Monday, July 28, 2008


This is a charming memory written by Calamity that I’d like to share.

It may be unusual for a blogger to feature a guest author, but the story, memories and the people need to be remembered. Besides, the name of this blog is “In The Day” NOT “In MY Day”.

Please enjoy!


A memory from “Calamity”

I wandered into a little boutique this afternoon. They had some little shoes in the window on sale; the kind with little bows and sparkles that a three year old just like my granddaughter would love. They didn’t have her size. But what they did have was a box of old fashioned, metal jacks. I picked them up and smiled, and a warm feeling memory overcame me.

I was in elementary school, about 5th or 6th grade. I had received a set of jacks at a birthday party and brought them home. I sort of knew what to do with them and spent about 20 frustrating minutes chasing a little pink ball around the room. Finally I decided that “jacks” was a pretty stupid game. And then Mom came into the room.

My Mom was a smallish woman, a little heavy, and was never athletic due to having polio as a child. She used to tell us stories about her sisters teasing her about her braces and running away when they were walking to school. Mom would never be athletic. No running games, or hiding games, or games that required a lot of physical exertion. But apparently, Mom made up for her lack of physical ability with a proficiency for other games. And “jacks” was her forte!

Mom sat down on the floor with me. She asked if I would like her to show me how to play. I smiled knowing that she probably couldn’t show me much, and nodded. Mom threw the jacks. She tossed the ball and picked up the jacks, one at a time, catching the ball after the first bounce each time. Then two at a time, three at a time, four, fivesies, sixsies, and on through tensies . . . without missing once!

I was astounded! And now Mom smiled . . .

I learned to play jacks that summer and showed my friends. We spent the summer sitting on the linoleum floor, which was the coolest place in an un-air conditioned house, and learned all the games. It seemed that whenever we mastered one game, Mom had another to teach us. We learned: “chickens in the coop”, “pigs over the fence”, “around the world”, “no bounce”, “flying Dutchman” and “eggs in the basket”.

Over the years the jacks became light in weight, made out of tin or aluminum. I have my original set, but the balls rotted out years ago. I wonder if I bought a set of heavy jacks for my granddaughter, she would someday want to know how to play. I wonder if I can remember as well as my Mom, after 40 years.

I’ll bet she could still play, if she were here, and show us all a thing or two at that.

Friday, May 30, 2008


I know of a road, (CA 127) which bypasses Interstate 15 between Baker California and Los Vegas NV. The road wanders through Pahrump Nevada, then on to Los Vegas. It is a 50-mile detour, but sometimes it’s shorter than waiting for the freeway (I-15), blocked by an all-to-frequent wreck to be cleared.

It is 100 miles (give or take a few miles) from Baker CA to Pahrump NV. There is only one populated place on the road, Shoshone, at the junction of CA 178 and 127. Shoshone is a gas station and a house. Otherwise, there is nothing.

I know there are hundreds of lonely roads throughout the west just like it, but this road is so close to 2 major metropolitan areas, that its loneliness and remoteness does not register in my thinking.

A late start for the drive to Vegas put us in Baker, CA after dark. A wreck on I-15 near Jean NV, with an expected 3-hour road closure, put us on the dark highway 127 shortcut.

We followed a large truck for 30 miles or so, and I became aware that the ONLY lights we could see were our headlights and the trucks tail lights; we had not passed or seen another car since we left Baker. There was no moon. It was ink-black outside the car.

Just about here-,-116.29612&spn=0.1048,0.233459&t=p&z=12

I was intrigued by the lack of any man-made light. It was a bit odd, yet familiar, like a misplaced friend’s name. I had camped out many times earlier in my life, and I guess I always took the dark for granted. I really wanted to see the stars again!

I found a shallow turnout, pulled off the road and turned the car engine off, shut off the headlights and stepped out of the car. The interior light of the car made an island of light in the blackness. We closed our doors, and the darkness took over.

The stars above us were a dizzying swarm, the sky gloriously splashed with points of light from horizon to horizon. We both stood and gaped at the sight. Familiar constellations were so bright, yet so surrounded by other points of light, we could not recognize them immediately.

There was a problem.

If you looked away from the stars you could see nothing; not the car, not each other, the highway, nothing. The earth had gone away, only the stars remained. The feeling was disquieting, the sort of “crawly” you get when you think someone is talking about you or looking at you without your knowing.

Our eyes adjusted to the darkness, and we could begin to see the silhouette of the horizon. The lights of Los Vegas 100 miles away made the faintest of glows behind the mountains to the north and LA lights did the same in the south. The glow was so dim, we had to ask one another, “Do you see it too?” It was not comforting. The distance only reinforced the alone-ness of the place.

Afraid is much too strong a word for what we felt. “Discomforted” and “Ill at ease” come closer. Why did we feel that way? There is nothing to fear out there on that highway. The most dangerous being on the planet is mankind, and there were no people in speeding cars with guns, drinking, talking on cell phones and looking for a way to prove their manhood. So what could harm us?

Not wild animals- there are no Grizzly Bears, and a Mountain Lion would surely prefer the smaller and less chewy (probably) sheep down the road. Coyotes are too small to take me on, as well.

The only thing left is fear of the dark and unknown. An ancient inbred feeling that something we can’t see and identify is waiting to eat us, steal our children and send us all to the bottomless pit.

I imagined the night-fear in ancestors long since gone, the feeling of being watched. A time when the flame of a candle or a campfire would be the brightest man-made light on the planet.

I imagined trying to standing between the darkness and my loved ones, surrounded by dangers known and unknown. A wolf, a bear, an enemy, a dark creature of the night made of shadows, waiting to close in around you when the light was gone.

I heard a disembodied shadow nearby say “Can we go now?” and answered, “Yes, I’m ready”. The interior light of the car lit the area as I opened the door. I started the car and banished the surrounding darkness with headlights. All was familiar again. I could see that there was no reason to be fearful.

How fortunate we are to be able to banish our fears so easily.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I will read to you (sort of)

In hopes of keeping somewhat current with new stuff, I’ve added a “feature” to my blog.
I’ve run across something new that should be helpful to those of us too busy to read my blog.

Perhaps those piles of mending, ironing or uncooked veggies are interfering with the enjoyment available to you by reading my nearly award winning prose.

If this is what holds you back, I have GREAT news for you!

At the very bottom of this page (no, the bottom-bottom, following ALL of the great stories and rants below the blue footer bar), you will find an audio playback slider.
(To be clear, if I could figure out how to get the audio bar to appear somewhere else on the page, I would. I got it on the page and it works, that’s good enough.)

If you click on the little triangle on the left side, will read my blog in an imitation of my voice. It is sufficiently annoying to keep you entertained and then complaining for several minutes.

Of course, for those of you still in the 20th century, feel free to ignore this feature, and sound out the words for yourself. Be sure to use a Tom Hanks sort of voice, and it’ll be just like I’m there.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jury Duty

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve added anything to this conversation. Blame it on jury duty. It’s a good subject for a Blog, but the law says that you can’t write or talk about the case until it is completely over and done.

The story is this: A 50 something lady and her sister went to JC Penny’s to shop. She was casually dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and carried a 7 or 8-inch square basket purse, open on top with 2 half-circle 6’ bamboo handles. Holding the 2 handles together held the purse closed.

The ladies went separate ways, with our “lady of Interest” (LOI) going to the costume jewelry counter. As the jewelry counter is a high loss area, the store “loss prevention team” began to watch and record her actions with video cameras.

Our subject browsed the ear-rings, holding several up to her ears in front of a mirror, selected a 6” necklace and went to a checkout counter to check the price and was told she’d need to stand in line to do so. She elected not to wait.

She moved off to other areas of the store, keeping the necklace with her as she shopped.

At some point the necklace found its way into the handbag. Loss Prevention accosted the LOI just outside the doors of the store, searched the purse and found the necklace.

Our LOI claimed to have no knowledge of how or when the necklace got into her purse. She offered to make good on the purchase price, but the store refused and called the police.

These are simple facts, but the case was not as obvious as you might think.

The state must prove 4 things in order to convict the LOI of petty theft:

She took the item without permission

She intended to keep the item

She removed the item from the store

She INTENDED to take the item

All of the allegations must be proved “beyond A Reasonable Doubt”. Items 1, 2 and 3 were easy, the tape and testimony proved all 3 fairly conclusively.

Number 4 (Intent) was not so obvious. Prosecution needed to show that the LOI INTENDED to put the necklace in her purse and keep it forever without paying.

The LOI claimed that she tried to get a price check on the item and was turned away due to the line waiting service. She further states that there were no “scanners” available to read the price. Therefore, she put the necklace in her hand (also carrying the purse), continued to shop, rejoined her sister, bought an iron and left the store. She forgot the necklace completely in as much as it was being held in the same hand as her purse, and the purse handle was the same shape as the necklace. She was sure that at some point the necklace inadvertently had fallen out of her hand into the purse. The necklace shape and size fit exactly into one of the 3 sections of her purse, and remained unseen (by her) through the checkout process. This story is more plausible than it sounds. In examining the purse, we confirmed that such an event COULD happen. The purse handles did indeed match the shape of the necklace and the necklace could have slipped easily into the purse.

That’s Reasonable Doubt.

Our LOI was a very normal person. She has a long-term marriage, was employed by a school, but out on disability. She was injured in an accident at the school, and is under the care of a doctor and is using pain medication. She and her sister testified that the medication caused her to be a little woozy and forgetful. There was no doctor’s testimony or a description of the affects of her prescription.

