Archive for December, 2008

It’s New Year’s Day 2009! (scroll back, ya varmints!)

December 31, 2008

Another year has passed and what have we learned? As AMRFP enjoys it’s 304th post we begin to realize this blog will not take no for an answer! (what was the question?) Some people just have more audacity than others and will not go away!

2008 will be happily placed in our rear view mirror as we look with infertile optimism to a new Democratic majority across the board in American politics. Has there been another year in recent memory that has been as foul as this one? Most people would be hard pressed to find one that was, causing them to look back with disdain and relief at 2008 passing.

But in reflection, there have been some fine posts for one and all to enjoy on this site (humbly submitted by yours truly) and I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that my life changed dramatically (and for the better) this past year because of this little blog. For that reason alone it shall continue… not to mention the sheer joy I get at ranting on like I do and of course, the pleasure I derive from the remote possibility of your company.

Despite the difficult time I had at being regular the past three months because of my move to Canada and the fact that I posted a short story, a screenplay and the continuation of the Shades of Hemingway series,… my readership actually increased. AMRFP approaches the 32,ooo hits mark which made it the best year to date as far as averages go. Akismet has blocked over 25,000 spam comments (mostly porn but some insurance quotes are trying to muscle in as well) While some friends have faded into the depths of the black hole of the blogosphere, new friends have risen up which makes this site a pure joy each time I acquaint myself with a different prospective on life.

I met my lovely wife through the postings of our blogs, and while some may view the online relationship with trepidation I must say it has been the most exhilarating experience I have ever known. We were married in March of this past year and I was finally able to relocate here in Canada in October. But future posts will address our relationship as it progresses, suffice it to say I am thrilled by her love each and every day. That in itself should provide some interesting fodder…

So without further ado and for your discerning review, from the latest entry to the first of the year… Advantages of Mutual Respect and Fair Play 2008.

Scroll back… ya varmints!

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1) 12-23-08 – A Sand Road Christmas Card. Remembering the holidays of my youth back in Iowa. In the good ol’ days, when times were bad.

2) 12-20-08 – It’s Been a Long, Long, Long Time. Having just come off three months of creating and posting the third installment of the Shades of Hemingway series along with moving and adjusting to the climate of the North and making my excuses for being preoccupied with life in general and love in particular.

3) 12-16-08 thru 9-17-08 – Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo. Parts 1 – 12 and Epilogue. My readership plummeted through the time I took to post this, which I knew it would. But I feel it also was because it generally takes about six weeks for the series to run through it’s entirety. When my circumstances dictated otherwise it took me 12 weeks and I feel I alienated myself from some of the faithful readers (both of them!) of AMRFP. But my own true love assured me from the beginning that it was MY blog and I should be able to go in the direction of my choosing, so I am glad I saw it through to the end. Now is the time to recapture our imaginations and I will do that to the best of my ability in the coming weeks… I promise.

4) 9-14-08 – Prelude to Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo. You can’t say I didn’t warn ya. One day I’ll finish this story… and yes, post it here! Some people just will never learn… sigh.

5) 9-13-08 – Video. Elvis Presley Hound Dog, the complete performance. One of three videos I inserted for the post, Politics and the Billboard Top 100 Hits of All Time… pathetic.

6) 9-13-08 – Video. Elvis Jailhouse Rock. The second of three videos for the same post.

7) 9-13-08 – Video. Elvis Twist with Elvis. The third of three videos for the same post.

8) 9-13-08 – Politics and the Billboard Top 100 Hits of All Time… pathetic. You know the cool thing about these best of lists is that it gets our dander up. But picking The Twist because of the insertion some formula instead of just counting airtime play and sales smacks of favoritism. Too bad.

9) 9-11-08 – Born Laughing Out Loud. A little review I did of Steve Martin’s book, Born Standing Up, which I throughly enjoyed.

10) 8-29-08 – McCain/Palin? Bravo! (oh! bomb awed). I’m not much on politics, obviously. My beautiful girl and I go round and round about American politics (good naturedly) and it is an eye opener to think that we may be our own worst enemy. But I thought the picking of Palin was a good thing for McCain’s candidacy. While Obama landslided McCain in the electoral college, he only received 52% of the total vote per population input. Popular opinion not withstanding, I was sure nothing short of a miracle would put another Republican in the White House… and I was right.

11) 8-29-08 – return of the dreaded sequel, part 1. I had thought Deja’ Voodoo would have been up and presented way before this time, but you know… life gets in the way.

12) 8-19-08 – Spending the day with Tropical Storm Fay. Gosh I had fun with this one. I have lived in S.W. Florida for the better part of 36 years and you never get used to the weather in paradise.

13) 8-17-08 – you must remember this. Memorable movie kisses, what are yours?

14) 8-16-08 – Video. 1984. A funny thing happened on youTube… I meant this vid for another post and it somehow got crossed up in cyberspace then appeared sometime later on my blog. I don’t remember the subject or even if I posted it, but I liked the premise of 1984 knocking on your door (from Spirit) so I left it in… hm.

15) 8-16-08 – Video. Shawn Colvin – Catch the Wind. I chose this as one of two vids for the post, Catch the Wind, but it got lost in cyberspace at the same time I was foolin’ around with 1984. And since I am not all that great at shifting things around on my blog (lazy brained) I just left it in at the time it appeared. Yes, sometimes this blog takes on a life of it’s own.

16) 8-11-08 – Not your favorite cover. Another one of those “best of” lists and my opinion which you all hold your breath for.

17) 8-7-08 – don’t know much about the Hadron Collider. A little parody that just conjured itself up when I read of this multi- billion dollar effort to smash things together. Scientists on a controlled hissy fit.

18) 8-4-08 – oh the humanity! and the cost of celebrity… Paris Hilton’s mom decrying the media for it’s portrayal of her talented daughter.

19) 8-02-08 – Choosing a running mate. McCain can win if… Hey! he may or may not have listened to me on this one but you gotta admit McCain’s choice made the race interesting.

20) 7-29-08 – Hey… told you so! Senator Ted Stevens and his exploits have been discussed several times on this blog, glad justice was served on the jerk.

21) 7-26-08 – Catch the Wind. The things we can and cannot control cause me to wax on, wax off in contempt and sentiment… my favorite forms of expression.

22) 7-23-08 – Video. Donovan-Catch the Wind. The original that was meant to be accompanied by Shawn Colvin’s rendition, but perhaps better as a stand alone vid.

23) 7-12-08 – Let My Gonads Go! a.k.a. nuts to you, Jesse Jackson. Gosh, I loved doing this little parody considering the riff comes from a freedom song sung by the oppressed slaves during the Civil War. Jesse Jackson and his infamous utterance deserved to be ridiculed loud and long.

24) 7-7-08 – Where the light is, John Mayer. Occasionally cool things happen and I was thrilled to see this DVD/CD released. I bought it the very first day.

25) 7-5-08 – Quick Draw (Tim) McGraw and his rootin’, tootin’ wild west outlaw show. Got some negativity on this post but you know…

26) 6-29-08 – throw mama (and junior) from the plane! If any post could divide my sweetheart and I… this one could. I’ve looked at flight from both sides now.

27) 6-28-08 – the hippie dippy weatherman no longer sweats the ICBMs. The death of George Carlin caused a wee bit of reflection in my heart.

28) 6-28-08 – Video. Religion is bullshit. The late George Carlin expressing his opinion in true comedic form.

29) 6-28-08 – Video. the hippy dippy weatherman. George Carlin in less sarcastic form.

30) 6-17-08 – inner-mission. Left you to your own devices for a few days, did you break anything?

31) 6-15-08 – Happy Father’s Birthday. A slip of the tongue by my French speaking step-son tugs at my heart.

32) 6-15-08 – Video. Eric Clapton – My Father’s Eyes. Selected to go along with, Happy Father’s Birthday, I feel this is a song Eric did that could have gotten a little more acclaim but seems to be coming around again… which is cool, you can’t keep a good song down.

33) 6-12-08 – that’s right, you’re what’s left (screwed, blued and anti-socially tattooed). Gee, folks… just learn to live with it. Our government is not accountable.

34) 6-12-08 – Video. water as energy. We have the technology, we need the direction.

35) 6-8-08 – It was/is a Wonderful Life. The death of young “George Baily,” Bob Anderson, inspired this post. It was one of my favorites from the 2008 year simply because I got to review one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite movies of all time. “… you really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a shame it would be to throw it all away?”

36) 6-6-08 – Public Displays of Effection. What effect does PDA have on you? This post was inspired by a case of supposed discrimination… you be the judge.

37) 6-4-08 – Obama Surrender (Hillary concedes). I love these little parodies that just pop into mind. Funny how the resilient Ms. Clinton still has a place in her opponent’s heart.

38) 6-3-08 – Video. Jemima Surrender. Try as I might I couldn’t find a vid by the Band performing this song, but this rendition is still good.. in case you couldn’t catch the riff in Obama Surrender.

39) 5-31-08 – what goes around Karmas around? I’m not that sure of Karma. I mean… if it were true, why do the wicked seem to prosper while the good suffer? Sharon Stone is a dunce.

40) 5-28-08 – double checking reality bounce. One cannot be too careful, or so I thought…

41) 5-21-08 – Blogging for Dummies (what was Scarlett Johansson thinking?) Sometimes you just gotta wonder…

42) 5-21-08 – Video. Falling Down by Scarlett Johansson. You decide…

43) 5-16-08 – “Jawbone” George Bush and the Saudi Oil Shriek a.k.a. the Blame Game. Hey George, just tell them to open up the spigot a little…

44) 5-16-08 – Video. Shirley Ellis – the Name Game. Bush, Bush, bo-shush, sittin’ on his tush.

45) 5-16-08 – creative foreplay. I find that looking for inspiration comes with no effort at all… really.

46) 5-10-08 – they are dumbing down our Rock and Roll! Who is the greatest recording artist of all time? The answer may surprise you.

47) 5-10-08 – Video. Mariah Carey – touch my body. For your comparison.

48) 5-10-08 – Video. Eric Clapton – Layla (live). For your enjoyment.

49) 5-7-08 – God’s Yard Sale. The world is in chaos… does God really care about us?

50) 5-5-08 – Waiting for Zed. An expose’ on why the term “zed” was removed from the American lexicon. A real eye opener… or perhaps not.

51) 4-30-08 – friends. There are many forms of friendship and those we choose as best.

52) 4-30-08 – Video. The Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Chosen to accompany the post, friends.

53) 4-20-08 – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Lying. One of my favorite posts of 2008.

54) 4-17-08 – The Great American Boycott. I think we as consumers deserve better.

55) 4-12-08 – Why Obama? Sometimes these little parodies play so well in my mind…

56) 4-12-08 – Video. The Knack – My Sharona. For those of you who could not catch the riff in Why Obama?

57) 4-11-08 – Cheney’s Sunglasses – Not a Rosy Reflection. Your imagination runs wild.

58) 4-8-08 – Video. The Beatles – And I Love Her. Follows the post, Songs to Play At Your Funeral because I do.

59) 4-7-08 – Songs to Play At Your Funeral. This post has been on my blog for less than 9 months but it has become a runaway best topic since it’s inception and continues to pull away from the rest of the crowd at a rapid pace. I realize it is more the topic than the content, but even so it has become an easy #1 post for 2008 and the all time winner for top post so far at AMRFP. A distance second is, Let me call you sweetheart, posted on 1-6-07. Bringing up the rear at 7th is, the Rock and Roll Conspiracy, posted on 8-26-06. So it is quite the accomplishment in comparison. The fact that the conversation actually happened in the way I recorded it makes it all the more enjoyable for me because it is real life and that is the best sort of living.

60) 4-7-08 – Video. Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman – Time to Say Goodbye. For my fair Chantal.

61) 4-6-08 – Goodbye / Charlton Heston. 2008 saw many great stars passing, this was one of them.

62) 4-1-08 – Why are we here? The question of the ages, I found my reason.

63) 3-29-08 thru 2-20-08 – Indiana Jones and the Dance of Aldebaran. I had written this screenplay ages ago, but when the new film Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was about to be released I thought perhaps Indy might enjoy a sort of renaissance and an interest might be piqued in this tale. Too bad their story didn’t live up to the hype while mine didn’t live up to expectations… but oh well. It is preserved for prosperity.

64) 2-17-08 – Free Indy. The story behind my writing, Indiana Jones and the Dance of Aldebaran. I liked my story better than theirs, didn’t you? (please say yes)

65) 2-13-08 – Economic Stimulus Plan. You know, I still think my idea would work and I have not met any opposition to it.

66) 2-9-08 thru 1-20-08 – My Dog Sam. I don’t remember what caused me to write about that dog of mine, but I’m glad I did. I have thought about taking several of my recollections and compiling them into one story. Funny how things work in my mind, but I began the year with thoughts of Sand Road and my dog, Sam… then concluded the year with A Sand Road Christmas Card. They say you can never go home, but I think home never goes.

67) 1-18-08 – An Evaluation of the Bush Administration (2000-2008). Not too favorable to ol’ King George and my apologies for that. Will history be kind to him? With the worst rating of any sitting president… it is difficult to say.

68) 1-15-08 – …so you wanna be a Rock and Roll star? Rethinking some music and impressions of artists.

69) 1-15-08 – Video. The Byrds-So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star. To accompany the post of the same name.

70) 1-7-08 – New Year… knew you. I met my own true love twice in a lifetime.

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So there you have it. 70 different topics posted in 103 segments. While we may have had some bumps in the road of 2008, it has been a year that I have realized it is not the miles but the destination that makes the journey tolerable. It is not the smoothness of the pavement but the direction we are headed in that make the traveling light. It is not the degree of difficulty to proceed, it is the strength of our resolve to begin. It is not the complexity of the task but the undertaking with the commitment to see it through. Life indeed goes on…

And it is my sincere hope that whatever you may have had to endure, whatever your losses may have been, whatever your disappointments and fears… and we live in a world governed by and propagandized with fear, that you may face 2009 with optimism and hope. We may never understand the powers that be, but the power to be you and me holds the key to our happiness… it all comes from within.

Have a joyous and safe 2009… and thanks for reading.

peace.

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A Sand Road Christmas Card

December 23, 2008

I have enjoyed many yuletide carols and fa la la lala -ing in my time. We have made multiple wishes for peace on Earth and goodwill to men in my small family community, enough to fill the mandates of 10 United Nations. As the years do their one horse open sleigh ride through the memories that remain evergreen, I am reminded that not all recall the past as warmly as I do.

We struggled in those years; my single mother, six sisters and I. When the holidays rolled around it was a time to be anything but joyous. We were never certain where we would be living from one month to the next let alone be shopping for holiday gifts for ourselves. In those days we would draw names at school from our list of classmates in order to buy gifts for one another, and I dreaded each time having to ask my mother for the money. Even a couple of dollars was a big dent in our funds and I grew to resent the season to be jolly because of it’s hopeful glitter and emphasis on our poverty.

It was all a sham. Merchants displaying the traditions, crafts, foods, music, and toys of the holiday would put a desirous longing in my heart each year. But a cold reality as deep as a snow drift crept in my young mind all the while. It didn’t matter if I was “naughty or nice.” I could have been the nicest guy on the planet (though I wasn’t) and still the outcome would have been the same. I’d hear an aunt or uncle talking about how their family “weren’t going to have much of a Christmas this year” and I would cringe. They didn’t know what it meant to “not have much of a Christmas” because they gauged it on Christmas’ past. We knew each year that it wasn’t going to be much of one because it wasn’t much of one every year. But then one year a miracle happened, my oldest sister married.

No, I did not mean it was a miracle that she married. It was a miracle because when she married she remembered us, her siblings. I don’t doubt that back then it was sort of like a release from purgatory for her to become partners with a man and begin a family of her own. Whatever her feelings about being raised by my mother as the oldest and spending time with the rest of us kids (there were only 4 of us by the time she moved on) she was generous in her spirit. I received my first bicycle from her and my brother-in-law, and that year Christmas was the most joyous one for me and it remains so to this day. (see the post, My First Bicycle from 8-29-07)

But another Christmas year stands out in my mind as well and it was during the time we lived on the Sand Road back in Iowa.

My poor mother never had a chance when she was young. The opportunity for an education eluded her and the need to grow up too fast robbed my mother of her youth and the dreams associated with innocence. She was married at 15 the first time and frivolously threw away relationships that could have fostered a salvation of sorts with each marriage that followed. Instead of finding better relationships she fell in with unsavory men that abused her. Finally my mother found herself alone with the 7 children she bore having no skills or guidance on what being a proper parent meant. Being the oldest in her family, the only way to get out of her own circumstances (her father died when she was 12) was to marry and move on, with devastating results. In many ways, she was not more than a child herself.

We whittled through many locations in eastern Iowa and lived in Council Bluffs twice before we settled into the house on Sand Road. Usually it was because we couldn’t pay the rent and had to make a “mid-night move-out” to avoid the landlord. I think my mother had reached a time in her life where she realized she would remain alone from that point on. Fortunately my kind hearted grandfather by my grandmother’s second marriage had arranged to purchase this major fixer upper, otherwise we would have had no where else to go. Living in that house would ultimately change my life. (see the posts, My Dog Sam beginning on 1-20-08) Though at the time I felt our circumstances went from bad to worse.

My mother informed us that this year she could afford to buy a Christmas tree to enjoy or she would take that money and buy us gifts, but we had to choose one or the other. You can imagine what amount of money she had to buy gifts with if that sum total was what it cost to purchase a tree back then. I remember we all agreed in unison that we had to have a Christmas tree, even if it meant that we could not have the gifts. It was also quite possible that a bill was not going to get paid or the rent to my grandfather was going to be a little short, but our mother would not be deterred.

I know there were sacrifices she made back then. I do not recall ever seeing my mother buying something for herself, unless it were pen and paper. The cars we drove were clunkers, the clothes we wore were thrift store bargains or hand-me-downs. We were welfare babies and did not have any money to waste on things like toys and such. But whatever we had to do without, she did with less.

My mother had a generous spirit and opened up our table many times offering the food that we had. There were nights we spent together eating and talking amongst ourselves about what she had read or philosophised about. We laughed a lot about things we could only imagine that “someday” might happen. She loved music and would often sing to us. Many times traveling in our “beater” my mother would sing Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn. Given the right circumstances my mother could have been a successful singer. But Christmas was always a cold reality check, the proof in the pudding, the wake up call to our dismal circumstances and hopeless surroundings.

That year we had decided to have the tree and were not expecting anything from my mother. Each night we dutifully plugged in the lights and gazed at the reflective tinsel that we had carefully strung like icicles from it’s boughs. I think our first season on Sand Road was particularly hard because we had just moved again after my mother’s last husband had walked out on her. My younger sisters tried to add to the festive appeal of the tree. They made their own gifts and went wrapping up some knick knack or other forgotten object left laying about just to add substance to it’s base. Christmas music played from the radio in our kitchen that usually boasted Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard. I could not wait for December 26th and the putting of all this useless longing behind us. But then, another miracle.

My next oldest sister was in her mid- teens and had been working as a waitress for a while. In her generous spirit she had purchased numerous gifts for all of us . On Christmas day, my oldest sister and my brother-in-law rolled in a wood cabinet stereo console for my mother along with gifts for her Grinch-like brother and sweet, little sisters. My mother cried when she saw the console, declaring it beautiful and began playing her precious albums immediately. I think it was the first time I saw my mother openly weep over receiving a gift. So it was my two oldest sisters that made our holiday memorable that year and I’ve never forgotten it.

I know my mother prayed, I found her upstairs one time kneeling on the edge of her bed. I think being caught appealing to the Almighty embarrassed her, because we were not overly religious. I also know that world events troubled her as well, recalling how she cried when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy died. And I have no doubt that she anguished over her abilities as a parent, because she always tried to bestow as much wisdom as she could in her dealings with us kids. It had to be frustrating to feel that the entire world was against you and then have some event at home cause you to cave in, as she did numerous times.

But now as this Christmas rolls around and I look at my own tree set up by my wife and her children, I remember that time when we had the choice of something however meager now or the representation of the hope of better things to come… and we chose the latter. I do not know why that was. You would think that having done without all our young lives we would have gone for the substance, the bird in the hand.

I am not a guy that goes for the celebration of Christmas in the worldly sense, but I do enjoy the traditions of family and friends that come with it. I haven’t purchased any gifts and my poor, new bride is left to accept the cards we receive from the relatives she has yet to meet as graciously as she can. I know she feels the acceptance and love from my sisters as if she were one of them and it makes me feel proud of the girls.

I am also grateful to my mother who left the choice of what Christmas was all about to us and despite our crummy circumstances… we chose hope. My mother gave us her generous spirit and when we express it in giving and/or forgiving, we do her a great honor because that is all she had. I feel that she did the best she could under the circumstances and now my mother lives in each one of her children, especially during Christmas… through the miracle of love.

I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season.

Merry Christmas from the Sand Road.

peace.

It’s Been a Long, Long, Long Time…

December 20, 2008

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Hello. It’s me. I’ve been gone for a while, but not really. 3 months ago I decided to run my third installment of Shades of Hemingway and figured I would have it posted in it’s entirety in 6 weeks. Well, it took me three months. Let’s see what has happened while I was gone.

1) 3 months ago the economy sucked, but now it is suckier. You’ll recall that King George was in a state of denial saying we had not gone into a recession. Okaaaay… but we were going to get stimulus checks to stem the tide and start America spending again. Since then there have been collapses and near collapses; bail outs, hand outs, fall outs, shoot outs, shut downs, shut ins and shut ups. We have been teetering back and forth on this near economical disaster of Biblical proportions while the band plays on. Now the entire world points the finger at the U.S. and blames us for the demise of consumer confidence and the shrinking credit market. I don’t think it is our fault but that will be addressed in another post… very soon. Meanwhile suffice it to say when the times are good we get disdain, when the times are bad we get the blame.

2) Paul Newman died. Unfortunately I was not able to pay tribute to this wonderful human being at the time because I did not want to disrupt the flow (?) of Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo. I know that the era of the bonafide super star is rapidly fading, but this man’s efforts as a humanitarian almost exceeded his legend as an actor. The upside is that we have his work to enjoy for generations to come. The downside is that even the great ones have to one day succumb to human frailty and death. My recent bride heard a quote from him that she relayed to me. When Paul Newman was asked if he was ever tempted to stray from his wife of some 40 years, Joanne Woodward, he is reported to have said, “Why would I settle for hamburger when I have steak at home?” Upon hearing that quote my own wife said, “That sounds like something you’d say.” I considered it a compliment. Paul Newman; heartthrob, actor, anti-hero, philanthropist, human being. Rest in peace, Butch Cassidy.

3) Barack Obama wins the presidency. After nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in spending, months of campaigning; along with mud slinging, back biting, back stabbing, back talking, back room strategy and bad, back grounds in general and none-the-less; multiple news makers and heart breakers, (whew!) the election was finally decided. My question is… who would want it? Our system of government is stuck in a quagmire and needs some shaking up. Even when government officials are exposed as unethical, accusations go unanswered and investigations are bogged down in red tape. We may never know who knew what when or the cause of all the shenanigans but I think the past few months have left a bitter pill for the public to have to swallow. I for one hope that President Obama is the best president we ever had. He has a lot of expectations put upon him and the pressure to succeed is enormous. I just hope once he takes office he doesn’t blame all his inefficiencies (and there will be some) on the previous administration (which they all do). If not for the faltering economy, I don’t think Democrats would be so smug right now and I am not sure that the powers that be didn’t have something to do with it’s formation and fruitation. But that will be addressed further in a future post… very soon.

4) The Beatles were in the news again. Apparently Paul McCartney gave a time card/pay stub to a foundation in England some years ago that came up for auction to benefit a charity. That piece of paper gave proof to the existence of Eleanor Rigby, whom Paul always claimed was an imaginary character. For more info, here’s the link:

http://www.comcast.net/articles/music/20081125/EU.Britain.Beatles.Mystery/

5) Not to be outdone, Elvis is in the news as well. Have you ever wanted to sing like and/or with the King of Rock and Roll? Well, here’s your chance. Click on this link to record your own duet!

www.singwiththeking.com

Of course, there have been countless other incidents since I started posting Deja’ Voodoo. Too many to mention here. The economy wanes, the wars rage on, terrorists seem to act with impunity, disasters world wide, Caylee’s remains are found, shoes thrown at our President, Saint Oprah gains weight, Britney Spears makes another come back at 26. 26? Hard to believe, but you get the idea.

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Oh! and I have been united with my lovely wife here in Canada. It is a different surrounding to say the least (fodder for more content perhaps) and that has greatly influenced my creativity to a point of neglecting this blog. I’m sorry.

This is my 302nd post, and it has been a lot of fun. With over 30,000 hits it has also been gratifying to think that there is an audience out there for my silly ramblings. My readership plummeted when I started posting Deja’ Voodoo, which I expected it would. Now I have to go back to the type of content that most people seem to enjoy, which will not be too hard.

I love doing this…

peace.

Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo, Epilogue

December 18, 2008

Author’s note: This is a continuation of a series. For more information see, Shades of Hemingway and Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure.
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“I was beginning to have my doubts on whether you’d show up or not.” Jake Barnes said as he tied my hands behind me. “I mean, I heard you were a clever S.O.B. but still…”

“What are you saying, that you were expecting me?”

“I was expectin’ someone… anyone. Little did I imagine it’d be you.”

I looked into that bulldog face and wondered if my last moments on earth would be crowded with his image leering at me, satisfied that I was once again caught in his clutches.

“What difference does it make whether I came here or not? Robert Jordan’s dead, there’s no one else left to implicate anybody in this kidnapping enterprise you’re involved with. Who’d listen to me anyway? I take my story to the authorities and they’d think I was nuts. Besides, would anyone believe my word against a Key West detective? Not hardly!”

“What in the hell are you babblin’ about?”

“I know why you’re here and what you’ve been up to, Detective.”

At least, I thought I did.

“Think you’ve got it all figured out, hey lover boy?”

“Why don’t you fill me in?” I tried to sound brave but he and I both knew I was soiling myself. There was absolutely no way I was getting out of this alive. Jake Barnes was as happy as a cat catching a canary. In fact, he was purring.

I imagined the only reason I was not dead yet was because Lord Cristobal was intrigued with my connection to the shades. He had instructed Jake to hold me in an upstairs room while they figured out what to do with me. Which I presumed to mean, when and where to dispose of my body. But even Lord Cristobal had to recognize the truth in my statements concerning his relationship with Hemingway. Sometimes the truth is much stranger than fiction. He must have concluded I could not have made that stuff up, so how else could I have known it? I knew that there had to be more to this Hemingway connection, why else would I have been spared?

Jake Barnes is rough in the handling of my ropes, no doubt recalling the swift kick to his balls I had administered a few days earlier. I racked my brain trying to remember anything that might have been pertinent during our first conversation back in Rachel’s apartment to get him to ease up a little.

“I’ll fill you in, smart guy. You’re a goner. Plain and simple. The only thing that keeps me from poppin’ your ass right now is that lil’ ol’ black voodoo whack job down stairs, and he’ll tire of ya soon enough.”

I look around the room I am being held in. It is an open, airy place with a few tropical scene prints framed on the walls. It is a guest bedroom with a couple of table lamps on either side of the bed, still enclosed in plastic. There is a coat hook on the door we came in through. A solitary garment is hanging there. I look closer and immediately identify it, which causes Jake to follow my eyes and then grunt upon seeing it, too. It looked like the top piece of a woman’s two piece pant suit.

“What’s this?” Jake abandons me momentarily, grabs the jacket off the hook and starts examining it. “What’s this doin’ here?”

It is Rachel’s jacket, the one she wore the night she picked me up out on Highway A1A. It was the first piece of evidence that I had to show she actually was in Cuba.

“Rachel was wearing it the last time I saw her, Jake.” I was squirming with the ropes that had me tied to the chair. Jake held the jacket up by it’s shoulder padding checking the size and style, maybe looking for bullet holes and/or blood.

“You saw Rachel in this? You are absolutely sure?”

“Yes, Jake. She was wearing it the night she picked me up.”

Jake winced at the recollection. I had forgotten Jake was her ex-husband up until that moment. He wadded up the garment into a tight, little ball then pitched it onto the floor.

“Rotten rat bastard.” Jake uttered beneath his breath, but his thoughts were not directed towards me. He was calculating something in his head while I sat still watching him do the math. Finally he turned his face to mine, raising his fist menacingly.

“You’ve got to level with me, kid. Tell me what you know about this voodoo mumbo jumbo guy and what’s it all got to do with Rachel?”

I was dumbfounded.

“Jake, you’re not in on all this?”

“In on what? Don’t be pissin’ on my leg and tellin’ me it’s rainin’ ”

“This kidnapping ring. Rich Americans being brought into Cuba and held for ransom out of reach of American law enforcement.”

“And you think I’d have somethin’ to do with that? I oughta bust you up… Wait a minute! Who’ve you been talkin’ to?”

“That guy, the one I was talking to you about… the one they call ‘Manolo’.”

“You mean Garcia?”

“Yes! Sargent Garcia! He brought me into Cuba to locate Rachel.”

Jake looked at me like his mental capacity just went into overload. I could see his pupils faintly dart back and forth as if they were processing data, there was almost the smell of circuits burning.

“Jake! I came here to rescue her! Garcia brought me here the day I left you in Rachel’s apartment!”

You’ve come to rescue her?” I could read the disbelief mixed with contempt on his face, but only for an instant. Jake’s face turned to an expression of confusion. I swallowed hard. Could it possibly be that I had Jake all wrong?

“Jake, why are you here? How did you get into Cuba and who told you to come here and find me?”

“Police business, kid… you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree.”

“Police business? Jake, you’re in fucking Cuba, man! You are completely out of your jurisdiction and you know it! If I’m gonna die so far away from home at least tell me why!”

“Whoa… hold on a minute, son! Who said anythin’ about dyin’? I’m haulin’ your ass back to the States personally to see that justice is served.”

“And what about Rachel?”

“You let me worry about Rachel, limp dick. Your ass is in a sling, buddy. I’d be more concerned about hirin’ a good lawyer than playin’ the hero if I was you.”

“Detective Barnes, what do you think I did… what am I being accused of?”

“You are going to be held by the Cuban government until I can make arrangements for you to be transported back to the States and be formally charged.”

“Charged for what? Aggravated assault on your privates?” Immediately I regretted bringing that up.

“Murder one, hot shot.” Jake cupped his crotch and gave it a wiggle.

“What? Detective, who am I supposed to have killed?”

“Officer Robert Jordan of the Key West Police Department.”

I stared at Jake Barnes in disbelief. He had alluded to his suspicions when we were in Rachel’s apartment but I thought it was just part of his routine. This came from way out in the far left quadrant of the known universal field.

I knew two things. One was that I stood a better chance of defending myself once I was back home. No matter what the implication was or the flimsy evidence that Detective Barnes thought he had, I knew I had nothing to do with Robert Jordan’s killing. If it meant going back to the States in the quasi-custody of one of Key West’s finest at least I was assured of returning in one piece. My defense would be clearly seen and sorted out then.

The second thing was not as comforting. Rachel was in Cuba and had been held at La Casa Vinales de Eden. Whether she was still here or had been relocated remained to be seen. But somehow I was now more relieved because of Jake’s presence. His being here seemed to have been for Rachel’s welfare, finding me was an afterthought. I recalled him saying he was expecting “someone” but not necessarily me. Could it be we were both lured here because of our involvement with her? I was being set up and Detective Jake Barnes was charging to the rescue despite proper protocol.

And as these thoughts churned inside my head, Rachel’s predicament seemed far less important. I had to somehow convince Jake to stop thinking like a cop and trust me. The pieces were loosely coming together and between the two of us we could solve this thing. Most of my calculations had been correct or at least within the general proximity of accuracy. The shades had not abandoned me and were still giving me direction, I just needed to press them further. I had to be allowed more time. Discovering Keith’s role in all this and his relationship with Lord Cristobal… therein lies the key to the mystery.

But that was not the only issue. Deep in my heart I knew there was another cause rising to the surface and my mind was now clearer on the point. I knew that I did not love Rachel. As quickly as the emotion had grabbed me in the beginning it was fading. I reflected on the early morning mist that was in the parking lot of Rachel’s apartment building the morning I fled to Cuba. In those minutes with Jake in that upstairs bedroom of La Casa Vinales de Eden, the fog was lifting. I loved Naty Revuelta and could not leave Cuba without her.

She would be waiting for me…

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Coming in the Spring of 2009: Shades of Hemingway / Bone Island Abattoir

Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo – Part 12, Meeting Mr. Miller

December 11, 2008

*Author’s note: This is a continuation of a series. For more information see, Shades of Hemingway and Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure.

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I do not know to this day if Keith had been involved with those Cuban refugees “dumped off” on Sanibel Island. Chances are he had not, because I imagined him too clever to implicate himself to a stranger. At least that was my impression of him then. Keith had a way of making me think, dissect, reverse then laugh at my own opinions and convictions. He just might have been sly enough to be making an indirect confession and I too thick headed to notice. But even when he mentioned something as morbid as chopping up unborn fetuses to use their stem cells to fabricate better body parts for himself I laughed at his audacity. Keith’s take on the world was playing the Devil’s Advocate while mine seemed more like a naive, optimistic belief in fairies and guardian angels. So our caricature blended well.

Now Naty tells me about meeting Keith in Miami, how he had connections in Cuba because of his import/export enterprise and her not knowing he had been seeing Rosetta. Keith had been romancing both sisters at the same time, like the proverbial sailor that had a girl in every port, except this arrangement had not come by happenstance. The two daughters of a squatter that occupied the old field hand’s house on the plantation that was known as the La Casa Vinales de Eden were only victims. Keith’s business association with Lord Cristobal made him aware of the thorn Juan Revuelta had become. First he had met beautiful Rosetta and promised her a way out of Cuba. Then learning of an older sister in America, Keith pursued Naty with the promise of helping her find a way to free her family. By becoming involved with both women, Keith churned the desperation in the Revuelta household with false hope, never intending to make good on his promises.

With his travels throughout the Caribbean Keith’s absence was easily explained, condoned and accepted. When I met Keith I was under the impression that he and Laura were in an exclusive relationship: but then again, how much was covered over by his chosen profession? Being out of the country for presumably days if not weeks at a time could afford Keith several different lives. Who Keith was depended on where he was. I was learning of a more devious, sinister man than I could have ever imagined possible with Keith. This was not the guy that originally invited me to an extended week-end in Key West. Watching Naty’s heart break with her tearful recollections convinced me I did not really know the extent of Keith’s evil tendencies. But something inside of me ached for Naty. As I consoled her the best I could, Keith’s challenging question from our conversation in the coffee shop came floating back to me.

“How do you know he’s cruel?”

“By this,” I told myself, “the calculated and maliciously instigated heartbreak of people like Juan Revuelta and his family.”

I made a solemn pledge in my mind that all bets were off, my friendship with Keith was a bust. Though my motives for coming to Cuba had been pure, I felt betrayed and manipulated. What more was Keith involved with? Was the taking of Americans to Cuba and holding them for ransom his operation? What about Rachel’s kidnapping, what motive was there behind that? And then the most compelling question of all, how did this fit in with me and the shades of Hemingway?

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My head hurt with the carousel of points and counter-points that raced along unabated while I sat in the open veranda waiting for Lord Cristobal to receive me. At the gate of the La Casa Vinales de Eden where I had been dropped off by Naty I was met by two armed guards. They eyed me very suspiciously when I told them I had an appointment to see a “Mr. Miller.” But after some persistence on my part and a two-way radio conversation one of them buzzed me up to the villa in a Jeep. After a lengthy conversation with Naty and Miriam we agreed that I would go it alone. And I decided to heed Papa Hemingway’s warning by not mentioning I knew Keith. The only play I had was to let Lord Cristobal know I was privy to some information about him that perhaps few others had known, his early relationship with Ernest Hemingway. I knew it was a gamble but my hope was that by using his “Christian” name it might arouse some curiosity in him to see who I was. More importantly, my bold approach could spawn a desire to find out what I wanted. And it seemed to be working. I was even brought a cool drink to sip on while I took in the garden surroundings. I wasn’t kept waiting for long.

A spry, dark skinned man came down the outside corridor towards me. I imagined him to be in his 70’s, but there was a briskness in his step, lightly click clacking on the terra cotta flooring. He wore a tropical shirt with palm trees and macaws in the print along with flowing, silken trousers and open toed sandals. Another younger man followed behind along with the guard that had originally accompanied me, still ominously carrying his weapon. Lord Cristobal was not smiling, but his eyes were friendly. I swallowed hard and tried to appear relaxed as I rose to meet the babalaos that influenced so much of the thinking of the Cuban dictatorship. I offered my hand and to my relief, he graciously shook it.

“Lord Cristobal?”

“Yes.” He gave a slight nod of piety.

“My name is Christian Fiore. Thank you for granting me an audience un-announced and on such a short notice. I apologize for the intrusion and promise to be brief.”

I waited for Lord Cristobal to gesture for me to return to my seat before I sat back down. He sat across from me with a small table separating us while the other two men remained standing. The armed guard continued to eye me menacingly but I fought to remain calm, though I could feel perspiration trickling down the inside of my arm.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Fiore?” His use of English was very precise, with a lilting similar to a Far Eastern accent.

“My time in Cuba has been very short, sir, but with everyone I meet the consensus has always been the same. No one knows the Cuban people nor loves the Republic of Cuba better than Lord Cristobal.”

Lord Cristobal smiled at me, his eyes narrowing slightly. I had rehearsed my introduction several times and had hoped a little flattery might help get me on the good side of my host, but I was grappling with the words while attempting to speak them out loud. Lord Cristobal’s manner was soothing.

‘What would you request of me, Mr. Fiore?”

I shifted a bit uneasily in my seat and nervously sipped at my drink for a moment, finally placing the glass down on the table.

“I have been visited by a spirit or spirits that claim to have had a relationship with you in the past. These shades will not rest and resist any attempt I have made of ridding myself of them. That is why I have come to you, the spirits have demanded I do so.”

“To which spirits do you refer?” My predicament seemed common to him.

“The shades of Ernest Hemingway. To prove that I was sent by them I was told to address you by the name, ‘Miller.’ What is it’s significance?”

The man that had accompanied Lord Cristobal and the guard spoke something in Spanish but Lord Cristobal raised his hand to silence him. After a slight pause he replied to the man in Spanish and both men left us alone on the veranda.

“It has been a while since I have been addressed by that name, Mr. Fiore. Truly, any other reason for your being here might have raised the ire of my scribe and the displeasure of my guards.”

“I am aware of that, sir. It is with great humility that I approach you with this matter, but it is their bidding that I do so and not of my own choosing. They have been quite persistent.”

“Then perhaps, before we continue… these spirits have revealed other things to you? My having had a relationship with Ernest Hemingway while not common knowledge is still not a kept secret. Maybe you could indulge me a little further, mention another name associated with Mr. Hemingway and myself, in order to substantiate your claim?”

“You refer to your father, Tenete’, I presume?”

“A name given him by Hemingway.”

Lord Cristobal nodded slightly and raised a hand to his face, covering his chin and mouth as if in deep, reflective thought. I nervously watched him, hoping the response to my cue had been received as a sign of legitimacy to my claim of having been sent by Hemingway’s ghost.

“I was removed from my homeland when I was very young and brought here as a form of retribution, Mr. Fiore. Do you know why?”

“Your father was killed while on safari. Your relatives asked that you be taken to Cuba by Hemingway so that you could be raised and educated by him.”

Lord Cristobal rose from his seat and slowly paced about the area in front of me, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Truly, you have been well informed Mr. Fiore. There is no doubt in my mind that you have been in touch with the spirit realm. Do you also know the extent of my influence over it?”

I swallowed hard. I had the feeling this was make or break time,

“As babalaos through the use of the kyklos tod mene’ ?”

Lord Cristobal stopped, turned and coolly looked at me.

“Who else has discussed this with you, Mr. Fiore?”

“No one else, sir. I find my encounters so unbelievable that I dare not utter the experience to anyone else for fear they may question my very sanity.”

There was no mistaking my sincerity here, I was concerned how my experience would be accepted, even by the babalaos of the Santerian faith. At that declaration Lord Cristobal walked back to his seat and with an apparent new interest sat down across from me again. Another young man arrived with a tray and offered him a tall drink along with a cigarillo which he promptly picked up and held out to have lit. He took a long drag, savoring the experience, then crossed his legs as he exhaled. Lord Cristobal indicated that the server put the drink on the table between us then dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He then diverted his attention to me.

“Tell me then,” Lord Cristobal muses, “how did this extraordinary relationship begin?”

I took a breath. It seemed all I had been doing as of late was explain how my situation had all began while carefully leaving out the parts that may have incriminated me as some sort of raving lunatic. This was the first time I would be including the unbelievable parts to someone who not only would believe it, but also had directly influenced portions of it. Still I realized that Lord Cristobal was not my ally and I had to tread lightly. Just as I was about to begin another voice spoke up from behind me, one that I recognized and instantly dreaded.

‘Yeah boy, this is all some fascinating stuff! I think I’d like to hear it from the beginning, too.”

I turned around to look into the face of Key West Detective Jake Barnes.