Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lying for Romance

Another complaint about music today. Over the weekend, while St. Pauli Girl and I were enjoying the Delilah show, Delilah played a schmaltzy Bryan Adams song for the zillionth time. I’m pretty sure his whole career path is based on providing Delilah with songs people want to dedicate to each other. But I was struck by the lyrics in his big hit “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” which include:

“I’d fight for you, I’d lie for you, I’d walk the wire for you, I’d die for you….”

Lie for you? That’s not setting the bar very high. As a friend once said, “I’d lie for 95% of the women walking down the street. And I’d stretch the truth for the other 5%.”

So I’m trying to imagine what it would be like for a guy to profess his love like that on say the third or fourth date:

Bryan: I just want you to know exactly how I feel. I’d fight for you, I’d lie for you, I’d…

Woman: What? Lie?

Bryan: No wait! I’m not done. I’d walk the wire for you.

Woman: What wire? You’d join the circus?

Bryan: No, I think it means I’d be a lineman for the county for you or come and get you if you were stranded up on a power line. But even more: I’d die for you too. How about that? Hmm?

Woman: But you just said you’d lie. So if you lie, why would I believe that?

Bryan: Not to you. I’d lie for you. I’d never lie to you.

Woman: What’s that supposed to mean?

Bryan: Say we’re driving through downtown Phoenix, and we get pulled over. I’d tell the police that you’re a U.S. citizen.

Woman: But I am a citizen.

Bryan: But they don’t know that.

Woman: Try again, Stephen Hawking.

Bryan: Alright, alright. Maybe some outlaws have me chained to a wall in a basement somewhere and are using branding irons on me to find out where you are. I wouldn’t tell them.

Woman: That’s not lying, you’re just holding out.

Bryan: Okay, so I break down and tell them you’re in Omaha or Yonkers or something. Now that’s lying.

Woman: Well, why are they looking for me?

Bryan: Jesus Christ! Does it matter?

Woman: What if it’s because you kidnapped me and have me buried alive in a hole somewhere? I think I’d want you to tell the truth.

Bryan: Okay. Let’s say you park in a handicap space because you’re in a hurry. Someone hassles you about it, and you say that you are legally blind. Which you aren’t. I would go along with it. Lie.

Woman: But I wouldn’t do that.

Bryan: Of course not. But if you did, I’d be there for you and take your arm and guide you through the store.

Woman: You know, I’m just not getting into this whole lying for me thing. And didn’t your online profile say that you were 6’1” and 180 pounds?

Bryan: I was. Once.

Woman: Really?

Bryan: When I was 15. But see, I’m not lying to you right now, am I?

Woman: Seems like you make the leap pretty easily.

Bryan: Well, forget about that anyway. That’s small potatoes. I’d fight for you, Remember? I’d die for you!

Woman: So if some hulking biker pinches me on the butt, you’d fight him for me?

Bryan: Absolutely.

Woman: And if he pulled a gun, you’d die for me?

Bryan: Yes! Now that’s what I’m talking about--real-life situations.

Woman: I’m going to have to think about this. The fighting and dying is nice, but you really undercut that with the lying.

Bryan: What if I said I was a rock star worth $80 million?

Woman: If you were a rock star millionaire? Of course I’d fight for you, lie for you, and die for you.

End of argument. I guess it all works out in the end. But I’m still pretty underwhelmed by the lyrics. I can even imagine the producer in the studio trying to talk Bryan Adams out of it:

Producer: The lying just doesn’t fit with fighting and dying.

Bryan: It rhymes.

Producer: Well sure, but couldn’t you try a little harder? How about: I’d lie in a grave for you, I’d dye my hair for you, I’d make lye soap for you, I’d play the lyre for you, I’d bake a pie for you, I won’t ask why for you, I’d drink rye for you, I’d make a mai tai for you?

Bryan: Nah. Just doesn’t work.

Producer: I know this singer song/writer Steve Miller. He once brilliantly rhymed “taxes” with “facts is.” How ‘bout I give him a call?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Snakes 101

Last month, in our quest to leave town, we met our neighbor who would take care of our dogs and chickens while we were gone. He had known the previous owner who also had chickens. He happily pointed out that the chicken eggs attracted a lot of snakes. “Really big snakes,” he said as he held his hands out as wide as possible. That information is of limited use because I really don’t care how big they are.

There are four kinds of snakes in the world:

1. Harmless
2. Venomous (and deadly)
3. The kind that squeeze you to death
4. Movie snakes (the kind that swallow you whole)

So I am much more interested in if the really big snakes are type 1 or type 2 from above. (I’m not worried about type 3 or 4 as I don’t think they are indigenous to this area.)

Time went on and despite being on high alert, we failed to see any big snakes around. Little did we realize that we were building an elegant snake mansion in our chicken yard with our burn pile. In a previous blog, I mentioned that we learned we should burn our burn pile as often as possible as you never know when a two-year drought will start. That lesson didn’t really stick with us and after spending several weeks pruning the yard, the burn pile was now about 9 feet high and filled with branches, leaves, debris and some old wood. Needless to say, these are the preferred building blocks of a snake den.

Another problem with the burn pile was that one of the chickens had built a nest in it and usually camped out there daily to deliver an egg. St. Pauli Girl had to reach deep into the burn pile to retrieve it. One day as she reached in, she noticed some red eyes staring back at her. Yes, it was a snake that was now annoyed that she had taken away his Grand Slam breakfast.

St. Pauli Girl was unfazed when she reported back to me.

“Was it a rattlesnake?” I asked.

“I don’t think so.”

“How do you know?”

“It just didn’t seem like one.”

“Was there a rattling sound?” I asked while stroking my chin like a wise deep thinker.


“Whew, probably a rat snake,” I said.

We burned the burn pile the next day, all the while casting a weary eye for any flaming snakes that might come darting out. I would hate to be confronted by a burning rattlesnake. After that, I decided I needed to better educate myself about local snakes.

Turns out that the two snakes to be most worried about are the rattlesnake and the coral snake. The big difference (besides the rattle) is that the rattlesnake’s bite with its long fangs is more like a vaccination (except deadlier) while the coral snake’s bite is more like a root canal (except deadlier). The coral snake has smaller teeth and has to gnaw on you quite a bit to inject enough venom to kill you.

The bigger problem is that several snakes look like the coral snake with its red and yellow bands around a black body. Being able to identify it might save your life. This is especially true because the anti-venin is no longer produced.

So I enrolled in a snake class:

Teacher: The best way to remember the coral snake is “red on yellow will kill a fellow.” That means if the red and yellow bands are adjacent, it’s a coral snake.

Me: Great! Makes perfect sense.

Teacher: Or if you’re an optimist, there’s “red on black, friend of Jack.”

Student #2: But what if your name is not Jack?

Teacher: Try “red on black, venom lack.”

Student #3: Hmmm. I was taught “red on black, pat it on the back.”

Teacher: Legally, I can’t comment on that one. I would advise not touching the snake if you’re not sure what it is.

Student #4: What about “red on yellow makes you mellow”?

Teacher: Good one. Now that’s true, but it kind of underestimates the situation.

Student #2: Uh-uh. “Yellow on red makes you dead.”

Teacher: Nice!

Student #3: “Yellow on red, something to dread.”

Student #4: “Yellow on red, the encyclopedia you’ll wish you’d read.”

Student #2: “Red on yellow, call Dr. Bellows.”

Student #3: “Red on yellow, don’t say hello.”

Student #4: “Read on yellow, makes you yell ‘Ow!’”

Student #2: “Red on black, call Kojak.”

Me: Wait a second…

Student #3: Black on red, no need to have fled.

Teacher: Okay, I think ya’ll have got the hang of it.

Me: Red on yellow, set it on fire.

Teacher: What?

Me: I’m assuming it’s in our burn pile.

At final exam time, I was called to the front of the class. The teacher asked me how to identify a coral snake. The other students rolled their eyes that I was getting off with such an easy question. But as I looked around, all of the rhymes popped into my head at once. I panicked as I looked into the other students' faces. There were so many rhymes, they all ran together, and I couldn’t remember which colors were good.

Finally I said, “If it’s been gnawing on me, I’m headed to the M.D.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Where Have You Gone, Billy Mack?

Every Friday afternoon a local radio station kicks off the weekend with its “Songs of the 70’s” tribute that lasts until Sunday night. St. Pauli Girl usually has it cranked throughout the house all weekend. This is fine; I don’t mind. I now find K.C. and the Sunshine Band very amusing and you can never get enough “MacArthur Park” in one weekend. (Sadly, I have discovered that the entire decade of the 70’s consisted of only 50 songs.) But it makes St. Pauli Girl happy, and when she’s happy, everyone wins!

Inevitably, we get to hear the Steve Miller Band’s song “Take the Money and Run” at least twice a weekend. This song bugs me beyond belief. And it’s not that I have animosity towards Steve Miller or think he’s just some party boy scoring big with the groupies. It’s because it’s the most incomplete song in the history of the universe. Every time I hear it, the unfinished lyrics drive me crazy. Why did he do this? Why? Why? Why?

