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.

The terrible thing, looking back, is while I was complaining about the double-edged sword of "fix the mask/don't mar the mask", my sister was most likely baking in her burlap squaw outfit.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Skeleton From the Closet

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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I Have on Two Black Socks

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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

addendum to "Rules..."

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!

Rules Rules Rules

There is a growing trend that I find very disturbing these days; an apparent inability of normally literate persons to comply with what they should have learned in grade school.

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!

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...

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.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Birthday Blue Corn

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?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dart, Dr Pepper & DeSoto

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.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Token Post

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!