Saturday, June 30, 2012

No important decisions!

“They're baaaack”

    At the hospital this morning, I signed a document promising not to make any important decisions for 24 hours. Oh, and I promised not to drive. I don’t believe it said anything about operating heavy equipment so I may borrow the neighbor’s backhoe and go tear the daylights out of something.

    What have we come to? My Dad never had to sign anything before surgery promising not to sell the family’s car and buy a golf cart. Back then we were nice and didn't need to be reminded of stuff.

    Of course, while Dad did nothing stupid after surgery, he did do some questionable things while perfectly lucid. Like the time he cut himself a big piece of chocolate pie and then plopped himself down in our quick trigger recliner.

The carnage was not to be believed. However, the thought of suing Cheap Eddie’s Furniture and Cat Grooming never crossed Dad’s mind. A good man, my dad.

Excuse me a second, I have look at the clock. Ah. I’ve got 12 hours and 28 minutes left before I can talk about important stuff. This is torture to a columnist like me. Like I. You know, people on TV aren’t saying “me” anymore. They use “I” even when they’re not supposed to. “Something scary is going to happen to Dennis and I.” That’s not correct.

Yet, people are starting to talk that way. Not so much about Dennis and me, but about other people and me. Or “other people and them.” How much more time?

I guess I should tell you what happened. Ya wanna know what happened? Well, the lithotripsy sound wave thing I had done last week didn’t break my kidney stones up as well as hoped. And, let me tell you I was hoping. And, praying. A big boost to your prayer life, kidney stones.

So, this morning the doc goes in and grabs a stone that had gotten wedged. Don’t ask, ‘cause I wouldn’t even let him tell me how he did it. The little gesturing with his fingers looked like something that maniac in the Elm Street movies does.

Anyway, I’m so much better now, and getting better still. That’s a movie or song… something that just flitted across my brain. For once it was the artistic part of my brain. I’ve made way too many stops in the stupid part of what-you-call-your cranial region.

How much time? – Okay, while we’re waiting, let me take time to thank all of you who phoned and e-mailed. I now name you among my brothers and sisters. And, brothers and sisters you be who fought with me on Kidney Stone Day. Shakespeare?

I did get some helpful hints for passing and preventing kidney stones from many of you. A lot of the remedies involved lemons. An interesting fruit, the lemon. And, the lemon flower is sweet.

One idea involved glycerin, lemons and water. Kay couldn’t locate all the glycerin I needed, so she used what little she had on hand for making bubbles. Don’t make me explain.

Anyway, I don’t think the recipe called for the bubble-making glycerin. I believe I was supposed to use the bomb making kind. Blow the daylights out of those devil stones.

One kind lady (lives in Nevada! Nevada!) recommended I get a case of “Real Water” from Cosco’s. Says it’s helped her husband immensely with his uric acid kidney stones. Kay tells I/me that my stones are the calcium kind. She actually remembers stuff the doctor says. I can’t believe it. I’m tempted to get the water anyway, because the Nevada lady was so nice. Thanks, Wendy.

Let’s see how much time I’ve got left.  Hokey smokes! I’ve still got 12 hours and 14 minutes. I thought I was at least at the two-hour mark. Boy, I wish I hadn’t signed that contract. I could be talking some serious stuff here.

As is, let’s talk about Donald Trump. How rich does a guy have to be before he does something about his grotesque comb-over? He’s either surrounded completely by Yes men who keep telling him he looks great, or he signed a contract that he wouldn’t make any big changes with his hair until he was over the influence of meds.

 I don’t think a contract about doing important stuff is legal. It can’t be. – How much time do I have? – Sheesh!


 You can reach Mark at

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Again with the stones.

Me on inverting table trying to dislodge kidney stone.
“Return of the kidney stones”

    You’re going to have to give me a second here. I’m a bit out of breath from jumping up and down. Kay made me do it after I got the call from Diane.

    I couldn’t pick Diane out of a two-person line-up, but the girl had some important information to convey. Seems Diane is an agent of the hospital. The financial part of the hospital. She told me that unless I pass my kidney stone by the day after tomorrow, I’m going to be out $2116.88. That’s after insurance has paid its share.

Now that I think of it, I pay before the insurance pays. The hospital will not mess me until I kick in my share. Insurance companies they trust. Me? Not so much.

    Like I said, shortly after the call, Kay had me jumping up and down in the living room. Kay has a list of stuff she wants to buy. No where on the list will you find the words “Lithotrypsy for Mark.”

    Lithrotrypsy is the procedure whereby kidney stones are crushed with sound waves. I’ve had it done several times, and I still don’t understand how it works. I assume it has to do with a Tiny Tim recording piped into your kidney. What else could it possibly be?

    Kidney stones have cost me a fortune over the years. The last bout was about three years ago. I had two large stones, one in each kidney. After the doc crushed ‘em, he told me to lay off tea, drink a lot of lemonade and take an anti-kidney stone pill multiple times a day. Not the cheap one. The expensive one. He didn’t say that, but that’s what happened. 

    Yeah, I followed his directions and three years later I’ve got a stone in each kidney that’s likely too big to pass. Since I’ve been in pain for a week now, the doc said the one in my right kidney is not likely to pass.

    He showed me a picture of both stones. One of ‘em is still in the kidney, but the one giving me the trouble is stuck somewhere between kidney and bladder. – Hey, I don’t enjoy telling you this any more than you appreciate hearing about it. It’s just that when I have kidney stones I have trouble thinking about anything else. I’d write about ducks or cheese spread, but I’m just not in the mood.

    To show you how serious this is, Brad Meyer called to check up on me. Brad! Meyer! The guy who drags me with him to review eating places. If you knew how little Brad cares about me, you’d weep. Yet, he called. He actually called to get some information from me about an article, but he first asked how I was feeling.

    Last week, Brad and I were about to give a talk to a group, and right before we were introduced, I walked out of the room. Kidney stones give me the perpetual feeling that I have to pee. If I weren’t feeling so bad, I wouldn’t have just used the word “pee” in the article. My sense of propriety would’ve kicked in. Right now I have no sense of propriety, couth, direction, or smell. Maybe I can smell. I just don’t care.

    When I made it back to the auditorium, Brad gave me the ol’ stink eye and told me that I about scared the daylights out of him. The big goober could’ve handle the room by himself, but he needed me for a prop. I’m the target of some really keen insults. I don’t know if I’m that stupid, or he’s just an insult wizard. Probably some of both.

    The good news is, in a couple of days this will all be over. The stone will either have passed or been crushed by Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Tiptoe through the Tulips”.  If Kay gets her way, the stones will be jostled out of me. If not, we’ll be paying for the doc’s kid’s fall semester at Princeton. The last time I paid for the anesthesiologist to take his wife to Bermuda.

Kidney stones are the most expensive mineral in the world. I don’t know what they’re made of, but it’s not tea, milk, cheese or soda pops. I’ve given up all of those for a period of time with no favorable results.

They may be made of some kind of expensive anti-kidney stone pill. These last two stones grew quicker than any others did. I’m thinking this crop was pill-aided. That’s as good a theory as any.


To view Mark and Brad's review of "The Counter" click on photo below.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The guy was hard to buy for.

Left to Right: Cousin Roger, Mark, Dennis and Dad.
“Shopping for Dad”

    The worst gifts that I have ever given anyone were always given on the third Sunday in June. Dad got every one of ‘em.  

    Let’s face it, Dad was the hardest person in the world to shop for. It didn’t help that all we had to spend on him was the allowance he gave us. He never gave us much, but it was generally more than he could afford. Dennis and I generally pooled what we got, and we still couldn’t come up with anything good to get him.

    You’re way ahead of the game if your Dad has a bunch of hobbies. Or maybe some bad habits. Maybe he drinks a lot. Back in my day, a couple of bucks could buy you a bunch of hooch. Booze, fire water, the hard stuff. A couple of kids on the next block could’ve set us right up. But, unfortunately, Daddy didn’t drink.

    He did chew tobacco and smoke cigars, though. Started chewing tobacco at the age of seven. I think he took up cigars because Aunt Mary wouldn’t allow chewing tobacco in the house.

I’m fairly certain that tobacco is what led to Dad’s death at an early age. I’m six months older than Dad was when he died. I don’t know what’s going to eventually get me, but it’s not going to be tobacco, giggle water or over-exercise. It’ll probably be something I ate… a lot of.

    Having said that, I must tell you that Dennis and I did get Dad some cheap cigars and Mail Pouch brand chewing tobacco a couple of times. This was back when kids could buy tobacco for their parents. Back when tobacco was good for you. Dennis and I could get a bag of Mail Pouch for a quarter and a bunch of King Edward or Prince Edward or some Edward guy cigars for a dollar. You can’t beat a deal like that.

    The only hobby Dad had was golf. I guess it’s considered a hobby. I know he never got paid for it. Dad did enjoy his golf. I’m so glad he had something to enjoy. Some place to go where he could escape his responsibilities for half a day. When you’re responsible for eight other people, you’ve really got a bear to load, uh, a hoe to row… you’ve got problems.

    So, sometimes Dennis and I tried to get Dad something golf related. Golf balls make a good gift. Back then you could get one Titliest for a dollar. Titliests were the best. May still be. I haven’t bought a golf ball in 20 years. Dad liked Titliests, but we always got him a brand known as PoDo.

    You could get three PoDo’s for the price of one Titliest. PoDo’s were the cheapest unused golf balls in the world. The name itself screamed “CHEAP!”

Why would anyone with a hint of business sense come up with such a lousy name for a product? – “Well, Frank, we could call it ‘Stratosphere’ or ‘Warp Drive’ or ‘Laser Fire.’” – “No, no, I’ve got it! PoDo!”

One year we got Dad a little clicker to help him keep up with his golf score. He acted like he really liked the counter, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t. Losing count of your strokes is how you imporove.

A couple of times we actually tried to buy Dad some clothes. We never got him a necktie, ‘cause he already had two. One wide and one less wide. I don’t think the man ever bought a shirt in his life. Mom did all the shopping for him. I’m not sure he had much of an opinion about styles.

Seems like we bought him socks a time or two. Back then you could get a whole wad of socks for a dollar. Bad ones. No elastic. None. I think they made ‘em out of leftover shirtsleeves.

Yeah, Dad got some lousy gifts for Fathers Day. But, he never seemed to mind. He was always such a good receiver of stuff. I think most dads are.

Dads learn not to expect. You could’ve cancelled Fathers Dad and I doubt Daddy would’ve noticed. – “You don’t say? How many years back did they cancel it?”

Bottom line, I wouldn’t worry so much about what you got your father for Dads Day.. I'm sure he acted like he loved it, regardless. Truth is, he probably consider the hug you gave him as the best part of the gift. It’s just the way dads are made.


can view Brad and Mark’s review of the Bikini Sports Bar and Grill by clicking on the photo below.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A rooftop experience before the big heat hits.

“Terrapin encounter”

    ROOFTOP -- Don’t shove. There’s plenty of shade for everyone up here. I doubt we’ll be climbing to the roof many times this summer, so we must take advantage when we can. Maybe we oughtta pull an all-nighter next time. Scratch that. 

    I don’t have a good feeling about the summer. Only good news is that I’ll likely not have to mow the lawn all that much. Our water supplier has upped the price considerably, so we’ll not be doing much watering.

Hopefully, Kay took some notes when we visited that desert garden near Fort Davis a couple of weeks back. Maybe she can find some hardy groundcover. Let me tell you, there is some vegetation that’ll take root on a claw hammer. It’s thorny as all get out, but hardy. Hates water and soil.

Speaking of tough stuff, a little earlier today I found a turtle (terrapin) making it’s way to the backwood. I called Kay, ‘cause she’s crazy about turtles… the non-snapping ones. She hurried out the backdoor and said, “Where? Where is it?” I pointed over to the base of the giant oak.

Kay uses a different voice for practically every animal she greets. Her turtle voice is one of my favorites. It’s the most non-threatening voice in her repertoire.  They oughtta fly her to the UN and have her sit in on peace negotiations. -- “Okay, Mrs. Hayter, we want you to read this document like you’re reading it to turtles.”  

    Kay snapped a few photos of the terrapin and then tried to figure out whether or not she should move the thing to the edge of the wood. She has little faith in terrapins making wise decisions. She’s seen the results of too many highway crossings gone bad.

Although she thought the vegetation on the other side of the driveway a better choice, she let the shelled slowpoke plod along in the direction of the trees in the very back.

Kay knows plants. Let me tell you what she did this morning. The girl grabbed the broom and went outside and beat our tomato plants. Only one of ‘em is blooming, so I figured it was a discipline thing.

She told me that if you sweep and shake your tomato plants with a broom, it helps with the pollination and gets them more excited about producing tomatoes. I don’t know where she comes up with this stuff. We’re living in the same house, and I’m not getting wind of any of it. She must’ve recently learned it from a gardening show… or a broom infomercial.

    The cicadas are out in full force this evening. Listen to those things. When we were kids, we called ‘em locusts. You can imagine how confused I was when Dad took us to see “The Ten Commandments.” The Egyptian locusts didn’t sound or look a bit like our neighborhood variety. Kids are so dumb.

    There sure are a lot of tiny ants up here. They look like those black crazy ants. They’re not acting crazy, but we don’t want to set ‘em off. Everyone act like you’ve got good sense, and maybe we can forestall an all out melee. 

    If there were fire ants on the roof, we’d take a different approach entirely. I’m embarrassed to say, but I’ve actually shown some sympathy to the fire ants at ground level. I didn’t put out poison bait last year, ‘cause it was so dry. Just hated to add to their agony. When a guy shows mercy to a fire ant, he likely needs some couch time with a brain person.

    Whoa. Smell that? Pork chops. That vent to your right is attached to the range hood. Since she retired, Kay has been cooking up a storm. Practically forced me out of “her” kitchen. I’m not crazy about doing the cleanup, but it definitely requires less thinking than cooking.

    I hope those crazy ants don’t get a whiff of the chops. They’ll be on that vent like… crazy ants on a vent.

    I guess we’d best break this session up before I get yelled down to supper. I’d invite you in, but Kay never cooks as much stuff as I do. I’m big into leftovers. We’ll just call it quits now and try to meet again up here before it gets too miserable out. Maybe pull an all-nighter. -- No, that’s not happenin’.


To watch Brad and Mark’s video review of “Seven Leguas Restaurant” click on pic.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

“Home again”

    Did you miss me? Of course you did. I. Sure wish I could remember who it was I asked to mow the lawn while we were gone. I asked a couple of people, but apparently they thought I was joking. My sense of humor tends to hurt as often as it aids.

    Kay and I were only gone a week, but it seems longer. West Texas by train is not only the stuff of a Country Western song, but it’s a prime ingredient for challenge. I’d do it again, but not sober.

    I mentioned the first part of our trip in my last article. Remember train, rental car, Marfa Lights? Well, life didn’t end after Marfa Lights, but it could’ve and I would’ve still died happy. Unless, I got wedged in a crevasse and had to saw my arm off with my belt buckle. I imagine they would get Wilfred Brimley to play my part in the movie.

    We saw plenty of rocks and crevasses on the trip, but I did no falling. Had to catch Kay a time or two. I’m ever alert. That’s what everyone says about me. Says something that rhymes with it, anyway.

    Kay’s most enjoyable post-Marfa experience was probably our visit to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center outside of Fort Davis. It was pretty much a cactus garden, but who in his right mind is going to pull into a cactus garden?

    I came away from the Nature Center with a greater appreciation for the beauty associated with desert flora, and with a great need for an ice chest in which to stick my head. I’m such a good husband it hurts.

    The thing I liked best AML (After Marfa Lights) was our trip to the McDonald Observatory north of Fort Davis. I learned a ton about stellar stuff. There was no moon the night we were there. I think they were using it to shoot an action movie. The stars were as bright as I have ever seen ‘em.

    I don’t know how many of us were gathered there in the outdoor theatre place, but there was a bunch. And, we couldn’t see a thing. The people next to us could’ve been bears, and I wouldn’t have known.

    An astrophysicist guy stood in the middle of the rounded area and pointed to different constellations. He said, “What do you call that group of stars right over there?” Nobody could see where he was pointing, ‘cause we couldn’t’ see. I thought I made that clear.

    He then said, “Oops, let me use my pointer.” Suddenly, a beam of light shot out over a hundred yards and pointed right to the Big Dipper. He called the pointer a green laser. Reading my mind, he cautioned us about ordering our own laser. Said that if you point one at an airplane or building, the Feds will be on you like ants on a Frito. Something to that effect.

    Every constellation that appeared in our hemisphere was pointed out. Except for the Big Bear’s tail I didn’t know what any of them were. – “And, there we see the constellation Libra with Zubeneschamali shining brightly.” – Looked as much like Libra as it did a stick horse riding through roadkill. 

    When he finished with the star-pointing, we got to go around and stand in line to look at stuff through telescopes that were set up along the perimeter. A bunch of stargazers showed up with their instruments to educate the lot of us. How nice was that?
and Botanical Gardens

    We saw a bunch of star clusters called Messiers… galaxies and such. I had trouble understanding stuff. We did get to go into one of the smaller domes and view Saturn. It looked just like the pictures, only smaller. It was a spectacular evening. On the trip back to the Inn I pointed out a few unknown constellations for Kay. “And there we see Spoon and Fork on broken plate.” If Kay hadn’t been so tired, she would’ve been rolling.

    The low point of the trip for Kay was when Mark Spring, the manager of the Inn, gave me two free tickets to watch the Alpine Cowboys play the Santa Fe Somethings. They actually have a semi-pro baseball team in Alpine who play in a small replica of Fenway Park.

    We had box seats to the game, just to the right of the catcher. I don’t think he appreciated it when I kept yelling, “Show him the heater!” The Cowboys ended up winning their first home game of the season five to one. I yelled ‘em on to victory. Kay? Not so much yelling.

    The day after the game we were back on the train. (Come up with a second line to that and you’ve got the first verse of the song you started earlier.) The train ride home was… what it was. As a kid, I would’ve enjoyed the daylights out of it. When I was a kid, it was so much easier to find fun in stuff. Now, my eyes aren’t quite so good.

    It is good to be home. I do so enjoy life here. What say we view a piece of life here next time?


To watch Brad and Mark's review 7 Leguas restaurant click on photo below. You can reach Mark at