Saturday, December 28, 2019

Another Day on the Caching Trail: The Uwharries

Today's incarnation of Team No Dead Weight: Old Feller, Fishdownthestair, Skyhawk63, Pharaoh
The Uwharries — a relatively low, exceptionally ancient mountain range, some thirty miles due south of Greensboro — conceal a considerable number of geocaches (a hundred sixty-something, I'm led to believe), maybe half of which I've found on numerous visits over the past dozen years. Back in November, the redoubtable local geocacher Ranger Fox (a.k.a. Christopher) placed a bunch of new caches down yonder, and I will confess to you that this is the kind of behavior that makes ravenous geocachers like me go foaming at the mouth. A week or so ago, friend Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom) suggested that today might be a fine day for a select team of us to seek a few of those suckers. And what a day it turned out to be. For December, it proved a morbidly warm day — damn near 70 degrees and somewhat humid. We had dressed with extra layers for the early morning's chilly temperatures, but by 10:00 a.m., for better or for worse, those layers were shedding themselves in ragged droves.

Depending on which of our pedometers one should believe, we put in something between 7.5 and 9 miles in terrain that might be considered a little more extreme than gently rolling hills. Of the seven caches we visited, getting to a couple of them damn near reduced us to quivering, sweat-soaked, perfectly useless mounds of human flesh and blood. However, as the oldest member of our intrepid group, I felt it incumbent upon me to set a positive example on the trail. Thus, I wailed, moaned, groaned, and griped better than almost anyone ever. You just ask. It's true.

Our mostest favorite of these caches lurked in an ancient graveyard out in the midst of the wilderness. Cooper Cemetery dates back to the 18th century, and is the resting place of one Sterling Cooper, who fought in the Revolutionary War.

For all our wandering and searching, the one thing we did not find today was the Uwharrie Bigfoot. Yes, reputedly, one or more specimens of the Bigfoot clan reside in the Birkhead Wilderness, right smack in the heart of the Uwharries. A couple of years ago, I discovered the movie Stomping Ground, about a search for Bigfoot in the Uwharries. It wasn't particularly good (nor was it awful), but it was fun, and seeing so many familiar locations in a wacky Bigfoot filum made me smile. Now, today, I did stumble in a rather massive indentation in the ground that might have been a Bigfoot track, but the considerable weathering made conclusive identification impossible. Because I'm  never one to leap to unjustifiable conclusions, I'm just gonna say it was a big old Bigfootprint and leave it at that. So there.

At the end of the day, we had seven caches under our belts. The company and exercise couldn't have been better — well, it might have if Bigfoot had come along — and the late lunch that Ms. FDTS and I had at The Flying Pig in Asheboro sure hit the spot. When I got home, to soothe the aftermath of my exertions, I took an honest-to-god hot bath, something I've not done probably since I had more hair up north. At least now I am clean, relaxed, and have availed myself to a Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini (okay, so maybe there were two of them). Tomorrow's lineup includes Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I must tell you, I'm a little concerned about my Star Wars geek status, for there was a time I camped out in front of theaters for Star Wars tickets, and some people tell me I actually went to see the original Star Wars in 1977 no less than 23 times at the theater. This is probably the longest I've gone after a Star Wars release without hieing myself directly to the theater. Ah, well. I'm a getting to it, and that's what counts.

That is all.
A rock cairn at the summit of one of several high elevations we experienced today
Old dude takes a breather at the top of a mighty high ridge
Pharaoh looking for a helpful message from God at the cache site. No helpful signs were forthcoming,
so we had to find the cache the old-fashioned way.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Curse of Boney Jones

On Christmas Day, I placed a couple of new geocaches in Martinsville The Christmas Troll (GC8H88K) and Old Man Rodan's Christmas Special (GC8H89C) — so it seemed fitting I should place at least one new in Greensboro for good measure. I did this yesterday afternoon, and I imagine the new listing will be published in the next day or so. It's in the woods near Lake Townsend, not far up the road from here. The nice prop comes courtesy of friends Elizabeth & Cortney (a.k.a. EmVirginia), which they originally gifted me for an entirely different purpose. Unfortunately, it didn't serve its intended purpose to proper effect, so I figured that repurposing it for geocaching would be more than apt.

As a writer of fictions, I felt obliged to come up with a little story for the cache. So here it is:

"Edward Leigh 'Boney' Jones was an early 18th-century 'explorer,' reputedly of questionable character — in other words, a pirate. After a long, checkered career at sea, Jones settled in the area now known as Greensboro. For years after his retirement, he remained wanted for his illegal activities, and so he buried a sizable treasure trove somewhere around what is now Lake Townsend. His one trusted confidante was his former first mate, a particularly vicious pirate named 'Bloody' Reg Bannister. One night, Bannister murdered Boney Jones in his sleep, and thus claimed the vast hoard for himself.

"Supposedly, Boney Jones's remains lie somewhere around Lake Townsend, left there by the murderous Bloody Reg. For years, the legend has persisted that Boney Jones's tortured voice sometimes rings out late at night. Near the lake, some claim to have seen his skeletal figure, his hands raised in supplication, a sign of his desire to regain his stolen treasure. Should you come upon Boney Jones's mortal remains, beware — in his everlasting madness, his groping hands may attempt to take hold of you and throttle the very life from you. You may be able to placate him by signing your name on the Scroll of The Damned that some say Bannister buried with him. But there are no guarantees. Boney Jones may claim you and, someday, it may be your bones that some unfortunate soul discovers near the banks of Lake Townsend."

Happy trails.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Damned Rodan's Christmas Special

Well, Merry Flippin' Christmas and Happy Horrordays to the lot of you. This holiday season has been a mighty different animal for the old man. It's the first year of my life I haven't shared Christmas with my mom and my brother, and my daughter wasn't able to be here this year either. So — as we did at Thanksgiving — Brugger and I have been making our own special time and, happily, succeeding admirably. Yesterday, we got out early from the office, as is proper for Christmas Eve. Now, these past few years, our Christmas Eve tradition has been to visit The Grove Winery on our way to Martinsville, but since we left from the office, heading in that direction would have taken us far out of our way. So we said no. Instead, we hied ourselves down to The Vino Shoppe in High Point, not far at all from work, where we enjoyed some fine vino in that pleasant establishment. Then, accompanied by our favorite Christmas tunes, we made our way to the old homestead in Martinsville.

Last year, Ms. B. and I spent a marvelous Christmas Eve in the company of fellow authors Stephen & Samaire Provost. Last night, we did the same, but this time here at Pleasant Hill rather than at their place. As then, we ended up yakking, feasting, and imbibing until the wee hours (though not quite as wee as last year). This is one "new" tradition that I hope we can maintain for the foreseeable future.

After our friends' departure, Brugger and I made the necessary reparations to the property. Unlike last year, it wasn't frigid outside, so I spent a little quality time on the front porch surveying the kingdom and enjoying the Christmas lights around the neighborhood. That's our tree you see in the photo at left, viewed from the porch. All this made for a warm, satisfying end to the evening, and though somewhat bittersweet, I found it all very fulfilling. In some respects, I don't think I've yet experienced the true impact of these rather profound life changes; on the other hand, I have no illusions about their permanence. We deal with such things or we don't. So far, I'm firmly ensconced in the "dealing" column.
This morning, at the ass crack of dawn, I got up to start our pot roast dinner, and then returned to bed for a bit. Once both of us got up, we had a nice breakfast and then exchanged some mighty wonderful Christmas gifts. I don't think either of us have any complaints in that regard! We both made out nicely.

Since it was such a temperate day, we headed out to the newest extension of the Dick & Willie Rail Trail, not at all far from the homestead. It probably comes as no surprise to those of you who visit these pages that I placed a couple of new geocaches. I've already set up the listings, and I do hope they will be published on very soon.

Our big dinner will be ready shortly, and then Ms. B. and I shall return to Greensboro. Although one of our heretofore inviolable Christmas Eve traditions has been to watch A Christmas Story, our new social tradition precluded that activity last night. Thus, we shall avail ourselves to it this evening, and most likely National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

I so hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas have found it wonderful. If you don't, I trust the day has been good to you as well. Bless you.
The Christmas Troll
Old Dude and Nice Lady on the new section of Dick & Willie trail, near Pleasant Hill
One of my favorite gifts from Ms. B.: a picture box she made with souvenirs from Europe

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Venturing Forth to Seaforth

A couple of the Usual Suspects: Old Rodan, Ms. Fishdownthestair
As we count down to Christmas, overworked and overloaded doesn't begin to describe the state of affairs at Casa di Rodan. This past week, two old friends of the family passed away in Martinsville Willard Harris, who had been one of my parents' best friends since I was a kid, and Ron Ferrill, father of my early 1980s girlfriend Allison. On Thursday, I went up to the Ville to attend Mr. Ferrill's viewing at the funeral home. I did get to see Allison for the first time in almost 40 years, as well as her mom, whom I've encountered a handful of times over the years. It was good to see them, sad under the circumstances. I had long admired and liked Mr. Ferrill, who was one of Martinsville's preeminent citizens during my lifetime. Interestingly, I ran into Mrs. Isley, my fifth-grade English teacher. Talk about a pleasant surprise.

Yesterday, after a quick visit with Mum, Brugger and I joined up with friends Terry & Beth to sample a few spirits at the Winston-Salem Wine Market as well as at Raylen Vineyards, not far away. The spirits flowed very nicely (and there was a new geocache at the Wine Market, which I happily claimed). Afterward, we retired to the Nelsons' place to have some vittles and watch Animal House and Stripes. And those were fun, as I'd not seen either in many years.
From the racket we heard in the distance, I'm pretty
sure Bigfoot was out there playing Bigfoot party games.

Today, friend Natalie (a.k.a. fishdownthestair) and I ventured forth to the gamelands between Seaforth Road and Jordan Lake, just outside Pittsboro, that we might hunt a number of the geocaches lurking back in those woods. Most of the caches there go back many years — most of those we hunted today date back to 2007, with a handful from 2010. Virtually every one of those we found (seven, plus one park & grab along the road) was truly a moldy oldie, but at least we managed to get our sigs on the log sheets. We logged DNFs (Did Not Find) on two, which we're confident have simply gone missing. However, it was at the site of one of those we didn't find that we discovered the most intriguing location of the day — an old family graveyard in the woods, with graves going back as far as the late 18th century. The newest marker that I found was from 1914. Ms. FDTS and I spent quite a while both looking for the errant container as well as exploring the realm of the dead. As I've said before, lovely, hidden places such as this one surely take some of the annoyance out of being buried.

At the end of the geocaching, some five hours and three-plus miles later, we hauled ourselves over to our traditional post-caching in Pittsboro lunch location, The Carolina Brewery. Both of us availed ourselves to the Winter Special "Brewer's Burger," with grilled onions, black-pepper mayo, pickles, and pepper jack cheese. I had one of their nice Flagship IPAs to accompany. Say what you will, I am a fan of the IPAs, at least on those relatively rare occasions that I partake of beer.

And that was the outing in a nutshell. Back to the frenetic work pace, at least until Tuesday....

If I don't make it back here before then, well, Merry Honkin' Christmas to the lot of ye.
A nice view of Pirates' Cove on Jordan Lake
One of the walking dead near the old graveyard. Note it wears blaze orange, no doubt to avoid
being shot in the head by accident.
Some of the ancient graves
Caching goes better with Coke.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Doing Up Pleasant Hill

At the office yesterday, we had our annual Christmas luncheon (Mexican!), along with fun and games (Family Feud!). Sadly, my team got trounced during the fun and games. However, as is the custom for such days, the office closed at 3:00 PM, so Ms. B. and I hauled ourselves to The Vino Shoppe, not far down the road from work, for a little afternoon refreshment. They had a several special selections of Merlot on hand, so I sampled a French one, which was a merely okay, and a California brand — Parcel 41 — which both Brugger and I deemed excellent.

The day was cold, miserable, dreary, and rainy, but I needed to head to Martinsville to take care of a little business. Plus, I was determined to get some Christmas decorations up at Pleasant Hill. So, I braved the nasty, nasty driving conditions and made the trip from Greensboro. After running a few errands, I poured myself a glass of Prosecco, put on some old favorite Christmas tunes, and set to work. Mom always loved a live tree, but since she hasn't been physically able to tend to one for the past few years, I got her a decent artificial tree a couple of Christmases ago. Thus, setting it up wasn't a major chore, and given that Mom had collected about half of the world's Christmas ornaments over the years, I had plenty of purty little thingummies to put up. After an hour or so, I got the tree looking as you see in the photo. It do please me.

Since Brugger hasn't been too bad this year, I bought her several presents. These I wrapped and placed them under the tree. However, should she get out of hand before Christmas rolls around, they're going straight back. There is plenty of room in her Christmas stocking for lumps of coal. I keep plenty of those on hand too.

Given Mom's situation, it's going to be a different kind of Christmas season for us. But so it was at Thanksgiving, and it proved to be one of the most relaxing, satisfying holidays ever for Kimberly and me. Something tells me we'll make the most of our Christmas as well. It's just what we have to do in this life.

Bless you.
Yeah, if Ms. B. isn't nice, these are going right back where they came from.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Get Your Chills This Wintertime with Summer of Lovecraft

From the editors of World War Cthulhu: A Collection of Lovecraftian War Stories...

 in this weird, wild, trippy, far-out, cosmic, and horrific anthology. Summer of Lovecraft - Cosmic Horror in the 1960s, edited by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass, published by Dark Regions Press. For my part, I consider Short Wave to be one of my most eerie and disturbing tales.

The ebook edition is set to be released in the next few weeks. Summer of Lovecraft features the following stories and authors:

Night Trippers by Lois H. Gresh
“Operation Alice” by Pete Rawlik
“The Summer of Love” by C.J. Henderson
“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Sullivan” by Lee Clark Zumpe
“Dreamland” by David Dunwoody
“Lost In the Poppy-Fields of Flesh” by Konstantine Paradias
“Five To One” by Edward M. Erdelac
“Keeping the Faith” by Samantha Stone
“Mud Men” by Sean Hoade
“Misconception” by Jamie D. Jenkins
“No Colors Anymore” by Joe L. Murr
“Shimmer and Sway” by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
“Short Wave” by Stephen Mark Rainey
“The Song that Crystal Sang” by Tom Lynch
“Through a Looking Glass Darkly” by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
“The Color from the Deep” by William Meikle
“The Long Fine Flash” by Edward Morris
“Just Another Afternoon in Arkham, Brought to You in Living Color” by Mark McLaughlin and Michael Sheehan, Jr.
“Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Jeffrey Thomas

Initially, Summer of Lovecraft is being released as ebook. The paperback release will follow shortly.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Happy Horrordays! Nightmares in Yellow

Nightmares in Yellow is a new anthology from Oxygen Man Books, edited by Duane Pesice, featuring tales of The King in Yellow, based on the works of John W. Chambers. Proceeds from the book will benefit author and longtime friend Joe Pulver and his wife Katrin, who have both suffered catastrophic health issues in the past couple of years. Joe is well known for his numerous works of fiction and anthologies involving The King in Yellow — a play that drives anyone who reads it mad. My contribution is "Masque of the Queen," which originally appeared in The Court of the Yellow Queen, edited by Glynn Owen Barrass, a couple of years back. Have a look at the table of contents below. As you may see, this is a massive project. It's due in the next few weeks, possibly by Christmas.

Nightmares in Yellow, edited by Duane Pesice
"Introductions — Four-Part Harmony"
John Linwood Grant
Edward Morris
Duane Pesice
Jeffrey Thomas

Mark McLaughlin & Michael Sheehan, Jr. — "The Gateway to Carcosa"
David Barker — "Chamber of Shards"
Joseph Bouthiette Jr. — "Oedipus at Carcosa"
Don Webb — "The Fourth Man"
Kenneth W. Cain — "An Unfortunate Night at the Oakwood Theater"
Mike Davis — "Tales of the King in Yellow"
Edward Morris and Joe Pulver — "The Resplendent Troswoman Below"
Mike Griffin — "No Mask to Conceal Her Voice"
David Hoenig — "Last Dance for the Ancient Gods"
Erica Ruppert — "The Traveller"
Donald Armfield — "BEing"
Scott Thomas — "The Sea Might Yet Be Weeping"
DJ Tyrer — "Beautiful Dreams"
Richard Writhen — "What You Wish For"
Peter Rawlik — "The Imperial Dynasty of America"
John Claude Smith — "The Yellow Hour"
Sean M. Thompson — "Songs of EyEs"
Sarah Walker — "The Keening of a Yellow Star"
Maxwell Ian Gold — "naigoth.carcosa.exe"
David Hoenig — "Of Kings, Queens, and Knaves"
Ashley Dioses — "Even Madness Cannot Hide"
Frank Coffman — "Warnings to the Curious"
David B. Busboom — "From the Dusty Mesa"
Shayne Keen — "Yellow Work"
Bruce Boston — "Exiled to Hastur"
Renee Mulhare — "Paper Masks"
Eduardo Peret — "The Next Emperor"
Curtis M. Lawson — "Pinocchio and the Black Pantheon"
Douglas Draa — "Neighbors Good and Fair"
John Paul Fitch — "Faces"
Ross E. Lockhart — "Shrubberies"
Rebecca J. Allred — "Lambda 580"
Can Wiggins — "The Queen in Yellow"
KA Opperman — "Cassilda Dons the Pallid Mask"
Stephen Mark Rainey — "Masque of the Queen"
Bruce Boston — "Exiled to Hastur"
Andrew Reichart — "A Sign of Pure Gold"
Kaaron Warren — "The Naked Man"
Michael Wehunt — "numbers of the bEast"
Jeffrey Thomas — "The Seed"
DJ Tyrer — "Beautiful Dreams"
Duane Pesice — "Sunshine and Scarlet"
Drew Nicks — "Opening Night"
David Hoenig — "Last Dance for the Ancient Gods"
Scott Couturier — "We Are the Sacrifice"
John Linwood Grant — "Mr Bubbles and the Jaundiced Stranger"
Frank Coffman — "Audience With the Last King"
Manuel Paul Arenas — "The Yellow Tale"
Matthew R. Davis — "IL Re Giallo"
Adam Bolivar — "The Door to Nod"
Donald Armfield — "End is Nigh"
Edward Morris — "Beast: A Fable For Children"

Cover art by Derek Pegritz. Cover design by Dan Sauer.

Visit Nightmares in Yellow on Facebook here.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Another Haw River Hoedown

A handful of The Usual SuspectsDiefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), and an old dude (a.k.a. an old dude) — badly needed to hike and seek some geocaches today. So off we rode to the Haw River down near Pittsboro. We've cached that area numerous times, though just north of US 64, there is a trail along the river with a number of nice caches we had yet to conquer. That we did, but for one very old cache "Craggy Haw" GC1JCRP, placed in 2008), which is most likley missing. Otherwise, the hike proved scenic, occasionally rugged, and altogether satisfying.
I wonder what might be lurking in that big old
column of stone way back in the woods....

After the river hike, we landed ourselves at Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro where, unbeknownst to us, a gaggle of local geocachers had also landed following a nearby CITO (Cache-In, Trash-Out) event. We arrived right at the tail end of the event, but we did see quite a few familiar faces (and in a few cases, entire bodies). We exchanged a round of greetings before most of them departed and then proceeded to procure ourselves some vittles and liquid refreshment. Nice!

On the way home, we stopped for another handful of caches. And we got run off from a stand of woods where a cache apparently used to be but that now belongs to some nearby property owners who were unaware of such wondrous things as geocaches. Alas.

All in all, though, a satisfying day of exercise, good company, and decent refreshment.
Islands in the stream
A sunny day at the river

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Parkway Pilgrimage: Better Late Than Never

Not that I'm complaining — not even a little bit — but since Kimberly and I were otherwise engaged conquering several countries in the Mediterranean during the month of October, we missed our traditional pre-Halloween vittles-and-vino pilgrimage to Mabry Mill, Villa Appalaccia, and Chateau Morrisette on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Then November turned out to be a whirlwind of both happy and sad personal obligations. Thus, we resolved to undertake a make-up pilgrimage at the earliest possible opportunity. That meant today.

Last night, Ms. B. and I left work, bound for the old homestead in Martinsville, where we took care of some necessary business, then enjoyed dinner and a movie. This morning, unfortunately, our favorite slapjack breakfast was right out, as Mabry Mill closes for the season at the end of October. Regardless, we made do at home and then set out for the mountains. I stopped for a fun, aptly named geocache near the Blue Ridge Parkway ("Is It Really Possum?" GC88JWD), and then drove up to the site of Floyd Fest, where, some months ago, a couple of caches had been placed. The Virginia geocache reviewer subsequently archived them for not conforming to geocaching standards, but I had a sneaking suspicion the containers might still be in place. So, playing against the odds, I set out on the hunt. Not altogether unexpectedly, I came up empty-handed. Well, drat! At least it was a worthy attempt, and I got in some strenuous exercise going up and down (mostly up) the mountainous terrain.

From there, Brugger and I made the very short hop over to Villa Appalaccia, which is under relatively new ownership. Their wine, as always, proved itself exceptional. The dry reds — a delicious Sangiovese, a refreshing blend called Rustico, and our perennial favorite, the Aglianico — all put to shame the multitudes of wines we've sampled in Virginia and North Carolina. That said, once we headed over to Chateau Morrisette, where we had lunch reservations, we found that their 2017 Petit Verdot, a varietal I've always appreciated, rivaled Villa Appalaccia's best. Chateau Morrisette typically makes decent if unexceptional wine, but this one — bold, full-bodied, and aromatic — did not taste like "Virginia wine," which, much like wine from North Carolina, tends to have a distinctive, young, juice-like flavor and thin mouth feel. We've generally gone to Chateau Morrisette more for the food than the wine, but today we found the best of both. Lunch consisted of a delicious Cobb Salad for Ms. B. and a perfectly done medium-rare house specialty burger for the old feller. Excellent service topped off a most satisfying meal.

So, better late than never for a Parkway Pilgrimage, though I did really did miss the slapjack breakfast at Mabry Mill. The mill and restaurant reopen in the spring, so I reckon the nice lady and I will have to add another required pilgrimage to our schedule. I reckon I can deal with that.
A couple of happy folk with happy wine at Villa Appalaccia
Our lunchtime view at Chateau Morrisette

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Another Commute, Another Adventure

This morning's going-to-work adventure:

Dude in a pickup truck driving down the highway in the left lane at about 30 mph, forcing people to go around him on the right. I notice that he flips the bird to everyone who goes around him. Then he speeds up to about 80, thrusts his entire upper body out the window, and starts flipping off the world. Weaves back and forth across lanes since he has no hands on the steering wheel. Comes perilously close to decapitating himself on the center barrier. Slides back into driver's seat, sticks both hands out the window to flip off the world. Then accelerates to tailgate the drivers in front of him for a while before passing them and flipping them the bird.

Last I saw of him, he was hauling away at what had to be 100-plus mph.

I don't know what this cretinous yahoo's problem was, but at least he didn't take someone else out — including me — at the time. Should karma have bitten him somewhere down the road... well, thank you, karma.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Lights, Please

It is now after Thanksgiving, which means I can legitimately put up some Christmas decorations at Casa di Rodan. Now, my decorating is never elaborate. Going elaborate means a massive taking-it-all-down-after-Christmas effort, which is so very displeasing. Still, I do enjoy getting some purty lights burning around the house. Way back when — mid 1990s, I think — there was a house up the street from ours in Martinsville where the property owners literally filled the woods with those tube-light snowflakes, and it was gorgeous... almost surreal (I wish to god I had some photos from back then). That spectacle inspired grandiose dreams that I might similarly fill the woods around our Martinsville place with such lights. So, in the late 1990s, I think it was, Mrs. Death and I invested in a bunch of them, but the whole filling the woods thing never really came about. Nowadays, though, every year, I at least put a bunch of the thingummies in the trees around my house here in Greensboro.

I had set up my wee little fiber optic tree in the living room last week — a couple of days before Thanksgiving actually. Yeah, I know, this is wrong, but since Thanksgiving was so late this year, I wanted to make sure I at least got in most of a month of Christmas tree time — not to mention Halloween-skull-what-lives-here-full-time time (see photo). Upstairs, I have a tiny little pre-lit tree, about two feet tall, that burns in the office window, just for good measure. Again, no great shakes, but you put all this stuff together, and you might think the old feller living here has at least a smidgen of the Christmas spirit. I don't know if that's what you call it, necessarily, but whatever it is, I got a little of it.

Given the complications that have arisen with my surviving family members, it's going to be a very different holiday season this year. Early on, I was afraid Thanksgiving might end up an emotional bust, but — thankfully — it turned out quite the opposite. It was the most relaxing, satisfying, invigorating Thanksgiving holiday I've had in years. Brugger and I managed to find some much-needed quality time like we haven't had in ages, so I really have to say that this year's Day of the Dead Bird earned high marks in my personal history book.

Now, due to complications arising from the already established complications (which discretion dictates I refrain from relating in detail), I have fallen way, way behind on my current Ameri-Scares novel. Happily, over the four-day weekend, I was able to make up for a good bit of lost time, but there is still more to compose than I am even a little bit comfortable with. (Yeah, yeah, pardon the dangling preposition.) I still have a bunch of short fiction on the burner, not to mention a couple of more Ameri-Scares entries down the line. Still and all, I find that composing these blogs is not only emotionally therapeutic, it galvanizes the old writing spirit, which — much to my dismay — I have found flagging as so many issues not of my own making weigh heavier and heavier each and every day. I tell you, mortality can be a monster, especially when it's not your own but your loved ones'. Aging has certainly brought with it a measure of wisdom I no doubt needed. On the other hand, gaining such wisdom is really a fucking pain in the ass, not to mention the heart, and I could sure do with a little break from this living in the land of the wise. Alas. There is no such box to check on survey form you get for Living Life in General.

All righty then. I have had my say for the evening. I've got Christmas lights, and I've got a martini. And I'm diving into Ameri-Scares Ohio: Fear the Grassman! It's scaring the pants off me as I'm writing it, I can tell you.

You, keep your pants on. This book, and more, are well on the way.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Black Friday, Red Wine

Black Friday has become one of my favorite days of the year, since I generally avoid as much of humanity as humanly possible and hie myself to some woodland haven in search of geocaches. This day, the only bunch of people I really encountered was traffic on I-40 as I made my way to Salem Lake, just this side of Winston-Salem. There was only one cache at the lake on my target list (Inception - GC89BRW), but a new park & grab hide had come out in Greensboro not long before I headed out the door. I snagged it on my way to Winston.

There's usually a fair crowd on the trails  at Salem Lake, and this Black Friday was no exception. Fortunately, the trails are extensive enough that the crowds are spread out. And the cache lurked a fair distance into the woods from the main trail. Out there, it was nice and secluded. On the trail, quite a few folks came by on horseback. In fact, I saw almost as many horseback riders as bicyclists, which was pretty cool.

Munzees. Sigh. Munzees are sort of an offspring of geocaching, but they don't feature hidden containers. Instead, you go to their coordinates and scan a QR code. Or, as has become more popular, you scan the freaking air to get credit for a virtual Munzee. You just need to be in the correct proximity. These boogers are only gratifying because they are often placed in concentrations sufficient to make for an enjoyable walk. I confess that, since I started geocaching, when I go on a walking outing, I like to have something to hunt. To claim. And Munzees offer that opportunity. Last week, I went out with friend Natalie (a.k.a. Ms. Fishdownthestair) to a nearby shopping area to snag a crapload of Munzees. Quite a few of these little fuckers reside at/around Salem Lake, so yeah, I put in some extra hiking to scan them. Good for me, right? At the end of the outing, I had put in over four miles of trekking around the woods, so that, indeed, proved a good thing.

Pretty far out in the woods, I came across a kind of lean-to shelter, pictured below. I occasionally encounter such constructs when I'm out and about. This one might be especially fortuitous in that I've been trying to come up with images that might fit the Grassman theme for my upcoming Ameri-Scares novel, Ohio: Fear the Grassman! It's apt because "evidence" of the Grassman includes the discovery of such shelters, although sized for Bigfoot. This one wasn't small, as it extends back about twelve feet.
While I went off on my woodland adventures, Brugger had joined friends Beth and Bridget (a.k.a. Suntigres) for their annual "Crunken Dork Day" gathering — which is all about arts & crafts with wine corks (and wine, of course), so named due to the misplacement of syllables while vocalizing in an inebriated state. After my hike, I headed to nearby Kernersville to join up with them and their respective spouses — friends Terry and Gerry (a.k.a. BigG7777). Wine and dinner (chili!) ensued, as did an entertaining round of Cards Against Humanity.

It was pretty late when I got home last night. And I slept in this morning, which I suppose the old brain and body needed. Today, I plan on making substantial progress on the Ameri-Scares front. This, too, is much-needed.
Sights along the trail: a great blue heron, on the watch for enemy submarines
A garland of stones, flowers, and little pumpkins around a tree next to the trail

Thursday, November 28, 2019

T-Minus Turkey Day and Counting

For the first time in over thirty years, I'm not celebrating Thanksgiving Day in the company of my full family, such as it is. Sadly, in all likelihood, my mom has spent her last holiday at home, and my brother is unable to leave his place today. So Kimberly and I are dug in at Casa di Brugger, with enough food and drink in the works to feed the Biblical multitude. (Fortunately, we have a houseful of cats to help us take care of the mass quantities.) I'd have to say I feel a certain melancholy, as this arrangement will likely be permanent; on the other hand, having some much-needed down time with just Ms. B. is just the ticket for today. Since before our trip to Europe, when the world went careening off the rails, life has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, with far too many downs in the mix.

For me, Thanksgiving has always been about sharing time with loved ones. From my youngest days, my mom, dad, brother, and I always had a big Thanksgiving dinner, oftentimes in the company of grandparents, close friends, or both; in later years, with my wife and daughter as well. Over the decades, life changes and mortality have whittled family and those old friends down to a distressingly small number.

That said, it's safe to say I've never been a happier soul than with Kimberly, and at this moment, sharing the world with her is all the joy I can manage.

Typically, Black Friday is a day to avoid as much of humanity as possible by way of geocaching, and continuing that tradition looks to be in tomorrow's cards — as is sharing time with some of our bestest friends later in the day. So, yeah, things in my little corner of the world may be way, way different this year, but I reckon I'll be taking things as they come. It's not as if we have much choice in such matters, really.

So, to you and yours, a damned fine Thanksgiving. Eat and drink to your heart's content. Then try to figure out how you're gonna work it all off. I expect tomorrow's geocaching might at least burn off a wee smidgen of stuffing.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tarheel State and the Outhouse

Today, the Usual Suspects — Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob), et moi — spent the day on the road between Salisbury, NC, and Statesville, NC, snagging all one hundred caches in the Tarheel State Geoart series, plus a few assorted caches in the vicinity. We finished the day having claimed 110 caches, which is the most I've ever found in one day. Happily, we posted not a single DNF (Did Not Find) log, which is unusual for a run of such magnitude. Almost all the caches were hidden at the bases of signs, in guardrails, on fences, and a few other assorted easily accessible locations along US Highway 70.

The most enjoyable cache of the day was probably one that wasn't part of the series, called "The Outhouse" (GC5X0CR). This one led us to a bunch of old ruins in the woods — a collapsed house, a tobacco barn, and a few teetering outbuildings. We found the cache readily enough, but we did spend a bit of time wandering among the old structures. I love finding places like this. You never know what kind of ghostly thingummies might haunt such ruins. I always enjoy trying to find out.

Midway through the run, we headed back into Salisbury proper and had lunch at Shuckin' Shack Osyter Bar, where our gang had eaten on our last Salisbury outing. Good, good food there. I had a dozen steamed oysters on the half-shell and some hot chicken wings (their "Surf and Turf" combo). Once done, we finished out the run and headed back to Greensboro, arriving just before sundown.

Geoarts aren't my favorite caches, since they mostly involve starting, stopping, grabbing, rinsing, and repeating. But they're certainly fun now and again, and they do help you rack up your geocaching numbers. It's especially fun in good company. I must find some someday.

((Ducking and running. Very fast.))
The Usual Suspects: Old Rodan, Fishdownthestair, Diefenbaker, Old Rob
Diefenbaker looking for the outhouse
A little fixer-upper. Note the natural air conditioning.
Looks like a Nor'easter came through here.

Extending the Dick & Willie

Sure, it's an amusing nickname: "Dick & Willie" refers to the old Danville and Western railway that used to run through Martinsville. The tracks were taken up several years ago, and now the Dick & Willie Rail Trail uses those old rail beds to traverse Martinsville, VA. Since 2008, the trail has run about four and a half miles, from Commonwealth Blvd. at the northwest end to a point just north of Spruce St., east of town. After many months of work, a new, two-and-a-half-mile trail extension leads to the Smith River Sports Complex, at Martinsville's easternmost corner. This puts the trail very close to my old neighborhood, and since I'm at the homeplace frequently, I went out yesterday to properly inaugurate the trail extension with several geocaches.

I put out four yesterday, all on the leg that runs from the end of Country Club Drive (the stories I have from that place!) to the sports complex. One ammo can (Country Club View); a medium-size Tupperware container (Dick & Willie Rocks); a small, camouflaged jar (Dick & Willie: The Hole Thing); and a wee little bison tube (Dameron's Disaster). They're out there, already published at, and all found exactly once so far — by fellow geocacher tbbiker (a.k.a. Todd). I hope these caches, and other new ones yet to come out, will entice lots of geocachers in the area to pay Martinsville a visit.

I did manage to cut my finger pretty good while placing one of the containers. Just call me Captain Klutz.

As a youngster, I spent a fair amount of time back in those woods behind Country Club Drive. In my teens, several friends and I would on occasion go camping there (and possibly drinking things other than water from the Smith River). At one time, a sewer line and utility road went back where the trail now leads. Although one wasn't supposed to, one could, if so minded, drive a car back down into the woods and cross a very narrow, earthen bridge over one of the creeks. When I say narrow, I'm talking a couple of inches clearance on either side. I think it was during my first year of college that friends (whom, for the purposes of this account, I shall call Johannes, Ramon, and Keebler) and I all drove back there to camp out overnight. When we saw that little land bridge, we had our doubts about proceeding any further. But Johannes resolved to drive across that treacherous space in his powder blue Ford Maverick. And he up and did it — successfully. Whew! So I figured that if Johannes could do it in a Maverick, I could do it in my little mustard yellow Toyota Corolla. Well, yes, I did it, with Ramon in the car with me. It was hairy, to be sure. Then it was Keebler's turn. He came roaring down the hill, hit the bridge, and... woops! BOOM! His little green whatever-it-was slid and toppled partway over the edge. What a disaster! Now, he was fine, and I don't think the car suffered too much damage... but it did require a tow truck to pull that vehicle out of there. I sure hate to think of the aftermath for poor Keebler. It couldn't have been pretty.

Anyway, there is now a geocache out there, at that exact location, commemorating the event.