Leave the luxury out of this

If you grew up on a dairy farm as I did, you know of a few fundamental truths that are true at every one, wherever it may be.

1. Diary farms have a lot of diary cows.

2. Diary cows’ cow-flop-to-gallon-of-milk ratio is about 1,005,962-to-1.

3. If you find yourself at a diary farm, you will step on a cow flop. More than once. However, you will never, ever sink your foot into a gallon of milk. It’s written right there in the numbers.

There’s another pretty common thing found at most farms, though I can’t say it’s universal anymore. Farms contain farm equipment graveyards. Maybe not so much now, but decades ago, farmers didn’t trade in old tractors, trucks and other machinery. If it would run no more, it might be end up at the edge of the field, or behind a barn, or off in the nearby woods.

And there it would stay. And slowly decay. Slowly.

Go ahead, feel free to drive it away. The keys are in it.

Farm equipment was utilitarian, made for a use and once it was used up it wasn’t disgarded, it just wasn’t used any more. Be it tractor, cultivator or pickup truck.

I don’t live on a farm anymore, but I drive a pickup. Have for many years, on my second one. And while I don’t go out of my way to mistreat its interior or exterior – it’s a truck. I load big and messy things into the back that have scratched the paint or gouged dents into the body. Not once, but many times. The interior hasn’t been turned into a landfill, but it isn’t suitable-for-framing either.

Because it’s a damn truck. Not a limousine. It’s a GMC, not a Masserati. If you want luxury, then you go out and buy a …

2013 Ford F150?????????

It’s called the Limited and reportedly will take the top-spot in Ford’s line of the popular pickup. Probably will cost somewhat higher than the present bestest F150, which means more than $44,000.

In his automotive blog, “Exhaust Notes,” MSN.com writer Joshua Condon says “the interior gets full-grain leather offset by real aluminum and piano black finishes, heated/cooled front seats with memory function (the rear seats are heated as well) and ambient lighting with five accent colors. It’s also a tech-heavy truck, offering standard Sync with MyFord Touch and Sirius Travel Link on a centrally mounted 8-inch LCD screen, plus power-sliding rear windows with privacy tint and defrost.”

Sheesh – you think you have to take off your boots before getting into it?

“Heated/cooled” seats? “Real” aluminum? And what the hell is “ambient light with five accent colors”? Is this feature supposed to create something like ambiance? Ambiance? There’s no ambiance in a pickup truck!

There are certain laws of nature that just cannot be broken.

When I want to bring home a load of mulch I don’t call my brother-in-law and ask if I can borrow his Lexus. And when I want to take a slobbering, shedding and farting Old English Bulldog for a ride in my truck, I shouldn’t have to first vacuum him, then wash his feet and put a tie on him before he gets in.

And speaking of utilitarian, I wonder if the manual recommends to have a cord of firewood dry-cleaned before loading it into the truck bed. Oh, and there better not be any leather or piano black finishes back there either.

What good is a pickup truck that can’t be used as a pickup truck?


A rock is a rock is … art?

I’m in the wrong damn business. You’re probably in the wrong damn business. Unless you’re Michael Heizer, we’re all in the wrong damn business.

Why is Michael Heizer so special? Got me. Oh, he’s an artist, a sculptor. Of sorts. His latest creation is called Levitated Mass. It’s on the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Did I say “creation”? Sorry, poor choice of words. It’s more correctly described as an “installation”. It consists of a 340-ton boulder affixed above a concrete trench through which visitors may walk.

Why the heck did Michelangelo waste time carving a marble chunk to make David?

Feast your eyes on that for a minute. Captivating, ain’t it? Ought to be … for a reported $10 million pricetag, it should do at least that. All the while dancing a jig and whistling Dixie, backwards.

Now, before you begin to wonder aloud how is it that Los Angeles County could pay for this “art” work, when it’s doubtful the entire state of California can scrape together $10 million in spare change, the bill was paid entirely by private donations.

Which illustrates yet another difference between people like you and me, and the rich: They will pay a lot of money for a rock. You and I don’t have that kind of money … nor possess that much stupidity.

There are some advantages to being poor.

But if that’s the way of the world – well, no sense in fighting it. We might as well work it to our advantage, correct?

