Category Archives: Writing

Minutia – Chapter 4: Failure

Chapter 4: Failure

Thomas Edison failed on his first 100 attempts to invent the light bulb. When asked if he was upset with all of his failures he responded that they weren’t failures. He had learned 100 different ways not to invent the light bulb. I think of that story at times when I need motivation and I can’t seem to make the picture in my head and the picture on the screen the same. Then I also remember that Thomas Edison used to publicly electrocute cats and dogs to show the dangers of Tesla’s competing style of electricity. That reminds that the distance between genius and insanity is measured by success.

I had just got home from Ames. I had a belly full of Club sandwich. I had invites to not one but two swinging parties burning in the back of my mind. One party was in Des Moines. This party was to celebrate Nate and Ryan’s birthdays. If I attended this party I would get to see Ryan. He is the recognized master of the high five. This was a strong selling point.

The second party was for Sara H.’s graduation. She had recently graduated college and was having one last shindig before she left for North Carolina for a stint with Habitat for Humanity. While Ryan is an acknowledged master of the high five, Sara is an acknowledged master of profanity. Perhaps the only one I know.

Sara H.’s party was in Ogden. Nate’s party was in Des Moines. I considered my options. Then I considered that the sun was quickly fading in the sky. It had been a while since I had felt the Maxxum 5D in my hands, if you hadn’t counted the pictures of Bethany and her new camera I had taken an hour or so ago.

I was feeling restless. I grabbed the camera and loaded the car up with fake flowers. I hit the road. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but I just didn’t know where I wanted to go. Plus, I was going to need an assistant.

There was really only one man for the job of assistant. With apologies to Baier, if I were an artistic genius like Van Gogh, Jay would be my Gauguin. This is for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that Jay would look great with a mustache. The second reason is that Jay is always riding me for being lazy.

Any time that I say that I should put up a tripod, but that I won’t do it because it is too time consuming, he is right on my back calling me lazy.

I dream that someday Jay and I can have a confrontation where he tells me that the only thing he can tell by looking at my work is that I work too fast. So I can get right back in his grill and tell him that he “looks too fast”. If this happens I would prefer that Jay was wearing red pants.

I had drove around aimlessly for awhile before deciding on giving Jay a call. He answered his phone and sounded a bit like a man that had been beaten down. I’m sure he had. He had probably spent 10 hours at work.

Without trying to sound pushy I asked Jay if he might be interested in helping me with a little photo project that I was working on.

“When?”

“The sooner the better.” In reality I had some disposable time, but I wasn’t in the patient mood.

“I’ll need to take a shower first.”

“It would be better if you didn’t.”

That sentence kind of hung there for awhile.

“What do you want me to do?”

“It might involve you getting wet.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I want to go down to a stream and then you are going to throw these fake flowers into the stream. It might involve you actually getting into the stream, plus we might have to cross the stream, and you might have to help me find the flowers if they get lost. Plus there is always the chance of mud.”

“I can’t take a shower?”

“I wouldn’t see the point. You are just going to have to take a shower after we are done.”

“I really stink.”

“We both are probably going to stink before this little exercise (in futility) is over.”

“Why me?”

“Because you are my Gauguin!”

“Wasn’t he kind of a prick?”

“It would be better than being my Signac?”

“Yeah, that pointillism joker with his ‘scientific method’.”

“Yeah, screw that guy.”

“Screw pointillism too.”

“So you’re in?”

“The deal is that you can’t complain that I stink.”

“I wouldn’t think of it.”

I swung by Jay’s pad and picked him up. I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do. Although I knew this was going to be entirely a test run for a later photo, I needed to make the test run as soon as possible. The deadline for State Fair Photography Salon was quickly approaching and I wanted to be able to place my order with Adorama with plenty of time to spare. That way I would get the pictures back with plenty of time to discuss my matting options with Monica. After all, Monica is my matting expert because of her vast knowledge of the color wheel. Plus she can put a picture on different colored mattes and say “that looks good, it really brings out color X.”

I’m not at liberty to discuss what I am trying to do with this picture. Only Monica gets to see the four pictures I enter to the State Fair Photography Salon before the reception the Tuesday before the State Fair opens. At that point, Sara J. gets to see the pictures. Then, I might post them on my website. That is if I do well. If I don’t do well, I just pretend like I’ve never heard of the State Fair Photography Salon.

Jay got in the car. I didn’t smell any stench on the man. Which means he was either grousing for no reason or he had made haste to take the White Trash Shower. I didn’t smell an excess of cologne on him, so I think that he was really just trying to buy time until he could think of a good reason not to wade through a stream with me. His plan failed.

I turned the radio up and we headed towards McHose Park.

I had chosen the stream that ran behind McHose Park. Perhaps it isn’t the most sanitary stream in the world, but it had three things that I prized above all else.

The thing I wanted the most was solitude. I knew that if I was hanging around this stream, I would most likely be able to do my work in peace. As opposed to Ledges, where there would be people crawling all over the place. McHose Park is always busy on the front side, but not many people hang around the backside, unless they are engaging in an illegal narcotic based activity. If I ran into such people, we would leave each other alone.

The second thing that I liked about the stream behind McHose Park is that while it isn’t deep, there are sections of it that are fairly deep. The water can get as deep as 3 to almost 4 feet deep. Finding one of these deep spots would be key to my artistic pursuit on this day.

The final thing that appealed to me was clear water. Unlike portions of the stream at Ledges or Squaw Creek, the water that runs through this stream is very clear. At least in the parts of the creek that have a sandy bottom.

One of the sad truths about McHose Park is that despite being one of the largest and most beautiful City Parks in the state, it has come into disrepair lately. The main paved road that cuts through the park has huge sections where the term pothole seems to hardly even be appropriate. The gravel back roads are eroding away and the city does not seem to be interested in grading them. A couple of the bridges on the backside of the park are well past being called safe.

I drove down the one gravel road that is still passable for somebody in a sedan. I stopped and parked a few hundred feet past Turtle Pond. I parked right in front of the Water Treatment Facility.

There are no words that adequately describe the smell that first attacks your nostrils when you smell the air outside of the Water Treatment Facility. If Jay was worried about any body odor, this smell should have put him at ease. I don’t know the person that can produce an odor that can compete with this smell. For purposes of intellectual honesty, I should admit that I do know a couple, but nobody that I would ever allow in my car.

Years ago McHose Park had a road on its very backside that you could drive through. It was a gravel road that allowed you to drive through the stream on a couple of occasions. For some reason, the City closed down this road. Although you can’t drive on it any longer, it is still there. Slowly eroding away and being reclaimed by the forest. We walked down what is left of this road.

When I originally envisioned this project, I thought about a part of the stream that is on the very south edge of McHose Park. A part of the stream that was almost all the way to US30. There was a small waterfall at this part of the stream and a stretch of the stream that was a decent depth. However, we were quite a ways away from that part of the stream, so I decided to just make do with the first decent part of the stream I came across. After all, these were just test shots. It didn’t need to be perfect.

Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as walked down the road, past a crane and a Bobcat that blocked part of the road. Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as we approached a section of the road where the stream crossed the road.

Jay looked at me and said, “Now what?”

My plan wasn’t terribly thought out. I told him what I knew.

“You are going to stand down here. I am going to walk down there.” I said while pointing in the general direction of downstream. “When I give you the signal, I want you to throw the fake flowers in the stream.”

“That is it? You drug me out here to throw fake flowers into a stream?”

I saw that he had brought with him his particular brand of insolence.

“Yeah, that is pretty much it.” I conceded.

I decided to take on the stream barefooted. I loathe sandals and do not own a pair or their bastard offspring the flip flop. I can’t even bring myself to say flip flop. Last time I bought a pair, I made Olivia refer to them as “water related footwear.” Those “shoes” ended up in the bottom of the channel that separates Lower Cullen Lake and Middle Cullen Lake. It was either lose the “shoes” or go underwater with the Maxxum 5. Today I chose to go barefoot.

I do not know if Jay thought what I was doing was stupid, but he didn’t ask me any questions. If Jay knew what I was about to do was stupid, he has been conditioned in past encounters to let me make my own mistakes.

The other theory that I can operate under is that Jay might have noticed that I was wearing hiking boots. He may have considered the possibility that I didn’t want to get my hiking boots wet or muddy. They might have been my dress shoes. After all, we did have a friend that was vacationing in Spain that tried to pass hiking boots off as dress shoes on more than one occasion.

Whatever Jay’s motivation for not pointing out my stupidity, what I was about to do was a very stupid thing. I was going to try to make my way through a series of concrete blocks and rocks to a part of the stream that was just sand. These concrete blocks and rocks stuck out of the stream at weird angles. These concrete blocks and rocks were intermittently covered with algae.

I took off my boots and socks. I waded into the stream. The cool temperature of the water gave me an initial shock, but that gave way to a sensation of pleasure. The water was rather refreshing.

I inched my way off the road and onto a concrete block. My first step was decisive. Then I stood there and realized I didn’t really have a good second step. The rocks and the blocks were at funky angles. While I would have no problem handling this situation with two hands free, one hand was clutching the Maxxum 5D. True I could have left the camera dangling from its strap around my neck, but quite frankly I don’t believe in the camera strap. I believe in my right hand.

I was standing on a concrete block. On all sides of me was rushing water. About a foot a way was the bank. I could have stepped to the bank and walked about 20 feet and hopped into the stream in a place that wasn’t occupied by a mishmash of rocks and blocks.

It is possible that what crossed my mind was that taking the bank would have been a wimp’s way out. I would say the way of the pansy, but I have since learned that the pansy is actually a very hardy flower and does not deserve to be compared with people that are feeble or cowardly. The iris on the other hand . . .

In actuality I don’t think I ever considered the bank. I made a few more tentative steps. It seemed like I was going to make it. I made a few more steps. It seemed like this plan was going to work.

Then I tried to step up on to a concrete block. I placed my foot on top of a rock and began to push off. The rock was covered in algae. My foot slipped right off. I lost my balance and started to fall face first towards the concrete block.

I had an option though. I could put a couple of hands in front of me and stop my fall or at least push myself off to the side of the concrete block. The only problem was that I held the Maxxum 5D in one hand. If I tried to use it to help stop my fall it would surely be smashed into several no longer functioning pieces or it would have ended up in the stream. Then it would have been in one no longer function piece.

Out of my peripheral vision I realized that I still was only a few short feet from the bank. I tossed the Maxxum 5D in to a growth of grass and continued to let gravity take its course.

I put my hands out and pushed against the concrete block. My face was saved. My body shot upwards, but I was still not in equilibrium. I fell to the side and landed in the water.

“You alright?”

Jay’s concern was heart warming. I pulled myself and what was left of my dignity out of the water. I walked over to the bank to find the Maxxum 5D. It was sitting on top of the grass, looking as if it had not been flying through the air a few moments earlier. I picked it up. I looked it over. I tested it. It was fine.

I sat down on the concrete block and looked myself over. The camera was still in one piece. My face was still intact. There was a throbbing pain in my left foot though.

This term is not used with any kind of medical training. I believe that I hyperextended my left foot. When I was falling on the rock, all my weight went on the front of my foot and my toes bent upwards well past where they are supposed to stop bending. The result was a dull throbbing pain on the bottom side of my foot that felt like a bruise, but there wasn’t a bruise to be found. Further examination of my foot revealed a decent sized gash along the side of my big toe.

“I’m fine,” I answered. “Just a little cut.”

“We calling it a day?” He asked, but he already knew the answer.

I just gave him the look. The look that indicated that I wasn’t an iris, I was a pansy.

“Want your boots then?”

“Yeah, that suddenly sounds like a real good idea.”

Jay threw me my boots and I made the rest of the journey without incident. I stopped at a bend in the stream that was about 100 feet from Jay. It seemed like a good spot because on the west side of the stream there was a clearing on the bank. Plus on the outside part of the stream’s bend, the water was at least 2.5 to 3 feet deep. I gave Jay the signal.

He began dropping the fake flowers into the stream. I waited. He kept throwing them in. I waited. He had thrown them all in. I waited. I waited. I waited.

“This isn’t going to work.” He yelled downstream at me.

“Why not?”

“They’re sinking.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Doesn’t matter what it makes, they all sank.”

I began to walk upstream. Sure enough, not even 20 feet from Jay I found all of the fake flowers. They had all sunk. Fake flowers don’t float. This didn’t make sense. The flowers were made out of plastic, which floats, and silk which I would assume isn’t heavy enough to sink. I had reckoned wrong. I reckoned that maybe that the part of the stream where Jay had thrown the flowers in was too turbulent for proper floating. I grabbed all the flowers and headed back to my bend.

I dropped the flowers into the calmer area of the stream. They floated for a second and then they dropped to the stream bottom.

This sucked. I looked up to call out to Jay. I wanted to tell him that this sucked, but he was gone. It was like that moment in the horror movie where two people are in the woods and one of them disappears. Either the person that disappears shows up moments later for a “fake scare” or their body shows up in the third act all distorted and mutilated.

This wasn’t a horror movie though. Jay showed up moments later. He had wandered off and collected some small real flowers.

“This sucks.” I was finally able to verbalize, but I had lost some of the venom.

He ignored me and threw the flowers into the stream.

“Real flowers float.”

Which was great, but not real helpful. If I was going to use real flowers for my picture, I would need a flower with a much larger bloom than what Jay was finding. I saw a grouping of the type of flowers that Jay was throwing into the stream and I took a few pictures of them so that I could identify them later.

I came back to the stream and tried to get what I could out of the sinking flowers. I figured it was good enough for a test run.

I walked back to Jay, got out of the steam and walked the uncomfortable walk of somebody with wet boots. While I was walking in these wet boots to the car I decided that I didn’t really feel much like going to a party. I felt like getting out of these shoes, taking a shower, and playing with Photoshop. This would be my Saturday night. Not exciting, but I would get plenty of sleep and be able to start up my church streak again. Plus I would be plenty rested for the next day’s graduation festivities.

When we got back to the car I came to the sad realization that even though this was a test run, I hadn’t learned how to take the picture that I wanted. I had learned a way not to take the picture that I wanted.



Broken Bridge of McHose Park

05-19-07
Back of the Crane

05-19-07
The Deceptively Tricky Rapids


“You should have worn your shoes and I would look smashing wit a mustache.”


The Small Flowers on the Bank


Coming Back from the Bend

05-19-07

Chapter 3: Tenderloining It!

Chapter 3: Tenderloining It!

Tenderloining it! I’m sure if you were to rush to your dictionary you would fail to find the term “tenderloining” anywhere within its pages. One of the great things about language is the fact that it is constantly evolving. What was not a word, a correct usage, or a correct spelling will over time be absorbed and become a part of the language. Language evolves. New words are added. Old words are left behind like a vestigial tail.

“Tenderloining” might not be an accepted English word yet, but if I have my way, it will be a common term in the near future. It will be common to hear people answer questions about their weekend plans with the simple two word retort: “Tenderloining it!” or the variation, “The wife and I are going to tenderloin it up!” The variation will sometimes be accompanied by the optional international “raise the roof” gesture. Two high shrilled “whoos!” will also be optional.

I personally had been aching to go tenderloining for almost half a year now. I have been passionate about the tenderloin ever since I knew such a sandwich existed. I have been interested in the concept of perfection since I learned that it wasn’t attainable. I have been fascinated by the concept of rankings since I received my first issue of Sports Illustrated as a child. I had been aching to go to a restaurant known as Darrell’s Place in Hamlin, Iowa ever since I knew that they served what was considered to be the best tenderloin in the state.

Now if you lived in a sissy state like Nebraska, Massachusetts, or Arizona; having the best tenderloin in the state might not mean much. On the other hand, in a state like Iowa (where we know our meat) having the best tenderloin is quite an accomplishment.

I had to make my own estimations though. A tenderloin aficionado such as myself can’t just merely take the word of somebody else. I had to see, smell, and taste for myself. Not by myself though, but with somebody.

I am not a solitary creature. If I were to ever send a secret to Post Secret, that wasn’t something meaningful or actually deep, it would be that I don’t like to eat alone. But it just isn’t my fear of dining alone that made me seek out a compatriot for my tenderloin road trip.

It is my belief that a road trip, although it can be made alone, is much better when shared. Although this wasn’t going to be a long road trip, it was still going to be over 4 hours round trip, plus dining time. I needed to find somebody to share the adventure.

I took a look at the list of my normal road trip chums. It didn’t look promising. Most of my friends that would be interested in such a venture had the type of job where you have to work on weekends. My friends that don’t work on the weekend wouldn’t want to drive 2 hours just to eat a tenderloin. There was the possibility of Willy. He only works 4 days a week and does enjoy hitting the open road on occasion. Plus despite his vigorous workout routine, his dietary habits are far from exemplary. The only problem with Willy is that his planner is imaginary and he is notoriously flaky. Particularly when it comes to committing and then backing out of road trips.

Then there was the possibility of Jay. He was definitely a fan of the road trip. He is as reliable as Willy is flaky. There were just two problems with Jay. The first one being that in order for him to get a Saturday off, he has to ask for it one lunar cycle in advance, do a rain dance, wish on a falling star, and pray for a miracle. Then if everything breaks just right, he might get a Saturday off. The second problem is that Jay on occasion likes to eat “healthy”. I was worried that we would make the 2 hour drive to Hamlin and when we got there he would embarrass us in front of the locals by ordering a salad.

When it seemed that all was lost, I was given a surprise. I was discussing my desire to try the state’s best tenderloin with Baier one day. He announced to me that not only had he been to Darrell’s Place, but he was willing to proclaim it the best tenderloin that he had ever taken down.

Eureka! I had my compatriot! Baier is from Audubon, which is a mere stone’s throw from Hamlin. Not only did I have a compatriot. I had a guide. I had access to a wealth of local knowledge. This might have been divine intervention.

The only problem now was scheduling a time to make our pilgrimage. It didn’t turn out to be as easy as I had suspected. Despite us both not having most weekends free from work (me from the computer mine and he from his cushy financial planner job) it turns out we sure had a lot of other commitments. It seemed like our schedules were never going to line up. It seemed that the sun and moon crossed paths more than us.

Yet when all hope seemed to be lost Baier came to me with an offer. He was going to Audubon with his family to witness a dance recital. I could ride along with them, but that would mean spending the night in Audubon. Or I could drive myself and then drive myself back. That would mean losing the communal spiritual experience that is the road trip.

Then I got an e-mail from Shannon about the possibility of getting a little scratch for taking pictures of beans. After I met with her I knew that the shooting schedule was going to be tight. They wanted a pretty quick turnaround. I sent an e-mail to Baier telling him that I needed to back out of the trip. I would have to “work” on Saturday. It turns out that in this relationship I was the one that was flaky.

Although I badly longed for the taste of the state’s best tenderloin, it did not hurt me too much to send the cancellation notice to Baier. I’ve been called a “true believer” in the past. This roadtrip that we were going to make wasn’t pure. This road trip wasn’t all about the tenderloin. This road trip was all about a dance recital with a little bit of tenderloin on the side. A little diversion. Nothing more.

“Tenderloining it” isn’t a diversion. It isn’t eating lunch because we are hungry. “Tenderloining it” is the activity. It is the alpha and the omega. It isn’t the delta, the gamma or the epsilon. I wanted this experience to be about the tenderloin, not something we can do because we are in the area.

Baier sent an e-mail back that consisted of his booing me. It is not the first time that I have been booed by him. I do not know if it is something that it is in the water in Audubon or if it is merely a Baier family trait,(I will have to watch his children for this trait) but it is the manner that he shows his lack of approval for the actions of his friends. Although I have been booed numerous times in the past, I had not been booed by him since I told him I was going to watch Barack Obama speak and I asked if he might be interested in attending as well. He booed me.

I am not a fan of booing. When I attend sporting events I go to cheer for my team. I do not go to deride the other team. I only crack out the “boo” when I am facing evil in its purest form: the Nebraska Cornhusker football team.

Like all the times in the past, I told Baier that he was a big kid now and he needed to use his “words”.

He booed me again. Then there was silence.

Late on Thursday I got an e-mail from Baier. The e-mail was entitled “My Final Offer”. This sounded an awful lot like an ultimatum. Although it has never been diagnosed (nor do I even fathom that something like this actually exists) I have a firm belief that I suffer from a Psychological Reactance Disorder. I considered for a second not even opening up this ultimatum. Who was he to give me an ultimatum?

Then a vision of the best tenderloin in the state of Iowa danced across my head. I decided to take the risk of opening the arrogantly entitled e-mail. I gave Baier his “final chance”.

Turned out that his final offer was actually a pretty good offer. He proposed that I take off work an hour early on Tuesday. He would pick me up and then we would be on the road to tenderloin greatness. Furthermore, he proposed an extra stop to help settle a family dispute.

Baier’s old man used to run a Ford dealership in Exira, which is about another stone’s throw from Hamlin. The Old Man always claimed that Darrell’s Place did not deserve its place in the Tenderloin Pantheon. A place in Exira called The Red Barn served the superior tenderloin. Baier proposed that we call ahead and order 1 tenderloin to go from the Red Barn and then split it between us on the way to Hamlin. He was proposing nothing less than Tenderloin Judgment Day.

The prospect of sitting in judgment on not 1, but 2 tenderloins excited me. I wrote him back immediately that his proposal was accepted and I looked forward to the 2 Tenderloin Road trip, as it will become known to future generations.

The Tuesday came. It was New Taste Tuesday and it was Steve’s turn in the rotation. There was some debate about whether or not it should in fact be Steve’s choice since on the previous Tuesday he had vetoed Frank’s choice of The Café and then took us to Dublin Bay. A power he had because he was driving the car.

Frank chose to take the higher road and allowed Steve to have the choice and Steve chose Indigo Joe’s. I was hoping that this would be a quick restaurant since I was hoping that we would have enough time left over for us to make a stop at Best Buy so I could pick up the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Steve would still have time to have his smoky treat.

As we were cruising down Duff I hatched a rather brilliant plan. Indigo Joe’s is a sports bar. I could have a tenderloin for lunch and have perhaps the first 3 tenderloin day in recorded history. (Although some killjoys would no doubt want an asterisk placed next to my record and it stated that in fact I really only had 2.5 tenderloins.)

However, it would be a moot point. Indigo Joe’s does not have a tenderloin on their menu. A mistake they would compound by having extremely slow service. Which slightly surprises me since we sat in the bar area and I almost always get fantastic service when I sit in the bar area. That surprise aside, my dream of buying “Pan’s Labyrinth” was squashed.

I returned to the mine content to just finish out my workday.

A little after 5 pm Baier showed up. I was done with my work for the day and I only had to hand off the kid that was job shadowing me to the Company President. It had been about 20 minutes since Angie handed the kid off to me and I had yet to show him anything that even slightly interested him. I offered to show him the insides of a computer and he said he didn’t want to see them. He was equally unimpressed by our server rack. The South Parker Server was also a bust. It was after 5 so I handed him off to his next keeper.

By the time I handed him off we were already behind schedule. So my brief hope of making a stop at Best Buy was once again extinguished. Instead I grabbed the Maxxum 5D and we loaded up his car and hit US30 heading west.

On the way to Exira we made polite conversation. It ranged from the buffoonery of many NFL players to the times we shared at Dasher Mismanagement to religion to capitol punishment. They were the type of every day conversation that two intellectual giants have when they are sharing one another’s company. I wonder if it was the kind of conversations that Van Gogh and Gauguin might have shared when they lived together in that yellow house in Arles. Perhaps Baier and I could open up a colony in southern Iowa for fellow tenderloin lovers. That might just be a pipe dream though.

About 10 minutes from Exira Baier called The Red Barn and placed our order for one tenderloin. Perhaps two dudes with less security in their sexuality might not have been able to split a tenderloin. Fortunately we didn’t have this problem.

When we arrived at Exira he pointed out The Red Barn to me. At first I thought he was joking. From the outside it looked like a little shack. It was maybe ¼ the size of the Whistle Stop Café in Boone. It wasn’t even a barn. It was a tragic misnomer. The Red Tool Shed would have been a more accurate name. I tried to remind myself that looks could be deceiving. Some of the best barbecue in the world is in a little dump called Big Daddy’s in Des Moines. This could be the Big Daddy’s of Exira and the tenderloin world.

We didn’t stop though. Baier just cruised right on by. I peered at the window longing for the tenderloin that waited for us inside.

“Where you going?” I demanded.

“I’m going to give you the tour of Exira. Plus I need to stop at Casey’s and do some damage to their restroom.” He answered.

Truth be known, Baier is not the type of guy that would use that type of description of the human body’s biological function of waste disposal. I just feel like if I didn’t make the description more colorful, it might be less believable. Women need to think that when men are together without female supervision that it is utter chaos. A steady stream of profanity, crotch grabbing, scatological humor, and rubber necking.

It is safer to think that he said something along the lines of “drain the lizard, take the kids to the river, see a guy about a horse, or drain the main vein.” Truth is that he probably said something to the effect that he needed to use Casey’s facilities.

Whatever he said, I got the nickel tour of Exira. It consisted of driving up one road and stopping at Casey’s. While we were at Casey’s I also decided to take a leak. When I got out of the bathroom Baier was standing in front of an ATM machine. He seemed to be staring it down. But he wasn’t attempting to use it. He was just staring at it.

I broke his concentration by offering, “It must have impressed the natives when this type of technology became available to them two weeks ago.”

“I’m just trying to decide if I want to get any money.”

We stood there in silence for a few moments and then he indicated that it wouldn’t be necessary. Moments later we were back in the car driving the six blocks back to The Red Barn.

