savor every messy and slightly disgusting bite. This habit has followed me all my life, even though my wife finds it utterly disgusting.

As I aged my grandfather and I began to differ on certain aspects of history with one being the true nature of the American Civil War. To be fair, we are all products of our environment and my grandfather's own granddad was a child during the worst part of the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War. To be frank, those stories had a considerable influence on how he felt about “Yankees.” At times, these discussions could become somewhat heated and very often they took place over the breakfast table. I'm sure it was quite the sight with the two of us using Granny's homemade biscuits to sop up every last drop of the grits and eggs mixture while discussing the merits of Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and other people from the nineteenth century.

Needless to say, my grandfather had a very different opinion about events in American history than I. Despite the fact he never understood my fascination with the Union cause our discussions always remained within reasonable bounds. However, there was one event that I am sure he got a huge kick out of because I inadvertently earned the Southern Cause a little bit of revenge. This event took place down in Orlando, Florida a good number of years after my grandfather had passed away.

My family and I had arrived in Orlando a day early to begin our vacation at Disney World. We would be staying at one of the Disney resorts outside the parks but we could not check into our room until after four o'clock in the afternoon. So our general plan was to drop off our luggage at the front desk then spend the day worshiping the mouse that Uncle Walt had created and built his empire upon. But first, we would fuel up at one of the International House of Pancakes restaurants on Orlando's International Drive.

Being that this was Orlando in springtime all the restaurants were packed with people heading to the theme parks. The IHOP my family and I chose was no exception, we ended up waiting twenty minutes before the hostess finally showed us to our table. Seated directly beside us was a family whose accent strongly suggested were from the New York City area. There was some interaction between my family and those we sat beside. Mainly because the kids in both groups found out the other was headed to the Magic Kingdom once we all were finished with breakfast.

I would like to say the encounter with the family from New York was totally amicable, it wasn't, a young looking grandmother, or possibly an older aunt from their group appeared to be in a bad mood and took great pains to limit the children from talking to each other. A difficult job considering that they were about the same age.

As we continued to wait for our food this older woman turned her attention away from the kids and began making offhand comments that were directed like blasts from a shotgun. They were aimed at one person but were of such a general nature others in both groups were partially hit as well.

This all changed when my family's breakfast order came first. That circumstance was purely by chance but since our two groups were not there together my family and I dove headfirst into our meal. This, of course, meant me spooning my bowl of grits on top of my fried eggs and mashing them up together. For reason I cannot imagine this malcontent older woman took a great interest as the yellow yolk from my eggs oozed throughout the grits on my plate. By chance, I happened to notice her staring at my normal breakfast habits. Her eyes had the look of someone viewing a horrible accident, while her face quickly began to take on a slightly green pall as if she was suddenly being stricken with a nasty stomach bug.

It was only moments later that she left her group's table and immediately headed in the direction of the restaurant’s restrooms. I'm not sure, but as she ran away it did look like she had one of her hands up against her mouth trying to hold back the physical manifestation of her disgust at me mixing up the two main items on my plate. If this older woman's intentions was to create a schism between our two groups her reaction to me preparing my meal did created a lingering awkward silence.

When she finally returned a few minutes later to the area we were all sitting, instead of a green her face she had turned extremely pale complete with a bright sheen of sweat all across her face. In the mean time her family had apparently all lost their respective appetites. I would be lying if I didn't think there was some sort of ill feeling directed towards me by the Northern family. More evidence to this belief was that my wife, a proper and refined Virginian with exceptional table manners, was giving me one of her patented, “I can't believe I married this country hick” look. It didn't really bother me, I was hungry and was paying more attention to my meal.

Later that day while I at the Magic Kingdom, I actually felt a little bad about the whole affair. However, it was offset by the fact that I am sure my grandfather would have gotten a small kick out of the whole affair and might have even considered me a good Southerner for a change.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tiny Garden Experiment Update

 Several months ago I was feeling especially socially sanctimonious and came up with the idea of starting a small garden after watching a documentary showing how screwed up the agriculture and food processing industries are in this country. For reasons I can’t explain my lovely spouse, instead of her usual habit of just ignoring my half-assed ideas, was intrigued with the proposal and promptly ordered a prefabricated raised garden bed kit. The details are minor but you can read about the genesis of the project here.

