The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

June 18, 2014

A Tale of Smoke and Accordions: A short story

Filed under: Short Stories — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 11:02 pm

Image credit: Flickr user Bernat Casero, Creative Commons


Based (very loosely) on a true story.  This is another one of me and my friends’  random conversations over dinner a few nights ago taken to yet another ridiculous and absurd conclusion.  There will be a quiz later.

It was on a gloomy Friday evening that me and a couple of friends found ourselves in front of the old Italian restaurant.  Neon beer signs glowed in the windows on one side of the building, and the decor of the place seemed to suggest that Julius Caesar himself probably ate here at some point, and they hadn’t bothered to do much remodeling since then.  Still, you never know when you might find a hidden gem in a dive like this, and I figured it was worth a shot.

As we approached the front door, the faint sound of accordion music began to emanate from the inside of the restaurant.  Instantly I recognized the tune as one of the standard cliché songs  you hear any time someone on TV needs something to sound Italian.  As I opened the front door, a pair of singers could be heard from some back corner of the room.  A quick look around confirmed that the place might have looked reasonably fancy at some point, but the decor inside looked almost as shopworn as the exterior, and yet the place was surprisingly busy.  Nobody was at the front counter, so as I waited I grabbed a menu and took a look.  It quickly became clear that the only thing luxurious in this place was the prices on the menu.  But before I could look up, a waiter in a dinner jacket and bowtie appeared in front of me.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, a table for 3 please.”

“Would you like smoking, or non-smoking?”

“Non-smoking, of course.”

“And would you like accordion or non-accordion?”

The place wasn’t exactly all that huge, but I figured it’s tough to carry on a conversation with an accordion blasting in your ears, so slightly less accordion might be a good thing.

“Non-accordion please?”

“Ok then, you’d like the non-smoking, non-accordion section.  You will have to wait a bit, but if you’d like I could get you a table in the smoking accordion section.”

“No, we’ll… Wait, what?”

“The smoking accordion section.  It’s one of the loveliest corners in our fine restaurant.”

“That may  be, but why is it a smoking accordion section?  Did someone accidentally light their accordion on fire?”

“Of course not, that would be absurd.  You see, many years ago there was a great master accordion craftsman in the Italian village of Castelfidardo by the name of Giovanni Carini who crafted some of the finest accordions this world has ever seen, but he so enjoyed smoking his pipe that he could not bear to be without it.  One day in 1879, he got a brilliant idea to build an accordion with a pipe built in, so he could play his accordion and smoke his pipe at the same time.  ”

“OK, so…”

“Soon he carried his accordion everywhere he went.  Everywhere he went, people praised his fine smoking accordion, and soon everyone wanted one.  He always wanted to make people happy, so he made sure each of his children, and each of his grandchildren got a smoking accordion of their own.  One of our accordion players has one of these fine instruments, which sounds a bit different from a regular one.  And yet, some people prefer the sound of the normal accordion, so we offer different sections with each one.”

“But didn’t I say I wanted the non-accordion section?”

“Ah, you see, we don’t have much room here, so you may have to think of our non-accordion section as more of a less accordion section.”  This was starting to get just a little bit confusing.

“Well, OK…  The non-smoking accordion section, I guess.”

“And would you prefer the smoking accordion smoking section, or the smoking accordion non-smoking section?

“Didn’t I say I didn’t want to be in the smoking section?”

“So you’ll want the non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking accordion non-accordion non-smoking section then?  Very well.”

“Wait a minute here, what’s all this about smoking accordion smoking?

“You see, our accordion player isn’t the only one here with a smoking accordion.  Many of Mister Carini’s grandchildren immigrated to this area over a hundred years ago, each bringing their prized smoking accordions along.  They have now been passed down through generations, and the great-great grandchildren who own the prized smoking accordions are now some of our most loyal customers.  As with Mister Carini himself, they too travel everywhere with their smoking accordions.  But not all of them smoke their smoking accordions, so we need to have a smoking accordion smoking section and a smoking accordion non-smoking section.”

“Ah, I see,” I said, even though it was pretty clearly a lie.  “But what if I don’t want to be near any smoking accordions, smoking or otherwise?”

“Oh, then you’ll be wanting the non-smoking accordion smoking accordion non-smoking smoking section then?”

“Wait, I…”

“Or was it the non-smoking accordion smoking accordion non-smoking non-smoking section?  I’m sorry sir, I seem to have forgotten what you wanted.”

By now I might have been getting just a little bit impatient.  “What if I don’t want any freakin’ accordions anywhere near me?”

“That depends, sir.  are you looking for the non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking smoking section or the non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking section?  There shouldn’t be too many accordions in either of those I should think.”

“Well, I’ll…”

“Actually, now that I think of it, I think we might have had to put a smoking accordion smoker in the non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking section tonight.  I’d have to find out if he’s smoking his smoking accordion in order to figure out if it’s the non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking smoking section or the non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking section right now.


“Or I just had a lovely little table open up, but it’s in the smoking accordion section next to some smoking accordion non-smokers…”

“Oh, you mean the smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking section?”

“Actually, I believe it’s in the smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking smoking section.  Unless the smoking accordion has switched places with the non-smoking accordion, in which case it would now be the non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking section… Or was that the non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking smoking section?  You’ll have to bear with me sir, I occasionally have trouble keeping track of these things.”

“Gee, I wonder why.”

“Either that, or it appears I also have a table in the non-smoking accordion smoking accordion smoking non-smoking section…  But the smoking accordion smokers don’t smoke their accordions much there.”

“Actually, I was hoping for a section without any smoking accordion, without any non-smoking accordion, without any smoking accordion smoking and without any smoking accordion non-smoking.”

“Did you mean the non-smoking accordion non-non-smoking accordion non smoking accordion smoking non-smoking accordion non-smoking smoking section or the non-smoking accordion non-non-smoking accordion non smoking accordion smoking non-smoking accordion non-smoking non-smoking section?”

“Um…  Whichever one of those has the most non-smoking in it, I guess.”

“Unfortunately, we’re all booked up in that section, but if you’d like, I think the smoking accordion player should be off by 9, and the smoking accordion non-non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking accordion non-smoking  smoking section should be a non-smoking accordion non-non-smoking accordion non-smoking accordion smoking non-smoking accordion non-smoking  non-smoking section, assuming there aren’t any non-smoking accordion smoking smokers in that area by then.  Would that work?”

“Um…  On second thought, do you happen to do take-out?”



June 6, 2014

Seven Years of the Sledgehammer

Filed under: Site Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:02 pm

As of today, this Blog has now reached the ripe old age of seven years.  As this is the Blog’s anniversary, I have made a habit of using this as one of the two annual statistical “checkpoints” each year where I publish some of the stats of the Blog.  I do this partially to keep track of the ebb and flow of the Blog as time goes on (and to be perfectly honest, there’s been more ebb than flow lately) and partially to give some idea of where this Blog is.  I haven’t really been keeping too much track of my stats lately (at least not as much as I used to back when I was writing more often than I do now) but sometime within the past month my Blog received its 300,000th visitor.  Given the fact that the Sledgehammer Version 1.0 (which I continue to deny ever existed in the first place, lest someone try to actually go read it) managed about 15,000 visitors total in roughly two years of existence, that’s pretty good.  Of course, there are Blogs that get that many hits in a day, but I’m not trying to be one of those.  I’ve never been all that good at writing a journal, so I use this Blog to kind of keep track of what I’ve done, and hopefully leave some sort of record to whatever future offspring I might happen to have.  I find that I write better when I have an audience though, which is what keeps me going.

As always, thanks for visiting, and I look forward to hopefully creating some interesting stuff in the future.

