Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Dinners

Ah, the uber-traditional spread at Christmas; turkey and dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, mashed potatoes, various and sundry salads, and maybe some ham thrown in for good measure. Like the Whos in Whoville, the roast beast is the centerpiece of the vision of the proper Christmas dinner.

Well, if you know anything about the bunch I run with, you'll catch on that it isn't quite what we ate this most recent holiday celebration(s). It's not that we eschew the "normal" reveries on holidays, it's just that we aren't necessarily bound to the traditional fare.

At my parents' house, our Christmas Eve celebration was crowned with the preparation of the Christmas Flounder. Four of them, to be precise. One was slathered with basil pesto, while the others were adorned more simply in lemon and inordinant amounts of real butter. My sister had hauled in two of the four on her first fishing trip in a number of years (I'll tell you the approximate number later). There was some of the traditional food available as well, lest you think we are total barbarians. Cole slaw and mash taters and green bean casserole (with french fried onions from Joe's BBQ crushed on top), fruit salad and the like.

We also didn't sit down as one and pass the beans pass the slaw pass the punch pass the cheesecake. Comestibles were in the kitchen/dining room and everbody milled past and grabbed what they wanted of homemade pickles, homemade salsa, stuffed celery, olives, pickled okra and other goodies. For afters, there was a cheesecake, cherry dump cake, various cookies and stuffed dates. If I have forgotten any aspects of the spread, the originators must forgive my memory lapse. I blame it on the deliciosity of the food.

Christmas Day Lunch was at my sister-in-law's house, for yet chapter two of a not-quite-what-you'd-expect celebratory feast. There were reprises of some of what had been offered (and well-recieved) dishes from the Thanksgiving menu (traditional); home-grown macaroni and cheese, "good potatoes", cole slaw and peach and apple pies, fantasy fudge and cookies . That is about where the similarities ended. Uncle Russell was presiding over two pits; one with hot doggies, regular and plump-when-you-cook-em's, the other bore large, juicy cheeseburgers. When the meats came off the grills, we rushed inside, blessed the food and dug in like a pack of dingoes. My choice was a double-meat cheeseburger, with buttercrunch lettuce, tomato and ketchup. I don't know what everybody else piled on their plates, nor do I care. Everyone ate heartily and if you looked from the chin up, amazingly, everybody appeared to be eating what the rest of the country was eating, namely Christmas turkey and dressing.

We all ate too much and enjoyed the food and company just as much as any of the more time-honored dishes that one would think. Both unconventional feasts were a success by any standard.

Closer to the expected dinner, Wedesday when my Aunt and Uncle came in from Wimberley, was the smoked turkey that my Dad prepared. The main difference was that the meal was buffet serve yourself style. Bread for turkey sandwiches and the rest as the night before, if you want to eat, eat, where you want to perch, go ahead. Again, there were plenty of choices to consume, with some college students there to clean up the leftover food, just in case.

As traditionalists at the holiday season, we really stink. Sure, we wrap presents and hang lights on our multi-year trees, but when it comes to food, a mercurial and unpredictable bunch we are. It's not like we go to McDonald's for a couple of family packs of chicken nuggets. We're just very flexible with regard to holiday ceremonial dinners.

And that's the way I like it. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!

I have gotten several visits by people googling "Christmas Flounder">. Please click the link to see where this allegedly comes from. Apparently North Carolina is a hotbed of Yuletide Floundering, historically.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Having Been Tagged...

...By a certain Wollf-type person, I feel the compulsion to comply with the outrageous instruction to pass this along.

So here is (are) my response(s) to the request to play along. I will be tagging a new dad and photographer over at The Photosmith to see if he has any time to go out on a limb. I just wonder if he has learned to type on his MacBook with a baby in his arms at 3:39 a.m. CST...

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
I can wrap. I can bag. I have no aversion/attraction to either. I am a manly man and I can do anything. Even if the box is too big for a whole roll of paper. As of Thursday, I know this for a fact.

2. Real Tree or artificial?
Artist-ficial tree. We had real trees forever, but found out that a full 60% of the household is allergic. This reminds me of the time I climbed a local cedar tree to "get my own tree from the wild". What I got was a sparse, allergen-filled monstrosity and a nasty case of poison sumac on my wrists...funny now, but not then!

3. When do you put up your Christmas tree?
We used to have to wait until the middle gal's birthday on Dec. 6 was over, THEN put it up. The last couple of years, we do it at various times, somewhere at the beginning of December. Whenever the temperature drops below 70°, hopefully, so the trek up the attic stairs does not strain a "bustle".

4. When do you take your tree down?
Take the tree down by New Year's Day. Going back to work on 2 January sorta kills the Christmas spirit, and I want to put it away.

5. Do you like eggnog?
I like eggnog, but not the kind with alcohol in it. Not a drinker. But the half-gallon of thick, sweet spicy cream is SO good. Only now, being a solidly established geezer, I find it hard to shell out $4 for such a small amount of anything. Dang me.

6. What was your favorite Christmas gift?
Favorite gift was likely the M-16 replica that blasted caps (if loaded properly). A fine replica; it had heft and working parts. Heck, I probably could have robbed a liquor store with it, the look was so authentic. Another favorite was the plaster bramah bull coin bank. I called it Wooly Bully.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
We had a nativity scene, but the rats ate it. It was an antique, and belonged to my wife's family for years. Stupit rats!

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
This category is still up for grabs. I have never recieved anthing that was horribly inappropriate or just so cheap I wanted to crush it to powder. There is always room for something really bad.

9. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?
Uh, we're really bad about sending out cards or written correspondence of any form. When they DO get sent out, they're real, by golly.

10. Favorite Christmas movie?
"A Christmas Story". That is one funny movie, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
After the December paycheck, after the middle daughter's birthday. And after the Chinese School pays up.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Tough one, at 250+, there is not much that I don't like to eat at any time. Top things at Christmastime are; fudge, gingerbread, my mother-in-law's chocolate pie, any kind of cheesecake my sister makes (hers can send me into a coma, and they're always big!)

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Colored. 6 strings on a 7 foot tree.

14. Favorite Christmas song?
Silent Night can give me chills when done right.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Draws Near...

I was in WallyWorld this evening, and the feelings of panic and holiday tension are nearly palpable. Let me say that I was at the mall yesterday during the day and didn’t get the same feeling. There were a lot of people, but the impression of dread was at such a low frequency, it was nearly inaudible.

But tonight at the discount hangar, the feeling was there. I passed scores of people with stunned, half-lidded stares, trudging along behind their shopping carts. I felt it in my knees as I did the same thing.

Occasionally I would blink my stinging eyes, only to hear a sound akin to frying bacon as my corneas rebelled against the fluorescent lighting that floods the entire barn. The low-level hum generated by the fixtures works on a deep psycho-emotional level. I think if the studies were made public, people would be shocked to the extent that the Bentonville Giant is manipulating our minds in their quest for world domination. I would like to see the facts.

I saw several people that we know, so I felt nearly human, interacting with other humans. It was, in a strange, new millennial way, the essence of the Christmas season. Connecting with people we haven’t seen in a long time, meeting in a crowded place with music playing, it is almost like a party. Except that everyone is expected to buy something from the host, and refreshments are not served, but sold as well. And you’d better not eat them while in attendance.

And those cursed lights glaring down with those cold, pulsing beams.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Just In Case...

Yeah, just in case any of you fair readers want to know, or care, I am in need of a new iMac for Christmas. No, the other one ain't broke, it's just that I need a little more horsepower.

I am in the Apple Store at Baybrook Mall, and I am putting a sticky note on the one I want. So if you are feeling generous this holiday season, come in and look for the yellow slip of paper on the biggest iMac.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wood Smoke

I went across the street to see my neighbor a while ago, and he was getting ready to smoke some sort of meat. He and his wife were tending the fire, and during our conversation, the smoke enveloped us. I was standing in the sun and the cool wind was blowing. It reminded me of camping many years ago.

Later, my daughter (broken elbow) made a trip to my parents' house for some sewing work that needed to be done on a choir dress. Not mine.

My jacket smelled of smoke, and I asked my Dad to smell it, and then I asked him to smell it and tell me what it reminded him of. He gave the correct response: it smelled like camping at Lake Sam Rayburn, more specifically, Ebeneezer Park.

That was the place where we used to go in the late fall and winter to camp, when we had the campground nearly all to ourselves. The giant pine trees would drop enormous pine cones, which we would gather and bring home to GranMommy for her stash.

It's funny how the nose leads you down memory lane so quickly!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How Not To Break Your Arm

...Continued from Wednesday...

