Christmas Blessings

Dear Yolanda,

Thanks for the candle. You said you made it yourself?

I lit it last night after turning off the television, watching the flickering flame spark and dance so beautifully in the darkened room as I lay on the couch, slipping into that place between wakefulness and sleep where the angels whisper. As I listened, saying my prayers, mesmerized by the candlelight, I dropped off to sleep.

The next thing I heard was the plaintive wail of fire engine sirens as I startled awake to the smell of burning curtains. I'd left your beautiful candle too close to the window and the entire south wall of my house was engulfed in flames.

I shook my wife awake. We hastily grabbed a few things and rushed from the house. The firemen worked hard, knocking down the flaming wall to reduce the spread of the fire, but unfortunately the attic was also on fire. We have so many boxes of flammable stuff packed away up there the flames erupted like a thousand angry torches.

There was very little the firemen could do at this point, other than try and protect our neighbors' homes. The house closest to us (the east side) which belongs to the wonderful blind couple, did suffer some roof damage, but fortunately the firemen put it out quickly. After talking to our neighbors this morning, we learned they unfortunately suffered considerable damage to their carpet and furniture from the fire hose water and rain. Though we've known and loved this elderly couple for nearly 20 years, they said they can no longer talk to us, on advice from their attorney who we will be hearing from shortly.

Cheryl and I are now living at the Howard Johnson's in Pomona. It's not like home, and the people in the next room seem to be continually fighting and shouting, but it's the cheapest motel in the area. We found a few empty syringes in the bathroom, the carpet has quite a few nasty-looking stains and the wallpaper in this room is peeling, but we are just grateful to have a roof over our heads at this point.

I managed to get my laptop computer out of the house and I have internet access here, but it's hard to concentrate on this e-mail, what with the terror of last night continually replaying in my mind. This room smells like smoke, although it's probably coming from our own skin. My wife inhaled so much smoke she has to wear a breathing mask with a portable oxygen tank because of her chronic respiratory problems. We haven't had any sleep since the fire and we don't have any clean clothing.

I called the insurance company this morning and for some reason I had not received my renewal notice, so unfortunately I find that my homeowner's insurance has lapsed. I'm afraid this means our house and possessions are a total loss. We lost our cars in the fire as well. Because the electric garage door motor was wearing out and would not open in cold weather, we did not have time to get our cars out of the garage. The Mercedes was a few years old, so at least I got some fun out of that car, but it is unfortunate that Cheryl had recently purchased her beautiful new Lexus -- full payment in cash. We're hoping the discount insurance coverage for the car will cover part of the loss, but I do worry about doing business with a company based in Bolivia.

I'll have to take out a loan to have the debris of our once beautiful home removed so I can try and sell the vacant lot to a developer, but in these hard times for real estate, it will be practically impossible to get any money out of this property to make much of a dent in the amount I still owe on the home. I'm not sure if I can even get a loan at this point. Bankruptcy may be the best option for us. Unfortunately, we are still locked into a flexible-rate mortgage and our interest rate has risen to slightly more than 12 percent. We were barely able to keep up with the payments as things were.

I wish I'd made a backup copy of my book! I was really counting on this book to move my career forward. The only copies were on computer discs and paper -- all reduced to ashes. The main copy was stored on my desktop computer which was also destroyed. It's not the sheer length of the work that bothers me (about 280,000 words) as much as the length of time it took to do the research, what with all that travel to foreign countries that I'm still paying off on my Visa card. I'd never put this much work into a book before, and I'm afraid I'm too old to repeat what has been a 12-year labor of love.

We were hoping to sell some of the antique furniture and paintings we recently inherited from my family's estate that we'd stored in the house, but nothing is salvageable. And so many things accumulated from 35 years of marriage and from both of our families can, of course, never be replaced. I hate to think about all the wonderful photographs we'll never see again. At least we have our memories!

Unfortunately, our two cats died in the fire, and of course, my wife is devastated. One of them was the cat my son Christopher (who is coming to stay with us for Christmas) grew up with. He was so looking forward to seeing his precious little kitty, Mr. Toodles, again. We'll have to call Chris today and break the news.

After reviewing my current financial situation, I've decided the best thing to do is to try and rent a decent trailer home for the holidays, as there are a few mobile home parks in the area that are not as dangerous as some. We're going to try and find a mobile home with an extra bedroom for Christopher who is due to arrive in a few days. I'm afraid all his presents also burned in the fire, but we know he will understand. I suppose I should not have put all that cash in his stocking! It was a surprise down payment for a condominium. I foolishly thought it would be fun for him to see what $80,000 in cash looked like! I was surprised that I qualified for that home equity loan, although I suppose it was because of the high interest rate I'm being charged.

It certainly will be an unusual Christmas for us, what with all of our carefully picked, expensive presents destroyed by the fire. We will just have to focus on the blessings of life itself and be grateful that we did not die in the fire -- only a few second-degree burns and smoke inhalation, although I'm afraid I may have broken my ankle while rushing to get out of the house. It is quite sore! The paramedics bandaged it last night but I refused to be taken to the hospital. I just could not face an emergency room after all I'd been through. Cheryl and I will take the bus to the clinic today. I'm using an old umbrella for a crutch.

We will simply have to learn to be grateful for what we have left, even though it probably means total financial disaster. Cheryl and I now realize we will have to give up the idea of retirement and return to the workforce to try and rebuild our lives. I've already contacted Wal-Mart and they say they are hiring! A light in the storm!

So, once again, dear Yolanda, thanks so much for the candle! It was so beautiful and sweet-smelling, and, in fact, it was one of the few things I managed to salvage from the fire. I have it lit now, near the window of our motel room that overlooks the laundry area. It casts such beautiful shadows against the curtains.

Merry Christmas,


~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo courtesy of the Bend Weekly
© All Rights Reserved

Teapot Song

I'm a little teapot
Short and stout,
Kick me in the rear
And step on my snout.

I'm a little teapot
Fat and wide,
Take me to the slaughterhouse
And cut off my hide!

~ Poem & artwork by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Fried Chicken Crossing

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get away from Colonel Sanders!

~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Illustration by ?
© All Rights Reserved


The first tribunal was with the chickens.

“According to our records,” the chief justice rooster announced in a loud, screeching voice, assuring he would be heard all the way back to the very last row of the cavernous courtroom, packed with clucking hens and muttering roosters of all kinds and colors.

“According to our records, during your lifetime, you have eaten," he paused with grave solemnity, "the equivalent of 5,693 chickens,” he declared, pointing his beak menacingly at me, his wattles inflated with indignation.

I shivered at the totality of it all.

“The accused will stand before this court.”

I stood.

“Do you wish to make a statement before sentence is passed?”

“Yes,” I barely answered in tremulous voice.


Summoning up my courage, knowing there was little I could say that would alter my fate, I cleared my throat, took a deep breath, and at the top of my voice cried out:


~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

I've Been Busy!

Brian Williams and I were recently embedded in Afghanistan but we got separated from our military escort and were lost for a week at the Kandahar International Airport, living on vending machine candy and coffee.

Then, in the middle of the night, the ghost of Robert Frost suddenly appeared on a luggage carousel, enshrouded in a glowing blue-white mist. He spoke to us:

"Whose woods these are I think I know, his house is in the village though," pointing toward the northeast quadrant of the airport. At first I had no idea what this meant, but he kept repeating the phrase in a louder and louder voice: "His house is in the village though," until at last, almost shouting he said:


This final outburst awakened Brian and between the two of us we realized Frost was directing us to a part of the airport that would facilitate our escape.

By early morning we'd made our way northeast where we finally encountered the ticket counter. We were a bit embarrassed that we hadn't thought of this before, but wrote it off to battle fatigue. Brian tried to charge our tickets on his NBC Visa card, but for some reason his account had been closed, and so I sprung for the airfare. At least they gave me an Auto Club discount.

~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Kids Need Discipline!

The school board Tuesday night unanimously approved
the death penalty for dress code violations.

~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo by Paul and Lora Guajardos
© All Rights Reserved

Heh, Heh, Heh

L aura was breathing harder now, her head resting against George’s shoulder as they sat in his pickup truck at the drive-in movie. It was a long movie and she had been up since the crack of dawn. She was asleep.

"Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route,” Princess Leia tongue-lashed the handsomely handsome Han Solo.

“Maybe you’d like it back in your cell, your highness!” Han rhetoricated mockingly.

“Aaagh!” Laura screamed, awakening to the sound of laser fire pontooning from the small metal speaker box hooked on the passenger side window.

“Laura, what’s wrong?”

“Oh George, I just had the most frightening dream of my life. I dreamed you were president and I was First Lady and a band of bearded evildoers blew up New York City!”

“Heh, heh, heh,” George spontaneously chuckled, draining his fourth Budweiser. “Heh, heh, heh. That’ll be the day.”

~ Story & photo morph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved


What do you get when you combine Amelia Earhart with Kate Smith?

A: A flying buttress!

~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Biden Dorks Out!

Vice President Joe Biden appears to temporarily lose his mind during President Barack Obama's "jobs" speech to Congress on September 8, 2011.

~ Unaltered photo of freeze-framed TV screen by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

No Wonder!

So old Chinesey man run away from Lost Angeless mental confinement palace and seek taxi cab steerage.

When after much arm wagging hot dog mustard color car stop, Chinesey man find into back seat and profuse:

“Hurry hurry! Drive to Kowloon! No letter from home residents for twenty year!”

“You must tug my leg sideways,” taxi pilot expunge. “Drive to Kowloon impossibility. Kowloon on other shore side of ocean water expanse!”

“Ah,” Chinesey man breathe when brain light explode, “No wonder they never write!”

~ by Whingy Whang
© All Rights Reserved


Q:   What's Lassie's favorite
        kind of chair?

A:    A Barkalounger!

~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved