You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams

Location: Kentucky, United States

Monday, October 27, 2003

Real Life

It seems that a few people who read my last little writing exercise thought it was real life. It’s not, but where it comes from is interesting enough for a post or two.

My Grandmother, who’s name was Sarah, lived through a tornado that destroyed her family home when she was a little girl. From that point on she was always terrified of any storm. I remember many nights being awakened by my parents to be taken into our basement because my grandmother was afraid the thunderstorm passing through might develop into a tornado. My grandparents, who lived next door, had their own basement, but Mama wanted us all together.

I have never been afraid of storms, in fact to me they have always been, “God, putting on a show.” Although I realize this is reckless, I enjoy walking in the rain during thunderstorms, splashing in the puddles, listening to the music of running water, falling rain, and thunder. Consequently, I strayed from the basement on occasion to play upstairs.

One such time was April 3rd, 1974. I was fourteen. A tornado warning had been announced on the local television station. My grandparents came over and everyone went into the basement, but despite my grandmothers objections I went back upstairs after a few minutes to practice piano. My mother joined me in the living room, looking out the window at the storm. Suddenly she opened the front door and went out onto the porch and hollered for me. I went outside and looked down the road where she was pointing into the sky. There was this huge funnel cloud moving rapidly along the tree line. It hadn’t touched down at this point, and wouldn’t for several more miles, but that is something we would not learn until later. Then the thing that most stands out in my mind. Mom said, “look over there!” pointing back where the funnel cloud had been you could see rain falling, but it curved like an upside down rainbow and disappeared back up into the cloud! Rain falling that never touched the ground.

After the storm had past I went outside to climb the oak tree behind my grandparents house, but ended up lying in the yard, awestruck at the towering cumulonimbus clouds climbing higher than I had eve seen them before, shining brilliantly in the sunshine. I have never seen clouds that big, or beautiful since. That beauty had a price though, but we really didn’t learn of it until the next day.

April 3-4, 1974, marks one of the worst tornado outbreaks in United States history. During that period 148 tornadoes were reported. Of the 148 tornadoes, nation wide, 27 touched down in Kentucky. The only F5 tornado ever recorded in Kentucky touched down around 3:30 pm that day, about 5 miles southwest of Hardinsburg in Breckinridge County. It struck Brandenburg, killing 31, injuring 257, and destroying or severely damaging 300-400 homes. The 27 tornadoes that touched down in Kentucky on April 3rd left 75 deaths, 1264 injuries, and over 110 million dollars in damages.
That was the funnel Mom and I watched from our front porch.

It passed less than a couple miles from our house.

Brandenburg: April 3rd, 1974

Friday, October 24, 2003

A fictional exercise

I am sitting at the window, watching the weather roll in. Off beyond Baker’s Knob there is a purple mountain range of thunderheads. Lighting flashes inside the clouds and I count out loud, “one, one-thousand, two, one-thousand, three, one-thousand, four, one-thousand, five, one-thousand. The thunder rolls over us, an ocean wave of sound. The windowpane rattles. Sarah squeals and scrunches in tighter to my chest.

“It’s getting closer, isn’t it daddy?”

“Yeah baby, we’ll see the rain start any minute now.”

The wind is blowing hard, the trees bending and flexing with the gusts. Sleet appears on the bare ground in the side yard. The dog, tail between its legs, takes shelter under the shed. The sound of the sleet hitting our roof brings Kim in from the kitchen.

“Sounds bad”, she says.

My wife has a thing about storms. Raised in the mid-west, her family lost two homes to twisters, her uncle killed in the last. The family running to the root cellar, Kim looked back and saw her uncle swept along the ground like a leaf, bouncing end over end before being sucked up into a swirling black monster. The family lost the farm, called it quits, and moved back east to work in factories and retail.

“It’s okay”, I tell her, while talking at Sarah, “just God putting on a show.”

“God putting on a show Mommy” Sarah says, trying to act bigger than she feels.

Some of her mother’s fear of storms has past on to our daughter, whether through picking up subconscious clues from Kim, or just through genes, we don’t know, but it is there. That is why we set at the window whenever a storm comes, making a show of it, trying to tame the monster with stories and fairy tale lies.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

You can't make this stuff up

Me: How old are you?

X: 45

Me: You smoke?

X: Oh yeah, three to four packs a day.

Me: How long?

X: Well, Mom says I started when I was three, so forty-two years I guess.

Me: Uhm......, I’m sorry..., you were how old?

X: Mom, says I started when I was three.

I put down the clipboard.

Me: Okay, I’ll bite. How did you get a hold of cigarettes when you were three years old?

X: Dad got me started. Mom got really mad at him.
Then later he ran out on us and I was hooked so Mom had to get them for me.

Me: ... .... .......

Control face muscles. Pick up clip board.

Me: Do you drink?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Hey lady, ya bug me!

Our house has been invaded by ladybugs again. According to an article that I found on the web, someone had the bright idea of importing a non-native ladybug to Vermont to take care of a pest species there. This foreign ladybug emits a foul smelling odor when threatened or crushed. They did not consider however, that nothing in the local ecosystem would want to eat this odorous bug.

This time of year ladybugs are hunting for protection from the coming winter. A few to several handfuls will gather in an aggregation. The aggregate site can be anywhere that protects them from the winter cold, logs, under rocks, beneath leaf piles, anyplace out of the weather. So now every autumn, because of the population explosion of ladybugs, the aggregations are coming into homes through the tiniest cracks and are taking over. I have counted over one hundred and fifty on our bedroom ceiling alone. Yesterday there was thirty-plus on the inside of the storm door. You can't swat them or they leave a yellow stain on the wall or furniture, and if you try to clean them out with a vacuum cleaner you have that awful odor to deal with.

I did not realize how wide spread this was till I googled lady bug plague. I found this letter sent to Dave Barry's Blog. I understand just what the guy is going through.

From Dave Barry's Blog

I live on the Illinois/Iowa border out here in a place called the Quad Cities ("your home for Mississippi River flooding.") And it's ladybug hell up here right now. You might go, "Surely a ladybug or two is nothing more than a funny little menace. They're cute and friendly, right?"

Normal ladybugs are red. You might see one or two during the summer. Neat-o, they look like little VW's and they're cute.

THESE new critters are more of a yellow and hail from what I'd guess to be either the 3rd or 4th plane of Hell. And when they buzz your head, they make a shrill buzzing noise that definitely is ladybug for, "Yes, I DO mean you harm."

Let me put it to you this way -- between the time I left my office and made it to my car today, I had three of them go down my shirt and swatted another 7 off my clothes. That's 10 bugs in a 1/2 block walk. THAT'S how bad it is. It's like bordering on John Carpenter movie kind of horrific.

And the damn things BITE. Or maybe they PINCH. Nobody knows for sure. They just hurt like heck.

And when you smoosh 'em, they EXPLODE into a pile of rancid yellow ooze. That reeks. I'm serious, you can smell it off the sidewalks as you walk down the street, and it's that noxious.

Articles on the things are literally running on A-1 in papers throughout the Midwest, because these little boogers are out of control.

I'm a guy whose only irrational fear in life is BEES. I'm deathly allergic to the suckers, and I act like a complete and total ninny around them. So it's extra fun to now have a whole new strain of yellow, bee-sized non-bees flying around your head all day.

Come help us kill them, Dave.

I know! Let's bring in cobras and piranhas to eat all the ladybugs! Then we can have mongoose and, uh, whatever eats piranhas.

Great white sharks!!

No, that's saltwater.

Let me get back to ya on this.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Secret Code

Yee hah, I fixed my slow loading site!!


Zack’s last cross-country race was Saturday. I am very proud of what he has accomplished over the last few months. His last race was one of his best, and with his help the team took a second place trophy.

Around here things are slowly getting back into the regular routine. Bev has a new clothes dryer and a refrigerator we call “The Vault”.

Have you ever noticed how much smaller things like that look in the store? When they delivered the refrigerator we didn’t think it was going to make it through the door. It is so big, Bev said she backed out of the laundry room turn to go into the kitchen, saw refrigerator out of the corner of her eye and it scared her.

The boys have me playing Magic: The Gathering card game now. We spent way too much money on cards over the last week, but we have butt-kicking decks now.

I haven’t written much of anything over the last month, but I have been working on something new creatively. Rachel played clarinet in grade school. I dug it out of the back of the closet and have begun teaching myself how to play it. Nothing to write home about, but the squawking, has surprisingly been kept to a minimum. ;)

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

We all have a "cross" to bear

Two more weekends of cross-country and our days will be back to normal. I’m not sure what normal was like exactly, but I do remember reading and writing.

It has been three months since Zack started cross-country, and if I sound unhappy with it I’m not. It has been wonderful to see him grow to enjoy running, to get faster and stronger week by week. The whole thing has reminded me of my parents waiting at the school for me to return from band trips till one o’clock in the morning most weekends. We were always later getting back than the director said we would be, and my parents never complained. Now I know why.