Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008


This sorta qualifies as a squib, and I haven't pulled out the graphic in months. So there ya go.

Mark Cuban had a great quote on his blog several days ago, that he called his new favorite saying. I haven't been able to find out to whom it's attributed...but when a quote's good, it doesn't matter who said it, right?

"Today is the youngest you will ever be. Act like it."

"It is better to be quotable
than to be honest."
—Tom Stoppard

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I've heard all the horror stories about the DMV...the five-hour waits, the surly customer service reps, the road test administrators who flunk you before you even pull out of the parking lot.

But I've never had a bad experience with the DMV.

I passed my driving test on the first try, and if I remember correctly, after my test the instructor told my parents that I was a very good driver. If I don't remember it correctly, I'm going to ask my parents to corroborate my story so that it at least sounds like I'm a very good driver. Which...I am.

This morning I went to get my driver's license renewed, and as soon as I walked in, I knew that this was the day all of my good luck with the DMV would come to a screeching halt. (by the way...if you're forced to come to a screeching halt while taking your road test, I'm betting you'll almost certainly fail.)

I barely got in the door and found myself at the end of a line snaking around a table and all the way to the back of the room. There were three customer service guys manning their battle stations, and all of them were busily tending to the needs of Wisconsin drivers.

I counted my way back and found that I was the thirteenth person in line. I considered calling my boss to tell him that the hour I thought I'd be gone might be extended a bit, and that he shouldn't expect me back until the middle of next week.

The lady in front of me was doing everything in her power to support the stereotype of the month-long wait at the DMV by complaining to her friends about the hours and hours *gasp!* she waited in line other times at the office in the next county.

The line inched ahead a little bit...and then a little bit more, and before long I was more than halfway up to the front of the line. A couple more minutes and I was in the on-deck circle. Smooth sailing.

When one of the customer service guys became available, I'm certain I heard him say, "I can help who's next, please."

Please?? Did he say...please? I thought these guys were supposed to just glare at you, drumming their fingertips on the desktop until you finally realized in your great stupidity that yes, YOU, were next, and you better get your ass over there or they'll send you back to the end of the line.

But no. He said please.

Two minutes, a lame eye test and thirty-four dollars later, I was signing my name and standing on the tiny rectangular mat in front of the backdrop to get my pic taken.

And about five minutes after that, as he handed me my new license, he said, " you go, buddy. Have a good day."

Buddy? He said buddy......and please?

I love the DMV!!

"Thanks. You have a good day, too," I replied.

"Thaaank you!!" he said.

Couldn't have asked for a nicer guy.

Now...about that picture. Definitely the one blemish on my DMV experience. It's a good thing the only people who will see it are the police ociffer who writes me a ticket for the one (or two) speeding tickets I will inevitably get in the next eight years before I have another crack at a better photo...and all the swell people in liquor stores and nightclubs who look at me and think to themselves, "Hmm...he might not be 21 just yet. I better check and make sure."

I'm always more than happy to show them that I was born only a couple years after Moses. And for making me feel young again, their prize is getting to see firsthand that I take a really shitty driver's license photo.

That's a trade-off I can live with.

"I close my eyes while driving
and just sing along. I always
open them again in time."
—Tyra Banks

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Seat With A View

I need to begin this post by thanking Carolyn Lanza and Richard Greisch, and I don't even have a clue who they are. But they helped make my Saturday morning a bit more pleasant.

I had some work done on my car over the weekend...a list of items slightly longer than a 20-minute oil change. (remember those tires I said I was going to buy? consider the economy stimulated.)

So rather than pass the time in the waiting area flipping through a stack of magazines or watching TV, or shopping on the north side of Manitowoc (is there any shopping left on the north side of Manitowoc??), I took a stroll up to Mariner's Trail along Lake Michigan, walked a couple hundred yards up the trail and found a bench with a sign that read, "Bench donated by Carolyn Lanza and Richard Greisch."

I sat down on the bench and stared out at the lake, a couple tiny sailboats dotting the murky brown water, thin strips of blue slicing through to give hope for a more attractive great lake in the coming summer months.

Bikers and runners and walkers made their way along the trail a few feet behind me, out to soak in much of the same view I was getting while I waited for my worn Kumhos to be replaced with Goodyear triple-treads.

A nun rode past on what looked to be an older style three- or five-speed bicycle, with sidebags on either side of her rear tire. She had a helmet tightly strapped to her head, her habit beneath it, flowing down her back. And she also wore a neon orange mesh vest like you see guys wear when they work on road crews.

I wish I would have had my camera out, because it would've made a great photo. I wanted to run after her and ask her how often she comes out to enjoy the trail...but I'm kinda slow, kinda fat and kinda old. And she was on a bike, you know. So I conserved my energy and recorded the image in my mental filing drawer instead.

An older couple walked on the beach along the water's edge with their dog that was carrying what looked to be an old rag doll in its mouth.

A short time later, another woman came walking with her dog. This dog had a ball that it couldn't seem to keep in its mouth, or maybe it just didn't want to, as it was more concerned with digging its front paws in the sand or splashing in the water than playing fetch.

One woman came by carrying two pieces of driftwood that she picked up along the beach. I didn't know her, and my bench was too far away from the water's edge for me to call down and ask, but...I'm assuming she had a collection, and those were her two latest additions.

I sat and read a few chapters from Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith, and when I looked up to concentrate on the lake, I was able to drown out the noise from the traffic on the busy road behind me, and hear only the waves lapping against the shore.

This made me feel a little more Zen than I normally do.

Once when I looked up from my book, I noticed a dot on the horizon, and knew it was much bigger than a sailboat. And soon I got to witness the familiar sight of the Badger carferry moving tortoise-like toward the finish line of the Manitowoc port on its journey from Ludington, Michigan.

After absorbing all the sights and sounds and spending equal amounts of time reading and people-watching, I grabbed a notebook and a pen, and wrote this blog entry, grateful to Carolyn and Richard for providing me with such a spectacular front-row seat.

A more enriching way to spend a couple hours than in an auto garage's waiting area, don't you think?

I should have my tires replaced a couple times a month.

"I'm an old-fashioned guy...
I want to be an old man
with a beer belly sitting on
a porch, looking at a lake
or something."
—Johnny Depp

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For Wish No. 2, I'd Like...

Did you see that?

At the end of my last post, I asked for sun and 70...and today, it was sunny and in the 70s!

I think after laying dormant for so long, my blog has developed magical wish-granting powers. How cool is that??

Let's give it another whirl, shall we?

Please send meeeeeee...

.........a suitcase filled with hundred-dollar bills, delivered to my doorstep by Vanessa Marcil.

(I think I just heard my blog chuckling at me.)

"Destiny has two ways of crushing us—
by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them."
—Henri Frederic Amiel

Monday, June 09, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

...the gray skies are boooooring. (and scary, too.)

If there was a way to search through all of the Wisconsin bloggers in the blogiverse, I bet 99 percent of them blogged in the last couple days about the weather.

Lame topic, you say?

But there was nothing lame about the rain that came down on Saturday. When the news stories report that cars were floating away in intersections, and people were swimming to's time to sit up and take notice.

Seven Wisconsin counties reported tornadoes. In the streets, 200-pound manhole covers were flipped like pennies from the water pressure in the storm sewers below. (I didn't write that...I read it in this story. But isn't that great imagery?)

We had serious...serious...water in our state over the weekend. I was down in the Milwaukee area to spend some time with my sister and her family, and we watched the day change from blue skies to storm clouds to sheets of rain. When the storm sirens went off, we hit the basement, and the reservations we had for dinner at a Japanese hibachi place were put on hold.

My nephew still had to go out, though, to play in the band for his high school's graduation. Attendance at that event served as his final exam. With all the flash flood warnings and tornado warnings, I thought having graduation that day was pretty stupid. But I'm not a school administrator.

After hearing the storm sirens go off at least three times, and waiting out several waves (heh.) of rain showers, we decided the worst was over and went for Japanese food. We didn't float away.

My niece got a kick out of playing The Catching Game, as she called it...where the chef flipped shrimp off his spatula into the air for us to catch in our mouths. (yes, I caught mine.) And I got my sushi all was good.

The drive home was mostly uneventful, except for a 10-minute stretch halfway home where you couldn't see much, but you got one hell of a car wash as you drove. I don't drive with my hands at 10 and 2 very often, but I know when to hold on. My "reward" for making it through the downpour was a pretty spectacular lightning show from time to time on the rest of the drive.

Ten minutes of white-knuckling it during an hour and a half drive certainly isn't a whole lot to complain about, as it could have been much, much worse.

Yesterday it stayed gray throughout the day, and Mother Nature thought it would be a fun trick to play to make me spend most of my day either opening or closing my windows.

I'd open five or six of them, and sit down by the computer or the TV, and it would start to rain. So I'd close my windows, and five minutes later, the rain stopped. Soooo...I'd open them again. I repeated this process more times than I'm going to admit in this blog entry.

But, umm...

...sunny and 70, anyone?
I'm all for it.

"Don't knock the weather;
nine-tenths of the people
couldn't start a conversation
if it didn't change once in a while."
—Kin Hubbard

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Gentle Nudge.

I got a bit of a drive in the ass from a friend a couple days ago, regarding this blog.

Oh sure, she tried to soften the blow somewhat, calling it a "nudge" instead. But I could read between the lines. Basically, from the few words I saw on screen, what I read was:

"Dude, what's up with your blog, man? You've got this blog (noun),!!"

Yeah. Like I haven't been telling myself that for days upon days upon days.

But...I value her opinion. And her nudge. And I had the gist of this post formed in my head yesterday, ready to send through the keyboard. But then Ed McMahon saved me as I channel surfed past Larry King Live, so I made fun of him instead, and rolled this post around for another day.

What I've learned from this highly scientific experiment I've been conducting over the past couple months's easier to not blog, than it is to blog. It's true!

Don't believe me? Try this simple test. Go and get yourself a blog, if you don't already have one. And then when you've got one...ignore it. Just...don't blog.

Pretty simple, isn't it?

Not very fulfilling. Not the most productive creative outlet.
But boy, is it easy!

However...hopefully the Un-Blog has worn out its welcome, and it's time to get back to The Blog again. We'll see how long I can make that statement stick.

One of my very favorite writers, Anne Lamott, talks about writer's block in her book, Bird by Bird, and also in an audio tape I have of one of her workshops, called Word by Word. (I highly recommend both the book and the workshop-on-tape. Or...disc, as it's available now.)

Lamott views writer's block not as being blocked or stuck, but as being empty instead. And that every so often, you've got to refill this rag bag that writers carry around...and that memories and sights and sounds and snippets of daily life and stories and conversations all serve as the rags for our rag bag, which we then dip into when we sit down to write.

Perhaps you find a piece of burlap or a shred of canvas, or a piece of muslin or maybe a torn T-shirt, or an embroidery thread. All these pieces are collected and used to fill the rag bag.

I love that example, and I'd totally steal it and try to pass it off as my own idea, but I don't have a fuckin' clue what muslin is, so therefore...proper citing of my sources. (And I wouldn't do that to Annie, anyway. Or anyone else.)

I've spent some time with her audio workshop in my car over the last several days, and then I got the, just the right time from the friend I mentioned. So I figured it was time to put ass in chair and get to work.

I've managed to continue to bang out a column for the paper over these past weeks, but when it came to something voluntary, like Ton-Fifty-ONE, ohhh it was so easy to let it slide. And then of course I'd beat myself up for ignoring it for another day...and another...and another.

I don't know if my rag bag is as full as it should be, or if my rags will be worth writing about.

But at least I'm collecting.

"Seeing yourself in print is such
an amazing concept: you can get
so much attention without having
to actually show up somewhere.
You don't have to dress up, for instance,
and you can't hear them boo you right away."
—Anne Lamott

Thursday, June 05, 2008

And Now...Heeeeeeeere's Foreclosure!

Ed McMahon got 15 minutes of airtime on Larry King Live tonight.

Why? He's fighting foreclosure on his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills home.

So, what's the only logical step when facing foreclosure? Go on Larry King!

I happened to catch the story early enough that it kept me interested through a couple commercial breaks, but as I watched, I wondered to myself, "What is Ed hoping to accomplish here? Does he want me to feel sorry for him?"

Carson sidekick for about a century, host of Star Search and bloopers shows...and he wants me to throw a big ol' pity party that his six-million-dollar home might be taken from him, and that he's more than six...hundred...thousand...dollars behind on his payments.

Now...he broke his neck a year and a half ago, and hasn't been able to work because of that. So a bit of sympathy is in order there. But...he's 85 years old! Why should he need to work anyway?

Oh yeah. That pesky matter of the six hundred grand. I forgot.

Larry asked him during the interview, how a celebrity like him, who's supposedly got so many millions, can fall into a trap like this. And Ed's answer just about made me chuck my remote at the TV.

"Well, Larry...when you spend more than you know how it goes."


Larry and Ed also made a quick mention that Evander Holyfield was in danger of losing his home, too. ($10 million mansion ... 109 rooms ... 17 bathrooms ... three kitchens ... bowling alley. Nothing too elaborate.)

Don't high-profile boxers...of which Holyfield certainly was one...make like $20 million per bout? According to one source, Holyfield's grossed more than $120 million in his career.

Stories like this make me shake my head as much as hearing about all the lottery winners who go broke only a few short years after cashing in on their mega-jackpots.

Perhaps I'm not qualified to judge these people until I have 20 or 40 or 100 million dollars to manage. But you know...if someone out there wants to give me the opportunity to prove it can be done, I bet I can make it last a lotta lotta years, and have my share of fun with it, bringing plenty of family and friends along for the ride as I go.

Or maybe I'll just take one twenty-million-dollar tourist trip up to the International Space Station, and then come back to Earth and go back to my nine-to-five grind.

I think I know how Ed can save his home...

Those American Family Publishers people can send him an envelope that says, "You may have already won $10,000,000!" And then show up on his doorstep with a big fat check.

(if he subscribes to a couple magazines, of course.)

"Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding
in which you put your money
in your pants pocket and give
your coat to your creditors."
—Joey Adams