Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Big Wal-Mart

This is a Henke's in Houston years before I was born. The one in Pasadena had a giant book-looking thing on the roof. Does anyone remember?

“Jill’s visit”
    When I was a kid, the two major grocery stores nearest to our house were Weingarten’s and Henke & Pillot, which we pronounced “Hinky and Pea-lot.”

I don’t know if that’s the correct pronunciation, but it’s the only one I ever heard.  If anyone had ever pronounced it “Hen-key and Pill-ot,” the Operation Bluebook people would’ve investigated them. This was back when “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was a big deal.

I always hated the movie plots where no one believed the guy who warned of space invaders. You can hear the thing breathing behind the arborvitae bush, yet no one notices. Makes me want to slap somebody.

    My kid sister Jill is the same way. In fact, today while we were visiting the Big Kroger in Willis, something happened to make us both turn simultaneously and point to the other like in the remake of Body Snatchers. The one with Donald Sutherland. I don’t remember what it was that sparked the reaction, but, when it happened, Jill and I pointed at each other and let out one of the screams from the movie, only we whispered the scream. (You’re gonna hafta rent the movie.)

    There was only the one Body Snatcher moment while we were at the Big Kroger. We really enjoyed the B K experience. I’ve been to many a Kroger, and I’ve been to Willis, but it was the first time for us to go to the Big Kroger in Willis.

    The B K has everything from towels to tables, nuts to nightlights, and bulbs to barometers. Wait a minute. What I saw may have been a digital rain gage. I don’t do much studying when I shop. Kay and Jill? They study.

    If you ever get separated in a Wal-Mart, you might as well try to find your car and hope your spouse remembers where you parked. The Big Kroger is much less cramped. The aisles are wider and the place much more user friendly. If your vision is good enough, you could spot your spouse from a hundred yards away.

    After saying that, I still lost Kay and Jill. At one point I asked a guy walking by if he had seen my sister. He said, “No. Have you seen my wife?” The second time I ran into him, we were both still wifeless and I was sisterless.

    We stopped and talked awhile by one of the three egg displays. Ray recognized me from my newspaper picture. When his wife eventually happened by he told her, “Hey, this is the guy who sits on the roof.” She was speechless. No, I mean she had nothing to say.

    A few minutes later another guy recognized me. He told me that he was the guy who wrote a letter to the paper about 15 years ago in response to an article I wrote about cats. I thought the article humorous, but the Super Cat PAC clobbered me. His letter was the only one in support of my tongue-in-cheek cat trashing. I would’ve hugged him, but someone around us might’ve seen the Body Snatcher remake.

    I was standing in line at the B K Starbucks when I caught a glimpse of Jill and Kay about a mile and a half away. Did I mention the place was spacious? I vacated my place in line and ran to meet them. Caught up with ‘em at an egg display. (I made that up.)

    On top of the piled-high cart were two throw pillows. Kay told me she was getting them because they only cost $5.99.” Kay never adds a penny to a 99. I don’t care if it was $999.99 she wouldn’t call it a thousand.

    After my “whatever” expression, she said, “Would you like me to go back and get the matching couch?” I’m not kidding. The Big Kroger sells couches! And, they've got a jewelry store and a place that dispenses pounds of nuts, spices and chocolate weird things.

    Even with the long wait at the checkout, I give the Willis B K a big thumbs up. Jill liked it, too. She bought a whistling tea kettle. Was eager to get home and try it out. – Hey, we were rather sheltered as kids. Back in the day, we only went to church and places like Weingarten’s and Hinky & Pea-lot.

Speaking of which, I’m so glad Henke and Pillot don’t own the Big Kroger. The name “Big Hinky & Big Pealot” might scare people away..


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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finding God in a jellybean


    ROOFTOP – Grab a pillow and plant your buns. I hated to drag out the ladder and haul up lawn chairs, so I just climbed out the upstairs window. Thought we’d use pillows to sit on. Whoever shows up late is going to be cushionless.   

    That’d be okay if it weren’t for the ridges and valleys on this metal roof. They’re a bear on the bottom. By the way, I had an uncle who died of that.

    This is an absolute perfect night for a roofsit. That breeze is a dandy. It must be overcast, ‘cause I can’t see a star up there. Can you? The moon is to your left, just a glow from behind the clouds. I’m sure you picked up on that. It’s so rare that I insult someone’s intelligence.

    I tell you this, you wouldn’t be insulting my intelligence if you tried to explain to me the speed and path of the moon’s revolution around the earth. I saw the moon out in the late morning, and it’s out again tonight. How does that work?

    I would think the path and timing would be constant. When I was a teacher I’d mention about the seasons and the earth’s rotation and the whole spinning on its axis at an angle thing. But, fortunately, no student ever asked me about the moon. Possibly, because I taught history and political science. Easier to work the sun into a historical discussion than the moon. Don’t know why that is.
    Speaking of weird stuff, you know how some people will try to prove the existence of God by pointing out something in nature? Well, they do. I’ve even done it a time or two. I never used the bumblebee thing, though.

When Mrs. Hamilton, my seventh grade science teacher, told me that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, I wanted to toss my 30 pound book at her. I’ll have you know that Dennis and I were sitting in a tree once and a bumblebee flew by and stung him right between the eyes. Just to be mean. Dennis swelled up till he looked oriental. I wish we would’ve owned a working camera.

Impossible for a bumblebee to fly? Right. What a terrible way to try to prove that God is here. A better way is to watch the segment I saw last night on “Factory Made.” That’s a show on the Science Channel. They showed the entire process of making jellybeans. A spiritual experience it was. I don’t know how many times I said, “Unbelievable!” Kay does.

    Did you know that they make a separate mold for each bean? Thousands of bean molds. And, they make ‘em out of cornstarch. Even reuse the stuff.

    They send a gigantic plate of cornstarch jellybean molds down to a machine with hundreds of little faucets that shoot the right amount of sugary jelled stuff into each mold. Takes a fraction of a second. I’ve got three outdoor faucets at my house, and I’ve never had all three of ‘em perfectly operational at the same time. The jellybean factory has hundreds, thousands of faucets that work perfectly in a fraction of second. And, they each shoot out the same amount of jell at the exact same moment.

    Then they cool and reheat and do bunch of other stuff to the beans before tossing them out. The raw beans are eventually coated with sugar, flavor and color. They do that three times. All jellybeans have the same insides. It’s the outer shell that gives them flavor.

    I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that humans did all of that, not God. You are so wrong. God wanted us to have jellybeans so he made some people really smart on how to use physics as it concerns machines and sugar. After hundreds of years of tinkering, viola!  Somebody hit on the jellybean.

    If you can watch that process and walk away with no sense of intelligent design, then you need to watch how balloons are made. You will not believe it! Kay finally had to say, “Darling, not another word. You’re just going to have to accept it.”

    I really believe I could come much closer to understanding how the moon works, than accepting the process of how balloons and jellybeans are made. Oh, and those fold-up pliers that have knife blades and scissors and whatnots in ‘em. Unbelievable!  Oops, I’m glad Kay’s not up here. – Next time.  
         A project being worked on at Texas A&M -- Jellybean corn. They're about two years away.

To view Brad and Mark’s review of Fu's Garden, click below.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Free day!

“Leap Day a holiday!” 

    This year we each get an extra day. Has to do with the fact that the earth’s journey around the sun takes a little more than 365 days. Six hours more. Don’t ask me why.

    And, don’t ask me how somebody figured it out. The guy probably stuck a couple of sticks in the ground and lined ‘em up with the sun, or looked through a hole in a wall somewhere and figured out how long it took the sun to return to that very spot.

I couldn’t do that, ‘cause I’d forget to go back and check. “Let’s see, did I count yesterday? I’d better mark it down just in case. That’s it, 437 days in a year.” Either that or somebody would kick over my sticks.

While I don’t know how the really smart and persistent person figured out the extra six hours each year, I am going to take his word for it. Most of my days are spent taking somebody’s word for it. – Wow, it took 13 gallons to fill my tank when it is only supposed to hold 11.5. Or, wow, this ice cream has one-third the fat of the regular stuff. Or, I’m buying this pack of wieners, ‘cause it’s “all beef.” I defy anyone to figure out what goes into a wiener.

So, I believe it takes the earth 365 days and six hours to go around the sun, ‘cause everyone else seems to accept it. And, we apparently accept the handling of the extra six hours each year. We just save the hours up for four years and then add an extra day to February. I would’ve recommended we have a December 32, but nobody asked.

Do you know what it means when you get an extra day? It means that this time last year was really yesterday. Ponder that wonderment for awhile. Don’t make me explain it, ‘cause if I think about it too long, I’ll think that today is last year’s tomorrow.

Regardless, I don’t believe there is nearly enough attention paid to Leap Day. An extra day is thrown into the year and nobody seems to give a hoot. At the very least, some authoritative figure – Oprah perhaps – should announce on January 1, 2016, “Okay, this year we all get one extra day. I’m giving everyone a Ford Focus.” That would at least make us more aware.

 As is, unless your birthday falls on Leap Day, you probably don’t even feel the extra day. Some of you may not even be aware that last Wednesday was Leap Day? I’m aware because NOW is last Wednesday for me. Isn’t that cool?

You see, I’m now starting a tradition whereby I write an article every Leap Day. That way, four years from now, if anyone asks what I did last Leap Day (which they always do) I’m going to be able to say, I wrote an article… assuming I’m still alive and I remember to do it. There are a few other ifs, but let’s not dwell.

It’s apparent to me and other right thinking people that Congress should declare every Leap Day a holiday. It happens once every four years, for heaven’s sake! Surely that’s not going to melt the ice cap.

The holiday would give each of us, except those in some service industries – Wal-Mart, Cinemark, Whataburger, The Sheriff’s office… -- a free day to do anything we wanted. Like maybe something we wouldn’t normally do. How fun would that be? Maybe we could exchange Leap Day gifts. China would probably like that.

Granted, four years is not enough time for Congress to agree on making February 29, 2016 a holiday, but perhaps in 2020 we’ll get there. Then again, on December 21 of this year, according to somebody’s interpretation of the Mayan calendar, we’re going to experience some serious global destruction. Biblical proportion type stuff.

Come to think, Leap Day may stave off the apocalypse for a day. Or speed it up a day. I don’t know how anybody figures this stuff out.  


To see Mark and Brad's video of World burger, click below.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Determining bird gender. Don't ask.

“It’s territorial”

    ROOFTOP -- The first thing I’m gonna do is lose the shirt. Not cool enough for flannel. I only grabbed it before climbing up here, because it was one of the few times Kay wasn’t wearing it.

The woman has started wearing my shirts. Granted, she looks cuter in ‘em than I do, but that’s only because I stopped looking cute at the age of 18 months. At least that’s what Dad told me. And, I didn’t even ask him.

It’s absolutely beautiful up here is it not? The ground is wet as all get out, but we’ve got a dry roof with a small splotch of shade, thanks to the water oak. Thanks, water oak. The leaves are still green on the thing. Not sure it’s ever going to let lose of those things. Probably still waiting for winter.

I have every confidence that it’s perfectly safe to unwrap my pipes. Not that I’m in need of the faucets. I can’t believe all the rain. People on the lake are probably dancing the dance of, uh… “The Lake is at 80 percent capacity and we’re real happy.” There is bound to be a dance for that.

I’m not sure you call what those two mockingbirds are doing “a dance.” No, over there in the neighbor’s tree. Boy, they’re really getting after each other. And, they’re not singing about it. They’re grackling. Not a happy sound. I don’t know if it’s foreplay or a territorial dispute.

Hard to call, ‘cause I can’t tell the sex of mockingbirds. Well, of all birds. All except for cardinals. The real red one is the male. I know them. And, peacocks. The male is the show-off with the big plume. Eyeball patterns on the feathers. Almost like they’re dressed for Mardi Gras. And, no, I’ve never been.

Oh, and I can tell the sex of chickens. If they’re chickens, they’re female. I can’t tell the sex when they’re chicks, though. I saw a documentary where some ladies in a chicken warehouse were sorting chicks by sex. I have no idea what they were looking for, but each would pick up a chick, glance at it and throw it one of two bins. I don’t even think the hatchlings new what they were, but those two ladies did. Acted like they did, anyway.

Chickens must have the poorest quality of life of all creatures. Other than earthworms. Squirming around in rotting manure is no picnic. Take my word.

Oh, and speaking of cats, I was at the computer yesterday evening, looked over and saw two cats on the roof. Free range cats. On my roof! Is nothing sacred? 

Cats on the roof and dandelions in the yard. I fear it’s the year of the dandelion. I hate ‘em. An ugly weed with a rather pleasant sounding name. Dandelion. I pulled up all the tall ones. It was easy after about the third rain.

Yesterday I grabbed hold of some bull nettle without paying attention. A dandelion is no fun to grab, but it’s so much better than a first full of bull nettle. My hand didn’t start stinging till minutes later.

The first time I met bull nettle I was in forestry school. After a morning of surveying, I laid down in some of the stuff and really wished I hadn’t. The guys were quick to tell me the cure for bull nettle stings, but I decided against it. You’re supposed to wet on the affected area. Someone else is going to have to tell you if that works or not.

After a day or two more of sunshine, I’ll go ahead and mow the rest of the weeds. The first mow of the year. Not looking forward to that. I’ve gotta change the oil, the air filter and probably the blade. I don’t sharpen blades. It
always always messes up my knees.

See if you can find the male chick.

By the way, the mockingbirds? I’m pretty sure there’s no wooing going. I’m thinking it’s territorial and it’s between two males. If they were chickens or peacocks, I wouldn’t have to guess about that.—Next time.


To watch Brad and Mark’s review of Mama J’s BBQ & Grill, go to YouTube and key in Mark Hayter Mama J’s BBQ. You can reach Mark at