She has never been convicted or accused of anything like this before.

So far (for me at least) it was not an open and shut case. The $29 price of the necklace did not seem to me to be sufficient to cause the LOI to risk the embracement of a trial and possible jail, especially given her history, employment and testimony of her sister.

Others, however, believed that the thrill of the hunt might have played a part. Still others believed that poor service at the checkout counter had “encouraged” the LOI to seek a little revenge.

We were at an impasse.

We decided that the determining factor should be a review of her actions as recorded on the security tape. If there was an indication of dishonesty, we should be able to see it. If not, reasonable doubt would guide us to a “Not Guilt” verdict.

We played the tape- a 40 minute, mind numbing, surrealistic, impersonal snippet of real life in a Penny’s store. People came and went without reason or explanation, were zoomed in upon by the unseen observer for no clear reason. The camera paned and zoomed around the jewelry counter and its adjacent areas relentlessly.

Finally, the LOI entered the picture, purse in her right hand, hanging at her side. You could see the necklace in her hand between the handles of the purse, positioned directly over the purse opening. She moved into an area with several chest high hanging clothing displays. She touched, nor moved nor stopped to look at any of them as she wandered through the display. Her hand carrying the purse and necklace remained at her side, completely hidden from view.

We slowed the video to frame by frame mode and waited for the LOI to exit the clothing display. Her purse hand came into view. Her fingers were moving. Her first finger and her index finger were extended, pointing directly down at the purse.

She had just dropped the necklace into the purse! She was so “casual”, and there was such a “who me?” look on her face that I lost all doubt as to her “Intension”. We could not come up with any reason to move her fingers in the way we had seen OTHER than to drop the necklace.

It was an “Ahhaa!” moment for the entire jury. It took about 5 minutes to wrap up the verdict and notify the judge.

Why did she do it? Who knows? A bad day, medication, revenge for poor service, adventure, whatever the reason, she will be paying a fine and doing a couple of weeks of community service as payment. Oh yes, and paying about $10,000 in legal fees.

Worse still is she may not have told her husband yet.

She should have picked a nicer necklace.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Old Mail

I get a bunch of mail addressed to “occupant”. We all do, and it’s easy to ignore and send to the recycle bin.

Lately, though, I have been receiving a new kind of mail. Disturbing mail, mail that shows the sender knows far too much about me: Far, far too much about my age.

For instance, yesterday I received an advert asking if I had purchased my burial plot yet. (Well, no, in fact I have not. I’m still pondering the ownership benefits of an RV.) The advert went on to “imply” that I was callous and uncaring about the burden I was about to place on my grieving relatives.

Well CRAP! I didn’t know I was sick, let alone about to die. That’s not the news you want to hear from a letter, at least not one with a glossy picture of a tombstone on the front!

But wait, that’s not all!

I belong to a golf league. It’s fun and gets me out of the house. The golf league membership is divided up into age groups. That’s logical; I don’t want to compete with 20 year olds. I like a more laid-back golf game than they do.

It turns out, however I ended up in the “Super-senior” category. I just never thought of myself as a “Super Senior”, I’m still working on middle aged.

That’s not all bad, I suppose. The beer cart tends to stay closer to us “Seniors”. It carries the defibrillator.

But wait-wait, that’s still not all!

AARP offered me a senior member discount! Think about that. An organization of OLD PEOPLE, is offering me a SENIOR discount. How old do you have to be in order to get the AARP Senior Discount?

I can’t think about this stuff anymore. I gotta go take a nap.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pasta al dante

So, we’re sitting at the Palm Desert Marriott eating Carbanara and Calamity says, “I don’t know what kind of pasta that is”. “There are 1000 kinds of pasta, and that’s not one of them”

Well, OK??

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Cowboy Bar II- Duane gets some TLC

Duane, (we’ll call him Duane, because it’s a good name) was a good ‘ol boy. The local phone company employed him, so everyone knew him and his truck by sight. Having a well-known truck made it harder to get away with anything, but sure made for lots of friends. It also made it hard to get anything done. Anyone seeing his truck, whether parked next to the road working on a cable, or up in someone’s driveway working on a home connection, assumed that Duane would be offended if they didn’t stop to say hello and supervise the job for a while.

The supervision part was the worst. Most people had no idea whatever how a telephone worked, so the supervision usually consisted of several well-worn phrases: “She got power? Check them fuses yet? Prob’ly lightning. Well, gotta go, don’t get ‘lectrocuted!” The last was as much a hope as warning. No one really wanted Duane to be electrocuted, but they sure enjoyed seeing him get shocked, and getting shocked was part of the job.

Although the voltage on a phone line really wouldn’t normally shock you, the voltage used to ring the phone was more than enough to make you jump around and say some bad words. Duane knew some really colorful words, and could put them together in an almost poetic string! It was an event not to be missed, if you could help it.

Duane always suspected that people would go home and dial the phone number of the house he happened to be working on, just to keep him on his toes and see if they could get him to spout some “blue” poetry.

Duane was single, and being employed and regularly paid, he had no trouble finding an occasional date. His idea of a date (not unusual for the area) was divided into 3 phases: phase1 -feeding, phase 2 -drinking/dancing and phase 3 -necking. The amount of time dedicated to each phase depended on the girl, but Duane preferred to move right on to phase 2 and 3 whenever possible. The eating phase usually included polite conversation, and although Duane could converse very well with the boys, the refined nature of dinner talk with a female mostly eluded him. He knew that if you said the wrong thing during the eating phase, phase 3 would disappear, and then what’s the point of phase 2? Duane also knew that if you met a girl at a bar, phase 1 was already taken care of and phase 2 was probably (with luck) well underway. You did have to compete with other guys in the bar with the same plan, but if the girl selected someone else, you weren’t out a dinner, anyway.

Duane liked the women, that was for sure, and it got him in some trouble down at the Cowboy Bar.

Duane and I finished a long day of fixing stuff for other people, and Duane needed a cold Budweiser to get back to his own world. Now, a word in my own defense, I didn’t normally hang out at the Cowboy Bar, but Duane thought it would be real nice if I went with him to meet “The Boys”. He was right; they were a friendly bunch, especially if you bought them a beer. Why, they took you right in as one of their own! Took your beer too.

I was sitting at a table, and Duane went to the bar to pick up the next round (strictly a serve yourself sort of place). The bartender turned his back to make change, and in the blink of an eye this short guy with bowed legs and cowboy hat walked through the door, directly up to Duane and hit him a fearsome whack, right in the mouth.

Duane outweighed his attacker by probably 50%, so Duane took a staggered step back, gave “The Little Cowboy” a snarl, balled up his fist and decked him. From beginning to end, the whole process took maybe two seconds.

Duane stood rubbing his spit lip with sort of a hurt look on his face (that doggy “why me” look), as The Little Cowboy got to his feet. Duane collected himself and yelled, “Why the hell did you do that? Who the hell are you?” Duane was so stunned by the situation; even his usual command of colorful language had escaped him.

The Little Cowboy regained his footing next to the bar, holding his already swelling eye (looking like he had somewhat less conviction than before he got decked) and said, “You can’t steal my girl and get away with it!”

The quizzical look on Duane’s face deepened, like the look you see on a kid taking a test in school he hasn’t studied for, or a dog’s look when talked to by a drunk. He was sort of hoping someone would give away a clue without him having to say anything.

There was silence in the bar.

Duane came up blank. His brain and memory had deserted him completely. Absolutely nothing and no one came to mind. He hadn’t been out on a date for several weeks, and the date had been with an old steady girlfriend (no Phase 1 required). Duane had no idea who The Little Cowboy may have been talking about, so in desperation he blurted out the name of the last girl he had dated, followed by a somewhat righteous speech.

"Oh man, are you Ronda’s boyfriend? I had no Idea she had a boyfriend. You coulda just told me though; you didn’t have to hit me. I don’t need to date somebody else’s girl!”

The Little Cowboy looked at Duane, and said two words that made the bar go deathly still; “Who’s Ronda?”

There was a long, pregnant pause, and the Little Cowboy (not being able to stand the silence) blurted “You can’t deny you took Charlene out last week! Her best friend mentioned you by name! You can’t duck this one, Troy!”

There was another pause- 2 seconds, 3 seconds, then, as though someone had given some silent signal, everyone in the place exhaled, and began to talk at once. The bartender did what a good bartender should, and took charge. He looked The Little Cowboy straight in the eye and said (in very simple words so as not to be misunderstood; “This is not Troy, this is Duane. Duane is Troy’s LITTLE brother. If I’s you, I’d save myself another black eye, and go get a new girl friend. Now, before Duane gets mad, get the hell outa here”.

The Little Cowboy looked at the bartender, looked at Duane, then scanned the faces of other patrons in the room for confirmation. There was a silence that could only mean that the truth had just been revealed.

The Little Cowboy turned and sort of slid out of the bar, hoping not to attract any more attention. We all heard his pickup truck fire up, and roar off into the evening.

The Cowboy Bar went back to normal. The beer was again the center of attention and Duane’s good character and restraint were confirmed.

Not only did he not steal that guy’s girlfriend, he only hit him once.

That’s the kind of guy we all wanted to know.

The incident became known as “The Little Cowboy Incident” (or just TLC) to those of us that were there. Duane had to put up with a bit of ragging about being caught up with by unwanted TLC down at the Cowboy Bar.

Duane drank out of the side of his mouth for the rest of the week.

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