Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mascot game

Hutto High School Mascot attacks Jill!
Paw Paw and Hippos

    BASTROP – About this time next year, Kay and I may go on an Alaskan cruise. However, this year at about this time we decided to go on a trip to Bastrop.

Bastrop is just a few miles southeast of Austin. We might’ve gone further, but we’re saving our money so we can go on an Alaskan cruise next year. I thought sure I already told you that.

We invited Jill along with us on this trip ‘cause she’s a hoot to travel with. On the way here she had us playing the mascot game. Anytime you pass a town, you have to find out  it’s High School’s mascot. A lot of times you can figure it out by the names of some of the businesses on the main drag. “Bulldog Bowling Alley” or “The Bears Lair.” 

    But sometimes you have to search out the school. That can be a challenge, ‘cause some of the towns don’t have high schools. Chappell Hill has no high school. They’re a tricker town. That’s what you call small towns with no high schools. They have you driving around the area looking  for something they don’t have.

They have no high school, but they do have a museum in a place that used to be an old schoolhouse. Kay and I had visited it on a previous trip, but Jill had never seen it. Jill likes museums. I like to looking at the faces of people in old school photos and try to imagine their futures from their expressions. I didn’t do that with all the faces on pictures in the Chappell Hill Museum, ‘cause we’d still be there..

By the time we checked into the hotel in Bastrop, it was too late for lunch and too early for supper. That’s what I call naptime. We had had a late breakfast, and during much of the trip had snacked on almond, pecan, cashew clusters from Sam’s. The third best invention in humankind. I say “humankind” ‘cause pandas don’t like ‘em at all. Not exactly a favorite among koala’s either. Sticks to their gums.

After my nap, we went to Paw Paw’s in downtown Bastrop for some fried catfish. I once read that “fried” is not the only way to prepare catfish. I consider that crazy talk. Paw Paw’s catfish was good, just not as good as Vernon’s. What is?

At the table next to us in Paw Paw’s was seated a lady who had just placed her order. I waited for her to complete her text message before asking about the big Bastrop fire, the one that destroyed much of the Lost Pine Forest.

Georgia didn’t hesitate a second. “It was September 4, 2011,” she said. She went on to tell us that the fires burned for three weeks. I remember her name was Georgia ‘cause it was the same as the state where she was born -- Delaware. No, she was born in Ty Ty, Georgia. She was probably joking with me. I could believe Ty Ty, California.

 In her storytelling, Georgia included directions to some of the worst burned over sites. As soon as we left Paw Paw’s, we drove through one of the State Parks that had been undamaged by the fire. Absolutely beautiful. Then we crossed over to the west side of Hwy 71 and saw some serious fire damage. It was hill after hill of tall, barkless and limbless pine boles. Occasionally we’d see concrete foundations. Lost homes and subdivisions.

Lost Pines 3 yrs after fire
The one hopeful indicator to the tremendous destruction was the sight of thousands and thousands of pine saplings that had sprung up over the area. We were informed by Georgia that some had been planted. She said that people from Georgia helped in that effort by donating a good number of the loblolly seedlings. She was happy that her hometown of Ty Ty took part in the effort. Ty Ty?

Tomorrow we plan to load up and visit a town where Kay and I lived back in 1991-’93. Georgetown. A beautiful place. On the drive over I plan to drive through Hutto, and let Jill see the statue of the hippo -- Hutto High’s mascot. How cool is that?

After that, we’ll probably beat this article home, but not by much And as soon as we get home, we’ll continue saving for next year’s Alaskan cruise. Of some concern about the trip is the belief that Alaskans aren’t big into catfish. They mostly eat just salmon. And get this, they’re not big into fried salmon. They’ll smoke it before they fry it. And we made ‘em a state? *

* (The comment about the Statehood of Alaska is not to be taken seriously. Mark respects the daylights out of Alaskans. And Hutto High, too. Go, Hippos!)


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Going nuts

"Forgetting the buzzard”

    ROOFTOP – Can you believe this? It’s 7:00 in the p.m. and we’ve still got lots of daylight ahead of us. Right now the direct rays of the sun are hitting so close to the Tropic of Cancer it’s not funny.

After the first day of summer, June 21, the rays will start receding and the days will get shorter. I’d tell you more, but most of you already know about the reason for the seasons, and the rest of you don’t care. I can hear you. The height and heat has not hampered my hearing.

We should’ve waited a couple of hours before climbing up here. The temperature at the moment is well past my comfort level. If I were older, I’d be cooler. When you get old, your tolerance for heat increases tremendously.

I love old people to death, but I hate visiting in their homes. The first words out of my mouth are along the lines of -- “Sweet Mother MacRae, turn on the air conditioner!”

Right now, I’m too young to be cold when it’s hot. I’ve got about 20 years before my inner thermostat goes haywire? Age really does a number on you. I notice stuff. 

Memory loss is tied to getting old. Those of you still lucid know that. Up until last week, I feared I was losing my mind. Now, I know I’m farther from nuts than I thought, thanks to an article by a guy whose name escapes me. The researcher introduced me to something he called “Event Boundary.” Sounds like a movie starring Dustin Hoffman.

The writer explained why we sometimes enter a room and forget the reason we’re there. Take last Thursday, I was sitting in the living room reading, when all of a sudden I saw something short and dark walking past the window. I’ve got great peripheral vision. I get comments all the time. – “Hey, Mark, you’ve got great peripheral.” Stuff like that. 

Where was I? Oh, yeah, short and dark. I figured it was either a large cat or a slow-moving beach ball. Turns out it was a buzzard. I thought that odd. Buzzards don’t often walk past me while I’m reading. 

My first thought was about how dirty the windowsill was. Must inform Kay. My second thought had to do with the purpose of a buzzard walking in my yard. Who or what lay rotting over by the pansies.

The only way I was going to find out was to get off my rear and go check. I would’ve yelled for Kay, but she’s less curious about the behavior of buzzards. So, I got up, walked out of the living room and was about to exit through the backdoor when I spotted my coffee carafe in the kitchen. I don’t have a coffeepot. I’ve got a carafe. Says it right there on the box. 

As I had hoped, there was still coffee in the carafe, so I poured me a cup and went back to the living room to read the paper. It wasn’t till the next day that I thought of the buzzard. I was in the living room at the time, and might’ve gone outside to check for carcass residue, but I just didn’t care enough. That lounge chair can be a bear.

I might’ve thought that my buzzard experience was another example of an Alzheimer’s moment, but I remembered the Event Boundary article. And, now, I’m ready to share it with you. I just wanted to tell you about the buzzard first.

According to the article’s author, anytime we leave a room, our brain gathers our thoughts and files them. The minute we set foot in a different room, our brain starts gathering information on the new site. All the while, our old room thoughts are being stuffed into a mental file cabinet. My cabinet is full to the brim, and my filing system stinks on ice.

Obviously, the more urgent the call to action, the less likely we’ll forget our purpose for entering a room. I seldom enter the restroom without a hint as to why I’m there. If you have trouble remembering the reason for a restroom visit, it’s likely unwise for you to be up here with us. Aside from that, you’re probably in pretty good mental shape.

Isn’t that reassuring? Did you ever think a buzzard could make you feel better about your brain? So, you’re a little forgetful. No worry. Your brain is merely trying to acclimate to new surroundings. – Excuse me a second. – Gloria, it’s a turbo vent. Don’t try to sit on it. – See? What did I tell you about my peripheral vision?

No, Gloria, I didn’t know you were kidding. It’s the first time you’ve displayed a sense of humor. I like it. – And, no I’m not crazy about Matlock. -- You Rooftoppers are such joker people.

No, Darrell, we’re not going to check on the buzzard pickings. -- Oh, you’re not joking. Then, yes, we’ll go check. Assuming we can remember once we get to ground level.   


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Clothes ironing

The last ironing

    I can’t iron clothes. I’m not happy about that, but I have learned to accept it. Unfortunately, Kay has proved to be less accepting.

It all started when I asked Kay if she had seen my favorite shirt. It had been missing for weeks. She informed me that it was likely with the stack of clothes behind the door in our bedroom. I don’t look behind doors. And, yes, this obviously makes me vulnerable to a sneak attack by anyone wearing a hockey mask.

Turns out, it was more of a mountain of clothes than a stack. What happened? That’s what I asked Kay. “Hey, Sweetpea, what happened? Why haven’t you ironed these things?”

Do you know what she said? You’re not going to understand it anymore than I did. She said, “I don’t want to.” What kind of answer is that? I don’t want to watch reruns of ‘The Mentalist’, but I have to till the next season starts. There are just things we have to do. Everybody knows that.

Kay said that she let the stack get so big that the mere thought of ironing it made her sick. I knew that to be an exaggeration, but didn’t want to push the ironer too far. I did that with my barber once. I told her, “Kay, if you raise the tip of the scissors just a bit before moving them toward my head, you may manage to quit stabbing me.” You would’ve thought I recommended she spit polish my TV tray.

Well, what are we supposed to do with the pile of clothes? They’re not going to iron themselves. That’s what I told her. Her answer was so bizarre that I thought the woman had had one of those extraterrestrial encounters. You know, the aliens with the long, skinny arms and legs. There’s a not a fat one in the bunch.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Kay’s response. Kay said, “Let’s take ‘em to the cleaners.” -- Take ‘em to the cleaners? They’re not dirty! They just need ironing. She said that we should just stuff ‘em in a bag and turn ‘em in as if they were dirty. I’m not making this up.

Pretend you’re working at a dry cleaners and you start stuffing some clothes in a machine. All of sudden you notice that they’ve already been washed. How does that make you feel? It would make me feel angry. – “This guy has no more respect for me than to make me wash his clean clothes.”

Waiters have been known to spit on the food of rude customers. I don’t know what a dry cleaning person would do to a snobbish patron. I’m thinking head lice.

That’s when I agreed to iron half of the stack. Kay was so impressed with my offer that she instructed me not to iron anything of hers and only half of my shirts. I could tell she didn’t think I could do it. Truth is, I never thought I’d have to do it. Go back to the first sentence of this thing.

