Monday, September 30, 2019

Martinsville Memories at Oktoberfest

This Saturday — October 5 — is Martinsville's 40th Annual Oktoberfest, and if you're anywhere within a reasonable traveling distance, you really ought to attend. Authors Stephen & Samaire Provost, Ms. Brugger, and I will all be there, in good company with Stephen's new book, Martinsville Memories, for which I have written the foreword. I will likely also have a few copies of West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman, Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, and possibly others on hand.

Martinsville's Oktoberfest is always great fun, with dozens and dozens of local merchants set up around the Uptown business district. There shall be vendors with food and spirits aplenty, presumably including funnel cakes, as they are an Oktoberfest staple. Funnel cakes are ambrosia. Funnel cakes are damn good. One might say funnel cakes are an essential component of proper southern living. Hooray for funnel cakes!

Stephen's Martinsville Memories is a meticulously researched pictorial history of my old hometown. For six decades, I've loved Martinsville, known its inner workings, explored it inside and out, and yet Stephen has dug up facts even I didn't know about. As the author writes, "Martinsville has thrived as the town with the nation’s most millionaires per capita and struggled through factory closures during the era of globalization. Packed with more than 300 images and chock full of details, this volume offers a nostalgic trek through time, with stops at drive-ins, old hotels and iconic storefronts along the way."

Also on Saturday, the Valleystar Credit Union 300 NASCAR race will be happening at Martinsville Speedway. How the race will impact Oktoberfest, I dunno, but you'd best believe Martinsville is going to be hopping this weekend. Please join us. We'll be on hand to autograph Martinsville Memories and any of our other books we have available. Look for us on Church Street near the intersection at Broad Street.

For good measure, if you're into geocaching, a veritable trove of geocaches await you in Uptown Martinsville, many that I have placed myself. And don't forget: Funnel cakes. Keep saying this to yourself, and think well on the joyful prospect of it. Funnel cakes. Funnel cakes. Funnel cakes....

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Haunting Hillsborough

Another Sunday, another geocaching outing, this time to Hillsborough with The Usual Suspects: Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget) and BigG7777 (a.k.a. Gerry). Enough newer caches have been published in recent months to justify making a run over there, but one of the main draws for us today was lunch at Hillsborough BBQ, where they do the beef brisket better than just about anyone.

Most of today's caches were of the park & grab variety, but at least a couple of them offered some challenge on the hunt. There's a virtual cache (meaning there's no physical container to find; you visit a specific landmark and answer questions about it) called "Hillsborough Old Town Cemetery" (GC7B67D), which I had claimed back in April, but Bridget & Gerry still needed it. I was happy to accompany them back to the location because it really is one of the most beautiful atmospheric graveyards around. We didn't see any walking dead around, alas. Doesn't mean they weren't there; we just didn't see them.

Once again, I have pretty much cleaned up Hillsborough, at least until someone places some new hides out that way. Hope someone will — I'm sure it won't be long before I'm craving that brisket again.
The Haunter of Hillsborough
Nice view of the Hillsborough Old Town Cemetery
The Usual Suspects: Suntigres (Bridget) and BigG7777 (Gerry) at the William Hooper House in Hillsborough

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Treasure Island

Treasure Island... dead ahead.
Treasure Island: the name of a geocache (GCRRG5) on an island out in High Point City Lake. An old cache it is, dating back to 2005. I started caching in 2008, so the icon has been staring at me from the geocaching map ever since then. I had intended to go after it any number of times over the years, but something always came round to prevent it. But yesterday, friend Todd (a.k.a. Tbbiker) informed me he intended to rent a boat and head out to the island in search of the cache. He wondered whether I might care to join him.

Why... yes, I would.

And this time, the stars deigned to smile on us. We met at the marina this morning, rented the requisite items to reach our destination (jon boat, outboard motor, heavy-duty battery, life jackets, paddles, etc.), and off we went. Todd assumed piloting duties for the outbound trip. I took over on the way back.

Once at the island, we found a good place to dock and headed for the coordinates. Here, we discovered the  "shipwreck" described on the cache page. Given the state of the remains in 2019, I have to wonder how much of the old boat was still intact back in 2005. From here, the cache instructions told us to count off a couple of sets of paces in specific directions. However, Todd had used his GPS to do some projections, and I had settled on a search location by dead reckoning—which almost precisely matched Todd's projections. Within a short time, I spotted a suspicious-looking host at the edge of our search radius, and something told me this was where we would find our treasure. Indeed, it was.

The cache—a 50-calibre ammo can—has weathered the years well. The contents were pristine, the log in excellent condition. We spent a little time reading entries from over the years, and I rescued a travel bug that has been stuck there for the past three and half years. I shall set it on its new course soon. Once we had signed the log and rehid the container as we'd found it, we made our way back to the boat.

Neither of us had driven a motorized jon boat before. Though the learning curve was anything but steep, heading out to the island, the prop seemed disinclined to scoot us through the water at anything like high speed. However, on the return journey, for whatever reason, it recovered its wits and zipped us back in far better time.

So, Treasure Island is, at long last, marked off my to-do list. Going after it made for a satisfying, reasonably relaxing morning. And now, I've got a passel of work to do. It's gonna be a busy, busy October.
Old dudes signing Treasure Island logbook
"I'm your captain, I'm your captain... though I'm feeling mighty sick...."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

No Dead Weight in Salisbury

Another day on the geocaching trail for the usual suspects — friends Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) and Old Bloody Rob (a.k.a. Rob) — again under the team name "No Dead Weight." Well, Scott was kinda dead, but then that's nothing new. Today, it was back to Salisbury, NC, which has been a reasonably fruitful destination for us on a number of previous caching trips. Unfortunately, we ended up having to log a few DNFs (Did Not Find), but we still came home with 17, I think it was, to our credit.
Hanging out with strange cats.

There were any remarkable gymnastic maneuvers or extreme terrain negotiations; just a full day of solid geocaching and a stellar lunch at The Smoke Pit in downtown Salisbury. It's turned out to be about our only regular lunch destination in town and, without question, one of our favorite BBQ restaurants anywhere. The pulled pork nachos and beef brisket plate are among the best treats you're ever gonna find. I'm pretty sure the aroma coming out of the kitchen is what heaven smells like.

One of the most entertaining caches we found was an old one — an ammo can that dates back to 2002. The original log is cleverly made, with a bunch of gravestones for finders to sign their names. Of course, after all this time, there are now many additional sheets included. The cache and its contents are, for sure, showing their age, but it's all still holding up. Hope it will for a long time to come for other geocachers to enjoy.
You probably shouldn't put these in your
spaghetti dinner tonight.

Several of the caches we found are part of a series called "Steeplecache," which are placed at or around the myriad downtown churches. Most of these were somewhat novel and generally fun to hunt —particularly since, at one of them, a nosy neighbor drove by a couple of times trying to figure out what a ragtag bunch of hoodlums carrying phones and GPS devices were doing skulking around an old church.

The only real frustrations of the day happened at a park with two hides that we spent massive amounts of time hunting, to no avail. We're reasonably certain those containers have gone the ways of the wind, and whether or not they'll be confirmed missing/replaced, who knows?

And so, it was a solid day of fun, exercise, and getting bitten by mosquitoes. Bloody Rob lived up to his epithet and shed a little blood. And we left ourselves a good many caches in the area to go back for on future trips.

Till next time... always a pleasure.
The original log from "Spooks R Us" (GC9556)

Friday, September 20, 2019

Interview with an Old Fart

Last week, writer Fiona McVie interviewed me for her Author Interviews Blog. It's a fairly extensive Q & A, which offered me plenty of opportunity to carry on about things worth carrying on about. I talk about Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series, Blue Devil Island, the writing process in general, some of my favorite dark fiction, a little geocaching, and why I am, in general, a big old troublemaker. Please do check it out to see what makes an old dude tick:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

We've Got the Belews

For a long time now, Ms. B. and I have been looking to get back together with Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom), Punkins19 (a.k.a. Linda) for a nice geocaching/picnicking/wining outing on their boat. We had last gone out with them on Belews Lake, just this side of Winston-Salem, in August 2016. Recently, opportunities kept falling through due to our respective busy schedules and prohibitive circumstances continually cropping up, but today, the tide finally turned in our favor. We hit the road early this morning, met Tom and Linda at their place, and set out for Belews. Though the weather report called for no rain, rather to our dismay, the sky started out dark and seemingly threatening. However, per the forecast, rain never materialized, and the only water we had to cope with was the very warm lake water when one or more of us hopped out to grab geocaches.

Only a handful of caches remained on the lake that I haven't already claimed, and, over the course of the day, I managed to grab all those I targeted. There was one I didn't hunt, as it appears to be missing, and I didn't bother with the handful of EarthCaches out there, which have no physical containers. Three of the five I did find belonged to Tom and/or Linda, so at least I had a better-than-average shot at finding anything that proved overly difficult (happily, none did). We had ravenous/thirsty folks on the boat, so between the picnic lunches, sweet treats, and variety of drinks/spirits we had on hand, and not a smidgin of our stores went to waste.

As always with the Imbuses, the company couldn't have been better. Good food, good caching, and good folks. Upon our return home, Ms. B. and I put on Casino Royale, one of my favorite 007 films, mainly to check out scenery from Montenegro and Venice, since we plan to visit both those places, among others, on an upcoming big trip.

Happy geeking to the lot of you. There will be geeking here.
Hold onto thy hat, there be a big breeze here!
All that remains of an old railroad trestle
Ms. B. and Linda
Approaching the Duke Energy power plant
An old, abandoned boat we discovered
A quaint little shack we passed

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Ameri-Scares Ohio: Fear the Grassman! Excerpt #1

My next novel in Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series is for the state of Ohio. This one is tentatively titled Fear the Grassman! because it's about... you guessed it... the Ohio Grassman, which, according to local legend, is a kind of big old Bigfoot creature. And here is a short excerpt, which I hope will scare the pants of you. (But hold onto your pants, or you might end up kind of cold because, in the scene, it's wintertime.)
Landon laughed, turned, and began running—or stumbling—toward the edge of the woods with his brother in hot pursuit. A snowball whizzed past his ear. He ran first to the left, then to the right, trying not to trip over his own feet. He heard rapid, crunching footsteps just behind him. Then—WHAM!—it felt like a boulder of snow crashing down on his head.

“Got you with the big bomb!” Tom cried.

Cold, glittering crystals cascaded over his shoulders. This time, Landon lost his balance and went down on his knees. He heard Tom’s footsteps just behind him. He ducked and covered his head with his arms, certain the next bomb was about to fall. Then he noticed something in the snow to his left.



Another blow, and snow crumbled over his head and shoulders.

He paid it no mind. “Wait a minute! Look!” He pulled one arm away from his head and pointed at the snow-covered ground a few feet away.

For a long moment, he expected Tom to hit him yet again, but nothing happened.

“Wow,” came Tom’s low voice.

Both boys’ gazes now took in what had caught Landon’s attention: a double row of deep impressions in the snow that led through the yard along the edge of the woods.

They looked like footprints.

Huge, gigantic, unbelievable footprints.

Landon and Tom gathered around the nearest print and stared at it in silent awe. It had to be fully two feet long. The next nearest lay at least six feet away. The falling snow had partly covered the tracks. But there could be no mistaking their distinctive outlines: they looked like the prints of a giant man’s bare feet.

“I’ve never seen anybody that big before,” Landon whispered.

“Yeah. And who would be out in the snow with no shoes on?” Tom said.

Landon followed the prints with his eyes. He pointed off to the right. “That’s where they go into the woods. Can’t tell where they go from there.”

Both boys stood motionless, listening to the soft, fluttering sound of falling snow. Beyond that, there was only the low moan of a slight, distant breeze.

Landon heard a heavy crunch from somewhere not far away....

Monday, September 9, 2019

Farewell to the Rives

Photo by Martinsville Police Dept.
The last remaining movie theater in my hometown from my youth is no more. Last night, fire ravaged the Rives Theater in Martinsville; it is expected to be a total loss. Fortunately, no one was injured, and property damage was confined to the theater. Although the Rives hasn't shown first-run movies for several years, it was still used for occasional special screenings and had become a popular local venue for musical acts. It's highly unlikely the theater will be rebuilt.
I didn't see Tom Jones or Irma La Douce at the Rives, but
I did see The Ghost and Mr. Chicken there in 1966.

It's so disheartening to see another of the town's landmarks fade into the past. Martinsville had its share of nice movie houses when I was a kid — the Rives, the Martin, the Town & Country — as well as several drive-in theaters — the 220, the Castle, the Family, and The Martinsville. Every one of them, now gone.

Of all these, the Rives was where I spent the most time as a lad. Rarely did a weekend go by that I didn't attend one of the Saturday or Sunday matinees — always either at 1:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. — and I'd occasionally go to the regular evening shows as well, especially once I got my driver's license and could transport myself and whatever company I might be keeping at the time. A pudgy, white-haired gentleman named Tommy managed the theater, and he was a fixture there for more years than I can recount. I saw so many classics and personal favorites from the 1960s and early 1970s in that dark, familiar auditorium: The Wizard of Oz, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Swiss Family Robinson, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Bigfoot, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, War of the Gargantuas/Monster Zero, Yog - Monster From Space, Skyjacked, Cougar Country, Munster Go Home, House of Dark Shadows/Night of Dark Shadows, Return of Count Yorga, The Legend of Boggy Creek, FrogsThe Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, The Legend of Hillbilly John, Diamonds Are Forever, Jaws, Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster, even Star Wars in later years... the list goes on and on and on.

I believe it was in the 1980s that the theater was remodeled and divided into two auditoriums. At that point, it never seemed quite the same, yet it was still undeniably the Rives. A damn fun place to be.

I'm pretty certain that the last first-run film I saw at the Rives was Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ in 2004. In 2009, I did go to a special midnight showing of Night of the Living Dead there. And it was in September 2012 that I set foot in the Rives Theater for the last time, when Mat & Myron Smith's Young Blood: Evil Intentions premiered. (Some of you may recall I appeared in the movie and in 2015 wrote the novelization of the film.) I have missed seeing movies at that place above all others — well, except for maybe those old drive-in theaters — and I can't say it doesn't break my heart a little that I'll likely never have the opportunity to revisit that favorite old haunt.

Well, time and the world do move on, but history is history, and the Rives Theater played an awfully big part in mine. The Rives, for all intents and purposes, was an old friend, and I will miss it so.

The Rives Theater in its heyday
The Rives' remodeled facade
Special showings of the 1940s Batman serial at the Rives, which I attended in the mid-1960s

Thursday, September 5, 2019


I figured I ought to check in here on ye olde blog this evening, as it's been way too long since I've had the opportunity to post any updates. It's no exaggeration to say that the past two weeks have been the most uncertain, discombobulating, and stressful that I have ever lived through, topped off by an uncomfortable and infuriating sinus/respiratory bug. My mom's personal circumstances, which have been nominally stable for the past few years, nose-dived recently, when she succumbed to pneumonia and took a couple of falls. This has required an unprecedented level of intervention on my part (and my brother's, to some extent), and a major life-change for her is now inevitable. Beyond that, there's no need to elaborate, so I'll merely ask that those of you who consider me a friend please keep me, my brother, and my mom in your hearts. It's a tough, tough time, and every little bit of support means the world to me.

At this point, things have settled enough that we can  take a breather before the next round. At least, I hope so. The next round is coming, but I feel that we are as prepared as prepared can be under the circumstances.

I've been able to work in only the barest minimum of geocaching (that which keeps me sane), but today, a couple of new trail hides awaited my attention. After work, I met friend Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) out at the Kingfisher Trail, just north of Greensboro, where a couple of new caches required my attention. (Fortuitously, one of them — called "Options" because there's more than one method of reaching the well-hidden cache — belongs to Ms. FDTS herself.) Hers proved to be a wonderfully conceived, physically challenging hide, which required a certain degree of acrobatic prowess to conquer (see photo above). That done, it was on to friend Old Rob's newest. Happily, we made short work of it. I also ended up doing unexpected maintenance on one of my own hides out there, which required acrobatics of the same sort you see in said photo. Someone had replaced it somewhat out of keeping with its original intent (again, see photo), and I wasn't about to let that stand. Thing is, when I retrieved her new cache, Natalie had neglected to take any photos, so on our return trip, I recreated my original venture to ground zero (photo) so she could snap the requisite pictures.

Afterward, we ventured forth to Uptown Charlie's, one of our favorite post-caching dining destinations, where I partook of Pernicious IPA and Suicide Chicken Wings. So, for at least this evening, a sense of normality, or something such, managed to prevail, and thus energized, it is back to the writing of my next Ameri-Scares novel, this one for the state of Ohio, tentatively titled Fear the Grassman! Hey, it's Bigfoot, man.

Coming up, one thing I think I might do here — for my own sake — is occasionally post some recollections of my mom from over the years. I feel it will be therapeutic, and a touch of therapy about now could only be a good thing. You may change the channel or go out for a drink if you prefer; it won't bother me. Some things I do share, but they're really about preserving personal history. I trust you understand.

Till the next.