Anyway, once I had the raised bed assembled and filled with garden soil we started out with several store bought broccoli and lettuce plants along with my wife going a little wild and planting a few dozen seeds. Over the course of the last few months the lettuce has done quite well, the broccoli went straight to seed and had to be removed, and curiously enough, my wife had completely forgotten what types of seeds she initially planted.

It was our intention of adding plants from a seed starter kit but for reasons I can’t figure out that was a total failure. Out of thirty assorted seeds not one germinated, it was quite the bummer. Never fear, I quickly ran back to the ubiquitous cavernous home improvement store and bought replacements like the good but soulless suburban pod person.

All things considered, I figure the garden is going as well as can be expected. Except for my sole tomato plant, which is sickly and seems to being playing a vegetable version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet trying to decide if it “wants to be or not to be?” My pepper plants are growing like weeds as is my wife’s herbs, which are also store bought.

As for the unknown seeds my wife planted back at the start of this experiment, we have identified a couple of different types of lettuces. As for the rest, we largely still have no idea although I doubt they are weeds. So long story short, we will soon be eating a lot of salads for dinner. While the overall results are still uncertain we are already planning the purchase of another raised garden bed kit and moving the entire operation to another part of the yard for next year. 

I'd personally like to figure out why the seed starter kit failed but that is something that will have to wait.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Destination Puerto Rico - The Final Segment

The final day in Puerto Rico had our group driving into the oldest part of the city of San Juan. This is the capitol building for the island.

The objective for the day was visiting the main section of the Castle of Old San Juan built to defend the city from attack.

A view of one of the sentry posts that overlook the ocean. You could tell it now but when I was much younger my personality was very military oriented. Now I occasionally have nightmares that I am back in the service but I admit I would not find pulling guard duty overlooking the ocean all that bad.  
As our group moved into the interior of the fort one of our first stops was the dungeon. Now understand this is not some unused relic maintained to impress tourists. Back when Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony that room held untold prisoners in horrifying conditions.

As soon as I entered I became quite uncomfortable but if I heard the tour guide correctly these simple illustrations were done by pirates being held in that room. 

About five minutes after entering that stifling room with only a tiny slit for a window that still had at least six feet of wall before you got to the outside world claustrophobia hit me with the force of a fifty-megaton nuke. I absolutely had to get the hell out of there quickly, in the process I about ran over a Chinese tour group just entering. All I can say is that I was not the only person to be effected.  

I am a full-fledged internationalist who believes the nation-state system is a dangerously outdated mode of civilization in a world with seven billion humans all demanding a decent lifestyle, but dammit, I still like to see Old Glory flapping in the wind.

A picture of a colonial-era barracks. Truthfully, aside from a few adjustments not that different to the barracks I lived in during basic training.

A picture of Field Marshal Alexander O'Reilly, an Irish born military reformer who served the Spanish Crown during the second half of the 18th century, he is known as the "father of the Puerto Rican militia." He also played a large part in seeing that the castle was strengthened.

A shot of San Juan from the ramparts.

As you can see three cruise ships were docked and had long since unleashed its human cargo upon the city. In fact it was very easy to tell the difference  between the locals, sorry ass tourists that had flown in, and those free souls who drifted around with a very relaxed but highly charged party attitude. Oh my god, without going into details during the course of that day's adventures I bumped into a group of older ladies from one of the Royal Caribbean ships and could have gotten into some deep trouble. No, my wife was not around and was in fact shopping in one of the stores we passed, more about that later.
Another view of San Juan with the Capital building about dead center.

A decent picture of the parade ground inside the fort.

One of the best stories I heard while touring the Castillo de San Cristobal was the the "Devil's Sentry Box". The jest of the story involves how this sentry box or "garitas" was isolated on the side of a cliff and very close to the sea. The constant roaring of the ocean brought to mind various angry spirits talking to each other. Now add a soldier named Sanchez in love with a beautiful lady named Diana and you have the workings for a romantic/horror tale. See one morning the oncoming guard worked his way down to the sentry post only to find a uniform and rifle but no Sanchez. Superstitious soldiers began to believe the devil had taken poor Sanchez and this another legend was born. Truth be told a few understood Sanchez had enough of the army life and ran off to be with his lady. Another segment to this story came from the tour guide but he said from then on the Devil's Sentry Box was the place to be if you wanted to imitate Sanchez and that as long as you left the uniform and rifle behind the brass pretty much let you go unmolested.   

After leaving the San Juan National monument we had a simple lunch at a local deli. I did have a bit of an eyeopening experience there you can read about it here. After that we entered the final phase of the trip with a stroll down a street getting our last chance at shopping. It was here, while my wife and daughter was inside one of the nicer shops, that I encountered the ladies from the cruise ship. Be that as it may as those party bound ladies moved on I went inside to discover some great and extremely expensive art work.

These pieces of art work, done by local artists, were amazing.

It seems fitting to end my little photographic tour with the man who brought it all about, Chris Columbus. Here in this square we boarded the bus to head back to the airport. As you can guess I loved Puerto Rico, I did not meet an unfriendly local and in fact I felt more at home on that island that the rancid little suburban tumor of a town I returned to a few hours later. If you ever have a desire to visit Puerto Rico I highly recommend the folks at Good News Travel who organized our trip. 

One last thing. We were delayed a couple of hours at the airport sending everyone scattering for a quick meal. I hit the Air Margaritaville restaurant for a Cuban sandwich. A no brainer I thought, but sorry Jimmy while the service was great the sandwich had the taste of cardboard, and overly expensive cardboard at that.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Kitchen Appliance Dysfunction

When it comes to the institution of marriage there is something so basic and integral to its workings that it ranks right up there with death and taxes as one of life's certainties. Simply put, no matter how much a couple may love each other when they are apart and among friends they will gripe, moan, and outright bitch about the other. This griping is not some fault inherit to marriage, in fact it is a vital facet that I would bet money I did not have has actually prevented divorces for those couples who have some avenue to vent their frustrations.

We had just such a marital griping session at my work last week. Somehow through all of this the subject eventually drifted to clutter and how our respective wives refuse to throw anything away that somehow meet their definition of “useful” even though it might have sat unused on some shelf gathering dust for years. This is where my late night story to the guys comes into play.

While some wives loves to collect jewelry that is never worn or clothes that never leave a closet, my wife has a thing for counter top kitchen appliances that literally spend years sitting unused on some shelf gathering dust. Now if I was just talking about one of two unused kitchen appliances there would be no foundation to my griping. If I only had to deal with three or four of those items it would only be a minor inconvenience. No, my wife has a collection of six unused kitchen appliances. Even worse they are all oddly shaped so these items take up far more storage space than what they should.

The overwhelming response from my griping compatriots that night was that I should pick one or two of these devices and without saying a word to my wife take them to the junk pile. It seemed like a simple but yet brilliant plan. I immediately had one of her appliances in mind, it was one of those electric frier appliances that cooks up stuff like french fries, fish, and chicken. The reason for me targeting it first? While it is a counter top appliance it is larger than the rest of the items in her collection and was taking up space in the cabinet we originally bought to store can goods. Plus, while my brother-in-law gave it as a Christmas gift to my wife back in 1997 I believe the last time it was used was 2001. If you could have seen the layers of dust coating the thing you could not help but come away with the idea that my wife and plain forgotten about the damn thing.

So early last Saturday morning while the rest of the family was asleep I gathered up the trash, as well as the electric frier and dumped everything in their respective bins at the junk pile. It was a very liberating experience, and I immediately began making plans to get rid of another unused item the following weekend.

Fast forward to today, I come home from work this morning and discover my wife has decided to take the day off. After I get cleaned up we go out to IHOP for breakfast then go buy groceries. The rest of the day is spent relaxing but this afternoon we decide to cook hamburgers on the grill for dinner. About an hour before its time to fire up the grill I hear my wife in the garage making a hell of a noisy racket.

“What's up babe?” I ask slightly aghast at all her junk she has pulled out obviously looking for something. In response to my question she looks up at me and with a completely straight and innocent face asks, “Ron have you seen my electric frier? I want to have French Fries with the burgers tonight.”

If you don't hear from me again by the end of this month please call the authorities.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Neighbor From Hell Chronicles

Occasionally I have mention the neighbor from hell who lives across the street from me and how he keeps a very close and uncomfortable watch on me specifically and my family in general. The main way I know this involves how whenever I go into my backyard almost invariably the blinds of his second floor window, which has a clear and unobstructed view of my property, open with him looking down at me. Paranoia you say? Well let me give you a brief idea of how this all started, our unfortunate run-ins, and the occurrence that happened just this last Monday which even freaked out my doubtful wife.

