Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Six Million Dollar Man

It's all over but the crying. Who can forget the bionic man? Remember the 1973 ABC TV series 'The Six Million Dollar Man'? "We can rebuild him - we have the technology. . . Better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster." (OK, maybe I'm dating myself here, but stay with me.) He was the ultimate man - after all six million dollars was a fortune at that time and he was the best money could buy. No evil doer could get past him. The world was a safer place.

Well, my notions were shattered this morning when, while watching Morning Joe, I saw Lee Majors (aka the 6M$M) sitting in a wing chair, selling the new "bionic" hearing aide. (Yes, I saw it with my own eyes.) What has this world come to? What have we come to? He looked old - real old. Six million dollars was not enough to bring him into the 21st century.

But I had other heroes from the 70's. The Road Runner always beat Wile E. Coyote - every time (in spite of the devilist devices from the Acme Catalog Co.) And he has aged well. Heck, he now has a lucrative career advertising for Time-Warner. Unlike Lee Majors, the Road Runner is still on top of his game. Come to think of it, I'll stick with cartoon characters as my heroes - until they start hawking walkers and wheel chairs.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I guess I am "seriously southern". When put that way, it sounds like some tropical disease. Some folks up north think it is and are very scared it is contagious. They've checked and there is no vaccine, so it is best to either ignore us or avoid us (or both). The first hint comes when we open our mouth and that slow drawl comes out. Some folks stop and say you must be from the south, and comment that they love the way we talk. Other comment that we must be from the south and leave it at that, like it is a curse that they would rather not have to deal with.

The second hint is when they ask if everyone in our family talks like we do. I often want to say something like, "No, since I'm the youngest, I have to do it." or "Well, yes it runs on my Mama's side of the family. It's a dominate gene , you know."

Then we have to go on, and explain that we (or at least most us) don't live on a plantation, never have owned slaves, and did not grow up wearing hoop skirts. (And hope they don't ask us how many times we've seen 'Gone with the Wind' - we can always lie about that one. No one wants to admit they have seen it more than twice or that they can recite the opening lines, " War, war, war. That's all you men want to talk about . . .") I digress.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Great Partnership

My Grandmother was a very strong woman. She was a typical southern woman - she could cook well (especially her coconut cake and biscuits), she could sew (she used to make me clothes for my Barbie doll), she was a big dog in her church, and most all, she knew how to handle my Granddaddy. Now, truth be told, they had a great marriage. It never bothered him that she had her own things going on in her life. She always took care of him. And although she was very involved in her church, she did not insist that he get up every Sunday morning and attend services with her. She knew better - fishing on the Pee Dee river was best early on Sunday morning, and she did not to mess with that. And, man, she knew how to "fix" those brim he brought home.

Some of the women she went to church with would question why she let him do these things. She just ignored them. They never understood. How could this strong woman, who seemed to have control of everything, not have control over her husband? After all, there were certain things that church going women just did not tolerate. Now, the husbands of these women thought my Grandmother was the best (obviously) because most of them would have liked to have been fishing on Sunday morning when they were being dragged to church. But no one asked them.

What really got these church women the most was my Granddaddy's gambling. See my Granddaddy was a world class poker player. Every Thursday night he played poker and was known for his talent at the game. There was a core group that played with him (and a group of men who played when ever they could sneak out of the house). Grandmama never had a problem with his poker playing, in fact she had more problems dealing with other women who complained about it.

One day, after my Granddaddy had died, I told her how I had always admired their relationship, how it never bothered her that he did his own thing, and how she tolerated the church women. Especially when they raised hell about his poker. She laughed and said, "Well, that was easy. See, we had a deal. Every Friday morning, at breakfast he would give me half of his winnings from the night before."

"Wow", I said.

"Yes," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "And, you know, your Granddaddy was one hell of a poker player." This was a better partnership than I ever thought.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Security Survey

I work in a secure location - no it is not undisclosed and no, I have never seen Dick Cheney around. Under the edge of my desk is what the US Marshal service refers to as a "Hold up" button. I was instructed when I first came to work, that should any incidence of danger occur, I could simply press that button and the police would quickly come to our rescue. I took great solace in this. Now this was prior to 9/11, but there was still the issue of security in this world of oddballs.

Up until 2 weeks ago, I never had to press the magic button. My life at the office was fairly mundane. No exciting stories of threats or danger to tell about. Then I allowed a breach of security. (In official terms, I permitted an unknown individual to enter our inner premises - ie I let someone in the door.)

The front door buzzed and I opened it to a find a rather large (over 6 foot tall, 350 lb) "gentleman" who immediately pushed pass me and started mumbling about his dire situation and his needs. I quickly realized that I was not going to offer him any satisfaction and therefore, he was not going to leave anytime soon. Then he told me to sit down. At that point I realized that our threat level had been elevated from orange to red. As soon as I could assure him I had his best interest in mind, I quickly called one of my co-workers in to assist me. (If I was going down, I wanted company.) Then I did what any loyal office mate would do, I politely excused myself.

Now, to be fair, I told the gentleman I was going to find someone who could help with his demands. He did not seem very upset that I left. I went straight to my desk and pressed the magic button. Sweet relief - or at least I thought. I waited for the cavalry to arrive. Two minutes, no help. Three minutes, no sign of assistance. Meanwhile, my co-worker is running out of conversational topics. After 5 minutes the phone rings - it's the security company. "We're saved" I thought.

"Can I have your password?" she asked. "Password" I thought. Who could remember a password at a time like this, but I flipped through a file on my desk and gave it to her as I watched the very large man in our reception area start to get antsy. "Your name please?" came the next question. I gave it to her and thought "Is this a survey?" Then she wanted our security code. Finally she asked, "Is there a problem?" By this time I am having to talk in a whisper and I reply, "Uh, yeah". Then in a monotone (like she is reading from a cue card) she asks, "Is there a hold up in progress?" "No", I reply trying to think how far I would have gotten with this conversation had someone had a gun pointed at me. "Then what is the problem?" "We have an unwanted visitor." "Oh, do you want me to call the police?" she asked. What a novel idea I thought. "Please." "I will do that", she responded and she hung up.

In less than 2 minutes 4 police cars silently pulled into the parking lot and several officers quietly exited their cars and surrounded the building. I slipped out, introduced myself, and explained our situation. They entered the building and handled it from there.

For years, I had felt secure knowing that button was within reach at anytime. Just one slight movement of my right hand and all would be taken care of. No one bothered to tell me that when my call went into the security center instead of a light coming on saying "Emergency in Progress - Call Police to Location Immediately" my indicator light said, "Possible Issue at Hand, Survey Caller, Confirm Identification, Only then Ask if Assistance is Really Needed".

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Martha Doesn't Live Here

It's a good thing - that Martha Stewart does not live here (in my house). Yes, I can cook. And the food is tasty - most of the time. Well, there are always those times when I am a little ambitious with the red pepper flakes. But the icing on my cupcakes is not going to look like pilgrims at Thanksgiving, perfectly wrapped packages at Christmas, and bunnies at Easter. I can, however, wrap one heck of a present!

I try to make sure my sheets match - or least the pillow cases are coordinated colors. And, the best towels are in the guest bath. But the soap in the shower is not homemade, I didn't make the curtain rods from wooden dowels tooled in my garage, or tile the shower. I actually have a life.

One Saturday afternoon I was flipping channels on the television trying to find the news when I came across her show. I stopped to watch it for a moment. She has always fascinated me. After all she has made a fortune saying things are simple - you can do it - I'll show you how. Then she launches into these projects that require time most of us don't have, items that she thinks everyone should have around the house. I certainly don't keep extra antique tin milk cans or the spare bolt of silk moire fabric around - do you? And, using skills that, unless you went to art school or have a degree in agriculture or carpentry, are going to frustrate the Hell out of you. But don't fret, if you can't produce it, she can and just happens to have it in her "collection" at Kmart. And, she'll sell it to you. She's a genius.

And cooking . . . unless you live in a city with a Dean & Deluca down the street, good luck finding those two key ingredients that set her recipe apart. But don't worry about that special utensil, pot, or pan you've never heard of, but definitely cannot do without. Yes, you guessed it - it's in her collection at Kmart.

As I said - It's a good thing - for her!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We will be begin boarding in a moment.

In our little town we have churches of every flavor imaginable and, as in most small southern towns, the First Baptist Church is the largest church in town. It can seat a whopping 1200 - although I doubt they have ever seen the pews filled to capacity, even on an Easter Sunday with "lunch on the grounds" and a favorite past minister visiting. But they are prepared.

