Dumb Things I Saw at WalMart

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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I am presently sitting in my hosts’ . . . uh, I don’t know that to call it . . . sitting room (?) watching a TV commercial for Farmer’s Mutual Insurance telling me that there are 15,000 clothes dryer fires every year caused mostly by people not cleaning out the lint filter and urging me to check my policy Real Soon Now to assure myself  that I am covered against such a tragedy. The commercial features a dude in a suit torching a gigantic lint ball with a flame thrower. It’s all very amusing, but scary, as it is intended to be. I cannot help thinking of how many people are, as I write this, scurrying out to the garage or laundry room or wherever to inspect that potentially dangerous bit of equipment.

Well, kiddies, I’m here to tell you that I am not of the timid ilk. My bravado is assisted by the fact that it has been decades since I owned and operated any such so-called convenience as a clothes dryer. Oh, yes, I do have a clothes dryer of sorts. It consists of a number of wires hanging from a carousel-like contraption out in my back yard. On sunny days my clothes dry in a snap. On gloomy days it takes a little longer.

Well. Now, that was interesting, wasn’t it?

I have been moaning about the weather. I’m tired of moaning and you’re tired of hearing me moan on and on about it. The sun came out today and do you know what? I’ll tell you what. It got freezing cold,  that’s what. Now I have something else to moan about. Here’s the freezing cold sun:

I forgot that the whole sun thing works backwards in Indiana at this time of year.

Before I get into the subject of today’s post I want to tell you about a very disturbing development in my life. I am becoming tragically absent-minded. A few mornings ago, about 09:00, I was getting my vitamin pills out of the big plastic bag of sundry medications and nutrient supplements which are keeping me upright and more or less mobile. As I was rummaging for C and Multi and B Complex and Magnesium and D3, I noticed that my little blister-pack of sleeping tablets was nearly exhausted. Well, that simply won’t do.  So, as I was thinking about how I might contrive a way to con a doctor into giving me a script for some Temazepam, my fingers took on a life of their own. Before I knew what was happening I found myself asking, “What did I just swallow?” It was at that point that I noticed the count of remaining pills had reduced by one.

I spent the rest of a very drowsy day wondering if I had just been introduced to yet another harbinger of the future.

Okay, on to one of my favourite activities, heaping scorn on Wal*Mart. I know that it is so very unfair of me to do so. It’s not only unfair, but hypocritical. I am, as are the vast majority of the poor and disadvantaged, forced by economic necessity to frequent the sterile and depressing aisles of the Big W when we would prefer to blow our meager disposable income at more trendy emporiums.

Yesterday, while I had an hour to kill as the Wal*Mart pharmacists slaved to produce a package of dream-time tabs for me, I decided to waltz about among the treasures of rampant consumerism to capture images of some of the dumber items I could find. I don’t present this as the definitive collection of The Dumb Stuff at Wal*Mart. I had nowhere near enough time. This is a mere sampler.

I’ll begin modestly enough by poking some fun at another of my favourite targets – those who lavish their pets unto death with every conceivable extravagance. I give you Beggin’ Chips:

Hey, aren’t dogs fat enough already? We need to give them calorie-laden treats to insure that their lives are free of unfulfilled longings? My dog, Sheba, eats no better than I do. I believe in shared suffering. What doesn’t kill me and my dog makes us stronger. And, while I’m at it, what’s with the missing g  on the end of begging?  I had nearly forgotten that Midwestern American English long ago economized the alphabet by making redundant the final g  from all of our precious verb forms employing it. Within days of returning to my indigenous roots I found myself talkin’ to people about workin’ in Madang and tellin’ them about divin’ and fishin’ from my boat and all about the books I’ve been readin’ and when they start askin’ me how I’m doin’ I’ve been sayin’ that I’m still livin’ but not enjoyin’ it very much.

I’m losing thirty years of progress developing my Man of Mystery accent. I’m most often asked if I’m a Canadian. Now I fear I’m suffering a relapse into my original Hoosier Twang. Alas, I’ll have to endure many snide remarks from my Australian friends back home who chastise me for not picking up Strine as my dialect of choice.

I’d best get on with my abuse of Wal*Mart. We have all experienced those distressing occasions in which an ordinary fan simply will not do. I distinctly remember those sultry summer afternoons in the trailer park when up and down the cul-de-sac could be heard the familiar complaint, “Hey, baby, this regular fan here just ain’t cuttin’ it. We oughta hop in the pickup and go git us one o’ them mistin’ fans.” Yeah, Clyde. A misting fan is just what you need and Wal*Mart’s got your number:

I can find plenty of sources of misting fans. It seems that many vendors wish to sell me one. However, I’m still a little puzzled as to exactly what a misting fan does. Presumably it will wet my face while blowing (or blowin’, as the case may be) air on it. Because of my intense frugality, I’m against the idea of tossing away sixty-nine bucks of my rapidly vanishing resources on a device that accomplishes nothing beyond the effect of a fan which I already possess combined with that of a wet towel.

I should probably mention that I’m writing this late in the evening and am slightly punchy from a long day of doing Very Important Stuff which I am now unable to remember. I went several places and did a number of things which were more or less crucial to my survival, but none of it registered in long-term memory. I’ll need to consult my notes. Hmmm . . . it seems I took no notes.

My final jab at our mom-and-pop-store destroying retail giant centers on the matter of absurdly large presentations of choices, namely forty-two flavours of vacuum cleaners:

Why, for pity’s sake, is it necessary or even sane to offer such a ridiculous and surreal number of vacuum cleaners from which to select? Personally, I would be struck dumb when shopping for a mundane household device if I were forced to evaluate so many possibilities. Thinking about it produces the same panicky feeling that I get when I’m purchasing bread at one of today’s colossal food mega-marts. At home I can get white bread, brown bread and bread with lots of unidentifiable seeds in it. The seedy bread also includes, at no extra charge, a range of little sticks and pebble-like objects which I reckon add to the fiber content. I buy the seedy bread. Here in America, The Consumers’ Paradise, I get giddy and nervous when confronted by 267 varieties of bread.

Okay, I am getting very sleepy now, so I’ll let Wal*Mart off the hook. Before I pass out, however, I’ll pass along, as a public service, a link to this partially literate article which I found on AboveTopSecret.com which proves, with absolute certainty, that Wal*Mart is deeply involved in Satanic activities.

I had every intention of entertaining you with several hilarious paragraphs about the Royal Coat of Arms and this depiction of same which I photographed on the corner of the old courthouse in Gympie, Queensland, Australia. Alas, I am now too tired and I must leave you to puzzle it out on your own:

The unicorn appears to be very angry.

Before I nod off, I’ll alert any astrology fans out there that an event of major significance is impending. Get up tomorrow morning and look to the east before the sun comes up. You will, if you have the eyes of an eagle, see six planets lined up as pretty as you please. Having consulted the foremost astrological experts today living I can assure you that you must immediately convert all of your assets to cash and arrange an electronic transfer of the funds to my Chase Bank account. Contact me for detailed instructions. Ignore this announcement at your peril.

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Secret Colours and Angry Skies

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 29th, 2011 by MadDog
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Once again, a schedule much busier than I imagined possible and a couple of bad days have kept me off of my soapbox for longer than I like. I was on a roll there for a while but allowed myself to be derailed. I have some news and a few random amusements to unload on you today. Fasten your seat belts, kiddies.

If you happen to have read my post from a couple of weeks ago in which I mentioned the possibility of a health problem, let me tell you that you can forget it. It was nothing. My host, Steve, arranged for me to go to see a doctor, a family member.  The test result was negative. One less thing, eh? I’m even more relieved than I imagined I would be. I should mention that this cost me nothing. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of generosity lately.

It was also arranged by Steve that I would go to an optometrist for an exam and new glasses. I was dreading this, as it usually ends up costing me at least US$500. Free! Again! I will get a nice pair of titanium framed glasses with magnetic shades and my eyesight corrected to 20/20 for the first time.

A few nights ago millions of Americans were hunkered down close to a TV listening to moment-by-moment reports from people being pounded by the weather, wondering if they were next. I heard a snippet of news the day after that there were 150 tornadoes reported on that night. My friend and hostess Marta called me down to see this image of a radar hook echo blasting down Interstate 74 towards Brownsburg. I don’t know if the supercell produced a tornado:

A huge tornado hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama. You can see a video clip here. Very scary!

I went outside to see if I could see any of the classic signals of an impending tornado, such as mamatus clouds, roll clouds or the “green sky“. It did look threatening, but I saw none of the really scary signs:

I took a couple of shots anyway.

The evening passed with no tornadoes close to me, but many suffered the worst night of their lives. Several hundred people have lost their lives in this stormy month of April.

One to a lighter subject, I visited one of my former institutions of so-called higher learning, Butler University. I have not lived up the the expectations of the graduates of that august university, the most important of which is that you earn huge stinking piles of money. I simply laugh when they send me solicitations for contributions. I visited Holcolmb Gardens for about the millionth time:

In the garden is a charming bronze of Perserphone, the goddess of vegetation. I always thought that she looks as if she is bored. There is a funny story regarding fraternity boys and prominent parts of the bronze’s anatomy. I will not tell it here, but rather leave it to your imagination. I will give you a small hint by disclosing that the story contains a reference to a can of Brasso polish.

This is Steve, my host, inside of a construction the purpose of which I will let you guess:

No, it is not a play-house. Come to think of it, maybe it is, but not for children.

During Steve’s latest adventure out in the woods (a hint) involving the use of the mystery object above, he and his friends discovered a treasure trove of morel mushrooms:

These appear to be giants to me. I’ve had no contact with morels since I was a child when my father hunted for them. I remember him making a delicious pancakes containing huge slabs of morel.

Patience – I am winding down now. I’m going to be gone from Brownsburg for a couple of days, so I may be absent for a while again. Yesterday I found myself on 10th Street in Indianapolis with my cousin, Jack, who had taken a day off to haul me around and entertain me. I’ll tell more about that later, perhaps. My eye was caught by this photographically dull, but thought provoking image:

A less disturbed person might pass by here and notice nothing. I saw Ghost Houses. Leave it to me to make a mountain out of a molehill. Still, every one of these forlorn little stairways once led to a humble abode where humans lived out their lives. I count six of them.

Along the canal beside the garden I mention above grows a brushy scrub forest area which is springing to life after a hard winter. I spied a bit of colour from the little bridge over the canal and crossed over to make my way down to the water line. There I found this tree expressing itself with all its might:

It is, to me, a happy image of renewal. I gave it all my care to prepare it for display. Secret Colours won’t hang in any gallery, but it calms me.


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Bye Bye Sweet Thing

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 12th, 2011 by MadDog
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Once again I’ll avail myself of the opportunity to journal the autumn of my life in my “one-page-at-a-time” autobiography. I can’t imagine how some of these things could be of much interest to anyone but me, but some (possibly very bored) people out there keep reading this stuff, so I’ll keep cranking it out. Backing off the pace to once every other day or so has allowed me more time to think about what I am writing. I don’t expect it improves the quality much or makes it any more interesting, but it lets me feel as if I’m giving more consideration to what I pour into it.

I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever go back and read any of it. I rather doubt that I will. After all, this is not a permanent record. None of us knows if we’ll be around for another year and when one reaches a certain age and has lived through certain life experiences, the question of “how long do I have” seems less important than “is this still fun?” I can imagine that I might, given the right frame of mind, go back and read certain posts from certain periods so that I can remember more clearly what was going on in my head then. It might someday be helpful to make comparisons.

What I do have to keep in mind is that I’m not making a permanent record here. Someday the server fees will not get paid for one reason or another and Madang – Ples Bilong Mi will tumble into the giant bit bucket never to be seen again or remembered leaving behind scarcely a ripple in the big pond of the web . So be it. In the meantime, I’ll try to have some fun with it. It is, after all, a toy for the hopelessly narcissistic.

Saying goodbye to things is becoming somewhat tedious. Fortunately, I don’t have much left to say goodbye to. It’s just as well. If you’ve followed recently, you’ll know that I recently had the blessing of putting Eunie’s beloved 1973 Triumph Spitfire 1500 into the loving hands of my cousin. She and her husband have promised the little beauty a good home. This makes me happy and solves what could have been a very troublesome problem, as I also sold the house where the car was garaged. The Spit, like me, no longer had a home.

Never mind. It is, as we heard Forrest Gump proclaim, “One less thing.” Laura was very patient throughout the prickly process of transferring ownership of a car from half-way around the world. The shenanigans required would have been very funny if viewed within the confines of a Hollywood farce. Getting the paperwork doctored to suit the authorities was an exercise in strained patience and perseverance in the face of unmovable obstacles. Finally, the obstacles allowed themselves to be budged. This alone is astonishing, given that we were dealing with inordinately stubborn boulders such as postal authorities and automobile license offices.

What follows is a series of images provided to me by Laura as a chronicle of the voyage of Sweet Thing from her abandonment to her new home.

Here we see her emerging from more than five years of cold storage into the frosty sunshine illuminating the now defunct and useless garage at 8080 East Road 300 North in Brownsburg, Indiana:

The house, and probably the three car garage, which seem perfectly serviceable to me, will soon be demolished or burnt. There seems to be some confusion as to the eventual fate of the structures. Truthfully, it matters not a whit to me. My nostalgia is confined to the good times. There were good times in abundance.

We’ll have one final look at the Good Times house:

In all truth, there were many good times to come when we moved out in 1981 to come to Madang.

Here is a rather gloomy shot of Sweet Thing being conveyed to her new home in Elletsville, Indiana:

And here she sits on her conveyance ready to be delivered:

She is a little beauty, eh? By far the prettiest of the Spitfires.

Down she goes. Sadly, the engine refused to start when the time arrived. This was later traced to a cracked distributor cap. This surprised me, since I had recently replaced the distributor with a new one:

I suppose “recently” is not accurate. The car has been in storage for quite a while. Still, how does a distributor cap crack all on its own with no apparent stress?

In the the frigid grip of an Indiana winter she seems to ask, “What now?” Where am I? Someone pinch me!

Let’s raise the bonnet and have a look:

Nobody makes cars like this any more. Possibly it’s just as well. It’s shocking.

Inside lies a relic from a simpler automotive age. She classifies as a “Classic Car” for purposes of registration. Just don’t expect her to pass any emissions test:

The engine has more new parts than old. There is a new crankshaft and bearings, new high-compression pistons, a new “street-grind” camshaft, new lifters springs and valves and the list goes on and on.

On this side one can see the Holley carburettor and the special intake manifold. Also visible are the tubular steel exhaust header pipes:

An expert on the mark might note that the radiator is radically larger that the stock model. We made this improvement after our last long road trip to Florida to see a launch of the Space Shuttle. It was a miserable voyage in a scorching summer. The engine overheated several times.

The dash is Brazillian Rosewood. All upholstering and carpeting is new. A new ragtop keeps most of the rain out. There is a Pioneer CD stereo system. Eunie and I did every bit of this work.:

She’s a fine machine, but requires the usual devotion from fans of British sports cars. Than means a well fed tool box in the boot.

Since we needed to travel to North America every couple of years, we decided to keep the Spitfire and rebuild her to usable condition instead of renting vehicles on each sojourn. I reckon that over the years we saved money by doing this. At least that was our goal. So, in the end, it did pay off. There is one more fine example of beautiful coachwork and the single minded purpose of building a car that is simply fun to drive which will not be rusting away in some barnyard, neglected and unloved.

Sometimes a plan has an unexpected outcome.

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On the Road – Brownsburg – Tree On Fire!

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 17th, 2008 by MadDog
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We’re running around like headless chickens today, so I don’t have much time for a post.

I did want to show you a small example of how the trees go crazy here in the spring. I’ll take some more shots later and combine several into one post.

Seeing this tree you might think it’s covered with red flowers:

Brownsburg - Red Tree

It’s not. It is the young leaves bursting out of the little covers that protect them from frost (don’t know what they’re called). Anyway, the place is a circus of colours now. Spring is coming in with gusto. I actually walked around outside in a t-shirt today! (yes, I had pants on too)

More tomorrow. Don’t miss tomorrow’s post. I’m going to take you on a visit to Hooters!

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On the Road – Brownsburg Starbucks

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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Yep, that’s me looking a little fuzzy and grumpy. There’s a Starbucks a couple of miles from the house we’re living in. They have a hot spot. I hate coffee. What to do?

Brownsburg Starbucks

Well, I get a sparkling grapefruit juice and a fruit salad (Doc says the ol’ cholesterol is getting a little high . . . how can that BE? I hardly eat anything!). The crew graciously allows me to sit and do my thing having paid only a pittance. Ah, America, you are feeling better aren’t you?

Here was the scene on the drive to Starbucks this morning:

Starbucks Sunrise - Brownsburg, Indiana

Perversely, I hate coffee, but love the aroma. I suppose I had too much of it standing in the frozen mud in mess lines at National Guard meetings. I’ve always associated it with the Army. Having drunk too much, then having to stand in formation for a couple of hours while some clown inspects the barracks to see if your shoes are shiny enough and your underwear is properly folded is just too absurd. Freezing, with my bladder screaming for relief, I vowed never again to suffer any man to tell me when I could or could not have a pee. I’ve stuck to that.

Anyway, I still love the smell of Starbucks. My thanks goes to the nice folks at the Brownsburg, Indiana Starbucks for letting a strange old dude use their valuable seating space for a handful of pennies a day.

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On the Road – America – Some Observations on Culture

Posted in On Tthe Road, Opinions on April 13th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’m going to skate on some thin ice this chilly morning. Some will cheer me on. Some will hope for me to fall through.

Last night, after a frustrating day culminated by a heated argument (about two minutes is our limit) concerning back-seat driving, I was seriously considering writing a series of posts raving incessantly about all the things that irritate me about today’s version of American Culture. I could go on for weeks describing with grim humor all the things that have, in my opinion, changed for the worse. I’m sure that most of my readers would eat this up. Others would not be amused.

But then, this morning, I saw this:

Brownsburg Sunrise

My heart softened a little. I used a mental technique that I have recently patented (you have to ask my permission and pay me a royalty to do it). I turned it about and tried to see it the other way round.

A tourist who can only find fault and constantly comments on cultural features that displease him is not welcome. I must admit that today, in America, I am a foreign tourist. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life (actually nearly half of my whole life) in a culture so radically different from today’s America that I can no longer reasonably claim American cultural citizenship. To me America seems sad and morally confused – a once great, powerful, and (possibly even) noble beast now horribly wounded and unable to recover full health and well-being.

Individual responsibility and respect for others has been replaced by a confusing myriad of rules. People seem unaware of or apathetic to the vast number of personal freedoms once held sacred which are being surrendered to the false promise of security. They are unable to accept that America will never be secure as long as most of the rest of the planet’s occupants see America as a self-appointed cop. There’s always going to be some kid hiding around a corner with a brick in his hand panting for revenge. America seems to me to be a once-great empire on the decline. Americans might take solace in the fact that no empire has survived recognizably intact for more than a few hundred years.

Papua New Guinean culture has its own faults – I’m not going to make comparisons to America. To me, PNG feels like the old American Wild West – without all the guns. We complain of many things. Most of my readers are expatriates in PNG. You know what I’m talking about. However, most of us are also optimistic (though we would grudgingly admit it) about the future. Many of us are in PNG specifically to devote our energies to improvement.

All the above is meant to be an encouraging essay – not a critique. I also believe that I’m fully qualified to make these comments because of my personal history and the fact that I am an American Citizen and have full access to freedom of speech under the Bill of Rights (God Bless the Constitution).

I love the America in which I became a man. I have great respect for its founding principles.

So, I’d like to end on a positive note. Keeping in mind that it has been four years since I was last in America, I am compelled to say that there have been some significant changes for the good. Americans are nicer today. They treat each other with more respect. The Insect Authority (Read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.) that was so prevalent has been replaced by a bemused contrariness concerning obnoxious rules (Well . . . I’m not supposed to do that, but let me see how I can get around the rules to help you.) I was dreading dealing with the bureaucracy. But two experiences in particular (one at the Social Security Administration and the other at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles) amazed me. Bureaucrats were falling all over themselves to help me with my complex and unfamiliar problems.

To wrap this up I’ll say to America (as if it cares what I think – HAH!), God bless you and good luck with your recovery. And, because I’m so cranky, I’ll add: You might have a better go of it if you learn to play nicely with others. As we used to say in the ‘60s, “Make love, not war.”

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On the Road – Spring is Busting Out All Over in Indiana

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 10th, 2008 by MadDog
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Spring is just busing out all over here in Indiana. I can see the buds on the Sugar Maple tree in front of our house growing day by day. We’re also spotting Robin Red-breasts hopping around on lawns looking for nesting material. Here’s one I stalked yesterday:

Cock Robin - First Sign of Spring in Indiana

We’ve always looked for Robins as the first sign of spring.

Another sight that that brings back memories is the huge Canada Goose. If you are a North American, you’ll be familiar with these beauties. Here’s a gander guarding his goose as she sits on her clutch of eggs: (Eunie got this very nice shot while I was in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles getting a new registration for the Harley.)

Canada Goose and Gander - Indiana

As you can see they are quite large. Guessing, I’d say an adult might weigh 10 kilos or more. They always fly in pairs or in large v-shaped formations of up to maybe fifty or so. They have a beautiful cry something like, “a-LAA, a-LAA, a-LAA,” in a nice contralto voice.

Here’s another one of the goose on her nest. Coming too close will make her start to honk and the gander will hiss and get very aggressive. Here’s the goose honking softly at me as if to say, “Hey, this is family business here. Please go away.”:

Canada Goose Sitting on Nest - Indiana

As you can see, they will nest practically anywhere. This nest was in a metre wide strip of grass between a garage and a busy parking lot. When I was a lad, we always saw them flying over in migration by the millions, but never saw one on the ground. I suppose it might have been because they were heavily hunted. Now they are so common that some people consider them vermin. I’m sure that they must now outnumber all the dogs and cats in the area. A large population no longer migrates, but stays year-round.

More about Spring in Indiana as it rolls in.

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