I set the ironing board up in the living room, poured some distilled water into the Sunbeam, turned the TV on and watched half of a Dateline. Then I decided to turn the iron on. I thought it was just slow at heating up. It’s an old iron. I had no idea it had an on/off switch just under the handle. I imagine they hide it so men can’t find it.

The first thing I discovered as I passed hot iron over cool cloth was that it’s impossible to watch TV while ironing. My mom used to do it, but the secret died with her. The woman ironed clothes for nine people. And this was back before permanent press. Mom even ironed our bed sheets. And, she’d watch Arthur Godfrey or Kate Smith at the same time. A fascinating woman, my mom. She liked Kate Smith.

As I ironed, Kay was reading her book, in the other room, but eventually came to check on me. She took a gander at what I was wrestling with and said, “Did you start with collar?” -- Start with the collar? Why would I? She told me it didn’t really matter. She was just curious. It’s one way women have of messing with us guys.

After two hours, the task was done. The shirts ended up with more creases than wrinkles. Parts of the shirts refused to lay flat, so I just pressed ‘em in place. What a horrible mess. But, Kay said I did a great job, and told me that she would now let me iron all my stuff. But, as for her, she was taking her ironables to the dry cleaners.

She said we could afford it if we gave up HBO and my cell phone. Give up “Game of Thrones” and the quarter inch thick, metallic block that I don’t know how to operate? That’s a low blow, you ask me. But, I’m giving in, ‘cause if I don’t, I’m pretty sure I’ll lose my barber.


Shopping without kids

The Kid Season

    A couple of weeks ago a hint from Heloise sent me right back to the summers of my youth. The hint was stupid as all get out, but it did serve to launch my thoughts back to the fun days.

The Heloise contributor offered what she considered a great way to save money while grocery shopping. -- Ready for it? – She suggested that moms leave their kids at home. If you bring your kids shopping with you, they will beg for stuff and you’ll have to buy it. That makes the experience more costly.

The moment that ingenious advice got around, parents everywhere were stirred from their sleep-of-the-simple. Instantly they became aware of the advantage of leaving their kids at home while shopping. I’m just glad my Mom was not alive to read that. I fear she would’ve slapped the closest person to her.

    During the summer, Mom always took us with her grocery shopping. She just didn’t let us get out of the car. I assure you that her reasoning had nothing to do with saving money. – “Mom, could we have some Twinkies? Pleeeease!” – Whop!

    I know it’s going to sound like Mom was cruel, but truth is she didn’t let us go inside the grocery store with her, ‘cause our presence was not appreciated. That was back when five of us were still at home.

Fortunately for everyone, Susan was old enough to stay home by herself. We just weren’t always trusted to stay with her. Turns out, our older sister had less patience with us than Mom did, and Mom had just slightly more than the minimum daily requirement.

And, speaking of careless, mom overlooked so many important things in our rearing. As I remember, she never once told us to be sure to keep the car windows down while she was shopping. There is no question that we would’ve died had we closed the windows, but she never warned us of that possibility.

Could it be that she trusted us not to do something that stupid? She never told Dennis and I not to shoot each other with our BB guns. Never warned us not to run with a 16 penny nail in our mouth. 

She either had a great deal of faith in us or she feared the power of suggestion. Had she mentioned rolling the windows up, I’m pretty sure we would’ve done it. Dennis would’ve said, “Hey, let’s see how long we can stay in here with the windows up. First one who passes out is a rotten egg.” A “rotten egg” was about as bad a name-calling as we could imagine.

Don’t shoot at Mark with the BB gun? Hmmm. – “New game! Let’s see which one of us can make it to the gate before the other can cock the BB gun and shoot him.” We would’ve never thought of that on our own.

Come to think of it, Mom seldom warned us about anything. We pretty much learned the dos and don’ts from spankings. She might come back to the car from shopping and notice a tear in the upholstery. A couple of minutes after getting home we’d all catch onto the rule concerning pulling a loose thread from the upholstery.

There was absolutely no use in reminding Mom that we had not been warned about juggling apples in the house. She might’ve warned us had she not over exaggerated our ability to reason. She did that a lot in the summer.

Of course, even when you’re a dumb little kid, you still possess somewhat of a moral scale. There is just something inside that encourages you to test the scale’s limits. I think Charles Dickens expressed it best when he wrote -- “It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.” – I’m fairly sure that has nothing to do with what I was talking about, but I do like the word “incredulity.” You can almost feel your I.Q. increase a point or two just from saying it. Incredulity.

And, speaking of incredulity, a couple of you are wondering how this Heloise business has anything thing to do with reminding me of the summer. Well, it’s all tied to the fact that during school, Mom didn’t have to take us to town with her, ‘cause we weren’t home. We were in school. Get it? We would’ve loved to have her pick us up so we could go shopping with her, but for whatever reason, she never thought to do that.

It was always in the summer that things got turned all upside down for Mom. It was the season when we were home all day, and had to be dealt with. I think Charles Dickens said it best when he wrote -- It was the season of hope, it was the season of despair.

He wrote something like that. He must’ve been a mom. And, yes, that somewhat stretches the boundary of credulity. – Such a cool word.