Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Backpack. Check.

Water. Check.

Rations. Check.

ComfyFoot Inserts. Check.

Fully charged iPod. Check.

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, volume I. Check.

“OK, I’m packed. I’m leaving!” I shouted as I headed out the door.

“Where are you going, again?” a voice said from the far reaches of the house.

“Post Office.” I replied.

“Oh. So, you don’t know when you’ll return. I won’t hold dinner.”

Nice, I thought, and I set off for my adventure.

I had two packages to mail and, you know, it’s one of those things where I’d be better off to tape a hundred dollar bill to the parcel and drop it in the box.

But, no, to mail a package you have to go to the Post Office.

It’s a Law of Nature.

Predictably, the queue at the Post Office was long, but I was prepared: food, water, comfy shoes and a fully charged iPod.

I settled in.

About a month later the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Is this line moving?”

Silly question, I thought, but I replied, “I don’t know. I’ll ask the guy in front of me.”

Tapping my forward neighbor on the shoulder I asked, “How long have you been here?”

“What year is it?”

I turned back, “It’s moving. He’s still alive.”

The iPod enabled me to maintain my sanity. As I munched on my trail mix I completed the entire works of Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms and was working my way through Led Zeppelin.

A very, very old man smiling broadly shuffled past us and out the door. We all took a tiny step forward.

Then, right in the middle of my air guitar rendition of ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” I heard the magical words:


I had the exact change in several currencies. I said “First Class, no confirmation, ground, red, white and blue truck, driver named ‘Ed’, keep the change.” I was out of there. Done. Cut loose. Sprung. Free as a bird.

And wouldn’t you know it the iPod was pumping out Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” How cool was that?

I’m freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. And the bird you cannot changeyangeyangeyange…

Friday, January 27, 2006


There are times I could use a fast rewind in life. You know, a remote control that would let me pause, rewind and see that bit over again. Or, do that bit over again.

Case in point, a conversation today that SHOULD have gone like this:

“Did you call the Honda dealer about the tags?”

“Yes, I called the Honda dealer about the tags, but, and I beg forgiveness on this point, I neglected to tell you about the positive outcome of that conversation in that the tags have arrived and we could have picked up the tags at lunchtime if I had remembered. Alas, I forgot to convey that detail to you. I will flog myself when we get home for my negligence and eat only bread and water for a week.”

However, conversations in my life seldom go as they SHOULD. In this case I skipped over the first bit:

I called the dealer, ascertained that the tags were available, but forgot to communicate that fact during lunch.

Rather, I launched into the second bit about forgetting with, well ‘different’ results. You be the judge. Let’s watch:

“Did you call the Honda dealer about the tags?”

“Oh, I forgot…”

“What do you mean you forgot? Didn’t I remind you at breakfast this morning to call them? Didn’t I staple a reminder to your briefcase? Didn’t I leave a message on your office voice mail to call the dealer? Didn’t I send you an email on the subject, and several IM’s this morning? Huh, huh, didn’t I, huh?”

“I, uh…”

“What do I need to do, follow you around all day? Take out an ad in the newspaper? Book a radio spot? Hire an assistant? Call you every 10 minutes? Can’t you do a simple task like call a car dealer? What do I have to do, hire a sky writer?”

Skywriter, I thought. That would be cool. A skywriter doing your bidding. Yeah, I see it all now…

S U R R E N D E R     D O R O T H Y !

What’s that up in the sky!

It’s the witch! It’s the witch! Who’s Dorothy? The Wizard will know! We’re off to see the Wizard!

Great, I thought, maybe I can get out of here. A few clicks…

I looked down at my feet expecting to see the Ruby Slippers but I was in for a shock.

Black paws.

What? Black paws! What’s this? Rats, I’m not Dorothy, I’m (arf) Toto!

I checked myself out. Short stature, black fur, large moustache. Whew! At least I’m not a bichon frise! How embarrassing would that be?

Quickly, I turned tight little circles and did a bit of a hop. I heard a voice.

“Down, Toto, down! Look, the witch!”

I looked up and saw the witch finish off the exclamation point and zoom off to the west. That figured. After all, she’s the Wicked
Witch of the West.

I had to get out of here. Jumping up I grabbed Dorothy’s dress with my teeth and tugged. Dorothy looked down and I did my best to click my heels.

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home!” I thought.

It came out like “Arf! Bow wow wow wow wow! Arf arf!”

Dorothy looked down and said, “I know it’s scary, but you should have called the Honda dealer, you Bad Dog!”

I paused then said, “But, I did call the dealer and the tags are in and we can pick them up!”

All that came out was “Arffie, arf, arf!”

I looked down in shame, but from my vantage point all I could see were the Ruby Slippers worn by Dorothy.

Mmmmm, I thought, slipperrrrrrs…

Suddenly, I leapt forward, grabbed the slippers, wrenched them off her feet and ran into the forest.

She exclaimed very un-Dorothy-like, “WTF?”

But, it was too late! Off I scampered with the slippers in my teeth and once I was safe in the forest, I dropped the shoes, put my hind legs in them and clicked.

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home!”

A fog began to encircle me and soon I was lifted up, up, and up, until…

“Are you listening to me at all? Do I have to do all your thinking for you? Knock, knock. Is anybody home?”

I said, “I called the dealer this morning and the tags are in. I forgot to tell you at lunch and we could have picked them up at that time, but I’ll go out on Saturday and get them. It’s not a problem. Also, I’ll get some stuff to fix the fence while I’m doing errands.”


“Oh. Well, I’m sorry I jumped on your case. My bad.”

“Bad? You’re Nationwide!”

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mobius Trip

“Get in the right lane.”


“Why? Because I’m the Navigator and I say so. Get in the right lane, go down the frontage road and take Eldridge. The Beltway is bunged up.”

We approached the interchange and I was still in the center lane weighing my options.

“Looks like it’s moving to me.”

“You need to turn right. Right! Turn.”

“I think it’s moving. Look! Look, Jane, look. See the cars. See the cars go. Go, cars, go!”

“OK, OK, turn left if you want. Fine. Left full rudder.”

I turned left and the traffic stopped. There were police lights ahead, but only at the entrance ramp.

“See?” I chortled, “We can go up to the next light and we’ll be on our way, Little Ms Pessimist Person.”

At that moment the radio announcer broke in with a traffic report.

“A fuel spill on I-10 has all lanes blocked. Traffic is already backed up to San Francisco. Expect delays of one to three years.”

We were five minutes from work and five minutes into our journey. Twenty minutes later we would still be five minutes from work.

“Take the next side street,” said Navigator, “or I’ll reach over there and snatch your ear off.”

“Aye,” I replied.

“This looks bad. I’m going to make the call.”



Beeeep boop boop beeeep beep boop beep beep.

“Mobius control, hold on.”


“You’re in.” I could hear Mobius’ baritone voice through the cell phone.

“Listen carefully and do exactly as I say or you’ll be lost in the Matrix and the next people to find you will be archaeologists.”

“Go ahead,” Navigator replied, “I’ll put you on speaker so The Driver can hear.”

“Who’s The Driver today?” Mobius asked.


“You know.”


“Sorry to hear that.” Mobius sounded sincere.

He continued, “You’re coming up to a construction site. There’s a gate on the right. It’s closed but only with a thin wire. Go through the gate. Don’t stop.”

“Now!” Navigator yelled.

I wrenched the truck to the right, bounced up the curb neatly avoiding a bichon friche out for a stroll, crashed through the gate and bounded across the contstruction site.

“There’s a dirt mound straight ahead. You need to hit the base of it at exactly 82.33 miles per hour.”

“Got it,” I replied pressing hard on the accelerator. The truck leapt forward as the speedometer climbed to 50, 66, 78, 82 and as we struck the edge of the dirt pile 82.33. We rocketed up the pile and gracefully sailed over the other side of the construction, barely brushing the Bradford pear trees along the street and landed squarely in the road bouncing once. I fought to get the truck under control.

We roared down the road into a sea of red taillights. Refugees from the I-10 arterial blockage.

Mobius intoned calmly, “Two hundred yards ahead there is a break in the median. Cross to the left into oncoming traffic. Straddle the center line.”

“Three, two, one…now!” shouted Navigator.

I pulled hard on the steering wheel fishtailing into oncoming traffic and amid the blaring of horns the traffic parted as if by magic. We cut through like a hot knife through butter, Moses in the Red Sea or a really bad intestinal problem in a disco. Whatever metaphor you want, people got out of our way.

“OK,” Mobius said, “you’re almost there but this is going to be tricky and require split second timing. When you see a red Lexus being driven by a Hungarian woman named Doris, turn left in front of her.”

Cars and trucks were a blur to the left and right. I focused on red cars. Red, red, red!

Suddenly, I saw a red Lexus driven by a blonde lady. In the reflection of her sunglasses I could see a bag of groceries in the passenger seat and there, on top, was a tin of paprika.

Hungarian paprika. Her personalized license plate read “D0R1S.”

I hauled on the steering wheel and the truck slid neatly in front of the Lexus and into the entrance of a Taco Bell. I hit the brakes and skidded to a stop in front of the drive-thru speaker.

“May I take your order?”

Mobius: “Order a combination number 2 and a Sprite. They’re out of Dr. Pepper.”

We pulled up to the drive thru window to get our order. Mobius broke in, “When I say ‘now’ floor it. Don’t look left. Don’t look right. Just go.”

We waited. Seconds ticked by. We heard sirens. Fire trucks? Police? We couldn’t tell, but the sirens were getting louder.

Suddenly, a fire truck roared by and there was a slight gap in the traffic.

“Now!” Mobius crackled.

We shot out of the Taco Bell parking lot and into traffic neatly threading ourselves between vehicles and across to the other side.

We were through! The streets were clear ahead. We were home free. The clouds parted and a golden shaft of sunlight beamed down. Bluebirds sang. I pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine.


“If you had turned right in the first place, like I asked, we would have been home hours ago,” Navigator said, unable to let it go.

“Yeah, maybe,” I replied holding up the Taco Bell bag, “but I would have had to cook!”

Navigator smiled as I handed her a taco.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Phat Lady Sings

At the mall I overheard a teenage conversation that went something like this:

She’s fat!

Yeah, man, fat!

Think she’d go out with me?

Naw, man, she’s too fat for you! Now me, she’d go for me ‘cause I’m fat, too.

I checked out the teenagers in question and neither were what I would call fat. If anything, they weighed 100 pounds…together.

What’s this obsession with fat? In my day, the Day of the Dog, the fat girl was the one with a “great personality.” Yikes, pothole ahead! Danger, Will Robinson!

Of course, I was suffering from a culture collision. Missed the exit ramp at Alpha Centuri. George Jetson paging Judi. Hello Feebville.

Fat was Phat.

Fat was out. Phat was in.

Fast forward a few years and I’m interviewing a programmer for a job. She’s just about as cool a programmer as ever walked this green planet. She could dereference a pointer in her head, 32-bit or 64. I said FEEB and she said DEAF in hexidecimal.

And when I asked her One-Oh-Two-Oh-Seven-Seven?

She responded: Halt code 77, octal, Hewlett-Packard 2116 minicomputer circa 1975.

“Geeze Louise,” I exclaimed, “you’re phat!”

“Excuse me,” she replied, “I’m pregnant.”

“No, no no!” I persisted, “you’re, like, way phat! I mean like cool phat. Phatness to the n-th degree.”

My interviewee’s eyes narrowed. She leaned forward, grabbed me by the tie, pulled my head down to the desk and hissed…

“I’m not fat. I’m pregnant. And if you say the fat word one more time it will be your last word. Got it, skinny boy?”

As the world began to turn grey I reached for a pen and with my last moments of consciousness I scribbled the word:


On my desk pad.

She looked down, released my throat, sat up in her seat and chirped,

“Oh, phat like phat phat. Why, thank you! You’re a little fat yourself.” Batting her eyes.

“So, do I have the job?” the phat lady enquired?

“You had me at 102077.”

And phat was that.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Caller Number One

“Caller Number One, you’re on the air.”

That’s how I’m answering the phone this year. I used to say things like “Computer Applications, Bill speaking, how may I help you?” or “This is Bill in Comp Apps. Make it a great day.”

But after years of trying to be helpful and polite I shortened the entire thing down to one word:


Sometimes I’d say “Yello, Simpson here.” That was good for a laugh. I got a lot of hang-ups with that one, though. Except for Mr. Burns in Accounting who would inevitably say “Simpson, eh?”

Oh, Simpson, I was calling Bill, I must have dialed the wrong number, better hang up quick!

This year I decided on a Radio Talk Show motif.

Caller Number One was not taken aback.

“What did I win?”

“Why you won the privilege of taking me out to lunch. Larry.”

“How’d you know it was me?” Larry was caught off-guard as usual.

“Caller ID, my friend. Greatest invention since that thing that takes a loaf of bread and cuts it all up. What’s that called, I’ve had a synapse relapse?”

“Sliced bread.”

“Yeah, Larry, right on! Sliced bread. How quaint. So, are we on for lunch?”

“I guess. It’s my turn to buy, right?”

“And drive. Don’t forget that, my friend, buy and drive. Meet you at the top in 5.”


Five minutes later we were heading out to the parking lot solving the World’s problems.

“And then I’d merge IBM with Tyson and we’d have chicken-powered computers,” Larry enthused.

Mmmmmmmm, chicken! I thought.

We arrived at Larry’s car and at that moment Larry had that deer-in-the-headlights look as he patted himself down in search of keys.

Before he could offer an excuse, though, I suggested we take my car and soon we were on our way.

Although I heard this “ding ding” alarm bell, I ignored it as is my way.

For example, “Honey, do these shorts make my butt look big?”


“Well, now that you mention it…”

(Ice Age follows.)

So, we arrived at $u$hi Jin for an exquisite meal of Japanese delicacies and service second to none in Houston and chowed down like raw fish was going out of style. We went on what the movie critics call a “roaring rampage.”

We roared and we rampaged and we got fishy satisfaction.

The conversation was great and not only did we solve the World’s problems but we designed several new philosophical schools to boot. All in all, an event on a Galactic scale.

Accordingly, the bill was astronomical.

“Whoa, Larry, I think you’re going to have to take a second mortgage on this one!” I chuckled.

Larry looked at the bill, calculated the tip and said “No problem. You’ve paid for your share of lunches. Yeah, my daughter may have to drop out of college, but it’s worth it. Great lunch.”

Then, Larry reached into his coat, patted his rear pockets and did a general Hawaii 5-O frisk, looked up and said “Oops.”

“Oops?” I replied, “What oops?”

“Oops like I left my wallet at the office with my car keys. Oops like I have no money. No keys. And, oops.”

You know, I should have stood up at that moment and walked out but the thought that ran through my mind was “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

I pony upped the bill and soon we were on our way back to the office.

“Hey, I owe you one,” Larry chimed as he disappeared down the corridor to his little cubicle amongst the galley slaves.

“De rien,” I replied as I headed to my spacious office in the Executive Wing.

My assistant who had a worried look on her face met me.

“Sir, this just came in from the Continent.”

I looked at the Telex which read “Le singe et sur la branche.”

Uh, oh. This spelled trouble. I went into my office and dialed 2176, my emergency number.


“Larry, how’s your French?”

Monday, January 16, 2006

Google’s Got You Covered

I can barely remember what life was like before cell phones and Google. Actually, I can: I spent more time looking up stuff in books and being lost. Not really lost as in Lost lost, just in the wrong place which is just as bad; the “wrong place” being not the place my wife was.

I digress.

Here I am in sunny Allen, Texas. Ha! You thought that previous posting was a joke. So did I. I really am in Allen, Texas and it’s a fine town.

The first thing I did when I got into my hotel room was unpack the PowerBook and hook it up to the Internet cable. I guess a close third after cell phones and Google is hotels with Internet connections. Especially FREE Internet connections. Imagine that! My $200 a night room has FREE Internet. I am a King.

So, I hooked up the PowerBook, brought up Google and went to Google Maps where I typed in “krogers, allen, texas” and faster than the Sackmeiser could bag a can of Turkey ‘n’ Giblets, up came a map of local Kroger’s stores. The closest Kroger’s was on the corner of Allen Heights and Bethany.

I needed to pick up a few things: bagel crisps, beef jerky and a box of sushi. I can tell you for sure, you can’t get bagel crisps just anywhere. I called my wife on the cell phone from Kroger’s.

“They got sushi in Allen, Texas?”

“Yeah-huh, they do! They got cheese balls on rice and minnows on rice. And some crickets. Never seen that before, but it looks good.”

Also, I needed to find a Mexican restaurant for dinner and using Google I found La Finca right there on Bethany within field goal distance of the hotel. How conveeeeeeeenient!

Soon I was back in the car and in short order had completed my shopping, enjoyed a fine Camarones A La Diabla (with Crow Poblano) and was back in my Internet saturated room for a night of surfing and listening to the chaperones of a middle school girl’s gymnastics team shouting “Don’t jump on the beds! Don’t jump on the beds!”

Allen, Texas. Just north of Dallas, hardly even out of Dallas. Founded in the 1800’s by Ebenezer Allen, a railroad promoter. Old Eb promoted railroads by hauling great, long flatcars piled high with gold bullion, gleaming in the sun.

The first train robbery was in Allen, Texas in 1878, committed by Sam Bass and his gang.

Bankrupt, Ebenezer emigrated to England where, embittered by his loss, he founded an accounting firm, developed a reputation for meanness, then, suddenly, one Christmas Eve, turned over a new leaf and learned to keep the spirit of Christmas like no man before or since.

As for Sam Bass and the Gang, they did some time in jail but Sam emerged to start a chain of Pro Fishing Shops and made a second fortune as a motivational speaker.

And that’s all the news from Allen, Texas. Next stop: Tinkerbell.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tinkerbell, Texas

“Hi, I’m Allen and it’s my pleasure to serve you tonight! Could I get you a drink?”

“Sure thing, Allen, double margarita on the rocks with salt.”

Allen paused and stared at me.

“You want two margaritas?”

“No, I want one margarita. A giant margarita. On the rocks. With salt.”

Allen was writing a thesis on his little pad.

“That would be our Special.”

“Great. One Special.”

“You want that frozen?”

“No, thanks. On the rocks. With salt.”


“Salted rim?”

I paused.

“I dunno. What kind of salt do you have?” And, as soon as the quip left my lips to float on the ether, before I could reel it back for a do-over Allen turned on his heels and headed off into the kitchen.

Over his shoulder he called, “I’ll check!” And he was gone.

Rats, rats, rats and double rats! Memo to self: don’t mess with the waiter until AFTER you get your drink.

The next Ice Age came and went and Allen returned with my Special, on the rocks with salt.

He explained, “We only have one kind of salt, so I used my initiative.”

“I hope you didn’t use it all up at once,” I quipped unthinkingly.

“Pardon me?”

Engaging brain and slipping it into high gear damage control I replied, “The salt. I hope you didn’t use it all up. My, that’s quite a large glass the Special comes in. Yes, indeed, must use a lot of salt. A veritable dome of salt, I’d say…” and I trailed off muttering.

Quickly, I changed the subject.

“So, Allen, you from around here?”

“Yep, born and raised.”

“Here in Allen, Texas.”

“Yep, my home town.”

“Allen from Allen.” I took a pull on my Special. Restraint. Restraint!

“That’s right" Allen continued, "Funny, but I’ve got a friend, Bob, who’s from Bob, Texas.”

I swallowed a chunk of ice, coughing for a few moments. Wiping the tears from my eyes I couldn’t help myself from offering…

“Well, Allen, lucky for you this place wasn’t named Tinkerbell, Texas.”

Allen was still and quiet as the consequence of what I had just said sank in. Then, he bent down close. His eyes narrowed. His brow furrowed. Quietly he hissed so only I could hear.

“If’n the town had been named Tinkerbell, then I would be proud to be called Tinkerbell. Very proud.”

And with that, Allen marched into the kitchen and was gone.

Some time later, I’d say two Ice Ages worth, another waiter came up to my table and offered an explanation.

“Allen’s gone off shift. I’ll take your order. My name is Dallas.”

I decided, for once, that discretion was the better part of valor and placed my order.

“I’ll have two more Specials, and the crow poblano looks good. Yes, I’m definitely in the mood for crow tonight.”

Friday, January 13, 2006

Grackle Whisperer

The grackle. I love that bird. Such a character! The male grackle is a black bird who is distinguished by fluffing himself up to look bigger, thrusting his beak into the air and flying with a twisted tail. The tail thing alone endears me to the grackle.

But, it’s the grackle’s call that’s the best. “Graaaaaaaaaaackle!”

We stopped at Kroger’s the other night, the kids and me, and grackles were everywhere.

“Uh, Dad, just drop us off here and we’ll walk the rest of the way.”

“What? We’re a mile away.”

“Yeah, Dad, we know. Just drop us off. We’ll be OK. We’ve got water and a little food. Meet you in the bread section.”

I stopped and let them out.

Pulling into the parking lot the grackles were everywhere. Thousands of them.

I got out of the car and took my Grackle Stance. I learned from observation that if you take the Grackle Stance the birds will recognize you as one of their own.

I held my arms out, thrust my nose in the air and tried to puff up.

“Graaaaaaaaaaaaaakle!” I screeched.

Several people turned to stare. A mother, obviously new to the neighborhood, grabbed her child’s hand and scuttled off.

“What’s that funny man doing, Mommy?” I heard.

“Don’t stare at the strange man, Allison, and let this be a lesson to you about drugs!”

As a professional I’ve been called the Grackle Whisperer. Only you can’t whisper to a grackle. You have to shout. I guess the Grackle Shouter doesn’t quite have the same ring.

“Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaakle!” I screeched.

An entire flock of birds wheeling around the Kroger’s sign shifted direction and headed my way.

I started to do the Grackle Strut. Puffed up, nose in the air, hands tucked firmly in my armpits I pranced around the parking lot.

“Graaaaaaaaaaaaaakle!” I screeched.

Thousands of birds wheeled around me in a black tornado of feathers and beaks all screeching little “Graaaaakle!” noises. I could feel their wing beats.

Then, like the first drops at the beginning of a thunderstorm the first plop of grackle poop hit my hand.

Undaunted, surrounded by my posse I issued the call: “Graaaaaaaakle!”

And the storm hit in full fury. In an immense display of affection each individual grackle dropped his or her personal load upon my outstretched body. Pelted from head to foot I called out “Graaaaaaaakle!” and my brothers and sisters, caught up in the moment, honored me in their unique way.

Plop! On the head. Plop! On the shoulder. Plop! Plop! Plop! The frequency intensified until plops became a torrent; a great rushing of honor.

“Graaaaaaaaakle!” I cried and their honor increased until the plops merged into a deafening roar of appreciation.

Then, as suddenly as they had appeared the grackles wheeled off into the twilight sky, circling twice around the Kroger’s sign and off west into the distance. Shortly they were gone and the parking lot was still.

Slowly I made my way to the front door and was greeted by Carlos.

“Honored again I see,” Carlos the Observant said.

“Yes. My people. What can I say?” I replied sagely, dripping in honor.

“Ah, yes, sir.” Carlos paused, then continued, “you are honored indeed.”

Carlos eyed me up and down. Grackle honor dripping off my nose, down my back and into my shoes. A small, white puddle of honor pooled in the foyer, ran out the front door and into the gutter.

Eying me with appreciation Carlos said,

“I’ll get a hose.”

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fries with Your Ketchup?

Before too much heartburn is generated over this I will state right off that I am a Ketchup Fan.

I am a fan of ketchup.


Prounced “KETCH-up” as in y’all better hurry and ketchup wit us, now.

I have no idea what catsup is. And I don’t want to know.

What I do know is that Google gives 4,670,000 hits for “ketchup” and a paltry 617,000 for “catsup.”

So, ketchup wins. Google says so.

Now that we got that settled I was wondering the other day what life would be like if ketchup was the main event instead of the condiment.

This all started when a friend of mine informed a caffeine-deprived group of workers one too bright morning that “they” were auctioning stuff from AstroWorld which closed down here in Houston a few months ago, and one of the items up for sale was a 40-gallon ketchup dispenser.

Whoa, said someone who was at least two cups of coffee behind the rest of us, how many packets would that be?

Being the math major of the group I quickly estimated that a packet ‘this’ long, ‘that’ wide and ‘yea’ thick would have such-and-such volume which when divided into 40 gallons, naught and naught is naught, carry the one, thirty days hath September yielded…

…about a zillion, give or take this many (and I flashed my fingers a few times for effect)

The coffee bar fell silent for a few minutes until Ten Cup Ed stuttered, y-y-y-ou k-k-k-k-k-know, I th-th-th-think he’s r-r-r-r-r-r-ight, and then Ed not so much walked, but jittered down the hall and banged into his cubicle.

The rest of us slowly filed out of the coffee bar as the words of Ed’s pronouncement sank in.

Wow, a zillion packets, someone let out a low whistle, that’s like all the ketchup you’d ever need. Ever!

Yeah, someone else said, you could like have ketchup all the time, like.

“Whoa, dude, 24-7 ketchup blows my mind,” he paused, “like.”

So, instead of working on my 2006 Goals and Objectives I devoted my day to a world in which ketchup was king. (I mean, really, Goals and Objectives? Give me a break! What’s the point? The year’s almost over. Sheesh.)

In the Ketchup World tomatoes would grow to the size of cows. The great tomato barons would have conquered the West with vast fields of tomatoes stretching from the banks of the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, or at least to Ogden, Utah.

As Gramps explained:

Yep, I remember as a kid the Ketchup Truck coming down the street. Big old honking red truck and the Ketchup Man was all decked out in his red coveralls, hauling the great red hose over his shoulder as he trudged across the lawn to the Ketchup Spigot. He’d screw that sucker in and start the pump that would fill the Ketchup Bin in the cellar plumb full. Then we’d all run up and stand around him as he released the spigot clamp and sure as shooting there would be a little back pressure and we’d all get squirted from head to foot with great gobs of ketchup.

Heh, heh, yeah, boy, those were the days.

Wow, Gramps, you had a Ketchup Bin in the cellar? Didn’t you have no Binford 3000 40-gallon Ketchup Dispenser in the kitchen?

“No, dummy,” some older kid would say, “they weren’t invented yet.”

Oh. The thought of hauling buckets of ketchup up the stairs was daunting.

Man, you had it tough Gramps. Poor Gramps.

Suddenly, the back door would fly open and Mom would yell “Dinner Time!” and we’d all zoom into the house.

“What’s for dinner, Ma?” we’d all shout!

“How about a great big bowl of ketchup with fried potato sprinkles?”

“Yea! Potato sprinkles!”

We’d all beam with pleasure, “Aw, Mom, you’re too good to us. We don’t deserve it!”

But, secretly we knew we did.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Weevil Ait Yor Paprika!

Julia Louis-Dreyfus's Elaine on Seinfeld once offered a non sequitur at a party just to relieve her own boredom: "The dingo ate your baby," she blurted in a bad Australian accent.

Imagine my shock, then, when after I tried to shake some paprika out of my favorite supply nothing came out.


I opened up the tin and, lo and behold, it was full of “weevils!” Not just a weevil here or there, but Full Of Weevils, as in gigantic, solid, crawling mass o’ weevil. WeevFest. Smackdown WeevilMania!

I was thoroughly disgustipated, not to mention out of paprika. The container was more weevil than paprika! Not to be outdone, I had a backup, but, guess what? It was weevilized, too.

Not only that, but my cache of cayenne pepper was totally weevilized. These things eat cayenne pepper? I couldn’t believe it, but there it was. Weevils on pepper.

My immediate response, after discarding the spices, was to get on Google and find out what these things were that could and would eat paprika and cayenne pepper.

The closest reference I found was to the Drugstore Beetle. Not a weevil at all; that’s just a nickname. The Drugstore Beetle is known to eat peppers, lead paint, flour, dried beans and wood.

Whatever. My paprika was gone and I needed a new supply.

“I’ll pick up some paprika at Kroger’s the next time I go out,” the Voice said.

“No, that won’t work,” I replied, “they only sell sweet paprika. We need the hot.”

“Paprika’s not hot.”

“The hot type is hot which is why I keep both. Sometimes I need hot, sometimes not.” I was pleased with my little rhyme.

“Well then you deal with it. I forfeit my responsibility for acquiring the paprika.”

“Forfeit your responsibility for acquiring paprika? Give me a break,” I thought very, very silently.

“OK, Light of my Life, I’ll handle it,” I said out loud cheerfully. And I headed out to World Market, the supplier of hot paprika.

I arrived at World Market and the place was dead. Post-Christmas slump. I picked up a few specials on my way to the spice aisle. Picture frame. Carved monkey. Shirt from Indonesia that was a print of either a crocodile or a dancing girl with a terrible overbite.

Finally, I reached the spice aisle and snagged the very last Hot Paprika tin they had. I checked the contents for weevils, being a little gun shy at this point. I also picked up some sweet paprika since it was in ready supply.

At long last, after a day battling the Drugstore Beetle/Weevil I returned home with paprikas galore and ready to cook.

“What are you doing for dinner tonight,” said the Voice?

“I bought some stuff to do my Mexican Pork Stew,” I said.

“Does that call for paprika?”

I thought long and hard about that answer. “Not usually,” pause, pause, pause, “but I think it would benefit from paprika. Yes, most definitely, it would.”

Yes, paprika for all. I’m sure the weevils would approve.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Year of…

A blogger friend of mine who is a designer starts off the new year by setting a personal theme. Each theme has been challenging and difficult to quantify like the Year of the Rock Star, of the Year of the Turkish Delight, but, perhaps, that’s what the ideal theme should be; a general direction. Go west, young man!

Today, Beth Cherry wrote:

2006 is the Year of the Butterfly.

I've given this a lot of thought. This is a big year with a lot happening for a lot of people I know, and the common thread is transformation, a movement from one state to another. The thing though that is most important to me, more important than my graduation and subsequent life change, will be the birth of my niece in February.

What then, is better than being born in the year of the butterfly? The butterfly represents freedom, creativity, divine inspiration, and change. I hope that it will be a year filled with beauty and a new, lighthearted perspective on life.

It's going to be a good year.

Now, that’s what I call a theme! It sets the tone for the entire year. I think it’s such a grand idea that I’m going to declare a theme for the year, too.

More about that later.

Meanwhile, a conversation overheard last night, New Year’s Eve:

“I’d love to sing in a band. But, I can’t sing. Although, I do love karaoke, but I’m too shy. So, by the time I’ve had enough drinks to sing, I can’t stand. And then it’s stand or sing, stand or sing. What to do? I finally figure it out, but, then, everyone’s gone home.”

I laughed until I cried. Then it was laugh, cry, laugh, cry.

The topic of conversation last night was, of course, the weather (what else?) but in particular what a mild winter we’re having here in Houston. It must have been 80 degrees F last night and people were commenting all night how hotttttttttt it was while fanning themselves furiously.

Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.

I say embrace the heat. Sweating can be a vocation.

“Hi, what do you do for a Jay Oh Bee?”

“I sweat.”

“Professional or amateur.”

“Pro circuit. I travel with the PSA.”

“Wow, I never met a Pro before! What’s your average?”

“I can hold a bead of sweat on the tip of my nose for 90 minutes. 110 is my personal best back in Oh-Two.”

Low whistle, “Whoa, baby, 90 minutes! That’s awesome. Hey, you got any tips you could share?”

“Yeah, I’ve got one I could share out. I wax my spine. Not the whole back, just the spine. Then I can control the sweat like millions of tiny, hairy tributaries all over my back feeding the main channel. On a good day, say late July, I can deliver about a pint of liquid off my tailbone alone,” I paused for effect, then continued, “without breaking a sweat!”

Yep, if I could just learn to shake like a dog I’d be Olympic material, for sure.

OK, I’ve been sitting here for 15 minutes, now, trying to find a way to bridge between vocational sweating and black eyed peas and I’m just out of ideas at this point, so there’s nothing left to do but dive right in.

Black eyed peas eaten on New Year’s Eve or Day are a Southern tradition. Whether it’s eve or day doesn’t matter to me at this juncture because I didn’t prepare them last night. Eve is moot. And, I can honestly say that I’ve never before written those three words together.

I don’t have a recipe for my black eyed peas. The only constant is that I use dried peas and not peas out of a can. That’s because I can then call myself a gourmet and be snooty about it.

Anyway, I quick-soak my peas by bringing them to a boil, turning off the heat and letting them sit for an hour or so. Then I add whatever I have at hand. This year I had a smoked sausage, an onion, some strained tomatoes and the usual assortment of spices: garlic, onion flakes, cayenne pepper and grey sea salt. All that stuff will simmer in the pot for a few hours.

Meanwhile, I’ll rustle up some cornbread and fix a large salad to go along.

Finally, my theme for the year.

2006 is the Year of Discovery.

When I announced this theme a friend of mine asked “What are you going to discover?”

Well, if I knew that it wouldn’t be discovery, would it?

Personal discovery, though, is more to the point. I have some books on the back roads of Texas so I’m going to discover some countryside new to me. New restaurants are high on the list. I’d like to discover a new author, someone I’ve never read before. I’m going to try to read one new blog, at random, each day.

Two hundred years ago Lewis and Clark returned from their voyage of discovery. This year I set out on mine.

It's going to be a good year. You're all are invited to come along.