Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not Richard Scarry, but Dick Scary

This past Sunday while waiting for St. Pauli Girl to get ready for church, I stumbled across this headline in an online newspaper:

“Pope Adds Children’s Book to Resume.”

Fantastic. It’s high time the Catholic Church got its act together and addressed the innocents it strives to protect.

Luckily, I got my hands on an advance copy of the Pope’s new book:

The Friends of Jesus

by The Pope

Greetings, Little Sheep! As the Head Shepherd, I want to take a moment and talk to you about your future with the Church.

Jesus had 12 apostles (“groupies,” you could say). Each one had traits that we still see in today’s church-goers and staff, and you will meet people very similar to them throughout your life.

To make it easier for you youngsters to understand, I’m going to call our modern-day apostles . . .

The Seven Dwarves

Dopey: Dopey is the only female in the group. The original Dopey, when traveling with Jesus around Galilee, always said annoying stuff like, “Why don’t you stop and ask for directions?” and “Did you bring enough fish and bread for everyone?”

As you will soon learn in your religion classes, a woman like Dopey is only good for being a nun or making babies. Dopeys can’t become priests. But they can be nuns which is almost as good because they get to spank children and rap their knuckles with rulers. They just can’t take it to the next level.

Remember, we should always respect women like Dopey. After all, without all the Dopeys of the world we wouldn’t have so much fun replenishing the flo… oh wait, that’s an adult joke between me and the Cardinals.

And what do you say when someone asks if women should be priests? That’s right, “Oh, that’s just ‘Dopey’!”

(Girls, you can stop reading at this point. Assuming you know how to read, ha-ha!)

Grumpy. As an apostle, Grumpy was the one who always whined, “Are we there yet?” and “Do you have to wash our feet first? I’m hungry.” Grumpy is the not-yet retired priest who is relegated to the Sunday matinee mass rather than the 10 a.m. Main Event. You’ll recognize Grumpy because he

 is still pissed off about Vatican II,
 thinks Latin is good for you (because it was good enough for him, dammit)
 won’t give up on the vintage fire and brimstone sermon.

And you’ll remember Grumpy because he yelled at you for talking in church, or chewing gum, and we all know that’s the quickest route to hell.

Happy. Happy’s the young priest at your church, fresh from seminary, learning the ropes of priesthood. He plays an important role with the youth group and is very friendly compared to Grumpy. In fact, he’ll likely offer you gum and invite you to play touch football, in which you can expect to be on the “skins” team. Don’t be afraid, little guy; he only wants to make you happy too.

Happy may invite you to go camping or to a movie and he may even give you your first taste of bourbon. (Ah yes, I remember the first time I took the youth group to the cinema, way back before I became Pope. The movie was a remake of “Shaft” starring Dale DaBone. Great flick.)

Doc. You should never be afraid of the doctor, which can also be said of your parish pastor, the senior priest who’s like a doctor, except better! He’ll probably recruit you to be an altar boy. This requires a physical exam. There may be tickling involved, a second taste of bourbon, and maybe a round of the fun game “Can You Find the Candy in My Pocket?”

Doc will probably take you out to a nice restaurant like “Between the Buns.” To earn brownie points with God, you should offer to wash Doc’s car. In tight shorts, no shirt. Lots of soap. (I digress . . . now where was I?)

Bashful. This is the apostle you should strive to be. Nothing sinks a church like loose lips. Happy, Doc and myself will forever be in your debt if you remain bashful. In fact, I can guarantee you’ll get to heaven (no matter what Grumpy says) if you keep your mouth shut. I can do that; I’m the Pope.

Judas. He’s the opposite of Bashful, and he’s on a hayride to hell. Stay away from Judas. He’s in the clutches of Satan and the Trial Lawyer’s Association, who’s always trying to extort money from me and the Church. If, like Judas, you squeal to authorities, you’ll be immediately ex-communicated from the Church. I’ll call Satan on his private line, and he’ll then personally come and possess you, making your head spin and causing you to spew vomit all over your mom and dad and Rover. You’ll wish you hadn’t said anything, and your mom and dad will have to have Doc come and exercise, I mean, exorcise you.

Vito. Vito was Jesus’s top lieutenant, kind of like the Lone Ranger’s Tonto, or better yet, Batman’s Robin. And we have a bunch of Vito’s here in the Church. Vito carries a baseball bat and a Luger. You may run into him someday when you’re trying to decide between accepting a ride from Bashful or Judas. He’s got ways to persuade you to ride with Bashful.

So remember kids, just like Jesus had his Apostles, so the modern day priest has his Dwarves. Strive to be the best little sheep you can be. Then someday, a priest may choose you from the flock, stand behind you, and guide you to heaven.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Garden of Eden or Looney Tunes?

I can’t decide if we are now living in the Amazon region or during the time of the Old Testament. With a wide array of strange-to-us wildlife and plants—snakes, birds, lizards, and monster vines--our small acreage sometimes seems like a rainforest in Brazil. But with the yard currently covered with grasshoppers/locusts, I wonder which Bible plague will visit us next. The amazing thing about the grasshoppers is authorities say they are a result of drought followed by a wet winter. And that they show up every seven years--which would seem to make the drought irrelevant to their arrival. But more importantly, authorities say there’s nothing you can do to get rid of them.

St. Pauli Girl thinks our home is also closely related to the Bible since she thinks central Texas is the Garden of Eden. “Of course it is,” I replied, “if the Garden of Eden was full of roosters, walking sticks, grasshoppers, scorpions and snakes.”

“Um, they did have snakes, remember?”

“Yes, talking snakes. At least then you could ask the snake if it was thinking about biting you,” I answered.

(Note: for the rest of this blog, grasshoppers will be referred to as locusts. Grasshoppers sound cute, like Jiminy Cricket. Except they’re not crickets, and they don’t talk.)

Recently, I got to experience the joy of mowing a lawn overrun with locusts. And what do they do when you approach with a mower? They hop! Everywhere! Over you, under you, and onto you! As I rode the lawn mower through the yard, thousands of locusts took off in crazy directions; I waved my arm in front of my face like a windshield wiper.

Our lawn mower has a nice safety feature in that if you get off the seat, the engine immediately shuts down. Another not so nice feature is that if the engine shuts down without a foot on the brake, the lawn mower backfires, like the sound of a shotgun. As I rode through the valley of locusts, inevitably one of them flew up into the leg of my shorts. Disturbed, I jumped up, which shut down the engine and backfired. I then dove to the ground trying to free the locust from my shorts.

St. Pauli Girl came running. “Are you okay? I thought you’d been shot.”

Luckily, we have six chickens and one dog that like to eat locusts. The chicken yard is totally devoid of locusts. If we could clone the chickens a few thousand times, we might have enough to rid the yard of the invaders. A few days after I mowed, we noticed a couple of odd birds running through the property. After careful inspection, we realized they were roadrunners (and this was not just because they were running, although that was a strong clue.) St. Pauli Girl did some careful research and said, “They eat bugs, locusts and …. rattlesnakes!”

This was great news. They may not clear out the locusts, but at least they would get rid of any rattlesnakes in the area. We began to worship our new feathered friends, bowing to them as they passed and chastising our dog as he tried to chase them. A few days later, I noticed an Acme moving van parked across the street. I took over a fruitcake to meet the new neighbor. He had long ears and a big snout.

“What did you say you do again?” I asked.

“I’m a genius.”

“Oh like a guru? We used to live next to a guru.”

“No, genius. Super-genius in fact.”

He was a bit smug. I came back worried and explained my fears to St. Pauli Girl. “I think a coyote moved in across the street. I think he’s after the roadrunners.”

“You think he might eat them?”

“Not at all. I’m more worried about our house getting destroyed by boulders flung from giant slingshots and the occasional stick of Acme TNT.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

For Sale: Me!

St. Pauli Girl likes to participate in an online community forum related to one of her hobbies. Let’s call it “Stratego Fans.” Recently in that forum, a woman published a thread in which she stated that her husband has been unemployed for six weeks, and they are now stressing out about the future. A few posters then offered to donate money. Then someone suggested adding a Paypal button to her thread to make it easier for people to donate. Then she complained that it was taking too long to get the money from Paypal.

How awful! I hate when strangers give me money, and I have difficulty cashing their checks. Six weeks of unemployment? Even in the best of times, that still leaves 20 more weeks of unemployment benefits. I’m sure I sound like a mean Silas Marner ogre but that’s not the case at all. I’m jealous. Strangers are giving out free money on the internet? I want my fair share!

Technology has come a long way. In the old days, you had to cut up a piece of cardboard, make a sad sign, hike out to an exit ramp by the interstate and then bake/shiver in the hot/cold weather as passersby dropped quarters in your can. Apparently now you can just put up a Paypal link on a website, clip your toenails in your cool/warm house and wait for the money to roll in. Plus you can save your best cardboard box for when you might need it for shelter.

I’ve been attending an annual golf trip for the past 25 years. Unfortunately, due to tough economic times, I will not be able to attend this year. At least that’s what I thought. But now through the beauty of technology and your generosity, I am selling sponsorships to finance this golf trip. You can choose from several sponsorship packages outlined below. Remember, no amount is too small!

The Wooden Tee Sponsorship Package
($1 to $99)

To thank my valued sponsors, I will play all six rounds of golf with no tees! Each sponsor will receive a golf tee, photo and signed certificate from me stating that the enclosed golf tee is the actual tee I would have used on a specific golf hole. Don’t worry; my golf swing is so good I don’t need to tee it up! (Note: you must also enclose postage and handling to receive the photo, certificate and tee.)

The Tom Kite Special
($100 to $499)

Send me a hat, and I will wear it for a certain number of holes:
$100 – 6 holes
$200 – 12 holes
$300 – 18 holes
$400 – All day (36 holes plus lunch and dinner)
$499 – All day, plus I’ll sleep in it!

Up to three days and nights available! Documented photo evidence will be provided to you that I wore the hat. What a great opportunity to advertise your business, yourself or just plain make me look silly.

The John Daly Package
($500 to $999)

In addition to the Wooden Tee and Tom Kite benefits, you can hang out with me, the other players and have beer and dinner with us at Hooters every night. Plus, dinner is on me! I promise to get rip-roaring drunk, lose my pants at some point and then get into a fistfight with anyone of your choosing. Then we’ll go back to the Winnebago and trash the place!

The Jimmy Johnson Sponsorship
($1000 to $4999)

I’m selling logo space on my shirts, pants, socks and shoes:
1 Sock: $1000
1 Sleeve: $1500 (or get 2 sleeves for $2500!)
Shirt back: $4000
Shirt Chest: $3000
Shirt Torso: $4999 (can also be divided into halves, quarters and/or eighths for cheaper prices. There’s a lot of space there.)

(For $6000, I will play with no shirt. No refunds if I get kicked off the course or accidentally shot by big game hunters.)

The Bob Seger “Like a Rock” Sponsorship Package

In addition to getting your logo on my golf bag, I promise to mention your name or business at every opportunity during the weekend. I guarantee to mention it at least once on every hole, in every pro shop, to every beverage cart girl, to every bag drop attendant, to every police officer, to every waiter/bartender/waitress, and at least 25 times every night when everyone is sitting around smoking cigars and drinking beer. That’s over 300 references in a four-day period! Try and get that kind of deal from a tv or radio station!

The Solid Gold Dancer Platinum Elite BlackCard Wizard Package

You will get everything in the above packages plus:
 Tournament sponsorship (well, as far as you know. I’ll have to work that around the tournament’s board of directors, namely the sole director.)

 Trophy Presentation. During the prestigious presentation of the Green Jacket and Myrtle Master’s Hat, your/company’s name/logo will be displayed in the background. You will then be offered a minute to say a few words about yourself/company and then shake the champion’s hand. I will also throw in a free cocktail.

 Admission to every clubhouse and the players’ locker room plus a nightly cocktail party on the balcony of the players’ condo. 15% discount on all tournament apparel.

 Walk inside the ropes with the players.

 I will approach up to 25 strangers at every airport along my journey and tell them what a good person/company you are. I will give them your phone number and you can even pick the relative attractiveness of who gets your phone number (scale of 1 to 10)

 I will write letters of recommendation for you, your spouse, kids and/or distant relatives to whomever they wish.

 I will remember you in my nightly prayers.

 A wax statue of you will be commissioned to be permanently displayed in the Pine Lakes Clubhouse.

 I will personally lobby the ownership of every golf course we play to rename their course in your honor. (I’m estimating a 50% success rate)

 You can have my 1997 Saturn SL1 Sedan. It’s green.

Please donate now. Only three weeks left! Operators are standing by!

(sorry, photo removed due to web crawlers spreading it around the internet)

A previous green jacket ceremony. (photo courtesy of Tony Tomanek Productions)

(Imagine your logo in the background and your opportunity to shake hands with the champion!)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Faux Vegas

Last month, St. Pauli Girl’s parents were in town, a week before they were to go to Las Vegas. Throughout the weekend, St. Pauli Girl’s mom continually pointed out how they had gotten a room at the Golden Nugget for $39 a night. She kept dropping hints that we should go as well. About the same time, we discovered a leaking pipe in the wall of the house. I suggested to St. Pauli Girl’s mom that maybe she should invite our plumber to join them as he is about to come into a lot of money.

Unfortunately, we cannot afford a vacation this summer. (This is doubly depressing because even Eduardo, St. Pauli Girl’s son, can afford to go to Las Vegas in July.) So with the July 4 weekend approaching, we decided to make the best of it and pretend we were in Las Vegas for 3 days. We would essentially re-enact a typical trip playing our favorite games and eating at our favorite restaurants.

(Note: It helps to have a good imagination and a great cook in the household. But then again, you can always order take-out.)

Before the trip, we bought several lotto scratch off tickets as prizes for the winner of each gambling session. We would also keep a running total of earnings and whoever won the most after day 3 would receive the grand prize of $42 million! (assuming the PowerBall ticket we bought won.)

Friday, July 2

1:00 p.m. Our plane arrived in Faux Vegas. We quickly checked into the Golden Nugget then headed to the Triple 7 Brewpub in Main Street Station. We recreated the sampler brew platter with a few selections of our own homebrew then had a lunch of beer battered fish and chips (homemade Parmesan fries).

2:00 p.m. Our first gambling session was at Main Street Station which is a great place to gamble because you can get free microbrews in the casino. We set up our laptops adjacent to each other on a table and played online video poker and slots while enjoying “Songs of the 70’s” weekend on the radio.

(If you have never been to a casino but you have played online games and think you have it all figured out, Vegas operators are standing by ready to give you a cheap room. If these online games were in Vegas, all of the casinos would be bankrupt in a weekend.)

We set a time limit and assumed that we were always playing 25 cent machines. Playing strictly Video Poker I managed to grind out a $20 investment into $1501.25. St. Pauli Girl took advantage of the really loose slots to rack up $2113.25. We immediately checked out of the Golden Nugget and used our winnings to score a nice room with a balcony overlooking the fountains at the Bellagio. This is easily done in Faux Vegas.

St. Pauli Girl won the first ticket which revealed…..$0.

4:00 p.m. Next came the blackjack tournament at the Las Vegas Club one of our favorite places to gamble (and it’s not because the cocktail waitresses wear cheerleading uniforms.) The online blackjack was the most real game we played all weekend. Real in that we lost. Quite a bit. We both started with $1000 with a 90-minute time limit. The session came to an abrupt end when St. Pauli Girl lost the last of her $1000 and elected not to deposit more money. With my $700 winnings, I now had a commanding lead on her for the weekend plus a scratch off ticket which revealed….. $0.

9:00 p.m. Time for dinner. We didn’t know we’d be moving to the Bellagio so we had already made our dinner plans. The biggest drawback of downtown Las Vegas is the lack of nice restaurants. So we chose Hugo’s Cellar which has some nice atmosphere and its trademarks of giving every woman a rose and fixing salads tableside. The place makes you feel like it’s 1975, but then again, everything downtown makes you feel that way.

St. Pauli Girl fixed our tableside salads followed by a bacon-wrapped filet mignon served on top of crab with a Bearnaise Sauce.

We followed that up with a quick nightcap of a 30-minute slot tournament. After realizing how loose the online slots were, I abandoned my dislike of slots in general and eked out a small victory which earned me another scratch-off card which revealed….$0.

Saturday, July 3

9:00 a.m. It was a beautiful day in Faux Vegas at the lovely Bellagio. We sat on our balcony enjoying one of our favorite Vegas pastimes: chocolate croissants and coffee. Shortly, we realized something was missing: the Bellagio fountains of course! I went down and turned on our sprinkler system and put my favorite martial music on the stereo.

12:00 p.m. Day 2 gambling kicked off with a video poker session at the Golden Gate. One of the best things about the Golden Gate is they have $3 tables so when you stick with $5 bets, you look like a whale. Thanks to a wildcard royal flush, St. Pauli Girl escaped with a win and won a scratch-off card that paid…..$0.

1:30 p.m. While we were at the Golden Gate, we had to enjoy a world famous 99 cent shrimp cocktail. (FYI: Sam’s Club sells a near replica of the cocktail sauce, but of course St. Pauli Girl made her own).

2:00 p.m. The next gambling session involved a player’s choice of slots or video poker. Having learned my lesson, I stuck mostly to slots this time. I kept a close tab on St. Pauli Girl and realized I had a nice $400 lead. She was interrupted by a phone call. To make things fair (and knowing I would win), like a World Cup soccer referee I offered her ten minutes of injury time to make up for the interruption. So with one minute to go, she proceeds to hit the biggest jackpot of the weekend, thereby earning another scratch-off card worth….$0.

4:00 p.m. Back to the blackjack tables. Once again, online blackjack treated us like real Vegas where we both dropped a total of $295.

5:00 p.m. Off to the Wine Cellar at the Rio. This has always been one of our favorite discoveries, a cozy wine bar in the basement of the Rio where they serve wine flights: a small sample of three similar wines. St. Pauli Girl put together a wine flight with what we had available. I managed to guess all three of them: “Number 1 tastes like that bottle we opened last night, Number 2 would be the Franzia boxed chardonnay and number 3--I’m guessing--is the Almaden boxed merlot, with a May 2010 vintage.”

6:00 p.m. Over to the Gold Coast which is across the street from the Rio. Next to downtown, the Gold Coast is our favorite place to play in Vegas because we always win there. Except for the time we actually stayed there. So we’re probably about even. Another slots and video poker tournament where St. Pauli Girl managed to find even looser slots and sealed another scratch-off victory worth…..$0.

7:30 p.m. Time for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Rosemary’s which is way off the strip on Sahara Ave. and pretty much the only reason we rent a car when we go to Vegas. We started off with an appetizer of Pan-fried Sweetbreads in a Creole Mustard Sauce. The main course followed with a Prosciutto Wrapped Veal Chop with Hoppin’ John, white cheddar grits, and a Creole Mustard Butter. We opted for dessert tonight: Goat Cheese Cheesecake with a Scotch Caramel Sauce.

10:00 p.m.We wrapped the evening up with another slots tournament with no prize. After two days, we had racked up over $7400 between the two of us but my earnings lead had shrunk to about $900.

Sunday, July 4

9:00 a.m. It was Sunday so that meant champagne brunch! Chocolate croissants, scrambled eggs, sausage and champagne. A great way to start the day on our balcony at the Bellagio. Unfortunately , the Bellagio fountains were closed for repairs; seems someone didn’t want to go downstairs and turn them on.

12:00 p.m. We went back downtown for the serious gambling. We started off with another video poker and slots round. The action was fast and furious but St. Pauli Girl pulled ahead late and hung on for victory: a scratch-off card worth….$0.

By this time I had also cheated and looked at the Powerball numbers. Instead of $42 million, our weekend winner would walk away with a used Powerball ticket worth…. $0.

2:00 p.m. We immediately jumped into our next blackjack tournament. Once again, it would not go the distance as St. Pauli Girl quickly dropped $1000. I managed to only lose $335 but that was good enough for a scratch-off card worth….$0.

6:00 p.m. Our final weekend dinner would be at Firefly, a tapas restaurant. We enjoyed steamed mussels with chorizo, then foccacia and four-cheese fondue followed by albondigas in a spicy sherry tomato sauce.

8:00 p.m. The last gambling event would be a video poker and slots session. With a $1200 lead, I could pretty much rest on cruise control and still win as long as St. Pauli Girl didn’t hit a jackpot. But I hit the jackpot, sealing the session win as well as the weekend earnings victory. Between the two of us, we had won $9761. The session win earned me a scratch-off card worth…$0.

Finally, the weekend earnings victory won a scratch-off card worth….$4. Yes, that’s right, the weekend finally paid off!

We spent the rest of the night outside enjoying fireworks. The great thing about living in the country is that you don’t have to go anywhere for fireworks. Any neighbor with a full can of gas, a lighter and a .45 is a show waiting to happen.

After the weekend, St. Pauli Girl talked to her mom on the phone:

Mom: Did I tell you we got rooms at the Golden Nugget for $39 a night?

St. Pauli Girl: Did I tell you we won almost $10,000 and got comped rooms at the Bellagio?

Mom: Well, you know what they say. What happens in Faux Vegas…. never really happened.