Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Weird Cat Is in the House!

Droolie is pleased to announce that our contributor copies of The Weird Cat are in the house! Edited by Katherine Kerestman and S.T. Joshi, it features my story, “Nimbus,” along with a host of contemporary authors as well as masters from the past. The official release date is October 18 from WordCrafts Press. The hardback and ebook editions are now available for pre-order from Barnes & Noble and; trade paperback coming soon.

Complete list of authors in The Weird Cat:
 Ambrose Bierce  Algernon Blackwood  William Blake  Adam Bolivar  Ramsey Campbell  Lewis Carroll  Frank Coffman  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  Lord Dunsany  Jason C. Eckhardt  Alan Dean Foster  Brandon R. Grafius  Lafcadio Hearn  Katherine Kerestman  Caitlin R. Kiernan  Rudyard Kipling  Tony LaMalfa  Lori R. Lopez  H.P. Lovecraft  E. Nesbit  Elliott O'Donnell • Manuel Perez-Campos  Michael Potts  Stephen Mark Rainey  Rainer Maria Rilke  Sax Rohmer  Hank Schwaeble  Darrell Schweitzer  Robert W. Service  M.P. Shiel  Christina Sng  Anna Taborska  Mary Turzillo  M.F. Webb  W.B. Yeats Cover art by Mike Parks 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars Strike Again

While I’m not at all sad about having left Greensboro, I am sad that gatherings with the usual geocaching crew, known as The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars — friends Natalie (a.k.a. Ms. Fishdownthestairs) and Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker) — can be problematic. Not to mention we lost our friend and regular caching partner, Rob, some months ago. But yesterday, circumstances came together for a nice, day-long outing in Burlington, which I’ve been itching to do since a bunch of new caches published there over the last couple of months.

There were some fun and challenging hides in this batch. The first one we hunted required a fair change of altitude to reach, as you may see in the photo on the left (and when Natalie took this picture, I still had a little ways higher to go). There was one under a bridge that required some physical dexterity to negotiate, and I’m pleased to say I managed it without any problem. I may be old, but I’m not decrepit! (Not yet, anyway.) And there were several with interesting field puzzles that we managed to conquer, some by not-quite-prescribed means.

For lunch, we found a BBQ joint called Smokehouse at Steve’s, which I’m going to recommend for the fantastic pulled pork. They had a mean-looking brisket, too, which I’ll need to try on a future visit.

It was a fun day indeed, pretty much like old times. May the old times with this crew happen again and again.
Notice a creepy old figure hiding in the shadows up there to Scott’s right...

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Dark Corners of the Old Dominion Is in the House... or Woods

Dark Corners of the Old Dominion is in the house... or in the woods, as the case may be. To be even more precise, the “Fugue Devil's Woods.” Features my story, “Doom at Dragon's Roost,” along with 23 other tales set in Virginia. Now available from Death Knell Press.
"Within these pages, Virginia authors explore twenty-four dangerous destinations, myths, and monsters from the commonwealth’s past, present, and future.

“Dark Corners of the Old Dominion is edited by Joseph Maddrey and Michael Rook, with a foreword by Brian Keene. Every author in this anthology has strong ties to Virginia and it is clear in the stories and poems they’ve created. They are steeped in the salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay, pulsing with the thrum of the beltway, and bleeding from old battlefield scars.”

Proceeds for Dark Corners of the Old Dominion go to the Scares That Care charity.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Madness from Arkham Sanitarium

I spent a fair portion of the afternoon devaluing the deluxe edition of Tales from Arkham Sanitarium (Dark Regions), edited by Brian M. Sammons, by scribbling my John Hancock on the signature sheets. The deluxe edition apparently sold out in advance, so if you didn’t pre-order it, I reckon you’re out of luck. The trade hardcover and ebook came out last year. This one features my short story, “Clicks,” which is pretty fucked up, along with 14 other tales of madness and terror.

“Knowing too much, getting a glimpse of the truth behind the curtain we call reality, casting aside the bliss of ignorance and succumbing to the insanity that follows in the pursuit of damnable truths, is at the core of many of the stories of the Cthulhu Mythos. Insanity is central to Lovecraftian horror, so there is no wonder that in his witch-cursed and legend-haunted town of Arkham, a cathedral devoted to mending broken minds was raised. Arkham Sanitarium. Where the screams and cries of the damned are commonplace. Where those that have seen the faces of cosmic entities gibber with regret over their curiosity. Where men and women are cosigned to never ending purgatory for knowing too much. The machinations of the Old Ones are beyond the mental capacity of mankind, and these are the tales of those who learned that too late.”

