Wednesday, November 30, 2005
And a Very Merry Christmas to you, too...
5:10 pm cst
In living rooms, kitchens,
and back alleys all over the nation, people are sitting down and crafting their holiday letters. They may celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Yule, or whatever; but they all send cards, and inside
those cards are letters highlighting their achievements of the last year.
I get them. You get them. We
read them, and cringe. Every holiday letter we get is worse than the last. Cliff got a promotion. Becky got her
kitchen remodeled. Taylor got straight ‘A’s.
Madison starred in her ballet recital. Everyone has to one-up their friends
and families. If Uncle Bob got a BMW, Uncle Bill got a Mercedes; if Caitlyn got
a nose job, Meghan got breast implants and liposuction. It’s enough to make you
So I don’t write holiday letters. I don’t have any kids to brag about,
my job isn’t exactly prestigious, and my Chevy Cavalier certainly isn’t turning any heads – unless the muffler falls off tomorrow. Heck, I don’t even send Christmas cards.
There’s all that blank space on the inside, and I feel that I have to write something on there to personalize
the greeting. And that’s just… hard. Sure,
I can bang out a witty blog post five times a week, but give me two dozen cards and my mind goes all fuzzy.
Don’t get me wrong. I like getting Christmas cards. I’d like getting Chanukah cards and Kwanzaa cards, if anyone would ever send me one. They get lined up across the top of our entertainment center, and add to our festive holiday decorations. But those darn letters are in at least half of them.
You’d think, with the Internet, people would just dash off emails whenever they had something important happen in their
lives instead of waiting until the end of the year to write one big boast. I
even get one from my own mother. Like she needs to tell me again
about all of her and Dad’s illnesses. (Just kidding, Mom!)
was a wage slave worked for Cheapo Depot, I used to have to make copies of customers’ holiday letters. One year, when I actually had a minute to spare, I made up a poster to advertise the
service. I sat down at the store typewriter, and wrote my own little Christmas
letter. Then I made a copy of it, reduced it 50%, and made a poster-sized “collage”
with it and all of the holiday-themed papers we sold. Customers would see the
poster and come over to our counter to have their letters copied. But none of
them ever peered closely at my sample letter. If they had, they would have seen
that it was a total parody of the typical holiday missive. Imagine a Christmas
letter from Clark Griswold’s cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Yeah, kind of like that.
I don’t have that letter any more (or, if I do, I have no idea where it is), but I thought I’d try to recreate it for
your reading pleasure. I hope you enjoy it.
(Names and places may have been changed to protect the idiotic.)
Dear Friends and Family:
Well, another year
has gone by, and a lot has been happening at our house.
Joe-Bob’s hitch at the sewage treatment plant looked like it might turn into a permanent, full-time gig, but budget
cutbacks forced some layoffs, and one of the pink slips had his name on it. He
spent most of the summer sitting on the couch, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbons and cursing at the Brewers. This fall, he ended up fifth in line for the three jobs that opened up at the paper mill. We had to sell the El Camino to make the mobile home payments, but we picked up a really sweet Pinto from
Joe-Bob’s sister’s ex-boyfriend. There’s a two-by-four instead of a back seat,
but otherwise it runs great. Now if we could only afford to put gas in it.
This spring, little Joe-Bob Junior decided he wanted everyone to call him “Junior”, just like his idol, Dale Earnhardt
Junior. He celebrated the fact by stealing his math teacher’s car and joyriding
all over the area. But he met some real father figures in the county jail, and
learned some new skills. Let’s just say, if you ever get locked out of your house,
Junior is the one to call.
Bitsy-Sue had quite a breakout year. First her boobs done broke out,
and then her face. It seemed like every other week we were at the local Wally
World getting her a new bra and more acne medicine. But at least the boys at
school stopped pulling her braids. Now they’re all trying to look up her skirt. She says she doesn’t mind, because they aren’t that many boys in her favorite classes,
remedial typing and home economics. Looks like she’s on her way to fulfilling
her momma’s greatest dreams – becoming a really good wife for some lucky guy.
As for me, the doctor said that if I don’t lose at least 150 pounds, my asthma is never gonna improve. I don’t know what he’s getting on about. There is nothing
wrong with weighing over three hundred pounds. A lot of NFL players weigh even
more than that, and I don’t hear them yammering on about their asthma. But then
again, they aren’t 4 foot 10 inch tall women with diabetes, either. So, I guess
my New Year’s resolution will be to go on a diet. Again. I’m running out of options. I’ve done Atkins, South Beach,
Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig so far, so I guess this time it will be L.A. Weight Loss Centers. If only they made chocolate-flavored celery, I’d look just like I want to – like Pamela Anderson.
Well, I gotta wrap this up. Joe-Bob’s new
mutt “Coon Dog” is
drinking out of the Christmas tree water bowl. The microwave just dinged to say
dinner is done, so I gotta unplug it so I can plug the lamp back in so we can see what we’re eating. I hope your Christmas is full of everything you love, and next year brings as much happiness and joy as
we can only imagine in our wildest dreams.
Happy Christmas, Ya’ll!
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Next Year, We're Celebrating the Fourth of July in March.
5:14 pm cst
It’s starting already.
Thanksgiving, by law, is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It
can fall as early as November 22nd, and as late as the 28th. This
year, it was on the 24th. That’s the third out of the seven possible
days. So Thanksgiving was “early” this year.
It’s still November, which makes this fact all the more absurd.
Yes, some people have already finished their Christmas shopping. They
do it all in one fell swoop the day after Thanksgiving. But besides that, some
people have already started sending their Christmas cards.
