Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day story

“The Road to Tucumcari”

December 25, 2014

            Edna was still crying as they pulled out of the driveway and headed in the direction of Clear Lake where she and Don would spend a couple of days celebrating Christmas with their family.

            Trey did not stand in the driveway to see his parents off. In fact, he hadn’t moved from his seat at the edge of his bed, since the one-sided argument with his father. Trey was beyond arguing and that really steamed his dad. It took just about everything the man had to keep from driving his fist into his son’s face. What a mess. Everything was so wrong.

            Two hours after his parents left Trey headed north in the opposite direction his parents had taken. The plan was to drive until the snow stopped him. He envisioned himself leaving his Jeep Cherokee to walk through a wood and sit beneath a tree.

            Some pompous fool had assured others that freezing to death was a pleasant way to go. You just go sleep and don’t wake up. Trey had spent way too many hours sitting quietly in the deep snows on the side of the mountains and hills of Afghanistan to know that the moment of death might be relaxing, but the part about getting there was sheer torture.

            But he did love the silence. Loved it enough to want to experience it just one last time. Only this time he was prepared to skip right past the torture stage.

            Before leaving the house, Trey had scribbled a note to his Mom. He wrote: “Mama, I am so sorry that I mess things up for you and Dad. For everyone. And, I’m so sorry for always saying how sorry I am.  I know enough to know that I’m broken. To help me get fixed I’m taking a little drive to someplace not here. I’ll be back in a few days. Please, don’t be mad at Dad. He tried as long as he could. Thanks for always praying for me, Mama. I know your prayers go straight to heaven. I’ve given up on mine ever leaving the room.  – I love you, Mother. Always will.  T

            The snow began to fall around Amarillo. Trey pulled into a Valero to gas up. He had seen enough of Texas to realize that he needed to head west for a while. If not he’d likely end up in a snowdrift somewhere in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Not exactly where he wanted to join his friends. He wasn’t long into New Mexico before noticing a half buried post wearing a green highway sign which read: “Tucumcari 18.” He liked the sound of that. Remembered once hearing a song about the town.

            He soon realized that he would not likely reach town, so he pulled into the first inviting place he could find. It was an old Mom and Pop motel. He didn’t want a room, just some place might serve him a meal before taking his walk.
            The light was on in the motel office, but the door was locked. He banged loud and long until the door cracked open enough to reveal the face of an unshaved, gruff-looking, middle-aged guy. “Whatta ya want?” the man said.

            Trey asked him where the nearest café was, and the guy assured him that there wasn’t anything opened anywhere, including the place he was standing. “Would you consider throwing together a sandwich for me?” Trey said. “I’ll make it worth your while.”

            The man tried to shut the door, but Trey used a bit more force to push the door open. Immediately the man reached into his pants pocket. He studied Trey’s expressionless face for a second and then walked behind the counter for a room key. He checked the drawers and poked around under the counter. Trey said, “If you’re looking for a key, they’re hanging on the pegboard behind you.” The man reached back, grabbed “Key 11” and tossed it to Trey.

            “That’ll be $100 up front. Cash,” the man told him. Trey told him that he didn’t want a room, but he would pay $100 for something to eat. The man smiled as Trey pulled some bills out of his wallet.  Finding some new confidence the man said, “Oh, and you’re gonna need to throw in your car keys.”

            Trey turned to walk out the door, but the man warned him not to. Trey told him that he had to get a couple of things out of the Jeep. As he exited the office he felt fairly sure the man wouldn’t shoot him. And, the man apparently had the feeling that he shouldn’t shoot, ‘cause he didn’t. He did briskly shake his head in an attempt to make a creepy feeling go away. After which he said to no one, “What have I just stepped in?”

            Trey opened the passenger side-door and reached beneath the seat for his pistol, and placed it into the huge inside pocket of his woolen jacket. He then picked up the partially eaten bag of Fritos between the two seats and then walked back to the office.

            There he found the man standing behind the counter just as he had left him, but this time he was pointing a small caliber pistol at Trey. Trey discerned just a tad of nervousness from the man’s stance. Nothing in particular, just something he had picked up on over his short life.

            “I need you to slowly hand over the gun you got from your Jeep,” the man said.  Trey reached into his pocket, pulled out his keys, removed the Jeep key from the ring, and laid it on the counter. “Okay, now the gun,” the man said. Trey kept looking deep into the man’s eyes. Didn’t even drop his stare while in one fluid motion, he pulled the 1911 45 Colt from inside his coat. The man did not react, other than to shake. “What the— No need for that,” he said.” I was just trying to protect myself. I get held up a lot here.” 

            Without diverting his stare away from the man’s eyes, Trey said, “I want you to hand over the 22, and then tell me where the guy is who really owns this place.”

            The man placed his pistol on top of the counter and then assured Trey that the old couple was okay, that he hadn’t harmed them. “I just threatened to shoot you if they made a sound.”

            At that very moment, an old man peeked from behind a doorway. “I’m okay, sir. My wife and I are fine.”

            Trey told the robber that he would let him keep the $100 he had given him, but he insisted he return the money he had stolen from the couple. The man told him that he had actually not gotten around to that, and the old man standing in the doorway backed his story.
            Trey swung his hand out as if introducing the man to the door. The man took his cue and left with no hesitation. He climbed into the Jeep and headed east.

            After hugs and a thousand thanks, Sid and Janet Taylor escorted Trey to the kitchen. “I heard you tell him you were hungry, she said. 

            Trey didn’t know what he enjoyed more, the feast of leftovers or the company of strangers. He did little talking, but listened to the life and times of Janet and Sid. They were so pleasant to be around. Trey could actually play the part of himself. No need for a mask.

            He didn’t recall actually seating himself in the cushy chair in the living area, but that’s where he was when his dream became too real. He woke in a fright and found Sid practically lying across him while Janet calmly assured him that he was all right.
            After about a minute, Trey calmed a bit, and then began to cry.  Between sobs Trey apologized to Sid. “I’m so sorry. Mr. Taylor? Did I hurt you?” Sid assured him he had not. After a couple more minutes Trey assured his hosts that he was much better. “I need to, uh, go outside for a little while,” he said. “That’s what I do when I get like this. Y’all please go back to sleep. I’m fine. I’m so sorry. I didn’t think I would fall asleep.”

            Janet took Trey’s hand and led him to the couch, and instructed him to lie down. Sid brought in a quilt and laid it across the boy. “No, please don’t do this,” Trey said.

            “Shhh. Close your eyes, son,” the old woman told him. Trey didn’t argue. The next sound he heard was a prayer. Janet prayed for God to remove the pain from his mind and to send it away forever, and to let the boy sleep. She then began singing “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling; calling for you and for me…” Trey only managed to hear the first part of the song before falling asleep. There would be no thrashing around, no dreams… just the sleep of the blessed.

            Trey called home the day after Christmas. His mom cried upon hearing his voice. Trey shared a bit of his story with his mother, but mostly chose to listen as she told him how much the family had missed him. Everyone asked about him. Daddy even mentioned him in the Christmas prayer.

            Trey told his mother that he was going to stay with the Taylors for little while. That there was a VA hospital in Albuquerque and he planned to add his name to the waiting list for counseling. Before hanging up, he asked his mother to thank his dad for mentioned him in the prayer.

            The Oklahoma Highway Patrol found Trey’s Jeep in the panhandle of Oklahoma just south of Liberal, Kansas. Clarence Stang was identified by his prints which were found all over the interior of the Jeep. Mr. Stang was never located, though. Trey hoped that the man was all right. He even whispered a short prayer for him. The saying of the words didn’t feel natural, but for the first in too long he actually imagined getting better. Mrs. Taylor told him that he was their Christmas miracle.

            The real miracle for Trey was that he would have many more opportunities to sit in the wood and listen for the silence that can found in falling snow.

                Merry Christmas to your family, from the Hayters.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thanksgiving review

“Collin and Maggie”

ROOFTOP – Didn’t I tell you those acorns pack a wallop when they hit the roof? That is one loud pop. I hope at least one of you gets hit on the noggin, so we can find out how painful it is. You did sign a waiver before climbing up, didn't you? I’m pretty sure you did.
Just be glad they’re not pecans. Kay’s brother, Tracy, has a pecan tree in his backyard, and that thing is loaded. If one of those bubbas lands on your head, it’ll stun you.

I discovered the impact of a pecan while celebrating Thanksgiving this year at Tracy’s house in Pasadena.  We went to Tracy’s because the Hayters chose not to have a gathering this year. I think we were all waiting for someone to volunteer to host the festivities this year, but no one did. Traditions take a kick in the teeth sometimes.

     There was a small group at Tracy’s house. Just Tracy’s friends, Ed and Brenda, and a couple of their kids and grandkids.  I don’t believe I’ve ever introduced you to Ed. That guy is so much like Kay’s dad (Uncle Ray) that I just smile every time I see him. Things just start looking better when Ed walks up.

Thanksgiving went well. Good eats, plenty of sharing, no fights, no football outside, no roughhousing. I had trouble believing it was Thanksgiving. My most memorable time was with Collin, one of the grandkids. I’d never met the kid. He’s in Kindergarten, and has a better vocabulary than I had in the fourth grade. He’d say stuff like, “No, thank you. I don’t really like the corn. It’s not normal.”

Collin was right, by the way. The corn was a casserole with sour cream and cream cheese and some other stuff in it. It’s my favorite corn product, but there is no question about its lack of normalness.

After the meal, I was relaxing in the backyard all alone except for Collin who was standing three feet away from me trying to get the attention of Tracy’s dog. Maggie was across the yard barking at something on the other side of the redwood fence. May have been a lizard or a leaf. You can never tell with Maggie.
     Instead of running over and getting Maggie’s attention, Collin stood there right next to me and began yelling. “Maggie! Maggie! Hey, Maggie! Over here, Maggie…”

One might surmise that a dog that will not pay attention to you when you keep yelling at him, is either deaf or not into chasing stuff. As smart as Collins is, he couldn't figure that out. He just kept yelling.

The Mark of a decade or two back, would’ve picked up Collin and Maggie and chunked ‘em over the fence. It was the only cure for my eye twitches and shaking. I chose not to do that this time. I inhaled slowly and deeply while saying a short prayer. All the while --

“Maggie! Here, Maggie! Maggie! Come here, girl. Maggie!” I calmly said, “Collin, how do you like your Kindergarten teacher?” he stopped yelling and looked over at me as if I had just told him to take off his left shoe and throw it on the roof. He said, “She’s nice. I like her fine.”

Then he turned to yell, but quickly looked back at me and said, “What’s the dog’s name?” I foolishly said, “Maggie.” That kid reminded me of me.

He said, “Right. -- Maggie! Maggie! Over here, Maggie…” Before our time in the backyard was over, Collin and I let Maggie chase the ball all over the place. We would even throw the ball on the roof and Maggie would catch it before it hit the ground.

All the while, Collin kept warning me not to step in the dog “poop.” A couple of times he saved my life. He could really spot dog stuff. Unfortunately, he was so worried about me that he ended up with stuff on both shoes. I took ‘em off and cleaned ‘em with the hose, then with a bucket of soapy water, and finally with Tracy’s toothbrush. (At least that’s what I told him.)

Before we knew it, the day was over. It caught my attention after Tracy said, “Are y’all still here?” The end of any gathering is the pits, ‘cause you’ve got to clean up and then load up. After that, I usually have to chase Kay down and drag her to the car. Kay is not one to go gentle into that good night.

     Before we managed to leave, Collen walked up to Kay to give her a hug and then he said, “Where’s Mark? I need to tell him goodbye.”

     About that time I came in the front door after making my last trip to the car. Collin walked up to me and held out his arms, so I stooped down and hugged him. In the middle of the hug, he caught me off guard by saying, “I love you. Do you think we can have Thanksgiving together again next year?”

     It is such a blessing when a youngster enjoys the company of an old guy like me. I didn’t even give him anything, he just enjoyed being around me. Maybe I would’ve made a good grandfather. A dad? Not so sure. I know Kay would’ve been a great Mom. A lot of patience that girl.

     Oh, and she’s a great cook. Makes the best corn casserole in the world. And, at this very moment she’s in the kitchen doing something with asparagus. – I guess that means, it’s time for me to say, “Are y’all still here?” – Next time.

end  and              

Friday, December 12, 2014

Emotionally a woman? Me?

In the beginning
Speaking of femininity…

    Last week I was looking around the study trying to find an excuse not to have to work on a project.  At one point, I noticed that the phone line was unplugged. That seemed odd, ‘cause I had been talking on the phone earlier.

    So, I did what I normally do when something seems odd. I yelled down to Kay, “Hey, why is the phone in the study unplugged? And, how is it that it still works?” – Get this—Kay yelled back, “Because we’ve got Voip!”

    Stuff like that makes me want to just scream. She does it on purpose, you know? I sat staring at the computer for about, oh, a whole minute. Any more contemplation time than that, and I might come unglued.  -- That’s what my Daddy used to say.

    I marched downstairs and said, “Kay, darling, sweetheart… don’t ever aim a word like ‘voip’ to me and let it just hang there. What do is give me the meaning without saying the actual word.”

She could say “rabid unicycle” and it’d make more sense to me than voip. She just does stuff like that to show that the point difference in our IQs should be in her favor not mine. After my brief vent, Kay calmly said, “Oh, VOIP?” That’s when it hit me that the word was actually an acronym. I lived with her long enough to notice voice inflection for acronyms. I hate acronyms. It’s why I never joined the navy.

Kay listened to my aggravation spiel and then said, “VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol.” That’s what she said, and in doing so aggravated me even more. This time I handled it well. I said, “Ah. Voice over international… something with a P?” Then I went back to the study.
Had this happened two years into our marriage, it would’ve probably led to divorce. But as of last week, we’ve spent 43 years together. I thought our anniversary in 2013 was our 43rd, but Kay told me to do the math. Can you believe that? I thought I’d never need to know subtraction again
So, no way am I letting Internet Protocol mess up this marriage. In the words of some female singer, “I’m goin’ down with this ship.” But keeping the marriage afloat is easy for me. You wanna know why? It’s because of a recent on-line test that I failed. Failed it big. Really big.

Jill sends me an on-line test practically every day. These test help you determine stuff like which Tombstone character you’re most like, or Star Wars character, or what kind of flower you would be if you were flora instead of fauna, or what pastry you’d be. The last test I took was the one that showed how much of a woman I am… mentally, not physically? If it were physical it’d be a no-brainer. I probably wouldn’t have to even take a test.

What I did discover was that I’m Virgil Earp on Tombstone, C3PO in Star Wars, a daisy, a crème horn, and 98 percent a woman. I’m not joking. C3PO! – What? Oh, yeah, the woman thing.

Yes, that surprised me a bit, too. I don’t know if that means I’ve got a female brain, or effeminate emotions or sissified interests. Don’t forget, though, the test does not measure physicality. I’m as male as you can get. You hear me? Okay, then.

    Even at that, I’m not all that worried because the test was one-sided. It had questions like – “Which of these would you rather do?  A) skin a moose    B) shoot a moose    C) ride a moose     D) paint a flowerpot.

    Which would you rather do? A) jump out of helicopter   B) climb Kilimanjaro     C) compete at Daytona   D) wear a bra in public .

 It’s still hard to believe that I’m 98 percent in touch with my feminine side. If I were that womanly, I’d at least know what Kay might want for an anniversary gift. I haven’t gotten her a gift she appreciated since the invention of Teflon.

    Last week I went to Sam’s and got her a hardbound book that she’d already read and some flowers, a flower pot, and green stuff to arrange the flowers. The Sam’s flower lady told me how to arrange the greenery, but she wouldn’t do it for me even if I paid her. She said they only arrange flowers for Valentines.

    So, I came home and stuck a recycled bow on the Jan Karon novel; then I set about to arrange the flowers. I spent a long time on those flowers. They were mint roses. Roses with red tips, but the lady called ‘em mint. Women and their flower names. 

I did the flowers exactly the way I remembered the lady telling me. Unfortunately, I remembered only about 17 percent of what she told me. I’m good with percentages. Even while I was at the checkout with the flowers, a lady in line at the next register pantomimed to me how I should arrange the flowers. She didn’t realize that I was 98% woman. It doesn’t matter. I loused up the arrangement.

Kay was sweet about it, but she’s always been good at hiding disappointment. Me? Since taking the test, I find myself crying at the first sign of disappointment. I’m beginning to think that I’m more like Princess Leah than C3PO. Remember, that’s just between you and me.


Friday, November 28, 2014


"A mystery"

LtoR: Larry, Susan, Daddy w/mark, Mom w/ Jill, Lynda, Den

I have before me an object that is locked up. I’ve never seen the inside of it, but, today, right now, in the present, forthwith I’m going to open the thing and we’ll all learn of its contents -- together. Is this not the best? No, I’m really asking.

What I’m getting ready to do is make Geraldo Rivera look, uh, pretty much like he does now. Of course before Geraldo opened Al Capone’s vault on live TV, he gave us about two hours of history. And this was before DVRs.

Fortunately, I’m not going to give quite as much background as Geraldo did. First thing I’m going to do is tell you that the object to be opened is one of Mom’s 16 diaries. One of the 16 that happens to be locked and has yet to be read. Mom kept diaries going back to 1988 and ending in the year she died, 2006.

Regrettably, she threw away several years of her diaries. She thought they were too boring. D’uh. Of course they’re boring. They’re like reading 5840 transcripts of phone conversations that start with the question, “Hey, Mom, tell me about your day.”  But the entries were family history that ended up in a garbage can. Lost forever, remaining only in the memories of her six feeble minded kids. In other words, they’re lost forever.

Up to this very moment, we never read anything that Mom wrote about her thoughts, or her emotions. She didn’t like to share personal stuff. She was from Oklahoma.  

The mystery is, why would Mom keep this particular diary locked up? Is this the one that’s actually interesting? Did Mom have a secret lover? Why did she buy those Compton Encyclopedias from that weird man? Does she reveal the secret that I had a twin brother that once dated Sinead O’Conner? Did our eldest brother, Larry, really play the part of the “Creature from the Black Lagoon?” 

That could well be what we’re getting ready to discover. However, since time is short, I’m only going to allow us to read the entry from Thanksgiving of, uh, whatever year the diary says.

Oh, and there’s one other thing. Kay was the one who managed to unlock the diary for me. This girl has too many secrets. You can’t hide stuff from a YEGG. With that cleared up, let’s open this buddy now, forthwith. (I like that word.)

First off, the year is 1997. That’d be 17 years ago and Mom would’ve been 78. Thanksgiving in 1997 fell on the 27th. Isn’t this exciting? No, I’m asking. – Here are the secrets recorded at the end of that mysterious day.

“Thursday. Read Bible – Leviticus 3-6.” -- Oh, my word. What a way to start the day. I believe Moses even slept through most of it. ‘If your neighbor injures the left rear leg of your ox, he must give up four of his own oxen, as well as two donkeys and his left sandal.’ Let me tell you, Jesus made things just a whole lot simpler. But then I digress.

Back to Elsie: “Larry came over for breakfast and we all visited. Larry and Jill and Mark went to visit Lynda.” -- Our oldest sister was in a place for Alzheimer patients at the time, and likely remembered nothing about Thanksgiving. Among my saddest moments in life were the times I visited my dear sister at “the home.” More digressing.

Elsie: “I made three pans of rolls, one loaf of bread and chicken and dumplings. Kay made the dressing. We loaded up and went to Jill’s. Al brought a ham and fried a turkey. Good food, a good time and…” -- Wait just a minute. Al fried a turkey? That’s it. That’s all she writes?

I’ll have you know that Big Al dropped an almost thawed turkey into a vat of boiling peanut oil and came close to sending us all to the Galveston Burn Center. Oil on my tennies, my shirt, pants, and a place on my arm that just recently started growing hair. “Al fried a turkey?” Fried himself and two brothers is more like it. -- Sorry. Back to Elsie.

“We had lots of good food and a nice time. Watched some of our old (family) videos.” – That refers to the times we taped our talent shows and Holiday football games. Poor quality, but just a gas to watch. – “The boys went to play football. I went home. Cleaned the pots and pans and the kitchen. So tired. Larry called. I ate a peace of chocolate pie and turkey on a roll. Went to bed at 12. Got up at 5:45.”

That’s it. Now that was… something. Something that has made me develop empathy for Geraldo. Of course, there could well be secrets mentioned in her May entries. Maybe February. Her birthday was in February.

If not, then we still have one big mystery before us. – Why did Mom put these entries in a locked book? And, where is the key? – And, who cares? -- No one. No one except her kids. The ones who loved the daylights out of her. -- Thanks for staying with me this far. Sorry for the letdown. I honestly had no idea what was written here before opening it. I opened it forthwith. I like that word.

 BTW: Since Al was not born when the above photo was shot, I've included the oldest picture I've got of him, taken back when we lived in Moscow. 
Actually, it's Daddy (Faris) when he lived in Oklahoma with the Ghost friend to his left, 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014


“Honey tasting judge” 

    A couple of years ago I agreed to be a judge in a chili cook-off. It was for a good cause. They always are. It took eight weeks for the swelling to go down enough for my doctor to safely reattach my left retina. Did I mention it was for a good cause?

    Last week, I got pegged for another food judging contest, only this one was sweet. That meant I wouldn’t be leaving the event in a white van with strobe lights and a siren blaring. No I was picked to judge a honey contest. “Sweet” is good.

The Montgomery County Beekeepers Association ( is a group of about 150 people, some of whom raise bees as a hobby, and all of whom are honey bee enthusiasts. 

    Chari Elam, one of two First VPs of the group, thought it would be cool if Brad Meyer and I helped in judging the 35 honey entries. She still remembers “Whine and Dine with Brad and Mark.” How nice is that? (Chari’s husband, James, is the second First VP of MoCo Bees. Two firsts? Must be a bee thing.)

After the invite to honey judge, I asked Brad if he thought it’d be okay if I invited Big Al and Kay to join us. Kay likes bees and honey, and Al is good with public appearances. Brad said, “Well, ‘spam’! Go ahead and invite the whole ‘spam’ family!” Only, he didn’t really say “spam.”

    Joining us was Tom Lister, a MoCo Bee member, selected to ad a touch of legitimacy to the judging. We welcomed any hint of legitimacy.

James and Chari had previously been our guests on the Mark and Cindy Internet Radio Talk Show ( That couple shined. They are funny and bee literate at the same time. Their senses of humor are so Hayterish that I’m fairly sure we’re related somehow.

    Okay we’re now at the Texas AgriLife Building on Airport road just across the street from the Lone Star Convention Center. A nice facility. Chari escorted us into a giant kitchen/work-area, where we were introduced to the intricacies of honey judging.

Just as the judging began, the voice of guest speaker, Master Beekeeper Lance Wilson came over the intercom where we were doing our judging. In the world of beekeeping, the name “Lance Wilson” is a big draw. He’s the Einstein of bees. I could understand every fifth word of what he said.

    Understanding was not our job, though. We were tasters. We tasted by dipping short Popsicle sticks into small plastic containers of honey. The 35 samples were divided into seven groups of five. (I was confused at the very beginning.) We judged each grouping together.

    Before the tasting began, I actually thought that honey was honey, and that it’d be hard to differentiate between different samples. I was so naïve. There are big honey differences. Taste, texture, color, degree of sweetness... After my twentieth sampling I added another category – Medicinal taste.

    At one time Big Al belched quietly and then said, “Hold it! I just got another taste of sample 22, and I want to change my vote.” I laughed till I about lost sample 25. Is there any wonder why I like to have my kid brother around?

    By the time the tasting was over, I had a cup full of 51 sample sticks. Chari wouldn’t let us double dip, so anytime I forgot to write down my assessment, I had to resample the sample. After entry 18 I had trouble focusing. At 27, I started patting my head and cheeks. Didn’t notice it till Kay brought it my attention.

    When it was over, Chari had me announce the winners. Brad wasn’t in the mood, Al couldn’t quit belching, Kay wouldn’t, and Tom couldn’t touch anything without it sticking to his hands. We were a mess.

I vaguely remember my first comment. It went something like “Up until this evening, my regularity was always in question.” They thought it was a joke. 

After the announcement of the winners, we took a seat and listened to Round Two of Lance Wilson’s lecture. After about fifteen minutes, the guy began to get interesting. I learned so much about Africanized bees, bee diseases, honey badgers and drones.

Did you know that 90 percent of the bees in a hive are girls? They do all the work. The drones just sit around, drink nectar and meet girls. A few ultra fanatical Middle Easterners call that heaven… absent the bees.

    I see that time is up. I can’t leave, though, without thanking Tom Lister, MoCo Bee President, Leesa Hyder, the members of the Montgomery County Bee Keepers Association, and especially Chari  and James Elam and Chari’s parents’ Robert and Shirley Meadows,

Oh, and Lance Wilson. – Did you know that honeybees are responsible for about 80 percent of our nation’s fruit, vegetable and seed crop? And 12 percent of the regularity among U.S. citizens. (Lance didn’t say that that last part. I made it up. But, I’m fairly sure it’s true.)

Just throwup? Impossible.

Kay's sick and Mark's on the roof


    ROOFTOP – There’s a pretty good chance we’re sitting on or near a wasps nest. That single bee keeps easing himself closer to me. This metal roof has some ridges and overlays that the smarter insects managed to homestead. Wasps, praying mantises, metallic woodborers… No, june bugs or dung beetles.

    There’s probably a nest of wasps in the attic, and the entrance is beneath an uncaulked place behind us. At least it’s not raccoons. Our neighbor came over last night to borrow our flashlight. She said there was a raccoon in her attic. A better neighbor might’ve gone over and helped eradicate the creature. Instead, she left with my flashlight.

    If I get any animal larger than a mouse living somewhere within the house, I’ll go ahead and sell the place. – “Sir, your house looks great. Is there anything I need to know about it?” – “Well, there is a badger in the attic; or skunks under the house; or a snake in the utility room.”  Any of those scenarios would be enough to for me call the brothers and rent a U-haul.

    Whoa! Yes, it sounds like incoming rifle fire. While there are no less than three gun ranges within listening distance of the house, that noise is not related. What you’re hearing is the sound of acorns hitting the upper part of the metal roof. They do make a cracking sound.

    I think this will be a good season for deer and squirrels, ‘cause the acorn crop is big. Those things are smashed all over my driveway and are almost in piles around the Jungle Gym.

This would be a good year for the American Indian. Indians never established a deer season. Or, squirrel season for that matter. No hunting season. That’s why the sasquatch is now extinct. Just a guess. By the way, sasquatch are like deer, elk and fish. Their plural is the same as their singular.  If you told someone that you saw eight sasquatches, they’d probably laugh at you.

 And, speaking of laughing, there hasn’t been a whole lot at ground level for me to giggle about. Kay is just now getting over being sick. She went to the doctor just as she started getting better. That’s how it usually works. I don’t know why.

Kay’s sickness began last Wednesday night. I woke up at a noise coming from the bathroom. I immediately felt to see if Kay was still in bed with me. She wasn’t. That cleared up two things. One: I wasn’t going to have to sell the house. Two: Kay was obviously not well.

I whispered, “Darling, are you okay?” I guess I was afraid I might wake up attic badger. Anyway, Kay yelled “I’m just throwing up. Go back to sleep.” Can you believe that? “Just throwing up.” I have never “just” thrown up in my life.

I have horrendously, grossly and hideously thrown up. But, never simply thrown up. Remember the movie “Alien” when the creature comes out of the guy’s chest? That’s the way I feel when I’m throwing up, only the alien can’t get out my chest, so he starts crawling to my throat.

After listening to Kay for half a minute, I got sympathy nausea. A friend of mine once described his kidney stone attack with such vividness that I managed to pass a stone that evening. I empathize to the point that when I say, “I feel your pain.” I actually do. And, let me tell you, Kay was sick.

I did not leave that girl alone for a week. “Kay, can I get you something? Do you want some ice cream?” – No. – “Jello?” – No thank you – “A grilled cheese?” – Heaven’s no!

She’s feeling better now, but still isn’t up to eating anything on my suggested food list. I asked her a little while ago if she wanted one of the last Almond Snickers, and she said, “No, dear. Look, why don’t you go sit on the roof?” So, here we are.

    The only halfway good thing about Kay having been sick is that she wasn’t up to eating any of the leftover Halloween Almond Snickers. I got Snickers with almonds instead of peanuts ‘cause I wanted to test ‘em. I don’t hand children just any ol’ thing. After feasting on a bag of miniatures, I’m here totell you that I could not identify the crunch or the taste of an almond anywhere in that thing.

So, I’ve found that Peanut Snickers are a whole lot better than almond, because almonds are more expensive than peanuts so they leave ‘em out. It’s genius. I don’t know why they don’t see a Cashew Snicker. 

What? Right, we’re about out of time. No, no, feel free to head on down. I think I’ll stay up here awhile and give Kay a longer break. I might see if I’m sitting on the entrance to the nest of wasps.

That lone bee is getting uncomfortably close to my sitting part. I have never had a bee sting me on my rear. I would not call the sting “just” a bee sting. It would be a screaming-jump-off-the-roof sting. You sure you don’t want stick around to watch? Right. – Next time.


Friday, November 7, 2014

football gloves

“That’s one sticky glove”

    Are you in any way impressed that it’s now possible to watch games of three different sports played on the same day? Four, if you count soccer. -- I don’t.

 No, I’m talking about baseball, football and basketball. Those are the Big Three sports in the U.S.  Anything else is ill-conceived nonsense concocted in Europe or Australia. 

I only watch one of the Big Three sporting events. For all I care they could stop airing basketball and baseball games. So much easier to locate games when there’s only one sport listed on the Cable

A basketball game is like watching an acrobatic team perform the same routine for three hours. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, they’re great, they’re fantastic athletes. But, nothing means anything until there are only two minutes left on the clock. The only way to spice up that sport is to have the length of each game vary and remove the clock from the arena.

Baseball? I really enjoyed playing baseball, but I never cared to watch it. Talk about drag. At least soccer players are always in motion. And, what’s with baseball uniforms? Is that not ridiculous? The players wear whatever belt they had on when they entered the locker room. There are no common team belts.

And some guys pull up their pant legs and some don’t. It’s the most unflattering uniform in the field of sports. Possible exception, any game played by any sports team out of Vatican City. 

Football, on the other hand, is the most perfect sport devised by man. Right now I have seven unwatched games recorded on TiVo. Four college and three NFL. I probably won’t watch all of ‘em, ‘cause that number will double by the time this article gets out. Before TiVo, DVR or whatever, I missed so many games. For a while I even started watching soccer.

Today’s game of football would be unrecognizable to those who played back at the turn of the 20th century. Back then, there were no helmets. Players suffered from something called “wrestler ears” and “gangster nose.”  No helmets and  very few rules. Players could lock arms and charge through opponent’s defenses. In 1905, there were 18 players who lost their lives playing football. There weren’t even any professional teams. Three of the players of the ’05 season played in college, while the other 15 deaths occurred at high schools.

After the disastrous results of the 1905 season, President Theodore Roosevelt assured the nation that changes would be made to the sport. Seems one of his sons played for Harvard. Thanks to TR, the rules of the game were altered a bit.

There were very few passes thrown way back when, because penalties were assessed if no one caught the ball. And, the quarterback could only throw the ball to the middle of the field. 

Over the years the game has evolved into what we have today. And what we have are the greatest players who ever played the game. Something has happened to the human body over the years. We’re a bigger people. That’s because of all-you-can-eat buffets.

So, because of buffets, I’m bigger and slower. I’m slower ‘cause no one has invented a drug that will make me enjoy exercise. Obviously football players have some kind of joy juice that makes them enjoy strenuous activity. They’re bigger, faster, more agile and love to exercise. That’s the formula for a jihad stopper.

It hurts me to say this, but I don’t think Johnny Unitas would start on any team in today’s NFL The guy was one of my heroes, but I must be realistic. Today, quarterbacks have near supernatural abilities, defensive backs are double jointed, and linemen are incredible hulks. Fast hulks.

Those are important reasons for the evolution of football, but none is the MOST important. The real reason that football is better than it’s ever been is because of -- the gloves. Defensive backs and receivers now wear gloves that were apparently made in a lab at Warehouse 51 in Nevada.

Today, when a player merely touches a ball, it sticks to his finger. You can knock the daylights out of him, and he won’t drop it. Fumbles that do occur happen because the running back is not wearing gloves, or he’s carrying the ball under his armpit. Watch the instant replay.

That’s why the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs came up with the idea of bumping fists instead of high-fiving. If two gloved players touched hands, it would take a spatula to separate them. I think it was Kansas City.

Regardless of who devised the first fist bump, it’s safe to say that there has never been a better time for football. The greatest game, the greatest players, and the stickiest gloves. It’s the perfect storm of sports. In the words of Buzz Lightyear. – “To infinity, and beyond!”


Blood moon

The night of the blood moon

    I was sitting on the roof the night of the big lunar eclipse. I wasn’t up there at the time of the eclipse, just the night of. I missed it by about six hours.

I would’ve stayed on the roof all night waiting for the eclipse, but it was too warm; the metal roof was wet with night dew; and I’m a reasonably sane adult.

As kids, Dennis and I would’ve camped on the roof of our house on Camille Street. But we never thought of it. Back then, the Blood Moon was called Pumpkin Moon. I’m not sleeping on the roof for a Pumpkin moon. For a Blood Moon we would’ve likely camped out. Back then we were tough. That’s what they called us -- Tough. Well, not both of us. I was known as the little brother of Tough.

Today, I’m called a lot of things. My nieces and nephews call me “Unca Mark”; Kay calls me “Sweatpea” and “Babe” and “Buster.” She uses Buster when she’s threatening me. -- “Buster, you’d better not throw that tennis ball at the ceiling fan! You hear me?”

Let’s see, Dennis often calls me “Dawg”; Al will call me “Jocko”; Susan calls me “Little Brother”; Jill calls me “Moke” and Larry calls me almost never. Something happens to a person who becomes the oldest living family member. Larry’s attitude is “Hey, I’m the patriarch of this dynasty. I shouldn’t have to call anybody. You guys call me!” I would call Larry more often if there were any kind of inheritance involved.

Mom was that way about not phoning. Oh, if she hadn’t heard from me in three days, she’d call and tell me that I needed to call my mother. Mom was so cute. Me? I’ll never reach the cute stage. Oh, when Kay puts me in a retirement home, the workers there will call me “Sweetheart.” It’s just something they have to do. I believe it’s in the Old Folks’ Home Book of Etiquette. 

Speaking of which, I’ve got a nursing home insurance policy. They call it Long Term Care. If I don’t live long enough and get sick enough to collect, I’m going to feel like such a loser. I’ve put in some serious bucks into that thing. I get a rush when I think of being able to afford to have someone spoon-feed me lemon Jello of a morning.

By the by, the thought of aging was on my mind during that warm and humid night on a wet roof. The combination of those factors caused me not to invite you to join me. I think the pre-eclipsed moon was shooting some bad ju-ju rays at me.

I was thinking about nursing homes and how I was beginning to look like some of the old barnacles I used to make fun of. Not to their faces, you understand? I’ve got more civility than some. Recently, I was in downtown Conroe getting ready to begin The Mark and Cindy Show at the Lonestar Internet Radio studio, when an acquaintance stopped me at the door and said“ Mark, does your wife ever get a look at you before you leave the house?”

A supposed funny guy should appreciate a joke like that, but that one stung a bit. In fact I had been thinking of the hilarious insult a lot while sitting on the roof. After some soul searching, I finally decided to appreciate the comment. It actually opened my eyes to the realization, that I look as good as I’m ever going to look. I wore a tuxedo to an event a while back, and felt as out of place as a panda in the Outback. I doubt anyone really noticed, because, during dressy occasions, I believe everyone is thinking more about themselves. What I was thinking about me was that I looked like a slouch in a tuxedo.

That being said, I am now ready to accept what people have realized for years. -- “Clothes do not make the man or woman.” The face and physique do. My physique is gone. I’ve put on weight to the point that the location of my waist is a mystery. From my front, my waist is located beneath my gut. From the back, it’s at the top of my butt. The two are parallel, but one is on a lower plane than the other.

That’s why I’m on the cusp of wearing suspenders. With suspenders I won’t need to keep tugging at the front of my pants to make my belt line look even.  That gets old. The thing that has kept me away from suspenders is a belief that they’ll make me look old. How stupid is that? If you have to keep your hands in your pockets just to keep your pants up, it’s time for suspenders.

From now on, I’m going to dress strictly for comfort. I will no longer attempt to impress anyone with how I look. All I can hope for is to be able to dress in a way that no one notices me. That’s a practical goal. Almost doable, too.

And, with that it’s time to announce something about this Blood Moon that I didn’t wait up to see. Turns out I hauled my buns out of bed at five that morning, just to observe a wonderment. I walked across the driveway and saw—What I saw was the entire house and yard engulfed in a cloudbank. The Blood Moon was not noticeable. Which means we’re having two more months of summer. That’s a guess… based largely on reality.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Change is a bear.

Phone, Internet, TV Cable: The perfect storm.

    It took about six hours for the telemarketers to discover my new phone number. They found me before my family and friends did. Possibly before the NSC.

I’m now getting multiple calls from someone named “San Antonio.” When SA isn’t calling, Huntsville, Texas and Alliance Security take turns. My phone is ringing more now than it did when everyone had free access to my phone number. .

    By the way, we didn’t change our number to dodge people. We changed phone companies and the new company couldn’t use our old number. Something about our metro-line..

    We also get Internet service for a fraction of the cost we were paying our ex-phone provider. And, we get ten times more megs of ram! I’d be more excited if I knew what that meant. Kay says it’s good, so I’m on board. Life is on the cusp of greased grooves here at the Hayter house. – I wish.

    Truth is, I’m goin’ nuts. It’s all about losing what I knew. They say “love hurts.” Well, that’s nothing compared to getting a new phone number and e-mail address.

    Do you have any idea how many people you have to call when you change your phone number? All of ‘em. First on my list is Kroger. If my pharmacist can’t reach me, my carcass will be in the hands of the Neptune Society before the next Octoberfest.

    Since Kroger doesn’t know my new phone number, I’m technically not a ”Loyal Customer.” I don’t know what they do to a fraudulent loyal customer, but it’s bound to be worse than what they do to you for dropping a jar of mayonnaise. I’m just guessing here.

    The change of my e-mail service is several times more trying than the phone number change. I’ve lost the copies of all my saved e-mails. And, my contacts are floating around in the netherworld. If you find ‘em, please redirect them to me. For all I know Mr. San Antonio has them.

    I’ve still got two existing e-mail addresses. One is for readers to find me. That’s the one at the bottom of the page. The other is for my spam mail. Whenever I enter a drawing to win a wheelbarrow or BBQ pit, I give ‘em my spam address, and only check it once a week to see if I won anything. – Excuse me a second, it’s the phone. -- Forget it. It’s San Antonio again. (I’m not making this up. They’re on me like flies at a cantaloupe toss.)

    All of these gripes are nothing compared to how I feel about my last change. Let me get a hanky, before I begin this part.  – All right. Kay and I just dropped Dish Network and adopted someone else. Having the Dish office disconnect you requires someone with the temperament of a rabid badger.

    I have trouble communicating with healthy badgers, so I had to handle the task. The first person I talked to at Dish was a girl named “Tahme.” That’s all I could make out. -- “Dish Network, this is Mumble, how can I help you?” – It’s as if they fear arrest should their identify be revealed. -- Excuse me a second, I’ve got a call.  -- It was Alliance Security. (No joke.) They didn’t care to leave a message.

    Okay, back to Dish. No, forget Dish. I don’t have time to tell you about their professional keep-you-on-the-line person from Burma, formerly Miramar, which was formerly Burma again. It’s enough to say that Brk (that’s what it sounded like to me. Brk.) is the greatest stalwart against Network cancellation in the Eastern Hemisphere. When that Burmese was through with me, I was still registered with Dish, but transferred to their In-Limbo division. I’ve got nine months to change my mind and go back to Dish at no cost. And I’ll receive my full docket of channels for only $14… for the first two days. (I made that up, but each sweet deal has time limit.

Truth is, if I can’t make more sense out of my new network’s remote, I may have to return to Dish. (Kay didn’t want me to say Suddenlink, so I’m referring to our new provider as “new network.”)  I had our old Dish remote down to an art. I could turn their remote upside down, while standing on my head and still record something on the DVR. Arranging “closed captioning” was a bit more difficult. I needed both thumbs and a straw to pull that off.

    I’m having some issues with the new network remote. I haven’t thrown it across the room, but only because Kay keeps grabbing my arm. – Excuse me. Another call. – It was “Huntsville.” (I kid you not. I don’t know what my new phone number is going for on the world market, but I’m apparently in demand.)

    Each channel on my new network has a different number than I’m used to. NBC is still Channel 2, but if I want it in HD, it’s 104. I can’t tell you where FX, TNT, AMC and USA are. They’re listed somewhere with nearly 1000 other numbers. I only get a fraction of those stations, but there’s no way of telling which ones I get. A red dot or something would sure help.

I will catch on, though. Either that, or there’s a Burmese guy named Brk that’s getting a call. – Excuse me. I’ve got an incoming call. (This one is a joke. I just needed an ending.) Next time.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Inventions not yet invented

What’s your theme song?

    I recently read an article in September’s issue of Reader’s Digest entitled “Someone Should Invent…” It wasn’t an article as such, but an assortment of inventions that readers submitted. I enjoyed the topic so much, that I decided to steal it… I mean enhance upon it. Yeah, enhance.

    Among the proposed inventions suggested is a pair of pants that actually catch fire when someone tells a lie. That was from Raymond Portalatin from New York City. He could well be the only Portalatin on the continent.

    My favorite idea came from Kelly Johnson in Columbus, OH. Kelly thinks someone should invent a way for each person to have his or her own theme music, so that when you approach ‘em you can better decide if you care to stop and chat. How great is that?

    By the way, I’ve already got my theme song. “Have Gun Will Travel.” I’m going to start humming the tune when a stranger approaches. Who wouldn’t feel safe around Paladin? Kay’s song should be “Peace Train” by Yusaf Islam, who will always be Cat Stevens to me. I have mentioned that Kay won’t argue about anything, have I not? Oh, she gets upset, but won’t argue. I’m sleeping with the conductor of a peace train.

    I would like to continue coming up with theme songs for other people, but that’s not my job. I’m supposed to tell you things that need to be invented. Remember? Toward that end I asked listeners of “The Mark and Cindy Show” on to phone in or Facebook their thoughts about inventions. What a dud.

    The most common suggestion was for a remote control to find your TV remote control. Problem is, I’ve got three remotes for TV viewing. I’ve got one each for the cable, the TV and the DVD player. That makes three objects to keep track of… to return to one central location.

Kay can’t return things. I’m liable to find one of the remotes in the Quaker Oats round cardboard box thing. She has no recollection of putting away anything. --  BUT. She is the peace train conductor. I’ve got to remember that.

Mark & Cindy Show listeners are the best people in the world, but their invention ideas stunk on ice, so I had to come up with my own. I waited till now to mention ‘em because I don’t have that many. -- Ready?

Someone needs to invent a wearable GPS device that not only tells you where you am, but explains why you’re there. For example: “GPS lady, why am I standing in the utility room?” – “You’re looking for the vinegar, Mark.” – “Vinegar? Are you sure? Why do I need vinegar?”  – “I’m sorry, Dave, that’s not my job.” Those computers can really get uppity.

Someone needs to invent a weird orb, the size of one of those exercise balls that you sit on, only you don’t sit on this orb ‘cause its got some weird juju in it. We’ll say gamma rays. Anyway, you roll the ball into a room, close the door, and instantly all of the dust and dirt in the room is attracted to the ball. See why you don’t want to sit on it?

After about eight minutes you open the door to the room, roll the ball out the backdoor, push a button and it repels all the dust and dirt. How about one of you start work on that?

The most valuable invention would be a machine that exercises for you. I was talking to a fitness lady a couple of months back who said that her health center has a platform that you stand on and it vibrates real fast. I think it makes tiny motions so there’s no fear of falling. The thing is supposed to be like jogging, only you don’t have to bend your knees or even move. It’s all done for you.

I believe the machine is called a Scam-track. It can’t possibly work. What we need is one of those big balls that people climb into and roll around and bump into other balls with people in ‘em. Only instead of bumping into people, somebody rolls you down a rocky hill or mountain or cliff.

Even though you’re perfectly safe ‘cause there’s padding in the ball, your reflexes would be going crazy and you’d be using every muscle in your body, especially the ones near your vocal cords. When you finally settle at the bottom of the precipice, you’d be completely worn out. And it only lasted a few seconds. Exercise period over!

You’d lie down on a cot for a few minutes, and once your balance and sense of smell returned (They say smell is the first to go) you’d hop up and go get a smoothie or waffles. Someone might want to do the science on this to make sure I’m right about all your muscles being used. Makes perfect sense to me.

I’ve got a few other inventions, but they’re mostly stupid ones. I’ll save ‘em for later. Speaking of which, I think next time we’ll discuss “What if gluten isn’t making you sick?”  That’s another article in the September issue of RD. A fascinating read. As is this. — What?


Saturday, October 4, 2014

It's weird, but I called me.

Oh, they're gonna get you.

    If age is in any way related to intelligence, I am obviously smarter than a lot of you. Unfortunately, my lack of understanding of practically everything is evidence that the “Age = Intelligence” formula is a load of horse sweat.

    My IQ used to be way up there. I took the test in the back of a guy’s pickup truck parked outside a Dandy Dog in ’84. The truck had the name “Wally” printed on the door and a decal of a ball peen hammer on the back window. Weird, the stuff I remember. Did I mention I scored way up there?

Everyone with lower IQ’s than mine agree that your Intelligence Quotient is a terrible way to measure smarts. It means next to nothing. The only significance of my score is the fact that I registered one point higher than Kay. God smiled on me that day, my friend.

Of course, that’s all behind me now. Today I’m dumb as dirt. I understand nothing. In fact, just this week someone asked if I knew the origin of the word “understand.” I thought it was a joke lead-in, so I didn’t make up anything.

From what I was told, if you stand under something it means you grasp it. Thus “understand.” Had I told that to anyone, the person would’ve said, “No, then you would call it “standunder” not “understand.” But I accepted it without comment, ‘cause I don’t like it when someone finds fault when I’m trying to impress.

After a bit of research, I found that few agree on the way the word originated. Some say the Old English word meaning “among” or “amidst” used to sound like “under.” I believe it was spelled “hostergotten.” So technically, if you “understand something, you’re supposed to say “Yes, I stand-hostergotten.”

I say that to say this: I was sitting in this very spot three hours ago when I got a call from myself. Up until that point, I had never been able to do that, yet, there it was. My caller I.D. had posted my phone number as the caller. Since I was the only one home, the call had to come from me… or the gnome that keeps stealing my left house shoe.

It’s a frightful thing when you’re alone and you get a call from your downstairs phone to your upstairs home phone. I was scared to answer it. I was thinking Twilight Zone and William Shatner. Had Twilight Zone aired such an episode I’m pretty sure William Shatner would’ve been it. Or, maybe Jack Klugman.

I eventually decided to answer ‘cause I didn’t want have to play back the message I would’ve left when calling myself. – “Hello?” – I thought that better than saying, “I thought you’d never call.” I wasn’t in the mood to joke around.

There was about a three-second pause before a recorded message came on suggesting that I act now in order to take advantage of a low interest rate on my credit card. That was it. I wasn’t relieved. Not in the least. In fact, I was more scared than I would’ve been had I been on the other end of the line.

I don’t understand how telemarketer companies managed to infiltrate my caller I.D. Made it look like I was calling myself. Anyone who can do that has the capability of establishing an alibi for any crime committed. “Officer, if you’ll check my phone records you’ll see that I was at home Friday night talking to myself on the phone for eight minutes.”

That’s a bit upsetting. Or, settingup, depending on the origin of the word. As disconcerting as that is, it’s less frightening than the fact that Home Depot accidentally let someone get my credit card info. I am now one of about 60 million customers whose credit info was stolen right under the nose of Home Depot’s computer security team of, uh… currently unemployed computer programmers.

The thing is, Home Depot didn’t learn about the breach for five months after it happened. A blogger, not even associated with the store had to inform them. – “Excuse me, but, uh, how are you guys handling the credit card info stolen from 60 million of your customers? Has that been a problem? Want me to see if I can buy the info back for you?”

If the hackers sell the data to just one person, there’s a chance my number won’t come up. It’d be like my name getting picked out of 60 big city phone books. However, it the hacker blankets the world with the credit info, I may have already purchased a portable hot tub for a Cossack named Igon Tuskovovich. And, quite possibly a John Deere rice reaper for East Asian agriculturist Chin Dom Phu..

No, I don’t understand stuff. I am so out of step with… uh, all the people who are stepping. I don’t want to even think what my IQ would register if I took another test. Doesn’t mean you can’t take one, though. You can find Wally’s pickup outside the Family Dollar store most Thursday afternoons. I’m still confused about that hammer. Ask him what that’s all about, would you? Ball peen? Where’d that “peen” come from?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tricking our tastebuds

Food altering

    Nowadays people are messing with food too much. Have you noticed that? Take breakfast cereal. I don’t know what brand you prefer, but whatever it is you can now buy it with chocolate in it. Special K even has chocolate in it. What is happening to us?

    I hesitate to tell the crazies on this planet what they should be targeting in the Western World, but it’s sure not airplanes or buildings or chemical plants. If you want to bring us to our knees, you need to attack our supply of sugar, chocolate and coffee.

Without coffee and ice cream, I just don’t know if life would be worth living. Coffee is the most revolutionized drink around. When I was growing up, everyone drank instant. Nobody liked it. I don’t think you were supposed to like it. Just drink it and shut-up. 

    Today’s brewed coffee actually tastes good, and it’s about as easy to prepare as instant coffee. The only drawback being the fact that it cost as much as a round of golf. Some movie theatres even offer coffee. They have yet to determine how much the market will bear.

    Coffee is a good example of improving the flavor of stuff. A stupid example is apple pie. Do you remember when someone invented the Saltine apple pie? It was apple pie with crackers instead of apples. It was one of those ideas in search of a “good” in front of it.

    If you put enough sugar and cinnamon on rotted wood you can make it taste like apple pie. The texture will be horrible, but the flavor quite pleasing. My point is, there some things we just need to leave alone. Let crackers stay crackers, and let pie be pie. You can quote me.

    I don’t know if you’re aware, but one thing my brother Dennis brought back from Vietnam was a taste for grits. He didn’t care that much for the Agent Orange, but he liked the grits. I thought I knew my brother. Before the war, we hated grits. An indescribable flavor, horrible texture and the attractiveness of a slippery mound of crème of wheat.

    I do not blame the inventor of grits. What else can you do with inedible, dried, hard corn? You turn it into bad-tasting, but edible hominy. How can you get people to eat hominy? Grind it up and call it grits.

    Today, you can order gravy and grits, syrup and grits, shrimp and grits and blueberries and grits. If you put enough gravy on one of those items, I’ll eat it. But, I’ll eat it in spite of the fact it’s got grits in it.

    Same thing with carrot cake. How fascinating is that? Wow, a cake made with carrots. I gotta tell you, carrots are not the selling factor of the cake. Same with zucchini cake. You don’t buy zucchini cake because you long for a dessert that tastes like a green squash. The taste of zucchini must be extracted from the cake. Considering all the technological advances, I’m fairly certain that okra pie is somewhere in our future.

    Last week, Kay yelled for me to come see a segment of one of her cooking shows. Three people were vying for Best, Toughest, and Meanest Chef. Something like that. Everything’s a contest on the cooking channel. Can’t we all just learn to get along? Anyway, the contestants were given three or so foods to use in a meal. One was steak, one was chocolate and another was anchovies. Let that thought sit there for a minute.

    Kay called me in so I could see a steak that one person had spread an anchovy glaze over before grilling. The thing was charred and looked delish. The judges loved it.
They said it gave the steak a hint of salt and fish. If it hadn’t had a burnt crust, it would’ve tasted like a messed up smelly steak. You could burn the daylights out of a cow’s udder and I’d tell you it tasted somewhat like okra. 

    What I’ve mentioned here does nothing to explain carrot and raisin salad. My mom used to get it every time we went to Wyatt’s or Luby’s. (Remember Wyatt’s? They had the best egg plant casserole. -- By the way, I liked eggplant casserole not because it tasted like eggplant, but because they camouflaged it to taste like Mom’s Thanksgiving dressing, only with cheese.)

    Where was I? Oh, carrots and raisins. I like carrots, raisins and mayonnaise. I like carrots cooked or eaten raw. I like raisins mixed with bran flakes. Mayonnaise is necessary for most sandwiches. However, if you put those three together and call it a salad, you’ve created a fracture in one of our parallel universes. There’s a bunch of people living in a weird dimension who are suffering because of what we’re doing over here.

Einstein was so close to proving the parallel universe thing right before he gagged on a popcorn jellybean. Oh, the wicked web we weave when first we practice on food we eat. You can quote me on that.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Far out facts

“Answers for Jeopardy”

    Do you have any idea how many interesting facts I’ve squirreled away over the past few months? I don’t either, but it’s a bunch.

    When I find out about weird stuff, I like a to make a note. I like to, but too often I don’t. By the time I find some paper and a pen that writes, I generally lose my train of thought; start wondering why I needed the pen. It’s happening more and more that, uh… whatever I was talking about.

It is scary the number of fascinating facts that go unrecorded. We’re so much dumber for it, too. But, for this limited time only, I’m going to share a few of the weird things I DID record. I don’t want to write an entire article about any one of ‘em, so I’m just gonna lay ‘em all out there for you. Are you ready?

Reindeer eyes change color during the seasons. During the winter they’re blue, ‘cause there is little to no daylight near the Arctic Circle during winter. You can apparently see better in the dark, if your eyes are blue. That’s my explanation, ‘cause the narrator on PBS didn’t give me his.)

In the summer, reindeer eyes turn amber. Not brown. Amber. Amber eyes apparently cut the glare. By the way, that explains why so many reindeer get hit by cars during the summer. It’s ‘cause at night, their eyes are amber and it shields them from the approaching light. The deer-in-the-headlights metaphor applies strictly to reindeer. I can’t speak for squirrels. Who can?

Did you get the word about eating before bedtime? It used to make you fat, but it doesn’t anymore. Whoever came up with the late-night eating hoax was simply applying common sense. If you go to bed with a full stomach, your body isn’t doing enough exercise to burn off all the fuel, so it all just turns to fat. So, we thought.

    Apparently that’s not true. I don’t know why it’s not true, because, like the blue-eyed reindeer info, I didn’t catch the explanation of why eating at night doesn’t make you any fatter than eating during the daytime. No worry. I don’t need any proof. If I want to believe something bad enough, I will. And, that’s why so many political talk show hosts are so popular.

    Until recently all hurricanes were named after women, because the names were less threatening. For some reason the hurricane-naming people didn’t want to alarm anyone. Now all of that has changed. Men are now in the picture. --  “When Hurricane Hannibal finishes with the West Coast, forecasters say it will likely cross over the Rockies and head for Appalachacola, Florida , which is currently wrestling with Hurricane Rambo.” -- What’s in a name? A bunch.

    Ham is saltier when you eat it cold and beer tastes more bitter when warm. I may be the only one who didn’t know that. What I do know is that scientists have proven that people think water tastes better when they drink it out of a clear, blue glass. So, if you’re having friends over and need to get rid of a bunch of bad water, you know what to do.

    In 1300 A.D. scribes invented lowercase letters. Before that, they had no clue. It wasn’t long after that that they developed the notion of leaving gaps between words. That cut reading time in half for all six of the world’s readers. A few years later a monk came up with the idea of punctuation. I believe his name was Father Colon. All of this is supposedly fact, except for the monk’s name. It might’ve been Friar Hyphen. 

     A group of zebras is called a “zeal.” Three or more foxes is a “skulk” of fox. A mob of Kangaroos is a “mob.” If you’re swimming in the Nile and a bunch of crocodiles approach, you’d best flea the whole “bask” of ‘em. You’d be wise to do the same when approached by a “sloth” of bears.

    Fortunately, you can stay put when a “raft” of ducks approaches. But, I’d recommend you flee when threatened by a “hairnest” of bats or a “guano-load” of pigeons. I may have made up those last two.

    A person recently invented a cell phone charger that works by plugging your phone in one end and dropping the other end of the wire into a pot of boiling water. That way, when you’re camping, you can use your coffeepot to charge your phone. Can life get any better?

    Texas longhorns were brought over from Europe to the island of Hispaniola by Columbus. They’re horns were nearly as long. However, as soon as some of ‘em were shipped over to Texas, their horns sprung out ‘cause they were needed to fight off the “bloat” of hippopotami.”  Which answers the question of why there are so few hippos in Texas today.

    I’ve only got a few thousand other weird “facts,” but I’ll leave you with one that I’ve managed to debunk. -- Vodka is an excellent deodorant. Add a little lilac oil to it, and it will make your underarms smell like, uh… lilacs. -- Truth is, Vodka will not keep your underarms dry, but it will make ‘em smell like rotten potatoes. Perhaps it’s my body chemistry. You’ll have much better results. I’d give you my leftover vodka, but I’ve found it’s good for ear wax removal.

    So, you can now consider yourself so much smarter than you were just a few minutes ago. You should now apply for a slot on Jeopardy. – “’Names of things’ for 500, Alex.” – “The answer is ‘A guano-load.’”

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Friday, September 5, 2014

" A strange thing happened on the first day of school"

The guy this happened to. Such a dunce... to this day.
   One of two things is true today that wasn’t true when I was a kid: Either teachers are so much kinder than they used to be, or summers are so torturous for kids that they are actually glad when school starts.

    I don’t know if you’re aware, but seven out of eight kids in this area are actually happy to go back to school. I know, because I asked all eight of them.

    The research for this back-to-school finding was carried out by Cindy and I  during our back-to-school week on our morning show. We inerviewed kids on our morning show and asked ‘em about teachers, homework, cafeteria food,Back to School favorite subjects… everything. 

    The kids who loved going to school acted surprised that I didn’t. That’s ‘cause they had never heard my back-to-school story. Some of you have, and those who haven’t are getting ready to.

    It was a warm September morning, my friend. The year ’56, back when nobody made you go to kindergarten. Unfortunately, you did have to go to first grade. I had gone to school the day before for first grade orientation. Mom had walked me to school and we found my classroom. I met my teacher who assigned me one half of a desk so I could unload my school supplies. Not a bad day. Unfortunately, the next day was the real thing.

    Dennis and I walked to Garden’s Elementary both of us carrying sack lunches containing tuna fish, half a pickle bleeding through wax paper, and a few shoestring potatoes. At Gardens we had to enter the building through one of three doors. Dennis was to enter the middle door, because he was in the fourth grade. Fifth and sixth entered the first door to the left, while first and second graders were to use the first door on the right. I know that now, but back then, I had no idea, ‘cause I wasn’t paying attention when Mom was leading me around during orientation.

If only Mom had stressed that I remember all that stuff. When the bell rang, Dennis told me that if I went in with him, I’d get in trouble. I had to go through Door #1. I was the only kid in school who had not picked up on the puzzle of the doors. I was near the last person to enter Door #1. I had no idea where my classroom was, so I followed the last couple of stragglers into a room.

I stayed in the room for a good chunk of the morning. I don’t remember ever answering the roll, but I apparently didn’t stand out. To this day I still have the ability to turn invisible in front of certain people.

Miss Wrongteacher, eventually found me out. She escorted me to the principal’s office, lecturing me all the way there. “Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you let someone help you? Are you even in the second grade? What’s your real name?”

It was the worst day of my life. I was the only kid at Garden’s Elementary who had to go to the principal’s office on the first day of school. (I believe my record stands.) The principal’s secretary was not the nicest of clericals. “Sit right there and behave until the principal has time to see you.”

Behave? Behave! “Don’t cry!” would’ve been more appropriate I used my invisible posture and became one with the chair. You have to really scrunch down to do that. Eventually I noticed an approaching shadow on the floor. It was the principal. And get this -- he knew my name.

“Hello, Mark. I’m Mr. Bozart. It’s been a pretty tough morning for you, hasn’t it?” A bubble formed on my lips as I tried to say the words, “Mostly, sir.”

It wasn’t two minutes before I realized that Mr. Bozart was the kindest person I had ever met. And, he was a principal! That man showed me all around the school. He took me to where the big kids classrooms were, where the restrooms were and even took me to the playground. He eventually looked down at my lunch sack, which by now had a small hole in the bottom where the leaking pickle juice had settled. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat lunch,” he said.

Mr. Bozart came out of the serving line with a tray that had an extra milk on it for me. We sat at our own table and he explained the story about the murals on the cafeteria wall. Garden’s Elementary had a huge mural of Disney characters. Mickey and Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daffy… it was beautiful. Almost inviting. I had no idea what all Mr. Bozart was saying, ‘cause I was still pretty much shell-shocked.

After lunch, he took me to Mrs. Smith’s room, whispered something to her and then shook my hand and thanked me for spending time with him. If I could go back, I would hug that man’s leg and thank him for saving my life.

I would like to say that the rest of the school year was shear joy, but I’d be lying. The first grade was the worst year of my life. I cried every morning for weeks. Not a loud, screaming cry. just a silent sob. I hated school. I started out dumb and the feeling stayed with me all year… several years.

The only good thing about that “first day of school was Mr. Bozart. I’ll always believe that God whispered for him to be especially kind to the invisible kid slumped in the big wooden chair. I think God whispers stuff like that to some teachers all the time.

All of that whispering is apparently paying off, too, ‘cause seven out of eight kids today are actually glad to start back to school. Hey, the research is in.

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