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Saturday, January 26, 2008


Since I don’t want to be accused of stealing anything in these unhappy times of plagiarism, I wrote this little Genie story from a suggestion written on Jordan Summers’ agent’s Publisher’s Marketplace site. After reading Ms. Ginger Clark wanted any manuscript with a genie, I thought I’d have a little fun with the idea. Anyway, there’s no charge for this, but that’s where the idea came from. :)

The young man walked along the rows of tables at the flea market, his face set in a grim mask of concentration. His fists clenched each time he noticed a table with used tools for sale, and immediately went over to investigate the items. Cole worked for an auto shop, which had been broken into the previous night. All of the employees’ tool boxes had been stolen. Thousands of dollars invested in his chosen profession disappeared overnight, leaving a bitter man hurrying around the area pawn shops and flea markets, looking for his lost tools. Something glinted in the sunlight as Cole passed by a haggard man with items laid out on a beat up blanket. Pausing, Cole searched idly for what he had glimpsed in the bright noontime of a San Jose, California day. What looked like a slim copper teapot lay in the middle of the blanket, catching the beams of light when seen at just the right angle. Cole picked it up, and the forlorn merchant shook his head in warning, gesturing negatively with his hand.

“You don’t want that thing, kid, trust me,” the worn out voice cautioned. “I’m selling it to someone more deserving.”

“Deserving of what?” Cole asked, turning the shiny object over in his calloused hands.

The hunched over old man, with grizzled gray beard in salt and pepper splotches, grinned up at the tall, intense young man. He looked Cole over appraisingly. Lithe corded muscle moved under the young man’s tee shirted form as Cole inspected the dully gleaming object. Pointing at Cole’s buzz cut brown hair, the old man’s bushy gray eyebrows lifted questioningly.

“Seen some action, huh kid?”

“I’ve been around,” Cole answered carefully.

“Saw some myself,” the old man muttered absently, a far off look momentarily making his eyes fade in introspection. Shuddering a little, the old man held out a gnarled sun browned hand. “Name’s Sonny.”

Cole shook his hand. “Cole. How much you want for this teapot, Sonny?”

“It ain’t no damn teapot. It’s an old oil lamp,” Sonny said, with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“How much?”

“I don’t want you…” Sonny bent over, clamping hands over his temples, as if in the grip of some painful head trauma.

Cole quickly put the lamp down, and helped the old man to his battered lawn chair. Sonny’s pain passed quickly, and he looked up at Cole with fearful compassion, his lip trembling.

“Are you okay?” Cole asked, real concern etched into his features, as he gripped Sonny’s shoulder to steady him.

“Give… give me five dollars… and it’s yours, kid.”

Cole reached into his pocket, extracting a twenty from the small number of folded bills he came up with. He stuffed the twenty dollar bill into Sonny’s hand.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Don’t worry about me, kid… worry about yourself,” Sonny answered, his head down. “Take it and go before I change my mind.”

“Sure, Sonny,” Cole replied, picking up his purchase. “Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me yet, boy,” Sonny muttered after Cole had walked away.

At home in his apartment in San Leandro, Cole sat down heavily on a used maroon sofa in the living room. He held the only prize from nearly twelve hours spent perusing back area markets tiredly. The slender spout curved back into the larger body of the lamp. Cole pulled a few Kleenex from the box on his coffee table, wetting a portion with his own saliva. Rubbing the inscribed lamp base, Cole felt the lamp quake in his hands. He dropped it, lurching up from his couch warily. Foggy mist drifted eerily from the spout, forming into what looked to Cole like a storm cloud up at his apartment ceiling. Oval eyes opened in the cloud. Azure colored orbs gleamed brightly down at Cole’s retreating form. He stopped only after backing into his living room wall, gauging the distance to the door. Laughter like small silver chimes on a doorstep at Christmas echoed inside the mist cloud. A pale form, nearly five and half feet tall, took shape as the cloud eyes and mist dissipated.

“Sweet Jesus…” Cole gasped, his mind spinning out of control with mental images from his fictional encounters with magic lamps, both in book form and television.

“Cole, is it?” The raven haired beauty asked, with a voice soft as a whisper, yet resonate as a gale force wind. “I am Layla.”

“You…you’re a Jinn.”

“I can be anything you wish,” Layla said, clothing her form in black miniskirt and high heels, and then instantly into a flowing transparent chiffon, thigh high night gown. Her azure eyes blinked enticingly. “What would you wish?”

Cole stayed silent. He spoke only after five full minutes had passed.

“I saw an X-Files episode where these dimwits get some carpet Genie to grant wishes, which they subsequently destroy themselves with,” Cole stated carefully, as Layla began laughing appreciatively, clapping her small hands together.

“I’m not that kind of Genie,” Layla chuckled. “I saw the episode. Very entertaining.”

Cole smiled. “Let’s cut to the chase. I wish for you to be free of the lamp.”

Layla screamed her mouth and form swirling into a mini-whirlwind before disappearing.

Cole sat down on the sofa, running shaky hands through his close cropped hair.

“I guess old Sonny really was trying not to screw me over,” Cole murmured to himself, leaning back.

“He…he didn’t screw you over,” Layla said, her form materializing where she lay in a heap at Cole’s feet. “Sorry, I turned invisible for a moment.”

Cole edged away from Layla. “You’re free. Look, the lamp’s gone. Why are you still here?”

“As you say, I am free,” Layla said, clutching Cole’s leg, and leaning her head against his thigh. “You… have no idea… it has been thousands of years. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Cole said, feeling as if his leg were on fire where Layla gripped it. “Have a nice life. Good luck to you.”

“I am free to grant you any wish I want, and no tricks,” Layla met Cole’s distrustful gaze steadily. “Let me thank you properly. I will even help you with picking your wish.”

“Okay…” Cole replied, his heart racing. “I’m going with simple. I want you to help me get all the stuff stolen from the auto shop I work at back.”

Layla took Cole’s hand, tilting it palm up, and kissed his palm. “Done.”

Cole stood inside a dingy steel building, filled with every imaginable item. Layla stood next to him in a mini-skirt with white blouse, gesturing happily.

“Your things are here, Cole.”

“Hey!” A gruff voice yelled from across the way, where two men had a table set up at the building entrance roll up door.

The two burly thugs ran across the warehouse to confront their visitors. They were both over six feet tall, and heavily built. When the two saw their intruders were unarmed, and one was a beautiful woman, the crooks stopped twenty feet away. They looked at each other and started laughing.

“Where the hell did you two come from?” One asked finally, as the two spread out, reaching for weapons. “You’re cute, baby.”

With but a gesture from Layla, the two went flying headfirst into the back wall of the warehouse, where they lay unmoving. Layla took Cole’s hand, and they were instantly standing next to a group of toolboxes and equipment. Cole jogged over to one on the right, a nearly six foot high Mac Tools box.

“I never thought I’d see this again,” Cole looked back at Layla gratefully. “I’ll call the police.”

“Call them from your workplace,” Layla smiled, and they were standing inside the auto shop where Cole worked, along with all the stolen gear.

“You’re amazing,” Cole whispered, taking Layla in his arms. “Thank you.”

“We’re even,” Layla grinned up at him mischievously, putting her arms around Cole’s neck. She kissed him, lightly at first, and then with growing passion. She broke away from him in confusion. “I…I felt that.”

“Oh yeah…” Cole reiterated.

“Maybe I could hang around with you for a while,” Layla offered, her azure colored eyes translucent gateways, Cole lost his way into immediately.

Cole put his arm around Layla’s shoulder. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Do you know anything about cars?”

“I can learn,” Layla leaned into Cole with a sigh.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Zombie Queen

Here’s a little post with an in the box heroine, with politically incorrect views, I thought to have some fun with. Hope it gets a few smiles. :)

Jenny sat in English class, bored to tears. Once again her tenth grade English Lit teacher decided to launch into a global warming talk-a-thon, trying to tie the latest environmental money-making bonanza into Ralph Waldo Emerson’s works. Jenny looked out the window toward the high school fenced boundary, idly wondering if her next door neighbor Jim had skipped Algebra II class as he had told her he would. Ms. Kolinsky noticed the one face in the window row not turned toward her.

“Jenny… Jenny!”

“Yes?” Jenny returned her attention to Ms. Kolinsky reluctantly.

“Am I boring you?”

“Yes,” Jenny replied, hearing the giggling undercurrent her words evoked. “Emerson himself would gag if he listened to you trying to pair his individualistic free thinking with this herd mentality global warming con. My Dad said they claimed we were headed for a new ice age in the early seventies, and a lot of sheep bought into it then. Now, it’s global warming.”

“But…” Ms. Kolinsky gasped, swallowing hard, as Jenny’s classmates quieted in anticipation, “what of the polar icecaps melting? Is that a con too?”

“Mar’s polar icecaps have begun melting,” Jenny retorted. “Anyone know of excessive SUV driving on Mars? It’s the Sun, Ms. Kolinsky; and even if the entire world went back into caves, we couldn’t stop the Sun going through this warming cycle. I don’t…”

“Hey… look!” One of her classmates, named Debbie said, pointing out the window.

Screams of terror followed, as the entire class watched the fenced perimeter being breached by slow moving corpses. The rotting flesh tore off wherever caught on the sagging fence as the horrific horde staggered or crawled over the downed obstacle. Jenny clamped her hands over her ears.

“Shut up, you dorks!” Jenny ordered, quieting her classmates to bearable sobbing. “These things move like frozen honey. We beat their brains out, and don’t let them bite you. Didn’t anybody see the myriad zombie movies playing everywhere?”

“What happened?!” Ms. Kolinsky moaned, staring in disbelief at the approaching army of corpses. “This can’t be… it’s impossible… why…”

“Maybe it’s global warming,” Jenny suggested sarcastically. “Hell, they’re blaming everything else on it. C’mon Ms. K, snap out of it. You can’t hold a discovery conference on why we’re being attacked by zombies. We need to take these things out there in the open where they can’t surround us. I only count about thirty of the slugs. Let’s grab something to club them with and take care of business.”

“I…I can’t do this,” Ms. Kolinsky sat down at her desk, head in hands.

Jenny saw some others beginning to get down at the mouth, when the screaming started in earnest outside the classroom, as students and teachers ran around pointlessly in the hallways. Her friend Jim charged into the English Lit classroom, looking around wildly. When he saw Jenny, his whole countenance relaxed. Great, Jenny thought, someone I can count on.

“I was afraid you’d skipped class,” Jim said, taking her hands. “I see you noticed the refugees from Night of the Living Dead.”

“We need clubs,” Jenny told him.

“The gym will have aluminum baseball bats, hockey sticks, cricket paddles…”

“Outstanding,” Jenny pulled him toward the door, while looking back at her stunned classmates. “Jim and I are going to get armed and kick some zombie ass. Anyone interested in joining us, come on along.”

Many kids stayed where they were, huddled in abject fear, staring like deer in the headlights out the windows. Seven others, four boys and three girls, followed Jim and Jenny out into the hallway. Shouting about getting armed and kicking zombie ass, Jenny gathered a small army of students on the way to the high school gym. They found the high school gym teacher hiding in his locked office. It had windows, and Jenny pounded on the door.

“Open up, Mr. Keefer, we need the keys to the equipment locker!”

When Keefer turned away, shaking his head fearfully, Jenny picked up a chair from the outer locker room and smashed it into the office window, shattering it. Jim went through the opening lithely. The over six foot tall Jim, who had played both football and basketball for Keefer, spun the man around.

“Man up, coach. Open the equipment locker!” Jim shouted in the terrified man’s face.

Keefer extended his shaking hand to Jim with his keys. Jim grabbed the key ring and vaulted out the window. They quickly opened the equipment room. The couple passed out everything useable for zombie warfare, including helmets and shoulder pads, making sure everyone with them had something formidable to swing. Jenny led the way through the gym exit, carefully scanning the grounds for errant zombies. With Jim at her side, she led the dozens of grim faced kids around the building. Jenny yelped in delight, waving her aluminum bat, when she saw the zombies had spread out after breaking through the fence.

“Stay in threes!” Jenny called out. “Pick your hitter, and surround each slug one at a time. Don’t waste your time on body parts! Pulp the head! Keep your hitter covered from other slugs until the hitter finishes, and then move on to the next target. I’ll show you how it’s done. C’mon Jim, you and Debbie watch my back.”

Charging ahead, whooping in anticipation, Jenny ran at the first zombie staggering across the lawn toward the building, a full twenty feet ahead of its companions. Jenny circled the slow motion corpse, and swung the aluminum bat at its head, hitting the thing as it tried to turn with a sickening crunch of skull. The zombie pitched forward to its hands and knees. With Debbie and Jim flanking her, Jenny busted the zombie’s head apart. It collapsed unmoving to the ground.

“Get ‘em!!!” Jenny screamed out to her student army, urging them forward with her bat.

In threes, the crowd of students charged confidently after seeing Jenny’s easy handling of the undead zombie. The battle ended fifteen minutes later. Joyful students celebrated their triumph by busting the unmoving corpses into pieces. Jenny let it go on for a time, and then called out for order. With Jim at her side, Jenny spoke in calm terms.

“Let’s go back in the school, and get the sheep inside armed. We don’t know if there are thousands of these things or what. We’ll try and contact people; but for now, we’re on our own.”

“What do we do if they won’t join us,” Debbie asked seriously.

“They’ll join us now, or we’ll threaten to feed them to the zombies,” Jenny answered, drawing laughter from the students. “Let’s go.”

“I bet you were surprised all those zombie movies I dragged you to would come in handy, huh?” Jenny asked Jim, nudging him as they walked toward the school.

“I’ll never doubt you again, Xena,” Jim laughed, putting his arm around Jenny’s shoulders.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Auto Shop Snark

Sitting at the desk, filling out invoices, I noticed a woman walk in from the sidewalk, and my motion detector went off. The woman stood still, about twenty feet inside the shop, looking around from wall to wall. She turned when I left the office and shut the door behind me. Dark brown hair hung loosely around the lady’s face, and she wore a navy blue pants-suit with slate gray knee length coat. Her age could have been somewhere between the late twenties to early thirties.

“Hi, can I help you?”

“I moved in around the corner on Dale Place, and I’m looking for a good mechanic,” she explained. “Your shop’s kind of dirty.”


“Yea, it’s an old building, and I have trouble keeping it spotless, or even near spotless. My comic shop you walked past when you came in was completed only a few years ago, and it’s spotless inside.”

“But you don’t fix cars in there,” Ms. Shop Snark points out.

Ouch. 0 for 2.

“Your lighting in here isn’t very good either."

Ouch. 0 for 3.

"It’s almost like a cave when you first walk in,” Shop Snark adds. “I read on the internet when looking for a mechanic, the customer needs to check the general appearance on the inside of a shop, as well as the outside.”

“I’ve read that too,” I reply, since I’m having trouble disputing anything she’s said so far. “I have a lot of customers on Dale Place. If you ask around, you’ll find I make up for my shortcomings in shop appearance with…”

“I did ask around,” Shop Snark cuts me off with one of those smiles best left out of the family photo album. “You do have a good reputation in the neighborhood, and you’ve been here a long time. I notice though you don’t even have car lifts in here.”

Ouch. 1 for 5.

“Yea, I do everything with jacks and stands. Because the building beams are so low, lifts were not feasible when the prior owner outfitted the shop. I don’t do tires here, so I can manage pretty well with what I have for everything else. My electrical and computer diagnostic equipment is all up to date, as is my informational database repair software and tooling. I do everything here except for transmission rebuilding and alignments.”

“And tires,” Shop Snark finishes for me. “Could I have one of your cards? I’ll keep you in mind.”

I give the Shop Snark a card, and she leaves. Wow, I’ve had better times with the Bureau of Automotive Repair inspector. :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Texting Tina

I drove up this morning, and a woman in a short-sleeved top and pants was standing near my shop’s big rollup door. She clutched one of those mini-pad phones, working her thumbs on the keypad, all hunched up bodily, with complete concentration. I shivered just looking at her, because the temperature hovered in the forty-five degree range. Exiting my old Buick, banging the car door shut, opening the small entrance door, nothing made this lady look up from her texting. Five minutes later, I opened the roll-up entrance door she stood texting in front of (not a silent enterprise). It did not phase texting Tina whatsoever. I went over in front of her; and stood there, trying to get her attention without speaking. I was afraid she’d come out her texting coma swinging. My eight o’clock appointment would be driving up any minute. She finally gave out with a disgusted gasp, and looked up.


“You’re standing in front of my main entrance, ma’am,” I informed her pleasantly. “If you could move a few steps down the sidewalk, I’d appreciate it.”

“Fine!” Texting Tina blurted out, and marched exactly a foot past the entrance opening, and went right back to work.

I watched her for a few more moments, wondering if I should get an old jacket out of the back and drape it over her. My customer arrived though, and I left the dedicated texting waif to her duty. Okay, someone has to say this, so here goes. I understand you may want to text someone when in a location where your voice would bother others; but when on a public sidewalk, why not walk, talk, and flail your arms around like all the other cell-phone junkies? :)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Return of the Hugger

My incoherent street guy who likes to hug stopped in. I heard the familiar sound out front of someone involved in a one sided conversation; but at first, I figured it was another cell-phone addict. You know the ones. They walk down the street waving their arms, staring straight ahead, and speaking or yelling at no one visible. When I’ve gone out front in the past to see if they’re talking to me, I get the arrogant finger point to some ear insert. This time, I’m in the middle of cutting up boxes for the recycler, when the voice comes into the shop. I go out with box and cutters in hand as the man approaches. It’s the Huggy Bear. He immediately puts his arms out, a big smile on his face, and comes toward me. I meet him with the box I held in hand.

“No hugs, how can I help you?”

Huggy Bear lets loose with three full minutes of utter nonsense, or it might as well have been, because I don’t understand a word of it. When he gets through, he looks at me expectantly, and then goes for the hug again. Again, I meet him with the box.

“No hugs,” I repeat. “I didn’t understand anything you said.”

Huggy’s lip starts quivering, and he says, “I hate myself.”

Yea, I’m thinking, I’m not real partial to you either. I smile and nod understandingly.

“I…I just got back from Saudi Arabia,” Huggy informs me, still trying to squeeze a couple tears out.

I can’t help it. I start laughing. The county jail, maybe… Saudi Arabia, no. He tries to look outraged for a moment, gives it up, and tries to hug me again. Up went the box. At least he wasn’t drunk this time. Huggy launches into stories of three or four cars I’d worked on for him in the past; which of course I didn’t, but I can understand what he’s saying now.

“Give me a business card,” Huggy orders suddenly.

I hand him a business card. He looks at it, and walks out. A few seconds later I hear him shouting again, and walk out to watch him. There’s nobody around Huggy, so I go back inside. Maybe he sees dead people. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Homecoming 1970

We sailed for San Francisco Bay, and our home port at Alameda Naval Air Station in June of 1970. Because Alameda Naval Air Station could not be reached by the general public of the San Francisco Bay Area, the only people there to greet us were glad to see the USS Ranger. Tugboats pulled us in, Ranger theme song blaring, uniformed men at attention on the flight deck, and happy friends and family on the dock. Many of the short timers (guys who had done their stint) and played nurse maid for us boot camps on the cruise, were leaving the Navy. A few of us (me included) were recruited as pack mules to haul the short timers’ gear into the family cars taking them away for good. We didn’t always get along, since living with a bunch of guys you’d never seen before, 24/7 for nine months, does put a strain on the nerves. On that day, all was right with the world. I watched the Navy fall away from those guys like a bad dream, shaking hands and waving to us as they drove off. I knew with the Ranger due to ship out in October again, the adventure for me was not yet over. Boy, was I right about that. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bob Hope Christmas Show

The story behind the poor photos above took place on Christmas Eve 1969. I received a call up in the Sound Power Phone shop, where I was working at the time, from second class GS Luskin. He told me my name had been drawn to be one of the guys sitting up front for the Bob Hope Christmas Special being done on the USS Ranger. We all knew the Christmas Special would be taking place on the ship, but with 5,000 sailors and marines, it would be a little tough getting a close look. I lucked out and ended up in the front, although my Kodak instamatic makes it look like I was a football field away. I knew when the cameras would pan around the front where I’d be, the folks back home might see me when they replayed the show on TV. Naturally while in my spot, I did all I could do to get my mug on TV for all the family without blocking out my shipmates around me, which would have resulted in my being stomped on camera. :) It worked, and my Mom and Dad caught a glimpse of me.

Bob Hope, Connie Stevens, Teresa Graves, The New Christie Minstrels, and the Les Brown band combined with all the assorted dancers to put on a great show. Neil Armstrong, Miss World – Eva Staier, and Romy Schneider were part of the troop too, although their names probably don’t mean much to anyone anymore. Connie Stevens closed the show with Silent Night. I’ll leave it at that.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lone Ranger

Taking on supplies Gulf of Tonkin 1969

When I saw this picture of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, I started laughing. Whenever the Ranger would leave port, or pull away from a hook up with other ships after taking on supplies, the ship’s speaker system would blare out the theme song from the Lone Ranger TV show. Two guys, dressed as the Lone Ranger and Tonto would get up on a roll around white horse. I thought it was really slick upon seeing it for the first time. The guys who had been on the ship a lot longer thought I was nuts, and would grin knowingly. After three years, I still liked us steaming out of port in a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi ho, Silver, away’. My enthusiasm for this ceremonial leave taking usually elicited the phrase ‘Bernie, you are such a boot camp’ from my shipmates. What can I say, I was always easily entertained. :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sasebo, Japan

Sasebo, Japan street scenes above, 1969

Me, Flight Deck Parade Sasebo, Japan 1969

I snapped these pictures in Sasebo, Japan in 1969. The one directly above shows me as the Ranger ported in Sasebo, and leads into the funny story behind it. My buddy Bob Henshel and I drew flight deck parade duty for the Interior Communications Division. This normally would not have been a big deal. It usually only took a half hour to forty-five minutes standing at attention on the flight deck. On that particular flight deck duty day, it took two and a half hours, because the winds with sleet and snow delayed our entry into port. Adding to the duty was the fact I had a cold, and I only took one handkerchief up on deck with me, thinking we’d be below decks again in an hour. Again, I had my handy Kodak Instamatic with me to preserve posterity.

After an hour of freezing temperatures, sleet, and wind, my mustache felt like porcupine quills every time I blew my nose. My shipmate, Bob, watched me with a big grin as I put off blowing my nose until it was absolutely necessary. Then, I probably whined a bit, using some of the descriptive phrases I’d picked up since coming on board. Bob chuckled or laughed each time, taking entertainment where he could. We weren’t much on sympathy, and usually consoled each other with insults as I remember. This time was no exception. Trying to show support for an ailing friend, Bob said something like this.

“Bernie, you look pathetic. Quit whinin’, you big girl.”

Whereupon, I instructed my sympathetic buddy Bob to go do an anatomically impossible task.

Bob laughed, and took my camera to snap the above picture. When we did get below decks, I went straight to the nearest sink with my shaving gear, and cut off the porcupine quills. I then headed for Aft IC, my duty station at the time, and was roundly laughed at. Having seen my hairless baby-face only moments before in the mirror, I laughed along with them. The lead IC man said, “Shit, Bernie, you look like a teenager.”

I just shrugged and said, “Casey, I am a teenager.” :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

More On Hong Kong

USS Ranger taken from a motor launch taking us into Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Harbor 1969

Chinese Border Guard 1969

I snapped these pictures with my handy-dandy Kodak instamatic camera during my first cruise aboard the Ranger in 1969, while on a tour of Hong Kong. Sorry about the quality We had to take a launch from the Ranger, because the aircraft carrier was too big to port in Hong Kong. The Mainland China border guard saw us taking pictures, and stepped out in the middle of the road for us to take his picture. We were too chicken to go any closer to the Chinese border. The guard waved at us, and then posed. Since Hong Kong belongs to China now, these checkpoints probably don’t exist anymore. In some parts of Hong Kong, the people threw fish guts at us, and in other parts, they loved us, or at least our tourist status. Whenever a carrier like the Ranger dropped anchor outside Hong Kong harbor, we made fresh water for them from the salt water. We had distilling plants to make fresh water aboard ship. Hong Kong was always short on fresh water. Many people lived aboard the Sampans in the harbor, so tightly bunched together, it was tricky navigating to the shore.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Long ago in Hong Kong

I found this picture when returning the many boxes of Christmas past into the garage attic. It was taken February, 1971 in Hong Kong, during my second cruise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. A neat little story goes along with it. The Interior Communications Division, of which I belonged, adopted an orphan from Hong Kong shortly after the start of my first cruise. We exchanged letters with her, and sent money collected amongst us. The authorities requested a tour for the girl, and our division commander agreed. Some of us took the girl (on the left of me in the picture) and her escort (on the right) for a tour of the ship with an official photographer. The escort spoke excellent English, and she used the tour to grill us on how long we would be in port, when we were scheduled to go back on line off the Vietnam coast, how many men were on board, etc. We all smiled, kept moving, and guided the two around according to our schedule. Apparently, this little scene repeated itself on other ships and divisions, where other Hong Kong orphans had been adopted. We reported the incident, because we thought the Chinese had slipped in one of their ringers; but it turned out the entire operation was a front for information gathering, and it was curtailed. It was our first experience with how deeply Hong Kong had been infiltrated by the Mainland Chinese government. I hope to scan some more of the early pictures I found from overseas if they have a story to go with them. :)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Doomed Resolution

Wow, anyone else think this picture is a little disturbing? :)

Every year I issue my annual New Year’s vow not to annoy my wife. Boy, yesterday my wife called me annoying, thereby making me 0 for 32 at successful New Year’s resolutions. I set a new record for breaking my resolution at six days into the New Year, and I wasn’t even trying. Out of nowhere yesterday afternoon, came my wife’s exasperated voice, “you are so annoying!”

Granted, I was doing a comedy routine, involving the penchant of some women (my wife included) for asking us guys what our opinion is on something, when they’ve already decided what they’re going to do. I’ve battled this over the years by studiously picking the option I know she only threw in to make it appear as if I had a choice. As I reasonably list the advantages of my option, the wife’s face becomes more irritated with each logical reason. She knows after all these years what I’m doing; but she still can’t resist keeping up the appearance of choice, by asking me my opinion. She starts laughing after a while, and then comes the infamous ‘you are so annoying’. There’s something to be said for consistency. :)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Plunge

Okay, these two are cute, odd, but cute.

Flowery speech, whether in dialogue or info dump, pops up more and more in reading new novels lately. I’ll be reading along; and suddenly, the urge to get a watering can and do some gardening hits me out of no where. A fine line, like razor wire, exists between descriptive prose and plunging into the valley of gossamer wings and butterfly kisses. Falling into this cradle of cotton balls can lose a reader faster than repeating adverbs. :)

Friday, January 4, 2008


Mother Nature turned me into Parka-man today. Thanks to a wind gusting rainstorm, and my neighbors who throw trash on my roof, the shop rain drain plugged, causing leakage into the right side of my shop. Donning my yellow rain-suit, I climbed up my sixteen foot ladder to the first roof tier, and then pulled myself up onto the second tier. As suspected, a plastic water bottle jutted neatly out of the right side drain while four inches of water all along the roof collected. I waded in, and pulled the plug, crouching to avoid the gale force wind. The climb down was uneventful, in that I did it without taking a header. For kicks, I went over and looked at myself dripping water in the medicine cabinet mirror, after pulling the hood over my forehead so it looked like a black hole where my face was. Having forgotten the air-ratchet to complete the ensemble, I quickly went to my tool box and returned to the mirror, fully equipped. Shaking the air-ratchet like Parka-man, I indeed looked scary. Yay, me. I think I'll go visit my rooftop trashing, drain plugging neighbors, and see what they think. :)

Thursday, January 3, 2008


It’s raining in California finally, the first this New Year. As I scrabbled around under a 98 Toyota 4-Runner, my motion detector went off. Rolling to my left, I saw a huge figure standing in the middle of my front entrance. The grayish background of rain and fading light made an impressive contrast for his bright yellow parka. The parka hood flopped loosely over my visitor’s forehead, so his facial features were hidden. Immobile and dripping rain, all the guy needed was a chainsaw, and we had the start of a new horror series.

When I walked out to greet him, Parka-man didn’t say anything. He reached into the top of his grimy yellow slicker, and I started gauging how far I was from my nearest weapon. Parka pulled out an air-ratchet, waving it a little in his left hand.

“You have one of these… five bucks…” Parka-man offered, his voice a bit higher than I expected.

“I have all the air tools I need,” I answered.

“It ain’t stolen,” Parka tells me.

“I didn’t say it was.” I thought it, but I didn’t say it.

The yellow hood bobs slightly in acknowledgement, and the air-ratchet gets shoved back inside the parka.

“You need any help around here?” The yellow hood swings from side to side, looking around the inside of the shop.

“Sorry, this is a one man shop.”

“Pretty big shop for just one guy,” Parka remarks gloomily. (Warning! Disallowed Adverb) :)

“Yea, I have plenty of room,” I agree.

The hood bobs once again, and Parka-man turns to leave. I watch him till he rounds the shop door corner before returning to my Toyota job. The rain didn’t keep everyone inside.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Let's Kill A Character

I’m following a discussion on two different blogs, Tess Gerritsen, and Dear Author, about killing off main characters. It has happened so many times to me when reading books, since I was a child; I vowed never to kill off a major character in any book I wrote. Not being a fan of non-fiction, my reading is exclusively fiction. I never quite figured out why fiction authors assassinate a character or characters they’ve spent hundreds of pages, or many series books, building into a solid vision in their readers’ heads. I have read some authors’ reasoning, for this plot destruction, as their attempt at keeping it real. If you wish to keep it real, get a job in journalism. What the hell are you writing fiction for? :) I remember when my brother Paul, who read every manuscript I ever wrote, called me up after beginning Casserine. He said, ‘tell me right now you little prick, did you kill off any of your main characters? If you did, I ain’t reading the rest.’ I laughed, and asked him if he knew me at all. He said, ‘okay, just checking’.

Although fiction writers can do whatever they want with their work, I don’t get this infatuation with what I call the ‘Old Yeller’ syndrome; where you spend creative genius establishing a beloved character, only to snuff ‘em to keep it real. As a reader, if I want real, I’ll pick up the local newspaper. :)