Sunday, September 04, 2005


from 1988...

The other night I lived through what is becoming a common phenomenon around here: a summer evening power outage. Seems that any time we get a thunderstorm, I have to go without electricity. I think the gas & electric company has a regulation posted in their control booth that reads, "At first sign of thundershowers, disconnect power from Block 37M." I, of course, live in the middle of Block 37M.

Seven years at my old address, a mere five miles away, and not once did I have to reset an alarm clock, light a candle, or put batteries in a flashlight. Now I have become a master at setting my VCR, cable TV, stereo presets, and answering machine. Maybe I should start an 800 number to help other victims of blackouts get their household electronics back in order. No, that probably wouldn't work - my cordless phone's dead too.

As always, my lights were on, then they went off. The lights come on - the lights go off. One more time. On - Off. It's Music Hall at the end of intermission. Suddenly everything dies. At least, if household appliances were to die, this is what they would sound like. Nothing quite compares to the cry of the refrigerator spooling down and the freezer anticipating its inevitable thaw.

"Well," I thought, "Wonder how long this one will last." Probably all night the way it's storming. Where did I put that flashlight anyway? I felt my way along the wall to the closet. I knew it was just past the bathroom door handle, which was presently implanted in my right hip. I found the flashlight on the third shelf down between a bottle of Amway dog shampoo and a package of sweeper bags for the vacuum I left at my old apartment. It was the shelf of misfit junk. And yes, the batteries were dead. Never fear, there are extras here somewhere - if only I could see.

I flicked the hall lightswitch to shed some light on the problem. Nothing happened. I flicked it again. Still nothing. "Oh yeh," I remembered, "no power". I felt around the back of the shelf for the other flashlight. I found what appeared to be a very dense spider web, but my mind rationalized that since I couldn't see it, I was just imagining. I was easily convinced. It was the ten million goose bumps running up and down my arms that were hard to persuade.

When I found the other flashlight, I was in luck. Its batteries weren't dead. In fact, it had no batteries at all. That's okay, I thought, the big flashlight's in the bedroom. A shin and two toes later - I was contemplating the combustion properties of dining room table legs - I got there. I flipped on the light. I realize now that I must be a subconscious believer in miracles since reality tells normal people that none of the lights will work when the entire block is blacked-out. So, of course, I flipped the switch again. Nothing. The flashlight was hiding on the floor behind the desk, and deja` vu - that one didn't work either. Now I know what to ask Santa for this year.

On the stumble back through the living room, I remembered a little candle on the knick-knack shelves, so I turned on the table lamp. Of course nothing happened, but I was determined because I knew this one was a three-way light. So I kept turning the switch a few more clicks, just to check all the settings. "Now how many times did I turn that little knob?" I had no idea, so I did what men always do in this situation - I kept turning the switch and listened for the one loud click that signifies OFF. Click, click, click, click, CLICK....I know I heard it, really. I still don't know how it came on - with every other light in the house - at 3 AM.

I got a match and lit the little wax ball on the shelf. It wasn't much of a candle - one of those violet scented bathroom things that I need when cousin Bubba comes over from the chilifest downtown - but it did burn longer than the match, although the static from my socks gave off more light. Well, with no electric there's apparently not much entertaining to do. Couldn't read, write, watch TV, listen to the radio, make coffee or tea, or play Nintendo. Nothing. No wonder people were in bed by dark in the old days.

I grabbed a beer and a chair and parked myself outside on the porch to weather out the storm. Across the street, I saw a faint glimmer in my neighbor's front window and heard a loud crash. With all the commotion I couldn't quite make out his mumbling, but I think it was something about burning a few of his table legs.

I could have been wrong about the evening's lack of entertainment.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

On the Road With Mom and Dad

I don't remember everything about our family vacations when I was growing up, basically because I didn't pay much attention to things when I was little. Sometimes I'll see pictures of places out West and think, "I've been there. I have no idea where it is, but it looks familiar."

I have to admit the West was great fun. And the two week car ride was nothing less than memorable.

Boy were those some fun days of driving! But, it was worth it in the end because I got to see all those things I'll probably never see again, or at least I'll probably never want to.

I do remember driving over Royal Gorge Bridge, though, and thinking,
"What lunatic would stuff his family in a two-ton Chevy Impala assault vehicle and then cruise over a rickety old bridge that would be condemned in any city with a population of 37 or more?"

Who? The man in the front seat. The one who always had that sinister little grin on his face - like he was having this great dream that we would never know about. But that's okay; I trusted him. He was Dad.

This was the same man who made his three sons pee in a coffee can in the back seat because he refused to stop every hour or so at a rest stop. Let me tell you, when you're six years old there's not much more difficult than trying to steady a half-filled can between your knees on the middle hump of a moving car floor, keep it from sloshing on your brothers, and pee in it - all at the same time. Potholes were a nightmare! Then Mom and Dad got ingenious and stuffed paper towels in the coffee can so it wouldn't spill so much.

Nope, couldn't stop at a rest stop, but we did of course have to stop at every Stuckey's in the Northern Hemisphere.

We also had to stop at five thousand museums that Mom thought would be "fun and educational".

I guess that's something teachers understand, but in my life I haven't found much museum-type education that I'd consider fun. Interesting and enlightening at best, but fun...sorry, Mom, wrong adjective.

Fun was putting firecrackers in Ken and Barbie dolls and watching as their body parts blew off - then bringing in GI Joe to rescue the survivors.

We saw Wall Drug store, where I got blown away by a two-bit, dime-store electronic gunslinger. "Draw," he grunted. I did, and shot a hole in the table next to the bar. He laughed and laughed. I laughed later, knowing that someday he'd be turned into a Western Speak-N-Spell.

Then there was Four Corners - where you could get down on all fours and stick an appendage in four different states at the same time. That was a pretty big achievement for a six year old.

I did think it was a little strange though to be on a concrete slab with the names of four states engraved on it, in the middle of the desert, and be surrounded by nothing but dirt and tumbleweed.

In a million years people will think it was a landing pad for alien spacecraft.

But then, speaking of landing pads, how about that haircut of Dad's - huh?! He'd do a Brillo pad proud. But at least he was always smiling. I guess there must have been a Stuckey's nearby.

They just don't make trips like that anymore, do they.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Welcome to Snips of Humor.

Nothing's quite so funny as life itself, and it can be pretty humorous. Some of these stories will be new, and some will be old, but hopefully you'll enjoy some lighthearted reflection here.