Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Fridge Pack is his canvas

The series of pictures below are from a supermarket and a gas station in Valdosta, which is apparently home to a Coke delivery guy with artistic vision that is bold and grand, yet subtle and patient.

Observe, for instance, the splash of yellow that marks the snowman's scarf:

A closer inspection of the technique:

Before moving on, look again at the larger portrait - can you name the brand that makes gives the carrot-nose its distinctive orange glow?

Now, from the same conveience store, the Christmas Tree. Gorgeous, eh? TO be sure, a child could use Sprite for the blue-green pine boughs, but the leap to two brands of Fanta as ornaments begins to mark the artist. And who among the greats would think: "tree bark? Pibb!"

So much for minor works. Let's examine the artist in full bloom:

Let's take this image fully in:

- Two Christmas trees (again, with Pibb trunks, and each topped with a florish) flank a chimney, which holds a Christmas wreath in its center. Below is the Christmas hearth - the fire glows, its heart orange with green and blue hints at the top of its flames. The base is golden.

And are those Christmas presents wrapped up in front? Or just a stack of ignored Vault? In all great art there is mystery.

Finally, take a look at this last one, a fabled work even grander in scope and vision than the Chimney piece above, but - perhaps fittingly - captured only in the ghostly image of a 2005 cell phone camera.

Behold, from the Five Points Winn-Dixie, circa early November, the masterpiece that is "Go Dawgs!"

Good Jobs: Raising a Doctor, Part II

I drove out to Quitman, town about 300 yards long, the other night with Judy. Judy grew up in Quitman and lived there until her kids were grown and she got divorced. She re-booted her life with a 20 mile move to Valdosta. So she knows the town in and out.

First house drivng into town is positively soaking with Christmas lights, every sharp line traced in bulbs, the trees and bushes bound in color, the windows all alight.

"That man that lives there, he ran a pawn shop," she said. "He used to lend out all kinds of money, and go collect with a baseball bat."

She laughed. I laughed. Quitman is like that and I like those stories.

"His son is a cardiac surgeon now."

Fastball, fastball, hook. Don't feel bad kid, it worked on Babe Ruth, too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pray for the Angels, cuz they ain't got'em

One of the very earliest - possibly THE earliest - time that I remember distinctly thinking, "man, I gotta remember that line" was certainly before I was 10, and was in a movie about a kid in a euro-Enghlish-middle-ages village who bounces through time with a peter pan/robin hood-type friend. At some point, wanting lunch, the Peter Pan kid says, 'let's go get real food!' or whatever and he blinks or snaps his fingers or what have you and - bang - they timetravel from whatever dreary moment they are in to an Alp-top mountain meadow where a banquet is laid out of food from around the world, including - I'm pretty sure - fried chicken.

And the Pan-like guy, biting into a leg, says to his buddy, 'The chicken legs come with the skin still on and pray for the Angels, cuz they ain't got'em.'

That's all I remember about the movie (an after-school special-deal, maybe?). But it made an impression

I'm reminded of that line everyday this Christmas. Actually, almost twice a day and to be precise, nine times in the last fiv e days. Because we our in our fifth Day in Valdosta, and M's mom, Judy, is on her ninth or at least 9th creation of baking/confection/butter, sugar, flour and-they-ain't-got'em.

The roll, which is possibly partial, sugar comas being bad for memory:

1 - Red Velvet with white frosting and pecans. And son, if you don't like red velvet cake, you ain't ever had peas for dessert.
2 - Better-than-sex cake, a raunchy name for chocolate cake, 2 layers of carmel, cool-whip frosting and covered in Heath Bar sprinkles.
3 - Banana Creme pudding, which to the top of the swirl is a solid 15 inches.
4 - What M calls "chocolate cake," but is really 3 layers of yellow cake mortared together with and entombed in chocolate frosting.
5 - Pumpkin spice-something which tasted way better than pumpkin-anything ever should.
6 - Pound cake with walnuts
7- Blueberry Cobbler
8 - About four dozen cream cheese cookies
9 - Little chocolate cups - as inm about 20 of them - filled with frozen cream cheese and a cherry on top that were just... stupid.

And every morning waiting on the breakfast table: all the bacon you can carry in both arms.

And hey, before Jan 1 and you lose the tax break, go support the Forces of Good in the battle for the Internet:

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good Jobs: Raising a Doctor, Part I

We had a party the other night, and a friend brought someone I didn't know, a young med student/doctor (I'm never been wholly clear when you stop being one and become the other) in her residency at Chapel Hill (is a resident a real, full-speed doctor? I know the answer is yes, but why do they work so hard for such bad pay and never get do anything by themselves?), after graduating from a high-end med school (OK, so that makes her a doc, I guess).

So she was nice and we talked a bit about ER-fun, which medically trained people love to discuss (truthfully, with just a few months worth of ER/trauma work, I'm usually behind a bit), and then she asked me about getting a job so we talked about real estate in Florida (those four words passing for a genuine excuse nowadays for most real estate job seekers), and she mentioned her parents had missed a chance to sell their house for $850K a year ago in Miami.

Yip, I said. Lot of that going around in Miami.

Its just too big for them, she said, now that my sister and I are gone. And my dad is gone Monday thru Friday, so what's the point of a big place?

Right, I said. What's he do?

And i expected her to say... "big shot lawyer" or "road-warrior consultant" or "techno-corporate brianiac in charge of tons of far-flung stuff."

Cuz who else is gone 5 days a week with an $850K (now on sale) house?

She said: He works for (a very major national bakery of tons of astoundingly good cakes and such). They have bakeries in (three cities, not miami), and he spends every week at one of them. He never went to college, just started at the bakery after high school.

Really? I said. So I turned to the friend who had brought her to the party, a guy I know, shook my head and said: "See that. Forget this MBA thing - the world's full of cool jobs."

So we discussed her dad for a bit, flushing out his resume so to speak: High school educated, spends his week on the road making stuff everybody just loves to eat too much of, then comes home on the weekend to his damn-near $million home in Miami, with a daughter finishing up her residency besides (I'm gonna go ahead and add that she, and therefore he, was black, only because I think it adds a few more rungs to the high school-grad-to-father-of-doctor-ladder)

Yip. Screw recessions. The world's full of cool jobs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Divided Wii fall

Today's blogpost will not happen because I got pulled into Wii tennis and then Wii fit with my nephew and niece (the tennis part ended when my niece, on a forehand smash, smashed HER niece - my daughter - with the controller, who had run over to her to play).

Later during Wii, J came back for more abuse, and hopped on the fit platform-thing to help on a couple games. that was fun.

So tomorrow, for sure, I'll address the picture below, which will be chapter 1 of my new Cool Jobs postings. And for missing today, I might go ahead and post Chp 2 as well, which is really, really good one.

And Wii fit results: my Wii age is 34, 2 better tan Reality Age, which is good enough for now. Still, gotta work on that.

and now.. Crazy Japanese video.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Some OL-H pub

(sent to a few pararescue friends last week)

> after a Three's Company-like misunderstanding with Netflix ("I
> thought YOU wanted to see it!"), we ended up with Transformers last
> night. And that is absolutely the greatest robots-that-turn-into-
> cars movie ever made.
> no, its just an awful, loud, insanely stupid movie that has one of
> those terrifc trap-openings that makes you think its going to be good.
> THe trap is that it opens at a 'special forces' air force base in
> Qatar, and piles on both the mil-porn hardware and every concievable
> somethihg-evil-this-way-comes military movie cliche on earth in
> about 5 minutes. There's the no-non-sense General, the barked
> commands, the soldier on the vid conference with his wife when the
> lights go out (the wife is even holding a newborn - full marks!),
> the 'This is our last mission/don't even say the word 'home'" talk
> among the Team, and a symphony of bullshit-radio-chatter with
> airplanes ("target acquired good tone" "cleared hot into killzone
> alpha bravo").
> THe chatter, of course, comes from when the transformer-monster
> thing attacks the base. pretty cool.
> best part though, and the only reason I mention this movie at
> all: to the credit of the producers, the "special ops team" which
> opens the movie and becomes central characters, is geared up about
> right, weapons and uniform-wise, and the Black Guy is - ta da! - a
> CCT (which, plot-wise, means he's doomed to a dreary life of
> grabbing any radio within 100 yards of him and wildly yelling
> "danger close!" into the mic, even if its the PA system at Wrigley
> field (that doesn't happen. i'm just saying that if the robot battle
> made its way to the Pressbox, it would)).
> So, how does the movie let you know, for sure, that's Cee-tee-
> tee? Well, for one as the movie opens and The Team is flying back
> from a Mission, the other guys are properly attired in Army gear,
> but he's wearing Air Force gear (Tech stripes, in fact, same as me).
> Then they get back to the base for a few minutes of R&R before
> the robot shows up - just enough time, apparently for him to strip
> down to his t-shirt, which says "USAF" and - ta DAAAAAA! - throw on
> The Red Hat. So when the robot attacks, he sprints across camp in
> just camo pants, USAF tshir and the Red Hat, screaming "danger
> close!" into his radio, his empty fist and every vacant outhouse he
> passes.
> And for the rest of the movie, through helicopter crashes and
> Hoover Dam explosions (don't ask) and Robot-vs-motorcycle-vs-F-22s-
> Vs-DangerClose battles on La Cienga in downtown LA, he NEVER takes
> off the hat. Never. It burns bright like a shining Red Hat Beacon.
> HEEEEElarious, but nice work none the less.

Truck Fire

Came across a pretty vicious car fire on the interstate yesterday, and its led me to reflect on the coming year.

It was thursday afternoon.  We were headed west on I-40 about 20 minutes outside of Chapel Hill, very near Mebane.  For I-40 travelers, Mebane is a terrific off-ramp of gas stations.  Always the cheapest or near-cheapest gas between Raliegh and Charlotte.  I-40 is 8 lanes wide at this point (4 each way - I've never been clear on the right way to refer to a freeway, by its total lanes (8) or one way (4) - kinda one of those "is 'easterly winds' from the east or to the east" deals).  There is no median except for emergency pull out lanes, with the two sides jammed up against each other, seperated only by a concrete wall barrier (hip-to-chest high).

My mind was on the stop in Mebane we were about to make for gas and a snack.  I stopped at the same place - the Sheetz gas station - every week over the summer when I weekend-communted between Ral and Clt (that's the Charlotte airport's ID letters - CLT - you can look it up).  I was thinking about the 8 hours in the car ahead of us, the chaos of the trip in general and the thick traffic I was - semis, crazy commuting traffic, etc - when I saw on the other side of the road a pickup truck clearly just starting to catch fire.

It was on the far shouder of the road where it had obvioulsy just come to a stop.  Flames were starting to come out of the hood, but there wasn;t much smoke yet.  It obviously had just started.  THe cabin looked like it had a lot of smoke in it.

What I didn't see was the driver running around in panic or standing by in horror.  In fact, I didn't see anybody at all outside the truck.

So I picked up on all that in the, perhaps, 8 seconds I had as we approached it.  When we drew up nearest it, passing the spot by, I looked closely at the passenger compartment.  And I think I saw a guy in there.

THinking about it now, later, the door was closed - which has to be a sure-fire indicator that nobody had yet got out, right?

Now, seeing what I thought was a guy, I had a couple fast thoughts:  was anyone obvioulsy already there trying to help?  Nope.  No other stopped cars.

How about traffic slowing down, meaning someone would be about to help?  Nope.  Traffic on that side - thick and full across all 4 lanes - was still rolling past at highway speed.  No sea of brakelights.

Well...  cops or firefighter?  Nope.  No lightbars to be seen.

Now I'm perhaps 5 seconds past the scene, and my mind is racing more:

The cabin is full of smoke already.  Regardless what you see on TV, a person can stay conscious in a cabin full of smoke for maybe 15 seconds.  Whoever is in that cabin had best open that door and roll out by the time i get done thinking this, or he's dead.
   Or somebody can run up and open the door and maybe - maybe - save them.

Ya know... somebody.

And so now - still, maybe 7 seconds past the place - my mind rips through the math:

I'm 2 lanes to the right, so I'd have to swerve over two to get to my median.  10 seconds.  THen stop.  100 yards.  Then get out - and its a barely-drivable median-lane, so the door may not open against the wall.  Hop the wall.  Run back.  Wait/wave for traffic to stop to get across 4 lanes of busy traffic.

Im in sandals and a polo shirt - can't kick or elbow a window in those and really, can I kick a window?  Is that even remotely possible?

That's 3 minutes away, at least...  so the guy is gonna be already out or dead.  On top of that (and here my mind, I think, started buring off adreniline by really diving into the worse-case), if you get there and he's dead, he might not be alone in that damn truck cuz the only reason I can think of that somebody wouldn't bail out of a smoke-filled car is because I'm too busy trying to un-fuck the buckles on a kids seat, and is that something you want rattling around your head for the next 50 years?

I got my own occupied carseat in this seat, thanks.

And the road is rolling past at 100+ feet per second and with the spot still visible in my rearview mirror, it hits me that this - me making any effort at all to effect what I just say - is not going to happen.

Quartermile.  Halfmile.  And its gone.

After a minute or so, Mandy wonders if we should call 911.  No, I say.  Somebody for sure will have done that.  Cuz you can count on people to lift thier cell phones to help.

So I spent several minutes wondering, calculating:  that truck was, at least as we passed, no more than 50 feet away.  Was it truly unreachable?  My instincts calculated speed, distance and safety - so how many more seconds of lead time would I have needed back up the road?  Or how many fewer lanes of traffic?  If it had been a wide, grass median?  Or if M and J weren't in the car?  or if I was wearing better shoes and jeans?

Or: Why didn't I instantly hit the brakes when I saw flames and look for an open lane?

Was I looking for a way to do it, or was I looking for a way not to?  And, as always - as with all things - once you miss that key second, you don't need reasons anymore because the chance is gone.

It was a fitting way to open the last week of 2008, because for me this was the year of close calls.  More than any other year of my life, a long list of things almost happened for me, to me or with me, but in the end didn't.  There were jobs I almost got but didn't because I slipped up in the last possible interview;  there were jobs I almost got and nailed all the interviews but the economy evaporated.  There were good nights out I missed because earlier that week i'd been too lazy to line up a babysitter.  There were weekend trips I set up that dissolved in a blizzard that cancelled every flight on the east coast.
   There were people I could have been nicer to, people I could have taken more seriously.  Things I could have written but didn't.
   And there was the truck fire.

Most, of course, didn't matter and several turned out to be blessings.  A couple of them, though, stung a bit.

And so the final thing is this:  not stopping - or not trying to stop - for the truck was an easy, wise and safe decision for me, surrounded by my fragile family, rushing traffic and rushing concrete.  In fact, it was hardly a decion at all, and one that would never be wrong if you made it a thousand times over.

  Unless, just one time out of those thousand, you were the guy in the truck.

Next post will be to fill in some thoughts on the picture below.

Smok'n Pig

Taken December 19, 2008