Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Original Recipe

My dad once told me he thought my mom got the idea of the chocolate chip cookie and the rolling pin from Eve. He said it all started with a recipe for sugar cookies mom received from Eve shortly after “the fall” when she and Eve were having a conversation about Adam’s depression and reluctance to getting off the bed of leaves. It seems he was fretful one evening, something about having to go to work, and Eve, in her intuitiveness, had the brilliant idea to bake. She threw some stuff from the fields together; made dough, got the stick she was going to use on Adam, started a fire (which was also new) rolled the dough instead of lambasting Adam, baked it and called it sugar cookies. This got Adam off the leaves and naming the left over animals which made him feel like he was contributing, I suppose. It also led to Adam going to work in order to come home hungry and enjoy Eve’s cooking which, prior to the cookie and fire, wasn’t much. At any rate, it may have been Eve who said, “The way to a man’s heart is through the rolling pin” or something like that.

Well, as soon as chocolate was discovered she put that in there and there you have it…chocolate chip cookies were conceived. Dad was convinced mom was there when this happened due to the fact that he saw her as very intelligent and she seemed to know everything, which could only mean she had been here since everything began and that would include the chocolate chip cookie…he may have been right. Actually I can only guess at how long mom’s been here because she was here when I got here.

My wife seems to know everything also but I cannot explain the source of her knowledge and would not attempt to estimate how long she’s been here…so we’re not going there. She arrived after I did but seems to have caught up with me and a whole bunch of other folks when it comes to cookies and every other thing. But there’s no way my wife’s as old as Eve or even mom because her cookies are loaded with oatmeal. Eve, from what mom says, never baked a cookie with oatmeal as it wasn’t even invented until after oats came along and that was probably years before my wife was born. Suffice to say, my wife appears to have infinite knowledge, is expert with the rolling pin and learned all of it from someone other than me. By the way, Mom knew the guy on the oatmeal box and says he was a very nice Quaker and Dad thought Mom hung the moon so inventing the chocolate chip cookie wasn’t much of a stretch. But I digress, again.

My daughter is now baking the chocolate chip cookie and I think she’s got the original recipe down pat! She’s been struggling with this for years because the “brilliant” people at Toll House changed mom and Eve’s recipe a few years back and since writing wasn’t invented until long after the original cookie recipe this thing has just been handed down from mouth to mouth you might say. Seems someone had the “bright” idea of inserting more flour and less yeast (things I know nothing about) or less salt and more butter or whatever and now with the box recipe, you have a cookie that tastes an awful lot like a pancake. So, somebody pass the organic milk, the daughter’s finally got it right and I can gain ten more pounds.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Half Full Vs. Half Empty

Have you ever been around anyone who loves to say, “no” or “we can’t do that”, “it just won’t work”, or “I don’t believe it”? One of those folks who sees the glass half empty? Or someone who can find ten thousand reasons for not doing something or being able to do something and not one single reason for doing it? For example: “I’d like to cut this tree down sometime next week”, says the man. “Nope, can’t do it, says Mr. Neanderthal, it’s too tall, too close to your house, too windy, too many roots running here and there, you’ll lose shade, the birds won’t be able to sit…and on and on he goes when you know darn good and well that tree can be felled. These people do exist you know? Some are very near and keeping the half full folks from solving some really big problems. Have you ever wondered what would happen if? Here are some half full/half empty potentials when one wonders, what would happen if? I left the glasses half full.

What would happen if?

1. Folks stopped buying tickets to professional sporting events. Half full: Ticket sales would drop and ticket/vending prices would decrease. Half empty: Vendors would complain, revenue would be lost, shucks, might not see a game on TV. Half full: Until folks decided the prices were “fair” and returned to the games.

2. A higher academic standard was set for high school and college athletes. Half full: Graduation/literacy rates would increase and there would be fewer athletes having problems with local law enforcement as a result of being dismissed from school with no marketable skills. Half empty: Many would be prevented from playing a sport, it’s a form of discrimination. Half full: Perhaps some would spend more time studying.

3. Everyone gave two cans of food and ten dollars to a local charity. Half full: Poverty and hunger would be lessened in communities and a spirit of community service would prevail. Half empty: There would be no place to store all the food, waste and fraud would prevail, there will always be poor people. Half full: More children would learn the lessons of giving.

4. Small town residents were allowed to use golf carts for transportation. Half full: The demand for oil would decrease, more communication would take place as people drove to and from work, and the environment would be cleaner. Half empty: Cars would run over people in golf carts, it would cost too much to provide cart/bike paths. Half full: Ever been to Peachtree City?

5. Everyone became a vegetarian. Half full: No more chicken trucks loaded with bloated, over fed chickens ten to a crate, less heart disease/obesity, fewer chemicals in our food. Half empty: McDonalds and Chick-fil-a would suffer, real men eat meat, deer’s good for you and where do I get my protein? Half full: Eat more beans.

6. Everyone who had a job skill and was out of work spent the down time making their neighborhood more attractive by using donated paint and materials. Half full: The depression associated with being out of work could be offset by the feeling of accomplishment one finds in doing a good deed. Half empty: I’ll be dadburned if I’m going to lift a shovel or a paint brush without getting paid…it’s un-American. Half full: Sometimes a volunteer job turns into the real thing. Think intrinsically.

Now I know you half empty folks are dreaming up some more half empty stuff to write in about. And some days the half empty syndrome hits me too but I really do make an effort to see the glass half full. In the words of John Wayne, “You do what you think is best!” I also try to hang out with mostly half full folks because it’s less stressful and they seem to get more done. There’s a lot of stress goes into thinking up why things won’t work as opposed to getting down to work. What if we raised our children to see the glass half full? Would they approach learning and life in a different way?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Put America Back to Work!

I don’t claim to be an economist, don’t even know one actually, but I have a question for the next politician who says, “I want to put America back to work!” The question is, “doing what?” The fact is, there are no jobs for Americans to do because the jobs we used to do, and the stuff we used to make can all be done and made cheaper someplace else. What we are good at is growing stuff. Start reading the labels on the things you buy and you will soon find out that if it’s edible it’s grown here at home… but, if it’s wearable it comes from someplace else.

So the next time you hear some person standing on a podium somewhere say, “I want to put America back to work” you pull up a big ol’ sign that says, “doing what?” If he/she can name you ten jobs that have nothing to do with the state or federal government, ten jobs that can earn you a living, insurance coverage and retirement, vote for him.

Of course I exaggerate here but you get the point. Having said that I believe Americans will find a way by hook or crook, as they say, to make things better for ourselves. My eighty nine year old mother can still remember watching my grandfather chase the favorite chicken around the yard during the depression years, prior to wringing its neck. She says his reputation for wringing chicken necks was matchless back in the thirties. I guess they ate a lot of chicken.

One way I can always tell we’re in deep financial dodo is when mom starts heading for the chicken. I took her to the grocery store the other day, not looking for anything in particular and sure enough she gravitated toward the wings. This is how it happened. She’s on one of those fixed incomes but she’s healthy (thank you Lord) and still enjoys a few hours browsing through a grocery store. It usually takes that long because once she gets in there she acts like a food inspector, slowly making her way from the veggies to the meats. The woman has to inspect every veggie whether she intends to buy the thing or not, so it might take twenty minutes to get from the celery to the squash and then she’s got to check out the potatoes, which could take forever because they lend themselves to scrutiny.
 She’ll pick one up, bounce it around in her hand, flip it over and either put it in the cart or back on the rack. The other day I got tired of watching her flip potatoes and headed on over to the meats, figuring she’d wind up there sooner or later. There were three fat ranch wings left on the wing island. At one time it must have had them all, ranch, hot, buffalo, salt and vinegar, you name it but here sat these three lonely wings waiting for me. I put those three on a plate and into a bag figuring I might be able to hide them until we got home where I might let her have just one. She must have been watching because sure enough here she comes, straight out of the bell peppers looking for some chicken. “Whatcha got?” “I have some chicken mom, just a few wings.” “Lemme see.”  “Here, see, just three wings.” “Lemme try one.”

She ate that one and had the other two eaten by the time she finished inspecting the ground round. When we got to the check out counter there were three bones left in the plate. The cashier took each item through the scanner and when she got to the wing plate full of bones she took one look at me and said, “Sir, these are sold by the pound!” Mom had left the building and methinks we’re all going to be eating more chicken.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Scents of Fond Memories-- And Some Bad

There’s no doubt that something stinks in Washington, D.C. We just can’t quite put our fingers on it, but if we go there a trip to the washroom would be needed afterward.

I’m not going there. My sense of smell is too sensitive, plus, it just doesn’t take much effort to write about what could be called Potomac dysentery -- where our politicians are always running either toward an office or away from responsibility.

The sense found in D.C. seems to have evaporated, but some scents stay with us forever. Those that bring back memories of childhood or events, that in some way, made a difference in our lives are the best.

I remember the smell of chlorine at the crystal clear Whittle Springs pool (Knoxville) years ago when Mike Lucci (Detroit Lions linebacker, All-SEC) was the lifeguard and god of the pool.

That pool had two low diving boards and one high dive that seemed, when seen from below, to be akin to cliff diving. Lucci guarded the U.T. cheerleaders and us 10-year-olds from that high dive for several summers. His record was sterling; we didn’t lose a single cheerleader.

I remember the smell of hot pavement after a summer rain in Panama City as we rode our bikes through the puddles trying to kick up a spray. You’d get a good running start at the puddle then pull your feet up and weave through it as long as your speed would allow. There were no sidewalks, so once in a while you’d find yourself sliding into someone’s front yard.

I remember the smell of cooking coming from homes before air conditioning when you could just about tell what was being served for dinner by simply walking down the street. Fried chicken was on a lot of menus.

There was the smell of the leaf pile from the big oak trees in my grandfather’s yard after raking. No one can resist taking a running leap into a pile with that musky smell of leaves and acorns.

His neighbor didn’t like the trees, said they were dangerous, so my grandfather, in a fit of rage, had them cut down. Things were never the same at the big house on the hill after that.

I remember the greasy smell of bacon as it cooked on the docks in the bay. We used it for bait until we caught a fish and then we’d use him for bait. Needle fish made great bait because when you cut them up they looked like links made for a fish hook, and it was great fishing off a saltwater dock because you never knew what you were going to catch. I always had to take my brother when I went fishing. I didn’t like to take fish off the hook.

