Category Archives: Jen

Journal Entry No. 200

This is the 200th post on this online journal. I’m kind of surprised it took me this long to get to 200. It has been well over a year since I started this online journal. I’m finally starting to get into a groove with entering things daily and keeping things nice and short.

Tonight I went to Willy’s home bar, Club Element. I didn’t go there with Willy because he would never lower himself to go with one of his friends. I’ve heard the legend of how Club Element is a little kids’ bar, but I didn’t see any evidence. There was no ball pit or water slide. My main impressions of Club Element were that it was ridiculously small and surprisingly well lit. It also had one of the ugliest interior designs of a bar I’ve ever seen. The pool table looked to be in pretty sad shape as well.

On the other hand, the seats were comfortable and the company was great. I went with Derrick and Jen to see a band called Inebriated Saints. The Inebriated Saints is fronted by the old lead singer of UnHingd Mike DiMarco. When we got to Club Element we met up with Shannon and Becky.

It was interesting hearing Mike’s latest incarnation. They played many of the old songs from UnHingd, but the sound was definitely louder and more distorted. It wasn’t as distorted as Against the Grain, but much more distorted than the dulcet guitar tone that Derrick Gorshe laid down when he was in UnHingd.

This marked my 2nd trip to a bar this year. There is a chance that I might make a third trip this Saturday to see 35 South. That is Dennis’ band. They are a southern rock cover band. Derrick is their official sound guy. I only went to a bar 3 or 4 times all of last year. I think I will have to take a few months off if I go on Saturday.

I’m not a fan of bar photography, but I have been considering purchasing a small camera that would be easier to take into places where I can’t lug in my big expensive cameras. Last night would have been a good night to have such a camera. I would have enjoyed documenting the Club Element experience. I could have proven to Willy that I was there.

B.B.A.T.

This is a small collection of 4 different stories about 4 different people.

Monica

I really only wanted two birthday presents this past year. One was stained glass from Jen. I got that back in May. The second present was a painting from Monica. I got that on Wednesday.




She painted it on an old window that came out of my mom’s house when she got new windows. Monica struggled with this painting a little bit because she felt that I would want something with bright colors and she doesn’t usually use bright colors in her painting. I think the struggle was worth it. I think it is a masterful work that I will display proudly next to the works of Jay Janson, Jen Ensley and Rebecca Peterson.

Jesse

I posted plenty of fall color pictures, but what I didn’t do was give proper credit to Jesse for manning an umbrella for me on one of the days when it was raining.


Jesse - Photo Assistant

If you have ever wondered about what the glamor of being a photo assistant for me looks like, it kind of looks like that picture above.

Nader

We celebrated what Nader claims to be his 21st birthday on Sunday. We went to see Darjeeling Limited and then ate at King Buffet.


Nader

Jay wants to record my ramblings about movies and edit them into some kind of coherent movie review. If this works out, the first of these reviews will be Darjeeling Limited.

Jason Baier

I think most people that know me know about B.B.A.T. Jason Baier was inspired by my recent pictures of lumberjack Janson and grew himself a beard. I documented this beard and the results are these pictures.


Jason Beardo

Jason Beardo

Jason Beardo

Jason Beardo

As you know, the second part about my theory is related to grooming. Jason tried to complicate my theory by growing a hybrid beard. The top of the beard is completely natural and allowed to run wild. However, he decided to get a little freaky (I must say that I do not like this aspect of his beard one bit) and shave the lower half of the beard. I was not able to gather enough data about his general demeanor to figure out where this creepy hybrid beard will fit into B.B.A.T. I hope that I’m never near enough to a hybrid beard again to collect such data.

Johnny Consumer

I’d like to think that I had a better than average week this week. It started out poorly as the Padres lost to the Rockies in a play in game and despite the fact that the umpire blew the call that gave the Rockies the win, I accept the loss because the umpires also blew a call that would have given the Rockies another run and ended the game in their favor after 9 innings.

Tuesday night I got the pleasure of changing the spark plugs in my car. So now when I’m cruising up the entrance ramp on my way home from work the engine doesn’t misfire or hesitate. Then on Wednesday night I changed out both front wheel bearings on the car, so now instead of listening to an intense grinding noise where ever I go, I hear only the sweet hum of my engine and whatever tune is currently emanating from the iPod.

In all honesty (I worry that I’m pointing out my honesty too much lately, which might make me seem like a less than honest person. Truth be known, I’m an honest person face to face. It is only in these blogs that I tell half truths [such as there is no Book of Maximum Overdrive – at least one that isn’t a prophetic text] to slightly skew the perspective of these tales.) it is my brother-in-law Jason that actually changed the spark plugs and the wheel bearings, but I did stay in the garage to provide enlightening and engaging conversation, in addition to moral support.

On Thursday night I got myself a haircut from Monica. During that time I learned that Monica had briefly dated a guy that played the bagpipes. I couldn’t believe that she had broken up with a piper. I know the strong spell that the sound of bagpipes put on the women folk, even though this “fact” was called into question by some women folk on Saturday night, I stand by my assertion.

After the haircut, I attended an Ames Jaycees meeting with Shannon. It is the contention of Shannon that if I were to join the Jaycees, I could take pictures of “ground zero” at next year’s Independence Day fireworks display.

The meeting took place at the Jaycees haunted house which is just north of the Halloween “Bootique” in North Grand Mall. The meeting began with a tour of the haunted house. This year they are having a pirate themed haunted house that is sure to scare the “ship” out of you. Don’t blame me if you didn’t like that play on words. I’m just reporting the facts.

