Category Archives: Challenges

There were 7 of us

I don’t know how we all crushed ourselves into that van, but we were 1/2-drunk so it didn’t matter until one of us got sick.

She almost didn’t make it out of the van in time. She really shouldn’t have had all those brats during the party. Heartburn and booze? Bad combination. Meredith (Merry) was always trying to impress people. She was kinda awkward, but she was a good kid. She joined us in the van at the last minute and none of us had the heart to tell her she wasn’t invited. She wasn’t the youngest of us…she was a retread. Yes, we were sophomores in the same Lit class, but she started back to school after her divorce.

“He just up and left! No note! No explanation, or a call! He just LEFT me!” she’d sobbed. She said it took her almost 5 months to gather up her courage to start back to school. She didn’t have any kids, thank God, but she was devastated. She said she cleaned him out in court! Turned out he’d been having an affair for years, so she took his retirement, his house, 1/2 his income… And after she’d paid off all his gambling debts (that he’d made in her name!) she had money left over and decided to go back to school.

Teddy, the driver, stopped and let her out and then he and the other guys went to water the trees. Stewart was a loud drunk and described everything from the bushes, and Leroy, the angry drunk, kept punching him and telling him to shut up.

Laura was squirming, but wouldn’t pee in the woods. She was afraid of poison ivy! Magda was going to wait until the guys got back, but after a couple of minutes, she too ran out of the van to the woods on the other side of the road.

“She’ll be SORRY!” said Laura. I wasn’t quite as drunk as the rest, I hadn’t had more than 2 beers and went to the bathroom before we left on our “adventure.” Meredith crawled back into the van, flushed and embarrassed. The guys got back, and finally, Magda crawled in.

“Merry? Where’d you get sick? I didn’t see anything when I went out.”

Leroy turned and gave her a puzzled look. “Why would you even LOOK?!”

Everyone thought it was funny.

Teddy said the cabin was just a couple miles down the road. We hit a rock or something and the tire went flat. Of course, Leroy, Teddy, and Stewart thought they could change the tire while all of us were in it. In the dark. On the dirt road. We got out of the van and started Kibbutzing on the side.

Nobody could find the jack. We followed Teddy toward the cabin because he thought there might have been some tools in the shed. It was farther than he thought. Or maybe he was lost. I turned around and Meredith was gone. I called out for her and she said she had to throw up again, and then we heard gagging noises. Well, THAT was disgusting! Magda went back to hold her hair, but none of the rest of us wanted to stick around. They were afraid that the sound and the smell would cause the rest of them to hurl, and I didn’t see any reason why Magda would need help. Dang that Meredith, trying to impress people with her iron stomach and then spewing all night.

Finally found the cabin. NO ELECTRICITY! We’d all used our phones as flashlights on the way up, and Stewart and Laura had been playing games all the way up in the van. They were nearly on 0 power. I turned mine off. Teddy went in back to see if there was a generator, but it was gas-powered, and we had no gas. Then he went to the shed to see if there was a jack. There wasn’t one, but there was an ax and some firewood stacked up. He brought in the firewood, and of course, we couldn’t find any matches. Teddy’s phone gave out. Leroy passed out, but we couldn’t use his phone. His was one of those password-only phones, so no fingerprint, no face ID.

It had been a while and Laura asked, “Where’s Meredith and Magda?” I texted them to see if they were ok. Meredith replied that they’d gotten a bit confused and were trudging up the road now. Magda replied that Merry was a mess and wanted to clean up first. Magda doesn’t usually care how people look. She’s a bit of an emo. She likes the black fingernails and the pink hair under the black…you know so when she flips her hair, you get that flash of color. But she never makes comments on how people look. Laura, on the other hand, has no other thoughts going through her head…fashion, hair, makeup and image take up the entire space between her ears.

It was getting cold. Teddy found some blankets and we all cuddled together. Wow! Did those things smell! Mine brought tears to my eyes. And, they itched! Of course, Leroy had to complain, LOUDLY. Stewart yelled at him, “Yeah? and do you have any better idea?”

Leroy said, “Well, dumbass, we could go back to the van and start it up. At least it had heat.”

Teddy remarked that the gas wouldn’t last all night and if they did get the tire fixed, we wouldn’t be able to get back home.

Leroy gave him this evil look. “You mean to tell us you didn’t fill up before we left?”

“Where was your gas money? Oh yeah, you spent it on the beer!”

Teddy and Leroy shared a room, and apparently the gas for the van. Teddy’s van, Leroy’s gas if he wanted to go somewhere. Lately, he had not been contributing, saying that since it was Teddy’s idea to go places, he should also pay for the gas. This was a bone of contention most of the semester. Woohoo! I used “contention” in a sentence! Doctor Will would be proud. (Doctor Pressledge loved Shakespear and peppered all his lectures in Lit with quotes from the Bard. What a dork! So we called him Doctor Will.)

Suddenly Laura jumped up and asked Teddy if the toilet was indoors or outdoors. He pointed her to a small building behind the shed.  She ran out as if her bladder was about to burst. She was not concerned about toilet paper at this point. I was about to pass out when I heard the scream.

We all ran out to see what was the matter, and there was Laura–sobbing and shaking. She’d heard some scrabbling on the roof of the outhouse and when she got out there were these weird, glowing eyes staring at her. Teddy started to laugh.

“It was probably a possum!” he said, and then laughed some more.

“So? Did you pee?” I asked under my breath. “How’s the smell?”

“The smell isn’t bad. I guess it hasn’t been used much, but I didn’t get inside. You know, alien on the roof…”

We shared a bit of a laugh. She went in, and I headed for the cabin.

I lay down again and was almost asleep when I heard Laura make a yip. The wind blew the trees around and some leaves were hitting the windows. I drifted off.

Stewart shook me awake. “Hey, the girls aren’t here,” he whispered.

“Huh?” I said, verbosely. (Haha! another bonus from Doctor Will!)

He looked me straight in the eyes and I could tell he was scared.

