things are getting hot

The cops are putting some resources into the drug problem in and around my store.

If recent history can be taken as a guide, this weekend should be another wild one. It is my payday, and seems to be likewise for a number of dopers. Meth and heroin are both problems in our little mountain home; meth is the worst.

A town cop told me yesterday that several people had been arrested at the store earlier in the day, and when I clocked out and headed home this morning, the chief of the town police was riding with a K-9 officer from the county.

I pointed out to another cop, a few days ago, that they need to have a female deputy who can search the female suspects' bras.

The very worst (looking) addict of those who have been hanging around even had syringes (plural) visible in her bra while she was in the store one day last weekend. She was confronted but pleaded diabetes. I have to say that I don't know any diabetics who use a spoon and cotton to draw the insulin up into the needle. Somebody's been shooting up in the ladies' room, and she always seems to be around when the evidence appears. So far, the cops have not been able to find her with anything.


they say that first impressions are the most important

I hear that Tom Brady doesn't want to be remembered as "that Deflategate guy", which is too bad, since I had never heard of him before that little misunderstanding. When Deflategate hit the news, I said to myself, "Tom who?"

And so, my first impression was of a guy caught in a cheating scandal.

Nicely done, Mr. Brady. You go now, play with your abnormally soft balls and ooh! oh no, you are going to get fewer millions showered upon you over the next few weeks.

So sad.

So soft.

So cry me a river.


Lisa tied a leather string around my wrist

She has been gone almost three years, and the string finally broke this morning.

And with the string goes my last excuse for staying single. I've been in touch with my nice lady again, last week, and now I feel completely free to pursue a relationship. Not that it will be any easier now than it was before, but my last daily physical contact with Lisa is gone.

It makes me sad, losing that leather string. By the time I noticed that it was gone, it was too late to find it. It came off at work some time early this morning and probably ended up in a trash can.

Rocko and I went down to the river a little while ago and I just sat on a rock, thinking of Lisa and softly singing Pink Floyd's song, "Wish You Were Here." Pink Floyd was Lisa's favorite band.

Later we'll probably go up to the Devils Courthouse, sit where we poured out Lisa's ashes, and cry a bit.


madness, bookended with humor

The crazies were out this weekend and, according to the local police, they weren't just at my store.

I have noticed lately that every other Friday - my payday, as it happens - the meth addicts are partying harder than they normally do. This weekend was the worst yet. I wondered where all the cops were, and they later told me that they were busy all over with similar madness.

One of the meth-heads won almost $3K at our store on Thursday, and I'm sure she hasn't slept yet. She was there during the day on Friday, and for most of that night. She was back in the store before noon on Sunday; when I arrived at 11 PM she was still there. She didn't leave until the cops ran her off, a few minutes before 7 AM.

Over the several days that she was around, she kept locking herself in the one-hole ladies' room for an hour or more at a time. When she came out, she would have fresh wounds on her face and arms from picking at her skin. Last night I went into the ladies' room to check the toilet paper, soap, etc. after she went back to the games, and while in there I looked into the trash can.

There were a number of pieces of folded tinfoil with some kind of burnt residue, and there was a hypodermic needle in an otherwise empty cigarette pack. I brought the trash can out and told our local cop to look inside. He told me to save it, and he'd consult his chief about getting a biohazard bag for it.

Earlier in the day, I was told, there had been a lot of foot traffic coming into the store, back to that woman at the games, and back out. An incriminating conversation was overheard by a cop. But nothing concrete could be pinned on anybody.

As a recovering addict, I know the signs. These people - nice, polite people, believe it or not, despite their hyperactive states - were almost all high on methamphetamine and/or other hard drugs. The real problem for me and the police, so far, is that nobody has done anything blatantly illegal. They come in, they buy smokes, they buy gas, they buy munchies, they buy scratch-off lotto tickets, they gamble on the video games. They spend money, and Money is Good!

But they have been hanging around too much and for too long. When you are high on amphetamines, you do not sleep, so they have to keep busy. Lately they seem to have discovered that video gambling not only allows them to use some of that extra energy, it occasionally pays off well enough that you can go see your man for some more dope. Maybe even well enough to get a hotel room and have drugs delivered for a bender in a safe place.

I've seen that happen. Last winter one guy won several thousand dollars, got a room at the casino in Cherokee and brought along all his friends. He got good and high on something(s) and eventually passed out. When he awoke, his "friends" were gone, along with his couple-thousand remaining dollars, his drugs, and his car.

