My Escape the Woods Weekend

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I attended a camping, training, and competition called Escape the Woods July 21-23 at Camp Lazarus in Delaware, Ohio. The weekend was led by Creek Stewart, survival instructor, author of survival guides, and star of the Weather Channel’s Fat Guys in the Woods and a new show called SOS: How to Survive. He’s the owner and lead instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor Survival School in Indiana and curates the Apocabox, a subscription service of survival supplies.

Friday

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After a long ride from Milwaukee, me and my colleague Alex arrived at the Escape the Woods campsite just after noon. We registered with Todd, Escape the Woods COO (Chief Outdoors Officer) and set up camp. We had an orientation meeting and met the instructors. There were about 15 participants and around a dozen instructors. We were told this was a low number compared to past events, but it was good for us as we got plenty of one-on-one training. After orientation, we went to our first “pod” which was a firemaking one. Creek led this one and showed a variety of ways to start fires with tinder and igniters like a solar lens, steel and flint, and a ferro stick, which is this steel rod you scrape to get sparks. He even showed us how to scrape a guitar pick for tinder to ignite.

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Our next pod was on water filtration and purification and was led by Jim Conley (and family) of Conley Backwoods Skills & Adventures. He showed various ways to build water filters from nature and different ways to boil water and purify.  We also carved a hook to hang containers from a tripod above a fire.

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This was our camp. We shared our circle with an Escape the Woods enthusiast from Michigan and a nice couple from Texas.

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Alex chilling with his rocket stove that cooked things in like, one minute.

Saturday

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Saturday was a pretty intense training day. It started off with a knot tying pod, led by this gentleman (I forgot his name) and a guy named Jim Moore. I discovered I am pretty bad at tying knots.

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One interesting guest instructor was Chet Snouffer of Leading Edge Boomerangs, 12 time National boomerang throwing champ, 3 time World Individual Champ, 6 time World Team Champ, former president of the US Boomerang Association. He had us take turns throwing boomerangs and throwing sticks (those are for hunting and aren’t supposed to come back.) He also busted out a jam on the didgeridoo.

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Back to a quick fire pod, Creek demonstrated how to make a fire using a pump drill, which is a great way to make a fire if you want to get really frustrated.

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He also showed how to make cordage using natural fibers. We twisted some rope together and here he is showing the group a useful hemp-like plant called dogbane.

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Mike Jackson led a medic pod, talking about tourniquets and other emergency medical procedures.

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Stephen Kinney and company led the next pod, which was about constructing traps and snares. Here he and Alex are setting a figure 4 trap, which when baited will squish an animal.

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Here he’s demonstrating a simple snare. An animal steps in a loop and is caught hanging from a sapling (we used snow depth measure sticks for the pod).

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Art Dawes of PA Wilderness Skills led the shelter building pod, showing how to make simple structures out of natural materials or with just a tarp.

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I think he’s saying “here’s your new home!”

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Back to fire pod to learn how to make a fire using a bow drill with Creek. It took a lot of elbow grease, but I did it!

Sunday

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Sunday was the competition day! Teams of two got points for completing tasks and extra points for placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd as well as extra points if they chose a challenge, which could be good or bad (60 second head start was a good one, doing a task while wearing gloves was a bad one). The first challenge was bayoneting wood down and starting a fire with a ferro stick, and it needed to be a strong enough fire to burn through the paracord stretched above it. Me and Alex completed, but didn’t place.

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Next challenge– building a tripod, a fire, and hanging a container with our hook about the fire and getting 8 oz of water to a boil within 20 minutes. We were real close, real real close, but the water wasn’t quite at a boil when they called time.

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Our next challenge was building a tarp structure, duplicating a model, down to the knots and all. Alex calmly and confidentially put this together while I assisted. We would have gotten FIRST, but two of the knots were not the same ones on the model so we had to retie them. By the time they were retied, we were third.

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Collection of tarp structures.

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This next challenge was hard and we didn’t complete. You had to tie together a rope and catch an ammo box with a hook, then open it and hit a target with a slingshot.

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Last challenge was setting a figure 4 trap, a snare, making cordage with toliet paper to carry a jug back to the finish line. We completed. After there was an award meeting. Our tent neighbor from Michigan won first place, and got a nice trophy knife and a pack filled with various survival supplies. Me and Alex hit the road to head towards home.

This was a really great experience. All the instructors were knowledgeable and made us feel welcome. I learned some new things and had fun.

You can find more info and upcoming events at: www.escapethewoods.com

Tea Krulos is currently working on a book with the working title The End. Provided, of course, that the world still exists by publication date. 

Roller Derby Skater, Cryptid, or Real Life Superhero?

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(L-R Tea Krulos with a group of RLSH at Wizard World Chicago, roller derby team Shevil Knevils, an artist depiction of a cryptid known as Mothman)
My first  book was published in 2013. It is titled Heroes in the Night. RLSH are people who adopt their own superhero persona to battle crime or try to make the world a better place.

From 2006-2008 I wrote a “sports column” about local Milwaukee roller derby league, the Brew City Bruisers.

My second book, Monster Hunters, was published in 2015. It deals in part with cryptozoology, the study of unknown animals. These creatures are referred to as “cryptids.”

I’ve encountered a lot of interesting names. Bellow are three sets of names. One is an RLSH, one is a cryptid, on is a roller derby skater (from everywhere, not just the Bruisers). Which one is which? The first to answer all five rounds correctly will win a signed copy of my book Heroes in the Night (shipped for free anywhere in North America.) The answer must appear in the comment section on this post. You can use the abbreviations RLSH, RD, and C, put them in the right order in a sentence up to down.

Round One
Chicago Man-bat
Bar Harbor Batman
Bat Outta Hell

Round Two
Watchman
Grassman
Super Hera

Round Three
Jersey Devil
Beast Mode
Phantom Zero

Round Four
Battlefrog
Green Scorpion
Bishopville Lizardman

Round Five
Scootaloo
Tatzelwurm
Conundrum

 

The Smell of Fear

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I remembered this story last night and decided to write it down before I completely forget it. This was about ten years ago. I had been through some shit and had been feeling weird and lonely and bad. My head was in a purple haze, as a man once said. I was walking along downtown by Renaissance Books with the plan to dig around in their massive piles of random tomes. I heard a voice behind me say, “sir, do you have a minute to help us with some important research?”

I looked and saw a young woman dressed as a sexy scientist. My first impulse was to flee. I stared at her a moment, but figured, what’s there to lose? I walked over.

“C’mon inside, good lookin!” She smiled. We walked into an abandoned storefront. There were some rafters set up with about 8 more young, sexy scientists sitting on them, cross-legged in short shorts, tank tops, and lab coats. When I walked in, they all greeted me. “Hi, we’re so glad you’re here!” “Welcome!” “Hi, handsome!”

Now I thought this was really bad. My first thought was that obviously these sexy scientists were shanghaiing young men and selling their organs. Then I thought perhaps life had gotten the worst of me and I was hallucinating. Then, I thought maybe I had died and this is what happens when you die. I noticed a very intense odor of cologne, and a curtained off area where I heard beep beep boop machine noises and blasts of aerosol. My fear intensified.

The first sexy scientist now had a clipboard and asked me to walk over to a counter.

“We just got a couple questions here to get you started,” she said, reading from the clipboard. “One, are you aware of the field of smellology?”
“Uh…the what now?”
“Smellology is the field that studies the effects that good smelling men have on women.”
“Ummm…” It was then that I noticed a large stash of mini bottles of Axe body spray and other swag, like key-chains. I was a little slow, but I figured it out.

“This is total bullshit,” I said and walked out the door.

Tea Krulos is a writer from Milwaukee. He does not use Axe body spray products.

The Dishwasher Saints of the Brady Street Pharmacy

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Note, this was written about 11 years ago, when I was working as the cashier at a unique cafe/convenience store/ pharmacy/ uh…theater, called the Brady Street Pharmacy.

There were three ex-dishwashers of the café who have died of alcohol related conditions over the last year and a half. They drank themselves to death. All three were somewhere in their fifties. Here they’ll be called “Saint Peter,” “Saint Paul,” and “Saint Joseph.”

Saint JOSEPH

Saint Joseph had thin, greasy hair combed over his scaly, pock marked head. He had a vulgar looking mustache and was missing a tooth, most likely from falling off a barstool. He had the looks of an evil landlord, a Snidley Whiplash character who would twirl his mustache hair with glee as he’d try to goose the rent out of the poor widowed farm wife.

Despite this, I got along with the guy alright. We weren’t BFFs or anything, but we always said ‘hi’ and engaged in some type of small talk every day. You know, sports, weather, how much work sucks, etc, etc, so on and so forth.

He was unpopular with the waitresses, which is a bad bad bad place for a dishwasher to be. Those waitresses will conspire silently, wait patiently, and then sabotage your very soul. They’ll tell you they left a birthday present for you in the garage, and you’ll go out there, touched by their generosity. Then you’ll discover the garage door locks behind you and that the room is filled with rabid mountain lions and the walls are lined with mousetraps.

Such was the case with Saint Joseph. As soon as he slouched through the door, you could see the back hair of the waitresses starting to stand on end, their postures clenched and uncomfortable. He came to work sometimes noticeably drunk. He sometimes snuck off to a side room to catch a few Zs. The waitresses were convinced he had a bottle hidden somewhere on the premises and the flipped the place more thoroughly than the vice squad. No stone was left unturned in the search for the stash in a desperate attempt to find hard alcohol hard evidence. They even had me search the tank of the men’s room toilet on three different occasions. Now that you mention it, that is a pretty good place to hide it.

One day I walked in, and my co-worker Mo was smirking at me through a haze of cigarette smoke.

“Wait’ll you see Joseph today.” She said, exhaling smoke. “He’s turned yellow.”

“Sure, Mo.” I said, dismissing it. I thought she was implying something like “he’s a little green around the gills.” Then he walked in.

He’s….YELLOW!” I shout whispered to Mo.

“I told you.” She said.

No, no…he’s yellllllll-ow!

“I told you.”

I mean, he looks like he walked out of an episode of The Simpsons! Mo, he’s yellow!” I’m still kind of in shock. I’ve never seen anyone Crayola yellow before.

“I told you.” Mo said again.

As you can probably guess, it’s not a good sign when you turn as yellow as yield sign. It means you are dying. And a few months later, Saint Joseph was dead.

Saint PAUL

Saint Paul had a drinking problem, too.

His doctor said “Saint Paul, if you continue to drink, you will drop over dead as a fucking doornail.”

Saint Paul said, “Thanks for the advice, doc.” Then he headed straight for the Roman Coin and bought a pitcher of beer and asked for one glass.

Saint Paul was a nice, jolly guy. He loved to laugh and joke around. Sure, he was in a goddamn grouchy mood sometimes, but who isn’t? I can’t remember now if he quit or was fired for being drunk on the job, which happened on a regular basis. The booze made him happy. The waitresses were split on their decision on Paul. Most agreed he had “gotten worse.”

He started losing weight. Like I said, he was jolly. Jolly to me implies a little fat, which Paul was. He started to lose weight, rapidly, and it wasn’t from dieting or exercise. The weight loss looked unnatural. His skin tone was changing, too, it was yellowish greenish grayish. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was like he was shriveling up and dying. It was depressing to see. I remember seeing him, gray looking, soaking wet, walking in the rain with his XXL t-shirt hanging off his now L body, heading to the Roman Coin. Things got worse and he checked into the hospital. He didn’t check out.

Saint PETER

It was kind of a surprise. I knew Saint Peter drank too much, and popped a lot of pain pills, which is a no no, but I didn’t think much on it. He didn’t look great, but he didn’t look like he was going to drop over.

Peter had a bushy beard and long hair and a wild look in his eyes, like Rasputin. He was always dressed in the same beat up flannel and beat ups jeans, chain smoking Old Golds and looking around him wildly. Initially the dude freaked me out a little bit, with all the staring and teeth grinding and mumbling to himself. Soon I realized that this was the pain pills talking and that he was an ok guy. He had miserable things happen in his life and I felt bad for him. I do remember thinking that he looked a bit worse than usual last week. He wasn’t making sense and seemed angry about it. I swear his beard looked much grayer than it had been days before, but maybe my mind has invented it.

The last time I saw him, he took a drag from his cigarette, squinted and scanned the layout of the Pharmacy. “Fuck this place,” he said, stubbed out his cigarette, left.

He disappeared for a few days, then one evening his mother walked in. His mother is like three hundred years old, slouched over a walker, dressed in an ancient floor length fur coat, a mess of white hair on her head.

The boss and I were at the front counter. Jim had his arms folded in front of him, and was blabbing on and on. He was wearing a humorous tie with King Kong on it. I was drinking weak coffee and staring off into space in front of me, daydreaming, ignoring the stream of consciousness flowing out of my boss.
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Saint Peter’s mom walked through the door with much effort, and stared down at us, leaning on her walker.

“Peter is dead.” She said.

My boss stared at her, blinking. He wasn’t any good in situations like this.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. When?”

“Yesterday.” She said, then turned and pushed her way back out the doors.

***

Later I was at the bar having a drink. I stared down into my glass. “Shit, man,” I thought, “this shit will kill you.”

2017 Reading List: The Cherry Harvest

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9. The Cherry Harvest, by Lucy Sanna (2015, William Morrow)

Another book I picked up at Madtown Author Daze (see last entry). I was walking and I recognized Lucy Sanna’s name and stopped and had a chat with her. She’s a Madison author and was absolutely radiant and delightful to talk to. I could tell she was a sharp writer then and there and that I wanted to read her book without even knowing what it was about. Some authors have that charismatic presence. I sure don’t! I just sit at my table and when someone asks me what’s up with my books I say “oh, you know, like, I hung out with like, these superhero people and also uhhh these paranormal people. Not interested? Ok…” Get it together, man! Well, I’m embellishing a little here for effect.

Anyway, I’m glad to say The Cherry Harvest did not disappoint. It’s not the type of book I read often, but that’s a good thing– I’m trying a few different things out this month. This book was great! The book follows a family farm in Door County struggling during WWII. Short workers, they decide to take on German POWs to help with their cherry harvest. It has drama, romance, suspense, and well developed characters. Beautifully written. I’m a Lucy Sanna fan.

Recommended? Yes!

2017 Reading List: First Contact

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8. First Contact, by Kat Green (2016, The Wild Rose Press)

I’ve wanted to read this for a long time! I think this is the first book I’ve read this year that wasn’t A.) research for my own upcoming book or B.) a pick of the Apocalypse Blog Book Club, which does tie-in to point A.  I first became aware of First Contact because Kat Green (an alias of authors Kat De Falla and Rachel Green) were guests at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. I found the hook interesting– a paranormal real estate agent. Love it! I finally got a copy at the Madison Author Daze event last weekend, which was expertly organized by the previously mentioned Mrs. De Falla and her husband Lee. Fun event, met some interesting people and sat at my table eating delicious sandwiches, drinking coffee. Really nice day.

Anyway, the book. I loved it, a quick read at 170 pages, full of supernatural spookiness, suspense, creepy characters, and a scene with some steamy hot ethereal sex. That’s what I like to read about! There is a strong paranormal tie-in as main character Sloane Osborne uses paranormal investigation equipment to try to capture evidence, but don’t worry, if you don’t know what a K2 meter is, they explain it pretty well.

The book takes place in good old Waukesha, which is a good setting for a horror story these days. The book made me very thirsty (you’ll understand if you read it) and Sloane kicks ass!

The book has a website here: www.hauntsforsale.com

Recommended? Yes, and I can’t wait to read the next adventure starring Sloane Osborne.

2017 Reading List:The Handmaid’s Tale

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7. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (c.1986, Anchor Books edition, 1998)

This was the March selection for the Apocalypse Blog Book Club. It was my first time reading something by Margaret Atwood and I found her prose to be quite gripping.

As the book unfolded for us over March, The Handmaid’s Tale made the news several times during the lead-in to a development of the book into a Hulu series, which premieres on the 26th of this month. Our book club notifications lit up as members posted some of these related stories. I’m pleased to say we are now doing monthly book reports for a site called Pop Mythology and club member and author Ryder Collins wrote our first one on The Handmaid’s Tale, and linked to several related stories. You can read it here: www.popmythology.com/apocalypse-blog-book-club-march-handmaids-tale

Recommended? YES. MANDATORY.

Apocalypse Blog Book Club, Book 3: The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick

The Apocalypse Blog Book Club voted to read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick as our April selection. The book, written in 1962, has had a renewed interest from an Amazon show series based on the book.

More on the book from Wikipedia:

The Man in the High Castle (1962) is an alternative history novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. Set in 1962, fifteen years after an alternative ending to World War II, the novel concerns intrigues between the victorious Axis Powers—primarily, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany—as they rule over the former United States, as well as daily life under the resulting totalitarian rule. The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. The book would later receive a 2015 TV adaptation also under the name, The Man in the High Castle.

Reported inspirations include Ward Moore’s alternative Civil War history, Bring the Jubilee (1953), various classic World War II histories, and the I Ching (referred to in the novel). The novel features a “novel within the novel” comprising an alternate history within this alternate history wherein the Allies defeat the Axis (though in a manner distinct from the actual historical outcome).

The Man in the High Castle is widely available online, at bookstores, and in library systems. We will have an in-person meeting to discuss the book the last day of the month, Sunday, April 30, 4pm at the Riverwest Public House. Takeaways from the meetings and online discussion will follow on our Facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/

We also have a Goodreads page here: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/213307-apocalypse-blog-book-club

There is no fee to be part of the Apocalypse Blog Book Club, just a desire to read a dystopian themed book every month and discuss the story and parallels we see to our current world.

2017 Reading List: Live and Let Live

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6. Live and Let Live: Diversity, Conflict, and Community in an Integrated Neighborhood, by Evelyn M. Perry (2017, The University of North Carolina Press)

I took a break to read my first title this year that wasn’t related to The End of the World as We Know It in fiction or non-fiction form, and what a treat it was. Live and Let Live is a sociological examination of the neighborhood I’ve lived in, Riverwest…oh, for about 17 years now. Author Evelyn M. Perry moved to Riverwest for three years to work on her study, in a style known as ethnography, or as I describe it, “hey, can I hang out with you guys for a couple years?” As she rolls through the chapters, she investigates the neighborhood– warts and all– and if you live in the neighborhood (or one similar) you’ll see a lot of issues examined that are common discussion here: gentrification, diversity, violent crime, public intoxication, “live and let live.” Perry has pulled a lot of great quotes on the neighborhood from a variety of local characters (disclosure: part of a jokey thing I wrote about Riverwest drinking culture is the epigraph for Chapter 6).

I have a Q & A set with Perry for the April issue of the Riverwest Currents and she makes an in-store appearance Friday, March 31, 7pm at Woodland Pattern Book Center here in Riverwest.

Recommended? Definitely. If you live in the neighborhood, you’ll learn a new perspective. And if you want to read a well written sociological examine of a diverse neighborhood, this is it.

 

Apocalypse Blog Book Club, Book 2: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Apocalypse Blog Book Club voted to read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as our March selection. The book, written in 1985, is timely for a number of reasons and there is some excitement of the book being adapted into a show for Hulu, which premieres in April.

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More on the book from Wikipedia:

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) is a work of speculative fiction by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, the dystopian novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

The Handmaid’s Tale won the 1985 Governor General’s Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987; it was also nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award. It has been adapted for the cinema, radio, opera, and stage. The Handmaid’s Tale has never gone out of print since its first publication in 1985.

In addition to next month’s Hulu show, the book was previously adapted into a 1990 movie.

The Handmaid’s Tale is widely available online, at bookstores, and in library systems. We will have an in-person meeting to discuss the book the last day of the month, Friday, March 31, 7pm at the Riverwest Public House. There have been requests to switch up meeting location, and we can entertain those requests in the future. Takeaways from the meetings and online discussion will follow April 1 on our Facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1482975718409410/

We also have a Goodreads page here: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/213307-apocalypse-blog-book-club

There is no fee to be part of the Apocalypse Blog Book Club, just a desire to read a dystopian themed book every month and discuss the story and parallels we see to our current world.