[Image of TFOM Header.]

Stories and paintings are what you will find here. Very short stories and images of paintings I've done since I started painting in 2009. My intention is to offer some light humor and interesting images.

Of course, The Fiction Of Marlon is available on Amazon. It includes my longer, more interesting short stories.

I can be reached at m a r l o n 6 1 r n r A t G m a i l D o t C o m (Well, you'll have to interpret that but I imagine you know how to do that).

Paintings
I'm no great artist, but art and painting have had a great positive impact on me. I paint for the passion and fun of it. I hope you enjoy these images.


An Almost Brilliant Idea
Earlier today I had an almost brilliant idea. I see a lot of ads for being an Uber driver. Make good money. Work just the hours you want. Have lots of strangers inside your car. Sounds kind of appealing...except for that last part. Maybe I could work on that last part to make it more appealing to me. But what would make it more appealing? Well, the other arena I see lots of ads for is the various dating sites. There's some interest in that general topic, but all the real life stories I have heard about them have helped keep me away from them. What if I could meet the right kind of woman? One down on her luck. One that hasn't had a date in years. That has possibilities. But where would I be almost guaranteed to meet these kinds of women? Why, just outside a women's correctional facility of course ! So...I could be an Uber driver who camps out at the release gate of the facility. Driving the women to their new lives, getting to know them along the way (Who did you stab and how many times did you stab him? Things like that.) and I'd be making money so if I wanted to take'em out to a nice Chinese buffet I could afford it. It all sounded dang near brilliant until I realized the nearest women's correctional facility is in Chowchilla. I have nothing against Chowchilla, but that's just a bit too far to go...


America's Brain Food
I'm a big fan of introspection and self analysis. Almost daily I take time to think about what is working and what isn't working in my life. What's good and what's bad. Am I spending my time on the important things? I also like to try new things; read new authors, run new trails, try new foods and beverages or even just new mixtures of tried and true consumables. Experimenting last night, I discovered a powerful combination of beverage and food I believe will become known as "America's brain food". Right before the start of Jeopardy I began my consumption of this dynamic duo and the results were staggering. I made it through the first round of Jeopardy challenges without missing a single response. I was 100% on the mark. It wasn't until the commercial break after the first round that I realized my "computer wore tennis shoes"-like responses were spot on. Now I believe this bev-and-food combo will someday soon become the $100 clue in "American food" category. It will be that popular that fast. So what is this super combo, you ask. Raw kale and carrot juice, not! True to America's melting pot nature, the subscription of this combination enlists a food from Mexico and a beverage from the Emerald Island. Based on my Jeopardy success, I firmly believe a bag of chicharones and pints of Guinness not only quench the discriminating American palate, but also stimulate the "thinky" part of the brain. With a bag of chicharones and a four pack of Guinness Jeopardy becomes as easy as one of those Sesame Street one-of-these-things quizzes. "Oh really" you say? Well, my assertion is supported not only by my nailing the jeopardy round, double jeopardy round and final jeopardy round, but right as Alex was wrapping it up I added this gem to collective C.N. consciousness; "If Chuck Norris were a Chihuahua everyone would love Taco Bell". Thoughts like that are so lucid they are scary. I decided to lay off brain food for the rest of the night and today. I don't want to get too smart.


Argentina
Even when his head is shaved you can't see the pea size blemish, except when he has spent a sunny day walking along the tracks. This many years later and the mark that looks like an entrance wound, just above his left ear, still has a pinkness that becomes visible only when the rest of his head has tanned. On the back of his head, just right of center and higher up than the blemish, is a three quarter inch crescent scar with some pock marks inside the arc. There's no pinkness to these, but they are raised up and always visible. Ask him, and he'll give you a wild story about how he got the blemish, the scar and pocks all at the same time, but not from a bullet when he was down in Argentina for the CIA, as you might think. He will tell you about how he and his older brother had a big train set when they were kids. How their dad bought them a sheet of plywood to nail the train tracks, the plastic trees and little ticket booth and other scaled scenery on to. He will tell you about how he and his brother spent hours planning out the whole 4 x 8 landscape, with the track layout, including switch locations and the supply tower for the coal carrying cars. Then he will tell you about setting up the train on the track, getting the order of cars just right. The engine in front and the caboose at the end, coal cars next to the engine and freight cars after. He and his brother were in perfect agreement on everything until they went to set the caboose on the track. For some odd reason, his brother wanted to put the caboose on backwards. At least it was backwards to him. Backwards was wrong. He and his brother got into a disagreement that escalated into an argument. As they were yelling at each other about which end of the caboose is the front end, their dad comes into the garage with a "What's all this damn yelling about?" He turns towards his dad's voice so he doesn't see the caboose come flying at his head. The toughest, hardest part of a HO scale train piece is the coupling mechanism. It is constructed to endure lots of hooking and unhooking by none-too-gentle hands. Throw one of those train pieces in a nice tight spiral, the coupling mechanism is leading the way and you've launched an aerial attack. His angry, wrong brother was also the quarterback for the flag football team so when the caboose bounced off the back of the receiver's head it first dug in a little bit, then fell to the floor as an incomplete, but hurtful pass. As the receiver went down from the blow, the left side of his head, just above his ear, briefly rested against the tip of the soldering gun left poised on the plywood, after having just melted solder over a wire connection. He will tell you all this, but as you look in his cool eyes and listen to his precise diction, you will be inclined to think Argentina is more likely.


A Bird In The Hand
Some sayings, like "Actions speak louder than words" and "Beer is the cause of, and the solution to, all of man's problems", are certainly true. I'm sure you can think of a few other gems like these, but let me tell you after tonight there's a well known one I'd like to forget, or at least argue against. Most of my work commute is on the freeway but there's a short portion that is on a bit of rural asphalt, tree lined with easy turns. It was a warm day and rather than run the AC and listen to music I decided to cruise along with the windows down and enjoy the afternoon sun and the original sounds brought to me by our friend, the wind. In my relaxed state, I had my arm out the window, just surfing the breeze, making rock, paper, scissors and okay shapes with my hand. All things were green and groovy smooth, until I went around this gentle bend in the road. A kegel of quail, wait, that doesn't sound right. I think it's a covey of quail, thrust up from a road side bush. I have no idea what startled them. There's been a lot of king snakes around here lately ... Anyway, there must of been at least a dozen of them and in their panic they were all over the place, bursting forth from the shrubbery like climactic fireworks. They were in the road, across the road, and in all stages of flight. I wasn't speeding, yet I had zero time to react. I instinctively knew swerving to avoid wildlife often times leads to accidents so I just kept my cool and stayed my course. Not only that, but I remained in my relaxed posture, at least until the bizarriest event of my 2015 occurred. Silly as it may sound now, it just didn't come to me that with all these birds about, my own exposed "wing" would be in danger. We've been hearing about all these shark attacks, right ? The shark suddenly is upon the swimmer and tragedy happens. Well, mine is not that kind of tragedy, but it certainly scared the fowl out of me. As I'm making my way through the starburst of quail I suddenly feel a soft, fluffy object quickly pass through my okay-shaped hand. It's there and gone so quickly it hardly registers with me. I might have shaken it off as some kind of imaginary feeling based on quail-empathy, but then I glanced at my hand. Between my fingers were a few brownish feathers, and stuck under my thumb nail was a black plume feather. I won't described what was smeared on my pinky, but 'ick' is a good clue. What the ? Did I just have a bird in my hand? Pass through my hand ? I immediately open my hand and start violently flicking it, hoping to be rid of the feathers and quail discharge. After two flicks I wonder what's happened to the bird. I glance in my rearview mirror. Here's the bizarre part. Back adjacent to the bush, standing in the middle road, is a plucked completely naked quail. It appears to see me looking at it and in a not too friendly gesture, it raises both it's little wings at me. It's not the touchdown signal it's giving me. Now I've got a couple levels of shock going. The sudden covey of quail, the accidentally speed-plucked quail, and it's "Hey, buddy" attitude. It's a lot to take in but I've still got some driving to do. I get home okay, which is good, but I tell you if anyone ever tells me "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." I might just give them the non-touchdown signal, too.


Biscuits(sample from volume 1 of "The Fiction of Marlon")

Some people look at my dog and they are appalled by his fatness. I admit he is a happy fat dog, but he does get walked. He gets some agility training, too. But he never ever gets "dog food". As long as I have lived on my own, I've had my dog, but never have I allowed dog food in my house. Human food is all we eat. It's a health issue.

I don't go to the pet store. I don't even go down the pet food isle at the grocery store. There's a pet food smell that permeates all of it, and I never want to experience that smell again.

Back when I was young, too young to look beyond my own adoration for my parents, they took advantage of me in a sick, sick fashion. They look back at it and laugh. They call it harmless fun, but I ask you to be the judge.

Back then, a fun Saturday morning for us was a trip to the local farm and feed store. My dad worked there and it was such a great adventure to walk in, holding his hand and mom's hand, too. The workers always gave us a warm welcome, waving to dad, smiling at mom, and commenting on how much I'd grown since the last Saturday visit. It was the excitement of being a young family on an adventure together.

The feed and farm store was huge, with a two-story tall ceiling. It had rows and rows of barn supplies and animal feed. There was a smell of hay and earth throughout the place. Up in the rafters, small groups of Chickadees cheerfully raced from beam to beam. It was the place I learned to count up to five. Dad would start me with row one and go up to row five, not just counting, but also explaining the stock of each row. Row one held nails and screws; row two contained hinges and brackets. Dad said rows three and four were for the cowboys. Three had all sizes of ropes, along with bridles and leather gloves. Row four had saddle goods and accessories. Five had canine treats and toys.

Maybe it was my fault. Mom says I was pretending to be a dog. Don't all kids do that? She says we were walking down row five and when I noticed all the puppies and pooches on the boxes and bags, I got down on my hands and knees. I started barking and panting. "Oh, what a cute puppy" she said. I barked. "I bet you're a good little puppy" she replied. As she grabbed a chew toy off the shelf, she asked "How about a toy, puppy?" I shook my head "no" and barked. She grabbed another one, "How about this one?" I barked "no" again. She paused and looked around. "Hmmm. ..how about a treat?"

Who says no to a treat? So while I was enthusiastically barking and spinning around in anticipation of my treat, she grabbed and opened a box of Kennel Corner's Better Biscuits. I stopped spinning when I saw she held a treat in her hand. Still playing the dog, I barked and begged. She gave me my first, but not last, dog biscuit. It was dry and crunchy and not at all sweet. Looking back, it really wasn't much of a treat. Mom patted me on the head, and as dad came around the corner and down the aisle, mom told me to stand up, then she closed up the box and put it back on the shelf.

For the next two years, we made many of our Saturdays special by going to dad's workplace. Even though Saturday was dad's day off, he sometimes would help customers, folks that he knew. If he went off with the customer, mom and I would usually find our way to row five. When I was a good puppy, I'd get a treat. It wasn't always Kennel Corner biscuits. Sometimes it was Alpo Tasty Treats or Furminator Dog Bites. Once it was Mr. Eds Natural Biscuits. I actually gagged on one of those. Good thing, too, because I later found out they contained horse parts.

I cried on the Saturday morning I found out my dad had changed jobs and we would not be going on our adventures anymore. Mom must have suspected my devastation because after she dried my tears, from her apron pocket she pulled one last treat. I wanted to wolf it down in anger, but I knew it really was my last treat so I had better savor it, just nibble away at it. Plus, I knew very well that those biscuits were dirt-clod hard and too dry to take in big bites.

I had completely forgotten all of this until I moved out on my own. At 23, I had just started renting one side of a duplex. One evening after work, I was out front watering the lawn. A stray dog, a very scruffy looking Spaniel and something mix, came trotting down the block. I watched him as he went past tree after tree without stopping. When he got to my driveway, he sat down right in front of me. He looked up at me and tilted his head as if I'd just said 'hippopotamus". I asked him if he was hungry. He sure looked it. He barked and spun around in a circle. Without really thinking, I said "Oh what a cute puppy. I bet you want a treat!"

That broke it for me. Memories of the feed and farm supply store raced into my mind. My mouth went dog-biscuit dry and I may have let out a little yelp. In an instant, I knew I wasn't ever going to give him or any other dog of mine a "treat". I marched into the kitchen and from the refrigerator I grabbed an unopened package of Kraft American Cheese Singles, a 16 pack. On my way back out the front, I went through the garage and picked up my new lawn chair. At the driveway, I snapped it open and plopped down in it. With a glutinous resolve, I tore open the cheese pack. My new dog, "Scotty", and I easily made our way through that pack of 16, and we've lived happily off human food ever since. It's a health issue.


Chimes
Not all my stories start with I was in a bar but this afternoon I was taking an afternoon recess at the local over 21 playground, spending my lunch money on a cool and crisp menu item consumable without utensils, when a couple ladies took seats just a few study desks away from me. I was mostly trying to focus on the distance part of the Milky Way but they were intent on letting everyone know one of them was celebrating a birthday, and that was before the glasses of wine started to roll up on them. Almost immediately three waitresses stopped by their study desk to sing Happy Birthday to the birthday girl. When they finished singing, birthday girl smiled half heartedly and said lackadaisically "Thanks, that was nice." Then she got back to studying. I didn't catch all their proclamations and pronouncements but I managed to not ignore the fact that they both loved their pets. Also, non-birthday girl gave birthday girl wind chimes. The birthday girl said it was a perfect gift. She said it a couple times, very cheerfully. Okay, that's nice, that's cool. I guess you can't go wrong with wind chimes. The other memorable part was later in their celebration. The birthday girl said she needed to go home soon because, and I quote, she was "Going to have a donkey door installed". I suspect she meant a doggie door, but the idea of having a donkey door installed launched my mind into a number of ridiculous possibilities. She has a son named Lampwick whos 'finally returning home from the Island of Pleasure. Eeyore and Shrek's friend, the aptly named Donkey, are coming to visit her and she wants them to feel welcomed. Could be she recently married a floppy-eared man who has trouble with door knobs. Who knows, maybe "donkey door" is slang for something. If it is, I don't want to know. I mean it, don't tell me. So what's the point here? The real point of the story is not about donkey doors or doggie doors. It's about wind chimes. Sing a woman a song and she'll smile once. Give her wind chimes and she'll smile forever. Yeah, that's it. That's the point.


Guardian Angel
I'm just about convinced my Guardian Angel is an elderly lady I see most every morning. Every morning I either go for a run or ride my bike to the nearby health club to work out. My start time can be anywhere between 5:45am and 6:15am, but regardless of when I'm out in the fresh air I see her. Even when I take different routes, I see her. Shes 'always walking on the opposite side of the street. She's always using her cane and taking small, but not frail steps. She wears slightly tinted glasses so I can't tell for sure, but I think she sees me. Yet she never says "hi" and she rarely waves to me. I know, you are probably thinking "Oh Marlon, most women treat you that way." Ha Ha, you are so funny. They don't, okay. So why do I think she could be my G.A. A couple reasons. She acts more like she thinks she is invisible to me, like I'm not supposed to be able to see her. She mysteriously shows up wherever I'm running or riding. She's always close, but never intrusive. She is there to make sure I'm on the right path. She's older than me. I know, thats a very earthly observation but if I'm going to have a Guardian Angel, I want her to look respectable, wise and even motherly. I know I'm working on shakey ground here. I guess I could just go up to her and ask her straight out, but Im 'not ready for that.I'm intrigued by the possibility of having a Guardian Angel and I'm in no hurry to determine if she's mine or not. In fact, leaving it a mystery, a riddle, which I can continue to observe and ruminate on makes life a bit richer for me. And that's cool, regardless of the final truth.


Have You Ever...Amazing Race
Have you ever been relaxing in front of The Amazing Race, with a glass of orange juice and a nice plate of triscuits topped with cheese and salami when the contestants start arriving at the pit stop you think this season's "arguing couple" sound like gibbering Ewoks, but then you remember they are having an "I'm not speaking to you" affair which makes you realize its 'stomach doing the Ewok shuffle so you think "I hope this doesn't turn into Return of the Velveeta because that would blow" and even though your tv training is incomplete you rush off to the icy moon of Frigidaire where you call upon the quick, calming assistance of C-3PBismol such that you return to your OJ and triscuits with the Ewoks blissfully silenced and the couple eliminated and then you go post some nonsense on facebook?


Have You Ever...Desperado
Have you ever been changing the wiper blades on your car/truck/minivan when you are surprised to find a mustard packet in that gully/crevasse thing formed between the hood and the windshield and as you stare at the packet, it reminds you of the time your mom or maybe your girlfriend, oh, and I mean your real girlfriend, not your imaginary Salma Hayek girlfriend, nearly fainted because when you got home from playing tackle football with your buddies you hadn't realize that one of them had secretly put a ketchup packet in your shirt pocket and in a subsequent play from scrimmage you took a packet exploding shot to the chest that put you right in a middle of classic Robert Rodriguez gore play but as your Salma Hayek GF starts to collapse from the perception of your bloodiness you move with the suave quickness of Antonio Banderas and wrap your arms around her to save her and by saving her you also save all the orphans she is caring for at the orphanage and the two of you end world hunger while never growing older than 38 and with that beautiful made up memory you somehow find the motivation to finish changing the wipers even though the directions are in Japanese because once you are done you know the mailman has netflixed unto you the best offering from 1995, Desperado (of course) and you want to watch it regardless of rain or shine ?


Have You Ever...Great White
Have you ever been relaxing in your '04 Corolla at your favorite breakfast restaurant parking lot, having your favorite breakfast ; rotating muffins, with ham gasket , egg piston,and plastic cheese o-ring sandwich, and you realized the sandwich isn't supposed to have that fishy taste but then, after watching a couple gulls scare off some morning doves, you remember that last night you had an anchovy milkshake and sardine French fries on the beachside patio of Peg Leg Polly's while listening to the best of Great White, including "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and the fishy taste is really just the smell of the cloth Peg Leg napkin you are still wearing like a pirate's do-rag so you think "mystery solved", finish your sandwich and drive on to work singing "my my my" ?


Have You Ever...Moses
Have you ever woken up in the corner booth of a Denny's or IHOP and realized the girl you thought you broke up with earlier in the night is telling you how your brother looks like Ric Ocasek from The Cars and your mind starts to play "Dust in the Wind" and you think "That's Kansas, not The Cars" and a waitress appears and sets a giant strawberry waffle in front of you. The whip cream is mounded up like a pyramid and you think "Those poor slaves. Thank God for Moses" and if you eat all that waffle it will be like setting the slaves free so, even though it's mostly whip cream, you pick up both your fork and your knife and you dig in for the slaves , cutting off blocks of frothy whiteness and finding your mouth, deconstructing. Then she's talking again, telling you how her Saint Bernard sort of looks like Meatloaf and you pretend to listen because you don't remember what state you are in or if your car is automatic or stick. The waffle is gone and the peoples are freed. You smile at your good deed and look across the table. She gives you a sly smile as she reaches first for the ticket and then into her purse for cash. It's fight or flight or surrender time. While you can't decide, she finds your hand that is glued to the tabletop. Hers is warm and natural and reminds you of the time the two of you walked barefooted on the San Diego beach, and it's decided. You find yourself standing with her, next to the cash register while some transactional conversation happens between her and the white shirt. Beside the register is a toothpick dispenser and next to it is a little model sports car candy holder full of red and white mints . While you hum "Candy-o, I need you so" she pulls you out the door and into the night.


Have You Ever...Nature
Have you ever had a day where nature seemed a bit pissed off at you? You take the dog for a morning walk and out of the sun a butterfly swoops in and punches you in the eye. On your lunch time stroll around your work campus a tailless lizard angrily spits on both your new Reeboks. Pa-tah. Pa-tah. It darts away too quickly, but stops at the hedge edge just long enough to look back at you with "You aint tough" glare. Then at the end of the day, as you walk from the car port to your place you pass under the twisted limbs of a Eucalyptus tree and from a dangling branch a caterpillar kamikazees into the back of your neck and rolls down inside your shirt. As you convulse into a spastic robot dance, twisting your torso and furiously untucking your shirt when you realize the girl in the upstairs apartment is having a party on her balcony and everyone is watching as you pull the caterpillar off your right kidney area, throw it to the ground and vehemently stomp on it. And even though you want to yell to them about how its mother attacked you that very morning you know that the best thing you can do is go inside, put on some Metallica, open a Guinness and clean the spittle off your new shoes.