A month or so ago, I was to attend a funeral in a church out of town. Not being familiar with the location, I called the funeral home for directions and was told to check the church's website. (I cannot remember the name of the church, but it was something akin to "Today's Grace Church of What's Happening Now") This was the first hint that I was entering a new realm of churchdom. On the website I got the street address and directions. I also checked for parking. The main lot "will hold 2000 vehicles. Our satellite lots across the street, will accommodate an additional 1500 vehicles. For your convenience, we have shuttles that run every 15 minutes from the satellite lots to the church." Perhaps, I should do a Google street search to see what this church looked like. After locating it on the map, a theme park came to mind. I then realized chances were, I would not miss it when I came to it on the street.

As we entered the church for the service, we were met by several church ladies who asked for our names. They looked down their lists and nicely directed us to Concourse B, and told us we would find ushers to direct us to our seats in section 4W. When they handed me a program, I checked to see if there was a boarding pass attached. I assumed our next stop would be security.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Christmas now? I don't think so

Ok, did I miss something? When did the Christmas Season begin? I was in Lowes a few days ago - in the garden center no less. I was sure it was an apparition, a figment of my imagination, after all I was staring at the golden mums, but what to my wandering eyes should appear but an over sized Santa and a blown-up reindeer. Then I heard the familiar tune of "Frosty the Snowman" playing somewhere behind plumbing. This madness has got to stop. I still have not put the boxes of my summer clothes in the attic.

In a panic I thought, I don't even know what our plans are for Thanksgiving and they (the retail lords) are telling me it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I don't think so. Now I gave up on the Courier & Ives ideal years ago, but I can still have my conventions. And the first week in October does not fit that scenario.

My family will tell you that you don't get past Thanksgiving Friday without Mom getting the Christmas Tree. My theory is that given the time and effort one puts into decorating that old boy, you want to enjoy it for a respectable amount of time. And, in my book, putting up the Christmas Tree anytime before Thanksgiving is tantamount to the "white shoes before Easter" rule - you can - but it ain't right and people will talk.

So am I to ignore the bows of holly on every other aisle, the mail boxes full of holiday catalogs, and the merry carols jingling in the background as I select my Halloween candy? (Yes, that poor holiday has gotten lost in the shuffle.) Or am I to succumb to the prancing and pawing of each little hoof?Nope, I'm going to enjoy the fall, figure out what we're going to do for Thanksgiving, enjoy the turkey, then go get that wonderful tree. For now, this creature's not stirring.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bar-B-Que (Food of the Gods)

If you ever wanted to know why the North invaded the South in 1861, it is simple. They wanted Bar-B-Que. You can't get it anywhere else. Why do you think they started in South Carolina?

Bar-B-Que in the south is a religious experience. If you are from here, I am not telling you anything new - in fact I'm preaching to the choir. The only question is to which god do you pray: the god of mustard base - that yellow tangy sauce with a slight sweet background or ketchup based - the red sweet flowing goodness with only the slightest taste of tang or (in my humble opinion) the premier - vinegar based -that thin nectar of tang filled with peppers and other spices and just enough mustard to give it some color. 

Whatever your sauce of choice, here the only meat is pork. and that pork must be slow cooked over hickory wood to be done right. There are several other signs to look for to ensure you are about to partake in authentic honest-to-God southern Bar-B-Que:

  •     the establishment is only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (it takes them Monday to prepare the meat & get the wood ready for the fire, Tuesday and Wednesday to cook and on Sunday they rest)
  •     the name of the establishment usually has a family name in it
  •     it has an old tile, linoleum, or concrete floor (if they have spent a lot of money redoing the place - their priorities should be in question)
  •     the chairs at the tables should not necessarily match and better yet there should be picnic tables
  •     there should be sweet tea and white bread on each table
  •     vinyl table cloths only
  •     beware of places that sport a full buffet - they wandered from their mission (green beans and fried chicken maybe, but even that is suspect - after all you came to eat Bar-B-Que)

And some other secrets to those of you first going to the alter of the gods - put the hash on top of the rice (otherwise everyone will know you are not from here) and just don't ask what is in the hash - trust me - it is tasty. We've been eating it for years, and it hasn't killed us yet.