Saturday, June 25, 2011

The last time I saw him, he was laughing and joking

“More of a jokefest”
    Big Al and I drove down to Clear Lake last week to watch the other two brothers play in the next to the last game of the season. It’s a slow-pitch softball league for Old Timers. I don’t believe they call it “Old Timers League” but they might as well.

Dennis and Larry’s team is four wins ahead in league play. That means the outcome of their last two games means squat. They played like it, too. Dennis probably has the highest batting average in the league, but it sure didn’t show this time. He hit nothing but slow grounders. Larry didn’t fare any better.

They didn’t look too good in the field, either. Larry had one good play when the ball hit his foot and rolled to the guy covering second base for a force out. The crowd went wild. Big Al and I were the crowd.

Old Timer softball is not that big a draw… even for the wives. Especially for the wives. Plus, it was way hot out there. I’m thinking 120 degrees. It was so hot that the umpire ordered Al and me to get out of the heat and go sit in the dugout. Never heard of an umpire benching spectators. We put up little fight.

In the dugout I struck up a conversation with guy from another team.  No idea why he was there. Anyway, je pointed to one of the players in the infield. “You see that shortstop out there?” he said. “That guy can hit. He’s knocked three over the fence.”

The shortstop was Dennis. He has never knocked a ball over the fence in his life. None of the brothers have. But, apparently, someone saw Dennis hit a long fly once, and embellished a bit. He told a friend who told a friend… Low and behold, Dennis is now a Long Knocker. That’s what they call homerun hitters in the Old Timers League. “Long Knockers.” I’m not making that up.

After the pathetic loss, we all went for barbecue at the Chop Block in Pasadena. Restaurant reviewer Brad Meyer wasn’t with me, so I got to enjoy the meal.

At some point during the chowdown, I asked the brothers if they knew of  any plans for their Fathers Day. I’m the only childless brother, so I didn’t really care. Just making conversation. Turns out, they didn’t care either.  Not a one of ‘em was even aware of Fathers Day.

The only good thing that came from my question was the fact that it started up stories about Dad. The last time I ever saw my dad, the four brothers were playing in a softball tournament at Memorial Park. The Hayter boys were the infield. Last inning of the game; we’re in the field. One out and runners on first and third. We’re up by one run.

The batter smashed a grounded to third. I scooped it up, threw it to Dennis at second who relayed it to Larry at first. Double play. We win!

After all the glad handing, I called Dad to tell him about it. He and Mom decided to drive out and watch our next game… a game we lost badly.

At the time, I really regretted calling Dad. I hated that he and Mom drove all the way out to watch us get trounced. But, Dad didn’t mind. After the game he laughed and joked with us. That was the last memory I have of my Dad. He died of a heart attack just a few weeks later. But, my last memory of him was of him laughing and cutting up with my brothers and me.  I’ve long since considered the moment a true blessing.

Same with Al calling me to go to the ballpark to watch Dennis and Larry. On this occasion I was glad that Dad wasn’t alive to see his sons really stink up the place. Big Al really let ‘em have it, too. He almost had Dennis and Larry in tears.  -- I may be exaggerating a bit. It was more of a jokefest with the brothers. Another blessing. 


To watch Brad and Mark's recent restaurant review click on pic.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

James Arness

 Arness WAS Dillon

     If I had lived in the Old West, there would have been only one gunman I wouldn’t be afraid to face. The Lone Ranger. The guy never killed anybody. He was so good that he only shot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand.  I don’t care if the gun was right in front of the outlaw’s chest, the bullet would go no farther than his hand.

Granted, it probably hurts to have a gun shot out of your hand. Probably like a firecracker going off just as you rear back to throw it. Happened to me once. I thought I lost my thumb. But I digress. (Speaking of which, in case you’re wondering, I’ve been requested to cut back on my article length due to, uh… they’re just too long. That has killed so much rambling that it’s scary. For me. It’s gotta be a blessing for you.)

    Where was I? Oh, yeah, The Lone Ranger. I would face him. The worst of it would be a numb thumb… which happens to be a game played in Papua New Guinea. The one gunman I would least like to face would’ve been none other than Matt Dillon, a character played by the recently deceased James Arness. Who didn’t know that?

    I might’ve been able to outdraw Dillon, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Even if I had gotten off a half dozen shots and hit him with two of ‘em, he would’ve killed me. The man could take a hit.

I read a recent tribute to Arness in which the writer said that Dillon was shot 30 times during his 20-year stint as Marshal of Dodge. That is so not right. It’s closer to 130. Both legs, arms, shoulders, all over his back, and an area a half-inch away from his heart bore the mark’s of multiple wounds. That guy wore more lead than a Russian Nuclear Power Plant.

What I most liked about Dillon, apart from his ability to survive massive wounds, was the fact that he didn’t mince words. Mince words? Anyway, if he thought you were a bad guy, he’d just tell you get out of town. – “Hey, you can’t do that,” the bad guy would say. – “You’ve got one hour” is what Dillon would say. He didn’t care to argue.

One thing I didn’t like about him was the way he would let people threaten him. Today, if you threaten a law officer it’s the same as an assault. An aggravated assault even. But, you could threaten Dillon all day and night. “I’m gonna kill you, Marshall. Shoot you in the back? I don’t care. I’m gonna kill you.”

Dillon did not arrest bad guys for that. He might tell ‘em to get out of town, but he wouldn’t throw ‘em in jail. That’s why he got shot in the back so many times.

A man of few words, who was incorruptible, and able to really take a shot. That was Matt Dillon. Why he never saddled up with Kitty is beyond me. Especially since the dancehall girls at the Long Branch only danced and drank. Nothing else.

Oh, the memories of “Gunsmoke.” I never met any of the original cast, but it still hurts to know that, with the passing of James Arness, the last of them is gone.

So, let’s all mosey up to the bar and lift our glasses for a toast to Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake, and, of course, James Arness. Many have paid tribute to his acting ability. Me? I don’t really think he was all that good of an actor. Not in “Gunsmoke.” That’s because he wasn’t acting. Arness was Dillon.

Hey, The Lone Ranger wouldn’t even want to go against him. A shot to the hand with a silver bullet? Dillon wouldn’t even have noticed.


To view Mark and Brad’s latest restaurant of “Spring Creek Barbecue in The Woodlands” click on pic.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Pants on fire!

"Promise breaker"

Seventeen years ago I made a promise that I’m soon going to break. I don’t want to, but it’s gonna happen. Oh, it’s gonna happen.

Just to set the record straight, it’s Kay’s fault. And, you wanna know something scary? She knows it’s her fault, and I don’t think she cares. Reminds me of a song by Roy Orbison. But, I’ll not go off on one of my tangents. This is too important. 

It was back in February of ’94. We just moved in. The two back bedrooms had some wall issues. Two teenage boys had lived in the rooms and their ucky blue walls were loaded with staples. I’m assuming there were posters. We didn’t have posters when I was growing up. (Oops, another tangent trigger.)

After a day of pulling staples, we ended up with an ucky blue wall with thousands of tiny white-chalky holes in it. If you made a tiny telescope with your thumb and pointer finger, and you squinted real hard, it looked like the night sky during a Latvian smog alert.

To tell the truth, the wall didn’t bother me all that much. I’ve always had a fondness for Latvia. But, Kay would have none of it. She wanted to paint the walls. More than that, she wanted me to help! Devil woman, let go of me.

So we laid down a tarp and prepped the walls. I don’t remember much of what all that involved, but it was bad. Dr. Rex told me to try to put it all out of my mind. He said that people with peculiar personalities should never delve into the past. Peculiar personalities? He was the only psychologist on our insurance plan who would see me. That’s just weird.

Anyway, the prep -- what little I recall of it -- was almost as bad as the actual painting. The entire job was… I’m sorry. I don’t care to go back there. It’s enough to say that I was covered with paint and Kay only had one spot on the back of her left hand. I threatened to get in the car and drive to Montana, and, again, she didn’t seem to care.

At some point during the agony I made a promise -- THE promise. With the paint roller stuck in my hand, and one of those cheep little sponge daubers attached to my rear, I said, “If any part of this house ever gets painted again, it’ll be by someone other than me.” Or, I. I’m pretty sure I said “me.”

    Flash forward 17 years. I’ll be painting the same two bedrooms next week. Seems Kay got our remodeler guy, Brian Shelley, to turn two closets in the adjoining rooms into one closet. I didn’t see the possibility, nor the need for such a job. Kay had a vision. She had something.

The job required some wall removal, which pleased the daylights out of Kay. She says that now we can paint the walls another color. Sunrise Coral Island Sand. Looks a lot like peachy tangerine to me, but I assume that name was taken.

Brian Shelley marrying two closets

While I do remember the promise I made about painting, I have obviously forgotten much of the torment of the job… thanks to Dr. Rex. It seems that when I try to recall the worst of the experience, my brain sees a platter of waffles. I went through some serious therapy.

And soon I will break my promise. A promise breaker I be. I don’t do that often, ‘cause I generally attach qualifiers to my promises. “If all goes well, I’ll…” or “Unless I change my mind, I promise to…” That kind of stuff.

But there was no qualifier on my promise not to paint. I was so sure I wouldn’t need one. Turn two closets into one? I never saw it coming. Takes a special person to    see something like that. Apparently one without my “peculiar  personality.” I still don’t know what he meant by that.


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

Friday, June 3, 2011

Two biggest exaggerations

“Can’t make this up.”

    Last week I told you about a word used in 63 percent of all lies. Or, 72 percent. When I make up numbers it’s hard for me to remember what I said.

    This week I’m gonna give you the two biggest exaggerations in the history of Western civilization. Hey, I’ve been doing a lot of research.

    Ready? The second biggest exaggeration is “You can’t make up something like that.” That is soooo not true. Name something you can’t make up? It’s impossible. At least on planet Earth.

    What brought this to my mind was one of those murder documentary shows. Dateline, True Crime, 48 Hours, The New Detectives, On the Case… I watch a bunch of ‘em. I don’t know why. They’re like watching the first part of one of those revenge movies. Makes me way angry. I must like angry.

    Anyway, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the narrator or some police officer being interviewed say “You can’t make up something like this.” What he’s saying is that the motive and/or method of murder is just beyond belief.

    You’ve gotta be kidding. CSI, NCIS, Law and Order, Criminal Minds… they make up stuff like that every week. The cases get so convoluted that three minutes after the show I can’t tell you who killed who and why.

    Each program follows a formula. Right off the bat you’re introduced to the most obvious suspect. You can scratch him off immediately. Then they introduce you to five or six others who may have had motive. It ends up being the apartment manager who had an affair with the lady’s niece.

You call that motive? It’s stupid as all get out. That’s why each episode is so forgettable. Yet, I still watch. All except CSI. Don’t ever show me a bullet as it goes through somebody’s pancreas and expect me to keep watching.

     Can’t make stuff like this up? Sheesh. But, forget that. The most exaggerated statement in the history of mankind is – Are you ready? -- “Hey, anybody can do it.”

    You need to just slap somebody that tells you that. There is nothing that anybody can do. Wait a minute. That sounds wrong. Uh, nobody can do anything.

    Look. Let me just tell you what got me to thinking about this. It was Kay’s brother Tracy. A few weeks back I mentioned to the little twit that Big Al and I had put to rest our From the Rooftop TV venture. The country wasn’t ready for it.  So, I was now in need of my own Rooftop Writer Website. I expected Tracy to volunteer to make me one.

    He gave no hint of volunteering. Instead, he said that anybody can do it. He told me there are places all over the Internet that will make the job super easy. And, he made me believe I could do it. I should’ve atomic wedged him right on the spot.
I’ve spent the last several days on my new Website – At one point I completely lost it. Spent hours trying to relocate it. Literally, hours. Kay finely came upstairs and said, “Get out of here for 15 minutes. I’ll take care of it.”

Sure enough she found the Rooftop Writer. Of course, now I don’t know how to put a blog into it. Neither does Kay. She just knows how to find stuff.  Me? I can’t do anything. That makes me dumber than anybody.

No, it’s gonna take Tracy to get me out of this. And, believe me, he’s gonna do it. You can’t make up what I’m gonna do to him if he doesn’t step up to the plate. And, that’s no exaggeration.


Watch Mark and Brad’s latest restaurant review click on photo: