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Friday, July 23, 2010



So I got a call from the neighbor’s son’s girlfriend the other day- she was minding the dogs (I know those dogs and it wouldn’t work the other way around). She said she just them out back for a walk and came face-to-face with a mountain lion, which hissed at her and scared the crap out of her. We live in a residential neighborhood which abuts a tract of land about seven acres in breadth- not really a wild jungle situation. Which made me think that if the hiss could be interpreted it probably meant, “Do you have any idea where there’s a mountain around here?”
She said she called 911 and they told her to go back into the woods and take a picture of it (and what- post it on Facebook?). Animal Control wanted no part of it either since technically it had broken no law.

The idea of a wild animal in our backyard that you woudn’t normally run over in a car was at once fascinating and frightening to me. My wife walks our dog back there all the time, and although I don’t think a mountain lion would attack a human for no good reason, I wondered if their system for rating reasons might be different than ours.

I thought I had better get out there and… well I didn’t really have a fully constructed plan in place. I put on a jacket and long pants even though it was about 90 degrees, thinking that if it bit me, neither of those garments had been recently laundered, and I would have the last laugh as I sat in the hospital. I put on a hat in case it bit my hair, and I took along a weapon- the deadliest thing I could find in the garage was a pickax.

Once I was in the woods, I looked down at my hand and said what the fuck am I going to do with a pickax? I may as well plan to conk it over the head with a ball-peen hammer, or jab it with a shish kebab skewer. I went running back to the house and found my father’s Winchester 94 (“The Gun That Won The West,” he never tired of telling me). I started keeping the gun in the bedroom ever since I saw that home alarm system commercial where this girl is alone and her old boyfriend with a snarly face breaks in and terrorizes her and her kid. I always thought that the same thing could happen to me: that that girl's snarly-faced boyfriend could break into my house. I have a dog, but the dog always looks like it’s smiling, and the only way it could ever harm a stranger is if it licks his skin off, causing all his organs to flop around the room.

I dug up the shells to go with it, and even though the box said, “best if used before 1974” (I should have asked my Dad- wasn’t the friggin’ West won by 1974???), I figured what’s the worst that could happen? Well I could shoot and kill myself, or be mauled by a mountain lion, but I only thought of those things later.

I thought I better test fire the weapon to see if it still worked after all these years- what if this friggin’ wildcat pounces on me, and I pull the trigger, and the thing makes a “doink” sound and nothing comes out? Or worse yet, the mountain lion puts its finger in the barrel and the gun backfires into my face? I know my father went on hunting trips, but I only remember him dragging his own carcass home with him.

I put a shell into the chamber and picked a place along the path to fire the rifle- I could just see me pointing it at a rock, and the ricochet comes back and kills me, with the mountain lion snickering away. I pulled the trigger and jesus the noise was an echoing cacophony that must have been heard for miles. I hoped at the very least I may have struck oil like Jed Clampett, and I could move to Beverly Hills where the mountain lions are better behaved.

When I continued into the woods, I heard a sound and spun around to a pair of eyes staring at me- a large fox. It did not seem frightened of me, and started circling my position as if to say, “I think I left my glasses somewhere around here.” I theorized that the mountain lion had made a play for the fox’s young, and perhaps I posed a similar threat in its mind. So far I did not see any evidence that wild animals are “more scared of you than you are of them,” and I think I even saw the fox give me the finger.

I continued on, and noticed a deer blind, which I climbed, toting the gun. I saw movement in the distance- a deer. I turned to call my wife- she would get a kick out of being called by an idiot with a gun sitting in a deer blind 15 feet up a tree. When I turned back I saw something that looked like the tail of a mountain lion, although I was far away and it also looked a little like a dinosaur.

I started thinking, what would Commander McBragg have done in this situation? I started thinking of amusing things to write in a blog. It dawned on me that I better focus here, this could turn into a life-and-death situation for one of us. I wondered if I would actually kill it if I saw it- the thing hissed right at the neighbor; that seems pretty threatening to me. Is a mountain lion an endangered species? Would I get in trouble if I killed it? I thought of getting a restraining order on it, or possibly trapping it. The pickax might come in handy after all if I dug a hole and put leaves over it. After about 45 minutes I popped the shell, climbed back down and watched Judge Judy.

Incidentally, a mountain lion is the same as a puma, a cougar or a panther. Its range is extensive, from Canada down to South America. A black panther is not a panther at all, but more likely a jaguar. The mountain lion cannot roar, but will growl, hiss and even scream, if someone steps on their foot. If you see a Cougar or a Jaguar on the highway, move out of the way, especially if it honks at you. The bobcat is much smaller, and gets its name from “Robert.” The jaguar and the leopard are much bigger, and indigenous to more tropical climates. A leotard is a cross between a leopard and a retard.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Thursday, July 15, 2010



Last week our friends Caryn & Chris took us fly fishing on North South Lake in the Catskills. North South Lake is just East Northwest of South North Lake, only more so. We were in a canoe, and they were in a little dinghy, which seems like more of a description than a noun.

We have never been fly-fishing before, and never fished at all in a canoe, which is an either/oar situation. Don’t ask us if we got any bites, because you really don’t have to fish for the flies at all- they come right over to you and bite the crap out of you. Chris explained that the fly is used to catch the fish, which is a shame because I can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, except in center field.

I asked what we were supposed to do with the fish if we caught one, because I don’t eat anything with bones. Unless the fish is such a friggin coward that it is basically a spineless jellyfish, I won’t touch it. I might consider a peanut-butter-and-spineless-jellyfish sandwich. But Chris assured us that this is a catch-and-release lake. I wasn’t sure if there was a “happy ending” or anything like that involved, so I just kept my mouth shut and kept rowing.

I told my wife that she could just sit back and look pretty, and I would do all the rowing. After traveling in a large circle 22 times, I realized that you had to alternate sides. So I rowed once in the front and once in the back. Luckily the wind blew us over to the side where we couldn’t do much harm.

The very first thing that I almost caught actually ate the lure, the sinker and the hook, possibly on a bet. Chris looked a little pissed- he said it was an expensive lure. I asked why don’t you use real flies? They’re free! All you have to do is catch them! He shot me a look that I interpreted as: “The fish are supposed to catch the flies- that’s how the food chain works.”

He fitted the line with this thing that I swear looked like a small dustmop, and I’m thinking this will appeal to a fish that is a real neat freak- I figured I was done for the day.

The next thing that happened was that I cast the line far and wide, and the top of the pole came off and went flying into the lake- no one told me it was supposed to come off so you could fold it up. So I spent the next half an hour going through the tackle box trying to figure out what might attract the top of a fishing pole.

After I got the pole back together I finally caught a fish. It was a large-mouth bass. You can tell this fish immediately in the field, because it started dishing about its in-laws. Unfortunately only its mouth is large, the rest of it is puny, so even though I wanted to take it home and stuff it, they made me throw it back. I asked Chris if he ever mounted his fish, and he dialed something on his phone that looked like 911.

Then I caught a catfish, which Chris & Caryn told me was a fluke. I said make up your mind. They meant that is rare, so I sent it back until it was well done. If a catfish is anything like my cat at home it will chase a fly for its entire life expectancy, which is one day. Then the fly dies of natural causes and the cat struts around like Lady Gaga.

After that I caught about 20 pounds of seaweed, which I have to say puts up a hell of a fight. The trick is to let it tire itself out as you give it some line, and reel it in slowly- don’t give up any slack. Once you get it into the boat it’s as valid a meal as any fish, at least for vegetarians. I also caught a stick, but that’s not going to make you a big hero- I’m just glad it didn’t run off with another lure.

The whole time I was living in abject fear that I would wind up and catch their dingy on my backswing, puncturing the pontoon and perforating their pleasure craft. But when I looked over at them, they were fighting with some kind of sea serpent or something that actually took Chris overboard, along with their lunch. I have to tell you I just started rowing and didn’t stop till I reached Ulster County.

Incidentally, If fishing in New York State you are required to have a fishing license in your possession unless you are under 16 years old. Which means that you don’t have a driver’s license, and probably cannot afford a boat, so it’s probably best to float there. If you are fishing for an “alewife” you will probably need a fishing license, a marriage license and a liquor license. I will send a gift.

Provided by website-hit-counters.com site.

Thursday, July 1, 2010



Due to the proliferation of Facebook I was able to reconnect with my long-lost bandmates from high school. Some of them actually were lost, but due to advancements in GPS technology, ended up finding our house by traveling along the railroad tracks.

The reunion was a lot of fun- I had assumed some of them were weird and reclusive for not getting in touch with me all these years. It turns out that they just had sound judgment. The guys are all still talented, and have been playing all these years. Kenny used to play bass once in a while, and his brother Jeff plays bass now in a band. Chris switched from keyboards to bass in 1984. I wasted most of my adult life playing bass. And Ronnie, our bass player, coincidentally also plays bass. I thought about suggesting that we all play bass on one song, which would have been funny probably only to me.

Since no one else was foolish enough to volunteer to sing, I was forced back into action. Back in 1975 I could sing very high. Meaning after smoking half an ounce of pot. These days my range is much lower, possibly because that is where I have set my sights. I seem to have the same range as Frank Sinatra, only with a horrible timbre. When I sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” I have to start it so low that only whales can hear. One time someone said, “Shut your blowhole,” which I assumed was a snarky whale. If Frank Sinatra were alive and knew “China Grove,” believe me I would have suggested him.

Plus I still don’t know the words to any song ever written. I had to go online to find the lyrics to each song, which was a headache, because what these sites desperately want is for you to download a ring tone. Silly-sounding ring tones and people snoring are all I hear on the train these days. Everyone wants to show off a little piece of their personality that is usually better kept under a rock. Am I smarter and more cultured than I look, with my mullet and lower lip pierced so that from far away it looks like I have a social disease? YES! Because I have Beethoven’s ninth as my ring tone! Sorry I fell asleep and Beethoven’s ninth runs an hour and five minutes! Hey what about ME! Even though I work for Geek Squad and wear a bow tie, I am friggin’ JAUNTY because my ring tone is “Pop Goes the Weasel!” Now you can download a ring tone that sounds like a telephone ringing, but no one recognizes the sound anymore. I would prefer if people downloaded a ring tone of someone snoring on the train since I am used to that.

My annoyance radar senses that this is just the beginning of silly ring tones. Where will it end? When my microwave goes off, will I hear, “Come and Get It?” Will my alarm clock sound James Brown’s “Get Up Like a Sex Machine” every morning? If I really had a sex machine I could sleep later, by the way.

Not being able to remember anything makes giving a speech unfathomable. I cannot imagine being a politician back when you had to memorize the speech: “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth… Let’s see… they brought a fifth of vodka, probably a beach chair, a snack... to be honest I can’t remember what they brought. I’d like to take the remaining time for a short Q & A period.” That empty feeling when the next line of the song comes and you remember NOTHING is a glimpse forward to Alzheimers. So I usually sing the line like Gregg Allman, and nobody notices. We did two Allman Brothers tunes, and I didn’t have to learn the words to either one of them.

It seemed very natural and easy to jam with the old crew again. But there are some important distinctions between now and then: Back then it was still a dream to become an overnight sensation. Now you are more likely to be an overweight sensation. Back then the purple pill was mescaline. Now the purple pill is Prilosec (what would happen if you take acid and an antacid at the same time?). Back in the day you could garner a large following and make a splash in the record business. Now you can garnish a salad and hope not to make a large splash in the pool. Back then you could still believe that practice makes perfect. Now it just makes you perfectly exhausted.

There is a commercial for Blue Cross or something where this gray-haired rocker is jamming out with his buddies. His keyboard player is in a wheelchair, his drummer is bald with a pair of readers on, his bass player is blind with a seeing-eye dog and his rhythm guitarist is just a torso with no head, arms or legs. At least that’s the way I remember it, and I would look at it and go jeez I hope I don’t look like that, so I always remove my readers when I play. The words “rock and roll” and “Medicare co-payment” should never appear together in any sentence other than this one.

Anyway, the reunion was a lot of fun. Even all these years after high school it seemed that with a few hours of work we could make sense of the material. Could the same be said for trigonometry? I have enjoyed music every day of my life since graduation, but I have never enjoyed one sine or cosine, and it hasn’t been for lack of opportunity. I know what you’re thinking: I am off on a tangent this very minute.

Incidentally, Beethoven’s ninth symphony was completed in 1824, and contained the famous “Ode to Joy,” which is based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller called “To Joy.” The poem was written in 1785 and revised in 1803. I wonder what he thought of 18 years later that he forgot? I’m not sure, but he might have been thinking of our reunion and added this line: “And whoever was never able to, must creep Tearfully away from this band!” The fourth movement contains the choral elements that approach the climax of the piece. Every once in a while I bring in a chorus near climax too, so it doesn’t get too lonely. Beethoven wrote the symphony when he was completely deaf. Quite an achievement, but to be fair, he had the use of a hearing-ear dog. Which explains why many of the passages refer to bacon.

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