Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Never Did Believe In Santy Claus!

At Christmas Time, folks tend to get nostalgic, remembering how Christmas used to be when they were a kid and all. I can remember very well how Christmas was for me, when I was around five years old. The year would have been 1957:

The season started the day after Thanksgiving. Not with getting up early for the 'Black Friday' shopping debacle. There were some folks that did do shopping that day, but it was nothing officially designated with all thehooplah as it is now. We would go to the guy on the corner that had a bunch of trees huddled underneath a light bulb that hung from a drop cord. That was the 'official' start of the season for us. Trees freshly cut from someone that grew them locally. The house I grew up in had nine foot ceilings, so we'd get a big one. Dad would supervise as the older kids cut an inch or two off the bottom of the trunk to help the tree soak up the sugar water we would 'feed' it. Screw the tree down tight in the tree stand, drape Mom's home sewn tree skirt around it and decorate it. The older kids would get the top, the younger kids would get the bottom. We had the old time big lights, bubble lights, a huge box of ornaments, all of them ended up on the tree. We tried stringing popcorn a few years, but with seven kids in the house, no food was safe. Especially popcorn. Throwing the tinsel on the tree was the final ritual.

Then us kids waited for the next step, the arrival of the Montgomery Wards and Sears Christmas catalogs! When they arrived, Mom and Dad would tell us to look through them, put a circle around what we wanted and write our initial in the circle. That way SANTA would know what to bring us. I had my suspicions about the validity of this Santafellah. It just didn't sound right, even to my young ears. My suspicions would turn into full-blooded disbelief on Christmas Eve.

The next step in our Christmas ritual was shopping. With no shopping malls, trudging from store to store in the cold and snow was the practice of the day. Like most kids, I loved the snow. Looking back it sure seemed like it snowed more then. But the memory can be afooler . It's probably seems that way because six inches of snow is a lot deeper for a five-year old than a fifty five year old. My Mom , my little brother and I made our way from store to store, and when there were so many packages we couldn't carry any more, we went back to the car. It was at this tender age that my thoughts about the Great, White-Bearded Fat Elf turned from the fog of suspicion to the beginnings of disbelief. For if SANTA gave the presents to people, what were WE doing all this shopping for?

Then a wondrous thing happened. This Santa guy showed up in our town! And he was fat, had a white beard, and said HO HO HO! It was enough to make me wonder if Santa wasn't for real! In 1957, Santa had his own 'house' on the corner where the YMCA was. Not much of a house, some plywood nailed together with a roof. But it was painted red and green, and had a window the kids used to get a glimpse of Santa while they waited in line to get into his house. My little brother and I waited in line on a very cold afternoon. My Mom stood off to the side with the other mothers, all of them smiling as they talked. It began to snow, and my little brother's nose began to run. Right on down under his nose, over the lips and down the chin. But he fit right in with most of the rest of the kids that had the same problem.

My little brother went in before me, but he didn't last long. He was about 3 years old, and ran out of Santa's house squawling like a pig stuck under a gate. Santa scared hell out of him. But that didn't deter the rest of us. We'd seen other 'sissies' that did the same thing. I was next, and by now I was downright curious about the whole thing, so I marched into Santa's house, and plopped myself on his lap. He gave a loud HO HO HO and asked me if I had been a good boy. Of course I answered in the affirmative. Then he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him I already had circled all I wanted in the catalogs, so he should already KNOW. Santa said he didn't know anything about any catalogs. He asked me again. So I told him a few things, but he didn't inspire much confidence (or belief) in him if he didn't know about the catalogs. Besides, he had the smell of beer on his breath and cigarette nicotine stains on his fingers. I never heard of Santa being a beer drinker, and everybody knew he smoked a pipe. I left his house very unimpressed.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve. Dad would get Grandma and bring her to our house for the holidays. She lived about 50 miles away, and he always went on Christmas Eve day, come hell or high water or deep snow and cold. Grandma was a short woman. Her family was Polish mostly, with a little bit of German thrown in for good measure. Dad would get back, drive up to the house with Grandma in the front and three cases of beer in the back. Dad liked his beer, and he came by it honestly because Grandma liked her beer too. All of us would line up in the living room to welcome Grandma. She would pinch each kid's cheek, and give them a beery kiss. When she pinched the older (and taller) kid's cheeks she'd hold on and pull them down to her level for the kiss.

Our family tradition was to open our gifts on Christmas Eve. Mom and Dad would take all the kids (except my oldest brother) to look at the Christmas lights. Now that was a pretty big deal, even for me. We'd come back home in about an hour, and there would be all kinds of presents under the tree that weren't there when we left! A miracle! Mom and Dad would make a big deal out of telling us that Santa must have visited while we were gone. But I noticed my oldest brother sitting in the kitchen. He was all red in the face and sweaty. While everyone else got more and more excited, I walked into the kitchen and asked him point-blank, "WasSanty really here and bring all them presents, or did you haul them down from the attic?" He told me to shut up. But it didn't matter. I knew that's what happened. I knew all the presents had been in the attic. I had gone present hunting (my brother called it snooping) and found them . But I didn't make a big deal out of it. My Mom and Dad seemed to be getting a lot of enjoyment from the whole thing. So I played along with the Santa bit, and joined everybody else in unwrapping presents.

We never really had a sit-down supper Christmas Eve. Mom would make a big pot of meatballs, or home made pizza, or something similar and we'd 'graze' on the stuff as we took stock of our presents. We'd stay up until the wee hours playing and eating, with my Mom watching and smiling and my Dad drinking beer and playing with our toys. Grandma would try to stay up late with us, but after so many beers the dear old soul would be a combination of tipsy and tired, start talking about Grandpa (who had been dead for years, Grandpa was 30 years older than Grandma) and begin to cry. Some of the kids would help Grandma into her room, and get rewarded with another beery (and teary) kiss. Mom and my sister would get her ready for bed and tuck her in. Eventually everybody would wind down, and we'd head for bed. It was usually a short night.

We used to have a real goose for Christmas Dinner, and we'd get up with Mom and help her get things ready. My Dad would give Mom a Christmas Goose too, but I didn't understand what that was all about until I was older. We'd eat Christmas Goose with all the trimmings, then settle in and play with our stuff some more. Mom, Dad and Grandma would sit at the kitchen table, play cards and drink beer. Except for Mom. She was a teetotaller, so she'd drink tea.

So that's how Christmas was when I was a kid. They are all good memories, even Grandma's beery kisses. She's been gone since 1977, and what I wouldn't give for her to be here and give me one of those kisses this year. Mom and Dad are gone, my oldest brother too. The rest of us have gone our separate ways, and for various reasons (none of them good) we don't see each other much. But life goes on. I've got my share of good memories. Some people do not even have that. So there actually much that I am thankful for, despite the troubles in the world and in our country. Even the memory of the fabricated jolly old elf that so many people tried to convince me existed (that I don't think I EVER believed in) is a good one. A fabrication it most definitely was, but at least in those times it seemed like it was an innocent one. At least it appears that it did no harm to me.

But as I've already said, the memory can be a fooler. Although I do look back, I have no desire to go back to those times. I've never bought into the 'Good Ol' Days' nostalgia business. It is far too easy to remember bit s and pieces of what you want to remember and color those memories differently than they actually were. The only things I really miss about those times are the people that were in them that are no longer here. The rest I can do without. And that includes SANTY CLAUS, HO HO HO!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas Peeves!