I came in to work on the morning of the day after Thanksgiving just to receive and sort the mail. There are a few retired priests who have apartments on the top floor of this building, and they like to
be able to get their mail if they can. They are such sweet old guys that I don’t
mind popping in for a couple of hours of work, especially since I work in four-hour blocks and can spend the other two hours
that day messing around.
But when I sorted the mail last Friday, there they were. The season’s
first Christmas cards. And the fact that they had arrived on November 25th
means that they were mailed before Thanksgiving.
Now, that’s just wrong. The days leading up to Thanksgiving should be
filled with the smells of pumpkin pie (I have to bake it a day or two early since the oven will be used on the day in question
by Jay for The Turkey). They should be filled with talk of football and leaf
raking. They should be filled with browns and oranges and other fall colors. They should be filled with wonder over how much food can be crammed into one refrigerator.
They should not be filled with red and green and tinsel and signing your name over and over and over. That is what you do in the middle of December when the snow is howling at your windows and your favorite
football team is having such a pitiful season that you can’t bear to watch them lose once again. Christmas cards should not have a November postmark. There
should be some way for the Post Office to automatically reject Christmas cards that are sent too early. They could be stamped “Return to Sender. Get a Life!” The Post Office returns letters for other stupid reasons, so why not that?
But no, some people can’t seem to be able to read a calendar. November
is still autumn. Christmas is a winter holiday.
Ergo, Christmas cards should not be sent in November. But these people
seem to have their cards loaded into some sort of mailing shotgun, and they’re standing outside the Post Office waiting for
the signal to yell “PULL!” and once the little clay pigeon of Thanksgiving has flown, - BLAM! - they shoot their Christmas
missives into the atmosphere.
If I were a real U. S. Postal Service employee, and not just a lowly mailroom manager, I think I’d start stockpiling
kerosene and matches.
Because, as much as I hate having to sort and deliver the things, I won’t hide anyone’s Christmas cards until it’s
a little closer to the actual holiday.
I can’t. My refrigerator is still crammed full of food.
(Tomorrow… the dreaded Christmas Letter. I know. You can’t wait.)
Monday, November 28, 2005
Would You Make Up Your Minds Already?
5:13 pm cst
I mean, really. Is everyone still suffering from turkey hangovers,
or what? Because today has been one frustrating day. All day, I’ve had this strange sense of déjà vu. Okay, it’s
not that strange. I feel like I've been repeating myself all day because I’ve been running the same set of copies over
and over and over! Just when I think the whole mailing is ready to go, someone
comes down with another addition, which means that poor Carolyn has to retype the cover sheet again, and I have to make
425 copies of it. If anyone else tries to add a page, I’m gonna have to tell
them to just email it. Because I’m done. Well done. With a baked potato and steamed broccoli. Pass the wine.
Then there’s Mother
Nature again. This morning, she decided the weather would be very cloudy, dark,
wet, and warm. Two hours later, it was sunny and warm. Two hours after that, it got cloudy and windy. An hour later,
it was windy, raining, and cold. What’s next, lightning and 80º? I wish she’d just decide on one type of weather and get it over with.
Another thing that people
seem to be having a hard time making up their minds over is cell phone etiquette. Today
the trend seems to be towards situational ethics – that is, whatever people’s tiny little minds think they can get away with. Some people think it’s impolite to talk on a cell phone when waiting in line at a
store. Others think that is perfectly okay, but frown on people who talk on their
cell phones in a restaurant. Still others want to ban all cell phone use in public. I don’t know what Emily Post would do (except I’m sure she wouldn’t condone the sale
of WWED bracelets), but I think I have an idea. So, without further ado, here
Guide To Proper Cell Phone Etiquette.
Etiquette for Restaurants:
Your silverware is your
cue to proper cell phone usage.
If you are in a restaurant
with approximately seventeen pieces of silverware at each place setting, leave your phone in your coat pocket. It’ll be in the coat check area, so it will be nice and safe.
If the restaurant has
separate soup and dessert spoons and separate salad and entrée forks, you may keep your cell phone with you, but turn it off. If your call is that important, the caller can leave a message.
If the restaurant has
only one fork, one spoon, and one knife at each place setting, you may set your phone to vibrate.
If the restaurant has
big tubs of forks, knives, and spoons and you take whatever silverware you need, you can leave your cell phone on. But
use the caller ID, and only answer if it is your mother.
If the restaurant has
plastic utensils, talk as much as you want. And don’t worry about yelling into
your phone – you’ll need to to be heard above the screaming hordes of bratty children in the play area.
Etiquette for Stores:
This one is simple. If you are wandering around and no employee is helping you, you may leave your cell
phone on. You may even talk, as long as you cannot be heard outside a ten-foot
BUT – the moment a salesperson
approaches you, or you are having your item(s) rung up, it’s time to hang up and turn off your phone. The rest of us don’t appreciate it when you waste our time yakking and making the store employees – and
us shoppers – wait for you to finish. This is not a time to multitask, unless
you want us to multitask on you by simultaneously whacking you upside the head and kicking your ass.
Etiquette for Movie Theaters:
Act 1 – Standing in
line to get a ticket: Yak away. Who
Act 2 – Getting your
popcorn: Once you get to the front of the line, you have a choice. If you want to order your snacks, hang up the phone. If you
want to keep talking, go back to the end of the line and start over.
Act 3 – Waiting for
the movie to start: If you’re not text messaging, it’s time to put the phone
Act 4 – Previews, etc. Time to turn off your phone. If the call
is important, they’ll leave a message.
Act 5 – The Feature. Absolutely no calls should be made or received.
The only exception is if you are an emergency worker, in which case you should set your phone to vibrate, use caller
ID, and only answer once you are out of the theater.
Act 6 – Leaving the
theater. Now you can turn your phone back on.
Etiquette for the Car:
If you are driving,
base your usage on the speed of your automobile.
Parked: Yak away. Who cares.
0-15 mph: Talk, but use the hands free option.
15-30 mph: Calls should be limited to notifying your boss that you’re going to be late for work.
30-45 mph: Let your voice mail take the call.
45-60 mph: Shut up and drive!
60+ mph: Only use your phone to dial 911 to tell the emergency dispatcher that your accelerator pedal is stuck.
Well, I’m sure that
I could conceive of more guidelines, but I think that’s enough for today. I wouldn’t
want to confuse all the idiots out there that use the one free brain cell they have when they use their cell phones. Plus, I don’t want to have to repeat myself.
I’ve had to deal with that already once today.
Or was it twice? No, it was three times.
Now, could you please
pass the broccoli?
Friday, November 25, 2005
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly... Chapter 2.
11:51 am cst
Well, the big Thanksgiving
feast has been cooked and consumed. The turkey was juicy; the uber-fabulous-kicked-up
mashed potatoes were uber fabulous, the yellow beans were yummy, and the pumpkin pie turned out so well that Jay had a second
slice. There was a minor mishap involving the mistaken turning-on of a rear burner
that resulted in the destruction of the last two burner covers (and a lot of stinky burnt paint smell pervading the apartment),
but otherwise the meal went off without a hitch. Between the main course and
dessert I called Mom and Dad’s, and was happy to find out that my sister, brother-in-law, and 2½-year-old niece are visiting. We got serenaded over the phone with the ABC song and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”
(which, strangely enough, I never realized before are the same melody). I’m
going out to see them after lunch today. I can’t wait!
So, for your viewing
pleasure, here is “The Good”:
POTATO HENGE, Year 2.
(Now you get the joke, don’t you?)
Of course, cooking a meal of this magnitude involves every pot, bowl, and dish in our apartment. Some of them get used twice! And when you’re more stuffed
than the turkey and sitting on the couch watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, the last thing you want to do are the dishes. Fortunately, we have a double bowl kitchen sink and no cats, so we can leave the mess
for the next day. Or maybe after. Don’t
worry; they’ll be clean by Christmas.
Until then, here is “The Bad”:
And now, without further ado, is “The Ugly”:
THE DELUGE OF IDIOTS, or OMAX AT 6:15 AM, THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.
Yep, when I dropped Jay off, 45 minutes before the store opened – and remember, this is an office supply store
– there were already people standing outside waiting for the store to open. I
don’t know why anyone would want to be the first in the store today to get all the “great deals” OMax had in its advertising
supplement. I guess they just had to be there for the cheap surge protectors,
CD-R discs, and universal remote controls. Yeah, those are things that should
be on the top of anyone’s Christmas wish list.
The frenzy to be the first to buy a bunch of cheap crap is something that I’ll never understand. There were people out east that were actually camped out at 8:00 pm the night before so they could be the
first in the store at 5:00 am. Some people argue that they need to get those
bargains because they don’t have a lot of money to spend on Christmas gifts. Hah! The people that are that poor are working today – at Mickey D’s and Wally World
and convenience stores and the plethora of other businesses that think minimum wage is an acceptable amount to pay their employees. No, today’s shoppers are people who have been brainwashed by the giant corporate advertising
machines into believing that they must have a $17.99 Protron brand DVD player or a $99.00 diamond pendant. C’mon, people. That DVD player will be broken by January 3rd,
if it ever works at all. And that pendant is mounted in 10K gold, with a bunch
of itty-bitty diamond chips that probably aren’t even up to industrial grade. Certainly
not worth sitting around in –15º Fahrenheit wind chill before the sun even comes up weather.
Not when there’s leftover pumpkin pie in the fridge.
The sickest thing about this whole situation is that some retailers are so greedy, so anxious to lure in those holiday
shoppers and their holy dollars, that they are forcing their stores to be open on Thanksgiving Day. No, their workers don’t get to sit at home, share a wonderful meal with family and friends, and do all
the fun things that make Thanksgiving such a great day. They have to don their
smocks and trudge off to work. It makes me worry that all holidays will soon
become a thing of the past. Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day are
fast becoming just ordinary working days for a lot of Americans. I worry that
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s won’t be far behind. As kids,
we anticipated those holidays with so much excitement; we’d get off school, get to go to Grandma’s and see our cousins (or
have the whole kit and caboodle descend on our house), get presents or candy or big bowls full of black olives that my cousin
and I would devour and count the pits to see who ate the most. As adults, we
look forward to a government-mandated holiday, a day where nearly all workplaces are closed and we can kick back and relax
without the what-do-you-mean-you’re-taking-a-vacation-day guilt trip from the boss.
And the more retailers that flaunt that tradition, the more businesses will follow suit in a compete-or-lose mentality.
I hope it never happens. I never want to have to deprive a kid of his
or her olive-eating competition.
Or an adult of hearing his or her niece sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in person.
Some things should just be sacred.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
That's Monstrous... er, Monstrance. Er... Whatever.
3:53 pm cst
I was going to go on
an anti-commercialization-of-Thanksgiving rant today, but I decided to leave it until Friday, so that when ya’ll are done
fighting the Deluge Of Idiots at 5:00 am and have hidden all the gifts you bought in places that will take your children only
5.2 seconds to find, and you are relaxing in the comfy chair in front of your computer with a glass of wine and maybe a cold
turkey sandwich on white bread with iceberg lettuce and Miracle Whip (the ultimate Midwestern day-after-Thanksgiving snack),
you can read it and feel really, really guilty. Because I am going to need something
to write about as I sit here at work that morning waiting for the mail. In my
jeans and sweatshirt, praying not to sneeze or I may burst a button, wondering if pumpkin pie with Cool Whip is an acceptable
But today, I am sitting here at work babysitting a monstrance. I know
that sounds like I’m trying to keep a two-year-old holy terror under control, scooping up the toys and cookies and other detritus
that seems to spontaneously appear in a toddler’s wake. But that’s not what it
is. That would be babysitting a monster.