Then there was the scent of security. Do you remember? For me it was Aqua Velva after shave. Dad put it on early in the mornings before heading for work and it gave us a sense of well being some have never experienced. For some folks it was Old Spice or just a clean smell coming from the bathroom. There’s a lot to be said for that sense of smell if you use it right to bring back the good stuff.

Do you wonder what scents the guys on the Potomac remember? I think maybe Elmer’s glue or Play-Doh would fit their mold. Seems like they’re always trying to put something back together when it gets broken or make something that never lasts long at the “D.C. Fun Factory.”

But who needs D.C. sense anyway? We have great scents, and more important ones right here at home?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Next Louis Armstrong

I received an email the other day announcing the formation of the ORSO or Oconee Regional Symphony Orchestra. Made up of volunteers and designed to bring cultural enhancement to our area, the announcement nearly sent me into a state of what’s known as delayed depression. This is where you forget something for at least 50 years and then, if you live long enough, somebody brings it up and you remember it and it wasn’t good. A lot of old relatives will do this at holidays just to see if anybody remembers bad stuff and it usually ends up with half the families going home early after the “fireworks”. Usually starts with the phrase, “remember when”.

Sometimes I go into it when I remember Mike Walker beating me to the streetlight in 60’ cause he hit puberty before I did but I didn’t know what puberty was and figured he was just faster. Plus he weighed more than me and that made it even worse. But I digress. I have no idea where the hock shop silver trumpet mom and dad purchased in 57’ is today and therefore cannot attend the auditions. This is probably a good thing because if I did to ORSO what I did to that fifth grade band and music director, they’d no doubt use me as a balloon vendor prior to the event instead of last chair trumpet. See, some of us are made to play musical instruments and others the drums. I wanted to be a drummer but got drummed out of that by Tommy Hoskins, the class favorite and since there was only one set of the things and lord knows that was enough, he got to play drums and I got last chair trumpet. Last chair trumpet was not near far enough away from the band director and in an effort to save his and the children’s hearing he placed me at the very back of the stage behind a curtain.

Said it would carry the notes so I would be able to hear them more clearly. Every once in a while he’d peek around the curtain with a look that said, “Are you still here?” I lasted a couple of months, and learned that really good music can often be found on a crystal radio. Well, the keys stuck on the darn thing. And no matter how much of that expensive oil you squirted down the plungers, they still stuck. So when I hit a bad note (which was every other) it hung on like a pair of symbols, reverberating (a word I learned in band) throughout the stage area, reminding everyone I was still behind the curtain.

Mom and dad had invested quite a bit of money in the silver trumpet, a whopping five dollars, hoping I would become another Louis Armstrong I suppose and Mom insisted I practice outside, even though Tennessee winters can be rough. She said the cool air would help carry the notes so I would be able to hear them more clearly. Dad thought I should be held back a grade to perfect that thing before moving on to sixth grade band. He always thought I was the best at anything I chose to do but dad was fallible and in this instance, dead wrong. In the end the oil can was as empty as the notes and even these two wonderful people, who thought they had created at the least the world’s greatest slide flute player, decided there was no way they were going to spend more money on a silver trumpet that, when played by me, always reminded them of a New Orleans funeral procession.

They steered me toward the choir. There I learned I couldn’t sing any better than I could play the trumpet and so gave up everything but the crystal radio. Today I have ITunes. Best of luck to ORSO! We could use some cultural enhancing around here and don’t worry, hopefully that silver trumpet is a chalice in somebody’s silver collection. But, if you’re in need of a drummer……..dreams never die.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Info for Who?

If you’re like me you probably enjoy a good infomercial once in a while... yeah, right! My cable bill runs around $100.00 each month (basic) and lately I’ve found myself wondering why I need it. Paying for a commercial seems almost insane, maybe even masochistic. So, the other day I decided to see what I was paying to see and if in fact I wanted to continue footing the bill for being a patsy. Here’s what I found.

I could buy a professional pocket steam mop, sold by Mark with the dark glasses, I suppose to make me feel less intelligent since Mark knows everything there is to know about this contraption and I’m just the idiot paying to hear about it. He’s been rehearsing this gig for years and shows me just how dirty wherever he’s cleaning is because that thing is black when he finishes. He then suggests washing it in my washing machine. Yeah, right! If my house was that dirty…I’d move.

I could buy something for my joints. It may or may not work but it works for everyone on television so who am I to think it won’t work for me! It’s Arthri-D-Joint Health and it’s not made to treat any disease (uh, like arthritis do you suppose?) only to make your joints feel better. Yeah, right! The “scientist” who came up with this stuff is probably in re-hab.

Then there’s “Dr” Monita Poudyal who says “Supple” can heal everything from joint pain to weight problems. And of course it’s available in a bottle. The FDA won’t touch this stuff but again we find it was “discovered” by a couple of scientists. One has to wonder who these two scientists are and why they aren’t in re-hab with the Arthri guys. So I listen while these two robots discuss how wonderful this bottled fruit juice can be for me. Yeah right! Can you say “snake oil”?

Some five foot tall anorexic comes on and tells me I can lose weight by taking deep breaths when I walk 10,000 steps a day… then tries to sell me something for my flabby thighs. Maybe I should send her money for a Big Mac and fries. Yeah right! I’ll walk myself to McDonalds and save the money. She wouldn’t have eaten it anyway.

If you’re like me you’re probably tired of frying, burning, rolling and waiting for your hair to get right. The Topstyler will take care of that bedhead in four minutes or less if you can figure out where to place the clam shells. Ivey is the girl up front getting her awful pre-Topstyler hair done while eight pairs of breasts watch from behind…just to get your attention. I had no idea men watched these things until I noticed the girls in the rear. Well, to make a long story short, Ivey, who in no way resembles a scientist, actually learned how to use the Topstyler all by herself right there on the air! Yeah right! This girl uses her equipment like a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas. Methinks she’s done it before.

And if you want to go from looking like a cadaver to something slightly better in one day, get the Lifestyle Lift. Guaranteed to defy gravity and make Linda, who is seventy, look at least seventy after she uses it. If you want real change, not the kind the president’s been talking about, get the Lifestyle Lift and remember, it doesn’t work the same for everyone. Just say, “gobble gobble” and watch that sagging neck disappear! Yeah right! I’d be perfectly satisfied if my face was the only thing on this old body that was losing to gravity.

After making all these purchases you might need to seek some financial help from one Peter Popoff. He’s anointed and appointed and will sell you something in an envelope, sent by God himself, to get you the money you deserve. It’s called “miracle money” and it’s just for those dumb enough to continue to purchase cable television. He also has special water from who knows where but I’ve got some of that right here at the house. I call it rum and I know it comes from Puerto Rico. Peter also has a debt cancellation tool for those who just can’t resist being preyed upon by people like him. Yeah right! I think I’ll go back to radio.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Today is “soapbox day”. A day I’ve dedicated to preaching on about things others might like to say but don’t. Today’s soapbox has to do with reading, a skill that seems to be slipping further by the wayside with each new reality show on television, and the infomercial, a great way to become “infomed”? What is the problem with people not being able to read in the year 2011? Are we going backward here? While I don’t think you can raise a person’s I.Q. much by teaching them how to read, you might be able to get them some lateral movement, plus, most of the intelligent people I know can read. Someone once said we are what we eat but I rather think we are what we read. Still, we have folks out there who feel that the ability to read a road sign or menu comes second to being able to watch television and is really the only life skill we need, other than smoking or being able to drink ten beers without throwing up. Why else would someone put a five year old in front of a television for hours each day? I suppose they figure if they can pull up to a McDonalds, see a Big Mac and fries picture, cipher out what c-o-k-e looks like and maybe f-r-i-e-d p-i-e, why, they’re good to go! But think about the difficulty of say, going to Wal- Mart. Now the non-reader has to find a label that might say c-e-r-e-a-l or c-h-e-e-s-e, or maybe m-e-n’s w-e-a-r or l-o-u-n-g-e-r-i-e. Is that French? Well, I suppose it really wouldn’t matter if the person can’t read in the first place.
And what about reading the paper to find something to buy or check out an old friend’s obit? You might find them by their picture but what if the picture shows them thirty years ago sitting on the back of a truck at the local Krystal. Reading is important and the only way you would know it was them would be if you hadn’t seen them in thirty years. Yes, preaching to the choir here because you can read or you wouldn’t be reading this. You have to wonder what it says about my intelligence though. And speaking of television, are we really becoming more informed by watching infomercials? Or less “infomed” due to information that insults our intelligence?

Here’s one for you. “Can you boil an egg? Can you peel an egg? Can you dispose of the shell of an egg? Or has the effort become just too darn time consuming and energy consuming to allow you to really enjoy the experience? It sounds like you may need to consider purchasing the new Ripoff egg peeler, designed with the person like yourself, lazy, allergic to water and “uninfomed” in mind. Give me thirty minutes of your time and I will demonstrate how peeling an egg the old fashion grip and strip method can raise blood pressure and cause carpel tunnel syndrome. Let me show you the latest in egg peeling paraphernalia guaranteed to take the stress out of raising your cholesterol level. And after I’m finished we’ll crank up the old dishwasher, place the Ripoff in there and have fun searching for its pieces when the dry cycle completes.” Please…we can do better. The only way a person would need the Ripoff is…you guessed it…If they couldn’t read a recipe for boiling an egg in the first place! My guess is somebody out there is getting richer by the minute as I write this and an infomercial on washing celery and flossing one’s teeth can’t be far away.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Where would we be today without the green folks, the conservationists who, like me, want to preserve the planet? Like my dad used to say, “Son, you’ll never know when it’s gonna stop raining or the sun runs out of gas.” I’ve been a green man for years, and have known many “greenies”, learning many of my conserving ways from dad. We always think of May as conservation month around here, making an effort to go just as far as possible into “Saunaville” without turning on the A.C.This year, after living in a hothouse full of mold for a month, we made it until May 12th. When your back sticks to your shirt, which is stuck to your chair, and every smell that has ever been in the house reveals itself, you know the A.C. fairy can’t be far away. There are other signs as well. The dogs pant near the A.C. air vents but since they must know nothing's coming out of there but the stench of dead bugs and fur balls, I think they do it just to make us feel guilty. Once in a while they look up as if to say, “If I had your brains I believe I’d turn on some A.C.”
Actually, I remember growing up when we didn’t have A.C. at all, and dad was as green as a cucumber. We had this wonderful contraption called an attic fan. It was in the hall ceiling and the blades must have been huge because they would turn ever so slowly and still bring air in through the windows. Very quiet it was, and all you would hear was the soft sound of hot air rushing into the attic. We had to be in bed around nine, except for Sunday nights when ice cream was on the menu. The ice cream was melted of course but I can tell you that was the best bowl of ice cream ever drunk. After that you had to go sweat in your bed until the blessed fan sucked in enough cool air from the outside. If that didn’t happen you’d either pass out from the heat or wait for a cool breeze to lull you to sleep around 2 AM.

Turning on the attic fan before the air outside turned cool was considered by dad to be un-green and once in a while you’d hear him holler, “Who turned on the d-mn fan!?” He didn’t much care for lights on in the summer either, said it made the house too hot. Except for using his belt on my brother (who deserved it) he saved on energy any way he could. Not one of us five kids would admit to turning on the fan. When I was around fifteen I learned a trick with that attic fan. You could lower your window to just a few inches above the sill and feel one heck of a breeze. One night, while adjusting it just right, I happened to spot two future leaders in the green movement, on the front porch next door. Mary Beth and Roger they were and about seventeen at the time. She got a window A.C. before we did but went green about that time also and chose to spend time outdoors on most evenings with Roger, her boyfriend, saving energy. I’ve always admired their sacrifice as they preferred sweating on the stoop to turning on the A.C. in her bedroom. I often wonder if she received some kind of green award for her efforts. I’m sure Roger got his just reward. Now days, when I hear the dogs panting, I think of these two pioneers in the green movement, conserving energy on the porch years ago.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mr. Johnny

     Sometime next week one of the hardest working men in the city of Milledgeville will report to the Medical Center for valve replacement surgery. I call him “Mr. Johnny” and have for close to twenty years, even though he’s only a couple of years older than me. You will find him working the yards at various houses throughout town, cutting scrubs, felling trees, raking, fixing up flower beds and doing all manner of yard-work. He simply never stops. His energy has always been amazing and the same can be said of the way in which he goes about his work. Always a smile, a wave, or if you see him and stop to talk, he’ll do that too. He fell out of one of those trees a few years ago, spent time in the hospital and was back at work soon after.
     “Mr. Johnny” asked me to pray for him the other day when we were talking about his surgery…I have… and will, expecting him to be just fine when he recovers. Truth is; His prayers probably carry a lot more weight than mine. What’s that biblical saying from James, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much?”

     You see, this “Mr. Johnny” happens to be one of those African Americans we see each day, doing those things that make our lives better, not the ones that seem to make the news in negative ways. I’ve known “Mr. Johnnies” all my life growing up in the south and unfortunately they get a bad rap based on the misdeeds of a few. Sort of like when some serial killer or Unabomber turns out to be white and male.

     Where would we be without these folks who, for whatever reason, seem to work without ceasing, making, in many cases, minimum wage on jobs few of us can do? I guess that’s why I call him “Mr. Johnny”. It’s just a way of saying, thanks and you have my respect. As a white male nothing infuriates me more than being stereotyped. I find this happening more often because of one, being a “baby boomer” (we’re spoiled) two, a senior (we can’t tie our shoes and shouldn’t ride motorcycles) three, a NASCAR fan (you must drive a truck and chew tobacco) and other stuff that thinking about is raising my blood pressure.

     Now, I don’t have anything against folks who want to chew and drive trucks, that’s just not my thing. So I can imagine (yes) the feelings of the African American community, or any group of people, when we put them in a box, give it our seal of approval and write off an entire race of people. Do I suffer from a bit of guilt from past deeds, you might ask? I can only say I wish things had been different.

     Kathryn Stockett’s book entitled, “The Help” did bring back a lot of memories. If you are over fifty you will be reminded of the “help” your parents may have had at the hands of a “Mr. Johnny” or a maid who came to do laundry or clean once a week. We were pretentious enough to have those around us believe we received the “help” as one would a member of one’s family. How good of us. They knew better.

     The truth is, as much as it hurts, I remember Anna May, mom’s help. How well she was treated by my family, with respect and all but remembering as well, that she never could feel as though she were a member of my family because my family didn’t hang out with her family. Things will be better when we can look at a “Mr. Johnny” and appreciate his contribution as another member of God’s family.

 On another note; I’m very glad we got ol’ what’s his name, but not surprised. After all, we’re Americans, and we keep our word, even to the least of us.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Naptime at the Airport

An occasional nap is a wonderful thing. I like to take my naps on Saturday afternoons with the house empty of people, a cool breeze coming through the window, and a fan on to drown out any noises that would cause the dogs to bark. These two dogs know the Saturday afternoon schedule better than I, the signal for naptime being the closing of the laptop. Then I find them waiting on me in the bed. The key element here is the fan. Without the fan, the dogs will bark…and continue to bark until whatever is causing the noise moves on down the road. They’re Maltese and that’s what they do…bark.
I would have to be an air traffic controller to sleep through the racket these two can make when a truck moves past the house. Speaking of which, those controllers have got to get some sleep off the job…so the rest of us can get some sleep.  How on earth they can sleep at an airport is beyond me. I have trouble sleeping in a motel room, shades drawn, air wide open and no noise whatever. You have to wonder how they get the job of air traffic controller in the first place.
It might go something like this: “Hello Mr. (your name here) welcome to the Air Traffic Control Testing Facility. You were chosen because of your ability to count sheep, eat donuts, drink  large quantities of coffee and sleep and this is where we find out just what you are capable of sleeping through, how long you can sleep through it and what it takes to wake you up. Now go down that hall and you’ll find a room full of comfortable upright chairs, with coffee, donuts and a monitor provided. On the monitor will be all sorts of airplanes (not real ones of course) moving back and forth, back and forth. You are to sit upright, drink at least two cups of coffee and stare at the planes until you go to sleep. Based on our research that should take between five and six minutes, and that’s when the actual exam will begin. A signal will be given and a squadron of B-52s will pass over this facility, followed by a Blue Angel breaking the sound barrier at tree top level, and one helicopter, plus the phone will ring every five minutes. When and if you awaken, you get to watch an action flick and if you sleep during that, we have an airport waiting for you. Oh, did we mention the music? The Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ (loudest musical instrument known to man) will be used to replace the violins used in “Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor” by Bach” and played over the intercom during testing.” As anyone can see, passing the exam would be a feat in itself.
Years ago I tested for air traffic control in the Air Force so I know something about how it goes. I qualified, which scares me to death thinking that someone like me might be directing planes over a major airport. The stress of watching hundreds of planes each day narrowly missing each other while one drinks coffee and eats donuts has got to be tremendous. Plus, I’m one of the few people I know who’s fallen asleep during sex. I took the burden of possibly firing me off the Air Force and went into recreation instead. It’s hard to sleep when you’ve got balls coming at you. But, if I were in charge of our controllers I would insist on no fans. The humming of the fan is too similar to the sound of an aircraft engine and if they weren’t sleeping already they would be soon. Keep the AC off and invest in some Maltese and that should do the trick. It looks like we’re going to keep our feet on the ground for the next few years.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

It May Have Been the Rain

 It may have been the rain. I just wanted to relax, put the feet up for a few days, maybe do some walking (not much) or read but, after day one at an Orlando KOA the lizards left and the frogs took over. It wasn’t forty days and nights but close to forty hours and it rained so hard I wondered if the Creator had decided to give water another shot at humankind... perhaps throwing in a few tornadoes for those at Disney who came for the rides.

We stayed in one of those cabins on wheels, my wife, daughter and a guy married to her who turned out to be an expert on tornadoes.  The rain came for nearly two days and I know because every two hours old “Credit Union”, a loving term I use to describe the wife when she’s in fiscal mode, would remind me.  “Harmon, it’s a hundred dollars a day here, hear? And it’s rained for two days straight!” “Yes dear, two days, one hour and ten minutes.”  She thinks I hung the moon I suppose and can therefore take care of weather.

We mostly ate, (one belt notch worth) and watched all the wars on TV, until I looked out the window and saw RV awnings, and small stuff spinning through the air. Things began to spin out of control then and I’ll admit I felt a bit like Noah must have felt with no letup in sight and small animals (our two dogs) cringing in the corner.

 Lightning struck at least fourteen hundred times (Weather.com) in a twelve hour period, causing this “strobe” affect when you looked at them. They will no doubt need counseling as both have tics as a result of dodging thunder (a thing that cannot be done) for twelve hours. At the KOA you are encouraged to “pick up” after your dog. I’m going to stop here and let your imaginations do the rest. Those doggie doo baggies are over-rated. “Credit Union” wants to put diapers on them but I just can’t get my head around that.

The tornado warning…not watch, with the difference being the position of your head, lasted the twelve hours as we sat in what every weather man/woman on earth will tell you not to be caught in during a tornado…a trailer on wheels made to look like a wooden home. My son-in-law, the weather “expert”, reminded us to listen for the sound of the train. “Train?” We asked. “Yeah, the train sound…that tells us when it’s time to go sit in the bathrooms across the street.” “Uh, how much time to we have after hearing the train sound?” I asked, being the oldest person in the cabin and no doubt in need of more time to get to the bathrooms across the street. “Not long.” He said, which meant I was relegated to standing in the rain periodically, so as not to miss “The Orient Express”. 

To make matters worse, one of the dogs had what “Credit Union” refers to as “my god, it’s a flea infestation!”  That’s what she calls it and the dogs know that what comes after that is, “it’s got to have a bath!” So here they are dodging thunder, sensing the end of life as they know it and having to worry about the worst possible end time…the bath.
Did I mention sleeping on the floor? Well, we did have options. Option one was sleeping in a double bed designed for large dwarfs.
Option two was sleeping in bunk beds designed for large dwarfs. 

And option three was sleeping on the air mattress “teaser”, no doubt designed by an insomniac bent on revenge.
 I chose three and wasn’t disappointed as it never failed to let me down around three AM.  They say this was one of the most beautiful KOAs in Florida. Maybe we’ll find out next year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Kansas Wheat Field

Well, it finally happened. The baby boomers are turning into their grandparents. And to be PC, let me say I appreciate being here this long. There we sat, watching that new sitcom, “Modern Family” of all things... me, the dogs and wife, hugging the new space heater and enjoying a gay couple, and two “dysfunctional families”  and…  I like that Columbian woman, she’s really funny and because I have an eye for “talent”, I can appreciate her contribution to the show. But I digress.

 I remember it like it was yesterday, truth is, it had to be or I’d probably forget it. Nine thirty rolls around and the wife decides it’s time for bed. I’d had a nap earlier so I was going to stay up for another five minutes, loads of energy and all. She gets up, looks back at me, sitting next to my TV  table and says, “You know, I can’t put my finger on it but I had the strangest feeling I was seeing your granddaddy Harmon sitting there. I said, “He’s been gone since 80’, as far as we know, what’s this all about… dear?”  “Well, she says, there’s  two pill bottles, a box of Kleenex, three pairs of reading glasses, some Corn Huskers lotion and a tube of Cracked Heal sitting on your table. Reminds me of that picture we took of him thirty years ago that sits in the den.”  I had no idea they had all this stuff back then so I walked in there to take a look and sure nuff…it was all there but the Cracked Heal (new remedy I suppose).
I’m thinking, there must have been some additional items that made those folks REALLY old, so I said, “Well, you don’t see a TV Guide or magnifying glass around here anywhere do ya?!” “Nope, she says, we’ve got internet, the   magnifying glass is in the bedroom where you left it.” She’s always claimed the female has some part of their anatomy that acts like a GPS system or locator that can find objects the male loses.  I adjusted my laptop and thought about… being old. It sneaks up on you.

At some point we all think about what was, more than what is to be and that’s when it begins. When you hear yourself saying, “I remember when” or “I used to” more than “I can’t wait to” you know something has changed about you. Your first indication, unless your wife decides you need to know, might be the mirror. Most guys begin shaving around the age of fourteen or so, can’t really remember it was so long ago, and they tend to concentrate solely on the face. At that age we have no ears in a mirror. Now our ears look like a Kansas wheat field. 
Ever try to look into your ear? You can’t do it without some exceptional mirror work. My granddaddy had one of those three-way mirrors in his bedroom which allowed you to look sideways at yourself. When we were fourteen we used it to check out the backs of our heads…a place I have no inclination to view anymore.  I wonder who got it when he left us. I sure would like to see inside my ears. I just have the feeling something is in there that shouldn’t be.  I now know why he put so much stock in that mirror. He had discovered his wheat field. I have several older friends who have yet to discover theirs’ and wonder if I should say something like, “say Ray, noticed anything resembling wheat growing out of your ears lately?”
 Another indicator of “getting on” is the realization that you have little in common with most of the people you run into. Aside from medication, ailments and grandchildren (which I have none of) there’s little to talk about with the other humans. At this age I’m looking at getting my last dog, last car and hopefully hanging on to my last wife. So when Hugh Hefner twitters his engagement to a twenty something, I figure one of two things; either that mansion he lives in has everything but a three-way mirror or she’s from Kansas.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Our Song

Packers versus Steelers. “The American Bowl” where two historically significant teams met in the, man I hate that name, “Super Bowl”. I didn’t like the name when it was first coined back when baseball was still our national pastime. It seemed corny or too much like “Metropolis” and the Joker. “Super Bowl”. Why? The halftime shows have been anything but super over the last few years. I miss the bands, they seemed more American to me. Watching young people marching to patriotic themes was really super. I say, “Bring back the bands”. I miss someone singing our national anthem that remembers the words or at least holds up a piece of paper with the lyrics so they can get it right. It’s an important song.

Folks in other countries listen to it when we sing it at the “Super Bowl”. They probably don’t know the words either. But we should. After all, it’s our national anthem. It used to be recognized all over the world as it was sung so many times at the Olympics (in its natural state) and other venues where Americans were successful. Now it often sounds like a rehearsal for American Idol. What’s up with that? Also, it’s getting more and more difficult to understand the “superness” of the “Super Bowl” itself. We know there’s a super amount of beer and nachos sold, and a super amount of money spent on tickets, a super number of super souvenirs one can purchase at supermarkets and a super amount of betting hinging on the outcome. But, other than that, what’s so super about the “Super Bowl”? One thing’s for sure. It’s not the halftime show. I sure do miss the bands. But I digress.

This business of singing our national anthem in an appropriate manner is important. It’s akin to the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance. Oh, I know the anthem sounds like a fight song with rockets and bombs, but that was a part of the history of our independence. We’re Americans, we fight for freedom, justice, and we offer our best for those unable or unwilling to do so in order that others might be free. Singing our national anthem is not an audition, nor a time to show off one’s vocal cords. It’s a time to acknowledge not only our country but the sacrifice made by so many who chose to honor America with their service. Does it not deserve to be sung reverently, accurately, and with a sense of awe that there are those who lived before us and those who live among us, who were and are willing to give their lives for an idea?

Years ago, another time, same place, patriotism was a part of each day spent at school. The Pledge, assemblies and music classes were filled with songs about America, our home, refuge and pride. We were taught about the things that made America a wonderful place to live, grow and become. What happened? How is it that our national anthem can be taken for granted, desecrated or made less than it is? It’s simple actually. We stopped teaching those things we cherished to those who came after us. We assumed that patriotism, love of country and all it stood for were inbred. They are not. Each generation has the responsibility of teaching the next generation love and history of country. When that fails to happen we begin to see what we have seen in recent years. I refuse to say, “with all our faults” blah blah blah. Each family reading this has someone who has made a sacrifice for our country. It’s time we said “enough”, if you want to sing our song, sing it right, if you don’t want to sing it right, sing along with those who do. And sing loud. I sure miss those bands.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Last Best Hope?

