Saturday, May 24, 2014

Graduation Ceremony

Graduation Ceremonies: Major snoozefests

    I’ve been to only one graduation ceremony this year. I’m happy about that ‘cause I not exactly a fan of the ritual surrounding school departures.

     The third worst migraine I ever had was the last Saturday in May in the early 80s at the graduation of one the senior classes from McCullough High. The ceremony was held  at The Woodlands Tennis Arena place. I’m sure it had a name.

It must’ve been 110 degrees inside that enclosure. Ten seconds after a student’s name was called you could hear the sound of shoes against wooden steps, as the kid’s parents exited the facility.

I was sick as a dog, but stayed through the entire tortuous spectacle, because that’s the way I roll. The students always came first for me. Plus, I couldn’t find my ride home until after the kids tossed their square hats into the air. I’m getting a headache just retelling that experience. 

Of course, I hated graduations way before the near death experience at the tennis palace. Hated ‘em so much that I chose to skip one of mine. I had to actually write a formal letter to get out of walking across the stage at Stephen F. Austin University. I even had to create an excuse. I lied and mentioned a job interview somewhere.

I hated going to my own ceremony, yet, last Sunday, Kay and I drove to San Marcos to attend the graduation ceremony for Virginia and Freeman’s grandson, Ryan. I’ll make allowances for Ryan’s graduation, ‘cause he’s Virginia’s grandson. I believe I mentioned that. Oh, and Ryan happens to be a great kid.

He’s also a good athlete. He was a good athlete when he attended Montgomery High School, but a great athlete when he attended a private school that had a graduating class of 62 seniors. I would’ve been a star athlete had there been 200 less guys in my class. I’m just saying.

The decision-maker at the private school chose Sunday as the day of the ceremony. I’m fairly sure that’s unscriptural, but the preacher who delivered the commencement address apparently didn’t see it that way.

I skipped church so we could make it to San Marcos in time, yet I still had to hear a sermon. I doubt the Class of 2014 appreciated the sermon any more than I did. It was something about how to be a success in life. I passed out in the middle of Point Four -- “Be nice.”

Besides getting to hold Virginia’s great-grandson during part of the ceremony, the other good parts were listening to a couple of kids play something from Bach on the piano and violin, and watching Ryan walk across the stage to get his satin-covered folder. They never give you the real diploma at graduation. I think it’s a law.

After the festivities we all went to a place called Fuschak’s. It was there that I learned that Montgomery County doesn’t have a monopoly on great BBQ. Inside the restaurant, Ryan opened his graduation gifts. Other than a bunch of money, he got a couple of filled photo albums and a journal with a collection of mementos from his childhood. Stuff that Virginia had collected. His first potty seat and sippy cup and trainer wheels. I didn’t really get a look at the book, but I imagine that’s what was stuffed in it.

On our way home, Kay and I had the privilege of stopping in Bastrop at the biggest Buc-ee’s in the Continental US. That thing was as big as Kroger’s. I can’t speak for the girls restroom, but the boys room was the Cadillac of Privies. I’ve never seen a men’s restroom where privacy was actually taken into consideration. Designers of mens’ rooms usually just calculate how many guys can fit against a wall inside a 150 sq. ft. enclosure?

Of course, Buc-ee’s has more than just urinals and toilets. They’ve got every kind of jerky imaginable. If it can be jerked, they’ve got it piled behind a sneeze shield. And then there are peanuts, popcorn, ice cream, BBQ, burgers, hotdogs… They’ve got everything. And everything is reasonably expensive.

That’s why I only got the coffee. After spending about 40 minutes taking in the sights in the mens room, I figured I oughtta buy something. Do you realize that from outside the toilet cubicles, you can’t even see the feet of the guy sitting on the toilet? The cubicle is completely enclosed from floor to ceiling. I’m not making this up.

    All in all, the graduation trip was relatively enjoyable. You take out the commencement address and the long drive, and it was a blast.

Speaking of blast, let me tell you the summer job that Ryan managed to land. The kid is going to be a caddy for a guy making the PGA tour. Ryan gets to travel all over the country and walk around some of the most beautiful pieces of real-estate on the planet.

Me? I’ll probably find an excuse to make another trip to the Bastrop Buc-ee’s. I doubt many Country Clubs have restrooms that nice. Not that I would know.


Frozen review

“What movie?”

    I haven’t been all that pleased with the movie releases this year. I just felt the need to vent. It hasn’t helped.

    I could’ve saved that tidbit of news for my family and inner circle of friends, but they don’t go to the movies. I’m not even sure they rent movies. Most of ‘em won’t even own up to watching TV. They apparently come home and just sit around with their families. I’d do that, but Kay would probably make me leave at about mid-week.

    That’s partly why I take her to the movies on occasion. That and the popcorn. This year, the popcorn has been grand, but the movies not so much. I can’t even tell you the last movie we went to see. We actually went two weeks back, but I can’t tell you what we saw. I shelled out $27 for a movie and popcorn, and I don’t know what I watched. What’s the matter with that picture?

I really hate the thought of paying $27 for a good movie and great popcorn, but I get almost sick when I think of spending that much money for a forgettable movie and great popcorn.

That’s why I went to the RedBox last weekend. You know, that cubed contraption outside the grocery store that has the flap on it that will not stay up? The box was engineered for people with a third arm. Or a long nose.

The flap is there, so that the glare won’t ruin the screen. Moving the box so it faces north or south might have the same effect, but I’m only guessing here. The other thing I’m not crazy about are the people waiting behind me. They’ve never acted rude to me, but I know they’re thinking rude thoughts. I get so self-conscious sometimes.

That’s why I had Kay help me the last time I rented something. I was looking for “47 Ronin.” You know, Keanu Reeves and 46 other Ronin?  bunch of Ronin? I don’t really know what a Ronin is, but I know what you call 47 of ‘em. You call ‘em “Ronin.” The word itself is plural.

I Googled “Ronin” and found out that they were Japanese warriors. That explains why Keanu Reeves was one of ‘em. White actors get to play just about anything they want. Hey, John Wayne was once Genghis Khan.

Regardless, I still haven’t seen “47 Ronin” because the RedBox was out. I did get to see the preview, though. I mean THE TRAILER. Someone stole the word “preview” and replaced it with “trailer.” The words are interchangeable. A preview is a sample of something that’s on it’s way, while a trailer is something that lags behind.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, I’m back at the RedBox with Kay, and I’ve discovered that the box is Roninless. It’s sans Ronin. Someone else was obviously desperate enough to rent the thing.

I would’ve walked away right then and there, but Kay saw the display for “Frozen,” the animated movie about the princesses and the stupid snowman character. And, it wasn’t even cute and funny. I know that now, because I ended up watching the thing with Kay. That just shows the kind of husband I am. 

    However, before going home with the movie, I went to Sam’s and bought a giant bag of Boom Chicka Pop. (I didn’t make that up.) Chicka pop is popcorn with a hint of sugar. I normally don’t like sweet popcorn unless it comes with a prize. But, this Boom Chicka stuff turned out to be gopher food. I just kept wanting to “go for” more. Get it? (That joke was first told back in 1842 by a plainsman, named Reggie Mock. Perhaps you saw the movie.)

   Chicka Pop helped get me through “Frozen.”  Not having seen “47 Ronin” I can’t tell you how much better it was than “Frozen.” I can tell you this, though. Forty-seven Ronin don’t sing nearly as much as Disney princesses do. Those girls would not shut up with the singing.

There is only one halfway decent song in the entire movie. It’s called “Let it go.” It goes something like this.

“Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door…”

The song is melded in my brain, because Kay stole the remote from me, so I couldn’t fast-forward through all the singing. I forgot to take the remote with me to the kitchen when I went back for more Chicka Pop. I’m usually so much more alert. I tell you, that stuff is gopher food.


A lawnsit

“One of us is reading”

    I imagine this will be the last day we experience a cool breeze in a good while. Normally, I’d be on the roof during an evening like this, but Kay doesn’t feel comfortable with heights, so we’re here on the carport.

    Kay’s joining me, ‘cause she thinks that since the play is over, we should spend more time together. I don’t know if you’re aware, but stage productions take a whole of time out of your life. Don’t get me wrong, “Inherit the Wind” was a good experience, but it was a time grabber.

I told Kay that once the play ended, I wouldn’t get involved in another one for a good while. So, what did I do? I turned around and auditioned for “Greater Tuna.” Kay acted like she didn’t mind, but she minded. I can pick up on stuff like that.

    The good news is, I didn’t get a part. I thought I’d make a great Aunt Pearl, but, fortunately, I wasn’t the one doing the casting. When I told Kay that I wouldn’t be in Tuna, she acted disappointed for me, but I could tell she was pleased as punch. Isn’t it weird how punch is always pleased?

    So, now Kay and I can spend more evenings together this summer. And, we’re getting a jump on it this evening. When I told her that I was headed for the roof, she suggested we sit in the yard instead, and she would read her book, and I’d bring the laptop and write my article.

    So, I’m out here in the back with Kay. I love her to pieces, but she can be a bit distracting when I’m trying to write. First thing she did was stick four of her wind-catching flowers in the yard, so we could watch ‘em spin. Those things are fantastic. The flower part is about the size of a dinner plate, and each of them is bright-colored, and they spin to beat the band.

And, get this. Kay bought ‘em for a dollar apiece. I don’t see how even the Chinese could put together a beautiful thing like that; ship it 9000 miles across the sea to California; put it on train headed for Houston and truck it Montgomery County, and then sell it for a dollar? And, make a profit. Something is just not right. 

    Anyway, the flowers are cool as can be, but they are so distracting. Speaking of which, Kay had to tell me about the books she’s reading. It’s called “Shadow Spell.” It’s a Nora Roberts trilogy set in Ireland  and begins in the eleventh century. But it’s got time travel in it. I’m sure it’s interesting as can be, but I’m trying to write here.

    Besides, my dad was the only person who could hold my interest with a story from a book. When I was a kid, we used to sit on the floor beside Daddy’s chair and listen to him tell a story from one of his Zane Grey books. There’d be a big roasting pan filled with popcorn in the midst of us.

    Grape Kool-Aid, popcorn and story time were The Big Three at the Hayter house. Not sure anything like that would catch on today. Like I said, Dad is the only one who told really good stories.

    With the play ended, I finally managed to finish a book called “The Sand-Reckoner.” It’s a novel centered around mathematician, Archimedes. He’s the one who came up with his very own Principle. Has to do with water displacement. I was hoping you could explain it to me.

    The book by Gillian Bradshaw is an easy read, or else I wouldn’t have read it. Did I mention it was about a mathematician? “The Sand-Reckoner” is first book e-book I’ve read. I prefer books on paper, but I’ve got to get use out of the Kindle that Kay bought me.

Get this, the Kindle I’ve got will automatically read a book to you. A couple of nights ago, I went to bed listening to some digitized sounding lady read the end of the book. She sounded like the female version of the robot on "Lost in Space.” The GPS lady displays more emotion.

But, I listen anyway, ‘cause when I read in bed, my wrists get tired. Life can be a real pain sometimes. – Excuse me a second.

What, Sweetie? Yes, darling, it’s a perfect evening. I’m not ready to buy a tent and campout, but it’s nice out here. And yes, we’re blessed. We live in this beautiful place and we’ve got the spinning flowers. Right.

 Look, I’m going to let you go so I can talk to Kay for a while. May even let her tell me more about her book. May need to go pop some corn first. Just a thought. -- Next time. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Things that will disappear in our lifetime

    Do you have any idea how much stuff is gonna disappear, fall by the wayside, go to the fossil farm in our lifetime? There has been a bunch lost up to this point.

    Free drinking glasses at the “Filling Station.” A free towel in a box of Tide. Returnable milk bottles. Gone. They’re all gone, and they’re not coming back. I don’t miss the bulky, wire-handled milk jug or the towel crammed in a box of soap powder, but the Houston Oiler glasses at the Hancock gas station were cool.

    But, let’s forget the past and look towards our future losses. I read an article that came out of the UK and was titled “These Ten Things Will Disappear in Our Lifetime.” I know it was out of Britain ‘cause the second thing listed was “The cheque.” Who spells “check” – “cheque”?  Nobody except the English. They wrap fish sticks and fries in newspaper! Call ‘em fish ‘n chips. Crazy Brits. 

    The article mentioned newspapers, books, mail delivery, handwriting and privacy as things that will disappear in our lifetime. – By the way the Brits pronouce it “Priv-uh-see.” Accent on the "Priv.

    All Brits aside, I decided to come up with a Texas slant on the soon to be disappeared things of life. I did this by posting the question to my friends on Facebook. I love ‘em. Don’t know 96 percent of ‘em, but love ‘em. Anyway, here are some of the responses. First names only.

    Deb says that cashiers are on their way out. All registers will be self-help. She didn’t say, but I believe that you will be photographed each time you remove something from the shelf, and the item you grabbed will be laser-tallied. You will be laser-tasered should the item go into your pocket or purse.

    Cat says that all slanted keyboards with the raised keys that have the little valleys in ‘em will be gone. We’ll all hafta type on the flat, un-grooved, pieces of glass. I just hate that.

    Several mentioned that cursive writing will disappear. I’m pretty sure it’s one generation away from the Adios Park. By the by, the Brits call cursive -- “diddly poo.”

    Cathy says that Tupperware will disappear due to the fact that people never return it. --  “Uh, Bernice, that tater soup I dropped off when you last had the fake bronchitis, is there any chance I can get the container back?”

    Betty says that good-manners will be gone. I would like to add that pretty much all social skills will push up the parsley due to society’s reluctance to speak to people in the flesh. – “Look, just walk away and I’ll text you.”

    Meredith says that knowledgeable sackers will be gone. They are already few and far between. – “A can of green beans, two cans of hash and a loaf of bread in the same bag! I oughtta pound you!” That’s one of those cool sayings that already taken a Hearse Pit-stop. . “I oughtta POUND you!”

    Brownie says that all things that old people can actually use will be gone. “Mom, you’re trying to call Uncle Ernie with the remote for the toaster.” – “Grandpa, quit trying to write cursive with the disposable potato peeler.”

    Lynn believes that the institution of “marriage” will disappear. The good news is that the divorce rate will take a nosedive. Marge says that children’s outdoor games will be no more, taking with them names like “Annie Over”, “Hide ‘n seek”,“Red Light, Green Light,” and a Hayter favorite “Duck for lawn darts.”

    Laura believes that empty seats on airliners will soon be gone, and Karen says that the “Etch-a-Sketch” will be in the stone orchard.  Audrey says that hard copies of phonebooks, dictionaries and photo albums will disappear in her lifetime. They’ll go the way of the #2 Pencil. The pencil was JJ’s contribution.

    My ol’ friend Brad says that “annoying newspaper columnists” will disappear… he hopes. Brad, always loveable as a rabid cat.

    Gerald says that hard copy maps will be gone. I would like to go further and say that all maps will go to Cold Feet Village. They will be replaced by the recording of a too-sweet voice saying, “Exit now and turn around, Dimwit.”

    Due to the assortment of electronic devices that each human will be carrying around, pushing someone into a swimming pool at a party will become a felony offense. That’s according to someone who mentioned it without writing it down for me. I don’t remember who to credit for that one.

Speaking of which, the word “whom” will visit the Horizontal Hilton as will the apostrophe. The apostrophe is credited to Darrel.  The “whom” by me… not to be confused with the Kum Ba Ya. – Thanks to all who provided me with so much stuff. And apologies to those who didn’t make the cut. I feel bad about that. I should’ve sent Brad’s contribution to Termination Station.


A mowing article

Writing as a mow

    I’m reasonably sure that this is the first time in the history of Western Civilization, that anyone has written an article while mowing the lawn. If there’s not an award for something like this, there oughtta be.

    I know what you’re thinking. -- How does a guy write anything while he’s mowing? – That’s easy. I’m writing it all down in my brain. I’ve got a brain like a steel trap. Or aluminum bat. One of those.

As soon as I put this 22-inch, almost self-propelled mower away, I’ll go to the study and transfer my thoughts word for word, to a computer screen. Well, I may forget the aluminum bat part. That was stupid.

Excuse me a second. It’s decision time. -- Do I mow completely around the elm or wait and finish it off during the next pass? -- I hate mowing decisions. – Okay, we’re going completely around this buddy.

Beg pardon? Oh, yes, I called it an “almost self- propelled” mower, ‘cause only one of the wheels has any pull to it. The mower will pull itself across a tiled floor, but not across grass.

I’d try to fix it, but I know my limitations. I learned most of my limitations from experience. Three years ago, after spending half a day wrestling with the wheel turning gizmo, I took it to a shop for repair. It cost me $140.

If I have it repaired a second time, it’ll cost more because of inflation and the war in Ukraine. If you add the cost of the first repair to the second one, it will end up being the cost of a new mower. So, do I buy a new mower, or keep pouring money into this one? It’s a conundrum. If a conundrum were a good thing, it’d have a better name.   

The mower conundrum is like the one associated with the icemaker dispenser on our fridge. To get it fixed, I’d hafta buy a new refrigerator door and that’d cost me more than the refrigerator. They put flaws in things so that you hafta buy new ones. They do it because of the unrest in the Middle East. They’ve got a reason for everything. “They.” Whatta buncha crooks.

 Just a second. I’ve got to pry off this stupid mask. It’s supposed to catch dust and pollen while letting me breathe. Unfortunately, it can only do one of those things. It can filter the daylights out of the air, but it won’t let you breathe while it’s doing it. “They” are at it again.

    I used to buy a box of 50 surgical-type masks. But they don’t work all that well. I can almost breathe wearing one, but that’s only because air seeps through the sides. So, I bought this thing that construction guys use when they’re messing with asbestos. It’s massive, and makes me sound like Darth Vader. – Pshuuuuuuush. Wishuuuush – I don’t know how Darth Vader put up with that mask.

Beg pardon? Oh, yes, I’m mowing over some beautiful wildflowers. I particularly like the bluish-purple ones. Bogenfloridides. I make up scientific names for flowers while I’m mowing. I get so creative when I mow.

I asked Kay if I should mow around the wildflowers this year and she said not to worry about ‘em. She said it makes the yard look all patchy. She didn’t really say the word “patchy” ‘cause she’s got more refined language skills. It’s one of the reasons I married her.

I’m not supposed to mow over the bluebonnets over yonder. Those are her babies. As soon as the blooms die off, I have to keep mowing around the plants until the seedpods open up. That part of the yard will look monstrously weedy for a good while. People will point at it and say, “Wow, Mark is a lousy mower. Let’s get the neighborhood association to beat him up.” They do stuff like that, you know?

Speaking of Kay, she’s the reason I’m brain-writing as I mow. Before going to work this morning she hinted that that I should mow, and I told her I couldn’t ‘cause I needed to write an article. She said, “Why don’t you mow and then write.”

That’s when it hit me. Boing! I said, “No! I’ll write as I mow! I don’t think it’s ever been done!” Kay gave me her usual one word response. -- “Whatever.”

Don’t you just hate “whatever?” I hate it. I shared a brilliant idea with her, and she said, “Whatever.”  Whatever is a balloon popper. An ego deflator. An adverbial slap in the face. All of ‘em similes. I’ll figure out how to spell “simile” at the computer..

Oh, no! I’m in the bluebonnets! -- Wait a minute. That was a rhodopipsdon. Had me worried there for a minute. – What? Uh, right, you need to leave. It’s been too much fun, huh?

Beg pardon? I thought sure I heard one of you say “Whatever.” No, no, I don’t blame you. A mowing article was a bad idea I’m blaming this one on Kay. Of course, I’ll keep that part out of the article.