Saturday, May 16, 2015


Where to go?

One building in the Smithsonian

            Just a few minutes before you showed up Kay and I were sitting on the carport discussing stuff. I mostly discussed. Kay was reading her new copy of National Geographic. Mostly reading out-loud. She does that with magazines and newspapers.

            I asked her to pick a vacation spot we might be able to visit. She said, “Killer whales are a part of the dolphin family. I think I knew that.” I’m not making this up. Then I had to crane my neck so I could see a whale photo she was trying to show me. I think it was a beluga. Kay’s partial to belugas. I have every confidence I will go to my grave not knowing why.

            “Washington D.C.” That’s what she said. I said, “Yes?” She told me that was where she might want to visit. “Ah.” That’s what I said. I hate it when she answers a question after it’s been left in the dust.

            I have wanted to see the Smithsonian since I first heard there was one. One? I actually think it’s a museum complex that includes something like 89 buildings. I don’t care to research that at the moment, so just take my word. – What? Sheeesh. Wait here while I check. – Nineteen different museums. I was close.

            The only thing keeping me from visiting the Smithsonian and its 19 museums, comes from its location. I’m afraid of DC. I don’t worry about getting mugged or killed or anything. That’s a given. No, I don’t feel comfortable driving or parking or walking around that area. I just can’t help thinking I would end up some place I wasn’t supposed to be.

            I realize that a guy climbed the fence around the White House and made it all the way down a hallway before he got stopped. But, I’m not that man. I can see me getting separated from Kay and ending up in a weird place where a couple of guards yell at me. “Hey, Abudullah! What are you doing in this restricted area? On your knees; hands on your head. Frank, hand me the taser.”

            No, I’m not ready for D.C., and that’s what I told Kay. She said, “Do you know what this is?” She held up a picture of something that looked like a huge tobacco chaw. That was my guess, but I didn’t tell her, ‘cause I don’t like to be asked what something looks like. I never guess right. Kay picked up on that ‘cause she didn’t wait very long for an answer. She said, “It’s a rack of beef ribs found in King Tut’s tomb.” I told her that was my fifth guess.

While turning the page, Kay told me she would like to go the UK; mostly to Scotland and Ireland. I imagine she meant The Republic of Ireland. I think that’s where most of the castles and moors are. I’ve never seen a moor. Never dug up peat, either. Never even saw a castle. Nor do I care to any time soon. Which is a good thing, ‘cause we sure can’t afford such trip.

Dennis and Al took their wives to Europe a few years back. What I remember from their stories was about how hard it was to find public restrooms. When they were in Rome next to the Coliseum, they spent more time looking for a restroom than looking at the Coliseum. The one they eventually found had some serious sanitation and privacy issues. Either one of those issues is a deal breaker for me.

Americans may have a lot of flaws, but let me tell you, one look at the International Restroom Bar Graph will show that the US of A is at the very top. Europe can keep its castles and cathedrals. Better to have good restrooms.

Kay said she’d go to Hawaii before she’d go to Europe. I’ve told her a dozen times that I don’t care to visit our 50th State. (Not to be confused with our 52nd.) My image of Hawaii is much like the one I have for Disney World. A haven for tourists. And a place where getting there is merely a part of the cost for the trip. From what I hear, Hawaii is an expensive place.

Kay said that most of the tourists are in Oahu. We’d go to the largest island in the chain, Hawaii. I guess it has more Beluga’s. 

Then Kay mentioned a place I hadn’t thought of. She suggested Michigan. Kay said that Michigan in the fall is lovely. I suppose she’s talked to someone. Do you know that the northern portion of Michigan, the peninsula that looks like Wisconsin’s nose, also has some lovely places. And the best thing -- Michigan is not Washington D.C. It’s not even Oklahoma.

I’m now prepared to start saving for a visit to Sault Ste Marie and points south. But just to make it interesting I asked Kay that between Michigan and an African Safari which would she pick? Kay said nothing for a few seconds, but eventually said, “Scientists are working on a heartier honey bee. One less prone to getting ill by pests of pathogens.”

I asked her what a pest would be for a bee? She said, “The Asian mite.” Then she held up her opened National G. An evil-looking creature, the Asian mite. So vile that I took it as a sign that I should go back inside.

As I got up to leave, Kay said, “While you’re inside you need to call a plumber.” I had no idea where that came from. She said, “There’s no way, I’m want to be on Safari knowing that our washing machine still has a leak.” – I hate it when she does that.


The Rooftop in Spring

Spring on the Roof
            ROOFTOP – Do you have any idea how close I came to getting someone to mow my lawn last week? Close. I’ve always done the mowing, but let me tell you, after last week’s ordeal, I’m about ready to pass the torch to six other guys with a trailer full of lawnmowers, weedeaters and hedge trimmers.

            I hadn’t mowed in a good while because of all the rain. I don’t know if you’re aware, but rain, while preventing you from mowing, actually enhances the growth of your lawn. I assume the Homeowners Association was keeping an eye on my yard, ‘cause, occasionally, I could hear a drone hover.

Last week was my first chance in about a month to crank up the mower. When I first purchased my Honda Mower, “Self-propelled” was printed right three on the box.Today, it is a Mark propelled.

I don’t know if you’re aware but a self-propelled mower that won’t propel is much harder to push than just a regular push mower. Archimedies once tried to explain why that is, but he got confused. Regardless, I’m here to tell you that a Mark propelled mower is the worst one you can have. 

            To tell the truth, I was pretty much worn out before I even started to mow. I had to move eight bags of Cypress mulch to the front flowerbed for Kay. I could’ve carried one on each shoulder, but my head kept getting in the way during placement. So, that’s a stooped-shoulder eight tripper.

            I used to own a wheelbarrow, but the tire wouldn’t hold air. It didn’t have a leak, it just didn’t like air. I eventually put it at the end of the driveway and someone relieved me of it. People will sure do that for you. You don’t even have to put a sign up explaining your intention. They’ll just up and take it. Every creature has a purpose in the circle of life.

            Anyway, after manhandling cypress mulch, I was beat. It was while in this condition that I started mowing. Our yard holds as many weeds as it does grass. What we have is a hybrid variety of weeds that came in on a Southeast Asian freighter loaded with swamp-raised crawfish. It took me two days to mow the Cambodian Wartleaf-deformis. 

That means, I’ll need to mow again fairly soon. At some point between now and then, I must decide if I want to get my mower repaired, buy a new mower, or hire the six guys with a trailer to mow the place for me. There are financial concerns about each of these choices. The most expensive would be to have Cy’s Yard Care and Tire Rotation crew take care of the yard. (If there really is a Cy with a lawn care business, please know that this is a joke. And, could you give me an estimate on my yard?)

I’d let Kay in on my dilemma, but she’ll just say, “Keep the mower we’ve got, and I’ll help you mow.”  After mowing two strips, Kay would look like one of those pioneer women on “Gunsmoke.” A passing Sheriff’s deputy would see her, stop his car and tase me.

The good news is, I’m not going to make a decision right now. So let’s move along, shall we? Egad! Did you hear about Blue Bell clearing the shelves of all their ice cream? Does that not make you want to bite one or more of your knuckles?

Blue Bell didn’t make this decision because they actually believed all of their plants had a problem with an, heretofore, unheard of illness. No they did it because the bacteria were found in one of their magic ice cream making places in Oklahoma. (If memory serves.)

Blue Bell would’ve been better off if small pox had been found at the plant. You can sure enough tell when someone has small pox. But listeria? The symptoms for listeria are the same for every disease known to man. So, anyone with nausea or diarrhea or back pain or fever or a stomach ache would sue Blue Bell for giving them listeria.

No, the cheapest thing to do was to close everything down and disinfect every fudgesicle, dreamsicle, gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, hen house, outhouse and doghouse in a tri-state area. (I do so enjoy great movie quotes.)

And, speaking of hen houses, did you hear about farmers in Iowa having to kill over five million chickens because avian flu was detected? It used to be called “bird flu,” but the name was changed because “avian” sounded more serious. The name “Bird Flu” has the same punch power as “cooties.” By the way, both avian flu and cooties have the same symptoms as listeria.

Regardless, because of this flu scare we’ve now got over 20 million less buffalo wings. That would be enough to feed the entire Houston Metropolitan area for lunch. – I ask you, how can there possibly be enough chickens to supply the millions of wings consumed each day? I think I’d rather be a mud grub than a chicken.  

My word! How on earth did you let me get so negative during this rooftop episode? The intention of these outings is to encourage one another. Help us to see life from a different frame of reference. A different something.

            Oh well, it’s also a good place to vent. I suppose I have done enough of that. But, next time? Next time we’ll play the happy game. No whining allowed. Well, maybe just enough to keep things interesting. – Next time.


Saturday, May 9, 2015


"You're getting very sleepy." -- "Am not."

Have you ever been hypnotized? Me neither. I don’t think I can be. I don’t think I’m smarter
than other people, I just think that perhaps I’m a bit more reasonable. Are there actually people on the planet who will get sleepy if you tell them that they’re getting sleepy?

“Your eyes are getting heavy.” What? No they’re not. I wish I could be talked into being sleepy, but I find I’m unable to suspend reality long enough for a notion like that to grip me. Reason can be such a curse.  

Have you seen that video on YouTube where a baby is in bed crying, and the mother takes a light cloth and continually wafts it over the baby’s face? Magically, the baby, little by little, quits crying and then goes to sleep.

I almost believe this will work, but probably only with chloroform applied to the cloth. It’s just hard to believe that it took thousands and thousands of years for word to get out about this magical process. People have recently tried auto trips, vacuum cleaner rides, walking while rocking, sitting while singing and rocking… But no one thought to try the cloth moving gently across the bawling kid’s face. I assure you, I would’ve come up with that before I would the vacuum cleaner ride.

My sister, Jill, is easy to hypnotize. She actually quit smoking after being hypnotized. The doctor or counselor started out telling her to make her toes relax, then her entire foot and then her legs. Jill said that by the time he got to her neck she was a ragamuffin. The guy started telling her about how bad cigarettes tasted to her. The smoke was nauseating. He told her to keep repeating, “I will never smoke again.”  

Jill said that after that, when someone would ask if she smoked, she’d say, “I will never smoke again.” She said she’d just blurt it out without even thinking about what she was saying.

Unfortunately, the hypnotism only worked with smoking. Jill has tried to get rid of a host of other bad habits, but it just hasn’t worked as well. Did you know that Jill types conversations in her head while listening to people? Well, she does, and the doctor can’t make her stop.

Jill even says that she’s got a happy place where she goes when she gets angry or overly concerned about stuff. She asked where my happy place is. No one’s ever asked me that. And that’s a good thing, ‘cause I don’t have a happy place. Can’t think of one.

I used to enjoy sitting beneath the tall pines on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches. I’d sit out there at night or between classes and just think of stuff, which is perfectly normal ‘cause I haven’t learned how to NOT think of stuff. My mind will not go blank. Oh, I’ll forget what I’m trying to say, but my mind doesn’t shut down. It’s just refuses to pull up the thing I’m trying to remember.

After all that, I don’t consider the SFA site a happy place, ‘cause even when I was sitting beneath the pine, I worried about chemistry class, homework, and research papers. Always worrying.

The four Hayter brothers once went on a mountain hike between Silverton and Durango in Colorado. It was the most beautiful country we’d ever seen. And, I would’ve enjoyed it had I been able to breathe. I had to walk in a stoop for four days while carrying a 75 pound backpack over rocky terrene. The only way I could breathe was to stop and force my body to stand up straight so I could actually inhale.

Big Al would say, “Wow! Just look at that valley down there.” All I could do was mumble between gasps, “Somebody kill him.” No, it was beautiful scenery filled with memories of sheer agony. Not that many happy thoughts escaped that trail.

There’s a large pond in a part of the National Forest west of New Waverly. It’s out in the boonies in an area that used to be the site of an old sawmill town. My good friend Rodger Parker took me there once. (Virginia’s Dad) The water on that pond was so calm. It held a reflection like dark glass. I’ve visited the location several times and have never met another soul out there.

Still, Camp Letcher is not a happy place for me. As I look over the area, I imagine the people who used to live there and how hard they must’ve had it. And, how most of ‘em are bound be gone by now. I thoroughly enjoy imagining the history of old home sites, but I wouldn’t care to live in those times.

When I explained all of this to Jill, she said, “You gooberhead! (dunderbutt) You don’t have to pick a place where you’ve actually been! You just make up a happy place.” I didn’t tell her how stupid that sounded, ‘cause I didn’t want to ruin her happy place. I would’ve ruined Al’s.

No, I consider it cheating to make up my own happy place. I just don’t have the state of mind to be happy about a place I’ve never been. I way over-think stuff.

However, I am tempted to have Kay move a light cloth gently across my face for a few minutes tonight. After talking about all of these mind trips, I’m feeling the least bit gullible enough to believe that the cloth across the face may just put me to sleep. I’ll even pretend to be crying if it helps. I’ll let you know. – Next time.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Pet Parade

“Pet Parade!”
Goat loses valuable points for eating Al's tie. 

            I thought last year was my last Pet Parade. Lisa Hightower, the person who got me involved in the first place, was stepping down as coordinator along with her associate Lesa West, whom-I refer to as Lisa-with-an-E. That way, I don’t get their names mixed up.

I was tapped to be to be the emcee for four years running, and Big Al was chosen to be one of the judges during the same stint. Al is a good judge, but I never thought myself qualified as an emcee of a Pet Parade, ‘cause I’ve never had pet. I never wanted a pet. Pets are a responsibility. I’ve got enough pressure just being responsible for me.

But, apparently, Lisa thought I’d be a good choice since I was unbiased when dealing with pets and their owners. You see, the Pet Parade is not really a parade. It’s called a parade ‘cause it sounds better. It’s really a contest that gives kids, eight and under, a chance to show off their pets. They do that by walking their dog or rabbit or goose across the stage, stopping long enough to chat with me. The kid can talk, too. In fact, it’s preferred.  

The pets are judged for things like not biting, not dragging the owner across the stage, and not going ape… unless it is one. Attentiveness is a good sign. If the pet is a dog, we might throw a rubber squirrel on the stage, just to see if the canine breaks character. If it’s a cat, well, you don’t need to do anything with a cat. Cats only do stuff when they think you don’t want ‘em to.

 Appearance means a lot, too. Sometimes the pets are dressed up to look like… uh, anything. I’ve seen several wiener dogs walking around in the middle of a giant bun. Not the same bun, mind you.

There have been Totos with their Dorothy owners, and Marys with “Little Lamb” dogs following ‘em. We’ve had snakes, goldfish, sand crabs and turtles. The turtles are usually no trouble at all. The sand crabs are a whole ‘nother story.

I’ve seen a black fluffy dog dressed up like a spider. I saw a rooster dressed up like a cowboy. I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. (I’m sorry. I seldom get an opportunity to deliver my favorite line from “Blade Runner.”

Oh, just so you know, pets are not allowed to eat other pets. Oh, it could and does happen, but when it does, it’s considered a foul. The animal will likely lose a few points for rude behavior. The judges are usually fairly strict on that.

There are three categories for pets.  Large dogs, small dogs and all other creatures great and small. You ask me, there should be some limitations on that. I consider a pet to be a creature that can be controlled without a whip, gun, or a gaff. Granted, that would eliminate all cats, but my vote counted for nothing.

Fortunately, there is an age limit on Pet Parade entries. Remember? Must be under eight years old? The kid not the animal. It doesn’t matter how old the creature is as long as it’s from Earth. 

The kid showing the pet is also being judged on stuff. Cuteness, good behavior, personality, not a lot of crying, knowledgeable about his/her pet.… that kind of stuff. If judges see a cool-looking St Bernard wearing a saddle, escorted on stage by a six-year-old chewing tobacco and wearing a cowboy hat, well, the kid stands a good chance of getting a blue ribbon in the large dog category
That brings up a very interesting point. The Pet Parade is not an official competition. It’s against the law to get mad at the judges… OR the emcee. None of us will be lifting an animal’s tail for a better look, nor will be peeking up its nose or at its teeth. We know these three places on an animal’s body, but we’re not professional enough to know what constitutes a good, uh… any one of those things. Besides, I don’t want anyone doing that to me, so I’ll not do it to anyone… or anything.

            By the way, the fact that the kids have to be under eight-years-old seems to be a point contention among some parents. In every show I’ve, noticed kids who are obviously not the owner of the animal they’re escorting. Perhaps a neighbor or uncle or mafia figure has urged that they show a certain pet. It takes a shrewd kid to fool our judges. --  What’s your doggie’s name? – “I don’t remember.” – Okay, says here his name is Brussels. What do you feed Brussels? – “Food” – I see. How long have you had him?” – “What time ya got?”

            It’s up to the judges to deduct points for that. I’m not going to intentionally embarrass any kid. For all I know, they’re just scared and can’t think in front of the old guy asking the questions.

            Without question, one thing is going to be better about this Pet Parade than the others. Big Al is going to join me on stage to help with the names of the pets and kids and to keep me from stepping off stage like last year. It was an incident involving a leash tangled around my knees. Al can take care of that kind stuff.

            So, don’t be the only one who misses the Pet Parade this Tuesday (April 14) at 6:00 p.m. at the Montgomery County Fair grounds. If your child has a pet to enter, you might show up 45 minutes early. Oh, and I’ll get Big Al to stay late for autographs.