Archive | November, 2010

The road to Hell is paved…..

30 Nov


It’s dark o’clock and once again I am racing to work. After the past five years it has occurred to me that my very existence on planet earth is inextricably linked in every way to the I-10 highway. If I am not driving on it, stuck in one of its interminable traffic jams, preparing to slip on or off it, then somewhere in my not too distant future there is a guaranteed rekindling of my love hate relationship with this damned road. 

This morning, like every bloody morning, there is yet another mystery object in the middle of the lane. It has becomes a quotidian distraction; a daily I-Spy of, “What the hell was that?” What could that square, metal, wooden, plastic (only the adjectives have been changed to protect the identity of the unknown object!) thing be in the middle of the road?  Who lost it, do they know, and how did it happen? 

I scream under bridges at the socially acceptable speed of 80mph, past where the cops normally wait in greedy anticipation. Men in perfectly pressed uniforms with departmental attitudes waiting to gouge cash from unwary drivers to benefit whichever municipality they protect and serve. Onwards and upwards, past where the speed cameras used to be, I stare into the floodlit path before me. My headlights burn out into the darkness lighting my way, guiding my manic passage from the West side of Phoenix towards down-town Chandler. Fifty two miles one way, now that’s a commute to be proud of! They still talk about and Hannibal and his trudge over the Alps but one day I, Colin James, consumer of the kilometers, will be remembered. 

Just ahead of my headlights I see something in the road, adjust to avoid and glide around what appears to be a white cool box. There it lays, filled with lovingly made egg mayonnaise sandwiches, complete with a slice of grandmas apple pie. A perfect lunch transformed into a danger to oncoming traffic. Shipping forecasts sputter through static on short wave radios warning fisherman floating off the Dogger Bank to avoid the detritus lying forgotten in the middle of the I-10. Like the space shuttle firing retro-rockets to avoid space junk, I tilt my wheel and speed safely passed. 

Unable to avoid the cooler Captain Ahab pulled over onto the hard shoulder

One sees all manner of discarded ephemera; if it isn’t coolers filled with Mexican delicacies then its pieces of furniture, stained mattresses, and dead dogs. The most ominous object to date was a full sized grill propped up on one wheel in the middle of the H.O.V. lane, which god only knows how I avoided! Every day I see trucks piloted by our southern cousins, filled with the flotsam and jetsam of daily life. Serious sun baked faces transporting families from one mail drop to the next. 

How they manage to get everything on board the flat bed of a beaten and busted 1980s Ford truck I will never know. One has to understand the eye-bending complexities of an Escher painting, or comprehend a Rubik’s cube combination to appreciate the stacked perfection of their precious cargoes. Everything is slotted perfectly together; the fridge, the bed, the mismatched lamps and the world’s largest collection of plastic toys. 

The Hernadez family had remembered to pack everything except the family dog.

People murmur Edison’s name with reverence however the inventor of the elasticated bungee cord deserves far greater recognition. Those multi colored elastic ropes that tether life and soul to speeding vehicles; more tenacous than Hispanic familial bond. 

Although I am always amazed by the collection and variety of objects that carpet the freeway, one question irks me. 


On my nightly return journey, my own personal retreat from Moscow, the items are never there. Who collects discarded mattresses, builders hard hats, plastic crap and discarded grills?Is there a lone motorist with an unladen truck trolling the road like an anxious beach comber in search of an empty bottle? Dare I suggest alien abduction? 

Clearly the reports of scantily clad aliens from the pathetic wankers club was a cry for help…

I stare out the window as the white of the plastic cooler races by, quickly looking into my rear view mirror to catch the look of horror of the driver in the vehicle behind me. A grown up version of death race 2000 and so far I still have three lives left and a telephone call. The race continues….


To B or not to Battery!

29 Nov


The nipple clamps some how made Jimmy feel a little sexier



Running low on fuel and 30 miles of I-10 fun to go I decide to pull off and grab a couple of gallons of petrol. Had to think twice about this as given the cost of gas right now wasn’t sure if I would have to remortgage the house or sell another kidney on E-Bay. So far I have managed to sell three, which might sound a little extreme until you consider the fact that non of them were mine; the advantage of having a couple of kids and a doting wife. I mean, I would do it for them if they asked, except they haven’t and so neither have I!

Deciding the investment was sound and probably better than some I have made in the past (AMAT for instance.)I pull off the road and join the other weary travelers at the gas pump. Not that interesting really as I stand there and watch the digital digits change at the speed of light. Before I realize, I have committed myself to thirty dollars of high octane collateral and choose to stop right there. There is still a week and a half to go before pay day and I have very skinny kids that enjoy the occasional meal and a wife that enjoys collecting empty wine bottles. (If you know what I mean?) Gas cap back on, receipt in pocket, I jump in the car.

It’s a Volkswagen. Vorsprung durch techniek…. and all that nonsense; made by Germans so you know it has to be quality right?


I turn the key and wait the necessary nano-seconds for my horses to burst into life, but nothing! The sound we all despair, the ominous click of the solenoid and nothing else. I try once again.

Victorias secret was no longer a secret….


Desperation is slowly creeping in, and since I have allowed my AAA membership to slide my mind is already racing for a solution. I have no jumper cables which means that I will have to accost at least three people before I find one that speaks English, and even then it’s a one-in-ten chance that the Anglo monoglot has a set of the necessary. Things aren’t looking good, my chances seem bleak, my escape unlikely. Perhaps I should spend that money in my pocket on an Arizona lottery ticket as I probably stand more chance of scooping those seductive millions than I have of finding a set of jumper cables.

Even with safety glasses and  a tenfoot barge-pole, there was no way the professor was going anywhere near her…


Thinking fast now, what to do, what to do? I close the door switching off the interior light. I then turn off the headlights in the hope that the amps which are screaming into the darkness can be diverted to my starter motor. I try again.


DEUTSCHLAND UBER ALLES…fanbloodytastic! I am not doomed to spend the next couple of hours stuck in some rat hole of a gas station surrounded by disinterested travelers on their way to god knows where. I don’t have to do the miserable rounds of explaining my situation to random people who have as much interest in my issues as I theirs. I am free, liberated, on my way home.

          Robyn had returned home the other night looking none the worse for her virtual kidney transplant and told me that the car had failed to start in the Wal-Mart car park. I had listened half attentively and smiled sympathetically but inwardly pooh-poohed the idea that there was anything wrong with the vehicle.

“I tried to start it several times, and then closed the door and it started first time!” Silly woman! What on earth does she know about cars?

 I vow from this moment forward to forever listen to my wife whenever it comes to vehicular peculiarities and will never again dismiss the ides that a closed car door can engender a safe trip home. Tomorrow I will definitely buy a new battery and if not tomorrow then definitely the next day.

Battery strandings forgotten I turn up the radio and head for home. The I-10 gods look down upon me, nudge each other and laugh, as I, a mere mortal, dismiss my brush with near disaster. The cards are drawn, the dice  thrown,my fate already cast.

Zeus was happy with the new toilet seat..

Deep Joy…

28 Nov


Unable to switch off the alarm clock, John decided to think outside the box….



              The alarm clock crows it reveille at four o’clock in the morning. After fumbling in the darkness and waking the wife, I finally succeed in bitch-slapping the electronic chicken (the alarm clock not the wife!) into silence. Rudely awakened I am obligated to relinquish the tenuous threads of dreams and impelled to return to reality.  After a couple of halcyon days at home it’s time to rejoin the workforce.Life and career wait for no man…..!

 If I don’t go, then as sure as morning breath and dribble sodden pillows, The Corporation will find somebody from the unemployed masses to fill my shoes. Let’s face it nobody is irreplaceable and corporate America is not exactly a patient animal. Despite the early hour, ritualized ablutions and the life saving qualities of tea prepare me for the forty five minute drive and my reenlistment into society. The past few days have been great. Four days of family time, an abundance of food and a collection of empty wine bottles in the rubbish bin attesting to pleasures past. I sit in the car, switch on the radio, turn on the heater and shift my brain into neutral. Before I know it I am half way there.

The only redeeming factor of the drive is that it gives one time for personal contemplation, private moments of necessary introspection. Whether it is life in general, the audio book streaming through my head phones, or my one sided tirade with the brash propaganda machine of the N.P.R. that clarions its sponsored rhetoric through my speakers.

“War in the East, peace in the West, global warming and plane-state tundra temperatures, public obesity and world food shortages, the latest call to arms or the lone gunman at McDonalds.”


This weeks mystery guest on N.P.R. was a toughy….

The verbal diarrhea detracts from the happy glow acquired over the past few days. I check in my rear view mirror to see if I am being followed by four horsemen and breathe a sigh of relief to see that it’s just another motorist on his way to, or returning from, god-knows-where. I often wonder about my commuting comrades at that hour of the morning. Dark o’clock is a little too early to be on the road for anything but the most banal or the most illicit of activities.

Surely they can’t all be going to work?

Perhaps they’re  returning from romantic rendezvous, just leaving the after-hours club, dashing home with the windows open in the hope that the speed of the air rushing through the vents will sober them up before they are pulled over by the police. Who knows? Just dark, seemingly empty vehicles steered by shadowy wraiths, aware of no other reality except their own. Selfish perception confining ancient mariners to their own thoughts and troubles,  oblivious to their fellow motorway travelers.

After screaming my last at the radio before finally discovering that with a simple turn of the knob the tele-screen can be silenced, I settle in to enjoy the last few minutes of the drive. Shades of Thanksgiving drift back inside the vehicle and I once again reflect on the pleasant time I have spent at home with my family.

With an arse-jarring thud I turn the corner and there it is. The monolithic monstrosity built for one purpose and one purpose only, the creation and worship of money. A cathedral of capitalism, a financial temple, a modern day pyramid. Like a contemporary Ozymandias I struggle through the desert sand to take my place on the cables attached to the giant stone block. Metaphorically speaking of course as ten tones of shaped stone is more than one man can drag alone and is almost certainly a two man lift at best!

Shift 5 hated their long week….

Twelve hours from now I will be free to return to the Arcadian lifestyle I have left behind, secure in the knowledge that three more days of stone heaving will guarantee me a pay check, a couple of days respite, and Pharaohs good favor. Like the obedient wage slave I am, I shoulder my burden and drag my rock into the air-conditioned building.


26 Nov


The clown competition had been hotly contested...


                Tensions between North and South Korea have heated up once again. An exchange of artillery shells has reignited conflict, fanning the flames of the already  volatile eastern powder keg. Safe behind my computer I watch from the barricades, helmet on head, as Koreans thousands of miles away blast the hell out of barely inhabited islands and carve gaping shell holes in oceans with American bought munitions. The cries for restraint are muted by the sounds of rattling sabres, the screamed nationalistic rhetoric polarized by firebrand headlines. The world is once again on the brink of war. I shake my head, close my computer and head for bed hopeful that tomorrow will bring a better day, optimistic that during the night calmer voices will prevail.

                With a head full of half-forgotten dreams, the taste of residual turkey in my mouth I make my way down the stairs after spending a peaceful night. Looking around the kitchen I can’t believe my eyes. Clearly during my sleeping hours the war has escalated. Rather than appealing for calm the diplomats have failed and war has ensued. The rocket attacks and sea borne artillery have taken their toll and the aggrieved parties have exacted their revenge. Clearly one of the cruise missiles meant to destroy down- town Pyongyang had deviated from its course and landed in my own back yard.

Thes size of Mr.Jones Thanksgiving vegetables was breathtaking.

The kitchen is a waste land of dented tins, ripped aluminum foil and soiled ceramic. The remains of one of last night’s victims lays quite dead on what used to be the counter top, bones jutting from its desiccated carcass, the last of its seared flesh clinging to its bones. An apple pie which has clearly seen a direct hit lies abandoned with a perfect triangular wedge cut out of it where one of the missiles fins sliced through it as it crashed into the house. Strange that amongst the empty bottles, the half-filled bleeding wine glasses, that this apple-edifice should stand out; an unintentional artistic statement in an otherwise smoking post-apocalyptic world. One of the faucets drips steadily. A plate which once held a celebration dinner oozes its gruesome abandoned load onto the tiled floor. The eastern war is so far away and yet so very close to home.

The shortage of body bags called for some quick thinking

Like Dunkirk beaches the detritus of a retreating army covers every flat service, evidence of hard fought conflict strewn across every table. Uneaten biscuits float in the sink bobbing up and down like drowned soldiers. Heroes who barely made it off the landing craft, their sacrifice remembered only in kitchen refuse.

On the couch lay two of last night’s victims. Both are wrapped in body bags their arms outstretched, their legs twisted in the hideous rictus of perpetual rest. One of the corpses appears to still be fighting for life as evidenced by the nasal cacophony rumbling from beneath the blanket. I should be thankful for small mercies I suppose that at least one of them made it through the Thanksgiving massacre

The TV is still on, however now a screen of static greets me instead of the light hearted comedy show we had watched the night before. The EMP from the blast has no doubt fried the electronics and left me bereft of all corporate-sponsored contact. But what to do? How does one recover from such utter devastation? I can almost hear the drone of retreating bombers, their bomb-bays void after releasing their deadly load, flying home to the fatherland. I stand in the metaphorical dust between the beams and broken stones of my own personal Coventry Cathedral and ring my hands  in pathetic apathy.

As per usual the instructions for the turkey-fryer had been in Chinese.


 I think about spray-painting a message for help in giant yellow letters on the roof of my house in the hope that the rescue helicopters will find me, however decide against this as the home-owners association will probably frown on this and send me more unsolicited hate mail. Unable to assuage my survivors guilt I reach for the kettle, shake the contents and find there is still one last cupful of potable water inside. I put it on the stove and brew myself a soul restoring cup of tea. Life must go on. I should be thankful that I made it through the night. Now there’s just Christmas to contend with!

Mr Sanchez couldn't understand why the HOA rejected his plans for a second garage.


25 Nov


Wasn’t going to post today, it being Turkey day and all. Right now we are up to our necks in coffee and Jack Daniels, accompanied by bacon and cheese and onion toast. This is a recipe which my Mississippian wife decided to steal from me and improve. Which school boy in England hasn’t gone to school with a sandwich box filled with cheese and onion? The recipe is deadly simple. Chop an onion, mix with grated cheese, add mayonnaise and spread liberally on bread.


Ramsey wasn't going to be happy with Johnny's souflet!

Ramsey was going to be pissed with Johnny’s souflet!

 Not only a satisfying lunch but something which the whole school can enjoy for the rest of the day as the student body gets to sample your breath at every opportunity. Anyway, Robyn decided to take this ancient English delicacy and Southern-a-fi  it. She toasted it and put it under the broiler!


Three thousand years of history and culture and the simple application of heat to this nursery delicacy  changed it beyond all recognition. And they wonder why the whole world hates America. Destroying a traditional English dish and making it better! The sheer temerity of it all. What next?

Whilst wiping the crumbs of my mouth and feeling relatively thankful, we decide to turn on TV and watch the Macey’s Day parade. I don’t know about you however if its giant, inflatable, and bright yellow, then I’m a fan. There is nothing like thousands of marching bands with myriad cheerleaders to put a smile on my face. Not sure if it’s the high kicks, the woolen scarves, gloves, earmuffs or wooly stockings. Anyway it does it for me!

After watching several traditional American floats including McDonalds, Burger King, CTV, Fox news and The Food Network, all the corporate institutions which made America great, New York finally caught my attention. An understated float with a small band including a drummer, a guitarist, a key board player, and…. wait for it, a fiddle player.

What is it with fiddle players? The objective is simple. It’s a string instrument that in the hands of an accomplished practitioner is a joy to hear. It seems that as soon as you shine a spot light on one of these individuals or point a camera in their general direction they become an accomplished martial artist. The kicks are mind blowing the arm movements beyond the ability of most humans. The fiddle is suddenly a blurred weapon of death in their hands. The blinding silver streak as the bow whips back and forth in tempo with the crashing cowboy boots. Despite the fact that the enlightened–one is limited to four square feet of mobile float the largest of life fills Broadway with his personality and over the top performance. Spectators in the crowd actually move back from the barrier to give the fiddler more room to reveal his craft.

Corky was happy with his new guitar!

 Corky was happy with his new guitar!

For some reasons these acolytes of the strings are always approaching their fifties with long stringy blonded grey hair which they can’t help but swing about their heads as though they were in a prime time shampoo advert. How come the hair never gets caught in the strings or tangled in the bow? How does the aged youth not rip out every single strand with every extrication of the bow….one carefully quaffed hair at a time? And the smile? Have you ever tried to hold a smile on your face for that long? Seriously this man is a guru, a multi-talented center staged wana- be who is seizing the moment and racing at full steam towards unrequited stardom. Oh you master of the strings, you master fiddler, you bator of the stained wood, I stand in awe.

I have decided to resign fiddlers to the wheelie bin along with bus conductors and park attendants. The world would be a better place if you get my meaning…….?

Anyway back to the cheese toast.

Colin fell asleep on the couch clutching his ball.



24 Nov


Daddy prepares for another day at the office....


                Once again, at some ungodly hour, I drag my sorry arse out of bed to go and clean somebody else’s windows. When I’m not working to help create faster stronger leaner devices that add more colors to Game-Boy or give a technology hungry public G-4 instead of G3, I advertise my services as a professional window washer. I know a really great job for a nosey parker; George Formby was spot on.

 (Does anybody truly know what the difference is between G3 and G4, or whether or not an Apple I-phone #1 is less worthy than a spanking new shiny Apple #4; would somebody please let me know?)

                I have worked in the semiconductor industry since 1992 and have seen and enjoyed the changes that technology has brought to daily life. Technology has moved so fast that we are now at the point that the best we can do is produce devices that make bombs ever so slightly smarter and wash machines a shade greener. As a society we have truly failed. The computer chips we are making at this stage should be going to space technology, time travel, resolving the salt to saline water issue, or here’s a good one, generating western food wealth in starving third world nations. But I digress…………….

Window cleaning has been lucrative and has added a dimension to my family which has been fantastic. It’s what pays for life’s little extras. The vacations, the skiing holidays, the new cars, the extra presents at Christmas time. However it still entails one getting out of bed, loading the truck and racing to some stranger’s house to crawl around life endangering tiled roofs and submit to the most banal of client requests. Would I mind going over that window one more time as there is a non-existent, non-visible mark which only the lady of the house can see? Seeing as how the purveyor of my wages is determined to compare the girth of her incredibly sized appendage to my own, I acquiesce and fulfill her wishes.


Why do I do this? What is it that makes a person bend and cringe to the whim of an octogenarian with failing eye sight and a poor taste in window cleaners? Money of course! Isn’t that the thing we are all chasing; running for our lives, sprinting after the Yankee dollar? Realistically and returning to earth I understand that this is the medium, on this planet at least, that allows us to enjoy our 21st century lifestyles. Consequently I grab my running spikes and join the human race for a chance at wealth, cash, and ultimately a star-studded magazine-advertised lifestyle.

So the wife and I arrive at the house which is on the far west of Phoenix, just north of the Nuclear power plant. Not exactly L.A however if one squinted then one could just about make out the lights of the suburbs glinting in the distance. Nice enough house, however like I said on the outer limits of what one can barely call Phoenix. (For those in the know it was 233rd Avenue!) The house was a bank repossession that had been repainted and refurbished after the former owner had decided to destroy everything before handing the keys back to the bank. The walls had been daubed with graffiti, windows smashed, and everything that had once been attached to the walls had been thrown into the bottom of the swimming pool. Clearly the former owner was slightly pissed off!

The new owner was a good bloke, a working lad from Detroit who had spent the last forty years slaving for G.E. His career had taken him around the world, and we spoke about his time in Germany and his brief visits to the orient. His time had finally come and he had pooled all his cash and decided to retire; something which in today’s economic climate is something we can only aspire too. The lot on which his house was built was probably two acres of desert dust. No grass, no trees and only a small area of greenery around the more-trouble- than-its-worth swimming pool. At the end of the garden you could see the steam clouds rising up from the Nuclear power station; quite beautiful against the blue of the Arizona sky. Hanging over this slice of paradise were the high tension power cables which one could hear buzzing as they carried off their power to desperate distant households in Phoenix. Much needed energy to power televisions and computers; enabling the indolent masses to watch Dancing with the Stars or to compare themselves to the Biggest Loser whilst shoveling down yet another pack of Cheetos. As if this wasn’t bad enough one of the massive steel legs protruded onto his property; the carcinogenic giant casting its long gruesome shadow across his young daughter (a Christmas miracle) cycling circles alone in the dust.


He told me with a smile on his face that he had left Detroit and that this was meant to be his retirement home. Of course I smiled and congratulated him on his purchase and his life’s achievement.

I looked at the house, looked at the squeegee in my bucket, and then looked at the check in my hand and then asked myself the question.

Is this what it’s all about; is this all you get for your bloody money?

Another day of dancing; another day closer to college...


23 Nov



Have you ever wondered why it is that people in wheel chairs at amusement parks are pushed to the front of the line? Not only is there a height limit for most rides, which a person in a personal perambulator could never aspire to, but what are they seriously going to do? Load the whole wheel chair and the individual into the rollercoaster and watch the paraplegic as he whizzes through the loop-the-loop and crashes through the water slide! Has anybody considered the consequences of a wheel chair letting loose at sixty miles an hour hurtling through the air towards a candy flossed and soda-filled public? I mean what if the roller coaster should sink whilst going through the water slide, what then? Who is going to rescue grandma strapped into her state of the art mobility scooter? I though not; public safety dispensed with in a potentially tragic imposition of political correctness.

It is this kind of thing which fills our conversation every morning when we arrive at work. Three or four guys sitting around a table trying to find the energy to start on yet another day of managerial interference and broken down tools. The shift is from six in the morning to six in the evening which means that as colleagues we are closeted together for the majority of the working day. One would think that after years of such close companionship there would be nothing left to say, no subject left to discuss that hadn’t already been disected and digested countless times over.

 You couldn’t be further from the truth if you tried! Every day there is a new revelation, a gem, a memory shared. The hilarity which is conjured up between shift ending and shift beginning should be bottled and sold for profit.

Take Dan (no names have been changed as there are no innocents!) who is a cat hater. I know this as he told me several stories from his youth. He would catch cats, cover them in petrol, set them on fire and then let them loose! Then as the cat ran screaming through the darkness, him and his mates would take aim at the burning beasts with their shot guns. According to Dan a good time would be had by all! One can only imagine the hissing fiery fur ball as it screamed for its life through the long grass, lit up like Haley’s comet trying to dodge the incoming rounds!! You can see the twisted humor in it, not from the cat’s point of view of course, but definitely from the Budweiser soaked red-necks locking and loading on the porch.


This morning was no exception and Dan could hardly wait to relate his adventure of the previous evening  after leaving work. Driving home in his red two-tons-of-fun machismo truck, he spotted a cat close to his house. Now I should mention that this particular cat has been using his garden as a public toilet ever since its loving owners abandoned it after running from the bank to escape their foreclosed home. The cat lives in the weeds that now broach the top of the six foot wall partitioning the vacant lot from Dan’s neatly trimmed and groomed garden. Cats, selfish bastards that they are, do  not defecate where they eat, and so the handiness of the clean and pleasant open spaces next door to the empty house was no doubt a cat God-send. Much to Dan’s horror the  pristine and potentially award winning environs of his back yard were slowly filling with cat-poop. Clearly something needed to be done.

So it was out with the anti-freeze and the poisoned bratwurst however to no avail. The wily critter wouldn’t drink the sweet sickly deadly liquid nor would it munch on one of Johnsonville’s finest. There seemed to be no solution in site until last night when Dan drove home. Sitting on the kerb and hissing at an intruding feline, the furry shit-machine sat with his back to the oncoming traffic, unaware of Dan’s less than stealthy approach. Seizing his chance and swerving up the sidewalk, sending wheelie bins flying and young children rushing to the safety of their mothers, he finally had his revenge. The cat didn’t know what  hit him, literally…., as the two tons of made in America Japanese engineering digested the cat from behind; the lack of personal hygene and respect for its neighbor’s yard was squeezed with great gusto out of every orifice and onto the pavement. No longer a nuisance; now just a mess.

Dan did the right thing, trying hard to wipe the smile of his face and even harder to scrape the cat from the concrete; shovelling up what was now akin to cat paper and flinging it into his missing-in-action neighbor’s yard. The only remnants left of the midnight defecant was the dark stain on his neighbors drive way.

But Dan, proud house owner and American-dreamer that he is, was good with that………