Smackdown: Michael Rennie vs. Keanu Reeves

“I thought he’d run away with another woman; he was gone for so long,” Said Mrs. Angie Farnsworth from rural Sandcliff, Kentucky.

“It took me the better part of a week to convince her otherwise,” Husband, Bernie Farnsworth replied.

“Nobody believed me at first.  Most of the folks in town still don’t believe I was held captive by  extraterrestrial beings.  If you want people to run the other way when they see you coming–tell them you was abducted by aliens.”

“How did you convince your wife?

“I just told her the truth over and over.  She believed my story when she saw the  burned paint on the hood of my pickup.  That was exhaust burns from the space craft.”

Did the aliens look and act like aliens portrayed in movies?

“No, it wasn’t exactly like in the movies.  None of ’em looked like E. T.  Don’t you dare ask me if they was little green men–or this interview’s over.  I didn’t ask you to come over to be a laughingstock.  There’s been too much of that already.”

“That’s why I’ve secured the services of Don Handy, a local lawyer, Bernie continued.  I can’t risk mine, or my wife’s character, being defamed.  People don’t have to believe me.  They have to prove that I’m not telling the truth.”

“What was the abduction like?”

“It was scarier than Hell.  I’ve never been grabbed up like that.  First, my pickup stopped running right in the middle of the road.”

“They had two arms with spindly fingers and two legs.  We communicated with our minds.  Nothing weird went on–that I remembered.  They put me in something like a giant ice chest.

“If they weren’t green–what color were they?” 

No, their skin–body covering or whatever you want to call it, was rough like elephant hide.  It was the color of tobacco spittle.”

“I  woke up, unharmed in my truck, after it was over.”

“What’s the most unusual thing you remember?”

“My captors made it a point to remind me that extraterrestrials are portrayed wrong in movies and on TV.  That didn’t surprise me much.  Remember the original “Lost In Space?”  I promised to relay the information and then they let me go.”

“Them extraterrestrial fellas laughed–if you could call it that–because they didn’t have mouths; when I called fifties Sci-Fi movies “teakettles-on-strings movies.”

“The aliens liked Michael Rennie in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” more than Keanu Reeves in the remake.  My wife’s the same way.

“That’s true,” Angie answered.  “There’s a coincidence for you.”

“Tell your readers we’re just ordinary people,” Bernie pleaded.

“Except that you like syrup on scrambled eggs.”  Bernie gave Angie the stink eye.

So there you have it–according to Mr. Farnsworth’s eyewitness account, extraterrestrials preferred the original “Day the Earth Stood Still” with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and others.  Which version did you prefer?


laughing gull

Fuggetaboutit–are you an idiot?  That’s what laughing gulls are supposed to do.

This wise guy gull’s about to unload on some unsuspecting tourists walking underneath; then, the joke’s on them.

I don’t want to talk about it.  It’s a stupid question.  Gulls are stupid.  You’re stupid.  Go away and stop bothering me.  They’re nothing but flying rats.  They’ll eat anything–even garbage.

That gull happens to be a talented comedian among birds.  …King of the one-liners–like Henny Youngman.  Whaddaya mean–Henny who?  You know–the guy with the violin.  You never heard of him?  I give up.  You just don’t get it.  It doesn’t matter that he’s laughing at his own jokes.  Give me a break, already.

There was a book written about a seagull–“Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”  Maybe this is him?  No, it couldn’t be–that book was written a long time ago.  This could be one of his relatives.

I know–he’s spotted some food.  Little kids are so wasteful.  Maybe it’s a half-eaten cheeseburger?  …Or a corn dog?  He’s going to dive on it any minute now.  I know I’m right about this.  My ice cream’s melting–I gotta’ go.



According to statistical data, Earl was off the hook–he was from the tenth most obscure state in the nation.  That, in itself, was justification for leaving Christmas lights up year round.

Things hadn’t been the same, since Brother Dudley, down at the church, died.  Earl held on to beliefs; that someday, things would get better–but, they never did.

Heavy dew, dripped in mini-rainstorms, under long-leafed pines. Unfiltered anger came out in waves.

“Sumbitch, I don’t think I’m hip enough for this crowd,” Earl said, as he departed.  “I’m going back to the trailer park–cracking open a six-pack.  If this damned truck don’t start; I’m gonna’ shoot it.”

After the infamous, “Fluffy Buffalo” potato chip kerfuffle, and pinochle debacle at the VFW–Earl’s patience was worn thin.  He’d apologized–wasn’t sure what for.  Somebody else started the whole thing–he got the blame.

So, Hallelujah!  I’m their bum, bum.  What else was new?  It’ll be somebody else, next time.  Wrong place, wrong time–he figured.  When would Fred and crew, forget about the unfortunate event?  It was last October–for Cripe’s sake.

Bob “the biker,” pedaled his way to work.  “Movin’ Mary,” was on her front stoop, talking with neighbor, Marge.  Marge, talked with her hands.  Mary shifted, from one foot, to the other, as she talked; it was quite a picture.

Stan, the resident, recluse–aka, “the talker,” peered out from behind living room curtains, across the street. Could he be missing out on something?

Earl pulled down the visor to block the blinding sun.  Several scratch-off lottery tickets, fell to the floor.  If Earl couldn’t see the sunrise everyday–he may as well have been in jail.  Earl parked, held the storm door with his foot; opened the front door.

He collapsed on the living room sofa–switched on the television. Temptations resumed from the day before.  Earl continued the life, of someone, voted, least unlikely, to succeed.


fishing 1

I remember this one time, when my best friend Dave and me, drove out to Jake Murphy’s before the sun came up.  Jake’s coon dog’s were raising ten kinds of hell, soon as we drove down the dirt driveway.  “I hope Jake remembered that he promised to go fishing with us this morning,”  Dave said.  “He knows, now,” I answered when the lights came on.

Trust, honesty, and fear, went along with knocking on someone’s door at five in the morning.  Jake answered the door, half-asleep; pulling on his bib overalls.  He didn’t have an undershirt on.  Neither Dave, nor myself, wanted to know, if anything else was missing.  Jake grumbled something unintelligible, stumbled across the porch; sat on the steps; put on socks and shoes.

“Good morning sunshine,” I greeted.  “I knew it was you guys when I seen them headlights,” Jake bristled in defense.  He tossed his fishing gear and cooler in the pickup bed.  Jake’s slouchy railroad conductor’s cap barely covered his wild gray hair.

Jake, secured himself in the window seat, closed the door.  It was a good thing, it was summer, and the truck windows were down.  Because the stench of musk cologne was overpowering.  It almost made up for Jake’s poor hygiene habits.

Junked out lawn mowers, an old wheelbarrow, an old green pickup truck bed–converted into a trailer, and other miscellaneous junk, leaned against Jake’s old garage.  Inside, his trusty Mercury Marquis, sported a crude, hand-brushed, dark blue repaint job.

When he wanted to work, Jake did odd jobs around town.  But, mostly, when he needed more whiskey.  He was a better house painter half-drunk, than most people were, when sober.  Most people avoided him.  They thought he was odd–a little too strange.  He wasn’t “funny strange” or anything like that.  He just wasn’t sociable.

That wasn’t why we invited him to come along.  Jake Murphy was a “fish witcher.”  It was spooky how good he was.  He could read water ripples like pages in a book.  “Throw over yonder–by that stump,”  He’d say.  “There’s a big bass waitin’ to strike.”  And sure enough, he’d be right.

We stayed all day at Jake’s favorite fishing hole.  Caught a few keepers.  The sun went down, day gave way to darkness–cricket chirps, and bellowing bullfrogs.  An ambiance that called for a roaring campfire.  The mosquitoes were hungry–we were too. Jake and I whittled points on sticks to roast hot dogs.

None of us thought to bring hot dog buns.  It was too late to do anything about it–so we did without.  “That’s enough to keep us from starving–I reckon,” Jake said.  “I would sure liked to have had some beans to go with ’em.  I’m going to stay up here for a bit–take a smoke break.  You fellas go ahead and fish some more.”

“I’ll bet Jake eats lots of beans,” I said.  “That’s probably why he farts so much,” Dave joked.  “I’ve heard that he survives on beans and peanut butter.”  Neither of us knew for sure.  On the opposite side of the pond Jake’s cigarette tip glowed bright orange. Campfire light glinted off his raised whiskey bottle.

The catfish didn’t cooperate, we landed a monster snapping turtle, instead.  It was an ugly, moss-covered creature, not one bit happy about being caught by two teenage boys.  “You want to keep it?” I asked, looking over at Dave.  “Naw,” He answered,  “Let’s cut it loose.”

Jake sat in an old rocking chair on the dock–nursed a bottle of “Heaven Hill” bourbon whiskey.  He sang some nondescript  old country song.  The drunker he got–the louder he sang.  It was more like, wailing from tortured souls in hell, than singing. Nobody was around to complain.

None of us knew exactly how it happened.  Jake might have leaned over too far?  In his inebriated state–who could really tell? Somehow, Jake rocked himself off the dock into the water.  He didn’t really holler much–it was more of a moan.

Dave and me jumped in, pulled Jake out–wet overalls and all. Almost drowning sobered him up pretty quick.  He began dancing, jumping, and hollering around the campfire to dry out.  Jake’s “war dance” was hilarious.  Jake laughed, checked his pockets for fish.  What else could he do at that point?

People around town joked about, old Jake rocking off the dock, for a long time after that.  The story got twisted into, “While everybody else was rocking ’round the clock, Old Jake, was rocking off the dock.”  The joke was really on them–because they missed the big dance!  When Jake was drunk, things could get pretty weird.



“Summer 2014, Deck Construction–Maggie’s in Foreground”

Maggie was (is) a good little girl dog–some would even say, a very good dog.  Tan and white, friendly, with pet parents that loved and cared for her.  She pranced through her yard–flag-like tail held high in the air.

When did my dog catch the wanderlust?  Was the desire to break free, go out and explore new horizons, always there? Maggie had everything–or so everyone thought.  But, somehow, it wasn’t enough.  What made good dogs do bad things?

Game after game of spirited backyard chase took place with her canine cousins. Maggie ran around a large shrub, hid underneath low branches–dared the others to come closer. When my daughter’s dogs, Phantom and Bogart approached–she’d jump out.  Ha, gotcha–chase me more, more.

It was nice weather for late November.  The newly constructed deck and back entrance–with large windows, were perfect for dog watching.  I could monitor any unforeseen circumstances–like a prison guard.  That was, until I looked away for a minute.  Maggie disappeared.  Where or where had my little dog gone?

Thus began, The great “Houdini-Houndini Mystery.”  Visible clues were few.  The other dogs: Max, Bogart, Phantom, and Mojo, (pictured above–without Max), were studies in poker-faced expressions.  Because, they subscribed to the, “give me a treat, some belly rubs, and everything will be all right,” philosophy.

Maggie reappeared forty-five minutes later, outside the deck gate that faced the sidewalk and street.  “It was fun for me–was it fun for you?” Said her expression.  Why was it–dogs found ways out of the yard, and never came back the same way?

I racked my brain sifting through clues–trying to think like a dog.  What was different from previous visits?  The “white elephants” in the backyard were deck and fence modifications.  Was Maggie making her great escape under the deck?

Experience told me, Maggie was the type dog, that needed activity. She’s part border collie and found things to amuse herself when bored.  Regular walks helped.  She was away from her home turf.

The answer came when it snowed before Thanksgiving.  Maggie escaped several more times–so I inspected construction details of the deck in question.  There were three sets of steps from the deck: one faced the sidewalk to the street; one went to the garage; and the other went to the backyard.

Tracks in the snow, led out from under the steps leading out to the street.  Maggie belly crawled the entire length, under the deck to freedom.  Her white belly was caked with black mud.  Exploration tracks continued to the apartments next door.

“Oh well–at least she didn’t go that far,” Said my, always optimistic, wife.  “I don’t know why she’d want to escape?  She’s got everything here–nobody else would treat her like we do.”

“I’m more concerned about what could happen,” I answered.  “Not everybody likes dogs.  And, I wouldn’t want to pay a fine from animal control.”

Known escape routes were blocked off.  With permission of my daughter and son-in-law–I employed some empty coolers, a scrap of plywood, two recycling tubs, and some bricks for ballast.

Maggie: aka “Mag-Mag,” “Mag O’ Mag,” “Magster,” “Maggles,” “Magster Monster,” added to her growing “criminal escape” record.  OK, OK, the nicknames are overkill–it’s a sickness.  We won’t, at this point, go into her brother Max’s nicknames.

For Maggie, it was fun to explore a new neighborhood.  It was a challenge for me.  Maybe she secretly knew I enjoyed playing detective?

The story didn’t end there.  Over the Christmas holidays, Maggie found a new escape route under the stairs by the garage, out under a rhododendron bush.  This time, the mystery was quickly solved. Until the next time, this “Sam Spade” needed a rest.

Somehow, Maggie’s chasing backyard squirrels, chewing on sticks, barking at UPS trucks at home, didn’t seem all that bad.



There was this man, once, long ago
With no worries, always hurried
And don’t cha’ know, the man
Should’ve been takin’ it slow
Because, of what was
About to come down
At the seven-eleven, that day

For the seven, on the sign
Was loose–about to let go
Don’t cha’ know–and it dropped
Right on top of his head
When he ran out of luck
Right quick–the sign struck

The poor fellow, wouldn’t have
Wanted it, to end that way
But, bless his soul–something
Over which, he had no control
Killed him dead as a stone
And for this man, lucky seven
Wasn’t very lucky that day


victorian 3

When Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Bubba came to visit, the women went to the kitchen and talked about families, childbirth, and homemaking.  Uncle Bubba went to the parlor with Dad.  My sister, Grace and I, wandered between both settings.

Our parlor was Uncle Bubba’s debate forum.  There, surrounded by lace curtains, furnishings frozen in time from the Victorian era, Uncle Bubba held forth–starting with an inquiry as to the availability of home-baked delicacies.

Uncle Bubba was a big, guffawing, hulk of a man.  Aunt Gertrude was a prim and proper wisp of a woman–quiet and reserved.  Her salt-and-pepper hair was usually fixed in a bun.  Unlike her husband, Aunt Gertrude always saw the good in everything.

“It was on Merv Griffin yesterday–people depressed at Christmas, after Christmas, during winter, spring, and every other time of year.  Christmas blues, Post-Holiday blues, the “Boo-Hoo” blues, the “You and Me” blues–who believes that crap?  It’s just another excuse for people to not work and get on the public dole,” Uncle Bubba said.

“What’s everybody looking at me for?  Pardon me for being slow on the uptake. I get it, now.  If it was any of your dad gum business–which it ain’t; I injured my back at the meat-packing plant.  That’s why I can’t work anymore.”

“Nobody’s singling you out,” Dad said defensively.  “Uncle Bubba, who’s Merv Griffin?” Grace asked.  Dad’s stern expression said, “keep quiet.” But Grace went on, anyway.  “Depression is a serious mental illness.  Sometimes people fall into dark holes and can’t climb out without help.”  Grace was like mom–spoke what was on her mind.

“Drug companies are always looking for ways to make more money–that’s all I was saying.  Pretty soon, everybody’s going to be on feel-good pills.  Well, whatever–it was on one of them talk shows.  I don’t even try to keep up.  They’re all the same.  I mean, what other job is there–where you get paid for talking, and don’t have to know anything?”

Dinner guests meant kid shenanigans at the table.  Grace would stick a spoon on her nose; then I’d eat peas with my knife, until Mom or Dad gave us the “stink eye.”  We knew when and where, to not cross the line.  Then, Uncle Bubba concealed amusement with fake coughing attacks, excused himself from the table.

Uncle Bubba’s passion and rage was everywhere.  His lack of discernible skills, made drudgery last as long as possible.  It didn’t stop him from offering opinions on just about everything.  At least, it seemed that way to me, back then.

“Cream rises to the top.  Dregs sink to the bottom.  It’s that simple.”  Was I cream or dregs?  I always thought Uncle Bubba was talking about me.  Especially on the day, my foot slipped off the clutch of his old GMC pickup.  I hit a pothole so hard, the old truck bounced–Uncle Bubba’s head banged into the roof.  “Damn it, Son–you gotta’ be more careful,” was all he had to say.

He was my father’s brother.  They couldn’t have been more different.  My father was quiet and reserved.  Uncle Bubba was seldom, if ever, quiet.  My father was of average height and weight with a full shock of hair.  Uncle Bubba was portly, and bald as a billiard ball.  Could there have been a mix-up at the hospital when he was born?

I loathed working for him.  He was obstinate, stubborn, opinionated–couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate.  The only emotions expressed were frustration and rage.  I could never live up to his expectations.  It seemed, as if there were always better ways to do everything.  However, Aunt Gertrude was nice.  How had she ended up with him?

Sometimes the silence between dramatic pauses was too much to bear.  Then, I’d talk about anything and everything, just to break the silence.  Uncle Bubba never said anything about me being a “motor mouth.”  On those days, maybe he just didn’t feel like talking?

“You look like a polecat–with that white stripe in your hair.”  Uncle Bubba said, once, on Halloween.  I don’t think he ever knew or cared–that I was supposed to be Eddie Munster.

“Son, do you know Jesus?”  Uncle Bubba asked one day, right out of the blue.  “Yes, I learned about Jesus in Mrs. Hampton’s Sunday school class,” I answered.  I’d never known Uncle Bubba to be a religious man.  He threw around a few “damns” and “hells,” but never took the Lord’s name in vain.

“I want you to promise me that you’ll ask Jesus to forgive your sins.”  I’d never seen him so sincere–so, I promised that I would.  Was it because he never had a son?  He never said those exact words, but I think it was true.

George Henry Walsh was Uncle Bubba’s real name.  He was Grandma Mary’s son by another man.  The man’s name was never mentioned.  People in those days didn’t talk about such things.  Grandpa Joe raised him as if he were his own flesh and blood.

Uncle Bubba passed away on a gray November day in 1999.  There it was–inscribed in polished granite, plain as day: “George Henry ‘Bubba’ Walsh, Beloved Adopted Son of Joseph M. & Mary R. Walsh.”