Well, it has come and gone; mostly coming and then going. It never seems to stay long, does it? All the build up for months and months; since October we have been seeing ads and accessories and toys relating to Christmas. We have also seen the questions about whether it is Constitutionally allowable to tell people to have a “Merry Christmas” as opposed to the more generic “Happy Holidays”. Or the ridiculous “Happy Kwanzaa”, the made-up “me-too” “celebration”.
But the celebration as we know it is over. The food is all eaten and/or pawned off on relatives who brought other dishes. The gifts have been torn into and pawed through, the next better than the last, but ever ready to be supplanted by another. Then the wrapping paper and other packaging that is strewn about the floor needs to be sifted to make sure it doesn’t contain a wayward earring or stray bracelet. It would be disaster to have but one James Avery earring while the other is AWOL.
With the giving and getting all through, it is now time to relax, and reflect on what we have just witnessed. From where I stand, it is a frenzy of buying and selling, giving and getting, and remembering that Jesus came out of love for us, and in a selfless sacrifice, made us a way to get to an eternal home. That is a wonderful thought. God’s whole family together forever like a great big holiday.
I wonder who is supposed to bring the green beans and new potatoes...
Monday, December 25, 2006
Well, it has come and gone; mostly coming and then going. It never seems to stay long, does it? All the build up for months and months; since October we have been seeing ads and accessories and toys relating to Christmas. We have also seen the questions about whether it is Constitutionally allowable to tell people to have a “Merry Christmas” as opposed to the more generic “Happy Holidays”. Or the ridiculous “Happy Kwanzaa”, the made-up “me-too” “celebration”.
Posted by aA at 8:33 PM
Saturday, December 23, 2006
It seems there is another writer of sorts in the house.
At school, there was an opportunity to write a story for Christmas. My 11 year-old wrote the following tome.
Did Mrs. Claus Save Christmas?
“Chris, my dear, you must go deliver those presents, I will feed you later!” Mrs. Claus said with a sigh.
Santa was lounging in his big red recliner watching TV, his belly hung out of his white T-shirt, and his socks went up to his knees; he looked pathetic. Santa was complaining about how if his big fat stomach didn’t get any food he would die, and he wouldn’t regret not going to deliver presents, if that was what he had to do to get some dinner.
“Dear, you need to stop being such a baby about this, when you get home I’ll have a big meal here waiting for you, besides you’re going to be eating all those cookies, that will fill you up ‘till you get home,” said Mrs. Claus lovingly.
Mrs. Claus went into the kitchen and to her surprise, she saw little Sally elf, with her little pink bow and her pink and brown argyle socks. Se was the smallest, yet sweetest elf around and you could count on her to do anything.
“Sally dear, what are you doing here washing all of these dishes?” Mrs. Claus asked.
“Well, I know how busy you are with you-know-who at this time of the year, so I thought it would be nice to help out,” Sally said.
“Yeah,” Mrs. Claus agreed, “He’s been a real pain, and I think I will just have to go deliver presents myself this year.”
Sally’s eyes sparkled as she said, “Just get a beard, some boots and his costume and you will be all set to go!"
Mrs. Claus decided to go ahead and try on her husband’s costume, and to her surprise, it fit her very well. She slipped on a pair of high-heeled black boots and headed out the door.
She had caught the elves just in time; they were loading up the sleigh. Mrs. Claus jumped into the sleigh, whipped the reindeer a few times and they flew off.
After a while, Mrs. Claus realized that she had no idea where she was going and she didn’t know what anybody wanted. She decided to turn the sleigh around. When she got home, Santa was waiting at the door for her. She jumped out of the sleigh and ran to hug him.
“How did you know where I was?” she exclaimed.
“I’m Santa,” he replied.
“So, will you go deliver the presents?” she pleaded.
“Yes I will, but DON’T FORGET about my dinner!”
She agreed and gave him a big Santa smooch. As he flew off into the night and exclaimed, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! And don’t forget my dinner!”
Posted by aA at 9:22 PM
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
This is me in shock. I have seen the future and it is only six days away! Is that strange to everyone else, too? Even though the usual run-up to Christmas starts earlier and earlier, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems to be compressed this year. Maybe it's me, maybe it's global warming, but I just don't think there's been as much time intervening as there used to be.
Of course, the hustle and muscle of the season has taken somewhat of a toll on nearly everyone in my age-ish bracket...geezers, mainly.
Yes, I KNOW the expression is "hustle and bustle", but it doesn't take "bustle" to drag a 120 pound artificial tree from the attic, does it? And you don't strain a "bustle" in your back and get a cramp in your leg "bustle" trying to man-handle all the ornaments, lights and other accoutrements from their vacation land. No, sir.
But, time is fleeting, I know that. It's just that it seems to get fleet-er from year to year. Or month to month, depending on your lease.
Posted by aA at 6:56 AM
Friday, December 01, 2006
Ah, December First, only 24 more days till Christmas. To a seven year-old, the preceeding 341 days must have seemed like an eternity. I know, because I have been there.
But I'm here now, and it seems like only a couple of weeks ago we took down the (artificial) tree and stowed it and all similar seasonal kitch and knick knacks in their 11 month resting place.
Stand by, I feel another story coming on...wait, it was a sneeze...never mind.
Posted by aA at 6:12 AM
Friday, November 24, 2006
OK, so Thanksgiving is over, and all the turkeys are consumed until Christmas. Or one would think.
My parents have a deep freeze and an apparent compulsion to collect turkeys. I don't know where they all come from; I thought that most of the free turkey offers went the way of $1.50-a-gallon gasoline.
For several years, my wife has been asking my mother what the count was for frozen birds in their freezer, and every time the answer came back, "None of your business." Somehow, we would eventually find out, at least a general count for the small army of large poultry residing in the frozen turkey mine. Sometimes we'd weasel it out of my sister, who could occasionally spy on the cache, sometimes my mother might let a hint slip in conversation, as in, "Then the fifth one was free..." or "...we didn't have any room for number eight, y'all want some carrots?"
This year, I don't know if her guard was down or she was just weary of the game, but we actually found the total value of the stash. Visible in the photo are eight of the remaining nine turkeys, after the one that was cooked on Thursday. And one was deployed to my sister's house. The mystery solved, we can finally rest.
For this year.
Posted by aA at 10:15 PM
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Of all the Thanksgivings and all the turkeys that I have consumed, there are three of the days that stand out in my mind, and only one of them involves a real (formerly) live cooked turkey.
The first one that is burned into my memory wasn’t at home and the target of our palates was barely qualified as a turkey. My parents had chosen to go camping in East Texas somewhere. My mother had carefully chosen the menu for the Thanksgiving feast; items that could be easily prepared in the “kitchen” of our 18 foot Mobile Scout travel trailer. There were no sweet potatoes with marshmallows and green bean casserole; the oven was the size of a Stetson hatbox and the burners were only the size of postage stamps. I don’t even remember the side dishes; they were obviously simple and most likely canned. The “bird” was a roll of processed turkey meat commonly referred to as a turkey loaf. It was smaller than a football and resided in an aluminum coffin. This we ate under the canopy of hardwood and pine trees, with the cool fall air surrounding the Mobile Scout. Thus ends the remembrance of the actual meal.
So why is this such a memorable Thanksgiving? Why did the meal only rate a paragraph? Well, ‘cause it wasn’t the meal that made it Thanksgiving. It was roaming around the campsite, poking the fire, and enjoying the clear air, chopping or sawing on firewood. My Dad sitting listening to the Aggies play the Longhorns. So it was the whole experience.
The next one was the traditional Thanksgiving, and though uneventful and wholly non-spectacular, it just sticks in my mind. It was when I was 14 or 15, and we were all at our house. Mother had broken out the “good” 1954 china and crystal; it was a Level I holiday meal. Turkey, cranberry sauce (two kinds), green bean casserole, waldorf salad, green pea salad, sweet potatoes smothered with mini-marshmallows, and who knows what else. Suffice to say, it was the whole nine yards.
I suppose the reason for all the finery was that all the grandparents would be in attendance. It was one of the few times that Grandmother Soderberg was with us on Thanksgiving, being that a couple of years before she had gone to live with Aunt Margie and Uncle Clifford. They lived in Galena Park, which isn’t THAT far from Texas City, but in those days when my range extended mostly to La Marque and south to Galveston, anything beyond that was a foreign land.
For that reason, mostly, I suppose that get-together stays with me.
And the absolute most memorable feast of thanks that I hold is the one when I came home from college and we ate at GranMommy and GranDaddy’s house. I was so sick of college cafeteria food that I could scream. And before classes let out, they had served turkey and dressing. Big deal. I like turkey, but I couldn’t say I LOVE turkey. I longed for the Gulf Coast.
That longing was satisfied when we came and readied for the feast. They had bought about 25 pounds of shrimp, and prepared it lovingly (fried, butterflyed, boiled), trout, flounder (stuffed with homemade crab stuffing), oysters (fried) and all manner of seafood-ish delights. GranMommy, ever the creative decorator, had constructed an incredible centerpiece. It was in a crystal punchbowl, a tapering tower of ice adorned with parsley greenery studded with small boiled shrimp on toothpicks; like a Christmas tree with tiny pink ornaments you could eat. And eat we did. That was back when I weighed less and could eat more. Frighteningly more.
I think this particular Thanksgiving embodies the entire spirit of the holiday for me. It isn’t about the food that is served. The traditions from back in 1621 are honorable and worthy of remembering and celebrating. This particular observance, for me at least, came alive by virtue of the things I missed the most while I was in the Hill Country away at college, and the fulfillment that evening is what made me so happy and thankful for what was at home.
Posted by aA at 7:53 PM
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Last week, as I was sitting in my recliner, relaxing after a day at work, my wife handed me a piece of mail that come for me that day. I felt important. I seldom get mail these days, unless you count the solicitation to be the patsy for another credit card company, a special offer of $15,000 off the Chevy of my choice, or one of the endless utility bills. This was hand addressed to me. Personally.
As I gazed expectantly at the return address, I first noticed that it was from my home town of Texas City. As my eyes moved up the lines, I realized that is was from the “Class of ’77 Reunion Committee”. A little jolt of excitement shot through me, a reunion was imminent. Since I had missed more than I had attended over the years, I decided then and there that I was GOING TO GO to this one!
As I greedily opened the letter and glanced over the page that was printed on someone’s inkjet printer, I was arrested by the apparently erroneous information at the top; it said something about the 30th reunion. Thirty years? How can that be? It seems like just a short time ago I was on the yearbook staff snapping pictures of fellow students in the halls and classrooms. Dragging Palmer, going to the Tradewinds Theater to see Smoky and the Bandit, giving Lynrd Skynrd three steps!
I quickly looked at the bottom of the letter to see who was responsible for this mistake. There I saw the familiar names of my classmates and/or their wives who had taken the names of their high school sweethearts. My mind reeled, and I hastily did the math...hmm, 2006 minus 1977 equals 29 plus the May graduation date and the scheduled August 2007 party date...comes to roughly...no, it can’t be...a full thirty years. THIRTY YEARS!
They weren’t wrong. I was an old geezer, uh, AM and old geezer. My girls chuckled at hearing that grand number bandied about. The oldest graduated two years ago, the print on her graduation program is still barely dry in my estimation. The middle one is yet two years away from that great day in her life. And my youngest thinks The Little Mermaid is a quaint old-time movie.
I am determined to get to this gathering of my old friends and rivals. I may finally accept that I am one of the aging teens drifting through the reality that has become the future. Did I turn out as I had imagined I would? Who knows, I didn’t even have any idea that one day I would be staring down the barrel of a 30 year reunion.
I have heard that the farther out the reunions get, the better they get. It becomes not about how good looking you are, or what your dad does for a living. Reports state that the higher the number, the more it becomes about who you are and who is important to you. I am anxious to reconnect with old classmates and see what they have experienced. And to remember some of the fun we had as young goofballs.
Posted by aA at 8:40 PM
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
UgH! COFFEE! Yeah, I’m a coffee ninny, this is an established fact, backed up and admitted to in writing. But sometimes, especially Monday afternoons, I need a mild jolt that only the dark potion can give.
And yeah, I brought it on myself, but this time I tried to be an adult about the amount of sweet appeal that I applied. Big mistake. I feel like a child being forced to take castor oil or Echinacea extract. This substance is not to be imbibed for pleasure. I am convinced of that.
Some say that it’s an acquired taste, like beer or cabbage. My response to that statement is that a person can get used to living next to a swine farm, too. Why you’d WANT to is beyond my comprehension.
So you cops, Coasties and insomniacs can have your black coffee…pass the sugar please, in a front-end loader.
I finished it like a man, though. A big sissy girly-man...
Posted by aA at 1:53 PM
Monday, November 06, 2006
Lest anyone forget what a pill I could be as a child, I have yet another anecdote for the bulging file. I’m not making any excuses, but it goes back to the innate need for everything to look whole and complete. This has been covered in other articles.
As a child, at my grandmother and grandfather’s house during the day, we had it pretty good. There wasn’t much snack food or coke to be had there, but sometimes there were frozen figs or frozen pineapple to cool us on those hot, sticky Texas City summer days.
I liked bananas, too. The only thing that kept a banana from being perfect was the penchant they had for breaking. That was an action I couldn’t tolerate. For some reason, I felt as though I could not eat the disfigured fruit.
The sad thing is, GranMommy usually peeled them for me. That in itself was not sad; any grandmother would do that for their grandchild. What set this woman apart is the fact that when she peeled a banana, if it broke, I would reject it. Upon my snub of the proffered treat, she would eat the wrecked banana. She would try again. If THAT one crashed, guess what? Right, I didn’t eat it. Wouldn’t touch it. So she ate that one. Looking back, I now recognize the expression on her face as a prayer for strength; for her and the banana.
I am not sure how many bananas that old lady ate trying to appease the persnickety little boy, but I am almost certain she never had a potassium deficiency.
In her later years, she seemed to lose patience easily, and I feel responsible for using up so much of it in my youth.
Posted by aA at 10:52 PM
Friday, November 03, 2006
Cheap shoes make your feet stink. Everybody knows this. When you’re old and married, you don’t think that much about it. Your victi—uh, spouse, can just move away, ignore the smell, or take her own cheap shoes off to fight fire with fire.
When you’re young, in love and obsessed with projecting the perfect image to your loved one, the scent of sour feet is not acceptable.
So, when I went to visit my betrothed in her apartment one Friday night just weeks before we were married, I decided to wash my feet off in the tub before we went out. Simple, right? All day in those cheap shoes had not done any favors for my feet. It was essential that I get them reborn as quickly as possible.
I was in the bathroom next to her bedroom. Just paces away, she readied herself for our date while I prepared in my own way. I kicked off my shoes and proceeded to make right what was so wrong. I washed the staleness and toxins from my feet without incident. But when I was standing at the back of the tub, wearing my work clothes with the pants legs rolled up, an incident did occur. Apparently, the laws of physics aren’t always posted clearly, but the penalty for transgressing them is always the same. It seems that if your center of gravity is “so high” and you weigh “so much” and the surface on which you are standing is “so slick”, then you should in fact only reach “so far”. In my vigor to get my feet dry and presentable again, I did reach “just so much further” and my feet slipped on the bottom of the cursed tub. There was a certain amount of friction; there were squeaks galore, but not enough traction to keep me from going down. Over and down. My feet went to the left, skated for a bit, and my upper body went right. When my body pitched to the wall, I lead with my cranium, creating a loud THUMP on the tile wall. As my feet continued their descent toward the drain, they declared their desire for grip on the wet porcelain. More long squeaks. Loud ones. Accompanied by several more thumps, of varying volume. That would be dependent on whether there was much muscle over the bones that were impacting the tile/tub structures. Of course, head, elbow and knee make the loudest noise, while a hip has a lower frequency tone.