Table of Contents
“The Crying Man” by Tim Waggoner
“Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation” by William Meikle
“Malformed Articulation” by W. H. Pugmire
“Bit by Bit” by Don Webb
“Let me Talk to Sarah” by Christine Morgan
“The Hunger” by Peter Rawlik
“The Colors Of A Rainbow To One Born Blind” by Edward M. Erdelac
“The River and the Room” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
“Veteran of the Future Wars” by Orrin Grey
“Folie et déraison” by Nick Mamatas
“Red Hook” by Glynn Owen Barrass
“Clicks” by Stephen Mark Rainey
“...& My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You” by Edward Morris
“Forbidden Fruit” by Cody Goodfellow
Stained Glass” by Jeffrey Thomas

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Damned Rodan’s Damned Egg Foo Young

Egg Foo Young is one of my favorite Chinese-American dishes, and several of the Chinese restaurants in our old Greensboro neighborhood did it very well. Sadly, the one nearby Chinese place in Martinsville is temporarily closed — at least, that’s what their sign says, but it’s been shuttered for quite a while now. A shame, since I quite like the place. I had an Egg Foo Young craving last night, and I knew that if I wanted to satisfy it, I had to make the Foo myself. I do this now and again, and I really love it; sometimes, though it’s just nice to have somebody hand over a ready-to-eat dish. Alas, not this time.

Anyhoo, here’s my recipe for Shrimp Egg Foo Young. This serves four. You’re basically making an omelet with whatever protein you wish — shrimp, beef, pork, chicken... about any dead critter works well. You can put small, raw shrimp right into the egg mixture, as it cooks well with the other ingredients. For other meats, chop fairly fine and cook until about half-done in advance.

Damned Rodan’s Damned Egg Foo Young
What You Need for the Sauce:

• 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
• 1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
• 1 tbsp soy sauce
• 1/2 tsp sesame oil

What You Need for the Foo:
6 eggs 
1 1/2 cups protein of your choice (I use small, raw shrimp)
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
3/4 cup green peas (I use frozen, thawed)
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup diced water chestnuts
3/4 cup chopped green onions
4 tbsp cooking oil (I use extra virgin olive oil almost exclusively for every savory dish I make)
2 tsp (more or less, depending on your taste; I use a lot) black pepper
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
dash of soy sauce
dash of hot chili oil

What You Do For the Sauce:
Stir the ingredients (except for the corn starch) together in a saucepan and bring to a slow boil; then reduce the heat to medium-high. Stir in the dissolved corn starch until the sauce begins to thicken. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally while the Foo cooks.

What You Do For the Foo:
Add the cooking oil to a wok or skillet (I use cast iron) and heat on high until the oil begins to smoke. Reduce heat to medium high.

2) Scramble the eggs thoroughly. Dump the rest of your ingredients into the eggs and mix well.

3) For each serving, ladle a quarter of your mix into the hot skillet. You can use a spatula to shape the spreading mix into a rough circle. Let cook for about five minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Flip your patty over (the cooked side should be a nice golden brown) and cook for another four to five minutes.

4) Plate your Foo and spoon a goodly portion of the sauce over the top. If desired, garnish with additional bean sprouts and/or green onions.

5) Eat up. Holler!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

R.I.P. Ralph Brugger

Several months ago, Kimberly’s kitty, Ralph, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and he has been on a slow decline ever since. Kim had him on medication, which helped for a while, but these last few weeks, he’s gone downhill so severely that we had to make the difficult decision to end his suffering this morning. We took him to the vet here in Martinsville, where they were very compassionate and understanding. He’s gone now.
Ralph was one of a pair of brothers that Kim adopted about eight years ago (his brother is Rufus, who is doing well). Ralph was one precocious kitten, outgoing and gregarious. As he got older, he became far more mellow and sometimes reclusive. But, like all our cats, he was loved and perhaps insanely spoiled.

Ralph didn’t really meow; he quacked. Sometimes, he’d be somewhere in the house, lying around or wandering about, quacking like a duck. I think hearing that distinctive little quack is one of the things we’ll miss most.

Outliving our pets has got to be the hardest part of pet ownership. We still have four other cats, none of whom are particularly young. So, it’s pretty much a given that we’ll go through this who knows how many more times. But it’s always worth it. The memories of little Ralph are precious to us, and, thankfully, we have a vast collection of cat pictures, Ralph being prominent among them.

Rest well, buddy.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Boxing Deathrealm

Alan Lustafka at Shortwave Publishing has designed a lovely shipping box for the paperback edition of my upcoming anthology, Deathrealm: Spirits, due in October. Also available in ebook. Cover art is by J. Edward Neill.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Coming Soon — The Canterbury Nightmares

The Canterbury Nightmares is a new anthology of short stories inspired by — you guessed it! — the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited by David Niall Wilson.

“Eleven travelers head out to visit the Grand Canyon, all motivated by their own powerful, personal reasons. All have suffered profound losses; all harbor secret but consuming agony. An old man taking a long-promised journey with his wife. A congregation that has lost its way. Individuals of different backgrounds and cultures, all dealing with grief, loss, and isolation. In The Canterbury Nightmares, you will be led not only to the soaring precipices of the Grand Canyon but also into deep, dark, unimaginable recesses.”

The book is now available for pre-order — and the advance price for the Kindle edition (here) has been dropped to $2.99.

Table of Contents:
“The Old Man’s Tale” – Steve Rasnic Tem
“The Liberation of Brother Buffalo” – Michael Boatman
“Think of the Family” – Ai Jiang
“To See Her in Sepia” – Scott J. Moses
“The Preditor's Tale” – Terence Taylor
“The Wife of Wrath’s Tale” – John B. Rosenman
“The Secret Place: A Knight’s Tale” – Stephen Mark Rainey
“The Sacred Clarion” – S.A. Cosby
“The Tour Guide's Tale” – Anna Tambour
“Every Form of Person” – J.A.W. McCarthy
“Vending Machine Girl”– Eric LaRocca

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Another Fun Visit with Penny Dreadful

Author/Editor Katherine Kerestman and I dropped in on Penny Dreadful’s Terror at Collinwood podcast the other day, and the episode has now been posted for your frightful pleasure. We talk about Dark Shadows, of course; the upcoming The Weird Cat anthology, edited by Katherine and S.T. Joshi, which features short fiction by both Katherine, me, and a ton of noteworthy authors; Deathrealm: Spirits, my new anthology, due in October; plus all kinds of other fun stuff. Mind you don't get seduced!
No... wait... go right ahead. Get seduced. Try it, you'll like it.
PS: Frazier likes Dark Shadows and makes a guest appearance.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Release Day: Dark Corners of the Old Dominion

It’s release day for Dark Corners of the Old Dominion from Death Knell Press. This one features my story, “Doom at Dragon’s Roost,” which is gonna scare the pants off of you. It will too!

What’s so scary about Virginia?
From Edgar Allan Poe’s Ragged Mountains to the shores of Tidewater’s Seven Cities… From the blood-soaked battlegrounds of the Civil War to the shadowy political arena of the D.C. Beltway.

We have four hundred years’ worth of ghost stories, folk horrors, small-town terrors, urban legends, backwoods monsters, otherworldly secrets, and down-home Southern Gothic.

Within this idyllic landscape, there are many dark corners. Within these pages, Virginia authors explore twenty-four dangerous destinations, myths and monsters from the commonwealth’s past, present, and future. Read on, if you dare.

Dark Corners of the Old Dominion is edited by Joseph Maddrey and Michael Rook, with a foreword by Brian Keene. Every author in this anthology has strong ties to Virginia and it is clear in the stories and poems they’ve created. They are steeped in the salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay, pulsing with the thrum of the beltway, and bleeding from old battlefield scars. 

Foreword by Brian Keene. Proceeds for Dark Corners of the Old Dominion go to the Scares That Care charity.

Table of Contents:
“The Bride of Dream Lake” — Catherine Kuo
“Keep It Civil” — Clay McLeod Chapman
“A Holler You Can’t Call Home” — Paul Michael Anderson
“Doom at Dragon’s Roost” — Stephen Mark Rainey
“The Woods Behind My House” — Sonora Taylor
“Room 1968” — Nicole Willson
“By a Thread” — Querus Abuttu
“Notches” — D. Alexander Ward
“New World Order” — Ella B. Rite
“Chesapeake Bait and Hook” — Sirrah Medeiros
“The Girl Who Sleeps in the Room Next to Me” — Charles E. Wood
“Cave Kisses” — William R.D. Wood
“In the Mountain Mist” — Margaret L. Carter
“The Wrong Time” — Ivy Grimes
“The Flooded Man” — Michael Rook
“The Bunnyman of Clifton” — Brýn Grover
“The Song Between the Songs” — J.T. Glover
“A Mischief in Gordonsville” — Valerie B. Williams
“Lost Soul” — María Badillo
“Odditorium” — Sidney Williams
“This is How Your Garden Grows” — Joseph Maddrey
“Beach House” — Bryan Nowak
“A House’s Tale” — Brad Center
“The Path to Freedom” — James L. Hill

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The House of Haunted Hill

Just hung several paintings by Charles Hill, respected artist and longtime friend going back to elementary school.

Top left: Widget, my mom & dad's little dog back in the 80s and 90s; Top right: the view from Charles's front yard; Bottom left: my dad walking Widget from the early 90s; Bottom right: my daughter, Allison Hiiri Rainey, about age 8, running along the banks of Lake Lanier, just down the street from here.

Charles also provided several damn scary pieces of art for Deathrealm magazine back in its day, including this one, which served as an illustration for Elizabeth Massie’s story, “No Solicitors, Curious a Quarter”:

Sunday, September 3, 2023

What’s So Scary About Virginia?

Author/Editor Red Lagoe has posted on HorrorTree some nice, brief author interviews by contributors to the upcoming Dark Corners of the Old Dominion anthology, due very soon from Death Knell Press.

An example of one old dude’s responses:

Q: A paranormal investigation team has only one night to spend in a Virginia location. Where would you send them and why?

A: St. Albans Sanitorium in Radford, I expect. It’s reputedly the most haunted site in Virginia, and though I’ve not yet visited the Sanitorium itself, I know the area well from many sojourns in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and the surrounding vicinity. The haunted vibe in this part of the state is near and dear to me, as the southwestern Virginia mountains serve as the backdrop for a significant amount of my fiction. The Sanitorium is on my bucket list of sites to visit, and I reckon I’d be obliged if investigators were to check it out in advance.

Q: Without giving away any spoilers, where does your Dark Corners story take place and what inspired the idea?

A: “Doom at Dragon’s Roost” is set in the mountains of southwest Virginia, very near the real-life location known as Dragon’s Tooth in the Catawba Valley, northwest of Salem. Over the years, I’ve created a fictional corner of the state — sort of “tucked into” the mountain region between Martinsville and Blacksburg. Many of these stories involve several families over a long period of years. Although it is a standalone story, “Doom at Dragon’s Roost” could be considered a chapter in the ongoing saga of the fictional Sylvan County. Many of my stories — including this one — involve music as a means of bridging the gaps between natural and supernatural realms.

On a perhaps less scary note (unless you happened to cross my path), I woke up to a beautiful morning, so I decided to take a walk around nearby Lake Lanier before the heat and humidity set in. There were a good many people out walking and a few boating and fishing on the lake. It’s gonna be another scorcher today, so that was probably the extent of my outdoor activities today.

Be goot.

A purty view of Lake Lanier from the Blue Heron Trail

Thursday, August 24, 2023

The Faux Frontier?

Back in July, around the anniversary of the first moon landing, I read a bunch of articles about Apollo 11 and the space program in general.

Since then — shock of shocks — my social media news feeds are almost all space stuff. Some is just clickbait, but I’ve also come across some cool and informative stuff.

Among the most ubiquitous “stuff” I see on the subject would be the thundering chorus of voices railing about how the moon landings — even the space program itself — were all a big hoax. These are inevitably pitched with the same fervor (and credibility) of the Flat Earthers. Clearly, there have been conspiracy theories of this nature since before Neil Armstrong even set foot on the lunar surface, but I confess I’ve actually been surprised by how pervasive this nonsense has become (and I’m generally pretty hard to surprise when it comes to the pervasive tentacles of the Idiocracy).

