Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Pete OkonskiMy family lived in Green Bay until about 1967 in a little two-bedroom rental at 819 South Roosevelt Street. (Happily, the house is still there.) How I still recall that useless piece of trivia is one of those mysteries of memory that no one will ever explain to me so that it makes sense.

Although it’s not so hard when there are plenty of photos like this one in our photo album. This is my brother Pete. He can’t be more than three years old in this photo, but that little guy had some legs on him. We grew up in that legendary time when parents sent their kids outside to play all day long without worrying about whether or not they’d be snatched off the street by a deviant or a cannibal or a human trafficker. I used to run up and down and all around the block for hours without raising an eyebrow, as long as I ran straight home when I heard my mom calling. If I couldn’t hear my mom calling because I was too far away, or in someone else’s house, one of the other kids would and the word would quickly be relayed to me. That’s how it worked.

Pete was a special kind of wanderer, though. Mom would send him out in the yard to play and five minutes later he was nowhere to be seen. An hour later he might be as far away as Saint Paul, Minnesota. The kid could move fast, and he stayed gone long after word was out on the street that his mother was calling him. Even back then, that worried my mom. After the second or third time she had to mount a search party to find the little booger, she started labelling him to make him easier to find.

They used to sell denim patches with a sticky backing that you could melt over the torn knees of kids’ jeans with an iron. Mom would cut them into quarters and write Pete’s name and address on them with an indelible marker, then iron them onto his jackets, his shirts, and his pants. She used to joke that she ironed them on his underwear just to make sure. I thought she used to write our phone number on them, too, but it’s clearly missing from the label in this photo.

the wanderer | 2:23 pm CDT
Category: O'Folks, Pete, story time
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Friday, August 8th, 2014

Mom & Pete on the toboggan runFor a couple years, my family lived in Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It snows there fourteen months out of the year, so everybody knew how to catch fish by cutting a hole in the ice, and every family owned at least one toboggan. I just love that word. I could say it all day. Toboggan toboggan toboggan. Toboggan. So much fun.

We had a toboggan. Here’s a photo of it. I believe that’s my brother Pete in front with a great big smile on his face and my mother in back, holding the wings of toboggan in her vise-like grip to keep Pete safely tucked under its curled-back staves.

If memory serves, the photo was taken somewhere near Ishpeming. I think it might have been on a hill where there were several ski jumps. This isn’t one of them. It’s even crazier than a ski jump. That track that the toboggan is running down is a sheet of ice polished smooth by the passage of hundreds of toboggans that went before. There are two wooden rails on either side, as you can see, to keep the toboggan going straight down the hill, and a good thing, too, because the toboggan and all its passengers are going about a hundred twenty miles per hour by the time they get halfway down.

The way this gizmo worked was, you took your toboggan into that little hut in the background and threw it onto a table between a couple of short fences, which you can just barely see outlined against the window in the back of the hut. Then you climbed aboard the toboggan, and once everyone had a death grip on it, a guy in the hut would lift up one end of the table, which tipped over like a teeter-totter until the low end clacked into the groove at the bottom of the open door. The short fences on the table kept your toboggan lined up perfectly with the icy track outside. As the table was now at a thirty-degree angle and there was nothing to hold the toboggan back, it and everyone on board went VOOM! out the door of the hut and screaming down the chute at terrifying speeds.

When you finally came to at stop, somewhere near Wausau, you picked up the toboggan and carried it in-line back to the top of the hill to do it again, cackling with glee.

toboggan | 8:37 pm CDT
Category: Mom, O'Folks, Pete, random idiocy, story time
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Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

In his old age and declining health, Bonkers has become rather sloppy, not that he seems to care much. For one thing, he has trouble drinking, or swallowing, I’m not sure which, so he has to dunk the right half of his face in the water bowl to get water into his mouth, then lift his head and tip it back the way a bird does so he can swallow. I guess he can only get a little down at a time this way, because he has to do it over and over and over, water running out his mouth and down his neck as he does. Makes a huge mess around the bowl, and then again in whatever part of the house he wanders off to before he gives his head a good shake.

He got up at around oh-dark-thirty last night to satisfy his thirst, and he didn’t shake off until he crawled back into bed and was standing about six inches from my face. Gah.

shake shake shake it | 6:26 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel
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Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Bonkers is eating again. From Wednesday morning until Sunday night he wasn’t, not a good situation for him to be in when whatever medical condition he’s been afflicted with has already caused him to waste away to skin and bones. On Monday morning he was finally hungry enough to eat a few bites, but I called the vet anyway and he prescribed an appetite stimulant. The stuff comes in tiny little pills that we had to split into eight pieces. Eight. By the time I’d carefully cut one pill in half, then in half again, and then in half again, what I had was essentially crumbs, but when we popped one of these crumbs into Bonk and rubbed it down his throat, wow. One o’clock in the morning he was in my face, crying for food. I stumbled to the kitchen with him racing back and forth between my feet. What’s taking you so long, man? Are you still trying to find your way through the living room? Why can’t you see in the dark, anyway? C’mon! I’m hungry! C’mon!

He gobbled up a couple mouthfuls of wet food, then drank and drank and drank and drank and drank and drank and drank. I guess the pills made him thirsty, too. I stayed up about twenty minutes with him, just to make sure his stomach wasn’t going to react badly after going empty for five days, but he seemed just fine, so I turned out the lights and headed back to bed.

Four o’clock in the morning he was in my face again. Holy shit! What did you shove down my throat, anyway? You wouldn’t believe how hungry I am! Get up and feed me! Get up! Let’s go! C’mon! Feed me! And so on. I couldn’t say no. I mean, we did stick that stuff in him, so I was sort of obligated to feed him. And it was a relief to see him eating again, but this time I didn’t stay up with him, figuring that my alarm was going to start bleeping in an hour anyway, so if he barfed, I’d find out about it soon enough. Nice surprise, though: He didn’t barf.

Bonkers update | 9:30 pm CDT
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel | Tags:
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Friday, June 13th, 2014

Bonkers paused from drinking just long enough to let go the most comically loud fart I’ve ever heard him make. It was so classically gassy that I looked up from what I was doing, expecting to see a flabby old man standing there. Nope. Just Bonkers.

gas gas gas | 6:22 am CDT
Category: Bonkers
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Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

So on my way to bed last night I stopped by the bathroom to have a bedtime piddle, and on the way out I noticed the puddle under the door to the closet where we hide the litter pan. If I hadn’t noticed it, I would have gone to bed blissfully unaware of yet another of Bonkers’ increasingly frequent transgressions. But I noticed it, so I went to bed with the lingering memory of cat pee dripping from my fingers. Yuck.

Then, at three o’clock this morning, I woke up to the hork-hork-hork of Boo yakking up a hairball somewhere on B’s side of the bed. Grabbing my phone off the bedside bookcase, I levered myself out of bed with a sigh and gingerly crept around from my side of the bed, carefully scanning the floor with the light from my phone’s screen, hoping against hope that I found it with my eyes first and not my toes. Which I did, thank goodness. After cleaning up that mess, I went back to bed with yet another lingering memory I could have done without.

But it wasn’t over. Apparently awakened by all the activity, Bonkers dropped off the bed, positioned himself by the door and began to whine for his breakfast. For real.

lingering | 6:26 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, Boo | Tags:
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Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Bonkers updateBonkers has an icky eye. Well, more icky than usual. He got that big black pupil about two years ago. Then the eyeball slowly sank back into his skull and finally, for about the past year, some kind of horribly sticky black goo that we have to remove with a damp rag has been globbing up in the corner of it. But until last week, that was about as icky as it got.

The ick got ickier at about the same his drinking problem got worse. He’s had a drinking problem for as long as he’s had the icky eye. Poor guy’s falling apart all over. His problem is that he can’t swallow very easily, so to drink, he has to submerge most of his face in his water bowl until he’s got some water in his mouth, then lift his chin up in the air and let the water slide down his throat. Just lately he’s started drinking a lot more than usual, which means most of his face is dripping wet most of the time. And that means he drips all over the place. You can tell where he’s been by following the trail. Or by just stepping in the puddles. That’s how I do it.

That and the fact that the icky eye seemed to be getting goopier made us think that maybe it was time to take him back to the vet again to see if there wasn’t something they could do to help make him feel at least a little better. Last time they weren’t interested much in doing anything other than sending us to the university for an MRI or whatever lab experiments were on special that month, but surely they could see the poor guy could use some antibiotics to make him more comfortable. And I was worried that all that drinking and peeing could mean he might have diabetes. Surely they would be able to test for that.

As it turned out, we met a vet who was considerably more interested in Bonkers’ condition, although not quite enough to read the poor fellah’s chart before he came in to see us. He came up to speed quickly enough after I gave him a quick recap of events, though, and did a quick test to confirm that the cause of Bonk’s icky eye was the result of an ulcerated cornea. Which is just medical-speak for “icky eye.” He gave us a very small tube of something outrageously expensive and told us to give his eye a shot of that four times a day.

They had to spirit him away to the back room to figure out why he was drinking and peeing all the time. Turns out the old guy’s not just falling apart on the outside, his insides are falling apart, too. Specifically, his kidneys. So now we’ve got to get him some medicine for that and put him on a low-protein diet, which is a shame because we finally found a brand of canned cat food he likes but it’s all tuna and salmon, pretty much solid protein. I sure hope that’s not what screwed up his kidneys in the first place.

And that’s all the Bonkers News there is for now. He’s already feeling better now that his eye’s not gooping all over his face. I’m not surprised. That would’ve made me feel a little low, too. More updates as they’re available, of course.

Bonkers update | 8:57 pm CDT
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks | Tags:
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Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

salmon7Let’s Go To The Shimoda Salmon Festival With The O-Family!

I think it was only a week or two after we got here, but that could be my addled memory making a hash again out of everything I’ve ever seen. Anyway, we heard about the salmon festival, where you pay a couple hundred yen to get in, put on some waterproof boots – well, you didn’t have to, but it would’ve been a good idea – and when they blow the whistle and release the salmon, all you’ve got to do is bend down and grab one. Simple, right?

salmon2Like so many things that sound simple, this event was a circus.

I think it’s one of those crazy ideas that city commissioners come up with in board meetings, then laugh themselves silly as they watch the gullible boobs slosh around in the freezing water, getting soaking wet and holding up their prize salmon as if they’d bagged a charging rhinocerous.

Okay, I’m being way too harsh. Actually, we all had a lot of fun, and we even took our salmon home and ate them, so I’d have to say that we had a really good time. Once.

Here, Barb and Sean squelch their way across a two-inch wide causeway made out of milk baskets. The water’s only six inches deep, but it’s cold as ice.

salmon4And here’s the prize! A genuine, live, wet, cold salmon, fighting mad and all too willing to slap you right in the face if you don’t watch yourself. I can’t be certain – it’s my trick memory again – but I think we all dropped each of our fish, and had to grab another one. If we ever did this again, and I’m not insinuating for a moment that we would, I think I would just take pictures of the boys, and I’m pretty sure Barb would be cheering them on from the refreshments tent, with a hot bowl of ramen in her hands.

salmon1And That’s All From The O-Family At The Shimoda Salmon Festival! [This has been another Geocities flashback.]

Shimoda salmon festival | 5:58 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, Seanster, T-Dawg, travel
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Monday, April 28th, 2014

England memories:

When Tim heard that we were moving into a house on RAF Digby with an upper floor, he asked right away if it had stairs. His eyes lit up like Christmas when I told him it did. “Cool!” he said. I enjoyed his exuberance even though I didn’t fully understand it until the day we moved in. I was downstairs when I heard what sounded like a god’s knuckles dragged along a washboard. Looking for the source of the noise, I found Tim at the top of the stairs on his belly looking down at me. “Watch what I can do!” he commanded before launching himself downward, arms outstretched like Superman, going flup flup flup flup all the way to the bottom. Made my knees hurt just watching (he was using his as brakes).

superman | 8:29 pm CDT
Category: My Glorious Air Force Career, O'Folks, T-Dawg
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Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Just yesterday, Tim was asking me about our trip to Ireland: Where we went, what we did, will we ever eat smoked salmon as great as that again? I could easily answer the last question (sadly, no), but to answer the first two questions I had to dredge the backwaters of my memory, hardly the most reputable place to find the kind of facts he was looking for.

Way, way back in the dimmest beginnings of the internet (we’re talking Geocities; remember Geocities?) I threw up some web pages with our travel photos and what I thought of at the time as witty commentary for the folks back home to look at. Just for the hell of it I asked The Great Google if there was any vestige of those pages still out there and, what the hell, there was! All of the pages for our trip to Ireland were there, but two of the photos had gone missing: One photo was the introductory page, and I have no idea what that looked like. The other photo is described below in the original text from the web pages.

So this one’s for you, Tim. Here, without further delay, are the photos with the original, unaltered text. I hope they’ll provide some of the answers to the questions you had, because it’s about all that I’m able to provide, with the help of my internet memory.

[Added: I found the original photos in an album and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I’d written the date of our visit on the backs: April 2000.]

The Ofamily at TarbertSome time around the turn of the century, Barb’s great-grandfather, Arthur Marshall, left his family in Tarbert to emigrate to the United States, and for some time now she’s wanted to kick around the old ancestral land. Since our first full day in Ireland was wet, we decided a long car trip to Tarbert would be just the thing. We had no idea what we’d find when we got there. The town hardly gets a mention in any guide book, and then only because they have a jail that they’ve turned into a museum. As it turns out, about the only thing in Tarbert worth showing anybody is my lovely family posed by the sign on the edge of town. They look happy because they haven’t seen Tarbert yet. The place amounts to a t-junction with several pubs and a shrine to the Virgin Mary. I’ll leave you to think about the implications of that juxtaposition.

Torc FallWe managed to squeeze all the wild excitements of Tarbert and drive all the way back to Killarney in time for lunch. As we still had plenty of daylight, we all piled back into the car to have a drive into Killarney National Park to see the sights. The first sight we saw was a cave I don’t remember the name of and which I don’t have pictures of anyway, so why do you care, right? It was a cave. Think of Batman.

The pictures I do have from that outing, though, I took while we were having a bimble up the valley that Torc Fall cuts through. Nobody on earth could have designed a waterfall more perfectly laid out for tourists that Torc Fall. There’s a big car park right beside the road, and the falls are only about a hundred yards up the path. I imagine in the height of the tourist season this place is thronged, but today the rain discouraged them, so we didn’t have to fight through much of a crowd. They were thickest when we were already coming back down the hill, where I stopped to snap this shot of the boys with the falls behind them. That’s Sean to the left of the couple holding hands, Tim to the right. Like you can see them.

Torc Fall ViewWe lucked out just about everywhere we went that day. Every time we stepped out of the car, it had just stopped raining. While we were having a walk around, no rain. Then, each time we got back to the car, usually just as we were opening the doors, it started to rain, and kept on raining until just before we got to our next stop. I can’t explain it, but I’m not complaining.

As the weather was being so kind to us, and there were quite a few pathways to explore in Killarney National Park, we took a short hike up the valley to see the source of Torc Fall. Never found it. We did find this view, which is a great deal more spectacular if you’re gazing upon it in person with your own wet eyeballs, and not staring blankly at a web page on a computer monitor, but this is the best I can to do for you, sorry. The city of Killarney is in the distant right background, beyond the lakes of Killarney National Park. A gorgeous mountain range is immediately off the left edge of the picture. Too bad you can’t see it.

Ladies' ViewOne more shot from Killarney National Park, this time a photo of what they now call Ladies’ View, so named because Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting were so utterly dazzled by this sight they could hardly tear themselves away. It must have been pretty dull to be a lady-in-waiting. I imagine they had better weather, too. We stopped here for quite a while, had a tramp around the rocks, ducked into the Ladies’ View tourist shop, and so on, but the majesty of the place didn’t quite strike us the way other places did. Might’ve had something to do with the thirty-knot headwind or occassional showers. And that’s just about all we saw around the national park; we spent the rest of our time chasing tourist busses in our car, and I know you can’t wait to hear about that, so if you’re still with me, let’s click on to the next page …

green hills of IrelandThis is the kind of scene you expect to see when you think of Ireland, isn’t it? We had miles and miles of this when we finally went out to tour the Dingle Penninsula on Tuesday. (I’ll wait a moment while you finish chuckling over the name ‘Dingle Penninsula.’ Done? Okay.) The sky was clear and blue, the temps were warm, the most gentle of breezes beckoned us to get out and walk whereever we went, and every picture I took that day was a post card — I know you don’t want to look at post card after post card. As pretty as these scenes are, they all kind of run together after a dozen or so. I’ll offer you a few here, though, just so you can sort of get the flavor of the day. I don’t remember where I took this, but I know it was on Dingle (Yes? What’s so funny in the back, there?), possibly in the area of Slea Head, where we stopped several times to walk around — or it might be in the area of Inch, our first stop of the day. Don’t remember. Spent more time trying to soak up the sun and the sights than paying any attention to what I was taking pictures of.

snowy mountains of IrelandThis, on the other hand, is typically not what I imagine when I think of Ireland. Looks more like Japan to me. But Ireland it is, honest. This is off a beach in Smerwick Harbor, on the north shore of Dingle. We were looking for the rolling heads. According to the guide book, there was a massacre on this site back when they used to do that kind of thing in Ireland, and to commemorate the event (I think that’s the right word), an artist with a fat government grant sculpted dozens of severed heads and scattered them up and down the hillside. Or so says the guidebook. We saw no heads, and although this stunning view made up for it, we were still rather disappointed.

Tim at Inch Strand IrelandBacktracking just a bit, this is a shot of Inch Strand, the beach at Inch that runs right round and out into the harbor. It’s very, very long, very wide, rather tidy, and soft enough to invite you to run barefoot, with of course Tim had to do almost immediately. This was our first stop of the day and we couldn’t have asked for a better place with better weather. There was even a tea shop on the beach. Tim started a shell collection here that I believe is still rattling around in his jacket pockets. The rest of us just collected sand. We stayed about as long as we could stand the tourists, then squeeked out between a pair of tour busses and an oversized camper. The main roads that you see on the map are just wide enough for our car to slither between an oncoming tour bus and the stone walls that flank the road on both sides, but only if I clamp both hands around the steering wheel and shut my eyes so hard that tears spurt out. Barb was doing the same thing with her eyes, so I don’t think she caught on to what I was doing. It worked, right?

davebarbflatI’ll squeeze one more snap into this page to make your download really tiresome. Barb’s nephew Alex sent us a ‘Flat Stanley’ — a little cutout doll. Stanley likes to travel, the story goes, and he travels mostly through the mail. Alex sent him to us so he could get a little globe-trotting experience, and lucky for Stanley he arrived just as we were getting ready to head for Ireland, so he went much further than he knew he was going to go. We took lots of pictures of Stanley — way more, it turned out, than the huge number I already thought we were — but I’m not going to inflict that on you. This just happens to be a fairly good picture of Barb and I, and Stanley happens to be stuck to Barb’s fingers. Stanley’s also in the photo of Barb, Sean and Tim at the Leprechaun Crossing that you saw on the first page, by the way, but no way am I going to turn this into a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ competition. (Winner gets a piece of stinky piece of cheese by return of post.)

barbbeehiveHere’s Barb at the beehive huts, near Slea Head. These are supposed to be something like a thousand years old, constructed by hermits or religious devotees or somebody else who wanted to be very, very alone, didn’t care much where he lived and didn’t have a lot to build with. There are lots of flat stones lying all over the ground in Dingle, so these guys piled them up in a circle, like an igloo. Why these are called ‘beehive huts’ and not ‘stone igloos’ is beyond me, but I’m not on the tourist board, so it’s not my call. If you ask me, they look suspiciously like somebody rebuilt them a year or two ago, and it might just possibly have been the local farmer who charges a pound per sight-seeing tourist, or they might actually be a thousand years old and just look as though they’re remarkably clean and well-kept, especially for ruins that thousands of tourists tramp through every week.

dadseantimThe O-Men (trademark applied for) pause somewhere along the tourist circuit on the Dingle Penninsula to vogue for this stunning photograph. Ain’t we a bunch of studs? Especially the guy in the middle? Somebody in the peanut gallery has asked about the toupee. It’s a hat. I will never wear a toupee. You can hold me to that.

