Sunday, October 31, 2010

Haunted Silo

(In honor of Halloween and my favorite show, “Ghost Adventures,” I detail my own brush with spirits.)

In the summer of 2007, St. Pauli Girl and I took a short road trip to get away from the headaches of running a restaurant. We discovered an interesting bed and breakfast housed in an old silo in the middle of an artist colony. Arriving on a Sunday, we found the colony deserted and the restaurant beneath the silo closed. No problem; having the place to ourselves seemed much more fun and enjoyable.

We took a bottle of wine and sat on the spacious patio as the sun set and darkness gathered. The old woman who ran the place eventually wandered by.

“Enjoying your evening, are ye?” she asked, her lips moving around the pipe in her mouth. “You like the room?”

“Yes, it’s very nice,” St. Pauli Girl said.

“I suppose you’re here for the headless artist.”

“What?” I asked.

“Mmm, oh nothing.” She took a long drag on the pipe. “You like the room?”

I became suspicious. “You already asked that. What did you say about a headless artist?”

“I didn’t. You misheard. This is an artist colony. Lots of painters, sculptors and welders. Accidents happen.”

“You distinctly said ‘headless,’” I insisted.

“Ye think so? Ye best be getting the wax blasted from yer ears sir. I be locking the gate now. Enjoy the night.”

We watched as she sauntered off and slowly slammed the iron gate shut. After she locked it, she puffed on her pipe and stared at us for a long moment. Then she got in her car and drove away. It was dark by then and getting chilly so we went back to the silo room. Before going up, I glanced in the empty restaurant and noticed a desk lamp lit on the hostess stand. I didn’t remember it from before but figured it must be on a timer.

We finally went to bed and had no trouble falling asleep. About 4:00 a.m., I suddenly awoke as the overhead light came on. St. Pauli Girl slumbered away. A shiver ran down my spine. Logic took over. I figured I must not have flipped the switch completely, and it just came back on. I got up and looked at the switch. It was still in the off position! More shivers.

“No need to panic,” I thought. “Somebody’s probably coming in early to work in the restaurant and didn’t realize anyone was up here.” I crept down the stairs and looked into the restaurant. It was now completely dark; even the light on the hostess stand was now off. When I heard a loud bang in the kitchen, I ran back upstairs and dove into bed.

“What are you doing?” St. Pauli Girl asked. “Turn off the light.”

“It is off. I don’t know how it came on. Did you hear the bang downstairs?”


We lay still and quiet. Everything seemed to return to normal except for the light.

“Maybe we should get out our EVP recorders,” St. Pauli Girl said.

I went to the suitcase, pulled out the recorder and turned it on. Suddenly, we heard a lot of noises coming through the recorder.

“Wow, there’s a lot of paranormal action in here,” I said.

“Really? Can you make out anything?”

“I think it’s saying, ‘Zak.’”

“Give me that!” St. Pauli Girl ripped the EVP from my hand and held it to her ear. “This is strange. I hear, ‘French toast.’”

Then we heard a knock on the door. We dropped the EVP and stared in horror as the dead bolt slid back by itself. Slowly the door swung open. We saw a pale head floating just inside the door. He had long hair and a drawn face with sunken cheeks.

“The headless artist!” St. Pauli Girl gasped.

“Mmmm, you mean body-less,” said the ghoulish voice of the head.

“But the caretaker said headless…”

The eyebrows on the head went up and down. “Headless ghosts can’t talk. They mostly just gurgle. So when I need to talk, I use the head.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Are you familiar with Van Gogh?”

We nodded.

“Let’s just say I took bad advice from a friend who said I could be more famous than Van Gogh.”

“What do you want?” I whispered, trying to sound courageous.

“Well, this is a bed and breakfast. What do you want for breakfast?”

“It’s kind of early for us,” I said.

“I’m a ghost. I don’t do anything after sunrise.”

St. Pauli Girl and I looked at each other and shrugged. “Eggs and sausage would be nice.”

“Do I look like I can cook? Think continental, like muffins and cereal.”

“I like Cap’n Crunch. The peanut butter one, not Crunchberries,” I said.

“We don’t have Cap’n Crunch. We only have Count Chocula.”

“Cocoa Puffs?”

“Count Chocula. It’s is the same thing except scarier and not as cuckoo.”

“Okay, sounds good. Goodnight.”

“Wait a second,” St. Pauli Girl said. “I want an English muffin, lightly toasted, not too dark with orange marmalade, a dab of cream cheese, not a dollop, but a dab, then on the side I want grilled jalapenos. Fresh, not pickled. Plus some butter.”

“How about a PopTart?” the ghost head asked.

“Sounds great! Goodnight!” I said.

St. Pauli Girl leaned forward and shook her finger at the head. “Only if it’s a real Pop Tart and not an off brand. Brown sugar cinnamon.”

“Geez, sorry I asked,” said the ghost.

With a woosh, the head disappeared, the door closed and locked itself, and the light went out. St. Pauli Girl quickly went back to sleep while I stayed awake until sunrise. By the time she got up, I had packed and was ready to check out.

“I put your clothes on the foot of the bed,” I said. “Get dressed, let’s get out of here.”

“Not until we get breakfast, or at least coffee.”

I looked at her and rolled my eyes. “Fine. I’ll see what I can find.” I opened the door to go downstairs and almost tripped over the breakfast tray on the floor. It held a big pot of coffee, a bowl of Count Chocula, and a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Remembering our last room service ordeal in New Mexico, St. Pauli Girl grabbed the salmon and bagel and said with a smile, “Ghost karma.”

(Note: Okay, maybe this was embellished a bit. But the lights did mysteriously go on and off in the middle of the night, and that was pretty creepy.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rah, Rah, Sis, Boom, Distort

(Sorry, getting on the soapbox today.)

I have long believed that the internet is the greatest form of free speech and a good reason why maybe free speech should be restricted. Years ago, before there were very many websites, bulletin boards were the most popular venues for wasting time. You might sign up for a bulletin board about your favorite tv show and chat with like minded people. Way back when, just for entertainment, my friends and I would make up ridiculous posts. For example, on a golf bulletin board we would invent Ben Hogan stories (kind of like Chuck Norris myths) until finally someone would recognize us for the idiots we were and remove our posts.

Yes, that’s how boring the internet was back then, but it’s still a great place to ignore facts. I was recently made aware of a petition going around to chastise a Texas high school principal who kicked a cheerleader off the squad because she refused to cheer for the man that allegedly raped her.

The public’s initial response:
A) Egads! That’s awful! How could a man be so unfeeling about something as awful as rape? and
B) What a great illustration of how blind love is when it comes to Texans and their football!

The only problem is that the petitioner chronicles the story like it all happened in a very short time span, as if it were a one hour episode of “Law and Order,” when in reality the events transpired over a two year period and were only fully resolved this month. But to fully appreciate the situation, you must flashback to February, 2009 and take into account only the facts known during that time.

In October, 2008, the cheerleader alleged that she was raped by the football player at a party.

In January, 2009, a grand jury declined to indict the football player. (An old saying goes, “A good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”)

With no indictment, the player was allowed to continue with competitive sports, this time, the basketball team.

In February, 2009, the cheerleader refused to cheer the player’s name when he attempted free throws (a good idea unless you want him to miss).

Around this time, the cheerleader was dismissed from the cheerleading squad and sued, alleging that her free speech rights were violated. (The courts ruled in favor of the school and an appeals court affirmed the decision just this month, which put the story back in the news.)

We never learn who complained about her lack of cheering. It might have been something easy to ignore. But once you allow a cheerleader to be selective about who she will or won’t cheer for, you’ve set a precedent, and other cheerleaders will follow suit: “I’ll only cheer for my boyfriend” or “I won’t cheer for him because he cheated on me over the weekend” or “I won’t cheer for him because he won’t return my texts.”

So what should the high school principal have done? And how do you legally justify it?

If you want to petition someone, petition the DA who couldn’t get an indictment the first time around.

(Note: A second grand jury indicted the football player in November, 2009. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in October, 2010.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cash for Bonfires

I figured by now Pastor Terry Jones had returned to his day job as the star of The Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show. But no, it turns out he’s driving a brand new Hyundai as a reward for canceling his Quran burning . Yes, it’s true: a New Jersey car dealer promised the good reverend a new car if he didn’t burn the Quran.

In a nutshell: he’s getting paid for not burning the Quran..

Sign me up! I think he just single-handedly solved all property crime as well as kidnappings and extortion in the United States. Why rob a bank when you can just hold ideas hostage? And it’s mostly legal!

So I’m preparing a list of things I will not do. Car dealers, bankers, realtors, furniture salespeople, chefs, country clubs--please send me your best offer to prevent me from doing these dastardly deeds.

1. I will not commit murder. Not even attempted murder. (Okay, so I’m not setting the bar very high but you haven’t met some of my previous co-workers. Surely this is worth a hard piece of chewing gum from an old pack of baseball cards?)

2. I will not burn the Quran, the Bible, the Torah, and the Kama Sutra. (I’ve got an itchy finger on my lighter; I’m warning you. Send me a car with rich Corinthian leather seats. Send me a motorcycle, and I’ll only burn two out of four.)

3. I will not burn the Ten Commandments. (If someone can come up with a Hyundai for not burning the Quran in America, surely I can get a fleet of Bentleys out of this?)

4. I will not burn St. Pauli Girl’s Lionel Richie CD collection. This will require my utmost willpower. This deserves a house. No wait-- a villa. In the south of France.

5. I will not burn “Titanic,” “The Blind Side,” the entire Star Wars and Star Trek movie collection, “Avatar” and every musical that doesn’t involve Planet of the Apes. Netflix, please don’t send these movies to my house. They’ll just go up in smoke unless maybe someone gives me a state of the art home theater with rocking movie theater chairs and used gum on the floor. And a popcorn machine.

6. I will not burn Texas textbooks that contain references to Muslims, capitalism and condoms. I’m putting it on the line here; I could go to prison in the Republic for this. (It turns out the largest pickup truck in the world is owned by someone in the United Arab Emirates This isn’t right. Send me a bigger truck so we can right 2 wrongs.)

7. I will not burn DVDs of NFL games without the expressed written consent of the National Football League. All I ask is free tickets to all games, plus college games too. And my own marching band.

8. I will not burn “Dianetics” by L. Ron Hubbard. Any takers? Anyone?

9. I will not burn calories, birthday candles, rubber, bridges, leaves, the candle at both ends. I promise not to burn any of it for the low, low price of mansions, fast cars, yachts, cash and assorted door prizes. In short, luxury. I can be the least offensive person in the world for the right price.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


We owned our riding lawn mower a good month or so before I noticed its best feature: the beverage cup holder. I couldn’t believe Cooter didn’t point it out when he sold the mower to me. This being Texas, there’s only one beverage that belongs on a riding lawn mower. So in honor of Hank Hill, I popped open an Alamo Ale and mowed the lawn.

I can now impart words of wisdom for mowing and drinking:

1. Drink really fast. Mowing means warm weather which means . . . warm beer. To prime yourself, drink one while you fill up the gas tank. An alternative would be to invest in a koozie. Better yet, get a koozie and drink fast.

2. Don’t forget, safety first. Remember, you’re riding for two now. Beware of bushes and low hanging branches which could knock your beer off the mower.

3. Buy a cooler attachment. When shopping for a mower, look for a model that has a cooler attachment or extra space for you to attach one. The only thing worse than actually mowing the lawn is having to go back inside for more beer while mowing the lawn. The Germans have probably already dealt with this mowing/beer issue, so a German mower may be your best bet.

4. Carry a cell phone. In case you accidentally cut off your foot, you’ll need to dial 911. More importantly, if you haven’t attached a cooler, you can call your wife inside to get off her lazy butt and bring you another round.

5. Get the right size for the job. I’m not talking about horse-power, I’m talking about number of beers. For example, my two-acre yard is a 6-pack. (Half of you probably think I have a big yard, while the other half think I just drink too slow. And everyone might be right.) We all have our limits, so know yours and keep enough beer chilled for the job. Also, size matters. Obviously if you’re drinking 40’s, cut back on the number.

6. Drink what you like. Some of my mowing buddies have argued that the perfect beer pairing for mowing is a lite American lager. Not true. Remember, a riding lawn mower doesn’t require much effort. Feel free to drink a heavier beer like Guinness. (Note: Check local laws before making your purchase. In Texas, for example, the law requires that you drink only Shiner, Pearl, Lone Star or Alamo while doing yard work.)

7. Watch for back blasts. Be careful when mowing against walls, fences, trees and shrubbery. The back blast may blow dirt, leaves, grass or even locusts into your beer. Protect your beer by planning your route carefully. Or, just avoid those areas.

8. Be neighborly. If you see your neighbor mowing while you’re mowing, raise your beer and toast him. (In Texas, make sure the Pearl, Shiner, Lone Star or Alamo label is visible, to avoid legal issues.) Hopefully, he has also planned well and you don’t have to offer him one.

9. Pay attention. Just because you’re drinking fast doesn’t mean you should drive fast. If you notice that you’ve had to re-mow a few spots, slow down. If you notice that you re-mowed the same spot five times, head on in: you may have over/under estimated how many beers it takes to mow your yard.