July 29, 2011

A New Type Of Competition

While we were in my hometown taking care of business, Jan and I took some time to scout the city for possible home locations, as we have preliminary plans to move there when we both call it quits and retire.

We looked at the formerly ritzy east side of town, containing the Southern Hills and Brentwood neighborhoods that I remember being so nice when I lived there as a kid. But time had taken it's toll on these areas and we decided that they weren't for us. After driving through the southwest part of Springfield, we found more than one neighborhood that we thought would be ideal for us.  And as a result, we plan on concentrating the search there when the time comes.

But first, we have to sell this place.

We've always tried to keep the house and property up, and in the last four years, we've really put the effort into overdrive, both inside and out.  Outside is especially important, since all of the home shows tell you that a potential buyers first glimpse of the house is probably the most important, as it's the decider for someone taking the trouble to stop and look at the inside of the house.

Of course, when potential buyers look at your house as the drive up, they're also taking looky-loo at what's around you.  Having people look at the outside of MY house doesn't concern me.  However, I despair when I look around our small cul-de-sac.

My next door neighbor, Hillbilly Ron, is a frequent mentionee in this blog, mostly because of the way he keeps up his house, particularly the side of his garage.  There are always trash piles of one sort or the other gathered there.  However, to his credit, the size and the composition of these trash piles change on a frequent basis.  Ron has always excelled in trash collection.  But lately, I've noticed that there's a new gun in town, and he lives across the street.

Little Marky-Mark lives directly across from us.  He's a diminutive little fellow who wears shorts and a T-shirt year round, even in a blizzard.  When he first moved in, he was married to someone I nicknamed Princess Leia, but they got divorced soon afterwards.  He's the kind of fellow who always seems happy ... too happy.  So happy that you know he tortures small animals in the confines of his home.

Marky has four cars, two jet skis and a partridge in a pear tree stuffed into his garage and littering the front driveway.  When he first moved in, he built an observatory, which resembles a toy Mount Palomar in his backyard, but it has since rusted out and fallen into disrepair.  Two people, which I later found out are his parents, drop by once a day to clean his house and remove bags of trash.  I don't know if they do this out of the goodness of their hearts, or if he pays them.  To Marky's credit, he mows his lawn twice per year, whether it needs it or not.

And lately, Little Marky has started to pile trash up by the side of his garage, in plain view of the street.  And me.

To give you a bit of perspective, here's the side of my garage:

Not "Home & Gardens" Material, But Presentable

And here's the side of the garage of Hillbilly Ron's house:

Note the New "Vintage Jerry Can" Collection Next to the Truck

Impressive indeed.  But, in the last several months, Little Marky has made a major push to the side of his garage, and I believe Hillbilly Ron has a top-notch challenger to his title of "Trashiest House In The Neighborhood".  In fact, I believe that Little Marky, may be winning.  Observe:

A Washing Machine, A Smelly Mattress, Car Seats, Plywood and Other Assorted Shit

I've mentioned something to Hillbilly Ron several times about his mess, but it's kind of like talking to the Jerry Cans.  One benefit is that he stopped talking to me. Yesterday, I saw Little Marky's new neighbor yammering at him about his trash, but I think the same thing is going to happen.

So, while these two battle it out for the title of "El Supremo", I suppose I can take comfort in the title I'm sure has been bestowed on me by more than one family around Jan and I ...

Most Annoying Asshole On The Block.

July 28, 2011

The Road (Part 3)

Okay, I promise ... no more trip posts after this one.  You'd think I'd traveled to London (Ohio) or Paris (Texas) instead of southern Missouri.  But, I took all of these damn pictures and I don't have any place to post them except my dumbass facebook page under my real name, and I don't want to do that because it's so lame that I actually spend a minute or two every day contemplating canceling it, but I never do because maybe one day someone else besides the 6 people I have as "friends" now will want to friend me, but I don't know why I think that because I've had the page for 3 years now and it hasn't happened yet.  I guess I could put them on my "Frogs For Lunch" facebook page, but no one ever looks at that besides me.  So, I'm putting them here.

As I mentioned yesterday, we left Springfield and decided to chop the trip back to Chicagoland into pieces so we wouldn't be in the car for eons and Jan's legs wouldn't swell up like tree trunks like they did on the way down.  She actually has very nice legs (normally), but they didn't look too good after the down trip.

If I know my audience, and I think I do, I'm sure you're all saying "Hey Rob, why don't you show us a picture of where you lived from 1963 until 1974?"  Glad to oblige:

Future National Landmark
(Providing the Sale to Barry Obama Goes Through)

Jan decided we should stop at Merrimec Springs State Park in St. James, MO on the way to St. Louis because she always wants to stop there due to the fact that she attended church camp at that very location when she was 13 years old and there must be some kind of nostalgia thing going on there, except that I don't know who'd be nostalgic about being 13 years old.

Because the word "Springs" is in the park title, you would assume that they had one, and ... surprisingly, there was:

There's Like a Zillion Fish in There, But You Can't See Them

And by fish, I mean trout, because the Park is also a trout hatchery, and it's always better to put a fish thingy on a river than in the Mojave Desert.  At various points around the hatchery, they have vending machines that look like the ones you used to put 5 cents in and get a gumball if your cheap-ass mother would give you a nickel, which she usually wouldn't.  And these machines worked just as well as the ones you saw when you were a kid, in that all the gumballs fell on the floor because of the awkward placement of the delivery door, only in this case it was a handful of smelly fish food that fell on the ground.  The trout, being no dummies, hung around in schools by the vending machines for a free meal instead of eating yucky flies that happened to land in the water.  I'm sure if I'd had enough time, I could have taught them to roll over, play dead and stand on their back fin and beg in exchange for a smelly fish food pellet.

Jan, in a Futile Trout Training Session

In addition to the Spring and the trout, there used be a community of artisans who lived at Merrimec Springs in the middle 1800's who's main source of existence appears to have been making shit out of iron.  So, there were remnants of forges and big anvils and other iron making crap that looked like this:

This is Either a Forge, or a Giant Bar-B-Que

I'm at a Loss

Jan Inspects an 1830's Popcorn Machine

It would appear that around 1900, demand for iron hooks fell off drastically, so the residents left en masse for St. James, where they started growing inedible purple grapes to make sickeningly sweet wine and erected hundreds of road signs to sucker in the tourists to purchase said swill.

We would have liked to stay at the park a while longer, but unfortunately, the temperature was hovering around 500 degrees with 200 percent humidity and Jan was getting red as a beet, so we left.  We tried to eat lunch, but the Park employees kept giving us the "fish eye" (haha, get it?), especially when I tried to drink a couple of beers out of the trunk of the car.  I guess they wouldn't have minded it if I had been gulping down a bottle of St. James wine.  Plus I think they got mad at me when I threw a salami and cheese sandwich into one of the trout ponds.  I just thought the fish would like a change of pace from the fish pellets.

Put Some Mustard on Mine Next Time, Will ya Pal?

From St. James, we traveled to beautiful St. Louis where we stayed at another over-the-hill Comfort Inn, where the best thing in the room was a chair that looked like it had been taken from Peewees Play House.  There was a restaurant attached to the motel that I was excited to eat at because I wanted to meet Wolfgang Puck, but then Jan explained to me that the name of the restaurant was Spazio, not Spago ... and that Spago was in Los Angeles anyway.  So we ended up eating at some Mexican place, where Jan pouted until I gave her half of my dinner because she had ordered the wrong thing.

The next morning, we left bright and early for Chicagoland and I only got irritated with Jan once because she kept chewing on handfuls of dry roasted peanuts with her mouth open, flooding the interior cabin and ventilation system of the car with masticated peanut breath.

So, our trip ended and I was satisfied because I didn't crash the car or run over anybody.  A less-than-desirable time was had by all, but a trip is a trip and at least we got away from the house for a while.

Next:  No more trip posts!

July 27, 2011

The Road (Part 2)

I was all set to write a bunch of posts about our trip to Missouri last week, but the fact is, that it was pretty stressful.  My mother is very ill and we stayed at a motel because she needed the rest in between the radiation treatments that we took her to every morning.  The good news is that the treatments seemed to work and she should be better in a couple of weeks.  Not perfect, but better.  It's a fact of life that your parents get old and sick ... it's tough on every one in the family.

But, in between the hospital trips and running back and forth across town between our motel and Mom's house, there were some moments when you look around you and life goes on.

We stayed at a Comfort Inn on the east side of Springfield, and of course, like any motel worth its salt in these times, they had a free breakfast.  Hey, they also had a free happy hour, although we only attended one.  When you're in the Ozarks, you get country food, so every morning, the Comfort Inn's "free" breakfast consisted of the following:  Sausage patties, egg "patties" (I have no idea what the fuck they were made out of, I guess eggs because they were kind of yellow), biscuits ... and country gravy. Country gravy is white.  I guess it's made out of flour and flour lumps, and the guests ate it up.  But after looking at people smothering their biscuits (made out of flour I would guess), with more liquid flour, I just stayed with the coffee.  At happy hour, we were allowed one plastic cup of box wine and something that looked like chicken lumps covered with some yellow puss-like shit.  I'm glad we only attended one of these.

Well, breakfast is only one meal in the day, and having tired of take out food and eating at restaurants, we took a trip to the grocery store for ... that staple of road trips ... sandwich stuff.  We found a very nice grocery store right next to the motel.  And here it is:

Actually, Their Prices Were Pretty Inflated

Besides olive loaf, salami, bread and cheese; Jan wanted an entire jug of sweetened iced tea.  When we got to the checkout lane, the young man helping us couldn't read the scan sticker on the container.  He kept running it across the scanner and ...

Me:  Here we go.

Check Out Guy:  Sorry, do you know how much this was?

Me:  No.

Check Out Guy:  Okay ...  how about a dollar fifty?

Me:  Make it a dollar twenty five and you have a deal.

Check Out Guy:  Sold.

I only bring this small exchange up because if this had happened at any grocery store in this area, everything would have come to a screeching halt while some asshat ran to the back of the store to search for the item and then run back to report the price.  Hey, I've got to love Price Cutters for cutting through the shit.

Like any other city, Springfield has a number of independent gas stations with mini-marts attached.  My favorite is Rapid Robert's, because they have Pabst Blue Ribbon and you can be a member of Rapid Robert's "Go Club" if you want to, but I declined.  If we ever move there, I suppose I'll sign up.  But the most prevalent independent gas/mini goes by the strange moniker of:

No, This Isn't a Discount House of Prostitution

I made sly references about the name to a few people, but I guess everyone is so used to it, that they didn't give it a second thought.  We drove past the Kum & Go World Headquarters, but I didn't bother to take a picture.

While I'm at it, I should include a picture of our motel.  It was "okay" and the people were nice:

There Was Some Guy Sitting On A Milk Crate Out Front, But He Moved Before I Could Take His Picture

One morning, we stopped at the front desk to ask the reception person to mail a letter for us.  There was an old guy in front of us (shit, I can tell anymore if some one's older than I am unless they're in a wheelchair), dressed in a cabana shirt, dress slacks and flip-flops.  He looked like an asshole, but presentable enough where I figured he might be the CEO of Kum & Go.  Anyway, he asked the receptionist if he could "borrow" a razor.  Before I could stop myself, I said ... out loud ... "Don't forget that I have the razor reserved for 10 a.m."

If looks could kill.

All good things come to an end, and we left Springfield at the end of the week.  We decided we wanted to take our time getting back to Chicago, so I'll cover that next.

Next:  NOT "The Road (Part 3).

July 25, 2011

The Road (Part 1)

Last week, Jan and I took a trip to Springfield, Missouri.  Springfield is my home town, and although we hadn't planned on visiting, circumstances dictated that we go.  I make fun of my birth place often, as you can see here, but it's actually a pretty nice place. We didn't have much time to prepare and I knew that our car needed a "little" work to make the journey.  With our car, a "little" always means a lot, and so after twelve hundred dollars worth of maintenance and repair, it was road worthy once more.  Jan's car and my truck like to talk to each other when they are parked in the garage overnight, so the truck, having listened to Jan's car brag about all of the work that had been done on her ... got jealous.  The very next day, on an errand, "truckee" decided to quit running, spoiled little fucking brat that it is.  I managed to limp it into our car repair place and a thousand bucks later, it was satisfied that it had received equal treatment.

So, 2k in the hole already, we started out on the road.  Springfield, Missouri is an 11 hour drive from the homestead, and the first 6 hours, from Chicago to St. Louis, down Interstate 55 is the most boring drive on earth.  To add to the boring factor, you have to take into account that if I've driven that stretch of road 50 times, I've driven it over a hundred in the last 35 years.  However, once you get to St. Louis, and onto Interstate 44 (old Route 66), the drive becomes more interesting.  The people of Missouri have a tradition of naming their towns from the seat of their pants, and it's always fun to see places like Sleeper, Jerome, Cuba, Pacific and Tin Town when you're going down the road.  And there are lots and lots of hills.  Climb up one and scream down the other side.

Besides keeping your eye on the road and making sure you don't fly off into a ravine, there isn't much to keep you occupied besides finding a station to listen to on the radio. Once you're outside of a metropolitan area, radio pickings are pretty slim.  What you can find consists of 10 watt stations blaring out the word of Jesus, on air auctions (Thelma Jean has a crib to sell for 45 dollars) and Rush Limbaugh.  Rush owns the airwaves in rural areas.

And once in a while you have to stop for gas.  We made it all the way to Eureka, Missouri before we had to stop, and had an argument about where to eat.  I wanted to go for the St. Louis Bread Company, but Jan wanted to stop at Applebee's (yech!). Since I had to drive with her for another 4 hours, I gave in.  Chains are chains, but some of them keep themselves up better than others.  This particular Applebee's had seen better days, and I was wary of the food, but Jan gets mad at me if I don't eat, so ... again I gave in.

An hour later, near Rolla, Missouri, my intestinal track started talking to me and I knew I was about to have a lunch abortion.  There's something about the fact that when you have to take a major dump, and you're not near a bathroom, that some lower base level of your brain takes over and your primitive instincts kick into gear.  Remembering that there used to be gas stations in Rolla, I veered off the nearest exit without explaining to Jan why we were doing so.  While she yammered in my ear, I sped through a construction zone and careened down a service road, looking for a potty.

Since the last time I had been in Rolla, it appeared that no one needed gasoline anymore.  My next choice was a motel, but none of them looked to have lobbies that contained restrooms.  When all seemed lost and it appeared that I would have to stop by the road and blow a load into the nearest ditch, I spotted ...

At this point, I would like to thank the good people at St. Johns Regional Medical Center in Rolla, Missouri for having a restroom in the lobby.  Next time you're in Rolla, be sure to stop and use their excellent restroom facilities.  You won't be sorry.

The only problem with the restroom, was that I wasn't the only one who wanted to use it.  After I had locked myself in and was giving thanks to the Lord that I hadn't shit my pants, the following happened:

Me:  Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!

Door to Restroom (DTR):  Knock, Knock!

Me:  What the fuck?

DTR:  Knock, KNOCK!!

Me:  Occupied!


Me:  Occupado!


Me:  Hey Asshole, someone is in here!


Me:  That's it ... I'm going to kick some ass once I wipe mine!

DTR:  "silence"

Once I'd finished my business and washed my hands (I'm Mr. Hygiene), I jerked open the door, but no one was there.  I have to figure they ate at Applebee's too, so I felt a little sorry for them, as they probably had to use the ditch.

Anyway, back on the road and three hours later, we arrived in Springfield, where Jan announced that if she couldn't get out of the car in one nano second that she was going to fucking scream her head off.

Good trip.

Next:  (I Haven't Thought of a Title Yet)

July 18, 2011

I Forgot I Had A Blog

That must be the reason it's the 18th of the month and I haven't posted anything yet.

Actually, I think I did this same thing last July.  There must be something about this particular month that makes people non-bloggy, since I haven't seen too many posts from the other people that I read either.  At least I'm not alone.

Oh, not that there's been nothing happening.  There was that one Sunday morning that I walked past a man standing in his driveway at 7:00 a.m. in nothing but his tighty whities, yelling at his wife/girlfriend that he promised to go back to AA and that he "loved her to death", and then the strange thing that happened right after.  Or the morning I was out walking when the storm of the century whipped up and I was almost killed by a combination of wind, lightning, breaking tree limbs and flying trash cans.  Or the 48 hours where I relived part of my childhood ... the part without lights and air conditioning.

But those are stories for another time.  I've also been painting my ass off, sawing wood, firing nail guns and getting heat stroke.

So, as a little reward for myself, Jan and I are hitting the road tomorrow to trade the killer heat and humidity of Northern Illinois for the murderous heat and humidity of Southern Missouri.  And while we're there, we'll be staying at several fine Clarion Hotels.  "Clarion Suites ... where we provide free bath soap and maybe even shampoo if you're lucky."

And after a week back in my ancestral home, I'm sure I'll have lots more stuff to write about besides the guy standing in his driveway in his underwear, yelling.

Plus, I'll take lots of weird shit pictures to post.

Because blogs are always more interesting with weird shit pictures in them.

So, until next time ... Adios Amigos!