Lights. Camera. Action!

2012 September 22
tags: ,
by Hedon

Overheard on the phone in the truck:

Hedon: You know Billy Joe Bob and Betty Lou? [friends of ours who also happen to be truckers]

Stace: Obviously.

Hedon: Well! I was talking to Betty Lou the other day and they may be doing a tv show.

Stace: Really? That’s great! They would be great for a tv show. What kind of show is it?

Hedon: They don’t know. Right now they’re just in the talking with the producers phase and taking some test footage to see if they can work something out.

Stace: Well I hope it works out for them. Did it make you regret not pursuing it when those women contacted us and wanted us to do a show?

Hedon: Nah. That’s not exactly our thing.

Stace: Not at all.

Hedon: Unless…. What if they had offered us an insane amount of money? I mean what if they had been willing to pay us like $300,000 a year?

Stace: Ugh. I still wouldn’t have wanted to do it. Being filmed all the time. No privacy. That is seriously not for me.

Hedon: Not me! For $300,000 a year they could film me all day every day driving around wearing nothing but boxer-briefs. I wouldn’t even run loads anymore. Oh sure it would be uncomfortable in the beginning but after the first couple of checks started rolling in I bet I would get right into the swing of things.

Stace: Why in the hell would they want to film you driving around in your underwear?

Hedon: I don’t know. Maybe there’s a group of girly-girl lesbians out there with a weird fetish about great big raggedy diesel dykes who drive their semi-trucks around all the time in their underwear. You can never tell about lesbians.

Stace:   ….

Hedon:  ….

Stace: I don’t seem to have a response to that.

Hedon: So can I do it?

Stace: Yes. Yes you can. If a television production company calls you up out of the blue and offers you $300,000 a year to film you driving around all day in your underwear to titillate super-femme lesbians you have my blessing. Go for it.

Hedon: Excellent.

Some things you just can’t overcome

2012 July 15
by Hedon

TALKEETNA, Alaska — The mayor of a sleepy Alaska town is feline fine.

The part-Manx cat clawed his way onto the political scene of Talkeetna, Alaska, through a write-in campaign shortly after he was born 15 years ago.

KTUU-TV reported (http://bit.ly/LYvzBV ) Friday that residents didn’t like the mayoral candidates years ago, so they encouraged enough people to elect Stubbs as a write-in candidate. The town has nearly 900 residents.

Although his position is honorary, Stubbs’ popularity is real. His election earned him enough press to catapult the town at the base of Mount McKinley into a tourist destination.

Residents say they’re happy that their stubby-tailed mayor is promoting tourism. The general store where Stubbs hangs out says it gets dozens of tourists a day asking for him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just think about the legacy of this act that happened so many years ago. I can see a dinner meeting taking place earlier this year….

Bill:  So, anyway, to get down to business. Gentleman I invited you all here tonight because I’m considering a run for Congress and I hope that I can count on your support.

::: General murmuring :::

Mike: Well now, Bill, didn’t you run for Mayor a few years ago?

Bill: Well… yeah.

Mike: And Bill… didn’t you lose that race?

Bill: Uh… yeah. But that was a long time ago. I doubt that anyone would even remember it.

Mike: Well now Bill. Didn’t you actually lose that race to a kitty cat?

Bill: Stupid cat.

Mike: See now Bill that there’s your problem. See if you were to run for office the very first advertisement that your opponent would run against you would likely sound something like this….

Ten years ago, Bill ran for Mayor of the town he was born and raised in. The citizens of Bill’s home town were so horrified by the thought that Bill might become Mayor that they launched a write-in campaign for a candidate they felt more comfortable with electing. That write-in candidate won in a landslide collecting more votes than Bill and his opponent combined. That write-in candidate was a kitty cat named Mr. Stubbs. The people of Bill’s home town — people that had known him all his life — would rather have a kitty cat for Mayor than Bill. What do they know that you don’t? Vote Fred for Congress.

Bill: Stupid cat did not get more votes than Joe and me combined.

Mike: Well you see, Bill, that doesn’t much matter… once you lose an election to a kitty cat you really can’t ever run again. Cause nobody is ever going to forget that.

I said, “Watch the monkey!”

2011 October 28
by Hedon

I am finding this whole Occupy Wall Street movement fascinating. It has been several years since Stace and I realized that politics and voting are pointless. Pointless because both parties are bought and paid for by the uppity-up rich folk who actually control this country.

We weren’t talking about your garden variety rich folk, we were talking about the wealthy… the really wealthy. The people who control everything including the government but that you never even hear mentioned. I’m thinking of a bit Chris Rock did about the difference between “rich” and “wealthy” and how he didn’t want to be rich he wanted to be wealthy. He said something like “Shaq is rich. The man that signs Shaq’s paycheck is wealthy.” Stace and I didn’t call them the One Percent but that’s as good a name as any I suppose.

What I find so interesting about these protests is the reaction of the OnePercent. Obviously, they own the media so I was curious about how these protests would be covered in the news. Not surprisingly, the first few articles were utterly dismissive. They also spent some time belittling the protesters as a bunch of kooks who couldn’t even make up their minds as to what their goals were.

Then there was a spell where there just wasn’t any coverage at all to speak of about the whole thing. You really had to hunt for articles every day to see what was going on. But the protesters didn’t slink back into their holes, so they couldn’t just ignore them forever.

Right now they are painting the protesters as a bunch of filthy, loud, drug-dealing hooligans that the various cities are doing their best to accommodate… Well except for the city of Oakland who is putting Iraqi war veterans in the ICU with a fractured skull.

I think the single most interesting thing about the whole movement is the effect of the internet on the situation. The OnePercent is so used to being able to control what we see — and by extension what we think — that this whole YouTube and Facebook -based well of information available to everyone must be maddening to them. What are they going to do?

Are the days of them just being able to throw some divisive crap on the news, tell us to watch the monkey and go about screwing us at their leisure waning? Where are the articles about poor black kids robbing little old white ladies to get the rednecks worked up and voting for the conservative law-and-order guy? What about the articles about how the conservative law-and-order guy wants to lock up all the gays in Montana to send the liberals marching into the streets?

Can you imagine what would happen in this country if we all actually thought about it and realized that we are the 99 Percent? What if we realized that while we are fighting over how to divide up our increasingly smaller piece of the pie the OnePercent is sitting back with a whole bakery? What if we realized that gay rights, abortion rights, religion rights, smokers rights, the death penalty, health care plans, blah blah blah are “watch the monkey” issues they use to get us all worked up against each other and to keep us from realizing they are the ones we should be taking a good hard look at?

My God.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Can you hear me now?

2011 October 21
by Hedon

Have been thinking for several weeks that I would like to post over here again. So I thought I’d see if the old girl still works…

Hurrah!!

2010 September 29
by Hedon

We’re back!

I have no idea what happened to the site but one day it just quit working and I had no idea how to fix it. Luckily the people at DreamHost really do offer excellent customer service… when you find time to go beg them for help that is.

What’s in a name?

2010 September 7
by Hedon

As Stace mentioned (and I’m sure as many of you suspected anyway) there were many rules involved in picking our company name. Here are a few of them:

  • Had to be something Fernando could remember at least 65% of the time when answering the phone.
  • Absolutely could not under any circumstances contain any of the following words: Transportation, Transport, Transit, Trans, Express, Logistics, Freight, Cargo, Global, Distributor, Distribution, Enterprises, Service or Monkey. Ugh.
  • Could not include my last name, Stace’s last name, the hybrid last name we invented to use when we play video games together, the kids’ name, the grandkid’s name, or Maggie’s name.
  • Could not include the name of the town we live in, the name of the town Stace grew up in, or the town I grew up in, or the town in which we met a million years ago, or that cool town we visited that time on vacation, or that magical mystical town I was in during I that really cool dream I had where I was flying.
  • Had to stand out from the crowd.
  • Assuming that we would provide excellent service, it needed to be something a broker could remember a la “Man… we’re really in a bind… who was that company we used that got that load there a day ahead of schedule last month… oh wait I remember now… wasn’t it Global Logistical Cargo Transportation Services Enterprises, Inc.?”
  • Should probably include at least a nod at ‘truth in advertising’ or some-such.
  • Should remain true to our general life philosophy that one should really try to avoid taking themselves too seriously if at all possible.

I’m sure you can see how Highway Hags, LLC ended up being the only name we could think of that really fit the bill.

So we had the name all picked out then we needed to come up with a company slogan or catch phrase. You know like “GE — we bring good things to life” and all. As Stace mentioned, we finally settled on “We work harder… since we can’t rely on our looks” but originally I wanted it to be:

Highway Hags — “we work harder… since we can’t rely on our looks and apparently brains will only get you so far”

But Stace thought that one was too long. She said to think:

Motel 6 — “We’ll leave the light on for you”

not:

Motel 6 — “We’ll leave the light on for you and in the morning there will be coffee and cereal in the lobby and sometimes donuts but not all the time it just depends. Also, the rooms are fairly clean… oh sure, they’re not spotless or anything, but honestly what do you expect for $32 a night, anyway?”

I had to admit that I saw her point on that one. So I was wrong on the motto. I was not, however, wrong on the goober HeeHaw logo we currently have disgracing both sides of our tractor. Since we couldn’t afford a real (impressive) logo, we wanted to go with straight text for the time being and change it to a real logo when we had the chance. I already posted about how this plan went horribly horribly wrong, but I thought you might like to actually see the hideous outcome.

Here is what I wanted:

Well if I could figure out what’s wrong with my ability to add pictures there would be one here

And this is what we got:

Likewise a stupider more goobery logo picture here

Oh the humanity!

On the bright side, we just finished our first ever week and it went off quite well. We were able to keep running and only missed our weekly financial goal by $200 which wasn’t too bad considering it was our first week and Labor Day Weekend besides. Who knows maybe this whole thing will all work out… if not maybe we could get by on our looks somehow…

And the name of the company is …

2010 September 3
by Stace

In the comments to the last post, Salena asked what we named the company. And the answer is:

Highway Hags L.L.C.

What else could it be, right?

It’s interesting to see different people’s reactions to it. In general, they either laugh, or they look at you like you’re nuts and ask, “Highway what?” I think this latter response stems from them not knowing how to take it, as if they don’t know if they should laugh or not. My thought is, we’re the ones calling ourselves hags, so it seems pretty certain it was done with a sense of humor. Ah well. People are funny.

Hedon has all sorts of reasons for why we went with the hag name, and she says she’s all ready to write a post about it, so I’ll leave that for her.

Meanwhile, we’ve been working on a company motto. The front-runner so far is:

Highway Hags — We work harder … because we can’t get by on our looks.

I’m thinking, we’ll be remembered.

And off we go…

2010 August 27
by Hedon

Oh my god, I just booked our first load. It’s not the greatest load ever, and I wasn’t able to book the really great load that I had intended to follow immediately after it… but… Highway Hags just booked an actual real live load. From a broker. Off a load board no less. I seriously tried to sound like I knew what I was doing but who can say how that panned out. :) It’s a short load that picks up Monday afternoon so I guess we have the whole weekend to squirm in anticipation.

In other news… we finally got the lettering for the truck back. Sigh. We had decided that we couldn’t afford an actual logo and didn’t want some cheesy homemade job so we were going to go with just text. I went to all the trouble of laying it out exactly the way we wanted it and sent the file to the graphics place. Being small town folk, we had decided to go with a local printer. They were simply supposed to blow the art up to the proper size and cut the vinyl in royal blue. Then Stace was going to install it as she used to do some of that in a previous life. This was all supposed to be done last Friday. However, on Wednesday we still didn’t have anything from the print place. Finally Wednesday afternoon they called to say the art was finished — personally I think they were tired of our daily (polite) harassing phone calls.

Anyway, Stace went off to the joint, checkbook in hand, to pick up the art. She came home a little later with a hesitant look on her face and said, “Uh… they changed the layout on the signs.” Oh my god! Apparently they decided what we had sent them was too boring so they changed the font and layout to “spice it up a little.” Now it looks like some of the goobers from HeeHaw laid out our signs. Seriously. It’s all in this ridiculous font and has a little stripe of the dashed lane markings running through part of it and it’s just horrible. I accept that there wasn’t really anything to be done about it since we had already waited so long and to start over would cost us another week at home which we certainly can not afford but honestly… I hate it. Stace decided she could live with it for the time being but she didn’t much like it in the beginning, either. I think it is growing on her though. Hopefully it will grow on me, too. Sigh. At least the dot and vin numbers are correct… I guess that’s something.

On another note, when we finally called and officially told the Tulsa guys we were terminating our lease, the owner told me they were closing the doors to the company. I guess he is so down about the whole situation that he’s going to sell his truck and everything. I’m guessing we can kiss that escrow money goodbye. Not that I won’t keep trying but you can’t get blood out of a turnip or a stone or whatever the old saying is. I suppose we will survive, but it does piss me off to leave that money on the table like this. Sigh. Live and learn I guess.

On yet another note, aka the health front, I’m doing better than I was. It’s been over a week since I needed to use the cane which is great. Also, I have been able to run errands lately which is a vast improvement. I’m still nowhere near back to 100% but at least the pain is pretty much gone and I am capable of getting around now. When Stace and I first got ready to go back out on the road (with my doctor’s blessing) we ran into a problem because I couldn’t manage the steps to get into the truck.

Luckily Stace and her step-dad are both incredibly creative and brilliant at problem solving. Her step-dad, who we’ll call Leonardo, build this step thing that fits securely onto the running boards and splits the difference between the steps so I don’t have to try to get my foot so high. The problem is that Stace has to stand there with me and wait until I stepped up on the bottom running board step and scooted toward the back of the truck, then she would attach the temp step onto the bottom running board. Then I would step up onto it and up again onto the second running board step and scoot toward the back of the truck again. Then she would move the device up onto that step and I could step into the truck. Then she would hand the temp step up to me and I would stash it in the truck. It really was a pretty elegant solution to the problem of fixing a way for me to get in the truck without damaging the truck or attaching something permanent to the running boards.

The real problem I’m having right now is I’m still not able to get in on my own. Which is really frustrating. I know this is probably entirely because I haven’t been able to work out on it much at all while we have been at home these last couple of weeks. The paperwork we have had to deal with to get this all up and running has been incredible. I have spent the better part of every day sitting right here in front of this computer. That doesn’t exactly help the situation. So I understand why my comeback is going so slowly but it’s kinda maddening. Still… when I think of where I was four months ago compared to today… I can’t help but be grateful. It’s been a long steep climb so far but at least I’m still inching up the hill.

Greatest story never told… until now

2010 August 23
by Hedon

Well!  So!

Ok… so it’s not the greatest story ever told, but boy do I have a lot to say about it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk about all the crap that’s been going on until now.

Some of you may remember how we signed on as leased owner-operators with a tiny little company based in Tulsa, OK. This was way back in the early spring when we first bought the truck, but I wasn’t able to go out on the road at the time. Nothing lasts forever, thankfully, and I was finally well enough to go back out so we headed out for our first load with them in the middle of June.

I still wasn’t in too great of a condition so we weren’t able to run many miles at first. Which turned out to be a good thing the way things went down. At first we thought maybe they were just aggressively incompetent … then things started to look more sinister.

When we first talked to them they said their loads were averaging $1.70 to $1.75 per mile.  We agreed that Stace and I would receive 80% of the load. Not too bad. We had run the numbers and figured out that we could make a decent living on that deal. Not that we were going to get rich or anything but it was going to work out ok.

Then they decided we needed to pay for part of the cargo insurance. They asked for $3 per hundred of our part of the load. Well it isn’t that unusual for smaller carriers to ask their owner-operators to chip in on the insurance so we agreed when we signed the lease that we would pay it. Since it was only to be on our 80% of the load it would work out that we would now make 77.6% of the load. Sigh. Not great but still possible.

By the time we actually headed out on the road they had changed their insurance cut to 5% and they had decided it should be held out of the gross of the load not out of our 80%. So then we were down to making a flat 75% of the load. Sigh again. Ok, starting to get fairly grumpy, but still thinking we could make it work for a year or so until we felt ready to head out entirely on our own.

So we headed out to run our first load and got another surprise. The lease had specified that they would hold back one weeks’ settlements then we would be paid every Friday. No problem. But after we delivered our first load he said they had changed their payment method. They were now going to pay their owner-operators after every load but hold back 10% of the gross in “escrow” because their factor held back 10% of the load from them. So the deal was when they got paid the 10% by their factor they would pay us. Seriously big sigh. Not thrilled, but on the other hand it was kinda nice to get paid after every load and not have to wait two weeks for our first check. Ok, maybe we could live with it.

So if you’re following along with the math we had now dropped from 80% to 65% of the load. Really not thrilled at all by that point, but were still sure that we could squeak by on our 65% cut of loads that averaged $1.75 per mile. Besides, brokers typically pay in about 30 days so in a month we would have escrow checks coming in and bumping us back up a little. Maybe it would all work out.

And it might have worked out somehow… if there had been any $1.75 per mile loads that is. Weirdly, it seems like the only loads they could find for us were right at what we had informed them was our rock bottom minimum of $1.50 per mile. Hmmmm. We might never have caught on to the shenanigans that were going on if they had been slightly more capable as criminal masterminds. Our first clue that something was up was when the husband called and offered us a load for $1,100 which we accepted. Then later that day his wife, who ended up becoming the office-manager-dispatcher, called to give us more information about the load but she said it grossed $1,300. Hmmmm. So… the husband says the load grosses $1,100 and three hours later the wife says it grosses $1,300. Seriously, hmmmm.

Didn’t just happen once. Happened twice. Two different times they gave us different amounts for the gross. Based on those instances, it seemed pretty obvious to us that they were skimming off the top. But we weren’t 100% positive. And of course we would never accuse anyone without proof. Which we had no way of getting. We had the right to demand to see their actual confirmations on each load, but those are easily doctored so what good would that do us?

Things just went from bad to worse when the wife took over dispatching us a few days after we first went out. As I’m sure you can readily understand, we have no problem at all with women in trucking (for obvious reasons) but she had no experience whatsoever with the trucking industry. She didn’t understand that there are places where you simply don’t want to go because they have no freight worth anything heading back out. Places like Florida and southern Texas and California. Everyone knows this. Everyone except her. So we tried to explain to her that we would only go to those places if she looked ahead and had a good load lined up for us to drive back out at a decent rate. She never understood what we were trying to say. At least that’s what we thought at the time. We ended up sitting several times because she couldn’t find us a load that paid crap.

It may come as no big surprise that it only took a couple of weeks for Stace and I to decide that it just wasn’t going to work out being leased on with them. There was no way we were going to be able to make ends meet and beyond that we felt fairly sure they were robbing us blind. Obviously we weren’t going to stand for that. We started investigating getting our own authority and going completely independent. We had always heard how expensive the insurance was if you formed your own authority, but when we checked into it we were shocked to find out that we would pay less than we had been paying signed on to the guys in Tulsa. We set the wheels in motion.

It takes about a month for a new carrier’s authority to be granted, so it’s been a waiting game for quite a while now. But finally this week we went active. Woo Hoo! The big thing was that we couldn’t get onto any load boards until our authority was active. So we couldn’t check going rates for loads. What we were most worried about was what if the loads she had been getting for us really were as good as it got? We had figured the numbers very carefully and were sure that we could make it on $1.50/mile loads as long as we kept the whole thing not 65% of the load. Then we went active and I was able to finally get on load boards and check out the situation myself. Those filthy sons of bitches. I found all kinds of loads for $1.85/mile. Hell, I found loads for $2.35/mile. I even found a few for over $2.50 per mile.

On the one hand I was livid. I mean there were so many good loads out there that she would have had to of been a blithering idiot to only be able to find us loads for $1.45 to $1.50 per mile. It seems pretty certain they were skimming off of us on top of taking their 35% of what they said the load paid — which really pisses me off. On the other hand, boy was it a relief to see that there really are good loads to be had out there. We had figured our cpm before we made this move and had discovered we could get by just fine with $1.50/mile loads so even $1.85/mile loads will be great. $2.35/mile loads would just be awesome. Maybe we can finally start paying down some of the debt we have racked up while I was out of commission and while we were busy getting screwed by the guys in Tulsa. Hurrah!

We weren’t able to leave them until now because we are still trying to get paid for the last load we ran for them and thought keeping everything on the down-low might make it easier to get paid. But it’s been one excuse after another for why they haven’t been able to pay us. And get this… we have still never received a penny of the “escrow” money. Not even on the first load we ran which was over two months ago. Not sure what we are going to end up doing about that. Regardless, we are mailing our official letter informing them we are terminating the lease in the morning.

So… we still have a few loose ends to tie up, but we should be heading out this week with our own name on the truck door. Pretty damned exciting. And now that we will have finally been able to send off our letter of resignation to Tulsa, I can feel free to write here as much as I want about anything I want and not worry about them reading it.

What a difference a month makes

2010 May 23
tags:
by Hedon

Six weeks ago I was hobbling around like a ninety year old. Barely able to move. In incredible pain. I’m not sure but I may have also had a sudden growth of bushy white hair sprouting out my ears. Like I say though, that last one isn’t certain.

Anyway, I started treatment four weeks ago. When I first met with Dr. Torture, he said he thought I would be pretty much good to go after about four weeks of treatment. He also said that those four weeks weren’t going to be easy and I should prepare myself for a rough time. I figured how bad could it be?

Here’s a run down of some of the various things that have happened in the past month:

Drove in incredibly uncomfortable car to Arkansas for treatments with Dr. Torture: Nine hours

Endured incredibly irritating and painful poking, twisting and smashing treatments with Dr. Torture: Twelve hours

Thought to myself ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn’ and ‘Patience is a virtue’ and ‘The sun will come out tomorrow’ and various other ridiculous pieces of schlock that people say during hard times: 1,372 times

Thought to myself that this whole situation is bullshit and that karma can kiss my big fat ass: 1,372 times

Thought to myself how ironic it is that this only happened after I had lost 50 pounds because getting thinner is supposed to make things easier on your body: 246 times

Thought to myself that I need to quit thinking so much: 529 times

Did difficult stretches at home assigned by Dr. Torture and intended to hurry the healing process along: 18 hours

Tablets of Advil taken around the clock at four hour intervals: 720+/-

Tubes of Extra Strength Ben-Gay smeared all over the legs making it hard to breathe: 5

Resisted the urge to shove my fist through a wall out of sheer frustration: 732 times

Resisted the urge to shove my cane through the center of the tv when stupid contestants who can’t even seem to understand the rules of the most simplistic game shows end up winning $25,000 anyway: 128 times

Tried to think of something to write for a post around here that didn’t sound whiny or angry or bitter: 348 times

Succeeded: 0 times

That’s pretty much been my month. And at the end of it I can say that the pain levels have dropped drastically. Which is a good thing. A very good thing. But after all that effort I’m now hobbling around like a seventy year old. I still can’t get around worth a shit and it’s really starting to get me down. Dr. Torture seems pleased with my progress, but I am more frustrated daily. And angry. Frustrated and angry. That’s pretty much where we stand right now.

A sure sign

2010 May 13
tags:
by Hedon

Ok, it is a sure sign that your brand new truck has been sitting in the driveway too long when you start sprouting little oak trees in the hood hand-grip.

Never thought we'd be using the truck as a planter

Never thought we'd be using the truck as a planter

Where have I been?

2010 May 11
by Hedon

Mucking around hip-deep in the pits of hell … thanks for asking.

I’ll give the short version of the tale so y’all won’t be bored to death. Well… you may remember that back at the beginning of March we finally fulfilled our long-held plan (dream) and purchased a beautiful new Freightliner tractor. It still hasn’t hauled a single load. Yep… it’s just been sitting in the driveway looking beautiful and sucking cash out of us every month. I don’t think I ever mentioned it at the time, but we also bought a trailer in April which is also sitting around empty and useless. Sigh.

Not that the truck or trailer are actually useless… that would be me. We’re not sure exactly when it happened, but I injured the hell out of myself probably sometime in January. It was one of those things that start slow and proceed to get worse week after week to the point that you realize you are only about a week or so from being bed-bound. Agonizing pain. Legs virtually useless. Spirit crushed.

For the longest time we thought it was some sort of injury to my knees or legs as it was so hard to walk. Naturally when we left USXpress we lost our insurance and we didn’t get the COBRA insurance because we thought it was too expensive. So I didn’t want to go to a doctor and create a pre-existing condition. Also, I didn’t have a lot of faith in the medical community in this instance… I could envision MRIs and exploratory surgery on my knees and god knows what all. Horrifying. Instead, we searched the internet and asked everyone we knew about the situation and came up with what seemed like a good plan to get me back on my feet. We were wrong. Things just kept getting worse. Less mobility. Every step more painful. Getting in the truck literally impossible.

Then I remembered that our cousin Ingrid had mentioned her best friend had gone through something similar and had gotten it fixed. I made an appointment with an excellent Chiropractor/Physical Therapist that Stace’s step-dad uses. First meeting he took x-rays and said, “Oh well there’s your problem” while pointing at the film. It was never my legs — it was my lower back the whole time. The x-rays were so obvious even I could read them and see the problem.

So my treatment/rehab began about two weeks ago. What they don’t tell you when you start something like that is that it is going to hurt a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. Well… I mean he did tell me that… but I didn’t think anything could hurt worse so I guess I didn’t take him seriously. I was obviously mistaken. Monday, Wednesday, Friday… treatments from hell. Tuesday, Thursday… stretching exercises from hell at home. Weekends… more stretching… more hell. Sigh.

During this entire time, Stace has had to do everything around the house. I mean literally everything that needed to be done around the house. All the shopping. All the cooking. The cleaning. The laundry. The errands. She also got the new truck all decorated and homey and loaded up and ready to roll all by herself. Not to mention waiting on me like I’m some 90 year old woman who can’t do much more for herself than wipe her own ass. Sigh. Honestly… she has been amazing. Not one complaint has passed her lips. I don’t know how I would have made it through this without her.

And I am making it through. For the first time in a very long time I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The pain has lessened significantly. Although I’m still using a cane, I’m walking better and able to do more for myself. The doctor seems to think I will only need another week or two of treatments and I’ll be ready to roll down the highways again. It feels like he may be right. Whew! Can’t wait to hit the road… if nothing else because we never planned to spend six months at home so this whole episode has brought us to the brink of financial disaster. All that planning and waiting and saving and we’re not in any better shape than if we had just flung caution to the wind and bought a truck years ago without any financial safety net. On the other hand, I guess we should just consider ourselves lucky that we had the savings that have made it possible to survive for six months with no income and still buy the truck and trailer. See… I’m able to look at the bright side again… that’s surely a sign I’m finally getting better. :)

So anyway, that’s about all there is to the story. I haven’t been around simply because I’ve been so angry, bitter and depressed that I haven’t had anything to say that any of y’all would want to read… trust me. But I can finally see a universe in which I am back to my goofy pain-free self in the near future. Expect more blathering in the near future.

NAFTA and Mexican trucks

2010 March 11
by Stace

I haven’t been too interested in politics for quite awhile now. I’m really still not, but OOIDA, the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association sent out a bulletin today and its message hits straight home for all American truck drivers.

The dispute between the U.S. and Mexico over the NAFTA agreement to open our borders to Mexican truck drivers and trucking companies has been going on for many years now. After the last election, a halt was put to the Bush administration’s test program, and Mexico retaliated by raising their tariffs. It would have been nice if this had settled the issue, but everything is still up in the air on what might or might not be done in the future.

Here is a quote from today’s warning e-mail from OOIDA –

Yesterday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new campaign to push the White House and Congress to open U.S. roads to Mexico-domiciled trucking companies and truck drivers.  Though the Chamber has been pushing for Mexican trucks for many years, this campaign comes at a time when the organization is setting records for its spending on lobbying.  Public records show that the US Chamber had over $123 million in lobbying expenses last year alone.

Don’t be confused by its name, the US Chamber of Commerce carries the water for multi-national corporations and does not represent the interests of local and state chamber of commerce organizations.  They have incredibly deep pockets and no qualms about using their money to push the government to take actions that will economically benefit their largest members even if those actions trample on hardworking Americans and jeopardize the safety and security of our country.

As you read this, the Chamber and its allies are calling on Congressmen and twisting the arms of government officials.  They see the fallout from the tariffs that Mexico has imposed on US exports as the best opportunity they have had in years to force open our border and our roads to truckers from Mexico.  They well know that companies and drivers from Mexico will be cheap and exploitable.

I think all of us in trucking should be concerned about this new campaign, regardless of whether you are an owner-operator or a company driver. We will not be able to compete financially, and U.S. drivers will see wages drop and jobs disappear. Our futures are in jeopardy.

I also think anyone who drives on our highways should be concerned about this new campaign. Your safety could be at issue here.

We know money talks, and all we have to fight that cash is our voices. If you believe, like we do, that enough American jobs have been outsourced to other countries, I encourage you to contact your U.S. Senators and Representative to let them know how you feel about allowing Mexican truck drivers on our highways.

In addition, OOIDA has put out a call to action, asking citizens to call their congressman and tell him/her to sign Congressman Peter DeFazio’s letter which asks that NAFTA be renegotiated to exclude opening our borders to Mexican truck drivers and companies.

In my experience, I figure we’ll all just get screwed. It seems like Big Money always wins. Been happening for decades now in other industries and trucking looks likely to become just one more lost cause. I’ve called my congressman anyway. What the hell. It only took a few minutes.

I know of one mega-big U.S. trucking company which bought loads of land in Mexico last year. The buzz is they will be building terminals there.

Sigh.

Guess where we are today?

2010 March 4
by Hedon

We are up in Kansas City… PICKING UP OUR NEW TRUCK!!

That’s right folks… the quest is finally over. Financing is arranged, approved and signed. Truck is awesome looking. Dyno was great. BlowBy almost nothing. This is a done deal and the truck will be in our driveway tomorrow night.

In the end, we punked out and decided to go for a newer truck with a warranty. There is something highly attractive about buying an old… really old… truck and getting into the whole deal for next to nothing. But when you start looking at the constant repair bills you’re facing and all the down-time that goes along with that, a newer truck that costs more up-front starts looking much better. Besides, we both find warranties to be very sexy. We were hoping to find a Century or Columbia in the 2005 or 2006 range with about 600k miles on it.

So we called around when we got back from OKC and started talking to this guy in Kansas City. And he has been awesome to work with on getting this deal put together. At first we didn’t think anyone would want to finance us because we have literally no credit history as far as purchasing things. I mean we have really good credit card credit scores, but we bought the house from a family member and bought the vehicles so long ago that they don’t count for crap. So we might as well have been a couple of 18-year-old kids as far as the financing companies see it. Add to that the fact that we’re first time owner-operators and the crap really starts hitting the fan. The only thing we have going for us is we’re both experienced drivers. Even OOIDA was telling us that we were going to need 30% down and that we should expect to pay about 16 to 17 percent interest on the loan. Hell, we figured out that we could just put the damned truck on a credit card and pay less interest. Sigh. That was pretty much a downer, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Then Shawn went to work for us and found us a great deal. Only required 15% down payment and only charged 13% interest on the balance. Plus, he and Angela got us financed for a much newer truck than we had dared to hope for with far fewer miles and with great big kick-ass warranties. Yet they still managed to keep the payments exactly in the range we were looking for.

So here’s the low-down on the new truck:

  • 2007 Freightliner Century with 427k miles
  • Detroit 60 Series 14L @ 515 horsepower with opti-idle (not too sure about that opti-idle business but we plan to get an apu as soon as we can so no big deal)
  • 13 speed OD EatonFuller tranny and 3.42 ratio
  • 229″ wheelbase w/ 4 airbag suspension
  • All aluminum wheels with 22.5LP virgin tires
  • Dual 150 gallon fuel tanks (woohoo!)
  • Dual exhaust
  • Dual chain hangers already installed
  • Chrome gauges (whatever)
  • Fancy-pants two-toned paint job (too fancy for us, but great at scale houses since fancier-pantsier trucks tend to get the green light more often than the duct-taped hoopty trucks)
  • 3 year/300k mile drive-train warranty (serious woohoo!)
  • 1 year/100k most everything on the truck warranty (double serious woohoo!)

We are very happy campers right now. I was telling Stace that, if this truck turns out to be as good over time as we hope it will, I don’t ever plan to buy a truck from anyone but Shawn. He, and Angela his finance guru, have really worked overtime to get us in a good truck with a good deal and make us happy with the whole experience. I suppose we might have gotten a better deal if we had kept looking, but I feel pretty dang satisfied with the deal we got and needless to say I am thrilled that the search is finally — at long last — over. Maybe now Fernando can think about something other than trucks all day every day. Like trailers for example… now we need a trailer.

Here’s a couple of pics of the new and improved HagMobile:

Fancy, huh?

Fancy, huh? No need to pull that looker behind the scale house, Officer Fife.

Pretty standard Freightliner

Pretty standard Freightliner look

Okay... not generally a huge fan of the blue bunk but in this case I'm willing to make an exception

Okay... not generally a huge fan of the blue bunk but in this case I'm willing to make an exception and really learn to love all that blue

Doomed voyage, part three

2010 February 28
by Hedon

We made it through the night without getting the truck stolen because honestly who was going to steal that hoopty? After breakfast we loaded up our stuff, checked out of the motel and headed over to the sales lot to give the truck back to Mr Pants-on-Fire. The night before we had cleverly planned a route that avoided the interstate and only included one right hand turn. That’s why it pays to be smarty-pants types.

I did much better with the shifting the second day. Oh… I still had no speedometer so I didn’t know how fast I was going, but things seemed to be running much more smoothly. Thank goodness shifting really was like riding a bike. Anyway, I was rapidly approaching the only right hand turn on the route when a damned truck pulled up to the stop sign. Sigh. I sat at the stop sign and turned the wheel to the right all the way to the stop. Then I started rolling forward… right toward the truck sitting at the stop sign. When it finally became painfully obvious to both me and that other driver that I wasn’t going to make the turn, I surrendered and backed up to make the cut. Thankfully Stace had my back and was holding off traffic.

Finally made it to the truck lot and pulled up to the fence. Shut the truck off and started to get out to meet with Stace. Remembered that the driver’s door wouldn’t open. Thought no big deal I’d just get out the passenger side. No dice. Passenger side door wouldn’t open from the inside, either. Rolled down the window and tried to lean out far enough to reach the outside door handle. Nope. Arms too short. Damn… trapped in the truck. Had to just sit there and hope Stace would realize that I wasn’t  getting out of the truck. Sent her mental message to come investigate. Which she did. And thankfully she let me out of the death-trap. Cause she loves me.

We walked in to hand Mr. Pants-on-Fire the keys and let him know that we weren’t interested in the truck. At some point during the conversation, I mentioned that the turning radius was ridiculous on that thing. I told him about trying to make a right-hand turn at a stop light and having to back up to cut it tighter. He actually had the nerve to say, “Oh yeah, the guy who took it over to have the Dyno run told me that it wouldn’t turn right. Don’t let that stop you cause we can get that fixed up real good before you take the truck.”

Dude! Are you kidding me? You knew the truck wouldn’t turn right and you didn’t say a thing? What the hell is wrong with you? Well we made it clear that we simply weren’t interested in the truck and he proceeded to try to sell us a Columbia that he had sitting on the lot. At that point, I’m pretty sure Stace’s expression spoke volumes. Every muscle of her face told him in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t buy a Diet Coke and cigarette from him if he were the last supplier on earth. We hit the road.

Thanks to Mr. I-Lie-for-a-Living and to my well-reasoned-but-as-it-turned-out stupid decision to have the Dyno run first, that trip was quite costly. There was the $250 Dyno, the rental car, the motel, the food…. Ugh! What a waste. In order to try to avoid the weekend being a total bust, we stopped on the way home and spent the day with Chaos and LittleOne.

We met up with them and all went to the Aquarium. LittleOne was too damned cute in the Aquarium. She ran from one exhibit to the next and excitedly pointed out each fish tank. She wasn’t too sure about touching the little interactive shells they had on exhibit, but once I did it she decided it was ok. After we ran all over the joint, we hit the gift shop and told her she could have one thing. She picked a hat. You know who else wears a hat all the time, don’t you? That’s right — it’s me! What a smart kid. :)

After the Aquarium we drove around for a while then went to this little steak house we found down there previously. Man they have some of the best steaks I have ever eaten. It is hard to describe the joint. But we always have an excellent meal when we go there. And LittleOne was extremely good. I didn’t really think about it until Stace brought it up later, but we were able to take a two-year-old to a rather upscale steak house on a Friday night and she didn’t cause any trouble at all. I’m not sure if any of the dating couples even realized she was there. We did have the waitress remove the burning candle from the table, I mean she is a great kid but she’s not a saint or anything.

We took Chaos and LittleOne home then had to drive for three hours back to the house. What a doomed trip on the truck front. The worst part was that we were back to square one on the truck hunt. Ugh! I am so sick of this shit. If you think you’re tired of reading about it, just think how tired we are of living through it. Will this truck purgatory never end?

Doomed voyage, part two

2010 February 25
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by Hedon

So we walked up to the truck prepared to be wowed. It sat there glistening in the sun. First thing we noticed that was a slight bit different was the passenger side windshield was busted. I don’t mean it had a crack in it I mean it was a stunning likeness of a black widow’s web. Then there was the fact that two of the four mirrors were broken. And one of those chicken lights on that big fancy chrome bumper was busted. “Small details,” we murmured to each other and walked up to get a closer look.

A quick walk around inspection turned up a few more interesting details:

Brakes were wafer-thin.

Eight of the ten tires were virtually bald while the two right rear drives were brand new. What’s up with that?

One of the air bags didn’t inflate properly once we started the truck.

Massive air leak under the right rear of the sleeper.

When we shut the truck off it dumped all the air in less than three minutes.

Stacks appeared ready to fall off the truck when you closed the door.

Passenger seat had no air controls at all.

Cabinets weren’t actually bolted to the walls so they just sort of flopped around.

One brake light didn’t work at all and the turn signals at the rear of the truck were reversed so that when you signaled left the right light came on.

Sigh. Wasn’t exactly the truck of our dreams needless to say. Still… all the problems we had found were things that could be fixed if you had enough money to throw at the thing. So since our motel was less than a mile away, we decided to drive it over there and think about the situation over dinner.

I started the beast up and waited for it to build air pressure. After what seemed like an hour, I was finally ready to roll. I eased it into gear and headed out into the unknown. Pulling out of the parking spot it was in I had to turn right and was surprised when I headed straight toward these old four-wheelers parked all the way across the lot. Good lord! I could have burned donuts in a Columbia in the amount of space that truck took to start inching right. I actually had to reverse and cut it tighter to get moving toward the street. Ugh! I told myself that it wasn’t a big deal, however, and reminded myself that everyone told me that the Classic has a huge turning radius — no big deal we could get used to that… eventually.

Well I finally made it to the street, turned left onto Reno and headed toward the motel. The shifting went better than I expected considering it had been almost three years since I’d had to shift. I wasn’t great or anything but it was passable. Got to the first stoplight on our route and prepared to make a right turn. It was one of those intersections where there were four lanes and a raised median in the center. When the light turned green I turned the hell out of that steering wheel and started rolling slowly forward. Straight into the median. Everyone at the intersection stared and pointed. Small children fell to the ground holding their sides with uncontrollable laughter. A sightseeing group of nuns fell to their knees and began praying over the deplorable state of affairs in the trucking industry. Fred the hubcap-selling wino got so worked up over the stupidity of it all that he accidentally rolled his cart into the street and spilled hubcaps all over the road. Sigh.

There I was nosed into the median in the middle of a very busy intersection. I mean that truck had barely turned at all. It didn’t even come close to making 45 degrees. I had to back up in the middle of the intersection and cut it tighter to get into a travel lane. Good thing Stace was behind me in the rental car to fend off traffic and give me room to move. As I backed up, I made sure to run over some of the rolling hubcaps laying around on the street.

I was finally moving forward and had the shifting going well enough to realize that I had no speedometer or odometer. Nada. Stopped at ten miles per hour.And you know what that means… that truck could have three million miles on it. With no odometer there was simply no way of knowing how many miles they had put on it since the engine rebuild. Not that I had time to worry about that at the moment since I was just trying to keep it moving smoothly down the road.

Finally, there was only one more right turn on our route. Which was luckily one of those giant forgiving intersections that you could probably have moved a small building onto that side street if you were careful. No problem… I made the turn ok and headed to the motel. Made it into the motel without incident. Whew!

Managed to get it parked and shut down safely and started to get out to meet with Stace who was getting out of the rental car. Couldn’t get the damned door open. Stace had to open the door to let me out of the truck. I got out and we tried to lock the door. Neither door locked. Seriously. And the repeated slamming of the door trying to get it closed tight enough to lock was obviously on the verge of causing the stack to fall off the truck. In the end, I just blocked the truck in with the rental car and left good enough alone.

I turned to Stace. She turned to me. We looked at the truck. As one we burst out with, “Oh my god, I hate it. You hate it, too? Thank god cause I really really hate it.”

Get thee behind me, Devil Truck

Get thee behind me, Devil Truck

Doomed voyage, part one

2010 February 23
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by Hedon

Hopes high, we trotted off to Oklahoma City on the great truck quest. We arrived armored with our typical skeptical concerns about the prospective Hags chariot. Dyno results? 13 speed? 10 speed? autoshift? 455 hp? 515? Overdrive? No overdrive? BlowBy? 24.5LP tires? All of those questions had turned Fernando into a whirling dervish.

The guy had told us before we even left the house that the truck was DOT inspected and ready to roll off the lot. For those of you who aren’t drivers, a DOT inspection is a list of parts on a truck that must meet minimum requirements to be considered safe on the road. It includes things like no fluid leaks, all lights must work, drive tires must have a minimum tread depth of 2/32nds, horn must work, etc. Keep in mind that these are the minimum requirements for a truck to legally be on the road. If a truck can’t pass a DOT test it doesn’t move.

Another test that’s important when you’re buying a truck is the Dyno test. What is a Dyno test you ask? Well… let me tell you… mostly it’s a secret mystical ritual in which all the mechanics of a shop dress up in purple and black robes, with bone and feather headdresses and RedWing work boots. Then they light candles, beat on hubcap drums and chant magical words. They butcher a rooster and look at it’s innards. Then they charge you $250 and tell you what kind of shape the engine is in. This includes the horsepower that the truck is putting to the ground and another measurement of engine fitness called the “Blowby.” The blowby number is this mystical measurement of the amount of oil getting by the rings. Clearly, a large blowby number indicates that the rooster innards were not in alignment for you on that particular day.

Now… I am reaching a point in my life where I’m starting to know myself a little so I decided to have the Dyno done first. I’ll tell you why. See here is what I was thinking. The sales guy said the truck was DOT-inspected and ready to roll. And the pictures looked really good as you all saw in a previous post. So… I was afraid we would get down there and I would fall in love with the truck. Then I would take it to be Dyno’ed and the test would go badly cause the stupid rooster would escape out the back of the shop and the numbers would say don’t buy the truck. Then I would have an awesome seriously cool truck that I would have to resist buying because of some stupid BlowBy number. You all know I’m not good at resisting things. So I thought I would head that whole unfortunate situation off at the pass and have the Dyno done first so I would know the state of the engine before I fell in love with the truck. Tres mature, huh? I thought so, too.

The sales-guy was nice enough to offer to have the truck delivered over to the Detroit shop for the Dyno so when we showed up the results were right there ready for us to examine. It showed 376 horsepower to the ground. So I asked the guy, “Seriously? That seems awful low for a truck that only has 100k on a complete inline.” Then the head shop guy started mumbling about how that wasn’t all that bad. But I was figuring in my head and figured out that the engine was running at roughly 70% which wasn’t exactly floating my boat as they say. I wasn’t impressed.

Then the shop guy started talking about how they had done the Dyno the night before and they always get higher numbers when they do it during a full moon so that probably explained the low numbers. I guess I looked pretty skeptical because he then tried a new approach. He started out telling us the trouble they’ve been having getting decent roosters, but when I started rolling my eyes he quickly said that he thought the engine was actually set up as a 430/475 horsepower engine so the 376 number wasn’t that bad after all.

Bullshit. No salesman is going to advertise an engine at 515 horsepower when it’s actually a 430/475 engine. I was pretty much done with the shop at this point. So we walked out to where the truck was parked to check it out in person. Good lord there was no way to really be prepared for what we saw then. I’ll continue that in the next post.

Well for Christ’s sake!!

2010 February 16
by Hedon

Uhhhh… as it turns out I was just informed by the love of my life that this is only our 18th anniversary.

Damn it!

Nineteen years!

2010 February 15
by Hedon

Can you believe today is Stace’s and my 19th anniversary?! Sure doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long. Doesn’t seem like we’re old enough for that unless we got together when we were 7 or something. :)

And at the same time, it seems like we’ve been together forever. I honestly can’t imagine my life without her — the picture gets all fuzzy and out of focus. Life sure wouldn’t have been a fraction of the fun it’s been without her there by my side. I know couples grow up over the years and things change. Some of them grow apart but I can honestly say that I enjoy her company more today than I did back when we were kids. I am a lucky lucky Butch.

So what did I decide to buy my bride of 19 years for our anniversary? The same thing she wanted to get me:

HagMobile... better than a box of sugar-free diabetic chocolates? Yes!

HagMobile... better gift than a box of sugar-free diabetic chocolates? Yes!

Yup, that’s the potential new HagMobile in the flesh. It looks black in the photo but it’s supposed to be a really dark blue. Nothing is settled yet since they sent us a group of pictures and we could see right away from the photos that the truck didn’t have an upper bunk. Sigh. That was one of the first things I asked him since that is a must-have on our list of specs. He had told me he thought it did but come to find out he was mistaken. So he is now having one installed by his guys.

I was also planning on having him take off the fancy-pants chrome bumper with all the chicken lights and replacing it with a Plain Jane bumper since all those lights cause a tiny drag on the alternator and will decrease your fuel mileage slightly. I’ve never been a chrome-type person anyway. But… the more I look at it the more I think it doesn’t look that bad after all. As a matter of fact, I kinda think I like the look of the chrome one, and I doubt if those little tiny lights would really make that big a difference in our fuel mileage anyway. Good god what’s happening to me?!

Well, whatever we decide on the bumper, when he’s done making changes to the truck, he is going to take it over to the local Detroit to have the Dyno done for us. That should tell us what kind of shape the engine is in right now. Then we will head down there and take it to the Freightliner ourselves to have them go over the truck with a fine-toothed comb.

If everything checks out we will be good to go. Except for the actual purchase, that is. God, I’m dreading that. Stace and I are not wheeler-dealer type people. I know that there are probably guys who could walk into that office, offer him $5,000 cash, a non-running 1978 Honda TwinStar bike, the “actual” cb mic that Jerry Reed used in “Smokey and the Bandit” and $278 worth of coupons for I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter and walk out with a 2006 Pete with 300k miles on it. I’m not that guy. And Stace is even worse than I am. The whole idea of haggling practically gives her hives.

The last vehicle we bought was in 1989 when she bought the Trooper. Basically we took it for a test drive, decided it was the one and said she’d take it. Our one big victory was telling the salesman there was no way she was paying $800 for “undercoating” and getting that taken off the invoice price. Oh, and we also got them to throw in a no-cost full-sized wheel and tire for the spare instead of the donut that was standard. Stunning victories, huh? Haven’t bought a vehicle since. Sigh. That doesn’t exactly build confidence in our wheeling and dealing skills.

So my plan of attack is to get it really checked out carefully at the Freightliner and take a list of everything they find wrong with the truck with me to the salesman. It’s supposed to already be DOTed so hopefully they will just repair everything that needs to be fixed on-site before we take delivery. I guess another option would be for them to drop the price so that we could have it fixed ourselves. Either one would work I suppose.

Oh, and another thing, I ran the VIN through CarFax and found out the truck was in a “minor” wreck in New Jersey in 2005. Couldn’t find out any details about the wreck though. I did notice that the reman was done about four months after the wreck. Also, he sent me the copy of the paperwork for the in-line and, according to the paperwork, the engine only has about 130k miles on it  –  not the 300k he originally told us it had. So it seems like the truck has only driven about 130k miles in the past 4.5 years. That does tend to give weight to his original story that a local old man owned it, rebuilt the engine, bought a new tranny and clutch, got sick and couldn’t drive it much the past three years, and finally sold it to the dealer in the fall. Not sure what bearing all of this should have — if any — on our final decision concerning proper purchase price though.

One possible ray of hope is that I found out the same sales lot has a trailer we might be interested in buying. I sent him an email mentioning this and asked what kind of deal he could give us if we bought both at the same time. The trailer price is slightly higher than I was looking to spend, but if we could get both the tractor and trailer in good shape from the same place that would be awesome. Also, I’m hoping if we buy both I can get him to cut us a deal on the trailer since I know for a fact that it has been sitting on their lot for quite a while.

So anyway here’s where everything stands at the moment:

  • Still madly in love with the same old woman.
  • Thinking the potential HagMobile looks a hell of a lot better than I expected for the price.
  • Wondering if I’m actually becoming attracted to chrome after all these years.
  • Hoping the Detroit and Freightliner don’t find anything too dreadful during their inspections.
  • Furiously clipping I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter coupons in case I suddenly sprout the wheeler-dealer gene.
  • Dreading the actual purchase like it’s a root-canal and colonoscopy all rolled into one.
  • Thinking diabetic chocolates would have been a lot less stressful… but also a lot less fun.  :)

I always fall for it

2010 February 13
by Hedon

Read this story over at a trucker’s site I hang out at and thought I would post it here. Posting it proves two things. 1) Much like when I was 12 years old, I still believe truckers are in general a good bunch of people. 2) I am a sap.

Enjoy:

A Truckers Story

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy.

But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my customers would react to Stevie.

He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Downs Syndrome. I wasn’t worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don’t generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade.

The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck stop germ” the pairs of white-shirt business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot.

After that, I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old kid in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table. Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto his cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Downs Syndrome often have heart problems at an early age so this wasn’t unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine.

Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news.

Marvin Ringers, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table

Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Marvin a withering look.

He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?” he asked.

“We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.”

“I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?”

Frannie quickly told Marvin and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: ” Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be OK,” she said. “But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by as it is.” Marvin nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables. Since I hadn’t had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn’t want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do.

After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I didn’t get that table where Marvin and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pete and Tony were sitting there when I got back to clean it off,” she said. “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup”

She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.”

“Pete asked me what that was all about,” she said, “so I told him about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this.” She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds. Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: “truckers.”

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work.

His placement worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy. I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back.

Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.

“Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate your coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!” I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room.

I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins. “First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said. I tried to sound stern.

Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother. “There’s more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well.

But you know what’s funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table.

Best worker I ever hired.

Plant a seed and watch it grow.

Tips from the TV

2010 February 10
by Stace

I may not have a job, and my ass may be permanently attached to my big old recliner, but that doesn’t mean I’m a total loser. Really. You believe me, right? I mean, my god, I’m NOT a BIG FAT LOSER!

All this lazing about, watching TV and playing video games has actually made me a much more refined, intelligent and useful person. I’m a black hole of television knowledge, sucking in all I see, except all that stuff doesn’t get squinched down into unknowable denseness. Maybe black hole wasn’t the best metaphor.

So here’s what I know now that I didn’t know three months ago when I was still a contributing member of society –

1. It is practically impossible to achieve pro status at Wii Sports tennis, but bowling is a cinch, and you get a much cooler ball as a reward.

2. The second season of “Epitafios” completely sucked. Serial killers should be scary, not laughable, unless the creator of said serial killer is Dean Koontz, whose only talent is creating laughable serial killers. I wouldn’t want to deny the guy his living.

3. The favorite new TV word is “journey.” Everyone is going on a journey, even though they are not actually going anywhere. We’re talking a spiritual and/or personal journey here. Apparently, being on a reality show is a “journey.” Go figure. I’d always thought being on a reality show was a supreme act of narcissism. How embarrassing for me.

4. If you are feeling down or grumpy, just smile. According to some show on the Science Channel, simply using your smile muscles will improve your outlook. I tried it, and it works a bit. Cool. Except, now I feel a bit guilty about how one of my junior high teachers used to always blather to me, “Smile! It can’t be that bad,” and all I wanted to do in response was punch her in the face. Just a little bit guilty, since I’m certain she didn’t have the science to back her demands.

5. Another tip from the Science Channel — if you are like me, when it’s bedtime you are too lazy to walk all the way to turn on the hall light before turning off the living room light, which means you probably spend a tiny time every day bumbling around in total darkness, trying to find that damned hall light switch you were too lazy to turn on only moments before. Here’s the tip. Apparently, we humans do have the ability to use sonar/echolocation. So, while stumbling around in the dark, rather than bumping into the wall or tripping over the coffee table, just close your eyes and make repetitive beeping sounds. You will innately sense when something is in front of you. Seriously. It works. Try it. Think of yourself as one of those radar doodads on a submarine. Beep — beep — beep — beep — I think that’s a bookcase — beep — beep. Do it while someone is around and unaware of your experiment. It’ll keep them on their toes.

6. The vast majority of murderers don’t watch TV, or they don’t watch the right shows, since most of the things they do that eventually lead to their capture could have been avoided had they watched a couple of true forensics programs. Too bad for them, but good for the cops, I suppose.

7. I’m too old to play video games non-stop during my waking hours. And it’s not for the reason you’d think, like carpel tunnel or somesuch. It’s because I will play all day, then dream about the stupid games all night long. This wasn’t a problem when I was younger. Now that I’m older, I get all worked up in my dreams, trying to beat some level or other, or the game gets caught in a loop and I can’t get out. Either way, it wakes me up all stressed out and wired. Oh hell.

8. Drag queens can be boring. I didn’t think it possible, but it’s true. This new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race is not very interesting so far. At least I have picked up some new vocab, like “ki-ki” (two drag queens dating one another) and “fish” (a biological female). I am a bit PO’d at the whole “fish” thing, but isn’t it pointless to be pissed at drag queens?

9. I can watch shows about cakes (Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, Challenge, Ultimate Cake Challenge, et. al.), without actually craving cake. I cannot, however, watch more than 10 minutes of Man vs. Food without craving a 72-ounce steak, or at the very least, a three-pound cheeseburger with two pounds of toppings. And that just sucks.

10. Never, ever take your doctor’s word for anything. That weird, weeping rash you’ve had for a few years? Pitch that useless cortizone cream. Get yourself to a specialist, because it’s probably a parasite you picked up on that vacation in Barbados. I’m now uber-vigilant about odd symptoms. Anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, could be a stinking parasite. They’re never gonna get me, sneaky little buggers.

11. The ugliest woman in the world is currently starring in a program called “Operation Repo” on truTV. I may be a hag, but this woman appears to be reveling in her hagnicity. I can’t think of one more thing she could do to make herself more unattractive. The hair, the make-up, the clothes, the personality. Gads. It’s so bad, the other day we were watching and paused the show. Ugly woman was frozen on screen in all her glorious uglitude. Maggie had been napping, but happened to wake up and glance at the TV. All of a sudden she got all bristled up and started barking like a rabid critter. She wouldn’t stop until we took Ugly Woman off the screen. Now THAT is some kind of ugly, folks.

This is merely a sample of the useful information I have acquired since becoming a useless hairy mole on the back of society. I simply can’t imagine why people think TV and video games rot people’s brains. It’s soooo not true. They’re probably just jealous … and should go on a journey or something to heal themselves.

The hunt continues

2010 February 9
by Hedon

I guess the hunt wasn’t over after all cause now we have a real viable option in a whole different arena. I can’t even believe I’m saying this but we are now looking at 2000 Classic. I don’t have a picture of the exact truck we’re looking at but it’s similar to:

ok... did you ever think you'd see the day?

ok... did you ever think you'd see the day?

I know, huh!!  I never could have imagined we might be buying a Classic. In eight years on the road I’ve never driven a hood and honestly never much liked the look of them. They remind me of the Borg ship from Star Trek going down the road like a giant anti-aerodynamic block. Giant swooping blocks are just fine in outer-space where there isn’t any resistance but kinda silly rolling down the highway when there are much more aerodynamic options available.

But here’s the thing. We found this Classic nearby and it seems like a pretty good deal. It’s a 2000 and has a million miles on it. Never in a million years would I have thought I would consider buying a truck that old but this isn’t your average million mile truck. First, the engine has already had a P-3 Inframe done by Detroit. It has 300k on the Inframe. It also has only 3k on a new tranny and a little less than that on a new clutch. So basically the engine has already been rebuilt, the tranny is new, the clutch is new and the tires are almost new.

On another tact the interior is supposed to be a premium package. Course you have to keep in mind that it’s also ten years old so we have to take that with a grain of salt. It is promising that the truck was originally a Penske lease truck that was then sold to an O/O who had it for three years before he got sick and sold it back to this dealer. The dealer says he can document all of this and has all the maintenance and upkeep records on the truck. If it was an owner who cared enough to buy an ex-penske truck in the first place, he probably took good care of it. I say that because Penske trucks are almost always a lot more expensive than similar trucks you can find elsewhere. They can charge a premium because everyone knows Penske has excellent maintenance programs in place. I think that’s a good sign for us.

Another consideration for us is mpg. Clearly, when fuel runs $2.75 per gallon and you’re running 200k miles a year, mpg is an absolutely crucial part of the equation. It can make or break you. We knew in the Columbia we could look for about 6.5 to 7 mpg overall, but didn’t know what to expect from a Classic. Well it turns out that because we are looking at a pre-egr Classic we will probably be able to get 6.5 out of the truck if we’re careful with our driving. At least that’s what we’ve heard from different guys. I can certainly live with 6.5 mpg.

The other huge concern was the ride. The Classic is so much longer than the Columbia that it should ride better. The 260″ wheelbase on this truck is about a yard longer than the longest truck we’ve driven to date. Good for smoother rides but bad for turning radius. I imagine it will feel like the QE2 for a while when we first get it… if we get it.

Hmmm… other considerations… well we aren’t the type of people who like new things. By that I mean that we aren’t trade-up-for-the-sake-of-trading-up sort of people. We’ve been living in the same place for 19 years and we’re still driving a 1988 Toyota and a 1989 Isuzu for god’s sake. But why not? They run great, are almost never in the shop, and have been virtually free to drive for the past decade. The point is that we don’t get tired of our vehicles. So I would imagine that we would be the type of people to keep a truck we really liked for a very long time… as long as it didn’t start costing us an arm and a leg every month.

Another concern is that the truck is so old that no matter how good a shape it’s in we won’t be able to lease on with some companies due to equipment age restrictions. Bleh — we don’t care. We are talking right now to a tiny little company that doesn’t care what year the tractor is as long as it runs good. And our ultimate plan is to get our own authority so that shouldn’t be an issue. There’s also the problem of California… bleh — we don’t care about that either. Freight rates are so low in Cali that it doesn’t pay anyway. They can suck it.

Yet more considerations… truck is not pepto-pink which is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be dark blue with white fenders, which wouldn’t be our first choice. On yet another hand, we don’t really care about the color when push comes to shove. Hmmm… it’s supposed to have really good tires all around. Also, it’s a 13-speed which we have never driven but I’m sure it will be a piece of cake after a few days. A down-side is that it doesn’t have an APU already installed. That kinda sucks, but you can pick a good one up for around $3k used and have it installed. An up-side is that they are only asking $14.5k which is dirt cheap. Let’s repeat that… they’re only asking $14.5k which means we could buy it and a used trailer for what we were talking about spending on the 2006 Columbia. That’s a pretty good up-side. Also, we could just pay for it so we don’t have to finance anything and pay 15% interest, which is the best they’re offering first-time o/o even if they have good credit.

Well that’s pretty much what’s going through our minds at this point. We are going to try to go down there and check the truck out later this week, but before that I need to get with Eddie and Jeffro to find out what else I need to focus on while inspecting the truck. Even though the large-ticket items have already been replaced or overhauled, there are still quite a few parts left on a truck (duh!) and I expect that every one of them will be on the verge of failure. We just need to minimize our exposure to high-cost repairs. I’ll update once we know more.

Here’s the specs for the truck junkies:

2000 Freightliner FLD13264T Classic XL

Condition USED
Sleeper Size 70″
Sleeper Raised Roof Condo
Engine Specs Detroit
Engine Type 12.7 L
Horsepower 500
Transmission 13 Spd
Check for Over Drive Yes
Engine Brake Yes
Suspension Air Ride
Ratio 3.58
Tires 22.5LP
Wheels Polished Aluminum
Wheelbase 260″

1,050,000 miles with 300k on a P3 Inframe. New tranny. New clutch. Premium interior. Good tires. DOT inspected and ready to roll. Supposed to be dark blue with white fenders but don’t know about the interior color.

Is the hunt over?

2010 January 30
by Hedon

... my mother told me to pick the very best one ...

...and my mother told me to pick the very best one...

I think we may have found a truck that will work for us. We haven’t worked out all the details yet but this is what we are looking at. For all you trucking gurus out there here are the specs:

2006 Freightliner CL12064ST-COLUMBIA 120

525,xxx to 545,xxx miles depending on the unit we pick

14.0L  Detroit    515 horsepower

Ultrashift tranny (aka autoshift… hurrah!)

3:58 ratio

22.5LP tires on all aluminum wheels

235″ wheelbase

air ride suspension

sliding 5th wheel

double bunks with pretty much basic interior blah blah blah

thermo-king tri pac apu installed (hurrah!)

some misc color to be determined later (whatever)

So there you have it, truck fans. That’s what we’re working with right now. They are asking around $24,500 depending on which model we end up picking. That’s about $5,000 less than they were asking for a similar truck without an APU back in November… Hurrah! We had figured out a brilliant scheme to get the truck without paying any interest at all on it but it’s not going to work out after all. See our thought was to pay $10,000 down and split the $15,000 remaining between two different credit cards that were offering 0% interest for a year. That way we could pay the vast majority of it off before any interest kicked in… hurrah! But in the end it wouldn’t work because they can’t accept credit cards. Oh well. Guess we’ll just have to finance it the old fashioned interest-paying way.

Also, if we end up leasing on with this tiny little company that we’re considering we will need to buy a trailer. Not a huge deal though since I think we can buy a good ’02 or ’03 trailer for around $5,000 or so. This little company is tiny — they only have six or seven O/O leased on with them. They are offering us 80% of the linehaul and right now they are averaging about $1.85 per mile fleet-wide. Not like we would be getting rich on that or anything but in the current state of the trucking industry it really isn’t a terribly bad deal.

Well that’s the current state of affairs. We’re working on all the paperwork and taking things one step at a time. There is just so much to do and it all has to be done at the exact right point in the process. It can get confusing. For example we have to be signed on with the carrier before we apply for financing for the truck… but the carrier wants to know what truck we have before they want to sign us on with them. Sigh. Also, we have to actually go and check out the trucks and pick one and have it put on the dyno and have the fluids tested and hire an independent mechanic to go over every square inch of the truck to see exactly what we’re getting. Some drivers also say you should get a complete dump of the ECM but to be honest I’m not sure that I would understand all the info I would be getting so I don’t know how helpful that would be to us.

Oh well, we’re slowly inching our way forward. Hopefully good things come to those who take baby steps. Tiny, confused, bumbling, stumbling baby steps.

Filthy Beast

2010 January 28
by Hedon

Finally something interesting happened that I can write about. Not that tons of interesting things have been going on left and right but I wasn’t able to post about them due to national security issues or something… not much has been happening around the Hagstead lately.

Anyway, I forgot to get tomatoes and we were planning to have tacos for supper. I ran out to our little country store to grab some. Rushed into the store, grabbed the tomatoes and was heading back outside. As I walked up to the glass door there was an older lady who was approaching it from the outside about a half-step slower than me. Since I was at the door first, and she was an older lady, I opened the door, stepped through it and then held it open for her to walk into the store.

Now I’m not one to base a lot on a person’s appearance or anything, but I did notice that while she was quite well-dressed she also appeared somewhat… well… snooty. All I mean by that is her mouth was all pursed up in that older-lady-expression-of-disapproval and she didn’t even make eye contact or acknowledge me as I opened the door for her.

As I stepped through the door, I heard a ruckus and looked across the parking lot to where three young men were whooping and hollering. They didn’t seem to be causing any trouble or anything just goofing around. Well the older lady heard them too and stopped half-way through the door and turned around to glare at them. Meanwhile I was still standing there holding the door open for her. So there we were… me holding the door while she glared at the whooping teens. We stood like that for about 15 to 20 seconds.

I don’t know if you’ve ever stood there holding the door open for someone for about 20 seconds but that is a surprisingly long time to just stand there like a doofus holding the door. So eventually I decided that she wasn’t going to go in the store after all and I could go on about my business. I smiled at her again — which she ignored again — and let go of the door to head on home with my tomatoes.

That’s when it all sort of shifted into slow motion. The giant heavy glass door started swinging straight toward the old woman. She never moved. She just kept standing there starring at the rowdy teens. That door smashed straight into her disapproving face. She never even lifted a hand to stop it. Next thing I know I’ve given this elderly lady a bloody nose. Who just stands there and lets a door smash them in the face?!

Obviously I immediately freaked out and jerked the door open to say, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, Ma’am. Are you alright?”

She said, “Get away from me you… you… beast!”

I said, “I’m so sorry. I thought you had decided not to go in after all…”

She started digging through her purse and pulled out a tissue to wipe the blood off her nose. Then she stamped her foot and said, “Just get away from me you white-trash, welfare, ghetto beast.”

So I stepped back outside with one of the clerks. I was still quite shocked by the whole thing and said to the clerk, “I thought she had decided to go back to her car. I mean I had been standing there a long time.”

The clerk said, “I know you did. I was standing there wishing you two would close the door and quit letting all the cold air inside. I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s a real bitch.”

So there I stood… after a lifetime of respecting and honoring older people, I had just given an old woman a bloody nose. I was momentarily rooted to the spot, but after a few moments of consideration I did what any white-trash, welfare, ghetto beast would do in that situation… I grabbed my tomatoes and went home. I mean who does she think she is that people should just stand around and hold the door for her all night, anyway?

So where was I?

2010 January 21
by Hedon

Man this time at home has gone on forever. So much has happened that I don’t even know where to begin. Guess we’ll just pick a topic and go from there. How about… hmmm… weight loss. Those of you who have been keeping track might remember that when Stace and I came in off the road she had lost like a thousand pounds and I had only lost something like 24 overall. I wasn’t freaking out or anything but I will admit to being a little concerned about my lack of progress.

This led to my increased urges to get a Wii asap. I figured we were going to be home for a while and any increased physical activity would be a good thing. So we got the Wii and set to work. Boxing. Tennis. Bowling. We even worked the speed skating and synchronized swimming. Granted, we did figure out how to do virtually all of the various sports from our great big recliners, but lets be honest just flailing our arms around wildly was going to be an improvement over passively watching tv like a slack-jawed yokel. Wii-related arm flailing seemed to be making a difference and I lost a few pounds once we were finally home.

I thought the Wii workout was really worthwhile but it was surpassed by an even more intense exercise plan. I like to call this plan the Chase-The-LittleOne-Around-The-House-Work-Out. See what happened was that Chaos and LittleOne came up to the house for Christmas. They got to stay a few days then Chaos had to go home to go back to work cause she still has her crappy menial food-service job that she hates. (Woo Hoo!) Anyway, Chaos had to go home, but Stace and I weren’t ready to give up LittleOne yet. So I suggested that we keep LittleOne up at our house for just a couple more days. How hard could it be? I would take Chaos home and bring LittleOne back to Missouri then we would keep LittleOne for a couple more days and finally take her home. Easy, right?

No. Not easy. Not easy at all. Here’s the thing… I forgot to consider the weather. Due to the stupid weather we ended up keeping LittleOne by ourselves for nine days. Nine days, people. Now don’t get me wrong, LittleOne was a great kid the entire time. She never acted up. She behaved very well. As a matter of fact, she was a real joy. But she was a two-year-old-massive-bundle-of-energy joy. She sort of unknowingly created her own work out routine for the grandmas. I can’t say for sure that she was channeling Jillian from the Biggest Loser, but it did seem likely based on the workout plan she came up with:

237 complete outfit changes into and out of fairy princess outfit.

367 trips escorting LittleOne to the back of the house to see what the dog was getting up to back there

163 sinks full of dishes washed by me and rinsed by LittleOne.

479 horsey rides.

821 diaper changes.

1,482 trips to the bathroom to brush LittleOne’s teeth with her fancy new spinning toothbrush.

3,841 other trips to the bathroom so LittleOne could wash her hands.

1 trip to Walmart immediately after Christmas so LittleOne could be more properly spoiled.

2,347 games of Somebody’s-In-My-Chair which involved much tickling and ended with picking LittleOne up and flinging her around a bit before flopping into the recliner together.

8,631 games of Let’s-All-Squeal-Really-Loudly-And-Chase-The-Dog-Down-The-Hall

All in all it was a hell of a work-out. I was exhausted by the time we took her home. But between the Wii and the LittleOne I ended up losing a ton more weight. I was at 24 pounds after all those months on the road and after less than two moths at home I am now at 47 pounds down. WooHoo!! I am this close to fifty pounds lost. Hurrah!! Maybe I should go get LittleOne for a few more days.

Holidays with the grandkid

2010 January 1
by Stace

Some pictures from Christmas and yesterday.

It's rough being a princess. Get on my foot already!

It's rough being a princess. Get on my foot already!

Santa's cute helper

Santa's cute helper

Does pushing this button makes lots of noise? Awesome!

Does pushing this button make lots of noise? Awesome!

You mean I get this bike two days AFTER Christmas? Works for me. Now look at my foot.

You mean I get this bike two days AFTER Christmas? Works for me. Now look at my foot.

I like staying with my grandmas. Or at any rate, Grandma Stace caught me at an opportune moment.

I like staying with my grandmas. Or at any rate, Grandma Stace caught me at an opportune moment.

2010 already

2010 January 1
by Stace

I can’t believe the zeros are over. Seems like just yesterday we were sitting around debating whether or not to run to the store and buy up water just in case the nutballs were right about Y2K.

And yet, it seems like a very, very long time. In 2000 our daughter turned 13. Today, we have a two-year-old granddaughter. Yikes.

Speaking of the grandkid, she’s staying with us for a bit. Hedon took our daughter back to her home on Wednesday (she had to get back to work), then Hedon decided she wanted to keep the grandkid for a bit longer. We weren’t sure we’d be able to keep up with her, but so far, so good. Our muscles may be a bit stiff, but at least we’re still moving.

If this had been last year, there’s not a prayer we could have done this. I wasn’t physically capable of it, period. Now I am. Guess I should thank diabetes for that.

I weighed in about a week and a half ago. I had lost another five pounds, which brings my total up to 52 pounds lost. Seven months — 52 pounds. Good deal. Now is when I hit the critical part, when weight loss has become more difficult in the past. It will be interesting to see if my body follows old trends. The year 2010 may be all about plateaus for me.

The best thing is that my blood sugar levels are getting better and better. It’s not uncommon now for me to get readings below 100. Even my fasting level has gone down from 130 on average to about 110 on average. I suspect the improvement is because I’m so much more active at home than I am on the road.

Even after nearly two months at home, I am not yet ready to return to trucking. The very thought makes me grind my teeth. Now that the holidays are over, Hedon is going to start getting into the nitty-gritty of what it’s going to take to get us our own truck. Then we’ll make our decision. One thing is for sure — I cannot return to working as a company driver. I’m done with that, for now.

Take it easy out there. And hope you have a very happy New Year’s Day!

Okay, so I dropped the ball

2009 December 29
by Stace

Merry Christmas! Kindly ignore that this greeting is several days too late. Am I in time to wish everyone a happy Kwanza? I’m pretty sure I’m behind on the Hanukkah thing, too. So Happy Hanukkah, too. And may all your days be merry and bright. Though really, do we always want to be merry and bright? I, personally, wouldn’t mind a fair share of serious contemplation. But I’m just all deep that way. When I’m not watching reality TV.

Oooh, you didn’t know it when you started reading this, but the mere fact that I’m excessively late in addressing the holiday season will in no way exempt all of you from having to slodge your way through another of my idiotic holiday posts. It has already begun. And it’s too late to run away now. You’re firmly in my rambly clutches. Hahahaha.

We didn’t celebrate Christmas on The Day this year. We celebrated it Sunday, because Hedon and our daughter and granddaughter got stuck 100 miles away from home in the snowstorm which hit us last Thursday. They didn’t actually get here until Saturday, then we naturally needed a day of Santa anticipation before the big event, hence the whole Sunday thing.

After our granddaughter worked her way through the gift overkill (we did the best we could to control ourselves on the number of presents, but failed miserably, as you might expect), we cooked a feast and Magnus strolled down and joined us. The feasting was as out of control as the spoiling of the grandchild. A great day.

It was interesting to put up a Christmas tree this year. We haven’t had one in ages. When our daughter was growing up, we used to buy ornaments for one another to commemorate the past year. We always tried to choose ornaments which had some relevance to what each of us had done in the past year, or at the very least, some connection to what we were into at the time.

I hadn’t looked through these ornaments in forever, so it was quaintly nostalgic to revisit those tokens of past deeds. Quaint for me, anyway. I’m not generally into nostalgia. Guess I’m getting sappy and sentimental in my old age. Soon I’ll be complaining about how today’s Pop Rocks don’t taste like they used to. And shaking my feeble fist in the air to emphasize my senile outrage at the loss of tasty Pop Rocks. Excellent.

Hedon and I have tried many times to perfect the fist shake, but it’s a surprisingly difficult skill. It can’t be too hearty, or too menacing, and must convey the appropriate balance of impotent rage, rascality and general old-fartiness. Not an easy thing to do with a simple hand and arm gesture. We’re working on it, though, and plan to have it at maximum strength by the time we hit 70. However, Hedon may whip it out, perfected or not, by the time we get our first AARP mag, which is shockingly not far away.

Okay, I can’t blather on any longer. The grandkid is standing next to my chair, sucking on one of those candy ring things (which probably aren’t as tasty as they were when I was a kid), and staring at me with a “why aren’t you playing with me, Grandma” look in her adorable eyes. Works every time.

And oh yeah, Happy Holidays to you all from the Highway Hags. Hope it was all you wished for.

And this little piggy cried …

2009 December 16
by Stace

He cried “Wii Wii Wii” all the way home, of course. I can’t remember what the other four piggies did. How strange. I think one had roast beef and the other had none. Which two piggies experienced this feast and famine is beyond me. Not that individual toes have names, like fingers. Or do they? Apart from in the medical terminology? I mean, I’m not likely to recall that the second metacarpal digitary footiculus member had roast beef, am I?

Back to the Wii. Hedon has been wanting this thing forever. I’ve failed to see the point of the purchase since we are never at home, and didn’t have room in the truck to carry it with us. I still kind of fail to see the point, what with we will eventually have to get off our asses and get back to work, and our space issues are unlikely to be changed once we are back on the road. But, what the hell. We’re going to be home for awhile.

So we have a Wii, our early Christmas present to one another. Much of this purchase was justified by telling ourselves that the game will be good for us — you know, get us moving and somesuch. It will help with the dieting. It will give us more stamina. It will cure my diabetes and any illness which might be loitering secretly within Hedon. The Wii will save us.

Yup. That is exactly what has happened. We are now thin models of healthy perfection. The Wii has saved us.

Okay, maybe not. But that’s not the Wii’s fault. The only true fault of the Wii is that its possible health benefits are too easily sidestepped. We’re just too damned clever for it … and lazy.

We have actually only bought two games which are meant to require more physical movement than a twitching of the fingers: Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort. And don’t bother asking me why we didn’t buy one of the actual fitness games. We just didn’t. The plan is to work up to something as strenuous as true fitness. And don’t bother asking me about the plan. I really shouldn’t have mentioned the plan at all, since it is a nasty elusive little bastard who refuses to be raised to fruition. Bastard.

We do have the sports games, though. These include things like tennis, baseball, boxing, bowling, golf, fencing, basketball, etc. Playing these games may not be a total body workout, but it’s more of a workout than say, Super Mario Brothers World. After all, you have to stand up to play these games, and you flail your arms around. In our shape, this is not something to be dismissed as a minor benefit.

Just one problem. Being wily and lazy, we have discovered that pretty much every one of these sports can be played while sitting in our big old recliners. Turns out, you can play a decent game of tennis while sitting on your ass. Your right arm has to flail about a great deal, but if you prop it up on the arms of the chair, you can significantly decrease the amount of calorie-burning and muscle building you might get otherwise.

Boxing is somewhat difficult to pull off in a chair. But we stuck to it and have accomplished this feat. And golf? You’d think that would be impossible. Nope. Never underestimate what laziness can do.

The other night, Hedon decided to be all virtuous and played boxing the real way for several hours. As a result of her desire to play properly, she had to take off a good 24 hours from Wii playing, thanks to the pulled shoulder and various other war wounds. She’d best reconsider being such a good girl in the future. Look at how she had to pay.

I, meanwhile, can work up something of a sweat while whacking my way across the countryside in the swordplay game. And do it while not getting out of the recliner. Swordplay will be my new road to fitness … and further me on the road to ninja-hood, or Xena-hood or whatever might involve the skills of sitting in a recliner while thwopping various opponents on the head with an electronic sword.

Excellent.

How clean is your closet?

2009 December 10
by Hedon

The great house project continues. This morning I’m doing my own take on ‘How Clean is your House?’ with the two adorable British ladies. Now granted on the show they go into houses that haven’t been cleaned in several years and often have to shovel out dumpsters (or skips (or perhaps skiffs) on the other side of the pond) full of actual trash. Obviously we don’t have anything that dramatic, but what we do have is a closet in the kitchen that is just chocked full of crap. I’m not even sure what’s in the cabinet since it’s only opened long enough to grab the broom or mop then slammed shut before anything else falls out. So it won’t exactly be tv worthy but I’ll be glad to have it clean again.

On the work front… well not a lot is going on. I do have a line on a truck we are considering up in Kansas City. It is around the right year/mileage and the price is reasonable so it may be a go. It’s a hideous light blue but that really isn’t a deal-breaker or anything. We’ll have to see what happens there.

On the other end of the plan, we are considering leasing on with Forward Air Freight. It has quite a few upsides such as 100% terminal to terminal loads which means they are also 100% no touch freight. That’s an important point since we simply aren’t going to unload trailers. I mean we wouldn’t even do that when we were company drivers so we sure as hell aren’t going to do it as owner operators. Another good thing about FAF is they are very light loads since they are generally Air Freight. Lighter loads means better fuel mileage and when you’re talking about 6 or 6.5 miles per gallon every little bit helps. They aren’t going to be self dispatch but really the only options for self dispatch that I know of are Landstar or going all the way and working with brokers. We don’t want to sign on with Landstar and we’re not ready to go all out with our own plates and trailer and such.

Anyway, that’s about where we are on all fronts. We haven’t bought all our christmas gifts but we don’t have much yet to get so even that is going smoothly. Basically life is just flowing along swimmingly and unless I get buried and crushed later in a weird cabinet pack-rat-related tragedy things are looking good.

Stupid commercial

2009 December 6
by Hedon

Finally got to see the end of Ru Paul’s Drag Race today. Did you ever notice how incredibly weird Ru looks in a suit? I mean I’m all about people wearing what they want and presenting themselves to the world in the manner that feels most comfortable to them but honestly Ru Paul in a suit looks like drag to me. Not that that is a bad thing… just weird.

Another tv related thing. You know that Pier One commercial with the little woody station wagon ornament that drives off the real christmas tree with a little ornament-sized christmas tree on it’s roof? I hate that commercial. The little ornament tree is backward on the roof of the station wagon. I mean honestly. If that car drove home with that tree backwards like that it would be a disaster. I know. I know because it happened once when I was a kid.

We drove out to Uncle Walter’s farm and tromped all over the back forty looking for the perfect tree. We discounted at least twenty trees before finally deciding to go back and get the first one we had seen. Naturally. I should probably mention that in my family cedar trees were the norm not the traditional pine tree but honestly I doubt that it has any bearing on this story. So anyway, we found the perfect tree, cut it down, dragged it 35 miles back to the car, had supper with Uncle Walter and Aunt Arlene and finally tied the tree on the top of the car to head home. Problem is that we tied the tree on top first. Sigh. That seriously does not work if you plan to drive home like your ass is on fire which is apparently is how my mom decided to drive home that night.

So in short order we got home with our perfect christmas tree and excitedly took it off the car and stood it up in the living room. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever really looked at a cedar tree but generally they are very tapered to a pretty tight point from a wide base. Not this tree. Every single branch on one half of the entire length of the tree was either broken off or sticking straight out and the top was all shoved back so the branches were horizontal. So pretty much there was only this sad little naked Charley Brown trunk on the top third of the tree. It was honestly the ugliest tree ever. That 80 mph wind had beat the poor tree to shreds and all because it was facing the wrong way on the top of the car.

So now when I see that commercial with the little ornament tree tied backwards on the roof of the little ornament car all I can think is that tree is going to be completely ruined before it gets home. I mean what were they thinking? In all the various stops along the way to getting that commercial on the air didn’t anyone say, “Hey dude, you know that tree is on the little ornament car backwards, right?”

Bottom line… Pier One is now dead to me. Which might seem kinda extreme unless you know that I haven’t shopped at a Pier One in like twenty years so it’s not really that much of a sacrifice when you get right down to it. Still I might have suddenly lost my mind and felt an irresistible urge to buy imported decorating chachkas and now I can’t do it at Pier One thanks to that stupid commercial. Sigh. Stupid ornament. Stupid commercial. Sometimes it’s not easy to be me.

Unemployed bum update

2009 December 5
by Hedon

So we’ve been unemployed bums for a few weeks now and it’s way past time for an update. Where to start on all the doings…

Well first of all we are still deliriously happy to be out of the evil clutches of USXpress (aka TWMNBN… who can now be named for obvious reasons) and I, for one, haven’t regretted quitting for one instant. Stace goes through momentary pangs of doubt about the wisdom of quitting in the midst of the worst economy in generations but really I’m pretty sure she isn’t sorry we quit, either.

We still haven’t got serious about moving forward on buying our own truck, but that’s not really a big deal. It’s been two and a half years since we had a vacation so mostly we’ve just been puttering around the house. We’ve watched a ton of really crappy tv that never seems to make the cut when we only have a few hours available a month for tv watching.

I managed to catch the annual Punkin Chunkin competition this year. I really expected that to be more interesting. I mean they are building air cannons, trebuchets, catapults and whatnot to fling pumpkins as far as possible. There’s the ideas behind the design, the construction of the machines, the timing of the release, the physics of the fling… how exciting, right? Not really. I mean it was pretty cool to see working trebuchets since they haven’t really been used since they were being used to ram castle walls back in medieval days. And if we’re going to be completely honest even back in the day they could have probably done more damage to the folk in the castle if the marauding hordes had just rubbed some blankets all over their pox-ridden bodies and flung those blankets over the walls. I mean that’s how whitey ended up kicking the Native American butt after all. Anyway back to the point… the punkin chunkin wasn’t all that one might have hoped.

***SPOILER ALERT***     ***SPOILER ALERT***

The air cannons just blew the rest of the pack away. Oh no… I might have blown the ending for anyone who TiVo’d it this year but hasn’t watched it yet… I should add a spoiler alert… be right back. Okay… that’s better. So yeah anyway… the air cannons killed every other category. It was kinda sucky cause they shoot the pumpkins out so fast you can’t even track them through the air. A couple tosses were pretty cool though when they had the pressure too high and the instant the pumpkin left the barrel it exploded into a million pieces. The best part of that was the announcer saying, “Oh, now that’s a real shame, Bill. The Young Guns team just pied their pumpkin.” I mean honestly… ‘pied their pumpkin’ that’s just funny right there. And sort of exciting I suppose.

That’s not the only exciting tv I’ve managed to watch, though. I also caught an episode of some show where they had two teams building six-foot-tall gingerbread houses. Because they were so tall the houses were allowed to have a plywood frame but then all the decoration and whatnot had to be edible. One team built a traditional house with extremely detailed little touches and the other team went with a crazy whimsical design that was really wild. If the second team had been able to finish their design they would have won hands down, but they didn’t really execute their plan at all. Their gingerbread kept falling off the wall and cracking and they ran out of product so they had to do two walls with this weird icing stucco look. So after eight hours it was a choice between the boring but well-executed house or the wild and crazy house that didn’t get finished… hmmm… what to do… what to do…. Well you can imagine the tension was wild here at Casa d’ Hags concerning which team would walk away with the ten thousand bucks and the coveted six-foot-tall-gingerbread-house-building-smack-down-2009 trophy.

***ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT***     ***ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT***

In the end the judges chose the traditional house because it was well executed even though it was boring. Oh no… did that need a spoiler alert, too? Probably … I’ll be right back. Ok then … Well anyway the boring but quality house beat out the exciting but sucky house. It was a split decision though. Good job guys … way to provide some nail-biting tension on the tv. We appreciate it.

Our home-time hasn’t all been spent watching exciting tv though. I’ve finished a couple of home projects that I have been putting off for three years. That’s right … you heard me correctly … I’ve finished hideous home projects from hell that I have been ignoring for OVER THREE YEARS!! WooHoo for me!! Stace now thinks I’m a DIY god and scrapes and bows every time I enter or leave a room. That’s pretty cool. I may be starting to get used to it… I especially enjoy it when I enter a room and she throws her hands into the air and shouts “Hallelujah” as I walk in. Granted it would be even better if she didn’t follow that with, “Since you’re up, could you get me some Diet Coke?” but still it’s a start. I can’t help but think it won’t be long until she’s following me around throwing rose petals or something. Maybe dead leaves instead since roses are expensive and we are unemployed bums right now. Yea… I could live with dead leaves.

All that crazy adoration was par for the course when LittleOne and Chaos came to stay over Thanksgiving. Oh, I didn’t actually fling flowers at her, but I must admit that it was hard not to follow LittleOne around and clap every time she mumbled an unintelligible string of babble. Which she did a lot. She is just on the verge of real speech and I am more than ready. She was so unbelievably adorable and it was the first time we got to spend several days in a row with her. Before they came I wasn’t sure if I was up for four days of high LittleOne energy but I enjoyed every day and hated to send her home. I can’t wait til Christmas. Stace and I haven’t decorated the house for Christmas in years and years but suddenly I’m all like, “Oh and we have to get a big tree all decorated up for the baby, and maybe I’ll make a gingerbread house, and when she gets here we’ll make cookies for Santa and she can decorate them, and I wonder if she would like a pony for Christmas, and I wonder if the Rockettes ever take their Christmas show on the road….”

The family all got together for Thanksgiving over at Stace’s mom’s house and I have to say that it was the best family get-together in a long time. The whole family was there and everyone seemed to have a great time. Everybody brought some food but it was Stace’s mom that cooked the turkey and stuff and really pulled it all together. She was kinda nervous about having 17 people for the big holiday doings but she pulled it off beautifully. I know I really enjoyed the day and had a great time getting to talk to some of the family members that we don’t get to see nearly often enough.

Speaking of people we don’t get to see often… we did our own family Thanksgiving meal on Friday and our faux-son, who we’ll call Magnus, was at the house, too. That was really nice. Magnus grew up with Chaos and they have been friends forever. At some point years ago he sort of became our faux-son but we haven’t got to see much of him in the past few years. So not only was it just nice to have him at the house, but he’s also become quite a chef over the years and that’s always a plus. :)   Besides… he and Chaos did all the clean-up after our big Thanksgiving meal at home.

Who would have thought that Chaos and Magnus would do all the clean-up after a big meal? Who would have thought that such a tiny little two-year-old person could have such a big impact on my routines? Who would have thought I would ever get the house in order after three years? Who would have thought the annual Punkin Chunkin contest would provide less nail-biting tension than the gingerbread-house-building smack-down? Who would have thought I would ever even consider decorating for Christmas again?

All in all it’s just been a magical mystical time at home chocked full of wondrous rainbow and fairy moments … and I haven’t even mentioned the Wii Stace and I bought as our Christmas gift to each other. We seriously should have quit TWMNBN months ago.

Happy Thanksgiving

2009 November 26

Hope you all have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Hedon picked up our daughter and granddaughter last night and they are staying with us through Sunday. We spent today with family and enjoyed an excellent feast. A good time was had by all … except Maggie, who had to stay home and was most definitely displeased by being left out of the festivities.

The grandkid is not thrilled with the excitable Maggie. She doesn’t want anything to do with the dog, who of course, loves kids and wants to romp all over her. We’ve about given up on telling the Little One that “the puppy is nice” and “the puppy wants to give you a kiss” and “the puppy is just slavering all over the place because she’s so happy to see you.” The Little One is deeply suspicious of Maggie’s intentions and none of our reassurances are doing the least bit of reassuring. She pretty much just points at Maggie and says something resembling “Bad dog!” and “No!” Hmm, what to do.

We have now launched Operation Reverse Psychology, telling the Little One that “Maggie is MY dog, and you shouldn’t go near her” and “Don’t get too close to Maggie, or you’ll have to pet her.” I don’t know about any of your kids out there, but never once in all of our daughter’s childhood did reverse psychology work on her. The Little One appears to have inherited her mother’s natural immunity to this technique, as there has as yet not been any payoffs for our efforts.

Ah, well, time will do the trick, I’m sure. In the meanwhile, Maggie is acting like she’s being continually taunted by a turkey and bacon sandwich which we’ve been dangling just out of reach. Dogs.

We’ve been home for three weeks now, including the week of home time we had before we quit TWMNBN. I spent one entire week doing nothing whatsoever. It was wonderful. I did manage to lose another 4 pounds in those three weeks, which brings my total lost to 47 pounds. Three more pounds and I hit 50. That’ll be sweet.

I suppose, if I am to follow my invented blog tradition, I should write something about Thanksgiving now. I am, in general, a fairly thankful person. Right now, I’m thankful I’m an unemployed bum with an uncertain future. Excellent. I’m a risk taker. That’s right. Big time risk taker. Who spends a tremendous amount of time in her big man recliner watching an assortment of televised foolishness. Hooray for unemployment!

Right now, though, I have some work to do. The Little One is talking to me, and while she has plenty to say, I am unable to decipher most of it. I think just now she is either telling me she wants to wash her hands, or that she wants her stuffed elephant, or that she is hopeful there will be peace soon in the Middle East. Which one of the three it might be … your guess is as good as mine. She’s pretty brilliant, though, so it’s likely not about the Middle East; she’s way too smart to be worrying about politics.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Random angry thoughts

2009 November 15
by Hedon

I had no idea that we could simply post random angry thoughts. That’s why I barely posted last month. I was too pissed off most of the month to put together a coherent post. But now that Stace has broken the ice with her random angry post I reckon I can do the same…

Man, I hate blueberries. I mean they look all juicy and yummy and tasty but I just don’t like the flavor. I don’t like them in pancakes, muffins or pie. As a matter of fact blueberry is about the only pie I don’t like. Ugh!

What’s up with ants? I mean I realize y’all have to make a living and all, but why my house? I know for a fact that our house is cleaner than any of our neighbors’ houses so go on over there for god’s sake.

That Tyra Banks… I mean one week she’s telling those little model girls that they need to “look more fierce” then the next week she sends them home cause they needed to be soft and vulnerable. And “smizing” I mean honestly. Ugh!

TWMNBN…  yeah, TWMNBN… man I hate them… well I suppose I would still hate them if we hadn’t quit our jobs this week!!! That’s right — we quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit! We quit!

Muah ha ha ha!! I am giddy with pure unadulterated joy. I’m so giddy that I can’t even get it together enough to post much about the details… hopefully Stace will post the details later. Suffice to say that they finally pushed us too far. I don’t know… I guess they really did think we were some sort of indentured servants that had no choice but to bow and scrape and bend over and take everything they wanted to fling at us. Well that’s bullshit — see ya TWMNBN.

Results are in … again

2009 November 7
by Stace

We did indeed make it home the night that I wrote my last post. A close shave on the quitting front, to be sure. I lasted all of about three minutes before heading to the scales. I had my fingers crossed for a five pound loss.

I didn’t get the fiver. I got six! Yay! Six more pounds gone. This makes a total of 43 pounds lost since the end of last May. Excellent.

I haven’t, until now, noticed much of a visible difference in how I looked. I felt better, and could get around easier, but I didn’t look any different.

Today, when I was getting ready to go out to lunch with my mom, I decided to give an old pair of jeans a try on. I haven’t worn these jeans in probably over four years. It’s been so long, really, that I’m not exactly sure when I outgrew them.

So, I tried them on. And they fit again. Suddenly, the weight loss felt real in a way that it hadn’t before.

I think what I’m happiest about, ultimately, is that we survived a very trying five weeks and didn’t give in to the temptation to use exhaustion and frustration as an excuse to abandon the changes we have made in our diets. I cannot say that we were even close to perfect, and some days we did better or worse than others. But, we kept at it. And that gives me hope that maybe we can make a real change in our lives.

We also discovered a few things about ourselves. I learned that a trigger which causes me to sabotage a diet is that when my life outside the diet begins to go wrong, I feel that I don’t have control over my life. I have used overeating as a means of regaining control. It’s something which began in my childhood, as are so many things, eh?

Now, I’m trying to use this to my advantage. When the shit starts hitting the fan, instead of following the instinct of shoving food in my mouth, I tell myself, if you want control, then DON’T eat. That’s real control. Surprisingly, this approach is working so far.

Hedon, too, is making giant strides in figuring out what causes some of her self-destructive behavior in regards to food. And her discoveries are helping her to begin changing old patterns.

It was such a strange five weeks. We were so tired, with intense sleep deprivation, and maybe this is what allowed some barriers to lower, and for us to see things in ways we hadn’t before. Or maybe it’s just coincidence.

Whatever it was, as long as we can remember what we’ve learned, I think we’ll have a definite advantage in permanently changing our relationships with food.

Random thoughts

2009 November 4
by Stace

Since I’m in too much of a state, and not fit to write anything coherent, I figured I’d just post some thoughts that are popping into my head right now.

* I want to quit TWMNBN so badly, it’s like … it’s like … crap … as I said — not very coherent. I just fucking want to quit these assholes period.

* If I don’t get home tonight, a day and a half past when I was supposed to be home, and an ungodly amount of boobery in between … where was I … oh yeah … If I don’t get home tonight, I will freaking lose my mind.

* Maggie is cute.

* This truck stinks. Both literally and figuratively.

* We had great barbecue tonight — Kansas City style. Good stuff. And amazingly, we didn’t eat that much, in spite of the most huge amount of provocation to overeat that one could imagine.

* Surely I have lost weight this month. While I haven’t been perfect, I’ve been pretty damned good. Especially considering the circumstances.

* The circumstances are that I have not been this tired and angry and completely overwhelmed with the desire to quit this career, since my first six months on the road. And my first six months on the road were truly awful. Only debt kept me driving. I have no debt now. So why the hell am I still driving? No jobs at home. That’s why.

* I really, really, really hope I’ve lost weight. I need some good news today.

* Hedon is cute.

* God, I’ve got a ton of laundry to do when I get home.

* I wonder why I continue in a job which pays me as if I’m some child garment worker in Indonesia. Hours upon hours of work, for little to nothing. Because TWMNBN says so. You don’t get a load that pays until you offer up your hours of unpaid labor.

* Uriah may be as much a victim of this economy as we, or he may just be an asshole liar who sucks up to the Man no matter what it costs his drivers. Probably the latter.

* Maggie has a funny big belly.

* I have a big belly, but it’s not so funny.

* I hope I’ve lost weight. Even just five pounds after six weeks would make me happy. Come on, scales. Momma needs a fiver.

* I can’t think of anything.

* Except, God I want to quit this job so bad it’s like … like … like … oh crap.

Boo that’s sweet

2009 October 31
by Stace

Okey-dokey. It’s Halloween, so you know what that means. Time for me to write another post about another holiday which I not only know nothing about, but which I also have no desire to learn about. I am, of course, willing to ramble. And aren’t all our lives just a bit better because of it?

Pretty, but not so tasty

Pretty, but not so tasty

The important thing about Halloween isn’t where it came from, or if it draws Satan into our realm, or if it makes Daffy Duck cry in frustration because he couldn’t get a Bugs Bunny costume. The important thing is that it’s the holiday where you get shitloads of candy. Or at least, you used to — back when I was a kid. I don’t know what children do these days. Eat a piece of fruit and watch a video in which other kids dress up and go trick-or-treating?

My best memory of Halloween is that one house out of the dozens and dozens I visited every year, handed out full-sized candy bars. I’m not kidding. They gave all the kids a regular-sized Hershey’s bar.

I thought those people must have been the richest, kindest, loveliest human beings ever created. They were like from some alternative reality, sent specially to us on Halloween to give us reason to believe in a world where we, too, could be rich and powerful in the ways of chocolate bars.

Now this is what I'm talkin' about

Now this is what I'm talkin' about

I fully expect this to disgust my mother. Can’t blame her. I mean, some family gives me a chocolate bar and that’s my best memory? WTF? My mother used to slave over my costumes every year. She made them herself, and she was damned good. I remember one bunny costume that was so awesome, I’m surprised it didn’t lead to her starting a costume business.

But like I said before, this holiday was all about the candy. Sorry, Mom. Thanks for the costumes, though. For what it’s worth, I used to feel badly for the poor children who went trick-or-treating shrouded in old, stained bedsheets, peering out through drunkenly-cut, raw-edged eye holes, calling out their pathetic little “Boos!” and “I’m a ghost!” Surely that’s some consolation.

I don’t think those kids, themselves, felt all that badly about their slapdash costumes, though. They were in it for the candy, too. And they most assuredly knew where the Hershey’s bar house was located.

Hagwire special — Boycott continues

2009 October 24
by Stace

Truck wash boycott by Hags continues

by Hagwire staff

Boise, ID (HW) — Over one year ago, the Highway Hags began a boycott, deciding not to wash their company truck until certain demands are met. As the resulting stalemate continues, industry insiders are beginning to wonder when, or even if, it will end.

“It has been going on a very long time,” said Ebidiah Stookerton, fuel desk cashier at Billy Joe Bob’s Truck Stop in Boise, ID. “Well, I mean, I would guess it’s been a long time, what with never hearing of this before, until you came in here asking questions about it.”

“But look at that truck! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a dirtier one. Those wheels are nearly black. And look at the running boards. There’s not a bit of shine left to them. I’d say that truck hasn’t been washed in ages and ages,” said Stookerton.

When asked how long he thought the standoff could continue, Stookerton answered, “How would I know?”

Laffy Binkling, mechanic at the truck stop’s repair shop, had a more definitive answer. “Yup. That’s one dirty truck. I think the boycott might never end, since I don’t think that truck can get any dirtier. What have they got to lose to keep going with this thing? Nothing that I can see.”

Once informed of the situation with the Hags and their dirty truck, Halibartha Merrimad, a waitress in the truck stop restaurant, expressed surprise that such an event could be happening in their parking lot.

“You just never know about these things,” she said, shaking her head sadly. “I hate to hear of folks being kidnapped and held against their will and all.”

When this reporter explained what the word boycott actually meant, Ms. Merrimad said, “Oh, well there ya go. Look, I got a lot of customers. The liver and onions are real good today if you want any.”

We didn’t.

The obvious question to be asked is, what will it take for the Highway Hags to end this reign of dirty terror? What are their demands? Only the Hags could answer that.

“Demands?” said Hedon Hag. “We don’t have any demands. What are you talking about?”

Stace Hag was a picture of coolness in her response. “Demands? We don’t have any demands. What are you talking about?”

When pressured by this reporter for an honest answer, Hedon Hag shrugged and said, “You must be a nut. We’re just lazy, and cheap, so we haven’t washed it in forever. Besides, we hate this truck. Why would we wash it?”

No straightforward answer offered, they were then asked who it was, exactly, that they had submitted these mysterious demands to, and who the press might contact about what plans might be in the offing to end this crisis.

“This isn’t a boycott, so there’s nobody to contact.” Stace Hag said. “It’s like Hedon said — we’re just lazy and cheap. For what it’s worth, we tried to get it washed today, but the truck wash was closed. That seems to happen to us a lot. We finally think, yeah, today’s the day, then something comes up or it doesn’t work out in one way or another.”

Stace Hag’s subtle attempt at subterfuge did not go unnoticed among several bystanders.

Fred Dumpers, a truck driver from Dallas, TX, said, “Weeeelll, I figure if they’s holdin’ out fer sumthin, it’d be sumthin they want from that company of theirs. What’s er called … They Who Must Not Be Named. Yeh, that’d be it.”

Behind Fred’s truck in the fuel island, Beebong Doodong, a driver of a tanker truck, yelled out his ideas on the standoff. “I don’t give a [expletive deleted] who’s doing what to who. Just get the [expletive deleted] out of the fuel island so I can get rolling! I’ve got work to do, you [expletive deleted].”

Some people have expressed surprise that the boycotting of a truck wash can bring out such strong emotional reactions from people like Doodong.

Ronald Wimpsin, psychology instructor at nearby Spud State Community College, was not surprised at the emotion displayed over an issue such as this one.

“You see,” said Instructor Wimpsin, “people have a deeper connection to current events than they once had. Television and the internet have greatly reduced our ability to separate ourselves from the world at large. An issue such as this, the kidnapping of the child of an executive at They Who Must Not Be Named, strikes deeply at the fears of all parents …”

After this reporter gave, again, a brief explanation of the boycott by the Hags, Wimpsin continued with, “Truck washing? Who? How should I know what their demands are? You idiot … wait … I didn’t say that. Don’t print that. Why are you leaving? I can pull an opinion about this out of somewhere. Come back! Damn. Now I’m going to have to grade all those moronic research papers.”

Hagwire staff tried for most of a week to get in contact with They Who Must Not Be Named, or TWMNBN for short. Hagwire staff was ultimately unable to find a phone number or even an address for TWMNBN.

“It’s a mystery to me,” said a stymied research assistant at Hagwire. “Never seen such a thing before. It’s like TWMNBN doesn’t actually exist or something, or like maybe it’s a fake name? I don’t know. It’s eerie.”

It makes one wonder how deep this conspiracy really goes. With the Hags refusing to state their demands, and the trucking company TWMNBN clearly having gone into hiding from fear of exposure and bad publicity, not many conclusions can be made about the current state of the boycott and when or if it might end.

Perhaps Pappy Quining, a trucker of 40 years from Umatilla, OR, summed it up best.

“These Hags you tellin’ me about,” Quining said, “they’s exactly what’s wrong with trucking today. And them and that filthy, nasty truck is why we truckers ain’t never gonna get nowhere!”

Only time will tell if Quining is an oracle or a fool.

We never learn

2009 October 22
by Stace

I just listened to the audiobook “Charlatan” by Pope Brock. It’s a non-fiction book which I picked up on the cheap for $4.95 at Audible about a year ago. I just now got around to listening to it.

“Charlatan” tells of the life and career of Dr. John R. Brinkley, who rose to fame and fortune in the 1930s with his miraculous goat gland operation. At a time when the country was in the Great Depression, Brinkley made millions upon millions of dollars selling promises of increased sexual vigor, regeneration of body and mind, shrunken prostates, and so on and so on right down to cures for flatulence.

What was this miracle operation that would turn you into the healthiest randy goat in your town? Well, it was simple. Dr. Brinkley, or one of his paid staff, would whack off the testicles off a young goat, then insert them under the skin of a man’s testicles. Or he’d stick them next to a woman’s ovaries (infertility problems solved). Or sometimes he’d just chop up something or another and implant it somewhere there might be a problem. Whatever. As long as you had the $750.

Lots of former patients swore by it — the typical testament to the power of placebos. Now, those poor suckers who got infections and died, or lost body parts, they were less-than-satisfied customers. No one can be sure how many people died as a result of Dr. Brinkley’s uh … treatment. In one of his clinics, he signed the death certificates for over 40 people, many of whom weren’t sick to begin with. No way to know how many patients died after they were released.

Besides being something of a serial killer, he and his wife were genius marketers. Brinkley saw, earlier than others, the power that the radio had for advertising. He was a clever, clever fellow. He even let other people advertise their products and quack cures and prayer services over his station for a healthy cut of the take.

Oh, yeah, and he nearly became governor of Kansas. And people the world around came to his clinics to get goat testicles sewn into them. Some Hollywood stars swore by goat glands. And Brinkley seems to have been in sympathy with Nazis, what with having specially-made tiles stamped with swastikas ringing the pool outside his mansion.

Brinkley was eventually taken down by American Medical Association quack-buster extraordinaire Morris Fishbein (who is considered something of the father of the AMA). Brinkley died broke in 1942, bankrupt as a result of lawsuits from former patients, IRS charges, and indictment for mail fraud by the USPS, among other financial setbacks.

I think it’s easy to read this sort of thing and snort and say, “What a bunch of rubes those people were, believing that a couple of goat balls would unage them by 30 years, or allow them to hump their wives half the night.” But of course, we’re no different today.

The hucksters know all too well our secret fears and hopes, and they’ve always got a super new invention/process/product which will solve all our problems. I hardly have to point them out. As in the old days, a huge number revolve around the penis, both function and size. And cancer. And weight loss. Especially weight loss.

One of my favorites in the past five years or so has been the company which sells that belly-busting pill. They claim you have a big belly and are fat because of stress, not overeating. Take their pill and the belly will melt away (I guess the stress goes with it, too; I’m unclear on the “facts” here). Ummhmm. And yet they are selling plenty of this product. Last time I was home, I saw their ads multiple times.

Like so many good huckster schemes, they are vague about their promises, the cure is simple, and they cleverly link their claims to actual legitimate research which has indicated the adverse health effects of stress. Brinkley did the same thing in his time, riding on the popular wave of research into the processes of human and animal glands.

And it’s not just these easy-to-spot scams which feed on our desires. What about cosmetic surgery, anti-aging skin creams, and botox?

Plastic surgery certainly has its useful place in medicine. For victims of maiming and scarring accidents, for reconstruction of body parts, for attempts at repair of a birth disorder — these are all legitimate uses. But for anti-aging and augmentation purposes? I say poppycock!

The facts, to me, are these — a face lift does not make you look younger. Oh, your wrinkles are gone, sure, but you don’t look like you’re 20 again. You just look like someone who has had a face lift. That’s it. What’s worse is that the more a patient convinces themselves that they look better, the more operations they have, until eventually they wind up looking like a freak, like Joan Rivers, who I think is a dead ringer these days for that Madame dummy in the 1970s ventriloquist act Wayland Flowers and Madame.

And yet, the people who have had these procedures croon at one another about ooooh, how much younger and sexier they look now. And tell others how if they just got rid of those crow’s feet they’d look 15 years younger. What a load of crap. It’s mass hallucination.

Like huge fake boobs. These things in no way resemble real breasts. Implants don’t actually make a small-breasted woman look like she was born with big boobs. It just makes her look like she had a boob job. But nobody cares.

The bottom line truth is, thanks to clever marketing from cosmetic surgeons to the porno industry, melon-shaped fake boobs have become a sexual fetish. It’s similar to those members of that African tribe, who drill holes in their earlobes to accommodate wooden disks, which they then increase in size over time through stretching, because big disks in your ears are considered sexy as hell. These giant fake boobs implanted for purely cosmetic reasons are no different from African wooden disks. But nobody is going to admit that.

What about botox? It makes you look younger! Not really. It just paralyzes parts of your face to decrease the appearance of wrinkles or to prevent them from forming in the future. Yeah, it sort of works — as long as nobody notices the wrinkles on your hands or your knobby old knees and elbows. And what is the price of a wrinkle-less face? You end up looking expressionless, like a zombie. You lose all those invaluable facial clues which humans require to communicate with one another properly.

And we have no idea what the long-term effects of these botox injections might be. Whatever. You didn’t see the Elizabethans getting all worked up over what might happen to them if they kept smearing lead creams on their faces. As long as their skin was pure white, who cared? Quit being a pussy.

None of these three popular treatments actually deliver what they promise, but through the power of delusion and vanity this country has legitimized this century’s version of goat testicle surgery.

There’s one born every minute — or millions upon millions, as the case may be.

Maybe people just can’t help it. We know, deep down, when something is too good to be true, but we must want this thing so badly that even a miniscule chance of getting it will convince us to line the pockets of swindlers.

It’s too bad. Unless you’re a charlatan, AMA certified or not.

Use the belt, stupid

2009 October 21
by Stace

For the non-drivers out there, in the bunks of the cabs of semis are protective restraints for whomever might be trying to sleep in the bunk while another person is driving. It’s a big net-like thing that tents over the bed then connects to the body of the truck with varying numbers of seat belt clasps. Think of it as a seat belt for a sleeper … well, kind of. Whatever.

The idea of these gizmos is that if you are in a wreck or some sort of dust-up, you will be held within the confines of the bunk rather than being flung about the interior of the truck. Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

The truth for us, however, has been that they are too big a pain in the ass to use much. We have used them before, off and on, in other trucks, but not since we’ve had Maggie. See, if the restraints are in place, Maggie can’t jump in and out of the bed as she pleases. And the Hags are all about the freakin’ dog. Apparently. I wasn’t really aware of that until now, but it does seem to be the case.

Before Maggie, Hedon often used the restraints. She has a particular sensitivity to braking, and no matter how gently I touch the brakes, she will generally wake up if it’s repeated too often, such as in stop and go traffic. She found that by using the restraints, even though they are a big hassle, some of her fears of being flung out of the bed (totally unfounded fears, I must add), were relieved.

Good for her. But Maggie is more important, clearly, than worries about bunk flinging. The restraints in the current truck have never been pulled from under the mattress, and I’m not even sure how it hooks up, having never tried, but I can see a good five different clasps. Geez.

It’s funny that Hedon is so worried about being flung out of the bunk, since it has never happened to her. I, however, have been caught unawares several times (I was awake both times and sitting on the edge of the bunk), and Hedon has had to hit the brakes hard and sent me flying to the floor. These things happen. Nothing to be done about it. I’ve never been really hurt by it. Though you’d think I’d quit sitting on the edge of the damned bunk.

A few times I’ve been close to being tossed out of the bunk when I was sleeping, but it was always just a close call. Until this past weekend.

We were on I-44 between Tulsa, OK, and Joplin, MO. I had been happily sleeping away for about three hours. I was dreaming of making taco meat. I’d been having a real jones for tacos and we planned on stopping at the TA in Strafford, MO, to snag a few tacos at Taco Bell. The anticipation of the event had slipped happily into my dreams.

I was mashing away at the hamburger in the skillet, when all of a sudden, all hell broke loose. Next thing I know, I’m tumbling and flying through the air. For real. The next thing I see is my legs in the air, tangled in blankets, and Maggie leaping over my legs to clear the squishing disaster which would result from my landing atop her.

I landed ass down on the floor, in an area about three feet by three feet (we had the porta-potty sitting out on the floor, so less room than usual). Maggie hit the divider curtain. I had no idea what the hell had just happened. But I could hear the air horn blowing.

Next thing I know, Hedon’s yelling “Are you okay?” And I’m going, “You just flung me off the bunk! And I don’t know if I’m okay. I just woke up.”

She hit the shoulder and completed the braking which had led to my flinging.

Some idiot had decided at the last second, that even though he was in the hammer lane, that he needed to cut over to the cash lanes to pay his toll instead of going through the PikePass lanes. The jerk yanked over in front of Hedon and smashed on his brakes. Hedon braked and tried going left. The idiot went left. She tried going to the right. The moron went right.

Hedon estimates there couldn’t have been more than four inches between them when the numbnut finally accelerated and got out of her way. If that load hadn’t been so light (about 6,000 pounds is all), he would have been dead meat. And we would never have gotten our tacos.

Poor Hedon, she was very shaken by the whole thing. Probably it was one of the closest calls either of us have had.

But hey, this crap happens. Too many four-wheelers just don’t get it when it comes to what big trucks can and cannot do. We all know this. The pertinent point here is …

I was facing the back of the truck when Hedon hit the brakes. The force of it rolled me all the way over and flew me through the air and onto the floor. And I didn’t get hurt. Remarkable.

When I had thought of just such this thing happening, I had always imagined that I would whack my head on the cabinet that is next to the bunk. There just doesn’t seem to be any way around it. And yet, I didn’t hit my head. Somehow, when the force came, I must have automatically curled my body up into a ball tight enough that in the split second between rolling over and hitting the floor, my head was able to clear the cabinet. I landed on my butt in a kind of seated position.

I wish I had a slow-mo videotape of it. That would just have to be hilarious. Fat lady dreaming happily, then funny body twisting over in bed, launching into the air while simultaneously tucking into a chubby ball. A dog soaring over her through the air, as the fat lady creeps toward a closing butt bounce on a tiny square of floor. A YouTube sensation if I’ve ever heard one.

And all I’ve got to show for it is a sore thumb. I’ve got no idea what I might have hit it on, or if I landed on it funny. Not a whole lot of memory there. And Maggie is fine, too, even though she must have smacked that curtain pretty good and then dropped about four feet to the floor.

So now you’re probably thinking, maybe you Hags might want to use that bunk restraint in the future. I can see your point. I really should. We really should. So what if it’s a huge pain to untangle and hook up and unhook all the time. Who cares if the design is overly complicated and absurd to the point that an untrained monkey could have designed a better system. And to hell with the dog and her needs. Safety first.

That sounds perfectly rational and reasonable. I’ll take it under advisement.

But the point remains — Maggie and Hedon have some killer reflexes, but I’m clearly some kind of plus-sized gymnast savant. Imagine what I could do with a little training.

Oh, and if any of you are traveling I-44 in Oklahoma and see skid marks on the road before the PikePass lanes, yeah, those would be ours.

Ugh!

2009 October 20
by Hedon

Well no longer have any need to worry about other drivers making us look bad. Since the last time we were able to get online we have done a respectable amount of running. Let’s see…

  • Last time we were online we were sitting in Sacramento.
  • Then we hauled butt down to LA to pick up a preloaded trailer. Thirty minutes to drop our empty and hook to the new trailer and we were off again.
  • Ran straight to Hartford, CT and the longest we stopped on the whole trip was thirty minutes to get fuel and switch drivers.
  • Delivered in Hartford, grabbed the world’s fastest showers, ate a burger and collapsed into the bunks for ten hours non-moving sleep.
  • Then into Boston in the wee hours of the morning to pickup the load we are on now. It delivers tomorrow in St Paul, MN.

So that’s 3,450 miles to Connecticut, then a twelve hour break, then another 1,450 miles headed back west to Minnesota and the whole thing will be done in less than five days. Which probably explains why I’m all brain-dead and such. I know there are many teams out there that would give a lot to grab these sorts of runs… sigh… we’re just not one of them.

On the bright side it is looking like a fairly good paycheck. Which is good cause we are looking at trucks again. I’m not sure what our plan is now though since for years and years my plan has been to buy a truck and lease on with LandStar, but that isn’t looking like it’s going to happen now. I’m really unimpressed with what LandStar has been doing to their van drivers in the past few months.

Freight is down everywhere and virtually every trucking company has seriously lost big income except for LandStar. They significantly lowered the percentage they pay their van drivers so instead of the company losing a ton of money it has been the guys driving for them that has been taking the huge hit. I guess that is a company’s choice, but it doesn’t mean I want to be the little guy taking the hit so that LandStar’s shareholders still get a good stock price in the middle of the biggest freight downturn in living memory. No, thanks.

Also from everyone I have talked to it looks like LandStar’s van loads have dried up. So there just isn’t much freight available for the drivers to fight over. So they can lower the rate per mile at the same time because the drivers are so desperate. When you are already giving up 38% of the linehaul to the company, a load that pays $1.15 per mile means that the truck is only making $0.71 per mile. So out of that you are paying fuel, insurance, base plates, truck payment… oh and a little thing called driver pay. Nah… there’s no driver pay in a $1.15 per mile load.

Frankly, I’m wondering what the heck LandStar is doing to earn their 38% of the linehaul for van drivers. Their freight has dried up and their rates are in the crapper. It’s a damn shame because they used to be one of the most highly respected companies out there, but lately it’s hard to find anyone in the van division that has a good thing to say about them.

So unless things change big-time LandStar is out. That doesn’t mean that we won’t buy our own truck just that we are going to have to rethink our plans. Right now we are holding off  –  waiting to buy just when freight volumes and rates start heading back up. I’m guessing that will probably start happening in the early spring. But who knows.

On the bright side, if TWMNBN keeps running us like this we will either be long dead or able to buy the truck with cash money… and pick up a nice trailer on the side. :)

Quit making the Hags look bad, Dude!

2009 October 16
by Hedon

Some people simply do not seem to understand the proper use of the 34 hour restart.  :)

A trucker's work is never done.

A trucker's work is never done.

Me a survivor, or not

2009 October 15

The last few weeks I’ve been reading a number of books by Canadian author S. M. Stirling. I have finished the Nantucket trilogy and have now started on its companion series which is called Emberverse, whatever the hell that means. Emberverse? Whatever.

I don’t care what they’re called. All I know is that this sort of stuff really stokes me up. In the Nantucket trilogy, the entire island of Nantucket is transported back in time some 3,000 years. Just the island of Nantucket, not the rest of world (what would be the point, if everything else in the world went with them). All their technology is intact, but virtually useless at first. It’s a struggle to survive and prosper.

How can I not love this? I’ve always had a jones for this sort of thing. I think it goes back to one of my earliest childhood memories — watching “Gilligan’s Island” with my babysitter. Though really, the cartoon was way cooler since the professor rigged up all sorts of awesome shit with coconuts and other island crap. I think they even had cars. Though not cars like in “The Flintstones,” which as a kid, impressed the hell out of me. Fred’s feet were like … amazing. Imagine the calluses on those suckers.

Anyway, Fred’s feet aside, I admit that part of why I enjoyed the Nantucket series is that a big hero in the series is a kick-ass, black, lesbian Coast Guard captain, who quickly hooks up with another kick-ass, white native lesbian from a tribe which built Stonehenge in England. Basically, between the two of them, they whip everybody into shape, swinging their katanas in a bloody swath through their enemies. Not that they are bloody-minded, of course. I mean, they are lesbians, after all, with the requisite love of humanity, equality, democracy and all, katanas notwithstanding.

Near the end of the series, it kind of bogs down in war crap and skips around too much.

The heroes of the Emberverse series thus far (I’m only on book two), is a Wiccan high priestess and an ex-Marine. The villain is a university history professor. Hah! The set-up is that when Nantucket was sent back in time with their technology intact, the rest of the world suddenly lost their technology. All electrical systems and engines ceased to work, and even gunpowder stopped working.

I love this stuff. Oh, not the warring and so forth. What I love is the idea of losing our comforts, our way of life, and how we might cope. So that makes me a sucker for shipwreck stories, pioneer stories and a particular type of doomsday scenario stories.

I find myself drifting off in speculation as I read these sorts of things. I’m like, yeah, the first thing to do is find water and gather up all the available food and begin rationing. Don’t forget about finding shelter. Next, make sure of a workable sanitation system to avoid dysentery and for god’s sake, secure the local library since the info there will be priceless and … blah blah blah.

And I daydream about how to build up the new society and such. And when I’ve exhausted all the possibilities and solved all the problems, I always come to the same conclusion –

Damn! That’s way the hell too much work. I’d never survive it, and if that’s what it would take to make it just from one day to the next, then screw it. I want to go in the first wave.

If the nukes fall, get me a sun lounger and some sunglasses so I can expose myself to the radiation in comfortable relaxation. Drown me in the ocean rather than washing me up alive on some godforsaken, flea-infested deserted beach. Should this oh-so-lovely technology disappear, please let some crazed followers of a cult whack me on the head quickly before my canned goods run out.

But that’s reality. And these books are fiction, and if I want to imagine Hedon and I as uber-cut lesbian heroines strutting through an urban warzone, whacking off the heads of the evil-doer street gang members, then I guess I by-god can.

Oh, we’d also re-invent trebuchets and catapults. Cause we’re just that damned awesome.

Took long enough

2009 October 13
by Hedon

But I finally bought a tripod for the camera. Now all I have to do is learn f-stop, aperture something or other, depth of field, composition, histograms, flash back, shutter speed, digital noise removal, phases of the moon, the rule of thirds, how to make a wicked good quiche, setting the white point, red eye removal, color correction, unsharp mask, how to do a valve-job on a 1963 Chevy pickup, the golden mean, quality of light, how to complete an emergency appendectomy, and ISO ratings. Then I might make a decent photographer out of myself. The study is going along pretty well since you can find tons of photography tutorials on the web, but I have yet to figure out the ’63 Chevy engine. Sigh. It’s always something. That’s suddenly a lot of pressure to learn things caused by a $13 tripod.

Someone was working hard... unlike me.

Someone was working hard... unlike me.

A relationship with food

2009 October 12
tags: ,
by Stace

As I’ve said before, I’m not crazy about the phrase, “I need to change my relationship with food.” No surprise, since I generally dislike all pop-psych-inspired catchy lines. But that’s a different problem altogether.

The problem at the moment is how to stop eating too much and to learn to enjoy better choices when eating. So, an attempt to address the relationship with food situation is most definitely in order.

I am supposing that before I can begin to find a solution, I must answer the question, “What the hell does ‘changing my relationship with food’ even mean?”

I presume the phrase means finding out what causes one to overeat, to make the wrong food choices, to fail at diets, etc. I basically already know what makes me overeat, choose the wrong foods and fail at diets.

I eat when I’m bored, excited, sad, happy, mad, relaxed, frustrated, chilled, alone, in groups … you see the point. I eat. And I can eat a lot. I always have.

When I was 13 and had four teeth pulled because I was getting braces, I had to be put under for the extraction. I had to fast before the procedure, and when the assistant asked me how I was feeling before they put me under, I answered, “Hungry.” She laughed and said everyone says that, but that after they wake up, they aren’t hungry anymore. After my teeth had been pulled and I was gently woken up, the assistant asked how I felt. Through a mouthful of gauze and cotton, I croaked, “Hungry.”

When I’m not eating, I think about what I’m going to eat next. When I heard that men think about sex X times per minute every day (can’t remember how many times, but it was plenty, and I know you’ve all heard it at some point), I snorted and thought how ridiculous it was to be thinking of sex that much. However, if I really sat down and put numbers to the thoughts of food which flit through my head every day, I could probably approach the man/sex figures.

So why do I overeat and why, when I’m not overeating and am already full, am I thinking about my next meal? Unanswerable. There’s a massive amount of research on this subject, and the results are ridiculously complicated and often conflicting. There are plenty of theories, scientific and otherwise. These range from strictly physiological to strictly psychological to any conceivable combination of the two.

I don’t know if it’s all genes, body chemistry or childhood trauma (not that I have much of that) or habit. I think it’s likely a stew of many ingredients, a huge kitchen sink affair. Gads, a food metaphor. Figures.

What I think, after a lifetime of overeating, and reading about it, is this –

The more I eat, the more I will continue to eat. As my stomach stretches larger from bigger meals, the “you’re full” signals are delayed even longer from being sent to my brain. Eating until I am stuffed full only leads to larger and larger meals. Therefore, I must be relentless, while dieting in particular, that I stop eating before I feel really full.

The more rich foods I eat, the more satisfaction I receive. Happy chemicals are released in my brain as I eat fatty and sweet foods. I like being happy. So, if I feel happy from one bite of a Snickers bar, how much happier will I feel if I eat the whole thing, or better yet, eat the giant sized Snickers? Much happier, of course. The next time I eat, I will naturally choose those foods that give me the happy buzz I’m seeking.

Do I need a happy buzz because my life is miserable or because I was abused when I was a kid? This might be true for some people, but it’s not for me. In general, my life is not miserable, and I was not abused as a child (well, unless you count abuse by other children who taunted me about being fat, but I don’t count it). Most days, I consider myself an extremely lucky individual.

I do eat more, and worse, than usual when I’m being run too hard and not getting much sleep. But this only accounts for a small amount of excess in regards to the larger picture of everyday eating.

I have read in articles how you should stop using food to comfort yourself, or console yourself or alleviate boredom or celebrate a promotion, in other words to get that happy buzz. They recommend substituting things and say, “instead of eating a Ding Dong, take a long walk; avoid that double cheeseburger by treating yourself to a pedicure; and reward yourself with that CD you’ve been wanting rather than swilling down the Ben and Jerry’s.”

Are you kidding me? These are your damned solutions? If I got the same buzz from a long walk as I do from a Double Whopper with cheese, I wouldn’t be fat to begin with.

Case in point — I used to work with a gal who was very thin and fit. Naturally, I admired her for this. She worked out at the gym and on her farm at home, a lot. I marveled at her amazing self will. One day she was telling me about her grueling spinning class, and I just kind of shook my head and told her that I couldn’t do that, and that I didn’t know how she did it. She looked at me in more than a bit of befuddlement and said, “But I like it. I always have. It’s fun.”

Maybe I should be kicked for having missed the obvious for so many years. That gal actually enjoyed working out, sweating, hurting, expending all that physical effort! She liked it just as damned much as I liked eating a large meat lover’s pizza from Pizza Hut. It made her happy. Gave her the buzz.

I still liked that gal after that, but I no longer gave her credit for amazing self will. She was just doing what she liked and what made her happy. Same thing I was doing. With different results, sure, but the urges came from basically the same place.

I think that we all have some differences in what we enjoy, and even love, but that the desire to get those things is universal. In many instances, our very bodies conspire with that need on a molecular level to ensure it gets what it wants. I have cursed fate that one my great loves is food. Why couldn’t it have been motorcycle riding? Or hiking in nature? Or a love of wealth and power? What addict of anything which isn’t good for them cannot ask this question?

People who are fat are accused of having no willpower. They say this breezily, like it’s no big deal to have willpower over food. But they can only say it that way because they themselves have no real problems with food. My response to their breeziness would be, what in your life, that you desperately wanted and thought about most of your waking day, have you been able to deny yourself for long? Particularly when all it takes is a trip to a store and a few bucks to get it. If they were honest, most would answer “nothing.”

Alcoholics and drug addicts have addictions which are similar in nature, and hugely physiological. To overcome these addictions takes an incredible amount of willpower. I admire those who manage it.

As many have said before me, I cannot just stop eating (not that I’m sure it matters much). I know what foods I should and shouldn’t eat, after all. Rich, fatty food gives me a happy buzz while it lasts, and there’s no simple substitute for that. Exercise sure as hell isn’t it for me. I’ve never liked it and never will. And pedicures? Someone needs a big slap upside the head.

I don’t think I’ll ever find a substitute for the happy food buzz. I think I’m going to have to learn to live without it as much as possible. I think this will be about denial, and self will. How much do I want to be thinner and healthier? How much do I want to beat diabetes and its complications? How much can I deny myself to get something else that I want, but which gives me no feelings of happiness in the present?

My relationship with food is that food makes me happy and therefore I eat it. I like feeling happy, even if it means that later I’ll be very sorry about it. It’s a compulsion. It can’t be changed or substituted (not for me, anyway). It has to be, therefore, controlled. By me alone.

I have to grit my teeth and learn to live without it as much as I possibly can. I have to face the fact of self denial, and I have to face it every day. When I’m dreaming of food on a long stretch of I-80, I have to try to stop myself, because even the dreams of food can give me the buzz, which fuels the compulsion and leads to more breakdowns in self will.

I’m thinking that for me, my weight may be the result of multiple causes, but the solution to my weight problem lies in willpower. And I most certainly do not say this breezily. I don’t know if I can do this. All I can do is try my damnedest. When the will slips, forgive myself, then bring it back in line as soon as I can. Take my time. Practice patience. Let it be a long, slow process if that what it takes.

And let every pill I put in my mouth be an inspiration to bend myself, for one more day, to the power of my personal will.

Let’s say, a year or two from now, I have managed to lose enough weight to satisfy me for a while. How do I keep that weight off? It always comes back, and then some. And since I’m sure I’m not going to learn to love eating nothing but unseasoned vegetables and tiny amounts of meat for the rest of my life, the battle will not be over by a long shot. I have some concrete answers for this problem, based on past experience. I’ll save those for another post.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to try to re-commit myself to this diet. It’s been four and a half months now, and I’ve been seriously feeling weak in regards to will. I may not be able to change my relationship with food, but I can sure as hell try to keep it from ruining my life. It’s had its way with me enough already.

The early years

2009 October 10
by Hedon

My Mom was 17 when I was born. Now you may not be aware of it, but being a 17-year-old single parent way back in 1965 wasn’t the non-stop thrill ride of joy that it is today. I know you might be thinking that 1965 was smack in the middle of the decade of hippies and free-love and awesome music and such, but what you’re forgetting is to make the small-town-in-Missouri adjustment required to give you an accurate picture of my hometown in the year of my birth. In small town Missouri in 1965 everything was pretty much exactly the same as anywhere else had been in 1955 or perhaps even 1950.

Young unwed mothers were… uh… frowned upon. They certainly were not encouraged to continue in school because it was thought that they might contaminate the other (decent) girls with their free-thinking free-love free-Cambodia cooties or something. When word had gotten around the school around Christmas time that Mom was pregnant, the Principal had tried to expel her half-way through her Senior year. He didn’t know what he was up against.

My Grandpa was a huge believer in learning and education. He was horrified at the idea that Mom wouldn’t be able to complete her education. He argued with the Principal that Mom’s personal situation was a family matter that was none of the school’s business but the Principal wouldn’t budge. Finally Grandpa went to the school board and threw such a huge fit and threatened to sue the school district and caused such a general uproar that they had to eventually come to a compromise with him.

Every single day of Mom’s last semester Grandpa went to the school at lunch time, picked up all her assignments and turned in her homework from the previous day. Mom went in every Friday and took any tests given that week in the Vice Principal’s office. That’s how she got her diploma thanks to Grandpa. I was born in July one month after my Mom graduated from High School.

During a time period when many unwed mothers were being tossed out of their homes to make their own way in the world as best they could, Mom and I lived with Grandpa and Grandma for the first three years of my life. I don’t really remember Grandma much. She had had rheumatic fever when she was young and was always quite sickly. But my very first memory in life is of sitting in Grandpa’s lap watching the nightly news and waiting for Mom to get home from work.

I adored my Grandpa. He was a big old man who smelled like sawdust and pipe tobacco and butterscotch. He loved reading and taught me to read when I was three years old. He was always bringing books home for me and we would sit and read them for hours. He would read me parts from his books before I went to bed. I remember he loved Zane Grey books. After a particularly heroic section of his book he would pause and tell me that I could be a hero, too. All I had to do was always do the right thing. And he made it clear that doing the right thing was exactly what he expected from me in any given situation. He was quite matter of fact in his belief that I would grow up to be a hero in a book someday. He made it all sound so easy.

Not that Grandpa was always serious because he had a wicked sense of humor. I didn’t even realize how good his sense of humor was until I was an adult looking back on things. He loved to laugh. I remember he bought me this giant blue plastic piggy bank. It was all I could do to lift it. When he would have company come over, he would have me stand up in the middle of the living room and sing a song at the top of my lungs. You have to know that I have literally no singing voice whatsoever, but that didn’t bother Grandpa or me. Anyway, when I was finished with my song, he would say, “Now go do what I taught you.” And I would run off into my and Mom’s bedroom, get my giant blue piggy bank, and walk up to each person shaking it until they gave me some change and I wouldn’t go away until they coughed up the cash. It always made Grandpa burst out laughing when I would shake that bank at someone. Looking back on it now, I would imagine that he was laughing at the look of shock and horror that was probably on their faces as I shook that giant blue pig at them, but I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew back then was if I made a lot of noise shaking the bank Grandpa would laugh even harder.

Not that his laughter was always a good thing. I was kinda uptight as a very young kid. I couldn’t stand it when people laughed at me when I had done something funny like fall down in a silly fashion or something similar. Let’s just say that I took myself a little too seriously — which Grandpa was determined to nip in the bud. So every time I would get all pissy because he was laughing at me he would sing this song:

Hedon’s mad and I’m glad

And I know how to please her

A bottle of ink to make her stink

And ten little boys to squeeze her

Well that song would absolutely make me see red! First of all, I did not want to stink. Secondly, I absolutely did not want ten little boys to squeeze me. (gosh that’s weird, huh?)  I tried to explain to him how utterly wrong his song was but he took no notice of me. He would sing that damned song at the top of his lungs and I would just get more and more angry. I remember one particular time standing in the utility room stomping my foot and sputtering with rage while Grandpa laughed and sang and danced around the kitchen flapping his overalls straps.

Then one day it just made me laugh. I don’t know what finally caused the shift, but maybe the utter silliness of it all finally got through. I would like to say I was completely cured that afternoon, but I wasn’t. However, I did start down the road of being able to laugh at myself that afternoon… thanks to that stupid stupid song and Grandpa dancing around like an idiot.

I may still not be a hero in a book, but I would like to think that he would be pleased with how far I made it down that particular road. :)

How to catch a middle-aged Bubba

2009 October 8
tags: , ,
by Hedon

It has come to my attention that quite a few women and a surprising number of men are hoping to catch themselves a middle-aged Bubba to have and to hold. While I have no idea why you might want this, I’m here to help. Hence this tutorial on hunting, choosing, capturing and domesticating the wild Bubba.

Finding your Bubba

As anyone who has ever done any hunting knows, you have to go to where the game is if you want your hunt to be successful. You have to go down to the river if you’re after trout. You have to go near the woods if you’re looking for deer. Bubba hunting is no different. The first step to bagging your Bubba is to go where they congregate in numbers and are at their least wary. Ideally, you want to first approach your Bubba while he is in the midst of his man-herd so he feels safe and relaxed. You are less likely to scare any particular Bubba off if you approach the whole herd as a group and talk slowly without making any sudden hand gestures.

The single best time and place to accomplish contact with the man-herd is at your local cafe around 05:00 in the morning. Yes, I know that’s damned early, but you have to go while they are still slow-witted from sleep. If you wait and go later in the morning, they will have had three or four cups of coffee and might wonder about your motives. You do not want to approach the man-herd when they are all jittery and worked up from coffee, tall tales and dirty jokes.

I recommend you just get a job at the cafe so that you are working at 05:00 when they start to straggle in and bunch together at the big round table. Working there will give you great camouflage so you can observe the herd without startling them. Also, you will be the one bringing the Bubba his coffee and breakfast every morning just like his mama used to do which will create happy associations in his sleep befuddled brain. Working at a cafe is really hard work and I wouldn’t ordinarily recommend it to anyone, but it’s all part of the hunt and, hey, it’s way better than spraying deer urine on your clothes and rolling around in dead leaves.

I’m not entirely sure this method will work in northern states, so if you go to your local cafe several mornings in a row and do not stumble across a pack of Bubbas you may have to move down South. I know that seems kinda drastic, but you’ll just have to ask yourself how badly you really want a Bubba after all. There are more Bubbas than you can shake a stick at down south so if you really want one that’s the place to be.

CafeBubbas300

Choosing your Bubba

Now that you have been working at the cafe a few days and are familiar with the man-herd it’s time to start narrowing the field so you can pick the Bubba you plan to bag. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your Bubba:

  • Looks  –  your Bubba is probably going to look like… well… a Bubba so I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on looks as a defining factor.
  • Hygiene  –  try to notice if your Bubba has been wearing the same pair of overalls for the past week. This can be tricky though as many Bubbas simply buy eight identical pieces of clothing and wear the “same” outfit every day. As long as the clothes are clean, your Bubba shouldn’t lose points for lack of creativity. If you’re looking for a man who dresses nice and has a great fashion sense you are confused about the term Bubba. You’ll need to stop right here and come back to read a possible future post entitled, “How to catch yourself a Metrosexual” or something similar.
  • Table manners  –  again, we’re not looking for anything fancy-pants here. Really you just want to be sure he doesn’t drop food on the floor and then eat it. Although… if he did that would probably mean he is likely to be pretty easy to care for once you get him home. I guess this one has to be based on your personal taste.
  • Creativity  –  listen to your Bubba’s contributions to the gas-bagging that goes on every morning. Does he tell the same story about the time he met Willie Nelson in the men’s room at the truck stop every other morning? Do you really want to spend your remaining years hearing over and over again how small Willie’s wiener is? I mean think about it.
  • Political leanings  –  turn the tv on the wall to Fox News and watch your Bubba’s reaction. Does he poke his neighbor and say, “That’s damned right!” every time the talking head on Fox makes some stupid right-wing half-truth point? Remember that once you get him home it is likely to be you he’s poking in the ribs every time Rush spews something stupid. Is that really what you’re looking for?
  • Free time  –  when the main body of the man-herd starts to get up and leave to go to work, does your Bubba sit there forever happily ordering another cup of coffee? He may have no job. When stories about work get thrown around the group does your Bubba keep his mouth shut and look out the window? Or does he talk about how hard he works down at the office where he runs a major multi-national corporation? He probably doesn’t. There is little worse than a Bubba who isn’t working, so study this point carefully. On the other hand, he may think a little lady who has a nice job at the cafe is a right good catch, so that could work to your favor if you still want him.

Capturing your Bubba

Now that you’ve chosen your Bubba, it’s time to cut him from the man-herd. This isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. Start out by doing little things just for him. Notice when his coffee cup hits about half full and refill only his cup. You can act like you have to get something from the kitchen so all the back-up Bubbas don’t get pissy about not getting their cups refilled at the same time because it will still leave that subtle feeling that you think your Bubba is special and they don’t deserve any damned hot coffee and why won’t they just leave and go to work already so you can talk to your Bubba alone for five damned minutes for god’s sake?

Put extra butter on your Bubba’s toast. I’m just throwing that in there cause it would probably work on me.

Bring in pictures of a couple of different bass boats you are thinking about buying and ask your Bubba’s opinion on which is the better model. If one of the herd starts bleating about it, wander off. Leave the pictures next to your Bubba and come quickly back if he starts talking about them. Or looking at them. Or really shows any signs of life at all.

If you get your Bubba alone for a few minutes, thank him for the tip he always leaves and mention in the strictest confidence that you are saving all your tips up to afford a boob-job. Notice if he starts giving you much bigger tips after that.

Put a Willie Nelson song on the juke box and mention how you used to think he was hot stuff, but now you don’t think he holds a candle to your Bubba. Notice if he blushes. If he does, laugh and playfully swat his arm. This one is going to be most effective if you have chosen the Bubba who met Willie in the truck stop men’s room years ago.

Before the herd comes in one morning, go out and let all the air out of one of your tires. When your Bubba comes in ask him if he will help you change it. Wait until after he’s had breakfast. Bubbas love to be helpful but not on an empty stomach.

Bring him cupcakes or muffins or a six-pack the next morning to thank him for fixing your tire. Don’t give the herd any. When the herd starts whining about why they don’t get any cupcakes, tell them they are all for Bubba cause he was your knight in shining armor when your tire was flat.

Wait a few weeks and tear the pipes under your sink apart then ask Bubba if he would mind coming over after work to take a look at them. That should get him to your house and that’s really all you need. From that point on it should be a done-deal.

Domesticating your Bubba

Ok… nobody really knows how to do that. All I can suggest is that you go slow. Maybe start with something simple like “Bushes are not actually porta-potties” for the first year. You aren’t likely to make much progress, but then what did you expect? Hell, now I’m wondering why you were wanting a Bubba in the first place if you’re going to be all picky about where he can go to the bathroom and stuff once you get him home. If you’re dead set on having a man that uses the toilet every single time, then maybe you should forget the Bubba and go after some fancy-pants college professor or CEO or movie star or something.

Life and Death

2009 October 4
by Hedon

On the highway in front of our house about two hundred feet before our driveway there was a dead cat laying in the middle of the road when we went home last month. I see dead animals on the road all the time, but it still makes me sad to see a dead cat or dog. It is a classic case of wrong place wrong time and always seems like such a waste. So as I drove down the driveway I was feeling a little melancholy about the cat.

When we parked the truck and got out we were greeted by five tiny little kittens poking their heads out from under our next door neighbor’s storage shed and meowing wildly at us. This was less surprising than you might think since for at least a decade wild mother cats have been slithering under that shed to bring their offspring into the world. I suppose that they feel safe under there because it is raised up off the ground enough for them to fit under easily, but it’s tight enough that other animals would have a hard time getting under it. I don’t know how they all find out about the place, but I think they leave little signs scratched into the wood like hobos used to do at houses that gave them food.

Anyway, there were five brand new little lives greeting us as we pulled the big truck into the driveway. There’s not much better at lifting one’s spirits than tiny kittens so I perked up right away. We stopped for a moment on the deck to admire them, and then headed on into the house to begin our glorious hometime. I assume they went on about their business, too. Didn’t really think about them any more that day cause it wasn’t exactly an unusual occurrence or anything.

The next day Stace and I spent most of the afternoon over at her Mom’s catching up with all her relatives that we hadn’t seen in far too long. That evening, when we got home, a few of the kittens peeked out from under the shed but immediately scooted back into the depths of darkness and safety when we headed toward them. Taking the hint, we went on in the house. We were chatting about how cute the little kittens were later that night and we suddenly remembered that we had seen a dead adult cat on the highway. We said in passing that we hoped it wasn’t the momma cat, but didn’t really make any connections at that point.

On Friday we planned to spend the entire day with LittleOne and Chaos so we left quite early. When we headed to the car that morning three of the kittens poked their heads out from under the shed to see us off. I still hadn’t seen a Momma Cat running around the yard, and was starting to get concerned that maybe that really was her up on the highway. But then on the other hand we did have Maggie outside so I wasn’t too surprised that everyone of the feline variety with any sense was making themselves scarce. Besides, I was excited to get on the road to go see LittleOne and just didn’t really think much about it.

Later that night, on the two hour drive home from Chaos’ house, Stace and I agreed that if we hadn’t seen the Momma Cat by the next morning we were going to have to figure out a way to get all the kittens gathered up so we could take them to a shelter Monday morning. I have to admit that the idea of trying to corral five scared kittens seemed kinda daunting, but if they had lost their mom we didn’t really have any choice since we couldn’t just leave them there and our stupid neighbor certainly wasn’t going to do anything about them. We didn’t see them Friday night when we got home, but it was very late so we just went on in the house and went to bed.

Bright and early the next morning I started my campaign to earn the kittens’ trust. Obviously my first plan of attack involved food. I poured some milk in a paper bowl and headed out the door calling, “Babies” in my most non-scary-trustworthy-good-human voice. Two of the kittens immediately rushed out from under the shed and took a couple of steps toward me meowing. I considered that a pretty good sign. They immediately turned tail and ran back under the shed as I got closer, but I figured that was to be expected. I sat the bowl of milk down not too far from the edge of the shed and removed myself to the neighbor’s porch about 10 feet away to watch.

For a little while they just sat there under the edge of the shed and stared at the bowl, then two of them finally started creeping toward it. They didn’t seem too sure about the whole idea at first, but once they figured out the bowl contained food they were all over it. This was going to be easy. I sat smiling and watched them for a while. Then it hit me.

Oh. My. God. Where. Are. The. Other. Three. Kittens?

I rushed over to the shed and flung myself down at the long edge. I meowed loudly. I meowed softly. I squirmed around trying to see under the shed, but I couldn’t see anything at all. I ran and got a flashlight out of the truck and tried again. Nothing. I thought maybe the other three were under the neighbor’s house so I ran over to the hole in their skirting that cats have been using for ages and tried meowing again into the hole. I listened intently. Nothing.

Oh no. Come on. Oh shit. This can’t be. Where are they?

They were gone. Oh my god. We let those poor kittens starve to death. I mean I know that we had had no idea how dire the situation was, but still… Why didn’t we feed them when we got back from Stace’s Moms? Or before we left for Chaos’ house? Or when we got home twelve hours later? Oh my god. We could have fed them a little milk fifty different times for Christ’s sake. I thought I was going to puke.

All day Saturday and Sunday I worked on building up the relationship between me and the two remaining kittens. I fed them about every three hours and took the bowl with me when I left so they would think of me as the food giver. That worked like a charm and they were running to meet me after a while when I walked out the door carrying that bowl. They didn’t take too long to get comfortable with me and Sunday afternoon they started letting me pick them up and cuddle them.

Since we had to leave at 6:00pm sharp Monday evening, we couldn’t afford any we’ve-changed-our-minds-we-don’t-want-to-come-near-you-now shenanigans so we decided to go ahead and get them secured Sunday night. We borrowed a cat carrier from a friend and I put them in it after their last meal. We put a fluffy towel in the bottom for them to snuggle in and put the carrier in the truck for the night. We didn’t want to bring them in the house because we knew Maggie would get excited and worked up and we didn’t want them to be freaked out by her thinking they were new squeaky toys.

Bright and early Monday morning I hit the phones to find a shelter that would take them. No luck on the first call as they were full to bursting. She said they had a long waiting list. No problem. On to the second call. No luck there, either, as they wouldn’t even answer their phones. Their outgoing message just said they had a huge waiting list and not to bother calling them back. The third and forth calls didn’t go any better.

Hmmm. This wasn’t going well. We live in a rural area and there simply aren’t that many shelters around. I was burning through them all in short order. I had been slightly concerned that they might not get adopted right away, and that they would be scared and lonely in a shelter, but it had honestly never occurred to me that we might not even be able to find them a place at a shelter. What were we going to do? We couldn’t keep them. We couldn’t just leave them. We couldn’t think of any friends that could take them. Finally in desperation I called our Vet to ask if we could pay to board them there for a month. I figured that if we could buy them a month then we would have more time to figure something out. The Vet said they couldn’t do it. But they did give us a couple more numbers to call.

It was now about eleven o’clock and things were getting desperate since we had to leave for the month in seven hours. Dialed call number five. Disconnected phone service. Tried the other number the Vet gave us. The lady who answered said she didn’t have any way to take them but she suggested that we call the Joplin Humane Society. Joplin is about an hour away from our house so I hadn’t tried them yet. Desperate times and desperate measures and all that so I gave them a call. Call number seven.

The Joplin Humane Society said we could bring them up there. Whew! Finally! The babies would have a fighting chance for a good life. Surely they would get adopted cause they were at that perfect age and cute as could be. I could feel the relief starting to course through me when the lady continued, “Now you understand that we are only able to give strays 24 hours and then they will be put down humanely. That’s simply the best we can do.”

24 hours? Seriously? What the hell? I told her I would have to think about it and might be up later then hung up the phone with a desperate sense of failure. We were not going to save those kittens. We had tried everything we could think of and it just wasn’t going to work. The best we could look for was to have them put down humanely at the very beginning of their young little lives. Oh my god that sucked. I was on the verge of a major meltdown.

Only one number left to call. I picked up the phone and dialed the Carthage Humane Society. Spoke to the lady who answered and explained the situation. She said they had had a couple of adoptions over the weekend so they had room available. We could go ahead and bring them up. She said they would be there about two weeks. I told her I would be there in an hour and twenty minutes and to reserve the space for them. I hung up the phone as relief poured through me. Told Stace the score and we agreed that two weeks was obviously the best we were going to be able to give them so we had better take them there. I grabbed the kittens and hit the road.

When I got to Carthage, I filled out the paperwork and paid the intake fee, and found out I had been mistaken about the two weeks thing. She was simply saying that in her experience it would take about two weeks for them to be adopted. Then she told me that they are a no-kill shelter and that as long as they stay healthy and happy they will have a home there until they are adopted. Oh happy day. I had to work hard to hold back tears of relief as I dug in my wallet for some money to give them as a donation. No good. All the stress and fear of the last couple of days broke over me and I handed her the money with tears streaming down my cheeks.

We lost three of them due to utter stupidity and that’s going to take a while to get over. But we saved the other two through sheer stubbornness. The other two babies were safe. They had a chance. They would find a good home and lead happy lives. Whew.

Clever dog

2009 October 2
by Stace

Ran across this great article from Time that I thought some of you dog lovers might enjoy. It’s The Secrets Inside Your Dog’s Mind. It doesn’t actually tell you what your dog is secretly thinking, which in my opinion is just as well. I’m pretty sure Maggie’s mind mostly revolves around food, getting her ears scratched and thinking she should probably sniff and/or lick her butt again.

Check out the article if you’ve got some time and the inclination. Should be interesting to see the results of the studies they are planning. I always find evolutionary biology fascinating. Conclusions are generally speculative, I think, but fun to consider all the same.

Oh, and if understanding a person pointing comes naturally to a dog, why the heck can’t I get Maggie to really understand it? She kind of half way gets it. I must be doing something wrong.

Comeuppance? Not so much

2009 September 30
tags: , ,
by Stace

I arrived home last week in something of a bad mood. There’d been an excessive amount of boobery involved in getting us home, and I knew that once I got there I wouldn’t have a television to watch.

We’ve got too many trees around our house, and they’re blocking our satellite signal. Last time home, they’d gotten so leafy that I couldn’t get any channels at all the last day of hometime (had been able to get only about 20 channels, but it was better than nothing). I expected nothing when I got home.

But surprise! When I turned on the TV in a moment of what I considered to be some seriously pathetic hopefulness, I was rewarded with a picture. Man, was I happy. Oh sure, I’m paying for a shitload of channels and am only able to actually receive about 20, but I will take those 20 gladly.

I was so pleased by this turn of events that I decided to go ahead and hop on the scale, even though it was early evening and I’d just eaten a big steak at Outback. Miracle of miracles, and after all the shenanigans of last month on the road, I had managed to lose some weight –

Four pounds.

I was and still am excited about that. Four pounds lost over nearly six weeks isn’t that much, but compared to what I was fearfully expecting, it’s a huge number.

So anyway, those four pounds brings my total up to 37 pounds lost in about four months. I’m happy.

I’m happy because I’m not in that big of a hurry. I want to find something I can live with, for the long haul. I hate the expression, but … “I want to change my relationship with food.” If that can ever happen, it will take a very, very long time.

I didn’t get a chance to respond to the comments on my last post about my diet (I don’t do 24k dial-up), but I did want to respond to the comments about my thyroid. About 10 years ago I had it checked. Yeah, the numbers were a little off, so I was put on some medication. After about 4-5 months of taking the meds, I didn’t feel any differently, nor did it make any difference in my weight, so I took myself off it.

Right now, I’m on three different medications: Metformin, Lovastatin and Lisinopril. I don’t think I could stand to add any more to that list. If I find myself in the situation where I am dieting faithfully and my weight is not budging, I would probably consider getting my thyroid tested. Until then, three meds a day is the limit.

You know, this whole deal of only weighing once every five weeks or so has worked out fabulously. In the past, I’ve always weighed every day, mainly because I couldn’t stand not to check. And what with fluctuations and plateaus and the like, it would be very frustrating not to see daily results on the scale. It was this frustration which would eventually lead to my quitting the diets.

Weighing once every five weeks has, so far, removed that frustration. Sure, four pounds over the course of more than five weeks means I lost less than a pound a week, which isn’t so great, but surprisingly, it doesn’t seem so bad when you’re standing on the scales and the number is four pounds less than the last time you weighed. Logically, I know the number isn’t that great, but the illogical part of me is celebrating, “Yippee! Four pounds!” Bless that silly, illogical side.

That day last week when I came home to two pieces of good news and better luck, I wish I had dashed down to the store and bought a lottery ticket. It was clearly my day.