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.


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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.

You can reach Mark at

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.


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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.


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

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!


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

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