Sunday, October 31, 2010

Childhood memories.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Things that used to scare the piss out of me.

When I was a little kid, I used to stay up late on weekends watching stuff like this. They had a midnight movie on Friday nights in Kansas City. I'd spend the night at Greg Rogers' house and we'd stay up late.

It's a classic, Them, about giant ants that have been mutated by H-Bomb tests in the desert. I can still watch it today, but it never really scared me. The little girl was a little off putting, but I always thought it was more cool than scary. Still do. I can watch it now and be just as entertained.

Same with this one, The Thing From Another World. A classic, and accept for the scene where the Thing (James Arness in some weird assed makeup) busts into the room and they toss gasoline on him and light him up, it really didn't scare me ether. It was just cool. Again' I can still watch this one. Maybe that's a sign of it being a classic.

Nope. The stuff that really got me going was this stuff. It gave me sleepless nights were I sat up watching all the shadows in my room, waiting for one of them to move.

Yep, this is what did it. Christopher Lee. As cheesy as it seems when I watch it now, this stuff did it for me back then.

Frankenstein and the Wolfman never did it. The Mummy, or any of that. Frankenstein was just goofy. My favorites were the Abbot and Costello versions. That's the stuff that got my mother going back in the '40s, when she was a kid and going to the matinee. But it never scared me very much. Hell, I'd LOVE to be a wolfman. That would be cool as hell. But Dracula, in the form of Christopher Lee, man, that stuff did it.

You see the movie poster there in the beginning of that soundtrack clip, with the blue face and the teeth? That's all I needed to see. I'll never forget it. I was eight years old when my mom and I took my big sister to the movie theater in England. We were stationed there from about '66 to '70. She was meeting some high school friends at the theater. A prelude to a big sleep-over. I never left the car, and all I saw was the poster, but that was enough.

When I finally got to see this one, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, as a midnight movie down there in Greg's basement, it more than lived up to the frights in my imagination. I think I spent the next eight or ten years sleeping with my arm over my neck. Seriously, I did. One of those shadows might have had teeth.

Then, a few years later, when I was 12, this movie came out. The Exorcist. My sister took me to see this one. Nothing was the same, ever again. This was a whole new dimension of fear. I think it's one of the scariest things I ever saw. One of the top two or three.

Thing is, when they re-released it a few years ago, I went to see it again with a modern audience. It was a totally different experience. Folks back in '73 had been totally wiped out by this movie, but the kids today were laughin' at it, especially when the Father Karras would smoke and drink. It was like a snap shot from the era when it was made. The kids today thought it was hilarious.

Then, a few years after the head spinning, pea green soup spewing, crucifix jamming nightmare that the Exorcist was, in the summer before I started high school, I went to the 1849 Village Theater in Ft. Worth with a few friends and saw this one.

Oh my God, you could really, viscerally feel that poor chick getting eaten. Jaws was primal, taking the fear to a completely different level. Unlike all the other horrors I've listed, this shit could actually happen to you. For like a month after, I went to bed at night and imagined sharks swimming around my bed. Seriously.

Then, Junior year, my buddy Keith was working at the Seminary South Cinema. I went out there one night, and this was playing.

I guess Halloween was the first of a whole new genre of slasher flicks. I loved it, but it didn't give me nightmares. I just developed a love for John Carpenter flicks. When we produced his remake of that old classic, The Thing, in 1982, I think he shot his wad. That movie wore me out. It was brilliant, with special effects that were terrifying. But again, no nightmares.

In my Senior year, my buddies and I went to see this one, totally unprepared for what we were about to experience.

Alien blew our minds. There was a nasty, slimy grossness to the Face Hugger, but then when that nasty little critter came bursting out of John Hurt's chest, that was it. Then, when Ian Holm's head came off and he spooged all over the room, and then told Sigourney Weaver and the others that they were all gonna die... Yea, it was cool. But, beyond the shock effect, I was really more fascinated than frightened. Particularly when we got to see Sigourney in those little white panties in the end. The critter was creepy, but it was also cool as hell. I was glad when James Cameron gave us a much better look at them in the next one.

For whatever reason, I haven't seen too many horror movies since those days. I used to go to a lot of special effects flicks, Like The Howling, or An American Warewolf In London, just to see how they did the effects. I think the best horror flick I went to see lately was 28 Days Later. That one was wonderful. The last one was the recent remake of The Wolfman. Loved it, and yea, I still think it would be awesome to have that "curse".

Most of the horror flicks I've seen in the last 20 years have been seen on TV. One of the coolest, that I discovered a few years ago, was this little number.

Jeepers Creepers. It's got another cool critter, and like Dracula and the others, he just keeps on comin'. I just saw one of the sequels on TV Friday night. very cool.

As far as what scares me today? Well, having to start my career all over again at 49 beats just about everything else. Figuring out how to pay for my health care coverage, etc. That shit beats Dracula and the Exorcist any day.

But, like the ghouls of old, these fears will wither in time. I'll get it all worked out in the end, and everything will work out. So, have a Happy Halloween. Cheers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Got the call from Academy again today.

Last week, I got a call around 8:05 to substitute for a history teacher. I spent the day proctoring her exams. At one point, as the kids, Juniors, were studying for their exam, asking one another questions, I volunteered a few clearer explanations. Who was Alfred Thayer Mahan, etc. One of the kids turned around to me and asked "Did you used to be a history teacher?" I thought about it for a second, and then nodded my answer. Yea, I used to be a history teacher.

It was weird as hell to proctor someone else's exams. I wanted to lecture. I was itching to get back into the game, but I had fun, as I always do. I sat there, as you see in the picture above, while the kids studied. But then, when I'd get up and walk around to the front of the class to tell them to put their stuff away and get ready to take the test, the inevitable surprised stares and questions would begin.

"Oh my God, how tall are you?" I guess I don't look this freakishly big when I'm sitting behind a desk. "Did you play basketball? Football?" I get it all the time. Some little boy or girl will usually look up and say something like "Oh my God, you make me look like a midget." It used to embarrass me, back when I was their age. Back then, all I wanted was to hide and be invisible. But I've long ago made peace with all that and learned to enjoy the notoriety. It's always fun to joke about it now, and even to use it to flirt now and then. I wish I'd been this self assured all those decades ago.

I used it in San Saba, asserting a strong personae by just playing the role that was made for me. Being the biggest guy in the place. It was, and usually is, the first perception people have of me. Profiling is wrong, I suppose, but it's been a factor in my life for as long as I can remember. The first day I walked into the prison, the Windham School District Principle decided he knew who I was with one look and said something like "Now we have someone who can stand up to Wittaker." I didn't know what that meant, but I knew I didn't like it.

It turned out Wittaker was a big guard who kind'a ran the education building, or at least acted like he did. An ex-drill instructor, he took great pleasure in making the prisoners nervous. I used to love having him around. He'd just walk by and the youthful offenders would shut up and stand quietly. It was beautiful. He turned out to be a cool guy, with a hilarious sense of humor. We ended up getting along fine.

In the end, Wittaker and I became friends, and I missed him a lot when he had himself transferred to a jail in Gatesville. I think he was sick of all the fat female guards in San Saba, and the wardens duplicity, and he felt like he would have a better chance to really bust some heads in Gatesville. I missed him when he left, and I guess I tried to emulate some of his swagger, playing the roll of a more benign tough guy, to keep the "offenders" in line while they were in my class. It was an easy role to play, and it worked beautifully. I got to where I enjoyed the hell out of it. The prisoners and I had fun with it.

One day, an young offender stopped across the hall from me, standing in the door to another classroom. He looked up to me (they're mostly little skudders), scowled and said "You're not that big Wilson." I smiled, leaning in the doorway of my own classroom. "You better bring a gun!" Everyone laughed. The prisoner smiled, laughed and went into his class. That was the atmosphere. It was maybe the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my own skin, posturing and embracing my size. I loved it, probably because I knew the actual chances of any kind of altercation were very slim. It was all just for fun, and everyone seemed to know that.

