Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Razor's Edge

"Hairy!" he says as he rubs his hand briskly over the fish-white skin of my legs.

"You should see my armpits," I mutter irritably.

"Why don't you shave them?" He is poking at the short hairs like a toddler discovering a bug on the sidewalk.

"What for?"

"It's sexy! Girls aren't supposed to have hairy legs."

"Says who?"

"Says the entire leg-shaving free world!" He is waving his arms, bouncing slightly in frustration and making it impossible to write.

"Really? Is that near Neverland?"

"Why is it such a big deal? Why don't you just shave them? I bet if you did it every day, it wouldn't take so long."

I can see he's pleased with this brightly volunteered constructive criticism, considering his approach to be the perfect blend of nonchalance, support and helpfulness.

I hate that. I start to contract him but he cuts me off.

"No! You should do-it-ev-ery-day." He slaps his palms together with each syllable, emphasizing his committment to my leg-shaving experience. Great. It merely serves to remind me of the constant drudgery to which I would be subjecting myself.

"In shaving, as in life, it is not the length of the hair that matters, but the surface area to be covered," I singsong in a faux philosophical tone. His eyebrow raises in amusement.

"As in life?!" he chuckles.

"Yes! Confuscious say: He who shave leg get cold leg."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Overheard at the Halloween Party

"What's normal for sex? Try every night!"

"Hey, I have something that might interest you."
"I doubt it."

"New spiders are showing up."

"That's like where he goes when he's a bad boy."
"Oh, you have no idea."

"I think Corey should lose his shoe. I'm going to hide it."

"Your mother!"

"Oh, no. Zombies. Hey, look! Chocolate!"

"Michigan sucks!"

"Go away. We're talking about you."

"I'm pretty sure that's illegal."

(frantically) "Where is the bathroom?!"

(drunkenly) "You're so awesome."

"I'm pretty sure that's illegal."

"It's green apple - it's kind of girly."
"Well, I'm a girl."

"What do you want to hear? Avette Brothers?"
(was there any choice?)

"I'm going to regret this tomorrow."

"Did you hear about the fart machine?"

"Has anyone seen my cigarettes? Anyone?!"

"And then there was the stabbing."

"You'd make a great hooker."

"Wait - why are we 'woo-ing?'"

"Grab her butt!"
"Um, I'm feeling kind of harassed right now."

"Get Andy to do it. He can't get in any trouble."

"You will never beat the goat."

"You're fake laughing. Don't fake laugh at me."
"Honey, everyone fake laughs."

"I'm all about the leather."

"Where did you get those scratches?"
"My dog."
"Oh! I thought you were into something freaky."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An Old Story

Circa 2000...

At 5 a.m., I am awakened by the certainty that we are not alone. Sensing my partner asleep beside me, I slowly open my eyes. A breeze brushes my face and then I look into the face of terror: the gaping maw of a giant, ferocious bat!

Wheeling around the room, it swoops and glides, circling the corners and hardly flapping its leathery wings.

I woke my partner because, as the female, I'm like that robot on "Lost in Space." I alert others to danger. I do not deal with it myself. Is the feminist within me ashamed of this? Hell, no. Not when there's a bat. As the male, it is my partner's duty to act upon the danger.

This was the source of some discussion. Apparently, my partner does not share my philosophy. But, feeling his manhood threatened, he crept from the bed and crawled in only his boxers across the floor to the bedroom door.

"Here, batty batty!" he called and I sniggered and peeked out from under the blankets. Lured, I'm sure, by my partner's siren-like call, the bat careened out of the door and my partner promptly slammed it. I sat up. Now what?

Now he goes back to bed. He crawled back in bed and started back to sleep as I stared at him incredulously. "May I remind you that there is a bat in the house?" I asked.

"Aw, it's out there."
"But what if it comes back in here?" There was a odd, unattractive and uncomfortable 3-inch gap between the bottom of the door and the carpet. Sighing irritably, he flung off the blanket and trudged across the room. He locked the door. Genius!

"Oh, so much better," I muttered and barricaded myself with the comforter. "That'll show him."

Life of the Dead

So one of the editors, the high school intern (who we love, and who sometimes babysits for us), and I are discussing my zombie evacuation plan. I've drawn a diagram that is lacking only in X's and O's to move around - in sheer panic, of course. That's how people move around in my plan, with the much running and shrieking.

"That's a very elaborate plan," Editor says.

"I know." But I am chagrined. There are fences in the way of two of our escape routes.

"I don't think you've thought it out well enough," Intern says. "What about vampires?"

"Oh. I'll just have my husband breathe his garlic breath on them," I snicker, and they laugh with me. Boss Ron shakes his head and rolls his eyes. He's been riding my ass all day long, and even though I've not taken a break for lunch, he would rather see me bleeding from my eyes than cease my incessant writing. Lots of writing. Serious writing. My pinky is cramping. See? Ouch.

Intern takes the legal pad away from me: "Here. I'll make a list."

Editor and I whisper back and forth like adolescent about how Ron is getting our nerves. We're annoyingly high school about it, but it's deliciously evil fun. Intern gives the legal pad back with the list of things I must prepare for:
  • Vampires
  • Mummies
  • The Blob
  • Ron
I hold the pad up for Editor to see and we burst into laughter.

"I think Intern gets a bonus the next time she babysits," I crow.
Editor laughs: "I think so!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Most Perfect...

The World's Most Perfect Stapler

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The World's Most Efficient Stapler Thief

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

AND the number four prostitute in all of Kazakhstan.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Graveyard Shift

It doesn't matter if you believe in ghosts. At midnight in a cemetery in the middle of Nowhere, S.C., shadows, breezes and soft sounds take on supernatural shape.

The woods are pockmarked with tombstones. It’s so dark I can see galaxies whirling overhead. I trip over graves. A vision of mummified hands reaching out of the ground overwhelms me. Perhaps they shouldn’t have sent the only reporter with a zombie evacuation plan, although, to be honest, the plan involves mostly running and shrieking.

Yet my guide is calm.

"We’re here to debunk this," declares Ginger Yarbrough, organizer of Georgia Ghost Hunters. "We rule out all the man-made and natural explanations first before we try to say there’s spirits."

Ginger and seven other members have brought me to a 200-year-old Huguenot graveyard an hour from Augusta, down a one-lane dirt path through a thick forest where trees bend like frightful fingers reaching for prey.

This group doesn’t look for the paranormal. They look for the normal. If lights in a home flicker, they blame the tree branch or a power line. They check for vermin, leaky pipes, gaps in insulation and other earthly explanations for unearthly sensations.

In the graveyard, the ghost hunters set up candles to provide a little light plus video cameras and voice recorders to document the hunt. They calibrate EMF meters to detect the presence of electromagnetic fields, infrared thermometers to spot temperature differentials and tri-field meters to detect magnetic fields, electrical fields and microwave emissions. When manmade and natural causes have been eliminated, Ginger says, it is generally believed that ghosts generate these fields and temperature changes.

"The most common energy form that a ghost uses is simple heat," Ginger says. "A ghost will absorb heat to help it manifest, which is why people feel cold when a ghost passes them."

These are true believers. Ginger is completing a certification from the Stratford Career Institute in parapsychology and astrology. She and her mother have seen enough unusual phenomena in their lives to scare legions of schoolchildren. They’ve been hunting ghosts for three years, in public and for private homeowners.

"But we keep all private investigations discrete — their name is kept under lock and key, so to speak. We are completely non-profit and do not charge fees for our service as we are trying to collect all the data we can," she says.

They hunt to find legitimate hauntings, in small part to convert the unfaithful. She’s looking for the real deal, because she believes she’s experienced it. "I want the evidence to put it up on the table and say, ‘Look. You cannot disprove this."

Leon Wilkes, a group member who is in the military, tells a story about a house in Iraq that spooked his entire troop of hardened soldiers. Almost everyone in the group has a story about a supernatural experience. I’m just not so sure. I’d like to believe it’s possible to communicate with the souls of departed loved ones — hi, Grandma! — but I’ve never encountered anything of the kind.

"The paranormal is a touchy subject and most people are afraid to do anything about it because they think they may be humiliated," Ginger said later.

That doesn’t stop me from nearly wetting myself when the EMF meter in my hand goes off. Everyone in the group turns to stare at me as I freeze. I put the sensor out again and it lights up. I prepare to activate my zombie evacuation plan.

"Is there anyone here who would like to communicate with us?" Ginger asks the forest while I fight the urge to run and shriek. After a disappointing silence and several tests, we determine I had moved the sensor too rapidly, which gave a false positive.

"That’s why it’s important to look at it from a scientific perspective," Ginger says. "You have to debunk it first."

Leon, in a fearless — and, I think, foolish — stab at making this trip worthwhile, begins to taunt the spirits of the dead who lay in these woods.

"I think you’re too chicken to come out," he calls. "I don’t believe you even exist."

He walks out of the walled burial ground, continuing his tirade, and Ginger and Lisa Barret stay where he began. Ginger thinks she heard a noise nearby, like change rattling in a pocket. Inexplicably, a vine slaps Lisa in the face, and Ginger’s camera picks up red and white streaks in the forest, something she calls a vortex, a strand of light. She thinks it’s a portal through which ghosts travel, though other ghost hunters say it could be individual spirits moving or an "orb."

My camera captures a picture of what the group says is a flaming orb, the best they’ve ever seen. It’s a round spot in the darkness, visible only on my digital camera. Some people say it’s energy. Some say it’s a small ghost.

Just then, Leon calls that a shadowy figure peeked at him from among the trees.

"He wants to come out and play, now," Leon says. I really hope not.

Immune to my protests, the group enthusiastically agrees to go down to the nearby lake. As we descend the hill, the temperature plunges from a chilly 52 to near freezing. I’m shivering in a T-shirt and sweater, more immediately frightened of chiggers and poison ivy than spectral beings, and I see unmistakable beaver activity. We crunch down the hillside toward it, every footstep a beacon for beavers and bears and who knows what all else. Are there bear zombies? Oh, god. I bet there are.

It’s, rather appropriately, a dead lake — a lake that held water in the past but is now merely an overgrown basin, choked with weeds, scrub and fallen trees. Leon continues to harangue those who previously rested in peace as he and Ginger start across the edge of the basin. I see lights twinkling just above the grass near the middle. Right. I’ll just wait here.

Time creeps as I watch my breath rise as a mist in front of me. It’s something Ginger pointed out that they try to avoid when photographing phenomena. Even the clothes of someone who has just smoked a cigarette may contaminate visual evidence.

Then someone in the lake yelps.

"That [expletive] just growled at me," Leon calls as the trio tromps back through the overgrowth. Leon is shivering violently in his autumn jacket.

"Feel him!" Ginger says. "He’s ice cold!"

He is. While Ginger, clad only in a T-shirt and jeans, is still warm to the touch, Leon feels
frozen. They claim to have heard a growl just before the temperature around Leon dropped aggressively.

I look out over the rustling grasses. The lights I had seen are gone.

Although none of the equipment registered abnormal readings, the members are convinced of a spiritual presence, in this case, an "intelligent haunting."

It’s one of the different types of ghosts and hauntings that the Georgia Ghost Hunters categorize.

"No one knows for sure why they are here with us," Ginger said. "And there is no reason to be afraid of them because usually they have the same emotions and personalities they had when they were alive. They are around us all the time."

In that case, I have to revise my zombie evacuation plan.

<------- "Flaming Orb" the original shot (above) and pulled out in close-up (left).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Help Teach a Woman to Fish

Pristine white cribs stand empty and waiting in quiet rooms painted a soothing azure at in this old building. Yellow ducks adorn a bathroom that has never cleaned chubby cheeks. A walk-in closet stocks Huggies diapers and wipes, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and row after row of tiny little outfits alongside adult-sized pants and shirts.

Renovations to the Garden City Rescue Mission’s homeless shelter for women and children are 95 percent complete. The paint is dry and the beds that have been donated so far sit assembled and awaiting sleepy little heads. But more is needed. The Fenwick Street homeless shelter renovated the second floor of its building to house up to 50 families, but cannot help them until it is able raise $20,000 to install two fire escapes. In the meantime, mothers with young children may be literally left out in the cold.

"The sad fact is that sometimes they’re stuffed in the backseat of their car, or wherever," Sharpe said. "There’s really no place other than the Salvation Army for them to go and if you talk to them they’ll tell you they’re overrun and they can’t keep up with the demand."

In a push to finish before a potentially lethal cold snap, the Garden City Rescue Mission will hold a Fall Fish Fry on Oct. 7 at Victory Baptist Church in Belvedere, sponsored by Dye’s Southern Catering.

"There’s going to be a lot of hauling children around," Sharpe said. "It’s going to cost a lot to run."

Sharpe estimates that 15 to 20 bunk beds and 15 additional twin beds will just cover their sleeping quarters, but to help these ladies get back on their feet, they’ll need mini vans, car seats and operating expenses to help mothers find jobs, visit pediatricians and attend church. Already they are feeling the pinch. The shelter’s electricity bill has already jumped $800 a month, and Sharpe expects the center’s other utilities to double.

Sharpe’s mother, Susie, and her husband left good jobs with health insurance behind in Florida to come up and work with their soon on his ministry. It’s the children that break her heart. She tells a story of a woman so poor that her children had never owned a book or a toy.

"They didn’t even have an old dirty truck to push in the dirt," she said. "These children had never been read a Bible story or a bedtime story."

When she agreed to come up, she insisted on a playroom for the children, and it is almost done. VeggieTails toys sit in their boxes and children’s books yearn for sticky fingers to turn their pages. The playroom is Susie’s baby. It waits for other babies to fill it with laughter, and there will be no shortage. Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population – 33 percent of the homeless, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and domestic violence accounts for half of that.

Tile and new carpet were lain by one of the gentlemen currently housed in the men’s shelter on the bottom floor of the facility. Many of the men who live in the shelter are skilled workers, the "working homeless," who comprise 15 percent of the homeless population. Some of them have been through painful divorces. Others have had a run of bad luck.

Their stories are not too much different than the American story. As the availability of affordable housing declines, shelter becomes harder to maintain. One estimate by the Federal Housing Authority states that one quarter of American workers are a single paycheck away from financial disaster.

Travis used all of his creativity and connections to complete the work, calling upon skilled friends and family members and guest preaching at churches around the southeast. He has been largely successful - one North Carolina congregation cut him a check before the services were even over on the day he gave his sermon. The mission has paid for work as the project progressed, instead of going into debt, and volunteers donated time, materials and labor, to complete most of the work.

But work remains, and that’s what makes the fish fry so important. The menu will include catfish filets, freedom fries, cole slaw, hush puppies, grits and banana pudding, all catered by Dye’s Southern Catering. There is no per-plate charge to eat the fresh, fabulous fish, but donations will be accepted during the dinner.

"We’ve had people use the fish fry as an excuse to give significant donations - $500, $1,000," Sharpe said.

But if you can’t attend the fish fry and still want to help, the mission has an ongoing need for every day items like crib sheets and baby blankets, toiletries, cleaning supplies, dry goods, furniture – and, of course, cash and manpower.

"Think about running a shelter of this type," Susie said. "You need someone here 24 hours a day."

The Garden City Rescue Mission is located at 828 Fenwick St. in downtown Augusta, GA. Call 706-724-6960 or visit Help by donating items or services for women and children. Donate cash, too. It's really, really important. Even $5 makes a difference.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pillow Talk

As I've discussed here before, Scott talks in his sleep. I like to know what he's thinking about in his sleep, so I can rarely resist questioning him. Last night, he got his revenge when I came back to bed at 3 a.m. after dealing with Emerson for an hour.

"mmwabba ... is goo for the community," he mumbled.
"What did you say, honey?" I whispered.
"I said it would be good for the community," he said, a little more clearly.
"What would?"
"Hold on," he said.



"Is that what you wanted to say?!"
"MMmmm. Yep."