Call me an old Scrooge, but here are some of my PET PEEVES about the Christmas Season:

1) The Little Brass Bell
- The Salvation Army is a very worthy organization. The number of folks they help during the holidays and all year long for that matter, prove that. But I must say, I get so damned tired of hearing THAT LITTLE BRASS BELL being ding-a-linged, I could pull out me hair! It isn't the idea that there's a real ARMY of folks standing on street corners and in malls collecting money. Like I said, they're a very worthy charity and I give something most every time I pass one of the collection pots. But the incessant ringing of the bell! Sure it draws attention, but the sound of the thing, especially indoors, permeates the air and goes through my head like a hot knife through butter. No doubt some would say the reason it goes through my head is that there's nothing in the way to stop it. Be that as it may, the sound irritates me, sets my teeth on edge. It is so annoying I have actually told the person ringing the bell that I'll only donate if they QUIT RINGING THE DAMNED THING until I'm out the door or out of earshot! No bell ringer has respected my request so far, but I still put the money in the pot. Our church volunteers to do this bell-ringing every year. My wife does it, many folks do. I don't. I have made my feelings known, and they don't bother asking anymore. So call me a Scrooge, call me a stick-in-the-mud, or any other name you want. I still can't stand the sound of that brass bell!

2) Christmas Carols - Every year, the same old songs. Over and over again. This in itself would be bad enough, but there's always some joker singing a carol that thinks they have to embellish the bejeezus out of it. A simple melody is transformed into a vehicle for their astounding vocal gymnastics. Crap! Just sing the damned song, will ya? To be fair, it isn't the songs. It's the endless repetition of them. No matter where you go, you hear them. The bank, the grocery store, the dentist, the doctor. These 'joyous noises' creep into my head like an annual fungal infection of the auditory system whose only cure is the passing of the season. I can't even sit out in my car while the wife shops without hearing the damned things. And after being bombarded with them day in and day out, people STILL buy recordings of them? Enough already!

3) Holiday Shoppers - It begins on the infamous 'Black Friday'. No, not the crash of the stock market in '29. The day after Thanksgiving. Stores open early, one opened up at 4:00AM near us. People (or rather WILD ANIMALS THAT SEEM LIKE PEOPLE) line up long before the doors open. The prey? Bargains! It's like watching a feeding frenzy of pirhanas. I avoid stores on Black Friday like the plague when I can, but this year a refill for medication (which I forgot to get earlier) necessitated me going. I waited until 5:00 PM, and by then the teeming throng had dwindled. The shopping center looked like the aftermath of a pinata-busting party. Tables that only hour before were heaped with bargains now only held the pawed-over remains. And again to be fair, it isn't the idea of getting a gift for someone that annoys me so. It is the lengths people will go to 'prove' they care about someone, that they will subject themselves to these horrors and become part of the horror themselves. But there is one part of Holiday Shopping I relish. I try to make it to the local shopping mall on Christmas Eve. About 2 hours before closing time. I willingly fight to get a parking spot, wedge my way in the door, but not to shop. To observe. I jump into the first empty seat on a shopping mall bench, and just watch. The noise, the bustle, the tension, on occasion the downright brutality of the johnny-come-lately shoppers on Xmas Eve is a study in human behavior. Every psychologist should have to do it. It's a real eye-opener. Sometimes it gets ugly, and makes Black /friday look like a tea party. I try to stay until all the stores are closed, and mall security is hustling what;s left of the human wreckage out the door. If I'm fortunate enough to be the last one out the door (it's happened on occasion), I give thanks for the incredible peace and quiet after all the broohaha.

4) The Day After Christmas - If the start of the holiday selling season is called Black Friday, what should we call the end of the season? you know, the day when everyone wants to exchange or get a refund for all the crap that they got that is either the wrong size or not what they wanted. The day when the lines at the service desks and exchange counters are so long and wide they look like some sort of horrible anaconda from hell. I can't think of a word or term that is appropriate, but it is a sight to behold. If you ever have the chance to be an outside observer of this phenomenon (if you are a part of the anaconda, you'll get no sympathy from me) the same people that made up the throngs on Black Friday make up the length and breadth of the anaconda. Is there something nefarious going on here? Are these humans merely unthinking cogs in a vast corporate conspiracy to deprive them of their money, dignity and time (mostly their money)?

These complaints but scratch the surface. But if I go any further, I'll have to rant about those who complain about The Holidays. I'm not going there. I refuse to call myself such names. I also will not wish everyone the usual seasonal greetings. But I will wish that you all have a Restful Christmas, and a Peaceful New Year. Those are the things I want for myself, and for everyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Cell Phone Rant

Pet peeves, we've all got 'em. One of my many pet peeves is the cell phone. Well, not the cell phone itself, but the way some people use it. You know what I'm talkin' about. Standing in line, waiting to check out at a store with a bonehead in front of you talking on the phone, juggling a kid on the hip, digging in her purse for a credit card. All the while, the line grows larger, along with my impatience.

Now if her phone rang while she was checking out, that would have been different. Carry a phone, either let it ring or answer it. But she CALLED someone JUST AS SHE GOT UP TO THE COUNTER. And was it an emergency that just couldn't wait? HELL NO! Before you ladies get steamed that I'm only pickin' on the female gender, there's just as many bonehead men that possess a cell phone. And they irritate me just as much! This is a completely non-gender specific rant for sure.

How many times have I been in a public place, and I hear someone say 'Hello', turn around and say 'Hi' back before I realize they're talking on the phone. How many times have I heard the damned loud, annoying ring tones some people have in a restaurant? How many times have I gone to a park to take a walk to enjoy the peace and quiet, only to have it disturbed by some bonehead on the phone (or with a boom box, but that's another rant)?

Another thing, why in hell do people talk so LOUD on a cell phone in public? Really, the person on the other end also thinks you're yelling. And the rest of the world doesn't need to know that your kid hasn't pooped in two days, or your girlfriend farted on your last date, or that so-and-so is having sex with what's-their-name behind you-know-who's back. At least I sure as hell don't need to, or WANT to know.

I really do not care for cell phones, so of course I have one. My wife's idea. The dog has a collar and leash, so do I. An electronic one. But it is just a phone. Not a camera, not a camcorder, not a video game machine, I can't access the internet with it. It's just a phone. My wife has a knack for calling me at the most inopportune times. For instance, while minding my own business using a public restroom, my cell phone rang that was in my shirt pocket. I could carry a cell phone for the rest of my life, and it will ALWAYS startle me when it rings. I was standing in front of a urinal, doing what men do when they stand in front of a urinal. The phone rang. It startled me, not a good thing standing in front of a urinal. I answered the phone. My wife asked, "What ya doin?" Whenever I answer the cell phone, she asks me the same thing. "What ya doin'?" Talking on the phone, of course! The next thing she asks is, "When ya comin' home?" After peeing down my pant leg, real soon dear. Real soon.

So is it too much to ask for a little common courtesy regarding cell phone use? Or is common courtesy like common sense, not so common? Is it too much to ask for people to step aside to make a phone call, or to step outside or somewhere out of the way when answering a phone? How about turning the thing to vibrate mode when in a restaurant or movie theater, or even a CONCERT HALL, and stepping into the lobby to answer the thing? Or better yet, how about just shutting the damned thing off!

And another thing, you men and your cell phone holsters. What the hell is up with that? In the old west days men wore a six-shooter on the hip, now a cell phone? Do you know how silly you look, how aggravating it is...wait a minute. My cell phone's ringing...if I know what's good for me I BETTER answer...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Takes A Lickin' And Keeps On Tickin'

You guessed it, another Clyde story from my memory bank! (Who's Clyde?)

Yeah, I done a lot of fishin' in my day. Don't matter what's bitin' I like to catch 'em. Even Carp. Most folks think Carp's a junk fish and ain't no good to eat. That ain't so. Gotta know how to clean 'em, gotta know how to cook 'em. And the bigger the fish the better. My favorite way is to smoke them Carp. Used to have a smoker, and when we'd get a mess of big Carp, that's what we'd do. Nothin' better than to eat smoked Carp on a hot summer evening and drink beer.

Do most of my fishin' these days with a pole, but I used to run outlines and jug fish a lot. Jug fishin's a real good time. Back in them days we'd buy a couple cases of cheap beer in bottles, drink one case of it, stopper up the end of the bottle so it'd float. Then we'd tie a hunk of fishin' line on the bottle neck and a hook on 'ta other end. Bait them up, set them driftin' on the water, lay back in the boat and drink beer until you see the bottles a bobbin' in the water. You get a case or two of 'jugs' out there, and it could keep you mighty busy!

But my favorite fishin' is for big ol' lunker catfish. I'm talkin' flatheads bigger than 20 pound. In my younger days I used to go catfish hoggin'. Ya'll get in the water, look for an undercut place along the bank. That's where them big catfish like to roost. You find a likely place, and start feelin' around under the water until you find one. Gotta be gentle, not move too fast. Them fish can be skittish. You tickle that big ol' cat's belly, and it calms them down. Give 'em a good belly rub, and it kind a puts them to sleep. Do that for a spell, then grab 'em! Inside the gills is a good place, but man them gill slits are sharp and cut your arms up fierce. But you pretty much have to grab 'em where you can. If you're lucky and got a big one, hang on brother! A thirty pounder will give ya'll a tussle and a half! Plum tucker you out to get him back to shore too.

Reminds me of the time me and a couple buddies went out on the river years back. You got to know where to look for them lunkers, and there's some mighty deep holes we knowed about that them cats liked to be. When you fish for the big ones, don't never set your pole down when the bait's in the water. Them cats will play around with the bait a spell, but when they take it, they take it fast, and you ain't gonna grab that pole quick enough. You could lose your pole, reel and all in a flash.

Now you talk to ten different catfish men, and you'll get ten different favorite baits. Some guys swear by night crawlers, some by dead minners, some by stink bait. A catfish will eat 'bout anything, truth be told. I done caught cats on all those kind of baits, but my favorite is chicken guts. Fresh chicken guts. That's what gets the big 'uns. We knowed a guy what butchered chickens, and we could get all the fresh guts we wanted.

We cut the motor when we got close to the hole, and drifted the rest of the way in. Last thing ya'll want to do is make noise. No clangin' and bangin' in the goddam boat, whisper when you talk. Them fish pick that noise up through the water and they're gone! We quietly baited up, and cast into the hole. Weren't about 2 minutes when I felt somethin' a nibblin' at my bait. You got to pay attention, 'cause even a big fish can be gentle like when they start. You got to be patient too. Got to know the right time to set the hook, or you just gave a catfish a free dinner.

That fish toyed with the bait for quite a spell, then I felt him take it. I pulled up on my pole with ever thing I had, and 'bout pulled my arms out of the sockets. That fish didn't move! Lord have mercy, he was a big 'un! He started to run, and I held the pressure on the pole. Felt like he was hooked real good, and he was playin' out a lot of line.

There's one thing 'bout them big cats, they fight like hell. So I held my rod high, and he started to tucker out. I started pumpin' my rod up and down, takin' in line, and finally got his big ass up to the boat. Son of a bitch, he was a monster! I hollered to my buddy, "Get the net, get the net!" But there 'twern't no net. We remembered the beer, but forgot the net.

I got the biggest cat I ever seen on my line, and no net to get him in the boat! I kept playin' him to tucker him out even more while a buddy got on each side of me. I was gonna get him as close to the boat as I could, and they was gonna grab him. He finally quit shakin' and was just a-floatin' on the water, so I held his head high and they took a grab. Each buddy had a hold of a fin. They got the head on the side of the boat but his tail was still in the water. I reached down to grab the fish by the mouth and drag him in, when that fish shook his head one last time, shook the hook, and my buddies lost their grip!

Without even thinkin' I dropped my pole,went to grab the bottom lip of the fish, but the cat swung his head and my hand went into its mouth. Then the bastard swallered my arm up to the elbow, and clamped down tight! Man, it hurt like hell! The more I yanked tryin' to get my arm out, the tighter that cat clamped down. What was worse, he was a-thrashin' around tryin' to get back in the water, and he was gonna take my ass with him! One of my buddies grabbed me around the waist to keep me in the boat, and the other started whackin' the fish on the head with his fists. Now why this punkin head didn't grab the damn fish and drag him in the boat is a mystery to me. But it happened so fast, and I was bellerin' and cussin' at the top of my voice, reckon he just wanted the fish to let go.

And the cat did let go. In one second, the cat unclamped his mouth and slipped back into the water. I looked at my arm, and it was all cut up and bleedin'. And I not only lost the biggest fish I ever seen, my wrist watch was gone too! Goddam fish ate it and took it with him! Damn fine watch it were. One of them Timex waterproof, shockproof, magnetproof watches that was a self-winder too.

A few years after that, we was out lunker fishin' again. I finally caught a cat what looked like he was bigger than the one that got away, out of the same river. We took him home, gonna steak him out and have us a big fish fry. He weighed forty-two and three quarter pound! Now there's only one way to skin a cat that big. I had my buddies hold him up whilst I nailed him to a tree at my place. Couple big ol' nails right in the head. Them big cats got a hide on 'em like leather, so it took some doin' to skin him out.

We put a bucket under him when we went to gut him. I slit the belly, and all the guts fell into the bucket, and I heard a 'clunk' noise. What the hell, I started siftin' through the guts to see what that cat done ate. What do you think I found? My watch! If I'm lyin' I'm dyin', the same damn watch I lost a couple years ago was still in the belly of the same damn fish what tried to drag my ass out of the boat! The damn thing was still runnin', and had the right time to boot!

I still got that watch, still got the scars on my arm from when I first met Mr. Big Ol' Catfish. And the watch still works perfect. When they tell you them Timex watches take a lickin' and keep on tickin', it be a fact!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Story Teller: Part Two

Here's another story from my old buddy Clyde. (Who's Clyde?) I'm going to tell it like he did, so be forewarned; adult language and content is included!

I used to ride motorcycles back in West Virginia. Never had no money to buy my own, but one of my buddies used to let me borry his. He had a 1951 Indian Chief, and a pretty thing it was. He kept it all polished up and clean. It shined like a diamond in a goat's ass.

Well, my buddy was laid up sick and told me I could have the Indian for the weekend, just be careful with it and clean it up when I was done. Now that was just the ticket! I decided to go pick up the gal I was seein' at the time and go for a ride. She was a fine gal, and loved to go ridin' with me. So I brought along a jug, she hopped on and we went out ridin' and boozin'.

Now ridin' a bike in West Virginia ain't for no sissy. There ain't a level spot of ground in the whole state. You're either goin' up, or goin' down, and the roads in them days would go from pavement to dirt in a wink. We was on a paved part of a road, tippin' the jug and havin' a high old time. After a spell, my gal got to feelin' frisky, and was holdin' on to somethin' other than my waist, if ya know what I mean. So I pulled the bike off the road near some woods, figurin' me and her would have a little more serious fun.

We was both pretty snockered up. Both of us staggered off the bike, and I headed for the woods. "Where you goin' Clyde honey?" she asked.
"Well, 'less ya'll want to do it right here alongside the road, I figured we'd hit the woods, gal!"
She got a big ol' smile on her face. "You reckon we could do it on the bike?"
"I reckon so, but it won't be so comfortable." I started undoin' my drawers.
"Clyde honey, you reckon we could do it on the bike, while we're ridin'?" she said.
Now I ain't no coward, but that idea did seem a little dangerous. "You mean while I'm drivin' the bike?"
She throwed her arms around my neck and said. "Yeah darlin'. I could lay up on the gas tank and the handlebars, and you could get it in me on the fly!" Man, was she drunk! But I was too. She sat up on the handlebars, hiked her skirt up and tempted me. So I figured, what the hell!

So we're goin' down the road, coupled up real good. Goin' up and down the hills of West Virginia, gettin' a mighty fine thrill. She's gettin' into it, and helpin' out much as she can. We come to one of them tall hills, a cardiac hill they call 'em back home. That's 'cause they're so steep, if you had to walk up 'em your heart would give out. My gal's eyes are rolled back, and she starts hollerin', "Faster Clyde! Faster!"I wasn't sure if she meant me or the bike, so I done both.

We get up the top of the hill and she's moanin' and groanin like nobody's business. Now I'm ready to blow my nuts, and we go down the hill faster than greased shit. I'm startin' to get the funny feelin' and us and the bike were goin' damned fast. Then the road turned to dirt, and I lost control of the bike.

Went off the road goin' so fast I jumped a ditch. I was hangin' on for dear life to them handle bars, but my gal didn't have nothin' to hold on to. Her bare ass flew off the bike when I finally hit the ground. Don't know how I done it, but I kept the bike upright. But I was headed for some big ol' hogs that were wallowin' in the mud. Don't remember if there was a fence or not. If there was, I went right through it.

So there I was, with my dick hangin' out and floppin' all over, headin' for two big hogs. Oh Lord, if I die this way, just have them hogs eat me so my Momma don't know the particulars! But soon as I got closer to the hogs, I hit some mud that slowed me down just enough that I could steer around 'em. Home free? Nope. Ran into a big tree stump, stopped the bike cold, and I went over the handle bars, ass over teacup.

Next thing I know, I'm layin' on the ground all coverd with mud, pig shit and blood, with a big ol' State Trooper standin' over me. Don't know how long I laid there, but I looked around and couldn't see nothin' of my gal. Found out later another Trooper took her back into town while I was passed out.

Me and the gal were both drunk enough that we rolled with the punches. Not really hurt too bad, all things considered. But I was sure sore for a long time. My buddy never spoke to me again. The bike was totalled. Lost my gal too. She had some big ol' brothers that probably still want to whup my ass over the deal, and it happened back in '58. But all that don't bother me none. What still bothers me is that the gal blamed it all on me, and the Trooper gave me a ticket.
Now this Trooper had to try real hard to figure out somethin' to give me a ticket for. So you know what he done? When I flew off the handle bars I landed a fair distance from the bike. So far in fact, that the Trooper gave me a ticket for leavin' the scene of an accident!

Sure was a lot of fun, but I never did nothin' like that again. Havin' that much fun can be awful hard on a man.

The Story Teller

I have had the pleasure of knowing some good story tellers. The following short story was told to me by a man I worked with for years. 'Clyde' was originally from West Virginia, and this is but one of the many stories he told. He was not what I'd call an 'educated' man, but his command of language and imagery bordered on the surreal. I hope my retelling does the story justice:

Yeah, the weather of late has been mighty hot for sure. Not as hot as a few years ago though. I had me two young bird dogs. Fine dogs they were, but pretty green. So I figured I'd best take 'em out and work 'em afore hunting season got here.

So I piled 'em into my truck, 'Ol' Blue'. Now Ol' Blue's pretty rusted up, but it gets me where I want to go. Them dogs sure liked to go for a ride. They'd get in the back of the truck and wait for hours for me to give 'em a ride, so it weren't no trouble getting them excited about it. I drove out to a spot I know that's full of birds. Pheasant mostly.

I took a gun along too. Not to shoot no birds out of season, mind you. I just wanted to get them young dogs used to hearing a gun go off. So we're walking along, and the birds start a sniffin' the ground. Pretty soon they went off into some tall grass just before some woods near the creek. Sure enough, them dog's noses steered them right. They scared up a pheasant pretty as you please. I popped off a couple of rounds, and 'bout scared hell out of both of 'em. Every time the dogs scared up a bird, I'd shoot. With every shot, them dogs flinched a little less. Man, I was sure they was going to be some fine bird dogs!

Now it was mighty hot that day, and them dogs tongues were hangin' out every which way, slobberin' and pantin' like an old steam engine. I was sweatin' like a race horse all lathered up myself, so I figured it was time to go home. Them dogs did good their first day out.

I started walkin' back to the truck, along the edge of a cornfield. All of a sudden, I heard what sounded like somebody shootin' a gun in the distance. Man, I thought some farmer took offense at me on his property, and I got a little nervous when the sound came closer. I looked around, couldn't see nobody. I looked into the cornfield, and saw white stuff shootin' up into the air. By golly, we was right near a field of popcorn! It was so damned hot, the corn started poppin' right off the cob!

Now my two young dogs started lookin' around, and when they seen all that white popcorn start coverin' the ground, they thought it was snow, and laid down and froze to death before I could get 'em back to the truck! Damn shame too. Them was some mighty fine dogs. 'Bout broke my heart.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Toothpaste Dilemma

The ridiculous number of different kinds of toothpaste can be unnecessarily overwhelming. Consider the following options: White, colored, striped, paste or gel, additives in the paste that run the gamut from fluoride to plaque control with all kinds of combinations, paste for tooth whitening, for sensitive teeth, for smokers, paste with mouthwash, in tubes, in squeeze bottles, a plethora of different flavors, with baking soda, paste that turns any gunk you've missed after brushing the color of blue so you can brush again. Just a partial list, to be sure.

What is the objective of brushing your teeth? To prevent cavities, or show your individuality? To have healthy gums, or sand-blast the enamel off your teeth? And rest assured, each different variety is BETTER than any of the others, with NEW AND IMPROVED varieties hitting the shelves ad nauseum.

To walk into a store and visit the tooth care aisle is a study in the remarkable redundancy of the American marketing system. Inundate the customer with choices. Lure the eye with brightly colored packaging that SCREAMS about the efficacy of the tooth care product. Toothpastes to fit any decor, any mood, any lifestyle, any personality. Now THAT'S what America is all about!

I have watched people in the toothpaste aisle. A boring activity perhaps, but fascinating in what it reveals. There are people who spend more time choosing a toothpaste, than choosing a candidate for President Of The United States. So, after these folks make the all-important choice of an oral scrubbing agent, woe to them if they also need a TOOTHBRUSH!

The same marketing strategy is used. The choices? All colors of the rainbow, flat handles, round handles, ergonomically designed comfort handles, straight handles, curved handles, bristles from extra soft and mushy to extra firm and rigid, flat bristles, rounded bristles, combinations of bristles, handles with little rubber erasers on the end for gum 'stimulation' (gum stimulation?), handles with built-in floss dispensers, electric brushes with rotating bristles, electric brushes that vibrate so much they could double for a marital aid, and a tooth brush that is not a brush at all that uses water. And floss and mouthwash? Don't even get me started on those!

We are bombarded with choices for oral care the same we are bombarded for most other consumer goods. From baked beans to condoms, consumers are offered choice after choice after choice, with the cost of those choices equal to their newness or uniqueness. Plain old toothpaste (when you can find it) costs a hell of a lot less than the fancy stuff.

One of the best tooth cleansers is baking soda. It works great and it's cheap. But it tastes nasty. So I strike the middle ground. I buy plain old toothpaste at $0. 98 a tube. It's white, doesn't taste too bad, and most likely works as well as the fancy stuff.

I still get snookered on the marketing ploys, but not as much as I used to, and by golly not on toothpaste. It has become so ingrained in all of us, it is hard behavior to stop. But the older I get, the less I care about some things. Designer toothpaste is on that list for sure.

So just say 'NO MORE!' American Consumer! Defeat the marketers of designer toothpaste! It is a small step, but do it! Today, toothpaste! Tomorrow, the world!

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