Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Texas Preparation

This is an email that I got from my Uncle Bob, whom I learnt some good geezerin' from.

Seems a guy cruises thru a stop sign, or whatever, and gets pulled over by a local policeman. Guy hands the cop his driver's license, insurance verification, plus his concealed carry permit.

"Okay, Mr. Smith," the cop says, "I see your CHL permit. Are you carrying today?"

"Yes, I am."

"Well then, better tell me what you got."

Smith says, "Well, I got a .357 revolver in my inside coat pocket. There's a 9mm semi-auto in the glove box. And, I've got a .22 magnum derringer in my right boot."

"Okay," the cop says. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, back in the trunk, there's an AR15 and a shotgun. That's about it."

"Mr. Smith, are you on your way to or from a gun range...?"


"Well then, what are you afraid of...?"

"Not a dang thing..."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Somewhat Scary Story

Since Hallooweeeen is upon us, and since another guy has dubbed October as "International Write Horrror-ish Stories Month", and since I haven't posted in awhile, I thought I'd put up my "horror-ish" story. I was going to do an illustration for it, but just ran outta steam.

It’s in the Bag

She lay there listening. Having been asleep for awhile, she was still foggy, but that faint scratching sound had started again. Her husband always asserted that it was a roach in the paper shopping bag where she kept the old pictures. The ones that she never got around to scrapbooking for her mom. This had happened before, and she dreaded waking him up only to have him grumble, complain, turn on all the lights and rummage around in the corner. Then he would announce that the sneaky little roach had moved along. In exasperation, he would scratch lightly on the side of the bag to show her how little it took to amplify the sound. He would flop back in the bed and make her get up and turn off the lights.

Every time she thought about moving, it would stop. Every time she thought about going back to sleep, it would start back up. Should she wake him? No, not for the same old thing. There it was again, softly scratching. Ugh, would the night never end? It would be so easy for her to get up, retrieve the spray, flick on every light in the house and fumigate the whole room with him lying there like a worthless lump. That would show him. A smile grew on her lips and smoothed the furrows from her forehead.

As she started to relinquish her grip on consciousness, there was a louder thump and scrape that seemed to come from inside the wall. Like someone had dropped a claw hammer from ten feet up. She started up off of the pillow, her heart racing. That was no roach. Not even a mouse. That was something else. She lay this time, not out of frustration, but petrified with fear. Then the sound of the scraping the inside of sheetrock began slowly, very slowly, as if it were trying to be quiet, but deliberate at the same time. Chills ran up her spine and down her arms. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing straight. Waves of goosebumps covered her entire body in growing tension. The sound stopped, but the feeling of terror didn't. She strained her ears for any other telltale signs that would allay her fears. Deafening silence was all that met her and the only sounds that registered were the high-pitched squeal of nothing in her ears. The thumping of her heart threatened to wake the neighbors. Or her husband. Which, on a second of reflection, should have been wide-awake now even without her knee in his backside. The reason he was not awake was that he was on a quail hunt, she remembered. This was Friday morning and he had left last night. He had packed his hunting clothes and two of the shotguns that he had in the gun safe. Of course that left the entire arsenal that he had amassed since he was about ten.

Handguns, shotguns, rifles and assorted knives and pointed sticks hidden in various places throughout the house, so he could, as he put it, protect their castle no matter where the threat came from or when it chose to arrive. That was the price of living with a gun nut. And although he had offered many times to instruct and train her in the location and use of any and all of the weapons, she declined every time. "I'll never need those things", she told herself. Well, who was the nut, now? Dangit, why had she never listened? He even took his dog, Albert, which she was sure would be barking like mad right now. Dumb, hairy, licking beast; she missed even him at the moment.

The seconds that had elapsed in silence came to an abrupt halt with the sound of sheetrock being ground to powder. Her breathing stopped for what seemed like minutes as the sound grew bolder and louder and more determined. Her skin was now so tight that the moisture in her body was being squeezed out to the surface. When the sound quit with a thud, it offered no comfort. It was the very next instant when she felt the presence behind her. It was the feeling of hot breath and a cold draft together that paralyzed her where she lay. Eyes wide, she could not move, breathe or even cry out. The sense of utter helplessness mixed with the sick feeling of total despair broke over her like a wave. She felt herself detach from her body and got the sense of being lifted up the face of a huge tsunami with only a child's pool toy around her waist.

With the growing feeling of being swept to the crest of a gigantic wave of terror about to break, there came a sudden, steely grasp on her left ankle. She let out a tiny gasp, and the biting, crushing grip began pulling her to the foot of the bed. Only able to inhale, which was fortunate since she hadn’t drawn a breath in what seemed like hours, she gasped louder and louder as the traction increased her voyage to the end of the bed and the end of what would surely be her life.

The certainty that she felt of impending doom flipped a switch in her gut. If she was to meet her demise tonight, this way, by whatever this was dragging her the length of the mattress, she would do it with a fight. She began to flail and grab at anything, first the pillow, then the blanket, the fitted sheet and finally a heavy form to her right. It felt like a big bag full of warm sand, and as she clawed for it, it reached out and took her by her shoulders with a firm grip. She heard her name, “Melinda, MELINDA, WHAT IS IT? WHAT’S WRONG!

The sound of her name was like a trumpet from heaven coming from down a long, cold tunnel. The grip on her ankle was loosed and the cold desperation turned to hope again. It was her husband, and he was gathering her trembling form into his arms. She was sweating and he was blinking the sleep from his head. All he knew was that she had given a little shriek and began to grasp and flail at him with a desperation that he had never witnessed. His right hand was already reaching for his tactical pistol with the laser sight and bright flashlight to repel the threat that had terrorized his wife so badly. As he scanned the room, he saw that all the doors were still closed, and that the sanctity of their space had not been disturbed. A dream. Heck, a nightmare from the way she was thrashing around.

Her ragged breath and tremors gradually subsided and she relaxed into his chest. He could feel her heart pounding against his ribs and her breath was fogging up his collarbone.

“Melinda, what the heck was that?” he asked.

“I don’t really know, a nightmare I guess. But I am so glad you’re here! I thought you went to Uvalde to hunt.”

“Tomorrow night”, he grinned. “And for the record, your bad dream was so bad, it scared the puddin’ out of me!”

She finally allowed herself the luxury of a giggle and a deep breath. At that moment, a huge dark form leapt up on the bed between them and came right for her face. With a shriek, she threw her arms out in front of her in defense. She was met with a solid, furry, tongue-slinging Albert. When she cracked him on the side of the skull in the fray, he let out a little yelp, and she realized that she was not about to die. She and Jeff broke into nervous laughter.

After a while, they settled back into the bed to try to finish the next few hours of sleep that they were allotted. As she heard Jeff sigh, she echoed the punctuation to the crazy episode.

As she drifted off to sleep, she heard a soft scratching sound. “Jeff, what’s that?” she said coming wide-awake.

“Aah, just a roach in that bag of pictures, go to sleep.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You Can't Beat the Classics

My youngest and I have a lot of things in common. We both like guns. Shooting them, looking at them, talking about them, etc. We also both have a liking for Jalapeño Cheddar Cheetos. They taste just like regular Cheetos, but with jalapeñoz in them. Like the real pepper. They taste green and everything. An exciting treat, with a cumulative heat that only just makes your nose run.

SO, what could be better than blending these two endearing entities?

Right. Nearly nothing.

Imagine my joy and surprise when eating my lunch today, which included as a side Jalapeño Cheddar Cheetos, when the last remnant of the unnaturally orange snack was in the distinct shape of one of my favorite things.

There was a tiny, spicy, cheesy Single Action Colt “Peacemaker”! See the similarity? I knew you would.

On second thought, it could also be mistaken for a Ruger Vaquero, but it’s my snack and I see what I want to see.

When my little gal came in from school, I was eager to show her my new find. She has been kinda under the weather lately, and kinda aching to go shooting, and her little face brightened up like, well, like mine did!

I don’t know yet how or where I’ll save it, but I am determined to pass it and my 1911 nearly-Government model .45 down to my grandchildren.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Gift of Texas Music

Saturday night I had the distinct pleasure to see a musician that I have followed for (rough calculation:) 28 years. Shake Russell is his name and he is known as the Texas Troubadour. Listening to him in concert with his Huge Little Band; Doug Floyd and Mike Roberts, touched the yearning I have had for about five or six years to hear real people playing real music on real instruments with real lyrics they wrote their own selves. These guys did not disappoint.

I’ll back up a bit and tell you the first time I was introduced to this brilliant songwriter’s work. I was in my second year of college, and a girl brought her guitar to an art class (why, I don’t know, perhaps just to show off) and while we were waiting to get into the drawing lab, she got out her guitar and sang a song, “Deep in the West”. Wow, there were profound lyrics, telling a sad story of a relationship that just isn’t working so well. She couldn’t have written that song. Turns out, I was right. I pried it out of her; some guy in Houston named Shake Russell.

A couple of years later, a roommate from Kentucky of all places introduced me to Shake’s voice and other songs. Along with Dana Cooper, they made music that got me through the early eighties. So many great memories are brought up when I hear that familiar voice.

Back to Saturday night; my sister and our friend picked me up and we made the trip to Galveston, anticipating the evening. They had both heard him before in Wimberley at the Cypress Creek Cafe. When we arrived at the venue, The Old Quarter Acoustic Café, we were transported back to 1974. The dimly lit, 1890’s circa building was a study in 70’s retro. Posters on the walls, exposed brick, high ceiling fans and a neon armadillo are but a few of the notable features of this classic throwback setting. There was a wall dedicated to the memory and music of Townes Van Zandt, the Texas songwriter. The entire scene was small, only enough room for a small stage, an antique bar and a few bistro tables along with about 50 to 75 spots for people. My sister said she was waiting for the Fire Marshall to pay a visit at any minute. Everywhere there was someplace to plug something in, there were several things plugged into it.

As the warm-up act, Joanna Gipson, sang, played harmonica and played her own music on her guitar, I began getting that old feeling of being in the presence of creativity and craftsmanship. Her personal anecdotes between songs, were delivered in a relaxed, semi-hippie style.