With the washer back in the active roster, I closed out the ticket on what I thought was to go on record as a successful, productive day. That was before I welcomed my 12-year-old home. She came in with her right arm at a strange angle and saying something about having her elbow hurt in choir. It seems that she was in class and the teacher had the girls all lay on the floor to demonstrate how much better that position makes the voice project. As my daughter was lying down, her arm was put in an awkward position. Her elbow popped so loud, she said it echoed in the choir room. Everyone turned around, shocked, and asked if she was all right. She lied and said she was fine. As the rest of the day progressed past choir, the last class, her arm got stiffer and stiffer. By the time she got home, she was in quite a bit of pain and her right hand was going numb and cold. Not a good sign.

I had some frozen lasagna in the oven, and it was nearly done, so I called the pediatrician’s office and asked what they thought. The nurse asked if her fingers were pink and I said “no”. That was when she uttered the dreaded words, “You’d better take her to the emergency room”.

There was lasagna heating, the sixteen-year-old was not quite home from swim practice, and my wife was not quite home from work. I called her and told her what was going on and she was understandably in shock at the news.

The lasagna was just about ready, I called the swimmer and she was nearly home, so we waited a couple of minutes to go. Then, off to the Alvin Urgent Care Center.

When we arrived, nobody was at the front desk, there was a lady with a fever filling in the check-in form; hopefully she hadn’t added some of her germs to the stack of paper...I used my own pen. I gave the form to the girl who popped up from nowhere and we advanced to the waiting room. We only sat there for a couple of minutes when we were called back, mainly because one of the nurses didn’t like the color that my daughter’s fingers were displaying. Sort of a blue tint, and they were cold as ice. We were hustled straight into triage where another nurse hammered all of our information in on a computer terminal. Cool and efficient, she made some quick assessments and took us to our own little room.

We waited for about half an hour until the doctor on duty came in and asked her what happened to her arm. This was the fifth of about twenty run-throughs of the story that she would tell that night. He listened patiently and I asked if perhaps it was dislocated. He said that it was possible and did a cursory examination, trying to bend her arm and pushing and squeezing her elbow, all the while she tried to be strong, but I could tell that it hurt.

After the doctor left, we remained in our cell for a short time until the sprightly x-ray technician came in for our trek down the hall and into radiology. Not being a super-modern facility with the film-free digital x-ray (multi-million dollar) machines, the smell of Dektol permeated and nearly-but-not-quite defeated the smell of “stale hospital”. As the technician place the wee lass’ arm in the proper position for the x-ray, it was clear that it wasn’t the proper position for her arm. She silently bore the pain, but big tears fell from her eyes and on to her dress code khaki pants. The tech tried to explain why she had to move her arm in such a way, but the wounded joint didn’t quite understand. I know that it’s his job to place injured and sick people in optimal attitude for radiographic examination, but my little girl was in a pretty good amount of pain. All I could do was reassure her that it was going to be just a minute or so before it would be done.

The two exposures done, we were able to return to our waiting room. The doctor on duty came in shortly and said that there didn’t appear to be a dislocation or a fracture, so he was going to send us to Clear Lake Regional for another doctor’s opinion, along with the possibility that if it actually was dislocated, they could sedate her before they started in on it. Oh joy. Immediately, the patient began to look around nervously like a cat in the car.

My wife arrived from work but could only stay a little while, and she had to go home and see to our other offspring. That in addition to the fact that sometimes our little trooper troops better with Dad; Mom’s presence makes her want to try for a dose of some sympathy and some extra, “this hurts really bad...”. She did, however get to experience the new nurse, Vivian. She was a whiskey tenor with a friendly and chatty demeanor. She came in and hammered on the computer terminal for a little bit, getting more nuance out of the same information we had given an hour or more before, and administering a couple of doses of acetaminophen with codeine for the pain.

In a few minutes, a male nurse came in, asked what happened to her arm (number nine by now) and said that he was going to start an IV so that when we got to the hospital, it would be easier to give medications if necessary. He was very friendly, reassuring and gentle in starting the catheter IV line, and my gal was being a real trooper. They told us that they would be transporting her by ambulance, to which I gasped and dollar signs flashed in front of my eyes. I asked if it would be possible for me to drive her over there (as I should have done in the first place), to which they replied that it would be best, since she would bypass the teeming hordes in the waiting room. I acquiesced, and I called my wife and told her what was happening and added that it would likely cut our wait time.

So the EMTs came in and helped her onto their high-tech gurney. They strapped her on and wheeled her to the door. I headed to the exit to meet them at the ambulance. My girl looked so small tied down to the hardware like that, her right arm still stiff and her left arm wearing an IV terminal. I kissed her on the head and told her that she could ask them all the questions she wanted to. That seemed to cheer her up a little. The driver told me that I should go ahead; she guaranteed that she would catch up with me. She sure did.

On arrival at the hospital, I found the Emergency Room Patients Parking Only lot, and then to the only open space. By the time I parked, Speed Racer, EMT had already pulled the gurney out of the ambulance bearing my little dependant. As I trotted up, she indicated that the ride was fun and that she had talked the whole time. They wheeled her into the ER and as they did, I heard them comment on the volume of people in the waiting room. Good call by the Alvin doctor, I guess, because we went straight to our stall and waited. Thus began our three-hour stay in limbo. We were introduced to our nurse for the evening, a nice blonde woman who didn’t seem to be paying complete attention to our words at any time. She asked what happened to my offspring (number twelve) without actually hearing the explanation. It seemed the words she spoke to us were from a carefully crafted and memorized script. The reason I suspect it was memorized is that I couldn’t see any teleprompters in the cube.

There was a small dry erase board with the words carefully and neatly written; “welcome to Clear Lake Regional Medical Center –Your Nurse is: Charge Nurse is: . So who are they? I don’t know. I never found out. Our charge nurse could have been Clara Barton and we missed her because they didn’t bother to write it down.

As we sat and killed three hours, occasionally we heard the disembodied voice come over the loudspeaker and call out for “Dr. Anthill”...did we hear that right? Could they have said, “Dr. ANTHILL”? We half-expected to see an aardvark amble through wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope. We snickered about this every time over the next three hours. I also drew a "girraffifly" on the dry erase board and we watched “Little People in a Big World”. A couple of times, the nameless nurse came in for some reason or another, and we always anticipated her reaction when she gazed up at the dry erase board with the whimsical creature. She never even looked. We were both disappointed, but I guess it wasn’t in the stage directions for her to “glance at dry erase board”. I also happened to overhear a couple of EMTs comment on the size of the crowd in the waiting room.

Finally “Dr. Anthill” came in, and after the poor girl recounted the story yet again, he explained that he saw nothing on the x-ray. After a quick review of the case, during which at no time did he even touch or examine the arm, he proceeded to splint the ailing wing. He wrapped it and told us that the nurse would be coming in shortly to administer some pain medication through the IV that had been started hours ago in Alvin. So we waited. About fifteen minutes later, Nurse No-Name hurried by and read from her script, “I’ll be back in two seconds to give you your pain meds...”

We got to watch the rest of “Little People in a Big World”, I had no idea that this was even a real show. Finally the nurse came in and administered two milligrams of morphine. Apparently the time warp we were in was coming back to reality. We got processed in the ER, then were led out the door to be reprocessed at the Discharge window. This is where they extracted the $100 for the privilege of being ignored and told what we already knew. The one benefit was that Dr. ANTHILL (actually, no “h”) gave us advice on how to get in to the best orthopedic doctors’ offices the next day.

The entire time we were checking out, the patient, though still in some pain, was talking and singing and humming. I suggested to her on several occasions to settle down and let the morphine bring on the rest she needed. The complete trip home was filled with statements and questions that required answers from me. Not the standard yes or no answers. These required thought and speculation, getting to the heart of some ancient or hypothetical situation. I didn’t have the strength. I finally told her to contemplate how tired she really was; hadn’t she gotten up early this morning and how exhausting it had been to be on the hospital bed for so long?

When we arrived home at nearly midnight, she was hungry; we hadn’t eaten the lasagna before we had left, and all I had eaten since breakfast were four Satsuma tangerines. Before I faded out completely, she indicated that she really wanted to go to school the next day. I managed to croak out the explanation that we had to go to the orthopedic guy quick so as not to drag out the suspense any longer than necessary. She finally settled down and went to bed at about 12:30 a.m., maintaining her wish to attend school on the morrow.

She didn’t wake up till 10 the next day.

We went to Dr. Boone on Tuesday, and he indicated that he didn’t see a fracture, but would treat it as one since, “It’s better to treat a sprain like a fracture than to treat a fracture like a sprain...”. We go back next Tuesday for a follow-up and a fresh x-ray to see if she needs a full cast.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Find It and Listen

OK, you know that I don't blog during the day too much, but I just heard a song that I think many of my readers would appreciate. It is by Greg Brown, an Iowa-raised baritone who is a wordsmith par excellence.

