Thursday, May 30, 2013


I spend a fair amount of time at the local swimming hole. In this venue are displayed every body shape and size. Don't think Hollywood, folks - think Hoboken. There I have observed a new greeting that has been taken up by the younger folks. Rather than saying "hi", "hello" or "how are you?", the younger people are saying "nice tat" upon greeting another person. The standard retort to this greeting is the phrase "like yours too." Of course, this refers to the practice of decorating one's body with tattoos, a practice that was, until a few years ago, reserved for sailors and prisoners.

Yesterday while hearing the greeting, I looked to see the objects of their compliments. One guy had a tattoo of a goat eating a tin can and the other guy had something that looked like the face of Pee Wee Herman.

Beyond the "nice tat" greeting there are numerous other nuances surrounding tattoos. The first is akin to the Realtors' credo "location, location, location."

The location thing has me a bit confused. Many women have them on their ankles while I have yet to see a man with an ankle tattoo. Also, many women have them at the top of their butt crack...not so for men. Women who have tattoos on their upper backs tend to have them in the middle. Guys like to have them skewed to one side. Arms and legs seem to be fair game for both males and females. Neck fronts and sides are reserved for men while the back of the neck is a girl thing. The stomach area is forbidden territory for both men and women.

I once thought that people who had tattoos were screaming at society: "HEY, LOOK AT ME!" In so doing they were asking people to take a closer look at the body part which was decorated. That theory gets mangled when I see the butt crack tattoos on women. I just can't bring myself to believe that there are women out there screaming "HEY, LOOK AT MY BUTT CRACK!" Thus, I will have to spend some more time at the swimming hole observing this strange phenomenon.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Very few people have heard of Togue Pond. It's about twenty miles from Millinocket. Hmmm, haven't heard of Millinocket, either? Let me step back a bit.

My family was originally from the Boston area. In the Boston area, the rich people went south and vacationed on Cape Cod, the poor people went north and vacationed in New Hampshire or Maine.

You guessed it. We went north.

In the late 50's my parents told us that we were going to vacation for a whole week in northern Maine. To us, Maine was a place of infinite wonder, danger and adventure. We had heard tales of large animals chasing innocent campers, snow in the middle of July, mosquitoes the size of small airplanes and fish that were big enough to drag you from your boat if you were unfortunate enough to catch one. It was a place that was, in many ways, off the map, barely inhabited and certainly, uncivilized.

And we couldn't wait to experience it. 

We counted the days. The day finally came when we loaded up the 1957 Plymouth station wagon with the six of us and we headed north in the automobile caravan with the rest of Boston's poor people. Back then the main highway, Route 95, was only completed as far as Portland, Maine which meant that the remainder of the trip would take place on two-lane country roads. The day was long and miserable, especially for my parents, having to deal with four kids, two of which were already wearing their bathing suits and the other two who had their fishing poles in hand. As I recall, it was late afternoon when we finally saw the sign that said "Togue Pond Camp". We had arrived.

Truth be told, it wasn't a camp at all. It was a group of about ten cabins that were at the waterfront of beautiful Togue Pond. They served food in the rustic main lodge but my family was in to roughing it - bringing supplies and canned foods from home. In each cabin was an ice box...a true ice box, a white wooden one that smelled like old milk. The ice box itself had little or no insulation, just a metal boxed-in section into which you placed a block of ice every few days. The ice was obtained from an ice shed on the lower pond. I was amazed to see how the ice was obtained and stored. The owners of the camp cut ice from the pond in the dead of Maine's winter and stored it in the shed. In the shed there were several feet of sawdust which insulated the ice from the upcoming warmth of summer. The use of an ice box was not the only step back in time. The accommodations themselves were quite spartan. There was no electricity in the cabins; light was provided by kerosene lanterns. Cooking was accomplished by use of a primitive stove. Water was provided by a hand pump situated in the area of the kitchen sink. Importantly, the pump needed to be "primed" with a small jug of water in order to properly pump water from the well.

From the minute we arrived there, a world of adventure was within our reach. The best thing about it was that our parents let us experience it on our own. For a seven-day period, we were youthful adventurers, hiking, swimming, fishing and learning the ways of the outdoors. And, yes, we learned to cope with the swarms of mosquitoes and black flies which were, and still are, a trademark of the great State of Maine.

We returned to Togue Pond two more times, the last of which when I was fourteen years old. After that our family moved on to other experiences.

Often times in the many years since we vacationed there I have attempted to dredge up some specific experiences from Togue Pond. Each time I have come up blank. I have even gone so far as to search the Internet for some scraps of information about the place. These have also proved to be fruitless. There are times that I have even gone so far as to quietly question whether the place even existed. I quickly dismissed that question.

To my siblings and me, while we may not remember much of what actually occurred at Togue Pond, we all recognize that it played a powerful part in the people that we have become.

We grew up there.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


The wife and I are planning a cruise this summer. Yes, I know, it's a rather wimpy vacation but, my last three trips (assisting rebels in Somalia, being a mercenary in the Congo and visiting with the Dalai Lama) kind of took it out of me. Thus, I figure that this will be a good way to recuperate and prepare for my upcoming challenge later this summer - raising the Titanic.

Despite its reputation of being a floating old-age home, cruising has numerous challenges and is well-suited to those seeking a world of danger and adventure. The list of these challenges is too numerous on which to dwell at this writing so I will address but one.

This world of danger and adventure is in the realm of smuggling and piracy on the high seas. It makes the pirates of the Ivory Coast look like the Getalong Gang. This world to which I am referring is that of liquor smuggling.

The dasdardly cruise lines, second only to airlines in their quest for cash, have banned passengers from bringing aboard beer, wine and liquor. This forces passengers to pay vastly inflated cruise prices for their daily happy hours. It used to be that passengers could carry on whatever sort of beverages they wanted. In fact, several years ago a group of four of us carried on two cases of wine. Admittedly, that's a lot of wine but, after all, it was a three-day cruise.

As with all overly restrictive entities, the ban on carry-on booze has created a veritable Sam's Club of products designed to get past the cruise line gestapo which peruses every bottle and vessel of liquid that goes aboard the ship. 

First, there's the Rum Runner, an innocent looking plain plastic vessel into which you pour your liquor and sneak past the inspectors. Not very creative you say? Read on.

Several newer arrivals have caught my eye. The first is called the Beer Belly. It's a plastic bladder gizmo that fits around a man's mid-section. To the untrained eye, the man looks like a guy who is carrying around a few extra pounds. In reality, the bladder is full of Jim Beam and he's headed toward the ship unbeknownst to the cruise inspectors. The next idea is similar but is designed for women. It's cleverly called the "Wine Rack." It's a women's sports bra filled with smuggled liquid. Then there's the "barnoculars." There's even a cane and golf club that can be filled with one's choice of beverage. A new entry is a seat pad. In short, there is no end to the options available to those of us who fancy ourselves as modern day pirates.

The problem is that the cruise lines are well aware of these options and are taking appropriate measures. My first thought was to use a Gatorade bottle filled with clear liquor into which I will add a drop or two of food coloring. Aha! The cruise lines, I am told, have figured out how to beat that one. Seems that alcohol drinks have different types of bubbles that emerge when a vessel is shaken. Thus, the cruise line Nazis will shake a bottle and assess whether the bubbles are of an acceptable variety.

In utter frustration I am approaching the end of my rope and it looks as if I will either have to ante up the dough for expensive booze or experience the novelty of sobriety for a couple of weeks.

There's time left to figure this out.

There has to be a way.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Explaining this will take a while so bear with me for a few moments. 

I'm a real sucker for lists. All it takes to get my attention is for someone to come out with a new list and I'm hooked. Outdoor magazines have some good ones. "Top ten ways to cut up an Alaskan bull moose" is one of my favorites. Women's magazines also have some good ones such as "Top ten ways to get him to know" or "Top ten places to know". Maybe I'm not real bright but I don't know what "you know" refers to.

This past week I read a list entitled "Top ten ways you know that your wife is cheating on you". I wasn't too concerned about numbers 2 through 10 so I jumped right to #1. What they said made perfect sense. According to this highly reliable source, the #1 thing that signals that your wife is cheating on you is when she puts on lipstick to go for a bike ride. 

Why in blazes would a woman put lipstick on to go out for a bike ride? After about five miles it wouldn't make any difference with the sweat and grime on your face and the bugs between your teeth. Thus, the publication had it dead right - there MUST be something amiss.

So, it was with a high degree of suspicion when the wife said to me over the weekend: "I'm headed out for a bike ride. I just need to put on some lipstick and I'm out the door."

I was so concerned that I re-checked my source. I skipped past the other stories and there it was...the list. Again I looked at the number one way you know if your wife is cheating. And there it was, just as I had remembered it.


Just my luck that the wife is probably involved with a skinny little bike racer who wears the tight shorts and the jerseys with all of the Italian bike logos emblazoned on every square inch. He probably rides his bike twelve months of the year and doesn't own a car. He certainly worships Lance Armstrong and doesn't drink beer, preferring a Perrier in social situations.

Or, it could be worse; the guy could be a snowboarder.

Another possibility is that the Enquirer got this one wrong.

Readers, enjoy your day.