Once, I had two offenders standing up to one another in class, posturing closely, silently pretending to threaten one another. I could see that it was all clearly a pose. It was the kind of thing that went on all the time, usually as they were coming and going from the pencil sharpener. I waited for one of them to look up to me and said, again, while leaning casually against the doorway, "SO much sexual tension in this room." Both offenders turned red and laughed. God, I used to love that job.

Of course, that tough guy personae may have been the thing that did me in in the end. The "joke" I played on one prisoner, giving him a little shove one day on a sidewalk, was used by that prisoner, and maybe the Warden too, to toss me out of the jail and send my career into the twilight zone. Of course, it was blogging about it all that gave people on Ft. Hood the fuel they used to really screw me, but that story's not over yet.

The latest move in the drama has been to send a letter to the Army, asking them to explain their position in the whole thing. Did they in fact conclude that I was a danger to students, ban me from the base, and then escort me off the base? And if so, why? The college is still saying that I'm banned, and is using the shove and the blog post to assert that I'm somehow a danger to students.

It's all an amazing load of crap, and everyone who knows me knows it is. Thing is, the Dean who canned me has known me for 15 years, so it's hard to explain what would motivate him to stick to such an spurious assertion. But we'll find out in the end.

Meanwhile, the folks in Academy called me again today. They want me to come in tomorrow morning and substitute for a Spanish teacher. That should be interesting, seeing as how I can only really cuss in Spanish. Once again, back in the saddle, somewhat. I've got chores to do today, tryin' to get my trimmer and edgers fixed. I also have plans to visit an old friend and colleague who's been put in assisted living in Temple.

So, y'all be good, and I'll keep plodding along. Maybe some day I'll have good news to tell. Cheers.

By the way...

Here's how the last knife turned out.

Still a few finishing touches to be done here. The guard was too wide. I needed to grind it down to match the brass.

There you go. A little fine tuning of the taper, sanding the grip so that everything was smooth and fit without being able to feel any of the seams.

In the end, I liked how it turned out. I still haven't decided on the correct concho for the pommel.

This one looks cool, but it's a little too flashy. When it's finally done, with sheath and all, I'll show it to you again. Cheers.

More random stuff.

A few weeks back, after having lunch with a friend, Denise and I then drove over to the mall in Killeen so that Denise could return/replace the purse I'd bought her a few months ago.

She's had two of these purses since I've known her. The first one came apart steadily, even after I resewed the straps together. Now, after a very short time, the straps on this new purse are also coming apart. I resewed them, trying to do a more durable job this time, but I don't think it'll last.

That thing just isn't put together well. Key parts, like the straps that the handles attach to, are made from some kind of cheap, crappy material, rather than leather. It feels almost like rubber, reinforced with string. Piece of Shit! But she loves the hell out of that purse.

Well, they didn't have another one like it, so we'll have to keep this one together as long as we can. I joked with Denise at the store... "Well, stop swingin' it at me so much, and it'll last longer!" Funny thing too. We were talkin' to the gal behind the desk and she starts to look at me like she recognizes me. When she hears my voice she asks me if I teach on Ft. Hood. Turns out she's one of my former students. She asked me if I was still teaching out there. I didn't want to cut loose with the full melodrama there in the store, so I let it go. I looked at Denise and she says "Another one eh?" Yep, they're all over the place.

A few days later I went to PetSmart and got a treat for my cousin' Sues cats. I found this thing years ago, and my cats have gone through about a half dozen of them. It's a little toy mouse, with a chip and battery in it that makes it chirp whenever it's moved.

When Susie got these two little cuties, I knew they'd love one, so, after dinner one day (it was Labor Day, a trip to the Texas Roadhouse), I drove us all by the store and sure enough, they still have them on sale. I brought the toy home, tossed it on the stairs, and the rest is history.

Since then, the cats have continued to enjoy the thrill of the kill, and Moms older cats have joined in as well. Of course, my little children still enjoy the real thing, as you've recently seen here. Nothing like the panicked chirp, the struggle, the last desperate kicks and wiggles, and then, of course, the taste of... Well, you know what I'm talkin' about. That's why my cats are healthier and happier than any of the other felines in the family. They actually have access to the goods. Living off the rez, as they say, to the neighbors endless torment. But nature will out. Cheers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Last night's little drama.

There I was, out in the geeeerage, workin' on my next project. Mindin' my own business and all, when Denise comes rushin' out, breathless. "You need to come in now," she said to me, eyes clinched. "You need to come in and take care of something."

Yep, projects (I digress). The Damascus, dirkish lookin' dude, er, dagger there at the bottom of the picture.

I think it's gonna look cool as hell when I get it done. My buddy Waters provided the antler. He says it's the only one he's ever found out there on his 20 acres. Once I get the spacers ready (there will be bands of black, white and maybe red between the layers), I'll glue it all together and begin grinding it down to where I want it.

I'm in the midst of getting the hole drilled correctly in the deer antler, and getting the wood (Osage Orange, aka Bois de ark) and Oosik layers spaced in there correctly, when one of my cats, Tiger, brought us home a present. Denise found it, alerted by another cat that was sniffing Tiger and growling at him. I went into the guest bedroom, where the cat door is located, and sure enough...

There was a little present waitin' for me. I went back to the garage and got my little shovel, picked him up, made a slight move like I was gonna go after Denise with it (that'll never stop bein' funny), and took it out to the work bench.

Poor little dude. I tell ya, life is HARD for the critters who live within' range of my little killers.

It warms my heart to know that my babies can still fend for themselves, if the have to. Like a proud daddy. Oh, yea, I tossed the unfortunate rodent in the field across the road from the house. It'll marinade out there in it's own juices, until a local Fox, or one of my little killers sniffs it out and has a snack.

By the way you can see the next project sittin' at the top of that picture up there. Again, Damascus. I have a thing for that stuff. This time a coffin handles bowie, with sheep horn handles.

Keepin' busy. Cheers!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How we spent last week.

This is gonna take a while, so brace yourself.

Remember, Denise's family drove down from Kentucky weekend before last, getting here on Saturday afternoon. Before they arrived, Denise and I went over to her house to clean it up. Denise worked inside and I mowed the lawn. I was in the process of sweeping up and trimming when that huge friggin' red Ford pick-up drove up.

We relaxed that afternoon, getting pizza from our favorite place and hangin' out at the house.

The next day, Sunday, we took them on a trip up to the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco. You can check out the pictures here. I've been there a few times, and it's always fun. I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful guns and Native American relics. The Apache arrows are cool as hell!

A day or so later I drove these folks up to Gatesville and took them shooting out at my buddy Dave's place. Denise's daughter Chantel, who is a Nurse in Kentucky, took to shooting with appropriate humor and wonder.

I don't think she'd done a lot of shooting before, but she enjoyed the hell out of it. Her sons enjoyed it too. The eldest, Bryce, had been up there shooting at Dave's before. He's the one that floated the idea for the shoot.

I gathered and brought an appropriate arsenal, and Dave added one of his Garands to the mix (we shot my ammo), and we set ourselves up out beside Dave's house.

Chantel's youngest son, Colin, wanted to shoot everything, but he's so small, weighing in at less than 100 lbs. (he's 13, but looks to be about 7 or 8), he could barely lift the full sized rifles.

I had him shoot my AKMS with the stock folded, from the hip, so he could hold it up. I brought the M-1 Carbine because I figured he'd be able to lift it.

He did a great job, though his gun safety knowledge needs improving. His mom needs to set him up in a class.

Here, you can see that he's too weak to hold up my AR-15 and pull the trigger.

Later, while we were eating steaks in San Antonio, I tried to get him to get over his usual reluctance to eat. He's picky as hell, and usually doesn't finish his meals. I told him to eat up! "That's protein boy. You need to eat all of that you can. Build muscle and get big." I think he bought it. We'll see.

We had a wonderful time at Dave's, and then, the next day, we had another wonderful time in San Antonio.

We had a great time on the River Walk, ate great food at Texas Land & Cattle, and then moved on to the Alamo.

I can't tell you how often I've visited this shrine to Texas History. Truly, a Shrine to human liberty. When we lived in San Antone, in the early '70s, the school used to take us there on field trips about five times a year. Even so, I was surprised at how moved I was by this visit.

The crowds were light, so we didn't have to wait to get in. After visiting the church, we moved to the garden behind the main building. There, a guide gave a history talk about the Texas Revolution that was surprisingly similar to the one I would have given to my class.

Sitting there, listening to how our forefathers and mothers were subjected to a murderous campaign of ethnic cleansing by that peacock Santa Anna and his armies, I allowed myself to become submerged in the history. Later, looking up at the visages carved into the Cenotaph, thinking of the sacrifices that were made so that we could live with freedom, and not as subjects of an authoritarian government in Mexico City, I found myself almost in tears.

After that, we all slowly walked back over to the river, and made our way back to our cars. We drove back home, and got back late. The next day, after sleeping in (Denise had to work), I took the folks out to Ft. Hood. I got yet another pass and took them to have lunch at one of the big food courts out there.

After eating, I took them to the 1st Cavalry Museum and the 4th Infantry Division Museum, including the memorial to the folks who have paid the highest price in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can see some of the pictures here.

Later on that evening, after Denise got off work, we all drove down to Austin and had a wonderful Tex-Mex dinner at Pappasito's. It'd been a LONG time since Denise and I had been able to enjoy their fare. I think it's the best Mexican food you can get, anywhere. My favorite thing is the Brochette Shrimp. I told John, Chantel's boyfriend, that he'd love them, and he did. Denise and I enjoyed the Fajitas, sharing a large order between us.

On Friday, with Denise going back to work, her kids went back to San Antonio and went to Sea World. I went back to Austin with my buddy Glenn and attended the first day of the three day Austin City Limits Music Festival.

It was a great time. We got there in time to hear the last half of Blues Traveler's show, and then set up our chairs for the Black Keys.

The music was wonderful, but the idiots in the crowd were a pain in the ass. Why the hell would someone pay a lot of good money, work their way up to the venue through thousands of other people and then stand there and have a loud conversation with their friends while other people are trying to listen to the music?

I think it's because they're not really music fans. Glenn and I agreed, they're just posers, wanting to be seen at the gig. They want to be able to say they were there, but they don't really care about the music. We have to deal with this a lot, at many of the concerts we've attended together. These dolts stand there and ruin the experience for everyone around them, even hurling insults at the players. Assholes. Thoughtless assholes. You can experience some of it here. Eventually I just stopped trying to film any of the music. In retrospect, I should have moved much closer to the stage, where the real fans were. Here's where I should have been standing.

Still, the festival was wonderful. We both had a great time. After the Keys, we relocated ourselves over to the Clear 4G stage and got some food to eat while we waited for the next show. Glenn was particularly excited to see Robert Randolph and the Family Band, so named because it's filled with his siblings and cousins. You can experience their amazing, energetic show here.

The show ended with a concert by the band Phish. I'd filled up my camera card on The Keys and Robert Randolph by then, so I didn't get any video of that.

We set up our chairs and sat back to enjoy the show. About half way through it, somewhat tired of the endless noodling and jamming, we decided to beat the crowd and make our exit. I stopped long enough to get a few t-shirts, and then we got in line for the shuttle bus.

It was a long line, but it moved fairly quickly. I think I got home around 2AM. It was a great time.

The next morning, Denise and I got up early so we could join her daughter and family for breakfast at a local I-Hop. Turns out they'd had a long day of fun at Seaworld. The breakfast was great, but then the parting was tearful. The kids drove off to make the 16 or so hour journey back to Kentucky, and Denise and I went back to the house. Now and then during the day I'd look over and see her tearing up. That'd usually get me goin'. It was sad to see how much she missed them. Of course, I missed them too.

The rest of the weekend was a lazy time, resting up from the busy week. Monday, Denise went back to work, and I headed out to get the verdict from the shrink. So, now we're back to the routine of waiting. I'll tell you how it goes, when something does happen. Keep your fingers crossed. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's been goin' on.

Short answer... Not a hell of a lot, but things are finally moving forward a bit.

The results of my psych profile finally came in, showing me to be completely normal, with no dangerous tendencies. "Textbook normal" was the term he used. I also found out I have ADHD, which I'd long suspected. But it's nice to have the formal confirmation. Now, whenever Denise comes home from work and goes into a long dissertation about her day, I can defend myself when I drift back off to whatever's on TV and she gets pissed at me. "Hey, I've got an actual medical condition!" See if that works.

Where do we go from here? Well, when he canned me, the Dean told me "The army has taken it out of my hands. They've banned you from the base" (based on the blog post and their contention that my words there showed some violent tendency). Ergo, I couldn't teach classes on the base any more, and furthermore, the words I posted on the blog were suspicious enough to threaten my continued employment with the college. The next day they fired me, "without possibility of rehire."

Well, since then I've dealt with the ban. I went out there a while ago and easily succeeded in getting my name cleared and have since gotten three separate passes to go on the base without any problems. Now, having this psych profile saying that I'm as normal as normal can be all points to the unjust nature of the firing, revealing it as an unwarranted "rush to judgment" on the part of the college and the Army.

Late last week, my attorney sent a letter to the college Chancellor pointing out these facts. It talks about my 20 year service to the college, without a serious blemish, documenting my skills as a teacher. In the end, it asks the chancellor to personally intervene on my behalf. So, the ball is in his court. We're back to waiting. Waiting to see how he responds.

Initially, all this waiting and inactivity was drivin' me nuts. I was used to being on the road or in a classroom from 7:30 AM to 10PM, four days a week. But I tell you what, I've acclimatized myself to it. It's kinda like bein' retired, so long as my money lasts (I won't touch my retirement money). I hope they'll hire me back and everything will be back to something like normal soon. I've applied for other jobs teaching online classes, and substitute teaching, but none of that has born fruit as of yet.

Meanwhile, I've kept myself busy with projects around my house and Denise's house. Mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, working on long over due knife projects and such. My buddy Glenn brought me his grandfather's knife, which he'd left out in the rain. The blade was rusted and the horn handle grips had warped. I took it apart, cleaned it up and glued it back together again. In the end it turned out pretty good. Now he's gonna bring me an old rifle and have me clean it up for him. Lookin' forward to it.

My buddy Dave brought over his old hunting/reenacting knife and asked me to trim and resew the sheath. It had always been too loose for his liking. I took it apart, trimmed it and resewed it so that it was tight as a... Well, you fill in the rest yourself. Bottom line, it worked out really well, and I learned a lesson on how to resew it the way it had originally been done.

Aside from that, I get up with Denise in the morning and fix her milk coffee before she goes to work (I used to do that when I had a job too). During the day, I peal my ass from this chair and try to clean the kitchen and/or get the laundry done. I drive out to get Denise and take her out to eat lunch most days, and I cook dinner most nights. There's boneless pork ribs marinading in the fridge as we speak, and I've got to cut this short and make some sandwiches for lunch. I'll take them out there and we'll find a quiet place to chill out.

We had some visitors last week, and a lot of other stuff's been goin' on too. Denise's daughter and her family drove down from Kentucky and spent the week with us. She had to work part of that week, but being unemployed, I was free to spend a lot of time with them and show them around. I'll talk about that in a bit. Cheers!