From the moment my family and I moved into our current house back in the summer of 2000 the neighbor from hell, to be called the “Squire” from now on, never was very welcoming. Now his wife, who later survived a messy divorce with this asshole, at the time was open and welcomed us to the area but the Squire always hung back with this stern disapproving look. As the months passed and my wife and his casually chatted whenever we saw each other outside I frankly received a couple of tsunamis worth of bad vibes from the guy. I won't say he and I never spoke during those encounters but I honestly don't remember any verbal exchanges.

The first bad incident with the Squire came during that same summer though. I was mowing my lawn and trying to cut up several long sprouts growing up from the exposed roots of the crape myrtles trees that line my backyard fence. For whatever reason the lawnmower blade never chewed them up thoroughly forcing me to run over them several times. As I was about to give up and move on to cut the rest of the lawn I felt this strong and forceful tap on my shoulder. I jumped, and turned to see the Squire holding a pair of limb cutters and grinning like some he had accomplished some neat trick.

Instead of approaching me from the front and getting my attention that way, I had a strong impression that he purposely came at me from the back and enjoyed that his tap on my shoulder clearly surprised me. As he handed me the limb cutters he said something about it looked like I needed these. Maybe I shouldn't have been put off by his seemingly friendly gesture but as I have already wrote, he seemed to enjoy my discomfort at being surprised. Truthfully at the risk of already going over the edge of irrational conclusions the encounter was damn creepy.

I quickly clipped the unwanted growths and handed him back his cutters and briefly thanked him. For a second he hesitated, as if he wanted something more, and then left my yard as I finished mowing the lawn. At that time I didn't dwell on the event, I had an inclination that he was a jerk but in the greater scheme of things we're all that way from time to time.

Just to be thorough on the slightly bizarre incidents I also have to mention the time my family and I were returning from our first Disney cruise. The Squire and his soon to be ex-wife were once again in their yard and saw us pull into the driveway.

Hey you guys!” The Squire's wife said coming to the edge of her yard. “Word around the neighborhood is that you all went on a Disney cruise, how was it?”

That was the cue for my wife to recount our adventures. All the while the Squire stood several feet off next his car with what was at best an indifferent expression on his face saying nothing. Since the conversation was between the ladies I'm sure I waved at the Squire to acknowledge his presence. What I got in return was him gesturing towards a portion of my side yard, which faces the street, where a huge chunk of cement was resting. “I didn't put that there,” he said, “ I don't know who did.”

It was an out and out odd statement since while I, of course, didn't want random chunks of cement left in my yard at that time I had no reason to believe he would ever do such a thing. Again I didn't dwell on the subject and, given my procrastinating nature, a couple of weeks later I eventually got around to removing it. This is where I begin with the meat of this drawn out story.

It was during what had to have been the hottest day in the summer of 2002 that my wife scheduled one of her yard sales. It was insane with cars and people constantly going. Both my wife and her mother, who came to “help out”, were wheeling and dealing. The result was me running around with my head chopped off proving the point that too many chiefs and not enough Indians is a messed up situation. Sometime during the chaos my wife told me to pull my car out and park it along an already crowded curb so we had the room for a guy to back his truck up to the garage and load up the old couch he had just bought. Unfortunately for me the one empty space was directly in front of the Squire's driveway. Yes, I screwed up, but I was running around in a daze and had every intention of moving the vehicle after the couch buying guy drove away. However, I got sidetracked and never got around to moving the car back in the driveway.

Somewhere around one o'clock in the afternoon the crowd suddenly disappeared, or in my opinion wised up to the fact it was just damn hot and humid to go around looking to buy other peoples unwanted crap. When I finally went over to my car to move it back in the driveway I found a note obviously from the Squire. It read: Don't ever block my driveway again.

This was where I first got pissed. Instead of just doing the proper neighborly thing and walking over to say I was blocking his driveway and that I needed to move my car he pulls some passive-aggressive shit leaving a note that oozed half-assed intimidation. Hell, I fully understood his point of view and the inconvenience I caused him. At the first house my wife and I lived there was a jerk who made a habit out of parking on the curb directly across from my driveway. Had the the Squire just walked over and stated his case I would have apologized profusely as I rushed over to move my vehicle. Of course, my wife being the wiser of our little team told me to leave it alone.

Now somewhere along the way the Squire and his wife had a parting of the ways. All I will say on that matter is that the neighborhood grapevine suggested their relationship was seriously dysfunctional with the spouse cutting her losses and leaving him with everything. Her departure I believe allowed the event that has shaped my distaste, bordering on outright loathing, of this area and all the people like him I have met here.

Strangely enough the incident that almost caused a violent encounter between the Squire and myself is centered around his habit of secretly coming into my yard and cutting limbs from a tree situated close to the street. At the time I was working day shift where I would occasionally come home to find a pile of limbs sitting in my yard. This anonymous and unwanted gardener remained a mystery until my wife and son returned home early after a doctor's appointment.

The way my wife related the discovery once the Squire saw her and my son drive up he packed up his equipment and without saying a word walked back over to his house and went inside. The only thing greater than the surreal nature of the event was how angry I became. This was the straw that broke the camel's back for me, I had enough of his bizarre behavior and was determined to confront the bastard. Had he walked up to my wife and gave some explanation of his actions like the limbs were blocking a stop sign I would have blown it off.

Let's just say when I finally caught him outside things went rapidly downhill. A detailed account would be both impractical for its length and far too bias on my part to have any meaning. Neighborhood scuttlebutt suggested that the Squire had some sort of friendly influence with the local town and county officials and during our exchanges he did play “I'm going to get you fired and then sue the pants of you” card.

I'm not actually sure how long the event lasted but we did come within seconds of coming to blows several times and it was only my wife coming outside that prevented it from happening. The one thing I can reliably report is that at some point the Squire said to my wife, “Your husband better watch his attitude, it could get him hurt.”

I replied with an uncustomary clever response. “That maybe, but it won't be from the likes of you.” From the sudden surprised look on his face I knew I had scored a point on that one. What my wife was able to gleam from this asshole was that our tree was blocking the stop sign--no it wasn't--and he as some self appointed neighborhood authority was cutting our limbs as some sort of civic duty.

The final result was a Cold War with several smaller encounters that only exacerbated the situation. While I never directly tried to start anything I can honestly write the Squire has taunted me several times whenever he had some friends around and I was alone. Despite widespread opinion and some actual evidence to the fact, I am not stupid and never took his bait because if one thing was certain I am sure the bastard reported me to his lawyer and had cooked some plan to get me in serious trouble. For a couple of years after that the Squire and I settled into a rather comfortable and quiet hatred and just glared at each other while wishing very hard the other would catch a painful and terminal form of cancer.

This was also about the time that I noticed the Squire began keeping watch from his second story window just about every time I went into the backyard. This was easy for him since he largely works out of his house, and I am very serious, rarely leave it for more than a day. The one exception was a period of time one year when I guess he went on an actual vacation. I am not proud of the fact that, after noticing his absence, I found myself hoping that he had died of a heart attack while alone. Imagine my disappointment when I saw that he was still alive, but at least things went quiet for an extended period of time.

The proverbial applecart was upset when I learned--a year after it happened--that the Squire had called the deputy sheriff on us because he thought there was an abandoned car in our yard. Long story short, my wife, in her infinite wisdom, decided to use a car purchasing service instead of doing the wheeling and dealing ourselves allowing the dealership to take the old car off our hands as part of the trade-in. This resulted in us having an extra car that I decided to donate to charity.

Of course, the charity couldn't just drive right over with a wrecker. They gave us a time frame of three to four days before they could take possession and that we had to leave the vehicle out in an easily assessable place so it could be loaded on a wrecker. So the old car was parked in the driveway with the license tag already transferred to the new Toyota Corolla my wife had picked out.

Having the old, tag-less car on the driveway freaked the Squire out resulting in him badgering the sheriff department to the point they sent a deputy to our front door to check out the situation. My wife, luckily, was the person the deputy talked with and in an effort to prevent me from exploding again didn't say a word about this at all to me. When I did learn about the sheriff being called my wife made me promise not to do anything about or confront the Squire. As I wrote, there maybe an opinion by others that I lack a certain level of intelligence but I know what a losing situation looks like and another confrontation with him was certainly one. Since then things have been uneventful, at least until this last Monday which curiously enough has proven all my assumptions about the Squire.

My wife stayed home from work because of allergies allowing me to close the door to the bedroom and get an uncustomary level of prolonged sleep. Sometime early in the afternoon the Squire comes walking over to my house, knocks on the door, and after my wife answers gives some half-assed story about how he accidentally left his iPad on the roof of his car as he drove off. He continued to explain to my wife that he had “pinged” its location and, from her report, showed her a cell phone screen with a green dot indicating its location inside our house.

I do remember her coming into the bedroom that day looking for something but in all honesty it's a common occurrence when she stays home so I went back to sleep after she walked back out. Just so I can conclude this overly long chronicle I'll cut to the chase. After my wife looked through several rooms searching for the Squire's iPad which she could not find despite the little green dot on dickhead's cell phone screen which said it was located in our house.

Now here is the punchline, at some point a few hours later the Squire went to his mailbox after the postal dude drove by and found that someone had already found his missing iPad tablet and placed it inside. My wife said all through this the Squire was on his best behavior. He was polite and courteous but she had long since come to terms with his previous rude conduct and developed a friendly neighbor relationship with the guy. I'll admit, this irritated the living shit out of me but my wife is an adult and I can't tell her who to associate with, even though I did remind her many times about how the Squire acted towards me. To be blunt, she had long since dismissed my opinion of the guy saying, “well you're just being paranoid.”

However, once the Squire found his iPad instead of manning up and coming back over to say he had found it the shit CALLED MY SON AT HIS JOB! For those not keeping score or relegating me to just extreme exaggeration this guy could not find the gumption to at least make a phone call to my wife. I just can't shake the conclusion the Squire figured I might answer the phone forcing him to talk with me. This did also force my wife to concede that the guy is several french fries short of a complete Happy Meal, especially after my son returned home from work saying the unexpected and highly unusual phone call creeped him out.

This circumstance did bother my attorney wife enough to walk over to the Squire's house, and in tactful diplomatic terms, tell him never to pull such a stunt like that again. How does this relate to my initial statement that the Squire has a habit of watching me when I'm in my backyard? I happened to ask my son that night how many times does the dickhead, our common term for the guy, come to the little restaurant he works at during the day. My son responded that he had never seen the guy there. So good folks, who I am sure are far more rational, how and why does the Squire know where my son works?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What Really Matters

Truthfully it's inconvenient as Hell to be as contemptuous as I usual am about the general workings of American society. Making matter progressively worse, I had this bad habit of verbally expressing my opinion on the inherent insanity of many segments of our banal society. For all my troubles at best I would get a weak smile with the people around me clearly thinking I must have been dropped on the head as a baby or that I'm actually an alien from another star system. Such is the life of a twenty-first century, male version of Cassandra dressed in raggedy cargo shorts, surfer t-shirt, and hippie sandals.

One of the reasons I so excessively dived in the world of blogging was because it offered an outlet for my frustrations after seeing so much of the daily stupidity and self-destructive behavior that is typical in this country these days. Although, as the years have so quickly flown by, it became apparent to even the dimwitted likes of me that all my rants were largely a waste of time. It's almost like some circuit breaker has tripped in my head allowing me to skip the indignation and just enjoy watching the lemmings continue their march towards the cliff and cold ocean below. It's a morbid curiosity I admit, but then I have always had a certain fascination with quietly playing a latter day Edward Gibbon, but unlike the famous historian, I'm actually on the scene as the tragic events unfold.

However, every now and then a circumstance will present itself that raises my tired hackles forcing me to expound, such was the case a very early one morning last week.

As many already know, especially since I have this irritating habit of mentioning it regularly, I work the night shift at my job. While it is a serious pain at times as they say, things could be much worse. But because of my vampire-like hours around I will around five o'clock in the morning check my email. It is almost a near certainty that nothing of any significance will be in my inbox at that time. With the shift winding down, I mainly do it to remind myself of whatever errand or chore my wife has assigned me for that morning. Another reason has to do with the normally inane conversations my coworkers are engaged in at that time of the day. I can only take so much down home, country commonsense group think before I want to run off to the bathroom to puke.

That morning it was particularly bad, the conversation had drifted onto the salaries of various professional athletes. Grown men, always a troubled and skewed source of information, were debating which athlete was actually worth the tens of millions they were reaping for their ability to chase some type of ball. The details are truly unimportant since each individual was showing a clear bias towards their favorite team. What I mean by this is that you can have a legitimate scientific study involving statistical performance in an athlete’s respective sport but, and you would have to know these people, that would have been well above their heads.

As the great debate raged in the room behind me it was then that I noticed on the computer screen a new email from one of my daughter's teachers sent around 3:30am. The email was a list of my daughter's recent grades and a few concerns the teacher had with her classroom performance. It didn't take the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes or Batman to realize that this dedicated teacher had spent the better part of the night grading her students papers then writing a short note to their parents.

Maybe it's just me but I find it outrageous and truly insane to pay someone millions of dollars to chase some damn ball. Yeah, the men who play professional sports do have an actual talent and have worked extremely hard to get hone their skills to the point they can play in the proverbial big leagues. The problem I can't get my tiny mind to accept is that while these athletes are hugely talented the situation that is as equally huge is their total irrelevance to how the world really works. For all the glory and rewards these guys receive from the unwashed masses in this current stunted and corrupted age, one-hundred years from now the vast majority of them will only be some footnote in a half-forgotten record book.

All the while underpaid and under appreciated teachers sit at desks late into the night grading papers, making lesson plans, and then finds the energy to go into work that morning and try to make something of our kids. I recently stumbled across a TED talk where the question was raised what facet of our current society will our great-grandchildren look back at us in shame. I hope our descendants will look back in horror at our current strange and primitive tribal fascination with ultra high-paid professional sports while people who actually matter gave everything they had to make a better world.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Part Four: Destination Puerto Rico-An Epic Class Trip

Backing up a little, but during the time the kids were receiving their marine biology lesson I noticed this blimp off in the distance. One of the guys on the tour boat, a retired Air Force NCO, told me it was actually a tethered aerostat radar system employed by the good folks in Homeland Security. That bad boy is raised to an altitude to well over 20,000 feet allowing them to observe air and sea activity all the way south to the nations of Colombia and Venezuela, west to the Yucatan peninsula.      
Also, during the last post I made a reference that we visited one of Puerto Rico's bioluminescent bays and even had the chance to swim among the tiny microorganisms that create such a miraculous display. Being in a rush to get that last post online, I forgot to say more about it. I also didn't get a pictures since it would have required me to swim at night while holding onto my new camera as well as watching after my daughter. So this picture is one I borrowed off the internet. All I can write is that when I dived into those dark waters the explosion of light was utterly remarkable. Even if I could have taken pictures none of them would have done justice. The closest way for me to describe what I saw is to compare it to the pixie dust Tinker Bell sprinkled on the kids in a Peter Pan animated movie. Those brilliant displays of light were created by a group of single-cell marine creatures called dinoflagellates.       
Now that we're caught up this picture was taken after we had left the village of La Parguera and were well on our way back across the island to visit the El Yunque National Forest. If you enlarge the picture you should be able to see the ocean off into the distance.

The El Yunque National Rain Forest was created in 1903 and is home to over 200 species of plants and animals, 23 which are found no where else in the world.

Just a photo of a stream flowing downhill at the El Yunque visitor center.

After a short drive we arrived at an uphill trail that would take us to a waterfall and natural pool underneath it. This picture does not show how steep the trail actually which and caused some concern with a few adult members of our group. Even worse, there were no real steps, only wet, muddy, and oddly shaped rocks all just waiting for someone to slip. A fall would have resulted in a quick trip to a nearby ICU.

A bad picture of the waterfall and pool.

A slightly better downhill view of the trail. While I didn't have much of a problem going up or down I was quite happy when the group left this place.

Lunch was at a roadside restaurant up in the mountains again serving some fantastic food.

The afternoon was spent a popular beach outside San Juan.

A nice picture of the ocean and the mountains EXCEPT for the damn air bubble in my swimming trunks.

It turned out that my new camera, which claimed to be waterproof up to twenty-feet deep, can in fact be submerged. This concludes this segment of the epic trip. All the other pictures after this are unimportant, especially the place we stayed that night. The resort was clean and well kept but didn't have the atmosphere or charm of the first two. Also, the next segment will be the last which will take us into Old San Juan.