The tourist circuits around the three penninsulas in County Kerry are known as the Ring of Dingle (okay, that’s enough of that), the Ring of Kerry, and I forget the name of the other ring right now, but it’ll come to me, I promise. By unofficial agreement, the traffic on these rings moves in an anti-clockwise direction, but the guidebook doesn’t explain why, so I decided to go my own darned way and was feeling pretty good about making my own decision until we met a tour bus. They’re wide enough to take up the whole road and big enough to squish tourists who have the temerity to disreguard unofficial directives. So for crying out loud, if the guidebook suggests something, no matter how whacky, JUST DO IT!

dunquinnThis is a shot of Dunquinn — or Dunquin, or Dun Quin, I’m not sure. Everything in Ireland is spelled at least two different ways. Killarney is also Cill Airne, and everything is labelled in English and Irish. (Which is not Gaelic — that’s what the guidebook says, SO BELIEVE IT!) Since the English is also supplied it’s not a big deal, but there are one or two isolated spots where the road signs are in nothing but Irish, so if you haven’t been paying attention, driving can become a teensy bit more complicated than you bargained for.

As for Dunquinn, it’s a small harbor between Dunmore Head and Clogher Head, and features very prominently in the tourists shops this year because a well-known photographer (well-known to tourists) took an artsy-fartsy picture of a flock of sheep winding their way up the stair-step road you see snaking up the rocky point. I couldn’t arrange for the sheep, sorry.

staigueWe visited the Staigue Stone Fort on a rather rainy day and, wouldn’t you know it, unlike the beehive huts, there’s no roof! You can’t count on those stone-age guys for anything! The stone age must have been a very confusing time, because the Staigue fort doesn’t guard anything that we could see. It must have been just a place where the shepherds and beehive hut people could run into when rampaging bands of marauders landed on the penninsula to kick some heads.

This fort really is rather impressive, by the way. Unlike the beehive huts, the walls of the fort are something like ten feet thick and twelve feet high, and the fort’s defenders could climb up the stairways built into the walls to fend off marauders by bonking them with rocks or whatever the cutting edge of weapons technology was at the time. The small door you see to the right of the boys is a storage chamber built into the wall. If you want to see the fort, by the way, you’ve got to REALLY WANT TO SEE IT, because it’s at the end of a long, long one-lane sunken road that winds up a valley choked with sheep, which frequently step out onto the road to greet tourists in the friendly manner that all Irish sheep seem to have. And it’s on the south coast of the Iveragh Penninsula, on the Ring of Kerry — sorry, I jumped ahead without telling you.

(Photo missing)

Backing up to the Dingle Penninsula, this is a view from Connor Pass. For once, all the hype in the guide books is well-placed; this view will take your breath away on a clear day, and we had the clearest, warmest, most breath-taking day of the week when we were up there. We stopped for a quick late-afternoon lunch, and just to make the day perfect, some guy parked beside us, dug a set of bagpipes out of the boot of his car, and played a couple tunes. He wasn’t busking and he wasn’t from the tourist board, he just wanted to play his bagpipes at the top of Connor Pass. I know that’d really spoil the moment for some people, but I dearly love the sound of bagpipes, especially in the open air. Barb, by the way, is one of those people who can’t stand bagpipes. She’s the one with the Celtic blood, and I’m nothing but Slav. Go figure.

roadconnorI took lots of pictures of the roads as we were driving around the tourist circuits because they were so narrow, sunken between berms thickly covered in grass or flanked by high stone walls, and along the coast there was always sheer stone up one side or a sheer drop down the other. Unfortunately, none of those pictures captures the hair-raising feeling of driving along those roads. This snapshot of the road north of Connor Pass, for instance, doesn’t convey to you that there were just inches of clearance between the fenders of my car and the rock on either side. If it had been fairly straight, this might not have been much of a problem, but the road was as crooked as an arthritic woman’s fingers. I chose to show you this photo because I love the warning posts along the stone wall on the left. As if I needed the warning.

The drive up the hills to Connor Pass was so pleasant, and the view from the pass was such sweet eye candy, that when we got back down and were headed home Barb pointed out another scenic route that would take us up another mountain pass, between the villages of Camp and Aughils. I’m pointing this out to you because IT’S A TRAP! The only vehicle you should ever attempt to drive along this road should have at least four-wheel drive, although ideally it should be tracked and armored and powered by a twelve-cylinder diesel engine of at least two-thousand horsepower. This ‘scenic’ road climbs grades that had me spinning my tires against asphalt in first gear. And I thought I knew hairpin turns from my drives through the Rocky Mountains. They were child’s play compared to this drive. And for all that work you’d think they’d give you a scenic view at least as spectacular as the one at Connor Pass, but it ain’t there, if you ask me. Just don’t even think about it.

blarneycastleYou can’t go to Ireland and not kiss the Blarney Stone, right? I mean, there’s something almost irresistable about puckering up and giving a warm, wet buss to a cold chunk of rock that several thousand people have already slobbered on, don’t you think? Blarney Castle just happens to be along the road that we took on the way home, so we stopped in, climbed the stairs with a hundred other tourists, and planted our lips on the legendary stone. It’s on the underside of the wall, so you have to bend way backwards and slide out through the hole that you can see daylight through in the photo of the castle wall.

Barb

Dave

Sean

Tim

The O-Folk in Ireland | 11:45 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, play, Seanster, T-Dawg, travel, vacation | Tags: , , ,
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Sunday, April 20th, 2014

You know how people say there’s literally nothing you can’t get from the internet? I’m literally starting to believe it. My Darling B just bought a case of hummus chips on the internet last week.

Backtracking just a little bit: There’s this snack food called hummus chips that she simply adores, and when I say “adores,” I mean she scarfs them down with a passion you don’t normally see except in teenaged girls squealing with pleasure at the sight of their favorite celebrity boy on the cover of Teen Beat, assuming Teen Beat is still a thing and that you know what is. Put in a more universally understandable way way, all the Jane Austin fans who live or have ever lived don’t give their idol one-tenth of the kind of love that B holds in her heart for this particular snack food.

And hummus chips are just what you think they are: the brown goop derived from mixing chickpeas and olive oil, extruded at high pressure from the orifice of an assembly-line machine into vats of boiling canola oil, scooped out, bagged up and sold as health food because, hey, hummus! Can’t be bad, can it?

But that’s not why B buys it. She buys it because of that passion thing I mentioned. Trouble is, there’s exactly one store in town where she can find them on sale, and that place doesn’t always have them when we stop. (Sorry, the terms of our non-disclosure agreement forbid me from mentioning the name of the store, the street it’s on or even which city it’s in.)

When the chips are all sold out, this makes B very sad, except for the last time we visited the store and found nothing at all but a gap where the chips should have been. That time she decided to do something about it, but she didn’t ask to see the manager to ask him when they were expecting the next shipment and would he pretty please hold back a couple of bags for her and, just to make sure he did, batting her eyes at him to render him helpless to her feminine charms.

No, instead she logged in to Amazon dot come as soon as she got home, searched for hummus chips, found them and ordered a case. A case. And they were delivered to our doorstep within 48 hours. Twelve bags of hummus chips in a displace case inside an Amazon.com shipping box. This is a thing you can do now. Amazing.

cravings | 12:50 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time, this modern world
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Friday, April 11th, 2014

My Darling B has a whole new attitude about mice since she opened her garden shed and discovered they’d pooped and peed on just about everything in there. Before she was on Mother Nature’s side, making me trap them live so we could release them in a nearby city park, but now that she has to hose down everything that was in the shed and throw out all her gardening gloves, her ideology has gone from bunny-hugger to “Kill Every Stinking One Of Those Little Poop-Machines!”

I knew she’d come around eventually.

changeup | 1:59 pm CDT
Category: garden, hobby, housekeeping, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, yard work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

4:30 am:

Huk. Huh-YUCK! Hork. Hack. HACK! HAAACK! HAAACK! HAAACK! YAK! huh-YAK! urp. yuck.

Tell me again: Why do we have cats?

yak | 6:12 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, Boo
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Monday, March 17th, 2014

He’s his own best meme.

bonke

bonke | 8:51 pm CDT
Category: Bonkers
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Friday, February 14th, 2014

Boo the cat was sitting in the spot where I usually leave my slippers this morning. In the semidark of the five o’clock hour, she even looked a bit like a pair of slippers, so I tried to stick my right foot in her. She did not appreciate that.

stuck | 5:35 am CDT
Category: Boo
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Saturday, February 1st, 2014

At the Central Waters Brewery 16th Anniversary Party last weekend:

barleywine

“What are you drinking?”

“Barleywine.”

“May I try some?”

“You don’t like barleywine.”

“Maybe I do.”

She didn’t.

barleywine reaction | 6:24 am CDT
Category: beer, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play | Tags:
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My Darling B and I have been fighting a nasty upper respiratory infection since about, oh, I don’t know, Christmas? Yeah, that’s about right. Mine’s not as nasty as hers is, though. About once a week I wake up with a stuffy head and lots of boogers, and occasionally I have to cough up a loogie.

My Darling B’s infection is a tad more virulent. She would so desperately love to cough up a loogie. “I’ve been trying to cough up this phlegm since Christmas!” she blurted the other day, after yet another coughing fit. “If I could hack up just one good, solid wad, I’d keep it in a baby food jar in the refrigerator!”

Today’s TMI is sponsored by Vap-O-Rub.

hack spit cough | 6:14 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks
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Saturday, January 4th, 2014

For two hours this morning I played tag with Bonkers the cat, who thinks I have been put on this earth for just two reasons: To feed him, and to provide him with a warm lap that he may curl up on for hours and hours. Whoops! Three things: And, to scratch his ears. He probably thinks all the other things I do with him – bathe him, squirt him in the face with the spray bottle, take him to the vet to have a thermometer inserted in his anus – are the result of some perverted corruption of the physical laws of the universe that he hasn’t figured out yet.

Another speed bump in his understanding of the big picture is the concept of the weekend. I don’t expect that he’ll ever figure this out, but I do expect him to realize that, when I don’t get out of bed promptly at five in the morning, he should keep his mouth shut about it. Sometimes he does. This morning, he didn’t.

I’m not a total asshole about this. I realize that his brain, already the size of a walnut, was probably damaged when his head collapsed two years ago. Even so, he’s retained enough useful brain cells to know when it’s five o’clock, the time I usually get out of bed and, shortly after that, put food in his dish. So whenever I feel I might get a good trade-off, a little peace and quiet in exchange for tramping to the kitchen in the dark, I get out of bed at five on weekends, spoon a lump of brown cat chow into his bowl and go back to bed. Sometimes that works. This morning, it didn’t.

