Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas from Beyond

I know my family will love this story, but some background for those that don't know. My uncle Larry passed away over ten years ago. He was an outdoors man, great with his hands, and better at his smile.

So last night, Slider woke me up in the middle of the night and I moved to the couch because that usually will calm him down. I don't know if he doesn't like that I sleep with his mother and not him, but sleeping out there where he can perch on top of me normally settles him down.

I had a dream that I was in old town Florissant with a couple of my college roomates. We were constantly hanging around some old pizza place that was housed in a brick building. All I remember about the dream is some ghost named Mary kept trying to tell us something and we couldn't figure out what it was.

We ended up going to my Grandma's for Christmas shortly after wards, which is weird because I haven't been able to go the past two years because of my sub-human status at work.

Eventually I woke up to go to work, but the dream sort of stayed in the back of my mind all day long.

Tonight, I was looking for a new book to read. Sallie bought me a book called "The Ghost Hunters Strangest Cases" about two years ago. It was very early on in our dating. I haven't picked it up yet and I sort of forgot about it... until tonight.

So I picked up the book and got about six pages into the first chapter when all of a sudden a Polaroid picture fell out of it.

On the picture is a little boy, probably about three years old, in a blue jacket, staring up at a robot. The robot is holding a sign that is hard to read and a flower. I know its Christmas because the tree is right next to the little boy and robot. Its in my grandmas living room that we always have Christmas in.

I bought the picture into better light and the sign reads, "Dad, Mom, + Family. Have a Very Merry Christmas. HO! HO! Larry"

Sort of got this weird feeling in my stomach like it was a joke being played on my by Larry. I can picture him smiling right now, nudging Jake in the chest asking, "Do you think we got 'em good enough?"

If anyone can claim this picture I'll gladly give it back, otherwise I'm hanging it up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A bunch of Dudes Crying Like Little Girls with Skinned Knees

I officially got off jury duty and am I glad. I was assigned to a high profile criminal case that would’ve at least lasted the rest of this week, if not into next. I have to admit, the defense attorney looked sort of scared when I told him my wife was a journalist. I think Sallie got me off the hook this time. (Or it could be the fact that I told a room full of my “peers” that I wouldn’t convict anyone unless I was convinced 100% without a doubt that they were guilty. I don’t think the prosecutor liked that much.)

To celebrate, Sallie and I bought tickets to Brett Hull Hall of Fame night at the Scottrade Center for $16 a piece.

Thousands of people were lined up outside the gates an hour before they opened wanting to relive the Blues from 1989-1998 with appearances by St. Louis favorites and $9 beers.

The seats were filling up quickly around 6:30 for the anticipated 6:45 kick off to the events. I held a flat, Budwieser in my hands and waited for the lights to dim. Around 6:55, the lights came down and the place erupted like it hasn’t since the Arena ceased to be.

Several owners, co-owners, and general rich guys in suits walked out on the carpet on the ice and announced Jeff Courtenall, the Captain of Brett Hull’s dream team. He gave a short, but sweet speech and then announced the rest of the dream team.

Bob Bassen, Kelly Chase, Sergio Momesso, Tony Twist, Rod Brind'Amour, Guy Carbonneau, Geoff Courtnall, Nelson Emerson, Bernie Federko, Doug Gilmour, Jeff Brown, Garth Butcher, Steve Duchesne, Phil Housley (I ran into his crotch once when I was young. Will never forget that.) Scott Stevens, Grant Fuhr, and Curtis Joseph.
Then, the largest surprise of the night, the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky was there. It’s the only time I’ve seen him in person and he is a handsome man. I could kiss him and it wouldn’t even be gay. It’d be respectable, soft, and romantic.
Then Brett Hull came out to an eruption of cheers. He made a speech about how great the Flames and the Blues were to his career and how his heart will never leave St. Louis. (At one point a fan screamed that he hates Mike Keenan to an entire arena of laughter and agreement.) They then showed a career highlight reel with Brett Hull quotes dubbed over it.

The Blues started skating on the ice as the Dream Team entered the locker room again, but Brett Hull stayed back to shake hands with every player and wish them luck.

As soon as it was done, 5,000 dudes had to pee. I stood in line and looked around at all the misty eyed 25+ year old guys rubbing away tears and trying to cover with “That Mike Keenan comment was great.” It was a bathroom with 150 crying dudes like a bunch of girls with skinned knees. That’s the power of the Golden Brett.
Then, the Blues having the worst home record in the NHL, played as if they were playing for Brett and Gretzky. It was an exciting game, constantly swinging back and forth. Then with only a few minutes left in the third period, our young gun T.J. Oshie fires one into the net. The Blues win 4-3.

This is the first time I haven’t seen a St. Louis venue empty out ¾ of the way through the game. Every person was still there, standing in front of their seats, screaming their lungs out. It was like being at The Old Barn circa 1990 all over again. The madness and devotion of St. Louis fans returned, if only for that one night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beatles' Mania

The Beatles were always an enigma to me. A band that everyone raved about but I just didn’t quite get.

The first exposure of The Beatles I had was an annoying, “Alvin and the Chipmunks’ Sing the Beatles Cassette.” It sticks in my head for two reasons. First, I had The New Kids on the Block (TNKB for fans) “Step by Step” cassette and the Alvin and the Chipmunks’ cassette. Didn’t have a lot to choose from.

Second, I’ll always remember that cassette because it was green. I thought that was weird the sort of way that the original Zelda Nintendo game was gold.

So I listened to this cassette that I only sort of liked a lot. I don’t know if I got burned out on the songs or burned out on high-pitched cartoon chipmunks singing, but something left a horrible taste in my mouth for years to come.

It wasn’t until my love affair with Nirvana that I went back to the Beatles. Kurt Cobain said one of his main influences were the Beatles, and since I wanted to be a rockstar, and I knew that heroin was Kurt Cobain’s other inspiration, I figured the Beatles were the better place to start. My mom had one of their collections on CD often referred to as the “Red Album” which contained some of their earlier, more boy-bandy hits like “She Loves You” and “Can’t Buy me Love.” I understood the parallels between the verse chorus verse style of the Beatles and Kurt Cobain, but again I just couldn’t listen to them.

Then in college, I sort of saw this girl on and off that I was crazy about and she was a Beatles fanatic. I learned as much as I could about the Beatles, and was starting to like them more, but ultimately I learned the history of the Beatles. Often times, we’d get drunk (large group of people, not just me and this girl) and music was always a favorite argument. I felt that if I could defend the Beatles enough it would give me some credit.

We would’ve never worked out, just like I thought me and the Beatles would never work out.

Then, recently, Sallie and I obtained a turntable and a record collection. The collection was mostly throw-away, dime a dozen Southern Rock and Jam-bands, but in the midst was a copy of Abbey Road. I listened to the sweet embrace of the needle to the thirty year old vinyl, and even through the dust and imperfections, “Come Together” played my heart like a bass and I finally understood.

Then all the wretchedness of last week happened. A buddy of mine came over to hang out, calm me down, and let me borrow the Beatles Rock Band game from him. I booted it up and for a two and a half hour period, I understood every appeal of the Beatles.
I never knew the hundreds of cover versions from the Joe Crocker version “With a Little Help From my Friends” on “The Wonder Years” to Soundgarden’s rendition of “Come Together” that was always labeled “Come Together (cover)” but I never bothered looking up.

They play with my emotions. Sometimes I feel like a teenager with drastic mood swings playing a continuous game of pong from happiness, to sadness, to anger, to sexiness all contained in one short period of time.

I finally understand.

Realizations in Bitter Times

Most of you probably have heard the horribleness of last week.

First, Sallie was told she was probably getting laid off.

Second, I didn't get a position I truly felt I deserved. Many other people feel I deserve it. I was bitter and angry about it.

Third, after finding this out I was riding the scooter home and it started raining. I was stuck at a stop light and then all of a sudden I couldn't go more than 5 mph. I turned into a back alleyway and went very slowly the rest of the way home in rain and wind. I haven't really tried to fix it since because its been cold and we can't really justify sinking more money into that machine.

It was a rotten week, filled with more rottenness on top of rottenness.

It wasn't until Saturday when Sallie and I walked to home depot, picked out a Christmas tree and I was carrying it home when I realized how the week showed us how many friends we have.

Immediately, everyone was trying to find ways to get us on or find us other jobs. People were offering their homes to us. Our cats could sense something and were behaving and cuddling. Sometimes it takes the worst to make you realize how great you actually have it.

I have until March when I'll get laid off. While at work I'm job searching, waiting for that perfect opportunity to present itself. I was told by one of my managers that I will get the next position no questions asked, and if I get offered that position I will gladly take it. If not, then its just not meant to be.

Sallie was told tonight that she wasn't getting laid off. Someone was approved for the buyout who is going to England to get her masters degree. I want to buy her a drink.

So things aren't as bad as they could be. The only upsetting thing I have to do still is jury duty next week.

Three other contractors were all called for jury duty the same time I was. We all wrote similar letters saying we're contractors and don't get reimbursed for time missed. They were all dismissed, mine was postponed. Out of curiosity today, I called the Jury Supervisor's office. I talked to an extremely bitter old hag. (I'm sure she's that way because people call all the time looking to get out of it.) She told me I was lying, they would never get out of jury duty for that reason, and if they think they did, they have another thing coming.

... so I guess the letter and phone calls my buddies got were all their dreams? Either way, I'm losing several hundred dollars next week. She said on average the trials last three days. SOOOOO I'll lose several hundred dollars and get paid $36 by the city. I know, I know... civic duty, blah blah. Well guess what, they couldn't get their act together quick enough for me to vote in the last election, why should I server on their stupid jury. I feel like my relationship with the city of St. Louis is one way sometimes.

They tax the hell out of me. They make me do jury duty. They can't even get a decent public transportation system. Come on St. Louis, I love you baby, but you have to stop hitting me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks! (for all the fish)

I was standing in line at the grocery store tonight, buying some last minute Thanksgiving food (I know, dumb night to do this) and I noticed that the mood was lifted. Everyone was talking to everyone. The large man in front of me looked at the whisky and 7up I was buying with a smile on his face. "OH, some good ole' fashioned 7 and 7. That's the perfect holiday drink." Together we reminisced about past holidays while we waited in the seemingly unmoving line. When he checked out, he looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said, "Have a wonderful holiday season." A simple sentence that can invoke the most sincere well wishes that two acquaintances can share.

There are literally a thousand things to be thankful for on a daily basis. I'm thankful to have such an entertaining, driven, loving family each with their own lively personalities. Everyone from Grandma's ability to brighten any room, to the little brothers constantly flipping off government symbols, the in-laws, to honorary family members. The people I'm surrounded by seem to be the last stronghold for good compassionate people on the planet.

I'm thankful that the individual struggles and demon's tearing at everyone's beings never got the better of anyone. Through the weak economy and world conflicts, we are all able to not only survive but thrive.

I'm thankful that there are people like my cousin Ryan that have the guts to fight for what's right in this world. People like me have never had the guts to stand up, and literally bring the fight to the darkness.

I'm thankful that Sallie is working at a newspaper again. The passion and spirit she had when we first started dating has been reignited with a brighter burning color than before.

I'm proud that my dad has been able to make it literally after having the world cave in on him. He's been able to beat odds most of us never face. I never heard him use the words, "I give up" even in his darkest moments. An unspoken testament of his character.

I'm proud of my mother, years after leaving school, she's able to continue and just about complete her further education. The odds were against her being able to work full time, run a house, and go to school, but again she persevered.

What can I say, I got some damn stubborn and persistant genes. Nothing is able to keep us down.

I'm thankful that my kittens have personality and don't just sleep, eat, and poop. Although there are times when Slider deserves to be choked, I would want no other cat.

I'm thankful that Michael, our adopted cat is now staying in a warm caring house. Now he'll be able to shed all over someone else's work pants when he greets them.

And although this might seem a little superficial, I'm glad the Get Up Kids are back together. This band literally represents the happiness of late highschool and early college for me and my group of friends that I still hang out with. We could all relate to the feeling of restlessness, abandonment, and mischief The Get Up Kids sang about. (They are from Kansas City, so it makes sense.)

I made a mixed CD for Sallie for when she went to Germany. I had one song in mind when I started it, "I'll Catch You" by The Get Up Kids. I built the playlist based off this song. If we didn't got with Stevie Wonder for our first dance as a married couple, I would've pushed for this one.

I look forward to the next year with everyone. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Peace, love, and empathy

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm a Softy that Wants a Gun

So, there's this adorable black cat named Micheal that our apartment building has sort of adopted. He kept running from his owner and each person in the apartment complex has called the number on the cats tag and each time we've witnessed this drunken redneck come to pick up Micheal in this monster truck. He always says, "I just spent $1500 f-ing dollars on face surgery for that cat. HE needs to get his ass back here." The owner curses, calling Micheal a little shit and the cat runs and desperately tries to hide. We've all come to the conclusion that the owner is abusive.

We would love to take him to a no kill shelter, but he has a microchip and would be promptly returned to this jackass. So instead we've been feeding him. We got a big box we've filled with blankets and put a towel over it so he can stay warm. For the most part he just hangs out, rubs our legs appreciatively on our way inside, and then goes back to being the apartment cat.

Everyone in our building already has the maximum threshold of cats. Otherwise we all said we would adopt him.

So tonight, Sallie and I came back from our midnight run to find Michael on top of the fountain next door and a demon opossum in Micheal's house. We've ran into this opossum before. He locks us out of our house because the front door is always chained. So we always have to make a lot of noise, circle the block, and hope he's gone when we get back.

Not tonight. That disgusting rodent was still hanging out. I don't understand why so many children's books romanticize these obviously evil, rabies carrying, beedy eyed, beasts. I've never wanted to shoot an animal before, but for a opossum, I'd make an exception.

So I had to climb over the railing, all the while keeping and eye to make sure the beast wasn't about to pounce. We got inside and I immediately grabbed a broom and starting banging the top of the box. It finally left, but slowly, giving me an eye like "I'm going to be back, and I'm going to kill you in your sleep."

So I'm going to drench Micheal's house in holy water and seriously consider getting an opossum taser.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Living the Busy Life

It's been a long time since I've truly written a blog. I could use the typical excuse of I've been busy, but I just feel like that's an overused excuse by humans. When did we become so busy? What happened to the town carnivals or wandering endlessly through nature trails and parks with friends?

Riding a bike used to be a targetless hobby. I would ride up and down streets endlessly, just happy to feel the wind.

So instead of just saying things have been busy I'm going to say I've been adult productive.

There are a few positions opening at my current job. They've actually been opening for several weeks now, but I've been told that interviews should be scheduled this week.

Hope, pray, sacrifice goats, or do a dance around a fire. Whatever it is you do, do it for me. I've been working extremely hard setting myself apart from the crowd to just get laid off in December because of some ridiculous rule within the company.

I want to stop worrying about employment. We graduated at probably the worst time to graduate college in the history of the country. Sallie is one of the few people I know that actually is doing something related to her degree. The rest of us were thrust into a horrible economy with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. I found something I like doing and I would like to keep doing it.

Sallie and I also fell in love with a house only two blocks from our house and were more than willing to buy it that day. Common sense took over after a brief discussion with our cousin Eric. He gave some good advice and tips and will help us if we want it.

We never really wanted a house because it felt too permanent. We wanted to head for the mountains once the economy got better, but Sallie and I are in a good place right now. We can see ourselves settling in St. Louis for a few years. At least long enough for a house to increase in value. And no matter how much I don't want to admit it, my cats are my children. I come home from work and they are so happy to see me. I think they deserve a little more frolicking room. (And we deserve a room to lock Slider in far away from our bed.)

So, potentially, if I land this job, we're going to start looking at real estate in the next month or so.

Also, something that has been on the back burner for two years now is our honeymoon. Unlike most married couples that get to spend their wedding loot on a honeymoon to Cancun, we were broke and unemployed. Our honeymoon money bought some nice creditor a fancy dinner as we paid off a large chunk of our moving back debt. We feel we've earned the vacation. We want to go to Ireland and drink a Guinness in a pud. We want to head to Britain and scream blind slurs at the opposing team. I want to get a passport and get some stamps in it damnit!

Three other projects I'm taking on right now are also eating time.

First, I'm going through all of my music and fixing tags and downloading album info. This has taken two weeks so far and I've only gotten through the "Bs."

Second, I think I'm going to make this blog more of an interactive website. We have the Adobe Creative Suite and don't use it enough. I'm going to start ripping into Dreamweaver and see what I can create.

Third, has been keeping me busy. We've been getting a decent amount of hits, have survived a year, and have the fall/winter gaming season upon us.

I hope to start doing this regularly again. I also hope to actually do Pop Culture for the Inexperienced a bit more. Maybe not weekly like I would like, but bi-weekly I would hope.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where's the f*cking right click?

I hate Apple and that's an understatement.

I hate it to the point of when people suggest they are going to buy any product from Apple, I feel like I've been wronged. I feel like it's a personal attack on my character when people offend me with their bad choices. I want to take up arms and burn down buildings anytime someone I know and care about knowingly purchases a Mac.

I grew up in an anti-Apple household. The moment Windows 3.1 showed me a portal to the sweet life, I knew I would hate Apple.

Steve Jobs is a great salesman, but also an jackass.

Oh, come off of it. Just because the guy has/had cancer doesn't mean I can't not like him. I don't wish him any ill will, in fact I hope he fights cancer and stays free of it his entire life. However, if I had the chance, I'd punch his stupid pearly white teeth down his throat. I would dip my fingers into the blood running from his mouth and rub it on my face like tribal war paint and chant my victory chant at the top of my lungs.

When I saw him this summer make his snide remarks against Microsoft, Sony, Dell, and Nintendo I wanted to punch him his snide little rich white suburban face. The ridiculous advertisement with the picture of a guy in jeans with a Dell laptop hanging out of his pocket. Steve Jobs got his stupid little laugh going and was like "Oh, our iPhone is a computer that fits in your pocket." The iPhone, officially announced by Steve Jobs, is a better gaming device than anything Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo could ever come up with.

Its a better gaming device for 13 year old Miley Cyrus fans and hungover students not paying attention in class. I hope that an unholy union of all four of those companies creates a monster and totally and completely buries Apple.

Apple cornered the MP3 player market early on. Out of the three different MP3 players I've had: Dell Jukebox, iPod Classic, and Microsoft Zune, I can say without any doubt or stutter that the iPod was my worst MP3 player.

The software sucked. Took me 8 hours to fix my music tags every time my library disappeared, which happened every time iTunes had an update.

I downloaded a bunch of songs and then had to format my hard drive, guess what, can't redownload that music. Sorry, time to pay another $1 for all the songs you technically already own.

How's about how the stupid scroll wheel wouldn't work when the temperature dipped below 45 degrees? Not to mention the fact that even when you drop $300+ on a new iPod, rest assured the newer better version will be out the next year.

Screw iPod.

The Zune does it better, cheaper, and quicker.

Don't even get my started on Macbooks and iMacs. Yes, they are good computers. But you can get just as good of a PC for $300-500 less. Not to mention, you'll have to pay $5-10 more for applications because you have to buy the "Mac" compatible version.

Besides the absolute unwarranted snideness of Apple products, I feel like its a war of the "have's" VS the "have nots." Macs are for people that have a lot of money and don't know much about technology. Apple makes decisions for people that don't now any better.

I've talked to users at my work, convinced to buy Macs, find out quickly that the sun might not shine so brightly on them. They tell me things like "Macs don't get viruses." "Macs are faster." "Macs are more powerful." They are regurgitating salesmen lines and when I tell them that's not necessarily right, they flip out.

With Windows 7 getting glowing reviews and taking everything you get with a Mac OS and trumping it, there's no reason to get a Mac anymore. None.

Please, if you find yourself in a situation where you are considering purchasing anything Apple related, call me. I'll present your options with an extreme bias, we'll have a good laugh at Apple's expense, and you can thank me for talking you into a PC with a Zune marketplace giftcard.

Oh, and CTRL+Click does not constitute a true right click. So get off it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Christmas List 2009 by Dan Story

For those of you who care, this is my annual Christmas list.

We really need a new TV Stand. The one I want the most is at the top, but others that I've liked are below that.

TV Stands:


Xbox 360

1. The Sabateur


2. Mass Effect 2 (Pre-order. This wouldn't come to me until late January, but I'm ultra amped about it.)


3. Borderlands


Playstation 3

1. Heavy Rain (Pre-order)



1. Sony PSP 2000:

2. Zune Dock:

1. Eragon Trilogy Hardback:

2. Harry Potter Books 1-6 Hardback: I could take a few individually or they have all seven books in a boxed set.


1. Enemy at the Gates:

2. Lord of the Rings:

Albums- The kind that are made out of vinyl. They play on record players! :)

1. The Beatles - "Let it Be"

2. Flogging Molly - "Drunken Lullabies"

3. Social Distortion - "Social Distortion"

4. Bright Eyes - "I'm Wide Awake its Morning"

5. Death Cab for Cutie - "Plans"

6. Nirvana - "Live in New York"

7. Weezer - "Pinkerton"

8. David Bowie - "Space Oddity"

Magazine Subscriptions

1.Official Playstation Magazine

2. Wired

Gift Cards

2. (So I can amp up my computer)

3. Borders Books

4. Best Buy

5. Eb Games

Making Alarm Clocks Obsolete

How many people still use alarm clocks?

I don't. My cell phone has my weekday alarm, my weekend alarm, my after work nap alarm, (almost never used, naps are for when you're dead) programmed and saved. All I have to do is touch one button and its set.

Unlike alarm clocks you can program whatever music you want to wake you up. Maybe I'm feeling a bit gangster and need Jay Z in the morning. Perhaps I didn't get much sleep, I could have Death Cab for Cutie slowly wake me. Whatever your taste, you now get to choose the noise that wakes you up. Granted if I ever hear my alarm clock songs on the radio, I start panicking, and even if I'm dressed, I start looking for pants to put on.

There are two alarm clocks I distinctly remember.

The first one I had was old. It was passed down from my parents who I'm sure had it passed down from their parents, and so on. I date the alarm clock to the 70s because it actually had wood paneling on it.

The alarm clock sticks in my memory for several annoying reasons. For one, it didn't have memory so you couldn't save a time to wake up in the clock. Every night I would have to hold down a button that would scroll through all the numbers, counting them up, eventually getting faster. Every time, like pumping gas at the pump, I would overshoot my goal by just enough that I would have to scroll through the numbers again.

The second reason I remember this clock is "BWAMMMPPH BWAMMMPPH BWAMMMPPH BWAMMMPPH!" I never woke up in the good mood. This clock would make the more shrill, soul bruising, noise ever. I was never late for anything, but I partly blame this alarm clock for my lack of social skills the first hour I'm awake.

The second alarm clock I remember is one my Grandpa Story gave me. I thought, "Finally, I can dump this other one."

It was my birthday. It was always interesting when my grandpa would bring gifts because we didn't see him quite enough for him to know what we would really like, but he was great at finding the generic gift that kids would like. For instance, one year I was given a football and another year I was giving a red Power Ranger costume. (That was about 10 sizes too small. Brett got his birthday in July that year and wore that costume until the legs only covered to around his knee.)

So I opened the box this year and got a Tazmanian Devil alarm clock. When the alarm would go off Taz would pop out of his tornado clock and scream "Bwal, bwal, bwal, wake up!" Just annoying enough to wake me but still cool.

Now this memory gets filed away in the "Keep" pile of my brain because it was defective. Taz decided I should wake up at 2 am, 3:47 am, 4:17 am, and then it would skip when I wanted to wake up at 6:15, but let me know I was missing the bus at 7:05.

You know what, good riddence alarm clocks. I fully support the use of cell phones.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


There are people in my life that are constant disappointments to me only because I know that they have so much potential, but are comfortable coming home and watching television and going to bed. Then there are those people that you don't quite know well enough and have an impression of how they are.

There's this person that I work with. This person is always late, often wanders away from the desk, constantly talks about sexual conquests and getting drunk nightly. She projects this shell of a person. A tragic stereotype of the product of a broken home. I like this person. She's nice. She means well. She's just looking for a place to fit.

Up until today that's all I knew about her.

I stumbled across a blog that hasn't been updated in months. I started reading it, thinking this person is really intense, insightful, and thoughtful. Then there was a video posted title "Friends." I started playing the video and it was a montage of friends having great times.

About forty-five seconds into the video is one shot of a girl holding a camera in front of her face pointed at a mirror. Sort of a self portrait. The camera becomes shaky and just for a moment I get a glance at the photographer. Its a familiar face, but somethings different. The face is confident, sober, and happy. Its this girl from my work.

I started reading through and watching all the video posts, intruding on this person's personal life. Stories told through bandwidth. Everything I thought I knew about this person is different. I found myself wanting to march into work on Monday and just tell her, "You're going to be just fine."

I don't know if I'm going to be able to just smile and treat her the same Monday. Will I be able to convey what I know through eyes and body language? Is there a way I can tell her she isn't as worthless as she lets on without embarrassing her? Or should I let her go? Will she leave this job for something that does make her happy forgetting all of those she left behind without knowing that someone there appreciated her art, her life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pee Breaks

So there's this guy at my work that no one else seems to see. Sometimes I wonder if he actually exists.

He's with some other department. He only crosses my path in the bathroom. Then he disappears.

I first noticed him about 3 weeks ago. I was going to the restroom and he came up next to me in the urinal. I could only see his outline, but while he was peeing he started spitting non-stop into the urinal. I mean, this was machine gun style one after another loogies making a wet slapping noise against the porcelain. I'm not even sure I heard urine. I'm pretty sure this guy just unzipped his pants so he could spit.

So for the past three weeks, this guy and I seem to have the same pee cycle. Either that or his one job is to wait for me to enter and for him to come in and gross me out. About half the time I go to the restroom this guy comes in next to me without shame and starts spitting.

Last week I decided it was time to look at this monstrosity. He looked like an older version of Bobby Hill. (See above for reference: Now imagine that guy with a tie and his pants unzipped.)

Today I found out his name. As I was getting ready to leave he comes in and starts a spitting. Then I hear the bathroom door open and hear "Hey Tom, we'll be waiting outside for you."

So his name is Tom. Now that I know his name, it took every ounce of self control not to stop mid-stream and yell, "Hey Tom, can you keep your mouth on that stupid potato head of yours from gathering saliva. Or at least start using a different restroom you disgusting blob."

But I didn't. Like I said, self control.

I guess my next step is to learn his last name... and then reset all of his passwords.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Terrible Week for Tech

This week has been absolutely heartbreaking for technology.

Last Saturday, mid-movie, my surround sound receiver stopped working. It would do this thing where it turns on for like 3 seconds and then turns off. I contacted Yamaha support, they gave me a few things to do, but its determined that the thing is dead.

We were going to ship it back to where we bought it from, but they don't accept bulk returns or exchanges.

Looked up the nearest authorized Yamaha dealer and they are almost 300 miles away in Springfield Ill.

Tomorrow morning, I'm waking up early and calling Yamaha customer service to see if I can send it in to at least get repaired if not exchanged for a new one. We only had it for a month and a half.

Then strike 2 came when my laptop stopped working completely. Slider knocked it off a table about a month ago and put a dent in the side of it, but everything was working fine. I figured I could sell the laptop on Ebay and maybe get like $150 so I could upgrade a few pieces of the current Desktop we have.

Well I was cleaning it off and realized when it was booting it was making an obnoxious beeping noise until you started clicking random keys.

So I took the keyboard apart and found a red powder substance as well as about 123 billion cat hairs. I spent two hours cleaning the hell out of the laptop, put the keyboard back together, only to find that it wouldn't boot at all anymore. I tried several things to get it up and running, but thus far nothing has gotten it to work. My $1200 laptop I bought only two years ago... is dead.

Then I discovered that the computer we just bought from Lacy has issues playing normal DVDs. Everything shows up all pixelated. On top of that I can't get this wireless mouse we purchased to work or any shortcut keys on this keyboard. Basically when I get home from troubleshooting for 8 hours someday this week, I'm going to need to do some troubleshooting.

There are several upgrades I want to do to the desktop, but we haven't had money recently. (Found out we WAAAAAYYYY overpaid on a credit card which now has a zero balance, but we've been eating peanut butter and jelly for a couple weeks now.) So if anyone has any spare computer parts lying around like a decent videocard, hard drive, extra flat screen monitor, or powerful DVD drive, let me know. We'll talk, maybe we can work something out.

Sometimes I ask myself is it worth all the technology and trouble. Of course it is, but sometimes I'd rather live in a cabin in the Mountains and sit around cleaning a gun all day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Michael Story

He half turned to get a decent view of the backseat of the family car, intimidating the hell out of the three of us in the back. To us, this was staring into the burning bush, but instead of giving us commandments he smiled and said, "So what bands do you listen to?"

I looked to both my brother's awestruck, not moving faces and tried to asset myself as the coolest.

"Green Day, The Offspring, Bush." The first three bands I could spout off that were tearing up the mid-90s radio. I sat in anticipation. Did I win god's favor or was I about to be struck down by this guy that was living the underground scene.

"We played a few shows with Green Day in California before they blew up. They've got some good songs."

I exhaled. I had passed the test.

We were escorted out of the car into a small brick building off of Delmar. Wandered the buildings hallways seeing records of bands I'd never heard of hanging on the wall. Then we entered where the magic happened. An expensive electronic time capsule plugged into dozens of microphones.

A man with pink hair introduced himself as Patrick and quickly handed over the drum sticks. None of us budged except for little Brett. He didn't know any better. He didn't know that he was asked to fill the incredibly large shoes of the rhythm section.

I wanted to stop him. I felt like a slow motion movie scene where I scream "No!" as the helpless victim falls stories to their death. Then he started beating the drums with the carefree energy of a five year old. I couldn't dare touch those sticks even when Patrick came back in the room and offered them up again. Leaving them on a surface as if they were mere pieces of wood. Saying "Now its just your dad in here. You have nothing to be embarrassed about."

The camera pans to our tattooed idol tuning his guitar. He makes a quip about why Patrick likes to play drums and flashes that smile that makes you believe everything is going to be alright.

Anthony, the Asian bassist gets the camera's attention with is Bruce Lee shirt. The scene cuts as more friends pour into the studio.

We're in the production room getting the basic rundown of tape decks, volume and treble knobs. We understood, but we couldn't acknowledge. All we could do was stare at the Windows 95 screen saver.

He moves into the booth and straps his guitar around his neck. Like a thousand space ships pushing full thrust into the sun he bursts into criminal. On queue, a reflection in the window confirms what I remembered, Danny B buts his hands over my ears and says I shouldn't hear this as Mike screams "f*ck" in the first verse.

I remembered this day. I was only twelve, but I remember every single detail. For thirteen years I couldn't remember if it was dream it or if it were real and then a DVD came in the mail confirming everything I thought.

I watch another hour and a half of performances as he breaks the skin on his knuckles in the same rocking position that just sort of came naturally to him. It was as if I could remember every show. Every beer soaked table. It was comforting.

Thanks for the DVD

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eye-Witness News

Recently there were two insane news stories about eyes that I just feel I should say a few words on.

First off is this little story.

A blind person essentially was given her eyesite back by taking one of her teeth and part of her jaw, sticking a camera on the end of the tooth, letting it grow together for a while, and then implanting it on her eye.

I found photos earlier and they are worth tracking down.

This is one step closer to the Matrix. These doctors had to take camera wires and attach them to parts of the brain responsible for sight. Think about the crazy things we'll be able to do in mere decades. I might actually get a chance to download stuff directly to my brain.

The second story is this one.

Basically a contact lense that will allow you to see vital signs. Sounds to me like we're one step away from a cyborg eye.

Several ways in which I would like to use this contact:

1. When interogating people. I would like to see the other person's vital signs. See if their heart starts racing or zone in on their body to see if there's a nervous twitch. I would tell them I knew they were lying. No sir... they tried lying to me. I'm going to make them sweat it out as long as I can.

2. Keep my enemies in check. Ever feel like you're walking down an alleyway and someone is watching you, waiting to pounce. With this contact you could immediately pull up the outline of live beings possibly even register what sort of weapon they are carrying. That way you can go into any situation knowing what sort of martial arts you're going to have to use to beat their butts.

3. Covert operations. I don't know who for or what I'll be doing, but I sure as hell will be pulling up nightvision and thermal vision at will. There won't be any compound that could keep me out.

And to think... I was excited about possibly getting Lasik.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The World had Turned and Left Her There

I decided as part of my bachelor weekend that I would take a walk up to the grocery store and pick up some micro-brewed autumn flavored beers.

For the first time in weeks, the muggy uncomfortable Missouri air clung to my skin. It becomes impossible to tell the difference between sweat and condensation.

I passed by the local not-for-profit organization that tries to keep children off the street with sports and crafts and field trips. A giant sign hung from the door apologizing because it had to close on August 15th.

I paused. I could feel the environment. Someone made a physical representation of a dream they had to make a difference in the neighborhood they loved enough to make that difference. I shuddered. It felt like a cemetery with 10,000 open graves filled with the mourning widows pounding on the tops of their loved ones black caskets. Even though its humid, I wish I had a jacket on so I could pull it closer.

I wandered down Arsenal lost in my headphones. I see a lady leaning against her front-yard chainlink fence. She was saying something to me, but all I could hear was the music.

I pull one ear bud out. She repeats herself. I still can't her. I remove the other ear bud and lean in closer.

"Notor Da Dame. Notor Da Dame."

I still don't understand. I lean closer still. If she had a weapon she could've taken me down.

"Notor Da Dame. Football game."

"Notre Dame?"

"Yes, Notor Da Dame."

Its in her eyes. The world turned on her long ago and she was several drinks deep turning her back on the world in return.

She slurs her speech adding "s" and "sch" sounds to the beginning of half her words. "I schcame by the shouse, but no one was sthere. Sthey were gonna be dare to schwatch the game."

She asks me to watch the game with her. When I politely decline and tell her that I'm not much of a football fan, she grabs my arm. Her desperation squeezing just a bit harder. I break free. She returns to the house that I assume was hers. I continue to the grocery store.

I stare up and down the beer aisle contemplating whether I feel like a drink after meeting that stranger in the streets. I contemplate inviting her to the local bar just for one beer. Just so she had company. I picture he telling me great stories about life thirty years ago. I imagine that she once toured with the Rolling Stones or shared a bourbon with Hunter Thomson in downtown Louisville.

The reality is, we would sit on those barstools not really talking. I would be observing sadness personified. It would put me in a far worse funk than I was.

I choose my beer and on the way home saw her still standing out in front of her house. She was chatting it up with a nicely dressed black man that seemed to be humoring her better than I did. I took the alleyway behind her house and avoided her all together. I wish her luck for as much as that was worth and locked my door behind me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Call Me The Last Action Hero

Update on the detox: We are temporarily putting it on hold. This week has been so busy that we don't have time to spend hours a night preparing food. We also can't afford to stay on the diet. We spent $300 on 5 days worth of groceries.

We are going to probably stick with one or two meals from the plan a day. Just try to calm down on our eatings.

Today I took my first spill on the scooter.

I woke up early so I could go to Target and get the newest season of Scrubs on DVD. Its tradition that we drink hard alcohol and tear through a season in a night. So tonight, we are planning on doing that.

So anyway, I was riding on these back streets to get to work after going to Target and I hit a manhole cover that was wet. I skidded out like freakin Mission Impossible 2 completely sideways. (There is a picture representation of these events below.)

Then all of a sudden friction kicked in and the scooter flung to the other side and threw me through the air.

The miraculous part is this. The clumsiest person on the planet, Dan Story, went into the most graceful and awesome action hero role. I rolled across the street and somehow landed on my feet and went into a "I'm ready to take on some ninjas" pose.

A guy driving by on the other side of the street rolled down his window and screamed "Oh MY GOD! JESUS! You alright?" Then like 10 people came spilling out of the nearby restaurant all with cell phones in hand offering to call an ambulance. I told them "Nay, I can't afford a $2000 ambulance ride and somehow I escaped without a single scratch."

The scooter started right back up again and I drove away from my shame as fast as I could.

I'm glad I was wearing my helmet. I didn't hit my head or anything (I actually managed to not even break my Zune or cell phone that were in my pockets)but the amount of crap I would've gotten from these people would've been horrible.

I swear, if someone had their camera phone going I would've paid for the video. It was possibly the coolest thing I've ever done.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Detox: Day 4

Ok, fourth day, you are probably getting bored hearing about this. Turns out I'm getting bored too.

I realized why I was so down the other day. I used to look forward to good food. I used to look forward to Sallie and I getting to bond over a great dish. Those rough mornings at work were somehow less horrible knowing I had a half hour break to eat something I love.

Now I drink whatever dinner is and go to bed. I wake up and drink whatever breakfast is and go to work. I work and then chew on some leaves for half an hour and get back on the phones. I'm just bored.

I'm going to stick with it though. At this point I feel like I need to proove to myself I can do it.

BTW: For those that were interested. That Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich can be found at two places. The best, if you can find one, is W.G. Grinders. A very close second is Penn Station. I suggest getting one this weekend and telling me how it was with deep descriptions so I can live vicariously through you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Detox: Day 3

Today was much less frustrating than yesterday.

I had my normal lemon water, tea, and fruit breakfast.

The thing that changed was for once I got a hot meal. For the first time since Monday, I got to eat something not room temperature or cold. It was some mung bean mash baby poo looking dish that had carrot chunks in it. It was better than it sounds. Then we had a side of brown rice.

Dinner was disappointing. Cucumber soup... that's cold. (Who the hell calls something cold soup?) Then some coleslaw that again contained every vegetable I hate. Cucumbers, scallions, sprouts,... blech blech blech.

My stomach has definitely shrunk. I was able to fit into my tight work pants today without issue. So even though its been awful, its worked. I could keep up with this, the only issue I had is how horrible some of the food is and how boring the other food is. We're only just now getting into the "real" (I use that term loosely) food calendar. So we'll see what that means.

My current goal is two weeks. If I can make it that far I'll be happy with myself and just can't let me eating get out of control. If I get to two weeks and decide that I don't miss Lion's Choice, pizza, General Tso's chicken, crab Rangoon, Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwiches, Traditional subs from Quiznos, Broccoli cheddar bread bowl from Panera...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Detox: Day 2

Honestly by now, I'm sort of feeling depressed. Its amazing how much joy food can bring to your life. I feel defeated. I can't concentrate. I just feel like the world is one big rainy autumn day. I know that some General Tso's chicken would bring me back to life, but it would negate all that I've accomplished since Sunday night.