After the tour everybody was guided back to an extremely large bathroom where the meeting was held. I think that Shannon thought that this aspect would be my favorite part of the meeting. This aspect was amusing, but it wasn’t my favorite part of the meeting.

A little while back I (at least I believe) mildly offended Shannon by calling her hyper-organized. She confessed (yes I’m acting like being organized is a crime) to be organized, but not to an insane degree that one would need to use or even manufacture a label such as “hyper-organized” and apply it to her.

Shannon is a Jaycees bigwig. Although I don’t believe that I’m revealing any Jaycees secrets by letting you know that in fact the bigwigs do no wear big wigs, to indicate the amount of power within their grasp. They just sit at the front of the room.

There were times when the meeting would seem to lose its focus. I would describe the meeting as having gone off on a tangent because of my love for mathematics. Others in the room would describe such a set of circumstances as “chasing rabbits” based on their love for Jefferson Airplane. Regardless of what euphemism you would use to describe the situation, on at least three occasions Shannon had to redirect the meeting to bring it back to its agenda prescribed focus or to point out some error the meeting had made in parliamentary procedure. Each time, despite a game effort to conceal it, she clearly displayed an amount of irritation. These moments were my favorite aspect of the meeting. But she isn’t hyper-organized.

After the meeting I went out to supper with Monica and Suzie. It was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the piper. However, it was slightly disappointing as it turns out the piper never once fired up the bagpipes for Monica. Although he did once show her is rather large and extensive collection of bagpipe CDs.

FNSC met at Dublin Bay. There is not a tremendous amount to report from those proceedings. Just the usual. Trying to get Willy to sign off on one of us wearing a bear suit and jumping out and surprising the people he hikes with on Saturdays so that he could look like a hero in front of them when he wrestles the bear and wins.

On Saturday night I was spared listening to the Cyclones thrashing by Tech by going out to eat with Russell, Andree, Jason and Janelle to celebrate Janelle’s emancipation from Dasher Mismanagement.

This was a good time as I learned that Jay “Mr. Secret” Janson has been keeping a secret from me, again. You have to keep an eye on that guy and that Janelle is actually more over insured than I am.

It is always an enjoyable night with those guys as I get to listen to Russell reveal one crackpot sports opinion after another. (Texas Tech is a top 25 team, Nebraska is going to be good this year, Bill Calahan is a good coach, Terrell Davis isn’t a Hall of Famer, the Celtics are winning the East next year) Then Jason gets to try to defend the Chiefs and Andree provides the only other voice of reason. Janelle is a Cubs and Bears fan, so it is was a good time watching the Diamondbacks eliminate the Cubs. The highlight of the night being when the Cubs loaded the bases with one out and some Cub grounded into a double play to end the inning. As for the Bears? Just discussing the NFL in front of a Bears fan is usually punishment enough for them. Some of them actually thought the Bears were going to be good this year.

After the Emancipation Celebration, I hopped into my quiet smooth running car for the trip down to Beaverdale for Sara’s birthday party. I had been charged with the task of inviting her Boone County friends to the party. Although I was diligent in my duty, I was also derelict in my execution.

I spread the word, but I spread the wrong time. In fact, it wasn’t until late Saturday afternoon that I learned that I had spread misinformation. Due to a new set of signs(indicating the need for quiet to facilitate or respect the “world class support” going on in our midst) at the computer mine, I now have my phone on vibrate all the time and now I never get my calls.

I missed a call from Jen. She called to tell me that the party was at 8, which was super since I told everybody 7, and asked if I would like to carpool with them down to the social event of October. However, I would not be able to reach her at home because she was going shopping. I would not be able to reach her on her cell phone because the battery was dead. Furthermore, I would not be able to reach Derrick on his cell phone because he had left it at home. Therefore I was to call Derrick at work and reveal my answer.

Sara’s party was yet another stunning success. I can’t lie. Sara goes through a dizzying array of Des Moines friends. They usually range from intolerable to “how has this person not been choked to death?” Sara’s party last year was a quick adventure for me. I made it 5 minutes before it was time for me to leave.

However, the current crop of Des Moines friends are keepers. I look forward to seeing them at social engagements in the future. I even learned their names for future reference. Something I’ve never done in the past.

Also, I got to discuss the movie “Once” with Derrick. That was another win for me, because at this time, I really enjoy discussing this movie.

Now might be a good time to discuss the future. Not the important future. Just the future of where some of my money is going to go.

As everybody knows, Tuesday is the day that new movies, CDs, and books get released. This coming Tuesday might be the greatest Tuesday of 2007.

Why?

Two great things are being released on Tuesday. First is Stephen Colbert’s new book “I Am America (And So Can You!)”. Secondly, a new Post Secret book is being released. I can’t wait.

I’m so excited I just think I might embed a video about Post Secret.



FNSC Auxiliary Member

FNSC added a new auxiliary member this past Friday. Jason Baier joined us on the patio at La Carreta on a brisk summer night. His name will now go down in the annals of history with other Auxiliary Members of FNSC:

Jesse Howard
Teresa Kahler
Dustin Jackson
That Kristy girl Willy works with
Derrick Gorshe
Jen Ensley
Sara Junck
Nate Miller

I’m sure there have been others. I just don’t have the official FNSC Ledger with me at this time where all of our exploits have been documented. Even if I did have it with me, it takes all 3 of our keys to open the book any way.

If you would like to be at least as cool as Jesse Howard, you may one day join us for a Supper Club. All you have to do is give me a call and if you don’t have my phone number, I probably don’t like you that much any way.

