Saturday, April 27, 2013

He's not Gruff, He's Ram Tough!

Have I mentioned Estes Park lately? I believe I have. One of the things I find really cool about Estes Park (though I imagine the novelty has worn right off the residents) is that you can see deer and elk there. I don’t mean up in the hills outside the town. I mean in the town. Driving along the main road into town we saw a small herd by the side of the road. On someone’s lawn. Eating the bushes growing right in front of the picture window looking out from the living room. People honked their horns as they passed but the deer are so used to that their only reaction was to lift the occasional tail and fertilize the lawn.

From what I could see, those tails went up a lot. That dude may have short, gnawed-on bushes, but he is going to have the greenest lawn you ever did see!

Deer over here, elk over there, I kept half expecting Marlon Perkins to leap out of the bushes and wrestle one of the beasts to the ground in front of a camera crew.

Those of you old enough to get that one: Bravo, and thanks for reading!

Those of you to young to get that one: Ask your parents. Better yet, substitute ‘Steve Irwin’ for ‘Marlon Perkins’, and thanks for reading!

Those of you so young you don’t even get the Steve Irwin reference: Google it! Then go do your homework, or play outside… but after you finish here. And thanks for reading!

After spending some time wandering about Estes, (see previous posts “Book Store to Signing in Three Easy Steps” and “Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates”) it was time to head back down out of the mountains… and by ‘down’ I mean back to an elevation of just 6,200 feet. For those of you reading this in the Boston area or anywhere else that’s pretty close to sea level, either go outside or open a window and stick your head out and look straight up. Now pick a spot up there that’s a mile above your head. I’m not exaggerating — a mile. Got it in sight? Okay, now look about a thousand feet higher than that. That’s what I was heading down to, so I blame thin air and oxygen deprivation for what I’m about to tell you.

The road wound down the mountain, curving this way and that, with occasional widenings of the shoulder forming ‘scenic overlooks’, where people could pull their cars over to get out and take pictures of the view from more than 7,000 feet. We came around a bend at one point and saw a few cars pulled over, but the people with the cameras were all facing across the road and up the mountain rather than at the river view beneath the overlook.

“There must be some wildlife up there,” said SB as she pulled onto the shoulder.

She was right. A small herd of Bighorn Sheep were grazing their way up the steep incline, away from the road. SB got out her camera and we joined the two people on the overlook who were trying to get pictures of these animals, so reclusive when compared to the sheep and elk of Estes. One woman was actually over on their side of the road, trying to hold her camera up high enough to get a shot over the rise and through the trees, but I couldn’t tell you how much luck she was having. The herd moved a little higher up the slope… when suddenly some idiot ran across the road and started climbing. This moron was trying to get high enough on the slope to get a shot of the animals without the intervening trees, completely ignoring the fact that he was climbing up in full view of the herd, that these were wild animals without even the slight domestication of the Estes Park wildlife, and he was going up where they had a definite advantage of mobility.

Oh… did I mention that this idiot was me?


So there I was, half-way up this steep slope, squatting down behind a rock, trying to find a good angle for a photo. It was a digital camera, so I was taking shot after shot just hoping to get something that was worth all the effort. I had moved a bit sideways at one point, and now the slope below me dropped off in what amounted to a 10-foot cliff overlooking the road. I was keeping an eye on that drop-off as the herd moved a little closer. The little movie screen at the back of my mind had been looping that bit of film so many of us have seen when a hunter doused himself with doe urine figuring it would allow him to get right up to the buck. What happened instead was his wife took this sweet little video of a deer stomping her husband into the ground for a full two minutes.

Ah, yes: the real man dies but one death, while the true idiot dies millions of times on YouTube and FaceBook.

That dude had flat ground to run on, had good footing to fight and dodge on, and that deer kicked the crap out of him. I was on the side of a steep hill with a cliff below me. I had my eye on the herd buck, and as long as he kept on grazing I figured I was okay; it wasn’t like he was eying me aggressively or anything.

