Saturday, February 15, 2014

Surprise Party Hassle!

“Surprise party: Can be successful only through actions of lying, lowdown bottom feeders!"

    Do you know when Freeman’s birthday is? I don’t either. I’ve got a bunch of birth dates in my mind, some of people I don’t even like. But Freeman’s? It’s near the end of January. That’s as much as I can tell you.

    There’s just something about the end of January that clouds my mind. I think it has to do with the near-end of football season. I get so down at that time that birthdays don’t even register.

Do you have any idea how many times I’ve had to be reminded of Freeman’s birthday? Every one of ‘em. Virginia usually brings it up a week or two ahead of time. She occasionally gives me hints, but most times she just out and out tells me.

 That’s absolutely crazy, ‘cause I like Freeman. I depend on Freeman. I want him on that wall! I need him on that wall! -- I have to move some furniture? -- “Hello, Freeman, when can you get over here?”

Car won’t start? “Hey, Freeman? I need to see you, your truck and your jumper cables, right about now.”

Free is always there. That’s pretty much why I went along with Virginia’s harebrain idea to throw him a surprise party this year. That and the fact that I couldn’t talk her out of it. 

Virginia knows that I don’t like to be involved in surprises, be they parties or practical jokes. I’d rather be the guy in charge of setting up the tent for a traveling circus than helping plan a surprise party.

It’s just weird how God-fearing people -- people who go to church, read their Bibles and give the impression of being nice -- become lowdown, lying, bottom feeders once they get involved in a surprise party.

The problem with Freeman’s party planning came from the fact that both Freeman and Virginia are retired. Retired couples can spend way too much time together. They share phone calls and e-mails, and they interrupt each other a lot. Stories that I used to be able to almost follow become a tangled mess of unfinished sentences. – “No, no! It was Friday. Remember, we just came out of H.E.B. and I forgot to get bananas…”

Not a whole lot of space in a sentence-finishing relationship, however it was in that footing that Virginia had the bright idea to surprise Freeman on his birthday. On the plus side was the fact that the only way Virginia could pull it off was to delegate most of the responsibilities.

How do you tell someone what to do when the birthday boy is with your constantly? This is where the devil comes in. Through lies, subterfuge and the occasional word spoken in a sneeze, Virginia managed to ask Kay to take care of the birthday cake. She also told her the restaurant she picked for the party site. I wasn’t privy to the call, ‘cause I give Kay her space. It’s not that I don’t care about her phone conversations, it’s just that— Second thought, that is why. 

Unfortunately, two days later Virginia gets me on the phone. Again, Freeman is just a few feet away from her, By the end of the 30 minute conversation Virginia managed to instruct me to be at the restaurant 30 minutes before the party so I could greet people as they entered. In doing so she used a code that, had the Germans developed it, could’ve won the last big war for them.

The only way I could cipher the mess was to ask her “Yes and No” questions. -- “Is Freeman the stray dog in your story? Okay, then is he the jelly jar?”  When I finally broke the code, I told her how much I hated to greet people at restaurants, and that she knew I hated to greet people. In her response she mentioned something about playing a violin.

As if that wasn’t enough, she called the afternoon of the party to check to see if everything was in order. She referred to the cake as a shirt that she said I had been looking for at JC Penney. I figured it was a code ‘cause I hadn’t been shirt buying since back in August.

As soon as I caught on, I told her that the shirt was white with chocolate icing, and that Kay made it and decorated it and that she made me another shirt that was sugar free. Then I begged her to not make me show up 30 minutes ahead of time to greet people. She answered with a story about a she bear mauling a hiker in Alaska. A she bear?

All in all, the party turned out super. Everyone showed up. Of course, the greeter guy was a complete ignoramus. I messed up on names and went around greeting people who weren’t even there for the party. Some were pleasantly surprised and some irately surprised.

After all the smoke cleared and the waitresses began to clean up around us, I got Free to the side and asked if he was really surprised about the party. He said, “Naw. People have been acting too weird on the phone.” And, there you have it. -- Give me a circus tent any day.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Storage war

Storage war

    Today’s topic comes courtesy of Kay. I’m sitting there at the table reading the paper and eating my breakfast cereal when Kay announces from over at the kitchen sink, “You’re not supposed to store potatoes in the refrigerator.”

    Had she said radishes or rutabagas I would’ve either ignored it or said something like, “Power to the people!” Stuff sometimes hits my brain so fast that before I can think about it, it instantly comes out my mouth. My doctor said it’s likely caused by tuna snouts. I said, “What?”  --  He said, “I didn’t say anything.”

    But, potatoes? You can’t store ‘em in the fridge? Where did that come from? Kay and I have been married 42 years last November, and in that time she’s never shared with me proper tater care.

I’ve always put spuds in the fridge. So much better than, say, the trunk of the car. But, out of the blue, during my Nutty Nuggets and Wheat Chex combo and while I’m reading the Handyman article about how to level your house with an aerosol can of Builder’s Foundation, she informs me that I’ve been ruining our potatoes.

I remember my Grandma Teegarden used to store onions and potatoes in a food cellar. I have no idea why the didn’t rot, but they didn’t. If I store our spuds in the closet, they’ll sprout and grow up my trouser legs in two weeks. Makes no sense.

Kay got me to wondering what other food storage habits I had all wrong. So, I came up here and googled “Food Storage” in an attempt to show Kay that I know so much more wrong stuff than she does. The Internet contains so many crazy things about food.

Did you know that honey is regurgitated nectar? That has nothing to do with storing food, but it’s interesting as all get out. Bees vomit nectar several times before depositing it in the, uh, hive honey-receptacle. If they only de-gorged themselves once, our honey would be impure. If they didn’t regurgitate it at all, it’d taste like… well, nectar with a hint of bee spit. Bees? You gotta love ‘em.

Something else that also showed up under the googledge of “food storage” has to the shiny coating on jellybeans and apples. J-beans and apples get their shine from shellac made of bug poop. Not just any bug poop. The defecation is harvested from the latrines of the Lac Beetles of East Asia. You can actually wash the shellac off your apples, but not off your jellybeans, unless you want a gummy mess made from pelican perspiration. (I just made up the perspiration part.)

I don’t know if you were aware, but if your main food storage concern is in anyway tied to a fear of bears, you’re supposed to keep your food in the car during the day. At night bears can get into your locked car through the shattered windshield. So, at night, you need to take your leftovers out of your car and put ‘em in a food locker. I think Academy sells food lockers for hikers. Of course, they don’t provide the twice-humped camel you’ll need to haul the thing.

Also, I read that if your food is kept outdoors in your ice chest, you should never turn your back on it. You think the bears aren’t studying you during the day, but they are. -- “Hey, he’s relieving himself in the woods. Now is our chance!”

Another storage trick is almost too obvious to mention. Almost. I found it on one of the food storage sites. It appears that we should never store any food that we don’t like. I kid you not. It was right behind the helpful hint -- “Don’t buy food you won’t eat.” – That’s almost like a warning sign on a stapler that reads, “Do not insert your tongue between the two clamp-down things and then squeeze.“

Do you know how to store boiled eggs? I used to think I did. You put the in-the-shell eggs in your fridge and put a wet paper towel over them. At the end of a week, you throw away the eggs and put the paper towel between two pieces of buttered toast. Seriously, you’re supposed to toss a boiled egg after a week in the fridge. However, it’s been proved that boiled eggs will keep for three weeks under your bed if you keep ‘em in an Easter basket. I think it has something to do with the dye.

I realize that the one thing most of you are concerned about is pickles. Should you refrigerate ‘em once the jar is opened. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on that, so you can do what you want with your pickles. Uh, probably shouldn’t store them on your dashboard.

 Oh, and it’s supposedly not good for you to use your fingers as tongs in an attempt to remove a pickle from a jar. Especially after you’ve been harvesting jellybean shellac from East Asian Lac Beetles. I’m just sayin’. – Hey, if I just save one of you…


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Winter Wonderland

“Winter Wonderland”

    ROOFTOP – Do you have any idea how many jobs there are down there at ground level that I’ve put off till winter? A bunch.

    I don’t work well outdoors during the summer. I get headachy and sweaty and out of sorts. I can take a pill for the headache and I can mop off the sweat, but there’s nothing I can do when I run out of sorts. (I’ll look up the origin of “out of sorts” once we climb down.)

    The good thing about doing outdoor chores at this time of year is the fact that you’re not going to run across that many snakes. I could jump in that pile of brush back yonder and wouldn’t have to worry a bit about getting snake bit. I’d get scratched to pieces, but not bitten.

    And blackberries? You could pick berries all winter and not worry about snakes. You wouldn’t have to worry about carrying a bucket for the berries either. Weird how that works.

    I’m beginning to think that we just may experience a real winter this year. The recent cold front is a good indication of that. Northern Europe can’t find snow, but it’s hitting hard in a lot of parts in the U.S.

    Did you read about bears in Norway and Finland cutting short their hibernating time? Well, they’re sure doing it. They’ve got bears wandering around Krkzmsky  thinking it’s April. I can just hear a Mama Bear. --  “Audvin, what on earth are you doing up this early?” – “I don’t know, Ma. I just couldn’t sleep.” – “Well, don’t wake your father. He’s a bear if he doesn’t get his five months in.”

    I saw where the Russians are concerned about having enough snow for the Olympics. Seems it’s much warmer in the Caucuses than usual. So, besides terrorists threats, the Russians also have to worry about snow.

I guess that every minute of the day, there is someone somewhere worried sick about something. We’ve all had our appointments with worry, and we’ll have a bunch more if we live long enough.

    A really smart person once said that worry does nothing to change the troubles of tomorrow, but it sure can mess up the peace of today. There are so many great sayings about the uselessness of worry, one would think we would eradicate the disease. I do not have a sense of worry at this moment, but once I get at ground level I’ll think of something. 

By the way, who ended up with the thermos of coffee? Come on now, which one of you jakelegs— Okay, Ernie, pass it over. Don’t Bogart the thermos, Ernie.

Speaking of coffee, there has not been all that much sold in Australia of late. They’re having the worst summer in years Down Under. I doubt they’ll have any trees left after all the fires die down. The only good thing about it is the fact that the heat is killing off some of the most poisonous creatures on the planet. The only deadly creatures not affected would be the Australian fire snake, the Toowoomba flaming spider and the lava-eating rock ant.

Some researchers think that before Australia broke away from Asia it was called “The Land of Nod.” You know? The place where God sent Cain? East of Eden? A lovely place. I’ve seen the photos, but some vicious stuff lives down there. And, yes, I made up the Land of Nod connection.

The creatures in my yard are not nearly as vicious as those in Australia. What we’ve got right now are woodpeckers. They’re all over the place. Nothing to fear, though. There have only been three people actually drilled by woodpeckers, and they were Australians who were halfway expecting it.

By the way, woodpeckers are good to have. They’re eating a lot of pesky insects. Much like the polar vortex cyclondic surge up north has done to the northern ash borer. The ash borer in Minnesota has been all but eradicated. Isn’t that something? -- I’m fairly certain this is the first time I’ve ever written the words “vortex cyclondic surge.” Things are getting so weird.

It’s either the altitude at rooftop level or else someone spiked the thermos. I’m hoping it’s the thermos. – Okay, enough of this foolishness, let’s gingerly dismount our pinnacle and join the others at ground level. I know, I know, there are responsibilities down there, but somebody’s got to take care of stuff. The bell tolls for us. – Watch your step, Rooftoppers!”

(P.S.: A “sort” was a piece of type used in old printing presses. When you were out of sorts, it meant you couldn’t do anymore printing. So, pretty much everyone is out of sorts nowadays. That makes me feel so much better.)

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