After FNSC Jason and I cruised the town in a Rideshare van. You would think this was against “Rideshare” rules, but apparently as a backup driver he is entitled to dip into this 200 mile personal use monthly pool that the drivers get to split up. Only he is the only person that uses the miles because he is running some kind of scam on this elderly lady that is the other driver. I didn’t want to get too much information on the situation in case I was going to have to testify against him at a later date.

We cruised the Rideshare van around, looking awful cool, then stopped and took the picture below:


09-17-07

I would consider it a fairly successful evening.

Pufferbilly Day Photo Contest Entries

I believe I received feedback from over 20 people during the second round of voting. That was awesome and I appreciate all the time that everybody took to voice their opinion. In the end, I could only enter six pictures in the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. So I now reveal the six pictures that advanced and a little bit about them.

I did not actually spend much time considering the names for each picture, so in the end the names are admittedly pretty lame. I can deal with it if you can.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Wheel

The first image is from when the #844 stopped in Boone on its Midwest tour a couple of months ago. I took this picture in the Boone train yard while it was on display. The train was surrounded by other people so I made a conscious effort to find interesting angles to shoot the train while trying to keep the other humans around out of the shot. This picture was originally captured in color, but I converted it to black and white as the palette was already quite monochrome.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Last, Loveliest Smile Redux

This second image was created sort of out of a collection of follies. I had been wanting to take a hammer to a negative and then scan the negative with my home scanner, but I have never really found the time, proper negative, or hammer for the task. However, I do have a job where I get paid to play with printers and scanners. I had a copy of “Last, Loveliest Smile” hanging on the wall over my desk. I had printed this a long time ago with a Canon 1700 when we had first switched over to that printer after the Canon 1600 had been discontinued to see if the Canon 1700 lived up to the bold proclamation on the box that it was “photo lab quality”. For the record, the Canon 1700 does not print photo lab quality. It does make a decent appointment card printer if you don’t mind replacing it every 4 months when the ink trap gets full. However, it was a decent enough print for me to put some tape on the back of it and throw it up on the wall above my computer next to “Blue Steel” and “Kentucky Appetizer” and “Grizzly McAlpine”.

A couple weeks ago one of our customers ordered a pretty decent document scanner. (Truth be known they ordered a label printer and the order was filled out incorrectly so I shipped them a document scanner) While I was testing this scanner I wondered if it would scan a crumpled up piece of paper. So I pulled “Last, Loveliest Smile” off the wall and crumpled it up. Then I crumpled it up some more. Then I threw it against the wall and jumped up and down on it. Then I uncrumpled the sheet of paper and ran it through the scanner. That is the story of the creation of “Last, Loveliest Smile Redux”. The creation of “Last, Loveliest Smile” is a whole other story.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Labour of Ages

I don’t know if there is much of a story to this picture. I was given the charge of watching over my friends Jen and Derrick’s dogs while they were off having fun in Wisconsin. While looking in on their dogs I walked past the flower garden and noticed this little flower fighting through several larger flowers to get to the sunlight. This flower had yet to fully bloom and I have always loved pictures of flowers that were not fully bloomed, although I usually find myself in the minority. I guess I believe in the end that flowers that haven’t fully bloomed yet are similar to humans. In the respect that all humans fall short and are never really fully developed. All we can do is fight through to our sunlight.

Jen worked very hard on their flower garden this year and it certainly paid off for me as I found quite a few fascinating images in their garden this year.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
1900

This picture was taken of Shannon at Living History Farms. I spent about half a day at Living History Farms when I was on vacation. I had always figured that Living History Farms was one of the most boring places on Earth, but Shannon argued that nobody that loved history could be bored by such a place. So I went to visit. Shannon works at the 1900 Farm so she gave me the tour. (However, I don’t feel it was the full tour because she would not take me to see the boars.) We went up to the hayloft and the lighting up there was magnificent. Not boring flat light, but a bright beam of sunlight broke through the doors at the top of the barn and shone down on Shannon like a spotlight. I don’t want to say that it perfectly lit her, because I don’t think that does it justice. I believe that the light illuminated her. She says that she thinks the picture makes her look like an angel. I’ll leave that for the historians to decide. I did change the picture from color to black and white even though I loved the original color image because the black and white helped hide a bit of lens flare that was clearly visible across the front of her skirt. Ahh, lens flare! One of the hazards of shooting directly into light.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Faux Sunset

This picture is somewhat of a miracle. Not in the respect that it exists, but in the respect that it made it to the contest. It came very close to not making it to Round 2. In fact the only reason it made it to the second round was because of a last second phone call from Jesse Howard saying that he wanted to vote for this picture as well.

Even though it limped out of the first round of voting, it was a juggernaut in the second round. Absolutely crushing the competition in the second round. At the top of most of the pages on my website is a quote from Picasso:

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”

I don’t know if there is a picture that lives up to this quote on my entry slate than “Faux Sunset”. Most people have told me that it is a lovely sunset picture. It might be lovely, but if they were to concentrate more closely on the first word in the title, they would know that this is not a picture of a sunset at all.

I took this picture on a foggy night in Ledges back in April. The picture is of a street lamp. I became enamored with making a picture of a mysterious light in the woods. My hope was to eliminate the light source and just capture the light through the trees. I thought it would be a curiosity. What was making that light? I’m a huge fan of 50s Science Fiction. People who spend time with me inevitably end up sitting on a couch watching the original “The Outer Limits” on DVD at some point. Movies like “Forbidden Planet” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” were my influences for taking this picture.