So, if there are any rich people out there who think it’s downright over-the-top extravagant to pay $10 million for a big rock on top of a concrete ditch, but still wish you could possess some true art, have I got good news for you. Not only have I got some art, but you can own it and still have millions left in your wallets.

Mounditated Mass – $100,000

There is dirt and there is dirt, but this is … dirt. Just imagine this pile, dug from the very center of Ye Olde New England and artistically arranged by a native Nutmegger as only a Ye Olde Nutmegger can pile, in the front yard of your manse. Yes, your neighbors will be more than envious of your obvious creative eye. And just beside themselves as well once you mention that not only did Gen. George Washington sleep on this Revolutionary War-era dirt, but his horse probably plopped on it too.

 UnMounditated UnMass – $50,000

Hey, if you decide to own the Mounditated Mass – why not display the hole it came from? And for a dirt-cheap price, even. A perfect artistic set, no?

Leaveitated Mass – $25,000

If you’ve seen the movie, “Monty Python’s The Holy Grail”, there’s no need to explain to you the artistic aura that emanates from the beauty of one of the most desired natural artworks of the world … the shubbery. Why, its allure harkens back to the times of Camelot. So, you too must be of truly royal artistic stock, of course. Of King Arthur’s creed, I presume? And now, for a measly $25,000 you too can own what was so demanded by the Knights Who Say Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-pikang-zoom-boing-mumble-mumble, formerly known as the Knights Who Say Nee!

Gee, all of this artworking is not only potentially lucrative, it’s transforming. Anybody know where I can get a French beret cheap?

Random Access Memory

I’ve been sitting here now for about 40 minutes and until these words showed up, my laptop’s screen’s been blank.

Likewise, my mind’s pretty much been in the same state. For some that’s hard to believe, no doubt. But hell, even the best hard drives freeze up sometimes.

So, time to re-boot. While my memory and databanks rebuild themselves, I’ll just scroll through my massive photo folder and see if I find anything that jogs me into a creative word or two.

Don Knotts watches the haunted organ play in “The Ghost & Mr. Chicken”.

“The Ghost & Mr. Chicken”: The movie I saw the first time I went to a drive-in theater, the first scary movie I ever saw, and the first and only movie I ever watched while wearing pajamas in the back of my parents’ green Bonneville station wagon.

Oh, and it also was only the greatest movie ever made, starring the greatest actor of all time, Don Knotts.

Yeah, yeah – so maybe “Citizen Kane” probably gets a couple votes for best movie ever too. And that Orson Wells guy was pretty good in it. But Wells could never have done “The Ghost …” like Knotts did, nor could he do this:

I rest my case.

Lemme see what else do I have in here. Oh, here’s something straight off the pages of the latest news venues. Not exactly Page One, but not back there with the “Help Wanted” ads either.

You’ve heard stories about the little orphaned piglets being taken in and nursed by the kindly mama farm cat or dog, of course. Well, this is another one of those kind of events. Calf orphaned during trip to beach with mother, lonely mama dolphin passing by … the rest is nature at its most heartwarming best.

Another story of love triumphant over seemingly impossible circumstances …

Since we’re speaking of nature, now that we’ve seen one of its greatest achievements, above, I suppose in the interest of fair and balanced reporting, I also must include an example of nature’s dark side.

No, it is far worse than that. Truly, this is one of the all-time greatest crimes against nature, human or otherwise.

Oh, the horror … the horror …

OK, I do believe the old brain up there is revving back up to speed. Better than ever.

Sleuthing the truth: Stonehenge

In case you were wondering, there’s a new theory about Stonehenge.

Hey, Stonehenge! Enough mystery, explain yourself already!

You know, that monumental pile of stones from the Stone Age that has everyone baffled and theorizing as to who made it, how they made it, and why they made it. Was it the Druids who used it for ceremonies and human sacrifice? Was it conjured by Merlin, the Arthurian legend’s wizard, as a mythical burial site? Was it thrown together by a bunch of very large, muscled aliens showing off for the pip-squeak locals?

Who knows. Maybe one, maybe all, maybe none of the above. The latest idea, in a new book called “Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery” by Parker Pearson, states that it was the work of a lot of people, literally pulling together (really, no caca) as “an act of unification.” Sort of a rock version of a community barn-raising.

“Hey, fellow Stone Age people, what do you want to do this weekend?”

“Oh, I don’t know. How about let’s grow closer as an early human society by gathering up a bunch of 40-ton slabs, drag them out into that field there and stand them up in a circle?”

“Sounds cool, Hey everybody, c’mon let’s get socialized!”

I guess it’s plausible. Though, I’m not sure why everyone’s been just sitting around, pondering this mystery for all these years.

Especially since for a long time there’s been a way to find out the answer to this mystery, or any question about anything in the past. Well, since I was a kid at least, which is almost as far back as Stonehenge. I saw it on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon show.

Meet Mr. Peabody, his boy Sherman, and the Wayback Machine.

Uh, Mr. Peabody? Sherman? Please set the Wayback Machine to “Time of Stonehenge”. OK, let me get in the machine here. Now, would you be so kind and pull the lever? Thanks.


Hello, nearly 3,000 years ago. I’m standing in a field, nice day really, and over there I see Stonehenge. It looks, well, it looks nearly 3,000 years newer. Oh, and there I see a Stone Age man, working in the field, right near the monument.

Let’s go solve one of life’s greatest mysteries, shall we?

“Excuse me, I’ve come here from nearly 3,000 years in the future to find out what is the real story behind Stonehenge over there.”

“Over where.”

“Over there, those big stones, set in a circle. You know, Stonehenge.”

“You mean stone fence.”

“It’s called Stonefence?”

“Uh, yeah – what else would you call it?”

“Aha – well, this is monumental stuff, indeed! Please understand that this structure is a mystery to me and all of the people in my time.

“So, speaking of monumental, I’ve also come to find out the true use of this massive structure. Why is it here, sir? Does it have some kind of religious significance? Maybe used for human sacrifice to your gods, or to study the stars, or chart the seasons? And who built this massive thing … might it have been an alien race visiting from another planet? Hmmm?”

“Nope, me and Herb, my brother-in-law, built it. He’s strange, for sure, but I wouldn’t call him an alien. Dumber than most of those rocks, but strong as an ox, he is.”

“You two built it?”

“That’s what I said – they speak much English from when you come from?”

“Sorry, I’m just amazed by this. The people in my time will be so surprised to find this out. So, if you built it, why is it here? Again, please know there are millions, billions and billions even, who want to know. Solve the mystery for all of us.”

“I put the cows in there to keep them out of my garden.”

“You built Stonehenge to keep cows out of your garden!?!?!?”

“Nooooo … I built a stone fence to keep the cows over there, out of my garden.”

And now, the news most fowl and furry

I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired of following the news day in and day out, night in and night out, and seeing that it would appear, from the overwhelming bulk of it, that anything newsworthy has something to do with people.

People doing the crime, people making the laws, people breaking the laws, people waging the wars, people making the peace … people, people, people, people.

Bores me to death, to tell you the truth. Motley bunch of attention-mongers, aren’t we?

Having spent some years in the news business, I know that while people may be the root cause of most of each day’s news – few do anything really interesting when they make it.

Take, for example, an event such as … 5,000 people crossing the street. Stop the presses to report it? Interrupt the afternoon talk shows to break the news? Hardly.

On the other hand, say it was 5,000 …

If it walks like 5,000 ducks, if it quacks like 5,000 ducks, it must be …

… ducks, Yes, you read me right – DUCKS. Now THAT’S news.

A few roads in the Chinese city of Taizhou today were jammed when a farmer relocated his enormous flock of ducks to a nearby pond, with help from only a long wooden pole and a couple of assistants. According to local media, the farmer boasted that he didn’t lose a single duck on the three-quarters-of-a-mile journey.

Just him, a few assistants and a stick moved 5,000 ducks? And he didn’t lose one? Amazing. Try that with an entire day-care staff and 5,000 kids and I’ll bet you’ll lose a couple hundred.

And, of course, that story would lead the evening TV news. See what I mean? Sheesh.

Here’s another example. Say, you’re playing softball at the local park. While making a no-seeum throw to the plate, stopping that tying run from scoring and making the last out, you feel the urge to purge.

Game over and you run off the field and straight to a big plastic porta-poo booth – the only one in the park. You reach for the door handle, give it a tug and it’s … locked, a.k.a. in use. And you’re sure it’s the same guy you saw go in, two innings ago. Do you call the local TV news station and get yourself into the 11 p.m. lineup? I doubt it.

But, let’s say you’re a Canadian black bear, sitting outside an occupied outhouse in the forests of Winnipeg? Maybe at a picnic table, calmly waiting your turn, like the well-mannered, sophisticated fellow below …

A picture-perfect picture of patience …

Now, you’ve been patient. Though Gord Shurvell, a 65-year-old Winnipeg man staying with friends in a nearby hunting cabin, has been in there since you arrived. Well, you have to go, but you don’t have to go that bad. You can wait.

Seconds tick to minutes, which clump into many minutes. You gotta go – now. Gord’s got to be finished, for holy Molson’s sake. So why the hell is he still farting around in there?

“I’d already done my business,” Shurvell recalled, when suddenly an angry black bear entered the outhouse, grabbed him and dragged him half-naked into the woods. “All the [defense] I had was a … piece of [toilet] paper in this hand.”

A friend heard the commotion, got his gun and shot the bear. Oh and I’ll bet that’s what those Canadian reporters thought was the news.


For the Dad who doesn’t need anything …

Dear son,

I figured I’d wait until today to give you some Father’s Day gift ideas. Mostly, because I don’t really want anything. I received my greatest gift on the day you were born.

Oh, stop that. I can hear you gagging from here. And I was talking about my automatic federal tax deduction for dependents anyway. So there.

But really, I don’t need or want anything. But if you’re still running from store to store, looking for that perfect gift … well, stop running and come over to the house. I got a catalog here with a couple dog-eared pages that you can take home. Pick one and surprise me when the FedEx guy pulls up in my driveway.

Deal? Deal. That’s what father’s are for – we fix things. Right after we’ve broken them.

This is what I found in my Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. You know old HS – they’ve been “offering the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected for 164 Years.” Nice bunch of rich folks. Here’s some things I can live without, but why they hell do I have to if you’ll buy them for me:

Meet Fifi, my trusty guard triceratops

The 20-foot animatronic triceratops – $350,000.

Pretty cool, eh? This is just like the ones you see in the museums. Twenty feet long, this little baby responds to onlookers with “lifelike reactions and fortissimo bellowing.” I mean, is there any other kind of bellowing, really? It’s got motion-activated cameras for eyes so whatever a person does, it responds in a probable dinosaurian way – “sways its tri-horned head right, left, up, and down, stomps and scuffs its right forelimb, and opens its jaws while growling – all powered by digitally controlled servos and silent, pneumatic air-activated cams.”

Nifty – you get me this and I’ll sit outside and wait for the door-to-door salesmen and Jehovah Witnesses to come calling. Fun is! Or, how about this, you know how much I like to fish:

Who needs a fishing pole – drop a depth charge.

The Genuine PT Boat – $1,000,000.

This is real, I mean the REAL PT-728, a 66-1/2 year-old restored Patrol Torpedo Boat from World War II. Knock me over with a torpedo! HS says it’s one of 12 remaining PT boats in the world. She is “armed” (all weapons are deactivated – damn) with a “single .50- and two twin .50-caliber Browning machine gun stations, an aft 20mm Oerlikon cannon, four tubes that each housed a Mark VIII torpedo, and two depth charge launchers.” And she’s no old slouch either – updated with modern electronics, radar, and two turbo-charged diesel engines providing 1,100 total horsepower.

Sweeeet. And speaking of swift, how about this little “econo” car?

Think of all the gas, and time, I’ll be saving.

The 120 MPH Electric Car – $108,000

Talk about green – we’re talking GREEN LIGHT here. This electric car can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds to a top speed of 120 mph “in one gear with no shifting, thanks to its two electric motors – smaller versions of the same kind found in diesel-electric locomotives”! Choo-choo, baby! And the thing is safe and maybe bullet-proof too. A chassis of stainless steel, its got a chrome-moly roll cage and body panels made of carbon fiber, Kevlar and fiberglass. It generates no emissions and operates from a set of lead-acid batteries that can recharge using any service up to 50 amps, enough power for a range of 40-80 miles.

I can’t wait to be the first on my block to silently blow the doors off the neighbors’ gas-guzzlers. Make them green with envy, I tell you.

See? No problem, no worries – I’m not so hard to buy for, am I?