With my hand on the wheel and my brain in neutral . . .

Archive for July, 2014

My Friend’s Story

Now and then a friend of mine tells this story from his youth, and every time it gets the laughs at exactly the same place. Maybe us all having a few beers has something to do with it, but at any rate, it goes like this:

“One night, when my friends and I were 16 years old and had newly-minted driver’s licenses, one guy in the group of us that hung out together said he could drive through Dead Man’s Curve at twice the posted speed limit.”   (There’s your first clue that teenage foolishness awaits: the cliché but true name of the piece of road, Dead Man’s Curve.) “After a few boasts and insults were exchanged, it became a bet. A few dollars were laid out, and then me with my big mouth said, ‘Wait a minute. We can all stand there and watch you go through the curve real fast, but how are we going to be able to tell that you’re actually going twice the posted limit?’

“He said to me, ‘Well . . . I’ll tell you what: since YOU think I can’t make it through Dead Man’s Curve that fast, YOU can sit next to me and keep your eye on the speedometer . . .’”

There it is, the point where people bust out laughing, even bending over and losing their breath. When the laughter begins to die down, often he’s able to revive it with:

“When I woke up in the hospital . . .”

Max and Bugs

Bugs and Max

Bugs and Max

Recently I did a little dog-sitting while some friends went out of town for the weekend. Since the dogs know me fairly well and they live close by on the next pier since (I happen to live on a boat in a marina), I thought taking care of them would be rather easy.   Uh-huh. I might be able to explain my actual experience in just one word: Schnauzers.

The two dogs have very different personalities. Max, a.k.a. Max-amillion, is aptly named because he has more energy than any living creature ought to. His other defining characteristic gave rise to his only other nickname, Attention Slut. If a human is in his presence, Max will be petted and rubbed and scratched.   He’s also very curious, always closely watching what you’re doing as if he’s supervising. His owner has told me how the dog will watch him for hours working on a motorcycle engine, looking at all the parts and occasionally making eye contact to telepathically ask, “Is this one of those new McCallister connectors I’ve read about?” If and when he finally gets bored with watching, before he wanders off he’ll give one last look at the partial assembly of engine parts, give a quick nuzzle to his pet old man – the equivalent of a pat on the back – and then project the thought, like a senior surgeon, “Okay, Dude, you seem to have it under control. Go ahead and ‘close it up’.”

Bugs, a.k.a. Bugaboo, a.k.a. Bugzilla, is pretty much the opposite.   Older than Max, he doesn’t move around nearly as much. In fact, he hardly moves at all. But just show him the leash and he rockets to the boat’s toerail near the finger pier.   He doesn’t expect to go for a walk; no, in his mind he’s about to go hunting. Guess what he loves to hunt? Bugs. Yep, Bugs hunts bugs.   Exactly what kind we don’t know, but that little fuzzy face finds food-like items in any small patch of grass. Just like another Schnauzer I used to know, I find myself calling him “Goat-Dog” and “Chupacabra.”

Okay, so every couple of hours I’d walk these two, but they weren’t so much walks as they were drags: Max would drag me by one arm – like a little tug steadily towing a much bigger ship – and I would drag Bugs. This is when I discovered that although Bugs has the reputation for being laid-back and lazy, what he is, in truth, is stubborn. You know that cliché about looking up a word in the dictionary and finding a picture of the person you’re talking about?   BUGS is the character who STARTED all of that with the word “stubborn”!

From patch of shade to patch of shade we’d go, Max dragging us both, my arms being the only stretch-able part of the chain. Max was always exploring, moving in a wide arc, just like a boat swinging on an anchor rode. And little ol’ bugs just loved, loved, lovvved to play the anchor. He’d plant his little feet, lock his little legs, and stiffen his little body, and just he didn’t care that his body harness was getting pulled tight over his head. I swear I saw that with the little living tractor Max straining on one end of the leash and Bugs planting his feet like that at the other end, the body harness was slowly lifting Bug’s back feet off the ground, tipping him forward. Well, even if we didn’t cover a lot of ground together, at least the little buggers got plenty of isometric exercise!