In the end, people didn’t find this picture mysterious at all. They saw it quite clearly as a sunset. I haven’t decided if fooling people is good enough when what I wanted to do was make people wonder.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Franklin

The final picture to sneak in is “Franklin”. This picture was taken back in June. I had committed to helping Shannon make soap, but at that time I had not realized that the soap making day was on the same day as Brian Beavers’ wedding.

I showed up to help make soap, but I had to leave early in the process to drive to Grinnell to attend the wedding. I wanted to take a few pictures of the soap making process because I thought that it made an interesting subject.

Shannon had let her cat Franklin wander around outside in an effort to make him tougher. The lessons weren’t sinking in because he spent a good portion of his time outside begging to be let inside. He stuck his head through the railing bars of the front steps and I took this picture.

There have been times in the past where I have been accused of not liking cats. Whether or not that is true, I have never denied that cats had interesting eyes. For that reason I chose to keep Franklin’s eyes in color and change the rest of the picture to black and white. I was hoping that because Franklin was already black and white a person giving a cursory glance to the image would not be able to tell that the eyes were the only part of the image that is in color. It would take a deeper examination of the image to reveal this fact.

This is a technique I have used before with “Outburst of the Soul” and “Lost Dreams”. I do like it, but hope not to over use it as its effects can be almost too obvious sometimes.

I end this entry with an e-mail I got from Derrick Gorshe. I don’t want to say that I rate or rank the correspondence I have with my amigos, but I would say that this e-mail he sent me is one of my favorite e-mails I have ever received. He was casting his vote in the second round:

When Storm Thorgerson of “Hipgnosis” (the man and company responsible for most of Pink Floyd’s cover art)was questioned about his design of the late sixties albumn “Atom Heart Mother”, he said that that particular photo of a cow was the most perfect cow photo ever. No photo before and probably ever would convey “Cow” as much as that particular photo, and while it really had nothing to do with the source material within the record, that was enough to make it memorable.

It is this reasoning that leads me to my two choices.

“Franklin” is truly a picture of a cat. And while that statement says very little in and of itself, that is enough to make it memorable. The other choice falls between two of the other photos.

I really like “Clouds with Color” for the same reason….it is the ultimate picture of clouds and as such is very memorable, but I also really like “Faux Sunset”. It may not be the definitive picture of a sunset, but it really is quite beautiful, and conveys a feeling of peace and a quiet end of the day. A little mystery remains with that sunset though. The day has closed quietly, but the night remains open to unlimited possibilities and anything is possible. Good or bad, it’s an evening you likely will never forget.”

Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest

So I’ve weened the field of contenders down to 16. What lies below are the 16 photos I’m considering for the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. I can enter six images, so please feel free to give me your opinion on what pictures you think I should enter. It really isn’t difficult or hard to leave comments on this “blog”. If you don’t have a google account, just select anonymous. I look forward to hearing some feedback . . . he said wistfully.


2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Ant

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Jen’s Flower

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Night Cross

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Faux Sunset

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Franklin

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Epson 350 Scanner Test

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Frogtography

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Darrel’s Place

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Intermediate Creature

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Clouds

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Same Clouds – Sans Color

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Another One of Jen’s Flowers

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Time Filler

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Wheels

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Yellow Rose

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Shannon

It should be pointed out that these are not the actual names of the pictures, but just something to call them by at this time.

Time to Come Clean

Over the last week I have had to face a couple of hard truths. The first truth is that the Pope isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Or perhaps I’m wrong and during this time of religious bickering, it was a smart thing to piss off Jews and Protestants and unify them against him and the Catholic Church.

The second truth I’ve had to face is that I’m not going to finish my 14 part blog. Or at least not any time soon. So I’m going to break the silence on the things of done since May 19th. So these are the things I’ve done since that day, in no particular order:

I’ve went to the following movies:

Pirates 3 – Very disappointing ending.
Oceans 13 – Better than Oceans 12, but what wasn’t?
Ratatouille – Easily the best movie of the year thus far.
A Mighty Heart – Not as good as I had hoped.
Waitress – Also not as good as I had hoped and the doctor gets off way too easily.
Transformers – Easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen. What passes for wit in this loserfest is the racial stereotype transformer tells Megatron “You want a piece of me?” Megatron rips the racial stereotype Autobot in half and says “No, I want two pieces.” This movie is even bad by Michael Bay standards.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – A lot more fulfilling if you have read the book, other wise many sequences are just confusing.
I talked to and shook hands with Barack Obama and told him about my job.
I helped set a sales record for Little White Lye Soap.
Walked a few laps with Willy at Relay for Life. He walked 31 miles.
Went to the 2nd oldest restaurant in Iowa (Stone’s) with Jay.

Had lunch with Faust in Mankato.
Visited the National Hobo Museum.
Took pictures of flowers.
Saw Buddy Guy in concert with Derrick and Jen.
Turned in my photo entries for the State Fair.
Attended a birthday party for Jen.
Took the Henning family picture.
Watched K-Dawg’s team get smoked by Jefferson in the Little League tournament one day and come back to do the smoking a few days later to advance to the state tournament.
Took Jesse to the emergency room.
Bought a sweet new monitor for my home computer. (I’m not normally one to brag about my consumer tendencies, but I really love this monitor.)
Watched Killdeer lay on eggs and the eggs hatch a few days later.
Went to the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Brian Beavers.
Saw the world’s largest strawberry.
Saw the world’s largest bullhead.
Saw the Jolly Green Giant.
Despite have to walk a half mile due to a guy’s gastronomical difficulties, watched Willy complete the 5K at Midnight Madness.
Had lunch with Mark before he returns to Taiwan.
Went to Backbone State Park with Shannon.
Helped Stephanie pick out a camera for work.
Went to the State Center Rose Garden with Jay.
Attempted and failed to make Mentos/Diet Coke rockets with Eric.
Took pictures of the “844”.
Enjoyed several Friday Night Supper Clubs with Jay and Willy.
Enjoyed several New Taste Tuesdays with Frank, Jesse, and Steve.
Went to the Company picnic. Seemed like people were actually excited to see me.
Drove to Minnesota to see Nate and watch Harry Potter.
Watched a slide show of pictures from Willy’s trip to Spain.
Attended a pretty sweet Memorial Day barbecue.
Set up a new squirrel feeder and two new bird feeders.
Changed the oil in my car. (personal reminder, change oil again at 161,000 miles)
Helped make soap.
It is most likely I did more than that, but that is all that comed to my head at this time, with one exception. One major exception.
I went to the Des Moines Arts Festival with Rebecca and Jay. I would have to say first and foremost, what a dog that was. What a major disappointment.

However, it did inspire me to put together the blog that I will hopefully post on the morrow. I can’t say that it is a good blog. In fact, it is probably the type of blog that makes one lose friends and gain enemies. It is the type of blog that may make people stop returning my e-mails or phone calls. The type of blog that may make people move to the other side of the street if they see me walking down the street. It frankly might be a subject that will make some people uncomfortable. Yet, that is for tomorrow.

Minutia – Chapter 6: An Adequate Birthday

Chapter 6: An Adequate Birthday

I woke up on a Friday morning. It had been 32 years since I was born. If I know the story correctly, my parents had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birth. That sentence didn’t sound correct. Let me try again. If I know the tale, my Ma and Pa had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birthin’.

Perhaps it is tales like this that prompted my cousin Allan to once give my kin (sisters) the backhanded compliment that he was impressed with how well we turned out considering the White Trash we came from. I’ve always considered this to be a bold and clueless statement considering that we are related by blood. If I came from White Trash, he came from the same white trash bin. Believe me, I don’t want to compare sides of the family, but he comes from the side of my family that is considerably less sophisticated.

I had realized long ago that family is family and it doesn’t matter so much where you came from as where you are going. But where you came from always remains part of who you are. I embrace that fact.

Yet, where I was 32 years ago on this day mattered little for where I was going on this day. I got out of bed, showered, and went to work.

The drive for me to work is almost always the same. On this day though I was going to add the complication of trying to change my voice mail message. This really goes against my core belief that people shouldn’t talk on the cell phone while they are driving, but I really didn’t want to be bothered with a ton of phone calls wishing me a happy birthday. It was my birthday, but I didn’t want that to control my entire day. I was going to change my voicemail to say something to the effect that I “wasn’t taking calls on this day, but if you leave a message I’ll return your call tomorrow.”

It turned out that I pushed a wrong button along the way and changed my message to that message that just tells people what number they have just dialed. Then the battery on my phone died. I considered this to be good enough.

Work was more or less uneventful. More than half of our employees were in Seattle for the big convention. To placate (the people who care that they weren’t in Seattle, which doesn’t include me) the people left behind, the Company grilled out. This meant some kind of pork. It was tasty and prevented me from having to leave to find food.

The only other eventful thing to happen during the workday was a call from Jesse. Apparently he wasn’t to be denied. He actually called my work phone. This is a good thing, because if you take out him calling my work phone, it has rang on only a handful of other occasions. If it wasn’t for Jesse, my phone could break and I would never know it.

When he called I was not at my desk. I was talking to a co-worker about 70s science fiction movies. The Shipping Manager approached me and said, “I have Jesse parked in 4.”

“I don’t know what to do about that.”

She explained what to do and I was successful. I had Jesse on the line.

“You not answering your phone?” It was both an accusation and a question at the same time.

“The battery is dead.” It didn’t dawn on me that he was talking about my work phone because nobody ever calls it.

“I mean your work phone.”

“It hasn’t rang all day.”

“I just called you.”

“I didn’t hear it ring, but I was over talking to Co-Worker X about ‘Zardoz’.”

“Well, I just wanted to talk to you on your birthday.”

“Thanks.”

“You got anything big planned?”

“Just going over to Colleen’s for supper.” I had enough of this birthday talk. I changed the subject. “How is Seattle?”

“It is awesome. It is the greatest and cleanest big city ever.”

“Are you going to do anything cool?” This was a legitimate question. I’m always disappointed when I here stories about people that travel to exotic and interesting locales and all they can tell me when they got back was how drunk they got. I’ve never been much of a drinker, which people tell me clouds my judgment on such issues, but I’ve never been to Seattle or Hawaii or Los Angeles. I wouldn’t want to go some place that has so much to offer and only come back with a basket full of “I got so wasted” memories. I can make those memories in Boone for a quarter of the price.

The other side of this question was because I worry about Jesse. Our big convention is just like every other convention. It involves lots of drinking. Jesse is not supposed to mix alcohol with his medication. This is exacerbated by his well documented lightweight status. It only takes a few drinks to get him going, but there are theories that it isn’t possible for human to get drunk on as little alcohol as it takes to get him loopy.

A friend of ours by the name of Corey is a leader in the field of alcohol research. He is a man that is so passionate about the field that he has even suffered broken bones in the pursuit of new knowledge. He has purported the theory that none of us have ever actually seen Jesse drunk. We have only seen him pretend to be drunk.

That might be the case, but I do know that despite his doctors warning and being surrounded by alleged friends at the convention in Las Vegas last year, he had too much to drink. As I have stated, due to his medication, too much to drink is anything to drink.

I say this because while a few of them were walking down a Las Vegas sidewalk, Jesse decided to drop trou and have a whiz. This actually is not a completely rare sight. It is not uncommon for a group of men out and about to stop short and take care of business out in public. Men don’t even have to be drunk to engage in such an activity.

You don’t have to be drunk to take a leak facing a building. You have to be drunk to do it facing the street. I was hoping not to hear a repeat of the Las Vegas story come back from Seattle.

“We are going on an underground city tour and we are going to a Mariners game.”

I was jealous of these two activities. The Mariners were playing the Padres on this evening. The Padres have been my favorite team for over twenty years now. I have never seen them play. In fact I have never seen a real baseball game. I have been to the Metrodome and to Kauffman Stadium on numerous occasions, but that doesn’t count as real baseball. They use the Designated Hitter. Then I reminded myself that an interleague game at an American League stadium did not qualify as real baseball either. They would be using the great abomination as well. Still, I would like to see the Padres play some time, even if it is under such conditions.

The underground tour would be fascinating as well. If I ever do make it to Seattle, it is the one thing I would have to do. Seattle has a fascinating history in this respect. I’m a sucker for almost all kinds of history.

“Chris Young is pitching tonight. You’ll have to watch his control early in the game. If he throws strikes early in the game he will dominate. If he his is going deep in the count in the early innings, he will have a short night. There is no middle ground for him. He either has control or he doesn’t.”

“I’ll have to watch for that.”

“The underground tour, that would be the number one thing that I would want to see if I went to Seattle.”

“Why is that?”

“Seattle has a unique history and their underground is unlike any other in the world. Their city started to sink, so they just changed what was considered ground level and what was ground level is still there, but now it is underground.”

“That does sound pretty cool.”

“It sounds fascinating. You’ll have to let me know how it was.”

“I’ll let you get back to work.”

“Later.”

I left work at about 6 pm. I was supposed to be at Colleen’s for supper around 7 pm. We were having a giant birthday supper for all of the May birthdays. Rebecca, Nate, Colleen, and I all had the great pleasure of being born in May. Nate and Bethany were coming back from Minnesota for Rebecca’s graduation and this was really the only time that we would all be available to sup together.

It was my birthday, but it was really just like any other day. There were times in the past when I would take my birthday off and do whatever I wanted. I would make my birthday my own 24 hours of hedonism. I would only do the things that I enjoyed. I would even have grand birthday bashes where I would send out birthday invitations that glorified me. Those days were behind me now. I was perfectly content to let my birthday pass by just like it was any other day on the calendar. I didn’t want or need birthday presents. Today was an adequate birthday. It was a day like any other. That was all I wanted.

(Secretly though I did covet a couple of birthday presents and I have gotten one of those presents and I have an IOU for the other.) I have found though that whether or not you want presents or not, people some times insist on giving them to you. Which is alright, I guess.

I arrived at Colleen’s at about 7:15. She greeted me at the door. Rebecca and Kirk were there, but Bethany and Nate were not there. For the tenth straight time that I have been to Colleen’s, Kirk was watching some form of auto racing. It seemed like a waste of such a nice television.

“Where are Nate and Bethany?” I asked. It had been a while since I had seen either of them. I don’t think I had seen Bethany since we went to the Sculpture Garden and I don’t think I had seen Nate since the Jordis Unga concert.

“They are still on the road.” Colleen answered. “Apparently they had to stop somewhere because Bethany wanted to buy a camera.”

I took a seat and waited. I looked at the television. There were trucks driving around in a circle. I don’t know much about racing, but I hope this wasn’t the big race of the week for truck racers. There must have been maybe 100-200 people in the stands. I did not make any comments deriding auto racing though. I have quietly come to accept the fact that auto racing has invaded all of my families on some levels. Although I have accepted the fact with a defeated dignity, I figured that I would take a few jabs at the “sport” when Nate was present. He had the ability to do it in a good natured way where feelings were only bruised and not injured. If I started in with Rebecca as my backup, things might get personal.

So I turned to Rebecca. “Are your hands clean?”

“Why?”

“I got that book that is going into Kelly’s Salon, if you would like to check it out.”

“Sure.”

I handed the box in the book with it over to her.

“Good news,” I said, “Your picture came yesterday, so I just need to get it matted and then it will be ready for Sunday. Are you going to be around tomorrow?”

“I will be in the morning. I’m going to a Slaughterhouse 6 show at Vaudeville Mews tomorrow night and I have some graduation parties to go to.”

“What time are you getting up in the morning?”

“Pretty early. Probably about 9.”

I knew that meant 11.

“Did you like that Van Gogh book that I got you?”

“Yeah. It is pretty neat. I think it will come in real useful when I go to college.”

“I hope it does.”

It was then that the door opened and Nate walked in with Bethany. Nate looked at the television and saw that racing was on the television. Nate had been admiring the television for quite some time. He held his tongue, but the look on his face clearly indicated that he thought that this was a waste of a perfectly good television.

Bethany looked at me and said, “Hey Chris!”

Whenever Bethany is going to ask me for a favor or for my help she always starts the request with these two words and an identical inflection. This is the type of inflection that makes the two word “hey” and “Chris” a question more than a declarative statement.

I already knew that a request was about to be made and I already knew that the request was going to be granted. What I didn’t know was what the request was going to be.

“Yes Bethany.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“I don’t have anything scheduled per se.” I still didn’t have much information. “Except that I’m going to be delivering Rebecca’s picture signature board thing.”

“Can you help me buy a camera?”

Wow! This was something I was actually, sort of qualified to do. In fact, people had sought my advice about buying a camera quite frequently lately. Only every single time I had given my advice and backed it up with reasons, the advisees had bought something completely different.

“Yeah, I can do that. I’m actually pretty excited about it. Perhaps you might listen to my advice.” I said and thought “rather than completely wasting my time”. Why don’t people listen to me? They come to me for a reason, but then they just wander off into the wilderness. Fools and knaves! All of them!

I stroked my goatee knowingly and then I asked, “What time were you thinking?”

Bethany sat there for a second.

Nate chimed in, “Why don’t you ask her what time she is going to get up.” Brothers are always there to help.

I acted on Nate’s advice, “What time are you going to get up?”

“I can get up and be ready by noon.”

“Then we’ll go at noon.”

Racing trucks roared in the background.

Moments later we were sitting around the kitchen table eating supper. Colleen had fixed a wondrous spread. It included turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and asparagus. There were also various salads but I’m not going to try to describe them. I’m sure they were varying forms of pasta salad, but that is all I can say about them for sure, besides that they were delicious. This is a gap in my schooling that I have looked to close in recent weeks. I have yet to be successful.

After dinner I sat down in the chair where I couldn’t get a clear look at the screen. Trucks were still driving around in a circle. It boggles my mind that at this point they had been doing this for over 2 hours.

Nate, Bethany, and Rebecca all sat down around the television. We were all miserable from eating too much food. It was a good kind of miserable though.

In the kitchen Colleen and Kirk did the dishes and cut up the birthday cake. Even though it seemed that I couldn’t eat any more food, I managed to eat a piece of cake. It was a good cake, but it wasn’t the caliber of cake made by Nate. I think I would have added a third thing to my secret birthday list, but in retrospect what Nate did give me was almost as good as a Nate cake. Besides, he certainly didn’t have the time to make a cake while he was down this weekend. Nate makes such good cakes. Perhaps if he asks me for a birthday list next year, I’ll just point to my belly and tell him to make if full and happy. Happy with cake.

Even though I did not desire anything, I was given a couple of birthday presents afterwards. It not being just my birthday, I was not the only one. Rebecca had brought bag purses for Bethany and Colleen from the Senior Trip to New York City. One was a “Prada” and the other was a “Coach”. I received a pretty sweet stocking cap that says New York City on it. It makes me look even tougher than I normally do. When I wear it I will no doubt scare small children.

From Colleen and Kirk I got a copy of the first season of “The Office”. Always an excellent choice.

Shortly after the cake had been eaten, Sara H. showed. Sara had just graduated from college. She told me how she was going to work for Habitat for Humanity for a year in North Carolina to be near her boyfriend who goes to Davidson.

The thought crossed my mind about her working on a construction crew. It might be possible that her mastery over profanity could be taken to the next level. Habitat might be a non-profit organization, but I refuse to believe that anybody can frame a house and put up dry wall with out the occasional f bomb flying out of their mouth. Well, perhaps the Amish.

She ruined this dream. She is going to be doing office work. How boring.

After a few more minutes of polite conversation, Bethany and Sara H. left for a bar in the west end of town.

A little after they left, Colleen and Kirk left for the bar. That left the television remote unguarded and up for grabs. Rebecca and Nate both made a move for the remote, but Rebecca is younger and was quicker.

She turned the television to TBS and just like that truck racing was replaced by “Sex and the City”. Nate grumbled at this development.

“This is only marginally better than watching auto racing.” Nate declared.

I moved to the couch so that I could actually see the television screen. Nate grumbled some more. Then he watched in silence for about five minutes.

“Well, I’ve seen all of this I can take.” Then Nate got up off the couch and left to go to the bar.

This left just me and Rebecca. Watching “Sex and the City” reruns on a Friday night.

“Do you hate ‘Sex and the City’?” Rebecca asked.

“I’ve been more or less conditioned to watch this show.”

Then we more or less sat in silence watching the remainder of the episode where one character hooked up with the guy from “Office Space”, one character decided that she really did love her baby’s father, one character realized her relationship could only go so far because her boyfriend was Jewish, and I can’t remember the problems of the fourth character. The show ended and we watched another episode. Same problems.

“Sex and the City” was followed by an episode of “Scrubs”. About half way through this show I got up and said, “Well, I better call it a night. I have to get up early tomorrow to do some matting.”

Rebecca wished me a good night. As I walked down the stairs, through the door, and out to my car I had one thought cross my mind:

“This was a perfectly adequate birthday and there was nothing wrong with that.”


Bennett's Run
Former Birthday Party Invitation – Parody of “Logan’s Run”

06-03-07
Present from Rebecca – Photo by Corey Schmidt

06-28-07
One of my “secret birthday wishes” – Stained Glass Made by Jen

Randumbness

I’m going to attempt to get out of the video posting rut that I’ve been in lately. Not that the videos I’ve posted have been bad. In fact, they have been highly entertaining. However, this here “Artist’s Notebook” isn’t supposed to be about funny videos. It is supposed to be about “Yours Truly” and my artistic endeavors and artistic failures. Although it is certainly also about my inspirations. Those videos are a part of my “Online Idea Box”, as I have been known to refer to this thing as. 

This “Artist’s Notebook” is also about my more personal inspirations: My friends. So I should reveal what has been up with some of my friends. 

The biggest news about my friends would be that Derrick has become the man at his place of employment. I believe his previous job title was “Guitar god” or “Guitar Guy” or “Sales Consultant”. Now his job title is something like “General Manager” or “Store Manager” or “The Man” or “Mr. Man” or “HHIC”. 

It is a strange twist of fate that his S.O. Jen was once “The Man”. She hired Derrick on. Now it is a few years later and he is now “The Man”. 

There was a store manager in between them, but I fail to recall her name. I do know that the rulers of Derrick’s company did her in on Monday. They pulled the old switching the locks to the door trick. A classic of all passive-aggressive wieners that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do somebody in face to face. 

I know from my extensive firing experiences that it takes a man to look somebody in the face and tell them: “Get out of here kid. You’re no good. You don’t have a future”. Of course my extensive fire experience includes firing not a single person. 

You see I was once “The Man”. Not with the same company where Derrick is currently “The Man”. Yet, I was the man for a couple of years in a quickly failing restaurant. It was hard to be “The Man” at this place because the owner of the restaurant wanted it to fail. They were begging their understanding of God for it to fail. 

I ran what in the politically correct vernacular would be known as a “quick service restaurant” in Campustown. The large overhead of such a business and poor location spelled doom for the restaurant. 

While I was captain of this sinking vessel I did not have to fire anybody. I soon realized that most people fired themselves. You set up standards for people. You communicated these standards to the people. You set up consequences for not reaching these standards. You communicated these consequences to the people. When people knew that they weren’t reaching the established standards, they would pretty much quit on their own. 

I should point out that I wasn’t exactly setting the bar high either. My minions consisted of High School and College Students. This wasn’t a career stop for them. This was a little bit of spending scratch so they could booze it up on the weekend or go to that Dave Matthews concert or for some it was to pay for their textbooks or their rent. 

The good ones already cared about their job, not because they cared about the job. They cared about their job because they were the type of people that did well because what they were doing was what they were doing. In less convoluted terms, anything that they did they were going to do well because the result was a reflection of them. It wasn’t what the job consisted of that was important. Whatever it was, they were going to do it well. 

Then there were the employees that failed under my regime. They really failed of their own accord. At least they left of their own accord. Which the majority of them left because their time at Iowa State had concluded or they realized that they could get paid much better doing a much easier job some place else. However I am not typing words out about the people who just moved on to better things. This is about people who theoretically could have been fired. The failures. 

My standards were not that high. It isn’t that they were low. It is that when you are stuck working in corporation there are about 1 trillion incredibly dumb rules about every single insignificant aspect of how to do every single mundane job. In huge multilevel corporations like the one that employed me, you will find people that memorize and dream about every single one of these stupid little rules that have nothing at all to do with the success of a business. In fact the enforcement of these rules is a waste of time. Concentrating on the mindnumbing minutia that is the “Proper way to pull eggs from the grill” is allowing insignificance to control the significant aspects of the business. 

There were really only a handful of things that I cared about. I never spelled this out, wrote it down, posted it, or handed it out on cards. But if you were to really spell out my rules of management they were simple: 

1. Serve the customer, in a fast, friendly manner with a good product.
2. Keep the store clean.
3. Maintain the equipment.
4. Don’t get me in trouble. 

People who couldn’t do these things usually phased themselves right out of the business. 

WOW! I never meant to drone on and on and on and on and on about it. 

Willy had oral surgery last Thursday. It must have went well. He was up and back on the dance floor by Friday night. He even attended the largest Friday Night Supper Club in history. There were 6 people there. Including 3 people that had never made it to a Friday Night Supper Club function before. Jen, Derrick, and Sara now have FNSC Auxillary Member Status. 

Jesse did not make it to Friday Night Supper Club because he had his nose broken Friday morning. It was on purpose. It wasn’t like he had lipped off to some dude and got regulated. A doctor busted him up good and attempted to rearrange some of the nose parts so that he can breathe better and make him a little bit softer on the eyes. 

I got the pleasure of hanging out in the Ambulatory Waiting Room with Kelly and Mary while the doctors were working him over. It was through a conversation with Kelly that I learned more about his lying, scheming ways. Also I got more ammunition for the Bandwagoner side of the Jesse Howard: Bandwagoner or Innovator debate. Wives sometimes talk too much. 

Kelly also regaled me a tale that I will file in my memory banks under the “Great Easter War”. I will not retell the tale at this time, but it might make its way into a short story collection in a bookstore near you. 

Last night after work I headed to a park to test out my new camera bag. Once I got to the park I realized I couldn’t test my new bag out because the only thing I had brought with me was my camera and the new bag. I hadn’t brought my old bag that was full of goodies. I was looking forward to doing some bird photography, but that dream was effectively snuffed out by the fact that I had left my telephoto lens in my old camera bag. Therefore I was stuck with only my 50mm lens to try to capture images. The 50mm is a great lens, but birds are known cowards. I believe that they are the first known draft dodgers. 

Due to their well documented cowardice (sometimes known as migration but really draft dodging) it is difficult to get close to them with out them taking off. So below are the best pictures I could muster out of the experience. They are failures. I know this fact. 


04-19-2007

 




This is going to sound slightly harsh, but it was nice to see a collection of deer without injuries. There is quite an assortment of deer that live in the woods behind my current place of employment. Almost all of them suffer from at least one injured leg.

Post Secret

Last Thursday I went to a lecture by the Post Secret guy at the Union with Stephanie, Jen, Derrick, and Sara. It was rather informative.

If you aren’t familiar with Post Secret it is an art project where people write down their secrets and send them to one guy. He started by handing out self-addressed card is DC and asked people to write down a secret and mail it to him. He then took those cards and posted them at a public art exhibit.

He has published 3 books of Post Secrets so far and he continues to get about 3,000 cards a day. He posts the 20 or so best ones every Sunday on his website:


Post Secret

Below are some of my favorites from this past week: