Monday, December 20, 2010

Wooden Christmas Ornaments

I don't know that I'd say I grew up poor. I had plenty to eat, and I had clothes on my back. They were new clothes. I didn't need shoes. I had toys (not as many as I would have liked, but what child ever does?)

But I remember Mom making Christmas ornaments. She would have liked the fancy glass ones (and we had more than a few of those, handed down from previous generations), but she did not buy new ornaments often. More often, she made them.

She got real creative in the Christmas of '68. She wasn't working, and Dad was bringing home the bacon as a newly minted High School Counselor, a job that never pays as much as you'd want it to for the work it involves.

I think that might have been the Christmas that the Shotgun Shell Angels appeared.

Dad was an avid hunter, back in the day. Liked to hunt dove and quail; I have many fond memories of roasted little game birds, hordes of them, like tiny chickens, complete with little drumsticks. Dad did a lot of shooting. Mom did, too. And one Christmas, she brought home the spent shells... added pipe cleaner wings... little styrofoam heads and little wigs (I have no idea what she used for their hair)... and made Shotgun Shell Angels. Still have one of them.

Christmas of '69, though, I remember. We didn't have money for much of anything. My sister had been born that year, and with a five year old and a toddler to raise, Dad's check did not go as far as it might have. So that year, Mom bought this little craft kit thing... with a little rack of paints and punch-out wooden ornament shapes and stencils, and she set up at the kitchen table, and began to make that year's ornaments.

Naturally, I wanted to help. So she let me paint Santa. I was not then the painter I would someday become, and I made kind of a mess of it... well, I was only five. She went over and fixed a lot of my mistakes, but you can see where I wasn't all that good at staying in the lines.

I remember painting the Christmas tree, too. Spent most of the night doing that, because after Santa, I was utterly determined NOT to screw up, and to get all those ornaments PERFECTLY ROUND, and INSIDE THE LINES, goddammit!

Mom did the birds, and the rest of the wooden ornaments. They were stenciled on both sides, identical.

They look so Seventies, now...

But those were our new ornaments, back then. And when they were dry, we hung them on the tree with all solemnity. I liked 'em. They were colorful, and I didn't have to be anywhere NEAR as careful with them as I did with Gramma's antique handmade glass whatchadiggers...

And now, I am middle aged. These ornaments are among the few that remain that Mom made. Mom died in '94, and after a year of hanging on to nearly everything she'd ever touched, he went through a purging process... preparatory to moving out of their house... and my sister and I wound up with a lot of this stuff.

And traditionally, every year, we trim the tree at Castle Bedlam and ooh-and-ah as we remember the stories behind various ornaments. And every year, I talk about these wooden ornaments, and my family rolls their eyes because they've heard this one a million times...

...and this year, as I looked at Seventies birds and Santa, I flashed back across forty years and for a brief moment, I was five years old again, sitting at the great, massive wooden kitchen table, dabbing and painting while Mom sat and bounced my sister on her knee and gave useful advice, in between working on birds and angels.

Merry Christmas, Mom. We still miss you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weenies and Hotdogs and Boyfriends, Oh My!

It's a penis thing, really. Women just don't get it. Not only are women physically different from men, there's a substantial psychological difference from men, as well.

Penises are the very root of manhood, so to speak... mighty, yet vulnerable... seductive, yet faintly ridiculous. You hear a lot about "phallic imagery", but how much do you hear about "vaginal imagery?" Ancient Athens, the pillar of civilization, was decorated with little statues of Hermes and his erect penis... located on street corners for good luck. Men are obsessed with their dicks, for the most part. I try not to be so predictable about it, but I'm a guy, too.

One of the worst things I ever saw happen to a guy was in high school, when a friend of mine participated in the vandalizing of a Sonic-Drive-In. He made the mistake of peeing into the little speaker you order your food through. The electrical arc traveled up the stream and practically fried the poor guy's tallywhacker. He said it was like being kicked in the nuts while plugging your dick into a power socket. What was worse... he told us the next day at school... his dick didn't seem to work any more.

He was scared. I didn't blame him. To have your dick suddenly cease to function at age 16 is like ... like... shit, I don't know. A disaster, certainly. The next day he reported it still didn't work, despite hours of priming with Penthouse magazines. He could pee through it... but that was about it.

Day three: still nothing. He was badly frightened... his brother had theorized that he'd shorted out some important nerves, or something. Would it ever work again? He was debating going to the doctor, even if it meant admitting who'd vandalized the Sonic...

Day four: He came to school laughing, his heart had wings again. Life was good again. Apparently, the poor thing was just traumatized, that's all. He reported no less than four successful launchings the previous night, with and without photographic assistance. All was well... but it was a lesson none of us ever forgot...

...but I digress. My own experience with the sacredness of the penis came when I lived with Tiny Alice. Alice had just broken up with her boyfriend and was in the usual "men are pigs" phase that seems to go after that.

She had two dogs, a little yappy thing that looked like a mop with feet... and a small bulldog-looking animal.

It wasn't EXACTLY a bulldog... I don't remember what it was. Its name was Corky, and it may have been the stupidest vertebrate I've ever encountered. It was rabidly affectionate, energetic as a mongoose on speed, and had a tongue bigger than my entire head. When you entered the door it would tear through the house, run directly towards you, run UP your body, and lick you two or three times on the face before gravity took over and it fell back to the floor. If you fell down, ghod help you -- before you could scramble back to your feet, you'd be sopping with dog spit.

Corky, like I said, was not a smart dog. Tiny Alice never completely succeeded in housebreaking it... all Corky ever quite managed to learn was that you should NEVER let a human CATCH you taking a shit. If you saw Corky crapping somewhere and Corky spotted you, Corky would rip into Tiny Alice's bedroom and hide under the bed. If you tried to get the dog out, the dog would bite the hell out of you.

I tried to play "fetch" with Corky once. I tossed a tennis ball into the kitchen. Corky rip-assed after the ball, caught up with the ball, snapped up the ball in his mouth, tried to stop, skitterskitterskitter on the tile, trying desperately to hit the brakes.... POW, headfirst into the refrigerator... stagger back into the living room, drop the ball at my feet... We did this four or five times before I realized that the dog was too stupid to NOT do this...

...but like I said, Tiny Alice had broken up with her boyfriend, which I thought was a good thing... the guy was a shitheel. She was heartbroken for a while, but she got over it. One day, I came home and found her playing a game with Corky... a game we might well call "bite the weenie". It involved holding a frankfurter about three feet off the floor, and holding it more or less parallel to the floor... and wiggling it. If Corky would leap up and bite the weenie in half, he got to eat the weenie.

...does anyone see where this is going?

I shooda. I'd just gotten out of the shower. Alice was at work, so I'd left the bathroom door open, to let out the steam. I'd been thinking interesting thoughts while in the shower... I don't remember what about, but I do remember having a serious erection as I got out and dried myself off.

About then, I noticed Corky. Corky was sitting in the doorway, studying me. Specifically, Corky was studying my dick. Corky cocked his head, quizzically... gazed for a second...

...and then leaped.

The penis is made of spongy tissue, fortunately; I understand some bulldogs can crush bone with their jaws. Believe it. I screamed, danced around, hit the dog, yanked my dick, and finally spun around, hoping the dog would be shaken off by the centrifugal force or something. I don't pretend I was rational at this point; there was a dog trying to bite my dick in half, y'know.

At this point, the door opened, and Tiny Alice walked in.

She saw her naked hairy roommate screaming and jumping up and down and spinning in circles with a dog clamped on his dick.

Naturally, her first thought was for the dog's safety. She promptly attacked me.

We called her Tiny Alice for a reason, though -- she was maybe five feet and eighty pounds, dripping wet. It wasn't until I heard her screaming "DON'T HURT MY DOG!!!" in my ear that I realized she was on my back, one arm locked around my throat. I hadn't noticed her. Of course, I was kind of distracted...

I ignored her and kept jumping up and down and whacking the dog. She reciprocated by trying to choke me, but she couldn't quite get her arm all the way around my neck. She tried biting me, but I was much too interested in the other creature biting me for this to have much effect. Finally, she was reduced to yelling in my ear, which was about as painful... and as effective... as the other forms of assault she'd tried.

This whole thing probably went on for two or three minutes.

Finally, Corky realized that this weenie just wasn't gonna give as easily as the Oscar Meyer ones had, and let go. With the clamp gone, my erection instantly deflated. I cradled my poor dick in my hands, afraid to look at it. I was quite certain the dog's teeth had perforated it like a machinegun barrel, and I'd have to finger it like a piccolo if I ever wanted to pee straight again...

... but when I looked at it... it was okay. The dog's teeth hadn't penetrated.

Tiny Alice, who was still on my back, looked over my shoulder with some interest.

I carefully examined it. There were some bruises where the teeth had been. I carefully examined the underside. It seemed OK there, too... and I squeezed it experimentally.

A drop of blood oozed out of the end.

I lost my fucking mind.

I went after the dog, fully intending to tear it apart like a fried chicken. The dog, not being THAT stupid, promptly fled under Alice's bed. I went under the bed after the dog. The dog bit me. I leaped to my feet, grabbed the bed, and tossed it across the room. The dog promptly ran into the living room and shot under the couch. I ran after it, grabbed the couch, and tossed it into the kitchen. The dog looked at me, horrified, and ran into the bathroom, where all the furniture was attached to the floor and I couldn't possibly pick it up...

...and it was already in there before it realized that there was nothing to hide under in there.

I had the dog cornered in the bathtub when I paused due to the splitting pain in my head.

Alice was still on my back and had been screaming in my ear the whole time. She'd finally resorted to trying to rip it off with her teeth, Mike-Tyson-style. Ironically, she wound up drawing more blood than the dog did.

I did not kill the dog.

My dick was sore for a day or two, but never lost function. It still works fine, by the way.

I did get EVEN with the dog... but that's a tale for another time...
Well, perhaps… but eventually, I did get around to writing it down. I present it now for your approval.

Awright, awright. Not that I'm particularly proud of this, you understand. The reason I don't spread this story as much as the other one is because it's frankly not as funny, and it involves cruelty to animals. Some people just get ALL bent out of shape about cruelty to animals, and I can understand this.

On the other hand, I'm also a believer in just desserts.

A while later -- a LOT later -- I was having a garage sale. My friend Bobo (short for borborygmi -- look it up) came over to keep me company, and Tiny Alice went to work. This meant Corky was outside on a leash, tied to a tree.

Corky was never successfully housebroken, you see. After I stepped in a warm, fresh pile of dogshit one night, barefoot, en route to go pee, I laid down the law with Alice -- unless you are home and awake to supervise that goddamn dog, it will either be in your room or outside, and I don't care which. While she was at work, Corky was tied to a tree in the front yard.

When tied to a tree, Corky would invariably begin frantically running around the tree until he'd wound the leash to about an inch long. He would then whimper piteously until someone came and picked him up and unwound him. He would then stay loose for about fifteen minutes until he had wound himself cheek-to-bark with the tree again. It was the damndest thing. You couldn't even lure him in the other direction with a doggy treat. You had to pick his ass up and CARRY him counterclockwise around the goddamn tree.

... the stupidest vertebrate creature I have ever met. Maybe not even vertebrate. I understand you can teach a flatworm to navigate a maze. I couldn't even teach Corky not to knock himself stupid on the kitchen cabinets when chasing a tennis ball...

Around noon, Bobo ordered a pizza. It was pepperoni, with jalapenos. He loved jalapenos, which may have helped account for his nickname*. I like them too, but not on pizza, scrambled eggs, or fruit salad -- strictly Mexican food, thank you. I picked the peppers off my half, and joined him in decimating the pizza.

Corky wasn't happy. He wanted the customers at the garage sale to pet him, but he acted so maniacal, no one wanted to get too close. He would happily have gone over to them, but his lead was only an inch long... so he stood there, straining at it, going buggeyed, whimpering, and looking demented. On top of that, he wanted some of the pizza.

"Serve him right if we gave him some," I said. I wasn't real happy, either. I'd paid for half the pizza, and Bobo had ordered it without consulting me, and despite the fact that I'd cleaned the peppers off my half, it still tasted of jalapenos.

Bobo grinned. Bobo understood where I was coming from. When I'd told Bobo what the dog had done to me, he offered to steal the dog and run over it with his truck for me, if I wanted.

I thought about it, but I wasn't quite THAT cruel.

Not quite.

I grinned back at him.

He took one of the leftover slices and peeled the cheese off the top. He collected the peppers I'd scraped off my half, and wrapped them in the ball of cheese. He then squeezed the ball to fuse it solid, and tossed it to the dog.

Corky caught it before it hit the ground, and scarfled it noisily, going choff, choff, choff... choff....... chofff..........................YIPEYIPEYIPEYIPEYIPE!!!!!

Sure enough, he'd swallowed it before his tongue had successfully communicated its agony to whatever he used for a brain.

We sat and watched the dog go apeshit for a while. It was after twelve noon, and business was dead, and I was considering knocking off for the day. Finally, I couldn't stand it, and went in to get the dog a bowl of water. I handed Bobo the bowl, and began taking down the tables and taking in the old clothes.

A few minutes later, I realized the dog was still going YIPEYIPEYIPEYIPE, but with a kind of strangled note in its voice. I stopped and looked outside. Bobo had put the bowl of water down about three inches out of reach, and the dog was about to decapitate itself, trying to get at the bowl.

I frowned at Bobo. Bobo grinned back at me. I told Bobo to give the dog the friggin' water already. Bobo looked at me, then at the dog. Bobo then took the remaining jalapeno peppers out of the box... a good fistful... and held them directly over the bowl... and squeeeeeeezed, hard.

Several large, fat drops of pepper oil oozed between his fingers and fell into the bowl, spreading across the surface of the water. He then dropped the whole pulverized mess into the bowl, and nudged it close to the dog with his toe.

The dog slammed its head into the bowl and began slurpslurpslurping water out in huge tonguefuls... slurpslurpslurp...slurp.........slurp..................YIPEYIPYIPEYIPEYIPEYIPE!!!!

I finished bringing the stuff in, and put the tables away. The dog frantically rolled, jammed its nose into the dirt, did backflips, and looked like its head and butt were trying to escape from its body... ANYTHING to be rid of the horrible caustic burning feeling that was coursing up and down its throat.

It occurred to me that with a dog's sense of smell, its sense of taste was probably a lot sharper, too. Corky was quite likely in real agony.

I thought about my dick for a minute. I'd been in agony, too, you know. In more ways than one.

Feeling about three inches tall, I went and got another bowl, and put milk in this one. Water's not much good for killing pepper burn, because the burn is caused by an oil. Water and oil won't mix, and the oils stay in the crevices in your tongue. Milk will not only get into those crevices, it neutralizes the oil. Try it sometime, with a jalapeno pepper, a glass of ice water, and a glass of milk, and you'll see what I mean. Anyway, I took the bowl of milk out and gave it to the dog.

Corky was still frantically jerking about, almost seeming like he was about FIVE dogs. He stopped and looked at the bowl of milk, lunged toward it -- and stopped at the last minute. He looked at it, whimpering. His eyes were red as stoplights. Foam dripped from his mouth and nose. He looked at me.

God damn, I thought, NOW the fucking dog finally learns something. I grabbed Corky by the head and jammed his face into the milk.

At first, he reacted like you would if I jammed your face into a bowl of molten lava... and then, realizing it wasn't hot... and then, realizing it MADE THE PAIN GO AWAY, Corky annihilated the milk in about four gulps.

He licked his face, in that way bulldogs have of washing their entire face with one sweep of a tongue the size of my whole hand. He looked at me, his little doggy face filled with worship. Papa Doc had made the burning pain go away. It never occurred to the dog that Papa Doc had put it there to begin with.

I felt about TWO inches tall, and went into the house.

Bobo gave me hell about feeling sorry for a dog that had almost bitten my dick off for hours after that...

*Bobo's nickname was "Borborygmi." Look it up.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


We looked forward to trying Black's Barbecue in Lockhart. But if you were in severe back pain, would you go to Kowboy Chiropractic?

Lockhart again. Nothing says "Texas Gothic" like having some gargoyles perched on your awning.

In Texas, we like to kill things and mount them on our walls. I understand that we used to like to do this to black and brown people, too, until the civil rights era kind of made this sort of non-PC.

Black's Barbecue, with instructions for how to manage the Cafeteria Maze.

Every good barbecue joint requires at least one jackalope.

An antique store in Lockhart. Couldn't resist this picture.

Summer barbecue. I'm gonna miss this, when school starts...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the telephone

Land line rung this morning. We hardly ever use it any more except to have something to put down on forms in order to avoid giving out our cell numbers.

So the machine gets it. Another machine begins to talk to our machine. It explains that it has a wonderful opportunity for us, yadda yadda. It wants to sell us something wonderful, no doubt, and will, if we will only call it back at thus-and-such a number. Beep!

So... either there are companies out there dumb enough to think they can replace actual telemarketers with machines, and this will somehow WORK...

...or there are customers out there dumb enough to call back a RECORDING in order to buy some damn thing that isn't even specified in the call!

Neither option fills me with hope.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Esprit d'Escalier

I sat and licked my ice cream cone, and listened to the crazy old man talk about roaches.

We'd stopped by this ice cream cone stand, right? We'd heard they had great homemade ice cream. They did, too. It was delicious. But the elderly couple had stopped around the same time, and while his wife was getting ice cream, this old guy had decided I was his friend, and was going to tell me about his roach problem, apropos of nothing, whether I wanted to hear it or not.

I don't get it. When I strike up conversations with strangers, I can think of better things to talk about than vermin, filth, or genital warts. But for this old codger, there was nothing in the world more compelling than his roach problem. Mom raised me to be respectful to the elderly... no matter HOW full of shit they may be... and so Becca and I sat and ate our ice cream and listened to the old man rant and rave about roaches.

His wife came back with the ice cream, and immediately looked dismayed. She said nothing, but her facial expression said, "Oh, no. He's on about the roaches again, and he's trapped some poor bystander, and now this man and his wife think I'm married to an Alzheimer's case."

The old man developed a spooky glint in his eye. "But THEN," he said, "I realized where they was COMIN' from."

The woman said "Oh, dear, please, no--" She knew what was coming, and was already dying of embarrassment.

"They was comin' from the SHITTER!" he cried, fairly loudly, his voice filled with triumph. "Comin' out of the SHITTER, they was! Them roaches was gettin' in through the SHITTER!" His eyes durn near glowed with lunatic glee. I wasn't sure if he was pleased he'd outsmarted the roaches, or if he was just thrilled that he'd said the word "shitter" three times in less than three seconds. His wife shriveled behind him. Too late...

"That reminds me," I said. It was the first time I'd spoken since the old man had begun talking. "Are you familiar with the Japanese giant hornet?"

The old man stopped cold, and looked confused. I continued onward. "Big suckers. We're talking hornets the size of your thumb. They build nests the size of Volkswagens. Hostile, too. They kill about twenty Japanese folks each year -- if you get too close to the nest, they swarm you."

The old man sat there with a "durr?" look on his face. Plainly, this wasn't in his script. Feeling pleased with myself, I pressed onward. "What's even worse, their poison is corrosive. First they sting you, then they SPRAY you with the stuff. Not only does it burn your skin, but it's got a pheremone in it that tells all the OTHER wasps that you're an enemy, and should be stung to death immediately. They'll chase you for hundreds of yards once you got THAT shit on you."

The light of lunacy died in the old man's eyes, slowly replaced by the steady gleam of confused lucidity. "Um," he said, raising a hand, preparatory to speaking. I didn't want him to speak. I kept going.

"And if giant monster wasps who spray flesh-melting poison isn't bad enough," I said, "they're really bad for beekeepers. See, they attack beehives. I saw a video once, only three wasps, fighting THOUSANDS of bees, right there at the hive. The bees can't touch them. Their stings won't go through the wasps' shells. THREE WASPS just killed every single bee in the hive, bit 'em in half one at a time, then when they were all dead, crawled right in there and ate the queen and all the baby bees..."

"Um, now, hold on, just WAIT a minute!" said the old man, by now quite bumfuzzled. "What does THIS have to do with anything? I was talkin' about ROACHES!"

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said as sincerely as I could. "Did I mess up? I was under the impression we were having some sort of non-sequitur contest with the topic "insects." Did I not use enough profanity? I wasn't real clear on the rules..."

This story was true, all the way up until I began talking about the hornets. For that matter, the stuff about the hornets is true, too -- it just didn't occur to me to say anything about them at the time. I wish I had... "Esprit D'Escalier," means "Spirit of the staircase." It means "stuff you wish you'd said at the right time, but didn't think of until you were already on your way out."

I like that there's a word for that.

But to my dear wife and anyone who really cares about me: if, when I am old, I begin pouncing on complete strangers and begin talking to them about roaches or bowel movements or anything, just shoot me. Seriously. The part of me that is still lucid would thank you for it...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Evel Knievel

Ergh. Too wide. Try clicking it!
Evel Knievel - A History
Via: Motorcycle Insurance

Monday, July 5, 2010

Playground Slide

Once, years ago, at a county fair, I saw a big inflatable slide shaped like the Titanic. You know, the ship, the one that's famous largely for sinking? The one where hundreds of people met their icy watery doom?

Yeah, that's right. There was a playground slide shaped like it. It tilted at an angle, the bow already underwater, as if it were sinking into the fairgrounds. Children climbed up into it and slid down their decks, much like the screaming victims of the original disaster slid to their deaths as the mighty ship heaved and went under.

It creeped me out. It was like an inflatable bouncy castle shaped like the Twin Towers, complete with vinyl flames and a rubber airplane sticking out of one side.

I thought that Titanic Slide was the most disturbing children's attraction I would ever see on any playground.

I was wrong.