Thursday, December 22, 2011

This year's Christmas short story.

Maggie's Christmas Mircacle

Up until the time my sister Maggie destroyed the baby Jesus, Mom was the one who made sure we always went to church twice on Sundays, once on Wednesday night, and a whole week in the summer. Vacation Bible School they called it. Vacation my foot.

    Daddy missed out on all this. The man had issues. I never knew what they were, and he didn’t seem to want to be asked. I didn’t fault him for it, though. Envied him.

     The church on Fern Street was the best gathering place for the sad and angry that one could find. If anything appeared the least bit enjoyable it was a sin. It was almost as if the elders were trying to scare us and bore us at the same time. The longest prayers, the driest sermons and the worst singing in the history of mankind resonated in confines of that building.

    Daddy would have nothing to do with it. He read his Bible and made sure we prayed before every meal, but he couldn’t abide church. Organized religion can draw the Spirit right out of a person. I heard him say something like that to Mom once.

    Dads slant on church seemed magically transformed after the Christmas Party at Aunt Rae and Uncle Bill’s. Aunt Rae was Daddy’s sister so he was committed to show up. Daddy liked parties about as much as he liked going to church.

 Things went well at Rae and Bill’s up until the time of the accident. Could’ve happened to anybody. My sister Maggie was trying to pull a throw pillow out of my hand at the same time I let go of it. I thought it a cool trick.

As luck would have it, Maggie’s momentum landed her against Aunt Rae’s cabinet… the one that had the ceramic nativity scene on it. A fragile display it was. Sheep, camels, shepherds… every object resting atop the thick cotton base went flying. 

A few of the pieces had yet to reach the floor before Maggie started bawling. All the grownups ran over to console her. Aunt Rae told her it was a cheap display that she just got it out for the party. Nothing to worry about.

Mom was slow to arrive on the scene. She sat and stared at me for about 3 hours. Fire came out her eyes. Literally. Mom’s glares could cut particleboard.  All I could do was shake my head and point at Maggie. Hey, she would’ve done the same to me.

Turned out, all the figures ended up relatively unscathed. Oh, a nick here, a scratch there, but not near what one would expect. Unfortunately, one of the wisemen did get decapitated. But, it was a clean break. A little glue and he would be the picture of health… except for some serious nerve damage.

Daddy soon had all the characters resting atop cotton. All except for the baby Jesus. The figure was no where to be found. Aunt Mae ordered everyone back into the living room, but Maggie wouldn’t stop looking. I don’t know what got into her. It was like she had lost the real baby Jesus. She looked in and under everything in the dining room.

Mom finally had to take her to the hallway for a talk. I tagged along for moral support. Hey, Maggie would’ve done it for me. Mom went on and on about how the doll wasn’t really Jesus and how it was silly to get so upset. Just a little ceramic doll, and she was treating it like an idol, and that if she didn’t quit crying she would give her something to cry about.

    On the way home, Maggie was still whimpering. I even patted her on the arm a time or two, ‘cause she was beginning to scare me. Finally, Daddy said, “Maggie, did you ever stop to think that maybe you couldn’t find the baby Jesus because God took him to heaven?”

    What a load of hoo ha! I had to hold back a laugh. But, my little sister swallowed it. Feathers and all. “Really, Daddy? You think I didn’t really lose the baby Jesus, that God took him to heaven?”

    Daddy said, “Yes, I do, Maggie. I believe Jesus is in heaven.” Well, that changed everything. Maggie beamed, I snickered and Mom just shook her head. 

I thought that would be the end of the whole baby Jesus story, but Maggie wouldn’t let it go. Kept telling anyone who’d listen about the miracle that happened at Aunt Rae and Uncle Bill’s. Mom told her that whatever she did she was not to mention it to anyone at church. Something about Jesus not being born on December 25th, and that people might get the wrong idea. Now it was Daddy’s time to shake his head.

On Christmas Eve something really weird happened. After supper Daddy told us all to get dressed up, that we were going to the Christmas candlelight service at the church downtown. I hated the idea, but Mom hated it worse.

Maggie was excited as all get out. “Really! What’s a candlelight service, Daddy?” Daddy told her he didn’t know, but that we were going find out. 

That Christmas Eve I had the best church experience I’d ever had. And, it wasn’t even Sunday… or Wednesday night. We each got our own candle and got to light it in church. I didn’t think it possible. And then we sang some happy songs. Christmas carols even.

At one point, as we all stood holding our candles, I heard Mom whisper to Daddy, “Thank you, darling.”

After Christmas, our church life went back to normal. Change can be a hard thing. Eventually, though, the church on Fern Street split over a technicality. The whole concept was pretty fuzzy in scripture. The stuff of controversy for those in search of one.

By the time I started high school, Mom was taking us to the church downtown. And, over time, Daddy started going with us.  

I don’t know what one is to gather from all this, if anything. But I do know that my sister sees God’s hand in it all.

Last July, as Maggie and I we were going through all the family stuff after Mom passed away, I opened the old box of Christmas ornaments. We had all personalized decorations over the years. Snug in one end of the box was a wadded paper towel. I pealed it back and saw a fractured ceramic baby Jesus. Daddy had apparently made a futile attempt to glue the swaddling clothes and torso together, but it was a mess. And the head was shattered and beyond the semblance of repair. 

“What is it?” Maggie asked, noticing that I had been quiet for too long. I smiled and said, “Oh, just the clothespin reindeer that I made in, what, Christmas of ’73”? I gripped my hand around the wadded paper towel and returned it to its place in the box.

 The discovery of the missing figurine did nothing in my mind to diminish the power of Maggie’s Christmas miracle. But, I thought it best to let her in on the finding another day. Like maybe this Christmas.

END

To view Mark and Brad's review of Tailgators Pub and Grill, click on pic below.





Saturday, December 17, 2011

Claus at the mall

“Real Santa”

    I’m proud to say that my countdown for Christmas can now officially begin. I had to wait for Kay and me to make our trip to the mall. Happened yesterday. I’m festive as all get out.

    Truth be told (and shouldn’t it be?) I actually enjoy visiting the mall during the Christmas Season. I act like I don’t just to keep my brothers from scorning me. The brothers do good scorn. – “So, you enjoy the crowds, decorations and Santy Clause? Okay nobody talk to him. Go ahead and hit him, Al.” – Since Mom passed away, those boys aren’t afraid of anything. It’s been open season on Mark.
   
    Had they seen me at the mall yesterday they would’ve really let me have it. I couldn’t help it. I saw the real Santa Clause. He even waved at me.

I don’t know how The Woodlands Mall managed to book the real Santa, but he was there all right. No mistaking. The guy on the corner in the red suit and waving the big apartment opening sign? No Santa. Not close.

At the Mall, Santa wasn’t even wearing his awkward, thick, red jacket. And, he was hatless… ‘cause he was indoors and sitting next to a fireplace! Why would the real Santa wear a coat and hat indoors?

At the Mall, Santa wore a plaid shirt and baggy pants with suspenders. His hair is really white and his beard is curly and long. Not so thick as on a Santa actor.

And, there was none of this “ho, ho, ho!” stuff. There was no acting like Santa . This guy was the real deal. The kids could tell right off. There was not a crying kid in sight. Most of ‘em were even reaching for him. I’ve never seen that before. And, they’d hug him before leaving. He was like a universal Grandpa figure.

Oh, and like I said he saw me in the crowd, and waved. At me. I didn’t know how to react, but Kay motioned at him to see if it was all right for her to take his picture with her cell phone. He nodded big and then his best Santa pose. Big smile, hand up in a wave.

I know I’m carrying on a bit much over this. At no time in my life do I ever remember believing in Santa. And, never did I even contemplate sitting on the lap of the Sears and Roebuck Santa in Pasadena. That was one scary-looking dude. And, with that deep “ho,ho,ho” voice, it was like a giant monster clown was trying to grab you. What youngster wouldn’t want that?

The real Santa is nothing like that. In fact, if the line hadn’t been so long, a framed eight by ten of Kay sitting in his lap would be hanging over our mantel.

Bottom line, take your kid or spouse to The Woodlands Mall to see Santa. I imagine the real Santa doesn’t work a complete shift, so they may have a stand-in for him. You’ll know the real one when you see him, though.

Oh, and word of warning. As you’re making your way to Santa, be very careful not to catch the eye of the salespeople at the kiosks. You know those booths of specialty stuff? If someone tries to hand you a free sample of soap or cosmetics, don’t take it. If you do, they own you.

Most, if not all, of the beauty product salespeople are French or East European. Maybe Norwegian. Hard for me to tell. The girls are beautiful as all get out, and they speak fast and quiet in broken English. They’re sirens with soap. If you take a sample you’ll feel like a real chump if you don’t buy something. There is one Slovakian lovely who thinks I’m the mayor of Chumpville.

Santa loves me, though. Waved at me, he did. I think he could tell that I had been nice all year. Most of the year. Maybe a week or two in May.

NOTE: Kay's phone photo of Santa didn't take. Spooky. Further proof that this guy is the real deal. 

END

Click on pic below to view review of Mi Cocina restaurant in The Woodlands.





Sunday, December 11, 2011

Already got my gift

“Chair prints”

    I already got my Christmas gift for the year. See if you can tell what it is. – No, not Scotch Tape. Look, Ernie, if you’re not going to be serious, we’re quitting this game right now. – It’s the chair! See? New desk chair.

    Boy, did I need a new chair. Several of you complained about how much the old one creaked. I oiled it, tightened the bolts and adjusted the big knob on the bottom. The mystery knob. Nothing. Over a period of 15 years it evolved into a creakazoid.
A Creakazoid lookalike 

The relic is over there in the corner. What do you do with an old, noisy desk chair that’s got your seat print branded on it? If I could convince someone that it was JFK’s seat print, I could sell it for a bunch of bucks. But, that would be wrong. Would that be wrong?

    Speaking of which, the new chair has touched the rear ends of others. I don’t know how many. Sixty-three maybe. It was a display model at Office Depot. We visited O D to find a desk lamp for Kay. I’m not good at looking for Kay stuff. Whatever I pick out is always wrong. Not sometimes wrong. I can’t even pick stuff out for me.

    Back at Office Depot, Kay told me to quit playing with the LED curly necked lamp, so I decided to get out of her space and go look at the desk chairs. Told her I wouldn’t mind if Santa got me one for Christmas.

    Do you know how many desk chairs they’ve got at Office Depot? It looks like the layout of the interior of a 747 with all different seats. I sat in half of ‘em. Some chairs you can tell without sitting that they’re all wrong. The expensive ones were all comfy. I don’t know how that works.

    Kay joined me just I was trying out the center section, aisle eight. “Did you sit in this one? How ‘bout this one? Oh, look over here.” Kay was all over the place. Had no idea that I had developed a system.

She settled on the $80 chair. It was reduced from $170. That’s a technique Grant’s Five and Dime started back in 1953. Did it with a set of stick horses that weren’t selling. Put up a sign that read -- “Fifty cents! Reduced from $4.75.” It was the most expensive stick horse I ever owned. A little skittish at first, but fast.

Kay wanted to buy the chair right then and there. I thought we should wait for Christmas, but she feared the sale would be over. Talked me into it. I was going to wheel the chair out, but Kay said we needed to get one in a box. It cost more to get it assembled. She said the chair would be easy for me to put together. I knew she was mistaken ‘cause I’m the one who assembled the creakazoid.

Kay has an exaggerated view of my mechanical aptitude. If you don’t believe me, go look at the toilet in there. Just needed a new flapper. New flapper, my hairy toes! I may have it back in running order by Christmas.

Back at Office Depot, it turned out that luck jumped on my back and road me like a five-year-old on a four wheeler. The Home Depot girl said that the demo model was the only cheap chair they had left. The things had been selling like, uh… reduced from $170 chairs.

Then she told me that since it was the floor model I’d get $10 off the price. Do you know what that means? Any idea? No, be quiet, Ernie. It means that they paid me $10 to assemble my chair for me. You can’t beat a deal like that.

So, here it is. Santa came early this year. Not for Kay. I’ve still got to find something for her. She says she wants a bicycle. Wants one for me too, so we can race away from neighborhood dogs together.

The bicycles she wants for us are at Academy. She thinks I should get ‘em and assemble ‘em between now and Christmas. Christmas 2011. What a joker girl.

END
To view Brad and Mark’s review of Yucatan Taco Stand, click on pic below.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rough Night

“Try not to think about this”

    How well did you sleep last night? Feel invigorated, do you?  Or did you have a bad night? A research team at Loyola University recently reported that 93 percent of those polled don’t care to hear about your night’s sleep.

I wish Virginia had read their findings. This morning she tried to tell me all about her bad night. I didn’t want to hear it. I decided to interrupt and tell her the story of my bad night. One-upped her is what I did.

It’s hard to one-up Virginia, but it can be done. On this occasion, I didn’t even have to exaggerate. By the time I was through, she forgot all about her lack of snooze time.

Begs the question, on the nights you can’t sleep, how long do you usually stay in bed fighting it? Minutes? Hours? The whole night?  -- No, not all at once. Sheesh, I actually came up with a relevant topic --- insomnia. I occasionally amaze even me. 

Okay, here’s the deal. For just today I need you to pretend that you’re among the seven percent who care to hear about the bad nights of others. Got it?

All right, now let’s return to my bed at 11:30 last night. -- Yes, you can keep your shoes on. Cute. -- I tossed and turned for three hours. Actually, I was just turning. I don’t remember ever tossing. Kay says I toss, but she makes up stuff. A lot of stuff.

Bottom line, I couldn’t sleep. Around midnight I decided to try the universal cure for insomnia. I relaxed my face and tried to make my mind go blank. I’m sure you realize that thinking of nothing will make you pass out. -- Maxine? Maxine! Well, we lost her.

Unless you have the thought pattern of, say, Maxine, it’s not easy to put everything out of your mind. I can lose worry, dread and anger. Those are three major sleep stealers. Not the worst. But, major. Unfortunately, last night I was in the grip of sleeps worst enemy—stupid stuff.

Right before we hit the sack, Kay and I watched a taped episode of “Body of Proof,” a who-done-it with Dana Delany playing a medical examiner who wears really tight clothes, six-inch heels and has really long hair. Hair that falls all over any dead body she examines. That alone is enough to keep me awake for 40 minutes.

Here’s what happened in the episode we watched: A bartender/oyster-shucker at an airport bar was upset because he had a crush on a cute pharmaceutical rep who started talking about a doctor she was having an affair with. The bartender oyster guy got jealous, so he stole an African Gaboon Viper that had been confiscated by airport security and stuck it in a bag of oysters that he gave to the girl. She ended up sticking her hand in the bag while at a beach house with the doctor she was sleeping with. After that things got silly.

I defy you to extricate something that convoluted from your brain in under two hours. And, I saw the entire episode.

Once I stomped out that ludicrous thought, an equally ludicrous one surfaced.  It was something I read in the “Ask Doctor K” column. In explaining how to treat a nosebleed, Dr. K writes that you should pinch the front of your nose and hold it for five minutes. “And remember,” he says, “To breathe through your mouth.”

One can only imagine how many lawsuits were averted by that warning. – “I’m holding my nose like he said, only something’s not right. I can’t breathe! Help meeeee! Somebody heeel--” Plop. 

That’s the kind of stuff I was trying not to think of.  At 3:30 I went downstairs and started reading on my Ken Follett novel. The real thick one that I was reading at the auto dealership when Troy the service supervisor guy told me I had a squirrel nesting under my dashboard.

Oh, what a night. And, I doubt tonight will be much better. Tonight I’ll probably do some actual tossing. And, I don’t even know what that means.

END

Watch Brad and Mark’s restaurant review of Montgomery’s Pizza Shack by clicking on pic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The ol' pet tree


“Feeling Fall”

    ROOFTOP – All right, now it feels like fall. You know when it feels like fall? Now. I think I just said that.

    I can understand why you had trouble hearing me, ‘cause it’s so breezy. Breezy and cool. And, clear. In fact, to see a bluer sky you’d have to travel to Oel in the galaxy Trifore. They’ve got an unnaturally blue sky there. Scary blue. Take my word.

    Another fall sign is the one tree we have with some red leaves. It’s the Chinese Tallow at the edge of the porch. The one I usually climb to get up here. Unlike the oaks out there, the tallow leaves do turn a lovely red.

Kay was out a few minutes ago with the camera. Mumbled something about the light being all wrong and went back inside. I guess the light would be better were the tree on the north side of the house. I’m not moving it though.

I don’t know if you knew, but my first pet was a tallow tree. The one on Camille Street. We weren’t allowed animal pets, ‘cause you had to feed ‘em and they made a mess in the yard. That was back when kids played outdoors and rolled around in the grass and stuff. Dogs and cats were not welcome at the Hayter house.

So, one day I asked Mom if I could have the tree in the backyard. She said, “I don’t know. Which one do you want?” I took her to the kitchen window and showed her the forked Chinese Tallow.

"Well do you think you can take care of it?” Can you believe that Mom never took a parenting course? She honed her skills on the first four Hayter kids. By the time she got to Al, she forgot all she learned. Anyway, she gave me the tree, and I befriended the thing. Even talked to it. “How was your day? You need more water? Oh, I got my report card and Ol’ Ms. Smith gave me a ‘C’ in conduct. Dad’s gonna kill me. I’m scared to go inside. What should I do?”

When Dennis found out that Mom gave me a pet tree, he laughed big time. And, when he heard me talking to the thing, he told the world about his idiot brother. He’d swing around on the thing just to tick me off. “Is this its elbow right here? Do you think it hurts when I do—this!”

I suppose I should’ve thanked my big brother for trying to humiliate the weirdness out of me. Unfortunately, I wore humiliation well. Always seemed to fit. I was a mess. I’m so much better now.— Beg pardon?

And, who wouldn’t feel better on such a lovely day?  After all, it’s fall! I’ve been so anxious about its arrival that Thanksgiving snuck up on me. Sneaked? What’s bizarro is the fact that none of the Hayters have stepped up to the plate to host the family get-together. They all have families and have apparently made other arrangements. It can sure happen.

So, Kay and I are staying home and preparing something we wouldn’t ordinarily prepare. The ol’ surf and turf. Lobster and steak. The two times we bought lobster tails they were frozen and we tried to steam ‘em. They were rubber tails. Kay read where you’re either supposed to grill or sauté a frozen lobster tails. I’m grilling.

Thanksgiving morning, we’re going to eat breakfast, read the paper, watch about ten minutes of the parade and then play some one-on-one football. With only one person per team you pretty much have to play tackle. Touch would just be stupid. “Okay, hike.” Touch. “That’s not fair.  

No we’ll have to play tackle football. As soon as one of us gets hurt, I’ll do the fireman’s carry and get her inside and then fire up the grill. It’ll be different, but good. You know what it will be? Different, but good. Just seeing if you were listening.

Hey, Happy Thanksgiving from the Hayters. And, befriend a tree.

END

To view Brad and Mark’s review of Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet click below.

Mark can be reached at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Monday, November 14, 2011

Too much information



“THE Procedure”


    I’m pretty much the head of the household. Have been for right at 40 years now. I’m the man in charge. Nothing occurs without my tacit approval. That’s how I approve stuff. With tacit.   

    I say that to say this. I’m losing it. And, I’m beginning to wonder if I ever had it. Sometimes I sense that I’m a pawn in a game of String-Mark-Along. And that Kay is pulling all the strings. I fear I may have married into the Corleone family.   

I had a procedure done last week. THE procedure. Upper GI with a colonoscopy twist. If you haven’t had that, get ready… unless you have no insurance, in which case you’ll have to wait till you find yourself carrying your colon around in a suitcase. Health Care System? Where’s that?

Anyway, before the event, I fasted while going through the entire gut flushing episode. Wasn’t fun or pretty. Photos at six. After a long, riotous night, Kay took me to the hospital the next day for THE procedure. She helped me fill out all the forms. She had to. I don’t know stuff?

Sooner than I expected, the nurse shouted my name into the waiting room. As I headed for the door I could hear people mumbling. “Oh, poor guy.” – “He’s gonna have a little lighter step when he comes outta there.” – Waiting rooms.

When I got to the door, the nurse asked if I’d like my wife to accompany me. I thought Kay was right behind me. I turn around and saw her reading National Geographic. Something about the Lost Penguins of the Maldives. 

“Kay!” I gave her my “This way” head gesture. It’s served me well. As she walked passed me, she gave me a swat on the rear with the National G. I’m sure nobody noticed.

I needed Kay there for the questions. Oh, the questions. “Mr. Hayter, was your prep successful?” I looked at Kay and she nodded. “Yes, ma’am the prep was a gas.”

“Mr. Hayter, do you have esophageal protuberance lucidity? Kay looks up from her penguin article and nods. “Of course I do. Doesn’t everyone?”

I won’t tease you with further details of the demoralizing, humiliating and shamefully puzzling procedure. But when it was over and I surfaced from the deep funk of anesthesia, Dr. Pearce came in and gave me the good news. A kind man who left no turn unstoned. I may have still been a little groggy.

I stopped listening after he said there was nothing to worry about. I did hear something about a clip inside me that will… I don’t remember. Disintegrate? Pass? Make its way out my left nostril? Who can remember? Kay can… and did.

Later that evening, Kay was giving a family member the lowdown on THE procedure. She rattled off a whole list of details. A polyp, cauterization, something in the esophagus. Nothing to worry about. Need to do this again in five years. Then she started talking about the misplaced penguins. The girl loves penguins. 

When Brad Meyer asked me about the results, I said, “Uh, I’ve got a clip in my stomach. I think.” It was more than he cared to know.

I don’t know how Kay remembers all the boring stuff of life. Stuff that eventually resurfaces as important. Me? I remember nothing. Yet, I’m the one in charge of the household.

On the way home from the hospital, I was really hungry… from “the prep.” I asked Kay to stop somewhere so I could get a burger and onions rings. She said, “No. You don’t want that.”

Wow. She knows what I want and don’t want even before I do. You can see what’s happening here, can’t you? Well, I wish you’d let me in on it, ‘cause after 40 years with Tricker Girl, I don’t know which end’s up… metaphorically speaking. I speak metaphoricals sometimes. 
   
END

Tune in to www.waymorefm.com  at 5 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday to catch Brad and Mark’s “You’re telling me” live program. You can contact Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Missing lunch on the roof

“Lightening up”

    ROOFTOP – I dragged you up here this morning in search of happy thoughts. Kay thinks I need to lighten up. She picks up on every little signal. Drives me nuts.

    Anyway, I decided to placate her by sitting on the roof till I lighten up a bit. First thing I notice from up here is all the mole mounds below. Kidney bean shaped things. And, look at the tunnel protrusions in the grass. Irritating as all get out.

    Do you have any idea how many cats there are in my yard? I don’t either. A lot of ‘em. Might even be some up here with us. They’ve been known to climb.

How many of the cats belong to me? None. Zip, zilch, nada. Yet, I tolerate their activity ‘cause I figure they’ll keep varmints out. Moles, snakes, Gila monsters… the usual. Well, they’ve done wonders with the Gila monster population, but not so good with other stuff.

Cats are curious aren’t they?  Supposed to be. I’ve read books about curious cats. Not recently, but I’ve read some. Yet, the cats that congregate around my place don’t give a ripe fig for anything but birds. These stupid cats hear burrowing underground, and what do they do? They stalk birds. “Ah, the ground is vibrating. Time to catch a bird.”

Last week there was a two-foot coral snake by the back door. The red and yella kill a fella kind. I about lost my breakfast over the sighting. I appeared so shook that Kay asked if I wanted her to kill the snake. My entire feminine side was screaming, “Yes! Of course I do! What are you waiting for?”

But that one extra Y chromosome spoke up. “Nah. It’s a job for a guy. Let me get the shovel.” I didn’t enjoy dispatching the demon serpent. I’ve never seen a snake die easy. I’m only glad God didn’t give ‘em vocal cords. A snake scream would pretty much do me in.

That being said, the chance of a coral snake biting me on the ankle is slim. They’ve got small mouths. It’d have to bite me between the toes. I don’t go outside barefoot. Regardless, I couldn’t run the risk of losing one of my neighbors’ cats.  I couldn’t live with that.

Okay, what else do we see down there? Yes, the old Jungle Gym is still there. I’ll dismantle it this winter. Yes, I’ve been saying that for six years, but this time I really mean it. Probably mean it. Regardless, give it a rest will ya? I assure you, we’ll all miss the wooden contraption after it’s gone. It’s the way of things.

Whoa! Did you hear that? You’re right. It’s a rooster. Not much of one by the sound of it. The thing lives closeby. I don’t know if it’s a young rooster or a really old one. Either way, it needs some serious work on its crowing. It’s got the Cocka doodle down pretty well. But, the “do” part is so lacking.

“Cocka doodle squak.” Just pathetic. Isn’t that something? An embarrassment to fowldom. Seems to crow only when I step outside. Regardless of the time of day. A real loony.

I’m the luckiest man in the world. I’ve got moles, snakes, bird-chasing cats and an emasculated rooster. The world is not looking all that well from up here.

Except for that. Did you see it? Just flitted past us. Yep, a monarch butterfly. How do they do it? Fragile as a daydream, yet it will keep plugging away until it ends up somewhere in Mexico. Maybe not that particular butterfly, but one of its kids or grandkids. I don’t know what you call butterfly offspring, but you get the point.

What say we leave on the Monarch sighting. I’ll walk into the kitchen and show Kay that I’m chipper as a… cat trying to attack a cardinal. – “Scat! Leave the birds alone! Go eat a mole!” Doesn’t that beat all?

Well, I guess this minor tirade of mine means that we’ll have to stay up here a little longer. Back to work. We’re all on the lookout for happy stuff. Let’s all spreadout. Report your findings. And work fast, ‘cause I’m not missing lunch. Not this time. – Yes, I’ve been through this before.

END

You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kay cooks for Cindy of Signing with Cindy Fame

“Kay's cooking episode”

Kay and I are going to do a cooking show together tomorrow. If that doesn’t scare you, it should.

One reason our marriage has lasted so long is ‘cause we know not to prepare meals together. We’ve also learned not to wash the car together, but that’s a whole different thing.

There was a time much earlier in our marriage when we could cook together, but that was back when I didn’t know how to cook. Kay would have to tell me what to chop or skin or stir. Now, I know all that stuff. And, when push comes to shove – which it usually does – I think I’m the better cook.

That’s because Kay doesn’t put enough stuff in what she cooks. She doesn’t put enough butter or oil; enough sugar, salt or cinnamon; or enough chocolate chips or icing. I always put just the right amount. That’s who I am.

The person producing our cooking segment is a good friend of ours Cindy Cochran. Do you remember a show that was on PBS several years back called “Signing with Cindy”? Well, Cindy is that Cindy.

I may have watched every segment of “Signing With Cindy.” I learned to sign the entire song “Sunshine on My Shoulder.” That may not impress you, but it astonished my students back when I was teaching. -- “Mr. Hayter, do you know anything by Journey?” I’d break into “Just a small town girl, living in a lonely woooorld…” – That’s a lie, I only knew the sunshine song, and it began to grate on my classes. – “Somebody stop him! He’s killin’ us!”

I don’t know where Cindy lived when she was SWC, but right now she lives in Montgomery County, and along with a bunch of other stuff, she’s starting a cooking show project and she wants Kay and me to participate. A foolish experiment for sure, but I’m just proud she’s coming to our kitchen.

Where was I. Oh, yeah, Cindy asked Kay and me to each cook something that has a little history behind it. Something we got from a good friend or family member. We’re supposed to tell the history of the dish and then cook it in front of the camera. That part doesn’t worry me so much, but I don’t know how Kay’s gonna handle it. I do know that whatever she does, she’ll be cute doing it. She’ll likely yell at me a few times, but she’ll look cute doing it. Always does.

Kay’s going to show viewers how to prepare Penoche-coated walnuts. It got it’s name from the Disney character Penocheo. Can you see how much I’m going to add to Kay’s cooking segment? I’m going to help her prepare stuff while acting like I know nothing about cooking. I’ll be acting my buns off, ‘cause you know how much I know. A little test for you. Who’s the better cook? Just checking. -- And, yes, Irma. I know. Who’s on first. Cute.

After Kay’s walnut coating fiasco, I’m going to prepare Uncle Ray’s beans, a dish ripe with history… and beans. Lots of beans. By the way some of you may remember that Uncle Ray was Kay’s dad. My father-in-law.

I called him Uncle Ray as a joke once. It was a joke that took root. One of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. Wish you could’ve known him. While that’s no longer possible, you will get to know his beans. They’re quick, they’re easy and they were created at a roadside park in Utah. That’s part of the history.

If you wish to see Cindy’s family recipes show -- and who wouldn’t – you can locate it on www.youtube.com/instantifame. If it’s not there now, be patient. Cindy probably had to do more editing than she had planned. I could see that happening.

Click on Kay to see show

END

Click on photo below to see Brad and Mark's review of Chuy's.


And, you can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Somebody's messin' with me.

“Return of the spoon”

    Something around this house is messing with me and I want it to stop. Are you hearing me?

    Half the time I’m walking around with one houseshoe on ‘cause somebody… or someTHING stole the other. Reading glasses mysteriously leave the room I’m in and go to where I’m not. And, the remote? Do I look like a guy who would toss the remote control behind the couch? Who does that?

    The latest wonderment is the real bat buster. A good while back Kay bought a set of four spoons. There were other eating implements in the box, but I only cared about the spoons. They were perfect, Jerry. 

    The part that goes in your mouth was rounded, not pointy. I like that. A pointy spoon makes the milk dribble down the side of your mouth when you’re eating cereal. Newton proved that even before spoons were invented. Did people listen?

    The new spoons were the perfect size, too. Oh, the set included larger mouthed spoons, but I couldn’t handle ‘em. The smaller ones were perfect. And, they’ve got long stems, good for stirring coffee in my tall, narrow coffee cup with the state-of-the-art lid.

    So the four spoons became my friends. Kay intended to get some more, but the Big Lots people never found another set in the dropped crates down at the docks. Apparently.

I treasured my four spoons for, oh, a couple of years when one of them went missing. You might think the dishwasher ate it, but I stopped using the dishwasher. When you have only four favorite spoons, one favorite cereal bowl, the perfect spatula and my futuristic coffee cup, well, you can’t have ‘em sittin’ in a dishwasher waiting for a full load. Know what I mean, Vern?


So, I was down to three favorite spoons. If one more went missing, there’d be a pattern. I was scared. I took an entire Saturday looking for the missing/stolen spoon. Oh, I took a break to take Kay to see “Sleepless in Seattle.” They only meet in the last five minutes? Give me a break.

Anyway, no luck. I even looked behind the stove. When is the last time you pulled your stove out? It’s scary. I found a tennis ball, Kay’s catcher’s mitt, Big Al’s hairbrush and one of Jimmy Hoffa’s socks. Looked about his size. No spoon.

I had to give up. I’ve been nursing the remaining three spoons for years now. During commercials I’ll even run to the drawer and check up on ‘em.

Well, this morning something freaky happened. As I was arranging a fisted-bundle of silverware into the drawer, I chunked in all the forks and knives and the pointy spoons and then I put four special spoons into the appropriate slot. Did you catch that? FOUR. The prodigal spoon had returned.

“Where have you been?” I asked. It wasn’t talkin’.  I ran to find Kay. “Kay, the spoon is back!” You know what she said? She said, “Oh, good.”

Oh, good? A missing cat would get more of a welcome. So, I ran to the kitchen and prepared my cocktail mix of Oatmeal Crisp, Wheat Chex and Nutty Nuggets, and I grabbed hold of my prodigal spoon. I had to take a bite with each of the four, ‘cause I wasn’t sure which one was the missing one. I should’ve labeled ‘em.

I’m still left with the why, what and where” of the spoon. The “how” would be good to know, too. I’ve got the “when” down. This morning.

Yep, either I’m goin’ nuts or something is messing with me. I’m pretty sure I’m not nuts. Would a crazy person continue to wear one houseshoe so he doesn’t have to look for it when the other one appears? Or, would he protect his favorite spoons by hiding them inside an empty box of Wheat Chex? I think not.

END

To view Brad and Mark’s review of Wang's Asian Fusion Restaurant, click on pic below.



You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Babysitting the Shaner





"Birds, bubbles and Shane"


ROOFTOP – I think we may be rushing this autumn thing a bit. It’s still too hot to be up here. We’re looking at 84 degrees with a hot breeze. And, if that’s not a line in a Country Western song, it oughtta be.

I’m just surprised you followed me up here. Figured you for more sense. Loyal, that’s what you are. Loyal with a touch of odd.

At least you didn’t bring coffee with you. Can you believe this? This is my second cup of the morning. Sweating like a Lebanese sumo wrestler, and drinking coffee. Jill has been trying to get me interested in iced coffee. It makes no sense to me. If coffee were meant to be consumed cold, they would have called it Java-ade.

I thought we’d face the front yard this morning. Hope you don’t mind. It was a little shadier on this portion of the roof. The big oak will likely obscure us from any passing motorists. Let’s hope.

Speaking of all the birds, someone told me the other day that hummingbirds will eventually settle down and share the feeder. I can’t see hummingbirds sharing anything. One will sit down and just dare another to sit on one of the three vacant stoops. Chases off anything that attempts to hover. I just wanna slap ‘em.

When the oriole wants to visit, the hummingbirds don’t pester it. I’m fairly sure it’s from Maryland. I thought it odd the first time I saw the bird balance on the tiny hummingbird feeder. I seldom see any orioles around here. I had no idea they liked sugar water. We’ve got the birdbath down there, but they occasionally like to hit the sweet stuff. Reminds me of me.

Oh, and speaking of Kay reminds me that we had to baby sit Virginia and Freeman’s great grandson last week. Shane is, what… almost a year old? He can’t walk, he’s not crazy about crawling, but he likes to bounce. When you stand him up, he bounces like Tigger on speed.

If you lay him on his back, he kicks and punches the air like he wants to bounce in space. It’s best not to try to tummy-gum an air-bouncer. Look at my nose. I think he broke it. Strange lad. Grins and giggles like a Ukrainian drunk. (I don’t know where that came from.)

Other than the facial breakage threat, the other aggravating thing about the kid is that he doesn’t like to nap even when he’s half asleep. And, he always likes to be with someone. He even enjoys MY company. What an idiot. But, he much prefers his Aunt Kay. She threw a blanket in the backyard, put Shane down on it and started playing with one of her many bubble making mixtures. Kay’s pretty much a bubble freak. I had no idea when I married her.

So, she blew bubbles at Shane and the kid would giggle and try to focus on one while dozens of ‘em were popping on his noggin. Kids are just nuts.

I don’t care to spread this around, but I halfway enjoyed Shane’s stay. The first couple of hours anyway. And, I do think it was a little too hot for me to be outside with him. Fortunately, Kay put some water in a spray bottle and sprayed us with it. I think I giggled as much as the kid did. I even started bouncing.

I wish I had thought to bring the spray bottle to the roof. I’m melting. Just look at me. Tell you what, let’s get off this metal furnace, get in the house, lose the coffee and hit the Dr Pepper. The ol’ sugar water. I think I’ve got some oriole in me.

Oh, and watch your step, people. When it gets cooler we’re gonna want to do this again. So, if you fall and break something, I’m sure not hauling your rear up here next time. Loyalty counts for just so much.

END

Watch Brad and Mark’s latest restaurant review clicking on photo below.



 You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Monday, October 3, 2011

36 days until completion

Dad and Mom on left. Uncle A.B. and Aunt Bertha on right

“Favorite age”

    How old would you like to be? Would you care to go back to the puberty? Was that a lot of fun for you? How about the mid-twenties? How would that work?

    That’s what Brad asked me the other day. Brad is the local restaurant critic and reporter. Brad Meyer? Big guy? Mean? By the way, I want to thank those of you who commented on Facebook and by e-mail asking Brad to be nicer to me. It didn’t help a bit, but I appreciate the support.

    Anyway, I was driving us back from our latest restaurant experience when Brad asked what age I wanted to be. His question made me think about how much time I spend with the guy. Next to Kay, I talk to Brad Meyer more than anybody else in the realm of Mark. That just scares the willies out of me.

    The Plilers don’t have as much time for us anymore, ‘cause they’re with grandkids. You can never really assess the true value of one’s friendship until they have grandkids. I think William James said that. Or William Tell. One of the Williams.

    Point is, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Brad. Way too much time. Fortunately, he seldom says anything to me that requires a great deal of thought. So, you can see why I was genuinely surprised when he asked what my favorite age would be.

    Unfortunately, I spent too long thinking of my response. A nanosecond after asking the question, Brad started telling me his favorite age. Seems like it was 27. I wasn’t listening all that much. 

    Instead, I started thinking about my current age. It’s been on my mind quite a bit since my last birthday.. My 23rd, 33rd, 53rd and 62nd birthdays hit me hard. When I was a kid I thought that at the age of 23 I’d have everything figured out. I’d be smart, wise and on top of stuff. Instead, I was as confused as ever.

    At 33 I realized I had to get a move on, ‘cause time was really running out on me. At 53, time had run out on me. And, at my last birthday, 62, I realized that in late November I’d be as old as my dad was when he died.

    Dad died one year after taking disability retirement from Crown Refinery. I think it was the happiest year of his life. He and Mom did a little traveling, went out on dates, and spent a lot of time with their kids.

     We thought Dad just had minor heart trouble, and would be with us for many more years. One day in late March, while most of my siblings were visiting Big Al and me in Conroe, we got a call from Mom telling us to come to the hospital in Pasadena. Dad was gone by the time we got there. 

    That’s what I was thinking of when Brad was telling me his favorite age to be. I never told him how old I wanted to be, but I’m still glad he asked the question. It reminded of one of my goals. It was just over 15 months ago that I began writing a book about my life with Dad. Originally, my goal was to finish it by Christmas. Last Christmas. But, my lack of writing discipline forced me to move the deadline up to late November. November 18th, to be exact. That’s the day I’ll be exactly Dad’s age when he died. I had to do some serious math.

    I’ve completed 19 chapters of the book and have about six to go. I haven’t written on it for three weeks now. I’ve gotta get busy. Thanks to Brad’s unintentional prodding, I am now going to build a fire under my rear and finish the thing.

    I guess at some point I’ll get Brad to repeat his story about his favorite age. I’m not sure if he was telling me he liked being 27, or just wanted to go back and change some stuff he did at 27. While being 27 didn’t do much for Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison , Amy Winehouse and a host of others, it was probably a real gas for Brad. Just a guess.

    By the by, you can find the work in progress by logging onto www.rooftopwriter.com. Or you can wait till November 18, and read the entire thing. Unless Brad does something to really discourage me, I plan to be finished by then. 

END

To view Brad and Mark’s latest review of Guadalajara Hacienda and Grill click on picture.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fix your taillight for heaven's sake!

Strange Coincidence

Do you wanna know what the biggest coincidence in the world is? Pretend you do.

No, it’s not that your keys are always in the opposite pocket of your freehand. That’s ceased being a coincidence. The Society for Correctness in Word Usage has now labeled that occurrence as customary. (By the way, the SCWU is having a fundraiser Tuesday evening at The Ice House.)

No, the biggest coincidence in the world has to do with defective taillights. A study at Dartmouth University found that 97.4 percent of all cars with defective taillights are driven by people soon to be arrested for something.

Just odd as it can be. Last week I read about a guy who wasn’t even driving the single tail-lit car. He was just a passenger. Yet, come to find out, there was a felony warrant out on him. Police would not have known to arrest him had he not been in a car with a defective taillight.

I don’t know what that tells you, but it tells me that if you’re gonna do the crime, you’d better check your taillights. It also tells me that the law that prevents felons from keeping company with other felons and from owning firearms should be expanded to include driving a car with more than one taillight operational. We wouldn’t even have to have probation officers. The police would constantly be stopping P.I.s and seeing what they’re up to. – What? Oh, It stands for “Previously Incarcerated.” According to the SCWU, “ex-con” is no longer acceptable.

What makes the defective taillight/criminal ratio all the more bizarro is the fact that I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a car with a defective taillight. I’d come closer to seeing a whopping crane perched on my satellite dish. That must mean that crime is down. Way down.

Used to, it was common as could be to see cars with only one operational taillight… or headlight for that matter. We had a ’54 Ford pickup that came with only one taillight. The left side had a reflector, but no light.

It also had no blinker lights and no power steering. The truck was impossible to steer with one hand, yet, by law, I was supposed to give a hand signal while going into my turn. Couldn’t be done.

Fortunately, I had no police record, or as fate would have it, I would’ve been pulled over every day. – “Mr. Hayter, do you know why I pulled you over?” – “Well, I haven’t checked my taillights, but I assume I must’ve robbed the Sinclair station back yonder. I can’t buy a break.”

So, where am I going with all this, you ask? Well, somebody’s bound to have. The recent article about the defective taillight arrest got me to thinking. When I was young rambunctious teen, Tommy Cromeens and I were pulled over one night at about 1:30. We were out looking to rumble. Or, looking for a 24 hour Shipley’s Donuts.  I can’t remember.

Anyway, the officer pulled us over, put the ol’ light in our faces, studied us for a few seconds and then said, “We were looking for two guys in a car like this. We think they robbed a, uh, a 7/11 on, uh, Burke. Or, Red Bluff. One of those.”  He then suggested we call it a night.”

I didn’t mind the experience at all. Gave me the false impression that I looked tough. We were all the talk at school on Monday. “Hey, they yanked Tommy through the window. Me? I wasn’t going down without a fight.” Our friends wouldn’t have laughed so much had our reputations been just a little tarnished. Turned out to be a big embarrassment.

The weird thing is, had Tommy and I been tokin’ on reefer, or bootin’ the ol’ gong (work with me here), we wouldn’t have been stopped for driving in a car the same model as one involved in a robbery. No, we would’ve been pulled over because we had a defective taillight.

For the life of me, I don’t see how that happens. I imagine any day now the ol’ SCWU is going to change the defective taillight/criminal-pullover occurrence from “coincidence” to “customary.” And, I’m not even sure what that means.

END

You can view Brad and Mark’s latest restaurant by clicking on photo.







Friday, September 16, 2011

Ten years later

“Sunrise”

    ROOFTOP -- Anybody know what time sunrise is this morning? Anybody? Oh well, no worry. Li’l Orphan Annie assures us that the sun will come out… come what may. That little 87 year-old girl is just as perky as can be. We need perky.

    I might’ve researched the timing of sunrise, but the decision to climb up here was one of those spur of the moment things. I’m just shocked that a few of you were awake and alert enough to join me. Shows fortitude. Shows something.

    I dragged our buns up here ‘cause I just couldn’t sleep. I was stewing over my article. Not this one. I haven’t written this one yet. No, it was the one I wrote a few hours ago. I thought it best to write something about 9/11, this being tenth anniversary of the horrid event.

    Since so many others were writing about it, I figured I should. Didn’t think it proper to write my usual humor piece, so I got serious. Took me three stabs at it, but I finally ended up with something. Something I really didn’t like. I sounded like a guy who needed direction. I was all over the place. Got into history, politics and social values.

    And, were it not for Kay, I would’ve sent it in to my boss. You can only imagine the amount of bad stuff that girl has kept from you. 

    Like I say, I was in need of direction, so I dragged my rear out of bed and headed to the roof. I heard a wise man once say that if you can’t sleep, don’t fight it. Perhaps God is trying to get your attention about something.

So, here I am. And, here you are. Looking for direction? Well, from up here we’ve got direction in spades. Any minute now we could even get a glimmer of guidance.

Speaking of glimmer, I can see a faint glow right over yonder. I don’t know what time it is, but the sun is definitely on the rise. No, it’s over there in the east. See? No, Peggy, the other east. There you go. Looks like it will be joining us in just a few minutes. I need to assign one of you to keep an eye on it. No, Peggy, let’s let Claudia. Okay, both of you! Sheesh.

What? Oh, before I got the ladder out, I noticed the thermometer read 63 degrees. Almost wish I had thought to bring a long-sleeved shirt. And, Scott, I wish you had thought to throw some pants over your pajamas. Who sleeps in pajamas? Hey, it was rhetorical!

Doesn’t it feel absolutely great up here? I wonder how long we’ll remember this moment. What is the half-life of a memorable moment? Again, rhetorical.

Last night’s article had a part in it about remembering where I was when 9/11 happened. I thought it an interesting story. Interesting to me. But, who cares where I was? Phil, rhetorical. 

We were all somewhere? And, we each have our thoughts of that day. I absolutely hate it when someone describes something as being “surreal.” Just so overdone. But, let’s face it, that was pretty much the sense of the day.

Ten years ago. What’s happened since then? Have things gotten better? Worse? Seems we’re a little less patriotic than we once were. I bought two new flags and some flag decals after the disaster. I still fly those same flags on celebratory days. They’re a bit faded, but I can’t see me replacing them. Maybe when things settle down a bit.

And, yes, Peggy, here comes the sun. Annie was right, again. Just look at that orange glow cutting through the pines. In lieu of the fire season, I’m so glad I’ve still got my pines. They could catch fire and burn the house tomorrow, but right now they’re providing quite the spectacle.

And, yes, it’s a cool 60+ degrees right now, and it will be in the 90s later in the day. But, now, it feels all right. We’re quietly sitting, looking, listening. Right now is good.

This moment reminds me of one of my favorite passages. “Be still and know that I am God.” -- He just got my attention.

END

To view Mark and Brad's latest restaurant review click on pic below.   



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Not good a waiting

“The DPS Adventure”

Did you know that the Texas Department of Public Safety does not inform all residents when their licenses need renewed? I didn’t know that till Kay told me a couple of weeks before my birthday.

The DPS apparently doesn’t have a budget large enough to send out mailers to everyone. Nor does it have enough money to maintain all its offices. They’ve been closing ‘em right and left. That’s what’s been making the experience at the Montgomery County DPS office purgatorial.

Unless you’re incarcerated or deemed a road hazard, you will eventually need to make that trip. All roads lead to the DPS. Add just a tad of heat, and you’ll think you died and went to the bad place.

    I made it to the DPS in Conroe at about 2:00 in the p,m. I read somewhere that it didn’t matter how early you got there, you would still have to wait till your nose bled. I don’t know if that’s true or not, ‘cause I left when I saw the crowd. I couldn’t find a place to park. There were cars circling the parking lot and lined along the railroad track.

    A conundrum is what I had. Had it by the knees. I needed to do one of two things. I could go home, and come back in a better mood. Or, I could go to Huntsville. After 20 minutes of pondering, I headed to Huntsville. That’s what the Plilers had done a couple of weeks before. Said it was faster in Walker County.

    In Huntsville I didn’t have to wait outside. I made it just inside the door, and stood with about 20 other poor saps that were waiting for a chance to make it inside the room with the chairs.

“Hey, what are you here for?” the loud talker said. Every line has one. “Uh, renewal.” I said. – “Don’t you know you can do that on-line?” the know-it-all lady said. Exhibited one of those superior airs.

“I’m gonna bust you up, lady.” That’s the first thing that came to mind. The fourth thing was what actually came out of my mouth. “If your driver license photo was taken back when Nixon was President they want you to show up for a new one. That’s what I found out ON-LINE.”

It was the loud talker’s turn. “Hey, where you from? You know we’re gonna be here five hours don’t you?” -- “Uh, Conroe.” – “Oh, man, that’s the worst. My nephew tried to—“ That went on for about 30 minutes. During the harangue I found out I was standing in line with people from Magnolia, Spring, Montgomery, Hempstead, Willis and Iowa.

The Corn State (sometimes called “Hawkeye State”) couple were newly weds who just moved down. They had no idea what they’d stepped in. “In my hometown we just go to the Courthouse walk up to a window and they take care of us in a matter of minutes.”

“Well, you’re in Texas now. Don’t mess with us, Little Missy.” I was waiting for the know-it-all lady to say that, but she didn’t. I guess even she had her limits.

When I finally got inside the big room I noticed that there were only two clerks. One nice and one not so. Isn’t that the way it is? I wonder if there’s a place in the world where both clerks are nice. 

I was so pleased when the nice lady called me over. She didn’t make me fill out another form or anything. Did some computer stuff and then told me to stand in the square so she could take my picture.

I stood for, oh, 30 seconds. Nothing. Then I looked up for a second, closed my eyes and flinched. Snap! – The nice lady was a ringer. They coax you in with politeness and then catch you off guard with the camera. Oh, they’re good. -- By the way I was in and out in two hours.


Matters not anymore. I’ve got my temporary license, The new one is in the mail. Next time I have to do this again, I’ll be a road hazard. Or, incarcerated. Always a chance of that.

END

You can find Brad and Mark’s review of Hyden’s Sport’s Pub by clicking below.






Saturday, September 3, 2011

I did my duty

“The voir dire experience”

    Did you know that something is more certain if you believe it “beyond a reasonable doubt” than if you are “clear and confident of it?” Hey, I was shocked, too.

    That’s what I learned on jury duty last week. The prosecutor explained stuff like that to me and the other 32 prospective jurors. I was number 29. It was a misdemeanor case and they were only looking for six jurors. Being 29 when they’re looking for six is good. (You just read a sentence that has never been written before. I’m clear and confident of that.)

    Anyone selected for the jury would have to serve for about two days. That’s what the judge said, and he’d been around long enough to know. I’m patriotic as all get out, but I really didn’t wanna show back up on Tuesday.

    Did you know that some people make weird comments during the voir dire phase of a trial? “Voir dire?”That’s the technical term for the process of selecting a jury. The judge mentioned that, but I already knew.

     I wanted to raise my hand and tell him I knew, but one of the clerks already gave me a questioning look when I stood up to see if I could steal a better pen. I don’t think you’re supposed to stand without permission.

    Where was I? Oh, weird comments. The prosecutor asked if anyone would have to be 100 percent certain before finding a person guilty. In other words, did we all agree to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” criterion?  

    A few raised their hands and said they’d have to be 100 percent sure. Good grief! Witnesses can’t even be 100 percent sure. Witnesses are lousy witnesses. (Another invented sentence.) If I had to draw a composite picture of Brad Meyer, the restaurant critic goober I eat with, I couldn’t tell you if he had hair or not. I’m around him at least two times a week. Does he have a beard? Not sure. Do you know? Well, see there? We’d both be lousy witnesses. 

    The only person who can be 100 percent sure of who did what is the person charged with doing it. He knows if he did it or not. Anyone who might’ve seen him can only know “beyond a reasonable doubt.” An extraterrestrial could’ve taken the guy’s place and committed the crime. That’s possible, but not reasonable.

    I wanted to raise my hand and explain all of that to the prosecutor, because I didn’t think he was explaining as well as I could. But, I didn’t.  Low profile. That’s the course of action I chose. I was number 29. Didn’t wanna stand out. If it were a big highfalutin famous person trial, I might’ve said stuff to get on the news.

But, I was keeping it low-key... which was a popular name for boys born in 2008.  I didn’t even want to stand out in the lobby when we were waiting to be called in. Get there at 9:00 the jury summons said. I came 15 minutes early and couldn’t find a place to park. Impossible to park where the summons instructed. Billions of cars. I ended up parking in the Baptist Church parking lot. Been my experience Baptists seldom tow your car.

    I did get there just in time to wait 40 minutes to be called into the courtroom. I imagine the lawyers were trying to strike a deal and avert a trial. They do that a lot. Bring things right down to the wire to see if one side caves. No caving.

    The trial is over by now. I didn’t serve, but I did my duty. I showed up, I spoke when directly spoken to (which was not at all) and I returned the pen I stole. I participated in the process called voir dire, and was judged to be unwanted, unneeded, and marginally well behaved. It was a rather successful Monday for me.

END

 To view Brad and Mark’s latest restaurant click on photo.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I feel a sick coming on

“D.O.A.”


    I’m going to have to make this quick. I don’t have much time before I’ll be unreadable. Several of you have accused me of that in the past, but this time I have an excuse.

It started with Kay. She was up most of the night with nausea. That means I was up most of the night switching out garbage cans. Kay had the worst of it; I realize that. But, boy, did I not have fun.

Right now I’ve got one of those headaches that lets you know you’re getting ready to be sick. You know the one. I could take something for it, but it’s not going to work. I’ve got what Kay’s got. Close to it anyway.

The headache is associated with the ol’ the rumbly in my tumbly sensation. It’s coming, and it’s gonna be a bear. (By the way, the new Winnie the Pooh movie got great reviews. I’m planning to rent it, ‘cause I don’t wanna pay big bucks to watch a movie that’s just a little over an hour long. You wanna know the real reason, it’s ‘cause I’m afraid I will embarrass myself during the movie by trying to give that stupid Pooh Bear advice. “No, Pooh! Don’t listen to Tigger. The guy’s redick-orous!” I can do that at home, and it’s not big deal. In the theatre?

Where was—Oh, yeah. A few hours ago I went to Sonic to get Kay a large limeade. Kay likes Sonic limeades over Sonic ice. Try to get ‘em to put their limeade over Whataburger ice and they won’t do it. They just draw the line on that.

I was so proud of myself for getting Kay something she didn’t ask for. I just looked at her lying there all sad-faced, and I said, “Hey, I’m goin’ to Sonic to get you a limeade. What else you want? She said she wouldn’t mind a strawberry sundae for later when she might could keep it down.

So, I pulled into Sonic, pushed the button and told the girl, “I would like a large limeade, a strawberry sundae and a-- And, a— And, that’s all.” I was trying to say “and a coffee flavored Java Chiller.” I love just plain Java Chillers. But I couldn’t get the words out without heaving. The only way I can now write the words is by thinking of a blue Magic Marker. I’m writing “Java Chiller” but I’ve got Magic Marker on my brain. You try to do that. It’s not easy.

It was there at the Sonic speaker I first realized I was soon to be sick. I didn’t tell the Sonic girl, ‘cause she didn’t care. The girl who brought my stuff acted like she cared, but I think she just wanted a tip. That’s the only reason I’d walk to somebody’s car in 102 degree heat.

So, I came home, put the sundae in the freezer, the limeade on the end table by the couch, and then escorted Kay down the stairs. She’s now sitting there with her eyes shut but not asleep. I know that, ‘cause anytime I walk by she mumbles something to me. I can’t understand her. I just say, “I know, Sweetie.” Seems to placate her.

Before meeting you here I, uh, took/applied one of those phenergan anti-nauseating things. I don’t care to say much more about application, but I will tell you that along with eliminating the nausea, that thing will knock me out for, oh, an entire day. Maybe two. I’ll end up looking and acting like Kay.

Did any of you ever see the movie “D.O.A.” where the guy is poisoned and knows he’s going to die, so he spends his last moments trying to figure out who poisoned him? That doesn’t have anything to do with my situation, but the thought just came to me.

I think that’s one of the symptoms of whatever I’m getting. During one of Kay’s mumblings she said “I guess it’s not West Nile because…” Her comment just trailed off. Happens a lot.

I never thought of West Nile. Kay’s pretty smart even when she’s out of her mind. Not me. I make little sense when I’m sick. Become unreadable. Fortunately, I was able to spend this time with you before my mind shutdown. It got close there a time or two, but I made it. – What?

END



To see Brad and Mark’s latest restaurant review CLICK ON PIC:



Friday, August 12, 2011

Didn't know what hit 'em.

“Incredible Pizza”

    Until things cool down, our family get-togethers will be held at eating establishments somewhere in neutral territory. We’ve got family in Pasadena, La Porte, The Woodlands, Willis and Conroe.

Of course, our sister Sue lives in Washington State, so we’ve been excluding her from our gatherings. I’m not apologizing for that, either. If you choose to move a couple thousand miles away from family, you’re gonna get left out.

Last month’s gathering was held at Incredible Pizza in Conroe. Jill picked the place. She lives in a La Porte, and apparently likes to be on the road. I was good with the idea, ‘cause it’s only a 15 minute drive for me, and ‘cause it’s buffet. I don’t understand buffet. Do they realize you can eat all you want? Just makes no sense to me.

The only drawback to the Incredible Pizza had to do with the timing. Timing is so important in life. Whether you’re telling a joke, cooking a roast or approaching an amber light, timing is crucial.

Unfortunately, Jill timed our confab for Saturday evening. I don’t care if it’s Incredible Pizza, Chuck E Cheese or a trip to Wal-Mart, Saturday evening is not a good time for grownups… unless you want to rumble.

Though Kay and I were not the first to arrive at I P, it was obvious that I was going to have to be the one to take charge. You have no idea the hurt that comes from being the one to take charge. But, who’s gonna do it? “You, Kaffee? The truth is, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall!” – Whoa. What was that?

Anyway, Hayters were filling plates and then wandering all over the place. -- Where do we sit? Where are the bigger plates? Why would I want a salad? – People were getting testy. Dennis got into a fight with two nine-year-olds. He could’ve probably handled one. I kept telling him they’d bring more pizza.

I finally told Kay to gather up the mavericks, while I found a place for us to camp.
I went to a boss-looking person and asked if we could take over one of the special birthday rooms. “No, they’re all taken,” she lied. Hey, I don’t blame her. I’m pretty sure the manager at the Chinese buffet in Deer Park called her. She acted like she had heard of the Hayters.

I ended up leading everyone to the giant theatre room. They were airing a weird Japanese animated feature. Wait a minute. That’s redundant. We decided against watching the feature. None of the other losers in the room cared to watch, either. We just ate. It was way dark in that theatre, which made it so easy to steal off one another’s plates.

The biggest thief was Levi. That’s my nephew Clint’s youngest. From his high chair he had a grab range radius of 4 feet. By the way, Clint and Joanna named their kids Jasmine, Cash, Violet and Levi. I think Clint was looking to make a TV series called “Bonanza: The Next Generation”

After realizing the food would never run out, most of us slowed our eating pace. Once finished, we ran to the game area, a massive place with bumper cars, an iceless iceskating rink, putt putt golf and 179 other games. The brothers and Clint played Putt Putt. I lost bad. The game looks so much easier than it is.

The kids played with… well, everything. It didn’t cost all that much for the youngest to play. Seems the boat, car, spaceship games show the vehicles racing on the screens even when you don’t put tokens in. The kids would sit there and turn the steering wheel back and forth thinking they were actually directing the thing. I even caught myself doing it. Kids are dopes.

Probably won’t surprise you to know that we were among the last to leave. Yeah, we pretty well closed down Incredible Pizza. We even got cheers from the staff as we left. Some of those people are good actors.

I have no idea where we’re meeting this month. If I get to pick, it’ll be 10:45 at Luby’s. Those people won’t know what hit ‘em. 

END
   
For the latest Whine and Dine review click on pic.







Saturday, August 6, 2011

Made a pancake lover outta me.

“They're the best, Jerry”


     I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m half of the restaurant review team of Brad and Mark. Professional critique Brad Meyer is the brains and I… well, I just go along for the free food. Our video segment is called “Whine and Dine.” One of us thought that cute.

    From some of the comments received about our segments, it’s apparent that at least one county resident considers me somewhat of a doofus. Brad can be so mean.

    Well, this “doofus” is getting ready to do something that’s only been done once in the history of mankind. I believe it was in Wisconsin back in ’47. I’m going to review a pancake. So, grab a cup of joe and listen up. Read up.

Last Tuesday, I wanted breakfast for supper, so I gathered Kay up and we went to IHOP. I think I missed her left shoe.

IHOP is big on pancakes. Why else would they put ‘em in their name. Take the pancakes out of IHOP and they’re IHO. Say that twice and you’ve got the first two words in a song by seven little people. Work with me here, would ya?

    Truth is I didn’t want pancakes ‘cause they weigh on me. “Sluggish” thy name is Tall Stack. That’s in the Old Testament somewhere. Fairly sure.

However, after the waitress went to get my coffee (a whole pot) I noticed a picture in the menu insert. The mini-men’. The picture was that of a plate of pancakes covered with a thick cinnamon goo. Atop this layer of brown ambrosia was a squiggly pattern of thin white icing. And on top of that was a splot of whipped cream. Splot? Somebody look that up.

I was about to jump up and run for the waitress, but Kay gave me her don’t-embarrass-me look. It’ll paralyze. I think she was still mad about her shoe. She told me to wait for the waitress. After all, that’s how they got their name.

The waitress promptly returned with my coffee and poured the first cup. After that you get to pour your own. And, get this, if you empty the carafe, they bring you another. I’m not making this stuff up.

But, forget the coffee. I told the waitress I wanted the breakfast with the cinnamon pancakes. She seemed pleased with my selection. I like it when the waitress commends me for my order. So, I ended up with two eggs (over medium), two sausages, hashbrowns and two pancakes. I had to place a separate order for toast, ‘cause I wasn’t about to trade my pancakes for toast. They shouldn’t even make it an option.

Kay ordered… something else. Who remembers? I wolfed down most of my eggs and stuff, and then sank my fork into the pancake concoction. I instantly noticed that a glob of cinnamon also covered the bottom pancake. It was genius! And, it was one of the few times where the picture of the food looked just like the actual food. Nobody has figured out how to do that with hamburgers, but IHOP managed it with their cinnamon pancakes.

Unfortunately, I got too full too fast. I decided it a good time to let Kay have a taste. She took a bite… then another. She thought for a second and said, “You know, this tastes like the best part of a real gooey cinnamon roll, the middle. Only with a cakey texture.” Kay makes up words sometimes.

But she was right. The waitress even gave us the senior discount, and we didn’t even ask. She might’ve just felt sorry for Kay. Anyway, we got one meal for free.

What a great eating experience. Some days you just step into something good. Had Brad been with me instead of Kay I would’ve stepped into something less good. Brad is so mean. I suggested we call our program “Mark and Big Stinker.” One of us thought that cute.  

END

You can view Mark and B Stinker’s latest review on YouTube click on picture.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

An eye for fashion?


And I woulda been in style, too.

    I hadn’t been to the mall since before Christmas. I only went last week because Kay wanted to look for a “special kind” of denim shorts. I didn’t know what she meant at the time, nor do I now, even after she bought the shorts. I couldn’t tell you the specialness of ‘em if you stuck a gun to my head.

    By the way, I went to the mall with Kay because I didn’t answer the “What else have you got to do?” question seriously. “Drive a roofing nail in my foot” was not an acceptable answer.

    There was no way I was going to be of help to Kay in her lengthy short search, so when we got to the mall I just sat down on one of those torturous benches and watched people walk by. I hate to see people who sit and watch people walk by, so I managed to look like I wasn’t looking. I have a knack. It’s really more of a gift.

    One thing I picked up on was a current fashion trend for young ladies. It may have been going on for a couple of years, but I just picked up on it. What they’re doing is wearing these really short denim shorts. Not like Kay bought. Shorter than that. Way shorter. So short that in some cases, the inside of the pockets extend beyond the hem. It looks tacky as all get out. Bound to be why it’s so popular.

    I also saw one girl wearing a pair of jeans that had gaping rips from the top of the thigh down to her knees. The inside of her pockets were also visible. I’ve seen torn jeans before, but none quite as revealing. Again, no one could tell that I was even looking.

    Speaking of socks, I saw this junior high aged kid walk by wearing black socks with tennis shoes. Black socks. I don’t know if you’re aware, but guys can now wear black socks with shorts and athletic shoes. First time I saw anyone under the age of 50 wearing black socks was when I picked up Virginia’s grandson after spring training football practice.

    Ryan was wearing black socks with his Nikes. I asked him how long that had been going on and he said, “I don’t know. Probably over a year.” I had no idea. No one keeps me up to date on stuff like that. I’ve had a pair of black athletic socks for a couple of years now. One of the brothers got ‘em for me for Christmas. I thought it was a joke. I could’ve been wearing ‘em all along and no one would’ve laughed. No, they would still laugh.

    Back at the mall I saw a three-year-old with both his shirt and shorts inside out. His parents acted like they didn’t even notice. I don’t know if the kid dressed himself wrong or the parents were embracing the new “inside out” trend for kids. If you scratch this thing, you’ll probably find Justin Bieber behind it. 

I did see a lady wearing a shirt that I really liked. I was sitting over by the giant talking tree area. I’m not sure the tree talks anymore, ‘cause they took its face off. Hard to talk without a face. I don’t know why I felt I had to tell you that, but it seemed important.

Anyway, the young mother was wearing a tight green Tee shirt that had big eyeballs on the front. The protruding eyes made it appear that immediately below her neck was a giant frog face. I thought it cute as it could be.

Kay didn’t think the look all that cute. I pointed the lady out when Kay walked up with her short’s purchase. She wanted to know why I felt I had to stare at women at the talking tree. I told her I didn’t think the tree talked anymore. She gave me ol’ eye roll.

Just irks me no end. I get in trouble when all along I didn’t even want to be there. Why is it you can never find a roofing nail when you need one?

END

To view Mark and Brad’s latest restaurant review click on pic.