Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the month “October, 2017”

Shadow On the Ruins


It has been twenty years since the day I arrived here.  Twenty years to reflect and become bitter.  Twenty years to examine this house.  And twenty years to hate everything I’ve found.

Why did I have to end up here?  This is not where I pictured myself ending up.  I used to imagine bright, sunlit rooms in a large, vibrant house, surrounded by those that I love.  I imagined laughter and smiles and celebrations and comforts.  Instead I find myself in this miserable old wreck of a house, miles from anywhere, and no one to love or be loved by.  There isn’t even much furniture or anything at all to make it seem inviting or comfortable.  It is all dust and filth and decay and rot.  It is ramshackle and rickety, creaking and tired.  It is dark and drafty at night and even on the brightest days the sunlight can only manage to send feeble, dusty shafts of light though the nearly impenetrable shroud of honeysuckle and jasmine that has taken over the outside of the house.

I am so tired.

I feel I have to go somewhere . . . but where shall I go?  I have been to every spot in this house, seen them from every angle, from every perspective, during every condition of light and dark and hot and cold.  There is nowhere left to go.  So I stay here in this room.  The room upstairs.  In the back of the house.  As far from where It happened as possible.

I used to stay in the room at the front of the house.  I wanted to be near a window so I could look out.  So I would know if anyone came near the house.  I keened every day for the sound of a car approaching or the sound of a voice or perhaps the sight of a headlight or flashlight during the night.  But rarely did such things happen.  And after awhile I drifted to the back of the house, not really caring if I saw a light or heard a sound.  No one would come.  It has been twenty years and in all that time there were only a few instances of someone coming near the house.  I could count them on one hand.  It was strange that on those few times when someone actually did approach the house, I found that I was not anxious to see them.  Or to be seen.  At first I went eagerly to the front door, yearning to finally see someone, to talk to someone.  But as they got closer I would fill with rage and shame and I would retire back upstairs.  To the back room.  And they would leave without having even come inside.

And so now here I lay.  Too tired to move.

Twenty years ago I understood physical exhaustion.  But to have one’s soul exhausted is unbearable.  One can rest a body and cure physical exhaustion.  There is no cure for spiritual exhaustion.  There is only more and more exhaustion.  With every passing day or hour, it only gets worse.  You visit the same rooms over and over and over a thousand times.  Ten thousand times.  Yearnings fade and flicker and die.  And there is nothing left but the exhaustion.  The bitterness.

It is like lying in bed at night, sleepless, staring up at a featureless ceiling in a silent room in a darkened house.  You memorize the ceiling.  You memorize the faint humming of the silence.  And the night never ends.  There is no waking.  No sleeping.  No desire to get up.  No desire to remain lying in bed.  There is no desire at all.  Only the emptiness.  And the never-endingness.

The only thing that makes you want to move is not being able to bear seeing this room or this wall or this ceiling one more time.  Not for one more second.

I leave the back room.  Moving is hard.  I used to take moving for granted.  I moved without thought, almost without effort.  It was as easy as taking one step, and then another, and then another.  Moving was purpose and purpose moved me from spot to spot, place to place, moment to moment.

Now there is no purpose and moving is hard.  Time has become thick and viscous and it is hard to push through it from one moment to the next.  I cannot even discern one moment from the next.  Was this the same moment I was just in?  Or is it the next?  It is that sense of time being blurred and smeared that makes it hard to tell if I am moving or if I am still.  Was I just here in this very spot?  Or did I just move here?  Or have I been standing here for a year?  It is hard to tell.  Movement now is not purpose; it is memory.  I remember wanting to be in the front room and here I am but I do not remember coming here.  Perhaps I have always been here.

This front room no doubt used to be a happy place.  There probably once were children that played here.  There were probably Christmas trees and Easter baskets and birthday cakes.  There were probably people hugging as loved ones came or departed as time rose and fell and filled these rooms with the viscous ooze of its passing.  But now it is cold and dark.  Wallpaper peels from the wall, no longer possessing the will to cling or remain straight or to cover what might be underneath.  What is underneath is aging, warping wood that no longer contains moisture or strength or grain.  It is now all dry and crumbly and warped.

These floors should probably creak and probably would if I could walk on them.  The carpet has rotted away or was unraveled by rats and mice and is gone, leaving only the dusty and uneven boards below.  They should probably creak.  I wish they would.  Oddly enough, it is a sound that I would like to hear.  But there is no sound as I come into the room.  Or perhaps I was already here.  For a moment.  Or a year.

I wonder what will become of me when this house is no longer here.  This house is all I remember.  I don’t allow myself to remember what happened before there was this house.  Before I came to this house.  What is the good of that?  If I had known my life was leading me to this house, I perhaps could have lived differently, but how could I have known?  Or perhaps I knew but did not want to know and so pretended that I didn’t.

And as much as I hate this house, I don’t know what will happen to me after it is gone.  Already, in these twenty years, I have watched it go from being merely remote and forlorn, to being forgotten and abandoned.  I have watched it lean and sag and be covered with vines.  I have watched paint fade and peel and wallpaper rot and fall from the wall.  I have watched metal rust.  I have watched window glass slowly run within the panes like clear, chilled molasses, before cracking and falling from the weathered wood.  I have watched holes appear in the roof.  I have watched plants grow in dirt between planks in the floor.  I have watched countless generations of spiders produce cottony, fibrous blooms in every nook and cranny.  I have heard timbers pop and beams fall and windows break.  The house is rotting around me and I cannot know what will happen to me when the house is no more.  Will I inhabit this plot of earth that now lies beneath the house?  Will it be freedom?  Or yet more confinement?

I am at the stairs leading down to the basement.

How long have I been here?  Have I stood for a minute?  An hour?  A month?

The movement that got me here is a memory, but not a very good one.  Time is smashed and smeared and I remember moving from the front room to the basement stairs, but I don’t know how long the memory lasted.

I’m tired.  I want to rest.  But there is no rest.  There is no lying down.  There can be no closing of my eyes.  I cannot even tell if they are open or closed.  What I see when they are open is the same as when they are closed.  There are no lids that can differentiate that which I see from that which I do not want to see.  My sleep is waking; my waking, sleep.  Everything exhausts me.  Nothing revives.

I am halfway down the stairs, passing from one shade of black to another.  All is darkness but I do not need to see.  I have stared at every nail and every board and every crack a thousand million times and my seeing them or not does not change them one bit.  They rot, but slowly.

I am in the basement and I relish the rage.  It is a frozen hand in fire.  It is sensation where there is none.  It is a destructive cure for an annihilating disease.  The rage flares and roars around me, warmth in the absolute cold of oblivion.  But it is a warmth I can only feel inferentially.  I know it to be, so I must take solace from something I believe should be.  Rage is all there is.  And it comes but intermittently, like a comet roaring through this empty space, filling it with glowing, radiant ice.

And fear.  Or rage.  I can not tell.  They both subsume me and when I venture into the basement I descend into one or the other, but I can not tell which.  It is rage at why I am here.  Or fear that I am still here.

Why am I still here?

It was twenty years ago.


In that corner.


The memory exhausts me.  It was the memory that moved me from there to here.

The damp, seeping floor of the basement gleams a wicked reflection, not of light, but of darkness.  This soil floor.  This moldering floor that has not known dryness in twenty years.  This oozing patch of earth, wet with the blood I spilled twenty years ago.  This lightless, unknown, hurried, extemporaneous, grave that covers the bones that used to move within me, not with memory, but with purpose.  And I rage at the bastard that put me there, the wound still fresh and flowing . . . lively even in death.

And then the rage is gone.

I am back in the room upstairs.  The moon would be shining through the hole in the roof if the vines did not cover it.  I remember coming back upstairs.  But I don’t remember when.  Was it the tenth time?  The hundredth?  The ten-thousandth?

Why am I still here?


Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Author’s Note
I wrote this story ten years ago for Halloween and so I thought I’d post it here since Halloween is upon us once again.  I originally posted it on a blog site that has long since disappeared,  much like the house in this story. 
This was the first (and probably the last) ghost story I will ever write.  Horror and hauntings and ghosts and things like that are not my long suit.  But I hope you enjoy it!

The Heat Is On …. (cough cough!)


It finally got cold enough to have to turn on the heaters.  Here in Dallas, that means it dipped all the way down to about 46 degrees (8 C).  While that may not seem like much to those of you in more northern climates, down here it means that it’s time to stoke up the ol’ furnaces.

There are some seasonal rituals that people like, such as the first time that the leaves need to be raked, the first time the walkway needs to be shoveled free of snow, or the first time the lawn needs to be mowed in spring.  I suppose some people even like lighting the furnace for the first time every year.

I am not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the house to be nice and toasty warm on a cold winter’s night.  In fact, I prefer it.  But the first time the heater is fired up every year fills me with dread.  And that’s because when I fire up the heater for the first time in nine months, it must first burn off 9 months worth of dust, pollen, mold, and who knows what else that settles into the furnace and the ductwork over that nine months.  It is a nice, funky pong that smells something like an old, used sponge that  caught on fire, smoldered for a bit, and was then doused with the stagnant water from a leaf-clogged rain gutter.

So that was the smell that awakened me at about 2 o’clock this morning.

On the plus side, it was nice and toasty warm.



Putting the Monday in Mundane

Plumbing-Meeting RM v1

You can’t say “mundane” without saying “Monday” first, unless you’re just being a smart-Alec and deliberately mispronouncing it.

The two words are so similar sounding that I wonder if they didn’t start out as the same word but then diverged over time .  I could Google it, but I’m overcome with mundanity.  Which is just a fancy way of saying I’m lazy.

Before I go any further, here is the link to tonight’s background music.  It is David Sanborn’s The Dream.  I love me some David Sanborn while I write.  It helps chase away the mundaneness.

As the title of this blog implies, today was Monday, and it was also mundane.  You might say, “I had a bad case of the mundanes.”   (Sorry, that was an obscure “Office Space” reference.)

Where was I?

Today was a day full of PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets.  I started out my career with a degree in engineering and spent decades designing some marvelous, highly technical, and extremely complex products, but somehow I’ve managed to find myself in a job where I only refer obliquely to engineering in PowerPoints and spreadsheets and hallway conversations.  It is the equivalent of a plumber being called out to a house where there is geyser in the upstairs bathroom due to a burst pipe.  But, instead of doing any actual plumbing, he presents to the homeowners a slide deck proposing a statement of work and presenting a preliminary plan of execution.  There is a slide outlining a list of potential risks to cost and schedule, as well as any cost avoidance opportunities that may be realized.  There is a slide mapping needed skills to available staff.  A high-level, time-phased budget is presented with material milestones.  There are several slides covering  any applicable building and plumbing codes, as well as an environmental impact assessment.    There are slides covering legal and contract considerations.  There is a mandatory safety slide.  Then there are some boilerplate slides on ethics, diversity, and team-building.  Finally, the plumber stands up and tells the homeowners they have 30 days to review the provided materials and to make formal comments through the plumber’s change management software and to accept the terms and conditions, whereupon formal negotiations on cost and schedule can begin.

I don’t understand how all of this managed to happen to a once-enjoyable career.

But I do now understand why modern office buildings don’t have windows that open.



Biff’s Backyard Photography: Pre-Autumn Edition

A few days ago I was feeling guilty for not using the camera that I just had to have several months ago.  I was also feeling guilty for not posting in this blog for awhile.  So I put two and two together and said, “Hey!  Why not take some pictures and post them on this little blog of mine?”  And so, here I am.

The problem with that idea is that I live in a very non-picturesque part of the world.  I am surrounded by literally hundreds of square miles of suburbia.  So, I have to take pictures of what I can find (which isn’t much).  It’s like looking through a thousand pounds of grass clippings hoping to find a rose.

Anyway, below is what I came up with.  How I envy people who live in interesting places!

I found this little fellow in the joint between my fence and my house.  He thought he was hidden, but I managed to sneak a picture of him.  Geckos are very plentiful here, and I encourage them any way I can.  They eat a lot of things that I don’t want inside the house (like roaches and june bugs).  All that twiggy stuff in the background is the remnants of some Virginia creeper vine that I tried to eradicate a few years ago.  However, I couldn’t get rid of all of the tendrils it put down since apparently Virginia creeper glues itself to the wall with the equivalent of two-part epoxy.

IMG_0834bImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

This is the last canna lily of summer.  It has not bloomed fully yet in this picture.  It is amazing how lush these things look in spite of it not having rained in over two months.  I used to think that canna lilies were exotic and delicate, like orchids.  I have since come to learn that they are basically weeds here in Texas and throughout the Deep South and will grow anywhere and everywhere.  They will grow up through cracks in the sidewalk.  They will take over entire sections of your yard and choke out everything else.  All they need is about two drops of water a month to look like what you see here.

IMG_0839a.jpgImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

Here’s another gecko (a different one).   I think he panicked and thought he was a chameleon for a moment.  In his mind he probably thinks he is as red as the brick he is on.  I didn’t have the heart to disillusion him.  I often feel the same way when I’m at work.  I think I am the same color as the cubicle walls and that no one can see me.  I am almost always wrong in this thinking.

IMG_0844a.jpgImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

This is the view looking into the side of a stack of firewood.  It seemed appropriate to the rapidly approaching Halloween season.  Would you stick your hand in there?  I sure wouldn’t!  Firewood is a favorite lair location for black widow and brown recluse spiders.  They’re the reason I let geckos have the run of my house.

IMG_0852a.jpgImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

I’m not sure what these berries are.  They appear periodically in one of the scraggly trees in my backyard.  I haven’t figured out the cycle at which these things appear.  It seems to be random.  Apparently the birds love them, because I never see them on the ground.  The tree itself is not very attractive, but it provides shade, and in Texas, that is like a goose that lays golden eggs.

IMG_0853.JPGImage copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow


So there you have today’s installment of “Biff’s Backyard Photography“.  I hope you enjoyed.  And for all you people who live in interesting or picturesque locales, count your blessings!







Autumn Comes to the ‘Burbs

Practically overnight, this tree turned from green to bright yellow.

Autumn happens quickly in Dallas … you have to be ready for it or you’ll miss it.

Notice the trees in the background are still green.


Image Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

A Man Walks Into a Bar …


I thought if I waited long enough between blog posts that one or two interesting things would happen to me and that I would actually have a backlog of things to write about.  Sadly, that turned out to not be the case.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  When I decided this morning that today would be the day I would post on my blog again, I had so little to write about that I found myself looking back through my archives of things I’ve already posted in order to plagiarize something from myself to post.

Is this, then, where I am in my life?  Am I on that long stretch of highway where there are no memorable sights to see, no interesting little towns to drive through, no witty billboards to look at, no curious animals off on the horizon to comment on?  Not even a cloud that looks like a frog playing tennis?  Just mile after mile after mile of sagebrush and flat terrain and cloudless sky?  And not even really a discernible destination to drive towards.  Just driving in this direction because that’s the direction the road is going in.

I have often said that I am very thankful for the fact that, when I was in my teens and twenties, there was no such thing as the internet.  There was no social media.  There were no blogs.  There was absolutely no practical way to get your writings in front of readers short of physically handing them to your friends or family and saying, “Hey, read this and tell me what you think.”  However, nothing will turn you into a pariah faster and more assuredly than handing your writings to people.  But though I hungered back then to get my writings out into the world, I am still glad there was no way to do that.

I cringe to think back on some of the things I wrote back then and imagine the horror of what would have happened if I had ever posted them anywhere for the world to see.  No, everything I wrote on my trusty  Olympia typewriter back then just moldered away in my desk drawer, never to be read by anyone (not even myself).  If any of that had found its way onto the Internet, I would live my life constantly cringing and sweating and tugging at my collar nervously, living in fear that someone would walk up to me someday and say, “Hey, I stumbled across that short story you wrote back in 1982.

However, I do envy the old me in one regard.  I actually had things to write about back then.  I had crazy friends that I did crazy things with.  I had tragic, comical, and always one-sided romances with girls that I admired from afar (and who did not know I existed).  I did crazy things like street racing, freight train hopping, cycling 40 miles on a whim in the summer heat to a lake (and this was before cycling was even a thing), jumping off of a boat in the middle of a lake while drunk off my ass so I could swim back to shore, sinking a car up to its doors in the mud 40 miles from nowhere on a freezing New Year’s night, etc.)

Then somewhere along the line we outgrow the craziness of our youth and become Responsible Citizens™ and we work every day for 40 years without fail because we were told that if we do, that would be cake and ice cream in the break room and maybe free T-shirts if there were enough to go around.

I always like to keep my blogs humorous, so here’s a joke written by 20 year old Me

A man slides up into a bar and says, “Hey, man.  Beer me.”

And the barkeep says, “Sure thing, man.  What kind?”

And the man says, “Anything you got as long as it only costs a dollar.”

And the beer dude says, “You know what you can get for a dollar?”

“No, what, man?”

“The hell out of here.”

“Man, you’re a trip!  Gimme some skin!”

They slap palms and laugh and the bartender gives him half a beer for a dollar.

Here’s that same joke written by that same man thirty-some-odd years later.

A man walk into a bar and he says, “Hey, Bartender, I’ll have a beer.”

And the bartender says, “Here you go.  That’ll be 7 dollars.”

The man pays him seven dollars and drinks his beer.

The bartender says, “Would you like another one?”

And the man says, “Nah, I have to get home.”

And the bartender says, “Well you have a good day then.”

“Thanks.  You, too.”


Poor Biff’s Almanac: Sunday Late-night Edition

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

According to my watch, about fifteen minutes ago it was Friday afternoon and I was leaving work like a moonshiner in a souped up muscle car trying to outrun a revenuer.

And now … it’s Sunday night and I’m about to have to go back to the place I was so eager to leave on Friday afternoon.   Man, they’d better be glad they pay me!  Else I just wouldn’t bother to show up at all.

On top of all that, it is now officially autumn here in North Texas.  You can tell it is autumn in north Texas because the temperatures have plummeted from 100 degrees all the way down to about 91 or 92.   The leaves have changed colors (changing from green to burnt onyx in less than 24 hours counts as a color change).  The leaves don’t change just because it’s autumn; they change because it hasn’t rained in six weeks and they have just given up on life.  And, while people up in northern climes have perhaps gotten out and raked leaves or grown pumpkins or had a cider press or had a hay ride, I had to get out and mow the lawn today.  In the heat.  And the humidity.  And the mosquitoes.   Ya gotta love living in North Texas.

On the plus side, there are no active volcanoes around here that I know about.   That’s pretty much all the real estate writers can come up with as pluses when they are waxing poetic in the housing ads for Dallas area housing:

  • 4BR / 3BA / 2LA
  • 3 car garage
  • Great schools
  • No active volcanoes nearby
  • Convenient access to plays, concerts, art exhibits (by way of the DFW airport to New York City)
  • No major meteor impacts for at least 1000 years
  • On a clear day you can see Oklahoma with the naked eye

No wonder the Dallas housing market is booming!





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