Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2012

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back!  It’s great to have you here.  “Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.”  I’m like a fungus:  after a while, I grow on you.

Yes, I’m slowly getting back to the important things in life; camping and writing so, God willing, the blog will go back to a certain regularity and, hopefully, be more informative and entertaining than ever before.

I don’t know whether it was all the time I spent editing and revising Born Bent Over for ebook publication, or just the typical day late and a dollar short realization continuum that is my trademark, but a funny thing dawned on me the other day that set off bells and whistles all over the atomic wasteland I call a mind.

Before I go any further, let me clarify one thing:  I have been an avid camper from my short-pants days in the Cub Scouts and have probably logged more hours in the woods than a few middle-aged bears I know (most of them are moving into the suburbs now, anyway).  I have camped extensively up and down the east coast and have even hiked a significant portion of the Appalachian Train.  Suffice it to say, with all that experience and the fact that my first book, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping is in its’ third printing and still receiving great reviews, I might be considered somewhat of a camping expert:  in my own mind, perhaps, but an expert nonetheless.

That being said, and in keeping with my Born Bent Over birthright, I have had some experiences in the woods that would have most mere mortals running for the comfort of a Holiday Inn.  It’s my lot in life.  I accept it and have learned to deal with it……somewhat.  If something didn’t go wrong in everything I do, I’d get extremely nervous and start chilling the beer and awaiting the arrival of those five, thirsty, dreaded horsemen (whom are rumored to be coming December 21st, bwahahahahaha!!!!).  That drunken sot guardian angel of mine, the infamous Murray, just keeps falling deeper and deeper into the bottle and the Victoria’s Secret catalogs and the proverbial poo just keeps hitting the fan.

Am I bitter?  Nah!  I just pray daily that the curse ends here and my children and grandchildren are spared the wrath.

Anyway, back to my intended point (I tend to drift).  Just a rough pass through the moldy, yellowing, brittle files in my gray matter brought back some graphic horror stories from camping trips past that really got me thinking.  Some of them are so bizarre that, at the time they occurred, the only way I could avoid a stint as a guest at Happy Acres on their Celebrity Haldol and Shock Therapy package was to opt for selective amnesia with the hope that, if the memories ever resurfaced, they would do so well past the statute of insanity limitations and become funny fodder for future campfire stories.   A few of them still send a chill up my spine; but I’m long past PTSD due to the far more frightening events that have made up my everyday life for lo these past fifty-two years.

So, I said to myself, “Self,  why not compile those stories into a new book?  Born Bent Over Two:  Camping Stories No One Would Ever Believe.  I can even hear the banjo music theme song now.  I guess I’d better learn to play one before I finish the book.  Look at the pretty colors!  Squirrel!!!”  The seventy-five voices currently occupying my gray matter all agreed in unison that a compilation of all those horror stories would be a great idea.  That’s the first time that ever happened.  They’re such a diverse group, as those of you who’ve read Born Bent Over well know.

One story comes immediately to mind.  This tale may not be for the faint of heart, so those of you with a weaker constitution might want to skim down to the end.  This ain’t pretty.

Picture this, if you will:  Orlando, FL, the Year of Our Lord 1993.  My son was seven at the time and my daughter was just the cutest little two year old holy terror you’ve ever seen.  Up until that point, we’d been avid tent campers.  I had always been a tent camper and, by golly, I was going to remain one til……..OK, til I started waking up paralyzed from sleeping on the hard, root-riddled, damp ground.  I was thirty-three with the body of an eighty year old and the whole “roughing it” thing was losing its’ appeal rapidly.  To top it off, Florida is Africa hot: always.  No exceptions.  Throw in the constant, 300%, humidity and you’re pretty much living in a twenty-four hour sauna bath.  We needed AC just to breathe!   At the time, we were camping, on average, two weekends a month.  What’s a dad to do?

Swallow your pride and buy a camper, that’s what.  For the kids sake, of course.

Having never before owned a camper, I asked around a bit and did some research on what type of camper would best suit our needs.  I was on an extremely limited budget so whatever I decided on would, without fail, be not-so-gently used and require a great deal of elbow grease and fix-it acumen.  I figured I had those so, on one crisp, clear Florida Saturday morning, my son and I, “Campers For Sale” paper in hand, went cruising.

I don’t know how many counties we covered that morning, but by early evening, almost ready to call it a day, we passed an old farmhouse somewhere in Deland with, as “my” luck would have it, a pop-up camper, fully erected, sitting on the front lawn with a For Sale sign on it.

We stopped to look, but it appeared to be in immaculate shape so I assumed our stopping was for naught.  My son jumped out of the truck and went running up to it as the owners, who resembled the sweetest pair of Norman Rockwell grandparents you ever saw, came to greet us.  Here’s where that old line, “Never judge a book by its’ cover.” comes into play.

After some sugar-coated introductions and their oohs and aahs over how cute my wing man was, I asked right up front how much they were asking before bothering to inspect it.  If it was something astronomical, we’d just thank them for their time and go home and try again another day.

“Eight hundred dollars and not a penny less,” grandpa said.  Danny had absolutely no poker face back then.  “Dad!  That’s what you said we could spend!  We can get it!  Yeah!!!”  I could have strangled him right about then but, as I said, he was such a cute little guy.

I proceeded to look it over closely, pretending to know what the hell I was looking for while Danny was doing his own inspection of the inside and extolling grandma with his camping acumen.

“The tires are new, the wheel bearings were just packed and she don’t leak a drop,” the aged, used car dealer from hell proclaimed.  I still stick pins in the voodoo doll I had made of him in Cassadaga on a later camping trip.

I had to admit:  a visual inspection of the “beast from hell,” as I would later name it, was impressive.  I spent a good thirty minutes checking this and “ah-ha-ing” that, pretending to be somewhat of an expert.

“Sir, as you can see, I’ve got two small children at home.  We love camping and we’d like to get out of our tent and into a camper, but to be honest, the most I could possibly come up with would be six-hundred dollars.  I’m sorry we wasted your time.”

“Aw, give it to um, Henry,” the aged Stepford wife giggled as she was listening to another of Danny’s stories while telling him how cute he was.  He was always such a little ham.

“Well………. Sure; what the hell.  Ma and Me were young once.  Six-hundred and she’s yours!”

I couldn’t believe it!  I’d finally won one (or so I thought).  My dumb ass usually ends up offering more initially than the seller was thinking of asking in the first place.  Danny got his poker face from me.

With Danny’s staunch and boisterous supervision, I paid the man, got the camper hooked up to the hitch, waved our good-bye’s and thank yous and we were off.

The following weekend I spent familiarizing myself with all the gadgets and doo-dads, cleaning this and that, fixing the tail lights that didn’t work and preparing for our first trip in a camper.  We were all as elated as a fat kid locked alone in a candy store over night, all working together, prepping for the following weekend.  After a full weekend of preparations, we went inside and perused the Woodall’s Catalog for a great place to go on our first trip.  After a whole bunch of giggly back and forth (Shelby suggested Hawaii), we decided on Tomoca State Park in Ormond Beach.  It was relatively close to the house, had full hook-ups, fishing and hiking as well as an interactive Native American exhibit; the prospect of seeing that thoroughly fascinated the kids.

I spent the entire week packing this and checking that: trying to insure we had everything we needed so that nothing could possibly go wrong and put a damper on our first camper outing.

Boy, was I a dreamer.

Everything started off well.  We’d gone out for groceries the night before, packed the coolers, sundries and half of Toys R US in the van and made it to the park without incident.  Ah, but the plot thickens.

We no sooner got the camper set up when the sky decided to open up with a deluge of biblical proportions.  No biggie, right?  Wrong!

The rain relegated us to the confines of the camper for the duration (which turned out to be the entire weekend).

Again, no biggie, right?  We weren’t in a tent any longer.  Like the late George and Weezie, We were movin on up!  We had a camper with electricity, running water and a VCR with stacks of movies for the kids just in case such an emergency befell us.  We were no amateurs!

We’d been inside for about all of ten minutes when my wife began a sneezing fit, followed closely by my asthmatic son.  The sneezing we might have passed off, but the advent of the hives and swollen eyes from both of them told me only one thing: those “sweet, kind” former owners had dogs who camped with and slept with them in the camper; contrary to their claims to the negative.  Both my son and my wife were terribly allergic to dog hair and I specifically asked Ma and Pa Kettle if they’d had any dogs in the camper.

I was digging through a cabinet, looking for the first aid kit containing the  Benedryl when I heard a pop and my daughter crying out that the TV went off: and right in the middle of her favorite movie……which she’d watched six-thousand times.  At just about that time, I began to feel as if I was being subjected to the Chinese Water Torture.  Drops of water were coming down on my head at an alarming rate and, as I later learned, on top of the TV, too……which shorted out (eating Shelby’s favorite tape in the process).  Water was pouring down on the beds, the counter top, the floor…..you get the picture.  The canvas on that camper was about as water repellent as cheese cloth.

But, if you spent just a month in my shoes, you’d learn quickly to always look for a silver lining.  You know it’ll never come, but you look for it nonetheless.  It’s what keeps me out of Happy Acres.  Determined to save the day, I went out and pulled the plug to insure the whole thing didn’t short out, dug the umbrellas out of the truck and took my soggy band of stoic campers to see the American Indian exhibit……..which was closed for renovations.

We went back to the camper to regroup and see what we could salvage, hoping that the rain would pass quickly as most Florida showers do, when we realized, rather shockingly, that when I backed the camper into our site, I’d parked directly over a very active, angry, fire ant mound; the inhabitants of which were now occupying the inside of the camper, en mass…….and they were pissed!

A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.  Head hung in defeat, (it should be obvious by now that I’m definitely not a winner: at least not in the literal sense) I loaded the family into the truck while I, now soaked to the bone, collapsed the camper and prepared for our trip home.  I could have used Moses at about that time to part the angry sea because it was high tide inside the camper and, even collapsed, water was pouring out from under the half-doors.

In an attempt to mount the trailer tongue on the hitch ball, I realized that the jaw wasn’t opening and the two refused to mesh.  In the interrum, the deluge had reached a point where I was considering building an ark.  The wind decided to join the parade and, in some places (namely right where I stood) it was actually raining up.  We’re talking serious rain here.

Expletives spewing from me like a man possessed, I opened the back doors of the van to get at my tools and, hopefully, fix the receiver. I’ll never forget Danny’s little face as he looked over the back seat, eyes puffed closed and a huge bugger stuck to his upper lip as he asked, through slightly swollen lips, if I needed any help.   All I wanted was to get everyone home safely, find a huge cliff to push the camper off of and reconsider taking up golf when, in my rage, I accidentally reached under the receiver a little to far just as it decided to relent and come down with a resounding SMACK!, (followed closely by a series of loud, effeminate shrieks) sandwiching my finger between it and the hitch ball.

You’re laughing, right?  Admit it.  But wait:  it gets better.

My van was a three speed with the shifter on the steering column.  My wife couldn’t drive a three speed.  My nearly-severed finger was now resting in a cup of blood-soaked ice that I was holding between my thumb and three remaining fingers.  Daddy needed to get to a hospital to have his finger sewn back on before shock set in and Daddy had to drive there.  I still remember fondly my little ghoul two-year old wanting to see Daddy’s boo-boo finger and just staring at it without the slightest bit of revulsion or disgust, just amazement.  My lil punkin!

Go ahead and laugh.  This was just a day in the life for me.

I made it to the hospital, using language (derived from pain and my inability to drive a manual transmission truck with one hand, I assure you) that probably still haunt the kids dreams, (who am I kidding?   They could probably teach me a few new expletives) only to find that the local hospital didn’t have a hand surgeon and they needed to call one up from Daytona Beach.  Thirteen hours later, with an IV catheter still in my arm due to a disinterested nurse and pain meds sufficiently on board, two bored-to-tears, screaming kids who were acting out the American Indian war dance they never got to see and a tired, hungry, disheveled wife in the waiting room, (not to mention an enormously large bandage on my hand and my arm in a sling) we headed home in torrential rain, pulling a trailer with a three speed that I was steering with my knees and reaching my left hand over the wheel to shift:  the gear shift that was on the right side.  Did I mention that the van didn’t have power steering?  Just wanted to paint as clear a picture as possible.

That’s one of my more mild camping experiences.  We didn’t have to bury any bodies on that trip.

And I still love camping!  The rumors must be true.  My mother did raise an idiot.

You know life has dealt you lemons throughout when you’re working on a sequel to a book on just how screwed up your life is and there will still be tomes more to write.  Ain’t life grand?  Admit it: you wish you had my life.

Right now I’m awaiting a slight reprieve from the Florida-like weather we’re having here in SC so I can drag Nosty’s Nook out of the barn and get her ready for what I hope to be a long and frequent camping season.  I’m hoping that September through May brings about some fantastic camping weather and I can get out and do what I love best……..well, second best, but I’m currently camping alone so that prospect is a moot point.

I may be fifty-two, but I ain’t dead!

In closing (the crowd moans, “Thank God!”), things are hopping at Danby Mountain Press.  Aside from the forthcoming sequel to Born Bent Over, the Paramedic sequel is nearing completion and should be published later this year.  On top of that, Danby Mountain Press has added an audio studio to our glamorous, skid row, publishing facilities so our published works will soon be available as audio books.  Busy, busy, busy.  I don’t date much, can you tell?

Until next time, and as always, my friends, I wish you peace, love and every happiness life has to offer.  Until the next blog, beware the couple from the American Gothic painting trying to sell you a pop-up.  It’s sure to be a lemon!

Adio!

Brian

If you haven’t read my latest ebook, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, shame on you.  Everybody needs a good belly laugh and Born Bent Over is sure to please.  Download your copy now.  You won’t be sorry.

Again, my many thanks to my wonderful sister, Michelle, for her hard and creative work on our website.  We all know who got the brains in the family.  Stop by and check us out.  We’ll be uploading some new stories very soon.

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Hi, remember me?  I know.  I’ve been very naughty.  I should be spanked.  Line up, ladies.  I’ll bring the whips, dark lager and whipped cream.  Party at Brian’s!

Unlike my past blogs, this one isn’t about Nosty’s Nook.  While that project is still ongoing, the hot weather and life in general have put her on the back burner for a little while.  You’ll be hearing much more about Das Nook when the temps get down below 100 degrees.

Since my last blog, both of my children have blessed me, each with a perfect grandson.  Noah Patrick Tolbert, now eight months old, and Hank Daniel Greenleaf, now three days old, have further blessed what has become a very wonderful life.

Facebook has been occupying a great deal of my gray matter lately so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on that subject and share some other news.

As of this morning, my latest book, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, has been granted premium distribution and will be available in ebook, paperback and hardbound formats through all the major book and electronic book distributors within the next few weeks.  To say that’s a milestone for me would be like saying a nuclear explosion in my underwear drawer was a minor disturbance.  I’m so proud.  Danby Mountain Press, my publishing company, (my children are named Daniel and Shelby, hence the name Danby) has been a struggling, scratching entity since 1997.  It’s taken us a very long time, but we’re finally starting to see some light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Anyway, enough about me.  Bring on the blog!

Is Facebooking for the Aged?

“What the hell is a face book?  Did you write that?  It isn’t one of your naughty books, is it?”

Believe it or not, I still hear that from some very intelligent people who refuse to be assimilated into the world of cyber communications.

My very best friend in the world; a man to whom I would give a kidney, and with whom I shared my first cigarette, my first beer and who was also in an adjoining bedroom the night I “became a man,” refuses to have anything whatsoever to do with a computer.  Of course, he’s a mail delivery person so he’s probably fallen into the whole email vs. the postal service conspiracy, but that’s another blog.  He does, however, tell everyone he knows to look me up on Facebook.  Don’t worry, Dude; your position is safe.  I get enough junk mail on a daily basis to keep the post office afloat for many years to come.  If you’re really worried about job security, become a sanitation worker.  I haul bags of the aforementioned junk mail, shredded, of course, to the curb daily.

I became ensconced in the world of Facebook shortly after its inception.  Unlike my aforementioned “brother-from-a-different-mother,” I freely admit to being a computer nerd.  I’ve been playing with computers since the internet was nothing more than a bunch of picture-less billboards and the TRS-80 was giving way to the 8088.

Ok, so I’m old.

My original intent in becoming a FB’er was to get the word out when I published a new book, or to occasionally converse with my minions who will, one day, help me conquer the third world country I will, without question, become the fair and just ruler of.  The gang at Happy Acres is just waiting for my signal to come across the Take-over Hot Line (two tin cans tied together with a very long string).  Thorazine and shock therapy are our friends………..

However, what started out as a platform for my books and stories has become a lifeline of sorts.  On a daily basis, I can keep in touch with friends, new and old, family up north and, most importantly, my two children; both of whom have, within the last eight months, blessed me with two beautiful grandsons.  I have an entire external hard drive dedicated to the pics my daughter and son post daily of my two future camping buddies.  While nothing can compare to holding those two little monkeys in my arms, I’m stuck in the middle class.  Until that semi-hostile take-over (a few at Happy Acres have anger issues….Sue!!) of that third world country, I don’t have access to a private jet and can’t make it down to see my kids and grandkids as often as I’d like.  I’m hoping my retirement will be a healthy (both physically and financially) one, and I’ll be able to haul my camper down there for long stretches of quality time.

Who’d-a-thunk it?  With a few mouse clicks, I’m up to date on all that’s going on with the people I care about:  and all from the comfort of my office chair.

I’ve talked to a few of my colleagues who flat out refuse to become involved in the world of social networking.  Many of them are computer savvy, some can barely check their email.  Their reasoning for avoiding social networking sites varies, but some of the most interesting responses I’ve gotten are from those who profess a fear of becoming addicted.

Wait a second!  Is that a bad thing?  I may as well stand and take the pledge now:  “Hi, I’m Brian, and I’m a FB addict.”   I have a feeling there’ll be a twelve-step program available to those of us with this affliction very soon.  I, however, am not a quitter!  Until some better way of communicating comes along, (or until FB “updates” with that one straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back, irritating update, (like Timeline) regardless of how ferociously FB addicts object to it) I’ll be a dedicated FB’er.

FB has helped me rekindle a great many old friendships that, due to the miles and life’s different paths, had been dormant over the years.  I’ve managed to be brought up-to-date on what’s going on in many people’s lives, and have marveled over how many of those who, like myself, were voted most likely to become wards of the state by our graduating class, have managed to become pillars of their community.  Admit it, a whole bunch of us denizens of the “back path” at Taconic have managed to move from the back path to the front office.

One of the amazing things that FB has brought to light in spades is the fact that many of the young and vivacious class of 1978 are now grandparents.  We, the seventeen and eighteen year old graduating class from Taconic High School, who were sprung loose on the world to reap havoc and shake the establishment to its very core, have Preparation H and a whole host of prescription bottles, balms and salves in our medicine cabinets.

Where has the time gone?  If my math is correct, our thirty-five year reunion will be coming up in 2013.  Judging from some of your profile pics, most of you have aged gracefully.  Some of you, even amazingly, *wink*  My profile pic is fair warning to you all not to call animal control when I walk in the door.  I am not an animal!  Unlike most of you, time has not been very good to me.  As a matter of fact, if I’d been born with an identical twin sister, my profile pic would be her; cigar and all.  Just add about 200 pounds.

To answer my original question, I don’t know whether FB is for the aged or not.  We’re not old.  It took a long time, but I honestly believe that you truly are as old as you feel.  That being the case, I’m still that seventeen-year-old who had to wrench his diploma out of Mr. Diamond’s hand back on that hot June day in 1978 and run from the platform before he had a chance to snatch it back.  I am the grandfather of two perfect little boys.  The honor of the title of grandfather is not an indicator of age.  It’s a blessing from God.  There may be some prescription bottles and Preparation H in my medicine cabinet, but that seventeen year old is still at the helm.  Never let a number rule your life.  Keep grabbing for that brass ring and never succumb to black socks and orthopedic sandals.  The grim reaper can’t catch you when you run in Nikes.

In closing, I’d like to thank my 180 FB friends for the many laughs and for sharing your lives with me.  I have always shot for quality, not quantity, in my friend’s list and can honestly say that, with the exception of a few businesses and organizations I enjoy hearing about, the wonderful people on my friend’s list are all truly people I know or have met through other friends and whom I consider an honor to call my friend.

Until next month, I wish you peace, love and every happiness.

Brian

Thanks to my wonderful sister, Michelle, my website, bgreenleaf.com has been totally revamped.  The short stories page is still in the development stages, but will be available soon with new stories from the depths of my warped and demented mind.

Stay tuned to this station for forthcoming podcasts featuring none other than yours truly!  We’re in the development stages and are currently putting together a studio here at Happy Acres.  If nothing else, they’re sure to be interesting.  More on that as the project progresses.  As if I haven’t pissed off enough government agencies; now we’re going to poke the FCC tiger.  *rubbing hands together while flashing an evil grin*  Life is grand!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: