we dyscordians must stick apart

20101019

The Numbers Of The Beast

666 - Number of the beast

668 - Neighbor of the beast

660 - Approximate number of the Beast

DCLXVI - Roman numeral of the Beast

666.0000 - Number of the High Precision Beast

0.666 - Number of the Millibeast

1/666 - Common Denominator of the Beast

666[-/(-1)] - Imaginary number of the Beast

1010011010 - Binary of the Beast

29A - Hexidecimal of the Beast

1-666 - Area code of the Beast

00666 - Zip code of the Beast

1-900-666-0666: Live Beasts! One-on-one pacts! Call Now! Only $6.66/minute. Over 18 only please.

$665.95 - Retail price of the Beast

$699.25 - Price of the Beast plus 5% state sales tax

$769.95 - Price of the Beast with all accessories and replacement soul

$656.66 - Wal*Mart price of the Beast

$646.66 - Next week's Wal*Mart price of the Beast

Phillips 666 - Gasoline of the Beast

Route 666 - Way of the Beast

666 F - Oven temperature for roast Beast

666k - Retirement plan of the Beast

666 Dow - Stock Market of the Beast

666 mg - Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast

6.66% - 5 year CD interest rate at First Beast of Hell

DSM-666 (revised) - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Beast

Lotus 6-6-6 - Spreadsheet of the Beast

Word 6.66 - Word Processor of the Beast

i66686 - CPU of the Beast

666i - BMW of the Beast

666-66-6666 - Social Securuity Number of the Beast

6, uh... what was that number again? - Number of the Blonde Beast

National Bank, $666 minimum deposit.

20101013

Sunset at Anna Maria...

...in Florida. Its a little island just south of Bradenton.

These would have been shot with my Canon 40D but, much to my girlfriend's amusement, the battery gave out as soon as I switched it on so she graciously allowed me enough time to shoot a total of seven shots with her XSi before it was 'her turn'.

The monochromes are shot in infrared courtesy of the RM72 filter that I bought for my gf's birthday. I figured she may as well have a gift we could share =D




20100808

Random Photos From Recent Trips

I started to get the photography bug back recently. I haven't taken photos for myself on a regular basis for a long time probably because I work with cameras all day. If you work at Starbucks, the last thing you want to do at the end of a shift is go home and make yourself a nice cup of coffee, right? Anyhoo, here's some of the stuff I shot.

From Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.




Holmes Beach, Florida.

My girlfriend's back yard.

Bok Tower, the highest point in Florida.



There's something irresistible about a rusty spigot...
...photographically speaking that is.

Does Anyone Want A Kitten?

This is Millie. Millie was a little surprise my girlfriend brought home one day. She was an impulse purchase of sorts. Soon after Millie's arrival, my girlfriend unexpectedly bailed out and left me holding the kitten.

Millie likes to check out the drawers and toss the contents on the floor.

A few weeks after my girlfriend left I was offered the chance to rescue another cat by a colleague at work who showed me a picture of a kitten curled up in a cat bowl. I agreed to save the little guy from what I was assured was going to ba a fate worse than death. On a temporary basis. Until a home could be found for him.

A cage containing a cat was duly delivered to the house. I couldn't help but notice, as the new arrival emerged from the pet carrier and unfolded himself, that he was about thrice as big as Millie despite the fact, I was told, that he was the same age.

That must have been some big fricken bowl he was photographed in.

I named him Moschops, for no apparent reason.

Moschops in his trademark Nuremberg pose.

Time, as it does, passed. The cats grew, as cats do. I discovered that finding a home for a cat or two is not as easy as it sounds. Pretty soon Moschops, who seems to grow a few inches every day, started peeing on things. It was pointed out that that I should consider having his peas picked before he and Millie started reproducing and also to stop him spraying. Good idea, I thought. I figured I'd get round to it eventually.

Sadly, "eventually" was not fast enough. Moschops got round to Millie before I got round to getting him neutered and the results are pictured below.

After much deliberation I think I might call them WTF and Holy Shit or Hattie and Holly for short (thanks Barbara!).

Hattie and Holly in their scratching post.

UPDATE: After much deliberation, I DID call them WTF and Holy Shit.

20100619

Funny Story(?)


An extraordinarily handsome man decided he had the responsibility to marry the perfect woman so they could produce beautiful children beyond compare.

With that as his mission he began to search for the perfect woman.

Shortly there after he met a Redneck who had three stunning, gorgeous daughters that positively took his breath away. So he explained his mission to the Redneck and asked for permission to marry one of them.

The Redneck simply replied, "They're lookin' to get married, so you came to the right place. Look 'em over and pick the one you want."

The man dated the first daughter. The next day the Redneck asked for the man's opinion.

"Well," said the man, "she's just a weeeeee bit, not that you can hardly notice...pigeon-toed.."

The Redneck nodded and suggested the man date one of the other girls; so the man went out with the second daughter.

The next day, the Redneck again asked how things went.

"Well,"the man replied, "she's just a weeeee bit, not that you can hardly tell...cross-eyed."

The Redneck nodded and suggested he date the third girl to see if things might be better. So he did.

The next morning the man rushed in exclaiming, "She's perfect, just perfect. She's the one I want to marry."

So they were wed right away. Months later the baby was born. When the man visited the nursery he was horrified: the baby was the ugliest, most pathetic human you can imagine. He rushed to his father-in-law and asked how such a thing could happen considering the beauty of the parents.

"Well," explained the Redneck... "She was just a weeeee bit, not that you could hardly tell... pregnant when you met her."



20100515

Suspicious Activity (or The Plant Pot Fairy)

A couple of weeks ago I felt compelled to report some 'suspicious activity' in my neighbourhood to the police. Actually it was suspicious activity in my back yard. If I'm being really specific, which I am, it was suspicious activity on my back doorstep. In a plant pot.

Here is the story....

I live in the kind of neighbourhood where any kind of activity is suspicious. I rent a comfy and bijou slum in downtown Tampa. This is the only house on the block that does not have a drive through window for the crack addicts and other colourful characters I call my 'neighbours'. Since I moved in I have shared all of my camera equipment with my 'neighbours', who called by one night while I was out, and have developed the habit of carrying a .38 with me when I answer the door. Or go to the toilet. Or do anything else for that matter. Technically I am not allowed to own a gun but I don't, it belongs to someone else. Equally technically, I don't give a rats ass about technicalities if it saves my life.

I moved here a couple of years ago as an emergency measure after my previous home was unexpectedly swallowed by a sink hole. Or was it giant flying goats? I forget. I just remember waking up one night to find myself covered in bits of ceiling and deciding it was time to leave. Now.

The only place I could find to live in at such short notice was, let's be polite and say, a work in progress owned by a friend of a friend. I took it mostly because my few possessions and I would not all comfortably fit into a Ford Mustang and the aforementioned vehicle of my dreams had no shower, bedroom or running water. I figured that I would be here for maybe two months. I didn't factor into that equation my employer going bankrupt or the fact that I get round to most things, including looking for a new home, 'eventually'.

So, here I was two years later (did I mention eventually?), enjoying a sunny Sunday away from work writing schedules for work. I took a break and wandered out to my car. I did notice the huge upturned plant pot on the top step, I just chose to ignore it. There could be nothing suspicious about a plant pot, right? Maybe the wind had blown it there. Or maybe it had dropped off the roof? It was a plant pot. I have no interest in plant pots so investigated no further.

I developed more of an interest in the plant pot on my return journey. Approaching from the yard I noticed that it was not sat fully on the step. There was something inside it. Something green and box-like and vaguely familiar. OK, it was very familiar. It looked almost...no, exactly...like it might be....a 12 pack of Heineken.

It couldn't be. Could it? I made my way quickly to the back door. I lifted the plant pot. It was! Heineken! 'Strange', I thought. Eventually.

Actually, my first thought was 'Awesome', and I took the warm beer inside to chill in the fridge. I only thought 'strange' after I called a friend and told them what had transpired and they said 'that's strange'. And then I realized it was strange and suspicious. Who had left me one of my favourite beers on my doorstep? Why? Who knew I only used the back door? Was it poisoned?? I heard dramatic music in my head, like 'dun dun derrrrrr'...kind of. Its hard to type dramatic music.

There was only one thing I could think of to do to answer at least one of those questions. I got a buddy to come round on some pretense and casually asked, 'Would you like a beer?' He drank the proffered beer and showed no signs of being poisoned so I had eliminated that possibility. Feeling a little guilty about my ruse I felt compelled to test the rest of it myself over the coming days. It was good!

Fast forward a week or so and I arrived home from work on Friday evening and there on the back door step was...dun dun derrrrrrrrrrr...the plant pot. Upturned. No sign of beer or anything else. Could the first incident have been a lure? Was someone trying to lull me into a false sense of security? Maybe there was a bomb under there this time? I entered the house through the front door and called my friend.

As it turned out there was a gift bag under the plant pot. It contained a replica Miami Dolphins jersey. Someone was leaving me gifts!! It was then that I realized I had a stalker. DUN DUN....oh, never mind. I did also consider the possibility of the existence of the Plant Pot Fairy but even my addled mind knew that that theory was a bit of a stretch.

My head was spinning, full of questions (again). Who was my mystery admirer? Was she dangerous? Would she keep leaving me beer if I said nothing?? Would she leap out of the shadows one night as I arrived home, put a gun to my head and demand uninhibited, wanton sex??

I needed help so I turned to my friends for advice, something I don't usually do but hell it isn't every day you have a stalker. I needed to bra...errr, confide. They all told me the same thing. Call the police. Make a Suspicious Activity report aka Cover Your Ass.

Guys especially, let me tell you right now. If you EVER get the urge to call the Tampa police to report that someone is leaving you gifts...just...don't.

I made the call on the non-emergency number, told them that I wanted to make the report just so that it was on record if anything happened...asked if I should come down to the station. 'Nope, your concerns are on record,' I was told.

Alright! That was easy!

Five minutes later there was a cop knocking on my door. If I had called 911 he wouldn't have been there for an hour. Maybe more.

"You want to report suspicious activity in the neighbourhood?"

"Yes."

He pulled out a pad and pen.

"Could you describe it for me?"

"Yes."

"OK."

"Someone keeps leaving stuff on my back step."

"Stuff?"

"Yes."

"What kind of stuff?"

"Erm....gifts"

At this point the cop looked at me like I was nuts. He blinked.

"Gifts?"

"Yes."

"What kind of gifts?"

"The first gift was a 12 pack of Heineken."

"Someone gave you beer?"

"Yes."

He stopped writing.

"Was there anything else."

"Yes...a replica Miami Dolphins shirt. In a gift bag. This is it."

The cop looked at the bag, looked at me and blinked again.

"Did you keep the beer?"

Now it was my turn to look at him like he was nuts. I blinked. Just because.

"Well, there isn't anything we can do except file a report."

"That's all I wanted to do, just put it on record."

"Do you want me to take the shirt as evidence?"

I looked at the shirt. Thought about it.

"No."

He hastily scribbled something in the pad, pulled out a copy and put it on the coffee table. I have no idea what he wrote on there. Cops' handwriting is worse than doctors' handwriting.

He left with a bemused look on his face. Trust me, I won't be doing that again.

And that's how it happened! (ish)

*I know the who and the why now...it was pretty freaky before I knew it though. Report this shit to your Police Department, no matter how dumb they are, if it ever happens to you even if you like the idea of uninhibited wanton sex at gunpoint.....

20100409

Writer's Block

.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

20100328

I'm Back!


Rejoice!

I have decided to revive the old blog thing and see if I can't get into a little writing again. I've left some of the old crap up to give you something to read while I decide what to put in here.


Enjoy!

Big Stories

Originally posted 8/22/07

My favourite post from the old SH.


I was just talking with a friend about Greece and was reminded of something about my sister Cathy whom some of you may know. What you probably don't know, and it pains me to have to say this about her, is that she tells lies. I'm not talking about little white lies either. She tells


G R E A T B I G W H O P P E R S

like the time she visited England and, on the way home from the airport, she told us about a huge forest fire they had had in Greece.

Apparently, so the story went, in the aftermath of the fire a body was found in the middle of the burnt out forest. What was strange about this body was that it was, she claimed, dressed in scuba diving gear and nobody could work out why.

Eventually someone came up with the only possible theory that would fit the facts. The only way to deal with this kind of fire is to dump water from the air. The aircraft used to do this have huge scoops which they use to scoop up seawater to drop on the fire and it was one of these planes, she told me, which had scooped up the diver and dropped him on the fire.

Needless to say I was equally amazed and, sorry folks, amused by her story and said so. And that was, I thought, that.

About a week later Cathy's husband arrived. Sitting around the house on his first day there I just mentioned in passing that Cathy had told me the story of the fire. "Fire?" he asked, looking puzzled.

I began to relate to him the story Cathy had told me. As I went on a smile started to spread across his face (anyone who knows him will tell you that this is in itself unusual) until I got to the part with the diver. By this time the man is positively apoplectic, rolling around laughing his head off. That was the moment when the penny, as we Brits say, dropped.

I glanced across at Cathy and the big smug grin on her face told me I'd been well and truly had.

You might think then that the following year when I was in Greece I'd be a little more skeptical about the chickens.

Cathy had bought a couple precooked birds for our supper one night and I was wondering why they were pretty much flat. "Well, that's because of the way they slaughter chickens over here," volunteered my big sis.

"Wringing their necks is considered barbaric," she told me in that very convincing way she has, "so what the Greeks do is they drive a little tractor into the pen where they keep the chickens and they chase them down and run them over. And that's why they're flat." Cue earnest look on big sister's face.

"Oh really," said I, "that's interesting."

Yep, she got me again. She's a sneaky one I tell ya.

Apparently this nasty Greek way of humiliating people that my sister has acquired is called Telling Big Stories.

You have been warned.

UPDATE: She's incorrigible. Within hours of posting this I spoke to her and she told me that she had just gotten back from a hospital visit where she swears she saw a man leaning against a tree smoking with his intravenous drip draped over a tree branch. Like I'm going to believe that!

The Great Greek Getaway

Originally posted 9/12/07

I'm out of here for a few weeks after today.

Get the souvlaki ready Athens, here I come!

UPDATE: Great. The first souvlaki outlet I find is closed :(


My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Week 1

Originally posted 9/21/07

Day One: The Journey -
I am reliably informed by the airline that "This trip starts and ends at different airports" which is just how I planned it. Nothing much to report otherwise. I sleep through both flights and even catch nap time during the layover in Philadelphia. I'm told nobody on the second flight got much sleep because of someone snoring loudly. Thank goodness I'm a sound sleeper and didn't hear anything :)

Day Two: I've Arrived - Cathy meets me and we have coffee in the airport lounge. I steal a menu. My souvenir collecting has begun. After a couple of cups of raw caffeine we head home.

The first thing I see on emerging from the airport is a souvlaki stand. Closed. This is not a good omen.

We hop on to a train on the new Metro railway line. Half way home Cathy announces we have to get off and change trains. After ten seconds perusing the sign for the next train she drags me half way up the platform and back on to the train we just got off. My sister can be very strange.

The rest of the ride is uneventful and we arrive at Cathy's where I'm shown to my room.

In the great tradition of Men Packing For Vacation I discover that I have brought about eight pairs of pants and three shirts. Looks like I'll be doing some clothes shopping soon.

My nieces Leah and Maria are overjoyed to see me. Well, they become overjoyed when they discover I have gifts but that's good enough for me. I seem to remember being a mercenary little bastard myself when I was a kid so I can relate.

Cathy goes to work and the kids and I meet her later in the park for coffee. The cafe is weird. It looks like a cross between a liquorice allsort and a Barbie house, all pink and green seats and black and white blinds. All of this Greek coffee has left me twitching uncontrollably and my eyes are the size of dinner plates. You don't need cocaine if you have Greek coffee.

Next up is the real reason I made the journey; dinner or, more specifically, souvlaki, which is delicious but dangerous. Twelve years ago I overdosed on souvlaki, eating it almost every day of my visit, two weeks, and gaining a pound for every day I was here. This time I will have a little more self control. Maybe.

The evening is spent relaxing on the balcony where Cathy force-feeds me a full bottle of Jack Daniels. At some point I try to walk through the balcony door but I'm unsuccessful mostly because it is closed.

I pass out a short time later (because of the drink, not because I smashed my head into the door.) but wake up again totally sober three hours later. I don't know how I did that.

Day Three: Friends - I meet Tina and her children Chris, Jocy and Odie for coffee in the local square. Odie is actually a dog but Tina seems to have decided to bring him up as a human. At the moment he is going through the doggy equivalent of the terrible twos. He is very unruly and likes to chew on things, including people.

I tell Tina, with suitably ominous overtones, that he will chew on me only once. Odie spends the rest of the afternoon proving me wrong.

Cathy and the kids join us after a few minutes and the kids go play while we adults drink coffee, chat and comment on the dress sense of some of the people heading to the nearby church for a wedding. I don't think any of us had ever seen so many VPL's gathered together in one place before. Lycra and big knickers are not a good wedding outfit combo.

This is my idea of relaxing. Good company, good conversation and a couple of drinks with a little bitching thrown in. The whole sightseeing thing is fine but it's hard work and I've been here twice before. This trip is all about the people. I'll do the tourist thing next week.

A beggar/drug addict approaches our table and starts talking to me. I tell him "Sorry, I don't understand a word you're saying." He leaves and I turn to my companions and say, "There are some advantages to being in a foreign country when you don't know the language."

Cathy bursts my bubble by gleefully informing me that he was speaking English.

All too soon it is time to leave. We say our goodbyes and head home. Cathy finds some housework to keep me occupied.

Later in the evening Cathy takes me to a bar. She neglects to mention that we have to climb a mountain...well ok, a very steep hill...to get there. She tells me the best approach to making it to the top is not to stop. I reach the top and wait for Cathy who has stopped for a rest half way up.

By the time we reach the bar I'm sweating like a great big sweaty thing and need JD, lots of JD, to recover. We take a taxi home.

My room on this trip is downstairs where Cathy's in-laws live. Greeks, especially older Greeks, like fresh food. Englishmen full of bourbon sometimes like to get up half way through the night and snack. I raid the fridge at stupid o'clock in the morning but find nothing snackable except tomatoes. I do what any man in my condition would do and steal one. It's not like anyone counts their tomatoes is it?

Day Four: My Head Hurts And So Do My Legs - The hangover I should have had yesterday hooks up with the hangover I worked on last night and they go to work on kicking me in the head from the inside. Just to add to the fun I can't walk because of the damage inflicted on my calf muscles by last night's mountaineering expedition.

Everyone in the house is sick with something I brought with me from the US so a quiet day of everyone feeling sorry for themselves is had and Cathy finds some more housework to keep me occupied. I also get to take the kids to and from school and cook. I'm starting to understand why Cathy was looking forward to my visit.

Later I get to see Cathy in action with a couple of her students. She reminds me of some of the scariest teachers from my school days, looking disapprovingly over her glasses with her best hard stare when her pupil makes a mistake. Her demeanour causes me to have flashbacks to my youth and on more than one occasion I have to resist the urge to raise my hand when she asks questions I know the answer to.

In the evening I try to relieve the lingering hangover symptoms with a little Wild Turkey which Cathy claims neither she nor hubby like and is at least twelve years old. I feel strongly that I have to point out that it is already open. She feels equally strongly that she has to point out I visited twelve years ago and opened it. How do women remember these things?

Later in the evening there is another tomatonapping.

Day Five: Potential Murder Suspect - More housework, cooking and school runs. Much the same as day four actually.

Cathy alerts me to "what-time-of-month" it is by eating a peanut butter and chocolate sauce sandwich. Bearing in mind that Chest Infection and Back Ache have joined the party I don't feel safe. I'm alone with her and she's been reading Pauline's 55's.

For the first time I start to wish her husband was here.

Fortunately Cathy resorts to lying on the sofa and coughing while punching herself in the head. Normally I would be a sympathetic brother and do what I could to ease the discomfort of a distressed sister but in this case I fear that will involve her punching me in the head instead so I let her beat herself into unconsciousness. It's called 'Tough Love' and, as much as it breaks my heart, it works.

I have a few beers and pray Cathy remains comatose. I go downstairs and sleep, getting up only once to eat a tomato.

Day Six: Maid Service - We take the kids to school and meet up with Tina and Odie before heading to the square and spending a long, lazy morning chatting and drinking coffee. Life doesn't get any better than this.

Plans are made for the weekend while Odie eats my chair. As we make our way back Cathy and Tina are suddenly waylaid by an underwear store which jumps out and drags them inside. They are in there forever, leaving me standing conspicuously outside being chewed on by an unruly puppy. They emerge three years later and we all head off home.

Cathy finds some housework for me to do. I start to feel like I should have brought my French maid outfit. If I had one, that is.

I think I used floor cleaner to wash the dishes. I'll keep quiet about it. Nobody will notice as long as I rinse everything well.

Big sis announces that we are quitting smoking. I do a little math.

PMS + Back Ache + Chest Infection - Nicotine = One Scared Brother

Ten minutes after 'giving up' she explodes at one of the kids because she complains about having steak for lunch (!) and goes to lie down for half an hour before starting work. I rush out and buy three packs of cigs.

I've been given the responsibility of waking Cathy in time for work so I devise a clever strategy. I take the seal off a pack of cigs and attach a lighter to it with an elastic band. In one deft movement I crack the bedroom door, tell her it's time to get up and throw the cigs into the room before slamming the door shut again and running away.

She emerges a few minutes later smoking and smiling. My cunning plan has worked, disaster is averted.

We spend the evening watching Married With Children reruns and a video of the kids in the school show from earlier this year and chatting with Tina. I congratulate Tina on the speech she made in front of all the parents and various dignitaries, not to mention cameras, while totally unselfconsciously chewing gum. This is a classy girl I tell you!

After all of the housework I've done for Cathy I suggest to Tina that I could make money by hiring myself out to Greek women and offer her my services for free. Her howling laughter as she falls out of her seat tells me she's thinking about a different type of service.

I wrap up the day with my now customary tomato. There are still plenty of them but I still rearrange them to disguise the latest theft, and go to bed.

Day Seven: Looking Good - I've noticed that Greek women always look very serious. Back home you can smile at someone and most times they'll smile back. Not, it seems, in Greece. I've been pondering this and can't decide if they think I'm a Greek man, in which case I don't blame them for not smiling back, or maybe they're all just miserable bastards.

Today is different somehow. Every woman I pass in the street, as Cathy drags me half way round Athens looking for t-shirts, gives me a big beaming smile. Maybe it's the way I'm dressed? I was in a rush getting ready this morning and so I have a sort of 'scruffy chic' look going on.

The shopping trip drags on as we go into store after store selling t-shirts for ridiculous prices and then I discover the truth. This pleasant change in reaction from the Greek ladies is, indeed, because of the way I'm dressed but it isn't the scruffy chic look that it is attracting their smiles.

I find, much to my horror, that it is the 'inside-out shirt' look that is making them beam. I rush into the nearest store, hide behind a clothes rack and rectify my wardrobe malfunction.

Cathy is still sick so most of the rest of the day is spent at home where, from a safe distance, I enjoy a few cold beers while watching her terrorize the English language into a couple of her students.

LATE DEVELOPMENT: Shortly before I retire for the evening Cathy comes upstairs smiling an evil smile. She leans forward and whispers "I just spoke to my mother-in-law. She told me that she thinks you've been raiding her fridge and eating her tomatoes."


Busted.

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Week 2

Originally posted 9/22/07

Day 8: Routine -
By now we have an established routine for most mornings. It goes something like this.

7.00 a.m. Cathy hammers on my door so loud it makes my ears bleed and then yells "Are you awake?" Am I awake? I'm peeling myself off the fucking ceiling and expecting to go into cardiac arrest at any second. Is that awake enough for you?
7.05 a.m. Breakfast aka coffee and a cigarette.
7.10 a.m. Battle for control of the computer resumes* as we both attempt to check our email.
7.30 a.m. Shower. Sometimes. If I can get into the bathroom.
8.00 a.m. School run. Walking Leah and Maria to and from school has been one of the unexpected joys of the trip. Leah practices her English on me and Maria practices her street fighting skills by punching and head-butting me. I carry their unfeasibly heavy school bags for them. I think Maria's bag weighs more than she does, poor girl.
8.20 a.m. Home or coffee in the square.

Today 8.20 a.m. should be 'PTA Meeting' for Cathy but she coughs up a lung in the school yard and wisely decides it's best if she returns home. Tina, with the ever-present Odie in tow, and Irini come over to the house later to brief Cathy on the meeting. While the PTA meeting resumes in the kitchen I decide to demonstrate my masterful dog training skills and set about teaching Odie how not to retrieve various items for the purpose of chewing. It takes less than sixty seconds to settle him down so I set about writing about Week 1 while the PTA people discuss weighty issues and have a bit of a gossip.

The meeting about the previous meeting breaks up. Cathy decides to take a nap and I reclaim what's left of my underwear from Odie who has somehow managed to retrieve it from the laundry basket without anyone noticing. He's had a really good chew on it. Tina generously offers to show me the book store to stop me from getting bored and give me a little exercise while my sister rests. Five minutes later I'm stood outside the store dog-minding an unruly and disobedient puppy while she buys supplies for her lessons.

Back at home Cathy's magic sink has refilled itself so I do a little housework. Highlight of the day is cooking lunch, my signature omlette, for Leah and Maria who declare it delicious and name it Omlette Uncle Michael. This unexpected recognition brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. I love these kids.

Cathy gets up after a while and takes herself off to the doctor who prescribes her every kind of cough and cold cure known to humankind. We sit around chatting and drinking for the rest of the evening. I'm drinking beer, she's drinking cough medicine.

Time for bed so, feeling a little peckish, I make myself a chicken sandwich. It occurs to me that it would be nice with some tomato on it but I quickly put that thought out of my mind. My tomato rustling days are over.

*There are increasing signs that both my sister and I might be computer addicts.

Day 9: Strange Day - If you had told me ten days ago I would be sat at a computer in an Athens apartment watching old Bay City Rollers videos with a naughty puppy, its owner* and a squeaky pink rubber chicken** for company I wouldn't have believed you. Really, I wouldn't.

It's only been twenty four hours since Cathy got her meds but they haven't helped much and she's still coughing well. After we got to Tina's apartment she had such a severe coughing fit that we thought she might have to cancel her next cigarette but a glass of water and a couple of shots from her inhaler later and she was puffing away happily again.

The day had started in it's now familiar way with me peeling myself off the ceiling and going upstairs for coffee. The kids were home and Leah had a burning desire to put my baking skills to the test. I have no idea why, she just did. It must be a kid thing. I hadn't baked for at least a decade, around the time I lost my sweet tooth, so I asked Cathy for a simple recipe and she obliged. She told me what, and how much of it, to put into our cake (I asked her to write that bit down) and also how, and in what order, to mix it (I asked her to write that down too) before telling me at what temperature, and for how long, to bake it (just to be safe I also asked her to write that part down) and then she showed me which buttons to press on her supercomplicated combo-oven to achieve the aforementioned temperatures and times (I got her to draw pictures of the buttons) before leaving us to it.

I acted as Leah's gopher while she did the mixing bits. The only thing I had to explain to her as she delicately mixed and tested and wiped up spills was that the whole point of baking wasn't the cake, it was to have fun making a glorious mess. She picked up on this real fast and in no time at all we, and the kitchen, were covered in flour, cocoa and cake mix. Of course, while the cake baked, and the girls made short work of what was left in the mixing bowl, I got to do a little housework. I was used to it by now though.

Needless to say the resulting chocolate cake, topped off by Leah with some gooey Gnutella-like chocolate gooey stuff, was a culinary triumph. I think that has to be the most fun I've had in a long time. I should get out more.

I finish the day off with a long stroll around the neighborhood*** followed by a sandwich (lamb, no tomato) then bed.

*There are increasing signs that Tina might be more addicted to computers than Cathy and myself combined. I can't be certain but I think Odie may also be affected by passive browsing.
**This scene inspired some research on Cathy's part as she became fascinated by the idea of rubber chickens. She Googled it and got 61000 results. Last I heard she'd checked out over 40 pages of results as part of her research. My sister can be strange sometimes although she'll probably blame all of those drugs the doctor gave her.
***I wasn't lost.

Day 10: Grockles - I finally manage to break out of my domestic servitude for a day and head off to Monasteraki with Cathy and the girls. The first thing we notice in the crowds are the street musicians. They appear to be native Americans. Upon closer inspection we notice that they look and sound like Greek native Americans. We suspect shenanigans. I get some photos and we move on.

All of the good restaurants are packed so we go to Goody's for souvlaki where I am amazed by the sight of the elegant lady on the next table spearing almost enough leaves from her salad to make a whole lettuce and pushing them all into her mouth. When she pulls the fork away and starts chewing I notice that about 25% of that mighty forkful is still sticking out of her mouth. I watch as she gradually sucks in the leaves before swallowing them and then wiping her mouth on her sleeve. I know I'm in the land of Homer but this is ridiculous.

After some sightseeing we head back, pausing for coffee in the square where I treat each of the girls to an enormous waffle topped with a ton of ice cream. Once we start moving again, and without any kind of warning at all, I throw up.

Cathy and the girls show their concern for my health by howling with laughter. Maria adds to the 'humor' of the moment by theorizing on the possible causes (she has a lively seven year old imagination) and making some other interesting observations. I don't speak much Greek but birds bottoms with little Uncle Michaels in them were mentioned at one point causing Cathy and the girls to double over with laughter again. Maria's stand-up routine turned a five minute walk into a half hour trek because they had to keep stopping to laugh and point at me every time Maria came up with a new theory.

Home again where a little light housework is followed by beer. Cathy launches a VDO movie on me and forces me to watch. It isn't pretty. We eat supper, sans tomato, and I go downstairs to bed.

Day 11: F'cough - An impromptu PTA meeting erupts in the street by the school. Odie and I look on bemused as the single issue on the agenda is debated. An hour and a lot of arm waving later a decision on when to have the next PTA meeting has been successfully arrived at and we break up the morning routine further by going to Tina's for coffee. This is coffee as only she can make it. Microwaved. I know, it's just wrong isn't it?

It's time to go and Tina asks if I'd like to go shopping with her. The words "It's a trap" inexplicably flash through my mind looking for something to connect to as I cheerfully agree. Ten minutes later I'm stood outside a familiar book store dog-minding an unruly and disobedient puppy while she buys supplies for her lessons. I'm way too easy.

Back at the house I wander into the kitchen, tutting at the mess in the magic sink, just as Cathy comes hurtling down the passage from the front of the house before sliding to a halt on the tiled floor on the opposite side of the kitchen counter. She seems to want to play charades.

Cathy [pointing at the counter behind me] - Cough.
Me [looking at where she is pointing and seeing meds and a knife rack] - What?
C - [pointing and wagging finger] Cough cough BARK.
Me - You want something from over here?
C - [nodding, waving hand] Coooouuuuugggghhhh wheeze.
Me - The cough medicine?
C - [waving away the proffered meds] Bark bark cough cough COUGH. [pointing and making jabbing moving with finger]
Me - You want a knife? [thinking 'oh no, she's still PMS-ing] NO...you want the cold medicine!
Cathy - [shaking head and seeing the humor in the situation, or at least I assume so because there are tears rolling down her face] Wheeeeeeze. Coughcoughcoughcoughcough.
Me - Come on, just tell me!
Cathy - [pulls ear] Cough sniff cough.
Me - Sounds like?
Cathy - [nods frantically as she clings to the counter for support and raspingly inhales a lung full of air] Cough bark cough.
Me - Breathe in?
Cathy - [shakes head] Cough splutter cough.
Me - Inhale?
Cathy - [nodding frantically] Splutter cough.
Me - [having a 'Eureka' moment] INHALER! You want your inhaler?!
Cathy - [nods frantically] COUGH CHOKE COOOOUUUUGGGGHHHHH.

I hand over the inhaler feeling pleased to have gotten it right within a little over a minute (my personal record for charades) but wonder why my sister is leaning on the counter staring at me with a look of murderous intent in her dewy eyes. PMS maybe? Who knows? My sister can be really strange at times. I offer her a cigarette. She puts her head in her hands then bangs it on the counter several times. I take that as a 'No' and set about the housework.

More quality time is spent with the kids before our evening routine of a few drinks and a chat. Cathy is still drinking her cough cure cocktail which I point out doesn't seem to be working. For the second time today I see that look of murderous intent. I decide to have a quick bite for supper and head for my room.

Day 12: Shopping With Leah - I wake up early and decide to surprise sis by getting the coffee ready for when she gets up. I narrowly miss being killed when I open the cupboard to get cups. A metal plate with a razor sharp rim flies out of the cupboard at me at incredible speed so I use my cat-like reflexes to duck and avoid decapitation which is good because a glass dish also slides out narrowly missing my head before shattering on the floor. Before I know it everyone is up and staring at me with accusing and disapproving looks. I suspect foul play.

After picking the girls up from school I go grocery shopping for Cathy. She gives me a fifty euro note and tells me to go easy because it is all the money she has. Leah volunteers to come help me. We're shopping for eggs, cheese, ham, flour, bread and milk.As we wander around the store Leah remembers that we need cookies and grabs a couple of packs. She also mentions that we're all out of chocolate bars so we add a couple of those to the list. Oh yes, there's no chocolate milk shake powder either and maybe we should pick up a couple of boxes of chocolate Wheetos cereal. Leah continued to demonstrate her remarkable domestic skills by pointing out other items that Cathy and I had neglected to include on the list.

Sixty four euros later I start to suspect I may have been conned by a cunning ten year old. This is later confirmed by the look on Cathy's face as she shakes her head and suggests I'm a little too easily led by adorable nieces. On the bright side I only forgot to buy a few items (I always forget something) such as eggs, cheese, ham, flour, bread and milk.

Later I get to see Jerry Springer-like television Greek style. The main features are people who believe that the recent fires in Greece were started by UFOs and conjoined twins (joined at the head) who don't get along. When they started fighting with each other the security guards on the show had no idea how to separate them.

The day ends with a few beers and a supper which does not include tomatoes.

Day 13: More Big Stories? - Back when I was six or seven we had a tortoise. He was a wonderful, friendly little fellow called Fred. The first winter we had him we very carefully boxed him up for hibernation with straw to keep him warm and newspaper just in case he woke up from time to time and wanted to read something if he was a bit bored. The following spring we decided it was time to see if the little guy was awake again and went out to check. He wasn't here. Maybe somebody had moved him. We checked ever box in the garage to no avail. He was gone.

We later found out that gran had done a little pre-spring cleaning and decided that we didn't need a box of old straw and newspaper so she tossed him out. We were devastated. I have been haunted by Fred's fate ever since. The feelings of guilt have never left me.The thought of poor little Fred.in a landfill has been a source of great shame that has persisted down the years. I knew we should have marked that box with a big 'T'.

"WTF does this have to do with Greece?" I hear you ask.Well, it's this.

I noticed that Cathy and the kids have a tortoise and I asked Cathy about him. Apparently they had neighbours who were moving and they were going to toss him into the trash (!) so Cathy, remembering Fred's foul fate, insisted on taking him.in. Today he is one very happy tortoise who frolics in C's back yard playing with the children. Her neighbours also had a rabbit they didn't want but they ate him.

At least that's what Cathy told me. I haven't ruled out the possibility that this was all just another Big Story.

The day ends predictably with a beer or three and I pass out go to sleep on the sofa.

Day 14: The End Is Nigh - Cathy wakes me up and informs me that she found lamb bones and the remains of a tomato on the table this morning. She claims that it looks like someone had tried to use the tomato instead of bread to make a sandwich. I guess one of the kids must have gotten up during the night feeling a bit hungry.

After the school run we go for one last coffee in the square with Tina and Odie. Just sitting there chilling and chatting was the best. Nobody wanted to leave but leave we had to. Tomorrow we'll all be together for one last time. We won't be drinking coffee though.

Day 15: Final Day - Cathy has to attend a PTA meeting but promises to be back by 9.00 a.m. Yeah right. I wander round the local street market taking pictures to kill time. Cathy returns at 10.00 a.m. having left the ongoing meeting. I sit and watch her do some housework. It makes a nice change.

The morning is all about laundry and packing. We're both a bit miserable, probably because I'm not looking forward to the long flight and Cathy isn't looking forward to doing her own housework again. Or something. We cheer ourselves up by taking the girls out to lunch before Cathy starts work. The girls cheer themselves up by using their uncle as a punching bag all the way home.

I'm about to bake a cake with Leah again and, inevitably, I suspect that there will be some housework to do soon after that.

Tina is planning a party for me tonight,. I'm not sure if it is just to piss off her annoying neighbour or maybe she's celebrating me leaving. She's also talking about playing Bay City Rollers songs again so I suspect the latter. I might have to invest in earplugs.


Soundbites
Cathy - "If you get the urge to do some housework don't fight it. It might damage your health if you do and you know how concerned I am about your health"

Cathy - "If you're not here when I get back I'll know you've gone."

Cathy - "How many sugars do you want in your coffee?"
Irini - "One....and another one."

Thank You
Cathy -
you're the best. You know that I'll always be there for you and the girls. I'm just sorry I couldn't stay longer. I will BBS. I love you sis.
Maria and Leah - the worst part of leaving is knowing I won't see you two every day. You were the highlight of my visit. We'll see each other again soon.
Tina - you are a wonderful person, your children are a credit to you and meeting you was an honour. Thank you for your hospitality. We will hopefully meet again soon.

Horror Story: Pt. 1 - The Dentist

Originally posted 8/27/07

I'm under pressure to post by one who shall remain nameless. This is all I have.

Once upon a time I had four wisdom teeth that were so deeply rooted I was required, as often happens apparently, to go under general anesthetic in the local hospital for them to be removed. Well three of them were removed in hospital.

The extraction of the first WT by my dentist, David, convinced me I didn't want to be awake for the removal of the other three.


This is the story of the first extraction.


My sadist dentist wanted to pull the WT's, which were badly infected and very painful, using local anesthetic but he lied when he said it would be quick and painless. Dentists do that. They lie about the pain they are about to inflict. It's more fun for them that way I guess. They're all sadistic bastards.

I sat down in the dentist's comfy leather chair. I lay (layed, laid...which is it Val??) back and relaxed, enjoying the soothing vibration as the chair moved me into a reclining position. The sadist approached, smiling a smile that would scare children and old ladies. And me.

He probed my mouth with his shiny instrument and grabbed onto my wisdom. Tooth, that is.

The first WT wouldn't budge. It seemed to like being being a part of my head and didn't want to leave. Undeterred by my WT's resistance my sadist pulled harder and harder. So hard did he pull on it that my head came up from the headrest of the chair I was lying on until I was almost half sat up then suddenly...

CRACK!

The dentist fell on his ass and my head hit the headrest hard. "Damn," thought I, "it's out! I hope the others aren't so tough."

It wasn't over though.

"Well, that got half of it," announced the dentist as he stood up waving half a tooth clamped into...whatever it is dentists use to torture their patients with...in the air.

He dropped the mangled molar into a metallic mug and came at me again with his plier-thingies and a look of murderous intent. I was still in shock from his first assault and unable to resist as his 'nurse' easily forced my mouth open once more.

The twisted torturer of teeth continued to advance as another of his minions grabbed my head in a vice-like grip and held me down. The demented dental demon planted one foot firmly on the floor and swung his leg over the chair planting his knee firmly in my chest while simultaneously plunged his pliers into my now mushy gums.

He clamped his tortuous device around the bloodied stub of what remained of my WT and pulled. And pulled. (There may have been some wiggling too or I may just have been saying "No, no, nooooo," with my head. I'm not sure, it's all so hazy now.)

Red faced, with sweat pouring from his furrowed brow, he pulled and twisted my gummy stump for another sixty seconds before...

GLOOP!

There was a shower of blood and it was out of there.

So was I.

As my nemesis high-fived the nurses, or the Gruesome Twosome as I had come to know them, and enjoyed his moment of triumph I leaped from the chair and staggered out in a mostly sideways motion which I had previously only associated with drinking copious amounts of beer.

I staggered home, locked the doors and lay (layed, laid...c'mon Val gimme a clue) my bloodied head on a soft pillow, sighing with relief and vowing that the next three WT's would be removed only by the skilled doctors of the National Health Service before passing into unconsciousness.

Tune In Next Time For The Hospital: A Horror Story Pt. 2 (With The Bit That Makes Everyone Laugh)

Horror Story: Pt. 2 - The Hospital

Originally posted 8/29/07

Previously on Horror Story....


You witnessed an innocent young man suffering demented dental debauchery at the hands of a deranged dentin doctor called David before making a narrow escape from the dingy denture dungeon of doom.

Will our young hero escape the pain of his three remaining wisdom teeth? Will anyone believe his terrifying tale of traumatic tooth treatment? Will he ever stop his agonizing alliterating authoring activities?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in today's Horror Story: Pt. 2 - The Hospital.


After another night of the sort of pain that makes you bang your head against the wall I managed to get myself bumped to the front of the line for day surgery to get the three remaining teeth removed at the hospital where I was working at the time. Yep, it helps to know a private dental practitioner who knows the Chief Tooth Fairy at your place of employment.

Two days later I was lying in pre-op surrounded by people wearing scrubs relieved that my ordeal would soon be over. The operating theatre staff joked around and gossiped as the young Indian anestesthithist...anasthethisitht...the guy with the dope hooked me up to the anesthetic. Soon I would be free from pain.

"Start counting backwards from ten," he said in a low, soothing voice.

"Ten, nine, eight..." I started to feel woozy, my eyelids drooping slowly.

"...thev'n..."

At the very moment I was about to drift into unconsciousness, the same guy suddenly got right in my face. He was all wide-eyed and smiling an evil smile.

The last thing I heard as I went under was "We're not really doctors you know..."

===============================================================

Eyes suddenly so wide open they almost popped out of my head I sat bolt upright inhaling so long and so hard I came close to sucking the covers off of the opposite bed. I gasped for breath and patted myself down just to make sure I was all there.

"Legs?"

"Check."

"Body?"

"Check."

"Head?"

"Check."

"Arms?"

