Category Archives: Sam

Helping the little dog

This scene was difficult to set up. Apparently it occurred naturally once, but since then the little dog would bounce around with the toy and shove it in the bigger dog’s face, but the bigger dog evidently had no interest.

The trick, it turned out, I realized after playing tug of war with the big dog myself. I took the toy and played tug-of-war with the small dog, then navigated the toy into the mouth of the big dog, after which he was ready to tug.

Thus, a good time was had by all.


The Caverns

A little while back Nydia and I went to Bristol Caverns in Tennessee. Here are some pictures from it.

The Bridal Veil formation
Sad masked cyclops
The tour guide described this formation as looking like the United States, but Nydia pointed out it also looks like Batman, who is more famous than the United States.
A shadowy toucan chews on a rock formation
A baby stalagmite, just seventy years old
A dragon made from the souls of the dead

Festival of Legends

Festival of Legends is known as a “fairy festival.” It’s different from a renaissance fair in that a renaissance fair seeks some semblance of historical accuracy, while a fairy festival throws all that out of the window.


This means there are dragons in the lake and for sale at the “dragon merchant”


Horns and elf-ears abound.


You can watch a fairy play the harp.


Or a 300-style spartan throw an axe way above a target.


This event was a lesson for me that I need to take many more pictures. Not pictured:

  • A dragon selling ice cream
  • An ice wizard druid elf
  • A coffin you can lay in and get your picture


This entry is late. I won’t hide it. I own it. However, I told myself if I got it in today I could say I didn’t miss it, which is important when you like to say “I’ve never missed an entry in ten years.”

Last weekend, Nydia and I drove west. We went all the way to Tennessee, but it didn’t stop there. We ended up pretty far north, and crossed the border into Virginia…


…Or we thought we did. That’s a Tennessee state flag right after the “welcome to Virginia” sign.


The kitsch was almost entirely Virginia.


I exited the kitsch shop and saw that on my side of the street, the flags were Virginia flags. The Tennessee flags were on the other side of the street.


As it turns out, this town is in both Tennessee and Virginia. It’s a border town, and the main street runs right on the border.

I really wanted to find a kitsch shop on the Tennessee side that sold almost all Tennessee kitsch, but people just stared at me blankly when I said the word “kitsch,” and Nydia was getting very cold, so I had to give up.

Lost in Austin

I went to Austin, Texas a while back and wandered around. This is from a series of Facebook posts I made while getting lost in the woods.

Walking through an empty, interminable forest trail.


A barking dog echoes in the distance…
I’m not sure I’ll find an exit soon wandering along this dried creek bed.
I see a house! But it’s on a steep dirt incline.


A six foot stone wall! I’ll have to travel alongside to see if there’s a way through.
An exit!
Back to civilization.

Worst prompt night

Once upon a time I organized a writing night based around bad prompts. Each participant was expected to bring the worst prompt he or she could think of on an index card, then we would trade index cards and write to the prompts. Today I’ll share my prompt, the prompts I wrote to, and what I wrote.

My prompt

You are an accountant managing the finances of a small chain of delicatessens in the southeastern United States. A shipment of roast beef is on a southbound train starting at one hundred meters per second and accelerating fifteen meters per second squared. One hundred miles to the south is a northbound train accelerating from 50 meters per second at a rate of 10 meters per second squared. When the trains collide and 150,000 lbs of roast beef valued at $5 per pound before North Carolina’s 7.5% tax is lost. If your manager charges you 10% of the losses, how much money do you lose?

This prompt received some consternation, but I was fortunate in that no one actually tried to solve the problem, which I myself had not troubled to solve. Mostly, they just wrote stories about grumpy deli accountants.

Ethan’s prompt

Ethan offered three prompts and exhorted us to pick one. I wrote a prompt incorporating all three.

Pick a card

You’re wearing a great hat, but can’t describe it.

You’re having lunch with your favorite author – describe the bread

My response

I have the loveliest hat. I cannot describe it because I am under a non-disclosure agreement. I can tell you that I am wearing it because it is so gosh darn lovely. “Good morning, sir!” I say to a fellow hat-wearer. I can describe his hat, but I will not. It is less lovely by a substantial margin. Later in the day, I find a three of hearts stuck between the branches of a tree. It is a good sign. A sign that my meeting with George R. R. Martin will go well.

While meeting with George, a stellar fellow, I can’t help but notice the bread. It’s a thick, sour rye so flavorful it does not even need butter. I apply butter anyway, as does George, although I wish he would take better care of himself at least until he’s finished with his books. The bread is sweet ambrosia on my tongue. What majesty! What stellar, divine triumph! Luckier than the three of hearts, more lovely than my – well, let’s not get carried away.

In any case, when all the bread is gone, I open my mouth to tell George how much I appreciate his stark yet compelling portrayal of violent conflict, ha ha, no pun intended, when a waiter comes by with another dish of bread. What is this restaurant!? A spectacular complete loaf of LaFarm signature sourdough easily covers our entire small table. Out of concern for poor George’s health, I snatch it away and begin to, carefully, slowly, eat it all myself.

Lest my chance to speak to my hero be lost, I endeavor to speak between bites. “What is your inspiration?” I ask as I reach the one-quarter mark on my LaFarm loaf. George raises a finger to explain his secret to success when an olive-herb loaf, a pane caesarica, and a french loaf you could pole vault with are all wheeled out. Once again I strive to protect my mentor from early cardiac failure.

George R. R. Martin left that restaurant alive. For that, I am grateful. We shall see if some day I will get to leave, too. Just me, endless bread, and the most beautiful hat never described.

Ilya’s prompt

You discover that your identity was stolen by underpants gnomes

My response

I am underpants. I must be underpants, or else how could my identity have been stolen by underpants gnomes? Yet, how could I still know that I am underpants if my identity is lost to me? What is the nature of the undergarment persona? I call my bank to try and cancel my credit card. Our conversation is brief, exchanging tough security questions and responses like a pair of duelling boxers. Soon a new one is in the mail. I take one last look at my old card, the little picture of me, or is it me? Perhaps it is some person wearing white woolen long-johns who are me. I take it to the shredder.

It wreaks havoc on your life, to have your identity stolen and to be underpants. Those goddamn gnomes. I am locked out of my Amazon account. Even my laundry card is maxed out. Pairs upon pairs of me begin to pile up. With no way to clean them, they are dirty. I am dirty. I am underpants. I travel to the coin laundromat. People are staring at the walking underclothes. I feel exposed. Ashamed. What am I doing wandering the streets!? I should be covered!

I get a letter from the gnomes. They are not cruel. They will return my identity if I wire them twenty thousand dollars. Underpants cannot wire money. I drape myself carelessly over the couch. Maybe someone will find me, and with a curled lip of distaste, toss me into the hamper where I belong. Without my identity I am worthless. I have nothing. I am underpants.


#MAGA and Me

Yesterday I picked up my newly cruise control-enabled car at the car modification shop. I needed a way to get to my car, so naturally I ordered a Lyft. What did I see in the back of my Lyft, but a Make America Great Again hat? American flags were on full display throughout the vehicle. So I asked my driver, “I take it you’re pretty happy with the president?”

He was. John, as I will call him, said he was happy with the president’s actions cutting taxes to help the middle class. He said he was pleased with the efforts to secure our borders, and he even said the president was making great strides on environmental issues. I asked for more detail on that point, and he told me that his family in California were going to benefit from rules allowing them to use their water supplies how they saw fit. I hadn’t heard of any such decisions, so I didn’t press on that one.

Eventually, John asked me, “what do you think of our president?” I didn’t want to upset him and make him clam up, so I said there were certain things the president had done with which I disagreed. He asked like what, and I said that I don’t believe the tax cut is going to benefit the middle class as much as the very wealthy. This set him off. Not in an angry way, just an energetic one. He told me all about how he was going to benefit as the owner of a small business and how already several companies had given raises to their employees. It was about then that we missed a turn.

The next thirty minutes were spent John telling me all about how keeping out the illegal immigrants would reduce the unskilled labor pool and increase employment and wages for real Americans while he made apparently random turns and took me on a tour of the lesser known parts of Raleigh. Repeatedly he would stop and try to ask me where we should be going, but I would ask him something like “what if the people you’re calling junk are the same people the Statue of Liberty calls ‘poor, huddled masses?'” and he would start driving around randomly again while he explained how great strict merit-based refugee restrictions would be for the American economy. We had both become so involved in our surreal discussion that we just couldn’t seem to find the shop where my car was. We just kept taking U-turn after U-turn. I briefly toned the conversation down after I had to shout at John not to turn into oncoming traffic.

It was in the midst of trying to argue that cutting taxes on corporations forever so some of them would give their employees a one-time bonus wasn’t a good move when the shop appeared in my vision and I shouted “there it is!”  John swerved into the parking lot and started telling me about how he liked the tax cut because really what we should have is not a tax on income but a tax on wealth. I was floored – this guy wanted a wealth tax? When he said “yeah, just charge 30% tax when people make purchases.” I sat in the car another fifteen minutes trying to explain to him that what he was talking about was just a very high sales tax and it would discourage spending and disproportionately affect the poor. He kept saying “who knows what one guy with a billion dollars will do with it” as if there were a 50% chance that he would give it all to a private charity that would immediately put it to use solving the country’s problems better than government ever could.

John asked me “you’re telling me you wouldn’t be happy if I gave you $1,000 right now?” and I said I would be sad because it wouldn’t cover my $20,000 of medical debt when my medicaid gets cut. He asked if I really had $20,000 of medical debt. I asked if he really was going to give me $1,000. He told me I shouldn’t lie to him. When we got honked at for the third time by the line of cars forming behind us in the middle of the parking lot, I realized I had to leave. I don’t think I changed or even opened anyone’s minds that night, but um, changing the world one conversation at a time?

Yeah, let’s go with that. I’m changing the world one conversation at a time. Also I’m very happy with my new cruise control. I do a lot of highway driving.