Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jill visits for Spring Break

“Spring Break”

    Kay and I have made it a point to stay close to home from mid-March to early April. We made it a point immediately after renting a beach house with the Plilers during spring break of 2003. What a stupid time to go to the beach.

We saw things that still bother me to this day. Just think, without the binoculars, I would’ve missed a lot of it. Anyway, I protect Kay from stuff like that now. Virginia and Freeman? Oh, you can catch them in some of the spring break footage that appears each year on the news. It changed the couple. -- Virginia is either laughing or in the process of calling me.  

True to form, last week Kay and I stayed put during spring break. But, we still had a blast, ‘cause my sister Jill came up and spent a few days with us. My kid sister works at a college south of here, so she’s a big fan of the break known as “Spring.”

I’m a fan of her visiting ‘cause we talk about old times, test each other on the lyrics of the old songs and we laugh a lot. Oh, the best part is that Jill treats us to IHOP for breakfast. She used to take us out only on Christmas mornings, but has recently decided to treat us during each of her overnight visits. I keep insisting that she stop doing that, but each time I hand her the check she takes it. Whatta sister!

At last week’s IHOP visit, I finally got the red velvet cake pancakes. It was either that or the banana caramel. I asked the waitress which she preferred, and she said the ones without the bananas and caramel. I developed an instant liking for Kathleen. 

And also for red velvet pancakes. They have now edged out the cinnamon pancake as my favorite. Kathleen told me that I’d better eat as many red velvets as I can, ‘cause in the near future they’re gonna drop ‘em for something else. She was almost in tears when she said it.

I tell you that as way of encouraging you to notify the IHOP front office and urge them not to kill the red velvet pancake. These people have lost their minds.

Besides IHOP we went to Kroger. Kay and I go there usually twice a day, ‘cause one of us can’t remember to occasionally refer to the grocery list. Hey, that thing usually gets misplaced over in produce. Either that or someone is stealing it from me. 

Before leaving Kroger, Jill told the kid who bagged our groceries that he looked like Eric Burdon. The boy did not change his expression, so I said, “Eric Burdon of The Animals?” Nothing. Then I said, “House of the Rising Sun?” He looked up to his right as if he were thinking of the song or hoping I’d leave him alone. 

I decided to sing him some of the lines to jog his memory. “There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun--” Kay dragged me out of the place. She said, “How can a guy who didn’t recognize a single song or recipient during this year’s Grammy Awards, expect a high school kid to know who Eric Burdon is?”

After a lunch of Vernon’s fried chicken (I really like Fried Chicken Tuesdays) we went to the movie to see “The Great and Powerful Oz.” We went because we’d already seen “Jack the Giant Slayer.”

Turned out, OZ was really quite bad. Great special effects and the 3-D look was superb. However, the movie stank on ice. Jill blamed it on James Franco, the guy who played OZ. Jill said that Franco is not suited for comedy… or drama. I believe her words were, “The guy can’t act and can’t even pretend to act.” You have to weigh that awhile before it makes sense. Once it registers, it’s near profound.

Kay actually agreed with Jill. Kay is so sweet that I like to hear her say something negative. Makes me feel better about me. – Oh, and the good news about the OZ outing  was that the popcorn was good.

And, do you want to know a coincidence? The night before Jill left, we watched something on PBS about the songs of the ‘60s. Sure enough, there was Eric Burdon. I reached for the phone to call Kroger, but a sane mind prevailed.

    During the rest of Jill’s visit we managed to squeeze in a lot of other fun stuff. I don’t think the bag boy at Kroger would’ve thought it all that much fun, but, hey, youngsters? Unless they’re on the beach, they never look like they’re having fun.

    Speaking of which, I’m fairly sure that incoming call is from Virginia. – “Hey, kiddo, it was a joke. I joke, okay? Sheesh…” -- Next time.
Earlier days: I'm in the middle with a tight grip on Big AlJill is trying to help.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Whataburger meet

This isn't Merle, but he kind of looks like him.

“Too much”

I ran into Merle and Lucy at Kroger the other day. Kay and I were trying to find the cookies when I made eye contact with Merle from mid-aisle. It was one of those deals where you recognize somebody, but you don’t know from where. 

Fortunately, Merle knew from where. Sensing my unease he said, “Whataburger.” I just love people who don’t make me guess. I don’t have the stamina for it.

Of course, it was Whataburger. Merle and his wife go to Whataburger almost morningly. They sit with several other of the less young and solve a multitude of life’s preponderancies.  

Kay and I occasionally hit Whataburger right before we do some of our in-town chores. On each occasion we’ve seen Merle and Lucy sitting there talking with the gang. I always get a reciprocal smile and nod, but don’t join in. Some gangs have initiations that are quite taxing.

For breakfast at Whataburger, Kay and I always get Breakfast on a Bun… bacon. It’s the best, Jerry. And, get this -- seniors get a discount on their drinks. I can get a small coffee for free! They’ve got the best breakfast sandwich, they play old rock ‘n roll hits on the radio, and they serve discounted drinks to old people. If they put a wading pool in the parking lot, I’d spend the whole day there.

By the by, Kay looks too young to be a senior citizen. They have never asked for her ID, but it would tickle her if they did. Crazy thing is, the girl is two weeks older than I am. We’d look equally young, but I didn’t think to take care of my face… or my hair. Look at me now. Just look at me! Don’t let this happen to you.

All right, let’s get back to Merle. He’s standing there in Kroger over by the salad dressing waiting for Lucy to decide on a brand. – Sidebar: Lucy is not Merle’s wife’s name. I think it’s Lucretia, but I have no idea how to spell that.

So, Kay and I got to talk with Merle and Lucy for a little while in the store. Nice couple. Strange taste in salad dressing. (I just made that up.)

Just this morning, at Kay’s insistence, we went to Whataburger before grocery shopping. Seems I’m a most impulsive buyer of stupid stuff when I’m hungry. My thinker repositions all its saneness back there with the names of the State capitals. A lot of dust back there.

Bottom line, when I’m hungry, I end up doing stuff like buying a carton of Blue Bell Grandma’s Pecan Apple Butter and a carton of Chocolate Grease Nut Cookie Dough. Next morning, I have no recollection of the purchase.

Because of this morning’s Whataburger breakfast stop, I didn’t buy anything stupid in Kroger. Kay thought the pecan pie unnecessary, but what does she know. I told her that she oughtta buy a Stick-in-Mud Pie with Walnuts.

While leaving Kroger I checked on the progress of the HEB across the street. In my neck of the woods, they’re building a giant H.E.B. right across from Kroger. There’s gonna be a battle of the food depositories. It’s a gastronomical perfect storm.

In anticipation of the HEB opening, the Kroger boss is shuffling stuff around. Store bosses go to school to know the best place to put stuff. You don’t even wanna know where they put the crackers. Nor will you. Why is it that no one ever consults me before making major changes in stuff? I know things. Use me!

Before the Kroger shuffle, I had the place completely figured out. I was actually helping old ladies and Californians find stuff. Not now. Now, I’m reminded of a line from Shakespeare’s brother: “Use resides with me not. I am become the asker of where stuff is.” (From “Three Guys of Syracuse.”)

Two big grocery stores right across the street from one another. What will I do? What WILL I do? I only wish I had thought to ask Merle and Lucy their thoughts on the matter.

Me? My first concern in choosing between two competing grocery stores is variety. I don’t want too much, nor too little. Life is too short for too much.

An example of too much variety is breakfast cereal. Last year 38 new types of cereal arrived on the market. Thirty-eight new boxes to overlook on my search for Wheat Chex.

Soon there will grocery malls. – Okay, darling, I’m going to the Cereal Store, while you head to the soup over by the penguin pond.

Too much of a good thing. That’s what came across my mind after making eye contact with Merle. The origins of some articles are just weird as they can be. Fortunately, the articles themselves end up making perfect sense.

By the way, did I mention that Lucy isn’t Merle’s wife’s real name?


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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Faster than a pancake

An actual drawing of Esau and Jacob from Dead Sea Scrolls.
“Food algorithms -- Beg pardon?”

    Do you have any idea how long it took to prepare food back in The Good Ol’ Days? A long time. So long that the course of history was occasionally determined by the length of time it took cook a meal. Case in point:

    Are you familiar with the Jacob and Esau story in Genesis? They were twins. Esau was the older by about 18 seconds. Give or take. As the eldest son, Esau got the bulk of his father’s inheritance. There’s no justice in that.

    One day, Esau came home starving as a result of an unsuccessful hunting excursion. Who hasn’t been there? Jacob had prepared a pot of soup, but refused to give his brother a bowl, because… well, he was acting the jerk.

Esau, fearing he might die of hunger any minute, agreed to give Jacob his inheritance in exchange for a bowl of soup. Logic being -- What good is my birthright if I’m dead?

That’s all Biblical. Movies have been made. However, if that same episode had happened today… well, it wouldn’t have happened. Esau would’ve come home and said, “Hey, how about a bowl of soup?” Jacob would’ve declined, and Esau would’ve scrounged around and eaten a grilled cheese sandwich or peanut butter and crackers. Maybe some Honey Nut Cheerios.

The entire course of Biblical history could’ve been altered because of the length of time for food preparation. That’s one reason that most of us are a lot bigger than Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau must of weighed, what, 28 river stones apiece? Sounds about right. On average, most of us weigh closer to 52 river stones. (“Ancient Measurement Conversions” by Arnold Brackett, 1921.)

This whole speed-of-food preparation algorithm visited me last week and sat heavy on my brain. – What? Algorithm? I don’t know. But, I like the word. -- Algorithm.

Saturday, Jill had the greatest idea in the history of idea-dom. My kid sister invited the family over for a pancake lunch. Can you believe that? Not spaghetti, chili or barbecue. Pancakes! For lunch! (It’s okay to use exclamation points when mentioning pancakes. I looked it up.)

Lunch was to start at noon, so everyone showed up at about 12:15. Jill had fried up a plate of sausage and mixed up a gallon or so of pancake batter. The sausage was staying warm in the oven. The batter was just sitting there on the cabinet.

Do you know how long it takes to make pancakes for 84 people? Longer than for the 11 of us, but it still takes a long time. You’ve got to get the griddle hot. Toss out the first few pancakes ‘cause they’re… I don’t know. The first pancakes are cursed. 

So, we’re looking at pancake supper, not lunch.  In her e-mail, Jill had assigned the pancake-making to Big Al. It’s 12:30 and Big Al is sitting on the couch waiting for… what? I had no idea. Eleven people, a cold griddle and a cook who was unaware of algorithms. -- Boy, I like that word.

I couldn’t ask Al to get started, ‘cause I’m the Hayter brother who always tries to take charge of stuff. There’s a reason for that, but there’s no need to discuss it here. Meet me at Starbucks shortly after you finish this thing.

I eventually went over to Kay and asked her to the pancakes. Big Al would kill me had I usurped his authority, but he wouldn’t touch Kay. Al likes Kay. Everyone likes Kay. One reason they like her is ‘cause she never usurps. She can’t. Well, she does usurp me, but I’m the only one. – Usurp? Not that good a word. Let’s drop it. 

So, I went to Jill and asked if she had any idea how long it would to prepare pancakes for 11 people. She said, “No, how long?” -- Zombies! I was surrounded by zombified doodle heads. They’re the worst kind. Jill, then turned and said, “Hey, Alan! Mark thinks you should start the pancakes."
Al making pancakes... as I remember it.

D’oh! Had I been Esau, I would’ve had to turn over my birthright right then and there. All because I was impatient to get my pancakes. I wasn’t going to die from lack of food. I could live for months off of the fat stored in the area just above my hips.

But, nooo. I wanted syrupy flapjacks with sausage, and I wanted ‘em 30 minutes ago. -- “Mark, thy name is Esau.” That’s in Malachi somewhere. I’m paraphrasing.

And, there you have it. A tale of impatience, of gluttony, of pride and pancakes… with a few algorithms thrown in. So, take a lesson, dear reader. Be patient, less indulgent, more humble. Oh, and go to IHOP… if sanctity of family means anything to you. – Next time.


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Monday, March 4, 2013

Jimmy Legg -- 546 in dog years

“Restless legs”

    Did you know that it’s possible to take too many naps? I had no idea. A tendency towards daytime dozing is a sign of something. There is a 73 percent chance that it’s something bad. I may have read that somewhere.

    According to my sleeping nurse, I nap too often. Sleeping nurse? That sounded bad. She’s a family nurse practitioner (FNP). That’s what she is.

    My FNP told me that napping could be a sign that I’m not getting enough sleep at night. My first thought was – Who told you I’ve been napping? Turns out, my machine told her. She had the printout from my CPAP machine right in front of her. CPAP stands for “Blow Air Up Your Nose” machine.

    Kay and I both use a CPAP. Have for years. As long as you don’t take a look at me wearing my mask, I don’t mind you knowing about it. Some of the CPAP masks give you the look of a jet pilot. If you have trouble nodding off, you can pretend to be in a dog fight. Kay always makes me fly the MIG-29, because she wants to be one of the Blue Angels. She’s such a child.

    Turns out Kay and I were both told we needed to go the sleep clinic… again. It would be Kay’s second visit and my third. A sleep clinic is where you get a room with several other people and talk about sleep. No, that’s something else.

The sleep clinic we went to was really a place where you get hooked up with wires on your head, face, arms, chest and legs. Once you’re completely wired, you’re told to go to sleep on a bed that feels much worse than yours. It’s a blast.

    Kay and I went to the same clinic, but were given separate rooms. They apparently fear that, if you get the least bit amorous, one or both of you are liable to get electrocuted. That’s just a guess.

    Kay was the first one to get wired, so she had some time to kill before lights-out—uh, lights dimmed. So, she walked into my room looking like a giant chia pet. The minute she laid eyes on me, she started laughing. The girl looks like Medusa unchained, yet has the gall to laugh at how I look. For some odd reason, they didn’t have mirrors in the sleep clinic.

    During the night, your every move is videoed, while a computer takes readouts from all the wiring. Our night in tangles ended at six a.m. We could’ve stayed longer, but we had a reservation at I-HOP.

We walked into the pancake palace with red gel in our hair from where they stuck the wires. We would’ve cleaned up better, but there were no mirrors. I thought I told you that.

A couple of days ago, we went back to our FNP for the results. Kay’s doing okay. She just needs a chinstrap to keep her mouth shut at night. And, she needed her CPAP jacked up three more points to shoot more air up her nose. She’ll be fine.

Me? The nurse needed to increase my air power four more notches. And, get this, I’ve got the jimmy leg. RLS. The ol’ restless leg syndrome. Apparently, I move my leg 78 times an hour. That converts to 546 in dog time. (I don’t know what that means.)

As long as Kay hadn’t complained about my night-kicks, I didn’t see a problem. The nurse told me that each time my leg twitches, it wakes me up. She had the readout to prove it. I was waking up 78 times an hour. Had I been a dog I would’ve dug a hole in the mattress.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been diagnosed with restless leg. The last time, I was prescribed a pill that gave me headaches and made my breath reek. I quit taking it. My new nurse told me not to worry. They’ve come up with a patch. A patch that, without insurance, would be affordable by only one percent of the nation’s population.

    I now wear a patch 24 hours a day. I’m in the constant state of patch. Side-effects? – I’m not making this up. – The patch makes me hungry and it makes me want to nap. Fortunately, it hasn’t caused nausea and mood swings, two of the other possible side-effects.

Okay, let me sum all of this up for those of you still awake. -- If you take too many naps, it may be a sign that you’re not sleeping well at night. But, again, it may be a sign that you’re sleeping well at night, but the medication that helps you sleep at night  makes you nap.

     If you scratch this thing, you’re gonna find someone in the pharmaceutical industry laughing his rear off.


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