Have You Ever...Peeps
Have you ever been at the local pizzeria, enjoying a slice and a beverage, when you notice a woman in a completely white sweat suit walk past the restaurant's front window and then you see she has an Easter basket, not a purse that looks like an Easter basket, but an actual Easter basket, with the nest of confetti grass and some colorful, plastic eggs so you decide to check if she has a pink nose or two, long, pointy ears and while you are checking her face she licks something yellow off two of her fingers and you think "peeps!", which reminds you of that time your mom left the kitchen to take a call so it was just you and your older brother dyeing the hard boiled eggs and your brother tried to get you to drink some of the purple egg dye with a "It'll color your tongue and your pee will be purple" and that sounds kind of cool to you so pick up the bowl and just as it touches your lips you hear your mom shout "Don't drink that! It'll turn your pee purple" so now, when the pizzeria waitress asks if you want more water you give her a quick "no thanks" as you slide out of the booth to go next door to Walmart for your own yellow, not purple, peeps after a quick pitstop to make sure it's still the amber it should be?


Have You Ever...Sushi
Have you ever found yourself stuck in a meeting or entangled in a company lunch at an all you can eat sushi buffet place where the dehydrated looking maguro reminds you of the worn out and red faced soccer mom you saw last Tuesday as she desperately tried to finish her grocery shopping and even though she was walking with a limp as she pushed the cart she didn't notice it was because she had a half smashed portabella mushroom stuck under her shoe and you think how life can try to trap you but you decide to not let it box you in so you reach into your pocket and from your secret stash you take a few plain M&Ms and quickly pop them in your mouth but as you begin to savor their crunchy sweetness you notice one of them is disturbingly chewy, which an M&M never should be, and the appalled expression arrives on your face just as you realize your boss is asking you how it's going so you decide to go big and you say "It's sucking right now" and he laughs and agrees and all that fortifies you enough to make it to 5:01?


Jimmy Buffet Saved My Life
I just got back from a couple days in the Cancun area of Mexico. I had a great time with my daughter. We did and saw lots of cool, fun stuff and the people treated us really nice. The only scary thing that happened was in the Cancun airport. While we were waiting for our flight back home, I decided to take an ibuprofen because I was a little sore from some of the hiking and kayaking we did.

Since I didn't have any water with me, I just used a handful of water from the bathroom sink to wash down the pill. Soon as I stand up I see a sign in the lower right corner of the bathroom mirror. It says "Dear patrons, please don't drink water from the sinks. It isn't safe"

Oh no! All the "Montezuma's revenge" stories that I've heard over the years have me immediately clenching in fear. After a few seconds of sheer panic, I decide my best course of action is to find the airport information booth and ask if the bathroom sign should be taken seriously. I don't know where the information booth is so I ask a guy dressed as a pilot. He quickly tells me there is no information booth, but he also asks what I need. I tell him I swallowed some of the bathroom sink water. He asks me how much I swallowed and I tell him two handfuls. He says "Oh, you should be fine. Don't worry."

That wasn't exactly the kind of stone cold absolute assurance I was looking for. So I start thinking about my options. What can I do ? What can I do to fight this potential problem? What will preemptively dissolve and disarm any unclean water I may have ingested. Well, when you have a cut or laceration, you kill the bad germs with alcohol. You clean the wound with an alcohol-base solution. I know I need something stronger than "you should be fine". I need some mind-easing proof! So, I figure someplace in the Cancun airport there has to be some digestible alcohol for sale.

In my state of fear, my senses are heightened. Not only am I looking with more intensity, but I'm more in tune to the sounds around. That's when, from behind me, I hear Jimmy Buffet singing "searching for my lost shaker of salt..". I turn around and Jimmy is right there in front of me, on the big screen TV inside his Margaritaville restaurant. I just know he's got the medicine for me. I let out a little angel-like "Aaah" sound and three steps later I'm sitting at a parrothead table. I see the first drink on the menu is called "Who's To Blame" and given the double-barrel facts that I'm to blame for my screw up and there is tequila in W.T.B, it must be the right choice.

I order 6 of them! No, not really. I order 1 and it is strong enough that I feel I have the sufficient proof inside of me that any bad water will be defeated. I am at ease.

With my last sip of W.T.B. I tip my glass to Jimmy and give him a nod of thanks.

Okay, so I know I wouldn't have died from the bad water, but given all the horror stories of digestive torture caused by tainted H2O, I'm sure if I took a hit to the G.I. tract I'd probably be begging for death at some point during the torture session. So, again, I say "T"hank you Jimmy Buffet for saving my life.


Kids Dinner
When my kids were younger they would help prepare dinner. They liked being part of the kitchen chaos. I did the hot dishes and they would do the cold stuff. Salad, slices of vegetables, diced carrots and such. One evening I got the pork chops started in anticipation of them getting home shortly. They'd gone to see some action movie and I guess it was slow getting out of the theater. By the time they got home the chops were cooked and resting on the rack. I'd set the table and gotten out the veggies ,washed them, set them on the cutting board, along with the dicer. When the kids walked in I looked at them, smiled, looked at the veggies and said "Dinner's nearly ready. You can make it!" Without missing a beat, my daughter said to her brother "Get ta da chopper!" He rushed over to the counter, loaded the veggies into da chopper and killed those carrots. That night we dined on Commando carrots, Predator pork chops and for dessert their mom brought Terminator tiramisu. It was a night right out of the movies.


Lawrence Welk Mint Chip
In my little league years it was not uncommon for me to have a game on Friday night. Often times my grandfather would come watch me play and after the game I'd go stay at his house. These overnight stays were always an adventure for me. Saturday mornings grandma would fry up eggs and bacon, and serve them along with some dark and crunchy toast. Then we'd spend a good part of the day at the local flea market. They had a table at the swap. On her half of the table, grandma sold glassware and turquoise jewelry, grandpa stocked his half with hats and rabbits feet. Sometimes, before it got too busy, I'd walk the maze of vendors with my grandpa. Most times my dad would pick me up at the swap meet about midday. Occasionally I'd stay over Saturday night with my grandparents. Grandpa was a big Lawrence Welk fan so our evening entertainment was pretty well set in stone. Grandpa and I would curl up on the couch as the tv warmed up. Just as the show started, grandma would bring grandpa his can of Coors or Hamms, from her I'd get my bowl of vanilla ice cream with some Hersey chocolate syrup and grandma would treat herself to a little jack and coke on the rocks. We were set. I'm not sure if I liked the show because I was getting ice cream or if I had a genuine taste for "champagne music" but it was something I really looked forward to. I even got an autographed picture from the impresario himself! As a kid, I did find out it wasn't too cool to admit to watching, much less enjoying, the musical styling of Mr. Welk, so I kept my interest and the picture to myself. These days I'm much more open about my affection. I keep my autographed picture of Mr. Welk prominently displayed on the back wall of my freezer. It reminds me of those Saturday evenings with my grandparents. Now whenever I open the freezer I peer into the wintery setting, where the freezer floor looks like a miniature dance stage. In my best Lawrence voice I say "What ah lovely audience we have tonight." Then I say "Ready, one-ah, two-ah, and ah three-ah" as I tap my foot. Then I whisk my mint chip dance partner off her shelf and waltz her over to the counter where she pirouettes into the waiting palms of a receptive bowl. Sadly, my grandparents are gone, as is Mr. Welk and his show. There's no accordion music playing, but it's still a magical experience.


Noon Prowler A twist on AC/DC's Night Prowler


Some weary clock strikes noon time
And there's a full line at Subway
You hear a car park in the distance
You hear a Jewish lady say "Oy vey"

A rat runs down the alley
And a chill runs down your spine
Some one jaywalks across the street
And joins the back of the line

Cause no one's going to warn you
And no one's going to yell "Big Mac"
And you won't feel the savings
Until you order the Combo Pack.

Noon Prowler, awake in the day
Noon Prowler, see you at Subway
Look out for the Noon Prowler
I order mine with extra "stinky flower"

Too scared to order a foot long
Cause there's something that you hate
When you add a bag of chips
And a chocolate chip cookie, you gain too much weight

As you stand there wondering
Like a mannequin on display
I brush past your body, get  my order 
And tell the clerk "She's going to pay"

Noon Prowler, awake in the day
Noon Prowler, see you at Subway
Look out for the Noon Prowler
I order mine with extra "stinky flower"

Noon Prowler, and I telling this to you
There ain't nothing, nothing you can do.
(shazbot nanu nanu)

The Plaque Asserts
When I visit my massage therapist she always has tranquil music playing softly in the background and the table is soft and warm. She's got it dialed in for us clients. One of the plaques on her office wall asserts "It's never too late to fall in love". That's true, but it can be a damn scary proposition,too, especially if you got bumps or bruises from the past. While I was out running today I came up with my own slogan along the lines of never too l ate. For it to make sense, I've got to share some history. Twenty one years ago I started training for my first marathon. Once I decided to go for it I came up with a goal for the race and a training schedule that should get me there. I was training hard, putting in lots of miles, doing speed work and long runs. All was going well until one morning the big toe on my right foot was suddenly really sore. I hadn't dropped anything on it and no one had stomped on it. All I could figure was it must have gotten sore from the extra running I was doing. It seemed like my big toe announced "I don't want to run with you anymore. " Well, my big toe hurt me but I wasn't going to give up on my goal. I wasn't going to let one bad toe bring me down. The next couple training runs were painful, but I found if I ran on the outside of my right foot, keeping pressure off my big toe, it was endurable. Running on the outside of the foot is called underpronation. It's not the best running form but it worked for me and it gave my big toe the space it needed. I managed to keep training and finished that first marathon. So jump ahead to this morning. All these years later I still have the underpronation habit. My toe has been just fine for a long time now, but the habit is so ingrained it takes a conscious effort for me to run with normal pronation. As I'm running along I catch myself underpronating (I know, sounds like a really bad habit). In a moment of "It's never too late" inspiration I think about how my big toe hurt me all those years ago and I make a decision. I say to myself "Don't fear the big toe. It's never too late to normal probate." And with that new mindset, I did the rest of my run with my new friend, my big toe, striding along with me.


Rocky Run
Okay, so this morning I'm out on my Saturday morning run. It's a beautiful day and I am enjoying the spring weather. There are always some local wild life and it's fun and encouraging to see all the little critters scurrying around. I'm cruising along the last leg of my run, when I see this crow on the trail up ahead. I notice it is hopping, as crows often do, but it is hopping in the same spot, just going up and down, not hopping around, as crows are wont do. It's like the crow is jumping an invisible rope. It takes me a good 25 seconds to get near enough to the crow for it to fly off, but the whole time I am approaching it, it just keeps jumping straight up and down. The last few seconds, when I'm close enough to it, I can see it is actually shuffling its legs back and forth with each hop, like a boxer in training! As I get right next to it, I say "Good luck, Rocky". It raises both its wings over its head while it bounces around in a circle, then it takes flight.

Now that's not the weird part. What I didn't notice until the bird took flight, was the cross-eyed gopher that had been blocked from my view by the bird-in-training. The gopher, he's a little dude, but the first thing I notice is the attitude he is projecting through his posture. His hind quarters are pressed to the ground and his front quarters are fully extended up, so he has this aggressive stance, like a low trajectory missile, albeit a furry little missile. And to go with that, he is giving me that Catholic Teacher stare down. I'm thinking "Whoa, chill dude. I'm just cruising through" Then I see he is wearing a tiny beanie and he has a towel draped over his shoulder. I can't help myself, I yell "Hey! Mickeeey. How ya doin'?"

He says "Keep it going, kid", at least that's what I heard. I tell ya, I ran that last leg like I was training for Apollo. It felt good. When I got back to my place, I checked the refrig and fortunately I didn't have any raw eggs so I settled for some Gatorade and a granola bar. This is the life !


Rooster Outbursts
My morning run takes me through patches of urban and rural life. I can hear the sounds of a diesel truck and the smell of bacon then a few minutes later hear barnyard sounds and smell bales of hay. It's all good. Today the rural portion had some unexpected humor. When ever I hear a rooster crowing in early morning hours I'm glad to not be its neighbor. That noisy that early in the morning is not something I'd welcome, even if I was up and getting ready to run. Just seems rude to me. So today I'm going past this farm that I know has a rooster. Sure enough, as I approach I hear the tail end of what I assumed as a traditional coc-a-doodle-do. The "do" part, if you will. But he wasn't done. As I'm going by, he starts a second time, but instead of c.a.d.d. he lets fly a rooster's version of the Tarzan yell. Sort of a coc-aaaahhhhAAAAAAHaaaahh. What made it really funny was he did a great job of it. Johnny Wiesmueller and Carol Burnett certainly would applaud him. He nailed it. I was so surprised and impressed I couldn't help but laugh. It was a kooky, funny moment. I don't plan on moving next door this morning Tarzan, but next time I run by I wil be hoping for a repeat performance.


The Russian Motorcyclist
Earlier this week I was driving home from work. Part of my drive is on the 101 freeway. I was in the right lane cruising along at a mere 65 miles per hour when I noticed a motorcyclist approaching me in the left lane. I was a motorcyclist in my past so I give them a little more attention than I would otherwise. As the guy gets closer, I get this feeling he is Russian. I don't know why, it's not like he has a Stalin mustache or a Putin scowl. The thought just pops into my head. Since I'm driving I have to check traffic around me, I can't just watch this guy get closer. After I check my surroundings I glance in my mirror again and he is gone. Oh, he's already right beside me. Like I said, I've ridden motorcycles for over 20 years so I'm curious. I look over to my left at what he is riding. It's a Triumph. Not an old one, but a fairly new one. I can tell this because how clean the cycle is. What I also notice is the guy has a dog with him. I'm not talking about in a basket behind him or in a crate in front of him, no! This motorcycle guy, going 70+ on the freeway, has a dog on his lap. I quickly look to see if the dog has a harness holding him to his master. No. Is there some foot holds on the tank for the dog. No. The dog is riding buck naked and paws free. Imagine that? It'd be like balancing a watermelon on your lap as you book down the road. As far as I can tell, the dog's front paws are simply resting on the slippery surface of the gas tank. Wa-oh-nelly. That seems pretty darn dog scary to me so I glance at the dog's face to see if it is freaking out or anything. That's when things get weird. The dog seems calm, but for the very first time I notice there is a squirrel riding piggy back on the dog. I'm kind of shocked by this revelation. Vladmir is driving. His dog is on the tank, and there's a squirrel hanging onto the dog. The dog's squirrel, not surprisingly, wearing a leather skull cap and googles, has its hind legs wrapped around the dog's neck and with its front paws is hold on to dog's ears like they are handle bars. Oh, and on top of the squirrel is a mouse in an Uncle Sam outfit. I know. Things just keep getting smaller and smaller. This patriotic mouse is fascinating me. Way back, 5 seconds ago I thought "Wow, a dog on a motorcycle is odd". Then I saw the squirrel and I thought "How bizarre!!" Now I see the red, white and blue decorated mouse and I think "I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that mouse was holding aloft a tiny statue of liberty like it was charging into battle." And don't you know that's exactly what it was doing. There's a brief pause and then they all turn to me, the mouse, the squirrel, the dog and Vladmir, and with the wind whipping through their hair/fur/coat they all give me a big smile. It's a pyramid of happiness and in that moment I'm loving all that is good with America. They cruise on up ahead of me and I get back to some Joe Satriana music and my own open road.


Sasquatch Exists!
I've found Sasquatch exists and I am grateful for it. It's taken me about five years of looking, but I now know Sasquatch exists. Let me take you along my journey and you may find Sasquatch, too.

Five years ago a friend gave me a surprise gift that I've come to call Life Art. It's a 16 x 36 black canvas with various motivational slogans on it in white lettering. The very first slogan says "This is your life. Find a passion and pursue it." I ask you to pause here for a minute and contemplate those ten words, especially the last six words. Find a passion and pursue it.

Sad as this sounds, I didn't really have any passions at that time, but because I happened to hang the art in a place where I saw it every day I started asking myself "What am I passionate about? What have I been passionate about?"

As a teenager I enjoyed writing short stories and as an adult I would every so often, maybe once every two or three years, scribble down a half baked plot idea. So many years later I didn't know if this would be a passion for me, but I wanted to give it a try. I wanted to go looking for my passion.

Turns out I still very much enjoy writing. I mostly write short, fiction stories that I think of as slice of life, with some humor. After about two years of writing, while still working full time, I self-published a book of six short stories on Amazon. Total sales are now in the double digits and have been for the last 18 months. None of them are about finding Sasquatch, but that's okay. I loved writing those stories.

I don't believe Louis Pasteur ever went looking for Sasquatch but Louis has two quotes that helped me find the big guy. "Chance favors a prepared mind." and "I am on the edge of mysteries and the veil is getting thinner and thinner."

The passion I felt for writing had prepared my mind for discovering other passions. One day I was driving home from work and I got this crazy idea to paint a mural on my garage. I'd watched a few painting programs on PBS and taken a Bob Ross class many years before, but I hadn't given any thought to painting in a long time. Suddenly I knew I was going to paint a mural on my garage and I was excited about it. Before I got home I stopped at an Orchard Supply Hardware store and picked up a few small cans of paint and a couple brushed. When I got home I went on the internet and found an image I could use as inspiration. It was some sand dunes and a few trees. Up on my ladder, I used masking tape to designate the mural’s border, then I painted. I've been painting ever since. I painted three different murals on the garage, along with works on canvas, a couple murals at a previous place I worked and more. How good am I? I don't really worry about that, but you can see my work at tfom.net. My favorite joke about my work is that some day it will hang in the Louvre, I just need to sneak it in and tack it up.

Okay, so where's Sasquatch ? Well, I'll just say you are on the edge of mysteries and the veil is getting thinner and thinner. Along with finding these passions for writing and painting, I started having conversations with my Life Art friend about outlook and attitude. She has dealt with way too many difficulties throughout her life, but she always has a great attitude and a positive outlook on life. I really admire her and another friend who went through a seriously dangerous addiction, but pulled himself out of it and now lives a very clean and happy life. Both of these friends have shown me the power of being positive and grateful. They’ve influenced me and motiviated more than they will ever know.

I started thinking about habits versus passions. Habits felt comfortable. Passions felt exciting. I realized I was trading habits for passions. I was pursuing passions rather than following habits. More writing and more painting, with less television watching, was giving me a sense of excitement and accomplishment. Then I went out and found Sasquatch exists.

One slogan I've never liked is "Anything is possible". Anything is not possible. The Statue of Liberty isn't going to hop offer her base and swim over to Coney Island. I'm too realistic to believe such a thing is possible. I'm too realistic to embrace that phrase. However, my friends have shown me that great and unusual things are possible. One morning after I had finished my run I said to myself "Nice run, Marlon". In all the years I'd been running I don’t think I'd ever said that. I was surprised at how good a little bit of genuine praise felt. It really made me think.

While I was cooling down I started thinking about what I had learned from my friends and what I had experienced since the Life Art gift and "Find a passion and pursue it". It made me realize amazing things are possible. There are things out there and things inside of us still to be discovered. The veil gets thinner when we pursue our passions. I may never see Sasquatch, especially since I've reduced my TV time, but in that moment I decided what's possible is discovered by looking beyond what I've seen and what I've heard. I decided what is possible is beyond what I've already thought. I decided Sasquatch exists.

For me "Anything is possible" is just too broad and unrealistic, but I embrace "Sasquatch exists" because it captures the essence of pursuing, of keep looking for something that is a little beyond what I already know, what I've already seen and experienced. I understand that "Sasquatch exists" might be a little too kooky for you, and that's okay, but what I hope you take away from this is that you should keep looking, keep pursuing. There's more of you to still be discovered, whether Sasquatch helps you find it or not, keep looking, keep pursuing.


Saving The Earth
There's a place just east of Bakersfield called Weedpatch.

A man-made canal runs through the eastern part of Weedpatch. On the south side of the canal there is a pheasant farm. It sits amongst small, dusty houses and unpaved roads.

In the spring time, around Easter, kids will walk along the canal bank. They'll bomb the tadpoles with dirt clods, but they'll just leave the regal birds alone. They'll swat at dragonflies and dance around bees, but the corralled fowl will remain unharmed and mostly ignored. When an Airforce jet flies low overhead and blocks out all other sound and motion, the kids stop and the adolescent amphibians regroup at the water's edge as the ripples dissipate. The pheasants don't notice a thing.

Downstream is a grate across the canal and things get caught in it. Not strange things, but strange in the water. Why is there a cowboy shirt, with three pearl snaps on the sleeve, in the water? A thermos cap jitters between two teeth of the grate, but can't make it past either one. Rumors of a large catfish, idle and indifferent, waiting at the base of the grate, always are discussed amongst the children because their dads talk about it, too.

Across the water, on the untouched side, corn stocks, short and green, are out of the rowed ground and no human is ever seen over there.

"It's the moon over there", one kid says. "And this is the earth. Let's bomb It", someone shouts as he reaches for a dirt clod. "Let's nuke it", another shouts. Soon, their side of the canal is barren of loose rock and dirt. All launched to save the earth.

Saving the earth is what was done back then, back when kids played.


The Science Of Things
My older brother and I are about 15 months apart. It's been that way since I was born. Our younger brother is about 5 years younger than me. It's been that way since he was born. Our parents did a great job raising all three of us. None of us hawnyawks have been on Cops even though we grew up in Oildale.

As the middle kid back then, I sometimes felt slighted. My older brother got to stay up later than me. My younger brother got special treatment as 'the baby' of the family. I got neither benefit. I can look back at it now, having raised my own kids, and see my parents loved all of us equally, but that didn't mean they treated us exactly the same.

One area where the difference in our treatment may have lead to unintended repercussions is the discipline of dinner. Mom always served a balanced meal, which from my perspective was a terrible thing. Meat, salad, and vegterribles were stationed around the dinner table every night. During my formative years my parents were adamant about me and my older brother always having some of that night's vegterrible. For my older brother it was no problem. He liked vegterribles. (Go ahead and read that a second time if you find it hard to believe). He ate them without resistance. I mean corn, peas, lima beans, even cauliflower. Cauliflower, I bet its use has been outlawed at Guantanamo.

For me, vegetables were a form of torture and a test of will power. I'd be required to take a minimal amount, as determined by the ruling class, and I could not get up from the table until I'd eaten that minimal amount, regardless of my pleas for mercy. So my older brother and I always consumed vegterribles.

By the time my younger brother graduated from his high chair to the regular chair, the ruling class had greatly softened their stance on the vegetable indoctrination. Vegetable consumption was no longer a prerequisite for escaping dinner. Suddenly you could "opt out". My older brother and I had put in years of duty towing the icky green line but our younger brother never had to step up.

So now, my older brother and I, we are in our 50s and our little brother is in his 40s. The maturing process has taken hold of all of us and it's easy to see. There is one remarkable difference in our physical appearances. The two of us who were required by law to eat our vegetables have taken on 'Robert Duvall' like qualities in our cranial coverings while our more cuddled, vegetable-free younger brother is more of the 'Robert De Niro' persuasion.

Same parents, same environment, every other factor in our lives was exactly the same, all the way down to tighty whites from JC Penny. The only difference in our lives was the abundant consumption of the green, yellow and orange things. The only difference now is the abundance of covering.

I tell you all of this as a public service and a concerned citizen. If you have kids or grandkids, please don't let them eat vegetables. They-will-go-bald.


She Might Be An Olympian
I've lived at my current place for a little over 2 years now. I was here for the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, but not the 2012 summer Olympics in England. I live on the second floor of a two story complex and I'm beginning to think that the lady who lives below me is an Olympian, or at least one in training. Even though I don't recognize her as someone who competed in London nor do I remember her particular event as part of the last summer games, still, I very much believe she is in training for Team USA and Rio.

She's a quiet person. She's a friendly person. She's a strong person, too. And she seems to be getting stronger as the year rolls on. When I say she is quiet, I mean I don't hear her yelling or banging pots and pans or anything like that. When I say she is a friendly person I mean when I see her she says 'Hi' and simple stuff like that. When I say she is strong and getting stronger I mean when she "closes" a door or window to her apartment it's like a 5.8, I mean 6.3, I mean a 6.8 earthquake. My whole apartment vibrates. It's a bit unnerving. My salt and pepper shakers are getting more and more anxious each day. The spider in the bathroom sky light is threatening to move out. Pictures on the wall are looking disoriented and distraught. And it's not that the quaking happens a lot, it's just that when it happens it is strong.

I have become convinced that she is in serious training to try out for the U.S.A. Olympic Door Slamming Team. She's not yet grunting like a female tennis pro, but I think she is heading in that direction. Which, if she does start grunting before slamming her doors, will at least give all of us upstairs dwellers a chance to gird our loins. Me, the spider, salt and pepper would all be happier if we knew the slamming was eminent. And that's really all I would ask for, a chance to gird my loins before she does her slamming. Loose loins and sudden door slamming just don't go well together.

Of course, I want to encourage her in her training and I wish her much success. Go for the gold, and all that good stuff. I just want her to do her best training Monday through Friday, 7AM to 5PM (when I'm not around). Unfortunately, I know she will do some traing in the evening, like random times during Jepardy "Baseball for $400" "A four run hit" "What is a grand slam?" and Wheel of Fortune "The category is Olympic events" "An 's'", "Yes, one 's'" "I'll solve the puzzle. Door Slamming". It's almost comical. What makes all her training a bit more acceptable is that I should be moved out by the time she is in her prime door slam training. I wish her all the best. Since I will be over a mile away from her I hope to only hear her when she sings our national anthem from the top step of podium in Rio. That would be just fine.


A Smarter Smart Phone
I need a smart phone smart enough to know when I'm accidentally touching the smart screen. I've accidentally called numerous people while I'm putting my phone back in my pocket. In the process of putting the phone away, my fingers erratically (yes, erratically, not the other e-word) dance on the touchzone and somebody gets called. I don't noticed I've called someone until I hear them talking to me from my front pants pocket. What makes it worse is I usually accidentally disconnect the call while getting the phone back out of my pocket so it appears I rudely hang up on the person I call. I always call them back and explain my clumsiness.

Tonight my fingers must have been in a disco mood. It's about 8:30 when I finish a call. I decide to take a walk so as I'm going out the front door I put my phone in my pocket. It's dark enough that as I take my first couple steps I can tell there's a low intensity strobe light in my vicinity. I look around to see where it is coming from. I check nearby windows, cars driving by, maybe there's a lawn dwarf party. Nope, it's none of those but the light keeps flashing. Then I look down and see the flashing is coming from inside my pants pocket. What the? There's a UFO (Unidentified Flashing Object) in my pocket. It takes me about 2 seconds to realize it's the camera flash on my smart phone. Somehow some way when I put my phone away my fingers not only turned on the camera, but set it to automatically take pictures. This is something I've never intentionally done, so it's not muscle memory. It's just random sequencing in action.

I get the phone out and turn off the camera then look at what it produced. There's about 6 pictures and fortunately they are all blurrier than images of the Loch Ness Monster. I delete all of them and then proceed on my lovely evening walk as I think about finding a smarter smart phone.


TALOSZ
Like my never-ending quest for the perfect eggs benedict, my quest to provide free and nearly pointless observations to my friends continues. Thus, I offer my review of "The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou". First off, let me say I watched it on TV, not at the theatre. I got the feeling it is a movie that plays better on TV than on the big screen. I suspect some of the humor is too small, too exposed, for the theatre. Second off, I went into it with kind of low expectations, not Match.com blind date low, but based on Netflix star rating, I wasn't expecting much. So then maybe you are asking why did I even bother? I was lonely, Oh wait, you're asking why did I watch the movie. Good question. Haha. I liked Bill Murray in Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers. From the clips I'd seen, it looked like TALOSZ might have that same style of humor. Plus, I like to try out "low key" comedies, and by that I mean comedies without Adam Sandler. Even though I watched the movie at home, I didn't fix myself eggs benedict, instead I had a waffle with fresh strawberries, some crispy bacon and orange juice infused vodka. As I've gotten older I've found my stomach doesnt r'eally tolerate straight orange juice or even cranberry juice. I need to dilute them with something and since vodka comes before water, alphabetically speaking, that's what I went with. Also, I recently discovered Im'intolerant of raw mushrooms, my stomach does the unhappy dance when I eat those. And spinach, let's just say my taste buds revolt. So anyway, back to the pointless observation, I was at a bar..wait, that's a different story. Just like me, Steve Z is on a quest. It's not a very believable quest but maybe that's not too important. I mean, my quest for perfect eggs benedict is a more compelling quest than Steve's. He's an oceanographer and his quest is to kill a shark. That's part of the movie's humor, but my quest is serious. Some of the quirky things include the cgi-rendered flora and fauna are overly colorful and iridescent, lots of times when crew members are going from floor to floor or room to room on the ship, it is filmed like half the ship has been cut away (made me think of a stage setting), the music is quirky good (I plan to check out the sound track). There's plenty more quirkiness. Not all of it worked for me. I think the movie stays within the world it creates, and by that I mean it doesn't try to be a slice of reality, it tries to entertain, but it still stays within the reality it creates for itself. It's not one of my top 20 comedies, but I thought it was okay, better than having an Egg McMuffin on a blind date.


A Twisted Delivery
Sometimes you will hear the sarcastic question "Is your head screwed on right?" Anyone who has looked closely at my cranial disposition or seen me wear a skewed baseball cap knows my answer has to be no. It's not a metaphysical reply, but simply an answer born from the visible evidence. My head is not screwed on correctly. It's been that way since I was born at the Black Angus salad bar on Rosedale Highway in Bakersfield. Mom and dad had went there for one more soft cushioned meal before having to get by with the less comfortable wicker dining set back at the ranch.

I launched my surprise arrival while mom was getting her salad greens so the only thing to do was to bring me into the world steakhouse first. The cry went out "Is there a doctor i n the house?" But I was in half a hurry and before there was an answer, mom was flat on the tile and dad was reaching for the salad tongs and a dressing container.

My first third was easy. I popped out and started sniffing around for onion rings, but then the whole process slowed down. I stalled at the shoulders and everyone else was sort of in immobile shock. Then the waiter came by and told my dad his steak and lobster was at the table.

Dad didn't want to miss that sweet combo, and I don't blame him. He jumped into action. Salad tongs are sort of like forceps and everyone would benefit from the completion of my arrival so he delicately clasp my brainbox with the oil-and-vinegar cleansed tongs and coaxed me the rest of the way into this great beef-eating nation.

It is completely understandable that given the situation, he would have a dual focus of helping me and keeping an eye on his sumptuous surf-and-turf platter. That his extraction of me had a twisting motion due to the duality of his concerns is just part of life. As a carnivore and a father, I now understand, but who knew that even now, 50 years later, it would be possible to see the tong impressions just behind my temples and on further inspection see the my head really is slightly off kilter, that is, not screwed on right ?


When Donuts Appear
This is something I don't know how to wrap up neatly. This morning I was running along Spring street, going from 13th to 28th. As usual, at 28th I turn around and head "down" to 6th, then home from there. It's early enough that about the only place open is a donut shop at 18th and Spring. It does a good bit of business so I always watch for people and cars going in or out of the place. Today a couple men were chatting on the sidewalk out front. One held a coffee and the other held a dozen-donut box. Nothing special or unusual there, but it got me to thinking about all the donuts I like; old fashions, bear claws, apple fritters. I go for the dense donuts. I'm not a fan of the fluffy, light donuts. Maple bars and that type are not for me. As I am thinking these deep thoughts I’ve already reached 28th, switched o the other side of Spring street and headed back towards sixth. Shortly after I pass the donut shop I am tested in a rather bizarre way. Right there, in front of the Bank of America ATM, on the sidewalk is a perfectly good, completely eligible, untainted cinnamon sugar donut. It's the kind of donut I don't like...but it's there and it is immaculate in the morning glow...and...oh, I'm already past it.

I'm not a fast runner, but I don't like stopping once I get going, plus I really don't like that kind of donut, what with its cinnamon and sugar, so I kept going. Of course, I wondered how the heck did it get there and did it use the crosswalk or illegally jay-roll across the street. Even as I balance these possibilities in my mind, I see another donut, a twin of the first one. Just as pristine as the first one, but placed on top of one of those short, knee high, irrigation or electrical boxes. It's not on the sidewalk, but it's just as pure, natural and wild as the first one. Still, I keep running. I'm headed to sixth street.

There are gas stations at the next couple intersections so I've got to again watch traffic. The third donut, need I mention it is of the cinnamon sugar family, is perched on a newspaper vending machine anchored in front of the Chevron. Three donuts! This is rare beyond that eclipse nonsense earlier in the week. After this third sighting I noticed something, and maybe you have, too. They are getting easier and easier to reach. The first one was way down on the sidewalk, next one was up a little higher, but bending would be involved. This last one was basically at table top height. I like the progression of more convenient, but I'm still not going for the free range fluffy donuts.

I truck on, and like me, a truck trucks on. It pulls away from the gas pump and looks to merge onto Spring just ahead of me. I first noticed it when I heard the driver close the truck door. It was not the normal crisp, metal on metal sound pickup trunk door closing, but rather a soft, muffled kind of sound. An unusual sound, so I glanced over and in the bright neon lights of the station it looked like your average lifted, brown truck. A working truck, I surmised, by the dusting of sand that covered most of it.

It gets to the sidewalk ahead of me and I figure it's going to roll on to Spring. I pace myself accordingly and check my watch. For some reason the truck didn't go. It got half way into the road and stopped, its bed still across the sidewalk, my sidewalk. Because I was looking at my watch I didn't notice until I ran into it. Of course, my first reactions were to gasp and prepare for pain. But something odd happened. Instead of running into the hard metal of an American made truck I encountered something ... soft, even fluffy. Doughy. My body partially sank into the side of the truck, like I ran into a slightly underinflated bounce house. My gasp, I got just half way and then I was tasting sugar and cinnamon and airy pastry. Things got a little blurry after that. I think I rebounded off the truck and fell backwards. By the time I gathered myself into a sitting position the truck was gone and a lady with a German shepherd was licking my face..the dog, not the lady. Weird, right? I mean why wasn’t the lady licking my sweet face? The fading taste of cinnamon and sugar was now mixed with dog breath. Whatever that truck was, whatever that pastry was, I had enough. I decided to head home after that.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Maybe if fate wants you to eat a donut it will find a way to make it happen.