“The. girls. aren’t. here! Magda, Meredith, Laura…they’re not here.”

“What time is it?” I asked.

Stewart checked his phone, then remembered he had no juice.

“How the hell should I know?”

Well, shit. I got out my phone and turned it on. “2:37”

“They should have been here by now right? And did Laura fall in, or is she afraid to come out of the outhouse?”

The wind was still blowing the leaves around and it looked like we were going to get wet. There was lightning. It was in the distance, so you couldn’t hear the thunder.

“You wanna check it out, Stew?”

“Yeah, I’ll head down the trail for Magda and Meredith, and you check on Laura.”


The temperature had dropped a bit. It was in the 60s and the wind had picked up. I grabbed my blanket and wore it as I headed toward the outhouse. I figured I could kill 2 birds with one stone and get some “business” taken care of while I was there. I got to the outhouse and called Laura’s name. Nothing. I knocked on the door. Not a sound. I went in and sure enough, there was a catalog for use afterward, but no sign of Laura. It smelled slightly sweet…Laura’s perfume and something else. Baby powder? And of course, the usual stuff you smell in an outhouse. I remembered my grandma always told me never to use the glossy pages in the catalog, and now I know what she meant. I thought it was metaphorical…”Never use something fancy to do a plain job…” or something else along that line. Wrong again. I got out of the door, and then looked around to see if there was any sign of Laura. I called out her name and walked about 20 yards around the outhouse, and then around the shed. The shed door was open, but there wasn’t anyone inside. I headed back to the cabin, but Stew wasn’t back yet. Teddy and Leroy were snoring like loggers, but I was so tired, I just fell asleep on the couch.

The thunder hit with the suddenness of a bomb. I swear I hit the ceiling. Teddy and Leroy were cursing. The rain came down in torrents and it was accompanied by lightning and thunder. We couldn’t talk at a normal volume and be heard. The wind had picked up and we were hearing branches hitting the cabin. Teddy looked around and yelled, “Where IS everyone?”

It was just Teddy, Leroy and me. Stew was now gone too. I explained that Magda and Meredith never came up to the cabin and neither was answering my texts. Laura hadn’t come back from the outhouse, and there was no sign of her outside, so I had gone to look for Laura and Stew had gone to look for M & M. I tried to turn on my phone, but apparently, I hadn’t shut it off. It was now 4:45 or thereabouts. Laura and Stew’s phones were dead, and Magda and Meredith weren’t answering texts. My phone call went directly to voice mail. We decided we’d wait for the storm to pass, then when it was light, we could look for something to patch the wheel, or call for a tow or something. I supposed that Stew had gone all the way to the van and just stayed there to wait out the storm.

I went back to a fitful sleep. The storm made everything creepier.

About 7:30, it was lighter out, and though there was some drizzle, it wasn’t raining cats and dogs. There was no lightning or thunder either. It was time to make another hike to the outhouse. Still no sign of where Laura would have gone. I was rather worried now. I went back to the cabin and Teddy said that Leroy had gotten a text from Magda that Meredith had gotten them lost and they were at the van. Leroy went ahead and Teddy decided to wait for me so we could go down together. Teddy said he hadn’t found a jack in the daylight either, but he had found some matches. They were all wet. There was a leak near the fireplace.

The road down to the van was muddy and slick. You could tell Leroy had taken the scenic route. There were slide marks that went into the ditch and we couldn’t tell where he came up again.

“God, he couldn’t still be drunk could he?”

“Well, hungover at least!”

“I’ve never seen him so plastered!” said Teddy with a snort.

Then, we heard it. It was a moan. It seemed to be coming from the ditch on the other side of the road. We walked over and called out Leroy’s name. There was the moan again. There weren’t slide marks or anything so we kept going down the road, calling his name. I grabbed a downed branch and stripped off the little twigs. Now I had a proper walking staff. If we had to go down into that muck, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get Stuck there. We heard the moan, slightly louder up ahead. There were still no slide marks or footprints.  Teddy started down into the ditch. It was pretty steep, and on the other side of the ditch, there seemed to be quite a drop-off. I was glad I had my staff! I was about five yards from Teddy, and the underbrush was thick. There didn’t seem to be a path.

Suddenly, Teddy lost his footing and slid down, out of control, about thirty feet! Then he yelled! He must have broken something… his arm, his ankle. I thought, “I’m NOT going to carry his sorry butt up the hill to the van!” I thought I saw him through the trees, but when I got there, it was Leroy! His shirt was bloody and his face was squashed like he’d hit every rock on the way down. His hands were seriously malformed and bloody. There was a rock not far from his head that was all bloody too, but it was downhill from where Leroy had landed. It was clear that he was dead. But…who was moaning then?

I heard movement behind me and just as I turned, I felt a slash on my arm. The adrenaline was pumping at high speed when I looked and saw Meredith. She was looking at me with this insane grin, her clothes all bloody and torn. She had a very big knife and was screaming, “You weren’t supposed to have a stick! You bastard!” She lunged at me and I dodged. I swung the staff to catch her in the side. I heard something crack. The wood was kinda green, the twigs had been hard to pull off, so the crack must have been a rib or two. She screamed again. Then she started to laugh. That must have hurt with the bruised or broken ribs because she caught herself and grabbed her side.

“What’s funny Merry?”

“Age and Treachery, you son-of-a-bitch! Age and Treachery!”

I was bleeding profusely, but I couldn’t think about that now.

Teddy moaned again and I turned my head for just a second. She rushed me again and was inches from impaling me before I clocked her in the jaw with my elbow. She went down hard. I landed on her back and tried to wrestle the knife from her. She lifted her hips and I started to tumble down the hill. I dropped my staff to keep my balance with my hands and she stabbed my leg. I started rolling down the hill and she followed me. I hit a tree on the way down and it bruised me in the chest and knocked the air out of me. I scrambled over to a fallen log. There were bees in the log. There was a big rock and I grabbed it, I backed off from the log and she spotted me. She ran at me like a crazy woman and stepped on the log just as I threw the rock with all my might into the beehive. The log splintered where she stepped and the rock frightened the bees out of the hive. She was covered in seconds. I backed off. She lost her footing fighting off the bees and started to roll down the hill. She disappeared into a hole and I heard a splash.

I carefully maneuvered my way down and saw she’d fallen into a water-filled cave. She wasn’t moving. I slowly made my way up the hill to the last place I saw Teddy. Sure enough, his ankle was at an odd angle, but he had a knife wound in his heart. I would call 911 and, oh no! My phone had fallen out in the struggle. I checked for Teddy’s and though he hadn’t lost his phone, it was in pieces. I had to rest. I was bruised, cut, stung, and exhausted. I tore a part of my shirt and bandaged up my arm. I took the sleeve of Teddy’s shirt and bandaged up my leg. I grabbed another stick I could use for a staff and plodded up the hill to the road. I got to the van and discovered that the flat tire was flat because there was a hole where the air nozzle was supposed to be. Meredith must have cut it when she said she was throwing up. Magda’s body was thrown carelessly to the side of the road. Her phone was missing. Meredith might have used Magda’s phone to send the message to Leroy.

I took stock. No Stew, No Laura, Teddy, Leroy, and Magda dead. Meredith would have taken both her phone and Magda’s into the cave. I knew I couldn’t go down there to retrieve them and they’d be ruined by water anyway. Teddy’s broken. My phone was missing. Leroy might still have his. I was sweating and weak. But this was my only chance. I headed back to Leroy. I had to stop every 2 or 3 minutes because of the pain and I was getting dizzy. I finally found the place where we’d gone down to look for Leroy. It wasn’t as easy this time. It seemed farther than I remembered. I found myself wondering how I was going to get back up the hill. There was Leroy. I sat down beside him and started to look for his phone. He HAD it! I picked it up, and it showed some life. I tried to open it, but I was suddenly faced with the realization that I had no idea what his password would be. I started to cry tears of frustration. I wanted to just lie down and die. I crawled painfully over to a tree so I could sit. I closed my eyes just letting the life drain out of me.

Then, this damned squirrel dropped a nut on me. And then another one. And then ANOTHER ONE! I looked up at him and he chattered at me. I looked over at poor Leroy and saw something shiny near the rock that had killed him. The squirrel chattered again and I replied, “OH, ALRIGHT THEN! It’s not like I’m Ace Ventura or Dr. Doolittle.” In serious distress, I dragged myself over to the rock and there, covered in blood and leaves and dirt was my phone! Was it broken? Nope. Did I have a signal? 2 bars. I called 911. Two hours later, the ambulance and the police showed up and I told them where Teddy and Leroy were, and where Meredith had fallen. I’d lost nearly 2 pints of blood by then and I don’t remember the ride to the hospital.

What I didn’t know was that Magda was an undercover cop and had discovered Meredith’s secret. Merry, or whatever her real name was, decided that if Magda died, the rest of us would have to die too, and since no one knew Merry had gone with us, she could disappear and pop up somewhere else.

What she had done was kill Magda and use her phone to let us know everything was OK, and then had spent a little time in the van.  She headed up to the cabin to see if she could catch anyone else by themselves. Laura was grabbed just as she stepped out of the outhouse. Merry didn’t see me go into the outhouse because she was dragging Laura into the woods. She followed Stew as he came down the road calling for them and came up behind him and stabbed him just a half-hour before the rain started. She hurried down the road as the wind started up and the lightning and thunder got closer. She held up in the van and sent the text from Magda’s phone to Leroy. She waited for him to come down, but then the storm started in earnest. The next morning, she waited along the road. Leroy was pushed down the hill and when he didn’t shut up, she slashed his throat. She hadn’t ever slashed anyone’s throat and didn’t know how loud it could be if she did it wrong…and she did it wrong. So she beat him with the rock. She heard Teddy and I calling out to Leroy and talking about his moaning, so she continued to moan to lure Teddy and me into her trap. She’d reached out and tripped him with a branch and caused him to fall down the hill, then stabbed him in the chest. Then she saw me over by Leroy. I was her last obstacle.

I understand she’d never been divorced, she’d had her husband declared dead after 7 years and had collected on the life insurance. They found Meredith’s husband, stabbed and cut up and buried under her vegetable garden. She had beautiful tomatoes, though.  After a little digging, it was discovered that this wasn’t the first time she’d murdered her way into money.

I don’t go to parties anymore. I hate lightning storms. And a relaxing vacation in a mountain cabin is not in the cards. Ever.




Beastmaster 65

“Welcome to the Ultimate Skills competition!”
“Thanks, Keith! We’re here with the finest old fat people with skills to maneuver this bone-cracking, back-pulling, mind-blowing course that sooner or later everyone is going to have to master!”
“Just like regular Beastmaster, there are 3 courses. Christine? I bet you want to know what they are!”
“Of course, Keith! And we have 8 competitors ready for the 1st elimination. Only 6 of those 8 get to the next level.”
“The first course is going to focus on maneuverability. To get to the Mouth of the Beast, the competitor has to walk up a 100-foot ramp. It’s at a 6% grade and only 3 feet wide. But to complicate this, there are knee-knockers placed every 20-25 feet. These 12-inch barriers are the bane of anyone who’s had to walk around a house that has pets or grandchildren.”
“That’s right! My shins hurt already!”
“But when you get to the top of the ramp, you have to come down 50 stairs without a hand railing!”
“What makes this so hard?”
“The stairs are not the standard 10-12 inch tread, these stairs are only 6 inches wide.”
“We may see some spills there!”
“After they descend the stairs, they go into the belly of the beast. The room is completely black and has obstacles throughout. We’re talking head-bangers, shin-scrapers, random poles, squishy toys, and a false door!”
“How could anyone get across that?”
“They have a standard flashlight.”
“Yes, it blinks on and off at inconvenient times and the beam will only faintly show 2 feet ahead of the contestant.”
“How will we see the action?”
“Infrared cameras.”
“If they’re not suicidal when they come out of this challenge, they go to the fork pick-up.”
“What’s that, Keith?”
“The Infamous Fork Pick Up! 9 forks are placed in and under and behind various objects in the room. The contestants are being told there are 10, but they get 2 points per fork, and it’s a timed exercise. If you stay in the room for too long, you get 0 points. The person with the most points wins.”
“So, OCD people looking for the non-existent 10th fork might time-out and lose all their points?!
“Yes! But that’s not all! Now they enter the colon of death!”
“It sounds awful!”
“The contestants have to sit in a wheelchair and wheel it up a snakeline 200 feet with a 10% rise and 15 turns.”

“Breaking news, Keith. One of the contestants took a look at the first obstacle, complained of pain in his arm and then grabbed his chest. 2 feet out of camera range, he ran to his van and took off. 2 more of the candidates took their canes to the set designer. George will be in the hospital for another 2-3 days. 2 more of them just wandered off the set. The last 3 were mumbling something about their prostates and have been in the bathroom for the past 26 minutes. There’s been no word if they’re coming out.”

“Well, Christine…Age and treachery…”



My Pizza’s Late

Grrr. Argh!


But, I’m worried.


My friend, Chris, is a pizza delivery guy. He also works part-time at the same company I do. I see him weekly. He’s a sweetheart. He didn’t show up for training today. He very rarely misses training.

Our RVP announced that Chris has died.

Some dumb kids lured him into a vacant apartment and stabbed him and robbed him. He died on the sidewalk. Chris was the kind of person that had someone asked him for the $50, he would have given it to them. He wasn’t a very big guy…5’4 or less. Most delivery personnel are trained that if someone wants to rob you, just give them the money.

When my fast food restaurant was robbed, the robber ran out with the whole change machine! It was late, so it was mostly empty. The machine is attached to the wall electronically so when the cash register (which is bolted to the counter–yes he tried to take that first) determines the coinage that needs to be distributed to the customer, the coin machine automatically issues the change. There is a tray with a handle that allows you to fill it and empty it. He could have just taken the tray, but no… We didn’t tackle him in the parking lot. In fact, the guy working the cash register ran after him and asked if he wanted fries with his order. He got away with less than $20 of change and a $2300 machine that he couldn’t use. In addition, he didn’t figure out how to take the tray out of the machine and destroyed it to get the quarters.

I’m pretty sure that if they’d just asked Chris for the money, he wouldn’t have fought them. Instead, they stabbed him twice and left him to die, all alone.


Last night I ordered a pizza because I had students until 6:00, and a meeting that went from 6:00-8:00. During the break in the Zoom meeting, I ordered $50-worth of pizza and pop. This was 7:00 pm, and I expected it about 8:00 when my meetings would be over.  8:15 came and went and the tracking service said the pizza order had been received, but not made yet. ?? That never happens. I called them about 8:30. The manager asked if I had ordered the pizza and I said yes, and the time on the receipt was 6:58. (Managers can look up order histories by time and by order.) She apologized and said she would send an extra pizza. About 8:45, my tracker switched from “received” to cooked to delivering. YAY! 9:55, I called them again wondering where my pizza was. “We’re closed!” the lady that answered the phone said, and then almost hung up. I blurted out “I still haven’t got my pizza!” “Oh, I’ll call her and see where she is.” Then she hung up. I went to bed at about 11:30.

I don’t want to be a Karen, but I am calling the store today to see if my delivery person is ok.

6/12/2020 10:45 AM Update 1

I called them and told the manager what happened. He said my pizza HAD been delivered. I told him to check his receipts. I did not sign for a pizza last night. He said he’d have to check with his workers. ?? I have been a manager, I check the paperwork first, then I ask my workers. This was not the same manager that was on last night. This one was a man, the one last night was a woman. If you cannot find the appropriate paperwork, the customer gets the benefit of the doubt. You cannot do a he said-she said with customers. I guess I have to pay cash from now on. No more ordering online. Or, how about no more buying pizza?

6/12/2020 1:05 PM Update 2

Called again, and manager is going to send the order at 5:00 tonight. Offered to give me my money back, but I said I’d rather have the pizza. He was happy to comply. We’ll see.

6/12/2020 4:56 PM Update 3


The Plot Sickens

Whatever happened to basic human decency? Neighbors caring for neighbors? People helping out in causes bigger than themselves?

News flash! Oh wait, we don’t trust the news. Instagram flash! Oh drat. Check the source. Minions bearing a large “Illumination” sign. That’s the ticket… HUMAN DECENCY IS NOT BASIC! If good behavior wasn’t unusual, would it be news?

So now we have people stuck in their houses with their families. At the 2-month mark, we’ve discovered that many people don’t even LIKE their families. They don’t like being cooped up with them, working from home with distractions, schooling them at home, entertaining them at home! But we don’t want to get sick. However, there comes a point where the need to escape becomes more urgent than the need for safety. We can’t just go bowling. What would get people out on the street that would make plausible sense? OOOH! Protest marching! We used to do that in the 60s. What can we protest? Um. Something involving freedom? Sure! “You can’t make us wear masks! You can’t make us stay home!” That doesn’t get enough people into the street. TADAAA! We have an injustice we can protest. We have global support! The French in Paris are supporting this cause of cops versus black people in Minnesota. Now let me ask you. If you knew that the French police were targeting a group of people for trumped-up charges and murdering innocents, would you protest in the streets? I wouldn’t. What is this protest supposed to accomplish? Being Shamed by the French, albeit embarrassing, is not something to be taken seriously.

So now we have a legit reason for leaving the house and congregating in large crowds of people we don’t know, some of whom might have contracted the virus and are asymptomatic. Are you ready for Round Two in the pandemic?

Now there are more potential carriers in public. You don’t know that the people that you deal with don’t know who of their friends were in that protest. They don’t know that someone that was negative for corona yesterday is positive today. But we all enjoyed that little vacation from isolation, didn’t we. Open up the country! Re-open the businesses! Open the bars and restaurants and movie theaters! It’s safe now! Is it? Are you ready for another 2-4 months stuck with your crazy family?

