Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Kahlua and Breast Milk

I have lurked and unwillingly been dragged into a few threads about women's issues in my brief blogging career. I've read about total strangers' menstrual cramps, hot flashes and parenting philosophies. But this weekend I discovered seomthing new from the mother of a two week old baby girl: the "pump and dump."

Several of us were at the surprise birthday party of one of our friends, but we were also eager to see the new mommy for the first time since her emergency C section. The mother is a sweet young lady, who always seemed rather naive and wide-eyed about the whole process of gestation. Everything was a wonderful surprise to her, except for the fact that drinking and recreational drug use were off-limits until term.

I was worried that during the breast feeding period her monasticism would have to continue, and she wouldn't have any fun at the party. Then I noticed her knocking down a Jager shot. "What's up with that?" I asked. "Pump and dump, dude! Pump and dump." Whereupon, she excused herself to the ladies room, drained the udders and flushed it down the loo. She said she had been pumping all day to get ready for the pary and had a pretty good alcohol-free reserve built up.

I don't know whether I'm revolted or tickled by this practice. Is this for real? Can you just wait to process everything out like sitting at the bar drinking cokes until your BAC gets low enough to drive? I'm glad she's happy and the child is being fed naturally, but WTF?!

We also discussed the incongruity of the fact that you can take no depressants at all during pregnancy, but if you get a Caesarean, apparently Percocet and morphine are immediately back on the menu. I came up with the idea that if that were to happen anyway, why not have a tattoo artist standing by to go ahead and get that Maori symbol for strength or your baby's name scripted out while you have the spinal block and morphine buzz going good?

That's another reason why I have not been encouraged to breed...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Feel Like the Poseidon

Last night I lay groaning on my back while thousands of beasties tried to escape my hull. A few intrepid explorers managed to get out through a crack near my main shaft, but most were left behind to die a watery death.*

Luckily, the USS Immodium is responding to my distress call and is rushing to plug the leaks in my bulkhead.

Ugh. No more hot chicken wings for dinner...

*Unlike that lying bastard charlatan David Blaine.

One of the Reasons I Am the Way I Am

I remember growing up that one of the coolest things that would happen in your house was when your mother dropped a thermometer. The globules of mercury were like an exposed lava lamp you could play with on the table with a pencil. Try as you might, you could never pick the stuff up with your fingers, so my brothers and I would play soccer with it across the dinner table until we finally got tired of it and swept it into the trash can.

Flash forward a few years to my middle school years at Presitigious Prep, home to nerdy outcasts and cromagnon atheletes charading as students. We had one Chemistry teacher (who happened to be the cross country coach), who actually divided the class into "Entities" and "Non-Entities" depending on whether you played a varsity sport. The good thing about being a "Non-Entity," was that meant you were probably also on the Honor Roll which allowed you to spend your study halls doing whatever you want, namely screwing around while the lunkheads struggled to stay academically eligible to hit each other around in practice in the name of school pride. So where was one of our favroite places to screw around? That's right, the self-same teacher's chemistry lab doing "unauthorized experiments." And what was our favorite thing to "experiment" with? You guessed it, mercury.

Once, an entire bottle of the stuff accidentally "fell" into a friend's bookbag while he was walking through the chemical storage room. He couldn't reach into his bag to put it back, because if someone saw him they might think he was stealing it. (Well, you try to go through a whole day without rationalizing or engaging in some revisionist history!) Plus the bottle was impossibly heavy and really cool. We had HG for days.

My nerd friends and I did not get sports cars for our 16th birthdays like many of our classmates. We rode the city bus from our middle-class suburb to a stop near campus and walked the rest of the way. We shared the bus with many of the maids and gardeners of our classmates and were the only caucasians aboard most of the time. The rest of the riders politely ignored us and our adolescent blatherings for the most part.

But now that we had the mercury, we decided it was time to play a new game. The floor of the bus was covered in a rigid rubber mat with ridges that ran the length of the bus. I imagine it was so they could simply park the bus on a hill and hose the insides down periodically. Unbeknownst to the MTA it also provided the perfect track for our favorite new pastime: mercury racing. Each contestant chose a groove and poured a different amount of the liquid metal while the bus was either accelerating or going up a small rise. When the bus went downhill or slowed to a stop, the silvery racers would rush forward down the aisle while each groove's "backer" would cheer for his blob to be the first to reach the front and spill into the entryway steps. We would giggle and shriek like excited schoolgirls in a bizzaro version of cigar-chomping gamblers at a dog track. Eventually, after hundreds of races, our mercury supply was gone and we returned to the Super Bowl of Paper Football as a diversion to studying.

I now have several good friends who are nurses at various hospitals around town. I asked one of them how her day had gone and she replied, "Terrible! Some idiot dropped a thermometer, and we all had to evacuate the entire floor for a couple hours while the team of guys wearing the HazMat suits came in to clean up and sterilize the area."

"Oh, so that's a problem?"

I acknowledge how stupid I was and fully accept any damage I may have done to myself. I now eat tuna with impunity knowing that there's little danger of raising my inherent mercury levels. RUABelle knows the potential for square-headed babies from my seed. But to anybody traveling on the Westmeade bus in the early 80's who wonders why their hair fell out in clumps, I anonymously apologize.

I blame society.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Little Miss Communication

I had an idea last night. I suggested to RUABelle that "we should have a good Bordeaux for dinner."

She replied, "Why the hell would we want to go to MetroCenter on a Sunday night?"

I know that allergies have got her ears plugged up, but that shit's funny! Anyway, there's always Neely's Barbeque in MetroCenter until the Mothership opens up.

Bone appetite!

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Pig and Nothing but the Pig

I just got back from the Mothership. You've already seen the reviews of Knucklehead's bbq, so there's not much I can add except that the shoulder sandwich ROCKED!! But I can give you a sneak preview of the decor:

That's right. It's Shaun Nielsen, Elvis' favorite singer. I won't even tell you about the decorations in the ladies room (or why I was in there), but it will be worth seeing!

I Feel His Pain

Short and Fat has hit close to home with his description of his current maladies. The day I turned 40, I woke up with a completely locked up neck. After my first 3 visits ever to chiropractor, I felt I was making progress. I got up at 4:30 this morning to do stretching exercises and get ready for work, when RUABelle came in to tell me a branch as big around as my waist (big) had fallen across our driveway in last night's storm. The chainsaw's up at the Sewanee cabin, so an hour of sawing with a little hand saw and hauling branches and logs away, I've pretty much undone any good the doc did. Pass the Alleve.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

If I Had...

My friend and former little drummer boy CanIBFrank has finally posted his first meaningful prose online outside of a Steve Gadd worshippers' chatroom. It's a nice homage to his father and the evocative properties of hand tools.

Go check him out and welcome him to the time-waster we call the blogosphere.

Another Reason I Can't Bring Myself to Vote for Van Hilleary

When he talks, he sounds just like Michael Waltrip on the Domino's Pizza commercials.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Moroccan My World!

I know I'll never be able to convince the rabid SEC football fan that the first 89 minutes of last night's USA/Morocco football match was really exciting when it was 0-0. Then the Moroccans scored in the final minute and it suddenly really sucked!

We had great seats on the aisle at about the 40 yd. line in the 5th row, so the action was great to watch. It's like the first time I attended an NHL game in person. You have no idea the speed at which these guys operate until you see them live.

Some random thoughts:

Contrary to popular belief, the fellows walking around with the banners that said "Maroc" were not misspellings of "Mapco."

Who lets their fourteen year old daughters walk around a stadium in low-slung cut off sweat pants and a mini halter top rolled up under their boobs and "USA" painted across their bellies? This is not Rivergate!

We sat right in front of the Moroccan fan section and they kicked ass! They chanted together, played really cool drums and were active and knowledgeable fans. They also managed to get great seats in the back of two sections that stretched between the forty yard lines. After the game, they were appropriately jubilant and made it just difficult enough to get through their section and take our lumps. It was good-natured and fun to be a part of such an international experience. I don't know how far they all traveled from to be there, but I'm sure it was worth the trip to them. Well, done Moroccans!

On the flip side, the supposed rabid group of USA football fans, Sam's Army, was just plain lame. They huddled in the corner of the end zone, sat for most of the game and seemed disorganized and lackluster in their cheering. They were filing out of the stadium within 30 seconds of the end of the game, while the rest of the crowd stood to applaud the effort of both sides and wish the USA well in the upcoming World Cup. Don't tread on this, ya' losers!

The upcoming World Cup is being played in Germany. The time difference pretty much demands that you miss work in order to watch the key games. See you at the Sportsman's Grille for lunch and a beer!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

West Bound and Down

Once again my muse, Sista Smiff has inspired me with her post of her husband's band and their odyssey to Branson in the back of a Uhaul. Back in the day, my band would play just about anywhere for a hundred bucks a head. The band leaders, DogDoc and I, occasionally got an extra $50 if we did the booking, hauled the gear and provided the "entertainment" for the ride to and from the gig.

That's right, Knucklehead. We skimmed the till on you, but bass players only buy strings once every ten years and I got the damn 1099's from bars that actually kept track of that stuff. Wow, that's a load off my mind. I'll pay double for my first shoulder sandwich at the Mothership.

But this particular adventure was during a period when Knuck was off on a cruise ship getting blown off course by various divorcees for a year or so. Our bass player at the time was a graduate of two prestigious private institutions of higher knowledge in Nashville and whose father, ironically enough, had been my child psychologist when I dropped out of one of the aforementioned institutions. (and not into any other institution, I might add.) My friendship with this bass player, let's call him "Rocco," has certainly been more valuable than my connection with either his alma mater or his pater familias, though I'm sure they've both been beneficial to lots of other people.

Our drummer was one of the funkiest white men on the planet. If you've gone to 3rd and Lindsley on a Wednesday night, you've probably seen him. In the five years I played with him, I never saw him want to take a break or miss a beat. He also beats the drums like he caught them in bed with his wife. But he is also a very soft-spoken man with a wry sense of humor. We'll call him "Chambers."

So the gig opportunity comes from somebody who saw us play at some wedding or bar mitzvah or reunion or hayride, but it's a big money gig. To us, big money was anything over $500.00. This was for $600.00. The bad news was that it was in Memphis. The worse news was it was a surprise birthday party. The worst news was that it was in a really big room and we'd probably have to rent gear and get a truck to handle the gig.

Not one to want to spend extra money on gear or transportation, I began to scrounge. I had always been able to get both my and DogDoc's guitars, amps, mike stands, effects boxes, monitors and the entire PA into my ten year old Legend with enough room to spare for exactly one twelve pack of beer and a couple of Atlanta Rhythm Section cds. Since the drummers and bass players were more transient within the band, we let them fend for themselves.

First the expanded PA. We began calling anybody we knew who had speakers and amps. We figured (correctly) that with all the liberal arts education represented in this combo, we could somehow piece together a sound system that would at least be very loud. Ultimately, we sounded like somebody dipping an electric guitar with a pack of beagles strapped to it into an aquarium full of electric eels, but at least we were f&%#king LOUD!

So how to schlep this gear to Memphis? Rather than rent a UHaul and have the other two band members follow DogDoc and me in the rental, I decided to ask if I could borrow one of our delivery trucks from work. My father used to be one of the owners of the company where I work, so I have occasionally been able to use a truck for a short haul during the weekend. During the day. In perfect weather. On surface roads. With a light load. Sober. None of those would be the case this time.

We met Rocco and Chambers at my house and loaded all the gear into the back of the truck. As we heaved this last huge speaker into the five foot high platform at the back of the truck, Chambers asked, "What does this lever do?" Oh, I guess that was the control to the Dolly Lift on the bed of the truck. That would have helped. When all the gear was in, there was a surprising amount of room left. The rhythm section asked if they really had to drive all the way to Memphis and back. I knew I wouldn't be sitting in the dark on a wedge monitor for four hours, so I said, "Sure, you can ride in the back." But being the scrounger that I am, we searched the basement of the band house and found a Coleman lantern and a moldy couch so disgusting that it had been thrown out of DogDoc's fraternity house. Whereupon, we had salvaged it for just this sort of occasion. This couch was so nasty that the fleas on it had lice. So nasty that the cat wouldn't crap on it any more. So nasty that DogDoc only slept on it when he was really twice a week.

It was a dark and stormy night as we headed west down I-40. I didn't have a lot of experience driving a commercial vehicle and had a lot of trouble maintaining my lane. Well, I had a lot of trouble maintaining in general. This truck wasn't ever driven at night, and it showed. The windshield wipers swept at about 30 beats per minute and only served to smear bugs and road grime across my vision. The headlights were apparently two anemic lightning bugs encased in dirty glass. The big old truck crabbed like a sailboat with a stuck jib in the gusting crosswinds. I was really worried about the well-being of Rocco and Chambers as I heard equipment sliding around the bed of the truck, but I couldn't turn my head to open the small hatch between the cab and the back. "Hang on, brothers," I yelled through the steel panel separating us.

We came upon a weigh station and I wondered what to do. We were in a commercial truck, but I had no CDL. We weren't hauling anything commercial and there were already at least six empty tall boy Miller Lite cans rolling around the cab, so I figured we'd run it and take our chances. I got DogDoc to open the panel so we could warn the rhythm section of our plans.

With a mighty effort he pried open the opening, and what to our wondering eyes should appear? A dim light illuminated the back of the truck, and I could see the shadows of equipment heaving back and forth as the truck swayed in the breeze. But was our rhythm section concerned? It was doubtful considering the fact that Chambers had a Hustler magazine held up to the Coleman so he could make out the latest story of a student at a small southern college in the Forum section and Rocco had his lips around a four foot bong that glowed like the embers of hell in the flickering lantern light.

"Yeah, we're definitely running this weigh station..." So we crashed the gate doin' ninety-eight. I said let them truckers, roll. 10-4.

We finally made it to Memphis and the address we had gotten from the back of the cocktail napkin at the bar where we originally booked the gig. Hmmm, this can't be right, can it? Well, it was a big room. We had arrived at Celebration Station. I'd seen it from I-40 many times on the drive to and from Memphis, but i had never really realized what sort of place it was.

"Hello, Cleveland!" we bellowed as we opened up the back of the truck to a billowing cloud of green smoke. "Look on the bright side, guys," I rationalized. "We've never played at a place with batting cages and bumper boats before."

We unloaded our gear and prepared to soundcheck our Pink Floydesque sound system that we had assembled. We were told we couldn't play until the facility was officially closed to the public and then that we shouldn't play until the birthday boy got there, being as it was a surprise party and all. Oh good, we had more power daisy-chained together than we'd ever played through in a warehouse-sized room filled with somebody's cousins and grandparents and we don't get to sound check first. This should be good...

With nothing else to do until Myron arrived, we went to get some tokens and play some games. "Oh, those are only free to guests with armbands." Nice. "I don't suppose we could have any of that beer from that keg while we wait?" No dice. They did let us borrow a basketball and play H-O-R-S-E on an indoor court in between shots by paying customers. Stoned or not, Rocco kicked our asses. And now, we smelled really bad to boot.

Finally, young Myron arrived to cheers of "Surprise!" and polite golf claps from his family. Apparently, the lad was a bit of a hothouse flower with a nervous disposition. They let him walk around the whole facility, taking in the fact that it was all just for him while we stood in the corner of the basketball court with our instruments poised, debating what power level to start this unfamiliar PA at and get this debacle going.

We didn't know what sort of music this fellow liked or how we would sound once the downbeat fell, but the straining beast that was Conscious Pilot could be held back no longer. We hit the first chords of "Magic Carpet Ride," and several miraculous things happened at once. The power surge from the amps caused the lights in Celebration Station to dim noticeably. The curious out of phase sound of two guitars and a bass all tuned to three slightly different interpretations of the muscial scale blended in a peculiar shriek. Chambers' double kick drum reverberated off the concrete walls a hundred feet ahead and slammed back into our faces, knocking us temporarily breathless. Myron and his family literally ran to the other corner of the buliding from the band and began to huddle around the birthday cake wondering how to get rid of these crazed heathens.

We came up with a suitable solution. We played 30 minutes, got our cash, stopped by the liquor store and drove home.

All in all, it was a pretty successful gig for us.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

So What Are YOU Doing on Tuesday?

I'm gonna be learnin' me some grappling and size equalization at that there free ninja class.

I almost didn't see this poster because it blended so eerily into the background of the ten telephone poles it was posted on within one block of my house.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Suddenly It's 90 Degrees and 90% Humidity

Apparently Spring fell on a Friday this year...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Help Unwanted

A friend pointed this out to me:

From the front page of Wednesday's City Paper

Same day, same paper, page 22

Now, I'm no job counselor...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Home Schooling

As much as I enjoyed yesterday's trip around the mall, Sista Smiff has inspired me to post again, but this time in response to her opinions on home schooling. I think she's actually approaching editor status for me, since I can't seem to come up with any good assignments for myself this week.

I agree that there are certainly situations where home schooling can lead to overly insulated children with underdeveloped social skills. They do have groups that go on traditional field trips together and there is actually a local home school prom which I shudder to think about. Of course I shudder to remember my own proms too, but that's for different reasons.

It's unfair to generalize the effects of home schooling and the reasons why parents choose it, just like it's unfair to lump all traditional schools together as one experience. I attended a prestigious all-male school in Nashville (until there was an incident...), and some of those guys went from 6 years of guy school to pledging a fraternity and moving into the the frat house before freshman year even started. They were likely to marry whoever they went to freshman Spring formal with as soon as they graduated and suddenly found themselves in the workplace having to interact with women for the first time on a non-dating basis. I don't think that's very healthy either.

But I do want to speak up for a very positive home school experience I was personally involved in. I taught a young woman for several years in math and history as part of her home school curriculum. Her other instructors were localy grad students who needed some extra money, and her parents found me through some tutoring I had done and through my Princeton Review classes. The reason this young lady was being home schooled was that she was a potential Olympian in a competitive sport that required her to travel to meets all year long. Her parents were also in position to take her on long trips around the world and offer her the kinds of life experiences that only a small fraction of children could undertake.

She was extremely well adjusted, mature and had a thirst for knowledge that hadn't yet been beaten down by any set of rules or guidelines. I wrote her recommendations to apply to over 10 highly competitive colleges including Ivy League schools, and she got into every one of them. From what I've heard, she is now a successful attorney, but I guess you can't win them all. She would have made an excellent professor.

I recognize that her situation was unique in her opportunities and personal work ethic. What I wanted to point out was that everybody's experiences are unique. Having a dedicated home school parent on the Metro Board of Education doesn't necessarily mean she will bring a specific agenda to the group, and there should be checks and balances in place to prevent any one point of view from dominating discussions or policy. But the chance to bring any new perspectives to the educational process should always be embraced.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Memories...Like the Corners of a Mall

I love a writing assignment. Based on an off-handed comment on her site, Sista Smiff has suggested that a post on 100 Oaks Mall might be in order. Now that's a challenge! How do you make something this ugly interesting?

My memories of the mall actually go back to stories from before the mall was built. My parents used to go rabbit hunting together in the oak-filled forest that gave the area its name. They never ate meals together and slept in separate beds as long as I can remember, but when it was time to load 10 beagles in a station wagon and chase Brer Rabbit around the briar patch, they actually had some family togtherness. Dad was away on business most of the time and left Mom to care for the pack of yalping dogs, but Sunday rabbit dinner made it worthwhile, I guess.

The Nashville Knucklehead has already told the story about one of the major reasons that 100 Oaks has been a failure of a mall: the fact that former Mayor Richard Fulton was an investor in Rivergate Mall and blocked interstate access to Powell Rd. But I always say if you got your ass kicked by Rivergate, you were in pretty tough shape to begin with.

For a boy growing up in Westmeade in the 1970's though, 100 Oaks was the place to go. Outside of short trips to Ben Franklin or the Big K store to by Lik-M-Aid Sticks (in retrospect, a really unfortunate name for a candy), 100 Oaks was the only place to do some serious hangin' out.

As a budding young hippie, I liked to go to the Sargeant Pepper Store on the bottom level. Only five years old, I wasn't exactly sure why I wanted to buy incense and black light posters and American flag patches for my bell bottoms, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I always had to share a bedroom with one of my two brothers, so my decorations rotated on a semi-annual basis whenever one of them couldn't stand living with my precocious little smart ass anymore. They did enjoy being able to use my incense to hide the smell of pot from our ex-Marine drill sargeant father.

We used to buy piles of vinyl at the Port of Call record store across from Sgt. Pepper, and if I remember they had a pretty nice incense selection too. Oddly enough, I gag at the smell of patchouli today. I blame it on Widespread Panic.

Room furnishings came from the House of Bamboo outlet, which also had a store in Hillsboro Village. During kindergarten, neither of my brothers would tolerate me, so I moved a studio couch into our downstairs bathroom and lived there. To me, it was like camping, albeit in a damp cool cave. I divided my "living area" from the toilet with a bamboo curtain purchased with money earned by selling lemonade and homemade weed killer (don't ask) from a card table at the end of our cul de sac. I spent my nights watching Charlie Chaplin movies on a tiny black and white TV on PBS back when it was still channel 2, and I was blissfully unaware of how strange my living situation was. I still remember that when channel 8 and channel 2 switched places on the dial and Big Bird made the transition from one to the other, it was a pretty earth-saking change in my reality.

The other mother lode for a kid visiting 100 Oaks was the Harvey's department store. The opportunity to buy a bag of popcorn when you weren't in the movies seemed so special that it made it ok to have to buy your clothes in the Haggar Husky department.

In these pre-Geranimals days, it was up to me to choose my own outfits. My brother told me of the time I got separated from him at Harvey's, and he heard the following announcement: "We have a lost young boy wearing a yellow turtleneck and blue and green and yellow and red and purple pants. Please come get him at customer service." A nearby shopper exclaimed, "They've apparently captured a clown," and he knew it must be me.

As I got older, the out building of 100 Oaks became more important. That's where the first multiplex theatre in Nashville was located, the Martin Twin. I remember watching all of Kurt Russell's Disney movies and several Bruce Lee movies there from between my interlaced fingers over my eyes. Cinema South was too far away, the Belcourt and the Lowe's were still showing porn and the Belle Meade Theatre had "The Sting" and "Paper Moon" held over for most of the 70's, so the Martin was the place to be.

As I aged even more, I moved to the other half of the same annex. First it was video games in the arcade and then it was sneaking into Flanagan's to dance on the multicolored Saturday Night Fever dance floor and drink 3 for 1's on my fake green paper TN driver's license. I'll always remember one night watching Adrian Belew of King Crimson set a tiny amp down in the middle of that dance floor and play a solo set of the most amazing feedback for two hours on a Sunday night. I wasn't on the same hallucinogens or piles of blow like the rest of the crowd, so I imagine my memory is a little sharper than most of the event.

Finally, the bloom came off the rose. Neighborhood malls and googleplex cinemas took away any reason to head out Thompson Lane. I will admit that I do still drop by the FuBu section of Burlington Coat Factory before every trip to Vegas to buy some fly threads. RUABelle will let me wear them on the Strip, but more than once she has made me throw shirts away rather than repack them for the trip home. But hey, if you ever need a big sweater with a picture of Rudy from the Cosby Kids on the front and back of it, 100 Oaks is the place to go. Otherwise, not so much.

So what are your recollections?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Like to Think I'm an Intelligent Enough Fellow...

...but I spent five minutes this afternoon trying to lick the back of the printed postage out of our new postage meter before somebody told me we had switched to pressure sensitive tape. Good thing it wasn't sharp or anything.

CeeElCee's Tip o' the Day

When you're walking in a mall, never make eye contact with anyone carrying a clipboard.

And, yes, I did mall walk before I turned 40. Thanks for asking and keep those "Matlock" jokes coming.

Two phrases that drive me absolutely nuts!

1.) "Well, I guess we're back at ground zero."

Is that when you get to square one and blow it up?

2.) "Why don't you just sign your John Henry right here?"

Err, yeah. Let me just get my steel-driving pen.

Anybody else got any that make them bonkers, or am I the only one?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Forty Plus

I woke up this morning and my neck had totally seized up. I can't move my head more than twenty degrees.

I feel like my warranty expired yesterday and planned obsolescence is setting in.

On a related note, I had already decided to take the day off from work. I think Bob Barker is a doddering fool, and "The Price is Right" is an extremely dated, silly show. But I defy you not to watch it when you're skipping work...

Come on down!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Old Man Take a Look at My Life

Do you remember back when you were 17?

Did you ever think about turning 40? Man, that's old! I'll never make it that far. And who would want to? And could you imagine how ancient you'll look?

I was surprisingly prescient for a young `un.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Old Joke that Rings Unfortunately True

Q. What do you call a dog with no legs?

A. It doesn't matter, `cuz he's not gonna come anyway.

We still haven't settled on a name for our new dog, but I've suddenly lost interest. As I feared, since she came into our family while I was gone on a business trip, she immediately imprinted on RUABelle and keeps my girlfriend between me and herself at all times. I figured she was just shy and have tried to make very small steps toward warming the dog to my presence.

The bad news is that RUABelle is a 1st grade teacher and leaves for work before I do, so the dog barks and howls in her crate as soon as she hears the door close behind her. So this morning, to stop the howling I let her out to roam the house. We kept a very respectful and quietly friendly distance from each other while I read the paper and drank my coffee. She has had no problem letting me pet her or rub her belly as long as her momma was around in the past.

But when I circled slowly in to put her leash on and lead her back to her crate, she took off through the house literally leaving a stream of crap as she ran. I cleaned up the straight line of poo and found her hiding nervously behind the couch sitting in another pile of pee and dookie. I knew I couldn't leave her alone all day like this, so I gently gave her a treat and put her leash on her. She didn't want to move and I certainly didn't want to drag her.

Seeing no other option, I gently picked her up like I had done in the past (once again with mommy in the room), whereupon she went nuts, thrashing about, biting me pretty deeply on both hands and wrists and showering me in more pee. I got her back in the crate and she immediately calmed down and let me reach in to pet her and remove the leash so she wouldn't get caught on it during the day. She looked like othing bad had happened, but I was shaking, bleeding and covered in pee. Oh yeah, and I was now late for my 8:00 meeting.

I think she's a good dog. I'm pretty sure she was abused by whoever took her to the pound. Odds are it was a guy. He probably looked like me. I think I'm a great pet owner and we have raised three other outstanding lovable pets. RUABelle really wants another dog and I do too, and this one really loves her. The cats are now clinging to me to maintain alpha and beta pet status. I'm willing to give the dog time and distance to get used to me or not. So I ask, dear readers, can this work?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

ABC promised

That David Blaine would either "hold his breath for nine minutes or die a watery death trying."

He did neither. I, for one, feel cheated.

That's Just Silly

I listened to the debate over whether Indoor Comfort (formerly Cumberland Comfort and Kimbro Electric) should be allowed to build a huge electronic sign that looms over Interstate 40 near the airport and Briley Parkway. As a free speech advocate and a supporter of the advertising industry I was in favor of the idea.

But as I was driving home from the airport yesterday I saw this notice scrolling between "Spring A/C tuneup" special offers:


As much as I like to bash Kennedys and also support freedom of expression, that's just stupid, tacky and juvenile. Personally, I won't ever use that company again.

I'm getting crankier as I approach 40.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Personal Sanctuary

Last year I hit a royal flush on a video poker machine in Vegas for at little over $1300.00. I banked most of it, but decided to splurge a little bit on myself. So I bought a set of those Bose noise-cancelling headphones since I spend so much time on airplanes.

Until today, I still thought that a couple hundred bucks for a set of headphones was a pretty steep price. But after sitting in front of a hypersonically screaming little boy who was NOT pleased about leaving Disney and whose two parents threatened him at an even higher volume that he would never see Mickey Mouse again if he didn't SHUT THE HELL UP, I could have sold as many sets as I could pass out for five hundred bucks a pop.

Ahh...the sounds of silence.

Well I Made It...

...through the Wonderful World of Disney with my sense of humor intact. It was close a couple of times like last night when we were served our meal in the (groan) Great Hall of China. Much to my surprise there is apparently a province known for their fried catfish and tartar sauce, and they must have an Anheuser Busch plant as well since it was all you could drink Bud Light night. Hell, they've got everything else in China so goodie for me!

As I find myself sitting in the airport preparing to leave the House of the Mouse, I have realized that for the first time in well over a year I don't have any plane tickets purchased for any work trips. May I be the first to say "Yahoo!" For the foreseeable future I am free to play with our new dog who I haven't seen yet, pump out bloggage for your reading pleasure and make myself available for FTF lunch and/or beer drinking invitations. Oh, and the water heater blew up and flooded our cabin in Sewanee while I've been gone, so I see some serious Bob Vila action in my future.

I almost made a critical error checking in for my flight. No, not tweezers in my carry-on or ammunition in my luggage. I almost switched to stand-by for a flight that leaves two hours before my scheduled departure. The booking agent didn't volunteer the info that it makes two stops and gets in an hour later than my direct flight. Phew, that was a close one. That's another reason why I would kick ASS on "The Amazing Race."

And just imagine the blogging opportunities...

Homeward bound,

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's a Small World After All

Greetings from the Disney death camps! Yesterday was pretty much meetings from 7:30 to 5:30 with a brief break to watch the Derby in the ESPN Zone. Four cups of coffee, two cokes and a good sense of humor got me through the day intact.

RUABelle picked up new family member on Saturday and text messaged me all day with stories of a standard poodle being chased behind the couch by our big orange bully cat. I need to get back so she can play man-to-man instead of zone.

Today, I'm back in the conference room listening to how to improve profits in a decling business environment. The highlight of day day is our special group dinner at Epcot in the (wait for it...) Great Hall of China. Lookin' forward to some more of that great Asian food. Just when I thought my perforated bowels had finally healed from my trip to Shanghai.

Zip a dee do da!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Don't Mess with the Mouse

It's easy to get down on yourself when you're traveling away from home for business on a Friday. I arrived dutifully early and duly checked in well before my Southwest boarding time in order to position myself near the front of the A line. Then I remembered that this flight was to Orlando and there would likely be more very young and very old preboards than A group boarders anyway.

True to form, the lines were full of people jockeying for position, stashing their bags to hold their places in line and giving in-flight instructions to first time flyers to "be sure and chew sum guuum so yer head don't explode." I just smiled and read the McPaper. (USA Today)

But lo and behold, after all the preboards and the A listers in front of me had found their seats, I claimed the exit row aisle on the left side that lets me stretch out my crippled right ankle. Or as we experienced travelers call it-Southwest First Class!

Four drink tickets and a Crown and ginger ale later, I had decided to make a conscious effort to not be the Saddest Person in the Happiest Place on Earth. I attended this same convention in the same Disney Boardwalk Resort two years ago, and it's easy to get depressed spending eight hours a day in meeting rooms and nights alone in a hotel room with a huge-ass crib bolted to the center of the floor while all around you families are enjoying their dream vacations.

So as I sit here on this Disney Magical Express Shuttle Bus, having been directed here by a tiny Phillipino woman wearing an enormous stuffed Mickey Mouse glove on one hand, I pledge to let the joy of all these children rub off on me. (Get your mind out of the gutter, perv!) I am going to make the best of this situation and try to return home Monday night in a good mood to meet our new dog who RUABelle is picking up tomorrow without me.

Wish me luck!

The Long Fright Home

It's only a week late, but here's my final China post.

Our last night in Shanghai, we were invited to dinner at a restaurant on the top floor of the building which housed the hotel we were staying in. The view of the Bund, the Blade Runneresque bend in the Yangstze River that represents the city's window to the world, was spectacular. If you saw "Where in the World is Matt Lauer Wasting NBC's Money?" this year, it was exactly the view they opened his Shanghai segment up with.

Apparently the executive plan from our hosts was to take the crew out for a massage after dinner. And not just any massage. A "frip" massage. As in when you're halfway done, your masseuse says, "Frip, prease." We respectfully declined and opted to walk along the riverfront instead. Our Chinese hosts were obviously disappointed, but I couldn't tell if is was because we were obviously less than men, or they were upset that they missed out on a rub and tug for themselves on the company dime.

Walking along the Bund was breathtaking, but no matter which way we headed it seemed it was the wrong direction versus traffic. I felt like a catheter.

We decided to take in some local color and asked our guide to take us to a bar for "just one beer" before we went back to the hotel, since we each had at least twenty hours of travel ahead of us the next day. After walking for another half hour toward an undisclosed location, our host decided we needed to get in two cabs instead. A ten minute e-ticket thrill ride later we found ourselves in front of our destination: The Shanghai Hofbrau Haus. Oh sure, why not? When in Rome, drink like the Bavarians.

Not wanting to disappoint our host again, we made the extreme sacrifice to go inside and drink a few very large beers while we watched western tourists dance spasmodically to a really bad 80's cover band and hit on Chinese women who they apparently did not realize were working girls. "Duuuuude, I think she totally cares about me! I looooove Shaaang-haaaaii!" Didn't you see the meter that was running on her ass? She has landing lights on her stomach. If ignorance is bliss, these guys were extremely blissful.

Two of our party, myself included, decided to keep to our "last stop" strategy and asked to head back to the hotel. Our host said that we should walk a little bit to get to the subway and then take a quick ride home. So we did, threading a few more tubes the wrong way down one-way streams of humanity up and down the streets of the city and through the biggest subway station I've ever seen. A short crowded ride on an extremely clean train later, we emerged a mile deep in another subway station. But this time we were headed in the right direction with the crowd and surfed our way out of the buliding. My feet actually left the ground a few times in the teeming throng.

We emerged from the station and I did a quick turn around. I didn't see our hotel anywhere, but hey, it was only a 50 story building with a big-ass crown on the top of it. That would be easy to miss. When I inquired where we were, I was told that something about returning to the hotel had apparently been lost in translation. We had actually headed several miles farther from home and been deposited at the door of the "Cuddle Kareoke" bar. When I said that the two of us that had originally wanted to head back to the hotel an hour ago still wanted to go home, our host asked, "How about just several hours more?" At least he didn't lie about it like we do when we ask to stay for just one more beer.

We left the rest of the group and tried to take a cab home. Not knowing where we were and not knowing exactly where we were going made it difficult to find someone who could understand our intentions. After trying three different drivers and being met with blank smiles and shrugged shoulders, we finally realized that small colorful pieces of paper with pictures of Chairman Mao on them were the ultimate translators. The ride was uneventful and sleep came easily.

Morning came quickly, but not as quickly as for our compatriots who had stayed at the kareoke bar. I felt bad for abandoning the Ranger policy of "no man left behind," but it had been totally voluntary. Apparently they stayed at this place until almost five in the morning sitting in a room the size of a small living room which had a big screen TV, a cooler of beer, and 5-6 (fully clothed) non-English speaking young women who sat between them and cuddled like puppies while taking turns standing in front of the couch singing very bad kareoke. The repertoire of the Americans was varied, but for the Chinese girls, the list began and ended with Michael Jackson. Now I know why he's hiding out in the far East. When we met the returning group on the way to breakfast the next morning, they reeked of beer and rice wine. I made a mental note to get a seat on the plane next to the other intelligent guy who came back early.

We had a little time in the morning to hit the market before heading to the airport. I took advantage of the opportunity to buy some nice, cheap small gifts to carry on, but some of the rest of my group wasn't so smart. They bought so many knock-offs that the last stop was by the luggage store to buy extra suitcases. Two of them bought full sets of golf clubs and little travel bags to carry them in. Despite the fact that I told them that you can't carry clubs on a plane, they went ahead and tried to take them through security. Always listen to the Road Warrior's advice, I say. After a two hour near international incident, they finally got to carry them on as far as Los Angeles, where they were immediately both forced to mail them home from the airport at an expense greater than the cost of the clubs. I imagine they'll have to have the clubs regripped when they get home anyway. And reshafted. And the heads replaced. But at least they'll represent the same space intrinsically...

My favorite lines from vendors:
"You like Versace? This is like Versace."
"Hey, man. You need a knife for the plane?"
"How about silk bra for your wife? Somebody else's wife?"

Thanks to tailwinds, the flight home was only 11 hours. The newest movie on the plane was "You've Got Mail," so I slept most of the way. It was nice to see Meg Ryan before her lips got stung by the collagen wasp, though.

Surprisingly, the worst third world airport we traveled through was LAX. My connection was tight and I had to change to a terminal that was under serious construction. So I ran like O.J. across the parking lot dragging my luggage only to encounter a secrity line that was out the door along the sidewalk. Luckily, you can always depend on the inefficiency of the airlines to be running late on their own, so the security delay was offset by the tardiness of the flight.

So 36 hours after Friday began for me, I arrived home around midnight on that same Friday and into the welcoming embrace of RUABelle. Of all the amazing sights I saw on the trip, none was more appreciated than her smile. I'm glad to be back!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Scorched Earth Policy

Now, for the serious economic commentary:

China is coming and they don't give a shit what happens on the way. They are not motivated by profit or debt retirement. It's a dick measuring contest based on market share and public relations.

With loans from the World Bank and the Bank of China and the ability and intention to print as much money as they need, they have expansion strategies that are not based in reality. But who can guess what the reality of the future of China will be? The number of Chinese people who have moved from farms to cities in the last decade is equivalent to the population of the United States. And these ex-agrarian people haven't learned to be consumers yet or how to really use up natural resources. Until they all get Direct TV, they don't even know what they don't have yet. And they certainly don't know what they want to spend the money they're about to make on yet.

We visited the city of Suzho for one day. There are 6,000,000+ people in Suzho and we've never heard of it and they don't even have an airport yet. Try to fathom a situation like that in the US.

There is currently an auction system to get a licence plate for a car, starting at $5000. Wait until a bunch of new drivers encounter 5 million folks on bicycles. Dr. Welby to othopedics, stat! And the smog that already chokes the city and burns your eyes will only get much worse. Shanghai is like industrial revolution era London on steroids, or conversely like Japan with much more land. There's a crash a-comin' and we had better hope we're not in the passenger seat.

Shop-ping is not a city in China...

...or hell, maybe it is. They got a billion and a half people, so they probably have a city name with every permutation of the English alphabet. My favorite way to avoid being intimidated in my business dealings with the hyperaggressive Chinese that we were meeting with last week was to think, "Hey, buddy. Even if you're one in a million over here, there's 1500 people just like you."

So I figured I'd better finish up my China travelogue posts before I hit the road again for this weekend's biz-pig travel saga to the Happiest Place on Earth. Let's begin with shopping in Shanghai.

I did everything I promised my mother I'd never do. No, not THAT! I promised my girlfriend I wouldn't do that. But I did follow someone I'd just met an hour earlier down a dark alley, into a dark building, up three flights of a darkened stairwell to a dark room with a door that automatically locked behind me. I guess this shows what four years of higher education can teach a young country mouse from Tennessee.

The details: My trade delegation of six other capitalist running pig-dogs and myself had an hour to kill before dinner, so our translator/guide suggested we head over to the market to do a little commerce. When we arrived we were greeted by a huge banner which flew across the entrance.

We could hardly pass beneath this banner as the walkway was clogged with hundreds of people asking if we wanted to buy Rolex watches, RayBan sunglasses, Louis Vuitton bags or DVDs of movies which had just opened in theatres that week. One of our group discovered a way to at least chase off the DVD hucksters by answering their polished sales pitch of "DVD?! DVD?!" by looking them directly in the eye and asking "Beta? 8 track?" You could almost smell their little synapses frying as they attempted to sort out this anachronism.

I was amused by the fact that all the products had a "Made in the USA" stamp when almost nothing at WalMart does anymore. Most favored trading status, my ass.

Several members of our groups expressed an interest in buying watches. At this, our interpreter's face lit up and he made a phone call. We thought we were getting the big hook up as he led us through the maze of booths and out the other side of the huge market complex. Then we made a turn and walked a few more blocks. And then we made another turn and walked a few more blocks. And then we made another turn and walked a few more blocks. Rinse, repeat. Had I even been able to read a map or a street sign, I would have had no earthly idea where our trading party of round-eyed businessmen was or was going.

Abruptly, we turned up a dark alley between two hovels and entered the aforementioned pitch black stairwell. I was more than concerned as we shuffled single-file into the kill zone up the three flights of stairs. I mentioned that I used to pay two dollars to go through things like this at the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon Funhouse at my elementary school. No one was amused.

Since it was so dark I didn't even realize that we were entering a room at the end of a hallway until the door clicked behind me. The room was fetid and cramped with a desk, a ratty couch and a rattier bed as its only furnishings. A strange Chinese man beckoned us closer to him and said "Prease sit. Wait for watches."

"Errr, no thanks. I've been sitting all day."

We huddled in a pod like fifth graders at a cotillion dance and began to soak in our surroundings. Like I said, it didn't take long, but I began to notice some disturbing details. I nudged the guy standing next to me and cut my eyes upward. "Is that a noose hanging from the ceiling?"

