Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why I am in Dutch with the Boys

It was not even a particularly harrying morning — which is, I expect, the whole problem, since if it had been, I would not have lost my focus and walked off without feeding the cats.

I got up, anticipating a nice geocaching outing, with plenty of time before I had to walk out the door. As always, the cats herded me straight toward the kitchen, since — according to them — it had been a month since their last feeding. However, I bade them wait, for it was more critical that Dad get his coffee cooking first. Coffee now in the works, I notice the sink is full of dishes, so I start to put them in the dishwasher, only to find the dishwasher full of clean dishes, so I unload the dishwasher, after which there is coffee, so I pour the coffee and commence to loading the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, at which time I get a message from one of my geocaching partners stating they can't make it, which reminds me I haven't downloaded the day's cache info into my GPS, so I go upstairs to download the caches, then write a reply to our errant friend, only to receive an important writing-related email, which I immediately reply to, only to notice that time is scurrying ever onward, so I rush to get dressed, remembering that, since it's a six-mile hike, I will need plenty of liquid refreshment for the trail, so I pack up some liquid refreshment and then figure that I'm also going to need my bug spray, so I go out to make sure I have bug spray, and then realize I'm actually running a little late, so I confirm I have all my geocaching supplies together, lock up the house, get in the car, and go caching, and that is why I am in dutch with the boys.
A nice little fellow — or perhaps I should say a nice big fellow, since he was over six feet long — that Diefenbaker
and I encountered along the trail. Happily, I don't think I'm in dutch with him.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

That Which Ought Not Be

I bet you think you're looking at a very red-tinted photo of Droolie up there. Not exactly. You're looking at a very red-tinted photo of something that ought not be.

Look down near the left-hand corner of the pic. There's a dark, solid-looking round thing on top of the covers, which — given the position in which I was lying in the bed — would have been resting on my stomach. And clearly visible to me, as my head was propped up on the pillow, just out of view of the camera lens. It looks like a hockey puck. Or perhaps a lid to an insulated coffee mug. Its left edge is reflecting the lamp light from the nightstand. It casts a shadow.

I took this photo of Droolie the other night and was just going to delete it because the lighting was so funky. But then I noticed that object in the corner. And it's no use, I've got to post this: at the time, there was nothing there. Nothing like that rested on the covers, in the bed, in my bedroom, in my house. In that bed, there was Droolie, and there was me. That dark object, whatever it is, was not there.

I was on the phone with Ms. Brugger at the time, and I immediately remarked to her, "What the hell is that thing?" In no way does it appear to be an optical illusion — no gap in the covers, given some sense of dimension by the lighting. There's no weird trick of perspective, evidenced by the fact that the focus is consistent across the frame.

There was nothing there. Given where my head was in relation to that object, there's no way I could not have seen it, if something was actually there. There wasn't. Subsequent photos revealed nothing on the covers, so I didn't save them. I tore apart the bed — the whole room, basically — to see if some object, something which might explain that, might reveal itself. Nope.

So I'm left with a photo of something I can't explain, and while you may have no reason to even believe it, I'm telling you God's honest truth: there's something in that photo, and I cannot account for it. No doubt there's some prosaic explanation, but I don't know what it could be.

Mainly, I have this fear that some ghostly hockey player, somewhere, is missing his puck, and may be in foul humor over it. I'm pretty sure I don't want to meet him.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fun With Copperheads

'Twas a lovely day for Three Old Farts — Diefenbaker, Robgso, et moi — to venture forth to Hillsborough for a bit of geocaching, chowing on BBQ, and snake hunting. Well, we didn't exactly set out for the latter, but we did chance upon a happy little copperhead lounging on the trail near the Old Oconeechee Speedway. He attracted some crowd of onlookers, but Diefenbaker helped him get across the trail without ill effect to either snake or to hikers.

I've encountered numerous copperheads at close range over the years, and thankfully, much like black widows — our other most common venomous creature around these parts — they generally do their best not to chomp on you. My favorite encounter with a copperhead was about four years ago while caching in a wooded area not too far from home. I was making my way down a rocky hillside toward a creek that flowed into a long culvert, which I had to enter in order to reach the cache. I stepped on a large, loose rock, and what should emerge — or perhaps I should say erupt — but the biggest copperhead I had ever seen, with a body over four feet long and a good two inches in diameter. It shot like lightning into the creek below and vanished from my view.

Realizing the snake could have easily chomped on me had he so desired, I was a little reassured that he was more keen on putting some space between us. The pipe I had to enter lay about twenty feet upstream, and I hoped at this point that my lengthy friend might have proceeded downstream. Undaunted, I made my way into the dark pipe.
Old fellow on guard for No-Shoulders Joe

Nope. Sir Copperhead has gone inside the pipe to mope, and now finds himself incensed that the tall dopey creature, rather than fleeing screaming, is entering his domain. Snake, curled up some ten feet away, takes it upon himself to lunge at me, forcing me to back up a few steps. Fortunately, the creek is full of large rocks, so I heft one of them and chuck it into the water in front of the snake, hoping to deter him. Oh, no, he'll have none of that. In fact, by now, he's kinda mad at me, so he lunges again, this time stopping only a couple of feet short. I grab another rock, shove it at him, and this time, he's splashed up into the air and comes back down in the water six or seven feet away. He coils up to gather his wits, and I take this opportunity to vacate the creek, hoping he hasn't called in his friends as reinforcements. Thankfully, no, so we bid each other cheery farewells, all is forgiven on both ends — well, at least on my end — and I promise not to return until hibernation season.

Just last week, Ms. B. was taking her trash out and nearly trod upon a baby copperhead reclining on her carport. They really do seem to enjoy our company, but I don't recommend petting these nice little guys, however great the temptation.