The song is "Canned Goods", it is a live version and it is great. It's a song describing how, in the winter, he is eating canned goods that his granmother put up in the summer, and how she canned the thunderstorms with the peaches and whipoorwill's call. That kind of imagery. Beautiful.

Such a good song.

Find it. Listen.

What Was Left OUT of the Last Post

And that wasn't all. My youngest daughter tried (maybe successfully, we're not certain yet) to break her right elbow.

The long sordid story is forthcoming. Or fifthcoming, depending on when I get it all typed in. I was going to include it on the "Washing Machine" post, but I had over 1200 words and not a one about the elbow. This story alone will likely reach well over 650 words, to adequately capture the ER experience. Twice.

So the story is taking shape now.

How to Repair a Washing Machine

Sunday evening, I didn’t know how to fix my washing machine, much less that I was going to have to fix it. The operation is very simple. The time it took for the actual repair was approximately 20 minutes, including the test. Every good repairman tests his repairs before proclaiming victory. The cost, as well, was minimal. The drain hose (culprit) was only $23 and change, American. The right front tire was only $28; £13.716 British Pounds Sterling.

The notification of the need for these things is rarely at a convenient time, but this one coincided with the Sunday Night Curse. You know, when you need to get some quality sleep before the workweek begins, it is nearly impossible. One of the kids gets sick, your shoulders knot up, your legs get twitchy, you develop a cough or your spouse snores loud all night. Not that I have experienced the last one, I have heard of things like that. From other people.

I was on the threshold of a beautiful sleep, my body relaxing into slumber, when the hall light flicked on, the door to the bedroom opens and my wife’s usually melodious and song-like voice transformed into an exhausted snarl, “There’s water pouring out from under the washing machine.”

Adios to Dreamland. I stumbled out of bed, clawed for my glasses and “dashed” in a controlled fall through the living room into the kitchen. My first vision was a battle line of extremely wet towels and other clothes extending a third of the way across the floor stretching from the laundry room toward my unsteady feet. My wife was looking from me to the floor to the washing machine, standing atop a mound of soaked towels and shirts and socks. As I drew near to the breach in the levee, I heard the unmistakable sound of a babbling brook. Which is much less soothing than you would expect, especially since it was inside my castle. There were no finches and wrens singing in the trees.

Still shaking what would have been blissful sleep from my head, I tried to make sense of the situation. I leaned on the twenty-year-old Kenmore and tried to determine the most likely and easiest way to staunch the flow. I finally snapped to the fact that it was actually off, and the water was draining out on its own. I reached around to the back where the drain hose is attached, and noticed that it was wet there, which was a good sign for me; it could be a simple fix.

As I became fully awake, due in part to the cold water I was standing in, the thought that the ten-gallon wet/dry shop vac might be able to benefit us at that moment. I sloshed out and grabbed it, dragged it nearby and commenced to vacuum out the flood. First I lowered the nozzle into the tub to take care of the headwaters. I then turned my full attention to the shoreline. This was fairly uneventful, just time consuming. The angle was funny (“funny”, “OW”, not funny, “Ha ha”) and my back sort of wanted to spasm. Mainly because of having to drag out a shop vac full of water and Pomeranian hair. When I took it outside to dump it, I noticed we had enough hair to make a whole ‘nother dog. Nice. As the TV struck eleven, I trudged off to bed, leaving a wet pile of clothes on the laundry room. It would stay until tomorrow, I was sure.

Monday dawned warm and muggy, and after I took my sixteen-year-old to school, I went dutifully off to work with the Kenmore on my mind. I stayed until just past the Staph meeting, printed out an important phase of a big, fire-breathing project, and got out at nearly eleven o’clock. I arrived at home, changed clothes and launched into the cleanup that precedes the repair.

While there are typically a large number of clothes in the laundry room, when that same number of articles of clothing are wet, the weight becomes quite different. If everybody wore white t-shirts and khaki work pants we wouldn’t have a problem. And of course, with a dryer, you’re always behind, with the lag time between the washer cycle and the dryer being at least thirty minutes. You would need a dryer the size of a cement truck’s mixer to keep pace.

The clothes all moved, I wrestled the washer out of its usual place. Being a narrow nook more than a room, the 34 inch-wide laundry closet is not ideal for a machine that is 26 inches wide to maneuver around. When I completed my Dancing With the Kenmore moves, I marveled at the ten years worth of guk under the machine. There was dust, lint balls, 137 bobby pins, broken and unbroken coat hangers, a wrapping paper tube, Armor All wipes, Gain detergent bottles, Gain laundry sheets, gum wrappers and quite a few other unidentifiable objects, all in various stages of sopping wet. At that point, I got to slide behind the washer that was pulled out and angled to the side, with just enough clearance for me to get back there, but not much room to maneuver in a crouch. For anyone who hasn’t ever seen me, just imagine a grizzly bear trying to get in and turn around in a 55-gallon drum. Tight fit, to say the least. And if getting into a crouch was comical enough, the inverse was pitiful to be sure.

The space cleaned and dried completely, I turned to the task of finding and eliminating the leak. That was simple; I touched the drain tube, and water came out of the side. I squeezed the clip and pulled it out. Couldn’t be easier. I measured it and then called the Sears Parts Center. Found out the part would be around $22 (American) and decided to jet down to Dickinson to pick it up. No Problem.

Until I got on the road. I noticed the steering wheel twitching like a toad on a hot plate. The farther down the road I got, the worse it became. When I stopped at the Sears store, I checked my tires. Sure enough, there was a huge bump on the right front tire. I limped back to Alvin and straight to Lozano’s Tire for a cheapo tire to get me through. When the workman removed the wheel, I could see the steel belt beginning to fray and slow-motion explode out of the tread. A few more miles and it would have been a blowout of epic proportions.

On arrival back at my home, I quickly replaced the drain hose and repositioned the appliance. I made the test, and proclaimed victory to the dog, and she rejoiced with me in my handyman-ness.

When I started the first load of clothes, the sound of the water reverberated in the newly cleaned and emptied laundry cubby, and made a little panic feeling rise in my liver. I checked about four times, and satisfied that it had been successfully repaired, I closed out the ticket.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oh, What a Day...

This is a "trailer" of sorts; there is coming a very long, convoluted post about fixing washing machines and a couple of other things you won't want to miss. Check back tomorrow and you won't (may not) be disappointed. I already have about 600 words and i'm only half finished.

Things just kept happening on Sunday/Monday. But it will make for an epic post that only a humorless accountant-type would find "not amusing". No offense to you humorless accountant-types.

So please tune in tomorrow (Wednesday if you're reading this "tomorrow") and I hope you will enjoy the show.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Birthday Notice

Yes, believe it or not, it has been 17 years since we were blessed with my second daughter. Looking at the old pictures, it doesn't seem so long. But when I sit and think about the amount of time that has gone by, my knees hurt.

She's a great swimmer, water polo animal, witty and pretty. Full of funny one-liners and smarty-pants remarks (where'd she get THAT?) you have to be close by to hear them, but they're hilarious.

Happy Birthday, Katie!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

New Animal, Part II

I am sure all my regular reader remembers my "girraffifly" (Lepidoptra giraffenseii) commonly known as the Texas Longneck Jeezerfly. A fine specimen that I made up all by myself, named by the readers of this blog.

Now it is time to introduce an all-new species that my middle daughter discovered. In her fear of arachnids, she is ever-vigilant for new manifestations of spider, and so her watchful eye spotted a fleeting glance at one of these: a Pronghorn Tarantalope.

What you see is a sort of police-sketch-artist-rendition, based on her description. Study this well, and see if you observe any in your area. I am going to study the habitat, range, diet and IQ of this creature, if any.

Please report sightings and behavioral observations in the comments.

Be the first to comment with the right answer (except NancyV) and be internationally recognized! I can say that because of my friend in London and the hit that I received from Japan this morning.

Well, our fiend, Invigilator Tex is the grand winner because of his speedy and correct answer of "nine legs". Congratulations on your quick eyes and wit to match. The world bows at your feet.

Of course, the conventional wisdom is that since this specimen is apparently of the arachnid family that nine legs is a surplus of limbs. My contention is that if eight is good, then nine is great. And being from Texas, it only makes sense that the extra leg (or legs, we're not sure if this one was injured or not) would ensure a perfect fit for being in Texas. Just a theory, but as my father-in-law used to say, "I may not always be right, but I'm NEVER wrong."

