This week’s short story is non-fiction. Well, mostly non-fiction. I actually write a fair number of non-fiction autobiographical stories but until now, everything I’ve been posting on my weekly blog has been fiction.
I did a live presentation of this story over the weekend. Rather, it was a version of this story. I’ve done a lot of tweaking since then.
As always, I hope you read, enjoy, comment, share, or go on about your day.
Apologies to regular fans of my Friday blog. I’m going to do things a little differently today.
I’ve been writing Shit that Pissed me off most Fridays for the last three years. I enjoy it as an exercise in writing humor and in exploring my opinions about what is happening in the world around me. Since I’ve started writing the column, it has never coincided with my birthday.
Well this year, it has.
So I decided instead of spending my birthday thinking about stuff that annoys me, I’m going to write about things that make me happy. I’ll post this week’s shit that pissed me off on Monday. Because even on my birthday, there are things that piss me off.
I begin my 48th year today and in honor of that, here are 48 things that make me happy.
1. I’ve been married to the same amazing woman for the last 25 1/2 years. She is brilliant, courageous, thoughtful, sexy, and supportive. She laughs at some of my jokes. She listens when I’m in a bad mood. She corrects me when I’m wrong. There is not a night that goes by where I am not happy we share a bed, a home, and a life.
2. I’ve got one fantastic mother. She loves math and has spent her life finding ways to help others love it too. She loves being an amateur artist. She is a fun travel companion. Any day I know I’m going to see her is automatically a good day.
3. My oldest son is great. He’s clever, cheerful, fun, and affectionate. He grew several inches in the last year and is starting to show signs of facial hair. Pretty soon, he’s going to learn how to drive and get a job and start looking at colleges. I’m not sure I’m ready for any of that.
4. My youngest son is wonderfully creative. The way he builds new Lego structures and describes ideas for new games or parks or dinosaurs shows boundless inventiveness. His head must be such an interesting place to live.
5. My Brother is full of passion and energy. He has been remarkably successful in not just the field he has chosen to pursue, but most anything he decides to accomplish. We have a great relationship hampered only by the distance that separates us.
6. My Sister-in-law has a sharp sense of humor, an infectious positive attitude, and seems like a perfect partner for my brother.
As you may or may not know, I just spent a week in Yellowstone National Park. I learned a lot about geothermal features while I was there. I’m sure you are aware there are several such features in the park including Old Faithful and a lot of other features that aren’t Old Faithful. Nobody ever talks about those other features.
Another prominent feature of Yellowstone National Park is the bison. There are, at last count, somewhere around twelve billion bison within the boundaries of the park. After five days, you get a little blasé about them.
On our first day, we stopped for a picture whenever we saw a black lump in a field that might be a bison. By the time we left, we wouldn’t even slow down unless there were playing hopscotch or whist or something else that went beyond the typical behavior of standing in a field and chewing on grass while surrounded by two hundred other bison.
I’m not saying I never grew tired of seeing bison. Because I didn’t. At some point, however, seeing bison became the equivalent of watching Adrian Peterson play for the Vikings. Sure, it’s impressive. But is it really making much of a difference?
I’m on vacation this week so my column will be a bit short. However, much like last year when I was visiting National Parks for my Spring vacation, the other people in the parks had ample opportunities to piss me off. So I’ll probably just focus on that.
Use a Trash Bag or Get Out
About twenty years ago, I visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with my wife, mom, and brother. At one stop, we stepped out on to pitch black lava floes that had covered the highway on their way out to the ocean. In the distance, we could see where an active lava flow was pouring into the Pacific. It was amazing.
As I walked across that pitch black lava rock, I glanced down and saw a cigarette butt. And another. And another.
So I started to pick them up. By the time I left that part of the park, I’d filled a large plastic bag with trash.
Every time I go to a park, I bring a bag and fill it with trash. If I’m there for several days, I might fill several bags. And there is never a shortage of trash.
I’m not talking about a hat that blew off in the wind. I’m talking about candy wrappers, kleenex, and scores of cigarette butts. Nobody drops a cigarette butt by accident.
If you throw butts on your kitchen floor, that is your business. I’m not telling you that you can’t smoke in Yellowstone. I’m telling you that a fumarole isn’t more impressive with your finished Marlboro lying on the side of it. If you can’t respect that, you should do the rest of us a favor and stay in the car.
Other People Want to Look at That Thing Too, Asshole
Hey, guess what? If you are at Old Faithful and it is erupting for about 90 seconds and you are sitting on a bench and there are people standing behind you, don’t stand up and block their picture so someone can take a shot of you standing in front of the geyser!
If you wanted that picture, you should have found a different place to watch the geyser. Because when you block the view for other people, you are really saying that you don’t give a flying fuck if they want to see the geyser because it’s really just there for your enjoyment.
Not that you are enjoying it because your back is to the fucking geyser.
Stay on the Path or Die
In Yellowstone, the ground around thermal features is quite brittle. If you walk on it, you could break through and find yourself in water that is near boiling. There are signs all over the place telling you this fact.
There’s also the simple fact that the ground around these features is made of very soft rock and when you walk on it, you crush it. Unless you are a complete idiot, you should realize that the terraces at Mammoth hot springs are a lot more impressive than your footprint.
If you need a picture of yourself standing really close to a geyser, try Photoshop. You will look at that picture a couple of times. If you cook that leg off, you’ll have something that lasts a lot longer but is that really the souvenir you were looking for?
The Reason There Are Signs Telling You to Stop Being an Idiot is Because a Lot of Other People Have Already Been Idiots
Here’s a picture of a sign with a warning that should not have been necessary.
At the bottom of the sign, you are told that removal of this sign could cause injury to others. Because they won’t know there is a BEAR nearby. Probably a mother bear with cubs, given the time of year. Exactly the kind of creature you don’t want to encounter.
So why do you suppose they have to tell you to leave the sign alone? Because someone has removed one of them before.
Whoever did it probably thought it was funny. Won’t it be hilarious if a hiker is mauled by a bear because I took away the sign that might have saved them?
No. It really won’t.
If Someone is Taking a Picture of Something, Don’t Walk in Front of Them
I’m not a birder specifically but I like to figure out what animals I’m watching. Frequently, that means I’ll try to take a picture of the bird I’m looking at to identify it later.
For those unfamiliar with birds, a lot of them are fairly skittish and if someone does something like walking in front of a photographer, they’ll fly away.
I think that what most folks at these parks fail to understand is that the park isn’t there for them. It is there for everyone.
That means when someone is trying to take a picture, you can give them five seconds to get the shot. How hard is that really? Unless there is a geyser erupting right now, the odds are you can wait five seconds to look at the next hot spring. I’m sure it looks really cool because they all look really cool.
Trust me, I’ve taken pictures of every single one of them.
But those pools don’t change too much in five seconds. So let me take a picture of a damned bird, OK?
I’m currently on vacation in Wyoming. We’ve been visiting Grand Teton National Park for the last few days and today we are traveling to Yellowstone.
If you are going to use this information to rob my house, please be aware that we have a house sitter, a burglar alarm, four attack cats, and a house full of shit you probably don’t want anyway.
Since we’ve arrived in Wyoming, we’ve found there are some things that are a little different out here in one of only two states that lacked the creativity to shape their state like something other than a rectangle.
The first thing I’ve noticed is that FOX News isn’t just a news station. It is the only TV news station there is. I looked up MSNBC on my hotel room directory it was listed. When I tried to punch in the numbers, however, the remote just laughed at me.
I don’t think everyone in Wyoming is a conservative. I just think everyone in Wyoming assumes that everyone else in Wyoming is a conservative.
Another concept that is different is the definition of “back yard.”
I have a back yard and it is quite small. Even when I’m using “back yard” to reference something close to my house, like say Cub Foods, I’m talking about someplace that is less than a mile from my home.
We ran into a family from Idaho having a picnic yesterday. They told us that the Grand Tetons were “in their back yard.”
The Grand Tetons are in a completely different state!
My family is traveling to Yellowstone National Park in about a month and my mom has been getting a little bit concerned about bears. Apparently, there are a lot of bears at Yellowstone and she’s worried we may run into one. She’s been reading up on bear spray and assures us we’ll be able to get some as soon as we get to the park.
Actually, I guess you can buy the stuff at 7-11 in that part of the country.
I don’t know why she’s so concerned, to be honest. When it comes to National Parks and bears, I have the worst luck.
About ten years ago, Pat and I took a trip to Washington DC. We spent most of our time in the city but for a day trip, we went to Shenandoah National Park. It was a foggy day and unfortunately, most of the views of the valley were obscured.
As we were driving, Pat suddenly shouted “BEAR” and pointed across the road to where a bear was clearly hanging out waiting to be noticed. I fumbled with my camera and took one picture:
As you can see, it is a blurry picture of what might be a bear walking back into the forest. Looks like the butt of a black bear from what I can tell. I’m sure it was a bear but this picture could be used as proof of Bigfoot about as easily as it could be used as proof of a bear.
That would not be my final failed encounter with a bear in a National Park.
I missed two weeks. Apologies to my small by loyal fan base. This covers three weeks of stuff. I tried to be picky but you may want to expect that I’ll be more long winded than usual.
They can’t help it.
They are one of those states that has constitutionalized discrimination against same-sex couples and because they are constitutionally forced to discriminate, it’s the only way they can comply with the Supreme court ruling.
Or some bullshit.
The gymnastics people go through to deny rights to someone who is serving our country makes me want to vomit. Especially when most of these people belong to a party that regularly talks about how much we need to respect our troops.
Well, you know, they meant the straight ones.