I’m bacccckkkkk…

Wow, it’s been three years since I’ve really posted anything.  Time to kick the dust off and get this thing moving again.   Stay tuned for weekly, not annual, updates to this site.

 

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Write Brained: The Neuroscience of Writing and Writer’s Block

Great article about writer’s block.  Something I am really struggling with.

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Precipice in front, wolves behind

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I padded into the kitchen, grabbed some strawberries from the fridge and turned on the radio.  Norah Jones was singing Those Sweet Words.  “Perfect,” I thought, “a great tune to get me in the mood for my morning yoga.” I put a teakettle on the stove and sat down at the kitchen table, nibbling on the strawberries. When Norah finished singing, an announcer started droning on about the weather and sports. I tuned him out as the teakettle started whistling. As I picked it up, something the announcer said caught my attention. “This program is brought to you in memory of Eddie Mars.  Mr. Mars’ favorite saying was from the latin, ‘A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi’, meaning – A precipice in front, wolves behind.  No idea what that means folks, but it sounds like Mr. Mars must have been quite a character.”

I clicked off the radio and said, “Yes he is…”

No one voluntarily leaves the Company and lives long, but I had managed for a year so far. I owed a lot of that to Eddie Mars, or should I say, Ted Johansson.  Ted always was a sucker for The Big Sleep, so I wasn’t surprised that he used the code name ‘Eddie Mars’ to get his message to me.  When I knew I had to get out of the Company, Ted, or Uncle Teddy as I came to know him, came up with a code system to let me know when I was in danger.  

“A precipice in front, wolves behind.” In other words, get the hell out.

I no longer had access to all the “toys” I did when I was in the Company, but I did have access to Radio Shack. So, when I moved into this house I installed video monitors around its perimeter, the backyard easement, and near some other key areas of the addition.  I then found an iPad app that would allow me to see what they see – all while being mobile. Paranoid much? There’s an app for that.  

I ran to the bedroom and grabbed my iPad off the dresser. A quick look at the tablet showed a black SUV parked on the street, blocking my driveway. “Wolves,” I thought. I caught my reflection in the dresser mirror as I reached for my gun.  Some spy I was, with my hair in a ponytail, wearing only yoga pants, and a sports bra.

I made sure there was a round in the chamber, met my gaze in the mirror and said, “Alea iacta est. The die is cast.”  Carrying the iPad in my left hand and the gun in my right, I made my way through the house. Checking the cameras again I saw another SUV on the street near where the easement comes out, but the end nearest the woods appeared clear.

I popped the screen out of my bedroom window and ran as fast as I could through the backyard, toward the property easement.  I felt if I could make it to the easement, it was a quick run to the woods and safety. I opened the gate of my privacy fence and entered the property easement.  All of the privacy fences in this addition went up to the property line of each home owner’s property, but by law they couldn’t build on the easement, so this created a 6ft x 6ft tunnel for me to run through.

I turned left and ran as fast as I could.  As I ran past my neighbors back yards, I occasionally caught glimpses of swing sets, vegetable gardens, and BBQ grills through open or broken fence slats.  I envied them their boring, normal suburban lives, a life I would never have.

As I neared the end of the ‘privacy tunnel,’ I stopped to glance at the cameras again.  In the time it had taken for me to run the length of the tunnel, a third SUV had shown up, blocking my escape here too.  Two beefy men got out of it and stood in front of the truck.  Did they know I would come this way?  Looking at my cameras I saw no other way out.  The good news was that since we were in a residential neighborhood, the men hadn’t drawn their weapons yet. They just stood there like two dumb gorillas in their black suits. If I went out, guns blazing, I might be able to take out both of them before they had a chance to draw their weapons.

I took a deep breath and prepared to run out when I noticed one of the apes look to his left. He smiled a huge, stupid smile and slapped his buddy on the shoulder. The other ape looked in the direction his buddy was pointing and an even bigger smile spread across his face.

Confused, I used the iPad to rotate the camera to get a better look.  And there she was: Lizzie Jones watering her hydrangeas.  The tramp was only wearing a blue bikini top and some daisy dukes while she gyrated to her MP3 player.  Well, a distraction is a distraction.  I stepped out of the tunnel and dropped both of them, stupid smiles and all.  Lizzie just kept watering her flowers and dancing to her unheard music.

I grabbed their wallets and jumped in the SUV.  Flooring it, I got out of the neighborhood as quickly as I could.  Now that I was free from the wolves I had time to think about what Uncle Teddy meant by ‘Precipice’.  Really, it could only mean one thing, the Crag.

The Crag was an old Scottish pub on Balboa Street and had a certain old school Chicago charm.  If you find doughy-faced mobsters charming that is.

Since one doesn’t just traipse into a downtown Chicago restaurant wearing only yoga pants and a sports bra, I first stopped off at a Goodwill store in Munster to buy a few things.  I used the money I had found in the apes wallets to buy a black skirt, decent top, and a nice pair of heels before heading to the Windy City.

When the Crag’s Maître D’ greeted me I had a few doubts about the famed restaurant’s authenticity.  A small Vietnamese man with an overbite, he stared at the register for several seconds before saying, “Ah yes, Mr. Mars.  This way please.” 

As the Maître D’ led me out onto a balcony I took a deep breath when I saw Uncle Teddy.  He had aged considerably and was that a cane he was holding? 

“Thank you”, I said to the Maître D’. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

“So happy you figured out my message Trish”, Uncle Teddy said.  He seemed nervous and I thought I saw his hand shake when he raised the glass of Macallan to his lips.

“Time is short my dear and there’s no simple way to put this.  They’re on to you.  I’ve made arrangements for you to hide at my old family estate in St. Croix.”   A faint smile played across his face as he said, “I shouldn’t have asked you to meet me of course.  Call it an old man’s weakness, but I just had to see you one last time.”  Uncle Teddy looked away and glanced out across the balcony.  His eyes narrowed and I turned to follow his gaze just as he muttered, “Oh dear”.  I heard the pop of the gun and grabbed him as he collapsed.  I pulled him down with me to the balcony floor.  Looking back across the balcony I saw a sniper preparing to take another shot.  The limestone lattice work of the balcony would provide us some cover, but it wouldn’t stop our assassin. I reached between my legs, where I had strapped my hand-gun, and smoothly pulled it out and fired in one quick motion. I saw the sniper’s rifle fall.  I glanced back through the balcony door into the restaurant and saw black-suited gorillas on their way. 

Uncle Teddy was mumbling something and I leaned my head towards his lips so I could hear him.  “Ad Augusta Per Angusta”.

Sighing I said, “Really, Uncle Teddy?  More Latin? Now?” He repeated the phrase again and again.   I crouched, gun pointed towards the door, body shielding Uncle Teddy, when it clicked.  ‘Ad Augusta Per Angusta’ To high places by narrow paths.  I glanced around and noticed that the masonry work on the Crag’s walls had narrow ledges all along it, occurring at six foot intervals.  I’d have to jump off the balcony to the first one, but I might be able to climb to the street below using these ledges.   

I kissed Uncle Teddy on the forehead and said, “Ad Augusta Per Angusta.  I understand, Uncle Teddy.  I love you.”  I slipped off my heels and climbed over the balcony ledge as the first ape broke through the door. I blew him a kiss and jumped.

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Black Jack Turner and Ol’ Rattler

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Black Jack drew a fine bead on the mud-dabber perched on the back wall of his cousin Clyde’s garage.  He gently squeezed the trigger and smiled as a bullet hole appeared where the wasp had been just a second before.  He took a swig of his Sterling’s beer and looked around for anything else that needed to be shot.

“That ol’ Heinz 57 dog of yours ain’t worth a damn for coon huntin’ and you know it,”  Clyde said as he stood to take his turn with the .22.

“He may be a mixed up Heinz 57 ol’ mutt, but I’m here to tell you he’s the best damn coon dog you’ll ever see.”

“Shit,” Clyde said with a snort as he fired off a couple of rounds.

Ol’ Rattler slept soundly nearby in an old box, twitching slightly each time someone fired the pistol.  Clyde’s Persian cat Princess, however, was a nervous wreck from the gun shots and daintily bounded out of the garage and headed for the house.  The two men drank and argued well into the night about lost loves, cherished hunting dogs, and which one understood them best.

As midnight approached Clyde walked over to the “mouse hole” in the garage wall.  He unzipped his fly and, using the mouse hole, “watered” the tomato plants that grew outside the garage. “I’ve got to get up early in the morning.  Norma left a quilt on the couch for ya when you’re ready for bed.”

Black Jack stayed up awhile longer, Clyde’s comments about his favorite huntin’ dog eating at him.  Looking over at the old dog he whistled once and said, “C’mon boy, we’re goin’ huntin’. “

Black Jack shoved a handful of .22 shells into his pocket and picked up an old yellow flashlight as he and Rattler headed out into the night.  The flashlight’s feeble beam barely made a dent in the darkness as Jack stumbled over tree roots winding his way into the woods behind Clyde’s barn.

Full of cheap beer and excited about the hunt, Jack sang.

My gal lives at the end of the road,
Her eyes are crossed and her legs are bowed,
But we sure have a lot of fun,
Why don’t you get away lazy John

In no time at all the old dog caught the scent of something and went tearing off deep into the woods, barking and howling.

“That’s it, go get ‘em boy!” Jack said as he tried to keep up with the dog.

Rattler’s bark changed indicating that he had treed something.  Jack caught up and saw, sitting on a tree branch, a big opossum. “Dammit dog.  I don’t want no damn opossum.  Go find us a coon!”  It took some convincing, but Rattler finally set off again in the woods.

Jack took off after the dog, but stumbled over a tree stump and fell head first into Redemption Creek, losing his flashlight.  As he came up he heard Rattler’s bark again and knew that he had treed again.

Leaving the flashlight behind, he pulled himself out of the creek and followed the sound of Rattler’s barking.  Shivering in the cool night air, he looked up in the tree.  He eventually saw a lumpish shape in the crook of a low tree branch.  Aiming carefully with the .22, Jack fired a couple of rounds at the shape.  He heard a loud “POP!” as the shape moved and fell out of the tree.  Rattler was on it in a second shaking it viciously back and forth with his teeth.

“Good boy, Good boy.” Jack said as he calmly reached for Rattler’s prize and gently took the old football from his mouth.

“Gawd-dammit you sonovabitch!  That’s a gawd damn football.  You done treed a damn football.  Go find a damn coon you stupid ass dog!” Jack yelled as he took a kick at the confused dog.  His kick missed wildly as Rattler set off into the woods once again.

Cussing and swearing, Jack followed the dog as best he could.  He was beginning to think that maybe Clyde had been right all along.  Soon enough he heard Rattler’s familiar howl and he sighed, thinking, “Lord, what has that damn fool dog treed now?”

As he drew near, Jack saw Rattler clawing excitedly up the base of a large oak tree.  He looked high up in the tree but without a light he couldn’t see anything.  He approached the tree and patted Rattler on top of the head.  “Good boy!  Whaddaya got up there?”  He looked up again and every now and then thought he saw some movement, but wasn’t sure.  Jack knew he needed the flashlight but was afraid if he left to retrieve it, Rattler might think the chase was over and leave.

Jack reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a handkerchief.  Grabbing an end in each hand, he spun it as tightly as he could.  He took one end and looped it under Rattler’s collar, tying the tightest knot he could.  He then tied the other end around the trunk of a nearby sassafras sapling.

“Old boy, you stay and keep that thing treed ‘til I get back with my light.”  Rattler barked as if he knew what Black Jack was asking him to do.

