There’s a snake on the back porch

Our back deck has beeen screened in with a tight-fitting screen door. So how did the snake get in? We have no clue. From watching it off and on today, I’d say it also wondered how it got in because it appeared curious about how to get out.

Hmmn, maybe yes, maybe no

When people asked me for a description, I told them it was round, several feet long, and had a head on one end which appeared to be the front end. As for markings, they look like the kind of markings one would get if he got drunk at a tatoo shop that caters to Hell’s Angels.

In the old days, guys would throw a stick of dynamite out the door the porch and rebuild the deck later. So far, I’m not in that much of a rush. In fact, we may not need to go out there for the rest of the year. After all, we have multiple ways to get in and out of the house primarily in case this kind of thing happens.

I grew up in Florida where there were snakes, sting rays, and moray eels lurking about whenever one went on a camping trip or hung the clothes on the line to dry. We didn’t use the clothes line for a year when Mother decided there were pirana fish in the mud puddle that developed out there during a huricane. It was easier to just take her word for it rather than reach into the puddle to see what happened.

I went on line to see what kinds of snakes look like copperheads. There’s a fair number of them including the copperhead itself. But then, maybe it’s just a black racer or a ratsnake. We live in a rural area where there are a hundred mice per square foot, so snakes probably think we’re running a smorgaboard.

As far as I know, Amazon sells mongooses, so if the who shebang with the snake drags on, perhaps I’ll send off for a box. They aren’t as noisy as dynamite.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism books set in the Florida Panhandle.

Uncreative cook always needs recipes.

If Chef Gordon Ramsay asked me as a contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen” or “MasterChef” to prepare my signature dish, I’d prepare a medium-well steak, with a baked potato wrapped in tin foil. If you watch either of these shows, you know (a) that Ramsay expects all steaks to be medium rare (i.e. raw), and (b) doesn’t believe in the concept of an entre with sides but one cohesive dish.

Frankly, I don’t like raw steak or the one-dish concept where my steak is sitting on top of asparagus with a warm salad draped over the whole shebang.

If you present an entre on “Chopped” with separate side dishes, the judges say, the flavors are here, but it’s not a cohesive dish.

Best I can tell, Gordon, the judges on “MasterChef,” and “Chopped” all know how to cook. But, it’s fru-fru, Michelin Star cooking with all the food jumbled together on the plate with some puree or other used to decorate the empty space where the sides would normally go.

But, I digress. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking in our house and my wife does most of the laundry.  I have the cookbooks I grew up with. Gordon would hate them. So that’s where I go for ideas. Like pot roast: there’s something you don’t see on “MasterChef” even though it’s certainly cohesive except not with a Waldorf salad perched on top of it.

We’re having barbecued pork on sesame seed buns for supper. The recipe came with the cookbook included with our Rival Crockpot ten years ago. The judges on “Chopped” love it when contestants say they learned to cook from their mothers’ expertise in the kitchen. I doubt they’d react with the same tearful “Aw, ain’t that wonderful” kind of comment if I said I was inspired by a cookbook from a slow cooker manufacturer.

My mother and my wife’s mother both cooked the way people were taught in the 1950s either via home economics or their own mothers. That’s still our foundation. And it really tends to make me suspect the foundation of all the beautiful people (dressed to the nines) who show up for a meal on “Hell’s Kitchen.”

I don’t think I want to know any of those people. They’re eating really weird stuff that would cause you to be shot if you asked for it at a Cracker Barrel. As I type this post, my Rival Crockpot meal is cooking in my Rival Crockpot. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Chef Ramsay.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Sad to leave my favorite organization after 34 years

I left because one of the officers chewed me out on a related private Facebook group in front of nearly a thousand other members. The thread started off decently, then deteriorated into a lecture from her that never addressed the question I initially asked. Of course, I am completely blameless in every possible way (hmm).

Online exchanges tend to lend themselves to a high number of misunderstandings. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s because–other than private groups–10000000 people might be reading the exchange, something that adds a lot of pressure that isn’t there when two people talk over a cup of coffee in a Waffle House.

Yet, as a writer, I’m still amazed at how often the posts that begin with the best of intentions turn into an argument that can’t be saved. I wonder how many “real-life” friendships are destroyed online.

So, I left the Facebook group and then canceled my membership in a related non-profit organization. I still support the organization’s work but see no viable role for me in it if what I experienced in the group represents what management thinks of its members. I feel sad about leaving as well as justified in leaving. I’ve heard a lot of people say this about “real life” as well as online clubs/groups.

Suffice it to say, the “heat of the moment” is always a dicey place for intelligent decision-making. Most of us have been there, in that heated moment where we made long-term decisions that might have been better made a week or two later. I’m still feeling justified in my decision, but a month from now, I might wish I hadn’t made it.

That’s part of being human, I guess.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

Gosh, how bad is my memory?

I seem to remember most things. But reality and my memory often diverge greatly when I think back to old TV shows that seemed like they were on for years that were, in fact, hardly on at all in spite of their great followings and influence. Two of my favorite shows were “The Honeymooners” and “Fawlty Towers.” I thought they were on forever, say, like “Grey’s Anatomy” or the “Johnny Carson Show.”

“Fawtly Towers” aired in 1975 and 1979 with a total of 12 episodes. “The Honeymooners” aired from 1965 to 1970 with a total of 39 episodes, though there were attempts to bring it back later. One of my favorite cartoons during the last several years showed astronauts exploring the moon and coming across a body. One of them says, “It’s Alice Kramdem.” The show had a lasting impact for a cartoonist to think of that and for people to know what it meant.

Looking at how I turned out, I’m sure that an entire generation of otherwise sane individuals was warped silly by its exposure to these shows. I’m pretty sure that “Twin Peaks” and “Lost” probably put more viewers into asylums, but Jackie Gleason and John Cleese probably had a lot of questions to answer about the impact of their shows on our sanity when they reachers the Pearly Gates.

Do you ever get the feeling after watching a TV series or feature film that you are warped for life. Not only that, but the series or the film seems longer than it was or, worse yet is still going now every time your turn off the light and fall asleep? You leave the TV on in hopes that it will drown out the recurring dream, but still, you hear:

Sybil Fawlty:
[on the phone] I know… I know… I know… Oh, I know!

Basil Fawlty:
Then why is she telling you?

My theory, especially with shows like ‘Twin Peaks” and “Lost,” is that the writers got drunk and/or addicted to heroin and lost track of what they were doing.  The thing is, you get addicted along with the writers and the stars. Being addicted means you are lost to the real world and are hopelessly stuck inside the minds of Mark Frost and David Lynch or John Cleese and Connie Booth.

So time becomes fluid, like bad booze in a sordid bar in New Jersey. You wonder if all these people are in your closet or under your bed. They probably are. But they’re part of your life now even if your memory of how they got there is a bit shabby.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

I might have been drunk and/or addicted to heroin while writing this novel, so it might just get stuck in your dreams. You have been warned.

A shortlist of stuff

  • Today’s bad weather in Georgia came and went between dawn and noon. No tornados. Blowing rain and river flooding.
  • Just wondering why I didn’t write Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A comment from the character Miss Harty about Billy Sunday sets the tone for the novel: “There was great excitement. Mr. Sunday got up and declared at the top of his voice that Savannah was ‘the wickedest city in the world!’ Well, of course, we all thought that was perfectly marvelous.”
  • Regardless of which side of the political divide we live on, I think all of us are tired of the crap at the Mexican border. We don’t need to mistreat people, nor do we need to be emotionally brainwashed into letting everyone in. This isn’t rocket science.
  • I guess I’ve led a sheltered life. I’ve been vaccinated against mostly everything and haven’t given it a second thought. Now with COVID, I’m learning there are people whose distrust of vaccines is (for them) like holy writ. I don’t understand that. But it does raise the question about whether or not forced vaccinations and vaccination cards are too much government. I see this as rather like the Brits mandating blackout curtains during the blitz: it makes us all safer as long as the cops don’t hassle us on the street asking to see “our papers.”
  • The ninth book in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series Go Tell The Bees That I’m Gone will be published this year (I think). I’ve read all the primary novels in the series, but few of those based on secondary characters. Who knew when this storyline began that reading it would be a lifetime pursuit? But I’ll probably get a copy after we get out of the expensive hardcover phase of book releases. I’m a Scot. I’m cheap even though I met Diana years ago in Atlanta.
  • A friend of mine will probably have to drive several states away from her home to look after her aging parents again. Her last visit was more dear than she expected and yet she wonders why none of her siblings will lend a hand. She’s just as busy as her siblings, but they have unending excuses for not helping. Elderly parents often make decisions that make life harder for their children, and usually, the difficulties are left to the oldest daughter to solve.
  • The Glacier Park employees’ reunion will take place this summer at Many Glacier Hotel. They happen from time to time but are too far away for me to attend. Everyone was worried about access to the east side of the park, but the Blackfeet Reservation has announced it will be open for travelers going to the park (unlike last summer). I will miss it more than I can say.

–Malcolm

I’ve written several novels set in the park.

Potpourri for March 14

Potpourri is a mixture of dried, naturally fragrant plant materials, used to provide a gentle natural scent, commonly in residential settings. It is often placed in a decorative bowl. – Wikipedia

Actually, potpourri makes me sneeze, so I never saw the attraction. However, as always, my potpourri posts are unscented. So, if you sneeze while reading this, it means you haven’t dusted your house for a while.

  • My publisher tells me that production of the Fate’s Arrows audiobook is on schedule and sounds great. As I slowly work my way through Weeping Wall, my novel in progress, it’s nice to see something new en route to Amazon.
  • The male, short hair, black-and-white kitty who has adopted us after being dropped off on our country road by some nefarious person is slowly working his way into our hearts.  Were refuse to name him until we have a chance to take him to the vet to be checked out. Right now, he is simply OC, for outside kitty. Our inside kitties are curious but aren’t above hissing at him when we open the front door.
  • Other than sore shoulders, no apparent side effects from our first Moderna COVID shot. Nice to have that out of the way. Maybe we’ll be able to visit the granddaughters in Maryland this year since COVID cancelled last year’s planned trip.
  • I’m finally getting around to reading Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane. My nightstand is always overflowing and my wish list on Amazon is infinite. It’s a nice change of pace from John Hart’s The Unwilling. Being an old-fashioned sort of person, I’ve always preferred the term “firefly” to “lightning bug.” 
  • My GP has kept my prescriptions in place even though I haven’t seen him for a while. I said I thought doctors’ offices were dangerous for people my age until I had my COVID vaccinations. Fortunately, he agreed.
  • On a bit of a political note, I’m really getting tired of turning on the news and seeing that there’s more unrest in Portland and elsewhere. We have much to do to fix everything that’s broken, but it will take time. The violence from those riding the protestors’ coattails isn’t helping.
  • It’s time to change my Facebook cover photo. So, in hopes of seeing some springtime weather soon, here’s the new picture compliments of NPS Glacier National Park:

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of paranormal, magical realism, and contemporary fantasy short stories and novels.

Are professional chefs nasty?

If you watch “Hell’s Kitchen” with Gordon Ramsay or “Chopped” hosted by Ted Allen, perhaps you’ve noticed that a fair number of the contestants on both shows present themselves as badass competitors who will wipe the floor with the scum they’re competing against.

Ramsay, of course, is well known for his volatile, profanity-filled approach to the show while the “Chopped” host and judges are unfailingly polite.

What my wife and I wonder is this: in “real life” away from the TV shows, are the chefs who appear nasty, or are they simply posturing like school-yard bullies on TV? For all I know, maybe the shows’ producers force them to act like people raised in a bad-neighborhood gang.

I know one thing for sure: If I go to a fine restaurant, I don’t want any of these chefs getting close to my food. As best I can tell, Gordon Ramsay and the judges on chopped really know how to cook, though they do like meat that’s too rare for me. Many of the contestants, who hold chefs’ jobs around the country, seem to know how to cook as well.

But the language, the arrogant posturing, and the excessive number of tattoos are a turnoff. Yes, I know, at my age I’m out of sync with everyone who’s 40 years younger.  But I do know how to cook without making what happens in the kitchen sound like a gangland activity.

Malcolm

Pat Conroy knew how to cook, and you can find evidence of that in his novels. I can’t cook at Conroy’s level, though I still hope you enjoy my books.

Potpourri (unscented)

  • The weather forecaster(s) who predicted a lot of north Georgia snow yesterday were wrong–not that I’m complaining. There were a few flakes around, mostly two-legged.
  • Those who know a cat has adopted us want us to name it. Look, we’re already feeding him and trying to keep him warm. We’ve referring to him as OC (outside kitty) but people want something better.
  • My former publisher Vanilla Heart Publishing has closed due to health problems of the owner. 
  • I was happy to see that one of the first things President Biden said he wanted to achieve was unity. I hope he can do this and that the unity includes voters from all parts of the political spectrum–because if it doesn’t, we won’t really have unity will we?
  • This is not a good time to live in Texas or have anything to do with managing the state’s power grid.
  • Gosh, all the old “What’s My Line” shows are available to YouTube. Fun to see a few of them again after all these years.
  • As I discovered with “tennis shoes” some years ago, expensive hearing aids don’t last any longer than cheap hearing aids. So, I ordered another pair of the cheap ones and am happy to say I can hear what my wife’s talking about.
  • Rush Limbaugh has died. I never listened to his radio program because I didn’t agree with him. Yet, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone.
  • I keep wondering why my top post is an old one about graveyard dirt.  If you need to ask me about it, you’re probably going to get hurt. Just saying.
  • Serena Williams’ last tennis match aired at 3:00 a.m. No, I didn’t stay up to watch it. I do intend to watch her Australian Open match tonight against Osaka at 10:00 p.m.

  • I continue to work on my next novel, Weeping Wall, set in Glacier National Park. I seem to be writing slower than ever. Most be getting old.
  • Next week, I’ll be getting my semiannual anti-cancer shot. I don’t like the fact that it causes random hot flashes. Oh boy, I can hardly wait.
  • I’m currently reading a David Baldacci novel to take a break from Shuggie Bain which, though it’s well written, is filled with people who are messed up.

Malcolm

Saints and Sinners

The New York Times used to highlight the good and the bad of recent issues in a publication for employees only called “Saints and Sinners.” As a journalist, my father got a copy which I always enjoyed. That said, I’ve stolen the title for my own list of saints and sinners:

  • Sinner: Proud Boys. So far, they have nothing to be proud of.
  • Saint: Sarah Thomas officiating at the Super Bowl. First lady to do this.
  • Sinner: Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church for singing a ramped-up, styled-up rendition of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl rather than what Francis Scott Key wrote.
  • Saint: Amanda Gorman, for using poetry to inspire us all.
  • Sinner: U. K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for stonewalling another Scottish independence vote and for not bothering to comb his hair.
  • Saint: Dr. Fauci for trying to keep the national response to COVID on a realistic, science-based track.
  • Sinner: Rand Paul for running and serving as a Republican rather than as a Libertarian.
  • Saint: Helen Mirren just for being who she is.
  • Sinner: Various “anchors” on Fox “News.”
  • Saint:  Elizabeth Kolbert for writing Under a White Sky.
  • Sinner: Government of Pakistan for banning the Oscar-hopeful film”Zindagi Tamasha”
  • Saint: Hope, the SUV-sized UAE mission to Mars.
  • Sinner: Myanmar’s military coup that placed the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
  • Saint: The New York Times for a new documentary titled “Framing Britney Spears,” which has aired in the US.

Malcolm

Paying for a new intersection based on the needs of a business in a residential area

We live on a narrow rural road in an area zoned for farms and residences. We have complained numerous times about the grading/hauling business across the road because it lowers the value of our home to prospective buyers. The county isn’t listening.

Adding insult to injury is the fact the business brings heavy equipment into its compound via tractor-trailers that can’t make the turn onto our narrow road without dragging the trailer section through the right-of-way on three sides of the intersection. This creates a constant mudhole, one that certainly doesn’t help property values.

So for the past several weeks, the county has been “improving” the intersection by: (1) Putting in new drainage culverts, (2) Creating a wider section of the pavement so the tractor-trailers can turn without cutting across the grass, (3) And today, apparently widening the road several feet up the road from the T intersection.

We want to complain. But when we do, we get nasty e-mails from the illegal business that basically ask us why we’re causing trouble. We keep pointing out that the neighborhood isn’t zoned for business, much less industrial. They seem deaf to that concept and believe they have the right to do whatever they want on their own property.  And once the nasty e-mails have come and gone, the county lets the business keep operating.

So, everyone out here is paying higher taxes for road repair so an illegal business can keep operating. Yes, I know there’s a good-old-boy attitude out here that says it’s okay to sneak past the regulations whenever you can. But I draw the line when it harms a property owner’s neighbors.

We feel rather stuck because we need to get out of here but we’re not sure anyone will buy our property. When we had this house built, we played by the rules. It’s too bad the county doesn’t feel the same way about the nearby property owners.

Malcolm

P. S. If 10,000 of you will each buy all of my books, we might be able to escape this neighborhood. Just a thought.