Suddenly, though I swear I hadn’t moved or made a sound, the herd buck’s head lifted and he stared right at me.

If I’d had a tail, it would have gone up. As it was I nearly fertilized the side of the mountain.

He stared at me as I slipped, as quietly as possible while keeping a sharp eye on him, slightly downslope and just a hair toward them, parking by one of the pine trees that grew right out of splits in the bare rock. My new position put the buck on the far side of a boulder that he could have gone over like you or I would step over the threshold into a house, and maybe 100 feet away. My plan was, should the buck come over that boulder toward me at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour, to use the tree as a shield while I screamed and cried like a baby, looking for a way to climb the thing without having my stupid ass smashed right over the cliff by about 200 lbs of raging ram.

I continued taking a few pictures as the herd worked its way up the steep incline, noticing they all meandered past on the far side of the staring buck from me. Not one of them chanced walking between us, though whether they were just being security conscious or were afraid to intersect with the intensity of the ram’s stare because, hey, who doesn’t hate the smell of burning wool, we’ll never know.

As I was wondering about that, the ram made a deft little move that included a four-footed hop, and suddenly he wasn’t behind the boulder between us. He was on top of it.

That little part of my mind that had reminded me of those videos of the hunter with the doe urine suddenly took it upon itself to wonder whether anyone down on the road had a video camera trained my way, and was curious to know the picture resolution they were using. Would it be able to record the exact moment when I wet my pants? I didn’t think I had done so yet, but I have to say I wasn’t 100% positive on that one. Would we be able to, as the sports shows say, ‘go to the tape’? Would I be in any shape to watch the tape after my visit with my new proctologist, Dr. Ram? Or would I first have to have my head pulled out from where he was going to stuff it? These were the questions running through my mind as my hands worked on automatic, taking picture after picture. The herd moved along, unhurriedly, as the biggest Billy Goat Gruff kept a wary eye on the two-legger with the camera, who was in turn looking about for a nice bridge to hide under.

I sat there as still as could be, wishing I’d had the foresight too bring a pulled pork sandwich to use as an escape route (and if you don’t get that reference, shame on you! Go back and read “Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates” for crying out loud!). Eventually the entire herd had moved higher up the mountainside, and the ram apparently grew bored with standing up on that rock posing and flexing. He clambered down the far side and began to move off with them. He did pause once, though, to look back at me one more time. “I’m going to start eating now,” that look said, “but I am well and truly aware of just where you are, so don’t get any of your bright ideas or I’ll see what kind of a hang-time I can get on the throw.”

The look I sent back only said “Yes, sir!”, but it said it a lot.

I hopped skipped and jumped back down to the road where I discovered I had managed to accumulate some really cool pictures, a neat little story, and an intense need to use the bathroom all at the same time!

Okay, that was a longer story than I’d intended, but hey, you read this far, right? Wasn’t it worth it? Just to make sure you feel that way there are some fairly cool photos posted at the bottom of this drivel. Enjoy!

Talk to you later!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Please, Help Me Help Them.

Hello WYMOP fans and readers. This is the management.

I realize this week's post is a bit late, and I do apologize for that. I actually had a post all written and ready to go, but then something very important happened. It happened While I Was Making Other Plans, as it were.

I put aside this week's post and started working on what you see here now. That post will appear next week at my regular time, I promise.

But this is important. To me and to others... but you'll understand once you see and hear.

Please take note of the picture in the sidebar to the right. Read what I wrote there.

Please hit the "Play" button below. Listen to what I say there. It's only seven minutes... or it's a lifetime.
It depends on how you look at it.

Thank you for your time.

Talk to you later.

P.S. - If there are any issues with players not playing or buttons not buttoning, please let me know ASAP in the comments box below so that I may address them as quickly as possible.

Thank you.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Store to Book Signing, in Three Easy Steps

You may already know, if you read my last post (Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates), that spent some of last week in Colorado. My friend SB and I spent one of the days I was there wandering around in Estes Park, and I wound up with a kind of a deal. 

Here's the story...

Estes Park, if you do not already know, is a little tourist town in the mountains, elevation about seven and a half thousand feet. It’s a lot like Conway New Hampshire, or Rockport Massachusets, or any other small touristy town near where you live, in that 
there’s a whole strip of town that is wall-to-wall small shops, stores and outlets.

You want hand-blown glass sculptures or ornaments?
They got ‘em.
You feel like buying a t-shirt with the world’s cutest/coolest/most snarky message written across the front in letters a foot high superimposed over a sweet/radical/insulting comic figure or caricature?

Try two doors down. Or across the street. Or the shop just upstairs from here.

You have a hankering for scented candles made from soy, beeswax, or the collected waste of various wild animals that live in the area that’s been distilled down into a clean-burning if oddly-smelling wax-like substance?

They’ve got what you need.

To prove that fact, they have, right in the middle of everything else, nestled in there amongst establishments like Everything Antlers (A furniture shop. Sort of.) and The Petrified Poo Emporium (I just can’t describe that one now), they have book shops.

You heard me. Book shops. They have what I need.

SB and I went in to one, McDonald Book Shop Inc. to browse around. By browse around I mean look at everything and try to buy nothing. I never make it. I always buy something, even if it’s just to show support for the local vendor trying to compete in a world ruled by Amazon.

“Can I help you find anything in particular?”

I’d swear the woman that appeared by my elbow as I perused the racks did just that: appeared. First there was Space, vast and empty but for the air I was breathing; Then the Lord said ‘Let there be an incredibly bubbly and helpful person’, and it was so!

“Well,” I said, “I am looking for a couple of books in particular…”

“Please,” she chirped (yup, chirped), “Come this way.”

I’d say she marched off toward the front of the store, but that wouldn’t exactly cover it. It was perky. But it was a march.

Can one be said to ‘march perkily’?

You know what? Screw it. She marched perkily toward the front of the store, leading me to her computer. She wrote down the titles I was looking for, then banged happily away at the keys.

And came up empty.


Oh, you should have seen her face. She looked so sad she had been unable to help me I actually started to feel bad. SB had come around to the counter by now, a couple of books in hand.

“Nothing?” she said.

“Nothing,” I said.

She put her purchases on the counter, ready to pay and leave, when she suddenly squatted down, staring through the glass front of the counter. She pointed to a small stand on one of the shelves in there, nearly hidden by showcased books.

“Are those bookplates?”

“Yes they are,” said the saleswoman.

Sb looked up at me.

“You were looking for bookplates, weren’t you?”

“I was,” I said, excited at the prospect of buying something from this happy, helpful woman. Happy and helpful reached beneath the counter, coming up with a small stand holding a variety of bookplates. I chose one that happened to be just about what I was looking for: ‘This book is presented to:’ followed by a few lines for names and signatures. And they were self-adhesive. I’m not sure how many packs of the other types she had, but there were an even half-dozen of the ones I liked.

I bought them all.

“Do you have a lot of books?”

I do, but that isn’t what the bookplates were for, so I sort of blanked on an answer for a moment. SB, as she occasionally does, stepped smoothly in to the conversational gap.

“He’s a writer.”

“Oh, my, well we have author signings here sometimes — right there in the back, in that reading chair — would that be something you’d be interested in? Do you have anything you’d like to promote?”

“Nothing yet,” I said… no, strike that. That’s what I was about to say, but—

“He’s in several short story anthologies at the moment,” said SB. “But he’s working on a collection of his own, as well as a novel.”

She looked at me.


“Two, actually,” I said. “But—”

“Well!” said Happy and Helpful, going full-on Happy once more. “Will you be looking to do any signings then?”


“I’m sure he will,” SB said.

“When would this be? Sometime next year then?”

I learn slowly, but I do learn. I kept my mouth shut.

“Possibly,” said SB. “Is there a way to go about setting something up here?”

“Oh, sure. Just email us here at the bookstore — you can get to us through the website— and we can set something up. We need to do it in advance, and we’ll have to check with any publisher involved to make sure we can work with them to sell the title here at the store, but then we’ll promote it on our website, advertise in the local paper, stuff like that.”

She was writing down information as she spoke, and SB was nodding appreciatively and making all the little sounds conversationalists use to show that yes, they are interested and paying attention, even though they’re keeping their mouths shut to let you talk.

I stood there and watched.

By the time we walked out of the store I had a tentative agreement to do a book signing there sometime in 2014.

So that’s how you go from Walking into a book store to walking out with a book signing, in three easy steps:

1 - Walk into a bookstore being run by a woman.
2 - Bring with you a woman who knows you’re writing.
3 - Just stand back and shut up.

It works like magic.

Now all I have to do is write a book. Whoops!

…Details, details…

Besides, I have to go back to Estes anyway. Where else am I going to find an ashtray carved out of petrified elk testicles?
Petrified WHAT!?

Talk to you later!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates

Hey there, Readers! 

Sometimes a blog post or story comes to me in a flash.

This one came on a plate, in a bun. You'll see what I mean.

Okay... here's the story:

~ ~ * * ~ ~

So there I was, standing before these huge closed gates. I wasn’t sure, exactly, where I was or how I got there, but it was foggy as all get out. I mean, you couldn’t even see the ground through the thick swells of mist rising up, like somewhere there was one of those Hollywood special effects teams and those boys were logging some serious overtime on the fog machine. It was so thick I really couldn’t see anything but those huge gates and this tall booth sitting next to them. It looked like a security station or an information booth; I was hoping for the latter because I was asking for directions. The metal security shutter was rolled down over the booth window, but there was a big sign hanging from the window ledge next to a red button.

Please Ring for Service

I shrugged, stepped up to the booth and planted my thumb on the button. Instead if the buzz I was expecting, or even the sound of a doorbell ringing, I heard a few strains of harp music coming from somewhere inside. Great, I thought, a gated hippie commune, then leapt back in surprise! That steel shutter rolled up with the speed and snap of a popped window shade, nearly causing the simultaneous stopping of my heart and filling of my pants.

“Can I help you?” said the man inside. He was a big guy, tall, and he might have been smiling. I wasn’t sure about the smile because this dude had a thick white beard. No, not a beard, a BEARD! You’ve heard of spade-beards? This guy had a backhoe. An earth-mover. Many a hard-core biker would break down and weep like a small child cutting onions in a tear gas factory at the thought of having a beard like that. He could have been wearing a uniform or he could have been buck-ass nude under all that facial hair: I’d never know unless he turned away.

He was using that deep windowsill like a desk, with a big ledger book, a nice-looking pen set, and even an engraved name plate right there up front: S. Peter — Reception.

“Uh, yes,” I said, edging forward, “I hope so. I think I’m a little lost.”

“Perfect,” said the beard, voice booming. “This is the place we hope all lost souls end up!”

High as a kite, I thought, recalling the odd doorbell.

“No, you don’t understand. I really don’t know where I am, and—”

“You don’t know?”

Pete stood next to me now, though I hadn’t seen him move. His beard had sprouted a pair of arms, and a hand rested on my shoulder. The blue eyes above the beard looked kind, and surprisingly not the least bit red-rimmed or glassy.

“You, my friend, are at the Gates of Heaven.”

“So I was right,” I said, slumping with relief. “This is a hippie commune!”

The eyes shifted from kind to bemused.

“No, my son, though this is about as High as you can get. I’m talking about… Heaven!”
He made a grand sweeping gesture with his free hand. Of their own accord those tall gates swung open and the fog followed suit, whole banks of the stuff moving aside like a huge damp curtain… and my jaw dropped.

Angels. Everywhere I looked, there were Angels. Flitting from cloud to cloud on wings of light, playing horseshoes on a cloud to the right, attending a harp class on the cloud to the left. In the middle of it all, standing by a huge Celestial Webber and working two spatulas at the same time as He served out burgers and dogs to the huge winged crowd watching the horseshoe match, was a Being of Light so intense I couldn’t look directly at Him until I slipped on my Oakleys.

“Hey,” I said, pointing toward the grill. “Uh… is that—”

“Yeah,” the beard interrupted. “He makes an excellent burger. His hot dogs, though…”

A hand waggled.

“They’re just so-so. He thinks they’re terrific, though, and we don’t have the heart to tell Him. Now, you’re a bit of a surprise, friend. What’s your name?”

“Rob,” I said, dazed.

“Rob… Rob…”

He stepped back to the front of the booth and went up on tip-toe to read the ledger book upside down. I saw that he did indeed wear a robe behind that beard, thank the Great Griller In The Sky.

“I don’t see an appointment for you here, Rob. Can you tell me just how you got here?”

I scratched my head.

“You know, I have no idea. The last thing I remember is sitting down to lunch in Estes Park, and—”

Pete spun around, beard flying.

“Wait. You were having lunch in Estes Park? Estes Park Colorado?”

“Yeah, why?”

“In Lonigans Saloon?”

“Well, yeah. How did you know?”

He was nodding now, the end of his beard dusting the tops of his sandals.

“Let me see your watch for a minute.”

I pulled the timepiece from my wrist, still too dazed to question him. He held the watch in his palm for a moment, squinting at it.

“You had the pulled pork, didn’t you?”

I stared at him.

“How in the He— Uh, in The Other Place did you know that?”

He waved a hand about airily.

“Oh, it’s a well-known metaphysical fact that the pulled pork sandwich at Lonigans Saloon in downtown Estes Park is a little bit of Heaven. Aw, I should have figured it out right away — this happens quite a bit, you know. Don’t worry, it wears off after a minute or two.”

“Wow,” I said, looking about. “Good sandwich!”

“You ain’t kidding. Just count yourself lucky you didn’t have the Red Hot Grilled Chicken.”

“That brings you here too?”

“Nope. Sends you somewhere else.”

He aimed a thumb downward.

“You mean—”


“It’s that bad?”

“Naw, it’s terrific! But it’s hot as He— Uh, it’s just really hot.”

The clouds began to swirl about me in a silent cyclone of mist and fog as the Gates, the Booth, even Pete himself began to fade.

“I think it’s wearing off,” I shouted, trying to be heard over the windless wind. Pete just waved a hand in farewell, his beard split in a big grin.

~ * ~ 

There I was again, sitting at my table in Lonigans, an empty plate on the table before me, the last bits of wonderful flavor from that pulled pork sandwich lingering on my tongue.

“You okay?”

I looked up to see Ivy, the bartender, looking at me, concern written across her face.

“I think so,” I said. “Why?”

“You sort of seemed to go away for a while. Didn’t look like you were in there. You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine. Better than fine, actually. Can I have a pulled pork sandwich?”

“But, honey, you just ate one. Don’t you remember?”

“Oh, I remember. I remember everything. That’s why I want another sandwich.”

I held up my arm, indicating my bare wrist.

“I think Saint Peter just scammed my watch. Can I have the sweet potato fries with that? This might take a while.”

~ ~ * * ~ ~

So there you have it. Can you guess where I was this week? I'm on my way back to Boston in a while, but I wanted to share this little adventure with you. Seriously, I flew almost 1,800 miles and then took a three hour car ride to have the pulled pork at Lonigans.

You can check them out at 

I don't know where you are reading this from, but you want my advice? If you're within, say, 1,000 miles of Estes Park, then make the trip.

Just bring an extra watch if you do.

Talk to you later!