Monday, June 28, 2021

Overhauling 2

Mercy, what a week. Apart from the day job, the better part of it has been the ongoing labor shaping Casa de Rodan into a new, improved  doomicile. I painted; reattached cabinets to walls; installed light fixtures; removed more trash from the house than the law ought to allow; got married; took 18 metric tonnes of trash to our local collection station; pulled screws, nails, and anchors from walls; and rearranged furniture in three rooms in preparation for painters coming tomorrow. Next week, we get the new flooring, which will require even more extensive moving and shuffling of things. Why, yes, I am, I'm getting too old for this shit.

Yesterday, I put in a hot, rigorous hike for geocaches over in Raleigh, where swarms of huge mosquitos assaulted me relentlessly. That, though, was more in the "fun" department — which has been a bit understaffed for a while now. (Help wanted, don't you know.)

I was in Raleigh yesterday because Ms. B. had one of those artsy-craftsy thingummies she occasionally attends. Now that COVID-19 isn't such an overbearing threat, at least to the properly vaccinated, she's all kinds of excited about gathering with her artsy-craftsy peeps and creating her artsy-craftsy creations.
One of Ms. B.'s artsy-craftsy thingummies: a rendering of a critter she found at her place a while back.
After several of miles of hiking, a fair bunch of geocaches claimed, and a passel of mosquito bites acquired, I met Ms. B. at her hotel, where I did the world a kindness by taking a long, hot shower. Then we hit the nearby Trali Irish Pub, which has long been one of our favorite dining/drinking establishments when we're in that area. It's been quite a long while — since well before the pandemic set in. We both availed ourselves to Trali's excellent fish & chips. These are just as wonderful as ever.
Today, I rose early and immediately set to work prepping the house for tomorrow's appointment with the painters. They're doing the master bedroom, my office, and soon-to-be-Kim's craft room, and each room needed some serious prepping. Pulling all the furniture together, away from the walls, proved a fair task for me, myself, and I. I may be an old fart, but at least when heave-hoing must be done, I still have some ho to heave.

At the end of it all, I figured I'd reward myself with a drink of some sort. We had a splash of Bread & Butter Chardonnay left in the fridge from the other day, so I decided to make a concoction of wine and Clamato juice, similar to the bloody something-or-another I'd had up at Chateau Morrisette a few years back. Now, I remember enjoying theirs, but mine was friggin dynamite. I reckon I'll call it Damned Rodan's Bloody Chard, and it may end up becoming a new go-to drink. Very refreshing, with the Chardonnay flavor quite prominent amid the savory, spicy tomato/clam base. I used one part wine to three parts Clamato juice, and that's all there was to it. Damned perfect.

I'm sure the house is going to be fabulous once all the work is done. I just hope getting to that point doesn't do me in.
Left: Not the cache; Right: Also not the cache; Below: the cache

Friday, June 25, 2021

Overhauling 1

Wednesday, June 23, 2021... a date that will live in infamy. The pic offers clue enough, no need for more.

On the Do-It-Yourself-Renovate-the-Whole-Bloody-House front, progress has been made — at what physical cost, lord knows, since I hobble to bed every evening unable to remember what it was like to walk upright. Wednesday morning, I ended up taking a full carload of trash out to the local collection station, since it was piling up in the yard and both the trash and recyclable cans were filled beyond overflowing. Then I took a load of ancient electronics and several cans of vintage toxic sludge to the local hazardous waste disposal site. Disposing of waste is one of Greensboro's few strong suits, I will say. After the regular pickup of trash and recyclables, the city grabbed about a dozen metric tons of bulk trash from my curb. Now, did that that finally clear the yard? Why, not even close! There's plenty for at least another trip to both collection points as well as another bulk trash pickup. I tell you, though, after all this, I hope Brugger will be able to find a vacant corner of the house to plop her stuff once she crosses the threshold on a permanent basis. There is, for the first time in a decade here, some room to move in certain quarters.

After those labors, I pulled out the fire pit and put the torch to literally a hundred pounds of old paper bearing personal information, which has been filed away since I had more than a few live hair follicles. Near as I can tell, I sweated off a couple or three superfluous pounds. A few more fires like that on hot summer days, and I'll be downright svelte again. I hope I'm never again able to lay claim to such an abundance of fuel.

Today, after knocking off from the day job, I went to work in the downstairs bathroom (now known as the Kraken Room, since we put up a fun, tentacled shower curtain). Hung the new bathroom mirror, installed a snazzy light fixture that we picked up at Lowe's, and put up some shelves. This took a fair portion of the evening, but a lovely Manhattan helped motivate me. And I took a wee break to cook up a ghost pepper–sauced chicken breast that really generated some delicious heat.

You know, until I took to overhauling this old house top to bottom, I had never noticed how caddywhompus the damned thing is. Nothing meets evenly or symmetrically. In the bathroom, the centers of the sink and the light fixture on the wall are offset just enough to be annoying. In the kitchen, the center of the window above the sink and the center of the sink are about four inches off. One of the cabinets on the wall is distinctly crooked — or was, now that I have removed, painted, and remounted it. The fireplace is not centered between the front window and the front door. In the upstairs spare bedroom — formerly my office — no 90-degree angle exists. Anywhere. Makes me wonder if the folks who built Casa de Rodan also built Hill House.

It's tired out tonight, so I think that's about it. Tomorrow, at least, I anticipate some geocaching. At long last, yay!
After (A lot more went to the dump than it looks like!)
New shelves, new lighting, new mirror in the Kraken Room. (I'm hoping I can make the whole thing
a Kraken House without get busted.)

Monday, June 21, 2021

Fear the Grassman!

Crossroad Press has now released my Ameri-Scares novel — Ohio: Fear the Grassman! — in paperback. It’s also currently available for Kindle and will soon be released as an audio book.

Five years ago, young Landon Shrewsbury saw something that scared him to death: a giant, shadowy figure lurking in the woods around his house. Something that left huge footprints in his yard. Now, at age thirteen, Landon has convinced himself he imagined the whole experience. But now, numerous people in Sugarcreek, Ohio, report seeing just such a creature. When his parents leave town for a week-long vacation, Landon is left in his older brother's care. And to his horror, the frightening, shadowy menace from his childhood returns. Landon, his brother Kevin, and his new friend Tami suddenly find themselves being stalked by the fearsome giant known as the Grassman. Now, the three of them must discover the reason for the beast's return—and find a way to stop its violent rampage—before they fall victim to its inhuman fury.

You can check out a couple of excerpts from Ohio: Fear the Grassman! here:

Order Ohio: Fear the Grassman! from

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Worse Than Moving?

Current view of one corner of the living room. The whole house looks like this.
Well, I dunno if the seemingly endless prep for combining households is actually worse than picking up and moving a whole house, but it’s gotta be pretty near. Ms. B. and I have gone from minor upheaval during the initial do-it-yourself painting/refurbishing phase to all-out holy horror as we prepare to have both painters and flooring people come in to complete the interior overhaul of Casa de Rodan. Brugger and I have spent most of the week cleaning out every nook and cranny (with some most welcome assistance from friends Terry & Beth), dumping what we can and reorganizing — or at least attempting such — the things worth saving. Most of her belongings aren’t even here yet, so where we’re eventually going to fit everything is probably the biggest question of our lifetimes. And we still have a long way to go before this business is finished.

In the process of dismantling every neatly organized grouping of my personal belongings, I did find a number of things I had thought permanently lost, such as a cassette tape of my brother’s music and some artwork I did during and post college. I also discovered a couple of boxes full of copies of Deathrealm issues #20 and #23 — unopened — which I had no idea were even here. I thought all that stuff had been cleaned out long, long ago. Go figure. Anyhoo, I plan to keep a few extra copies of both, just for good measure, and probably recycle the rest.

Add to all this yet work on my brother’s house, which I managed to fit in this morning. I truly hope that place is now ready to sell and that it will move relatively quickly. While I was in Winston-Salem, I snagged a handful of geocaches this morning, which was the extent of the weekend’s caching. Friday night, Ms. B. and I did spend some quality time with authors/friends Stephen Provost and Samaire Wynne in Martinsville. Good company, foods, and drinks.

I hope I survive long enough to see all this in the can.
A newly discovered box full of copies of Deathrealm #23, circa 1994. Cover by the late, great Lew Hartman,
back cover by Ian McDowell

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Talking Dark Shadows on the Lovecraft eZine Patreon Podcast

Lovecraft eZine proprietor Mike Davis asked me the other day if I’d like to join him and author/Dark Shadows expert Rick Lai on the eZine’s regular Patreon podcast to talk guessed it...Dark Shadows. You don’t think for a minute I would say no, do you?

It’s tonight at 9:00 p.m. EDT. To access the Patreon podcasts, you need to join up to support the eZine. It starts at only $5 per month, so you’ll probably not go broke getting the goods. Anyway, come round tonight to join the fun. It’s Dark Shadows, fer cryin outloud.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Walt Disney Comics Digest

When I was a young ’un, circa 1968–1969, I owned a bunch of issues of Walt Disney Comics Digest, some examples of which you see pictured here. Although a remarkable number of publications — books, magazines, and comics — have survived the decades, mostly in the attic of Pleasant Hill, apparently none of these did. For me, the October 1968 issue, pictured at left, is easily the most memorable, no doubt because of its Halloween theme. I was most taken with its Captain Nemo comic episode, as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a favorite novel at the time, and I believe had already seen the Disney movie at the theater.

I recently found a few copies of the Walt Disney Comics Digest online, so I decided to purchase them. Happily, the October 1968 issue was among them. I remembered these things being jam-packed with comic stories, ranging from zany to educational, as well as puzzles, mazes, jokes... just about anything an adventurous, inquisitive youngster would find engaging. And sure enough. At 192 pages each, these things are dense, with as much educational material as goofy Disney character escapades. And even the goofy Disney character escapades were generally well-written — entertaining as well as a tad challenging to the young mind. I remember spending hours with these things, and it’s really no wonder. Lord knows, I may end up spending hours with them at age 62.

I don’t know if there are comparable products these days; if so, I’m sure they’re digital. For all the virtues of digital products, I don’t know that they can engage youngsters on the same level these jam-packed adventure comics did back in the day. Maybe so. Kids may find all kinds of benefits in the digital world that I don’t see, simply because that’s not my world anymore. But I am sure enjoying revisiting these remnants of days gone by. And no way am I going to let these particular issues go the ways — whatever those ways might have been — of my old, original copies.

The trio of Walt Disney Comics Digest issues to which I availed myself
A spread from “The Adventures of Captain Nemo: Doom Island

Sunday, June 6, 2021


I’ve not drunk a Manhattan since sometime in the Cretaceous period, but while I was in Martinsville on Friday evening, on a whim, I decided to pick up the fixins and make one. Damn, it was good! And it made for excellent company while I went digging through some entertaining memorabilia in the attic and elsewhere at Pleasant Hill. I dunno that it will become a new staple, but something tells me it won’t be nearly so long until I make the next such cocktail. It sure helped sand the edges of what had been a fairly rough week.

I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with the Manhattan — more the need to get the stagnant blood moving — but there is a good-size dogwood tree in the front yard I have never climbed, and I decided it was as good a time as any. Yep. I climbed the tree and spent an enjoyable while up there taking in the view at sunset. It seemed the place to be at the time.

Bright and early Saturday morning, I rode up Fairy Stone State Park to hunt a new geocache (“A Bench with a View #2GC9BMGC), which I managed to find readily. At that hour, there wasn’t much activity going on, although the beach was open for swimming. A few folks were already wet. As a youngster, I made many trips to the beach at Fairy Stone, but I don’t think I’ve been there for swimming (or paddle boating) for almost a decade, when Ms. B. and I spent a pleasant day on the lake. But for geocaching, Fairy Stone is a favorite and relatively frequent destination. Despite mounting heat and a brutal mosquito attack, I quite enjoyed the brief excursion. As I was going back to my car, I heard what I at first thought was a kid hollering “Uh-oh!” somewhere nearby. But then I realized it wasn’t a kid but a bird. My best information is that it’s a fishing crow, a critter I am fairly certain I’ve never heard before. Play the video below to give the amusing little fellow a listen.
After that, it was back home to get to work on the home renovation — this time, removing, cleaning, and sanding the kitchen cabinets (at least a few of them this time around) in preparation to paint them. We had the new countertops installed last week, and they look quite lovely. Next step is the new flooring, which we ordered yesterday afternoon. What a job this is turning out to be, not that I ever had any illusions it would be anything else.

For dinner, friends Joe & Suzy came over, and we ordered pizza from Marco’s, which is, in my considered opinion, the best pizza in town. Needless to say, there was a wine aplenty, all good, both white and red. We took advantage of a reasonably comfortable evening to eat dinner and hang out on the front porch for a while before the mosquitos finally drove us indoors.
The lighting from our phones provided a weird, somewhat intriguing image of the gang
Hallo, how are you, nice day

Naturally, this morning saw the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars — Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob), and Old Rodan (a.k.a. me) — getting together for a geocaching outing in Cary, over near Raleigh. We hiked the Hatcher Creek Greenway for several miles, picked up a few caches in other random, nearby areas, and had a dynamite Mexican lunch at Mi Cancun restaurant — literally, some of the best Mexican food I’ve had in ages (street tacos with very hot & spicy chicken for me). There are plenty of caches left in the area to bring us back, so I suspect we will venture to Cary again in the near future for, hopefully, an equally enjoyable encore.

I anticipate the usual work week coming up, but potential stumbling blocks with Mom’s estate loom large, all the more frustrating because they’re neither of my making nor under my control. But if the worst happens, it’s going to add yet more complications to this endlessly complicated ordeal. It is altogether frustrating and unpleasant. I really, truly, cannot wait for this mess to end. To add insult to injury, I have been summoned for jury duty next month. What a fooking treat.

Otherwise, life is.
The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars meet an angel in a graveyard in Cary
Long, elevated boardwalk on the Hatcher Creek Greenway in Cary

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Bill Vickers — Unforgettable

The relentless parade of death marches on, this week taking my favorite and most memorable teacher from my school days. William (Bill) D. Vickers was my tenth grade biology teacher at Martinsville High School (1974–1975), and I consider him among the most positive influences on my life — maybe the most, outside of my immediate family. Mr. V. was, first and foremost, a likable, well-spoken gentleman who showed respect to everyone — even when some of us scarcely deserved it. He didn’t tolerate any guff, but his personality was such that even the worst of us didn’t want to give him any guff.

In class, Mr. V. gave us all nicknames. I was Polo (you know, as in Marco). We had Sir Slab, Ms. Red Nose, Jaypee, Bonneville, and all kinds of other colorful names. In later years, he called my brother “Mark” — not after me, but after comedian Mark Russell, whom he said Phred favored.

Now, I can’t say as I remember shit about Gregor Mendel or the phylogenetic tree of life or the finer points of natural selection. But I clearly remember the labs where we evaluated the merits of evolution vs. scientific creationism (because in those days you could do this without setting off a holy war); debated whether marijuana should be legalized (and to what degree, be it medicinal or in general); and analyzed current social issues (such as whether we favored busing students to distant schools to fulfill integration quotas). Of course, we did actually study the more traditional aspects of biology, and to reinforce our learning, we regularly played games, such as Chalk Talks, which made the subject fun and, above all, memorable.

Later, when Mr. V. became interim principal at the high school, I would on occasion drop in to say hi, and he’d take time out of his busy day just to shoot the shit for a while. One day in the late 1980s, when I was living in Chicago but visiting Martinsville, I saw him coming out of church as I drove past. I stopped the car, we started talking, and that went on and on for some ungodly spell. Again, I’m sure he had other things to do, places to be, and people to see, but he never short-changed anyone his time.

I believe the last time I saw him was in the early 2000s, when his daughter was babysitting for friends Joe and Suzy. When he came to pick her up, once again, we ended up deep in conversation for a ridiculously long spell.

Martinsville Bulletin writer Holly Kozelsky interviewed me earlier today about Mr. V., and she did a bang-up job getting a lovely profile written and on the site in just a few hours. Here’s the link:

Peacemaker Bill Vickers: What He Did Was He Listened

I just wish I had been able to see Mr. V. again before it was too late. At least during those encounters with him after high school, I let him how in no uncertain terms how profoundly he had influenced my life. (I’m still working on those life lessons about showing respect to people who I calculate don’t rate any.) I trust there were many, many folks within his sphere of influence who share my better sentiments.