30 May 2006

My First Million (on Blog Shares)

I day dreamed at work one day about finding the Genie in a bottle. I came to the conclusion that my first wish would be to banish train wrecks from the cosmos. Slipping out of existence right after VH-1 specials and reruns of Dog the Bounty Hunter, would be the game Blog Shares.

For those of you who are not familiar with Blog Shares, it is a free on-line stock market game. The twist is that the “companies” that are traded are actually blogs. The game evaluates each blog based on the number of incoming and outgoing links, as well as traded volume. As of last night, there were 8,443,219 blogs that are indexed and can be traded on this fantasy market.

Almost 8.5 million people’s thoughts being penned on the web, that’s a sobering thought. 8.5 million people wanting to be heard by someone, anyone in the night. What’s an even scarier thought is there are people, like me, buying and selling shares of fantasy stock on the basis of their ideas. I have not been able to come up with what their total valuation process is. This blog is worth a paltry 60 cents a share. While Mel’s Diary is worth $245.62 a share. Go figure.

In picking stocks for my personal portfolio, I draw upon those dusty finance class lessons on P/E ratios and dollar cost averaging. I run the numbers and then I take a look at the actual product. What I have found is that a vast majority of the 8.5 million voices on the net, are mostly cracked. I’ve compiled a list of some of the works speeding along Al’s superhighway that caught my eye.

Maluquet’s blog appears to be by an 18 year-old Brazilian lesbian. I can’t read Portuguese, but I sure liked the pictures. Especially the Merry-Go-Round picture, now that’s art.

Broken Blogic is a blog that hasn’t been updated in a year. However, if I had lifted some of this guys’ work to this blog, most of you would never have known the difference.

A Cambodian Blog named Khmer440: Cambodia Uncovered, with a post on 28 May 06 titled, I Buried Dad in the Jungle

A civil engineer calling herself Dirt Diva extolling the virtues of a CAD program.

Julie Bear just wants us to see nice pictures of Winnie the Pooh and all his friends.

Ratte-Ratte tells us about a wardrobe emergency

Princess Xannlz talks like a sailor and has a story about trying on a two piece when Fed Ex special delivers her monthly bill.

And finally someone here loves Candy

Suddenly, I don’t feel quite so bad…

29 May 2006

Thoughts on Memorial Day

On my way home from work I thought about the concept of Memorial Day. This morning, I had said my silent prayers to all those that have gone before me. But there was still something missing in my reverence to the dead. As maudlin as this may sound, I could see the sun setting off 65 south and began to sort out my blind spot.

I began to realize that while I revere the dead on this day, I had not one care for the living. I had not counted the costs the living had paid for my present existence. Not that I feel my life has been one that has chewed up and spit out the people around me. At least no more so than anyone else who walks out the front door every morning.

I mentally catalogued those I should be revered now. The family and friends that have passed away in this lifetime by time, circumstances, or choice (mine or theirs); crossed my mind. Those that are still in the social land of the living hopefully know what places they hold in my mind. If not, take that as a blanket that covers you all.

The second group I thought of are those I knew that are or have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. There are many of folks that I have lost contact with that are there right now. My home and possessions would not pay the price my lost comrades are paying. I hope Ranger Tabs and Airborne Wings truly do keep you warm at night.

If you happen to read this sentimental journey of mine, think about those folks that fall into these categories for you. Most days, our mentality is far a field from this ideal. I think Elvis Costello summed it up best from a song on Goodbye, Cruel World.
And I’m up while the dawn is breaking,
even thought my heart is aching;
I should be drinking a toast to absent friends,
instead of these comedians.”

28 May 2006

That's My Boy

Last week I took my son, Robert, to a preview of Over the Hedge. (Thanks to the kind folks at Mix 92.9 sponsoring this preview at Opry Mills.) To tell the picture's story, I have to go back a few weeks ago. Hearken back to a time a few weeks ago at Reelfoot Lake.

Laura and I took the little guy up to see her folks. They have a very swank pad right on Reelfoot Lake. During the visit Laura’s mom wanted to ask me if I wanted to go to the Armory with the girls to buy tomatoes. Given that I wasn’t quite sure why any sort of Armory would be selling tomatoes, I was in. For all I knew, it was some code for purchasing black market grenades. For all of you that don’t know, the folks on the lake can be very protective of their property. Dutifully, I loaded everyone up in Sweet Jane to make the trek to the mysterious Armory.

The Armory in question is in fact a National Guard Armory. Or at least, a gravel lot to the side of the Armory. There, the fine lake folks set up shop in the spring and summer months to sell anything from produce to the finest remnants of garage clean ups the world has ever seen. Upon hitting the only happening scene in the Reelfoot Lake area on a Sunday morning, Robert and I decided to examine the vendor’s wares. Laura and her mother busied themselves poking produce and haggling like proverbial Arab traders.

My eye was immediately caught by a rather large stuffed squirrel sitting on a huckster’s table. I have a soft spot in my heart for dead stuffed animals, and evidently my son does too. Robert looked up at me and ask, “Daddy do you see the squirrel?” Who could resist the chance to brighten your son’s day and take home a dead animal? Quickly purchasing the treasure, I was almost bowled over by my son going to show the girls of what would become his new friend.

Running over to the produce stand, Robert’s excitement could be only be measured by a Richter scale. Yelling all the way, “Look, I’ve got a dead squirrel. His eyes are open and he cost $10.” I’m not sure if the look on the girl’s faces were of horror, confusion, or abject love for my own squirrelly tendencies. Robert then promptly asks Laura’s mom if she would like to pet Burt. Now I know this was a look of terror in the woman’s eyes. Petting a dead animal of unknown origin was not high on her agenda of things to do that Sunday morning. Being the gracious woman she is, she waved her hand inches above the rodent declaring, “I’m sure he can feel the love from here.” God bless you Sara…

Burt sneaks into Fort Donelson in a piece of luggage

The rest of the trip was mainly about Burt. The drive home was about Burt. And the melt down at Mom’s house was about Burt not staying with Robert at Mom’s house. I will give the little guy points for trying every known tactic in the book to secure Burt’s rightful place in his room before melting down. So eventually, feeling like a heel we drove to Fort Donelson, hoping I hadn’t broken his heart too badly. The next day I found out that after a few calm minutes and promises of mac and cheese the trooper’s demeanor cleared right up.

Flash forward to dinner the next week with our friends Tracey and Jerry at the New Century Buffet in Antioch. That is such a good story in and of itself; it will have to wait for another time. Tracey being the kind hearted person she is gives Laura a nice Mother’s Day basket. Included in this basket is the plastic squirrel, seen being held by Robert in the above picture. Tracey had no idea of the tale of Burt. She had gotten the plastic friend for Laura, because I refer to myself as a squirrel most of the time. This got a big chuckle from the peanut gallery, because we had brought Burt that night to introduce him to some new friends.

To wrap up this convoluted tale of taxidermy, emotion, and coincidence in a fail swoop. Robert finds the plastic squirrel, who he quickly names Ernie and latches on to him. My son makes the grand statement that he wants to have Ernie by his side all that day. This would include taking him to the preview of Over the Hedge that night. I had read in a Dr. Spock book that it is advisable to allow your children to do such things.

Upon entering the theater, Robert was clutching a bucket of popcorn under one arm and Ernie under the other. A boy with a plastic squirrel is not easily missed in a movie theater. Especially by one of the Mix 92.9 promo people. Upon seeing Ernie, one of the ladies yelled, “Is that a rat?” Robert and I very politely informed her that it was not a rat, but a squirrel. I’m sure the guilt of misidentifying one of God’s creatures made this woman gives Robert a poster with some stickers on the back of it. These stickers turned out to be key to winning some Over the Hedge swag. Whew… now that was a tale. But the end result was that my boy got his first contest win and media exposure all in one night. Huzzah Robert.

16 May 2006

The Party's Over

Outside of a truly tragic event in one’s life, there are few days that are as bad as going back to work from a vacation. For a few weeks out of the year we get to live the life of Riley and then poof, it is all gone. Today I faced returning to work with all the enthusiasm of walking the Green Mile.

Donning my work cloths, I started to see subtle changes in my physiology. My neatly pressed khakis felt like they were made of sackcloth. Puffs of blue smoke rose from my torso were starch laden fabric touched my skin. Every step towards the door made another welt rise on my tushie. Surely this was nothing that Blue Star Ointment could cure.

The drive to work was even worse. Cold and rainy, the universe is telling you to go back home. Each swish of the windshield wipers brings another thought of undone tasks and office politics yet to be addressed. The fear of not being at work for a week to defend yourself from those that would throw you under the bus looms just over the horizon. Lightening cracked and angels weep all along your path.

Things got no better when stepping through the door. Everyone clambering, “How was your vacation?” Trying to live vicariously through your exploits and only rubbing salt in your tushie welt by remind you of a week of bliss. The jealous ones rush into the fray. “Oh you went there? I wish I could go out of town on my vacations.” Looking at you with contempt they turn to find another victim to guilt into submission.

Then the choruses of, “Did you ever look into this” or “what about that” begin to tune up. You politely answer with, I handed that off to so and so, and didn’t they take care of it last week?” The chorus bellows that they didn’t trust so and so to follow through with it. You’re day is shot and you haven’t been in the door 20 minutes.

Your boss is no better. He catches you up on what you’ve missed. Nothing of which is really relevant to what you have to get done today. You’ve made 12 different plans on how to precede with the rest of your day, all of which are changed in a flurry of, “Oh, by the ways.” The icing on the mud pie is when you ask your boss about some paper work you left for him before you went on liberty. He tells you that it’s on “your pile” on his desk. Confused, you remind him that you didn’t leave a pile of paperwork on his desk a week ago. Being the great leader his is, he clarifies his statement. “BK, that the pile of papers on the right corner of his desk is yours now.”

The prayers start at this point. You think of all the major and minor deities you’ve ever heard of. Feeling a fervor sweep you up, you start adding Saturday morning cartoon characters to the list. Buddha, Isis, Grape Ape, please hear me out. Hoping a single great old ones floating in the ether is listening to the mortal channel, you pray the prayer of the working stiff.
“Dear _____ (insert Deity of choice), please let me win the lottery and never have to work another day. Amen”

11 May 2006

Papa Can You Hear Me?

Entrance to Hemingway's Key West Home

One of the many cats, that hold free reign over Hemingway House, lays on a display case.

The work room where Hemingway wrote Farwell to Arms

The last “official” thing I did this morning in Key West was tour Hemingway’s house. The biggest problem I have with most tours is that the place you are touring usually becomes stale. The masses come and listen to a $6.00/hour tour guide try and remember what their lines are. Sanitation of the site takes the driver’s seat and the experience of the place is somewhere buried under the spare tire. I do my homework before going to any historical site and skip the guided stuff. I can’t say that I had any cosmic connection with Hemingway at his Key’s home, but there was a glimmer of Papa there.

There was an older gentleman that was taking money in a small hut at the home’s entrance. He was an older sartorial gentleman with a Virginia accent. Striking up a conversation with me, I found out that he was a Professor and could name 20 colleges and universities around my Athens of the South. (Dutifully, a cat was lying on the money box evaluating the man’s job.) Then suddenly he asks me why I had come to the house. It was almost like he truly was the gate keeper for what the home stood for.

“To see what inspired Hemingway when he looked out his window”, I told him.

“Tell me on the way out if you get what you came here for then”, the older man told me.

Walking through the grounds, I think I did get what I had come for. Although the house was full of “No Admittance” signs, and treasures under glass, there was glimmer of what the house was when Hemmingway lived there.

After poking around the grounds and home for a little while, I could see why a man could write a novel here. It is peaceful. Even with all the tourists and construction around the house, this space stepped out of that. The sounds and press of 21st century life were not present here. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the 30’s. No trappings of text messages or CNN, just time to reflect and think.

That’s the key to Hemingway, isn’t it? It wasn’t what Hemingway did while he was at this house that was important to his work. His home in Key West was as necessary a tool for him as lap tops and email are to us. It was a quite place he could weave his adventures into the fiction we all know. To think of a man like Hemingway as being tied to a single point is silly. What mattered to Hemmingway was everything to happen outside of his home.

At the point I figured that out, I left Hemingway house and Key West. I had gotten all I had come for.

10 May 2006

These are the People in your Airport

this is an audio post - click to play

I saw all of this... No crap. Plus I proved that people can be moved to song in the middle of a crowd. I guess there is some merit to the Musical genre...

Swamp Boats and Moonbeams and Whiskers on Alligators

this is an audio post - click to play
The airboat fleet stands ready at Coopertown
to take tourists into the Everglades and
support Chuck Norris and the boys from Delta Force
in the event of an invasion from Cuba.

I wish this was closest I got to a Gator on this tour.
Fortunatly for me and Burt Reynolds, it wasn't.

09 May 2006

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken Meets Liza and the Hole in Her Bucket

this is an audio post - click to play
The little clircles of light on the sidewalk are what I think might be Orbs.
I've reviewed all my pictures and there are no spots like this on any photos I took before or after. Once again more to come on this.

The Freaks Come Out at Sunset

this is an audio post - click to play
Elvis seemed to be everywhere you looked up.
There might be some magic in those blue suede Birkenstocks

The "Silverman" attempts to explain his art form to a passer-by.
Or maybe he was trying to get a date. Who knows with someone that
paints himself silver.

Seven More Miles to the Outhouse

this is an audio post - click to play

Coral, Oh Coral...

this is an audio post - click to play

The whole impetus to take this trip was to see Coral Castle. (For those of you that don’t know the story of Ed Leedskalnin visit the link above) First of all, I have to thank Sonja for giving me her frequent flyer miles to take this Hajira. It's nice to know that giving does bring happiness to some in this world Virginia.
What drives a man to leave his palatial estate in Nashville and travel to Florida just to see what some freaky Latvian started building 70 years ago? (I’m going to proceed with the assumption that you’ve done your homework with the above link and have read Ed’s back story.) I wanted to go there to remind myself that there are freaky Latvians that do epic things while the rest of us plod along in our daily lives.
If Ed could, why couldn’t the rest of us great? I’m not advocating spending a lifetime building monuments to lost loves using some ancient superpowers given to us in an Oveltine offer. Just some act or work of true substance before I take the dirt nap, would give me my own Coral Castle. Thanks Ed for throwing me into mid life crisis 20 years early.

06 May 2006

A Secret Message

this is an audio post - click to play

In the coming days, I will be taking my leave of Nashville for a few days. I have quite the little adventure planned and am working out the kinks in this audio-blog thing. So check back for updates.

02 May 2006

IHOP, You-hop, They-hop

Dear Editor,

I thank you for the chance to submit this article for Nashville After Dark.* Your journal of the strange and unusual in the Music City has truly become a hallmark for those that lurk the city after last call. The piece in last month’s journal, Ten Places Never to Eat Chili after 10 pm was truly inspired.

Should I have violated any of your submission guidelines, please let me know and I will reformat. The working title for this piece is IHOP, You-hop, They-hop. Should you need anything else in this submission packet please let me know.


The bartenders and the club owners see them every weekend night in their tight blue jeans, the relievers. The folks that want to transfer a few pages of a blue boy magazine into their lives, if only for just one night. After all the thoughts of new sensations and the last good vibration are picked up on, reality sets in. The hard truth that one needs to eat at O-Dark-Thirty hits like an impending hangover.

Those wishing to go out with a lion’s roar descend upon some unsuspecting all night spoon. The wait staff at a local IHOP braces for impact around 2 am. They pray that the night won’t go south and degenerate into a scene from Naked Lunch. A waitress palms a packet of Excedrin into the line cook’s hand and says, “A stitch in time saves nine.” The cook manages a weak smile and points to the dining room with an egg covered spatula.

The first wave has come in. A group of guys and dolls are sitting in the corner in the smoking section. Their number is mismatched, and there is only one girl without a date. The young lady is on the corn fed side of Rubenesque and wearing a tight pink tank top. Obviously she drops her cigarettes on the floor and bends over in front of a table of young bucks to retrieve her Misty menthols. Her breasts defy logic in not peaking out over their pink confines. The line cook frantically tears open the package of Excedrin and mutters, “She better stop that or I’m going to go blind.”

The group of gawking boys is joined by a girl who is young enough to need a chaperone when going to church. Some of the boys look a decade her senior. As young as she looks, she is old enough to have graduated from the Pretty Baby school of make-up. She is wearing enough whale blubber on her face to make Tammy Fay think twice about going out in public. Seated now, she starts is talking to the previously gawking lads. Throwing her head back with laugher and touching the arm of one boy my stomach churns. Some danger zone is about to be crossed with these guys and I am powerless to stop it.

Decency takes another hit on the chin when a guy wearing a basketball jersey and a ton of fake bling walks in with his date. He looks like he has never been in the big city before and this is his big night out. His date is a rail thin girl wearing a sweater midriff and a gold chain around her waist. It really must be his big night out. She points at her watch and he digs in his pocket. Looking around he presses a wad of money in her hand. True love blossoms at IHOP.

I vow not to worry and fret to my companions about such matters. Since there are no laws against voyeurism, I feel no guilt in watching the parade. Their conversation has turned to work and children issues by the time I come to my senses. Somehow this eases my mind away from thoughts of a time I might have been one of these revealers. Taking a final sip of coffee, I ask for the check and hope all the cool crowd is locked up tight in Waffle Houses and IHOPs across the city.

*Authors note, while this blog is based on real events; there is no such thing as Nashville After Dark. If there is, I don’t know about it. So don’t email me asking where you can pick up a copy. You might laugh now, but it will happen.