Location. Location. Location.

There are many things to consider when choosing a lot to build a new home. Access to water, gas and electric, distance to the nearest grocery, as well as fire and police protection. But maybe most importantly, how close are the nearest neighbors? For my home, I studied the layout of the new development for days before making my choice. I didn’t want a corner lot, too much traffic. Nor did I want to locate on a through street, same reason.

The final decision came to this: I would have an open field out back, to the east. The house across the street, to the west, would have to be built on the far side due to a creek in front of the property. As to the north side, while there was no active creek, there was a ravine that showed plenty of use from heavy rains. Who would want to build there?

That left the south side to consider. I chose to put my house as far away from that lot as possible and with a natural growth of woods between us, my privacy would be the best it could be while living in a neighborhood. Or so I thought. That was then. This is now.

The ravine on the north was no problem for the new buyer. He simply bought two lots and built on high ground. His house makes mine look like it belongs in a trailer park. He then erects a wooden and wrought iron fence around both his two acres complete with a radio-controlled entrance gate. But he didn’t stop there. Come sundown, his entire estate lights up like the prison yard at the McAlester state pen. I counted sixteen flood lights and probably missed a few. Obviously, this man has ties to the mafia.

My neighbor to the south is a man of few words. He told me his name was Thomas, not Tom, but Thomas. He was out of work at that time, formerly employed by Haliburton and we all know about Haliburton don’t we…hmmmm? His very first task after moving in was to break out the chain saw and fell every tree on his side of the property line thereby reducing the privacy factor by half. He then moves in not one, but two work sheds. Several times a day, I hear the whine of saws, drills, and the bang-bang-bang of hammers, shattering the once peaceful and blessed silence. Pretty sure he’s in the loading pallet business where construction never ends. I began to think of him as Thomas the Train. He never stops. Just keeps on chugging. Oh, did I mention that Thomas now has chickens? And dogs? Four dogs, one of which barks at the moon…all night.

My neighbor across the street seemed okay at first. For starters, he was a beer drinker, enjoyed his suds. Not excessively, no loud parties, no fights, no police cars, just one of your normal good old boy Okies with a little American Indian mixed in. We got along. Chatted at the mail box. Shared stories.

Then came that phone call from his wife that changed everything. Seems the man had come upon a new-born kitten while out on a job somewhere. Would we see after it until he got off work? Now, as most of you know, my wife is a sucker for cats, especially a kitten in dire straits. The neighbors were well aware of this weakness and jumped on it. He shows up with a bundle of fur wrapped in a towel, eyes not yet open, and meowing her little ass off. He has the formula, the eye-dropper feeder, a box, the whole nine yards.

Let me pause here to remind you that my wife already has three bird-killing, hairball spewing, food upchucking, furniture destroying, ferocious freaking felines. Three! Did not want four. So, when Mr. Neighbor to the west fails to show up that evening to collect his new pet, tensions rose. No, that’s not correct. Not tensions plural, my tension rose. Come ten o’clock with no word from across the street, the kitten was personally hand-carried to his doorstep and, much to his surprise and disappointment, placed in the man’s hands. Welcome to my world, jerk.

Relations went downhill from there. We don’t speak. We don’t wave. And that was okay with me. But then spring arrived with warmer temps. People came out of their houses. Doors and windows were opened. Cars were washed in the driveway. Gardens were planted–that sort of thing. That’s when Rush Limbaugh came into the picture.

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Rush. His daily wide-eyed, eye-bulging, spittle-spewing, radio rants leave me shaking my head. I truly believe that if Jesus were to show up on planet earth as a Democrat, Rush would lead the charge to have him crucified.

Mr. Neighbor to the west, on the other hand, adores Rush. I know this because I can hear the broadcast from literally, a hundred yards away. So can the rest of the neighborhood. Every day at air time, weather permitting, Mr. Neighbor turns his radio to the max, lays back on his lawn chair, and works on his tan. Tan? Yes, tan. Did I mention the man is part Indian? His skin is already darker than a Mexican roofer.

