Sunday, December 24, 2006

Fred Raymer

Frederick Charles Raymer was born on November 12, 1875 in Leavenworth, Kansas. At the age of 19, Fred found himself in Albuquerque working as a fireman for the Atlantic & Pacific Railway, and playing shortstop for the Albuquerque Browns Base Ball Club. I haven’t determined how long he lived in the Duke City, but I have a feeling that it wasn’t for very long.



Raymer got his chance to play in the big leagues on April 24, 1901 at the age of 25 when he served as a utility infielder for the Chicago Orphans. After committing 42 errors out of 215 opportunities in 119 games, Fred wouldn’t see big league action again for 2 full seasons. Quite likely, Raymer simply wasn’t cut out to play the hot corner. That said, Raymer did start a triple play for the Orphans on June 14, 1901 in a game they lost to the New York Giants.

The Boston Beaneaters took a chance on Raymer in 1904 by making him their second baseman for 114 of their 153 games. Fred hit the only home run of his major league baseball career that magical season.

Raymer played 136 games for the Beaneaters in 1905, including single starts at first base and in the outfield. After flying out in the top of the second inning of the first game of a double header against New York, Raymer was allowed to “courtesy run” for teammate Rip Cannell who had ironically ripped his leg open while stealing second base with Raymer in the batter’s box. It was reported that Raymer was stranded at 2nd base, and Cannell retuned to his defensive position when the Beaneaters took to the field at the bottom of the inning. Weird, huh?

Raymer’s career major league baseball offensive stats include 301 hits, 95 runs and 101 RBIs with a .218 batting average. Fred swiped exactly 50 bases without being caught a single time. Interestingly enough, the young speedster also never grounded into a double play.

Although Raymer played in his final major league game on October 7, 1905, he obviously continued to play professional ball in the minor leagues as confirmed by these intriguing tobacco cards from 1910 and 1911.

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Raymer passed away in Los Angeles on June 11, 1957. He was reportedly cremated- perhaps in honor of his days spent shoveling coal into the furnaces of steam locomotives.

the scratching post

You may find it difficult to believe that I’ve had requests from readers to include my helper from the recent bathroom renovation project in more entries. On the other hand, perhaps you wouldn’t.

All I am prepared to say on the matter is that I will try.

Unfortunately it will be difficult to include Kancun in any discussions about baseball because she never goes to any games. Also, she isn’t allowed into my office where I keep my baseball cards. It isn’t that she doesn’t “like” baseball, mind you, but rather due to the fact that we are complete opposites when it comes to the proper methods for handling memorabilia.

Friday, December 22, 2006

just like "old days"

A most unexpected thing happened during my quest to rebuild a set of 75 Topps baseball cards. After reading my blog, a buddy from the old stomping grounds in the west-central portion of the Land of Lincoln Logs sent me all his duplicate cards hoping they would help out. I’m completely stoked knowing that one-sixth of the set that I will compile will have once lived in the very same gas station candy display case where I used to buy my cards.

Amazingly, the cards don’t appear to have seen the light of day since the Bicentennial!



This Robin Yount rookie card, one of the “key cards” of the set, is a shiny example of the great condition of the entire windfall. If you ever have a chance to check out my cards, be sure to ask to see a few of the cards from the Toastmaster Collection.

I suppose the moral of this entry is that sometimes… it pays to blog!

(So you’d like to see YOUR name mentioned here in my blog but don’t feel like sending me a stack of 75 Topps baseball cards? Well, I’m also going to be working on the 1974 set…)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

in a new yorker minute

Sometimes I have good reasons for not posting an entry for a considerable period of time. But usually it is because I have been wasting time creating witty entries for the New Yorker magazine cartoon caption contest.

After deciding that the "contest" is a scam a while back, I quit entering and just started emailing my "entries" to people I thought would either think them hilarious, or cause them to scratch a raw spot on their scalp attempting to figure out what they had done to deserve that particular evidence of my insanity.

But no more... I've now decided to just post them here. Thus, here is what I would add to this Lee Lorenz arting:

Friday, December 15, 2006

duke city baseball

Imagine a late spring afternoon on the west-trending toe slope of the Sandia Mountain foothills overlooking the rich, green Rio Grande valley in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The year is 1969. The date is Monday, March 31st. Only a few hours before, the nation had buried former president General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A total of 13,767 baseball fans gathered together to celebrate the grand opening of the $1.4 million Albuquerque Sports Stadium (now Isotopes Park) by watching a major league exhibition game between the Cleveland Indians and the San Francisco Giants. Obviously a large contingent of dignitaries were on hand as it was reported that only 12,959 people paid for the privilege of scrambling for one of the 10,510 seats. The remaining 3,257 slower moving fans and late arrivers would stand (probably in line for hotdogs).



The game ended tied at 5- called after the end of the 8th inning due to darkness. Quite possibly a full game would have been played if the scheduled 3:00 pm start time hadn’t been pushed back an hour after Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered the suspension of all baseball activities until one hour following the burial of President Eisenhower.

Still, the inaugural event must have been some kind of spectacle!

The first player to cross home plate was San Francisco’s Bobby Bonds. This stellar image captured by Ray Cary for the Albuquerque Journal depicts the historic moment, as Indians catcher Joe Azcue is unable to tag the speedy Bonds.





Cleveland’s Tony Horton two-run blast in the bottom of the first inning was the first homerun hit in the Duke City’s shiny new “multipurpose” stadium. His rocket traveled an estimated 390-400 feet before it was deposited in the lava rocks beyond the fence in left-centerfield.



My favorite image (of those I’ve seen) of that day is without a doubt this shot of kids hanging over the Giants dugout attempting to get autographs.



According to witnesses present, 13-year-old Mike Garcia had to leave the game before it was completed for undisclosed reasons. His father Tom would later explain that Mike was heartbroken because he had failed to meet his hero, Willie Mays, in person. Thus, one can easily imagine Mike dragging his feet as he followed his family toward the exit of the ballpark; perhaps listening for clues of how the game was progressing- including cheering of the crowd and public address announcements. The youngster had no way of knowing that he was just a single crack of the bat away from cashing in a portion of his fifteen minutes of fame- the hard way.

As it turned out, Mays had been removed from the lineup in the seventh inning after going 0 for 3 at the plate. Having used the underground tunnels to make a quick escape via a waiting taxi, Willie surfaced near the exit, an estimated 10 feet away from Garcia. Amazed by this lucky development, the lad immediately made his move, determined to get an autograph from the Say Hey Kid before he slipped away.

Garcia never knew what hit him. It was a major league foul ball. Mike was struck above his right eye, and was believed to be unconscious before he hit the concrete. While Giants trainer Leo Hughes was summoned to attend to Garcia, Mays’ warm-up jacket was used as a pillow to comfort the kid. Sensing blood with their keen reporter instincts, Tribune photographers Al Cabral and Mark Bush began hovering over the scene looking for the perfect photo opportunities.





It is unclear why Garcia didn’t end up with an autograph. “You can bet I’m going to send him an autograph,” Mays reportedly told bystanders. “You get that young fellow’s name and address for me and I’ll see that he gets an autograph.” I can’t help but wonder if Mike ever heard from Mays after that.

One would think that getting clobbered with a foul ball and having your photo taken while you are laid out on the ground- then plastered in the newspaper the following day would be about as bad of a time one could experience at a baseball game. Well, during that same game, Tribune sports editor Carlos Salazar reported that Arthur Henry died in the stands of a heart attack.

Like I said, that must have been some kind of spectacle!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

big gun

Next item on the auction block is this SWEET Albert Pujols minor league card. I got this thing autographed before an Arizona Fall League game in 2000, not long before Albert made is smashing appearance on the Major League Baseball scene.



I’m hoping this will help generate a fair amount of ca$h for my 75 Topps reacquisition fund. One of the things that make this particular card rare is the fact that he signed it “Jose A. Pujols.” Today, you would be pretty lucky to get an “A Puj” on your card.

Also, when I handed Albert the card before the game I asked him how he was doing. He replied that he was doing good, but then began complaining that his hat was too tight. The memory of that odd remark still makes me laugh today.

At any rate, it should prove interesting to see how much this goes for.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

quest for the best

Some 23 years ago, I did the unfathomable. I sold my baseball card collection. Well, most of it anyway. I kept the handful of cards that I had gotten autographed, and the five cards that I had identified as being my favorites. But the rest of the 40,000+ cards I had accumulated were sold to an insurance agent for only $350. It still makes me sick to think about how I allowed him to rip me off, but I really needed the cash for food while I was in college. At least I lived to learn.

Interestingly, the fella who bought my cards was arrested several years later for breaking into his clients’ homes and stealing their valuables while they were on vacation.

The vast majority of my cards were purchased one pack at a time from Mr. Burcham’s candy display case at the Sunoco gas station on Main Street in Toulon, Illinois. I traded with buddies to build complete sets and even managed to squirrel away a few unopened packs each year. Those alone would have been worth a small fortune today. I also traded “new” cards to older kids who no longer bought cards, but where still interested in collecting cards of players from their favorite teams.

My wife recently asked me how I got my hands on money when I was a kid. I would use money I received for my birthday, and would go around the neighborhood offering to shovel snow, rake leaves, or performing other odd jobs to raise baseball card funds.

I clearly remember the afternoon that Bob Bent caught me smashing pop bottles against the side of a shelter in the “city” park. Bob made me pick up the glass and carry it to a nearby trashcan. After I dumped the glass, Bob pulled a couple of whole bottles out of the trash and handed them to me. Then he marched me across the street and into the grocery store. As if out of some Hollywood movie, the storeowner gave me a nickel for each bottle. I was stunned! My first lesson in economics was as complete as it had been unexpected. I wondered why they didn’t teach us interesting stuff like that in school. Real life was much more exciting. As it turns out, that was the day that I began walking around looking for “stuff.” After that, I began finding money on a regular basis.

At any rate, I’ve been kicking myself in the ass since the day I sold my cards. With that in mind, I’ve decided that the thing I need to do is to begin recollecting the cards of my youth. And what better way to get started than by working on my favorite set… the 1975 Topps MLB cards? Rather than buying a set outright, I imagine I will go about it by picking up small lots and actually building the set myself. To quote Bruce Springsteen, “That’s where the fun is.”



Given the high cost of such an undertaking, I’ve also decided that the best approach would be to sell items of less personal significance than those I am interested in acquiring. Thus, I have listed my first item for sale on eBay in nearly two years… a complete 84-card set of Disabled American Veterans major league baseball cards.

While waiting to see how much fundage that set will bring (if anything), I will pull out the small stack of 75 Topps cards that I already have and work on creating a checklist to add to my updated baseball cards “want list.”

Thursday, November 23, 2006

the R word

I am extremely thankful each and every time a blogworthy topic literally falls into my lap(top). Today was no exception.

It actually all started about a couple of months back when an odd entry was posted in my neighborhood association’s message board. You are welcome to read that entry yourself, or take my word for it when I report that, in a nutshell, the message called for the cessation of disparaging remarks about renters in the monthly newsletter.

Although I didn’t pay much attention to the post at first, I admit that it did settle into that part of my brain where things go that I’m unsure how to process. A couple of weeks later, someone posted a reply to the posting that left me literally scratching my head as the questions again began tickling the interior of my skull.

Are renters bad for property values? Are renters really less responsible than property owners? Does not a homeowner who neglects their property actually represent more of a drain on the local environment? Is all stereotyping “wrong?

I’m pretty sure that I never mentioned the disgusting habits of our old neighbors due to my policy of trying to abstain from writing with negativity. I have no idea where these folks came from, but I was dumfounded when it soon became apparent that they considered empty beer cans and pizza boxes as appropriate landscaping materials. To make a long and irritating story short, they seldom bothered to wheel their trash out to the street, opting instead to toss it on the ground in the vicinity of the overflowing trash container hidden behind a pile of garbage on the side of their (rental) house.

The situation got so bad that I actually began taking their trash out to the curb each week. Of course I bitched and muttered to myself every step of the way, but at least I was being proactive and dealing with the problem rather than just watching it. I even hoped that someone in that household would take notice, and would learn from my example. Fat chance!

When they eventually moved out, they left behind a front yard full of debris that random passersby undoubtedly mistook as a tribute to the post-Katrina city of New Orleans. That mess festered for the better part of a week before a city cop investigating reported suspicious activities at the vacant house called the property managing company and threatened to cite and fine them if they didn’t get it cleaned up.

Before purchasing this house just over two years ago, I had been a renter for just over two solid decades. Honestly, I do not recall ever leaving a place in poor shape. I’m not suggesting that I didn’t live in some real hellholes. I did. But I can assure you that in those situations, the property was definitely more habitable (and I would imagine therefore more valuable) after I moved out than when I moved in. On the flipside, I have had friends who survived terrible living conditions- either inherited or self-inflicted. (You know who you are!)

But those are just a few examples that I can’t offer any evidence to support. Which brings me to this:



For the past year, a handful of college-age kids have been renting the house two doors down the street and just a half a mile from the railroad track. Never mind the loud, all night parties they staged on a regular basis, and the fact that their guests did more than a fair job of screwing up the already limited parking throughout the surrounding square block area. They were nice enough people. The issue for them was that they didn’t take responsibility for the trash that they created in a timely manner. When they moved out this past week, they left behind a pile of garbage that spilled out of the two dumpsters and across the front lawn onto a public sidewalk. The mound is impressive enough that it would likely cause Fred Sanford to have a stroke if he drove down the block.

Obviously, the “responsible” thing to do when you accumulate a mountain of trash like this is to make a trip or seven to one of several city dumps. But one can hardly expect someone(s) to know something like that when they are so na├»ve as to expect that city trash collectors are going to clean up after them.




It should go without saying that I was afraid that Officer Obie would happen along while I was snapping this pair of eight-by-ten color glossy photographs, and assuming that I had dumped all the crap on the sidewalk, write me a ticket AND make me pick up the garbage. For those of you who have been living under Plymouth Rock for the past 40 years, Alice’s Restaurant is to Thanksgiving what a movie that is played all day long each and every Christmas is to, well… Christmas. Of course the song (which definitely came first) is better than the movie.

Common sense dictates that the issue is actually tied to the difference between people and their individual comfort levels, and not whether they are renters or owners. However, I am of the opinion that these photos document the nightmare that some homeowners have when worrying about the new tenants who may move into the house next door. Personally, I have hope that the next crop will be better.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

the forkcast

First, some HUGE news! It seems that I hit the Powerball last week. No kidding! And considering that the holiday season is upon us, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.



Of course, the majority of the winnings have been earmarked to help offset the cost of the bathroom remodel. Speaking of which, I am very excited to announce that the project has at last come to an end. I would categorize any work needs that arise at this point as repair or maintenance issues. Additionally, I have tentatively scheduled the remodeling of the other bathroom for autumn in the year 2525.



Sunday, November 19, 2006

kuriosity

Have installed the new vanity and wash basin. I had a few issues with leaking in the drain line, but appear to have taken care of it by adding more Teflon tape and applying a bit more effort at tightening the fittings by hand.



Tasks are beginning to dwindle as I find myself now installing accessories such as mirrors and towels holders. Once again, thank goodness for my “helper.”

Friday, November 17, 2006

behold... the throne

I now have the new toilet installed. Will wait a few days and continue to inspect for leakage before I caulk around the base.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

drop the plug

After trying to stop the previously mentioned leaks using first Teflon tape, then more torque, then joint compound- and watching all attempts drip to failure, I finally got some decent results using extra heavy Teflon tape.



Now while I wait anxiously to see if the seals will hold, I have a few moments to contemplate the age-old question, “How long can a person realistically expect to keep an entire family waiting to begin splashing around?”

Monday, November 13, 2006

rub a dub dub

In between hockey games, I managed to finish painting the tub and actually move it back into the bathroom. If you’ve ever moved one of these things by yourself, then you can appreciate that I didn’t smash any of my fingers or toes in the process.



Is that a light at the end of the tunnel? Why yes it is. Unfortunately, that light represents leaks at both the hot and cold water supply lines where the ½-inch brass nipples feed into the ¾-inch input lines in the back of the faucet. Frustrated by the steady dripping, I disassembled that portion and will try again in a couple of days after I return from Arizona. I’m hoping that all I need is MORE Teflon tape and additional torque.

Once the tub is set, remaining tasks include installation of the new toilet and vanity/sink. I am also still searching for a nice cabinet that will fit in the corner behind the door. I am surprised that I can’t seem to locate any FREE plans to build my own cabinet on the interweb. What’s up with that?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

as seen in refrigerator

One neat little tip I’m happy to pass along is my method of dealing with a paint roller that I don’t feel like taking the time to clean properly. Not necessarily because I’m lazy, but rather because I am waiting for a coat of paint to dry and expect to be using it again in the near future.

Without removing the foam pad from the roller, I place the wet paint-covered portion in a one-gallon zip lock bag, and jam the entire contraption in the fridge. I’m sure there are a number of possible variations of the same idea, but I’ve found that everything works best when I place the handle upright and use masking tape to secure it to a shelf. This helps ensure that the roller doesn’t leap out of the fridge when someone else opens the door. Also, I recommend keeping the handle in the vicinity of the beer shelf in order to prevent injuring muscles that may not be used to stretching to other locations- say to a vegetable crisper for instance. (Of course I’m not claiming that my wife actually approves of this method, but as long as the project continues to move along, she seems willing to put up with oddities such as this.)



Speaking of progress, I finished cleaning the old caulking and paint remnants from the window and door trim, and have gotten all that lumber reinstalled. Also, I decided to use relatively narrow, decorative pine casing for the floor trim after considering the new vanity and the location of an existing water supply pipe. I believe the shortness of the trim will only help draw attention to the height of the walls, making the room seem as large as possible. As illustrated in these photos, I have gotten the trim cut to length and fit (more or less), sanded, stained (used Olympic One Step), and installed. I used a punch to sink the nail heads beneath the surface of the wood.





Although I should probably be busy filling in the resulting divots with wood putty, I’m going to take a few more seconds to mention something I consider unusual. I assume that we've all found ourselves on one side or other (possibly both) of the age-old argument: "What is proper- "grilled cheese" or "toasted cheese" sandwich?"

Have you seen the Hamilton Beach commercial for the Toastation toaster and oven? It’s the one where the woman whips out the term "cheese toast." I'm left wondering if this is a completely new phrase, or has anyone ever heard of it before? They even have a photo of this "new" dish on their website.

travels with coffee

With a few errands to run downtown, I enjoyed a leisurely walkabout on what turned out to be a gorgeous Indian summer afternoon. As I made my way toward the summit of the Lead Street bridge over the railroad tracks, I noticed a small “to go” cup from the Frontier Restaurant next to the fence, seemingly trying to look over the edge to check out the Rail Runner trains several tens of feet below.

I think it’s funny how weird or unexpected items can make you think of stuff completely unrelated. Pondering the potential travels of this Styrofoam manuport reminded me of a film we were shown in grade school about this boy who carved a manned canoe out of a chunk of wood, named it “Paddle-to-the-Sea,” then took it outside and placed it in a snow bank. I know, already it is crazy. At any rate, spring arrived and the snow began to melt. Eventually, the canoe slid into a tiny stream of melt off water and began this incredible journey toward the open sea.

I won’t tell you how that journey ends, just in case you want to see the movie for yourself, or read the book. I continued to think about the movie while I walked around the city, taking a break to check out the progress of the ongoing construction project at the southeast corner of Lead and 2nd (near the El Madrid Lounge).

I always enjoy walking past St. John’s (Episcopal) Cathedral at the corner of Silver and 5th. Although I’ve never ventured inside the structure, the outside is very interesting. From there I walked to the PNM office to drop off payment for electrical goods and services. Sure, I could have dropped a check in the mail, but I figure why pay someone 39 cents to deliver an envelope (or not) that I could just as easily deliver myself. True, the water fountain outside PNM always makes me feel like I have to take a leak no matter how prepared I am.

I continued down Silver, hanging a “roger” after the delicious smells of the hot dog vendor began to fade, and shuffling up 6th Street past the post office where screams of “Use your turn signal” (directed at someone other than me) filled the air.

Pausing to read the billboards advertising coming attractions at the KiMo Theater, images of unspeakable things the cooks might have been doing to otherwise normal food in Lindy’s began creeping into my brain and forced me to flee.

Upon reaching the intersection of 6th and Copper, I was stunned by the complete lack of any signs of construction at the main library. Either the project has been completed, or someone has stolen all the fences, signs, materials, and workers. Either way, I made a mental note to pass this way again in the near future.

