Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Jacket, No Tie, No Service

Having recently attended a semi-formal social function, I am reminded of a grave problem facing the American public: men under-dressing their women. It’s really not as kinky as it sounds. It’s the act of women dressing up in a nice dress or skirt and heels and their husband/boyfriend dressing for a tee-time at the municipal golf course except with tennis shoes instead of golf shoes.

This most often happens at weddings and Christmas parties. Let’s take the wedding as an example. The bride-to-be spends an infinite amount of time and money searching for the perfect wedding gown then spends six hours the day of the wedding getting manicured, buffed, coiffed, and dressed. Meanwhile the bridegroom usually wears a formal tuxedo as a sign of deference and respect. It’s part of the deal. Granted, he usually just rents it and then gets a discount when his groomsmen use the same tux shop, but he puts out some effort and those rental shoes really hurt. Regardless, the bride and groom set the tone down through the fabulously dressed bridesmaids, groomsmen and ushers. Their efforts demand the respect of guests dressing appropriately.

Women seemed to have figured this out and always dress for the occasion. But even if men are clueless about societal functions, they should be able to take the cue from their wives/girlfriends and dress up to them. For example when a woman spends one to two hours getting ready for a wedding, the man shouldn’t wait until the last minute and then toss her the car keys and say, “Honey, pull the car around while I put something on.” Even if you are married, this is a sure sign of disrespect, and that your wife could probably do better. For instance, a young couple shows up at a wedding. The woman wears a lovely little black dress, Wonderbra, and six-inch heels while her boyfriend at least puts on a tie but tops off the ensemble with tennis shoes. Now that’s a cute outfit for a high school prom, but in the real world it just leaves people wondering, “I wonder how long before she dumps the 12-year-old.”

Living in the Great Republic throws a wrench into this problem. . I recently scoffed at a be-wrinkled man in jeans and untucked shirt following around his attractive, cocktail-dressed wife. “Do you think she’ll even speak to him tonight?” I asked St. Pauli Girl. “You think he could have at least put on a tie and ironed his shirt?”

“Well, he is wearing his good boots,” she replied.

So I have a lot to learn about Texas.

As a service to all of the misguided gentlemen and the discerning ladies out there, I offer these tips for proper dressing of the man:

How to Dress Equal to Your Woman

A. Casual Day
HER: t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes.

YOU: Her very casual attire means that you are either already married to her or are just a general acquaintance. There is a danger of overdressing in this scenario; since you are either married or friends, overdressing will only showcase sinister intentions. Therefore, dress like the vagabond you normally are.

TEXANS: It’s okay to wear your rodeo jeans and muddy boots. Go with a baseball or gimme cap.

B. Business Casual
HER: Nice, button-up blouse, slacks and sensible shoes.

YOU: You can get away with designer jeans if she’s into that but play it safe with a pair of khaki pants, golf shirt is okay (button all buttons except the top). Lose the tennis shoes; that could be a deal breaker.

TEXANS: Clean rodeo jeans and slightly muddy boots are okay. Tuck in the shirt. An everyday cowboy hat is okay as long as it’s in season.

C. Church
HER: Simple dress, accessories, extra make-up, careful attention to hair, and designer cologne.

YOU: In this case, the man should only wear nice jeans if he’s also wearing a sport coat. Do not underestimate the jeans and sport coat look, the jacket shows that you’ve put some extra thought into this and very well could close the deal.

TEXANS: Same as above but clean under your fingernails and wear your church boots.

D. Cocktail Party
HER: some type of casual dress or skirt, minor heels, minimum to negligible cleavage.

YOU: The man has a couple of options here but definitely requires a tie or sport coat. Stick with the khaki pants, a long sleeve dress shirt is required (only 1 open button, no gold chains or visible chest hair unless your date is a stripper) with either a matching tie or sport coat. Casual dress shoes.

TEXANS: Either designer jeans or your best clean pair, long sleeved dress or western shirt (up to 3 open buttons) and any boots.

E. The Christmas Party
HER: Designer dress bought especially for the occasion, tanning salon tan, maximum heels and cleavage.

YOU: You need to bring out your best in this scenario. You can go the suit route if you’re still trying to close the deal but at least a nice dress shirt, tie, dress pants, sport coat and dress shoes. (Note: I am assuming that you or your wife knows how to color coordinate.)

TEXANS: Pressed jeans, Western shirt and your formal cowboy hat.

F. The Wedding (someone else’s)
HER: Same as the Christmas Party except more formal or sluttier depending on her age and personality. Maximum heels and cleavage.

YOU: Sport coat ensemble is acceptable but a nice suit really shows your woman the respect she deserves. Shoes should also be freshly polished preferably from an airport shoeshine.

TEXANS: Pressed jeans, long sleeved dress or pearl-snap shirt, formal cowboy hat, most expensive boots. Absolutely no mud.

G. Random Street Corner
HER: A leopard print mini-skirt, low cut bustier with rhinestones, fishnet stockings, and 8-inch thick platform shoes.

YOU: Wear whatever you want; you paid for her.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Dumpster War

One of the most underrated things about living in the Great Republic is the trash collection system (at least in most habitable parts that I’ve lived in). Housing developments are built with alleys behind the houses where dumpsters are placed every 3 to 4 houses. Once or twice a week, the trucks come by and empty the dumpsters. You never have to remember to haul your trash to the curb once or twice a week. Conversely, your wife never thinks it’s too cold for you to haul your trash to the dumpster. Even if it’s dark. And snowing.

During my childhood, all six of us kids (but mostly me I’m pretty sure) were forced to carry three to four garbage cans up a long winding hill to the curb twice a week. During the summer, we often forgot, and when my mother heard the truck coming up the street, she would scream at us to get it out there before the truck made its u-turn. We would watch the truck go by, then cleverly carry the garbage out while they weren’t looking. As the truck came speeding back to head to another street, the driver would slam on the brakes, thinking the boys hanging on the back had missed a house. They eventually got smart, and instead of stopping, gave us the finger as they sped off.

So I probably treasure the alley dumpster system more than most born and bred Texans-- that is until I met the enemy.

Our last house stood in a neighborhood of large lots, and an alley separated our street from another row of houses behind us. Hence, both streets shared the dumpsters in the alley. The neighbor behind us actually owned two lots and had a very nice house. Let’s call him Mr. Firestone. He also had a full-sized tractor which he enjoyed mowing his expansive lawn with. It was also a very loud tractor. Every February, he would start it and let it run for about two hours just to get the engine going. This of course ruined our outdoor happy hours because between his tractor and our other neighbor’s air conditioner and wood chipper—which I’ll save for another blog--it was like having a cocktail on a runway at DFW airport.

But the bigger problem was that he would capture all two acres of freshly mowed grass and deposit it in the dumpster, completely filling it. Overflowing it. I would have to walk way down the alley to throw out our trash. Even worse would be when I had to carry a trash can full of our grass all the way to the alley only to find that dumpster already filled.

I did not have the convenience of an air conditioned combine that could drive right up to the dumpster and empty the grass. Time to get even.

I knew the garbage collection schedule and thereafter, I resolved to mow my lawn the very next day after the dumpster had been emptied.. This worked for about a week, as an obviously annoyed Mr. Firestone then started mowing his lawn in the morning when I could not do it. I began mowing the lawn the afternoon of garbage collection. Before long, Mr. Firestone had timed his mowing with the arrival of the garbage truck. War had been declared.

By this time, Mr. Firestone and I were not speaking. Well, we only spoke twice the whole seven years we lived there. Once while I emptied the trash, he was working on a fence post and said, “Sure is a nice day.”

“Yep,” I replied.

The other time he mentioned that he and his wife sure would like to invite us over for a glass of wine. He never did. And since he owned two lots, a fancy tractor, and a huge RV, I was pretty sure he had some good wine. I seethed nightly as we sipped our boxed wine knowing he was riding in that tractor while quaffing a fine Bordeaux which he refused to share.

But the dumpster war had an unspoken code: never let the enemy actually see you throw your grass in the dumpster. With no witnesses, you could always blame it on someone else. Many times I would wait on my side of the fence until the coast was clear before emptying my grass in the dumpster. Not that it mattered, because the dumpster was usually full by this point.

The part of the war that I failed at was the fact that I couldn’t completely fill the dumpster with my cut grass. My piddly amount didn’t even inconvenience Mr. Firestone. His race to beat me to the dumpster was pure spite. I finally decided I needed my own “shock and awe” plan. For two days, I trimmed hedges, bushes, and trees and raked old leaves piled behind the shed. I bagged them and stacked them next to the fence.

Then I got serious: I took a vacation day from work so I could mow in the morning before the garbage truck arrived.

I eagerly jumped from bed at dawn and sucked down a cup of joe and a mouthful of hard tack. As the sun rose above the trees, I started the mower and powered my way through the front yard. I kept up a furious pace, practically running, pausing only to empty the grass bag into a garbage can. By the time I got to the backyard, the sun had disappeared behind clouds. A fierce gale raced through the trees. With a strong westerly headwind in my face, I changed tactics and mowed a completely different path than usual. Great commanders adapt to the circumstances.

When the rain started, I grimaced but kept on. My pace slowed as slanting sheets of West Texas’ single annual rain pelted my face, restricting my vision. But I knew the yard; I could mow it blindfolded. The lightning made me nervous but my righteous mission pushed me forward. As I made the last turn, I heard the rumbling garbage truck approach. I sprinted down the last lane of grass as the truck emptied the dumpster. It was empty, and I was ready and armed. As the truck passed my gate, I ran out with the first garbage can of wet grass. I ran back and forth, dumping grass as the hail started to fall. I covered my head with a trash can lid while carrying the rest of the grass and trimmings to the dumpster. Within ten minutes, I had filled it; the lids propped open by my massive stack of trash. As I admired my work, the rain halted and a rainbow appeared above the dumpster. God was indeed on my side.

Later that afternoon, after the skies had cleared, I heard the roar of Mr. Firestone’s tractor as it criss-crossed his backyard. I laughed knowing he was too late. Early that evening, I walked to the alley wondering what dumpster he might have filled. My smile disappeared when I saw that he had just dumped his dead grass on the ground in front of the dumpster.

In the end, I guess it really wasn’t a war; he was just a jerk.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Modern Statesmen

It is amazing that people have such little faith in Congress these days. During the rancorous health care debate the other day, the esteemed congressman from west Texas yelled “baby killer” to the esteemed congressman from Michigan. We have now learned that they later met and an apology was accepted, which should restore our faith in the civility of this fine institution.

I suspect the apology went something like this:

TX Congressman: I’d like to apologize for your thinking that I called you a baby killer.

MI Congressman: But you did.

TX: First of all, no one was supposed to find out it was me.

MI: I know. You hid behind your giggling colleagues.

TX: But then I remembered why I did it. Publicity. And you can’t get that without coming out. Anyway, I was talking about the bill.

MI: I understand completely.

TX: It’s the bill that’s a baby killer. You are not a baby killer…as far as I know.

MI: And you are not a lying, flaming pile of pond scum. So I accept your apology, which must mean you are something less than a flaming pile of pond scum or else I wouldn’t accept your apology.

TX: Why thank you. You know, tensions were high. I got caught up in the moment. I said it to give voice to my constituents who hate killing babies.

MI: As opposed to my constituents who enjoy killing babies.

TX: Yes, exactly! I’m so glad we see eye to eye.

MI: Would you like a drink?

(after the Texan nods, the Michigan congressman pours two snifters of cognac. They clink glasses and sip their drinks.)

MI: You know I put rat poison in your drink.

TX: I don’t believe you. You wouldn’t kill a senior citizen because you only kill babies. That is . . . you would only kill babies, if you were a baby killer.

MI: Yeah, you got me. It wasn’t poison, only LSD. Seriously, why do you think the public has such a low opinion of us?

TX: They don’t! It’s only baby-killing congressmen they don’t like.

MI: Will you cut it out? Can you get off message for just a moment, you rich-loving, corporate ass-kissing, cancer-victim hating, right-wing nut?

TX: I apologize to the esteemed baby killing gentleman from Michigan. Alleged baby killer that is.

MI: What’s happened to us? What happened to the great statesmen like Henry Clay, John Calhoun, Daniel Webster?

TX: Yeah. And Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Davy Crockett, John Wayne.

MI: It’s this crazy, fast-paced, 5000-channel, DVR addicted, Googling, short attention span age we live in. If the Lincoln-Douglas debates were held today, they would probably be settled by Simon Cowell voting someone off the stage.

TX: That’s why Joe Wilson is the new Daniel Webster of Congress. His message is short and sweet, aimed at the attention deficit masses.

MI: Joe who?

TX: The esteemed gentleman from South Carolina. You know, the “you lie” guy. That’s why I said what I said yesterday. Did you see the campaign contributions he got after that?

MI: Yeah, I know. They skyrocketed! He’s definitely set a new standard.

TX: You know since we eliminated earmarks from bills…

(They both wink at each other)

TX: I needed to bring back a little something to my district.

MI: Did you have to be so over the top? Couldn’t you have just yelled, “death panels” or “higher taxes” or “I hate poor people?”

TX: Abortion is a three-syllable word. Most Americans wouldn’t sit through it. But once again, I apologize for your thinking that I think you kill babies.

MI: Accepted again, you deceiving, barely-smoldering stack of pond scum.

TX: (laughs) Cheers! By the way, between you and me, what did you really think about that health care bill?

MI: Are you kidding? 2500 pages? I couldn’t make an intern suffer through that.

TX: Yeah, me neither. But I’m pretty sure there’s some language in there somewhere about killing babies.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Talkin' bout your generation...

It’s been said, probably to the point of nausea, that every generation thinks it invented sex. (Half of you are racing to reach the “browser back” button while the other half is thinking, “Hot damn! More internet sex!” Not to worry. As the younger generation will point out, I am too old for sex and learned everything I may know about it from cave paintings and hieroglyphics. Hmmm, wait, what was I thinking about again?)

I would also add that every generation thinks it invented drugs as well, which leads the younger generation to the following conclusions:

A. Older people don’t know anything about drugs
B. Older people are afraid of drugs
C. Older people cannot tell if I am high or not

(for purposes of this post, “older” is the young generation’s definition which translates to anyone 30 or older)

This leads to an enriching and eye-opening experience when you own a business primarily staffed by people in the age range of 18 to 25. They will try to take advantage of all three “facts.”

Unfortunately, the restaurant industry is notorious for high drug use. As one employee once said, “If you start drug testing, I’d be the only one that would pass. That’s because I’m on parole.” But you don’t worry about what you can’t control, so you focus on whether or not people are effectively doing their job.

At Good Eats we had a server who told me one night, “I’ve been invited to my first tailgate party tomorrow afternoon.”

“And you’re supposed to work tomorrow night? Maybe you should take the night off.”

Shocking as it may have been to him, I knew him well enough to know that he wasn’t going to the Omega Theta Pi ice cream social. (And I wasn’t assuming he’d be high, just drunk.) A week later, he managed to serve a table’s dessert before their entrees. Was he high? Totally irrelevant. Because of that and some other missteps, he demonstrated he could not do the job he was hired to do.

Other servers knowing that drugs are a hot button with us old folks would tell us drug stories about co-workers they wanted fired. In one incident, a server said, “I know some people that tell me Biff (a co-worker) is hanging out around crack houses. I’ll have my peeps look into it and get back with you.”

Your peeps? You’re a middle class white college kid who wears a cowboy hat and giant belt buckles on your off days. Your only peeps are your Facebook gangsta friends. Besides, if your peeps are telling me to fire Biff, why shouldn’t I fire you for hanging out with these peeps who know people in crack houses? I never did hear back from his investigation.

