Sunday, August 29, 2010

Woulda never guessed...

MARK’S ARTICLE – August 29, 2010
“”Dinosaur dumb”

I had one of those dinosaur moments a couple of weeks back at my friend Gary Parker’s production studio, Quanah Productions. Big Al and I have been working on a new “From the Rooftop” series in Gary’s studio, ‘cause Gary is really nice and so easy to take advantage of. I just love the guy.
Anyway, I was trying to get Sam, an 11 year-old young lady who plays the Rooftop producer, to scream “Stellaaaaah!” the way Marlon Brando did in Streetcar. Sam was uncertain as to what I was asking her to do. According to Big Al, I was doing a really lousy Brando impersonation. My kid brother is so supportive.
Before I could tell Sam about the Streetcar scene, Kyle Scarborough, a local doctor and Rooftop investigative reporter, said, “Hey, Mark, here it is.” Kyle handed me this thin, little rectangular telephone/computer thing. He pushed the button for me and there was Brando screaming “Stellaaaaah!”

It was the scene straight from the movie, and it took Kyle 40 seconds to pull it up. I showed the scene to Sam and she said something like, “Oh, well, why didn’t you say you wanted it like that? Stellaaaaah!” The kid’s great.
That one display of technological wonderment completely blew me away. Completely. I’ve come close to losing sleep over it. Pretty close. There are two things I never thought I’d witness in my lifetime. Well, maybe more than two, but for our purpose let’s just say two. One was the fall of the Soviet Union. Never thought that would happen in my lifetime.

The other thing? I never thought I’d see someone grab a thin wallet-sized device, push a few buttons and come up with a scene from “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

And, the scary part? You wanna know the scary part? I was the only one in that studio who acted the least bit amazed. Kyle thought nothing of what he did; Sam thought it perfectly natural to look at a little screen and see an actor she’d never heard of scream something; Al didn’t care ‘cause he thought the whole Stella thing was stupid.

When I think of all the stuff that was going on in that small, thin box while it was searching for Brando, my cranium gets boggled. And then when I think of all the microwaves, radio waves, whatever waves that were bouncing around inside that studio and travelling all over the country and all out into space carrying that info… well, it makes me feel really small. Small and dumb. Dinosaur dumb.

I don’t want you to think that I don’t know how to use a computer, ‘cause I do. I’m using one now, in fact. I type, or keyboard, my articles and zip ‘em off to the boss when I’m through. I know how to work the computer, but I don’t know how it works.

I have even been known to look up important stuff with the computer. I’ve been Googling for four years now. (I just threw that in. I have no idea how long I’ve been Googling.) Remember the article I wrote about chopsticks and forks? Two of you? Well that just stinks. Whatever. The thing is, when I started the article, I had no idea where the fork came from. By the time I finished the thing, I was a fork expert. Thanks to the Internet.

In the days before Internet we had encyclopedias. They had a lot of information, but couldn’t tell you stuff like the number of episodes of “Gunsmoke” in which James Arness did not appear. No, for that you’d hafta call the Library Lady… more properly known as the Liberry Lady.

Did you ever call the Liberry Lady to find something out? I did about 20 years ago. I don’t remember what I was looking for, but it sure wasn’t in any of my books, so Kay recommended I call the library. I said, “You mean, the liberry?”

Well, I called and asked my question. The lady thought the question odd, but said she’d give it a go. She called back in about 20 minutes to tell me she couldn’t find what I was looking for. I felt guilty for wasting her time. Told her so. She apologized for not being able to help, and then corrected my grammar. Told me “liberry” was incorrect. No wonder she couldn’t help me. She didn’t even know who she was.

There was a movie in the olden days about a group of Liberry Ladies whose jobs were threatened by a computer. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn were in it. The movie was pretty much science fiction, ‘cause at the time, they didn’t have a computer that could take the place of Liberry Ladies. Now they do. I’ve pretty well been all over that.

I do not remember the name of the Spencer/Hepburn movie, but I’m getting ready to find out. I’m not nearly as smart as Kyle Scarborough, nor is my computer as small as his. But, I’m going to find out how long it takes me to get the name of the movie with my big bulky job. It took him 40 seconds to find Brando yelling “Stella.” Let’s see how I do with a Spencer Tracy movie. -- Are you ready? Okay, on your mark—set go! -- I’m finished. The movie is “Desk Set.”

It took me 25 seconds. I Googled “Tracy Hepburn Computer Movie.” It pulled up “Desk Set” and Gig Young and the screenwriters Phoebe and Henry Ephron. The movie came out in ’57.

Isn’t that something? I think it’s something. Don’t know what all happened after I typed in the words, but there must’ve been information flying all over the planet. You get a few million people looking up stuff at the same time, and we’ll all have information waves pounding the daylights out of us. Just weird as it can be.

And. I lived to witness it. Since I remember what it was like before the Internet, the whole process is a wonderment to me. Those who don’t remember encyclopedias and Library Ladies think nothing of it.

Oh, and people like Big Al and Kyle? Kyle knows too much to be all that amazed by technology. Al? The last time he was amazed I beat him in ping-pong. It was back in ’83. Only happened once. Pretty sure it’s ungoogleable.


To view Brad Meyer and Mark’s review of La Madeleine, the French Restaurant, click here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Today we're gonna sit on the roof of the porch just in front of those two windows.

MARK’S ARTICLE – August 25 , 2010
“Frontyard view”

ROOFTOP – No, we’re not climbing to the peak of the roof this morning. It’s too steep and too wet. I might make it, but I’d probably lose a few of you.

So, plop your buns down here on this flatter part of the roof here above the porch. We may be putting a bit of a strain on the porch supports, but, even if they give way, I doubt the fall would kill us.

We might make the six o’clock news, though. -- “Several Montgomery County residents were given a scare as the result of a collapsing roof above the porch of one Mark Hayter. No one was seriously injured in the fall, but the melee following the mishap was not pretty.” Yeah, I can’t help thinking some of you would blame me.

But, forget that. Some of you no doubt notice that we have different view this morning.. For you first time roofsitters let me say that we generally face the backyard, but from our perch above the porch we’re looking out on the front. Isn’t that something? You can see the garden without craning your neck.

Yep, it’s still there. Remember? Kay wanted a garden, so I dug and planted one for her. My efforts paid off bigtime. I managed to cultivate two tomatoes and a bell pepper. Digging, planting, watering, fertilizing and weeding. Two tomatoes and a miniature thin-skinned bell pepper.

A couple of weeks ago, Kay told me that it was time to plant a fall garden. I instantly called Freeman and passed along the news. He thanked me. I would’ve called our dear friend Catherine to remind her, but I just didn’t like the way I sounded when I practiced the call. I didn’t sound at all like I was doing her a favor by reminding her. With Freeman, I don’t care. Freeman knows I’m up to something the minute I call.

Eventually, Kay reminded me again about the fall garden. It was then that I realized she was telling ME to plant a fall garden. I’m not making this up. I confess that my voice was marginally raised when I said, “Darling, don’t push it.”

She then told me that she didn’t mean for me to plant the garden. She would get the plants and take care of everything. That’s what she said. Of course, I had to wonder why she had to inform me twice that SHE needed to do that.

Well, take a look down there. The original bell pepper plants snapped out of it and started producing. Kay pulled up the old tomato plants and stuck in some new ones. She built up the soil a little better than I did. Shaded the plants from the afternoon sun with dishtowels that she draped over the stakes. I think she’s showing me the proper way to handle a garden.

The way I see it, it’s a win/win for me. If her garden does lousy, there will be no use in either of us putting in another garden next year… or ever. If the garden does well, then we’ll get some good ‘maters, and she’ll have to do all future gardens, ‘cause it’s obvious I don’t know how to do it right.

We don’t have any tomatoes down there at the moment, but we’re rich with birds. Look at ‘em going after the birdfeeder. Birds are the least generous of animals… possible exception of a shark. Birds do not like to share or wait. You’re not hearing any “please” or “thank you” down there. Those are mean chirps meant to scare off whatever specie is currently sitting on the feeder stoop. The stoop won’t support the weight of a squirrel or even a blue jay. A cardinal is about the biggest bird it will let feed. There are a lot of those down there.

Yep, a lot of birds, but do you know what there is not a lot of… anywhere? Anywhere I’ve been. Butterflies. Over the past several years they’ve become more of a rarity. I hate that. A wonderment they are… butterflies. Some of ‘em migrate over 3000 miles. Did you know that? I’ve read it, but I don’t believe it.

I saw a butterfly flutter across the parking lot at church last Sunday. That thing flew three feet in a stagger, then all of a sudden it went up about two feet and then two to the left. Three thousand miles like that? Fragile wings that look like they could break in the wind. Life expectancy of a just opened kid’s racecar set. Oh, yeah, they can make 3000 miles. Easy.

If I had waited for the Sunday butterfly to cross the entire parking lot, I would’ve missed church. – “Kay, where is your husband?” – “He’s standing in the parking lot timing a butterfly.” I doubt there would be a follow-up question. Kay would just get a big ol’ hug.

After all that, maybe I don’t see butterflies now ‘cause they’ve all migrated somewhere. In Canada, maybe. In October they’ll head on down to Mexico. Probably skip my house. They always have in the past. I’d put up little butterfly feeders if I thought they would come… and if I knew what they ate. Probably pie crust.

The birds down there seem to eat nothing but sunflower seeds. If I put the Wild Bird birdseed out, they just pick around the parakeet-looking food and grab the sunflower seeds. Kind of like me with a can of mixed nuts. I save the filberts and Brazil nuts for Kay. Hit the cashews pretty hard.

So much to talk about up here. I was hoping I’d have time to mention my new sprinkler. It’s out back. Last year’s sprinkler walked off. Maybe I ran over it with the lawnmower. All I know is I can’t find it, so I bought this round looking job that will water in a circle, a square or triangle. No idea how that works. Made in China. You could’ve knocked me over with a Volvo.

I’ll show you the sprinkler during the next roofsit. Right now, let’s watch our step on the way down. If any of you want a closer look at the garden, feel free. It’s a masterpiece. I’m still banking on Freeman’s garden, though. I might give him a call when I get at ground level. If he didn’t plant more squash I’ll have to get after him. He doesn’t scare me. We’ve got an understanding.


Friday, August 13, 2010

MARK’S ARTICLE -- August 13, 2010
“Eating with pointy things”

Have you noticed how some Chinese restaurants are now calling themselves Asian? Same menu, just with a different restaurant name. Have you noticed that? Well, you need to start paying attention to stuff.

Not only Chinese, but many oriental-style-eating establishments are now calling themselves “Asian.” Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese… They’re going “Asian”

I really don’t know why that is. I’m assuming that “Asian” makes you think there’s a wider variety of food. Let’s face it, Asia covers a lot of area. Not only do you have China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, but you also Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, India, Nepal, Turkmenistan and a few dozen other countries. If your restaurant can cater to the taste of all those places, you’ve got an encyclopedic menu and a cook that’s certifiably bonkers.

I mention that to mention this. Montgomery County food critic Brad Meyer and I ate lunch at one of Montgomery County’s Asian restaurants last week. It was a place where the guy does the cooking at your table while he jokes around and throws the knife and spatula into the air. Something I’ve been practicing. Kay is not completely on board with the idea.

Both times I’ve eaten Asian with Brad, I’ve always tried to use chopsticks just so I won’t appear a yokel. That’s what snobs think when you don’t eat right. Snobby Brad comes to mind.

While I was sitting there trying to deliver fried rice to my mouth with two pointed sticks, I got to thinking… which was hard to do because most of my active brain cells were trying to work the chopsticks. At one point I said, “How the Sam Hill did anything like this ever catch on?”

Brad said something like, “Rice? It’s pretty much the staple in a lot of Asian countries. We’ve got mashed potatoes; they’ve got rice. Try to adapt.” The guy can be such a goob.

It just boggles my mind how a person would think to pick up a small pointed stick and then another, and all of sudden say, “Voila!” (or “Wingraw!” in Chinese) “These would be perfect for eating my rice!”

What kind of genius would come up with something like that? I’d come closer to understanding the time/space continuum than figuring out the intricacies of eating food with two pointed sticks.

The chopstick inventor was so much brighter than the person who invented the wheel. Just about anybody could see a good use in something that was round that rolled. But, two pointy sticks? Short of poking at stuff, what are you gonna do with ‘em? A genius, I’m telling you.

The biggest task would be to get others to accept the invention. Can you imagine the first guy who heard the inventor’s spiel? -- “Okay, do that again, only slower this time. – No, I’m just not buying it.” -- The inventor had to be the best salesman in the world. Today, there are a couple billion people in Asia eating with two pointed sticks. Each is so much more talented than I.

That’s why I dropped my sticks and drew a fork early into the meal. I can shovel so much better than I can pinch.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I really liked it.

Speaking of forks, those buddies didn’t just land in our laps. Took a lot of figuring to come up with pronged stabbers. The Greeks were the first to leave behind evidence of fork use. This was back when B.C. was real close to your A.D.s. Hey, I researched this stuff. Not so much the Chopsticks. Did you pick up on that?

While the Greeks were fairly smart, they never thought to put more than two tines on their forks. And, they just used ‘em for serving, not eating. That’s where the saying, “Okay, fork it over!” came into play. Possibly.

It took 1400 years for the fork to make its way to Europe. The Italians were the first to accept the concept, and they only adopted it because of spaghetti. Do you remember the last time you ate spaghetti with your hands? Whatta mess! Kay still gets after me for that. Even with a two-pronged fork, spaghetti can be a struggle. It wasn’t until the 17th Century that someone decided to add a third prong. They’d been looking at statues of Poseidon with his trident forever, yet no one grasped the concept of a fork with more than two tines. Renaissance my posterior.

Eventually, a mathematician decided to put a fourth tine on the fork. People went nuts. That’s when people started hitting the mashed potatoes pretty hard. A couple of real smarty-pants tried to put six tines on a fork, but were laughed out of Europe. Their names were Gillette and Schick. More is always better? Get real.

The British didn’t embrace the fork until the 1750s. They used it for about 60 years before someone thought to put a little curve in the tines. A little dip. After this, the British (most of ‘em) substituted a fork for a knife when eating their peas. It would be several decades later before North America started forking stuff. It was about the same time spaghetti reached the continent.

And, it was about 20 minutes into the meal before Brad got rid of his chopsticks and grabbed his fork. Whatta loser. “How are those two pointy sticks doing for you now, big guy! How’s it feel to be a member of the yokel club?” I didn’t really say that to him, because he hadn’t paid for my meal yet. Just ‘cause I can’t operate chopsticks doesn’t meal I’m a complete idiot.


To catch Brad Meyer and Mark’s review of Benihana's click on

Monday, August 9, 2010

Evidence you're dreaming

MARK’S ARTICLE – August 8, 2010
“How to know when you’re dreaming”

Kay and I saw a movie a couple of weeks ago about dreams. Did you see that? “Inception” was the name. If a title is supposed to in any way tell you what a movie is about, I’d have to call the movie “Cool Special Effects.” Apart from that, I’ve got nothing.

I WAS able to determine that the story had to do with people getting inside other peoples’ dreams, all the way into the dreams that you’re dreaming your dreaming… and beyond. You might hafta read that a couple of times. I’ll wait. (“When you hear the trumpet sound – Tarantara Tarantara…”)

Okay. When I left the theatre after watching “Inception,” I had a red spot on my forehead where I had been slapping myself. For about a nanosecond I caught on to something that happened in a scene. It was short-lived brilliancy, followed by a deep, thick fog. I decided it a good time to go to the restroom. -- What I think? Any drink that takes two hands to pull out of the cup holder is too big.

Had I been cast in “Inception,” I could’ve never memorized my lines. -- “Ariadne, you can’t debilitize an anomaly without leaving metaphysical conjectures.” – “Cut! Mark, this time say it like you mean it! Once more. Action!”

All in all, I thought the movie interesting, but I can’t recommend it to anyone in the family. They haven’t forgiven me for recommending “Close Encounters.” In truth, just about everyone I know considers my opinion fairly weightless. Of course, this article might incite a couple of the undecided, first time readers to go see the thing. If you do, go ahead and get the large popcorn and drink. It’ll come to about $12, where as the small will cost you about $11.85. Somebody explain that to me.

No question that “Inception” has gotten people to thinking about dreams. On news broadcasts, talk shows, Kroger checkouts… there have been a lot of discussions. In fact, the movie inspired me to write this article. You see, DiCaprio’s character had a gimmick that would let him know if he was dreaming or not. I never followed the logic behind it, but I accepted the daylights out of it, ‘cause the guy who wrote this thing was way up there in smarts.

Weird thing is, I’m so dumb that I have no trouble differentiating between the World of Awake and the World of Dream. No gimmick for me, I just try to apply a rather shallow form of reasoning And, I’ll show you how you too can dispense with those needless worries that scare the soup out of you while you’re sleeping. You’re welcome. – No, no just buy me some cashews next time you see me in Walgreens. The honey roasted kind.

First of all, forget the buildings rising up and folding over on one another, like they did in the movie. That’s a dead giveaway of a dream… or of happy hour.

However, if I am ever out in public, wearing just my underwear, it gets a little more complicated. The secret is, if no one notices or cares that I’m in my underwear, I’m dreaming. Likewise, if I’m ever in a public shower and some women carrying towels nonchalantly walk in, I’m dreaming.

If I’m ever in a football uniform, it’s a dream If I’m ever in a gym and I suddenly leap above everyone on the basketball court and dunk the ball behind my back, unfortunately, I’m dreaming. I love that dream.

If I’m walking down the mall or through some massive building complex and I find that I can glide across the floor like I’m wearing skates, it’s a dream. If I find myself floating around at treetop level, staring down at people who don’t seem to care that I’m floating, there’s a good chance I’m asleep. About 80 percent.

If I’m in the kitchen and my dad comes walking through the backdoor and announces that Weingarten’s has a sale on coconuts, I’m dreaming. The “dead” giveaway is when I notice that I’m the only one who doesn’t realize that Dad has been dead for 30 years. -- “Jill, do you remember Dad’s funeral?” – “What are you talking about, Willis?”

Just about anytime I try to run from something – a maniac, crazed monkey, mercenary or Triceratops -- and my feet will only go in a slow skip, I need not worry. I’m dreaming.

Anytime my mouth just makes wah wah noises while I’m trying to deliver a talk, I’m a citizen of the dream world.

If someone I knew from high school suddenly appears in my living room, looking just like he did back in high school, while acting like there’s nothing bizarre about his appearance, I’m dreaming. If the guy suddenly turns into my mother, I’m hitting par on the dream course.

In fact, anytime I’m anywhere, doing anything and I have to ask myself if I’m dreaming… I’m dreaming. Seems every second I’ve lived in the world of the awake, I’ve never had to question whether or not I was dreaming. You might say I’ve been blessed.

Unfortunately, I’ve found it matters not. In my dreams, regardless of how many times I tell myself it’s not real, I still find myself embarrassed about being in my underwear, I’m still scared silly by charging Triceratops, or I’m weirded-out by the fact that I can levitate myself and no one else thinks it odd.

Dreams? Like “Inception,” they’re a complete mystery to me. But, in the hope that I’ve helped at least one of you, I consider this one of my more worthwhile articles. – What? No argument. As usual, I see a some big red spots on a few foreheads. What’s that all about?


Monday, August 2, 2010

August 2, 2010
“Of gardens and neighbors”

BACKYARD -- What? Say what? Just a second, let me cut the throttle back on this thing. -- Oh, right. I’m sorry. I thought sure I’d be through mowing by the time you showed.

Let me make one more pass over by the Jungle Gym, and then I’ll join you for some serious thoughts. Uh, rambling, not-so-serious thoughts. Right.

Lawn chairs are just inside the backdoor. Water would be nice. Lotta water. Kay’s not here, so grab some bottles inside the door of the fridge. And leave my wallet alone. You joker readers you.

I was going to take us up to the rooftop this morning, but it’s scorching up there. Let’s just sit here under the old oak and— ah, thanks. You know, nothing is better than a good ol’ cold Coke when you’re hot and tired. But, this water is good, too. More water! Thanks.

Some of you may think it rude of me not to shut the lawnmower off the minute I spotted you, but the Hayters are a people who never kill a mower until the mowing job is complete. I don’t care what’s happenin’ around us, or what’s up ahead, we keep that engine roaring. You can do that if you tie the throttle down. That was Dad’s invention.

There’s a small-engine hex somewhere in our DNA. Seems history has taught us that we can never be sure if the mower, leaf blower, chainsaw, weedeater will ever restart. “Mow like it’s your last mow job.” That was one of my Dad’s quotes. “If I see those two bikes parked on the driveway one more time, you two knotheads will be skipping to school till your senior year.” That’s another. Neither of us knew what it meant. Parents could be so vague.

Anyway, because of the small engine hex, I don’t stop my mower until I’m through mowing… and I’m through. If you hadn’t showed when you did, I was going to get out the weedeater. Not now. I’ve got company. I’m so thankful.

Did any of you get a load of the new neighbor over yonder? I told Kay that I was going to bake a cake for our next new neighbor. I just think it’s the nice thing to do. I’ve never done it, but I sure intended to this time. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. I fear it would upset the other neighbors.

Seems Kay and I have been here longer than the families around us, and like I say, I didn’t bake them a cake when they moved in. If all of a sudden, I made a cake to welcome the new neighbor, well, the others might get their feelings hurt. You know how neighbors are.

What’s sad is that Kay and I were never greeted with goodies when we moved to a new place. No, cakes, cookies, cashews, towels…

When we moved to the Austin area 20 or so years ago, the two co-eds that lived in the townhouse next to us did drop by to say hello. Just cute and sweet as they could be. I was glad they weren’t coming over to try to sell us something, ‘cause I would’ve sure bought it. Cute is what they were.

We got to know them real well the night of the big fire. Turns out one of their ex-boyfriends firebombed one of their cars outside the townhouse. It lit up the night. The girls came running over scared and crying. Needed some serious comforting. Thought of Uncle Mark. Maybe Aunt Kay, too.

The flames got so close to the complex that we all had to evacuate over our back fence… in our pajamas even. Well, Kay and the girls were in their PJs, but I managed to locate my shorts. I don’t wear pajamas, nor will I climb a fence in my underwear. I just won’t.

Our white Honda in the junk yard after the big fire.
The fire ended up destroying our car and one of theirs. No one could prove it was a boyfriend, but I think we all knew. Boyfriends can act so stupid sometimes. Movies have been made about it. Fortunately, Uncle Mark was there. It’s what I do.
My truck after the firebombing. I cried for weeks. The insurance settlement didn't help.

All of that was way too much information for you. I realize that. Just wanted to share. Oh, and speaking of sharing, I’d give you some vegetables if we had any. Did you notice the garden out front? Well, go notice it. I’m getting another water. – So, what do you think? Sad isn’t it?

We got only three tomatoes and two small thin-skinned bell peppers. A bird got one of the tomatoes, while some weird creature got one of the peppers. Chupacabra. That left us two tomatoes and one pepper. Makes me wanna cry.

I told Kay I didn’t want to have a garden this year, but she was determined. I didn’t put my foot down, ‘cause I knew she would sulk. That’s what I do when she won’t agree with me on stuff.

Does your spouse ever sulk? Don’t you just hate that? It doesn’t bother Kay all that much. She’ll just ignore me until I get over it. She ignores a sulk. There is nothing fair about that.

So, I ended up digging a garden, planting the ‘maters and peppers and… well, you see what we got. Heartache. Had I not planted a garden, Kay would sit down at the supper table tonight and say, “Well, we could be eating homegrown tomatoes right now, if you had only planted a garden. But, noooo.” She’d say something like that.

Since the garden turned out to be a big stinker, one might think I should gloat. Do the ol’ I-told-you-so thing. No, if I did that, Kay might sulk. Better to just maintain the peace. A peacemaker is what I am. A thirsty peacemaker. More water! Uncle Mark needs water, here! -- Next time.


To see a Buca di Beppo review go to You Tube and type in “Mark Hayter” and click on the picture of Brad wearing a black hat. The goober. You can contact Mark at