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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Ooh that Smell." Part 2

Sid Bartleby and Moe Eckstein were waiting anxiously. Sid was standing and Moe was in a wheelchair. He was a little on the weak side but his spirits were soaring. He was able to get up and move around without too much pain, but occasionally he would get a jolt. His doctors said the treatment was working but he should keep the wheelchair in case he felt too weak to move around. Those days were becoming increasingly few.

Sid looked down at his smiling friend. He caught an unmistakable whiff of a freshly baked blueberry muffin as someone walked by balancing one of those folding cardboard carry boxes he only knew as "J trays", full of them. J trays, at least that is what the paper goods salesman wrote down whenever he ordered them.

Moe caught a whiff of the muffins as well, reminding him that he was actually hungry, and had one of his own balancing on his lap. He made eye contact with Iva Bartleby at the Odd Fellows table who was once again selling these legendary morsels.

Iva was wearing a frontier style outfit which was handed down from when her husband's Great Grandmother, Edna opened the Muskrat Flats General store, a business which is still family owned, thriving, and of course celebrating its anniversary during the Fall Festival.

Moe inhaled the rich aroma of the muffins but was caught short as he briefly detected an unpleasant smell in the air. It smelled almost like rotting fish. He looked around wondering what the hell it was. He watched as the crowd began to gather outside the Saloon.

Sveltlana Smith and her husband Jeremiah were situated inside the old Double Life Saloon. Jerry was dressed in his authentic western wear, cowboy boots, chaps, faded denims, a leather vest and of course, his Colt revolver strapped to his side. He was checking out the front window of the saloon which, now functioned as the cafe and dining area for visitors of the Farm Museum and Agricultural Archive. He looked over at his wife who was dressed in a corseted Victorian style dress which proudly displayed her enticing breasts. She walked outside briefly to make sure the foam rubber mat on the ground outside the window was deftly concealed by some hay bales. As she exited the saloon Jeff heard tawdry hoots, and whistles of appreciation from the growing crowd. She waved to the crowd and went back inside.

"Looks good,"

Jeff said as he looked over at his seductively attired wife. A special woman she was. She was bending over repositioning one of the hay bales inside the building, giving it a final push. Looking up, she caught her husband lustfully eyeballing her cleavage.

"You know Jeff, you should consider yourself lucky, did you hear that crowd when I went outside?"

"Oh, trust me, I heard the crowd, I know how lucky I am." He put his arms around her waist pulling her in for a hug, gazing into her eyes. As their pelvic regions met she could feel some movement down there. Coyly he prompted,

"Why don't you tell me how lucky I am?" She wiggled her hips a little and squeezed in closer.

"I don't know many women in the Flats who have the willingness to dress up as Sheriff Hawthorne's Favorite prostitute for the Fall Festival ... I think you are enjoying this role playing just a little too much, cowboy. Better put that gun away." She winked.

"Well, Celeste, it is a seller's market these days, you'll will have to charge me accordingly later on." Jeff felt a little rush as he flashed forward to the evening when he began to untie that corset, slowly and playfully unwrapping his sexy wife like a Christmas present. She giggled as he rubbed into her.

"Jeff, someone will see." and without skipping a beat they heard,

"Hey you two, get a room before I turn the garden hose on the both of you." Gomer Eckstein strolled up wearing an all white suit and broad rimmed hat. His walrus mustache was neatly trimmed. He took off his hat and bowed.

"Hello, Sveltie. How's my favorite girl today?"

"You'll have to take a number. So far, this guy has been my only customer all day, he just keeps stuffing twenties up my dress every hour," she said as she lifted her skirt giving Gomer, her former high school sweetheart, a nice eyeful of her thigh surrounded with a red satin and lace garter which now held five 20 dollar bills.

Gomer blushed. Jerry laughed and got on the walkie talkie.

"Is everything all set outside the Sheriff's office?" He listened to a garbled response, which he aptly deciphered as a positive one. Jeff Nelson and his new sponsee Jim Benoit came in.

Jerry looked at them and nodded. He turned to Gomer and asked,

"Are you ready? Gomer cracked his knuckles and nodded.


The Fall Festival was a great success. Paulie and Donnie, the two dishwashers from the Odd Fellows hall had their hands full as they headed up the crew directing traffic in the overflowing parking lots. The blueberry muffins and cider doughnuts were selling like they were going out of style. The weather was crisp. It was a lovely cool day in the Flats. The trees offered a wondrous burst of color as their leaves shone radiantly in the afternoon sun.

The tourists, or leaf peepers as some called them, milled around the Farm Museum taking in the various demonstrations including one at the cooperage, the vineyard, and the tobacco barn. The Bartelby boy, did a fine job in the smithy shop as he demonstrated how to shoe a horse. People were having a wonderful time, They were spending money, which made the nervous vendors very happy. It seemed like an idyllic time ... all except for that occasional stench that would waft through the air.

"What is that?" a visitor from Prescott asked his wife as they strolled near the vineyards.

"I don't know but it is gross. Hey let's hurry up, it's time for the hanging." They joined the rest of the crowd, and headed over to Main St. They arrived just in time, as Gomer Eckstein came flying through the fake window of the Double Life Saloon. He landed squarely in the middle of the foam rubber mat which was obscured by the hay bales.

Jerry and Jeff scrambled out of the Saloon followed by Sveltie.

"Get him!" Jerry shouted. Sveltie Screamed

"No, He didn't do it, you have to believe me, I was there! He didn't DO IT?" Jeff Shouted.

"So, think we weren't going to find out about the Deal you made with the Silverstein Brothers?"

"Now hold on, It's not like that."

Jeff and Jerry grabbed Gomer who was vainly trying to dust off his white suit.

"Now, come on boys lets' go to my office we can talk about this."

Jeff shouted to one of the many who followed them out of the saloon,

"Grab that rope." The crowd hustled Gomer over to the maple tree outside Hawthorne"s office where he was pinned on the ground. Jeff slipped the fake noose around Gomer's neck, reaching under his coat to attach the real end of the rope to the harness he wore. Gomer whispered

"This better work, buddy!"

"Of cousre it will work, after all I don't want to lose my favorite sponsee." He tugged the rope violently. Gomer lifted off the ground a little bit as Jerry towered over him. He drew his army Colt pointed it at Gomer and demanded.

"On your feet Hawthorne!"

"Come on, now. I'm telling you it is not what you think." Jerry ignored his plea and turned to the crowd.

"Sheriff Coleman Hawthrone the Third. You are charged with unspeakable crimes. Embezzelment of town funds." The crowd Roared

"We can always get our money back but what you did ... making a deal with the Silversteins. Don't you understand that what they are trying to do will rip this town to shreds. We have a community here, we are not just a silver town. We are different. And it saddens me to think that all of the love we feel for this town and this community comes from the many hours we spent together as you shared your vision for what this town has become and what it it will continue to be in the future. It saddens me that you had to resort to these acts of treachery. What do you have to say for yourself?" Gomer looked out the crowd. He saw Sid and his father laughing their asses off. He was about to deliver his line when he caught a whiff of something. Whew!

"What do I have to say for myself? I had a bad day. I owed someone some money and had to make some real quick." He started laughing and winked at Sveltie.

"Okay that's it! On the the horse!" Gomer lifted himself up into the saddle of the horse which was situated under the large branch of the maple tree. Jerry shimmied up a ladder and tied the rope around the branch.

Gomer sat on the horse looking down at Sveltie who was pretending to cry and wail. He got a smile out of her as he winked again. He heard Jeff slap the horse's ass. The horse took off. Gomer dropped. He swung back and forth from the branch a few times, the harness was working, thank God. The crowd cheered and applauded at the fine performance.

Then, as always in Muskrat Flats, the unexpected happened. The rope unraveled and Gomer tumbled to the ground. Fortunately, Gomer's paratrooper training kicked in as he instinctively tucked and rolled as he hit the ground. The only problem was where he rolled to. It was then that Gomer discovered where that awful stench everyone had been smelling all day long had been coming from as he had just smeared his face in it.

There was a layer of slime on his face, there were flies and bugs everywhere. Gomer gagged a little as the smell of rotting flesh mixed with a pungent aroma which reminded him of a very ripe brie cheese filled his nostrils. He was on the ground eye to eye with these ...

"Good God, what the fuck!?"

Sveltie and Jerry Leaned forward. Sid and Moe came running forward. As usual there was a brief gasp from the crowd. But people began to laugh.

Sid bent over to get a closer look. Then he heard someone yell.

"There's more of the them over here!" People began to look around and noticed these bizarre fungus growing out of flower beds and areas that had been layered with mulch. The farm museum was infested with them. Moe asked,

"What do you think Sid?"

The crowd was zeroing in on the mushrooms.

"Uhh, I'm okay, in case anyone was wondering."

"Ah, Sonny!" Moe said turned to his son and offered him a hand. Moe knew he was alright. Gomer got up off the ground and Sveltie offered him a tissue to wipe the funk off of his face.

Sid looked down at the white stalk with the bulbous brown head and the queer looking white ring on top.It was slimy and crawling with insects. There were some reddish looking ones in the flower bed across the way. Disturbingly enough, they looked like uncircumcised penises.



"They call them stinkhorns. I have seen any of these in decades. They also call 'em dog's dicks.

"I guess the Mohelim didn't get to these yet, eh Dad? Better call the temple."

Moe laughed but whacked his son on the arm regardless.

"Are you alright sonny?"

"Eh, I'm fine just like hitting the ground in a parachute."

Sveltie was hugging Jerry.

"Those are the oddest looking things." She said. Sid looked over at his life long friend, Moe, and said,

"The way you leaped out of that chair, you look like you are ready to beat me in the 100 yard dash again."

"Yeah, Dad, you moved pretty quickly."

"I'm a little weak from the meds but the doctors say I'm getting better." He hugged Gomer who still had the noose around his neck.

"I love you Sonny, boy ... Hey, look I got a picture before the rope came undone. Gomer put his arm around his father's shoulder. Sid leaned in on the other side and they all peered at the photograph of him swinging from the mighty Maple tree.

Gomer just looked at his Dad and gave thanks that he was here just one more day. He looked around and saw all of his friends and loved ones. Jeff, his sponsor was coming in for a hug.

"You alright, Buddy?" Gomer was a little emotional and sniffed back a tear. He never thought that he could ever have such a wonderful life without the use of drugs He was grateful for waking up, He was grateful that even though the re-enactment went awry that he got out unscathed and more importantly he didn't accidently get hanged. He was thankful for the Odd Fellows and Jerry and Sveltie, all of the people who didn't turn their backs on him even though he turned his back on them when he was caught up in the grips of his addiction.

"You know Jeff, Today I beleive that I never have to get high again, I really beleive that."

"I know, my brother. Does that mean you are going to get rid of that joint in your ash tray?"

Gomer didn't answer.

As the day wound down, people got back into their cars and emptied the cluttered parking lot. Paul and Donnie carefully wheeled the donut machine down McKernan St., back to the Odd Fellows Hall, where the members busied themselves with clean up and organization.

Soon Muskrat Flats was once again quiet and people settled in for the eve. Jerry finally was where he longed to be. Slowly untying his sultry wife's costume. Gomer and Sid drove Moe back to his house, where he read from the manuscript he had been working on in the nursing home, as his guests listened intently.

Yes, life is good in Muskrat Flats these days. But until the stinkhorns disappear the and the stench of organic decaying funkiness continues to permeate the air, it is probably the best reason to get it in gear and start ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

Warning - This contains Explicit racial/ethnic content ... you Honky!

Hello Folks - You may be interested to note that this is being written from the Hartford Civic Center, er excuse me it is now the XL Center. It is in between the second and third periods of the season opener between the Hartford Wolfpack and our hometown Favorites the Springfield Falcons. The score is tied 3-3. Why I am here with my computer is irrelevant, but I am in a comfortable spot, the laptop is plugged in and I have a reasonable work space.

Between periods, I decided to take a walk around the perimeter of the arena. Something I had done many times before. Not necessarily at Hockey games, hockey games are a fun thing. Right now Christopher Walken is on the jumbotron asking for more cowbell . Ah yes, music sweet music.

As I strolled through the hallways of the former Civic Center, I began to reminisce. I was taken back 24 years … to 10-14-1984. I was strolling through these same hallways during the set break during a Grateful Dead concert. What a stark difference the hockey crowd is from that electrified crowd clogging the hallways so many years ago. It is funny how things change. In 1972, in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter Thompson suggested to Democratic candidate George McGovern, and I'm paraphrasing here ... "If you want to win the election, have a picture of yourself taken sitting on a beach, drinking a beer, wearing a Grateful Dead shirt." Monday night, The Dead played a fundraiser for Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

On the way to Hartford I was driving through one of the busier intersections in Springfield. I saw something I had never seen before. Actually, the scene I have encountered I have seen many times in the past but the circumstances and the demographic were such a stark contrast, such a deviation from the norm, that I had to sit up and take notice.

I have to give a little back story before I share what awful comment popped out of my mouth when I first processed what I was witnessing. I can be a real sarcastic bastard sometimes. My best friends love me despite this character flaw. Usually a get groans of disappointment and some lighthearted admonishment. More often than not I get laughter. Just the other night , my friend Geoff responded to one of my wisecracks,

“You should be with Bill Maher.”

“Really, I would love to be on Bill Maher’s show, that would be great.”

“I didn’t mean that you should be on his show, you should be his personal court jester, he’d love you.”

I was born in 1964, too late to know where I was when JFK was murdered and too young to confidently say that I remembered RFK assassination. I do remember where I was when Harry Truman died, oddly enough. The point I’m trying to make is that I grew up in a world where I encountered racism, every day both in my neighborhood in the suburbs as well as at the Catholic grammar school I attended.

We called each other, Guineas, Kikes, Micks and Polacks. Everybody seemed to enjoy a good ethnic joke. The Chinese and Jews were cheap, Polacks were dumb, the Irish were drunks, Greeks owned pizza shops and black people smelled, so blind people could hate them too. I’m sorry it is the way it was, political correctness was a foreign concept back then.

Of course I don’t condone racism, I'm simply repeating what a bunch of ignorant 10 year-olds launched at each other 35 years ago.

As I grew older I realized that the world is an enormously more complex place than we thought it to be when we were running up and down the streets of my neighborhood on our Schwinn bicycles with our banana seats. I changed my attitude as I got older and saw what was really going on with civil rights. My feelings were mixed when I heard Uncle Morose (he was a funeral director) pointedly referring to a group of black men as “jungle bunnies.” My brother and I kind of snickered at the time, but later, my brother took the time to tell me how wrong our Uncle was in his thinking.

I am a pretty tolerant guy. I don’t have a problem with same sex marriage, interracial dating, mating or what have you. Love is love. So please forgive me when you read what came out of my mouth that afternoon. It is now three days later … The Falcons won 4-3. Nice comeback, eh?

I am going to vote for Barack Obama. I think he is the best qualified candidate for the job. He looks and sounds like a CEO. He is calm and smooth under pressure and obviously highly intelligent. I don’t buy the crap the McCain camp is trying to ream down our throats about Bill Ayers. Obama was 8 years old when the Weathermen were doing their thing. I guess McCain forgot about his own stint on the G. Gordon Liddy show. Remember him? The guy who masterminded the Watergate Break in? the Guy who suggested to his audience that if an ATF agent comes at you with the intention of taking away your firearms to violently resist and go for a “head shot, because he will be wearing a bullet proof vest.” This is the same guy who named targets at a shooting range Bill and Hillary. Nice company you are keeping there, Senator and you have the nerve to praise this potential terrorist and right wing loose screw?

McCain also has been quiet about Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. An easy target if you ask me, and certainly a better one that Bill Ayers. If McCain took this route, to criticize Senator Obama with this association, It may be brought into the light that his running mate, Sarah Palin, used to attend a church where parishioners were known to speak in tongues. Rev. Wright may have said some inflammatory things, but at least you could understand what he was saying.

So here is the scenario I have been working toward. I was driving through Indian Orchard on the way to the Mills. There is a busy intersection near a bridge where a group of African American and Puerto Rican youths had fashioned signs in support of Barack Obama. Some looked official, some looked like the ones you plant in your front yard that had a stick attached to them with duct tape others, held by the girls, were handmade. It doesn’t get any more grass roots than this. They were wearing their baggy clothes, and their baseball hats sideways accented by multi-colored doo rags. The boys had their pants hanging down around their knees, as is the style of the day. And I couldn’t help it. The first words that came out of my mouth were,

“Good God, there’s a reason not to vote for Obama.”

What an asshole! I can hear the banjos playing Dixie in my head.

When I immediately thought about the situation, I asked for forgiveness from the guy upstairs, who with my luck is undoubtedly very dark skinned. I am glad no one heard me, which seems like a moot point since I just narked myself out to the whole world.

I began to think.

What an amazing time we live in. The very fact that these kids, most of whom are too young to vote, took it upon themselves to go out and let their voices be heard ended up leaving me feeling chagrined. Then I felt hope. I felt hope that my daughter was growing up so far away from a time when we would have turned fire hoses on these kids. I felt hope that these kids felt that it is not only their right, but their duty to go out and stand for a person in whom they believe. I feel hope that Americans my age from similar backgrounds can accept and embrace the ever changing landscape.

Back in the day people from all over the world, my Grandfather included, passed through Ellis Island with the hopes that they too could live the American Dream. These kids deserve that dream as well as do their children. We all deserve it.

BTW - Gomer says hi!

You can find me anxiously awaiting my next trip to the voting booth as I am …

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"I see your silver shining town and I know I can't go there..."

I sat down with a friend to watch the Vice Presidential debate Thursday night. Yah, fer sure, you betcha I did, doggone it.

Yikes, may the God of my understanding Save us.

I had expectations for the debate. I had expected that Sarah Palin would be slick, polished and full of talking points, speaking in generalized themes. I was correct. I was not prepared for the "aw shucks" down home main street America folksy schtick which she was presenting. It was a new-killer performance, I tell you what. I can bet that most of the non-thinking morons who believe everything they see or hear from the Fox network want to not only drink a beer with Sarah Palin but finish off that six pack and engage her in a wet and steamy game of "Drill, baby,drill!"

In my opinion, she didn't really answer any questions posed to her. When I heard Gwen Ifill was to be the moderator, I expected the Governor to be stepping in front of the 70 MPH Fastball machine at the local batting cage. What Governor Palin faced was the 30 MPH softball machine. Ifill was completely lax in holding the Governor to the subject matter, allowing her to deliver line after line of impertinent rehearsed material. I don't believe she uttered one original thought throughout the debate. To think, the right wing pundits were crying foul when they learned of Ifill's role as the moderator of the debate.

Now I am sure they are rejoicing in Governor Palin's shameless invocation of memories of Ronald Regan with statements such as, "there he goes, again." Referring to the "shining city at the top of the hill." and extensively quoting Reagan in her closing remarks. I want to hear what SHE has to say. I've heard what Ronald Reagan had to say, and it was tripe back then.

Senator O'Biden (did anyone else catch that gaffe?) demonstrated why he is the best candidate for the job. He avoided attacking Governor Palin rather attacking John McCain's policies, his voting track record regarding finance reform, and portraying him as anything but the "maverick" he claims to be.

Senator Biden was succinct, displayed a clear command of facts, knowledge of foreign affairs and demonstrated why he is the better candidate to fill the shoes of V.P. Enough of that.

Before the debate my friend said,

"I still haven't read your latest blog. Are you going to keep doing the fiction stuff, cause I miss hearing about what is going on in your life."

What's going on my life? You want to hear about what's going on in my life? And this is the same guy who complains that I "can't keep it to less than 500 words."

You have read about my exploits at the 7-11 occasionally here and there. Well there have been a string of robberies at the 7-11 and it seems that they were all possibly done by the same person/people. The last two definitely were, same masks, same gun, same modus operandi. These morons were caught red handed.

I have been questioned recently by more than a few people regarding Muskrat Flats. Is it real? where is it? How was your trip? Is Gomer Eckstein a real person?

Muskrat Flats is a location mentioned in the Grateful Dead song Pride of Cucamonga.

It is a fictitious location in an un-named State somewhere in the US. We know that it has unique geographical features such as season changes, a River, a Wharf, all located on a peninsula in a valley, which also happens to have flat lands. Go figure. This story wrote itself for a while before it began to develop a character of its own. We know that is borders Cities and towns and neighborhoods such as West Side, Baptist Lake, Enfield, Prescott and Dana. The last three towns suggest it may be somewhere in Western Mass where the Swift and Ware Rivers meet.

Muskrat Flats is my little foray into a Walter Mitty like world. Escapist delusions of grandeur, perhaps, or more like an idyllic Lake Wobegon type of place with a little harder edge. Somehow I can't imagine Garrison Keillor getting on stage and starting out his monologue by stating,

"Reverend Inquvist, the pastor at the Lutheran church, here in town, went down the the methadone clinic the other day ..."

It just doesn't sound right, but it sure fits a situation which could occur in a place like Muskrat Flats.

So, yes it is mostly fiction with bits of reality thrown in. What can I say? It just happened. When I write I am just as amazed as anyone as to what the end result will be. I generally have an Idea of where I want to go with the story, but most of the best stuff just rolls out. People, places and things, (heh, get it?) may seem familiar to you, but they are people you meet every day, there are circumstances that one and ten people you know are probably dealing with as you read this. I'm just a little better at making my words, ideas and fantasies come to life, than the average bear.

Well, I think I have exceeded my 500 word limit again. I will keep up with a reporting on things going on in my life and my recovery.

For now, the residents of Muskrat Flats are gearing up for the Fall Festival at the Farm and Agriculture Museum. Jeremiah and his wife Jenny are bringing their work home in anticipation of next weekend's events. He is going over the demo schedule and she is bending black pvc tubing and making hula hoops.

Sid Bartleby's kid has only gotten kicked by one horse as he practices putting their shoes on.

Gomer is furiously working on writing his second step, in the meantime he is trying to reinforce the crumbling harness he is supposed to wear in the re-enactment of Sheriff Hawthorne's "hanging" with one of his more up to date and presumably safer parachute harnesses.

These characters have a pulse they are breathing and to me, and to some of you they seem so real that you question their existence. I want to find out what happens to them next, don't you?

Until then, you will once again find me ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.