Storm Chaser review

New review of "Storm Chaser":

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I've been diagnosed with Lateral epicondylitis. Horrible, isn't it? Do some fund raisers for me ... I hear Jerry Lewis has some free time, maybe he could throw me a telethon.

The Ultimate Reality TV Show Rises to New Lows


                I’ve been thinking of the upcoming TV season, in much the way some people think of upcoming root canals or IRS audits.

                Sure, there’s the anticipation of a new season of imaginative, fun shows that explore the limits of probability with great dialogue and well scripted plotlines: Fringe, Supernatural, Pro Wrestling. Then there’s “Reality” TV.

                The biggest advantage of Reality TV is that the more of it there is, the less time I have to spend choosing what to watch.

                The Reality genre is much larger than I usually think of it as being. In fact, it’s been around as long as TV has, as far back as a 1948 show called Candid Camera. In its widest definition, it includes everything from game shows to one of my favorite programs, Mythbusters.

                So let’s narrow what I’m talking about down to a new sub-category, which I invented about five seconds ago: We’ll call it “Stupid Hateful Underhanded Reality”, or SHUR.

                Oh, SHUR.

                This brand of show presents people at their worst: hateful, back stabbing, stupid, and/or untalented. It's like Congress, only with better approval ratings.

                I remember the first time I heard about the TV show Survivor. What a great concept, I thought: A group of people must bond and work together, meet challenges, and show off the best of humanity.

                Silly me. The best of humanity doesn’t sell. The worst of humanity, that does.

                As a result, Reality programming has become an advance sign of the oncoming collapse of civilization, alongside fast food, the IRS, and teenagers who can’t keep their pants pulled up. (Just kidding, IRS!)

                Then I realized something else could be a SHUR thing, something good: profit. For me. So I studied everything from Survivor and The Real World (which SO isn’t) to that cooking show with the screaming guy having a stroke, and the show set on the East coast with all the orange skinned female Umpa-Lumpas. Armed with a keyboard and a barf bag, I boiled them all down into my proposal, the perfect Reality TV show:

                The Real Rehabbed Bachelor Celebrity Brother Kitchen Talent Makeover Wrestling show, hosted by Jerry Springer.

                Two groups will be stranded together in an isolated mansion on an island, where they’ll be forced to compete in silly competitions; each week, the losing team has to remove one article of clothing.

                The first team will be celebrities. As usual with these shows, we’re setting the celebrity bar pretty darn low, but the more spaced-out rehab veterans, the better.

                The second team will consist of aspiring models and rich debutants. They must be less than 24 years old and have a body mass index below 1%, excepting breasts. Points if they’re nudists who drink heavily.

                Each week the teams will compete in cooking each other dinner, renovating the mansion, giving each other a makeover, and going through a maze in which giant rubber instruments smash them into walls. In the climax, each will have to sing an Elton John hit. If the audience votes against them, they face being a backup singer in a Barry Manilow tribute band.

                The ultimate winner of the show gets a million dollars and the chance to join the pack of Republican Presidential nominees.

                Of course, we’ll have to gather certain, shall we say, interesting characters:

                A celebrity who skates on the edge of falling off the wagon, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors.

                A former military man who will do absolutely anything to win.

                Someone who screams at everyone:

                “How’s desert?”

                “How dare you put me down, you slut. I’m out there doing!”

                Someone who will get badly injured, in the tradition of the Doomed Sidekick. We won’t tell them, of course, although their code name will be Dead Meat.

                The teams will have two people who are ultra-controlling and want to be in charge of absolutely everything; they’ll be together on the same team.

                There’ll be a spoiled rich girl who tends to dress, shall we say, down. There’ll also be a woman who’s willing to sleep her way to the top – maybe the same woman. I’m not saying there won’t be a guy who’s willing to sleep his way to the top; but they don’t seem as popular with the audience or the other contestants.

                There will be an incredible cute kid who will have one amazing talent. Sure, it might not be something useful, but the main thing is that it will cause all the judges to stand open mouthed, with tears in their eyes.

                There will be a gay couple.

                There will be someone who’s overcoming some huge emotional or physical disability. Oh! It could be one of the gay people! I’m a genius, write that down. Wait, I just did.

                There will be someone who has a crisis going on back home, who will be encouraged to dramatically quit the contest halfway through. Not until we have footage of tearful phone calls, of course.

                There will be an idiot. A Jessica Simpson type who can say the silliest things that will have people talking about him/her for weeks.  You know: “Is this tuna? ‘Cause it says chicken on the can.”

For some reason, people love to see stupid people acting stupid, and mean people acting mean. Honestly, I don’t understand it myself; I’d want to see real people being at their best and doing good things. However, this isn’t about what I want, this is about what will be SHUR to make me money.

So here’s the clincher, the thing that’s going to sell The Real Bachelor Celebrity Brother Kitchen Talent Makeover Wrestling show and make me a fortune:

You know how these shows focus on all the back stabbing that goes on? Well, my contestants will each be furnished with one real knife.

Let’s see Big Brother beat that.

Reading Potato Books to Your Pink Flamingo


                I recently learned that September is a month dedicated to reading. I’m not sure why this is. You’d think reading months would be the dead of winter, when it’s too cold to do anything but curl up on the couch under a mound of blankets, pour hot chocolate over your head, and whimper about the weather. Or maybe that’s just me.

                Or you could read, which seems a bit more constructive.

                But they didn’t ask me, and in fact they didn’t even tell me who “they” is; so September has become both Adult Literacy Month and Read a New Book Month, which certainly do seem to go together. I don’t need to explain those, do I? If you don’t already know how to read, you’re probably not listening to me right now, anyway.

                September is also, according to the mysterious Them, Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month. Also related. As it happens, I’m a writer (thus this writing), and so I approve of Their decision. Since my fictional works have now been officially bought by editors, I also approve of editors. Also, this column goes through an editor on the way to the bottom of your bird cage, and although she doesn’t usually mess with me even when I go off on tangents, she could; so it’s pretty much a given that I approve of her, too.

                Anytime I get a little full of myself, I remember that this column was originally intended as a filler, for use if there wasn’t a lot of other stuff going on around Albion, Churubusco, and Huntertown. Honestly, I’m a little surprised I don’t get cut more often during high school sports season.  For me, sports and getting cut go hand in hand.

                Where was I? Oh, yeah: So September is a month in which adults should read a writer’s new edited book, which makes me proud.

                We writers shouldn’t let this go to our heads: It’s also Pink Flamingo Month, National Potato Month, and Save the Tiger Month. So They say. Therefore, I’m going to start writing a new children’s book about a Tiger who gives up his Pink Flamingo diet and becomes a vegetarian devoted to potatoes.  It’s working title: Potato Tiger Picks Pink Feathers From His Teeth.

That title … it’s a work in progress.

                The problem is that I learned this information late, and due to the lead time of deadlines (totally my editor’s fault) you might not read this until the end of September. I recommend re-celebrating Read An Edited Writer’s Adult Literacy Month in October. Why not? It’ll be colder then anyway, and for those who’ve already read one book, this will be your chance to read two.

                I recommend my book. Still available. In fact, I constantly carry around a backpack full of Storm Chaser copies, going door to door like a literary Jehovah’s Witness, only without the snappy tie.

                Oh, okay – read whatever book you like, but please read one. I don’t really get why I even have to ask people to read. I never have understood why people wouldn’t want to spend all their time reading, with the possible exception of Hugh Hefner. And let’s face it, reading is way cheaper than sex, especially when you factor in certain prescriptions for someone Hugh’s age. Not to mention alimony.

                The irony is that I haven’t had much time in recent years to read; I’ve been too busy writing. I have stacks of books around the house towering over my head, ready to bury me in the most ironic death scene ever, and I’m not talking about just my own product. But by the time I’ve worked my full time and part time jobs and then my second full time job of trying to get a fiction writing career going, I run out of time for my favorite relaxation activity. (I’m talking about reading – get your mind out of the gutter.) Worse, several of my writer friends have reviewed Storm Chaser (Eight five star reviews on! Yay!), and I haven’t had a chance to return the favor with their works.

                So I’ve dedicated myself, starting in October (September’s kind of shot) to reading one new book every month, in addition to catching up on my magazine reading. (No, not one of Hef’s magazines … mind. Out of gutter. Now.) Frankly, I need the relaxation, and I’m starting with a book my fiancée got for her literature class: Strong Poison, a 1930 mystery starring some guy named Lord Peter Wimsey.

Well, it’s new to me. And more to the point, it happened to be on the coffee table when I learned this was Read a New Potato Novel to a Pink Editor Month.

                It’s shameful, really. I used to go to the Noble County Public Library and load up on the limit of books I could check out – every week – but that’s just another example of how grown up life gets us down. One book I can manage, these days. I challenge everyone else to do the same, and although I’d prefer it be mine, make it something you enjoy, something fun. Stay away from Moby Dick, unless you’re a fishing fan.

                Read to your pink flamingo, or read while feeding a potato to your tiger, or your editor, or whatever – but read. Let’s make this world literate again, in the way it was back when reading was fun instead of a chore.

                Oh, and be kind to the writers; maybe with a review, or a cup of hot chocolate. And be kind to editors, too … if they buy my stuff.

"Storm Damage" to introduce Allie's brother

While Beth Hamlin seems to be the most popular secondary character from Storm Chaser, I have a plot bunny that just won't leave me alone, involving another secondary character: Fran, the State Police Detective who befriends Allie and will appear in two of the stories in Storm Chaser Shorts. After some thought, I've decided the sequel (working title: Storm Damage) will feature Fran, although Beth will also be there as a supporting character. If my idea works out and the sequel is popular, the second book will lead into a third book that Beth would headline.

The short story I've been working on introduces a new character, who will become an important part of Storm Damage: Allie Craine's brother, who's mentioned only briefly in the original story. Here's what Allie has to say about him, when she interrupts an argument between two other people:"Oh, bull. First of all, my brother’s an ingrate who wrote that book because he can’t hold down a job, or keep his mouth shut. Second, if you two cared, you wouldn’t be leaning over my bed spitting on me."

Well, we'll just have to see if he's an ingrate, won't we? The story will be coming soon to my Facebook fan page.

As for Fran, recently I was reviewing Storm Chaser Shorts, when I realized that in one of the stories her name is Fran Vargas, and in another it's Fran Mendoza. Oops ... I guess her name now is Fran Vargas-Mendoza. Just goes to show, you can't polish too much, or have two many other eyes to look over your work. Guess I'll go over that short story a bit more.

Yes, the Storm Chaser Shorts manuscript has already been turned in to my publisher. *sigh*

Festival Picked in Annual Harvest


            I saw on my planner that Albion’s Harvest Fest was coming up, which left me with mixed feelings.

            Not about the Harvest Fest; about the planner. All that neat organizational material, and all I use it for is to write a few dates down. It’s not a planner; it’s a salute to my disorganization.

            Sorry, I went off on a tangent … which is like an alley only without an exit. I never used to be a big fan of harvest festivals, which are sometimes known as Oktoberfest’s and thus used to take place in October. See, the idea was to celebrate the harvest – after the harvest.

            Farmers didn’t have time to celebrate during the harvest. You’ve heard of the harvest Moon? That wasn’t some fun party thing: That was so farmers before modern lighting could work late into the night to get their crops in. Try to tell a guy who’s working 18 hour days that he needs to take a weekend off to throw a party.

            (Actually, I think Oktoberfest’s are more about beer, but just go with me on this one.)

            I’m all for a good harvest because of the whole eating thing, but by the time harvesting really is winding down winding up my annual cold weather depression, which happens annually and can be very depressing. And cold. While the farmers count up their bushel prices to learn whether they’ll be able to pay taxes this year, I’m popping Zoloft and looking into the concept of having my body frozen until spring. I mean, frozen in a way that allows me to sleep through it – my body is already frozen all through winter, but I’d rather not remember.

            Now Albion’s Harvest Fest is in mid-September – the 17th and 18th, this year – which for me is more reasonable. Indiana in September is much like Indiana in May, in that you don’t know if it’ll be hot or cold, but frostbite is a rarity.

            What this means, of course, is that most farmers are too busy harvesting to go to harvest festivals. For the rest of us, they’re a lot of fun. Festivals, I mean, not farmers.

            My memories of Albion’s Harvest Fest are vague, because it’s been almost a whole year and I can barely remember whether I had hamburgers or pasta for breakfast. (Yeah, I work a weird schedule.) But here are either weird hallucinations or highlights of what you might find:

            Civil War reenactors. These people are both tough guys and true history nerds, which is a rare combination. Ask them anything about the daily life of a soldier in the late 1800’s, and they know the answer and are happy to fill you in … so don’t ask any leading questions about latrines or toilet paper. I did, and I’m scarred.

            Every now and then they’ll shoot off a cannon, and in theory they’re prepared just in case the South rises again. However, if memory serves, the ones in Albion last year actually were Confederates; which means they beat Robert E. Lee’s furthest invasion into the North by a good few hundred miles.

            Wagon rides. Not just wagon rides, but horse drawn wagon rides. You can’t get that in big cities, except maybe around Central Park in New York. There’s just something about a hay ride in autumn, although in my case, since I’m allergic to hay, that something can be fatal.

            Flea markets. Go ahead, say it – who wants to buy fleas? One year a guy was selling Civil War era rifles, and I had such a desire to take one over to the reenactors and challenge them to a duel. But those people are serious business and probably would have taken me up on it, and I wasn’t in the mood for a replay of Pickett’s Charge.

            A car show. What do cars have to do with harvests? Um … well, they sell a lot of ethanol, these days. Last year I got to take a look at my fire department’s 1979 brush truck, now reconditioned and in mint condition, and relive the sometimes hair raising adventures I had in it. It was probably the newest vehicle there, but it was also the one I was riding in when it ran over trees, got clipped by a passing truck, and got stuck in soft ground and almost overrun by fire. Good times.

            Food. What would anything containing the word “fest” be like without food? I’m a pork burger fan, myself, but I wouldn’t turn down an elephant ear. (They’re not real; relax, PETA). Also, the only two places to get really good popcorn are festivals and movie theaters, and at the former you don’t have to pay a dollar a kernel.

            The corn maze. No, not maize … although if that was still the name for corn around here we could rename this event The Amazing Maize Maze Days, and who would be against that? This particular maze has clues you have to answer as you choose your direction, but don’t worry: Everyone makes it out. Except for those two people from last year who vanished without a trace. On a related note, if you stumble across some skeletons don’t mess with them. They may be decorations, or they may not.

            They also had kite flying, a rope challenge course, a kiddie train ride, and I’m forgetting something because I always do, but it was really cool.

            So come on down to this year’s Harvest Fest, and enjoy yourself … but if you encounter me, do not complain about the heat or wish for cold, and if you encounter Confederate Soldiers, don’t make fun of Jefferson Davis.

            Also, if you’re a farmer … well, we’ll see you in a month or two.

WMD: How we got started writing ...

All the Writers of Mass Distraction are blogging about how we got started writing:

9/11: Where were you?

Where were you?

I'd just gotten home from a shift in dispatch, and decided to turn on the TV while getting ready for bed. Newscasters had just announced that not only had one of the Twin Towers exploded, but that an airplane had just flown into the second one. What a horrible coincidence, I thought; could it be the second plane was a news aircraft filming the first fire?

It took only a minute to realize the awful truth. I didn't sleep that day.

As I watched a correspondant speak, I saw behind him what appeared to be part of a wall peel away from the World Trade Center. Nobody realized right away that the entire Tower had fallen ... once I realized that I knew I'd just watched a lot of people die, among them many dozens of my brother firefighters.

Within an hour every fire department in the country was placed on alert, as more attacks were expected. I stopped and filled my car's gas tank on the way to the station; by the time I returned home and price had jumped far above anything ever seen. To this day, I top off my gas tank just before the annniversary.

I must have been on the way to the fire station when the Pentagon was hit, because I was listening to a radio interview there with a reporter discussing the military response at the time. He heard a noise and felt the building shake; again, it was some time before anyone was sure what was going on.

My fire department had no calls that day, and I spent all morning trying to get in touch with my girlfriend, who was a 911 call taker with the New York City Fire Department. Not only was cell phone service down, she was at work and couldn't have answered anyway. She talked to some of the people who died that day. It wasn't until later in the afternoon that I knew for sure her dispatch center wasn't close enough to be effected by the collapse, although there was also the worry at the time that their building might also be targeted.

Yesterday, the 10th anniversary of the attacks, I went to a breakfast and memorial at the Noble County Public Library in Albion, where they did a great job with a 24 hour long observance. I was able to attend only a small part of it, as I once again worked a shift in dispatch that morning, but I wanted to thank them for my efforts. I also wanted to thank my fiancee Emily for her understanding and support; I tend to get down near the anniversary of the attacks, maybe this year more than usual, and I think I shut down a little the last few days.

The Heroes of 9/11


            I've mentioned before that I’m uncomfortable using the word “hero”. Like many words, it’s overused and clichéd. What is a hero? Not a sports star. Being tough doesn’t make a hero. Not a skydiver. That may make you brave, but not heroic.

            Ronald Bucca was a member of the 101st Airborne, then served in the Special Forces and Green Berets while on active duty in the army. He became a New York City firefighter in 1978, and on September 11, 2001, became the only FDNY fire marshal ever killed in the line of duty.

            Does somebody become a hero when they take on a dangerous occupation? I don’t know … the flagger who controls traffic during road construction has an especially dangerous job, but I don’t know if you’d call it heroic. You could even argue that a firefighter or police officer doesn’t automatically become a hero the moment he puts on the badge. Maybe – potential hero?

            But then, isn’t everyone a potential hero?

            Steve DeChiaro is a businessman, and was just entering the Pentagon for a meeting when the building was struck by an airplane. No one would have blamed him for saving himself; he had no legal responsibility to act. Certainly he never thought he’d end up winning the Defense Department’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Valor, for his actions in rescuing and treating people that day.

            Sometimes, maybe, a hero is just someone who overcomes their fear and acts – not on a lark, but to do something important, something vital.

            Tom Burnett was the vice president of a medical devices company. He found himself on United Airlines Flight 93, and after his plane was hijacked he learned, in a cell phone call to his wife, of the attacks on the World Trade Center. He didn’t know for sure what the hijackers were planning, but it must have quickly become clear that they also wanted to kill.

            Burnett must have also known that an attempt to take the plane back would likely be fatal … but that if it failed, they still might keep the hijackers from taking a large number of civilians on the ground with them.

            Sometimes being a hero is a matter of relativity. A firefighter might do something on a day to day basis that others see as heroic, while he just calls it another day on the job. But others wouldn’t normally expect to see a crisis beyond a paper jam in the copy machine.

            Welles Crowther was an equities trader. The biggest risk for him on the job was a paper cut, or a coffee burn. He was on the 104th floor of the South Tower when the first plane hit.

            Witnesses described how Crowther, a former volunteer firefighter, took control, organized people, and got dozens out of the building before it collapsed.

            Sometimes it’s the call of duty, of course.

            Moira Smith, a 13 year veteran of the NYPD, had already been decorated for heroism. It’s hardly surprising that she headed into the World Trade Center to rescue people, and became the only female member of the force killed that day.

            Her daughter would be 12 now. I hope people tell her about her mom.

            Or … maybe heroism just runs in the family?

            Eric Moreland was a George Washington University student at the time, but also a volunteer firefighter and paramedic. As often happens to off duty emergency personnel, he was just happening by ... when an airplane crashed into the Pentagon.

            Moreland, at great risk, charged into the burning building and carried injured people to safety. Then he stayed to help remove the dead. Then he drove all the way to New York to help out at the world Trade Center.

            Moreland’s grandfather, Lt. Col. Conway Jones, was one of the famous Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. His father flew 80 combat missions in Vietnam.

            Whether it runs in the family or not, some people are just born to serve.

            Special Agent Leonard Hatton fought crime as an FBI agent, fought fires as a volunteer, and fought for freedom as a US Marine. He reported the second plan crashing into the south Tower – not from inside the World Trade Center, but from the roof of a nearby hotel. Then he went in. What else could he do? He died that day, but if he’d turned his back on the call for help, he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself.

            There will always be some who suffer for their service.

            Jim Ryan survived, but was still a victim of 9/11. A New York City firefighter, he came back to the WTC site again and again, for months. He helped search for survivors, then victims, and as time went by there was nothing left but to search out bits of what were once people.

            What else could he do? Over three hundred of his brother firefighters were there.

            The cancer diagnosis came in 2006. His lungs finally failed him on Christmas, 2009. He was 48, and died on the same day that someone else grabbed the headlines by trying to bring down another plane, with a chemical bomb strapped to his leg.

            On September 11, 2001, 341 FDNY firefighters and 2 Fire Department paramedics were killed; 23 NYPD officers died, along with 37 Port Authority PD officers and 8 private EMS medics.

            On 9/11 at least 200 people, faced with the horrors of burning to death, jumped from the Twin Towers. Among the almost 3,000 who died in the four sites linked in the attack were citizens of over 70 nations. I don’t know how many of those people qualified as heroes. A lot of them, certainly. And just as certainly, the dead from that day are only a fraction of the victims.

            Every now and then some short sighted person will suggest we stop obsessing so much about 9/11, that we “let it go”. After all, it’s been ten years, right?

            They’re wrong. They’ll always be wrong. Ten times ten years, they’ll be wrong. Not only because we must keep this from happening again, but because heroes vanish too quickly, in the flotsam and jetsam of pop culture and the concerns of everyday life. Their memory goes too quickly, just as they do.

            Be inspired by their stories. Saddened. Enraged. But never forget.

7 Firemen Angels

I had a dream last night that I was one of the firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11; in the dream another firefighter and I had been sent back to a rescue truck for some equipment -- the truck was inexplicably parked beside my old elementary school in Albion -- and we looked up to see one of the Towers right behind the school, just as it exploded and collapsed toward us. We were running from the falling debris through a field when I woke up.

It's the first time I remember ever dreaming about that day, and it wasn't a fun dream ... but it reminded me of something I wote awhile back.

Strictly speaking this isn't a poem, or even original: I put new lyrics to an old song and came up with "7 Firemen Angels", which was originally published in my columnn on September 11, 2006. Still, I hope you'll like it.

Clearly, September 11 is a date that will resonate for Americans for many decades to come, and will no doubt be the December 7, 1941 of our generation. Just as clearly, a lot of ink will be drained in a continuing quest to pay tribute to those who died that day, both rescuers and civilians in all four locations.

On September 11, 2002, a song started running through my head, and I couldn't get rid of it. I hadn't heard "Seven Spanish Angels" for years, but it was there as plainly as if Willie Nelson was walking alongside me, belting it out. It drove me nuts. Then, weeks later, as I was singing along (in private), I suddenly heard myself say,

"There were seven firemen angels . . ."

And it clicked.

Within an hour I had the entire chorus worked out, and I thought it wasn't half bad considering I'm no song writer. You can argue that it should be "fireFIGHTER", and you can also ask, quite reasonably, "why seven?" I don't know. Why not? I guess songwriters are allowed to take a certain amount poetic license.

Then I put the whole thing aside and tried to forget it. Fat chance. It was like a signal was being beamed directly into my brain, and I finally realized I couldn't shut it off until I wrote the whole song -- divine inspiration or incipient insanity, take your pick.

So I took the song, which was written by Eddie Setson and Troy Seals in 1985, and put my own words to it. Now it's finished, and I present it to you because I felt I HAD to show it to someone. As I said, I'm no songwriter, but it wasn't going to leave me alone until I finished it. Besides, as they say about homemade gifts, isn't it the thought that counts? Here's a web link to the original lyrics, as sung by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles:

I hope you'll take it in the spirit in which it's intended:

He looked down into the fires,
and tears fell at the sight.
He saw four funeral pyres
that couldn't be made right.

Three thousand people dying,
and they didn't know what for.
Now He saw his children crying,
as their nation went to war.

There were seven firemen Angels
who were dispatched by the Son.
They were coming for the others
who had gone on their last run.

When the buildings fell,
and the smoke cleared
there was thunder from the Throne.
And seven firemen Angels
took the other Angels home.

They reached down and took the badges
that lay on the smoldering ground.
There were cop and medic patches
from the victims all around.

But the bodies there were hollow
as the Angels passed that way.
for they called out, "spirits, follow"
and took them home that day.

There were seven medic Angels
where the buildings had stood once.
They were coming for the others
who had made their last response.

When the buildings fell,
and the smoke cleared
there was thunder from the Throne,
and seven medic Angels
took the other Angels home.

The sons and wives and daughters
cried "how could such a thing be?"
And from high above the Lord replied,
"It's the price of being free."

"For the world is full of people,
who would do such things today
but you can't give in to evil
so God bless the U.S.A."

There were seven police Angels
who answered that last call.
they were crying for the others,
as they watched their comrades fall.

When the buildings fell,
and the smoke cleared
there was thunder from the Throne,
and seven police Angels
took the other Angels home.

Something from the South rises

Tropical Storm Lee has moved up from the south to invade the north. If the next hurricane is named Pickett, we may get a charge out of it.

a moving experience

Got up to 95 degrees yesterday ... heat index of 103 or so ... so naturally, my oldest daughter and I spent the late morning and early afternoon helping my youngest daughter move. From one upstairs apartment, across town, to another upstairs apartment.

I'm just now starting to get sore, but I'm still tired ... and I think maybe still a little dehydrated.

Ironically, Jillian's new apartment overlooks her ex-step-father's house, where she lived for several years.

East Coast Earthquake Makes Washington Wobble


            We jest about what some consider an overreaction to the earthquake that hit America’s east coast August 22, but I think we should take it very seriously. After all, disaster planners will tell you this kind of catastrophe can happen in the unlikeliest of places, and we need to make a plan.

            For instance, what would happen if an earthquake hit Washington, D.C., and the whole city simply slid into the ocean? How would we deal with this news? Do we have a plan? Who’s bringing the pizza? Will it be a wet bar, or BYOB? Will there be dancing, or will we all gather around the TV to cheer?

            Most important, what the heck am I going to do with this column if Hurricane Irene comes along and really does level Washington? (It hasn’t come ashore yet as I write – darn deadlines.) It would be tasteless, especially since one would assume the politicians would be out of harm’s way, and the only people hurt would be the regular guys and gals who keep the city running.

            Still, one can’t help but fantasize about the idea of a crack opening right under the Capital building. We’d be left with something similar to what jack Nicholson said in Mars Attacks: “I want the people to know that they still have two out of three branches of the government working for them, and that ain’t bad”.

            If only any of the branches were working for us.

            Many people jokingly assumed the earthquake, in an area that doesn’t have a lot of them, was some kind of divine warning … well, not all jokingly. If that’s so, then what’s going on out west? Wouldn’t that mean some higher power is very unpleased with Hollywood? Well, okay, there’s an argument in favor of that idea.

            You have to wonder, though: If it was an expression of anger toward Washington, why wasn’t the quake in Washington? It was actually centered in Virginia, 84 miles from the Capitol. On the other hand, maybe it was famous Virginian patriots rolling over in their graves: Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Sam Houston, Robert E. Lee, Pearl Bailey …

            Oh, I know, but Lee was a patriot too. That was at a time when people gave allegiance more toward their state than the feds, and maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing except for the whole secession issue … and, um, slavery.

            No, I think it’s more likely that the fault line below Virginia gave way because that’s where the federal government keeps all its money printing presses. The Earth can only hold so much weight.

            Or maybe it was the sudden release in weight when all those Congressmen took off on their August break. You know how Obama was criticized for going on vacation during our financial crisis? What else was he supposed to do, walk around the empty Capital and yell “Echo”? They all jumped ship. Can’t blame them, at the moment, and at least they’re not doing much harm for now.

            On the other hand, the National Cathedral received a lot of damage, and the Washington Monument actually cracked, so maybe somebody up there is mad. I can’t imagine more iconic representations of our government, with the possible exception of the extra bacon waffle special at IHOP.

            We can laugh – what else can we do? – but there really was a fair amount of damage along the entire east coast. The trembling was even felt here in northeast Indiana, but sounded so much like road construction that we just sighed and started planning out different routes. Many people on the west coast made fun of the panicked reaction across the continent, but they aren’t taking into consideration two things:

1.      This is an unusual event for Easterners.

2.      East coast residents were already looking down the barrel of a freaking hurricane. You don’t get a lot of those in California.

            That can make a person more jittery than supersizing their Starbucks.

Those aren’t the only differences between east and west coast earthquakes. In the east, quakes tend to be shallower, like (ironically) a Hollywood starlet, or my savings portfolio.

Also, California is cracked. No, seriously – the rock under the state is riddled with faults, while that under the east coast tends to be solid and unyielding, like Joe Biden’s head. The solidness allows the earthquake’s waves to spread out further, which is why the 1811-1812 New Madrid, Missouri earthquakes rang church bells in Boston.

The final, big difference is that California prepares for earthquakes, because they get a lot of them. It’s the same reason why I always keep bandages in the house. Virginia hasn’t had a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in 67 years, while California gets the same shaking more often than Charlie Sheen goes into rehab – and with the same chance of a repeat performance.

There’s very little earthquake preparation done out east when it comes to buildings, bridges, utility lines, anything. The same tremor that LA wouldn’t notice would hit New York with collapsed walls, broken water and gas lines, buckles streets, and the total flattening of Donald Trump’s hair.

The only thing that would surprise Washington more than an earthquake would be a balanced budget.

I suppose the worst case scenario would be if an earthquake struck during a hurricane … never mind. Let’s not give Mother Nature any ideas, especially since hurricane season is just beginning.

But if Washington must be destroyed – could it wait until Congress is back in session?