Sunday, January 30, 2022

Feels Like Michigan

But no. It's still the South, just mighty cold, with a fair bit of snow. Actually, when Ms. B. and I were in Michigan last week, NC and VA got hit with a much bigger snowstorm than we got up north. Happily, home was spared any damage or power outages, unlike many others in the area. Since we got back, amid the fairly busy work and writing schedules, I've managed to fit in at least a bit of geocaching, which has been most welcome since it's about the only meaningful outdoor exercise I've been able to get.

Yesterday, I headed to Mayodan, for a five-stage multi-cache at Farris Memorial Park, which I had apparently visited while caching a few years back, but I have very little memory of the experience. Clearly, I am much older now. It was freaking freezing out there, with a bitter wind; not very different from my caching experiences in Michigan last week. Fortunately, at each stage of the multi I was able to take photos of the necessary clues and solve each puzzle in the relatively warm car. The final stage was a pretty good ways out in the woods, but at least amid the trees, the wind wasn't so fierce. I rather enjoyed the hike out and back.

Today, the No-Dead-Weight Irregulars — friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), friend Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), and I — headed down to China Grove, just this side of Charlotte, for a day of it, mostly at Lake Corriher. Once again, the temperature started out Michigan-like, but at least it warmed up a bit over the course of the day. We put in a good many miles on the trails, then headed into downtown China Grove for lunch (No Way José's Mexican Restaurant, where I et some killer street tacos), an Adventure Lab cache, and a few other assorted hides. All in all, a very fine couple of days of it — marred only by a particularly obnoxious health issue that keeps cropping in my old age. It doesn't thrill me.

Anyhoo, that's that for that, so until next time.
The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars: Old Rodan, Not-So-Old Natalie, Very Old Diefenbaker
View down the trail from the high ground at Lake Corriher
Heading across the inlet at Lake Corriher

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Fugue Devil Resurgence — Copy Edit Complete

The wraparound cover for Fugue Devil Resurgence is pretty well finalized. It’s looking right sharp, I think. Stephen H. Provost did a bang-up copy-editing job, and I spent the evening making corrections and revisions. I slapped my seal of approval on it and sent the manuscript back to Black Raven Books. We’re getting closer and closer to this book becoming a reality. Springtime, we’re thinking.

I did manage to get out and snag a newish cache after work this afternoon. A nice little treat, since it’s bloody rare to have a cache fairly nearby to hunt. Of course, now that it’s hunted and found, there aren’t any more caches nearby. Until someone hides some more. I hope they will. Soon.

Friday, January 21, 2022

A Thirty-Year Anniversary — Fugue Devil Resurgence

Indeed, this is going to be a thing, in the not-too-distant future. A new short fiction collection released by Black Raven Books, Fugue Devil Resurgence will feature — surprise, surprise! — the original novelette, “The Fugue Devil,” as well as its sequel, “The Devil’s Eye,” plus ten more of my short stories, a number of which have never  been previously published. The book is being released as something of a thirty-year anniversary celebration of the original publication of Fugue Devil & Other Weird Horrors, my first fiction collection, which came out from Macabre Ink in 1992. That volume is long out of print, and almost impossible to find. I think I have a single personal copy tucked away in the vault.

Black Raven Books has been around for several years, the imprint of fantasy author Samaire Wynne. Black Raven has been anticipating releasing more books by other authors, and it is my pleasure to kick off the venture. Fugue Devil Resurgence will be available as a limited edition hardback, paperback, and ebook. Pre-ordering information should be available quite soon, probably in the next couple of weeks. Links will be posted here, there, and everywhere.

The Table of Contents:
  • The Fugue Devil
  • Threnody
  • Night Crier
  • Hell’s Hollow
  • Masque of the Queen
  • Somewhere My Love
  • When Jarly Calls
  • Messages From a Dark Deity
  • Short Wave
  • Escalation
  • Pons Devana
  • The Devil’s Eye
Stay tuned for updates, ordering information, and more.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

A Late White Christmas

Morning snow in Midland
It wouldn’t be Christmas without spending time with Kimberly’s parents, but at the best of times, traveling over the holidays is an exercise in madness and fury. So, for several years running, we’ve avoided the rush by celebrating with her folks later in January. Michigan weather can always be dicey this time of year, but so far, we’ve managed to make it there and back again without getting stuck somewhere in transit. This year, the pandemic added yet another complication, but our mutual consensus was that we should go forth, continuing to take all possible precautions. We’ve all been vaccinated and boosted, we have avoided other gatherings for the past several days, and we have KN-95 masks, for whatever extra protection they might offer. Fortunately, we were able to get a flight into Saginaw (MSB), which is considerably closer than Flint, our typical port of entry to Michigan (Saginaw is usually more expensive, but this time we found a decent flight deal).

Unfortunately, our regular house-and-cat sitter had come down with COVID, which we took as no good omen. Fortunately, we were able to engage a close and highly experienced friend to take on the task. Thus reassured, we began the next chapter in our ongoing series of Mad Midland Adventures.
Pilot, what the hell, man?

Friday, January 14, 2022
We had a 5:10 p.m. flight out of PTI, so Brugger and I both worked until three o’clock and then left for the airport. There, at one of the terminal taverns, I found a damned good Bloody Mary (my customary traveling spirit), which properly set the mood for the journey. Our flight to Chicago O’Hare took somewhat longer than usual, given a strong headwind and fairly serious snowfall in Chicagoland. But it was when we landed that I wondered whether our pilot was drunk or simply lost. Because of my longtime affinity for aviation, I’m pretty familiar with ORD, not to mention aviation protocol in general. Our taxi to the terminal from Runway 9R took 30+ minutes, due to our route from Point A to Point B extending to Point ZZZ before circling back on itself (see my GPS track log on the left). Fuck a duck, man! The main problem at this point was that I had to pee. All kinds of badly. It took every ounce of effort in this body to hold back the tide, but at last, we were freed. (Thankfully, we were sitting near the front of the plane, so we were able to disembark quickly).

With an hour and a half before our flight to Saginaw, we took the opportunity to grab supper (and another Damned Bloody Mary for me) at Chili’s (burgers and fries; not necessarily the greatest but reasonably satisfying). The flight to Saginaw took a mere 40 minutes — but due to the precipitation and frigid temperatures, the plane had to be de-iced prior to take-off. This is usually not a lengthy process, and getting to the de-icing bay didn’t take too long; but, for whatever reason, once de-iced, there we sat — for a long time (considerably longer than the duration of the flight itself). To my dismay, it was damned hot in that plane. And yes — you guessed it — after that much time, I had to pee again, so as soon as we landed and that cabin door opened, I fucking bolted.

In the terminal, we found Del & Fern waiting for us (they had arrived at the airport a little early, so their wait for us had been a long one). Happily, from MSB it’s only a 15-minute drive back to Casa di Brugger. A steady snow was coming down, with about 4 inches of accumulation, but the roads, as is typical in Michigan, remained relatively clear. So, once finally ensconced in Kimberly’s family home, we promptly crashed and burned for the night.

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Brugger enjoying hot coffee inside a warm car while old man ventures into the frigid cemetery on an
ultimately ill-fated geocache hunt
The first full day of any Midland trip is when we make the traditional provision run to Meijer. And so it was today. While Meijer, like just about every retail store, is currently shy of a lot of items, in general, we were able to find decent stocks of the staples we were after. Whenever we’re here, it’s my pleasure to provide at least a dinner or two for the family, and this time around, I’ve put Bolognese (a.k.a. Ragu) on tomorrow’s dinner menu. Kimberly brought some Paccheri pasta she picked up on our trip to Italy, which I hope will be a good match for the sauce.

