June 30, 2009

The 4th Is No Fun Anymore

I was looking at my calendar this morning and realized that the 4th of July is this week.  Whoopee shit.  This should be the highlight of the summer, but around here you can cut the apathy with a knife.  I would guess that the weather is a factor.  In the last few days, it's turned downright "Fall" and I had to wear a jacket when I went out on errands this morning.  How sad is that?

Actually, I've been really apathetic about the 4th for a long time. Because I'm the kind of person who likes to be up close and personal with my fireworks.  I miss the inherent danger of handling small parcels of explosives and the possibility of injury resulting from one wrong move.

Illinois, the wussy capitol of the free world, does not allow the sale or use of "good" fireworks.  Neither does my 10-minute-away neighbor, Wisconsin.  You can buy the good shit in Indiana, but I don't feel like traveling two hours there and back, and besides, they always set up DUI/Seat Belt checkpoints at the border, which are really fireworks dragnets.  Assholes.

So, I'm stuck with 3 options.  I can go to a legitimate fireworks display, which is always a bad return on investment.  You have to arrive at the venue hours before hand to "get your place", And then after sitting in absolute boredom for what seems like forever and a day, you get 15 minutes of fireworks.  That's it.  Option 2 involves those neighbors with balls of steel.   These are the people who do go to Indiana and run the checkpoints by taking the back roads like the moonshiners of old.  They throw drunken bashes and post lookouts at the corners while they blast away in the street.  When the police get wind of them, they grab their stash and hide, like suburban Viet Cong, and return when the coast is clear.  And option 3 is worse than nothing at all.  Go to the local discount stores and buy those "novelties" that the police state allows.  Pathetic items such as cracker balls, sparklers and smoking snakes.  It's like kissing your sister ... on the lips. 

In my hometown, they knew how to do things right.  Several weeks before the 4th, the death merchants would set up their fireworks tents in the parking lots of Crazy Cecil's and Lazy Larry's, just outside the city limits and out of the reach of the law.  Inside the tents, the air was heavy with the smell of gunpowder, and you could buy roman candles, pinwheels, buzz bombs and star shells.  Best of all ... there were tables heaped with the staple of any real 4th celebration ... firecrackers and bottle rockets!  For days before the 4th, the air was alive with cracks and whizzes, and on the 4th itself, all hell broke loose.  Fuck safety!  You had bottle rocket fights.  You stuffed hedgeapples with multiple firecrackers and lobbed them at each other, hoping for an air explosion that would coat the the recipient with white milky goo.  And if you really got crazy, you'd start firing roman candles at each other.

By midnight, a thick acrid haze covered the neighborhood.  Your clothes smelled like smoke and you sported several first degree burns. But you went to bed happy and hoped that you had saved enough fireworks to do it again the next day.  Because the 4th was never just one day, but a series of days, until all of the fireworks were gone.

So, the best I can hope for this year is a couple of rogue fireworks displays.  Maybe I'm getting too old for the burns and missing body parts anyway.

June 29, 2009

Ideas

It's taken me most of my life, but I'm beginning to learn that there are a lot of things that you can learn about yourself by trying new things.  Granted, some of the things you learn aren't so pleasant, but when you get to be of a certain age, the not-so-pleasant things aren't the crushing blows that they might have been at one time.  And, of course, there are a lot of good things that come from the new experiences.

I've been posting in my little blog for a couple of months now and realize that I'm glad I started it.  I still don't know exactly why I decided to do this, but it may have stemmed from the notion that I thought I could write.  At first I was a little frightened that other people might actually read what I'm putting down here, but that passed quickly.  And I've gotten to the point where it doesn't really matter if someone reads it or not, or whether they like it or not.  I just like it when I can think of something that I want to write about and at the end of the post, I can look back and see that it isn't some horribly jumbled mess.

This most important thing that I've learned from doing this is that I can't manufacture ideas.  Maybe other people can, but it's just impossible for me.  Before this blog, I always thought that if I just cleared my head and concentrated long enough, an idea would show up.  It doesn't work that way for me.  The ideas come from no where in no particular settings or situations.  And that, believe it or not, is something really important that I need to know about myself.  So I have this blog to thank for that little bit of information.

Another side benefit from this whole business is the fact that I get the opportunity to see how other people think.  I don't know if I just lucked into it or what, but the blogs that I read on a regular basis are written by some really clever, insightful people; some of whom don't realize how good they really are.  And, I have to admit, that I am envious of them at times and wish I had their talent.  But I also know that I am who I am.  And that's okay.

When I started, I was going to give it a couple of months and then see if I wanted to continue.  And right now, I think I'll keep going for a while longer.  I think I'd miss the little thrill I get when I get an idea, and I know I'd miss being a little part of the community.

June 28, 2009

You Are Or You Aren't

To paraphrase a line in a movie I once saw, but whose title I can't remember ... There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend. Those who will tell  you that you have a booger hanging from your nose, and those who will not.

I'm not so sure this type of social dilemma is cut and dried, but may be more of a gray area.  There are multiple types of bodily or wardrobe malfunctions that we can either point out to someone, or have pointed out to ourselves.  And almost always, these are to save either us or others embarrassment.

You can name them as well as I can.  Pants unzipped, dress stuffed into panty hose, wet spot on crotch, toilet paper stuck to your shoe ... the list is almost endless.

The gray area comes in with who, when and where.  Who do you tell, when do you tell them, and is it the appropriate place to tell them? Hopefully, significant others always have one an other's backs.  Jan will tell me if I have something hanging out of my nose, which I don't think is that often.  And I'll tell Jan if she has dried toothpaste around her mouth, which is almost an everyday occurrence.  She gets annoyed at me for mentioning it, but I think she is secretly grateful, because I'm sure she doesn't want to go out in public looking like she just consumed a powdered donut in one bite.

But what do you tell someone you don't know?  I'm not necessarily going to tell the cashier at the grocery store that they have a booger hanging out of their nose.  They might knock it off onto my food. And I'm not going to tell someone walking down the street that they have a wet spot on the front of their khaki pants.  I might get punched in the mouth.  What about someone at work?  Maybe that depends on if you like them or not.

A few years ago, I worked in an office that employed a number of young women in their sales department.  One day I was walking by one of them and noticed that she had a glaring red spot at the "junction" on her white slacks.  Okay, now what do I do?  Obviously she wasn't aware of it, because she was walking around talking to people, and either they hadn't seen it or were too embarrassed to say anything.  So, do I walk up to her and casually say "Hey Mary, I see your period has started"?  Probably not.  I kind of knew the receptionist, so I went over to her and told her that Mary had a problem.  She took one look at her and said "I'll handle it".  Later, I saw Mary walking around with a sweater tied around her waist.  I just hoped the receptionist hadn't told her that I was the one who had noticed it.

And I hope I never have to do that again.  Did you ever notice that when you hear or read something along this line, that you have an uncontrollable urge to go check yourself out?  I think I'll go look in the mirror for nose dirt.

June 27, 2009

Quick Decorating Tip

Jan and I are seriously considering moving back to the Ozarks when she retires in a year or two.  I've made contact with several realtors in that area and they send me listings on a regular basis.  I don't know what we get a bigger charge from ... looking at the houses, or seeing how the owners have decorated them.

Apparently, we backwoods types in Northern Illinois have been slow to pick up the next trend in dining room decor.  Excess patio furniture chic!

Wondering what to do with that pesky patio furniture once the season is over?  Why, just put it in your dining room!

Damn!  It's so obvious!  This is why I'm not a trendsetter.

June 26, 2009

Tee It Up

I was out for a walk early this morning and happened by a guy messing with his golf clubs in the trunk of his car.  It's a really nice morning, and for just a second or two, I envied him going out and playing golf.  But that passed.

Jan and I both have our own sets of clubs that are hidden somewhere under the stairs in our basement, so that we would have to be pretty determined to get to them, which is just as well.  I played a lot when I was in high school and college, primarily because there was a public golf course just down the street from our home.  It was named "Horton Smith" in honor of some golf dude who I guess was semi-famous for one reason or another, but I had never heard of him. However, if he was good enough to get a whole golf course named after him, I guess he was better than average.

During college, I played almost every day during the summer with my two buddies, and my parents must have thought it was my hobby because they bought me a set of golf clubs for graduation, which I thought was a pretty shitty gift seeing as I already had a set, but I was a self-absorbed snot-nosed kid then and I feel bad now for being so ungrateful during those days, if I allow myself to which isn't often so it all evens out.

I'm not really sure how Jan came by her set of clubs.  I think I bought them for her, but I'm not sure, because if I did, she didn't make a big thing about it and probably thought it on par with getting a vacuum cleaner for her birthday (which even I wasn't dumb enough to do) and I believe the only time she ever used them was the one time we played together.

And the one time we played together was when we lived in our townhouse in Heather Ridge, which had neither heather or ridges, but sounded better than "Dump Trucks Run Continually Up and Down Rt. 120 Waking You Up at Five O'Clock in the Fucking Morning Even on Weekends".  Anyway, this place had a nine hole golf course and one morning, we decided to try it out.

Now I know what you're thinking.  That I'm going to launch into a story about a husband and wife playing golf together and the resulting insults, fisticuffs and divorce proceedings that have been fodder for hilarious print journalism since the dawn of man.  But you would be wrong.  We had a very nice game. I was bad, she was worse.  And we both had fun.

Fun.  That's what a recreational event is supposed to be.  But an awful lot of people don't think that golf is fun.  They think it is supposed to be a passion.  And I don't like playing golf with people who think that the game is a passion.  Much like I don't like going sailing with people who think that particular recreational activity is also supposed to be a passion.  Combine the two passions in one person and you have one fucked up individual.

Since I don't know anyone who doesn't take golf seriously, I haven't played in years.  In fact, the last time I played was when I worked for the foo-foo dust place and was forced to play in their annual golf outing because I was a manager.

Golf outings can be fun if you have the right partner.  At this particular event, I was randomly assigned to one of our vendors that I had never met before.  Luckily for me, this guy didn't take golf seriously either and had been forced to attend by his boss too, so we struck it right off the bat.  We cemented our compatibility by downing 3 Bloody Marys before we even hit the first tee.  Because my company was flush at that time, we were able to afford golf cart rental, which was totally out of sight.  My partner wanted me to drive because his wife told him before he left for the morning that he couldn't drink and drive and she was a member of MADD or something, so he was afraid of her.  I told him she probably didn't mean drive as in "drive golf carts", but he was half in the bag already and I can "hold my likker", so it was just as well that I drove.

And we had a high old time.  We batted the ball around, cheated on our score, managed to locate the green on almost every hole and were adept at finding the "beer girl" on every fairway.  By the end of the game, we were pleasantly blasted and I even managed to win a cool new driver for "most improved score", even though I had not put down my correct number of strokes on any hole that I had played.

Now, that's how you have fun playing golf.  And when I passed that guy this morning, and saw his 400 dollar pair of golf shoes at his feet, I knew he wasn't going to have my kind of fun.

P.S.  For those of you who read my post the other day about my fucking air conditioner, well the sonofabitch won.  I spent all day yesterday herding repairmen around trying to get it fixed on the hottest day of the year so far.  But, by the time the sun went down, we had cool air flowing inside.  So much for my bravado.

June 24, 2009

Hair Today

Early this morning, I was standing at the kitchen window, sipping on a cup of coffee and mentally flipping through various things as they came into my head, when I suddenly stopped on the subject of my hair.

I wondered how much of my hair I'd have left in 10 years.  This is a subject that I don't normally dwell on.  After 50 some-odd years on the planet, I still have the majority of the hair I started out with.  Oh sure, at about 40 it started getting a little thin in the back, but I never notice unless I'm doing the old "double mirror" trick to shave the back of my neck (shit, I hope someone else does that besides me, or I'm going to seem like a weirdo).  But lately, during those sessions, I've noticed that the "thinning" has started moving down toward the front of my head.

So, what to do about that?  The only thing I can think of is to have my hair cut shorter, which I've been doing lately.  I figure that way, at least if I am going into a major hair loss nose dive, that I'll be able to see it coming.

When I first started noticing my hair thinning, I made a pact with myself that I would do nothing to stop it.  No Rogaine, no "toops", no comb-overs ... nothing.   To me, there is nothing more pathetic than a man who tries to hide his hair loss.  Even the most dull-witted among us can spot hair camouflage at a hundred yards.  And besides, it just makes a person look ridiculous.  One time, I saw Bob Barker in person ...

Now, first ... I did not plan to see Bob Barker, so I'm not trying to act like a minor celebrity whore.  Bob Barker just showed up at some place I happened to be at.  I think it was a shoe store opening or some shit like that.  And I am a whore for shoe store openings. 

Anyway, it was a windy day and Bob was standing there talking about Timberland Boots or something, and a gust of wind caught his hair, resulting in a major portion of it moving from one side of his head to the other, leaving him bald on top and with approximately 4 feet of hair hanging down the other side of his head.  He tried to fix it, but did nothing but rearrange it into kind of a lop sided haystack on top of his head.  The crowd was aghast, and I was ashamed for him.  It was at that moment, that a young Rob decided he would do nothing to save his hair.

And before I get off the subject of head hair, who does David Letterman think he is trying to fool by having that little curly patch of "island hair" glued to the front of his head?  That's just wrong.

From head hair to face hair.  For the first time in my life I have grown a beard, or at least what I think a beard is supposed to be like. It is not a good beard.  It is light brown streaked with gray and the individual hairs making up the so-called beard seem to grow in all different directions.  In March, in a fit of pique, I shaved it all off, but immediately felt beard remorse and started growing it again, until it is where it is today, which I believe is as good as it's going to get. Which isn't that good.  I've asked Jan her opinion on my beard, but she has either changed the subject or suddenly found something that has to be done immediately in another room, so I'm pretty sure she doesn't like it.  Today, I came that close to shaving it off again, but convinced myself to keep it for one reason, and one reason only ... to freak my Mom out.  When we go out west in a couple of weeks we're going to stop off at her place for a couple of nights and she will be horrified when she sees me with a beard.  I can't wait, so I'm going to keep it until then.  After we leave, I'll probably shave it all off.

Or maybe I'll just downsize to a pornstache.

June 23, 2009

**** Is A Dick

I think I accidentally tripped over some kind of social experiment yesterday.  I'll explain.

I was walking through the back room and Jan had the television on as background noise while she was doing something for school.  "CSI Miami" was on, and for some reason, I sat down for a minute to watch it.  David Caruso was doing a scene, and I dislike him with a vengeance, but I watched anyway.

Later I was doing something in the garage when I thought "David Caruso is a dick".  So I went upstairs and wrote a post on my other blog with that title.  It only took about 5 minutes, and my other blog is where I just throw quick thoughts out, because I don't like Twitter.

So, last night, I was wrapping things up before I turned in and thought I would check my sitemeter on both blogs, because I think it's cool to see who has tripped across them and how they got there.  My eyes kind of bugged out when I looked at the number of hits I received on the "David Caruso Is A Dick" post.  I had more hits on that one post than I get on both blogs in a month!  Now ... no one commented, which I thought was strange, but they were definitely looking at it.

I sat there and wondered "why"?  There were only two answers.  One; either a lot of people loathe David Caruso as much as I do, or Two; people gravitate to something with "Is A Dick" in the title.  I googled "David Caruso" and got some things titled "David Caruso is a douchebag", "David Caruso Sucks" and "Fuck David Caruso"; but I'm not so sure that was the draw.  I think it was "**** Is A Dick" that caused the sitemeter overload.

If this is true, then it stands to reason that one could increase traffic on his or her blog by simply adding "Is A Dick" to any post title.  Let's try that with my post yesterday:  "Suddenly This Summer Is A Dick!"  Yes, that has a nice ring to it.

Better yet, I can take one of my orphaned blogs and just re-title it "Is A Dick", and put any crap that I want to in there, and no one will care.

Genius!

June 22, 2009

Suddenly This Summer

Summer arrived in Northern Illinois on Friday night.  It was transported in on the back of a giant thunderstorm that lasted for hours, complete with gully washing rain, continuous lightning and almost, but not-quite-there tornadoes.  The last two days and the week yet to come promise to be stifling ... real "scorchers" as we old-timers call it during our more lucid moments.

Such is the way in Northern Illinois, land of two seasons ... Winter and Summer.  But it is fitting for a land so devoid of personality.  It's taken years for me to realize it, but I hate this whole fucking area.  I hate it's predictability and it's blandness.  I suppose you would have to have been born here to appreciate it, but sometimes I suspect that even natives feel trapped here, in the butt crack of America.  As you can guess, I can't wait to get the hell out of Dodge.

Anyway, it's hot.  And no one is more aggrieved than the anchors on the local television stations.  Two days in, they are already pissing and moaning about how hot it is.  If you're interested enough to follow anchor people's moods, you know that they don't like the weather in any form.  It's either too cold, or too hot, or too rainy, or not rainy enough.  And they all, to a man and a woman, take it out on the poor weather person ... excuse me, "meteorologist".  Not to say that I feel sorry for the weather people, who are usually just as sad as the anchors, only they have a little more trained seal in their make-up and can crack bad jokes and show up at supermarket openings without committing suicide on-air.  They usually have "hooks"; such as cuteness, or funnyness, or fatness, or handicappedness.

If I were going to be a weather person, I think my "hook" would be a bad attitude.  When one of the anchor persons would try to pin the lousy weather on me, I'd simply stare at them for one beat and then say "Fuck you asshole".   I'd follow this up by throwing something sharp and heavy in their general direction.  I'd do this for every weather cast, even after they became too afraid to speak to me.  When this got to be old, I'd change it up, let's say by screaming at them like a chimp and then throwing handfuls of my own feces at them.  Trust me, this would be ratings gold.

Anyway, it's hot.  Sean came up on Father's Day Eve for a visit. Father's Day Eve is much more exciting than Father's Day, much as Christmas Eve is more loved than Christmas itself.  Sean needed a room air conditioner for the apartment that he shares with Jessica. And it was important that he get one because hot weather makes them both crabby and they tend to get in knife fights when that happens.  So he bought one that not only worked, but had a remote control!  How cool is that?  However, he found out later that his Tivo didn't like it's electronic turf invaded by a Chinese remote control and would switch the AC off, so he had to get rid of it.  Sad.

When we got back from our shopping trip, Jan was complaining that our house was too hot, and that is bad because we get crabby when we're hot too.  Only we choose flintlock pistols at 10 paces rather than knives.  So, I turned the central AC on and it wasn't too long before it started it's seasonal dickery.  For three years now, it will run just ducky for a while, then it will begin shutting it's various components off in no particular order.  It will do this until I get aggravated enough to call the repair man out, at which time the AC will run perfectly.  It will wait until I hand a check in the amount of 200 dollars to said repairman (who has done nothing because everything checks out), and is 10 miles away until it decides to start being a dick again.  But this year, I've got its number.  I'm not doing anything.  Fuck you air conditioner.  Maybe when it sees I'm not paying any attention to it, it will just decide to do it's job.

Anyway, it's hot.

June 21, 2009

Late Night Whatever

Well, here it is past midnight on a Saturday night and for a while there, I was kind of tired and thinking about turning in, but then that feeling passed and I'm wide awake again.  Your body does things like that to you sometimes, sort of like when you get up in the morning and you feel like you have to take a shit, but then you start making coffee or having your first cigarette of the day or making lunch for your wife and you get preoccupied with those tasks and you forget toilet time and then your body gets mad at you and says "Okay asshole,  you had your chance and you blew it!", so then you feel all sluggish and you can't take a shit for three days until you take 4 exlax maximum strength tablets and then all hell breaks loose.

This is kind of like that.

I was going to try to write a "Late Night Thoughts" tonight, but realized I had zero material for it because believe it or not, I actually have to make myself notes during the week to do that thing, and every time I had a thought, I never had a piece of paper or a pencil to write it down, and then I forgot it because I'm old.  So, during the last few days I thought I could just sit down here at my desk and think of some things, but I'm never any good at that, so all I ended up doing was playing solitaire instead.

Anyway, it was a busy week.  When I wasn't sitting at my desk trying to think of things but playing solitaire instead, I was getting Jan's fucking car fixed again because it keeps breaking, or painting the fucking cathedral ceiling again because it leaks, or mowing the fucking lawn again because it rains all the fucking time here, or praying that the lights didn't go out and my basement didn't flood because of all the fucking storms we have coming through here.

Fuckity fuck fuck fuck ...

I was going to write a post based solely on the awesome soft-sided cooler that I bought today for our trip.  It is awesome because it has two separate compartments and I can put Jan's diabetes crap in one side and ice and cold drinks on the other side and everything stays cool.  I was even going to add a picture of this awesome cooler, but then I thought who the fuck wants to read a blog post about a travel cooler or even see a picture of it; and then I thought that this might be one of the reasons why no one reads my blog, but then I thought that there might be an entire legion of potential readers out there who have been waiting for someone to write a no-nonsense blog about travel coolers and I could call it "Travel Coolers on Ice" or some shit like that.

And speaking of my travel cooler purchase, I wonder if anyone else does this:  I went to Walmart this morning to get some groceries. Because I'm stubborn, I never make up a shopping list, so when all I really needed was a bottle of  laundry detergent and package of Splenda, I ended up with about a hundred dollars worth of groceries in the cart.  So, by the time I got to the travel cooler aisle, I was already loaded down and since the cooler cost 35 dollars, I thought that was too much and skipped it.  But, later I went back and bought only the travel cooler because spending 135 dollars at one time was too much, but if I spent a hundred dollars on groceries during one trip and 35 dollars on the travel cooler on the second trip, that was okay.  I'm going to bet that no one else thinks this way, which is just another way I can tell that I have a serious mental illness.

Okay, it's about 1:30 AM now and I guess I am getting tired.  I'm giving you the time, because Blogger will say this was posted around midnight, but that was actually when I started writing it.  Why Blogger does this is beyond me, but I guess it's just one of those mysteries in life that I was never meant to crack.

I think I'll play some solitaire before I turn in.  It's better than thinking.

June 19, 2009

Be Very Afraid

During a particularly hellacious thunderstorm this evening, I was browsing through various blogs while I was waiting for the lights to go out (never happened) and came across several with a logo containing a cartoony Grim Reaper on a blood red background affixed to their sidebars.  Out of curiosity, I clicked on it and was directed to a particularly frightening blog.

Frightening if you take yourself even halfway seriously as a blogger. Because if you do, this blog may cause you to close up shop.

However, if you don't give a shit and just blog for fun and to blow off steam, give it a look.  It's called Ask And Ye Shall Receive.  The URL will give you a little taste: 

You Just Do What You Can

I was reading through some blogs on my "followers" list yesterday and came upon one that raised an interesting question.  Judging by the blogs she read, the author asked if all mothers or parents considered themselves failures at raising their children.  She called it the "Bad Mother Conundrum".

This is one of those brain benders that I don't think anyone can answer with any certainty.  I don't know of anyone who would consider themselves a successful parent.  A person, willfully or not, is charged with being responsible for a human life.  And although some people do better than others with this responsibility, I don't think anyone would truthfully claim that they did a great job.

Jan's pregnancy was planned, and she did tons of research prior to the delivery on what and what not to do.  But, as prepared as she/we thought we were, there was still that moment when we brought Sean home from the hospital.  We put him in a blanket lined laundry basket on the living room floor, because that seemed like the thing to do.  As we were looking down at him, we said, almost at the same time ... "What do we do now?"

And no matter how or why the planned milestones, markers and expectations changed over the years, I think our guiding principle always stayed the same.  We just wanted to do a better job than we perceived our parents doing with us.  And if and when Sean has children of his own, we'd expect him to do the same thing.

You just do the best job you can, and hope it turns out okay.

Mall-aise

Jan is teaching summer school now, which means she gets home around noon time.  Rather than sit around and stare at each other all afternoon, we like to go out on small errands and stare at each other. The other day, I made up some lame-ass excuse about wanting to look for something at the local mall, when I actually just wanted to go to Bass Pro Shops and look at the giant fish tank.

The big mall in my area is named Gurnee Mills.  When this eyesore was designed, it was supposed to fit into the landscape of the area, which some fucktard thought was a farming community, even though it hasn't been that for 50 years.  So, it was meant to look like a bunch of farm outbuildings kind of fused together.  The resulting structure was horrifying, but fit right in with other trashy venues in the immediate area like a rip-off water park and Six Flags.

The place was an immediate success when it opened 15 years ago, and I can remember Jan and I being pushed around by the crowds inside during it's opening week.  We hadn't been there for a while, and I wasn't very surprised to see what had happened to it.

It's dying.

At least a quarter of the stores inside are shuttered.  And while the stores are closed, they've been replaced by trashy kiosks cluttering the corridors selling anything from t-shirts to oily cake-like substances. And the kiosks are doubly annoying because their occupants aren't satisfied to just sit by their cheap-shit wares.  They roam outside of them and shout at you like carnival barkers on the midway, trying to lure you over to look at their crap.

The stores that are left open sell a bizarre range of products.  One store has nothing but polished rocks.  And at the other end of the spectrum is a place called Neiman Marcus Last Stop, where I guess all top end designer clothes go to die.  We went in on a whim and saw a woman's jacket marked down from $4,500 to the low-low price of only $1,750.  Judging by the women we saw "shopping" in this store, the new look for all high society dames is rubber flip-flops, baggy shorts, tank tops with bra straps showing and to top off the look, their hair pulled back in a greasy pony tail.

Over the last several years, articles on the subject have indicated that indoor malls are losing popularity at an exponential rate, and will eventually crumble back into the farmland or swamps on which they were originally built.  Judging by Gurnee Mills, I can believe this, yet malls are still being built.  Including this hideous monstrosity in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, named Xanadu.



As far as I'm concerned, I'm about "malled" out.  But I'll have to admit that I'll probably visit ours again, simply because I can't get enough of that fish tank at Bass Pro Shops.

June 18, 2009

Once is Enough

In my post yesterday, I touched on the subject of dating and, of course, it started me thinking about my dating history.  I was a slow starter and had only a few real dates in high school.  I missed all the important events like homecoming and prom, unlike my wife, who attended every major and minor function in high school accompanied by handsome young men.  If there had been a 5th grade prom, I'm sure she would have been there.  When Jan and I go through old pictures, we run across the snapshots of her and her dates standing in her living room before an event.  There is one picture of her standing with an unusually good-looking guy, who I thought was prettier than she was, and even her mother goes along with me on this, so I'm not just jealous.

Anyway, my social life in high school was pathetic, so when I started college I was determined to re-invent myself and leave the old me choking in the dust.  I shortened my name from Robert to Rob.  I had considered something more dashing like "Skip", but thought that might be too over the top.  And I started using any excuse to talk to women. This turned out to be easier than I thought because almost no one from my past had picked my school to attend and everything was a clean slate. 

Despite this, my social life was less than ideal.  The few dates I had were disastrous, and I had to fall back and reassess the situation. During the time I was regrouping, I accidentally fell into a circle of friends hailing from one of the local Catholic high schools.  This was a lucky break because they felt sorry for me and started setting me up with people they knew, which built up my confidence, and so on and so on.

The women I met were all very nice and I would classify none of them as horrid nasty bitchy sluts, except maybe one, and of course she was the one I stayed with the longest because I must have been going through a self-destructive period or some psychiatric bullshit like that.

I went though dating "phases".  Two in particular were "dating girls in the dorm" and "dating girls that you know should never have agreed to go out with you".  The first phase was during the waning puritanical era where no men were allowed to enter the women's dorm rooms, so you had to have the receptionist call up for them and then go wait in the lobby with a bunch of other guys for your date to come down. The wait was usually interesting because I saw the following happen more than once:  A girl would emerge from the elevator and look around. She would stand there for a minute, still looking around and her emotions would range from confusion, to annoyance, to anger or despair, depending on the girl.  And then she would turn around and walk back into the elevator.  Not more than 15 seconds later, one of the guys I was sitting with would stand up and bolt for the door.  I found this to be particularly cruel, but fascinating at the same time.

The second phase required me to check my ego at the door.  I would deliberately ask out women who were too good looking to actually want to go out with me.  If you didn't mind getting rejected nine times out of ten, this strategy would pay off big time.  Getting a date with a pretty woman who will never go out with you again is fantastic because you don't have to be nervous before hand and you don't have to be concerned about asking her out again, because it is a given that she never will.  On one of these dates, we went to a party at a friend's apartment and I had a great time because all the guys kept calling me an asshole and all the women would take me aside and tell me how "cute" my date was.  Toward the middle of the evening, I was suckered into playing "drop the quarter from your nose into the toilet paper tube stuck in the front of your pants" game.  Being a sucker, I went along with it and ended up with my pants full of beer.  Even though I walked around the rest of the night looking like I had experienced a major urinary malfunction, I was happy because all the guys were jealous and for that matter, the girls too.

So, sure ... I guess this was all fun, but I'd never want to do any of it again.  I'll leave the dating to the young and adventurous among us. I'm perfectly happy to be right here where I'm at.

June 17, 2009

The Almost Sure Thing

One of the very nice things about being married is that you always have a date.  Well, maybe not always, but most of the time.  All casual events are better when you have someone to share it with, whether it's eating out, going to the movies, taking a walk, or even watching television in the evening.

I'm at an age now where I've started to see friends and acquaintances break up in what I've called "second wave divorce/separation"."Second Wave" because these people are in their late 40's or early 50's and have been married for a good number of years.  "First Wave" events happen 1 to 5 years after people have made commitments to each other and discover that they just weren't compatible in the first place. "Second Wave" break-ups are a little puzzling to me, but I know there are many reasons for them, some very practical and others purely emotional.  Perhaps a person wakes up one morning, considers that at 50 years old, he/she isn't immortal after all, and decides to make a drastic change.  I'm sure it happens that quickly.

So, when this separation occurs, there are a myriad of functional and emotional issues to be dealt with.  Given time, most people deal with it without too much scarring.  And eventually, the proverbial 800 pound gorilla in the room shows itself.  Men and women are social animals and want companionship of some sort.  If you're so inclined, how do you go about meeting people and dating again?  This is a frightening thought.

Self-proclaimed experts on the subject have many suggestions.  Work, bars, church, school, social organizations ... the grocery store. Basically, it boils down to professional and social venues.  Work relationships are dangerous for one reason.  What if you start dating someone you work with and it just doesn't happen?  Pretty awkward to stop dating that person and then see he or she every day afterwards.  I don't know a single person who ever formed a lasting relationship from a bar encounter.  Church?  I don't know.  Seems like it would be the same problem as work.  Trying to meet someone at a grocery store is just creepy.  And social clubs?  Why don't you just tattoo "desperate" on your forehead.  Maybe school, but I don't know many 50 year olds who are still in school.

Whatever method a person chooses, I have nothing but the highest respect for them.  Respect because it takes a tremendous amount of sheer will to step into the dating pool again.  If given a choice, I would rather lead an unarmed charge at an enemy machine gun nest than get up the nerve to go out on an actual date.  And a lot of people go through a lot of relationships before they find someone who clicks, if they ever do.  That's a lot of pain.

Some people try too hard, and I'm convinced from my own experience, it's when you quit trying and just let things go that something does happen.  Jan and I had been through our share of crappy relationships and the night we met at a party, neither of us was looking to start another one.  And 35 years later, here we still are, not much worse for wear and for my part at least, looking forward to being with her every morning when I get up.

And I hope the same is true for the majority of us.  Let's face it ... no matter how shitty our lives seem at times and when we wonder how we manage to go on ...

We still have a date for dinner.

June 15, 2009

Dinner Of The Noisy Dead


I tend to gripe a lot about the lack of variety in restaurants around this area.  One of the small pleasures that we experience is finding a nice out of the way place to eat that isn't a chain or a glorified hot dog stand.  I'm not sure if we're just extra picky, but that seems to be a challenge for us.

This last weekend was our anniversary (34 yrs), and we wanted to go to a nice, quiet place so we could enjoy a decent meal and talk for a while.  I thought we had found a place that was near us that fit the bill as far as we were concerned.  It's small, sits on one of the many lakes in this area, and doesn't look like a dump. We had eaten there once before and the food was good and the atmosphere seemed nice, so I made a reservation.

When we arrived and walked in the door, we were immediately assaulted by something that resembled singing.  This was coming from an old lady who had elected one too many face lifts and was dressed in her best Swillmart paisley top and matching lounge pants.  She was standing in front of a two guys playing a Casio keyboard and a saxophone,  and was belting out some ballad that I didn't recognize.

Jan, who is usually the most laid back person on earth, turned to me and said "Let's get the fuck out of here!"  Okay, it looked like this old bat wasn't a regular singer, or at least I hoped she wasn't, so I told Jan to hold it a second, because I thought she was just up there screeching away on a whim.  And, as it turned out, she finished her "song", bowed to the crowd and rushed by us out the door, leaving a trail of stale perfume vapor.  I was secretly hoping for an encore, but figured that Jan would grab my keys and leave me there, so it was just as well that she left.

So, Jan was placated and we took our seats at a table overlooking the lake.  It was then that I started looking around.  The dudes on the Casio and sax were still there and started playing again.  And not softly.  In fact, it was kind of loud.  I suppose we should have just got up and left, but I guess we both thought that they had to take a break sometime, so we stayed.

One of the things I love to do in a restaurant, is make fun of the other diners.  Jan doesn't usually do this with me, but it was hard for her not to join me in this place because the average age of everyone else seemed to be 96.  We're not exactly spring chickens and haven't seen 50 in a while, but we felt like teenagers in this crowd.  The aisles were littered with canes and walkers and I swear one woman (man?) at the next table looked like the picture in the upper right corner of this page, which didn't really help my appetite. 

After a while, even making fun of people got old, and we tried to talk about other stuff, but Mr. Yakkety Sax and his sidekick, Casio Boy, wouldn't give it a rest and were going through their arsenal of Prohibition Era classics, which I thought was odd, because even the oldest of old farts in the crowd probably wouldn't have remembered them.

And then people started dancing.  I guess some people find the sight of older people dancing to be sweet, but I just find it horrifying.  One guy was even dancing while holding his cane.

We had almost finished dinner, and our conversation had deteriorated into "What?" and "Huh?"  because we couldn't hear each other thanks to the Dynamic Duo, who were playing louder than ever and seemed hell-bent to give the management their all by not taking a single fucking break.

Jan's right eye had started to twitch, so I knew she was about to blow. I paid the check and we ran a flying wedge through the shuffling dancers and escaped to the clean, perfume free air outside.

I guess our first visit had been a fluke, and I'm not about to try this place again, so I guess we'll eventually search out another place.

Maybe a fish fry in Wisconsin.  Right ...

June 13, 2009

Late Night Thoughts

It's Saturday night, the Midnight Special is on the radio, and it's time again for Late Night Thoughts!  This week, brought to you by the fine folks at P&G, former makers of Duz Laundry Soap.  As a young sprite in the 50's, I remember my Mom using Duz when washing our clothes in our Washer/Wringer laundry tub.  Yes, we actually owned one of these contraptions.

A washer/wringer was essentially a porcelain tub with what can best be described as oars inside of it.  You threw your clothes in the tub, filled it with water and a cupful of Duz, and then turned it on.  The oars would rotate slowly and when you thought the clothes were clean enough, you turned it off, swung the wringer over the tub, fished each item of clothing out and ran it through the wringer (also called a "mangle") by hand.  None of that rinsing shit.  When you were all done with one load, you either opened the spigot at the bottom of the tub and emptied out the water through a hose, or you just threw some more clothes into the same water and repeated.

I know ... EWWWWWWW!!!

The first lesson I remember my Mom teaching me was to keep my goddamned hands out of the electric wringer.  Good advice, because that thing would definitely fuck you up.

With the advent of synthetic laundry detergent,Tide in particular, laundry soap's days were numbered, but Duz kept up the good fight, claiming that Tide made your hands red and sore from all the dunking and wringing you had to do, and soap did not.  Which was true.  But when washer/wringers went the way of Post Toasties, Duz followed, riding quietly into the sunset.

Well, enough reminiscing.  I guess we should get on to Late Night Thoughts!

***

You know what?  I just spent the last half hour listing to one of my favorite albums ever.  Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything?  What a cool album!  So it's moving onto 1 am and I'm tired and I want to go to bed.  And anyway:

I got nothin' this week.

So, join me next week, when I'll probably have a whole bunch of thoughts, unless I unexpectedly get caught up listening to another album that I really liked and haven't heard for a long time.

June 12, 2009

When It's Your Time ...

Life can take some very strange twists for a few very unlucky individuals.  Johanna Ganthaler had been on holiday in Brazil on May 31 when she missed Air France Flight 447, which later broke up over the Atlantic, killing all passengers on board.

Ms Ganthaler died several days ago when a car driven by her husband crashed head on into a truck in Austria.

Once again proving that old adage, when it's your time to go ... it's your time.

 

June 11, 2009

Animal Farm

During my tenure in the feed industry, I was fortunate enough to work at my company's research center, which was actually a 640 acre working farm stuck smack dab in the middle of suburbia.  It didn't start out that way.  When my outfit purchased it from Curtis Candy Company in 1947, it was in prime farm country, such is the nature of creeping civilization.  By the way, what Curtis Candy Company needed with a farm was a mystery to me.  Perhaps they employed cows as taste testers for their Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars.

The farm was complete with a chicken house, a hog barn, a dairy barn, acres and acres of corn, a small feed mill and an actual old farmhouse, that doubled as our offices.  It also contained a Nike Missile Base, which I guess came in handy for repelling any Ruskie attacks on our corn silos.  Seriously though, from what I've read, there were thousands of these Nike Missile sites sitting at odd locations all over the United States.  After the land had been sold and houses built, I wondered if some lucky homeowner had a missile silo in his backyard, which would be awesome when you were hosting barbecues.

My grandfather owned a farm in Red Top, Missouri, but I never really got into the animals there because I was afraid of them, so it really wasn't second nature for me to be working with animals at the research center, but it was always interesting.

Interesting because I found out things about animals that I never knew.  For instance, I learned that the stench from tons of chicken shit in a closed building will cause you to vomit without fail; that male cats in confined colonies will spend their leisure hours trying to spray you with their vile piss as you pass by; that a dead dairy cow cannot be pulled onto an auto wrecker with a chain tied around its' neck without its' head coming off; and that an irritated sow pig will eat her young in front of your eyes, which will result in your not eating any form of pork for two years afterwards.

One of the most fascinating animals was our fistulated dairy cow. "Fistulated", is of course Latin for "porthole".  Yes, one lucky dairy cow was selected to have an opening created in its side, which was then fitted with a porthole device so a person could stick his arm in and grab a handful of half digested hay and test it for stuff.  I was told that the cow was not bothered by the hole in it's rib cage, but I did suspect that it was socially snubbed by the other cows because of its deformity.

This reminds me of a story which I have been dying to tell for years. When I was in the hospital recovering from my cancer operation, I was befriended by another gentleman who had been fitted with a colostomy bag as a result of his particular operation.  I couldn't eat and was being fed some vile looking glop through a stomach tube, but he was able to eat normally.  When he found out that I couldn't eat, he lorded it over me about what good food they had in the hospital. During my endless walks around the hospital corridors, he would seek me out to tell me about the great breakfast, lunch, or dinner he had eaten.  Since he was a gross motherfucker, he always wore his colostomy bag on the outside of his robe, so when he would catch up to me and brag about a particularly good meal, I always said "I know, I can see it".  This tickled him to no end.  I hated that guy.

Anyway, back to the farm.  We had nicknamed one of the hog researchers "Dr. Doom" because he always had a story about how the company was going to be sold and we were all going to be laid off. One day he turned out to be right.  But he was famous in hog researcher circles because of one particular skill.  He could extract sperm from a boar hog with superhuman speed.  In other words, he could jack off a boar faster than anyone else in the industry. Regretfully, I never saw him in action, but I'm willing to bet it would have been a wondrous spectacle. 

As I mentioned above, commercial pressures finally caused our company to sell it's land to developers for a measly one million dollars per acre.  Today it is a hodgepodge of hotels, restaurants, movie theatres and homes.  In fact Jan and I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant there recently and while we were talking Jan asked me "is this where the hog barn used to set?"

All of a sudden, my pork fajita didn't look so good.


June 10, 2009

Why Don't We All Just Clam Up?

I like reading all types of advice columns.  Some of them are useful, like "when should I change the timing belt on my car engine", or "when should I trim back my butterfly bush", but the best advice columns are those dealing with people's personal problems, real or imagined.  More often than not, you're transfixed at how totally unprepared some people are at managing their own lives, or how other people seem to have no grasp of common sense at all.  Most of the time, I'll breeze through these columns, sometimes snickering to myself or shaking my head, and then I'll move on to other things.  But this morning, I came across one that really made me think about how overly sensitized some people in this society have become.

It concerned Father's Day.  Let me veer off topic for a minute.  I guess Father's Day is this month, I'm not sure exactly when because I don't really care.  I think it's another made up day to counter whatever hard feelings some guys had because of Mother's Day, which if true is ridiculous.  No matter what anyone says, Mother's do all the heavy lifting.  Fathers, not so much.  Mother's deserve at least one day a year to be recognized.  Fathers?  Meh.  End of story as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, back to my story.  In the column I read, a woman writes in saying that her husband died a few months back and she and her little boy were traumatized by the event.  Okay.  All's well and good here. Normal grief.  But ... her gripe is that she went to the grocery store and the bag boy asked her son how he was going to spend Father's Day with his dad.  The kid got this godawful look on his face and started crying and the mother got all pissed off at the poor sack dude because even though she'd never seen him before, he should have been more sensitive and also should have had Vulcan mind reading powers and known that her son had just lost his dad and what was his general problem asking a horrible question like that?

What the fuck?

Is this what we have come to in this world?  Where we are afraid to ask anyone we meet on the street anything that even remotely could cause another person to feel bad?  Should we refrain from saying anything more than hello or goodbye for fear of mentioning something that could bum someone out because "No, Uncle Bob is not doing well because he's serving a life sentence in Shawshank for dismembering his wife and daughter in a bathtub and selling their packaged remains as porterhouse steak".

I  mean, for chrissakes, if some people are that sensitive, then they should either remain behind closed doors until they feel better, or seek professional help from someone with more qualifications than "Dear Gertrude".   Mainly, they should just STOP IT! 

There, I feel better.  I think I'll go read some more advice columns.


June 09, 2009

Die Rabbits, Die!

If you're a serious gardening type, there's nothing more maddening than to spend the better part of a day digging, planting, watering and generally nurturing your flower and vegetable plants and then get up the next morning and look out to see a hoard of fucking rabbits eating everything that you just sweated your balls off the previous day putting in the ground.

Even if you're not so serious, like me, and wander around your yard like a stoned Johnny Appleseed with a tray of plants and a trowel, sticking plants randomly in the ground, you still get pretty goddamned agitated.

Jan and I spent one whole day during the Memorial Day weekend putting flowers in, and the next day half of them had been eaten by rabbits.  This happens every year.  And every year I swear that I'll never buy another flower ... but then I forget, and like a stupid, giddy asshole, go out the next Spring and buy some more.

After the initial assault by the ravenous leporidae, we mixed up a batch of pepper spray and coated the remaining plants, but the next morning, the rabbits had donned sombreros and fake Pancho Villa 'staches and were still munching away.

This morning I was looking out the back window and saw one of the little fucks nibbling away at one of the few remaining flowers.  I red veil came down over my eyes and I stormed out the back door, grabbed a brass water nozzle and hurled it at the piece of shit.

Amazingly, I hit it right in the head and it went down like a ton of bricks.  I ran toward it, but it managed to struggle to its little paws and hop away just before I could grab it and wring its neck.  They may have won the war so far, but at least I was victorious in one small battle.

I worked with a guy who got so upset with rabbits eating his plants that he would fire his shotgun at them from the back door.  He said his neighbors never complained, but I think they were more frightened of him than complacent in the matter.  He told me that the buckshot would usually shred up the plant that the rabbit was eating, ruining it anyway, but at least he got to see the fur fly.

We started calling him Elmer Fudd, which he didn't seem to mind at all.

June 08, 2009

Reading For Your Next Trip To The John

If you could take your computer into the john to read, you might be in there for a while reading this blog. Enjoy ... One Post Wonder.

No thanks needed.

Scenes From Suburban Hell

So, I'm out killing weeds in my backyard, when my next door neighbor comes out on his balcony and starts shooting arrows at a box along our fence line.

Me:  Don't shoot me.
Dumbass:  Don't worry, I'm aiming at the box.
Me:  I don't give a fuck what you're aiming at.  Don't shoot me.

He comes over with the box and shows me the holes he made with the arrows.

Dumbass:  See, they're all close together!
Me:  Very impressive.  Don't shoot me.
Dumbass:  Yeah, I guess I shouldn't practice in the back yard.
Me:  Good call.

He retreats into his house.

Me:  Sigh.

June 07, 2009

Why 6 When 600 Will Do?

Last week I was looking at the "Lifestyles" section of one of the newspapers that I read, and I came across an article on "6 Word Stories".  In a nutshell, people are challenged to come up with a complete story in 6 words.  Apparently, this concept has become quite popular and is used for it's entertainment value at various venues where games such as "Charades", "Pin The Tail On The Donkey" and "Hide The Salami" would normally be played.  There have even been books written on the subject, although I don't know if I'd want to wade through a book filled with nothing but 6 word stories unless I was in bed and trying to find something that would make me sleepy.

The origin of 6 Word Stories was traced to a reporter who asked Ernest Hemingway if he could write a story in 6 words.  The writer responded with "For Sale: Baby clothing.  Never worn."  I'm trying to figure out why the reporter would ask Hemingway this, and the only reason I could think of is I guess he was pretty wordy, but I wouldn't know because I'm embarrassed to admit that I never made it through one Hemingway novel because I found him incredibly boring.  But I'm guessing it was because Ernest would write 10 words when one would have sufficed.  Kind of like Stephen King, who I would bet my life savings on could not possibly write a story in 6 words.  I mean, when you read one of his books, you have to be prepared to skip through a shitload of pages just to get through it in any reasonable period of time.

But I should talk because I tend to do the same thing.  There's a movie named "A River Runs Through It", where the stern father is teaching his sons how to write an essay.  They keep bringing him their stories and each time he looks at their papers and tells them "half as much". Every time I see that, I say to myself "Hell, I'd be telling them twice as much".

However, the strange thing about me is that although I use a lot of words to write a story, I'll be very brief when I'm telling a story out loud, unlike my wife, who insists on beginning every story at the dawn of time and will never get to the point until I tell her to "cut to the chase", which I'm sure makes her want to cut me up into little pieces and feed me into the garbage disposal.  I do feel bad about that and I'm trying to change.  Honest dear.

Anyway, I was wondering if I could tell a story in 6 words, so here goes:

Rode on a train.  Missed stop.

Sucks doesn't it?  But I'll bet you can't do any better.  So there.

June 06, 2009

Late Night Thoughts

It's Saturday night, the Midnight Special is on the radio, and it's time once again for Late Night Thoughts, brought to you this week by the good people at Emerson Drug Company, Warner Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, Premiere Innovations Company and Amerilab Technologies; all past and present manufacturers of that drink concoction that was never as good as you thought it would be ... Fizzies!  Yes dear friends, it seems as if Fizzies have been passed around more times than a two dollar whore.

Fizzieologists tell us that Emerson was dicking around with their Bromo-Seltzer product one day and found that if they added food coloring and a fake sweetner named cyclamate to it, they could probably sucker kids into drinking it.  So, in 1957, kids everywhere were dropping Fizzies for refreshment and, without knowing it, solving their intestinal gas problems.  Trouble loomed when the FDA determined that cyclamates caused cancer in lab rats and the less-than-talented chemists at Emerson couldn't find anything else to put in it, so they sold it to Warner-Lambert, who couldn't do anything with it either.  So they got some people at Premiere Innovations drunk one night at a bar and palmed it off on them.  After they sobered up, Premiere managed to trade it to Amerilab for some colored beads and a buffalo robe.  And like sullen children chosen last for a game, Amerilab now half-heartedly offers it for sale on some website or another ... don't ask me.

I can tell you that it was some foul shit.  It was even worse than Kool-Aid, if that is possible.  And I guess after that glowing description of the product, we've probably seen the last of Fizzies as proud sponsors of Late Night Thoughts!  So let's move on.

***
The weirdest article I read this week begins with "As a survivor of Satanic Ritual Abuse, I've been through some rather harrowing things."

***
Simplify man ... simplify.

***
Two things I remember about my Dad that I haven't thought about in years:  He used to yell at Walter Cronkite when he watched the evening news, and he never missed "The 20th Century", because he thought he would see himself in one of the WWII news reels that they always ran.

***
I think I'm the only person who thinks that "Halloween III - Season of the Witch" is a cinema classic.  I once stayed up until 2 in the morning on a work night watching it.

***
I talked myself out of getting a dog ... again.

***
If I own the land my house sets on, how far down do I own it?  To the earth's core?

***
Why don't you ever see canned broccoli?  Maybe the cellular structure of broccoli doesn't lend itself well to canning.  Yeah, that's it!

I saw a commercial on television for a pre-4th of July mattress sale. Seriously, is there any holiday, recognized or not, where mattresses are not on sale?

I saw orange cauliflower in the grocery store the other day.  When white cauliflower gets a few of those little black spots on it, it's not so bad.  But on orange cauliflower, it's just disgusting.

***
"Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd, has the best album cover ever made.  This is not even debatable.  Check it out ...

AARP Follies

I absolutely love AARP Magazine! When we first started getting this, I'd usually throw it in the trash, because who wants to read about a bunch of old farts saving money doing this or that until they keel over and die.  But how wrong I was!  This magazine is a fucking fountain of laughs, if you get your laughs from reading about senior citizens doing stupid things.  Take Frances Dalton and her cigarette caper as an example.

So, when the July/August issue hit my mailbox, I couldn't wait to rip it open and see what I could find!  And I wasn't disappointed.

In his very popular column "On Your Side", Porter Wagoner look-alike Ron Burley spins the sad tale of one Sharon Block of Greenlawn, NY and her non-functioning toilet.  Ms Block, noticing that her recently deposited urine and feces were going nowhere, contacted Assured Plumbing of Patchogue to come to her rescue.  Loo expert Buck Barba arrived and declared that her toilet was in need of a "major overhaul".

Okay ... this should have been Ms Block's first tip-off.  There are only two things that can go wrong with a toilet; the water out thingy and the water in thingy.  However, I only know this because I am a toilet expert, so I guess I should cut the lady some slack on this point.

Anyway, Buck spends one-and-a-half hour installing parts he probably got at Walmart for 25 dollars and presents Ms Block with a bill for $840!  Incredibly, Ms Block pays him with her boyfriend's (Tom Lutz, also of Greenlawn, NY) Discover Card without a peep!

Now, c'mon ... what idiot gives his credit card to his girlfriend to use? So, Tom gets his Discover bill, shits his pants and hopefully is all over Sharon like a cheap shirt for paying $840 to have her fucking toilet fixed.

Poor stupid Tommy then calls Assured Plumbing, trying to get some of his money back, but they tell him to go soak his head in the newly repaired toilet.  He then calls Discover, to see if they can help him, but they tell him to go soak his head in an oven with the gas turned on.  Desperate, Thomas calls RON BURLEY at AARP MAGAZINE for help.

Ron picks up the gauntlet and contacts Assured Plumbing, first letting them know that he is THE Ron Burley from AARP Magazine, but they tell him to go soak his head in Sharon's toilet.  Ron, stinging from his failure, then contacts Discover, who initially tell Ron it's not their problem, but after thinking about it for a minute and then discovering (get it?) that they might lose business from old people who love getting back one-tenth of one cent on every 100 dollars they put on their Discover cards, relent and agree to reimburse poor sappy Tom Lutz $640.  We can only hope that Tom received at least a blow job from Sharon for his trouble.

So even though all's well that ends well, let me remind you that because of fucking idiots like Sharon Block and Tom Lutz, your credit card interest rates and late fees will continue to go up because you don't think Discover Card is going to eat these kind of losses on a regular basis, do you?

Man ... I can't wait until I get my next issue of AARP Magazine!

A Vigilant Mind

I always enjoy seeing mail in my in-box from Susan Davis, my realtor, mentor, best friend, confidant, paramour from Carol Jones Realty in Kimberling City, Missouri.  Well, maybe I'd just better stick with realtor, since I don't think she's aware that she's all those other things to me.  Anyway, I look forward to her mail because she always has new houses for me to look at so that I can day-dream about the day when we move away from here, except that my day-dreams are often crushed because I start worrying about if we'll have any money to actually do it, or if I'll get cold feet at the last moment or some other disaster will befall us.  Such is my train of thought.  Now, if I were like that lucky son-of-a-bitch rancher who won the 240 gazillion dollar powerball jackpot the other day, I wouldn't have to worry about shit like that and could spend my time thinking up other things to worry about.

So, yesterday she sent me a listing for a very nice house in Kimberling City.  As you can see from the picture, it looks very nice on the outside and sits on about an acre of wooded land about a mile away from the lake.  The inside is very nice too and the price is reasonable.

What's not to like you say?  Look closely, as I asked Jan to last night, but she couldn't see the basic flaw that would keep me from making this house mine.  Did you see it?

It's the driveway.  Look at the terrifying roller coaster dip it takes from the road down to the garage.  Southwest Missouri may be warmer than here, but they still get snow and ice in the winter.  Imagine me as an old retiree in my old mans' Ford Crown Vic trying to get out of that driveway to get to the store to buy my old mans' food, which probably includes those icky Vienna Sausages covered in that snot looking substance that I'll hold in my gnarled old mans' hands and gum to death because I have no teeth.

Okay, don't imagine that.  It kinda creeps me out.  But, what if I pull into my driveway and, even if there's no snow and ice, my brakes fail! As I go hurtling down the driveway toward the house, I have to make a split second decision!  Do I plow into the tree by the driveway, saving the house, or make a break for two trees farther to the right, also saving the house, but opening the possibility of me missing the trees all together and hurtling down the canyon side until I crash at the bottom, turning my Crown Vic into a blazing inferno and roasting me alive!

And since I don't want to make such a decision, I'll have to contact my beloved Susan Davis and tell her to keep sending me listings so that I can find weird shit wrong with them too.

On A Day Like Today

Today is the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II.  On June 6, 1944, armies from the United States, Great Britain and Canada assaulted the coast at Normandy, France in an effort to re-take Adolf Hitler's Fortress Europe, a campaign that would end in victory for the Allies in April of 1945.

My Dad landed on the French coast as a PFC in Patton's Third Army the second or third week in June, 1944. He was classified as an engineer. He had been a corporal at one time, but he liked to fight a lot, so he was busted back to PFC by the time he arrived in France.  He and his unit built make-shift bridges over rivers for armored units to cross. While building one of these bridges about a hundred miles south of Paris, he was blown into the water by a mortar round and hit by machine gun fire while floating in the water.  His squad leader dove into the water and dragged him to the river bank before he drowned. Badly wounded, he was patched up and sent home on a hospital ship. He was recovering in an army hospital in Springfield, Missouri on VE day, where he met my mother.

And, the above paragraph is just about all I know about my Dad's military experience.  He never talked much about the army and the only evidence I saw that he had fought was a permanently crippled ring finger (shrapnel from the mortar shell) and a particularly ugly depression in his left thigh, the result of a 7.92 mm Mauser round.

He and I were not close and we never talked much, even when I was working with him.  He was slow to anger, but when the switch was flipped, he was terrifying.  During two of these times, he hit me with his fist and knocked me into a wall.  I don't remember the circumstances, but a suppose I deserved it.

After he died in 1980, a month short of his 60th birthday, my mom promised to tell me why he had been so "odd" during the time I knew him.  Twenty years later, she told me as much as she knew.  Several of her stories are pretty horrific, so only Jan and I will know those, but one or two stories stay with me.  A kind of before and after picture of my Dad.  Right before he was drafted into the Army, he had owned a 1937 Cord 812 sedan, and it had killed him to have to sell it before he had to report for duty.  Just a kid.  After the war, my Mom would wake up in the middle of the night with my Dad's hands around her throat, choking her.  He was killing Germans in his dreams.  A kid no more.

News reports today say that Presidents Obama, Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown, who were not present during WWII, will honor our veterans at Normandy, while Queen Elizabeth II, who served in the military during the war as a truck driver for the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, sits snubbed and seething in her castle.

Such petty horse shit.  And I guess I could go on here, but if you have half a brain, you can guess what I would say to end this up, so I'll just cut to the chase.

It's a shame people get fucked up by events they can't control.


June 05, 2009

Ridge Runner

I grew up in a small city in southwest Missouri (Springfield - Queen City of the Ozarks!) and never thought much about prejudice in the conventional sense.  Of course, like most children of that era, I had to undo a lot of beliefs that my parents had.  And I had to undo a lot of other stuff I learned from them, but that's for another time.

Growing up in one place, I didn't experience the phenomenon known as regional prejudice until I took my first real job after college.  I moved to Davenport, Iowa to work for Ralston Purina at a pet food plant that they had there.  Although it wasn't far away from home in physical miles, it was very different in beliefs.  My first realization that I might be a little different than these people came when I interviewed with the plant manager.  One of the first things he asked me was why wasn't one of my legs shorter than the other one? Stupidly confused, I asked him why and he said that I was a ridge runner (aka hillbilly) and that one of my legs should be shorter from years of running along the sides of hills.  He thought it was funny, so I smiled too, still confused.

I started out as a Production Trainee at the plant, and my main task was to go around to the different departments and fuck up their production output under the guise of trying to improve it.  Most of the supervisors, shift leaders and production people put up with this, because Davenport was the "learning" facility, where managers fanned out to other plants in the system.  But, once in a while, they got a little testy.   I got along well with the shift leaders, but one day, one of them, Daryl, must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.  I was checking the end of one of the driers and noticed something wrong with the product coming out, so I told him about it.  This guy was always laid back, but on this particular occasion, he took me apart.  "Goddamned Missourian!  Think you know every fucking thing!" While he was still piling oaths on me and waving his hands around, I skittered away.  Odd.  What got into him?

But, as more people became familiar with me, I started getting more comments along this line. When I became a full fledged manager, one of the women working for me (a 90 pound dynamo) called me a "fucking hillbilly" when I asked her to relieve someone for break. Okay, so I'm her boss, so I've got to say something, so I asked her what the hell was wrong.  She sputtered something about my kind taking their land and some other shit that I didn't understand.

Well, this was just getting weird, but I didn't have all that much time to think about it, because I found a new job and moved away.  Some years later, I thought back on it and decided to do a little research. According to some things I read, it turns out Iowans have had a hard-on for northern Missourians since the first half of the 1800's.  I'm not sure I quite understand it, but it had a lot to do with territorial land grabbing, the Missouri Compromise, slavery and who took what side in the Civil War.

Now, who'da thunk that something that occurred way back then would carry forward into modern times?  But I guess that this sort of prejudice/hatred goes on in a lot of areas in the U.S., and I'm not talking about that ancient North/South shit that still refuses to die. I'm talking about small regional battles.

Seems kind of pointless, but I guess when you come right down to it, most "handed down" traditions really have no point, other than familiarity and bonding.

So, I guess if Jan and I do go through with our plans, we'll end up back into the welcoming arms of our fellow Ridge Runners.

Hey Iowa, bite me.

June 04, 2009

Blogger Smackdown

After a hard day of house-husbanding, I was looking through a few blogs that I usually read, and a strange thing occurred.

One of the authors was lamenting the fact that she had lost a follower.  So, nice guy that I am, I wrote her a comment that since I read her posts every day,  I'd sign on to make up for the one she lost. While I was reading her other comments, I saw one from another blog that I read every day, trash talking me for quitting her blog!

Well shit, I thought she had dropped me as a follower because she thought my blog sucked, or I sucked, or both.  So then I had to hurry up and send her a comment and then sign back up as a follower on her blog.

This blogosphere ... or whatever the fuck you call it is more complicated than I thought it would be.  And anyway, these two are crying because they lost one follower?  Holy shit!  Take a good look at my follower list!  What do you see?  I'll tell you what you see ... Zilch! Zero! No followers!  I can't even get my own family and friends on my followers list!  I mean jesuschristonacrutch,  my son, my son's significant other, my friends and even my own wife won't sign up as followers!  And these women are bitching about losing one goddamned follower?

But these women are pretty interesting to read.  If you get a chance, check them out at Gwen Alison Wonderland and Yellow Trash Diaries. They're pretty funny.

Even if they are girls.

June 03, 2009

Cover Girl

My wife likes to buy her clothes out of catalogs.  I guess this is fine.  Because of her stature, she has trouble finding things at stores, and the quality of the material and the fit of the things she gets from catalogs is generally good.  If she doesn't like something, she just sends it back to them, and at the end of the month, we get one bill that shakes down the purchases and returns into one sum.

The other night, Jan hauled out one of her catalogs to show me something she wanted to buy for vacation.  I kind of glanced at the clothing, but I was more interested in the women, and not for the usual reasons.  I wanted to see who this particular catalog had brought back for another season of modeling clothes.  I've learned that certain catalogs have their "favorites", and will bring them back season after season until they get too old and then they are unceremoniously dumped for younger models.  I also like to see how the photographers try to make 4 or 5 models look like 20 by doing their hair or make up differently, or shooting them at different angles.

My relationship with catalog models has become more complex over the years.  When I was a kid, I just went straight to the bra ads and wondered what the girl's nipples looked like.  But, as the years went by, I abandoned some thoughts and layered other thoughts in.  My viewing evaluated the women as potential girlfriends and mates. After all, you saw them in all their good moods; laughing, serious, pensive, pouting, smiling.  And you saw none of the unpleasant moods; angry, crying, murderous, straining to take a shit.  You got to see them in all kinds of clothes and you could almost imagine what they looked like naked.  The catalog pages were perfect for thoughtful evaluation!

And, as I became older, I started wondering about personality.  Sure, it would be great to have one of these women as your girlfriend or your wife, but looks aren't everything.  What are they like?  Do they have screechy voices?  Did they graduate high school?  Can they carry on a conversation?  Do they chew with their mouth open?  Do they neglect their personal hygiene?

So many questions!  So many standards to be met!  But what about me?  Would I meet their standards?  What if they rejected me because of some flaw they perceived?

And so, because I basically have an imagined dossier on every model I see now, I don't look at the catalogs so often.

Except for the bra pages.