Monday, December 29, 2008

And you think YOUR Monday was bad?

Today didn't seem too unusual, nor too terribly awful. I woke up with a full and slightly hurting head from the Ohio Valley Plague, but it wasn't enough to keep me home. After two Day-Quil I was off to work.

The Spouse was nice enough to take me to lunch (since he's off this week) and I had returned to work afterwards with a full, happy belly.

It was a slow day, being the time between the December holidays, so I was just sitting in my chair, surfing the web (actually uploading photos to FaceBook) when from my left


I scream. Loud. My body tensed. I'm aware that something is on me, covering me. I open my eyes briefly to see a thick fog of dust. I blink and notice the cloud is dissipating and I stand up. Whatever is covering me slithers off. I look to my right and see male co-worker #1 walking away from me quickly. As I walk away from whatever just boomed I notice female co-worker on the floor in a combat crawl.

I'm still not aware of what has happened.

Male co-worker #2 comes up to me and asks, "Are you ok?" I do a quick mental inventory and note that I'm not in pain nor is my thinking muddled. I say yes and look to my left, where the boom came from.

There's a car in the window. Aimed right at me (or at least where I was sitting). The bumper is on the floor just inches from my desk. Two whole windows are gone, the metal frames badly bent. The corner column (including a shelf that held a lot of my stuff - candy dish, Chinese good fortune cat, clip art book, font books) is a disaster. The interior portion is gone. I mean GONE. The outside portion is missing about 1/3 of its bricks and cement. There're ducts and chunks of wall all over.

There are (summoning Carl Sagan) billions and billions of miniscule bits of glass everywhere. As far as 30 feet away.

My workstation is covered with shrapnel.

A couple of customer service folks come over to me to see if I'm ok. One of them says, "You better get to the bathroom. Your forehead is bleeding."

As they say this I'm aware of a warm, wet sensation on my left ankle. I look down and see multiple holes in my black hose one both feet and spot the blood on my left ankle.

"You might want to take that shirt off. You're covered in glass."

"Yeah, you'll want to take your hair down, too. You have glass in your hair."

I reach up and feel a bunch of small glass chunks on my carefully braided hair.

Fuck. What the hell just happened?

I shuffle off to the bathroom with one of the customer service gals. That's when I notice my shoes are full. Of glass. I have to dump them out on the floor before I can go anywhere.

She follows me into the bathroom and proceeds to groom me like a primate, picking off the larger, more visual chunks of glass from my head. I take off and discard my destroyed hose and take gander at my ankle. It looks like a pit bull chewed on it. Then I look in the mirror.

My forehead isn't that bad. I have about 4 or 5 very small cuts that are barely oozing blood. But I have a glittery hairstyle.

Someone had handed me an old workshirt to change into. My turtleneck and shawl are dusty with glass. My pants look awful. I roll up my pants legs to check for more wounds but don't see any more.

During this whole ordeal, I'm laughing. I'm shaken, hell, I'm freaked out, but I'm laughing. In a situaion like this, you haven't to make light of it somehow.

Once I get the old shirt on, I emerge from the bathroom to get see what the fuck just happened.

That's when I see my workstation.
Yeah, it's petty much covered with glass. But check this shit out. The iMac is still running!

But yeah, I was sitting right there. And you can see how close the car was.
See? There's the car. Now, like most people, I'm instantly picturing a drunk bastard, or some dingbat on a cellphone, or some moron strung out on drugs. But no, twas not the case. Male co-worker#2 ran out to check on the driver after checking on me. Apparently the poor bastard passed out behind the wheel. He claimed he remembers coughing real hard, and then he was in our building. Sounds like a stroke to me.

I sit down in a chair and someone brings me a paper towel for my bloody ankle. I'm dabbing my wound, cursing the whole time: "Fuck! Sonofabitch!"

You would cuss, too. Cars djust don't come flying thru your window every day. And it really starts to sink in how really fucking close this car was to mowing me down. If it had not been for the foot-and-a-half of concrete foundation around our building (which is 90% glass) I would be a lot flatter and not as pretty.

We were all walking around in a daze. People (even me) are pulling out their cell phones and taking pictures.

The police, fire and EMS were there in record time and they got that poor bastard strapped down to a gurney and hauled him outta there. They all interviewed me and my female co-worker (who whacked her bad knee on the way down to her combat crawl). I didn't need medical attention. Physically I was fine. My thinking was clear and I felt ok. I was pretty shaken, and I have a bloody ankle, but other than that I was all right.

I called the Spouse between interviews and told him the whole story. He must have said, "Holy Shit!!" a dozen times.

I get off the phone and now I wanna see the damage.
Hey, there's my workstation again, or what's left of it. See that pile of rubble on the floor? That's what hit me. There's a black chair left of center that has a black and white mass on it. That's my new hat and scarf (gift from Nicograph) and my coat, now buried under a mountain of glass.

My cell phone and iPod suvived. They found my keys, my tote bag and my purse. And one framed picture of the Spouse. I'm hoping the rest of my stuff is in there, somewhere.

I talked to a few more cops and EMTs, then filled out the workman's comp paperwork. After a comforting hug from several folks I packed up my glass-covered belonging to go home. Hell, might as well. It's not like I'm gonna get any work done today.

I have to call in tomorrow morning to see what the skinny is on me coming in. Our IT department is supposed to move our Macs to another area and set us up temporarily.

Every time I look at these photo, I get freaked out. I keep thinking how close that car was...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shitty gifts

A week ago friend Kim sent me this link of “10 Gifts We Don’t Want.” She specifically wanted me to see number 3.

Now of course me being the weird, spooky person that I am, I nearly drooled over this fine piece of furniture (if only I had an extra $3500 laying around). And I realize that only someone like me could really appreciate the beauty of a coffin couch. So I can understand why most of the general populace wouldn’t be too keen on having a comfy coffin couch in the their family room to lounge on while watching tv.

But out of curiosity I went thru the rest of the unwanted gifts according to MSN and was baffled. Ok, sure, the Fundies are completely stupid and the gold pills are just down right ridiculous, but some of the other things intrigued me...

First off, the Life Gem. I know, I know, once again we’re dealing with something of a morbid nature. But honestly, why plant beloved Aunt Matilda in some field somewhere you have to drive to to visit, in an expensive, decorative box you’ll never see again, where her decaying hull (along with thousands of others) takes up land that could be used for farmland, housing, parks or roads; or keep her cremains in an urn sitting on top of your entertainment center where it could possibly get knocked off by a small child or the family pet, thereby spilling all over the carpet (and you know that no amount of rug shampooing will get that out).

(gawd, that was a long sentence)

Why do either of those things when you can keep part of Auntie Matilda with you forever, and maybe even pass on to generations after you. Call me goofy, but I kinda like the idea of the Life Gem.

"Say, that's a beautiful ring. What kind of stone is that?"


Then there’s the wall vase in the shape of a hand. It reminds me of the hand hooks from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Apparently there’s a whole line of hand decor. How cool is that? If the hand-shaped wall doohickies are a little out of your budget there’s always the smaller and more affordable finger hooks.

But my favorite is the Poo Pourri. I read about this stuff earlier this month in BUST magazine and the gals there really liked it.

Now I know what you’re thinking... I can already hear the eeeews. But really, think about this; how many times have you been out in public, or even worse, at someone’s house, and you really REALLY have to hit the bathroom. Last night’s chili cheese dog is not sitting well and is ready to leave the building. A courtesy flush can only mask the noise, not the smell. That’s when having a handy-dandy bottle of Poo Pourri in your purse can save the day. You spritz this stuff about 4 times in the water of the crapper before going. It supposedly creates a barrier on the surface of the water to keep the offending odor down while adding a pleasant aroma.

What a brilliant idea! Do you know how many times I wish I’d had something like this in the past? Well, no more.

I found their website. I ordered some. A lot. So guess what some of you peeps are getting this year?

I kept one bottle for myself and I tried it out at work the other day. It was a morning after a dinner of some of the Spouse’s soon-to-be-world-famous chili. Yeah, I know that’s gross but we all poop so deal with it and bear with me...

Zowie. No stink. Nice lemony scent. Amazing. I'm impressed.

So, what would you rather get? A fruitcake, an inflatable fruitcake, squirrel underpants, a coffin couch or some Poo Pourri? Yeah, I thought so...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Have Yourself an Evil Little Christmas

The other day my co-worker (not the dog-kicking, wife-slapping one referred to in the last post, but a younger, geekier one - and I mean geekier in the best sense of the word) asked me if I had heard of the Krampus or Krampusnacht.

I said no.

He was shocked and said, "You?! You've never heard of Krampus, the Christmas Demon?"

*blink blink* "The Christmas Demon... ?"

At this point I thought he was yanking my chain but he continued, "Go on. Google it."

And I did.

How could I, Hollygoyle, Queen of Halloween, fan of all that is spooky, collector of dark things, NOT know about the Krampus?!

Do you have any idea what this does for me as far as Christmas goes? Not that I dislike Christmas. I don't actually. I honestly kinda like the holiday season. Since I'm non-religious the whole Jesus thing doesn't appeal to me, but I can dig Winter Solstice and I love New Year's Eve.

But this... to quote Keanu Reeves... "Whoa." Christmas with a big, furry, horned demon. This might actually make listening to my third and final co-worker's endless tirade of Christmas music (5 days a week, 8 hours a day, Thanksgiving thru Christmas) tolerable.

No, I'm sorry. Scratch that. THAT is a whole different circle of hell. There is no salvation from that, except deafness.

But back to our lovely Krampus. He is, in a sense, the alter-ego of Saint Nicholas and hunts down and torments bad little children. He lives in Austria and Hungary and December 5 is his day (or night I should say). He often carries bells or chains to frighten people and a large stick or broom to 'birch' the ladies with.

Birching is basically a spanking.

I am not making this up. Go google it yourself if you don't believe me.

I don't know about yall, but I wanna party with this guy.

Why is this not a big thing here in the States yet? I read somewhere in my Krampus research that it's a dying tradition since some politically correct zealots feel it might scar the children.

And Santa Claus doesn't? Good gravy, how many photos have you seen with some precious little crotch fruit wailing and leaking out all kinds of facial fluids while being held prisoner on some old white man's lap.

Think about it... some old bearded white guy flying a bunch of reindeer (who probably eat a lot of fiber - now THERE'S a visual for ya) all night long, lurking around your family room at night while you're asleep, eating your cookies and drinking your milk (or whatever you left on the table). That's creepy. That will scar children.

Fuck the children. If they're spoiled little snipes that are misbehaving anyway they deserve a good scarring for good ol' Krampus. Krampusnacht should be for us adults. Zowie, the fun you could have! It'd be like a Mardi Gras/Halloween for December! Forget showing your boobs for beads. Wiggle you butt for a good birching! My god, I can see the T-shirt now...
Ok, that's it. NEXT year we are definitely having Krampus Night at our house. It'll be huge. Everybody's invited. We'll whip up some Gluhwein (we add Glogg, cinnamon sticks and mulling spices to ours - damn tasty) and some Christmas Crawdads, put on some horns and start swatting each other on the rump with brooms.

Sounds like a party to me. Yall coming?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From the oven, with love

So this co-worker and I have this running joke. Toward the end of the day, he’ll say, “Ya know, I think I’m gonna go home... kick the dog and smack the wife.”

To which I’ll reply, “Ya know, I think I’m gonna go home... kick the cat, smack the husband and say, ‘Bitch, fix me dinner.’”

Oh, don’t look at me like that. It’s a JOKE. We say this crap all the time. And our other co-workers giggle every time we do.

But, seriously, I would never kick the cat or smack to husband in order to get dinner. He loves being in the kitchen without me having to resort to violence. Seriously.

I tell, ya, there’s nothing sexier than a man in the kitchen fixing something tasty. Did I mention his sexy kitchen attire? His apron, chef and baker’s hats?

His chili is amazing. He makes a hearty chicken stew. His omelets are to die for. And he loves baking. (*eyes sparkles, eyelashes flutter*)

A few years ago I mentioned how much I loved gingerbread. This lit a fire in the Spouse’s heart that had us zipping over to a local cake and candy supply house looking for rolling pins, cookie cutters and a multitude of sprinkles.

In perusing the cookie cutters we found the traditional snowman and Christmas tree, star and reindeer. And then we found... the crawdad.

Now it could be a lobster. They both have the same shape, ya know. But considering it’s about 4 inches long, it leads one to think more of a crawdad.

We thought, why the hell not. It’s cute and different. We brought it home with the rest of our purchases and the Spouse got started baking what would soon be a much-desired traditional treat.

He found a damn skippy recipe for gingerbread cookies and the fever set in. Baking fever. And when the fever is on him, you can’t stop him. I don’t remember how many dozen he cranked out that first night. We had so many there was no way we were gonna eat them all. So we filled up a couple of food tubs each and took them to our respective places of employment.

And of course no one quite knew how to take the crawdad shaped cookies. That wasn’t a usual Christmas cookie design. We got some weird looks and a few questions. But that didn’t matter. Those cookies disappeared fast. Even the crawdads.

In years after, we stopped using the other cookie shapes. So now all gingerbread cookies that come out of our kitchen are crawdads. Christmas crawdads. And let me tell ya, these little gingerbread mudbugs are in high demand.

The week of Thanksgiving I already had a couple of co-workers ask, “Is your husband gonna make those Christmas crawdad cookies this year?”

And the good news is... yes! He’s already started. Last Wednesday night was “Ghost Hunters” night at our house and best friend Nicograph is always there. She happily got recruited into cookie decorating. The Spouse does the baking, I mix the icing and we all pitch in with sugar sprinkles, dragees and other colorful doo-dads to decorate those tasty bits of crawdad goodness.

I brought my usual food tub full of crawdads into work Monday. It was like watching a school of piranha skeletonize a cow.

But fret not, friends and neighbors, especially you local ones. The Spouse stocked up on all his ingredients before the Christmas baking droves swooped in at the grocery. There'll be plenty more crawdads coming soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Random thoughts and links, part 113

I'm loving this new Blogger Follower thing. I'm cyber-meeting some of the most interesting life-forms (and I mean that in the best sense of the term). It's a lot like the good ol' days of Spymac.

And I really enjoyed everyone's suggestions for horror films...

Stephen: I really liked The Sixth Sense, but I have to admit... I saw the ending coming about 30 minutes into the movie. *SPOILER ALERT* In the scene where Bruce Willis' character meets his wife for their anniversary, and she slaps down the ring and says, "Happy Anniversary" rather disgustedly, I thought, "He's dead. That's why she's acting he way she is. She can't see him because he's really dead. Only the kids can see him."

Realmcovet: Heh heh heh... Red Vines... good thing you weren't eating spaghetti.

Lakelady: I have not seen Crawlspace (altho the name alone is tripping me out) nor The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, so I'll have to add those to my list of stuff to see.

Papa: I have seen both versions of Nosferatu and I love both of them. Even the silent version has a great visual element of creepiness to it. And I've seen both versions of the Ring. Excellent ghost story!

I'll have to wave the Hammer Collection under the Spouse's nose for future gift-giving ideas ;)


In the meantime, I've been collecting a vast amount of web goodies, so here ya go...

If we don't already, we need one of these in the States.

Our wedding cake (complete with spider webs and skeleton couple topper) has nothing on these.

I love Adam and Jamie. Who else could do this is in 80 milliseconds.

This man is GENIUS!

I don't know any of these people, but after reading, you'll understand why they're here.

Great site to leave on a co-worker's desktop. Fun for the whole office!

Most user-friendly weather forecasting site EVER.

The world disasters the media WON'T be telling you about.

You know something is truly amazing when it has its own news website.

Most of you have seen this by now, right? Well, now there's a full-length video. I think I just ruptured something.

And finally, no matter how bd you might feel, no matter how bad a day you might be having, if you go here, you will be wetting your pants laughing. Promise.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where is Duranfan? In here. With us.

So, Halloween may be over for the masses, but for me it’s a year round thing. Hell, I still have two more weekends of Tarot Card readings at the Mansion for their Ghostly Sleepovers. And if you’ve ever seen our house, you would know I rule as Queen of Halloween, what with the gargoyles, skeletons and skulls all over the place, the various books on death, ghosts, witchcraft and other occult stuff, and the growing collection of horror films.

Love me some horror movies. I’m slowly building up my collection of old Hammer and American International movies, those wonderful classics starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. And I love the cheesy slasher flicks, too. If it has a silent, crazed, chainsaw wielding maniac, I’m all for it.

But for the most part, as much as I love these movies, they don’t scare me. I just don’t scare easily. Sure, if you sneak up behind me and yell “Boo!” I’ll probably jump and screech. I’m jumpy, just not easily scared.

So when other people say they can’t handle horror movies because they get too scared, I think to myself, “Huh. Lightweights.”

But honestly, out of all the scary movies I’ve seen (and we’re talking thousands) there’s only been three that freaked me out...

1. The Exorcist - I saw this for the first time ever when I was about 11 years old. Cut. I mean heavily edited for television. I could not sleep for weeks. I couldn’t handle being by myself and I nearly freaked out in the dark. It took me forever to get over it. It was several years later before I got to see the un-cut version. By then I was ‘cured.’ I’d gotten over my fear of the movie and could watch it repeatedly without losing it. The version we own now is the “Version You’ve Never Seen!,” complete with the infamous ‘spider walk.’ The Spouse and I love that scene so much we back it up and watch it 3 to 5 times before continuing on with the movie.
There is one aspect of the movie that does still kinda get me. It’s this face:
Damn. Yes, I know that’s the actress Eileen Dietz, but still. That face flashing on the screen for just a couple of frames is just whacked. I was so inspired by that face that I painted it on one entire wall of the Haunted House.
Yup, it’s still there, too.

2. Alien - This is one of those few movies I could watch every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of. I love the fact that it was written by Dan O’Bannon, the same guy who gave us “Return of the Dead” (“Braaaaaainssss!”) and that wonderfully bad sci-fi comedy, “Dark Star” (“Here boy, want your mouse? Nice mouse”).
When Dark Star, his pet project with fellow film student, John Carpenter, tanked, he said, “Well, if I can’t make them laugh, I’ll make them scream instead.” I don’t know about you, but I think he did a damn good job.

I saw Alien when I 10. Even at that young age I loved scary movies. I’d been watching them since I was 5 - no shit. My first horror movie was “The Sentinel,” but more on that later.

So there I was, a horror film-lovin’ 10-year-old that nearly leapt out of my seat and screamed for my parents to “TAKE ME HOME! I DON’T WANNA SEE THIS ANYMORE!!” when the famous chest-burster scene erupted on-screen.
Apparently, my reaction was very similar to the members of the cast when the scene was shot. Actor John Hurt and the crew were the only ones on set that day who know what was coming. The looks on the other actors’ faces? Those are genuine. And poor Veronica Cartwright had no clue that jet of blood was aimed right at her.
3. The Blair Witch Project - I know some people hated this film and didn’t find it scary at all. But it wigged me out something fierce. After seeing this movie opening weekend I went home by myself to my then world’s smallest 1-bedroom apartment. And every little sound got a little louder. And very little shadow got a little longer. I couldn’t sleep for several nights afterward.

So what got me in this movie that other movies don’t have? The fact that you never saw what got them. There was no chainsaw-wielding maniac, no crazed killer in a hockey mask, no diabolical torturer or spawn of Satan. All you saw was what “it” left for the victims to find and what happened to the last two survivors at the end. And even THAT is unclear.
That final scene still disturbs me. Even tho I know the actors are alive and well (and “Heather” went on to shoot a few commercials for Steak ‘N Shake) I still get weirded out those last few minutes.

Now back to my first ever horror movie. My parents took me to the drive-in to see “The Sentinel,” which is one of the many ‘demonic’ movies to come out during the 70s on the tails of “The Exorcist” and “The Omen.” The movie itself is very strange with several bizarre scenes and lots of disturbing imagery, but this scene is the one that’ll get ya.

I triple dog-dare you to watch that, by yourself, in the dark, and not wet your pants.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thoughts from the Big Chair

For the past few weekends I’ve been doing a lot of pondering. Well, there’s not much else to do, since I’m sitting on my big, furry ass, waiting for folks to plop down their money so they can snuggle up with me and get their photo taken to document the event.

Early in the evening you might find me reading a book, but once the crowds start showing up, I have more fun just people watching. Nicograph (our photographer) and the Spouse (managing the gift shop sales) keep me company and we all share in some good laughs at some of our observations.

But, like I said, I have some deep thoughts while I’m perched on my big bench, overlooking the crowd...

1. Normally I don’t like being stared at. It freaks me out. I’m terribly paranoid most of the time (ask the Spouse about my habit of locking doors) but when I’m made-up all horrible and ugly I don’t mind being looked at. So go ahead and stare. For 5 bucks you can take it a picture, it’ll last longer. But, really, look all you want. If you stare long enough I might wave, stand up and freak you and your pals out, or do a trick.

2. But don’t be obnoxious about it. If you come to our Haunted House and you’re being a jerk I already hate you. And I am the first wall of security in our establishment. So if you come in with a chip on shoulder or with an attitude I’ll be alerting the rest of our security to be looking for you. And we have two police officers on the premises that we’d love to introduce you to.

3. Don’t come in drunk and/or stoned either. I hate you, too. I just can’t comprehend the mentality that says, “Hey, let’s get drunk and go to a Haunted House!” You dumb ass. You just wasted money on something you either won’t remember or will get tossed out of because of your behavior. Smooth move, Exlax.

4. Another thing about the drunks and stoners... Do you realize how bad you smell? I notice these things, especially when you slam yourself next to me for a photo. I’m nearly dying from the fumes. I could easily get a buzz just from your aroma alone.

5. Yes, I AM real. Yes, I can hear you. And yes, I talk. Feel free to talk to me and ask questions. Just don’t be a putz about it. If you are polite, genuinely curious and friendly, I’ll chatter with you as long as you’re in line waiting to get into the House. But if you’re being an asshole the most you’ll get out of me is a shake of the head. I don’t communicate with morons. I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

6. Like I said, I AM real. And, if you ask first, you can touch me. You can touch my ‘face,’ you can shake my hand, you can feel my fur or touch my wings. (I tell ya, I haven’t had this much physical action since my younger, single gal days.) But do NOT grab me, try to pull off my ‘face’ (it’s glued onto my real face) or pinch my fingers. Some little tween girl did that last week and I wanted to kill her.

7. I am NOT ‘Jeepers Creepers.’ I started this costume years before that damn movie was released. Don’t get me wrong, I love that movie. But I am NOT the creature from that film. I barely even resemble that thing. And we don’t do famous movie characters at our House. Go somewhere else for that stuff. All of our stuff is original. Nicograph and I got so tired of hearing ‘Jeepers Creepers’ that she made me a sign last weekend that says, “I am NOT Jeepers Creepers! I am a GARGOYLE! Get it right!” I haven’t used it yet, but I may have to.

Oh, well, it could be worse. At least I’m not hearing ‘the flying monkey from The Wizard of Oz’ any more.

8. Our volunteers are wonderful. I can’t say that enough. So many of them check on me all night, making sure I’m ok and well-hydrated. These folks are bringing me soft drinks all night long. And since I’ve turned Directorship over to my protege, B, things have gone very well and I personally have been a lot less stressed. Which is a good thing. The Spouse is happy.

So one more weekend and then it’s a wrap. And I can look forward to Halloween Night in our neighborhood. And then I can take a much needed rest from spooking.

Except we have not one, not two, but THREE (yes, three) Ghostly Sleepovers in the Mansion for the first three Saturdays in November. Which means I’m pulling three all-nighters doing Tarot Card readings for our ghost-hunting guests.

Yeah, Halloween really is an all-year event for me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Say cheese!

One of the biggest challenges in the Haunt business is coming up with new ideas every season. Some haunts keep the same rooms and props every year because they are so popular. Our organization, however, tries to keep our house full of fresh, new things. Sure, we’ve had some favorites we might have used a couple years in a row, and there have also been a few old things we dug out of the closet and gave a fresh coat of paint to, but for the most part we try to offer something different every year.

One of our most successful concepts was the Casket Ride. We took a real casket (a nice looking black one with gold trim, I might add), ripped out the metal spring and added padding and a removable lining, propped that sucker on a long, inclined ramp with industrial rollers and viola. A ride to die for, literally.

We even had a camera mounted over the Loading Zone so that people waiting in line could watch some poor bastard lay down in the coffin, the lid get closed, and the coffin roll off camera. That alone had some folks dampening their drawers.

This year we were inspired by a get-up that occurs at a lot of amusement parks. As soon as you walk in the entrance, some employee and a goober in a big, floppy character costume approach you and your group, snap a picture and hand you a ticket with a number on it. At the end of the day, you report to a booth and, lo and behold, there’s you and your crew with the floppy-costumed critter available in 8 X 10, wallet size and keychain size.

So it if works for them, maybe it’ll work for us. But instead of a cute, furry thing, we could have, say, and evil furry thing.

We honestly had no idea if this would even work, but we will willing to give it a try. The staff got hold of a halfway decent printer and stocked up on ink cartridges and photo paper. Nicograph (who’s been helping out at the Haunted House for quite a few years now) brought her digital camera, tripod, laptop and fabric for a backdrop.

And I brought myself, some furry legs and some big-ass wings.

We just found our next big money maker. We’re averaging about a dozen a night. And that number increases every weekend.

For 5 bucks, you and your pals can get your photo made with yours truly. So, in a sense, I’ve become a twisted version of a mall Santa.

Yes, people are more than willing to plop either themselves or their kids on my lap for a photo. Imagine using one of these for your Christmas Card this year.

So I sit on my big chair all night, eyeing the crowd ominously, while Nicograph solicits potential subjects.

Who knew we could make this much money (and have fun at the same time) and still keep our clothes on?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Best Scares, part 3

As much as I love being my gargoyle alter ego, there were times back in my early days at Literally, a Haunted House that I needed a break. So once in a while I would throw on a tattered, hooded robe, make myself look sickly and slightly evil, and just wander behind groups as they ventured thru the House. I not only provided security, I got to see all the other actors in action. And I got to see customers freak out all night long.

Altho there are some tried-and-true classic scares (clowns, chainsaws, drop windows), sometimes just being silent can be way more intimidating and frightening.

And, as they always say when interviewing neighbors of a serial killer: “He was real quiet and kept to himself mostly.” It’s those quiet types you gotta watch out for.

One night I’m doing my stealth roving I notice this one woman in my current group being a general loud-mouth wise-ass. She’s crass, rude, disrespectful of our actors and a general pain in the ass. She’s blonde, aprobably in her late 30s (old enough to know better), and surprisingly not drunk. But she’s being a real bitch.

So that when I start staring. Right. At. Her. Unblinking. Eyes wide. And with those yellow cat-eye lenses, not to mention the sickly face, it’s pretty damn creepy. Hell, look at the photo. There is no sexy in that get-up.

Well, needless to say, she felt the eyes on her and glanced up to catch my unwavering gaze, and that cocky attitude went poof. I’ve never seen a face fall that fast.

As we went from room to room, I stayed behind the entire group, remaining in the background so as not to disrupt the action in each scene. But Blondie is not watching the actors. She keeps glancing at me.

And I’m not looking at anyone or anything but her. And I’m not blinking.

By the third room, she’s no longer enjoying herself. She grabs her male companion and, whispering loud enough for me to hear, says, “That thing’s looking at me.”

Blondie’s companion looks up at me but doesn’t seem to care. He’s having a good time watching the show so he doesn’t care that his girl is getting freaked out.

This continues from room to room. Blondie is getting more and more nervous, uttering “That thing’s still looking at me!” at least two more times.

And my face never changes. And I never say a word.

By the time we reach the end, Blondie is a complete mess. Once she makes it out the exit she relaxes and says to her group, “Did you guys see that thing looking at me?”

One of the nice things about being roving security is you get some decent exercise, since you’re on your feet walking all night. Another nice thing is that you are not limited to one room. Or even the House itself. You can go anywhere you want.

That includes chasing people out the door. Across the yard. Down the street.

Blondie had only a second or two of peace before I emerged from the exit, still staring at her, and started following her. Blondie broke out into a brisk walk up the street, constantly looking over her shoulder at me.

Don’t worry, friends and neighbors, the street she was on is a well-lit dead end with little traffic, so she wasn’t in danger of getting hit by a car. But getting run over by a vehicle was the last thing on her mind as she started to run. Meanwhile, I’m just walking at a leisurely pace behind her. And only her. By now her pals are howling with laughter as they watch their friend run away screaming from a slow moving spooky person.

Finally, I stopped in the middle of the road and slowly raised my right arm and pointed to her, never saying a word. It made for a nice visual.

Blondie made it home safe, sound and un-traumatized that night. How do I know this? She and her companion came back the very next week.

It’s always a compliment when you have repeat visitors in the Haunt business. It gives you that warm, sticky feeling to know you and your organization are so damn scarey that folks are willing to undergo the ordeal all over again.

So, yes, Blondie and her man came back the very next weekend. And guess who followed them thru the house again?

In the first room Blondie noticed my presence and nearly lost it. She held tenaciously to her man while nearly screaming, “It’s that thing again! It’s still looking at me!”

I’m going to give yall a few minutes to bask in this moment of great satisfaction that I, too, was experiencing....

Aaawwww, yeeeeaaahhh... This is gonna get good.

Once again, Blondie’s companions are having a great time. Once again, Blondie is a mess. Only this time the volume has been turned up to 11.

By the time we reach the exit, she’s become an Olympic sprinter. Her pals are still laughing as she dashes up the street again. And I, too, am slowly following her.

But this time I throw a little humor in the mix. Humiliation is the greatest thing to serve to someone who deserves it.

I stop in the middle of the street, just like before, but this time, in my best toddler voice, I shout, “Bye-bye, lady!”

Blondie screeches to a halt and turns around to make sure she really heard what I just said.

I put my hands to my cheeks, giggle like a little girl and go skipping (yes, skipping) back into the House.

I don’t know who was laughing harder; her friends or our staff.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I can has candee?

Forget stinky, moist cat food. Forget cheezburgers. Forget even tuna.

THIS... is what the cat lives for. Caramel Apple suckers.

Just another reason why Halloween is a big deal at our house.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Best Scares, part 2

One of the easiest ways to scare somebody is to pretend you are a prop. The more made-up and heavily costumed you are, the more effective this is.

Seriously... nobody expects something that’s 8 foot tall with wings to be real. Which makes this whole set-up so much fun.

Mastering the whole ‘prop-stance’ was simple. I would back up against the wall and stretch my arms out in a threatening manner and freeze. I would even find a small spot on the wall ahead of me to focus on without blinking. As people walked past me I remained frozen. I might even let them reach out and touch me to see if I was real. All I am waiting for is the right moment.

That moment is that fraction of a second where they assume I’m fake and relax. And that’s when I get them. Sometimes is a loud snarl and lunge, other times it’s a simple turn of the head with one hell of a stare down. Once they start running there’s 8 feet of sexy gargoyle right behind them, maintaining their speed.

Many a visitors’ crotches have been damped this way.

One night while in my frozen pose I observed my next group of victims. It was a mix of young guys and girls but one guy stood out in particular: ball cap on sideways, overly baggy pants with the waistband below the ass crack, wife beater shirt, walking with an over-confidently swagger like a rooster in a barnyard, complete with head bobbing... you already know the type.

This is the type I normally try to avoid. And I warn my actors of the same. When you see someone that looks like they might be trouble, avoid them and scare the rest of the group.

So I lunge and snarl at the rest of the group. But guess who screams like a little girl and nearly drops to his knees?

Baggy Pants is not as tough as his homeboy exterior portrays him.

Yes, Baggy Pants let out a wail that rivaled your average 8-year-old. Upon regaining his balance he dashed down a short hallway and stopped, cowered in the corner.

And, just like the slogan for McDonald’s, I’m lovin’ it. Looks like we have someone who needs ‘special attention.’

I lumber down the hall and loom over him, growling and breathing heavy the whole time. He’s still trembling in the corner with his arms thrown protectively over his head.

After enjoying this spectacle for a few seconds I decide to add the icing on the cake. I thrust out my right hand and, in a low, beast-like voice I say, “Shake my hand!”

Baggy Pants looks at me and shakes his head ever so slightly.

I keep my hand out and shout again, “Shake my hand!!”

Baggy Pants, still looking very rattled, shakes his head again.

Now, in my normal everyday voice I say, “I’m a GIRL! Shake my hand!”

Baggy Pants has a moment of clarity and, still looking frightened, gingerly holds out his hand. I grab it, give a few strong shakes and turn around and walk away.

Now while all of this has been happening, his buddies have been just a few feet away watching all this go down. My satisfaction comes from knowing that, once they all got outside, his buddies probably gave him grief for the rest of the night:

“Dude, you got scared by a GIRL!”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I feel pretty, oh so pretty...

I’ve never been a fan of beautiful, sexy Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, the majority of costumes marketed toward women are the skank, stripper-like fantasy costumes: the sexy witch, the sexy Snow White, the sexy cop...

I’m such a snob, but they lack creativity. And for a Halloween enthusiast like me, they just won’t do.

So several years ago I wanted to create something truly horrifying. My costumes in the past (I must brag here) had been pretty damn skippy: the Bride of Frankenstein (with my real hair), the Grim Reaper (complete with scythe), a can of Raid bug spray (no kidding). But this latest one had to top them all.

I have this thing for gargoyles. I have a few concrete ones in our yard, a couple miniature ones adorn my iMac at work and there are several scattered about the house as decor. So it was only natural to give myself a good gargoyle makeover.

Gargoyle version 1 consisted of a furry body suit complete with hood and pointy ears, furry feet and gloves, hand-made bat wings and a full facial latex appliance that, once covered in black make-up, was truly frightening and completely disguised me.

Did I mention the yellow cat-eye lenses?
Yeah those, too.

This went over so well my first year at the Culbertson Haunted House I knew it was a keeper. But it needed improvement.

Gargoyle 2.0 got some new rubber wings that were much more realistic and some nice customized fangs.
But that still wasn’t good enough for me.

Gargoyle 3.0 was the best. You know I’m obsessed with this costume when I spend $500 on an accessory. You know I’m even more crazy when I have to learn a new trick to use said accessory.

Extreme sport stilts.

I learned how to stay upright on these wonderful springy things in about 10 minutes. In another 10 I was walking on them. Within a couple of days I’m walking laps around the block.

The neighbors had plenty to talk about that week. Some crazy bitch on stilts bouncing down the sidewalk.

I got some fake fur and vinyl made me some leggings with hooves. I got an old black shirt and added some shreds. I found some great looking monster gloves and for the wings... well, it’s great having a dad who’s a tool and die maker. I sketched out the bare-bones of the bat wings and a few days later Dad had created a skeletal form out of aluminum rods.

After I hand-stitched on some vinyl, we had us some mighty fine, large wings. Shut on up!

Wanna see?

Yup. Eight feet of sexy gargoyle... or Girlgoyle... or Hollygoyle as I’ve come to be known.

So this year, after putting Gargoyle 3.0 into the closet for a rest, it will be resurrected as Gargoyle 3.1. New face, new eyes... aw yeah...

A gargoyle version of Best Scares Ever coming soon...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricane Ike takes out New Albany. Details at 11.

I witnessed the '74 tornado, and the '95 tornado, the '94 blizzard and the '95 flood. I never thought I'd witness a hurricane.

Especially living in the mid-west.

Ike lost no steam as he charged into the Ohio Valley Sunday.

We had a photo shoot scheduled at noon the Mansion for Haunted House promo pictures. Just as I pulled out of my driveway on my way over, my cell phone rings the familiar tune for Mansion people. It's "J2," one of the staff, on the other end.

"Are you still coming out today to take pictures?"

"Yeah, I just literally left my driveway."

"You DO know we've got all kinds of winds and tornadoes heading this way."

I'm looking at clear skies with bright sun and a slightly stronger-than-normal breeze. "Yeah... so? We're gonna be inside the Carriage House. We'll be fine."

"Well, just be careful coming over here."

The drive was uneventful. A little breezy, but not dangerous. The Focus weaved a little but even on the bridges I was okee dokee.

I get to the Mansion with no incidents, apart from one tree down on the opposite side of the interstate. There's a stronger gust on this side of the river but the sun is still shining. I go inside the Mansion and wait for our photographer (Nicograph) and our models to show up. One by one our people arrive unscathed.

But the wind is getting a little stronger outside.

After about 45 minutes all our models have their creepy make-up and costumes on and we're ready to start shooting. That's when one of the staff runs in to tell us we lost our tent.
We've had this tent since 1992. It has shielded Haunted House visitors, served as a dining area, housed Herb Sales and numerous other outdoor events for 16 years.
It was exciting, frightening and saddening to watch it wrap itself around those two oaks.
So now we have no tent.
And Haunted House opens in less than 2 weeks.
While we're all marveling at the tent fiasco, my eye catches the severe angle some of the trees are being blown to. Especially one tree about 10 feet from me that is slowly separating from the ground. After several bounces, it goes right over. Right onto two vehicles. One of which is Nicograph's car.The truly amazing thing is, it was completely undamaged. Not a scratch. The other car was unharmed, too. Looks like the wires and the iron fence kept it up. People are now frantically moving their cars to open areas as we continue to watch trees and powerlines crack and fall all around, not to mention roofs and shingles flying everywhere.

We shoo our photo subjects into the Carriage House and get locked in. We have to. If we don't lock the doors the wind will rip them right off the frames. I was dumb enough to try opening a door once, just to see how the world outside looked like at the moment. I almost got blown away. One of our actors had to grab me and the door and pull us back inside.

We spend a couple of hours inside taking pictures, listened to the wind beat the living hell out of the House, hoping there's no more serious damage being done to anything outside.

By the time we finish, the wind is slowly dying down. We emerge to what looks like a war zone. A few young trees in our backyard are snapped in half or completely uprooted. Several houses and churches on the street have trees laying on their roofs or actually in the building. Looking toward one of the major bridges back to Louisville we see a semi on its side, blocking the entire east bound side.

So much for going home that way.

We wait about another hour for the winds to die down enough that we feel safe driving and Nicograph and I head out. We both made it home ok. Nicograph came home to a centuries-old tree that crashed into her condo building and took out a couple of cars, too. Had her car been in its assigned parking spot, it would have been toast.

Looks like those New Albany trees are much more considerate.

So now there's over 200,000 people in the area with no power. Hundreds of traffic lights are still out. Driving around town is still an adventure, between dodging downed trees and people who don't know the failed-stoplight/four-way-stop rule.

The most amazing thing is... during this whole fiasco, the Mansion kept power the whole time. So did my home neighborhood. I kept calling the Spouse to check in. He said he heard trees crashing all around the neighborhood but our little cul de sac was unharmed.

Unfortunately, neither did our respective workplaces. While other people are staying hoe because of the city-wide power outage, we're stuck at work. (Note: while I was writing this at work, the power went out - yay for Blogger's autosave. We waited about two hours before the higher-ups sent us home. We have to call in tomorrow to see if we're running on juice before coming in.)

But on the good news front, the Mansion still stands without a scratch. And the centuries-old magnolia and oaks in their backyard survived. The rest of New Albany looks like a hurricane hit it.

But we don't get hurricanes. Not this far inland. No way. That's just crazy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Best Scares, part 1

It's that time of year again.

Those of you relatively new to the Hell Bus may not be familiar with my 'other' job. Since 1994 I'm been scaring the living shit out of people every autumn. For six years I did my spooking at the Haunted Hotel and I've been spooking (and managing) Literally, a Haunted House since 2000. Although I 'retired' from my Chairperson position after last season, I'm still heavily involved with this year's planning. I've been mentoring my assistant (now official Chair) and helping out with design, construction, organization, media relations... the list goes on. The staff insisted I stay on as 'co-chair.' Even tho I'm not officially running the place, it's still kinda 'my baby.' I may step away from being in charge, but I'll never give this up. It's just way too damn fun.

I have seen everything in this business we call scare. I've seen grown men cry. I've seen adults panic and quit. I've seen breakdowns, pass outs and people lose control of their stomachs, bladders and rectums.

Don't believe me? For the past two years we've kept a tally.

But there are some moments that stick out as being, well, special; the events that keep us veterans talking years after they happened. This is one of them:

During my third year at the Haunted Hotel I was working on the 2nd floor of the two-story house. Those 5 to 10 of us working the second floor would gather at the top of the stairs in between groups. We would talk, play cards, tell jokes, anything to pass the time and keep ourselves awake while we waited for the next group of people to come around the corner and head up the steps. Upon spotting the next group, we would all scatter at the speed of sound to our assigned spot and wait for the group to come thru our area. Group would come thru, booga booga booga, and we'd all run back to the top of the stairs again.

This particular night I was working in the first room on the second floor. Two guys were working the second room right next to me, so we could see each other if we leaned out of our spot.

Anyway, a group was on its way so we positioned ourselves and waited. Now for some reason, this particular group seemed to be taking an usually long time to get to my room. I waited and waited, poised and ready. Finally, after several minutes and no group, I was just about to peek around the corner to see what was up. Like I said, people have a real tendency to panic and quit, then leave thru the nearest fire exit. But I pulled back quickly as the shadowy shape of people came around the corner. I stood 'prop-still' as I observed the following:

The group consisted of 3 females. Girl Number 1 was black. I knew this because, even in the dim lighting, I could see the back of her hands since they were both covering her eyes.

Girl Number 1 is the leader, and she's hiding her face.

Girl Number 2 is a blonde white girl. Even tho she has the bravery not to cover her face, I know she's not handling this very well either because she's crying. And I don't mean a gentle weeping either. I mean a full out sobbing and wailing. She might be frantically looking around, but her arms are tightly wrapped around Girl Number 1's waist.

I have no idea what Girl Number 3 looked like because not only are her arms tightly wrapped around Girl Number 2's waist but her face is firmly buried in Girl Number 2's back.

The twisted daisy chain slowly shuffles their way into my area and I lunge with a snarl. All three of them, still tenanciously attached, slam against the opposite wall and nearly slide down, but manage to stay up on all 6 legs.

I could have really done some psychological damage at this point, considering how vulnerable these three gals were, but I'm so amused at their antics I can only stand back and watch them desperately and slowly slither along the wall into the next room.

This is where the real fun begins. I'm just gonna stand here and watch this.

Upon making it into the next room (please note, Girl Number 1 still has both hands covering her face), the three girls are so surprised by the two guys who jumped out like crazed psycho killers that they go crashing down to the floor. They are now lying on the floor, still holding on to one another's waist. Girl Number 1 still hasn't seen anything. Neither has Girl Number 3. But they are all sobbing and screaming and wiggling like a dying fish.

At this point, I'm having a hard time keeping my pants dry because I'm laughing so hard.

The psycho guys are dancing around, acting all crazy and evil, while the girls continue to writhe on the floor in a sobbing blob. After about 30 seconds of this the guys calm down. In fact, they actually break character and come to a complete halt to watch dumbfounded at this mess on the floor.

I've stopped laughing now. This is getting serious.

I hop out of my spot and walk over to the whole group. The guys and I continue to look down at the three conjoined sobbers as they continue to squirm helplessly on the floor. I bend down and say, "Ok, it's over. You saw it. Now go."

They don't move.

"Come on, it's ok. We're not gonna hurt ya. We're done. You can go now."

They won't move.

"Come on! There's more people coming behind you! You HAVE to GO!!"

Blondie is still crying and looking around at me and the other two guys like she doesn't know English. Girl Number 1 and 3 still have never seen anything. And they won't get up.

By now all three of us actors are shouting at them to get up and go. After several long moments they finally get it and somehow manage to stagger upright and bolt down the hall into total darkness, Girl Number 1 still leading with her hands over her face.

The three of us could only look at one another in total disbelief, which was quickly followed by some high fives.

"Damn, we are GOOD!"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Duranfan, the Tattooed Lady

So I went and did it again. For those of you keeping count, tat number 1 is this one:
I got this when I was 23. It's located over my left boob. I drew it up real quick on a scrap piece of paper at the tattoo studio. I'd always wanted a holly spring. And it comes in handy as a second form of indentification.

Tat number 2 and 3 are these two:
These are located on my right hip. The top one I drew up myself. Since I've got some Scot/Irish/Welsh in my genetic background I wanted something Celtic. And you can barely see it, but in the open space in the center of the knot is a pale spot on my skin. It's some kind of reverse birthmark that has very little pigment. The one below it is a flash design spotted at the tattoo studio's collection. I like dragons and I'm a medieval history buff.

Tat number 4 is this one:
Like I said, I like dragons and this one was small yet sinister looking. Because this one is on the inside of my left ankle it hurt the most. The skin there is really thin. People always ask if tattoos hurt. It really depends on where on your body you get them. I dosed off during the stone dragon tattoo on my hip. Sure, you feel the sharp needle, but after a few minutes the pain endorphins kick in and you get used to it. But that ankle one really hurt. After that I said, no more."

But I was wrong. You forget the pain. And these things are addictive.

About a year ago I started pondering a fifth tattoo. I worked on a design, tweaked it, worked on it some more, printed it out and carried it in my purse for that one day I would decide to get it done. So earlier this week, I sat down for an hour and half and got number 5:
I have a feeling that I will be explaining this one more often that the others. I've been using Apple computers since the early 80s (first computer was an Apple IIe clone - the Franklin Ace 1000) and I've been a Mac Fan Girl ever since. And the black Victorian/Gothic design was just some clip art I found and pieced together. I was Goth before Goth was cool (back in 1983). The tattoo artists enhanced it with some extra elements and shading and there you have it. The spouse loves the new one and it already pondering getting a third for himself. Even my mother is pondering a second for herself. I am such a bad influence.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Photo updates

Ok, so that green thing that was growing in our garden that we thought was a watermelon...

It's a pumpkin.
So it's not an alien pod. We still didn't plant it, tho. But that's ok. It's nice size and will make a swell jack-o-lantern come this October.

And remember way back when... when I said I was gonna make my Gothy Little Christmas tree and enter it into the State Fair?

Did it.

It'll be traveling to the Fairgrounds Saturday. The Fair opens next Thursday. Hopefully, I'll have a very happy update then.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Random thoughts and links, part 112

So we've been munching away on the Spouse's garden harvest this summer. Plenty of yellow squash and cucumbers. And now the peppers and tomatoes are coming along...

But a few weeks ago, the Spouse noticed something odd on one of the vines. He pointed it out to me one day while we were sitting on the deck (now raccoon-poop free), admiring the garden. I ran down to the ground to discover this small round green thing growing on one particular plant.

Now all vining plants look pretty much alike. Squash, cucumbers, melons, gourds... they all have these alien-like vines that take over your yard and sprout huge, elephant ear-like leaves and large, yellow flowers. These flowers eventually turn into tasty veggie goodness.

But now we have this large, round green thing. So I was thinking it's a watermelon.

Which is really strange, since we didn't plant watermelon.

But there it is. And it's growing like big ol' cancer. It's the size of a basketball now. But something's happening.

It's turning orange.

Maybe it's a pumpkin, which would be weird, too, since we didn't plant any of those, either. I'm hoping that it's a simple a mistake as the wrong seed got tossed in the seek packet at the seed factory and that just happens to be the seed that turned into this huge fucking vine that's taking over the yard with this large, green/orange growth.

But I'm also haunted by scenes from "Invasion of he Body Snatchers."

Just a warning... if the Spouse suddenly wants me to sleep next to this thing, I'll have to kill him.

If it does not hatch into a body-snatching alien, and it does turn out to be something edible, I'll let yall know.

In the meantime, while we're watching the melon/pumpkin/pod thing continue to grow, here's da links:

Ya know, it might not be a pod monster, it could be a full-fledged demon.

Don't deny it. You know you're gonna try this the next time you're at the Mall.

I have just sucked several hours of your life away. How do you feel?

Not since Leatherface has a chainsaw been so entertaining.

But why take out zombies with a chainsaw when you could just take one out on a date?

Pole dancing gone wild. Awwwwwww yeeaaahhh...

If you're normal, you'll just giggle a little. If you wet your pants, you must be a graphic designer.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Phantom Shitter

When we last left our heroine, she and her beloved hero were battling the Plague of Locusts:

Yes, you heard that correctly. The Spouse spotted it, I turned around and saw this:

We were dumbfounded. Our deck is on the second floor. Something had walked up the stairs, chosen this particular spot right underneath our kitchen window, and emptied its bowels.

Now we knew it wasn't our cat because he stays inside (altho his 'guard cat' qualities are now questionable since he did nothing to scare off the late night poopertrator). We deduced it wasn't a neighborhood cat because the poop was too big to be cat turdlings and the nearby catnip plant was untouched. We also figured it wasn't a dog because our entire backyard is fenced in, three sides of which are a 6 foot privacy fence.

What the hell? Some woodland critter came up on our deck and shit a big pile! Possibly a possum but more likely a raccoon. But why our deck? Why not the backyard, or someone else's deck for that matter.

I guess it's because all the other backyards surrounding ours have dogs. Perhaps the critter can concentrate better on the quiet peace of our deck, making his bowel movement more satisfying. We do have a nice, clear view of the night sky. Perhaps that makes his movements border on the spiritual.

Our theory on the raccoon was proven the very next morning. It was a cool enough night to leave our windows open. While I'm getting myself ready for work I hear something rummaging around in the Spouse's compost pile. I grab a flashlight and aim it directly down from the bedroom window, only to have a little furry masked face with glowing gold eyes stare me down.

I yelled for the Spouse and we both ran for the deck. Sure enough, a large raccoon goes scampering off to the far corner of our backyard, occasionally stopping to glance over his shoulder to make sure we aren't coming after him.

There was no poop on our deck. This time.

But for the next several mornings we were greeted by a nice steamy pile of raccoon shit. Sometimes it was very seedy. Seems the critter likes mulberries.

So now we have this phantom shitter what shows up sometimes between 11pm and 5am to take a dump on our deck. We have a gate at the bottom of the deck stairs, but closing that did no good. The critter climbed right over it. We see its little muddy footprints leading up to the latest pile of shit.

I even wedged our very large grill right into the corner. Didn't stop him. He either shat next to it or even climbed thru the bottom rack, wedged his little furry raccoon ass between the grill and the exterior house wall and let loose, leaving a nice streak on the aluminum siding.

Sometimes there's been two piles. One morning there was three. Either his colon is really active or he brought friends.

"Boys, you GOTTA to try this new shittin' place! I been comin' there for about a week or two and it RAWKS!"

I've been asking around about how to repel raccoons. One answer sounded logical enough to give it a shot: coyote urine. Apparently, besides kayaks, running shoes and rock-climbing gear, you can also get coyote urine at your local sporting goods store.

So off we went to our local sporting good store (that's named after a penis) and proceeded to the hunting supplies. We asked the guy behind the counter for coyote urine and (of course) he asked what for. When we told him to ward off raccoons, his illustrious answer was:

"Well why don' yew jist shewt'm?"

Now, in my head, I said, "Oh, yeah, Cooter, that's a swell idea! We'll just stay up all night long out on our deck with a shotgun and wait for the little fucker to show up for his nightly shit and blow his little mulberry-eating ass all over our yard. Brilliant!"

But instead, the Spouse and I eloquently explain that we don't have a gun and killing the animal is not an option. We don't want to hurt him. We just want him to go away and shit somewhere else.

But 'Cooter' and his pal, 'Skeeter,' at the penis-named sporting goods store's hunting section are no help. Altho they did offer another suggestion of using a trap to catch him. We have a trap, but if he's clever enough to figure out the gate at the bottom of the deck stairs, he's probably be smart enough to avoid the trap.

Another suggestion we got came from WasabiJohn. He said when he was a kid some raccoons got into his house and after they scared the critters off his dad had to clean up the raccoon poop with ammonia. Seems the ammonia kept them from coming back.

I mentioned the ammonia plan to my mom, who then suggested bleach. So I found a metal pan, put a large sponge in it and filled it with about a quarter inch of bleach and set it at the top of the deck stairs.

Four nights in a row I've done this. Four mornings in a row the Spouse has not had to clean raccoon shit off our deck. Clorox: is there anything it can't do? Well, ok, it can't restore the finish on an '89 T-bird, but dammit, it keeps the shitty raccoons away.

And we didn't have to shewt'm.