A quick pop in at the bank on the corner of 6th and Marquette to see what interesting things they are doing with money these days. I really like the new $10 bills! So much, in fact, that I am willing to trade two of my critically acclaimed archaeology coloring books for a single one.

I was astonished to discover that Compass Bank requires non-customers to leave a fingerprint if cashing a check issued by them, in addition to a $5 fee. I was even more surprised to witness someone agree to those terms. Perhaps I am too easily entertained.

After conducting my business, I left the bank via the rear exit- not so much in an attempt to cornfuse the security guard, but in keeping with my long-standing policy to refrain from retracing my steps whenever possible. By this time, the increasing afternoon shadows forced me to stroll through the wifi-friendly plaza area- possibly the best location to find sunshine in the downtown area at almost any time of day (excepting, of course, at night).

From there I continued through the shady 4th Street Plaza where school children gather to frolic amongst the city’s homeless as if playing in piles of autumn leaves. One hopes that the kids won’t start a fire with one of their carelessly discarded cigarette butts amongst all the dead wood.

Emerging from the cultural breezeway, I turned to the east and began walking along Central Avenue towards home. The blog-worthy sights and sounds encountered within the historic Route 66 corridor are so many that a person would have to sit on a bench all day EVERY day to even make a stab at recording them all. Actually, ONE does, but it isn’t me. Besides, that story is of a journey of an altogether different nature.

Friday, November 03, 2006

belated birthday wishes to a 5-foot beauty

Yes, I am talking about our claw foot bathtub.



Not long after I got around to flipping this cast iron bad boy over to begin sanding and preparing the exterior for a new coat of paint, my helper discovered the maker’s mark. The “born on” date affixed to the belly of the beast indicates that the Crane Company manufactured the tub on October 22, 1930- just two years after the company initially introduced colored bathroom fixtures to US consumers.



Unfortunately, I have yet to discover any evidence to suggest whether this fantastic early Great Depression era relic was “new” to the house, or brought in “used” at some later date. Thus, the only previous resident that I can say with any certainty never enjoyed a soak in “Old No. 5” was Louisa Watson who passed away in 1928.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

komiks

Admittedly, I’ve been accused of being many things in the past. I’m positive that no one is more disturbed than I about the current grass roots movement amongst my readership to have me officially declared a “writer.”

For those of you who only know me through these ramblings, no, I do not have a background in journalism. Wait a second. Actually, the first writing I ever did outside of school (and was therefore pretty much the first writing assignment I had ever completed) was for a weekly newspaper in west-central Illinois. Twenty some years ago, Lowell “Bud” McKirgan, owner/editor of The Prairie Times, entrusted me to cover local public meetings throughout Stark County, including school board and city hall meetings in the towns of LaFayette, Toulon and Wyoming. I also recall having lost my way en route to a meeting in the village of Wady Petra- or was that someone else?

I learned a lot from Bud. Firstly, it wasn’t enough that I simply attend the meetings, but I also had to write down things that happened or were discussed. You see I only got paid for articles that I turned in. Bud also encouraged me to take one of his cameras with me in the event that something amazing transpired. Nothing ever did. Mostly city and county board members discussed wastewater treatment facilities, stray cat issues, and listened to complaints about particularly bad sections of sidewalks or roadways. I think the most exciting thing that ever “went down” during one of the meetings was when the President of the village of LaFayette (I think his name was Peavy) interrupted a heated discussion about noise complaints involving the town’s only bar, looked directly at me (the “press”) and said, “This isn’t to be reported.” Of course I responded by pretending to write down every word that was being uttered.

Whenever school board meetings got halfway interesting, the board would excuse themselves and go into “executive session.” One time I was convinced they had done so in order to watch Monday Night Football. When the meeting later reconvened it was announced that the price of a pint of chocolate milk would be raised to 15 cents, and regular milk would remain at 10 cents. Stop the presses!

After getting into archaeology several years later, I began acquiring the tools to become a technical writer in order to increase my marketability in an effort to compete for an elusive wintertime lab position. I could go on and on about what is involved in authoring an archaeological survey or excavation report, but a quick glance at some of the titles I was either responsible for, or contributed to, should give you plenty of insight as to how dry that was.

The funny thing is that I thought writing in an almost cookie-cutter manner was challenging- until I took my first stab at fiction a few years ago. It took me quite a while to train myself that I could write in any direction I pleased.

Another interesting thing about my writing is that once I started on my novel, I pretty much gave up reading altogether. I’m not sure if that was because I didn’t want the distraction, or if I was afraid that I might start stealing the words of other writers.

One thing for sure is that I am not a reader of blogs. Most blogs bore me to tears with their self-indulgent sermons and fragmented run-on paragraphs. Heck, I wouldn’t even read my own blog if not for the fact that someone needs to edit it.

That typed, I have become a regular visitor to one blog that was called to my attention by one of my readers. I would say that I am more interested in the concept behind The Comics Curmudgeon, than I am in the actual resulting product. I’ve been monitoring this blog pretty closely, searching for signs of brilliance. Strangely enough, his readers have contributed the best stuff I’ve encountered.

I’m very curious to find out how the author doesn’t get hammered for using the work of other people without paying for it (which I’m sure he doesn’t do). I mean, Bil Keane might be willing to let someone reprint his art, but probably not if they are only going to attempt to rip it to shreds. Anyhoo, it is an interesting concept.

For years I have toyed with the notion of trying my hand at a comic strip. Maybe I will get one or two completed and publish them here. Lord knows it is as good of use of my time as is trying to “win” the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.

Monday, October 30, 2006

grout expectations

According to my knees, I’m finished with the grout portion of the program.



I applied Mapei brand “warm gr(e)y” Keracolor S grout, hoping that it wouldn’t argue with the 12-inch Glacier Bay “Arctic Blue” porcelain tiles I had set into Mapei Ultracontact full-contact mortar. The application went well, and the clean up really only required a solid block of time and lots of elbow grease.



The floor has a few issues, but in general I’m pleased with the outcome. Tiling is definitely something that I wouldn’t want to do five (or more) days a week.

Monday, October 23, 2006

"my wallet's gone! my wallet's gone!"

Once upon a time, in a land so far away it pratically seemed nearby, lived a middle-aged lad who had in his possession a magic wallet. At first, second, or even third-glances it appeared to be a normal, average wallet- but that was only part of its magic.

Created from the tanned hide of a holy brown cow, this unique bi-fold wallet was used to store not only script, but also secret potions and mysterious plastic cards that could be flashed by the fella in order to hypnotize merchants and cause them to offer him goods and services seemingly without having to pay or barter for them. Some of the cards could even be inserted into machines that the man would tickle with his fingers until it began to laugh and cough out paper money. Many folks in the village discussed the phenomena in low tones, being very careful to never let the man hear them.

Also stored in the wallet were important data about the man, the location of his home, and even the type of blood that pulsed through his veins. Definitely not the kind of stuff he’d want to fall into the wrong hands!

The magic wallet was always kept near the man. Normally he would secure it in the left rear pocket of his trousers in order to be able to retrieve it in a moments notice. He would also regularly wear a long flannel cloak that served to both keep him warm and to help thwart attempts by pickpockets to lift the wallet. During the evenings, the wallet was always placed on a shrine next to the man’s pocket dagger and ointment that prevented his lips from becoming chapped by the harsh winds that regularly sandblasted the less vegetated regions of the kingdom. Okay, sometimes the man would be so weary from his day’s adventure that he would forget to remove the wallet from his pocket before climbing into bed, but in those cases his pants were normally on the floor at the foot of the bed.

This odd relationship between the man and the wallet continued uninterrupted literally for years- many years. Then one day out of the blue, evil spirits fell upon the man obscuring his ability to sleep comfortably and causing him to see visions of monstrous objects of all shapes, colors and sizes floating through the air. These shapes taunted the man with the fire of dragons while the evil spirits whipped up winds and rains and further distracted him by intermittently blocking out the sun and stars. It appeared to be either the end of times, or the beginning of something worse.

After nine days, the sky cleared and the shapes vanished as quickly as they had appeared. The man celebrated this fortunate turn of events by eating a spiced pork sandwich and slipping off into a deep sleep. When the man awoke, all seemed right in the land… until he reached for the magic wallet with his hand. Like the shapes and winds, it too had vanished! What luck!

In a panic, the man searched high and low, near and far, even to and fro- all in vain. The evil spirits had cast a cloaking spell over the wallet making it invisible to all who joined in the search. The man was devastated.

Rebounding as quickly as possible, he set about contacting the wizards who had issued the powerful cards and potions contained in the wallet to make sure they deactivated them before they could be used against him. One by one he had to admit his loss, and promise that he would do better if given another chance.

Following each successful conference, the man would again conduct a thorough search for the wallet sweeping his entire kingdom. He looked in drawers and cupboards, on the tops of books, under books, even inside books, under the bed, in his boots, under hats, in the stove, in boxes, and in spare pockets of other pants, jackets, and socks (yes, even in socks). Time after time, the searches proved fruitless. That isn’t to say that he didn’t discover some interesting things. He did… but no wallet.

Three complete sun cycles had passed since the man had dealt with the last of the card issuers when it struck him that he had forgotten one that he seldom used, and immediately set about dealing with the issue. In that meanwhile, he had struck a deal with the maker of the finest equipment used by the noble knights engaged in baseball, the grandest sport of all the land, for a replacement wallet. He figured that this magic would be more powerful than ever, given that the gods of baseball would be smiling on the Rawlings brand. Little did he know that the magic would begin working quickly, and in ways he never imagined.

The man was working in his den during the dark of night as the carriage containing his new wallet drew closer and closer, minute by minute. He remembered that the king’s men would arrive at first light to collect the weekly tax of household trash. While he grabbed the small, round receptacle adjacent to his writing desk, the man’s subconscious teased him by informing him that it was the one place he had failed to include in his searches. Dumping the contents of the container onto the floor, he began rummaging through the rummage like a kitten playing with tissue paper.

Unable to determine whether the man’s red face was the result of his labor, or his embarrassment of somehow having discarded the wallet into the trashcan, this author can only relate the fact that the jester and wallet had been reunited. No thieves had made off with it in the night. Nothing was missing. The fact that none of the magic cards still in his possession retained any powers was nobody’s fault but his own. A lesson had been learned, but its meaning was immediately lost upon the man.

Once upon a time, there lived a man who was VERY happy with the wallet he carried as a result of a silly mistake he had made.

progress

I finally finished setting all the floor tiles in the bathroom. After messing around trying to make my cuts using a coping saw with a diamond-coated blade, and then a borrowed tile hand saw, I ended up punting and heading back to the hardware store for a wet saw. About three hours after I returned home, I not only had all my tiles cut, but also had found extra time to water the remaining plants in the garden (strawberries, sunflowers, hollyhocks, grapes, marigolds, tomatoes and cantaloupes). I plan on returning the pair of tile nippers I bought but never used.

I began laying the special cut and border tiles right after watching the Tigers tie the Cardinals in World Series at one game each. I ended up with two full tiles and some change to spare. Now that I have that done and all the cat thin-set footprints wiped up off the hardwood floors, I’ll let it rest for a full day before I think about adding any grout.

I need to add another coat of paint to the window before I reinstall the trim. I also need to select and install the baseboard molding and repaint the bathtub exterior before I can start putting in the fixtures. I’m finally beginning to feel like I’m turning the corner on this remodeling project.

Friday, October 20, 2006

needling

Taking a step back to consider my options for cutting tiles for the area surrounding the bathtub plumbing fixtures, I decided to take a closer look at that cold water supply line that I believed to be broken. Utilizing a pair of needle nose pliers and an ample amount of determination, I was finally able to extract a broken piece of pipe that measures about ½-inch in length from inside the connection.



Although several of you are becoming bored with how long it is taking me to tile the floor, I must say that my assistant seems perfectly content to pass the time by scooting the plastic tile spacers around the floor as if they were hockey pucks.



Speaking of hockey, Saturday is the open house at the brand new Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. This is where our hockey team, the New Mexico Scorpions, will begin playing home games next Friday. I will be operating the four DAKtronics matrix signs during games, and will also be called upon to direct some of the video productions. That will entail calling for shots from the three cameras, editing and playing instant replays, and running sponsor commercials and appropriate video clips from movies such as Slap Shot and Strange Brew. I don’t think these games will be available for viewing online, but then I may be wrong.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

tiling for dollars

Okay, I got the full field tiles set, now will let the thin-set cure while I run to a bar and watch game 5 of the National League Championship Series and ponder the cuts I need to make for the remainder of the room.