Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 09: The Clean Up



Much like Hurricane Ike, Christmas came through and spread debris and leftovers all around. The main difference is that the weather was cool, and everybody had a nice time without any fear of the house blowing away. But like a hurricane cleanup, a unique set of precautions must be noted during the cleanup to ensure a successful disaster. Hurricanes have live power lines, snakes and looters. Christmas brings other hazards.

Not that there wasn’t any big wind; Christmas Eve brought a cold gale blowing 20 or 30 miles per hour. My youngest commented earlier in the day that it sounded like we were at the beach, with the constant drone of the wind rising and falling sounding like the relentless surf. My Mom was the first to allude to the hurricane similarities. On the way to the Soderberg Farm and Chicken Resort we saw a horse that had been facing the wrong way in the blow; he was turned inside out.

The wind was OK, because it had rained for a couple of days, and for several weeks earlier. Had all the rain come in the space of about 36 hours, it would have been Ike-level water. The steady breeze had dried everything off as much as possible, but it is still not advisable to walk across our front lawn if you weigh much more than about a hundred pounds.

The comparison continues to the hand-outs and their wrapping. When Christmas gifts are exchanged, the ratio of usable and valuable to worthless debris and packaging is high on the wreckage and garbage side. With small children, the danger is greater for losing something essential/expensive, and that number recedes only slightly as the audience age increases. There is a Walmart ad on television that ran Christmas morning showing two guys rifling through their garbage cans in the snow between their driveways. Surrounded by bright wrapping paper, one says to the other, “What are you looking for…?”. The other guy holds his gloved fingers about an inch apart and says with a resigned certainty, “The comb for Rapunzel Barbie.”

I haven’t ever had to dig in the trash for the missing pieces, but have at times feared that as the next step. My usual procedure is no doubt perceived as a buzzkill, but it consists of a roll-call for every gift and any essential parts. This includes any cash or gift cards that were produced. Then begins the paper/box removal detail. Since there is a good bit of jewelry involved in our Christmas gift exchanges, I like to think that the reason we have no MIA James Avery earrings is my “post-joy checklist”.

This comes in part from a story my Grandmother related (every single Christmas) about the time Grandaddy was cleaning up after the opening of gifts, and tossed an envelope from his boss into the fire, only to find later that it contained a $100 bill.

Another hazard is the leftover food, which is usually directly proportional to the amount prepared in anticipation of a huge feast. The problem is frequently an overestimation of consumption. If there are any teenagers or young men around, planning for 10 easily becomes planning for 15. A characteristic of females is usually a calculation of need per person, even factoring in teenagers and young men. So if there are a total of 10 humans to be fed, including three teenagers and one young man, the normal factor of 150% would actually be sufficient. But looking through the filter of a female food planner’s eyes, there is a perception of the 200% rule. After the meal, there is usually nearly 100% left over that needs to be dispersed and dispensed back to various refrigerators. This requires Ziploc bags and Tupperware-ish containers to be at the ready.

This year was really a little different, though. At my parents’ house, the provisions were pretty much correctly anticipated and we took nothing home in Ziploc bagz or any other container. Likewise, at my sister-in-law’s house, the amount of food was fairly close to the amount of appetite. Of course I am not complaining that there was leftover brisket and shrimp. And some of the cauliflower salad, along with some homemade mac and cheese. There was even a good amount of “good potatoes” left and we actually get to eat them ourselves! The teenage boy that was there was full a little early, and that threw off the average some.

So this year was more of a “tropical storm year”; nothing lost on the Christmas floor, no 10 pounds of dressing to tote home and throw away on Valentines Day. But there’s always next year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve at Our House 09


My oldest is home from Texas A&M for the rest of this week (gig 'em whoop howdy), so our house is back up to full capacity.

After they all finally rolled out of bed at about a quarter to ten, we were lounging around the living room watching the run-up to the Winter Olympics. My middle one remembered an assignment from the 8th grade where she had to re-write the "Night Before Christmas". She said that I oughta post it on the GeezerChron, and I said, "If you can dig it up, I'll post it today..."

Well, she did, it's pretty good, so here it is.

A Zoo Christmas

‘Twas the night before Chirstmas and all through the zoo
Not a creature was stirring, not even Shamu.

The bats were all hung in the cages with care
In hopes that Saint Nick would soon be there.

The snakes were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of mice ran around in their heads.

When outside the cages, there arose such a clatter,
The tigers sprung from their dens, to see what was the matter.

Away to the cage door they made a mad dash,
When they dove for the door, it made quite a crash.

The parrot sat on a branch and he laughes,
“Santa’s sled, hey, it is pulled by giraffes!”

Santa swings from the trees by his arms to the cages
It was like he’d been doing this stunt for ages.

Fruits and veggies, and seeds; bananas and steaks,
There were even some nice little mice for the snakes!

“On Longneck, on Spotty, on Too Tall, on Stretch,
You giraffes are too fast for even reindeer to catch!”

The giraffes pulled the sled as they started their flight
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


That is my wish for all of you! Uh, not the "...nice little mice..." part, the "Merry Christmas" part.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Makes Great Leap Toward Geezer




Last night was the Alvin High School Choir Winter Concert. My youngest is a freshman, but is in the varsity choir: YaY for my kid!. The auditorium was decorated nicely, with some projected cutouts of conifer trees shining on the walls adjacent to the stage. On either side of the stage were a couple of Christmas trees decked out in lights, ornaments and ribbons. Behind the risers, there were lights and big ornaments hanging from the bottom of the top curtain.

The auditorium was packed and there was a sense of anticipation. As the lights came down right at 7:30, there was a pause as the choir directors took their places and the accompanist readied her piano. The music began, and from all corners of the room, the choir made a slow processional carrying candles singing “O Come, O Come Emanuel”. That was very impressive. It was also very refreshing to hear the singing of a Christian song, without references to Christ bleeped out. In a public school no less!

The rest of the program was filled with traditional and variations-on-traditional carols and songs. The highlight of the bill, however, was when one of the directors, Mr. J. Gallagher, took center stage and sang “O Holy Night”.

His rendition, from the beginning, was powerful. Everyone in my group later admitted to seeing a similarity to Josh Grobin, the young sensation that all parents, grandparents and refined young folks are enamored with. For good reason. Mr. Gallagher was very reminiscent in his style, vocal quality and power.

As he sang, I noticed that the entire audience was totally silent. Not a sound in the entire hall, save his voice and the piano. He sang the entire song, all verses. The words were like a cool drink of water. Nothing left out. The mention of the world “in sin and error pining”, and

“…His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

This song pulls no punches.

We sat there in the dark, a young, powerful baritone basically singing a sermon about the reason for Christmas as the redemption of the world, and I found my eyes welling up. The whole experience was deeply powerful.

At the moment the last chord of the piano was dying out, the crowd exploded in applause and shouts. I am quite sure the sound of hands clapping was amplified by the sound of all the chillbumps colliding on everyone’s spines collectively. I have never been moved so much at a school function, and judging by the thunderous ovation in that room, I suspect many others were moved as well.

Following that song, a couple more perfunctory carols were performed, but the glow that “O Holy Night” left carried the program to its conclusion and beyond.

So Christmas is a LOT closer than it was just a couple of days ago, at least in my mind. Thanks to Alvin High School choir and its excellent directors for that.

Merry Christmas everybody, and listen closely to that song next time you hear it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Post Warning

There is a new post forthcoming, or fifthcoming, depending on the flow.

We went to the Alvin High School choir concert tonite, and was pleasantly greeted by harmonious tones and stuff.

Will try to have something by this time tomorrow.

No promises. Of course, you may consider this a threat.

Potatoes, potahtoes.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Arrives…


…Or at least sends it’s RSVP.

It hasn’t felt a lot like Christmas lately. It could be the fact that I am still looking for a permanent job. Elf-ing is a pretty closed profession, and Santa Claus-ing is even more restricted.

I was in the local Kroger store, using the free wi-fi, and upon leaving I passed through the Christmas tree display. As I strolled through as cool as a big old guy toting a laptop in a bag can possibly stroll, I was overcome by a desire to start running in between the rows. I wanted to dart in and out between the trees and hide from the adults. The smell took me back 40 years and the only thing that prevented me from cavorting through the evergreens was the fear that the police would be called.

But I did enjoy the pine-scented air and that fleeting sense of being a kid again. Besides, my knees and back would've made me pay for a couple of days, and that's without falling on my patootie.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snow Day




“Pandilarium”. That’s the word that Jeff Foxworthy made up as a redneck describing a weather-related incident. He was speaking specifically of a tornado. What we experienced yesterday was a Snow Day. Not as devastating, but almost as disruptive.

The previous record for the earliest snowfall was that of December 10, I am too lazy to find out what year. Suffice to say, we don’t get much snow around here on the Texas Gulf Coast anyhow, so any time it does, it sets SOME sort of record. I remember that day (not the year, they all blend in together), since I was working in an office. The extent of the revelry was limited to adults shivering under the entrance awning , staring stupidly at the sky, grinning. When the low temperature got to be unbearable, after about 7 or 8 minutes, all of the aforementioned adults filed like cattle back to their pens. Yesterday I found that this low-key reaction is NOT universal by any stretch of the imagination.

As you may or may not know (or care), I have been substitute teachering until which time I can secure a full-time position that does not involve riding on the back of a garbage truck. It was in the venue of a local high school that the snow day came and blessed us with the blanket of beautiful white silence.

Well, it was silent and beautiful until the hordes of squealing teenagers bolted out of their classes and into the grass at the front of the school. One science teacher just down the cell block, er, HALL from me, ill-advisedly took her class out to “observe” the snowfall. As her excited students shoved their way to the stairs, I heard one kid say, “We’re going out to study the Global Warming!” Hilarious.

The actual snowing of the big, fluffy but wet snowflakes the size of a silver dollar only lasted about an hour and a half, but resulted in almost 2 inches on cars in the parking lot. But the off-the-reservation-AWOL shrieking and freaking out lasted until the riot police were called in. When the principal finally gained the upper hand, the halls were teeming with wet, panting, beaming teenagers not wanting to lose the magic of the moment.

There was a final negotiation over the school’s PA system that stated if everyone would stay in class the rest of the day and not run outside like a bunch of mental patients, the five days prior to the Christmas Break would be designated “jean days”.

I guess it worked, because by the end of the day, he came on the PA again to award the coveted semi-break from the dress code that nobody adheres to.

The rest of the area experienced similar disruptions to the point that snow and ice dominated the news for the last 36 hours.

I’ll bet you guys in the parts of the country that experience snow regularly are shaking your heads in wonder at us bumpkins down here in the semi-tropics. Just remember this when we scoff at your “95° heat waves” next summer. Till then, we’ll smile at nature’s cool, beautiful, albeit brief dusting of beauty.

UPDATE
Heck, it was just LAST YEAR when it snowed December 10 here! THIS IS HISTORIC! Two years in a row has never happened here, at least since the waning years of the Ice Age, which no doubt the dinosaurs caused with their chain saws and weed eaters.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Substitutions Allowed



OK, so last week was my first week of substitute teachering, as I alluded to before. Having done children’s ministry since I was about 17, I have over 20 years cumulative experience with people younger than me. I am also the father of three daughters and have had extensive experience in observing the behaviors of all sorts and ages of girls and the occasional teenage boy. And, believe it or not, I too, was a teenager once. But that was way back in the 1970s.

Substitute teachering is an interesting choice of work; I know of no other job where one can have such a variety of “co-workers” in such a short space of time. Some of them are in the fourth grade, some have doctoral degrees, some are snarky teenagers. From my vast three days worth of experience though, I have seen that there is seldom a dull or predictable moment.

My first foray into this business was on a Monday morning. Luckily I got an Art class for half a day. Some of the kids were really talented but not motivated. Some were talented and motivated, some were untalented but motivated, and a lot of them were untalented and unmotivated. I was actually able to help some of them with their projects, which gave me some confidence in my new gig. They all commented on my size, and I think that may be an advantage, because when I walked over to see what they were doing, they mostly did what they were supposed to. Of course, I had no idea when classes began and ended, but I only had to survive until about 12:15, as I later found out.

Just before I left, I met some of the other teachers breaking for lunch. They asked how it went and I told them that it went OK. One gal told me that I ought to play the part of the “crazy sub”, the one that just might snap, maybe today, maybe now. It seemed a little early for that advice; I think she just wanted to say it to see if someone would actually pick up on that role. I assured her that although I wouldn’t implement that strategy right away, I would likely keep it in my lexicon.

The next day was filling in for the “Reading Teacher” at a nearby elementary school. I was met with vague instructions, a helper that knew little more than me, and the realization that these were the “troubled readers”. Without revealing too much, suffice to say I was exhausted by three o’clock. I had spent the entire day standing, prowling, nudging, reading, and at one time when a kid pretended to shoot a neighbor with his finger, I took his pretend gun and pretend bullets; eject pretend magazine, eject pretend round in pretend chamber, pick up pretend ejected bullet, lock back pretend slide. He just stared at me in amazement.

The last gig I filled in was on the Thursday before the Thanksgiving holiday, which was to be an entire week. It was at Alvin High School, and was a German language class. My initial reaction when I saw the opening was, “Can I do this?”. But then I realized that the students would probably be able to speak pretty good English. The kids were all pretty much typical high school muttonheads, a little smart aleck and funny, but also a little intimidated by my size and moustache. Every class had a comment about my size, and I always downplayed it. My first speech, which included my name on the board, was usually about cooperation and getting along. I told them, “I am a substitute, not an idiot”.

The second most asked question was if I was German myself, due to my last name. HA, NOPE, I’m of Swedish descent from Texas City. They asked if I spoke German, I answered nein. They asked how tall I was. To that, I would hold up my hand level with the top of my head, pause and say, “uh, THIS tall…”. A couple of times my answer was “five foot eight”, and when they expressed incredulity, I would reply, “I just talk bigger”.

In each class my very clear and spelled out instructions from the regular teacher instructed me to give the students worksheets and then show a DVD of a made-up German teen-soap with German subtitles. Tanja and Christian and Julia and Hasan had minor relationship drama, with cleverly inserted counting in German, directions, ordering orange juice or soft drinks or traveling to Amerika or even riding their bikes down the Strasser. The copyright was about 2003, so the clothing and music wasn’t so bad. At the beginning of the episode while the students were still talking and milling about, I encouraged them to be quiet, since I had grown to like the music, suggesting that I wanted to download it to my iPod. That got a laugh. Once I even encouraged them in my best Hank Hill voice, “Just watch the danged vid-ya…”. They got it. One kid allowed that, “It’s rare that we get a sub with a sense of humor”, to which I replied simply, “Yeah, same here…”.

If it weren’t for the fact that every day when you walk out of the school, you’re out of work again, I would say that sub-ing, as they call it, would be a pretty good way to make a living.

Except in the summertime, what the heck happens then?

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Stranger in the Bed

A conversation the other night sparked this forgotten (some might suggest “suppressed”) memory.

There was this party at our house several years ago, our oldest was graduating from high school and we were celebrating that milestone. All went well; the teenagers left our house standing, albeit devoid of anything edible.

A couple came over that used to live down the street from us, and since we hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, we had a lot of catching up to do. Oh, they also brought the woman’s aging mother, who was even then exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s. Well the late hour, about two a.m. was getting too much for Mom and she needed to lay down. My wife led her to our room and suggested she lay down on the bed and our friend could come get when they (finally) left.

Along about 2:30 a.m. our friend got a call from her daughter, who as a child spent many afternoons at our house. The suggestion was made by our friend that the girl “come on over” to the Soderbergs’ house, we’re having a great time. Yeah, between increasingly obvious glances at the clock, watch, sundial, hourglass, and insinuations about how exhausted we were from cleaning our home to look like nobody lived there. For two days.

Alas, to no avail. This gal was intent on catching up.

The evening eventually drew to a close, even for our guest. Relieved, my wife went in to wake up “Mom” and was greeted by the lady in our bed, covered up to her neck with the comforter, sound asleep. She gently shook her, “N----, it’s time to go home…” As the covers came off, it was revealed that she was lying there in our bed in just her blouse and her underwear.

My wife, in shock, came back into the den and retrieved our friend. She told her that her mom might need some help getting ready to go. Meaning, get-her-dressed and out-of-here-as-quick-as-you-can. That actually happened, eventually, and the second the door closed, I was instructed to change the sheets on the bed.

What? I was so tired, I literally couldn’t see straight. As I stripped the bed, my spouse gathered fresh sheets, which we quickly and sleepily re-made the place of repose. The whole time, she was going on and on about that lady being in HER bed in just her underwear. She couldn’t sleep like that! How could she?

As I drifted off to sleep that night, and maintain today, I was convinced that had it occurred on my side of the bed, I would have not heard a word about it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

*embarrassment*

Yeah, I know my last post was about Halloween, and we've long since eaten all of the tiny Milky Way, Snickers and Twix bars. The cheap bubble gum remains intact, but other than that, the night is but a dim-ish memory. Oh yeah, I could read my last post and sorta remember it...but everybody wants something new.

And this is the apologetic, aw shucks-ing, you'll-see-something-soon post.

I have started substitute teachering, so there may be some stories soon!

Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

HALLOWEEN 09


This Halloween had a different vibe to it. In the weeks leading up to the event, I anticipated waves and waves of trick-or-treaters swarming for hours and hours through the streets in search of free candy and sartorial trickery.

The knowledge that the observance was to fall on a Saturday was instrumental in the assumptions that I and probably every seller of candy and/ or costumes held this year. How could it NOT be huge?

Well, the spooky economy might have had something to do with it. I know it did around our house, since my economy got involuntarily collapsed. But I think other people may have held back a little, too.

Saturday evening, as the sun began to set, a couple of little grandkids escaped their custodians and bolted to our door. They hollered the requisite "TRICKERTREET" and got the desired result.

My youngest and her little buddy from down the street awaited a call from some friends who were going to go "somewhere" to trickrtreet, with "somebody" and would be back "sometime". Not the kind or amount of information to make an informed decision about your high school freshman's night out. They decided to opt out after the concerned parents (us) conferred with one another about the situation.

Instead, I made the short, two-block loop with my girl, her friend, her parents and three year-old sister. The two older girls didn't even participate in the "gimme"; they just escorted the little cutie to her destinations. That got old after the spookhouse with live (chainless) chainsaws with their metallic whines and blue smoke filling the street. The little one was a bit put off by the hubbub and everyone agreed it was time to head back home. No protests from anyone, so back we trudged, relieved to be done before eight.

The night was beautiful though, clear and cool with a giant full moon, and I sat on my neighbor's tailgate with him and passed out his candy while my girl and her sidekick distributed our offerings. As us old guys (he's older than me, thankyouverymuch) analyzed the situation, the tides of beggars ebbed and flowed on our street.

There was the usual parade of little kids imported from other neighborhoods wearing store-bought transformer costumes, witches, fairies, ninja turtles and myriad other standard off the rack costumes. There were also some original assorted zombies and convicts and axe murderers. Nothing unusual, except for the odd collection of adults, completely un-costumed carrying pillow cases and tromping up unapologetically for a handout of free candy. I have seen one of them before, a (probably former) Walmart employee, along with a scruffy 20-something kid with a scraggly beard, and an old man, a real, live old man, looking to be in his late 60's at least sporting a fairly long, gray beard. He was a wizened little character and looked fairly hard-pressed to keep up with his companions (or captors). Maybe they were stepping up their efforts because there was a high number of houses with their porch lights off.

Most of the activity lasted only until about nine, at which time the Suburbans and Tahoes started collecting their cargo and blasting out of our subdivision at top speed. There still being a scattered few die-hard candy-addled children wandering the streets and I was compelled by my geezerness to step out into the street and yell at the speeding SUVs with scowling dads at the helm. I guess the sight of a large man glowering at them from the middle of the quiet suburban street, impeding their hasty exit ruined their evening. I can only hope the thought of killing a small goblin would have done more psychic damage than my visage, but who knows.

Between the episodes of two tons of roaring metal and "guests", my neighbor reminisced about a particular Halloween night many years ago and a trick he and some other ne'r-do-wells that he hung out with had perpetuated. Being country boys out in the country, he and his cohorts decided to dismantle an old guy's wagon and reassemble it up on said old guy's barn roof. With much effort, they accomplished the task, and upon their descent to terra firma, were surprised by the farmer sitting on his porch rocking chair, 12 gauge across his knees. He casually intoned, "OK boys, you've had your fun, now put it back, and don't break it." They obliged, and I suppose that all of the surviving members of that outing were relating it as well on this past Saturday night.

The strangest epilogue to this year's gimmefest came on Sunday morning as we were eating breakfast getting ready for church. The doorbell rang, and after exchanging puzzled glances with the family, I went to answer the call. When I opened the door, a small Spiderman stood with his hood off and upstretched to me as he said "trick or treat". The mask hung heavy with candy as his older sister, herself perhaps ten, stood nearby nonchalantly. I put the candy in his makeshift swag bag, and then handed some to the girl. She casually dropped it in his hood/bag and chirped, "Thankyou..." as they retreated to the next house. I am sure every door held the same looks of shock and stunnitude that I had exhibited.

This year beats all I ever seen on Halloween.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Don't Give Up on Me Just Yet


Yes, I know it's been a while since I posted, thanks to all who commented and commended my actions on the fake watches. I haven't been back to see if they are still available. I'm sure that if they are as yet unclaimed, that I could easily be the proud owner of two new targets.

I have a post about the most recent observance of Halloween, in true geezer form, after which I'll ask for your favorite spooky memories. So think now and be ready. Maybe tomorrow.

Or the next day.

So sue me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time is Fleeting



I was at Walmart the other day and as I was getting out of my car, I spotted two watches right on the yellow line of the empty space next to me. I got out of my car quickly to grab them before some crazed soccer mom on her Blackberry whipped in to the spot in a Yukon. I hurried over to the pair of timepieces that sat in tandem as though they were placed there intentionally.

I picked them up and noticed immediately that one was in the form of a lady’s watch and the other was perhaps a slim, smaller round-faced men’s watch or a slightly larger women’s watch. The decision was easy; take them to the lost-and-found. Someone was out there wondering where their tickers were.

As I walked in to the store, I looked closer at them; one appeared to be a Tommy Hilfiger with a “pearl” face and a prominent logo. It was ticking. The other, the smaller lady’s watch, was in the style of a Rolex in stainless steel with a diamond bezel. It was not in working mode, being about an hour and twenty minutes slow. On further inspection, I noted the famous name actually printed on the face, “Rolex” and with the words “Perpetual Day-Date” were in the proper location for the brand. However, as I waited in the line to turn in these watches, I looked at the “Rolex” carefully, and tried to pull out the stem to see if I could set the time. It was nigh on impossible and I nearly broke my thumbnail trying to pry the thing loose. I finally loosened it to a degree, but only by unscrewing it. That was when I re-read the face, wondering if perhaps the name may have been spelled “Rollecks”. The back didn’t bear the trademark crown on the stainless steel. The word “knock off” came immediately to mind.

For some reason, I stood in the Customer Service line for about ten minutes. There was a young couple returning some sort of electronical device with no receipt. I should have just tossed the wristwatches in the garbage, yet I stood there, time ticking away on the minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

Finally I got to the counter and asked the lady if these “watches” would be safe in the lost and found. Dumb question. I think they’d be pretty safe there. Forever.

I think they’d have been just as safe in the parking lot on the yellow line in section C.

So, to the venerable Rolex company; I apologize for not taking the rank imitation completely out of circulation. Maybe I should have saved it and let my daughter “durability test” this thing with a teaspoon full of .40 caliber lead at 1100 fps.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordy Guy: Long Awaited



The Wordy Guy has agreed to help me buy some time till I get a sufficiently great (mediocre) post up here on the Geezer Chronicles. The only thing is, he made me guess the answer before he completed the transaction. If you put your ear to the internets, you can hear him softly gloating; he made me guess the wrong one. He's good I tell ya.

So, no cheating, and everyone get your guesses in to the comments right away. Remember, this is for entertainment only, please, no wagering.

Lastage

A. Leather straps used to secure items, especially on a dog sled.

B. Room for stowing goods, as in a ship.

C. The edge of woven fabric finished so as to prevent raveling.

Now is the time for all of you dogsledders, sailors and seamstresses to use you knowledge to gain bragging rights here. If you are well-versed in all of the above, then this should be a snap.

Good Luck, and thanks for watching!

Yes, Rob is a tricky one, he fooled me. For all y'all who chose "C", that's the one that got me, too. Again, Innominatus supplied a definition all his own that cracked me up. I almost blew milk out of my nose when I read it...and that's rough, because I hadn't even had any milk in days!

shudder

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Brain Hurts

Sorry for the dearth of posting here; I am having a Mr. DP Gumby moment. I have some things cooking between my ears, but nothing ever takes full-fledged form and I get distracted.

Some funny thoughts have been roiling in the gray matter, but I can't seem to remember it when I need to. And some of it really requires some serious thought, such as how to type in the sound that my youngest daughter makes now that she has her braces on and the evil-torture-device of an "expander" in the roof of her mouth. And the time to park and actually type it is just not available. As in "I don't have time to write all this funny stuff...and sit on my butt as much as I want to..."

I will try to congeal some of the jello upstairs and put it down for you humor-starved souls. I appreciate the plaintive cries I have received from two of you (actually the only two that are taller than me!) for new material. I'll try to do better.

"ooooooooooh, my brain huuurts"

Monday, October 05, 2009

Guest Post from My Kid

Faithful readers of this blog (well, I guess the unfaithful ones that read here a lot would qualify, too) will know that my youngest has a talent for writing stuff, too. The other day, she was sick at school and since she is a freshman this year, the procedure is considerably different than in the past. Here is a short account of her experience:

Fresh from junior high, I am used to the nurse's offices being a small room with two, maybe three beds pressed against the walls, a desk for the nurse, and a hallway leading to the main office. High school is a whole ‘nother story. Today was my first visit and I couldn’t help but laugh with my daddy telling him about the mini-hospital they have running at my school.

When I walked into the dimly lit room, the first thing I noticed was a row of chairs lining the wall and a little glass window with a sign-in sheet. I walked on over to the window and was nicely greeted by a nurse's aide, and after I signed in, I walked over to a chair placed by the wall just for me. I waited for about two minutes and then was taken to a larger, brighter back room where I immediately took notice of the nice row of not two or three, but five numbered beds.

epilogue by Dad.
That was about the extent of her visit, the rest of the visit went pretty much as expected. She was just impressed at the lengths they went to to make it seem like a real doctor's office. As we discussed it, she hinted that she half-expected to see an MRI machine in there. Knowing Alvin ISD, I suggested that what they might have instead of an MRI unit would be perhaps the cardboard box from a water heater with a dump truck inner tube encircling the box, and the whole thing spray painted white. The MRI experience would consist of members of the band's drumline to provide the clicking and pounding sounds for the "test".

We laughed about that for awhile, then I encouraged her to write it down. Those are all her words, I didn't add a thing.

What a kid. I am kinda scared.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tall Boy

I have always liked to think that I am free of the deadly sin of vanity. Not that I walk around with my shirttail out and my hair unwashed, face not shaved and generally disheveled. I change my clothes every day and make sure that I look presentable, at least.

I have never been much of a prize to look at, as evidenced by my entire school career starting in second grade and my unrequited like of a certain girl. Happened a lot. I was always a lot better at bending an ear than turning heads.

And I am OK with that. No big deal.

In light of all these things, I determined that I was utterly devoid of narcissism. A fact that I was proud of.

One day, however, I was laid low. I was devastated to have a flaw pointed out shamelessly and unabashedly by the smallest person in the office. A mere lass just under five feet tall. Indignity.

The video guy for the college came in and said “howdy” to the Publications Office folks. He is a tall fellow, six feet, three inches or so. At least. He stood around and talked to us for a bit, then he bade us adieu and exited. Tiny little Diana, her real name, said casually, “You always stand up really straight when Keith comes in…and Kris and Mike, too, I’ve noticed.”

Thud. “WHAT? What are you talking about? No I don’t…” I knew in my heart of hearts that she was right. All of the guys she mentioned were at or above the 75 inch level, which is the exact height that I attained as a 15 year-old lad. Could it be that I was worried about someone being taller than me?

The answer came back, “Yes.” Since I reached my full adult height, I have liked the altitude that I carry around. People look up to me, whether they respect me or not. I am used to seeing over almost everybody’s head. I relish changing light bulbs without standing on anything. Being taller than 97% of the population puts you in a position that I happen to like. My cousin used to be the tallest in the family at six feet even. When I shot past him to my current 5 feet fifteen inches, his theory was that since I was from Texas City, the polluted air caused me to mutate and thus my overall height surplus. That’s OK, Mike, I’ll take the three inch mutation.

I also figured out that I am uncomfortable with someone being taller than myself. I have actually gone so far as saying that I don’t like people taller than me. That’s not really true; I am just not accustomed to looking up at someone. In reality I like hanging out with other tall guys; we can commiserate about small cars, low couches and ducking under ceiling fans the way people duck under helicopter blades.


So, I haven’t worried that my hair turns gray, or if my laugh lines show, or if my hairline recedes. Those of you who know me or have at least seen me are aware that I don’t really care that I have gained some weight in the past 24 or 25 years. I just don’t want to get shorter. Spinal compression is my enemy these days. And I don’t want to end up like this:

Twenty years ago, when I was an early employee at the college, there was an office party with everyone including the chancellor in attendance. He was the first basketball of the college and a tall old fella. He was over six feet tall, but had the older guy stoop to his shoulders and his neck was a little thrust forward. On greeting me, he asked me how tall I was, grinning. I answered that I was six feet, three inches tall. He replied, “Oh no, you’re taller than that! I’m six foot three…” I was smart enough to shut up and grin. I wanted to say, “No Dr. S—, you USED to be six foot three, spinal compression got ahold of you, and now you’re just shorter.”

I don’t wanna have to overestimate peoples’ height when I get old, I just want my stature quo.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

La Cucaracha: an essay with passion


La Cucaracha, La cucaracha;
Ya no quieres caminar…


That’s what the song says. It states that the cockroach does not want to continue on. I have never seen a cockroach that did not want to go on. They are survivors. They’re the ones that certain scientists think will survive a nuclear holocaust (like the one that Iran is gearing up for, no doubt). Now, don’t think that just because I admit that they are tough and adaptable and can live indefinitely on next to nothing that I have even a modicum of respect or even (shudder) admiration for these plagues. Nope.

They are nasty, evil, treacherous, and all of that times 10 when they fly at you. Big, high-walking, scratchy-legged scavengers that revel in surprising my daughters in the kitchen, or the bathroom, or outside the front door. They have a diabolical intellect, though simple and unadorned. Their intents are guided primarily by striking fear into humans, and only on the second tier, eating. When a roach flies at you, it is not to escape. It is a tactic reminiscent of the kamikazi pilots of Japan. Take wing directly to the enemy, though he be larger, he may just run screaming like a little girl. Didn’t really work in the Pacific in the early 1940s, but the intent was the same. Except I think that more of those pilots died than have the roaches who take the same approach.

I can’t tell how many times I have been lurched awake from a nap or solid nighttime slumber by the shrieks of my oldest daughter after a sighting. The middle one is better, but she is reluctant to enter a room where one has been seen without proof of extermination; she needs a habeas corpus. The littlest gal is a bit more intrepid; she’ll actually kill one herself with whatever is at hand, and since we don’t allow shooting in the house, it’s usually a sister’s flip flop conveniently left wherever.

It’s not like we’re infested, we have sprayed around the house at various times and supplemented with Bengal at the entrances and other possible entry points. So most of the shiny brown devils we see are at least ailing, if not on their last tour of duty. This aids us immensely in the killing of the intruders; normally a cockroach’s reflexes are so lightening-fast that they can smell the synapses fire in your arm just as your nerves cause your muscles to contract in the effort to smash them with a shoe. Unless you’re an experienced roach hunter, you don’t know to lead them by a sole width so that they run into the hammer of judgment.

But the experienced hunter also knows that it takes a deft touch to kill the quarry in the proper way. A well-timed, well-aimed monster slam will give the killer a satisfying recoil, but it will also provide the dreaded “pop/crackle” that indicates that you will have the unsavory job of cleaning up the roach innards that explode from the unfortunate target.

I watched my Grandmother play cat-and-mouse with a big roach one summer night a long time ago. We were watching TV and kept seeing the shiny dark form trekking back and forth in front of the old black and white Zenith. Each time GranMommy would spot him, the roach would skitter back across the floor to safety. After several near misses and frustrated attempts to send him to his eternal punishment, she just happened to be returning from a trip to the kitchen that coincided with his trek across the floor. There, in front of all of her grandchildren, GranMommy said, “Roach, you and me have done had it out!”, and with that declaration, she shot her bare foot out and crushed him. We were shocked at her brave, bare foot and admiring of her fearless protection of us.

Ya no quieres caminar, indeed!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Lament



Being on the forced active job search, I am under somewhat of a strain lately. To put it mildly. I thought it might be nice to slip out this afternoon and go down the grass path to the low water bridge and squeeze off a few rounds of my trusty pistola.

I gathered my .40 and magazines full of 42 rounds of Winchester ammunition, along with my trusty Daisy Powerline, two CO2 cartriges and a box of BBs.

Heading off toward the ditch, I was enjoying the Southeast breeze and the smell of all the grass. I saw a two foot long rat snake. We exchanged greetings and went our separate ways.

As I got closer to the ditch and the “road” that leads to our shooting spot, I noticed that there were new fenceposts and a strand of brand new bob wahr. To the rest of the country that’s “barbed wire”.

I was aghast. How could they do that? Staring in disbelief, I kept walking closer and closer, not wanting to believe my entry was being barred. Passively, yes, but barred nonetheless. There was a day not so long ago that I would have simply ducked under the fence, but in those days I wasn’t carrying a serious caliber pistol in my hip pocket. The thought of encountering someone and them calling the county mounties on me, all the while with a firearm (concealed) and a pile of ammo did not appeal to me. I am out of work, but I don’t think I want to spend that time in jail.

Crestfallen, I trudged back up the dirt track, half hoping to tell the snake my troubles. I crossed the dried up ditch and went up the other side of the tributary. This leads down to the main bayou/ditch where the low concrete bridge is where we used to stand and shoot.

Tromping down the open dirt road that runs parallel to the familiar road to the place I taught my youngest daughter to shoot, I began to really regret the advancement of civilization. Who would do that? Well, it’s just as well; the property I was walking alongside is rumored to have sold for development a while back, and the property behind that has turned into improved pasture for cattle. I looked out across the field to my right and even saw houses. I grew more nervous about seeing houses across the pasture. I made the decision to leave my big pistol holstered, so to speak.

But I just had to reach out and touch something! Good thing I brung my BB gun. I set up a lonesome Sam’s cola can and used up both CO2 cartridges, practicing my aim and trigger control, to the extent that one can on a Daisy Powerline.

So another page turns in my life; no more places to shoot for free. No more getting my nitrocellulose fix, not to mention my little gal and her Annie Oakley practice.

Dang civilization.

Friday, September 11, 2009

An Old Right for a New Generation

The Second Amendment lives! I had a student of mine come up to me at the beginning of class last night and ask if he could have an excused absence. I looked slightly askance at him and said, "Go on..." and he proceeded to tell me that on Wednesday night, he had his home broken into and burgled. They kicked the back door off the hinges and took a lot of stuff.

He went on; when he arrived home and was assessing the loss and damage, the guy came back and was going for round 2. Michael, the student, heard the intruder and retrieved his 9 mm pistol. He approached the guy and basically told him, "You can stand still right there, or I will shoot you."

I guess the guy, though Michael said his eyes were switching and twitching like a thing that twitches and switches around a lot, was lucid enough to understand that the fella with the pistol wasn't fooling around. The police got there and cuffed the drugged-out burgular and took the report.

So needless to say, he had some things to take care of that night, which probably included buying a pizza for his 9 mm.

I let him off, shook his hand for exercising his right to keep and bear (and bare) arms to protect his life and property, and had a good class.

I hope he gets it all straightened out, the doors repaired and new hollow points for his weapon.

Cuz you never know.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Chivalry is Not Dead...

...even when other things are.

Sometimes you just have to do the right thing. Like the time I went to my sister’s house to borrow the floating family edger. She was on vacation up in the Hill Country for a week or so, and it would still be several days before she arrived home again. My yard couldn’t wait.

I backed the ol’ Caravan into the driveway and lifted the back door for a quick-load-quick-getaway. As I approached the garage door, I heard some loud buzzing and saw a couple of big green-tailed flies that seemed anxious to get into the garage.

“Hmm, them’s some big flies.”

As I opened the door, I noticed a large number of other flies coming out to meet me. That’s odd. I ventured in past the cloud of insects toward the interior of the garage and on the first breath I drew, the unmistakable scent of decomposition met me like a sack of humid rotted cat, right in my sizeable nose. My eyes grew accustomed to the dimly lit tomb and sure enough, there was a very large decomposing orange tabby cat sitting there, well, decomposing. Now, when I see the CSI guys stroll into a crime scene with a five-day-old corpse decaying in the kitchen I know that it’s just a set with ersatz yuk on the floor. I don’t think anyone could keep a straight face in an atmosphere filled with putrefying flesh. Actors.

What I saw was a truly amazing composition that put me in mind of the famous painting; “the Death of Marat”, by Jacques Louis-David. That painting is of a man dying in his bathtub, fatally stabbed while writing, his quill pen still in his right hand, which had fallen limply to the floor, his head leaning on his right shoulder. The cat was a mirror image of this pose, save for the pen. He sat in repose, in a plastic baby tub with his legs out in front of him and his left paw outside the tub, and he was leaning heavily to his left. While I was amused by this similarity, the stench soon drove me outside amidst gags and chokes.

I briefly considered grabbing the edger and flying back home with nary a word to anyone. That option was short-lived; I couldn’t dream of having my sister come home from vacation to a ripe, dead feline ruining her babies’ bathtub. My path was clear; I had to dispose of this cat-tastrophy.

I wore a bandana around my head as a sweatband, and quickly decided to repurpose it to become a mask to protect me from the “eau de rotting kitty”. I took a couple of deep breaths and returned to the crime scene to assess what I could do. There was a large paper garbage bag provided by the city close at hand, and it looked as though I could slide the entire tub, cat and all into it and thus be rid of the entire thing at once. No way was I going to clean the tub out. There’s not enough bleach in Texas to disinfect that plastic tub.

About this time, I ran out of oxygen and had to bolt for the outside air once again. As I got clear of the stink zone, I again took a breath, this time through the bandana. Big mistake. The cloth held the molecules of stench in suspension until I could actually use them. Gag. Gag again, this time with the lunch I had consumed hours before nearly making an appearance.

I repeated that sequence about four more times as I readied the reeking tabby for his final journey to the landfill; breathe, run in, finagle tub/cat/bag until I run out of air, run outside. I finally secured him and his vehicle in the gigantic paper bag, rolled the top shut tightly and galloped to the curbside. Now it was someone else’s problem, most notably, the sanitation workers. Better them than me, since their olfactory fatigue has been keeping them alive since their second week on the job.

We never figured out how the unfortunate animal met his demise or how he ended up so conveniently in the tub, but I was thankful for whatever coincidences lined up to make my incredibly selfless act a little bit less, ah, pukish. I proudly say that I did not at any time of this ordeal actually hurl; but I gagged more than I ever had. Ever.

Still, when I think of it, I kinda want to spit.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Just Peachy

I love a peach. Not just any peach, but a really good, sweet, juicy Freestone peach. The kind they grow in the Texas Hill Country.

Alas, they don’t build peaches the way they used to. I had a couple of peaches last week that looked an awful lot like a peach, same size as a peach, same fuzzy demeanor, even a faint whiff of peach.

My hopes, as always, rose, but after the first bite, they were dashed. Though disappointed, I was not surprised when each in turn ended up as mealy, dry, pale imitations of what I wanted. These were strip-mined peaches from California, with flavor and juice bred out of them and “shippability” bred in. They will travel for days in a truck from coast to coast and not have much more than a slight contusion on the stem end, or a mere scrape across the cheek.

Flavor? No. But durability in spades.

The peaches that I long for are the ones from Kerrville and Fredricksburg that are as big as my fist (a pretty big fist) and so sweet and juicy you need a pancho and an insulin shot when you eat them.

When I was a kid (here it comes, Geezer Alert), I remember hopping barefooted across the asphalt griddle that was the parking lot of the Weingarten’s grocery store and into the cool air-conditioned store. The chilled floor soothed my feet and from the produce aisle off to the right the unmistakable aroma of peaches overtook me from twenty feet away. The Hill Country peaches were in.

As a young tough in high school, I recall a certain teacher, Mr. Christian, who would come by my Mother’s workplace and take orders for Fredricksburg peaches, by the half–bushel box. We usually got at least four and sometimes more when he arrived back in town. Then as a kid at home during the summer, my job was to peel and slice as many as I could. The resulting bounty was subsequently frozen, preserved or just sliced and sugared to go in a plastic tub in the refrigerator. These were used for every day tasks such as corn flake duty, Blue Bell ice cream accompaniment or to put in the milkshakes we used to make.

It was a job that was never like a job; something I didn’t mind doing at all. I would start at the pointed end and peel downward to the stem end (the peel came right off that way) and then run the knife around longitudinally, then a final lateral double circumnavigation into the big bowl in my lap, tossing the stone in a bag. Time after time, peach after peach and I never tired of the scent or the fuzz or the juice running from my fingers to my hand to my elbow.

My aunt Winnie, Grandaddy’s sister, had a peach tree in her back yard in Galveston. I used to accompany my grandparents there to pick peaches and figs. The peaches were grand, and I distinctly remember a picture of peaches backlit by the morning sun on Heard’s Lane and as I touched the skin, the tiny hairs falling off into the breeze in a faint cascade of shimmering dust. I wish you all could see the picture I have in my head from that vantage point. The act of purchasing your fruit with your own physical exertion; climbing the tree, holding on to the bucket, reaching for the perfectly ripe fruit that come to you hand as willingly and as gently as a drop of water coming off of a leaf.

It’s been years since I had eaten a peach that lived up to all I have just described to you. Too many times I have sniffed, squeezed and bitten only to be disappointed or even repulsed. There are peaches that I won’t tolerate past my teeth.

We went to New Branufels last year, the final “full-blown-whole-family-we’re-having-a-great-time-aren’t-we vacation. On the way to Canyon Lake, we saw a roadside stand next to a sun-bleached F150 with little buckets of “FREDRICKSBURG PEACHES”, so the sign said. Following an afternoon at the lake, we had to stop and sample some of their wares.

The friendly feller said that they were $5 a bucket, and though they looked awful small to me, I succumbed and forked over my five. Walking back to the van, I felt a little cheated; these things were not even the size of a tennis ball. Oh, well.

On the way back to the hotel, my middle daughter couldn’t stand the thought of those peaches sitting untouched, so she snagged one. Upon tasting the flesh of it, she exclaimed loudly, attesting to what I had only hoped for. “These are SO GOOD!” etc.

I had her select one for me while the other girls eagerly grabbed one of their own to sample. When I bit into it, I felt like letting go of the wheel and flying off to heaven on my own. It was the peach that I have searched for over the last twenty years. The Hill Country Peach that I remembered was disappearing down my gullet. Memories flooded back and the Geezer rose up in his seat, looked into the rearview mirror and intoned the sacred words, “Girls, THAT’s what a peach should taste like”.

And it is true.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fire on the Front (yard)



The battle against the insects continues on another front. I am waging war on the army that has been massing these past few weeks. Through some unintentional reconnaissance, I discovered a large camp housing several battalions of my particular foe.

I found a big mess of fire ants on the side of the house. I was pulling up a tall weed, and as the grass parted, the mound became visible, and in half a second, a brown tide of angry ants came boiling out toward me, covering the adjacent fence boards and climbing the stalk toward my hand frozen on the stalk.

When I was a kid, we had two kinds of ants to contend with; little black ants and red ants. The black ants were innocuous little societies, running and gathering and burrowing all the time, and I was content to watch them for hours (cumulatively) over the kid years. They were even OK to gently pick up to traverse the acre of your hand.

Red ants were the ones to watch out for. They were aggressive and dealt a painful sting. Their hills were a bit higher and their pace was more deliberate and ominous. The only redeeming aspect of their existence was that they are the primary food of the Texas horned toad.

This was all before the advent of the fire ant invasion from South America. Google it if you want to know more about the origins of these murderous little devils. Back before they came to oppress us, a kid could lay in the shade of a tree right there on the grass. For a half hour or more at a time, with no idea of being overrun by ants. Nowadays (how’s THAT for a geezer expression) one would be hard pressed to stand still in a yard of any kind for more than a few minutes for fear of attracting a traveling scout party of fire ants ready to kill and drag anything smaller than a Brahma bull to the (most likely) nearby ant hill.

I have seen baby birds knocked from the nest by an evening storm suffering on the ground, covered with biting, stinging, dismembering little terrors. Evil creatures. Their sting is where their name is derived; it burns like fire almost immediately, and even after you mash the deliverer to butter, the fresh bite still feels exactly like it is still being stung. The wound takes an overnight break, then develops into the characteristic little blister surrounded by an itching ring of fire. I think this is what Johnny Cash may have been inspired by…

I suppose the most frightening thing about them besides their toxicity is their teamwork. What happens when you step on (or near) the hill, phalanxes of heartless little soldiers are dispatched to swarm your foot, climb your leg and bite at the same time. The victim is suddenly compelled to start the “ant dance” in a futile attempt to dislodge them from their post. Feet are slapped, ankles are rubbed, shins are skimmed, shoes come off, heck I have seen pants come off in an attempt to repel the stinging hordes.

My Dad’s remedy, though not completely effective, is more fun to watch. His method is to take a spade full from one mound, place it next to another mound, take a spade from the second mound, place it in the original hill and likewise with the first shovel full. This technique pits the innate aggression of both “families” to maximum effect, and if he’s lucky, a soldier ant gets in to the queen’s chamber and delivers a fatal “check mate”.

It’s often the little things that bring one pleasure in the battle for yard dominance. My Dad has found one.

Now where did I leave my shovel?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Driving the View*


As some of you know, I am no longer employed where I was before. You also know my thoughts on it. ‘Nuf said. Now I drive to work in a different direction. These days, instead of driving into Pasadena, Texas, the largest small town in the country, I drive into Lake Jackson. It’s the complete opposite direction, in every way, and the traffic is not even an issue.

Normally, one would drive down State Highway 35 from Alvin, to FM 523 to FM 2004 and into Lake Jackson/Clute on Business 288. Now, I know that’s a lot of numbers, and to those of you on the left coast, it means absolutely nothing. Trust me when I tell you; it is some of the nicest driving on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Naturally, I wanted to see if there were other routes to get me to my destination and home again. Since I knew that FM 2004 goes pretty much straight from Lake Jackson to Alvin with naught but a single traffic light in 25 miles, and that a road behind our neighborhood leads directly down to 2004 with naught but one light that more often than not remains green, I figured that would be the way to go.

On my way home the second day, I opted for the straight 2004 (referred to around here as “two double oh four”) to 2917 route home. Just a flat, mostly gun-barrel-straight road through undeveloped coastal prairie crossing several bayous and creeks. Then the “big bridge” over Chocolate Bayou, which is a steep, high structure over the largest waterway between Galveston and Freeport. The sky is wide and the Gulf breeze that blows across the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge is fresh and strong.

I made the mistake of driving 2917 to 2004 on the morning end of the commute one day. There are petrochemical plants down that direction. You’ll see why this is important in a couple of seconds.

Can you imagine being caught in the middle of the Long Beach Grand Prix while you're riding a tricycle? This is what it feels like trying to hold at a reasonable 60 miles an hour with F-250s, Ram 2500s, Silverados and battered Nissan Sentras running up your tailpipe at an average of about 75 miles per. There is a wide shoulder, but it’s often populated by dead possums or raccoons or some other obstacle. This precludes the normal courtesy of pulling to the right while the impatient plant workers blast by with scowls of disapproval. They whip out from behind you in a cloud of diesel smoke or gasoline-produced carbon monoxide in a huff and give no time for you to even try to move over.

Having survived that, I learned my lesson: 35 in the morning, 2004 in the afternoon. With that knowledge burned into my brain, I could now enjoy the commute that I needed to make every day. It’s easier to take pleasure in a nice drive when there isn’t a ton and a half of screaming metal and diesel fuel looming in your rearview mirror like the kiss of death.


*the title is a reference to the song by the same title by Son Volt, an "alt country" group outta Missouri. Good stuff.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Geezers Arise!

(hnnnnnhh, UNHnhh!, stands to full height)
Dang, my foot's asleep.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

WORDY GUY with NO ROMAN NuMERAL


UPDATE

THE LONG AWAITED ANSWER: Is "B", Stingy or frugal.

Many thanks to you smart alecks whose penchant for making up your own definitions (Innominatus and Wollf) make the comments funnier than the whole blog on a normal basis. But SIS is the one who got it right. She played to win. And did.

I hope RobV's caffienated sinuses fully recover enough to provide us with another installment soon. This is fun!

I have lost track of the roman numeral associated with this installment of Wordy Guy. But that does not diminish it's fun or importance. Nay, if anything, it frees me to not worry about counting every one of these. And If Rob V stays on board with us here, we'll get more of this educational fun.

As always, do your best, dig deep in your brains, and NO CHEATING...

Parsimonious

A. Extremely self-righteous, to the point of being "holier than thou."

B. Stingy or frugal

C. Extremely bitter and resentful

Friday, August 07, 2009

Computers Have Taken Over

I was drawing today, the old-fashioned way; paper and pencil. I am doing a couple of preliminary sketches for a guy gearing up to make a movie. My job will (hopefully) be to do the storyboard drawings to a) sell the idea to investors and b) show the progression of the shots to plan out the film being shot. Pretty cool.

It’s been a while since I have just sat and drawn pictures, and as I had been sitting there for half an hour or so, I decided to get up and get some water. Just before I stood up, my mind started to fire the synapses to my left hand to hit “command + S”; the Mac keyboard shortcut to “Save” a file.

I couldn’t believe that the action gotten that far. Totally inconceivable. Have I been creating art on a computer for so long that even a simple act that I have done virtually all my life been invaded by the requirements of the virtual world?

I had to laugh when I actually realized what had happened. I told my daughter about it, and she just grinned and rolled her eyes.

I just hope that my students read this and realize how deeply ingrained that the actions become.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Not Intended for the USPS

I was at my parents’ house the other day, and a poor little gecko that had been smashed somewhere and dried out to an ashy, shadow of a husk turned up. It reminded my Mom of an anecdote that included, of all things, a similarly-fated lizard and the United States Postal Service.

It may be important to assert that the statute of limitations on minor postal transgressions is likely elapsed many times over in the intervening 27 years, so there is not too much danger of an arrest by an overzealous postal inspector.

Being in college in far-flung Commerce, Texas, any correspondence from anyone but the Dallas Morning News was welcome. OK, even sales pitches from The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram or even the Pecan Gap Citizen were welcome. REAL mail was almost too much to ask for.

But one day, I got an envelope from my sister. I was so excited. As I all but skipped back up the walkway to the porch, I wondered at the small greasy spot on the back of the envelope. And it was kinda thicker than a letter or card.

On opening the packet, I quickly realized that it was not actually a letter so much as a tomb. A tomb for a little greasy spot that slightly resembled a shrimp. Had my sister actually sent me a shrimp in the mail? And there was a smell. Kinda shrimpy.

After a little more careful inspection, notice I didn’t say “closer inspection”, there seemed to be more of a land-based creature; the partial skeleton and overly gaunt form made me think of perhaps a small lizard. HAD MY SISTER SENT ME A FORMERLY LIVE LIZARD THAT THE MAIL MAN KILLED?

Even though at that time, 1982 to be precise, long-distance telephone conversations were reserved for special occasions or really important news. This qualified. I called her and asked her what made her even think of this sick, sick, sick, funny, strange, sick, weird, awesome, sick little prank. She laughed and said that it was completely dessicated when she found it wherever it was and it came to her in a flash, “Send it to aAron” in the mail.

While she said that the tiny lizard was utterly mummified and should not have greased the envelope he came to me in, I do concede that it had been a bit rainy in Commerce for a few days. Maybe it had gotten a little time to “reconstitute” in the humidity of an East Texas post office.

Needless to say, I will never see a pressed lizard and not think of a certain winter day when I went to the mailbox and found a surprise. And also fear my sister, just a little.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Something Random...



How many miles to the galleon did the Spanish Armada get?


UPDATE

I never got a definitive answer to this very real question. I only got invective for my use of a very tasteful pun. Offers to pummel me with pillows and the like.

Does knowbody no the answer? Just make something up, OK?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fourth of July Waterworks Show

Fridays, I get off early during the Summer. I think most of the regulars know this. This is a good thing.

I arrived at home at around one in the afternoon, just as the females in the house were readying themselves for a trip to the movies. I had eaten some sort of food for lunch and was just on the verge of zoning out in the chair. My youngest sat at the fireplace awaiting her ride to the movie. My wife was in our bathroom, making the final preparations for their outing.

As I was nearing the doze-point, I heard some sounds of urgency from the back of the house. “Wabba wabba weeba wabba, wabba water wanh wanh! Help wanh!” As I moved toward the sound, it became clear that something was amiss. I thought that perhaps she was hurt or possibly a roach or other abominable hazard.

I burst into our room and heard her harsh and assiduous tones joined by the sound of spraying water. Rounding the edge of the sink area, I saw my wife leaning over, clutching a towel with it jammed down on the cold water side of our faucet. Water was gushing from under the terry cloth relentlessly. I dove beneath the counter and reached through the waterfall to turn off the supply valve.

That done, the relieved spouse withdrew the towel and sure enough, the cold water faucet handle was just gone. I peered down the hole and sure enough, I saw all the way down the tube to the water treatment plant.

I analyzed the hardware and could see nothing obviously broken. Yet there we were, the countertop swimming in the city water supply. My wife describes the order of events as 1) turning on the hot water valve, 2) cold water valve blasting off like a Saturn V rocket to the ceiling. Or almost.

After they left, I sat in my chair for a while, dreading the trip to the Dome Hepot for a replacement faucet. The trick was going to be the drain stopper mechanism. In case you have never replaced a faucet, the box contains a stopper assembly that necessarily entails the removal of the silver ring that you spit your toothpaste at in the bottom of the sink. Not really hard, just not fun. And the opportunity to over or under-tighten something resulting in a leak. So I made the decision to go with the direct replacement. With the failure of the original after such a short time, the prospect of duplicating the initial mistake was cause for hesitation. But the prospect of replacing the drain was the tipping point.

I dragged myself up from the air-conditioned comfort of the living room and into the blazing heat of the afternoon, on a trek to find an American Standard Cadet faucet set.

I am glad to say that the procurement and installation went without a hitch, save for the one in my back from wadding myself up under the bathroom sink. Let me tell ya, removing a relatively new faucet is much easier than removing one that was twenty or so years in one place.

I think I would have like to seen the liftoff of the handle skyward, followed by the plume of water. And while my wife’s description was vivid, the thought of all that water in the face of such dry heat the last few weeks would have been refreshing, I think. And I guess my job afterward was that of the guys that prepare for the fireworks shows, only in reverse.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Hearty Laugh in the Produce Aisle...

I got a laugh in HEB today. There I was, picking out jalapeño peppers for the salsa I was about to make. Fine, firm, green peppers.

I quickly got flanked by a couple preparing for some sort of wind-ding, shindig or hootenanny for the Fourth of July; the woman on the left with the basket and the man on hunter/gatherer duty bringing in the onions and other produce.

He saw me pawing through the jalapeños and asked his wife, across me, "We're grilling, right?"

She replied in the affirmative and he mentioned that he was going to go for some jalapeños. As he grabbed one or two, he said into the air, "I'm going to smoke up a few of these and see what happens..."

Again, the smart aleck was at the ready, and I said to him, "They're hard to keep lit...", accompanied by the exaggerated cigar-puff-mouth-action and my fingers holding a big, fat mock-stogie.

He chuckled, but as I walked away, I heard him laugh some more.That was when he saw the visual in his head, trying to light a pepper with a grilling lighter, puffing like mad on it, then sitting back in his chair. Then his wife mumbled,"Huh..." from her shopping list , and he repeated it as I disappeared down the aisle. As he related the gag to her, I heard him laugh some more. There was that visual again.

I felt good to have played to a small but apparently appreciative audience. Just about made my Fourth.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rain, Rain, Come Again, Go Away Some OTHER Day!


It rained here today.

So you say, "Big deal, you're on the Texas Gulf Coast, it's positively tropical!" Ah, not lately, Dear Reader, not lately. It has been very dry for something like 39 days, with no appreciable rain. Burn bans are in effect and many municipalities are calling for water conservation measures.

People are putting stamps on letters with paper clips. The Baptists are sprinkling, the Methodists are using a wet handkerchief and the Lutherans are issuing rain checks. We have catfish in the pond a year old that don't know how to swim yet.

To say it has been dry is an understatement. I got out of my car the other evening and smelled the aroma of hay. Fresh, dry hay. Since there were no hay bales or rolls nearby, I looked over at my lawn and saw the brown, withered grass doing it's best imitation of Coastal Bermuda.

The high pressure "bubble", as the weather people refer to it as, has maybe slipped a little. "Bubble" is a little misleading; it sounds like Lawrence Welk is playing a polka in the clouds, with happy people dancing in the streets to "champagne music". We're all sweating like pigs in the heat. It's been over 100º for, like ten days in a row, so there's not much of the implied "kicking-up-of-the-heels" going on around here.

I think they should describe it as a looming, apocalyptic dragon slowly cooking us in our own humid shirts.

But it rained today. For about 30 minutes in Pasadena (where I work) and maybe about the same amount of time in my home town. Of course, the pavement was about 120º F and the entire parking lot was nearly dry half an hour later.

Maybe our weather is getting back to normal.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

HMS Titanic, Highland Bayou Style

The captain of the Titanic was confident of a smooth, productive maiden voyage of his ship, no doubt. I was mostly confident that today was going to be a good day on the water with my youngest daughter for our first fishing/boating adventure.

Mostly.

We drove down to Highland Bayou in my neighbor’s truck with a borrowed pirot. I had never used a pirot. Have heard about them all of my life; a shallow flat bottomed boat with the bow and stern interchangeable. This one is fiberglass and has two seats molded in. During the drive down, I mentioned that if we were to go over due to wind or other wave action, that she should not panic. The water is warm and shallow, and we’ll just be wet, no big deal.

I found a place on the Southern side of the bayou, a place fairly unfamiliar to me. It was either that or park where I usually do, and carry the sixty pound watercraft for 300 yards, OVER the levee and to the water. No thanks.

We had a bucket, an ice chest (I don’t really know why, now that I think about it), my tackle box and the rods. I got in the boat myself, then encouraged my offspring into the back of the boat to find a seat. I knelt in the middle to paddle the craft to our destination.

I had decided on the way down that this was going to be an adventure rather than strictly a fishing trip. My young protégé is a casting neophyte, the pirot is a new kind of vessel for me to pilot. I wasn’t planning on trying to bring in a couple of limits of fish, we were just out to have some fun.

So back to the water; the pirot is kinda twitchy when it’s loaded. As I shoved off, the quick action made some extra side-to-side motion, and we took on a couple of quarts of the bayou. My daughter tensed up, but didn’t panic, and I told her that we were OK, just stay low and don’t move too radically. Me, on the other hand, had to paddle the whole cruise liner out into the watercourse necessarily shifting my prodigious weight as I propelled and steered the boat.

As we progressed, my girl wondered how deep the water was. I had brought along a five foot piece of pvc pipe as a nod to my Grandaddy with his “calcutta depthfinder” (a cane pole). I invited her to poke it down into the water as we were gliding along and see how deep it was. She was pleasantly surprised with the two and a half foot depth of the seas. She was less pleasantly surprised with the amount of water that was in the boat with us; up to her ankles. I was informed later that each time I paddled, the water was within an inch of so of the gunwales.

We had progressed about 150 yards out to the channel, and I was notified of some more water invading our sanctuary. That was it. I decided to come about and steam back to our berth. In the middle of the turn, my first mate announced, “Daddy, Daddy, we’re sinking!”… and it was true. The stern sank quickly with her bailing out vertically as the hull slid beneath the surface. The water made rapid progress in my direction as well; past my feet, up my calves, then inundating my back pockets and finally my chest. The last bit of “dry” was the bow as it looked to heaven one last time.

By this time we were laughing in surprise and shock. The bucket with my cast net went down, down to Davey Jones’ locker; really only about three feet. But the mud was pretty deep. I grabbed my (luckily) floating tacklebox and put the rods on top. The crew was confused about the depth of the water, since the mud was so soft in that particular spot, she thought it was deeper. She seized the sunscreen and tried for the paddle. I retrieved that after getting the ice chest.

After gathering all of our floating cargo, laughing, I made sure to hem it all in for my fellow castaway to hold while I salvaged the ship. I turned it on its side, then lifted it over my head, then plopped it back on the surface. No big deal. We then tossed our flotsam and jetsam in, and I let my crew climb my leg and flop back in the boat giggling.

When I made sure that we had everything, I allowed myself a time to laugh at the ridiculous outing we were in the middle of. My thoughts of earlier came back to me; this was not solely a fishing trip, but was to be an exploration. Well, that it was! My girl asked if I were disappointed, and I replied, “How could I be? We had an adventure!”

While making our way back to where we put in with me towing the boat (which was riding nicely in the water minus the 255 extra pounds), I took the time to have the wee lass practice casting my Shimano Calisto reel. Suffice to say, she will continue to practice.

The epilogue to this escapade is that my gal got to skipper the pirot around a little bit while I learned her how to paddle a boat around. She made several large circles in the channel, paddling, switching, back paddling, digging deep and using the paddle as a rudder. She did really well, and was excited to be the captain of such a fine, albeit low capacity, craft.

The moral to this story is to always be ready for something different. Don’t be content to follow plans every time, and a good hint is to leave your cell phone in the car like we did.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Missus Takes the Family for an Evening Stroll



Yes, the little dogs have been worrying a place at the end of the deck for several days now, culminating in an irritating yapfest earlier this evening. I figured it was a possum or something. Couldn’t be a cat, it was too quiet over there when the dogs were racing around sniffing and barking. I well remember the hiss that the stupid little black cat could utter.

Sure enough, as I was locking the back door for the night, I flicked on the porchlight just to see what I could see. What I saw was Mrs. O. Possum and the entire clan of little possum-lings clutching her fur, out for their evening constitutional.

Her expression, if possums can have expression, was one of slight bewilderment and mild confusion. Not that there is anything unusual about that kind of expression for a possum, but she looked as if she hadn’t any clue how she got on my back porch with no fewer than nine ugly little carbon copies of her gripping her pelt. She was panting a little, maybe because she sensed the air conditioning inside in defiance of the high humidity and heat of the Gulf Coast night. Perhaps she was plotting on how to buy a minivan to tote her brood rather than doing it the old-fashioned way. Who knows what goings-on are going on in the mind of a possum. If anything.

I will need a larger trap than I have to relocate the entire family to the Soderberg Marsupial Trade School and Re-education camp. I’ll have to see if they have a “loaner”.

Until then, I’ll have to staple my dogs to the tree in back.

Sounds Like...

The mind of a smart aleck is a terrible thing to have trapped in your skull. You who know me have heard what comes out of my mouth when the muse inspires.

On Thursdays in the office, we have a “snack day”, mostly just to feel better about the work week. We have half days Friday throughout the summer, so it’s a nice distraction to have food within easy reach to get ready for the slightly longer weekend.

My friend Sparky brought in some fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. We had some fresh basil as well, so the salad was a big hit. She decided to leave the olive oil up at the office for other snack days.

So much for the setup.

On Friday, our office manager strolled past the table we had the food products on the Thursgraze Snack Day. As she notice the olive oil bottle, she inquired about the owner.

Now, the way she worded it was crucial to my response, otherwise, I wouldn’t have said anything, or it just wouldn’t be funny.

Her exact words were, “Whose olive oil?” to which I replied instantly, “She’s Popeye’s girlfriend…why?”

She laughed heartily, and a couple of others moaned. I think that they were just jealous. You see, they’re smart alecks, too, and to get beaten to a perfectly laid out straight line was too much for their egos.

Reminds me of the “electric cat” episode of a couple of years ago.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Big Night

Summer evenings on the Coastal Plains of Texas can often mean muggy, sticky, mosquito ridden hours that go on forever. This evening however was different for a couple of reasons.

First, a mild “cool” front came through. All that means is that the pressure is high and the humidity is low. Weather reports had it at around 39% today; normally it’s 90% or higher. High temp was in the low 90’s. The evening turned off really nice, just a few small clouds, a soft South breeze. Mosquitoes were hunting in the cow pastures.

They missed a bonanza, because there was a stadium full of warm-blooded family and friends making ready to witness the graduating class of 2009. I was there because my middle daughter was one of the 496 eager grads just outside the stadium. They were all wearing their orange caps and gowns, the girls’ hair all straightened and/or curled, the boys’ necks all crammed into buttoned collars and ties. No doubt most of them were visited by butterflies and flop sweat.

As the stands filled up with interested and obligated spectators and the sun edged down, the breeze was refreshing and made the hard bleachers a little less offensive. The only thing we were concerned with was saving space for my parents, who were to be a little late. Even that assignment was made bearable by the parade of humanity in a variety of forms that issued past us.

This being Alvin, the Alvin ISD police were checking bags on the way in; they banned the air horns and cowbells and all manner of obnoxious noisemakers that had plagued previous graduations. The reason being, enthusiastic family cheering for one graduate virtually obliterated the names of the next three or four kids. So much for the dignity of the ceremony.

The graduates filed into the stadium single file down the track on each side. I was told that we should be on the South side. Sure enough, of the four hundred ninety-something high school seniors mine was there way back in the back with the “S’s”.

As I watched her in her orange cap and gown, I had that strange feeling that amounts to wonder at the speed of life. *Cliché alert*; It seems like such a short time ago that she was just a little kid running around the house with a busted piñata on her head. No, really. She has grown up so much. She is over five feet nine inches tall, and with the shoes she wore, she was nearly six feet even. Taller than nearly all of the girls and a great percentage of the guys. She looked like royalty, striding along the padded track with her wide, bright smile and her long blonde hair. Like Graduate Barbie.

Now she was in a group of kids that had gone through 12 years of school together, and were about to hit the streets as real people. They filed onto the new field of artificial turf filled with an army of chairs in a long, neat rectangle.

The crowd settled down and the color guard came out, the national anthem was played by the band, minus the seniors. The introductions of the officials were made and the speeches were speeched by the student class president and the smart kids. The top 10% was introduced, honors made and the long list of graduates’ names was read.

We sat through the lengthy list, waiting for the nineteenth letter of the alphabet that would signal Katie’s moment. We watched as her row stand up and walk to the staging area to be called up to receive their “diploma”.

Hearing her name, our entire group stood up and yelled, “Yay Katie!”. I texted her later during her time of Project Graduation all-night-soirée and asked if she had heard our exclamation. Her reply was, “LOL yah! ☺”. It made me feel good to have been noticed from that far away.

I am proud of my girl. She took the Math classes that I didn’t even know existed. As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone in my immediate family has even touched that level of ciphering unscathed.

She is one of the reasons that I have to go on, and I love her so much. Congratulations Katie-Belle.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Wordy Guy X!


Yes, the ever-sensational Wordy Guy has bestowed another puzzle gift on us. On you, I mean, I already knowed what this one means.

As always, do your best, dig deep in your brains, and NO CHEATING...

Lugubrious

A. Extremely ridiculous


B. Extremely mournful


C. Extremely humorous

And remember, last time Innominatus got the actual Wordy Guy to chork on his java with the dandy usage guess.

I'll have the answer and winners on Monday nite!

UPDATE
Well, here it is Monday night, and as promised I am announcing the winner of the Wordy Guy XI, or "X!" as I have in the title (on purpose)(really, I did it on purpose).

This is going to be difficult, since Innominatus came in first with an answer that very well could indicate that he knew the meaning of "lugubrious". But I can't let him drift through on his lightning-quick smart aleck answers forever. So this week's bragging rights goes to Falcon. His "process of elimination" educated guess was right on the money.

While Joe Biden's hair could be described as "extremely mournful", it wasn't decisive enough for the win.

And I mention "money" just as an expression, as you know there are no monetary prizes issued here.

Just a warm feeling of questionable accomplishment. So Falcon, revel in your moment. Thanks for playing!