Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Square Peg - Halloweenie

The Square Peg - Halloweenie
© S. Bradley Stoner

Yep. It’s that time of year again. All the little spooks, super heroes, pirates, punkins, witches, and Star Wars characters are preparing to hit us up for all those goodies for which the stores charge highway robbery prices. That’s right... they saw us coming and stuck it to us going. We can’t help ourselves, though. I mean it takes a real Grinch, or in this case, Halloweenie to not remember his or her own childhood and that one special night when you get to hold up folks while remaining completely anonymous in your disguise. Let’s face it, it feeds our larcenous side. Oh come on, you know you have one. And Halloween, Christmas (or Chanukah or Kwanza... your choice), and your birthday are pretty much the only times that’s legal.

To be honest, I kind of miss the good old days... you know, when folks spent a week or more preparing for All Hallows Eve, hand making costume and decorations, not to mention toiling over Rice Krispy bars, popcorn balls, candied apples, special cookies with ghost and goblin icing, homemade fudge, and more, all wrapped in colorful plastic wrap sold only at this time of year. And then there were the parties, mostly for grownups, but the kids liked to watch... heck, you might see Somber Sam make a fool of himself bobbing for apples when he got a bit tipsy. Besides, there was always the collection aftermath where you and your siblings or buddies all got together to have a trade fest. You had a real shot at getting the goodies you liked best, although nobody wanted to trade away their Rice Krispy bars. Heck, that all made Halloween a real family celebration Now? Not so much.

I used to make my own outdoor decorations. Yep... scrap wood tombstones; gauze spider webs; worn out sheets turned into ghosts flying eerily from tree branches and house eaves; cats cut from cardboard and lovingly painted black with fiery red eyes... things like that. I even made a stove pipe and paint can Frankenstein one time, but after two years of getting rained on, he rusted beyond repair. Now I’d be embarrassed to put things like that out on my lawn. They just don’t compete with those air powered pumpkins and creatures, the molded plastic tombstones, anatomically correct, life-sized skeletons, lifelike rubberized witches that cackle evilly, and light projectors that turn your abode into a house of horrors... all sold at the local discount store. One of my neighbors has a blow-up wiener dog with a blow up Snoopy in a witch’s hat and cape sitting on it. I think it looks stupid, but apparently the little kids next door think it’s adorable. So, there’s two gauzy orange and black, store-bought witches gracing my front porch. Nothing else, but I’m no Halloweenie.

Luckily, Bob got most of his Halloween decorations out before his accident and Duncan helped him with the rest. Bob won’t be up to his usual antics though, that sling and walking cast have really slowed him down this year. He even had to cancel his Halloween party. His wife will be giving out the treats this year while Bob sits miserably in his Lazy Boy, The neighborhood is a little poorer for that, but that doesn’t make Bob a Halloweenie.

There are the usual warnings to parents to check the candy the kids collect to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. That business with the razor blades in apples some years back is what helped to kill all the homemade goodies. And that a$$hole wasn’t a Halloweenie either... that individual was a psychopath.

In our neighborhood, folks who give out candy post their addresses on our HOA intranet and leave their porch lights on so kids know where to go. There are a lot of unlit porchlights on our block. Some are real Halloweenies, but not all. Take Charlie. It’s not that he wouldn’t like to participate, it’s just that by the time he is able to get up from watching Monday Night Football and grope his way to the front door to answer the bell, all the kids have given up and moved on. 

The same is true of some of the other retired folks here, but there are real Halloweenies out there too. Some of them just don’t like kids. I’ve heard them talk, and what they have to say isn’t nice. I wonder if they were ever children or if they were born old. Some are religious whack jobs who don’t believe in celebrating anything. They lead dull lives and want everybody else to live dull lives too. And then there are the spinster sisters... two dried up old prunes who never crack a smile. I’m pretty sure I know why, but that’s another story. Some younger folks just don’t want to be bothered... they have better things to do, like play Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto... you know, important stuff. Yep... Halloweenies.

Anyway, here’s wishing y’all a spook-tacular Halloween filled with scary movies, eerie sounds, and lots of costumed kiddies... and here’s hoping none of you are Halloweenies!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Square Peg - Karmageddon

The Square Peg - Karmageddon
© S. Bradley Stoner

Saturday morning. Garage sale day. I stepped out of my front door expecting to see a small crowd in front of Bob’s house. Nope. The garage door wasn’t even open. For a moment I wondered if Bob had slept in. He does that sometimes, but usually on workdays. And nobody else on our block was doing a sale either. It was eerily quiet for a Saturday. I began to wonder if I had slept an extra day and maybe missed it all. I was about to go in when I spied Duncan Donutz’ big crew cab pickup coming up the street. That was odd, since Duncan usually approaches from the opposite direction. He slowed and pulled up in front of Bob’s house. Okay, that was really odd. I stepped off my porch and headed down the driveway.

