Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sailing and the Tropical Depression formerly known as Hurricane Bill

You would think, as long as I have lived on the Coast of Illinois, that I wouldn't be surprised by anything that happens around here. But then, this happened: 
To quote Bob, from What About Bob: I'm sailing!
I know. I have been talking about sailboats ever since the Coast came into existence. But I have to be honest. While I knew the reality of our wooden boat was inevitable, I really never believed that one day I (capital, italics, bold, exclamation point) would be steering anything larger than a modified bathtub.

Huh.

Rob, who clearly has way too much time on his brain, has nurtured the idea of learning to sail these big boats in preparation for round two of our lives where we charter and sail every body of water out there including but not limited to Gulfs, Seas, Oceans and Sounds. Oh, and Lakes of Greatness. Being the supportive wife, I have let him ramble on about boat types, mooring balls, tidal maps. I was more than happy to take a trip to Tortola and earn my Sailing 101 certification. But the thought of taking the more difficult 102-103 classes, where you learn things like navigation and diesel engines gave me a strong desire to go shopping and have pillow fights.

Using the 'Gilligan didn't have all that book learning' argument, I bowed out of round two of classes, which he opted to take at Lake of the Ozarks, a mere 4 hours away. And, because one must practice what is learned, I found myself the proud renter, for 24 hours, of a 26 foot sailboat.
Only that boat was not available when we arrived. So I found myself the proud renter of a 32 foot sailboat.
Only that boat was drenched, thanks to the tropical depression formally known as Hurricane Bill. It seems that an elderly boat's window gaskets won't hold up to one week of torrential rain. This interesting turn of events landed us in a 36 foot Catalina sailboat. 

The Mariposa

For those measurement challenged out there – 36 feet is the length of a telephone pole, twice the height of an average giraffe or five times the height of Shaq – that would be 5 Shaqs, laid end to end.
This was one big ass sailboat.

We rented the boat through the Ozark Yacht Club. (Okay. I know. Brings to mind a group of those Baldknobbers People in overalls with one strap, a hat with a hole in it, a corn cob pipe and a whole bunch of bass boats. Well, stop it.) The Ozark Yacht Club is just off the Bagnell Dam Strip (where there ARE Baldknobbers in overalls plus nearly as much neon as Las Vegas and the largest population of salt water taffy west of the Mississippi. The club is nestled in a wooded cove, down a frightening hill. It offers several beautiful rental cabins as well as a wine bar, an award winning cafe, a small beach, a swimming pool and a full service marina. 

The Lakeside Cafe. Yummo breakfast, lunch and apre-sail snacks. Also, lovely shower facilities upstairs.

It is also the home of some enormous, expensive boats. All of which I was certain would zoom from their slips and into our path as we maneuvered our boat for the day out of, then back into it's slip.
I am hiding in the cabin so as not to see the huge, expensive boats we are not crashing into.

After Bert from the marina gave us a tour and run down of the boat's controls (it had a diesel engine and AC/DC power although the galley and head were not functional for our visit) we grabbed some big ass sandwiches from the cafe and prepared to cast off. Once out of the marina and in the main channel, I put the boat in irons and Rob hoisted the main sail. 
This is when it started.
I was at the helm, the boat pointed directly into the wind. As the sail went up the boat began to gently, but firmly move. I made constant adjustments to keep our direction. We wanted to start off slowly to get a feel of the boat's capability. It was quite clear. Mariposa wanted to sail. The power of wind and vessel is impressive. It demands respect.
It had taken hold of me.
Sails from the bow.

Rob took the helm and turned us to a close reach, wind over the port. I hoisted the jib and we were off. Not too fast, but moving.
No motor.
Just wind.
There is no feeling like it.
More sails. I can't help it.
This is where the Tropical Depression formerly known as Hurricane Bill comes in. You see, Missouri, Texas and it's Hurricane are only one panhandled state apart. Which means the Coast of Illinois hosted tropical depression rain for five days straight. Including the Wednesday we were planning to sail. In fact, it rained on us for the entire 4 hour drive. I kept repeating 'rain before 7, stop by 11'.
And it did.
Until 3pm.
Maybe 1pm, I really have no idea. By this point I was so wet my eyeballs were blurry. Thankfully, there was no lightening and the wind was quite gentle which was a good thing as we were already under sail. (Safety Police alert – Rob had done his captaining work and triple checked the weather, reviewed our plan with the marina people. There was a radio on the boat. We had raincoats and life vests at the ready.)

For nearly four hours we shared the lake with two other sailboats and a couple of jet skis. The lake was calm, the wind fairly steady but gentle. We topped out around 3knots. Not very fast, especially for a big boat with it's sails full out. But plenty fast enough for someone who is incapable of judging distance on the water and has an over-heightened fear of destroying someone else's very expensive boat, dock, house on the shore.
As Rob pointed out many many times, I can drive a car. If something is coming at me in a car, I turn. Same with a boat. But here's the thing. A boat doesn't have a break. I can't slam on the pedal with both feet and STOP. Sure, I can turn the boat into the wind (in irons) or just drop the sails and it will stop (nearly)dead. I have had a lot of experience doing this, by mistake.
I spent an equal amount of time grinning like an idiot because I was so happy and wishing I had a prescription for 1million Xanax because my anxiety over destroying something was higher than the 40 foot mast.
This is something I may need to come to terms with.

The desire to continue on past one more cove, around that next corner was strong. So was the wall of rain we could see further down the lake.
We returned to the marina without incident. Unless you count my sudden urge to BUY the boat, which just happened to be for sale.
I got over that as Rob listed the number of things needing 'upgrading' and the cost of each.

Our hope had been for a full live-on-a-boat experience. 
interior shot. sort of a floating camper in need of a little love.
As the boat was not outfitted for showers and cooking, we used the club facilities. (No. Not an outhouse and garden hose.) The Ozark Yacht Club provides it's members, and boat renters, a fully equipped club house. We had our choice of several private bathrooms – each extremely clean. The club also has a full service kitchen and a club room connected to a long balcony with tables and chairs. (These amenities were not part of our access, which is not to say I didn't 'investigate' them. All very clean and void of anything made of corncob.)
We had dinner at Lil' Rizzo's, an Italian restaurant about 15 minutes away. We have eaten here several times on trips to the lake, each time finding the place completely by accident. I can only believe that Lil' Rizzo's is actually a mobile figment of my imagination which just pops up when I am starving. House salads, light, flaky, herb-y dinner rolls, spaghetti with meatball, supreme pizza, a glass of wine each – yum!
On the way back to the boat we stopped and grabbed desert at Pete's Market– chocolate covered graham crackers.
Rob and I both spent time in the Ozarks as kids. We have both skied the lake behind power boats until our arms were ready to fall off and our hands couldn't let go of the tow rope then passing out dead asleep in shared cabin bedrooms or tents.
That was the kid us.

The grown-up us spent the remainder of the evening on deck with a glass of wine, reading and just enjoying the quiet lake. Oh, and this:
 And this:

And for about 30 seconds, this:



Because of the threat of rain overnight, we opted to sleep on the fold-down table bed in the center of the boat where we had a fan. We chose to ignore the fact that the metal mast (lightening rod) ran through the corner of the bed by Rob's feet.
Our morning looked like this:


Rob went on a coffee run and I sat on deck with my book, watching a fish jump and a duck quack its way around the shore. One of the best mornings ever.
And that's when it really happened.
I know now. Deep down, so much that I actually read and enjoyed an article about installing a water maker on a sailboat, that this is something I want to do. Not because someone else wants it.
But because I want it.

That is an amazing feeling.
Sort of like sailing.

Of course on the way home, this happened:
The Mississippi Ocean. The Arch can be seen mid-right, if it were SUNNY.
Who knew the Coast of Illinois would actually become a real Coast...


For the purpose of full disclosure – I have no financial gain to be made from any of the mentions above. Sadly. I would even be willing to be paid in boat rentals. And those flaky, herb-y dinner rolls.

Check out the Sailing Page – there is an awesome video documenting our evolution to sailors, courtesy of my Dad. Thanks Dad! Oh, and one of my favorite songs – Morning Coffee - by my brother, musician, Karl Schloz.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Nomination and a Whole Lot of Love



What a surprise. I open my email on the train ride home only to discover I have been nominated for a *Liebster Award*! I have to admit, my first thought was courtesy of Sally Field: 'They like me! They really like me!'
No, really.
It still amazes me when someone tells me they have read my writing, that they find it entertaining or, on occasion, want to use something I have written.
So when Suzanne from Adventures of Empty Nesters sent me a nomination I was thrilled. Suzanne writes a fabulous travel blog.To be included in the list of other writers she nominated is a thrill. I read the work of many of these ladies and always take away a little something that helps improve my own writing.

Please take the time to click on Adventures of Empty Nesters, read Suzanna's own nomination questionnaire, check out some fabulous adventures and click on the links of the other nominees.

As for me, well, I nominate the following ladies:

Bonnie is a fellow sailor, an avid kayaker and a long suffering plastic giver-upper.

Mo is a fellow Cornfield, USA gal who knows her way around a road map and a good glass of wine.

Beverly is one of my first blogger-buddies. She has a unique, risque outlook on life and is willing to sometimes bare it all! 

Karen: http://www.onesaltykiss.com/ 
Karen is a surfer, a writer and a woman after my own heart! 

These ladies never fail to make me laugh or heaven forbid, make me think. I am passing on the same questions given me. Can't wait to read everyone's answers.

 What is your dream destination?
I have a ridiculously romantic vision of Morocco, thank you Bogie and Ingrid. I will be the breathy woman in the lovely fitted white linen suit sipping a cognac and guilt-tripping a ruggedly handsome man.

What places have you visited that you thought were highly overrated?
I have to admit. I have never really been anywhere that completely disappointed me. Although, for our 20th anniversary, we went to the fanciest casino in St. Louis (stop laughing, it is connected to a Four Seasons Hotel, which is still one of my favorite hotels) and I was pretty bummed to find that there was a much higher percent of sweat pants to evening gowns and tuxedos. And WAY more smoke than any James Bond movie.

What is your favorite U.S. destination?
This is a tough one. I absolutely love Destin, Florida. The white sand. The emerald ocean. Sure, the traffic in the summer is obnoxious and it can be super hot in July, but it's an ocean heat. I would be willing to make the 12-14 hour drive at the drop of a suitcase for even just 24 hours on that beautiful beach. My other favorite place is good old across the river from home: St. Louis, Mo. St. Louis is overlooked by everyone. We have some of the best restaurants, a diverse musical scene, a wealth of history, a rich literary past, a honkin' big Arch and a museum with the world's biggest pair of underpants. How big are YOUR underpants, NYC??? 


What makes you happy?
Sitting on a deck or patio, warm breeze gently blowing, nice glass of wine, a delish appetizer, classic rock being played by a band or an ipod surrounded by my family and friends...nirvana.

Why did you start blogging?
I started Coast of Illinois as a goof, based on a running joke at work regarding the number of vagabound hairnets spotted on the walk to the parking garage. It doubled as a way for me to keep up a little creativity when work and life didn't allow for time to work on fiction writing. I can't believe I have been maintaining the site since 2012! There have been times I considered quitting and times when I can't seem to write fast enough to get everything I want to say posted. I stumbled over Suzanne's site a year ago and thanks to her invitation to join Women of Midlife, a facebook blogging group, I feel that my little blog might actually go someplace. At the very least, I have met an incredible group of women who share a love of writing and bring to the table a variety of talents, experiences and support.

What are your top three bucket list items?
In no particular order: Live in a city apartment for one year, where I can walk to the store, stop at a cafe, visit a museum and return to my lovely city view to write. Actually finish a novel (and get it published, she whispers. And have people actually purchase it, she hints out of the other side of her mouth.) Spend however long it takes to do the Moveable Feast tour of Europe/Cuba/KeyWest – fishing for trout in Spanish rivers, sipping coffee and whiskey in French cafés, writing the truest sentences one can write from my palm tree lined veranda outside Havana, winning the Martha Gelhorn look-alike contest at Sloppy Joe's in Key West. (Did I mention I am a hopeless romantic?)

What is one piece of advice you would offer or one saying you live by?
"Try three bites before you decide if you like it or not." This was the rule I taught my Brownie Scouts when it came to trying unusual food. But honestly, it applies to everything.

What is the best thing anyone has ever said about your blog?
My family and friends have been incredibly indulgent and supportive of my writing. I love when they mention something I have written, without prompting from me. But my absolute favorite thing to hear is 'you made me spew coffee all over my computer screen'. I always thought this was an issue only my sister suffered from, but apparently, it is occasionally an epidemic.

What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
Curling up on the couch in the middle of a perfectly good day, diet pepsi and popcorn in hand, ridiculously bad SciFy movies on TV. Think – Sharnado, Anaconda, any worm movie starring Kevin Bacon, or an apocalyptic end of the world movie in which Dennis Quaid, Will Smith or Lou Diamond Phillips, assisted by robots, saves the day. I will not apologize.


What is one product or service you cannot live without?
My super fab hairstylist Vanessa (Salon Lofts, Ladue). As a woman with naturally curly hair, who lived the first 40 years of her life with pixie cuts and bad poodle shags, I can not stress to you the importance of finding someone who knows what I want to do with my hair, even after I say "oh you know, sort of angled, shortish. You know with caramelly colors. But not too dark. Or too short."


What two countries make you the happiest to visit?
We took a quick trip to Canada last summer, and it was one of the most beautiful, clean, happiest places I have ever been. Even the panhandlers were pleasant. And Tim Hortons?! Best coffee ever.
In the fall of 2014 I was lucky enough to travel to Tortola, BVI. I have been to Europe and Mexico but never to the Caribbean. I had no idea what to expect and once again, everything surpassed my preconceived notions of what island living might be. I can honestly say, if it hadn't been for our kids we would have chucked everything and stayed.


*The Liebster Award is an award given to bloggers by bloggers. The blogger who is nominated answers a set of questions provided by the colleague who nominated them and then pass the fun on to other bloggers. The purpose is to give some well deserved recognition to newbie bloggers, provide their site with an exposure boost as well as seek out and network with other newbies. It is also a way to show some love to a favorite blogger, or to a blog you look up to. It’s a little bit of ‘Pay-It-Forward’ and a little bit of ‘Team-Building’ all in one.


I have always loved writing. At one time my dream was to write for Saturday Night Live, and in my spare time Rolling Stone Magazine. Life got in the way, as life is wont to do, and instead of moving to the big city I moved to the Coast of Illinois where I became a nurse, married my best friend and life style instigator and raised a writer son who creates fantasy card games and a daughter who juggles pulmonary research and fire clubs. No. Really. I returned to writing somewhere around 2008, writing short stories. I have met some of the most interesting people through writing – both in 3D and cyber-space.
A big THANK YOU for all your encouragement and support!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Just Messin'Around in Boats...again.

Finally, a beautiful Saturday here on the Coast of Illinois.

Oh sure, from April 1st until November 30th there is always the threat of 700% humidity. And lately we have the added fun of attack by 3D, ultrasonic radar enhanced green, red and orange bands of rain with occasional lightening bolts and tiny spinning cartoon tornadoes.

But this past Saturday had a minimal amount of danger and we drove Blue Sky down to Rend Lake to crash the Midwest Messabout at Rend Lake. (I should note that we only went for the day, gawked at some beautifully crafted boats then beat it home before the storms rolled in. We didn't really get to talk with many attendees, but as usual, those we did talk with were delightful.)



For those of you new to Coast of Illinois – a small boat messabout is a gathering of small boat enthusiasts. Usually these boats are handmade. They can be powered by sail, motor or human. There is usually camping, a potluck, much discussion of epoxy, many tall tales and then everyone puts their boats in and takes pictures of one another sailing. I personally would love to see some water gun battles, perhaps a re-enactment of Mutiny on the Bounty and then a rip-roaring game of Beer Pirates, where we quiet sailboats cruise past the floating heads of pontoon boaters and grab the beers from their outstretched-to-protect-their-beers-from-lake-water- hands.



Maybe next year. 

We arrived to see this gorgeous boat being set up. The Libby Rose is the fifth boat it's owner has built.
Here she is at sail during a brief bit of sun.

 
I swear, it is more overcast than sunny but still a great day.
















Life vests were the order of the day. Here a sailor is hoisting the gaff rig.
This is a gaff rig or as I prefer to call it - a san-pan sail, because it reminds me of the boats in the book Ping!

I have no idea what type of boat this is, beside beautiful. (oh wait, just found the info - it is a Skiff America20!)
Resting
Sailing. Seriously sailing. I left this uncropped so you could get the full effect of the waves and the wind in the sail.
I believe they are either searching for enemy submarines or preparing to bring in the big shark. The head, the tail, the whole damn fish.
Who wouldn't want their own tug boat?
 
Taking pictures of people taking pictures. So fun!
If anyone from the Rend Lake Messabout recognizes their boat here, please contact me at laura.ehlers85@gmail.com. I would be happy to send you a copy of the pictures. And if anyone happened to get some snaps of a blue, Bermuda rigged sloop named Blue Skies, please contact me. I would also love pics. It is surprisingly difficult to get a picture of your own boat at sail!

THANKS! To Tom B, who sent these 'action shots' of Blue Skies! 
Looks like smooth sailing from here on out little buddy...

See that spray at the bow? Well, the next one soaks me.

Heeling is my favorite!

Love how the main sail is curved here!


I have also added a new video to the Sailing page here. It incorporates all that I love about being on the sailboat, the sounds of the wind, the sails and the splashes.

Enjoy. 

AND THIS JUST IN!!! Midwest Mariner picked up this issue of Coast of Illinois! Please check out the link: MidwestMariner

Friday, June 5, 2015

Salad Bar

It has been one of those weeks here on the Coast of Illinois. Consequently, this is a rather random post.

Last weekend we moved our youngest to her city apartment.
We are officially 'empty nesters'.
NO – we have NOT been running around the house naked.
             What is is about kids moving out that seems to turn everyone into nudists?
YES – my house looks like Allied Van Lines burglarized it.
              Things missing: one table, two chairs, one bed, two lamps, three rugs
               yet, I still have about 200 coffee mugs in the kitchen cupboard.
Am I freaking out?
Yes and no. I am so excited for our kids – both are living busy lives, on their own, yet close enough to stop by for dinner or laundry. 

Thank you, Universe.

On a healthy note:

This weekend we will be having the first of many fresh salads from greens grown right here in my little garden! Tonight's salad will also include quatre radis français. (That's four French radishes for you non-Francais.)  I have no idea what nationality the greens are. I am topping it with an herb vinaigrette. The herbs are fresh from the garden also. I believe they are of Italian, Greek and French descent.
clockwise from top - baby kale, baby spinach, baby mixed greens and four French radishes.Take THAT salad in a bag!

 Bon Appétit!

Coast of Illinois Vinaigrette
2Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Any combo of fresh herbs, painstakingly tended and gently harvested at their utmost freshness.
(tonight's combo includes flat and curly parsley, chives, basil and thyme)
salt
fresh ground pepper

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Helloooo Summer!

It is 8:15 on Sunday. Memorial Day weekend 2015.



The neighbor, whose house I can not see because our yards were mapped by a drunk mathematician with a love of rhombussy parallelograms, has cranked up the radio. (Yes, radio. Not satellite, not iPod, not Pandora.) He has cranked up the good old fashioned radio. How do I know it is a radio? Because the DJ just shouted the call letters KSHE-95! And now what started as the end of an Allman Brother's tune has ramped up to 'Rough Boys' and The Who. And while I prefer the soundtrack of my life to be a tiny bit mellower on a Sunday morning, I can appreciate the sentiment.

We, my neighbor and I , both grew up in the 1970's when Memorial Day Weekend meant the swimming pools were open, school was over and for three glorious months we had absolutely no responsibilities. (Except for those two weeks when it was corn de-tasselling season; an activity unique to Cornfield USA. This is a time when teenagers are loaded into a truck, dropped at the entrance to a cornfield and slowly, meticulously walk the rows, pulling off the silky corn tassels to aid in hybridization leading to bigger yields. This was back when genetic engineering was spoken of in hushed tones in the back rooms of men's clubs.)

I never got to be part of the de-tasselling crowd. My Dad, knowing me all too well, informed me that the last thing I wanted to do was walk around in hot scratchy cornfields with a bunch of cute high school guys who would probably, eventually need to remove their shirts.



But, I digress.



While many things have changed, Memorial Day will forever mark the beginning of summer. (Yes, astrophysicists, I am aware that the true beginning of summer is June 21, when the stars align and Aquarius buys the world a coke.) To me, it seems that so many traditions are falling by the wayside. We no longer go on day long pilgrimages to decorate graves.

Gone are the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables – thanks to those amazing people in Chile and New Zealand we can eat apples and strawberries all year round.Although I have to take issue with the so called 'January tomatoes'.

Television programs are now on-demand, TIVOed, and available for binge-watching. There was a time, back when we had to turn the channel by hand, that nearly everything in the summer was a re-run and we counted down the days until September and Saturday Cartoon Preview Friday happened!  I hate to admit it, but there are several new shows, which I am looking forward to, starting this SUMMER!
Simply unheard of in the days of manual genetic modification and wearing white only after the end of May.



I no longer have kids in school, or anxiously looking forward to that 'last day' and later the 'first day'. I no longer belong to a swimming pool. I now have to plan vacations around four adult work schedules. My husband grills year round and due to my inability to keep food off my person, I rarely wear white.



So I am here to say THANK YOU to my neighbor with the hearing impairment. Without you and your awesome sound system I would have nothing but a date on the calendar to mark the unofficial beginning of summer. 
 
This is my Summer home! Please note Robert Palm Tree to the left, who managed to survive winter in the basement and Carmen Miranda on the right who enjoyed a warm winter off my kitchen. Also - that leaning StoneHenge in the background, in my other neighbor's yard? Use to be the frame for a swing but is now a condo for tiny birds. I wonder if I should call FEMA when it finally falls over...

Now, before anyone gets all "Memorial Day is about more than YOU having a three day weekend" - I have written much more serious posts about remembrance. Please check out these links for the story of my family's Memorial Day celebrations and service. 

(and if you are super bored, check out a previous post regarding my neighborhood and music: 
Summer Sounds. But at least be sitting outside when you do so, unless you are under severe storm watch, then enjoy from the confines of your bathtub.)
 

Happy Memorial Day everyone!



And please, I am on call this holiday so for Pete's Sake:

WEAR YOUR SEAT BELTS!
DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE!
CONSUME FOOD IN MODERATE AMOUNTS AND ALWAYS COOKED TO AN APPROPRIATE INTERNAL TEMPERATURE!


*And thank you Mad Men, for allowing Don Draper to reintroduce that awesome Coca-Cola advertisement.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Grant Proposal

BREAKING NEWS! We have joined forces with the Eastern SeaBoard FiberglassVessel    Propulsion Committee. See the report here:
 
Grant Proposal:
The Ehlers 'Buffet' Hypothesis
with
Nuxoll Co-efficient

Comprehensive, real-time analysis seeking a direct correlation between morbid lethargy proportional to repetitive tasks and its resolution when treated with random, pleasure directed activities. A quantitative analysis of qualitative increase in subject's psychological disposition as affected by solar-heated atmospheric conditions combined with saline hydrotherapy will be measured using the following criteria:

Dietary restrictions including by not limited to crustacean consumption- Raw vs cooked.
Glucose variances in the form of distilled, oak-aged and cold processed liquids.
Semi-fowlers and full supine position as related to UV ray exposure.
Audio stimulation utilizing live vs prerecorded instrumentation of the 6-string and steel drum varieties as well as its subsequent kinetic musculo-skeletal reactions.

An increase in overall sparkling in subject's ocular region, as well as an increase in melanin resulting in unique skin patterns is expected after the conduction of the granular terrain between subject's meta-tarsals.

Travel will be provided by adjustable roofed automobile, manually propelled two-wheeled vehicles and floating wooden structure with large fabric attachments.

Pending approval, temporary research facilities will be as follows: 


Citations:  
Brent Burns and his story of my life: 

My friend and fellow land-locked beach bum, Angie
Jimmy Buffet
The Guy who parked a sailboat in my garage
Jimmy Cliff
The Maker of all crustaceans
Rum

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I'm stuck so...CLOWNS!!!

I have been having something of a difficult time getting ideas posted lately. I wish I had a great reason, like, I have been out of the country on a covert mission to find a calorie free chocolate which also makes your nails and hair grow faster or I have been reading all the New York Times best sellers...to the blind.
But truthfully?
I haven't been up to a whole heck of a lot. There are ideas floating around in my head, but they refuse to form complete sentences, instead, preferring to present themselves as random, urgent Facebook statuses.
I have also been tormented by the fact that THEY (those bastards in Hollywood who insist on messing with perfection) have remade Poltergeist. And I hate to admit it but it looks even more terrifying than the original, if only for that SCARY ASS CLOWN!
Seriously???

There is absolutely no reason for calling this person, unless this is JAMES Frank-o the clown.

I have had may fair share of  Scary Ass Clown incidents around the Coast of Illinois. The above sign was the second in a long line of two signs creepily advertising clowns near my train stop. The first became the stuff of legend. Or at least a blog post, which I am repeating here, for your horror, I mean, entertainment.

CLOWNS!!!

See the woods behind the post? That is where they will find your body...
Could someone tell me – just when did clowns become scary? You mention 'clowns' to any adult I know and they turn pale, wring their hands and change the subject faster than a Congressman at a press conference.

I use to love clowns. The clowns I knew growing up were the happy, non-threatening variety. Red Skelton's Clem Kadiddlehopper, Captian Kangaroo's Town Clown and the grandfather clown of them all – Emmett Kelley. These clowns were loveable bums just trying to get by. They stumbled through my favorite television broadcasts trying to solve problems in their bumbling mute manor. I could relate to their clumsiness in the way that only a middle schooler who tripped over the vault horse could. I just wanted to give them a big hug.

And I guess, this is where the notion of scary began to evolve. As an adult I wonder, why would anyone in their right mind want to hug a grown man wearing all that makeup and baggy clothes? There is no doubt that these clowns smelled – most likely of 40 ounce malt liquor. It is now obvious that all three were probably members of some hobo-fueled street gang whose weapon of choice was disarming charm. Their gang sign was the pantomime for a train whistle and they most likely had tattoos of the various balloon animals they created.

I look at the clowns that my children watched growing up: Ronald McDonald and Bozo. One is trying to kill everyone with 'happy' meals full of artery clogging fat. Never mind that his organization provides housing for sick kids and their families. You scrape away all that goodie-two shoes stuff and you have a modern day Hansel and Gretel Witch luring children to his french fry play place.

And then there is Bozo. It was while watching Bozo's Circus that I began to notice the subtext, behind the makeup, the poorly masked disdain for all those screaming kids. He would call strange children down from the audience and on local cable television ask them to play with his balls in exchange for 'a surprise'. Really?

Driving home from work a while back I noticed a sign stapled to a telephone pole. In dripping blood red text it advertised Clowns...and more!! WHAT! From the shaky penmanship the sign looked to be the work of some demented mental patient who recently absconded from his cushy padded cell.I have no doubt that the poor mom who answered that ad thinking she was adding a touch of whimsy to her three-year-old's birthday would wind up buried in the woods beyond the post. Thinking it was just me, I mentioned the sign to a number of people and the reaction was the same: shocked speechlessness followed by talk of happy places and hiding under their beds.

As an adult, the clown, just seems to be the embodiment of all we teach our children to beware of. Grown adults masking their true selves behind makeup dressed in intentionally deceptive big shoes; they are obviously up to no good. Stephen King used a clown as the consummate image of evil in the book "It". John Wayne Gacy painted picture upon picture of clowns...and we all know how well he turned out. Yet we insist on inviting clowns to birthday parties and allow them to fill the gaps between floats in parades. They stroll the pavement at fairs with their squeaky balloon animals and offer 'whiffs' from their squirty lapel pin flowers. In fact, at a recent event I saw an entire busload of 'Clowns for Jesus'. I am pretty sure Our Lord would not have the following He has now if He wandered the roads of Jerusalem in face paint and asked lepers to 'honk my nose' for salvation.

And think about it. The word 'clown' is never used in a flattering manner. You have 'clown' pants and 'class clown' . If a woman wears too much make-up she looks like a 'clown'. Face it- when was the last time you called someone a 'clown' and meant it in a complimentary manner?

As a child, I had no idea of the scary crap waiting for me in the big wide world. But now, after years spent working in hospital emergency departments and surgical venues, years spent raising children while married to a member of law enforcement, very few things truly scare me. But I must admit, outside of Sock Monkeys, clowns are number one.

I have no doubt that those practicing the art of Clowning will take exception to my thoughts. And that is fine. Just pack yourselves into that tiny little car that miraculously seats seventy-five and keep on driving. With any luck you'll do us all a favor and run over a pack of Sock Monkeys on your way back to where ever it is that you keep those giant shoes.
DO NOT open that door...
 
(first posted 03.23.2011 The Clowns! sign disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. I had nothing to do with it. Really. And the Frank-O sign? I am not asking. ANYONE.)

(My apologies to the person/people who posted those signs...oh, who am I kidding. Clowns are just plain scary. If you are crazy enough to post your phone number on a sign advertising clowns you are asking for trouble.)

I am hoping to be back and functioning on a weekly basis soon. Thanks for sticking with me and please come back to the Coast!