Thursday, September 29, 2005

Signing Off

I've been participating in this obstentatious display called a blog for about a year now. In the beginning, I endeavored to expatiate on a variety of subjects, such as politics and religion as though it were a devine imparting by me of knowledge to the unknowing yet venial masses. I couldn't sustain what to me became a venture into a tenebrous webb of point/counter-point with no end in sight to the endless cavils of some of my correspondents. In other words, politics, religion and other serious subjects got boring and I encountered a few real nut cases. I had to move on to a more jocund, mirthful approach because that's who I am.

Gradually, the people who disagreed with my opinions on more serious matters began to take on an evanescent nature, then their comments completely disappeared. That was fine, because some of them were obviously certifiable while others were destined to be that way if they couldn't put the 2000 election behind them. I even received some threats of physical harm from of the less enlightened on the left who, of all things fancied themselves to be defenders of free speech. They reminded me of the nuts who murdered abortion doctors because they were pro-life.

On the plus side, I've had a lot of fun. Writing something totally self-serving and whimsical, then checking to see what your online friends and family had to say about it has been a real hoot. Also on the plus side, I've met two Philadelphia bloggers, Ala and Justrose and Ala's father, 92alpha. They are some of the finest people you could ever hope to know and I feel as though they have become lifelong friends.

I've also "met" online, my buddies Riceburner, McWizard, Jensun_Clemike, 91ghost, Kat, Alix, AFsister, Tesco, Desultory Butterfly and her sis Bonnie and the ever smiley Ben and many others. One day, I expect to get the chance to meet many of them in person. Their comments and interest in what I had to say sustained me.

Again on the plus side, my commentators (not the taters of royalty, mind you but the common ones) included my two children, plus three nephews, a niece, my wife, brother, son-in-law, brother-in-law and a couple of cousins. Their comments, especially on my blogger's birthday card were priceless to me.

That having been said, the real purpose of this post is to announce my signing off and marching off into the sunset, sans blog. This has been like staring at the Grand Canyon before moving on to see what's on the other side - quite a sight to be sure but so etched in the memory that you no longer have to look at it.

I don't want any of you to waste your time by coming here expecting me to be lurking around with a dose of my usual BS. I'll be doing that alright, just not here, pecking it out on a keyboard. I'll be checking my yahoo email address on occasion though, and if any of you out-of-towners ever anticipate being in Houston, let me know.

Adios and God bless.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rita Is A Big Fat Sissy

That's just one of the memorable things overheard during storm week. But I think my favorite was "there's a category 5 storm headed right for us and he's asleep on the couch."

The announcements to evacuate the Houston area started Wednesday afternoon. A category 5 storm with winds of up to 175 mph was headed straight for Galveston and we were told to "get out or die". The storm was due to arrive sometime after midnight on Friday so we had lots of time but you wouldn't know it from the panic of some. My neighbor left pulling his travel trailer behind with its' door still open and steps dragging the pavement. Many left town without packing and others had little or no cash or gas.

The freeways were immediately at gridlock - no movement whatsoever. People were trapped, unable to get off the freeways and quickly running out of gas and food. The temperature was 98 degrees with temperatures in the midst of all the idling engines running around 110. It obviously was best not to try to leave town for awhile.

Our plan was to get up at 4:00 AM on Thursday and beat the next exodus, but the traffic was even worse. That's when I decided to continue to wait it out and take a nap.

Thursday afternoon the announcement came that all lanes on a section of I-45 would be open to outbound traffic. We still had a day and a half before Rita hit us, if she did at all, and our household vote totals were still holding at one to one - one vote to wait until the traffic cleared before leaving and one vote to get the hell out of town yesterday. We left about 2:15 PM.

The freeway was clear the 20 or so miles to downtown Houston. So far so good. It continued to move at a fast pace for 17 more miles but shut down completely just 13 miles from our destination at Scott and Jen's house.

Traffic didn't move at all for 4 hours. We were behind a couple who we found out lived near us but had left their home 11 and one half hours before we left ours. Cars were stalled everywhere. Babies were crying, dogs were barking and people were getting sick. The diesel and gas fumes burned the eyes and hurt the throat. We had plenty of ice and water and kept ourselves and our 15 year old mutt Petey hydrated.

People were using cups to relieve themselves, then getting out of their cars and emptying the contents on the freeway. The pavement was so hot that the urine seemed to evaporate right away but the smell lingered.

After almost six hours, we made it to Scott and Jen's house in Spring, a distance of 50 miles. We stayed until after the storm passed and came home on Saturday morning, beating most of the crowd back into town.

We had no damage to our house at all. For us, Rita was a big fat sissy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Caleb Takes a Header

Doug's 4 year nephew, Caleb is in town with his mom and little brother while his dad is making his third and final tour with the Marine Corps in Iraq.

Although he's not really related to us, we love him just like he was one of our own. He has blond hair and big blue eyes and usually has a mischievious grin that makes you wonder what he's up to. He's all boy - into "weaponry" as his dad calls it and anything else that shoots, salutes, triumps over evil, goes fast, runs, leaps, wears a costume, flies or looks "scawy". He calls us uncle and aunt and, of course, we eat that up.

When the whole extended family made it back into town from our "premature evacuation" Doug and Caleb's Grandfather Jim came over to help take the plywood off the windows of our house. Caleb came along too, as did his mom, brother, Jim's wife Meloney and Doug's wife Melodye.

After finishing the chores followed by a visit to the only mexican food restaurant that had re-opened, we brought Caleb back to our house for the afternoon.

First up was a ride in the back yard on the 4 wheelers. Then a round of playing "good guy-bad guy" with Aunt Susie, who spent an hour or so in a make believe jail.

Then it was outside with me to feed the goldfish and koi. Caleb leaned over, then leaned a little more so "El Guapo" would eat from his hand. As I turned to put the goldfish food away, I heard a splash. Caleb had managed to take a header into the pond and was thrashing around like some giant fish in a small pond while trying to get out before I noticed. I grabbed one arm and pulled him out, and quickly checked to make sure he was OK. He looked up at me with big sad looking eyes and said "we're not in trouble are we?"

I lost control completely. I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. Caleb laughed as hard as I did once he realized that no one would be mad at him. He said "If I fall in again will you laugh at me again"? "No little fella, one time is enough." He was impressed by the fact that the fish didn't bite him. I'm sure they wanted too.

With his clothes in the washer, then the dryer and Caleb in one of Aunt Susie's tee shirts, he and I finished off the afternoon with an improptu fight with duelling water hoses.

Once into his dry clothes and into his car seat, one very tired little boy fell asleep on the way to be delivered to his grandparents.

When we got home, we passed out and slept like babies too. Entertaining little ones can be hard work.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pre-Evacuation Conversation

Prior to getting on the road and joining what was to become the single largest traffic jam in American history, I stopped by the local drug store to pick up a few things we might need. The place had been cleaned out; no batteries, bottled water or Little Debbie Snack Cakes. Not a Ding Dong in the house. Another desperate person told me if you had to have some Twinkies or a Moon Pie she'd heard you'd have to go all the way to Dallas. There's something about the possibility of impending death that causes you to temporarily go off your diet of bark and roots and be willing to stuff yourself with toxic nirvana.

I remained strong and turned down a shot at outmuscling an old lady for a box of creme-filled cup cakes. It would have been easy - a piece of cake. Several pieces actually. All I ended up with at the check out counter was one bottle of aspirin and a hunger for real food that would rival any found in a buffet line at an old folks home.

There was a line forming behind me at the check out counter but the lady working there avoided me like poison ivy. She was on the phone, dealing with what was obviously personal business - something that was much more important to her than selling me a bottle of aspirin.

As I waited along with everyone else, I heard her philosophy about the approaching storm. "I think we should just git as far away as we can", she said. "You don't know what these things is gonna do. You better pack up and just git the hell out'n da way, you know what I'm saying"?

I'm thinking, "no, I honestly don't know what you're saying because you butcher the english language worse than Attila the Hun on a march through Mongolia you ignoramus but I would like to buy this bottle of aspirin if you don't mind."

Back to Ms. Take This Job and Shove It: "Yeah, I got all I need. I'm all packed and ready. You got gas?" I saw my opening. In the loudest voice I could muster I answered her: "NO, I DON'T. JUST A LITTLE HEADACHE".

She hung up. I got out. Sometimes you just do what you gotta do. Know what I'm saying?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Headlines The Day After Rita

"Rains Hit Houston; None Hurt But 12 Drown In New Orleans"

"2.7 Million Evacuate When Wind Reaches 7 MPH"

"No Damage From Rita But Thousands Hospitalized From Breathing Gas Fumes During Evacuation"

"Premature Evacuation Ruins Mayor's Political Career"

"Motorists Stalled In Cars On Freeway For 12 Hours; Celebration Breaks Out As Commute Is Quicker Than Usual"

"Porta Potty Blown Over; TV Weather Girl Trapped"

"Hurricane Reporter Shot Dead By Program Director; Said 'Hunker Down' One Time Too Many. DA Rules Justifiable Homicide"

"Weather Channel Babe Lands 70 Miles Away While Reporting On Rita"

Feel free to add your own.

All's well

In fact, it is so "well" that Dad is already packing up his car. LOL!

He is determined to get on the road and beat the traffic home.

Yes, it is still windy.

Yes, it is still raining.

But he is GOING TO BEAT THAT TRAFFIC BY GOD!

Aye carumba.

Thanks again for all your prayers and well wishes. We are absolutely fine!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Got Gas?

Make a note to yourself. Keep your tank topped off if you might have to get out of town in a hurry. Many people in the Houston area didn't and are stuck beside a freeway somewhere right now.

We waited for some of the traffic to clear before we left home at 2:15 on Thursday. Still we were trapped on the High Occupancy Lane of I-45 for about 4 and a half hours of our almost 6 hour trip to Jen and Scott's house 50 miles to the north. Some people trapped on the freeway in front of us live in the same town we do but had left their home almost 12 hours before we left ours - yet there we were - in the same spot.

After about 5 and a half hours in 100 plus degree temperatures we managed to get off the freeway and park near an elementary school. There was plenty of grass to walk the dog and stretch our legs but the best thing was escaping the stalled cars, noise, hot pavement and the smell of diesel fumes from all the buses and 18 wheelers.

We called our son-in-law, Scott for directions to his and Jen's house, maybe using some little known back roads no one else knew about so we could escape the traffic. He told us he knew where we were and to just stay there - that he would come and get us. He was there in a matter of minutes and led us on the back roads back to his and Jen's house.

Remember what the Drew Barrymore character in the movie ET said about the movie's main character? We feel the same way about Scott. "We're keeping him."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rita.....

Mr and Mrs Bigandmean are heading for my and Scott's house in Spring. Spring is about 20 miles north of downtown Houston. We'll have bad wind and some flooding, but should be fine. We'll post when we can.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rita Needs A Makeover

That Rita. She's a mean looking one alright.

We're in Brazoria County, about a mile from the Galveston County line which is under a mandatory evacuation order. We're boarding up, battening down and taking off.

See you on down the road.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Heeeeerrrrrrrres Rita!

So Hurricane Rita may be heading straight for us, huh? It's no big deal here on the Texas coast. We're ready.

You see, we have a long-range plan to deal with natural disasters, especially hurricanes. We don't worry much about earth quakes or mud slides. Tsunamis are not much of a concern to us. We haven't had any riots or insurrections since the opening week of deer season several years ago when hunting with dogs was banned. But hurricanes? We've got that covered. We take care of ourselves in Texas. And if you're one of our neighbors and haven't made a plan and followed through on it, we'll take care of you too.

If Rita does hit us, looting won't be much of a problem. We shoot looters here. That tends to discourage others.

The Mayor of Galveston may have jumped the gun just a bit by suggesting that people leave the island as early as Monday. At that time, Rita was not yet a full-blown hurricane and was still almost a week away from it's predicted land fall on the Texas Gulf Coast. True, the mayor doesn't want to repeat the mistakes made in New Orleans by waiting too long to make a decision. So we have the Mayor of New Orleans to thank for rejuvenating another malady that has plagued mankind since time immemorial: premature evacuation.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Marie's On The Roof

My goldfish pond is home to one less creature today. Marie, a 3 year old fantail goldfish went belly up this morning. I still have one other fantail, Donny, plus "feeder" goldfish that I rescued from the tank at Wal-Mart, including Nicholas, Natalie, Aunt Susie, Bo and Walmart. I also still have my koi, El Guapo, Whitey, Rojo and Jackson. Doug gave Jackson his name because he was born black then gradually changed colors. Makes sense to me.

Discovering the death of a pet reminded me of a story - most everything does. A local bubba left home for the first time in his life and was going to be gone for about a month. He told his brother that he would be calling home every day to check on his mother, who had not been well and his beloved dog Butch.

The first week or so, everything had gone well. Bubba called every day and his brother assured him that his dog Butch and "Mama" were both fine. Then one day when he called home and asked, as he always did, "how's Butch?" his brother said "Butch died."

Bubba was shocked, and then he got mad. He didn't call home for several days because he was so angry at his brother for being so insensitive. Finally, he called and told his brother how he felt. Bubba said, "listen, stupid, you didn't have to just come out and tell me that Butch was dead. You could have sorta built up to it. You could have made something up to break it to me easy. " "How could I do that?" said his brother. "Well, when I called you could have said that part of the house where Butch slept was on fire but Butch had gotten on the roof - that I shouldn't worry because the fire department was on the way. The next day when I called, you could have said that the firemen had put the fire out and were about to rescue Butch. Then the next day you could have finally broken it to me by saying 'they did everything they could but it was too late and Butch died.' That way I could have been better prepared for it and the news wouldn't have been such a shock. Does that make sence to you?"

"Yes", said his brother, "I understand now." "Alright then" said Bubba, "how's Mama?"

"Well, Mama's on the roof....................."

Friday, September 16, 2005

True Courage vs. Whining and Complaining

Last Wednesday I witnessed a true act of courage. Roger Clemons pitched the Astros to a win in an important game on the day of his mother's death. He did it because she told him to go out and do his job. Rather than talk about her own condition, she asked Roger how his team-mate Andy Pettitte's elbow was getting along. She was a true baseball fan to the very end.

In Houston, since the influx of thousands of newcomers to our city from New Orleans, we've had a steady barrage by the local media to emphasize everything they seem to think is wrong with America. We've seen on local TV, endless interviews with some from New Orleans who seem to specialize in complaining, moaning, begging and outright demanding to be taken care of while showing little interest to do anything for themselves. Certainly, many New Orleans evacuees handled their situation with dignity, decency and courage, but I've grown a bit weary of hearing the complaints and the demands to "show me more love" as expressed by one local interviewee.

It's inspiring to witness the dedication and courage shown by Roger and the lady who raised him during a time when so many are complaining about the generousity of others not being delivered to them in a manner they deem acceptable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Idiots and Maniacs

Back in 1983, I won a national contest and was named The United States of America's Most outstanding Driver. I got a trophy and everything although I can't find it right now. Anyway, it's comforting to me to know that I'm the absolute best, the most skilled driver on the road, yet I manage to co-exist on the same roads with some of the worst drivers who've ever been issued a license this side of Bagladesh or Mogadeshu while remaining completely unscathed and never once resorting to road rage.

Have you ever noticed how everybody who drives slower than you is an idiot and the ones who drive faster are maniacs?

I was doing just short of the speed limit today when I closed on some slow poke idiot so fast I had to slam on my brakes to keep from rear-ending him. He must have been doing about 35 in a 55 MPH zone. While I was still trying to clean the spilled coffee off my lap, some maniac passed us both doing at least 90.

People say to me all the time, "how do you manage to deal with so many idiots and maniacs on a daily basis and still maintain your sparkling, upbeat personality?" I try to be modest about it, but when you've got looks, personality AND you're the world's best driver, it's real hard not to be just a little glib about it.

And that's the truth.

Ranger Bob

One day he's a scholar at The University of Houston studying the Greek classics.

Then he's a U.S. Army Ranger, leaping out of perfectly good airplanes into the jungles of Panama and surviving on what little the jungle offers up as sustenance, while his Harley-Davidson sits unused in a garage in Houston.

On another day, he's making his way across the country as a civilian pizza delivery man, with a mission to reach Las Vegas and get rich on the crap tables.

Next, he's in Washington State, going to school and training to be a preacher. Yes, a preacher. Holy Green Berets! His whole family could just hear his elegantly worded invitation to the congregation: "get saved or I'm taking you out, scumbag!"

Then, it's on to a new church in Georgia and ultimately to a well paying job near Fort Benning, installing armor on vehicles bound for Iraq.

Now it looks like my nephew, Ranger Bob is coming home to Texas in the near feature, his head clear and his pockets full of money. I think he's at peace with where he needs to be and that's with his family - the people who love him.

Even if he shows up broke and stupid, that's OK. Hurry home kid.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Definitely NOT Butter

Eating healthy is not as hard as I thought it'd be but I'm going to give up on I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. I know butter. I like butter. That's not butter.

On my next trip to the bark and roots section of the grocery store I'll pick up another butter substitute and see if it's any better. Maybe I'll try some I Know Damn Well It's Not Butter. I can't wait to try Looks Like Butter But Tastes Like Crap. I hear it's really good on It's Not Bread, It's - Well We Don't Know What The Hell It Is.

I'm hungry. Feed me, See-mo.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Lemons To Lemonaide

Sometimes life hands you lemons and you make lemonade. But maybe you don't really like lemonade and what you really wanted was lemon pie and now, damn it, you're out of lemons.

Of course, sometimes life pulls down your pants and runs a power sander across your naked butt, then pours lemon juice on your raw, abraded buttocks which would make you wish you'd gone ahead with the lemonade.

Life can really screw with your lemons.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Howdy, Stud

I stopped at the hardware store and bought several new tools, including a stud finder. I'm not sure how useful this thing is - the needle on the thing won't point at anything but me. It's not telling me something I didn't already know. Sheesh, what a waste of money!

An Old Friend

My friend Dale and I were told by our high school english teacher, Mrs. Jacks that we weren't college material. She told us we were too smart for our own good and never took anything seriouly enough. We weren't class clowns. We just thought of things for the class clown to do and put him up to it, then stood back and admired the chaos we'd wrought. She fussed at us several times and said, "you two goof-offs will never make it unless you get serious. Life is not a joke."

She was right about Dale being smart. He was brilliant. He memorized pages from the phone book for his own amusement. In spanish class, after the first two or three weeks of class he announced that he had now mastered the language and would be devoting his time in that class to other things for the rest of the school year. While the rest of us were still trying to pronounce spanish words, he decided to learn german, which he said was far more challenging. In six weeks he was fluent in german and for fun, refused to respond to anybody in english and insisted that his name was Adolph.

Dale was an imposing figure - 6'7" and around 300 pounds. He was one of five brothers who were all about the same size which made being a guest for dinner at their house an adventure. You'd bettter be quick and aggressive if you wanted something to eat or be prepared to go without. Whoever claimed to have seen a dog which had been thrown a bone signal for a fair catch must have eaten at their house.

Dale became a petoleum engineer and moved to Oklahoma where he lived for years. He moved around some and we lost contact with each other. I tried to find him a couple of times but he had always just moved to another location, probably chasing another oil strike or looking for some bigger challenge. After 30 years, I received an email from him that said "is that you? I moved back to Houston. Let's have lunch. Dale."

We got together for lunch the following week - same old Dale, only bigger. He called me the following week from a hospital and said he had "heart issues". I went to see him the following Saturday and was surprised to find that he couldn't walk. He had a wheel chair brought to his room and insisted on me wheeling him outside.

Between lunch and our visit at the hospital, we must have re-lived every crazy, silly thing we'd done in our mis-spent youth but both agreed that we wouldn't change a thing if we had it to do over again. We'd had a lot of fun. Like the time when we were 14 or 15 and rode our bicycles 11 miles to the river, built a raft out of drift wood then set it on fire while we were still on it. We had a bet on who would jump off first. He won.

Dale died the following week. He was buried in our old home town, three graves down from Mrs. Jacks.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pitch In and Help Or Shut The Hell Up

Watching the left's fanatical focus on politics during the humanitarian crisis caused by Katrina is eye opening. While bodies are still floating in the flood waters, rather than devote their efforts toward the obvious, the left is consumed with taking advantage of what they see as a political opportunity.

Some on the left are even considering whether they should send money that will be used to provide relief for citizens of red states. How can people be so consumed by political fervor?

The left doesn't seem to consider that it's possible for the problems caused by Katrina to be solved by any entity other than the federal government. Why give to charities when it's the federal government's job to fix this? Why volunteer to help when the National Guard will be along any minute now? Why encourage the victims to help themselves? Isn't that the government's job?

In the meantime, the right is busy giving and volunteering. The thought, just the thought of introducing politics into the mix at this point is not on the radar. We are too busy volunteering our time and giving until it hurts.

Where are you people on the left when we need you?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I Know, I Know

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
Only darkness every day
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And she's always gone too long
Any time she's gone away

Great lyrics. This guy's a writer! Brilliant.

I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know,
Better leave young thing alone.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.

He was doing so well. What happened? Did he lose his concentration? How old is his girlfriend, 12?

I think I could have done better. In fact, I know I can. I know, I know, I know I can.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Shameful Behavior

Certainly, there are good people on the political left just as there are on the right. But there has to be a void in the lives of some of them when they see a disaster like Katrina as a chance to score political points against President Bush and Govenor Barbour of Mississippi rather than a time to unite as a nation for the common good. Politics is everything to them. It is more important than life itself. Family, friends, religion, career and love of country all pale in comparison to their need to score political points. I can't think of any other plausible explanation. How else can one explain it?

When the enormity of the disaster in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast became apparent, millions of Americans began to mobilize to do what ever was necessary to aleviate the suffering of the victims of the storm. At the same time, political pundits like the editorial writers at The New York Times, Democratic Congressman Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the national Democratic Party were exploring ways to blame it all on their political adversaries.

Nothing is sacred to them. Nothing is off limits. There is nothing they will refrain from using for political purposes, even as people are being rescued from the attics of their homes. Even as bodies are floating down the Mississippi River on their way to the sea, Kennedy is raging about the unsigned Kyoto Treaty. New Orleans, that proud old city, long headed by Democratic Mayors, continues to drown while Democrats try to figure a way to blame it on Bush.

Let's finish rescue operations and help the survivor's first, damn it! Let's gather our dead and give them a proper burial. Let's restore order and put a stop to the lawlessness, then let's pitch in and rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Then, at the proper time, let's look at what we might have been able to do to save lives and property. But let's vow to never, never become such political animals or tolerate those who become so jaded as to callously see loss of life and human suffering as nothing more than a political opportunity.