This afternoon, Ms. B. decided she would accompany me on a coffee/geocaching outing, despite a little snow still falling and temperatures in the very low teens. Me, I cared not a whit about the temperature; it’s geocaching. Caching in the snow can be invigorating, though oftentimes one is limited to finding “winter-friendly” caches (meaning they’re placed so they’re not likely to be buried by ice and snow). Today, after stopping for coffee at Live Oak Coffeehouse, I found mostly a bunch of readily accessible park & grab hides, though I did have good fortune seeking a few for which snow and ice augmented their natural camouflage. The sole cache I failed to locate was in a cemetery — much to my chagrin, since I love cemetery hides. I think I even found its hiding place, but a heavy coating of ice rendered it inaccessible. I expect I’ll be able to verify whether my suspicion is correct on some future cache hunt when the weather is more cooperative.

While we were out, we noticed a massive dark cloud that stretched from horizon to horizon. We realized this was not just a cloud but a sizable emission from the Dow Chemical complex a few miles to the south. Unsure whether this might be a normal issue from a smokestack or some dire accident, Brugger decided to drive us down to Overlook Park, which occupies relatively high ground and offers a panoramic view of the Dow plant. Sure enough, we soon discovered that the massive cloud was, in fact, just a big old belch from a row of smokestacks. Fortuitously, I managed to snag a couple of more caches at the park.

Once back at Casa di Brugger, we enjoyed a fairly light dinner, drank a little wine, and spent a typically pleasant evening with the folks in the basement in front of the TV. A pleasing end to a pleasing day.
Big old belch from smokestacks at Dow, seen from Overlook Park. The massive plume went all the way
across the sky to the far horizon, which was darkly spectacular.

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Back home in NC, everyone is bracing for Winter Storm Izzy, which promises to dump considerable snow and ice on the southeast. For the cats’ sakes, we’re seriously hoping the power doesn’t go out at home for an extended period. After last week’s fallen tree debacle next door, we’re also hoping our place escapes any similar issue. At best, travel is going to be impossible for a day or so. Here in Midland, there’s no significant snow in the forecast, but last night about midnight, the thermometer read a brisk 0℉, and it was the same when I woke up this morning. I had initially considered getting in some early geocaching, but I suspect I’m going to wait until this afternoon, when the temperature is supposed to reach a balmy 29℉.

Noonish, I began prep on the Bolognese Paccheri for our midday dinner. It’s semi-authentic Italian, in that I use all the traditional ingredients but customize it a bit by adding mushrooms, green olives, and hot chili pepper. We had been shamefully remiss in our wine purchases on yesterday, for we had neglected to pick up Italian wine (I blame Brugger). In its place, I used a decent Zinfandel, which worked quite well. Having never cooked Paccheri previously, I wasn’t sure how long it would take to come out properly al dente; for our four servings, eighteen minutes, it turned out. It was, in fact, just right. And no one attempted to axe murder the chef, so I must consider this dinner a grand success.
Bolognese and Paccheri, cooking and almost ready
Plated, with fruit side and wine
Kimberly’s cousin Jeannie came by during the afternoon and brought us a beautiful, handmade gift for our wedding this past year. A delightful lady she is, and we quite enjoyed spending time with her. Kimberly and I then ran a few necessary errands, which took us to the Midland Mall, which put us close to a couple of geocaches. Afterward, despite the temperature of 15℉, we navigated to them and I slogged out into the cold, snowy woods (a good twenty feet or so) to make the finds. I tell you, caching in this kind of environment is certainly different from typical caching back home, and despite the discomfort, it’s all kinds of enjoyable.

For the evening, the customary gathering of the family in the family room. It’s a mighty fine place to be.

Monday, January 17, 2022
Tis a tad brisk.
From the intel we’ve so far received, it sounds like, back home, Winter Storm Izzy spared us its worst. We’re definitely hoping this is, in fact, the case.

Here, it was a comfy 22℉ this morning — perfect for heading out for a nice, long geocaching ride in the snow on the bicycle. Okay, not really, not for the bike, but fine for borrowing the family vehicle and going after some winter-friendly caches. I headed out into one of the few remaining areas of Midland I haven’t cached out and picked up an even ten, mostly of the park-&-grab variety. One in particular proved to be singularly impressive — one of the most deceptive hides I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen other caches similar to this one, but this one was the best. I’ll not identify the specific cache, but I will divulge that it was video camera attached to a large sign in front of a business. The hint on the cache web page was a few lines from The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” so I when I discovered the camera — bolted in place with a real electrical connector — I knew I must have found the cache. Still, it looked so authentic I couldn’t bring myself to mess with it. Since the business was open and the cache page indicated they were aware of the hide, I decided to go in and ask the proprietor if he knew about the geocache on the property. He did indeed, so when I asked whether I had actually found the cache, he laughed and assured me that I had. He clearly appreciated that I made the effort to check first. I would have felt horrible — and been liable for damage — had I fucked with something I ought not have.

I gave this one an easy favorite point. And such are the joys of geocaching.

Come dinnertime, Ms. B. and I ordered Japanese — spicy tempura shrimp and a spicy crab roll for me — from Maru, which we had visited some time ago, pre-pandemic, and rightly enjoyed. It was pretty good. After that, the family settled in and watched a number of episodes of M*A*S*H, as Ms. B. had brought along a few DVDs from our full set. That, and a nice red blend occupied us until bedtime.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022
I woke up this morning after anything but the best sleep ever, my brain preoccupied with all kinds of worries, some valid, some needlessly exaggerated. The Rogue Brain at Night syndrome, or something such. Once fortified with a breakfast of egg, sausage, mixed fruit, and a shit-ton of coffee, out I went to look for a cache I had failed to find on a previous trip — which the cache owner swears is in place. It’s supposed to be an ammo can in a triple-trunk tree along a little-used road at the edge of town. Well, there is only one triple-trunk tree that I’ve managed to spot anywhere near the posted coordinates. It’s a great big one that matches the descriptions from both cache page and previous finders’ logs, and there is most assuredly no ammo can — or any other container — in or around this tree. A query to the CO indicates I must be looking in the wrong place. Somehow, I never thought I was that blind, and, to be honest, I still don’t. Nemesis, this cache is.

On a positive note, once I gave up on Nemesis in frustration, I noticed a new cache on the map not too far away. So, I made my way over to it — little more than a mile — and managed to snag the first-to-find. It’s kind of nice to log an FTF when I’m somewhere away from home. And from there, I found one other cache before heading back to Casa di Brugger for a much-needed refill of the hot coffee.

The folks and Ms. B. headed out on a shopping trip for the afternoon, so I watched Godzilla Raids Again for good measure and made some forward progress on my newest Ameri-Scares series novel, Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill. It’s been more or less on hold for too long a while as I’ve been working diligently on a couple of other new, exciting projects, one of which I’ll be posting about in the very near future. Stay tuned!

Our traditional evening gathering in the family room rounded out another pleasant day at Casa di Brugger.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Pour les bon moments
It was one year ago today that my brother, Alan (a.k.a. Phred), passed away from leukemia. Hard to fathom such a rush of time; it was just the other day, really. In some ways, emotionally, today feels like a rocky ride; in others, it’s easier now to remember the better times, much as it is with Mom’s memory. Here’s my tribute blog that I wrote shortly after he died: The Universe Takes a Good One, January 19, 2021

This morning, I went on my customary early geocaching outing — which started out frigid, for that wind was bitter. Fortunately, it died down after a relatively short while, and then 30℉ felt all nice and comfy again. Caching-wise, things didn’t start on a very promising note, as the first couple I hunted appeared to be missing. But once I headed farther north on some of the secondary roads, my fortune improved. I think I snagged thirteen total, and a couple of them were challenging. One was a magnetic nano on a light pole — about 18 feet up — whose retrieval and replacement required some creative improvisation. Another was one I had hunted while bicycling on a previous trip here, but it’s in a metal sheath around a power pole, too high to reach without something to boost you. The bike didn’t work for that purpose, but the car did. So I was able to turn that DNF frownie into a nice big smiley.

The family went out for their typical afternoon shopping excursion, while I got some writing done. Promo writing. My favorite kind of writing — not! Mercy, I hate promo writing. Kinda gotta do it, but I hates it.

Come dinnertime, Ms. B. and I wended our way to Whine!, which has long been one of our favorite Midland destinations for food and spirits. On this trip, we really haven’t been out for dinner and such, figuring the less exposure to the world in general the better. Unfortunately, it seems like, no matter where you go anymore, masks are a thing of the past. On the good side, while there were a fair number of patrons at Whine!, they had tables spaced out very well, and the air circulation seemed quite good. In the past, I’ve been fond of the martinis at Whine! — dirty gin — so I stuck with that tonight. It was excellent indeed. Ms. B. went for a Smith & Hook Cab Sauv, which I would call decent, if utilitarian. (There is not so much as a whiff of snoot going on here, is there?). She ordered Hurricane Shrimp — excellent! — and I decided to stick to a theme and have the Bolognese on Pappardelle pasta. And you know what? It was the best Bolognese I’ve had this side of Italy. Possibly better than mine, maybe as good as friend Beth’s. I mean, shit, it were dingy dang good! Compliments to the chef at Whine!, to be sure.

A final night with the family in the family room, and we could hardly have asked for a better time of it.
L: Ms. B. and wine at Whine! — something you never, ever, EVER see; R: Old dude oblivious to the threat of
wine barrels toppling on his unprotected head

Thursday, January 20, 2022
Chicago just out of O’Hare, on our way back south
The quilt Kim’s cousin Jeannie made for us

For the final day of our trip, we opted to stay in and spend the better part of the day with the family (the sub-freezing temperatures outside had nothing — nothing, I tell you — to do with this decision). I have much, much writing to do, so a little down time this morning to make some forward progress turned out to be a good thing.

Every trip to visit the folks in Midland is memorable, as this one has been. It was a bit more mellow, with fewer outings in public, since hardly anyone in the area appears to acknowledge there’s still a pretty ugly disease roaming the wild. Daily, I see reports of more and more friends coming down with COVID-19 — mostly mild cases of Omicron, fortunately. I feel certain that both Brugger and I — like virtually everyone — will end up with it, since at this point it seems pretty much inescapable unless one completely shelters in place, and I don’t think any of us are willing to go that far. But we do intend to continue taking every sensible precaution for ourselves and others. To quote friend Patrick, who is currently suffering a bout of COVID: “Fuck literally every human being whose decision tree made this more likely, and thank you so much to everyone involved in creating the things that make it more likely that my case is mild.” Hear, hear.

Au revoir, for now. Oh, and here is a little preview of coming attractions:
Art by Daniele Serra

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Time Passages: In Memory of Phred

It was one year ago today that my brother, Alan (a.k.a. Phred), passed away from leukemia. Hard to fathom such a rush of time; it was just the other day, really. In some ways, emotionally, today feels like a rocky ride; in others, it’s easier now to remember the better times, much as it is with Mom’s memory. Here’s my tribute blog that I wrote shortly after he died: The Universe Takes a Good One, January 19, 2021

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Winter Storms, Blogger Fuckery, Historic Churches, and Smoked Cow

Immediately upon our return from Myrtle Beach last weekend, dire weather fell upon us. We had only a light coating of snow, but there was ice aplenty and winds like I've not heard since the last hurricane to blow through here some years ago. We lost power at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning, though it came back on about noon — some kind of speed record for Duke Energy. Our yard became a mess of branches and sticks, but next door, a whole tree uprooted and fell. It remained as you see it in the photo above for several days, until finally, this weekend, the neighbors took it upon themselves to get rid of it. Rather than call professionals — an admittedly expensive prospect — they employed a couple of friends, a pair of electric chainsaws (one of which got stuck in the tree for a day or so), an assortment of wooden boards, a footstool, and a pickup truck (which got stuck in the mud in their backyard for a day or so). 
"Maybe if we put this over here, and that over there...?"
At this point, the chainsaw is stuck in the tree, and the truck is stuck in the mud.
On Friday afternoon, I headed to Martinsville while the trio of men were out there working, so I didn't get to see how things eventually unfolded. But when I arrived back here yesterday, the tree was gone. The fence between yards (which I believe actually belongs to the neighbors behind the next-door folk) failed to escape damage (relatively minor), and there are deep ruts and mud splatters aplenty in their backyard (and part of ours). However, to the best of my knowledge — and by some minor miracle — none of the guys out there suffered death or dismemberment. I guess you'd call that a win for do-it-yourselfing.

More snow fell in Martinsville than here in Greensboro, but there appeared to be less ice and far less property damage. I have no idea whether it was actually storm-related or not, but the heat pump at Pleasant Hill had ceased the pumping of heat, so I found the house rather chilly. Yesterday morning, I managed to engage a service tech, who determined the system needed a new thermostat. He installed one, which got the heat pump working again, but a most complicated device, this thermostat. I hope I can figure it out without needing to go back to school to get an engineering degree. In any event, I managed to get the Christmas decorations taken down and finish up a significant writing project, which I'll be promoting the hell out of in the coming days.
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church
in Hillsborough

Since today's weather, at least for the morning, appeared conducive to geocaching, three old farts — Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker), Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob), et moi — decided to head eastward to several different locations, culminating in Hillsborough, where a new Adventure Lab cache awaited us. First, we headed to the Haw River Trail in Graham to see if we could snag first-to-find honors on a newly published hide (we did); then we zoomed over to a nearby park & grab hide, of which we made very short work; and finally, we moved on to Hillsborough. The Adventure Lab cache ("Historical Churches of Hillsborough") took us around the town's picturesque historical district, to... guess what... several historical churches. Hillsborough is a lovely town to walk around, and we enjoyed the opportunity to see the sights (again).

We topped off our Hillsborough outing with a visit to Hillsborough BBQ Company, which is a longstanding tradition when we're over in that neck of the woods. I'm a smoked beef brisket junkie, and Hillsborough BBQ Company has historically had some of the best brisket I've ever tasted. Some time ago — over a year, I'm guessing — we had visited to find the brisket not quite up to snuff. Not bad, just not top-notch. Someone we met on another caching trip told us that the restaurant had changed their smoking time or process or something, but the brisket was definitely inferior. Regardless, I wanted to make sure they had another chance, and this time around, it was better. Much better. Maybe not quite what it used to be (and certainly not as eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head-incredible as The Smoke Pit in Salisbury, which is now our favorite brisket venue), but we were altogether satisfied. Plus I found a really good, jalapeno IPA (Fire Escape, Asheville Brewing Company). So Hillsborough BBQ is most definitely back in my good graces (not that it ever fell very far).

But speaking of falling far....

The most frustrating — no, infuriating — issue of the weekend was discovering that Blogger (and by default, Google) fucked up my blog in numerous instances by their constant altering of code. At one time, formatting this blog, including placing photos (for which one might have a reasonable expectation of being permanent, since they're from Google's own blog photo hosting site) was simple. You could pop a photo in, place it as you desired, look at the html code, and see the photo ID in the code. No longer. Now you get typical Google Photos gobbledygook for the ID, leaving you with no way to trace it back to its origin. But the worst issue here was that a shitload of my blog photos, mostly from 2017, now displayed only broken link images. So I ended up spending a massive amount of time replacing and relinking the pics — with no guarantee the code will actually hold. Jesus God...  this constant ABSOLUTELY GODDAMN NEEDLESS fucking around with the blog code by bunch of technological halfwits is so infuriating, if it were up to me, I'd shitcan the lot of them (the decision makers, anyway) and make sure not a one of them could work in a technological environment ever again. Maybe cleaning shit out of pigpens would be more suitable.

Anyway. Go on, git. Bye.
Three Old Farts: Old Rodan, Old Diefenbaker, Old Rob

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Dirty Myrtle Madness

Actually, "Dirty Myrtle" is the name of an IPA I tried while at the beach, and I quite liked it. But it kind of fits the motif of this most recent visit, which was both intensely fun and something between unsettling and infuriating.

Three years ago, Ms. B. and I had spent our New Year's holiday with friends and frequent traveling companions, Terry & Beth, at Myrtle Beach, SC, and have been hoping to do it again. This year, since we've all had our three COVID-19 shots, we figured we'd give it another go. We traveled halfway around the world together without issue, and domestically, almost everywhere we've been in recent days, the populace has been pretty good about taking the proper precautions. So, even with Omicron variant rearing its ugly head, we decided to go forward with our plan.

After work on Thursday, 12/30, Brugger and I hit the road for the beach, roughly a four-hour drive. Severe rainstorms along the way slowed us down a bit, but we still arrived at our lodgings — the Carolinian Beach Resort — by mid-evening. We spent a few pleasant hours in our suite with wine and good company until quite late, when Brugger and I went walking on the beach. A beautiful evening it was, and I procured information to complete an EarthCache ("Shark!" GC5ADB4).
The old dude about to wail on
a hapless golf ball

Friday morning, I got up fairly early and hoofed it after a nearby geocache (one of the few in the area I hadn't claimed on previous trips). Then Terry & I girded our loins and headed over to Whispering Pines Golf Course to indulge in some masochistic fun on the links. It was here that we really began to get the feel for how little heed anyone — anyone — in Myrtle Beach is paying to the realities of the pandemic. While our group, without exception, religiously wore KN-95 masks anywhere and everywhere we went in public, all too rarely did we see another mask or even any attempt at social distancing. Now, on the golf course, we had plenty of open space to work with, so it was literally a breath of fresh air. We ended up playing with a couple of nice gentlemen — brothers — from Kentucky, both of whom were vaccinated and respected social distancing. And to be sure, the round was fun, if a bit frustrating, since it was only the third time in the last decade that I've picked up a golf club (the other two being with Terry in the past year). To say one of the foursome was still way out of practice is one hell of an understatement (though I did manage to make a few marginally spectacular golf shots). Fortunately, our companions, while competent players, at least did not completely and utterly put me to shame. Terry played a generally consistent round, with a respectable score (the kind I used to have when I played on a far more regular basis, and that I almost hope to achieve again).

Being New Year's Eve, we knew that, without having made prior reservations, finding a decent restaurant for dinner might be problematic. It kind of was. Eventually, we ended up at an okay Italian restaurant (Toscana Italian Kitchen), which had a limited (and very expensive) menu for the evening, but I'd say we made the best of it. The dishes were all way heavy on the cheese, even on such selections such as Veal Saltimbocca, which in my experience generally are not nearly so dairy-laden. The available wines were nothing to brag on, so while I will credit the servers for their very cordial and professional performance under very busy conditions, I can't say I was all that enthused with the dinner fare, especially not at the price. Again, not a mask in the restaurant.
With the coming of darkness — as on our previous New Year's sojourn at Myrtle Beach — the fog began to roll in (see "Waylaid, Shanghaied, and Hauled Away," January 1, 2019). No patchy mist, this, but an incredibly dense cloud that settled over the beach for the entire night. If anything, this was even thicker and more opaque than last time — and we loved it. From our 19th floor balcony, we could scarcely see the well-lit pool deck below us, nor even the barrage of fireworks that began going up a couple of hundred feet away on the beach. Happily, some far more potent blasts went off just beyond our balcony, so, also as before, we had the perfect view for the brilliant if all-too-brief display.

We did a bit of hollering at midnight as the rockets burst around us, but it wasn't long before all went quiet and dark. So Brugger and I took the opportunity to take another walk on the fog-shrouded beach. If you'll take a gander at the photo up top, you'll see my flashlight beam focused on our balcony, which was the only one brightly lit at 12:30 a.m. on January 1, 2022. I quite enjoyed the effect.
"The fog is getting thicker!"
On New Year's morning, once I dragged my weary self out of the sack, I headed out after some geocaches. Had to be done, don't you know. First destination was Warbird Park, at the south end of Myrtle Beach, where you'll find a trio of US Air Force warplanes on display (an F-100 Super Sabre, an A-7 Corsair II, and an A-10 Thunderbolt II [a.k.a. Warthog]), along with a trail of plaques that chronicle the history of the 354th Fighter Wing and the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, which closed in 1993. Back in the days when my family vacationed in Myrtle Beach every summer, our timeshare was just across the main highway from the air base, and I took great pleasure in watching the military jets come and go at very close range. Now there is an Adventure Lab cache at the site, and I enjoyed the hell out of visiting the location.
F-100 Super Sabre
A-7 Corsair II
A-10 Thunderbolt II (a.k.a. Warthog)
After Warbirds Park, I headed over to a nearby trail for a couple more caches, and then to Myrtle Beach State Park, just across Highway 17, to see if I could avenge a prior DNF (did not find) from a couple of years ago. At that time, the cache was missing but has since been replaced. I found it indeed, and so turned a little blue frowny face on the geocaching map to a big happy smiley.

That was it for the morning's caching, so I rejoined our intrepid group. And then...lunch! We opted for Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant, which the ladies had visited the day before and enjoyed enough to go back. I had eaten there on a previous beach trip and liked it well enough, so I was pleased to return. In general, it was all right, but much like at Toscana, the cheese brigade had gone on a rampage. Now, make no mistake, I love me some cheese, but I'm not really looking to croak of a coronary because I had the audacity to eat lunch. Truly, I've never seen so much smothering of foodstuffs with dairy stuffs, and while the food tasted all right, I then and there slammed headfirst into the cheese wall. I'm sure the hankering will again knock on my door (and probably too soon), but for at least some while, cheese and I are going to keep a respectable distance.

After the cheese extravaganza, we headed to a few shops to pick up wine, other assorted provisions, and new shoes.
Creeple People at Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant, about to be cheesed off
After shopping, we rested and recuperated for a while at the suite, and eventually set out to dine again, this time at RipTydz Oceanfront Grille and Rooftop Bar, a relatively short distance down Ocean Boulevard. Again, the usual lack of masks. But in general, the place turned out to be most agreeable, with excellent service and delicious seafood (I had snow crab legs and steamed oysters on the half shell). It was here I tried the Dirty Myrtle IPA. I do like a good IPA, so on those rare occasions I actually drink beer, it tends to be my brew of choice. The Dirty Myrtle rates as highly respectable. Definitely the best dinner experience of the trip, this RipTydz.

We finished off the night back at the suite with a smidgen of dessert and a tad more wine (and very fine wine at that).

This morning, we got up, packed up, and bid the Carolinian adieu for this time around. We found an excellent breakfast at nearby Donald's Pancake House, which we had visited on some previous trip or another. This was, if I may say, a DAMN good breakfast. Again, the service was top-notch. In fact, at all the places we visited on this trip, service proved superlative. I was impressed by how well we were treated at every establishment, as well as the timeliness and efficiency of their wait staffs. Now, some places clearly were short-handed, such as Toscana, but even then the folks there made every effort to attend to us as best they could. They have my admiration.

But for the love of Yog, there really is a pandemic. While at the beach, I received distressing news about a good family friend who is now in dire shape with COVID-19. During these trying times, Brugger and I have done our very best to do the right, responsible things without sheltering ourselves completely. But this time around, if we don't get infected, we'll have dodged a bullet. I personally know too many people who've lost too much to go waltzing blithely along without taking responsible precautions. I personally know too many healthcare workers who are at the ends of their ropes because some of you are truly too stupid — or chickenshit — to do the right things and are overloading our healthcare facilities. Dress it up any way you want; the intellectual gymnastics required to justify not taking the pandemic seriously are ludicrous, dangerous, asinine, and selfish in the extreme. Those of you doing this ought to be ashamed, but you clearly do not have the self-awareness — or consideration for others — to accept such responsibility. Given the people in my life this disease has affected so profoundly, it's fair to say that I hold in utmost contempt those of you who simply can't be bothered, or have been so indoctrinated into wingnut ideology, to be fucking decent Americans.

If for this you choose not to like me anymore, well, I really don't give a rat's ass.

Happy New Year.