Thursday, May 24, 2012

We saw the lights

“Marfa Lights”

    ALPINE – Have you ever heard of the Marfa Lights? Strange lights dancing around on the horizon outside of Marfa, Texas? Have you heard of those things?

    Well, Kay and I decided to go on quest to see the Marflites. That’s the way they’re supposed to be pronounced. Real fast and run together. I made that up, ‘cause I like the sound. -- Marflites.

    Few people I’ve talked to have ever heard of the Marfa Lights. And, that’s not entirely because of my pronunciation. I don’t remember when and how I learned about ‘em, but ever since I did, I’ve wanted to see ‘em.

That’s why Kay and I are here in Alpine. Alpine is only about 30 miles east of Marfa and it’s a little more accommodating. Not only that, but Amtrak from Houston makes a stop here. Try to figure.

    It’s almost 600 miles from Houston to Alpine. That’s about 12 hours by car and 16 by train. It would’ve been 13 by train, but we had a three-hour stopover in San Antonio. I don’t know why. I’m not even sure the engineer knows. 

    The stopover is an inconvenience, but not nearly as big an inconvenience as me having to drive the distance to Alpine. The train trip was a fairly decent experience. Nothing I’d care to revisit in the next couple of years, but decent.

    One good thing about it was the fact that we met a charming young couple returning to their home in Alpine. Tony and Brandy had ridden the rails before. They adopted us and kept us informed about information that the RR people didn’t care to share.

    I had no idea how the railcar ended up hooked to the back of us. Starting off we were the last car. Tony said they attached it during our stopover in San Antonio. I didn’t know that ‘cause Kay gave me a sleeping pill as soon as we got to SA. She thought I was getting a little antsy. Kay can tell stuff like that.

    Tony also told me that there are no Marfa Lights. He was a Marflite pooh pooher. He said he’d been to the place five times and never saw anything. He said you had to be either drunk or nuts to see ‘em. Brandy believed in the lights because some members of her family had seen ‘em. Tony apparently didn’t respect his in-laws all that much. That didn’t bother me.

I didn’t let Tony’s disbelief dampen my spirits. After checking into our motel in Alpine, we did the regular touristy stuff, just biding our time until nightfall. And fall it eventually did.

I don’t know if you knew this, but it gets dark much later out here than it does back home. That’s because the night still has 600 miles to go after it leaves Montgomery County before it reaches Alpine.

The minute the dark arrived, we headed out in our rented Ford Focus to the observation point just a few miles east of Marfa. When we got there we experienced near absolute dark. We had to feel our way across some thorny terrain on our way to the concrete observation deck. We would’ve taken the trail had we been able to see it.

There were about four other people on the deck when we got there. One lady said, “There’s one to the left. Oh, and there’s another one straight ahead.” I figured she was drunk. Kay and I stared into the dark, and in just a few seconds we saw ‘em.

Tony and Brandy lived minutes from the place, yet never saw ‘em. We were there for ten minutes and we saw ‘em. Just as weird as they could be. You’d see a light bobbing up and down and side to side. All of a
Observation area
sudden it’d turn into two lights. One would grow dim and go out, while the other moved over and married another light.

They were mostly white, but we saw a few red and one green one. Kay tried to take a picture, but it was too dark. All the while, I was thinking about how sightings of the Marfa Lights have been reported for at least a couple of centuries, yet no one has come up with an explanation. Only theories.   

Tomorrow we’re going into the town of Marfa. I promised Jill I’d get her a souvenir with “Marfa Lights” written on it. I had to first tell her what they were. 

And, tomorrow night, we’re going to the McDonald observatory outside of Fort Davis. They’re having a star party. I’ve never been to a star party. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but I’m pretty sure we’ll do it in the dark.

Hey, it doesn’t really matter what else we get to see and do before our train trip home. After you’ve seen the Marflites, everything else is gravy. I’ll let you know about some of the gravy… next time.


To watch a Firehouse Subs review on Whine and Dine click on photo.
You can contact mark at

Monday, May 14, 2012

Watching scary movie with Jill

“She Creature”     

    I was ten minutes into a 1956 monster move when I decided I couldn’t watch it by myself. It was entirely
 too hokey to enjoy alone. I needed someone to share the experience.

    Kay wouldn’t even consider watching it with me. She doesn’t like scary movies even when they’re not. I was trying to position her for the fireman’s carry so I could haul her buns to the living room, but she said, “Don’t do that. You’ll hurt your back and I’ll throw up.” That was TWO possible bad effects. One is sometimes enough.  

Kay’s a doodle. But, Jill… Jill was coming up for the weekend and she’d watch “She Creature” with me. She’d beg to. And we’d have a blast making fun of it.

I don’t remember seeing “She Creature” at the Capitan Theatre. I remember seeing “Sea Creature”, “The Creature”, “The Creature from The Black Lagoon,” “Creature form Outer Space” and “Creature with the Gigantic Eyeball.” I think the last one had another name, but I can’t remember it.

But no “She Creature.” Jill and I were pumped. And, the movie did not disappoint.  In the 50s moviemakers had absolutely no respect for viewers. They came up with the stupidest monsters you can imagine. Must’ve thought we were all imbeciles.

A little background: Boston Blackie hypnotizes his buxomy wife and sends her mind all the way back to primordial days. Back to the time when she was a buxomy amphibian. A real ugly creature with really large buxoms.  As a kid, I doubt I noticed that feature, but it was sure staring me in the face during this viewing.
Chester Morris

Pardon? No, it wasn’t actually Boston Blackie. It was the guy who played him. Chester Morris. I think they named a cigarette after him.

Where was I? Oh, the She Creature was slower than slow. And, probably not even a she. Hard to tell what was inside all that glued on stuff. Had she tried to move fast her outfit would’ve come apart. The thing was flopping all over the place. Her eyeballs had these black buttons in ‘em that moved around independently of one another. She even had horns coming out of each kneecap. Or tusks. Hard to know for sure.

Jill and I were having a heyday... and, no, I have no idea as to the origin of that term. I’m pretty sure it’s spelled right, ‘cause Microsoft Word didn’t underline it in red. One of the few words not underlined in this thing.

I warned the first victim, “No! Whatever you do, don’t run! Stand there and scream until this slow-moving rubber-scaled twit gets to you and swats you with its big sponge claw.” Sure enough, that’s what happened.

Jill warned the cop, “Empty your gun on the thing and then when it gets three feet away from you, throw your pistol at it!” It was a prophetic call. Yet another person killed by blunt-force trauma caused by a sponge claw.

At what point in a movie do you stop the director and say, “Hey, this isn’t happening for me. My character is not stupid enough to die this way.”

Hey, I’ve been killed in some low-budget movies, so I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been mauled by two different monsters, strangled by a crazy guy and hacked to pieces by a serial killer.
From: Return of the Outlaws. Strangled then shot.

I’m here to tell you that each death was a smart kill. Except for the one where I died with my eyes open. I’ve mentioned this before. If you get killed next to a campfire, you need to die with your eyes closed, because the director will shoot about a dozen takes of you lying there, and the smoke is gonna kill your eyes. I don’t know how many times the Chuck yelled, “Cut! Mark, dead men don’t blink!”

It was the toughest acting I ever did. Keeping my eyes opened as the smoke burned the daylights out of ‘em. Anything for the arts.

In ’56, producer people weren’t thinking a whole lot about art. “She Creature” just did not hold up to the careful scrutiny of time. Now, Frankenstein held up to time’s scrutiny. Yes, a lot of people failed to run away from him, but I can see where Boris Karloff might paralyze you with fear.

She Creature? Jill and I almost paralyzed ourselves with laughter. It turned out to be one of my favorite movie experiences. Kay even dropped in once to see what was so funny. She didn’t stay long, though.


Click on pic to view Brad and Mark’s review of “Chofa’s Sports Bar and Grill." 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kidney stone shuffler

“Upside-down machine”

      At one time I could do a handstand. Wanna see? Well, that’s too bad, ‘cause I can’t do it now. One time I could, though.

    It was back when I took this gymnastic course in college. The coach had me doing all kinds of stuff with parallel bars, chinning bar, pummel horse and From Satan Gymnastic Rings. That was the brand name. Shoulda been.

    A whole lot of class time was spent on the mats, doing cartwheels, flips, rolls and handstands. For our final we had to do a routine on each apparatus. My routine on the mats started out with a handstand that lasted three seconds. It was a record for me.

    Of course, one second into the stand I began to fall. Fortunately, the fall lasted for two seconds. It’s so hard to make a routine flow when you crash and burn on the first phase. I stumbled through the entire routine. Had ‘em in stitches. The coach was way nice to me, though. He was a guy who appreciated comic relief.

    I got married right after college and was never able to do a handstand again. I don’t know what the two have in common other than the timing. Not married to Kay: Handstand capable. Married Kay: Handstand not happening.

    I’ll have you know I can stand on my head. Not with my feet. That’d be a lot harder. I can stand on my head while my legs bounce against the wall. My urologist told me I should do that every chance I get. It’s supposed to dislodge kidney stones while they’re small enough to pass. If they hide in the corner, they’ll grow gynormous.

If your stones get really big they have to be crushed with sound waves.  Even with insurance it costs a lot to crush stones with sound. I’ve had it done four times. My kidneys start acting up anytime I pass a cop with an operational radar gun.

Even thought I know it would be good for me, I don’t stand on my head because it hurts. You try it and tell me if it doesn’t hurt. Kidney stones hurt, too, but after a year or two you forget about ‘em. Constant headstands you remember all the time.

I told you all that, to tell you this. Kay let me buy a used upside down machine. The thing looked practically new. Apparently the owner died young. Why else would he get rid of such a jewel? -- Oh, and it’s not called an “upside-down machine.” It’s a Gravity Inverting Table. A GIT.

My GIT is behind the couch in the living room. It’s a big mamba. The good news is, it has really improved the size of our TV screen. We had to move the couch forward a bit to make room, so we’re so close to the TV it’s like being at the drive-in.

I’d demonstrate the GIT to you, but I’m too sick. Clint -- Al’s boy -- was over a few minutes ago and I demonstrated the thing to him. You strap your ankles into this manacle, lie back on the canvas table thing and raise your arms. Immediately, you become inverted. Immediately!

The guy on TV is able to slowly invert himself. He’s got a different center of gravity than I do. I went back so fast, it was like bungee jumping off a stepladder. The height isn’t all that much, but the immediate stop is a killer.

My brain pulled eight G’s as it smashed into the top of my skull. Every part of my brain that deals with terror became acutely aware. Oh, and I’m fairly certain I twisted my bowel at about the 12 foot mark. 

Clint and Kay were too busy gabbing to notice my peril. It was horrendously massive, my peril. It took my larynx about 20 seconds before it could do more than gag. While I was flailing around trying to locate the handgrips, I managed to scream, “Jyxwz!” Without missing a beat in the conversation, Kay grabbed my left hand and put on a handgrip. It’s weird how, when you’re inverted, the concept of left and right is somewhat fuzzy.

At the moment, I’m still a bit nauseated. And, my kidney feels weird. I’m not sure if I dislodged a stone or ripped my spleen. I have every confidence that I’ll feel a lot better tomorrow. I’d have to. In a month or two I might even be up to trying the GIT again. Probably take me at least that long to put the terror behind me.

The scary thing is, I’m not even sure my urologist was serious when he told me to stand on my head. You can’t really tell with urologists. How could anyone with a gram of seriousness go into urology? I couldn’t do it. --  Next time.


View the latest edition of The Brad and Mark Show, plus a Whine and Dine review of “Another Broken Egg CafĂ©” click on pic below.

Dogs, roses and footprints

“Earth Day”

    ROOFTOP -- Today is Earth Day. Well, not as we sit up here, but when the article comes out, it will be. Earth Day is a lot like Daylight Savings Time in that most people don’t find out about it until it’s right on top of ‘em.

It is the one day of the year we’re supposed to tread lightly on the planet. Leave a small footprint. After today, you can pretty much stomp the daylights outta the place.

    Kay and I want to be leave li’l baby footprints. We even haul our plastic containers and cans across town to a recycle place. It’d be nice if there were a closer facility, but, hey, this is Conroe.

    A good thing you can do for the planet is to plant stuff. That’s why they call it “planet.” I wouldn’t bother planting a tree, ‘cause in Conroe somebody will just cut it down when it gets big enough for shade. But, planting flowers would be a good thing.

    Kay just planted some pop-up roses in the front of the house. Knockout roses? I don’t know what they are. And, no, don’t hang over the roof to look at, or you’ll end up in the hedge. You can see ‘em when you climb down.

Kay had me pick up four pots of the strikeout roses at Kroger last week. I didn’t even know Kroger was into potted plants.  

    By the way, a guy pushing a cart of potted plants in a grocery store becomes a chick magnet. That’s what I became. I was fighting the ladies off with a celery stalk. -- “I don’t know, I think they’re copout roses. And, no, I’m not looking for a relationship, just the pitted prunes.”

    I made it a point to tell Kay about the experience so she wouldn’t ever asked me to buy potted plants again. It didn’t faze her. It’s somewhat emasculating when you realize that your spouse considers you low-risk. I’m fairly certain it’s ‘cause she’s seen me in my lounging shorts. But still…    

    While Kay was outside planting the fallout rosebushes I was inside trying to read the newspaper with the windows open. All the while this bird kept repeating the same chirp over and over. It was two sets of two shrill chirps followed by a three-chirp. It was cute at first, but after an hour I was ready to throw a bookend. 

I eventually went outside and saw a mockingbird chirping away like it had good sense. I don’t know if it was the original chirper, or was just mocking the instigator. I didn’t do anything to the bird ‘cause I didn’t want to increase my tread pressure on the planet.

Speaking of unusual animal sounds, last week I got to hear a singing pig. Piglet. I think it will get a lot bigger. It was at the Montgomery County Pet Parade. Remember? I emceed it. That’s why you missed it.

Anyway, a kid named Li’l Buck brought out a small baby carriage with a pig in it named Veti. Veti was dressed up like… something. I’m not sure what, but it was cute. Buck said the thing could sing. So I gave it the green light. How do you tell a kid that his pig can’t sing?

Buck picked up Veti and that pig started squealing. Squealing loud. Reminded me of the lead singer of AC DC. That wasn’t meant as a putdown, ‘cause I actually like AC DC. It’s just that the pig was that good.

The pig got second place in the miscellaneous category. Got beat out by Colton’s chicken. Skinny chicken with a moustache. Proving the old adage that it’s impossible for a singing pig to beat out a chicken with a moustache.

By the way, the Pet Parade was a blast. Al was one of the judges and he had a big grin through the whole thing. The Large Dog category was won by the biggest-headed dog I’ve ever seen. It was a mild mannered pit bull named Cash. Brooke, the handler, came out dressed like June Carter and Cash was dressed like… well, Johnny Cash.

And the dog sang. I dare you not to grin when you see a dog dressed like Johnny Cash singing. It had to be humiliating for Cash, but I didn’t make fun of him. Did I mention he’s a pit bull?

I feel certain that I’ve created a “first” with today’s article. No one has ever included a singing pig and a singing Johnny Cash dog in an article about Earth Day. You sit on a roof and some of the weirdest things happen. Let’s see what comes up next time. – Oh, and let’s tread lightly out there, rooftoppers.


You can reach Mark at