If you want to destroy a society, you break down the family unit. (What better way to do that than to make them stay at home with them for 6 months?!) We’ve already made the word “family” ambiguous. This is a good thing! It has allowed people to be in “family groups” that are outside the norm and family ties are still fairly strong. We can have 2 moms or 2 dads, or 2 sets of parents including the step-parents in addition to the nuclear family. And with the advent of basement kids, the family is now including live-in grandparents, much like what life was before the nuclear families we grew up with.

The problem we’re facing is legislative definitions of families, and agencies that determine if the home is suitable for families can split families apart instead. We’re also facing domestic abuse on a much larger scale than was previously thought. This is a morale problem, not a moral problem. Hope and optimism are taking hits every day. Unemployment and underemployment take parents out of the house in order to make enough money to survive on. Children are getting socially trained by people who are paid to be surrogate parents. They may not care as much about the children’s development as the parents would. Our religious groups are by default considered houses of propaganda and ridiculed as narrow-minded and inflexible. Without spiritual training, how can we best discuss and adopt a perspective on good personal behavior and personal relationships? Yes, it can be done without religion, but when you think about it, where better to practice than a place where everyone is an active example of the best behavior and attitude?

Then there’s the effect of the SmartPhone on the public. The advent of instant communication without filters is breaking down civility. You have seen the rants and the short sound bytes and memes that announce a person’s entire philosophy. Who could communicate a belief system in 7-10 words? And yet… Well, if this is the default communication, how do families relate to each other? We are less and less able to use colorful, descriptive language and our deep thinking is much more shallow. Have you ever read anything by Mark Twain?

“Each of you, for himself or herself, by himself or herself, and on his or her own responsibility, must speak. It is a solemn and weighty responsibility and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government or politician. Each must decide for himself or herself alone what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man, to decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor. It is traitorous both against yourself and your country.
Let men label you as they may, if you alone of all the nation decide one way, and that way be the right way by your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country, hold up your head for you have nothing to be ashamed of.
It doesn’t matter what the press says. It doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. It doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. Republics are founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe in. no matter the odds or consequences.
When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move. Your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world:
“No, you move.”
― Mark Twain

The signs of excessive indulgence in this destructive pastime are easily detectable. They are these: A disposition to eat, to drink, to smoke, to meet together convivially, to laugh, to joke, and tell indelicate stories— and mainly, a yearning to paint pictures.
― Mark Twain

Look at that vocabulary! Can you see pictures in your mind as you listen to these words? We now seek for the shortest, most ineloquent utterances to describe the most banal of events. “Ya, that’s daft.” But in that pursuit, we often sacrifice a deeper meaning to situations and that can cause a problem that repeats itself until someone DOES assign a deeper meaning to the event.

If we then disrupt the family with so little time together; if we allow our children to grow up without our good example; if we don’t foster good relations and better character and don’t seek people of character; if we don’t communicate except by electronic means; then the family as a unit will start to disintegrate. We now have accomplished step 2 in undermining our society.

We aren’t being attacked by a foreign country or inundated by evil forces. We’re doing this to ourselves. Stay tuned to another episode!



When I was young…

You saw Forrest Gump, didn’t you? You remember when he was confronting the Black Panthers? It was pretty much like that.

We were all mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore. How could you relegate someone to the back of the bus because they weren’t the right color? What difference did it make what color they were when it came to school? I was a teenager, so I knew the answers to everything. The only blacks I ever saw were on the campus of the university, and they kept to themselves. You hardly ever saw them downtown. Why? Because our town had a very unfortunate reputation.

There was a lynching in the 30s. Apparently, a black man raped a white school teacher. He was being held in the jail and the Sherriff didn’t want to release him to the mob, but they beat him up and dragged the prisoner out of the jail and tied him to the back end of a truck or car or something, and dragged him down the cobblestone streets. It was killing him too quickly, so instead, they tied him to the top of the schoolhouse and burned the schoolhouse down.

All the news on TV was just plain scary. There were these guys with the big afros yelling and threatening people, and then there were the riots at the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968. All whites were “the man” and wanted to put down and destroy the black communities. All the blacks were lawless animals with no more common sense than a gorilla. Neither side trusted the other. Look up the Chicago 7. Bobby Seale was one of the founders of the Black Panther Party. He and 6 others (all white) were part of the anti-war, civil rights protests. Mayor Daley imposed a curfew for people UNDER age 21, cut off traffic, and stopped the sale of weapons and ammunition.

The next day, they had deployed 10,500 police, 6700 National Guard, and over 5000 soldiers from the 1st armored and 5th infantry divisions were ordered into the city by President Johnson.  “The general in charge declared that no one was allowed to have gatherings in the riot areas and authorized the use of tear gas. Mayor Richard J. Daley gave police the authority “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city,” quoted the Chicago Tribune.  Do you see the similarities between the reactions online and the ones they employed in Chicago? And because it was in the middle of the Viet Nam war, the press had discovered it had enormous power over the policies and protocols of the government. Had the press not been present at the riots, we might not have known much about them. But they were there and we saw the police beating on people with batons, and tear gas, and wounded civilians, and looting and arson. The truth was out on display. There was no way to deny what was going on.

We were scared of those angry black people, and we were shocked and embarrassed and furious at the police, and distrustful of the government, and helpless. The Chicago riots happened the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King. The unrest and protests were centered mainly on college campuses around the nation. Since my folks worked at the University, they were on the front lines. But in 1968, my dad was studying for his doctorate at Columbia University in New York City. He got a street-level view of what was happening. The press in NY was out to get the best stories, even if they had to create them. When there was a protest outside of Columbia, the press showed up and people were just standing around. One of the members of the press suggested that someone throw a brick or a bottle and push each other around so they could get pictures. So they did. Then the press packed up and left and the protesters went back to just standing around. This was not what happened in Chicago, or Watts or Harlem.

When my dad got back in 1969, in addition to Viet Nam protests and Civil Rights protests, there was a huge spike in drugs on campuses as well. Heroin, Cocaine, LSD, Pot, and various uppers and downers were widespread and in heavy use. During the riots, you could hear explosions followed by giggling. Some of the rioters would experience bad trips and set off another series of violent acts and panic. Most white people in my home town basically stayed home, and the black students hid. When I started college in 1973, the race relations were very much improved among students on the campus, but not in the communities. When “Roots” came out, since I didn’t have my own TV, I went to the student lounge to watch. 30 people in the room, and I was the only white person. I couldn’t miss any of it and I became less and less noticed. I was like furniture. But who talks to furniture? I made no friends in those gatherings.

The comics, Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson, Red Fox, and Bill Cosby were becoming mainstream, and newer black comics were starting to become more commonplace. My dad even had a few records by Bill Cosby. Bill never did the race jokes, but the others did, especially Richard Pryor. He made the white people in the clubs where he did stand-up very nervous, but when he was on television, the white people at home felt safe and could let a part of his message sink in. But blacks were still fighting for the same considerations that we took for granted. Many of the whites were saying that the laws were passed, so now discrimination was over. It wasn’t.

I think the race situation seemed strange to me because we were musicians. Which musicians did you think of when you played jazz? Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Oscar Pederson, Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis, Jr. This is what we listened to at home. Dizzy Gillispie and that wild trumpet of his was not a black man playing trumpet, he was a man playing a wild trumpet. Why? Because we never WATCHED them perform, we just heard them. I knew Dizzy played a weird trumpet because my dad described the trumpet to me. In fact, until I saw Al Hirt’s picture, I thought he was probably black because he played Dixieland jazz, and that was in New Orleans. It wasn’t until I saw Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald on TV that I knew they were black, and it didn’t seem weird at all that they were a different color. My mom described race to me with apples. She said, “Here taste this. What is it?” “It’s an apple.” “But what color apple?” “I can’t tell, it’s peeled.” “So it doesn’t matter what color it is?” “Nah, it’s still an apple.” “Well, there ya go.”

Here’s the thing: after the assassination of MLK in 1968 and the riots and protests, 9 years later, the blacks still had to fight for equal treatment. And here we are, over 50 years later and WE’RE STILL FACING THE SAME PROBLEMS! The riots don’t change the right things, the legislation doesn’t change the right things, the protests and the social media and the news don’t change the right things. What does? Only if the hearts change do people change. Only when we open our minds with our hearts will people be treated alike, because the heart is blind.

The Plot thickens!

If you wanted to undermine a society, what types of things would you have to curtail?

First of all, you’d have to disrupt communication. That doesn’t mean closing news stations and banning magazines and newspapers. That would be too obvious. But if the news doesn’t agree across the board, then you have several different VERSIONS of the news. We’re not talking editorializing as part of the news, we’re talking presenting completely differing facts.

You introduce a plague that disrupts communication by shifting the main method from verbal face-to-face to virtual. The phone is not a major means of discussion, it’s social media, and that provides anonymity. Why rant into a phone or on a Zoom platform when you can hit all your 1000s of followers on social media at once? Anonymity provides courage for some people to express things they would never say in a physical venue. There is no “sarcasm” button when you’re posting something. That’s the outbound communication.

Inbound communication, where we get our information, is relegated to outside news sources. When the pandemic hit, we knew about it in China. We took no action specifically to combat an epidemic that would affect our country. We never actually got facts, we got opinions of the facts. We needed to curtail exposure to the dread disease so we had to self isolate. If everyone had done that immediately, the threat would have extinguished itself within about 4 weeks. But it didn’t happen. Because the symptoms don’t show up until 4 days after you have contracted the disease, and is contagious before symptoms show up, you don’t know to whom the disease has been spread. So, are you sick? You don’t know. If you get it, there’s a 10-15% chance you could die from it.

How did we respond? We bought every single roll of toilet paper in every store.

“You need masks,” so all the masks disappeared off the shelves.

“You need hand sanitizer,” so all of THAT disappeared off the shelves.

“You need to stay home,”

“What? Then how do I get masks and hand sanitizer and toilet paper? I have to leave the house because I have an essential job! I work at a fast-food restaurant. I stock the shelves with toilet paper. I’m the janitor at the hospital. Life will grind to a halt if I don’t deliver products with my truck!” And they’re all correct. WE CANNOT stop everything for a month. But we have greatly curtailed the people going to work and shifted the work environment from a cube farm to a house. We have closed restaurants so people are buying more groceries and cooking at home. We have closed all the entertainment venues and canceled graduations and sports events.

This was the first chink in the armor. We didn’t know which “facts” to believe about the virus. We had no definitive action to take. We didn’t have an acknowledged expert to give us direction. We were adrift and having to cobble together something that would work. All of the misinformation and missed information made these workarounds temporary at best. We distrusted the news, we distrusted the experts because they gave us conflicting information. We distrusted our government. We increased the distrust we already had in the disparity between classes. We had now reached the first level of confusion and loss of confidence in everything we had previously trusted. We’ve accomplished the objective of isolating the citizens from each other.

What is the second step? Increase violence to further isolate the population.

Let’s take the George Floyd incident. If both had been white, or both had been black, would it have made the news?  It might have. It was the murder of a subdued subject by a cop. No, more than that… It was the murder of a subdued subject by a cop, on camera, with other cops and bystanders that should have intervened. Did you know that both the victim and the cop knew each other? That they worked together? If you take the uniforms out of the equation, do you end up with a completely different outcome? The guy with the uniform, gun, and badge obviously has institutional power over the civilian. The victim had no choice but to submit to the person in the uniform and allow himself to be cuffed. This is obviously a huge disadvantage! The point of getting a person into the facedown position with the knee to the upper back (Not the neck you doofus!) is to position the man’s hands to be cuffed. It doesn’t take that long to cuff a person. After the person is cuffed, it is very difficult for him to resist arrest. Why, then, was the victim held in this position for over 5 minutes? over 3 minutes? Why was he held on the ground at all if the man was already cuffed when he went down? This was a personal assault and one of the people just happened to be a cop.

