Aging Disgracefully

On getting older and not being particularly happy about it. A pitiful attempt to pass on to the next generation pearls of wisdom on getting older, the humor of aging, fitness, recreation, friends, family and pets. How to survive changing technology, mental and phyiscal deterioration and hair loss.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Where's the F$&*% Beef?" or "I Pity the Cow"

Somewhere along the line, I insanely agreed to swear off meat for 3 weeks. Easy right? We are approaching the 18th day and I wish someone would just poke a sharp stick in my eye. What was I thinking? I know it's supposed to be good for me but I could have eased into this insanity in small steps. A bean burrito here, a potato pierogi there. But NNNNNOOOOOOOOO. I had to cold turkey it (I would kill for a cold turkey right now). As an example of the culinary torture I have put up with, I give you tonight's mouth watering menu. For starters there was vegetable cabbage rolls. If you ever had my mother's unbelievable concoction of this Hungarian delight, then you know what a sacrilege this is. I mean, come on! VEGETABLE &*$%in' CABBAGE ROLLS! Am I completely nuts? Oh sure, you fill it with something called "TVP" which stands for "textured vegetable poop" and no matter how much you spice it, dice it or smother it in vodka, it still tastes essentially like soggy cardboard but with way less flavor.
To Sandy's credit she has been a trooper in this struggle against nature, which has given me the disposition of a badger placed in a box, shaken for about 3 days and then let out in a crowd of deranged bulldogs. Now, normally I am the picture of cheer and good tidings for all, as anyone in my family will tell you. But for the last three weeks I have beens sullen, pouty and short tempered. Much like a cranky John Boehner without his daily, lobbyist funded, 35 course lunch.
Let me give you an example. Sandy and I decided to go grocery shopping together to pick up a view things to get us through this torture. Probably not a good idea. Anyway, while in the soup aisle we had a "discussion" about the kind of soup to buy, and finally I blew up and said "look we're giving up meet, for God's sake let me have the salted soup!" And of course, everyone in our checkout line knew we were the ones arguing over mushroom soup with or without salt. We were asked to not return.
I mean tell me. What the hell is this all about. Spinach ravioli? Vegetarian chili? And let's not forget the greatest abomination on earth...the freakin' "VEGGIE BURGER!" Veggie burger? Crap, make mine a triple with everything! C'mon man, a burger must have some filling that actually had parents.
Please help me people. I know that red meat has a few drawbacks, but what in life doesn't? Cholesterol, high blood pressure and colitis? But give me a break. I know "bowling ball" is not exactly the "otimal" ody shape, but as I transition from one foot on 60 and the other on a banana peel, to full blown Golden Buckeye status, I need some allowances. I've given up smoking just because of a lousy little stroke (some doctors just have no sense of humor). I've cut back on sweets and alcohol. What more can I do?
Well people this is where I draw the line! No one can take away my burgers, steaks and Vienna Beef dogs. There is no telling where this will lead.I've become a new man! I'm standing up to those who say they are just trying to "help me." HELP ME? You wanna help me? Start by getting me a 5 pound beefburger with cheese and mayo, between a bun of 2 Tbones. I wish I hadn't said that. I'm dying here. Well, I don't care. No one is gonna push me around anymore. From now on I eat what I want to eat.
By the way, don't mention this to Sandy or my kids, ok?


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Monday, May 16, 2011

Ah, the Smell of Salmon Eggs, the Crack of Monofilament and Roar of Nearby Lightning, and a Hearty Hi Yo Crank Bait!

Is it just me, or has the weather this year seemed particularly Hades induced. Particularly for us fishermen. I should have known, when spring finally arrived, well, as near as anything that passes for spring in Northeast Ohio, that it could be a bumpy ride this season. And as for the fishing, well, throwing your line into the any northeast Ohio river so far this year has been about as much fun as tying one end of a rope around your waste and the other around the bumper of a '70 Super Bee.

In light of the weather and by weather, I mean Noahesque, and the resulting white water rafting state of the rivers in the area, I decided to look for some calmer waters and tried a couple of parks and a marina in Mentor which have sheltered areas. The marina was a huge mistake. I chose that area because I read an article last year by the resident "sportsman" reporter in the local paper that said the smallmouth in the marina were absolute "crank bait sluts!" Well, in my experience the fish were more like nuns. The only way I could catch any fish there was with a long net and dynamite! In fact, had I not witnessed the millions of other fisherman hauling in several fish each, I would have doubted that fish actually lived in this marina.

