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What’s a paraprosdokian? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

I learned a new word today, thanks to my son-in-law that lives and works in Plano, Texas and consistently maintains that he is heavily overburdened with work in his position in a prodigious law firm, yet manages to find time to send important material to various relatives, friends, clients and other barristers. The word was paraprosdokian. At first I suspected that someone was trying to spell Kim Kardashian, the girl on that reality show with her sisters and their parents—the whole famn damily—and also everyone’s boyfriends.

Paraprosdokian is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

Before I checked it out at Wikipedia I spelled it out phonetically and pronounced it as pair uh pros dookian, and I immediately formed a mental image of two professionals—pros—relieving themselves in some bushes that lined the Ninth Hole, the one most distant from clubhouse facilities. Later I realized that the do in dokian is pronounced doe rather that do, and that does make a big difference.

Below are some paraprosdokianisms for you to peruse and digest, and if you like, regurgitate them in e-mails for the pleasure of others. I added the last one on the list. You might want to add one of your own and keep the list growing as it goes around the Internet.

Paraprosdokianisms:

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
If I agreed with you, we would both be wrong.
We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
War does not determine who is right — only who is left.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Evening news stations are places where they begin with Good evening and then tell you why it isn’t.
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
Dolphins are so intelligent that in just a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
I thought I wanted a career, and it turned out that I just wanted a paycheck.
A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says In an emergency notify, I put DOCTOR.
I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
Why do people believe there are four billion stars, but check when a sign says the paint is wet?
Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
You do not need a parachute to sky dive. You only need a parachute if you want to sky dive twice.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.
Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you’ll look forward to the trip.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
I’ve discovered that I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a great white shark or a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
I always take life with a grain of salt—plus a slice of lemon and a shot of tequila.
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and then call whatever you hit the target.
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as it does when you are in it.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
I feel more like I do now than I did when I got up this morning.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

POSTSCRIPT: Not necessarily a paraprosdokian joke, but it is a joke:

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side.

Why did the pervert cross the road?
He was stuck to the chicken.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it (the story, not the chicken).

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Battling e-mails . . .

Battling e-mails . . .

For some time I have considered posting this series of e-mails but I have held the posting in abeyance until now. I doubt that many viewers will hang on long enough to finish reading it, but that will be their loss. It seemed to me in the past that a rift had been created between me and the finest neighbor and friend one could ever wish for, and through no fault of either of us. Nevertheless, it appeared to exist—now it seems to have gone away, or perhaps never was.

These are the e-mails that passed between me and my neighbor lady to the west, posted as transmitted and as received. My e-mails are in standard type and hers are in italics.

Feb 3, 2010:

Good morning, Sherlock Holmes here:

I’m currently conducting an investigation to determine why and how my daily copy of the Express-News is mysteriously appearing on my front step, neatly placed there by someone or something to be determined. It was there this morning at an early hour. Today is the second time the phenomenon has occurred in as many weeks, and we had rain on both days.

My first thought was that the paper carrier wanted to ensure that the paper stayed dry, but it was double-bagged and would have to be submerged before it could suffer any damage. Besides, I have not remitted a gratuity to the carrier since 2007 and cannot reasonably expect her to be so obliging. Unless, of course, she is buttering me up for the coming Christmas season. I suppose that could be it, but I have serious doubts.

I next considered the possibility that Rudy, the cat that lives with the family across the street, is picking the paper up with his teeth and placing it in a dry spot, hoping for a continuation of the chicken and salmon handouts.

That is not likely, because he was nowhere in sight when I picked up the paper either time. He did not show at all on the first day, and as of the time of this writing I have not seen him today. That reduces the probability that he is doing the good deed. I suppose Ralph, the cat that resides with my neighbor to the west, could harbor the same thoughts, but I would think that Rudy would be more likely.

There is a third possibility, one a teeny bit more plausible than the first two. Two weeks ago I stepped out on my stoop, looked very carefully in all directions, except to the rear because no danger lurked in that direction. The coast was clear (so to speak), so I ambled out toward the mailbox (the paper was in proximity to said letter receptacle). Wearing a bright green fuzzy housecoat and brown house shoes, I arrived at my destination and bent over to pick up my paper, and at that instant I heard someone say, very audibly and gleefully, “I wish I had a camera!”

As to whether my ensemble included pajamas, it did not. A pair of skinny white legs were in full view. Well, not in full view, just up to mid-tibia. Said legs were supported by a matching pair of skinny white feet, ensconced in brown leather house shoes.

So the third possibility is that the person that voiced that wish, not wishing to be faced with that apparition again, is defending himself by placing the paper on my stoop, thereby keeping me out of sight in the process of retrieving my paper.

This is a very serious investigation, and I would be grateful for any and all assistance.

Feb 3, 2010

WHAT???? Your paper doesn’t get wet??? Our paper gets soaked. Now that I think about it, the water probably runs down the driveway right into the bag. Well, I don’t think you need to worry about your paper phenomenon any longer. Do let me know if the culprit starts hiding the paper, though. That would definitely require a more thorough investigation.

Kathy

At this point a three-day quiet ensues with no e-mails between me and my neighbor. I was very busy running between home and the hospital and I neglected to read and respond to my e-mails.

Feb 6, 2010

It has been eerily quiet over there. Did my response offend you? You are very funny and clever in your writings. When I try that tactic, it usually backfires, since I am neither funny nor clever. I did put your paper on your porch because I thought it was getting soaked like ours often does. Your white legs had nothing to do with it! Now that I know your paper does not get wet, I’ll leave it there. You are free to retrieve it in whatever attire you choose. I often retrieve our paper in my robe. So, let’s just agree to leave our cameras out of this.

Kathy

P.S. You are a very good writer, a trait that obviously not everyone has. I hope you decide to continue writing your memoirs for a potential book. I’d definitely buy one, but I would want it autographed.

Feb 7, 2010

Hi, Kathy,

I read your e-mail at 2:30 this morning (I had a brief sleep last night —up at 2:01). Nothing new there, of course—my sleep is brief on most nights.

A hundred mea culpas!

No, make that a thousand mea culpas because there is nothing you, Kevin or Ralph could do to offend me, and had you and Kevin and Ralph not banished the girls to another exotic location, there is nothing they could do to offend me. Even if you, Kevin, Ralph, the banished iguanas and your extended family banded together in a concerted effort to offend me, I would not be offended. The only way you could possibly come close to offending me would be to take me and my babbling seriously—life is simply too short for me to be serious—besides, it’s not in my nature!

I had the best of intentions to answer your previous two e-mails, the one on Victor Borge’s video that Cindy posted, and the one in which you asked me to let you know “if the culprit starts hiding the paper.” Of course, as the saying goes, “The road to (fill in the blank) is paved with good intentions.”

Unfortunately, recent events got in the way and I delayed my responses (actually, that means I forgot to respond). We’ve had an unusually busy week, and things are not going as well as we would like. Yesterday especially was not a good day, but things seem to have leveled off. I believe—I hope and I pray—that the worst is over.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I found that phrase on Wikipedia— I am greviously at fault, and as an apology Wikipedia said it far better than I could.

I have no knowledge of how or why or when your Sunday paper was placed neatly just outside your door this morning, placed at a right angle to the street (I just pray that the picker-upper doesn’t trip over it). Also if I were forced to guess, I would guess that it was placed by some nut wearing a bright green robe, etc., etc. I would also hazard a guess that the deed was accomplished somewhere around 6:00 AM (Central Time).

March 2, 2010:

A card from Kathy, delivered by the US Postal Service although our mailboxes are approximately sixty feet apart:

Dear green-robed phantom and your pink-robed wife:

Thank you so much for the delicious edible arrangement! That was quite a surprise. The other big surprise is that you used 4 exclamation points after “Happy Birthday.” I was so perplexed that I questioned Kevin, “Do we know any other green and pink-robed couples?”

I hope you know that your presence as our neighbors is truly a real gift. Any more than that is really not necessary. Thank you, though. That was very kind!

Your (one year older) neighbor,

Kathy

March 3, 2010

Dear One Year Older Neighbor,

Thanks for the card and for the kind thoughts, especially the thought that you consider our presence as your neighbors to be a real gift. I wish I had said it first but I didn’t, so I’ll just bounce it right back at you. Regarding our presence as neighbors, As ours is to you, so yours is to us.

On the subject of exclamation points, I have given up. You know that in a dog fight the vanquished dog, rather than running, may simply end the fight by lying on his back, thereby giving the victor access to his underbelly, his most vulnerable area—it is a sign of surrender.

I’m not going to that extreme, but I have surrendered. I have given up on my quest to eliminate, or even to reduce, exclamation points. I realize that the practice is too well entrenched, so I’ve decided that if I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll join ‘em! And I enjoy it—it’s fun!

I just took a closer look at the sentence that says “As ours is to you, so yours is to us.” When viewed out of context it seems to take on some profound meaning, similar to a Tibetan monk’s summary of life or some other chant.

Try it. Read it aloud several times. Look real solemn and speak in a deep tone. You’ll find that it takes on mystic properties. I think I may have created something. I should probably copyright it!

March 4, 2010:

You are so funny!! I wish the Express-News would replace that Marcie Meffert (Elders Express) in the S.A. Life with your writing. I’m not sure what the “elders” is for, and I’m not implying anything concerning your age here. I think she writes for the group of readers who would also qualify for AARP membership, older folks fifty-ish plus. I have only read her articles a few times, but I have yet to read one that I like. She tries to tell stories about her life, and I think she is trying to be humorous. She seems to be lacking the charm that you seem to have captured. You are a far superior writer, and way funnier! This “Dear Neighbor” writing had me LOL today! I agree on the mystic properties—copyright it!

Kathy

March 5, 2010:

Those are some really kind words. Ain’t nobody that good, but you finally convinced me! Normally I would be delighted to replace the Meffert lady, but I have such distaste for the Express-News that I would be unwilling to have my name associated with it. I fought a running battle last year with Bob Richter, the editor for Letters to the Editor—dueling e-mails, if you will, and I won—he apologized for his lapse in judgment. He had asked for permission to print my letter, saying that he liked it but would omit my “whining” about the paper. I refused to authorize its publication.

I no longer strive to have my thoughts printed in Your Turn of the Metro section of the Express-News—my gain, the public’s loss. However, I sometimes throw rocks at the paper by posting items that I did not submit for publication, then I bad-mouth the Express-News on Word Press by claiming that my submission was rejected. Sneaky, huh?

Kathy, it really is a small world—we were neighbors to the Meffert family for several years in the latter part of the 1960s, with only one house between us, in what was then a decent lower-middle-class neighborhood near Lackland Air Force Base. It’s now a shambles, a nightmare with gang activity everywhere, gunshots frequently heard both day and night, lots of graffiti, chain-link-fenced front yards and junked cars behind them. The fences are not to keep the kids in—they’re there to keep the dogs out and to slow down burglars laden with items purloined from the houses.

Marcie had five children, two girls and three boys, their ages ranging from one year up to nine years—a very fertile lady, that one! Her husband was a surgical dentist in Lackland’s dental service, and attended me through a long series of dental procedures required by my failure to pay proper attention to dental matters. I was a smoker at the time—he said he did not smoke, and frequently lectured me on the evils of tobacco, then on almost every visit apologetically bummed a cigarette from me.

We were never close friends with the parents. We waved at them when appropriate, and Marcie and Janie often stood outside to discuss whatever women discuss—their children, I would suspect—Marcie was usually out looking for her children. As best as I can remember, neither family ever entered the other family’s house, probably because neither family ever invited the other family in. However, we came to know her children well. She put them out to graze each morning and called them back in for lunch and dinner, leaving the neighbors to look out for the kids. They were well behaved—the older girl was Cindy’s best friend, and she spent lots of time in our home.

All five children received good educations and seemed to fare well following graduation. Cindy’s best friend Lisa died several months ago—her obituary in the Express-News said only that she died suddenly. The obituary included her siblings’ names, marital status and their whereabouts. Their various professions were impressive—two colonels in the military, two doctors and one biology professor. I am of the opinion that their early association with our girls gave them the necessary head start to put them on the way to success—then again, maybe not.

When we returned to San Antonio in 1987, Marcie was the mayor of Leon Valley and wrote a column on city activities. I believe the Elders Express gig came after she was no longer the mayor. We have never made any effort to contact her to talk about old times. Lacking any strong desire to relive history with Marcie, we have been content to read her columns. Those columns, along with her daughter’s obituary, comprise our knowledge of her and her family.

But it is a small world, wouldn’t you agree?

March 5, 2010:

Agreed—a very small world sometimes! I hope that my observations of her writings weren’t too unkind. I just think that you would be a much better writer for that spot in the paper. Well, as long as I’m wishing, you’d make a far better editor to the Letters to the Editor too, but let’s not even go there!

I see that you and Kevin must have talked. He didn’t know that I would be home for a short time this afternoon and I didn’t know either. One of my tutoring students canceled out, so they may make the delivery while I’m here. If they do I’ll call and let you know. Thanks!

Kathy

March 5, 2010

Your observations of her writings were not unkind at all, and your analysis of her work is right on. Writing with a restricted amount of space is more difficult than the writing I do. I have unlimited space and therefore just keep writing until I everything I want to say has been said, and is available somewhere among the verbiage. The reader just needs to keep sifting through the chaff in order to find the kernels of wheat.

At various duty stations during my military career, I wrote performance reports for a whole gaggle of people, officers as well as enlisted people, and that included writing my own performance reports. My superior only needed to sign them. The writing wasn’t part of my job. People heard about the guy that could get a person promoted and came to me with the details. I fashioned them into a performance report. The narrative had to be fitted into a limited space, and I soon learned that 250 words wrested from my vocabulary filled that space nicely. When I reached the magic number, I stopped writing.

No, writing such reports was not my job. I was a maintenance analysis superintendent, whatever that was, and I dealt more with numbers than with words. I hated numbers and loved words. Go figure!

While at Kelly Air Force Base in the late 1960s, I wrote performance reports for my commanding officer. In our association over a period of five years, he was promoted twice, from lieutenant colonel to full colonel and then to brigadier general. Coincidentally, I was promoted twice during the same period. My pay raises were not quite as generous as his, of course, and shortly after the second promotion, both his and mine, I was unceremoniously shipped off to Vietnam. I guess the general figured that one star was all he was going to get. Bummer!

November 16, 2010:

That concludes the exchange of e-mails between me and my neighbor. I trust that some of my viewers made it this far in this posting. I realize it’s lengthy, but I also realize that it contains some interesting neighborly communications, perhaps with comical, even historical value that may appeal to my family and to my neighbor and her family, and perhaps to some of my viewers—I hope, I hope!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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5th Avenue South, a chicken and a Spitz dog . . .

For a few brief months I lived on Fifth Avenue South in Columbus, Mississippi with my mother, stepfather and my youngest sister, a female enigma some eighteen months older than I. We lived in a small one-story frame house, home for us between moves to and from Tennessee in the Oak Ridge area—my stepfather, Papa John, was employed as a construction superintendent with the J. A. Jones Construction Company, one of the entities engaged in the atom-bomb project during World War II—his employment rose and fell with the company’s need for his services. This was the second house we lived in on Fifth Avenue South. The other house was a two-story antebellum home that was converted to apartments to provide additional housing during the war. Click here for a posting of notable activities at that location.

Our family included a small Spitz dog, a beautiful female identical to the image pictured here. My mother claimed ownership of the dog, but my stepfather had severe reservations about the animal—he had neither patience nor liking for any animal or any person that made no contribution to the family, and that little dog definitely made none. It’s a wonder that he tolerated the dog, and its ultimate abrupt and final separation from the family came as no surprise to us.

Our next-door neighbor to the east kept chickens, something that may or may not have been in accordance with city regulations—not that it would have mattered. In our neighborhood, as in most neighborhoods on the south side of the city, very few regulations were enforced.

The image on the left shows a male and a female chicken—a rooster and a hen—the hen is the smaller one to the right. Our little dog had the speed and strength and the urge to waylay a hen that had flown over the fence that separated our houses, and she managed to kill the bird. Papa John expressed his disapproval vocally with words that can only be described as other than appropriate for the ears of his two stepchildren, apologized to the neighbors and made some sort of remunerative reparation for their loss of an egg-laying hen in the prime of its life. He also vocalized the future action he would take should the act be repeated—he said he would kill the dog.

Our little Spitz female had drawn blood and I believe she lay in wait for another victim to fly over the fence, and predictably one did, on a bright summer Sunday noon while we were having lunch. Papa John heard the commotion in the backyard and took in the situation at a glance—dog growling and mangling hen  and hen squawking, literally, for dear life. The image on the right is probably how the dog viewed the hen.

Our stepfather hastened to the bedroom for his US Army regulation .45 caliber semi-automatic firearm, secured it, returned to the kitchen, ripped open the kitchen screen door and ran full-tilt down the steps and across the yard toward the corner where the Spitz had the hen down.

The pistol was always ready to fire—Papa said that if everyone knew it was ready to fire they would not be tempted to handle it—he was wrong—in his absence I handled it many times, sighting and making the sounds young boys make to simulate gunshots—I even simulated ricochets, the sound made when the bullets hit a rock instead of the outlaw.

In this instance the pistol was already pointed at the dog as Papa ran, and we knew how this would turn out. We were wrong. Papa John returned to the house with the weapon unfired. There was a wire clothesline strung across the yard between the hen’s death struggle with the dog and the swiftly moving would-be dog killer. Papa John met the tightly drawn clothesline wire at the bridge of his nose, a very prominent member, a proboscis that some might classify as Romanesque—others might consider it bulbous, similar to the one sported by the late W. C. Fields—see image at right.

The wire stopped Papa, but not in his tracks. It stopped his nose but his feet kept going and he fell flat on his back with a grunt that was audible to us from our vantage point on the kitchen steps.

My mother screamed and my sister and I giggled, but the giggling stopped abruptly as Papa John struggled to his feet and slowly, haltingly, returned to the house, bleeding profusely from the point where the wire made contact and the pistol unfired. There was very little discussion from that point on. My mother applied makeshift first-aid to the damaged member and Papa John spent most of the afternoon abed.

This story is almost over—stay with me for the finale. The incident took place on Sunday, and the good news is that the hen survived—the little dog released her when he saw Papa John hit the wire—actually the dog heard rather than saw the encounter. The next day was a school day, and my sister and I dutifully attended school, and when we returned home at the end of our school day we immediately checked the backyard to see about the little dog.

As the reader has probably surmised, there was no dog, not in the backyard nor in the house. Our normally garrulous mother told us, in terse words and somber tones that she had inadvertently left the gate open and that the little dog apparently ran away. We knew that was untrue, and she knew that we knew it was untrue, but we accepted her story on its face—we had no other choice. We knew that Papa John had, in one way or another, completed the action that the clothesline wire had temporarily averted. The incident and the missing canine were never subjects for conversation from that point on, at least not while Papa John was within earshot of such conversations.

Bummer!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Letter to Kaye and Gary, 1993 . . .

This is the complete text of a letter written to a couple in south Georgia—the state, not the country—we had recently returned from visiting relatives there. As the saying goes, there’s been lots of water under the bridge since then. The couple has since gone through a tumultuous divorce—as are most divorces. They now live in different states and their sons are grown and married—with children. My, how time does fly and how things do change—and not always for the better!

Yes, I wrote this letter on government time, but in all fairness please know that I had mastered all the rules and regulations pertaining to my duties, and was ready to spring into action should some unforeseen event occur. The time I spent waiting for work in my profession was down-time, comparable to the time fire fighters spend waiting for a fire and a call to action. For those professionals, there is a limit to how much time they can spend polishing the fire engines—eventually they’ll take the paint off the metal—and much of their time is spent sleeping, playing cards, writing letters, etc. On my watch the fire engines glistened in the overhead lights and were at all times ready to go. I feel no remorse for having used government time and government equipment for personal use.

San Antonio Int’l Airport

November 29, 1993

Hi, Kaye and Gary,

Is it Kaye or Kay? Can’t really tell just by hearing it, so I’ll take a guess at it and spell it Kaye. Either way you’ll know who I’m talking to, right? Given the fact that you’ve never gotten a letter from me it may take awhile for the shock to wear off. I’ve even shocked myself at some of the letters I’ve written recently. I’m doing the writing at work because I am bored, and I am bored because I have nothing to do—at least there is nothing I want to do. I’ve read books and magazines and worked crossword puzzles and played computer games until I’m tired of all that, so now I write letters, mostly to people who don’t expect them. All on government time, using government equipment, and drawing a government salary, even 10 percent extra because I am working nights. It’s your hard earned tax dollars at work.

I’m the supervisor on the 3-11 shift, and we only work the incoming international arrivals—passengers and baggage. There are no administrative functions to be performed after 5 pm, and we have long periods between flights, sometimes several hours. The inspectors have a television with cable in the break room, but most of them read during those down times.

We really enjoyed our visit to Georgia this time, especially the cookout. We counted 45 people there, including the little ones and the inlaws and outlaws. We don’t even know that many people here. Of course, now that I think of it, I didn’t know a lot of the people there either. I thought that you did a masterful job cooking the fish, and I’ll cheerfully recommend you in case anyone asks. However it’s my opinion that the ice chest filled with beer in the back of your pickup truck helped a lot.

We had a good trip back home. Stayed just two days with my two sisters in Mississippi, then back on the road to San Antonio. The ignition actuator broke in my truck, so I had to raise the hood and use a screwdriver—out here it’s called a Mexican ignition key—to restart the engine every time I had to shut down for gas or food or the restroom.  We hit heavy rain coming through Louisiana, but I was lucky because I didn’t have to stop for anything.

Say hello to Andy and Jacob for me. Those two have really grown since I saw them. Given enough time and enough hints, I may have been able to identify Andy in a crowd, but there wouldn’t have been enough time or hints in the world to help me recognize Jacob. He had changed so much there’s no way I would have known him.

Kids seem to grow up a lot faster these days. I think it took me a whole lot longer. And seeing all the kids at the cookout, and seeing the kid’s kids, and knowing that the kid’s kids will soon be having kids made me wonder where all the years went. I guess they just slipped by while I wasn’t looking, or maybe I was looking and just wasn’t paying attention.

And a bunch of those years have flown by. I am now one month into my 45th year of government service, 22 in the Air Force and working on 23 with the Customs Service. No wonder I feel a little bit tired. I guess when I retire I’ll do nothing—after that many years of government service, a change of pace would be impossible!

We are having all kinds of weather here. Fall and winter do not bring a lot of change to San Antonio. The leaves fall, of course, but we never get the kind of cold you folks get in Georgia. The Chamber of Commerce claims that “the sunshine spends the winter in San Antonio,” but if it does it hides out behind the clouds a lot of the time. Right now we are hurting for rain.

Hope Thanksgiving was everything it’s supposed to be for you folks. We had a good turnout here. Everybody was at our house except Cindy—lots of turkey and all the other goodies. Turkey isn’t such a treat any more. We eat so much chicken that a turkey is just another chicken—it’s just a lot bigger. I heard a television comic say the other night that he and his wife had eaten so much chicken that they threw away their mattresses and were roosting on the bed slats. We haven’t gotten that bad—yet!

Gary, you need to take time and smell the roses. Take a little trip out here. See the Alamo, do the mission trails thing, take a ride on the river barge, go broke in the River Center, take a run up to see the LBJ ranch—possibly the best bargain in the country—interesting, lots of fun, and all free—drink a few cold Lone Star beers, visit the Lone Star brewery, see the Buckhorn Hall of Horns, take in Fiesta Texas and Sea World, and maybe even fit in a trip to Nuevo Laredo to buy some Mexican junk.

Well, let me shut this thing down. I have a plane due in a few minutes. This will be the last one for tonight. It’s a Continental flight from Mexico City, with a reservation count of 64 passengers. Those flights usually have a high no-show, and this one will probably come in with about 40 passengers. We really had the passengers over Thanksgiving, coming in for the big sales after the holiday. Don’t let anybody tell you that all the visitors from Mexico are poor.

They come through here with lots of cash and every kind of credit card imaginable, and according to the Chamber of Commerce they spend millions. The planes are full and the highways coming up from Laredo and Monterrey are packed with private autos from Mexico, some of them from as far away as Mexico City, just for the after-Thanksgiving sales. By Monday everybody is gone, and we settle back and wait for the Christmas shoppers.

I said I was going to shut this thing down, but started  rambling again. Using a word processor to write letters is similar to eating peanuts, running down hill and sex—it’s hard to stop once you get started. I just had a call from the Continental people. The plane is late because of maintenance, and will be in at 15 minutes after midnight, so I’ll get home around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning. This doesn’t happen too often, but even once is a pain. There’s some consolation, though—I’ll earn overtime for the late flight.

Tell Andy and Jacob to save some of the big fish for me for our next visit to Georgia.

Best regards to everyone,

Mike and Janie

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Speaking English not good for you . . .

One of my three princesses, the one that was privileged to come into the world ahead of her two sisters, the one I love more than the other two but don’t tell them—yep, that one—sent me an e-mail with the following series of questions and answers concerning the importance of diet and exercise on health.

I felt obligated to spread this doctor’s take on diet and exercise as far and wide as possible. It’s an anonymous piece of writing, so I’m not too worried by the fact that I took the liberty of making numerous changes to the original. And I must say, with the usual humility that my viewers normally expect from me, that those changes improved the document significantly—nay, they improved it immeasurably!

What follows is a series of questions, asked by a patient and answered by Doctor Sum Ting Wong, the patient’s doctor during the two years the patient spent in China:

Q: Doctor, is it true that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life?

A: You heart only good for so many beats and that it. No waste beats on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer. It like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp theory of logistical efficiency. What do cow eat? Hay and corn. And what that? Vegetables. Steak nothing more than efficient mechanism to deliver vegetable to system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef good source of field grass, and field grass green leafy vegetable. And pork chop give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of protein.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A:  No, not at all. Wine made from fruit. Brandy distilled wine.That mean they take water out of fruit so you get more. Beer and whiskey also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body fat ratio?

A: If you have body and you have fat, you ratio one to one. If you have two body, you ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Sorry, can’t think of single one. Philosophy is, no pain—good!

Q:  Are fried foods bad for us?

A:  You not listening! Food fried these day in vegetable oil. It permeated by vegetable oil. How much more vegetable bad for you?

Q:  Will sit—ups prevent me from getting soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle it get bigger. Only do sit—up if want bigger stomach.

Q:  Is chocolate bad for me?

A:   Helloooo! Bean of cocoa plant is vegetable! Chocolate best feel-good food can find!

Q:  Is swimming good for my figure?

A:  If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

Q:  Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?

A:  Hey—round is shape!

This should help clear up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets, and remember this:

Life should not be a journey from the cradle to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, a tall glass of Chardonnay in one hand and dark chocolate in the other, with body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “Woo-hoo, what a ride that was!”

And for those that watch what they eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health—it’s a great relief to know the truth after all these conflicting nutritional studies:

Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Mexicans eat lots of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Chinese drink little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Italians drink lots of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Germans drink lots of beer and eat lots of sausages and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It’s obvious that speaking English is what kills you.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in death, food, grammar, Humor

 

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Somewhere over the North Pole . . .

I left Vietnam in April of 1970 on a commercial airliner packed with military personnel, most of whom had finished their combat tours and were returning home. Somewhere over the North Pole, on a flight that took 14 hours to complete, the temperature in the plane dropped so low that I started shaking and couldn’t stop. I quieted my chattering teeth by keeping my jaws clenched shut, and curled up into the tightest ball I could manage in a seat considerably scaled down in order to accommodate more passengers. Seat width and leg room were severely reduced, and when the seat ahead was fully laid back, getting into and out of of my seat was a real chore.

I was a passenger on a commercial airliner, one of a fleet leased by the U.S. military to ferry personnel to and from Vietnam during our prolonged war in that country. Our flight from Da Nang, South Vietnam would take us over the North Pole and on to Los Angeles’ International Airport.

Spring was in full bloom in the United States, but the season was a hard cold winter over the North Pole. When I first began to feel the cold, I asked a flight attendant for a blanket. She said that she would be right back with a blanket, but after a considerable amount of time passed, she had not returned, and I noticed that blankets were being passed out up and down the rows of seats.

The same attendant came by and I reminded her of my request. She apologized nicely, saying that she had been busy and had forgotten my request, and told me she would return shortly with the blanket. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep—it isn’t easy to sleep when one is shivering violently. Another long interval of time passed and she finally returned, minus the blanket. She again apologized nicely, but this time she told me there were no more blankets, that the aircraft’s supply of blankets had all been handed out to other passengers. A quick look around showed that in my immediate area I was the only passenger without a blanket. Apparently they were handed out while I was trying to sleep.

My three-time loser of a flight attendant was young and attractive, attributes that would have, in a normal situation, prevented me from voicing the comments that followed the news that I would not be—could not be—given a blanket. I won’t repeat what I said—Word Press has some rather stern restrictions on the use of vulgarities and some of the terms that I used, terms that I had accumulated over many years in military service, would probably not be well received.

I will only say that, had my verbal censure of the girl been a double-barreled shotgun, she would have received censure equal to being blasted with two full loads of double-ought buckshot, delivered at very close range. Any hunter can describe the terrible damage that would be caused by such loads.

Resigned to my fate—an unnatural fate of freezing solid at 40,000 feet over the North Pole while crammed into a baby seat in a commercial aircraft traveling at some 400 miles per hour—I curled up into a ball again, wrapped my arms around myself as fully and tightly as I could, and tried to sleep—in the words of Hamlet, I sought to sleep, perchance to dream, etc.

And I did sleep—to paraphrase Brother Dave Gardner’s words, I reached for the arms of Morpheus and fell into that somnolent state of glorious oblivion—I slept, and I dreamed.

I dreamed of being warm again. I dreamed that I was covered with something soft and furry, a cover with an aroma that combined the smell of budding roses and lilacs in bloom—an aroma superior to any of the world’s most expensive perfumes, with just a hint of chicken frying in my mother’s kitchen—no, scratch the fried chicken—that was an earlier dream, one that I had the night before I boarded the plane to begin the long journey home—I suppose some residual of that odor remained in my brain.

I know the suspense is gnawing at anyone reading this posting, so I will hold back no longer. While I slept, the flight attendant that failed to deliver a blanket after my repeated requests for one—far in advance of the time blankets began to be handed out to passengers—the flight attendant that I berated so forcefully and fiercely—yep, the same attractive woman that patiently endured my verbal onslaught on her professional conduct, had returned with a full length fur coat and gently placed it over my numb body, tucking it in as well as she could, considering my fetal pose.

The coat was probably hers, but she could have borrowed from another flight attendant—that point is moot. Regardless of the owner, that fur coat saved my sanity and possible my life. I quickly returned to that somnolent state of glorious oblivion and spent the rest of the night gamboling through Elysian fields with Bambi, Flower and Thumper—I awakened only after daylight filled the cabin.

I never saw the flight attendant again. The fur coat had been retrieved while I slept on like the proverbial baby, probably picked up by its owner after we left polar bear territory. I searched for that familiar face, but exited the aircraft after landing without an opportunity to thank her, and to apologize for my boorish behavior during the flight. She may have been busy in the galley or perhaps had business in the cockpit, if you catch my drift.

No matter where she was then and regardless of where she is now, I owe her my thanks for saving me from becoming a curled up block of ice—even though it was her fault for exposing me to such a potential ending.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Lightning, lobsters and babes in the woods . . .

The e-mail that follows was sent by one of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. She suggested that I tell the story of a camping trip we took in the summer of 1986, a jaunt that began in northern Virginia and took us through Washington D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and back to Virginia—ten states, eleven counting Virginia, and the District of Columbia, all in just six days. We were really happy to get back home!

This is her e-mail:

Here’s a memory to get you started: Our road trip to Maine….you wanted lobster…I ordered chicken (no surprise there)…she brought us the food, then left. You called her over to ask for the lobster cracker thingies and she said, “That family over there is using them.” We were blown away that they only had one set—-something about “people keep taking them” or something like that. I don’t remember what happened or how long you had to wait, but it put a damper on your “famous Maine lobster” adventure.

Then the night in the tent in the campground…and the lightning and raining and horrendous thunder…seeing shadows of trees through the tent when the flashes occurred….then you whispered, “Where are your arms?” I asked why and you said, “Tuck them in and don’t touch the metal on the bed….JUST IN CASE.” Way to go to scare your kid, pop! This would have been spring or early summer 1985, I think. I’ll check the date on my slides to verify, though.

My daughter touched on the lobster snafu and the night we spent in a non-waterproofed tent while a storm raged around and over us, and one might legitimately say, with one of its components—water—inside the tent with us. At twilight that day we luckily stumbled upon a small state park in Maine with tent grounds, and we pitched our tent under the comforting arms of a giant oak, reasoning that its shade would be welcome the following day. The Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton said it best with the phrase that began his 1830 novel Paul Clifford: It was a dark and stormy night . . .

For us it was not only a dark and stormy night—it was also a very wet night that we spent in our two-person tent, an item we purchased new just before we began our odyssey, along with two aluminum folding cots, two light-weight sleeping bags, a one-burner Coleman camp stove and a Coleman two-mantle lantern, both of which used white gas for power. Using the booklet provided we practiced pitching the tent in the parking lot at our apartment, but decided not to follow the instructions to “waterproof your tent by using the waterproofing tubes included.” Since the skies were clear that day in Arlington, Virginia, we surmised, wrongly of course, that they would remain clear for the duration of our camping trip. They did not remain clear.

Note for campers: Do not—I repeat, do not—pitch a tent of any size under a tree of any size regardless of the weather and regardless of whether the tent is waterproofed. The absolute last place one should be in a storm is under a tree, whether in a tent, a car, a trailer, a wagon or just standing, sitting or lying under a tree. Trees and lighting bolts appear to have a passion for one another—everyone knows, of course, that lightning goes upward from the ground, quite often from a tree, and is met by its counterpart coming down from the clouds. We can pass this gem of knowledge we gleaned on our trip: Weather has an odd way of changing abruptly—in our case it changed so abruptly that we had neither time to relocate our tent, nor time (or the means) to waterproof it.

The massive storm hit around 9:00 p.m. and lasted for an eternity, with brilliant flashes of lightning and rolling thunder, sounds comparable to the sounds made by massive landslides with huge trees snapping like twigs—before the night was over it sounded like Mount Helena blowing its top. Of course my imagination was at high pitch, fueled by something similar to fear—no, not just similar to fear, it was fear. For awhile I feared that I could drown even if the lighting didn’t get me. Not surprisingly, my daughter slept soundly through most of the bedlam, awakening only when I whispered, “Where are your arms?”

At one point during the storm I imagined that I could smell sulfur, an odor associated with lightning strikes—some say brimstone, as in “fire and brimstone.” In 1983 in Arizona it smelled like sulfur. I was in a moving automobile at ground zero near the Arizona/Mexico border when a lighting bolt struck and mangled an aluminum guardrail just a few feet from my front-seat passenger position. Come to think of it, that may not have been sulfur I smelled, but I definitely smelled something!

We survived the ordeal of the storm and emerged from our tent, a bit bedraggled but bound to continue on our great adventure, and as time passed we began to remember that night as a fun time and one of the most memorable moments in our trip.

Prior to finding the state park where we camped that night, we stopped in a couple of travel-trailer parks to see if they allowed tent campers. Neither provided sites for tents, but a woman in the second park mentioned that “a nice family” owned and operated a camp nearby and accepted tent campers. While giving me directions, she included a but, a but as in, “But they only accept family campers.” Thinking perhaps that family size was a factor for admission, I told her there were just two of us. She repeated the provision that, “They only accept families,” with strong emphasis on the word families, and then I realized the reason for her repetition of the sentence. She had a good view of me standing in front of her, of course, and she could clearly see my daughter standing outside near our car.

Note: My daughter was twenty-three years old at the time, and I was rushing toward my fifty-third birthday, an approximate age difference of some thirty years. I said, “Oh, I see,” and turned on my heel and left, my heart and my chest swelling with pride, knowing that she actually believed that I could entice a female non-family member such as the lovely 23-year-old girl standing by my car to embark on an extended camping trip with me. As I pranced out of that office I felt much taller than I did when I entered—had I been capable of doing so, I would have snorted, whisked my tail and whinnied all the way out to the car.

Enough is enough, at least for now. I have been criticized and censured for making my postings too long—evidently some viewers’ truncated attention spans prohibit them from spending very much time reading, especially if there is a dearth of photo images in a posting. I will therefore terminate this posting, a tiny vignette, but representative of the memorable experiences we accumulated over the six-day period, and return at a later date with more details.

I promise.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2010 in camping, Family, Humor, Travel

 

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