When the Shake Russell Trio took the stage, not 15 feet away from me, the ache to hear great live music was quelled. Just three guys with the instruments they love. The first song he did was “You’ve Got a Lover” which is the second song I had ever heard of his, the first one I heard him sing. The skill with which he played that black Ovation guitar, upside down, the way Doug’s mandolin and Mike’s bass filled up the sound was just the medicine I needed. The whole night was so enjoyable. Shake’s thanks for our applause at the end of each song seemed genuine and heartfelt. As one reviewer, Bruce Bryant, an independent film producer in Houston put it; “Shake’s music walks right up to you, says howdy and gives you a big hug. His tunes make you happy or sad or thoughtful, but above all - they make you feel. Nobody writes a better love song. I’ve been a huge fan for decades…”. This is an apt description of the prevailing spirit of the night.

At one point in the concert, toward the end of the first set, Shake was tuning his guitar for the 10th time, and he happened to look out the plate glass window at about three-quarters to the back of the stage. Outside on the sidewalk, he spied a ghost from the musical past. He motioned to the figure outside to come on in. It was an Elvis impersonator, in full white jumpsuit, black wig and chrome sunglasses. Shake offered to do a duet of “Viva Las Vegas”, but the King just waved and yukked it up for a couple of seconds, then left as quickly as he had arrived. Of course, when the door closed, Shake lowered his voice into the mike and intoned, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building…” to an appreciative audience who recognized that it was a clean shot and he took it. Some straight lines you can wait your whole life for.

His songs and stories touch all of his fans in a special way, his warm, friendly vocals lead the listener to hear and feel the lyrics. For my parents’ 50th anniversary, I did a little video with old pictures and a corny narrative, and at the end used Shake’s classic song, “Two Silver Hearts”*. Through the entire project, when the song came up, I was close to tears every time. The story he tells is one of enduring love and simple contentment.

If ever you get a chance to see him live in concert, please capitalize on the opportunity, you will be delighted as I was, and who knows, you too may become a fan for the next “28 years”!

*I have no idea what some of these images have to do with the song, but the recording is the original that I heard so many years ago.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yet Another Reason I Like Alvin

In today’s world, people are in their own little world, not wanting to be bothered by anyone else’s problems. When they want to be bothered, they listen to the news and blame themselves for their success, or the “global climate change” or BP’s misfortune in the Gulf and the “evils” of using petroleum to power society.

Today after a pilgrimage to WallyWorld for some new socks and stuff, I swung by the Dollar Tree store to see if they had anything I needed. Not really seeing anything I couldn’t do without, I made a cheerful exit.

There was a Chrysler parked in the space right in front of the door, and there was a black woman in her mid-30’s with a daughter and they looked ready to go. The only problem was, there was only a lonesome “click” coming from under the hood. As I passed, she hailed me and asked if it sounded like her battery was dead. I told her to give the starter another whirl, and it clicked and turned over, anemically, and then nothing.


I told her I didn’t have any jumper cables and inquired if there were anyone she could call. Her reply was that she had just moved here from Sweeny and had no one in the area. Dang. “Hang on, ma’am, I’ll see if there is anyone in the store that had cables.” “Oh, thank you!” she sang. I had noticed that there was an empty space next to her.

I went in, scanning the aisles for a likely candidate to help. Down the birthday card aisle, I spied a guy that had pulled up in a truck about three minutes earlier. “’Scuse me, there’s a lady stranded out front here and I was wondering if you had any jumper cables…” “Yeah, I do.” He said, and immediately and without reservation put the card down he was looking at and proceeded to the parking lot.

We went outside and there was a big Mercury parked in the space next to her. After asking him if we could use his battery to try and get her going on her way (to a birthday party for her daughter’s friend), we hooked ‘em up and waited for a bit. All the while, the original good Samaritan stood by and continued to assess and diagnose. The Merc had a loose terminal and we decided to try the original guy’s truck.

After no less than 20 minutes, we concluded that the starter must be on vacation at the very least. We pushed her car out to the lot where our hero attached his truck to her Sebring and proceeded down the road to her nearby apartment, with his young step-grandson driving the disabled auto.

To make a long, very hot and sweaty story short, I am impressed by the kindness and willingness to help a stranger in a new town, and I hope you guys are inspired as well. Watching the guy lay on the searing pavement to hook a tow chain to the disabled vehicle, and feeling the heat on my hands and knees as I searched for a tow hook as well, my belief was reinforced that small-town America is not gone forever. And our Alvin is still populated with enough country boys that will give of their own time and knowledge to help them that need it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Has Arrived, Finally

I came down Highway 6 this afternoon and decided to check out the fruit stand I have been seeing for several months. Several hand-spray-painted signs touting mangos, coco frio, and freestone peaches lead up to the makeshift stand. The “freestone peaches” notice is the one that got my attention.

Actually, my oldest daughter got my attention with it when she was going back to Austin a couple of weeks ago. She called me and relayed the message that the spraypaint and plywood advertised. I just never had the time to stop.

This time, though, I did. This stand consists pretty much of some posts and joists with something nailed on the top. I’m not even sure what it is; either plywood or scrap tin. I think it’s the latter. I was locked on the “peaches” message too much to pay undue attention to the structure.

A skinny, sweaty thirtysomething guy was doing some busy work when I drove up. When I came under the rafters with not much clearance for the top of my head, I scanned the baskets and little piles of produce for the peaches. I was wearing my sunglasses, so tomatoes kinda looked like peaches for a second, but I finally made my way down to the sweet end of the display.

There they were, baskets heaped up in little maroon and gold hills according to ripeness. The quick-thinking salesman hurried over with a peach and a knife and as soon as the words, “Where were these peaches grown…” crossed my lips, he was at my side with a slice of one. He said, “Heck, I don’t know, maybe the moon. I had to cover these up over here so nobody would know they’re moon peaches”.

Kinda weird and smart alecky at the same time, which I am not averse to, and that coupled with the sweet nectar-y goodness of the sample he gave me, sold a bucket of them moon peaches.

So my lunch today consisted of several peaches at the peak of ripeness. The only thing that kept the golden juice from running down to my elbow was the fact that I cleverly ate it over the sink and slurped it loudly. The taste and aroma took me back many years to my younger days.

That’s summertime, folks.

Friday, July 09, 2010

News From the Front

We have a new breed of roaches visiting us lately. It’s not that we have a roach problem, mind you. I mean EVERYBODY on the Gulf Coast of Texas has an arthropod of the roach-ish persuasion cross their threshold at one time or another. Even if you spray the perimeter, set out bait and patrol with a vinegar squirt bottle, there is still an intrepid wanderer that comes in and checks your place out. If you have sprayed the boundary, they’re likely in bad shape. On one of their last six legs.

ANYhow, this new strain of visitors; they walk really high and they fly. They all seem to be young, strong braves, in really good health despite the poison I kindly leave for them.

Did I mention that they fly? Shudder. Yeah, they take wing with the alacrity of the flying monkeys of Oz. Anybody with any experience at all with La Cucaracha knows that the one who flies has the advantage.

So the other night, one flew in from the long hallway just like he had good sense and a flight plan, to land at the corner of the entry hall. Then he crossed back (flying) to the handle of the only-recently-used vacuum cleaner. That was pretty impressive, especially for an animal with the brain the size of a grain of sand.

Equally impressive was my answer to his crossing into my airspace. I grabbed the nearest flip flop that was lying on the floor (there are usually plenty of them to choose from) and gave him a precision swat. So mighty and accurate was the slinging of the slap-shoe, he was propelled at high velocity to the wall. After the satisfying slap and clatter of the roach on the wall, he fell dead as the proverbial doornail. He didn’t even have time to fold his wings before his death throes. There were no throes. Victory was mine.

A couple of more have invaded our space, just last evening. I spotted one of the high-walkers creeping along the baseboard behind the television stand. I approached with a shoe (just as plentiful as the flip flops), confident that I could deal death quickly during the commercial. Not so. He eluded when I was grabbing for my weapon, and I had to hunt him down and flush him out with vinegar spray. After he charged straight at me, coughing from the acetic acid mace I wielded, I clamped the life outta him with a Nike. My confidence shaken, I resolved to do better next time.

The next time came sooner than I had wanted. An hour later, my middle gal reported an incoming flying roach, and sure enough, he was in the entry hall next to the picture on the wall. Not wanting to just smash him into that black roach butter, I tried to delicately pop him without breaking the frame he was a half-inch from. Then the little devil flew at me, like an F-18! He landed on my Nike-hand, and I exclaimed (not screaming like a little girl, more of a “aaaAAGH!”), jumped back and accidentally lost the grip on the shoe. He hit the floor next to the vacuum cleaner (yes, it was out again) and went under it. I grabbed my shoe and the handle of the Dirt Devil to do a “move/swat” motion. It was not to be. So clever was this little beast, he kept running under the machine! I kept picking it up, flopping it down and winding up for the killing blow. This repeated no fewer than four times, in a left-hand circle, nearly exhausting me.

FINALLY the intruder tried to make a break for the hall closet door, and that’s when I clanked him. I raised my arms in victory to my daughter who was calmly watching from a safe distance. I grabbed the still-quivering carcass in my paper towel and slam-dunked him into the garbage.

So the fight continues; this battle won, the rest of my life to press on in the war on roaches.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Too Good Not to Share

I know I have not been posting lately, and many of you have stopped coming by. That makes me ashamed.

I have been thinking a lot lo these past weeks, alas, I just ain't been able to get enough of a handle on them thoughts to write them down.

But I found this accidentally, and it's a scream. I haven't seen it on TV yet, but can't wait to.

Sorry for the drought, but it has been raining all week here, and perhaps an idea will sprout.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Fishing Report

There is nothing to report.

I went to my especiale fishing spot Sunday afternoon. Hot, humid and windy. But not too windy, mind you. The first thing that I couldn’t help noticing was the bright yellow pipe gate with the “No trespassing…DANGER” sign posted in two places on it. I had seen the gate, but the sign was new. Had they added some tigers since last summer? Some nuclear waste? Unrepentant psychopathic fashion designers?

Well, after I trespassed, I didn’t see any of the above hazards, so I proceeded up the road and over the levee. The time was around 5:30 p.m. and the wind was out of the South at approximately 6 miles per hour, but steady. One of the first things I noticed was that they (the ever-guilty “they”) had cut down all of the small trees at the edge of the water. I actually had to think about where to get in the water. Very disconcerting.

The rest of the evening was spent with me plying the waters for my quarry of choice, the venerable Sciaenops ocellatus; the venerable red drum. Suffice to say, from the opening line, there was no danger of catching reds that evening. But I was outside, in very warm water up to my knees and at times to the middle of my thigh, and the birds and the sea breeze and sunset calmed my soul.

As I trudged back to the car via the levee, I paused to scan the bayou yet again. I saw a group of seagulls working a small area about 250 yards away. From experience, I knew that there was a group of trout or redfish dining on baitfish or shrimp at that location, and the birds were there to clean up the table with a lot of noise. I also noticed a couple of guys in a jon boat just about 50 yards from where this was all happening. I stared in wonder as the pair just sat there, never moving any closer to the action. Incredulous, I sent them messages telepathically, “Cast into the birds, get closer, cast to the birds, get closer…”, yet there they sat. Had I had wings or a kayak, I would have moved over there so fast, the boat sitters would have been embarrassed.

But I can neither fly or paddle a kayak that I don’t own, so I watched for a bit, then trudged back through the humid wind to my little car.

Maybe the redfish were aware of the “DANGER” as posted on the sign. I certainly left them safe.

The picture is of the fish I never caught. These are from last year, but their relatives are not in the freezer right now.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Post brewing in my brain

This is just a "placeholder" for the future post about my eating the last few blackberries left on the vine yesterday.

Now I have committed, and risk internet shames if I don't follow through.

Stay tuned.


Yeah, everybody thought that I forgot how to do this, right? Sorry.

I have a notification, which, if my current rate of postings remains at status quo, will be irrelevant.

Due to the steady and growing number of stupid "bots" posting comments for all manner of inappropriate links, I have instituted the "must type in nearly unintelligible word" feature/requirement on the "comments" section.

Yes, it's an irritation. Yes, I resisted for several years, but when the only comments I get are for nothing, I must do something.

Again, I apologize for the inconvenience, and am really irritated at Al Gore right now for inventing the internet nerd.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Diner Bites Back

I have always wondered about the origin of names of some of the restaurants that serve us our non-home food.

Like how is a taco associated with a bell? Who IS this Applebee? I have eaten at the Flying Dutchman restaurant, and it is nothing like the Pirates of the Caribbean portray; quite good actually, and not at all like a sailor’s purgatory. But then again, I didn’t visit the kitchen.

Then we have the restaurants with a name and a rank in the trademark. For example, “Captain D’s”. Not Long John Silver (he was a nasty character, but does seafood OK) or Colonel Sanders. What could the “D” stand for?

Recently I got an impression of the origin of the nomenclature of Captain D’s and have narrowed it down to two possibilities.

Disappointing and Disgusting.

I was a bit put off when I went inside and smelled the old grease clinging to the thick enamel paint. That was my first opportunity to bolt. Then the guy behind the counter popped up with a long, LONG beard, and no hair net. I know he was just taking money and was separated from the food by about four feet and a partial wall, but it just looked unsanitary. So sue me. Second opportunity to flee.

I ordered the crab cake and fish. Looked good on the menu sign, but then corporate always does a great job in getting appetizing photos of their offerings. The price was a bit on the steep side, I thought, but what the hey, it’s crab.

After being assured that they would bring my food to me, I went into the stale dining quarters and tried to find a comfortable place to sit on the shop-project wood benches. The sparsely populated picnic area should have been my next clue.

When the girl brought my food, my initial reaction was that there was an ample amount on the plate. Little did I know the pandora’s box that would open when I tried to take a bite. There were a couple of big pieces of fish, but on closer inspection, they all seemed to be fried a little too aggressively.

When I bit into one, the discovery was that the fish was just overcooked to death. Absolutely to death. Tough. Dry. Alligator is kinda what it reminded me of. And the outside was reminiscent of the outside of a gator.

Aside from being overly dry, the fish looked to be double battered, with large “airspace” gaps in between, so as to give the overall volume a visual boost, without adding to the cost in actual fish.

OK, the fish left something (substantial) to be desired, but there was a crab cake, too. Unfortunately, it was so overcooked and dark, it looked like an igneous rock. Kinda tasted like one, too. If you can imagine a rock with crab flavoring.

So, for nearly ten dollars, you can go to Captain D’s and get the experience of a lifetime, hopefully not to be repeated. You can draw your own conclusions as to what the “D” stands for.

Oh yeah, you can get a blog posting out of it, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fresh Wordy Guy

Yes, I know it's been nearly 2 months since I posted anything on this rusty old blog. And I know that the last one before the last one was a Wordy Guy, but hey, what are wordy guys for but to give you a little vocabularial help when you need it, right?

Of course. And Mr. V is the Wordy Guy. So this is his latest.

A. A woman's large handbag, popular during the late 1800s
B. A woman's close-fitting, bell-shaped hat
C. A woman's bell-shaped dress, popular during the late 1800s

NO CHEATING. NO CONSULTING ANY BOOKS (ONLINE OR OTHERWISE). JUST MAN-UP AND TAKE A GUESS. (the all caps is directly from Mr. V himself, so watch it!)

As always, this is only for fun; no prizes will be awarded, and please, no wagering.


The show is over folks, WE HAVE A WINNER! Hats off to the coincidentally chapeau-centric CACTUS, for being full to the brim with a knowledge of millinery. Yes, she wins the crown for this round of Wordy Guy. It is the hat.

Stepsistah can put a feather in her cap for being quick on the trigger, just not as quick as Cactus.

Innominatus filled the niche that geezers fill; being fiscally "responsible" (read: cheap) and full of punishment.

Thanks for the three of you playing Wordy Guy, and I hope that more of you readers cross the line from spectator to combatant soon!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Saturn: Out of This World, really.

It was advertised as, “A new kind of car, a new kind of car company”, in the days of the launch of GM’s newest and now-defunct line of cars.

I'll say!

I think there are numerous reasons for the demise of this formerly-esteemed car company and their proffered products. Chief of these reasons is that in attempting to be innovative and different, they made “innovations” that made no “sense”.

The hallmark of this line is a confounding penchant for making things difficult or impossible to work on by the regular guy on the street.

Let me back up for a moment, if you will. Last January, we became the owners of a 2000 model Saturn LS whose primary driver would be our middle daughter. Seemed like a solid car, four-door, air conditioning, good tires and a CD player; the essentials for any young driver.

Not too long afterward, things started going wrong. Now, I know buying a used car, there is the inherent gamble that you are buying someone else’s problems and this was no different. Except that we soon found that Saturn means “special” when it comes to many of the parts and configurations. The engine, much like any other car maker’s offerings, is wedged in a space only an inch or two larger than the outside dimensions of the engine and associated exterior parts.

It started with an annoying habit of dying for no reason, leaving a 19 year-old girl stranded and scared. Tried the easiest approach first; took it to Uncle Russell. We were going to check the spark plug wires and all that stuff. Upon opening the hood, we found the plug wires leading into a vault of an engine cover with proprietary bolts and a maze of covering shrouds and shields preventing any entry by the unwashed masses. So we tried the ol’ fuel treatment, because the symptoms pointed to fuel supply, and because that was the cheapest test.

Purchased, poured, drove it, and it seemed like it was OK. For a day. I googled “Saturn troubles dying” in the meantime, and was met with an encyclopedic list of strange little problems that were apparently still unresolved with this car line. One thing that struck me in most of the comments posted in various places was the generally negative tone in which the company’s service departments were painted. Nobody would help.

Well, it turns out that it was some strange, expensive-but-simple sensor that registers transmission speed that apparently will not allow the car to run if the conditions are not precisely precise.

There were radiator problems and most lately the inevitable (105,000 miles) timing belt and associated kit of idlers and pulleys, which were compounded by the name “SATURN” stamped thereupon. At least the water pump was a regular Delco part.

Of course, there remains the suspense about when the next shoe is to drop.

The most recent example of Saturn’s nonsensical, unnecessarily complex design concept was evidenced when I had to remove a tire to repair a leak in the radial.

After removing the hubcap held in place by faux lug nuts, I found the real lug nuts. Fortunately (and surprisingly) they were not Torx or some other unusual interface; they were standard 19mm lug nuts. When I removed them, however, I saw the insanity perpetuated on the simple “holding-a-wheel-on-the-hub” model. These things were actual bolts that went through the wheel holes and threaded into the hub itself! Not the standard “nut-on-a-stud” system that has worked for a hundred years; these fools had designed a system where you have to hold the tire up, matching holes in the wheel to holes in the hub, and then you’re required to thread the lug/stud in through the one hole into the other. At night, this could easily be a two-man job; one to hold the light, and the other poor schmo that gets to lay on the deck and balance the whole thing up and juggle the luggle. I guess it could be expanded to a three-man job, if you include cussing the "designers" at GM.

I really don’t want my daughter to have to lay on the ground, inches from speeding traffic, to hold a full size tire up with one hand and fish for the proper hole alignment with the other, possibly in the dark, likely in the rain (when most flats happen for some reason).

This has me more worried than the next mechanical problem on the horizon, or outer space, which is where the Saturn belongs.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Wordy Guy!

Yes, a new year, a new Wordy Guy! (...all the people said, "YaY!")

I think you'd know the rules by now, but I would be remiss if I were to not mention them: No cheating with your Wikipedia or your Google or your MrV Iconic Lexicon and Dictionary of Stumpers.

Also, no wagering; this is not a competition, it's only for fun. If there is any wagering, you will need to split winnings with Mr V and me.

Final answer

A. a large boat made of skins
B. a large lodge used by Eskimos to conduct public meetings
C. a wild ox native to Nepal, close relative to a yak

Dammit Woman made the first correct guess, while Innominatus cared more about covering all bases in the most creative way. Both are winners in my book, and since it's my contest, I can say that. Congratulations to you both!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vote Early, Vote Often

Everyone knows that election time for any issue always means signs. Signs everywhere. Absolutely EVERYWHERE! The little bandit signs, some bigger plastic signs on wooden stakes, some others are big wooden ones on 4x4 pieces of lumber. So many signs, so worthless. And the worst part is that they have no commercial or entertainment value. It’s true; campaign signs are nowhere near the fun they were when I was in high school.

You may ask, “What made the signs so much fun in the 1970s?” To be more clear, the signs were not inherently fun. The fun came in the form of a large fellow we’ll call “Falcon” and a large Dodge in the form of a gold Polara.

My sister and I rode around with Falcon and his sister, in his 66 Falcon, in his dad’s ’69 GMC truck, and in the family 4-door Polara. Usually with him in the driver’s seat, me at shotgun, and my sister and his sister in the back barking instructions on which 8-track tape to insert next and which track to put it on. That was the arrangement in all of the vehicles, except for the truck. That was typically all of us crammed in the cab, with the one next to the driver ever vigilant of the driver’s elbow in motion shifting gears (3 on the tree).

Sometimes, it was just Falcon and me, flying down the road just behind the roaring Mopar powerplant, with his foot planted firmly on the accelerator. One night on the way to our house from one of our forays into the heart of Texas City, he took the exit to 25th Avenue where you can go right to 6th Street or left to our house on 25th. The intersection is “Y” shaped and a small gas station sat there in the center of the “Y”. On either side of the road, coming to a point, there was a small forest of cardboard signs on slender wooden stakes. They were about three feet apart and there were tons of them.

Falcon was inspired, I guess. He veered to the right just off the shell shoulder and started whacking the placards with the big, shiny chrome bumper of the Polara. The image of the signs appearing in the headlights, then instantly disappearing only to be replaced by fifteen others was hypnotic. The rhythm of those evenly spaced posters thumping on the car and the idea of what was happening to those eyesores was just so dang funny to us. He was laughing hysterically and I was looking backward through misty tears of uncontrollable mirth at the short stubs of pine.

This went on the entire election season, until it was unnecessary to replace the signs. They just kept springing up next the roads, and Falcon kept plowing them down, in an insane but hilarious cycle. Democracy and free speech in action.

In the area of election reform, Falcon has my vote.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Put a Lid On It

The old saw about socks getting lost in the dryer seems to elicit universal laughs and nods of assent. Not from me, though.

Socks and dryers pose no problem for me, personally. I take precautions; I wash my own socks, thankyouverymuch. I know how many I put in, I take the same number out, and match them up as they exit the dryer. I don’t believe in the mythical “sixth dimension” that takes a sock from a pair into a parallel universe. Hokum and hogwash.

The problem I have found around our house is the one with storage containers, specifically the kind that we used to refer to as “Tupperware”. Of course, back in this geezer’s formative years, the procedure for the aforementioned socks: use it, wash it, store it, was the enforced standard for plastic storage containers. Tupperware was expensive stuff, and not to be treated casually; someone in the house had to go to a Tupperware Party and endure silly games and sales pitches to procure the gear. It wasn’t something you’d take to the back yard to wash the dog or dig a hole. Nope. The product was so good, so effective and so “everywhere”, the name has become synonymous with “resealable plastic containers”. Like Kleenex, Formica and Coke.

Which brings us to the present day. Now Glad and Ziploc, Rubbermaid and worthless knockoffs have three for three dollars in a pack, in just about any size you want. We have tons of them. Making salsa, dragging it to work, bringing extra food back from holiday feasts. Buying them specifically because we always need more. Heck, we also have the yogurt tubs, sour cream containers and sherbet receptacles.

And why would we need more? When nearly every lunchmeat package purchased has a free container around it? Of course, there is the inevitable explanation (that would never fly with real Tupperware) of leaving it at work after a successful lunch or two. Or that it just disappears somewhere. I have seen them with paint in them, out in the backyard with dirt in them, under beds in the girls’ rooms, and used as emergency travel food dishes for the puffy dogs.

Yet every time one of us ventures into the chamber of horrors that is the “tupperware” cabinet, there is a disparity between the number of containers and the number of lids. There are several brands and sizes, none of which are interchangeable. There are two brands, however, that are similar in size, and the lid from one can be forced upon the container of the other. Don’t try this at home, kids. The seal is unreliable at best, and dangerously flawed when bringing tortilla soup to a remote location. Chances are, the soup will end up on the floorboard of your car. I just know this stuff. Names and soups have been changed to protect the innocent.

No matter how many we have, the lid/box ratio is always unequal. When it is time to put the leftovers away, the unlucky person, usually me, gets to drop to their (my) knees, stand on their (my) head, and go through the process of dredging, matching and testing various vessels and lids for the magic combination. Usually the frustration and pain in their (my) knees drives them (me) to their (my) feet for another solution.

Fortunately, there is always a lid to be found for the resourceful. The ubiquitous roll of aluminum foil is the go-to hero of the food putter-upper. I like it because of the way you can roll it up really tight under the lip of the carton for a pretty good seal. And if you crimp it really tight, you can even stack them in the fridge. And when the enclosed food turns to fur, you can form the foil into interesting animal shapes to sell at garage sales.

Short of the old chain-the-pen-to-the-desk approach of attaching the lid to the container, I can only count on the classic “use, wash, store” line of attack to keep the equipment intact. But there are three other people in the house. And nobody has the commitment that the old Tupperware inspired for a geezer-in-training.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Love/Hate With the Shoes

OK, I have on some shoes that are sock-eaters. I like the shoes, but the fact that they are drawing my socks down into their depths bothers me. New Balance 644. There, I said it. And most likely totally ruined any ad or endorsement deals for their otherwise fine footwear.

