Thursday, August 29, 2013

To Protect and...Oh, Dear God!

Dear Penthouse;

I never thought this would happen to me, but...No, seriously, here is the story of why the police saw me naked when I was stone cold sober.

I was sitting in my living room, clad only in boxers, having breakfast preparatory to getting ready for work. It was about five in the morning. Mrs. R was awake in our bedroom at the far end of the apartment. Rimpy Jr. was awake in his bedroom, which is at the same end as our bedroom.

Suddenly two or three shots rang out, followed quickly by what sounded like a woman screaming. Now, we don't live in the greatest neighborhood, and gunfire is -sadly - common enough that we haven't before called 911, but I've always felt a little bad about that. But these shots were followed by screams, so I ran to the bedroom to find the phone. I asked my wife if she had heard anything, but she hadn't. Turns out Rimpy Jr. hadn't heard the shots or the screams either.

I called 911. From the questions the operator was asking me, I got the impression that I was not the first caller about this incident. The screams had stopped even before I called, and after I hung up all seemed quiet in the neighborhood.

My wife and I spent the next few minutes pondering the possible meaning of these sounds, until she said, "Why aren't we hearing any sirens?" A good question, I thought. I looked out the kitchen window and saw a police officer walk into our parking lot, headed for the front of our building. I thought he may wish to speak with me, so I rushed to put on a robe.

I should probably tell you a little about our building and some of our neighbors. It's a four unit building - two on the bottom, two on top. We are in one of the top units. On the other end of the distressingly small balcony are our neighbors, whom I shall call B and It. I don't want to go into too much detail about all the strange goings-on with that family (which has been reduced one way or another over the year-and-a-quarter we've lived here, to consisting of just the man and his pregnant wife, with a rotating cast of possible long-staying house guests), so just suffice it to say that they have problems. I half suspected that the shots and screams may have come from their apartment.

Underneath B and It lives a guy whose name I belatedly learned is Chuck. Before that we referred to him as Camaro Guy or Papa Bogan. Chuck's a pretty friendly guy, unless he's been drinking, which doesn't seem to have happened for quite a while now. Embarrassingly enough, I actually thought that there was a second adult male living in the apartment, possibly a brother of Chuck's. Turns out it was only ever Chuck, but sometimes he wears a baseball cap over his bald pate ringed with long, lank, greasy hair on the sides. It from upstairs seems to be on good terms with Chuck's loose-knit, ragtag family.

But back to arrival of the cop. After a few more minutes, no one had knocked. I decided I couldn't delay finishing getting ready for work, so I got in the shower. I had just finished up and was starting to dry off when the bathroom door opened up, and to my surprise I was looking at a member of College Town's Finest. I quickly hid my unmentionables behind my towel (which just had to be pink). He asked me my name, and then explained that they'd had a report of shots fired in or near the building and were checking all the units. My wife had let them in, but she probably didn't expect that they would barge into the bathroom while I was bathing.

For whatever reason, B and It wouldn't open their door to the officers' knocks. While I was hurrying to get dressed one policeman was standing in our open door, shining his super-bright flashlight on B's door, with the other hand at the ready on his holstered weapon. I couldn't get out of my apartment. I called work to tell them I might be a few minutes late, and why.

Then I heard one of the policmen say, "You have three seconds to open this door before we force it open." Three seconds later this statement was followed by the sound of the police doing just they said they would. Then there was a bit of clunking and banging around from inside the apartment.

When I made my escape, It was standing at the bottom of the stairway, Chuck was standing outside his door, and the police were still inside B and It's apartment, presumably with B.

Later I found out that Chuck also called 911 because he had heard the screams, and thought they were coming from B and It's aparment, and he had heard them arguing just before. I don't know if that was the source of the screams or not, and apparently the gun shots I heard were completely unrelated to our building.

When I got home that night, all neighbors were carrying on as if nothing had happened, and I know no more now than I did then, except that some poor cop had to see my penis.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Super Coffee?

I'm not sure where 7-Eleven is going with this "liquid Kryptonite" coffee idea. My understanding of the fictitious Kryptonite is that it makes Superman not just "normal", but unusually weak, which would in essence make anyone else more powerful than him. I guess there could be advantages to that, especially if you were a super villain. But, wouldn't you have to get Superman to drink your Kryptonite-infused coffee in order to gain this advantage? Drinking it yourself wouldn't have much effect, unless you were then to piss on Supe. Is the idea simply that this coffee is more powerful than Superman? But what can coffee do by itself?  Kryptonite's pretty useless unless it has Superman nearby to fuck up. It would be like taking poison to make yourself more powerful than other humans, because poison is more powerful than humans. The whole concept makes no sense to me.

Interestingly, this article does say this: "A forerunner of the Kryptonite concept was the unpublished 1940 story "The K-Metal from Krypton", by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. The K-metal in the story was a piece of Krypton which robbed Superman of his strength while giving humans superhuman powers, a plot point which decades later made its way into the TV series Smallville."

So maybe some marketers at 7-Eleven are really up on their Superman trivia, and I should just shut the heck up.

Virtual Vandalism Dept.: Tools and Fools

The sign for this nice little shop in College Town which peddles to the ardent fisherperson caught my eye. I realized that one little additional mark would create an alliterate condemnation of the sport:

Meet the New Sign, Same as the Old Sign*

I suppose this sort of thing happens all over the country, if not the world. Unfortunately, I don't get out of town that much, so I have nothing to which to compare my new town of residence. I hope this isn't just some sort of College Town thing, but come to think of it, I don't recall seeing this happening in Former Home Town.

I'm speaking of the phenomenon of new businesses coming into an existing building and not removing the signage of their predecessors. Here are three examples:

Number One: Augie's/Gogi's:

This is an old church in downtown College Town. It's on the National Register of Historic Places, and it has had quite an interesting history. Back in the early 1980s, the building was desecularized and turned into a nightclub. No shit. Later is was turned back into a church, called St. Augustine's. The church opened a coffee shop, called Augie's, in what used to be their community center or rec room or whatever they called their more-modern attachment:

Not long ago the church closed the coffee shop, and either sold, rented or leased the space to a new Indian restaurant with an oddly similar name - Gogi's. Gogi's owners put a lot of work into putting up new awnings and signs and other nice touches, but for some reason they left one Augie's sign on the gable end of the structure which overlooks the Transient Center parking lot. Maybe they took a quick eye-level glance at that end of the building and saw nothing that needed fixing or changing? Maybe it's an homage to Augie's? I don't know!

Number Two: Paradise's Place/El Taco Loco:

An interesting aside about this one: There is some kind of rule in California (and hopefully in many other states, because it seems like a good and sensible rule) against giving a business the same fictitious name as another already existing business. For example, in College Town there is a famous trio of restaurants (all under the same ownership) named Burger Hut. Once upon a time a nice man named Bo opened his own burger joint in Former Home Town. He may have meant no duplicity, but he called his place Bo's Burger Hut, perhaps thinking that the addition of his own name made it not a fictitious business name, or different enough from "Burger Hut" to fly. Well, the original Burger Hut didn't like that, and Bo was forced to change his place's name to Bo's Burger Island.

So in College Town we have a couple of same-owner restaurants called Crazy Taco. Then we (briefly - shockingly briefly) had the place seen above: El Taco Loco. Wait, doesn't that mean "crazy taco"? Why, yes, yes it does. Do the rules about same names not apply when they're in different languages? Or does that have anything to do with El Taco Loco's short life? The world may never know.

The evanescent El Taco Loco had moved into a restaurant building formerly occupied by another short-lived place by the unlikely name of Paradise's Place:

The name didn't have anything to do with a northern California retirement mountain town which may or may not be near College Town. Instead, they seemed to be trying to apply a sort of tropical vacation island ambiance to average American diner food. It didn't work, especially since other than pictures of palm trees and beaches on the menus, all the other decor was typical diner: statues of chickens scattered about and that kind of crap. The food wasn't good, either. When my great Australian friend came to visit, we had breakfast there. He wanted to try real American food, but he couldn't even touch the gelatinous hamburger gravy on his biscuits. That may have had something to do with being colossally hungover.

Anyway, the significant thing about the two preceding pictures of signs on the same building is that they were taken on the same day. El Taco Loco never bothered to replace or at least cover up Paradise's Place's sign above the front door. Do restaurant owners have stiff necks that prevent them from looking up? Do they not own ladders? Are they afraid of heights? I don't know!

Number Three: Tanning Salon/Tattoo Parlor:

This last entry isn't really a sign - more like a decoration. The building used to house a tanning salon. There is a second story or attic space that is probably used for storage. The tanning salon owners had the great idea of covering the inside of the window above the front door with a painting of two tanned, buff, sunglasses-wearing, shirtless dudes supposedly looking out of said window and "wowing", presumably about all the tanned babes going in and out of the establishment.

The tanning salon was there for several years, and I always hated that painting - partly because it's crappy, and partly for the shallow, objectifying nature of it. And couldn't help having to see it because it also overlooks the Transient Center.

A few months ago the tanning salon closed, and a dodgy-looking tattoo parlor moved into the space. I thought that at last the horrible drawing would be removed, and indeed within a few weeks someone started to scrape the paint off of the window, but stopped after a few strokes. Several weeks later, another go was had, but not to completion, as seen above. Now the crappy drawing is almost indecipherable, and it certainly doesn't have anything to do with the current business.

Is this drawing made with some kind of super paint, and even the most hardy scraper has to quit after a few strokes? Are the tattoo people too busy being dodgy to focus on a simple task? Doesn't bode well for their attention to your body art. I don't know!

Come on, College Town small business owners - you can do better than this! You don't want Former Home Town to outdo you, do you?

*(Sorry, Goodtime Charlie - I had to do it, but here's a link)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Way of the Sky

In Butt County there is a very long road called Skyway which connects College Town with the Sierra Nevada foothill communities to the east. With such a name, you might expect flying cars or suspended gondolas, but it's just a rural road, albeit with some spectacular views above College Town before you reach the timber line.

In this section of marvelous views, there are a few very expensive looking houses clinging to the narrow strip of land between the road and the cliffs of the canyon which the road skirts. One such estate recently put up metal cursive letters on their wall by their driveway reading "Camino Cielo".

It took a moment before my junior high school Spanish classes kicked in and I realized what the name meant in English. My natural response was:

Of course, it should be "Camino del Cielo", but still, not bad.

Drinking and Fishing, Part II

I know it's been awhile since I wrote the first part of what was supposed to be a two part story about an interesting night of debauchery followed by a day of innocent fun fishing with my granddaughter. So much time has passed, in fact, that it no longer seems interesting enough. However, I feel badly that I've left it hanging, so I'm going to give it a go.

So, even though I got to bed around 3 A.M., I was determined to get up and take my littlest granddaughter fishing, as I had promised. And that's just what I did. I was rather badly hung-over, and nothing would have felt nicer than to just sleep in on a Saturday, but I bravely got up early. I wanted to go as early as possible because the weather report had predicted that we were going to have our first really hot day of summer that day, with temperatures in the triple digits. Hangover or no, I had no desire to be outside later in the day.

Beats the hell out of Bermuda off-season.

 The lake where Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs takes place is called Horseshoe Lake in what's known as Upper Wagergood Park (that's not its real name, of course, but this is supposed to be an anonymous blog, and I don't want to say the real name of College Town's founder whom the park is named after) . It was originally built as a reservoir, and is now used exclusively for fishing. It's not a pretty body of water, by any stretch of the imagination. The water level was fairly low, so there was a ring of barren earth around the mud-colored water.

We had to park a mile or so away and then catch a shuttle bus to the lake. Many families were bringing their own fishing supplies, but we had none. The sponsors of the event said all that would be provided, and they were true to their word.

At the entrance to the lake (if a lake could be said to have an entrance), booths and displays with tanks of fish from the lake were set up. GR2 got to make a bracelet with orange plastic beads which were supposed to represent salmon eggs, which came out of a zippered bag shaped like a salmon.

We then procured a fishing pole and a paper cup of worms and set out to find a spot on the lake. There were already many, many people there. It was hard to find a place where I didn't have to worry about interfering with other anglers' lines. We kept working our way round the lake, casting in different places. GR2 refused to touch the live worms, so I hooked them, which isn't a lot of fun when you're hung-over.

I hadn't fished since I was about 10, and it took me a little while to reacquire the knack. Once I had it figured, I showed GR2, and she showed great skill at it.

A natural-born fisherwoman.


I noticed that several of the Hmong families, who had plenty of their own gear and really looked like they knew what they were doing, seemed to be focusing their efforts on those islands of reeds visible in the picture above. I cast close to the reeds, but the line got snagged on something and I ended up breaking it. We worked our way further around the lake until we got to one of the stations where friendly volunteers fixed your line problems. We halted one of the roving Boy Scout groups who had beverages and chips in a wagon. I bought GR2 a lovely orange meal (to go with her salmon egg bracelet) of Cheetos and an orange soda, and just a water for me. That was all my poor stomach could handle.

We had gotten a break with the weather. An unexpected thin cloud cover was keeping the worst of the sun off of us. We had no luck catching a fish, although I think we came close at one point. Our worm came out of the water half-eaten. I didn't know worms had intestine-like things, but this one did, which was also fun to contemplate in my condition.

Thankfully, the thoughtful organizers of this event had provided tanks with fish already hooked on the ends of lines, so all the littlest anglers had to do was walk up, grab a pole and pull the fish out. This is what GR2 and I ended up doing, and we got a lovely female catfish:

She put up a hell of fight. Not really.

Then it was time to get in line and have our fish cleaned (or whatever you call it). They had an efficient sort of production line set up where one jolly volunteer bonked the fish over the head with a club then passed it down the line where it was beheaded, betailed, befinned, bescaled, gutted and washed, then put in a bag with some ice for the trip home, all thankfully behind Plexiglas windows so spectators didn't get splattered with viscera.

Post-clubbing, pre-desecration.

I don't know if any one else experiences this, but when I'm hung-over, it seems like everything has a tinge of the sinister, with a little foreboding thrown in for good measure. Watching that pretty fish butchered in such a perfunctory manner was almost enough to turn me vegan. Almost, but not enough. I got over it.

There was one little fellow, about four years old, who did not enjoy this grisly spectacle at all. He was balling his eyeballs out as his father carried him away from the scene of the carnage. I remember thinking, "Well, there's one kid who will probably be hooked on drugs, not on fishing."

We got to ride a fun but slow trailer thing with seats facing sideways behind a tractor back to our car. The ice was melting quickly, and I was worried what effect the heat was going to have on our raw fish. I was regretting not having thought of some sort of cooler to keep the fish fresh on the ride home.

I grudgingly let GR2 play for a few minutes on the playground by where we had parked, then we hustled our former fishy home. The ice was long gone by then, so I rushed him into the fridge. The next day Lil RC fried the fish in a corn meal batter, and GR2 gobbled it up. I got a couple of bites, and it was quite good.

So, all in all, it was a pretty good weekend. Sunday I spent still recovering from my excesses of Friday. Guess I'm getting a little too old for such fun.

Virtual Vandalism: Lost Dog

I don't know about you, but sometimes I have an urge to modify messages and images I see in public - vandalism I guess you'd call it. Being a responsible (hah!) grown-up (hah! hah!) type person, I resist these urges. So I've decided to commit them virtually, with the help of my camera and my computer, and share them with you lucky readers. Here is the first installment:

I've seen several of these posters stapled to utility poles in the neighborhood where I take my lunch-time walks. Don't worry, I didn't remove this one from a pole; I found it loose upon the ground, and having no stapler handy, I decided to take it home.

What amused me about this poster was the fact that apparently the only picture the owners had of their dog had another dog in it (presumably theirs, but who knows?). I just couldn't help wondering what was the story on that uncircled dog. Here is what I came up with:

Click to embiggen subtle difference.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Awesome Temporary Art

Some anonymous (well, not really anonymous - he or she did sign it; I just didn't get to watch them do it) artist just stone cold free hand drew this amazing Mayan-like skull mandala thing in blue chalk on the sidewalk at the Transit Center. I would like to know how long it took.

Just Don't Call Him Late for Supper

This poster for a missing cat amused me because of this part: "[...] is named Simba...but, he is a cat, he'll do what he wants and may or may not answer to that."