As I lay in the tub, partly wet, head, elbow, knee and hip throbbing in pain, I became aware of the voice of my future wife calling out to me in my injured state.
“Are you all right...?”
It was only a few seconds later that I realized that her caring inquiry was interrupted by suppressed gales of laughter. These gales quickly gathered strength and lost control.
Needless to say, by that time, my body was not the only thing bruised.
“I’m not laughing that you got hurt,” she managed to choke out, “I’m laughing at the sound of the squeaking and the thuds...” This statement was punctuated by the stifled laughter which eventually gave way to all out guffaws and cackles.
Only now can I laugh about this as well as she, and her glee is still strong after more than 20 years. It is the essence of comedy: somebody gets hurt in a funny way, and people laugh. I almost feel honored to be an active participant.
Posted by aA at 9:08 PM
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Well MOST of the Saints do, anyhow. I didn’t participate in the “handing-out-of-candy” ritual last night. It just so happened, as I am sure everyone is aware, that Halloween fell on a Tuesday this year. Which coincides exactly with my teaching of graphic design classes at San Jacinto College in the evening.
So, in the name of Education (and in the name of “if-I-don’t-show-up-I-don’t-get-paid”) I went dutifully to class last evening. I had students looking expectantly to me to somehow oblige them in the celebration in the name of all things sweet and greedy. “Sorry”, I told them, “but some other instructor looks like they cared, and I think you are welcome to this...”, pointing to the plastic pumpkin half full of bubble gum and tootsie rolls.
On the home front, my oldest had some guys over to eat and eat and pass out candy and eat. I think they accomplished the stated goal. They also watched scary movies till late at night.
My middle daughter was forced at grade point (apparently) to attend the varsity volleyball team’s last game (as it turned out) over in Manvel. She got home quickly, since the team was retired summarily in three games. She just hung out with her sister and the guys.
My youngest, the one most "into" the festivities, was dressed as a little boy; plaid shorts, baggy camo t-shirt and slide-on plaid sneakers. Oh, and a camo-billed Astros hat to cover her girly hair. I haven’t gotten a full report, but I saw the plastic pumpkin full to the brim with loot. My wife accompanied her on the neighborhood blitzkrieg, along with my daughter’s best friend and her mom. The friend was dressed as a boy as well; this had been planned for seven months.
Judging from the bales of candy that were purchased and the near-empty bin used for distribution, either the trick-or-treaters had a good night, or the resident and visiting youths did. I just had the few odd Kit Kat bars and went to bed. My last official act was to bring the pumpkin and jack-o-lantern in; last year, my excellent offering was smashed over night, so I didn’t want to trust this new incarnation to the late night no-goods marauding after hours.
So ends another celebration aimed at kid’s teeth and sense of entitlement. I only wish we could harness the energy generated and expended for good rather than fat and cavities. Think of the distances we could drive powered by Snickers bars and gummy eyeballs!
Posted by aA at 10:18 AM
Monday, October 30, 2006
Everybody has warm reminisces about the night that children gravitate to nearly as much as Christmas. No, I’m not talking about Father’s Day, good guess, though.
It’s Halloween. I suppose the title was a dead giveaway, so to spook. Sorry. I liked the sport of Halloween as well as any juvenile in town when I was a lot smaller and more mature.
Most geezers remember the days when you filled two brown grocery bags with candy from forays into far-flung neighborhoods. Of course, only the ones that you would be able to hoof it to; not the “imported trick-or-treaters” of today. Truckloads of kids from all over town clogging up the subdivision streets for the chance at a November full of free candy. Cheaters.
One particular Halloween, I decided I wanted to be a skeleton. I’m sure my mother took me down to Sparky’s Toys or Rock’s Five and Dime for a costume. Included was the black jumpsuit imprinted with bones in a semi-believable configuration along with a scary oversized skull mask, complete with giant skeletal teeth and cracks embossed in the surface.
I was thrilled. I nearly jumped into the jumpsuit, and couldn’t even wait to get it tied up in the back. I put on the mask, stared into the mirror and snarled, and nearly frightened myself. The only thing was, the mouth opening was very small, and when I exhaled, the moist breath filled the façade with condensation. It also had a little rough edge that irritated my mouth.
So my mother got the great shears from the drawer in the kitchen and proceeded to enlarge the opening. Try it on. Hmmm. Better, but now it bothers my upper lip, too. Trim some more. OW, my lip. Snip again. Now it bothers my chin. And my upper lip.
This continued until my skull mask and my fragile artistic sensibility were injured nearly beyond recognition. The whole mouth was carved into a mimed scream that extended from just millimeters below my nose to my chin and a little beyond. And all you could see of the teeth were a couple of molars. Finally it was comfortable, but I looked stupid.
I seem to vaguely remember the beginnings of some ugliness, but my parents explained that I could just as easily sit at home while the others gathered complimentary candy from far and wide. So I sucked it up, and went with my sister, who went as a Pocahontas or something in a burlap costume with a white felt antlerless moose appliqué on the front. And her “surprised woman” mask. We stepped next door and just prior to our first handful of candy, posed for the picture you see below right. One can see my feeble attempt at being a scary and convincing walking skeleton, but my face belies the lack of faith in my costume, mainly the mask.
Posted by aA at 8:03 PM
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Not in MY closet mind you. But there are three guys, who shall remain nameless, who have this to live down. Heck, they probably have forgotten (read “suppressed”) the memory completely. My sister and I, however, have absolutely NOT forgotten.
The story begins long before the actual event, and will take a bit of set up, so please indulge me.
Like many boys in the 12 year-old age range, I used to read comic books. I wasn’t an avid collector, I mostly read MAD Magazine and an occasional superhero of some sort. As everyone knows, the ads in the back were always fascinating to me; the X-ray glasses, the BB machine gun and various other worthless junk. I knew that the X-ray glasses COULDN’T work, but I always wanted the BB machine gun. One day, I spied an offer for a five-foot tall jointed skeleton that glows in the dark. WOW!, I had to have it. So I sent in the money, five dollars or so, and waited.
When the package arrived, I made a mental note that the package was very thin, especially one that was purported to contain a whole five foot tall skeleton. My first notion was that perhaps it may require assembly, and since there were so many bones in a skeleton, the dark thought crossed my mind that I would have to put it together.
I tore open the box and stared at what I thought would be the anatomical framework of a glow-in-the-dark person. What I stared at was a cheap cardboard printed skeleton smiling up at me with his (her?) jointed-by-brads limbs folded neatly up under his head. I took it out with disgust, I paid five dollars plus shipping and handling for THIS? Trudging to my room, I decided to test the only other redeeming value that this black and white printed cheat scheme would have; the power to glow in the dark.
On entering my room, I went straight to my desk lamp. I held the bundle of faux bones aloft to save the precious light from the 60 watt bulb. After a time, I took it into the closet to test the “glow factor”. The second I closed the door, I know that I’d been snookered.
My sister and I painted the entire skeleton with Lightning Bug Glo Juice to at least salvage some of my money.
That said, I will proceed with the original ignoble story.
The three brothers were over at our house with their parents. It was a usual Saturday evening, and the adults were having their fun. For some reason, it seems that we were all bored, looking for something to do. My sister remembered the cheap, home glow skeleton, and we proceeded to “glow him up”. To test the amount of light he had absorbed, I shut the light off. I don’t know what inspired my sister to do what she did next, but it was the making of one of the funniest 20 minutes I had experienced up till then in my life, and ranks up there with the top five of all time.
While the light was off, she swooped the bare bones at the brothers, who were skittish anyway. With that move, they scattered to other side of my bed. In the dark. Their shrieks of fear and laughter were hilarious. My sibling was just getting started with her campaign of fright on the boys. She followed their pleas, laughs and screams to further chase and terrorize them. Then she got the idea to grab its wrist and REACH for the poor boys. I stayed out of their way as they flung their bodies in their attempts to escape the flying bones. Of course, the pilot of the bones was keen on their plan to flee. She headed them off at the pass every time. Had she been a real ghoul, they would have been done for.
When the dive-bombing skeleton relented and the lights came on, we found the brothers cowering in various parts of the room, trembling with adrenaline and subsiding laughter. The youngest had a wet spot on his pants that extended from the zipper to his knees, the middle boy had a dual damp stripe that went to the middle of his thighs. The oldest, who was my age, did not escape the embarrassment; he had a single silver dollar sized spot on his pants.
As the family left, our glee was renewed as the boys tried to cover their shame.
Posted by aA at 8:14 PM
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Big deal, right? Yes and no. When your lighting is as dim as ours and you are as pressed for time in the morning as I am, it is classed as one of the small victories.
Of course, if I chose my clothes (including socks) the night before (the way my wife suggests), I would have time to analyze the color composition of my socks at length. Or at least quickly under optimal illumination conditions.
The best lighting in our house is in the bathrooms. I suppose it’s because in the rest of the house, I look best in low light. The bathrooms support more visual activity, thus requiring more light. There is make-up to be applied (not by ME), teeth to be flossed, jaws that need to be shaved (this one is ONLY me…) and also only in my case, ear hairs to be removed.
So just now, on adjusting my socks, not only did I raise the sock, but my mood as well. And I have my phone, too.
Posted by aA at 10:09 AM
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Just to clarify; this is written about all the native-born Americans who are SUPPOSED to know English.
Swedes and others who actually DECIDED to speak English are exempt. I have a lot of respect for anyone who learns a second language.
I have some experience with the Spanish language and, to steal a line from Steve Martin, they "have a different word for EVERYTHING!". And to conjugate a verb in Spanish is to admit that I don't know anything in the world about grammar "under the hood". I listen to Spanish better than I speak it, and that's not saying much. Actually, I know just enough to be dangerous to myself and my 15 year old daughter who is taking Spanish in high school.
I also have several Chinese friends and associates, and their comand of our language, spoken and written, is astounding. To listen to them speak to me in English and to someone else in Chinese puts me to shame.
So, Mikael, you are doing fine, and maybe you could even teach some Texans a thing or two about our language!
Posted by aA at 9:18 AM
The homonyms seem to be a source of consternation among today’s writers. The use of “there”, “their” and “they’re” interchangeably was once upon a time, a novelty and a purposeful method of feigning ignorance when corresponding with my close friends. Or trying to outfox spellcheck in word processing and email applications (this is a sport unto itself).
Now I receive emails that say, “it was good to here from you…” and “hear we are having sunshine…”, and, “there coming in this weekend…” all NOT intentional word play.
Another of the mistakes made is the arbitrary placement of the apostrophe on words that are merely plural, with no possessions anywhere nearby. I even have seen signage, no lie, “Hair Design’s”…how can this be? I used to be mildly amused by the odd appearance of the “false possessive”, but now with business cards and posters and television ads and all sorts of other occurrences I am overwhelmed by the ignorance that is approaching epidemic proportions.
I am not a grammarian or composition whiz by any stretch of the imagination; just read this blog with any regularity and you will see that fairly clearly. But I DO know when to use apostrohy's and when knot two!
I don’t know who to charge for these gnu societal problems, but aisle find someplace to lei the blame!
Posted by aA at 5:56 AM
Friday, October 20, 2006
...I shaved. But i got out of the house without my phone...but I remembered my giant sandwich...and took out the trash. But I forgot the pack of gum I'd bought to bring to work for my goodies drawer. But I remembered to take my daughter to school...but she forgot her phone, too.
It's noon now, and you can bet that I WON'T forget to eat. I didn't get this size by forgetting lunch. And I have this GiAnT sandwich to get started on...I only have an hour...
Posted by aA at 9:56 AM
Thursday, October 19, 2006
…from The Routine. Apparently it is my downfall. This morning, I left the house without shaving. No big deal, right? But I think it’s a symptom of a larger problem. What that problem is, I’m not quite sure, but I AM quite sure there may or may not be a problem.
I think it started when I went out to the van this morning before I shaved; yes, that’s when it happened. It’s funny, but little things like that, when you’re not fully functional which throw you for a loop. It’s as if your brain has a hidden ticker for tasks in the morning, or in sub-operational situations, that it relies on to make you feel like you are doing your best. If your normal routine includes 37 tasks before you turn the key in the ignition, and if you complete 37 or more in that amount of time, your brain gives up. So, if you don’t normally plug your phone in after you iron your shirt, then you’re likely to forget something. Either important or unimportant. Doesn’t matter.
Now, if you leave BEFORE you complete the requisite 37 tasks, you either leave with that nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something, or you catch it when your youngest child asks where your belt is. The point is, you have missed something. Either important or unimportant. You may have left your wallet, your phone, failed to zip your fly. Or you forgot to shave.
I don’t feel so bad now that I got to work. It seems one of my co-workers changed her routine (got out of her truck and went around to the passenger side) and left something she needed in the parking lot. She had to make the long trek back to retrieve it.
Lucky I keep a dull razor in my desk drawer.
Posted by aA at 7:42 AM
Monday, October 16, 2006
You thought I was going to write "Birthday Blues", didn't you? Well, not a chance of that with this bunch I work with. They know me all too well. They summoned me to the conference room, and along with the requisite card and cake, they had a sack of office supplies: Bread, peanut butter, jelly, blue corn chips (hence the title), salsa, 6 pack of Pepsi, and some Tuxedos cookies.
What more could a geezer/miser/chowhound like me want? Toys are fine, but you can't eat them.
This birthday, middle of October, like so many through the years, was bitterly warm and muggy, as opposed to the smattering of "autumn" birthdays I have savored through the years. After 47 birthdays, only a few are really memorable. Like the ones spent on Bolivar Peninsula or the odd college one when friends actually cooked dinner for me. Today was an experience, not for the wild and/or crazy antics that ensued, there were none. It was memorable for the obvious thought by my co-workers that know me (apparently too well) put into the choices of their gift.
Someone else may be offended by a sack of groceries for their birthday, but not this geezer. It is a genuinely off-beat manifestation of a truly attentive giving spirit.
I thank all of you who contributed to the surprise. Is it any wonder that I come to work every day with you yahoos?
Posted by aA at 11:50 AM
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Dr Pepper is a popular soft drink in Texas. I don’t know if it is because it was invented here or if the inventor hit upon the ideal formulation for Texas tastes. It doesn’t matter to me. I have always liked it.
For me, it started back in the early 1960’s. When my sister and I were little, we stayed with my grandparents while my mother worked. We always had a good time, playing in or out doors. The old house didn’t have any air conditioner, so we were usually outside in the summer.
Every day, usually around 8:30 or 9:00 a.m., my grandfather would get in the Dodge Dart and drive down to the Texas City Dike. This structure, the Dike, is billed as “10 miles of Fun”…Five miles out and five miles back with granite squares on the South side and usually broken up scrap concrete on the North side. This long jetty was paved with a two-lane road. People always fished from both sides (hence “10 Miles of Fun”) and the deeper South side was home to the Texas City Shrimp Fleet. None of this is what would draw GranDaddy to the Dike. It was the visits with his brother.
Some days my sister and I would accompany him on his mission. We would clamber to the back seat and ride with the silent man driving with a silent purpose. Sometimes on the way to the meeting point, he would stop at one of the bait camps and buy each of us a six ounce bottle of Dr Pepper. Since we didn’t often get carbonated drinks, or cokes as we called them, any one was a treat. But one of the best and most favored “cokes” was the Dr Pepper.
After receiving our treasure, we would proceed down the road to the real reason we were there. My sister and I would look out the window of the Dart for the lone black car parked on the North side of the road. Usually about halfway down, we would spot it. A huge, hulking black and chrome dinosaur. That would be Uncle Curtis in his DeSoto.
On arrival, we would get out of the Dart and climb into the DeSoto’s cavernous back seat to drink our DP. The two old men would sit quietly. And sit. Light a cigar. And sit. Finally, one would open with news of an old acquaintance in the hospital or funeral home. Or remember something from the days of brown toned photos when they were both young and strong.
We heard so many great stories, and I am not sure if we were supposed to hear some of them. But as they spoke in short sentences punctuated with draws on their El Productos, the bond that the brothers shared since the turn of the 20th century stayed young and strong.
And as the conversation came to a close, the 60-year sentence drew not to a period, but to a 24 hour semicolon. Same time tomorrow. Maybe my sister and I would be there with a Dr Pepper, maybe we wouldn’t . But the Dart and the DeSoto would sit side by side for a while, suspended in time. While the brothers...smoked. Talked. Bonded.
Posted by aA at 8:08 PM
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I am so excited! We have a new guy in the office, he uses a Nikon D 70 extensively, and unlike me, he has read the manual on how to use it AND his Speedlite 600, the flash unit. That alone has put him WAY out of my league.
And the fact that he remembers the techniques just blows me away!
The revelation that has me so profoundly excited is a "remote flash" feature with these two pieces of equipment that is so "Houdini", that I can't stand it. I am aching to use it myself.
Pictured here is the author holding the SB600 at big-fat-belly-level. Note the "faux-scary" effect produced by the combination of low angle light/large nose/beetle brow. Stunning. At least. At best, this opens up a whole world of possibility in the realm of portrait photography. Not lugging 85 pounds
of lighting equipment and looking for an outlet in range is the priceless
part of this equation as well.
Thanks to Rob for reading instructions and sharing information. Looking forward to picking your brain!
Posted by aA at 12:13 PM
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Not daily. There, I feel a little better now. Although it ain’t like I have been getting clamors for updates on this thing! A novelty, that’s what it is. Just a novelty. A handful of people looked at it briefly, some of whom actually commented (thank you so much) and then everyone promptly forgot about it. I’ll be willing to wager that nobody even has a bookmark on this page. Or at least they don’t click it.
That’s OK, I ain’t no Hemmingway or Twain. Someday, you people will say, “Yeah, I almost followed his writing in the early days...”
Posted by aA at 9:29 AM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Yeah, it's been a week since I put anything up on the GeezerChron...I feel so bad. But that's the way it goes. Please re-read and post comments. I am flying blind here.
Blind as a bat. Like all the ones in the schools lately. Alvin High had some bats in the old subterranean cafeteria...sounds like a likely place for them. Or maybe they were just trying to learn something. Or if we could only fit them with glasses, maybe they wouldn't get lost. Or maybe the school is just where they WANT to be. Maybe all these bats want to do is learn, to
grow as bats. To be something besides a prop for Halloween, or Dracula movies. Or news hooks.
Think about it. But stay away from any bat that looks confused or ill, such as one poring over an algebra book.
Posted by aA at 2:53 PM
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Nope, surprisingly, no Photoshop! This is the new breed of animal, the Clydachshundale that they developed for foreign tourists to come over to Texas and pretend to be cowboys, but retain the multi-seat capacity of the F-250 limousines they like so much! 7 passengers and one driver (the passengers get foam rubber spurs to keep them from accidental acceleration).
Posted by aA at 9:05 AM
Monday, September 11, 2006
Hooray! This weekend (starting at 9:07 p.m. Friday) I did not venture to
WalMart at all! Not for milk, bread, tortillas, cheese, lunch meat or an
There is such a sense of freedom knowing that I stayed away from the Mother Ship for the entire weekend. That's not to say that I didn't shop at all Saturday or Sunday. We needed some things after church on Sunday, but it was HEB that got my dollars instead of the Bentonville Giant.
And with the encouragement offered by my two consecutive days of being AWOL from a major discount outlet, I may even be able to extend the run to
Monday, and perhaps, who knows, even TUESDAY! What a feat, what an
accomplishment. It ranks right up there with buying the last package of
Ah, the liberation, the ecstasy, the...
Dang. We need cat food. The clock starts over.
Posted by aA at 8:14 AM
Sunday, September 10, 2006
This year, school shopping was done a little earlier, and with a little less stress than usual. I can say that, I assume, since I was not involved with it that much. I did however manage to get to drive 60 miles to buy a pair of volleyball shoes, then another three hours to try to find street shoes. But that wasn’t too ghastly, except for the price. Apparently, the huge profit margin on athletic shoes must persist in rising year by year. I just hope the little Thai children who make them get vacation and sick days now.
Now, from a wide observation, it appears that when there are school supplies to be purchased, cheaper is NEVER better. This is true for shoes, pants, shirts, backpacks, socks, more shoes, skirts, skorts, shorts and any incidental shoes. And quality of construction has nothing to do with it.
My experience, however, usually involves the SECOND DAY of SCHOOL shopping. Which is arguably worse. Mainly argued by me, since my wife takes herself out of the equation at this point.
One can (partially) forgive the superiority of wearables, when it comes to peer pressure. Girls are (I assume) far more susceptible than boys in regard to the importance of the origins of school clothes. Of course, not having a boy to buy for, I realize that this is probably an obtuse statement. In these days of image and mass media, the male is just as likely to be caught up in the dangerous storm of “have” and “have not”.
When I was a kid, guys wore Levi’s, and if you came to school with Roebucks or JCPenney Plain Pockets, you were looked at askance. Today, no doubt, you would be vilified in the gossip columns and celebrity tabloids and TV entertainment “news” shows if you don’t have the right gear.
OK, so the wearables get a “snooty pass”. I can live with that. I had owned a couple of pairs of Plain Pockets in my day. The most dire problem I have with the process is the preoccupation with “high quality” consumables. Yes, the filler paper from the Dollar Store is unacceptable because everyone will know from whence it came. The same goes for the erasers, pencils, colored pencils, index cards, rulers and the plastic compass. At least my kids aren’t so worried about the little things. But there are some things Dollar Tree just doesn’t carry.
In the crowded aisle of the local discount hangar, I moored myself by the endcap just out of the way of the school supplies row. My youngest had already gotten the required items, except for perhaps the odd folder or book cover (now you have to BUY them, nobody would be caught DEAD with the paper ones they give away at the school!). The supplies gauntlet was peopled by desperate teens mainly, since high school classes give their supplies list on the first day. So there they were, the mostly moms, dazed dads and vacant-eyed teenagers, pressed in a swamp of folders, binders, book covers, pencils, glue sticks, tape, composition books and filler paper. Of course, certain teachers require certain items that are not QUITE the same as what is in stock. But usually by 8:47 p.m., the pickings are a little slim anyhow.
So, with the wiser parents hanging at the passes of the aisles, and the students picking over the picked over supplies, I observed some universal reactions. FIRST, everyone is nearly exhausted by a full day of work or school. Everyone wants to be finished and leave. Which leads me to SECOND; the kids are willing to stay just a little longer to find the right products. THIRD, all the students have a unconscious “sneer” reflex when it comes to the admonition of the parents to “get one and let’s go”, usually after proffering one of the least expensive binders. If the house brand costs 97 cents, there is usually a more expensive and slightly cooler version for two or three times the cost. The suggestion that the bargain brand be chosen is met with a blank stare with head cocked to the side in an irritated snap of the neck. Hmm, snap the neck; what an intriguing idea at that point...
“NObody USES thoOose...”, or a variation thereof is the top response by 93% of students.
So now, in my estimation, the Christmas season is in danger of being supplanted by the Back to School season as the most lucrative time in retail, especially for the giant discount chain stores. I mean, with the criminalization of the “Christ” in “Christmas” these days, it’s easy to imagine the cooling of the giving spirit.
But everybody HAS to go to school...
Posted by aA at 2:57 PM
Thursday, August 31, 2006
OK, a fiend of mine and I were talking nonsense, which is not unusual, when I came up with a nice, new word. Now THAT is unusual, because he's the smart one, I am the one who does pratfalls.
The word is "SPONTENACITY", defined as "committed to having no plan". He added, "an assiduous lack of focus".
Not much, but you should be seeing this word working its way into the vernacular.
Please, if you have any other words that are hybrids, and that actually
work, I implore you, add them in the comments.
Posted by aA at 8:41 AM
Friday, August 25, 2006
Well, now that Pluto has been demoted to "non-planet" status, Starbuck's is
going to have to put their newest store on a real "classical planet". Since
the atmosphere is poisonous on Neptune, they are re-tooling the budget for
building the store. The plans must now include an oxygen supply, CO2
scrubbers and an airlock. This is going to raise the cost of Starbuck's
coffee, however, it is widely known that that does not matter.
Demotion is always a source of frustration, especially if the position held
was for more than a hundred years. Pluto should join a support group to get
the feelings out, lest it be reduced to an asteroid.
As long as it poses no danger to Earth, Pluto's plight is not really
relevant to us. But it can serve as an example to us all. I'll think of that
later, but believe me, it will be highly instructive.
Posted by aA at 1:06 PM
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Gleaming in the display case of the Gibson’s discount store, was the object of the lad’s desire. More than candy, more than a new BB gun, more than even a new bike, there lay the most beautiful hunting knife ever made. It was a Kabar, chrome steel blade, about 7 inches in length, a straight guard and a handle of laminated leather the color of a saddle. The sheath matched the handle and had a snap at the top, to hold the handsome beast safely until summoned.
What he could do with that knife. He knew that eventually he would have the chance to go deer hunting, and this would be the perfect instrument for eviscerating a deer. He would be the awe of the camp. He could also cut some of those bamboo canes around the hideout and lash them into walls and doors and stuff. And in case a wild animal; cougar, bear, armadillo, possum, mouse or crazed sea gull crashed in, he could defend himself and anyone in the vicinity. What an awesome tool.
It was somewhere over $12, so on his meager allowance of a dollar or so a week, it was a long-term commitment. So for weeks he did his chores, saving it all, giving a small percentage at Sunday School, and gazing lovingly at the grail behind the glass. What a hunter he would be with is Daisy Model ’94 in his hand and the Kabar at his side…
His birthday was in October, and while he netted some long forgotten gifts from well intentioned relatives and friends, none of them was the Kabar and sheath. He didn’t blame them, the knife was expensive, he knew, and besides, he wanted to have the honor of releasing the prize himself. To take delivery by his own hand with his own money was his goal.
Lucky for him, he got a total of about $15 for his birthday. The gleam in his eye could only be matched by the glint of fluorescent light off of that beautiful blade. He got his dad to drive him the .5 miles to Gibson’s with the cold cash in his hot little hand. With a singularity of purpose he bee-lined straight back to the Sporting Goods department. With what could be described only as grunts and squeaks of suppressed elation, he somehow got the clerk to understand that he wanted the Kabar in the case and hurry.
His dad drove the .5 miles back home with the boy and his knife. A happy couple. Made for each other.
When he got home, the boy went straight to the back yard to challenge every wild and dangerous animal imaginable, he stabbed the bears and cut the lions and generally frightened the elephants and killer whales. He ached to grasp the cool shiny blade and throw it to stick it into a tree, but resisted the temptation; he had broken the tip off of two knives previously that way, he could never tempt fate with this instrument.
For days he hacked tirelessly through the jungle underbrush and the desert cactus and the giant redwoods. He whittled proudly on the tough green wood of the backyard forest. The clear October air fueled the adventure of young imagination, and cemented the deep, emotional bond of boy and knife. The flash of sunlight on the flawless blade was intoxicating, the smell of the leather of the sheath was like ambrosia.
One afternoon while in his room, he and his blade were sparring with an unseen villain. The miscreant was lying across the neatly made bed, and needed finishing off. The boy menacingly raised the knife above the evildoer, and slowly dragged the point across his midsection, ridding the world of yet another bag of human scum. Unfortunately, the boy misjudged his own strength and the sharpness of the blade. The bedspread was neatly sliced along the width of the bed, about two feet in length, precisely along the lines of the green plaid pattern. Of course, he didn’t see the damage until later that evening, while sitting on the bed, putting his clean socks away in his drawer.
The panic was evidenced by the blush that started at his knees and rushed to his hair in increasingly powerful waves, forcing the moisture from the inside of his skin to the surface. He had to hide the deed, but how? Thinking quickly, he seized the pillows that his mom had chosen to make the bed a nice composition. He distributed the furry black pillow and another pillow horizontally across the center of the bed. There, no one would know. Maybe it would heal up…
His mother was placing the folded supply of shirts, socks and underwear at the traditional place at the foot of his bed, when she noticed the peculiar placement of the pillows. Thinking it odd, she decided to move them to their usual spot up at the head of the bed. That was when she saw the gaping gash and the white sheet shimmering from beneath. When she summoned her son to the crime scene, he was appalled that the wound had not healed and had been discovered. Then, to his ultimate disappointment, shame and chagrin, his mother imposed the most harsh but fair penalty that could be devised: she took away his knife for a month.
Posted by aA at 8:39 PM
Friday, August 18, 2006
Today is the last day for a friend of mine at this job. Now, many people
have left this college, and I have varying degrees of joy/sadness for any
number of them. This one is different.
Donna Urban is one of the sweetest, friendliest and hard-working people I have had the pleasure to know in my whole working life. Her faith is strong and contagious. Practical and down-to-earth, Donna also has the sense of fun that makes even the most rotten day at work seem bearable. She is smart-alecky and quick witted, but is also very compassionate and caring.
I feel responsible, however, for dulling that sense of compassion in my own
Donna's desk is the first one in from the front door of the office, and so she sees everyone coming or going. Unfortunately for her, many times when I enter or leave the office, I do the old schtick where you stop the door with
your foot and jerk your head back violently and immediately grab your nose.
I usually add in the "weak kneed back-pedal" to add authenticity. Donna fell for it a number of times.
After MONTHS of this, she eventually got jaded to the "door-ram" trick.
However, one day, the smallest, sweetest and most-liked girl in our office
ran into the door and really did get jolted. For real. And normally, Donna
would be the first to offer aid or at least a caring inquiry of the physical
state, "OH, are you all right?"
My conditioning had worked an evil transformation in our "office Mom"...she just looked at poor Rosie with a blank expression! When she realized that "this is no drill", she immediately burst forth with pent-up compassion and guilty apology for not reacting sooner.
So Donna, thus ends our face-to-face fun times, we will be reduced to typing silly things back and forth. Vaya con Dios, my friend. And have-a a good-a time-a in-a Pearland-a!
Posted by aA at 10:14 AM
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The lad and his sister were excited that their older cousins were in town. They had been in Germany and were always full of great stories and general smart aleck good fun. This evening turned out to be in keeping with the anticipated good time.
After a couple of hours swapping stories and remembering the last time they were together, the group got a little restless. A scenario was scripted that the cousins were going to rob the bank in the old West; the young boy was slated to appear as the teller, his sister was cast as a patron of the bank, and the world traveling brothers were the bank robbers. The casting done, the next phase was to dress the set. Since there was no budget for authentic bank teller bars, wooden porch, horse rail and dirt street, the decision was made to make do with a small table at the door of the boy’s room and the long hall just outside the door was to be the street.
The robbers were equipped with the requisite Peacemaker replica cap guns, a small bag was used to carry off the “loot”, and the teller was equipped with some authentic-looking paper money and was armed with a “hidden” cap derringer in a wrist strap.
Now, this was a special derringer in that it came with spring-loaded cartridges that had actual projectiles that would fly out when fired with a round stick-on cap applied where normally a primer would reside on real ammunition. This made the ordnance very deadly and thus important to the conscientious teller back while the West was being won. And since it was the pride of the boy, and since he was the youngest of the group, he was allowed to thus arm himself. And just for good measure, he placed two round caps at the primer position of each of the bullets his gun held.
The bank was quiet, as expected. The young teller sat at his post, counting the stacks of real-looking money, the benign young woman milled about the bank lobby. Suddenly, two rough cowboys burst in, brandishing chrome plastic pistols. They meant business. The young woman screamed (and then laughed). The robbers turned their attention to the teller. His life threatened, he moved quickly to put all the folding money into the bag. Then, as quickly as they had come, the miscreants were out the door, and on their way down the dusty street.
The second they turned their cowardly backs, the brave and ever-ready young teller retrieved his derringer and yelled a warning to the thieves to stop. The blonde one spun around, ready to shoot his cap pistol. He was a split second too late on the trigger. The teller let fly the double-capped derringer and sent the plastic projectile flying to its mark.
In the very same (or the very next) second, the blonde bandit’s right hand came up to his right eye, a shocked “aargh” escaped his lips, his body flung to the carpet of the street. His partner froze…and laughed. Hard. Even the wounded cowboy was laughing. The teller, on seeing the outlaw fall, then laugh, began to follow suit. When the poor woman from inside the bank (who had been away from the door, thereby missing the action) realized what had indeed happened, she immediately began to cackle as well.
The production halted, the shooting victim began to recount his last memory of what had taken place over the last few seconds. It seems that as he wheeled to shoot the audacious teller, he saw the derringer barrel, and a flash of gunpowder at the muzzle. The next thing he knew, his eye hurt and he fell, stunned.
There was never a dull moment when their cousins came to town.
Posted by aA at 8:46 PM
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I was so excited. We were going to MEXICO, an exotic country where you could buy a serape or something made of pottery. I’d always wanted a serape, though. I was seven years old and couldn’t believe my good fortune. Our family had just bought a new truck, and we were going on vacation; first to Mexico, then to the Hill Country of Texas, where we normally camped. We typically stayed there on the river for three weeks at a time in the summer. But this time was going to be different. Mexico. I was giddy.
So, I must have missed the itinerary discussions. Heck, I was only seven. I was never required to attend any of those meetings. Besides, I didn’t care HOW we got there, I was ecstatic with the fact that we were going. All I remember hearing was something mentioned of Laredo and Goose Island and Mexico. And I wasn’t up on the geography or logistics, being so young.
The first evening after my Daddy got off of work, we hooked up the trailer and finished the last minute packing, then we traveled for several hours. Did I mention I was excited? My sister and I populated the back of the truck, protected as we were by the aluminum camper shell. There was a small fan bolted up in the corner, the windows were able to crank open, we had snacks and sleeping bags on top of all the foam mattresses. The full eight foot bed of the truck was our domain.
Some time after dark, we pulled into a place to rest for the night, and we set about the tasks proscribed by the trail boss. Level the trailer, set the chocks, Daddy lit the pilot lights on the butane refrigerator and stove. We were set for the night. We ate a long forgotten meal and piled into our beds.
I don’t really remember being awakened, eating or even breaking camp. It was early in the morning, and the only memory that stays with me is the sight of the sun rising over the Intracoastal Waterway and the smell of the oak trees that surrounded us, and that smell mixing with the salt air. We then mounted our new steed and Daddy kicked it in the sides. We were again headed to Mexico.
We had been driving Southward along State Highway 35 for awhile and had even stopped for a restroom break. That was when my sister decided to ride in the cab of the truck. There was air conditioning up there, but I didn’t care. The cab of a pickup was not the place for four people to be on a long trip, air conditioned or not. It was too tight for me to be up there. Anyway, I was content in the back: I had my snacks, a radio, and a 300 sheet newsprint drawing pad. I spent time drawing and sketching, sketching and drawing.
An hour or so after my sister went to the cab, I began to wonder what our next stop would be. I tapped on the glass of the camper, trying to get someone’s attention. Tap, tap, tap. TAP TAP TAP…BANG! Tap tap tap tap tap taptaptap…then repeat.
Finally, my mother turned around and saw me gesturing and mouthing words and tapping on glass.
I mimed, “Where are we going?”
She replied with a puzzled look.
“WHERE ARE WE GOING?”
“WHERE ARE WE GO-ING?”, slower, louder.
“Wha—“, she countered.
At that point, though only 7 and a half, I decided that visual communications would be in order. I quickly grabbed my 300 sheet drawing pad, found a page without scribbles, and wrote out in large, clear headline text, “Where are we going, GOOSE ISLAND?”
It became appallingly clear that the message was received in its entirety. My loving Mother exploded in a fit of silent laughter, at least from my side of two panes of glass.
Confused by her outburst, I pulled the pad back to see if my message had included an unintentional joke. No. Yet there she sat, laughing.
I tapped the glass again, and replaced the paper to the surface. That (and my mother’s broken-by-hysteria explanation) attracted the attention of my sister, who in turn burst into soundless guffaws.
Which made me point harder, more earnestly and forcefully at the pad, while mouthing the words, over and over and over again, “Where are we going, GOOSE ISLAND?”
With every repetition, it was evident that all those in the cab were losing control. I finally gave up in disgust. If they weren’t going to tell me, I could just wait. I knew there was something up, but just what, I had no clue. I could tell, because just when the gales of laughter would subside, one of them would look back at my dour little face and it would begin anew.
Finally, they laughed so hard that one (or more) felt the undeniable pressure on the bladder, or was it a pang of guilt for making me the deaf brunt of their joke? When I got ready to exit the camper shell, they were all there to meet me with three quarters apology/explanation, one quarter “relive the glee”. Or was it the other way around. I never knew.
Then they explained the situation to me, in shifts between hee haws. It seems that the halcyon refuge where we had spent last night was none other than Goose Island State Park.
I was dumbfounded, and only wished they were as well. To this day, when the words “goose” and “island” appear in the same paragraph, 75% of those present find it funny to put them together behind the words, “Where we goin’?…”.
Posted by aA at 7:27 AM
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
He was about 5 and tall for his age, so maybe people expected more than they should have from him. He was a really good kid, who had been trained to do as he was told and not talk back. On occasion, however, stubbornness would show through.
His grandmother had an extensive collection of seashells, which she used in crafts; or not. Mostly stored away for future generations. In case there was a worldwide shortage of seashells. As a matter of fact, she had quite an extensive collection of a lot of things: driftwood, grasses, sea oats, buttons, fabric, clothes, pictures…their house and attic were populated by neatly packed and boxed collections of the aforementioned items. GranMommy, as she was affectionately called, was the packrat/craft queen of the entire city. She could make centerpieces for banquets, Christmas decorations, Thanksgiving decorations, Easter displays and anything else she could formulate from cast off or otherwise found material. They didn’t have much money, but she always had the flexibility and ingenuity to keep the kids entertained.
So, the grandfolk had taken the kids to Galveston, this 5 year old boy and his sister of about 8, to go beachcombing to reinforce the seashell supply. They scoured the sand for sand dollars, the ultimate currency the Gulf offered. In short supply most of the time, whole sand dollars were cause to shout in triumph. The other legal tender found usually included olive shells, ones they called “parrot shells” (because they reminded them of parrot heads), angel wings, spiral snail shells and various others.
After a while of bending to the task of collecting the sandy treasures, the kids needed a break. There was the bleach bottle filled with tap water under the seat in the Dodge Dart, so drink was not an issue. The workers had a need for a sweet and nutty treat to satisfy the ache inside. That was when GranMommy produced the Snickers bar. How they loved the chocolaty, caramel and peanut goodness. There was only one problem. There appeared to be only one. GranDaddy had the remedy. He pulled out his pocket knife and cut the blessed treasure in two.
The lad was artistic from early on and had a compulsion to see everything intact. To him, everything that existed needed to be visually complete; whole. So when he saw the Snickers bar bisected, it offended his sense of entirety on a very deep, personal level. How could he participate in the maiming of such a beautiful thing? He couldn’t be expected to draw half a picture, how could he be expected to eat half a Snickers bar? In a nearly unconscious move, he put the dreaded, defiled, mutilated candy bar away from his sight. He threw it to the sand.
It was that seemingly defiant move, the apparent “If-I-Can’t-Have-The-WHOLE-Snickers-Bar-I-Don’t-Want-ANY-of-the-Snickers-Bar” that pushed poor GranDaddy over the edge for that moment. In a single move, he swatted the lad on the posterior.
His sister ate her half in silence.
Posted by aA at 11:00 AM
Monday, August 14, 2006
When did the heat index become so important? When I was a kid, the weather people in Houston had just started talking about the “wind chill factor”. Which, of course I interpreted as “windshield factory”. We have a windshield factory? Where is it? And why is it important for me to know how cold it is there…
“…and it’s 43 degrees in Galveston now, 37 at the windshield factory…”
Who cares? Nobody I know works there!
So now why are they compelled to tell us how hot it “feels”? When I was a kid, when it was 96, it FELT like it was 96! When it was 104, it felt like 104. Some engineers with nothing else to do sat down and made a scale based on temperature, humidity and gullibility and published this thing. Now all the meteorologists and news people parrot it every time the temperature edges up past 90.
“it’s going to be 96 today, but with the heat index it will FEEL like 103…”
Just because we spend most of our lives in refrigerated air, it feels hotter than it really is, and now this “heat index” is giving credibility to all the ninnies who grew up somewhere north or else are addicted to Freon 22.
So, how hot does it feel when it’s 103? Oh, it feels like 112. Well how hot does 112 feel? Like 119. So what does 119 feel like? Well, you couldn’t stand it, it’s like the Sahara and nobody can survive that!
"Locally, nine people are reported to have died due to the heat."
But I don't know if that's taking into account the heat index. Could the actual total be closer to four?
Posted by aA at 2:12 PM
Friday, August 11, 2006
Camping trips were always a treat. Whether it was sunny and cold, cloudy and cold, sunny and hot, or even raining, the family always had a good time. Laughter was never in short supply. Sometimes honest, open, general laughter, sometimes at someone’s expense, but quite often unanimous, at least eventually.
There was one trip in particular, up in East Texas, clear and cool. The travel trailer was parked at the edge of the lake, one of those meandering-shore lakes that has numerous spits of land out into the water. The Dad, the sister and the boy had to take the pickup truck to the ranger station or the park store or some such place early in the morning. As they returned to the camp along the bridge, they could look to the left and see the campsite. From that vantage point, the trailer was visible, and the lad, thirteen or fourteen at the time, absently said, “I can see the truck from here…” meaning of course that the campsite was indeed in sight.
That was a golden opportunity served up on a velvet pillow on a silver platter for the sister, who was ever quick on the draw. Hails of derisive laughter ensued, followed by the pointed observation that they were IN the truck… ha ha ha ha ha! The Dad could not suppress his glee, either. The embarrassed boy tried a quick recovery by saying, “Trailer, TRAILER! I meant to say TRAILER!” To no avail, in fact his protests were met with more shrieks and screams, and ever-escalating joy at the coup worked on the normally smart aleck boy. Possibly the sight of him reeling was like blood in the water to sharks. When the trio arrived back at “the trailer, THE TRAILER!”, the lad’s hope that his sibling would suddenly forget the single misspoken word evaporated. Completely. His mortification was magnified by the cackles of delight bubbling from their mother, the tears streaming down her cheeks. He stewed about the incident the rest of the trip, only to be reminded of it every couple of hours. He got to where he was afraid to mention the words “truck” or “trailer” for months, for fear of a relapse.
Even after thirty years, the phrase “I can see the truck from here…” leads to snickers and chuckles and weak explanations, “I meant to say trailer…”
Posted by aA at 10:53 AM
Let me preface all of this by saying; I never have been much of a coffee drinker. I went through a number of years of education in advertising art without learning the (apparently) fine art of smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. And now, after many sleepless or short-on-sleep nights with my children, I only partake in the occasional absolutely necessary cup of joe. Even then, it has to be milked and sugared up like it was melted ice cream. I am a coffee ninny.
So, we had a pot luck breakfast (that I forgot to bring anything to) at work one day. I did the obligatory “I-didn’t-bring-anything-so-I’ll-stay-out-of-line-till-nobody-wants-any-more” routine. There were cheese and sausage kolaches, glazed and chocolate glazed donuts, fruit salad, venison sausage, potato and egg tacos, apple juice, orange juice, fruit punch juice, and a 3 quart cardboard barrel of steaming hot Starbuck’s Yukon Bold black-as-night coffee.
Even the most backward, coffee-averse bumpkin is aware that Starbuck’s coffee is the supreme treat of the roasted bean food group. Celebrated the world over, appearing on every third street corner and strip center, Starbuck’s is the shining example of what advertising can accomplish. Building recognition, an appetite, a craving culminating in a total all-out mania for a product.
That said, I felt drawn by the preponderance of “evidence” that Starbucks coffee surpasses every other form of heated liquid consumable on the planet. I succumbed to the notion that I should pour a cup for myself. Deep, dark, rich, fragrant elixir flowed from the barrel into the custom cup imprinted with the revered logo. I sugared it up as I knew I would need to, just to make it drinkable. I didn’t put any cream in, not at first. Although it seems I recalled hearing that they roast their beans a little dark…
Now, I usually need to apply the sugar in a secure location, to avoid the inevitable catcalls remarking on the volume of the granulated demon. So after sequestering my dark cup of java and pouring (did I say “pouring”? I meant to say “spooning”) the requisite amount of sweetness, I tasted the tonic.
My tongue reflexively tried to escape the caustic liquid I had ingested. My face contorted unconsciously, like a baby’s the first time it tries spinach. What torture did those tiny beans endure in the custody of Starbuck’s? When the rich flavor was wrested from their little bodies, what other horrors did they suffer before they arrived in my cup? I couldn’t take another sip without creaming the entire shipment down to a tawny beige in hopes of cutting the bitterness. It was as if the innocent beans had been reduced to charcoal in their final throes.
I politely carried the cup back to my cubicle where it sat indignantly until I mustered the fortitude to down the rest of it. After all, it was the effect of the caffeine that I desired rather than the flavor.
And caffeine it did provide! In sufficient quantities to snap me from my torpor and propel me into my daily tasks. Later in the day, I wished that I had the same jolt, but dared not brave the harsh taste of the brew.
“Wow, Starbuck’s, how cool. I really appreciated the coffee…”
Posted by aA at 6:36 AM