So let me sum up the song as the verses go (or see for yourself):

Billy Joe and Bobby Sue like to get high and watch tv
So they went to El Paso and shot a man while robbing his castle
Billy Mack is a detective who won’t let them escape justice
Bobby Sue slipped away, Billy Joe caught up and they got away

Scintillating. Okay, what happened to Billy Mack? Why do we even meet him? Bobby Sue slipped away? How exactly? Billy Joe caught up? How? Where? Was Billy Mack on their trail? Did he even try to catch them or was it just an empty promise?

Every time I hear this song I have to wonder what was going through Steve Miller’s head. I mean, surely he left off a verse or two. A producer must have cut out half the song to make it more radio-friendly. Or maybe Steve just ran out of rhymes. I can only guess that rhyming “facts is” with “taxes” took everything he had.

At any rate, I’ve come up with some Unfinished Song Theory scenarios:

Steve Miller: I got this great idea for a song. It has rhymes like “hassle” and “castle.”

Producer: I got it! Throw in “El Paso” and you have a hit.

Steve Miller: I also got “Texas,” “facts is,” and “taxes.”

Producer: Whoa dude! Stop while you’re ahead! Let’s go smoke a doobie.

Steve Miller: I got this great idea for a song. It’s about these kids on a quest to get money. Kind of like “The Illiad.” I’ll turn it into a whole concept album. It includes this character named Billy Mack who’s straight out of Jason and the Argonauts. It’s a little long, kind of like “MacArthur Park” except interesting.

Producer: Hmm. Tell you what: you record it, and after we smoke a doobie or two I’ll remix it to make it radio-friendly.

Another theory is that Steve Miller was so high while recording it that the producer waved a twinkie in front of him so Steve thought he’d better wrap up the song before the twinkie got away. (This would also explain the “Aooogggaaa!” during the fade-out.)
It’s like rewriting the “Star Spangled Banner” to:

Oh say can you see
Yep, the flag’s still there.

Maybe he had a crazy old uncle who told him a story about some hijinks from 1935:

“So Bobby Sue, who’s a looker, grabbed the cash. Then Billy Joe shot Boyd. Right between the eyes. They say his eyes turned back in his head watching the bullet go through his brain. Then they skedaddled. But my best friend Billy Mack was hot on their trail. He had a big ol’ magnifying glass, fingerprint dust and a hound’s nose. He swore he’d catch those young thievin’ hippie drugged out kids. Yep.”

“Then what happened Uncle Stan?”

“They got away.”

“That’s it?”

“Who wants blueberry pie?”

Maybe it was a really bad incomplete joke:

Joker: Knock, knock.

Guest: Who’s there?

Joker: Ken I come in, it’s freezing out here.

Guest: Ken I come in, it’s freezing out here who?

Joker: No wait. What?

Depending on your point of view, we should be happy Steve Miller wasn’t a novelist. If you’re a student who has to do book reports, then maybe you wish he had written a novel:

Student: Today’s book report is “The Da Vinci Code” by Steve Miller. Some dude gets whacked in an El Paso museum. So Robert Langdon has to go catch the killer. Then there’s this hot police cryptographer chick named Bobby Sue who swears she’s going to get justice. And Robert catches the killer in the end. It’s a great book; it’s like five pages. With big print! I listened to the audio version during a commercial for Sponge Bob Squarepants.”

Perhaps I’ll never know the story behind the song. (Okay, one final complaint: was rhyming “El Paso” with “hassle” really that important? Because they end up singing “oooh, old, El Paso” to fill in the line when they could have just sung “Waxahachie.”) But just know that at least three times this weekend I’ll be wondering what the hell ever happened to Billy Mack and how exactly did Bobbie Sue slip away?

And I have one last thought about Steve Miller…..

Yeah, he had that coming.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Comrades in Arms

An Open Letter from Texas to the State of Tennessee

Dear Tennesseeans:

First, as always, thanks for sending Davy Crockett our way where he died a hero defending the Great Republic and the steady sales of his trademark coonskin caps keeps our economy humming along better than just about any other state right now. At least that’s what our governor tells us.

In an earlier blog, I wrote that it was illegal to carry firearms into Texas establishments that serve food and alcohol. An alert reader set me straight: it is only illegal to carry unlicensed firearms into said establishments. That is much to my relief: for a minute there I thought Tennessee was more progressive on guns than Texas.

Given its landmark legislation permitting guns in restaurants and bars, I’d like to formally welcome Tennessee to the future as we enjoy it in the Great Republic. Here in the 19th century you can relive the golden saloon years when men were men and women would ask “Is that a 44 magnum in your pocket?” and mean it.

I salute the forward-thinking Volunteer State for solving a plague that still grips the rest of the nation: the fear of being shot every time you go out to eat. Tennessee, you will soon feel an economic boon in your state because:

1. Many gun owners refused to eat out without their guns
2. Many people refused to eat out for fear of being badly shot in restaurants by unlicensed gun owners

Now the citizens of Tennessee can relax in their favorite restaurant knowing that if the kid at the next table spills his Dr Pepper, plenty of patrons packing heat are there to quell the disturbance. Screaming babies will never be a problem again.

This is also good news for those looking for comps. When you tell the manager that the soup you licked clean from the bowl was actually cold, he’d better be forthcoming with a freebie or he’ll have to talk to your pardners, Smith and Wesson. No more waiting in long lines at the bar either--a shot at the chandelier will grab the bartender’s attention.

It’s also great to see the return of the statesman to politics:

"I ask that you ... give the law-biting citizens of this state a right to protect themselves," said Republican House sponsor Curry Todd of Collierville.

First, “Curry Todd” is a great name that sounds straight out of Abilene. Second, “Law-biting citizens” works on so many levels. It’s possible Todd was just trying on a Texas drawl by shortening “law abiding” to “law ‘biding” and he just got misquoted. But the idea of citizens carrying handguns certainly has a “law-biting” feel to it, doesn’t it? We may never know what he truly said, but I nominate “law-biting citizens” for a marble inscription at the state capitol.

Yes, thank God Tenneseeans and Texans have seen the light. It’s high time we stop discriminating against the good folks who wish to bear arms. Carrying a gun should not be illegal. Shooting at people for no good reason should be illegal. Shooting at people who are shooting at you should not be illegal. And doing it in a restaurant or bar should make no difference. And let’s face it, a basket of chips and a round of margaritas just makes it more fun.

Your Comrades in Arms,

The Great Republic

P.S. Can we interest you in some textbooks?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Peace On Our Fairways

Tiger Woods never had to win a tournament with a Mississippi kite flying up his back on every shot. Granted, his caddie probably would have dismembered any bird violating Tiger’s airspace. But for the average Texas golfer (and other southwest territories), it can mean the difference between shooting a 105 and a 107 or getting 108 stitches on your head.

Mississippi kites are grey with beady red eyes and sharp talons, and they are about the size of a DC-10. At least they look that big when they swoop down on you. Hence, many Texas golfers spend May through July walking around with a driver or a bazooka on his/her shoulder to ward off attacks. Usually, they just swoop up your back as you lean over to take a shot, but last year I was hit in the side of the head twice by attacking kites. Apparently they think we’re going to climb the trees and eat their young. So every time a bird shadow appeared on the ground, I ran screaming with my hands covering my head.

I’ve never personally met anyone who has needed medical attention after an attack, but I have heard many bloody horror stories from people that knew friends of friends who had to get stitches. So one sunny afternoon as they circled overhead, I decided I had had enough. It was time to make peace with the kites. In the hopes of freeing tormented golfers everywhere, I scheduled an appointment with the Chief Kite at Hillsdale Country Club.

I stood beneath an elm tree on the 7th fairway at the club where I had been tormented many times by these winged beasts. With my golf bag on my back, I usually sprinted from the ladies’ tee to my ball where I would hit the next shot like a polo player. And still, the kites managed to harass me. I should have known the Chief Kite resided here.

When my watch showed noon, I dropped my cigarette and climbed the tree. Huffing and puffing after fifteen feet, I managed to enter the nest which was actually more like a kid’s tree house: old plywood supported by some two-by-fours and a sagging roof. Dark teak wood paneling decorated the inside along with a few portraits of famous kites or perhaps family members. Not much of a club for kids but it was a nice palace for the kites.

Two kites escorted me to the main room where the sun shone through a hole in the ceiling into a perfectly sculpted bird’s nest. A real throne. Suddenly, the room grew dark as the Chief Kite descended through the hole and landed squarely in the nest. I marveled at his size; I didn’t think Floyd Mayweather could take him even on a good day.

I reached out my hand and the sudden squawking made me realize I had committed a faux pas. I slapped myself on the head. Of course birds don’t shake hands. The Chief Kite extended his wings and shook them while keeping his body still. I did the same with my arms. The kites stared at each other.

“What are you doing?” asked the Chief in a deep, foreboding voice.

“Um, introducing myself?”

“Very well. Please speak your wishes.”

I sighed and summoned courage from my soul while looking into his razor sharp red eyes. “I’ve come to make peace.”


“Yes, I’d like to ask you and your flock to stop dive bombing us while we play our game.”

“So you can eat our young and steal our nests?”

“No. I mean this is a nice nest and all, and I love the pictures in the main hall, but we have no interest in you. Can’t we all just get along?”

“Out of the question. We are all about family values. Intruders must pay the price.”

A lesser negotiator would have backed out of the nest by now, but I was ready. “You do realize you are on the government’s protected species list.”

The kites guffawed, flapped their wings and laughed uproariously. “Surely you have heard the joke about the man who says, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.’”

He had me there.

“Tell me human, how many of your breed has been harmed by my kind?”

“A lot. I’ve heard many stories. I know one guy who got fifty-seven stitches after an attack.”

“A friend of yours?”

“No, not really. Maybe more like a legend. I mean, a guy I played with told me about him. His cousin’s friend or something.”

“I see.” The Chief Kite nodded and gave me a little smirk with his beak. I was stunned a bird could smirk.

I said, “Riddle me this, Chief. How many humans have actually attacked your nests?”

“That’s hard to say.”

“Ha! I knew it! You don’t have an answer either.”

“Generally when we see guns, we don’t hang around to generate statistics.”

I thought it best to change the subject. “Look, we just want to play a little golf. That’s not asking too much.”

“What is this golf?”

“It’s what we do around here. Spanking that little white ball around.”

“Yes, spanking it right through our nests. Do you know how many times I’ve had to replace that hall window?”

“That’s what you get for building on a golf course. Buyer beware. That’ll stand up in court.”

He covered his beak with his wing. I had him on his heels, hind talons, whatever.

“You say that you spank a ball? A white, round thing?”

“Yes. Doesn’t harm anyone or anything.”

The kites huddled together. They squawked and chirped for a minute until the Chief silenced them. “We have always believed that you were poaching the eggs of our winged brethren. Smashing them around in some sort of victory march.”

I laughed. Finally, some understanding. I knew I was on the precipice of peace.

“Prove it,” said the Chief.

“Come again?”

“Show us this ball. Prove to me it is not an egg.”

I ran my hands through my pockets. Empty. “I don’t have one with me.”

“Aha!” shouted one of his minions.

I was so close. I had to think fast. Suddenly, we heard a crash and a thump. I thought the nest had been hit by an ICBM.

“One of your pals playing this . . . game,” the Chief said.

He pointed down at the golf ball that bounced through the nest and landed in the rough next to the tree. A minute later, Bernie Sanders, dressed in red shirt, lime-green pants and giant straw Tom Kite hat ambled up next to the tree.

“There’s your answer!” I shouted. “Get that ball and check it out.”

The Chief himself took off through the roof and circled high above the tree. He went into the sun blinding my vision, then dove straight down. As the Chief swooped up Bernie’s back, Bernie leaped forward then dropped to the ground losing his hat in the process.

I could see the guard kites in the nest covering their beaks to stifle a laugh. I tried but a second later we were all laughing and giggling like children. Meanwhile, the Chief came back around and plucked Bernie’s ball from the ground with his beak.

Bernie ranted and raved then threw a club at the tree. As his partners came up, he demanded a free drop.

The Chief landed back in the nest and set the ball down. The other kites passed it around in their beaks trying to break it open. I gasped, remembering how easily my golf balls cut every time they bounced on a cart path. Then I saw the line of “XXXX” on the ball and breathed a sigh of relief. The kites could not break it.

“This is certainly no egg I am familiar with,” said the Chief.

“Because it isn’t,” I replied. “So what do you say? Peace?”

The Chief pondered a long moment. “You have given me much to think about. I suppose we could be a little more lenient.”

I smiled and rejoiced deep inside.

“However, if one of these rock eggs comes in or near a nest, all bets are off.”

Not a landmark deal, but I could live with it.

For the rest of the summer, I played the course undisturbed. Maybe they believed in the deal. Maybe they respected me. Maybe I hit a lot of worm-burners.

But in mid-September, I stood in the middle of the seventh fairway trying for the par five green in two. As I settled into my stance, I heard and felt the unmistakable whoosh of a kite flying up my back. Annoyed, I dropped my club and looked up toward the large shadow. It belonged to the Chief. He dipped his wing slightly almost like a wave. Then he disappeared into the horizon, heading south for the winter.