  • Total Posts(all time, including this one):  644
  • Total Posts (So far in 2013): 16
  • Total Comments (all time):  927
  • Total  Page Views (all time): 302,344
  • Total Page Views (So far in 2013): 16,041
  • Total Page Views in 2013: 32,446
  • Total Page Views in 2012: 42,260
  • Total Page Views in 2011: 42, 742
  • Total Page Views in 2010:  52,228
  • Total Page Views in 2009:  60, 939
  • Total Page Views in 2008: 50, 219
  • Average Visitors Per Day (So far in 2014): 103
  • Total Blog Subscribers: 110

Top posts in the past 365 days:

Post Title Total Views
Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates 7,421
Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall 3,024
Wandering Off the Beaten Path at Princess Cays 1,727
Ya Wanna’ Buy a Watch? A Visit to St. Maarten 1,167
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of the Factoria Mall 1,073
A Tour of Crossroads Bellevue – Part 1: The Mall 922
A Concise Guide to Surviving Disneyland: Dubious Advice From a (Somewhat) Seasoned Disneyland Veteran 870
A Not-So-Standard Chevron Station (Updated) 798
The Beginning and the End of the Old Bellevue Safeway 749
The Redmond Costco Moves Forward (Updated 9/9/09) 642
Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations 609

Total Homepage views (Last 365 Days): 3,602

Top posts (all time):


Post Title Total Views
Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall 32,424
Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates 29,335
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of the Factoria Mall 12,647
Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations 12,002
A Tour of Crossroads Bellevue – Part 1: The Mall 8,889
The Redmond Costco Moves Forward (Updated 9/9/09) 8,298
My Very Nearly Award-Winning Chili Recipe, and Other Deep Dark Secrets 6,426
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of The Everett Mall 5,595
A Brief Tour of the Bellevue Galleria, Bungie’s Future Home 5,023
The Beginning and the End of the Old Bellevue Safeway 4,288

Total Homepage Views (All time):  61,129

June 4, 2014

The Evolution of a Pyro

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:53 am

A small sampling…

As of the time when I am writing this post, the Fourth of July is now just a month away.  And for anyone who knows me, I do a lot more thinking about the Fourth of July than just about anyone I know.  Granted, that isn’t setting the bar particularly high.  Most people, I suspect, are content to just find a public fireworks display somewhere and call it good, or if they’re feeling ambitious enough they might make a trip out to Boom City or Muckleshoot and try to buy a few things to light off on the Fourth without losing their proverbial shirts.  The fact that most of the major cities around here (including basically all of the Eastside and Seattle) just ban fireworks altogether, which means that the most powerful things you’re going to see on the shelves are party poppers.  I, on the other hand, have already spent a number of evenings over the past few weeks watching fireworks videos (focusing mostly on the new items in the catalogs this year even though it doesn’t look like anyone’s actually going to have most of them, making spreadsheets, and generally overthinking the heck out of the whole thing.

Naturally, this type of thing isn’t all that typical for most people .  Somehow, I doubt there are too many normal well-adjusted people out there who just wake up one morning and start thinking “You know, it seems like a good day to go set something on fire.”  Then again, there seems to be a certain primal fascination with fire and its many forms somewhere within the human brain that inspires people to spend suspiciously large quantities of money on fireworks.  It might also inspire people to occasionally want to set fire to buildings that don’t belong to them, but that’s a matter between those people and their psychiatrists.  In retrospect, the fact that my father (and my uncle who lived nearby at the time) would frequently use the Fourth of July as an occasion to mess around with fireworks when I was growing up is probably where a lot of it came from.  In theory, the permissible fireworks in the town I grew up in were supposed to be limited to the “Safe and sane” variety, but the close proximity to various Indian reservations provided plenty of opportunity for people to get their hands on the good stuff, which meant mostly bottle rockets and firecrackers (the big multi-shot cakes and reloadable mortars that fill most of the shelves of the fireworks stands these days were rare back in those days.)  We did try to light those off somewhat discreetly since we technically weren’t supposed to have those (although I suspect the police had bigger miscreants to worry about anyway) but fireworks aren’t exactly an easy thing to hide when you’re setting the things off. Admittedly, I may not have had the best role models back in those days when it came to fireworks safety, and it is entirely possible that I may have made occasional use of various fireworks in manners inconsistent with their labeling back in those days.  Granted, I never did anything too ridiculous back then, but then again, I suspect it was a bit of a miracle that me and my brothers came out of that period with all of our fingers.

Eventually the family moved up here to the Seattle area, and to a city where fireworks were banned outright.  For a couple of years we were lucky enough to have a view of a professional fireworks display off the back deck of our parents’ house, but eventually they moved that display elsewhere.  Occasionally we might find a few small items and light them off in the driveway while keeping an eye out for the police just in case, but for the most part I spent a few years just not paying much attention to the Fourth of  July.  Then back in 2008, my aunt and uncle and their family moved from Federal Way to Bonney Lake and started having our family Fourth of July celebrations down there.  The first year or two of this was intended to be a fairly low-key affair, but as darkness fell on the first Fourth of July we spent down there, we quickly realized that people take their fireworks pretty seriously down there.  Once darkness fell, there were three solid hours of people lighting off the big stuff all around us, dwarfing the couple of small variety packs we had.  I’d have to say that it was something of a revelation, and the next year’s Fourth of July saw our fireworks stash increase considerably as people started making trips out to Boom City and the stands at the Muckleshoot reservation to pick up stuff for the party.  At the same time, the neighbors across the street started getting pretty serious about the whole thing, and started bringing out some of the big stuff.  Naturally, we’re trying to keep up with the Joneses (well, I was anyway, not sure about the others) and the stuff starts getting bigger.  Over the next few years, it goes something like this:

2008:  “Ooh, I can shoot off fireworks!”

2009: “Ooh, I can shoot off lots of fireworks!”

2010: “Ooh, I can shoot off big fireworks!”

2011: “Ooh, I can shoot off lots of big fireworks!”

2012: “On second thought Maybe that was too many fireworks…” (this was right about the point that quantity started to outpace quality, and we found ourselves with so many little items to light off that by the time we were done we were lighting Excalibur shells 8 at a time just to burn them off.)

2013: “Maybe I should do some research before randomly buying a bunch of stuff…”

Which is where I found myself last year.  That was the point where instead of just heading up to Boom City and getting whatever looked good on the shelves of the fireworks stand, I started doing some research beforehand.  This quickly turned into spreadsheets full of info on which cakes looked best, which ones went with each other, and  what I could actually afford.  It was also around this time that I started finding the pyro community on the Internet, and started learning where I could get stuff without paying the oftentimes ridiculous prices you’ll find at the reservation stands (which become even more ridiculous when you start learning what that stuff costs wholesale.)  In the end, I managed to get quite a bit more stuff than I usually do (and even managed to throw in a few of the big 500g cakes for the first time) and just about managed to light off around half the stuff the neighbors had.

This year, having learned some lessons from last year, I’m looking to start learning a few new things.  First of all, I’d like to learn to fuse stuff together better (I tried to do a finale board last year consisting of 4 200-gram cakes, a 300-shot Saturn missile and a big 500-gram, but the fusing was pretty terrible) and try to get the timing down better on that one.  Second, I’m trying to actually coordinate things better, and continue with last year’s focus on making a show out of it rather than just lighting off a bunch of random stuff.  Beyond that, there’s still plenty of places I could go with this.  I could start getting into electronic firing, and from there (assuming I wanted to invest in the equipment to do it) I could get into doing scripted shows.  I could get an ATF type 54 license in order to be licensed to work with 1.3g display fireworks, although there are a lot of added regulations to deal with at that point (which is perfectly understandable, given the dangers involved when you start dealing with stuff that basically amounts to large semi-controlled explosions.)  I don’t know if I’ll ever go in any of those directions, but the options are definitely there.

Assuming I don’t lose any fingers in the process, of course.

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