Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Friday, January 31, 2014

Ice & Snow, Away We Go...

Atlanta got hit with a bit of snow and ice the other day, made the roads impassable for most motorist. It was a featured story on most of the major news channels and websites.

Here in Denver, it's something we contend with on a fairly regular basis from mid-October to late April, sometimes even in May.

That being said, we still get a number of drivers who get caught by surprise, as if we're living on the equator and the snowfall and ice build-up is not only a curve-ball, but one thrown with high heat. 

There were 6 or 7 fender benders along I-25 as I drove into work. All of them were cars that rear-ended other cars, driving far to fast and following much to close to allow for safe braking. 

The owners of auto body repair shops probably love those people.

Deranged, But Happy

Asked a man living in a flophouse if he was happy
He replied that today he was
Being as how he had slept in a warm bed last night
And took a hot shower this morning

That was all he needed to be happy

Then he proceeded to rinse his face using the cup of coffee he had purchased at 7-11

7-11 coffee, with enough creamer, is an excellent aftershave

Warm bed, hot shower. Who could disagree with that? 

7-11 coffee as an aftershave? Who knew?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Demons Won

 Way to cover yourself City of Lakewood

There came a time when nothing 
                              Seemed to be making sense
At every word he spoke 
                             She seemed to take offense
He didn't know what else to say
                             No one had prepared him for this
They had climbed so high
                             Now they lived in an abyss

She remembered the days when he would hold her for hours
Now she can't expect him to bring home coffee
                                                  God forbid flowers 
She didn't know what would happen next 
                                                  No one prepared her for this
They had climbed so high, now they lived in an abyss

Sometimes you think you have it all worked out
Sometimes you think all you can do is shout
Sometimes you think they're going to have to lock you away
Sometimes everything seems like fragments of a dream

He got up one Sunday and decided to pack his bags
Opened the closet and saw only his clothes

She had to hold back tears
As she packed while he slept
But she knew there was no point in saying goodbye
They had left each other a long time ago

They had climbed high, now they lived in an abyss
To the top of a mountain, now in an abyss
Indescribable bliss
Now an abyss

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Particularly Odd Assignment


He sat down on the chesterfield. It was a real chesterfield, featuring aniline-dyed hand-tufted leather.
The man wearing the blue tinted glasses offered him first, a smoke, and second, a drink. The man seated on the chesterfield declined both offers graciously.

"There will be, of course, a very fair payment for your services." Blue tinted glasses spoke in a flat, low tone. "From what I understand, your usual payment is $200,000 US - I'll double that, plus a little extra for expenses. There is one small stipulation however."

Stretching his right arm along the back of the chesterfield, he looked up at the tall dark haired man and then at the clock that sat on the left side of the desk. It was 3:38 in the afternoon, and he had been in the company of blue tinted glasses since 10:30 this morning, when they had met for breakfast in the cafĂ© near the bus station.

"Okay, It's been like, five hours already. The job is agreeable enough, the compensation even more so. Let's see this through - what's the stipulation?"

"It may seem a bit of a trifle to you Mr. Franklin, but it is a very important stipulation. This task I am hiring you for, it cannot be carried out until you receive word that I myself am dead."
Blaine Reed Franklin sat back a little deeper in the chesterfield and stared up at the man who was now staring back at him. What the hell could his death have to do with the job, and was he expecting to die anytime soon? $400,000 was a lot of money but how long did the man think it would  keep him in his employ?

"Mr. Franklin, the questions on your face are obvious and reasonable. I am due to be assassinated within the next two weeks - and my death is why I am hiring you. I cannot prevent my assassination, the professional contracted for the job is the best - present company excepted. And if he doesn't get the job done, then they'll just keep sending men until the job is done. That being the situation, I have decided I want my death avenged. That's all there is to it. Agreed?"

Blaine rehashed in his mind everything he had been told. He had no way of knowing if any of it was true. However, the tall man stood behind the desk with his right hand on a large briefcase that Blaine assumed contained approximately half a million dollars. Not a shabby payday.

"Agreed," Blaine replied, his tone as flat and emotionless as his new employer's.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Shamelessly Pretending I Understand Anything

Ever have to make a great effort to understand why someone in customer service would be rude? Like, when you are faced with someone who expects you to give them a bit of cash for something, and they come across as being inconvenienced by your need to purchase the product they're selling?

It has happened to me, and every time is has, I have tried to understand just what the motivation is behind the attitude. Is it to lend an air of exclusivity to the product? I could see that if the purchase was something hoity-toity, something rare or difficult to obtain - maybe some snobbery is called for, you know, to make it feel like a...snobbish purchase.

But when it's just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill item (which is pretty much all I ever buy), it's hard to reconcile the "You are so fortunate to be able to make this purchase" attitude with the purchase.

Now, I will confess there have been a few occasions in which I have probably, while working in a customer service capacity, been less than customer service oriented (Okay, okay, that should read: definitely have). However, that has always been a reaction to a customer being rude first, or if I've been dealing with a credit card company.

Credit card companies are the devil, and it is perfectly acceptable to be rude to the devil.

In my book, the customer may not always be right, but the customer should always be respected (I'm not claiming to live up to that ideal, I'm just saying that it's in my book).

Which means, if you cannot come across with at least a modicum of cheerfulness in how you perform your job, then maybe it's time for you to reassess your career aspirations and find some other way to make a living.

Because, Mr. "I'm too hip to be bothered with this old dudes preferences", some day you will be on the other side of the counter, and you will see, you will see.

I did, today.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

On The Beach At Bournemouth In The Morning

Rode the funicular railway down to the beach in Bournemouth
Wolfing down a bag of crisps and sipping a Gin and Vermouth
Walk along the shore with a brelly, don't want to look too uncouth
CCTV cameras watch me from towers, light poles and every roof
Feel like eating pretzels but this place doesn't seem to have them
Or maybe it's too early (it's just a little before 8am)
                      A man stops to ask
                      If I'd like to buy a watch
                      I tell him time is fleeting
                      Now go away or I'll call a cop 
Someone spray-painted "taki" high upon a concrete wall
Is this a tribute to a graffiti artist or just Japanese for waterfall?
Storm clouds are gathering with all the makings of a squall
An old fisherman doesn't seem to notice as he carves scrimshaw
I'm still craving pretzels but no one recognizes my plight
Could the wind get any colder or the sun get any less bright?
             Is that a woman up ahead 
             Walking a pig on a leash?
             The better question is, I suppose
                       Since when are pigs allowed on this beach?
Over by the pier there seems to be some sort of a commotion
Strain my neck for a look but it's just a diet cola promotion
Thin and beautiful actors playing in the cold ocean for the cameras
The wind and whipping surf making it hard for them to look glamorous
The Director shouted action! but the camerman was a bit distracted 
An actress had lost her top and the actors all over-reacted
                         What can be expected when out 
                         For a morning stroll along the coast?
                         An acute lack of pretzels and 
                         A fake Rolex watch, at the most

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Last Time I Saw Gemma

You know how sometimes you just can't sleep - you're in an unfamiliar environment, unfamiliar bed, you hear unfamiliar noises and you just can't fall asleep. That's how it is for me right now, so I'm going to have to do what I usually do under these circumstances, and write. 

This afternoon when things were slow I was talking with a co-worker about my time in Glasgow, and that triggered a memory of a young woman I knew from a small restaurant there. Her name was Gemma (pronounced Jem-ah) and she was originally from the city of Galway on the west coast of Ireland, but relocated to Glasgow to attend Glasgow Caledonian University, where she was studying to become a Nurse.

I guess it's been about sixteen and a half years since I last saw her. It was near the end of the summer of 1997 and I was returning from a weekend trip to London. It was fairly inexpensive to get a return trip bus to London from Glasgow then, about 25 pounds if I remember correctly, and I stayed at the Youth Hostel in Holland Park in the heart of London for another 18 pounds or so. I think the whole weekend might have cost me $80.00 U.S., and that included meals.

The bus station in Glasgow is about two miles from where I lived in the west end, almost straight down Argyle street (which is a joke, because Argyle street is crooked). Gemma worked at a small restaurant near the bus station, though that's not the one I met her at - I met her in a chip shop actually, which is where the other person involved in this story worked. That would be her boyfriend, a man about 27 or 28 (never got his age pegged down). His name was Alex, and he was an odd sort, very racist, especially towards anyone who looked even remotely Asian (which was odd, as he was half dark Malaysian and half pasty Scottish) and who always seemed to be borrowing money to feed a nasty gambling habit.

He also considered himself quite a stellar Rugby player, and would go on and on about how much better Rugby was than American Football, and that he himself was a better athlete than any American Football player. Bear in mind that Alex was about 5'7", 130 pounds tops. I never told him he was too small for even a Pop Warner team, but I wanted to.

Alex also had the habit of assuming, like so many of his racist brethren, that as a white man I must share the same attitudes. He would whine aloud about the "Paki's" whenever I stopped in for fish & chips - and laugh at his own lame jokes with a dull thuggish Glaswegian slur. If it wasn't for that place being not only a conveniently located chip shop, but also a damn good one, I would have avoided it like the plague.

The Sunday evening I returned from London I walked straight away to the restaurant Gemma worked at. I hadn't eaten since early that morning, and my stomach was growling like a cornered rotty. Walking in I spotted Gemma near the rear of the place talking with a cook, so I sat myself at the counter and pulled a menu from the rack that also held the condiments. Within minutes of me sitting down Gemma was at my side with a smile and her order book open, pen at the ready.

I looked up at her when she greeted me and returned the smile, and that's when I noticed the black eye that the heavily caked make-up did a poor job of concealing. My surprise must have clearly registered on my face, as Gemma looked down and turned her head a little to the side such that I couldn't clearly see the eye that had been injured.

Without hesitation I asked her directly what the hell happened. Gemma stood quiet for a minute and then told me she and Alex had gotten into a fight. I, being all chivalrous and whatnot, replied something to the effect that I would take care of him for her if she wanted me to, and that's when she laughed.

Oops, should have given a a physical description of Gemma when I first started writing this, as it is central to the story. Gemma was not small. It is doubtful "small" had ever been used to describe Gemma, except maybe when she was a baby. Maybe...but I have doubts. Gemma looked like how the members of the East German women's swim team looked in the '70's, before the IOC got up to speed with the drug testing. Oddly enough, even though she cut an imposing figure, she was very feminine in her mannerisms. It was an interesting juxtaposition.

So, with that description in mind, picture her laughing. Not loudly, but not really softly either - just laughing in a somewhat nonchalant way. Then she told me what happened. The Friday last she had come home to find Alex passed out on the sofa, which, she related, was not uncommon. What was uncommon was that he was passed out with a woman wrapped around him - the woman being passed out as well. Gemma said that was the last straw, and she had flown into a rage, punching and kicking at the both of them with a blind fury. They of course had come to immediately, and had started kicking and punching back at her, as well as trying to push past her in order to get out of the apartment.

Being the only sober combatant, Gemma had the upper-hand, and was giving them both quite the beat down. The commotion however had drawn the attention of the neighbors, and as she told it, the police seemed to be there within minutes. Four of the largest officers had insinuated themselves between her and Alex and the girl, and two others were behind her trying to pull her out of the living room and into the kitchen. 

She said she fell into a chair at the small dining table almost reflexively when she realized she was in the kitchen surrounded by police, and watched through a cordon of men as Alex and the girl were allowed to grab their clothes and then escorted out of the apartment. 

A policewoman then came into the apartment and sat down at the table across from Gemma, and asked her if she wanted a glass of water. Gemma told me she told the policewoman she wanted a beer. She couldn't have a beer, so she settled on the water.

For about a half-hour she had to sit with the policewoman and give a statement as to what happened, and also had to show her the copy of the lease that proved she was the sole named tenant. The police left her with explicit instructions that she was to stay away from Alex, and if he was foolish enough to try to return to the apartment, she was to call them straight away.

Her telling me all that took about twenty minutes. No one had come into the restaurant during that time, so I asked if I could get a Shepard's pie and some tea. Gemma took my order and then came back to the table. I asked her to sit down and asked in my best concerned friend manner if she was okay. I remember her shrugging her shoulders and then letting out a few soft sobs, and a few tears started rolling down her face. I leaned over and gave her as good a hug as I could from my chair. She quietly sobbed for a bit, and then the cook hit the little bell dealio (Yep, they have those in Scotland too) and she pulled herself up and went to get the plate.

When she came back with my dinner I looked at her and noticed the tears had smudged her make-up a little. I commented on it and then told her she hadn't actually told me how she got the black eye.

That's when she laughed again. She grinned sheepishly for a few seconds and then told me that after the police had left she had started going around the apartment gathering up all of Alex's stuff and throwing it in a big pile in the middle of the living room. It was while she was reaching up on a shelf to grab one of his grade school Rugby trophies that it slipped from her hand and fell hard right into her eye.

She said she embedded that trophy right smack into the wall.

After I finished eating I told her that I had to go, but if she needed to talk she knew where to find me. I walked back to my little flat in the cool night air wondering what it must of been like for the police to walk in on something like the battle that was going on in that apartment. One for the books for sure.

Almost two weeks after that night I found myself going to the bus station again for a trip to Aberdeen. I stopped in at the restaurant to check in on Gemma only to find that she was gone. The waitress who was behind the counter told me that Gemma was back in Galway, visiting her parents, and wouldn't be back until October. I don't know if she ever did return, as I never saw her again, but I do hope she was able to get over what Alex put her through and find a slice of happiness in her life. She was a nice woman, she deserved some.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pigeons Have No Songs Of Lament

I do not like the Blues much, especially the "I'm so down now I'm giving wrasslin' lessons to worms" variety. Yeah, yeah, it's a major part of the inspiration for Rock & Roll, I'm well aware of that, but for the most part Blues music doesn't do anything for me. In fact, it's always struck me as odd how some people can become so enamored of the Blues that it's all they'll ever listen to. 

I do not like Country much, either, especially the "My hearts been broken just like this whiskey bottle" variety. Yeah, yeah, it's a major part of the inspiration for Rock & Roll, I'm aware of that, but for the most part Country music doesn't do anything for me. In fact, it's always struck me as odd how some people can become so enamored of Country that it's all they'll ever listen to.

Now, I do love me some R&B, you know, that combination of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and Soul that really moves. And I do love me some C&W, you know, that combination of Scots-Irish folk music and Ranchera that really moves.

Not a big fan of CountryFunkSynthGoth though.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Big Dan & Mary Anne

                 Big Dan carried on his affairs
                 Without a care for Mary's tears
                 He'd regret hurting Mary Anne
                 She wanted to harm that man Big Dan
                 They found him face down in his bath
                 Seems he overlooked Mary's wrath
                 Though the cops were fairly sure
                 There was no proof it was her 
                 Good luck crazy Mary

                 Big Dan with the big plan
                 Brought shooting star shame to Mary Anne
                 Now Mary Anne had to leave town 
                 Something ugly was going down
                 Buckles and straps on a white overcoat
                 "I didn't do it" was all she wrote
                 A jury decided there was some doubt
                 And so she caught the next bus out
                 Good luck crazy Mary 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Poison In The Well

The world is full of truths that have been hidden away, and lies that are left basking in the sun for everyone to see 

The funny thing is, not many people care for either

Most people just want to get on with their lives without having to be bothered by anybody else's truth or lies

There are those, however, who believe fervently that it is their sacred mission to spread what they think is truth, and what they think are lies

Those people seem to be obsessed with informing the world about what they know

Screw those people

That's coming from those of us who just want to eat, sleep, play, work, relax...take life as it comes, without having to deal with someone else's idea of how we should be living  

Those of us who do not give a flying rat's ass about anybody else's truth or anybody else's lies

It's that whole "live and let live" thing - as long as you're not harming others, we leave you alone, and vice versa.

We just want to exist, live our days in peace, uninterrupted and undisturbed in our idyll

Unfortunately, there is always someone who thinks they know exactly what truth and exactly what lies we should be told and exactly how we should be reacting to them.

It's going to be a great day when the world's population, as a collective whole, is able to live without the truths or lies of those people who think they know. A great day indeed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Great Jzkppluy! It's the Lhiubrst From The Haswuttyr Galaxy!

A long, long time ago in a city about 1200 miles away, I used to read a lot of Science Fiction. It was great escapist fun, fired up my imagination and made me believe the universe was full of promise.

Then I got older, and started paying attention in some of the hard science classes I had enrolled in, and realized that the physics and engineering in most of Sci-Fi was not simply imaginative, it was somewhat irresponsible, ignoring the known laws of nature and contradicting the plausible, not to mention probable, exceptions.

I also, truth be told, just flat out got tired of trying to pronounce some of the place and person/thing names that science fiction authors love to come up with - "Gxhachkkkkes! The humans are approaching Dazertykkj IV! We must alert the council and prepare for battle! In Xvblewq's name we must not allow them to make landfall!"

That sort of thing takes a lot of the fun out of reading - if I wanted to wrestle with pronouncing names, I'd move to Wales.

The action and adventure of most of the books remained fairly engaging, but then there came a point when every single last science fiction book I opened seemed to have devolved into simple David vs. Goliath stories ("We are outgunned, out-manned, & out-teched, but we are a spirited small band of rebels, and we shall defeat the evil empire!") and books such as those written by the Sci-Fi writers I had embraced early on, such as Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin, writers who tackled philosophical questions about the nature of mankind and our interactions with the Universe and each other through subtle allegory and clever analogy (as opposed to "Pew, pew, pew, shoot them, shoot them all! We must escape through the hyperdrive wormhole!") seemed to have fallen out of favor.

Yes, yes, I know that there are still great Sci-Fi writers, and I have enjoyed the works of Iain M. Banks (1954-2013), Greg Bear, and Marek Huberath, but for every one of those writers of great speculative fiction, there are ten more hacks just jumping on the populist band wagon of "Hey, invaders from Hktyuwsrde! We must blow them up!"

The tendency for some Sci-Fi authors to milk a particular book until it's dry as dirt (The Dune franchise immediately springs to mind) also helped turn me away from Sci-Fi.

The epic Space Operas that tell stories spanning eons and seem to have no end work for some, but not me. I'm more of a trilogy, tops, kinda guy.

The influence of Hollywood is readily apparent in a lot of the Sci-Fi that has been published in the last thirty or so years. A lot of what I have read (or rather, tried to read) seemed to be a rough draft for a script that was rejected and then fleshed out as a book in order to salvage the work. Trite plots about evil empires and rebellions, or Spaceship crews adrift in the vast reaches of space making a horrific discovery that somehow ties into the origin of man on Earth...that is one beaten dead horse.

I haven't given up completely on reading Sci-Fi, as I'm sure there are still some great stories being told by some talented writers. I get a recommendation or two every so often that pans out (though it has been a long while - the last author that really grabbed me was David Zindell with his Requiem For Homo Sapiens trilogy - and those were published at least 15 years ago).

I am still waiting for a Sci-Fi writer to pen the one story I think truly needs to be told - that of the human race being the most technologically advanced (and thus most dominant) species in the Universe. Because we are. 

Fragile as hell on our own planet (No claws or talons or large sharp pointy teeth, no armor plating or tough leathery hides, no exceptional night vision or unique ability to fly or swim underwater for great periods of time, smaller and weaker than most large predators roaming the Earth), we somehow have become the one species that pretty much calls all the shots (no pun intended).

How the human race came to rule the Earth, and how it will move on to dominate the Universe in the same fashion, would make a great story - hell, the first part already is.