I joked to the cops, before leaving this morning, that this weekend our store was the "Clyde Casino and Meth Market." We both managed a sad chuckle.

The weekend wasn't all bad, though. On Friday night, amid all the madness, there was some entertainment; on Monday morning, as I drove off toward home, there was a light moment at a bend on a country road.

Friday's entertainment was the saga of a meth-head who couldn't get his motor scooter started. That wasn't the fun part. The fun part came when a woman with a subcompact sedan offered to help him get his scooter home. First they opened the comically small trunk, and Dog bless the boy, he actually lifted the front wheel up to the trunk and thought a while before seeing the futility of that operation.

Did they give up? No! The good samaritan lady opened the back door of her car. The subcompact car. You guessed it: they tried to get the scooter into the back seat. Again, only the front wheel would go, but they tried for a few minutes. It was truly comical, and they were laughing too by the end. Especially when he gave the scooter one more kick and the engine started, to everyone's relief.

And finally, as I left town on Monday morning on the country road that lets me escape from the four-lane road, I saw the cop from the store stopped in the road ahead. A cow ran out of the woods on one side of the road and down a gully on the other side. The cop got back in his car and we all headed off, in a slightly better mood, into the misty morning mountains.

Hola, Cuba! ¡Bienvenido de vuelta!

Welcome back, indeed. (I hope Google Translate didn't mangle my title line too severely.)

The Cuban flag is flying at their embassy in Washington, DC once again. This can only be a good thing for the Cuban people.


7 1/2 on 7/12

Yesterday was my 7 1/2 year sobriety anniversary, and I noticed that the numbers match, though the slash moves and a space vanishes.

I've been in serious hermit mode for a couple of months now. It has been a long time since I have logged into Facebook and I haven't been in touch with that nice lady that I mentioned a few months ago for at least a month.

This is a problem that I've been dealing with for as long as I can remember. When things go too well, or too badly, I retreat into my hermit shell.

What really set it off this time, I think, was my last visit to the shrink. She told me several things that I should do that would be good for my health and emotional well-being, and of course my subconscious rebelled. I have done none of the things she recommended. This is not really OK with me, but there it is. At least I am aware of it.

Oh well. Since I've been holed up at home, I have started a little garden this year. There were existing plants that I never did much about; daffodils, hostas, columbine, and a white-and-green variegated ground cover. The daffodils haven't been touched, but I've cleared out the weeds in the ground cover as well as between the hostas and the columbine. I transplanted some of the ground cover to that newly open space, and tore up about half of the existing ground cover to plant strawberries.

Next year, we eat strawberries! Today, we water them and wish.


the accursed rag is coming down at 10 AM on 10 July 2015

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina signed the bill at 4:18 PM on 09 July 2015.

I am listening to a live radio broadcast of the event as I type this. Haley used many pens to sign the document, nine of which she says will go to the nine families of the victims of the Charleston shooting.

And she is handing out the other pens at 4:20 !! Woo-hoo!


holy fucking crap, Batman!

I'm typing this with one hand, as the left hand is occupied holding an ice pack to my left ankle.

Rocko and I went down to Camp Hope this evening for a hike in the woods down by the river. It was a beautiful day and the water is quite low, so I did a lot of rock-hopping. It was a good time.

As we reached about the halfway point, I told Rocko which trail we were taking and he headed that way. I hadn't gone too far when Rocko came running back. "No," I said, "Keep going." He turned around and headed down the trail again. A few steps later, my ankle started screaming in pain. It felt like a hornet, and indeed it was. I swatted it away (or so I thought), picked up my walking stick and water bottle that had been thrown when I was stung, and I quickly hobbled back to a place to sit.

Taking off my hiking boot, I saw a small hornet - about the size of a yellow jacket, but white and black - vigorously stinging the tongue of my boot. I knocked it off with a stick and stepped on it.

(A yellow jacket sting hurts like the devil for 15 minutes or so, then the pain eases gradually. This sonofabitch still hurts like the devil an hour later.)

Rocko and I took the short way back to the car from that point, but not until I sat down and waited for the pain to let up. When it didn't, I was thankful for my adjustable-length walking stick. I shortened it to a good length for leaning heavily on it, and slowly made my way back to the car. There are teenage campers there this year, and I had to literally bite my lip to avoid grunting and swearing every couple of steps.

Every once in a while, even now, the sting will suddenly throb once and make me curse or grunt. Like just now. Nggggghhh. Gah!


happy birthday U.S.A.

