Saturday, March 31, 2018

Swarming Through Moncure

Team 3Acrobats — Old Man Rodan, BigG7777, and Suntigres
Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget), BigG7777 (a.k.a. Gerry), and Old Man Rodan made a fine day of geocaching in and around the towns of Pittsboro and Moncure, mostly targeting a bunch of little rubber bees from a series called "The Swarm," which comprises hundreds of caches over several counties in central and eastern NC. We started at UP! (GC20985), a wonderful cache up a grain silo just this side of Pittsboro. Suntigres and I had already found it several years ago, but since Mr. G. still needed it, we stopped at the location so he could perform the requisite daredevil acts. He did so readily, and since all of us could now claim UP! as a find, we settled on 3Acrobats as our team moniker for the day.
BigG goes UP!

Among the day's highlights was a multi-cache that took us to a little graveyard outside Moncure and a micro inside a crumbling old building that damn near forced us to live up to our team name (again), as we struggled to avoid falling through holes in floors, descended and then ascended partially collapsed stairs, and clambered and crawled through a dark cellar littered with lord knows what kind of pointy detritus; and a cache underneath an ancient concrete bridge over US Hwy 1. The cache container there, sadly, appears to have gone missing, though we did enjoy exploring the bridge's dark underbelly. Instead of a cache, we did find a partially eaten can of ravioli, which we offered to Suntigres to assuage her munchies, though she inexplicably declined our good-hearted gesture.

At the end of the day, I had added 27 caches to my total, which now stands at 9,903. I suppose it's time to start thinking about a specific, challenging cache to go after for find #10,000. I'm thinking something that requires a kayak and isn't far away from a decent winery.

 Cache on.
Inside and out
"He fell through a hole in the floor!"
Suntigres at the bridge

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday, Good Caching, Good Mollusks

One of my favorite locations at Salem Lake
Good Friday is a good day to be off work, and it's even better when there is good geocaching in the bargain. The weather report called for 80 percent chance of rain today, but since that actually meant warm and sunny with no precipitation whatsoever, I trucked my ass over to Salem Lake, just this side of Winston-Salem, for some hiking and caching. There were three caches out on the trail, all of which I found, involving roughly 3.5 miles of moderate to strenuous hiking. Afterward, I had a powerful thirst and was getting hungry; plus, in downtown Winston Salem, there was a virtual cache awaiting my attention, so I set my sights on old tobacco town. Once done, I decided to wander, and in my wanderings, I discovered King's Crab Shack & Oyster Bar on Fourth Street. What wonders these wanderings wrought, for... holy crap... the oysters on the half shell were powerful good! And the martini wasn't much watered down, if at all. Go, King's!

Tomorrow, I foresee more geocaching, this time eastward. Go east, young man, go east!
Basking turtle
View of Salem Lake from the trail, with downtown Winston-Salem in the distance
I discovered Krankies! I love me some Krankies coffee, oftentimes gifted to me by my brother at holidays,
but I could not have quaffed any more coffee today without the excessive pee resulting.
Oysters on the half shell and a fine martini at King's Crab Shack & Oyster Bar on
Fourth Street in Winston-Salem

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Exorcising the Kidlet

Ms. B. and Kidlet looking mysterious. Or something.
The circumstances weren't exactly welcome, but my daughter's visit was. Due to a serious situation here in Greensboro (the details of which I'll skip for discretion's sake), Allison came down from New York City and spent a few days at Casa de Rodan with the old man and, for a portion of that time, with Ms. Brugger. She also got to spend some much-needed quality time with her mom. While there was some distress about the situation at hand, we did manage to enjoy ourselves immensely, with movies, popcorn, fine wine, and first-rate vittles.

She arrived early afternoon on Saturday, and the first order of business was dealing with the business that brought her here. Not a fun part of the day, to be sure, but with evening came some nice mellow time, including dinner at Sushi Republic and a showing of The Exorcist, which is apparently one of her favorite filums (mine too). We accompanied the movie with popcorn and a fine Bordeaux, and afterward, a pleasant bit of reminiscing about certain childhoods spent in certain houses.

Come Sunday, we decided to continue with more things Pazuzu and watched Exorcist II: The Heretic, whose outright weirdness has always appealed to me, far more than to the world at large, which clearly does not so much approve. Certainly, it's many steps down from its predecessor, but if nothing else, its stylish cinematography and wonderful score by Ennio Morricone make it a rather creepy treat. After a necessary interlude with more personal business, we settled in front of the TV screen once again, this time for Exorcist III, the second best entry in the series, and another of my favorite horror movies (though with some caveats). For dinner, we hied our asses over to Ms. Brugger's for pizza (store-bought but doctored-up bigly) and a bit more of the fine wine.

On Monday, Allison stayed with her mom, but on Tuesday, she was back here, and what should we do but watch Exorcist: The Beginning, which I can't utterly poo-poo, though it is inferior even to Exorcist II. It's marginally better than Exorcist: Dominion, from which it was actually derived, but we did not sit through the latter, as time was too short, and I really had no interest in looking at it again anyway.

So Wednesday morning, while I was at work, I got a message from the kidlet, which went more or less as follows:

Kidlet: "So I walked to/from Jay's gas station to get allergy meds. I forgot allergy meds. Can you stop and get Claritin on the way home?"

Dad: "How you walk for allergy meds and not get allergy meds?!"

Kidlet: "I got snacks."

Dad: "Yes, I will stop for allergy meds but when I get home, I may only have snacks."

Kidlet: "Daaaad!"
"I am the god of hellfire!" Or something.

Wednesday evening saw both Brugger and Allison at my house, where Ms. B. prepared a fabulous dish of lamb and couscous, topped with cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and tzatziki. Rather than plop ourselves in front of the television screen, we went out into the suddenly all-too-warm evening air and made ourselves even warmer by way of the fire pit. Fortunately, the temperature cooled down enough so we didn't sweat our asses off, but good lord... until yesterday morning, I've been wearing my heavy coat, and as of today, I'm running the fucking air conditioning. I so miss having real seasons, like we used to.

With our local issues under control, at least for the time being, this morning, I dropped Allison off at PTI, and she winged her way back to NYC — hopefully not for the next two years without a visit, as her last trip here was almost exactly two years ago, in Spring 2016. I really hope she didn't forget her allergy meds, though, because I'm not much inclined to run up to the city to drop them off.

A misty nighttime view from Casa de Rodan
Women wearing weird oxygen masks

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How Do You Do?

It was just about a year ago that I took pleasure in torturing you fine folks with videos of a couple of songs (Soul Coaxing, Softly Whispering I Love You) that had some strangely profound connection to my youth, and I never got around to following those up, as I had threatened. Well, why not? Little could be more a garish reminder of the early 1970s than this video of How Do You? by Mouth & MacNeal, which, in 1972, was a song that simultaneously repelled and attracted me—not unlike a gory car crash. I have vivid recollections of hearing it endlessly that summer, particularly on a family trip to Callaway Gardens, GA, a place I adored in my childhood (and would love to visit again if I didn't have to take out a second mortgage to stay there for a few days). I don't know for sure whether I saw this video on television back then, but I did see it somewhere, sometime, before coming across it again on YouTube several years ago.

Oh, my lord, this thing is a mess, a jaw-dropper, a train wreck, a horror show. Long before I saw the video, the song sent my thirteen-year-old self into weird fits of spasmodic bouncing, over which I had no control and that made me feel ashamed to be human. I wonder... will you experience this song and start bouncing? Oh, my goodness, wouldn't that be fun?

Just remember, someone may be watching you....

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Above and Below

As is often the case with photographs, the image above fails to convey the sense of scale of the setting. When I came upon it, I would not have been surprised to see King Kong at one end, a Styracosaurus at the other, and a bunch of ill-fated sailors trapped on the log between them. That is, if King Kong, Styracosaurus, and a bunch of sailors happened to be hanging around near the Smith River Greenway in Eden, NC.
The view from above

At first, my GPS led me past the log, but the pointer eventually swung around and pointed me back toward it. Then my ground zero coordinates appeared to across the stream. Well, so be it. The first thing I did was make sure I could get solid footing on the thing, which proved to be no problem because that fallen tree is big. Big, I tell you. Then, when I got to about the center of the log, coordinates zeroed out. So, I knew I was close. But as you may be able to deduce from the picture, there are only about a half million places along that log where one could conceal a very small geocache.

I'll not spoil the hide for others by spelling out where I found the container, but I'll suffice it to say that I went high, I went low, I went everywhere in between, and—most fortuitously—I managed to spy the cache quickly. I made getting to it considerably more treacherous than was actually necessary, but that was half the fun of this particular hide. If you're a geocacher in the area, I'm sure you'll figure out its identity and location soon enough....
The view from below
All this physically challenging stuff aside, it's rather an overwhelming time right now, for reasons that are better not divulged as yet. My daughter is in town for not altogether happy reasons, so any positive energy you can manage to send our way, it's most appreciated. Mini tanks, and all that.
The fungus amungus

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top Secret: Project Blue Rose

“Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness called the White Lodge. Fawns gamboled there amidst happy, laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and laughter filled the air. Generally speaking, a ghastly place. But, I am pleased to note, there is another place—its opposite—of almost unimaginable power, full of dark forces and vicious secrets. This place I speak of is known as the Black Lodge. And I intend to find it.”—Former FBI Special Agent Windom Earle

Among the many joys of geocaching is combining that activity with my love of the weird, the esoteric, the outre. A fair number of the caches that I've placed — about 150 currently active — have themes ranging from daikaiju to horror movies, such as Curse (Night) of the Demon, The Blair Witch, and Sinister; from the fiction of Karl Edward Wagner to my own horror tales; from Bigfoot to Twin Peaks. I already had a couple of Twin Peaks–themed caches in the wild — "Fire Walk With Me" (GC35QJY) and "Let's Rock" (GC5W99P) — but I am glad to announce that a bunch of new ones are about to be released in the Greensboro area.

I've spent considerable the past couple of weeks acquiring supplies, customizing and stocking containers, scouting locations, and placing the hides. And at last, everything is in place. The cache listings have been completed and submitted to They should go live in the next few days.
Jack Rabbit's Palace?

There are seven caches in the series, titled "Project Blue Rose." The first six caches contain clues to lead the intrepid hunter to the seventh, which is titled "The Black Lodge" and is hidden in a fashion well-suited to its name. There's no need to keep it a secret that the majority of the caches are hidden in Northeast Park in northeastern Guilford County. The final, however, resides quite some distance away, in a place that some geocachers — and most of the general public — probably wish to avoid. I'll reveal no further details here, but I'll be looking forward to seeing how well the series is received.

Yesterday, I was off work, so I spent the entire day hiking through woods, clambering in and out of creeks and chasms, hiding caches in places that seemed apt for the subject matter. I did find what might have been the perfect setting for a Twin Peaks–themed cache, but for the fact it is right next to a popular overlook, and I fear that any cache placed there would soon disappear. If you know about "Jack Rabbit's Palace" from Twin Peaks: The Return, the site would certainly stand out to you. Alas, I ended up bypassing it and found another location that seemed apt for a cache related to The White Lodge.

I've set these caches to be available to premium members only, so unless you're a paid member of, you won't be able to view the listings (when they're available), but if you are, I hope you'll find these to be a treat. Here's the list of 'em:
  • PROJECT BLUE ROSE #1: The Fireman (GC7KT41)
  • PROJECT BLUE ROSE #2: Mike, the One-Armed Man (GC7KT5A)
  • PROJECT BLUE ROSE #3: The Arm, a.k.a. The Little Man from Another Place (GC7KT62)
  • PROJECT BLUE ROSE #4: The Killer BOB (GC7KT6Q)
  • PROJECT BLUE ROSE #5: The Woodsman (GC7KT7B)
  • PROJECT BLUE ROSE #6: Judy (GC7KT89)
  • PROJECT BLUE ROSE #7: The Black Lodge (GC7KN86)
If you're a local geocacher (I know a number of you follow this blog), I expect you to be out yonder as soon as these are published. I can't help but wonder, though... who among you will — or will not — pass through the Black Lodge and achieve "perfect" courage....

“The legend of the Black Lodge says that every spirit must pass through it on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your shadow self. My people call it ‘The Dweller on the Threshold.’ But it is said that if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”—Deputy Tommy “Hawk” Hill, Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department

A few of the sights along the way...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

R.I.P. Colie Johnson

From the day I started school... jezus, back in the early 1960s... I was fortunate to have had one excellent teacher after another, many of them being exemplary, inspiring, and memorable individuals. Mr. Colie Johnson was my art teacher in 8th and 9th grades at Martinsville Junior High. A gentleman who was passionate about teaching and who steered me in the right direction when it most counted, back when I was struggling to find an outlet for my budding creative aspirations.

I was an artistic youth, to be sure, and reasonably accomplished for my years — though my opinion of my talents far exceeded my actual abilities. Mr. Johnson recognized whatever talent I had and appreciated it; yet, whatever level I reached with my art, he refused to allow me to be content there. Inevitably, however proud of a composition I might be, he would study it, smile, point out everything that was right about it... and then he would become thoughtful and ask me if anything about the work was missing, if there were any other approaches I might consider. His expression I most remember was "yet and still..." "You've captured this texture just right, yet and still, I wonder if there's anything else you might find, something more you might see." This frustrated me because, no matter how highly he praised my efforts, he also... always... found things I could or should do better. He never specifically identified these things. He left that up to me.

Thank the lord.

Mr. Johnson drew the ire of many of us kids because he pushed us to look beyond whatever level of achievement we might reach in his class. He did this with warmth and humor, which sometimes made it worse because in my brash youth I would rather have told him to kindly piss off. But I couldn't do that. I liked him. I so wanted to be mad at him for foiling me, yet also I wanted to please him. It frustrated me no end that I might so consistently fail, at least in his eyes, even though everyone else around me was telling me I had achieved some level of genius. I could have listened to those voices, I suppose, and been content to rest on my laurels. But no. My appreciation for... any my loyalty to... Mr. Johnson would not allow for that.

I can't say with any degree of certainty that I've ever lived up to the potential Mr. Johnson expected of me, or at least hoped for me. In fact, I'm certain I have not because, over many years of expressing myself through various media, I have determined that, no matter how good I might get, I can always get better. There is great beauty in this, and I'm sure, at some point, I would have come to realize it even if I had never been in Mr. Johnson's classes. But it would not have been with such appreciation, personal guidance, and genuine care.

Mr. Johnson died the other day, at the age of 75. I had seen him a handful of times since junior high school, and somehow, I had it in my head that he'd be around for a long, long time, and that I would at some point be able to see him and talk with him again.

But no. No.

Quite a few of the most influential educators in my life have passed on now, and I've grieved for many of them, but at the moment I am grieving hardest over Mr. Johnson. It's a rare teacher who could touch me on the level he did. I did a little crying today.

If you have a teacher, or teachers, who have touched you, let them know. For god's sake let them know because, before we can blink, they may be gone. Years ago I told Mr. Johnson that he had moved me, and I so hope it registered. I wish I could have the opportunity to tell him again. Just for good measure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Whose Living Room Is It, Anyway?

I posted this on Facebook, but it's relevant in the bigger picture, so here 'tis:

An actress of my acquaintance, for whom I have considerable respect, often posts links to articles that decry racism, spotlight achievements of women, focus on social injustice, and cover other topics of relevance. A few days ago, a blustery male broke into her thread warning her "not to get political," since doing so was an all-around bad idea—for her.


Of course I see boorish, arrogant, rude, outright stupid posts day after day, and I have become desensitized to most of it. On the other hand, I not only appreciate but expect a show of decent manners if someone posts on my Facebook page. (No, I'm not referring to vulgar fucking language, that's just gonna happen around here.)

In the case I'm referring to, it wasn't even the content of the link that set the chap off. Content can be discussed, debated, debunked, dissected, and/or dismissed. No, this was about the audacity of the lady exercising her freedom to post what she sees fit. In my book, no one has the right to come onto another person's page and tell them they need to shut up (barring terms of service violations, and such) for their own good. If someone comes onto your page to tell you you're doing it wrong, then they are doing it wrong. I posted exactly this on the thread in question, not that Ms. Actress needed me or anyone else to shut Mr. Mansplainer down.

Happily, this doesn't often happen on my page. For one thing, when it does, the offender doesn't get to revisit. If you're on social media, you have your own forum to post whatever you see fit. If you think Ms. Actress ought not be posting what she sees fit on her own page, you need to run back to yours and spew your vacuous noise there.

What she or I or anyone else chooses to post is none of your goddamn business.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Heavens, What a Noise!

Do you enjoy audio books? Ms. Brugger loves to listen to them, particularly while driving to and from the office, because having a book to focus on lowers her blood pressure. That's a fine enough reason, but also, for us older folks whose eyes don't hold up to long spells of reading like they used to, the audio book is a great way to fill that gap.

Several of my novels from Crossroad Press are available as audio books from (plus a couple of the Big Finish Dark Shadows audio dramas I wrote, and Intermusings, a collection of stories by various authors co-written with author David Niall Wilson). These books will scare the pants off you, hands-free, and wouldn't that be thrilling? Check them out:

Balak: A Cthulhu Mythos Tale (my first novel), narrated by Erik Synnesvedt
The Lebo Coven, narrated by Chris Andrew Ciulla
The Nightmare Frontier, narrated by Basil Sands
The Monarchs, narrated by Chet Williamson

If you opt for a 30-day trial subscription, your first audio book is free, and you get one free audio book per month with your $14.95/month subscription.

Visit my page here.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Another Day in Tarheel Territory

For Ms. B. and me, Chapel Hill has always been a favorite destination for day trips, what with its appealing assortment of geocaches, trails, wine bars, restaurants, and... Trader Joe's. Oh yeah, we love us some Trader Joe's. For years, we had been making the pilgrimage every two or three months, but lately, our trips have been much fewer and farther between. Given this, Kimberly and I both were suffering the withdrawal, so yesterday, we headed east to spend the day there—by way of Saxapahaw and the Saxapahaw General Store, which is one of our favorite lunch destinations anywhere. For Ms. B., a big old turkey club, and for me, a perfectly cooked burger topped with slivers of duck, which was so good I about went quackers. Fortuitously, there was also a cache to be found nearby ("Superhero Cache" GC6ZP7C).
I say, is that some subterranean Lovecraftian horror
thrusting itself up from the depths of the earth?

The day was a bit blustery but otherwise beautiful, and it proved perfect for hiking and geocaching, which even Ms. B. managed to enjoy. Our favorite cache was one placed at the site of the John Castleberry Mill, in the Carolina North Forest along Bolin Creek. Very little remains of the mill but the crumbling foundation, though just a few years back, more of the stone walls were still standing. The story goes that the mill belonged to John “Buck” Taylor, a noted slave owner and drunk who lived just west of Chapel Hill in the latter 18th century. (Click here for more information about the mill and its history.) At this cache, we ran into another cacher, Mr. Wandering Wolverine, whose moniker I've seen all over the place, but whom I'd never met face to face. I do enjoy running into others of this peculiar avocation out on the trail.

One of our longstanding Chapel Hill traditions has been to visit A Southern Season and its restaurant, The Weathervane, for drinks and occasionally some food. Now, in 2016, A Southern Season declared bankruptcy and was purchase by new owners (Calvert Retail); while the store still offers a sizable, eclectic inventory of home goods, food, and drink, its selection and quality don't quite live up to their former standards. The hot sauce aisle, which used to be among the most impressive I've seen, rates about half its former glory. At the restaurant, the wine list has been significantly pared down from days past, and the quality of the wines we tried (a Bordeaux blend for me and a Grenache-Syrah blend for Ms. B.) were nothing to brag about. I'm sure we'll revisit The Weathervane on future visits, but somehow I doubt that it'll turn out be quite the experience we used to look forward to.
Ms. B. and a weird little bastard, whom we encountered
along the Chapel Hill Public Library's nature trail

Still, in all, we had a massively nice day of it. After A Southern Season and some shopping at Trader Joe's, we hit the nature trail behind the Chapel Hill Public Library on Estes St. for a bit more caching (and a run-in with a strange little metal dude). From there, we hunted down and killed a delicious dinner at Thai Palace, whose doorstep we have darkened with some frequency in the past (and no doubt will again). Then, on our way back to Greensboro, we made a final stop in Burlington to sample some far superior wine at Cork & Cow wine bar.

Upon arriving back at Kimberly's place, we put on some Game of Thrones, but by then, the old man was starting to show some wear and tear from the day's adventures, and we only made it through one episode. Today, I enjoyed some seriously good geocaching around Browns Summit and then at the Bigfoot Trail, where i once again encountered alpacas, and this time a nice little pig who, upon my arrival, came running to see if I had any goodies to offer. Alas, none for piggie, but I did manage to find a rather difficult new cache as well as suffer some time with Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom), who appeared on the scene to hunt the cache as well. I plan to hit the trail with him and some friends tomorrow evening as they go to hunt my night cache, "The Witch's Woods" GC70RY0.

Who knows who, if anyone, will survive....
Old Rodan at the site of the John Castleberry Mill, along Bolin Creek
Ms. Brugger could use a little more foundation.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

National Peanut Butter Day CITO

Ranger Fox, Night Ranger, and 3EaglesHigh swap geocaching yarns at The Mellow Mushroom
I had no idea National Peanut Butter Day existed, but then I have no clue about most of these novelty calendar days. The only thing that actually distinguished National Peanut Butter Day around here was that geocaching buddy Night Ranger (a.k.a. Rich) sponsored a "National Peanut Butter Cache-in Trash-out (CITO)" event this evening in downtown Greensboro. It was misty and dreary, but that didn't stop eight of us from spending an hour or so cleaning up trash around a city block. We did have a pretty cool encounter with a dude: while we were scouring a small parking lot, the owner came out to see just what we were up to. When he learned we were a bunch of geocachers voluntarily picking up trash in the area, he about fell over with gratitude. It was nice to be appreciated.

Afterward, we appreciated some good drinks, pizza, and camaraderie at Mellow Mushroom on S. Elm Street. I don't think anyone put peanut butter on their pizza, and I'm kinda glad because that would have sucked.
Punkins19 (a.k.a Linda) and Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom) all trashed out.
Night-Hawk (a.k.a. Tom) letting Punkins19 have it: "All I wanted was a hint. Was that too much to ask?
I actually had to find that cache all by myself!" Punkins19 appears unimpressed.