Saturday, August 30, 2008

Walking the Plank off His Political Platform?

I happened upon this interview with John McCain in Time magazine. (To give credit where credit is due, I think Christopher Morris is the interviewer, but that might be for the photo credit in the online article.) And while I have never been McCain's biggest fan, I always admired his way of handling things. No bullshit, tell it like it is kind of talk. However, if this interview is any indication of things to come, McCain has become what he said he hated the most -- he's a part of the bureaucratic machine in Washington, spitting out soundbites and back-peddling away from topics he once embraced with vigor.

For years, John McCain's marathon bull sessions with reporters were more than a means of delivering a message; they were the message. McCain proudly, flagrantly refused direction from handlers, rarely dodged tough questions and considered those who did wimps and frauds. The style told voters that he was unafraid, that he had nothing to hide and that what you see is what you get. "Anything you want to talk about," he promised reporters aboard the Straight Talk Express in Iowa back in March 2007. "One of the fundamental principles of the bus is that there is no such thing as a dumb question." When asked if he would keep the straight talk coming, McCain replied, "You think I could survive if I didn't? We'd never be forgiven ... I'd have to hire a food taster, somebody to start my car in the morning." Even after he won the GOP nomination, he demanded that his new campaign plane be configured to include a sofa up front so he could re-create the Straight Talk Express at 30,000 ft.

Sticking to the old formula seemed like a good idea. But with the press focused on Obama, McCain got attention only when he slipped up during one of his patented freewheeling encounters with reporters. And so in July, the campaign decided to clamp down on the candidate. Open-ended question time was reduced to almost nothing, and the famously unscripted McCain began heeding his talking points, even as his aides maintained he missed the old informality.

And so when TIME's James Carney and Michael Scherer were invited to the front of McCain's plane recently for an interview, they were ushered forward, past the curtain that now separates reporters from the candidate, past the sofa that was designed for his gabfests with the press and taken straight to the candidate's seat. McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message. An excerpt:

What do you want voters to know coming out of the Republican Convention — about you, about your candidacy?

I'm prepared to be President of the United States, and I'll put my country first.

There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?

Read it in my books.

I've read your books.
No, I'm not going to define it.

But honor in politics?

I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of ...
I think we're running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don't know what you're talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.
I'll provide as much access as possible ...

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it's over?

[Does not answer.]

Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]

[Long pause.] I'm very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.

You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?
[Shakes his head.]

You don't acknowledge that? O.K., when your aides came to you and you decided, having been attacked by Barack Obama, to run some of those ads, was there a debate?

The campaign responded as planned.

Jumping around a bit: in your books, you've talked about what it was like to go through the Keating Five experience, and you've been quoted as saying it was one of the worst experiences of your life. Someone else quoted you as saying it was even worse than being a POW ...
That's another one of those statements made 17 or 18 years ago which was out of the context of the conversation I was having. Of course the worst, the toughest experience of my life was being imprisoned, so people can pluck phrases from 17 or 18 years ago ...

I wasn't suggesting it as a negative thing. I was just saying that ...
I'm just suggesting it was taken out of context. I understand how comments are taken out of context from time to time. But obviously, the toughest time of my life, physically and [in] every other way, would be the time that I almost died in prison camp. And I think most Americans understand that.

How different are you from President Bush? Are you in step with your party? Are you independent from your party?
My record shows that I have put my country first and I follow the philosophy and traditions of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Sometimes that is not in keeping with the present Administration or my colleagues, but I've always put my country first, whether it's saying I didn't support the decision to go to Lebanon or my fighting against the corruption in Washington or out-of-control pork-barrel spending, which has led to members of Congress residing in federal prison. So I've always stood up for a set of principles and a philosophy that I think have been pretty consistent over the years.

Your tougher line on Russia, which predated [the Russian invasion of Georgia], now to many looks prescient. Others say it's indicative of a belligerent approach to foreign policy that would perhaps further exacerbate the tensions being created with our allies and others around the world under the Bush Administration. How do you respond to that critique?
Well, it reminds me of some of the arguments we went through when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. I think Russian behavior has been very clear, and I've pointed it out for quite a period of time, and the chronicle of their actions has been well known since President [Vladimir] Putin came to power, and I believe that it's very important that Russia behave in a manner befitting a very strong nation. They're not doing so at this time, so therefore I will criticize and in some cases — in the case of the aggression against Georgia — condemn them.

You were a very enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq and, in the early stages, of the Bush Administration's handling of the war. Are those judgments you'd like to revisit?
Well, my record is clear. I believe that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I believe it's clear that he had every intention to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction. I can only imagine what Saddam Hussein would be doing with the wealth he would acquire with oil at $110 and $120 a barrel. I was one of the first to point out the failure of strategy in Iraq under [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld. I was criticized for being disloyal to the Republicans and the President. I was the first to say I would lose a campaign rather than lose a war. I supported the surge. No observer over the last two years would say the surge hasn't succeeded. I believe we did the right thing.

A lot of people know about your service from your books, but most people don't know that you have two sons currently in the military. Can you describe what it means to have Jack and Jimmy in uniform?
We don't discuss our sons.
Read more! Read more!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Me Thinks I See My Father

As I watched the Democratic National Convention last night, I smiled at the awe and adoration the different candidates’ children bestowed upon them. I was always proud of my parents. My mother overcame terrible illness to become the best mother a girl could ever ask for. And my father… he adored me completely and totally. And while he sometimes missed the mark in his over-protectiveness, I knew that it wasn’t for lack of caring. And I am very lucky in that he not only left a legacy of love, but also a legacy of physical reminders by means of his profession. Dad was an aerospace engineer whose mark today can still be seen.

Several years ago, I was in Los Angeles and saw a screening of Black Hawk Down. Certainly not a feel good movie, but one that everyone needs to see. After the helicopter crashed – hence the title of the movie – my friend whispered in my ear, Why didn’t the helicopter explode?

I knew the answer to this! Despite the somber mood of the film, I beamed at my friend and cheerfully told him – because of my Dad!

My Dad designed crash-worthy fuel systems for the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters when he worked at Army Aviation. His team also designed the seats so that when there might be a crash, the passengers don’t end up with broken backs. I wish I knew more about what else they might have worked on with the Army. Not so I could brag on him, but so that I know a little bit more about his legacy.

My Dad had a tendency to talk. A lot. Whether or not I – or whoever was in earshot – was able or willing to listen.

I wish I had listened more.

Today would have been my father’s 74th birthday. And as an ode to my Dad, I thought I’d trot out some of his favorite poems.

My Dad was rather puritanical during my growing up, but his taste in rhymes was not. I think I would have rather heard bawdy limericks than this favorite of his that, if I remember correctly, he read in a rest stop on his move out to Santa Monica.

Well here's to the fool who writes on shit house walls
May he roll his shit into little balls...
And he who reads these words of wit
Should eat those little balls of shit.

He loved it! I can still see him shaking with laughter as he recited the words. It never got old to him.

And no, I did not memorize the poem. Behold the power of the internet. Apparently those little verses made quite a few appearances in bathrooms across the country – even the world.

Another poem, this one my father swore up and down that he and his friends composed, was of a more… classic theme. A tale as old as time, you might say. However, I didn’t believe him them and, once I found it on the internet, I realized that I was unable to find the author, so who knows…?

In days of old, when men were bold
And women not particular,
They lined them up against the wall
And screwed them perpendicular.

Yup, my Dad was a prude for all intents and purposes, but his tastes in verse ran a little more blue.

When I looked up the prose, I happened upon other versions. I figured that I found ‘em, so I might as well share ‘em… despite my father never mentioning them.

In days of old, when knights were bold
And rubbers were not invented,
They would wrap a sock around their cock
And babies were prevented

In day of old, when knights were bold
And paper not invented,
They used tufts of grass to wipe their ass
And were very well contented.

In days of old, when men were bold
And cast-iron trousers wore,
They lived in peace, for then a crease
Would last ten years or more.

In the days of old, when the knights were bold
and the women chased the men
The men like fools got out their tools
and chased them back again.

In days of old when knights were bold,
And cared not for such trifles,
They nailed their balls upon the walls,
and shot at them with rifles.

In days of old, when men were bold
And toilets weren't invented,
They laid their loads upon the roads
And walked away contented.

In days of old when knights were bold
And penicillin wasn't invented,
Venereal drips ran down from their hips
And their toes were all cemented.

Does anyone wonder why I turned out the way I did after these?
Read more! Read more!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hit the Nail on the Head

Last Wednesday, I, along with Tom, and about 7,500 other fans, spent the evening at Scottrade Center listening to the rantings, fumings and bitter tirades of my high school hero, Trent Reznor – and company – for nearly two and a half hours. Despite the years since Nine Inch Nails hit the music bins (nearly twenty!), they still sound as good – if not better – than ever.

Out of all the albums I have bought in my years – and there have been well over a thousand, maybe even two – the only one I can remember specifics on is Pretty Hate Machine, Nine Inch Nails’ inaugural album. March 1989. It had come out the month before and was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Nothing else I have bought has impacted me as greatly.

Tom and I saw NIN play in November 2006 (or was it 2005?) from the floor, but this time we were in the stands. I know I need to lose some weight, but those seats are made for midgets. Plain and simple. I felt bad that Tom had to fold his frame into those seats, his knees pressing against the seatback in front of him. But I was stuck between two guys who would have benefitted from me sitting elsewhere so they could have my legroom. Next time, we promised each other, box seats. Not only more room, but away from the odious odors of the unwashed (and undeoderized) masses.

But to pass the time until the opening band started, we commented, as did others around us, that since Trent got clean (which we applauded, by the way), his music has lost some of its edge. Instead of anger and frustration, it seems like he’s… trying to whine. Life is good for him and yet his music is still trying to pretend that it isn’t. So instead of blatant hostility, Trent’s – dare I say it – bellyaching.

While I don’t want him to go back on the stuff, Trent somehow needs to be less happy. Because he’s just reachin’ now. And that ain’t cool.

The opening band sucked. It wasn’t that they were inherently bad. It was just that they weren’t good. Every single song sounded like the one before it. And since we saw Queens of the Stone Age last time, standards were set high. And were so not met.

But then…

(Might as well insert contented sigh here.)

Yes, the show was awesome. It was instant frenzy from the start. It was almost everything I wanted it to be (I think the last show was better, but not by much.) He started off with songs from his latest, The Slip, and it was impossible not to get sucked up in the madness.

Then on to a song that I knew. March of the Pigs from the Downward Spiral. Gads, I remember introducing people to the ‘World According to Trent’ in college almost fifteen years ago. Hearing Tom behind me sing along to March of the Pigs was especially amusing. Especially when I called him on it and he had no idea that he was even doing it. I was just surprised that I could hear him above the rest of the crowd.

By the time he finished the song, Trent was soaking wet. I knew there was no way he would wear a long sleeve, botton down shirt all night long. And not that I wasn’t appreciating how nicely it clinged. I was just anticipating the ‘gun show’ that was about to happen.

Pardon me while I wax poetic about the shedding of the burgundy dress shirt. If memory serves me right, he wore a similar shirt when I saw him last time. And a few songs into the concert, the shirt came off revealing a black tank… covering a very well toned body. I was not that lucky this time. It was a black t-shirt.

Which still wasn’t a bad view. But there are very few men who are not vastly improved by wearing a black tank top. Kinda like women’s legs in a pair of black stockings. Although the guy sitting in the row behind me would be an exception to BOTH rules. It was like watching a horrible car accident. And it didn’t help matters any that he kept turning away from the stage, essentially doing a 180 away from Trent, and would smile at me. I pray that he was making eyes at someone else, but the gross feeling remains.

Mid-concert, there was a musical interlude involving Trent playing a xylophone. A lot of critics loved the instrumental album Ghosts I-IV, but I want screaming bitterness. It just seemed to bring the show to a screaming halt. It took a while for the momentum to start up again.

The encore was amazingly long. Maybe too long. But he played Hurt, which every freakin’ person in the place felt compelled to sing along with. I’ll sing along at a concert. But generally out loud. People pay a lot of money to hear a musician – not me – sing. But, I suppose, it is one of those songs that BEGS to be sung along with.

Some of the songs from Year Zero and The Slip were vastly improved by being performed live. Others were just as bad as the album versions. But I was happy with the attempts, I must admit. Can’t win ‘em all, but dammit, Trent put in some serious effort that night.

I missed out on my favorite Nine Inch Nails song live – most notably Sin. Not a fan of the album version since I heard what it could turn into before an audience. Maybe I’ll start to feel the same way about songs from Year Zero and The Slip. But I did get Terrible Lie, Head Like a Hole, Closer, Wish, and Gave Up.

And as Trent said that night during his encore, the first time he addressed the audience, he was having one of those days when everybody was against him every second of the day – but his time on stage were the two best hours of his day.

Mine, too.
Read more! Read more!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Congratulations! It's a Girl!

After years of speculation, I was told significant news last night. My cat, Pudge, had to go to the vet. Sneezing, raspy breath, watery puffy eyes for more than 24 hours started to freak me out. I'm still waiting on the urine and bloodwork to collaborate the x-rays showing possible pneumonia. My poor kitty feels so bad and doesn't understand why!

But in a strange twist of fate, my cat went into the vet's office one gender and came out another. While Dr. Kee was checking Pudge out, I asked her to verify Pudge's gender. A tabby/white, Pudge is mix of colors. Many thought it could be possible, if not probable, but the cage card when I adopted the former Nikzo, soon renamed Excalibur, shorted to Callah, temporarily called Jabba the Kitty, now answering to Pudge said 'N' under sex. Neutered. Not 'S' for spayed.

However, in the words of the vet yesterday, my "cat has a vulva."

Read more! Read more!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gone, but not Forgotten

My mother died seven years ago today. Not a day goes by that my heart doesn’t ache from the loneliness of missing her. Some days are worse than others.

Today is one of those days.

Last night I dreamed about her. I had all sorts of odd little dreams flutter through my mind, but I remember that I was dreaming that I had double-booked a weekend and Mom wanted me to go into another room with her to sort things out. Since we were both already together in a different room, I wasn’t sure why we needed to relocate and told her that repeatedly. But she was emphatic.

That was my mother for you. Things might not always make sense, but in the end one usually saw the reasons for her actions. Not always, but generally there was a method to her madness.

I talk about her often, and think about her ten times that, but I’m always concerned that I’m going to martyrize Mom. She had a tough lot in life and never complained about it in front of me. I suppose that’s one reason why I have no patience for people who complain and don’t do anything to correct their lot in life. Its fine to be in the pity pot, but don’t float in it forever. Tread water, then get out.

I’m floating in the pity pot right now, but I’m allowed that today.

I also have no sympathy for people who blame others for their problems. It won’t make them go away, so accept that life sucks and then do what you can to make it better for yourself. Mom rolled like that. Can’t say that I always do, but I try.

She was 63-years-old. Way too young. She had skipped her first day of dialysis ever, over five years of three times a week treatments. Staff at the center called her at lunch time to rib her about being a slacker. Later, I was told she took it in stride and teased back. I got home from work around 5:30. It was a Wednesday. She was on the couch. It had to have happened sometime after she got off the phone. I like to think that she fell asleep watching bad TV. After all she had been through, going to sleep and not waking up would have been the kindest thing ever.

My mother was gorgeous. A dyed-in-the-wool good-looking gal. I look a lot like her, but there’s something less regal about me, less glamorous. Every single picture I have of Mom, from baby to adult, she’s posing. Not goofy expressions (far from it!) or exaggerated posture, but rather a secret – almost Mona Lisa-like – smile would curve her lips and her eyes, even as a small child, held a ‘come hither’ kind of gaze on the viewer of said picture.

She had poise.

Her sister, my Aunt Fran, told me that my Mom stayed with me for as long as I needed her. That she wouldn’t have left me if I still needed her. One could argue that they always need their mother, but it helped. Not a lot, but it made things easier to bear.

My Mom had two massive strokes when I was a toddler. I have a few vague memories of her prior to her illnesses – sitting at the counter at a soda fountain, riding in the front seat of her Impala as we were going to the Zoo so we could pet the goats despite it being cold out – but I do know that she was told in the hospital that she was going to die.

I was three. I got 23 bonus years with her. I told her often than I loved her, but I’m not sure she knew how much I cherished her. She often said that parents shouldn’t be their kids’ best friend. I couldn’t wrap my head around that at the time, but I get now that Mom was a parent first and foremost.

And she was a great parent. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother.

I only hope that I can be as good a person as she was, despite the gravity of her health coloring her life. I wish she could have written down her story. The people that she crossed paths with, the adventures she had, the ideas that danced in her mind… they were amazing tales. Someday I might write about them, but it would be a poor stand-in for what she could have done. Besides, she would have wanted me to have my own tales to write about. Mom was always looking forward. The past was something that prepared you for the future.

She protested Vietnam, but instead of sit-ins and whatnot, she got a job with the government to see if she could learn information from the inside. She was impassioned about the fight against AIDS, participating in Dining Out For Life, even if it was the only time she had left the house all year. When I told her I made friends who happened to be gay when I went away to college my freshman year, she cried over the fact that when she herself was a freshman, people couldn’t come out for fear of being hurt or even killed. She said I was brave for loving them for who they were, not what they were.

We fought. What parent doesn’t have children who protest being told what to do from time to time? But it was rarely and when I would apologize, she always laughed it off. The older I got, the more she realized that my arguments had valid points. The older I got, the more she became my best friend, despite her attempts to have it be otherwise.

I am so lucky. Our time was short. Our time was corrupted by the unfairness of her health. Our time was so much more special because of the barriers put before both of us – my youth and her inability to read or write. We made time count. We made time together special by taking it down to bare bones learning, entertainment, interaction…

I just wish I had learned to embrace Johnny Cash earlier. He was her favorite musician and I rebelled against her attempts to educate me to the ways of “the man in black” until college. She was so mad. All those wasted years! But better late than never, right?

Actually, I now know better. Embrace what you love. Who cares about what others think. Parents do sometimes know best. I listened, but now I wish I had listened better.

I was too confused in the days following her passing to know that I needed to have this poem recited – by me, by someone else – at her funeral, at her grave, somewhere, somehow. It was very comforting to me then. So I share it with you now:

~Emily Brontë

I do not weep; I would not weep;
Our mother needs no tears:
Dry thine eyes, too; 'tis vain to keep
This causeless grief for years.

What though her brow be changed and cold,
Her sweet eyes closed for ever?
What though the stone--the darksome mould
Our mortal bodies sever?

What though her hand smooth ne'er again
Those silken locks of thine?
Nor, through long hours of future pain,
Her kind face o'er thee shine?

Remember still, she is not dead;
She sees us, sister, now;
Laid, where her angel spirit fled,
'Mid heath and frozen snow.

And from that world of heavenly light
Will she not always bend
To guide us in our lifetime's night,
And guard us to the end?

Thou knowest she will; and thou mayst mourn
That we are left below:
But not that she can ne'er return
To share our earthly woe.

I love you Mom.
Read more! Read more!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wet Willies

More pictures from my day trip with Tom on August 9th. This time, an old abandoned water slide out in Valley Park. I spent more than a few summer days out there, but as the years have rolled past, my bearings got way off track. Tom, who had never visited before, knew where things were better than I did. It's kinda like being spun around and around, then asked to walk in a straight line. You know where things are, but getting there is a little difficult.

In fact, Tom dived (Get it? Water humor! Okay, they can't all be funny.) right in while I hung back, taking it all in.

It was obvious that we were not the first people to visit since the park's closing. I think I read somewhere that kids like to skateboard in here, but from the amount of graffiti, who would have time? I'm not one who appreciates most spray paint art, but the sheer magnitude made the water park seem like an art installation.

Above are the steps to the 'fast' slide. Not my favorite run as it was over so quick. But would love to go pack and walk the length to see if it was indeed shorter in distance as well as time.

We didn't get very far, not even halfway down the slide, before Tom wanted to get his camera. Alas, we had a visitor waiting for us by my car. The police officer was way cool, but that ended that leg of the day. So this is a poor idea of the depth of the water slide, but you can see the tandem slides from this angle.

I'm also standing just past the area of the slide that all kids loved... the peeling paint that allowed kids to slow down and have their friends meet up with them to make a chain. I'm sure it wasn't safe at all to have four, six, eight, ten kids -- two to a mat -- hit the pool at the bottom all at the same time.

Instead of satisfying my curiosity, visiting the old Wet Willies Water Slide has only made me want to see more of it. I know I'm too old to poke around in places I shouldn't (some might even call it trespassing), but I was too scared when I was younger.

Maybe I'm having a mid-life crisis early...

Read more! Read more!

Friday, August 15, 2008

TGI Friday!

I had a job interview today. Even if I got the offer, I wouldn't take it. Was the most bee-zarre interview ever! They deal with pest control (hence the 'bee' ~ and yes, I think I’m clever ~ don’t spoil it for me) and I'm not sure how I feel about hawking product that kills mammals, like moles and whatnot.

But that aside, the guy who interviewed me was so out there that I can't even stand it! He wore shorts and a vacation t-shirt while I was wearing a suit. Okay, casual Friday, I get that. But I don’t think he even read my resume. He hopscotched all over my jobs, education and references. He then proceeded to ask about laser hair removal because I have two people as references who perform the service at the spa I used to work at. He thought that I performed the service and wanted to know about the training. It was obvious that he was a skeptic, but what does that have to do with my qualifications? I told him that I never actually performed the service myself, so I couldn't tell him about training.

He repeatedly went back to laser hair removal. I almost wished I had a menu of services from the spa despite the fact that I quit at the end of February.

But… he also seemed to think that he knew one of my other references. I hope he’s more focused when they get together – if they do indeed know one another – because he really hurt my head.

He then asked all sorts of dippy questions... Did I know the mayor of Crestwood? Did I meet any rich people at St. Patrick Center (his words... rich people)? Did I bring any samples of my design work (for a receptionist position)? Did I go to Ursuline High School? What’s my favorite neighborhood in the city? If he wanted to find me on the internet, where could he go to get information? Do I have a Facebook page (I told him that I wasn't that cool)? Do I have a MySpace page (again, not that cool)? What kind of cellphone do I own? Do I own an iPod? What kind of music do I like? What was the last concert I went to? Is Tom Waits really all that great? Why is Bob Dylan more popular? What's the next concert I'm going to (Nine Inch Nails, btw)? How many times have I see Nine Inch Nails in concert? Who opened for them last time? Did I buy their most recent album or just download the free version? Have I ever seen Tool in concert?

Twenty minutes about music. None spent on my qualifications, other than it looks like I can't hold a job. Great.

But he did tell me that I have great taste in music.

As he walked out of the room, he did tell me that my hair was 'hot.' What the hell does that mean? Was that a come on or was it just that he thought it was very current?

I also got parting gifts. Ant killer spray and traps.

Please don’t be jealous. If you can help me get a job, I’ll gladly part with them.
Read more! Read more!

Zombie Road

As promised, pictures of my expedition last Saturday (August 9th) with Tom. I won't rehash too many details from the trip since I previously did so, but I will break up the postings according to where the pictures are from.

Now, I didn't take hardly any shots of Zombie Road because, quite frankly, shots of crumbling road with thick vegetation on both sides, extending seemingly Heavenward, just isn't that exciting. I kept waiting for an abandoned structure or two, but it would seem that Tom and I didn't hike far enough

(Although I think we hiked plenty far as it was, thank you very much.)

When we came across this washout, I thought we had hit the end of the road. Tom thought otherwise and after he made it across to see if the road did indeed continue on around the bend, I soon joined him and we hiked another good half mile or more. Time and distance seem to dissolve when one cannot see the sky because of the dense trees.

Let me point out that the gully is deeper than it looks. I'd say it's about 4 feet deep, give or take a half foot in different areas.

I really think, and really hope, that this set of stairs is just a natural occurrence. The road below is washed out, showing the layers of the bedrock. Seeing the natural striations in the stone was pretty hip, but then made me question their actual naturalness, since the uniformity was so even. Was it the foundation for the road? The road had existed for decades prior to paving, so were we seeing the previous incarnations?

But the stairs were pretty interesting and definitely added to the spooky mood. I'm sure Tom was actually so over my girlie-girl routine, but aside from abandoned beer bottles, a blanket that had seen much better days draped over a limb and a trash can (Trash cans as trash seems slightly oxymoronic to me.), this was by far the most interesting thing we happened upon. Well, that and the road Tom's GPS said came in onto Lawler Ford Road, but never appeared.

If it is indeed an abandoned set of stairs to a long gone building, I'd be curious to know more about it.

And when I do go back, I'll hike to the end and find the buildings that are supposedly down by the Meramec, if they survived the last go-round of flooding.
Read more! Read more!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In the Pink!

For this, I will gladly pay slightly higher ticket prices. (Although I still don't understand why airlines DON'T want people to check their bags and instead want them to bring on the plane. Doesn't make one iota of sense to me.)

Taken from the Abilene ReporterNews.

Monday, August 11, 2008 -- The 40 volunteers who applied a full-length pink ribbon and logo to the side of an airplane over the weekend knew it was for a good cause -- they just didn't know it was going to be so much fun.

"It's like a big model airplane," Joe Buie said, gazing at the finished product.

Monday morning, American Airlines unveiled the handiwork of the Abilene volunteers, who are among American Eagle's 400 employees here.

The Embraer regional jet is the first of a fleet that will tout American's sponsorship of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure campaign to fight breast cancer.

A pink ribbon decal, the Komen foundation's trademark symbol, stretched from the tail of the jet to the cockpit. The Susan G. Komen For the Cure logo covered the cowling of the engines.

The newly decorated plane took off for the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Monday morning following a news conference announcing an expanded partnership between the Komen foundation and American Airlines.

The jet that flew out of Abilene was scheduled to join a similar plane flying in from Tulsa. The two planes are among the eight that will carry the Komen logo for the next eight years.

The expanded partnership announced Monday names American Airlines as the Komen for the Cure's official airline and first Lifetime Promise Partner. American has pledged to contribute $1 million a year for eight years to the fight against breast cancer.

The first Promise Grant will fund a $7.5 million project at M.D. Anderson's Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic in Houston.

A large contingent of city officials and American Eagle representatives gathered early Monday in the Eagle Aviation Services hangar at Abilene Regional Airport to make the announcement.

Also present were a number of breast cancer survivors, including an American Eagle flight attendant and the wife of one of the volunteers who decorated the plane.

Diana Rowden, vice president for health sciences at the Komen foundation, noted that American Airlines partnered with Komen in 1988. American sponsors numerous events each year benefiting Komen for the Cure.

The eight planes that will carry the Komen logo to cities serviced by American and American Eagle will further spread awareness of the fight against breast cancer, Rowden said.

"This is simply quite terrific," she said.

The 40 American Eagle volunteers who worked on the plane for 12 hours Saturday and four hours Sunday thought so, too.

The plane was flown into Abilene Regional Airport on Friday night, washed and prepped for its new logo. Getting 40 volunteers for the project was no problem.

"This is Abilene," said Kris Finch, one of the volunteers. "People are proud to work here."

The work was tedious, but fun, they said. The pink ribbon decal came in 21 sections per side or 42 pieces total to put together. First, a stencil was taped to the plane and outlined. Then the stencil was removed and the adhesive ribbon was stuck to the plane.

The plane will fly with the logo for six years and then will get a different version. A lot of air miles will be logged in those six years. The Abilene volunteers were unfazed by the possibility of the logo peeling off in that time.

"If it does," Buie said, "we'll just fix it."

By Loretta Fulton
Read more! Read more!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Little History...

I have been itching to have an adventure. And not one of those spur of the moment types of adventures. None of that, “Let’s go to the Art Museum” eureka moments when you’re bored. I’m talking about one of those days where you finally do something you’ve “been meaning to do” for an indeterminate amount of time, but never have seemed to find the time until right then and there? Yesterday, I – and Tom – got an adventure. And then some.

Lately I’ve been a kick to embrace more local St. Louis history. Google maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth and the World Wide Web have become my playground as I find more and more vanishing – and not-so-vanishing, but very obscure – places I want to visit.

And of late, I have become enamored with the Meramec Highland. I find the idea of the remnants of a resort community just minutes from my house very… charming. Cottages populated the area just south of Big Bend, west of 270 for summer travelers just prior to the 20th century. Most are gone, but the few that remain are now private homes. Driving along the relaxed, twisty roads was like going back to another time. And place. I didn’t feel like I was in Kirkwood any longer, but rather somewhere more coastal. If I had rolled down the windows, I think I would have been disappointed not to smell the ocean.

All the homes look like a beach house should, except they all have their own distinct personalities. And most have charming little names. Again, I find the idea of homes with names absolutely charming.

I am sure that Tom did not appreciate my girly squeals as I read the names aloud with delight.

But the point of taking Tom to the Meramec Highlands was the train tunnel. I honestly can’t believe I introduced him to something train related in the St. Louis community, but I was glad that he got as big a kick out of the sealed up tunnel as I had hoped.

The tunnel is set back down a ways in a rock valley, a valley which was actually man-made in order to have the train tunnel. The tunnel itself is about 500 feet long and once you’ve seen it, there isn’t much else. But it’s quaint and absolutely a delight to see. It really does take you back to days gone by. It’s bricked up three fourths of the way up, with the rest covered up with bars to allow bats a place to roost. Some people had bent the bars back in certain spots to crawl through to the other side, but as curious as I was to see the other side (which I think is on private property), I did not want to crawl through bat guano.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t get on top of the tunnel, as it ascends way higher up than any of the pictures I saw on the internet indicated. Other people who visited have posted on the internet of climbing up, though goodness knows how, to see the hotel and fountain ruins. Very jealous of these people, but I am not willing to break my neck to see what I’m sure what has been mostly reclaimed by nature.

After the Highlands, I had the brilliant idea of hitting the Dee Koestering Park at The Meramec Highlands Quarry. When I say brilliant, I really mean idiotic. Never go to a park with trails without looking at a map of it online first. Learn from my mistakes. This park, while amazingly beautiful, could gain a widerspread popularity if they offered Segways to get up and down the hills.

Because I refuse to believe I’m that out of shape.

After we survived the park, we drove to Greentree Park and did only a cursory look for the old remains of the McConnell’s Beach house. We did find the remote control car track, but after the dirty looks that were shot our way, Tom and I headed over to Valley Park to get some much needed beverages.

On the way to a gas station, Tom had the cool idea of hitting Wet Willie's Water Slide. A fixture in my youth, the slide is now shuttered and abandoned. But certainly not forgotten, if the amount of graffiti covering the slide can act like a barometer.

There were three slides that made up the waterpark and I walked some of the length of one of them in bemused detachment, trying to remember some of my visits from my childhood. But all I could recall was getting sick from eating too soon before sliding… and the area of the slide where the paint was rough and we’d slow down enough to have our friends catch up with us. Otherwise, it was as if I was a stranger.

I shot off a couple of images with my camera, but Tom had left his in the car. As we walked back so he could grab his, we saw that we weren’t alone. The police officer was extremely cool, especially since he saw that we were indeed taking pictures instead of vandalizing or making out, and just patiently waited for us to leave.

After we headed off to greener pastures, we ended up at a wooded pasture. Of sorts. Lone Elk Park. It was nice and relaxing, especially the couple who thought feeding the elk would make the visit more memorable. Tom and I kept waiting for the lady to get a horn shoved in an uncomfortable place, but instead of an action-packed outing, it was rather staid. The elk wasn’t interested in the offered vitals and lazily wandered over to the rest of the herd.

I had never seen so many elk calves, nor had I seen so many congregating together. But it was a wonderful sight and made up for the lack of bison sighting. Which amounted to zero.

After the park, I wanted to try and find Lawler Ford Road, otherwise known as “Zombie Road.” It was getting late, so we stopped at the Long John Silver’s/A&W on Manchester for some grub. Deep fried fish and chicken along with fountain A&W. It doesn’t get much better than that. Except, did you know that you can get 12 hush puppies for a dollar? We soon found out that too much of a good thing can be a not-as-good-a-thing as it sounds.

Bellies full, we found the road exactly according to the directions I found on the internet. It’s an old paved road, about two miles in length, in Wildwood. Nestled in the belly of a valley of woods and other plant life, I can see how people get creeped out being there. The area is almost in complete shadow because of the amount of vegetation and water has created gullies, washing out the road in a few places and damaging the pavement in most others.

We didn’t walk the full length, but at some time I want to go back and see if I can find the abandoned shacks and beach cottages that are supposedly still standing. The road ends at the Meramec River and it was used mainly to haul freight, so I’m not too sure about the use of summer homes at the end of the road, but I do know that rail lines ran parallel along the length of the river.

It’s very obvious that the area is widely used due to the amount of discarded beverages – generally of the alcoholic kind – and other bits of random abandoned personal items. Trees were also tagged with pink tape, as if marked for trimming, as well as felled trees being clean-cut by chainsaws and moved off the road.

The name ‘Zombie Road’ comes from the stories of a man named Zombie who lived in a dilapidated shack by the river and murdered young lovers looking for an out of the way place. In the 70’s, a man was supposedly killed by a train and a boy fell to his death from the bluffs. Again, I’m not sure how much of that is true, but it makes creeping yourself out when walking the road so much easier.

We opted to cruise down to Sherman Beach Park and had a grand old time skipping stones and watching the sun dip lower and lower. I rather enjoyed wandering around the beach and watching Tomskip stones because he is way better than I am. When I am properly protected against the amount of mosquitoes that are in the area, I want to go back with him and learn his technique.

Yes Tom, I am jealous of your wrist action.

There was more girly squealing on my part when we left the beach, as there were little itty-bitty toads everywhere. We tried not to smush them, but it was nigh on impossible. And then there was tall grass to run through, before circumventing a shallow pit of stagnant water.

The town of Sherman is very near-by, so we swung through – although not without adventure. I took a road in the tiny little hamlet that turns from paved to gravel in an instant, so after turning around in someone’s driveway, we headed back the way we came.

Tom guided me over to 44 and we headed back to my neck of the woods. After all that, we needed some frozen custard!

We passed two school buses from Oklahoma that has bright strobe lights going to town on the roofs, and although I’ve seen crazy little siren lights on other buses, these lights were large and bright enough to be calling the mother ship to suck them up off the pavement. On any other day, it would have been merely annoying. But because of the nature of the day’s activities… it was downright weird.

Exiting the highway, we came full circle back to Kirkwood. Home of the best frozen custard ever. Except that the Custard Station was PACKED! It is good custard, but it was beyond crazy. And beyond rude. Very much a bummer, but we consoled ourselves with Ben & Jerry’s. Which wasn’t as packed, but was filled with extremely loud pre-teens. And lots of them.

But they were playing Nine Inch Nails in the store. How can you go wrong with a little Trent? And damn good ice cream is damn good ice cream. So we smirked at the kids, places our order and went outside to eat in peace. It was a gorgeous night, so sitting outside was probably the best course of action anyway. But watching the kids listed at the bathroom door worried me. What were the unseen children behind the door doing? Do I really want to know?

A trip to Borders to get Tom a map of Illinois for future adventures of his own rounded out the night.

Next adventure on the horizon? Castlewood State Park and how to view the Kaes House. If you have any ideas, I’d be happy to hear ‘em!

Oh, and I promise to post some pictures once I figure out how to upload them!
Read more! Read more!

Monday, August 4, 2008


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with
You scored as Captain Jack Sparrow

Roguish,quick-witted, and incredibly lucky, Jack Sparrow is a pirate who sometimes ends up being a hero, against his better judgement. Captain Jack looks out for #1, but he can be counted on (usually) to do the right thing. He has an incredibly persuasive tongue, a mind that borders on genius or insanity, and an incredible talent for getting into trouble and getting out of it. Maybe its brains, maybe its genius, or maybe its just plain luck. Or maybe a mixture of all three.

Captain Jack Sparrow




Lara Croft


The Amazing Spider-Man


Indiana Jones


The Terminator


William Wallace


El Zorro


Batman, the Dark Knight


James Bond, Agent 007


Neo, the "One"


Read more! Read more!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Great Male Survey Results...

I happened upon the results of The Great Male Survey Results on Why is it that I find survey results from men, especially when pertaining to matters of the opposite sex, ever so much more fascinating? Don't follow the link if sex offends. Read more! Read more!