Saturday, September 28, 2013

Texan at Last

A few weeks ago as St. Pauli Girl was driving us somewhere, something finally dawned on me:

“I just realized that I've now lived in Texas longer than any other state,” I marveled.

St. Pauli Girl slammed on the brakes (luckily we were at a traffic light).  “Oh my God!  You're a Texan!”

In most states and maybe even some countries, fifteen years residence would earn at least honorary citizenship.  Not so in Texas.  Later that night, St. Pauli Girl came out for happy hour armed with a clipboard and a copy of the Texas Constitution encased in glass.

“I've been authorized by the county Constable and a guy who claims he knew someone related to Sam Houston to give you the official Texan Citizenship Exam,” she said.  “Now put your left hand on the Constitution and raise your right hand:  Do you hereby swear on this here holy piece of paper and to the Republic for which all else are jealous and on every concealed handgun in the room that you will do your  God's honest best to answer some hard falutin' questions about the motherland so help you God and Willie Nelson and Rick Perry?”

“I do,” I said then held out my hand.  “Do you need to draw blood?”

“Not yet.  Let's begin, shall we?  First, tell me something about barbecue.”

“The only real barbeque is beef ribs and brisket.  Pulled-pork is okay as a minor offering, but serving a vinegar-based sauce is a felony.”  I sat back with a smile knowing this would be a breeze.

“Good,” she said with a smile.  “In at least 10,000 words, tell me how great Texas is.”

“10,000 words?”

“Hold on a second.  No, that's just for native-born Texans.  There is no word-count minimum for foreigners.”

“Okay, let's see,  Texas is really big.  And great.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Can you expand on that?”

I thought for a minute then remembered the song by the Austin Lounge Lizards
“Our guitars are the twangiest, our guns are the ka-blangiest
Our cattle the long-horniest, our yodels the forlorniest
Our cookoffs are the chiliest, our Waylon is the Williest
Our sausage is the smokiest, our neighbors are the Okiest.”
St. Pauli Girl grimaced.  “That question may come back to haunt you.  Okay, now use 'y’all' in a sentence.”
I frowned.  Having grown up primarily in Tennessee, I had managed to banish that awful contraction from my vocabulary.  “Okay, let's see... I was feeling very sleepy and then I y’allned.”
“Not acceptable.  Repeat after me:  dinner is ready, y’all.”
I started to sweat.  “Dinner is ready...... folks.”  I tried but I couldn't do it.  “No wait: vittles is ready, folks.”
St. Pauli Girl shook her head and made notes on the clipboard.  “Who was the leading rusher on the 1973 University of Texas Longhorns football team?”
I wanted to say Earl Campbell but I thought it might be a trick question and didn't want to press my luck so I just gave her the hook'em horns sign.
“The correct answer is Roosevelt Leaks, but we will accept the hook'em sign.”
I wiped my brow.  This is really getting hard, I thought.
“Next: if we're in the grocery store and I ask you what kind of coke you want, what is your response?”
“That's easy, classic Coke.  They don't even make new Coke anymore.”
St. Pauli Girl dropped her head into her hands.  “The best response would be Dr Pepper.”
I shut my mouth.  I knew the situation was too tense to argue Coke versus pop or even soda.
“Look. You're really borderline here,” she said with a sigh.  “Lucky for you that your fifteen years of residence goes a long way with Willie and Rick, so it all comes down to this last question.”
“I'm ready,” I said as I leaned forward.
“Do you accept Ted Cruz as your personal and Texan senator?”

I guess I will never truly be a Texan.

And as a final insult, apparently I can't even write like a Texan:
Editor’s note: The correct punctuation of the contraction is  y’all, not ya’ll, and Dr Pepper, a Texas-born elixir, has no period.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Neighborhood Watch

If you follow the news at all (or maybe even if you don't), you've no doubt heard countless stories about the government keeping tabs on your emails, web surfing habits and how many times a day you go to the bathroom. As disturbing as that may be, it should come as no surprise that the government is capable of turning into a James Bond villain. And similarly, most of us have more to fear from ordinary people than super villains.

I have been working from home for twelve years now. Most of that time has been spent working in rooms without a view. However, I am now set up with an office in the front of the house and as we remodel, said office has no curtains. Hence, anything that happens outside distracts me or captures my attention. It recently occurred to me that I know way too much about the neighborhood and can tell time by what is happening outside. And because my job regularly requires me to work nights, I have quite a timeline.

I know that someone across the street works the graveyard shift leaving the house about 1:00 a.m., returning for lunch at 5:30 and then leaving again at 6:30 a.m. Shortly after, the first dogwalker passes by in the dark. After sunrise, more dogwalkers come by including the woman in the black yoga pants and her hair pulled back so tight, it wrenches a permanent scowl on her face. She is followed by an older woman walking her terrier. This woman wears one of those hunting caps with ear flaps, even in July.

At about 7:45 a.m., the high school neighbors take off to school in their cars. One next door neighbor leaves for work about the same time. I always see him because he parks his car in other people's driveways instead of his own. The father across the street leaves for work at 8:30. A hipster doofus with long blond hair makes his way to the corner 7-11 for his morning Big Gulp. He'll make a return trip in the afternoon. If it's Monday, the local grocery store catering truck delivers groceries to the retired woman across the street. On Thursdays, her cleaning lady comes at 10:00.

At 11:00, two different women jog past. Sometimes one of them will be jogging with her boyfriend in which case they race to the stop sign. He usually wins, but I bet she lets him. The afternoon is a little slower especially in the summer. A few bikers will go by including a senior citizen dressed in button down shirt, nice slacks and helmet. And he must ride for at least an hour up and down the street. The mailperson comes by at 4:00.

But I recognize everyone and can spot the door-to-door salespeople. I know which cars should be on the street, which shouldn't and make sure the cars driving too slowly keep moving on.

St. Pauli Girl and I spend most nights on the back porch for happy hour during warm weather. A few weeks ago, a thunderstorm broke out, and we were forced inside where we sat in our breakfast nook by the front door. We watched the rain and lightning while sipping on our wine. St. Pauli Girl pointed to a house across the street where a couple of teenagers embraced on the front porch. A minute later, the girl looked up and moved in for the kiss which quickly turned into a heated makeout session.

St. Pauli Girl and I whooped and cheered them on. We started to give advice which they couldn't possibly hear. The girl seemed to be the aggressor as she moved her hands under his shirt, and he stood passively with his arms barely grazing her side.

“He needs to go for the butt grab,” I said. “He's standing there like this happens to him all the time.”

“Maybe it does,” St. Pauli Girl said.

“Regardless, he needs to seize the moment.”

After another minute or so, his hands finally slid slowly down her back and pulled her tight.

“Yes! The two-handed butt grab!” I cheered.

St. Pauli Girl and I high-fived each other and applauded as the kiss finally broke up.

In short, people should worry less about the government and more about their creepy neighbors.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

That's Entertainment

I have mentioned previously that we like watching the “House Hunters”shows on HGTV. St. Pauli Girl likes to check out houses while I get a kick out of the people on it and their constant complaining about needing an open floor plan. But what really gets on my nerves now is that every couple proclaims something along the lines: “But we entertain a lot” or “we really expect to entertain a lot and that deck is too small” or “I really wish we had friends because this would be a great house to entertain in.”

I understand what they mean. They like/want to host dinner parties or plain old parties or just have friends over for drinks. Just say what you mean. As far as I know, I've never received an invitation to a night of entertainment, but that could be because I'm very boring. I've been invited to parties and dinner parties and although they have been fun, I wouldn't necessarily consider myself to have been entertained.

So in case you are not sure if you are entertaining or just having friends over:

A good rule of thumb is if you think you could charge a cover charge or guests should bring a wad of dollar bills, then yes, you can consider yourself an entertainer.

If you sing some songs, you're friends will probably smile and politely applaud. If you put out a tip jar, you're an entertainer.

If you give a ten minute monologue of jokes, it just means you waste a lot of time on the internet. If you provide a backing laugh track, you're an entertainer.

Hosting a game night is not entertainment. I'm a sore loser so if I win, I might have been entertained; if I lose, I've just wasted a night of my life. And I probably won't come back.

Cooking dinner in an open kitchen does not make you an entertainer, especially if it involves Brussels sprouts. Flipping food in a pan over massive flames, hand tossing pizza dough, and/or juggling bottles of liquor does not make you an entertainer unless you charge me $100 to sit there and watch you. And I'll probably want a refund at the end of the night.

Now that we've settled the difference between entertaining and having friends over, I would like to announce my new career: Power Broker!

We were lucky enough to watch a new show on HGTV last night called “Power Broker.” Now I'll admit we missed the first fifteen minutes of the show, but essentially the Power Broker is a guy who gives a list of homes for sale to a young couple and helps them pick an offer price. Now this may vary by state or country, but the thing that's still great about realtors is that they handle all of the contact with the seller or buyer so you don't have to.

But the Power Broker doesn't do that. He tells the buyers to make an offer and let him know what happens. When the offer isn't accepted, he tells the buyers to write an emotional letter to the sellers. After the deal is done and the contractors start remodeling the house, he stops by and takes the head contractor out to dinner.

This would be like calling myself Power Surgeon then going into the operating room and telling the real surgeons: “yeah, the appendix is somewhere down there in the gut. You might want to start with a scalpel. Good luck. Hey, who wants to go out for pizza after this?”

But why be a Power Surgeon when I can just be a Power Broker? So if you're looking to buy a house, give me a call and I will:

    • Give you a list of three houses in your price range. And they just might be somewhere in the area you want.
    • Suggest a good starting offer after examining the market and randomly picking a number out of my head.
    • Wait for you to let me know what happens with your offer
    • Tell you how stupid the sellers are when your offer is turned down.
    • Forget to tell you that you'll be on television and maybe you should take a shower and wash your hair (this would have been good advice for last night's episode)
    • Advise you to go vandalize the house as the sellers will then have to lower their price.
    • Advise you to write and record an emotional song plea to the sellers then tell you to stand on their lawn with a boombox over your head blaring the song over and over until they break down.
    • Take your contractor out to dinner.
    • Collect my fee from you including reimbursement for taking the contractor out to dinner.

The show wouldn't bother me so much if they didn't call it Power Broker. That guy's about as powerful as my cat picking out houses by deciding where to poop on the newspaper. But I guess it was easier than calling it “Some Guy Off the Street Whose Bald Head Makes Him Look Powerful and Once Bought a House so He Sort of Knows What It's Like.”