Friday, December 31, 2010

Tombstone picture

“The Slow Motion Walk”

In which camp do you find yourself? Are you one of the ones who are glad that Christmas is over, or do you feel just a bit sad that it’s past?

I have never found myself in the former camp. That’s the one I mentioned first. I have to think a bit before I can distinguish between “latter” and “former.” It’s the same way with “stratosphere” and “mesosphere.” I can’t remember which is furthest. Or farthest. I also get those two confused. Farthest? That doesn’t sound right. Can we get past this?

Some of you may be sad about Christmas because you got lousy stuff. Hey, I feel your pain. I’ve experienced your pain. Can’t say that for my brothers. They loved what I got ‘em. They don’t appreciate all the trouble I went through to create their gift, though. About wore me out.

Let me tell you what I came up with. I know you’re eager to know. I got this great idea to find a photo from the movie “Tombstone” -- the picture of the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday walking toward the OK Corral -- and superimposing the faces of my brothers and me over the characters. Is that not cool?

I’m sure you realize that I was once in a movie where I walked in slow motion with Big Al and some others on our way to a showdown. You remember that, don’t you? “Asylum of the Scorpion” one of the Walker-Cable productions? Al and I were walking in slow motion with a bunch of other residents of an insane asylum. We were armed with garden implements on our way to a showdown with an armed gang of outlaws. As cool as that sounds, it was not nearly as epic as the scene in “Tombstone.”

That’s what I was after, the coveted Doc Holiday, Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp and Morgan Earp photo. Only with Larry, Dennis, Al and me. Of course two of you are thinking that changing faces on a movie photo is illegal. That’s just silly thinking. As long as you don’t make money off of the photo tampering, it’s somewhat legal. Bound to be.

The major problem with the Tombstone project had to do with doing it. I can’t do superimposing stuff and cutting and pasting and all of that computer artwork. But, I know somebody who can.

Do you know Brad Meyer? He’s the county restaurant review guy that I hang around with occasionally. Mostly for meals. Y’all know him? The man is techno-literate. That’s why I asked him to do the Tombstone picture. He stumbled at the chance.

Brad told me to find the appropriate pictures of the brothers, figure out whose head I wanted on which Earp, and he would take it from there. Turns out I had the more difficult job. Do you know how many decent photos I have of Dennis and Larry without their glasses on? Those goobers were born with glasses. They’ve worn glasses longer than Clark Kent.

I found two pictures that I thought would do. Unfortunately, Brad told me that the heads weren’t positioned right. Your body can’t be heading straight while your head is leaning hard to the left. You’d look like Tim Roth.

Larry’s facial position best fit Virgil Earp, so that’s where Brad put him. Al’s head fit the Wyatt’s walk, so my kid brother got the coveted Kurt Russell role. Dennis ended up being on the far right. That made him Morgan Earp. Me? My head didn’t fit any of ‘em. Of course, Brad had to make me Doc Holliday ‘cause he was the only one left. There were only four guys walking, and he couldn’t just add a fifth figure to match my head. I even asked him. Made him say a bad word, I did.

So I ended up being a tough fit. Brad swapped out 10 photos of me before finding the one that looked decent. They all looked decent to him, but that’s ‘cause he wanted out of the project. -- “Look, Nimrod, I’m not doing this again. You can take it or leave it!” – He said that about eight times. Said it mean, too.

It was just too hard for my face to act like I had a Doc Holiday body. The picture of me that he finally used was one taken about 25 years ago. He had to do the same thing for Dennis and Larry. He used older pictures with younger faces. Kind of like “latter and former.” Turns out Big Al, the youngest brother, ended up looking the oldest. Since he got to be Wyatt, he didn’t mind so much.

Yep, the brothers really liked what I got ‘em. Jill? Not so much. Susan? She lives in Washington. I have no idea what to get a Washatonian. Kay? She might as well live in Washington. Bottom line, I have trouble with women. Can’t buy good gifts for ‘em, either.

So, the girls ended up in the happy-Christmas-is-over camp. Oh, and Brad did too. He was in no way happy before Christmas. And, after Christmas? Well, I’m supposed to stay away from him for a couple of weeks into the New Year. Says he needs “No Mark” time. Hey, I feel his pain.


You can view Brad and Mark’s restaurant review of Little Tokyo Restaurant by clicking below.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Short Story

It’s Christmas short story time. This one I call “Christmas at the Tastee Freeze”

People weren’t exactly beating the door down to get into Frank’s Tastee Freeze. The entire lunch crowd consisted of the Pomeroy family and Arnold Bounder. The Pomeroys were going to Jack’s sister’s house in Maypole for supper, and Jack thought they’d get some burgers for lunch before heading out.

Four combo meals. One foot long chilidog, two Big Frank burgers and four tacos. Not much of a Christmas fare, but the four Pomeroys seemed pleased. So pleased that both Pomeroy girls squeezed the bicycle horn before leaving. The horn was mounted near the door just below a sign that read, “Honk if you enjoyed your Tastee Freeze experience.”

At the sound of the horn, Ray yelled an enthusiastic, “Yeehah! Y’all come back!”

“Would you pleeeease not do that today?” Kate said. “The Boss is not even here.”

“Do you think I enjoy acting like an idiot? Look, Frank told us to yell when we hear the horn. I don’t ask why. I just do what the boss says. Wouldn’t hurt you to do it now and again.”

“No, your ‘Yeehaw’ can stand on its own.” Kate said.

Ray gave her his raised eyebrow look, and then imitated a detective he once saw in an old black and white movie. “Why, I oughtta pounnnnd you!”

Kate couldn’t hold back the laugh. She never could with Ray. Just didn’t understand why that was. “Look Dilbert,” she said, “One more time, tell me why you let The Boss pressure you into working on Christmas?”

Ray ignored the comment and walked over to the booth where Arnold was staring into his coffee cup. Ray plopped himself down in the seat across from Arnold and looked hard at the guy. “Look, Mr. Bounder. Mr. Bounder, look at me. Please. Here’s what do. Let us get you one of the Santa ice cream cakes from the freezer, you take it home to Mrs. Bounder and the kids and you tell ‘em you’re sorry. That you just had one of those sinking spells, but now you’re all better.”

Mr. Bounder slowly looked up from his coffee cup and gave Ray a smirk. “Ray, you’re a swell kid, but you have no idea.”

“No, idea? Have you ever tasted a Santa ice cream cake? It’s… well it’s gonna change your life. Once you take a bite of that cake you can do nothing but smile. I’m not lying. It’s a group hug magnet! And, best of all, it’s 50 percent off”

Ray yelled across the room. “Kate, grab the Santa cake and ring up $8! No, make it five!” He turned back to Mr. Bounder. “I’m pretty sure Frank plans to let it go for five tomorrow.”

Arnold Bounder climbed out of the booth, handed Ray $5 and then hugged him. “You are absolutely nuts, Raymond. Merry Christmas.”

Kate ran up with the cake. “Merry Christmas, Mr. Bounder. Remember, you’re not alone. Things will get better. Starting with the cake. The beard and the white part of Santa’s hat are vanilla. Everything else is chocolate.”

Ray added, “And if there is any leftover, you know where I live.” Ray walked back to the counter with Kate following close. “So, why did you agree to work today? What could possibly--”

Mr. Bounder grabbed hold of the bicycle horn. “Honk! Honk!” – Ray let out with “Yeehaw! Y’all come back!” Arnold waved as the door closed behind him.

There was the briefest of pauses before Kate gave Ray a slap to the shoulder. “Would you please not do that? Now look, answer my question.”

Ray tossed his dishrag across the counter where it landed in the sink. He gave the universal two-fingers-down sign for two points. He then opened the register and put in the $5 and added 15 of his own.

Why did he volunteer to work on Christmas? Truth is, he told Frank that he’d work, but only if Frank could persuade Kate to help out. He saw it as an opportunity to be alone with the one girl whose company he most enjoyed. A girl who would never see him as more than a hometown friend. At least he could make a memory of the one Christmas they both shared.

Ray was not aware if Frank had grasped the implication of his request, and, for once, he didn’t care. It was indeed a step toward boldness. It was boldness born of desperation. He knew he would soon be headed for Angelo State to start the Spring Semester. He had just finished his Sophomore year at the community college in Childress, and he had only raised enough money for the Spring Semester at San Angelo. He’d figure out the rest later.

“Look, Katy-did, I’ve got no life. I live with my parents, who are, incidentally, at this moment headed to Vernon to visit Aunt Mary in the home. I love my aunt, but can’t take the home. Working Christmas gave me an excuse to miss out this year.”

Suddenly the door of a ’92 gray Buick slammed outside. Slammed twice. A nanosecond after the slams, two boys, eight and six, rushed in and headed straight for the restrooms in the back. The Mom caught the door and meekly smiled as she entered. “Do you know how hard it is to find a restroom on Christmas Day?” she said. “I think you may be it between here and Dallas.”

“You’re just about right,” Ray said. “Can I get you anything?” The lady shook her head. “I’m sorry. Just the restroom.” She sat down at the table nearest the restroom to wait.

Ray wrestled with the notion of pressing just a little. “So, you’ve got family in Dallas? That place is booming.”

She smiled and said, “Uh, no. We’re headed to Longview. I’ve got a brother there who is going to let us stay, till… uh, till things get sorted. I would’ve left earlier, but I had to work last night at the mall in Abilene. Wasn’t that much business on Christmas Eve, but it was good to get the work.”

About that time, the two boys rushed out of the bathroom. “Mommy can we get something?” The mom got up and told them to sit and wait for her while she went to the restroom. “Don’t move. And, don’t bother anyone.”

As soon as she left, the boys obediently sat and stared at the ice in the field beyond the parking lot. Ray yelled over to them. “Hey, do you guys mind giving us a hand back here?” Ray and Kate were standing behind the counter waving them on. The two kids exchanged glances and then ran to help.

Minutes later, Mom exited the restroom to see her boys sitting on the counter trying to fill a napkin holder. Kate was giving instructions while Ray was making the burgers. “I am so sorry,” Mom said. “Come on Thad and Will. We’ve gotta go, kids.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” Ray said. “I’m afraid the boys already placed an order. Not to worry, they’re working it off right now.”

The mom found herself somewhere between humiliation and extreme gratefulness. It’s a thin line, sometimes. Kate sensed the dilemma, and handed her towel to Ray. “Finish up, Big Guy,” she said. She led Mom to a booth and the two sat and chatted.

It was a good visit. Ray moved two tables together and they all sat and ate burgers, onion rings and fries. And, washed it all down with malts and Cokes. Ray and Kate weren’t really all that hungry, but Ray thought the moment would be less awkward for Deanna, the mom, if they all shared a meal.

Before leaving, Ray lifted Thad and Will up and let them each honk the horn. They all had to say, “Yeehaw! Y’all come back!” after each honking. Even Kate joined in. She never looked lovelier to Ray.

As the Buick headed Dallasward, Ray walked over to the cash register, rang up the tab and paid for the meal. Kate, walked over and shook her head. “You’re a real wonder, Ray Palmer. You know that? And, how much did you slip into Deanna’s purse?”

“Hey, my folks and I agreed not to exchange gifts. So, I had to do something. But forget that. Now, it’s your turn to tell me why you decided to work on Christmas."

“Oh, that’s easy,” Kate said. “I’m saving for college. Dad said he’d match whatever I can raise. Oh, and I knew he was paying double time, so I jumped at the chance.”

“You’re kidding.” Ray said. “He sure didn’t make that deal with me.” Kate shot back, “He did too. He told me we were both getting double.” Ray smiled. Yeah, Frank had him figured out.

“I’m going to Angelo State next fall,” Kate continued. “You know, I might even get a scholarship.”

“I’m sure you will. Every volleyball coach is looking for a good setter. I’ve noticed that you’re pretty good. And, I must say, you look strangely attractive in your volleyball outfit.”

“Strangely attractive? What do you mean by that?”

Too bold. He was headed for Rejection City. Probably be elected mayor. So, he ignored the question. “Look, kid. I doubt we get many more customers. Why don’t you head over to your boyfriend’s house? I’ll fill out the time-sheet for you. I doubt your Dad will fire either one of us for it.”

“My boyfriend? You mean Cory?” Her laugh came out as more of a snort. “Really? You don’t need me here?”

Ray tried to sound persuasive. “Look at this place. We’re a restroom with a kitchen.” Kate nodded, walked behind the counter to get her purse, gave Ray a quick peck on the cheek and then headed for the door. “Merry Christmas Raymond Palmer.” She squeezed on the horn before leaving. There was no response from Ray, so she turned and gave him a questioning look.

Ray smiled and quietly said, “Yeehaw. You come back.” Kate shook her head and then got into her Dad’s old pickup and drove off.

Ray walked over to the booth nearest the counter and plopped himself down. He rested his legs across the bench seat and leaned his back against the wall. Looking out the window across the room, he sat and stared… at nothing in particular. He wasn’t in his trance long before the sound of the opening door startled him out of his deep think. He looked up to see an exasperated-looking, Kate.

The girl walked briskly to the counter and tossed her purse behind it. She then picked up her apron and strapped it on. With her hands on her hips and her weight shifted slightly to the right, she said, “Okay, Mr. Palmer. Tell me exactly what you meant by ‘strangely attractive?’”

There were no more customers at Frank’s Tastee Freeze for the remainder of the shift. Oh, Emily Bounder did bring over a deep plate of ice cream Santa cake for them. It was delivered with a hug. “It’s the bestest cake we ever had,” she said. Then added, “Oh, and the hug was from Mommy.”

Kate and Ray sat across from one another in the booth and just talked. They took only a couple of bites of the cake, sharing the same spoon. At one point, Kate, pushed the bowl to the side and reached over and took hold of Ray’s hand. Ray was pretty sure his heart might explode. The conversation never lagged. And, the time sped by like a meteor. But, then, that’s to be expected when two people share the best Christmas ever.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, from the Hayters.

You can contact Mark at

Monday, December 20, 2010

O’ Christmas Tree

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 15 of my on going book about Dad.

When I was a kid, we never got our Christmas tree until about two weeks before Christmas. Dad always waited till the price went down a bit. Back then you could pick up something with bark and sparse needles for about $2.50. The day before Christmas you could get one for even less than that, but even Dad wasn’t that cheap.

Dad always got a live tree. I don’t know if it was because he really wanted one or he realized it would break our hearts if he got an artificial one. Back then artificial trees looked more like silver tapered bottle cleaners. Sweatshop workers with metal poles, wire-cutters and very little imagination assembled ‘em. Only childless old people bought ‘em.

That being said, Dad was the worst tree picker-outer in the world. Hey, it’s recorded somewhere. Every tree is supposed to have one good side to it. Not the ones Dad bought. Each year he brought home a Frankenstein tree. Some of us hid in the closet.

The people who bought the good trees always displayed them in front of the biggest window in the house. Mom put our tree in the corner away from the window.

We usually helped Mom decorate the tree. We only did the icicles. She wouldn’t trust us with some of the more sacred ornaments. That’s a joke. We had no sacred ornaments. We had some old ones, but that was back when “old” was nothing to be treasured.

Dad never helped with the tree. Oh, he’d saw off a piece of the trunk and attach the heavy metal holder thing. After that, he left it alone. Dad wouldn’t decorate trees. You couldn’t make him.

He did string lights on the house. Once. I don’t know where he got the lights. I imagine he got ‘em at the airport. They were those lights with the giant bulbs attached to frayed wire that was strong enough to pull a dump truck out of a sinkhole. They don’t make Christmas lights like that anymore. Not even in China. That should tell you something.

Dad put a strand of those bubbas across the front of the house and the door. The paint on the bulbs was chipped off in places, so you couldn’t tell what color the light was supposed to be. I would’ve just as soon he not put ‘em up.

Oh, and the whole thing sagged like… well, like something saggy. Probably because there was no one to help him. Dad didn’t want anyone helping him. The job involved ladders, wires and glass bulbs. Enough said.

Dad’s lights looked particularly bad when compared to all the ones we saw on our way to church. People in other neighborhoods really knew how to put up lights. They had good ones, too. And sleds and reindeer and lit candles under lunch sacks. I never understood that.

Sometimes Dad would take us across town to see the lights. Those were the good times. Mostly. I say that because there were four or five of us in the backseat. Someone would say, “Hey, look over there!” All of a sudden the car would tilt to the right. – “Mom, Jill elbowed my neck!” – “Oh, yeah? Well, Dennis frogged my arm!”

“I’m gonna wring your necks if you kids don’t shut-up!” The Christmas season did little to temper Mom’s threats. “I’ll beat you with that fake candy cane over there! Honey, make ‘em shut-up!”

Dad would say, “Quiet.” That’s all it took. Mom was upset with us all the time, ‘cause she was with us all the time. Dad? Well, Dad seldom witnessed misbehavior. His tolerance level was way down there. While Mom might have a half dozen threats in her, Dad had none. You never knew when he was going to strike, so you took no chances. “Yes, sir.” – “Won’t hear another word out of us.” – “We’re not even here anymore.” –“Uh, where are we Dennis?” – “Shut up, Mark.”

After we got home, we’d run to the living room and sit around the TV, eat popcorn and watch Perry Como’s Christmas show. This was back when variety shows were popular. They were corny as all get out, but a load of fun.

When all was said and done, Christmas was the best of times for our family. Today, not so much. I don’t put up outdoor lights, ‘cause I’m my father’s son. The house would be an embarrassment.

And, our tree? Kay, gets it out of a large flat box and pulls it up like an accordion. The lights are already on it.

I still thoroughly enjoy the season, but I do so miss Dad and Mom. And, I miss the arguments and fights we used to have in the backseat. Didn’t care all that much for ‘em back then, but I love the thought of ‘em now. Weird how that works.

You can find this and other chapters of Mark’s Dad book by clicking on the Mark's book blog icon. Also, you can find Mark and Brad’s latest restaurant review by clicking below.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rooftop December 11

“Cold up here”

ROOFTOP -- Forty-seven degrees is a lot colder than I thought it’d be. This metal roof is beginning to numb my feet. If you hadn’t waited so long to get your buns up here, I’d still have more feeling in ‘em.

But, you’re here, and it was well worth the climb, was it not? Just think how many people wish they could be us tonight. No, it’d be more than four. Look, Barbara, I wasn’t asking you to GUESS how many people. You’re really ruining the moment. -- No, sit back down. I’m just messing with you.

