Friday, August 29, 2014

My wife's a serial flusher!

No matter when I get in the shower, my wife decides it's the perfect time to flush the toilet upstairs. For some odd reason, the water turns ice cold. How is that possible when the toilet flushes cold water? It goes against the laws of physics. These things keep me up at night.

It's probably not an issue in newer homes. But our house is old, older than Don Rickles' mother. Everything's taped together, barely hanging in there. The basement is a maze of wires, tubes, gizmos, what's-its, things I've never seen before, everything dangling from the ceiling. When an electrician comes over, says, "you're lucky to be alive," you know something ain't right. Don't even get me going about the strange orange gelatinous goo I find in the nooks and crannies. I don't know what lives down there, not sure I want to.

But I'm off topic again. Whenever the upstairs toilet flushes, I'm in for a cold shower. And my wife hits the sweet spot each time I jump in there.

Before every shower, I tell her not to flush. Warnings have been issued. Stern looks are posed, aimed, shot. Nothing seems to work. It's almost like she's secretly taking out her hidden hostilities, wreaking a quiet vengeance. Or fate hates me. Maybe I ticked off the plumbing gods in a past life. Karma can suck.

What's it gonna' take? Post-it notes everywhere? The floor's open for suggestions.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Never Drink and Write

We all know not to drink and drive. "Drunk Dialing" is another no-no; although, these days, I suppose it's called "Intoxi-Texting." Wait did I just coin a phrase? 

But I digress. Writing after having imbibed can be nearly as disastrous. Sure, no one will die from it. Except for a little bit of your soul.

Last weekend I had a few beers. Okay, okay, a few too many beers. Thought I had a great idea for my newest book, the kind that seems fantastic at the time. You know, sort of like where you dream a cool idea, dwell on it in a semi-lucid state the rest of the night, then the cold harshness of morning smacks you and you say, "what was I thinking?"

Anyway, late that night, I set out to write Chapter 12 in my latest work-in-progress (I'll never use the term "WIP." Writers like to use it, but for the longest time, I thought it stood for "Women In Prison.").

When I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, my head was implanted on the keyboard. Square key imprints were tattooed on my right temple, making me look like a cyborg or something.

Here's the first draft of Chapter 12:

"The sky opened and kkkklllllkkkklllllkkkkkllllljjj kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk (I think my head must have settled in by this point) kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkk........"

It went on for several pages.

I think major revisions are in store.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Spelunking for treasures with Mom

The good news? My mom finally decided to downsize from her house to a small apartment. Yay! No more mowing her yard and all the other upkeep. The bad news? We have three weeks to get it done and arrange an estate sale; the house sold fast. Um, boo.

A hoarder extraordinaire, my mom never threw anything out, every item worth saving. Three stories of junk crammed into every nook and cranny. Six closets of clothing. Every drawer's a junk drawer. Boxes and boxes of junk. I'm finding such "treasures" as ancient broken candy canes, buttons, needles, empty boxes, candy wrappers, useless chunks of things neither one us can identify, doll arms (she's putting these aside to donate; I'm sure the needy will appreciate doll arms), sacks and sacks of fake green Easter grass ("I'm not throwing it out; someone might buy it."), more knick-knacks than you can scream over. Let's not forget paperwork dating back to the '50's. And shoes? Can't have enough shoes (although I exist on two pair). And she claims "memories" are attached to most of this stuff.

"Mom, I found two trash bags full of old shoes crammed into the basement. Let's donate 'em."

"Oh, no! I'll have to go through them!"

"Gah. You haven't worn them in 40're not going to start now!"

"You never know..."

It's slowing down the process. Plus with her failing eyesight, I have to identify every single "jewel" we encounter. It's extremely frustrating and nerve-wracking.

All of the estate sale people were booked, except for one guy. After several extremely long visits from him, he told us he didn't have the time. Well, it's easy to figure out where his time goes. He literally spent hours chatting with us, regaling us with his life philosophy and adventures. At one point, I just walked away. Still didn't stop him. I was upstairs working while he stood by the front door, yelling up at me, continuing the one-sided conversation. Eventually, he let himself out. I think. For all I know, he's tucked away somewhere in the house still reliving his golden moments.

So...we're going to have an auction. Not ideal. But we're out of time. Yet Mom STILL won't relinquish anything. How she's going to shove three floors worth of junk into a one bedroom apartment is beyond me. Every time I suggest she put something up for sale, she counters with "No, it's valuable!" Kinda' missing the idea of a sale, I think. I've already packed up twenty boxes of "valuable" China.

Sigh. I'm trying. It's a chore keeping my anger in check, truly it is. But I empathize with my mom. It can't be easy to let things go. Someone told me moving can be as sad and stressful as losing a loved one. So I keep that in mind. I'm grasping moments to reminisce over certain items with her. I think she appreciates it. Watching her get misty, then delight over a photo of a horse she had as a teenager, I thought...yeah, okay, maybe it's worth it. Time will wait. Slow down.

But, psst...I'm secretly still throwing junk away.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ten Ways on How To Be A Great Waiter and Not Suck

During my trip (and subsequent imprisonment) in Grapevine last week, I encountered surely one of the world's worst waiters ever. Let's call him "Nelson (because that was his name)." Combative, non-communicative, just plain bad table etiquette. He mistakenly delivered baked beans instead of refried. My wife told me to let him know about it. No thanks. After the fight he put up over his bringing flour instead of corn tortillas, I didn't want things to escalate to violence. Still, he got the last word in. When he swept my plate out from under me (without asking), he dropped the knife in front of me. No apologies and he could've put my eye out!

Now I'm no waiter, never have been one, yet I do have empathy for those plying the fine trade of Waiting. And, as always, I'm here to help. Hence, Stuart's Easy School of Good Waiting for the low, low price of three $39.99 installments . Order now and you'll receive a free doily and a videocassette of Nelson in (in)action. Take notes.

1) Hairnets. If you have hair like the lunch-lady of my nightmares, hairnets are appreciated. Soup served with croutons and curly black hairs is simply not an option. Doesn't taste very good either (though if a customer is daring, he can fish the hair out and use it as floss ).

2) For God's sake, give me time to take a bite! Overzealous behavior doesn't suit the art of Waiting well. Sometimes, before I've even jammed a fork in my mouth, a tip-starved waiter will rush up, ask how everything is. And keep coming back. Again and again. It's a weird time-space conundrum. Can't comment until the food's in  me.

3) Waiters, please don't chortle at our menu decision. It doesn't exactly instill culinary confidence.

4) And do we really need to know your grandmother just passed away? When the waiter starts crying, my appetite starts dying.

5) When I ask what's good, don't respond with a generic shrug and say, "everything." I don't believe you. On the other hand, when a waiter says, "I eat next door," the honesty is appreciated, but gives me pause.

6) Don't be the invisible waiter, the guy who takes an order and vanishes into the Bermuda Triangle. When a different waiter brings out a milk carton with my waiter's visage on it, I know I'm in for a long wait.

7) Know your customers. Do I REALLY look like a guy who wants to eat the Kale platter?

8) "Oh, I see someone's hungry."  Well. When a waiter says that, I fire back, "I see someone's hungry for a tip." Of course then my meal turns into "loogie city" back in the kitchen.
9) If you're gonna' serve up witty patter, make sure it's at least borderline amusing. And don't deliver your patter like a robot. Or an accountant. Bring your material to life. When you bury your face in the order pad, reciting lines like "you say tomat-oh, I say ta-mah-to (and I know you've recited it a kazillion times before)," it makes me wanna' use the steak knife for other purposes. Bad jail-bound purposes.

10) Finally, don't overdo it. When a waiter sits down at my table, wraps an arm around me, jabs a toothpick between his teeth, and says, "You know, I'm not really a waiter...," dessert is definitely off the table.

Gang, the next time you go out to eat, recite these rules upfront to your waiter. Trust me. I'm sure they'll appreciate the advice.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Trapped Under the Dome in Grapevine, Texas

We just got back from a trip to Grapevine, Texas. My wife had a conference to attend there. I tagged along. I'd like to consider myself "arm-candy," but "arm-moss" is probably more appropriate.

Anyway, we stayed at an incredibly luxurious and excessive resort called the "Gaylord." At first it was awe-inspiring, mind-blowing. That didn't last long. After our initial night, a certain disconnect settled in. I felt removed from reality and the outside world.

The building was huge, a sprawling "biosphere" complete with man-made ponds, gardens, the whole nine yards. Hotel rooms surrounded the fake outdoors beneath the elaborately structured dome. Buildings sat within the Mother of all buildings, a sort of adult Disney World. At times I was actually fooled into believing I was outside. But I soon realized I was trapped. I felt as squirrelly as one of those characters on the TV show, "Under the Dome."

And the Gaylord resort seemed designed to trap people, a nefarious ploy to make prisoners spend money. It's set within a giant compound, two miles from the nearest road. Walking anywhere in Texas heat was out of the question. And parking was seventeen bucks a day (unless you wanted valet parking, then you're looking at 25 dollars). So you're stuck with the Gaylord's restaurants. You want a burger? Twenty bucks. A Coke (excuse me, only Pepsi products)? Five bucks. How about a lame cold-cut sandwich? Nine dollars (toss in an extra five for chips). You want fast internet? It'll cost you. And if you dare to venture outside of the prison, the exclusive Gaylord shuttle service is gonna' set you back.

The worst part? The constant country music piped in wherever you go, no doubt subliminal messages ("SPEND, SPEND, SPEND") slipped in between honky-tonk refrains. Yee-Haw! Strap on your boots, open your wallets and live in artificial decadence! Ugh. 

When my wife and I finally escaped for downtown Grapevine, it was a welcome respite. I felt like Patrick McGoohan in "The Prisoner," having finally broken away. But downtown encapsulated Texas at its finest: friendly folks, a shrine dedicated to a funeral home, antique stores, brick buildings, dry winds, and pick-'em up trucks. Not to mention the best dog-gone seafood dive in the world. Regretfully, we trudged back for one final evening at the prison compound.

I have seen the future and it is the Gaylord. A totally self-contained world full of survivalists surviving on Pepsi products and room service. The future scares me.