Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving

"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.
end

 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, 

End

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

honey

“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 (mocobees.com) 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 (irlonestar.com) 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 na├»ve. 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.)
End

mark@rooftopwriter.com

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.

End
Mark@rooftopwriter.com

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!”

end

mark@rooftopwriter.com

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.

End

Mark@rooftopwriter.com