Sunday, November 3, 2013

Travels Without Charley

The problem with ideas produced by the government is that there are too many of them at once. Ideas are like paint. No matter how brilliant any of them are, when you mix them all together they turn to mud. That’s why entrepreneurs seem so clear minded when they approach a problem. And that’s also why my latest idea is neon green.

It came to me the other day while I was raking the yard. Strewn with yellow aspen, brown cottonwood, and red maple leaves the lawn had small random pockets of green poking out here and there. The sky was a cloudless, warm deep blue and the smell of a wood burning stove in the distance wafted through the pine trees. You would think nothing could spoil this bucolic setting wouldn’t you? Well, leave it to me to find the misery in this mosaic.

As I walked back outside after getting some more bags, I noticed the leaves were sticking to my shoes and resembled a first grader’s project of autumn gone horribly wrong. But instead of white paste to hold this assemblage this was more of a crap collage. Apparently, the tragic figure that is our pet had once again deposited her droppings in our house instead of out in the yard.

We got her as a companion and watchdog. That was fifteen years ago. Fifteen! The only reason we got her was because my wife promised me this breed of terrier only lives to 10. She’s five years past her expiration date like a can of tomato sauce you drop off for the local food drive. When I pick up the next bag of kibble I ponder over whether I should just get the small size. She can’t possibly last that long, I think.

She has lost most of her hearing, has become so far sighted that she begs from the living room, and the only sense of smell she has emanates from her fetid gums. She’s jumpier than a Vietnam vet on the Forth of July. I swear, when I look at her I can actually see her decomposing right in front of my eyes! And yet here she remains, her tiny brain barely able to coordinate the alternating of feet. It got me thinking, as I scraped the crevices of my soles with a twig, why do we still have this bitch?

Don’t our pets deserve the same care that we give our elderly love ones? When grandma or grandpa start to have accidents in the house we do the right thing by carting them off to some far away place where an underpaid and overworked stranger can deal with them. It hurts so much watching them fade away. So why do it?

I decided to start an assisted living community, a retirement home if you will, for pets that are too old to perform their functions. A safe place away from kids, windows, stairs, furniture, rugs, doors, toys, bones, snacks, and other common household objects. After all, the average person isn’t trained to be a health care worker. We can actually do harm! This way they can spend their remaining golden years with the proper care they deserve. In the comfort and security of a cement cubicle where they can’t possibly hurt themselves.

Of course it wasn’t an easy sell to my teenage daughter. I brought it up like this. “We could keep Snowball around and hope she doesn’t break a hip getting to her food, or we can find a nice safe home for her and get a brand new shiny puppy. (Then I did the old balancing pantomime) New puppy or hurting Snowball? It can be your decision now that you’re a big girl.” She cried like we all do when we commit someone, but soon those memories fade faster than a pair of jeans in the white wash. I only wish that was true for the carpet stains.  That might sound cruel, but I have too much respect for my daughter to give her that old line about a farm upstate. Besides, that’s where cats go.

Wouldn’t your old demented pet like to stay here with us at Paws Ability? We’ll give them the respect and care they come to expect when you tired of cleaning up after them, or just plain tired. Then you can go on with your life. Remember, it only feels like the end. It’s really just the beginning.

Paws Ability Doesn’t your best friend deserve it? Phone lines are open.

Here are some recent plein air pieces I did last two month.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

News on the Flood

We received many emails and phone calls asking how we are doing here in Boulder. Apparently, our floods made the national and even international news by some accounts. The short answer is we’re doing fine. I want to thank you all for your kind wishes. Secondly, since we live on the outer rim of Boulder Valley instead of below at the foothills, we suffered very little damage. If fact, I see this as more of an inconvenience when compared with what others are going through. Entire structures, roads, cars, and even farmland is seen floating away.

            The rain started coming down Wednesday night. We hadn’t heard of any warnings and took it as just another summer shower. In fact, Boulder is so arid people were quite happy to see the reservoirs filling up. The storm continued throughout the night and all day Thursday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
            As I got up to make breakfast I received a voice mail saying our daughter’s school was cancelled. The local morning news shows began airing video of rising creeks and rivers and the weather people had grim faces and vividly graphic maps with dire warnings. Boulder Creek was running at 2,700 CFS (cubic feet per second showing the speed rate which indicates the amount of water flowing) instead of its typical 200. Boulder County recorded 11.6 inches of rain in this three-day period, whereas we only get about 14 inches for the entire year.
            Our porch, which extends off the back of our house, was leaking from a multitude of places on the ceiling. Water began to seep in the basement through several of the window wells.  Since the porch has a stone floor where water can find its own way out under the screen doors, I decided to attend to the basement first.
            Three of the wells had filled with water and reached the window itself where they poured in the house. My wife grabbed some towels to soak up the water while I took a bucket and started bailing to get the water level lower. The wells are approximately three feet deep. Sitting on my knees I reached in as far as I could scooping out the water. With a band-aid on those I turned my attention to the porch.
            As I mentioned the water was dripping from a number of spots and couldn’t be from one or two leaks. Besides, it never leaked before. I figured the gutters must be clogged, which caused the water to back up on the shingles and seep in underneath them. They usually don’t need a cleaning until the fall but this was not a typical storm.
            With the rain continuing I got out a ladder to clear the lower ones and then climbed out a window onto the roof for the ones on the second floor. A gush of water came with each one I unclogged. The porch ceiling stopped its dripping almost immediately and stayed that way.
            A small pond was growing in our backyard. A grabbed a garden hose and snaked it from the pond to the front of the house down to the rain gutter. Gravity did the rest. Even though it’s only a trickle it seems to be helping.
            Now I turned my attention back to the wells. Water was pouring in but not from the top so a tarp wouldn’t help. It was coming from a number of tiny cracks in the walls of the wells. That’s why some stayed bone dry during the entire storm (like the ones by my computer and studio which I am grateful for).
            Without knowing a way to seal off the leaks I decided to stay up as long as the rain came down and continuously bail out the water to avoid any more leaks entering the basement. For the next twenty-two hours I would go through a very tiring routine. Putting on dry clothes, I head out in the rain with two buckets, one to scoop and one to fill. Kneeling in the mud, I would scoop out as much as I could reach, then carry the buckets down to the street and pour them out. With usually two to three trips per well I was making about eight to nine rounds each time. The wells were filling up in about fifteen minutes. As soon as I had them emptied, Cas would have dry clothes for me to change into and I’d sit by the fire until it was time to head out.
            The news stations were telling us the rain would not let up for another two days and I was hoping their lousy record of unpredictability would work in my favor. Throughout the night I headed out to empty the wells. Often my hands would slip on the wet Plexiglas covers causing small paper-like cuts. The rains slowed down so now I was heading out every twenty minutes, then forty, then one hour and finally two. With two fans and a space heater going all day, the carpet is drying up and the damage is minimal.
            The rain stopped by us around 10 am Friday with scattered clouds and blue skies on order for much of the day. Its Friday evening and we may get another inch but that seems unlikely now and I’m looking forward to a good nights sleep.
            Saturday is offering another mix of sun and clouds. Speaking with many of my neighbors they each had tales of flooded basements, but little damage. The ones that got hit the hardest are the folks in Lyons, Longmont, Estes Park, and Ward to name just a few. With only three access roads, the entire town of Lyons was shut off. Our own version of “Under the Dome” so to speak. The creeks and river have slowed and it looks like the worst is over. Now, it’s back to cleaning up.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bad to the Cuticle

 My mudpack mask had only five more minutes to dry when there was an unexpected knock on my front door. It was the UPS man. Wanting to avoid getting one of their stickers admonishing me for not being home I took a chance and headed downstairs. My face resembled a bushman’s on the hunt. Signing his electric clipboard I could tell he was trying to figure me out. He had a tattoo of a dragon poking out from a brown sock and another one on his left hand of an eyeball dripping a single tear. I had to think of something quick.
            “It’s about time these…a…dangerous weapons showed up,” I stammered out while pointing to the box that was clearly marked Your Farmer Joe’s Bean of the Month Club Selection has Arrived. He stared at me unconvinced. “I bet your wondering about this?” I said pointing to my plastered pores. “Women. What we won’t do for them, right? Honey, your package arrived,” I yelled upstairs to an empty house. He left without even wishing me the standard ‘have a nice day’.
I need a tattoo, I thought closing the door behind me. That would boost my bad boy image from Billy Crystal up to a Mark Hamill. Of course fewer mudpacks would probably help too. When I mentioned the tattoo idea to my wife she said “no you’re not,” and I dropped back down to a different Hamill. The one that ice skates. It occurred to me then that if someone tells you you can’t have a tattoo then you probably don’t deserve one.
            I always wanted to be a badass. I guess most men do. To be able to say “I’m going to get Medieval on him” and really have people believe would be a dream come true. At the most I can muster is to get Renaissance, but that doesn’t carry the same weight. Especially when you consider it consists of a scathing poem in three cantos and an unflattering portrait in egg tempera in Indian yellow. Because everyone knows Indian yellow is made from the urine of cows that are only fed mango leaves. Oh yes, it can work on many levels. Unfortunately, none of these levels are very scary or intimidating.
            But I keep trying. Like doing my Rocky impersonation while acting all pumped up. “Hey yo, that’s my cupcake.” But does my wife listen? Not only does she eat it in front of me, she uses my sleeve as a napkin.
            What has helped my persona non too greata was moving out West. People here act as if every Italian from New York is in the Mob. I for one will not dispel that rumor. It’s not easy keeping up the charade, though. I have to drive fifteen miles out of town just to get a mani-pedi. (Hmmm, I’m beginning to see a pattern here.)
            It’s not like I want to hurt anyone, but I’m convinced it is the key to success. Education, family connections, and intelligence all help, but not like raw aggression or perhaps assertiveness is more apropos. (You see? I wrote apropos. That’s why I’m not a badass. All mani-pedis aside, badasses don’t use apropos. Unless it is in a sentence like “How you like it if we step outside and I beat your apropos ass?”)
In sports, in business, and even in everyday life, there has to be a desire to succeed. The stronger the desire the more the likelihood of success, right? I’ve witnessed it firsthand in tennis when beating a superior opponent simply because I wanted it more. It could be something as simple as losing weight. “Luke, don’t give in to the Dark Chocolate Side!” (I really need to stop that.)
My wife and I have been talking about retirement lately. How and where we plan on spending the last third of our lives, those sorts of things. But the desire to create, to be part of something bigger hasn’t diminished. Even writing this blog causes me pangs of frustration. (Maybe not as much as reading it, but pangs nonetheless.)
My art professor told us that every artist, no matter how great, is frustrated by the limitations of the material and their own abilities to express what is inside their heads. Competing physically with our own imaginations is a losing battle every artist faces. And even though I’m getting to the end of my career I still have those wants much like I did after graduating school. I just celebrate with a nap after finishing a piece instead of a beer.
Maybe it’s too little too late? Maybe I should be satisfied with what I have already accomplished? However, developing a talent, any talent, only makes you want to do it more. How far can you take this thing we call art or sport or business? I might never be a badass, but maybe I can still create a badass piece of art or two before I go.

I know this ain’t it, but I’m getting there. Plein air off Valmont Road, July 4th 2013.


Immediately after finish this blog I took my daughter down to Barnes and Noble for a book. The first one I saw (and this is true) was a self-help book titled “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life”. How oxymoronic can you get? I may not be a badass but I do know badassiness comes from within not a shelf. It’s like a Hell’s Angel having a personnel shopper. Besides, the only real self-help book is the one you write yourself.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Land of Milk and Honey Wheat Ale

After living in Boulder for a short time now, I discovered that there are basically four major inhabitants; college students, conservative entrepreneurs, liberal vegetarians, and prairie dogs. The liberals teach the students, the students work for the entrepreneurs, and the entrepreneurs sells back to the liberals. The prairie dogs are saved by the liberals, threatened by the entrepreneur, and aerate the soil for the students in which to grow their herbal ‘medicine’. It’s the circle of life.
            Last week, we were down at the more liberal end of Boulder (we go there every now and zen—ba dum bum), for an early dinner. In this part of town you will find all the vegan stores. In fact, many of the locals have that healthy, yet extremely anemic, look from not touching a pork chop in years.
            The place we choose was a new age brew house. That means lots of local microbrews on tap and a menu consisting of kasha, lentils, and couscous. The rationale is that you are supporting the local economy and fair trade all in one meal. It’s Happy Hour with a conscience, because eating just based on hunger is not enough here.
            When the bill arrived I took out my wallet and was ready to pay when the waiter informed me they don’t take credit cards, only cash and checks. Before ATMs, if you found yourself in a situation like this it usually ended up with a trip to the kitchen for some first hand dishwashing. Finding myself short of funds, the waiter presented me with a self addressed stamped envelope and the check. “We would appreciate it if you would just mail it in.” He then handed me the only copy of the bill. “You mean you don’t have a copy of the check?” I asked incredulously. I couldn’t believe he was just going to let us walk out of there.
            He shot me back a look that showed no amusement whatsoever. He continued in a very righteous tone “We rely on karma and trust our guests to do the right thing.”
            “Oh sure, karma. I got ya,” and stuffed the bill into my bag of leftovers which was overflowing with ancient grains from our breadbasket. We proceeded to head out, turning our heads left and right to see if this was really happening. Once outside the restaurant (where there was an ATM by the way) my wife asked me “You are going to pay it, aren’t you?”
            “What am I some sort of sap?” I told her. “We can live like kings here. Imagine, eating for free every day! Why, I change my facial hair so often now that they would never recognize me.” The pained look on my wife’s face said it all.
            “But what about your karma for not paying?” she asked.
            “Karma? I thought that’s how you said ‘goodbye’ in those places? You know like, Have a happy karma, come again, that sort of thing. Anyway, maybe we’re talking about his karma,” I said trying to convince myself. “Did you ever think it was his bad karma that he should open a restaurant and have me for a patron? If you’re so worried about karma why don’t you pay it?” We passed the bill back and forth like a game of hot potato all the way home. Later, when my wife was asleep, I slipped the bill and the envelope into her pile of mail and ran away like an eight-year-old little girl from a frog. It was the perfect crime. Next week I’m going back as a Hindu priest!

Look #164 Greek olive peddler.

Besides stiffing restaurants, I found a new vocation that I was born for. I started sending in reviews to Trip Advisor. Seems I have a knack for complaining. Who knew, besides everyone in my life that is? My reviews have gotten a good deal of exposure. And why not? They’re pithy, I mean just full of pits, and short. I think it’s the short part more than any writing gymnastics that earns a nod. Here’s a typical review on the Hotel Cezanne in France.
“Keeping that French attitude alive!”

The only black spot in an otherwise wonderful trip to France last year was the Hotel Cezanne in Aix. My wife, who had booked our room for three people months before our trip, called the morning we were to arrive to confirm our reservations. Even though she told them that we would arrive late in the day, they assured us it was no problem. Our room, however, was given away. With no where else to go the three of us had to share a queen-size bed in an incredibly small room. The next night we found a room at Hotel Roi René that was larger, cleaner, and offered a wonderful pool in the courtyard. BTW: Nearly everyone we met in France was gracious and cordial, except of course at Hotel Cezanne.
Room Tip: One at another hotel.

If only I could get paid for my view of the world’s hotels and food establishments. Ahhh, to dream…

I’m back to plein air painting. This does NOT warrant a critique! This is done by Boulder Creek just west of town.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Can it get any weirder?

On New Year's Day this year, there was a report on the news that an elk was shot by police officers in a Boulder neighborhood. It wasn't a particularly young elk, and the pictures taken when it was alive were not much better than those of the deceased.

However, it is illegal to hunt within city limits. The officer involved claimed it was injured, but Big Boy, the elk, was a favorite of the neighborhood and healthy. The officer then posed for a 'trophy shot' with the elk, seen here, then asked a fellow officer to help him load it onto his truck and butcher him.

It's pretty clear the policeman was a hunter and wanted some elk steaks and couldn't resist. He was put on unpaid leave, but has since quit the force, and is under investigation that include a possible $10,000 fine. We're damn serious about our elks out here.

Now here is where the weird part starts. Four days later the residents held a vigil complete with candles, a Christmas tree, choruses of Amazing Grace, and framed photos of the deceased. I thought about attending to see what kind of nut would attend a vigil, but realized 'what if someone saw me there' ? It was that same feeling I got when younger and being in an exotic bar. What if my father should walk in? Then came the inevitable answer that he was doing the same thing. By the way, I never saw him.

It didn't end there. A week later there was a 'silent walk' for Big Boy, where the demonstrators blew elk bulges (doesn't sound too silent to me) to press the DA into filing additional charges. A music video was made and it even got it's own 'gate' name: Elk-gate. Really? But there's more…

An animal rights group started a memorial and has since raised $3,000. $3,000! Is this for the victim's family to visit? Or his calves' college education? It turns out they want to build a permanent memorial on the spot where it was killed. Between this and all those plastic flowers along roadsides our nation is becoming one big funeral park. Have some dignity and grieve in private. It's not that I don't have sympathy. I am so fortunate how safe and healthy my family and love ones have been over the years and count my blessings. Vigils and the like are also very necessary for communities where an unspeakable crime has taken place. But doing it here diminishes the importance of loss. Do we all have to know how you feel on Facebook, and Twitter and on blogs, and…oh yeah, um, anyway. The point is, now I'm more annoyed than ever with those cops. Next time fellers, can you shoot it some place that I don't pass every day, like out in Erie?

Issue #2 in my series of EC inspired covers. I'm hoping to produce between six and twelve this year.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


When I created the post "Ode to a Genre" back in November my long time friend Randy admonished me for not having an illustration to go with my story. After all, that is what I do for a living. So with his encouragement and Yoda like guidance (he wanted me to add brilliant to this as well but I just couldn't) I produced the cover for this fictional comic. And to show what a good sport I am let it now be in print: "Randy, you were right."