You feel especially free since the recent SCOTUS decision re: marriage.


berry season

Berries are starting to happen around here, and I just received a flat of strawberry plants.

Around here, individual species will ripen at different times depending upon the location of the individual plant. Sun exposure and altitude both make a great difference, and we have a great variety of sun exposure/altitude combinations in a fairly small area. And so I've been able to eat ripe (and even overripe) elderberries, for example, on a sunny mountaintop a couple of miles from home while the berries at home are still flowers.

Black raspberries are almost over now; the blackberries are pink and won't be ready for a while yet. I did find one scraggly, very ripe blackberry growing out of the rocks in a sunny spot on the river - its bitterness was a shock after feasting on a few sweet black raspberries.

Yesterday Rocko and I went down to Camp Hope late in the afternoon. I had just finished rotating my car's tires, and needed to give it a test drive. Plus, I was hungry and I know where there is a patch of big red raspberries down there. The berries weren't anywhere near ready, but we found a neat new trail that ends at a lovely pool in the Pigeon River. From there, I rock-hopped a good distance upstream (my Merrell hiking boots lived up to their "waterproof" designation) through beautiful trout waters. In fact, that section of the river has Trout Unlimited signs on it.

This morning, I headed down to the store for a pack of smokes and stopped at the swimming hole in "downtown" Cruso. When I got home, there was a voice message on my phone. A month or so ago, I asked my neighbor to save me a few strawberry plants the next time she was thinning her berry patch, but at her Master Gardener class last night, they gave out flats of strawberry plants. She grabbed one for me.

I drove right down to her house and picked them up! There are 18 plants in the flat, and my available planting area is not large, so I'll be planting them in various places around the southeast corner. The ones that are in good spots will thrive and spread. I don't have a lot of sun, but the wood strawberries do OK so I hope these will too.


a pair of good decisions from the SCOTUS

Not only can millions of Americans keep their health insurance (by a 6-3 decision), but same-sex marriage is now the law of the land.

I've not yet jumped back into consuming a breadth of news after my month or so without the Internet. I am continuing to depend upon NPR for most of my news, and am trying to avoid getting hot and bothered about politics.

There must be something going on with our weather, for this afternoon I'm listening to WETS radio out of Knoxville, Tennessee. On my kitchen radio. And it is coming in clearer than WCQS, the Asheville station. I wanted to listen to WEPR out of Greenville, SC on my living room radio, but I couldn't find the station. Then I found a strong, crystal clear NPR broadcast: it was WCQS, which the living room radio rarely receives.

Not wanting to listen to classical music (which is what WCQS was preparing to spend two hours playing), I went to the kitchen and played with the tuner on that radio. Amy Goodman's voice came from the speaker and I knew that I had found WETS. And that made me happy, because on Friday afternoon WETS plays two hours of Science Friday. I can never get WETS on any radio inside my house, but I wasn't about to argue.

On the home front, I have been working six days most weeks lately, so I stay around the house. This year, the south side of the house has been my hangout. It is shady and cool over there, even on the hottest days. Cool air comes down the wooded mountain across the street and crosses my yard as it goes back into the woods on the downhill side of my house.

Speaking of the wooded mountainside across the street, logging has commenced. They say that they are only interested in the tulip poplars (tuliptrees). I don't know what the place will look like when they are done, but they have made an access road that should make hiking up into the Shining Rock Wilderness much easier.


it's alive!

My Internet service, that is.

Last week I told my landlord about my Internet access problem, and that I thought the weeping cherry tree in the yard was the likely offender. He said he'd check into getting it taken care of, and to remind him if he didn't do so.

A few days ago I sent him an email, from my remote access point at the Cruso Community Center, to remind him and fill him in on some neighborhood news; today he showed up to cut the grass. He called a fellow he referred to as a "squirrel" who climbed the tree and trimmed some limbs with a chainsaw tied to his waist.

At first, he was taking out limbs too low on the tree to have any effect. I stood by the door with my laptop, browser open to the modem's status page, updating the page repeatedly. After a while I went out to the dish and did a line-of-sight check; I showed him which limbs I had been suspecting all along. He cut them, and the modem eventually came most of the way up. Signal strength was triple what it had been, and all red flags on the status page had been cleared. Signal-to-noise ratios rose to satisfactory levels.

The only remaining problem was the modem's Turbo function, which was not functioning. It wasn't red-flagged, but was "idle".

I rebooted my computer and. when it came back up, my Internet was fully functional. No, not like Commander Data! Get your mind out of the gutter. But I did have full and uninterrupted access.

Suddenly I am connected to the world again. It's been a quiet month or so, but I've been working a lot anyway. 50 hours each for the last two weeks, and they both come in one check. I'll be broke again just as quickly but I'll be closer to caught up.


I'm alive, but my internet has a tree problem

As the leaves began to fill out this spring, my satellite connection began to degrade.

Being stubborn as a donkey, I didn't call my ISP to try to address the problem; I didn't know if it was a satellite issue or a tree issue. The connection could be down for minutes or hours, then it would come back up without warning and be unusually fast. For a while. And then it may or may not go down again.

Somewhere around a week ago it went entirely black. Rebooting the modem didn't help because often it could not establish a good enough connection to complete the boot process.

My landlord showed up to cut the grass this afternoon, just as I was preparing to roll down the river to the Cruso Community Center - where we play music on Tuesday nights - because my neighbor told me that there is free and fast, real cable, internet access. I explained the situation to my landlord and suggested that a little judicious pruning could restore my connection. He said he'd get it taken care of, and to remind him if he took more than a couple of days.

And so here I sit, down at the old schoolhouse that has been repurposed into a community center. There is a thrift store and a library, a large kitchen, and I am sitting in the old cafeteria. This is the room where we have our bi-weekly jam sessions. Retirees, a.k.a. snowbirds, spend their winters in Florida and come up here for the summer. They stay in the campground across the street and serve as our audience when we play. When I came in here today, one of the regulars asked where I was last night. "We had seats right up at the front, and nobody showed up!" Of course, he was only kidding. He knew that it was our week off.

Ah well. I am scheduled for 50 hours of work this week, since we are in transition trying to find decent replacements for the good person we recently lost and for the really lousy ones who keep rotating in and out. Last week we had a 30-year-old woman who could not count money. She constantly gave people the wrong change, and usually in the customer's favor. Not only that, she evidently had a bad case of body odor. She was told not to come back this week.

We do have a competent core of people, but poor employees make the rest of us work harder. On the bright side, all of the competent people have been getting overtime lately. A raise would be nice too.


dark humour for dark times

Various news outlets to which I pay attention have said that ISIS has taken Palmyra.

"Next we take Cumorah!" their spokesperson did not say.



I'm back

My pancreas is responding to diet and rest. My internet connection seems to be responding to technical intervention.

For the last couple of weeks, in addition to pancreatic inflammation, I've had badly intermittent internet connectivity. While it never comes close to the advertised speed (and never has), it has been going from a decent connection to suddenly timing out on four browser tabs at once.

This was annoying at first but as it became the norm I got more upset. It would be down for an hour or more, several times a day, even after doing a hard reboot of the modem by disconnecting the power supply,

I took my cute little 4" Crescent wrench - ideal for cable connectors - and checked all of the connections, starting at the modem, then at the splitter outside the house, and finally at the satellite dish. A few connectors were finger-tight but loose to the wrench; I tightened them. None of this improved the connection problem.

A tree next to my driveway could cause interference, but that would not explain sudden changes to connectivity when the wind is calm and the tree is not moving.

Yesterday I opened my browser and went to the modem's home page. A soft reset did not help, but after a hard reset via the web page, the modem spent a long, long time running diagnostics and updating its software. Once it finally came back up, it worked fine, and has done so ever since.

On the health front, my gut feels a lot better. Last week I was able to have a two-night weekend for the first time in three weeks; the rest helped a lot. I've resumed eating, but no meat whatsoever right now. No mayonnaise, no ice cream. Yesterday I threw out some milk that I hadn't touched for a week and bought a pint at the nearest store. That sat well with my guts, so today I bought a loaf of bread and a half-gallon of 2% milk. I should have 1% or fat-free, but I take what I can get. My lymph nodes are still noticeably swollen but I feel much better.

When I saw my shrink last week, she told me that I need to do a few things. One of those things is getting a lesion looked at; I'm pretty sure it's a basal cell carcinoma. She asked me to promise to get it looked at, for her sake, because I obviously haven't done so for my own sake. It has been there since about 2008 and didn't change for years. Since Lisa died, it has been changing in size and configuration, though it is still quite small. What really makes this odd is, basal cell carcinoma is generally associated with sun exposure, but the lesion is below my belt on a patch of skin that has almost never seen the sun: above the pubic arch but below the belt.

Oh well. I'm not afraid of death but don't wish to court it either. Especially slow and painful varieties of death. That's why I worry about my pancreas. A heart attack could be quick, but the pancreas always takes its painful time killing you.