I've definitely become clumsier. I've tripped over cats, I've ran my foot over with the scooter with moving it out of the backyard, I've even tripped on my laptop cord and busted part of the plastic that holds the monitor in.

I that if we got to eat just one hot meal I would be fine. Sallie tells me that we have a hot rice and bean meal waiting for us at lunch tomorrow, but I'm so used to coming home and having a hot meal in front of the television. Its sort of the way I wind down.

Today I had lemon water, tea, and a good fruit smoothie for breakfast. Lunch was a salad. Snack was another fruity smoothie. I also had some raw carrots. I wanted a burrito, but I had raw carrots.

A guy at work thought he'd be funny and posted fast food ads all over my desk when I went to retrieve my salad. Note to self: Punch desk neighbor in the back of the head when he least expects it.

For the positives I've definitely noticed that I've dropped some weight in just two days. I'm probably expelling all of that water weight that my high sodium diet brought on. Again, I've had to pee like 14 times today. Its getting old. Especially when I've ran into just about every manager there is multiple times. It probably doesn't look good for my stats.

Sallie offered me an out if I were really that miserable. No matter how hard I wanted to say yes, I forced myself to continue. Here's hoping that there is substantial food in my near future.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Detoxing: Day 1

If overcoming a drug addiction is even twice as hard as what I'm doing, those people deserve their drugs.

Woke up early this morning (thanks to Slider, earlier than even planned) and immediately was told to drink warm lemon water, dandelion tea, and about a pound of berries.

This actually held me over until lunch at 1pm. I thought to myself, this isn't going to be that hard.

1pm: Eat by far the worst salad I've ever had in my life. Not only was there no dressing, but it contained three of my least favorite veggies: sprouts, celery, and cabbage. I choked that down and washed it down with an enriched veggie broth.

2:30pm: Have a short lived fantasy about me going to Lion's Choice and eating a roast beef sandwich while I have pineapple pizza delivered and finish it off with a Snickers bar that has been in the fridge for several hours. It was one of the best fantasies I've had to date.

3:00pm: I'm arguing with myself over what sounds better Butterfinger or Snickers.

3:15pm: I decide they both sound equally good and that its time for me to eat another smoothie.

3:30pm: Found something worse than the salad. This smoothie tastes like onionots. That's a carrot/onion baby for those of you who don't know.

4:30pm: Eat a banana. Besides the pineapple juice, this is the best thing to touch my lips today.

This was already horrible, but add the 14 times I had to pee today, and you have yourself a standard Monday.

I'm also realizing something. Most of Sallie and my relationship is based off of our love of food and how it tastes and feels and makes us feel. We're being cordial to each other because of an unspoken understanding that we are both miserable, but we both keep snapping at the littlest things. I can't wait until Thursday when we start eating real food again.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Detoxing: Day 0

With the kitten and the visiting of people and large home made meals, Sallie and I have been feeling like complete crap for weeks now. We've been eating extremely rich foods with lots of cheese, bread, and sauce and with all the stress we've been taking down more wine, beer, and alcohol than we like to.

So we are going to be on a strict diet and detox from a book Sallie's mother gave us.

First, like a prisoner on death row, we had our last "meal." We opted for Penn Station where I devoured a large Chicken Cordon Bleu and Sallie took on a much more modest medium veggie sub.

We stared at a list of things we had to get. Across the street was Target and Schnucks, both fight weekly for the worst place to be on a Sunday.

At Target we had to get a juicer and a water filter. That was accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.

Then we went to Schnucks. Below is what we got.

-Lettuce Mix X2
-Bag of Walnuts X1
-Bag of Almonds X1
-Alfalfa Sprouts X1 pck
-Brown Rice 1 lb
-Green Cabbage 1 lb
-Broccoli Crowns 1.3 lbs
-Organic Bananas 1 large bunch
-Pink Lady Apples 2 lbs
-Large Avocado X2
-Fresh mint
-Fresh Cilantro
-Whole Pinneapple X1
-Green Onions X2 bunches
-Snow Peas X1 pck
-Red Bell Pepper X2
-Yellow Onion 1.62 lbs
-Lettuce .5 lb
-Large Lemons X3
-Beets X3
-Green Beans .25 lb
-Radish 1 bunch
-Pears 1 lb
-Celery 1 lb
-Turnips l lb
-Organic Vegetable Stock
-Carrots 2 lbs
-Turmeric Spice
-Ripe Nectarines 3 lbs
-Cucumber X5
-Jumbo Grapefruit X4
-Yellow Potato 2.63 lbs
-Garlic Cloves X2
-Blueberries 1 pint
-Raspberries 1 pint
-Strawberries 2 lbs

Tomorrow this is what I'm allowed to eat.
Breakfast: Berries and tea
Lunch: Extremely enriched vegetable broth
Dinner: Leftover of Lunch and nut mixture with tea and sprouts

I can have as much raw fruit and vegetable as possible for snacks, but I'm going to be hungry as can be.

Also, I realize that I'm going to be pooping my brain out. Luckly I have several good books to finish and will have plenty of time to do so.

The last time I weighed myself, I had gained 20 lbs. I was sitting around 217 which is the most I've ever weighed. Weight isn't goi to be an accurate measure of how I'm doing because I'm going to be working out as well and as everyone knows, muscle weighs more than fat.

I will try to update this daily. Just hope that I have enough energy to make that happen tomorrow. Wish me luck, this is going to be interesting.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

She Fades into our Memories

One little white and orange cat was able to make such an impact on our lives in one week. She taught Slider a few tricks about how to properly cuddle, and showed Crash the burden of being a mother. And like that she was gone.

We had tried to get her into the vet the same weekend we found her, but their weekend hours were about non-existant. We had her for a full week before we could get her checked out and we were bombarded with bad news.

The vets did normal tests like checking the heart rate, drawing blood, and checking teeth. While we waited for the blood test results to come back, the vet rubbed on her and poked her stomach looking for any abnormal sweeling or internal issues.

First, our worries were confirmed. I officially adopted a hussy of a daughter. She was pregenant. We went into a comical "No daughter of mine" and "Kittens having kittens speech" to keep the atmosphere light. While we were discussing our options, a vet tech popped in and gave bad news number two. The kitten had feline leukemia.

Up until a few months ago, I thought this meant they had cancer. Feline Leukemia is more like AIDS for cats. They can transmit it through grooming, sharing food, biting, more or less normal kitten stuff.

We had to make a very tough decision to put her down for the safety of our cats and to end what was going to become a very painful existance for both her and her kittens.

The process was miserable. We sat in this small room illuminated by florescent light just wanting to leave, but we had to wait to sign paperwork. She brings several sheets of paper in and describs the process. She asks us if we want the remains or if they can do a group cremation for a cheaper price. Then I have to sign the sheet of paper.

My hand trembled. Napoleon was in the room still, staring at me, wondering when we could go home, and here I was making the decision to basically pull her off of life support.

Then we had to have the conversation about our other kittens. Since they had been exposed to Napoleon, they are at risk of getting feline leukemia. We made the earliest appointment we could possibly make with our schedule, which is on Thursday.

Then we got kicked again with a $200 vet fee for everything. This for a lost kitten, we didn't dare call our own yet, but grew emotionally attached to, and we get charged.

Now we are left worrying about our other two kittens. Did they have enough contact with the sick one for them to also become sick?

I hope not. Napoleon wouldn't let them near her. It's probably because she was a mother protecting her space, but I like to think that it was because she knew she was sick and was trying to protect them. That is the memory I'd like to be left with. A noble kitten, looking for one great week in a warm house with nice parents, before she journied into the sunset.

So whatever is it you do to whatever omniscent being that you believe in, pray, hope, or sacrifice goats that our other two buddies are alright. I'd hate to think that that much tragedy could be born out of good intentions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Check ignition and may gods love be with you

It's moments before work. The main character sips in a few last precious moments of free air. He suits up.

He swivels the arm around and takes a seat.Motors and belts spin the disk around. A familiar scratching fills the air like instruments being tuned. He closes his eyes and let's the countdown take over.

"Ground control to Major Tom.
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may gods love be with you."

His seat rumbles and he takes a deep breath and utters to himself, "This is just another day. A day like yesterday, and not much different from tomorrow. But why is it so hard to do my job today?"

"Planet Earth is so blue, and there's nothing I can do."

He spins around the planet wondering what next. If the stars can't change, how is he supposed to.

He thinks about how sometimes it seems that his enemy is the closest thing he has to a friend. When he mind goes to that dark spot the chorus swells and a calm washes over him.

"Im feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go"

Just as the song is about to end I remember the first time I heard the song. The first time David Bowie inspired my life. It was for television spots for Apollo 13. I remember sitting on the couch and hearing "Tell my wife I love her very much she knows..." and thinking that the song could only be inspired by a lost spaceman.

The months and years of dust and grime on the record just about made the record unplayable. The speakers scratch my eyes awake.

I sighed, looked down and realized I didn't have a spacesuit on. Only a cheap tie that was falling apart, but somehow it felt alright today.

Yeah, I would be alright today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The rumors are true, we are officially cat people. We have more of less inherited a third cat.

The cat is this ultra cuddly orange and white semi-calico looking cat. (Picture above for those that can't decipher that non-commital definition.)

I likes to rub beards with me, curl up like a baby in your arms, and scream at the top of her lungs whenever Slider approaches.

We think Slider has a crush. He takes after dad and can't resist the red heads. The new cat takes after Sallie and plays hard to get.

We've been calling her Red or Napoleon as temporary names. Red for the obvious reasons of it being an easy word to utter and she has red hair. Napoleon because she's so small and pissed at Slider that we believe she has a Napoleon complex.

Crash could care less about the new cat. There have been a few times where she sort of stares at it for a moment and then gives up.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthdays and Scooters

I always have the toughest conundrum on my birthday. See, I love having presents, but I hate birthday song. Its always a delicate battle between which of the two affect me more. Obviously, if I don't get the song sang to me, there's less of a chance for presents. However, everytime I hear that song, even when its not for me, every nerve attached to my spin screams with a burning pain and my mouth forgets how to smile politely and I get a stone cold frown.

I know, its such a happy song.

The only person that can get away with it is Grandma. Somehow she can call at 6:30 in the morning singing that song and I'm alright with it. This morning, she assumed that since I didn't answer I must have walked to the cathedral for the 9 A.M. service. Bless that woman for thinking so highly of me.

It was a good birthday. Lindsay came in town. We had drinks, pizza, Bachlorettes, and Cat, Jump! I've also discovered that I'm indeed a quarter of a century old. Saturday night, the bands didn't start until about 10 and I was already tired. By the time Cat, Jump! (Japanese Bat Bomb) got on stage I couldn't function. I was so tired I just wanted to sit in the background and not be bothered by anyone. If I wasn't going to get to go to sleep, I was going to enjoy the music in solitude. This didn't fly well with most the people there and by the end of the night I was angry and most everyone else was.

So you know how I told you about people feeling free to talk to me on the scooter at stoplights?

Well apparently that works both ways. A few days ago this skinny white kid cut me off and then jumped into the next lane. Normally in my self contained car environment I scream a few explictives and tailgate him for a quarter of a mile, but on a scooter I don't have any power. Honking the horn is actually worse than doing nothing.

So I didn't scream initially. Instead, we ended up right next to each other at a stop light and he had his windows down.

Now, I don't know where the rage came from and why I couldn't sensor myself, but this is what came out: "Hey, how would you feel if you got your ass kicked by a guy on a scooter?"

The skinny SLU student looked scarred, rolled his window up, and then didn't look toward my side of the car until the light turned green and he gunned it.

I figured I took all of his thunder by pointing out that yes, I was on a scooter, and yes, I could kick his ass. He wanting to leave his self respect intact, went for the flee option.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

OM-freakin'-G Michael Jackson was the best

A forest burns at a million degrees and despite the best efforts of firefighters they can't fight it back. The smoke is thick enough to make the forest dissapear behind the firefighters desperate and pathetic attempt to smother the flames with the thousands of gallons of water.

...and no one tells us about it.

The newspaper industry is in a perpetual downward spiral and I blame it on big business.

When papers first started, the eccentric billionaires that started them didn't care if they made money. It was about keeping people in check, pushing your own beliefs, and at least the good ones, print with intregrity. Newspapers used to have the power to bring down politcal machines or build heroes like Limberg.

If not for wire services like the associated press, we would have no news. The sad thing is, its easy to ignore the "Taliban captures British soldiers" headlines because featured on the home page of CNN is yet another Michael Jackson article, or the reprint of an unsolved mystery from 50 years ago, or tracking Michelle Obama's slave roots.

Where were the papers to call the Bush administration out on all of the ignorance and corruption or in that fact, besides Fox News attempts, no one has tried to dig up dirt on Obama. Every news station has the exact same headlines because they all pull from the same wires.

Then there are people like Sallie that believe journalism still has a place. They crave to change the world, but like everything else that is messed up in the world, some rich guy at some point bought up a ton of newspapers, formed a company, and now runs it like a business rather than an artform. An overpaid board of rich powerful people see numbers and charts and decide that yes, the paper can do without reporters and editors.

Its the same for every business actually. Let's not kid ourselves, the economy isn't getting any better. These big companies aren't making as much as they were before 2001, and they continue to cut support staff perpetuating the cycle.

If it were a real company that wasn't ran by greed, there would be stockpiles of money to survive an economy like this. Instead, that board of rich guys gave themselves millions of dollars in bonuses for the past decade instead of saving that money and keeping their staff during these hard economic times. Its becoming impossible to have any sort of company loyalty.

After the forest fire, after the destruction, loss of hope, in the burning embers is a sprout. The ashes fertilize the ground and the trees grow back stronger, more resistant to nature's disasters.

Why won't the companies just let things burn and keep people on? That company will be much stronger once this economy does actually turn around because it will have a population willing to go to war for it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Romantic Comedy Stars

Sallie and I were talking about this tonight. The only thing I miss about being a single guy is I can’t be the loner underdog hero chasing the woman of his dreams anymore. It’s a romantic concept right? Novels, songs, and movies are almost exclusively written about that person, whether man or woman. It’s a story that sells because we can all tell our own personal version of that story.

There’s the catch 22 though. That story is romantic unless you are that loner underdog hero chasing the woman of your dreams, because when you are him, life seems miserable. You might as well be a guy crying on a Smith’s record sleeve while Morrissey sings about never ending depression.

The single game is a bunch of alcohol induced random encounters just like cold sharp space rocks colliding, leaving pieces of them behind. When you’re there, you hope to Christ that you ram into another cold lonely asteroid and lock up. For the most part, the Sun’s gravitational pull just spins you around with the millions of other cold space rocks aimlessly wandering around space.

It’s strange being one of the few monogamous animals on the planet. Think about all the mental armor we have to wear to endure the rejection and games of “one partner” when other animals merely work as a group and only mate to procreate. That’s almost a weirder concept. We are so removed from animal instinct that we lock animals into cages to observe them as a strange beast when only a few thousand years ago we weren’t different. We have a psyche that needs to bond on an unattainably deep level. Think about the person you love. Now try to think about that same “love” as only a matter of procreation. Delete the dating process. Delete the emotional bond. Delete the pain that cuts so deep only someone that you truly love as a human can cause it.

All of it wouldn’t exist. Things would be simpler. Ninety percent of all the reasons you ever feel depressed is gone. You either mate or you don’t. If you don’t, there’s another mating season just around the corner.

Marriage has caused my writing to suffer. There used to be too many nights were I would come home after the awful process of dating beyond high school (High school is the last you can accurately describe a date with an adjective like “cute”) and just be fed up with the world. I would come home after five awkward beers with a girl, proving that real romance was dead, and chug another beer while I tapped out 30 of the most love bitter pages I could. (Can’t wait for my first novel right? It’s coming, trust me.) I treated life like I was the divorced amputated heart of love and it was turning gangrene long before the surgery. I started thinking I’d be alone when I was fifty. I would be one of those pompous, over-rated hermit writers like Salinger. (Just for the record, Salinger can never be over-rated. The man is great. Just read the short story “For Esme: With Love and Squalor. You’ll fall in love. He is however, somewhat of a hermit.)

I knew who I was going to marry. It was going to be this tattooed riot girl that was against marriage. We would only get married to stick it to the government and get their tax break.

Then Sallie came along and flipped everything upside down. It only took three beers and the next thing I knew, I was no longer the single underdog guy. I was a blissful walking cliché. I was another human connecting to that deep emotional bond. It was scary. I didn’t want to be that. I wanted to take on the man and be studied like an animal. Instead I bought collared shirts and got hired by a large company. The thing is, I don’t care. I’m happy. I wish I could write with the vigor I once had, but I remember that guy. That guy settled . That guy lived with four other guys just to have cheap rent. That guy didn’t do barbeques or family events. Even though I completely feel out of my element at all the aforementioned events, I can do them now because I know on the way home I’ll be sharing a car with someone who will spend the first fifteen minutes making fun of how awful it was and then crank up the Foo Fighters and sing at the top of her lungs with me.

“Everyone’s their own star of their romantic comedy, but they’re full of sh*t.” Even though Hank Moody is a fictional character, he’s onto something here. We all know how our story should end but we have trouble living in the middle of our movie. We want the attraction and the romance, not the hour of heartbreak, tears, and betrayal you have to go through to get there.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bellefontaine is the Place to Be

I had a dream last night that I ran against Mayor Marty Rudloff (who’s been mayor since I can remember) in Bellefontaine Neighbors, my old neighborhood. It’s created this insane nostalgia for the place I used to ride my bike around. Now, most people know it as the place you might get shot… or at least your bike will get stolen.

I’ve spent the past hour or so following some of the major streets on Google Maps and looking at their website to see what’s still around, and the patch of Bellefontaine that seems to still exist from my memory has dare I say… made me really want to live there again.

I remember going to Rinderer’s Drug Store or Riverview Dairy every weekend with the couple of dollars I could scrap up from couch cushions and my aunt Laura’s basement and buying 10 cent Laffy Taffys. I’d get a paper bag with something like 30 pieces of candy and then ride my bike up to my cousin Ryan’s house where we would go on a sugar bender and play Resident Evil on Playstation 1 until 2 a.m. when my uncle Tom would bring home malts from Crown Candy.

Then there are those memories of rollerblading up to St. Jerome’s parking lot to play the best street hockey the town had to offer. My friends Jason, Mike, and I would skate for hours ignoring the soreness in my back.

What about the Mayor’s Cup tournament where St. Jerome took on St. Pius? It was 35 degrees. The soccer ball stung like a bullet every time it hit bare skin and St. Pius has a red haired kid named Mike that towered over everyone and kicked the ball like a sixth grader. We lost, but we still got a trophy from the Mayor and that is still the only event that’s been televised on cable television that I was part of the cast. If I remember correctly, my uncle Tom recorded it and we soon found that I was picking my nose in one scene.

Then there was the pool that was already a pretty amazing sized outdoor/indoor facility, but soon a children’s area and waterslide were added. I remember having my long flowing Kurt Cobain hair and getting my first kiss from Shelley. Grandpa used to swim underwater like a whale, back and forth, without every needing a breath. No matter how hard we tried Ryan, Jake, and I just couldn’t keep up.

Halloween meant grabbing pillow cases because you were about to embark on a four hour collect-a-thon ending at the school janitors house who always had his grill going. Enjoy a free hot dog while looking onto his gruesome scene of an old refrigerator with plastic body parts filling the shelves. Then that weekend, you’d huff it up to City Hall for the best 25 minutes haunted hayride you could find.

There was soccer practice running hill drills at Tanglewood Park. There were the train tracks, the creeks, the child made paths that took us hours from our parents and brought us into a world we owned. It was still ok to drink hose water. You played in corn fields. Playgrounds were overrun with families. Sidewalks were filled with bikes and roller blades.

And then St. Charles happened.

People started moving away. The K-Mart and Grandpa Pigeons went out of business. The huge confederation of Catholic Churches and schools started dying one by one. It was no longer alright to roam the streets after dark. Bikes were getting stolen out of garages. Finally my street seemed to be the only place still intact. All of our friends were moving to St. Charles and instead of riding our bikes and knocking on the door we had to make dates for our parents to ferry us out to St. Charles.

I was looking on Bellefontaine’s site to see what remained.

Rinderer’s and Riverview Dairy are still kicking. Thank god for that.

The church section of the site is pretty empty. St. Jerome, Good Console, St. Pius, St. Sebastian, and St. Catherine are no longer listed.

I followed Google maps along one of my normal bike paths and just miss the simpler time. Bellefountaine is what a suburb should be. A tight-knit small city. It was designed to be traveled by foot unlike St. Charles, O’Fallon, and Wentzville where it’s a 20 minute drive to the nearest business or friend’s house and you have to navigate hundreds of lights in between.

Mom and pop shops still occupy the few strip malls in the town instead of Wal Mart, Sam’s, and E.B.Games on every corner.

You couldn’t beat the malls. Jamestown had everything you needed and with its several 1980s inspired fountains that looked nice and gave the mall personality. Northwest Plaza was this monstrous villa of commerce with the best Tilt I still have ever seen. Now if more than 10 stores exist in either, I’d be surprised. Mills Mall and MidRivers Mall both look as stagnant as the similar looking houses surrounding them.

I don't know if I actually miss Bellefontaine or just how life was then.

I miss the community. Every now and then I get this vision of spinning upside down on one of those caged ferris wheels. I’m looking down into the parking lot of city hall where thousands of people manage to come together as a community. Parents drink beers near the pavilion talking about how great the Blues are going to be and anticipating the upcoming school year. Kids are running in between parents, drooling over the pinball machines that are being raffled off. Jake is spending all of his money below trying to win that sexy girl poster. I look to the right of me and Ryan laughs hysterically as the cage flips back around and all the lights and people start turning to a streaked blur until I come back to reality. But in that moment, I’m happy. Truly happy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two weeks of pedding across the city

For those of you getting Moped envy, (Allyn) let me share with you some of the ridiculous parts of driving one of these.

First off, at work there is a stoplight to let you out of the garage. This stop light works on a sort of pressure plate. My moped isn't heavy enough to set this pressure plate off. I have to park, get off the moped, walk over to the crosswalk button, run back to the moped, knock the kickstand up, and drive off while all the angry cars stuck at the light scoff at me.

Second, because I'm not in a car people use it as an open forum to talk to me.

First time: "Dude where's your helmet?" I explained the nice apparent surfer that I just got the moped and haven't been able to purchase a helmet yet.

Second time: "Where'd you get that? I aint seem one of them before. That's neat." I answered him nicely, but then noticed that next to me was parked another moped, driving down the other lane was a moped, and two blocks from where we were was a moped dealership. I want to ask him, "How do you drive with your eyes closed?"

Third time: "Aye, you hear Michael Jackson is dead?" Well yes, and it's sad, but just because I don't have a steel frame around me that means we should converse at this stop light.

Then, not only do people talk to you, but those arseholes that pump their music beyond sane decibels and annoy the hell out of you in the car. Well its much worse when you're on a moped. When you give the person the dirty eye, they smile and turn it up.

I like the moped so far, but other people have no respect for 49ccs of raw power.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Royal Rumbles and Mopeds

I've been riding the moped for about a week now and I have to say it usually puts me in a pretty good mood before work. I guess its just the pure touch of the sun to my skin that I honestly don't ever get anymore.

Monday, the first day I had to ride the moped to work, obviously has to be pouring ran from the heavens. I didn't think it was going to be so bad, so I threw on an extra jacket and took off. Turns out, even when only going 35-40 mph, rain feels like piercing needles when it hits your eyes. The jacket did nothing except soak water into my work shirt. All day long, I was wet.

Tuesday: I woke up a bit earlier to check the weather situation. I figure if its really bad I can walk to work with an umbrella and at least not be wet all day. The weather was cloudy, but not really doing much. So I sat down and had a big bowl of Cheerios and worked out. I hopped on the moped, got around the corner, and saw a bolt of lightning streak across the sky. Rain fell as one giant wall on me and again I ended up being soaked for most of the day. At least this time I wore sunglasses to protect my eyes.

The rest of the week went smoothly. It was a little hot at times, but didn't feel like it as long as I was in motion. I think the moped will work out.

Tonight I hosted the Royal Rumble BBQ. Basically a bunch of us got together for BBQ and watching old late 80s early 90s WWF Royal Rumbles. We screamed at the screen, cheered for our favorites, and made fun of some of the horrible things the WWF tried to pull. All in all I think it was successful. At least the two Hickles passing out during the events means it was at least somewhat successful. I guess we'll have to see how they feel when they wake up in the morning.

As for me, I booted everyone out around 11:30, cleaned up all the party, cleaned myself, and logged onto the internet for the first time today to give everyone this, my gift, my blog.

Anyway, its time to go to bed now.

Peace, love, and empathy

Monday, June 15, 2009

Surviving the Pit

It was 5pm when I pulled into the muddy Pop’s parking lot. The sun was hanging in the sky with about 2 hours of sunlight left creating a gorgeous silhouette of the outdoor stage.

I stared at my ticket asking myself if this was going to be worth it. Rancid wasn’t even the headliner. Either way, I stepped out of the car and entered the venue by myself taking a comfortable position stage center about four people back.

The last time I saw Rancid was my birthday two years earlier at one of the last Mississippi Nights shows I was to see. Last year I was supposed to see them again in mid-June in Myrtle Beach, but somehow getting back to St. Louis became priority and I sold my ticket on eBay so we could take off.

I didn’t know how long of a wait I had before the Riverboat Gamblers took the stage, but my favorite pastime is picking people out of the crowd.

At every concert there are several types of people:

-Joe Beer/Smoke- This person either slams 15 beers in the middle of the crowd and gets pissed once the music starts and they spill everywhere or they smoke like a chimney making it impossible to breath in the close quarters. Usually scream “Whew!” a lot.

-Fat and or tall guy- No matter how tall you are, a guy four inches taller always ends up in front of you. Then to the side there is always the overweight guy that starts sweating before the show and will inevitably want to try to crowd surf, killing people in his wake.

-Shirtless guy- Opposite of you from the fat guy is the guy that thinks its cool that he takes off his shirt to show off his freshly shaved chest and trendy Coy Fish/Tribal/Kanji tattoos. No matter how hard you try to get away, this guy always comes back to you like a magnet.

-The “I’m hardcore” posers- These people are the ones that come to punk shows with The Clash t-shirts, sleeveless jean jackets with 14,000 anti-authority/obscure band patches, and talks about how they liked the band before they sold out and want to hear nothing but songs from their first cassette tape that only 15 people had.

-Highschool person- Then there’s always that one person that you went to high-school with that you didn’t really know, but they always want to come up and relive memories that you didn’t have together.

So how long was my wait? About two hours.
With these people all around me how long did it feel? Like an eternity.

The Riverboat Gamblers came on around 7pm and really surprised me at how great they were live. I made a mental note to check out some of their music later on.

Finally Rancid came on stage and blew… my… friggin’… mind.
Burning through songs that covered their entire 20 year catalogue, the ground became an ever changing organism. Strangers bounced off each other, hugged, sang, and jumped up and down without any weirdness. It was natural.

After every song I thought to myself, “I’m probably too old from this. I should get out.” Then Rancid would pull me back in with another song.

I saw comrades in the mosh pit leave one by one until by the end there were only about a half dozen of the original punks dancing around like idiots. I felt proud that even though I have a bum knee and am 24 years old I can still outlast most 16 year olds in the mosh pit. It was a sense of pride to come home that night with ears ringing and bruises forming singing with my hoarse voice “Ruby ruby ruby ruby soho…”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scooting into Greatness

I haven't really updated since the tragic arm hair burning of last week, but trust me much has happened.

A summarized version of what we've gone through in 1.5 weeks

by Dan Story

Sallie's job decided to terminate everyone's contracts and make them reapply for the same job they already have. After causing much unnecessary stress among all the employees (and a much unnecessary drinking problem among most of them) they had their re-interviews, and after much evidence to say Sallie was safe, she woke up early on Monday to drive 30 minutes to immediately be told she was being laid off. After biting her tongue and not saying what she really wanted to (and what I wished she would've said) she left with most of her self respect in tact, only telling them they should've called to save her the trip.

So, for the second time in a year, Sallie lost her job. She handled it much better this time and we knew we could survive on my salary for a while.

On Tuesday, thanks to Lacy, Sallie had an interview with America Equity Mortgage. It went well.

On Wednesday, she had an interview with the VP.

On Thursday, she woke up early, getting me to work late, to take a drug test. A few hours later, AEM called her back hiring her. For the first time in a year we will have insurance again.

Against all odds, Sallie Hickle was laid off in the worst economy since the Great Depression and was able to get a job paying similar rates within a few days. Could this be a sign of the economy getting better, or the absolute kick-ass abilities of Saldog.

We also bought a Mo-Ped today so I have transportation come Monday. Flashback to Myrtle Beach all the way. It was a steal.

Neil and my website ( seems to be gaining new fans everyday. Its an exciting time to have an opinion on the internet that people care about. (Or at least are entertained by) Sallie's only complaint is that I need an editor. I married one, but don't use her. It a deadly mixture of laziness and time constraints.

I've also made a couple posts to Lindsay's blog. Its pretty awesome. Its about songs and what they mean to you. Throw a post her way and she will put in on the internet if its worth it.

Other than that, we are doing pretty great right now. Still wish we had more free time in the week. Sometimes I think France has it right with the 35 hour workweek. I want more free time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cancelling a credit card and burning your hair off

About a year ago I was offered a credit card with a ridiculous credit line and 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months. They automatically sign you up for credit protection (important for modern day theft) and a monthly statement with my credit score.

What they didn't tell me is that the credit protection costs $30 and the credit score costs $5 a month.

I tried canceling this after we left Myrtle Beach because obviously, no job, we don't need to pay for this crap.

After 15 minutes of convincing the people in charge of the credit score thingy that I didn't in fact need to know my credit score monthly. (And didn't press the fact that I never once got a statement) They finally canceled it and I asked for them to also cancel the credit protection only to be informed that I would have to surf another phone menu to get to a different department.

I got to the other department... and damn they're good. I nice gentleman convinced me to hang onto the protection for 3 months because I qualified for 3 months, no payments, no interest since I was unemployed and moved. Despite the fact that we can now map the human genome, somehow this Ace said that there was no way to cancel the credit protection automatically once the 3 months were up.

For three months I sat dormant and happy.

The statements came the past few months and we didn't look as closely as we should have at them. Its a decent sized balance, so we've just been paying it off as much as we can.

Sallie looked at this one and realized that they were now charging us $50 a month for credit protection. Essentially, in the past few months, we paid them $150 for nothing.

I called this morning to cancel. This is how that went.

"I need to cancel the credit protection."
"Why would you want to do that?"
"Because you're charging me $50 a month for something that I don't need."
"Do you realize that this protects your life. If you have hospital visits, unemployment, accidents..."
"Yeah yeah, that's great and all, but I don't need it."
"It also protects you from divorce, marriage, and children."
"Please, I don't need it. (And why do I need protection against marriage and children?)"
"I see here that you're due for a credit holiday. Should I go ahead and activate that for you."
"I DON'T WANT A FREAKING CREDIT HOLIDAY... please lady, I'm begging you, I have to go to work soon"
"I really think you should activate it. You would get one month no minimum balance due, in these rough economic..."
"I want to curse you right now... just cancel it."
"Alright, your cancellation number is..."

I hate credit cards and financial institutions for this very reason. It's like living in the DMV. There's always a form and 15 people to talk to before anything gets done.

The burning the hair off part is a much shorter story.

I bought cheap charcoal a week ago for a BBQ. I figured I would mix it in with the good stuff, spread it out a little. Well I got lazy and went full on for the cheap stuff.

I don't know if it was infused with gas and lighter fluid or if its the most pure charcoal ever created, but the flame was hanging 4 feet above the grill.

I shut the lid, figuring the fire will smother itself a bit. When I returned with hot dogs and opened the lid, a back draft the size of my apartment building rose into the air and burned all the hair off one of my arms. So now I'm the freak with hair on one arm.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The inevitable Vacation Blog

Thursday May 21
I left work with as little drama as possible, however Sallie’s inherited my horrible allergies whereas I’ve sort of grown out of the worst of mine.

This highway looks so much like the hundreds of highways I’ve burned 80 mph on before. There are two lanes, where a semi-truck seemingly is always blocking both lanes, and the same green blurs of trees are the scenery on either side. Sallie had a bad day and we listen to the Foo Fighters and Hole in between life complaints eventually stopping at a Subway to get dinner. Life seems so much better on a full stomach.

Our destination, Paducah Kentucky, seems to take no time after driving back and forth from Myrtle Beach to St. Louis. I could’ve made it to Memphis. Paducah has the welcoming stench of dead fish as we drive over the Ohio River. The Ohio River into Louisville never smelled this bad.

Friday May 22, 2009

After a quick complimentary breakfast of biscuits and gravy and orange juice we get on the road around 8. We drive for a good 8 hours only stopping for our second helping of Subway (which was the worst ever)

We stop for groceries. It official, I universally hate every Wal Mart.

A sign, Big Creek Cabin rentals are only 2 miles away. We drive up a gravel road. This might as well be a car graveyard. Every decade and make is represented. The earth is reclaiming the hunks of metal and plastic. Like a treasure, you would have to dig to find the vehicals.

We weren’t briefed on the crazy mountain road we were forced to take. There is a detour. We’re taking hairpin turns whilst driving up a 30 degree angle. At one point I swear we are upside down. How’s this even possible. To make things more treacherous we pass several large cars on this thin road. They have nothing to worry about. They know the road and aren’t on the cliff side of it. One mistake and we go rolling for hours.

The cabin is literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom, well manicured place. Can’t beat the $135 a weekend price tag on this rental. I notice that things are really quiet. This could prove to be a problem for sleeping. I might have to have Sallie get drunk and yell profanities outside my bedroom window at bar time so I can fall asleep.

My head is still sunburned from paintball and peeling. It itches. My allergies are also making a comeback. This old friend hadn’t affected me yet this year, but the mountain air is doing it. My eyes swell up. To ease my pain, I drink beer and enter the hot tub.

By the time I go to bed my eyes have swollen shut. I have to swear to Sallie that I’m not drunk. I go to bed.

Saturday May 23 2009

I hear everyone wake up. I know I’m up, but I can’t see anything. My eyes are swollen shut and still goopy. I lay in bed for another 45 minutes, conscious, but hardly awake.

Eventually I pry my eyes open, grab a hot cup of coffee. I’m surprised at how good Scnhucks brand coffee tastes. I make a mental note to check out the 5lb, $5 can over the $10, 1lb bag I normally get.

We embark on a journey right over a mountain and into Gaitlinburg, Tennessee. I didn’t realize there was a popular mountain getaway in Tennessee. Thousands of people wander up and down the strip perusing swords and air brushed art from the shops. Essentially it looks like the exact strip from Myrtle Beach. Does one company come in and create these tourist strips? And why is it always a strip? Wouldn’t it make more sense to create a small grid instead of forcing overweight vacationing tourists to walk from one side to the other?

We drive through Gaitlinburg after about 35 minutes of sitting in traffic and drive up the mountain. We randomly pick a “quiet walkway” to hike through the woods. We see two overweight people wandering off the trail covered in sweat, so we expect a good walk. We ascend a particularly steep hill, looking to get a good view point, instead we wander into something out of the Blair Witch Project.

There was a cemetery staring at us once we came over the top. Most the tombstones were more than 100 years old and in surprisingly good shape. We pondered how the bodies were dragged up here or if there were bodies at all. Then we stumbled across a six year old girl named “Sara Jane.” It was like some sort of dark omen. Instead of running as fast as we could out of the mountaintop cemetery, Sallie snapped a few pictures.

We attempted a few side paths, but they all ended quickly. We jumped back in the car and drove further up the mountain, eventually coming to a visitors center entrance to the Appalachian Trail, 5,000 feet up. Biker’s and disgusting overweight Americans hung out at the visitor’s center, not daring to hit the trail, merely feeling accomplished getting to this point in their car.

We hit the trail, constantly ascending the mountain for a good mile and a half. I’d never exerted myself at these altitudes, so mixed with my allergy ridden lungs, I was having a mildly difficult time. We stopped to have lunch on a rock, where I realized I forgot to pack something. I took scraps from everyone else and eventually assembled enough calories for a “meal.”

The views were amazing, we exchanged various “difficult times” stories including the recent paintball trip and leave the mountain back through Gaitlinburg, stopping at a local winery where a grape that grows nowhere else, grows in the mountain. We then do, by far, the most “old person” thing I’ve ever done. We went to a store specializing in preserves, jams, and jellys.

The drive home was interesting. John’s GPS system brought us through the most dangerous, one lane, mountain road… ever. I did the opposite of relax on this vacation. Instead my body tensed up every hairpin turn, everytime a car came from the other direction, everytime I could see the hundred foot fall off the side of my car. We did this for an hour. By the time we got back to the cabin, I needed a beer. Everyone needed a drink. The boys polished off three cases of beer. Girls several bottles of wine. We tried to cram 6 people in a 2 person hot tub.

I passed out within moments of getting into bed.

Sunday May 25, 2009

Lay around most the morning catching up on some writing. We take off for white water rafting shortly after breakfast.

Again, that mountain pass road tenses every little muscle in my body. I hate this. Even though I do though, I still want to move to Colorado.

We hit the freezing river with our guide Bob. He’s a retired teacher/economist/river enthusiast. He seems to be the only person that isn’t a native to the mountain.

The river is built on several class 3 and 4 rapids. The most I’d ever done was class 1 and 2 with Allyn and Becca in Salt Lake City.

We all took turns riding what Bob called “The Bull.” Essentially, you sat in the front of the raft and watched the rapid swallow you. The river took an hour and a half, but felt like 30 minutes.

While waiting for our pictures to pop up, a storm moved in and we had to drive the treacherous mountain pass while it rained down on us.

John, Gabe, and I lounged around the cabin for most the rest of the day. I mean Con Air came on TV. We couldn’t pass that up right?

Monday May 26, 2009

The long drive home.

I’m tired of driving.

We got an oil change two weeks ago and are only 600 miles shy of needing a new one.

I also forgot it’s Memorial Day weekend which means that the police force is out. I’m completely convinced that southern Illinois is nothing but one giant speed trap. I counted 26 police cars on the 150 mile stretch we drove, 19 of which pulled people over.

We are finally home and have to return to work tomorrow. I’m not ready for it, but at least the next weekend is only 4 days away. Everyone leave me alone that weekend. It’s mine. I will contact you if I want you in it. Thank you.