I've noticed before, these discrepencies in the reported "facts" of our local paper and the actual real life situations that exist on the planet Earth. They pertain not only to the news in general, which sometime appear to have been written by journalists under the influence of various edible psychedelic fungi, but to the mundane, slice of life articles which are generally heralded by front page, banner headlines like "LOCAL SCOUT TROOP ON VERGE OF MERIT BADGE CHAMPIONSHIP" while you can usually find articles squirreled away behind the obits section with headline something like "President Gravely Ill, Veep To Take Oath, World Economies on Brink of Collapse." Yawn. OK, I know I've strayed a tad from the point here, but on the other hand..., hmmm, senior moment!

One incident of note did occur at this marina when, braving another in a long succession of cold windy days I resolutely cast my lures upon the waters until the inevitable backlash occured and I started the three week process of trying to unravel the mess all the while teaching a new, four letter language to any children within 2 miles. As I fought with my useless rod and reel, a young man of about 20 - 25 years old came to the shoreline and set up what looked like his 89 cent rod and reel combo for toddlers, complete with bobber and politely asked how I had been doing. With every ounce of civility I could muster, I spat the word "NADA" through clenched teeth as I resigned myself to the loss of another 50 yards or so of fishing line.

Cheerfully the young man said to me "Well you never know. I caught a Northern Pike in this spot yesterday!" Of course, believing this man to be the local purveyor of crapolla I merely grunted a disinterested "That so?"

"Yeah," he went on merrily, "I couldn't believe it myself! Right where you're standing actually. Here I'll show you."

Having grown up in the days of telephone booths and party lines I had forgotten about the dreaded "technology" of cell phones which can do everything but let you make a phone call easily. Anyway, this guy whips out his cell phone like Wyatt Earp and waves the screen of his phone under my nose.
There, as little as life, my myopic eyeballs made out the image of the man and his Northern, holding it like a proud papa at the hospital with his newborn son. Confronted with this evidence, I realized that I had to put this young man on my "Most Despised List" list which includes LeBron James, Art Modell and congressmen.

"Very nice," I told him, "but if you will excuse me I haven't had my quota of snags, bird's nests and lost lures!"

Now, I don't generally wish ill of any but the aforementioned thugs, but I must admit that I did take genuine satisfaction as an hour passed and the young man's bobber floated unnibbled upon by any aquatic life whatsoever. Why should I have all the fun, eh? After the hour elapsed, this young man did display what I consider the enviable and utmost fishing acumen. He brought in his line, unhooked the shunned shiner, tossed it in the water, gathered up his gear and quietly slinked to his car, rod between his legs and left.

On the other hand, I refused to take the hint and continued to vainly cast my lures into the murky water, saying several "Hail Marys" between the expletives. After another hour of frustration and finally admitting defeat, I too packed my gear and headed for my car a beaten shell of a man. I swore to the Almighty, as I trudged to my vehicle that I would never fish there again.

then as I sat in the car and reached for the ignition with my keys, I remember thinking, "next time I'll use shiners!"


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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cancer, Race for the Fridge!

Got to admit, cancer is not funny, but some of the things that go on around it seem to be good for a laugh or two to me. This is in no way to poke fun at the many persons who have had to deal with cancer in their families or themselves. So forgive me in advance for offending anyone, but it is my way of dealing with the disease that has targeted my wife, and her incredible strength and dignity in accepting and fighting it, has made it possible for me to wax silly. It is really meant to be a husband's feeble attempt to try to understand why so many good people are effected by the disease and why the worst in our society, child molesters, politicians and lawyers never seem to come down with anything worse than herpes.

The first thing men need to know about what happens when their wives, lovers or significant others get that terrifying diagnosis is that they will immediately notice that we, as the macho moron of the species have deprived ourselves of the most significant weapon in the arsenal against any illness and that is friendship. I don't mean the kind where you sit around drinking beer, grousing about how bad the Browns are or discussing the relative merits of various makes and models of automobiles. All the while scratching various parts of their bodies, as satisfying as that is. I am afraid to say, we as males we are doomed to go through life without the type of bonding that women seem to be able to form like so many drops of rain.

For example, my wife decided to keep the illness fairly private. Ha ha, she is so funny. Within nanoseconds anyone who has ever crossed her path started coming out of the woodwork to offer support. People whose name she could not remember started calling, sending cards and smooching her on the lips. Now this was nothing compared to what happened AFTER her surgery, because everyone, and I mean everyone started sending cards, emails, all manner of roses, vegetables, candy, full meals, gift cards, books, magazines and various power tools. AND THE FRUIT!! MY GOD THE FRUIT!!
Then came the requests to visit. I think her appointment calendar is filled through March. Of 2018.

I only bring this up, not because I am insanely jealous of the attention, but to make my first point. Compare the response of Sandy's support group, to mine when I had a stroke. When I was hospitalized the door to my room started looking like the set of the Munsters. I got so few phone calls that the phone company actually owed me money after my stay. Now before you all whip out your air violins and hum "Hearts and Flounders", to be fair I blame myself, for being so trim, handsome, underarm pure and cool in general that most mere mortals find it difficult to approach me. YIKES! That lightning bolt just missed me!

But my point is that men do not build support systems as well as women. I mean, in my wife's circles of friends news of her illness circulated to millions in less time than it takes a congressman to take a bribe. Meanwhile, 5 years after my stroke I had what I consider my closest friends (both of them) asking "Stroke? What stroke?" To further illustrate, men seem to be the only ones that need "How To" books to teach us how to handle the terrible diagnosis when it comes so as to be a pillar of support for our mates. Believe it or not, and I know I should know better, having dealt with lawyers the better part of my adult life, some males are about as sensitive to a spouse's cancer as Hitler was to bar mitzvahs. My thoughtful brother in law Brian bought me one called "Breast Cancer Husband" thinking foolishly that it my keep me from winding up in Lake Erie wearing Portland Cement wingtips.

My one bone of contention with the book is that it is very comprehensive but fails to prepare the male for where he will be spending most of his waking life for several months when this happens. As a preface, you need to know that your life will be a constant parade of your wife's friends, relatives, neighbors, pre school teachers and anyone she has ever said "hello" to in the past thirty years. They will constitute a revolving door of bearers of food products sufficient to nourish the First Marine Division for 6 years. Most of these folks will of course be female and virtually all will state unwaiveringly, when they come through the front door, that they can "only stay a minute". Three weeks later, they will glance at their watches and say "My God, is that the time? I really have to get going!" And sure enough they will scurry out the front door roughly 6 days later.
This influx of meals and their containers means that the male WILL BE SPENDING 99% OF THEIR TIME WASHING DISHES. Not that I'm bitter.

Keep fighting the good fight, Sandy. I need it.


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Friday, December 31, 2010

"Samsung HD46N600 Where Are You?"

It has been awhile since I felt the urge to vent, but this holiday season my struggles with massive retail technology conglomerates, have been enough to make me want to chew my own foot off. As usual this battle with anonymous, sanctimonious brain dead techno geeks was able to reduce me to a sobbing lump of carbon based life form, crying like a little girl and rueing my actual birth.

As usual, the situation began sedately enough, with the decision the day after Thanksgiving to venture (finally) into the wonderful world of high definition television. No more showing up at the homes of friends or strangers begging to be let in just in time to catch the Super Bowl (oops, copyright violation, sorry NFL, I meant "The Big Game"). Friends will usually (grudgingly) permit access, however it is a real gamble with strangers. They generally can seem a tad put out.

When I made the decision I had forgotten the cardinal rule of moving up in the technology world (for anything) which is, I would have been much better off just going out back and setting fire to $1000. My bouts with keeping up with advances are legend. Over the years, I have taught my children a whole new language(something between a cross of English and drunken marine corps ese), kicked enough inanimate objects (hard ones) to produce an arthritic lump on my big toe the size of a blimp and alienated more customer service techs than Dick Cheney at gun control convention.

I, after several years of computer and internet use, felt very comfortable in purchasing my product online and having it shipped within my lifetime to my home. So confidently I signed on to one of the larger electronics mega stores website, found a TV that would suit my modest needs (serving cold beers seemed a needless frill) and made my purchase with our credit card. Steeeeerrrrrriiiiiiikkkkkkke One!

Now this crud example of an electronics store which shall remain nameless (although its name is BEST BUY!) gave me a delvery date of either Monday or Tuesday of the following week. Ha ha what great kidders those people at Best Buy are. After waiting both days for my new TV and having heard squat from the store I decided to investigate. Long story short, by Thursday I was able to determine (from several "customer service" reps whose Xmas card lists I can safely say I am no longer on) that my new TV is at least, somewhere in the galaxy. I was able to cancel the order with little problem (I guess they've had some experience with cancelled orders) and embarked foolishly on another quest for the latest in sports viewing maginificance, such was my passion to be able to see all my favorite Cleveland teams get the living beejesus kicked out of them, in all of their 1080p glory.

After an online search we were able to find a store at a place called "Van's Electronics" which had the exact same TV for $100 less than Best Buy. They promised delivery in approximately 10 days. And sure enough UPS showed up 10 days later with a box that could have been used to ship aircraft carriers, containing our new TV.
Whilst waiting for the arrival of the television, I drove to the local purveyor of hi def cable television goodness and aggravation, a company well known for intelligent technological staff and customer service, who shall likewise be nameless but in reality is called Time Warner Cable. I was assured by the brain dead lump of carbon which passes for "customer service representative" at TWC, that the cable box (had to be replaced within a day) and HDMI cable she gave me was all that I would need for a "complete hi def TV experience." Strrrrriiiiiikkkkkkkkke TWO!

But I, the eternal and patient optimist (just ask my kids, they'll tell you) drove home and awaited the delivery of my TV with baited breath. Once the TV arrived and was unpacked and assembled, the real fun began. I can safely say my experience with Time Warner over the next several days was equivilent to the treatment reveived by Groucho Marx in this clip which you need to cut and paste to view. Suffice to say I spent roughly as much time asking, pleading, begging and ranting with customer service, techs and total strangers (again, off the xmas card lists) than I spent preparing for the bar exam. During that time I discovered that the TV I bought, which supposedly has the highest resolution out there, is worthless because no one actually broadcasts in 1080p, the HDMI cable I got from the kind rep at TWC, was not the kind of cable I actually needed, and my wife (who is a tad more tolerant than I) succeeded in being bilked out of $80 to buy the absolute best HDMI cable in the universe from a Best Buy "expert" in a laudable attempt to reduce my blood pressure to somewhere below 5,000/4,000.

The final straw came several days after Christmas (which was great with the family by the way) when, in attempt to modify my office phone set up (provided by guess who? TWC) and using the automated system when I pressed the "0" key as instructed by the mechanical voice, and found myself speaking with some bewildered lady from St. Louis who had been checking her voicemail on service provided by...I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count, and who suffered through the same service I had foolishly signed up for. STRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIKKKKKKKE THREE! GAME, SET AND FREAKIN' MATCH.

Well, as you can see some people (me) never learn, now if you'll excuse me, I hear that somewhere, someone is selling something called 3D TV and I can't wait to have Eric Mangini (evidently not for long) right there in my living room and within booting range!


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One Wedding and a Turkey

Ah, Athens, Ohio in July for an outdoor wedding weekend romp filled with sweat, food, liquor, sweat, chocolate fountains, beautiful newlyweds, sweat and dancing to a great band at the reception. Oh yeah, did I mention %$#*&ing SWEAT???
If it's a wedding in Athens that means that some poor couple, er, I mean lucky couple is going to tie the knot somewhere within the friendly confines of the Ohio University campus. It seems this is the summer for testing hot air tolerances normally practiced by geothermal scientists and members of congress. Only hotter! I have been sauteed in Jonesville, Virginia, fried at Lake Templene in Michigan and reduced to carbon cinders in Athens. But it was all worth it. The chance to get together with former Bobcat alums, eat too much, drink too much and generally make idiots out of ourselves whilst not winding up on the front page of The Enquirer is too good to pass up.
The weekend started innocently enough on Friday with a few adult beverages and dinner at Casa Nueva, a Mexican restaurant owned and operated by its employees. Casa is popular with my vegetarian daughter, Melanie who is loathe to see harm come to anything further up the Darwinian scale than a potato. More on this later. The dinner was pleasant (it was air conditioned) and things were going smoothly until, toward the end of the meal, my son in law politely asked the waitress if he could purchase 8 tons of black bean sauce which evidently, they are a might fond of and which you cannot purchase legally in Chicago. I was just thankful they had their own room.
After we got back to the OU Inn, and had a few more refreshments, and someone (I blame Cathy B of death march fame) had the brilliant idea to take a "walk" to the Ridges, which is what the old insane asylum is called. Somehow lately, all my walks anywhere seem to be straight up. We bumped into some folks there for the wedding on our way out and they decided it would be "fun" to join us. A common but disastrous mistake. Popular legend has it that the Ridges is haunted by pissed off ghosts of the asylum inmates, except for those that had lobotomies and came back as
democrats. It was a clear, moonlit walk with only one tiny drawback. The humidity was about 250% so I was literally dripping sweat before we got out of the Inn parking lot.
We made it to the cemetary where the inmates were buried, and spent awhile dodging chiggers and snakes traipsing through the overgrown cemetary, periodically stubbing our toes on hidden headstones or slipping on the damp weeds.
We strolled around the rest of the grounds peaking through the lower level darkened windows hoping to see the restraints they used or maybe the ghost of Republican who never took a bribe, er, sorry, I mean "campaign contribution." A couple of times I actually went (by myself, mind you) onto the darkened staircases and porches of various spooky looking buildings (cue Twilight Zone theme), where I found old furniture, empty filing cabinets and, I swear I am not making this up, the front bumper and grill of an ancient car. Nothing scarier than the skeletal remains of a once living, breathing automobile. Needless to say, scared crapless, I led the charge back to the Inn, startling several curious but annoyed deer into the forest.
Then came "wedding day" and God decided to turn the thermostat up a "notch" into the mid 90s. I don't want to say it was unbearably hot, but it has been noted that several OU summer school students spent the day in their air conditioned rooms or the library, forsaking the various happy hours at the local taverns, and (I know this is hard to believe), actually STUDYING!
But the bride, groom and families were gorgeous, and the ceremony mercifully, fairly short. We had a couple of hours to kill before the reception so we did so in true OU style by drinking beer and eating wings at "The Pub". It was during this little interlude that I discovered a fascinating side of my daughter, you remember, the vegetarian animal lover. She had mysteriously separated from the rest of us and with her husband slipped off to make a "major purchase". So the rest of us sat around the bar guessing what that purchase might be, and I can safely say that for the life of us we would never have guessed that they were buying a stuffed turkey. Not a stuffed turkey as in Thanksgiving, but stuffed as in taxidermy. As I said my vegetarian daughter would no more eat or in any way have anything to do with the demise of any creature that didn't survive with gills, so it came as quite a shock that she and my vegetarian son in law would engage in activity facillitating a burgeoning market in stuffed turkeys. They explained that they paid $60 for it, and that it was trendy and could be sold for $200 minimum in Chicago, although I personally think it was so my son in law could torture his dogs with it. Not that he is childish or anything.
After "priming the pumps" at The Pub it was on to hors d'oerves and drinks at the by now, kiln that the Inn called their "patio". We managed to last about 35 seconds in the heat before heading inside to meet "Doug" (the major purchase has a name)and air conditioning. It would have been about 10 seconds but for the bacon wrapped scallops being served and we didn't want so gauche as to gulp and gallop.
The evening was capped by a wonderful reception in which there was much toasting of the bride and groom and their parents, their siblings, their grandparents, their nieces and nephews, their 3rd and 4th cousins, dining, dancing, reminiscing and much, much more toasting.
After the reception, Craig motto: "I would definitely choose actual breathing over fried chicken skins, but only after much consideration and gnashing of teeth", had the brilliant idea to "go uptown for a burrito" which always makes sense at 1:00 a.m. An Athens tradition that is as much an institution as kegs, porch sofas, riots and back alley projectile vomiting, this seemed like a fine idea. As no one could possibly drive in our condition, except maybe a Kennedy, we had to walk UPtown. I figure the weekend caught up to us at about the Convo. But we slogged onward, such was our mania for spicy rolled up beef in a flour tortilla purveyed from a wagon beanery with all the hygenic safeguards of a septic tank. After downing our burritos in about 3 seconds, we went in search of potables. We sat down in a place called Jackie O's, ordered beers (water for the namby pamby women) and came to the realization that if we didn't leave after our one beer, we might die of exhaustion in our chairs, which technically can hurt business. So we slogged back to the Inn and died there.
A word or two about the newlyweds and their families. First of all, Valerie's parents need to come out of their shells. As a matter of fact, so does Val. They are way too shy and reserved and need to be more outgoing and gregarious. Speaking of the Doudicans, Mike you really need to control your stress!! I know that being a PE teacher can be very demanding, leading to premature gray hair, surliness and an incredible desire to tell everyone to take a lap. And Susan, please, for God's sake no more baths in the chocolate fountain.
Lastly a word about the groomsmen.
I wouldn't even know where to begin!

My regards to Doug,


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Friday, July 09, 2010

He Ain't Heavy's (although he used to be), He's My Barbecue Chef.

This is the summer of "No Moss for Sandy and Bob." I say that because we will be on the go traveling to the ends of the earth visiting relatives, attending weddings and generally annoying all of our acquaintences. We kicked off the summer with our annual California soiree' (see my last post) followed closely by our annual Jonesville/Ewing trip. There was not so much Jonesville this year as my Uncle Tom, now 88 years old, had some medical issues this past year and moved in with his sister in Ewing. Now Uncle Tom was never one with whom you could rap about the subtleties of nuclear physics or Euclidean geometry , but this medical episode essentially reduced his mental faclities to that of most congressman. No wait, that's not fair to Uncle Tom.

Most of the rest of our time was spent largely on sitting around the sweltering patio (they have air conditioning, but my relatives being over 65, are allergic to temperatures below 120 degrees, so they don't turn it on) rehashing family lore that has been heard several thousand times and listening to Uncle Tom remind us that "the tree across the way, was trimmed and is now beautiful. He reminded us roughly every 90 seconds during the course of Tuesday and Wednesday (we suspect mild dementia setting in).

The countryside is as picturesque as anywhere and the food so good that you tend to forget the poverty, oppressive summer heat and lack of anything remotely entertaining to do, short of sweating gum drops and making the occaisional trip into the booming metropolis that is Middlesboro, KY to spend the day shopping at the WalMart (buying nothing) cruising their "mall" and dining at the gourmet KFC it boasts. Also Ewing has finally entered the "cyber age". Yes, if you go down to the local "Pizza Plus" restaurant, motto "Sure we have WiFi. You just need to sit by that one window booth there and you can get the funeral parlors connection from up the hill!", you can surf the internet while enjoying pizza or the plus.

Also, we spent the better part of 2 years, er, um hours, in a place where what passes for "social networking" is something called the Tazewell Flea Market. You really haven't lived until you've spent the better part of a sweltering, fetid and odiferous day, scouring the effluvia of hillbilly life for what my relatives call "a good buy." Picture if you will, about 6 hundred wooden shacks and shanties more or less in rows, crammed into a half-acre of pure Tennessee dirt and made of rotting wood, filthy tar paper and maybe a roof made from the discarded metal of an 1948 Buick. Crank up the temperature to about 180 degrees with humidity to match, populate the area with several thousand clones of Junior Samples, Jethro Bodine and Minnie Pearl, toss in the odd goat, sheep or miscellaneous fowl and one porta potty for the lot, and voila, you have truly the most depressing congregation of God's creatures ever assembled. To complete the experience you pick your way through the rows of shanty stalls surveying everything from bootleg DVDs to used underwear, autographed by Willis Mumford, complete with skid marks, serenaded all the while by crying infants, braying goats and Merle Haggard. I never thought I'd say this but the experience is absolutely worse than "a sharp stick in the eye."

As bad as all that was, it was more than made up for by lunch at a place on the Powell River named "Heavy's" that serves some of the best barbecued ribs I have ever had. The place is named after the owner and chef, who is no longer heavy though he used to be according to the history lesson we were given by the waitress, Daisy Mae something or other. To get there you have to drive roughly 5 miles through the set of "Deliverance" until you come to what looks like something excommunicated from the Flea Market for being a little too uppity (it has actual indoor plumbing). It is essentially a wooden cabin, with a kitchen and patio overlooking the sluggish, brown Powell River. On the various walls of the place are stapled dollar bills in various stages of decay, which have been autographed by patrons and hung for posterity. Why? I'll never know. After tasting the ribs, I knew why so many people would hazard the 5mile journey for a taste (Have you noticed that all of our trips seem to center around food? I blame Sandy).

Speaking of Sandy, she and I, on a more adventurous day, decided to try and take a short walk on a trail in the mountains. It was early morning and my sister Cheryl having sensibly declined exploration of any kind, decided to give our little adventure a miss. It was on this trek, straight up for the most part until it went straight down, looking for a place called the Sand Cave, that I discovered a heretofore little known fact about my spouse of 35 years. Somewhere along the line, probably as a preschool teacher, she has become an officienado of poop. This obsession turned into a blessing as it cut our climb short, as Sandy keenly went into "unusual poop spotting" mode. Seeing an unusual dropping on the trail (smallish and containing what appeared to be berry seeds) she became convinced, based on her vast experience of rabbit, deer, coyote and various other wildlife waste products, that these were "bear droppings." She was very sure of this because in the course of her career, she hadn't encountered this kind of dropping before and ergo, it must be bear crap, proving once and for all and very scientifically, bears do indeed shit in the woods (bet you didn't see that coming from a mile away)!

It was at this point we decided, discretion being the better part of total lunacy and idiotic foolhardiness to cut our "walk in the woods" short and return to an area of relative safety. Sandy then shifted gears into "I'm scared out of my mind, so I'm going to pick up this twig to defend myself from any bears weighing less than 4 ounces that might attack while we scurry back to our car and singing in a loud clear voice so as not to surprise any of the furry carnivores, the theme song from 'Shaft'" mode. It was then that I knew any jury on the planet would have acquitted any bear (even one with priors) or myself for justifiable homicide.

Obviously we escaped with our hides and the rest of the visit was pretty uneventful. So if you want to see God's Country I highly recommend you give Southwestern Virginia a visit. Just remember your Merle Haggard CD's and a portable defibrilator.


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Thursday, June 24, 2010

California 2010 or "Is that a puma? Or are you just glad to see me?"

I'll say this for Los Angeles, the traffic may suck to high heaven...but it does have more smog than Congress has idiots. Just returned from the annual trek to visit the prodigal ("if you don't stop'"tidying' my apartment mom, I'll kill you") son. As usual the trip was full of fun, excitement, culinary adventures and just a little bloodshed. Just kidding, actually there was a lot of bloodshed.
This year we decided to spend a couple of days at Big Bear Lake, about 2 1/2 hours east of LA. We intelligently figured this would give us a good head start on arguing over how to get there, where to eat and the amount of trash accumulated in Dustin's Yaris since our visit last June. This plan didn't disappoint. The 2 1/2 hour drive seemed to last only a couple of decades. However, when we arrived at Big Bear Lake, we knew that we had made a good choice. It is gorgeous there.
We only had a couple of appetizers early and so naturally, still being on eastern time we decided to kick off the annual "vacation gastronomic debauchery" with a pepperoni pizza, as it was only 10:00 p.m. Pacific time. Of course, that meant my stomach was still set at 1:00 a.m. eastern. I am a long way, and many many years from it being a good idea to have pizza at 1:00 a.m. My stomach reminded me of that at about 6:00 a.m.
After recovering the next day, we all took a charter fishing trip on the lake. The goal, we were told by our charter guide Curt and his faithful companion Tonto, er, I mean Martin, was "rocky mountain rainbow trout". Martin is quite a colorful and knowledgeable guide. He did of course attempt to get us "rookies" to fall for the old "to get a lot of fish you have to dance around the boat naked, singing in a voice loud enough to be heard in Sacremento, 'HERE FISHY, FISHY, FISHIES'". For some inexplicable reason, Dustin and I were told we were required to stay dressed or be thrown overboard. Sandy on the other hand, not having just fallen off the turnip truck yesterday, but still fairly gullible, only removed her top.
Well, whatever it was we started bringing in fish, which were originally just going to release, until Curt told us there was a restaurant in town that would prepare the fish for us at a reduced cost if we wanted them for dinner. Little did Curt know that the State of California had gotten wind of this practice and so naturally it was banned by the Department of Health, motto "Keeping consumers safe by banning the preparation and eating of the freshest fish in our local waters". Sometimes I understand Republicans. Anyway, we wound up keeping about 8 - 10 lbs. of prime rainbow trout for an anticipated seafood feast. Dustin, would later prepare and cook up the fish at a local park on a barbecue grill and it was as they say, "to die for". And I don't even like fish.
We had a great time on the lake, were regaled with colorful fishing stories, and learned volumes about trout, Big Bear Lake and which movie stars danced naked around town. If you ever get to Big Bear Lake and like to fish, I highly recommend taking Curt's charter as he and Martin are great and will help with everything. Be sure to ask about the "$65,000 Flubbies" but you probably want to refrain from doing the "Here fishy, fishy" dance. The website is
After a couple of days fishing and taking in the gorgeous scenery at Big Bear we decided it would be fun to go to Las Vegas, a couple of hours away. I wanted to be able to say I drove through the Mojave Desert. Quick Science fact: Bottled products, packed in suitcases and stored in a car trunk for a three hour drive through the desert will explode leaving various gels, lotions and other assorted goop thoroughly dispersed into the clothes, books and expensive camera equipment throughout your baggage. If you need to ask, this is not a marital relationship enhancer. Remember I did say there was alot of bloodshed. Say no more!
In Vegas my son Dustin, motto: "I never met a craps table I didn't like (as long as the minimum is no more than $5)" introduced me to the dice tables. I knew he still hated me for making him enter the pinewood derby in cub scouts, but I digress. I kind of got the hang of betting, which is more complicated than the Manhatten Project, with various methods of betting including how many democrats will get smoked in the next election. Just kidding, that bet was in a whole other part of the casino. However, like a good boy I stuck to my (by "my" I of course mean Sandy's) betting limit of $50 and managed not to lose it all. While at the table I did manage to entertain all the other players who got a few laughs watching Dustin and table workers trying to get me to understand the various bets and side bets, odds and chip denominations.
But I did get even. When it became my turn "roll" the dice, I discovered that term was a euphemism. If you haven't played the game it is conducted on a felt covered table about 15 feet long, which is no big deal if your sleeve measurement is 14 feet. However, as I am well over 5 feet (length and diameter) and was at the very end of the table this became problematic. This was when I realized that "rolling" the dice actually meant "hurling" the dice. And dice, being in the shape of a cube, happen to bounce very erratically, especially when "hurled" 15 feet on a table with a 10 inch wall around it. After a few rolls in which the dice leapt the table and found their way into various drinks, vital occular organs and brasierres, players began diving for cover as soon as they made their bets. The next day I found the table workers in combat helmets. One of the pit bosses politely offered to take me for a ride in the desert, but I very respectfully declined.
Our Vegas leg of the journey at an end, we drove back to Los Angeles for a couple of days of taking it easy. In LA we pretty much ate our brains out and did a couple of touristy things around town. We went to the Getty museum and afterward I was introduced to a new culinary an art clogging treat called "Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles," the initial thought of which I will confess, made me want to... well, you know. But actually the combination was fabulous and you should do yourself a favor and try it sometime. I don't know where you can find a Roscoes outside of LA, but it is worth the effort.
On our last day of activity we went to a local park and wildlife reserve, which primarily offered gorgeous vistas of the Los Angeles skyline in all its smog shrouded glory. While I was taking some pictures, Sandy and Dustin took a walk on a wooded path and came back claiming that they had seen a panther or a puma sleeping in a tree. I had my doubts, but it was early and no wine bottles had been opened to my knowledge. Sure enough a park ranger explained that they had seen something called a "feral cat" which is a regular domestic cat which has essentially gotten its' groove back.
Anyway, I skipped a lot of other events (embarrassing myself playing Guitar Hero in Sandy's Sportsbar and the "Sandy and Bubba" incident at Harvelle's Blues Club come to mind), but life is short. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I see a puma trying to snack on some of our finches.

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