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