Reminds me. Saturday morning I went out real early to get the newspaper. I usually peek out the door first to make sure nobody is in the vicinity. I just hate to start up a conversation early in the morning. Kay will back me up on that.

Anyway, the new neighbors (a mother and two teenage kids) were across the street sitting on the driveway like waiting for something, or someone. I didn’t know how long they were going to wait, but I couldn’t wait to find out. I needed my newspaper.

So, I just took the bear by the horns and walked right out to the street, knowing that I would have to say something. I’ve threatened to do that before, but an appropriate time never showed itself. This would be a new neighbor icebreaker. (Sounds like a song.)

Well, you want to know what I said? Keep in mind they don’t know me. I don’t know them. I said, “Howdy neighbors! You do know the Popsicle man doesn’t come till Wednesday, don’t you?”

Yep, that’s what I said. And, do you know what I got back? Heartache. I got the “What an idiot” look. I invented the “What an idiot” look, and now one was being delivered to me. -- “Popsicle man? What? He thinks we’re waiting for a Popsicle man this early in the morning? Okay, everyone stay away from the neighbor.”

After a time-stopping pause, the lady said, “What?” That meant I had to repeat the stupid line. “It was levity,” I said. “You’re waiting out here, and I say, ‘The Popsicle man doesn’t come till Wednesday.’” It didn’t sound any better the second time. I knew it wouldn’t.

Then I had to turn around and make the long walk back to the house. I imagine the girl was doing the weird twirling finger thing around her ears. I’m not sure people still do that. I was tempted to turn around real quick to see, but I didn’t. How do you recover from something like that? Can’t be done.

Sometimes it works when I say silly stuff, and sometimes it bombs. That’s pretty much why Kay hates it when I talk to strangers. She can see it coming a mile away. Sometimes she walks away in anticipation of the encounter. She’s really missed a lot of cool moments doing that.

Some people enjoy it when you say something silly to them. Like you guys. Hey, you wouldn’t be up here if you weren’t somewhat silly. Uh, Barbara, you do need to work just a bit on your silliness, though.

Speaking of Kay, she had to go to singing practice tonight. The girl has never been to singing practice before. I thought it odd when she told me she was going. Seems a group of friends from church are having a Christmas party next week, and the ladies want to do some kind of singing skit. So, they have to practice.

I enjoy stuff like that about as much as I enjoy a bunch of waiters in a restaurant singing happy birthday to me. It’s what separates the men from the women. One of a bunch of things.

Along with their skit, the girls will probably have the men do one of those 12 Days of Christmas things where you have to act like you’re a maid milking a cow. I see humor in a “waiting for the Popsicle man” comment. But, milking an imaginary cow is just not funny. Could be worse. I could be a goose a laying. That’s just sick.

Oh, there is one scary thing about Kay not being here. It means that if the last person up happened to knock over the ladder, we’re in for a two-hour sit till she comes home. Everybody is going to have numb feet and rears.

Barbara, you weren’t the last person up, were you? – It’s a joke! I joke. -- Oh, my goodness. I just thought. What if the new neighbors see us up here? There will be a Mayflower truck in their driveway tomorrow.

Oh, well, I’ll loosen ‘em up. I’ll come up with a better line. “Howdy, neighbors! Did you have to milk any imaginary cows over the Holiday?” Yeah, that’ll work.


You can contact Mark at

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dec 3 Tossing stuff

“Oldest thing in the house”

Do you have an item in your house that has pretty much overstayed its welcome? Yes, that’s a rather personal question, but “Work with me, people!” (Read that in your Al Pacino voice.)

You might want to call this an intervention type moment. Hey, we’ve all had ‘em. My first involved the habit I have of wearing only one shoe around the house. Kay had to accept the fact that it’s incurable. She ended up going to a counselor. Intervene that!

Today’s intervention is for all of us. The six of us. No, now don’t look like that Fess up. You’ve got some old stuff around the house that has no business being there. Don’t believe me? Let’s play a game. You like games.

We’re going to have a contest to see who can locate the oldest consumable in the house. No, not my house, you goob— Uh, sorry, Luke. I mean we will each search our own individual house. And, then we’ll meet back here in, what? Thirty minutes. I’m pretty sure we’ll tire of the game by then.

Before we head out, we must get the rules straight. We’re looking for something consumable. By consumable I mean that it’s not a chair, a piece of jewelry or a photograph. We consider those untossable. No, we’re looking for something you brought home with the intention of eventually using it up. A box of Kleenex, pack of gum, wedge of cheese… Stuff like that.

You must know that something once edible carries more weight than, say, a Bic pen. It just has to. After all, it takes a really special person to hold onto a 20 year-old jar of pickle relish. Having fun just thinking about it, aren’t you?

Okay, let’s get started. You’re gonna lay the paper down and not pick it for 30 minutes. Got it? On ‘mark, set, go!

Is anybody back yet? I said, is—Well, I’m a few minutes early. I got tired at the 20 minute mark. I’ll wait a bit. “It’s knowin’ that your door is always open and your path is free to walk…”

Okay, that’s enough. Settle down, people! All right I’ll go first. I went to the freezer compartment and found something prehistoric. Not sure what it is, but it’s old. I’d have to thaw it to find out what it is. It’s either meatloaf or soup. I’m not in the mood for either.

About three years ago I started labeling and dating the stuff I put in the freezer. The gray bag predates the labeling and the dating. Since I can’t determine the exact year, I’ll have to disqualify it. Don’t even know why I brought it up.

In the kitchen cabinet I found a three-year old box of noodles. That’s just the expiration date. No telling how long I’ve had it. We’ve eaten a lot of noodles since buying the box. I don’t know what troubled me about this one. I’ll have Kay ask her counselor next week.

The French onions is the only thing that didn't get tossed. Oh, and the PEZ dispenser. However, somebody broke in and stole the thing. Must have. I can't find the thing now. Isn't that just the way...?

When I was headed downstairs, I found an old shopping receipt on the floor. It was from a Winn-Dixie in Commerce, Texas. On August 4, 1997, somebody bought two PRT/CUP for $1.19 each. I’m sure it’s not the oldest receipt in the house, but the oldest that was laying on the floor by the computer. By the way, Kay was looking through a box of old photos about an hour ago. I think the receipt came from one of the boxes. Either that are we’ve still got a poltergeist problem.

There is a can of French’s French Fried Onions that has a 1995 expiration date branded on the metal bottom. We don’t make that many green bean casseroles. Sad.

I’ve got a 12-year-old smiley face PEZ dispenser on my bookcase. It’s not consumable, but the original PEZ candy in it is. It was a gift, and while I’m not crazy about the dispenser, I don’t throw away candy.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll cut to the chase? Whatever that means. The oldest thing I found during my 20-minute search was a 32-year old jar of Bayer Aspirin. I don’t like to throw away medicine any more than candy. I may have some pain pills that predate that, but like I say, I grew tired of looking.

So, what’d you come up with? -- Stop! We’re outta time here. Tell you what, do. See the e-mail address at the bottom? Well, look again. See? E-mail me your most interesting old item(s) and I’ll put include it in an upcoming article. If I never bring this up again, it means most of you never returned from the search. That’s what I’m thinking. – Next time.


You can contact Mark at

Thursday, November 25, 2010


“Enjoy the moment”

How many of you sit around the table during the Thanksgiving meal and take turns telling everybody what you’re thankful for? We’ve done it a couple of times. The comments go from sappy to irreverent. The four brothers aren’t going to share an emotional moment with anyone. Particularly not with family.

The women folk generally come up with something thoughtful and sweet to say. At some point, Big Al will put the palm of his hand to his mouth and make a tooting noise. That’s pretty much why we’ve been avoiding the Thanksgiving “thankful moment.”

Some of us have trouble coming up with something to be thankful for. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been there. And, I go back there way too often. Has to do with focus.

I’ve written a bunch of articles about my childhood, about teaching and vacationing. And in almost every article I’m remembering the good stuff. The happy moments.

The scary and sad thing is that during all of those good times, I didn’t fully enjoy the moment. As a child I had fun, but there was a lot of dread floating around in my brain that made me somewhat stifle the moment of the fun.

I had great kids when I taught and had some super moments, but I was too often focused on the class preparation, the things that might go wrong, the grading of papers, and the few kids that were too often disruptive. I couldn’t let myself fully appreciate the moment. Years later I’m appreciating ‘em big time.

I believe I’ve mentioned an incident once or twice that occurred during a televised college football game. It was the Rose Bowl a few decades back. USC’s coach John McKay was giving instructions to his quarterback for a final play. He had a microphone on him so the entire country could hear the play. They wisely don’t do that nowadays.

It all hinged on this one last play. The quarterback (I can’t remember who it was.) received his instructions and turned to run back onto the field. McKay yelled the player’s name. The quarterback stopped to receive one last order from his coach. McKay calmly said, “Hey, enjoy the moment.”

Last play of the game; you’re in charge; the crowd is screaming; you win or lose based on what you’re getting ready to do. -- Enjoy the moment? – My focus would be on trying not to mess up. “Enjoying the moment” would be the farthest thing from my mind. Yet, what better thing could you possibly tell someone? (By the way, USC won the game on that play.)

How many people do you see who appear to hate the moment? Kay was sitting at the dining room table when I entered the room the other day. She said, “Are you okay?” I told her I was, and asked why she asked. She said, “Well you just groaned.” I had no idea. I even questioned her about it. Here I am walking around groaning without even knowing why.

A day or two later, she asked me what was wrong. I said, “Nothing.” She said, “Well, you just said, ‘Shoot!’ like you were upset about something.” I’m sure I was, but I have no idea what it was that disturbed me, nor do I remember saying anything. Enjoying the moment? Apparently not.

Too often I’ve got a horrible focus. And, I don’t think I’m alone in this. Think of all the fun moments we lost through bad focusing. One day they’ll show up in our memories as fun, but just not at the moment. Makes no sense.

So, at what time in our lives do we take a moment to recognize the moment? I tell you what let’s do it as soon as we finish this article. And, this Thanksgiving, whether are not we have the “what are you thankful for” discussion, let’s all concentrate on enjoying the now. It might require some serious focus, but I’ll do it if you will.

You’ll be grateful to know that there will be no collection plate passed after this sermon. And, that’s good, ‘cause right now, Big Al has his palm over his mouth and he’s making a tooting noise. Hey, it’s what he does. – Regardless, from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. Sappy sounding or not, I love you guys.


Friday, November 19, 2010

November 19 Rooftop article

“The roof at noon”

ROOFTOP -- Do you think it would be helpful to clean your satellite dish? Maybe a little Windex, Krud Kutter, Mop and Glo? Would that be a good thing?

I was sitting here wondering that right before you showed. The dish doesn’t appear dirty, but I did notice a spider web hanging from the protrusion dilly. The little sticking-out part. See? Let me, uh… there the web is gone… ding dong the web is gone.

Did that improve my TV reception? I wonder. I don’t come close to understanding satellite dishes and all the rays that are bombarding us, sound, light, radar, gamma…

I watched Modern Marvels on the History Channel last week. They talked about the 10 greatest innovations of our time. They didn’t bother with the wheel or fire or the bread slicer. Just technical stuff.

One of the top innovations dealt with the television. It covered several items. I just remember the parts about DVRs and movies-on-demand. They actually explained how specific movies come to your house through the air.

Do you have any idea how many movies are bouncing all over the place right now? Nobody does. We’re covered with ‘em. Did you see “Pig Hunt”? I didn’t either. It’s about a giant pig that’s really angry. I don’t care to see it, yet that thing is bouncing off me at this very moment. Giant pig rays. There is nothing about that I like.

The spider that made that web on the dish must be full of movies. If my dish wasn’t so smart, I’d be paying for all of ‘em, too. But, when they arrive, the Dish checks ‘em out. – Hey, he didn’t order “Spring Break Massacre.” I’m not letting you girls in.” I imagine that’s how it works.

Before the Modern Marvels program ended I was practically in tears. Just made me feel completely useless. I know nothing. By the way, the top innovation was the Internet. I was blown away… by the obviousness of it.

If you watch the explanation of how the Internet works, it will give you the brain blurs. A dizzy, lost-in-a-fog sensation. It even made me lose some time. I started watching the explanation Friday evening and the next thing I know it’s Saturday morning. Kay comes down the stairs and says, “Thanks for not waking me up last night when you came to bed.” – “Uh, right. By the way, what year is it?”

But, enough of all that technical stuffs. It’s a beautiful day up here and we need to take full advantage of it. Not a cloud in the sky, just a bit of a breeze and a temperature that’s sitting on warm but leaning towards cool. It’s near noon and it’s pleasant on the roof. You can’t beat a deal like that.

Hear that? No, not the dog. That igmo has been barking since daylight. It’s the jet. I can’t see it, but I can sure hear it. We’re not near enough to an airport for a big jet to be making that much noise. Y’all keep a lookout.

Reminds me of that rocket that went off somewhere in California last week. Had a vapor trail that shot up over the water and headed to the Wherevers. At one point you could see the reflection of the object in flight. However, the military knew nothing about it. No idea. Nothing showed on radar, no reports of a launch, but they weren’t worried. Swamp gas.

They didn’t really mention swamp gas, but that used to be the common excuse. “You say it was cigar shaped, hovered over that building and then lit-out at Mach 8 straight up. Yeah, that sounds like swamp gas.”

It’s enough that we know that the powers that be are not worried about a missile that shot up from nowhere and was invisible to radar. However, they’re patting down 10 percent of all airplane passengers, and subjecting the others to a mystical disrobing ray in search of a pair of Boom of the Looms.

Speaking of flying objects, did you see that grasshopper? Some of you did. That bubba flew straight into the eave. Thump! And then glided in a stagger to the ground. Grasshoppers have big eyes don’t they? Huge things. Yet, that one rams itself right into the roof. I expect that of a June Bug. But, a grasshopper?

Maybe those huge bug eyes on a grasshopper are really its nose. It’s got a dual nose thing working for it. Can’t see squat but smells the daylights out of stuff. Kind of like frogs being able to taste with their feet. I just made that up, ‘cause I couldn’t think of a real animalistic example. Seals bark with their flippers? That one’s too obvious.

Oh, speaking of seals, when we climb down from here we all have to go play on the Jungle Gym. You’ll likely not get many more chances. Kay tells me that this is the year I’m bringing that bubba down. I was supposed to back in ’03, ‘06 and ‘07, but I just wasn’t up to it. This time it’s going to happen. Says Kay. It’s old, it’s big, and it’s dangerous. So, let’s play on it while we can.
The Jungle Gym with my cool niece Maxi on board

Hey, I didn’t say now. I said… Oh, well, it is getting late. All right. Let’s the rest of us climb down and—Well, I see Bob has already hurt himself on the Jungle Gym. Kay is not going to like that. Looks like we’ll have to play King of the Jungle Gym to see who has to take him home. First one who hits the ground has to take care of Bob. – No, wait for it. Wait! Okay, charge!!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

What? No turkey leg!

“Renaissance Festival First”

Up until last Sunday afternoon, I had never been to the Texas Renaissance Festival. And you wanna know something? I didn’t feel all that bad about it.

I’ve heard the stories. A lot of oddly dressed people, a lot of weird food and a lot of silly people who shake the porta-potty while you’re in there. I don’t care for stuff like that. I don’t need stuff like that.

For years no one cared one way or the other about my snub of The Festival… not until there was Brad. Whatta goob. For whatever reason, Montgomery County food critic Brad Meyer took my non-fan Ren Fes as a challenge. He was bound and determined to drag my buns through history, all the way back to a really bad time. Said we could critique the food. That there were no porta-potties during the Renaissance, nor were there any at the Festival. They had real restrooms. He had me at no-porta.

So, Sunday afternoon I find myself entering the media office at the RF. Brad’s got his press pass and an expensive camera around his neck. All I have is Brad. He told the lady that I was there to carry his camera while he was enjoying the rides. She thought it sweet.

I got an official visitor’s pass (saved me 20 bucks) and free program. Unfortunately, I lost the program somewhere during the walk across the 53-acre theme park. I think a wench lifted it from me during an accidental head-on. One of us wasn’t watching where he was going. Entirely too much cleavage out there.

Turns out I didn’t need a program. Brad knows everything that is Renaissance. We first caught Ded Bob’s program. No typo. He’s really Ded. He’s a skeleton puppet carried and operated by a guy named Smuj who had his face covered. If you put a bag over my head, I, too, could be a ventriloquist. As long as the puppet’s mouth didn’t have to match my words. That might be tough.

Ded Bob and Smuj

Ded was crude. And, funny. Not so much to me, but to everybody else in the audience. I apparently misplaced my laugh. I sometimes do that at awkward moments. Not the audience, though. You’d think they were one of those paid infomercial audiences. Really got into the presentation. They’d laugh at everything and do anything the puppet asked ‘em to. If he told people to scream “Rubber nails!” They’d scream it. Beat all I ever saw. I’d attempt a stand-up routine if I had half as good an audience.

I don’t know how much Ded and Smuj change the routine from year to year… nor am I likely to ever know.

Midway through the puppet routine we walked over to the jousting arena. I’ve always wanted to see a joust. Two guys on horseback at full gallop, trying to dislodge one another with giant spears. How could anyone survive such a spectacle? I didn’t get to find out, because we stopped between performances. The arena was already beginning to fill, but I don’t wait well. Don’t know if you knew that about me.

If you’re not watching a show, there’s plenty to do out there. They’ve got rides galore. While I was tempted to try out Leonardo's Catapult, I was too afraid that Brad might snap a picture of me. Not too many pictures out there of me crying, and I’d like to keep it that way.

The giant swings looked like fun. They’ve got the King’s Swings and Neptune’s Swing and Friar’s Frolic. That last one might involve a swing. I’m not sure. They’ve also got Pluck-A-Duck and Drench-A-Wench. I’m telling you, women get no respect at the Ren Fes.

If you don’t care for rides or the performances, you might enjoy just watching people. There are all kinds. I saw a 9-foot tall werewolf. A bunch of vampires. The towering ogre guy was there. Big ol’ Ogre. Lord of the Rings big.

You could toss a rock in any direction and likely hit a damsel or knight. Plenty of those out there. And, it was Halloween day, so there were also a lot of non-Renaissance looking people. I saw the Super Mario brothers and a Jedi Knight and maybe Daffy Duck. It was hard to tell. Brad even got a transvestite nurse to cozy up to me while I was eating my seafood platter. Snapped a picture he did. A ton of laughs this man.

Yes, I said seafood platter. I’m an idiot. Go to the Ren Fes and order the seafood. I let the price sway me. It was $6.50 for a couple of pieces of fish and some shrimp and chips. Straight from Sam’s freezer to the heat lamp. Even the seafood damsel couldn’t believe I ordered it. She just stood and stared at me for about three seconds before snapping out of it and handing me the plate.

It was really bad. And to top it off I’m sharing it with a transvestite. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Fortunately, I also got a roastin’ ear. You can’t mess up corn. This was some good stuff. I had it all over me. And, I wasn’t sharing.

Brad got a turkey leg. He figured one of us had to. A leg goes for seven pounds. That’s what they call their dollars. Pounds. I get it. I asked Brad how the leg was and he said, “It’s a turkey leg!” And, that’s coming from our food critic.

I’ve got to tell you, though, there is an awful lot of food out there. Some desserts that could practically call your name. “Mark. Ooooh, Maaaark.” That was a pecan pie looking thing with a giant heap of ice cream on it. If it had come up with my last name, I would’ve bought it.

Oh, and did I mention the shops. Art, jewelry, clothing, headwear, axeware, swordfare, silverware… A million shops. Maybe a billion.

I’ll bet I only saw a tenth of what all they have out there. Too much stuff. But, all good things must come to an end. And, so did my visit to the Renaissance Festival. We checked out at the Media office where we got a couple of gifts. Brad got some kind of sandwich coupon for dancing a jig. Oh, the humanity. I only had to speak in a British accent to get my dessert coupon.

Brad's Turkey leg

We got home before dark. The experience wasn’t nearly as painful as I imagined. Were I a few decades younger, I would’ve probably had fun. But, all in all, I actually feel relieved to no longer be among the ranks of those who have never been to the Ren Fes. I recommend that those of you remaining on the list try to steer clear of Brad. What I’m sayin’?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Famous track star umpires Hayter brothers

“The Flying Tiger”

I watched two of the brothers, Larry and Dennis, play softball last week at a nice county ballpark right near where Pasadena and the city limits of Clear Lake touch.

I don’t think anyone but older people could play on the fields, because it would be too confusing. You see, there are two home plates on each field. That’s so there will never be a collision at home. Home is always a forced out. It’s genius. If the catcher touches his plate before the runner steps on the other plate, the runner is out.

I’ve watched several of the brothers’ games and don’t remember ever seeing anyone thrown out at home. You didn’t hear it from me, but the reason is that a lot teams don’t have enough players, so each supplies a catcher for the other team. That means each catcher belongs to the team at bats. That’s just wrong.

Fortunately, it’s a gentleman’s game… one where the catcher generally misses the ball on a throw to home. It doesn’t seem to bother anybody. They’re pretty much out there having fun. I like that.

When Dennis came to the plate, he sent the ball into the gap in right center. There is one extra outfielder and one extra infielder in old guys slow pitch. Hard to find a gap, but when you do, you’re going to get some extra bases. Dennis managed to make it all the way home. Wee,wee,wee.

Dennis didn’t move all that fast, but neither did the fielders. And, their throws lacked distance and accuracy. The story of my life. When Dennis touched home plate, I was cheering like all get out. It wasn’t enough that I was the only person in the stands, but I was the only one in the area who was cheering. It was just a game to everyone else. Me, I was really drawing attention.

Suddenly the umpire looked up. The guy was just as thin as the proverbial rail. He could get lost in the shade of one of the backstop posts. He shielded his eyes from the sun and gave me a squinty look. “Whoa! Another brother!” he said. “You guys look just alike! Who’s the oldest?”

A lot of people think the four Hayter boys look alike. I don’t see it, but it doesn’t bother me. What does tend to irk is when people can’t rank us by age. Larry is 10 years older than I am, and Dennis three. “Which of you is the oldest?” Give me a break.

Oh, and Big Al, who wasn’t even there, is the youngest. I’ve got seven years on him, yet people still ask who’s the older. Don’t know what that tells you, but it tells me that after a certain age we all blend. None of us look as young as we do in our mind’s eye. I just hate that.

But, back to the umpire. He was a hoot. After he recognized me as one of “The Brothers” he started commenting every time Dennis or Larry came to the plate. “Okay, look out. We got another brother at the plate. Back up!”

The man could talk some trash. I don’t mean bad language or anything. He’d get after the pitcher sometimes. -- “Hey Herb, you’re gonna bring rain with that pitch. Bring that ball down!” -- And, to a base runner -- “Bob, I think you would’ve made it had you started to second base sooner. Say, around nine… last night.”

I really enjoyed the game. A lot of laughs, some decent hits, a couple of fairly good plays and no arguing. The weather was even pleasant. It was a softball miracle. – That’s what Jill says about good stuff. There is a sale in the can goods section of the grocery store, she’ll say, “Wow, it’s a cream corn miracle!” Our kid sister is a doober.

I wish she had been at the game with me. It was so much fun. I attribute much of that to the umpire. Whatta nice guy. Hard to argue with somebody who is doing his best to make the outing enjoyable. His name was Skillet. I thought I heard it wrong, so after the game I went down and talked to him a bit.

Sure enough, he was Skillet. He said his best friend gave him the name when he was growing up. Didn’t mention why. His friend died at the age of 14, so Lee thought he’d just keep the name. That was his real name, Lee Smith. He used to run track for Texas Southern University. He ran on the 440 and 880 relay teams back when Americans were still running yards instead of meters. He said that his team once held the record in the 440 relay. I was flabbergasted.

Larry and Dennis knew nothing about Lee Smith. I doubt any of the players did. They only knew Skillet. When I got home I Googled the guy. Son of gun. Lee Smith ran the third leg of the 440, handing the baton off to Jim Hines, a sprinter who was at one time considered the world’s fastest human. In the record-breaking relay, Lee matched Hines time. In 1967 they were called the TSU Flying Tigers. They were famous in the day. “Sports Illustrated” mentioned that Lee Smith was considered the team leader. I could see that.

Yet, the one time I got to see a Flying Tiger, he was umpiring a softball game for old guys. He was clowning around and enjoying the moment.

Don’t you treasure the times when you stumble onto true humility? Yes, Smith has some glory days, and he’ll tell you about ‘em if you ask. But, they don’t rule his life. Right now he appears content being known simply as a rather outgoing umpire. He sure made the game I watched a blast.

Oh, and you may be interested to know that in the bottom of the last inning with two outs, two men on and the score 14 to 12 against the brothers’ team, Larry stepped to the plate and hit one over the centerfielder’s head. I had no doubt he was going to round the bases. It was a pretty close play at the home. So close that if the catcher hadn’t bobbled the ball for a second, I’m pretty sure Larry would’ve been called out.

Final score 15-14. I was the only one who seemed to care. Well, me and the catcher.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

There's always a "Better not!"

MARK’S ARTICLE -- October 30, 2010
“Becoming one with chocolate”

Life is crammed full of “better nots.” Have you noticed that? From the time I was in diapers up till today, it’s been, “You better not do that.” and “You better not eat that.”

And, there’s little doubt that the better-not trend will continue up through the time I again find myself in diapers. Probably mid 2011.

When I was a kid, Mom always bought the worst cereal in the world. Not the second worst -- Okra Chex. But, the very worst -- Grape Nut Flakes. I’ve mentioned that a time or two, and I may continue until someone else remembers the horrors of that cereal. The second milk hit the flakes you had a bowl of gray sludge. School wasn’t bad enough; we had to eat that stuff before we caught the bus.

Mom wouldn’t get Sugar Pops or Frosted Flakes. Or any other of the four good cereals. The good cereals generally came with a prize, as if a kid needed any more incentive. But, it didn’t matter to Mom. She usually bought the same thing. “Ask the people in the Soviet Union if they would like some Grape Nut Flakes! They’re eating Okra Chex over there!”

Oh, occasionally Mom might get a box of Puffed Rice. Puffed Rice? Some genius figured out how to turn rice into air. You get hungry just eating the stuff. Mom never saw that.

There was no reasoning with moms. The old moms. Not, today’s moms. If one of today’s Moms had raised me, I would’ve turned out so much better. Every morning would’ve been a sugary, crunchy delight. But, noooo. Today’s kids don’t deserve their moms. The little weasels.

When I was a kid, every other waking thought involved something along the lines of “Boy, when I grow up, things will be so much better. I’ll eat what I want and I’ll do what I want.”

Well, I’m pretty close to grown up now, and I still can’t get, eat or do what I want. You know what kind of cereal I eat? Well, two of you do, ‘cause I’ve mentioned it. I mix Wheat Chex with Grape Nuts. Not Grape Nut Flakes! The flakes were banned in the Helsinki Treaty of ’72. Mom cried for a week.

My Chex-Nut combo isn’t bad. In fact, they’re supposed to be good for me. Not like all the sugary cereals that I prefer. But, I can’t get those ‘cause doctors say that kind of stuff is really bad for you. Nobody even knows what a grape nut is, but it’s supposed to be better for you than a Cocoa Puff! Doctors are really messin’ with us.

And, chocolate? Let’s talk chocolate. There have been only a hand full of times when I came close to eating all the chocolate I wanted. One was about six Christmas’ ago. Kay and I were in Sam’s and she let me buy one of those giant Hershey Bars. It was huge. About an inch thick, a foot wide and two or three feet long. I think they’ve been outlawed.

I didn’t eat the chocolate plank in one setting, but I came close. An inch of chocolate is hard. I don’t know if you knew that. I about broke my teeth on that thing. There for a day or two I thought I might O.D. -- “Mrs. Hayter, I’ve never seen anything like it. He was chocolated to death. Didn’t look like he suffered much, though.”

Other than the Hershey bar episode I had a run-in with one of those Sam-sized bags of M&Ms. Peanut M&Ms. Is there any other kind? That night I became one with that bag. Kay found me the next morning lying in the backyard on the Jungle Gym. I had not idea how I got there.

That’s the way it’s been. Instead of buying a little bit of chocolate and keeping it on hand. I buy a bunch about once a year and go on a binge. Hey, it’s how I cope.

Take Pie in the Sky. The time Brad Meyer and I visited, I actually ordered dessert. I wasn’t going to, but we were in a PIE PLACE. I thought I mentioned that. So much to choose from. I chose Chocolate Peanut Butter pie. It was so good I wept. If there is pie in heaven – and I can’t imagine heaven without pie – I want the chocolate peanut butter just like at Pie in the Sky. If you end up in purgatory, I think they only have mincemeat. No crust. I’m just guessing here.

I haven’t had any chocolate since the Sky Pie visit. Sure, I could get it if I wanted, but I better not. See? Even as an adult, there are so many restrictions. And, not just in food.

Last weekend Kay took me to Penney’s to get me some clothes. She does that now again. We get ready to go somewhere and she takes one look at me and says, “We’ve gotta get you some new clothes.” It’s weird.

So, we’re in JC’s where we walk past a whole array of neat men toys. One was a ping-pong set. It had a net, paddles… and I don’t remember what else. I just remember that it said you could hook the net up to any table. ANY table. I’ve got an any table! A big one in the dining room.

I caught up with Kay and dragged her buns back to the ping-pong set. It was only $10, maybe $15. Price was not the deal buster. When I explained that we could play ping-pong on the dining room table, Kay told me she had two words for me. “China cabinet.” Oh, and she added two more. “No way.”

So, there you have it. I’m grown. In fact, I’m past grown. I’m in the state of negative growth. Yet, during the entire growing process, I’ve been unable to do, buy or eat whatever I want.

And, here’s the rub. It’s not a matter of someone forcibly keeping me from doing or getting what I want. It’s me trying to be responsible. I’ve met the enemy and it be me. Oh, and Kay. I forgot to count her. It’s not fair. Nothing fair about it.

Life? There’s always something. And, then you’re in diapers… again. I’m thinking mid-July.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

October 24, 2010 Hayter Hints

“A tip on pens and pencils”

I’ve had some Glad Wrap in the freezer now for a couple of hours. Kathy, a helpful hint friend of ours, said that you should keep your Saran Wrap in the freezer. I use Glad Wrap, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing. A see-through wrap that marries everything but what you’re trying to wrap?

Sticking it in the freezer is supposed to make it come off the roll so much better. It won’t fight you or anything. Kathy read that somewhere. Near the end of this I’ll go check.

I hope it works ‘cause Saran Wrap is the number three cause of profanity by people who don’t usually curse. Not sure you knew that. Some university did a study. Bucknell. If you don’t believe it, go wet a dishcloth, throw it in a pie pan and then try to wrap it. I’ll give you a few minutes. – Let’s go on. They’re not coming back.

Kathy thought up the freezer idea after it was mentioned that I was going to write a helpful hint article, along the lines of Heloise. Heloise and I are old friends. Well that’s a lie. Yes, we’ve exchanged e-mails twice and talked on the phone once. Other than that, she couldn’t pick me out of a lineup. I could pick her out. Unless she colored her hair.

I’ve written a couple of Heloisesque articles before. I started them off with some super obvious hints that fans have shared with her. Stuff like check your shopping cart to make sure you didn’t leave anything in it. It’s genius. I usually close my eyes and guess how many bags I’ve got.

Anyway, I was going to mention a few obvious hints, and then give some of my own. But, Kathy had to share a legitimate hint with me. Well, a little later we’ll see how legitimate. Right now I need to give you a few of my hints. Stuff Heloise probably wouldn’t care to share. Again, we’re not really that close.

I’ll start with my second most valuable hint. Do you ever get upset because you can’t find a pen or pencil while talking on the phone, or making a grocery list? Are you thinking of purchasing a few dozen of something that writes? Well don’t.

Here’s what do. Take a large coffee mug and set it on a cabinet somewhere. Put in one pen and one pencil, and then walk away. Don’t pay any attention to it for, oh, about a month. Then go over there and check it out. That mug is going to be full of pens and pencils. They’ll be wedged so tight you’ll need to wear eye protection to grab one.

I don’t know how that works, but one pen and one pencil attract stuff like you wouldn’t believe. You’ll have paperclips at the bottom and pennies and screws that don’t go to anything. You’ll have so much stuff that you’ll have to seed another mug in another part of the house. This year, I’ve grown three mugs full of pens and whatsits.

The only drawback is that any time you need a pen every one that you grab is terrible. And, every pencil has a broken lead. The house nymphs that put ‘em there really like to mess with you. Speaking of which, while you can grow pens and pencils, you cannot grow reading glasses. I’ve bought about 30 pair in the last two years. I can now find only two. If I put those two in a giant coffee mug, then leave the room and return an hour later, they’ll both be gone. It’s spooky.

Another almost as valuable hint has to do with putting a wastebasket in the corner of the dining room… or wherever you eat. Kay and I have started eating in the dining room. We used to eat in the living room while watching the news. Now we sit at the table and talk while eating. Quality time it’s called. Quality time without a remote control? It’s a paradox. Para-something.

In order to better appreciate the “quality” time, I placed a wastebasket directly behind Kay. This way I can wad up my napkins and s hoot ‘em at basket from where I’m seated. I go through a lot of napkins during a meal.

If I sink a shot, I make the basket sign like the ref does in a game. Two fingers pointing down from a raised hand. I’ve made mealtime – funtime.

Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that my food has been digesting so much better. A study at Bucknell revealed that tossing stuff at the garbage will add 26 minutes to the average adult’s life. It will, unfortunately, sap 6 hours from a spouse’s life span. I don’t think they know what they’re talking about. Bucknell Bisons, my buns.

My best hint involves something you shouldn’t do. So, just stop it. It involves hiding stuff from company. It’s necessary to do that, but you need to give it less thought. If I’ve got family coming over for the weekend, I find a place to hide the good stuff. You know, can of cashews, peanut M&Ms, Cheetos... My valuables.

I think up a bizarre place where no one would think to look. I come from a tricky family. I think there’s a double agent or two in there. Problem is, two days after everyone has left, I can’t find my stash. Don’t remember the bizarre place. It was too bizarre. Let me tell you that there are some serious snacks hidden in some funky places around this house. And, one day, they’re gonna show.

Oops, I see it’s time for me to reveal the frozen Glad Wrap findings. This is for you, Kathy. Wait here and I’ll be right back. Seriously, I’ll return. Hum something. No not that. – All right, are you seated. Frozen Glad Wrap rolls out great. But, like body temperature Glad Wrap, it doesn’t like to tear off.

By the time, I got my frozen sheet torn, it had thawed and fought me like a bad dog. I almost became a potty mouth. Almost. I think it will actually work, but only if you climb into the freezer with the roll and shut the door. We’ll save that for another time.

Right now, I’m going on a treasure hunt. And, if successful, I’m coming back with cashew breath. It oughtta be a cologne.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

“Cornell vs Bucknell… why?”

ROOFTOP – “Memory. All alone in the moonlight, I can smile at the old days,
I was—“ Oops, sorry about that. There’s not a moon out tonight and I’m not cat, but that just seems like a song for now.

I can sing louder, but it’ll wake up the dogs in the neighborhood. The least little thing. My voice isn’t all that bad, is it? I say my singing voice isn’t—Thank you. That seemed forced, but I’ll take it, Brenda.

I was asked to take choir in elementary school. Did you know that? Yes, Mrs. Page recognized that I could sing. She wanted me bad. But, I never took choir at any time in school. For one reason, I knew I’d have to learn to read music. I couldn’t do that. Makes no sense. You’ve got your flats and eighth notes and treble clefs. “Class, we’ll do this one in C sharp!” Give me a break.

The main reason I have an untrained voice is because I didn’t want to have to wear a sissy choir robe. The choir always sang at the Christmas assembly, and I hated the thought of standing out there in a robe. And, the teacher would make me do a solo ‘cause my voice is so great and – What? One of you keeps mumbling and it’s most irritating.

I would look like the poor sap on the left.

Anyway, it would’ve been embarrassing for the guys on the football team to see me. They would’ve made fun. If you ever watch “Glee” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Isn’t it weird how just one thing… or one fear in life can keep you from taking a chance. If I could go back, I would join the choir and become the singing defensive safety. – “Coach, that defensive back over there keeps singing ‘Who’ll stop the rain?’ He’s freaking me out.” – “Oh, Number 11? He’s the singing safety. Next time you’re out there, see if he’ll sing some John Denver.”

I’ll probably dream something like that tonight. If it’s weird enough, I’ll dream it. Speaking of weird has nothing to do with Jill’s visit last weekend. My kid sister was a bit down. One of those, -- “Are you, okay, Sis?” – “Yeah, I’m just… I don’t know.” -- You ever get like that? Can’t explain why, but you’re seeing things through a fog of the blues.

Jill and I usually experience the same stuff. Except kidney stones. She’s never had ‘em. And, I’ve never had a child. But, I’ve been one. -- Beg pardon? More mumbling.

Anyway, Jill was feeling down, so it was my job to perk her up. It’s what I do. I should’ve dragged her buns up here, but didn’t think of it. No, I decided to use football to cheer her up. Saturdays during football season are the best, Jerry. Unfortunately, Jill hates to watch football, but that’s because she seldom watches it with me.

I tape all the games with my DVR and fast forward through the parts where no one is running. I can watch a three-hour game in 20 minutes. Yes, I know the game clock runs for about an hour, but a lot of that time is spent in the huddle or getting up off the ground. I don’t care to watch stuff like that.

Watching the games in fast-fast motion wasn’t doing it for Jill, so I tried something else. I thought I’d create some competition between us. Hayters love to compete. I hit the guide button on the remote and looked for games in progress. I was looking for teams that were unfamiliar to me. Found one right off the bat. Cornell was playing Bucknell. I don’t know why. But, more of a mystery was why did a network exec think that the game should be nationally televised?

I told Jill the school names and told her that we were both to guess the school colors of each team. Doesn’t that sound exciting? I said, doesn’t—Thanks, again, Brenda. Jill guessed that Cornell’s colors were blue and yellow. I was freaked, ‘cause I guessed the same thing. We’re not even twins.

Jill guessed that Bucknell’s colors were brown. When I told her that she only came up with one color, she said that’s all Bucknell has. She was really taking a gamble on this one. I guessed red and black. Had a vision.

So, I then turned to the game. You could’ve knocked me over with an I-beam. Cornell’s colors are red and white. We weren’t even close. Bucknell has more than one color and it sure isn’t brown. They’re navy blue and orange. All the good colors were taken.

I intended for us to also guess the mascots and the location of each college, but Jill just wasn’t into it. I can tell stuff like that. We watched the game for only a few minutes, because it wasn’t taped. The stadium was small and the crowd was no bigger than what you’d expect to turn out for a game between The Woodlands and Conroe. A decent crowd for a high school game, but surely not for college.

After a minute or two, I turned the TV off and we talked. I don’t think I cheered her up much at all. -- “I’m okay, Moke.” -- Jill calls me Moke. I asked her if it had anything to do with Lynda? Our big sister passed away with Alzheimer’s a few years ago almost to the day. Jill said it had nothing to do with that, but thanked me for bringing it to her attention. I ended up giving myself the glums. Jill helped, though.

To tell the truth, that’s really why I climbed up here tonight. Wanted to see if the night sky would perk me up. And, the first thing I do is start singing one of the saddest songs around. “Memory.” You know the part of the song I was coming to? It’s “I remember the time I knew what happiness was…”

And, I do. Thing is, we could never know happiness unless we experienced the down moments. Might say that the glums are a gift. I didn’t mention that to Jill, because I just now thought of it. That’s the beauty of coming to the rooftop.

On that note, I will now finish the “Memory” song for you. -- Hey, wait! No running on the roof! -- Well, that’s just rude.

“Touch me, it’s so easy to leave me, all alone with…“


To catch Mark and Brad’s Vietnamese restaurant review, go to YouTube and type in Mark Hayter Van Thong. -

Thursday, October 7, 2010

“Venting at an oil change”

Doesn’t it feel good after you get your oil changed? There is a sense that your car feels better and is happy and is eager to go. I like my car to feel that way.

Of course, most of the sense of joy comes from the realization that I won’t have to do that again for a few months. I hate to take care of car stuff. Unfortunately, somebody’s got to do it. Car maintenance didn’t make it onto Kay’s job description. I got all the car stuff. She got ironing clothes and sewing on buttons. Fair tradeoff? I don’t think so.

I used to change the oil myself, but now I let the dealership do it. I’ve mentioned to you that one of my ex-students is a service rep at the dealership. One honest kid, that Troy. He’s even talked me out of doing stuff to the car. “It’s still got a couple years wear, Mr. Hayter.” If the guy told me I needed to change my dweetbottle gage, I’d do it. It’s so nice to trust your service department.

When I have the car serviced, I always bring a book along to read. This time I brought a book written by Robert Parker, one of my favorite Western writers. The book is about Wyatt Earp. I didn’t realize that when I picked it up at the used bookstore. I like Wyatt Earp. He’s like a friend of mine. But enough is enough. There are millions of characters in print I’ve yet to read about. I need to quit Earp.

So, I closed the book, picked up my assigned service beeper and went to look at the new cars in the showroom. If you carry a service beeper with you onto the showroom floor, most salesmen leave you alone. I held mine in front of my chest as I roamed the room.

While studying the window sticker of a Corolla I was a bit startled by a guy who crawled out of the front seat of one of those Toyota Jeep looking things. They call ‘em FJ Cruisers. Probably stands for something.

I was tempted to say something cute like, “That’s one quiet vehicle. I barely heard you drive up.” But the guy looked almost sophisticated. He was a little older than me and looked a whole lot wiser. Some people just carry themselves that way.

I ended up saying, “Looks like a formidable vehicle.” He smiled back. He knew someone who owned an FJ. The only thing bad he had to say about it was the gas mileage. Something to do with it being a heavy, four-wheel drive vehicle.

At this point I was ready to walk over and inspect the Camry, but the gentleman took the conversation up a notch. We were both killing time, so what the hey.

He started discussing fuel efficiency. He doesn’t think electric cars are the answer to the Country’s fuel problems. Not enough power. And, not enough electrical power plants to keep the things recharged.

No, we need to start taking advantage of natural gas. We’ve got more of the stuff in Alaska than we know what to do with. We keep pumping it out and then pumping it back in. I had no idea what that meant, but I smiled like I did.

And it’s safe, too. Not many people realize that when natural gas is liquefied it’s one of the safest of all fuels. You’ve gotta get it real cold to keep it liquid. Once you get it there, it’s safe as can be.

I was gonna let that go, but I just had to mention that most things are safe when they’re cold and contained. It’s when they have a leak that all heck breaks loose. The man didn’t argue or take a swing at me. He just nodded and said, “Yes, that’s true.” I like it when people don’t get mad when I question something.

After that he moved the conversation on to The Economy. The man recently sold a business that employed thousands of workers. He obviously knew about the workings of The Economy. Concerning the nation’s financial situation, he said that Ronald Reagan was our last great President.

When I’m standing in a car dealership in Conroe, I’m not stupid enough to question the greatness of Ronald Reagan. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Truth is, every president we ever had was responsible for some good stuff happening as well as some bad stuff. And, each had good stuff happen IN SPITE of his efforts as well as bad stuff.

I didn’t say any of that to the man. I just thought it. The man went on to say that the problem with this country is that there are no term limits. Nobody should serve more than two terms. And, we need to elect people who have no political experience. We don’t need politicians making our political decisions for us. He put it in smarter sounding words, but that’s what it meant.

While I was smiling, I was thinking “Elect people with no knowledge of politics to run a political institution. And, get ‘em out of office quick so they don’t have time to really mess things up.” Ingenious? Or lunacy? There’s a fine line sometimes.

The man then said that—“Excuse me, sir, but we need to talk.” That’s what the service manager said to the guy before he could say what he was gonna say. Completely ended the discourse.

But, the man was polite as could be. He smiled and thanked me for the discussion (the listen) and then walked off with the manager.

During the visit, I heard no easy answers to anything. And, I shared few thoughts of my own. The only thing I accomplished was letting someone vent. I’ve found that if you can do that, you’ve pretty well done all you can do.

Everyone just needs to vent. It won’t change the economic, political or ecological landscape, but it’ll make you feel good. Make you think that at least one person has the answers. That’s a great feeling.

Me? All it takes is an oil change. Life is good when I get that thing behind me.


To view Brad and Mark’s latest restaurant review, click on the photo of the two goobers.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love that fall

October 3, 2010

“How about a topic change?”

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like fall. Oh, I don’t go around blabbing about it, but if you asked which season I liked best I’d hafta say that I’m a fan of the autumnal. I like to say it, too. “ Fan of the autumnal.” Cool.

If I felt better, I’d be sitting in my canvas lawn chair, atop the roof, looking down on the beginning of fall. Of course, the entire world isn’t experiencing fall right now. You understand that, don’t you? Down south they’re springing forward. I’m not crazy about spring. Especially spring in Papua New Guinea. That’s another one of those words that is fun to say. Papua. I don’t care to go there, but I like to say it.

Truth is, I don’t care to go anywhere right now. I don’t feel well. Did I not say that earlier? If you wanna know why, you’ll need to flip your hamster to the side and pull out last week’s article. Buckles won’t care. He only reads the headlines. Those face-up.

If you find the article, you will see that last week I mentioned kidney stones. That’s what’s keeping me down on the ground at the moment. I had the stones crushed last week, but I don’t think they were crushed enough. You could resurface a logging road with some of the stuff I’ve been passing. Puts me in a bad mood.

I didn’t feel real bad when I left the hospital. The nurse asked how much pain I was experiencing, from one to ten. I hate that question. Pain is so relative. Compared to a thumb under a sledgehammer, I was a one. I told her three. I thought it more of a five, but didn’t want her to think I was a wimp.

That’s the problem with giving a number for pain. If you were in the hospital waiting for a pain pill, you’d tell anybody who asked that you were a 10. But, nurses expect you to exaggerate pain, so it means little to them. That punishes the honest among us. -- “Oh, I’m in agony here, so I’d say I’m a eight.” If you say something like that to a nurse, you’re not getting a pill till two hours after the Jello crawls off. No, we’re conditioned to lie about pain.

Right now, I really am a three. I have nothing to lie about. I’m not in pain as much as I’m uncomfortable. Can’t sit still. One discomfort is the sense that I have to, uh… make water. That’s what Morgan Freeman called it in “Driving Miss Daisy.” For some reason kidney stones make you feel as if you always have to go to the restroom, only you don’t. Well, not a lot.

You wanna know what’s weird? I’m gonna tell you anyway. The doctor actually gave me a pill to make me feel less like I have to go to the restroom. Hey, I can’t make this stuff up! Some scientist somewhere – I’m thinking in Wisconsin – decided to spend his life finding a drug that would make people feel like they don’t need to go when they actually might.

Does the pill work? I don’t know. I’m too scared to find out. There’s just something wrong about tricking your body into thinking it doesn’t have to go to the restroom. Just is.

Right now I need somebody to change the subject. In fact, I wish you had done it a couple of minutes ago. I never wanted to talk about kidney stones, but you kept dragging me back in. So, stop it. I started out talking about fall, and that’s where we’re returning. Oh, yes we are.

Fall. Autumn. Autumnal time. I like it. Why you ask? Well for one thing, I like the feel of it. It can be hot as everything, but you can tell there’s some weird sensation lurking around, making you less miserable. Maybe even making you a tad hopeful.

For me, part of the hope comes from the realization that football is here, basketball is gone and baseball will eventually end. It just has to.

Okay, who mentioned lawn mowing? I thought I heard one of you. Well, mowing is another reason to favor fall. My yard has about two more mows in it before I put the mower into hibernation. The contraption has been anticipating hibernation since late July. That’s when it started making a whining sound after the first couple of pulls. Maybe it was me.

Oh, and don’t forget the leaves. They’ll all be turning brown and letting loose some time in late January. Up north the trees actually turn colors before they drop. A few of you may remember that Kay and I took a trip to New England last year about this time to see the fall foliage. Well, one of you remembers. Kay and I visited New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

And, you wanna know something? All three of those states want us back. Mostly New Hampshire -- pronounced New Hampshuh. We get about three e-mails a day from businesses in the Granite State. I get five from Dardon Ann, but she just sends stupid stuff. These New Hampshire people are sending neat pretty stuff meant to encourage us to retrip.

That’s not happening. Been my experience return trips are disappointments. Kay and I went to Epcot a bunch of years back. Had a great time. We returned 10 years later, and were really disappointed. The shock and awe was gone. There’s something to say for shock and awe. The good kind. Hard to win back that first time feeling.

Of course, right now, it’d be hard to win any kind of good feeling back for me. Just don’t feel well. I’m beginning to feel like a four. Yep, there it is. I’m now a four. I’ve got the discomfort working for me with a hint of pain. Maybe a 4.2. – Tell you what, next time let’s talk about something else. In fact, if I bring up kidney stones, one of you has to change the subject. I don’t care who. Whom. Just do it. Do it! – I’m sorry, I get a little testy when I’m a four.

To watch Brad and Mark’s latest restaurant review go to YouTube and type in Mark Hayter Grotto. You can contact Mark at

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm so much better now

“The Incredible Hunk”

By the time you read this, three things are going to be true that aren’t true now… assuming I don’t eat one of those poisonous porcupine fish or swim in a lava lake or fall backwards off the jungle gym. I like to allow for the implausible. Too few people do that.

The first of the three things has to do with teeth. Not yours. I only marginally care about your teeth. – Oops. Change “only marginally” to “don’t.” – Hey, I’m funnin’ with you. I love what you’ve done with your teeth. But, let’s get back to mine.

I’m gonna get a bridge replaced and a cracked molar fixed. Oh, and I’m getting my teeth cleaned. I’m not sure all of that has been done in one day. The dentist and Mark are gonna be really close for the first half of the day. I’ll probably hafta take him out to lunch. Some soup place.

I’ve got the best dentist in the world. I’d tell you Dr. English’s name, but I’d just as soon he not get any more business. The guy needs time for me. You can’t overestimate the importance of your teeth. Well, I suppose you could. If you were a science fiction writer or something, you might.

The reason I’m having a rebridge and cracked tooth fixed is because I grind my teeth. Mostly at night. I don’t notice it all that much during the day. I wiggle my foot a lot during the day, but I don’t think my teeth are doing anything extra.

My dentist made me a mouth guard to prevent me from ruining my teeth at night. I guess it helps. If I forget to wear it, I’ll occasionally bite my tongue in the middle of the night. If you think waking up to an alarm clock is disturbing, try biting your tongue. Well, that’s improbable isn’t it? If you’re trying to bite your tongue, you’re likely not asleep, so why wake yourself? No, your teeth have got to covertly lure your tongue into a sense of calm before they can bite it. My teeth are real tricksters. My tongue? Just as gullible as it can be.

An early picture of me grinding my teeth.

My new bridge is supposed to be metal. My last one wasn’t. I chewed the daylights out of it. This metal bridge will take a hit. Or a grind. I doubt I’ll go back to eating corn nuts, but it’s enough to know that I could.

The day after my teeth job, I’m having my kidney stones crushed. I’ve got two of ‘em. The one in my right kidney is the size of a small pony. The one in my left is more like a golf ball. A prickly golf ball. They use ‘em in Australia.

This is a photo of the stone in my right kidney.

I’ve had the two stones for over a year. My stone doc has been keeping an eye on ‘em. His left one. They haven’t been hurting me till recently. I suppose it’s because they’re too big to try to escape. It’s the escape that’ll get you every time.
The stone in the left kidney.

I really don’t know what the stones are up to, but they’ve definitely changed their routine. The pony stone keeps kicking my side and messing with my lower back. The golf ball just gives me a quick punch.

The only good thing good about ‘em is the exercise. I can’t. If I start stooping, squatting, raising up and laying back down, those stones are gonna try to make a run for it. I can’t let ‘em try. There’s no room. Are you reading me here? They can’t get out!

I’m sorry. Stones really alter my mood. I don’t know why that is. Your kidneys do something with your brain. Take my word. Just wish I could get the stones near my new metal bridge… when I get it.

I guess, there’s no need, ‘cause the stones should be shattered in a couple of days. That’s when they get lithotripsied. Lithotripsy involves shooting sound waves at your kidney stones. You’re lying on a waterbed kind of contraption while sound waves hammer at you. They don’t mess up anything but the stones. The sound waves can crush stone, but they won’t mess with body tissue.

Do you believe that? I’m about as gullible as my tongue, but I’m having trouble swallowing that. For one thing, I don’t believe it is sound waves that they’re shooting at your kidneys. You scratch this thing and you’re gonna uncover gamma rays. Undiluted, massively amplified gamma rays. The kind that are liable to make me grow out of my shirt, but not my pants, and turn me into the Incredible Hunk. Of course, I’ll hafta get mad before the change hits. Or excited. Maybe both. I don’t remember the last time I got excited. Mad, not so hard for me.

Finally, after the teeth are fixed and the stones shattered I have my yearly physical. All three of these appointments just fell in the same week. Dr. Strickland, my family doctor, is another super nice guy and just as smart as can be. He knows all about me, and still doesn’t mind fixing me up.

I suppose my kidney stone doc is nice too, but I just have trouble feeling an affinity for a guy who has done to me what he has. If anyone even snaps a rubber band around me I immediately cry and assume the fetal position.

While I dread the yearly physical, it shouldn’t be all that bad. I just hate the weighing part. Last year Doc S told me to exercise and lose some weight. I told him “Sure thing!” Hey, I wasn’t gonna see him for another year. Figured I might eat porcupine fish between then and now. If not I’d diet and exercise a couple of weeks before the physical.

The last few weeks I have been cutting down on my food intake. I would exercise, but— Do you remember why I can’t exercise? Just seeing if you were paying attention. No, Dr. S is gonna see the same ol’ Mark. A bit over weight and very much unfit.

He doesn’t try to shame me, though, but I can see the disappointment in his eyes. I almost wish the stone in my right kidney was as big as it feels. If, after the lithotripsy I lose the weight of a small pony, I’ll get a great report. – “Mark, you’ve got to get some nourishment. Chocolate! More, chocolate! And, no more exercise. It’s killin’ you!”

That’s always been a dream of mine. Probably why I bite my tongue while I’m sleeping.


To see Brad and Mark’s review of The Toasted Yolk, click below.