Or a 40-year-old football fan, if you know what I mean.
Five days ago, I didn’t have any idea what a monstrance was. But then,
one arrived in my mailroom. It came UPS.
It travels in its own big black suitcase-slash-equipment-locker that looks like something a roadie should be unloading
off a rock band’s tour bus. Its container even has a pilot case-style telescoping
handle and wheels, so I can roll it down the hallway with ease. It’s the Monstrance
It does seem like a strange name for a Catholic holy item. This one was
blessed by Pope John Paul II (which makes it the object of adulation by a whole bunch of old Catholic retired and/or unemployed
people, most of whom came to see it this morning) and is one of six traveling throughout the world. I bet it’s got a lot of stamps on its passport.
The actual monstrance is like a pedestal with a sun-shaped disk on top. This
one looks like this:
In the center of the “sun”, is the Eucharist. Us Lutherans would refer
to it as a communion wafer. But this wafer will never end up stuck to the roof
of someone’s mouth after a futile attempt to wash it down with a thimbleful of wine.
No, it sits enclosed in this funky gold centerpiece-slash-candlestick, and Catholics put it up on the altar and adore
it. At least that’s what they call it.
Eucharistic Adoration. Or, Eucharistic Exposition. You think they could choose words that are a little less apt to be misinterpreted. It sounds like they’re adoring a wafer. Or exposing Jesus’
body. I don’t know. I guess I just
don’t understand Catholicism.
Anyhoo, it’s off to Marquette, Michigan, or at least it will be once the UPS driver shows up. I requested a pickup an hour and forty-five minutes ago. And
since it’s insured for $3500, I really don’t want to just leave it here where anyone could come in and monstrance-nap it. That would be a lot to dock out of my paycheck.
But if the monstrance were stolen, at least the thief wouldn’t go hungry… for about 5.2 seconds.
Because he’s not getting any of my pumpkin pie.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
My Country For A Wax Bean!
5:03 pm cst
Ahhh, the preparation for Thanksgiving dinner.
Every year, Jay and I have Thanksgiving for two. We would go to his family’s
or my family’s home, but it would involve at least a three-hour drive (one way) since my parents have decided to spend the
holiday at my sisters. The lure of the new granddaughter is too strong, so they
go up north. And that would just be too far to drive after a huge meal, because
we’d have to come back that night in order for Jay to be fresh and rested at 6:00 am Friday for the Deluge Of Idiots, otherwise
known as the day after Thanksgiving shoppers.
So, we stay home and cook a feast for two. We started the tradition back
in 1997, when I took a part-time job at Michael’s Arts and Crafts and Jay at Toys R Us, and we both had to be at work by 6:00
am the day after Thanksgiving. What can I say?
I decided to get a head
start on the shopping this year, so I went to the local mega-super-giant grocery store last Saturday afternoon. Apparently everyone else in the zip code decided to do the same, because the place was mobbed. But I was able to find everything I needed; I found a 5½-pound turkey breast with ribs, neck, giblets,
and gravy packet. (We tried getting a “small” turkey that first year. “Small” was fourteen pounds. We couldn’t fit the leftovers
in the refrigerator.) I got baking potatoes, real butter, and sour cream for
Jay’s Uber-Fabulous-Kicked-Up-Mashed-Potatoes. I got enough potatoes that again
this year I can peel them and cut the end off and set them up on a plate on the cut ends and call it “Potato Henge”. I found the Pepperidge Farms sage and onion stuffing mix that Jay wanted… at the end
of aisle four, the mayonnaise and peanut butter aisle. Sure, that makes sense,
doesn’t it? Especially when all the other stuffing is at the other end of aisle
I got cranberry sauce – the jelly kind that you push out of the can in one piece and slice up, the kind that I always
grabbed the end piece of when I was a kid because it had the imprint of the can lid on it.
I got a can of pumpkin and a can of evaporated milk so I could bake a pumpkin pie.
I got a can of butter toffee peanuts, a bag of snack mix, and popcorn for snacking while the turkey is in the oven
and I am on the couch watching football. I got an aluminum roasting pan. I got some pralines-and-cream scented votives for the fall leaf candleholders. I got everything that I could possibly think of, because I was not going to brave
the hordes at the grocer’s again. But there was that, no matter how hard I looked,
I could not find.
Jay picks the vegetable for our Thanksgiving meal, and he usually gets Brussels sprouts. Both our families always had them when we were kids, so it just seems natural to have them now that we’re
adults. But this year, Jay said he was sprouted out. He wanted something different.
He wanted yellow beans.
Not green beans, yellow beans. The ones that are sometimes called
“wax beans”. Frozen or fresh, just not canned. We don’t eat canned vegetables. That’s cruel and unusual punishment,
both to the veggies and to our stomachs. So when I got to the frozen veg section,
I slowly and methodically went down the aisle, shelf by shelf, freezer section by freezer section, searching for a bag of
You would think, in a city of 210,000 in the great upper Midwest, where you can find chitlins and okra and lutefisk
and chorizo sausage and Strongbow and every flavor of ramen noodle under the sun, you would be able to find some yellow freakin’
beans. Beans that grow in gardens all over the state. Beans that Jay and I ate by the plateful in our childhood. But,
NO… even after checking the fresh produce section and driving over to another grocery store and then checking at the
gourmet produce and vegetable sellers (you know the kind, where a single peach can cost you $4.00), there is nowhere in this
benighted city that one can purchase yellow beans all by themselves. The closest
I found was a bag of green beans, yellow beans, and carrots all mixed together… and you know that bag will be 50% green beans,
40% carrots, and only 10% yellow beans, because God hates us and does not want us to have yellow beans for Thanksgiving. Not without growing them ourselves. And,
considering that it is November 22nd, and it is 34º Fahrenheit outside, and it is two days before Thanksgiving,
that is unlikely to happen.
So Jay is going to have to face the Deluge of Idiots with 90% fewer yellow beans than he would have liked. I’d hate to be those customers. It’s not going to be pretty.
I’ll have to remind him, when it gets rough, just to think of Potato Henge.
It worked last year.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Hoppa's Catalog Item of the Month
5:11 pm cst
P. S. (to yesterday)
10:42 am cst
After Jay read my entry last night, he asked me a question.
Jay: "Sandhill crane. Isn't that a Pokémon character?"
Me: "No. That's Charmander. Sandhill cranes don't have fire coming out of
Jay: "Oh. Okay."
Me: "But if they did, they'd sure get to Florida a lot faster. You'd be standing
outside in the fall, and suddenly you'd have to yell 'Look out! Sandhill cranes on afterburner!'
and vroooooooosh they'd streak across the sky, flames trailing out their asses."
Much hysterical laughter ensued.
Just thought I'd share.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...
8:49 pm cst
I was outside today, at about 1pm “checking the weather”, when I heard the strangest noise. It echoed around the building, and sounded either like the construction equipment down the block had backed
into a truckload of cheap Casio keyboards, or a flock of turkeys had been sucked into the air exchange system in my building.
Or both. It took a bit to realize
where the sound was coming from, but I finally looked up and the mystery was solved.
A flock of about two dozen sandhill cranes were flying south for the winter.
Sandhill cranes are pretty famous here in Wisconsin. Unfortunately,
they are famous for almost dying off. About sixty years ago, there were only
forty of them counted in Wisconsin, when there should have
been over ten thousand. But conservationists worked hard to save the species
They must have had a real tough time of it. You’d think that, with all
the wetlands in eastern Wisconsin, they’d have had a lot
of room to set up little crane households and have little crane babies. But these
birds must have been pretty dumb. Either that, or they must have all been type
A cranes, and decided to climb the crane career ladder and put off nesting until they had made it in the business world, only
to find that their biological clocks had stopped ticking, the alarm had gone off, and the works had all sprung without their
ever noticing it.
No, I go with the “bird brain” theory. Because when man started to bring
the sandhill crane back from the brink, they found out something. These cranes
had forgotten how to fly south for the winter. They had their little crane condos
in Florida, but didn’t know how to get there. And that was seriously hampering their ability to survive the winter, and we all know how rough Wisconsin winters can be. It’s not all Packer tailgating,
deer camp, or freezing your ass off standing in line in front of Office Max at 6am on the day after Thanksgiving, nosiree.
It gets cold outside; cold enough that if you go outside with wet hair, you end
up with icicle dreadlocks.
So it was encouraging to see this flock of sandhill cranes winging their way south for the winter. They were even headed in the right direction, unlike some of the Canadian geese that fly over this time
of year. It was encouraging, because they were flying all by themselves.
You see, as well as restoring their wetland summer homes, man also had to re-teach the cranes how to fly back to their
winter home. Really. In 2000, a
group called Operation Migration took an ultralight aircraft and led eleven cranes from Wisconsin
to Florida. It
took forty days. I can’t imagine sitting on my butt in an ultralight plane, with
a bunch of birds following me, for almost six weeks. Talk about that permanent flat bottomed feeling you get when you’ve been driving long distances, or as I
call it: “trucker’s tush”.
But bizarre googly-honking sounds and forgetfulness aside, it was really neat to see those sandhill cranes today. I’d never seen them before, at least not in person.
I just wondered what had delayed their departure for so long. They should
have left weeks ago. They should have seen the trees turning all orange and yellow
and red and then getting nekkid. They should have noticed that the temperatures
were dropping near or below freezing at night. They should have realized that
a few measly feathers weren’t going to protect them from turning into crane-sicles, unless those feathers were in a Land’s End down parka. And I don’t think that Land’s End makes parkas for a 37-inch long bird with an 80-inch wingspan. Not without charging extra.
No, I don’t know why they were leaving so late. Maybe they were trying
to avoid hurricane season. I mean, Florida
just got hit by Wilma on October 24th. So, I guess there was a good
reason for them to stay in Wisconsin just a little longer.
Because I know they didn’t stay for the Packer tailgating.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-ing! Time to Wake Up!
5:06 pm cst
Mother Nature is finally having a lucid day.
Unfortunately, that means she has realized that it is the middle of November, and that here in south central Wisconsin
it hadn’t snowed yet. Usually she peppers us with a dusting in early October,
just to mess with our minds. But this year, we have been having the Fall-That-Never-Ends. Up until last night, of course.
Yesterday it rained. And rained.
It was gray, it was dark, it was raw and cold. When I picked up Jay from
work, I asked him what he wanted for dinner. He read my mind: chili and corn bread twists. The perfect meal for a nasty
The weathermen predicted that the snow would start last night at about midnight, last all night, and mainly melt as
it hit the warm earth. We were told that we’d maybe have an inch of slush on
the streets for our morning commute. So, when at a quarter to eight when I looked
out the window, I could hardly believe my eyes.
It was pelting down snow like nobody’s business. The lawns were coated,
the trees were white; everything but the roads was getting a thick frosty coating. This
was snow that could have made Rudolph stay in the barn.
Mother Nature had awakened, and she had realized that it was about time to flip the switch from “Fall” to “Winter”.
It’s funny, when I think about it, that five months ago I wished for this kind of weather. Don’t believe me? Look here:
http://home.earthlink.net/~mouseywerks/mouseyblog/2005.06.01_arch.html#1118440788363. Or here: http://home.earthlink.net/~mouseywerks/mouseyblog/2005.06.01_arch.html#1119646743119. Don’t laugh, because
I know you were wishing right along with me. And now it’s here, and it sucks.
There are days that I wish I lived someplace where it was 72º and sunny every day with a light breeze and low humidity,
where it only rained at night, and where there were never any blizzards or tornadoes or mounds of wet leaves on your car in
the morning. But I did live someplace where the seasons never changed, and to
be honest I really didn’t like it that much. We Wisconsinites need the buds of
spring, the heat of summer, the colors of fall, and (yes) the snows of winter or we’re thrown out of whack. Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas just don’t feel right if they aren’t accompanied
by their traditional weather. I don’t know how the people in Australia do it.
So I shouldn’t be so upset that Mother Nature finally woke up. Snow is
nice, when you’re nice and toasty indoors where you can enjoy it, and not driving white-knuckled through the first storm of
the season worrying when the first idiot in an SUV who thinks they can drive like it’s sunny, dry, and 72º is going to turn
you into a speed bump.
I just wish the transition had been a bit more gradual.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
A Little Poetry Class...
5:06 pm cst
At the end of yesterday’s
post, I wrote the following limerick:
There once was a racer
Who gave other drivers
He drove like a jerk,
Saw the cops, went berserk,
So Jack Roush kicked
him out on his tush!
I thought it might be
nice to explain it for those of you who aren’t current with the news of NASCAR.
The ‘racer named Busch’
is Kurt Busch, who was arrested in Arizona last weekend for criminal reckless driving.
Apparently, he’s just as bad a driver off the track than on it. He nearly
rear-ended another vehicle, sped around it to avoid a crash, and blew through a stop sign.
The officer who clocked him doing 60 in a 45 mph zone had to call for backup when Busch wouldn’t pull over. When he finally did, the officers smelled alcohol on his breath.
Lucky for Kurt, their testing apparatus malfunctioned, so he wasn’t cited for drunk driving. But he was verbally abusive to the arresting officers, so his boss, Jack Roush, suspended him for the final
two races of the NASCAR season.
Kurt is leaving Roush’s
team anyway, and will be driving for Roger Penske next year, so in effect Jack fired Kurt.
His contract doesn’t allow him to race for any other team. He’s parked,
literally and figuratively. Roush Racing President Geoff Smith said, “We’re officially
retiring as Kurt Busch’s apologists, effective today.” They’d had enough of smoothing
the ripples Kurt’s behavior sent through his team, his sponsors, and the racing world.
The good part of this
whole mess (yes, there is a good part) is that Mr. Roush has hired my favorite driver to fill the seat of Kurt’s racecar for
the last two races of the season. Although Kurt won’t get any points earned by
the #97 car’s finishes, the car owner does. And he picked Kenny Wallace to drive. Kenny was in the middle of a live broadcast from the track when he was called aside
and asked to drive last weekend. The morning of the race. In a car with a seat that didn’t fit, no driver’s suit, and no practice whatsoever in the car. The rules made him start 43rd. He finished sixteenth,
in a pack of cars driven by solid performers in the series.
Way to go, Kenny. And good luck in next weekend’s race at Homestead.
Monday, November 14, 2005
A little bit of this, a little bit of that...
4:16 pm cst
Sometimes you have a lot you want to talk about, but you don’t want to inflict a 1,000-word post on the lovely fans
of your blog. So, you get a little of this and a little of that.
When a Great High Muckety-Muck thinks he deserves the biggest mailbox even though he only gets maybe
three little envelopes a week, and has his blonde “Administrative Assistant” re-re-arrange
what you just spent twenty minutes re-arranging, and then the next morning when you email everyone explaining why their mailbox
is the size it is, she rudely replies “I don’t understand” (what, you don’t read English as well as don’t know
how to use Word or Excel or Access, or the difference between replying and forwarding an email, or any other
useful secretarial skill that can be performed in the vertical position?), and when you try to explain the situation to your
boss (who you like and respect) and tell him that you were just trying to take care of it yourself because you know he has
enough headaches, and he says that even though it’s not logical, he wants you to put things back the way they were, so you
compromise and take some cheap cardboard organizing files up and segregate her and her microscopically-endowed boss’s mailboxes
so they can at least have something six inches tall.
The Spicy Tie Band:
Jay’s sister and brother-in-law’s cover band (FYI, they’re really good!). Saturday
night, they played at a bar in Middleton (okay, I guess the Township of Middleton is included in that definition… some day
I’ll write about trying to find it when it was Hare’s Town Bowl. A business should
not be able to put “Town” in their name if they are located outside of an incorporated area.
I’m just sayin’.) and we decided to go see them, even though we’re not the townie-bar types. We hadn’t seen either of them in over six years, after a bit of a falling out between Jay and Pat over
the fact that Pat was ruining Patience’s life. (Jay said he was. Pat said he wasn’t. There were harsh words exchanged that
may or may not have broken federal communications laws.) But it looks like singing
and playing guitar in front of really loud speakers, along with beer and Jell-O shots, induces some sort of familial amnesia,
because Jay and Pat are cool with each other now. And that’s fantastic, because
when Patience saw Jay Saturday night she gave him about six years worth of hugs all at the same time. It was the longest hug I’ve seen outside of a soap opera. You
know, the hugs that start on Friday and are still going strong on Monday when the show starts up again. I was worried they’d have to delay the start of the show if she didn’t let go of him soon.
Pride and Volleyball:
Jay’s younger daughter’s 7th grade volleyball team won third in their division yesterday. They came from one game down to beat the richer and bigger SMG team.
Both teams were very equal in talent, so it was quite exciting! Then we
have Jay’s elder daughter, who turned sixteen last week. We delivered her present,
a bookshelf stereo, after the volleyball game. She’d asked for a new CD player,
so she was suitably impressed to get a whole system. I don’t know how long she’ll
keep it, though, since her mom may take it away if she keeps flunking English. I
told her that it was just unacceptable for her to flunk a class in her mother tongue – and then she asked what a “mother tongue”
was. Yikes. She’s gotta buckle down
or she’ll never make it in the working world.
Although, I do know an Administrative Assistant’s job she would be qualified for…
But she’s not that kind of girl.
p.s. A Limerick for those of you who know that I'm a Kenny Wallace fan.
There once was a racer named Busch
Who gave other drivers a push.
He drove like a jerk,
Saw the cops, went berserk,
So Jack Roush kicked him out on his tush!
Friday, November 11, 2005
Vacation travelogue, Part 3 (the part with the hot tub)
5:13 pm cst
The mouseyblog was on
a break yesterday to deal with mailboxgate and a comment to take the knot out of someone’s knickers. Film at 11.
Now back to your intrepid vacationers.
We had a beautiful drive up Highway 41 (which always makes me think of Brak singing “I’m driving down Highway 40 in
my big old pick up truck”, so I guess we were driving up Highway 41 in our li’l old Cav-a-lier); the fall colors
were nearing their end, but still pretty. The weather was superb: 64 degrees, sunny and breezy. It was hard to realize that
it was November.
We found the AmericInn easily and checked into our room. Then we drove
over to the adjacent strip mall and did a little shopping. Of course, Jay had
to check out the Oshkosh Office Max. Shame on us.
We’re such bad vacationers. He visits other office supply stores; I read
and answer my work email.
Then we got some grub at the area grocery store and went back to our room to watch TV Land. Yes, we are broadcast-TV-only in our little home, so one of the treats of staying in a hotel is the free
cable. Some people spend their vacation visiting exotic locales and seeing great
operas and theater in venerable marble piles. We go to Oshkosh and watch re-runs
of The Beverly Hillbillies.
At about 8:30, we decided it was time to take advantage of this.
Mmmmmmm. Swimming pool. Mmmmmmmmmm.
When we got down there,
there was a girl sitting in the hot tub. And it was off. No bubbles, no jets, nothing but a big tub o’ hot water. So
we spent about a half-hour swimming. After she got up and left, we decided to
soak for a while ourselves. Jay found the button on the wall – the unmarked button
that I guess you had to be psychic to figure out turned on the jets – and voilà, one bubbling, soothing hot tub for two. It was fun having the whole 11-person tub to ourselves. Too bad the other girl couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. I guess for her it was a "not tub".
On Thursday, we went
to see the EAA Airventure Museum. I think I’ll save that for tomorrow’s blog
Or, in other words,
Film at 11.
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Vacation Travelogue... The Saga Continues (This is the ugly part.)
7:48 pm cst
When you left your intrepid
vacationers, we were planning an overnight trip to the fascinating metropolis of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. There, we hoped to find a nice, quiet hotel room, a pool and a hot tub, and lots of
cool airplanes. So, on Tuesday afternoon, we packed an overnight bag and went
down to our car.
But an ugly surprise
awaited us. Apparently, the Halloween idiocy wasn’t restricted to State Street. Sometime
between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon, someone thought it would be supremely funny to take a screw and drive it into
the sidewall of our right rear tire.
It was completely flat. The screw was brand new, pristine, and in at a right angle about two inches from the
tread. It was obvious that there was no way it could have gotten there accidentally.
No amount of trick driving could have resulted in that screw being there, in
that position, without a scratch on it or the tire.
Fortunately, we both
had the presence of mind not to touch the screw or the tire. We both took out
our digital cameras and took multiple photos of the vandalization. Then Jay went
back up to the apartment to have a beer. I went down to the entry to check the
phone number for our apartment management company. But before I could call them,
I ran into the manager. I took her down and showed her what had happened. She confirmed that no one in our building had ever complained about us, and I said
that no one had ever confronted us about anything we had done that upset them, so I found it highly unlikely that one of our
neighbors had deliberately punctured our tire because of a grudge.
But because the garage
is locked, accessible only by key or pass card, whoever destroyed the tire was either a neighbor, a neighbor’s friend, or
slipped into the garage as someone was driving out. The car wasn’t harmed in
any other way – like someone would break into our car to steal the factory-installed AC-Delco stereo / cassette deck, or the
dozen empty soda cans in the back seat. No other cars in the garage were damaged.
So, after calling the
police self-reporting crime number, we put on the spare tire and drove to the local Goodyear store to get new tires. And, since the vandal was so mean as to destroy one of the best tires on the car, we
ended up getting three new tires, at $100 a pop. And those were from the budget
line. The front tires were nearly bald, so they were replaced, as well as the
punctured tire. The fourth was still in fair shape, and will probably need to
be replaced in 6000-8000 miles. Woo Hoo.
We walked over to a
pet store nearby to look at the kitties, hoping that they would make us feel better. Anything
but sitting at the tire store and breathing rubber fumes for forty-five minutes.
We didn’t get to sleep
until after 2:00 am. We kept running down to the garage to make sure that the
new tires hadn’t been punctured by the same joker.
But we weren’t going
to let him (or her, but I’m sure it was a him) ruin our vacation. Oshkosh and the hot tub awaited.
Stupid Halloween drunk idiots
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Vacation, Part One (a good part)
5:19 pm cst
(By the way, isn’t it
fun to have a blog, a blog you can post to, but that no one can read? In the
last 24 hours, I’ve been able to access the mouseyblog once. Ten minutes
later, it had vanished into the ether once again. So if you’re reading this,
consider yourself lucky.)
So, our intrepid vacationers (we’ll call them Mousey and Hoppa) began their odyssey on Saturday, October 29th. Actually, Hoppa started hers at 5:00 pm on Friday.
Mousey still had a Saturday of work to get through. Which meant that Hoppa
spent Saturday frantically doing laundry, baking pumpkin muffinlets, and crocheting – yes, folks, crocheting! – her
costume. Fortunately I was able to finish them all before the party started. That’s a good thing, because Mousey’s costume was in that load of laundry, the muffinlets
were for the party, and it’s hard to dress like a hippie when you’re a few granny-squares short of a poncho.
The party was nice, although hardly anyone showed up. I feel kind of bad
for Chris and Emily, who went all-out again this year with the food and decorations and a piñata that didn’t even get whacked
once. But that was okay, because it meant everyone could get to the chocolate
fountain. Yep, all it takes to entertain a bunch of Wisconsinites is a bunch
of chocolate bars, a little oil, and a machine that melts it and mixes it and makes it flow over two inverted bowl-shaped
objects. Add a variety of dippables, a taco dip tray or two, and a cooler or
two of beer and the fun never ends. I didn’t go as far as trying to dip the black
olives into the chocolate, but I did sample the strawberries, pineapple, marshmallows, and oreo cookies.
Luckily the heavens didn’t open this year, so we stayed dry. Although
there was a bit of dizzy staggering around Third Street as we tried to spot the Big Dipper.
Note to self: Do not stargaze after several beers unless you enjoy abrupt
encounters with asphalt. Find a lawn chair first.
I was able to persuade Jay to leave at 1:30 am, so we could get home before bar time, and so we could listen to the
police scanner as the events on State Street unfolded. And as we knew would happen,
the police needed to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd. At least no cars
were torched, no trees ripped down, and no windows shattered as in previous years. But
you can’t tell a bunch of drunk college students to stop “partying”, even if their definition of “fun” includes vomiting on
the sidewalk. C’mon, I got drunk at plenty of parties during my college years,
and Jay got drunk plenty of times while he was in the Air Force. But when we
got sick, we behaved responsibly and puked in the toilet like proper citizens.
Now that we’re older, we don’t puke anymore. At least not from drinking
too much. We know our bodies, and we know how much we can drink and not waste
it by upchucking it into someone’s shrubbery.
And that’s a good thing, because I really didn’t want to see a repeat of everything I dipped in the chocolate fountain.
p.s. Jay, don’t read this. (Jay
has the barfy flu.) Oops. If you’re
this far, you probably already read it. I hope it didn’t make things worse! Sorry!
Monday, November 7, 2005
5:13 pm cst
…and everyone must have missed us terribly.
The only problem with taking your vacation (okay, it’s just one of the many problems) is that we had
to come back. And since we only took one week off, it just seemed like an extra-long
weekend. We just left, and now we’re back.
Somewhere in the interim there was a hotel and a museum and a swimming pool and a hot tub (ahhhhh, the hot tub…), but
in the whirlwind that’s been our first day back, it seems about as recent as our last swimming lesson. When we were nine. And that was three decades ago (plus some,
but let’s not go there) and we looked a lot better in a swimsuit back then.
Another problem with only taking one week off for vacation is that our co-workers decided that all the crap that we
take care of on a daily basis could just wait until we got back. So, instead
of a nice first day back where we drink coffee and chat about all the great things we did on our week off, we both ended up
working our asses off. That’s us, Jay and Linda, the ass-less wonders. If only working one’s ass off really made it disappear… because mine’s still there. Just my luck that I’m like the Klingons in Star Trek, with their spare organs. I have a superfluous ass, ready to take over my primary ass’s duties should it be injured or lost.
So, today Jay had about a million things to put away, set up, replace, label, move, realign, or otherwise finagle with. He was so busy that he barely had time enough to complain about how busy he was. Poor guy.
And me, I had three buckets of incoming mail; a death mailing to copy, fold, stuff and mail; boxes of books to deliver;
and a secretary who must think I’m Harry freakin’ Potter, because she wanted 150 letters copied, folded, and collated
on the same afternoon she placed the order. Now, copied and folded is okay, because
I have machines to do that. But collated and folded means one of them is going
to have to be done by hand. And today, that just wasn’t going to happen. Not with the static electricity zapping around this place. Sheesh. I can pick up a stack of fifteen sheets of paper by
the corner of one, and the other fourteen will stick to it. I’m surprised my
hair isn’t standing on end. And when there’s static like that, hand collating
is about as fun as rolling in broken glass.
So the travelogue that I was planning on posting here today is going to have to wait until tomorrow… or Wednesday or
Thursday or whenever the f*ck I have some spare time. It was the best of vacations;
it was the worst of vacations. Stay tuned for more details.
But don’t hold your breath for any photos of us in our swimsuits. I don’t
intend to add to the cavalcade of exposed flesh that is the Internet. You really
don’t want to see them, anyway.
Unless you’d like to see some from when we were nine.