Monday, December 31, 2012

The last word on Christmas 2012

A few Hayters from an earlier Christmas.
 Jill, Susan, Mom holding Big Al, me and Dennis.
This was before flash attachments. 
  
All I got for Christmas

    Now that the smoke has cleared from all the Holiday cheer, let me ask about your Christmas? Before you start telling me, let me say that I don’t have time to hear it.

There is just not enough space here for all of us, so what say I tell you about my Christmas? A tricker guy I be.

My Christmas was okay. Had I been expecting more, I would’ve been disappointed. When you quit expecting, life can’t disappoint. Isn’t that neato?

Truth is, Kay and I buy ourselves stuff during the off season – March, late September – so, by the time Christmas is here we don’t need anything. If I waited till December to buy a double-handled hammer wrench that I’ll never use, I wouldn’t even have one. Kay would never know to get me something like that.

No, we kept it simple. Kay got me a LARGE jar of cashews. Is there anything that says “I love you” more than that?  I think not. She also got me a new ear/nose hair trimmer. Is there anything that says “You need to trim your ears and nose” more than that?

And, do you wanna know the scary part? I was glad to get the thing. Don’t you just hate it when a person is talking to you and you spot a hair on his lobe that’s as long as a cat whisker? I usually point and scream.

There are actually rich and famous people with nose hair issues. Seriously. It must happen to everyone. You think? Well, it may not happen to me anymore, ‘cause I got the trimmer.

Oh, and let me tell you what I got Kay? I got her this big, cushioned lap desktop thing. Something that enables her to comfortably use her laptop while it’s in her lap. Get it?

The leather-topped cushion is so big that she even has room for her mouse. Normal people don’t have the coordination to use a flat-surface in place of a mouse. Our brains don’t work that way. The only people who can master the flat-surfaced mouse are individuals who can curl their tongues -- backwards. They’re just wired differently.

I also got Kay a giant tin of bad cookies. In my defense, I didn’t know the cookies were bad. They were labeled as being really good. The big selling feature – other than the price – was the word “chocolate.”

You’ve got to go a long way to mess up a chocolate cookie. But, they managed. The cookies were well traveled. Some were made in Italy, a few in Sweden, but most came from Uzbekistan. (Please note that all three countries have great cookies. They just weren’t included in this particular tin. -- Sheesh. Have you noticed how people are so easily angered? – “You don’t like Italian cookies? I’ll give you and Italian cookie!)

The good news is, we got rid of some of the cookies at the Christmas supper Kay prepared for the Hayter family. Just the older Hayters. I didn’t invite any nieces and nephews, ‘cause… well, there are just too many of ‘em.

Do you have any idea how tactful you have to be to exclude certain family members from a “family” gathering? Turns out, nobody seemed to care one way or the other. It was one less place they had to go.  How sweet is that?

I let Jill show up early Christmas morning ‘cause I like her best, and ‘cause she bought our breakfast at I-HOP. I had no idea I-HOP would be open on Christmas. Try to figure. Ryan, our waiter, said that I-HOP is opened on all holidays. He should know. He’s worked ‘em all.

I-HOP didn’t even close during Hurricane Ike. Two guys with a Coleman stove were in the parking lot flippin’ jacks. (I just made that up.)

Anyway, turns out, Jill started a new Christmas tradition. From now on, she will take Kay and me out for breakfast at I-HOP Christmas morning. She’s thrilled.

Kay and I also got to— Oh, my goodness, I’ve gotta end this thing. I don’t want to do to you what I did with the Christmas Short Story. Boy, that thing was long, wasn’t it? It takes me longer to develop characters than it does the really good writers. 

So, I’m going to give you a rest and stop this thing right here. What a great way to start the New Year. – That didn’t sound right.

End

Take a look at Whine and Dine's latest restaurant review by clicking on pic.
Red Phoenix

Contact Hayter at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A christmas short story by Hayter

“Mrs. B and the Christmas Play” -- by Mark Hayter


    The persons and events in this story are fictitious. As far as I know.
--
    Blanch Blyleven was chosen to ramrod the Christmas Play at Milford Elementary back ’92. Milford’s music teacher, Anne Lupton, was in the middle of a big divorce, and just didn’t feel in the mood to put on a play.

To tell the truth, Lupton had pretty well shutdown back in early November. Everyone knew that she was better off without the cheating slug, but try to tell her that.

    School Superintendent Rafe Weaver waited till three weeks before the Christmas play before making a serious move to replace Lupton as the chief play person.  Weaver, as well as the entire town, knew that the only capable candidate was Blyleven. They also knew that the cantankerous, sour, chain-smoking ol’ fusspot would rather ride a derailed train across a narrow bridge than put on the play.

No one could really blame the woman. Mrs. B was the best Little Theatre director and actor in a three county area. Being responsible for a theatrical joke would kill her reputation. Plus, she didn’t like kids. Not one bit.

During the first day of their argument, Weaver offered Mrs. B $300 to take charge of the play. She laughed at the offer. She had recently sold her Dry Cleaners to Malford Reed who owned the hardware store next door. The lady was sittin’ fine.

    No amount of bribing, soft-soaping or intervention could sway the woman. Not even the Wednesday night prayer meeting at the Lutheran Church had any noticeable effect.

    Mr. Weaver finally had to resort to extortion. On Day Three, he said, “BB, as President of the Milford Little Theatre, I’m here to tell you that the only way you will get to direct and star in the upcoming production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ is for either God to turn my right arm white with leprosy or for you to agree to put on the Christmas play.”

“Jebus Chrispies, Rafe!” she said. “You can’t do that!” Rafe Weaver assured her that he could and he would. Before storming out of the office, Mrs. B grabbed Mr. Weaver’s stapler and took it with her outside where she handed it to Betty Simons, his secretary who was smoking in the parking lot over by her Mazda. Mrs. B considered it childish to throw things.

    During the first afternoon of rehearsals, Mrs. B didn’t let five minutes expire without letting all us kids know that she was directing this funker-stinking play under protest. No duh.

We were all scared to death of the woman. The only thing that scared me more than Mrs. B the fact that I was chosen to be Joseph in the play.

    Joseph had a speaking part and everything. He had to ask the innkeeper for a room; he had to welcome the wisemen and then tie-up their camels; and he had to take the gold and “frankenstance” and “merv” from them and hand ‘em to Mary. Charlotte Plum was in the third grad and was the absolute perfect choice for Mary. I was also in the third grade and was the absolute worst choice for Joseph. There were girls who could’ve played the part more convincingly.

    When you shuck down the corn, you’ll realize that the scariest thing about being Joseph was having to hold Charlotte’s hand for about five seconds. I just couldn’t do that. It would cause some serious cell sapping in my brain.

So, a week into rehearsal I got up enough nerve to tell Mrs. B that I couldn’t be Joseph. She could yell at me, hit me or even kill me, but I just couldn’t do it. I’d never be able to remember my lines and I’d die of infantigo if I had to hold a girl’s hand. I had heard Mom mention infantigo once when I got a boil on my rear. The word fascinated me. Not so much the boil. 

Mrs. B let me whine for a good minute before she said,  “Benjamin, let me shovel a little rat fat at you. I chose you to be Joseph because you’re the best boy in the third grade. You’re smart and cute. But, you’re only gonna be cute for a little while. Then, you turn into a pimply, awkward freak just like every other kid. So, be Joseph while you’ve still got it in you, kid. You’ll thank me later.” 

    That’s when I busted out crying. I couldn’t help it. “Jebus Chrispies,” Mrs. B said. “Turn off the smeggin’ spiget! If not Joseph, who can you be?” I told her that maybe I could be a sheep or a camel or maybe a tree.”

    “There are no trees in Bethlehem,” she said. It’s in the smeggin’ desert! Don’t you know anything, kid? Besides, I’ve got too many camels and nerfherder sheep as is.” She rubbed her forehead with the palm of her hand like she was trying to rub a thought into her brain. Then she said, “There is one way out. Would you happen to be a Buddhist or Muslim… or maybe a Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t know about them. Are you any of those?

    I told her that I might be a Buddhist. She actually laughed. Then she said, “I tell you what, numb nuggins. You can be a reindeer during the dasher dancin’ Santa scene. How’s that?”

    “Okay, but, please, not Rudolph?” Boy, was I pushing it.  – “Great gobs of goose snot! You’re killin’ me, boy!” she said.  “Okay, you can be “Nixon?” she said. – “Nixon?” I said. -- “Yeah, you know? Prancer, Donald and Nixon.” You’ll be the last reindeer, upstage right. You don’t say nothin’, you don’t do nothing… except pull the Belgium-burping sleigh with all the other little idiots. What do ya think?”

Mrs. B was the best describer of stuff I ever knew. And, I loved her to pieces. She wasn’t mean at all. Not really. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Mom and Dad. It would break Mom’s heart, but Daddy would be really happy for me.

 “Nixon? You’re gonna play Nixon in a Christmas play?” I had to do a little explaining to Daddy about how Mrs. B talked. “Oh, you mean like, Prancer, Donder and Blixon?” Daddy said. My daddy had some word issues of his own.

The auditorium was packed that Thursday night. This was going to be big. Really big. Three minutes before the curtain was supposed to go up, Mrs. B walked up to me and said, “Hey, Nixon. Take the stupid pipe cleaner antlers off your skull and put this bathrobe on. Loser Larry is tossin’ chowder in the bathroom, so you’re gonna be Joseph again. And, don’t worry. You still get to be Nixon.”

I knew it! I knew it! “But, I’ve got this black stuff on my nose!” I said. “I can’t be Joseph with a reindeer nose.” – Mrs. B nodded in agreement. “Well, not in perfect world. But this is Milford, kid. So, I don’t wanna hear another sithspittin’ word out of you.”

There was no arguing with the woman. I put the robe on and ran to other side of the stage, positioning myself right next to Charlotte Plum. She looked over at me, smiled and said. “I’m glad it’s you.” I’d never heard such thing. Nobody had ever been glad it was me.

Just as the curtain began to rise, Charlotte took my antlers off and then took my hand. We walked past the cardboard Bethlehem right to the inn. At that very moment something came over me. It was a Christmas miracle. I was actually doing something scary as all get out, yet, I didn’t care. I had a black nose and was wearing a gray bathrobe about three sizes too big for me, but I didn’t care. How crazy is that?

I could’ve done Joseph in my sleep. In fact I had. Fear had pretty well branded the scene in my cranial. And, you know something? Charlotte was still holding my hand when Floyd, the innkeeper, answered the door. And, she didn’t let go until she had to put the Baby Jesus in the manger.

Turned out, I was great. Everyone of those wisemen forgot his lines. Everyone of ‘em! I ended up saying their lines as I grabbed the gold and the “frankenstance” and “mirv.” Oh, and once I had to shove a camel and a couple of sheep out of the way, so the audience could see what was happening. I owned the moment.

    The way I saw it, God wanted me to play Joseph, so He let me nail the role. Black nose and all. Oh, and turns out, after you’ve been Joseph, being a reindeer is a piece of rat fat. The audience seemed to get a kick out of us. Parents are the best audience in the world.

    As soon as the curtain came down, it opened right back up. Instantly, we were all practically blinded by a thousand or so camera flashes. Eventually, Mrs. B walked on stage and said nice things about us. Then she lied about what a joy it was for her to be asked to take charge of the play.

    After the curtain closed for the final time, Charlotte shook my hand and told me she was glad I got to be Joseph. I have no idea what I said in response, but I’m pretty sure it was stupid.

A few weeks later, Mom and Dad took me to the Milford Little Theatre to see “Steel Magnolias.” I didn’t understand the play much, but I will always remember how good Mrs. B was. She didn’t play Ouiser Bourdeaux. She was Quiser Bourdeaux.

After the play, I brought my program up to her to see if she would sign it for me. I saw a couple of ladies do that, so I figured it was okay.

Mrs. B graciously took my program, wrote something on it and then gave me a big hug. I couldn’t make out her handwriting, so I asked Mother to read it for me when we got in the car.

She read, “Benjamin, isn’t it weird how some of the things we hate to do most turn out to be the best things for us? You were the best thing that happened to me during my first Christmas Play experience. You’re a cute kid and a good Joseph. -- Mrs. B.”

A cantankerous, sour ol’ fusspot? Maybe to others. But, Mrs. B was no slug-in-a-ditch to me.

No, the thought of that woman has always warmed my heart. More so during the Holidays. Oh, and I also have fond thoughts of Charlotte Plum. She was the first person to ever be glad it was me. – Merry Christmas to you all. From Mark and Kay.

end.
You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Monday, December 17, 2012

Of trees, song, and dance


"Now that's a Nannyberry!"

    ROOFTOP – Before you take another step, I want you to be mindful that you’re about to walk across a dewy, slippery as-all-get-out metal roof. This roof is begging you to fall and bust your buns. It tempts like a snake in Eden.

If this roof could talk, it’d say, “Oppa Gangnam Style.”  You’d be dancing around like that Korean guy on YouTube.
Click on pic

Oh, and you’d end up wanting to sue me. You’d be much better off suing the Korean guy. I think his name is PSY. Go to YouTube and watch him dance. – No not now.

I noticed that on your way across the yard, you gave up trying to step on each of the round bricks on the walk-path. You should see the UPS drivers try to manage that course. After the third step, they wisely give up and just walk on the grass.

    I want you to know that every third month, I measure to make sure those stepping-stones are equal distance. But, in no time they manage to wander. I think it’s caused by the earth rotation or the pull of the moon. Surely one the neighbors wouldn’t be messing with me.

    By the way, I saw a couple of those black fuzzy caterpillars crossing the road last week. Not the same road, but they were definitely crossing. I think that’s supposed to be an indication that winter is over. Indication of something.

    I’d like cold weather to come and stay for awhile. I love this time of year. Take a look down there. A lot of people rake their yards or mulch their leaves with a mower. I don’t like to disturb fallen leaves. Not because I hate raking… which I do. No, it-s really because I like the look and sound of leaf-covered ground. (Another good song intro.)

    Speaking of which, when you get a chance, go to YouTube and key in “Killing the Blues.” The song starts out “Leaves are falling, just like embers.” Absolutely beautiful. The Robert Plant and Allison Krauss version is the best.
Click on pic to see performance

    The fallen leaves we’re looking at aren’t nearly as colorful as the ones in the song, but they’ll sure do for our roofsit.

    I believe I mentioned about the acorns falling all over the place. That’s still happening. Those things land with a vengeance. On this metal roof it sounds like incoming rounds.

    I should be glad we don’t have pecan trees. Kay’s brother, Tracy, has a rather prolific pecan tree in his backyard. He said that a nut landed next to him on the patio and nearly scared him to death.

    By the way, Tracy gave us a couple of boxes of pecans. Kay is going to hafta deal with ‘em, ‘cause they’re way too much trouble me. When I was at the COURIER office the other day to tape a restaurant review with crazy ol’ Brad Meyer, I noticed that the tree next to the building was a pecan. Low and behold, there were plenty of nuts on the ground… and one in a cubicle inside the building.

    COURIER pecans are small paper-shell and easier to crack. Tracy’s pecans must be lead-shelled, but they are a bit more flavorful than the COURIER’s.

    Oh, a little something about non-nut-producing trees. Ash trees have something called a samara, a winged seed that twirls down and slightly burrows into the turf. Just cool as it can be. No fear of being bopped by an ash seed.
Kay in me in next to my TX Forest Service Pickup -- '72
    I used to know a whole bunch about trees and shrubbery and stuff. I actually have a degree in Forestry. I’m proud to have it, but I’ve forgotten so much over the years. Today, it’d take a hypnotist to get me to recall many tree facts.

    Having said that, I remember a time when Kay and I were sitting outside with some neighbors. The teenage daughter asked me the name of the red tree across the lawn. I was tempted to say “The tree’s name is Timmy.” But, I wanted to impress everyone, so I told her it was in fact a Rusty Nannyberry. “It has fur on the underside of its leaves,” I told her.

    That girl laughed till she cried. I’m fairly sure she has no recollection of the moment, but I’ve somehow managed to carry it along through the years. One of life’s fun times… the kind that occasionally surface during a pleasant roofsit.

    Speaking of which, this roofsit is going to end right now with us doing the Gangnam Style dance in the front yard. I’ll show you how. Hey, it’ll be a blast. – Oh, yes you are.

end

To see Mark and Brad's most recent restaurant review click on pic below.


You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When to strike up a conversation?

“A bad judge of character”


    Do you generally talk to the person on the other side of the gas pump when you’re filling up? I seldom do, and I think people appreciate that.

The rule of thumb is that if you have to go out of your way to make eye contact, you don’t need to speak. There’s not enough time to develop a relationship; the person might pull out photos of the grandkids; you might hafta buy Girl Scout cookes--  That kind of stuff.

    I said that to say this – Yesterday I had a conversation with the guy next to me at the Kroger gas-up place. He started it. Asked me about my car. It’s a little-bitty thing. A Yaris. It’s Japanese for “eel egg.” Just a guess.

    I told the gassing-guy about the mileage and the back wiper. He was impressed. All the while I’m subconsciously judging him. (I realize it’s hard to know what you’re thinking when you’re doing it subconsciously.)

Who is this guy? How smart is he? Does he prefer “Gilligan’s Island” over “Seinfeld”?  In about, oh, 12 seconds, I assessed him as a sharecropper, junior high education, considered Jim Backus his favorite actor. (My Grandpa Hayter was a sharecropper. And, he didn’t have a TV.)

It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to TV programs. The switch came right after a guy in a pickup stopped and asked if we wanted to buy a TV sound system, still in the box. He got a good deal on it and wanted to “pass it forward.”

As he drove off, the tenant farmer said, “Nice guy. Wanted to give us a good deal on a stolen TV sound system.” Then he said, “Do you get PBS? I don’t have cable or satellite but I think it’s on channel 8, or something like that.” He asked if I ever watched “Doc Martin.”

Is he kidding? I’ve seen every episode the British have made available. (They’re really holding back on Doc Martin.) I love the Doc. Oddest-looking person in the British Isles. (Hard to beat the British for homely). But, I do enjoy the characters, the rural coastal setting, and the stories. – I instantly took liking to the farmer.

Then he asked about “Downton Abbey.”  The guy was a “Masterpiece Theatre” junkie! In my mind, he’s now a retired professor of Philosophy. Degree from Harvard.

See how I go from one extreme to the next? I’m a bad judge of people. Fortunately, we’re not supposed to judge people at all… unless we’re in an elevator with a guy who looks like Jason Bourne. I’m telling you, Bourne can do some serious damage in an elevator. He could beat up Batman, even.

Oh, and do you wanna know the other time I misjudged somebody at the gas pump? Pretend. It was late at night, just me and one pickup full of thugs a few pumps to my right.

The ringleader sized me up and then started walking my way. I was hoping he didn’t have a knife, ‘cause the thought of getting stabbed horrifies me. Or getting hit with an arrow. I hate arrows. Thank goodness for the invention of the firearm.

As the thug approached, he appeared to be friendly as all get out. (I believe I’ve told you this story before, but bear with me.) He reached into is wallet and pulled out a credit card. Told me that he and his buddies were headed to Houston from Dallas, and they only had three dollars for gas. Would I be willing to give him $10 for a Best Buy gift card that had $15 on it?

I gladly handed him $20, and he graciously gave me the card. He seemed most thankful. I gave him the five extra bucks for not stabbing me. When I got home I checked on the Internet and found that the card was legit. Had $15 bucks on it just like he said. The boy wasn’t a thug at all. As usual, I had misjudged. I hate that about me.

    I’ve gotta do better. It’s a bad judge who gets most of his convictions overturned, but it’s a sign of character when one allows personal judgements to be easily reversed. Hey, that just came to me. I probably subconsciously stole it. Oh, how wicked be the subconscious.  

And, about the Best Buy card? Kay used it to purchase a Susan Boyle CD. We’re constantly fighting over it. – If you’ve judged me appropriately, you realize I was trying be funny there.

End

To watch a Whine and Dine video about Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, click on pic below. You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com




Tuesday, December 4, 2012


My smoked turkey vs Kay's oven baked turkey breast. No contest.


“Thanksgiving’s past. Long live Christmas”


    The family really enjoyed the turkey I smoked for Thanksgiving. No one actually used the words “really” and “enjoyed” in reference to my turkey, but when Kay and I loaded up to leave, there was no bird left.

    You didn’t ask, but I ended up smoking the turkey for six hours. The chef on the Internet said to smoke it for 30 to 40 minutes per pound. Gobble Guy was about 14 pounds. (I name my turkeys. Only the males.) After six hours, Guy looked done and was the right temperature inside, so I yanked him.

And, yes, we’ve actually got a meat thermometer. It was a gift, probably, ‘cause I don’t remember buying such a thing. Once I used it to help me shell some walnuts, but never for finding the temperature of anything.

After reading what was said about how to tell when your bird is done, I asked Kay if we had anything that could be used as a meat thermometer. She reached into a drawer and pulled out the nut-digger thing. I had no idea it was dual purpose.

By the way, we had Thanksgiving at Jill’s house. That’s where the family has most of its together moments. Everything we had was delicious. Unfortunately, we had no mashed potatoes or cookies ‘cause the niece who signed up to bring the stuff got sick on Thanksgiving morning. It was reported that she and two of my grand nephews had fever.

While that’s unfortunate, it in no way dismisses one’s responsibility for furnishing what was assigned. Sure we had plenty of other desserts and a lot of leftovers, but that matters not. Fever? Broken bones? Dry heaves? Hey, you sign up for it, you see that it gets there. If sick you get, you must ship it. (Johnny Cochran/Dapperton vs. USPS). 

Instead of playing football this year, we decided to watch it. Did you see that Texan game? Had I been a Detroit fan, I would’ve thrown a turkey leg across the room.

How many of you knew that a coach gets penalized for challenging a touchdown? His team gets a 15 yard penalty on the kickoff for “unsportsman like conduct”, and the refs refuse to review the play.  And the reason for this stupidity? “The refs were automatically going to review the play anyway, but not now ‘cause the coach was too impatient.

To those who have no clue what I’m talking about, I have been advised not to try to explain. During my explanation to Dardon Ann, Dennis’s wife, I ended up with my hands around her throat. Immediately before the sixth explanation, I go ballistic. I had no idea. Now that I know, it may save lives.

Speaking of anger issues, how many of you saw Ndamukong Shu intentionally kick our quarterback right in his sensitives? After they replayed the shameful scene a couple of times, my sweet niece, Shauna, said, “They oughtta kill him.”

 She was making fun of us for taking the game so seriously. When things get out of hand, it’s a gift to have someone precious around you.


Schaub after being accidentally tendered
Suh stretching to accidentally kick Schaub in the tenders

Other than those two brief ventures into the maniacal, Thanksgiving came off without a hitch. The Texans won, the food was great, and I got to leave before the clean up started.

Oh, and Kay and I drove straight home. No stops to shop. It just does not seem right that so many stores stayed open on Thanksgiving. Did you see the number of ads in Thursday’s newspaper? It was one time that the word “unbelievable” could be used without exaggeration.

I’m trying to imagine a warehouse with two or three people surrounded by stacks of ads. Each grabs one ad from each stack and stuffs ‘em all inside one newspaper. Then do it again, and again, and… Hats off to newspaper stuffers, one of society’s many under-appreciated. Hopefully Santa is taking note.

    Speaking of which, now that Thanksgiving is gone, bring on the chubby guy with all the presents. If you haven’t started your list, you’d better get on the ball. Kay is way ahead of the game. She already gave me my gift. I won’t tell you what it is, but I will tell you that last Thursday I taped the Texan game on it. I can now continually replay the moment Suh kicked our quarterback.

    I just hope Santa watched the game. Like Shauna, I don’t wish bodily harm to Suh, but I wouldn’t mind if Santa gave him a fly-by. Take that, Ndamukong!

End

To see Brad and Mark’s review of Juan and Lefty’s Mexican Kitchen, click on pic. 



 Contact Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com.




Saturday, November 24, 2012

“Smoker”

    Three weeks ago, Kay got me an electric smoker for my birthday. My birthday was back in August. It came at a time when I had no idea what I wanted for my birthday. It took till late October to figure it out. I really hate asking for the wrong thing.

    The purchase of the smoker is an interesting story in that it demonstrates some of the communication problems in life… problems between husbands and wives. (Add the word “beer” into that sentence, and I may have the beginning of a song.)

The smoker story took shape right about the time the phone rang while I was fast-forwarding through a football game. I was so sure the call was for Kay that I didn’t even pretend to reach for the phone. I’ve got a fairly convincing pretend-reach.

Turns out, the call really was for Kay. Try to figure. A couple of minutes after she pressed “End Call,” I became aware that she was talking to me. I actually had to freeze-frame the game to focus on what she was saying. Priorities are a bear sometimes.

    Kay explained that her friend called to tell her that “the smoker” was on sale at QVC. I needed to respond, but I had nothing. Kay hates it when I make up stuff, so I just stared. “Remember, you said you wanted a smoker? Well, I told Kathy about it and she said that the one you should get is on sale at QVC.”

    Ah, THAT smoker. Now all I had to do was figure out what a QVC was. Sounded more like plastic pipe than a retail store. Again I had nothing. Kay finally pointed in a northwest direction and said, “You know, QVC!” -- I said, “You mean, CVS? They have smokers?”  -- She said, “No!” Again she points northwest. – “It’s on sale in Waco?” I said. At some point you just have to put sarcasm in play.

    After giving me her “I’m-talking-to-a-sack-of-sand” look, she told me that QVC is not a store. It’s a shopping network on TV. She was pointing at the TV… a TV that sits northwest of her recliner.

    Now I’m sensing that Kay is focused on my long-term care policy, and trying to determine which home would be best for me. I sometimes get paranoid.

To show how sweet Kay is, she eventually confessed that she would have explained that QVC was a shopping network, but couldn’t think of the words. All she could think to do was point to the TV. Confession is so good when it comes from someone else. 

    And, where is this heading? It’s heading out back to my new electric smoker. It’s a bit of a wonderment. Electric grills get their smoke from the dripping fat in the meat and from a small pan of water-soaked wood chips. Chips the size of corn flakes. I’m not supposed to use over a cup of chips at a time.

    There is not much smoke in a cup of chips (See 1983 Wood Chip study, Tulane University). I found that out when I low-smoked a rack of ribs. Smoked those buddies for eight hours, just like the guy on the BBQ Website recommended. The guy must’ve smoked a really thick batch of ribs, ‘cause mine were way past done. They were black like I like, but the smoke taste was too faint.

    That was just my first try, though. I’m getting serious with my second effort. A lot is riding on it. Seems Kay and I are responsible for bringing the turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving. And, guess what. I’m gonna smoke the turkey. It’ll be the best we ever had. Possible exception, the time Al fried the turkey and about burned down Jill’s garage. I really like charred turkey. Prefer it, even.

    Kay’s not nearly as excited me experimenting at such a crucial time. When I suggested that we prepare two turkeys -- one oven-baked and the other Mark-smoked, -- she beamed. She’s going to be so let down when she sees how everyone prefers my smoked bird.

    Yeah, about one hour into Thanksgiving, the brothers are going to want a smoker just like mine. I’ll tell ‘em that Kay found mine somewhere in the direction of Waco. They won’t even ask. The Hayter boys are on the same page when it comes to matters of the wives. – Wow. I think I’ve stepped on another verse to my song.

end


You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Unknown name/Unknown number

    ROOFTOP – Our phone usually rings right about now. Each morning, we’ve been getting a call from “Unknown Name/Unknown Number.” Fortunately, the mystery person no longer wants us.

Like you, we’ve also received a bunch of other calls from unspecified individuals, but their calls are less scheduled. You can set your watch by the morning caller.

    I’m assuming that most of the calls were election related, some dealing with Presidential polling. I do not remember ever participating in a political poll. Caller I.D. has helped me a bunch in that respect.

    I’m not the only one screens calls am I? Surely not. Makes me wonder whom the people are who participate in polling. Who bothers to answer the phone when Unknown Name calls?

    Remember the Presidential Election of 1948? Of course, you don’t. I wasn’t born yet, but I remember. In ’48, Thomas Dewey was supposed to win the election by a landslide. That’s the way the pollsters called it.

However, it seems the pollsters depended too much on the telephone for their data, not realizing that too few Democrats owned phones.Truman won big.

Apparently, in 2012, too few Republicans in swing states had caller I.D. Either that or they were oddly attracted to Unknown Caller. Me, I have nothing to say to the person.

Now that I think of it, I have come close to participating in polls on-line sponsored by different retailers. However, when I’m asked for my birth date I always end the contact. I don’t mind telling people how old I am, but I’m not crazy about giving out my birthday. I fear it provides someone with one more bit of crucial info for identity theft. Next thing I know, someone has a credit card in my name from Gotcha Bank.

Trust? I only have about half bucket left of the stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I trust you. If I didn’t, would I let you sit on my roof like this? I think not. No, it’s just a few of those other bozos out there that really—Beg your pardon? Too negative? Right. We don’t wanna use the rooftop to talk trash. What was I thinking? So, what you got?

Thanksgiving? Okay, we can do that. Is everyone coming over to your place for Thanksgiving or to Memaws? Are you the Memaw? By the way, “memaw” is a derivative of the French-Canadian word grandmother -- meme. I must’ve read that somewhere, ‘cause I’m not nearly that smart.

So, again, where are you having Thanksgiving? —At Denny’s? I wasn’t looking for that. That’s just sad in so many ways. But, I can see where it might be a blessing for some. Everyone knows what time to show up. Everyone leaves at the same time. Few stick around to take a nap under the table. I’m speaking from experience here. Yeah, I could see where a Denny’s Turkey Day might be appealing.

Speaking of turkey and dressing, that’s what I ordered yesterday at a non-Denny’s eatery. Kay and I took her kid-brother, Tracy, out for lunch. After I ordered, Tracy jumped all over me. Not literally. That’d be stupid. –  No, he said, “Mark, why are you ordering turkey and dressing just a few days before Thanksgiving?”

“Because I like it.” That’s what I told him. I think two occasions a year is not nearly enough for turkey and dressing. I think the stuff should be a daily feature on most menu’s. Maybe not at Chinese places. Or Italian and Mexican. And, not BBQ eateries, and fast-food joints. But, everywhere else needs to provide access to turkey and dressing on a regular basis. And, were I President, they would.

Remember what Romney said he’d do on his first day of office? He’d do away with “Obama Care” and he’d start punishing the Chinese for unfair trade practices? Well, were I elected, I’d find out what the State Department really knows about UFOs and make the info public, and I’d issue an executive order for restaurants to provide turkey and dressing on a daily basis

I may not win an election, but I sure bet I’d poll well. What phone answering person could possibly be opposed to something like that?
     
    And, yes, the turkey and dressing idea is stupid. But, that UFO idea is the real deal. I don’t care if it’s aliens or swamp gas or old Nazi scientists, I’d find out and make it public.

I’d probably make a national statement from atop the White House. As soon as the opposition party saw me sitting on the roof, they’d be scrambling around for copy of the 25th Amendment. That’s the one that tells you how to replace a President gone nuts. Oh, I’d be out of there all right.

end

To view Mark and Brad's Juan and Lefty's restaurant review, click on pic.

 


You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Life aboard super carrier USS Enterprise


“Feature – Skyler Mullis: In the Navy”

   
Skyler Mullis (24) returned home last week after his fourth deployment aboard the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise. Shortly after the super carrier docked at Norfolk, Virginia, Mullis was given a 10-day leave to visit his family and friends in The Woodlands.

Skyler Mullis aboard The Enterprise


    Upon his arrival at Intercontinental, he was greeted by a host of fans, among them the daughter he had never met. Skyler’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to Elizabeth Grace three months into her husband’s most recent deployment.

Elizabeth Grace is one of those wide-eyed kids, who just seems glad to be on the planet. During her first meeting with Dad, she didn’t act the least bit uptight. She went straight to his arms. No tears. The same cannot be said for Dad.

I know Skyler Mullis through Diane, his mom. Diane is a person who spends every spare hour volunteering for stuff. About makes me sick. When she mentioned that her son was coming home from a deployment, I decided to invite myself to his Welcome Home party just so I could ask him about life aboard ship. I wanted to know if it was as bad as I had imagined.

 Skyler has been in the navy for three years now. Before that he was an emergency medical technician working in Montgomery County. One day, out of the blue, he just decided that he wanted to be a medic for the Marines. That’s how he ended up joining the Navy.

Oddly enough, the Marines have no corpsmen (medics).  There are no corpsmen in the Corps. I don’t even know if Skyler knew why. For whatever reason, Marines use Navy medics.  



Skyler was okay with joining the Navy to be a medic for the Marines. Unfortunately, at signing time, he was told that there were no more openings for corpsmen. How would he like to work with computers? 

So, that’s what he ended up doing. Skyler’s position and rank is that of. Information Technician, Third Class. (IT-3) Military personnel speak in acronyms. They’ve got codes for life jackets, meals and teeth brushing. After awhile, I got tired of asking.

Skyler is quite proud of his time aboard the Enterprise. He told me that, next to the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), Enterprise is the oldest commissioned vessel in the Navy. It was first launched in ‘61, a couple of years before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

When deployed, the Enterprise carries a crew of 5500, give or take. It’s like living on a floating city that has a giant airport for a roof.

I was shocked by the fact that Skyler had been allowed on the landing-deck only one time. You can step out on the deck when the ship is in port, but not during operations at sea.

“Jets are constantly taking off and landing, so there is a lot of red tape and special gear required before non-flight personnel are allowed on deck,” he said. In case you were wondering, all of the red tape and gear have acronymic names.

As an IT-3, Skyler spends most of his time in front of a computer in a room with 40 other people. However, he’s occasionally required to visit other areas of the ship to straighten out computer snafus. “I’ve been over approximately 75 percent of the Enterprise,” he said. “That requires me to have both Secret and Top Secret clearance.” The difference between “Secret and Top Secret” is unknown to civilians. I can live with that.

    When the Enterprise is at sea, Skyler works 12-hour days, seven days a week. “There is not a lot to do during my time off,” he said. “So, I don’t really mind the long hours.”

The ship has two gyms, a handful of TV lounges and one laundromat… for 5500 people. Each sailor is responsible for washing his own personal items – T-shirts, recreational shorts, underwear, socks… “Days when you have to go to the washateria are the worst,” Skyler said.

“We used to have to wash our own uniforms, but, too many of them were getting ruined in the machines. Likely more human error than mechanical problems,” he said. Apparently, lack of washing machine skills is not a deal breaker for prospective Navy enlistees.

The area where Skyler sleeps contains 88 bunks, stacked three high, with two feet clearance between each.  His “berthing” area is situated two levels below the flight deck. “There is never, not any noise aboard ship,” Mullis said. -- He used the double negative for emphasis. Not never, is as seldom as it gets.

“There is the constant noise of jet engines, and planes hitting deck and taking off. The weird thing is, I’m used to it.”

“All of my possessions fit inside a standup locker, the size of a school locker and one coffin locker,” he said. And, yes, I asked. A coffin locker is named for its capacity, not so much it’s looks.

And, what of food? Skyler is not all that fond of it. I’m not surprised. I’ve never heard of anyone joining the military because of the fine food. It would be like someone checking into the hospital for the lemon Jell-O. 

“Saturday we get pizza and wings, so we sort of look forward to that,” Skyler said. “Sunday is steak and shrimp. It’s not nearly as good as it sounds. But, let’s face it, they’re preparing steaks for over 5000 people.”

There have been some notable visitors aboard the Enterprise. “Occasionally we’ll get a call to general quarters and they’ll have a few famous people talk to us.” When pressed, Skyler could remember only the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and one tall baseball pitcher. When I suggested it might’ve been Randy Johnson, he agreed that it probably was.

Of course, the most famous people aboard ship are the fighter pilots. They carry themselves well. “Oh, they’re cocky all right,” Mullis said. “But, I doubt it’s intentional.”  Truth is, I don’t think you could be a fighter pilot without developing a swagger.

I do know that it is possible to be an IT-3 and not have a swagger. Skyler is as humble a guy as you’re going to find. People kept dragging him away for hugs and photo sessions, and he was “All shucks” about it. At no time did I discern even a hint of swagger.
Elizabeth Grace waves to the World
Pride? I could see pride in his eyes. Especially when he held his daughter. “The only downside of my Naval experience has been the separation,” he said. “That’s been real—“ An unintentional head butt from Elizabeth Grace interrupted his train of thought. Or, maybe not. Regardless, he didn’t finish his sentence. 

 Before being dragged off for the last time, Skyler said, “I think that every ‘single’ able-bodied person should join some branch of the military. It’s good experience. If I had to go back, I’d do it all over again.” 

Right about now, Skyler is in Norfolk with Sarah and Elizabeth Grace. The Enterprise will stay in port until 2015 when it will be decommissioned and eventually moved to Washington State. America’s first nuclear powered carrier will be replaced by the USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78.

The USS Ford will set sail without Skyler Mullis aboard. Sailors are stationed for 4 years aboard ship, and then three years on base. Near the end of 2014, Skyler will have completed his four-year stint working aboard the Enterprise. He doesn’t know where he’ll be stationed next, but it’ll be on dry land.

“I’ll get to be with my family,” he said. “No more separation… for awhile, anyway.” 


Sarah and Skyler with Elizabeth Grace. 
E.G. wasn't even afraid of me.
Not crazy about me, just not scared.
end

You can reach Mark at Mark@rooftopwriter.com




Saturday, November 10, 2012

What's bad for you -- at the moment

Or not

Enough already!

    The next person who tells me that something is bad for me is going to get a really mean look. I’m tired of it. Who isn’t?

    Coconut oil? Remember how the theatres quit using it to pop their corn, ‘cause it was supposed to kill you? We were told that coconut oil contained the worst fat there is… next to yak fat. That’s supposed to be really bad. I imagine.

    So, practically overnight, popcorn, as I knew it, became dead to me. I once smuggled some string cheese and pretzels into the theatre. Ruined the whole movie for me.

    Now they find out that coconut oil is actually good for you. I’m not making this up. The fat in coconut oil has magically become wonderful stuff.  Dr. Oz says we should eat it right out of the carton. The stuff looks like Crisco, yet people are eating it with a spoon. It’s supposed to cleanse your body. Cleanse something. I don’t know. Kay’s the one who watched the Oz episode. The guy drives me nuts.

    So that which was bad, has now become good. And that, dear friend, is why a mean look will befall the next person who tells me something is bad for me. I’ve had it with this kind of nonsense.

    That having been said, I’ve given up artificial sweeteners. Been off ‘em for about two weeks now. It was the doctor named Oz that did it to me. What a meddler! I’ve been told forever that artificial sweeteners were bad. Some of the evidence came from the mere taste of Tab. The other from tests done on rats.

Rats that were fed twice their body weight of saccharin developed diarrhea and constipation on alternate days, plus a fear of toast. (Novi Iskar University, Bulgaria. 1973) Other studies were done, but this is the one most published.

I paid little attention to the studies, ‘cause I never cared for artificial sweeteners. Diet drinks taste like sweetened bark juice. Regardless of the brand. And, don’t get me started on artificial sweetened syrup. It’s terrible. You can’t even get it to stick on stuff. The minute you pour it on a stack of pancakes, it runs off, apparently seeking the lowest level.

The only use I have for artificial sweeteners is for my coffee. An envelope of Sweet ‘n Low adds a slight sharp taste to my first quart of coffee. I like slight sharp. I don’t get it with sugar, Splenda, Stevia, or Sillicakes. (I made that last one up.)

I was pleased as naturally sweetened punch with Sweet ‘n Low, until Kay came in and told me what Oz said. I really don’t like Oz.

Oz actually gave a reason that artificial sweeteners are bad for us. It was a reason that actually resonated with me. Oz said that artificial sweeteners are not natural. They’re artificial. Get it? As such, your body doesn’t know what to do with ‘em.

Your body parts may not speak to you, but mine do. I’ve only recently been able to figure out what’s going on in there. Once Sweet ‘n Low hits my stomach, the conversation goes something like this. – “Oh no. More of this artificial #@!+. Pardon my French. Anybody figured out what it is? Anybody? Okay, I’m sending it right to the spleen. Anybody figured out what the spleen does? Anybody?”

One thing that ultimately happens to artificial sweeteners is that they end up in your bladder. The bladder hates the stuff. Remember? It’s unnatural. Eventually, your bladder goes ape crud. Does a number on you. I know this, because since my Sweet ‘n Low withdrawal, I’ve been able to sleep all night without having to stagger to the restroom. It’s a miracle.

Of course, my coffee has lost its slight sharpness, but I’ve almost adapted. I use real sugar now. Sugar is natural, so my body knows what to do with it. I don’t like what it does with it, but at least it knows what it’s doing.

Bottom line, I may end up eating a cup of coconut oil every morning to try to clear everything out. I’d better decide on that quick, before Oz changes his mind about the benefits of the stuff. I tell you, the guy drives me nuts.

end


You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hayters and Plilers at football game

“Runner for the Bears”

    It’s been too many years since I’ve had someone to cheer for at a high school football game. The last time was in ’96 when Big Al’s boy, Clint, was playing.

The Conroe Tigers had a great football team in ’96, made even greater by wide receiver Clint Hayter. Don’t get me wrong, Andy Patrick, Rock Cartwright and a dozen or two others, helped out, but I was there to watch Number 85. Do I sound like a proud uncle?

Well, here it is 16 years later, and another nephew has come of age and developed talent enough to play football for the Montgomery Bears. Ryan is Virginia’s grandson, therefore not technically my nephew, but I claim him. Did I mention he plays football?

Ryan is a junior at Montgomery High and plays for the JV team. They play on Thursday nights. Next year he’ll be on the varsity and I’ll get to do the whole Friday night thing. Maybe even become one of those tailgaters. I’ll need to rent a truck. Or at least a tailgate.

When I played on JV team at Pasadena High, I was an okay player, but not as good as Ryan. He keeps reminding of that. Have you noticed how so few youngsters today lack confidence? Humility has all but skipped a generation.

    At least Ryan has something to brag about. In his last game against Willis, he ran for 186 yards. They put a six at the end of the yardage so it would sound like someone was actually keeping tabs. I’m not even sure he was the leading ground gainer. The Bears pretty well trounced the Wildcats.

    I don’t know if I mentioned it, but Freeman played football for Willis back in the day. Back in the day when there were 17 in the graduating class. Because of the Willis connection, Virginia invited a few Willis friends and family to the game. Only stipulation being that they agree to cheer for number 28 of Montgomery.

    Ryan had about 20 of us in the stands cheering him on. I was the loudest, which is weird, ‘cause I was sick as a dog. Had a cough that would not stop. Still do. But, for some reason, my throat ailment amplified my yelling and whistling capability. I can only assume that my vocal cords had developed calluses from all the coughing.

    I got so wound up in the game that I didn’t notice how irritating I had become to those around me. Kay kept putting her fingers in her ears, but it never registered with me as to why. I think it was ‘cause of all the medication I was taking. Allergy pills really mess my brain up. 

    Kay finally told me to tone it down or she was moving. During the second half, I barely cheered at all. I did cough a lot, though. I’ll be over the cough in a month or two.

    The game ended at about 9 p.m., at which point we all headed to IHOP. It’s a tradition. I don’t like to eat past 6:00, but I make exceptions for traditions. There’s some bad juju associated with being the one to break a tradition. According to Virginia.

    Let me tell you, IHOP came alive as soon as we walked in. It didn’t hurt that we were the only customers at the time. The waitress, Rose, was ready and waiting for news of the game. I don’t know if she likes football, but she becomes a big Bears’ fan the minute she sees the Plilers.

    Oh, speaking of Pliler, it took the announcer at the stadium a couple of games before he got Ryan’s last name right. He was calling him Piller, Piffler, Fifer and all sorts of nonsense. I told Freeman that if he would spell his name with a “Y” (Plyler) fewer people would mispronounce it.

    Freeman didn’t take me seriously, but Virginia got so mad at me that I had to assume the fetal position. Over the years, that pose has become a real lifesaver.

    By the way, when I played varsity at Pasadena High, I had little trouble with announcers mispronouncing my name. As a rule, you have to be on the field before they’ll even call your name. I didn’t get to play all that much my senior year.  Not enough talent, but I had loads of humility. Reeked of humility.

end

You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not much into costumes

“Halloween costumes”


    Brad called last weekend and woke me from the early phase of decent nap. He never calls on his day off, so I figured it was something important. It was. Important to him, definitely not for me.

    Brad was anxious to tell me of a Halloween costume shop that he’d just visited with his wife and grandkids. He urged me to drop everything and go check the place out.

    Check it out for what? I don’t like to wear costumes, and I’m uncomfortable around people who do. Especially people wearing masks. That’s just freaky. And clowns? Don’t get me started.

    Brad thought that if I didn’t want to get something for Halloween, maybe I should get some props for our restaurant review videos. That’s what he did. He bought a straw Oriental-looking hat to wear next time we review an Asian restaurant. The man is a genius. I hope he didn’t find a plastic pig nose for when we do BBQ. The man ought to be doing used car commercials. 

    Brad did say that he was looking for a sombrero, but couldn’t find a good one. The guy already has a sombrero, and I told him so. He wears the thing during our Mexican restaurant reviews. Drives me crazy.

    That’s when Brad said something really dumb. See if you don’t agree. He said that what he owned was a Mexican hat, not a sombrero. He said, “What I’m looking for is one of those pieces of cloth with a hole in it that you stick your head through. You know, a sombrero?” When I told him that he was referring to a serape, he said, “I thought that was shoe.”

    Back to the costume place. Brad acted like I should be real excited about the store, so I lied and told him that I’d rush over and check it out. If he ever asks what I thought about the place, I’ll tell him that I never intended to go. I was being sarcastic.

 If caught in a lie, it’s best to claim sarcasm. You need to make the person feel like an idiot for not catching onto the joke. People do it to me all the time. -- On a historical note, Noah was among the first to use sarcasm. – “A boat? No, it’s gonna be a taco truck. I’m surrounded by idiots!”

    I’m not sure Brad bought a new Halloween costume. He probably did, ‘cause he goes ape over Halloween. He decorates his golf cart and drives around the subdivision handing out candy. Or does he do that for Easter? I don’t remember. He does something weird.

    I haven’t done anything big for Halloween since the sixth grade. As soon as I stopped collecting candy, I stopped caring. Of course, I still buy candy for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. They seldom show up, but I usually buy the best candy just in case… in case they don’t show. I don’t wanna be stuck with a bunch of cheap suckers.

    Nowadays, I think most kids go “Trunk-or-Treating.” I don’t know which church, school or neighborhood invented Trunk-or-Treat, but it’s ingenious. You can get ten times the candy in a fraction of the walk. Isn’t that what America is all about?

    If were a kid today, I’d go to every Trunk-or-Treat in town. I’d be a Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian… whatever it took. I’d probably have to get my big brother Larry, to drive me, ‘cause I doubt Mom would’ve sanctioned congregational swapping. Parents can read so much into things. The key is – and always has been – FREE CANDY! Not that complicated. 

    Yes, I’d forget the whole the door to door thing. You have to walk too far. Then again, you could go over to Brad’s and see if he’d drive you around the neighborhood in his golf cart. 

    He’ll likely be in costume. I don’t know what he’ll be, but I’m thinking it may be something with an Asian theme. Maybe a ninja. If he is, ask him to demonstrate his numbchucks. That’ll be something your children will want to tell their children.

end
   
You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Everybody move in closer


Levi and Cash being repelled from Jungle Gym by Violet
“Duck for acorns”

    ROOFTOP – I must caution you about falling limbs. One hit on the eastside of the roof just before you arrived. It wasn’t big enough to kill anybody, but it would’ve stunned you. Wasn’t even that close, but it scared the willies out of me. I’m now without willies. 

    Since there are no limbs hanging over this part of the roof, what say we all huddle together over here? – That’s a little too close. – Better.

    I must admit it’s rare that a dead limb of any size finds the roof. We get a lot of acorns, though. A stiff breeze will blow through and you’ll think someone is tossing rocks at you. Those things hit with a loud thwack.  Thwack? I hate to try to spell sounds.

    Unlike last year, this is a good year for acorns. I haven’t witnessed too many squirrels taking advantage of the surplus. We lost a bunch of squirrels last year due to the drought. It’s apparently going to take another year or two for the population to build.

    Just as well, ‘cause we had way too many of those critters running around before the drought. You can’t convince me that some of ‘em weren’t throwing acorns at me. A yard full of overly confident squirrels is a bad thing. They stand out there and taunt you. “Hey, whatcha gonna do about it? Huh?” They’re just begging me to chase ‘em. I never play their game. Not anymore. 

    What I hate worse than a smug squirrel is a big black lizard with two yellow stripes on its back. I saw one of those this afternoon. It had one of those snubbed noses. I hate the snubnose. The thing was fast, too. Looked like a black “S” racing across the carport.  Ran in a “S” shape. I don’t know how they do it.

    I’d google “black lizard” and find out what kind it is, but then I’d dream about ‘em. If I see a picture of a snake or mean-looking lizard, I dream about ‘em.

Same thing with the Mafia and motorcycle gangs. I’ve been watching “Boardwalk Empire” and “Sons of Anarchy.”  Not too many scary shows scare me anymore. But, shows where people act really cruel? That stuff scares me. Let me tell you, there are some mean characters on Boardwalk and Sons. And I still watch ‘em. How do you explain something like that? Hey, it’s rhetorical. We don’t judge one another on the roof. – Speaking of which, I realize that all motorcycle gang members are not cruel. Just some of the ones on “Sons of Anarchy.”

What we need is a massive subject change. Let’s try this one. -- Boy, if you had been here Saturday week, you would’ve had a blast. I wouldn’t have had enough for you to eat, but you would’ve had fun watching the nieces and nephews run around acting crazy. Falling down, throwing stuff and yelling. Unless family visits, my yard doesn’t experience a lot of that.

We had some good eats. Unfortunately, my brisket was sub par, but a few lied and told me it was great. There are some family members who will not lie about food. Do you have any of those?

And, Kay’s pie. She made a nutty, whip cream, cream cheese and caramel concoction. It’s been banned in Oklahoma.

When things died down here, Al invited everyone over to his place for finger foods. We had never had finger foods at a gathering before. Finger foods take way too much prep for me. Al and Marlena went to a lot of trouble to prepare all the treats we had. They kept bringing out dishes of stuff. We’d finish one appetizer after another. Topped the evening off with some homemade ice cream.
Al cookin' up stuff

We sat out and talked till late. The mosquitoes were a little more active than they are tonight. Al had to light up some PIC. Remember the green spiral wick that you would light at the drive-in theater? They had the commercial where the giant mosquito is telling you to not believe it. That it “dooon’t work.” Then he croaks.

When Al got out the PIC, it made us think of the times Dad took us to the drive-in. All of the snacks Mom made for us; the playground area just under the big screen; the speaker boxes that made it sound like people were talking into tin cans. Ah, those were the days. I wouldn’t want to go back for anything, but they were fun while we had ‘em.

And, it’s been fun up here. Hasn’t it? Lie to me if you have to. The mosquitoes haven’t bothered us much. We got to share a thought or two. And, no one got taunted by a squirrel or thwacked by an acorn. I call that a good night.

end

You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Saturday, October 13, 2012

All the way from Washington

Susan and Jill

Sister Sue visits Texas!

    My sister Sue from Washington State is visiting. Isn’t that great? Came down from Grandview.

Grandview is about 150 miles east of Seattle on the other side of the mountains. Grandview doesn’t get quite the rain and fog that Seattle does, but the area does get apples. Lots of apples.

The Texas Hayters (Which means all but Susan) hadn’t seen our sister since Mom’s funeral six years back. That’s too long to go without seeing a sister. Sue came down at this particular time because she loves us a bunch, and missed us dearly… and because the Class of ’62 at Pasadena High was having it’s reunion.

Susan’s husband, Pete, passed away a couple of years ago, so Dennis escorted Susan to the reunion. Dennis is from the class of ’65 at PHS, so he was a youngster amongst ‘em. However, he did recognize a few of those in attendance. Didn’t know them well enough to dance with, which was good ‘cause he mostly recognized the men. Old they were. Not like my sister.

Sue is still a doll. She’s kept her figure and her good looks. I wouldn’t want to live with her or anything, ‘cause she’d probably try to boss me around. When we were kids, Mom would have Sue baby-sit us. Dennis and I could do no right. And, we tried. Oh, how we tried. Still, Mom had to spank us after practically every sister Sue sit. Sue never gave us a good report.

Susan isn’t like that now. Of course, something might happen to touch her off… send her back to the mindset of her 14 year-old self. At least Elsie is not around to give us a spanking. I wish she were.

Susan said that this has been her nicest visit. That’s ‘cause we’ve spread ourselves around. She was three nights with Jill, one with Larry and one with Dennis. Right now she’s at my house, and will be for at least one more night. Then it’s off to Al’s place.

Tuesday we all went to Clear Lake to watch Larry and Dennis play slo-pitch softball in an old man’s league. Senior league, I think it’s called. The brothers are on different teams and just happened to be playing one another. Larry is on a lousy team. (Don’t worry. They know it.) Dennis is on the best team in the league.
Me, Sue, Dardon Ann and Kay at Softball game

Turns out, Larry’s team was leading up till the last inning. Everyone was flabbergasted. Larry even hit a triple and knocked in some runs. The man was an animal on the base path. But, like I said, Dennis’ team came back near the end and won the thing.

There’s something you’ve got to know about Senior League slo-pitch. Those guys love it if someone shows up to watch. Seldom will even one of the wives come out to see ‘em. With four Hayter kids cheerin’ for both teams, the guys played better than they could. Even the umpire, my ol’ friend Skillet, was extra animated.

Besides the game, we’ve sat around and talked a bunch about old times. That’s about all we’ve got. Not many recent times. It is so odd how we all remember episodes in our childhood differently. And, in a few instances, there are those who remember certain experiences not at all.

Tomorrow the whole crew is coming over to my house for BBQ. Then we’re going to Al’s for homemade ice cream. More talking and joking and acting silly. Dennis is the silliest. Do you know what that guy said, right before Jill snapped a picture of me with Kay and Susan? Of course you don’t. He said, “Hey, Mark, tuck in your nose.”

It was the ol’ Mark’s-got-a-big-nose joke. A family favorite. And, Dennis timed this one perfectly. I busted out laughing… as did the entire room. Unfortunately, Jill was too busy laughing to snap the photo. It would’ve been a family favorite. Splattered all over Facebook.

And, of course, Elsie wasn’t there to make Dennis apologize. Had she been with us in that room, she still wouldn’t have gotten after Dennis, ‘cause she would’ve been laughing too much. – I do so love my family. That doesn’t mean I won’t loan Dennis out to you. Whatta goober, my big brother.  

End

You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Speaking of which...

The bed goes every direction except sideways
An update

    This week I’m going to give you a follow-up on a few things left hanging in previous weeks. Stuff that billions of readers have inquired about.

    First off, Kay and I will not be going on an Alaskan cruise in the foreseeable future. I persuaded Kay that we should use our Cruise Fund to buy a bed. The argument that won her over went something like this: “Do you really want to spend a third of our life in an old, bad bed, or in a new, really good bed?”

    The new, really good bed we ended up getting cost a bunch. It’s a king, double adjustable job. Two separate mattresses with separate controls that lift you up, put you down and vibrate you all around. The vibrating actually gives me a headache, so I only use it occasionally, and only because I can.

    We didn’t get a tempurpedic mattress like I planned, ‘cause it cost only marginally less than our car. The owner/salesman had us try out some most comforting alternatives. I’ve got to say that when you’re shopping for something that you’ll visit for the rest of your non-waking life, it’s best to get input from someone who knows beds. Believe it or not, it is possible to purchase a bed worse than the one you’ve got.

    Bottom line, my excitement over bedtime has doubled. And, no, you’re not meant to read anything into that. Speaking of “reading”, we can now raise the bed so we can comfortably read or watch TV in bed.

And, get this. When I get sleepy, I can just return my bed to the sleeping position, while Kay continues to read in the propped position. Reading makes me sleepy, but it keeps Kay awake. I didn’t know that when I married her. Had she chewed tobacco while reading in bed, it would’ve likely been a deal breaker.

    Now, concerning the bar of soap that I’ve been trying to use completely up. --  It’s still alive. It is as thin as a fitted sheet, but still lathers. A couple of readers have told me that the best way to get the sliver to completely dissolve is to stick it to a bar of new soap.

Two things wrong with that. It would be cheating if I let the soap ride along with another bar, thus skewing my findings. I hate skewed findings. Besides, the sliver is so hard that I doubt it would stick to any other soap. Maybe Dove. If Silly Putty came out with soap, it might stick to it. 

So, I fear I’ll hafta get back to you later with the results of my soap experiment. By the way, in my soap article I mentioned that two people in Latvia were the only ones to completely use up a bar of soap… in separate incidents. I joking referred to the people as Lats.

As luck would have it, I was contacted by a real life Latvian from The Woodlands. Aivars informed me that “Lat” is the name for the Latvian currency, and that the people of Latvia are referred to as “Lett.”

He also told me to stick my soap sliver to a new bar of soap. I think the Lett invented the process. Fortunately, it is obvious that Aivars has a sense of humor. Regardless, my apologies to the world population of Lett. I have fired two of my researchers over this.

    Finally, a kidney stone update. My urologist prescribed a pill that’s supposed to keep me from having any more stones. Of course, I still have to drink water constantly. . Plus, a friend recommended I drink a little bit of apple-cider vinegar now and again. Dilute it with water or something nice-tasting.

    When I asked the urologist about the vinegar, he informed me that my stones are calcium and that vinegar would likely help. He said that if I really enjoy torture, I should try it, but that the pills he prescribed should do the trick. I decided to do both. 

    Drinking diluted vinegar isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. It’s a lot worse. There’s nothing you could possibly mix with vinegar that would make the experience more tolerable. Nothing I’ve discovered.

    Another friend recommended I drink Pomegranate juice. I do that, too. Pills, vinegar, pomegranate juice and lots of water. I will do whatever it takes to keep from writing another article about a kidney stone attack.

    I have every confidence that my next kidney stone will be acidic. – That’s it. Next time we’ll talk about something new. And, there’s a chance I’ll leave you hanging.

end

You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Topless Kate: The surprise is that anyone is surprised.

“Privacy”

    Kay and I got in an argument over whether or not the photos of a topless Duchess Kate were “A grotesque invasion of privacy.” To me, a colonoscopy is a grotesque invasion of privacy. A picture taken of Kate outside topless is merely unfortunate.

    Kay and I didn’t get into a big argument over the incident. Our most recent “big argument” involved the NFL referee strike. Kay ended up getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.. 

The topless-Kate dispute did not get heated. We didn’t raise our voices, and Kay didn’t hit me or call me a name. She just gave me the ol’ what-an-idiot-look followed by her celebrated eye roll. Kay’s got the best looks.

    Kay believes that the photographer and publisher, in denying Kate her right to privacy, should be severely castigated. Me? I consider any castigation severe. I don’t even think the word should be used.

Nor do I think any punishment is due those responsible for the unfortunate episode with Kate. We all must come to grips with the fact that we can no longer walk around in he state of undress without assuming someone could take a picture of us. Nor can we say anything we want without assuming someone could record it. In short, the days of plausible deniability are gone.

    I’m not saying that’s a good thing. Plausible deniability has served us well over the years. It’s a right indirectly mentioned in The Constitution. Fourth, fifth, sixth… one of those Amendments.

All I’m saying is that we have to behave a little more than we used to. At this very moment few of us are likely getting photographed by a satellite or one of those drones or a neighbor with a camera.

    The only images cameras can’t pick up are UFOs and Big Foot. You could be dancing with Big Foot at Disneyworld and no one would get a decent shot of either of you. Just beats all.

    But, apart from those two encounters, everything else is subject to being photographed, recorded or videotaped. The only people who don’t realize that are apparently politicians and other famous people.

Oh, and don’t think you can hide from people anymore. The technology is available to find you no matter where you travel. The reason there’s no remake of the old TV Series “The Fugitive” is because the show wouldn’t last two episodes before Richard Kimble would be photographed by The Google Map van. That thing is so cool.

My big brother, Larry, recently bought an iPhone 5… I think. Could’ve been a four or six. Larry bought the expensive device so he could text his daughter. Debra is easier to contact through texting than phoning. A lot of people are. Not me. Not even I, because I’ve yet to learn the mechanics of texting.

The fact that Larry has learned is a wonderment. Other than texting and phoning, the rest of his iPhone capabilities are lost on my brother. It’s kind of like buying a BBQ smoker for an infant. Other than a toy box, what is he gonna use it for?

I asked Larry if he realized that as long as his phone is on, his every movement could be traced. He didn’t believe me. He watches the same detective shows I do, yet, nothing sinks in. I told him that he could be tracked through the GPS on his iPhone. He said, “GP what?” I told him it was like the device in his car that tells him where to go.

Larry told me that his phone doesn’t talk to him, so it obviously doesn’t have GP whatever. I’ve yet to break through Larry Logic. Not sure it can be done.  

I shouldn’t run my brother down. Like I said, I don’t know how to do stuff with my phone, either. Kay reads my texts to me after I get a backlog. And, though my phone also acts as a camera, you’re all safe around me, ‘cause I don’t know how to take a picture with it. I did find a picture of the inside of my pocket once, but I have no idea who took it.

    No, I am completely incapable of spying on anyone. You could walk around naked in front of me all day without me taking your picture. And, you could say anything you wanted, and I couldn’t record it. My word against yours. Plausible deniability, just like in The Constitution. 

And, I’m fairly sure that Kay would take your word over mine. She’s still upset over the outcome of our referee argument. She tried to tell me that “Who cares?” is a valid argument. Yep, two minutes into the ruckus she got flagged. 

end


You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com

Friday, September 21, 2012

Some would call it wasting

The soap that won't die.
“The last little bit”


    Have you ever completely used up a bar of soap? Just as you finished lathering your hands you noticed that there was nothing left to put back in the soap dish? Has that ever happened to you?

    Of course not. A complete soap-dissolving experience has only been reported by two people in unrelated incidents in Latvia. That was back in the spring of ’78. I’m pretty sure they were lying.

    I do not believe it possible for a bar of soap to completely dissolve during a washing. I’m in the process of substantiating that theory in the weeks and months ahead. In a green soap dish by the sink in the bathroom over yonder, I’ve placed a thin sliver of honey almond, scented soap that has been with me for… let’s just say a long time.

    It started out a giant white bar that Kay picked up at a Dollar Store clone. The large bar started out at the foot of our bed. Kay and I keep soap in bed with us to stave off leg cramps. There is no scientific reason found why soap would stop cramps, but it does. It does for Kay and me. And, for the thousands of others who believe in fairy dust.

    The anti-cramping qualities of soap tend to decline after two, three months. Been my experience. After the bar became superfluous to cramps, I moved it to my shower. Used it till it wore down to about quarter inch thickness. At that point my manly hands couldn’t keep control of it, so it started jumping from tmy gripe and hitting the floor. I don’t like to use soap that’s visited my shower floor. Nor will I eat most foods that end up there. Dr. Oz is with me on this one.

    Anyway, after several weeks’ use, that thin sliver of soap shows no sign of dissipating. In fact, it appears to be growing. And, I’m sick of it. I so want to get out a fresh bar, but noooo. I had to start this stupid soap experiment. I blame it on those two Latvians.

    Truth is, I don’t enjoy using up the last of stuff. I don’t reach for the last cookie in the jar, last eggroll under the sunlamp, or last french fry off a guest’s plate. Nor do I use the last bit of toothpaste in a tube.

    A lot of this came from my childhood. Mom wouldn’t let any of her kids throwaway the last of anything. We weren’t wise enough to recognize true emptiness. We’d squeeze on a toothpaste tube till Mom deemed it okay to toss.

    And cereal? We couldn’t open a new box till Mom inspected the old one for crumbs. I absolutely hate the dregs of Grape Nut Flakes. I’d beg Mom to make Jill eat ‘em. “No, Mark! You touched the box first!”

    As you may have noticed, I’m not a child anymore. I’m now old enough to make wise decisions about emptiness. A peanut butter jar with glumps hiding in places that only a camel’s tongue could salvage -- is empty. I can only say that now, ‘cause Mom is not here to pull my hair… nor is my hair here.

    Oh the things I’ve tossed since adulthood. I’ve been known to toss the last pickle from a giant jar, the last quarter-inch of milk in a gallon jug and a quarter-full squirt bottle of ketchup. If you can’t put ketchup on something without the dispenser making crude noises, it’s time to toss the thing. I’ve even asked waitresses for a non-flatulent-sounding dispensers.

    And speaking of gift cards. When have you ever completely used up one of those --- to the penny? Without throwing in some of your own cash? Even the two Lats won’t lie about that one.

    Kay and I used a gift card at a remote-eating establishment last week. We were not likely to revisit so after the guy handed Kay back the card, he told her that there was still $1.01 remaining, she smiled and handed it to the customer behind her.

I was so proud of her that I nearly wept. Kay knew that storing a card with $1.01 balance on it would cost her hours in purse search-time. Finding any small object in Kay’s purse is like finding a tap-dancing junebug on the dirt floor of a chicken coop. The thing gets ingested upon arrival. 

Some things just need to go before their time. Not people or pets, but things. Grape jelly, pencil erasers, car wax… Who has the patience to wait these things out?

Me? I’ll give it three more days and then I’m chunking that stupid soap. I’m not lying, the thing is growing.

End

You can reach Mark at mark@rooftopwriter.com