Thursday, February 25, 2010

A gift from the French

MARK’S ARTICLE – February 25, 2010
“Pinch me”

ROOFTOP – “I’m gonna wash that car!” – “Whatcha gonna do?” – “I’m gonna wash that car!” – “Whatcha…” Oh, I’m sorry. I was making up a song while waiting for you. Nothing short of cool, I’m thinking.

And, no, I can’t see me washing the car today, even though we do have a window of opportunity. Don’t know that I’ve seen a sky any bluer than this one. Makes the buzzards circling overhead really stand out. Buzzards? That can’t be good.

Of course, by the time the readers at ground level get this, the window of opportunity to wash the car will have slammed shut. Too much rain.

No worry. Like I say, the car is not getting washed, regardless. It’s too cold. My hand would freeze to the nozzle. Last time it did that, Kay wouldn’t even let me use her armpit to unfreeze me. Love has its limits.

How do you like the jacket? It’s the black wool thing that I got two Christmases back. I love wool jackets, even though they tend to scratch my neck. I can make a friend out of a wool jacket. Harder to do with other materials. I had the sleeves taken up a couple months back. Cost me about as much as the jacket did, but it was worth it. Here, hold my coffee, while I stretch my arms out. See? Fits great.

Uh, my coffee? Thanks. I brewed it a few minutes ago in my new French Press coffeemaker. Kay got it for me for Valentines. She’s an absolute doll.

If you’re not familiar, a French press looks like a small, see-through R2D2, with no wheels, one arm, and a plunger coming out the top of its head. The first time I had coffee from a French Press was at this snazzy place called the Cru Wine Bar in The Woodlands. I went there once with Brad Meyer the food critic guy.

Just before my meal, the waitress brought my coffee to the table in a French Press. She pushed the plunger thing down and then poured the coffee into a warmed cup. She even warmed the cream! How good is that? I felt almost special.

After my meal, she asked if I wanted more coffee. Does ice cream covet hot fudge? She did the whole thing again. It was the best, Jerry! Pressed coffee is the smoothiest. Yeah, that’s the word, smoothiest.

After that, I was in Starbucks one afternoon when the girl said they didn’t brew coffee in the early afternoon. I just stared at her. My world turned upside down. She thought a second and then said she could make some from me in a French Press. Said she enjoyed doing it. I came out of my stupor long enough to scream, “Do it! Do iiiit!

It was terrific. So much smoothier. The antithesis of Starbucks coffee. The girl said she’d be glad to French Press me any time. I’m going to ask if I can push the plunger next time. Pretty sure she won’t let me. She did seem to enjoy it.

Anyway, I told Kay about the experience, oh, maybe 50 times. So, Valentines rolls around, and she gives me a press. Weird, ‘cause we don’t usually give anything but cards on Valentines. Maybe go out to eat the day before. We went crazy this time.

Oh, and she also bought me this plastic Venti-sized Starbucks cup with a lid. Venti means “The biggest” when you’re referring to a cup. When you’re not talking about coffee cups, I believe it’s something Julius Caesar said. Vinti, grande, tall. I’m thinking he had just taken the mountains of Colombia. That’s where the best coffee is.

Beg pardon? Oh, I got Kay a blouse for Valentines Day. I was looking to get her a pair of bajamas, which some people mistakenly call “pajamas.” I remember the correct word ‘cause it’s the same as the name of the chain of islands close to Florida.

I couldn’t find any bajamas in wool, so I got her the blouse. She didn’t like it much. I could tell. She was cool with it, though. Didn’t even act disappointed. Like she expected… Uh, doesn’t matter.

Kay also got me a Valentine that says she likes me even better than when we first got married. Isn’t that something? I didn’t think anybody could like me more after they got to know me. After awhile the warts start showing. The same lousy comments keep surfacing. Eventually it’s “Okay, Mark. That’s about enough. I’ve gotta go wash the car.”

Not with Kay. She not only isn’t going to wash the car, she’s sticking with me for forever. That’s what her card said. For forever. I wrote something pretty sweet, too, but hers was the best.

So, here I am sitting on the roof on a beautiful day, sipping my French Pressed coffee out of my insulated Starbucks-like cup, while down there at ground level is a girl who loves me even more than she used to. And, get this. I’m not even gonna wash the car. Somebody pinch me.


Thursday, February 18, 2010


MARK’S ARTICLE – February 18, 2010
“Body Language”

There’s a directory going around that lists the names and e-mail addresses of people who write for newspapers and such. There’s bound to be, ‘cause I keep getting a bunch of press releases concerning everything from a Minneapolis museum opening to the invention of a spit-driven pepper mill. Why else would I get stuff like that?

There is going to be a D-Cinema Festival in Kawaguchi, Japan this July. Thought I’d share that with you. I know what “cinema” and “festival” mean. I assume the person who forwarded this to me thought I knew what the “D” meant. We all know what can happen when you assume.

Due to a proposed video project, I’ve started eating out with Montgomery County’s restaurant reviewer Brad Meyer. You might’ve noticed. Since then, I’ve been getting press releases from all over the place about culinary happenings. Did you know there’s a Culinary World Summit in Halifax coming up? Someone thought I should be aware of it. Someone who doesn’t have the foggiest of what an unsophisticated goober I am.

That said, if Brad can get someone to pay my way, I’ll be there. Don’t care if he goes or not. I’ll take notes and let him write the thing up.

Fortunately, not everything I’ve received has been useless info. The whole intro has just been a buildup for the book I just bought on Amazon. Seems I got a press release from Gregory Hartley’s agent. I had never heard of him either. The release mentioned a book he had written with the help of a Maryann Karinch (no idea.) titled “The Body Language Handbook: How to read everyone’s hidden thoughts and intentions.”

The e-mail encouraged me to call Greg and interview him about his book. While in the U.S. army, the guy apparently taught a course in interrogation and resistance to interrogation. I e-mailed back that I’d like to have Greg appear on a Rooftop episode with Big Al and me. His agent responded that Greg lives in Atlanta. I took that to mean that I’d hafta fly his buns out here and put him up somewhere. If I don’t have money to get myself to Halifax, I’m sure not gonna fly Greg over for a visit. Read this body language.

But, I will read his book. Haven’t gotten very far, yet. Just got it yesterday. I bought the thing ‘cause I’ve been getting more and more confused by what people tell me. I think I need to be able to read them to see what they really mean. Like “The Mentalist.” That guy is great. Kay especially likes him. He could put on a show about how to paint doorknobs and Kay would watch.

The Mentalist knows when you’re lying or scared or worried, but don’t want anyone to know. He reads body language and voice inflec-- uh, tone, I guess.

I’d like to be able to do stuff like that. Not to show-off or anything, though I’m sure I would. But, I’d genuinely like to know what people really mean when they’re talking to me. After an audition I’ll hear, “Fantastic! You blew us away! I’ll call you tonight.” That usually means, “You stink on ice. I think you actually hurt my retinas.” You can never trust people in the acting business. I’d like to be able to read ‘em right off, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

If this book works, I’ll be able to take everything at body value and not word value. The body says a bunch… according to Greg. You ladies may not realize that when a guy folds his hands in front of him, in a fig leaf sort of way, that means he’s under stress. Men know that, ‘cause we’re smart like everything. I do the fig leaf pose every time one of the brothers enters a room with a rolled up newspaper. Believe I’ve mentioned that.
When a lady folds her arms across her chest while talking to you, she may be annoyed and want to put distance between the both of you. I usually just use a book or pillow or chair. Just kind of shove it out there. But, folded arms will do in a pinch.

By the way, my attitude is one of a defeatist. I know that ‘cause I stand in a constant slump with my shoulders drooped. Greg and Maryann say I do that ‘cause I’m defeated. I think it’s just ‘cause I’ve got lousy posture… possibly brought on by defeatism.

Oh well, I didn’t buy the book to find out about me. I know me. No, I got it so I could read other people. Like the Mentalist does. Of course, I’m pretty sure that Kay doesn’t care one way or the other if I can read people. She’d just like me to look like the Mentalist. She hasn’t said it, but even without a book, I can pick up on things like that. It’s a gift.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Order anything you want

Hayter family eating with Oklahoma kinfolk. This was BA. (Before Al)

MARK’S ARTICLE – February 15, 2010

"No pie for you"

I just got off the phone with Dennis. Nothing earth shattering. He couldn’t read what he wrote down for our sister Sue’s phone number, and wanted to know what I had. I was his third call… the first person he caught home.

I learned a couple of things from the phone call. First of all, I found out that in an emergency I’m the third person Dennis would call. That kind of hurts. -- Wait a minute. -- Okay, I’m over it.

The other thing I learned was that Dennis and Dardon Ann ate supper out yesterday. I don’t remember where. (And I just took the call. I’m worrying myself.) Fortunately, Dennis didn’t tell me what he ordered, ‘cause we’re not that old… yet. -- "Then I got the peas. No, it was the beans. The limer beans. Somethin’ green." -- When that starts happenin’, just shoot us. Dennis first.

One thing that Dennis did tell me had to do with a guy who brought his entire family to the restaurant. Must’ve been eight kids and his wife. They all ordered whatever they wanted, and the dad paid. Probably about $150.

That started the big conversation about when we were kids. Doesn’t take much to start that conversation. You can count on one hand the times Dad took us all out to eat. Never took us anywhere fancy. Wyatts Cafeteria was the only place I recall.

I don’t ever remember Mom standing there in line and telling us what to get. We just understood that we were to ask for the cheapest stuff. "Yes, young man? The chicken fried mystery product? What else for you?"

Once I did ask Mom if I could get pie for dessert. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was coconut cream, icebox pie and it called to me. Then Mom called to me. --"Are you outta your ever lovin’ mind? You touch that pie and you’ll set off a chain reaction that will start with Dennis and stop down there at li’l Al, and it’ll end up sending us all to the poor house! ‘Can I have a piece of pie?’ Idiots! I’ve birthed idiots!" -- Mom didn’t say it exactly like that, but that’s what I heard.

These are the people who woulda wanted pie. Too many kids. Too much pie.

I can remember only one time in my life when I was allowed to order anything I wanted. I was about 10 and Dennis 13. We were in Florida with Dad and Larry and Grandma Pearl. Pearl was the rich grandma. The stuff of scandal.

Grandma took us to a foreign restaurant. Spanish, French, Romanian…? Who can remember? Dad said we could order anything off the menu, ‘cause Grandma was buying. He didn’t say that in front of grandma, of course.

It was the first time Dennis or I had seen a menu that was more than a page. The only thing I recognized was the fried chicken, so we both ordered it. When the waiter took our order, Dad was all over us. "Here you are in a fancy French or Romanian restaurant, and you order fried chicken! What’s wrong with you two?"

Grandma got after Dad for yelling at us, but we still felt like clods. We couldn’t even order a meal right. We’d played the "eating-out game" and lost. Mom was so right.

Dad was right, too. When at a Romanian restaurant, never order the fried chicken. Maybe since the Iron Curtain came down they’ve improved a bit. But, back in the day, they cooked a vile bird.

Well, that story is what Dennis and I kicked around for a few minutes. Probably the 68th retelling. Before Dennis could hang up, I said, "Hey, dawg, don’t forget to call your sister." There was a brief pause and then he said, "Oh, yeah. You got her phone number?"

We are so close to being there. Don’t forget. Dennis first.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

MARK’S ARTICLE – Febrary 10, 2010
“Guilt Closet”

How do you handle guilt? Pretty well? Don’t let it fester? Hold onto it for a second and then let it go? Looks like a few of you.

Well, you oughtta teach a class. I might even attend. Second thought, no I won’t. But, I will feel guilty for not. I’m a mess. I could go to my closet of the mind and drag out a buncha guilt that I’ve been holding onto forever. Stuff from back in my kid days, most of which I’ve written about. Doesn’t help. It stays in storage.

Several things have touched off this week’s guilt topic. Haiti for one. Have you heard about that? Thought so. The news breaks my heart. Yet, you’ve got people in the U.S. adopting Haitian children; doctors flying over there donating their time and supplies; firemen and other rescue personnel helping dig through the rubble.

Kay and I have thrown a little money at the problem and said some serious prayers, but haven't yet stepped out of our comfort zone to do much. Don’t know what to do, and scared of someone telling me what I could do. Shovel on the guilt.

Saw in the paper today a story about a kid riding his bicycle around the park trying to raise money for the relief effort. There’s a guy at church who got together some medical supplies and commandeered a plane to fly the supplies to Port-au-Prince.

If I had the money to do that, I still wouldn’t do it. I might hire somebody to do it, but I wouldn’t tackle something that required so much effort. Same reason I won’t personally paint my house. Way too much effort. If I can’t afford to hire the job out, it’s not going to happen.

So, I sit on the couch and the news of people starving, people horribly injured and people with absolutely nothing left of their lives, except their lives. I’m watching this during supper. “Oops, forgot the rolls. I’ll go get ‘em.”

More guilt. The kind that takes up residence, while doing little to spark one to action. It’s the worst kind. Psychologists will tell you to lose something like that. I imagine. That’s their job, isn’t it? Make you feel better about yourself.

So, I’ll keep my inaction concerning Haiti stored in the closet for a good while. Try to shove it way back there. Back behind the times I chose to lose contact with “close” friends; the times I treated rude people rudely; the times I provided an excellent example on how not to handle a situation. It’s all up there… and in vivid detail.

I got into a heated argument last week. I didn’t think it was all that heated at the time, but Al assured me it was. I told myself to keep quiet during the whole thing. Didn’t help. Had to show that I was in the right. Accomplished absolutely nothing in doing so. I knew that at the time. I still did it. So, the guilt gets stuffed into the closet.

Weird how I can still find room for new stuff in that closet. Still haven’t tossed out the guilt concerning the time as a child when I told on Jill for something I did. Jill doesn’t remember the incident. She didn’t choose to store it her closet of jerks. Jill is a peach.

Me? I feel like the peach pit. Yeah, I think someone out there needs to teach a class in guilt. How to get it out of storage and then how to dispose of it. You need to make it sound easy, though. Anything requiring much effort is not likely to help. You’ll just be adding to the closet. You don’t wanna do that. – A prayer a blessing for the people of Haiti, and for all those working to make a difference.