Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chicken and Chocolate: An Easter Story

The Easter toys are in the stores now. I bought a little plastic chicken the other day. It came equipped with a bunch of little plastic eggs; when you push down on the chicken's back, it flaps its little plastic wings and lays a plastic egg. It's not good to think about how you have to get the eggs in there in the first place.

Why did I buy this plastic chicken toy? To commemorate a memory. My late grandfather was terribly fond of little plastic gewgaws, and used his grandchildren as an excuse to buy them -- and yes, he always gave them to us to keep after he'd played with them for a few minutes. The guy was vice-president of a bank; he had to hang on to some dignity.

Anyway, one Easter, he took us out and bought all sorts of Easter toys. I believe the year was 1971 or so; I would have been around seven, and my sister was around two. Her big thing that year was an inflatable Easter rabbit that was bigger than she was. My great joy was the Aurora dinosaur models. Still, I remember that silly plastic chicken...

It didn't lay plastic eggs; instead it came with some gumballs you were supposed to stick up its ass, then push down on the chicken's back to make her lay "gumball eggs". I did, and gobbled them down as fast as she laid them. Eventually, there were no gumball eggs, and I experimented with other small egg-shaped objects, including jellybeans and chocolate balls. Eventually, I lost interest and went in to assemble my Pterodactyl (with optional Battle-Damaged Wing) and made it soar menacingly across my grandparents' living room...

It was still Easter. We'd been up hunting eggs by 7 a.m., breakfast by 8, rolling in toys and candy by 9, and by late afternoon, I was bored. My pterodactyl had attacked and eaten entire tribes of imaginary cavemen by that time; I was terribly interested in seeing how he'd come out against my Allosaurus, but that model was back home; a grudge match would have to wait. What to do?

That was when I remembered the chicken. Make it lay some more eggs to eat. I began looking for the chicken, which was nowhere to be found -- until I remembered it was out on the patio. I trotted outside and discovered all the adults sitting around in lawn chairs making adult-talk; nothing to concern me. I looked around, spotted my chicken, still sitting next to my Easter basket...

(At this point, I feel obligated to point out that the geographic location was deep south Texas -- some forty miles east of the Mexican border, on the northern part of the Rio Grande Valley. They call the place the "Winter Garden" because of its short, mild winters. My point here is that although it was barely spring, it was hot by early spring standards...)

I ran over and picked up the chicken. Ahh, plenty of heft -- no need to load it. I put its little orange feet on the pavement and pushed down on its back.

Nothing happened. Instead of the brisk clickelick of the spring mechanism unloading an egg, I got silence -- and a feel of mushy resistance. I frowned, perplexed. No jellybean? I let up, let the mechanism relax, then pushed again. Nothing happened. Irritated, I pushed harder.
It seemed that I'd left the thing loaded with those little chocolate balls, not the jellybeans. Chocolate balls. In the hot sun, all afternoon. A wonder the ants hadn't found it. Anyway, the chocolate hadn't had enough time to melt, per se -- not really hot enough -- but it had softened pretty well, not enough to leak out, but soft enough to be forced out under the proper circumstances. When I pushed down, the chicken finally excreted a thin tailing that, upon reaching the pavement, coiled brownly up in a little pile, like--

I was completely blown away. Here I'd just expected that a jellybean egg was stuck in the chicken's clockwork bowels, only to discover that my plastic poultry could produce a plurality of biological functions.

"Hey, NEAT!" I cried gleefully. "My chicken just POOPED!"

All four adults sharing the patio with me abruptly looked up from their conversation. I noticed this, and mistook it for interest. I put the chicken down again and pushed; it obligingly repeated the phenomenon. "Didja see?" I cried. "Didja see?"

Looking back through my memories through a child's eye, the expressions on their faces still kind of amuse me. My grandmother's face indicated that her entire brain just kind of locked up on her from sheer shock. My father, on the other hand, had his mouth hanging open and looked kind of like he wanted to laugh, but was wondering whether or not he should swat me for appearances' sake. Mom got a firm set to her jaw and glared at my grandfather -- (did YOU buy him that thing?), and Gran'ther looked most confused of all -- partly amused, partly shocked, and partly like the captain of the Exxon Valdez preparing to meet with the press --"Well, it wasn't supposed to do that..."

I can correctly interpret these expressions only now, as an adult. As a child, at the time, I simply assumed that they were as blown away by the magic of the phenomenon as I was -- as if Pinocchio had become a real boy, or the Tin Man of Oz had suddenly needed to take a leak or something. Merrily, I proceeded to hop my little plastic chicken around the pavement, leaving little piles of confectionary crap in its wake. Just as the adults were regaining the power of speech, it occurred to my sister, who was sitting nearby, that the chicken's leavings ... were edible.

I leave it to your imagination what the reaction was by the Old People to a cute bediapered infant happily scooping up and sampling ersatz chicken turds.

I was not punished. Upon explanation, it became clear that I had not planned the event, didn't know any better, and wasn't even exactly clear on what all the foofaraw was about. My sister and I were washed (a little too vigorously; milk chocolate comes off skin fairly easily), as was the chicken; when it was dry, I got it back, along with the rest of the jellybeans. The chocolate, I was told, was no good; ants had gotten into it, and let this be a lesson about leaving your things outside.

I knew, of course, that there were no ants in the chocolate, but I kept silent; I was young, but not stupid. Chalk it up, I decided, to the weirdness that creeps in during the metamorphosis from child to grownup as the brain petrifies. No telling what their problem was. I mean, even the baby knew it wasn't real poop...

Ever since I first published this story, back around 2000, people have been sending me little plastic animals that crap. It astonishes me that there are so many of them for sale these days...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recipes: III (aka Blazing Chickens)

The night I met Dorf, aka the Gorilla, sticks out in my mind.

I'd met his roommate, Max, at the place I worked at the time, and Max had suggested we all get together for dinner. He mentioned that his roommate would make dinner, and since everyone had heard about my insane videotape collection, perhaps I could bring some videos?

It sounded good to me. About then... the phone rang.

I picked it up. A crazy high pitched voice screamed and jibbered at me. I recognized Max's name though. "It's for you... I think," I said, handing Max the phone.

Max looked at me funny, and took the phone. He listened for a minute, and his face showed shock. "Holy CRAP!" he cried. "That was Gorilla! My house is on fire! We've got to get over there, NOW!"

And Max ran out the door.

I followed, stopping to lock the front door, and to ponder why Max had a gorilla, and how it had gotten my phone number. No one had bothered to inform me, yet, about Dorf's nickname.

We ran through the darkened evening streets. In the distance, I heard sirens, of fire engines to come. Max was a skinny little bugger, and I had to run hard to keep him in sight. Fortunately, he didn't live more than a few blocks from my place. He ran into a complex of apartment buildings, and into a little breezeway between two buildings... and stopped cold.

When I caught up with him, I saw why. The pavement was covered with broken glass. This one apartment faced into the breezeway, and the two large windows flanking the front door had blown out. Max stood there in shock. Plainly, this was his apartment. Cautiously, I stepped into the breezeway. The front door was standing wide open, which may have saved it from being blasted off the hinges.

About then, a hairy man wearing a towel ran out into the breezeway. "Max!" he cried. "It's okay! It's all right! I-- YEAAARGH!"

Seizing his foot, he hopped backwards into the apartment. He was barefoot. I guess he hadn't noticed all the broken glass.

Max and I cautiously stepped forward, and peered into the open window. The apartment did not appear to be on fire. Nothing was burning. There were no soot marks or black smears, or anything to indicate that it had been on fire. I noticed the aquarium sitting on the breakfast bar was shattered, though. I also didn't see any gorilla. I did smell a strong odor of burnt hair, though. Was that it? Had they been meaning to serve the gorilla for dinner, and it had somehow managed to escape? That still didn't explain how it had gotten my phone number, though...

Meanwhile, the hairy man continued to hop around the living room holding his foot. His towel fell off. He was naked. He fell down behind the couch, and I saw him no longer.

About then, the fire department showed up. It seems someone had reported a fire. Did we know anything about it?

Max and I couldn't tell them anything.

About then, the hairy man emerged from behind the couch, firmly wrapped in his towel again, and limping slightly. Yes, he was the one who'd reported the fire. He was also the one who'd called my house.

Meanwhile, the firemen, in full firefighting gear, had spread through the apartment, looking for signs of fire. One noticed that one wall of the kitchen had scorch marks on it. He also noticed a twisted cylindrical thing on the kitchen floor. It looked like an exploded bombshell to me. What the %$#@ HAD these crazy people been meaning to serve me for supper?

About then, the hairy man began to explain himself... and the story fell into place:
Gorilla had set up a dinner date with his girlfriend and his roommate that evening. His roommate had mentioned that he worked with this guy who had every videotape ever released, and what say we invite him, and ask him to bring some videos? Gorilla was agreeable, and Max had set out on foot to my place. Meanwhile, Gorilla had showered, and begun dinner.

Dinner was a sort of open faced sandwich thing with chicken breasts and molten mozzerella that Gorilla called "Atomic Chicken". It involved careful baking at medium temperatures. Gorilla was running back and forth between the kitchen and the bathroom, dressed only in his Fruit Of The Looms, trying to get cleaned and shaved and coiffed and make dinner at the same time. At one point, he was shaving himself by the reflection in the chrome parts of the stove. Kitchen utensils and hygiene supplies were scattered throughout the kitchen. He put on a pot of green beans to cook, and then went back to the bathroom to find his toothbrush.

While he was in there, he heard an explosion in the kitchen.

He ran back in... to find the kitchen in flames.

The entire north wall was ablaze. The stove was wrapped in flame. The kitchen was an inferno.

Dorf stood there, goggling at it. What the fuck? He'd only been gone two seconds. How the hell does a fire this huge start in two seconds?

About then, a tiny part of his mind interrupted his ponderings to point out that his house was on fire, and to suggest that he do something about it.

Um... okay. How does one put a fire out? Water! You put water on it!

Dorf ran to the sink, and turned on the water. It ran ineffectually out of the faucet into the sink. Dorf began grabbing handfuls of it and throwing it at the burning wall. It didn't seem to do much good. Was the fire SPREADING? Man, this wasn't WORKING! How ELSE did one put out a fire?
Um... well... you BEAT it out!

Dorf ran to the wall and began slapping at it. VERY briefly. He then jerked back sharply to blow on his newly hairless knuckles to cool them. Plainly, barehanded wasn't going to work. What else was there to beat the fire out with? He cast around him for a dishtowel, a blanket, SOMETHING--


Desperate, he yanked off his underwear and frantically began trying to beat the fire out with them. He whacked the fire three or four times without much visible affect. On the fifth swing, he realized that his Fruit Of The Looms were on fire, and let go of them to keep from getting burned.

After that, he decided to just stop doing anything and stand there and scream for a while. After several good screams, he felt a little better, but his house was still on fire, and now he was naked.
What else did one do when the house was on fire?


He ran into the living room, grabbed the phone, and dialed 911, and yammered his address into it, adding "FIRE! FIRE! HAAAALLLPPP!!! before he slammed the phone down again. About then, it occurred to him that perhaps he should tell his roommate about this. He saw, on the notepad next to the phone, "Am at Doc's, 555-6431", so he called my place, and screamed at Max that the house was on fire.

Oddly enough, having successfully DONE something about it, he felt better, and lit a cigarette, and waited for the fire department to arrive. He took a drag, and glanced into the burning kitchen.

...and realized that he was sitting on his butt, naked, in a burning house. He was in actual physical danger.

His mouth dropped open, and his cigarette fell out of it.

Into his crotch.

I should probably point out that Dorf was so rattled he hadn't hung up the phone. Max was still standing there, listening to nothing. Suddenly, Dorf began screaming, and Max was convinced that his roommate and bosom buddy was burning to death, and that's when Max shouted at me and pelted out my front door.

Well, yeah, Dorf WAS burning alive, just not quite the way Max thought.

Meanwhile, Dorf had retrieved his smoke, and ran again into the burning kitchen. What the hell? What to do? It would take the fire department too LONG, what was he going to DO--

...and his eyes fell upon the fire extinguisher hanging in its little bracket, next to the stove.

I wasn't there, of course. I can only imagine the look on Dorf's face. It must have looked exactly like in the movie Army Of Darkness, where Ash is facing the horrible undead monster in the pit... and suddenly, someone throws him his chainsaw.

Dorf seized the fire extinguisher with alacrity... and burned himself on the hot metal. It hadn't been IN the fire, but close enough long enough to heat up significantly. He dropped it. It landed on his toe. He hopped around screaming for a few seconds, all the time he could afford, and then grabbed the thing again. It was still too hot, but by Ghod, he was going to put the fire out. He grabbed the handle, aimed it at the fire, and squeezed the trigger.

Nothing happened.

He squeezed again. Nothing.

After that, he went a little nuts, and began beating the extinguisher against the burning wall, weeping and crying and screaming and cursing the evil rotten appliance that had so failed him and refused to put out the fire.

About then, he noticed that there was a tag hanging on the extinguisher. Of COURSE! Read the INSTRUCTIONS! He quickly backed away from the fire, and took the tag in hand to read it.

The tag was on fire.

Screaming and howling, he tore the tag away and slapped out the flames. Too late. It was unreadable.

At that point, he jumped up and down screaming, ready to break the damn extinguisher over SOMETHING--

--when he noticed the little ring/pin thingy sticking out of the trigger assembly. It was intended to prevent accidental discharge. Bob immediately slipped a finger through the ring and yanked--
--and it stopped. It was held onto the extinguisher by a little plastic loop, the same one the tag had been hanging on.

Dorf yanked again, HARD. Nothing. It was too tough. It wouldn't give or break.

Screaming and shrieking and howling like the damned, Dorf PULLED--

--and the cord broke. The ring came free. Dorf flung it across the room. The extinguisher was in hand now. The pin was gone. NOTHING would stop him from raining foamy death upon the enemy flames! And Dorf spun around to face the burning wall and squeezed the trigger--

...the wall wasn't on fire.

Dorf let go of the trigger. He stood there and goggled.

The wall was not on fire.

Dorf stood there some more. He stared. The wall was not on fire. The wall HAD BEEN on fire, but now was NOT. What the hell was this? How does a fire go from nothing to Firestorm in two seconds, and then from Inferno to nonexistence in two seconds? The wall wasn't charred. Nothing seemed damaged.

Had... had there actually BEEN any fire? Was Dorf losing his MIND?

He stepped forward ... cautiously... and put his hand on the wall.

The wall was hot, hotter than it should have been, but not so hot that you'd think it had been burning. Hey, there were scorch marks, up near the ceiling? Dorf felt the stove, and promptly burned himself on the hot metal.

Plainly, the wall HAD BEEN on fire... but now ... was NOT.

A flicker of flame caught his attention! Dammit, the evil sneaky rotten fire had MOVED! It had OUTFLANKED HIM! He spun around, extinguisher at the ready!

A thin tailing of smoke and the stench of burnt vinyl flooring rose from a little white mound. Dorf's underwear was still on fire, where he had dropped them. Dorf pointed the extinguisher, squeezed the trigger. The extinguisher worked fine, and killed the little flame immediately.

About then, he heard sirens, and someone screaming his name, nearby. Dorf abruptly remembered that he was naked. He ran into the bathroom, to get a towel...

...and that was where we came in.

The firemen were mystified. The wall did have scorch marks, and SOMETHING, some sort of sudden thermal effect, had blown out the windows and shattered the aquarium... but what the heck was it? The firemen knew any NUMBER of things that would cause a wall to burst into flames suddenly... but NONE that would suddenly vanish, leaving only traces of scorch instead of total destruction. What the hell?

About then, one of the firemen picked up the exploded bombshell looking thing. He looked it over, and then called Dorf over.

It was a can of hair spray. "Where did you leave this last, before the explosion?" the fire chief asked.

Turned out he'd been doing his hair and shaving, all at the same time, right there on the stove, in the reflection off the chrome. He'd left the hairspray right on top of the stove. It had heated up and exploded, hosing the entire stove and the wall with wet hairspray, which had then ignited off the heat from the burner with the saucepan on it.

Fortunately, hairspray doesn't burn real hot. It hadn't ignited the ceiling (although it had scorched it pretty well) or the drywall. The only things it really COULD ignite were flammables like clothing and paper... and when the fuel had burned out, the fire had simply vanished. Luckily for Dorf.

The fire marshal gave Dorf a nasty lecture about flammables and kitchen appliances. Dorf stood there, head bobbing, yes-sir-no-sir-three-bags-full-sir, and took it. Max and I examined the rest of the apartment. Max mourned the loss of his beloved fish. Finally, the firemen left.

Dorf staggered to the couch and lit another cigarette, to steady his shattered nerves. Max and I sat down with him. Man, what a night...

About then, a sort of thin, distant grinding shrieking noise was heard from the kitchen.

Dorf about had a conniption fit, right there. WHAT THE HELL NOW?!?!

I leaped to my feet, ready to flee. This place was DANGEROUS!!!

Max leaped to his feet, too... but then walked into the kitchen, toward the source of the sound.

It was the somewhat melted, damaged but still functional, kitchen timer.

Dinner was ready.

(This story originally included Dorf’s toasted chicken sandwich recipe, but it has been lost. Perhaps this is for the best.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Went and lost my perspective

My blog ain't funny any more. I went and got all absorbed in politics, and the people screaming at each other, and then I went and got all bent out of shape about the morons, and I went and lost me perspective. There hasn't been any funny all week.

Well, that needs to change. I've changed the clamps on the generator that feeds the electric fence, I've given the Bouncing Betties on the perimeter their annual servicing, and with Spring here, I've retuned and released the cyborg squirrels of doom to continue their regular perimeter patrols. They're much better now; last year, they had a bad habit of falling out of the tree if they got too far beyond the WiFi hotspot. This year, they're all upgraded to satellite.

There will be no more bitching about politics here. At least not for a while. Life is too short to spend it raging at morons. At least unless one is being paid to do it...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Republicans, where are you?

Where have all the Republicans gone?

I was raised to believe in the Republicans. They were a bunch of mean old men who kept a damn close eye on my money. They wanted to keep all those damn Democrats from blowing it all on drugs and booze. They wanted less government, smaller government, and less in my face government.

They kept us out of wars, and pulled us out of the ones the Democrats started. Man, I thought Republicans were where it was AT!

Today, the Republican is a different beast entirely. Far as I can tell, the Republican of today does not seem to believe in a damn thing aside from that a Republican should be elected to each and every public office; that the Republican is inherently superior to any non-Republican; and that failure to believe this makes one a Liberal, a slimy subhuman thing that should die by fire immediately for the betterment of humanity.

Gone is the "don't spend" mentality -- two of the last three Republican presidents have run the deficit up beyond anything seen since World War II. Gone is the "mind our own business" mentality -- the last Republican not only got us into two wars, but made a point of ignoring his own generals and advisors while doing so, apparently less interested in the lives of Americans than in playing toy soldiers with the world's greatest military force.
I am not particularly wild about Democrats. Their reputation still ain't the best. But at least they seem to believe in something, and they do a better job of pretending they give a shit about my country than the current crop of what passes for Republicans. What the hell, people?

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Get your hand out of my pocket!"

Y'know, this whole big stupid thing about health insurance is getting on my nerves. What is it that people can't stand about having national health insurance?

*"I don't want to pay for other people's health insurance!" Too late. You already are. Every time the cops call an ambulance to pick up some wino who poisoned himself drinking aftershave, the hospital HAS to treat him, which means us taxpayers HAVE to pick up the tab. And I am here to tell you that the kind of bum that you and I don't want to pay to have insurance? He won't do it. He won't keep track of it, he won't fill out the paperwork, he won't do anything, because he's a fuckup, which is why he's a bum in the first place, which is why you and I are already paying for his medical expenses! In short, he isn't going to cost us any more money than he already IS!

The people you're paying for are poor people, single moms, underemployed people, children, and people who for one reason or another can't afford health insurance that offers any reasonable coverage. People who -- if yer as Christian as you claim to be -- you'd help already... or who may be eligible for help from charities and such. This way, they can actually get health insurance, rather than hope like hell some charity can and will pony up to cover bills they can't afford. Note also that these people ALSO go to emergency rooms when they have to, which means you and I are ALREADY paying their damn bills. At least this way, the weight is spread among the whole body of taxpayers, thus making it cheaper for all of us.

Or are you saying that the children of poor people should just suck it up and suffer because their parents apparently chose to be poor and can't afford health insurance and you'd rather watch 'em croak because you don't want to pony up less than one percent of your tax money? Frankly, if that's true, you're a bigger prick than the bankers who got us into this whole financial mess to begin with.

"It's socialist! It's politically wrong!" Yeah, right. Come on, man, we're the richest and most powerful nation on the planet. If the goddamn FRENCH can do it, you're saying we can't? Shit, even ANIMALS look out for their own kind! You're saying you won't even do what a pack of wolves would do?


The school district I work for has a bad policy about personnel management. Near as I can tell, the object is to motivate their people by kicking them in the ass. I'm not sure if they're trying to scare people into fearing for their jobs, or if the Superintendent just thinks that constant criticism causes people to work harder, but they do regular walkthroughs and inspections, and they NEVER have anything good to say, and they will pounce on ANY little thing that gives them an excuse to be critical. They gave one of the best math teachers I've ever seen a faceful because his room was "messy and unclean." *


Anyway, they've apparently programmed the main computer servers along these lines. When I checked my work email this morning, I had a snippy automated note from the computer, stating that I had fallen below the number of grades dictated by District policy, and that I was expected to correct this dereliction of my duty as soon as possible.

I was confused for a moment. What? Ohh, wait, Spring Break! I didn't enter any grades for Spring Break. That's why the computer's bitching at me.

At first, I thought about doing nothing, until I thought about it for a moment. Everyone else in the building probably got the same snippy email. Surely, administration would look into it... realize what the problem was... and ignore it.

Until I remembered what happened last time I ignored one of those snippy automatic notes. The following week I got another one that said, "Your failure to correct your dereliction has been noted. Your principal has been notified. Please note that you are in dereliction of your duty to comply with District policy."

Yeah, like my principal has nothing better to do than come down to my room and beef at me about my number of grades in the gradebook. But when I thought about it, I realized that he was probably going to have to investigate half the teachers in the building next week... because THEY would all ignore the snippy email.

So I said the hell with it, opened up my gradebook, and entered three grades for all my kids for all my classes for Spring Break. That week, none of them showed up, and I gave them all "EXCUSED" grades for all three assignments. This will bring me up to the minimum number of grades, and the machine will quit bitching at me.

So... my upper echelon bosses programmed a MACHINE to bitch at me, and I did what it wanted, for no other reason than to spare my LOWER echelon bosses the hassle of coming and checking into my grades for reasons they'd already know by the time they got to me.

Man, I work for some weird people...

*They checked his room between third and fourth period... after several herds of seventh and eighth graders had stampeded in and out. They didn't have time to actually watch him TEACH, so they bitched him out for ... apparently... not leaping forth and picking up all the litter the kids left. Apparently, math teachers should also be part-time custodians...

About Obama...

Y'know what? I'm REAL tired of all this crap about Obama's birthplace. So I'm gonna settle it once and for all. You see, it all boils down to one of two possibilities:

(a) Barack Obama was born an American citizen, in which case his presidency is perfectly legit, and all you Birther nitwits can CHEW IT RAW!

(b) Barack Obama was not born an American citizen, but has successfully concealed this by way of a conspiracy that equals the Kennedy assassination, the Black Dahlia murder, and the true story of Area 51. The conspiracy would HAVE to be this good, because if there were any evidence at all that held any water at all, McCain would have been all over it, in which case the whole issue would have erupted by now for sure. And since it has not, there IS no evidence proving he's not a natural born citizen, meaning no one is ever going to prove anything, which means he will still be president, and all you Birther nitwits can CHEW IT RAW!

Same thing, same result, either way.

So can you shut the hell up about it, already? I was sure as hell born in this country, and I'm tired of hearing you all BITCH about it!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This ain't Star Trek, bub.

The movie is "The Intruder," also released under the titles "Shame," and "I Hate Your Guts."
It's a potent "message" movie made by Roger Corman. And yes, that's William Shatner driving the Klansmen around; he's the star of the movie -- and the villain. He's basically attempting to whip the townspeople in a sleepy little Southern town into a race riot... for his own profit and amusement. It is perhaps the finest work Shatner has ever done.
The town was real, you see. The extras are all real townspeople. And they thought Shatner was the hero of this movie that was being filmed in their midst. For this reason, the scene where Shatner climbs up on a statue in the city park and whips the locals into a frenzy is particularly disturbing.
In Corman's autobiography, he reports the local cops caught on towards the end of filming, and threw Corman, Shatner, and company out of town under threat of arrest... and they actually had to sneak back to film some scenes!
Even now, this movie would not be shown on TV. It's too volatile, and it points out some of the creepier history going on around the Civil Rights Movement.
I hunted for this flick for YEARS before finding a copy on VHS. Imagine my surprise to discover it's now in the public domain... and can be downloaded for free here:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Madness Incarnate

I am a behavior teacher. I teach behavior, and I manage behavior. If a child in the public school system is just too &%$#@ psycho to be able to handle regular classes, they send this child to me. As a generalist, I am qualified to teach the child math, English, reading, science, and social studies, and any electives they think he needs.

Some children really are insane, and cannot benefit from public school. Others simply don't give a shit. A few children really, honestly, are evil incarnate.

The parents are sometimes to blame for this, except when they aren't.

The kind of parents I deal with often can't or won't institutionalize them, demanding their rights as taxpayers to eight hours of daily day care. Sometimes, they even get lawyery, demanding that their psychotic little snowflake pass all standardized tests, or they're going to sue the school district, and they don't CARE if he's shrieking like a banshee during a lesson, eating the textbooks and trying to stab the child next to them!


I get these sometimes. They usually don't last long. Sooner or later, the child in question self-destruct, either breaking a law or doing something dangerous enough that we can throw them out, countersue, THREATEN to countersue, get them arrested, or otherwise force the parent to clean up his own mess, rather than simply dumping it in public education's lap. That's what it is, you know -- education. Nothing more, nothing less. There are nearly no provisions for psychotherapy, physical restraint, medications, and other requirements of the severely mentally ill.

In the meantime, there's me: the last line of defense for the classroom teacher and the student body, against the rights of the crazy, the abused, and the severely fucked up. I do the best I can. I often succeed. But I'm not a shrink, and I'm not a mental hospital, and occasionally I get one who's more than I can handle. When that happens, I do the best I can until the kid self-destructs... and then I and my other students breathe a sigh of relief.

This brings me to something I read recently about Orly Taitz. Some of you might recognize this person as the woman who will not be convinced that Barack Obama was born an American citizen, and therefore intends to go down fighting for her right for him not to be President of the United States.

When I first heard of her, I thought, "Wow. Here's someone really determined to stand up for what she believes in." The more I learned about her, though -- particularly after several TV appearances -- the more I found my opinion changing to "Wow. This person is batshit crazy."

It probably began when on a TV news show, she made it pretty clear that it was NOT POSSIBLE to prove that Obama was an American. Simply not possible. Nope, don't care what evidence you provide, I can and will reject it. Nope, nope, nope. There is no evidence that will convince me. Don't care what it is, don't care where it came from, I DON'T BELIEVE IT, AND THAT SETTLES IT.

In fact, aside from the lack of screeching and general verbal ugliness, she kind of reminded me of some of my less sane parents.

Yet she was out there, practicing law and doing her damndest to get Obama... um... I dunno. Impeached? Deported? Unpresidented? I don't quite know what we'd do if everyone decided to humor her...

Well, apparently, those days are over; someone has moved to have her disbarred. Apparently, whatever passes for the law in California is tired of the crazy woman, particularly after she tried to have a judge brought up on treason charges after he found against her in one of her recent cases.

It made me think of another crazy lawyer, one Jack Thompson. This guy spent YEARS trying to bring down the outfit that makes "Grand Theft Auto," insisting that there was a very real connection between violent video games and real-life violent behavior. The fact that no one but him could find it made no difference; he had a mission, and by Ghod, he was going to carry it out... even to the point of suing those with whom he disagreed, if they dared disagree with him publicly.

Sure enough, after the better part of a decade of harassing judges, suing journalists and private citizens, tying up the legal system, paralyzing courts, and singlehandedly attempting to somehow grab reality by the balls and force it to do his bidding by sheer virtue of his mighty lawyerly powers...

...he got disbarred.

Mm-hm. Two people who followed their madness and tried to lawyer the world into doing it all their way. Two people who... for all practical purposes... self-destructed.

It makes me wonder: is this a particular KIND of madness? Is this some sort of bizarre evolutionary development that keeps the seriously-insane-yet-able-to-exert-power-via-the-system from overpowering said system? The habit the seriously nuts have of self destructing?

And how long until Glenn Beck does it? I'm really getting tired of him.

The persistence of memory?

We don't know a whole hell of a lot about ancient Sumeria. Hell, until fairly recently, we couldn't even read their language. Furthermore, we don't have a whole LOT of their language to READ, considering the frangible nature of mud and clay tablets, which were their primary form of publishing.

We don't know a whole hell of a lot, comparitively speaking, about ancient Greece. Homer told a whole bunch of stories, but we only know a couple that survived the burning of the Library at Alexandria. We certainly don't know what the average Greek on the street thought about much of anything... particularly because the average Greek on the street was probably a slave, and who cared what slaves thought about anything?

Truth is, we don't know a hell of a lot about the Americans of a hundred years ago. A lot of them couldn't write. A lot of what they DID write has simply fallen by the wayside, disintegrated, been forgotten.

The same could be said of the Americans of fifty years ago. True, most of them knew how to write, but few were published, and of the published work of fifty years ago, how much of it is still around? Accessible?

Until now.

Computer memory is cheap, and getting cheaper. The term "server farm" is becoming more and more widespread, as more and more outfits find reasons to keep a bunch of computer memory storage handy. The computer I'm working on now came with a free trial that allows me to keep my valuable data in a storage vault online out there somewhere, for safekeeping.

How safe is it, I wonder? For that matter, where's the server that this blog is being stored on? Is it safe? How safe? And for how long? At what point will the machine's owner decide to clear its memory, erasing my thoughts forever?

We've only had the Internet as we know it for a couple decades. There are many, many, MANY sites out there that are ghostly, abandoned. I hear stories about "ghost accounts" on email, webgroups, blogs, and websites that are there because their owners and creators have died, and no one can access them now; the passwords are lost. They sit there, unchanging, unupdated, a picture of the day their creators last accessed them...

If memory and servers keep getting cheaper... and civilization doesn't collapse... future historians are going to have a LOT of crap to sift through. Wanna know what the average guy from Kokomo thought about the price of beans in Haiti circa 1998? It is now possible to find out. As more and more of us Twitter, blog, and text our every thought and feeling and stimulus-response, the data patterns grow. And as far as I can tell, no one is erasing the vast majority of them. Hell, I can't tell you for sure that Hotmail erases all my emails just because I hit the DELETE key. Where do they go? Are they still around?

In a hundred years, will someone rediscover Doctor Bedlam, and read what he had to say?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Boys' Town

Well, yeah, I remember ho's.

I grew up in a little teeny town. We didn't have any ho's. But we were close enough to Mexico that you could find ho's if you wanted them.

I'd heard quite a bit about Boys Town, you see, La Zona Rosa, that evil, wicked, and forbidden part of town in Piedras Negras, the nearest border town. Boys Town was where you went when you wanted to get laid. I was maybe eleven when I first heard of Boys Town, so naturally, I wasn't old enough to DO much of anything about it, but I eagerly awaited the time when I would be old enough to go and partake of the sinful pleasures La Zona Rosa had to offer....

Weirdly enough, it wasn't that long. I was fourteen when I finally got into a caravan headed that way.

I've always looked considerably older than I am. At fifteen, people routinely mistook me for twenty-five or so, a mistake I gleefully took advantage of at every opportunity. I was a sophomore in high school, and there was an oil boom going on at the time, and they were DESPERATE for hard workers out on the oil rigs. They even started hiring school kids, which kind of makes you wonder, because the work was savagely hard, 24 hours on and 24 hours off, backbreaking, insane labor.

It paid very nicely, though; a good roughneck could clear thousands of dollars on a two-week paycheck. And oilfield roughnecks partied as hard as they worked. One Saturday, my old chum Loopy (who happened to be one) called me up and asked if I wanted to go cruisin'. I said sure.

...and we wound up at the Mexican border in short order.

We answered the usual questions and drove across. Loopy was driving, and knew exactly the way to go.

We parked behind a large, featureless building that looked like a warehouse, painted in a hideous shade of faded pink. I noticed that MOST of the buildings on the street were painted an odd shade, and wondered if this was some odd Mexican equivalent of having a red light hanging outside, or what?

Inside was a different story. Very nicely decorated, with gorgeous polished wood furniture that would have had any suburban wife drooling and envious, except for the fact that it was, like, in a bordello.

We took a table, and ordered drinks. Well, actually, Loopy ordered the drinks. We were all going to toast Weeble's vanishing virginity.

Weeble blushed and swatted Loopy on the back of the head. "Hey, man, that wasn't supposed to be public knowledge."

(Ah, I thought. My suspicions were confirmed. We WERE in a bordello! This would be interesting. How much money did I have on me? What were the prices like? At the time, I, too, was a virgin, although I would have died before admitting it... I decided to sit and keep quiet and pay attention. Idly, I wondered where all the whores were...)

We sat and drank a toast, and chatted while we worked on our beers. I glanced around. There were a few other customers, some local, some obviously from the far side of the river. There didn't seem to be any "workin' girls." There were quite a few waitresses, though, although only one or two were working the floor. The rest hung around at one side of the room, smoking cigarettes, chatting, and looking bored. From time to time, one would wander over to a table and try to horn in on the conversation, plainly hoping someone would buy her a drink. Each time, a few words would be exchanged, and the disappointed waitress would wander back to her friends, leaning against the wall. Plainly, management had some kind of policy in place preventing the waitresses from sitting down while on duty. Kind of odd, I thought, for a place where the other girls made their money lying down...

So where WERE the hookers, I wondered?

Admittedly, I didn't have much of a clue as to what they'd LOOK like. I'd never been here before. I had SEEN hookers, kind of ... on television. They used to crop up on "Starsky And Hutch" all the time. They wore li'l teeny hot pants, bare midriff tops, platform shoes, fishnet stockings, and usually a fur vest or feather boa. Always one or the other, like a kind of identification badge. Oh, and way too much makeup. Admittedly, this was TV we were talking about, and seventies TV at that... and even THEN, I knew better than to take it too seriously... but it was all I had to go on. Where WERE the hookers?

There were maybe five or six women in the whole bar. Two of them were waiting tables. Four others were leaning against the wall, chatting. Too many waitresses, not enough ho's. They were dressed in ordinary blouses and skirts. One wore slacks. They all seemed to have a "Catholic schoolgirl" look to them.

We sat and we talked and we drank. A waitress came over and got a little friendly with Loopy, who waved her off. She walked off with some disappointment evident. Time passed. Some more customers showed up. Tables filled. It was Friday night, and the place was cookin'.

Weirdly enough, the waitress population began to increase, as well. By eight o'clock, there must have been fifteen women, leaning against the wall, smoking and chatting. Six others waited tables. What the hell?

"Your time is upon you, Weeble," snickered Lightnin'. "Gonna get laid tonight, or gonna chicken out?"

"Fuck you, man," said Weeble. "I'll get laid when I'm damn good and ready."

"Better get started before you're too stiff to work," laughed Candy.

"Or not stiff enough," chuckled Loopy.

Weeble gave us all a disgusted look and chugged his beer.

I continued to study the waitresses. There seemed to be a dynamic at work here. With this many of them, there seemed to be several working the crowd at any given point. A couple had found friendly tables, and were happily perched in men's laps, chatting them up. Others had tried to find places to sit, and had been waved off. I wondered what the heck was up. Maybe there was some kind of policy that said the waitresses couldn't sit down on duty unless they were invited to by a customer? Hell, why not just send the excess waitresses home? Hell, what kind of insane bar owner schedules twenty waitresses to work one shift in a bar smaller than the Astrodome?

A pretty waitress with dyed pink hair tried to get chummy with Loopy. He smiled and waved her off.

About then, I noticed that it was a mutual process. While some of the waitresses -- the older ones, generally -- would try to get chummy with customers, some of the customers were getting up and going over to the wall and trying to get chummy with the waitresses. The customers seemed to be having better luck, though -- no waitress ever seemed to ignore or send away a customer.

A fortyish, heavyset guy, obviously an oilfield roughneck, walked up to one of the waitresses, looked to be maybe twenty. They stood and they talked. The waitress smiled a lot. Not long thereafter, they left the room. Together.

Dawn broke over marble head, about that point. Oops. Duh. Well, still, one could hardly blame me. I thought hookers... well... I thought hookers ADVERTISED, showed off the goods to some extent, dressed the part, put forth some kind of CLUE as to what they were selling. These didn't. They were dressed downright plain, in a Catholic school kind of way, a way that wouldn't have had any man in the world looking at them twice if you'd met them at the mercado or walked past them on la calle. Man, I thought, how do you know who to approach?

Then I mentally kicked myself. Duh. How many non-hooker women are you likely to run across in a whorehouse, dummy? Hell, even the waitresses would likely moonlight a little if the price was right... and now that I was looking a little deeper, I realized that the waitresses carrying TRAYS were wearing minimal makeup. The ones on the WALL, though... THEY were wearing some SERIOUS makeup, the full tilt boogie eye-shadow-and-rouge-to-the-nines... not overdone like on Starsky and Hutch, but certainly made up. Hell, this'z downright educational, here, I thought to myself...

About then, someone's grandmother fell out of the sky.

She landed in Weeble's lap, and gave him a BIG hug, and began yammering at him nonstop in rapidfire Spanish.

Weeble's eyes were as big as eggs. What the FUCK?

We were ALL kind of taken aback. Where the hell had SHE come from? None of us had seen her approach. Especially me; I'd been preoccupied with watching the interactions on the wall. Somehow, Weeble had come under attack from a Commando Stealth Hooker.

This particular hooker had seen better days, too. She appeared to be in her fifties, although there was something about her that, to me, said she might well be no older than thirty-five. She had VERY large breasts, most of which were plainly visible as they oozed out of her cleavage, all over Weeble's neck.

Weeble looked at her, and blinked rapidly. He was trying to keep up with what she was saying. Weeble was Hispanic, sure, but he was a Texican, not a Mexican, and the language isn't quite the same on both sides of the border. She was talking much too fast, and he couldn't keep up. Meanwhile she smiled at him, and ruffled his hair, and pushed her tits in his face.

My Spanish wasn't as good as Weeble's, which may have helped. I wasn't TRYING to follow every word, which freed me to concentrate on the ones I DID understand... and when a woman is sitting in your lap, and says things like "horny," "I love you," "yummy young man," and "your enormous penis," what else do you really need to know?

Apparently, Weeble was able to follow enough of this shotgun monologue, too. After a moment, she slid off his lap, took him by the hand, and the two of them moseyed casually but purposefully towards a door.

Candy, Loopy, Lightnin', and I sat there with our mouths hanging open. Huh? How the hell had THAT happened?

"Holy shit," said Lightnin'. "Man, she was... um... scary-lookin'. Why the hell did he tell her yes?"

"Too much beer," said Candy. "Either that, or he's thinkin' with his dick."

Loopy blinked twice, waved over a waitress, and demanded a bottle of tequila. Enough of this beer nonsense. The bottle quickly arrived, and shots were drained, all around. "Man, this ain't good," said Loopy. "He shooda got up and gone and talked to one of those chicks on the wall."

"Can you blame him?" I asked. "Guy's a virgin. You ever bring him here before?"


"Did you tell him how the place works? Hookers on the wall, and like that? Hell, I didn't know they were hookers until I was on my third beer."

Loopy got a weird look on his face. "No, I didn't tell him anything. Shit. All I told him was that we was goin' to a whorehouse."

"There you go," I said. "He didn't know the rules. He didn't know who's a whore and who ain't. He was sittin' there, nervous as a longtailed cat in a roomfulla rockin' chairs, he doesn't know what to do. No wonder he wasn't in any hurry."

"And that ... chick... prolly saw him sittin' there sweatin', and decided to put the whammy on him, quick, 'fore he can think about it," said Candy. I was surprised. Candy normally wasn't too good at putting two and two together. For him, this was a real unified field theory.

"Well, nothin' to be done about it now," said Loopy, pouring himself another shot. "He'll be back soon enough. Hope he has a good time."


Time passed. Apparently, our table had been under some scrutiny, because after the Attack Granny ran cackling off with her trophy, our table came under siege from quite a few other girls, hoping to pull off something similar. The element of surprise was gone, though, and I personally wound up politely chasing three different women off my lap. Somehow, the fun had gone out of the experience, and I had begun to think of this place as a little... threatening, somehow. I didn't feel endangered, personally, but it was more obvious than ever that the whole rationale of the joint wasn't to have fun or get laid... but to separate me from my money... which made me that much more likely to want to hang on to it.

If I was going to lose my virginity, it was damn well going to be under more comfortable circumstances, NOT while under siege by eager Commando Attack Prostitutes.

My judgment was confirmed when Weeble came staggering back out of the door, some half hour later. His shirttails were out, and he looked... lost, somehow. My first thought was of H.P. Lovecraft, and his tales of "horrors I dare not name, or e'en describe, for you would surely go mad from the hearing, and I from the recollection."

Weeble had Looked Into The Abyss, so to speak, and it had changed him forevermore.

"How'd it go?" said Loopy cheerfully. A bit forced, but cheerfully.

"You don't wanna know," said Weeble. "At least I ain't a virgin no more."

"Let's beat it," said Candy. We all nodded, and began getting up.

...and about then, the Attack Hooker was in Weeble's face, yammering in Spanish again. The gesture, though, was unmistakeable. She was tapping the palm of her left hand with two fingers of her right. I didn't understand what she said. Neither did Weeble.

Loopy, though, was aghast. "FIFTY? What the fuck? You promised her FIFTY BUCKS?"

Weeble looked a little downcast. "No. I didn't promise her nothin'."

Loopy slapped his forehead. "You mean you didn't settle a price before you went and..."

"Was I supposed to? I thought it was twenty bucks."

Apparently, Attack Hooker could follow the conversation, because she plainly didn't like where it was going, and began shouting the same three words over and over...

...and a large man appeared and very rapidly walked over. "Feefty dollars. You pay now."

"Stupid shit..." said Loopy. "You have to pay him."

"Huh?" said Weeble. "Wait a minute. I thought this was your treat."

"WHAT?" said Loopy. "You thought I was gonna--"

"Well, comin' to a whorehouse was YOUR idea!" said Weeble. "Hell, I wanted to stay in town and party THERE, but YOU dragged us all out here--"

"You pay now," said the large man, "or I call los federales."

Everyone shut up. Nobody wanted to deal with the Federales, the government cops that Mexico has instead of "state troopers." Particularly in a dispute between a local business owner and a buncha Anglo teenagers. Didn't need to be an oddsmaker to see who'd win that one.

"Fuck," said Loopy. "How much do you got?"

"Eight bucks," said Weeble.

"EIGHT BUCKS!" howled Loopy. "What the hell happened to your paycheck?"

"Most of it's at home," said Weeble. "Hell, I didn't wanna come to Mexico with that much cash. And I paid for most of the beer."

"Fuck, fuck, fuck..." growled Loopy, as he counted the contents of his wallet. Thirteen dollars remaining, after he settled the bar bill. I contributed four. Candy was broke. Lightnin' threw in a fiver.

Between us all, we had thirty bucks. The large man looked at the pile of American bills as if it were a parking ticket. "Feefty dollars," he said. "Not thurdy dollars."

"That's what we got," said Loopy. "You know as well as I do that Gramma over there couldn't have got TEN dollars if he," Loopy indicated Weeble with his thumb, "wasn't a total pendejo guajalote."

A flicker of a smile touched the large man's face for a fraction of a second. "Pendejo, maybe," he said, "but you are steel twenny dollars short. Tha's not enough. Feefty dollars is what she says, and feefty it is."

"Look," said Candy, "Can't we work something out?" He showed the guy his wrist watch. The large man glanced at it.

I took off my own watch. "Dos watches," I said. "Twenty bucks, easy." Candy and I were both lying bastards, of course -- our watches were cheap seventies digitals -- but digitals were a new thing back then. If we could get lucky...

The large man looked at the watches, and turned to speak to the Attack Hooker. An animated conversation took place. I noted that the purring vintage vixen I'd seen earlier had now been replaced by a ranting, snarling granny demon from hell.

The entire roomful of people were watching us with some interest. A few openly laughed, and more than a few snickered quietly. It occurred to me that Granny was going to need that fifty bucks. Nobody here was going to touch her, even by accident, after THIS incident. I wondered if this was how she made her money? One attack proposition per night...?

Suddenly, the large man stepped aside, and the Attack Hooker strode purposefully up to Weeble, and looked him over, like livestock. For a moment, I expected her to yank his mouth open and check his teeth. She then turned to the large man, and spat out a string of machine-gun Spanish.

"She says she will take your money," he said pleasantly, "and she will take your jacket, too."

"WHAT?" said Weeble and Loopy, together. Weeble's jacket was a hundred-dollar black leather biker model, of the sort made wildly popular by The Fonz a couple of years earlier. "The jacket's worth TWICE what she wants, and a HUNDRED times what she's WORTH!"

Attack Hooker took exception to this, and began screaming and pointing and gesturing frantically at Weeble, savagely insulting his heritage, his manhood, his credit rating, and, I think, his species.

Large Guy thought about it a moment, and said, "Then give her the money, and give ME the jacket. You come back manana with twenny dollars. When I get the twenny dollars, you get your jacket."

Weeble went off like a fire engine at this, but Loopy clamped a hand on his shoulder, and whispered in his ear. I could see why. More Large Guys had quietly appeared at each of the three exits to the room. Plainly someone was getting impatient, and a floor show composed of ignorant gringo teenagers was only fun for a few minutes.

Weeble finally peeled off his beloved Fonzie jacket, snarling and cursing the whole time, and threw it at Large Guy, who smiled, waved his hand, and the other Large Guys disappeared. As if on cue, someone punched up a tune on the old jukebox, and music and conversation filled the room.

Attack Hooker looked at Weeble for a moment, and then pointed at him and reproachfully said something in Spanish. She looked all the world like someone's grandmother, sadly giving belated advice. Then she disappeared with our money.

We sat and finished our beers. We said little. We left, and the entire rest of the way home, Weeble and Loopy argued about whose fault the incident had been. Back in the pickup bed, Lightnin' and Candy and I agreed that Mexican whorehouses might well be heaven for some, but that we'd take our sexual adventures a bit plainer, and without economics on the side, thank you.

A day or two later, Weeble paid me back the money I'd contributed. He never did go and get his jacket back. He eventually bought another one, though, and vociferously denied he had ever owned more than one leather jacket, and that THIS one was it, thank you very goddamn much.

The event affected me quite a bit. I'd had fantasies before that about all the glorious adventures I would have with hookers, but after that, the last thing on my mind was paying for sex. I never did. For some reason, whenever I pondered the possibility, the lined and flabby face of the Attack Hooker would rise to the surface of my mind, pointing her red-nailed finger at Weeble in vicious accusation, and insulting his manhood...

...and all of a sudden, I wasn't so horny any more.

Wherever you are today, Weeble, I thank you. Ghod knows what-all kind of humiliations and social diseases I escaped, because I learned from your mistake...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Beer Hunter

I grew up in Texas, and in Texas, most everyone owns a gun.

Don't ask me why. Rite of passage? Manhood thing? Self defense? Seems kind of weird for a state that prides itself on its friendliness (and it IS friendly -- total strangers will wave and smile as you pass 'em on the street, and if you don't wave and smile back, they'll think you're a Yankee).

...but we own guns. Maybe there's some kind of horrible fear that at some point Santa Anna will come back and try to fly a 747 into the Alamo or something. Anyway, we own guns, lots of them.

Some of us hunt with them. The Texas hill country is lousy with deer -- we shot all the predators decades ago, and now there's not much except coyotes to bother the deer. The number one deer predator in Texas is the automobile, which isn't a very effective method of wildlife control, since hitting a deer generally totals the automobile. If you're ever out this way, and you see hard-used pickups with these big welded-steel frame thingies bolted to the front grille, that's why -- it keeps the deer from destroying the radiator when you hit the sumbitch in the middle of the night on Ranch Road 12, doing 45 miles an hour.

Anyway, I grew up in a small town in the Rio Grande valley, only about a half hour from the Mexican border. The town's autumn economy was dependent on hunters. There must be about a thousand little independent ranchers in the Rio Grande valley, and as any rancher can tell you, there is NO money in cattle, so they all generally made up the difference by selling deer leases to Yankees. A deer lease is basically a passport to your property; it gives the lessee the right to come and go as he pleases for a month or so, in order to hunt deer on your property. Note that this is NOT a hunting license; it simply states that "I will not shoot you for a wetback or a trespasser, at least not until December, if you give me $1000."

And oh, my, the hunters came in droves. During my teen years, I quickly learned that there were certain secluded places that it was not safe to go drinking or parking with your best girl unless the car was painted hunter orange. After sitting in a cold, cramped deer blind for two or three days, some of those office commandos will start blazing away at ANY damn thing the minute they see movement.

Being locals, of course, we knew all the best places to hunt, and we didn't bother with deer leases. My sister dated a guy, at one point, who always brought venison over to give to Mom when he came to see her. My sister wasn't really that wild about the guy, but she kept seeing him for quite some time, because Mom kept telling her to keep him happy so he'd keep bringing venison... poor slob must have been killing at least three deer a month, hoping my sister would go out with him.

Anyway, at one point, it became clear that if I was to be a man in the eyes of my peers, it was time to lock and load and go forth and kill something.

This was how I found out I'm not much of a hunter.

Whatever it is that makes a man into a hunter, a killing machine, a deadly predator that can lie in wait for hours until its prey cautiously enters the trap... well, I just don't have it. I'm impatient. I got bored. I didn't WANNA wait for hours and hours until the damn deer got hungry and wandered up to the feeder. I wanted to go after the damn deer whether he was hungry or NOT!

...and this is how I learned what hunters do to amuse themselves while waiting for the deer to show up. They drink. They suck down immense quantities of beer, always from the twist-cap bottles; cans make too much noise opening, and you might scare off the deer. After five or six of these, waiting for hours on end doesn't seem anywhere near so onerous; the time flies right by, and aside from having to pee about every ten minutes, it really helps turn a dull, chilly deer blind into a fun place to be.

The problem with this way of working it is this: by the time the deer show up, you might be in no shape to shoot them. In fact, if it takes long enough for that deer to arrive, you might be seeing two or three where there's only one, and believe me, this plays hell with your aim.

Fortunately, by the time you're seeing entire herds of deer, sometimes in vivid colors, you don't give a damn whether you actually hit one or not. You just poke the gun out and start blasting away, and if you hit him, well, peachy, and if not, well, damn, I have to take a leak again...

That first year, my friends and I didn't get any deer, but we sure had a fine time. Incidentally, there's no shame or loss of manhood attached to not getting a deer. Lots of hunters go home empty-handed, happens all the time. The important thing is to be seen TRYING, and I'd fulfilled that in spades. I was a man now...

...and since we'd paid for those deer licenses, it seemed reasonable to go back out and try to get a deer again as soon as possible, and we did. We dressed warmly, stocked the truck with lots more beer and ammunition and camping gear, and went back out into the chaparral, hunting for deer.

Three days later, none of us had shot a deer yet. Weeble had shot the same mesquite tree, three different times, and was ready to go and get a saw and cut it down because he was convinced that it was imitating a deer, just to tease him. Lightnin' had seen a real deer, and had shot at it and missed; a shame it was standing in front of the truck's front tire. Loopy had shot at the same deer, and had taken out the truck's rear window. Candy had refused the beer, preferring the fifth of Jack Daniels, and by the time it was empty, he was shooting upwards, at the deer that were parachuting out of the pink and purple airplanes.

Me? At one point, after considerable refreshment, I forgot what it was we were out there to hunt, and I was afraid to ask if it was dove, quail, or deer season because I was afraid my friends would laugh at me. Ducks? Bears? Were there any bears in Texas? I didn't know, and I didn't dare ask, so I locked the safety on and had another beer.

When we sobered up, of course, we realized that we'd been kind of silly. It also occurred to us that blazing away with deer rifles while blind drunk had been frankly kind of dangerous. The following weekend, we went out hunting again, but this time, we had a safety measure -- we wouldn't load our guns. We'd keep the ammo handy on the table, and not load until we actually SAW the deer, and we'd all check each other, so as to not shoot the truck or a tree or something.

This didn't work, of course. Three hours after setting up camp, we were all feeling remarkably buzzed, Loopy saw a deer, and made the high sign, and we all frantically began grabbing shells and trying to load our rifles --

-- and the multiple SHA-SHAK! sound of multiple gunbolts being drawn startled the deer so badly, he jumped three feet in the air, and hit the ground running. By the time we blearily swiveled around, locked and loaded, that deer was miles away.

We spent a long time after that trying to think of a way to make deer hunting safer and more effective. In time, we hit on the solution -- just leave the ammo at home.

Loopy and Weeble didn't like the idea at first -- they still cherished hopes of getting a rack of antlers to stick on the hoods of their pickups -- but, in time, they came around. After all, ammunition was considerably heavy -- wouldn't the effort of hauling be better spent if we were hauling beer? And the expense! Ammo wasn't cheap, whereas you could get quite a few beers for the price of a box of shells.

It made sense.

The next time we went out, naturally, we saw deer all over the place. Hordes of deer, whole herds. We practically had to kick them aside to get to our campsite, and this was before we even started drinking. We were dismayed at first, of course -- lord, each of us could have got his OWN DEER ... but, after setting up camp and breaking open the first twelve-pack, our spirits quickly rallied.

The deer, of course, found this fascinating, and came right up to the camp to see what we were doing. Naturally. Murphy's law in action, I suppose. It drove Loopy quite crazy, and he finally swore he was going to get a deer, ammo or no ammo, and, waving his gun like a club, charged the herd. They scattered, of course, and Loopy ran into the night, waving his gun over his head and screaming like a maniac.

It took us all night and much of the next day to find him. We might have found him sooner, but we had to keep going back to camp to get fresh beers, and of course, stopping to pee about every hundred steps. When we finally did find him, he was dirty, scratched, cold and sober, and quite unhappy with it all. We were able to fix the last two, of course, and that quickly cured the second and third items, and by that time, who cared about being dirty?

By the weekend's end, we all agreed we'd had a fine time, and that we should try it again, but this time, without Loopy getting lost ...and for several weekends after that, we were seen dutifully loading the truck and packing our guns, in preparation for hunting. I don't think anyone ever noticed that we never actually brought anything home.

...and we had a splendid time, all the more so because we didn't have to worry about being quiet, or watching for deer, or accidentally shooting each other. I really began to understand the appeal of hunting trips by then, and at season's end, we actually felt kind of bad about not being able to go hunting any more. Still, there was always next year.

...and the following year, we quickly began assembling plans for the first big hunting trip of the year, day one, as soon as the season started. We began making a list of everything we'd need. Ammo went on the list, and was quickly scratched off, and the cost added to the beer budget. Everything went fine, until we got to Deer Licenses for five people.

...and the discussion began. Did we really need hunting licenses? Well, were we hunting, or not? Well, technically, yes -- we were trooping out of town in our camo jammies with guns on the rack, weren't we? Still, we didn't have any ammo, and none of us was really planning on shooting anything...

In the end, it was the money issue that decided it for us. We scratched Licenses off the list, and added the money to the beer budget.

A day later, sozzled and gleeful, we had cause to regret that... when the nice game warden showed up (out of nowhere. I don't know how they do it, but they show up in the middle of nowhere, OUT of nowhere, and wanna see your hunting license. And they ALL know how to do this trick, too. Even to people who aren't drunk. No one knows how they do it.)

Um, what? License? You mean a hunting license? Um, well, we're not really hunting, Mr. Game Warden, sir. Well, yes, we have guns, but they aren't really loaded...

(Not as loaded as we are! Shuddup, Candy...)

No, really, sir, they aren't loaded. We don't even have any ammo, really, sir. No, really, sir, would we be handling loaded firearms if we were this bombed? That would be stupid, now, wouldn't it?

(NOT stupid! Shut UP, Candy...)

Well, no sir, I can't say I have any idea what kind of things you see in the course of your job, sir, but the fact is, we, um, well, we just came out here to toss back some cold ones and barbecue some weenies, really, sir. No, really. The guns are just so our folks will think we're out hunting. Really!

(Really huntin! Really! Shut the f*ck UP, Candy...)

The game warden looked at us for a long time. Truth to tell, he probably HAD seen more than a few guys who were actually hunting while far drunker than any of us were at that moment (well, maybe not Candy, but...). He looked at us very hard. Even Candy shut up. We glanced at each other and it crossed my mind -- what was the actual legal definition of hunting? WERE we guilty of something? Well, actually, yes -- underage drinking -- but could a game warden arrest you for that? Wasn't his jurisdiction kind of limited, or something?

He stared at us for a long time... and then relaxed. I could see the thoughts forming behind his eyes. "Ghod damn," he thought, "anyone this smashed can NOT be serious."

"Tell you what, boys," he said. "I have no warrant to search you or your vehicle... but if you specifically give me permission to look for ammo... and if you empty your pockets... and if I don't FIND any ammo... I might decide you're telling the truth."

We all looked at each other. "There's no ammo in the truck," said Loopy. We all emptied our pockets. Several church keys and a condom, but no cartridges. The warden patted our pockets, and then poked around in the truck..

"Well, it looks like you boys are clean... sort of," the warden said. "Do your folks know you're out here, drunk off your butts?"

"Um," I said. "Well... they know we're out here."

"Uh-huh," he said. "Well, it's plain you don't mean to do any huntin'... so it looks like you're outside my jurisdiction. I'm going to make a point of keeping an eye on that main road, though ... and you want to be stone cold sober when you drive back into town, understand?"

We all bobbed our heads energetically. Truth was, we expected to be out in the brush for at least another day. He nodded, said his goodbyes, and went off to try and catch some real poachers.

We all sat down hard, caught our breath... and decided another beer was in order. "That was no damn fun," said Weeble.

"Yeah. Imagine, needing to get a license just to drink," said Lightnin'.

"Well, we are underage, technically," I said, opening a bottle.

"Mm-hm," agreed Loopy. "Good thing we could prove we weren't huntin'."

"Is he gone yet?" burbled Candy.

"We should make sure this doesn't happen again," said Lightnin', taking a deep swallow.

"Mm-hm," said Loopy again, twisting a cap off. "Next time, we need to make sure all our ducks are in a row. Make sure everything's nice and legal and verifiable."




"So it's unanimous. Next time, we leave the guns at home..."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another day on the job...

This is how I know I’m a behavior management specialist: An actual exchange in my class last month:

"Hm," I said, checking my calendar. "Tomorrow is Groundhog Day."

"What's Groundhog Day?" asked a student.

"It happens on February second," I replied.

"Why they call it Groundhog Day?"

"Because there's an old legend," I said, seizing the teachable moment. "They say that the groundhog comes out of his hole on February 2 after sleeping all winter, and he turns around to see if he has a shadow. If he sees his shadow, that means winter is pretty much over."

"What if he don't see his shadow?"

"Well, if he doesn't see his shadow, that means there'll be another six weeks of winter."

"Where the groundhog live?"

"Not in Texas. Groundhogs are native to the northern states. Why?"

" 'Cuz if we could find out where the groundhog live, we could go kill it before it make the winter any longer."

Straight face. Straight face. STRAIGHT FACE....