Wednesday, August 31, 2005

For the Victims of Hurricane Katrina

Tomorrow, Thursday September 1st, is International Blog for Relief Day. I am urging you to donate to the Salvation Army or  the charity of your choice. Hundreds of bloggers around the world are participating in this effort to raise relief money for the victims of Katrina. Here a list of other charities, news, and ways to help. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In the News...
Geeks, Squeaky Mattresses and Other Weird Stuff 

Sure! I'm a Geek!
Movie Theater Gives Geek Discount

Heloise to the Rescue--
That embarrassing squeak!
Quieting a Squeaky Mattress

Manufactured News for a Day When Nothing Else Happened!
Tough to Make a Buck on the Streets

Time to sign up for the Jedi's?
Airborne laser brings Star Wars one step closer

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski 

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

(A writing workshop assignment I tried
using a deserted car, a waterfall, and CSI)

A deserted white car, water gushing over a ragged cliff in a silvery waterfall, a missing accountant from back in town--another day, another mysterious disappearance. Inspector Bill Blake let a whispery sigh escape as he opened his notebook and clicked his favorite pen.

"Yep, this is the missing guy's license plate," he murmured while scribbling copious notes in his book. Looking inside, he spied three crumpled beer cans scattered on the floor. Lighting up a cigar, he nodded to a technician as that fellow took samples of red residue splattered in a Rorschach pattern on the driver's seat, probably dried blood. 

"Looks like foul play," the inspector continued.

"But there's no body," a new voice behind him stated. 

He turned on his heel to spy a woman. A blasted woman standing there with a clipboard. She raised her hand to shake his. "Pleased to meet you! I'm Inspector Jonie Hawk," she said.

"Hmmph!" was the only response Bill could offer. Not another dame on his case!

"They sent me because I have some experience in this area...tracking down missing murder victim's bodies in remote areas."

"What?" What the Hades was she talking about?

"I actually tracked down a cadaver once in a cornfield. Do you realize how huge a cornfield is? I'm really very talented."

"That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard."

"No, really, it isn't. I'm part Native American. I think it must run in my blood, deciphering trails and such. It was easy to follow the tracks to where the body was dragged."

"Humph! And is that your only qualification, honey? You can sniff out a corpse?"

"My name is Inspector Hawk, not "honey."

Suit yourself, "Inspector Hawk," Bill quipped.

Jonie shrugged her shoulders in disgust. "So what do you have? Only that blood for analysis. It hardly proves he is dead. I'm presuming you did check the license plate, right?"

"Yes, I did check the license plate," Bill rattled back, cursing under his breath.

"Inspector Blake--that is your name, isn't it? Not "Imbecile Blake" or something. I'd appreciate a little respect." Jonie's eyes clouded over and her cheeks flushed.

"I'd appreciate a little respect," he mimicked back at her. "Sure, sweetie!"

"Are you for real?" 

"Yes, I am, and I'm about to prove it to you by solving this case, regardless of the incompetent help they send me, meaning you, by the way."

"Oooh! I CAN'T WORK WITH THIS MAN!" Jonie squealed, walking away with a hand to her head like the worst headache ever loomed.

Returning shortly, she stood by in silence, watching Bill work.

"I think we're going to have to dredge this lake," Bill announced. "The body must be in there."

"You don't know that there has been a murder!" Jonie said.

"WELL, WHAT ELSE COULD IT BE?" Bill yelled back.

"I'm just saying. I see no signs of a struggle. There's some blood, but not a lot of it, indicating there wasn't profuse bleeding. How can you be sure the guy is dead or worse yet, murdered."

Bill glared at her. "He was a happily married man. I doubt that he jumped in the lake on his own; therefore he must have been thrown in...after being murdered. We didn't find a wallet or any personal effects, by the way."

"So you're saying if there's no wallet or money, the motive must have been robbery."

"That's right, sweetcakes!"

Jonie looked away, then turned back again and stepped closer to Bill. 

"Look, I see evidence here that the man walked away from the car. He wasn't murdered."

"You've got to be wrong!"

"Because I'm a woman and what does a woman know?" 

"Something like that..." Bill chewed on his cigar and turned away from her. Flipping out his cell phone, he called for the dredging crew to head out to the lake. When he finished the call, Jonie was gone.

"Still no luck, Inspector Blake," the officer stated. 

"Tell 'em to keep trying," Bill replied. They'd been dredging the lake for two hours, and nothing! It wasn't making any sense. The body had to be in there. Taking a drag off his cigar, he blew out again in a stream of frustration. And where had that woman gone? She left before he even had sent for the dredging crew and never did come back.

"Probably went to go powder her nose and got distracted by a fashion show," he murmured. An uneasy thought tugged at the back of his brain. What if she was right? What if the guy wasn't dead, just out there in the woods someplace?

He spied the thicket of green and brown. A person could get lost in there, although why would you go into the woods in the first place?  If she was right, then he had judged her too quickly, assuming she was another airhead dame. "Nah, not possible! She couldn't be right," he mumbled, taking another drag from his stogie.

But what if she was? Well, if she was, then I want a date with her, he considered. I'd want to know a woman who could out-think me. Yes, indeed, I'd really want to know her better.

His eyes rested on the boat with nets dragging in the water, searching for the man's body. He could still be dead, just not in the lake, Bill reasoned. Then he'd be half-right, sort of. Wouldn't he? Damn! He hated the thought of that dame outwitting him.

"Inspector!" A voice cut into his thoughts. It was her voice, that low sexy hum of a voice...

He looked up to spy her approaching from the forest, a man by her side. 

"I found your 'body', Inspector! Here it is...walking next to me!"

"I see you, Inspector Hawk!" he replied. Oh, crap! She was right! The guy was alive.  A deep moan reverberated through his head.

"He went into the woods to...ah, 'relieve himself,' and he got lost," Jonie said. "Oh, and he cut his finger in the car popping open a beer can. Thus, the blood. If he hadn't been having a beer party, he might have had the sense not to lose his way when he went wandering," she added.

Bill saw the sunlight trickling through her auburn hair. You know, she was a beautiful woman, really. And smart enough to outsmart attractive.

"Inspector Hawk, would you like to have dinner with me?" he asked.

"NO, never!" she replied. "You've got to be kidding!"

Well, maybe she wasn't so smart after all.

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski 

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

My Fountain Pen .....

Ugh! Black ink on my fingers again! It's my fountain pen leaking, the one I bought last year. My husband, Ron, hates to borrow a pen at my desk. He ends up with black splotches on his fingers, too. I don't mind the stains though because I love fountain pens. 

To use one, I have to be patient, taking a calm moment to remove the lid before I can write. That is in direct contrast to my usual act of grabbing a ballpoint in a heated rush to jot down a note. The fountain pen makes me take pause. If I'm in such a hurry, why the heck would I buy a writing instrument that is hard to use? Well, I guess my penchant for everything old-fashioned is the motivation. And I like what the pen does to me.

It pulls me back to a slower time when, frankly, people actually had time--to pause and remove a pen lid--unlike today when we just can't seem to stop dashing about like meteors demanding speed and efficiency at every turn. My first experience with fountain pens was in grade school, St. Rosalia's in Greenfield, as a matter of fact. The old church school  thrived on old-fashioned ideas, and the use of fountain pens was one of them. The nuns forbade us to use ballpoints. Rightfully so, they feared we would scratch our names and more on the desktops. In high school, we were permitted to use ballpoints finally, and I soon forgot the old fountain pens I used.

Last year I suddenly missed using one. The smooth flow, the thick black line, the easy motion that puts down a mark on paper--no pushing hard or hurriedly like a ballpoint. You take your time and form the letters just so--it's like an art form.  I found a neat web site that sells pens. I can't afford them, but I am fascinated by the array of designs available--Sapphires, Dragons, Serpents, Chinese--the ornamentations are colorful and compelling. You haven't lived until you see a snake curling around the barrel of a thick black pen.  I got on their mailing list just so I can enjoy perusing all the styles each week. 

If you feel like stopping the rush and slowing down in a pleasant way, buy yourself a fountain pen and step back in time for a while. Write nice and pretty--slow and easy...

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski 

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Friday, August 26, 2005

#14  Coffee is the Best Medicine...
August 26, 2005
...The Strange Happenings in a Coffee Shop
(A serial. You may start reading at any point in the story.
Why not start with this episode?)

I went home that night feeling content. I had left in the morning looking for a solution to my writer's block and had filled my day with colorful characters and intrigue. Butch, Brenda, Rose, and Alfred (in whatever form he returned)--they all stole my heart away. Even the geeky inspector transformed to a happy fellow once Rose stuffed him full of her good food. When I left the shop, he was still there with a smile on his face. Rose's pancakes can do that to a person, I reckon.

That night I dreamt of pancakes, pancakes soaked in butter and syrup, and coffee. In my dreams I guzzled coffee. I also chased hobgoblins out of my way...hobgoblins that resembled Alfred. When I woke, I assured myself Alfred would return looking far from a hobgoblin. At least I hoped so.

I needed to get to work...writing; but the next day a restlessness overtook me. First, I couldn't feel comfortable at the office computer; then I decided to use my portable keyboard. I like to go outside and work under the trees while birds chirp and the sun shines. I wasn't there long before my mind wandered to the coffee shop. 

There was something about that was like a playroom. As soon as I walked in, it seemed about as ordinary as sugar plum fairies. Let's face it! Not one person there was what I would call "normal." Each one was a caricature. 

So I abandoned my writing bench and picked up the keyboard and started walking. Who knows what I might be missing? When I reached the end of the block, it hit me.

The coffee shop was a form of escapism for me, a vacation away from it all. Well, that didn't seem right. I couldn't afford to waste time on a vacation. That's when I decided to make it into something valuable. I would do an article about the place. And I would begin by interviewing each of my new friends. Yes, it was time to get to work

To be Continued

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

IN THE NEWS...8-24-05...

So cute! I'm so proud!

Yikes! Just one question: What for?

A Record I Wouldn't Want Anything To Do With...

One Show I Think I'll Skip...

Why am I not surprised?

Bad Celebrity! Bad Celebrity!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Piano Man, Beer Train, and Other Stories...

You've probably heard of the Piano Man. 
Turns out in the end, the

Here's a story ya gotta love.

Whoa, Sister!

Hungry Bandit!

A Good Idea from Amazon

*    *    *

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Monday, August 22, 2005

#13  Coffee is the Best Medicine...
August 22, 2005
...The Strange Happenings in a Coffee Shop
(You may start reading at any point in the story.
It isn't complicated! This is Part 13.)

"Oh no! Another one to break in..." Rose murmured over my shoulder.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"The last one just retired. He didn't give us any trouble. Now I've got this new guy to contend with."

"I see," I replied. Although I really didn't. The coffee shop was filthy, a health violation waiting to happen. How in the heck could Rose neutralize the actions of this inspector?

I'd been to many crappy restaurants in my day. Some I would never return to; some I ignored the dirt because the food was excellent. A person will make sacrifices for an excellent medium rare steak or a perfectly done baked potato; but the coffee shop...well, the java was perfect; but otherwise there wasn't much good I could say about the place. Except for the people--I'd become truly fond of the people--Rose, Brenda, Butch, and Alfred. I supposed my loyalty to them would make me work hard to keep this cafe open.

To my surprise, I spied Brenda already getting to work. She was wrapping her arm around the inspector's and walking him to a table, 

"Now what would a handsome man like yourself be looking to have at our place today?" she asked. Butch dashed over and pulled out a chair for the man.

That fellow seated himself like a man considered royalty. "You'll not flatter me or distract my attentions from the violations in this place," he stated.

"This one is going to require the big guns," Rose murmured from her perch next to me. I watched as she reached under the counter for a special can of coffee. A fragrant cinnamon aroma woke up my olfactory senses as I watched her open the can, measure the coffee, and start the pot dripping. With one hand she undid her top two buttons while with the other she reached in the refrigerator to the back, bringing out a package of bacon. I recognized the wrapper as some of the best stuff, not the usual daily fare with lots of fat and little meat. The kitchen transformed to a whirlwind of bacon cooking, coffee brewing, eggs being scrambled next to a griddle full of pancakes and home fries. 

I felt jealous of the inspector, breakfast being my favorite meal which I find enjoyable any time of day. But this food was not being cooked up for me. It was being prepared for the health inspector. Before long, Rose appeared at his table carrying a huge tray with the magnificent food. 

She smiled at the fellow making eye contact while laying the array of dishes before him. When the tray was empty, she sat at his table, crossing her hands and smiling.

"I hope you like the food," she said. "Eat hardy. There's plenty more where that came from."

To be Continued

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Big Brother...

I gotta tell ya, folks, I'm still reeling from Big Brother Thursday night. As you know, I wanted Kaysar voted back in. He was, so that's great. It didn't last long--when Jennifer double-crossed him... [making a note here: never trust a cheerleader] and he ended up on the block. 

But that wasn't the most upsetting part. It was Howie and Janelle. Howie pulled a Jekyll/Hide, turning from a nice guy to hell on wheels, hurling crap at the other team that made my skin crawl. It wasn't in the actual words; it was the venom. April was reduced to tears when he called her husband fat and threatened to eat her dog. Sounds weird in retrospect, but it was her reaction that made it deadly. He and Janelle had choice words for them all and they didn't speak softly--they yelled this crap, shooting it off like machine guns--rat, tat, tat. They called it "psychological warfare"; I call it methods of last resort by people not worth their weight in dog feces. LOL. Thankfully, Kaysar and Rachel were noticeably absent from the festivities. Kaysar, later that night was voted out; I suspect he may have been relieved to get out of there.  I would be.

On Saturday night, Jennifer got voted out; I'd say she deserved it. It isn't like nobody ever lied on this program (remember the mad doctor), but her lukewarm denial that she lied to Kaysar from the beginning of their deal--it doesn't wash.

The bottom line for me is if either Howie or Janelle wins this thing, I'm going to have to puke. Now I don't know who to root for. Frankly, this isn't the most lovable bunch. I'm not even sure this is fun anymore...

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski 

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Pittsburgh is Busting Out All Over

Sheesh! Pittsburgh is busting out all over this week! A water main break downtown paralyzed the city, stranding workers and disrupting a major TV and radio network. Witnesses claim the water spurted six feet high out of the crumbled downtown street. Basement flooding, streets with water rolling, cars under water--what a mess!

My husband and I displayed at the Three Rivers Arts Festival for over 20 years, and as bad as that was for weather catastrophes, this would have really topped them all if it happened in June. For most of the month of June, those hardy individuals (artists and craftsmen) pitch tents to sell their wares, despite warnings and experience with Gateway Center's high winds and torrential downpours. I wonder how they would react with a geyser flooding like we had this week.

Gateway Center wouldn't be too bad. It didn't get flooded--although if it did, one of those artists would probably rig something to use as a canoe and then paddle around to help others. That's just the kind of people they are--creative and compassionate. The bad part would be flooding in the parking garage. I could imagine vans filled with overstock inaccessible and possibly covered in water. I wonder if insurance would cover that. The second calamity would be no sales--no people--no sales. Ouch! That would hurt--van covered in water, no way to get home, and the final slap--no business. 

Not to worry--Like I said, these folks are resilient. They would still be joking--I can hear it now, "Time to build an ark! Only two per art or craft!"

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski 

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Friday, August 19, 2005

In the News...8/19/05

Two stories that contradict one another.  I
I mean, wild animals are dangerous, right?

Wouldn't a stuffed animal be good enough?

Lions and elephants on the Great Plains?


And one more story, on another note:

Mugged by a robot? I can't even imagine this, but I guess it happens.
Computer characters mugged in virtual crime spree

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A sample chapter from my first book, "Tea and Chocolates :

"Tea and Chocolates"
by Jo Janoski

Chapter 14

Stopping only briefly to glance at her watch, Emily hurried down the street. Seven o�clock � it�s a good thing Tom cancelled.
When he called from the drug store phone, his voice and demeanor were strained, but he would not say why. Emily presumed that he didn�t want to talk in a public place where others could listen.
It was just as well. A plumbing problem at the girls� house now took center stage. A quick inspection was in order before calling for help.
A wet snow sheeted down, making the evening cold and sloppy. By the time she arrived, Emily�s glasses had become covered with water from melted snowflakes slamming against the lenses in the driving snow. A dry hanky from her pocket came to good use to dry them before she knocked on the back door of the house. It was wearisome coming by the back way, but necessary to keep her identity unknown to the residents, a practice to which she still strictly adhered.
�Emily, I�m glad you are here. We have a visitor in the front room,� Rachel said as she pulled the old door open with a jerk. �I�m not sure whether I should let her stay or not.�
�Who is she?�
�I don�t know her name. She seems to be in a state of confusion.�
�Hmm, let me take a look at her,� Emily answered, leaning against the service door. It pushed open a crack to reveal a woman slumped forward in a chair. Dressed in dark clothes, a hood obscured her face. The door squeaked, and the sad figure then turned to look toward the noise; her face became visible. Emily jumped back to let the door swing shut. Gracie! Her heart drumming, Emily leaned against the wall for support. What is Gracie doing here?
�What�s wrong?� Rachel queried.
Emily turned her head away. �I think I know her,� she mumbled. �I don�t want her to see me here. Go in and see what you can find out.�
Emily was glad when Rachel left the room. Hands trembling, it was almost impossible to pick up the kettle and put it on for tea. Gracie here! She must not find out about Emily�s involvement in the women�s home. She would go straight to her Mother and tell.
Laying out the china teapot, Emily collapsed in a chair at the table.
Thoughts swirled in her mind of Gracie�s meanness a few weeks ago when she told Emily to stay away from Tom. A sick anger filled her heart. She felt like screaming! A bitter person like Gracie didn�t belong in this place.
Rachel returned, biting her lip, wearing a worried expression.
�She�s pregnant! The man responsible told her to get rid of the baby, and she seems confused as to what to do. I couldn�t get anything else out of her; it looks like she hasn�t slept or eaten in a while. She seems a little feverish too.�
Almost tipping over her tea, Emily grabbed the red and white china cup just in time to save it from destruction. Gracie unmarried and pregnant! She was in trouble. This would bring disgrace upon her family. A moment ago Emily was consumed with hatefulness only to realize now that Gracie had problems far greater than she could have imagined.
�Give her the room in the rear on the second floor. It is bright and cheerful. I will start making some poached eggs and toast. Maybe she can get that down. Here, take her a cup of tea to start.�
Emily dashed about the kitchen to fulfill her plans. The activity seemed to come on like magic, no small task considering Emily was not an easy hand in the kitchen.
Later, after Gracie was fed and settled in her room, Emily considered what to do about a doctor for her. Many would frown about helping an unmarried, pregnant woman, and Emily wasn�t sure who would help Gracie, perhaps the new doctor in town.
Feeling thankful for her family�s status, she knocked on his door that evening. Recognizing her immediately, the man who answered seemed impressed by her presence and fumbled about, straightening his tie as he spoke.
�Well, Miss McNamara, what a surprise!�
�Dr. Bauer, I was wondering if I could have a word with you,� Emily stated in a dignified fashion.
Opening the door wider, he motioned her in, offering her a seat by the fireplace. It was a simple wooden rocker, but perfectly suitable considering the rustic appearance of the room. Indeed, there were no upholstered pieces at all, only a couple of wooden chairs and an old desk. Having just arrived in the area, he apparently had not furnished the room yet. Smoothing her skirt as she directed her gaze at him, Emily considered how best to explain her problem.
He was a new doctor in the neighborhood. To be truthful, there were two other practitioners in the area already. He seemed like a good man, though, who, no doubt, would soon win over patients for his practice.
Towering at six-foot tall, well above Emily, his startling blue eyes seemed capable of reading one�s life story in just a single glance. They were eyes of honesty.
�Well, I was hoping you could help a friend of mine.�
�And she is sick?�
�Yes, she has a fever and she is pregnant,� she barely whispered the last word. �She is pregnant, and not married.�
�And you are afraid I will not treat her?� he asked, his voice husky.
�Well, the more established doctors would frown on it.�
�Miss, I am a doctor, not a priest. I have vowed to help the sick, not judge them.�
�I didn�t mean to offend!�
�No offense taken,� he cut her off with a smile.
�She appears to have been wandering for a while, without rest or food. We gave her a bed and something to eat, but I am still worried.�
�You must take me to her then.�
�Doctor, there is one other thing.� Emily blushed. �She doesn�t know I am helping her, and I need to keep it a secret. She must never know I helped her, not ever.�
�How unusual!� he paused, and then added, �� but none of my business. Shall we go?�

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005


In the News...

I'm wondering what they served at the reception.
Irwin couple married at McDonald's.

Wasn't a politician available?
Elephant pitches at a ball game.

Lightning hits teen at computer.

Monday, August 15, 2005

#12 Coffee is the Best Medicine

#12  Coffee is the Best Medicine...
August 15, 2005
...The Strange Happenings in a Coffee Shop
(You may start reading at any point in the story.
It isn't complicated! This is Part 12.)

We left Alfred at the doctor's office. They planned to admit him immediately to their facility for a complete makeover. It was expected to take a few weeks. So, we all returned to the coffee shop with heavy hearts. I know--I only just met these people, but Alfred kind of got to me, you know?

"Coffee?" Rose asked as she stashed her handbag behind the counter and grabbed cups, neatly lining them up in front of Butch, Brenda, and me.

"I'm going to miss him!" Brenda said. 

"He'll be back," I replied, taking a long sip of Rose's coffee. Geez, this place had good java.

"When I'm upset, I get the urge to clean and straighten up," Brenda stated.

"What?" I asked.

"Oh no!" Rose murmured.

Brenda reached in her handbag, pulling out a can of Pledge and a white cloth. My jaw dropped as I watched her spray wax on the counter and proceed to polish it.

"Not here! Not around the food! Get that stuff out of here!" Rose whined, shooing her toward the tables. Brenda started on a quest to shine and polish every piece of furniture in the coffee shop, it would seem. She dashed from table to table, spraying and rubbing away.

"Brenda does this every time she gets upset," Butch explained. He leaned closer and whispered in my ear, "Just between the two of us, this place could use a little cleaning, if you know what I mean."

I smiled and nodded. I'd seen the restroom, and I sure did know what he meant. I looked back at Brenda and she was scurrying around with the darned can of wax, operating in full attack mode. 

I couldn't imagine feeling better by cleaning; but then again, I've know obsessive-compulsive people who really get off by washing their hands repeatedly or alphabetizing cans of soup on the shelf--so I guess anything is possible. 

Suddenly, a hush moved across the room. I watched in awe as the shop door opened and a tall shadowy figure entered. The silence grew heavier as the man came into full view.

A spoon clanging on the floor turned my attention to Rose, and I saw that lady with her face white with fear. A glance to Butch revealed he was biting his lip anxiously, which for Butch would be a rare thing. Even Brenda stopped her waxing and froze, staring at the figure.

He had a clip board, and I heard a ball point pen click, ready for action. "County Health Department! I'm here for your inspection," the stranger stated.

To be Continued

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I'm Famous Amongst the Water Fowl!

I just found myself mentioned in the same place as water fowl. They do acknowledge (with a lot of quacking, I might add) that I'm a pretty good speller. Have a look!

While you're at it, read the story from the beginning. I promise you'll enjoy it--read it to your crumb-crunchers. They'll love it, too! Here's where it begins.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


A green balloon bumped against scraggly tree limbs playing a raucous game of keep-away. Its dirty white string dangled from the balloon's base as the cord struggled in a tug of war with the breezes for possession of the toy. The line wrapped around a succession of twiggy branches, clinging and wrapping tighter with each swish of air from the north.

Down on the ground, a tricycle lay overturned. The handlebar stuck up in the air; the wheel spokes were bent making an ugly display of wires sticking every which way. A cell phone lay nearby, one of those ornate models with glassy diamonds on the back. Who would leave such a thing lying around?

When I entered this scene, I admit confusion. Driving for 24 hours straight, I had spent the entire time on the road, only stopping along the highway to park and catch a nap or eat from my stash of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bottled water. I was on an intense journey, you see, to make it home for my mother's birthday. If I didn't waste time, I might complete the 1,200 mile journey to make it for her 60th birthday party on the night of June 18.

That was the day I pulled into my home town of Pine Hills, bumping along the old rural route exiting the interstate and on to the pretzel-wrapped conglomeration of bumpy trails leading towards home. What a relief to be away from traffic.

A clean country breeze waited in greeting, while quiet enveloped me like a cloak; but it was an uneasy stillness. Something seemed missing, but in my weariness I didn't get it. At least not until I stumbled on the tricycle. What a strange item to find in the middle of nowhere.

I pulled over in curiosity and got out of the car. Setting it straight, my eyes were drawn to a movement high in the trees, the balloon. I could hear the scrape of rubber against hard rough bark. That was all I could hear. Then it hit me! Total desolation! Not even birds or animals broke the silence. No cars, no voices, no radios, no critters scurrying through country grasses or bugs buzzing. Was it possible? Panic grew in my heart as I scanned in all directions looking for some movement, listening for any noise whatsoever. Only a still quiet answered my quest.

Fear iced in my veins as I considered the prospect something was wrong. Unconvinced, I picked up a rock and flung it into the nearby woods. This maneuver, when I was a kid, never failed to uproot wildlife, sending birds and critters scurrying in all directions. Silence. The breeze whispered through the trees while that confounded balloon knocked around in the branches, but that was the only sounds. Not even a simple bee or butterfly penetrated the air even though a field of wildflowers was nearby.

My mind swirled in an alphabet soup of confusion. Where was everyone? How could I find some answers? One thing was for sure, I needed to get out of there in a hurry. I jumped in my car. Turning the key as I had a thousand times before, the engine didn't respond. Nothing. I tried again...and again...What was going on? Frustration swelled inside me as my pulse quickened. I got out and slammed the door. Adrenaline pumping through my veins, I stepped forward ready for battle...but against what?

The heart took a cowardly leap backward. What was happening? Where had all the people gone? Why was nothing alive here but me?

I scanned the grassy plain looking for something, anything, to signify living creatures. All was serene and quiet, a carpet of green stretching for miles. The grasses shimmered in the sun as though there were no cares in the world. The highway! I took off in a gallop toward the interstate, my feet pounding against hard earth as loudly as my heart thumped in my chest. I could flag down someone and get away!

The highway was only two miles ahead, but when I reached the one-mile mark, I stopped short. I could see it, and that same spooky stillness had overtaken there as well. No cars. No movement. I paused in awe, with the reverence of a prayer meeting. Remarkable! Starting again toward the road, running faster, I arrived breathless and ready for collapse. Bent over, clutching my knees, I struggled to breathe as I scanned the wide gray...and empty...highway. Nothing. A scrap of white paper, highway litter, fluttered along the road, propelled by summer breezes. It was the only movement.

Had it been this way when I pulled off the road? I didn't think so, but I got to this place so weary I couldn't be sure. Turning, I began the long trek back to my car, in the wild hope it would start now. 

The journey back left my mind open to speculation. Could it be I was the only person for miles around? Or even on the whole of planet Earth? Being alone didn't scare me; nor did I worry about survival. I knew I could find sustenance even without a proper community around me. 

I wondered how far and wide the desolation encompassed. Honestly, I had no way to know; and if my car didn't start up, walking would take a long time to search surrounding areas. 

So, for the moment, I was alone and had no quick means to find any answers. What bothered me the most--in fact, it sent a chill through me--was that my vision of life was shattered. Something unearthly and strange had happened here. I could no longer rely on the predictability of everyday occurrences. If life could suddenly disappear, then anything could happen. My assumptions about God and the Universe, life and death, right and wrong all were trashed now that the impossible had happened. 

Now nothing could be relied on; there was no longer a sense of guidance. No compass to life. Nothing. I wasn't certain I wanted to live in a world where there were no guarantees.

I got back to camp, funny how I started to call it "camp," as though that was the natural thing to do. Ha! What was "natural" anymore? I picked up the bling phone and listened again...nothing. Next I slipped behind the wheel of my car and tried it. No luck there either. 

The sun was falling quickly in the sky surrounded by feathery orange and blue wisps of clouds. I realized I needed to prepare to spend the night. 

My first impulse was to sleep in the car; but it being a hot night, I opted instead for bedding down outside under the stars. How quickly the sun puts the world to sleep and the moon steps forward in its brilliance to comfort the lonely souls of the world, lonely souls like me.

I spread out an old green blanket from the car that I kept for emergencies. It had been intended to keep me warm if ever I got stranded in winter. Instead it was my bedding for a June night in a green pasture in a strange new world where life had up and taken leave of the place.

When you think you may be the last person on earth, looking at the stars is a whole new experience. You become one with them. They are tiny glitters alone in a black sky universe, and you are a tiny speck alone in a big, big world that has turned dark somber tones in its lifelessness. The stars and you become brothers in the void.

I lay on my back and studied them. It occurred to me that with no one else in the world to define the universe or explain who or what God is, then I could think whatever I wanted about life's big mysteries; because there was no one else involved in the question. It was all up to me! I'd be writing the Book of Life from here on in.

Since it was only me and the stars, they became the only entities this night with which I could have a relationship, so to speak. Surely, stars don't talk, but their glistening rays do generate thoughts and inspire; and at the loneliest moments, they telegraph amazing information in shining crystal droplets. I fell asleep under their cover, feeling oddly at peace with the universe.

By morning, I worried again. A good night's sleep did little to make my plight bearable. My eyes opened to rays of warm yellow sun washing across my face. The gentle glow soothed before it puzzled me. Once consciousness bubbled to the surface, I looked around wondering where I was...and then I remembered. 

The reality sliced through the fog of my thoughts. I was alone, perhaps the only one left in the entire world. My heart beat skidded with jumps and starts as I surveyed the green fields and trees. I strained my ears to hear the rustle of chipmunks in the bushes or the rich chirp of a bird. Nothing. This strange world was silent except for the summer breezes strumming a swishing tune as they glided across the tree tops.

Food. What could I eat? A quick walk around revealed rows and rows of berry bushes. I grabbed the tart little gems by handfuls and stuffed them in my mouth, being famished as I was. Then I remembered I still had some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the car. Once I'd eaten two of those, I searched for water since I had already finished the bottles I had for my trip.

I heard the brook bubbling before I found it. The gurgling and churning drew me in. I had to work my way down a hill into a heavily wooded area. There I found the brook flowing on a southward path in the valley. The waters were so clear I could see the creek bottom with its array of brown, black, and tan stones and dark green vegetation. Cupping water in my hand, I gulped it. Pure and clean. Delicious!

Settling on the bank, I found great comfort in the brook's song. Is there no more beautiful music than fresh water gurgling in a stream deep in the forest. Even the sun didn't penetrate this quiet place. It was me and the water, and I felt more and more enthused as I listened and breathed in the alluring scents of the woods. Spicy smells made by dampness and shade, dirt, water, pine, flowers, and plants, lured me into the valley's trance.

I felt like I was in church. Here, alone in this beautiful place, there was nothing to fear. The sights, sounds, and woodsy fragrances wrapped me in quiet calm. Nature  touched a pulse deep in my soul that validated and explained my existence. Kicking off my shoes, I dangled my bare feet in the water. The cooling stream tickled my toes and massaged my feet, wrapping them in soft flowing comfort. I was Adam in the Garden of Eden.

I don't know how long I sat on the bank. But at some point, I realized I needed to face the future. I needed to figure how I was going to survive in a world where I was the only one alive. If I could have spent the time sitting along the brook, I would have been fine. But of course, the reality of the situation demanded I strike out and look for other people or even simply animal life, some semblance of creatures alive and well besides me.

If I found nothing, I would hammer out a simple life, surviving on nuts and berries until I could grow some crops. There would be no meat or dairy since there were no animals. 

As to my vision of God and morality, after a night's sleep I felt better. If I could feel so close to the stars, I felt in time I could feel close to God. After all, He was the only One I could talk to, and I planned to do plenty of that. Perhaps this entire disaster was the best thing to ever happen to me because I found God in my loneliness. 

In resignation to begin anew, I climbed up the slope, leaving behind the pleasant valley with its bubbling waters. When I reached the top, my eyes lighted on a movement by my car. My heart lurched. Mother and my brother, Sam, stood next to the old green Ford. They ran toward me as soon as I came into view.

"Where have you been? You missed my party!" my Mom declared.

I was speechless. Finally, I mustered up, "Where did you come from?"

"From the farm, you silly! What a crazy thing to ask!" Mom reached over and straightened my collar. Yep, that was Mom. Her famous nervous impulse proved it!

"I thought..." I stopped short with my explanation. Something told me if I said more I would make a fool of myself. Finally, my brother spoke, "What the heck are you doing on this old abandoned farm site?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"This is old Mr. Toth's place. No one's lived here for 2 years. A crop duster messed up and dumped too much insecticide and nothing living has made a home here in a long time."

Farmer Toth's? Oh my gosh! I had made a wrong turn and didn't know it. I missed our place by 2 miles. I felt so stupid. I tried making light of things. "Looks like I made a wrong turn," I said. "These old eyes of mine aren't what they used to be."

"You're only 33!" Mom said. A glance at her sparkling eyes reassured me she had already moved on to simply being glad to see me.

I held this experience in my heart for a long time. When I made that wrong turn, I stepped out of the ordinary and into the myself. I found peace in that quiet place where I could listen to my own spirit...just for a little while.

© JO Janoski, 2005, All Rights Reserved.

In the News

*   *   *

(These links go everywhere...from the profound to the absurd!)

A Must-Read! Heartwarming, Remarkable Story
WWII Event Links Pittsburgh to Netherlands

A Doctor, you say?
Flesh-Eating Paste Gets Doctor in Trouble.

A friend told me about this wonderful organization. 
Ladies, get your hooks and needles ready! Warm Up America Foundation

I saved the best for last. I learned of this from another blog

Friday, August 12, 2005

In the News.....

A Giant Waterfall discovered in California.
Nature's surprise package! 

The "Jerk-O-Meter" -- self explanatory.
I wouldn't mind having one of these!

Regular People fly to the Moon!  
If only I had a million bucks to pay for it!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

#11  Coffee is the Best Medicine...August 11, 2005
...The Strange Happenings in a Coffee Shop
(You may start reading at any point in the story.
It isn't that long or complicated! This is Part 11.)

"I'm sorry," the nurse stammered.

"Make sure you mean it," Butch growled before returning to his seat in the waiting room. 

I stole a glance at Alfred. Our eyes met and laughed together. He's a good sport being hurt and still managing to enjoy the humor of Butch's remark. Alfred was a strange duck, no doubt about that; but he had a heart of gold, by my observations.

"The doctor will see you now." Our little nurse's voice remained shaky after her harrowing experience with Butch. 

"Could we all go support our friend." Butch had stood and now hovered over the girl. I could see a huge gulp traveling down her throat.

"Yes," she mumbled

We paraded into the examining room. Such a small place for all of us. Once again, Butch took up half of the space being as big as he was.  Rose, the waitress, stayed close to him. He was a tower of strength for our group.

"I think you should sit up here," I said to Alfred, patting the examining table.

'"Okay, but if I have to get undressed, you all have to go," Alfred said. "Except for you," he continued, looking directly at me.

"How come you don't want me to stay and help you?" Brenda asked, which because they were boyfriend and girlfriend, seemed appropriate to me.

"You undress me all the time. I want someone new this time," Alfred replied.

"ALFRED!" Brenda blushed six different shades of scarlet.

A knock at the door, and Dr. Cutler walked in. He recognized me. Not because I have had plastic surgery or anything, but just because I am a friend of a don't believe me, do you? But I digress...

Alarmed, apparently at finding a roomful of people, his eyes scanned our little group while greeting me.

"Hello, JO! Now where is the patient you told me about...OH!"

When he saw Alfred, his face blanched. Now, let me tell you, if you're in the business of plastic surgery, and someone unattractive frightens you, a professional who has seen all kinds of deformities, well, that frightening person must be pretty bad.

He reached over, flinching, and felt Alfred's face, running his finger along the long hook nose and parting Alfred's lips to see his irregular line of jagged teeth. 

"You're going to need more than just me. I'm calling in the whole team. This is a job for the extreme makeover group."

"Let's get started," Alfred said.

To be Continued

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In the News

"My Dog Did It!" This pooch is handy...

White Sox Fan Jumps from Upper Deck!
and it wasn't even an accident!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

BENJAMIN'S ROSE ... A Story I wrote for a workshop...

Benjamin spotted the yellow rose and stopped short. Approaching the yard, he took tiny steps to move closer to see the gem of a flower. Leaning, he cupped it in his hand and sniffed. A smile broke across his face like sunshine. Standing, he turned and studied a small grocery store in front of him. Biting his lip, one must assume he was thinking with intensity. Finally, he walked into the store. 

"Well, hi there, Benjamin!" Mr. Bernard the grocer said. 

"H-hi, Mr. B-bernard!" the young man returned. 

Mr. Bernard smiled. Benjamin was a neighborhood "character." Slow-minded, his greatest amusement was visiting all the storekeepers at regular intervals to say "hello" in his deliberate, slow-moving faction. He took delight in the attention. Mr. Bernard felt sorry for the boy. His mother had died two months ago, and now he and his father lived alone. 

"Mr. Bernard, c-c-could I have that yellow rose out front? I'll w-work for it." 

The grocer stroked his chin in contemplation. He could just give the rose to the boy, but he knew Benjamin took great pride in showing he could work, doing odd jobs all over the neighborhood. 

"Well, Benjamin! If you could stack some cans on the shelves for me a few hours this week, that would be a good payment." 


Benjamin appeared the next day after school, ready for work. He started into the task with diligence, slowly and surely stacking red and white cans of Campbell's soup on the shelf. His care was admirable as he studied each can to be certain he put each one in the right place. Mr. Bernard was pleased. He could hear the lad mumbling, "T-tomato, tomato, tomato...oh, m-mushroom," as he sorted the soups. 

Benjamin worked more than three hours that week. Mr. Bernard didn't notice; but if he had, he would have been impressed. On the way to work, Benjamin told everyone he saw how he was working at Bernard's Market so he could have the beautiful yellow rose. 

Finally, on Friday, Mr. Bernard realized Benjamin had reported for work more than the required three hours that week, and he stopped the boy as he came in the door. 

"Benjamin, you've done a fine job, and it is time to collect your payment, the yellow rose." He grabbed up his scissors and they went outside. Mr. Bernard clipped the rose. 

"Here you go, Benjamin!" 

"Thank you, Mr. B-B-ernard!" 

Benjamin clutched the rose to his chest and took off running in his lumbering fashion. Big, heavy, sprawling steps that got him where he wanted to go, although not gracefully. It didn't matter. Arriving at his mother's grave, he knelt at her gravestone and laid the yellow rose on it. He kneeled back and smiled. 

"For you, M-Mother," he said, 


© JO Janoski, 2005, All Rights Reserved.

A Tunnel two blocks long...and a gutsy bank heist!

Thieves tunneled into a bank in northeastern Brazil and stole $68 million, the biggest bank heist in the nation's history. You read that right--"tunneled"--just like in the movies. 

My question is, if you rob a bank in the USA and dash on a plane out of the country heading to South America--then when you rob a bank in South America, where do you run to--the USA, I guess.

Monday, August 08, 2005

 Salute to Cheerleaders! .......

A man who left an accident scene was tracked down with the help of some cheerleaders who witnessed the crash and turned his license plate number into a cheer, police said. Click here for story.

Imagine using that technique in your life. Every time you need to remember something, turn it into a cheer! 

Give me an M
Give me an I
Give me an LK

Pretty nifty, huh?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Big Brother - Vote for Kaysar!....

As mentioned previously in this blog, I am a reality show junkie. I'll take human nature on display any day over dramas or music shows. Big Brother 6  has caught my fancy. I think they've got an interesting group in this one, made even better by the fact that they came in secretly as teams, a fact revealed several episodes in. Each couple (friends, lovers, roommates, etc.) pretended not to know each other, only to find out later everyone was playing the same game. Great! Viewers at home were told of the teams much sooner than the participants. If a couple makes it as the final two, the winner gets $1,000,000.00 and his teammate  gets $250,000.00

The first distinct advantage for a forgetful geezer like me (no comments, please!) is the fact that teams are easier to remember people by. But besides that, it makes all the strategy more intense. Couples work extra hard to try and stick together, so in forming alliances you get not just one, but a voting block of two.

A new twist was introduced last Thursday. One member already voted out will be voted back in by the TV audience. The three possibilities are Michael, the artist; Eric, the fireman/captain; and Kaysar, the Iraqi and friend of Michael.  This column is to beg and plead on behalf of Kaysar. I want him back in so badly. He is intelligent, gorgeously good-looking, kingly (as in dignified like a king), and he is playing the most excellent game I have ever seen.  He turned the house upside down before he got voted out, and it was remarkable to see as he secretly put together an unlikely alliance...with the others afterward scratching their heads and asking, "What happened?"

The other likely candidate to be voted back in is Eric, the fireman. He is a fine fellow, but not as interesting or intelligent as Kaysar. I don't know why some of the guests are not bothered by how bossy this guy is. He acts like captain of the firehouse barking instructions, calling for "lights out!" and so on. Typically, on Big Brother (and all reality shows), if you show signs of leadership, you are the first one voted out.  Normal people don't keep bosses around. 

But anyway, it doesn't matter because you are voting for Kaysar, right? Here is the address It's free to vote online, so don't worry. 

Friday, August 05, 2005

#10 Coffee...At the Office...

#10  Coffee is the Best Medicine...August 5, 2005
...The Strange Happenings in a Coffee Shop
(You may start reading at any point in the story.
It isn't that complicated!)

Later, we arrived at the office of my friend, Dr. Cutler. I'm not saying I got plastic surgery from him; he is simply my friend. Actually, he is a friend of a friend--you know, one of those kinds of arrangements. I don't normally believe in plastic surgery; but he is a kindly gentleman and an excellent doctor, and Alfred, well...he needed help. 

Our gang filled the tiny waiting room. We were five in all--Rose the waitress; Butch, the burly coffee shop customer; Alfred and Brenda, the squabbling couple from the shop; and me--an innocent bystander.

Butch, just by the nature of his ballooned body filled half the room all by himself. He slammed into one of the plastic-coated cushioned chairs, making the seat wheeze. I and the others settled around him. 

Behind the glass window, a nurse tapped away at a computer; I watched as she raised her head to catch a glimpse of us. When her eyes traveled to Alfred, she bolted out of her chair and let out a scream.

"Aaaah!" Her face went from a rosy pink to white.

"Ma'am?" I asked. "Is something wrong?"

A nervous cough escaped her before she spoke. "I'm sorry. The tall fellow in the bow tie. He startled me. We don't usually get people that disfigured in here. Was he in a train wreck or something?"

"No. He was born that way. What is your name by the way--like, 'Nurse Sally Sensitivity' or something?" I asked.

Alfred reached over and grabbed my hand and whispered, "Thank you."

Then Butch lifted his sizeable self out of the chair and walked to the nurse's window. Now Butch is a big fella, over 6 feet tall and about 250 lbs. So when that man speaks, people listen. He leaned down to the window opening.

"I think you owe my friend, Alfred, an apology," he said. His booming voice filled the room like rolling thunder. Did the glass panel around the nurse shake, or did I imagine it?

The nurse's eyes widened; I noticed the hand holding her pen trembled, making the pen tap-tap against the desktop. The tiny woman looked up at the towering angry giant before her and darn near freaked.

"I'm sorry," she said. 

To be Continued

Copyright 2005 JO Janoski