"I'm afraid so."

"And is that a small stool slid back under the futon?"


I had just become convinced that we had entered the Shanghai equivalent of a Roach Motel that you checked in but didn't check out of. Xing Yang's Snuff Hut for the Suicidally Inclined?

Then another memory flickered in my brain. "Haven't I seen this room in a $12.99 SpectraVision porno?" Naah, couldn't be.

Then I began to notice the weapons positioned haphazardly (strategically?) around the room. Numchucks over the clothes rod. A huge hunting knife on the desk. A wooden club in the corner. A Ninja sword leaning against a trash can. Now I get it. This isn't a room for depressed people to off themselves or a place to be filmed having sex with multiple people and/or species. This is a place to get seriously killed!

And I hadn't even wanted to buy a freakin' watch! I wear the same cheap watch every day that I received as a graduation from my mother and father just before they got divorced. I think of it as a twisted collector's item since it's the last thing that ever said "Love, Mom and Dad." Just then, a knock at the door was answered with the appearance of a man wearing a glossy pin-striped suit carrying three full-size valises full of trays of watches. Rolex, Tag-Heuer, Timex, any brand you could think of in any style. All I could think of was that some of these mother-f%$kers better buy some damned watches or the consquences were gonna be dire.

In my mind's eye I pictured a grisly scene. Did you ever have pet gerbils growing up? You remember when the momma gerbil had a litter of 10-12 little pinkie-size and pinkie-colored babies one evening and you tried to name them all before you went to sleep? And do you recall waking up the next morning to a scene of incredible rodent carnage with momma gerbil smiling with her bloody maw all alone in the cedar chips while dripping bits of fur and bone hung from the bars of the cage and a red spray fanned across your desk and on to your Evel Knievel notebook? Well that's what I thought this room was going to look like if we didn't buy some time pieces.

I tried to do my part. I even picked one watch that looked like the kind I had asked RAUBelle to buy me for my bithday. But, just my luck, it was already broken before I actually tried to pay for it. Besides, I have a really bad habit of giving her advice when she asks what I want for birthdays, Xmas etc. and then buying it for myself before she gets a chance. And that realy pisses her off. I thought about another Rolex that had a big ugly Coca Cola logo in the middle of it so that I could violate the maximum number or trademark regulations at one time, but somebody else in the group beat me to it.

So I stood at the back of the room a surreptitously snapped a few photos in case Shanghai CSI needed evidence to reconstruct the scene. Then...the bargaining began.

Our translator, who obviously had a commission deal going on, began to argue excitedly in Mandarin with suit dude and the "Prease sit" guy. It became apparent that somebody was going to have to lose in order for manhoods to be affirmed, but I had no interest in haggling A.) because I had no dog in this hunt seeing as I didn't even claim ownership of any of the twenty watches involved in the negotiations and B.) because I wanted to survive the day and noticed "Prease sit" was idly stroking the Ninja sword. However the rest of the group was either less cautious, less attentive to the small details of death merchants or more interested in getting a really good deal on fake watches. The picture I took of this steaming pile of capitalism is priceless.

Finally, an accord was reached. Yuan changed hands and the group backed quickly out of the room and down the stairs to the sanctuary of a dark alley full of normal everyday beggars. At last count, two watches were still running by the time we got to the airport three days later.

Feliz Cuatro de Mayo!

Tommorow is the day that we gringos put aside our collective distaste for for all Mexicans who aren't Salma Hayek or a middle infielder and celebrate their 4th of July.

It's depressing how the same tiny-minded people who criticize immigrants like Mexicans and the Irish are more than glad to co-opt their holidays and turn them into Miller Lite-sponsored drinking fests.

Que hipocracia!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I need some advice

If you've read my previous post about our search for a new dog, you know there's a big hole in our household's heart that needs filling.

Good news! We're the pending owners of a shelter rescue standard poodle. She was woefully undernourished and completely ungroomed, so she was a real mess when RUABelle found her and fell in love. If we pass our home inspection, we'll have her next week.

So my request to you, oh readers, is advice on a name. The first inclination was something French, since she's a poodle. Also that would be a reference to our lost New Orleans connections. But someone recently told me that poodles are actually of Germanic origin, so that expands the name base considerably.

I'm usually a believer that the pet's name will reveal itself, and I'm probably too much of a smartass to be trusted with something this important and permanent. (Example: my first suggestion was Shanene, and I know that's just WRONG!)

I, unfortunately, think she looks like one of the "Roger, Roger" battle droids from Star Wars.

So hopefully, y'all can come up with better ideas than me. Release the HOUND!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

H is for the many things she told me. No, that's not right...

I volunteered over at Bad, Bad Ivy's to play in her little reindeeer game whereupon you have a letter assigned to you on which to expound. While I don't share Kat Coble's disdain for vowels, I was sort of hoping to get "schwa." Uhhhhhhhhh.

But instead, to quote Morgan Freeman as Letterman, "and then Andy Defresne found himself trapped in a cell with two of the meanest bull queers to ever soil the earth. It was the longest night of his life." Oops, wrong Morgan Freeman quote. "Today's post is brought to you by the number IV... no Ivy and the letter H.

Haute Cuisine
I love good food. I have no problem with simple food like a great bbq sandwich, a greasy plate of fried chicken or a neighborhood meat and three. But there is something to be said for a special meal in a wonderful environment at a high-class restaurant. Ten years ago, the default television in our house was MTV and ESPN. Five years ago it was Home and Garden. Now, I can't move from room to room without seeing some Food Network show that RUABelle has left on as she flits through the house, wasting kilowatts. I fully expect to eventually evolve into an elderly Weather Channel watcher.

Through my job, I have been lucky enough to eat in some great restaurants all over the country. The highlight was the chance to eat at Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Yountville, CA, often acclaimed as America's #1 eating establishment. Through business, I've also had the opportunity to get some couch dances from beautiful strippers all over the country, but I don't remember any of them vivdly and I never really had the orgasmic experience I had at the French Laundry. I remember every bite of every course and every glass of unbelievable wine that accompanied each morsel. I kept the menu and gaze at it more lovingly and longingly than any polaroid anyone could have ever taken of me and a stripper.

Hot Chicken
A culinary treat unique to middle Tennessee that I love to partake in every couple of months for the same reason Hunter S. Thompson told me he still used acid a few times a year, "just to clear out the pipes."

I won't even speak of the poseur hot chicken spots around town. With me, it begins and ends with Prince's. A plate of Prince's hot chicken rubbed hellishly black with Cayenne cooked in a huge cast iron frying pan full of 10W-40 served on two slices of Wonder Bread can lead to a capsaicin buzz which verges on the hallucinatory.

The first time I ever had it was at Summer Lights many years ago when they were selling wings out of a booth downtown. I was second in line behind an hunched over elderly couple. The smiling proprietor of the booth looked like Raj's mother from "What's Happening." She beamed at the old man and asked, "What'll you have, sweetie?"

"I'd like and order of extra-hot wings."
"Oh naw, baby. You don't want extree-hot. Why don't you try medium," she cooed helpfully.
"No siree, ma'am. I want extra-hot," the man said as he cut his eyes boastfully to his bride of many decades.
"Aw baby, this is the last chance I'm giving ya'."
"Nope, extra-hot is what I ordered and extra-hot is what I want!" he said defiantly.

She served him a red checkered paper basket of molten lava wings with a big smile on her face and watched him walk away as I stepped to the front of the line.

"Crazy motherfucker," she muttered softly.

I said, "I'll have one order of medium wings, please."

Even medium was difficult to eat and I made the crucial error of going to the porta-john BEFORE I'd washed my hands. You don't realize that everything down there is glandular until your glans bursts into flame. Fairly warned be ye, says I.

And Prince's will definitely, how shall I say this, burn you twice. A friend of mine had the unfortunate situation of having to ask his girlfriend to drag a box fan into the bathroom and point it at him while he spent hours on the toilet. I never found out which end the fan was pointed at...

I'm convinced that Dick Cheney still runs this place and the Iraq war is a direct result. Between Haliburton and the oil companies, the profits from this war are obscene. I also believe that the plan was originally hatched over the Bush Thanksgiving table. "GW, either you or Jeb is gonna have to become president and finish what I started. Call it in the air."

I like what Jay Leno said when the retired generals turned against Bush. "But not all the generals are against him. He still has the support of a lot of generals: General Electric, General Dynamics, General Motors."

I want one. I don't think they make sense economically based on their current cost structure and the cost of gas, but I think it's the right thing to do. I'd like to rent one first to see what the experience is like, though.

Hopkins, Lightnin'
The burning, raw electricity that comes from this man's blues as he plays the Texas slide guitar with a medicine bottle still sends shivers down my spine. I defy you to listen to "DC-7," his haunting account of a plane crash in the middle of a west Texas desert and not be affected.

Les Blank made a great documentary entitled, "The Blues According to Lightnin' Hopkins." The old bluesman's speech is so deep and garbled that Blank had to subtitle his own film. But what he does say is fascinating. Joe Bob says check it out!

Hamilton Lake
This is a beautiful lake in upstate New York where I had an unfortunate incident on a snowmobile that changed my life forever. We rednecks should be limited to jet skis and four wheelers. I broke my ankle every way you can break it and four years, eleven pins and two screws later I can still predict the weather and have a couple days a month where I still need to use a cane.

Harvey, Paul
I've been listening to him on the radio for over 25 years even though I disagree with 90% of what he says. I just can't stop myself!

Is there anybody uglier than this man on radio today? (And I'm including Howard Stern)
Oh, yeah. Maybe his son, Paul Harvey, jr.

This has always been one of my favorite holidays because it combines drinking with dressing up in costumes with interacting with children. I just say that because we've always striven to be the house that nobody wants to send their kids to so we don't have to stay at home that night. When I got my first place, we handed out Marlboros and Vienna Sausages. No repeat customers that night. At my second house, we told the kids that the next door neighbors were handing out five dollar bills. Now I travel so much that we handed out Southwest Airline peanuts this year.

I'm against it in all forms. I'm a member of the Advisory Board of the Franklin Brooks Philanthropic Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

The Brooks Fund exists to protect the dignity, the safety and the health of Middle Tennessee’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community by supporting and encouraging nonprofit programs targeted thereto. The Brooks Fund increases philanthropic options and opportunities to ensure that there are always funds available to support these efforts. This effort to build bridges is a part of the legacy of Franklin Brooks. For 25 years, Brooks, an associate professor in the French and Italian departments, was one of the most beloved figures on the Vanderbilt campus. The Fund, created after Franklin’s death, perpetuates another avenue of Franklin’s work, his forthright championing of human rights.

If you're interested in learning more about the Brooks Fund or the bad-ass travel raffle we have going on right now, go here.

I've always tried to help these sort of human rights causes out with paper donations and earned some acclaim within the fundraising community by my response to a comment from one of my homophobic EX-employees. I asked when some paper was going to get to a printer for a job we were doing for Nashville Cares. He growled, "ain't that all them fags?!"

I responded, "Well, if it makes you feel any better, asshole, at least they're all DYING!" I'm glad he's an ex-employee.

H is sometimes silent and I shall be as well.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Pressing Concern

I've been watching a lot of television advertising lately and I can't make up my mind.

Should I be a Tag man or go for the Axe effect?

Death by Lazy Susan

I'm back from a week in China and I have one major question: What the hell do they do with the rest of the chicken between the neck and the ass?

We had beaks, eyes, innards and gizzards, feet, claws and knuckles, but never did we see anything remotely resembling the traditionally edible portions of a chicken. Maybe they ship those overseas to KFC and we were just eating the side trim...

Our group wondered whether or not we were constantly being tested whenever the ubiquitous lazy susan rotated around and our hosts wouldn't touch certain things themselves.

Some random ruminations on the "food" we encountered:

The first thing we were presented were long skinny red strips with a white line down the middle of them. We had just completed a forced march tour of a mill the size of Grand Central Station and were famished. One member of our group made the crucial error of loading his plate up thinking they were some sort of vegetable or possibly a tuber. (I just love saying "tuber.") Always ask first! "So, what are these things?" "Oh you'll like them. They're strips of uncooked pigs ears." Bon appetit, dumbass.

But that was tame compared to the bucket o'rectums that was presented next. "Err, I can see that these are some kind of intestines, but could you at least tell me what animal they came from?" "I don't know how to say it in English, but it has four legs. Baaaah?" Haggis would be a walk in the park compared to this stuff.

Almost every seafood item was served with head intact. That's ok with a shrimp or a lobster, but the fish with the maraschino cherry eyes smiling at me was a little strange.

Easy Chinese/English food translator for the harried traveler
pork=some part of an animal the size of a pig

beef=either 1.) a yak if it's the big-ass Fred Flintstone ribs they serve that make your car flip over when they set it on the windowsill or 2.)dog

Peking Duck=either 1.) deep fried fatty bird skin with no meat attached (curse you international KFC conglomerate!) or 2.) Pekingese

Some things I never thought I'd hear or say at the dinner table:

"That's lung? How disappointing. I had high hopes for that plate."
"Could you please pass me some more jellyfish? I'm trying to get the taste of pancreas out of my mouth."
"How come we always heard that there were millions of starving children in China and we just left ten pounds of untouched food on this lazy susan? With all due respect, next time you can just send most of this stuff to them, and we'll settle for a can of Pringles."

The most memorable image I'll have of dining in China was of a crazy old woman screaming and waving a mackerel in her hand as she chased a huge frog out the front door of her restaurant. She dropped the mackerel into a basket of bloody pink chicken parts and leaned over to snatch the frog out of the dirty street. Then I realized that she wasn't shooing the frog out. She was catching it to bring it back in. And I don't think it was the kitchen mascot.