Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Card 2008

No matter where you are,
No matter where you’re roving,
Find yourself a friendly bar
And share my Cheer and Loathing.

Join me in a Yuletide drink
As I raise my glass to you.
I’ll toss one back, give you a wink,
And then you hoist a few!

Have a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Beer!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ring in the New Year!

I didn't tell my friend, N-, this story when she lost the stone from her wedding ring (at least I think I didn't because I'm sure she's sick of hearing about my grandparents), but here's a good story.

My grandparents got married in '32 when my grandmother was fresh out of nurses training. They were young, it was in the depression, and my grandmother's wedding ring was a narrow silver band ... probably cheap because of the times.

Of course, as she got older, her fingers got skinnier. And more claw-like, although that is not germane to the story. One day when she was in her 70s, her wedding ring came up missing!

She had been doing laundry, yet it was not among the towels in the linen closet, nor was it in the cellar by the washer and dryer.

I was heartbroken at the very thought, but Grandma, stoic that she was, didn't seem all that concerned. Grandpa, with a personality much like mine -- jackass on the outside, sentimental on the inside -- went and bought her a brand new GOLD ring, similar to the first, but a little smaller so it wouln't slip off.

And what did my stoic, pragmatic, non-sentimental, septuagenarian Grandma do? She got down on hand and arthritic knee and crawled the length of the clothesline searching through the grass until she found her original ring!

She wore them both for the rest of her life, but she wore the cheap, silver depression-era ring closest to her heart. So the new one would keep the old one from falling off.

Or so she said.

... O.K. I can tell I'm on the buildup to my "moment." I last saw her on or around Christmas after her stroke 15 years ago. And she died on New Year's day. Every year on New Year's, I have to lock the doors, pull the shades and have my "moment." It's not pretty.

I am glad to have the family who are still with me, and I miss terribly the ones who have gone on. What passes for my heart goes out to all those who lose a dear one over the holidays.

And that, Santa, is why I hate Christmas. That and your damned songs.

[See? Grandpa was such a character, you never hear about Grandma.]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I got rooked!

Ms. Russell at AT&T apparently misspoke when she told me that I have unlimited Internet for $60/month with the Laptop Connect Card. It turns out there is a limit and they don’t even have an unlimited plan with that device.

I inadvertantly went over my limit -- stupid Internet porn! -- and AT&T has cut me off until the beginning of the next billing cycle, which is December 7. A date which will live in infamy. I’ll have to rely on the networks of friends and family and various Wi-Fi hotspots until I’m back in the game.

So I’ll stay here. Y’all go on without me.

“No, Al, I can’t. We won’t leave you behind,” said Lucas, my devoted companion. I’d only known him since just before leaving St. Louis with him and his son, but we had become quite close in that short time.

“You’ll be better off without me,” I said. “I’ll just slow you down.”

I settled in with my back against a cottonwood and my Colt in my hand. I wasn’t figuring on sitting there helpless as a kitten if any Comanche came prowling around. I’d finish it quick.

“I can’t do it, Al,” he said.

“... Don’t you worry about me! I’ll be fine.”

He removed his old bowler and gripped its brim tightly in his hands. The boy hung his head solemnly, seemingly inspecting his well-worn boots.

“I’ll come back for you, Al. I swear,” said Lucas.

The boy looked up, his eyes red.

“Just promise me this,” I implored. “When you finally get out West, you find you a nice, quiet place by a bend in a river and you name a town after me, you hear?”

The boy held my gaze and said earnestly, “We will, Mr. Buquerque.”

Sorry. I went a little off topic.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I am moved by the spirit of Thanksgiving.

I just want to tell the Indians that we’re sorry. Sorry about that Trail of Tears thing. We were just kidding. Come on back home. And bring a covered dish. We can make this right.

PS: Woo-woo-woo-woo!


Yeah maybe they can bring some Succotash or corn fritters, what they call maize fritters And I believe the correct phrase for the North Eastern tribes is “How!”

Negative kudos for you buddy!


Yeah, but I’m not in the Northeast. I believe the proper greeting down here is “Why?”

Hee hee! Circle the wagons! Company’s coming.

Negative kudos? Can you even do that?


Up in the Dakotas I believe the traditional greeting is “Who.”

Hey Custer, I can see your last stand from here!”

I can give negative kudos in my mind, it is the first step towards wisdom. ...


In Jersey, I think it’s “Oy!” As in, “Oy! I can’t believe we sold New York for $24!”

Earlier in life, Custer had a lemonade stand, a fruit stand, hot dog stand and a newspaper stand. None of them were succesful, either.

It is a little known fact that Custer’s last words were, “I see them! One little ... two little ... three little ... uh-oh!”

It is also not generally known that Buffalo Bill’s big battle was not fought at Wounded Knee as we are taught to believe, but down the road at Barked Shin. They changed it in the 1920s because Wounded Knee was closer to the highway.

They don’t tell you this stuff on The History Channel.


You two are crazy nuts – and so very entertaining! I just hope no Native Americans are reading this. I sorta like my scalp.


She and I are both part Cherokee, so it’s O.K. We can pretty much say what we want about the Red Man.

It’s kind of like how Michael Richards can’t say the “N” word but Chris Rock can.

If they don’t like what I have to say, so what? Sioux me!


I’m laughing only because I just saw some Trail of Tears thing on the History Channel a couple days ago.

Haven’t we reparationed with casinos? you know, in the spirit of pot melting – I think all Americans should change their current tradition and spend thanksgiving playing blackjack.


“Trail of Tears.” What a bunch of whiners!

I guess the casinos were a good idea as a way to mend fences, but I still have some reservations. They are certainly a good way for the tribes of today to thumb their noses at William “Harrah’s” Harrison, Ol’ Tippecanoe himself.


I counted each groan as I made as I read these comments – I had to quit counting when I ran out of fingers.


Heh-heh! Sure, you can mock us ... just be glad you have this blog to moccasin!


I know, it’s enough to make you want to Wampum up side the head. ... ;)


If you think you can draw a bead on me!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Look for the Reunion Label

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
'This is my own, my native land!'
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand? ...

Sir Walter Scott

Part I

I don’t get up to Tennessee much anymore. I love the land and I love the people, but ever since we shoveled six feet of our land over our people, there just hasn’t been much reason to visit. Sure, every Spring I get the uncontrollable urge to go back to Tennessee and spawn, but this year there was a family reunion. It was up in Red Boiling Springs.

Red Boiling Springs enjoyed immense popularity as a resort town in the early 20th century. People would come from far and wide to enjoy the healing powers of the mineral waters. It was *the* place to go back in the day. Want to cure dyspepsia *and* catch a minstrel show? Red Boiling Springs is the place! Mammy!

So, I grabbed my father and an unsuspecting niece and nephew, bundled them into a rented PT Cruiser and headed up to my own, my native land.

Oi! What a drive.

After six hours on the road, I was tired. I was hungry. I wanted a drink. And I had a few pictures on my Flash Drive to print out before the reunion so my cousins would praise me for my foresight and family spirit. Rah-rah-rah.

I guess I should have known that this place was a little out of sync with the rest of the world when we finally got to the town and couldn’t find Main Street. In fact, from all the evidence I could find, only three things had ever happened in Red Boiling Springs since it was founded in the late 1700s: There was a Confederate Hospital during the Civil War; Woodrow Wilson Slept there; and there was a big flood in 1969. “Water was shoulder high if it was a foot! And I don’t mean maybe!”

After taking two wrong roads in our search for Main Street, I asked directions at an antiques store. I don’t know if it was originally an antiques store or if they’ve just had a little trouble moving merchandise for the past hundred years or so, but either way, they gave me directions to the hotel. (Go to the caution light and turn left. Red Boiling Springs doesn’t have a real traffic light. Apparently a caution light is all that is really necessary to ease congestion on this major artery into town.)

My plan was this: to reach this “resort” – the Donoho Hotel – check in, hit the business office, print my stuff, ditch my traveling companions and hit the bar. Then I’d go to the room, kick off my shoes, watch something on cable and see if I couldn’t find a mini bar. That’s what I always do on business trips. It hasn’t failed me yet. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

The Donoho Hotel has been a fixture in Red Boiling Springs since 1914. And I hear it was even renovated once. Shoot, yeah, it’s been renovated! It’s been brought into the 20th century. Unfortunately, the rest of us have moved on to the 21st.

The brochure said it was like stepping back in time. And how! What that meant to me was: no business office … no television … no telephone … no cell phone … no Internet … no BAR! I felt just like my pioneer ancestors must have when they first came to Tennessee, chased away the Indians and then realized they had no cell service, either. Sure, I was a little disappointed, but what are you going to do? Just shoot a bear and move on!

So, I pulled the PT Cruiser up in front of the Donoho. I’d seen photos. I was expecting the Grand Hotel from “Somewhere In Time.” What I got was the Shady Rest from “Petticoat Junction.” Or possibly that hotel from “The Shining.”

I slowly walked across the lawn and up the steps onto the veranda, going back in time nearly a decade with every step. There on the veranda was a little woman in a rocking chair who resembled a pot-bellied pig . Or, from the way she was smoking, perhaps she more resembled a pot-bellied stove. Whatever. Just imagine, “There’s Uncle Joe, he’s a-movin’ kind of slow …” She was the desk clerk.

So we checked in.

“I’m going to give you 12 and 14” Pot-Bellied Betty said. Fine by me. Off to find the rooms!

The rooms fronted on the veranda, which must have been very high-class at one time. You could just open your door and spit your tobacco right off the porch. In fact, I saw one of the employees do just that.

“12 and 14. 12 and 14. Here’s 12.” I had reserved two rooms with two beds each. Number 12 had one double bed. “Uh-oh!” There were four of us and one was a 16-year-old girl. That just wouldn’t do. We’re Southern, but we are not barbarians! This is *not* Alabama.

There was one last hope. Let’s look at 14.

One bed in 14.

“Stay calm,” says I “I’ll go ask PBB if we can get at least one room with two beds.” Ah! But first wouldn’t it be a grand idea to make sure the key to 14 works?

So, key in hand, I pull the door to and try to lock it. No soap. Let’s pull up and twist. Nope. Let’s fiddle with the dead bolt, pushing pulling and twisting all at once. Nope. Let me pull *really* hard and see if I can't get it to catch. I couldn’t get the lock to catch, but the doorknob did come off in my hand.

O.K. I get it! I’ve driven all day and now I’m in “Green Acres.” Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can work with it.

I walked around the veranda to find PBB having a smoke in her rocking chair. “’Jee have any trubble wi’ yer roooms?” She said. (I’m not being mean … that’s what they sound like up there. That’s what I sounded like, too, until I was in high school. I’m not judging, just adding a bit of verisimilitude.)

I handed her the doorknob.

Now you’ll have to follow closely. This is like the three card monty.

“I’ve got one with two beds. I don’t know if the lock works.” Forget the lock. A doorknob is a plus.

She walks me down to the other end of the veranda and shows me room 4. Two beds. Great. Let’s make this happen.

We go back to the lobby. She scrabbles through a desk drawer for a key …

(Maybe it’s just me, but aren’t they supposed to have a bunch of pigeon holes for keys and if someone wants, say … room 4 … the clerk grabs a key from the proper hole, rings a bell, says, “Front!” and a boy in an organ grinder monkey’s outfit appears to take you to your room? That’s what *I* thought stepping into the past would be.)

… “This is it. Wait right here, I’ll go check it out.”

Pot-Bellied Betty disappeared with the key leaving me alone in the lobby. Hmmm-hmmm-hmmm. I ring the bell, but I don’t yell, “Front!” It sounds like a cowbell. Hmmm-hmmm-hmmm.

She comes back. The key works! Hosannah!

I drag the niece and nephew down to the rooms. Room 4? Yep, it’s room 4. Why doesn’t the key work? I look at the key. A yellow Post-It Note is Scotch-taped to the key and it says 3. Ahh! … of course. She showed me 4, but she put me in 3. No problem.

Number 3 (all the rooms had their doors open to the veranda to begin with) only had one bed. And the key didn’t work. Back to Pot-Belly’s rocking chair.

“Oh! No! You’re in *this* room! Three is already taken.”

So she had shown me 4, given me a key marked 3, and the real room that the key unlocked? Wait for it ... Five! Who wouldn’t be tickled by such genuine, down-home, country ineptitude? But the kicker is, when we were making all our key exchanges, and told her we originally had 12 and 14, she says, “14?! Oh! I meant to give you 13!” And that’s the room my father got.

You know, most hotels don’t have a 13th room or a 13th floor. It’s unlucky, they say. From what I had seen of the olDonoho so far , it didn’t make much difference.

Part II

We finally got the rooms straightened out and checked in just as the sun was setting.

“Dinner will be served promptly at six o’clock in the dining hall,” said Pot-Belly as our heads turned as one to the ancient grandfather clock in the lobby, watching its arthritic big hand slowly inch its way across the eight, patiently marking the twenty minutes until supper.

Well … It was actually more like, “Y’all come back at seex for supper, now. It’s in the dining room right back yonder.” But the old hotel took on a whole different mien after dark. Everything seemed just a little more … theatrical.

We went to our rooms to freshen up, then met back in the lobby to wait for supper.

The kids and I had a look around.

In the hall was a display of photos of the damage sustained by the town in the Flood of ’69. One photo depicted a lady pointing at the wall outside her business. “The water came up to here,” the poignant expression engraved on her cheerless face seemed to cry out. “The water came up to here,” the caption read.

There were a half-dozen other photos of people pointing at walls and wearing the same poignant expression on their own cheerless faces. It seems people in Red Boiling Springs had been poignant and cheerless ever since Woodrow Wilson left office.

Farther down the hall was was a display of ephemera from the Donoho’s long history. A straight razor, newspapers from the 1920s, cloche hats, fedoras and the like. I guess it was a display of ephemera. Maybe it was the counter you go to to buy your incidentals. I don’t know.

I looked closely at all the photos thinking that, after dinner, I might somehow go back in time like Christopher Reeve and meet a flapper who looked like Jane Seymore. Or that I might at least meet Pot-Bellied Betty before the flood (of ’69) and see if she put out. Yowza! Now, there’s a pig I want to slap some lipstick on!

There was an inviting parlor beckoning us to enjoy its warm, Victorian elegance. Shelves and shelves of ancient tomes lined the walls. Every great work of literature – prior to 1920 – smiled down at me as I sat contented in a cozy, overstuffed wing-back chair.

A piano stood against one wall of the parlor and a Victrola sat in the corner opposite, beseeching me to play music not heard by the ear of man for a hundred years or more. It was all I could do not to give it a crank and see what enchanting euphony from the past might embrace me.

I might have smoked a cigar.

My niece sat at the antiquated piano in the room, not unlike an exquisite porcelain doll sitting at the antiquated piano in the room, and began to play Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”:

DAH-dah-dah-dah-DAHdah-dah-dah-DAHDAH-dah-dah-dah-DAH(minor)-DAH-dah-dah-DAH …”

Ah! I reveled in it like Salieri reveled in Mozart before he slit his own throat!

My heart rose in my chest. As I brushed away an uninvited tear, I realized that this little girl – my sister’s child whom I had held and cherished as an infant, given succor as a toddler when she cried over every abrasion, and whose delicate hand I had held on numerous tender occasions – was playing “Heart and Soul” on an out-of-tune piano and the dust was about to make me sneeze.

So we went back to stand by the crackling fire in the lobby and wait for dinner.

One by one the other guests joined us at our vigil.

There were a few distant cousins just arrived from various exotic locales around the Southeast, and there were a few random guests who weren’t related to me at all. I hope.

There was an uneasy silence as we all stood waiting to be called to dinner. Some warmed their hands by the fire. Some relaxed on the divan. Some stood uncomfortably upright, hands clasped tightly behind their backs at the edge of the firelight avoiding eye contact with their companions, obviously hiding some dreadful secret.

The fire crackled and spit.

“Someone in this room is a murderer!” I said.

No I didn’t. But, there could have been. Stranger things have happened.

About that time, the dinner bell rang …

Dong-dong … dong-dong …

We all meandered to the dining room like cows to the slaughter.

Family style they call it. That’s where you sit at a big table with folks you don’t know, pretend you like them, and someone brings you Southern food from someone back in the kitchen you pretend is Grandma, but it’s not quite like the Southern food Grandma cooked.

So, out it comes! Fried poke chops … mashed taters … green beans … collards … mac and cheese (a favorite Southern vegetable) … curious pepper steaks … beeskits … dinner rolls ... sweet tea. Mmm-Mmm!

Loved those poke chops! But, they could have given us sharper knives. A whole table full of people trying to saw their way through the Other White Meat with butter knives … it looked like something out of a Japanese game show. And the pepper steak! Flat, tasteless, shingles of meat somewhere between meatloaf and whitleather. Remember those … they come back again in Part III.

We enjoyed our meal in the company of our brand new old cousins. Then we all repaired to our rooms to await the impending Family Reunion.

Redrum! Redrum!

If we had only known …

(Yeah, I thought I’d end with a cliffhanger.)

Part III

Sunday morning, the kids and I were up at cockcrow.

And, after our morning ablutions … morning ablutions … morning ablutions … “Did anybody bring shampoo?” … “I forgot!” … “Shaving cream! I forgot shaving cream!” … “I forgot my razor!” … “Does anybody have floss?” … “I forgot!”

A brief trip to the Chevron station back at the caution light “downtown” was in order. I put the kids in the PT Cruiser and off we went. We missed it, naturally, and had to turn around and come back. A police car followed us into the Chevron parking lot.

“Cheese it! The cops!” I cried.

“What, Unca Bobby?” asked the kids.

“Quit texting your friends and read a freaking book!” I said. “Haven't you ever seen the Bowery Boys? Watch a movie in black and white for a change!” Actually, they’re both avid readers and they’re good kids.

So, I went in the Food Mart at the Chevron and Barney Fife followed me in.

Mornin’, Jim!” the cashier shouted, real friendly-like.

I looked around, bewildered, because I’m not Jim, I’m Bob. I’ve got a driver’s license to prove it.

Turns out, Jim was the local constabulary’s name and he had just stopped by to show off his accent and buy a couple of lottery tickets.

So, I purchased my toiletries and we headed back to the Donoho.

After our morning ablutions, we strolled back to the dining room for breakfast.

Scrambled eggs, a big ol’ platter of bacon, biscuits and red-eye gravy. And some curious little sausage patties. They were flat, tasteless, circles of meat somewhere between meatloaf and whitleather. I know there was someone in the kitchen with a cookie cutter and last night’s pepper steak making the sausages. One pepper steak, then *Wham! Wham! Wham!* You’ve got breakfast sausage *and* a new gasket for your tractor. These are a resourceful people.

We hurriedly poked our breakfast down our greedy gullets and washed it down with a gulp of hot coffee. Family members were due to begin arriving at any moment.

My great-grandmother squeezed out 13 children between 1889 and 1917. She was a regular Play-Doh Fun Factory! Of the thirteen, two died as children and a couple more died in the ’20s of tuberculosis.

The Great Grandparents and the siblings at the family reunion about 1938: First Row (l-r) - Sam, Reba, Tommy, Orion, Carmack (Grandpa); Second Row: Mary D.; Lucy; Thad; Fred Gordon; Mama Key; Daddy Key

Of the ones who lived to reproduce, there were: Sam (1889-1971); Thad (1893-1979); Sadie (1895-1922); Lucy, somehow Lucy’s clan was overlooked when the invitations went out (1897-1990); Carmack, my Grandpa, (1908-1995); Orion (1911-1997); Fred Gordon the only one of the 13 siblings still living, (b. 1915); Tommy (1917-2005).

Aunt Reba (1901-1987) deserves Honorable Mention. She didn’t have children of her own, but she raised three generations of the rest of us.

On with our story …

They came in ones and twos – maybe threes, I don’t know – from all of your more important Southern states and a few even drove in from Indiana.

From all around the Donoho property, I heard calls of, “Haay! How oar yeew?!” and the lilting response, “Fiiiine!” as families long separated bonded again like carbon and hydrogen to form methane. We are a gassy bunch.

Jean (Sam's clan) salutes me for my youthful enthusiasm and vigor.

I tried to brace the kids for what they were about to witness when someone appeared by my side out of nowhere and addressed me. “Haay! How oar yeew?!”

Trumpet in a herd of elephants; crow in the company of cocks; bleat in a flock of goats. “Fiiiine!” I said. This seemed to satisfy her and she continued her turn-greet-repeat arabesque with the newcomers.

I turned to explain to the kids who she was and that, it’s O.K., everybody talks that way up here, when I found myself face to face with Jerry (Sam’s clan).

I almost didn’t recognize him at first. I only see Jerry at funerals, and on those melancholy occasions, he always wears the same navy blue leisure suit. Every funeral I’ve attended since 1986, Jerry has been front and center in that navy blue leisure suit. I guess he dressed down for us this time, since he wore a work shirt and hat.

Somehow, we made eye contact and that was all it took for him to launch into a lengthy monologue of our family and its origins. Jerry might look and sound like Joe Everyfarmer, but he has an engineering degree from Tennessee Tech and a great memory. He knows his stuff. Unfortunately, he has absolutely no social skills and my “please, please, please get away from me” facial cues went unnoticed.

As he droned on and on about our forbears, I couldn’t help but notice that since the last time I saw him three years ago, he had apparently had some sort of surgical procedure, as a gusset had been cut out of the side of his face – taking part of an ear with it – and replaced with skin of a different hue. A graft from his leg? I wondered. If I had seen leg hair growing from his face, that would have been it for me.

[Note to self: I might have found a way to finally grow sideburns.]

I kept nodding as I half listened, my eyes straying from the half ear, down the new skin on his jaw and coming to rest on a sizable goiter. I’m sure by that time my facial cues were going like flashing lights at a railroad crossing, because my nephew Jake swooped in and rescued me. Jerry immediately attached himself to another cousin and picked up where he had left off.


I tried to explain to Jake who he was. All that came out was, “Hamanahamanahamana …”

I shook it off and brought the kids around to introduce them to people:

Rutledge (Sadie’s clan). 92 years old and still getting around pretty well. Must have been that new hip he got in the ’70s. I shook Rutledge’s hand and exchanged pleasantries. This might have been the first time I’d ever spoken to him. Every time I’d seen Rutledge, I’d been with Grandpa. You didn’t get a chance to talk when you were with Grandpa.

Frances (Sam’s clan). Frances is 88. She had a baby when she was 16. That was in 1936, but there were still whispers. If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, you might as well make it dance.

Elizabeth (Orion’s wife). 88 years old and, along with Fred Gordon, the only surviving member of that generation. She lives in my hometown, so I’ve known her since I was a kid. She used to work at the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, and, since I went where I wanted, when I wanted in Carthage, I remember stopping in the Chamber when I was a young fellow and having her give me cookies and lemonade.

Richard (Orion’s clan). Richard was there. On crutches, of course. When Richard was little, he ran out on Main Street in Carthage and was hit by a truck. His leg has never been right since. Let that be a warning to you young folks.

Mildred (Frances’s sister). Nice lady. 86 years old. She had a stroke last year and her speech just isn’t quite what it once was. But she was a trouper. Everyone knew what she was saying.

Larry (Tommy’s clan). Larry is a dentist in Lafayette. When my grandmother died, Larry and his family came to visit my grandfather after the funeral. Grandpa gave a synopsis of his life with names and dates. Larry’s wife said, “You remember the day you were born, you remember the day you were married, tell me this … do you remember the day you were saved?” I held my breath. Grandpa said, “FROM WHAT?”

Larry’s daughter, Michelle. She was born the same day I was, so when we were very small, they used to always trot us out together like some circus sideshow. When we were a little older, I remember running around Reba's farm with her trying to kill a chicken with a dime-store tomahawk.

And, of course, Fred Gordon. 93 years old and the only one of the 13 siblings still living. He may have been the hit of the whole party. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite so happy.

Fred Gordon; Frances; Mildred; Rutledge

And dozens of others. I’d name names, but they wouldn’t mean anything to you.

One of the kids sidled up to me and said, “Everybody’s talking about Reba. Reba’s house ... Reba’s food!” That’s because there were about a hundred people in one room who all missed their Aunt Reba.

We gathered in the Donoho’s free-standing auditorium-type building and enjoyed a catered meal. I sat by cousins I’d never met and shared a nice, anticlimactic afternoon.

Then everyone went their separate ways and I guess I’ll see them at the next funeral. Which, realistically, can’t be too far in the future.

Since that ending really isn’t exciting and there really isn’t any real payoff for my readers, I’ll add my own ending. This is the way it should have gone down:

As we were eating, Pot-Bellied Betty slipped in the back door. With a nod to her tobacco-chewing colleague, Chaw-Chaw Charlie, they chained the doors and dimmed the lights in violation of every fire code in the state.

There was an uncomfortable silence.

Someone coughed. Jerry droned on in the background … something about our ancestors from France. I think a lady screamed.

A spotlight split the darkness and shone on the stage in the back of the room.

A slight little woman with a snow-white coiffure that looked as if it had just been styled by a woman on Jefferson Street in Carthage over the latest 1980s gossip stepped up to the outsized, vintage microphone.

Silence grabbed the room by the throat. Even Jerry was struck dumb.

What? I don’t … by Jingo … that’s Reba!

“Cough-cough!” somebody said. “Shut up!” I said, “That’s Reba!”

She began to sing:

“There’s a garden, what a garden
Only happy faces bloom there
And there’s never any room there
For a worry or a gloom there.”

… There was scattered applause. Reba began to strut like a Ziegfeld girl, but with more panache. …

“Oh there’s music, and there’s dancing,
And a lot of sweet romancing,
When they play the polka
They all get in the swing.”

… Reba was lifted on a pedestal which rose from the stage. The stage lights came up and the set grew to a size that would have done Busby Berkeley proud. From stage right of the Donoho’s meager theater, the rest of the thirteen siblings came out clad in white tuxedos and evening gowns, walked gracefully down a wide, stately, white staircase and raised their voice in song. …

“Every time they hear that oom-pah-pah
Everybody feels so tra-la-la
They want to throw their cares away
They all go lah-de-ah-de-ay.”

… There was Sam and Mary D. and Thad and Sadie and Lucy and Albertine and Cordell and Fannie and Carmack and Orion and Tommy. Fred rose out of his wheelchair, grabbed Aunt Elizabeth by the hand and they jumped onstage and joined the chorus line. …

“Then they hear a rumble on the floor
It’s the big surprise they’re waiting for
And all the couples form a ring
For miles around you hear them sing …”

… Then, their beloved spouses came down another staircase stage left, joining the siblings. They all lay on their backs on the floor in a big circle and we saw them as one would see the June Taylor dancers. They all picked up the chorus as they moved their ancient limbs in suggestive ways …

“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun
Roll out the barrel, we’ve got the blues on the run
Zing, boom, ta-rarrel, sing out a song of good cheer
Now’s the time to roll the barrel, for the gang’s all here!”

They all took a bow to thunderous applause and a dozen maidens, some who looked like Mary Pickford and some who looked like Clara Bow, threw forget-me-nots from dainty baskets.

Then Louise Brooks nudged me with her elbow, we took a to-go plate and drove off in the PT Cruiser to the envy of all. We drove to the ’20s and lived happily ever after, eating Southern food every night until the flood of ’69 ruined everything. (But, that's a whole different blog. )

And I called it “The Aristocrats.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Go directly to gel ...

I was at the Waffle House drinking my coffee and reading the paper the other day when a particular headline caught my eye:

“New Gel May Aid Sex Drive.”

Yep. There’s a new female testosterone gel for menopausal women who have lost interest in sex. About dang time! This opens whole new avenues of dating options for me, Bob.

Now that I’m in my 40s, I was kind of holding out for the girls in their 20s who were dating guys my age when I was their age. Alas, it looks like the pendulum has swung back in favor of the young guys. Turns out, once I get here, 40 is the new 40. And, Bob misses out … again.

But now comes LibiGel, geared toward the woman with a low libido. All she need do is slop a little gel on her upper arm once a day and ha-cha-cha! O.K., it’s not as “topical” an application as I would have imagined. But whatever works.

I’m delighted about this. An estimated 40 million women suffer from some sort of sexual disorder. I've dated about half of them. If LibiGel can fix the other half, I’m back in business. And to the more … mature … woman, I still have a little of my boyish charm. What … mature … woman wouldn’t be drawn to my rakish grin and gray streak that’s not quite as premature as it used to be?

I’m going to get some of this gel. And a little Viagra. Things are going to be better for me, Bob. This time I’m going for that four-hour erection they warn you about on the package. And I’m going to use all four hours. Not spend three hours and fifty-eight minutes watching the clock like last time. Shucks! I may even go into extra innings.

So, I’ll go find me a blue hair, slather some of that new gel on her, pop a Viagra and let ’er ride! And after that four hours, we’ll both slap on a nicotine patch and watch a little “Matlock” on the cable TV.

Yes, sir. Life has suddenly started to look a little better for me, Bob.

Outtakes: “… it’s not quite like popping a cherry, but, I like cherry cobbler, too.” A little too crass for the high standards of this blog.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yeah, I'm a sicko ... but it *is* Halloween!

I just got back from a lovely weekend jaunt to Tennessee. I had the opportunity to swing by the old hometown ... check out my old stomping grounds ... see some moo-cows.

I made it a point to go up to the cemetery and pay my respects to the grandparents. Well ... strictly speaking, the way I do it, it's not really "respect," but I did get a few good one-liners in. And I do miss them.

Eerily, I got to see where, sometime between now and 2056, I will be buried:

I even had a chance to try it out for comfort:

Turns out it's not like trying out a Posturpedic in the store. It was a little hard to get up and down. Fortunately, by the time I use it for real, "down" will be easy and "up" really won't be an issue. Long about that time, my Sleep Number will be infinity. Had really good back support, though ...

Friday, October 10, 2008

American Graffiti

A Ram ... A Lamb ... A Ram ... A Llama ... Ding Dong.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

To pee? Not to pee?

My friend, Nessa, posted a hilarious blog about something that happened to her and invited her readers to share their own embarrassing moments.

Since I never know when to shut up, I rambled on for about a page.

Very few people have ever heard this story. It was not something I really cared to publicize, but now enough time has passed that it doesn't really matter anymore.

So, here you go:

I’ll never forget a particular freelance job I did few years ago for a company out of New York. It was a product launch for Seasonale (Only FOUR Periods a Year! … may cause breakthrough bleeding and spotting).

A few days before the event, I had transitioned from one kind of crazy pill to another and I was still settling in with the new medication. I was a little spacey as my brain juice tried to figure out how to block the betas, soak up the seratonin or whatever it was doing inside my skull.

These meetings usually mean working 12-15 hours a day for four or five days. When we broke for lunch on the second or third day, I was already starting to show some wear. I was worn out. I ate the chow and then took a potty break.

The event was being held in a ballroom in one of the big downtown hotels. The boys’ room was out the ballroom, past the elevators and way across the lobby. I found a nice urinal, deployed, did my business, put everything back in place, washed my hands and headed back to the ballroom.

I looked so nice and so professional walking back through the lobby. All buttoned down and stylin’ with a silk tie – might even have been Italian – and nice, light khakis. I got back and sat down by the New York producer as she conferred with the Director of Production.

Then I looked down at my lap and my pants were soaked. Showed up really good on khaki.

Oh, my God!

What had the new medicine done to me? Did I black out? Did I lose all bladder control? Did I mistakenly zip and flush not realizing I was still mid-stream? Was I that crazy? What should I do?

I hid. I whipped out my cell phone and called a friend of mine.

“I’m on a job! I’ve got new crazy pills! I think I just wet my pants!” Laughter. It’s remarkable how little sympathy incontinence engenders.

Well, I called the producer and asked if she could spare me for 45 minutes and dashed home. I’d already bribed the parking-lot attendant so I could come and go without paying a full day’s rate every time I parked.

I rushed in the house and ripped the soiled pants off and hopped in the shower so I wouldn’t smell like an old man or a homeless person. I put on fresh pants and rushed back downtown to the hotel and apologized to the producer for my untimely absence.

Eventually, I had to make another trip to the accursed men’s room, and as I walked toward the urinal which had so betrayed me earlier, I noticed that the sink was leaking all over the countertop and dripping water down the front of the cabinet right where I had leaned when I washed my hands earlier.

Well, I was humiliated, but the show went on. And I’m sure I made an impression on the people from New York.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hallows, I Must Be Going!

God! It’s October again. That means Halloween is bearing down on me like freight train full of Candy Corn as I stand on the track like a dumbstruck deer awaiting the inevitable impact. Come October 31, it's going to be deer to eternity.

I’m not going to sit here and type another “The Meaning of Halloween,” because you’ve heard it a million times before. And because, frankly, I don’t care.

I’m just going to ask why, during this time of the year, do people lose all sense of style and class and fill their yards with the most tasteless objects they can buy? They get the 15-foot tall inflatable ghost, the scarecrow, the gigantic Jack-o-Lantern. Then they dust off the inflatable Santa Claus, reindeer, the angels or whatever, because these go up November first. Why?

Why? Why? Why?

Yeah. It’s October now. I get it. Why advertise? So you can read a calendar. So can I. I mean, I’ve got a blow-up doll, too, but I don’t put it out on my lawn!

(Actually, I can see the value of a well-lit, 20-foot long inflatable reindeer to draw fire in case Ms. Palin flies over on her way to another debate.)

And the round-headed ghosts made of bedsheets hanging from trees like some ectoplasmic lynching. What’s that all about? That’s some strange fruit, alright.

Holidays should be happy occasions shared with family. Inside the house. Not an excuse to put your vulgarity on public display. I guess some people feel they must participate in this unpleasant pageantry or they will bear the stigma of being without “holiday spirit.”

Definitely a Kitsch-22.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Sting

Well ... I just got stung by a hornet.

This is arguably the most painful thing I have ever experienced from any object penetrating my body to a depth of less than half a centimeter.

I was walking into the powder room, intending no harm to any creature, great or small, when this malevolent insect makes a beeline for my arm and buries his pointy, poison bum right into the soft, white underside of my forearm. "Wha?" I say. "Ow," I say. "That bastard is still stinging me," I say. "Why won't the cursed thing let go of me?" I say. "Ow! Ow! Ow! Get it off me! Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! Get it off!" I say.

This was a real hornet. A hornet with malice in its heart. This was not some devil-may-care honey bee that could be easily intimidated and shooed back to its lair quaking in fear after nothing more than a stern rebuke. No, this thing went at me with a purpose. This was the Guy-Who-Stabbed-Monica-Seles of the insect world. I had to reach down and manhandle the thing just to get it off my arm.

Even then the blasted stinger stayed behind and kept on stinging me. What do you do in a situation like that? Is it like being impaled by a farm implement and you shouldn't pull it out otherwise it could jostle something vital inside and you could bleed to death? You see it all the time on TV. "Another inch and it would have hit an artery," and "He's lucky you didn't try to remove it. He would have bled to death in minutes."

Well, I've watched enough episodes of "Emergency!" on TVLand to know what to do. I pulled it out. It was a split-second decision. Could have meant the difference between life and death.

But, my ordeal had only just begun. What had started as just a nuisance soon blossomed into searing agony. I would rate this as a 3.0 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index: "Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut." I'm going to have to write that Schmidt guy a letter. He nailed it.

You should see the thing now. There is Ground Zero, the actual point of penetration, which is an angry red eye surrounded by an areola of swelling, perhaps a centimeter in diameter. This lies in a scarlet circle about as big around as a 50 cent piece. Then there are tendrils of redness radiating from the center, the longest of which reaches a good inch-and-a-half, two inches from the sting as the poison spreads through my body in its relentless effort to cause me harm.

It's been over an hour now and I haven't gone into anaphylactic shock, but I'm not out of the woods yet. You see, the hornet is still alive. He's out there somewhere. Waiting. Waiting.

He'll be back. I know it. But this time I'll be ready.

See the video:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Judas Priest!

If you’ll listen, I’ll tell you the story
Of an ill-fated Catholic priest
Who refused to give in to a world full of sin
Or be pushed around by The Beast.
Father Bernardo was always a maverick,
A shepherd who strayed from his flock.
He’d always been waitin’ to sock it to Satan
But, sometimes he went off half-cocked.

O! The world was in a condition
Of moral decline and decay.
He would plead and cajole to save every lost soul
And try to keep evil at bay.
But, his righteous efforts were fruitless.
His supply couldn’t meet the demand.
There were always so many to preach to that when he
Was through, vice was still out of hand.

Then, one day he devised a solution;
A scheme he started to form.
The way to salvation for all God’s creation
Lay in one hell of a storm!
She blew in from off of the ocean.
In a chartered airplane he sought her.
He took to the air and blessed it with prayer,
And for eight days it rained Holy Water.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Life was just peachy at first.
But it got out of hand, the pope hit the fan
The priest’s pious plot was now cursed.
It dealt a death blow to the wicked.
Hit politicians especially hard.
And, not just the sinister, but clergy and minister
And rabbi were all caught off guard.

They all washed away in the deluge
Or melted like the Witch of the West.
As they drowned in the gutter, the evil would sputter
How sorry they were they'd transgressed!
Bernardo himself was a victim!
I suppose he wasn’t holy as thou.
He wasn’t immune to his righteous monsoon
Though he thought he would be until now.

Bernardo had sure learned his lesson.
Mere mortals can’t keep folks from Hades.
He lay down to die and with his last sigh,
Knew that was no way to speak to a laity.
He bowed before God for his judgment.
God said, “You didn’t think it all through.
I did it all for a reason, all things in their season.
Man bit the apple, now chew.”

And that is the end of my story
Of the priest who fell out of grace.
He tried to save souls from Hell’s fiery coals
But he ended up flat on his face.
For God made evil on purpose.
It’s part of His holy design.
It seems it is our doom, and to err is human,
And to forgive is surely divine.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I'm Going to Burn for This One!

Let's see ... who had the lamb? ... don't forget to add the tip...
... look at the price of this wine! ... I told you we should have gotten a pitcher ...
... let's just split it 12 ways ... no! You don't owe anything ... you're the Host!

No ... I think that one looks more like a bunny rabbit.

I've seen this one before. Let's see if we can get Seinfeld.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Wages of Cinema

My friend “Lucky” on MySpace recently posted a blog listing a number of movies she would like to see and challenging her readers to make a list of their own. Drawing on my long years of experience in the TV Listings industry, here are my selections:

Out on a Lamb Chop
(Children) A lovable sock puppet discovers she was a ventriloquist’s dummy in a previous life.

Clash of the Titanic
(Drama) Perseus sinks his fortune in the “unsinkable” Argo only to learn that he has been fleeced. [Yeah, I know … it’s “Jason and the Argonauts,” but it’s all Greek to me. Troy, Troy again, I guess.]

Brokeback to the Future
(Science Fiction) Marty and Doc explore their feelings for one another in the Hill Valley of 1955.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Max
(Comedy) An all-star cast races to find a cache of gasoline buried somewhere in a post-holocaust Australian Outback in this comic tour de force.

Children of a Lesser Godfather
(Drama) Francis Ford Coppola directs this powerful drama that chronicles a family of deaf mobsters over a span of ten years.

Citizen Caine Mutiny
(Drama) A Machiavellian newspaperman weathers a typhoon in 1944 Manhattan.

Singin’ in the Rainman
(Musical) An autistic singer and dancer “definitely” makes the transition from silent films to talkies.

Wild, Wild West Side Story
(Western) Two gunslingers in the 1950s face a gang of murderous teens in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.

Breakfast Club at Tiffany’s
(Drama) Five eccentric socialites are thrown together and discover that they are five eccentric socialites.

The Grapes of Wrath of Khan
(Science Fiction) A group of genetically enhanced supermen steal a starship in order to flee an ecologically ravaged planet in search of a better life in Oklahoma.

The Princess Bride of Frankenstein
(Comedy) A beautiful young re-animated woman keeps the audience in stitches as she searches for her one true love.

Fiddler on a Hot Tin Roof
(Musical) A Southern family in crisis struggles to hold on their way of life when a melodious eastern European Jewish family moves in next door.

My Fair Lady and the Tramp
(Musical-Animated) A Cocker Spaniel and a mongrel are passed off as royalty by their boorish trainer.

Pee-Wee’s Big Poseidon Adventure
(Comedy) A naïve onanist tries to regain his lost reputation after his career is capsized.

Village of the Damned Yankees
(Musical) A group of sinister British schoolchildren form a Little League baseball team to go head-to-head against the New York Yankees with the help of a crusty old coach.

Cheaper by the Dirty Dozen
(Drama) Personalities clash when a couple tries to raise twelve misfit soldiers in Montclair, New Jersey during World War II.

Flashdances With Wolves
(Drama) A young woman aspires to become accepted by a prestigious dance academy on the frontier during the Civil War.

The Magnificent Seventh Sign
(Thriller) A priest investigates seven mysterious gunmen whose appearance portends the return of Jesus Christ.

Little Orphan Annie Get Your Gun
(Musical) A sharp-shootin’ orphan and her dog thwart a pair of greedy low-brows in Depression-era New York City with the help of a wealthy capitalist.

The Heart is a Lonely Bounty Hunter
(Comedy) A rejected and forgotten deaf-mute pursues four zany misfits to a 1930s mill town in the deep South.

Hard Day’s Night of the Living Dead
(Horror)  Four members of an English rock band are trapped by their own fame in an abandoned farmhouse surrounded by a horde of ghoulish fans.

Blackboard Jungle Book
(Musical-Animated) An infant abandoned in the jungles of India is raised by a group of inner-city hoodlums bent on mayhem.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Hearts and Coronets
(Science Fiction)  A group of eccentric aliens sets out to systematically murder a family of aristocrats in Edwardian England.

Soylent Green Berets
(Science Fiction)  A newspaper reporter bites off more than he can chew when he investigates the suspicious disappearance of an elite military unit in 1968 Vietnam.

Sitting Bull Durham
(Romantic Comedy) A rookie Indian chief knocks one out of the park when his team goes head to head against General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

The Man Who Knew Too Much Ado About Nothing
(Thriller) An American couple traveling in Morocco is caught up in an intricate web of intrigue and manage to stop a wedding that no one cares about.

Barefoot in Gorky Park
(Romantic Comedy) A free-spirited woman and her down-to-earth husband reaffirm their love in the wake of a series of gruesome murders.

Gilligan’s Island of Dr. Moreau
Seven stranded castaways perform a disastrous series of experiments on native wildlife.

Dirty Harry and the Hendersons
A veteran cop tracks a sadistic serial killer with the help of a cryptozoological rookie.

20/20 Thousand Dollar Pyramid
Contestants compete to guess relevant topics of the day.

Dances With Airwolves
A Civil War-era soldier uses a state-of the-art helicopter to aid a band of Sioux on the American frontier.

ALF-red Hitchcock Presents
A wisecracking puppet hosts an anthology of gripping mysteries.

Barney Miller and Friends
A level-headed police captain tries to maintain discipline among a dimwitted dinosaur, a gaggle of unruly children, and Abe Vigoda.

This Old House
A band of do-gooders restore a crotchety old doctor.

All My Children of the Corn
An errant couple meet their end in a cornfield at the hands of unruly children.  And the whole town worries.  Worries.

Moby Dick Van Dyke Show
A successful comedy writer bets his career on the Great White Joke.  And it stinks.

Monday, August 4, 2008

145 pilgrims die in shrine stampede

As I sat in the Waffle House this morning drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper, I happened to glance at an item released by the Associated Press informing me that:

“... Pilgrims stampeded at a mountaintop Hindu temple in northern India on Sunday, and at least 145 people were killed in a crush that sent worshippers plummeting to their deaths over a broken railing.”

It broke my heart. After all the centuries of collaboration, teamwork and sheer bonhomie between Pilgrims and Indians, that this should happen in our day and age is appalling and shameful.

Indians are cool. Ever since that first Indian stuffed old Tom Turkey and his squaw made the New World’s first Jell-O mold, no Indian has let a Pilgrim come to harm. And every American since has been thankful for that. That’s history. Look it up.

So, how could the Indians drop the ball so disastrously as to let over a hundred Pilgrims plunge to a ghastly death simply because no one saw fit to run to Home Depot and pick up a hammer and a couple of ten-penny nails? Not Do-It-Yourselfers, I guess.

When next Thanksgiving rolls around, things won’t be the same for me. The sweet potatoes just won’t taste so sweet and Macy’s balloons just won’t fly so high. I’m going to say an extra little prayer for those Pilgrims, and I think every Indian should ask himself, "Where did I go wrong?"

We’ve always been the best of friends, we and the Indians. But this time you let us down, Squanto. How can we ever trust you again?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Lumberjack" Is "Nature" Spelled Backwards

Below is an excerpt from a friend of mine’s blog and my reply. I like to yank her chain.

… When I was young, the first weird thing I did was to climb trees

and talk to them. By the time I was a teenager, once I discovered
camping and hiking in the woods, I knew that I had a deep
connection with Nature …

… Healing must take place, in perceptions, and in Reality …

The Earth must be treasured and treated with respect ...
We are all a member of the Earth Tribe ... We are in this together, us
Earthlings … We've got this planet to live on and we need to figure out
how to do it cooperatively ...

I hear what you’re saying. I’ve always been a little “outdoorsy,” myself.

Ah, how I pine for those summers I spent as a lumberjack! This was back in the days before diesel- or gasoline-powered equipment. The best we had was an axe and a cross-cut saw. But even those were in short supply, so more often than not, we’d have to make do with a butter knife and tweezers. And if those broke, sometimes we’d just harness up a beaver and set to. I cleared eight acres of hardwood one time with nothing but a beaver and a broken beer bottle.

We felled all kinds of trees. We didn’t care. The mighty oak, the slippery elm, the dumb ash. In the winter, we chopped down maple trees and shipped them to Vermont for the syrup trade. My favorite was the bonsai, because they came down real easy. Then we’d drag those old logs down the skid road and float ’em down the river to Chinatown to make chopsticks. You had to be mighty careful with bonsai, though, when you were hopping from log to log on the river. They’re quick to roll with you.

One year we cleared the better part of Nevada. That’s why there are no trees there now. We’d chop at those trees – sometimes it would take two or three good licks to bring one down – and we’d holler, “Timbre!” Or sometimes, “Adagio!” because we thought it was right funny and we used to tease this one whistle punk, anyway, because he’d studied at Julliard.

After a hard day lumberjacking, the boys would sit around the bunkhouse eating pancakes and singing tree shanties. And sometimes we’d drink to excess. We drank turpentine mostly, which we also used for bathing. After a couple of stacks of flapjacks and three or four stiff shots of turpentine, sometimes we’d play dress-up or put on shows. That Julliard kid was the best at it.

We didn’t have much trouble with Indians back then. Now and then we had to fight off a tribe of unruly Frenchmen, though. I don’t know what riled them up – they were crazy with Jacques itch, maybe – but they were stubborn rascals. Just couldn’t seem to get rid of them. Then we started baiting bear traps with brie. That brought them up short. I’ve got a rug in my game room to this day that I made out of one of those son-of-a-guns!

I remember one time we ran out of pancakes. Most men would have packed it in and moved on. But we wanted to stick it out until this particular stand of ficus was ready to come down. We stayed in that camp without food for fourteen months and finally had to eat the sled dogs, which was O.K. because there wasn’t any snow in New Mexico, anyway. By the time it was over, one boy had gnawed his own leg off from hunger, and we had to shoot another fellow so he’d have something to eat.

Yes, sir, there’s no closer bond than the one shared by a band of lumberjacks in the great outdoors. We were just like brothers. Closer, in some cases. Until one day one of our high toppers went up north and brought himself back a lumberjill and set up house. Things just weren’t the same after that and we all drifted apart. One boy got a job with the highway department, another boy went into landscaping. I was a parking lot attendant in Las Vegas for a while until it got too commercial.

So, I know where you’re coming from. I was as close to nature as you can get without being a brutish animal. Those were the best days of my life and I shall always treasure them. I mean that from my heart. I only wish everyone could clear cut a hundred acres, then they’d know what we mean.

* * * * * *

I call "BULLSHIT" Bob!!! There is NO WAY you would have wasted brie on stinky Frenchmen!

Ah! You caught me in a fabrication. It wasn't really brie, it was cheddar. And they weren't really French. They were from Montreal.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Correspondence: April 27, 2008

My mother is pretty gung-ho about her church stuff. But that’s not my cross to bear. I went with her to a Christian book store the other day. There was shelf after shelf of every kind of Bible you can think of and then a small section labeled “Non-Fiction.” I laughed!

Then the checkout lady was ringing up my mother’s purchase, she mentioned several kinds of Bibles and told us that a particular one was just for Jehovah’s Witnesses. And, when she said “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” she rolled her eyes. The very picture of tolerance. Then she said, “I guess they have to have a translation.” I thought, “What the hell do you think yours is, lady?”

I guess what made me think of that was that they don’t just carry Protestant stuff and I saw that you can buy communion wafers there by the box. So, you could take a box up to your niece and nephew and let them commune to their hearts’ content. Unless that’s not kosher.

… So, technically, since they’re unleavened, our Jewish friends could eat the Eucharist during Passover, couldn’t they? I’m going to have to get a box of those to see what they’re like. Would they be good with any kind of spread? They have priest shirts at that store, too. I may get one of those, too, since I can’t have a pope hat.

Conan O’Brien said this week, “It’s been reported that President Bush was so impressed with Pope Benedict’s recent visit, that after he leaves office Bush may convert to Catholicism. Bush said, ‘I’d convert right now, but Dick Cheney freaks out if you get near him with a cross.’”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reach Out and Torch Someone

I guess the torch for the 2008 Olympics was in the U.S. this week. I was eating garlic chicken and reading the paper at Fortune Cookie, a lovely Chinese restaurant on Briarcliff, when I remembered the torch relay was in San Francisco that very day. And there I was giving my tacit support to the oppressors in Beijing as I gorged myself on fried rice and slurped their egg-drop soup. What an unsympathetic, socially unconscious jerk! So, when it came time to pay, I wrote, “Free Tibet” on the top of my credit slip and ran out. Yep, I’m a revolutionary!

Speaking of Olympic torches, someone asked me today if I’d seen the movie “Sherman’s March.” I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve heard of Sherman’s March. Who here hasn’t? That’s why I was so leery about the Olympics coming to Atlanta a few years ago. We all remember what happened the last time a foreigner came here with fire.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Misadventure of Bob’s Appendix

Part One: A Violation of My Innard Sanctum
November 13, 2007

Wow! What a week. I had a stomach ache on Thursday. On Friday, it finally got so bad that I had to call 911 and go to the hospital. I left the house by noon, and by 7:00, I was rolling into surgery to have my appendix taken out. I’m home now but I’m still on pain pills.

I know I have already spoken to some of you and related the news, but, due to the pain pills, I’m having trouble remembering who I spoke to. The pain medicine, Hydrocodone, is pretty cool, by the way. I’d recommend bringing it to any music concert or potluck.

I probably won’t be on the phone much because I sleep a lot and it hurts to get up and down, but I’ll try to check e-mail as often as possible. If you want to try to call, you can give it a shot after 9:00. No point in paying for a call I’m not going to remember, anyway.

* * * * * *

Do you miss your appendix yet?

Do I miss my appendix yet? It’s gone, but I’ll always have it with me in my heart. That sounds gross!

Hydrocodone is my FAVORITE! Enjoy, and if there are ANY leftovers,
promise you’ll let me have them. …

I have the feeling that this is the kind of drug that isn’t going to have any leftovers. Sorry.

This is clearly a serious surgery that would knock over the best of us —

and you seem to be taking it in stride.

Yeah, I’m on the upswing. I’m feeling better every day. I’ve still got those pesky marks from the tape that held the IV in, but a little Bestine will take that off.

Ouch. Hope you feel better. That looks nasty.

I wanted to save the appendix and make a finger puppet out of it.

I hope you feel better soon. Everyone always does once they have their purple parts taken out.

I’m doing a fair bit of lying around. The animals still want to be all over me and lie on my stomach. I just can’t have that. There are about five really sensitive spots on my tummy. You would think they had little cat-sized Arthur Murray footprints on them, because the cats hit them every time, without fail.

The pain pills are a hoot! I took one the other day, then tried to read a book. I read it for a while, then it read me for a while. It went back and forth, then we hit an impasse and just started telling each other off-color jokes.

Back on the prayer list you go …

No need for the prayer list. The doctors already fixed it.

Is appendix-less life all it was cracked up to be??

I’m feeling O.K. now. But I don’t have the guts to do it again.

* * * * * *

November 17, 2007

It’s been over a week now that I’ve thought of nothing other than my abdomen. It all seems to be getting better. About the only pain left is just from being spindled and mutilated.

I always told my nieces that I was going to get my bellybutton pierced. Then I’d add, “... but not that sissy way. I’m going to have mine done the man’s way: back to front.”

Well, danged if I didn’t do it. With that laparoscopic procedure, they dragged the appendix out the bellybutton and then sewed it nearly shut. As soon as the stitches are gone, I’ll have to start poking my finger in my navel until it’s back to the proper shape. Like re-blocking a hat.

Part Two: Abscess Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
February 9, 2008

When telling the tale of my recent appendectomy, one obliging reader responded, “Back on the prayer list you go …” to which I replied, “No need for the prayer list. The doctors already fixed it.” Well, I was a little premature, and God must be laughing!

It seems a little infection was left behind after my whirlwind surgery. All was well for a while as my incisions healed, but this devious little infection was growing, growing inside me.

I was wholly unaware of this hidden danger. I went about my business as if nothing were amiss. Tra-la-la! All was well with the world.

Well, it turns out that when some crafty little infection is growing, growing inside you, it can result in excruciating back pain. And how! A little chiropractic action relieved the pain, but I was left with an absurd limp. This was soon accompanied by a shooting pain in my legs resulting in a peculiar shuffling gait. Oh, what a sight I must have been!

In due course, the pain in my back started to grow again and I took up residence on the living room couch which offered more back support than I had been getting. The back pain and mystifying pain in my legs grew little by little until, one morning, for the life of me, I couldn’t stand up. Walking was out of the question.

I waited for the condition to right itself, but I remained lame.

As I lay on the couch, a useless cripple, the sinister infection continued to grow. On my back and out of my sight, a bulge the size of one of your smaller melons appeared (see photo).

Ah! What exquisite pain! Time to see a doctor.

Wheelchair bound, my concern was with my legs and why they wouldn’t walk for me. The doctors were more captivated by the protuberance on my back. It turns out the two were interrelated. A CT scan revealed that the enormous bulge was an abscess pressing on something vital to walking and would I mind checking into the hospital to have it drained.

Off I went to have the abscess drained. I’m told that about a cup of pus came out of that thing on my back. Why the surgeon felt the need to express the volume of discharge in terms of dishware, I don’t know, but it was a little unsettling.

Well, they stuck me with three bags to catch the remaining goo that was still draining out of the site and admitted me to the hospital for a week of IVs, needles and hospital food.

Amazingly, once I was pumped out, I could walk again, after a fashion. I’m using a walker, though, until my legs resume their old familiar frailty.

Finally, after the nurses had inflicted all pain necessary and unnecessary, and punctured every vein in both of my arms, they sent me home with two drainage bags still sucking infection from me like a pair of unquenchable parasites.

I now await a doctor’s appointment during which these greedy little bags might at last be removed and this whole episode — which began some three months ago — might come to a long overdue conclusion.

NOTE: All procedures, real or imagined, mentioned above resulted in acute and absolute pain.

* * * * * *

All pain inflicted in the hospital is at once real and imaginary. Some
is actually being inflicted, but you imagine it must be worse than it is and
hurt accordingly.

No. No, this pain was real. And, true to form, as they were preparing to send me home, one of the nurses devised a devilish dénouement to my hospital stay: instead of gently sliding the IV out of my weary vein, she callously ripped off the tape — catheter and all! Oi! The IV came out sideways leaving a ribbon of torn flesh in its wake. Left a mark, that did.

Your tales are disturbingly entertaining ... and I can’t imagine how much
fear and anxiety you’re channeling through the humor …

I didn’t really have much anxiety in the hospital. More like a grim resolve. I knew that every time the door opened, something was else was going to hurt me. Que sera sera.

I still can’t wait till you graduate to a cane so you can be like House …

I’ve been walking with a cane for some time now. I’d make a very, very, very fine House. Or to put a Biblical spin on it, I’ve got a cane and now I’m able.

I hope you are on the road to recovery and that you regain normal frailty in your legs soon.

In the mornings I look like a foal rising feebly for the first time on its fragile little legs. I shamble to the restroom with unsure steps hoping in vain to regain my accustomed sure-footedness. That frail enough for you?

You’ll be tap dancing in no time!

I tried it once. Now I’m all tapped out. I’d be good at it, though. I already have the cane.

Prayers are in for a speedy recovery from the recovery.

You said you were going to pray for a speedy recovery nearly four months ago. Evidently it didn’t take.

* * * * * *

February 15, 2008

Since I wrote that e-mail, I discarded the walker and moved to a cane to help me walk. A few nights ago, I stopped using the cane and am walking on my own. I get some killer edema in my feet while I sleep, and in the morning I’m a little wobbly until everything sorts itself out.

They took one drain out before I left the hospital and sent me home with two still attached. I drain them nightly and chart the amount of discharge. Last Tuesday, the doctor removed one more of the bags. He will remove the last one when the amount of ooze gets down to 5 to 10 milliliters a day.

* * * * * *

February 21, 2008

I’ve been walking without aid for over a week. Went to the doctor today. Had the last drain removed. I have a slight bulge developing near my bellybutton. The doctor says it looks like a hernia from blowing a stitch after surgery. Says he’ll fix it if it bothers me. Sounds expensive. CT scan next week to make sure all the little pus guys are gone. I hope so. Don’t want to have to drain them again. No drain, no pain.

Speaking of expensive, the bills from this medical misadventure are still coming in. As it stands now, assuming my appendix was responsible for all my recent misfortune and assuming it was about three inches long, that little bugger cost about $14,000 an inch.

My appendix: An expensive cut of meat.

* * * * * *

February 24, 2008

Yep, seems like I’m getting a little better every day. And, after 22 days, I’ve exchanged that last drainage tube for a simple Band-Aid. I’m still a little sore in that spot, but I guess that’s to be expected.

Part Three: Suppuration Anxiety
February 29, 2008

(Reader Discretion is Advised)

It has been a month now since my magnum o’ pus was pumped out. I enjoyed what I hope will be my final CT scan this week and got the results back yesterday. According to the scan doctor, the mass of goo has diminished significantly, but “… continues to cause some mild displacement of the right kidney due to its retroperitoneal location. It involves the right paravertebral muscles, psoas, and oblique muscles in the flank and extends into the pararenal fat and fascia with extensive fat stranding and irregularity. …” and “… it does have a large component along the iliacus muscle centrally.” That’s an oblique way of saying, “His back still hurts.” I could have told her that for free.

She continues, “There is one single fairly well-defined pocket of fluid along the iliac crest posteriorly … measuring 2.7 x 1.2 cm.” Now, I don’t want to complain, but I could do without being tapped like a keg again to drain well-defined fluid or any other kind of putrescence. It’s painful and humiliating. And, no sir, I didn’t like it. So, let’s leave it be and maybe it will go away.

Incidentally, the scan also revealed that my prostate is not enlarged. Good to hear. I think it’s worth the time and expense to scan the ol’ prostate from the outside rather than having it checked the traditional way.

My CT scan before drainage and after. I’m no doctor, but I think
in cross section a person should at least be symmetrical.

Yep. You gotta love that CT scan. It is to dye for! You lie alone in a cold, unfeeling machine and it lays you bare before God and all. Fully clothed though you may be, the doctors have a ringside seat to inspect all your organs and viscera. Check your modesty at the door!

And, speaking of organs, on several of the CT scan images you’ll see the ghostly apparition of my pee-pee. It wasn’t really necessary to scan in my case — I think the technician just did it to satisfy his prurient curiosity. It is interesting to examine the whole series, though, as the pictures progress up my groinal area slice by revealing slice. Nothing … nothing … nothing … whoa! What’s that?! The unrelenting machine continues, the images of — you know — diminishing until it finally resembles nothing more than a little circumcised string. Then nothing … nothing … Turns out it’s pretty photogenic. It’s not strictly soft tissue. … It comes and goes.

Now, after emergency appendectomy and subsequent infection, mammoth bulge hanging off my back, a tangle of drainage tubes snaking their way into my insides and a brand new hernia to keep my bellybutton company, you’d think the worst would be over. But, now I notice my hair is falling out.

It was thick and luxuriant as ever last weekend. A day later I was running my fingers through it and scrutinizing my tresses in the mirror, and observed that it has definitely gotten thinner. To top it off, I think I have a genuine bald spot.

And, behold, my armpit hair has disappeared. This is all in the past four or five days! At this rate, I’ll soon be hairless as a Chihuahua. A wretched, trembling Chihuahua. I’m taking vitamins to encourage hair growth, but in my spare time I practice my comb-over and rail at God. Ah, well!

Naturally, now that my body has begun to betray me, dealing blow after agonizing blow, I have become particularly paranoid about my wellbeing. What else has my spiteful carcass got on the docket to sap my vigor and zest for life? What malady lies around the next bend? Ricketts? Ague? Feline leukemia? Bring it on! I’m waiting!


(Or is it?)

* * * * * *

There are worse things than permanently hairless armpits.

Yeah, there are worse things. But I bet I’ve got those, too.

… as a chick, a lack of underarm hair would be a blessing.

The armpit thing isn’t so bad. I can still go out with confidence ... la-la-la-la confidence. Even so, though the look is strong enough for a man, it was made for a woman.

I’m more concerned about the bald spot on my head. The hair grows around it in a silky swirl, and the little bare spot stands out like the angry eye of a category 5 hair-o-cane. I’m just afraid that someday soon it just might make landfall on my forehead.

Could you draw lines to the body parts? I don’t want to miss the “string.”

This ain’t no peep show! But, if you’re interested, I have 8 x 10’s and wallet size prints all available at a reasonable price. For you, I’ll even offer one I autographed with my own John Hancock. But you’d better hurry. I’m selling them hand over fist!

This may be the grossest e-mail in the ... history of e-mail!

Hey, you should hear the details I left out! For example, the dye they inject you with for the CT scan makes your insides feel unnaturally warm. There I was, lying in the machine, my mind a million miles away, when it began assaulting my bloodstream. I felt my entire body rapidly getting warmer and warmer. It even felt hot on my pooper. Ouch! Talk about your Ring of Fire!

Seriously ... you’re a mess.

It’s not as bad as I make it out to be. It’s not really even a real bald spot. With the white streak in front, the tiny bare patch looks more like a bellybutton on a badger.