Which brings us to yesterday’s scene. My garage doors are open. I need the light to see what the hell I’m doing as I change the oil in my old John Deere lawn tractor when I hear the dreaded theme for the opening of the Rush Limbaugh show. But today, I have a little surprise of my own. I too own a radio, you see. I counter Rush with a full volume blast of Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash.

I hear that train a comin’, comin’ round the bend.

I follow up with the John Deere as I test run the engine, checking for any oil leaks. I tested it for oh, about an hour.

At that point, I shut everything down and listened. Wind blew through the trees, bird’s chirped, once again… the sound of silence. Insert smiley face here.

 

 

Published in: on May 6, 2017 at 9:59 am  Comments (1)  

The SSA in the USA

Here it comes again! Tax time. The dreaded deadline approaches. I started my return yesterday (March 10) to have a little wiggle room if there were problems. Turns out, it was a good move.

I’m lining up the 1099 forms when I notice that I have no such statement from the Social Security Administration. The pittance that I receive from those folks barely covers my bar bill so it’s understandable how they might overlook me. But wanting to take no chance of suffering the wrath of the IRS, I had to come up with something.

I start with the Internet and the SSA web site. Lucky me. Right there in plain sight is the info I need. Seemed easy enough; just sign up as a user and the 1099 I needed would be available for downloading. NOT!

The first section went well–name, SS number, address, etc., but then I get this:

We see you took out a home mortgage in 2016. What was the name of your lender?

Whaaaaaaat? I did no such thing.

(A convenient list was provided with a none-of-the-above box. I checked it.)

Which bank did you use? Another list. None-of-the-above.

Three more insane questions. Three more lists. Three more none-of-the-above’s.

I click NEXT.

We’re sorry but your answers do not match up with our records. You can try again in 24 hours. Goodbye.”

Sweet Baby Jesus. I don’t deserve this.

I take a deep breath to calm my nerves, mixed a spooker* for courage, and dialed the phone number for the SSA.

A recording of course. I listed to the options, chose one I thought might be it, and followed the prompts…or tried to.

“Please say your first name, then spell it. For example, if your first name is Paul, say Paul and then say the letters P A U L.” Obviously this SSA recording was aimed at the language skills of the average six-year-old. Surely I could handle it. Again…NOT.

Warren. W A R R E N.

“Thank you. Now say and spell your last name. For example…

Hey you jerk. I don’t need another example. If I was smart enough to manage with my first name, don’t you think I could repeat it using my last name with some degree of confidence?

But didn’t say that of course, instead, I dutifully swallowed my pride and played along.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t get that. Please repeat.” I closed my eyes, took a long sip from the spooker, and complied.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t get that. Please say your name and then spell it. For Example, if your name is Paul…”

“Okay, one more time you moron and this time pay attention.” I enunciated my name and letters with all the clarity and diction that an Okie can possibly muster, speaking in the slow deep resonant tones of a professional radio broadcaster. W I L L….

Then…silence. Dead air. No, I’m sorry, nothing. “Hellooo, Mr. Recording. Are you with me?”

No reply, not even a dial tone. I hung up. Mixed another spooker.

One more shot at it. I call the local SSA office. Got the menu, pushed the number for a live person, watched out the window long enough for the dandelions grow another inch, when…”How may I help you?”

I went through my sad tale, including the bit about me taking out a false mortgage and locking me out. The guy laughs, “Yeah, that recording does that a lot.”

Please, God, give me strength.

Next the guy runs me through an interrogation worthy of men wearing black hoods and wielding hot branding irons.

What is your mother’s full maiden name? What is your Father’s full name? What city were you born? Residence, zip code, bank of deposit for that pittance you receive?

I aced the test. The guy promises to send me a 1099 in the mail. “It’ll be a few days.”

“Dude, you’re looking at it right? Can’t you just tell me the benefits amount in Box 5 and I can finish my taxes without fear of penalty and SWAT teams running around in my yard?”

“I’m sorry. I can’t do that.”

