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Fourteen degrees, that doesn’t sound too cold if you’re bundled up and you know your time in the elements will be short. If however you are in the shade, standing barefoot on concrete and tied to a post it’s a whole different reality.

I witnessed a dog in such a predicament when I stopped by the grocery store on the way to work.

If you thought I was describing my situation than I think some inner reflection on your part is required.

If the breed had been bred for cold weather I wouldn’t have given it a moments thought but this was some kind of terrier and it wasn’t happy.

His barks were not ones that said, “Hey come play with me” rather they said,

“hey, a little help here. I have parts of me that are threatening to become frozen nuggets and I am a little less than happy about it.”

Now, there are two things you need to know about me at this point. The first is that I am a dog guy. I love dogs. When I come across a dog during my day the dog knows he/she has met a friend and the feeling is mutual. The second is that I can summon up righteous indignation and tilt at windmills at the drop of a hat. I’m convinced some long lost ancestor inspired Cervantes.

My first thought was that the dogs owner, sorry caretaker (it is Boulder), had just ducked into the store for a few items and hopefully treats for their dog . That thought temporarily assuaged my concerns and I popped into the store. Fifteen minutes later I exited the store and the dog was still there and it’s barking now sounded said,

“Ok, I am now probably unable to sire pups and I can deal with that but I really would like to come in and warm the rest of my still functioning parts.”

Looking around I determined that the dogs caretaker was nowhere in sight.
From the depths of my soul I could feel the tides of righteous anger begin to rise. Since I still had one more stop before I left for work, I decided to give it a few more minutes and I walked over to Big Daddy Bagels*, my favorite bagel place, to grab a coffee and a breakfast bagel and perhaps to spy said caretaker.

Once at the bagel shoppe I looked around to see if I could spy the villain. I did not know exactly what to look for, perhaps a women with a Dalmatian coat or a man bearing a handlebar mustache and wearing a cape.

No one matching these characteristics popped out at me. I placed my order and twenty minutes later I was heading out towards my car with coffee and bagel in hand. Unhappy barks told me all I needed to know.

I sat in my car and pondered my next move. I had several options but I had left my lance at home so that ruled out one possibility .
I could let the dog warm up in my car until the villain returned whereupon I would confront the low-life or I could just call the humane society. Since I had to get to work the first option was the least likely.
Just as I was about to call the humane society, I spied the near-do-well leaving the grocery store and zipping up his coat. He looked quite toasty. My attitude was becoming the same and my course of action was clear. Confrontation was on the horizon.

I put my car in gear and slowly approached Mr. Whiplash.

As I got closer I wondered could I and should I say something.

A voice inside my head asked , if not me then who, if not now when. Apparently the little voice had worked with some presidential speech writers in the past.

Of course you should it continued. Your entire life you have had the personality of a cranky old man just dying to get out and express itself. Lets face it , you have had a cranky old man inside you since kindergarten. Who was it that proclaimed in first grade they were to old for milk and it was too late to do your bones any good. Who was it that at the age of ten took an entire carton of their parents cigarettes and using a sewing needle poked tiny holes spelling out death in each individual cigarette?

That is the act of one cranky little man my friends.

The little voice brought clarity to the situation. It was dead on. I had been preparing for this moment my entire life. Instead of being ignored or getting punished I now had the looks to go along with the attitude. The cranky old guy inside had sprouted grey hairs and had left its youthful skin behind and was ready to curse out the young punk. If only I had some front lawn to tell him to get off of.

“Excuse me. Excuse me.”


“You know its fourteen degrees out here. This is not the kind of weather to leave your
dog out for ever.”

“I was only inside the store for a few minutes.”

Big mistake, I thought.

“It has been over a half hour by my calculations,” I said. “I was about to call the humane society.”

That was the coup de grace. Like all cranky old men before me I had let him know that I can tell time and count in one fell swoop. He was left with no alternative but to curse me under his breath.

Feeling satisfied that he would at least think long and hard about leaving his dog out in the cold, the cranky old man closed the window and crept back into my soul as I drove on.

I have got to get a front lawn, I thought.

*A totally unsolicited endorsement because the bagels and the staff rock.

Who’s On First ( The Perfect Conspiracy Theory Continued)

Who’s On First ( The Perfect Conspiracy Theory Continued)

In a neighborhood pub in the shadow of the Nations Capitol an unassuming bartender stood post behind the bar. In one hand was a dishtowel and in the other was the same pint glass he had been polishing for the last hour.

   The bar had a supply of clean glasses that could survive several friday nights of fraternity parties but it was what people expected of bartenders.He was all about service.

It was at times like these his imagination tended to escape the shadows of the murky pub and explore the boundaries of reality.

The bartender glanced up at the clock on the wall and noticed that it was about time for a visit from the bearded one. Right on cue the door opened and a shaft of afternoon light barged its way in outlining the man he only knew as the bearded one. When the door had closed and the sunburnt silhouette had faded from his retina he found the bearded man standing in front of him while he waited for his next conspiratorial proclamation.

“My sources say the penny ruse is run amok and the stage is set for Cabal phase 2. I shan’t stay for a beer. I must be off,” said the bearded one and in the blink of an eye he was gone.

Oh I think you already are, thought the bartender.

Mr. Panama will be happy to hear the news. There was no telling when he would show up. Mr. Panama prided himself on his unpredictability.

Mr. Panama often said that he did not live his life in patterns so as to be impossible to follow. The bartender thought Mr Panama lived in a multitude of dimensions but reality wasn’t one of them.

The bartender returned the glass to the shelf and started on another one.

The sound of throat clearing caught his attention and he turned around and low and behold Mr Panama had silently appeared sitting at the bar. I hate when he does that, he thought.

“Has the bearded on been here today,” asked Mr. Panama.

“That would be a yes,” replied the bartender.

“Did he have recent news pertaining to our mutual venture,“ asked Mr. Panama.

“Oh the cabal?”

“Ix nay on the abal cay”, whispered the panama wearing one.

“Oh I’m sorry. Yes, he said something to the effect of “the penny ruse is run amok and the stage is set for Cabal phase 2. I shan’t stay for a beer. I must be off.””

“Very well but I’m confused about the beer part.”

“Well, he couldn’t stay for a beer. I should have left that bit out.”

“Yes, well it sounds like he believes the true goal is really the misdirection. “

“Oh, that’s bad.”

“Au contraire, that is good.”

“It is?”

“Yes. Remember that our main goal really is to keep the penny in circulation.”

“Oh, that is not the diversion?”

“No. The beauty of the plan is that the diversion is the goal.”

“But isn’t Mr. Beard part of the conspiracy?”

“Well yes and no.”

“Oh. Well, who’s on first?”

“Pardon?” replied Mr. Panama.

“Sorry, I’m just a little confused.”

“Mr. Beard is part of the plan. He plays the role of the unwitting conspirator.”

“Oh. Yes, of course.”

     And I must be playing the role of the unwitting bartender, he thought as he returned the newly polished glass to the shelf.

“Now that that is settled. I shan’t stay. I must be off,” said Mr. Panama

The barmen turned around and noticed that the man had left without a sound. Even the squeaky door was silent.

The barman shook his head and thought “Who’s On First” was much easier to follow. How did I get involved with this charade? I think they both must be off.

Waiting for Dulcinea

Waiting for Dulcinea

Herbert was anxious for the return of St. Peter. Pulling vacation relief for him at the pearly gates had gone rather smoothly. There was a little excitement when Death showed up for a practical joke but most of the time the job was pretty mindless. It reminded him of the taco stand days of his earthly youth minus the smell of grease and the stoned customers. He was becoming board though and was ready to move on to his next assignment;

The shuttle arrived and brought an end to his boredom. Embarking from it in all its splendor was a noble white steed complete with mounted knight and lance.

Herbert took one look and knew that some how he had brought this upon himself.

Herbert was trying to maintain some sense of decorum as the knight approached but abandoned all hope when the steed picked that moment to relieve itself of its earthy load.

“Sorry about that,” replied the knight. “But it did disappear quite quickly. Where did it go?”

“To tell you the truth I never had the occasion to explore that possibility and I would not like to reflect upon it any further if you don’t mind,” replied Herbert in between giggles.

“I can understand that. I myself have never owned a horse much less a suit of armor. I don’t even want to consider the lance,” replied the knight.

So you were not a member of the round table during your earthly tour,” asked Herbert.

“Why no. I was just an accountant and Sir Sheldon sounds far from knightly,” he replied.

“Well Iv’e heard that this kind of thing could occur. I believe its a symbolic manifestation of the persona you cast while living.”


“Well you may have been an accountant but that was not who you really were. I mean you had a personality that could be described as something other than a, accountant-like, didn’t you,” asked Herbert.

“Well yea. Now that you mention it. My friends often said I was too righteous for my own good.”

“Well that’s a start. Not to sound like a therapist or anything but how did this righteousness manifest itself.”

“Oh, I thought you were going to ask about the lance”

“Oh heavens no. I am not even going there.”

“Yea I get that. I guess the big manifestation as you put it was the whistle blowing that ended my career”

“You were a referee also?” replied a smiling Herbert.

“Um no. I told you I was an accountant.”

“Thats a bit of humor Albert.”

“Sorry I don’t really have a sense of humor.”

“You don’t say”

“No, um, what I was referring to is that I discovered that a client was stealing from everyone and I could not let him get away with it.”

“What do you mean everyone?”

“I mean his employees , his wife, his children and the government, everyone. I couldn’t just let that happen.”

I noticed that was a statement and not a question. Obviously you had no qualms because that’s who you were. A man of integrity. A man on a quest. A righteous dude.”


“Sorry, I got carried away.”

“Thats ok. It kind of gave me goosebumps. But yes, that was me. “

“Which explains why you are now sitting before me on a white steed and holding a lance. By the way, if you don’t mind dismounting and putting down that lance I would appreciate it. It’s a bit unsettling what with the pointy end and me not wearing goggles.”

“Oh yes I’m sorry,” apologized Sheldon as he carefully dismounted while avoiding poking Herbert’s eye out”.

“Thank you. Much better,”exclaimed Herbert.

“So is there a name for this type of manifestation asked Sheldon.”

“I believe it’s called the La Mancha effect.”

“Oh, So I was tilting at windmills?”

“Do you think you were?”

No, I don’t. Although I lost my job, eventually justice was served and reparations were made.”

“Then no windmills were in danger. To tell you the truth I thinks its inappropriately named. I don’t want to sound like an after school special but the world could use some more windmill tilters, um, without the lances.”

“So is there any tilting to do up here?”

“Not really. The originators of any wrongs to be righted are spending eternity elsewhere
but If you’re lucky though there might be a Dulcinea just around the corner.”

“Really? You’re not kidding are you.”

“I would never kid a knight Sir Sheldon.”

Note: Image of windmill by Philip Leara


The Further Adventures of Herbert the Celestial Assistant: Death Is a Card

The Further Adventures of Herbert the Celestial Assistant: Death Is a Card

     Herbert was flying solo today. St. Peter was convinced that Herbert could handle
the gates while he was away so he left for vacation while the getting was good.

With the exception of a guy who died while eating kielbasa, the job had been pretty standard so far. Herbert was perplexed as to how the man could actually bring his sausage with him. He was going to have to ask St. Peter about that when he returned.

Fortunately he was able to convince the man he did not need food in heaven. The waste management issue would be a nightmare.

He promised him they could give a coat of lacquer to what was left of his kielbasa so he could have fond memories of that special day…that he died.

     At the moment there was no action at the gates so he got back to the crossword puzzle that had been taunting him ever since he picked it up off the greeting lectern. St Peter had said it was left on the shuttle by someone newly departed. He regretted he had not bothered to ask how someone could take anything with them. It would have solved the whole kielbasa mystery.

Herbert was stuck on the same clue that had stumped the previous owner.


13.      A four letter verb meaning to harvest, garner, gather or bring in.

He knew the answer lay somewhere in the recesses of his mind. He just needed to ruminate and let it come to him.

     Ahem. Excuse me.

“Hmm , that was strange,” thought Herbert. He could have sworn that italic words had just flashed across his vision. He looked up and saw a familiar figure standing in front of him. He looked like death with a capitol D. Death. The grim reaper. Um, sorry I did not hear you coming.”

     Oh, they never do.

“That’s funny. There go those strange italic words dancing across my eyes again. Wait, was that you?”

     Unless you truly experienced the 60’s that was probably me.

“Wow, that’s pretty cool. Um, you’re not here for me are you.”

     I get that a lot.

“What, the cool bit or the “your not here for me” part?”


“Oh, ok. So what brings you here? Is this a customer service followup to see how your victims, um, customers have been treated at this end?”

     No, I am here for me.

“I don’t understand. Are you dead? Are you saying that Death has met its maker, or that Death is here for the final round up or in modern terms his warranty has expired and did not see the cost effectiveness of spending money to extend it?”

     Well, yes but I am not sure that last analogy works. It’s a bit wordy.

“Yea, I just came up with it so it’s bound to have a few kinks. I didn’t know that Death itself/(himself/herself ?) had a limited run. I thought your stage lights were never dark so to speak.”

     That analogy is not bad. Yes, well this is new to me also. I was looking for the nearest Starbucks and got lost. The next thing you know I’m here.

“You got lost looking for the nearest Starbucks? Come on no matter where you are there is Starbucks just around the corner.”

Not in Topeka Kansas.

“Oh. You have me there. This is awkward. Who replaces you?
Where do you go? Which shuttle do I call? You’re not even on my list. I have no idea how to handle this.”

     You mean St Peter left you in charge during his vacation and you can’t even handle this?

“To be fair this is an anomaly and … wait I didn’t mention he was on vacation. Are you winding me up?”

     I must confess I was have a bit of a laugh at your expense.

“What? You mean you don’t have anything better to do? Are you telling me that the Grim Reaper, Death, God’s Cleaner has nothing better to do than have a few grins at the expense of some heavenly flunky?”

     Ooh. I like that God’s Cleaner thing. Can I use it?

“What, oh, yea knock yourself out but lets not get off the subject. You must have better things to do while waiting for your next, um, service call.”

     No. This is it. I am trying to inject some humor into my life. Do you know what its
like to constantly be greeted by the words “Oh No Not You”.

“Well, there was this one girl…”

     That’s not the same.

“Ok, I’ll give you that. That is all they ever say?”

No. Every once in a while you get a blood curdling scream and let me tell you that’s not any better. I’m beginning to get a complex.

“What about comedians? They must be a little more original. Do they give you anything different?”

     For the most part, no. Certainly nothing to laugh at. They usually think going out on a high note is stating “this is the worst I’ve ever bombed,” but I see that coming a mile away.

“Yea, I can see that. So what’s next for you?”

     Oh, I go on doing what I do and wait for the next time St. Peter takes a vacation.

“You need some more material. Hang in there and try to keep your, uh, sickle up.”

     Ha. Now that made me smile. Thank you.

“No problem. My sense of humor grows on people.”

    Yes, kind of like mold. Well, I must be going. Good Bye.

“Good bye. Take care.”

“Hmm, let’s see, where was I? Oh yeah a four letter word for harvest or gather? Oh, “reap”. That works. Go figure.”

One Ham Salad Sandwich Coming Up (The Perfect Conspiracy Theory Cont.)

One Ham Salad Sandwich Coming Up (The Perfect Conspiracy Theory Cont.)

   The late afternoon broke through the windows of the bar and fell across the face of the nondescript barmen as he sipped a whiskey. A short while earlier his stomach had spoken to him. It had made two distinct statements. It had said it was extremely hungry and that the cook here sucked.

He was now waiting for the delivery of a turkey sandwich. He hardly had time to evaluate the Scotch he was drinking before a man bearing a brown paper bag entered and announced the delivery of his sandwich.

The barman bit into the sandwich and had observed an interesting phenomenon.
The turkey sandwich he ordered had transmogrified into a ham salad sandwich topped with cellulose condiment.

Picking the note out his mouth he read “Why are you looking here the good stuff is in front of you.” Furrowing his brow he looked up into the face of the bearded man with the cool ring “Come join us,” he said.

The barman started to introduce himself but Panama cut him off.

“We don’t need to know your name and you don’t need to know ours. This gentleman here you can refer to as ‘The Bearded One’ and you can call me Panama. We’ll call you ‘The Barman’.”

“Well, that’s not really original now is it,” said The Barman.

“There are no points for originality in this endeavor,” interjected The Beard.

“And what endeavor would this be asked The Barman?”

“How much do you know about the penny, “ asked Panama.

“Well it costs more to make than it’s worth but for some reason it’s still being produced,” replied The Barman.

“Yea, well we’re the reason why they keep producing it,” added The Beard.

“Who’s we,” asked The Barman.

“We are a group of concerned citizens making sure the penny gets its due,” answered Panama. “A Penny Cabal if you will.”

“I appreciate your concern and excuse me if I sound a bit jaded but beings as this is D.C., what’s in it for you?”

“Well lets just say that we represent a few groups that would stand to lose a good chunk of change if production of the penny were to cease.”

“Like who,” asked The Barman.

“Well,” answered Panama,” the Convenience Store Owners of America for one. You think that ‘take a penny leave a penny’ garbage is done out of the goodness of their hearts? Sure it sounds nice but In the long term it generates some dough. Many folks do not value the penny and those are the kind of folks that don’t take a penny but leave many pennies.”

The Bearded One added “Yea and ‘take a nickel leave a nickel’ does not have the same ring. It will be awhile before the nickel achieves the same pocket clutter status as the penny. You take a survey of the average guys dresser top in this country and you’ll find that the ratio of pennies to nickels falls heavily in favor of the penny.”

“Yea, sounds like mine,” said the Barman. “But what about women?”

“They carry purses,” replied both conspirators in unison.

“Then there is the whole tradition of the penny and the man that is immortalized on it,” said Mr. Panama, his void rising and in danger of causing a scene.

“Lincoln should be a frickin saint not a vampire hunter.”

“Ok you’ve convinced me,” said The Barman. “You had me at vampire hunter. So where do I fit in?”

“You my friend are our eyes and ears on capitol hill,” answered Mr. Panama.

“You get a lot of representatives, aides and cocktail waitresses in here. They all drink and they all talk. Anything you hear that even remotely concerns the penny, you let us know,” added The Beard.

“Can-do. I do have one more question.” asked the Barman.

“Shoot,” replied The Bearded One.

“When do I get one of those cool rings?”

“In five days you will receive a ham salad sandwich on rye. You will pay with cash and on the merchants copy of the receipt you will write in your ring size in lieu of the tip amount,” replied The Beard.

“Ten days after that you will get a ham salad sandwich on pumpernickel. It will contain the ring. Do not eat the sandwich before you check for the ring.”

“Cool. What’s with the ham salad?”

“We have fans involved with hog futures. A lot of hog futures,” answered Panama.

 “ I’ll be looking for that ham salad on rye,” was all The Barman could respond with before returning to work.

The Beard waited until The Barman was out of earshot and said, “I like that vampire hunter bit. That added to the subterfuge nicely. He won’t be able to keep that to himself.”
“Thanks, I like to keep it fresh,” said Panama. He laughed and uttered “A Penny Cabal. I gotta keep that part.”

Fostering Paranoia (Brewing The Perfect Conspiracy cont..)

Fostering Paranoia (Brewing The Perfect Conspiracy cont..)

The good stuff. Lies and trails to nowhere. Disinformation, subterfuge and
disingenuous relationships. The good stuff. The fun stuff.

Any good conspiracy or at least one worth a book or hollywood movie contains the good stuff.
The good stuff organizes the people that have taken notice of strange goings on and points them in several directions at once.

Its the original ‘hey look over there’ gag with the part of your uncle played by a group whose goal is something a little more nefarious than
stealing your french fries.

A good campaign of disinformation can foment paranoia among those that think they are on to something. When this happens, the odds that the conspiracy will be successful goes up tremendously.

Those that are suspicious will start to see conspiracy in every nook, cranny and
shadow around them.

Once the phrase “but that’s what they want you to
think” is uttered, their credibility, if they had any, is totally blown.

If they are lucky they can get a book deal, if not they may find themselves
spending hours in therapy with an occasional trip to the pharmacist for
some ‘calming’ medication.

..Capitol Hill bathed in the shadows of the afternoon sun. It was late
August and the Hill was doing something it did well, making people sweat
and spreading corruption. Quite often the two are related.

A ceiling fan lorded over the patrons in a nondescript bar a few blocks
from Capitol Hill. It rotated at a teasing rate that said “Yea, maybe I can turn
faster. Wouldn’t you like to find out.”

Beneath the fan sat two gentlemen each nursing a beer. Both were
wearing the same gold and black signet ring. Both had the same build and
were around the same age. But for the beard of one and the Panama hat
of the other they would be hard to tell apart.

“So what’s on the agenda today. I hope its the good stuff. I have been
waiting quite a while for the good stuff,” said Panama.

The Beard opened a manilla envelope and pulled out one sheet of 4×5 notepad paper. “It says here that we are getting some attention and need to start our previously discussed campaign of disinformation and paranoia.”

“Alright. The good stuff,” exclaimed Panama.

Fun with the good stuff.

Good Men and Celluloid Heroes

Good Men and Celluloid Heroes

I watched a few movies last night that I had seen before. What they were doesn’t matter. What they were about was pretty simple. Just everyday guys being good men.

I had seen both movies before but I needed to see them again. The dozen or so previous viewings did not seem enough. I should own them I thought. Close friends had told me as much. Then I realized that  I did not need to own them. I had a good guy playing the role of hero in my life since 1961.

A good man, the definition of which expressed with words seems to devalue the meaning. We all have a definition that lies within our hearts. For my heart that definition was and always will be my Dad.

We see the world with glasses tinted by our parents and for the most part I see silver screen heroes trying to live up to the standards of the heroes that  I have been blessed with in my life. So on this fathers day give the Dad in your life a hug or a glance towards the stars and thank him for providing those celluloid heroes with something to shoot for.*
*Yea I’m ending a sentence with a preposition. I’m giving the english teachers out there a chance to whip out their red pens. Enjoy.


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