Sunday, April 25, 2021

Falls Lake Rail Trailin’

The Vaccinated But Still Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight Irregulars
No fire-breathing Tyrannosauruses on today’s geocaching adventure, but we did encounter a fire. The Vaccinated But Still Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight IrregularsDiefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob), and ye olde fart (moi) — met up at Falls Lake in Durham County to hike one of the area’s rail trails. This one is the long-abandoned Durham & Northern rail line, which dates back to 1887. There are ten caches along this particular stretch, and we set out to find them.

The hike took us about a mile and a half out to a point in the lake accessed by the narrowest of land bridges. The cache out there — “Guardian of the Point” (GC1DN30) — was an easy favorite for us, as the scenery out on that long, narrow strip of land turned out to be pretty spectacular. And we found fish. Dead fish. Many dead fish. They had clearly been swimming around there during a period of high water, and when it receded, they were trapped. Well, that really wasn’t what I would consider a favorite moment, but it was different.
Smoke pouring from hollow tree

One of the caches along our trek — “Loco Fuel” (
GC5K7D4) — may have been the victim of the fire-breathing tyrannosaurus I sought yesterday (“The Lair of a Fire-Breathing T-Rex”), for at ground zero, we found not a cache but a sizable area of scorched earth. It was recent enough that we found smoke belching from the trunk of a hollow tree right at ground zero. Much to our chagrin, we couldn’t come up with even a melted lump of plastic here, though since we do know the cache owner, we took it upon ourselves to replace the container to (hopefully) keep it in play.

Once finished with the rail trail, our crew sallied forth to Hillsborough where we took a tour of several of the town’s myriad historical buildings by way of a recently published Adventure Lab cache. This one proved fun and edumacational. Then we made our way to Hillsborough BBQ Company for the first group lunch we have had in quite some time. Happily, we were able to sit outdoors, which we all still prefer.

And after all that, exhaustion set in. My birthday is coming up, so I may be even more exhausted at this time next week.

That is all.
All that remains of an old trestle
Something fishy
Heading out to the distant point
The view from GZ back the way we had come

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Lair of a Fire-Breathing T-Rex

You better stop, hey, what’s that sound...?
Just a quick little entry after a relatively short geocaching outing this morning. Several caches down Jamestown/High Point way have been published in the past few months, and I figured it was high time I headed out to hunt at least a couple of them. The first — “Church of the Woods (GC96CCP) — took me to a neat little wooded area behind a church, where I found a picturesque outdoor chapel and, of course, the cache. I quite enjoyed the atmosphere of serene isolation on this rather gray, soon-to-be-drizzly morning.

From there, I trucked over to a nearby neighborhood and a cache called “The Lair of a Fire-Breathing T-Rex” (GC95FVQ). The cache description reads “A million years ago this was the home of a fire-breathing T-Rex. Legend says that if you were to enter without an offering of loot you would soon be sorry....” From that and the coordinates on the map, I had a feeling what I’d be getting into — and my hunch proved correct (see the image above). My initial inspection of ground zero suggested I might up pretty wet at this one. But as it turned out, I was peering into the lair of a fire-breathing Plesiosaur. Once I shifted my focus a little, I was able to make my way to the cache without making too much a mess of myself. From the adjacent passageway, I did hear some strange rumbling, thumping sounds, so once I had signed the cache log, I headed straightaway for the Rodan Mobile.

A couple of fun caches in appealing settings on my morning run. This afternoon, there will be more home renovation happening. Hopefully, more caching tomorrow. Adieu to you, and you, and you.
The T-Rex dwells in one of these....
The Church of the Woods
Also on the church premises

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sunday Soloing

Sundays are almost always geocaching days, but it’s rare that I go out solo on a Sunday. Today, circumstances just worked out that way. A half-dozen caches came out recently on the Kernersville Mountain Bike Trail — which, until they did, I had no idea even existed. It’s been around since 2013 but no one had ever placed caches there until friend Feathered Friends (a.k.a. Big Tom) learned of its existence and set things to right.
I think the spiders got ’em one.

The park has only a wee tiny parking area, and when I arrived this morning, it was full (and then some). So, I hied myself over to nearby Triad Park and cut across country to the bike trail. It’s a lovely wooded area, with 3.9 miles of well-maintained trail. Given the number cars in the lot, I was afraid I’d end up running into quite a few cyclists along the trail, but I actually did not — I only had to yield to one bike on my entire hike. Since I mostly cut across the winding trails, I ended up putting in 1.9 miles (and burning 880 calories, according to my Health app).

The northern section of the trail winds around and across a couple of streams, with numerous accompanying deep ravines. Some of those ravines brought to mind the spider pit from King Kong (1933, not that more modern claptrap). In fact, based on the visual evidence I came upon, I’m pretty sure the spiders got themselves one.

I couldn’t have bought a more beautiful morning in the woods. I’ve another busy, breakneck week ahead of me (following a long string of the same sort), so this little respite from the pace was just the ticket. This evening, I’m going to try to make some headway on Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill, my current Ameri-Scares novel-in-progress.

Till next time.

An all-but-dried-up waterfall
Looking into one of the ravines
Why use a regulation bridge when you can cross on these?*
*I opted for the regulation bridge. This time.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

At First Just Ghostly

Do you see anything a little creepy in this photograph? I took it at the old homestead in Martinsville on Friday night. A friend was trying to recollect the layout of the rooms there, so I took a shot of the wall with the cameo silhouettes of my brother and me (above and to the right of the lamp; they were rendered by an artist at Walt Disney World in May 1975). The dark room on the right is the dining room. Hanging on the far dining room wall is a framed, oval mirror, and... yes... when I looked at the photo on my phone screen, I clearly saw what appeared to be the reflection of a human figure — where there could not possibly be a human figure.

For a scant few seconds, I was pretty creeped out. Then — almost to my disappointment — I realized there was some shmutz on the phone screen that happened to be slightly reflective and perfectly positioned to create a weird illusion. What you see above is actually a Photoshop rendering of what my eyes saw. I’m posting the actual photo, sans shmutz, just below.

But for that one brief moment, my face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Alone on the Laurel Bluff Trail

Wee little frog sleeping on a leaf

I needed exercise, and bad, and I really wanted to hike after work today. I have no geocaches in town to hunt, and when I hike, I’ve gotta hunt things. Yes, I’ve just gotta. So, having found all the caches on all the trails nearby, I broke down and decided to hunt Munzees. There’s a shit ton of them on the Laurel Bluff Trail, just north of Greensboro, so I made that my destination. At least I got to satisfy the need to find things in the woods. It was a beautiful, almost chilly afternoon, and — much to my surprise — I found the trail almost totally bereft of other human beings, which delighted me no end. More often than not, you go into the woods seeking solitude, and the trails turn out to be like goddamn I-40 at rush hour. Over the course of nearly three hours, I saw exactly three other people on the trail. Not a bad hourly average. I put in just over four miles — two miles out and two miles back — so I did go out bit farther than a lot of casual hikers do. So, color me happy. I did indeed find a shit ton of Munzees, as well as the odd bone stuck in a tree; a few wee, tiny frogs sleeping on leaves; and a pair of slightly sore feet. I did take the opportunity to check on a cache of mine called Hellraiser (GC4D26T), which lurks a short distance from the trail near a big beech tree in which someone carved “Hell is just ahead” in 1961.

When I got back to the parking lot, I was surprised to find it full of cars. I really don’t know where all the people were, since it seems that if they hiked out on the trail, our paths would have crossed. I dunno, maybe they were all sitting in their cars for hours, as muggles will do.

Stoopid muggles.
L: "Oh, the leg bone's connected to the tree bone...." R: You're not my stepping stone....

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong

It took three attempts, but I finally stayed awake through Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong. To be fair, these days, it doesn’t take much to put me out, given the degree of fatigue with which I regularly end far too many of my days.

Attempt number one: as soon as G vs. K came available on HBOMax, I opened an account and cranked up the movie. A long day it had been, and though I really wanted to soldier through it, the endeavor was doomed from the start. Attempt number two: easily the most fun of the three, this one took place at the Eden Drive-In Theater. I must say, Godzilla and drive-ins have gone hand-in-hand since I was just a wee little kaiju nerd, and this experience proved largely delightful. Largely, I say, though not wholly. Constant rain ended up marring the viewing, as did — again — a willing spirit but desperately tired flesh. However... finally... on attempt number three (again on HBOMax), mind and body managed to remain focused.

Spoilers here, there may be.

As with its predecessor, Godzilla - King of the Monsters, G vs. K eschews anything like engaging storyline and characters in favor of CGI spectacle. While one could hardly expect anything different these days, the endlessly-cynical-yet-ever-hopeful movie buff in me still feels a tad slighted. “But it’s a giant monster movie,” I hear you cry. “You go to see monsters, monsters, monsters, and it’s ridiculous to expect anything more.” Well, no, it isn’t, any more than it’s ridiculous to expect more than a CGI extravaganza in any movie, be it superhero, action-adventure, science-fiction/fantasy/horror, comedy, or pure drama. But movies play to their perceived audience, and the perception is clearly that a monster movie needs little more than a big-ass budget, a few recognizable names, and a houseful of kitchen sinks to hit the mark.

So be it. On those terms, G vs. K isn’t exactly a waste of time. Legendary’s version of Godzilla turns in a more entertaining performance than he did in either of his previous two films, and he even boasts a marginally better design. Now, our big guy is still a weirdly proportioned walking mountain, with a tiny head and bloated physique; however, this go-round, his proportions appear a tad better balanced, and his posture and movements convey a distinctly reptilian menace. Not since Shin Godzilla has an incarnation of Big G emitted more high-powered light rays and fried more shit from exceptional distances. I do love the fact that this film treats us to an honest-to-Godzilla rampage that reduces a lot of city-shaped pixels to rubble-shaped pixels. I suppose I could even go so far as to credit many of the Godzilla scenes with keeping me awake longer than I might have otherwise managed, even if the story had been more engaging.

Kong, who looks pretty much like he did in Kong: Skull Island, only bigger, spends a lot of time airborne. Leaping, flying, floating, and — in a worthy nod to Toho’s original King Kong vs. Godzilla — traveling by way of a balloon airlift. Another (slightly) pleasant surprise is that Kong’s interactions with young Jia, a deaf-mute girl who is able to communicate with him via sign language, take up a relatively tiny portion of the film’s running time. From the trailers I had seen, I had feared this potentially saccharine trope might overwhelm the film’s other, slightly less saccharine tropes. It did not. Jia, who is played by deaf actress Kaylee Hottle, is treated respectfully, and of all the kids ever to appear in a giant monster movie, I might categorize Jia as the least annoying ever. I suppose that is something.
Hallo, how are you, nice day.
Eiza Gonzalez as Maia Simmonds

The human cast? Ah, the human cast. Not much happening here. Not due to lack of talent, just a lack of material. Alexander Skarsgaard plays the boyishly charming Dr. Nathan Lind, who leads an expedition into the hollow Earth (established in the previous film) to find a nebulous power source that exists there as well as to take Kong “home.” He has to take Kong home because, if he doesn’t, Godzilla, as a rival apex predator, will be duty-bound to whoop up on him. Rebecca Hall plays Kong expert Ilene Andrews, whose primary job — apart from being Jia’s mother — is to remind us every few minutes that Kong bows to no one (“no one” meaning Godzilla). Naturally, Millie Bobby Brown returns as Madison Russell to spout conspiracy theories, offer the occasional snarky line, and walk everywhere with a rapid, purposeful stride. For our requisite lovable, conspiracy theory–driven protagonist, we have Bernie Hayes, played by Brian Tyree Henry. On his own, Henry comes across as engaging enough, though he is unable to conjure up an ounce of chemistry with any of the other players — a criticism that could be leveled at the entire cast, actually. Young Julian Dennison, as nerdy Josh Valentine, rounds out our eccentric group of do-gooders.

The do-gooders are trying to find out what Godzilla has against technological giant Apex Industries, run by smarmy Walter Simmonds, played by Demián Bichir. I give nothing away by saying he’s not a good guy. Nor is his daughter, Maia, played by Eiza Gonzalez, whose specialty is slinging insults fast and hard. Move over, Boris and Natasha.
Alexander Skarsgaard as Dr. Nathan Lind, Rebecca Hall as Ilene Andrews, Kaylee Hottle as Jia Andrews
Julian Dennison as Josh Valentine, Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell, Brian Tyree Henry as Bernie Hayes
Demián Bichir as Walter Simmonds
The reward for sitting through the occasional character interaction is to finally witness what Apex Industries hath wrought. At first, I can’t say I was much taken with it, but it does actually seem to be growing on me. At worst, it offers an effective visual reminiscent of the scene of Lt. Goro Gondo’s demise in Toho’s Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). If that description means anything to you, my hat comes off.