Mr. Wollf; this animal was not spotted recently, it's just now that I got the "police sketch" up. The report came in several weeks ago.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poll Cat

It is widely thought that I am a little strange. Not in a bad way, but in an amusing, friendly way. Let it never be said that I am not in touch with who I am.

Much has been made of the fact that the sense of smell is extremely powerful in its ability to evoke memory and emotion. That said, I hope you will read the entire piece before you dismiss me as completely nuts, especially in light of my next statement.

I am not averse to the occasional scent of skunk. You could even stretch it a little and say that I actually kind of like it. In small doses. Yeah, and now here I go, trying to justify my assertion.

When I was in fourth, fifth and sixth grades, our school building apparently attracted skunks when the weather would turn cool. They would get in under the building and either mark their territory a little bit, or get aggravated by the rats protecting their home. We would come to school in the morning, sometimes with a faint “bouquet d’Mustelidae” in the air. The school day would progress as usual, with no frantic calls to parents to evacuate because of a dangerous chemical release. Students and teachers alike would marinate all day in the perfume. There were no ill effects recorded. Olfactory fatigue was designed by our Creator for just such occasions.

Sometimes, a polecat would amble through the yard at our house, maybe startle and squirt a little, and then keep moving. One time my dad was forced to dispatch one with my .22 pellet gun, because it apparently got drunk and came in looking for trouble. I held the flashlight for the operation. We had a cat, and didn’t like the idea of her wearing eau de LePew for a week or more.

GranMommy’s house had her share of polecat visits as well. Most were only the passing odor of a shopper. But there was the implied excitement of the chance of Mike Barnett chasing it across the front yard with a broom. That only actually happened once, but the possibility of a repeat was always anticipated whenever we smelled that smell.

My cousin had a dog that would routinely challenge skunks, and would thus be banished for two weeks only to be able to return to the back porch pending a family review.

But overall, I suppose the scent of a skunk reminds me of the simpler times when it was possible for wildlife to interact with “civilized folks”, and when the worst thing that could happen was that you would forget some inconsequential factoid about Massachusetts on a Geography test.

So, true to the title, I am taking a poll. In the comments, please confess whether you are mortally offended by the smell of a skunk, or does it spark nostalgia. Those of you concerned with your credibility and “image” need not use your usual names…

If anyone else owns up, I’ll post an update.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving Play-by-Play

Sorry for the dearth of Thanksgiving posts at the height of the season. I didn’t want to have some half-baked standard post about Thanksgiving. I wanted to, ah, digest the whole experience.

Thursday dawned sometime at sunrise, and with it, the fevered preparation of “The Beans”. My wife always has “bean duty” at the major holidays. I am not sure if this was pre-determined or if she volunteers. But she does make some mean green beans. Usually more than fifteen people can reasonably eat, but she always thinks too much is still not quite enough.

There were three pies to bake; peach, cherry and pecan. No, not from scratch. But they still needed baking. There was also a ham that was to be heated and glazed. Sounds simple, and I can usually handle something like that. Usually. For some reason, I mis-read the timer and erroneously began the packaged glaze mix to boiling earlier than the instructions indicated. It worked up to a fine texture, but having started too soon, it rapidly took on the consistency of blown glass. Long brittle strings of it would trail from the spoon I was working it with, and before long it became a hard candy-like mass. It looked as though the only thing that was going to get glazed was the pan.

Finally, the ham reached the glazing point, and after a little bit of water and a frenzy of stirring, I broke loose a large percentage of the reconstituted glaze and drizzled it on the waiting spiral-cut ham.

After packing it all into the family hollowpoint bullet van, everyone was ready to go to the sister-in-law’s house for the family feast.

She had a gloriously baked turkey, signature sweet potatoes with gigantic-overflowing-toasty-melty marshmallows, macaroni casserole, and other enticing dishes all ready to be pounced upon by the waiting, drooling hordes. Well, I don’t know if anyone else was drooling, I certainly was. Her father-in-law and mother-in-law were there, along with her husband’s brother, his wife and daughter. Then my mother-in-law, my wife and trio of daughters. Then of course, the other residents of the house; Russell, her husband, the Aggie daughter and Junior-in-high-school son. I KNOW he was hungry. What seventeen year-old boy isn’t?

The meats, sides and salads were all excellent. As expected. The desserts were, as usual, a huge temptation. I was planning on stopping when I was satisfied, which I initially accomplished, to a certain extent. Then Russell’s dad goaded me into a contest involving lemon squares. We both won, just by playing, but since I ate more, I think I took Pops in the final count. Then the olives called me away from the inordinate amount of lemon-flavored sugar that I had just inhaled. I had scarcely recovered from that, when the pudding pie was unveiled. How could I let mere teenagers consume so elegant an offering?

I couldn’t.

Then the peach pie, after the “oh look, olives!” to battle the pudding pie. Ugh. I had been doing so well, and now I wished Walmart was open so I could go buy some BIG coveralls. Or elastic waistband sweatpants. Or a tarp.

I finally stopped somehow, and then the “girls” divided up the buffet for transport to other refrigerators. On one of the three trips to the van to load up the cargo bay, I realized that we were quite possibly bringing back more food than we brung.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

UDATE: Swap Day

Swap Day was a resounding success. If you don't count my inablilty to convert fractions to decimals (Math) or my lack of singing prowess (GIRLS Choir). Language Arts was good. There were words involved, and I can use them with a fair amount of facility.

Athletics was the best, though. All the parents of the kids in athletics were in the gym, and after some perfunctory stretching the coaches announced that we were going to be playing "Doctor". After the puzzled looks of all the old-timers, they clarified...DODGEBALL! NOW you're talkin', Coach! Unfortunately, when the room got divided into teams, most of the guys were on the other side of the line. My side had three men and about 40 women.

When the whislte blew, I lumbered out to the center line to grab some ammunition, along with all the other members of the over 35 set. I was ready, though, the men on the "bad guys" team started whipping the projectiles like they were trying to impress Nolan Ryan. Mixed in with the balls fired from aging arms were the lobs that could easily bean you with a marshmallow "pouf". Didn't matter, you were just as out.

I did get to sting one of the fellow geezers from "across the center line", and I caught one of the younger dads' offering. However, after being out with one clean hit from an old guy, I got out again when I tried to catch a soft-lobbed fluff ball launched by an older woman. I bobbled it. Dang, the indignity.

Overall though, the Swap day was a good thing. All of my daughter's teachers recognized the Swedish last name and instantly knew whose Dad I was. Every one of them commented on what a good student and a nice person my little gal is, and she is a joy to have in class. I just hope her math skills aren't as abysmal as mine, nor her singing as mal-toned as my croaking!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Swap Day

Allright, Tuesday is "Swap Day" at Alvin Jr. High, and since I have a student there, and I'm off from work, I get to go to the school. And there are rumours of tests. And Choir. Heaven help us all.

And in return, my seventh grade daughter has written a post for the blog. Swap indeed.

Sick As A Dog
On a beautiful Friday afternoon I was supposed to be at school. Instead I was cooped up at home home with a fever and cough. Now, my idea of staying home sick is laying in your bed or on the living room couch, but it was different that day.

I had just awakened from a nap and I was kind of hungry, so I decided to make myself some Ramen noodles. I had made my noodles and settled myself with a blanket on our recliner, when suddenly I heard my dog make a funny noise, then slightly after I heard her start making a smacking noise, but I ignored it because when she does that, she's usually cleaning herself.

After I had finished my bowl of soup, I slowly stood up and started for the sink but I stopped in disgust to find that the smacking sound that my dog had been making was actually the sound of her eating her own puke! I frantically put my bowl in the sink, and while doing so, I was yelling at her to stop, although I knew she wouldn't, I still hollered and ran to grab my cell phone. Quickly dialing my mom's number, I tried to avoid looking at the yellowish oatmeal looking gag, splatted on the carpet, and I blurted out quickly to my mom what the dog had done.

My mom sat laughing at me, because every time I would look at the puke I gagged. I had been on the verge of throwing up myself, so the thought of cleaning it up just about sent me over the edge. So to try to avoid it for awhile I sent the dog outside, grabbed what seemed to be thirty paper towels and set them over the vomit.

A few hours later my older sister came home from school, and asked me why there were paper towels were lying on the ground, I told her the whole story and right after the story she went and let the dog in. Duchess pranced her fluffy little self into the house and as Katie and I started talking about how our day went, little Duchess went and cleaned up the rest of the mess up herself. Katie stood up and walked over to the spot where Duchess was, and picked up the paper towels and the remainder of the vomit, I threw up a little in my mouth and came to the conclusion that I would have rather gone to school that day!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Camp Coffee

I made coffee this afternoon, not because I like it, because I needed it. I went down the hall to the industrial coffee maker and was just getting ready to load up the basket with crushed coffee fruit, when one of my fellow employees happened in. She is a young little sprite, hardly bigger than a mayfly, and very quiet. True to my nature, I engaged her in a little playful banter.

I held up the coffee bin and asked her, “How many scoops do we put in here? Nine?” Her shocked expression was priceless, so I perpetuated the hoax, “I going to make strong camp coffee, you know, the kind you have to strain through your moustache to drink, you’ll need to grow one real quick if you want a cup!”

She sidled out as inconspicuously as she could; it’s a small room and she knew that I had seen her, since I spoke directly to her. “Ha ha…” was her wide-eyed, half-smiled reply.

I proceeded to make the coffee correctly, four scoops. Not the tar that one of the secretaries that retired recently used to make.

When the water finished running through the basket and the brew was complete, I poured some into my cup. I couldn’t help noticing the grounds immediately. They were floating where only coffee and sugar were supposed to be. In a furtive and embarrassed sneak, I stole a glance into the basket. There, I spied the problem; the filter had fainted down from the side and allowed the grounds to escape down the hole and into the waiting carafe.

So, I had unwittingly fulfilled my own “prophesy”. There was a full 12 cup pot of coffee that Gabby Hayes would be proud to serve the cowpunchers around the chuck wagon.

This is NOT a picture of me. It's George "Gabby" Hayes, the crusty old camp cook from Roy Rogers movies.

I wear glasses.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Late For Work

I LIKE getting to work at least fifteen minutes before everything starts to spin up to speed. Back when it was just me, every day I was there a half hour early. But now that I take my daughter to school, I usually slide in at the last second, unless something goes wrong. Then my timetable is toast.

Nearly every day, it's one thing or another. One of the toughest jobs is to pry my daughter away from the flat iron to make her hair notoriously perfect in the morning. Not to mention how much explosive it takes prior to that just to roust her out of her overnight nest.

This morning was no different; we left the house after seven. Of course, the optimal time for leaving to get me to work a few minutes early is on or before 6:56 a.m. Almost never happens. Unless she has to go to tutoring or the early swim practice. Early swim practice commences at 0600. Tutoring at least by 0645. When she takes off for early class, I am free to get to work on time. It almost makes me giddy.

Today, being the garden variety c’mon-let’s-go-you’re-going-to-make-me-late-AGAIN-Daddy-leave-me
. The tensions eased a bit as we got on the road and looked at the beautiful fog and mist swirling along the fields and open spaces between the neighborhoods. The park beside the college looked like a watercolor.

All was well when, in a sudden blush of remembrance, she remembered that she left her orange wristband. Why was that a big deal? It was the “ticket” that allowed her to wear jeans this day and she was already dressed in denim. She got it for perfect attendance last week. It has her name on it and today’s date and everything.


Right then, I resigned myself to going back home, retrieving the permit, bringing it back, and then slithering into the office a half-hour late.

All because I didn't happen to have a school uniform to fit her there in the car, shame on me for my lack of preparedness. The things we do for our kids. When I finally arrived with the wristband, my girl was contrite and thankful. That helped.

Thus is the lot of dads; you get the chicken necks and backs, burnt pancakes and the run-back-home-to-get-something task.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Second Hand Smoke

Autumn is full of smells and sounds that spark the memories of a geezer, and any one of them can come up and be gone in less time than it takes to describe the recollection.

This was exactly the case when that truck locked up its brakes stopping at Preston and the Beltway feeder the other morning. Sitting at the light, I was enveloped in the white smoke that came off his tires. A familiar, frightening smell. But I like it. But it scares me. Mostly. Partly.

Perhaps it's just coupled with the crescendo of the squall that indicates lost traction on dry pavement multiplied by eight giant tires. The fenders acted as megaphones projecting the sound forward to the intersection where I sat perpendicular to the direction of the truck.

The volume and particular frequency elicit a fear response that is likely hard-wired in people. Like the sound of a great beast bellowing its disapproval for some puny human activity such as breathing.

This particular truck was bearing down on the light that I was waiting for to turn green. He finally decided (thankfully) that he couldn’t make the stale yellow light. The inconsequential car in next lane was stopping too, but didn’t have the inertia of 100,000 pounds behind him.

I became aware of all the action when I heard the brakes first lock. Faint and then building to the panic-inducing volume quick enough to let you know that you could be in trouble. By the time I actually turned my head, the smoke was beginning to pour off of the tires and I watched as he slid for about fifty feet to a stop. JUST behind the line. As the smoke swirled past the cab, the other cars and eventually my vehicle, the driver wore an expression of mild boredom. Happens every day. For all I know, it may happen at every intersection with this driver.

The acrid smoke filled my car (I had been driving with the windows down to enjoy the cool fall air) and reminded me all at once of every dump truck and tanker in Texas City when I worked during the summers of my college years. Looking back, there were a LOT of trucks locking up their brakes in that town in the late 1970s! And while I cannot count or remember specific incidents, I do know that I relived them all in just a few moments.

So don’t ever let anyone tell you that second hand smoke can’t kill you. It all depends on what is smoking, I guess. A small shot of adrenaline is always better than a cup of coffee to wake you up at the start of the day.

Friday, November 02, 2007


The first bite of a Whataburger is one of the unbeatable lunch sensations out there. Along with a big ol’ Dr Pepper, it is one of the simple pleasures that geezers have to savor and appreciate.

I experienced that today at lunch. The weather was very pleasant and I ate outside at the covered picnic table.

When I left the parking lot at the beginning of my lunch hour, I didn’t really know where I was going to end up. Nothing sounded good. You know how that goes. Then, somehow it came to me, “Go to Whataburger, it’s been a while…”. A fine idea.

The only down side to this trip was that the girl behind the counter sold me one of the “pun’kin” pies. It sounded good, and I heard the older voice-over fella in the ads in my head with his line about the “pun’kin pies…mmmmm, now there's that missin’ ‘m’ I was talkin’ about…”

So I ate my burger, as many fries as I could, and a big DP. I finished, mostly satisfied. Then, to my absolute horror, I happened a glance at the ticket taped to the outside of my bag. There, printed clearly “pumkin pie…¢99”. Dang it, there was nothing else in my bag. I was cheated out of a pun’kin pie.

You may have felt a “disturbance in the force”…probably sounded more like a stomach growl.

Thanks, Literate Readers

Well, it seems, after checking my SiteMeter, that yesterday was the hottest day in GeezerChronicles history. At least since I have had SiteMeter...

Thanks for reading. Heck, if this many people read, I don't much care if everybody comments or not. But that's not a license to "leave it to somebody else" to comment. Don't be a troll!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Also Spook Zarathustra

I saw it coming years ago. Halloween is a measured tightrope stretched between what we remember as fun and the risk of some sociopath killing us. There…I said it. Everybody else is thinking it, too.

The worst of it started in Deer Park in 1974 when that guy killed his son with cyanide in the giant pixie stix just to collect on the “giant” insurance policy he had taken out on him. Before then, we had heard of people putting razor blades in apples, but it was only urban legend cautionary tales to us. Up until that time it was a carefree night of safe (nearly), harmless (mostly) fun for kids (but not exclusively). We never used to have to tramp around with our parents riding drag, carrying four-cell flashlights and bottles of Gatorade.

Last night was the big night for all the children and would-been children. My youngest and her best friend decided to go as conjoined twins. Mine is blonde, slightly built, wears glasses, and her friend is brunette, slightly built, wears glasses. Mine wore dark slap sandals and the other twin wore white ones. Both sported gray capri sweats and they shared a single giant shirt that read “I’ve Got An Attitude”. Quite the creative solution. As a matter of fact, they got more comments last night than any other costume that we encountered in our foraging.

The other half of our little entourage consisted of my twin’s family; mother, father and year-old baby sister. The baby was in a tiny Dalmatian costume, and she was being pulled in her own custom wagon. She rode there about half of the time, the other half she was being carried by Dad, until the pain at the insertion of his bicep became unbearable. I know that pain well, as do any of the other dads who may be reading this. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes to be able to straighten your arm completely.

We waded through the tide of children dressed up like fairies and princesses and demons and storm troopers (Star Wars, not Nazi) and ninjas and werewolves and vampires and zombies and skeletons and Spiderman (men?),
regular and black, and pirates and witches and policewomen and firefighters and who-knows-what-else. As they all scrambled from one lighted and decorated porch to the next, phalanxes of parents inched their way down the streets and sidewalks clutching flashlights and younger children.