Jack stumbled off into the dark back to the banks of Redemption Creek.  He could still hear Rattler baying as he looked up and down the creek for his flashlight.  There in the pale moonlight he finally saw its shiny yellow case.  Grabbing it he quickly ran back to ol’ Rattler.  Jack aimed the flashlight’s weak beam high up into the tree but instead of a raccoon what he saw sent a chill up his spin.  “Mercy,” was all he could say as he stared into the gleaming eyes of the largest cougar he had ever seen.  The large cat let out a cry that pierced the night and made Jack’s blood run cold.

Before Jack could decide whether to shoot or run, the cougar pounced on him.  The air was knocked out of him as he hit the hard ground.  He felt the cat’s hot breath on his face as it tried to work its way to his throat.

Dazed and unable to catch his breath, Jack struggled to keep the cougar’s sharp teeth away from his neck.  He barely managed a yell as the large cat’s claws tore into his shoulders and chest.

Turning his head, Jack saw Rattler barking and pulling against the sapling.  With a final tug the dog pulled the sapling from the ground and came running to Jack’s rescue, dragging tree and roots behind him.

Ol’ Rattler jumped into the cat, knocking it off Jack. Leaning up on one arm, Jack fought to catch his breath as the old coon dog and cougar tore at each other savagely.  He heard Rattler cry out as the cat’s claws tore a large gash across his muzzle.

Finding the .22, Jack drew down on the cat and emptied the pistol into it.  As the cougar collapsed, Rattler was back on it in an instant to make sure it was dead.  Battered and bruised Black Jack and ol’ Rattler made their way back to Clyde’s farm house.  Leaving the cougar where it lay.

As the sun came up that morning Black Jack was filling up on Norma’s biscuits and gravy while telling Clyde everything that had happened during the night.  As he mopped up the last of the gravy, Jack heard Rattler barking outside.  Clyde ran over to the kitchen window and looking outside yelled, “Lord have mercy, he’s done treed my cat.  Will he kill it?”

Jack smiled and said, “Not if she stays in that tree, but if she comes down – she’s one dead cat.”

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Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

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Kurt Vonnegut’s relationship with his hometown of Indianapolis was often strained during his writing career.  The progressive themes of his books didn’t always find a welcome audience in conservative Indiana.

Just three years after Kurt’s death this is starting to change.  Thanks in part to the addition of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Downtown Indianapolis.

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The mission of the library states:

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The KVML is a public benefit, nonprofit organization championing the literary, artistic, and cultural contributions of the late writer, artist, and Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut. The library will serve as a cultural and educational resource facility, museum, art gallery, and reading room. It will support language and visual arts education through programs and outreach activities with other local arts organizations to foster a strong arts network for both the local and national community. The library will be located in the historic Emelie Building in downtown Indianapolis (340 N. Senate Avenue) thanks to the support of Katz & Korin, PC.

I paid a visit to the library during it’s “preview” hours and was very excited by what I saw.  Samples of Kurt’s quotations and artwork tastefully decorate the walls of the small library.

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The library also houses personal memorabilia such as the Purple Heart Kurt received during World War II and the typewriter he used during the 1970s.

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The library will officially open January 29th 2011.  I strongly recommend you pay a visit and recognize this great American author and Hoosier native son.

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Peninsula Trail: Deam Wilderness, Hoosier National Forest

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As the only designated wilderness area in the state of Indiana, the Deam Wilderness holds a special place in the hearts of all Hoosiers who like their nature experience just a little on the wild side.   It has been at least 15 years since I last hiked the Peninsula Trail.  The trail and my memory of it have changed just a little since then.

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The trail begins at the Grubb Ridge parking area and follows the John Grubb Ridge trail for the first 2.2 miles.  It then branches off onto the Peninsula trail, jutting out into Lake Monroe for another 2.6 miles.

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When I hiked this trail in the mid 90s I remember the spot where the trail branches off as being unmarked and in the middle of a field of tall grass.  That time it was July and the cicadas were making a “thucka-thucka-thucka” sound in the grass that sounds just like a rattlesnake ready to strike.  Wearing shorts and tennis shoes I’ll admit I walked really quickly through that grass muttering to myself  “it’s just cicadas, it’s just cicadas.”  But 15 years later the experience was much less dramatic.  For one thing, it was February, and for another the trail seems to split in a different place now.  Gone is the tall grass and in its place is just a well cleared trail.  Heck, it’s even marked.  So no “thucka-thucka-thucka” sounds either as I calmly went on my way.

Much of the trail is shared with horses so you can expect sections of it to be rutted out at times, and depending on the time of year, muddy.

As you start hiking out into the Peninsula you will have several opportunities to gaze through the trees and see the lake below.  This is especially nice in the fall and winter when the leaves have fallen.

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Parts of the trail are moderately rugged with some decent inclines.  As you make your way out you will lose 300 or 400 feet in elevation.  Of course, you gain that back on your return trip.  I would NEVER condone carving into trees, but I came across this on the trail.  I didn’t feel that way when I first read it, but 2 miles later and I was in total agreement.

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After approximately an hour and forty five minutes I neared the trail’s end and was greeted with a view of Lake Monroe.  This is a beautiful view no matter what time of year it is and after hiking for almost 5 miles is also a very welcome sight!

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There are many campsites right on the shoreline.  Throw up your tent and stay awhile.  You’re sure to have a beautiful sunset and maybe even hear coyotes in the distance as you drift off to sleep.

The Peninsula Trail is a wonderful hike in a very special part of Indiana.  Throw on your old hiking boots and check it out.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Posted in The Great Outdoors | 2 Comments

Pokagon State Park (Indiana DNR)

Potawatomi Inn

Pokagon State Park is a great example of what the Indiana State Park system has to offer.  At just over 1200 acres, this park has something for everyone.

There are a wide variety of activities to choose from.  Bicycle rental, snow-ski rental, horseback riding, boat rental, hiking, fishing and a public beach. During the winter months the famous toboggan run is also quite popular.

Tobagon run

The public beach is located along the shores of Lake James.  The lake was glacier-made and is spring-fed. The bottom of the beach area is covered with sand that was brought out in wheel-barrels during the 1940s when the lake was frozen.

Beach

The water in the lake seems very clean.  I’ve been swimming in lakes where I came out smelling like fish.  Not so here, the water was very refreshing.

We didn’t do a great deal of hiking on this trip, but did venture a little into the Potawatomi Nature preserve.   Starting at the Potawatomi Inn we took trail 3 through restored wetland and swamp area.  I had never seen wetland before, so wasn’t sure what to expect.  I found it to be very beautiful and teeming with life.  I’ve never seen so many dragonflies in my life!

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After crossing a creek, trail 3 connects with trail 6.  We hiked the short .7 mile loop of trail 6 which goes through more typical Indiana hardwood forests.

On the trail.  Pokagon

Trail 6 eventually hooks back up with trail 3 again.  We back-tracked along trail 3 and then followed it out to Lake Lonidaw.

At lake Lonidaw we found some benches on a small pier in the lake.  We sat there and watched the dragonflies and birds zip around the lake.

Lake Lonidaw

Indiana DNR has been trying to control the spread of the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer for several years, but Pokagon was the first park I’ve visited where I was asked at the campground gatehouse if I had brought my own firewood.  I hadn’t, but there is a wagon at the gatehouse for confiscated, quarantined firewood.

Pokagon Campsite

Pokagon has a pretty large campground area.  When we were there most of the campers seemed to be in the electric area, leaving plenty of open campsites in the primitive area where we stayed.  This is one of the few primitive campgrounds we’ve stayed at that offered flush toilets and showers, little things that my wife really appreciated.

On our last day there we walked along the toboggan run track all the way down to the beach at the Potawatomi Inn.  Besides sun bathers and boat rentals we saw several large, beautiful swans on the lake.

Pokagon State Park is a picture perfect park.  Plan your visit today.  You’ll be glad you did!

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