What happens when the assault and subsequent murder hit the news? We don’t trust the institution of the police who are supposed to protect and serve. We don’t trust people who are a different race than we are because they’re obviously violent. There are statistics at the Bureau of Justice that can give you insight into this behavior. We don’t trust the news because it’s not just facts, it’s a political agenda driven by money and power.

When you disrupt communication and cause distrust in what was once considered the most trustworthy of institutions, both the news and the police, you upset people’s support network. Who can they trust now? Just the conspiracy theorists on  FaceBook? Cousin Bob’s wife’s hairdresser’s best friend’s neighbor knows the true story behind events. Why not just take the short cut and ask Kevin Bacon directly? You have effectively isolated the whole population.

But you can’t keep a good mob down. No, they showed up in droves to protest their masks and the self-quarantines and of course, the COVID 19 cases shot up proportionately. Then they showed up in droves to protest

  1. actions of someone who didn’t represent the cops in their town
  2. the general attributions of a whole class of people (all cops are racist and all blacks are criminals)
  3. being locked up in their houses and not knowing whether to leave with a gun or a mask or both

Riots in Omaha, San Antonio, and all across the country, ended up destroying businesses and causing injuries or death and did not promote a change in behavior for the parties they were purporting to support. Did it panic people? Yes. Did it get people off the street? Law-abiding, passive, fearful people stayed home. Incensed, mad, frustrated people went out to protest this injustice. Where was I? Safe at home posting angry comments. I know my actions will not change the behavior of those responsible for this injustice, but I also know breaking windows and attacking bystanders won’t either. The protesters weren’t out to burn down the cities, there were instigators onsite. Looters and anarchists were there to cause damage unrelated to the protests. So they hid in plain sight among the protesters and did what they do: destroy and obscure the purpose of the protest. And of course, since we cannot discern between well-crafted narrative and true events, the facts are obscured and we only get a version of the truth. Sooo, with incomplete information and a skewed sense of what is true and what isn’t, the bottom line is that we will have MORE violence and MORE cases of the virus. The problem isn’t getting solved, it is getting inflamed.

The more I write, the more insidious this sounds. I may have to continue this tomorrow!

Water was I Thinking?!

The LAST day of my water challenge.

I made it! What did I learn? I need soft water.

It wasn’t a fair experiment. When you do an experiment like this, you can only change 1 thing or the variables muddy up the results.

I started drinking water as my only beverage, but I didn’t take into account that I was teaching less and there was less physical activity as well. I didn’t take into account the meals I was fixing as opposed to catching food when I could in between lessons and meetings. I didn’t take into account all these rainy days curtailing my gardening. I forgot a whole bunch about the healthy eating habits I had acquired over the years.

There were just too many variables to show any results. However, I’m not going back to little or no water and just milk, tea, coffee, pop.


How many of you have black friends? How many of you are black? This is why I love blogs. You have no idea what color the person is by their writing. Unless they include a picture on their profile page it doesn’t really matter does it! Here, we’re all equal. All of our thoughts and words matter.

I have black friends, so I’m not a racist. I meet every one of my friends, regardless of color with smiles and hugs or a hardy handshake. I’m happy to see them and interact with them. I don’t care what color they are.

We’ve all felt like this. We’ve all heard people say this.

Here’s the thing: my friends that are black I have met in a controlled environment. I was in school with them. I go to church with them. I work with them. They’re clients of mine or students of mine. I control the environment. I get to know them on a personal one-on-one basis. I don’t see my black friends as representatives of a whole race. I see them as individuals that I know and like. They do everything they can to keep things easy between us. I never thought they were having to compromise to keep our friendship. I assumed they acted the same way with their other friends. I had an occasion to see them with their friends at church. They act completely differently! I was surprised.

What compromises do they make? What kind of adjustments do they have to employ to make me feel comfortable? They make an effort to speak in a way that I don’t have to translate. Let me give you an example.

My friend Jon was a Math major taking Music Appreciation classes. I was a music major taking Calculus and we were in the same class. When the teacher got carried away and I couldn’t keep up, I’d raise my hand and say, “Music Major!  Translate please!” Jon thought it was funny and approached me and asked for my help in his Music Appreciation class. We would meet in the music library and listen to and analyze the music for his assignment. While we were talking, we had no problem communicating. One day, his friends saw us in the library and came in to visit. He switched his language to something that sounded like it came from an alien planet! He slurred his words and used terms and some vocabulary I had never heard before. He changed pitch, he changed the rate of speed, he changed his references and his gestures. When his friends left, he switched back to my language. I was flabbergasted! He was, in a sense, bilingual.

I grew up in a college town. Kids came up from Kansas City to this school, and though they were in the minority, they were music majors they were in the band my dad directed. I got to know them when I hung out after concerts and football games. So when I found myself on a floor at Illinois State where the black women’s sorority met, it felt weird that they were using some of the same words my Kansas City acquaintances used, and sounded like white people using them. I had to open my door to check to see if they really were black. Picture Maggie Smith saying, “You go girl.” Picture Helen Mirren, her hands on her hips and head tilted, yelling, “Say What?” It was comical. They were from Chicago! Now I think, after talking to a couple of them that if any of the slang they used was spoken by the Kansas City kids I knew, they’d sound equally bizarre.

Why do we have to have separate languages? Every culture has its “tells.”

In no other culture did people refer to their slaves as anything other than servants. They were still people. In the US, they were considered machinery. They weren’t even endowed with sentience. If they developed sentience and asked to be treated well, or tried to escape, they were captured and “fixed!” If a person wanted to survive this situation, they had to stay subservient and “insentient.” They were to remain uneducated to protect themselves from abuse. No one would treat an animal like these people were treated.

Then they were given freedom! and the VOTE!!! Why would you give rights to machinery? By now this approach to these former slaves was ingrained. This whole race was considered living machinery. They weren’t real people! To survive, they had to adopt unthreatening language and behaviors. Don’t speak intelligent English because that makes white people nervous. The machines might get angry and retaliate for abuses.

See? This is mental abuse. There’s this woman in this crime show who is continually belittled because her house isn’t clean, the food she cooks is awful, and she’s clearly stupid. Her children even say that. They’re mad that she doesn’t attend their events. When asked, the woman says she couldn’t come because she might inadvertently embarrass them. She kills her husband. Admits to it. Cleans up the blood on the floor so that there wouldn’t be a mess when the police came to arrest her. She knows her house is a mess. One of the hangars in her husband’s closet is 1/4″ too close to the next hangar and it throws the rest of the closet off. There’s too much pepper on the macaroni and cheese. It’s a wonder her family doesn’t starve. She knows she’s stupid. She knows that she’s ugly, and wears old, patched clothes because you don’t dress up a pig. And yet, she kills her husband.

Now imagine that on a large scale. You’re treated like a machine. You aren’t allowed a good education. You aren’t allowed to socialize with anyone who’s not on the property. You develop survival behaviors to avoid the abuse and the compensating behaviors that keep you sane and ward off punishment. It becomes ingrained in your behavior.

On the other side, you know these black people ARE people. You’ve never had slaves. They speak like uneducated poor people. You Know you are superior to them because you don’t have a poor-person culture like they do. (All of them.) They tend to act out against getting treated like poor uneducated people, which makes no sense since they are poor uneducated people. Except for Bill Cosby and Diahann Carroll, no black people can think or act in a civilized manner. You don’t socialize with them, you don’t want them in your business, and you couldn’t imagine them in your church or neighborhood. Smart, well-educated black people tend to make you nervous. Everyone fears sentient machinery. That’s one reason why when Azimov created robots in his stories, he had the 3 laws:

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

He was allowing people to be comfortable with the machinery that served them. It gave them the inability to harm their masters. You could be as abusive as you wanted–mentally or physically. It would allow you to do this as long as the abuse didn’t threaten its existence. But it is still the attitude of white people that black people are essentially sentient machinery–flesh and blood robots. In other words, they are Robots without The 3 laws.

You see this in the comments on some of the events. “Do what the cops tell you! Don’t resist! Don’t reach for your cell or your wallet. Don’t talk back if you don’t want to get dropped!” See? “It’s YOUR fault that if you are black they will shoot you if you do the wrong thing. Don’t you dare protest your treatment! You’re probably guilty of something so be compliant!” They don’t shoot white punks that insult police and fight them and struggle and resist arrest. But if you’re black, they will restrain you with a knee to the neck because you’re inherently an evil machine that has broken the first and second laws. And if you defend yourself they won’t recognize the third law–you do NOT have the right to protect yourself.

So see? If you’re white, you can have black friends and still be racist. Your black friends are the exception rather than the rule. If you’re black, you can have white friends and still be racist. If you have to change your language and behavior so drastically to maintain the relationship, you are making your white friends the exception.

Differences Exist! You cannot look at a person who’s a different color than you and not see the color. But here’s the most important thing: You must not assume certain characteristics based on the color of a person’s skin. Skin color doesn’t give you any information other than the place of origin for ancestors long past memory. It tells you nothing of the character or the education level or the ambitions or the dreams of anyone.

We CANNOT get to the point of saying “All Lives Matter” until we stop associating skin color with a whole set of behaviors. You have to see people as people before you can treat them equally. No adjectives. No white people, black people, brown people, yellow people, red people, tall people, short people, slim people, fat people. Just PEOPLE. So we start with Black Lives Matter until they do.

Water you up to?

May 20, 2020

20 days into my water-only beverage challenge.

I got to May 15 and broke down because we had pizza. I order from Pizza Hut because I like their crusts and the fact that the toppings are well distributed and plenteous. SO, I’m in the rewards club and can get 1 pizza free with every single pizza I order until my points run out. Why do I mention this? Because Pizza hut will not deliver an order that is less than $12. In order to get them to deliver, I cannot order just pizza. Which means…dat dat Daaaaaaah…I have to order soda pop. And THAT means that I have to drink some because I’m not going to order a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and not get some of it! 2 pizzas without the reward points is $40+ (that’s $11 per pizza and a delivery fee and a tip) and 2 pizzas with the reward points AND 2 2-liter bottles of soda pop is $21. Doing my math…that means that the soda pop costs about $6. But then I confuse myself and think I’m still saving money and do it anyway.

But! (And this is an important but.) I do not have pizza for every meal, so I have water with those non-pizza meals and sip on water throughout the day. Therefore, when I have my left-over pizza, I drink whatever soda pop is available.

NO, I am NOT making my own pizza. I make rolls and bread. My homemade chicken salad tastes amazing on homemade bread. I made kolaches last week, and this week, my son made banana chocolate chip bread. And his GF made CHOCOLATE BREAD. It feels weird to have chocolate for breakfast, but adjustments must be made in the spirit of self-quarantine. But if I want pizza, I’m going to order it. So there.

I’m not craving sugar like I was before, but my dark chocolate urges are higher. 11 more days of water-only beverage (except on pizza days) should not be a problem.

I fully understand that in my quest for healthy eating, having 1 slice of pizza and a soda pop completely nullifies all the good eating I have been doing for a month. So 2 slices will take me back 2 months and 3 slices will put me back 3 months. If I’ve done my calculations correctly, I have regressed to 1873. If my scale is right, and I’m afraid it’s low, I have gained about 10 pounds.



Like a dog door without the flap

Like a mall without a Gap

Like a hunter without his trap

I miss you

Like Astaire without his tap

Like P. Diddy without his rap

Like a quilter without a scrap

I miss you!

Like a Toddler without a nap

Like a Granny without a lap

Like a tourist without his map

I miss you!

Like a Sapsucker without sap

Like Dapper without his dap

Like Babe Ruth without his cap

I miss you!

Like the Feds with no wiretap

Like a taser without its zap

Like a present without its wrap

I miss you!