Once in a while someone really special enters your life and, if you’re lucky, you realize it when it happens, cultivate them and become grateful that another human has taken the time to make you feel special. That’s how it was when Phil Dodson asked me if I wanted to write for The Telegraph.
It was a simple call that took little effort on his end of the phone but meant so much on my end. I told him so, and now I am so glad I did. Mark Twain was once asked what it took to be a writer and he said, paraphrasing, “It’s easy, all you do is sit down with pen and paper and open a vein.” Phil wasn’t afraid to “open a vein” because what he wrote came from his heart. That personal “still small voice” of his could be heard each time he sat down to read his offerings.

I can’t say I knew him well personally, but I learned more about him through his writing about the things he cared about. He knew how to take a stand on any issue and allow you to do the same. He was about giving opportunity and a hearing for those who needed it. He will be missed, particularly in a time in an America where each one’s opinion seems to be the only opinion that any one cares about.

These last few days have seen tragedy in Arizona, and as I sit here thinking about Phil, I can’t help but wonder what he would have said. In a column written just a few days ago, he said, “After observing foibles of the human condition over many years, one axiomatic rule that emerged early is that there are some subjects in which consensus cannot be reached.” He mentioned abortion, religion and the “approach some take to those who are different racially.”

If we have indeed reached that point in the political life of America -- the point where our minds are made up, convinced we are the only ones who are right, correct and true -- it’s time we stepped back and began to, if not agree with, then at the least, respect each other’s point of view. Maybe we need to realize that if no one seems to have the answer to a particular problem, we all need to keep searching and be open to each others’ ideas.

I have a feeling that one day, maybe after the three score and ten we are allotted, some of us are going to be greeted not with, “well done thou good and faithful servant,” but “what in the world were you thinking?”

A friend of mine said of the Arizona incident, “Such senseless loss at a time when we as a nation need to come together and build for tomorrow’s challenges. There are among us, obviously, those whose demons cannot be controlled.” That rings true for me also as it seems we can’t get past personalities these days in order to solve important problems. Are we not the same people Abraham Lincoln spoke to in 1862 when he said, “We hold the power, and bear the responsibility. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth”? Are we still the last best hope for mankind, or will we lose our freedom because of a lack of our willingness to allow it to survive for all?

After a weekend of tragedy seldom seen since 9/11, perhaps it’s time we found a little of Phil Dodson in each one of us -- our better side -- and became people not only willing to hear about, but understand the concerns of others.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Relatives, Fish, and Vacation

For a winter vacation this year, we decided to test a theory: Do fish and relatives really stink after three days?
The perfect opportunity presented itself when my daughter and her husband, (the alleged driver), managed to “drive” into a ditch while the four of us were vacationing with a relative who used to like us -- my wife’s sister.

Our vacations sometimes involve going to a nearby relative’s house and hanging out for a day or two. Free food, no flying, no frisking and we can keep our shoes on. At 8:30 a.m., shortly after they left the mountain house, I hear this over the phone, “Dad, we’ve driven into a ditch.” We jumped into the aunt’s four-wheel drive and sure nuff, they/he had driven into a ditch.

The snow had begun that morning so, in blizzard conditions, we hauled them back to the house where we holed up with a ham, a turkey, two dogs, two cats and a yard full of anorexic squirrels. Had it been me, I would have said we either slid or were pulled into the ditch by a mysterious force. I would not have admitted to actually driving myself into a ditch.

Before I go on, yes, I’m very thankful they were not injured. But how does one drive into a ditch when going uphill? But I digress. Now my concern is how long it can snow in North Carolina, whether or not the food is going to last and how long it will be before the Scrabble game fight breaks out. The cats are eating the dog food, the dogs are eating the cat food and the humans are cheating at Scrabble (a family tradition) and eating anything they can swallow.

I keep reminding them that it’s a long walk to the local Dollar Store. It snowed all day, so the four-wheel drive vehicle has been reduced to something less than a good-size sled. A trip down the driveway would require a vote, as travel outside the “petosphere” has become a major decision. We can go down the driveway, but we can’t go up. We do have some quiche, but Warren Selby (The CrimeStopper guy) is the only real man I know who eats that stuff.

As the days pass, I’m afraid the dogs and cats are no longer going to look like pets. Until that happens, I’m wondering how long it will be before one of the dogs finds a cat claw in his jowls. Scruffy, the Dumpster cat, found (you guessed it) beside a Dumpster looking for a meal, was raised in the ghetto and knows how to take care of himself.

After we run out of the good stuff, I suppose we’ll eat dog and cat food and then dog and cat. I hear some countries consider them to be delicacies, and there’s really no place to hide around here. The interesting thing is going to be the humans. So far, so good, but it’s just a matter of time before someone accuses someone of less than honorable behavior and then, since there’s nowhere to go. You can see where this is going.
Do fish and relatives stink after three days? I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’ve scheduled the waiting room of the local proctologist for next year’s winter “vacation.” I don’t foresee another invite here next year.