Archive for the 'Personal' Category

Embers the size of bricks

Imagine them raining down on you…flying everywhere on the gusty 40-70 mile per hour winds. Hovering helicopters shining down bright lights and blaring a warning sound. The smoke clogging up your nostrils and choking your throat. The feel of your blood pulsing through your body is echoed in your ears. Bum Bump. Bum Bump. Bum Bump. Faster. Faster. Driving across town to a safer place is like driving through a snow storm in hell. The heat increasing in ebbs and flows and white ash so plentiful it blurs your ability to see where you are driving. Fear starts to creep into your psyche. True fear, not the Hollywood version of “boo” and fake gore. It starts to creep into your stomach and creates an ache of incredible depth. You keep swallowing to keep the fear down…then you realize you are dehydrated…your eyes, nose and throat are bone dry from the heat. Your only thought is to get out…get out…as far as possible. And, then when you are out, you think of all you left behind. Memories. Photos. History. Stuff. Then you start worrying about your friends and pray they are OK.

Forget War….Wildfires are Hell.

The Tea Fire in Montecito

Great uncle

My niece had triplets, making me a great uncle for the first time.

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A mysterious crate left at my door

Early in June I woke at dawn to let my dog out and found a wooden crate, the type used decades ago by a tea importer, outside the back door. The box was nearly identical to one I had found in an old barn in Ohio years earlier. The Ohio crate had contained diaries and journals of several people as well as newspapers and photographs – all from the 1890s – and a previously unknown story from author William Hope Hodgson that appeared to have been written in 1913 shortly before he left for the war that claimed his life. I had published several of the diary entries and the Hodgson story online as The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire.

My dog sniffed the box outside the back porch door with a suspicious air before she walked off to do her business under the trees.

I looked around, but did not see anyone. On top of the crate was an envelope with a handwritten note inside. The writer claimed to have tracked me down and left the chest to me because of my previous interest in the contents of the other crate. I carried the crate inside with my dog following at my heels. I set it on the kitchen table. Inside I found letters, notebooks, folders holding sheaths of yellowed, typewritten manuscripts, and a photo album containing dozens of images from the 1920s and 1930s.

As my morning coffee brewed, I glanced through the contents of the folder on top. It appeared to have been a manuscript written in the style of a 1930s pulp magazine story. My first guess was, of course, that the story was fictional. But as I went through the box and read the notebooks and what appeared to be investigation reports I began to wonder. I now suspect the story referred to actual events and the unknown author wrote up the account as a fictional story. I do not know if the author ever attempted to publish his or her stories, but I suspect from the writing style they were intended for Weird Tales or another pulp horror or adventure magazine such as Weird Spicy Tales.

In the initial story, with chapters posted on Fridays (photos on Wednesdays), and in other stories, there are references to other investigations, hidden pasts, dark deeds referenced only in passing, and secret organizations. I shall do my best to fill in the blanks where possible, but those secrets might be hidden away in other crates, perhaps to be unveiled at a later date.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15

In the witching hour, 200,000 visits

At 3:31:11 a.m., The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire hit the 200,000 visits milestone. Not a lot compared to some sites that do that in a couple of hours, but not bad for our spiderwebbed corner of horror.

No Lines Dodgeball

Sorry for the lack of updates. We’re in the middle of No Lines Dodgeball season at home, the sport that has replaced “Two Ball Soccer with Squirt Guns” as the official sport of the Carnacki house.

I’m currently fourth in the standings behind the 7 year old, 10 year old and 4 year old in wins. Yes, technically that puts me in last place, but I’d prefer to think of it as 4th place with a shot of moving up.

Generally it’s been very close and exciting matches though I have the disadvantage of providing a bigger target.

The rules are simple: 1 on 1 with no out of bounds and no time limit. 2 playground balls are used. A hit without touching the ground first is 1 point. Catching the ball is 1 point. The ball can be used to block the opponent’s ball. The first to 10 points wins.

The 7 year old’s strategy is to hold both and stalk in close for the kill and throw at the ankles. But if you hold your hands down to catch the ball there, she’ll quickly aim at the head.

The 10 year old goes for the sudden charge. The 4 year old’s strategy is more complex: run until her opponent gets tired of chasing her then go swing on the swing set. It’s quite effective. Charges that she’s not playing fair are usually met with derisive laughter from her and calls to “swing me higher.” I’ve come close to winning several highly competitive games and have led for many of the games only to have my leads suddenly disappear to furious comebacks. Regular blogging of the irregular will resume at some point. Until then look for more chapters and photos for The Howl of the Werewolf on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Death of a dream….

To reintroduce the endangered California Condor back to the wild? Let’s hope not, but the Basin Fire in Big Sur and the Ventana Wilderness certainly might be chimming the death knell for all our efforts to save this amazing (yet darkly dinosaur like) bird.

Naturalists feared on Tuesday for endangered California condors caught up in a massive two week-old blaze still sweeping through the scenic Big Sur area.

The fate of three condor chicks born in the wild in April — key to the reintroduction in California of the threatened species — was unknown. One nest was in the path of the fire and flames damaged an aviary where captive chicks are trained before being released into the wild. – Reuters

Deathly ugly as they may appear, watching them in flight is to view nature’s engineering at it’s finest.

A lucky day

Today is the anniversary of our adoption of Lucy.

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On another blog, someone mentioned how today yesterday was 7-7-07 and asked if anything lucky had occurred.

Here was my comment:

Yes.

We adopted a dog from the animal shelter today. I last had a dog in 1992 after I sold my first house and moved into an apartment. My ex mother in law, a good dog woman, took Jeb where she spoiled him. When Ms. Carnacki and I bought this house, I wanted to get another dog. That was 10 years ago. She was pregnant at the time and didn’t want to have to deal with a dog and a baby. So we agreed as soon as everyone was potty trained we’d get a dog. We actually waited a couple years past that but still it’s been 10 years ago since we first talked about it and the longest period in my life since I’ve lived without a dog.

At the shelter today — and we noted the lucky date — we saw a couple we wanted to take home. But the one I really was attracted to was a dog much bigger and older than we had talked about.

Lucy is almost 10 years old and nearly 100 pounds and there’s not any fat on her. She’s just BIG. An older woman whose diability had gotten worse couldn’t take care of her any more and couldn’t find anyone to adopt her. The shelter people said she had cried when she dropped Lucy off and I can see why.

She’s an extremely gentle, well mannered dog. Very good with the children, who absolutely adore her

I know we won’t have many years with her. She’s old and big dogs don’t usually live long lives. But we couldn’t have picked a better dog in the whole world.

So to answer your question, yes I got lucky today.

It’s like she’s always been with us.

She follows me from room to room, looking up at me with big puppy-like eyes. Outside she loves to play “stick” where I throw a stick and she chases it and then snaps it in her powerful jaws.

She’s almost 11 and last month she gave us a real scare when she couldn’t get up one morning though she tried to stand. But I carried her to the car and the vet gave her a shot and she’s on a month long course of antibiotics. Like the other 10 year old in the house, my oldest daughter, Lucy has Lyme disease.

But the medicine has brought her back around though she tires more quickly than she did before her illness she still has the biggest heart.

I could not begin to describe how much we love this dog and how much she means to us. We owe her more than we could ever repay. I have no doubt she saved my oldest daughter from terrible danger. Lucy’s loyal and when she needs to be, she is ferocious. With her gray hair and age spots, she’s the most beautiful dog ever.

We got her from the shelter one year ago today for $15. I wouldn’t trade her for all the money in the world.

The terror of helplessness in a smoke filled city

The sunset was blood red tonight. The smoke from the fire is creeping down off the hill. Power was off for several hours, affecting approximately 140,000. Nowhere could I get information on what was happening, no internet to surf for the latest information as we all here in California have been doing since the fires began. Here, in Santa Barbara, since yesterday afternoon when, yet again, we are face to face with another fire teasing us with potential county wide destruction. (We had Zaca last year.)

Nowhere on the radio could I find out what was happening and why the power was out and how far the outage was reaching. All that was on the dial were baseball games, syndicated right wing radio talkshows and a rebroadcast of Larry King. Finally, between rock/pop songs, one DJ had the temerity to mention, briefly, that there was some sort of power outage affecting the downtown area. (No mention of the Goleta and Carpinteria areas that apparently were affected, too.)

Finally the radio station is broadcasting actual news to use. Two hours after the fact. Edison says that their power lines were affected by the smoke created by the Gap Fire. Ah…yeah. The local TV station has a little crawler across the bottom of the screen…”stay tuned to KEYT for more news…” Seems the safety of the city isn’t as important as broadcasting “Wife Swap.” Maybe if part of the City burns down they can film “City Neighborhood Swap.”

Why should we even care or worry about “terrorists” attacking us? We might never find out because our Emergency Broadcast System has been sold out for commercial interests. Why tell the public about what they can do about their safety when there is money to be made in syndication and advertisements.

I can handle the fire. I can handle using the windup radio/flashlight. (In an earthquake kit, of course.) It’s the terror of not knowing what really is happening that is the most frightening.

If the power remains on…I’m emailing the FCC. Tomorrow I’m phoning. It’s time for local, neighborhood informational radio stations to turn to for aid…and comfort.

Train station on a hot June day

There’s a woman my wife calls my commuter train nemesis. She’s mean to nearly everyone. We get on at the same stop and off at the same stop. My disposition, despite my interest in the dark, is relatively friendly. This woman is mean to everyone, barking at them and glaring. Despite my friendly nature, I also possess a bit of a … hmm, prankster mentality. Knowing she is aggressively unfriendly, I make sure to say hello to her. We were at the train station waiting for a late train and it was very hot.

“Hot day, isn’t it?” I said with a friendly smile.

“Are you trying to make me feel hotter?” she asked.

“It’s not the heat so much as the humidity,” I said in my best Arthur Dent. Nothing like a cliche to irk someone.

“It’s the heat and the humidity,” she growled.

“Yes, it’s very hot.” I agreed.

I could see her glare under her wrap around shades.

“If it gets any hotter they’re going to have to call an ambulance for me,” she said.

No they won’t, I thought. They all know you.

“I’m sure I heard the train whistle,” I said. I had. It was pretty loud and obvious though still around a bend.

“It’s probably a freight,” she growled.

It was our train and I headed for my usual car and she headed to hers. In my battle with my nemesis, I felt I left the field victorious today.

Memorial Day weekend to-do list

1. Honor dead.
2. Mow lawn.
3. Wash dog.
4. Buy gas for grill.
5. Grill.
6. Weed garden.
7. Update blog roll.
8. Drink beer.
9. See a movie, maybe new Indiana Jones.
10. See No. 8.

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