I am giving G vs. K three out of five Damned Rodan’s Dirty Firetinis, and leaving it at that. Thank you.
Hallo, how are you, nice day.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Black Stone Is in the House

My contributor copy of The Black Stone: Stories for Lovecraftian Summonings arrived today, big and pretty enough to prompt a huge, happy, and hideous smile. This new anthology features “Threnody,” which, I’m pretty sure, rates as one of the creepiest creepy things I’ve ever written. Edited by Raffaele Pezzella, The Black Stone also features tales of terror by authors such as David AgranoffGlynn Owen BarrassRamsey CampbellEdward MorrisKonstantine ParadiasPete RawlikBrian M. SammonsLucy SnyderSarah Walker, and bunches of others.

About Threnody”: From my first reading of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann,” sometime in my college days, I found myself smitten with the author’s portrayal of music as an eldritch force. Once bitten by the fiction-writing bug in the mid 1980s, I frequently gravitated toward tales that featured music as an expression of power — physical as well metaphysical. “Threnody” was the first of several stories for which “The Music of Erich Zann” served as a jumping-off point, the centerpiece of these tales being a book of music written by one Maurice Zann, whom one could rightly assume to be some relation of Lovecraft’s title character.

For me, “Threnody,” which I wrote in 1986, stands out as the culmination of a personal aspiration: to create a truly eerie theme and atmosphere that might be considered “Lovecraftian” without relying on the ubiquitous tropes and nomenclature of the Cthulhu Mythos. Over the years, “Threnody” has remained a tale that readers seem to respect and remember fondly. I hope its reprinting in The Black Stone will offer folks a pleasurable shudder, whether for the first time or otherwise. I do hope that anyone of the irate persuasion will refrain from sending me rotten fruit, body parts for which I have no use, and/or sushi that is more than 48 hours old. You will have my eternal gratitude.

Please avail yourself to The Black Stone. You can get it as a trade paperback or for your Kindle. Order it here.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

This Way It’s Easy

Before Joe the Fireman, there was Industrial Soldier, a wonderful little band my brother and several of his compadres formed in their college days, early- to mid-1980s. In 1986, when I lived in Chicago, Phred sent me a cassette tape of Industrial Soldier, which I listened to no end because it was freaking good. The musicianship was incredible, far better than any college town band I ever heard back in my day, save REM, whom I saw semi-frequently in my UGA days in Athens, GA. Sadly, despite having turned this house upside-down, I have been unable to locate that old cassette. I know it’s got to be here... somewhere. I played it for Brugger several years ago — so wherever I put it back then, that is no doubt where it is now.

This is one I believe Phred wrote while he was in college. An awesome tune. You can listen to it on Dropbox here: This Way It’s Easy

This Way It’s Easy
©Phred Rainey, Industrial Soldier

Wheel up in my eye
Offends the sky

Take my space to fill this place among
The pioneers of waste
Anything you had to do and more
That way was hard

Do what you would never do if
You didn't have time to do it
The real kind of patriot's dream I see
Is mine, you're welcome to it
I got no damn complaints
Whiskey ain't for saints
Or me

Dog's back in town
Pushed me around

Take my space to fill this place among
The pioneers of waste
Anything you had to do and more
That way was hard

Do what you would never do if
You didn't have time to do it
The real kind of patriot's dream I see
Is mine, you're welcome to it
I got no damn complaints
Whiskey ain't for saints
Or me

Friday, April 2, 2021

Renovating the Casa di Rodan

Casa di Rodan is undergoing some pretty drastic renovations, after many years of little more than routine maintenance. Yesterday, we had the living room painted — the walls and ceiling, anyway; we’ll do the baseboards and trim after the old carpet is removed and new flooring installed. Brugger and I have painted the kitchen walls and ceiling, and are about to paint the cabinets. New countertops and floor will follow. Big jobs, lots of work, all very much needed. It’ll be sweet if I can get this place habitable, at least for anyone other than this old hermit, before it’s time to kick off.