Sunday, February 21, 2016

3 brothers down

Painful truth from the rooftop 

    ROOFTOP -- I dread getting our water bill next month. At the rate those birds are drinking and splashing around, we’re going to be raised to the next higher water usage category. Forget the suet and the seeds; those song flyers are abusing their water privileges.

    The only birds I see out this late evening are the tiny wrens. Maybe finches. I don’t know, but they’re getting feisty. I don’t know if it’s mating season or they’re playing tag and grab. Do we ever know what birds are really doing? I mean really?

    I didn’t intend to do a roofsit for another week or two, but it turned out to be too perfect at dusk. Clear sky, stars deciding to peek out a bit, the wind visiting elsewhere; and me with a cigar that I’ve just decided not to light up. If I smoke this cigar I’ll have to put my clothes in the wash and take another shower. Too much trouble for not enough enjoyment.

    By the way, I found two cigars while looking for the remote in the recliner hidey places. Dennis must’ve left ‘em during his visit last week. Two cigars falling out of his pocket is weird.

Speaking of Dennis, the guy is recovering from rotator cuff surgery. He doesn’t know how he tore it, but I’m assuming it’s related to weightlifting. He and our big brother Larry compete at the gym on occasion. Al and I respect our rotator cuffs too much. Somewhere in the shoulder. Who knows?

Dennis isn’t supposed to keep his arm stable. He carries it in a sling. It’s still attached to him, you understand, or he else he wouldn’t be carrying it around. When he’s driving he has to take his usable hand off the steering wheel to turn on his wipers or his lights or the radio. And, it is so much harder for him to eat soup while driving. See why I don’t lift weights?

Larry hasn’t messed up his rotator thing yet, but he lost a knee. He had it replaced a couple of weeks back. I don’t mean to put Larry down, but the guy doesn’t suffer fools or pain well. His knee surgery was much worse than my best buddy, Virginia. She had both of her knees replaced, just not at the same time. If she did that, she would’ve had to recoup in a psycho ward.

Larry’s surgery was much worse than Virginia’s… or anyone else’s for that matter. I would rather be a trail boss leading a herd of musk ox to Abilene than to be Larry’s therapist.

As far as I know, Big Al is doing fine. His muscles and bones were okay when Dennis and I saw him at the driving range last weekend. Dennis wasn’t smoking a cigar because someone or some thing stole ‘em out of his pocket when he was sitting on my recliner. None of us were hitting golf balls. Al works at the driving range, so he wasn’t practicing his swing.

I couldn’t work on my goofy swing, because of my arm. Yep, shortly after Larry and Dennis had their surgeries, I ended up tearing a tendon in my biceps while helping a stranger get a couch out of his truck. Turns out I didn’t help all that much. My end of the couch hit the pavement right after my arm popped.

What’s weird about my accident is the fact that I haven’t seen my biceps since I turned 50. Maybe 40. All I saw was the top part of my arm. No bulge there. But, now there is a bulge in the top part of my right arm that feels almost muscular. By the way biceps are plural because it takes two of ‘em to make one. It’s like scissors. If you take scissors apart, you end up with two knives with holes in the handles. Half of one biceps is a long muscle. No handle or hole.

The accident was Kay’s fault. She had me drop off some stuff at the Assistance League facility in downtown Conroe. I saw a guy and his wife about to wrestle a couch out of a pickup, so I shoved the woman aside and set about to catch the back of the couch shortly before it left the bed of the truck. Unfortunately, it was heavier and moved faster than I had anticipated. This resulted in me grabbing it in a way foreign to my regular grab. Pop!

Next week a surgeon is going to go in and find the end of the tendon and stretch it back to it’s place and nail it down. Something like that. After that I’ll be wearing a sling hopefully as good as the one Dennis is wearing. It’s even got a pocket. I guess for french fries.

The only thing I can’t do right now with my torn arm is extend it and then turn my palm up. If you have something to hand me, you’ll need to balance it on the top of my hand.

After the operation I don’t know if the doctor is going to want me to get on the roof for awhile. With my luck he’ll tell me that I need to exercise my arm. Start lifting weights.

I’ll worry about that later. Right now we need to think about getting off this roof. Somebody give me a hand getting up. Hey, I need assistance here. No, Mildred, I can’t help you up. I’m more disabled than you. -- That sweet old woman is going to break something, and then this house will belong to her estate. – I’ll catch you next time… somewhere at ground level.


faucet repair

The Price of Bad Juju

    Before we plunge into the very bosom of frivolity, I need to correct something from last week’s article. A few may remember that I was talking about the origins of many of this world’s inventions. -- Okay, three of you remember.

At one point I wrote “…in 7500 BC (6900 years before the birth of Islam) concrete was invented in a place we now call Syria.” The “6900-year” part should’ve read, “about 8100 years.”  Islam was founded around 620 AD, but I subtracted AD from BC when I should’ve added. Major mistake. Seriously.

    I thank my friend, Royce Creech, for pointing that out, and for tactfully informing me about it. I’m sure you caught it, but didn’t want to mention it for fear I would go all “Trump” on you.  I don’t do that. I usually just cry.

    In this particular case, my error apparently ‘caused some bad juju to visit the Hayter place. About a month ago, our kitchen faucet developed a drip. To fix it I simply turned the downspout so the drip would hit the partition separating the rinse water from the sudsy bath. That way, the drip made a much quieter splash, because it had a shorter distance to fall. Yes, it’s ingenious.

    I considered the problem solved until the day after the “Concrete article.” That morning, I heard a loud drip while in the kitchen. Kay had forgotten to turn the nozzle back to the “quiet” position. (Women) Instantly, the urge hit me to actually fix the drip. It was totally out of character for me. Had to be bad Juju.

    I dove into the task with reckless abandon. I was back in character. By Day Two, I had made a total of three Home Depot trips. Some of the trouble was my fault. Most of the problem was mired in weird valves with plastic, hourglass shaped drip-preventer things that break if you don’t put ‘em in just right way. Of course, you can’t  put ‘em in the right way unless you have the RIGHT TOOL!  --  I’m having flashbacks.

    I ended up destroaying everything I had purchased. The only thing left to do was buy a new faucet. At this point, Kay insisted I call a plumber. I had to laugh. “Ha!” it was nowhere near plumber-calling time. (Men.) Instead, I threw a cushion into the cabinet below the sink, and became one with pipes.
    One more trip to Home Depot, one more credit card swipe, and two hours later the faucet was installed. And, for the most part, it works. I owe much of my success to a special wrench I purchased in the late 20th Century.

    The weird wrench cost me nearly as much as a faucet, but I considered it an investment. Why call a plumber when you own an official plumber’s tool that is so expensive it’s approved by the TRLPC? -- “Texas Real Life Plumbers Commission.”

Well, after the smoke cleared and the water subsided, the drip was gone. I don’t know how long it would’ve taken a plumber to do the job, but I can assume it would be considerably less than two days. That’s because plumbers not only have the know-how to fix or replace faucets, they also have the right tools. I’ve only got one of the right tools. And, instead of Know-how” I must resort to “Guess-how.”

 The story would end right here, were it not for my brilliance. From my experience with bad juju, I managed to hit upon a great idea. I spent two days messing up two new valves and numerous fittings simply because I didn’t have the right tool. Forget the “know-how part.” I’m talking tools here. I didn’t have the right tool, because I didn’t want to purchase a tool that I’d use once or twice.

There should be another option. And, do you know what that option should be? A Tool Library. Checkout a tool and then return it when you’re finished. Do you know why we don’t go to the Tool Library? Because we don’t have one! A friend of mine from Louisiana told me about a tool library near his hometown. Sweet Mother McCray! I’m talkin’ Louisiana, here.

Someone in our midst who loves responsibility, who thrills at a challenge; and who may have aspirations for political office… Someone needs to create a Tool Library. I’ve got several tools I’ll donate to the cause. Practically all of my tools are being kept in storage at my house. I gave away at least four oil filter wrenches and a bunch of socket set attachments at the Pliler’s last yard sale. – “A quarter for the entire set? How about a dime?” (Some people…)

I realize that there are establishments that rent certain tools, but I don’t want the paperwork and the hassle. What I want is – “Here’s my Library card. I’m checking out this crooked wrench doohickey.”

So, what we have here is in idea in need of a body. That body may just be you. It should be you. Can you imagine what something like this would do to your resume? Coming up with a Tool Library to help your fellowman would make you the front runner in the 2020 Presidential election. I’d even campaign for you. Unless you didn’t want me to. I could see that happening. – Next time.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016


IF the world depended on me for a living, we'd be eating stone-

First CPAP machine? I have no idea.

ground hamburger meat.

    Had I not been required to take a bunch of science classes, I’m pretty sure I’d be a scientist today. Science fascinates me. I want someone to explain to me, in about ten minutes or so, how a clock works. And television? What’s that all about?

    But, no. I’m forced to just accept the notion that I live in a world of magic. I turn a key in a little slot, my car comes alive and takes me to the Sonic for a cold hamburger delivered right to my car.

Oh, and get this, during the drive I will arrive at a stoplight that will occasionally change colors depending on the traffic. If no traffic is waiting at the intersection, the light will stay green for me. Yep, I’m telling you it’s magic.

I saw a video on a wonderment known as “YouTube” that demonstrated a machine that can solve a rubik cube in 1.09 seconds. Two young men invented the thing. They used five cameras and a machine that turns the cube. For a brain they used a computer. One of the guys jumbled up the cube, placed it on the machine, hit a computer key and the machine turned the random-arrayed colored squares into a block with each side a different color. Did it in 1 second, plus some change.

Just think of what that computer had to do. It read the images from the cameras, and faster than a speeding bullet it calculated the needed moves and then messaged the “hands” of the turning machine to start turning. Keep in mind the solution was determined as fast as a speeding bullet, not one of those slow ones. The only thing that slowed the process to a little over a second was the friction on the gears of the turning machine.

Well, if you think that’s magical, hold on to your coffee mug, ‘cause I recently read about an invention out of North Korea. You may remember that their last great invention was the long-handled broom. (I may have made that up.) Scientists from the Democratic People’s Republic have now developed an alcoholic drink called “Ginseng Liquor.” You can get drunk as a skunk on that stuff and you will not have a hangover. And some say North Korea has nothing to contribute to society.

By the way, the non-hangover effect was just an accident. You see, in place of sugar they used boiled and scorched rice. In North Korea, sugar is as rare as Discount Tire Stores. Regardless, the beverage will reach Wal-Mart stores on April 15. (Another fabrication.) 

After reading about North Korea’s contribution to the world, I set out to find the birthplace of many of this world’s inventions. I learned so much, that I just have to share. No, no, I must.

Do you have any idea where the wheel came from? Would you believe Iraq? Yep, the evidence of the first wheel came out of Mesopotamia, a place now known as Iraq. By the way, the first wheel was used to clean fish. – No, I made that up. It was first used in making pottery. In fact, it’s still used in making pottery today. Just not by me.

Speaking of the Middle East, in 7500 BC (6900 years before the birth of Islam) concrete was invented in a place we now call Syria. I feel as if I want to bring up the irony in this, but choose not to. 

A German invented the pocket watch, while a person from Switzerland got the notion to reduce the size of the watch and strap it to the wrist. I don’t mean to brag, but I think that’s something I could’ve figured out on my own.

The saxophone came out of Belgium. Nothing comes to mind here. An Italian the barometer. The postage stamp and the lawnmower came out of Britain. A gentleman from France invented the adding machine. The Chinese chose not to wait on the adding machine. They invented the abacus 5000 years before the machine hit the market. While the abacus didn’t use paper, the Chinese invented it in 105 BC. 

The second greatest invention known to man comes to us from Austria-Hungary. It was invented by a Serb named Tesla. You’ve likely heard of him. I wish I owned one of his cars. Tesla is the person credited with developing the first remote control. He demonstrated it in Chicago in 1898. Used it to guide a toy boat in a tank of water. Today, I use it to maintain my sanity.

An American is credited with the greatest invention in the history of civilization. In 1902, a guy by the name of Willis Carrier invented the first air conditioner… and I don’t care to argue about placing it at the top of the list.

I’m sure most of the people in North Korea would find fault with my selection. They believe they’ve grasped the number one distinction with Ginseng Liquor. Kim Jong has signed an edict giving away three bottles of the stuff at their New Year celebration on April 15. 

Seems the North Koreans use a different calendar. Their first day of the year starts on “our” April 15. That was the birthday of their previous leader Kim Jong-Il.  He was born in 1912, so that’s the year their calendar starts. In two and a half months, they will be celebrating the year 106. And that’s no fabrication. I did make up the part about giving away three bottles of Ginseng Liquor. No idea why I do stuff like that.  – Next time.


"Revenant review"

"Bear eat Dicaprio good. Big Bear!"

REVENANT: One who returns after death. -- Ticket buyers’ pronunciation: Rezevent Residence, Retina, Repossess…

    When the screen went to black at the theatre where I saw “Revenant,” no one in the audience made a sound. No groans or applause. People just got up and walked out. I couldn’t find anybody who seemed inclined to talk about what I had endured.

Most of the people leaving took a hard right and hurried in the direction of the restrooms. It was a long movie. I chose to exit during the movie. Exited twice. During one of the restroom jaunts I went to the concession stand for a popcorn refill

The large popcorn and medium drink set me back $14.34, so I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of the theatre. While the cost of popcorn was not germane to the movie, it was certainly germane to my attitude. By the way, I would’ve paid the same price for popcorn and a drink had Kay gone with me. When I’m by myself, I don’t have to share. It’s somewhat of an incentive to see movies that don’t interest Kay.

“Revenant” reeked of violence. Made me want to go out and buy a hatchet. At one point I was begging the director to give DiCaprio a rest. “Hasn’t he suffered enough?” First a bear, then the Indians, then French trappers, back to the Indians. At one point, this partially bear-eaten man rode his horse right over a cliff to escape the savages. (I take that back. Everyone in this movie was a savage.)

Can you imagine the loyalty a horse to let its rider direct him right off a cliff? No horse would do that for me. It’d come to the edge and the horse would put on the brakes. I’d look like Wile E. Coyote trying to run on air.

But, forget the horse. Everyone forgets the horse. There was a bear in this movie that was the greatest acting animal I’ve ever seen. No dog, horse or pig has ever been as convincing as this grizzly. When Grizzly Adams (rest his soul) fought a bear, he used his pet bear. The thing would hug him, lay on top of him and nuzzle. Been my experience, bears can’t “act” angry. The only sure way to get a bear to convincing rip somebody apart, is to… you know? Let him rip. – Oh, and I was lying about my experience with bears.

The director of “Revenant,” Alejandro González Iñárritu, (I’ll give you a second to mentally pronounce the last name.) didn’t want to use a pet bear. He wanted a wild, angry bear, one that slobbers and makes mean bear faces. And, he got one. The giant grizzly tore the daylights out of Leonardo. Got in his face. Bit on his face. Tore him to shreds. DiCaprio was great in the scene. He’s a natural at playing bear food.

A few minutes ago, I researched the “Revenant” bear scene. Turns out, there was no bear. They had DiCaprio hooked to wires so they could drag him into the trunks and roots of giant rubber trees. The director would yell, “Okay, Leo, act like your head is being chewed on! No, no! Forget your femur; it’s your head this time!”

They’d stop for a break while the makeup person simulated a mauling event on DiCaprio’s person. Ripped chunks out of his back and broke his thigh and spleen and head and just thoroughly messed him up.

Once they got all of those shots, they put a guy into a convincing bear suit and had him jump all over the place. And they used the computer to make teeth chomp and claws claw. So, there was no bear injured on this set. But, I’ve got to tell you, had they used an actual, angry grizzly and a Portuguese stunt double, they wouldn’t have gotten nearly as good of bear footage. That camera was right in the computerized bear’s face, and there was little worry that it might get distracted and eat the cameraman.

There was one scene that I had hoped was computerized. It was when DiCaprio started eating some raw buffalo liver. I researched the scene and discovered that he really did eat raw liver. I couldn’t swear it was buffalo, but it did have the size and consistency. I’d have to eat some to know for sure. Fortunately, there are only two ways I’d do something like that. If you put a wide barreled gun to my temple, or you paid me what DiCaprio made. In truth, if you keep a bucket close by, I’ll eat raw liver for $5000. We all have our price.

While I will not give away the ending, I will tell you this, when I was a kid I saw an episode of “Death Valley Days” or some equally cheaply produced TV show that featured the true story of the guy who was left to die after a bear attack. The real mauled survivor didn’t blame his friends for leaving him. They had little choice.

He did manage to survive by drinking his urine and eating his pants. They didn’t show a lot of that on TV, but it was inferred. When the mountain man finally caught up with his “friends,” he held no animosity. He was just glad to be alive. Had they stuck to the true account in “Revenant,” we may have seen DiCaprio smile a time or two. He would’ve been even more assured of an Oscar had he demonstrated more than one persona.

I’m not saying that I hated “Revenant.” It’s got great acting, beautiful scenery and unbelievable special effects. However, I wouldn’t see that movie again for $50… unless you threw in the price of popcorn and a drink.



How coffee became a big deal... to me

    When I was a kid, I occasionally did stuff to try to stand out. When you’re the fifth of seven kids, it’s not easy to stand out… in a positive way. It was a cinch I would get noticed in a bad way.

There were at least 100 reasons for getting a spanking at our house. There would’ve been a lot more than that, but we weren’t that creative. I completed 98 of the 100. I got way more than 98 spankings, though, because I duplicated many of the bad things.. The only two I missed were “knocking the bathroom sink off the wall” and “knocking the TV over.”

It would’ve been a lot better to stand out for excelling in some area, but I never managed. I was an athlete, but not nearly as good as my big brother Dennis. I wasn’t dumb, but no one ever had reason to call me smart. I couldn’t draw; I was lousy at making things; I was horrible at marbles; and I never could look good, even when I really tried. 

The point I’ve made here is that I never received any worthwhile praise, nor did anyone in the family expect me to. Then it hit me. Bonk! There was one thing I could do that none of the kids but Larry ever did. Larry was about 19 at the time. So it was no big deal that he drank coffee. But, if one of the younger kids liked coffee he or she was bound to be noticed.

So when Mom made a cup of Maxwell House instant coffee, I started asking her to make me a cup.  It tasted absolutely horrible, but I never let on. Mom knew I hated the stuff. She was just playing along. When I walked through the kitchen Mom would occasionally say in front of the rest of the family, “Mark, would you like a cup of coffee?” It’s stupid as all get out, but when she did that I always felt special.

I gave up coffee at a young age, but I picked it up again when I was working my way through college. Every morning at the factory where I worked, everybody would get some coffee, and sit in a circle until the foreman stood up. This was percolated coffee and I acquired a taste.

Today, I’m somewhat of a coffee aficionado. With wine, I couldn’t tell you anything. Couldn’t tell you the bouquet or the year or which side of the hill the grapes were grown on. With coffee I can’t tell you that stuff either, but I can tell you what’s bitter, what’s weak, what’s smooth, what’s decaffeinated and what’s got a nutty taste. I am so proud of that last one.

I have used practically every brewing method known to mankind. As mentioned, I started with instant; graduated to percolated; then onto drip; experimented with an espresso machine; then discovered a French press; and recently moved on to a Keurig.

I’ve invested some serious coin on coffee over the years. Right now, I’m here to tell you there is no better coffee than what you get from a Dunkin Donut K-cup. It’s the best, Jerry. In fact, it’s the thing that has put me into a very unpleasant situation. And it’s the reason I led you down this historical coffee trail.

What I’m going to tell you would make 95 percent of the people on this planet want to slap me. You see, I’ve been buying Dunkin Donut K-cups in bulk at Sams. I can get 54 cups for 65 cents each. That’s so much more expensive than just buying the equivalent of 54 cups worth of coffee in a coffee bag. 

But, here’s the rest of the story. I had a cup of a well known brand over at Tracy’s house and I thought it was as good as Dunkin’s.  On my next Sam’s trip I bought 100 K-cups of the stuff at 50 cents a cup. That’s, like cheaper than Dunkin. Maybe Tracy has better water, or maybe it was his milk-frothing machine, but when I made it at home, it was way more bitter. I made a cup for Jill and she called it “vile.” Acted as if it was my fault.

I’ve been nursing on that bad coffee for weeks. I’m only half way through the stuff. Kay says I have to finish it all before I can buy a case of Dunkin. Says I spend too much on coffee products. Don’t get me wrong, she wouldn’t kill me… I don’t think, But wives have over 4568 things they can do to make a husband’s life miserable. Kay has used eight of them with great success.

So, anyone visiting my house is going to have to drink a cup or two of coffee. I don’t care if you hate coffee. Hey, I’m not too fond of what I’ve been drinking of late. This coffee has got to get consumed. – See what I mean about 95 percent of the world’s population wanting to slap me? The world keeps turning. The wars on hunger, drugs and terrorism continue. And Mark is upset that he has 50 cups of sub-par coffee to drink. I don’t really think I’d be taking it this badly if I was drinking better coffee.