Mike's home! They brought him back last night, right to the place where they snatched him!
"Of course they brought me back," he said on our walk this morning. "I paid for a round-trip on that airport shuttle limo. And for one on Southwest Airlines, too."
Maybe. But I think all the signs point to an alien abduction. The facts are these: One morning a little over a week ago (though it seems like a hundred years), Jeannie and Mike and I drove to a Howard Johnson's motel way out by the edge of town. We pulled into the parking lot and sat there with the motor running. Then for some mysterious reason Mike got out of the car just as a white vehicle rolled up and stopped right in front of us. At first I was scared, because it looked a little like an Animal Control truck, and I thought they might be after me again. But they took Mike, instead, and before I could scratch my ear they were gone.
"We were gone--to the Orlando airport, where I got on a big jet airplane. Geez, dog, unclench!" he said.
I asked where this "airplane" took him, and he said something that sounded like "Missouriandkansas," which seems as if it could be somewhere in a galaxy far away.
"It's two-and-a-half hours away," he said. When we got home from our walk, he showed me a picture of what he called sure-fire proof that I was blowing things out of proportion. "Look--I took this from my window in the plane on the way there. It's one of the hydroelectric dams on the Tennessee River."
"But you could have taken it from outer space--from a window in an alien spacecraft, isn't that right?" I inquired.
"In a science fiction novel, maybe. But I was in a Boeing 737 at 36,000 feet. Here's another picture. This one's of St. Louis, which is in Missouri. I snapped it as we were getting ready to land there. If you look closely you can see the famous Gateway Arch between the bottom and middle bridges."
Gateway, schmateway. "Not too convincing, boss," I said. "From what I've seen on TV, those alien machines have some awesome spying power. Got any pics that you took on the ground?" He showed me this one, which he said was of a house in a town called Leavenworth, Kansas, close to an Army post where my sister Bonnie lives:
"Holy crap!" I cried. "Aliens! And they've grabbed somebody's cat!" Though that's not always such a bad idea. "So show me where Bonnie supposedly lives."
"I don't think I got any of the outside of her house. But here's one of the house next door, which I took yesterday morning from my bedroom window."
"You've got this thing about taking pictures through windows, haven't you?" Hey, I just call 'em as I see 'em.
To which he replied, "I took this one from her front porch. It's the park across the street, where they had a big Christmas tree lighting ceremony last Friday night. You can see their porch flag hanging right there on the left."
I said great, but that I didn't see the Christmas tree, so he produced another:
I studied the guy in the foreground. "That's not you, is it? No way is that you." Mike reminded me that as the duty photographer, he rarely gets to have his own picture taken.
I asked if there was any other compelling photographic evidence that he was not in a galaxy far away, and he showed me a few more. This time they were from a city called Kansas City, Missouri (though part of it's actually in Kansas, just to confuse).
"The first thing you notice as you drive into KC," he said, "is that roller skating on city streets is highly illegal. Most places have a war on drugs. Theirs is on skates."
"And here's the skyline as you get close to downtown."
Then he showed me the City Library's parking garage, which he said reminds him of my friend and fellow blogger C. Lee McKenzie's website. I have to agree with that observation. (Click the link to see if you do, too.)
Finally he said that he and Bonnie visited a place called the National World War I Museum:
I was still skeptical. "You could get these kinds of pictures from Google," I said. "Don't you have a single photo of you, right there--boots on the ground, as they say?" He thought for a while and then replied that there was one that Bonnie had taken and e-mailed to him. It was from the Christmas tree lighting in the park:
In preparing for this post I went Googling for some pictures of a guy who's been on TV a lot recently. His name is David Axelrod and he was a senior campaign advisor for President Obama. Now he's mostly known for his famous facial hair, which is a pretty nice mustache, and the question of whether he'll soon have to shave it off on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show. He's offered to do this if he can raise a million dollars for research against an illness called epilepsy by the end of this month. A big reason he's interested in this cause is that his daughter, Lauren, has epilepsy. The people on "Morning Joe" are helping him out, and I hope you will, too.
Mr. Axelrod has started a website called slashthestache.com, where you can donate to fight epilepsy. Now here is the problem: November ends in just ten more days, and as of today he's barely halfway to his million-dollar goal. So if you want to see him lose the mustache, you need to get cracking. I don't know what to suggest if you like the mustache and want him to keep it. You can probably go to this website for the sponsoring charity, which is called CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy), and donate without it counting toward Mr. Axelrod's goal. The main thing is, you should donate!
By the way, here is a picture of David Axelrod with his mustache:
Is it just me, or does he look a lot like Mike's favorite economist, John Maynard Keynes?
As we set out on our walk this morning, M and I saw a couple of big birds pecking the grass in front of our next-door neighbor's house. They weren't yellow, like that Sesame Street one that Mitt Romney was gunning for before the election. These were sandhill cranes, and there are quite a few of them in our area. But this was the closest I've seen them to our house.
We walked on past them, and they started walking along with us, not paying any attention to us, but just poking around for their breakfast. As they did, they kept making these chortling, chattering noises. They make these sounds almost all the time, whether they're flying or walking.
Not too surprisingly, we didn't have our camera with us. So I can't post our own pictures to show you what they look like. That, of course, is where Google rides to the rescue. Behold, a pair of sandhill cranes pretty much like ours:
The four of us kind of walked along together to the corner and around it, and then the cranes started moving away from us, because I tend to stop and smell the roses a lot, if you get my drift. A little while later we saw them way down a side street. We tried to catch up to them, but before we could get there they flew away. Here's what they look like when they fly (again courtesy of Google):
To hear the strange sounds they make, click this link and open the WAV file in Windows Media Player or whatever music program you use.
Mike said these safety tips from Mitt Romney that he found online are a day late and a dollar short, since they refer to Sandy, a huge hurricane that has already hit the Atlantic coastal states, especially Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, leaving a trail of destruction behind. But he thought I should pass them along anyway, because there will be more bad storms in the future. So here's Mr. Romney's list:
Mike said you might want to print them out and tape them to your refrigerator.
* * *
Update: It sometimes takes me a while to suspect I'm having my chain jerked. After reading those "tips" a few times and coming back repeatedly to that one about the dog, I thought I'd better ask Mike for some clarification:
"Isn't Mitt Romney one of those guys that's running for President?" I asked.
"Yup," he said.
"Is it that same jackass who tied his dog to the top of his car and went on a long trip, and when people questioned him about it he said it was okay, that the dog was perfectly safe because he was in an airtight box?"
"Words to that effect, I believe," M replied. "And yes, it's the same jackass."
"But didn't the dog get so upset that he pooped Hershey squirts all over himself, and it came out of the 'airtight' box and ran down the car's windows until the man had to stop and hose the dog and the box and the car off at a gas station?" I remembered hearing the story months ago on TV and wondering what kind of genius (a) puts a dog in a box on a car roof for a trip, whether or not the box is airtight; or (b) puts any animal into an airtight box for any length of time, for any reason; or (c) is so stupid that he thinks--or at least he tells people--that the box is airtight when it isn't. This type of person doesn't need to be President of the United States. He needs to be neutered to protect the gene pool."
"I'm afraid that ship has already sailed."
I was beyond livid. "I hope you don't plan to vote for him," I said.
"I've already voted," he informed me. "But no, I didn't vote for him. I wouldn't vote for Mitt Romney for dog catcher."
"Me neither," I said. But of course I wouldn't vote for anyone for dog catcher.
I did some research and found this picture of what the President's airplane, which is called Air Force One, will look like if Romney-the-Dog-Lover gets elected:
In the name of PETA and the ASPCA, please don't let this happen!
Last night was Halloween, which for some reason meant I had to dress up as a hot dog for my evening walk around the neighborhood:
I don't completely dislike the outfit. Actually it feels pretty snug and would probably make a good "thunder shirt." I'll have to suggest that to M the next time the skies are angry. The main problem is that it's not very practical for going on a walk. It binds a little. And it's hard to lift your leg, which is an important consideration given my walking style.
But M said we ought to get into the spirit one evening a year, because there'd be lots of kids going around in all kinds of costumes, mostly scary things like witches and zombies and ghosts and goblins, and they'd think it was pretty cool seeing me all decked out, too.
"Remind me why they would dress up like that?" I asked, and he said it was for something called trick or treat, where they go knocking on doors, pestering the neighbors for treats, and if the neighbors don't give them some treats, the kids play tricks on them. (I'm sure he must have told me about this last year, but I guess I blocked it out.)
"I'm not that into scary," I said, but he promised it would be fun scary, not heart-stopping scary.
We headed down the road, and it didn't take long before I got tired of the binding hot dog straps and not being able to raise my leg properly. So I thought up my own version of trick or treat: If M didn't give me a doggie treat every half-block, I'd trick him by standing right there until he ponied up. It worked out pretty well.
By the way, we walked all over the place and the only dressed-up kid we saw was a girl in some gauzy, princess-looking outfit. No witches or goblins or anything that was the least bit scary.
And then we came to this house:
Well, that sight really brought me up short. Those things looked about ten feet tall and had all kinds of shrieks and moans and other-worldly noises coming out of them. Any enthusiasm I'd managed to conjure up for Halloween cooled off right away.
"Let's blow this Popsicle stand," I said. "Those aren't kids. I've seen enough."
I told him I was a bit bummed at the sparse turnout of trick-or-treaters, and he explained that it was probably because it was too early. "There'll be more after dark," he said.
"Why didn't we wait until dark to come out?" I asked.
"We have to get home so we can turn out the lights and watch TV and not answer the door." (This is M's idea of getting into the spirit.)
"Suits me," I said. "Can I have another treat?"
On the way home, we came across Lucy, an American Eskimo dog who lives near us. I'm sure she wondered what in the world I was up to.
Okay, cotton-top, you can stop gawking any old time!
This is "The Big HalloWeenie," signing off until next year.
Man, I've been traveling so much lately, I might as well be a rock star. Last Saturday, Mike and Jeannie went to a picnic in Tampa and took me with them. It was a birthday party barbecue for M's high school class, and I finally got to meet some of his friends who have been long-time readers of my blog. We had our camera with us, but for some reason didn't take any pictures. Not one! (Don't blame me for this lapse. It's impossible to work a camera when you don't have opposable thumbs. It's hard enough just typing this blog!)
The people who organized the picnic made Mike wear this name tag, which supposedly has his picture on it. Well, trust me, this looks nothing like M. In fact, none of the pictures I saw came close to resembling the people who were wearing them.
But the food was great, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Then yesterday, we went on an even longer trip, though it was still crammed into one day. We went to a family reunion where I met more of my blog readers. It was at a house way out in the country, near a city called Valdosta. That's in a whole different state, about a four-hour drive from where I live. Just as at the picnic, there was lots of food, and it was delicious!
This time M made sure to take plenty of pictures, and I will share some of them with you.
For starters, this was also a birthday party--not for Mike and his high school chums, but for three of our relatives who were all born in October. The first was M and his sister Julia's Aunt/Cousin Hazel, whose birthday was October 3rd and whom we honored a couple of weeks ago with a special blog post called "Two Relatives in One."
The next birthday girl was my Auntie Julia, herself, whose birthday was actually yesterday, the day of the reunion. A couple of years ago on October 27th, we posted a link to a nice Beatles song for her. It's worth listening to if you have three minutes to spare, so here is that link again.
The third honoree is a birthday boy, Mike and Julia's Uncle Chuck, who is the second of Grandpa George's two brothers--the one who didn't marry Aunt/Cousin Hazel, the event that created that "Two Relatives in One" situation. (Confused? Me, too, though I'm making progress!) Anyway, Uncle Chuck's birthday is tomorrow.
M says that at some point in his teens (either late junior high school or early senior high school, he's not sure which because he's developing a medical condition called CRS), he took piano lessons from Chuck, and that it was Chuck whose playing of Beethoven's sonatas inspired him to get interested in what was then called "longhair" music. (He says that this was before the Beatles and the Rolling Stones changed the musical landscape, tonsorially speaking.) At the reunion, M asked Chuck if he was still making music and Chuck said no, he'd had to give that up because he can't hear so well anymore. M reminded him that neither could Beethoven, but it didn't stop him. (I'll have to remember to fact-check all this, because M could be pumping sunshine up my overalls. That's something he's been known to do.)
Here's a picture M took of Aunt Sylvia (our reunion hostess, who is Uncle Chuck's baby sister and also a very talented pianist) presenting a birthday cake to Aunt/Cousin Hazel, Auntie Julia, and Uncle Chuck. The cake has just three candles on it, so as not to create a fire hazard, and I believe the three honorees were finally able to blow them all out.
While I'm at it, I should also introduce Sylvia's husband, Don, our other gracious host:
Don seems like a nice guy, except I didn't like it when he tried to show me his pet wolf.
I didn't want to have anything to do with that critter, not even when it was Jeannie dragging me up to him:
It's not that I was afraid of the wolf. It's just that I couldn't imagine what he'd done that got him turned into stone, or plaster, or whatever. Anyway, moving right along . . .
"Is this a dagger which I see before me . . . ?"
M said that if I introduced this picture of Auntie Julia and Jan with the above quote, some readers might think it was pretty clever and conclude that I'm a brighter-than-average dog. I didn't know what the heck he was talking about. So I did some quick Googling and found that it's a line from a play called Macbeth, which was written by William Shakespeare. But then I did some more Googling and learned that the line is spoken by a man (Macbeth) and not a woman, and that anyway, in Shakespeare's day ALL of the parts, even the lady parts, were played by men. When I pointed out this discrepancy to M, noting that Julia and Jan are females, he said that's part of the joke and as long as I'm Googling I should look up "irony." Whatever.
At some point toward the end of the reunion, someone suggested we should all go out onto Sylvia and Don's big front porch and have a group picture taken. So out we went, but after everyone was situated, this was all I could see:
I think the best group shot was probably this one that Mike took:
We left around five o'clock for the four-hour drive home. I slept most of the way, but each time I woke up I noticed that it was getting darker. Right at sunset, we were coming down Interstate 75, crossing a place that M says is called "Payne's Prairie," named for a Seminole Indian chief who used to live in the area. Jeannie was driving. M looked out of his side window and noticed a straight cloud line that he thought was the trailing edge of a cold front that had moved through northern Florida that afternoon. He turned the flash off on his camera, so it wouldn't glare in the window, and started taking pictures. Here are a few of the results:
Even though it doesn't show the front as well, I tend to like this one. It reminds me of a dream I once had:
That's about it for me, from here, for now. See y'all down the road!
Apparently the Republican presidential candidate fouled the air again a couple of nights ago with a statement that Mike says isn't apt to pose a long-term threat to "Ask not what your country can do for you . . ." or "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." What Mitt Romney said was something about a number of ladies' groups having provided him with "whole binders full of women."
M thinks that in a perfect world, Mitt would have (a) realized that he'd said something that sounded borderline Martian, (b) used his rapier wit to laugh the incident off, and then (c) led the puzzled crowd in a patriotic song:
"Did I say binders? Please excuse my rented lips! What I meant, of course, was handcuffs, shackles, chastity belts, and straitjackets. But seriously folks, Oh beautiful for spacious skies . . ."
Or perhaps a little play on words would have sufficed:
Or he could even have killed two birds with one stone by posing a riddle that reached out to the Latino community (which Mitt has sometimes been overheard wishing he belonged to, as it would make the job of getting elected President a lot easier). Maybe something like this would have saved the moment and picked up a few Hispanic votes: "Hey, here's a good one. What do you get when you cross that crazy thing I just said with a commercial for Mexican beer?"
Of course he might need to lose the "beer" reference on religious grounds, which would weaken the joke considerably.
On the other hand, Mike says that calling Dos Equis a Mexican beer is a bit of a stretch anymore, since the Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma Brewery, of Monterrey, is now owned by Heinekin International, headquartered in Amsterdam. M says he wonders how many Dutch brewing jobs got "shipped to Mexico" as a result of that little transaction. I'm sensing a blog post for another day . . .