Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hey! I'm changing clothes in here! No cameras!

Can't a molting cicada get a little privacy?

BAGMAN:  "Cicada?  I thought it was a locust?"

BUTLER: "I think locusts are in Egypt and come in larger numbers."

I'm not really sure so I will just skip off into the day singing to myself, "You say cicada, I say tomato...."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Ongoing Suburban Yard Challenge

So, it is a typical suburban South Carolina weekend.  

I wander outside and check the grass, knowing full well what I am going to find.

If you look closely, as South Carolina suburbanites do, you will note that my grass (to the right of Center on the picture above) is much much longer than my neighbor's grass (to the left of the Center line).  This means, of course, that I'll mow mine.  Then he will have to mow his.  We are accustomed to this weekly interchange.  It is what we do.

But today, I already know that I have an additional chore.  There are always additional chores.  Karen usually points them out but, as she reminds me, quite correctly,  when I make despairing guttural noises, she is just the messenger.  

The cactus plant near the front door is, once again, trying to create a cactus forest by sending forth seeds.  Actually more like fruit than seeds.  And it is easier to saw off the branch before these round whatever-you-call them things fall.  In honesty, I must confess that I actually spotted this task myself with no need of a messenger.  Probably because last year I procrastinated until they all fell on the ground and created a great, gooey, procreative and thoroughly pungent mess.  So, without any need of prodding, I will cut these down right away and let them procreate in the County landfill.

But then I walk around the side of the house and I utter the classic grunt of despair.

The Pine Straw Man has been here. 

I actually like the Pine Straw Man.  He always smiles and patient allows me to try and practice my terrible Spanish.  He and his family live in Lyon's, Georgia where my wife's grandmother lived.  Next to Vidalia, Georgia where my wife grew up.  Why he established his customer base four hours away in my subdivision, I'll never know.  But for over ten years, every week -- and probably more often -- he drives his old rusty truck and a huge trailer of pine straw bales and cruises my neighborhood.  

If I see him first, I run and hide and try to distract Karen so she won't hear his rattling engine.  But twice a year, Fall and Spring, she flags him down.   


It's going to be a long day.

One time, a few years ago, probably because I'd addicted to business plans and spreadsheets, I tried to figure why he drove all this way.  Probably because all the other Subdivisions closer to Georgia are somebody else's territory.  I figured out the number of bales on his trailer, multiplied them by their cost ($5.00 a bale) and figured 1 and 1/2 trips a week.  I subtracted estimated costs of gas, truck repairs, baling operations, other business expenses.   Conservatively, I figured he was clearing a profit of at least $200,000 a year.  No wonder he smiles a lot.

And me?   Fortunately, my son is going to help me spread it today.   It will still take several very hot and sweaty hours.   But then I will grin at my neighbor who will come out and see that, not only is my grass shorter than his but the pine straw on my flower beds is thicker.  

Consequently, next week he will be the one who has to flag down the Entrepreneur from Georgia.

Mucho trabajo!  Which either means "lots of work" or "too many troubadours."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oops. I missed the Friday Shootout

Time flies.  Phones ring.  Babies cry.  Shopping needs doing. 
I have been carrying my camera around everywhere I go.
Once, I actually saw something -- great sky, nice lighting --
I screeched to a stop.  Jumped out of the car.  Pulled out the camera.  Set it.  Looked through the lens and the heat and humidity of Charleston hit the lens and fogged it up. 
Ah well.  Better luck next time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday's What is It Revealed

I’m sorry to have been so long in revealing my “what is it” submission to the Friday Shootout but it has been extremely busy both at home and at work.

BAGMAN: “Blah blah blah.”

BUTLER: “Bagman’s right. You start almost every blog with the same apology.”

Okay, I’ll just reveal the “What is it” shot.  Most of you were close.  Jack got it on the nose.  I was also going to illustrate this blog with a photo of one of those frames when it is open. But the best shot I have is of the baskets in another setting --

There is no photo value in this shot but I took it in order to possibly use the shapes and textures in some future Photoshop Manipulation.  I have a lot of quick shots like this.  But if you can imagine these basket and fancier ones hanging from every inch of the frames.  The frames, as Jack guessed, are the marketplaces for Sweetgrass Baskets along Route 17 in Mount Pleasant and other places on the Gullah-Geechee Corridor.

In my opinion, this is probably the most important and unique attraction of Mt. Pleasant where I actually live – just over the river from Charleston which is a more recognizable name. In fact, in 2006 Congress passed the “Gulluh/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act” providing the U.S. National Park Service with $10 million over ten years to preserve these historic sites.

BAGMAN: “Ten million dollars for these pieces of wood!!!”

Well, there are also heritage centers and events and communities where the Gulluh language is still spoken…but the basket weavers are the most obvious. There are about 300 of these stands running from North Carolina to Georgia, but the majority are in Mount Pleasant.

The Gulluh culture is an amazing, enduring, vital and surviving subgroup from the great American disgrace of slavery. Most history books talk about slavery and cotton but on the Carolina coast, the crop was rice. And most of the slaves were shipped over from distinct areas of Africa – primarily Senegal and Angola (the Mende, Kisi, Malinke, and Bantu).

You know, it is sad – I grew up in the North, hundreds of years after slavery, and marched in protests in the 60’s, but I still feel guilty. Which is probably why I have pictures of empty wooden structures and pictures of baskets themselves but none of the women weaving baskets. Or pictures of men on their bicycles riding up Route 17 with large bundles of sweetgrass they have picked.  I need to correct that sometime.

It is just my own embarrassment. The modern day Gulluh community is very open and inviting for people to learn about their culture. And it is a truly unique culture that has even maintained (although it is a struggle to keep the younger generations interested) its own language – a lyrical combination of Elizabethan English and African Languages with Caribbean tonality thrown in for good measure.

It’s a culture that is really unique in the world and it’s literally in my own back yard (the frame stands I shot were literally less than a mile from my house!). I really want to learn more about it. And one of these days I’m sure I will. When I have the time.

BAGMAN: “You’re not going to start complaining again about how busy you are.”


I started to answer him but the phone rang and I was off to something else.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hometown Shootout -- what am I?

It has been a busy week but fortunately, this shoot is really a one shot shoot.  I suppose I could do a lot of what am I's.   I do, after all wonder what I am more often than not.  Talking heads singing in my brain again, "This is not my beautiful house?  This is not my beautiful wife?  How did I get here?" 

Probably not quite the right lyrics but rather than look it up, I'm taking the lazy way out and just posting the picture I took this week.  I kept thinking about close-ups or details and then just decided to go with something unique about my hometown. 

I'm not sure if I should give the answer at the bottom of the post...I guess not because then people would know before they left comments.

Besides, I really have to do a little bit of research to make the answer more than just "a batch of..." Woops!  Almost gave it away. 

I think I'll go play around with other people's puzzle shots.   I may not get the answer done until Sunday.   I could say that I'm waiting until Sunday so the suspense will build but actually I'm just buying time for myself. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gringo soccer star

Blast from the past.

Once upon a time in a land far away...

BAGMAN:  "So you've given up on the political punditry???!!!

Yep...I got tired of taking myself so seriously and pretending to be a political science professor.  So, I was looking at old pictures and found this one that was taken sometime in the 1970's in Santa Marta, Colombia. 

Looking back, I cringe to think of one of the many opportunties missed because of my then active alcoholism.  I had quit my job, bought camera equiptment and flown to Colombia with the intent of hiking through Colombia, Equador, and Peru to end up at Machu Pichu, writing, taking photographs and becoming a National Geographic photographer.  Of course, National Geographic never had a clue as to my intentions although I did go to the National Geographic museum in Washington once.

But my first discovery, unfortunately, was that in Colombia rum was dirt cheap.  So despite a few photographs, mostly I frittered away two months and all my savings drinking rum and fooling around.  Ah well. 

I remember this picture.  I was so proud of myself that I had become a great soccer player, able to steal the ball for a breakaway despite the best efforts of 5 other players!  40 years later, looking objectively for the first time at this picture, I can understand why. 

I might have been intent on my run for the goal but everyone else was just smiling, posing, and running to get into the picture. 

Another fantasy refuted by photographic evidence.

BAGMAN:  "So now are you going back to a serious discussion of politics?"

Nope.  Boys just want to have fun.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dysfunctions of government - voters (Part 2 of 4)


This time Bagman is ready and frowns at me when I come in with a sheepish look on my face.

BAGMAN: “Don’t tell me you’ve decided to change your mind about the blog.”

I hesitate. I was thinking of quitting it and going to something else but Sherri seemed interested. Then Nan said something that made me realize I had been looking at things with a one-track mind. Because Government is not about money, and maybe not really about efficiency. It’s about people’s desire to help in areas where no profit-minded organization is going to tread…health, welfare, education, defense. And that’s why I got into it in the first place – to help people.

I’m also realizing that my experience is really limited. I only know a little about American democracy and nothing about all the other democracies in the world.

BAGMAN: “You’re babbling, Mark. You are supposed to be talking about voters.”


BAGMAN: “Yeah! You were going to point out that very few people vote, particularly in local or state elections. And you were going to state that most people who do vote are people who are angry with the status quo…or just angry.”

But I’m no longer sure that is true.

BAGMAN: “Have you read the letters to the editor in the newspaper lately. They are always angry about something!”

But, now, I’m not sure I can make the logical connection that there’s a connection between letters to the editor and people who vote.

BAGMAN: “At least you still agree that almost all political campaigns are negative!”

Well, I guess. At least lately. At least around here.

BAGMAN: “People vote against someone, not for someone else! Where was the Tea Party when Bush was President. And then there are the people who actually campaign to get someone elected. They all have something they want from it – pork, jobs for themselves and their uncles, access to power. Hidden agendas!

I’m not sure that is as true as I thought it was last week. I know that when I started to write this, I was going to make the point that electing people by a majority of angry people who bother to vote lowers the standard and puts idiots in power…but…

BAGMAN: “Yes! Don’t waffle! It’s why idiots get elected and have to come in kicking down everything that’s been done and diverting money to their constituents.”

…But I don’t think that is really true! Now that I think more about it. When did I lose faith in humanity?

BAGMAN: “Do you want me to answer that?”

I’m looking around and wondering where Butler is. I need him to help me escape from the corner I’ve trapped myself in. He’s nowhere to be found. So I just snap back at Bagman – “No! Forget it! You’ve said too much as it is! People are basically good, basically altruistic, wishing to help the less fortunate. Now that I have thought more about this, I believe the majority of people want government to be uplifting and helpful.

BAGMAN: “But those aren’t the people that vote! You told me yourself last week!”

I was wrong. At least I think I was wrong. Bagman is confusing me now with my own words. I stomp out of the office determined not to write anymore about this topic and hoping that Bagman doesn’t press the POST button.

BAGMAN (pressing the POST button): “Muah ha ha ha!”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why governments aren't as efficient as Fortune 500 companies (Part 1 of 4)

I try to get to my computer early but it makes that cute Microsoft turn-on sound and Butler and Bagman come tumbling into the office to see what I'm up to.

BUTLER:  "Mark!  What are you doing?!!  Remember your rule to never write about your job!  What if this gets back to your boss?!!"

BAGMAN: "Great!  Then he'll have more time for blogging!"

I try to calm them down.  I am NOT am not going to write about my job!   Yes, I work for a government agency but I'm only going to write some general observations about things that screw up every democratic government agency from Congress to the local PTA.  

BUTLER:  "Well, I'm watching you!"

The real problem will be keeping it short and light-hearted.  Although finding humor in how agencies trip over themselves may not be as difficult as finding humor in the stock market. 

BAGMAN: "I can help here!"

I somehow doubt it.  I feel myself slipping from stand-up comic mode into economics professor mode.  In fact, Bagman has already gone to sleep and is snoring in the corner. 

Ahem.  Cough Cough.  Tapping my pointer on the blackboard.   Over the next few blogs we will cover the three primary groups that try to get things done with your tax dollars.   (A.)The bureaucrats who actually do things.  (B.) The elected politicians who tell the bureaucrats what to do.  And (C.) The voters who control who gets to stand on stage.

Today's lesson is a simple one -- understanding the difference between the private and public sector.

BAGMAN (waking up and waving his hand):  "I know!  I know!  The private sector is private so you can do stuff and people won't see it!"

Well, sort of...although most private companies have stockholders and everybody has a lawyer these days.  But public agencies and governments are certainly under more scrutiny.

BUTLER:  "It's about the money."

Yes, that too.   Although there is some difference.  Stockholders demand that companies to use their money to make more money and give it back to them as profit.   Taxpayers reluctantly give money to governments and just hope desperately that governments don't waste it all.  

BUTLER:  "Private companies care more about quality of good and services."

Yes.  Quality performance is critical.  So people come to them instead of their competitors and they can be profitable.  Quality is imporant to governments too...well, at least they give it lip service.  The big difference is somewhat subtle...not too subtle actually...and that the bottom line in decision making for Private Companies is economics. 

BAGMAN (trying to chime in although he's clearly over his head): "But governments have budgets!  They care about economics!  (pause while he looks confused)  What are economics anyway?"

However, while you can take the private sector decision making process and graph it in two dimensions -- revenue and expenses -- governments have to overlay every decision with a second set of unrelated decision making criteria.   Popularity.  Ford can close down a plant and put an entire city out of work but if this makes it more profitable, its stock will go up.   But governments have more trouble with this kind of thing because if a bureaucrat puts enough of a politician's voters out of work, the politician won't be re-elected.   Consequently it is impossible for any government agency to make the most efficient decisions because it also has to keep everybody happy.

BAGMAN:  "But nobody is happy with government!!!"

Yep.  That makes it harder!   And in fact, as we'll find out in the next class...er, I mean blog...most of the people who actually vote are the people who are unhappy with everything anyhow!  So you have to spend more and more time pleasing people and less and less time actually doing anything. 

BAGMAN:  "Um...er...I'm not sure I like this blog much."   He falls asleep. 

BUTLER: (Shaking his head and wagging his finger at me).  "I was worried you were going to get yourself in trouble.  Not I'm worried you are just going to bore everyone to death."

I think about posting a photograph just because it might make things look more interesting.  But then I fall asleep out of boredom as well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Shootout - Streets and Pathways

This one just got me singing from start to finish!  In fact when I sat down to put it together, I started singing outloud the song I always sing at the beginning of any vacation road trip.  Me and Willie Nelson!

"On the road again...I just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making music with my friends
and I can't wait to get on the road again."

Usually when I break into the second chorus my wife gives me the look.

BUTLER: "You mean this one!"   He glares.  But it doesn't slow me down.

"Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, I'm such a fine sight to see,
It's a girl, my lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me.
Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy."

BUTLER:  "Too late.  And that's your daughter, dummy, not just a girl.

BAGMAN: "And it's not a Ford...it's a Harley.  But it's big as a Ford."

So now I'm trying to remember the theme from "Route 66"  -  Buzz Murdock and Todd Styles in their
classic Corvette -- well, it wasn't classic then.  Back then it was the newest model. 

BUTLER:  "Back then, so were you."

So many mailboxes, so few houses...
At least no traffic jams.

May I spoke too soon!  Come on!  Move it!  Honk!
Who's holding up the line?

Is it these guys?
Ring Ring.
"Excuse me, but could you move over so I can pass?"
No...the line is being held up by this guy!
Hmmm...which path should I take?

Maybe I should ask directions from a cop?
(I like this because in 1968 there was no photoshop and we had to
actually take double-exposures in the camera.
Anybody remember film?)
And there are even roads for airplanes!

Okay, everybody now!  Outloud.  Sing it like you mean it!

mm.  Bagman and Butler just left, holding their hands to their ears and slamming the door.

And roads for boats!

And road for ghosts...

Philadelphia Alley in Charleston
where spirits from sailers who dueled and faught here
in the 1700's reach out and touch anyone crazy enough
to walk its length at night.

And there are roads for wagon trains...

These guys claim to be the worlds oldest, continuous wagon train,
traveling to different cities in the U.S. (so why do they say "world's" oldest?)

And there are roads for regular (non-wagon) trains...

I thought I was free of them but Bagman and Butler suddenly burst back in...

BAGMAN: "Roads for trains?!!!"

BUTLER:  "Excuse me, but you should not post such an underexposed picture."

I ignore them, remembering this place.  1986.   It is where I first met my wife.  I feel a future blog coming on.  It will probably have more underexposded pictures. 

And there are roads for picking strawberries
Don't eat them all before we get back, Honey.

And roads for just having fun...

Unable to contain myself, once again I break into song.  Once again Bagman and Butler leave in disgust.  But some of you may know this last one....so join right in and sing it with me!

Well my rig's a little old,
But that don't mean she's slow.
There's a flame from her stack,
And the smoke's rolling black as coal.
My hometown's coming in sight,
If you think I'm happy your right.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.

The End

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Overestimating how smart we are...

On Having Smarts

"The problem, "said the gallon jug, "is that
you only hold a quart, which severely limits
-- surely you understand this --
how much I can teach you."

Already well-aged and fairly full of himself,
most of the words splashing around him
on the placemat, the quart only heard,
"The problem is...
...how much I can teach."

Disgusted with the jug's inadequacies,
the quart was whining around the water cooler
to a very cute and delicate glass,
"You're not going to believe what a poor teacher
that pompous old jug is. What a jerk!"

The glass, half-full and content
with what it already knew,
was only able to absorb the words:
"You're...a jerk."

So the glass, now feeling acutely half-empty,
attacked for no reason that it could see,
just sat in self-righteous anger,

while just above the town,
the dam was about to burst.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I think I'm ready to confess now.

It's been weighing heavily on me.  Because I used to blog almost daily and then I disappeared, almost completely for awhile. 

BAGMAN:  "Do you think anyone would have noticed if you didn't keep explaining yourself?"

BUTLER: "Well, there are a few people who always welcome him back when he does put a post on."

Can I get back to confessing?

BAGMAN:  "If relieves your guilt...or mostly if it will shut you up...be my guest."

So, well, um...er...anyhow, it was partly about work and partly about family and it is good for bloggers to take a break now and then but there was also the fact that a new interest in my life.  It set me afire with interest and passion to explore more and more.  But it was not something I could do at work and I didn't want it to detract from my family so the only time left for me to indulge myself was in the early morning hours when I was alone and in private.   Since that was my blogging time, I began...(sob, sigh, wipe tears away)...sneaking away from blogspot to partake in the delights of website after website.  I never realized the Internet had so much of this kind of material!  I wanted to talk about it on Blogspot but I didn't think the poets, artists, photographers and sensitive purveyors of creativity would understand how I could have sunk so low.  Even now, I expect people who care about me to give dire warnings about how it could make me go blind...

BUTLER:  "Or at least broke."

BAGMAN: "But the skinflint still isn't willing to risk any real money, the scaredy cat!"

Yes, I finally have to admit that I developed an interest, I'm ashamed to say, in the stock market.  Fundamental analysis, technical analysis...watching the daily passionate war between bulls and bears play out around the world.  Dipping my toes in the broiling waters by creating imaginary accounts with imaginary money.  I've been giving myself a crash course...

BUTLER: "Emphasis on the word 'crash."

I've learned how dangerous a place it can be and seen in clear detail how big money fleeces the moms and pops who are trying to save what is left of their IRA's.   But even more dangerous are those times when my imaginary money goes up and I begin to think -- what if I invested just a little real money?  Which, I confess, I did by moving a small amount from one of our mutual funds.  And won a bit.  Which was nice but, again, dangerously tempting me to dive in.  Fortunately, by now, I have learned enough to expect that temptation and ignore it.  The trading floor is a fascinating place with more psychology than economics going on.  

Anyhow, that's my confession.  I think I will continue to dip my toes and maybe one foot in the quicksand but I'm regaining a little balance so that I can at least make time to blog from time to time. 

I'm still not sure how somone can be both a poet/photographer/writer and a student of the stock market.  It seems so schizophrenic somehow. 

Okay.  I'm ready to receive my penance now.

Monday, August 9, 2010

You don't need a laundry basket if you have a grandfather

Conner is so proud.  He came up with a novel way of storing laundry which no longer requires having a laundry basket. 

It does, of course, require making his grandfather sit perfectly still for long periods of time.  Perhaps I will have to start practicing yoga. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What was the number for that injury lawyer again?


What I probably need more is 1-800-LOSE WEIGHT.

Friday Shootout - Smells, fish, and pheromes

As I started to get to work on this Friday’s shootout on the topic of smells, assigned by Nan, Bagman and Butler were ready to give me the business
The moment I walked in the door.
BAGMAN: “Oooh! What is that odor?”

BUTLER: “The smell of stale creativity.”

“Very funny, guys,” I said. But they had a point. I was trying to figure out how to photograph smells and realizing that scent was one of my poorest and least practiced senses. How about this, I suggested, thinking about the smell of lighter fluid and charcoal prior to the hamburgers.

BAGMAN: “Well...So so. But not very sexy”.

So I mentioned to him that I didn’t think smell was going to be a very sexy topic anyhow, and maybe not very photogenic either.

BUTLER: “Humans are nasally challenged, but the animal kingdom is amazing. Do you know that a butterfly can smell a potential mate’s pheromone from miles away?”

In the background, Bagman is quietly singing a song that my friend Lee Armen and I learned to play on the guitar in high school; we thought it was quiet bawdy at the time…I think it was a blues piece by Blind Boy Fuller.

BAGMAN (Leering at me): “What’s that smells like fish, Mama. I’ll tell you if you really want to know…what’s that smells like fish, etc etc.”

BUTLER:  "Careful, Baggie!  This is a G-rated blog!"

BAGMAN:  "You're the one who brought up pheromones!  I'm just giving it a human touch!"

Ignoring both of them as usual, I take a picture of spices in our kitchen cabinet.

And find some pungent memories from an earlier time we spent in Italy --

Although I remember the taste of gelato more than the smell...mmmm.

And how about that paper plant in Georgetown? It's close to my hometown...at least closer than Tuscany.

 Even pollution can be pretty at sunset.

BUTLER: “If you’re upwind.”

And cutting cilantro.

Flowers in the backyard smell beautiful...

BUTLER: Are you sure?  Most flowers smell good and these probably do...but I think you just went outside and shot them without actually smelling them.

I blush.  I have to admit that smelling things is really not my forte.  But I'll bet these would have smelled good if I had actually take the time to smell them. 

BUTLER:  "Always take time to smell the roses."

BAGMAN: "Could you get any less original?!   I was hoping you'd say 'pheromes'!"

But I do know for a fact that Karen's hair always smells good.
Maybe that's a bit pheromish.

Oh...and Bagman looked up that song up on the Internet.  Everything is on the Internet.  It was an old blues song by Blind Boy Fuller.   Over Butler's protestations, Bagman made me copy and paste the first verse below:

BUTLER:  "If you let Bagman post those lyrics, I'm disavowing any connection with this post."

BAGMAN (pushing the PUBLISH button): "Anybody who uses the word "disavow" should get lost anyhow!"

What's that smells like fish, babe?
Do it any time you wanna do.
What's that smells like fish, babe?
Do it any time ya wanna do.
Don't come in a bottle---don't come in a can,
That's what every good woman wants from every good man,
What's that smells like fish, babe?
Do it any time you wanna do.

I agreed with Butler that this was probably not right for G-rated audiences. But, like most song lyrics (and some poems) I was never entirely sure that I was interpreting the metaphor correctly.

BAGMAN:  "Oh, you were interpreting it correctly!  That's why you and Lee never played that song for your grandmother...although she would probably have laughed."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Not your mother's vacuum cleaner...well, actually, it was.

So it starts out with my son trying out a new job and I'm cringing because being a commission salesman is -- I think, at least -- incredibly difficult and stressful.  

No, actually it starts out with my mother-in-law, rest her beautiful soul, who bought a Rainbow in 1986.  And I'm not entirely sure when she gave it to us or whether we borrowed it and it stayed with us.  But I'm not sure I really liked it much.   I always figured it was easier to pull out the old Hoover.

BAGMAN:  "What are you babbling about!!?"

BUTLER:  "The Rainbow Vacuum cleaner, of course."

BAGMAN:  "Please don't tell me that Mark's going to do a commercial!!"

But Karen would usually say, "Please use the Rainbow. It works better"    And being a responsive hubby -- and because she was usually right -- I would.  But also being a typical man, I never saw any dirt to begin with and, Hoover or Rainbow, I didn't know why we were cleaning in the first place.

But, moving along, when Brian asked if we were willing to let him (under the observation of his new supervisor) do a two-hour presentation of a new Rainbow, we agreed.  After all he would get credit for it.

BAGMAN:  "And you got a free weekend vacation just for listening...don't forget that." 

But we had agreed in advance that we were not about to buy a new Rainbow no matter what!  They are expensive and besides, we already had one!  We'd be firm -- even if our son was the salesman.

So Brian, the new vacuum cleaner salesman in the family took immediate advantage of the fact we had an old one and, under the watchful eye of his teacher-supervisor, had us bring it down and use it to vacuum a section of the rug.  I figured it was already clean to begin with, but Karen runs her mother's Rainbow over a section several times.  As far as I was concerned, you could eat off it.

Then Brian takes the NEW and Improved 2006 Model and takes two swipes at the same section of carpet.  Their secret weapon is black cheesecloth which they insert at the intake port.  They pull it out and our mouthes drop open.

There was a ton of dirt and cat hairs that had come from nowhere!!  They must have been buried so deep in the carpet that they came from some prehistoric strata!   And thus began a truly frightening discovery of how much dirt we've been missing.  (By "we", of course, I mean Karen since even though I help, she is the Cleaning Queen and I'm just a good subject.)   Black cheesecloth after black cheesecloth is inserted and taken out, always covered with amazing new dirt!  From the hardwood floor!  From the kitchen tile!  From our mattress, for Pete's sake!  How does dirt get on a mattress that is always covered with a matress pad, two sheets, and a spread??!

I'm watching Karen mostly, because her expressions of surprise and embarassment are priceless!  Brian is having a ball because he knows (1) what a cleanliness fanatic his mother is, and (2) that this machine really really sucks.  

BUTLER:  "You want to try a different word?"

And lo and behold, by the time the demonstration is finished, we are buying a new expensive but apparently worth it Rainbow and giving the old one to Brian.

BAGMAN:  "You probably just bought it from Brian because his supervisor was there!"

BUTLER: "Come on, Baggie!  Karen wants her son to look good but she follows the old motto that "Cleanliness is next to frugality." 

I thought it was "Godliness" but in any case the new Cadillac of Vacuums has taken over our house.  In fact, it refuses to stay in the closet because it even has this fancy air filtering function so it sits in the corner of a room humming softly, emitting a variety of scents, and cleaning the air so I won't have asthma or allergy attacks.

BAGMAN:  "But you don't have asthma or allergies!!"

BUTLER:  "But if he did..."

BAGMAN:  "I can't believe you agreed that this was a good idea!"

BUTLER:  "That's why I'm called 'Butler.'   And it's also bagless, BAGMan."

BAGMAN:  "Very funny."

Anyway, I need to stop writing, post this Blog, use the special wand to vacuum under the refrigerator, and then go to bed.  At least I know the matress is clean.

Okay...I clearly need to get back to blogging more

There are too many people I've come to care about.  Oh, dear, when will I find the time?!!!

BAGMAN:  Just make the time, you lazy fart!

BUTLER:  And it doesn't have to be a long one.