Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Guy Named George

A dead thermostat has taken Deke’s oven out of service. He calls around for replacement parts and finds they’re not cheap. For what they're asking, he may as well go ahead and fork it out for a whole new oven.

But Christmas is coming, and Deke has priorities. Mira’s list has “a telescope” right there at the top. "It doesn’t have to be fancy, Santa," she writes. "Just so I can see craters on the moon."

Deke finds one at Wal-Mart. A big lens and an aluminum barrel. Not a toy and definitely a solid piece of gear. Into his shopping cart goes the box: blue and black and the size of a dollhouse, with “Meade Telestar” stamped on the side. Deke will need to put this one on the Visa.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Houseboat Lessons Learned

Debrief and After-Action Report
Dale Hollow Lake (KY/TN)
14 to 17 May 2009

  • If you pack more than two tee-shirts for a four-day excursion, you’re probably overplanning.
  • While we all love wheat bread, rye bread, Wonder Bread, pumpernickel, french bread, Kaiser rolls, sub rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, and bagels – bringing 15 cubic feet of bread is just overkill.
  • A head-nod to “diversity” on the houseboat can be accomplished by having at least one Prius-driving vegetarian on board.
  • Late arrivals will suck hind teat on rack selection. A related lesson is that anyone who says “comfortable foldout bed” is already a liar.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ice Fishing, Risk, and Chili

Ice fishing in mid-February requires some special gear:  a gas-powered auger to drill your fishing holes; a half-dozen tip-ups to signal northern pike or walleye on the end of the line; layers of Thinsulate and Gore-Tex, heavy Carhartt overalls, Sorel cold-weather boots, Eskimo mitts, and a warm balaclava.

Another item that comes highly recommended is the good will of your wife. This is especially true if you're planning your ice-fishing adventure over Valentine’s Day weekend. If you've carefully nurtured this good will, your wife may not only forgive your absence on this Hallmark holiday, but may also send you off with sincere good wishes and a big pot of homemade chili for you and your buddies.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Frat Party

I rested on a gurney as Genevieve drew on my groin with a Sharpie: the straight lines and hash marks and crosshairs that would serve as a radiation target.

She used gauze and athletic tape to pull my personal bits to one side, clearing the range for target acquisition. The region south of my belt buckle looked like a drunk conventioneer’s necktie at closing time.

“A guy usually has to go to a fraternity initiation or a bachelor party to get this kind of treatment," I said.

Genevieve giggled, but nervously, as if she didn’t know whether she should.

Monday, January 26, 2009

25 Things

1. I have a brother who’s a fighter pilot, a brother who’s the stadium voice of the Colts, a sister who does work for Special Olympics and raises cool kids, a brother who’s an actor, and a brother who builds things and has the nicest house of us all.

2. I have a total of 249 skydives. On jump number 79, I had a malfunction that required me to chop away my main and ride down on my reserve. From my logbook: “I was scared – but not panicky. I was placing my faith (& my life) in that GQ Security X210R reserve chute. Seeing that white reserve canopy blossoming over my head was one of the most beautiful sights ever. When I landed, I ran over and grabbed Mark [[the rigger who’d packed my reserve]], kissed him square on the mouth, then went out and bought him a case of Bud Dry.”

3. I was born in Wisconsin, and we moved from there when I was very young. I have very little recollection of Janesville, so I must find some other excuse for my abiding love of cheese.

4. My mom has been a fan of Dennis Kucinich, went to DC to work for Ralph Nader, and did all the get-out-the-vote stuff that qualifies her as a dedicated Obamaphile. How she gave birth to six staunch conservatives remains a mystery.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Aisle Lighting

I handed Laura a copy of her own first novel and she asked, “Do you have books?”

My thought was, “Sure I do. There’s a big stack on my nightstand, several in the back of my car, many shelves of… wait…. She wouldn’t be asking THAT! What was the question?”
“I beg your pardon?” I said.

“Have you published?” she asked. “Have you published books?”

“Oh, I see. I’ve published some things. Not books," I said. "Not yet.”
A book-signing is a fine way to spend a cold January afternoon. Hearing a visiting writer talk about her books, her background, her practice.

As a reader, I’d always known the sensation of the room melting away when being absorbed, enfolded, into a well-told story. As a writer, I know the feeling of having written something true, wondering “where did that come from?” and feeling a pulse of something that's probably an endorphin, but feels like spirit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


My first real-live writing gig came from Hank Nuwer, then editor at "Arts Indiana" magazine. Hank agreed to let this beginning writer do a piece on four Indiana artists and the person each considered to be their most important mentor. The headliner in Hank's quartet was Maestro Raymond Leppard, conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Eras can be labeled "BC", Before Christ, or "AD" for Anno Domini. This particular point in the sweep of time might have been called "BG," as in "Before Google."