We parked on the east side of the restaurant. The Red Barn is a rectangular shaped building. We entered through a door that was square in the middle of one of the long sides of the rectangle.

Once inside I checked out both halves of the restaurant. On the left it looked like we had walked into somebody’s kitchen. It was not the industrial kitchen that I was used to seeing. It looked like my Grandma’s kitchen. The difference being that my Grandma has a pizza oven in her kitchen. I didn’t see a piece of equipment that looked that professional grade in this kitchen.

The other half of the restaurant contained four tables. Three of those tables were filled with townies. I have often heard the term small town hospitality. I have often been the recipient of small town hospitality. Don’t think that I dislike small towns. To the contrary, I hate cities. I love small towns. That being said, we were not the recipient of any small town hospitality.

The townies were staring bullets at us. For whatever reason, they did not want us there. I hoped silently that our sandwich was ready and we wouldn’t have to occupy the 4th table and wait. I didn’t want to answer any question like:

“Where you boys from?”

“You from the city? I can smell city on you!”

“You boys ain’t from around here, are ya?”

“Those are pretty clothes ya wearin’. You get those at a JC Penny’s”

“You want to squeal like a pig?”

My hopes were answered though. A teenage girl was working the counter. Baier stepped up to the counter. I subconsciously stepped with him. I didn’t want to separate too far from him. Just in case one of these townies wanted to back up the smack their glares were talking.

“I have a to go order for Baier.” He said.

The girl turned around and grabbed a brown paper bag that had his name written upon it. She came back and said, “$3.65”

Baier pulled out his credit card and said, “Do you take credit?”

The teenage girl began to speak, but before she could I cut her off, “Dude, we are in the sticks! You really think they are going to take credit cards.”

As I uttered the words I realized that I had just exponentially increased our odds of having somebody make one of us squeal like a pig. The bad news was that we didn’t have a young Burt Reynolds waiting in the car for us.

Baier was nonplussed and repeated the question.

Now that I had insulted the area, she seemed a little embarrassed to say, “No, we don’t.” I think she was wishing that they did take credit cards so she could have shut me up.

Baier moved on to form of payment number two.

“Do you take checks?”

“Yes, we do.” She said.

“From out of town?”

“No we don’t.”

“But my parents live in Audubon.” Baier tried to negotiate.

At this point I could feel the eyes of 6 or 7 townies burrowing into me. I had my wallet out and was reaching for the cash that I had brought with me because I didn’t even think we would see an ATM machine where we were going. But before I got my twenty out, the teenage girl had turned and walked back to a wall. I presume that behind the wall was the fryer. Also behind that wall was the person in charge.

“Can we take a check from out of town if their parents live in Audubon?”

The voice that answered was not kind or friendly. In fact it could only be described as snotty. That voice answered, “I’d prefer not to.”

The teenage girl came back up to the counter and gave us the bad news that we had already heard.

“That is really okay,” I said pushing the twenty into her hand. “I have cash.”

She took the money and brought me back my change. Baier grabbed the sandwich and I made haste to get out of the line of sight of the townies.

Once I was back outside the fresh air emboldened me. Although I felt very claustrophobic inside the restaurant, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the fair town of Exira. I reached into the backseat and grabbed the Maxxum 5D. I felt like taking some pictures of the area.

I had only brought my 50mm lens. It has become my standard lens. A fixed focal length lens is a good standard lens for a photographer. It teaches you discipline. So I was not able to get any wide angle shots of anything, but I took some pictures of The Red Barn, the Exira town sign, and of some grain bins.

I got back into the car and Baier asked if I wanted to go see the “Plow in the Oak”. It was nearby. I most certainly did.

I had read about the “Plow in the Oak” on a few occasions. It is exactly what it sounds like. A plow that over time is slowly being devoured by an Oak tree. Legend has it that a farmer left the plow next to the oak to go off to fight in the Civil War. As the years piled up and the owner never returned the oak grew around the plow. Eventually it gobbled up the plow.

I had even seen pictures of the “Plow in the Oak”. Jay and Willy had once stopped and taken pictures of the oddity on a rare road trip where Willy hadn’t flaked out.

>We headed out of Exira and stopped at the “Plow in the Oak” Park. It was decided that we should have dinner before desert. We split up the tenderloin and took it down. It was indeed a very tasty tenderloin. One of the best tenderloins I have ever had. However, could it compete with the tenderloin that legend claims is the best in the Cyclone State? That was yet to be determined.

We exited the car and followed the signs that pointed us in the direction of what we had come to see. At the far south end of the park there is indeed an oak tree with a plow sticking out of two sides of it. Not much though. There was maybe two inches of the plow sticking out on both sides. If I was the type that did any reckoning, I’d reckon that the plow will be completely devoured within the next 5 years.

As we walked back to the car Baier became excited. I think he was invigorated by smelling his native air. He stated that he wished we had more time so we could go see the “Tree in the Road”.

Knowing full well what the answer was going to be I asked, “What is the ‘Tree in the Road’?”

“It is a tree in the middle of a road.”

Honestly I am interested in seeing this oddity, but I’m more interested in a people that would just let a tree grow in the middle of a road. These aren’t my people though. I’m a Boonie. Boonies are my people. I understand them. I don’t think I will ever quite understand the mentality that just watches a tree grow in the middle of a road and doesn’t think:

“We might want to do something about that.”

I merely indicated that we will have to do that sometime. Then I handed over the Maxxum 5D.

“Hold this, please.” I said than I began digging in the backseat for a tripod.

At the beginning of every great road trip I think about taking a road trip group picture. I always envision a picture of the group of hardy travelers pictured next to their noble steed. I never end up taking this picture because Willy flakes out and puts me in a foul mood. This time I wasn’t to be denied.

“It is time for the road trip group picture.”

“What is that?”

“A picture of us with our noble steed.”

I began to setup the tripod and the camera and I turned around and saw that Jason was sitting on the hood of his car.

“Think you will have time to get up on the hood of the car?” he asked.

“The timer will be set for 10 seconds, which will be plenty of time, but are you sure that your hood can handle this much weight?”

This was the question I spoke, but what I really thought was that this picture is going to look kind of gay. I wondered if it was things like this that had made some scholars postulate that Gauguin and Van Gogh had “got it on! Whooo!”

“It can handle it.”

“This might look a little gay.”

He answered, “For two people less secure in their sexuality that would be a problem.”

It was an airtight argument. Neither of us was the type to answer a question about a perceived feminine activity with the answer, “because I’m not gay” or “let me check, nope I don’t have a vagina.”

So I started the timer and jumped softly onto the hood of the car next to Baier. Quite frankly though, I was never really very comfortable. It seemed to me that any moment the hood was going to collapse and the roadtrip would be over. That would have been a tragedy for Baier’s car and a tragedy for future generations who would only know this road trip as the “Failed Tenderloin Road Trip”.

Fortunately the ten seconds flew by and the shutter clicked. Potential disaster was averted. The hood and car were still in one piece as we hopped off the hood. We hopped back in the car and got back on the highway. Destination: “Best Tenderloin in Iowa.”

We pulled into Hamlin five minutes later. There isn’t much to the town. I’d say a few houses, Darrell’s Place, and a junkyard. Darrell’s place and the junkyard are right next to one another. Literally the east wall of Darrell’s place is facing a junkyard. There is a fence in the parking lot that separates Darrell’s place from the junkyard.

I had only seen something like this on one other occasion. Not surprisingly, that other occasion was south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When we were in Louisiana and we were searching for a place to eat we drove past a Church’s Chicken that sat on a corner lot. On two sides of the lot were streets. The other two sides of the lot were fences that separated the restaurant from a junkyard. On that day we chose to keep looking. On this day, I accepted the junkyard as just a small town quirk. A story that could be told later:

“The tenderloin was fantastic, but you won’t believe this little factoid. It actually shared a wall with a junkyard. I’m serious.”

We pulled onto the lot. I was relieved to see that this was an actual full sized restaurant. Although it looked like it was a steel building and a little more like a year round State Fair food stand than a restaurant, I was glad for its size. At least if we were crowded in with townies, we could keep some distance.

We walked in the door and sat ourselves. We choose a table that was near a stack of Darrell’s Place merchandise. I also noted that we were directly in front of a lottery machine. This restaurant had bathrooms. Two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. It had a salad bar. It had a full bar. Although it wasn’t enormous, this was a real restaurant. Not a food stand masquerading as a restaurant. It isn’t that I mind food stands. On the contrary, there is pork place that sets up shop in downtown Boone that is incredible. I just prefer that things be true to themselves. Don’t pretend to be a restaurant when you are a glorified food stand.

I looked over the merchandise and although I had fully intended to purchase some memento to remember the trip, I only came home with a belly full of pork and a brain full of memories. It turned out that the merchandise was horribly ugly. Not in the splash the American flag and an eagle on a t-shirt Harley Davidson style ugly. (Also known as Art in the Park ugly – I mean really who looks at a saw blade with a picture of John Wayne painted on it and hopes they have enough wall space left for that.) It was more like they had taken no effort to design anything at all. The shirts and hat only said the name and address of the place in a nondescript font. I decided to pass and I sat down across from Baier.

I was facing the west wall. The west wall was filled with booths. Those booths were filled with people. Note that I write people and not townies. These people seemed to be interested in their own conversations and their own compatriots. When they did look at us, it seemed like they were happy to see us. We weren’t invaders from the big city horde. We were fellow travelers in the night, only seeking the best tenderloin we could find. This was the kind of small town hospitality you read about.

Darrell’s Place is the kind of place that keeps the menus on the table. We were looking at the menus when the waitress came to take our order.

Baier had the unmitigated gall to ask me if I was going to get a tenderloin. Did he think that we had traveled over 2 hours for me to see what kind of burger this joint made? Did he think that I was going to embarrass him like Jay had once embarrassed Jesse and I buy ordering boneless wings at Wings to Go? Did he think when I was offered a heaven, I would say, “No thanks. I’m going to check out purgatory and Hell first and see what they have to offer. If I don’t find anything I like I’ll probably settle on heaven, if the property taxes aren’t too high.” This was the sole purpose of our trip. Why would I drop the ball? Would I look at the menu and be think “Ooh they serve catfish! I wonder if that is any good?”

It was with no small amount of incredulous that I said, “We drove halfway across the state to try this tenderloin, why would I get something else?”

The waitress then said, “You didn’t drive halfway across the state for this.” Then she shot me a look that said, “Keep your BS to a minimum mister. This is Hamlin, Iowa. We only want straight shooters in our midst.”

I was not going to be called out on the carpet for speaking the near truth. So I reiterated. “Actually we did. We got off work and drove from Ames for this. Although perhaps not literally half the state, I think it is in the general ballpark.”

She seemed to accept this information.

The rest of the ordering process went fairly confrontational free. The only hiccup being that they served two different types of fried cheese. Now here is another little secret for you. I love me some fried cheese. When the day comes that I have a massive coronary from eating all this fried food and the doctor tells me no more “fried cheese products”, I’ll have to look him straight in the eye and ask him, “How many more heart attacks do you think I can survive? Just a ballpark figure.”

We reached the compromise that Baier ordered one type of fried cheese and I order the other. I have no doubt that history will record this event as the “Great Fried Cheese Compromise of 2007” and it will be placed next to the other great compromises of history like “The 3/5 Compromise” and the “She Sure Married Beneath Her Compromise” that is seen the world over.

As we sat waiting for our fried food to come our way I noticed that the people of Hamlin sure enjoy playing the lottery. Somebody must have come by our table to visit the lottery machine every few minutes.

After the third person came by to self tax themselves and move the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor, our food arrived. At first I was a little bit worried. The tenderloin looked identical to the tenderloin we had just eaten in Exira. The conspiracy theorist in me was worried. What if The Red Barn had secretly infiltrated Darrell’s Place in a bit of corporate sabotage and stolen the recipe of the greatest tenderloin in Iowa?

One bite into this sandwich assuaged my fears though. Although the breading was identical, the sandwich did in fact taste different. This was indeed the superior sandwich. The only thing that the Exira tenderloin had going for it in comparison is that you have to ask the good folks at Darrell’s Place to toast your bun. Yet having to ask for your bun toasted is a small price to pay for the superior hunk of meat.

The fundamental question remains: “Is it the best tenderloin in the state of Iowa?” It was a great tenderloin. Perhaps the greatest I have ever had, but I am not ready to proclaim it the greatest in the state. I still need to do some research on this subject.

As for the fried cheese? One type of fried cheese was basically the same fried cheese that you can find in about every restaurant in the world, usually under the moniker “cheddar nuggets”. I’m not knocking it. It is some pretty good stuff.

The second fried cheese product was a bit different. It wasn’t quite as good, despite being unique. This fried cheese still had the consistency of a curd. It was good, but not quite as good.

We finished up our meal and paid the bill. As we exited the building I noticed that we had lost most of the light. I grabbed the Maxxum 5D and took some low light shots of the parking lot and the junkyard. After I was satisfied with what I had, I got back in the car and we headed towards home.

The ride home included more polite conversation about religion and the NBA and old times at Dasher Mismanagement and making fun of Guthrie Center. When we were about 20 miles outside of Ogden on 169 Baier said that he was disappointed in Russell. He had told Russell that Greg and Amanda were getting married and Russell hadn’t told Andree.

“What?”

“Yeah, he never told Andree.”

“I didn’t know Greg and Amanda were getting married.”


Welcome to Exira
Exira


The Red Barn


The Red Barn Road Sign


The Last Bite


The Plow in the Oak


What’s Left of the Plow


Slightly Gay Group Photo


Darrell’s Place Sign


Darrell’s Place


Employee Parking


School Bus


Junkyard Entrance


Welcome to Hamlin

Minutia – Chapter 2: Beans

Chapter 2: Beans

I do not get many e-mails at work. The ones I get are either related to a phone system failure that doesn’t affect me, the aisle copier being broken, new orders, or loaner requests. If I get a personal e-mail it is usually a link to read a story about or watch a video containing somebody doing something pretty darn stupid. Then there are the occasional e-mails that are of an actual correspondence nature. I wonder if I end up being a person of consequence someday, whether or not future historians or psychiatrists will have access to my pile of correspondence e-mails and what they will decide they say about me. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my decisions. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my motivations. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my mental health. I then stop myself from wondering. It is a futile enterprise to wonder what future generations might make of the sum of your life. For when they are, you will not be.

My wonderings aside, if it turns out that I go on to a smashing career in the field of commercial photography, there is one correspondence and one date that will be considered the genesis of that career. Historians will remember that it was a Wednesday. The time was 11:45 in the morning. The following e-mail blazed across the server at the computer mine and landed squarely in my inbox.

My boss just walked into my office and asked me to call a photographer that we’ve been working with. She didn’t do what we needed to have done. I asked why we work with her if she’s been difficult to deal with in the past.

He said something about just being convenient. So, I mentioned that I know a guy…and I had him look through your calendar. He’s interested in talking to you about doing a shoot for us.

Right now we’re looking at needing some close-up photos of roasted corn and soy beans. Would you have time (or want) to swing by {COMPANY NAME CENSORED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT} today or tomorrow to speak with him?

You can say a lot of bad things about the Photography 139 calendar and its extensive use of free labor, but for the first time ever, it actually worked as a bit of advertising. 5 months ago when Shannon “purchased” her copy of the Photography 139 calendar and hung it up in her office at work, it began what would be the process that would on this day lead her to sending me an e-mail asking me whether or not I would be interested in an audition for a gig as a commercial photographer.

I read the e-mail and thought a second. Then I replied thus:

I could stop by and discuss it at least. I’m not what you would call a gifted commercial photographer, but I could give it a try.

What time were you thinking?

After a couple of more e-mail exchanges it was established that I would come in on Thursday and discuss the possibility of taking close-up pictures of soy beans and roasted corn.

I wasn’t sure really what they wanted. I wondered if they wanted to send me off to some farm to take pictures of somebody’s operation. I wondered if they would want me to do this photo “shoot” in their offices. I wondered if I was just to be a trained monkey for their amusement. You know, like at my old job, before I worked the mines.

I did know that one thing was likely. I would probably officially have to cancel the tenderloin road trip for Saturday. That was fine, because the tenderloin road trip that was planned was not tenderloin based, but was dance recital based. Frankly I wasn’t comfortable with the lack of purity.

So it was then that I sent an e-mail to Baier explaining the situation. He sent me a one word reply:

“Booooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!”

I know it hardly qualifies as a rebuttal, however his response is what passes for discourse for people from Audubon.

I arrived at Shannon’s place of work at 1 pm. I had been there in the past, so when I walked in and saw nobody around, I began to walk toward her office. I only made it about as far as their massive television set, when Shannon showed up from the back room and indicated her boss would be with me shortly and invited me to sit down on the couch next to the massive television. I did what I was invited to do and wished that we had a couch like this back at the mine.

After a couple of minutes, her boss ran by and said something about, “being busy fighting fires.” I had a flashback to that previous job where the owner used to stay he didn’t want his managers to be “fire fighters”. He wanted us to be “boat captains”. This would lead into rhetoric about how the “Pre-shift Checklist” was the elixir that prevented fires from cropping up on your ship. That man loves his boat captain analogies almost as much as he love shoveling Grade A cow dung straight down his employees throats.

I wasn’t here for a walk down bad memory lane though. I was here to learn about the possibility of earning a little extra scratch through one of my passions. As I sat on the couch I did start to have a desire to turn on the massive television. It was unlikely that this television was hooked up to cable or satellite. It was even more unlikely that even if it had been I would have been able to find anything on daytime television that was more interesting than snow or the most recent development, the “unusable signal” channel. A favorite channel in the Baier household I would learn soon enough.

As I thought about touching the massive television, the Boss returned in the same rapid gait and uttered something to the effect that he was busy and I could just talk to Shannon. This was fine with me. It was what I preferred. Even though this was hardly what I would classify as a job interview, I still didn’t really want to go through the process of answer questions about my alleged photography skills with a stranger. I am not a person good at being interviewed. Maybe it is because I don’t like being judged. Whatever the reason, my interview skills are probably the reason that the only two jobs I’ve had for an extended period of time have involved Lowell.

I got up and started walking towards what I perceived to be Shannon’s office. To which she indicated that I was heading in the wrong direction. Her office had moved. So I turned and walked in the opposite direction back towards the door. Towards her new office.

I sat down in her office next to a file cabinet with a clear flaw. I noticed this immediately, but because this was to be a pseudo-professional meeting, I let it slide. “It” being an Iowa Hawkeye football schedule magnet.

Shannon is a Panther by education. This is fair enough. I do not hold this against her. Not everybody can go to Iowa State. Yet, when she is asked to pick a side between Iowa or Iowa State she reveals a terrible character flaw by choosing the Hawkeyes.

There was some polite conversation to begin this meeting, but then the conversation moved towards what they needed from me.

“We need close-up pictures of soy bean nuts and roasted corn on a white background. They will be used for a website and brouchures.”

Then she produced two clear bags. One was about ¼ full of soybean nuts. The other was about 1/3 full of roasted corn.

“Sorry, but this is all we have left. We gave the rest to the other photographer. I guess this is where you get to be creative.”

It was a fair enough observation. It does sound like an incredibly boring job. Taking pictures of beans. Where do I sign up? I would learn in the near future that most people seem to think that this involves taking one picture, and then you are done. It is quite a bit harder than you would think. And I allegedly know what I’m doing.

I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as my predecessor. That lady was in the unemployment line. So I asked, “So what was wrong with the other images.”

“Too low of a resolution. Plus you can’t tell whether or not you’re looking at beans or whether you are looking at roasted corn.”

I looked closer at the bags that were in my hands. If you did look closely, they were slightly different. This really only left me with two questions:

“When do you need these by?”

“Pretty soon.”

I knew I couldn’t work on this project tonight. It was Rebecca’s birthday dinner at Shorty and Doris’. I wouldn’t be able to work on it Friday night because that was Friday Night Supper Club and besides being sacred, we were also breaking in Willy’s new pad. I had cleared up Saturday. It would have to be Saturday because Sunday was Mother’s Day.

“Would Monday be soon enough?” I offered, but actually thinking that it wouldn’t be soon enough.

“That would be perfect.” Shannon said.

“What resolution are you looking to get?” I asked my final question.

“I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask the Boss.”

That concluded the business end of this meeting, I thought. Yet there was one question still to be decided. I had never thought about this question. That question was money.

“How much do you want to be paid?”

I hadn’t really considered that I might have to enter into a negotiation. Another reason I was glad to be dealing with Shannon rather than some stranger.

“I don’t know.”

Shannon quickly answered with, “That is what I told him you would say.”

It hurt to be so predictable, but it has never been my goal to be unpredictable. My goal has always been to be me. Who ever that might be?

So I answered the best way that I could: “Just pay me whatever you were paying the other photographer.”

That seemed to settle it. The business had been settled. Shannon gave me a run down of what they did at her company. They mostly produce football highlight videos for a third party. I scored 2 Cyclone highlight video DVDs. Then she showed me shelves and shelves filled with boxes and boxes that were filled with DVDs for high schools. Apparently the high school videos don’t sell very well. She showed me a list of schools in Iowa for which they produced these videos.

There is one thing that has always annoyed me. It is when people who aren’t involved in a business want to tell you what is wrong with your business. Even though this is a major pet peeve of mine, I couldn’t help but start running my mouth about what I perceived to be their problem.

“These are all large schools. That is why they aren’t selling. What they need to do is focus on small towns that having nothing going on but their high school football programs. Places like Madrid, Harlan, or Aplington-Parkersburg. There might not be as large of a customer base, but these people are going to buy them.”

It harkened me back to a particular customer from my past. I can’t remember his name, but he was an Engineering Professor at Iowa State, allergic to onions, potentially stalking me, and a super sized jerk.

The night that Campus closed one of the first things I did was take down the drive-thru menu board. While I was out there, Professor Know-it-all pulled up to the drive-thru speaker.

“Am I too late!” he bellowed out a half question and a half snarl.

“Yep we closed at 7.” I said, trying not to engage him in conversation but answering his question.

“This is too bad. I think you guys really could have made this work.” He said and then looked off at the distance like people do who are having deep thoughts and are about to say something compelling. What he did say was this, “What you guys needed was a hook. Something to get people in the door.” Then he made eye contact with me and continued, “You should have given people a free drink when they ordered something else.”

He continued the eye contact as if to tell me two things. He didn’t need my approval of his idea and secondly I should acknowledge his wisdom by pointing out the greatness of his idea.

I said, “Yeah that might have worked.” Then I grabbed up my tools and walked back into the story, leaving the genius alone in the night to think his genius thoughts. I’m pretty certain his thought was that he had saved the store. I was going to go in and tell the owner this brilliant idea. The owner would then say something about boat captains and change his mind about closing the store.

In reality I went inside and told some of my fellow Campusites about what I had just endured and we all had a good chuckle at the knave.

Truth be told, there was nothing that was going to save Campus. The owner had wanted to close the store down for years and years. He was emotionally invested in closing the store down. He had done everything possible to make sure it closed and certainly wasn’t interested in any ideas that might actually help the bottom line. On the contrary he was interested in ideas that would hurt the bottom line so that he would have more ammunition to take with him to the corporation as he pleaded with them to let him close it down.

Even if Campus would have been blessed with an owner that was interested in making Campus into a profitable venture, giving away free drinks was possibly the worst idea imaginable. Food cost on a soda is around 3.5%. Food cost on a sandwich is sometimes as high as 60%. You don’t make a profit by giving away the thing that makes you most of your money. Add in the labor involved in making a sandwich and you probably lost money on it. But a person would have to get over 30 free refills to put a dent in your profit margin.

Laughable! The ideas of that knave!

Perhaps that is the exact thought that was going through Shannon’s mind when she said, “Actually the problem is that they try to sell them for fifty-five bucks.”

I conceded her point that these DVDs were in fact priced out of the marketplace. She then offered me any high school DVD that I wanted. There weren’t any areal teams, but I thought that Jay was a graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy and they were on the list. Shannon snagged me a copy of their 2006 DVD. I was disappointed to see that the Cedar Rapids Kennedy Cougars had flat out stolen their logo from the Kansas State Wildcats. Whatever happened to originality?

After I had collected up my DVDs the Boss streaked by again and blurted out “RAW!” I now had all the answers I needed to tackle my project. I had a format. Which isn’t the same thing as a resolution, but it worked for me.

I left her office loaded up on DVDs, soy beans, and roasted corn. As I drove back to work I called Jay’s answering machine and left the following message:

“Jay Janson! Jay Janson! Were you a cougar?” I might have growled a smidge as well.

I decided to do this shoot outside. Saturday was a tad bit windy, but I would take the wind for the better light and the joy of working outside. I was also concerned that bright light was also going to make shadows somewhat troublesome. So my plan was to rely a little bit on fill flash and a little bit on the gentle shadow of the garage.

It turned out that the joy of working outside was slightly diminished by the neighbors across the alley. They had chosen this weekend to rent a power sprayer to clean their deck furniture and the toys of their children. This steady noise was not the blissful peace that I had imagined.

When I am working in a creative way, I strongly prefer to listen to jazz or classical, but mostly jazz. In particular I find I respond best to the albums that Miles Davis recorded in the mid 1960s right before he got hardcore into fusion. Although the sound of water hitting plastic at breakneck speed might have fit in decently with “Bitches Brew” or “Dark Magus” it wasn’t doing anything for me on this day. It was not mixing well with “Miles in the Sky”.

So I switched my background music to a little harder stuff. I found that Led Zeppelin nicely covered up the sound of noisy neighbors. Although I’m not sure what the other people in the neighborhood used to cover up the sound of this noisy neighbor.

I shouldn’t go into great detail about what happened when I finally started taking pictures of my subjects. I could. I’m sure that there are many interesting things I could discuss about exposure compensation, depth of field, aperture setting, saturation, sharpness, and leveling tripods. I will leave all that out because I don’t really like to discuss how I do what I do. I like it be sufficient for people to know that I do do what I do.

I will just state that it is a lot harder to tell whether beans are in focus or not. Way harder than it sounds. Let us just say that I eventually got enough of something on the memory card. I had enough to at least present something to Shannon. Whether that something was going to be good enough, I didn’t know. I did know that I was not a gifted commercial photographer and spending an afternoon photographing beans is more interesting than it sounds. I called it a day.

I burned the best of what I had onto a disc and went to visit Shannon again. She was in a rush to go somewhere, so the interaction was brief. I dropped off the disc. She looked them over and said she thought they looked good, but she was not the final word.

I acknowledged her compliment and indicated that it is a lot harder than a person thinks to tell if a bean is in focus.

I then left her to do what she had to do. She said that she would show the bean photos to her boss and they would get back to me today.

I returned to work and felt a little bad. I was worried that the Boss would look at the pictures and tell Shannon that this was the lousiest set of bean pictures he had ever laid eyes on. Then I would get the following e-mail:

The Boss says that your bean photos are no good. Get out of here kid! You got no future!

Unlike Marty McFly though, I can handle that type of rejection. It might be the only type of rejection I can handle, but I handle that type of rejection.

However it wasn’t the rejection that worried me. I would have felt bad for Shannon if she would have had to tell me that I suck. That is a hard thing for one friend to have to tell another friend. Even when it has to be done, like when you have a friend walking around insisting that “Shrek 2” was way better than “Shrek” and you have to tell him to stop doing that because he is embarrassing himself.

As I contemplated this potential dilemma, an e-mail popped into my inbox. It read:

I finally just got your CD to the Boss. When I asked him what he thought, he said something to the effect of, “I think we just found our new close-up photographer.” So my opinion was valid. They are great photos!

I was relieved and excited, but yet I wished that they would use the term “Macro Photographer”. Is that too anal?

Minutia: Chapter 1

After what could only be described as an extended absence, today I return to the blog world with full force. I have planned for this thin slice of cyberspace a monster of a blog. There will be 14 parts to this blog. When it has completely unraveled, it might be long enough to be considered a novella. The reason I have chosen to do this is because I wish to test my theory that everybody’s life is worthy of a biography. I have started with my own life. The 14 chapters that will be posted here will unfold in a nonlinear timeline similar to the kind that writers such as William Faulkner made famous. All of the events described transpired between May 9, 2007 and May 20, 2007. While these chapters are doled out, I will do nothing interesting, so you do not have to fear that while you are reading about my past, I am doing something worthy of reading. So without further adieu, I present my novella.


Minutia
An Autobiographical Novella
by Christopher D. Bennett

Chapter 1: Hick Town

Tuesday means two things for me. It means “New Taste Tuesday” and on this Tuesday it was Steve’s choice. He chose Indigo Joe’s which was adequate, but not superior. A superior experience would have included a tenderloin on their menu. A tenderloin would have been a perfect prelude to the tenderloin road trip. A superior experience would have allowed us to get in and out in a quick enough manner to allow me to make a trip to Best Buy to indulge in the second meaning of Tuesdays: “New Releases”.

On this New Release Tuesday, the service at Indigo Joe’s was not quick enough to leave me enough time on my lunch break to get to Best Buy and purchase the best movie to come out last year (Pan’s Labyrinth) and make it back to the computer mine within my allotted sixty minutes. This meant that I was going to have to wait to purchase the 2 Disc Special Edition of Pan’s Labyrinth. The question remained, for how long would I wait?

I knew that I couldn’t sneak into Best Buy after work on Tuesday. Even the briefest stop would have hindered the precisely crafted time schedule of the Tenderloin Road Trip. I knew that on Wednesday I was getting lunch with Monica and that we were either going to drive half way across Ames to eat at the West Street Deli or Chinese Homestyle Cooking and that was not going to leave sufficient time to also make a stop at Best Buy. I also wasn’t going to be able to make a stop after work because we were having a small West reunion at the Baier household and I was already going to be late because I had to stop at the post office to mail my RSVP for the Beavers wedding and I had already missed the deadline by a week.

It became clear that I was going to have to make a stop at a quick service restaurant for lunch on Thursday and slide into Best Buy to pick up my copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”. It was a fair plan.

About 1 pm on Thursday I put my plan into motion. I hopped into my automobile, turned on my iPod and headed across the street to Best Buy. It seemed almost too easy.

It turned out that it was in fact too easy. I looked all over Best Buy and there was not a copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition to be had. I was surprised. I had waited for a few days in the past to pick up a DVD and had never run into the problem of them being sold out. I re-evaluated my plan and headed to Target. Perhaps, Best Buy just had the best deal and surely Target would not do me wrong for 2nd time this week.

Yet, despite my arrogance, Target failed me. When I reached the new release section, the only thing I found staring back at me was a stack of rain check certificates. I was in a bit of a quandary. I was running out of time. I could drive across town and check Wal-Mart. I know that Wal-Mart customers are considerably less sophisticated than Target customers, so there was a chance that they still had a few copies left. After all, a Wal-Mart customer would probably be disgusted by the notion that you would have to “read a movie”. As the thought raced through their head they might even spit a bit of Skoal onto the ground just to punctuate their point, exactly as they had been conditioned to do.

However, I didn’t have the time to drive across Ames before my lunch break had expired. So I went through a nearby drive-thru and grabbed some sustenance and headed back to the computer mine once again empty handed.

The good news was that I had my night mostly free. The only plans I had cobbled together was going to Lake Laverne to feed the swans bread. I had made a few stops at Lake Laverne in the past few weeks to take pictures of Lancelot and Elaine, but I had yet to record a satisfactory image. I was hoping the aid of bread might help me in my quest. Other than that trip, the only other thing on the docket was visiting Monica to square up a 14 dollar debt that I had incurred on Wednesday.

There was the rumor of a special Thursday Night Supper Club to replace Friday Night Supper Club since Willy would be boarding a plane on Friday and flying to Spain. However, it was late in the afternoon and the rumor had yet to bear fruit.

Of course, that was when the guitar riff from “Mannish Boy” blasted from my phone. It was Jay. Thursday Night Supper Club had become a reality. I told him that I preferred staying in Ames because I had a couple of errands to run. He indicated that Ames would work for him, but he would need to be back to Boone by 8:30 because he was having headlight difficulty with his automobile.

Jay and I exited the mall. Hobby Lobby, feeding swans, feeding ourselves, and squaring a debt had taken longer than I had figured. It was now well past 8 and the sun was waning. I needed to take Jay back to his car before the daylight had expired and Jay would be forced to find his way home in the darkness. The Ames Wal-Mart was no longer an option.

I am not a quitter though. Boone has a Wal-Mart. I hatched a new plan. This time, my plan would not fail. I could drive Jay across town, drop him off at his car, drive to the Boone Wal-Mart, buy the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”, and then meet Jay back at my place for our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

If there is one thing I was certain about, it was that the Boone Wal-Mart would have the DVD. I’ve worked in Ames for about a decade now. When I first started working in Ames I was immediately oppressed for my Boone heritage. When people found out I was from Boone, there was the immediate smirk, guffaw, and statements like“that hick town”. For years I defended Boone on its merits. That list of merits does not include “cultured”.

Boone is a cultural Sahara. Consider this tally: 1 Speedway, 0 Art Museums. What passes for art in Boone is a mural of a train, chainsaw sculptures, and a statue of Theodore Roosevelt missing a thumb. (Although admittedly the missing thumb gives the statue just the slightest Cubist feel to it.) Boone for the most part has only one video store. There is not a foreign language or independent film section in this video store. The Employee Picks (employee picks were designed to get people to rent or buy more challenging or lesser known movies) in this video store are regularly the most recent Wayans brother movie or something directed by Michael Bay. There isn’t even an oasis in this Sahara, unless you count a fairly active community theater group and the City Band Festival.

It seems to me that for once, living in a backward, redneck, hillbilly, and hick town was going to benefit me. Who else in this town was going to buy a foreign language film? Admittedly there are small pockets of intellectual enclaves deposited here and there throughout this town, but not enough to snap up every copy of my DVD.

I entered Wal-Mart and headed straight for the new release end-cap and what before my wondering eyes did appear? An empty rack where my DVD should have been!

How could this be? I refused to believe that there was enough people in the unwashed horde known as the citizenry of Boone that were willing to throw down almost 30 bucks for a foreign language film. 30 bucks for a special edition of “White Chicks”, that would be no problem.

I theorized on a possible explanation. Is it possible that enough people from Ames had also had difficulty finding the DVD and had made the pilgrimage to the Boone Wal-Mart to stymie my bid? Or is it possible that I have just sold my Boonie brethren short? Perhaps mixed in with the mouth breathing morons I see beating their kids in the grocery store every week there are a few more enlightened individuals than I think.

One thing was clear though, whether it was people from Ames poaching in Boone or Boonies being more intelligent than I had predicted, I wasn’t coming home with the one DVD that I had waited for all year.

I gazed upwards and asked: “Why are you dicking with me?”

Perhaps it was not the most respectful question ever thrown in that direction, but it certainly was not the least respectful either.

Then I had an epiphany. Wal-Mart has two New Release sections. Perchance there was going to still be a happy ending to my quest.

I walked 25 feet down the aisle to the other New Release section.

Eureka!

There it was! In all of its 2 Disc glory! “Pan’s Labyrinth” 2 Disc Special Edition. There were about 5 copies left. I looked through them to find the one with the cardboard cover sleeve that was the least damaged. Although beggars can’t be choosers, I can still be that anal about a DVD.

Such a miraculous turn of events called for a celebration. I do not drink alcohol for personal reasons, but I do have other vices. There was only one thing that could add to the sweetness of my victory.

I grabbed my prize and walked to the Wal-Mart freezer section and opened the door. Much to my chagrin, they did not have any Haagen Dazs Cookie Dough ice cream. However, that still couldn’t dampen my spirits. I selected a half pint of strawberry ice cream and headed to the check out lanes.

My brain had thought too soon when it pluralized the word lane, for there was only 1 lane open. Furthermore, I was the 6th person in that line. It seemed that although I was destined to get my movie and celebratory ice cream, I was going to be terribly late for my meeting with Jay and our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

In my melancholia I had forgot that while I wasn’t lucky in all aspects of my life, I had always had the good fortune of being picked out of long lines at Wal-Mart by the employee manning the service desk. While the other proletariat swine are left to wait in line behind the person who forgot something and has sent their 3 year old kid back to the sports department to find something or other, I am usually picked out and sent on my merry way lickety-split.

I like to think that it is because of my debonair good looks. It might also be that I don’t actually have that many items that I am purchasing. The most likely reason is that it looks like that I might have showered in this century and in my experience working with the American public, I can tell you that “limited body odor” goes a surprisingly long way in getting decent service.

While my hand started to lose feeling and my ice cream began to lose solidity I was waved over by the girl running the Service Desk. My good looks, limited items, or limited body odor had worked its magic once again.

The girl picked up my DVD and gave it the once over and then asked, “You know this movie isn’t in English, right?”

Now I can’t be exact in recounting what came out of my mouth next, but I’m fairly certain it was something like this:

“Yes I do. The movie is in Spanish. I saw it in the theater. The Spanish title for this movie is “El Laberinto del fauno”. For reasons I’m not sure of, they translated it into English as “Pan’s Labyrinth” when it should have been translated as “The Faun’s Labyrinth” since this movie has nothing to do with Pan, the Greek God of Nature. However, I’m sure they had there reasons since the director Guillermo Del Toro personally oversaw the production of the subtitles. I consider it to be the best movie to come out last year. It won several Academy Awards. However, despite being the only foreign language picture nominated in a category besides Best Foreign Language Picture (besides a handful of shorts) it did not win Best Foreign Language Picture. Some dreadful German movie won. I consider it to be a grievous oversight that the Academy should do something about. Like when it gave an Oscar to Bob Dylan a couple years back.”

To which she replied, “I just have to make sure. A lot of people have been buying this movie and then are trying to return it when they get it home and realized that it was in Spanish.”

This induced awkward silence from me. I was forced to come to the sad realization that the reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” wasn’t because of some small art film community in Boone. The reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” was because people are stupid.

I knew this deep down in my heart the whole time I suppose. I knew this because when Jay wanted to have a movie evening to send Willy off to Spain and I suggested we get the movie “The Sea Inside”. It is a Spanish movie starring Javier Bardem as a paraplegic fisherman and it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture a few years back and seemed to fit the bill.

I knew this because when I suggested this movie to Jay he asked if the local video store had it.

I didn’t even think about it. My first instinct was to laugh and point out that the last time I was there one of the “Employee Picks” was “Scary Movie 4”.

My realizations and flashbacks were interrupted by the girl.

“I like your shirt.”

I looked down because even though the shirt I was wearing was complimented by another person in another place less than an hour ago, I forgot what I was wearing. Rocky Balboa stared back at me.

“Did you like Rocky Balboa?”

I responded, “Yeah. It is the only sequel that captures the spirit of the original and doesn’t degrade into a mindless action movie.”

“It was pretty good. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

I walked out of Wal-Mart knowing that at times it is good to live in a hick town, even if it is despite the fact that it is a hick town.

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part III)

I have had difficulty in getting back in my mode to finish up this mostly uninteresting tale. It has been over a week since most of this stuff has transpired. My memory of the events may be more than a little bit foggy. I’ll do my best recollect these events because in the last few weeks I have received the following comments to my face:
 
“See. I really do read your blog.”
 
“Kelly thought your commentary about Jay was spot on.”
 
“I can’t wait to hear about your lunch with Bill W.”
 
“I didn’t say ‘let’s go get a salad’!”
 
I’m not entirely sure that I’ve been able to get back into my mode. Once I’m out of my mode I can’t force myself back. All I can do is create conditions that are conducive to getting my mode back into effect. So I’m listening to a little Otis Redding and I’m typing away. If that doesn’t help me get back to my mode, it might be gone forever.
 
I believe the last time I took keyboard in hand in a creative direction I had just concluded my Oscar analysis. The Oscar analysis that moved people so much that not a single person decided to offer an opinion on what the most tragic ending to the movie “Blood Diamond” would be. This can mean only one of a few things.
 
#1. Nobody actually made it to the bottom of Part II.
#2. After getting to the end of Part II everybody was so emotionally exhausted that they couldn’t bring themselves to offer an opinion to a simple multiple choice question.
#3. Nobody thinks that what happens with conflict diamonds is tragic. Perhaps the real tragedy in their minds is that not enough innocents are murdered and enslaved.
 
I don’t know. I’ll just accept that despite the claims of some to the contrary, these writings exist in a vacuum.
 
I’ll just get back to the business of this writing, which is to weave the tale of my existence and recent exploits. Although, I’m sure there is somebody out there with a dictionary right now claiming that the events that have passed through my experience lately can hardly be considered exploits. More than anything they are a monument to a culture of consumerism and an attitude of narcissism. Except for making soap, that was certainly an accomplishment. Eating shrimp at the Oscar party was also an accomplishment. I’m telling you, these things were massive.
 
We left the formal Oscar party and made our way back to Jen and Derrick’s homestead. I believe we reached their front door pretty close to midnight. I entered the living room to see Jen’s first completed project from her stained glass class. She had made a stepping stone. I knew that this was the first project and I was always a little bit suspicious. How do you make something for stepping on out of stained glass?
 
She brought it up from the basement where it had been curing. Curiously this was the second time this weekend I had heard about something being left in the basement to cure. This time I did not see an activity known as “catproofing” though.
 
It was pretty amazing. I’m a stained glass man from way back and I was impressed. The stained glass was placed in concrete. The design was a butterfly. This is a particularly difficult design because it is symmetrical. This meant that for every piece of glass that Jen cut she had to also cut an identical piece for the opposite side. She did an amazing job. I am eager for the future stained glass night where we make our own coasters. Although I confess not being sure that I am up to the challenge.
 
There was one other curious thing about this stepping stone. The concrete was extremely smooth. Maybe I’m impressed by strange things, but there isn’t a trick to making the concrete turn out so smooth. You don’t sand it. That is the way it hardens. It is naturally that smooth.
 
I went home and crashed, not anticipating much of consequence to transpire on the following day.
 
I woke up on Monday and headed into the computer mine. My only hope was to make it through yet another day of arduous labor without developing the dreaded Silicon Lung. Jesse approached me and delivered some good news. Bill W. would be joining us for lunch.
 
Let me stop and make a point here. I’m not calling this man Bill W. because that is his name. I do not wish to be forthcoming with his actual identity because I might in my haste of writing this thing, blurt out some private information. You see Bill W. had stopped in Ames on his way home from the Twin Cities where he had a date with a lady friend. I will be coy with his true identity because he may or not be on the prowl with this lady.  There is a nearly infinitesimally small chance that she might happen upon this blog and read some of the things I’m about to put down about Bill W. and his attempts to make this date something a little bit more substantial. I don’t want to kill Bill W.’s game. Not that I think that is a likely outcome. I just want to hedge my bets. For that reason my friend will remain unidentified and I will refer to them by the name Bill W. as homage to the man who founded Alcoholics Anonymous.
 
My subscriber from Mankato was most interested in this bit of the tale. I’m not going to go into much detail about the lunch. There isn’t much to tell. He came to the mine. We went to Hickory Park with Jesse and Willy. We asked him questions about his weekend. Some details I won’t recount. There is one detail that I wish to recount. It is actually a question of strategy.
 
Bill W. is a fan of bored* games. So is his lady friend. While he was visiting her they played a series of games. In fact they played a best of 13 series. When he told me this fact I was quite shocked. I didn’t know they had made 13 different bored games. Off the top of my head all I can name is Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, Life, Chess, Monopoly, Candyland, and Sammy the White House Mouse. I have heard the beginnings of descriptions of other games. However, usually about 2 words out of the other person’s mouth I’m sound asleep. I might not have the best survival instincts, but my instincts for avoiding a boring night are as sharp as the sting of a whip.
 
Now I’m going to throw up a red flag. I am about to get into some territory that if you don’t know me very well could be described as sexist. It might not be in the next paragraph, but it will be there soon enough. You will know it when you get to it.
 
Bill W. claims that when they got to the climax of the evening AKA the rubber match, he threw the contest so that his lady friend came out as the winner. Let us not dwell on the veracity of his statement. Let us merely question whether or not that this was correct strategy. At this point we are going to have to talk in generalizations. I concede that all people are individuals. So my next question should be viewed at the aggregate level.
 
I also need to make the following distinction. My question is related to competitions where men and women are able to compete on an equal plane. Not in activities where men have to make a concerted effort to make the competition close. Of course, I’m talking about activities like basketball, naming the starting third baseman of the 1984 National League Champion San Diego Padres, driving, or mathematics.
 
My question is simply: Did Bill W. make the wise move? Was it savvy? Should he have let his female friend win the deciding game or should he have won?
 
This is a question that when it has been discussed in a few of my social circles has gotten some spirited debate and wildly varying answers. If you got an opinion please weigh in.
 
I understand that this is a small part of the “game”, but I’m curious if people think this piece of the game was well played or muffed.
 
After the meal Bill W. went on his merry way and I returned to work. The rest of Monday passed without incident until my bowling league.
 
You may remember that from past writings that I have clearly established myself as the worst bowler in the league. Despite my efforts to scuttle the team we arrived at the alley on Monday as the 1st Place team in the Pioneer League. We were matching up with a team that possessed the moniker “Giant Killers”. Before the game began one of their representatives ambled over to our table and told us to “Note the name.  We’re called the Giant Killers for a reason.”
 
Even though this bravado was laughable, I figured out that there team name wasn’t derived from  a story involving the climbing of a beanstalk or taking down a Philistine.  However, he insisted on continuing to allow words to escape from his mouth.
 
“We always beat first place teams.”
 
Great.  Don’t really care.  Take zero pride in my bowling and I’m not here to win any trophies.  I just want to hang out with the guys at my table.  We bowled pretty well. They didn’t. This meant halfway through the second game they quit. Yeah, they finished the games physically, but mentally and emotionally they were beat. They spent most of their time complaining about how throw a couple members of our team throw the ball. Well Mike is in his 60s. Jim is in his 50s. They aren’t going to throw the ball like somebody in their 20s. One of their team members took to throwing the ball as slowly as he could. I was leery about joining this league at the beginning of the year because of my limited bowling aptitude, but I have to say that this was the first unpleasant experience I have had all year.
 
I always have to shower when I get home from the bowling alley. I can not tolerate smelling like an ashtray. It always makes me want to vomit. It is the same way I feel every time the announcers point out that Michael Taylor has broken Dedric Willoughby’s consecutive games with a 3 pointer streak. At least I can wash the cigarette smoke smell off.
 
This tale is almost completed. I only need to cover my lunch with my Private Climatologist and his analysis of “An Inconvenient Truth”, but that will wait until the exciting conclusion of this tale in Part IV.
 
I will just wrap up this section of the tale with a small discussion of the Lenten Study Group I’ve joined on Tuesday nights. I was a little bit leery of joining this group because my previous experiences with Bible Study groups hadn’t been super swell. However, this is really the first time that I’ve joined a group at my own church strangely enough.
 
I was a bit worried because when I walked in to the room I was the youngest person in the room by 10 years. However, I’m really glad I went because our Associate Pastor Andrea said something that really helped me re-order some things in my head. What she said I’ll leave for a discussion at a later time. If you are really interested e-mail me and I’ll let you know.
 
I enjoyed myself enough that I’ve decided to continue going. Tonight we went 30 minutes over because of a heated discussion of the meaning of the term “citizen of heaven” in the Philippians verse we were discussing.
 
So I’ll leave it at that for now.
 
To Be Continued . . . .
 
 
* In the haste to get what I’ve got to say out there by any mean necessary I frequently stumble with words, grammar, and homonyms. I assure you 100% that the misspelling of board games by spelling it as bored games was 100% on purpose. In other words, I hate me some board games.

Rectification

I got lots of information to get out there, so I’m going to dispense with the niceties and just jump in and get this “blog” on!!!

Well the response to my anti-Dasher Management rant and artwork has been universally negative. Just some of my favorite e-mail responses:

“What you don’t want my kid to be happy when eating his Happy Meal? Then you are a jerk. I hope you can’t sleep at night.”
“You call Andres Serrano a hack. In my dictionary I pasted your picture next to the term “hack” because Mister, that is what you are.”
“Mountain Dew and water? Clearly your bladder lacks the courage of your convictions and that makes you a coward.”
“You’re attempt at a kinetic sculpture is weak. It doesn’t even compare favorably to the writings of Nicholas Sparks.”
“‘Piss Kroc’. Crock of #!%@# that is what you are sir.”

Despite this unified public front I move forward with my plans. Ahh . . . but what are those plans. I was all set to tell you about my plans to open an online store, but then “it” happened. I had just concluded lunch with a couple of compatriots when the waitress laid the fortune cookies on the table. I smashed my fortune cookie open and hoped for a good fortune. What I got was solid advice.

“Keep your plans secret for now.”

So you see, I can’t possibly tell you about my online store plans for now. The fortune cookie has advised me to keep my plans a secret. Fortune cookies have never steered me wrong in the past. Including the following nuggets:

“You will find an outlet for your creative genius and accomplish a great deal.”
“You have many personal talents that are attractive to others, so be sure to use them.”
“You are interested in public service and would make an outstanding statesman.”
“Time is right to make new friends.”
“You will do well to expand your business.”
“You have an unusually magnetic personality.”
“You will soon meet a dark stranger.”

They are all true, except I have yet to meet a dark stranger. I suppose I need to work on that one. Although a co-worker recently referenced a website to me called “Savage Love” and the URL for said site has something to do with the stranger. When I heard that I instantly thought about the Albert Camus novel “The Stranger” which both the President and I enjoy in a very similar manner.  (Meaning we both like to pretend that we read it to sound intellectual at parties.)

Instead of having to do anything remotely with literature, this “Savage Love” website is some kind of dating/sex advice website. Now I have not visited this website because I’m a little bit leery of visiting such a site on my work computer because I don’t want to be the guy that triggers the “porn surfing at work is to be done only during lunch” memo. You know how porn eats up the company bandwidth. However, yet another unnamed co-worker did visit the site and indicated to me that the following subject was a topic for “Savage Love” – “Openly Skank”.

The fact that there was a topic entitled “Openly Skank” reminded me of two facts and created a new question for me.

Fact #1: I used to hang out with people that used the term skank quite frequently, but now I don’t know anybody that uses the term skank any longer. This term must have fallen out of the popular vernacular. How sad.
Fact#2: I am a big fan of a local ska band named “Slaughterhouse 6”. They rip it up.  If you ever have a chance to check them out: Do it! I bring this up because there is a well-known ska dance called “The Skank”. That reminds me of the fact that Derrick has a theory that ska dancing is regional. Derrick and I are ready to travel the country to research his theory and write a paper entitled “Regionalism and Ska Dancing” just as soon as somebody is ready to hand us over a big fat grant check. We’re waiting America. Hands open. Fill them with cash please!

Question #1: If there is a person that is “Openly Skank” then by definition that means that there are people that are “Closeted Skank”. It is a tautology. Look it up. Why would anybody want to concede to themselves that they are on the lowest rung of “The Social Ladder of Promiscuous Women”? Do these women aspire to the next step?

All of that though is neither here nor there. This little tidbit is also quite a bit off subject. I hit a few Chinese restaurants with quite the assortment of people. Some people that sit across the table from me while I consume edibles insist on always saying the “in bed” thing. Annoying? Indubitably! Not the strangest thing that comes into my field of vision though. I eat with 2 people that refuse to eat the fortune cookie or look at the fortune?!?!? They don’t even like to touch it. I swear I’m not making this up. They feel like it is voodoo or black magic. They think that to engage the fortune cookie is to play with dark forces. It is the same as playing Ouija, by Parker Brothers to them. Those warlock bastards!!*

For the record, fortune cookies have no religious affiliation. Fortune cookies (just like nachos) are a completely American invention. They were invented as a marketing ploy. There is nothing dark or sinister about them. They are the equivalent of the toy in the bottom of the Cracker Jack box. The only dark force at work at the buffet is the inability to get a refill after the bill hits the table.
In reality, I should get back to the subject matter at hand. My future plans for my online store. However, to know the future you need to examine the past. I really only want to go back a few days.
On Sunday I loaded up the iPod with some quality music and hit the open road with Jesse. Turns out we hit the open road just a little too hard. To the tune of a 102 dollar speeding ticket. The cop was a swell guy; he knocked it down 1 mile for me.

“I saved you 30 bucks.”

Since you are so concerned about my financial state, officer, I know a way you can save me another 102 dollars. It involves that ticket, an orifice, and the word “sideways”.

We made the rest of the trip to Mendota Heights unscathed by incredibly stupid arbitrary traffic laws. We picked up Nate and headed to some town that I won’t even try to remember to imbibe the goodness that is Buffalo Wild Wings. We knocked down some Jerk wings and watched the stupid Bears stumble their way to a playoff victory. WooHoo! They are still losing this weekend to the Saints. So party it up while you can Bears fans.

After a stuffing meal we hit Excelsior to see Bethany’s school and teach her how to make “legal backups” of DVDs. We then headed back to the St. Paul area. We made a quick stop to replenish my diminished supply of Faygo and buy a 4 pack of Boylan Root Beer (it is sweetened with pure cane sugar) and we were back at Nate’s to pick up our bounty. 3 cakes exquisitely crafted by the master for my 1 year work anniversary. A Peanut Butter Cake, Chocolate Mousse, and some kind of Lemon Cake, each one greater than its predecessor. That statement isn’t entirely true. Man, I love me some Peanut Butter Cake.

We loaded the bounty into the back of the Taurus and bid Nate a fond adieu.  Then we headed out for the open road. The only hiccup being that the open road was now covered with snow and Minnesota drivers. Regardless of the obstacles created by nature and Minnesota’s public education system we made it to Iowa where miraculously the roads were mostly clear because there were actually snowplows out?!?!

We kicked it up a notch to make up for lost time in Minnesota, and then we hit a wolf pack of people doing about 55. I was manning the driver’s seat for this part of the sojourn. I thought about that earlier speeding ticket still burning a hole in my pocket and then thought, whatever! I eased into the passing lane and gave the Taurus a healthy dose of gas. When I got to the front of the pack I realized that a state patrolman was the lead dog.

FUDGE!!!!

Only the word that came out of my mouth was decidedly less Christian. So I had to make a decision. Fall to the back of the pack like a victim of castration. Or put “them” figuratively on the dashboard and pass the patrolman in the middle of a blizzard.

I gave the Taurus a little more gas, passed the patrolman and slowly pulled away. I waited to be pulled over and given the inevitable ticket. It didn’t happen. Victory was mine.
The rest of the trip was just spent rocking out, basking in the glory of victory.

Monday night I managed to be late for bowling yet again. I was matched up with the worst bowler in the league. He beat me like a red headed stepchild. I guess that makes me officially the worst bowler in the league.
Tuesday was my 1 year work anniversary. I brought in Nate’s cake. I believe that they were a smashing success. So much so I was nominated for being a “nice guy” at the company meeting. Nice guy. I got them all fooled. (strokes cat that sits on the arm of his chair knowingly)

On Wednesday Monica joined Jesse and I for lunch. We drove 1 block to King Buffet. Besides the fortune that started this whole mess of a blog, the only thing of consequence that transpired was Jesse determining that I would have made an “awesome stoner”. Now I know what some of you with limited English skills (such as myself) just had a word pop into your head: Onomatopoeia!! No that is not it! Oxymoron!! Awesome and stoner are concepts that deny one another. A person can not be both awesome and a stoner. I asked, nay, demanded clarification.

I’m paraphrasing and elaborating at the same time, but this is what came out of his mouth. “You usually go all the way into things. You would blow glass so that you could make your own hookah. You would make bongs out of ordinary household items and they would work as both a bong and whatever it was that they were originally supposed to be. You would listen to Dave Matthews, Phish, and the Grateful Dead and pretend like it was deeply moving music. As if it existed on a higher plane. You would have walls covered with black light posters of hemp, mushrooms, and Pink Floyd. You would subscribe to High Times magazine and carry pictures of the Bud of the Month around with you like it was the “coolest thing ever”. You would wear hemp jewelry. You would give passionate diatribes about the difference between decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing marijuana. You would fly into a rage any time anybody used the term “gateway drug”. Then finally when you decided to enter the adult world and get a job you would listen to whining Nancy Boy music like Jack Johnson and John Mayer.”
For the record I would never listen to John Mayer. “Waiting on the World to Change”! How about getting off your duff and help start changing it instead of whining that “there’s nothing we can do”. That song has less social meaning than “Fergalicious”.

Thursday meant supper with a friend, and a new episode of The Office, and Papa Bear on The Colbert Report.

So I guess that brings us to the present. I can begin my plans for the future. What does the future hold for me? What does the future hold for us? I can’t tell you all about the future but I will tell you that I am currently working on a plan for my future online store. I just can’t tell you about it. I have to heed the cookie you know!

I can make some vague allusions to it though. It is a style that in some circles is known as “The Bennett Style”. The people in those circles need a hobby. Perhaps they could take up crafts.

Speak of the devil and the devil will appear. Tomorrow night I am very excited to be going as far south as Maryland Pike for craft night. I’m not all that crafty, but it will give me a chance to admire the works of an acknowledged master: Sara Junck. Also, I haven’t spent much time painting frames and I need to get a frame painted if I am ever going to get a picture proudly displayed in Salon 908. So part of the future involves craft night.

Speaking of acknowledged masters, I think I have finally determined a time and a date for my much ballyhooed trip to Brunnier to see the sculptures of Rodin. This coming Thursday they are having a reception with appetizers, music, and a speaker. The good news is that there are still plenty of openings for the trip. A couple of people have already fallen out.

Jay just can’t commit because he doesn’t know when he will get off work. Maybe he will come back into focus when the day draws nigh.

Monica hates Rodin. Her exact words were, “Screw Rodin, if he was any good they would have named one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after him. Plus sculptures suck as a general rule.”

If the  Brunnier trip falls apart, I at least have a few movies to fall back on. A few movies that I have had my on my radar for months have finally found their way to the theaters of Ames and I am pumped up.
“The Last King of Scotland” is playing at the Varsity. “Running with Scissors” has graced the Dollar Theatre. “Dreamgirls” is holding it down at the Movies 12. There are plenty of high quality movies in town for once. Although I do regret missing “Candy” which left Ames last night. I also eagerly anticipate the arrival of “Pan’s Labyrinth”. I beg you Cinemark don’t make me wait much longer for the latest film by Guillermo del Toro. I can’t wait for the latest film from the master filmmaker that brought us “Hellboy” and “Blade II”??? Whatever, I still want to see it.

January 30th is also a pretty exciting date. That is the date that the new Norah Jones CD is released.

Then on February 5th there is going to be a pretty sweet concert at the Maintenance Shop. Not as incredible as a Lesser Known Saint show, but I’m still pretty stoked about going to see Matt Werz in concert.
But all these events are in the hazy future and none of them have anything to do with the online store. That is really concerned with the website. Avid followers of the Photography 139 website will have noticed a small change in the website.

You see it was Christmas recently. To mark the birth of the savior of mankind people like to give friends, family, and social obligations gifts. I rolled such a gift into a CSS manual. Okay, half of you just fell asleep. WAKE UP!! So, I have slowly been converting the website into CSS. Outwardly you will not notice much of a difference, but in the future it will be a billion-gazillion times easier to update the look and fell of the website.

This new knowledge also enabled me to move the navigation bar from the side of the website to the top of the website. This move makes the main body of the page quite a bit larger. The immediate consequence of that is that I can make the pictures much larger. The immediate consequence for you is that it will take longer for you to download the pictures. But did I mention that they will be larger??

I’ve went ahead and started designing the site to be best seen at a screen resolution of 1024×768 as that is more or less the standard now. It will still look fine at larger screen resolutions, but you might find it slightly annoying if your screen resolution is 800×600. I will not apologize for this because I am trying to help your boat rise with the tide. Just the way that the “No Child Left Behind Act” did.

So now you know that the site looks slightly different. Still no information about that online store to be had around these parts, is there? I did promise broad allusions. I am a man of my word, but you may want to turn back now. My kinetic sculpture plays a small part in the future and we all know that nobody likes that sculpture. The hatred is so intense that I have decided to change the name to “Anti-McDonald’s Book Deterioration Thing”.

Let’s go back to the past. A few weeks hence I ate lunch at The Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company with Sara. This is back when she used to eat food, but that is now a part of her past and a subject I will not dwell on. The subject of conversation was reached about the 4 people in the world I hate. She thought that it was bad to hate these people, but then I named the 4 people that I hate and she said it was okay to hate “those” people. However, I think it is more than past time to let that hate go. The man whose birthday we celebrated on Monday said the following thing:

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.”

It is likely that he was right about such things. The “Anti-McDonald’s Book Deterioration Thing” is a symptom of that hate. If art is meant to glorify God, all this glorifies is me.

However, it is part of the plan for the online store. To open this online store I figure I need  to raise about 160 American dollars. True I could dig into my own wallet or use some of my recently attained “phat” bonus check. However, I choose to run my “business” is the same manner as PBS.

In the near future I will put some items in the store. If anybody buys enough of them to put 160 American dollars in my possession I will move on with the opening of a legitimate online store that people will be able to use their credit cards and such to purchase high quality Photography 139 merchandise.

The first thing to go into the “fundraising” store will be “The Anti-McDonald’s Book Deterioration Thing”. It will have an initial price tag of 10 bucks. When it does not sell, it will be thrown into the Des Moines River where it will descend to the muddy bottom. It is where it deserves to be.

I’ll let you know when the fundraising begins. I am certain that you are whet with anticipation.

*In all sincerity, I don’t recall if it was Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley that mass marketed the “witchboard” to America’s youth. I don’t know if they were wiccans or warlocks or spawns of Satan or smoking lots of dope. I just know that it the single strangest toy in the history of mankind.

The Ballad of Parsaei

The Ballad of Parsaei


 
I have a friend by the name of Nader Parsaei. He is perhaps the largest fan of the Oscars on the face of this planet. He is from Iran. He is in the United States because of the political persecution that he faced in Iran. There is a fascinating story about how Nader made it to the United States.

The story begins in Iran before the Islamic Revolution and the fall of the Shah. Under the rule of the Shah all Iranian men were required to serve 2 years in the military. When the Shah fell, Nader was serving in the Air Force in a radar tower.

The new leaders of Iran wished to curry favor with members of the military and their plan for doing this was to shorten the military requirement from 2 years to 1 year. Nader had served 15 months and was sent home.

Nader was not home for very long though. Less than a month after being released from the Air Force a friend of Nader’s invited him to come down the a local university where there was a protest going on.

Nader is not a political person, but he decided to go to the protest. It was a decision that changed Nader’s life forever.

At the protest Nader got into a disagreement with a supporter of the Islamic Revolution. The supporter asserted that Khomeni spoke for God.

Nader disagreed with this statement and said that Khomeni could not speak for God because Khomeni endorsed murder and the killing of innocents and God would not condone such things.

Nader thought little about the altercation, but as he hung around the protest for a little longer he was grabbed by 2 agents of the new government. They put a bag over Nader’s head and shoved him in to the backseat of a car. He was driven to a prison and he was immediately incarcerated. There was no trial. There were no charges. This is where Nader would spend the next 6 ½ years of his life.

In prison Nader was tortured. He was beaten. He was burned.

In his part of the prison the guards had a spy. Any time any prisoner badmouthed Khomeni or the Islamic Revolution they were singled out for extra violence. When Nader figured out whom the spy was he attacked him. The guards pulled him off the spy and beat him some more. He spent the next 6 months in solitary confinement.

During Nader’s time in prison there was a moment of joy. Nader overheard 2 guards discussing the winner of an Oscar. He overheard them say that Henry Fonda had won an Oscar for “On Golden Pond”. Henry Fonda was one of Nader’s all time favorites dating back to the first time Nader had seen his second favorite movie “The Grapes of Wrath”.
After 6 ½ years of prison Nader was granted one weekend of freedom. The cost of this weekend was his grandpa’s house. He gave his house to the government in exchange for 1 weekend of freedom for his grandson.

His grandpa had brokered a deal to have Nader smuggled out of the country. He told Nader not to worry about him because he was an old man and the government would leave him alone, but if Nader ever came back to Iran he would shoot him, himself.

He was loaded up into a large cigarette carton and he and his smuggler set off for the Turkish border. If they would have been caught he would not have been returned to prison. Nader and the smuggler would have been executed on the spot.

As fate would have it they made it out of Iran safely. When they had made it into Turkey the smuggler tried to get Nader to get out of the carton, but Nader refused. The smuggler pointed out Mt. Ararat, but Nader still refused. Finally the smuggler pointed out some pretty girls on the side of the road. This convinced Nader that he was in Turkey because they didn’t have girls that looked like that back in Iran.

The plan was to make it to a Scandinavian country and live there. However fate intervened in Austria. Nader was arrested as an illegal immigrant and placed in a refugee camp. This wasn’t all terrible because while he was there he got to visit the hills that Julie Andrews sang and danced upon in “The Sound of Music”.

Once in the camp Nader was asked to prove that he would be executed or tortured or imprisoned if he was sent back to Iran. He pointed out that he could ask the Iranian government for documentation of his false imprisonment. They would not provide documentation indicating their human rights violations, so Nader instead showed them the scars his body posessed from his years of torture. The broken nose and his burned side proved to be adequate enough to prevent him from being sent back to Iran.

While in the refugee camp Nader thought about coming to the United States because it was his dream to come to Hollywood where the movies he loved so much were produced. It had always been the plan to end up in Scandinavia, but why not try to get to the U.S.?

He was told my other middle easterners that this was a waste of his time. There was a little old lady by the name of “Germand” that decided whether or not a person even received an interview to be considered for admission to the U.S. Germand had a long standing reputation for disliking middle easterners. She wouldn’t even smile at middle easterners, let alone put them on the interview list. They warned him not to bother and to angle for his second choice. Nader listened to their advice but didn’t pay it any mind.

When he saw Germand he approached her and said: “Germand, you are looking so beautiful today.”

At first Germand looked at him. Then she cracked a little smile. Then she burst out into a full laughter. Then she put Nader on the list.

When the day of the interview came Nader called back to Iran to talk to his Mom to tell her that he might be going to America, but he didn’t get to speak to her on that day. The police had thrown her into prison to try to bait him into coming back to Iran.

Nader was put in a very tough position. His Mom was in prison because of him, but he was powerless to do anything about it. He went to the interview, but his heart wasn’t in it.

The Americans began asking him questions through an interpreter, but he didn’t answer. They just stared at him. Finally he told them: “I don’t feel like doing this today. I just called home and they’ve thrown my Mom into prison to try to get to come back.”

The Americans looked around at each other and then finally one of them stood up and extended their handed and said: “Welcome to America!”

Nader’s joy was short lived though. When he came back to the camp he found out that a family had been rejected by the Americans. This bothered Nader so he made an appointment with Germand.

He told her that he was just one man. This was a family. They needed and desrved to go to America much more than he did. He requested that his name be taken off the list and that this family be put on the list in his place.

Germand denied his request. She told him that no matter what else happened, he was going to America. However, she promised to look into this family’s case for him. 3 days later this family was approved and they were allowed to come to America.

Niece

My niece Elainie wrote this poem and it won a prize:

MASK
 
She was just there.
Not knowing what was going on.
She walked into the room and everyone was smiling.
Or so it looked like it.
Everyone looked like they were having a good time.
The smiles, laughter, drinks.
But deep down inside, she knew everyone was sad.
They were sad because they were saying this isn’t me.
This isn’t who I wanted to be.
I wouldn’t do this.
But yet they still do what they do.
Just ignoring that weird feeling, being someone they don’t know or don’t want to be.
But why?
What’s the point?
It doesn’t help you with choosing a good future, it helps you go down the wrong path.
Farther and farther from your goals, dreams, and destinies.
So why bother trying to be something you’re not?
Just take off that mask and be who you are for whom you
are and don’t care what anyone else says because in the end you win.
And they lose.

A Short Story

I hope to really start working on some substantial writing in the near future. This is just a quick note to let you know that there is a new short story in the fan club.

Not a member? Request becoming a member. It is as easy as sending me an e-mail.

An Old Story

So I’ve been going through some old files lately and I stumbled upon a short story that I never finished. I don’t know if I hate it or love it, but I am tempted to complete it. Here it is:

Ercamus the Warrior King Turns 30

Ercamus had traveled long on this journey. The going was arduous and he had slain many foes. He had dispatched orcs, zombies, ghouls, giants, ogres, werewolves, vampires, goblins, trolls, spiders, wraiths, skeletons, spiders, and basilisks to name only a few. His adventure was coming to an end. There were only a couple of tasks undone. It had been a year since the Dark Minotaur Mage Hermonius had enchanted his kingdom, but the dark reign would soon end. Ercamus needed only to defeat the Magenta Dragon and retrieve the Minotaur’s key. Once he was in possession of the key he could enter Hermonius’ lair and defeat him. Then he could return to his kingdom and to Decorah the woman he loved. Then he could rule his kingdom in peace and tranquility for all his remaining days.

But, first things first, Ercamus needed to defeat the Magenta Dragon. He believed this to be an easy task because he had the Blue Sword of Zanbia. It was this sword that his ancestors had used to slay dragons in the time before time. This sword was known to cause damage to dragons that lesser blades wouldn’t even scratch. To further augment his confidence, Ercamus also stocked up on wyvern’s wing at the last village. If he was nearing the end of his life force, Ercamus could use the potion to heal his wounds and continue his fight.

Ercamus entered the Magenta Dragon’s chamber and set down his torch. He reached for the hilt of the Blue Sword of Zanbia and approached his foe.

The dragon spoke, “It is you, Ercamus of Rousselot, descendant of Balzine. You should flee now. Or I shall dine on your charred remains.”

Ercamus returned in kind. “It is I Ercamus of Rousselot, descendant of Balzine. I will defeat you. I will have the Minotaur’s key.”

“Then it is time,” responded the dragon.

Ercamus chose to attack at this time. He spun and slashed at the dragon’s flank. There was a spray of blood as “Old Bluey” cut into the dragon. The Magenta Dragon swiped at Ercamus. The dragon’s claws stuck with tremendous force, but Ercamus’ titanium armor withstood the blow. Ercamus struck back. It was only a glancing blow. The dragon sustained a mere 15 hit points of damage. The dragon pulled back and belted out an intense stream of fire that caused 35 hit points of damage to Ercamus.

It was Ercamus’ turn. He decided to use a spell, as he was fully loaded with magic points. He thought that an ice spell that he had learned in the village of Ferox would do the trick. In his experience it had been quite destructive to green and goldenrod dragons. Often killing them with only one incantation. He hoped that all dragons would be susceptible to the spell regardless of their place on the color spectrum.

Ercamus bowed down and began chanting the spell, but before its conclusion all the light in his world went out. In an instant he feared that he was dead. In the next instant there was no fear. His world no longer existed.

“Shit!” Ray screamed at the television. He was angry. He contemplated flipping off the television, but as that thought crossed his mind another one darted from the other side and his anger was replaced with fear. What if he had to start back from the village of Skoa? He hadn’t saved the game since he visited the Inn of Skoa well over an hour ago. He had lost a full hour of Minotaurquest VII! Sure he could play the game over, but this was his chance to defeat the game before his friend Black Knight had. Last time he chatted with Black Knight his warrior was only to the 25th level and just found the emerald armor. If he could complete the game first it would be the first time he had beat Black Knight since Minotaurquest III. He would be the warrior king of the chat room again.

It was then that it occurred to Ray that he had lost power. Perhaps, it was only that a circuit breaker had been blown. He knew he was running quite a few electronics on one breaker, but to really enjoy Minotaurquest you need to have the stereo running so you could slice and dice wraiths in surround sound. Perhaps, the stereo sending power to his sub was just too much for the house’s electrical system.

Ray pulled himself up out of his gaming chair and walked across the family room towards the utility room where the circuit box was housed. Ray muttered his way across the two rooms, grabbing a flashlight off a shelf in mid stride. A move that wouldn’t have impressed most people, but Ray took a second from his frustration to admire his hand eye coordination.

It was really wishful thinking on Ray’s part. It was mid-February in the Midwest and an ice storm had been soaking Ray’s town for a couple hours. A downed power line half a mile a way had disabled power for the south side of town. Ray didn’t know that, but he did know that none of the circuits were broken as he slammed the door shut.

Ray was near a panic now. Black Knight lived in California. He surely had power. He could be slaying the Magenta Dragon right now. Ray knew that this was bullshit. Exquisite bullshit! It was his dad’s fault. Ray knew this one fact. If the old man had bought a power generator then he could make his way to the garage this instant and fire it up. This was the exact reason why people had power generators. What was he going to do now?

At this exact moment it struck Ray. What was he going to do now? He couldn’t play Minotaurquest. He couldn’t watch television. He couldn’t watch a DVD. He couldn’t watch a video. He couldn’t listen to music. He couldn’t surf the Internet. There didn’t seem to be many options. He didn’t want to read by flashlight. That might hurt his eyes. He could light candles, but if he spilt wax on one of his novels, then their value would be down the toilet. He could go upstairs and try to talk to somebody in his family, but his younger sister was at college and he couldn’t stomach talking to his dad. It was his idea to move where the weather was so bad. That old man didn’t even consider getting a generator.

Truth be known, Ray never considered getting a backup generator before his quest was ended so abruptly. However, he made a mental note that when he got his own place, there would be a backup power supply. This would not happen to him again.

Ray slouched back into his gaming chair. He noticed there was a tear on the bottom side of the cup holder. He made another note. Buy new camping chair. Ray shut off the flashlight and sat in the darkness with a smile on his face. Camping chair? Why would anybody go camping? Nothing to do out there. Then he realized he was in the same predicament as campers. He had nothing to do. The smug look disappeared in the darkness.

Ray decided to light candles. His mother had decorated the family room with scented candles in seemingly every nook and cranny. It took only moments and the room was illuminated a small bit. Ray sat back down.

Now what? Boredom. It was his nemesis again. He thought briefly about masturbating. It was something he enjoyed and it would fill up some time. Maybe the power would come back on while he was finishing up. However, he didn’t seem to be in the mood even though it had been a couple days since he had given himself a tug. If he wasn’t in the mood he just couldn’t make himself be in the mood. Besides all his best pornography was locked up inside his computer. Access denied. His thoughts glanced to the lingerie catalog, but then he remembered that his sister had taken it to college with her. It occurred to him that once when he was in a bind like this he had used a Wal-Mart ad. Julie, associate; had done the trick for him on that night. It didn’t matter. Julie wouldn’t help him tonight. He wasn’t in the mood.

He looked down at himself. “Sorry love, I got a headache tonight,” he said to nobody in particular. Then he chuckled at his cleverness.

Then his thoughts escaped his control. He thought about his girlfriend. She wasn’t his current girlfriend. She was the only girlfriend he had ever had. So he was still correct to think of her as his girlfriend, damn the tenses.

Her name was Samantha. He wished she were with him tonight. Strangely enough, not just because of the sex stuff. He just kind of wished she were hanging around. He had realized awhile back that he had probably been to blame for things going wrong.

There relationship had been going well. They were having sex regularly, so it was going well in Ray’s eyes. Then one night she asked him about sexual fantasies. He said that he had always wanted to “make it” with a nurse.

The next night his parents were out of town she came over. She let herself into the guest bathroom. Ray continued watching some anime program. When she came out of the bathroom, she tried to get Ray’s attention. His gaze was glued to the television. She strutted back and forth behind the couch. Ray never moved. Finally she smacked the back of his head.

Ray was instantly annoyed by this gesture. His sisters had done this to him several times during their childhood. He turned in anger and then his jaw dropped open.

“Do you like?” Samantha asked.

“What are you doing?” was the answer.

“You said you always wanted to make it with a nurse.”

“I said I wanted to fuck a nurse, not fuck you dressed like a nurse.”

Where did she get such a crazy idea? It was beyond him. He turned back to his program. She walked back into the bathroom, gathered her belongings and left. She never returned. Ray didn’t follow her. The television was too good.

His mom wanted her back. She was privately concerned that Ray would never marry. She also knew that most 27 year olds living in their parents’ basement didn’t attract to many girls. She advised Ray to try to make amends for whatever he had done wrong. Ray assured her that he had done nothing wrong.

Ray did consider doing the flowers, apology, and groveling bit, but that weekend there was a sci-fi convention in town. Then on that Monday he had to reorganize his comics. On Tuesday new movies and music came out. By Wednesday he lost his steam. It was the curse of living such a full life.

THAT IS ALL THAT EXISTS TO DATE. MOST LIKELY IT IS ALL THAT WILL EVER EXIST.