Of course, not all who were dressed up were in the pre-teen set. There were the ever-present adolescents dressed in slouchy cargo shorts and torn camo shirts stalking around looking for free treats. Of course, when they come to my house looking like that, I make them earn whatever treat they get. The doorbell rings, I open it, and slightly grinning teens simply shove their bags toward me. I just look at them, and finally ask, “What do you say…?”. “Uh, trickrtreet.” Very unconvincing. Then I make them say it with verve and pep, not like they are reading it off of a script in English class. When they comply, I give them candy.

We also encountered several “adults” who seemed to include Jack Daniels and Jim Beam in their Halloween entourage. One group of gypsies seemed pretty authentic, save for the bleached hair, cigarettes and Southeast Texas nasal twang. It appeared to me that there were some paper bags INSIDE their paper bags, if you know what I mean. They were older than me and I can only hope that they feel all right today.

The night ended fairly quickly, from my perspective. When I was little, we used to be out for HOURS, sometimes in good years, finding it necessary to make a stop at home to get a new Weingarten bag for more candy. And popcorn balls, caramel apples, oranges and yes, even raisins in the little boxes. Last night, I overheard one of the little spooks snort derisively, “Don’t go to THAT house, they’re trying to give away RAISINS!”. Greedy little candy elitists.

As we rolled toward home, I asked my co-dad what he thought Halloween would be like in twelve years, when his youngest is in junior high, like our twins are now. He replied, “She’ll probably be pulling ME in the wagon…”

Heck, I would’ve accepted a ride right then.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Headless Horseman of Copperas Cove

The chilling wind blew straight through the cracks in the door and flimsy walls of the tiny cabin in the mountains. The four children huddled inside were waiting for the eldest to come in from his expedition. Fear gripped them, because they had heard someone gallop by, again and again.

OK, it wasn’t a cabin, it was a travel trailer. And it wasn’t cold, it was a warm summer night in Central Texas. But there were four of us waiting for my oldest cousin to come back in from the house. Only one was afraid, though. And this is his story.

We were visiting our cousins in Copperas Cove, a small community a short distance from Fort Hood in the heart of Texas. My uncle was a major in the U.S. Army, and they lived in the suburbs. The back yard held their travel trailer, in which we kids hung out to escape the adults. Mike, Shaun and Kevin, along with their then baby sister were the ones that were in and out of Germany over the course of several years. We were the homebodies from good ol’ Texas City. They usually came down to the coast, but something precluded the trek; perhaps their inherent disgust of Texas City water or the brutal humidity. Or possibly it was just that we all needed a change of venue. I don’t know. I was only about eleven or twelve. My sister is nearly three years older than I, Shaun, a year older than her and Mike was two years older than anyone. Kevin would have been eight or so at the time, and while I didn’t mind so much his being there (it kept ME from being the youngest), his brothers quickly became weary of his constant questions and remarks.

Mike had gone into the house to procure some of the Tunnel of Fudge cake that my mother had baked for this reunion. It was her signature baked good. And boy, was it good! Chocolate cake with a melty, gooey core of fudge running through the center of each slice, since it was baked in a bundt pan.

The other four of us waited in the trailer, listening to Shaun’s stories of their adventures in Germany. It was getting late, and as the stories waned, Kevin’s observations seemed to increase. We had the lights out, to preserve the mysterious and semi-private air of our adult-free zone. Shaun began drumming his fingers impatiently on the pillowcase on the front bed. Kevin was on the top bunk, and he became aware of the rhythmic drumming. He asked what it was. Shaun’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, and he said, with great drama, “It’s the Headless Horseman”.

That silenced the flow of inquiry and comment from the top bunk. Shaun varied the volume and speed of the “hoofbeats”, softening them to simulate the passing of a great steed. After a time, he would begin again, very softly. “Do you hear that?” “Yeah, I think it’s him...”, all the while, building quickly and to an astonishing volume (for fingers thumping on a pillow). Then they would slow and stop. Right next to the trailer. Shaun’s low voice intoned urgent instructions for the young boy to remain still and perfectly quiet. It worked. Like a spell.

As Kevin lay there petrified and barely breathing, my sister and I stifled laughter till we thought we would explode. I am not sure how we didn’t give away the prank, since the process went on for probably fifteen minutes.

At the height of suspense, Mike appeared at the door, ripping it open with a thunderous “RAAAAAARR!”. To underscore the effect, he had a mouthful of Tunnel of Fudge cake, blotting out most of his teeth, leaving only the impression of fangs or broken, scary daggers.

Immediately following Michael’s bellow, Kevin shrieked, then dove out of the top bunk and grabbed Mike by the neck and clung to him for dear life. “MIKE, YOU SCARED ME!” the normally fearless lad growled at his brother. Mike, on the receiving end of such an outburst, was bewildered and a little shocked himself.

Meanwhile, Shaun, my sister and I were blowing gales of pent up laughter, intoxicated by the serendipity of the cake-mouthed punchline to the headless horseman’s patrol outside.

Friday, October 19, 2007

YaY! Wordy Guy IV

You know the rules by now, they're simple: Guess which is the real definition, don't cheat, answer in the comments. A baby could do it.

A) A rich dessert made of molasses or brown sugar sprinkled with a crumbly mixture of flour, sugar and butter.

B) A young guinea fowl.

C) Tiny fish found mainly in the Black Sea, often used as bait fish.

If you're in our office, please guess to yourself until at least a COUPLE of others have can brag later if you get it right. And that's a big IF.

The players expressed a range of fear, confidence and integrity...they are all correct, it's B, a young guinea fowl, which I have no problem with. When they get older, they are the most obnoxious, annoying and just plain wrong-looking of domestic fowl.

Thanks for playing, and there's more where this came from.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eat at the Naked Rib

This last Friday, my youngest and I were the only ones in the family in close proximity to one another, and it was time to eat. She didn’t want Mexican food, I didn’t want Taco Bell (notice that they’re NOT the same thing) or Whataburger. We drove through downtown Alvin suggesting and dismissing, sometimes in unison (ex. Jack-In-the-Box). I turned on Highway 6 and we passed over several other establishments. The farther we got down 6, as anyone who has ever been there will know, the slimmer the possibilities became. We sailed through Manvel and I was just about to give up on what we wanted and settle for just not going to bed hungry. Give in to McDonald’s? Never.

It came to me in a flash, being so far out highway 6, that the Naked Rib was just down the road, only a couple of miles from 288. I offered the possibility to my passenger knowing that novelty and proximity would likely win her over.

It did. We rolled into the caliche parking lot with only a Manvel Police car and a couple of trucks, which were parked farther from the door. That indicated to me that they belonged to employees.

I was not put off by the lack of cars in the lot, Friday night is a funny night in restaurant terms, especially in towns that have a high stake in high school athletics. And this was right in the middle of game-time. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, except for the police officer and a female friend of his.

I walked in slowly, trying to take in the ambience of the place: the walls were screened, with the (thankfully) cool night air circulating with the help of ceiling fans and a large floor fan. There were many different icons, crafts and interesting items on the walls and ceiling, most of them having to do with pigs.

As we approached the counter, a friendly face, later introduced as Liz, greeted us from the door of the kitchen. We “Howdy-ed” in return and I asked what the procedure was, since there were numerous signs and a large blackboard filled with interesting and certainly delicious offerings. There was a dizzying plethora of choices. One sign in particular attracted my attention, and I inquired, “What IS a Brisket Pie?” Liz gladly recited the cast of characters; Fritos, chopped brisket, sour cream, cheese and a drink, all for only $6.50. At first I must admit, I didn’t know how to react. As I stood and ruminated on the ramifications of such a combination, my daughter chose the meat plate with two sides. The idea of a Frito pie with smoked brisket instead of chili began to intrigue me, and so I figured, “what the heck, I’ll be an adventurer”, and placed my order.

When we got our food and sat down, neither of us were disappointed. The brisket was perfect; tender, hickory smoky and delicious. Cole slaw and fried okra were her sides. The sauce was more tangy than sweet, which is a contrast to Joe’s, a welcome departure. My Brisket Pie was a delight, crunchy and smoky, a study in contrasts of flavor and texture. The coolness of the sour cream was a very refreshing addition.

After consuming my “pie”, I went up and talked to Liz for a bit about what I liked about the joint. She explained that the name “the Naked Rib” derived from the fact that the ribs were so good you could eat them naked…after which she paused, and added, “that means you can eat them without any sauce”. I was relieved to hear that. Up until that explanation, I wondered if that was why the police were there. “Uh, remind me NOT to order ribs when there are cop cars in the parking lot!”.

She also told me that she made the sauce from her Dad’s recipe, five gallons at a time, twice a week. More of her story was about how her Dad would collect and try as many different barbeque sauce recipes as he could. Wherever they were in the country, up North, out West, in South America or apparently many other places, he would educate the locals on the finer points of barbeque. And now, the smell of the sauce reminds her of him every time, too, and that’s right in line with the GeezerChron, as you well know. Liz proceeded to show me around a little: the giant Oyler Barbecue Pit, the Houston Chronicle restaurant review, and a little history of the Naked Rib, opened October 25, 2003.

I also got a bit of inside information, they have a special rub made up that they put on the ribs before they smoke them, and that the brisket goes in raw with no additional seasonings. The hickory works the magic on the meat. She said that when she goes home, she smells of hickory smoke. That’s not a bad scent to wear, and she didn’t seem to be complaining.

As we left, I promised myself that I would return and try the ribs sometime, fully clothed, or maybe just wearing a poncho made from napkins.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

NOW it feels like October

Low humidity, cooler temps, a little mist in the ditches and on any bodies of water. This is what we've all been waiting for.

And as a photographer, my favorite time of the day is between 5:46 p.m. and 6:37 p.m. That's when the light takes on the gold tones that are so complimentary to peoples' faces and hair. Heck, even I'd look good in a photo at that time. A photo would be preferable to being in person, mostly because a photo doesn't make dumb jokes and bad, reaching puns.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Wordy Guy III

OK kids, you know the rules...let the play begin. Tomorrow I'll post the answer and the winner. Heck, I know, you'll all have checked the dictionary by then, but I'll make it official.


A. Ineffective

B. A beggar

C. Characterized by deception or dishonesty


So am I to believe that all three of you chose correctly without "research"? WELL, it's true, at least the part about choosing correctly. Congratulations to you smart people.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Salute To Travis Waldrep, 18

Travis is an austute and perceptive young man, possessing wisdom far beyond the mere 18 years his birth certificate indicates.

This story will prove it.

Roy and I had a contract to shoot a motorcycle gang one Saturday, and Travis went along to help. Now, it isn’t QUITE what it sounds like; we snagged a gig taking pictures of about 150 baby boomers and their motorcycles. Yeah, yeah, ANYHOW, as we were driving up to the “gang’s headquarters”, Roy and I proceeded into our usual banter, trying hard NOT to be funny, but it’s something we just can’t help.

Travis noted, totally unprompted, that “63% of what you guys say is funny…”. Now, coming from a teenager, that is pretty high praise, and the unusually high percentage he gave us (which is somewhat lower than OUR estimates of 76%) indicates a firm grasp of the English language and the clever subtleties and refined nuance that a couple of masters can inflict upon the spoken word. And we can write it even better.

So here’s to one of the 14 teenagers that I can stand for more than 3 minutes at a time: Travis Jamison Waldrep, Congratulations!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Night of the Six Foot Hot Dog

The weather is cooling off and we’re heading into what we all hope is autumn. It reminds me of the night of the six foot hot dog.

In our first year of marriage, we decided to move out of an apartment and move into a “cute” little rent house. It was very small. It also lacked air conditioning and adequate heat. It even lacked insulation. Of any kind. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. October and November weren’t so bad, until what passes for winter around here decided to set in.

When the nights got cold, we broke out the dual control queen size electric blanket. What a wonderful device. Especially considering there were two different styles of sleeping in one bed.

We would huddle around the gas space heater in the living room until it was just about time to hit the hay. While I was brushing my teeth, I would go turn my side of the blanket on to about five or six, depending on the relative temperature. When the time came to bury ourselves under the covers, my side was toasty warm, and I turned the control down to a comfy two or three. My wife’s side was nothing. So she would turn the dial up to 10 and the little indicator light would throb in the dark, trying to warm the blanket and my spouse all at once.

One night, as we lay sleeping, I became aware of my shoulder starting to draw up and getting tighter. As I came more conscious, the sensation of uncomfortable heat became nearly unbearable. When I became fully awake, I noticed that from the middle of my head all the way down to my feet, half of the electric blanket was rolled neatly in a tube, and the control was still apparently pulsating on 10. The heat was cooking my back, and I am not sure if the heat was causing my muscles to spasm, or if the electromagnetic field generated by the blanket was interrupting my neural impulses. Whichever it was, I was very uncomfortable with all the twitching and sweating.

As I extracted myself from the giant bratwurst cooker, I stole a glance at my bride, sleeping quietly and contentedly with naught but a sheet and quilt on her, free of the throbbing mantle of heat. It looked as if she had rolled the electric blanket up neatly and placed it alongside me.

I thought new brides were supposed to derive pleasure from cooking
FOR their new husband.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lessons in a Hurricane

I learned a valuable lesson about preparing for hurricanes from my grandparents. It was in August 1983 and I was done with college and back home in Texas City pursuing a freelance career. I often visited GranMommy and GranDaddy during the day when I wasn’t showing my portfolio or doing an illustration.

I had always heard a number of stories from each one of them about hurricanes that they had endured. Hurricanes where the neighbors came to their house to ride out the storm, or when GranDaddy had to drive his wrecker through the storm to rescue someone, and they usually ended up at the house. I am still impressed with the intrepid spirit that they displayed on the old days.

In August 1983, my parents and sister had gone on vacation up to the Hill Country for a couple of weeks, and I stayed in Texas City because I had to get my freelance business off the ground.

This August was a little different, mainly because a serious hurricane appeared in the Gulf, and from what I remember, it steamed in to eventually hit the Texas coast between Freeport and Galveston pretty quickly. Too quick for my parents to come in from Wimberley and too quick to try to convince two old hurricane veterans that they should perhaps take their leave and watch from a safe distance. After all, GranMommy had practically built that old house herself, filling in the gaps where the drunk contractor left things undone. The exterior siding that the asbestos shingles were nailed to was put up on an angle for strength in a hurricane. I couldn’t have gotten them out of there with dynamite.

That is how I came to face the fury of Hurricane Alicia in the house that was over 50 years old at the time. GranDaddy had taken up his usual post at the southeast corner of the living room two feet from one big window and three feet from the other. He was listening to the radio and we had the television tuned to the news. GranMommy and I sat on the pullout couch, focusing on the television and aware as well of the rising wind and slashing rain outside. As the night wore on, we heard the rain battering the house, and the water ran down the chimney like sluice, making us more and more uneasy. In the increasing gusts, the siding started buzzing like a clarinet reed. Occasionally we would see the flashing lights of a fire truck as it patrolled the streets. I don’t know if it even crossed anyone’s mind to go catch a ride with them to a reinforced building that didn’t have a fireplace pouring water inside. We just sat and watched.

About 11:30 or so, an earsplitting bolt of lightning popped outside, and instantly the interior of our sanctuary went dark. We all sat still for a moment, and I asked GranDaddy if he had a flashlight. He reached wordlessly into his cabinet by his chair and produced one. He flipped the switch and a weak yellow glow lasted for a few seconds, then failed in fear of the storm. I asked if he had batteries for the flashlight or the radio. He just started to laugh. A hearty, sort of embarrassed laugh, that spread to me, and I think even GranMommy chuckled a little.

Fortunately, they had an oil lamp for decoration on the mantel, and it was in working order. The rest of the night, we sat there in the pale light and listened to the extreme weather out there, getting wilder every ten or fifteen minutes.

At least five times that long night, we heard the freight trains pass by. Apparently, big, long, loud trains that, strangely enough, never did use their whistle. Their roaring roared above the normal roar of the storm, they produced extra sounds that were a little more unfamiliar that the other unfamiliar sounds we had grown accustomed to made us more uncomfortable. The most disturbing thought that I know we were all thinking, was that the nearest train tracks were about three or four miles south of there.

At about two or three a.m., the rain and wind stopped. Completely. The false calm of the eye descended like a great wet blanket. GranDaddy and I went out front and looked around a little. There was an eerie silence, not a breath of wind. We did see evidence that one of the trains had come down their street; the tops of several trees were twisted out and deposited upside down some distance from their home trunks. The train was definitely a tornado, as were all the others.

As the night wore on, we never spoke of what to do if Alicia, not content with howling outside, decided to come inside for coffee. It was a good thing she didn’t, in all the excitement, we had forgotten to make any.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Technology

Never let it be said that this geezer doesn't try to keep up with the newest things. Well, sort of new things. You may have noticed that I changed the header to this esteemed blog, and changed the "recent posts" section. Just an effort to adapt to this changing internet thing.

So here is a look at something from Photobucket, a big, free (of course, if I'm using it) service to keep a mess of photos on.

So check out this slideshow. I just hope it doesn't mess with the dial-up contingent. Which I'm still a part of at home. Surprise surprise.

Muu Muu

Yes, I saw a muu muu yesterday. I didn't think that they even made them anymore. I was appalled. But strangely fascinated.

In a local pharmacy, the one where the goobers work, I was waiting to be acknowledged by the vapid, slow-moving girl behind the counter. As I looked past her at the efficient frenzy of activity of the pharmacists and two other techs filling and dispensing prescriptions, I couldn't help wondering if this girl was in the right store. She was waiting on a woman with a gravelly whiskey tenor voice who was hiding at the corner of the customer side of the counter. I hadn't seen her till she spoke with the smoky growl that identified her as a smoker of multiple thousands of cigarettes over a majority of her life. The voice and the stench of stale tobacco smoke seeped across the four feet separating us.

When I looked her direction, I had to force myself not to stare. At least while she was looking up. She was replete in her turquoise and sea-green muu muu, and the effect was capped off, so to speak, by a blue Hang Ten ball cap, turned backward. The cap had a Hawaiian print that sort of matched the garment. Sort of.

I didn't get to sneak a peek at her footwear, the slow-mover finally made it to the counter with the medications that the veterinarian had prescribed.

SO, I was left in dumbfoundment for a short time while processing what I had just witnessed; a fashion gaffe that should never be repeated. Or imagined. Oops, sorry.

Just try put it outta your mind.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wordy Guy II

OK kids, you know the rules...let the play begin. Monday I'll post the answer and the winner. Heck, I know, you'll all have checked the dictionary by then, but I'll make it official.



A. A clasp that is part of a yoke used with draft animals, such as oxen or mules.

B. A small bone that enables some animals to turn their ears in many directions.

C. A short line used for shading and denoting surfaces in relief and drawn in the direction of slope.


C. "Sis" is the winner! First correct answer.

Thanks for playing Wordy Guy, and hope you will join us for the next challenge.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cheap Shots

As promised, a month ago, I am posting some "Cheap Shots" from comments on Cheap Defined. This is from Dr. Blogger, a sometimes reader and poster on even rarer occasions. I try to encourage him to start his ownblog, but he either resists or just ignores me. But he has some great stories, and here is one:

My Grandfather was cheap, . . . intelligent, loving, caring, responsible, but still cheap. He saved old pencils from his work as a school principal. He sharpened them carefully down to the point that even as a small child, I found them hard to hold. In fact, the lead in some of those pencils had been around so long, that the graphite had begun to break up to the extent that one simply could not write with it.
Then he saved rubber bands. He carefully wrapped them around his wallet. This actually served two functions: it saved the rubber bands and it kept the sacred contents of his wallet encased. And, as you might expect, when called into service, the rubber bands invariably broke when stretched the least amount.
Also, he would clip every grocery store advertisement from all local newspapers, compare and contrast them, and then on shopping day, drive his car to each store and pay the lowest regional price for the various items. My guess is he spent dollars in gas in order to save pennies on carrots and tomatoes.
His miserly and Calvinist ways would also lead him to pinch pennies on his alcohol consumption. He liked having family at Christmas because he could justify buying a quart of eggnog and a half pint of bourbon. Then he would make himself literally a half serving of weakly-spiked eggnog on Christmas Eve and that would be it. He would not drink another drop. The family would easily consume the remainder so that nothing was wasted. Several uncles accepted a serving only because one should not waste the resource. His one other "bout" of drinking would be on a very rare Saturday in August, when after a lawn mowing session he would visit a neighbor and accept a small glass of beer, after being reassured that it was indeed good for him "in this weather" and that the remainder of the beer would be taken care of by the neighbor.
Clearly, having lived through the Great Depression led him to believe that if you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wordy Guy

Wordy Guy is Rob V., a frequent commenter here at GeezerChron, and he has been emailing several of us in the office with these words accompanied by definitions ranging from true to false to better than true. Your mission is to either fall for one of Rob's superb "imaginifitions" or know (guess) at the real word. Please answer in the comments, I will eventually post the correct word in an update.

Thanks for playing "Wordy Guy"!


A. A large drawer with compartments once used in the printing trade

B. A game similar to hide-and-seek that is popular among children in the Middle East

C. A person of integrity and honor


I would like to thank our four contestants, 75% of whom got the word right, 25% pulled the Barbra Streisand movie from somewhere else (Yentl), but still had the Yiddish angle correct.

The word "mensch" is Yiddish for "man", literally, but in reference to being a good man of integrity and honor, yadda yadda yadda.

The speediest winner was the Aggie, so when she visits she can have an extra piece of gum or something.

Thanks again for playing "Wordy Guy", and look for the next installment. I expect ALL of you to play next time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Something Unexpected Came Up

Yes, something unexpected did come up at Chinese School today; William's lunch. The second class had just gotten in and eveyone was settling in to their chairs. I looked away for just a second when I heard something like a can of soda being opened. I looked at the kid closest to me, William, and he was holding both hands up to his mouth with liquid streaming through his fingers. He had a shocked and embarrassed look on his poor little face, and I raced for the trash can, which was unfortunately across the room. As the can came to a landing at his feet, he leaned over and spit out what he had held in his mouth. I picked up the wastebasket and ushered little William out the door and down the hall. He reflexively shook the residue hanging from his hands, and I quickly instructed, "Don't fling..." a couple of times on our trip down the hall.

The other kids were in shock...for a few seconds. Then the expected chorus of "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWs" began. As I hustled our little fountain into the restroom, they sat quietly. Meanwhile, as I had William wash his hands in the sink, and questioned him if he was finished, he began vomiting again, this time in the sink. An endless stream kept issuing forth from the helpless lad, while I stood like 248 pounds of lard staring at his little face frozen in the mirror, heaving over and over, filling the sink beneath his small hands.

When he finally stopped hurling, he commented that he had eaten at Ryan's for lunch, and that some bacteria must have gotten mixed up with his food (this is an eight-year-old talking, these are his words). I asked him if he wanted us to call his mom or anything, but he said he would go back to class.

I left him for a second to wash up, and hopefully not spew into the sink again, while I went in to clean up the evidence in the class. As I wrestled reams of paper towels from the roll, the other kids began to fully comprehend what had happened. One of the spokespersons for the class said, in a loud and clear voice, "GOSH, I think I'M gonna throw up NOW...". I hoped she wasn't speaking prophetically, since there were eight other kids in the class most likely thinking the same thing. Heck, I was thinking the same thing. The same little girl asked how I could stand cleaning that up. I replied, "I'm a dad, I've had to do this a million times". In truth, that was the only thing that kept my Whataburger in its place.

As I went back to check on the unfortunate kid, I steeled myself to what I may possibly wade into. Fortunately he was washed up, mostly (except for a little piece of corn on his cheek *shudder*) and ready to come back to class. All the while he was muttering about what it might have been that didn't agree with him at lunch. He was using those words, too. I think he will work as a doctor or CSI eventually.

I am happy to report that William survived the rest of the class, in a different chair, without further incident. And all other lunches kept their places as well.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

'urricane 'umberto

So what's up with this thing that popped up and pushed in through here yesterday? In all my years of living on the Gulf Coast of Texas (although only a few of those I was actually paying attention to the weather, granted), I have never seen something come up so fast and so hard.

Apparently, the meteorologists were caught flat-footed, too. But that didn't keep them from hyping and inflaming everyone. I am surprised that an evacuation wasn't called for. Not that anyone would have actually gotten on the road, but still, they could shame everyone for not caring about safety and the lives of all the innocent children and pets.

Where I work, the crisis turned out to be a drill to see how everyone would work within all the departments in the event of a real hurricane, tsunami, earthquake or nuclear holocaust. We seem to be fairly satisfied that the dry run came off smoothly. And actually stayed dry!

The weather people did get a chance, albeit short notice, to dash down to High Island and Bolivar to cash in on the slashing winds and pelting, horizontal rain. It was almost worth it to see Wayne Dolcefino buffeted by the wind. And believe me, it takes quite a bit of wind to buffet Wayne, IF you know what I mean. Good Morning America's Sam Champion (made-up name if I ever heard one) was "riding out the storm" in League City. He had a phone-in to the show, and they ran footage of Wayne in the middle of filing a near-unintelligible report through the howling wind and stinging rain. At one point, he just gave up and stumbled off camera. But Sam sat in a motel room eating Cinnabons and drinking cappuccino acting like he was braving the storm. And Diane Sawyer was complicit in ignorance, lapping up his story like a typical newshound.

'umberto was really a strange animal, though. To develop and charge ahead so quickly, I think even the old-timers (me) were surprised. But we weren't surprised by the media feeding frenzy.