Saturday, July 27, 2013

On saying what you mean

“Word defilement”

    I doubt anyone will remember me as a person who did all he could to preserve the English language in the form to which it was intended. “Of” which it was intended? One of those prepositional things.

    Truth is, I’ve been known to make up words, but only on rarifiable occasions. And, I’ll occasionally turn verbs into nouns and visa versa. About three times in my writing career I’ve even exaggerated. Can’t think of an example at the moment, but I’m sure it’s happened.

    However, my misuse of the English language is nothing compared to what I’ve been witnessing of late. Case in point, Kay and I went out for Chinese last weekend -- Which in itself is a misuse of the word Chinese. We weren’t looking for Chinese any more than we were looking to eat Mexicans when we went out for fajitas. We berate an entire ethnic group when we do stuff like that, and that’s something to put up with of which I won’t. 

    Where was I? —Oh, yeah. I ordered a bunch of crab puffs at the Chinese Restaurant. They were delicious. Crunchy crust with cream cheese stuffing. The only thing missing was even the hint of crab, making one wonder why the Chinese settled on the word “crab” in naming the puffs.

    Considering the significance “crab” plays in the making of the puff, it could as easily called “Volvo puff” as “crab.” I’m not saying the puffs never came with crab, I’m just saying the restaurants I visit have yet to incorporate the ingredient into the recipe. I’m thinking that during Mao’s Cultural Revolution he ordered crab removed from the recipe just so he could mess with the U.S. I don’t want to upset any Chinese-Americans, but I consider that beyond cruel. It’s crueliester.

    Enough of that. I’ve mentioned three or 18 times that I’ve got Restless Leg Syndrome. It’s a bear. The prescribed recommended to calm my legs has side effects that include vision loss, excessive sweating and a propensity to gamble. I kid you not.

    While I haven’t gambled any more or less than usual, I have noticed massive sweating problems to the point where I am now 136 years-old in Galapagos tortoise years. (I may have misconstrued something during my research on perspiration.)

    My vision has also worsened. That’s why I called my eye doctor, to see if the vision might improve once I quit the pills. You’ve got to be pretty bad off to just pop in to see your doctor. I’m thinking most doctors have quit and we’ve been left out of the loop. “Let’s see, Mr. Hayter, I can get you in January 32.”

    After explaining my problem my doctor’s assistant, I was asked if I had suffered vision loss. I told her I didn’t know what that meant. If “vision loss” means I can’t see as well as I used to, then yes, I’m at a loss. If “loss” means that I can’t see at all, I would’ve never found the phone to make the call. The nurse said that being able to see was a good sign, so it’d be okay to wait for the nearest appointment date which was in late September.

Vision “loss” and “crab” puff? The substances of quandary I’ve got little time and  two more examples, so I lets push on.--  I watch a bunch of those investigative reporting shows. Dateline, 20/20, Behind Mansion Walls, I Married a Lunatic… At some point during each episode of every series, a detective will say, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Really? In one episode it was discovered that a daughter had her boyfriend murder her mother. While explaining the case, the detective said, “It’s stranger than fiction. You can’t make this stuff up.”

Do any of these detectives ever watch “The Mentalist,” “NCIS”, “Elementary,” or any of the other two dozen cop dramas? Just try to follow the reasoning of the murderer. “So it was you, Mrs. Thompson, mother of the auto mechanic, who was having an affair with the victims cousin in order to get drugs from her step father who happened to owe the victim some money.” – What? No one has yet found something that is impossible to make up. You can quote me.

During a commercial last week, I heard an announcer make this disclaimer in regard to a highly touted medication -- “May cause unusual dreams.”  What? If you’ve ever had a dream where everything seemed normal, you were awake at the time.

By definition, dreams are unusual. – “Dream: an unusual course of imaginary events that take place in one’s mind during sleep… each of which is somehow tied to the sense that you’re naked.” (Webson’s Dictionary, 2002)

Hey, I could go on and on here, but I’m out of time. Let me just say in closing that society now finds itself at a point where it can no longer place value on the meaning of certain words. Most words. And, let me tell you, I’m getting sick and tired of it. – Well, not literally sick, but definitely tired. Oh, I’m tired all right.

End  and

The Chinese Zodiak

Cutest ox picture I could find.
“What are you? I’m an ox.”
    There are a bunch of different categories for personality types. Did you know that? We’re each listed under several colors, or types or different sections of the brain. If you’re left-brained that means the right side of your brain is where you keep the stupid stuff. I suppose.

I was with a group of friends a few months back and each of them had taken a test to find out what personality color they were, One would say, “I’m green.” Everyone, except me, would laugh and comment about how obvious that was.

There are a few topics I have less interest in than personality labels. Food spoilage is the only one I can think of at the moment, but there are bound to be a couple others.

Kay and I were eating at a Chinese restaurant last week, and she decided to read the place mat. Right in the middle of my discussion on “Game of Thrones” she asked me if I knew what animal I was. It upset me a little, but I finally guessed sea bass. I was wrong.

I’m an ox. If you were born in ’49, ’61, ’73, ’85, ’97 or 2009 you are also an ox. Oh, and if you’re going to be born in 2021, you’re gonna be an ox. You might want to take that into consideration.

The Chinese Zodiac is chopped full of interesting things. Not unlike twice cooked pork. Did you know that oxen are not supposed to marry one another? I think we can marry snakes… maybe dragons, but not another ox. I’m glad I didn’t marry a snake, even though they’re supposed to have the ability to discern herbs. (I did not make that up.)

Unfortunately, I knew nothing about the Chinese Zodiac when I married into my own herd. Yep, Kay is also an ox… an oxennette. Forty-one years I’ve been yoked with that girl. Let me tell you, that yoke has been stretched. 

Except for our taste in sofas and our disdain for jerks, Kay and I have very little in common. I don’t know which one of us is more ox-like, but the other is definitely more like a goat or monkey.

Take reptiles, for example. Kay like’s ‘em. She’ll pick up frogs and lizards and play with ‘em, but she’s scared to death of roaches. I don’t know that she’s ever smashed a roach in her life. She’d rather yell and run. 

Me? I don’t like to touch lizards or frogs, but I’ve actually smashed roaches with my bare feet. It’s been my experience that if you wait to find a shoe to put on, the roach will be gone. I think OJ’s lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, came up with that saying. “If you put the shoe on, the roach will be gone.

Kay enjoys the TV program that allows viewers to watch couples shop for houses. I don’t care if they’re looking in Portugal, Kay finds it fascinating. I find it the fourth level of purgatory.

And, I must tell you that there is a vast difference in our handling of Birthday, Wedding, Christmas and Get Well cards. A bottomless chasm separates us. It’s a chasmizamal difference.

Kay and I were on our way to a wedding last year… or last month. (Male oxen get time all mixed up.) In all our years, we have never filled out a card ahead of time. It’s always last minute. That’s because Kay waits for me to write the thing, and I always wait till the very last minute because I absolutely hate to think up meaningful stuff to say. I literally tug on what little hair I have.

So, I told Kay to write the card on the way to the church building. She took out a piece of scratch paper and started thinking. I told her not to waste her time on scratch paper; to just write the thing. That’s when she said, “Would you like to do this?” Sometimes she acts like she was born in the year of the horse.

So, I’m pulling into the parking lot when she reads me what she’s got. “Best wishes for a wonderful marriage.” --  I said, “Tell me you’re joking. What was the inscription that came with the card?” -- She said, “Hoping you have a wonderful life together..” 

So, I had to dictate some touching, personal, sentimental words that she transcribed onto the card. She’s got great penwomanship for an ox. Before stepping into the building, Kay had to pat my hair down on the sides. Cautioned me about tugging on it all the time.

As we were waiting in line to sign the guestbook, I said, “You didn’t really come up with, ‘Best wishes for a wonderful marriage’ did you?” – She said, “Of course not. What do you take me for?”  -- It was one of the few times she reminded me of me.

end  and

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It began on a rooftop back in July of '81

I was practically a kid at the time.
“The First Rooftop Article”

    The first article I ever wrote from atop the roof appeared in The Courier on July 20, 1981. The reason I know that is because I found a typed copy of it during a notepad search.

You didn’t ask, but I’ve got too many tablets. On this particular occasion, I needed my blue one. My little blue one. After a 30-minute search, I collected a couple dozen that were neither blue nor little. Isn’t that the way of things?

However, during the notepad pilgrimage I did discover a folder that held a typed copy of my original rooftop article. I can only imagine that at one time I was compiling my rooftop stories in an effort to get a book published. Did you ever see one of my rooftop books? There’s a reason for that.

    But, forget my failings. I’m going to share some of the 32-year old article with you right now. It explains how I first came to sit on the roof. Keep in mind I was 31 at the time. Oh, and I was sitting on the roof of our first house. It had composition shingles. Not a metal roof. And, the only way to—What? Oh, yeah, here’s the article.

     ROOFTOP -- It’s amazing how people overlook a man in a lawn chair sitting on the roof of a house. I guess that’s why I’m up here. It gives me a sense of remoteness. At times that can be a treasured feeling.

    I decided to climb up here after some guy called and politely asked me to buy a magazine subscription. (Sidebar: This was before caller I.D.) After turning down his offer, I started wondering about the poor fellow who was trying to make a living by selling magazines over the phone. Surely his job did not match the career plan he had drawn up for himself in his sociology class back in high school. 

    Who knows, and what on earth was I doing worrying about it? Realizing that I was in a strange mood, I decided to do a strange thing. I decided to head for the roof.  With coffee in hand, cigar in mouth and lawn chair on shoulder, I arrived at my present perch.

It’s really quite nice up here. Otis Redding was sure right when he sang about getting away from it all “Up on the roof.” Or was it “On the dock of the bay?” Whatever, the point is well taken. Occasionally, a person really needs to get away form it all. To just think of stuff. A roof is just a little easier for me to get to than a dock on a bay.

(Sidebar Two: This was back when “google” was the sound parents made when they tried to make their kids laugh. “Google, google.” Parents were saps back then. -- No, if you wanted to find out weird stuff back then, you had to call friends and family. Virginia must’ve been the one to tell me that Ottis Redding, not The Drifters, sang “Up on the Roof.” She was right most of the time. Just not on the night of July 17, 1981. That was a Thursday night. My deadline was Friday morning, and I always waited till the last minute to write. – What? -- Okay, back to the original.)

Let’s see what I can notice from up here as I look down on what appears to be a miniature lawn. Hmmm, can you see them? They’re down there just below the water oak. They look like shadows. It’s a bunch of kids sitting in a yard about 20 years ago.

I remember them. They’ll sit in that circle and talk about “what if” and “I wonder” until late into the night. David will say, “What if we had a giant sailboat and we could go anywhere we wanted for the rest of our lives?” Someone else will add a little to David’s “what if” and before you know it a half-dozen kids will hear the waves breaking along the shore of a deserted island.

Then Jody will say, “I wonder if there are people living on different planets who are sitting in their yards wondering about us?” This will generate a discussion on extraterrestrial life.

They’ll talk for a couple more hours. It will seem like minutes. Eventually, the discussion will be interrupted by the shout of an impatient mom calling her young explorer-philosopher to come home. Soon the yard will empty as each child is called back to the reality of a familiar home in an ordinary neighborhood.

Of course, the talks will continue on other nights, but, as the summers pass, the gatherings will be less frequent. In time the faithful group that weathered storms at sea and traveled to distant planets will find it unfitting to sit, wonder and pretend on a late summer’s evening.

Time has a way of curbing dreams and dulling imagination. As we age, we tend to use our minds for more practical things such as making a living and planning for the future. Sad, but I guess we’re all a little too old to think on frivolous matters the way we used to. Besides, it might be hard to find a friend who wouldn’t laugh if you turned loose some inner part of yourself… something that had been carefully tucked away under heavy blankets of reality.

    Hmmm, that sounded like something Rod Serling might say. I guess it’s the altitude. I’m sure it’s the mood.

End  or

Friday, July 5, 2013

In the year 2525... uh, I mean 2113.

“Prediction results for 2113”

    Remember the article a few weeks ago where I reported on predictions from 100 years back? Any of you? I asked you to send me your own predictions for life in 2113?  Anybody?

A few of you remember, but you’re just embarrassed to let on. Well, this week I reveal the results. Not all of ‘em. Some of you predicted stuff that’s already happened. Caramel Cheetos? Hey, I’ve made those, Bobbie.

Some suggested stuff that’s obviously not going to happen. A cure for baldness? Get real, Patrick. Velcro eyeglass frames? Oh my word, Sharon. That technology will not surface until the next millenium… if then. 

However, here are a few legit ones. Crayola will have invented eight new colors by 2113, according to Autumn. She didn’t say, but I predict one of the colors will be called “Blue. Just Blue! What do you want from me?”

According to Jenn, nano-particles will be the big think in 2113. Nano-particlss. You kow, real tiny things. Subatomic. About the size of a combo meal before you super-size. Jenn predicts that with nano technology scientests will develop a cloak that, when donned, will turn the wearer invisible. I know that sounds improbable, but you give me a shopping cart, put me in any grocery store in town, and I assure you the mother-of-three standing in the middle of the olive aisle will be completely oblivious to my presence. – “Ma’am? – Lady? – Woman reading the relish label? – I’m here. Over here.”

The nano particles are also going to absolutely ruin the washing machine business. Jenn writes that both odor and stains will be repelled by the new fabrics. I’m just glad we’ll actually be wearing clothes in 2113. Second thought, what do I care?

Cathy says that William Shatner will still be doing Priceline Commercials. Up until a year or two ago, I would’ve said that Dick Clark would still be hosting the New Years festivities in New York City. Boy, he sure ruined that for me. Hope he’s happy.

Cathy also believes that Facebook and Twitter will merge to form TwitterFace. You won’t have to key in anything. Your brain will automatically establish a post. – “plan 2have spaghetti 2nite 4dinner.” That will be so cool.

I also received an e-mail from  Jaber George Jabbour, a Syrian living in the UK. I used his whole name, so you could Google him and see that I’m not making this up. Jabbour apparently ran across my article in The London Times. It’s a guess. Surely he didn’t find me on the Internet. Does the Internet even exist outside the U.S.?
Canned burgers are decades away

Anyway, after reading my earlier prediction article  -- the one where John Watkins, Jr. back in 1911 predicted that all spelling would become phonetic and that the letters C, Q and X would be eliminated from the alphabet -- Jabbour wrote that it’s currently being done. He is promoting a global alphabet called SaypYu. It’s an acronim for, uh, something phonetically spelled. I’m not sure. “Say A Yeti Plundered Your Uberskoben. Notice how there are no Cs, Qs or Xs in that.

With his new alphabet, Jabbour spells “cube” – “kyub.” “Queen” is “kwiin.” And “six” is “siks.” And, this linguistic genius actually contacted me all the way from the UK. Before Jabbour, a couple of e-mails from the Hints from Heloise lady were my greatest columnistic accomplishments. – So, based on Jabbour’s work, the 1911 prediction about the alphabet has been confirmed. Thanks, JGJ. Seriously.

Whoa, the time is flying. Uh, Elizabeth is under the false assumption that college will be free in the year 2113. I’ll go her one further, I predict that technology will eliminate the need for higher education. No one will need to study, ‘cause everyone will just speak into their velcro-ed eyeglass-frame and it will instantly tell you who to vote for, how many pecks in a quagmire and the perfect-slot width for a toaster.

There won’t be any teachers, because with all the new devices around, it will be impossible to keep kids from cheating. I think it already is. All right, let’s move on.

Ed predicts that his Grandpa’s watch will have been passed along to a distant grandson of his, and it will still be right only two times a day. I thought that one precious. Mike predicts that HCN restaurant reviewer Brad Meyer will retire in 2113… his last review being that of Kwiins Ksodeaas Palus. The name of the eating place is my prediction.

Dona believes the world will be gone by 2113, but Kathleen writes that life in 2113 will be simple and good. She predicts there will be the “biggest dumb war known to man,” and we’ll end up raising our own food and bartering for stuff. People will be honest and kind to one another -- until the supply of toilet paper runs out. Right, that part was from me.

Roger believes that the world will be destroyed in 2109 during a national debate in the United Cities of America over how many planetary melting projectiles the Constitution permits one to put in an ammo clip. I realize many of you would like to know Roger’s last name, but I agreed to not even use his real first name.

Well, I’m fairly sure that none of us will be a part of the ammo clip debate. Of course, if Brad Meyer and William Shatner make it to 2113, maybe a few of you will, too. Oh yeah. Justin Beiber will also make it. Dona predicts he’s gonna chicken out on going on a space ride. I have no idea what that’s about… and, I’ve been following the Country Western superstar since he was just a kid. --  What?

End    --