Once, stubborn Bugs was looking up into my eyes, watching me, as he slowly tucked his right forward paw, slowly rolled over his shoulder on to his back, and then, upside-down but still looking at me in the eye, did just ONE twitch to scratch his back in the grass. ONE twitch, still looking at me. In dog body language, I believe that means, “You’re not my mama; you’re not my daddy.   You want to go somewhere? Drag my furry ass!”

Over the whole weekend, I couldn’t get that dog more than 50 yards from his home.   I left him on the boat, once, so I could give Max a good walk. He eagerly walked off the marina, down the road, and over the hill, excitedly checking pee-mail everywhere along the way. When we returned, Bugs watched us come aboard, but he moved only his eyes: he didn’t even lift his head!

Saturday night I slept on their boat, just to keep the canines company.   Their boat is big enough to have an actual bed instead of just bunks, so I spread my summer-weight sleeping bag there.   I waited, though, until Max was “safely” asleep on the midships settee. I quietly went aft, silently disrobed, and without a sound crawled onto the bed. Before I could lay my head down, Max was there, nuzzling under my hand. “Pet me! Pet me!   Pet me in your sleep!”

Bugs joined us, too. He went right up to the head of the bead and plopped himself on a regular-size pillow, near my head. Sometime during the night I woke to the sound of panting in my ear. I was about to push him away, but then I drowsily thought, hey, it’s been awhile since I’ve heard any panting in bed, so what the hell, this was close enough. Eh, I’ll take it!

Overall, my time with the dogs went well, almost without incident. Just before “the boys” and I were going to drive to pick up their parents, while I was in the shower, lazy, laid-back, snoozy-bloodhound-in-a-Schnauzer’s-body BUGS jumped off the boat and trotted down the dock. Neither dog ever gets off the boat without permission, even when they’re excited by other dogs on the pier or ducks in the water. Bugs probably didn’t want to go anywhere in particular: he just wanted to let me know who was in charge. (“You’re not my mama; you’re not my daddy. You are not the boss of me.”) A half-dozen marina people who knew him followed him and caught up to him in the parking lot. A young girl who didn’t know Bugs was there, petting him, and, as I approached, shoeless on the gravel, she asked, “Does anybody know who’s he is?”

I said, “He’s mine! Well, sort of – I’m watching him.”

Nearby, Jane said, “Well, NOT VERY WELL!”

Okay, Bugs. You did a fine job of making me look irresponsible and making sure half the marina knew about it. Okay, Bugs.   You da’ boss.

After the Escape

After the Escape – “Ya, ya, ya, blah, blah, blah. You’re still not the boss of us!”

These two are fine examples of the Schnauzer breed. Whatever a Schnauzer’s individual personality might be, there’s a lot of it!




2014, Mik Hetu, author of Napism.Info (for people who take their naps “religiously”)

Summer is Here

Summer is here 400

There is a day well into the official, astronomical season when summer truly arrives.  It is no specific day of the calendar, and it is usually a different day for each of us.  It is a day well past the first few hot days, and it always takes us by a calm surprise.  It is the first day we feel the summer season and its connection to all of the summers in our past.

One day last week in the early evening I drove up to Baltimore to see a friend on his boat.  He had returned from a cruise to Mexico and Cuba (he’s a citizen of Great Britain) and had brought his skipjack-style boat back to its birthplace in hopes of finding a new owner interested in local sailing history.  He tied up to a friend’s dock in a creek I knew well but hadn’t been to in quite a while, so for me driving to it was full of reminders of good times from years ago.

Going across the high span of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, from that height, with that late-in-the-day angle of sunlight, the waters of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay beyond appeared remarkably blue (but I knew damned well that close-up the water is much more of a dirty brown!)  The water’s color was set off by the full greens of the bordering trees and grasses, and after I crossed the bridge span a very white egret lazily flew across the road, it’s pure color a contrast, an accent to everything in sight.  Damned if this industrial side of Baltimore didn’t look and feel full of natural life.  In the words of Seals and Croft in their old song Summer Breeze, “July is dressed up and playing her tune . . . “

I pulled off the highway near the decrepit shell of the old Bethlehem Steel factory (that’s the pic above), noticing, in the foreground of the rusting steel structure, quite a variety of green lowland vegetation, all of it seeming especially verdant and lush by comparison to the decaying building.  I drove on, windows down because the AC in my Jeep Wrangler quit working a couple of summers ago.  Different smells flooded over me, washing in through the windows as I passed through patches of shade, a long dip in the road near the brackish water, behind a diesel truck, and over some fresh tar patching.  No one will ever make a perfume to mimic it, but sometimes, just sometimes, hot concrete and tar smells surprisingly good (but only because it revives memories made in hot city weather!)

The simple sights, the familiar smells, the sunshine, the heat, a slight breeze in the trees and over the water and brushing over my tanned body, the feel of my muscles as I relax after a day of physical work, kicking back with old friends . . . ya, summer is here.


2014, Mik Hetu, author of Napism.Info (for people who take their naps “religiously”)

The Painting Pickets Blues

Pickets 400

This past week I painted a deck with something I’ve never used before, Behr’s Deck-Restore. Pouring it out of the 5 gallon can, it was thicker than chocolate syrup! It reminded me of bottom paint for boats, and that stuff reminds me of gooey tar. It seems like an excellent product for protecting wood, but the thickness of it makes for slow, slow painting. Hence, the song that wrote itself as I worked:

I can paint a house, all day long
Ya I can paint a house, all day long
And all day long, I feel like,
I feel like singing a smilin’ song

I can paint a room, all day and all night
Ya I can paint a room, all day and all night
Ya when I paint a room, I feel,
I feel not great, but I feel aaallll-right

I can paint a porch, it’s in the shade
Ya I can paint a porch, it’s in the shade
Ya when I paint a porch,
Oh, lordy, I got it made

I can paint a deck, I can paint a paa-ti-ooh
Ya I can paint a deck, I can paint a paa-ti-ooh
Ya, ‘cause when I’m painting outside,
It helps the time, the time to flow

I can paint a picket
Oh, hell, I can paint a picket
But, but I say, ask me to paint a pack o’ pickets,
And I say, aww, man! Frick it! Frick the pickets! I hate frickin’ pickets! Painting pickets sucks! It’s mind-numbing, dull, dull, dull work! Tedious and slow! I frickin’ hate frickin’ painting frickin’ pickets! Frickin’, schmugger-frussin’, makka-saaly, stoopid, stoopid pickets!
Oh, yaaaa . . .

(As I’ve said many times, if you can’t entertain yourself, you can’t fairly expect anyone else to.)

Tears from a Rock

The Rock

The Rock

I recently saw a Yahoo article that was originally published in the June 27th issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine: “The Drive (and Despair) of The Rock: Dwayne Johnson on His Depression . . .

From the article: “Johnson has the ease and confidence to go with it. He projects a comfort level with success that makes you think things always have been this way and always will be. . . . Which makes it all the more surprising to learn this is the same guy who endured massive upheaval as a child; got into frequent trouble with the law as a teenager; was kicked out of his home at 14; and faced the end of everything he had dreamed about . . . sending him into a crippling tailspin of despair.”

About his depression (of which he has had 3 substantial episodes) The Rock said, “I didn’t want to do a thing . . . I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was crying constantly. Eventually you reach a point where you are all cried out.

I’ve always liked The Rock, but now I admire him.  Most Hollywood stars try to sweep their personal demons behind the curtains, and most men won’t let other people – even their close friends, much less the public – know that their emotions have laid them so low that they’ve cried and cried until they were “all cried out.”  So now, all the many boys and young men and all the women, too, who admire The Rock for his manly-man muscles can know that even iconic strong men can be waylaid by their feelings, and that serious depression can drop like an anvil on anyone, and there’s not a damned thing unmanly about it.

I dare you to go find Dwayne Johnson in some place where there aren’t any cameras and tell him that depression isn’t real and is “all in his head” and he’s a sissy-boy punk for crying and talking about his feelings.  I believe he’s a nice guy and would simply educate you, not hurt you, but go ahead, I dare you, go get in his face and tell him he’s a sissy-boy punk for being depressed, that it’s just a ploy for attention.  Go ahead.


You can read the full article at: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/drive-despair-rock-dwayne-johnson-712689?utm_expid=19303748-58.yUhA-zuPQGqZ-

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