I have had New Balance shoes before, so this twist is new for the brand in my experience. It is by no means a new experience for me, who has been wearing shoes off and on for 50 years. There have been dress shoes (the blue ones)(so what, it was 1974, OK?), and some Converse knock offs, also from the 70s. There have been cowboy boots; I gave them to a Swiss guy over here as an exchange student, he was proud to have them. I had some motorcycle-type boots that were fine for a long time, but after a protracted time saturated with water, they developed and appetite. I theorize that the long term wetness and subsequent drying next to the water heater caused a mutation. I guess like boot-zombies. Come to think of it, that pair of moccasins that I wore outside in the rain turned hungry as well.

Top-siders get that way, too. While designed to be worn wet and sockless, my guess is that they have latent tendencies when pressed into duty as anything else.

The only thing more annoying, foot-wise, is the proverbial pebble in the shoe. After a short time walking, the sock is worked down toward the toe box of said shoe and balls up under the arch. The elastic is working down around the heel, stretching beyond what sock elastic was born to endure. Long enough exposure will reduce the socks to mere sacks that you put your feet in. Now these will pass on the curse to even your most well-behaved footwear. They head for the ball of your food without hesitation.


But I like these shoes, so I suppose I will either endure or resort to stapling my socks to my ankles. Cuz you know I'm too cheap to get new shoes.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

First Geezer Act of 2010

Since the beginning of this blog, I have been becoming aware of my geezer behaviors. Sometimes I can feel them coming on, sometimes they spring up from nowhere.

Yesterday, being the second day of the new year, I was eyewitness to my first official geezer activity of this 365 day period.

I was in K-Roger scamming the free wi-fi (in true geezer form, free wi-fi is the BEST), seated at one of the tiny bistro tables. There were about three other sets of surfers in the long, narrow venue, tending to their internet-based tasks. I noticed a group of three junior high-aged kids seated at the first table by the Starbuck’s storage cabinets. After I had logged in and well on my way to a good surf, I heard the unmistakable drumming of a pre-teen on the table to my left, the same kids by the cabinets, about ten feet away. Suppressing a strong urge to send a scowl their way, I calmed myself with the thought that perhaps he would tire of the drumming, as they usually do. Not so. The sound was pretty loud, too, I thought, loud enough to make me take my scowl off of “safety”. I was determined to wait the little nerd out.

The drumming continued with short respites in between which I began to pray for the short attention span to set in. He then began scraping his wooden chair backward on the terrazzo floor; “Skroooaawwwk, skroooaawwwk, skrawwk, skrawk…”, back toward the cabinets. Which he then began to drum upon. Same intensity as the table, except producing a different sound, which the astute young man noticed, “Hey it sounds different!” Genius. I was sure he was intentionally being annoying.

All this transpired with my eyes locked on to G-mail, my mind trying not to scream at my hands to throw a table at him. I happened a glance his way, because I could feel something about to happen; the drumming had ceased for a moment. I saw him open the cabinet and take a quick peek inside. The other little knotheads asked what was in there. “Raspberry flavoring, a lot of it!”, he said, grinning that goofy junior high I-just-found-something-interesting grin. He made a couple of quick looks back in and kinda laughed, “Ghyulk!”.

At this point, I had stopped pretending to work on the computer and just watched the little hammerhead. He proceeded.

“Hey, a bunch of little straws…” he snorked, pulling out a whole brick of the little stirring straws, thankfully wrapped in plastic. Putting them back, he found another doo-dad of interest. It was a little item, wrapped in a small plastic bag, and it was about the size of a key fob for your car remote. I have no idea what it was. He held it up with that same stupid grin, glancing back and forth between the thing and his little nerd buddies. Then he slipped it into the pocket of his hoodie.

At that moment, I ran through a couple of scenarios in my head. One involved me jumping up and grabbing his hoodie hood and dragging him to the Starbuck’s manager. My fear was that the manager would not back me up, to avoid trouble. Nix that one. The next one involved my boot on his little sunken chest with me screaming in his face about the dangers of shoplifting. Instantly dismissed that one, too. You can tell cuz this isn’t being posted from jail.

The third one is the one I used. I pointed right at the kid twelve-and-a-half feet from me and said in a loud, firm voice, “PUT THAT BACK.” The little noodlehead looked like he’d been taserd. Everyone in the area looked at me, then at the kid I was pointing at. He sheepishly put the item back in the cabinet and closed it. He then sat there, three feet from his table with a blank look on his face.

I went back to the computer, aware that he and his little goofball friends were looking at me. After a while, I noted that he was still sitting where he was, next to the cabinet. I stared him down and told him, “You need to move your chair back to your table, that would be best.

He “skrooked” his chair back into its original position, and sat there with his little buddies, all giving furtive glances back at me every few seconds. I occasionally looked back at them, unflinching and direct.

My first official act as a geezer this year was very fulfilling; I got to call out a rotten little shoplifter, and hopefully he will remember the feeling for a long time. Who knows, I may have saved a kid from a life of petty crime, or worse. He may have been on the road to become a politician.