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The Man.

Let’s begin with my favorite E story. A few years ago he was asked to provide a quote for the dust jacket to Kurt Cobain’s posthumously published diaries. He complied, providing this quote:

Please don’t do this to me after I kill myself.”

Needless to say, the blurb wasn’t used. Still, it helps provide a glimpse into the mind of a man called E.

But let’s go back to the beginning, at least for me. I guess it started with the voice. Soulful, sad, carrying with it a kind of a plaintive desperation if you will. A friend of mine (’twas a man called Goose, a  legend in his own right) had given me a mix tape that had “Susan’s House” on it back in 1996 and I was instantly intrigued. So began my introduction and fascination with E and his group, the Eels.

For those in the know, the Eels are essentially one man, the aforementioned E, whose given name is Mark Oliver Everett. E plays piano, guitar, drums, and virtually every other instrument you can think of. He’s known critically for his innovative combination of instruments and musical styles. He’s had his share of traumatic life events to say the least. He found his father dead in his bed when he was 19. His sister, who he was very close to, committed suicide in 1996, and his mother lost a long battle to cancer in 1998. He also lost several close friends during this time. Enough you say? Not quite. His cousin, Jennifer Lewis née Gore, was a flight attendant on the plane that struck the Pentagon during the September 11, 2001 attacks. So, E is the last surviving member of his family. The tragedies in his life have contributed to his musical style that includes mortality’s toll, mental illness, and loneliness. And as I said, the mournful, hoarse voice lends itself perfectly to his lyrics and musical tone. Not to fear though, his catalog includes upbeat and uplifting songs as well, a lot focusing on survival. As he sings on E’s Tune:

Life’s just an ugly mess,

The angry souls in such distress,

But there’s a time when moments can be sweet,

And it feels like someone’s smiling down on me.

Sometimes it feels like I’m all alone, (Most of the time actually I am alone)

That’s all right, don’t give up now I’m almost there.

Never fear though, as Everett can rock with the best of them. If proof is needed, check out Souljacker Part 1, Rags to Rags, or Saturday Morning. If you’re worried that E’s stuff lacks an edge, give a listen to It’s a Motherfucker, not to be confused with Fucker. The former is an angst-filled homage to his dead mother (I’m not kidding), the latter a whimsical look at an ex-girlfriend (wait for the surprise ending).

Interesting tidbit – E’s dad was Hugh Everett III. He was a mathematician and quantum theorist, notable for formulating the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics in 1957. You know, parallel universes and whatnot. Let’s just say a dummy he wasn’t. E, on the other hand, flunked freshman Math. He channeled his talents in another direction.

E’s early work included two solo albums, A Man Called E (1992) and Broken Toy Shop (1993). The latter were finely crafted pop gems unleashed in the middle of the grunge uprising, thus they went basically unnoticed. They were also recorded before E’s loss of his mom and sister so they are certainly lighter in mood. Note: E also released an independent album in 1985 called Bad Dude in Love, which I’m currently trying to locate on the interweb. When I find it you’ll have a full review.

After those two early albums E formed the Eels. He chose the name Eels because he wanted his “E” work to sit beside his “Eels” work in the CD bin at the record stores. Only later did he realize groups like The Eagles would separate the two. Oops. The Eels discography includes ‘Beautiful Freak” (great album cover) (1996), “Electro-Shock Blues” (1998), “Daisies of the Galaxy” (2000), “Souljacker” (2002), “Shootenanny!” (2003), “Blinking Lights and Other Revelations” (2005), Hombre Lobo (2009), End Times (2010)  Tomorrow Morning (2010) Wonderful Glorious (2013) and The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett (2014). Some notes on each, for your perusal:

  • “Beautiful Freak” – Includes the singles “Novacaine for the Soul“, “Susan’s House” and “Your Lucky Day in Hell“. The album is influenced by several musical styles, including grunge and hip-hop. A smooth and flawless studio recording.
  • “Electro-Shock Blues” – This album deals with a lot of pleasant subjects including suicide, death, and cancer. It’s a very dark album. I mean, with songs like “Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor”, “Going to Your Funeral”, and “The Medication is Wearing Off”, how could it not be? Still, incredible stuff, with some unbelievable black humor. An album straight from E’s broken heart.
  • “Daisies of the Galaxy” – If you’re going to buy one Eels album, this would be the one to get in my opinion. As E stated, “if Electro-Shock Blues was the phone call in the middle of the night that the world doesn’t want to answer, then Daisies of the Galaxy is the hotel wake-up call that says your lovely breakfast is ready.” Great album that includes the hidden track “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”. You know, the one with the lyric “Goddamn right it’s a beautiful day.” That one. Another cool tidbit –  the piano E used on this album was the same one Neil Young used on “After the Gold Rush.” Sweet.
  • “Souljacker” – Definitely a heavier feel and more rock-orientated sound on this one. The opening song, “Souljacker, Part 1” is apparently about a serial killer, as E sings, “22 miles of hard road, 33 years of tough luck, 44 skulls buried in the ground, Crawling down through the muck, Oh yeah.” To lighten things up, the song also includes lyrics about incest and a kid planning to kill people at his school. Cool. Check out “Dog-Faced Boy” as well.
  • “Shootenanny” – E stated that there needed to be a word to describe the act of when a guy goes on a shooting rampage. His suggestion was to say the guy went on a “shootenanny”. What can I say, the man’s brain is in a different place. Again, the album is a little rougher, possibly because it was recorded in only 10-days. A personal favorite? An absolute gem called “Rock Hard Times.”
  • “Blinking Lights and Other Revelations” – The Eels first double album, it contained 33 tracks and featured contributions from Tom Waits, Peter Buck of R.E.M. and ex-Lovin’ Spoonful leader John Sebastian. A highlight is Wait’s crying like a baby on the song “Going Fetal.” Trust me, you gotta hear it to truly appreciate it. The Alternative Press said of the album, “A devastatingly beautiful collection of songs, and in some circles, it could be the best album released this year.” And how about this from Entertainment Weekly, “Everett finally delivers the absolute stone masterpiece fans have always known lurked inside his dour heart.” I know, I know, it’s Entertainment Weekly. But still . . .
  • “Hombre Lobo” – Hombre Lobo is desribed as a “concept album about desire.” Long story, but it was also inspired by E’s facial hair. Like I said, long story. I also might add that the album is about a werewolf. I kid you not. Anywho, this album has more of a stripped-down feel than his previous stuff, and as always it’s solid work. Having said that, my favorite song is probably “My Timing is Off“, a mellower tune. If you want harder-edged stuff, lend an ear to ‘Prizefighter” or “Tremendous Dynamite.”
  • “End Times” – This album centers around divorce and aging. I know, not exactly uplifting themes, huh? Having said that, my favorite song on the album is “Little Bird“, an achingly sad song about, well, a little bird . . . and another love lost.
  • “Tomorrow Morning” – This CD actually has a more uplifting feel to it, rare for my boy E. Let’s face it, optimistic he usually ain’t. For a sampling, give a listen to “Spectacular Girl” or “The Man.”
  • “Wonderful Glorious” – A lot like his previous offering, this album is a collection of harder songs, but ultimately more uplifting. I love “On the Ropes.”
  • “The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett” – This one immediately became an all-time favorite of mine upon its release. Just an amazing collection of songs, including the incredible “Where I’m At” and “Parallels.” Instant classic.

The Eels released a few other albums, including the live “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and “Eels With Strings” as well as an E offshoot album “I Am the Messiah” that he recorded under the name MC Honky. That one was an experience in experimentation that needs to be heard to comprehend because I can‘t begin to describe it. Give a listen to “Like a Duck” for a crazy-ass sampling. There’s also a compilation CD called “Essential Eels – Meet the Eels” that I would pass on if I were you. Instead let me make a 4-CD Super Mix for ya.

You can click here to see the band’s official website. Also, there was BBC documentary about E and his father (E is huge in England) called “Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives” that you can see a snippet of on YouTube.

Well, there you go. A little background on my favorite band of the 90’s, 00’s, and 10′s. I hope you learned a little and might just give The Eels a listen and a chance. As I mentioned, I will happily burn for anyone who asks an Eels Mix. I’m always eager to spread the word.

*Random Encounter: I was in Cleveland to catch The Eels at The Odeon, and I was cruising down the street in a cab that afternoon. Suddenly, a buddy of mine said, “Hey, is that him?” “Who?”, I wittily asked. “E”, he said. Well, it sure enough was. He was walking down the sidewalk, hoodie over his head, head down, all by his lonesome. I ordered the cab to stop, jumped out, and ran up to him, scaring the living hell out of him in the process (I can be just a little scary if you don‘t know my sparkling and engaging personality). After he realized I wasn’t a madman, we had a short and pleasant conversation. Again, a nice moment for me.

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Image  —  Posted: September 27, 2016 in Animals, Funny Photos, Great Photographs, Interesting Photos, Nature, Things I Love
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Leonardo da Vinci created plans for a “mechanized knight,” – a robot-like creation reliant on a system of pulleys. When these plans were found almost 500 years later and built according to Leonardo’s specifications, the design worked perfectly.

 

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Losing Tim

Posted: September 27, 2016 in Death, Inspiration, Life
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Today marks 17-years since I lost one of my best friends, Tim.TimBeckMike

I first met him when I was in high school. I played basketball at Paint Valley and he played for Bishop Flaget. Honestly? At first I hated the guy. If you think trash talking began in the 90’s you’d be mistaken. Tim had it down to a fine art in 1974.

It was one of those deals where you wanted to be mad at the him but it was difficult because you were too busy laughing at him.  Bottom line though, we respected each other.

As time went by we found ourselves running into each other more and more. We both worked at a State Park in the summer, doing odd jobs around the lake like mowing, picking up trash and cleaning bathrooms. It gave us a lot of time to talk about life, sports, politics, and most importantly, music.

Beatles music.

Tim is the only person who I ever felt appreciated the Beatles as much as I did. We’d talk for hours about them, arguing about song lyrics or album covers, the relevance of certain songs, who was the most talented Beatle. I was always a Lennon guy, he leaned towards McCartney. We used to argue about which was the greatest Beatle album. He always said it was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and I always argued for Abbey Road.  We could never come to an agreement on that one, arguing for hours on end over which was the greatest album.

I remember once when he came up with the idea that he and I should do a radio show. We sat down and had it all planned out. The format, ideas for different shows, everything. It was to be a 3-hour show from 10-1 on Saturday night. We were going to argue about music and different songs, compare cover versions of songs, play Beatles stuff backwards, point out songs that were clearly rip-offs of earlier tunes, we had it all figured out.

Tim knew everyone in town, so it was no problem to arrange a meeting with the head of the local radio station. The only problem was, when we met with the guy he’d already asked around about us. Turns out there was zero chance this guy was going to unleash us on the unsuspecting masses. We even told him we’d make a demo tape for him, but in the end we had no chance.

Seems our reputations had preceded us, damn it.

Tim was honest to a fault. If you didn’t want to hear the truth he wasn’t a guy you wanted to have around. It wasn’t uncommon to run into Tim, and if you hadn’t seen him for awhile he’d say something like, “Jesus Shoe, you’ve gained some weight, right?” or “Man, you’re losing more hair every time I see you.”

You know, pleasantries like that.

Listen, I’m not going to sugarcoat things here. Tim rubbed some people the wrong way. They didn’t appreciate his brand of honest, straightforward candor. As for me, it was exactly what I expected from a friend.

And often times that honesty was exactly what you needed. I remember running into him years ago, after I’d flunked out of college and was working in a local factory. I hated my job, was unhappy with my life, and was generally making everyone around me miserable. Tim took one look at me and said, “You look like hell. What’s wrong?” I told him I was fine but he wasn’t buying it. He said, “No you’re not. You hate yourself because you know you can do better. You need to get out of that fucking factory.”

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And I did.

He was exactly right and I knew that, but sometimes it takes a friend to say it out loud.

Over the years we grew even closer as I became a teacher and coach and he worked as the chairman of our local political party as well as holding other jobs in local and state government. My family had been active in local politics my entire life, so it was one more thing we had in common. We did a lot of work together with local government, and because of Tim I got to meet President Bill Clinton and several other important political people.

Bottom line, he was exactly what I needed – honest with me when I needed it most, pointing out my faults without exception, and accepting me for who I was, warts and all. What more could anyone possibly want in a friend?

It was the early summer of 1999 and I was vacationing in the Outer Banks when I got a call from my father. He said he’d heard some bad news regarding Tim and that I might want to give him a call. I did, and after the usual greetings we had the following conversation:

Me: “Hey, I heard you got some serious news yesterday. Are you OK?”

Tim: “Well, only if you consider being told you have 12-weeks to live serious. Otherwise I’m great.”

Good God. Leave it to him to make light of the most morbid situation imaginable. But seriously, you know what he was doing, right? He was worried about my feelings. He’d heard the worry in my voice was trying to make me feel better.

Think about that. That should tell you all you need to know about him.

Over the next few weeks Tim gradually deteriorated despite seeing the experts and doing all the things recommended medically. It was difficult to watch, and he handled it much better than the rest of us, believe me.

Later that summer we talked him into going to the first game ever played in Cleveland’s new football stadium. It was a preseason contest against the Minnesota Vikings, on August 21st. We knew he didn’t have much time left but he sucked it up and agreed to go. He was down to probably 130 pounds, maybe less, and was feeling awful. In fact, he was spitting blood into a paper cup on the way to the game.

I remember he’d gotten a rather severe haircut before we left, and I kept telling him he looked like a Nazi war prisoner. He was so thin and gaunt, and that combined with the haircut made his ears look twice their normal size. At some point one of our wives started calling him “Wingnut” and it stuck for the rest of the weekend.

After checking in at our hotel, Tim and I got a cab to the stadium. For some reason we only had two tickets so the ladies stayed behind. After arriving we realized our seats were in the nosebleed section, w-a-y up top. It immediately became clear that the walk up there wasn’t going to be easy for Tim. He was already out of breath, and we’d barely started. No way he was going to make it.

Finally we saw an elevator, but it had a “V.I.P. Only” sign on it and was being guarded by a humongous man with a shaved head and arms the size of tree trunks. I walked up and explained the circumstances, hoping the guy would see our situation and cut us a break. But, it was the first game ever played there and the guy was under strict orders. He was having none of it.

Suddenly, Tim was there:

Look at me. I can’t walk up there. It’s obvious I’m dying. Help me out.”

At that point the guy stared at Tim for what felt like an eternity, then nodded his head in the direction of the elevator, punched in a code and said, “Get on.”

And we did. Then Tim looked at me, smiled and said, “Might as well use it to my advantage while I can.”

We finally made our way to our seats and sat down. Now, anybody who knew Tim will tell you he was a flirt with the ladies. He definitely had a weakness where beautiful women were concerned. That said, a few minutes later a hot blonde took the seat right next to him. He glanced over, did a double-take, and said, “Well, hell-ooo. How YOU doin’?

I could only stare and shake my head. Here he was, days away from dying, skinny as hell, hair sticking up all over, spitting blood into a paper cup, just so damn sick.

But still flirting with the girls? Hell yes.

On September 26th my wife and I had a political fundraiser at our house for my cousin Mike, a State Senator at the time. I believe it was a Sunday. There were 25-30 people there, and towards the end of the party Tim walked in. The place grew completely quiet, as many of the people there hadn’t seen him in weeks or even months and were stunned at his appearance. I remember our Scottish Terrier, Poe, coming out of the bedroom and looking at Tim. Poe normally stayed in the bedroom when we had large groups of people over, as he wasn’t crazy about big crowds. This time, however, was different. He walked over to the chair that Tim has just sat down in, jumped up on his lap, and began crying and licking his face. For the rest of Tim’s stay Poe wouldn’t leave his side.

Somehow, Poe knew.

The next evening I got the phone call nobody ever wants to get, and I immediately went over to Tim’s house.

I’ll always be thankful for the fact that I was able to spend a few of his last minutes with him.

I’d lost friends before, but they’d all passed suddenly. They never had a chance to think about what was happening, no time to say goodbye, no time for anger or sadness.

Tim had time for all of those things.

The thing is though, over those last 3-months I never saw him angry. I never saw him play the victim, never saw him feel sorry for himself, never saw him scream at God and ask why. Around me at least, he carried a quiet dignity that was remarkable. I respected that so much.

Once, towards the end, I mentioned this to him. I said that if I were in his position I’d be tempted to avenge very person who ever did me wrong, at the very least tell them how I felt before I left this earth, really let them have it.

His response?

“That’s because you’re an asshole. I am too, but something like this makes you see things a little differently. Why waste time on negative stuff like that? Life’s too short.”

Coming from him at that moment, truer words were never spoken.

I’ve not always been successful, but ever since he said that I’ve tried to not waste time using negative energy in my life. It seems a cliché, but you really do have to try and be the best person you can be every day. Like he said, why waste precious time?

He was only 42 when he died, and that was way too soon. And as difficult as it was to watch him suffer, at least he got to say his goodbyes to those he loved, especially his daughter Becky and his son Mike. That’s a kind of blessing, right?

After Tim’s funeral, we went out with some mutual friends and basically reminisced about him. It was an emotional day, and afterwards I just wanted to get home, spend some time alone and relax.

I went down to my basement where I had a bar, my library, and my music collection. I made a drink, sat down on my couch and laid my head back, just trying to unwind after a trying day. When I finally looked up, though, something caught me eye. A CD had fallen from one of my shelves and was on the floor, right in the open, where it had inexplicably landed right in the middle of the room.

The album was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

It seems that Tim had gotten the last word.

I walked over and picked it up, put the CD in the player, hit play, and listened.

Check out the Lichen Katydid, man. We just discovered this little bro recently. You see, when you don’t hang out in the upper echelons of the food chain and can’t rely on brains and brawn to keep yourself from being eaten, you come up with other tricks like mimicry and camouflage. That’s what the Lichen Katydid do. Oh no he Katydin’t. Anyhoo, Lichen Katydid.

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Dude got trucked, man.

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There 'tis. See the antennae?

There ’tis. See the antennae?

Did you know there are practically no protocols in place to prevent a sitting US president from unilaterally ordering a nuclear strike?

It’s true.

The idea is that America’s nuclear arsenal must be equipped for fast deployment to properly deter an attack. The president must therefore have the ability to launch a strike quickly and without delay. The Secretary of Defense is required to verify the order, but cannot legally veto it.

As then-Vice President Dick Cheney in 2008:

“The president could launch a kind of devastating attack the world’s never seen. He doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.”

Chilling, really.

You see, the President is always accompanied by a military aide carrying a ” Nuclear Football” with launch codes for nuclear weapons. The football is a metal briefcase carried in a black leather jacket. The package weighs around 45-pounds. A small antenna protrudes from the bag near the handle. You can see it in the photo up top.

However, there is a scenario that would allow the Secretary of Defense to refuse to relay the order and use his codes to launch –  theoretically, he could make a quick call to the Cabinet and Congress and report that the President had gone bonkers. The Cabinet could then declare the President unfit in a letter to Congress.

Slim chance that would happen, though, so there’s that.

Anyway, food for thought, huh?

When I posted the original “Remnants of Old Route 50” blog I assumed maybe 5-people would care. Turns out it’s one of the most viewed in the history of this site. Who knew? Anyway, what you’ll see below is an old tunnel that went under Old Route 50, about a mile east of Bourneville on the left. If you turn into where they have the motocross races and take a quick right and go about 100-yards you can find it. Pretty cool.

PS: Coming soon will be photos of Old Route 50 west of Bainbridge.

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If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. nobody writes the headlines like me, amirite? I mean, who couldn’t click on that title?

Listen, I always knew something was up with Matt Damon. Dude has always acted like he knew something the rest of us didn’t, ya know?

Anyway, as we all know, Matt Damon looks like this:

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And here’s a recently discovered photo. It was taken in 1964.

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Yep, that’s Matt Damon alright. He definitely traveled through time or doesn’t age. Bro probably has wives in every decade for the past five-hundred years.

Anyhoo, Matt Damon? You, my man, have been busted.

Peaceful.

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In 2016, North Korea accidentally leaked its DNS data, showing they only have 28 “.kp” domains. In comparison, there are 10 million “.uk” domains.

 

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So Minnesota Vikings running back and noted child-beater Adrian Peterson has gone to Twitter to preach to the masses about the horrors of child abuse.

Oh no he din’t.

Yo Adrian, didn’t you see what happened to Ray Lewis just a couple days ago?

Yep, the Trolls of Twitter were having none of it, calling out Mr. Peterson with the vengeance of a thousand hell demons.

Here’s Adrian’s original, unfortunate tweet:

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Alas, it was a poor decision.

Here’s the first retort:

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Followed by:

Didn’t you abuse your son to the point of seeing blood? And you only got probation?

And then:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you get probation for beating the shit out of your 4-year old son?

Oh boy.Then along comes this gem:

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And finally, you always have the one guy who sort of misses the entire point and cuts right to the heart of the matter, hitting where it hurts the most:

You’re not good anymore.

Ouch. That one had to hurt. Bottom line? Don’t mess with The Twitter, boys.

 

The Clowns Are Coming

Posted: September 24, 2016 in Fears, Humor, Things I Hate
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ABC News: Days after several reports of spooky clowns alarming residents in California, pranksters in similar costumes are popping up in other states.

Sgt. Tom Weger of the Fishers Police Department in Indiana thinks his town is dealing with a copycat.

Chills, man.

Chills, man.

“We have had over the past week three calls of a suspicious person dressed in a creepy clown outfit,” Weger told ABC News today. “We believe it’s just one individual dressing up as a clown and kind of creeping people out a bit.”

The reports come after similar sightings this month in Bakersfield, California, and the launch of social media accounts using the name “Wasco Clown,” showing a scary clown posing at different locations in Bakersfield and nearby cities.

Fishers, Indiana, isn’t alone in the new sightings, days before Halloween residents of Albuquerque, New Mexico, were recently spooked when a scary clown posed for a photo in front of a local restaurant and posted it on social media. But the clown, Tickles, told ABC affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque that he didn’t mean any harm by the scary photo.

And clowns have also reportedly appeared in Jacksonville, Florida, popping up on security footage.

The World Clown Association says such spooky sightings are giving clowns a bad rap.

“People dressed as horror clowns are not ‘real clowns,'” president-elect Randy Christensen said. “They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience.”

Lordy.

You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you? The clowns are coming.

For years, clowns built up goodwill throughout the world, appearing at birthday parties, circuses and carnivals, making balloon animals and squirting people with whatever the hell comes out of that flower on their chest. Some even appeared on television under names like Bozo and Clarabell. We even had our own local clown, Flippo.

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Flippo.

Flippo was nightmare fuel, man.

Famous actors even portrayed clowns. Respected men like Red Skelton and Soupy Sales had clown characters as a part of their act.

Clowns were everywhere, man. And now, this. The true nature of clowns is emerging.

A few of us have always known something was amiss. Something was missing behind the make-up and painted-on smiles.

Something awful lurked there.

Perhaps the trouble all started with Willard Scott, goofball weatherman for the Today Show. He was a clown, you know. Dude never seemed right.

Or maybe it was John Wayne Gacy, serial killer of at least 33 young boys in Chicago.

He buried the boys under his house. Part-time job? Clown.

And now the clowns are tired of pretending, weary of playing out the fraudulent pretense of being friendly, nose-honking fun-makers.

Yes, the clown’s true nature is emerging, and it is horrifying. The clowns ain’t playin’, man.

Soon, Ronald McDonald will be revealed as a poisoner of Big Macs, perhaps the murderer of Mayor McCheese.

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Good God.

The Hamburglar will be found strangled in his sleep, with strands of bright red hair found at the scene.

Facts will be unearthed involving Bozo, the information unspeakable and abhorrent.

Yes, the true nature of clowns will soon be revealed to all, and it won’t be funny.

Note: I still can’t wrap my head around a World Clown Association. Just too terrible to contemplate.

Note 2: Say what you want, Tickles the Clown. I’m not buying it.

Note 3: Remember when I was threatened by an angry clown? That was pretty scary. Hope he doesn’t read this.

Note 4: I stupidly clicked on a “Clowns Near You” link while researching for this article, and while I was terrified the answer would be “right behind you”, this dude popped up. Calls himself Mr. Bugaboo. Sweet God Almighty.bugaboo

So the Free Hugs Project visited Charlotte and ran into some resistance. Thoughts?

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So former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis went to Twitter today to rayraymake his latest holier than thou proclamation. See, Ray found God after walking away scot-free from a double-murder back in 2000. Since Ray has found God and can pass judgement on the rest of us, he felt he needed to chime in on people and their use of Twitter.

Here’s Ray’s initial tweet:

How much better would the world be if we pandered for God’s approval the way we do Twitter approval?

Oh boy. Oh, Ray, how could you not know how the twitterverse would respond? Here are a just a few of the salvos fired back at Ray-Ray. Most are pretty straight-forward. To wit . . .

Uh, you killed multiple people.

Can’t get much more direct than that, right? Oh. Maybe you can . . .

You stabbed a guy and got away with it.

Boom! Roasted. This next guy brought Ray’s family into the mix . . .

Brother, you beat a murder case and your son was indicted for rape charges, practice what you tweet.

Burn! This next gentleman referred to Ray’s tweet and ran with it:

How much better would the world be if we didn’t murder other people?

Can’t argue with that, can we? Then we have a bro who, being an atheist and all, pointed out his beliefs to Ray. Then he followed that with a cold blast of reality:

Well Ray, Twitter is real and God is not. Also, you’re a murderer.

Finally, we have a dude who went the sarcasm route:

Ah, God’s linebacker dispensing wisdom. Those two boys still dead?

That had to hurt. Bottom line, Ray? Judge not, lest ye be judged. And man, have you been judged.

Back in the early days of my teaching career I had a student in my Reading class named Ricky that mkjihhhwas constantly getting into trouble. He came from a tough background, but he was really a pretty smart kid. I was always telling him that he was better than he was acting, and he actually cleaned up his act eventually. But Rick is not the focus of this story . . .

Rick’s father was a truck driver named Tom who traveled all over the country, and one day at a local bar he introduced himself to me. This was when his kid was still getting into trouble a couple times a week, and I mentioned this to his dad. We talked about Rick for awhile, and then Tom surprised me with this statement:

“I think he does pretty well, much better than I ever did. Hell, I never even learned to read.”

I sort of chuckled, asked if he was serious, and damned if he wasn’t. Said he couldn’t read much at all. But how was this possible? How did he get through school? Here was a guy who drove an 18-wheeler cross country every week. How did he read maps? Menus? Pass the written part of his driving test? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. In addition, he explained that his son was terribly embarrassed by him, he felt horrible about it, and it just ate him up inside.

Tom told me that when he drove, he’d memorize the letters on a map and then look for them on road signs. He said that when eating, he’d stick to diners or fast-food joints where he could stick to hamburgers or something simple. He said he could write his name and a few other words, but that was about it. Bottom line, he thought Rick was doing pretty well in comparison to him.

But as we talked, it became clear to me that this was a really smart guy who’d somehow fallen through the educational cracks. To be able to make a living, hold down a full-time job, hell, just being able to bluff your way through life without having the ability to read is a pretty amazing feat.

As I sat at the bar listening to Tom’s story, I had a thought. Should I ask? What the hell, I finally just blurted it out:

“Why don’t you let me teach you to read?”

He just kept his head down, and for about 30-seconds he didn’t say a word. Finally, he spoke:

Tom: “How long would it take?”

Me: “Hell, I don’t know. I’ve never taught anybody to read before.”

We both got a good laugh out of that one, but it was true. I’d taught junior high reading for a couple years but it was more of a literature class. Actually teaching kids to read was left to the specialists and primary teachers for the most part. That said, I figured what the hell? How hard could it be?

Me: “Seriously, I have no idea. A couple years to become really good? A year? We’ll just have to start and see what happens.”

Tom: “Two years? Boy, I don’t know. I’ll be almost 40-years old in two years.”

Me: “Well, you’re planning on being 40 anyway, right? Why not be 40 and also be able to read?”

Long story short, he agreed, I talked to a couple literacy people at school for advice, bought some books, set up a schedule, and I began meeting Tom twice a week in my room at school after hours. I remember someone telling me that newspapers were written at a 7th grade level, so that was our goal – 7th grade.

And you know what? Turns out Tom was a quick learner. In a little less than a year he was reading at that 7th grade level, and he achieved it well over a year before reaching 40.

Seriously, it was a pretty amazing how quickly he picked it up. It felt like he went through 10-years of school in 10-months. And he became an avid reader, just soaking information in like a sponge. It was like a blind man seeing for the first time.

The last time we met I brought some of my favorite books for Tom to read – On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Hobbit and a few others. I knew it would be awhile before he’d be able to master them all, so I told him to keep them as long as he wanted. When I loan out books I have people write their thoughts about the book on the inside covers, and I told him to be sure and do so as well. There wasn’t a lot of emotion or anything as we said goodbye, he just said thank you, patted me on the shoulder, took the books and left. We didn’t have to say it – we were both proud of what he’d accomplished.

It was a few years later and I was teaching at another school when I next saw Tom. I was sitting at my desk during my free period, I looked up and there he was, standing in the doorway. He walked over and set the books I’d given him on my desk. We had a nice talk and he thanked me for everything again, said he didn’t know how he could ever repay me. I said it was my pleasure and had probably learned more from the experience than he had. Then we hugged and he left, giving me a wave over his shoulder as he departed.

Then, for some reason, I reached down and picked up the copy of The Hobbit. I opened it and there, on the inside cover, Tom had written this:

“I loved this book. Bilbo never knew he had it in him. But I guess you never really know what you’re capable of until you try, right?”

No, Tom. No you don’t.

The lesson here? Never, ever believe it’s too late to achieve something you really want. I know that’s sort of a worn-out cliché, but damn it, it’s true.

Just ask Tom.

A Lesson Learned

Posted: September 23, 2016 in Classroom, Life
Tags: ,

Note: I’m going to leave names and locations out of this story, although a lot of you will know who and where I’m talking about. There are no hard feelings regarding any of this, as I was young, hard-headed and stupid in many ways, sort of like I am now minus the young part. In addition, some people may remember what happened differently, and that’s cool. This is simply how I recall what happened.

It was during my third year of teaching when I learned a valuable lesson, a lesson that I’ll explain at the end of this recollection. As I said, I was young at the time, wasn’t particularly involved in teacher unions or anything like that, just excited about teaching and the future I had to look forward to. Anyway, here’s what happened . . .

I was teaching middle school Reading at the time and we had a pretty good thing going at our school. Our principal was a great guy, loved the kids, got along well with his staff, blah-blah-blah. Our high school? Not so much. The principal there was having some problems. I don’t even recall what those problems were, but suffice it to say trouble was afoot.

As administrations sometimes do, they made a decision that made zero sense. They simply decided to switch principals. Yep, their answer was to move the middle school principal to the high school and the high school principal to the middle school. While this decision was great for the high school, we at the middle school were pretty pissed about it.

So, a meeting was called. I’m not even sure who called it, all I remember is walking into a classroom where the entire staff had gathered to discuss this act of egregiousness.  As the teachers in the room were going back-and-forth regarding possible ways to deal with the problem,  I distinctly recall sitting in the back, talking with my buddy Joe about something, probably basketball or politics. At some point during the teacher’s discussion a decision was made to send a representative to talk to our superintendent, let him know how we felt as a staff.

To this day I don’t know how I was chosen to represent our staff, but maybe it was because I was young and idealistic, possibly because I didn’t give a damn, likely because I was naïve enough to think there would be no repercussions.

I should have recognized the foreshadowing of events to come when 4 or 5 of the more vocal teachers pulled me aside after the meeting or early the next morning and whispered something along the lines of, “Hey, you’re not going to mention any names over there, are you?”

Uh, no? But as I mentioned, I was young, idealistic, and evidently a little dumb.

The meeting had been after school, so the next morning I called over to our Superintendent’s Office to schedule an appointment, which was made for noon that day. After eating in my room I headed that way.

As I walked over I passed my aforementioned good friend and fellow coach Joe’s room, where he was sitting at his desk finishing his lunch. I stuck my head in and said, “Hey, I’m heading over for my meeting. Want to walk over with me?” He sort of shrugged, replied, “Sure,” and hopped up to join me. Just providing a little backup, nothing more.

Or so we thought.

We walked into the Supe’s office, sat down, and I expressed the feeling of the staff, being extra careful to not mention anyone by name. I basically just said the middle school staff was happy with the way things were and didn’t agree with the switching of principals. My friend Joe sat there and didn’t say a lot, although he did pitch in with a thought or two along the way.

When I finished I was basically expecting a “Thanks for your input Mr. Shoemaker. I’ll consider the staff’s opinion. Have a nice day.”

What I got instead was, “Well, if you two don’t think you can work with your new principal we can make other arrangements.”

Hold on a sec there, boss. What?

Number one, I was just the spokesperson. Number two, aren’t we all professionals here? Just because I don’t agree with the decision doesn’t mean I won’t continue to do my job the way I always have. What the hell?

At that point things got a little tense, but not out of hand. I sort of vocalized the points I made in the previous paragraph, and my buddy Joe added his 2-cents as well.

So, the meeting ended with some awkward handshakes and terse goodbyes, but I otherwise thought we’d made our point, been unceremoniously rebuked, and sent on our way. I was sort of shocked but otherwise unscathed. End of story.

Wrong.

The next morning I stopped at my mailbox, and in it was a letter informing me I was being transferred to one of our outlying middle schools in the district for the next school year. Stunned, I walk down to my room. Shortly thereafter Joe, the guy who had walked over with me because his room was on my way to the meeting, walks in holding a letter of his own. He was being transferred as well, to our other outlying school.

Nice.

And you know what? Although some parents complained, not one teacher spoke up in our defense.

In the end it turned out fine for me because I spent two wonderful years at the school I’d been transferred to, and I met some outstanding students and families who are friends to this day. Then I moved to Paint Valley where I taught until I retired. Joe only spent one year away before moving back to his original school when a job opened up.

All in all it was quite a learning experience, but my biggest lesson was this:

When things go bad a lot of people will talk big, but when it’s time to go to battle and you’re the one leading the charge, don’t look behind you.

There may not be anybody there.

Yahoo Sports: A poll of 1,128 Americans by Yahoo! Sports and the pollster kaep1YouGov revealed that 44% of NFL fans say they would stop watching NFL games if protests like the one first undertaken by Colin Kaepernick continue.

In related news, 44% of NFL fans who take part in polls by Yahoo Sports are lying, delusional morons. Seriously? People are going to stop watching football? Blah-freaking-blah. This reminds me of the people that were asked people how high gas prices would go before they quit buying gas and they’d answer, “$5.00 a gallon” or something. What are they going to do, ride a bicycle? Walk? Everyone has convictions until it gets down to the nitty gritty.

PS: Using words like “nitty gritty” is what separates me from your average blogger. You’re welcome. 

Yep, that’s a blue lobster alright. According to the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, blue lobsters are estimated to occur just one in two million times. Why the blue color? It’s caused by a genetic defect, the institute explains, which creates an abundance of a protein that causes the blue hue. And yes kids, there is a Lobster Institute at the University of Maine. Anyhoo, Blue Lobster.

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A tool shop owner paid $100.00 for a locked abandoned storage unit, only to find the Lotus Esprit submarine prop from The Spy Who Loved Me inside. He sold it to Elon Musk for $825,000.000.

 

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What follows is my take on an old tale I heard years ago when I was a kid. Perhaps it was an Urban Legend, I can’t be sure. I just used the basic crux of the original story, all names, places and details have been created by me. Remember, this is my first attempt at true fiction so cut me a break. Hopefully, if people like this one, there will be more to follow . . .

Bobby Fallow was on the inside, doing time for the incredibly stupid crime of coffin_0robbing a gas station. He was desperately in need of money so he stole a gun from an uncle, put on a dumb George W. Bush mask, and went into a BP station in a town about thirty miles from where he lived. He proceeded to scare the bejesus out of the 50-something woman working the counter and made off with a grand total of $117.74, which he immediately wasted on booze over the next three days.

Bobby’s big mistake was bragging about his haul to his friend Gary, who had the brains of a blobfish. Gary’s father used to put it this way:

“You could put that boy’s brain in a flea’s ass and it would bounce around like a BB in a boxcar.”

So yeah, dumb.

The only guy in town dumber was probably Bobby, since he made the fateful decision to tell Gary he’d knocked over a damn gas station for $117.74.

Long story short, a couple days later the local po-po showed up at Bobby’s door and led him away in handcuffs. A court appointed attorney could do nothing to help, nor did he put forth much of an effort in the process.

So, eight freaking years, maybe five if Bobby could keep his nose clean and not piss off the wrong gang banger.

For Bobby, that was five years too long. He had to get out, man.

Midway through his second year of hell, he was transferred to the prison mortuary. Yeah, guys died in prison, more than you think, especially in a facility as big as the the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as the Alcatraz of the South. With well over 6,000 prisoners, the facility was one of the biggest in the United States.

The idea came to Bobby early, probably in his third week working in the prison morgue. As he stood watching a hearse pull away, taking some poor soul’s body to a cemetery off prison grounds, the idea hit him like a jolt of electricity from Gruesome Gertie, the name given by inmates to the old electric chair used to execute death row inmates.

I can get in a coffin and ride right the hell out of here.

Of course, there were some obstacles to overcome, the least of which was having to endure riding for God knows how long with a dead body lying beside him.

Bobby actually tested this once, when he was alone with a freshly filled casket and before the hearse arrived. He opened the lid, took a deep breath, and crawled right in. He then closed the lid, not all the way of course because he was terrified he’d lock himself in.

The good news was he fit.

Yeah, it was creepy as hell, but any fear he had of riding with a dead body for awhile was outweighed by the thought of glorious, mind-blowing freedom.

After lying in his cell night after night, going over the details in his mind, a plan was hatched. Clearly though, he’d need help.

Henry Cartwright was the old man for whom Bobby worked in the morgue, and he was not only a lifer but a snitch. If Old Man Henry got a whiff of the plan it would over before it started.

Bobby did have a friend inside he could trust, however. That man was Benny Bajolière, a dude from Bobby’s hometown of McNary, a little town of 215 people smack-dab in the middle of Louisiana and known primarily for its Lecompte Pie Festival.

Benny worked in the prison library and brought books around to the cells, so Bobby and he always had a few minutes a couple times a week to talk and catch up. Benny was a little older and smoked like a chimney, so between the squeaky wheels and Benny’s hacking cough you could always hear him and his book cart coming.

Benny also had connections within the prison walls and could get Bobby just about anything he wanted, from cigarettes to hooch. Bobby loved the Pruno, a sort of prison wine that would make you forget, if only for a little while, that you were in the most dangerous prison in the United States.

But here was the best part about Benny – he was set for release in a two months.

Over the course of their next few visits, the details were worked out. On the first Friday after Benny’s release date, Bobby would crawl inside the last casket of the day to leave Louisiana State Penitentiary. Benny would be waiting outside, follow the hearse, and after everyone left the burial site he would wait until dark and dig up his friend.

A month before Benny was to be released he was to be transferred to a halfway house, where he would ostensibly be prepared to ease back into society. After that he’d be officially released, and the first Friday thereafter he’d aid Bobby in his escape from the hell that was the Alcatraz of the South.

So, with that Benny Bajolière became Bobby Fallow’s lifeline. All Bobby could hope for was that Mr. Bajolière made good on his end of the deal.

Needless to say Bobby Fallow watched the calendar like a hawk. He knew Benny’s release date was approaching, and he waited patiently to put his plan into action.

On the Friday following Benny’s release date, Bobby prepared for his escape. After finishing his shift in the morgue at 3:00 pm, he went back to his open cell and sat nervously awaiting his move. About three hours later and after putting a previously prepared dummy under his bed sheets, he left his cell and walked down to the morgue. Using a morgue key he’d stolen earlier, he entered.

The place was without windows and was as dark as night, but he’d brought a book of matches to light the way. He found the last coffin in a row of four, knowing it would be the last one leaving, around 6:30 pm. Grabbing the lid handle and blowing out the match, he climbed in.

He’d timed it perfectly. After less than a half hour of lying next to a cold corpse, he felt the coffin being lifted and slid into the back of a hearse. After what seemed like hours but was in reality less than a half hour, Bobby could feel the coffin being removed from the hearse and lowered into the ground.

And then, the terrifying sound of dirt being shoveled onto the casket. After perhaps 20-minutes, it stopped.

Bobby Fallow was now buried alive.

Fighting the urge to scream and attempt to fight his way out, he took short, measured breaths as to conserve as much oxygen as possible. It was hot, cramped and pitch black.

Although Bobby tried his damndest not to think about the dead man lying next to him, it was a nearly impossible task.

He closed his eyes, and for the first time in years, he prayed. He prayed that Benny would be true to his word, and more importantly be on time.

After all, Bobby had calculated there would be enough oxygen in a closed coffin to last about five hours.

All he could do was wait.

And so he waited.

And waited.

How long had it been? Three, four hours? It seemed like an eternity. And then, a revelation – Bobby had a pocket watch. He just had to see how much time he’d been down there, under the ground.

With much difficulty he slid his hand down and gently pulled the watch from his pocket. He pulled it up near his face, but of course could see nothing but the inky blackness he’d been looking at for the past few hours.

For a few minutes he listened, hoping to hear the faint rustle of Benny digging his way down to rescue him. Oh, how they’d laugh and tell the story later, how Bobby was in such a panic-stricken state until Benny showed up as promised.

Alas, nothing. It was as still as death.

It was then Bobby remembered the matches. He reached down again, this time into his shirt pocket. He knew he couldn’t have a lit match in a closed casket very long because he was low on oxygen, but he just had to see the time. He just had to, as a form of reassurance as much as anything. Hell, he probably hadn’t been down there nearly as long as he thought he had.

Everything was going to be OK.

Still, to be certain he had to take one quick look.

He lit the match and took a quick glance at his watch.

Only 8:30.

He’d only been in the coffin for two hours. Just two measly hours. There was plenty of time, and help was most certainly on the way.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he started to blow out the match. But then, something compelled him to look to his side, into the face of the dead man beside him.

And there, staring back, was the face of Benny Bajolière.

Cute but deadly.

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Here’s the story:

Times Union: Alien hunters have recently pointed out what appears to be a snake on Mars, claiming the reptile is capable of surviving the Red Planet’s harsh environment. The snake-like rock formation is one of hundreds of “discoveries” made every year by UFO enthusiasts. This time, however, the sighting of a snake has raised questions for conspiracy theorists concerned over the authenticity of NASA’s Mars rover operations. 

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Rock formation schmock formation. That’s a snake, man. Just crawling around on Mars like a boss. And honestly, name something more scary than a race of Super Snakes getting ready to rain down snakey hell on the citizens of earth? You can’t.

Have a nice day.

PS: Wait until Trump gets hold of this information. Mars is about to get the living hell bombed out of it.

Funny stuff.

hillary

Good Lord.

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