December 31, 2012

Winter Garage

Winter Garage
By John R. Greenwood
Reflections of a Garage
Winter garages are not the same as summer garages. They smell different. They feel different. They serve a different purpose. Unheated and removed they possess a December loneliness. They feel left out and unappreciated. I speak to my garage. I thank him for his loyalty. I know it's a male because he leaves his things strewn about and cringes when I try to clean him up. I heard him cry out in pain one calm spring day. It was in the early 90's and Mrs. G. hung curtains on his windows in an effort to spruce up his image. He pouted for weeks. Looking back I think he handled it as well as you might expect any 1940's two-car to handle it. We have since reconciled. We made it up to him by replacing his front doors. He welcomed that upgrade and stands a bit taller because of it. 


Saratoga Water - Window
The differences between a summer garage and a winter garage are contents and purpose. Summer garages house partial bags of potting soil, patient lawnmowers, anxious trimmers, and pails of damp car sponges. Winter garage has a more critical role. He is more protective and business-like. His primary function from November thru March is guarding Mrs. G's car from the elements. Ice and snow are his enemy. Wind and freezing temperatures are his nemesis. Nagging wall and roof-aches from years of hard labor have resulted in creaky old man sounds that are eerily familiar. 
I love this guy...
Garage Art


















The top photo was born when I snapped a picture of the reflection in the side window of my wife's car. I had no idea it would end up capturing so many items and angles. This is why I do what I do. You never know what surprises await you just around the corner. I look forward to a fresh years worth of surprises in 2013. Thank you all for making this site a stop on your 2012 journey. Please stayed tuned for more obscure views of life in the center lane. 

December 29, 2012

Covered Bridge With Snow

Covered Bridge With Snow
By John R. Greenwood

Consignment Bridge red-topped and strong
immersed in cold cotton
    in this simple life 
    the simple pleasures
    colorful packages
    wrapped in natures way





Weeks before the first snow I placed Consignment Bridge atop some old cement chunks I had pre-arranged in a sort of limestone monolith in the back corner of my yard. Rather than assume the cost of disposal I created a structure of combined elements. It consists of various cement pieces from an old walk I replaced, some old marble slabs I'm told were from the original Grand Union Hotel, mismatched paving bricks, and stones from thirty years of back yard projects. I knew if snow ever arrived it would make a nice center piece for the back forty (feet not acres).





December 28, 2012

2013-- The Year Of Good Intentions

2013--The Year Of Good Intentions
By John R. Greenwood


Preparing for another year of good intentions brings visions of slim waists and  lottery wins. Life will be grand. Greens beans will taste like French fries and a cure for Global Warming will be here by February. Gas prices will plummet and mirrors will reflect wrinkle-free foreheads and wavy locks. Positive thoughts abound and fill the air. Dog tails wag with reckless abandon. Kittens purr as though they have the answers-- all of them. Teenagers smile and help bring in the groceries. Politicians join hands and dance across America. I, like you, will make unattainable resolutions, but I will make them, and I will do it with the best of intentions. That is what we must do in the upcoming year. 2013 must be the year of good intentions. We must toss negativity to the curb where it belongs. An unlimited number of random acts of kindness must swarm our hearts and soak our minds. Shake hands not babies. Lift spirits not wallets. Take your foot off the gas and pedal your way to a more peaceful life. Somewhere along the way greed replaced cooperation and me replaced we. We can talk about it until we're shot in the face but we must act. We can't all be right and we can't all be first in line. It's about time we all step aside and reevaluate the line we're in. Maybe we don't belong in a line? Maybe we should try making our own choices, and then be brave enough to take responsibility for them. Sadly another Newtown will appear on our screens. We will rally, then disperse to wait in fear for the next tragedy. Don't disperse this time. Remain hand in hand, side by side. Stop only to refuel. Do it by whatever means possible, just don't park the car in the garage and wait.  Stop pointing fingers, it's impolite. Oh yeah, let's bring back, please and thank you, and throw, "Have a good one.", out with 2012. I know it's petty in comparison to the ills of the world but personally it leaves me begging for just a little more effort. Have we gotten so lazy that we can't make the commitment to wish someone a good day. Lets not keep them guessing. After all, whenever I've enjoyed a good one, I usually want another. It would be helpful if I knew what I was looking for.

Peace in 2013,

Please and Thank you.

This has been a public service announcement 



December 26, 2012

Snow Where? (Revised)


SnowWhere? 
By John R. Greenwood

Power Max prepped, fueled and hungry
idle for so long he starts with no hesitation
I, his anxious master
on vacation and sent outside to play
gloves on
hat on 
snow is in the air
somewhere
SnowWhere? 
Coming soon...




Snowmore Please! 
(A Retraction)

Like a big mouth coaxing a fight
the author surrenders with the first punch
plagued by a tiny memory span when warranted
thirty minutes in 
the smell of hot coffee and warm cookies
overcomes an abominable-like snowwuss
pride-less with a hint of, "Oh, I forgot."
a gentle giant backs his snow encrusted exfriend into the garage
head drooped and dripping 
shoulders slumped 
the five inch blizzard of 2012 
proclaimed the victor

THE END









December 25, 2012

A Nice Little Dog Story

A Nice Little Dog Story
By John R. Greenwood 

In the mid 60's my father took me to an old country farm on Route #28 in the small Adirondack town of North Creek and let me pick out a beagle pup. They were out in an old barn on the property. It was early fall and I remember the smell of musty hay and the sound of whimpering pups. I picked the happiest one. I named him Snoopy of course, Snoop for short. 
This story starts with the vision of him coming home with us, curled up in an old blanket on my lap. It ends with me sitting on the living room floor sorting through some old photographs. In between were many memories, mostly hunting stories.
The story of Snoop's last rabbit hunt is sad. I was a kid. I took it hard and my Aunt Ann felt especially bad. To ease the pain and help me remember him she sent me a gift. It was the  life-like ceramic beagle pictured above. It was a little smaller than the real life Snoop but the resemblance was spot on. It was her way of consoling me. I am forever grateful for her compassion. That beagle sat quietly in my parents living room for years. When they passed away Snoop faithfully followed me home and has been loyally guarding our living room ever since.

One night as I sat on the floor sorting through some old photographs I happened upon one of Snoop and me when I was around ten. I suddenly had this strange feeling. Looking at the photo gave me a little chill. It was one of those Ghost Hunter moments they repeat a half dozen times to make it seem more believable. All I can say is it did stop me dead in my tracks and I immediately glanced over at the ceramic Snoop sitting a few feet away, minding his own business. My eyes were drawn to the thin red collar around his neck. It was the original collar that he came with but I never noticed the metal dog tag attached to it before. That ceramic dog had been following me for four decades and that was the first time I paid that close attention to it. I reached out, pulled the dog over and grabbed the tag. I turned it over and immediately I knew what had drawn me to it. It was the last dog tag from my dog Snoop. It had a date of 1970 on it. My father must have gotten it from the vet the day he died. He added it to the collar at some point--when I'll never know. Like a soldier clasping the tag of his fallen friend I sat there motionless staring at my discovery. I'm not sure what got to me more; the fact that I was looking at my dogs original dog tag; or the vision of my father adding it to the thin red collar around a ceramic dogs neck. Combined they were a true gift. 


I thought of how many times I'd walked by that dog in the last forty years. It was the gesture that took my breath. The collar and tag were more than a prop, more than decoration. It was a four decade long hug my father struggled to perform in real life.

So on this Christmas morning as I sit here and listen to the snowplow slowly rounding the corner, I am reminded of what the holiday season is about. It should be a time to slow down and look closer at the things around you. Pay attention to the signs right in front of you. Sometimes the closer you look the more you see, and then again sometimes you have to step back and look at life from a greater distance or from another point of view. The idea is not to pigeon hole people or ideas. Keep an open mind, and open eyes. Be observant and understanding. Make compassion a priority. Don't be afraid to ask if someone is okay or if they need a helping hand. Don't take the little things for granted. 
There just may be a sign of love right under your nose--or around the neck of your ceramic Snoop.

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year!

Be Safe.
Raining Iguanas
John R. Greenwood
12.25.2012

December 22, 2012

Redneck Christmas Eve

Redneck Christmas Eve
By John R. Greenwood

It was Christmas Eve 1994, I was in the dining room helping my wife with some last minute wrapping. The phone rang. When you have two teenage boys you hate a ringing phone and the sound of sirens. Your senses are tuned to problems with boys anyway, but when they have their own cars and a license to drive them, you're more skittish than a bachelor at his twin sister's wedding. 


"Dad, my car broke down." 

"Whew!, is that all?"

If you have a teenager whose car cost less than a new sofa you will surely hear, "my car broke down", on a weekly basis. 

I remember this night well. It was as crummy a Christmas Eve as you could imagine. It was a cold, wet night. You know, one of those nights where the dampness soaks into your skin like hot grease up a cheap paper towel. One of those dark dreary nights you'd pay a weeks salary for if you could just sprawl out on the couch with an out-of-order phone, a mug of hot something, and a thirty pound couch blanket. This was not the, Night Before Christmas story, I had in mind. If a young family has more than two cars in the driveway, and the driver of at least one of them only works a dozen hours a week making pizza, you can not afford tow trucks AND repairs. So, in the best father-of-a-teen voice I could muster I replied, "Sit still, I'll be right there. We'll tow it home."

Well Operation Redneck Towing was going to be a blast. He wasn't around the corner at his friends house. No, he was fifteen miles away in a mall parking lot, one county north. Saddle up Duke, this was going to be a ride. I had recently purchased a redneck necessity; a tow strap. It was a thick yellow beauty. It had large heavy clasps on each end. It was about 18 feet long. That may sound like a lot, but I can assure you it is about half as long as you would like it to be. 

Car towing with a strap, rope, or chain is an art. It is not for the squeamish. In fact with the cars today it is almost impossible. Locking steering wheels and brake systems have made the days of Redneck Towing almost extinct. It is also very, very dangerous. But it was Christmas Eve, and I had two teenage boys eating from my refrigerator. I could not afford AAA.  The repair would probably take us into the New Year anyway. We would have to risk life and limb. It was the only choice we had. 

I was not a totally irresponsible parent, I would drive the car being towed. It was the responsible thing to do. Towing vehicles with an eighteen foot strap requires precision teamwork. The  tow'er and the tow'ee must work in perfect harmony or bumpers will be bumped. The main requirement is to keep the strap, rope, or chain taught. If you want a NASCAR experience, have someone tow you at 45 mph. You  will have more respect for the Jimmy Johnson's of the world. 

The biggest problem on this night was the weather. It was snowing that wet sloppy snow that isn't really snow it's simply rain with texture. In addition, because the car didn't run, I had no wipers. So picture this circus act. I am in a car being towed by his teenage son, going 45 mph, with twelve feet between us, no wipers, zero visibility, zero brains, bellowing Christmas songs for fifteen miles to smother my fear. It is by far my most unforgettable Christmas Eve memory. It gives me nightmares and nostalgic-fuzzies all at the same time. Happy Holiday's everyone. May your teens be grown and your AAA be current. 








This post was the result of a writing prompt on a member of my Hubbard Hall Writing Group's, Pugs and Pics web page.

Write and share a holiday memory

December 18, 2012

Day Of The Rascal


Day Of The Rascal
By John R. Greenwood

This is a story about people who take advantage of the elderly. We can only hope there is a special hell for them. Here is  an example. I call it the 'Day Of The Rascal'.

When my father’s health had deteriorated to the point where he couldn't walk more than a few feet without struggling for air, he began paying more attention to those scooter ads on television. You know the commercials I’m talking about, the ones showing a man or women freewheeling through the house twisting and turning like an osprey in flight among the tree tops. Life will be grand, as long as you have several in your wallet. 

Well, dad had done his homework. He had been checking out the ads in AARP magazine and sent in a postage free card requesting more information about electric wheelchairs and scooters. He was like the teenage boy who wants a new car or motorcycle, he figured if he accumulated enough facts and pro-scooter testimonials he could justify plunking down his hard earned money. The fact is he didn't need to do anything but place an order and write out a check. It was his money, his life, and ultimately his decision. It was nice to know that he valued my opinion. He trusted I would help him make the right choice and look out for his best interest in the process. That was always my priority. Soooo, when he told me he had a salesman stopping by his apartment with some information on the wheelchair that could change his life I felt obligated to be there. As primary caregiver it was my responsibility to insure he was not taken advantage of. Dad was still sharp and had all his faculties in tact, but the guy who used to worry about his kid making bad choices had been showing signs of making some himself. It was becoming a reverse naivety. Because his contact outside his apartment was shrinking, so was his world. With my mother fifty miles away in a respiratory nursing home, his life was also under immense stress and strain. I think it was beginning to take a toll. He was particularly susceptible to anyone expressing an understanding of his situation. I had to watch carefully to insure he didn't write out another twenty dollar check for address labels from the Save the New Zealand Wombat Foundation. 

On the day of his appointment with the scooter man, I was there waiting. I was standing in the kitchen preparing dinner when there was a buzz from the main door of the apartment complex. Dad answered the phone, hit the proper code, and let him in the building. Mr. Fullabull stood at the door with a sales folder in one hand and a small chocolate cake from Price Stopper in the other. With a used-car-salesman-grin and outstretched hand full of chocolate bribery he barged right in. It was like one of those old vacuum cleaner/encyclopedia piano-key-toothed door to door guys with the crepe paper thin suit coming back from the 1940's. I knew we were in for a ride on the bullshit train, full steam ahead. 

Mr. Fullabull started right in with the over the top, "How are you doing this evening Mr. Greenwood?" It was so phony a vision of me pulling on my fishing waders flashed through my mind. This was going to be a battle. 

Mr. Fullabull quickly entrenched himself and got right to his script. He knew just what to say to get dads attention and it worked-- for the moment. He opened up his catalog and began pulling out various brochures. Top of the line electric wheel chairs and accessories overflowed my fathers lap. The entire sales pitch revolved around improving your, "Quality of Life." He must have said that a dozen times in the first five minutes. He went on and on, and on, and on. When they go on for that long without coming up for air or allowing you to ask, "How much?", you know you're in trouble. Although dad was enamored by Fullabull in the beginning, I could see a look of panic setting in. Even he realized this guy was hardcore pushy and was not leaving without a sale. Finally I had had enough. My father was getting overwhelmed and hungry to boot. I interrupted Mr. Fullabull and asked him what dad and I really wanted to know, "How much was this Lazyboy with wheels and a motor?" When he choked up a price of $6,000, I almost croaked. Yes, but it was top of the line! Fullabull kicked into overdrive arrogant and said we could write a check and he would have a unit there within two weeks. He had an invoice already prepared. He wanted a signature and the money right then and there.

This was about the only time in our father-son relationship where my father gave me that look that said, "I'm in over my head. I need your help. Get me out of this now, please!" For once in my life I felt like Chuck Norris rescuing Grandpa Walton from a carjacker. 

I stood up tall and puffed up my chest a little more than necessary. I looked Mr Fullabull square in the twitching eye and said,"My father simply wanted information on the different units so he could decide whether it was something that he could use and if it was something he could afford. We are not buying anything this evening. He is not writing any checks today or tomorrow. Leave your brochures. Leave your card. We will talk it over. I will let you know what we decide, end of discussion." 

Mr. Fullabull was no wallflower. This guy was an NFL linebacker in a cheap suit. His face was pulsating. I never flinched. That's my father and he's had a rough go of it over the last year. Don't even think about it.

This is when he made the mistake of his career. He stands up and says,"Well, obviously you aren't the least bit concerned about your father's quality of life." 

Dad's eyes popped out of his head. The veins in my forehead bulged like those in a horror film. 

I strongly encouraged Mr. Fullabull to get his coat, his cake, and his about-to-get-kicked ass out of my fathers apartment expeditiously or I would be facing jail time. Luckily his hearing was excellent. He left faster than a $6,000.00 scooter on full charge. 

After dad and I caught our breath and he finished his cold dinner we sat down and discussed what happened. He was relieved it was over. I think that day changed how we went forward as a team. He agreed to give me a few days to look online and do my own homework. What I found was a website where we could buy a unit online and have it delivered right to his front door. I found a much smaller version that was more practical for his needs. It was kind of neat looking besides. It was a perfect fit for him. It was also one-fourth the cost of the monstrosity Mr. Fullabull wanted to slip under the door. I will never forget that day. I will never forget the words, 'quality of life'. Fullabull is fortunate his quality of life wasn't significantly reduced that day. The 'Day of the Rascal'. 

December 15, 2012

The Last Sweater


The Last Sweater
By John R. Greenwood

I don't write about my mother a lot. The reason is, it hurts too much. I begin to think of all the things she did for me. All the things that went unnoticed and floated quietly into the night. I think of all the Saturday nights she slipped an extra five into my hand as I headed out the door to see Patti, my girlfriend at the time and now my wife. That gesture hangs with me like an infinite hug. Mom did more for me than I will ever know. She stood tall for me when I messed up. I wish I could have shared some of that with my sister. Sis was blazing the teenager trail of arguments and wing spreading. The trail was well marked when I arrived at my teens. By that time I knew the drill. I was aware of the safest way through the parent minefield. My sister deserves a medal for what she endured. It was much easier for me. 

My most cherished vision of my mother is one of her sitting in her favorite fabric chair knitting away. She loved to knit. Anyone who knew my mother knew of her skills with a pair of #2 needles. Her baby sweaters and blankets were her finest works of art. Her wool knit hunting socks were prize acquisitions for anyone whose feet were ever cold. There are no more socks. There is an empty spot in my heart. 

I, like most people, wade in a pool of sentimentality during the Christmas season. I also enjoy writing more when there is an emotional connection in the mix. I got here by thinking of some of the Christmas traditions of our family. I was looking for a story to share. 

I was in the cellar the other morning when I spotted a trunk of family items tucked away on shelf along the wall. I was drawn to it by an unexplainable force. When I opened it up I immediately pulled out a plastic bag folded neatly in the bottom. In the bag was the pink sweater pictured in the photo above. It was an unfinished girls baby sweater. It was the last thing mom was working on when she got sick. They were the last stitches she made. It was the last sweater. 

Mom suffered with carpal tunnel due to the years and years of knitting. She had begun doing more crocheting because it was easier. Although she did have success with operations on both wrists it was still very painful for her to knit. She refused to stop and forged on making her blankets, hats, and sweaters. I know there are still many of her handmade treasures roaming around out there. What affected me the most about my discovery and the flood of visuals that accompanied it was something unexpected. I was overcome by the thought of all the things I took for granted where my mother was concerned. In her later years I did my best to thank her and assure her I knew the quiet things she did for me. We would look at each other and know what the other was thinking. If dad was in one of his, I-am-always-right, moods, she would simply give me that silent confirmation all was well, and send me out the door. When it came to watching my back she provided better protection than Tony Soprano. 

That expertly crafted sweater, so pink, so delicate brought all the things mom did for me back in an album of nostalgic reminders. I still have a bag or two of her vintage knitting books stored away. Seeing them brings back the memory of a Friday night ritual my parents would go through. It was back in the 1960's. There was a small knitting shop over on the east side of Saratoga Springs. On Friday nights dad would take mom there. We would park on the street out front. She would run in to get a few scenes of yarn. We would sit (impatiently) in the car(International Scout) and wait for her. I remember when the little yarn shop closed. Sadly, Mom's yarn world was slowly shrinking. 

I still smile when I picture mom nestled in her chair in one of her appliqu├ęd sweatshirts and sweatpants, her favorite drink by her side. She would have those needles flailing like Edward Scissorhands and at the same time her eyes would be glued to the Bruins/Devil's game, weighing in her definitive opinion with each missed shot and scored goal. 

Mom, thanks for the warmth of your wool socks, the joy of those exquisitely crafted baby sweaters, and your unwavering love. As I folded the unfinished treasure and gently placed it back into the memory vault I got a slight twinge. I realized the sweater mom was knitting was for the great- granddaughter she had been waiting so patiently for. My sister and I could field a starting basketball team lineup, and bench with grandsons, but there were no granddaughters coming. It would be a great-granddaughter when it happened. Mom never got to see my sister's granddaughter Adilynn. Adilynn would never get to enjoy the warmth of moms arms or the last sweater. 

This piece was written in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. The pain and horror of that event was so overwhelming I had to find a distraction. This piece was created as a tribute to those families who must now endure a lifetime of pain. For those of you reading this today, gather your children, hug them with the warmth of a hand-knit sweater. My mother will be looking out for the children lost in that tragedy. That is my Christmas wish... 


Mom, the boys, and me
circa. 1982


December 12, 2012

"Hey! Slow Down."

"Hey! Slow Down."
       By John R. Greenwood
"Hey, Slow Down."
Not that the calendar would listen even if it heard me, but if it would just slow down a little bit and go at my pace, I would really appreciate it. On this momentous day of 12.12.12., I happened to be down in my cellar where I pretend to stay fit by working out a few mornings a week. My mind was wandering as it does quite often and I realized what day it was. I looked over to the back of Gym Dungeon and noticed an old Thomas Oil Calendar. I thought it might be fun to use it as a blog post saluting this once in a life time calendar date. To my surprise it happened to be a December calendar. In fact it was December 1967. My mind took off in flight again. I was 12 years old on December 12, 1967. Whoa, call TAPS. This was getting freaky--not really, just a fun coincidence. But it did sort of stop me in my tracks. These months are flying off the wall like days, the days like seconds. I have way too much left to do. I want more months on this calendar. Can't we come up with a 13, 14, and 15? How about a Lovember, Fishober, and a Baconary? Something to really look forward to. 


 It's not growing older that bothers me, I'm over that. I tried to slow that clock down once by trying to smother the grey hair with Just For Men.  I ended up looking like Lucy Riccardo and had fifty truck drivers calling me Big Red. That ended that flight from reality. I embrace my age (not really) with open arms, I simply want a guarantee I will get to everything I want to get to. Raining Iguanas has been a Fountain Of Youth pill for me. It has given me a place to express anything I want to express. It doesn't care what I look like or whether my shoes are tied. I can simply run with the ball until I run out of steam. After all, isn't that what we all want. Money doesn't make happiness. It can help facilitate certain things. If it weren't for this wonderful computer Mrs. G. blessed me with I certainly would not be enjoying my life in cyberspace as much as I do. I guess slowing down the calendar is probably not going to happen in my lifetime but it did get the grey matter under the grey that doesn't matter moving. And that is the point I wanted to  leave you with. It is fun to look back. If you have been here before you know I lean a little nostalgic, but that isn't where life is going on. It's going on outside the picture window and it's not waiting for anyone. If you have something to say, you better say it. If you have a desire to see the Grand Canyon you better hurry it won't be there much longer (actually it will be there for a really long time I just wanted to see if you were paying attention). There is a lot to do out there. So grab your camera like the bear cub in the picture and take off in some direction just like he is here. Just don't knock over the coffee pot on your way out.

See you on Friday the Thirteenth!
In the month of Baconary


"Run for the hills!"

December 10, 2012

Sunday Night And The Rain Keeps Raining

Sunday Night And The Rain Keeps Raining
By John R. Greenwood

Sploshing just outside
dripping gops of wet mush in the dark
the rain keeps raining
What else should I do?
Rain asks
It's my job

I have no rainimosity toward you my friend
I said

yet
your slippery voice ripples down the siding
puddles echoing like a distant river song
floating 
lyrics collecting in deep pools
damp with a blue tone

December 09, 2012

Big Trucks, Big Dreams

Big Trucks, Big Dreams 
By John R. Greenwood


Work Horse On A Foggy Morning


















If you are from the Saratoga Springs, N.Y. area you are familiar with the well groomed trucks of William J. Morris Excavating. I have been witness to this company’s work for over thirty years. This post is a salute to a young man's dream of making his living by moving dirt and digging holes with big trucks and backhoes. I wanted to highlight a real life example of a young man who not only realized the American Dream, but also understood the importance of doing it with hard work and honesty. In all the years I have known Bill we have never spoken more than a few sentences to each other. We were not close friends nor were we classmates. The common thread was being young business owners in the 1980’s. Bill had a backhoe, I had an old milk truck. We both got up early and had our morning coffee side by side at the counter of a local diner. I knew who he was; the quiet guy with the brown and gold trucks. He knew who I was; the guy who bought a milk business and delivered milk to every place in town. We said good morning up to seven days a week for many years. If we saw each other in another venue we might not recognize each other. I have always had great respect for this quiet, hard working man. You don’t survive that long in business unless you are a person of integrity injected with a strong work ethic. William Morris is that guy. 

Bill if you ever run across this post know that it was done as a tribute to the working man. I can recall the early days when you could be spotted in a backyard digging a trench or burying a drainage pipe. You were always right there in the middle of things. In fact just a couple of days ago, and thirty years later, the sight was repeated at the place where I work. There you were shovel in hand, work boot deep in a ditch, leading the project by example. It has always been that way. It was as though you had clones spread out across town. 

As a young boy playing with my Tonkas in the dirt I dreamt of driving the big trucks, vroom, vroom, vrooming myself to sleep. I like most country raised boys of my era wanted that life. Bill Morris lived it and lives it still today. May every young person with a vision and solid work ethic realize their dream. I will be pulling for you all. 


Parked But Never Still





December 07, 2012

Hitchhiker

Hitchhiker
By John R. Greenwood













A teenage memory lingers
It remains thumb-out on Rt #9n
Morning, noon, and lonely night I stood upon the shoulders  of my 1970's friend waiting for a samaritan with trusting soul and open door
Hitchhiking; a lost art, a missed miss-adventure
Sadly, safely, banished from the list of a young man have-to's
Each time an approaching car 

Each time a racing heart, a hopeful spirit wish
Will this be the ride that satisfies freedoms joy
Right thumb out, arm bent and swaying slightly back to front
Sometimes rigid as if to say:

Go ahead, pass me by
A lifetime to stand here free as a tree waiting for a change of season
But as each begging eye meets the oncoming pair
A sense of lottery seeps in
Brightened brake lights proclaim thee a winner


"Hitchhiker" Read by the author John R. Greenwood

Fortunately as a fifteen year old I was able to experience hitchhiking. I can remember how much courage it took that very first time I stepped from the yard to the road's edge. I recall being more afraid of an angry father than I was of being picked up by a serial killer. Once you've secured your first ride, each ensuing trip to the shoulder becomes easier. There is an art to hitchhiking. My ticket to a prompt pick up was carrying my Saratoga Blue Streak gym bag. That coupled with a baby smooth, whisker-less face pretty much insured I was as harmless as a pack of lambs. I didn't usually have to walk too far. In fact it was best when heading into town to stay put. People were used to seeing me there and a ride within the first few cars was common. The return trip had more challenges. Many times it was dark by then. Gym bag or not, the ride home took a bit more work to secure. 

Hitchhiking was dying a slow death. More families had multiple vehicles and more teenagers were driving them. Hitchhiking and teens riding school buses were on the decline. It was also becoming more dangerous to be on either side of an outstretched thumb.

We lived on a busy state highway. Traffic and the ability to snag a ride were much easier there than on the secondaries that ran parallel. I lived about six miles north of the city where my girl friend lived. When your fifteen, love runs strong, six miles is trivial pursuit. The pretty young thing with the Irish dimple was well worth the travel time--in fact she still is. 


December 05, 2012

Writing Is My Hay

Writing Is My Hay
By John R. Greenwood


I just returned from reading a Bedlam Farm.Com  post about hay being the thread of life on a farm. Hay is such a simple thing and yet without it many animals would perish. That's when it dawned on me that writing is my hay. It draws me to the desk each day like a horse to the greenest pasture. I relish each line as though munching another mouthful of dry rye, lifting my head just long enough to savor the world around me. It doesn't matter what I write about or how it's shared, but it does matter that it happens. When days multiply without words, I become hungry and weak. Irritability rises and my sense of worth drops a point or two. When I put my life on paper I breathe. It keeps me vital in the world. It is a small corner I inhabit and without documentation my fear is that it will someday become extinct. I'm the little guy who writes about little things like mowing the lawn and swimming holes. The hay that sustains the majority. The nourishment we must appreciate in order to receive its full benefits. As I munch away here I begin to feel full again, if only for a few hours or maybe a day or two, always knowing I will need another armful of hay, another pageful of sharing. Each morning when the alarm rings and the day begins to entwine itself, I yearn for something more. I keep all my senses on alert for more hay, more sustenance. I am never opposed to being fed by strangers either. Any broken bales of ideas or thoughts are welcome. Simply throw them over the fence and watch me eat. I will absorb your thoughts and dreams and let them supply me strength. Strength to continue my writing, working life. 

What's your hay? 

December 02, 2012

What Makes You Smile?

What makes you smile?
 By John R. Greenwood


My father had a deep vein of prankster in him. One prank in particular always brings a smile to my face. Dad's friend Jack used to stop by and visit him on a regular basis. They would talk about everything and anything. They were both retired and in their seventies. The friendship had a Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Grumpy Old Men, feel to it. Their visits were more about killing time than about discussing world events. Jack was a character and known to be a little tight with a dollar. He was always complaining about how much everything cost; whether it was a gallon of gas or a bag of oranges. My father, the perpetual instigator, loved to poke him with a stick to get him ranting about something. On this particular day my father dreamed up a scheme to play on Jack's love of the almighty buck. He took a $5.00 bill and tied it to the end of some fishing line. He then laid the bill at the end of the sidewalk where he knew his friend would see it. Dad then peeled off several feet of line from his fishing pole and hid in the back porch just out of sight. There sat a seventy year old man on an upside down plastic pail, fishing pole in hand waiting for a nibble from his frugal friend. Minutes later a Buick pulls in the driveway and out steps Mr. Fishing Prey. As he heads toward the front door he spots the bait. There on the sidewalk lay a crisp fiver waiting for a nibble. He bends over to snatch it up and just as he does Father Prankster reels in a foot or two of fishing line. Poor Jack almost falls on his face trying to grab the cash. Bent over like 6:15, he lunges forward and takes another swipe at the runaway Lincoln. At that point he hears an old-man's roar of laughter echo from the back of the house! A responding, "You Son-of-bitch!", could be heard a mile away. Sometimes you can't help but smile. For me this is one of those times. 

This post was initiated by a writing prompt on the website Pugs and Pics. The creator of Pugs and Pics, Kim Gifford, is a member of my Hubbard Hall Writing Group. Her site is packed with Pugaphernalia and good fun.   

November 30, 2012

Hilltop Drive







Hilltop Drive 
By John R. Greenwood

To the end of Hilltop Drive I go. Hilltop Drive the rising road to nowhere and everywhere. It's a place where life begins and where life ends. A spot where quiet dominates and noise is distant and hollow. I walk beyond the end. I perch on a chainsaw-murdered log. I watch nothing and soak in everything. A deer hunter's shot rings out in the woods beyond me, I flinch but remain. A curious hawk swoops in low to see if I am meal worthy. Watching her cholesterol she decides I am not and continues on her way. Cars pass by on lonely Route #9 below. Route #9, the forgotten one, the Route #66 of the Adirondacks. Hilltop Drive is young but spreading. Like a bittersweet vine she wanders off into the forrest grasping ledges and limbs, embedding her blacktop where it doesn’t belong; an asphalt intruder, unwelcome and dark. Unsettled animals scurry around the edges of a civilized world here, sacrificing inches, relinquishing miles. What will happen tomorrow? Only the wind and rain know for sure. They will show up regardless. As this last line is penned, a parade of snow, flurries down upon me. Resting assured, my plight is their plight. 
The End

I assembled the piece above from photographs taken of a new road near my home. The area has grown considerably since 1981 when we purchased our little one story ranch for the price of a present day, nicely equipped pickup truck. The question of how much growth is enough is an ongoing tug-of-war we must face. As I was taking photos of the hillside and surrounding area a tired old porcupine waddled to the roads edge as if on cue by the director. The look on his face said he knew I was coming all along. 


November 28, 2012

Thank You Michael Perry

Thank You Michael Perry

Taped on the inside of my notebook--my motivation.

I would like to talk to you about a video I linked at the bottom of this post. It's an interview with author Michael Perry. It's about his new book Visiting Tom. I feel strongly about acknowledging the role Michael Perry has played in my life, and in my desire to write. Whether you know me personally or only via your visit(s) here at Raining Iguanas please do yourself a favor and take the time to see the piece. Grab a cup of coffee, turn the television off, and see what I see. When I first stumbled upon Mike's book, Population: #485 - Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time, it was like finding a hidden door that opens up to a world you had been searching for all your life. The parallels of Mike's life growing up in rural America to my own is what hooked me. What dragged me into the boat was the courage he had to keep penning his way to the life he was drawn to create. Mike equates his writing career to cleaning calf pens-"just keep shoveling, and eventually you've got a pile so big, someone will notice." From the moment I first read that quote I was hooked. I used the few small pieces I had submitted locally as kindling wood to start a fire that keeps burning brighter each day. Getting the opportunity to meet him at a book signing some months later was like hitting that campfire with a generous squirt of lighter fluid. Since that day I have been blessed with the support and encouragement of author Jon Katz and my Hubbard Hall Writing Group. I will refer to that lottery win as Stage #2.
There are two specific things that draw me to Mike's writing. One is the style in which he writes. It speaks to me so easily. It flows as sweet and smooth as, "a tipped pitcher of warm maple syrup." The second is how genuine Mike is. It beams from his writing and spoken word. He knows exactly who he is and he has no intentions of trying to portray anything different. It doesn't get any simpler than that. It's what gives me the courage and determination to tackle uncomfortable or unfamiliar ground in my search for more out of life. I may get nervous about entering a new venue, but I keep telling myself--to be myself. It's not that I don't care whether you like me or not, because I do. I think we lie when we say otherwise. The truth is, I can't function unless I am being myself. It's too difficult to pretend. I don't write this because I think you are that interested in my story. I do want you to read it so you too might have an 'ah ha' moment that ignites a fire. I have a long way to go--I hope. I am smart enough to know the limits of my talent. I am also dumb enough to keep forging ahead regardless. As long as the pen has ink and there is a pencil left in the junk drawer, I will be here, or there. What I won't be is fermenting. I plan to keep showing up at work until the prox-card beeps red. I plan to remain the annoying husband who forgets where he leaves things. I will continue to photograph, write, tell stories, and compose an eighth grade level line or two of poetry but I will do it for me, in hopes it will do something for you. Thank you Michael Perry, I wish you much success. You have already placed a platter of it on my picnic table.


Mike is the young guy on the left holding his book, Truck: A Love Story.