No doubt, a huge percentage of this shrillness comes from mere trolls, whose rate of reproduction on the interwebz rivals the world’s busiest rabbit hutch. Trolls in any field will latch onto almost anything to justify their otherwise meaningless existences. Still, the apparent genuine belief in such conspiracies far exceeds what I might have otherwise guessed, even in the present-day world of a la carte conspiracy theories for each day of the week.

Most telling, almost without exception, the “proof” that these adherents cite for their belief is “Go look it up for yourself! You’ll see!”

Yeah. Over my many, many years as an avid outer space nut, I’ve looked. And looked. And looked. It goes without saying that the preponderance of evidence is so heavily weighted to the landings’ veracity that even scratching its surface fills volumes (and the opposite is true; I’ve yet to find any sufficiently compelling contradictory evidence; such outlets for such “evidence” typically offer all the credibility of BuzzFeed or InfoWars). So much evidence in the “FOR” column, physical and otherwise, has been verified by non-NASA sources, particularly internationally (for God’s sake, the Soviets acknowledged it when acknowledging such a defeat was, for them, all but unthinkable) that evidence in the “AGAINST” column would have to be pretty staggering. If you can point me to it, have at it.

One of my favorite articles on this phenomenon that I came across is “How Stanley Kubrick Staged the Moon Landing” in The Paris Review. Informative and fun.

Anyhoo, since the July 20, I’ve been on a pretty good space movie kick. 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010, Apollo 13, Apollo 18, Europa Report, and others — not to mention keeping up, or trying to, with all the Star Trek and Star Wars spinoffs. I might even work in Capricorn I if I can stream it for free somewhere.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Deathrealm: Spirits Cover Reveal

As promised — the Deathrealm: Spirits cover reveal. Art by J Edward Neill.

From soft, dreadful whispers to high, chilling screams, a chorus of hellish voices emerges from the darkness to lure and draw you back to their hellish home — The Land Where Horror Dwells.

Deathrealm magazine was one of the most celebrated horror publications of the 20th Century, and now its creator brings you a new volume of fiction and verse for the 21st Century and beyond. Deathrealm: Spirits features 20 new ghostly stories (and poems) by some of the best to have ever written in the genre, including...

Linda D. Addison
Meghan Arcuri
Larry Blamire
Maurice Broaddus
Heather D. Daughrity
Timothy G. Huguenin
Brian Keene
Ronald Kelly
Joe R. Lansdale
Kasey Lansdale
Eric LaRocca
Patricia Lee Macomber
Elizabeth Massie
Bridgett Nelson
Errick Nunnally
Jeff Oliver
Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Richard Thomas
Tony Tremblay
David Niall Wilson

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Dark Corners of the Old Dominion Now Available for Pre-Order!

DARK CORNERS OF THE OLD DOMINION, coming in September from Death Knell Press, is now available for preorder!

Edited by Joe Maddrey & Michael Rook, this one features my story, "Doom at Dragon's Roost" as well as frightening tales by 22 other Virginia authors. Dangerous destinations, myths, and monsters from the Commonwealth’s past, present, and future lie in wait for you here...

Forward by Brian Keene. Proceeds go to Scares That Care!

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Movin’ On

Casa di Rodan, 1994–2023
After nearly three decades of living in the same house in Greensboro, NC, I have bid the old place adieu. Casa di Rodan (1994–2023) is now sold. It officially belongs to someone else. Brugger and I are more or less settled in my old family house in Martinsville, VA (although the place is still very much in a state of transition — and for cats, a state of confusion). We have a host of reasons for making this move, but the single most significant is the Great Sewer Line Debacle of 2023, from back in March. Because of that single, massive expense, something had to give.

After inheriting my childhood home when Mom died in 2020, I had hoped to keep both it and the Greensboro residence for as long as possible. However, after spending so much money on that accursed sewer line, holding onto both was no longer financially feasible. It wasn’t all that difficult for Brugger and me to determine that keeping the Martinsville house (which Mom called “Pleasant Hill” but that I officially dubbed “Ground Zero”) made the most sense.

And so it is.

I love the prospect of occupying my old childhood home full-time, though I can’t say I don’t have mixed emotions about the whole business. I moved with my ex-wife into the Greensboro house back in 1994, and we lived there together until our separation and subsequent divorce well over a decade ago. For the next ten years, the cats and I lived in the house as a happy family unit. In 2021, Brugger and I married, and we all became a happier family unit. We immediately set to refurbishing the whole house, which proved to be a long, extensive, and not inexpensive job. Despite the house being relatively small and somewhat cramped, we figured we were set there for a long, long time.


Especially during the solo years (well, solo with cats) and the days with Brugger there, I lived some mighty happy times. Hell, even my ex-wife, Peg, and I shared some enjoyable moments in the old place. My tenure there is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place, so I guess I can’t help having developed some attachment to the dwelling. Still, as the negative aspects of staying there have piled up, Ms. B. and I look forward to moving on to this next stage of life, however long it lasts. I’m not that young, and, well, even at the best of times, you never know how things are gonna shake out.

So, there it is. Huzzah. Brugger and I still have many friends in, and solid ties to, NC’s Triad, so it’s not like we’re going to be strangers to the area. Just to the former Casa di Rodan, I reckon.

It’s out with the old and in with the new (or older with a facelift, as it were). Onward and upward, and all that. Or wherever life sees fit to lead us.

Ground Zero

Friday, August 11, 2023

Coming Soon — The Weird Cat!

The Weird Cat is a new anthology edited by Katherine Kerestman and S.T. Joshi, which features — among a stellar list of both classic and contemporary authors of dark fiction — my short story, “Nimbus.” I do not exaggerate when I tell you that this is one of my most unsettling and emotionally engaging works of fiction. The book, due in October from WordCrafts Press, is now available for pre-order from Barnes & Noble and

“...Cats dwell in a larger world than our own — the gulfs and abysses of which we can obtain but a shadowy glimpse. In The Weird Cat, you delve into that larger realm through more than three dozen short stories, poems, and essays by masters of the craft including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary A. Turzillo, Christina Sng, Darrell Schweitzer, and others.”

Complete list of authors in The Weird Cat:
 Ambrose Bierce  Algernon Blackwood  William Blake  Adam Bolivar  Ramsey Campbell  Lewis Carroll  Frank Coffman  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  Lord Dunsany  Jason C. Eckhardt  Alan Dean Foster  Brandon R. Grafius  Lafcadio Hearn  Katherine Kerestman  Caitlin R. Kiernan  Rudyard Kipling  Tony LaMalfa  Lori R. Lopez  H.P. Lovecraft  E. Nesbit  Elliott O'Donnell • Manuel Perez-Campos  Michael Potts  Stephen Mark Rainey  Rainer Maria Rilke  Sax Rohmer  Hank Schwaeble  Darrell Schweitzer  Robert W. Service  M.P. Shiel  Christina Sng  Anna Taborska  Mary Turzillo  M.F. Webb  W.B. Yeats Cover art by Mike Parks

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Midland or (Damn Near) Bust!

Our typical view forward (from a standstill) for a disgusting percentage of our 750-mile drive to Michigan
Thursday, August 3–Friday, August 4
Kimberly B.’s cousins in Michigan had planned a family reunion for this weekend, and so we decided some time ago that we would attend. With flights being crazy expensive, we opted to drive, as we have several times in the past. What we hadn’t done was drive to Michigan at the height of highway construction season. Our plan was similar to our previous road trips here: leave home and head to Ripley, WV; stay the night at the handy-dandy Super 8 Motel there; and then drive the rest of the way the following day. Ordinarily, this makes for a 12- to 14-hour trip, including occasional stops. Thanks to countless construction holdups, the inevitable accidents, and miles-long traffic jams courtesy of too many motherfucking people, we ended up with a damn near 18-hour drive.

Bloody exhausting. At least I managed to find a handful of decent geocaches along the way, and we listened to an audiobook (Casino Royale) and some fun 70s and 80s music to mitigate the frustration. It rained most of the way on Thursday, but at least it wasn’t blinding. Friday’s drive felt like the endless traffic jam from hell since we easily spent as much time crawling (or motionless) as we did moving at a clip. After a particularly egregious delay just north of Ann Arbor, Brugger suggested we stop at a nearby Mexican Restaurant and have an early dinner (along with a margarita for good measure). That was just enough to help us mellow out, and, finally, we made that last couple of hours to her folks’ place in Midland without undue delay.

Saturday, August 5
The family reunion was to kick off at noon, so at 11:30 a.m., Kimberly, Del, Fern, and I set out for the backcountry around Loomis, MI, about a half hour from Midland. I’d met only a couple of her cousins before, so for me, this was mostly a gathering of strangers, but the decent food and company made for a relaxing enough event.

This date is my dear, late friend “Old Rob” Isenhour’s birthday, so a while back, friend Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker) and I organized a geocaching event to be held today to commemorate his life and myriad contributions to our geocaching community. At the time, I didn’t recall our commitment to Ms. B’s family reunion. So, since I couldn’t attend Rob’s birthday event in person, Scott arranged for me to pipe in with a video call at 2:00 p.m. As the reunion drew to a close, I hoofed it down the long dirt road to a find nearby geocache, and at ground zero, I attempted to make the call. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t go through. Fortunately, once we got back to Casa di Brugger, the call worked, so Ms. B. and I were able to virtually attend the event for a time. It turned out to be the biggest gathering of local geocachers in years, featuring many old-timers who haven’t been active in years. That warmed my old heart since Rob had been such a noteworthy figure, both in my life and in our community.

Old Rodan on the hunt
A right purty view from GZ

For the evening, Ms. B.’s longtime friend, Linda, formerly of Midland, and her daughter, Hayley, who were visiting from Illinois, joined us for drinks and dinner at Whichcraft, a nice downtown establishment featuring Michigan-made spirits of all varieties. As it turned out, this was also the weekend for Midland’s annual River Days celebration, which drew a sizable crowd downtown. Happily, we managed to find easy parking, relatively mellow surroundings, and more refreshments at nearby Grape Beginnings, a fine local winery/wine bar that Brugger and I make a point to visit whenever we’re here. Linda and Hayley proved excellent company, and we ended up closing down the wine bar. Toward the end of the evening, we bore witness to what I would call the most spectacular fireworks display I’ve ever experienced. For a full half-hour, the myriad explosions lit the sky without even a few seconds pause. Apparently, River Days provides quite the blast here in Midland.

Sunday, August 6
I haven’t been a churchgoing soul for many years, but Del & Fern invited Kimberly and me to join them for the morning service at Midland Nazarene, and so... off to church we went. Theirs is what I would call a “modern” kind of service, with a band, contemporary music, and prerecorded video messages (which I found ironic since these focused on building personal connections) in addition to traditional churchy things. In the end, to quote the infamous Dr. Franklin Ruehl, it was better than being slapped in the belly with a wet trout. How about that?

The weather was drizzly and dreary all day, but Kimberly and I ventured out to grab lunch for the family from KFC, followed by a second outing to a downtown knick-knack shop she likes and then Live Oak Coffeehouse for some hot (or in her case, cold) refreshment. I stopped to hunt a nearby cache, but by all indications, the bloody thing was missing. It rained real water on me.

As is our custom when we don’t have other plans, Ms. B. and I spent the evening relaxing with the folks, mostly watching various TV shows in the family room. This was also better than the wet trout treatment.

Monday, August 7
This evening’s plan was for me to make dinner — meatloaf, at Del & Fern’s request — which meant I needed to go shopping at Meijer. However, I couldn’t bring myself to go shopping at Meijer without first going geocaching. So, I set out on this somewhat dreary morning (which, happily, turned undreary within an hour or so) to hunt some of the local hides I hadn’t yet found. I had mixed success. A couple of very tough ones eluded me (both of which I’ve hunted before; they eluded me then, too); several others I found without difficulty. All this amounted to about three miles of hoofing it on a comfortable morning, so I’m a happy cacher. Then I went to Meijer and picked up the dinner stuff (and some sushi for lunch, which was pretty awful; I should have known better than to buy Meijer sushi).

During the afternoon, I received the preliminary print file for Deathrealm: Spirits from Shortwave Publishing, so I spent a good while proofing it. I got pretty far with it, but soon it came time to prepare the evening dinner. It turned out danged good. Then... oy...! Migraine! Sure enough, it’s that time of year, when the weather begins to shift toward the next season. Today’s drop in temperature and low pressure no doubt triggered the damned thing. So, the evening turned out less comfortable than I’d hoped, but at least the headache wasn’t as severe as many that I’ve had in the past.

Much to our dismay, word from our housesitter is that Kim’s kitty, Ralph, who suffered congestive heart failure some time ago, isn’t doing very well. With the meds he’s been taking, he’s enjoyed almost normal health, but at this point, he may just be running out of time. Very, very sad. In any event, we’ll probably be leaving Michigan a day earlier than we had intended.

Tuesday, August 8

Our housesitter gave us a somewhat reassuring report this morning, but I think we’re still going to head home a day early. There’s nothing we can really do from here anyway, so we’ll have to enjoy our remaining time as best we can. Thus, after breakfast, I set my sights on the nearby community of Sanford, where a goodly number of caches awaited my attention. One of them was at a neat little covered bridge at the Sanford Centennial Museum, a cache I had hunted before — as my attempted 14,000th find — but it turned out to be missing at the time. It has since been replaced, so this morning, I was finally able to stake my claim. I also went after a trio of Adventure Lab caches, two of which were at the museum; I hiked and hunted along the Pere Marquette Rail Trail for a couple of miles; and I found caches at a couple of neat old graveyards. Once done, I put in three miles of hiking and logged a total of 26 caches. Not too shabby.

Once back at Casa di Brugger, I did a little updating on this blog and continued proofing the Deathrealm: Spirits dummy. For dinner, Ms. B. and I headed to d’Alessandro’s Italian Restaurant, which we’ve enjoyed several times on past visits. And again, very pleasant tonight. Manicotti with Bolognese sauce for Ms. B. and Angel Hair with Bolognese per me. We accompanied this with a delicious Bocelli Sangiovese. Until this, I never realized the great Andrea Bocelli came from a winemaking family. I approve of both his voice and his spirits.

From this morning — a few of the sights around Sanford:
Wednesday, August 9
I set out bright and early this morning on yet another geocaching quest, this time bound for Freeland, a little community a few miles southeast of Midland. I had picked up a handful of Freeland caches in years past, but today I managed to put a pretty good dent in the total. A couple of graveyard caches had caught my eye — both of which I had previously visited on hunts for older caches. Sadly, I had not been successful on those hunts because the caches were missing, and, even more sadly, I had no better luck today — and I’m pretty sure it’s because these newer hides, too, have gone missing. Still, I had a mighty fine time, and I added another 14 to my total find count, which now stands at 14,420.

Kimberly and her parents went antiquing, and it turned out they, too, ended up in Freeland after a run to Saginaw. I had already arrived back home before they hit Freeland, though, so our paths would not have crossed. I could have accompanied them and done some caching in Saginaw as well as Freeland, but I figured I’d still end up in some antique stores, and I didn’t really have that kind of spirit in me today.

For dinner, we opted for Japanese, at Fuji Sushi, which we’ve enjoyed on previous occasions. Now, I understand it’s all economics, but I sure miss the days of sushi restaurants serving a wide variety of fish and seafood on their sushi plates. Like most nowadays, Fuji gives you two pieces of a select few varieties, instead of a single piece of numerous varieties. I prefer the latter. That said, the selections were delicious, and I found the salmon skin handroll quite heavenly.

For our final evening of this Midland trip, we enjoyed the usual family gathering in the family room with game shows and cooking shows providing the entertainment.

This trip has not been without some unusual stressors. Our kitty Ralph isn’t doing well. We had a bit of a scare that we might have expensive appliance issues back home, but I think the issue has been resolved, hopefully for the long haul. We’re very close to getting our Greensboro house sold, but some of the scheduling on the last legs of the journey has proven problematic. I’m sure it’ll get sorted out. But sometimes, I tend to be the nervous sort. And Ms. B. has been more than typically stressed out.

From this morning — a few of the sights around Freeland:
On the hunt in Pine Grove Cemetery
Pick a hole. Any hole.
A little covered footbridge at Memorial Park
A lovely day at West Side Cemetery
Thursday, August 10
I realized yesterday that I had left my hiking stick near a cache the other day, and so, figuring it would probably still be there, I went out there this morning — and yes, there it was. So it was nice to recover that stick. Old Rob gave me that stick many years ago, and so it carries with it a little more meaning than just any old hiking pole. Anyhoo, since I was out, I headed after a handful of nearby caches, including one in the deep, dark underground, which is one of my favorite types of hides.

So, soon, it will be time to pack, and off we shall go. I just hope our drive home is less of a pain in the ass than the drive up here.
Heading in...
The cache