Friday, February 16, 2018

Everything is better with a story

First of all, sorry for the lack of blogging lately. I've been busy. No, really. Sometimes I get a little free time on my lunch break or on the train ride to and from work. A few weeks ago, my neighbors had a birthday party for one of their two daughters. They are awesome people, and huge Harry Potter fans. I thought it would be fun to make the girls their own magic wands. It turned into a lot more fun than I expected. The wands now have stands, and a story to go along with them. The following is the story I will be giving to the girls with the wands. 
These wands are made of walnut with accompanying real alligator tooth and genuine rattlesnake fang in resin. No animals were hurt in the collection of these artifacts. However, I'm afraid the tree probably didn't survive. The stand is made of poplar. The story is made of my own nerdiness. 
Side note: If anyone wants their own very custom magic wand, email me or text or facebook. We can work something out. 

Wise and Clever Sisters-
                As you know, the wand chooses the wizard, or in this case, witches. It is my highest honor to inform you that the legendary Sister Wands have chosen you to be their masters. The Sister Wands chose only sister witches of great prestige, wisdom, cleverness, and particularly kind hearts. The wands have laid dormant in our museum for centuries. They have recently awoken and chosen to be the instruments of focus for your natural born magic. To understand the power and nature of the wands, first you must hear their story.

The Legend of the Sister Wands

Once upon a time, thousands of years ago when magic ran wild in the world, there was a mighty walnut tree growing in the center of a mysterious meadow. At the top of the tree, where one branch forked into two, a pair of merlins built a nest. In that nest there lived two hatchling sisters, Lozen and Tomoe.
Lozen was the first to hatch, which entitled her to the most food. You see, the older stronger sibling always gets the bigger share. It was the way of survival, and still is. Lozen became the stronger and wiser of the sisters. Tomoe, however, quickly became the faster and more clever sister, for she had to compete for food. While Lozen spent her time reading the stars and observing the natural world around the nest, Tomoe invented new ways to trick her parents into giving her more food. She became quite good at it.
                Although the sisters often squabbled, they were as close as sisters could be. Lozen would happily give Tomoe half of her food, but Tomoe loved the challenge. And if Tomoe managed to win all of the meal, she would happily share with Lozen. However, they would both rather go hungry than to see their sister suffer.
                As their feathers grew in, the nest was beginning to be too small. The merlins would have to leave home soon, but first they would have to learn to fly. Lozen watched other birds and attempted to emulate their wing movements, thoughtfully considering each step of the way. Tomoe hoped flying would come instinctually. She knew she was a mighty bird of prey, or at least one day would be. She tried not to think on it, because the thought of soaring miles above her comfortable nest was frightening.
                One spring day Lozen practiced flapping her wings, which was painfully annoying to Tomoe. Each time Lozen’s strong wings went up, they had to come down. Most of those times would end with Tomoe being whacked on the noggin by errant feathers. Tomoe knew Lozen had her methods of doing things, so she tolerated it. Plus, when it came time to fly, Tomoe knew Lozen would help her with technique.
Unfortunately, the movement attracted the attention of a hungry dragon from the east of the meadow as well as a rather peckish basilisk from the west. 
                Suddenly, Lozen noticed the dragon huffing and puffing in their direction at a distance. Magical smoke poured from its nostrils. She immediately stopped flapping, and whispered to Tomoe, “Dear sister, our time for flight is now. We must fly west. There’s a hungry dragon coming this way from the east to burn us with its breath and feast on our cooked carcasses.”
                Tomoe spied the basilisk slither from the west. Its eyes glistened like polished stones in the sunlight. “Dear sister! Even if we could fly, the west sends a basilisk!”
                The merlin sisters were in quite a pickle. Their parents were out hunting and couldn’t protect them. To the north stood the mystical mountains, impassible even by flight. To the south was the open sea, where the dragon could easily catch them since it was a natural flyer. The sisters would have a chance to hide in the forests to the east or west, but the putrid predators blocked their way. Lozen was wise and knew from watching the world that a basilisk could turn you to stone with its magical gaze. “It will surely petrify and crunch our bones to dust!” she said. “What can we do, sister?”
                Tomoe formed a clever plan. “First, we must convince them that we are delicious,” she said.
                Lozen trusted her sister, but this plan sounded ridiculous. “Why ever would we do that? We don’t want to encourage them.”
                Tomoe smiled, “That’s exactly what we want to do. If we taste delicious, the dragon won’t want to burn us with its fire breath, and the basilisk won’t want to petrify us with its stony glare. Then we just have to figure out a way to get past them to safety.”
                Lozen was wise and understood. She made a big show of seeing the dragon as it got closer and closer. “Oh no, dear sister!” she cried, careful to stay on the east side of the nest where only the dragon could see and hear her. “A dragon has come to burn us to a cinder! With all these feathers, we will make a terrible smell when we burn!”
                The dragon paused. It handn’t considered the taste of burnt feathers. “Then I shall eat your bones uncooked!” he rumbled and continued toward the mighty walnut tree.
                Tomoe looked to the West and pretended to notice the basilisk slithering for the first time. “Oh dear sister!” She cried, careful to stay on the west side of the nest where only the basilisk could see and hear her. “A basilisk comes this way! I hope he turns us to stone so he can’t eat us! When a merlin turns to stone it becomes crystal! Then at least our parents could have statues to remember us by.”
                The basilisk paused. It didn’t know that merlins turned to crystal. Crystal was extremely unpalatable. “Then I shall eat your bones unpetrified!” he rumbled and continued toward the mighty walnut tree.
                Lozen the Wise and Tomoe the Clever had once chance to escape. As the dragon came from the east and the basilisk from the west, the sisters prepared. The hungry monsters were too focused on their prey to notice each other on opposite sides of the tree. The dragon pumped his mighty wings and drew level with the nest, as the basilisk slithered up the walnut tree preparing to strike.
                Lozen focused on the dragon. Tomoe focused on the basilisk. As the sisters prepared to leap, they had to trust each other. If one left too early, the other would get caught. They would rather sacrifice themselves than to live without one another. 
                The dragon struck at the nest with its mighty jaws. As its terrifying toothy maw came down on the nest Lozen roared, “Now!”
                Simultaneously, on the other side of the tree the basilisk struck with its fearsome fangs. As its monstrous mouth closed in on the nest Tomoe screamed, “Now!” 
                The sisters unfolded their mighty wings together for the first time. They jumped straight up while pushing the air and nest down with a powerful crack of wind. The branch holding the nest bent under the pressure as the sister merlins took flight. As it sprang back up a hungry dragon and a peckish basilisk bit the spot where the sisters had just been. The dragon’s tooth stuck in the east branch. The basilisk’s fang stuck in the west branch. They were both annoyed that their food had tricked them into not using flame nor petrification. A mouth full of tree was also enough to send them into a rage. Then they saw each other. The arrogant dragon assumed the basilisk was somehow at fault because the merlin hatchlings were prey, and prey can’t trick a predator. The haughty basilisk guessed the dragon had tricked him for the same reason.
                The dragon set loose a mighty blast of fire in the face of the basilisk at the same time the basilisk shot his stony gaze upon the dragon! The force of the contesting magic was too much for the walnut tree, the dragon, and the basilisk to survive.

                As the sisters soared higher and higher, they saw their home explode into a molten pile of petrified wood. The sisters had lost their home, but lived happily knowing they still had each other to count on. As for the tree, only two small sticks survived the battle. The east branch, still holding the magical dragon tooth formed the East Wand. The west branch holding the magical basilisk fang formed the West Wand.

                Now you know the legend of the Sister Wands. Over time the wands found their way to many pairs of witches, and has seen hundreds of adventures. Each wand has its own powers, but they are most powerful as a team. So, wield them well, as I know you will. And while you’re practicing, don’t poke your sister in the eye.
                                -Michael P Wines
                                Curator of Magical Artifacts
                                Order of the Dragon

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

I must start by apologizing for the two year drought of blog posts. I've been busy. Switching three different careers, getting engaged, buying a house in New Jersey,all while managing 42 different hobbies is exhausting. Writing was diluted to the occasional social media story. But, alas! I've acquired a travel sized laptop to help me dust off the old right side of the brain. Plus I spend around three hours per day on a train traveling to my current career. I now have plenty of time to think, which can be annoying. 

I bring back Mike's Field Notes as a Halloween Episode. There may be more blogs forming soon. I don't plan on changing careers, getting engaged to anyone else, buying another house in New Jersey, or poorly managing any of my hobbies any time soon. 

First, let me tell you about Halloween last year. Jen and I were celebrating our 2nd anniversary. We had recently moved into our house in Clifton. It's a nice neighborhood. There are several different sizes and ages of humans that live near us. Most seemed pleasant so far. It being our first Halloween in our first house, we decided to go full suburbia. We had costumes, candy, jack-o-lanterns, the works! I left work early (I was a teacher then, which was truly the scariest thing I've ever done). We were ready for the ghosts, goblins, spider-men, ninja-turtles, and ice princesses. Assuming all the costumed gremlins would demand that we smell their feet if we didn't meet their demand for candy, we stocked up with enough sugary goodness to send a blue whale into a diabetic coma. We were prepared. So we waited. 

Around dark a Minion rang our bell. I had anxiously been watching out the window for over an hour. During that time, I had consumed no less than twenty-six candy bars, and several beers. My energy was high. Jen and I excitedly answered the door with the energy of two Chihuahuas on meth being reunited with their mu-mu clad granny just after she pulled a meat loaf out of the oven. "Our first trick-or-treater!" we both screamed at the one-eyed twinkie. The exuberant exclamation almost toppled him.  Needless to say, the kid was happily stunned as we filled his bag with dentist bills. As he walked away, we stood on our front steps and watched him go to several other houses before waddling out of sight. 

Then we waited for the next trick-or-treater to show. I ran to the end of the street to check other streets to see what creepy crustations were crawling our way. It was a ghost town, just not the kind of ghosts we were expecting. We waited hours and no one showed up. At one point I spotted a gaggle of ghouls walking down a cross street, so I chased them while shouting, "I have candy! Come to my house!" But for some reason, they just ran faster.

Jen and I were saddened by the lack of spirits last year. Days later, we discovered that Clifton has a downtown trick-or-treating area specifically designated for the little boogers to collect candies. I complained that there was no adventure in that. I went full that's-not-how-we-did-it-when-I-was-a-kid for a few days. It was tough, but the extra candy helped.

This year is different. I now work nights in a place that is basically Halloween year round, Brooklyn, New York City. I will be getting off work tonight around ten pm in a place where men's onzies are worn upside down to protest men's onzies. I work were people get out of bed at noon and agonize over what they are going to wear on Bedford ave to buy a $73 virgin walnut and nitrogen-free charcoal smoothie. When they finally decide on what to wear out, it usually consists of a purple boot, a red flip-flop, a scarf made from a Peruvian shaman's hair and a band-aid. 

People watching has become my favorite sport, and now its Halloween! I'm going to judge all the people. Here's my point system:

1-5 points for originality. 
For example, 1 point would be somebody in a trump mask. 5 points for somebody in a barking fire-hydrant.

1-5 points for unwelcome sexiness. 
For example 1 point for a sexy comic book super hero. Boring. 5 points for a sexy barking fire-hydrant.

1-5 points for funny or happy
This is the solely based on my snottiness. If I like the costume makes me smile, 5 points. If it is dumb and stupid and should be set on fire, 1 point.

1-5 points for awkwardness. 
1 point for safe, sexy cat girl. 5 points for going way over the top with functional roboot arms just to have a $32 beer at the bar down the street.

I will report back with the scores and descriptions.

Until then, please post a picture of your costume for me to judge. The winner will get a prize, even if I have to mail the stupid thing... 

Also, please follow my blog. If you have any trouble, just tell me on Facebook and I will try to fix it. Thanks, and have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Komodo Dragon Destroys Memphis!
*If you like this, please follow and share and if you really really liked it, buy my book, Stupid Alabama*

I'm a zookeeper at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey. I have the great pleasure of being the butler to the greatest species of lizard the world has ever known, the Komodo dragon. My particular dragon is named Shu. He is 107 lbs of clumsy, curious wonderfulness. One large part of my job, being a zookeeper/dragon butler is to entertain the dragon. Shu needs constant mental stimulation. In the zookeeping world the process of keeping the animals mentally healthy is called enrichment. Sometimes I get a little carried away with Shu's enrichment. This is one of those times. 

Previously I worked at the Memphis Zoo where I was also a dragon butler (among other things). I spent the largest part of my life in Memphis. I have many friends still working at the zoo. I love the city, itself. There is no better place on earth for music or BBQ. And so I thought I should pay some sort of homage to the town, people, and zoo that I love so much. What better way to do that than to DESTROY IT GODZILLA STYLE!!!! 

So with this video I am calling out the Memphis Zoo! I am drawing the line and daring you to cross! I officially challenge you to an enrichment-off! I hope this to be the world's first zoo rivalry. Lets see if you can do better. I doubt it, and so does Shu. 

So I built Memphis (or at least a few of the more notable landmarks) to perfect scale. Once you see the video, you may believe it is the actual city. The models are really that good. The ENTIRE reptile team at the Turtle Back Zoo spent several... minutes building it. If you are not familiar with the city, the following iconic places were set up for Shu to destroy: The Memphis Zoo (home of two delicious looking giant pandas among other things), Graceland (home of Elvis), Sun Studios (home of Rock-N-Roll), and the world-famous P & H Cafe (the best little beer joint in town). 

As a slight side note, I'd like to thank Jessica Reid for her filming/editing/and general bad-assedness. She filmed and edited the entire video (as well as Shu destroying Seattle which will also be linked for your amusement). At the bottom is one more link connecting to an article I wrote for Reptiles magazine on how to entertain your dragon. I'd also like to thank my bosses for rarely checking on me. 


This is the destruction of Seattle. It was during the NFL playoffs. Shu is a big Packers fan.