Keep in mind this guy knows every detail of my life since birth; first date, when I lost my virginity, the names of the cats, including what I had for breakfast, and he can’t divulge the dollar amount on a stupid 1099 that his agency produced?

Cleary, it was time for another run to the liquor store.

 

*Spooker: An alcoholic beverage of any kind, usually a shot of whisky with a splash of branch water.

 

Published in: on March 11, 2017 at 11:20 am  Comments (2)  

Dark Thirty?

I admit it. I screwed up. Write it off to senility, dementia, or simply old age, I didn’t pay the electric bill. Can’t blame it on the Post Office. I got it and remember it well. The Amount Due sent me into arterial fibrillation. Blood pressure jumped. Might have peed a little too. I am all electric and when the temps plummet, the bill skyrockets. Following a friend’s suggestion, I keep a log chain around the meter just to hold it in place.

Wasn’t aware of the problem until I receive another bill, this one with an attachment.

OVER DUE. SERVICE WILL BE DISCONNECTED ON THE DATE SHOWN.

Failure to pay will result in a $50 reconnect.

Whaaaat??

I check my on-line banking record. Uh oh. Somehow I failed to pay, probably because I forgot to click the Send Payment block. Details, details.

Not a problem, I think. I’ll just call the electric company, give them a credit card number, and the lights stay on. The cats remain warm and toasty. The TV glows. The fridge pumps out ice for my spookers. All is well. Except it wasn’t.

Instead of the electric people handling it, I was directed to a third party with this cheery message. “You will be charged $3.50 for a convenience fee. Do you wish to proceed?”

Convenient? Convenient for whom?

Option #1: Proceed. Give these pirates the $3.50 and get it over with or…

Option #2: Gamble that the on-line banking will process the payment before the house goes dark in the middle of winter and they have to pry my cold, dead fingers from the keyboard.

I sucked it up and went with #1.

Got to thinking on it. Maybe they have an auto-pay, a method to bypass that senile old fart in the middle, and keep this embarrassing little incident from happening again. I go to the electric co. website. I don’t find an auto-pay, but I do find a page where I can pay directly through their site. Uh, do you think they might have told me that before pushing me off to the scam artists and save my $3.50 “convenience” fee? NOOOO!

Are we looking at a little kick-back scheme here?

Ordered a new book. “How to Live Off the Grid.” Hopefully it gets here before my computer goes dark.

 

 

 

Published in: on February 14, 2017 at 1:30 pm  Comments (1)  

Please no, not my battery!

I’m watching an episode of the TV series, This is Us, when I notice that one of the female characters looks a lot like “Lily” on the ATT commercials. My Kindle Fire is at my fingertips and I decide to search it using Cast of This is Us. Several sites pop up and I pick one at random. Then it happened. I’ve seen something similar on the computer but never on a Kindle. The message read (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Warning! Your Kindle Fire Model XXX has been infected with four (4) viruses. These viruses will corrupt your device as well as destroy your battery. Click here for help. Warning! Leave this page at your own risk!

My battery? Oh, please God, not my battery. You can ravage the books, the games, any  app you want, but leave my battery alone. Wait a minute. How can a virus ruin a battery? Drain it dead? Hey, I do that all the time.

I took several deep breaths, got my courage up, tossed down a double  spooker for good measure, and…left the page.

The next morning, I find a smoldering pile of ruin in the middle of my coffee table.

Nah, just messing with ya. It’s working fine.

Hate those hackers.

Published in: on January 13, 2017 at 10:38 am  Comments (1)  

JonBenet Ramsey: My theory.

Twenty-years after the horrible death of JonBenet Ramsey, the TV networks have been busy with new shows and new theories as to the killer. I’ve had a morbid fascination with this murder since the beginning. The facts of the case made no sense. The parents (or 8 year-old-brother) seemed to me to be the most unlikely of perpetrators. Here’s my theory.

The killer was a pedophile and a kidnapper. He knew, or knew of, John and Patsy Ramsey and the family. Since police records show a number of pedophiles in the vicinity, it’s quite possible one was close enough to observe the comings and goings of the Ramsey’s or knew of their plans beforehand.

On that fateful Christmas day, he watched as the family left the house to attend a party. He enters the house via the removable grate and broken window leading to the basement. This was proven possible by a detective, later brought into the vase, as he videoed himself entering the house. Boulder police stated there was no evidence of this, no footprints in the snow, therefore the killer was a family member. But later video shows there to be no snow on that side of the house.

After the killer gains entry, he makes his way through the rest of house, making sure the home is empty. He finds JonBenet’s room assuring himself that he can find it again in the dark. He comes across Patsy’s writing materials and composes the ransom note. The note is one of the biggest puzzles of the case. Why so long? And why the mention of how he admired John? Where did the odd amount of $118,000 come from, the exact amount of a bonus John had received several months ago? Police argued that no kidnapper would take the amount of time necessary to write such a note? I say, why not? He had time. The Ramsey’s weren’t due back for hours. What else was there to do? The guy might have fancied himself as an intellectual and used the note to show off his intelligence. Who knows how those people think?

Handwriting experts disagreed that the note was written by Patsy.

The guy returns to the basement to wait for the family to come home. Once the family is down for the night, the guy returns to the little girl’s room and disable’s her with a stun gun. The autopsy reveals two dots on her neck that were not there in a photo taken on the previous day. Again, experts differ on the source of the dots, but the stun gun fits my theory.

Half-conscious, the girl is carried back to the basement with little resistance. However, as the guy makes for the window exit, JonBenet wakes up and starts yelling? Fighting? The guy has to shut her up. He strikes her skull with a blunt object. (I don’t think the blunt object was ever found.) With his victim still moaning, the killer takes it to another level and chokes her with the rope, the garrote. The autopsy shows her heart was still beating at this point giving merit as to the sequence of the events. If you look at the knot, it suggests someone with a certain amount of expertise in knot tying. Would any of the Ramsey’s been able to tie such a knot under such unimaginable stress?

With JonBenet dead, kidnapping is no longer an option. The guy, now in full panic mode, pops out the window and flees.

The family? No way. John was accused of having some sort of sick sexual fetish with his daughter. But why kill her? And in such a brutal fashion? After watching several interviews with John, I can’t see it.

Patsy? One theory was that Patsy went into a rage when she discovered JonBenet had wet the bed. No. It’s one thing to lash out in sudden anger, but plot such an elaborate cover up complete with a ransom note and a garrote as a murder weapon? To watch her daughter die in such a grotesque fashion? No way. I think that little girl was Patsy’s life. Patsy didn’t do it.

Then the police tried to pin it on the older brother. Again, watching the interviews, the boy stayed with his story, not in the least evasive with his answers, and was totally believable.

I believe the Boulder police and the DA’s office worked from the statistic that shows whenever a child is murdered in the home, nine out of ten times, a family member is the guilty party. Unfortunately, the Ramsey’s actions, lawyering up and going back to Atlanta so soon after the killing, did little to allay their suspicions. By now, the Ramsey’s were locked in the sights of the legal authorities, and as is so often the case, the DA’s office seldom admits to being wrong.

The latest TV show on the killing introduced a new technique called Touch DNA, the ability to sample DNA from clothing from the mere touch of the fabric, a science not available at the time. Tests using JonBenet’s pajamas and panties revealed DNA that did not match anyone in the family. The theory that the DNA came from somewhere in the manufacturing process is remotely possible, but highly unlikely.

If there is any hope of finding the killer, Touch DNA may be the last chance. I feel it will never be solved, the killer dead and buried. I hope he didn’t die peacefully.

 

 

 

Published in: on December 26, 2016 at 11:31 am  Comments (2)  

OMENS

Do you believe in omens? How about animal omens; a belief that the sighting of, or an experience with a wild animal, has meaning?

On the day when we moved into our present home, I mentioned to one of the workers that when I was scouting for an area to build, I came across a barred owl sitting on a traffic sign. The mover was an older man with furrowed brows and enough lines on his face to have seen a thing or two, good and bad, but probably mostly bad. He listened to my owl story and immediately stopped what he was doing.

“You may not put much stock in this,” he said. “But I believe that means something. It means you have chosen a good spot on this earth to build your home.”

Good to know…I guess.

Curious, I wanted to know more about animal omens. When I told a friend about it, she sent me a gift, a book appropriately titled Animal Omens written by Victoria Hunt.

Although it read a little like astrology, it was interesting nonetheless. Where am I going with this? Yesterday was not a good day for me. I was feeling depressed and discouraged and couldn’t shake the mood. I stepped out back for some fresh air.

My back yard is wooded with  several trees and a small graveled walking path. It’s my little nature trail, a place to walk and think. On the back side of the trail sits a wooden bench, a good place to pause, watch the clouds, and let the troubles drift away.

Late yesterday afternoon and long about twilight, it was chilly, but no wind to speak of. There I sat, my hoodie pulled over my head, feeling sorry for myself. I’m beginning to feel the cold seep into my legs when I see movement in the trees on the far side of the lot. A hawk! He’s hopping from branch to branch, his sharp eyes on the leaves below, probably searching for a woodland vole that the yard is known to hold. Suddenly, it takes flight, heading directly my way. I freeze. The hawk, a Red-tail, lands on a branch before me, no more than ten yards away, amazingly close and quite unusual. He looks at me. I look at him. We held eyes for only a moment before he flew…but it was enough.

Victoria Hunt writes: Hawk teaches us about balance and shows us how to release any unnecessary emotional baggage we may be carrying around.

And for that short, sweet moment, the hawk did just that.

 

redtail

 

 

 

Published in: on December 7, 2016 at 12:10 pm  Comments (2)  

The Making of a Novel: Part (I forget)

Back home and fresh out of the dentist’s chair, I lay back for a moment of recuperation, and it came to me-the details I’d been searching for to bring  all the principal characters together for the great climax. It was one slip up, one tiny mistake by my bad guy. I didn’t plan it. It just happened, as things so often do in my writing.

I’m so happy.

 

Published in: on October 13, 2016 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Raccoon Wars Update

To bring you up to speed, the last incident happened when Mr. Raccoon tried to chew through some very tough plastic, an ice chest that was the last line of defense for the sunflower seeds. I counter with a paste of flower, water, and red pepper flakes carefully spread over the damage. Get a taste of that pal.

He did. Apparently, Mr. Coonie likes his hot stuff. Probably eats jalapenos for lunch. Most of the paste was on the deck, eaten off or scraped off, who knows? Just to be sure, I made another paste, this time with plumbing caulk and pepper. The caulking, I reasoned, would stay put. Wrong.

New plan. Cut a piece of board, ten inches long, about two inches wide. Screwed it down on the plastic where the teeth marks were. That was yesterday.

Today, the board is still intact. I know he was here because the water bowl that the Missus keeps outside for the cats was filthy. Washing the hot sauce away? Soothing sore paws? Or just an UP YOURS?

The saga continues.

Watch this space.

 

Published in: on August 18, 2016 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

RACCOON WARS ERUPT…AGAIN!

Keeping my supply of birdseed away from the raccoons and yet handy to get to has been a problem going on… oh, all my life. As I get older and dumber the raccoons get educated and wiser, their DNA on how to steal birdseed passed down through the generations.

I thought I had it under control with an old ice chest, one of those that sits on four legs and rolls around. Before that was an aluminum trash can with a lid and a chain to hold it down. But the can was awkward to use. My back didn’t like bending over that far and the noisy chain never failed to stir up the neighbor’s dogs. What I don’t need with my morning coffee is a pack of yappers barking their asses off.

The ice chest was working great. It sat up high enough to scoop out the seeds while a single bungee cord held the lid in place. Until it didn’t. I nearly spilled my coffee when I saw where the masked bandit had forced the lid upward until the two lids came apart giving him easy access.

I studied it, had an aha moment, and found a board that I could screw to the lid thus adding longitudinal strength. Then dug around until I found a heavy duty bungee, one that could pull a car out of the mud, and strapped that baby on it. Get around that you little bastard.

He did. I don’t know how, but he did. I went back to the trash can, waiting for inspiration. It took a while, but I it finally came to me. What I could do, I reasoned, was leave the board in place on the ice chest, but instead of bungee cords, use a couple industrial strength hinges. A hasp on the front with a twisting lock would secure the other side. Easy to open yet protected from invaders. Yeah, that’ll work.

Maybe add a combination lock.

If he gets past that, I’m moving.

Watch this space.

 

Published in: on July 26, 2016 at 2:06 pm  Comments (2)  

The Six-Hundred Dollar Drip

It wasn’t a fast drip, only about every ten seconds or so, but it was loud and irritating. The distance from the shower head to the shower floor was at least six feet, the fall long enough to make not a drip, drip, drip, but a SPLAT, SPLAT, SPLAT. I’m half deaf and I could still hear it from my bedroom. Something had to be done.

The fixture was a Delta brand, a one knob affair. Turn left for hot, right for cold. Been working fine for fifteen years. No more. Got to be some kind of little O-ring, right? Cost, maybe fifty-cents. Problem is, I hate plumbing. Every plumbing job I ever attempted turned into a disaster with water everywhere ending with a call to somebody who knew what the hell they were doing.

Did I learn from the past? No. Instead, I watched a You Tube video of a guy changing the O-rings on an identical fixture. It was so simple. Turn the water off, remove a set screw, remove a lock washer, slide the fixture out, pop out the bad rings, replace, reassemble. How tough could it be?

I made it as far as Step Three. The lock washer had been installed by a gorilla. After several attempts to break it loose, I noticed a drop of water hanging from a weld on the input pipes. Not good. A closer look revealed green corrosion slowly but surely eating away at the connections, any further disturbance was just asking for trouble. I carefully put everything back together, held my breath, and turned the water on. Drip…drip…drip, not only from the shower head, but from the corroded pipe as well, dribbling directly to the slab between the wallboards. CRAP!!!

The new drip is barely dripping, so small that I can stuff towels between the walls and keep the water on, but not for long. Every plumber I call has a recording. “Leave a message.” I do. “EMERGENCY. EMERGENCY. MY HOUSE IS FLOODING. PLEASE CALL BACK IMMEDIATELY.” There was no sense being meek about it. Twenty minutes later, I get a call back. The plumber says he’s pulling off the job he’s on to help me out.

The plumber’s name is Steve. Steve examines my barely damp towels. I got the feeling his definition of emergency was different than mine. He delivers the bad news. “This faucet is no longer made and will have to be replaced. I will need to go through the wallboard to repair the pipe. I can do it for, oh… (long pause while he figures out the cost of the faucet, his time, and how much penalty money to assess for dragging him off the previous job), $650. My response: “You gotta be shittin’ me.” He wasn’t. I got him down to $525, but that was it.

That was last September, eight months ago. I wake up when Minnie the cat jumps on my belly at five a.m. indicating, “I’m hungry.” And then I hear it, drip…drip…drip. CRAP!!!

I wait till working hours and call Steve. I make no mention of an emergency. Steve says he’ll be out the next day. A different guy shows up. He takes everything apart again and finds a couple miniscule grains of debris inside the works. He wipes it clean and turns the water on. Fixed. “Seventy-five dollars please.”

I kind of thank the man and wave goodbye. Ten minutes later, drip…drip…drip.

I stab the guy’s cell phone number. Voice mail. I wanted so bad to say EMERGENCY, but instead, left a message in certain measured tones that I was not happy and the problem still exists.

Three days later, I’m still waiting for a call back.

Found an easy fix. Buy a shower head with a hose. Lay shower head in bottom of shower at night. Can’t hear the drip. Hey, simple solutions to complex problems.

leak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 12:54 pm  Comments (1)