Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's Better To Travel, Part II

Much like getting from Maryland to Moline, getting from Moline to Lake Wapello was a logistical cakewalk, too. Head west to Iowa City, hang a left and keep driving south for three more hours. It’s not the most exciting ride.

More pigs.
More truckstops.

But, when you’ve been driving the same crowded, road-ragey 16-mile commute into Washington DC day after day, flat, wide-open farm land and clear skies as far as the eye can see is a true pleasure.

En route to Iowa City, one of my landmarks on Route 80 is the amazingly huge Iowa 80 truckstop in Walcott, Iowa. The signage claims it to be “the world’s largest truckstop.” Now, it’s big, folks. That’s for sure. But what person or independent agency is traveling the world, measuring the square footage of truckstops? I discovered later on the trip that the claim of the Iowa 80 people sticks in the craw of my friend HoyaMeb, too. She’s pretty certain that on some barren stretch of road in the former Soviet Union or at a busy hub outside of Istanbul, there’s surely a truckstop that will put the folks in Walcott to shame.

I tend to agree with her.

But the Midwest seems to be the home of “the world’s largest” whatever. Along the way, I spied “the world’s largest crafters’ village,” “the world’s largest fireworks store” (I’m betting China’s got something to say about that), and “the world’s largest big and tall’s men’s outlet.” We grow ‘em big and beef fed on the prairie.

Just 20 miles or so south of Iowa City, I came across a big white sign next to the highway. I almost drove off the road in sheer amusement. It simply read “TREK FEST – LAST WEEKEND IN JUNE” and featured a red outline of the old Starship Enterprise. The next exit was for Riverside, Iowa.

Riverside, Iowa: future birthplace of Starfleet Captain James T. Kirk.

Too damn funny, and too good to pass up.

I drove into Riverside, a tiny town of neat little homes surrounded by lush green fields. There’s a big sign as you enter Riverside, noting it as the place "where the trek begins.” Again, the Enterprise makes an appearance, whooshing across the sign. (Which is right next to a place offering locally-made elk jerky. Let me repeat that: elk jerky.)

I found the local gift shop, across the street from the small post office and the grain mill. There was virtually no one on the street, and the gift shop was closed for a few days. A sign in the window actually said “Gone fishing.” I assumed that the proprietors were getting ready for the upcoming Trek Fest and the brief, annual infestation by Trekkers from far afield. A flyer in the window advertised events for the event:

Spockapalooza! featuring a local band

A cow pie bingo game

A BBQ dinner

A costume contest (Federation and Klingon categories)

Hot air balloon rides

There were more activities planned, but I was taken by “Spockapalooza.” How could you not love something called "Spockapalooza"? There was a certain sweetness to the cheese.

My brother Ed had been a big Star Trek fan, as was our mother. They both knew their Trek shit, big time. I would be swinging through Riverside on my way back from the cabin, so I determined I would bring my brother’s ashes for the festivities. He would have gotten a hell of a kick out of it.

Onward to Lake Wapello!

This area had been Native American ground. Chief Wa Pel Lo of the Sac and Fox tribe had settled his people around the area that would eventually become the city of Ottumwa, Iowa back in 1838. He’d had to move his people several times earlier, as white settlers encroached on native lands. His decision to move the people to this spot near the Des Moines River was based upon the fact that his great friend, General Joseph Street, had been assigned to be the Indian Agency head in the Ottumwa area. Wa Pel Lo and Street had a legendary friendship that had gone on for decades before the move to Ottumwa. When Street died in 1840, Wa Pel Lo asked that he be buried on the agency lands. And, when Wa Pel Lo died just two years later, his final request was to be buried alongside his friend. His body was carried by oxcart to join his “white father” (his term, not mine) in rest.

Wa Pel Lo’s legacy in life had been to hold on to as much of Iowa as possible for the People. But, only two years after his death, a council with the Native Americans, the USG, and the American Fur Company sealed the purchase of the lands from the Native Americans for the equivalent of $800,000, all in silver coins. Within four years, the USG had removed the People from Iowa and pushed them west into Kansas.

The names remain – Wapello, Keokuk, Ottumwa – but the People are gone.

Southeastern Iowa is a pretty damn white place.

Home to early Mormons traveling west to Utah. Home to Amish farmers who still work the land and live their plain lives.

And home to a lot of Swedes.

So many Swedes, in fact, that the road to Wapello takes you past the town of Swedesburg, location of the Swedish-American Museum. I had to stop and take pictures. After all, who can resist the siren song of a giant straw goat and waving Swedish flags? The town appears to be all of three city blocks, and, during my short visit, was filled with people wearing yellow and blue polo shirts. Either it was a Swedish family reunion or a training event for IKEA employees. You make the call.

Swedesburg has a miniscule post office, the museum, a handful of real goats (to go along with the straw one), and, of course, a Lutheran church. It somehow felt appropriate to be stopping in just a day shy of Midsommer.

(Just kidding!)

I finally decided to get back on the road when I realized that people in yellow and blue shirts were staring at me in my utter non-Swedishness. Time to get my Irish mongrel butt out to the lake!

I stopped for gas in Fairfield. Don’t know Fairfield? If you’re my age or a bit older, you might. Remember Doug Henning, the 70s magician with the sweet buck-toothed smile? (He was mocked unmercilessly on Saturday Night Live back in the day. “Everything is possible in the world of illuuuuusion!”) Henning, who died in 2000, was a believer in “yogic flying” – where followers of Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, practitioners of transcendental meditation, would bounce a few inches off the ground in what they deemed to be “flying.” Hey, if it works for you, I say, go for it. I don’t think my bad knees are up for it, thanks.

The Maharishi decided to open a university in the peaceful prairie lands of Iowa, and Henning – the most successful magician in the world in his heyday – helped to bankroll it. The Maharishi University of Management (offering all your standard degrees, plus one in Maharishi Vedic Science) still operates today in Fairfield – the gleaming golden domes of its TM palaces looking just a little worse for wear in our cynical, skeptical era, and the center of town has more Indian restaurants and “wellness centers” than you can shake a stick at. Had it not been so late in the day, I would have been thrilled to stop for a nice massage. (Damn, that sounds pretty good right now.) But I still had a cabin to reach, and two sisters and two nieces waiting for me.

I barely saw Ottumwa – I was tired and just wanted to stop driving. I could not help but smile, though, and think of Radar O’Reilly, and the fact that I’d driven through the Iowa hometowns of two of television’s best known characters that day. I stopped at the local quickie mart for gas.

This is the local quickie mart:

Yes. The Kum & Go. Yeesh. People who grew up with it don’t blink an eye. The Sasquatch, who was surrounded by Kum-tastic kommerce as a Nebraskan kid, doesn’t get my squeamishness over the name. He doesn’t regard it as the bad sex joke I do. You’ll note that they have a 44-ounce “kup” that’s sixty-nine cents (“69, dudes!”) Yeah. A 44-ounce “Kum Kup” for sixty-nine cents. Again. Yeesh. They also sell this nightmarish giant drink barrel, that I assume was designed for the long-haul truckers who fill up their semis with Kum & Go diesel and their bellies with cheap fountain Cokes. I uncharitably dubbed these ginormous vessels the “Kum Buckets.” (You should have seen my colleagues SAM and JJ when I mentioned this yesterday. Beee-yooot-i-ful. I should have brought one of those damn things back with me.)

My car refilled, my tasteless photos snapped, I made the last leg of the trip to the cabin. I met up with my sisters at the local launderette in the town of Drakesville, a few miles from the park. It’s the last place where you can get cell service on your phone and, other than a small Amish grocery, it’s the last sign of American commercialism before hitting quiet wilderness.

Quiet, that is, if you don’t have a crabby teenager with you…

We interrupt this travelogue... tell you that I accidentally ran over someone's laptop en route to work today.

Some Young Guy (in the DC Young Guy uniform of baggy khakis and baggy white shirt with sloppily tied tie, sunglasses and Rockports) bolted out into traffic in the middle of a block, against a green light. In his efforts to not be hit by us folks who had the light, he started running and threw his open backpack over his shoulder.

Mistake. Big mistake.

I briefly saw the airborne computer as I slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.


I had crushed his brand spankin' new office laptop under my left front tire. Splatsky.

Young Guy had one hand over his mouth, and just kept saying, "Omigod, I'm such an idiot. Omigod, I'm such an idiot!" over and over again. I tried to console him by telling him I'd pretty much done the same thing (flying laptop, not running through traffic) last summer. However, my computer survived - it's just scarred up on the lid pretty badly.

In today's scenario, though, $3K worth of Young Guy's employer's moolah was mooshed by my Ford Escort. I reckon Young Guy learned two lessons today: 1) don't blindly jaywalk through rush hour DC traffic; and 2) if you do jaywalk and run for it, make sure your employer's new $3K laptop is secured in your backpack before you fling it.

One of my colleagues suggested I send him a parcel of NG goodies to cheer him up. In truth, I think I'll pass. Bless his little incautious soul, he was being an idiot, and I'm sure his buddies will be cheering him up with something made of fermented grain later tonight.

I'd like to point out that I have a gift for being in the right lane at the wrong time. I've been hit by other cars twice, just as people in the nearest lane to the offender zoomed by, unscathed. And now, by chance, I've become Vishnette, Destroyer of Portable Technology. Lucky me.

Merujo, Compu-Killer, signing off...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's Better To Travel, Part I

This wasn’t going to be a traditional vacation. My brother Ed had died on June 2nd, and this was more of a thoughtful journey, full of time for reflection, quiet reading, and catching up on much needed sleep.

Ha bloody ha.

I had forgotten that this would be a trek with Merujo’s family. Ain’t nuthin’ quiet or reflective about that, folks. No way, no how.

Instead, it was a journey jam-packed with bad photography, irreverent positioning (and decorating) of a funeral urn, various grilled meats, and one surly teenager.

And it started late. I departed DC much later than planned. In fact, the Sasquatch had returned from his sojourn to Norway before I hit the road, although our paths crossed only briefly via telephone. My thinking was so scattered before I set out, my car was overloaded with junk, too many articles of clothing, and groceries I’d forgotten to unload at home. (But hey, I was going to a cabin in rural Iowa, so maybe that 12-roll pack of Cottonelle might come in handy, right?)

I dutifully sun-screened my left arm, permanently darkened into a truck driver tan by years of driving up to New Jersey and back, put on a baseball cap to keep my frizzy hair out of my eyes, and I was on the road. It’s a simple route from Here to There: I-270 to I-70 to I-76 to I-80, and – 13 or 14 hours later – BAM – you’re in Moline, Illinois, self-proclaimed Farm Implement Capital of the World.

I love Moline. I love it especially in the summer evenings, when you lie out on the grass at the park not far from my parents’ old house and see great fields of stars from the hillside, watching the fireflies and hoping to catch a breeze in the humid prairie night. Then again, I’m idealizing it. I grew up there before the meth labs and Chicago gangs brought their taint to my little river city.

Still, I really do love it.

Yet, I cannot see myself returning to it to live full-time. I think my path has taken a slightly more urban turn, and I finally have a job I love in a place where I’d long dreamed of working. But I still can come home and see family and friends and relax.

Except this trip wasn’t going to be particularly relaxing. Nope. Nope. Nope. My brother was gone, I hadn’t had time to mourn, and I was a ball of stress.

I set out in sunny weather, with my little mp3 player plugged into the cassette slot on the car dash. A few new songs were peppered into 8 hours of old friends – Thomas Dolby, Michael Penn, Erasure, Joe Jackson, kd lang, the Pet Shop Boys, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Marshall Crenshaw, U2… Comfort music from my younger days mingled with sparks and flirtations of the new music I barely listen to these days, like KT Tunstall and Carey Ott and a leeeetle bit of Coldplay (already yesterday’s news in music terms, by now, I’m sure.)

A cooler full of Diet Crack (aka Coke Zero) insured that I would be wired and thumping for hours and hours, and my bumble-bee yellow and black National Geographic baseball cap, turned backwards on my oversized cranium, kept the hair stragglers out of my eyes as I drove with the windows down. It simply wasn’t hot enough to bother with the air conditioning, especially as the traffic roared at 85 mph down the Interstates.

Pennsylvania brought the old tobacco barns on I-76, paint peeling, but still advertising Mail Pouch Tobacco in broad strokes on brown planks. There was no place to pull over to snap photos, but I found this photo of a similar barn in Ohio on

I’m not a big tobacco fan, but I love these vestiges of vintage roadside Americana. (I get very excited when I find old Burma Shave signs still out along old swaths of highway.)

I sailed smoothly across Ohio, thinking briefly of stopping in Cleveland (which rocks, I hear) to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But, it didn’t seem right or appropriate. I was headed home, where family was waiting, and two of my sisters were already out at a state park cabin at Lake Wapello, Iowa, anticipating my arrival. So, I breezed on.

And then, I hit Indiana. Indiana should have been a cakewalk. Speed limit of 70 mph (not that it mattered, since 80-85 seemed to be the middling speed of the day) and I was chasing the sunset. But I did not count on those random variables known as The Unfortunate Accidents. My first happened somewhere around South Bend, by the exit for Notre Dame. Somehow, a semi had gone airborne, wiping out a passenger car in the process, and landed on a hillside, twisted and flattened. The trailer had been opened like a massive piñata, spilling a tremendous jumble of boxes in large splintered slivers all over the east and westbound lanes of I-80. I counted at least 16 emergency vehicles along the road. I noticed that the ambulances did not move the entire time I was stuck in traffic, which is never a good sign. Getting through the back-up took nearly two hours, by which time I was in need of caffeine and hoping for clear roads the rest of the way.

But, to quote Rene Belloq, “it was not meant to be, cherie.” Before I could depart the land of the Hoosiers for the Land of Lincoln, I encountered my second accident – this one clearly fatal – as I watched an emergency crew remove the unmoving form of a man from the windshield of what had once been a BMW. The driver had become lodged in the glass, and three workers tugged his lifeless body from the pane just as I drove by – a sobering reminder that even the nicest car isn’t a guarantee of safety on a high-speed highway at sunset.

Long story short (too late for that, eh?) – I arrived at my sister’s home in Moline at nearly 3 in the morning. My brother Air Jordan was waiting for me, and, honestly, I don’t think I even made it up the stairs to brush my teeth before collapsing on the hide-a-bed in the living room in a deep, sudden sleep. Sleeping on that freaking hide-a-bed is the equivalent of trying to rest on a medieval torture rack, so I know I was one tuckered puppy to sleep without moving at all for a good six hours.

Figure 1.: Ye Olde Hide-a-Bed

I was awakened by my brother, who had probably been stirring for quite some time before I bothered to open my eyes. He and his partner H-J made strong coffee and talked for a couple of hours while I got my bearings. I still had another 3 ½ hours to drive to reach the cabin, deep in southeastern Iowa. To be honest, I didn’t want to drive anymore, but people were waiting, and I had a hankering for a quiet lake and the smell of a fire circle.

It was decided that I would carry our brother’s ashes with me to the cabin. Ed had always wanted to travel, but, other than childhood trips with the family, he’d never actually done it. Finally, in his burgundy urn, Ed would take one last summer road trip, deep into Iowa, the state where he was born. I asked Air Jordan to carry the urn to the car - I was afraid I'd drop it. Damn thing must have been lead-lined, from the sheer weight. We tried to pop the top so I could just carry a portion of the ashes with me, but we couldn’t get it to budge, and I didn’t relish the thought of having to use my sister’s DustBuster to collect Ed from the dining room floor. Air Jordan tucked Ed’s urn into a hideous lavender canvas beach bag (with gold fishneting!) and put him in the passenger seat. Reluctant to spend more hours behind the wheel, I headed out for scenic Lake Wapello...

Russian President Sizes Up Snack at Kremlin

Another in my continuing series on cannibalism in Russia.

Mmmm, veal-chik!

Just kidding. But why the heck did Putin stop to pull up a kid's t-shirt and kiss his belly? Is someone off his meds? Is this the new Russian twist on kissing babies?

Weird, peeps. Just really weird. Much like this photo of Putin frolicking with dolphins:

Where is Fellini when you need him? (Yeah, dead. I know.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sneak a Peek

I hate to admit it, but I'm beat. Too tuckered to write. It took me more than two hours to drive to work this morning, thanks to Mutha Nature, and another hour or so to get home (the big delay being right in the heart of downtown DC.) So, I'm having dinner, ironing some work clothes, brushing my teeth, and hitting the sack. I can tell the tale tomorrow. (I will also rant about the U.S. Post Office and its continuing efforts to make me completely insane by never being able to handle my held mail properly. I swear to god, I don't know what the hell is wrong with the Bethesda Post Office.)

Okay. Until I'm rested up, here's a tiny visual sample of the Fest o' the Midwest:

My destination

A disturbing Iowa phenomenon. They sell 44-ounce "kups" for your, uh, favorite fluids. (And that's all I'm sayin' for now...)

Belgian draft horses - damn they're huge!

A straw goat greets you at Swedesburg

The American Gothic House

A tiny, rural Air Power Museum

Merujo pays a visit to Krazy Kaplan's Fireworks - buy one, get six free!

More soon. But for now - food, clean teeth, and some solid hours of sleep...

Coming attractions!

A new post is on its way with lots of photos and a rambling story. (It's not written yet, but I assume already that it will ramble...)

See the amazing adventures of the traveling urn!

Learn why one should not vacation with surly teenagers!

Talk to Amish farmers!

Eat a lot of bacon!

Read the Weekly World News and marvel at Manacuda!

Visit Riverside F'ing Iowa!

Consume your weight in ibuprofen!

Oh, so many things to tell you about. If I don't fall asleep on the sofa tonight, I'll share them with you...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

And I congratulate...

...Spencer! For he was hit #35,000 here on the Church of the Big Sky!

I'm not sure what the prize should be. (Perhaps Blogger working on a regular basis??)

Of course, I just tried to upload a photo of party noisemakers, but Blogger wouldn't let me. Nice.

An Open Letter to Blogger Support

At last! After three hours of trying, I'm able to post an entry to my blog! I posted this to the blogger support list on Google Groups, but I wanted to post it here, too. I know I'm not the only person frustrated by Blogger's glitches.

Dear Blogger Folks:

I just tried to log in and post a new entry on my blog, but cannot. And, yet again, the screen assures me, an engineer has been informed. This is really disheartening.

I started using your service back in March 2005. Things seemed to work very smoothly, and, as someone with limited funds, I was thrilled to have a free service to support my blog. Indeed, until March 2006, in general, thing seemed to be mostly fine. But then, things crashed. And crashed again. And over and over and over again.

Sometimes, it was my blog showing up mutilated - bits of it missing, photos gone, menus and links disappeared. Sometimes, it refused to publish new entries, with that status page just sitting at 0% published. And then, sometimes, my blog simply vanished altogether.

In mid-March of this year, I wrote an entry that covered a very important event in my life the previous year; by writing about it, I hoped to be able to help a lot of people in similar desparate
situations. That entry was was picked up by national press and my modest hits - that usually are around 100 a day, escalated to 1500-2000 a day. As a writer hoping to be published, it
was a major coup.

But, you see, in the middle of it, Blogger died. For days. And interest faded rapidly.

So much for riding the wave and maintaining readers' attention.

Since that time, your service has been erratic and plagued by equipment failures and extremely poor communication with your users. Yes, your service is free to us, but if you cannot maintain the system, your users will vanish - in droves. And, very importantly, if you cannot keep up-to-date with information for your users on the status of your problems, you will anger those who stay. E-mails to your "support" address go unanswered, save for completely useless automated responses that do not address the issues of your frustrated users.

I'm asking for a genuine response from a real human being at Blogger here. What are you doing to keep your systems from crashing on a regular basis? Can you give me, likely a typical Blogger user, a reason to not move my blog to another service?

And, for that matter, can you tell me how to back up my hundreds of entries? I have this fear I'm going to wake up one morning, and it will all be gone.

Again, I appreciate what you've made available to the world on a free basis. But if you want people to stay, you have to make it work consistently. That's simply good business.

Waiting for a real answer from a real person,


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Erase Entry

A few minutes ago, I reached for my cell phone. There was a killer show starting on BBC America, and I was certain my brother would want to watch it. I tapped a speed dial number and then stopped.

He's not there. He's not home. Never will be again.

I stared at his entry on my phone. I hit the options button. What would I like to do? Edit the entry?

Erase it?

Erase is Option 7. My hand hovered over the 7 on the keypad.

But I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. Erasing him from the cell phone is like erasing his memory somehow. I know that's ridiculous, yet the primitive child in my brain tells me it's so.

It's still too soon. It seems... wrong... disrespectful... Unfair.

Fuck. For that matter, it all seems unfair. And wrong.

I think his phone was disconnected before he died, actually, when my sisters cleaned out his house during his final hospitalization. The number may even be reassigned already. There's probably some perky young thing ready to answer my call and tell me I've misdialed.

But, on my cell phone, my brother's still there. I can fool myself a little bit. "Edward George" it reads on the screen. I can pretend he's waiting to hear from me.

I think you'd like this show, Ed. Wish you were watching with me. I hope you can hear me now.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wow, Wonkette!

Last night I went to my blog to check and see if I had any egregious spelling or grammar errors in my recent posts. I'm getting damn lazy about proofing my work. (I can hear some of my old English teachers spinning in their graves like high speed turbines.) I was fairly surprised to see a jump in my stats by more than 500 hits.


Turns out, my "Pentagon Framing Shop" post had been linked on Wonkette. Holy crow, Batman! For someone like me, who gets maybe 100 hits on a good day, that was quite something. So, I immediately went and proofread the post, finding two lame-ass grammatical errors and a couple of other questionable tidbits.

Murphy's Law dictated that Blogger be down, of course. (Blogger's down much of the time lately - the excuse is always a bad server. Hey, Blogger guys! It's time to shoot Ol' Yeller and get some new damn servers!!) But I was able to fix my laziness this morning.

By the end of the workday today, I'd gotten more than 1,200 hits via Wonkette. Helluva thing. I only wish I could be amusing on a consistent basis. My muse has issues, I'm afraid. She comes, she goes. She has the occasional Lost Weekend, drags her gin-soaked carcass back looking like a haggard Ray Milland, and then has sporadic bursts of funny and/or insightful moments as she sobers up.

From - I want one of these!! (I wrote the paragraph above and then went searching for "drunk muse" on Google images, and poof - this appeared. Too damn funny!)

I'll work on getting my muse into a 12-step program and aim to keep the level of writing up here. Honest, I will.

On another topic altogether - is it possible that, if we shave Ann Coulter's head, we just might find a small cluster of sixes? Just thinking out loud...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Pentagon Framing Shop

So, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is dead. So be it. I'm not shedding any tears. Of course, he'll be replaced in short order by some new al Qaeda schmuck.

I woke up this morning to footage of the press conference in Baghdad, with the unveiling of the photo of the deceased Zarqawi. I understand why they need to show his dead body to people. I get that, 100%. But what's the deal with the jumbo dead head photo being matted and framed? Isn't that just a little bizarre? I mean, it's not like you've gone to Olan Mills or the Picture People for a lovely moment frozen in time. It's a corpse, people!

A corpse.

There's something very Victorian about it, really.

But this begs the question - do they have a framing shop in the green zone, just waiting for insurgent leaders and al Qaeda bigwigs to get blown up? Does the U.S. military have someone on call with glass and elegant wood frames available 24/7? I mean, clearly, this wasn't your $19.99 plastic poster dorm crap from Michael's or Wal-Mart.

Is there a "MAFS" unit out in the desert? A Mobile Army Framing Shop?

Sgt. Crafty?!? We need a buffered, acid-free white mat and a can of adhesive spray at the Command Center, asap! I know it's 3 a.m. We've got ourselves a majorly DOA hostile, son, and a press conference at 06:00. Now, get me some goddamn picture wire, tasteful antique gold molding, and cut some non-glare glass in a 30x30 square on the double, soldier!

It's a strange little world we live in, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June the 6th

62 years ago today, my Uncle Jack died at St. Mère Église during the D-Day invasion.

20 years ago today, my father died.

And today is my brother’s memorial gathering.

All things considered, I'll pass on the opening day of The Omen remake, thanks.

On a happier note, 38 years ago today my dear, sweet pal the Sasquatch was born. (Don’t worry - we’ve checked his scalp. No sixes anywhere.)

Happy birthday, beloved friend. May your day be joyful.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Perils of Gmail

Yesterday, I received a handful of sweet e-mails from friends and acquaintances regarding my brother's death. I appreciated each and every one. The thoughts and words were so sincere and moving.

There was just a teeeeeny tiny problem with one of the kind missives.

The writer of this particular message had made a wee mistake: instead of a space between two words, our correspondent had put a period. As fate would have it, the second word just happens to be an active Internet domain. So, what did Gmail do to these two words? Why, it assumed that they were actually two elements of a website URL, and Gmail made a hotlink! Being the curious sort (and initially not getting that this was simply a mistake), I clicked on the link.

Oh my.

Unwittingly, my kind correspondent and Gmail had conspired to send me to someone's homegrown porn literature site. Not only that, it was a direct link to a story about animals, S&M, and, god help me, full body laser hair removal. (Yeah, I read a couple of pages of it before getting completely freaked out.)

After finally picking my jaw back up off the floor, all I could do was laugh. I'm sure my sympathetic friend would be mortified to know he'd accidentally sent me on one girl's journey into caning, hairlessness, and massively deviant sexual behavior.

I asked one of my sisters if I should tell him. Horrified, she said, "Oh dear god, no."

But, c'mon, it was pretty funny.

Friday, June 02, 2006

In This Haze of Green and Gold

My brother found his way to the clearing at the end of his path.

January 19, 1953 - June 2, 2006