Thursday, August 31, 2006

Brand New Word

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.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pluto's Demotion

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.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Hunting Knife

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.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Happy Trails

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
silly way.

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!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Bank Robbery

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.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Heading to the Border

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.
Same answer.
“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’?…”.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Snickers in the Sand

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.

look at me!

OK, there are, like, nearly 7 billion people in the world. Nobody has been HERE yet. That's discouraging.

Fortunately, I don't rely on ANYBODY to keep me doing this. Really.

OK, so I'd LIKE for someone to visit and comment, even lie if they have to.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Summer Heat

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?

Friday, August 11, 2006

View of a Camp

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…”

I Am a Coffee Ninny

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…”

Thursday, August 10, 2006

First Ever Posting

Well, here is my second foray into the blogosphere; I forgot where I put the first one. Dang.
In the future there will be posts ranging from just funny to fairly funny to really funny.

I hope you enjoy what you read, and don't expect too much.