The rest of today's geocaching expedition was fun enough. We got in several decent little hikes in the woods, found a night cache in broad daylight, and enjoyed some first-rate beef brisket at the Hillsborough BBQ Company. Bumped my total number of finds up to 9,027.

Ta ta.
Another happy little copperhead Ms. B. and I came across on a greenway in Chapel Hill a while back
And then there was this gourmet critter, chowing on a cricket on my front porch last night
Just passing by here today, on our way to a night cache in Hillsborough
A couple of old farts I was caching with today. And you thought snakes were dangerous!
We discovered an overgrown bench in the woods — pretty much not where one would
expect to find a bench in the woods.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Horror at the The Daily Grind

As many of y'all know, scary fiction and music are among my passions, and while I work at creating the former almost daily, it's less common for me to break out the git-fiddle and make a scary racket. Still, now and again I am known to do this thing and inflict some lovely pain and suffering on an unsuspecting populace. So shall it be this coming Friday, September 16, at The Daily Grind in Martinsville, VA. From 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, The Daily Grind is holding a Songwriters Showcase for local musicians to perform some of their original compositions. Now, I haven't written music in decades, but there was a spell back in the 1980s and early 90s where I composed a fair number of guitar-and-vocal tunes, many of them — I'm sure your shock is palpable — featuring scary themes. Come Friday, I'll be performing a few of them.

You folks in the area, please come by and feel free to hurl, heckle, and chuck things. It's all appreciated. The Daily Grind is located at 303 E Church St, Martinsville, VA 24112 (see map below).

Just for good measure, here's a video from two or three years ago of Ms. Brugger and me belting out our version of October Project's "Bury My Lovely," though — sadly — she will not be in attendance this coming Friday. And too bad for me, as she improves my stage presence by a couple hundred percent.

I want all your garmonbozia.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Q: The Winged Serpent

Back in the mid-1980s, I think it was when I lived in Chicago, I caught the video of Q, a stop-motion-animated monster flick written and directed by B-movie guru Larry Cohen (It's Alive, It Lives Again, Island of the Alive, The Stuff, The Phone Booth, et. al.). I thought it was reasonably good fun, but I never saw it again afterward, and pretty much forgot it ever existed. A couple of weeks back, the movie's name popped up on my computer, I think while browsing titles to add to my Netflix queue. I figured, what the heck, I'd give it another look, as I do love my B movies, especially the flicks I remember from the heyday of the drive-in movie theater.

Now, I never saw Q at the drive-in, but this one is consummate outdoor movie fare. It came out in '82, when drive-ins were already on the decline, so it missed the glory days of the prior couple of decades, but as pure shlock, Q fits right in with the best (or worst) of the grindhouse pictures of the 1960s and 70s. From the opening notes of the score by Robert O. Ragland (The Touch of Satan, The Thing With Two Heads, Grizzly, et. al.), you can smell the popcorn and exhaust fumes. The film's production values are anything but extravagant, but its Manhattan setting offers some intriguing scenery, everything from intimate shots of its seediest backstreets to panoramic aerial views of New York City in all its splendor. There's enough gore and coarse language to justify its R rating, at least for its day; some entertaining, if sparse special effects; and... Michael Moriarty.

A handful of other recognizable names/faces appear here — David Carradine, Richard Roundtree, Candy Clark, and Eddie Jones — but Moriarty, one of Larry Cohen's staple performers, chews and chews his way through this movie, playing manic-depressive two-bit crook Jimmy Quinn, who, despite more than plentiful foibles, might just become the savior of the Big Apple. I recall during my first viewing of Q, way back in the day, it struck me as mostly too talky, with people scenes aplenty and monsters too few. But with the perhaps questionable benefit of age and experience here, I can tell you that Moriarty — a reliable talent in countless movies and TV series — is a joy to behold, his character offering up dizzying mood swings, ridiculous soliloquies, and an almost likeable manner, despite needing his teeth punched out in every other scene. It's Moriarty more than the monster that drives the movie's momentum, such as it is, and it can safely said that, without him, there probably wouldn't be enough here to justify paying for the popcorn.

It goes like this. People are disappearing from unlikely places — window washers from their precarious 40th-floor perches, young women sunbathing on rooftop terraces, construction workers from high-rise girders. At the same time, several mutilated bodies turn up, all bearing all the hallmarks of Aztec ritual slaughter. NYPD Detectives Shepard (David Carradine) and Powell (Richard Roundtree) are at first baffled, but with the help of young Quinn, who, during his escape from a bungled diamond store robbery, sees the murderous beast up close and personal, they piece together an unlikely scenario: someone is conducting ritual murders in order to placate the fearsome Aztec serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, who has decided to pay the Big Apple a big old ugly visit. Indeed, the winged serpent is alive and quite animated (courtesy of David Allen, Randy Cook, and Peter Kuran), having taken up residence in the uppermost reaches of the Chrysler Building.

Once it's ascertained that the beast exists, they need a plan to destroy it. And who should come up with the means to do so but our all-but-failed, mostly cowardly hood, Mr. Jimmy Quinn.

Larry Cohen enjoys his police procedural stories, and Q's extensive police drama is well enough done, with Carradine and Roundtree occasionally expending a modicum of energy in otherwise dry, two-dimensional roles. At one point, after a particularly close call with the monster, Carradine glances at his partner, looks momentarily bemused, and then says, "Big!" with a little chuckle. I don't know whether the scene was ad-libbed, but it does present a welcome moment of spontaneity from someone other than Moriarty.

With Q, it goes without saying you're not getting sophisticated entertainment, but if you're a fan of stop-motion animation, the critter is right fun, and for the people scenes, Michael Moriarty — with the tiniest bit of help from Carradine — adds energy by the bucket load. I'd put this movie neck and neck with The Crater Lake Monster for cheap, fun, late grindhouse–era entertainment. Not one I'm likely to watch again anytime soon, if ever, but at least it made for one evening of solid amusement.

Three out of five Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis.
The winged serpent scouting for an appetizer
Jimmy Quinn has a brilliant idea, or a million.
Have a heart, Mr. Aztec High Priest dude!
Unlike many reptilian monstrosities of our acquaintance, substantial amounts of
small arms fire inflict Q with a case of heartburn.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Cache #9,000

It's hard to believe I've been geocaching for over 8 years; it still somehow feels like a "new" activity to me. I discovered it in late 2007 and found my first cache in the spring of 2008. For several of these "milestone" caches, I've headed after some particularly challenging or intriguing hides, such as "Dr. Evil Visits Mebane" (GC2B9TZ) for #5,000; "Another DAM Skirt Lifter" (GC3W0G6) for #7,000; and "All Alone in Goblintown" (GC1EAWF) for #8,000. However, as it's proven to be something of a pain in the tail trying to plot an outing in advance while finding just the right number of caches in the interim, I decided to let #9K fall where it may. As it was, there was a relatively new cache not too far off the beaten track — "Mt. Bubba" (GC6PQAA) — so I went after it yesterday afternoon. Quite by coincidence, I had gone after "Dr. Evil Visits Mebane," #5K, on September 1, 2012, which means I've had a perfect average of 1,000 caches per year for the last four years. Apparently, I'm slowing down in my old age, since prior to that, I was averaging 1,500 to 1,800 caches per year. Actually, it's mainly because I have to go so much farther afield now to claim caches I haven't already found. That and time flies so much faster now than it used to....

Now, on the writing front, I've been really cranking it these past few weeks. I just finished new short stories — actually, fairly long stories — for a pair of anthologies I was invited to, the second of which went out to the editor last night. If you've checked in here recently, you've probably seen that Young Blood, my novelization of the Smith Brothers' indie vampire flick, was recently released, and that Return of the Old Ones, featuring "Messages From a Dark Deity" is on deck.

Lots to do this weekend, some fun, some the usual responsibilities with Mum. At least it's a long one.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A New Smorgasbord From Dark Regions Press

Dark Regions Press is officially announcing three new horror anthologies, including Return of the Old Ones (edited by Brian M. Sammons), which features a right scary little tale of the Cthulhupocalypse, titled "Messages From a Dark Deity," by this old man. Dark Regions is kicking off an Indiegogo campaign for all three books, with a regular smorgasbord of perks and extras, much like their highly successful campaign for World War Cthulhu (which featured another of my Cthulhu Mythos tales, "The Game Changers"). The other two anthologies are You, Human (edited by Michael Bailey) and The Children of Gla'aki (edited by Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass).

"Messages From a Dark Deity," takes place during the days leading up to the eve of global destruction, seen through the eyes of an investigative journalist. As the world around him becomes increasingly more bizarre, he attempts to deny the evidence of his senses, attributing the horrors he witnesses to some kind of hysteria, but Nyarlathotep — the messenger of the Great Old Ones — refuses to allow him even this dubious comfort.

The fantastic cover work you see above is by Vincent Chong. For more details about all three anthos and their attendant perks, visit the Dark Regions Indiegogo campaign page. And here's the promo video — knock yourself out on these visuals.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why the Female of the Species Is Deadly

Druid Hills School in Martinsville, VA, where I learned that females can be deadly
In nature, it's plain that the male members of certain species operate at a clear disadvantage. After mating, many female spiders turn around and eat the unfortunate chap that just did his part to help propagate their kind. Some male insects, the poor sods, will mutilate their own genitals to improve their chances of surviving an encounter with a female. Oftentimes, the human female has been known to up and stop the heart of an adoring male, simply with an approving word or touch of a gentle hand.

It was the mid 1960s, I was probably in second grade, and Mum and Pop had allowed me to ride the mile or so to Druid Hills Elementary School on my bike for the first time. Most of the kids in my neighborhood were already riding their bikes, and I was feeling the peer pressure to keep up. Now, I could already ride a mean bicycle. I could pop wheelies with style; ride long distances with no hands; go down steep hillsides, hit a jump ramp, fly out into the air, and land without mishap. A regular daredevil, I was.

Getting to school that morning was great. I was proud as a peacock as I turned my little red spyder bike into the school parking lot for the first time. I could just feel the eyes of every young lady on the premises watching me and bursting at the seams with admiration for my clear pedaling prowess.

But it was that afternoon, when the final bell rang, that my true chance to shine arrived. All the kids were coming out from their classrooms, some bound for buses, some for their parents' cars, some for the sidewalk to walk home, and some — like me — for the bicycle rack. Out there, I think I engaged in conversation with a couple of third and fourth graders who'd ridden their bicycles, confident they would no longer look down on me because, by god, I was on my bike. What a great feeling that was. But it was as I went pedaling out of the parking lot and down the street toward home that I saw my opportunity to impress not just any ordinary people but girls.

Yes, it was Ellen Hundley and Nancy Carter walking down the sidewalk, and my young heart went zooming into overdrive. If I pulled this off, I knew they would never again look on me as a wee little shrimp of a fellow.

So I pumped those pedals, picked up speed, and took my hands off the handlebars. I passed them waving and shouting, and I think they both smiled at me, which spurred me to pedal faster. Faster.

It was then I turned around and saw that, somehow, a parked car had gotten in front of me. I hit the brakes, but it was too late. BAM! BOOM! THUD! CRUNCH! Over the handlebars I went, up onto the trunk of the car, over the side, and onto the asphalt. Holy god, the pain. I saw more skin on the road than on my arms. My head felt like a cantaloupe that had split open, and probably looked like one, with what few brains I possessed spilling out onto the pavement.

Ellen and Nancy walked on by, giggling. I think a passing adult took a look at me and asked if I required medical attention. I just shook my head and motioned for them to go on because there was no way I was going to try to explain what had just happened to anyone. My bike's handlebars were bent and the chain had come off, so I worked everything back into place and pedaled on home, where my poor mom nearly had a heart attack at the sight of me. I told her a dog had chased me and I had fallen over. I think both my folks were a little concerned that I couldn't really describe the dog or where it had happened, but in the end, I healed up, and I went on to perform all kinds of daredevil stunts on my bike, quite successfully as long as no women or parked cars got in my way.

But after that, you'd best believe that I had a pretty healthy fear of the human female. Two of them had damn near killed me.

Friday, August 19, 2016

I'm Not an Idiot... Just Dedicated

Damned Dedicated, Dripping,
Demented Rodan

I suppose some might argue with the title statement, but in any event, it was like this (and yes, it is a geocaching tale):

I was heading up to Martinsville from Greensboro for my regular visit with Mum. Earlier this week, a new cache had been published just outside of Martinsville, and, much to my surprise, no one had yet claimed the first-to-find. So, never one to let an opportunity go to waste, I took the scenic route and ended up in a field behind a Dollar General store, under skies filled with swollen black rain clouds. And no sooner had I gotten out of the car when the bottom fell out. Big rain, folks, and Damned Rodan was out in it hunting a cache. Not only that, but plunging through a brier-filled pit full of all kinds of flora and fauna with which reasonable people rarely care to interact. This did not seem at all consistent with the cache description, which indicated the container was hidden in a location "accessible to persons of all physical ability levels." Not this spot, I can safely say.

It dawned on me then that the name of the cache — and some details in the description — suggested that the little beast was, in reality, hidden a couple of lots over. So I hoofed it on over to the business there, explained I was a geocacher, and that I understood there was a cache on the premises. The very kind gentleman, whom I assume was the owner, pointed to a spot on the map on my phone to indicate where I might actually find the cache — about .16 of a mile away from the posted coordinates.

Well, what's a little rain? Back out into it I went, and within seconds, I was as waterlogged as if I'd been dunked in a swimming pool. Nothing for it but to make the hike and hope the gentleman's description was good.

It was. Far better than the original posted coordinates.

Thanks to dogged determination (not stupidity), I managed a nice first-to-find on the cache. And if you're fond of golfing, I'd suggest paying a visit to this business — The MiniPar Driving Range & Par 3 Course — in Horsepasture, VA. Good folks there, beautiful area, and a geocache, whose coordinates will hopefully be corrected by its owner in the nearest of futures.

Wetly yours.... Damned Rodan

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hot Water

Holy cow, the water in Belews Lake, in Forsyth County, NC, is hot. Hot, I tell you. For years, I've heard about the hot water in Belews Lake, but I experienced it myself for the first time today, and it was uncanny. It's because of the coal-fired Duke Power plant on the lake, which uses the lake water for cooling, and then discharges the super-heated excess back into the lake.

Ms. B. and I received a very kind invitation from geocaching friends Tom (Skyhawk63) and Linda (Punkins19) to join them for a day of geocaching, wining, and dining on the lake in their motorboat, and we were not all that put out to oblige. We had each scheduled days off from work, so we headed out fairly early to meet them at the Piney Bluff access area near Stokesdale. Soon enough we were rip-roaring out on the water, bound for the first of a baker's dozen caches hidden along the roughly 88 miles of lake shore. Some we were able to snag without getting out of the boat, but the first time I dropped into the water, I just about let out a holler.

The air temperature was around 90 degrees today, and the water temperature was well in excess of that — even a few miles out from the power plant. No exaggeration, it was like stepping into a hot tub. The lake never freezes even in the bleak midwinter, when the water temperature averages about 60 degrees. These days, the water is relatively clean, with a healthy supply of fish, though it took roughly 25 years to recover from a massive fish kill around 1978 when selenium — a deadly poison — was found to be leaking into the lake from the plant. Still, when the water temperature is so abnormally high, it tends to make one wonder just a bit. Common wisdom is to keep Belews Lake water from getting on your car because it will permanently mar the finish. Needless to say, we didn't guzzle any of the stuff during our excursions off the boat.

But quite a nice day it was. We claimed a fair number of caches, which put my current total number of finds at 8,962. We enjoyed a bottle of decent wine, a picnic lunch on the boat, and some extra-fine company. There are still a few hides out there left to find, so it would be delightful to make another lake outing in the not-too-distant future.

Maybe in January, when a dip in the water is anything but a brisk polar plunge.
Big-ass water heater
Good refreshment to go with a picnic lunch
Skyhawk63 sometimes drives with his eyes open, facing the front of the boat. But not always.
All that remains of an old bridge from days of yore

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Evil Friends

Sheer madness at Silver Fork Winery
I tell you, Ms. Brugger and I have some evil friends. On occasion, certain of them will force us — or at least coerce us — into going out and doing things in public, social things, things that are fun, things like hanging out together, having decent food and wine, seeing cool places, even getting in some geocaching. How is one supposed to be successfully mopey, depressed, and hopelessly off-kilter when you've got friends like that? It's damned tough.

This time, it was Terry and Beth, and they made us go to Asheville, NC, with them. They did the same thing to us last summer, and I had just gotten around to forgiving them that one. Ms. B. and I departed Greensboro yesterday morning, bound for Lake James Cellars in Glen Alpine, out in Burke County, where we planned to meet. I had targeted a handful of geocaches along the way, but for reasons I will graciously decline to discuss, Terry and Beth ran a bit late, which meant there was time to kill, which meant more caching for me, which meant more torture for Ms. B. (so at least there was that). Passing through the little town of Valdese, we found ourselves in the midst of a massive street festival. According to the town website, "since 1976, on the second Saturday in August, Valdese hosts an annual festival to celebrate the 'Glorious Return' of the Waldensians from exile in Switzerland to their native valleys in the Cottian Alps of Italy in 1689." Well, I hope the return was glorious, and I will say that I quite enjoyed what I saw of the festival as well as a couple of the very nice caches there.

Onward to Lake James. Here, we finally confronted our nemeses and made them ply us with wine. Very good wine at Lake James, I will say, particularly their Cabernet Franc. The building has a great big front porch, perfect for picnicking, so we picnicked, all right. Then we ventured forth to visit the scenic Silver Fork Winery, not very far away. Also some good wine there, if a bit higher priced than most in the region. Their Four Dog Red Blend, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot, is their standout dry red.
I saw her hanging out on a street corner with some
kind of strange thing, and I said, "Damn."

So, then it was off to Asheville with us. After we had settled in our respective hotel rooms and plotted and schemed, we Uber'd our way into downtown, where we immediately headed for one of our favorite haunts from our last trip: the Cork and Keg bar at The Weinhaus. There, we enjoyed a nice Tempranillo, alas, sans liver or other organs from unsuspecting victims. Since Terry and Beth have relatively recently discovered the joys of Thai food, we went for dinner to Suwana's Thai Orchid, which was quite good in general, though the Crying Tiger I had did not measure up to the Crying Tiger at a couple of our local Thai establishments. For afters, we wandered the town for quite a while before settling in for a bit of Garnacha at the most excellent Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, where they have books by the thousands and wines by the score. I, and probably Kimberly, could have spent more time there than most reasonable people would appreciate, but we didn't. Regardless, by the time we were done there, it was getting well into the night, so we opted to sit on a bench and listen to a trio of talented young musicians (a couple of whom looked to be about ten years old) cutting loose with guitar, drums, and upright bass. Eventually, the Uber man came back around to pick us, and we bid the day good-night.
A couple of the women-folk in the Grove Arcade

I was up fairly early this morning to grab a couple of caches near the hotel. Our gang went for the hotel's complimentary breakfast, and then we headed back into Asheville proper. Ms. B. and Beth had their sights on some shopping at the Grove Arcade, an architecturally spectacular public market full of eclectic shops and a couple of restaurants. Last year, we had enjoyed the fare and ambiance at Sante Wine Bar & Tap Room on the premises, so we opted to try it again for lunch today. They have these intriguing little pizzas there, and we tried several of them, our unanimous favorite being the Ham and Fig, which features figs, prosciutto, Holly Grove chevre, balsamic drizzle, and an olive oil base. We were also impressed by their selection of "Big Ass Chewy Red Wines," so we chewed our way through a few. And since Ms. B. and I have recently taken to making some mighty fine pizzas of our own, we may try our hands at a figgy pizza thing ourselves.

And, well, it wouldn't be the proper outing for the ladies without some antiquing. We discovered there was this great big-ass Antique Barn not far from Biltmore Estates, and the men were given little choice but to transport the women-folk there. Happily, there was a cache right on the grounds — aptly titled "Old Place" (GC3Q8E0) — and it was nicely done, memorable enough for me to award it a favorite point. Because it was a scorcher of a day, the giant antique barn, open to the elements as it was, could have doubled for a human BBQ smoker, so we decided not to stay long enough to become someone else's picnic.

It was all around a fine time, not that we would ever wish such a fine time on any of our friends. But then, we are not the evil ones.
The view from our table at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar
Uggh. It's them again. At the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar
Interior of the Grove Arcade market
A particularly fine example of patriotic sculpture found at Big-Ass Antique Barn in Asheville

Friday, August 12, 2016

Back to the Bloody Pier

Three years or so ago, Lovecraft eZine published my story, "Beneath the Pier," and one of the nice things about Lovecraft eZine is that the contents are free for readers. The story is still posted at the site, so if you haven't read it, here's a little nudge for you. Or if you read it way back when but could use a little nightmarish horror to help get you through the night, I'd say have yourself another go at it. It'll be good for you.

The idea for this tale slapped me upside the head a few years back while on a trip to Surfside Beach, SC, with Ms. Brugger and a few friends. Late one night, Ms. B. and I went out walking and decided to hang out for a bit underneath an old pier, which turned out to be a right scary place. William Faulkner's "Delta Autumn" also provided a little inspiration, though my story is scarier. You can check it out for free right here:

Illustration by Leslie Herzfeld

Sunday, August 7, 2016

It's a Desert Out There

It's a dry heat!
Got up this morning, looked out the window, and couldn't see a damned thing, so what could I possibly think but, hey, it's a nice, temperate day to head out after some geocaches? Over the past couple of days, a few new trail hides had been published down Jamestown way, so off I went into the arid blue yonder. Note that at no time did I feel as if I might be heading down into an alien nest filled with a thousand eggs full of face-hugging critters, except maybe when I walked out of my front door.

First stop was "Happy Birthday, Dad" (GC6NR5Q), a new woodland cache hidden by Bloody Rob Isenhour's dog Bentley. Upon arrival at ground zero, I ran into the meaner half of geocaching team Ro & Donna Martin, whose acquaintance I was making for the first time, and the two of us spent the next forty-five minutes or so neither sweating nor swearing, until we finally turned up the very well-hidden ammo can. After that, we parted company, and I headed after several other caches in the area, including one at an old, rotting footbridge (GC6PNR5) that, happily, I didn't have to cross, and another one on the far side of a fallen tree over a deep creek that I did have to cross. Slickery, it was, and that last step was damn near a doozy.

I didn't fall in, but I somehow managed to come home soaked to the skin, not to mention shredded by briers and very likely covered in poison ivy. A good, satisfying day of geocaching it was. And hey, I'm so wet maybe I don't even need to take a shower.
Bridge to nowhere. You'll get there fast.
Makeshift bridge over the stream. Deep water!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Take the Long Way Down

It started as a normal enough week, and then I went to work and things began to get shaken up. Won't go into details here, but it made for a weird day, a weird week, and a weird foreseeable future. Not weird as in how cool is that, but weird as in bloody hell. For now, all is well, though over the long haul, who can say?

Naturally enough, the company of the world's best girlfriend, some good food and wine, and a spot of geocaching helped put the world back to rights, at least for the time being. Our monthly supper club gathering was Friday night at the Albaneses, where we had some of the best homemade larb gai I've ever tasted, decent wine, and some rip-roaring music. I won't admit to getting up and dancing, but there are those who might say that I got up and danced. They must have been drinking. In any event, I woke up yesterday morning with a bit of unusual muscle ache, so something untoward must have occurred. Joe was having fun taking portraits of our individual gang members and somehow, I came out feeling rather negative about it:
Yesterday, Ms. B. and I made one of our regular pilgrimages to Chapel Hill, as we were desperately in need of fare from Trader Joe's. Made several stops for caches, including a nice new one ("Gentlemen, Start Your Paddles," GC6GCXM) hidden by regular caching partner Yoda Rob at the Haw River boat launch on the old Greensboro-Chapel Hill Road in Alamance County. Putting in a boat must be fun here, for as you can see in the photo of Ms. B. above, it's a long way down. There was another on the UNC campus that required a change of elevation ("Pancake," GC31TEK) that quite appealed to me. Found a couple of more quickies, but after that, the oppressive heat was about all we could take.

Ms. B. and I did our shopping, had some drinks at The Weathervane at Southern Season and West End Wine Bar, and finished with a nice dinner at one of our favorites, The Spotted Dog in Carrboro. A fairly short but torrential downpour did cool us off a bit, as we happened to be kind of out in it. Now, on Wednesday night, we'd enjoyed a rare treat — a big screen presentation of the original Planet of the Apes, at the Grande Theater here in Greensboro — so we followed it up last night by watching Beneath the Planet of the Apes at Ms. B.'s place. Those are my two favorite Apes films, and especially as I hadn't seen the original at the theater since I was a kid, watching these was one of this weird week's highlights.

It'll be some time before we know the direction our work affairs will take, so for now... it's business as usual. Till laters.
Feeling worldly at West End Wine Bar in Chapel Hill

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Sandy Level Creep and Other Creeple People

Tonight's book launch party for Young Blood at Mtn' Jax in Martinsville is all done and was done well. A nice turnout resulted in numerous books being devalued with the old man's signature, not to mention those of the Smith Brothers. Got to catch up with several local folks I'd not seen in quite a while, drink some decent beer, and consume what was most certainly the best friggin' burger I've had in many moons. Mtn' Jax turned out to be a hospitable venue for the event, and live music later in the evening added some serious energy to the proceedings.

To kick things off on an apt note, as I was coming into town via the back roads through Sandy Level, I found that the Sandy Level Creep (see "Bold Moon and the Sandy Level Creep" and "The Creep's New Threads") was not only decked out in a new outfit, he had made a friend. What a cheerful duo, these two. As you can see in the photo, they're guaranteed to make passersby feel all kinds of warm and welcome.

About the time things were winding down at Mtn' Jax, I received notification that a new geocache had just been published, aptly titled "Stone Graveyard" (GC6NVNE), and — how happy is this — it was over in Jaycee Park, not far from uptown Martinsville. I managed to get to the park just before dark, hike a short distance on the trail, and make a relatively quick first-to-find. A fitting opening and a fitting ending for a successful book launch. Thanks to those of you who came round, and we missed those of you what didn't make it.

The Creep may not, though. He may not miss you. You might wish he would. He and his new friend....
The 3Ms — Myron, Mark, and Mat

Sunday, July 17, 2016

ConGregate Concluded

The best part of a convention is taking a break from the convention.
ConGregate III is over and done, at least for me, and overall it turned out a good one, with a few caveats, all having to do with the High Point Radisson Hotel. I arrived on Friday afternoon around 4 o'clock for my booksigning, and the first thing in view was a hellishly long line of people trying to check in (to the hotel, not my signing). I found out later that most Friday arrivals had a two- to three-hour wait to get a room because of a "housekeeping" issue. Ms. B. and I customarily spend one night at the hotel for nearby conventions, and this year, we had opted for Saturday night, so at least I didn't have to worry about checking in that afternoon. With the majority of con-goers apparently still trying to get checked in, the dealers' room at 4 o'clock was deserted. At 5:00 PM, I had a panel to moderate ("The Evolving Role of Authors"), and while all the panelists were on hand, we had a massive crowd of two attendees. For what it was worth, the panel turned out to be spirited, informative, and enjoyable. Then, after some geocaching and a nice dinner at Thai Chiang Mai, I drove home. Apart from the latter two activities, it was scarcely worth my time to go all the way to High Point and back.

Saturday morning, I had an early panel, a workshop, and another booksigning, so I hit the road at the ass-crack of dawn to get there. All these went smoothly enough, and this time, at least, I drew some business at the booksigning. Happily, Ms. B. showed up during the signing, and after it was done, we took a very pleasant wine break at The Vino Shoppe, which proved to be the highlight of the weekend. When we returned to the hotel (after stopping for a cache), we headed for the front desk to check in, and — for the love of god — they had no rooms available for... no one knew how long. There were already quite a few people waiting for rooms, and more coming, so I opted to go on to my next panel — "Oh, no, Tokyo! Here Comes Godzilla!," which I also moderated — before attempting to check in. This panel was well-attended and all-around enjoyable. Hey, it was Godzilla!

Afterward, we returned to the front desk, and this time, finally, three hours after the official check-in time, we managed to get a room. It proved clean and comfortable, though was noticeably shy of towels. Fortunately, after a while, a lady from housekeeping stopped by, without being asked, with a bunch of towels on hand. Bravo on this. Unfortunately, the parking garage, which used to be free for hotel guests, now charges a daily fee ($6.00, which is at least reasonable). Sadly, it looked like a trash bomb had gone off in there, particularly in the rickety old elevator. And the rest rooms in the public areas of the hotel were abominable. Filthy dirty and reeking. Now, I've got to tell you, I've stayed in this hotel couple dozen times in the past 30 years, and I've never seen it so poorly run and maintained. This morning, as a token gesture, they offered guests a free continental breakfast or 30% off the regular breakfast, but let me tell you, I've stayed in plenty of hotels that cost half what this one does and that offer continental breakfasts just as part of your stay. I don't think this token concession on the Radisson's part smoothed many tempers.

In between my con duties, Ms. B. and I headed for Little Tokyo, one of our favorite High Point dinner spots, and enjoyed an excellent sushi dinner. The last item on the con menu was "Java and Pros(e)", a well-attended author reading, featuring Darin Kennedy, Michael G. Williams, and me, along with plenty of coffee for those who cared for it, though Ms. B. and I provided our own liquid refreshment in the form of 14 Hands Red Blend.

This morning, I had a 10:00 o'clock workshop, my only duty of the day, so after that was done, Ms. B. and I headed out, she to her house and new kittens, I to a few geocaches. After finding several and replacing one of mine (which required climbing a tree) my find count stands at 8,900 — just a hundred away from the big 9K! I grabbed a fair lunch at Steak & Shake and returned home, and I've half a mind to crash and recover for a bit, as all this conventioning stuff, fussing about second-rate hotels, and tree-climbing in summer heat can about do an old fellow in.

While the hotel situation was frustrating, the con itself was well run as usual. I don't know the final number of attendees, but it looked to be somewhat less than in previous years, and several other guests remarked on the fact. I hope for the organizers' sake it was a success, but I've got to say, I may have second thoughts about returning to the High Point Radisson. I've long said that it was not adequate for the needs of StellarCon and now ConGregate. I'd love to see the con return to either Greensboro or Winston-Salem. We'll find out next year.

A beautiful High Point evening, seen from our hotel room.
And a pleasant High Point morning, at least until the summer heat kicked in with a vengeance.
Finishing off my con duties by grabbing a geocache at nearby Gibson Park.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Night I Got Mauled by a Bear

The Bear. Photo by Clark F.

For all the hair-raising, death-defying stunts I have pulled while out geocaching, I have suffered very few caching-related injuries. I tend to do more harm to myself going from one room in the house to another than I do scaling forty-foot retaining walls or crossing precarious fallen trees above rocky ravines.

But not always.

October 28, 2008. It was a cold, dreary, foggy night, fitting for the Halloween season, and I was out with my (now ex-) wife, commonly known as Mrs. Death, for some after-dark caching, which was one of our favorite activities. Among our stops was a cache in the High Point area called "The Nut 'n' Honey Pot" (GCZKNK), about which we knew nada. Our Garmins led us to a little office complex off Gallimore Dairy Road, and once we parked and made our way into the darkness, we saw something that froze us in our tracks: a big honking bear... a big honking metal bear, with razor-sharp claws, standing next to a tree. Yep, that was our ground zero, so we decided to commence our search while trying our best not to disturb the beast.

Well, given the placement of the hide, which I shall not reveal to you here, it was kind of impossible not to disturb the bear. He clearly was not happy with us because, once I was done scouring the ground around his feet, I stood up and....


You see that outstretched paw? The paw with the very long and very sharp claws? Let me tell you, people, that bastard up and swatted me in the head so hard I went right back down on my hind end, and I knew exactly what it meant to see stars. There was hollering and cussing and groaning, and I didn't even try to get back on my feet for quite a while. As I was sitting there, I noticed Mrs. Death looking at me and shaking her head. "That's going to leave a mark," she said.

Hell yes, it left a mark. And I left a good bit of Mark with the bear — you know, that red liquid filling most of us have.

At least we found the cache. I could have signed the log in blood, but I was apparently too dizzy to think straight at the time.

That was the night I got mauled by a bear.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tree Peepers, Bedlam, and Adolescent Classics

As I'm having to spend more and more time with my mom, going with increasing frequency to my old hometown to care for her, I find myself growing very protective of those old things in her house that still remain from my childhood. There aren't that many, not like there used to be. There's a small corner of the attic with a few toys, books, artwork, and other miscellaneous objets d'arte that belonged to my brother and me, some going back to our pre-kindergarten days. In the back room on the main floor, Mom has graciously saved a bunch of barely intact books that I valued as a kid — I am now mighty glad they didn't get chucked out along with so much junk over the past few decades. That photo you see above is a fair representation of my "literary" appetites at about age twelve. Of course, that's just a tiny sampling, as I became a voracious reader the moment I managed to comprehend two consecutive sentences. Everything from James Bond to Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators to Mad magazine to Whitman's Big Little cartoon books to Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. A regular borgasmord, to quote a young Mason Reese. (You remember him, right — the ugly little red-headed dude in the Underwood Deviled Ham commercials from the early 1970s?)

It's been a stressful few days for me, what with Mom's condition always preying on my mind, and out there in the world, bedlam reigning perhaps a bit more than usual. You've seen the meme, I'm sure, that reads "My desire to be well-informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane." That's pretty much it. It's depressingly difficult to find even slightly unbiased coverage about events in the world, particularly since every soul alive has an outlet to air his opinion, whether measured and well-informed or vicious and ignorant. I stubbornly remain connected via Facebook since it's the handiest tool for keeping up with the people with whom I most want to keep up. Still, at the best of times, my blood pressure runs a little high, even when on meds. I've come to the conclusion that ordinary bedlam raises it to around 140/90, whereas Bedlam + Facebook = BP 180/100. Bedlam needs to take a breather.

As always, geocaching proves itself the best mitigator of high blood pressure. I've been fortunate in that local cachers have kept new ones coming out between here and Martinsville, so that I can usually hunt a cache or three when I'm coming and going. One that I found today earns a favorite point for its high novelty factor — not an uncommon type of hide, but its placement was a lot of fun, particularly in that it was being watched over by a little tree peeper. I saw him perched atop an open fence post, so while I hunted, we had a friendly conversation. After a while, I saw he had gone, and I hope he didn't actually go down into that fence post, as he might end up stuck. On the other hand, given that he was resting quite comfortably on it, perhaps it's one of his favorite hangouts.

Peace be with ye.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Young Blood Novel Release Party

Regular followers of my shenanigans may recall that, a while back, I wrote the novel Young Blood, based on the 2012 indie movie Young Blood: Evil Intentions, made by brothers Mat and Myron Smith. The official novel release party is coming up on Thursday, July 21, at Mtn' Jax Restaurant, 45 E. Church St., Martinsville, VA 24112 at 6:00 PM. Both the Smith Brothers and I will be on hand, possibly along with members of the film cast, and there will be plenty of copies of the novel available (paperback, $14.99), which we will happily devalue with our autographs. The book also features illustrations by Myron Smith. Make plans to come around for a shocking, horrific, bloody awful time of it. We'd be happy to have you.

I also plan to have copies of the novel available at ConGregate in High Point, NC, on the weekend of July 15–17.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Geocaching GPS: A Great Personal Spider Story

Here's something a little different, at least for this old dude. My latest tale, "Arachnid Alley (or How I Learned to Stop Screaming and Love the Spider)," has just been published in Geocaching GPS: Great Personal Stories of Geocaching Firsts. This is a new anthology of true geocaching stories, edited by Kimberly Eldredge and published by New Frontier Books. Like all the stories in the book, mine is not fiction but a recounting of a noteworthy first geocaching experience, mine relating how I (almost) overcame Arachnophobia, back in my early days of geocaching. This particular adventure involves dark tunnels, big spiders, and three adventurous souls with flashlights and Garmins. Actually, once our intrepid gang got past stage one of the cache in question — "Greensboro Underground" (GC1R7EV) — the Garmins were superfluous. Nerves of steel and warped senses of humor were not.

The book has just been launched so it will be available at GeoWoodstock 14 (GC5Q1ET), a regular geocaching mega-event to be held this coming weekend at the Botanical Gardens in Chatfield, CO. Sadly, the distance puts it out of reach for me, but how nice the book will be available for its perfect target audience. You don't have to be a geocacher to have fun with this one, though. There are 50 tales from geocachers all over the country, with some real gems about first encounters of all kinds. It's available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Check it out here:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Random Tale of Electrifying Terror

The two most terrifying experiences of my life both occurred in Myrtle Beach, SC, a couple of years apart. The first was when I got eaten by a shark (A Random Tale, Sept. 20, 2011). The second was when I got blown up by a lightning bolt. You'd think I might have an aversion to Myrtle Beach, but really, these things only make the place somewhat more endearing.

I'm pretty sure it was the summer of 1977, and my parents, my brother, and I were on our annual pilgrimage to the beach, where we owned a time-share unit for a week in June. In those days, my dad and I were both avid golfers, and playing golf at the beach was a rare treat. I think we played at a different course each day of the week we were there. On our final outing for the week, as was customary, Dad and I teamed up with another twosome we met at the course to make a regulation foursome. We headed out under clear skies, with no indication that rain might interfere with our game.

We were about as far out on the course as one can get when we saw the first clouds. We had just been laughing about some fellow who was apparently having a bad day of it: he had hurled one of his golf clubs up in a tree and it had gotten stuck in the limbs. He was trying to knock it out of the tree by throwing more clubs at it. By the time we had finished putting on the nearby green and started out for the next tee, he had three more clubs stuck up there. That was when we noticed the sky had turned almost as black as night. At the beach, fierce squalls can often blow in without warning, and when that lightning starts popping, you really don't want to be out in it. Well, we saw that lightning — disconcertingly close — and then discovered, to our good fortune, there was a shelter not very far away. Dad drove our cart at express speed to the shelter, with our partners and several other golfers close behind. Once underneath the roof, the cart drivers all maneuvered so the rubber tires of each cart were touching the tires of another. There was a restroom in the shelter, and I needed to pee, so I stepped out of the cart and began making my way toward the restroom door.


My God, I'd never heard anything like it. A brilliant light flashed in the corner of my eye, and when I looked around, a blue-white ribbon of electricity was corkscrewing around the trunk of a large tree about thirty feet from the shelter. With a sound like a 1,000-pound bomb going off, bark exploded in long, snakelike ribbons in all directions, some clattering down on the roof of the shelter.

I don't even know how I got inside the restroom. All I know was that, for the next several minutes, I was crouching on the concrete floor with my hands over my head, intoning "Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my OH MY GOD!" I only knew the storm had ended when my dad rapped on the door and called, "Son, are you ever coming out of there?"

Till that hole, which was probably 13 or 14 out of 18, I was playing some pretty respectable golf — a couple of strokes under par. At the end of the round, I came in something like ten over par. I'll blame the fact that the golf course was waterlogged after the storm; it had nothing to do with the fact that not all of the wetness on me was necessarily rainwater.

That was the day I got blowed up by lightning.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Dark Regions Press Interview

Author/editor Brian M. Sammons recently interviewed me for Dark Regions Press, and it's now gone live. In-depth info about my horror fiction, Deathrealm, Dark Shadows, upcoming work, and much more. Read it, weep, and gnash those teeth. Check it out here: