Category Archives: My Opinion of Something

#TBT: Baby, It’s Hot Outside!

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This originally ran in August 2011. Two things have led me to rerun it. First, it’s been horribly hot here for a week. Second, Mr. Sublet who I speak about in the opening paragraphs passed away some months back and I just found out about it.. He was a terrific teacher. Well, he was a terrific person. I learned more from the book than from him about history, but he told us a lot about life along the way. I miss knowing he’s still on the planet.

My junior AP History teacher, Mr. Tommy Sublett, was the first aficionado of the late War of Northern Aggression I ever met in person and got to talk to at length. I never knew why he loved the Civil War so much because he was from Kentucky and those Kentuckians — bless their little bluegrass hearts — were citizens of a border state. Being a border state meant they, along with their three brethren states, had legal slavery but they were too chicken-livered (or prescient, if you think about it) to join the Confederacy in defending Dixie from the encroachment of the soulless Yankees.

Kentucky Colonel or no, “Sub” loved to teach us about the Civil War. We spent four weeks on everything from Jamestown to Fort Sumter and from the second week in September until February on the War of Southern Independence. Then Sub realized this was an AP class (we were his first) and we were going to have to take a big test the first week in May and he hadn’t covered a few important items from our nation’s history . . . like the entire 20th Century. Even though the War Between the States was important, most of us figured that test would have at least one or two questions on WWII and maybe even a question on the Soviet Union. So from February through the AP test, we covered a chapter in our book every two days. I made Fs on the tests, but I made a 5 on the US AP History Exam.

But I digress.

One of the things Sub taught us was the Confederacy was pretty much doomed from the start because the Yankees outnumbered us about 5:1 or so, give or take. The war only lasted as long as it did because it took Honest Abe four years to find two men — Gens. Grant and Sherman — brutal enough to exploit the overwhelming numerical superiority. Once Grant started sending the Yankee equivalent of “human wave” attacks at the ragged boys in grey, the gig was up. All the wonderful officers and doughty farm boys in the world ain’t gonna save you when you’ve got a gun that fires 3 shots a minute at most and ten men come at you across 30 seconds of ground. The public — North and South — called those two “butchers” and accused them of slaughtering their own men, but in the end it worked and — as The Band and  Joan Baez put it so eloquently — they “drove ol’ Dixie down.”

But once again, I digress.

Even though Sub taught us about the disparity in numbers, he never addressed how we ended up with such a skewed ratio of troops. I mean, our women are far prettier than Yankee women and if you don’t believe it watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta back to back with The Real Housewives of New Jersey then tell me those “Jersey girls” can match our Belles! So if our genetic stock was (and is) so vastly superior to our erstwhile foes, WHY didn’t we have at least equal numbers of people?

Then, a few days ago, in the midst of a third consecutive day with 100 degree heat with a 115 degree “real feel”, the answer came to me — the Southern climate doomed our boys.

Imagine wearing THIS in JULY, in ALABAMA . . . OUTSIDE . . . ALL DAY!

We have two seasons in the South — January and summer. Short, mild winters coupled with ungodly hot and humid summers put our side at a disadvantage because we only had about a 2 or 3 month window each year when it was cool enough to . . . well, . . . PROCREATE.

We’re all adults here, do I have to draw you a picture?

Our Yankee foes, on the other hand, had the exact OPPOSITE issue. Minnesota? They have two seasons as well: July and winter. It’s that way all across the North. It gets COLD up there and cold is conducive to baby-making. Couple of quilts and some body heat and you end up warm, toasty, and “expectant.” Then just about the time THAT little bundle of joy gets weaned, it’s sub-zero again and the cycle starts all over.

Imagine this scenario, and before we get started, just so you know, this is the regular old yeoman farmers. This ain’t the big, high-falutin’ 100 Slave Working Coastal PLANTATION. This is a dirt poor Georgia / Mississippi, no-slave-owning upland family growing jes’ enuff cot’n ta’ git by. Mama, Daddy, a mess of kids that pick cotton too, and MAYBE — if last year’s cotton crop was awesome — a hired hand to help get the cotton in before the rain ruined it. Anyway, woman’s been up since before dawn cooking breakfast and packing food to take to the fields. She worked all day in the sun, heat, and humidity wearing more clothes than most women today wear in the dead of winter. Got home about two hours before everybody else to get supper ready and do some laundry. Fed everybody, cleaned up, gathered eggs and fed the chickens then washed her face and collapsed into bed .

In comes hubby. He’s worked all day as well. He hasn’t washed his face and hands. This was NOT a hygienic age in America. He hasn’t washed ANYTHING since last Saturday. So he slides into the straw ticking bed in his union suit and eases his hand over to just gently touch his loving wife and offer her a proposition:

“Hey, honey-bun, how’s about a little lovin’ tonight?”

Now, remember, it’s a July night when hot enough to make the Devil sigh with air thick as day old red-eye gravy. She’s sweating buckets in her coolest cotton nightgown and trying to get to sleep so she can get up in a few hours and do it all over again. She gently puts his hand back over on his side of the bed and offers him a counter-proposition:

“Hey, sugar bug, how about you keep that hand on your side til first frost and you’ll have two hands to pick cotton with tomorrow instead of one.” What’s more, not a jury in the county would convict her.

So the case is cracked. We lost the war because we were low on men and we were low on men because none of those good Southern folks had A/C in their bedrooms and it was just TOO HOT this time of year for all that foolishness.

Love y’all and keep those feet cool, dry and clean!

#TBT: Of Birds, Bees, and Frogs

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Amsterdam, Paris, Vegas . . . they got nothing on the Country Walk Lane Froggy Bordello.

I originally ran this article in April 2011, I think. Well, I’m back at the same spot now as I was then. Much as I hate it, a day of doom is coming for the frogs.

I am a pimp. Not in the “how I dress flamboyantly” sense of the word (but with all my purple, who knows?), but in the “male who handles prostitutes” term. I am running a brothel for frogs. My backyard and pool have become a red-light district for amphibians.

Even as I am typing this, outside my living room window, the sounds of illicit frog romance is filling the night. If I were to gently pad to the back door, ease out onto my deck, pick up my spotlight, then flip it on and point the beam at the pool’s surface, I would witness a veritable tsunami as forty or fifty froggy “johns” dive into the green water to escape the penetrating light of “the authorities.”

I did not intend to be the owner of such a den of amphibian iniquity and vice. Unfortunately, I failed to buy a cover for my above ground pool and its new liner at the end of the last swimming season. I wasn’t overly worried about debris because I don’t have many trees in the back and none of them overhang the pool. All winter, the pool weathered the weather like a champ. Once or twice I took some GI Joes I found in the front yard (courtesy of the hellions next door) and sent them ice skating on the coldest days. (Okay, I’m from a small town in the sticks, it doesn’t take much to entertain me)

Another satisfied customer waiting for the party to crank back up.

Then came the spring. As the weather warmed, the pool greened. Since my deck doesn’t circumnavigate the pool, I cannot clean it with the vacuum until the water warms enough to get in it. Unfortunately, it’s plenty warm enough for the diatoms, euglenas, and algaes long before I feel comfortable subjecting my mammalian nether regions to the water. As a result, I don’t have a pool so much as I have a wonderfully symmetrical pond — probably for the next month or so. Then the fun part starts.

Not only do I have to get the pool chemically balanced, vacuumed, and cleaned out, but I also have to find a way to clean up the Times Square of the anura order. Maybe I can get Rudy Gulliani to come down and “clean up” around here?

Anyway, if you know how to encourage these wonderfully cacaphonic bufoae and anurae to look for love in some other places, please let me know! Otherwise, I’m afraid that the chlorine from the pool cleaning in a few weeks is going to cause a massive infanticide among the nascent tadpole population. Ah, such is life. The parents do all the loose living and the children bear the brunt of the punishment.

Circle of life, indeed!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

#TBT: Stop Hijacking Jesus

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I originally wrote this post nine years ago back in 2010. I reread it and realized something. It’s football season, awards season, and — most aggravatingly — ELECTION season. Nothing’s changed from what I said then so I thought I’d run it again. I hope you enjoy it.

As a matter of good raising, I don’t normally discuss sex, religion, or politics in polite company. Lately, though, a trend has developed that has me frothing at the mouth and I’ve reached the point of putting my irritation into print.  Therefore, this post will be quite religious and political in places. So, if you are an atheist or you hate religion or you just don’t like reading or talking about spiritual things, here’s your warning. Hit the bricks now and if you still read to the bottom, don’t send me some comment about how “weak-minded” or “old-fashioned” I am to believe the Bible is real or that God is real or that Jesus is real. I’ll take my chances, thank you very much.

So, you’ve been warned.

If you’re still with me, know that what’s driving me nuts (well, MORE nuts) is the growing tendency of people in all forms of public endeavor to drag religion into everything. What has finally pushed my quarter off the table is the rash of comments in my local newspaper by people claiming to speak for Jesus. It’s on my last nerve and it has got to stop.

People need to quit hijacking Jesus.

As an example of what I mean, watch any football game from high school to pro. As soon as a player makes a touchdown, he hits a knee or points to the sky in some obvious move to “give thanks” for his touchdown.

I’m pretty sure He don’t care, son.

Really?

I am not a seminary educated theologian, but I am willing to bet on a few things in the theological sphere and one of those is I’m pretty certain Jesus Christ is not a football fan. Or a baseball fan. Or basketball. Or hockey. . . you get the picture.

See, for those who don’t know, Jesus and His dad, aka. God Almighty, have tasked themselves with the creation and maintenance of the universe. Now, even though being omnipotent makes this task vastly easier and probably does leave time to take in a few quarters of football here and there if They so choose, I just don’t picture Jesus being a football fanatic. Of course, the Saints DID win the Super Bowl last year, but I think that was more on God-given talent than any divine intervention.

Leave Jesus out of the scoring celebrations!

The proper order is “get award” THEN “get drunk!”

Another group that boils my innards and boils my blood over their misappropriation of the Lord’s Name is the lot of “award winners.” Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys. CMAs, AMAs, and Grammys. Stage, screen, or stereo. The medium that is the source of the awards show is irrelevant. They all have the same seriously annoying habit. As soon as they get up on stage and take their pot metal statuette or crystal resin miniature from the vapid, chattering host or hostess, the first thing many of them do is lean into the microphone and say, “I’d like to thank God for this award!”

Really?

Again I appeal to my admittedly self-taught body of Biblical knowledge and I feel very comfortable saying God probably doesn’t care that you won your silly award. After all, He and Jesus sit on thrones (well, technically Jesus is standing at God’s right hand for the moment) in a room vastly beautiful beyond our finite minds’ ability to comprehend. They are surrounded by seraphim and cherubim that do nothing 24/7/365 (366 on leap years) but sing songs more glorious than our greatest songwriter can dream of. Do you really think They stop listening to an angelic choir just to hear Lady GaGa warble out “Bad Romance?”

I’m betting against it.

One other thing before I leave the entertainment industry alone and move on to the REAL target of my derision. If, after receiving your pot metal or crystal resin, you lean into the microphone and drunkenly or doped-upedly slur your thanks to the Almighty, I wouldn’t count on that thanks reaching the ceiling. I am no longer a teetotaler where faith and alcohol come together. My thought is Jesus’ first recorded miracle was turning fetid water into fabulous wine. I don’t think He has a problem with a glass of wine or a cold beer after cutting grass in July in the South.

The whole drunken slurring thing though? Probably not so good. The Bible has several instances of people (usually men) getting drunk and the results are always disastrous and ugly. You may THINK you’re different, but I can pretty much assure you, you’re not.

Leave Jesus out of the “awards ceremonies!”

Now, before I begin blasting away at my most despised blasphemers, let me make clear that I think anyone, anywhere, anytime (let’s leave the technical theology out of it for the moment if we may) can respond to and accept the Gospel, be he a self-indulgent basketball star or be she a babbling, bacon bikini wearing songbird. I have it on good authority that one of my very best friends accepted the Gospel message halfway down a 150′ ravine during the third end over end flip of his Nissan 280ZX. One of my former students, a self-proclaimed atheist, heard Jesus’ call in a fighting hole in Afghanistan right after a Taliban bullet made a crease in his armor helmet.

Any time. Anywhere. 24/7/365 (366 in leap years).

Now for my true venom. The group I despise the most and the absolute WORST Jesus hijackers are POLITICIANS! I am at the point of getting nauseous whenever I hear some scheming, conniving, back-door-dealing Washington sewer dweller spout out something like “Our party won control of thus and so because God is on our side!”

Let me go puke.

This wrapping oneself in the Cross covered prayer shawl is completely bipartisan as well. Elephants and Jackasses alike invoke the name of the Lord to hopefully win the passage of some “vital” piece of legislation or, much more likely, to appeal to the “folks back home” who expect their representatives to be moral, preferably Christian, men and women.  Nowhere is this malady worse than here in my beloved Southland. We are a devout people down here. Sure, we may go out on Friday and Saturday nights each week and drink ourselves blind. We may switch from bed to bed like our heads are on fire and our butts are catching. We may swear and spit and carry on, lie, cheat, steal, etc.

But we’ll be in church come Sunday.

We expect the same from our politicians and they deliver. If I hear one more politician say “I feel this is what God would want me to do,” I may collapse into an uncontrollable conniption fit! It wouldn’t be so brazenly blasphemous and hypocritical if the politicians were not so “cafeteria” style about their so-called “heavenly mandate.” A senator can vote to increase the deficit, increase taxes, increase involvements in wars — but he’ll still get elected by a landslide as long as he claims to be staunchly against abortion! A representative can back big business, spit on the middle class, and whore-hop around Washington, DC worse than a Heidi Fleiss call-girl working on a new Ferrari, but as long as he keeps pushing a bill to get prayer back in schools, the people will support him.

535 member congregation and every single one of them is a politician! Who’d a thunk it?

So it goes on with this party claiming divine favor then that party claiming some new revelation. They’ll get up on TV with tears in their eyes as they talk about their conversion experiences in a little country church (he or she may be from Atlanta, Nashville, or Jacksonville but it’s ALWAYS a little country church) when they walked the aisle and let Jesus into their hearts.

All I know is Jesus must be pretty lonely in there since He’s the only thing in that heart.

Let’s get one thing straight and clear once and for all now and forever. Jesus Christ is not a Republican. Jesus Christ is not a Democrat. Jesus Christ is a King and not just ANY king but the King of Kings. Neither He nor His Daddy give two toots in a tornado about our petty earthly politics because They know who ACTUALLY runs this show! It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to Either of Them that Barak Obama Donald Trump defeated John McCain Hillary Clinton to become POTUS. They. Don’t. Care. They have bigger fish to fry.

So please, all you politicians posturing on a false faith or even a genuine faith that you can’t stop ramming down people’s throats, stop. STOP!

Leave Jesus out of politics.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

#TBT: We Are NOT That Broke Yet!

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Friends don't let friends wipe with dollar store toilet paper.

Friends don’t let friends wipe with dollar store toilet paper.

This was the last post I wrote before Mama passed away. Two weeks later, she would be gone from me. Sad as that may be, this post does still tell the truth.

I went down to check on Mama recently. She’s been suffering for a good while now with C.O.P.D. and if God is not merciful to her, it will eventually take her from me. I try to keep watch over her and I’m thankful for the hospice organization and my wonderful step-dad for helping me. Now before you go getting bummed out, this post is only tangentially connected to Mama’s health.

Anyway, while I was at Mama’s the salad from the night before and the large bowl of Raisin Bran from earlier in the morning both decided to end their tour of my colon. I told Mama I had to go see a man about a dog then grabbed my phone to have something to pass the time because I figured this might take a bit. The phone was my undoing because I was so focused on pulling up Angry Birds I forgot to check the toilet paper. Big mistake. Now you’re probably thinking the roll was empty, leaving me stranded. Actually, that would have been a better scenario than the one confronting me as I finished my lengthy constitutional because had the roll been empty I could have called Mama from the bathroom and asked her to bring me some paper towels using her scooter chair. No, the holder was full. Unfortunately, it was full of the worst substance known to man.

Dollar store toilet paper!

Now long time readers know I am a restroom connoisseur. Were I to become wealthy enough to build my dream home, I already have the bathroom completely planned out. Budge can design everything else. My exquisite taste in all things water closet related extends to toilet paper as well. At home, having a septic tank keeps me anchored to the pedestrian but adequate Scott Tissue, but I do have a couple of rolls of White Cloud Ultra Soft stashed away for those “occasions” when my stomach has risen up in rebellion and constant use of the facilities begs for something more tender than Scott 500 grit special. When the economy and civilization collapse, it won’t be lack of food, water, or power that does me in; it will be the dearth of bathroom facilities and the end of manufactured toilet paper.

Wonderful but frivolous luxury.

Wonderful but frivolous luxury.

Sadly, the fake dollar store toilet paper ended up in Mama’s bathroom because her illness necessitated turning the shopping over to my step-dad. Now I won’t lie. Money is very tight at our two households. Budge and I have been helping Mama pay her bills for over a year now. Rob, my step-dad, knows this so he’s always trying to cut corners and save wherever he can, which is perfectly reasonable since we are more or less broke. However, as bad as it may be, we are NOT dollar-store-toilet-paper-level broke yet. We can’t necessarily afford luxury like Charmin or Quilted Northern, but we can certainly afford some Scott Tissue. Granted, Scotts isn’t the softest on one’s bottom but at least it is absorbent enough to do the job while being strong enough to not have to wrap a hand in half a roll just to keep the wiping fingers from bursting through mid-stroke.

I don’t know what dollar store toilet paper is made of. Based on its absorbancy, I would guess wax paper, but wax paper is many orders of magnitude stronger than dollar store TP, and that’s where this stuff really starts to wreak. Apparently, dollar store TP is woven from unicorn farts, angel burps, or something else comparably rare and insubstantial. As a general rule, I shouldn’t be able to read a newspaper through a ply of decent TP, but laying a sheet of dollar store rubbish on the funny pages doesn’t even dull the colors much. At the risk of sounding a bit gross, if this stuff is all you’ve got, you’re better off just bare-handing it and cutting out the middle man, so to speak. Dollar store TP is really that bad.

The bare-a$$ed minimum acceptable TP. (see what I did there?)

The bare-a$$ed minimum acceptable TP. (see what I did there?)

To make matters worse, this  “paper,” which is so useless in its intended hygienic function because of its lack of strength and absorbancy in the hand turns into some sort of uber-wadded concrete blob once you drop it in the toilet. It might not take poop off a goose, but two or three handfuls of this stuff will clog up a toilet tighter than the Chihuahua that ate a whole cheese and peanut butter sandwich. Plunging only makes the stuff multiply like some sort of soggy, stinky Hydra. Dollar store TP truly is a mystery substance.

In any event I managed to finish up and get myself reasonably ready to reenter the world so I went in to Mama and begged her to have Rob stop buying dollar store TP. She reiterated what I already knew — he was just trying to save us money. My reply was simple and heartfelt. Buy REAL toilet paper and I’ll give up cable and internet or cut us down to one car to make up the difference. It’s like I told Mama and I’m saying it again to y’all, I’m a simple man. I don’t have many needs. All I ask for to make me happy is decent A/C in the summertime to keep my fat butt cool and some good quality TP to keep the same fat butt clean. Is that too much to ask? When the day comes we can’t afford at LEAST some Scott Tissue, it’ll be time for me to start paying close attention to Breaking Bad reruns.

Love y’all! Keep those feet clean . . . and all the other parts as well!

The Holy Grail of TP! It has THREE PLYS and Shea Butter!!!!

The Holy Grail of TP! It has THREE PLYS and Shea Butter!!!!

#TBTish: A Meditation on Foodstuffs

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I originally posted this in November 2010 under the title “Don’t Ask, Just Eat It.” As happens with lots of stuff I write, I promptly forgot I wrote it. Earlier this week, though I was having a conversation with some folks about favorite foods and it got me to thinking about foods and I vaguely recalled I may have written on the topic. So, I combed through the archive and found this one. It’s mostly the same, but I have reworked it slightly. I hope you like it.

A group of us were sitting around Sunday after an impromptu pizza dinner and we started talking about food. We talked about favorite foods and foods we hated and someone – I believe it was my stepmother-in-law – broached the subject of what kind of -vore humans are. Someone had once told her that we are anatomically designed to be herbivores because of our extended digestive tracts and lack of sizable canine teeth. Apparently, whoever told her that figures all meat eaters have to have short colons and saberteeth, but who really knows? Anyway, I assured her that humans are, in fact, omnivores and I offered as proof the fact that people the world over will eat pretty much ANYTHING.

My Exhibit A was the fact people all over the world consider raw oysters a delicacy. That’s right. You may be reading this yourself thinking how much you’d love a plate of oysters on the half shell right now. Do you know what that means? Sometime in the past, somebody was walking down a beach and probably cut himself (or herself, let’s be inclusive) on an oyster bed. For whatever reason, this distant shore-dwelling ancestor of ours pried the oyster apart and thought the phlegm-like mass lying before him was the yummiest thing he’d seen all day and proceeded to chow down. Raw oysters are proof positive people will eat whatever! It’s that way all over the world. Every culture has delicacies that just don’t sit well with others’ ideas about edibles.

To quote Mr. Jerry Clower, “slick, slimy, boiled okra!”

Just take my wonderful homeland of Dixie. People down here eat something called collard greens. If you Yankees and other foreigners want a good idea of what collard greens are, next time you cut grass, empty your mower bag into a 20 quart stock pot and boil for about four days. Add vinegar. Enjoy. People around here love that stuff. To me, it looks like someone already had a go at it before me.

Another godawful Southern “delicacy” is boiled okra. If you don’t know what okra is, Google it. Once you have a picture of this strange vegetable in your mind, picture it boiled and canned. People exist who love it. I believe those people also ate their own boogers when they were small as well because boiled okra is as close to snot as you can get outside a nose — or a raw oyster.

We southern boys don’t have the market cornered on strange stuff to eat though. Look at Scotland. Their national dish is some concoction called “haggis” which I’m pretty sure is Gaelic for “this is made out of what?!!” Haggis is a bunch of chopped up meat bits — the origins of which are better left unknown — topped off with oatmeal and spices. The whole kit’n’kaboodle is chopped up, swirled around, salted, and stuffed into a SHEEP STOMACH, sewn up, and boiled. People in kilts everywhere eat this. You have to go to Scotland to try it though because most countries won’t allow it to be imported for various food safety issues?

My, my, my! Doesn’t that stuffed sheep stomach look delish?

See, it’s dishes like haggis (and raw oysters) that make me wonder about our distant ancestors. I mean, look at eggs. Who is the first caveman to stare at a chicken and say to his hirsute brethren, “Ug, omaoma mooka go mabab mambo,” which loosely translated from Old High Caveman means, “I think I’ll eat the next thing that drops out of that bird’s butt!” You stop to think about that a minute. If these old boys had mistaken a rooster for a hen, breakfast could be a WHOLE lot different to us today.

Truthfully though, people will eat anything that can’t get away from them. In several parts of the world including Iceland, most of Scandinavia, and great swathes of Southeast Asia, people eat fermented fish. Basically, they bury, box, or barrel up a bunch of fish with some salt and stuff and wait. Eventually, the stuff rots enough and they bring it out and slap it on a cracker! Um, um good! REALLY?! Who was walking down the beach and came across a fish carcass riddled with scavenger holes and thought to himself, “I bet this would taste awesome with a little salt on a Ritz,” ?! In Norway, and parts of Minnesota by extension, they mix herring in with lye to make a concoction called lutefisk. LYE, PEOPLE! It comes in a can; we used to use it in chemistry class in high school. It unclogs drains in sinks. Folks, if the recipe says, “add two cups of Drano to the fish mix,” y’all can just leave me out.

Of course, I mentioned Southeast Asia and I know we’ve all heard the jokes, but some of it isn’t a joke. Dog, cat, and rat are all considered delicacies in places like Thailand and Vietnam. The country folk in those nations don’t make a big ceremony out of it either. They’ll just stick a field rat on a skewer and pop it over a fire. Next thing you know, roasted rat.

Now please understand that I’m not making light of anyone’s plight. Some people eat what is available and I understand that, and I also know if you get hungry enough because you’ve been without food long enough lots of this stuff might seem seriously tasty. I’m not talking about those situations. I’m talking about stuff people eat when they could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something.

For example, someone explain “fugu fish” connoisseurs to me. For those that don’t know, raw fugu (or puffer fish) is considered a delicacy in Japan and commands HUGE sums of money. Just one little problem — if the chef doesn’t prepare the sashmi PERFECTLY, you will become paralyzed, suffocate, and die about thirty minutes after dinner and that’ll really put a crimp in your movie plans, now won’t it? These people are eating something they KNOW will KILL them if just a tiny little bit of the wrong organ is missed in preparation. The aficionados of fugu claim to like the “thrill” of cheating death as well as the pleasant “tingling sensation” even properly prepared fugu creates on the tongue.

Right! I’ll stick with my Long John Silver’s fried shrimp thank you. I can get a tingling sensation on my tongue eating Pop Rocks and drinking Coke.

Ah! Casu marzo! Smooth and piquant, with a nutty, maggoty overtone!

Still, just to show I’m not trying to bash the Orient, people in Sardinia have a local favorite called “casu marzo.” This is a local cheese that is so “good” it’s illegal. Actually, the legality of the cheese has nothing to do with it’s flavor. No, casu marzo is made by leaving strong goat or sheep cheese out for flies to infest with maggots. Yes. You read that correctly. Part of the preparation is to have maggots crawl through the cheese, eating and pooping as they go. Apparently, the maggots “pre-digest” the cheese and give it a unique taste and texture not possible any other way. Don’t worry though. These people aren’t savages. They don’t eat the maggots. In fact, you can’t eat the cheese with the maggots in it because this particular species of “cheese maggot” is impervious to the hydrochloric acid present in our stomachs.

That’s right. Our stomach contents can dissolve steel, but these maggots just swim right through it. Then, all nice and warm in the digestive tract, they can — and have — munch right through the intestinal wall into the body cavity and introducing the contents of our colons (poop) into our abdomens. That, boys and girls, produces a little condition we like to call septicemia or septic shock. Simply put, forget and eat a maggot with your cheese cracker; die a painful, lingering death.

All for a piece of cheese? Really? So who looked at a hunk of cheese someone accidentally left on the table in the garden and now it’s crawling with maggots and thought to himself, “I bet those maggots made that cheese something special. I think I’ll try some!” Now he probably died of septicemia since he didn’t know about the gut-eating-maggots, so that means someone ELSE thought the same thing. He just thought it might be better to knock the maggots off first. Wow.

So yes. Humans are most definitely omnivores. If it grows out of the ground or beneath it, if it crawls, runs, swims, flies, or even just lies there, someone, somewhere will put some ranch dressing on it, munch it up, and wash the whole thing down with a nice Chianti. All I can say is, “ewww.” I think I’ll just stick with ice cream and McNuggets!

Love y’all and keep your feet clean . . . unless you want your toe cheese to become casu marzo!!

#TBT: Somebody Just Got Rich, but It Ain’t Me!

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powerball-ticket

I first ran this post in 2013 after someone in my state won a paltry $400 million lottery. Well, lightning struck again only this time it’s someone right here in the Upstate AND instead of $400 million, the haul is a record $1.6 BILLION. So I thought it’d be appropriate to run it again!

As I write this, someone, somewhere here in my beloved Palmetto State is the nouveau-est of the nouveau riche.

Someone in South Carolina purchased a PowerBall lottery ticket yesterday and for his or her trouble is now $400 million $1.6 billion richer. Let that sink in just a minute. Yesterday morning, this person got up and maybe went to some dead-end job to give a little more sweat and time to The Man in exchange for enough of a paycheck to get by. All day long yesterday at his machine or behind her desk, this special someone was working away without the slightest idea the Long Black Freight Train of Fate was rolling down the tracks right towards him or her. For once, the light at the end of the tunnel WAS a train — metaphorically at least — and this time, that wasn’t a bad thing.

I like to picture this soon-to-no-longer-be-a-drone getting off work and starting towards home in a car or truck with broken air conditioning, four bald tires, and a drooping headliner. He sighs as he pulls out of the parking lot. She waves goodbye to the security guard at the gate. Either way, one of them turns into the late afternoon sun for a hot, sticky ride to the house. Suddenly, the headache that’s been building all day gets annoying so she pulls into a Quickie Mart clone near home to grab a Pepsi Max to wash down a few Advil in hopes of taking the edge off the pounding before facing the kiddos.

He’s a decent guy so he’s probably making some small talk with Apu behind the counter when he notices the sign stating the PowerBall jackpot is up to $400 million. He figures, “Eh, what the Hell?” and gives over a couple of dollars, fills out the ticket and heads home laughing at himself a little at the silliness of buying a lottery ticket. What would his sainted Southern Baptist grandmother think if she could see him now?

Just as an aside, this is one of the quirks of lotto ticket buying I’ve never understood. I’ve actually heard people say, “Ah, the pot’s only at $50 million . . . I don’t even bother getting a ticket if it’s less than $200 million.” That’s crazy talk! You are standing on a sidewalk in front of a 7-11 looking like death on a stick and you’ve come to the conclusion a mere $50 million wouldn’t be worth your while? Now I read somewhere that Bill Gates would actually lose money if he stopped to pick up a $100 bill off the sidewalk. I have no idea if that’s true, but I know none of us are Bill.

Anyway, our erstwhile worker ant gets home, talks to the significant other, plays with the kids . . . whatever. Supper’s ready then the dishes get washed and he turns around to the TV just in time to catch the day’s numbers. Funny . . . those sound familiar. Not even seriously hoping for anything and certainly not expecting anything, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his lotto stub with the numbers he chose. He takes one look at his ticket, looks back at the screen, and the next thing he knows his wife is kneeling beside him fanning him and dabbing his neck with a cool cloth. When she asks him what happened, he shows her the ticket, points to the TV, and just manages to catch her head before it hits the floor. They won. They have hit the big time.

Dude is now LOADED. He woke up in the morning wondering how he was going to stretch the money to the end of the month and he’s going to bed tonight with visions of Maserati and mansions dancing in his head.  Of course he can’t sleep. First thing this morning he called in sick to work. Dude’s tickled to death about the money, but he’s smart so he called the lawyer who helped him close on the double wide. Then he called a buddy of his who is an accountant. THEN, the three of them went down to the store to turn in that ticket.

Now here’s another thing that cracks me up. I was reading some of the comments on the stories about the winning lottery jackpot. One guy, obviously eating a bushel of sour grapes, remarked how sad it was $400 million gets taxed down to $145 million and “no one seems to care.” WHY WOULD YOU CARE!!!??? The day before, stand up weenies and saltine crackers were a gourmet lunch because this guy was one paycheck away from the poor-house and today he has $145 Million after taxes? Sure, Uncle Sam, take your chunk because I’m STILL RICH!! ONLY $145 million. That’s like saying the Star of India is ONLY a diamond or the Grand Canyon is ONLY a hole in the ground.

So this guy is set for life now, whoever and wherever he is, and I’m truly happy for him. If there is any real justice in the world, he or she is a teacher with the class from Hell this year and now gets to quit if she wants to because that brings up my final funny point . . . all these people who win these millions get interviewed and say “I just don’t think I could stay home all day so I think I’ll keep on working like always.” RIIIIGHT! When I was a high school teacher I used to talk about hitting the lottery with my students and I always told them the same thing, “Folks, if you see Coach Wham on the news holding up one of those big paper checks that says ‘Lottery Winnings: $X millions’, DO NOT look for me at work the next day! I will hire my OWN substitute, but I’m going fishing!”

So here’s to you Mr. or Mrs. Lottery Winner. I hope the wealth doesn’t change you — unless of course you are a raging asshole and then hopefully it will change you for the better — and to all the dreamers who have worthless slips of paper in your pockets, all I can say is “better luck next time.”

Til then though, I love y’all — rich or poor — and remember to keep those feet clean!

#TBT: On Rest Areas

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I originally ran this post back on November 10, 2010. I hope it’s held up well.

One of my good friends currently lives downstate from me a ways and I ride down to check on her every so often. One Friday in the spring, I asked Budge if we had anything planned for the next day; she told me no, so I got up early, went down to see my bud, found her doing well, and headed on back to the house.

Footage from my last endoscopy.

I had just left the main interstate for the spur leading towards home when the problems started. From well within my innards came The Burble. The Burble is the early warning sign meaning, in this case, last night’s spicy Italian meatballs had reached the end of their sojourn in the Wilderness and were ready to cross the river into the Promised Land.

Over time, I have learned The Burble is ignored at my peril. My body is being polite to me, but he doesn’t repeat himself often. The Burble is the reason I carry a roll of shop quality paper towels in my Element at all times. Even though I was a Boy Scout for only a scant three months, their motto — “Be Prepared” — left a deep and abiding impression upon me.

In fact, a one-way conversation with The Burble on an overnight trip to Camp Old Indian led to my enlistment in the Scouts being so preternaturally short. No one told me until we arrived said camp lacked indoor plumbing. All manner of numbers 1 and 2 would be addressed in the cozy confines of the various privies and outhouses scattered throughout the grounds. I was forced, at The Burble’s insistence, to venture — flashlight in hand — to one of these shanties where I encountered a dearth of bathroom tissue and a plethora of sable-hued eight-legged denizens with bright crimson bellies. As soon as the bus wheels stopped rolling in front of Gray Court Town Hall the next morning, I turned in my uniform.

But I digress.

By some degrees of trial and error, I have discerned The Burble gives about a ten minute or ten-mile heads up. As I had already passed the last exit with nice restaurants, gas stations, and — consequently — clean facilities, I was forced against my will upon the mercy of the SC Department of Transportation. Briefly, I had to resort to a Rest Area.

Any port in a storm, eh?

I don’t like rest areas. First of all, I’ve seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds and spent too much time watching true crime stories on the Investigation Discovery Channel. Pulling off the highway at a rest stop to me, especially as I was alone at the time, seemed an engraved invitation to become the next lead story on the Channel Four WYFF News at 6. I could already hear Mike Cogsdill reading the tagline, “A fat man was found strangled, butchered, and partially eaten in an upstate rest area this afternoon — a serial killer or rabid polar bear [too much Lost] is suspected in the brutal slaying.”

Unfortunately, serial killer and wild animals or not, The Burble would not be denied or gainsaid so off the road I eased.

As luck would have it, this particular outpost of indoor facilities was remarkably clean and block glass walls and windows let in copious amounts of cheerful noonday sunshine. My optimism was short-lived, however, as soon as I made the turn into the restroom stall area and discovered waiting for me the SECOND reason I despise rest areas — a gleaming row of four “standard sized” stainless steel restroom stalls with a single “special needs” stall on the end.

For the record, so-called standard sized stalls were designed before the standard sized human bottom had expanded to its present dimensions. All over the news and internet is the cry Americans are becoming more and more overweight and larger . . . public rest room designers apparently didn’t get the memo.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am in no way laying claim to a standard sized sitter downer. In point of fact, I cannot boast of a single standard sized body part of any real consequence. As I have reiterated in this blog before, I am NOT a small man. I was born 10 pounds and 5 ounces back in the day when such super-sized offspring were vastly rarer than they are today.

It’s safe to say I haven’t shrunk in the intervening years.

So, I began the onerous task of choosing a stall. Stall 4 was disgusting. Some people don’t know what a flush handle is. Stall 3 had a water leak seeping from the back of the toilet and soaking the floor. Stall 1 was out of T.P. Process of elimination pointed to Stall 2. So, I shoehorned my double-wide rear end and equally broad shoulders into the stainless coffin, placed my cell phone within reach on the floor, and, forcibly cock-eyed on the seat by the idiotic placement of the T.P. dispenser, proceeded with, to quote Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “Taking care of business.”

Now those who know me are well-versed in my hatred of cell phones. To me they are invasions of my privacy and solitude and a general nuisance and if it were not for possible emergencies involving my family, I would throw mine into the nearest body of water. However, I always carry one into public restrooms with me to guard against the very real possibility of my becoming hopelessly lodged in the stall . At least with a phone near to hand, I can call *HP and order up some help. Wouldn’t you love to hear such a call go out on the radio? “Car 54, we have an obese man trapped in a rest room stall in the rest area at mile marker 13, please meet the EMTs there to begin extraction with the Jaws of Life.” Sure, I’d be the laughing-stock of the aforementioned 6 O’Clock News, but at least I wouldn’t have to wait there until I starved down enough to stand on my own and walk out.

But again, I digress.

Samuel L. Jackson Toilet Paper: It’s rough and it’s tough and it don’t take any crap off anybody.

So “my business” being a fait accompli after spending the better part of a half-hour wrestling with the roll of Samuel L. Jackson T.P.,  my posterior was adequately serviced, and I found I, in fact, wasn’t stuck this time and managed to rise, adjust my clothing, and leave the stall to wash my hands, return to my car, and go on my merry way having killed two birds with one stone to wit, taking my daily constitutional AND getting in my cardio for the day. It was an unusually simple affair all the way around.

Now, some of the more astute of you will no doubt ask me why I didn’t just avail myself of the much larger “special needs” stall and save myself time, trouble, and stress. The answer lies in my fatalistic viewpoint. I know with absolute certainty the moment I ever succumb to the spacious temptation of the “special needs” stall in all its roomy glory, a bus carrying the entire U.S. Army Paralympics Team will pull into the rest area and I will emerge from the SINGLE stall available to these heroes standing on my two wholly undamaged legs to face a group of our nation’s finest seated in stoic silence in their wheelchairs. NO THANK YOU! I have enough bad karma in my life without that little scene playing out.

Love ya’ll! Restock the T.P. and keep those feet clean!

It’s Time for the Force to Awaken

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https://i0.wp.com/www.insidethemagic.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Force-Awakens-poster-2-400x200.pngThis post is mostly a rerun, but with Episode VII: The Force Awakens hitting the theaters this week, it seems appropriate. I’m planning to see the film as soon as the initial insanity settles down a little. Crowds scare me more than they did when I was on top of that Pontiac almost 40 years ago now. I’m going to see this one though. I may even go to Greenwood where a nice drive-in theater is still operating. I think it would bring the whole experience full circle for me. I’ll let y’all know what I think as soon as I see it.

A long time ago at a drive-in theater long since buried under an I-85 interchange, a great adventure took place. It was the summer of 1977 and I sat on the roof of Mama’s 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix hugging a speaker and watching the huge Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator inexorably close in on the tiny, defenseless Tantive IV. Three years later, Daddy and Teresa took me to the now defunct Astro Twin on Pleasantburg Drive where I watched Luke Skywalker battle the evil Darth Vader right before the greatest plot twist surprise in cinema history. Then, as a high school freshman, Robby and I sat in the — once again, defunct — Oaks Theater in Laurens to see Luke reunited with his friends amidst a sea of dancing teddy bears.

Star Wars played a MONUMENTAL role in my childhood and the childhoods of a big chunk of my generation. To give you an idea of just what a cultural touchstone those films are to Gen-Xers everywhere, when I called one of my college roommates to tell him I was marrying a girl born in 1978, the first thought out of his mouth was not “Congratulations” or anything like it. Instead, Chris Hoppe shouted at me, “1978! Good God, Wham! She’s never seen Star Wars at the movie theater!” He was right, of course, so as soon as Budge and I left the theater in the summer of 1997 after watching the re-release of Star Wars: A New Hope, I called him up to let him know my beloved was now bona fide.

If some of you who are younger want something to compare the effect of the Star Wars movies and associated phenomena had on us who are now fortysomethings just think how you felt when you found out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was going to be turned into a movie and then waiting for each of the succeeding films. It’s pretty much like that.

Now, if George Lucas had possessed the sense to get a prenuptial agreement with his wife, the Star Wars universe would probably have remained the exclusive unsullied cultural icon for Generation X. Unfortunately, the erstwhile Mrs. Lucas took ol’ George to the cleaners financially leaving him in relatively bad straits — no small feat to nearly bankrupt a man responsible of Luke Skywalker AND Indiana Jones. So, rumors started flying around the newly-burgeoning internet about something none of us Baby Boomer Babies ever dreamed we’d live to see — George Lucas was going to MAKE THE PREQUELS!!

Whatsa pissa poopsa!

Whatsa pissa poopsa!

So it was I sat in Theater 6 of The Hollywood 20 Theater with Budge on May 19, 1999 and watched the familiar opening crawl wind its way up the screen. I was more excited about a movie than I’d ever been or ever would be . . . at least until 2001 when I waited in line for hours to get tickets to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I quickly lost myself in the film’s first fifteen minutes; I was a kid again on the roof of that ’73 Grand Prix. Then, out of the murky green depths of one of the many planets in the Star Wars universe, disaster overtook my beloved franchise. Jar-Jar Binks appeared on the screen. Since Jar-Jar hate is widely documented, I’m not going to waste your time adding my opinions, but let’s just say, when it comes to all the negative things said about the bumbling Gungan, “I concur and then some.” I was delighted and crushed when the movie ended — delighted it was finally over and crushed that I’d waited 22 years for such a turd to plop onto my lovely memories.

Again, to give you an idea, imagine they made the first several Harry Potter movies as you remember them then, for whatever reason, they replaced Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson with Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and Tina Fey. It not only wouldn’t be the same, it would be a type of sacrilege bad enough to get one burned at the stake in Medieval Europe. Heresy is not too strong a word. I was in physical pain by the time Phantom Menace ended. My childhood didn’t just die on screen, it was hung, drawn, and quartered.

After Phantom Menace, I realized Lucas was just going for money so I didn’t bother to see Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith. I figured it would be a waste of time. In all honesty, I do wish I’d seen RotS on the big screen though, just to see the climactic fight on Mustafar between Obi-Wan and Anakin, but since that’s the only part of the movie I care anything about, I’ve just learned to content myself with YouTube. As a side note, if the prequels hadn’t shown Lucas’ money-making bias, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull proved to me he had completely blown up the refrigerator.

The cast . . .

The cast . . .

Well, Lucas sold the beloved space opera franchise to the ONE entity more concerned with money than he is — Disney. Less than a year after the sale, The Mouse has announced Episodes VII, VIII, and IX are in the works with Episode VII to be released next year, probably around Christmas. Today, the official casting announcements came out. The good news is Han, Luke, and Leia are all back aboard although I wonder if Harrison Ford will live long enough to finish all three films. The bad news is JJ Abrams is directing and co-producing Episode VII. So, this movie could be absolutely amazing with incredible visual effects and only slightly less boom and bang than a Michael Bay CGI-fest OR we could end up at the end of Episode IX discovering the entire nine film series actually took place in the imagination of some homeless Earth kid playing with broken action figures someone left lying in the park. To anyone who thinks I’m being silly and overreacting I can only reply with two words: Lost finale.

Hopefully though, the number of original cast members along with the addition of Gollum will pull the final three movies in the Star Wars nonology through. At least John Williams is doing the scores!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Now, It’s Over . . . RIP Mr. Berra

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https://i2.wp.com/img-s-msn-com.akamaized.net/tenant/amp/entityid/AAeEJRa.imgYogi Berra was one of the greatest players to ever strap on a set of baseball spikes. The numbers speak for themselves, he holds the record for most appearances in a World Series at a staggering 14 as a player and seven more as manager or coach. Twenty-one times he appeared on baseball’s largest stage and in the process, became larger than life.

Yogi was a great player and a favorite of sportswriters all over the country. He shared the field with some of the greatest to ever don pinstripes — guys like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio — , but he never let the amazing success or the rarified company go to his head. He knew he was a grown man blessed to be playing a kid’s game for pay so whenever one of those kids asked ol’ Yogi for an autograph on a baseball or program, he didn’t snarl . . . he smiled and took the item and a pen to sign it with.

In every respect, he was a class act, but, even if he hadn’t been in so many Fall Classics and even if he didn’t have a World Series ring for every finger and two thumbs and even if he didn’t still hold a plethora of records for games appeared in or doubles in the World Series, Yogi would still be remembered because his skill as a baseball player paled next to his alacrity with the English language. To whit,

  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • You can observe a lot by just watching.
  • It gets late early out here.
  • It’s like déjà vu all over again.
  • It ain’t over until it’s over.

He may not have sported Clark Gable good looks, but Clark didn’t catch the only perfect game ever thrown in a World Series, either. Yogi’s real name was Lawrence Berra, but if anyone outside his family ever called him that, it never showed up in print. He was a Yankee through and through, even though it didn’t start out that way.

Yogi had a rough patch breaking into the Major Leagues. First he was rejected by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals who instead signed his good friend Joe Garagiola, another Hall of Fame catcher. Then, when he ended up as a Yankee, his minor league career took a hiatus over a little disagreement we call World War 2 today. Finally, he ended up on the bench in his first season in The Show because he could hit the ball a mile but couldn’t throw from home to second, which is a debilitating issue for a catcher and the heretical position called the “designated hitter” had yet to be foisted upon the sacred game. Once he found his stride, though, things turned out all right for him. Besides his numerous World Series records, Yogi was a three time American League MVP and a 15 time All-Star in his 18 year career which spanned 1946-1963.

He was also one of my Papa Wham’s favorite baseball players and one of the very few Yankees he could tolerate.

In a bit of irony, Yogi died exactly sixty-nine years to the day of his Major League debut. Perhaps the home run he hit with his first at bat should have clued people in to the greatness to come.

Yogi Berra was 90 years old . . . he will be greatly missed by his family, the Yankees, and all true baseball fans everywhere.

Seven Years a Blogger

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WordPress just informed me I registered Grocery Store Feet seven years ago today. Just a couple of days later, I posted this for my first entry into the bloggosphere.

Ahh . . . Labor Day!

Labor Day is a most excellent holiday for teachers and others who work in the school system. It comes at just the right time . . . usually after the second full week of school . . . to give us a much needed rest. After all, it’s a gear-stripping, heart stopping jolt to go from the “lazy, hazy” days of summer to full throttle with a room or library full of students and a brand new year of expectations and goals — some reasonable, some, as Bogie said in The Maltese Falcon, “The stuff that dreams are made of.”
So, however you chose to spend today, I hope you got some rest in. We did here around the old haceinda. No picnics or partys, beach trips or barbecues, just sleeping late, catching up on reading and family and generally being good for nothing layabouts. Perfect day all ’round.
Tomorrow, though, it’s once more into the breach dear friends. I have a computer that is waiting on me and it will behoove itself to start acting appropriately lest I be forced to go completely Office Space on it.
Take care all. More to come later.

That’s it? I didn’t even have my usual, “Love y’all and keep those feet clean” sign off in place. Still, I think it’s crazy I’m still posting — erratically and on no set schedule, but still — after seven years. See, for me, plans are nebulous things. People will ask me what I’m doing when and where for some ridiculous amount of time in the future, like, you know . . . a week, and I just have to laugh. I do well if I’ve got tomorrow thought of. About all I know for certain is I’ll go to Clinton every Tuesday morning to check on Granny and sit with her awhile until she passes away or Gabriel blows his horn. I’m also 99% certain I will gorge myself to the point of immobility on Thanksgiving at the Hall homestead until I’m no longer invited. You get much past that, I’ve got a few murky days creeping around on my calendar here and there. No goals, no plans, no problems . . . if only.

Anyway, for me to be doing something seven years consistently is a pretty big deal in my life. That’s longer than all but one job I ever held and longer than any romantic relationship I’ve been in until I married Budge. In short, in MY life, seven years is a freakishly long time. Now I don’t claim to have improved all that much as a blogger over those seven years, but the fact remains . . . I’m still here. For me, that’s an accomplishment. So Happy Anniversary to the crusty feet and here’s to seven more — maybe.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.