Earthquake in Indiana!

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on April 20th, 2008 by MadDog
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A couple of days ago I was awakened by a familiar sensation. The bed was jiggling with vigor and surrounding objects were rattling and clinking. 

Earthquake in Indiana

My first thought on awakening was, “Hmm . . . earthquake.” As I stepped through the door to dreamland again my brain rebooted and I realized, “WAIT A MINUTE. THIS IS INDIANA!”

Madang residents will understand. Earthquakes of this magnitude (5.2 on the Richter) are so common that they hardly elicit comment. Mick: “You feel the earthquake last night?” Sheila: “Yep.”

It is, however, a matter of no small concern. The New Madrid fault is a very dangerous critter, though it hibernates most of the time.

There have been three significant earthquakes during the last forty years in Indiana. Strangely enough, though we’ve lived in PNG for most of that time, we experienced all three of them. The first was in 1968, before we left the USA. The next one was in 1987 (I think) while we were in the USA for a visit. The third was a few days ago.

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Book Report #3 – Casino Royal – Comparing Ian Fleming’s Spy to The Spy of Hollywood

Posted in Book Reports, Humor on April 18th, 2008 by MadDog
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My ever thoughtful son sent to me for Christmas a very retro-covered copy of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel (1953), Casino Royal.

The “Bond gun”? - Walther PPK

My first reading of the Bond series was in 1965, when I was in Advanced Infantry Training at some sleepy Army Fort in North Carolina. Vietnam was bleeding. I was safe from the draft because I had wisely joined the National Guard. (Yes, as if you care, I freely admit that I was a draft dodger. I could probably never be President. Or could I . . . ?)

I worked in an office with two other enlisted men and a lethally bored Second Lieutenant. One of the other guys was an extremely perturbed Austrian citizen who had, by stupendous effort and patience, obtained residency in the USA and was thus – to his everlasting bewilderment – eligible for the draft. He was probably the least lucky person I’ve ever met.

Our single task was to determine the devastation to Army equipment and personnel in case the Ruskies lobbed one in on us that particular day. The calculations took about a half-hour. That left ample time for reading and snoozing. I also learned to touch-type – just about the only useful skill I acquired in the Army.

There I go – getting off-point again. Anyway, I was amused to re-read Casino Royal after 43 years. I had firmly in mind, from watching countless Bond movies, a certain persona that, while unquestionally capable of cold-blooded murder of bad guys, was nevertheless admirable from a certain twisted and depraved viewpoint. (i. e. blind patriotism)

Forget all that. Fleming’s Bond is about the most despicable character you can imagine. Only the bad guys are worse. There is nothing admirable about him. He is a misogynist of the first order. He experiences women as annoying nuisances fit only for his temporary amusement. Even as he seduces, he is icily planning the kiss-off. He is also, contrary to the movie portrayals, often inept and falls far short of the manly fortress of strength, integrity, and courage of the movie mockery.

I could go on and on, but one has only so much time at work to read this drivel.

I’ll bring the book back to Madang. If you want to borrow it, let me know. If you’re a Bond movie fan, you’re in for a surprise.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The pistol is a Walther PPK – I won’t get into the details. Most people who care think of this as “The James Bond Gun.” Surprisingly (to me, at least), it makes no appearance in Casino Royal. My son tells me that it appeared in a later volume (five years later in Dr. No). When I get to Canada, my son and I are going to do a little research and collaborate on a few posts revealing “The Guns of James Bond.” It will be fun for us, if not for you.

I should mention that the PPK has a sentimental appeal to me aside from the Bond thing. For years, when I was doing business in an unsavory atmosphere (not saying where or why), I carried a PPK very similar to the one in the photo tucked into a ‘snuggie’ holster between my belt and my bum. Happily, I never shot anybody, including myself.

Thanks to the very nice, but otherwise scary folks at Don’s Guns in Indianapolis for allowing me to take the photo in a WARNING – NO CAMERAS area. You may speculate for a moment concerning the reason cameras might not be welcome in a place where the motto has been for years, “I don’t want to make any money. I just love to sell guns.”

TO THE OWNERS AND EMPLOYEES OF DON’S GUNS: I mean absolutely no disrespect by any comment in this post. I am a writer of humor and a professional fool. Practically everything is funny to me. If it weren’t, I’d probably blow my own brains out. You treated me with a bemused kindness that went far beyond your duty to the public to supply the necessary tools to allow them to exercise their rights under the Constitution of the United States of America. God bless the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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On the Road – Indianapolis, Indiana – Hooters

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 17th, 2008 by MadDog
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As part of my continuing effort to bring you important dining information should you ever find yourself stranded in the vast prairie wilderness of America, I’ll take you to a (to me) delightful establishment called Hooters. Yes, the name is an anatomical allusion, as you may have expected. Many consider Hooters a less than ideal concept. It does feature lovely, vivacious young ladies frolicking around in hot pants and tight tops. I’m sure that the occasional dirty old man lurks about (not ME, of course!). But he’s going to be wasting his time. Neither the company nor the young ladies tolerate any misdemeanors. Certainly they are cute and playful, but they are most definitely NOT flirtatious nor, in any way, accessible.

Here’s our waitress-of-the-day, Amy, with Eunie in the Hooters Boutique picking out t-shirts for a few of our friends in Madang:

Hooters Boutique - Indianapolis

Illustrating my point above concerning improper behaviour, when I asked Amy to turn around so I could get a ‘cute’ shot of her, she did so, but stuck out her tongue – a message to me that I was treading on thin ice. There are some husky looking guys with bulging biceps on the crew. I’m not sure what the full extent of their duties includes, but I’m not going to investigate the matter by misbehaving.

Hooters - Amy

Oh, I nearly forgot the fare. Well, first off, there’s cold beer in abundance. Imports are a little thin, but there’s always Heineken. Of the variety of goodies on the menu Eunie and I always get the Gourmet Hot Dog with cheese, relish, and chili sauce. It comes with curly fries, smokey baked beans, and a nice big Kosher dill pickle. To me, it’s the Prince of Hot Dogs. It tastes just as it should. There are many other selections on the menu. I’ve tried several and none disappointed.

Eunie and I dine at Hooters at least once a week. They are all over America except next to churches. You can’t sell booze within a certain distance of a church in America. Now just why is that so? Is it a matter of sensibility or temptation? One wonders . . .

I’ll leave you with a hula-hooping young lady:

 Hooters - Hula Hoop

Hopefully you can decipher the back of her shirt. In case you can’t, I’ll help. It reads, “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” – an appropriate redundancy for a very amusing establishment.

It wouldn’t be proper to let this go without mentioning that the objections to the atmosphere and working conditions bear scrutiny. Yes, it’s a fun place, but one has to ask if what is happening here is an implicit objectification of women. Many have made that argument. Please check the link above to a Wikipedia article about Hooters. It explains these arguments and counter-arguments.

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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 – Plainfield, Indana – Hog Heaven

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 14th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’d be willing to bet that the U. S. of A. has more intriguing little restaurant/bars per square kilometer than any other country. When we’re on the road, we always have an eye out for these special places.

Last night, in Plainfield Indiana, we found a great one. If you ever discover yourself hungry or thirsty in Plainfield, treat yourself to a little dose of down-home culture at Hog Heaven (Texas Hold ’em Poker). (They have imported beers – you don’t have to choke down anything with the letters BUD in the name.) Here’s their trademark:

Hog Heaven - Plainfield, Indiana

“Pork with an Attitude” – I love it! Hog Heaven is a delightful mashup of all the familiar clichés of hometown Americana. I state that with no overtones mockery. It’s got lots of neon, plenty of retro deco, a biker feel, floods of richly raunchy country music, adorable waitresses that call you Honey, Sweetie, or Darlin’, and oh, so much more. In short, it’s just the way (uh-HUH, uh-HUH) I like it. Here’s a view of the bar:

Hog Heaven - Plainfield Indiana - The bar

They also have a ‘family dining’ area which we didn’t see. We were greeted by a lovely lady with a smooth mid-western drawl who asked us if we wanted the bar or the family dining. She did a cute little eyebrow-lift when we answered, “The bar!” (Duh!) She took our order for drinks and was back in a flash. We browsed the menu for a moment while soaking up the ambiance. Some young studs were out for a night of pool. I took this covert shot (I love available-light photography. You can snap away without startling your prey into panicky flight.):

Hog Heaven - Plainfield Indiana - Shooting Some Pool

Our sweetheart waitress, Laura, brought my Yardbird Livers (hand breaded chicken livers) and “Tater Peeler” fries, stating that they were her favorites. I can understand why. I quietly wondered how she stays so svelte.

In most of these extraordinary sort of places you’ll find no plastic food. The owners and their employees take pride in serving truly excellent and distinctive fare. The chicken livers were thinly coated with a wonderful crunchy deep-fried batter. Inside they were dark and aromatic. Yum!

Between nibbles of splendor and slurps of Heineken I stalked around snapping. Eunie was not amused:

Hog Heaven - Plainfield, Indiana - Eunie in her cute little shoes

She did look cute, though, perched on her stool in her tiny little shoes frowning at my unseemly behaviour.

My gratitude goes out to Hog Heaven and all the nice people inside who provided us a haven from a cold rainy Indiana night and refreshment that went far beyond fine food, and a restorative cold beer.

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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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