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June 27, 2006

michelle my belle

Mandarin Design, her way or the highway

Everyone is a collector. I collect and save the container boxes of the things that my family and I have purchased over the years. I bought my first Norelco shaver twenty-six years ago. It stopped working five years later but I still have the box it came in.

My closet shelves are filled with all manor of cordless telephone boxes, cell phone boxes, shredder boxes, single lense reflex camera boxes, and Coleman camping lantern boxes. There is even an odd assortment of plain generic boxes for which I have long forgotten their original contents or purpose. It is a useless collection.

Meg (her real name was Michelle) of Mardarine Design was a collector too. But unlike mine, her collections were in great demand by bloggers every where. She wrote, collected and shared an assortment of CSS tips and tricks. Many of the design elements you see on this website came from her copious compilation of clever CSS code.

She never asked for anything in return. She never even asked for so much as a thank you. What she got was my friendship and my gratitude.

Meg or Michelle collected more than tips and tricks. She collected the hearts and good will of people from all over the world. She had friends she did not even know about. I was one.

I speak of Michelle in the past tense because she died suddenly this past weekend.

She will leave a big hole in the Internet - a hole that can never be filled. Sure, other people can write CSS tips and tricks for the rest of us less skilled but not with the same wit, warmth, style and grace.

God speed Michelle.

Posted by roadapples at 11:42 AM | Comments (4)

June 25, 2006

summer fun for the handyman

Ah summer is here and now I can have some real fun.

Whether it is frolicking in the yard cutting grass with my magnicent grass cutting machine or pounding the shit out of the front sidewalk, I just have oodles and oodles of delightful summer time activities.

I especially like working up a real sweat cutting the grass. Then I sit down in one of the lounge chairs on the deck and pop open an ice cold Heineken - so cold it gives me a brain freeze.

And when the sweat runs down in to my shoes, I take them off and my dog licks my toes.

Finally my wife will slap the crap out of me and I will come back to my senses. You know heat exhaustion can kill.

But no matter because tomorrow I get to climb up on the roof and clean out the eave troughs. Yippppeeee!

Remember men, if they can't find you handsome let them find you handy. I'm pulling for ya; we're all in this together.

Posted by roadapples at 07:01 AM

June 24, 2006


He wasn’t always this shell of a man you see before you. There was a time in his life when a shiny black Jag was his ride of choice and he had his pick of dames. The first he loved the other he tolerated. Both are expensive but a ride does not ask for anything that a good grease monkey can’t fix.

Don’t ask him to play Hendrix these days; he won’t do it. He has music of his own deep down in his gut that he needs to get out. But the tourists do not want to hear it. All they want to hear is the same old stuff they had already heard a million times.

When I first laid eyes on Kingston, it was a different time and a different ocean. Viet Nam was the rage of the land and he was playing the Virginia Beach hangouts frequented by sailors from the many nearby naval bases. I was one of them.

One night the usual rowdiness that comes just before closing time got a little out of hand. Kingston said some unkind words to a tidewater lovely that had just stumbled into the bar where his was performing. His mistake was not waiting to see who would stumble in behind her. Her escort was a huge bull walrus with fists the size of 16-pound sledge hammers.

The walrus had Kingston on his back fighting for his life and I was watching the show waiting for the cops to show up. Kingston turned his head, looked at me and pointed to the microphone stand. I knew what he wanted me to do but my god that guy was big. I handed the mike stand to one of my buddies who had more muscles than brains. He hit that big ugly bull so hard I could hear the crack.

“You got a car? The cops know mine”, Kingston said.


After that he always greeted my buddies and I warmly when he saw us but we were never close friends. We ran in different circles.

One night I saw him at the Castaway Club. It was a high class joint where the officers hung out. It was not a place I usually patronized because Heineken was twice the price. But it was late, I was in civvies and it was payday.

“Long time no see. Can I buy you a Heinie?” asked Kingston. He was leaning on the bar waiting for his next set. “You see that waitress over there. She has been ignoring me for over a month now but you wait and see I am going to have some of that even if it kills me. She says she don’t date musicians. Says she got better things to do.”

“Maybe you better leave that one alone. She must have a good head on her shoulders if she figured you out so fast.”

The LST I was on shipped out to the Caribbean for an extended cruise and our paths did not cross for almost three years. The next time I saw Kingston; he was playing solo in a dive in downtown Norfolk. He was not the same man. Even though he could still play the best guitar in the bay area, he had a sad look about him. Chain-smoking Camels and drinking Tequila right out of the bottle, he looked like someone well on his way to a breakdown.

After the bar closed, Kingston invited me to his boarding room in a sleazy run down part of town to talk over old times. On his dresser, stood the photo of a little girl. She looked to be about two years old.

“Who is that?” I asked.

“My only regret. Her mother took her out of the state about a month ago. I have no idea where they went. But I know I will see her again. A man must have hope or else what is the point. Might as well step in front of a semi on the freeway. ”

I was soon discharged from the Navy and thought I would never see Kingston again. Like I said, we did not exactly travel in the same circles.

Thirty-five years later I was walking down the Santa Monica pier when I spotted a street musician playing for tips. There was something familiar about him. I sat down, took his photo and listened for a few minutes.

As I was walking through the pier parking lot to my car when it was time to leave, I noticed a California license plate on the back of an old beater. It read KINGSTON. Taped to the dash was a faded four by seven of a little girl. She had a complexion the color of honey – the pure unprocessed kind that bees make when they have access to fields of clover. With sparkling black eyes and a dimple high on her left cheekbone, she looked exactly like her mother.

I did not make the connection until I was on the plane heading home to Wisconsin.

Posted by roadapples at 02:45 PM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2006

father's day card

On the table beside the plate of pancakes and bacon my daughters made for me this morning, was a Hallmark card they picked out. I was so taken with it that I had to share it with you.

Happy Father's Day to Paul, Kim, Greg, Fred, Euclid, Strode and all the other fathers out there.

I will be spending the day watching and burning old movies from Turner Classic Movies on the new DVD Recorder my family gave me. I have to be careful; this new toy is quickly taking over my life. Got to go - Abbott and Costellow Meets the Mummy is on!

Ten Things We'd Like To Hear Dads Say

1. Could you turn your music up louder so I can enjoy it, too?
2. Curfew is just a general time to shoot for. I'm not running a prison!
3. I don't mind air-conditionaing the whole neighborhood! Leave the door open!
4. Holding this remote is such a burden. Somebody else take it for a while.
5. Looks like we're lost. I'd better stop and ask for directions.
6. Make all the racket you want. I can sleep through anything.
7. My tools are ylour tools. Help youself.
8. Your taste in clothes is quite remarkable.
9. While I'm gone, please feel free to invite all of your fiends over.
10. Your chores can wait. Go have fun!

Posted by roadapples at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2006



One o'clock and I can't sleep. Do I wake the wife and tell her I am going out and risk making her worry or do I let her sleep in sweet ignorant bliss?

Ever so slowly I shut the door leading to the garage, taking care not to let out even the slightest creak. Bracing against the work bench, I gave a shove and the car rolled silently out of the garage.

Oh crap, I forgot about the slight downhill elevation to the street. But at this time in the morning, there is very little traffic and the Malibu came to a stop against the curb on the opposite side of the street. I was soon to discover that this was not the only detail I forgot to include in my best laid plans.

It was time to search out an interesting place for some night time photos. My first thought was the South Shore Marina only a mile or so from my house. Now I ask you, what trouble could possibly come my way in such an innocent adventure?

I set up the tripod and camera on the short pier opposite the one where they stored the boats over winter. There was a slight breeze coming in from the bay and the moon was a waxing quarter. There was not a lot of light to work with so I would have to use a very long shutter. Taking some practice shots with the digital, I began to experiment with the shutter time.

I did not hear the rustle of the tires on the gravel as the squad car drove up and the son-of-a-bitch had his headlights off.

"OK, show me some ID. You got a driver's license?"

"Sure, sure, officer sir. I have it right here in my wallet. I was just taking some..."

"Yeah, yeah, save your story. Just show me your ID."

"I guess I must have left it on the dresser at home."

"Ok lets go to the precinct station."

"Please wait please. Look I brought my cell phone. Can I call my wife so she can verify who I am? Please. I am a teacher just out taking some night time photos for a class project." It was just a little white lie. I was desperate.

"A teacher huh. You better not be pulling my chain or it won't go good for you! Give me the phone. What's the number?"

"I have it in memory, hold down number three."

"Yes good morning maam, this is Officer Ron Knots of The Milwaukee Police Department. I have someone down here by the marina who says... Yes that's right... Oh I see... Uh huh... Yes maam, I agree, he is a putz... Well, I suppose I could this one time... Oh yes, you mean the kind with double chocolate chips?... Where? Just drop them off at the third precinct on Lincoln Avenue... Ok then, I will be looking for them tomorrow morning. Sorry to trouble you. Goodnight maam."

The officer handed me my phone. "Get your gear and beat it. If I catch you out here again with no ID, you might not be so lucky next time."

"Yes sir and thank you sir. I sure will, sir."

Posted by roadapples at 06:57 AM | Comments (6)

June 04, 2006

bitten and beguiled

At the corner of Nebraska and Massachusetts streets across from the Navy Department in Washington in 1944, stood a four story brown brick building. There was no sign or hint of what might have been its purpose; it was a building of no particular architectural significance and no one would have given it a second look when they passed by. To this day, only those directly involved with the highly classified activities of the naval personnel working there would remember or care.

It had been a long week on the midnight shift for Third Class Petty Officer Lilly Dalbey and she was ready for a little R and R. Her mind was numb from the boring and tedious job she had to do night after long endless night. If she had to look up another nonsense word in one of the decode books, she would go crazy.

For a quarter, she and her friends, Sheila and Annie, could catch Sinatra at the Loew's before the picture show. Lilly needed some Blue Skies and if she was lucky, there might even be time to stop at the Mayflower Hotel. The last time she was there, Lilly had spotted a young Marine with an easy and unpuzzled smile. Maybe this would be the night he would ask her to dance.

"You want to come up to my room and talk?” asked the Marine.

"NO. I came here to dance. Just dance", replied Lilly.

"You know there are plenty of girls here that would take me up on the offer", said the Marine.

That would be the last time she would see him, she thought to herself. The days slowly passed. Her shift rotated. First ten days of eight to five, then ten days of four to one, then ten days of midnight to nine.

The guys in the teletype room were attentive but they were as ugly as a cold wind in Utah. Still a girl has to think about her future.

One morning before the midnight shift was about ready to go to the mess hall for breakfast, a long skinny box arrived. With the one crimson rose inside was a card addressed to Lilly. It read, "Want to dance?"


Posted by roadapples at 08:26 AM | Comments (7)

June 01, 2006

hemingway: a short conversation


I did not want to believe it. I could not believe it. Hemingway in drag - impossible. But it was true.

My son Steven, a journalist and music critic for a newspaper in a city not far from Milwaukee, and I were having a nice discussion about two weeks ago when the subject of favorite writers came up.

"You know dad, I read that Hemingway's mother dressed him in girls clothes when he was young and that is why many people believe he was so adamant about being perceived as a man's man."

"No, it is not true. I never heard of such a thing", I protested.

Steven is not one to give up a debate easily especially with his old man, but it was my birthday and he felt charitable. He let me have the last word and I felt uneasy. Steven was too sure of himself. The conversation haunted me until I could stand it no longer.

I found evidence that Hemingway's mother dressed him in girls clothes like his twin sister but this seemed to have stopped by the time he was three. He was such a complex individual; it is difficult to say that this alone shaped his character. When he was once asked what he felt was essential to a writer’s career, he replied, "a rotten childhood".


When his mother died, he refused to go to her funeral and, many times, he stated that he hated his mother's guts. Did this cause the depression he suffered late in his life?

Why did he decide to blow his brains out with a shotgun in 1961? Did his father's suicide have a fatal attraction to him? Hemingway asked his brother to send him the pistol that his father used to kill himself. Many of his short stories has a morbid tone where the main or one of the main characters dies a violent death.

Hemingway's unrully schock of black hair and confident swagger in the graduation photo from 1917 is gone by the time he writes The Old and the Sea in 1951. Instead we see the brooding cynical face of a man who looks much older than his years. The beginings of his long alcholic aided slide into deep depression is very evident in the cover photo from 1952.

No one will really know the cause for his madness but one fact remains. He was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. I read his short stories over and over again. My favorite is "My Old Man".

Posted by roadapples at 01:27 PM | Comments (3)