"What are you patting yourself down with stupid?"

"Oh yes."

Looking around the spinning wobbly ward I noticed a nurse rushing towards me."

"Are you alright sir?"

"B, b, b, b, b, b..."

"Don't worry, you're just feeling the effects of the anesthetic wearing off."

"Th, th, th, ddddddd..."

Pushing me back now, "You'll be fine soon, just rest for now."

I allowed her to push me back onto the bed and I drifted for what must have been another hour or two before the same nurse, all businesslike now, shook me awake. "Alright sir, time to go."

The world was still wobbly. "Huh?"

"It's Friday. This ward closes for the weekend at five o'clock. You have to go home now."

"Oh."

I dressed unsteadily, wondering vaguely why my face felt like it was the size of a melon, and weaved my way to the exit wishing it would stay still long enough for me to get through it. Outside I paused to get my bearings before lurching off towards the nearest bus stop.

This may be a surprise to you but it isn't easy to speak with a mouth full of gauze and cotton wool, as I was about to find.

A bus approached, winding it's way up the curvy road. OK, the road was straight, everything I looked at just looked curvy. The bus stopped. The doors opened. I fell up the steps.

Dragging myself up I pulled out my wallet and said "Wawwow Widge Mwease."

"You what?" asked the driver, looking a little confused. I'm pretty sure he thought I was shit-faced.

"Wawwow Widge," I repeated and offered him some money.

He continued to look at me, saying nothing.

Exasperated I pointed at my jaw and told him, "Aah wus wad um weeth aah."

"Ah," he said, realizing my predicament. "This bus goes to Horwich, I can take you there."

"Wowich?!" I shook my head, raised my hand and turned to stagger sideways off the bus.

Long story short, I hailed a cab and pretended I was dumb (shut up Ali) so the driver gave me a pen and paper to write down my destination. I made it home and sank back into my favorite chair vowing never to trust dentists or surgeons again for as long as I lived before drifting off into a sweet, painless, twelve hour nap.

I still don't trust the bastards.

Warriors on the Edge of In(s)anity

This is a little post that one or two people missed due to it being so inconspicuous (hi Ali...maybe I should have posted this on Monday?)

I have for you a story. It is the story of a quest but, more importantly, it is an illustration of just how much I was able to rely on my friends for help and support during a crisis back in the day.

Our story begins one fine Sunday morning after a night of carousing and wenching. We three hung over handsome adventurers had woken feeling somewhat whimsical and, after a hearty breakfast of beans on toast washed down with lashings of Nescafe's finest instant coffee, we decided that we should embark upon a quest. We would go in search of the Strawberry Duck, on foot no less.

The Strawberry Duck was not some fabled beast as the name suggests but an oasis of pleasure in a neighboring village where one could purchase the world's best steak and kidney pie and some of the finest ale ever brewed. Some might call it a pub.

So it was that we found ourselves at stupid o'clock in the morning emerging from the mist on the edge of the moors overlooking the sleepy hamlet where I grew up. The sky was clear and the sun was just above the horizon, and I mean only just. We stopped to survey the terrible terrain of towering tangled tussocks and treacherous trenches that we would have to traverse if we were to succeed in our quest. The landscape was, to our eyes at least, almost Tolkienesque. Well it would have been if it was rocky and had more orcs and trolls but it was Tolkienesque enough for us first thing on a Sunday morning.

At this point in the story, while we're just standing around wondering just whose fucking bright idea this was in the first place, I will introduce you to my companions and give them fitting names lest you become confused later. The distinctive names are required because we were all three called Michael and at the time we all went by the name Mick so, for instance, the following exchange would sound odd if I didn't differentiate between Micks.

"Mick," said Mick. "What?" chorused Mick's companions. "Whose fucking bright idea was this?" "It was Mick's idea I think," replied Mick. "No, actually it was Mick's idea," interjected Mick.

You see?

Actually my nickname was Mik but everyone pronounced it with the 'c' so it sounded the same as Mick to most people. I've been asked many times "Why Mik with no 'c'?" but, truthfully, I have no idea how I lost the 'c'. I wish I did have a funny story about how I got my old nickname because it would have made this paragraph a lot more entertaining. Sorry.

But I digress.

For the sake of our story my companions will be called Mick the Mad, because he was, and Mick the Mard, a local term for someone who was a bit of a softy. Actually most people thought he was as bent as a barking snail but he wasn't. He was just a thirty two year old virgin. I'll call myself Mick the Unsteady just in case I need a name later. I picked Unsteady because I had drunk way more than the other two Micks the previous night and I couldn't find a suitable 'M' word that meant the same thing. Together we were the notorious Licky Hand Gang™, feared across the region by partygoers and publicans alike...but that's another story.

Right, let's get on with this tale of derring-do-do. Where were we? Oh, yes, surveying the terrain.

Nothing stirred in this barren-ish wasteland but we had all heard the stories of the fearsome and ferocious wild sheepses which, according to local legend, roamed the moors in search of unwary travellers. They would, if the stories were to be believed, suddenly spring from behind a tussock or out of a hole in the ground and have their wild and woolly way with their quarry (try saying that with your false teeth out) and leave them to die a slow, embarrassing death as the sheepses gambolled off into the distance in search of more prey.

We foolhardy companions weren't scared. On many occasions we had laughed in the face of danger and then run away and so with a glance and an almost imperceptible group-nod of agreement we marched on to the moor...slowly and carefully and, in my case, a little Unsteadily. Conditions underfoot were treacherous; wet and slippery the ground was pockmarked with hidden holes. Pretty soon I had fallen forty or so yards behind my companions. They turned frequently to shout encouragement like, "Hurry up you slow bastard, we want to be there for opening time!" but they didn't stop. I was starting to feel a little anxious and every time I heard the gentle breeze rustle through the grass I would look, fearful of a surprise attack by those cunning sheepses, and it was that caution that would prove to be my downfall.

Hearing a little rustling (no C & P, a little rustling is not baby rustle) behind me I turned my head and in that instant disaster struck. I brought my foot down on a concealed and very slippery clump of clustered cockspur. My foot shot up into the air and sent me backwards. Losing my balance, I began spinning my arms forward trying to regain altitude but it was too late. My waving efforts slowed my fall but by now I was at a totally unnatural angle to the perpendicular and stayed that way for what seemed like an age before gravity, who had been distracted by something in the distance, noticed my predicament and kindly helped me into the nearest hole.

I lay in my hole stunned for a few moments before deciding it would be best to get up in case my friends saw my plight. Lying in a hole being pointed and laughed at is no way to spend a Sunday morning. I tried to sit up but quickly realized that both arms were pinned against my body. I was stuck, like baby pooh on velcro. I had no choice, I had to call out to my friends. I shouted out a couple of times before hearing their answering call and soon I could hear their rapid footfalls pounding towards me. Rescue was seconds away, I thought.


I thought wrong. As I lay there, staring at the sky, their footsteps became a skidding sound as they stopped feet away from me. I strained to bend my neck so I could see what Mad and Mard were doing. What they were doing was reaching into their jackets. Maybe they had first aid kits I thought. Wrong again.

They had CAMERAS and the bastards were snapping pictures of me and giggling like schoolgirls. Furious, I started to rock from side to side and after about a minute I got one arm free. My 'friends' knew danger when they saw it and they were off as fast as they could go haphazardly changing directions to avoid holes and leaping over tussocks whooping with delight as they put some distance between us.

A short chase ensued but I quickly gave up having sprained my ankle. On the bright side, and to cut a long story short, we quickly reached the nearest road and found a phone box from which to call a taxi to take us the rest of the way. Of course I spent the afternoon being pointed and laughed at as Mad and Mard went around telling everyone about our earlier misadventure but the beer helped me forget.

As I look back on that and other such days I realize that if it wasn't for character-building experiences like that, and 'friends' like those, I wouldn't be the total bastard I am today so it isn't all bad.

NOTE: There were actually four of us out there that day but I edited one companion from the story because he wasn't called Mick and he was, in my estimation, a complete and utter gibbon.


WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
We lost track of Mard Mick that same year, soon after he walked into Mad's house brandishing a newspaper declaring his innocence. We hadn't read the paper that day but we got interested in the local news real fast. Apparently, somebody with his name and matching his description had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute in the local red light district. He claimed it was really his father (who was arrested, not the prost...oh never mind), who had the same name, but we had to point out that he told us he'd been dead for several years so we weren't buying the stiff with a stiffy story. Maybe all the ridicule, pointing and laughing upset him but, whatever the reason, he stopped hanging out with us soon after.

Mad Mick stuck around a couple more years and many more misadventures were had by the Licky Hand Gang™. We stopped hanging out together after he ran off with my girlfriend.

I miss those guys.

A Real Mega Pickle

Originally posted 9/4/07

"Hi how are you today?"

"I''m good thanks."

"Is there anything I can help you with?"

"I'm thinking of buying a camera I've seen. It has good reviews, I just want to actually see it before I decide."

"Sure. Which camera is it?"

"The Minolta digital SLR. I think its the 5D."

[hands over camera]

"It has six mega pickles right?"

[choke]

"Sorry?"

"It has six mega pickles?"

[mental images start to flood brain]

"Yes sir. The maximum resolution is six mega pixels. It shoots at three pictures per second and has a built in anti-shake system."

[customer raises eyebrow]

"Sounds good. How big can you print six mega pickles?"

[more mental images, tears in my eyes]

"As big as you like depending on how you process the image. You can up-res a six mega pixel image to print as large as you like. The largest print I've actually seen from a six mega pixel file was about four feet by five feet."

[customer raises eyebrow again]

"And my old Minolta lenses will fit it?"

"Yes."

"Alright, thanks. I'll be back."

[quietly to manager as he leaves]

"You need to teach that boy something about cameras. He keeps calling mega pickles 'mega pixels.' "

[sink to knees behind counter, chew arm]

Sleepwalking

Originally posted 8/22/07

I have, for a long time, suffered from a recurring problem. I do things when I'm asleep.

I have a sleep disorder called
somnambulism or noctambulism, take your pick. A lot of research suggests that high levels of anxiety or stress are major causes of somnambulism. In my case, however, I am fairly certain that high levels of beer are the major contributing factor.

Whatever the cause it is a condition which has led to some strange situations, a few of which I've been persuaded to write about here.

The first time I recall being aware of my nocturnal activities was back around the time I was, well, a lot younger. I woke one morning and the first thing I thought about was a 'dream' I'd had. In the dream I went downstairs and into the kitchen to make a drink. I poured something I guess I thought was cordial (kind of fruit juice concentrate to you colonials) into a cup and added water. As I raised the cup to my mouth there was the distinct smell of bleach. I put the cup onto the counter top and that was all I remembered.

Strange dream I thought as I went to make breakfast. I reached the kitchen and there on the counter was a cup of bleach and water.

Scary huh? But wait, there's more.

Fast forward to this year. I stay frequently with my step-daughter and son-in-law and have now had two bathroom related occurrences of sleepwalking in their house in two months.

#1 I moved a few months ago and the first room I used as a bedroom was at the other end of the passage from the bathroom. One night at my s-d/s-i-l's house I apparently set off to the bathroom, also at the other end of a passage, while still asleep. So far so good. Unfortunately my bathroom is on the left. Theirs is straight on. All I know is that one moment I am lying down to go to sleep, the next I'm hearing a little voice asking "What are you doing in my closet?" Thankfully I was just standing there fully clothed*. It could have been so much worse.

#2 Since then I changed rooms to one which was being used for storage when I first moved. I now have my own bathroom directly to the left of my bed. Directly to the left of the bed I use at my s-d/s-i-l's house is a set of drawers. The top drawers are a separate optional unit. On top of them are...were...a ceramic lamp and a piggy bank full of change. So it was that I found myself in the early hours of this morning stood with a drawer unit in my arms and broken pottery and lots of change at my feet, my s-d holding my arm and my s-i-l scampering around at my feet saying things like "Make sure he doesn't move, he'll cut his feet up if he does." Thankfully I was just standing there fully clothed*.

There have been other night-walking incidents over the years.

One night I woke up half way through eating a burger in the house I shared with my girlfriend. The lounge and passage were filled with smoke which was pouring out of the kitchen. It seems you forget a thing or two when you're sleep-cooking....things like turning the grill off.

My all time favourite sleepwalking story happened at one of my sister's houses. You should be aware that her husband at the time suffered from the same condition. I found out about it the following day when me and sis had a conversation which went something like this...

Sis - "Did you have fun last night?"

Me - "Yep, it was a good night. I think."

"You think?"

"Well me and Brian** had a few so I don't remember it all."

"Did you enjoy the cookies when you got home?"

"I ate cookies when I got home?"

"No."

"No?"

"No...you went to bed."

"So where do cookies come into it?"

"You got up again."

"I don't remember but if you say so..."

"When we went to bed there were cookies..."

"OK."

"They were all the way up the stairs."

"What?"

"One cookie on every stair."

"Really? How did that happen?"

"The trail of cookies led into the bathroom."

"That's odd. I think I'd remember if I did that."

"There was a cookie on the sink...one on the bath and one on the toilet seat."

"Nope, not me. Brian** must have been messing with you."

"Oh yes...Brian
**. I'm glad you mentioned him."

"What else did Brian
** do?"

"Do you remember talking to Brian
** after you went to bed?"

"Actually, now that you mention it, yes. Vaguely."

"Vaguely?"

"Yes, vaguely. I remember the bedroom light being on and he was leaning against the open door yapping with me. Can't remember what it was about though....then you appeared and dragged him off. I remember that bit."

"Yes, I dragged him back to bed. It was 4 am."

"Well no wonder I don't remember anything. Was I even awake?"

"I don't think so. Do you remember anything, erm, strange about Brian
** while you were talking to him?"

"I don't think so. How do you mean strange?"

"You didn't notice he was stark naked?"

"What the fuck?!?!?"

"Didn't think so. Oh, one more thing..."

"There's more?"

"Well, just as I dragged Brian
** out of your room I noticed something."

"What did you notice?"

"There was a big bowl of cookies under your bed. Could you bring them down next time you go up there please?"

*Fully clothed is the natural state for English people. So much so that we are born fully clothed and when we get undressed, we're fully clothed underneath.
**Brian is Irish.