Then finally there are the brazen and/or stupid employees who think we can’t distinguish between a joint and a cigarette much less what marijuana smells like. So they leave their joints laying around in the alley, the parking lot or maybe even the walk-in cooler. (Tangent: For the love of God, it’s bad enough you can’t clean up your trash, can you at least clean up your illegal trash?)

This reminds me of the former employee who stole some cash, an autographed picture and a plant that had been chained to a wall outside. It was the picture and the plant that made me angriest, just the sheer gall and stupidity of stealing something so trivial. Doing drugs on company property is the same thing because now you’re just flipping me off. And that deserves unemployment as well as jail time.

So for all you youngsters out there, with the exception of technology, you aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before. You did not invent sex and drugs; my generation did.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Better Homes and ...

Recently, St. Pauli Girl complained of my habit of watching the Cartoon Network in bed. She had a point; we both know “We’re off on the road to Rhode Island” from memory. So in a magnanimous gesture, I now flip the channel to HGTV after my cartoons are over where we watch a show called “House Hunters.” The show features various couples trying to move out of their clustered apartments/homes to something bigger and nicer. The drama is heightened as they view three homes, and in the climax, they tell us which one they bought.

I believe all of the shows must have been taped three or four years ago, back before the housing meltdown and when sub-prime mortgages were hot rather than toxic. My favorite part of the show is when the couple announces their budget, the size of which always amazes me, and after I give them the benefit of the doubt that they maybe just won the lottery or inherited a fortune, they proclaim they bought the house with no money down.

And so here is an example of how an episode gets developed:

(HGTV producer is invited into a small, rundown house in an old area of town where he meets young couple Joe and Sheila Smith)

Producer: Your home is a lot nicer on the inside. We’ll probably stick with exterior shots.

Sheila: This really isn’t our home. It’s my mom’s. We live in the garage.

Producer: Great! Let’s check it out.

(Sheila leads the group to the garage which holds a bed, couch, small table and microwave oven next to a large empty space.)

Producer: Hmmm. When you said garage, I thought you meant bedroom converted from a garage. But, there is lots of space here.

Sheila: That’s because my mom is at work. She parks the car there when she comes home.

Joe: Makes it tough to sleep in on Saturdays when she gets up early to go the market.

Producer: Good one, Joe. We can use that line. Let me make a note that we’ll want to film some when your mom is here. Next, let’s talk about budget. Tell me about your income.

Joe: Well, I work the graveyard shift at the Grab-n-Go and Sheila has her own business. She’s a substitute home-school teacher. If someone home-schools their kids and needs a day off, they call Sheila.

Producer: Wow! There’s a demand for that?

Sheila: Not as much as I had hoped.

Producer: Fine. We’ll put you down as entrepreneur, and we’ll say that Joe is in retail. Any rich relatives that can help you out?

Joe: Just her mom. She’s kind of nudging us out. Every day she parks a little bit closer to the bed.

Producer: No problem. I think we can safely assume a $600K budget.

Sheila: Dang! Is HGTV giving us all that?

Producer: No, we can’t do that. We can give you a nice house-warming gift though. Maybe a fern.

Joe: We only have about $400 in savings. Is that going to be enough?

Producer: Oh yeah. I know a guy who will take good care of you. Yoshii. He’s a mortgage dealer. They call him Samurai Mortgage Broker because he’ll slice your mortgage about a hundred ways and then sell the parts to investors.

Sheila: That sure is nice of those investors to give us a nice house like that.

Producer: Well, of course you’ll be paying the mortgage. But the good news is that not only do you need no money down, Yoshii will also give you a $2,000 refund.

Joe: Wow! How can he do that?

Producer: Because investors love this investment. Plus your interest rate will be 4%. Now it is variable, but one thing we’ve learned in the past 15 years is that mortgage rates always go lower and house values always increase. Buying a home puts you on the road to wealth.

Joe: And to think I just wanted a man cave.

Producer: Now let’s talk about show specifics. First, we’ll be showing you three houses to choose from.

Sheila: Do we get to pick out those three?

Producer: No. HGTV does that for you, with some help from Yoshii. Actually, with a lot of help from Yoshii.

Sheila: Doesn’t that limit our options?

Producer: Look, do you want the $2,000 or not? Anyway, as you look at the houses, remember, America is looking with you, and you are the entertainment. So you’ll need to be commenting on the house. We’ve got some standard lines to help. When you can’t think of anything else to say, use one of these. First, there’s “I really like the open floor plan.”

Joe: What does that mean?

Producer: It just means that you can see the living room television from the kitchen. But don’t say that. You’ll want to say something like “we can keep an eye on the kids from the kitchen.”

Sheila: I still don’t understand open floor plan.

Producer: Well, notice how right now, you can see the lawn mower all the way across the garage. That’s an open floor plan. When your mom gets home and parks her car here, it becomes a closed floor plan. Another thing to say when looking at a kitchen or patio: “This will be great for entertaining” followed by “we do a lot of entertaining.”

Sheila: But we really don’t do much entertaining with Joe working nights.

Producer: Do you ever eat dinner with your mom?

Sheila: Every night.

Producer: That’s a lot of entertaining. And if you can’t think of anything else, you can always say, “It’s a little small” or “Needs to be updated.”

Joe: But what if that’s not true?

Producer: It’s always true. You can never have a house that’s too big or that doesn’t need updating. What is the number one, most important thing you’ll be looking for in a house?

Sheila: A big private master bathroom that we don’t have to share with anyone.

Producer: Great. We’ll tell everyone you really want a big backyard.

Joe: But we don’t. I hate mowing.

Producer: This is to fool America. Lately, they’ve gotten pretty good at guessing which homes people buy and quite frankly, they’re losing interest. So we put a little red herring out there to make it trickier. They think you’re going to choose the house with the biggest backyard, then bam! You actually end up with the big fat master bath. See how it works? Lastly, remember you are on television, and you are essentially performers.

(He gazes at Sheila for a minute)

You’ll want to dress nice. Maybe something lowcut. Also, do you have any slutty friends that might want to be on tv, I mean, could help you in your house hunting?

Sheila: No.

Joe: What about Gayle? Remember that one time--

(Joe is cut off by Sheila’s icy glare.)

Joe: Okay, so, what about me? Should I wear a sports jacket, maybe a tie?

Producer: Nah, you won’t matter. Everyone knows it’s the woman who picks out the house. Besides, by the time we’re done editing, you’re going to look like a doofus anyway.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Country Living

The nice thing about the long, cold, wet winter is the limited availability of yardwork. Since we both work out of the house, we sit cooped up inside all day leading to scintillating lunchtime conversation:

“Anything in the news today?” St. Pauli Girl will ask.
“Nope. Anything new on Facebook?”

Then we stare at each other until dinner when we repeat the conversation. Every ten days or so, St. Pauli Girl will ask:

“I’m going to town, do you need anything?”
“I reckon not.”

And that has been our country living this winter. The trees did not shed their leaves here until December. Hence, while most people are thinking about planting gardens in March, we are raking leaves.

There is a long list of things I never thought I would do in my life: be an opera singer, build a car from scratch with my partner Sonny, get waterboarded, etc. Having a burn pile is somewhere in the top 100. A burn pile is where you put things that you used to throw in the dumpster in the alley behind your house. When the pile gets really big, you burn it.

Actually, it’s not even that good, because you can only burn things like leaves, tree limbs, and other natural items. No real trash. And so what do you do with your old Camaro, Trans Am, or pick-up camper top? You leave it parked in the yard where archaeologists will discover it 10,000 years from now. You might think it’s fun to laugh at country folk who leave old vehicles, appliances, tires and chainsaws scattered about the yard. But seriously-- what do you do with all that stuff when you can’t throw it away or burn it? You dump it as far away from the house as possible, out of sight. Or pay hundreds—thousands--of dollars to have it hauled off.

Prior to last week, we had only burned the burn pile once in a year. The area had been in a drought, under a burn ban for two years. One day, a nice heavy spring storm rolled through. Someone we worked with commented , “Just watch, tomorrow the whole county will go up in smoke.” And it did. You learn to take advantage of the limited time between burn bans.

(Except after we started our fire, we found out the burn ban had just been put back into effect. Country living takes getting used to.)

So over the past few weeks, we’ve groomed the yard and created a burn pile that would make any bonfire-loving Aggie proud. St. Pauli Girl decided to light it last Saturday. After spreading diesel fuel over the pile, a single match sent a raging ball of fire skyward. Armed with a garden hose, St. Pauli Girl watched nervously. A sudden gust of wind pushed smoke and flames toward the neighbors which would have been alright except for the dead oak tree standing between us and them. And I mean really dead, with long, very dry limbs hanging almost down to the ground. The flames nipped at the dry branches, singeing some of them. But in a matter of minutes, the flames died down and our burn became quite manageable again.

Of course I heard about this after the fact. I was busy doing much more important things like blogging or something. St. Pauli Girl said she was about to come and get me, but she was afraid to leave the inferno unattended.

We spent the rest of the day feeding the fire. To help with future burns, I pulled down all of the overhanging dead tree limbs and threw them into the fire. At the end of the day, we sat and watched the last remnants burn down. As the sun set, Mr. Roo (our rooster) led the four other chickens back into the pen. Two of the chickens were still upset because they had built a nest in the burn pile. (St. Pauli Girl reported quite a symphony of squawking when she pulled them out just before the burn.)

We enjoyed the campfire smell and debated roasting hot dogs over the coals. The chickens worked their way around the yard, scratching and pecking for bugs. I marveled at this country life as if I were Mr. Douglas from “Green Acres.” I noticed Mr. Roo getting a little rambunctious as he herded the hens this way and that. Then he pounced on the brown hen, bit her neck and well, had his way with her. It lasted maybe three seconds (ladies insert your own joke here).

Ah, the ways of nature, the circle of life! (Fireside, we eventually listed every “Lion King” song we could think of.)

Then suddenly, Mr. Roo pounced on another hen and had another three second romp.

“Mr. Roo is feeling frisky,” St. Pauli Girl said.

“Well, it is Saturday night.”

A few minutes later, Mr. Roo took his third partner of the evening. Three in ten minutes! (Gentlemen insert your own joke here.) This was bordering on chicken porn; I was waiting for the inevitable hen-on-hen scene. But as darkness fell, the hens and their man wandered into the coop where I’m sure Mr. Roo had a very good night’s sleep.

So these are the things you learn living in the country: chickens actually have sex, you should burn the burn pile when you can, cut down dead tree branches hovering near the burn pile, and roosters actually have a lot of sex. Especially on Saturday night.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Golf Lesson

I opened the birthday card from St. Pauli Girl and stared at the certificate for golf lessons. “You always said you needed them, but I figured you’d never do it on your own,” she said.

Once again, foiled by my own words. She was right. But she didn’t understand my fear of lessons. Not a fear of getting worse or better, or a line of golfers laughing at me on the range. It was the scrutiny. I couldn’t handle the inspection. Kind of like my fear of doctors—I don’t dread disease or pain (well maybe just a little), it’s more that I’m worried the doctor will yell at me for my love of pepperoni pizza and extra MSG.

After spending weeks debating how to cash in the certificate and pretend like I had taken lessons, I finally got the courage to see Archie, our club pro. Archie looked me over head to toe then nodded as if my appearance alone marked me as a plus-twenty handicap. He told me to go warm up, and he’d be right out.

Ten minutes later, he came out to the range and said, “I already know what you’re doing wrong. I could see it from the pro shop.”

Great, I thought. This will be short and painless, like a trip to the dentist with no cavities (except for the hygienist gouging your gums with that poker).

Archie walked around my golf bag and looked it up and down. I’d bought it for two dollars at an estate sale several years ago. The ancient, beat-up, black leather bag had a rusty cart welded to it. The wheels barely turned, and I mostly dragged it behind me when I played. Friends referred to it as a body bag because it could probably hold a corpse or two.

“Nice antique,” Archie said. “You’d be surprised at the technological advance of golf bags since 1950.”

I pretended to ignore him while practicing my arm swing like I’d seen pros do.

“Let’s start with the 8 iron,” said Archie. He searched through the bag. “There’s no 8-iron.”

“Yeah, I lost it a couple of years ago. I can hit a fat 7 to make up for it.”

He pulled out a club and gripped it. “Hmmm.” He grabbed another and stared at the grip. “You know your grips are all on different. Some are backwards, some okay, some sideways?”


“Yeah, see they have these memory points. Who gripped these?”

I thought back to the previous summer when I locked myself in the shed with my clubs. I spent seven hours sweating and swearing, ripping off the old grips with a dull knife then sliding on the new grips through sheer brutal strength in a strange circular hopping dance around the shed.

“Um, I don’t know. Some guy. I won’t go back to him. Might ask for my money back.”

“You should get these re-gripped.” He held the 5-iron in his stance. “This one’s gripped right.”

“Five iron. Yeah, I hit that club good.”

“Let’s try the 9-iron.” He pulled it from the bag. “Wait a second. It’s different from the rest.”

“Yeah, broke the 9 iron on a tree root in January.” Since the root is technically part of a tree, I wasn’t actually lying. Although tree trunk would have been more accurate. “I found that one in the garage.”

Archie continued to take inventory of my clubs. “Different sand wedge too.”

“I think my old wedge was stolen.” And in a sense it was, since no one turned it into the pro shop after I left it near the seventh green last year.

“It’s bent too?” He held the club straight up and pointed out the curving shaft.

“No wonder my sand shots never go in!”

“This is a nice one,” he said, holding my 3 iron.

I’d found that one in the garage as well. “Bought that one. In the pro shop, I believe,” I lied.

“We don’t sell this model.”

“Oh, must have been my other country club.”

“Let’s try the driver.” He looked around for it.

“I don’t carry a driver.”

“What?” He counted the clubs. “You only have eleven clubs? Two from a garage sale? Do you know how many you’re allowed to carry?”

“Twenty or something?”

Archie looked at his watch. He took some swings while explaining, so I then hit a few 9 irons, trying to follow his instructions.

“I want you to try and not make a divot,” Archie said.

“Yeah, I’m sorry for digging graves on the driving range and course for the last four years.”

“Oh, that’s okay. I take huge divots.”

“But you don’t want me to?”


“So divots aren’t necessarily bad?”

“Yours are.”

After he gouged out a few more beaver pelts, Archie turned away from me and I saw him set the time on his watch a few minutes ahead.

“Okay, I’m going to stand behind you. Take a normal swing. When you get to the top, I’m going to grab the club and stop you to show you how far back you’re taking it.”

“Normal swing?”


I wanted to impress him, so I really reared back and let it rip. He grabbed the club, and I managed to yank him around, tossing him to the ground.

“Ow! I didn’t think you were going to swing so hard,” he said, clutching his shoulder.

I puffed out my chest. “I’ve been working out a lot.”

Once again, Archie checked his watch. There was an awkward moment of silence. I wanted Archie to like me, jabber with me when I walked into the pro shop, tell him about my great new scores after the lessons, inquire about his game, check out the sweaters and rain gear, pretend I might buy some.

I settled down into my stance, Archie still on the ground. “I’ve been thinking a lot about my equipment. Think I might buy some new clubs soon.”

Archie smiled, stood up, then slapped me on the back. “I think that’s the solution to fixing your ridiculous swing plane. Let me show you what we got.”

We walked back to the pro shop, Archie’s arm around my shoulder.