As I crossed the street, Duncan got out and waved at me as he went around to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door. I wondered if he had given Bob’s wife a ride somewhere. That made sense, given the little garage sale dust-up yesterday. Nope. With Duncan helping, Bob slowly emerged from the passenger seat. He looked like something the cat dragged in. His left arm was in a sling, his head and nose were bandaged, his left lower leg was in a walking cast, and he had two enormous shiners.

“Holy crap, Bob,” I said, “was your wife that pee-oed?”

“Nothin’ like that,” Bob moaned.

“Well, what the hell happened to you?”

“Bob kinda wrecked his truck,” Duncan explained, and then proceeded to tell me the whole story.

It seems Bob had to run to the grocery store to pick up some things for the wife so she could fix a really late dinner in those Calphalon pans Bob was going to sell. So off he went to get the goods. That was uneventful. It was on his way back that things went south. Bob decided to take the slow way home. I guess he wasn’t anxious to enter the wife’s domain again right away.

“Well, ole Bob pulls up to the stoplight on the road up there,” Duncan pointed to the south, “and there’s this little white compact with racing stripes and a spoiler sittin’ there revving his engine. And you know Bob...”

Yeah, I knew Bob. Bob fancies himself a primo race car driver... even in his truck. I could just picture it. The little white car revving the engine and Bob goosing the big hemi. It must have made quite a racket. If I had been outside, I probably wouldn’t have missed it. But I was on the computer with Gracie Slick on my media player walloping out “Don’t you want somebody to love...” Since that particular stretch of road happens to be a favorite spot for street racers, I could just imagine what went down, but I didn’t have to. Duncan continued the saga.

“Yep, ole Bob, here, answered the challenge and when that light turned green they both tromped on the gas and peeled out, or so Bob told me. The little car got ahead for a few seconds, and then to hear Bob tell it, his hemi really kicked in and he shot past him.”

Bob nodded and groaned with the movement of his head.

“But... and it’s a big but,” Duncan paused for effect, “Bob forgot how short that stretch is. Those barriers were gettin’ big fast. Bob slams on the brakes and starts skiddin’. And he doesn’t skid straight, which, as I told him, is a little weird since he has an automatic braking system. I’ve investigated a lot of accidents and I figure Bob had to have turned that wheel a tad.”

Bog shook his head “no” and groaned again. But we knew better. Bob’s memory gets a little fuzzy when he’s done something stup... uh, foolish.

“Anyway,” Duncan persisted, “he goes into a sideways skid, jumps the curb of that parking lot... you know the one... and smacks into the only decent sized tree there. The air bag deploys and smacks Bob in the face really hard, breaks his nose, scrapes his forehead, and gives him a couple of black eyes.”

“That doesn’t explain the arm and leg,” I motioned to Bob’s left side.

“Oh that... you want to tell him, Bob?”

Bob shakes his head and groans again. He points with his right finger and says to Duncan, “You.”

Duncan nods. “Okay. Well, when Bob finally gets the door open... it was bent into the fender so it kind of jammed, so he had to force it... he sorta falls out of the cab because his step got snapped off when he jumped the curb. There’s this hole right there, so in goes his leg and he topples over and gets a hairline fracture in the lower leg bone. Oh, and when that happens he comes down on a manhole cover with his elbow and cracks one of those bones.”

“What about the white car?”

“No clue. It wasn’t there when I got there after Bob had the cops call me to give Bob a lift to the hospital so he could be checked out.”

“They should have called an ambulance.”

“Oh, they did, but Bob refused. Said he wasn’t going to pay those outrageous fees for an eight block trip, so I was elected.”

“I don’t know why this happened to me,” Bob finally whined.

Given Bob’s antics over the past year, Duncan and I kind of did. In unison we blurted out, “Karma.”

“More like Karmageddon,” Bob added miserably.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Square Peg - Sale On, Silver Girl

The Square Peg - Sale On, Silver Girl
© S. Bradley Stoner

I couldn’t resist the play on words in the title. It’s just the way I am. Don’t ask me why. It’s okay to ask why I chose to do that. You do want to know, don’t you? Okay party poopers, I’ll tell you anyway. This weekend is our neighborhood garage sale. Yep, you can make somebody else’s junk your junk. And garage sales have a tendency to attract silver-haired ladies.

The whole idea of a neighborhood garage sale is to save on advertising. The HOA takes care of that so a whole lot of folks you wouldn’t ordinarily invite into your neighborhood can come and case... uh, I mean scope out what you have that they might want, then argue with your price to try and buy it for pennies on the dollar. I think they’ve all been taking lessons. I’m just not sure whether its from Pickers or Pawn Stars. Either way, it isn’t good for the seller.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to do garage sales all the time when I was younger. I needed stuff then. I don’t need any more stuff. Matter of fact, I probably have some stuff I could get rid of, but I just don’t want to. Not at a garage sale anyway. Besides, I might need it when the apocalypse occurs. At least that’s what Bob says.

Now I must admit, I have my reservations about our economy in the future... both near and far, but I’m just not ready to throw in the towel. Bob is. His predictions are dire. I think he’s been visiting those “prepper” web sites again and he’s getting ready so he won’t be... what was it he said? Naked and Afraid? Yeah, I’ve seen the commercials.

Anyway, Bob had cleaned out his garage and I noticed he was carting stuff from the house out and putting it on the folding tables he’d rented. I wandered over. I was curious to see what he was going to put on sale tomorrow. Hey, what’s wrong with a preview of coming attractions? They do it in movie theaters. Besides, I didn’t think Bob would mind. Bob saw me coming. He had a look of shock on his face. It’s usually the other way around.

“Hi Bob. Getting ready for the big sale tomorrow?”

“You comin’ to get an early look?” he challenged.

“Do you mind?”

“Not if you buy something... I just don’t want you pokin’ through the stuff and messin’ it up before sale day.”

I looked at the jumble of stuff piled on the tables. For the life of me, I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason to the organization of it. As a matter of fact, disorganized was the term that came to mind. “I don’t think that’s possible,” I grunted. “It’s already there.”

Bob just shot me a dirty look.

“There’s no prices on this stuff,” I noted.

“And there ain’t gonna be,” Bob shot back. “They’re going to have to ask. Besides, I set prices on the way folks are dressed. The better the dress, the higher the price.”

“Huh,” I huffed. “I always thought you set ‘em based on age, size and skirt length.”

“That too.”

I noticed Bob had a set of cookware on one table. Surprisingly, it was very good cookware. Calphalon stainless steel... and they looked virtually new and still in the box. “What price are you going to put on these?”

“I dunno... probably five to ten bucks apiece.”

Now normally, I don’t give Bob tips... usually because he doesn’t take them. In this case, however it was clear that Bob didn’t have a clue what these were worth. “That might be a little low,” I said.

“Who cares?” Bob replied. “I need to get rid of them. I just replaced all those things with some cast iron and stoneware I bought on line. Better stuff, much more durable. I want stuff that lasts... I’m gonna need it when the economy collapses.” Bob looked up from where he was piling a bunch of women’s shoes. “You got yer go bag and boxes all ready?”

I had to admit I didn’t have a go bag... at least not the kind he was talking about. I had one for natural disasters, along with a fireproof, lockable go box with all my important papers in it. Beyond that, I figured I could pretty much weather whatever came down the pike.

“Well you best get one ready for the coming tribulations,” he intoned seriously.

“I’m a bit more optimistic than that. Does your wife know you’re selling her shoes and kitchen ware?”

“I’m king in my castle,” Bob poked the air with a finger for emphasis.

Just about that time, the queen of the castle let out an ear-splitting scream that resonated through the entire neighborhood. I heard her coming and decided, discretion being the better part of valor, that this would be an ideal time to beat a hasty retreat.

“Good luck, Bob,” I shouted over my shoulder. I didn’t see what happened afterward, but there were rumors later about a new use for those Calphalon pans.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

It's the Great Trumplkin, Charlie Brown

The Square Peg  - It’s the Great Trumpkin, Charlie Brown
© S. Bradley Stoner

It was a pretty quiet week here at the old homestead... until Friday that is. Well, it might not have been, but I’ve was sequestered from the outside world until then. I was working on books. First off, I put Images and Dreams into print book format. Thanks to DL Keur for doing the cover on that one. I did it in full color, which made it a little pricey, but what the heck, somebody might want it in full color. Then I converted all of the pictures to gray scale and published a black and white version that is going to be much more reasonable... and it still looks pretty good. Moving on, I began formatting The Square Peg Book for paperback... I’m still working on that, but I had to take a break. My eyes were going bogwolly. I couldn’t focus anymore, so I emerged from my self-imposed exile and went out into the stark daylight of a world gone mad.

Yep, the election is drawing nigh and Halloween is just around the corner, which seems appropriate when you consider a clown and a witch are running for office... or so I’m told. Normally, I keep up with politics, but this year... and frankly the past eight years, I’ve lost interest. Social media has a lot to do with that, I suppose. Hey, I’m all for free speech, but I fear the stupids have taken over. It used to be folks had to have some level of civility in the political debate, but then the candidates also used to have some positive attributes. I’m not so sure anymore. In any case, I opted to quit looking at social media and stopped watching the news when election times roll around. The vitriol gives me heartburn.

At least there was humor when Dubya was in office... remember “Gilligan’s down?” And before him, we had the most appropriately named “Slick Willie,” whom Colin Powell recently noted still doesn’t know how to keep his in his pants. This, of course, gives hope to every man age seventy and up. Before Willie, we had George H.W. who made the words “Read my lips” almost as famous as “Go ahead, make my day.” Before George, we had Ronald Reagan, who at least knew how to act presidential and still keep his sense of humor. Of course there was that Jimmy Carter interlude... and his brother, Billy, kept America entertained while Jimmy micromanaged everything he could. Carter was preceded by Gerald Ford, who was a slapstick hero, especially on the stairs when that bit about “playing football without a helmet” kind of manifested itself. Of course we had Nixon before Gerald. Dick screwed himself with the Watergate, “I am not a crook” thing and the Vietnam debacle. Anybody else remember “Dick Nixon before Nixon dicks you?” I could go on, but you get the idea.

Of course, we have no one to blame but ourselves... and the media... never forget the media. They were the ones who invented the five-second sound bite, and with that, substance became secondary... and then seemed to fade altogether. Silly us. By hanging on those soundbites and tuning in every evening at six, nine, and eleven (depending on the channel) we boosted their ratings, which of course drives the most important thing... advertising, the only truly “green” industry out there. I mean, who else turns thin air into money without polluting anything but weak minds?

Ah well, enough of the rant, but what sparked it? You probably might have guessed it already. Yep, Duncan Donutz and Bingo Bob are at it again. Friday they were going at it. From what I could gather from my front yard, Bob was up in arms over some incident where the cops assigned to safeguard the Donald while he visited out fair city were filmed wearing red baseball caps bearing Trump’s name or catch phrase on them. Bob was irate. Duncan was caustic. I was indifferent. I mean, I’ll take all the free ball caps I can get. I have a whole collection of them from all the conventions I had to attend in my career. You never know when your favorite cap might be lost at sea fighting that monster fish you haven’t caught yet. It’s always good to have a spare. Besides, a Trump cap would be great to wear at a bridge party, especially if you happen to bid ‘no trump!’

“At least they have enough sense to know where their bread is buttered,” Duncan asserted. “As far as cops are concerned, Hillary sucks.”

“No she doesn’t,” I responded from the wings. “Just ask Bill and that woman he didn’t have sex with.”

Duncan busted out laughing and Bob turned red and literally started jumping up and down, sputtering, “Yer an ass, Stoner!”

“Maybe, but I’m just sayin’...”

“Trump’s the biggest liar out there,” Bob shouted.

“If this is a lyin’ contest,” Duncan shot back, “Billary would take first prize... at least Trump doesn’t lie about important stuff like those emails.”

“Oh sure,” Bob countered, “the emails... the emails... that’s all you right-wingers can hang your hat on.”

“That and her whopper about Benghazi and the doozy about being in New York on 9/11. Need I go on?”

“That’s just a smear campaign,” Bob faltered.

“Billary invented the smear campaign,” Duncan huffed. “Besides, Trump understands the Second Amendment... that woman doesn’t know a handgun from a howitzer and will try to take ‘em all away.”

“Hey guys!” I hollered, “Are you going to do the Halloween party again this year?”

That stopped them both in mid-argument.

Bob looked at Duncan. “If you do the pizza, I’ll do the burgers.”

“Who’s gettin’ the beer?” Duncan asked.

They both looked at me.

“I don’t drink,” I said, wishing that just this once I’d kept my mouth shut.

“That don’t stop you from buyin’.” Bob noted.

“I’ll bring a sense of humor and the Trumpkin,” I offered. “Between the two of you, there’s enough beer to flood the neighborhood.”