For reasons that The Google is unable or unwilling to reveal to me, Bonk needs to tell the world when he’s done eating by parading through the house, howling loudly. Usually takes about thirty seconds, then he’s done. I give him a pass on that. It’s his nature. Then he licks his paws until they’re soaking wet because he’s still drooling from the food. He’s had trouble swallowing since The Great Head Collapsing Of 2013. He apparenly doesn’t like having paws that are soaking wet because he continues to lick them until they’re as near to dry as he can make them, which takes fifteen to twenty minutes. In warm weather, he’ll do this in the hallway, but in the winter he’ll park his butt next to the hot air register right next to my side of the bed to noisily lick himself. On mornings when I can’t ignore that, I urge him to find another place to do that by zapping him with the spray bottle I keep by my nightstand to communicate my desires.

After paw-cleaning time, he either settles down and has a nap, or he decides he’s hungry again. If he decides he’s hungry again, he’ll ask for more not with a full-blown meow or by talking like a cat at all, but by saying, “heh” very quietly, waiting about thirty seconds, then repeating “heh” again and waiting another thirty seconds before saying “heh” yet again, and so on. He does that maybe a half-dozen times before adding a sad little whine to it that dips at the end, “Hehhh.” There are some mornings when I can ignore the “heh” and keep on dozing, but the “Hehhh” is just whiny and pathetic enough that I can’t snooze through it. And he seems to know that. He will keep on whining until I either feed him or drop a piano on his head. Or squirt him in the face. Today, I squirted him in the face. Always takes him by surprise the first time. He fully expects that, when I swing my legs over the side of the bed, I’m getting up in order to feed him again, so he comes trotting up to sit at my feet. He doesn’t even seem to notice that I have the spray bottle in my hand until he gets a face full of cold water.

After he slinks off to his hiding place, I have maybe twenty or thirty minutes to doze until he feels bold enough to come out and say “heh” again. I don’t get why he thinks he’s going to get away with that after he’s been warned, but in all the variations of this game, he has never quit after the first shot in the face. When I roll out of bed the second time, though, he’s not stupid enough to come trotting up to my feet. He usually backs off to a corner where he thinks I can’t see him. Sometimes this even works, but this morning there was just enough pre-dawn light to see him cowering there, and he got shot right between the eyes again, sending him out of the room at a trot.

When Boo and I play this game, by the way, she always retreats silently to the darkest corner of the room and tucks her chin into her chest to hide the white bib of fur on her neck. The rest of her pelt is a uniform color of gray that blends in perfectly with even the pre-dawn light, making her nearly invisible and frustrating all my attempts to target her until I started keeping my smartphone on my bedstand to use as an alarm clock. The first time I swept the room with the light from its screen and stopped with it pointing it straight at her, she was so surprised that I had enough time to get off two or three quick squirts that nailed her before she sprang out of the room. They can find me when I’m lost, they can find my cat when it’s hiding in the dark – is there nothing a smart phone can’t do? I’ll let you know when I find out.

The third time Bonkers comes back to say “heh” again, he hardly enters the room. This morning he sat about two steps inside the doorway to whine, and when I climbed out of bed he ran off to his hiding spot, under the stool in the hallway. I say it’s a hiding spot because I believe he has the mistaken impression that I can’t see him when he’s sitting there. Either that, or he thinks it will magically protect him. Whatever his belief, it’s wrong. I don’t even have to aim much, I just indiscriminately spray two or three shots under the stool and he comes bolting out.

If we continue to play this game, he will always run to his hiding place, so it’s not much fun for me any more. I don’t know why it doesn’t occur to him to find another hidey-hole, but it doesn’t. He must think there’s some powerful juju there and it’s gonna kick in at any moment, even though he gets sprayed every time he goes there to hide out. I didn’t continue the game past the third squirting this morning because by then it was seven o’clock, time for me to get up and make coffee, but not to feed Bonkers. He had to wait until the coffee was on.

tag | 8:24 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks, sleeplessness
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Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Sean uses Tim as his lounging pillow. In return, Tim slips Sean a wet willie …

image of Tim and Sean

wet willie! | 8:29 am CDT
Category: O'Folks, Seanster, T-Dawg
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Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Yay. The cat has finally curled up in my lap. Can’t do a thing while he’s turning in circles, looking for the right place to settle down. Can’t type a word, can’t sip my coffee, can’t even set down my coffee cup within easy reach because he would just keep sticking his snotty nose in it. I have to just sit here, waiting until he stops. So who’s the mammal in charge here?

image of B hugging Sean

Sean is home for Christmas. Touched down at Dane County Airport shortly after eight, where we scooped him up and motored into town to have dinner at Next Door Brewing. He pronounced himself very pleased with the taco plate. I had the Atwood Burger, delicious as always, and B loved her salmon sandwich. And of course there was beer. Can’t go to Next Door without partaking of a refreshing libation. B was especially satisfied with the Festivusale, but just a little saddened that the staff apparently forgot to provide her with the grievance form that was supposed to come with each glass. She was looking forward to hanging her grievance on the Festivus Pole.

Aargh! | 8:19 am CDT
Category: beer, daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, restaurants, Seanster | Tags:
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Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Bonkers was circling my feet while I tried to make coffee without tripping over him. Trouble was, we were clean out of canned cat food. Still had some dry kibble, but he’s had trouble eating that stuff ever since his brain thing. His lips don’t work right any more so he has to kind of mash his face into the pile of kibble while he works it with his tongue to get any of it into his mouth. It’s a little painful to watch. But, he was obviously very hungry and wasn’t going to stop trying to trip me, so I dumped a scoop of kibble into his dish, which he ravenously devoured. I have every confidence he’ll be horking up every speck of it within fifteen minutes of swallowing the last little bit.

hork hork hork | 7:10 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks
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Thursday, December 12th, 2013

google bday wishesI have my browser home page set to Google, so the first thing I see when I open a new browser window is whatever cute Google logo they drew to celebrate somebody’s birthday or anniversary. Today it was “Google” spelled out in birthday cakes, so I figured it was the birthday of whoever invented icing or birthday candles or whatever, and because today just so happens to be my birthday, too, I wanted to find out who that was so I went to click on it and the little message that you get when your cursor is over an image popped up and said, “Happy Birthday, Dave!”

I turned to look out the window and waved, mouthing the words “thank you” just in case The Google was out there, watching. Which they are. Always.

google b-day wishes | 5:57 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, O'Folks
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Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Recipe for cats: When folding clothes fresh from the dryer, stack them on the table. Within the hour, cats will begin to appear.

spontaneously generated boo | 9:30 pm CDT
Category: Boo, daily drivel, random idiocy | Tags:
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Friday, November 29th, 2013

bonkers gets blow-driedSeeing as how everybody else in my unit took the day off today, and I didn’t want to be all alone at work, I decided to take the day off and be all alone at home. I’ll try to explain later how that makes sense, sort of.

I’m not totally alone; at least I’ve got The Bonk to keep me company, although if he keeps on following me to every room in the house, including the bathroom, begging me for food, I’ll probably have to lock him in a kitty kennel and dangle it from a rope over the shark pool. I didn’t tell you we had a shark pool? Must’ve slipped my mind.

Bonk got an emergency cat bath yesterday morning when he climbed up into my lap and began trying to clean off a paw covered in some kind of oatmealy-looking but otherwise unidentified substance that he slopped on a corner of my laptop keyboard. Before he made an even bigger mess of my computer, I scooped him right up, carried him to the bathroom, plopped him in the tub and hosed him down under the shower. No, he was not at all happy about that.

Washing The Bonk is surprisingly easy. It’s getting him dry afterwards that’s impressively difficult. After I extract him dripping from the tub, his cue that the ordeal is just about over, all he wants to do is go hide in a corner somewhere to attempt to lick himself dry, which might work on a summer day but would definitely not work in the middle of winter. To get him at least damp-dry, I have to pin him down between my legs and swaddle him in two or three towels, hoping that they’ll soak up most of the drippy stuff before he slithers away.

My Darling B somehow got hold of him yesterday as he was wandering around in the living room looking for a private place and, with the blower dryer on its gentlest setting, managed to get him almost completely dry. It would’ve never occurred to me that he would sit still for that.

home alone | 9:17 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks
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Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Bonkers is helping me write blog posts this morning. In a way.

Bonkers the cat

blogging with bonkers | 10:03 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks | Tags:
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Monday, November 4th, 2013

While I was knocking out windows and cutting plywood in the basement yesterday, it reminded me of when I was helping my dad build a darkroom. When he bought the newspaper in Manawa it came with an office building, sort of. There wasn’t much to it. It was just the basic shell of a building with a wall about ten feet beyond the front door to divide the innards into an office in the front and a work room in back. Behind the front wall was what we rather grandly referred to as the bathroom, really a narrow closet with just a toilet in it, and what eventually became the darkroom, where we developed film and printed photographs.

I don’t think it was built to be a darkroom, but I’m saying that only because the walls were full of nail holes. If the previous owners tried to develop film in there, the photos must’ve turned out just awful. To fix that problem, dad covered the holes with dozens of tiny squares of red cellophane tape. You can expose photosensitive paper to red light without fogging it, and even film would tolerate the small amount of light from the constellation of tiny red stars that swam all around me in the dark as I wrapped it around spools and dropped it into developing tanks.

Aside from the old Kodak enlarger and the few other pieces of precision machinery we bought to expose and develop photographs, almost everything in that darkroom was home-made. A sheet of pegboard and an old vacuum cleaner became a rather clever easel for the enlarger. He made a shallow box with the pegboard on top, then drew outlines on the pegboard that were the standard sizes for the photographs we printed in the paper. All I had to do was center the photo in the outline, cut a piece of photographic paper to size, lay it over the outline, cover it with a transparent sheet of plastic and turn on the vacuum cleaner. The hose of the vacuum was connected to the side of the pegboard box so it sucked air through the holes, flattening the photo paper under the clear plastic. Make the exposure, turn off the vacuum, done!

Dad also made a sink out of plywood. We needed one big enough to hold the three wide plastic trays we used to develop the page-sized negatives that the newspaper pages were printed from, so he took a big sheet of inch-thick plywood, boxed it in on three sides and painted it with a couple coats of epoxy. Drilled a hole in one corner, hung a faucet from the back, and voila! A sink.

The darkroom was full of lots of impressively simple stuff like that. Dad could be pretty clever when he got an idea in his head. There was this one time, though, when he tried to ventilate the room through a hole in the wall over the door that he fitted with a squirrel cage fan. For some reason, he didn’t wire the fan to a switch. He gave it a power cord with a plug, as if it were an appliance that he might want to someday take to another room. That baffled me, but I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t an outlet close enough to plug it into, so he replaced the light switch with a combination switch/outlet, but when he hooked the wires up, he connected them to the wrong lugs. Didn’t realize what he’d done, though, until he plugged the fan in and the lights came on. I think I hurt his feelings when I laughed and laughed and laughed, but dammit, it was funny.

plugged in | 5:49 am CDT
Category: Dad, O'Folks, work
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Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Sarah Palin? She just stomps around and makes noise. She’s a political Godzilla.
– My Darling B


political Godzilla | 4:59 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Sunday, October 13th, 2013

drinkingBShe only has two hands, but that doesn’t stop My Darling B from being a three-fisted drinker! We were at the Great Amherst Beer Festival, hosted by Central Waters Brewing yesterday when B found herself trying to juggle three cups of beer while we took photos of the goings-on. She turned out to be one of the goings-on.


beer juggling | 1:05 pm CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Monday, October 7th, 2013

Quick and Dirty version of our trip to California last week, typed up from my notes because I’m not sure how long it’ll take to expand on them and I’ve got lots to do this week but I wouldn’t want to deprive you. So:

Got into San Francisco in the afternoon on Friday. Taxi driver gave us a lively commentary while he narrowly avoided causing several accidents. After dropping bags at the hotel, walked down to Louis’s for an enormous sandwich. Wanted to go to bistro at Cliff House but there was a wait. Kind of hoity-toity, too. Then a walk to the point of Lincoln Park to see if the Golden Gate bridge was visible – it was, beautifully. That turned into a walk through the park. Didn’t stop at the overlook where several people have fallen to their deaths. By the time we came out the other side it was six thirty so we hopped the first bus into town. Bus driver a cranky old man because passengers kept getting on w/o paying. Got off at Hyde & rode a cable car to the waterfront. Wine tasting. Host was a world traveler, been to 31 states and 50-something countries, showed snapshots of trip to Cambodia. Good salesman: we left with 200 in wine. Long bus ride back to the hotel. Went to bed right away and slept the sleep of the just.

First stop Saturday morning was breakfast at Sweet Maple where the coffee was strong and the bacon was one inch thick. We got there just before the morning rush of very fit-looking people showed up. By the time we left, the line was out the door. From there we headed to Pier 39 to see the sea lions. There are a whole lot of floating docks moored off the far end of the pier so that dozens of fat sea lions will loll there for the benefit of tourists, instead of all over the docks where the expensive boats are tied up. After “see the sea lions” was checked off our bucket list, we wandered along the wharf toward Ghiardelli Square looking for the kiosk where we could buy a Muni day pass for the cable cars and buses. The kiosk turned out to be at the end of the Hyde-Powell cable car line. We planned to take the cable car to Lombard Street but went to Ghiardelli Square to do a little shopping first and ended up having ice cream for lunch! Back at the cable car, we tried to beat the long line of tourists waiting to get on at the end of the line by walking up the road a couple blocks and waiting at the next stop for the next car that came along was packed and the driver didn’t even pause long enough to flip us off. We wandered around until we could find a bus to take us back to the top of Lombard Street. Lots of tourists! The locals must love that! Then it was on to Telegraph Hill; easier said than done. B wanted to see the parrots but was not going to climb the hill; neither of us was in shape for it at that point. We had to circle around Union Square a couple times to figure out which bus to catch and where. When the bus finally dropped us off at the base of Coit Tower we were there barely five minutes before we saw the parrots of Telegraph Hill. Check off another item from our list. Walking down Filbert Steps was a huge disappointment: expected it to be a lot more scenic but it was more like a back alley. Stopped to quaff a couple of well-deserved cold beers at a bar in Union Square before walking up to Mason St to catch a cable car to the cable car museum. First cable car blew us off. A nice older lady, obviously a local, gave us advice on how to be more aggressive about making the driver stop. The next one stopped and the driver shouted, “Four! I can take four! There and there!” pointing at the fender. We jumped on and clung to the posts as the street car started up the hill, cars whizzing past us seemingly inches away. The trip to the museum wasn’t long but it was terrifying, or exhilarating, I’m not sure which. After wandering around the museum a bit, we caught a bus downtown to get a beer at a brewpub called The 21st Amendment which was unfortunately right down the street from the baseball stadium and a game had just let out; the place was packed! No quiet moment to be had there. We downed our beers and got out of there as quickly as we could, catching a street car across town, the intention being to get some dinner at a restaurant called The Social Kitchen. The streetcar dropped us off well short of our destination in a residential neighborhood where we had to wait about 20 mins for the next train. The brewpub was well worth the wait; good food and good beer. B sampled all their brews in a flight and I had just one glass before we ventured forth to catch the bus back to the hotel, which dropped us off short of our destination in a residential neighborhood! We just couldn’t catch a break with the transportation that day.

Picked up the camper van Sunday morning. Actually, I picked it up while B waited with the bags at the hotel. I left about 8 and got there about 10 riding bus, trains and walking about three blocks through a section of town that looked pretty sketchy, lots of old warehouses mixed with empty lots, but lots of new construction, too. The camper is really a minivan tricked out with a mattress on a fold-out plywood base, not very good for a camper as it turns out but very good considering the price. We drove north from SF across the Golden Gate bridge, through Marin to the Marin County Farmer’s Market where we whiled away a couple hours wandering around the vendors picking up some grapes & dates & some other tidbits to eat. A quick stop at Sears after that to pick up a blanket before we headed north to the Anderson Valley, where our first stop was the Lone Oaks winery. The lady there was very chatty and gave us several good tips for other places to stop while she poured us samples of her wine. Our second stop was Yorkville and our last stop at a winery that day was Bing. We stayed the night at Hendry Wood campground where it rained all night. I set up the rain fly so we could enjoy a picnic dinner of wine, crackers with hummus and some olives before turning in.

Monday morning we got some coffee at the historic Navarro general store then drove through the Navarro River Redwood Grove before stopping for breakfast at the Little River Inn, one of the good tips we got from the lady at Lone Oak. Then on to Mendocino, a hippy-dippy crafty town where we wandered from shop to shop for about an hour. A little further up the road I pulled off to see the Cabrillo Lighthouse on a whim; thought it was right there but turned out we had to hike about a mile through tick-infested grassland to get down to the point and back. Still had a nice time. We were almost killed in Ft Bragg when a truck driver who didn’t know the rules of a roundabout failed to yield to us. Turned on to the coastal highway which turned out to be one block long. Further down the main drag of Ft Bragg we stopped at the much-anticipated tasting room of North Coast Brewing, which is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Make a note. The gift shop at the brewery was open, though, and the nice lady there tipped us off to a restaurant in the harbor where their beer was served, so we went there for beer and macho nachos, a plate of nachos so big it takes macho men to eat it, or two hungry middle-aged travelers. We demolished that thing. Up the road a bit to make a stop at a the Pacific Star Winery, perched on the cliffs over the ocean where hundred-foot-tall breakers crashed ever so picturesquely against the rocks. Stayed overnight at MacKerricher state park where we could hear the surf crashing all night long, and I do mean crashing; it sounded like a continual train wreck out there and it seemed to get louder as the night went on. The gal at Pacific Star Winery said they had a big storm a day before and until then the ocean had been perfectly flat.

Got up about 8 Tuesday morning, showered & went in search of coffee. Couldn’t find any at the roadside stores & B didn’t want to go back to Ft Bragg so we went on. Found a campground at Westport where a nice woman gave us some coffee in tiny little cups but no lids so we couldn’t drink it while driving and we had some miles to put behind us that morning. Guzzled as much as we could, dumped the rest and went on. First stopped at the world-famous drive-through tree park. As we would find out later, there are about a gojillion world-famous drive-through tree parks. This particular one was the Chandelier Tree. We didn’t actually drive through it because it didn’t look like the van would fit. Bought a souvenir post card and moved on up scenic Highway 101 through Avenue of the Giants, stopping to gawk & take snapshots of the tall trees. Finally got some coffee & something to eat at the Avenue Cafe in Miranda, first meal we’d eaten since the plate of macho nachos we gobbled down at Silver’s in Ft Bragg the day before. I had the Philly cheese steak sandwich and can recommend it. Way too big. Ate the whole thing. B had jalapeno poppers, her very favorite appetizer, and a gigantic calzone. Couldn’t finish it. Wimp. Continued along Avenue of the Giants but had to double back where the road was closed for construction. Stopped at Meyer Flat so B could do some wine tasting at the River Bend Winery, then on to make a short stop at the visitor center on the Avenue of the Giants before a longer stop at Founder’s Grove to hike the loop trail & see the Dyerville Giant, a fallen redwood big as a battleship. Contemplated the grandeur of the grove, took lots of photos. On to Fortuna to sample the beer at Eel River Brewery, America’s first organic brewery but even more importantly home to some of the most delicious beers we sampled on this trip. We got a flight of a dozen beers, all they brewed. Yum. Every table had a basket of peanuts. Shuck them and throw the shells on the floor, because if you try to pile them neatly on the table the waitress will just sweep them off when she brings your beer. Spent a lovely hour or so there, then on to Trinidad. We were shooting for an RV park called Sounds of the Sea. When we got there, the lady who came out to check us in looked around and asked, “Where’s your unit?” Oh, we just have the van, I told her. “We only have spots for RVs.” Well, we just need a place to park it, don’t even need hookups. She looked at me like I was talking crazy talk, so I excused myself, got into the van and we drove a little further to Elk Country Lodge, and a good thing we did because we would’ve missed the herd of wild elk that traipses through the park morning and night. Wouldn’t have had our little dinner party of crackers and olives and wine in the laundry room that night, either.

Elk Country was a special find because we saw the herd of elk on the way in, then the herd came back Wednesday morning while we were showering & getting ready to go. They hung out in the meadow right next to the woods where we were camped. I followed them around & came back to the camp to find B had shut herself up in the van when she thought they were going to come right up to her. We left camp around eight-thirty to look for some breakfast. Stopped at the Redwood National Park entrance and picnic area to snap photos of ourselves next to the sign and the notice that the park was closed as a result of the federal government shutdown. All my life I wanted to visit Redwood National Park, and when I finally get here, what happens? We had breakfast at the Palm Cafe, and what an amazing breakfast! B had biscuits & gravy, her very favorite, and I had a stack of the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever been privileged to stuff myself with. From there we went straight north, not making many stops until we got to Crescent City to fuel and another stop at Medford to visit the Apocalypse Brewery. It’s really hard to find because it’s in the back of a business park, looks like one of those U-Store-It units. The garage door was up but they weren’t open, didn’t open until four o’clock, so I can’t say anything about their beer, too bad. On to Ashland for a much-deserved beer and some food at Caldera, a brewpub in a cavernous metal barn where hundreds if not thousands of beer bottles are lined up on shelves up the wall. No two alike? Couldn’t tell. Checked in at Glenyan campground, then into town at about six to see the opening band before sitting down to watch Cymbaline at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. The show was on their Elizabethan stage, meaning the seats encircled the stage like the old Globe Theater and it was open to the weather on top, so naturally it rained on us. We had seats right up front by the stage which would have been the greatest if they hadn’t been right under the open roof. We got them switched for a couple seats in the balcony where it was covered, which would’ve been great if we’d started out there and hadn’t gotten wet right off the bat. We slowly froze solid in our seats until intermission, then ducked out to head back to camp where we huddled together under the quilts for warmth.

Got up Thursday morning after it rained normal rain and acorn rain on the roof of the camper all night, stopping just before daybreak. Coffee & pastry at Mix in Ashland. Picked up more picnic food at the local co-op before heading out of town to search for more vinyards. Found Dana Campbell, Grizzly Peak, Thistlecroft, and Bella Fortuna – all closed until we got to Weisinger, which was just opening their tasting room. Sampled a few, bought a few and even got them to ship all the wine we’d collected up to then. Drove on to the town of Weed, stopped at Mount Shasta Brewing for a beer & souvenirs. Mount Shasta attracted the attention of the feds back in 2008 with their motto, “Try some legal Weed,” almost got shut down until the story made national news and popular opinion swung in favor of the brewer. From there we went to the Dunsmuir Brewing Works for a bite to eat and another lovingly-crafted microbrew. Would never have found this place without GPS; it’s all but hidden in a small storefront building that was maybe once a gas station and almost looks to be shut up and abandoned. Glad we made the effort to find it. I had a ploughman’s platter that filled me up: salmon that was smoked in-house, sausage, shrimp, peppers, two kinds of cheese and a hot demibagette with butter. B had an elk burger, perfectly grilled medium rare. Finally, drove up to Lake Shasta to look for a camp site. We wanted a camp fire that night but the first place we stopped was way back in the woods & had no fire rings. The next place was in a national park but appeared to be open anyway. We checked one more place that wasn’t as nice, so back to the national park after stopping at a gas station to fill up the tank, a bag of marshmallows and enough fire wood to build a roaring fire that burned long after the sun set. Toasted marshmallows are delicious with Sangiovese.

Up early Friday morning, stopped at a strip mall in town for coffee and a breakfast sammie. Had to hit the road and drive drive drive to get to Chico in time for Oktoberfest at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Checked in to a hotel, cleaned up, walked down to the bus stop to pick up the shuttle that Sierra Nevada was running all evening. Got there about a half-hour before the fest opened, guy who was taking tickets chatted us up, was pretty surprised when we told him we came all the way from Madison. Great time. Food, beer & souvenir mug included in the modest price of the ticket. Drank plenty of beer, but not too much. Danced the chicken dance. That’s apparently a must at this event. Went back to the hotel around ten and slept like a baby, and how did that come to mean a good night’s sleep, by the way? Our boys slept in fits and starts and hardly ever through the night. Weird.

Saturday morning we booked a room in San Francisco. We talked about this the night before while we were getting cleaned up before Oktoberfest. A hotel room near the airport would make everything so much easier: we could drop off our bags at the hotel, return the van, spend a little time in the city, then catch an airport shuttle from the hotel. And that’s what we did. After dropping off the van we rode the light rail train into San Francisco to see a little more of the town. Went to the Thirsty Bear for a rack of tasters, the world’s greatest nuts and B’s favorite, duck sausage-stuffed olives, fried. Then on to Southern Pacific in the section of the city that was all warehouses surrounded by razor wire. Not sure if they were trying to keep something out or in. Didn’t look like a bad part of town, just not a populated part of town. Southern Pacific was on a dead-end street where a casual stroller would never find it. In spite of its location, it appeared to be one of the most popular hangouts in the Mission District. Got carded at the door; long time since that’s happened. Also a long time since I’ve been to a bar where Devo was playing on the stereo. After wolfing down a basket of fried washed down with house-made heffe and pilsner, our challenge was getting back to the hotel. Had to walk ten blocks through deserted streets of the warehouse district to a bus stop where we waited for almost an hour watching the wrong buses pass by. Finally our bus showed up twenty minutes late. After a thirty-minute bus ride we jumped off and still had to walk a block and a half to our hotel.

Packed Sunday morning after complementary breakfast in the lobby. Thought we did a pretty good job until we checked in at SFO & were told our check-through bag was overweight. Get it down to fifty pounds or pay $100, they said. We got it pared down to exactly fifty pounds. Then off to find a pub where we could finish our trip the way we started, with the now-traditional Bloody Marys. L’chaim!

SF vacation | 10:18 am CDT
Category: beer, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation
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I was just thinking that I would have to tell you our flight home from San Francisco was uneventful, but of course it wasn’t. That’s not how we travel.

Our flight home started with a cab ride that was positively batshit crazy. It wasn’t supposed to be a cab ride. The hotel supposedly had an airport shuttle that would pick us up at the front door. There was even one of those double-wide shuttle buses parked right outside the window of our room, so naturally we assumed that’s what would meet us at the curb after checkout in the morning. But shortly after eleven o’clock an all-black minivan with the oddly incongruous name of the Yellow Cab company painted across the door pulled up to the curb and out popped its Asian-American driver. Remember Egg Shen, the wizard slash bus driver in Big Trouble In Little China? That was our cab driver. “You going to the airport?” he asked us.

“Well, yeah, but …” was our amazingly eloquent answer.

“To the airport?” he repeated. “You going to the airport?”

“This is the airport shuttle?” My Darling B asked.

“To the airport, right,” he confirmed.

“So, just to make sure, ah – how much?”

There was no charge. It was the airport shuttle, after all. The hotel apparently kept the shuttle bus just for show.

The driver loaded our bags into the back of his van, we climbed into the passenger seats, and then he took off down the road like he was driving a bank robber’s getaway car. Almost immediately, his cell phone rang. He flipped it out and started jabbering into it through the bluetooth earpiece sticking out of his right ear while almost, but not quite managing to keep his cab between the white lines of whatever traffic lane he may have theoretically been driving in. When he was done with that call, he picked up his cell phone and made another call, and then another, talking with who I can only presume was his dispatcher about pickups at other hotels until we got to the airport, where he made a dramatic entrance by swerving at the very last moment through a gap between a couple of concrete Jersey barriers. I was sure he’d missed it and would have to find another way to get us to the terminal, but no.

Once we were inside, and after we made our way through the twisty-windie line to the check-in counter, our helpful agent, Edward, informed us that our check-through bag was overweight and we would have to either shift the stuff in our bags around until the check-through bag was under fifty pounds, or we would have to pay the overweight charge.

“How much is that?” My Darling B asked, just out of curiosity, I guess, because I know she had no intention of paying it.

“One-hundred dollars,” Edward informed us.

So we rolled the bags to the end of the check-in counter, cracked them all open and pretty much gutted them, flinging clothes and souvenirs back and forth to each other. The troublemakers in this scenario were three twenty-two ounce bottles of beer picked up in our travels and a fourth sixty-four ounce empty bottle of the type known as a “growler,” also picked up as a souvenir because it had an unusual shape and I thought it would look good in my brewery. I parked the big check-through bag on a scale and we started throwing stuff into it, trying various combinations of bottles and clothes until we got it below the magical limit of fifty pounds. Then we would try to latch the bag, fail, re-open it and re-shuffle the contents until finally it was not only not overweight, it weighed exactly fifty pounds and we could not only latch it, but we were reasonably sure it would stay latched.

The only other glitch in our trip home was that we weren’t seated together and no amount of sweet-talking from My Darling B could get the good employees of American Airlines to rearrange the seating. I sat directly behind B, so I entertained her and my fellow passengers during the four-hour flight home by doing things like sticking caterpillars down the back of her dress and dipping her pigtails in the inkwell.

we’re back! | 6:46 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation
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Monday, September 16th, 2013

Hoppy CoupleWhen I take photos with my smart phone, it automatically saves them to my Google account, and when I take a series of photos that all look the same, Google makes a flip-card cartoon out of them. The only time I remember this feature is afterward, when I’m looking through my photos and I find one that’s moving.

This photo was taken at the Dilly Dally two weekends ago in front of the wall of hops growing up the outside of the Karben4 brewery.

hoppy couple | 6:11 am CDT
Category: Dilly Dally, festivals, My Darling B, O'Folks
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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

at the Bristol Renaissance FairGiant rats on a stick? “Pass the mustard!” said My Darling B.

Would it be a renaissance fair without food on a stick? I can’t see how. That, and a funny hat were all I needed to make this the greatest weekend ever, and although I had to try on a lot of funny hats, I finally found exactly the right one.

But wait! It got even better! We went to the renaissance fair in Bristol courtesy of the bespectacled fairy you see in the photo and her partner, who gets around in an SUV because he doesn’t have a delicate set of gossamer wings and a magical flowered tiara. So we got the trifecta: Food on a stick, funny hats and fun friends. *bliss!*

Bristol Renaissance Fair | 6:12 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, festivals, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, Renaissance Faire
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Monday, August 26th, 2013

The cats were out of food. I was out running errands. That’s how I found myself on Willy Street on Sunday morning outside Mad Cat. Nothing unusual about that.

As I walked up the sidewalk to the shop, a young woman I didn’t recognize, walking toward me from the corner, was waving at me like she knew me. Still nothing so unusual about that. The people you meet on Willy Street can be just that friendly.

Then she said, “Happy anniversary!”

And that’s when it began to seem a little weird. How did she know it’s my anniversary? Should I know this person?

Just before she was within arm’s reach, she appeared to want to hug me. Apparently, I was supposed to know her! I really didn’t know what to do. Luckily, about a split-second later I recognized her, so instead of fleeing in panic, I gave her a great big hug and blurted out her name:

“Nikki!”

It was Sean’s nearest and dearest. I’d known from her Facebook posts that she was in town to visit friends, but I didn’t expect to see her, especially not by accident on Willy Street in front of Mad Cat. After exchanging hugs and phone numbers, we agreed to meet later for lunch: I went home to drop off the cat food and pick up My Darling B, and she met her parents at Mother Fools. Then we all met up at Plaka for brunch and coffee and fun. What a lucky meeting!

unexpected | 8:17 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, O'Folks, O'Folks friends
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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Sean and Nikki, dancing fools, at the Great Taste of the Midwest.

image of Sean and Nikki dancing

mosh pit | 6:19 am CDT
Category: festivals, Great Taste of the Midwest, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, Seanster
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image of Bonkers the catTime for a Bonkers Update.

Bonkers is doing pretty darned well for a cat with an indeterminate amount of brain damage caused by an unknown agent. He eats nothing but canned food and he gets almost all the lap time he wants (sometimes he wants it when I’m still doing chores, so no joy then).

He still annoys the hell out of me when he wakes up at all hours of the night to groom himself for thirty or forty minutes. His brain explosion seems to have damaged the neurons that moderate grooming. He does it obsessively now, practically whenever he’s awake, and sometimes he wakes up just to do it. And he’s really noisy about it.

And because he has trouble swallowing, he makes on hell of a mess in the kitchen when he eats, scattering crumbs all over the floor around his dish, then slobbering water in a trail from the water dish to wherever he parks himself to groom for a half-hour or so. But we remind ourselves he can’t help it, break out the mop and trail along behind him.

Bonkity-bonk-bonk | 6:16 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks
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Sunday, August 11th, 2013

attending the Great Taste of the MidwestTime once again for the Great Taste of the Midwest, the very best beer fest anywhere in the world, as if that has to be said. We’ve been going to the Great Taste every year for seven years now but this time around there were two significantly different changes to the way we attended.

The first and most amazingly fun change we made was that we invited Sean and Nikki, his significant other, to the event. We snagged a few extra tickets and were trying to figure out how best to spread them out amongst our friends and acquaintances when My Darling B hit on the idea. To sweeten the pot, she bought the plane tickets for them, too, and we offered to put them up in our guest room while they were here. Not too surprisingly, they snapped at the offer, arriving the Friday night before the festival.

The other big difference is that last winter I became a member of the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, the group that organizes the Great Taste, mostly because I’ve really wanted to help out at the event and I’d heard that I’d stand a better chance of being allowed to volunteer my time if I was a member, so I paid my dues, waited for the call for volunteers and raised my hand high in the air when it came. And you know what? Not only did they give me a chance by letting me help the vendors set up, they let me in with the rest of the members an hour before the gates opened! Now My Darling B wants to be a member and volunteer, too. I can provide her with a good character reference if she needs it.

At the Great Taste of the MidwestI think Nikki and Sean enjoyed it more than we did, as hard as that might be to believe, although B had a pretty darned good time this year as well, disappearing into the crowds with Nikki to look for more delicious beer whenever Sean and I got distracted by bacon on a stick or an appearance by Mama Digdown’s Brass Band. Then we’d all meet up again by texting each other on our cell phones or, later in the day when our eye-hand coordination had deteriorated to the point where some of our text messages became mostly nonsense (and here I’m thinking of the already-legendary “BACON MEAT IN OUR MOUTHS!”), by agreeing that we should all meet at the picnic blanket if we got split up.

When the taps ran dry and the people began to make their way home, the two youngest members of the tribe, still full of energy and just getting their weekend started, caught a downtown shuttle to join a dance party on the roof of the Children’s Museum where one of Nikki’s friends was DJing. Wow. I probably could’ve done that when I was thirty, but we’ll never know now. The two older members of the O-Folks headed home via the taxi queue where we waited in line for the better part of an hour before being packed tightly into a Toyota Prius with two other people headed back to their hotel room in Monona. We were practically sober by the time we returned to Our Humble O’Bode and ordered the customary after-fest pizza.

Many, many thank-yous go out from Drivel HQ to Nikki and Sean for coming all the way to Madison to make our visit to the fest this year extra-special.

Great Taste 2013 | 2:42 pm CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Great Taste of the Midwest, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, Seanster
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Sunday, August 4th, 2013

We woke last night to the sound of screaming. The weather was so mild that we left all the windows open, so we could clearly hear what sounded like at least two people, maybe three or more screaming their heads off somewhere down the block. B said later she was scared it was some kind of domestic violence that had spilled over into the street. It sounded that crazy.

She jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom window to see if she could spot what was going on. As it turned out, she could. Three people, maybe old enough to be roaring drunk, maybe not, were stumbling down the middle of the street shouting “SILVER EAGLES!” at the tops of their lungs. The Silver Eagles is the name of the local high school football team. It’s also the name of a neighborhood bar, so it’s not entirely clear who they were rooting for. Regardless, they were more interested in waking up as many people as they could while they walked home than they were in promoting sports or their local bar.

Be careful what you wish for, I always say. While I laid in bed waiting for them to pass out of earshot, My Darling B surprised the hell out of me when she belted out the mostly rhetorical question, “WILL YOU DUMBSHITS SHUT THE HELL UP?” into the street from the bathroom window.

To my even greater surprise, they shut the hell up. I love My Darling B. She has awesome superpowers.

dumbshits | 8:00 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time
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Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Not really sure where the weekend went. It was here when I got up this morning, but now I can’t find it no matter how many places I look for it.

When I got up this morning, I decided the first thing I was going to do was write a rough draft of an itinerary for the summer vacation we’re taking in October. Yeah, it’s a little weird to call a vacation that’s just a few weeks away from the first snowfall a “summer vacation,” but there’s a good reason for it, and here it is: Whenever we’ve taken vacations in the past, something has always gone wrong that we didn’t account for, so now we plan our summer vacations to start in the fall and that way there’s one HUGE thing wrong with them that we already know about and are prepared for.

I just made that up. Could you tell?

So anyway, after I brewed a big pot o’ java and settled back in my easy chair with my laptop, I opened up the very brief outline I’d already started for our trip that had maybe four items on it, three of which were stuff we added only because we were looking at an area on the map around the number one key scenic tourist destination we knew we were going to see while we were on the west coast, a redwood forest like the kind that Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak strolled through in Vertigo. Never cared much for the movie but that scene has nagged at me from my memory since the first time I was awestruck by it. I’ve been to California twice, but I’ve never seen a redwood forest, so when we started talking about taking a trip to the west coast, that was the first thing I asked for.

My Darling B was okay with that but was somewhat iffy about anything else, hence the short list. Oh, and there was a Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon, she was keen on seeing if we could fit that in somewhere.

Since our desires were so sketchy we weren’t even sure where to begin our trip, so we randomly chose Seattle, Washington, as our starting point, thinking we would head south from there down the coastal highway and stopping at whatever sights looked interesting, or when our butts were too tired of sitting in a car seat any longer. It’s kind of impossible to sketch an itinerary based on an idea like that, though, so when I sat down with my cuppa joe and my laptop this morning I went looking for a slightly more substantial beginning to start our trip.

To make it easier to wander about, one of the things we’d been considering was renting an RV and, after stopping whenever we felt like it to see whatever we felt like looking at, we would pull into a KOA or some other small campground to stay the night. I’d found a dealer in Seattle to rent an RV but then made the mistake of looking for horror stories about them, and the internet being what it is I naturally found a few, which sort of put me off the idea of renting.

But this morning I started looking for rentals again and when I found a dealer in the San Francisco area I thought, Why not start our trip in San Francisco instead of Seattle? It’s closer to the redwoods, for a start, which means less driving, probably, and since I’m going to be the one doing the driving, that sounded like a great way to start.

So I checked out the San Francisco area for things both of us might like to go see and found quite a lot, really, probably because it’s San Francisco. I’d be surprised if there’s anybody anywhere who couldn’t name three San Francisco landmarks. Don’t tell me you can’t. And just north of San Francisco there’s Muir Woods where Jimmy and Kim strolled beneath those redwood trees, and a farmer’s market in Marin. My Darling B loves farmer’s markets.

I ended up piddling away three hours sketching out an itinerary that took us north from San Francisco to Redwood National Forest, up through Grants Pass to Ashland where we could drop in on the Shakespeare festival, then south through Chico so we could stop at the Sierra Nevada brewery in time for Oktoberfest before returning the RV to the dealer in San Francisco. It took three cups of coffee and one hell of a lot of googling, but I managed to do it. Somewhere in the middle of all that, My Darling B got out of bed and helped me google from her perch on the sofa (she’s the one who discovered Oktoberfest). And now that we’ve got the bare essentials of the trip sketched out, we’ll need another Sunday morning, or maybe two more, to flesh out the details.

vanishing act | 9:40 pm CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation
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Saturday, July 20th, 2013

My Darling B at the farmer’s market this morning.

B goes to market

B goes to market | 11:47 am CDT
Category: farmer's market, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Monday, July 15th, 2013

A fender washer is a circle of steel about the size of a half-dollar with a smallish hole in the middle. I had one in my collection. I needed four, so I pocketed the one as I got ready to jump into the O-mobile to head down the road so I could save big money at the hardware store.

But first, a bit of fun.

“Do you have any of these?” I asked My Darling B, showing her the washer. She frowned at it for a long minute. It almost looked as though she were thinking, Now, darn it, I know I had a bunch of those. Where did I put them?

That’s not what she was thinking, though. What she was thinking was what she said about a minute later: “Um. No? I don’t have any … metal donuts?”

fender | 9:12 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The cats got junk food last night. They were sooo happy.

I usually buy cat food at Mad Cat or at the co-op where I can get cat food made from meat and not that crappy cereal that gets dressed up and sold as gourmet cat food. Cats are made to eat meat, not cereal. I have seen our cats swallow mice whole. They’re carnivores. Feeding cereal to cats cannot be good for them.

But yesterday it was raining during my lunch break so I couldn’t get to the store to buy cat food and by quitting time I clean forgot that we were completely out of canned food so I drove straight home without a stop at the co-op. Dammit.

Bonkers has a real hard time eating solid food these days. He can do it, but I don’t like to put him through that. For one thing, he makes a gawdawful mess. He doesn’t seem to have any feeling on one side of his mouth and I don’t think he can work his lips on that side very well, so to get food into his mouth he has to scoop it up with his tongue and throw his head back, scattering about half the kibble that was on his tongue all over the place. To make up for this loss, he scoops up as much as he can by mashing his face into the bowl. Kind of banging it into the bowl, actually. Looks like it hurts.

Soft food is easy for him to lap up, though, so I try to have plenty of cans on hand all the time, and that’s where I fell down on the job last night. I couldn’t stand the thought of watching him bang his face into his bowl, so I ran down to Copp’s, the chain grocery store down by the highway, to get some emergency back-up soft food. Copp’s is a big-box store, almost as big as Wal-Mart. The aisles are each a quarter-mile long, and you can find forty-two dozen different kinds of Cap’n Crunch in the breakfast cereal aisle, but how many brands of cat food do they offer? Two. Little Friskies and 9 Lives. Crap and more crap. Thanks for that, Copp’s.

Oops, three. They also had Fancy Feast. I’m pretty sure that’s a brand of either 9 Lives or Little Friskies, though. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all the same crap owned by the same company.

So anyway, I bought two cans of the crap food and spooned some out for the Bonk when I got home and he gobbled it up like it was the best thing ever. Of course. My Darling B pointed out that it’s probably the cat equivalent of buying him a bag of Bugles. Mmmm! Bugles! Thank you! Thank you for Bugles! I know it’s crap and it’s not even good for me but I LOVE BUGLES! Nom nom nom nom!

junk food | 5:28 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks
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Monday, June 24th, 2013

bonkbumpBonkers is curled up for a nap on the sofa. Boo is, too, but she’s not as easy to see. Not at first, anyway.


boobump | 6:34 pm CDT
Category: Bonkers, Boo, O'Folks
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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Not sure what this proves: Our cats figured out somehow that I’m the one who feeds them. They jump on my head to wake me up in the morning. They follow me around the kitchen when they’re hungry. Yet, even though they’re smart enough to figure that out, they haven’t twigged to the fact that I hold a grudge and I’m not above a little vengeance now and then. I’m no Einstein, but even I know better than to piss off the person who feeds me. I think I learned that before I could speak.

proof | 4:28 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, Boo, O'Folks
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Monday, June 17th, 2013

The cats came so close to realizing their nefarious plan.

For weeks, they’ve been waking me up a little earlier each day by standing at the foot of our bed mewling, or jumping on my head, and I’ve been obliging them by getting up and feeding them, thinking that with a little food in their bellies they’d leave me alone and I could go get a little more sleep.

Only I don’t get more sleep. If I wake up after four or five o’clock in the morning, I’m up for the rest of the day. Well, until, say, eight o’clock that night, anyway. So this has been a game of diminishing returns, and this morning it diminished even further: Damn cats woke me up at four o’clock.

I didn’t get up because I knew it was pointless. I could have fed them, but I wouldn’t have been able to get back to sleep, so I laid there for maybe twenty minutes before I got out of bed to make some coffee and gobble down a bowl of oatmeal. And ignore the cats. They tried everything they could think of to get my attention, even that thing where they wind around my legs and sit down right in front of me while I’m walking across the dining room, but I managed not only to ignore them but also to avoid concussion after tripping over one of them and falling on my face.

They’re more than a little puzzled by this, wandering around in a bit of a daze. He didn’t feed us. That never happened before. And occasionally they get tangled up with each other, resulting in a swatting match that’s oddly satisfying to watch. But they still haven’t been fed, and won’t be until I’m ready to leave for work. And that’s the way it’s going to be from now on.

cat plan | 5:33 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Bonkers was – it’s another post about my cat, folks. Spare yourselves. Turn the channel now.

(Does anybody still say “turn the channel” anymore? I haven’t been paying attention. It used to make sense when there was a dial on the front of the television that you had to grab and twist, but even though I still say it, it’s been at least thirty years since I’ve turned an actual dial to another channel. I feel as though I’m already one of those fogeys that kids snicker at.)

Bonkers was making lots of licky-slurpy noises this morning, and he was camped out right next to my head. Right. Next. To. My. Head.

He stopped for about thirty seconds after I gave him a quick poke with my elbow, but then started licking again. Noisily. And he smelled like cat spit.

I poked him again. Again, thirty seconds of quiet before SLURPY-SLURPY-SLURPY.

*poke!*

Silence.

SLURPY-SLURPY-SLURPY.

This went on for far too long before I finally gave up, rolled to the edge of the bed and shut off my alarm clock, resigned to getting up early because I sure wasn’t going to get anything like satisfying, restful sleep while Mister Puddles washed himself.

And, of course, he jumped down off the bed and left the room as I was getting up.

I’m going to boil and eat that cat one day.

slurpy | 6:28 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Thursday, May 9th, 2013

I just wanted to note here that we did not drink beer tonight. Rocks your world, I know, but we needed a night off from Madison Craft Beer Week to recharge our batteries and get ready for the weekend. We’re not spring chickens any more, y’know.

My Darling B commanded grilled ham & cheese sandwiches with tomato soup for dinner, and what My Darling B commands, that is what she shall have. Probably shouldn’t have eaten the potato chips, too, though.

night off | 9:01 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

She’s been waiting 14 weeks for this glass of beer.

img of My Darling B with a glass of 1515 from Central Waters BrewingWe went to the Central Waters anniversary party 14 weeks ago and the one beer that My Darling B dearly wanted to try was an Imperial Stout they put up in bourbon barrels specially for this very anniversary. They named this special beer “Fifteen.” See if you can guess why.

As soon as a line started to form for the tapping, she got in it, but while she was waiting they ran out. She’s been searching for it ever since then, with no luck at all, until tonight when the good brewers at Central Waters brought a keg of Fifteen to our favorite restaurant, Alchemy, for Madison Craft Beer Week.

I work just a few blocks away, so I was tasked with getting there as soon as I could after work to make sure I would be there when they tapped the keg. I snagged our usual table and, when the waitress came around, warned her that my wife would run over me with the car if I didn’t have a glass of Fifteen waiting on the table for her when she arrived.

A cheer went up from the crowd at the bar when the bartender announced, “Let the beer flow!” And about three minutes later the waitress delivered a goblet of Fifteen to our table so it was waiting when My Darling B walked through the door two minutes after that. I’d give her props for becoming my biggest hero if only she’d signed her name so I could read it.

This was a beer worth waiting months for. I like beer quite a lot, but bourbon-barrel-aged beers are really My Darling B’s thing. She loves them, but most of the ones I’ve tried are too boozy for me. Fifteen was not like that at all. It was silky smooth, rich and creamy, so easy to drink. Probably a little too easy; I’m sure we could each have put away enough of the stuff to make us unfit for work the next day. Thank goodness they served it in eight-ounce goblets and set the price just high enough to make us think twice about ordering too many.

Fifteen | 12:09 am CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Madison Craft Beer Week, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants | Tags:
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Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Oh my, I have sooo many carbs to burn off after last night’s fish fry. We joined the kickoff of Madison Craft Beer Week by meeting a couple of friends at Quivey’s Grove to swap stories over a Friday night fish fry and a couple glasses of Common Thread Biere de Garde, which is French for “beer that is good.”

My belly was stuffed full after gobbling up all that fried fish, which I didn’t mind until I climbed into bed to go night-night and felt as if I was lying on a bowling ball, not very comfortable at all. I had to squirm around for a while until I found an angle where the bowling ball wouldn’t keep me awake.

I felt just guilty enough about overindulging that I got up early to take a little spin around town on my bike. I may have gone far enough to burn off the pie. Did I mention the pie? No? There was pie.

burning carbs | 7:10 am CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Madison Craft Beer Week, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, restaurants
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Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Bonkers got a bath last night. We don’t usually bathe The Bonk – actually, we have historically avoided bathing either of the cats. We’ve bathed Bonk twice before, if memory serves, and I’m pretty sure we’ve never bathed Boo. I feel confident in saying that she would not allow it.

But The Bonk needed bathing. The poor old fart’s getting pretty drooly in his old age, so when he grooms himself these days he ends up coated in an extra-thick layer of his own slime. The resulting smell is, ah, shall we say ‘potent.’ If you’ve never been exposed to the repellent odor of cat spit, consider yourself lucky. There’s no scent quite like it.

So I filled up a bucket with warm water, then scooped Bonk up off the floor, carried him to the bathtub and dropped him in it. Then I ladled warm water over him with a big plastic beer cup until he looked like a drowned rat. Cats are hilarious-looking when they’re wet. You’ve just got to get a cat so you can see that at least once in your life.

And then I soaped him up with cat shampoo. This is really a thing. I don’t know what makes it different from the shampoo that I use, other than the outrageous price. I’d be willing to bet there’s no difference at all. It’s probably just baby shampoo in a smaller bottle.

He put up with the whole ordeal like a champ. No, actually, he put up with being bathed. He did not put up with being toweled off. I wrapped him up in a great big bath towel after squeegeeing as much of the water off him as possible. He put up with about ten seconds of that before squirming free and making a beeline for the door. I managed to catch him before he got away and towel him off for about ten seconds more before he got away again. I let him stamp around the living room trying to get the water and the stink off him before I wrapped him up once more and got him about as dry as he was going to let me.

stinky kitty | 2:41 am CDT
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks
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Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

In yet another demonstration of just how out of shape I’ve become over the winter, I huffed and puffed my way up three flights of stairs while helping Tim move into his apartment downtown. A twenty-something doesn’t have all that much to schlep from curbside to apartment, but I was ready for a nap after barely an hour and a half of schlepping. I’ve moved house more than a dozen times over the years and that’s officially my weakest performance ever.

moved | 9:53 pm CDT
Category: O'Folks, T-Dawg
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