Friday, August 26, 2016

How do you eat an entire elephant?

Five days a week, Joe and Joan Blow scoot across the leather seat of their $62,000 luxury SUV ready to go to work. They pride themselves on their 5600 square foot home and their four vehicles. On the armrest next to them is their morning healthy breakfast, a pair of nutritious and carbs-enhanced protein bars which cost 4 dollars each.  Their appearance is very important to them, as is efficiency at work and this is why they will consume this healthy snack on the way to work instead of eating it when they should be working. They wouldn’t want their coworkers to think they are slackers.

The drive takes 11 minutes and exactly 6 minutes after they leave home, they toss the wrappers out the window of their lavish SUV, as they are quite serious about keeping the interior as clean as possible. After all, it did cost a lot of money.

10 minutes pass and along comes Mike and Martha Somebody out for their morning walk. They take their morning stroll very seriously, as they believe the key to longevity is not only a proper diet, but regular exercise. In hand are used grocery bags and each day they pick up plastic bottles thrown down by other jogger/walkers and 5 times a week, a pair of protein/granola bar wrappers. When they drop the bags into the park garbage can, they get a rewarding amount of satisfaction out of not only picking up trash, but reusing the garbage bag.

The trash picker-uppers cannot comprehend how other people driving by the park or out exercising, justify throwing plastic bottles along the road and trail, but continue to pick them up and dispose of other people’s trash. The thought comes to them that more people like themselves are not the solution. All this could be prevented by people stopping this socially unacceptable, aberrant, and criminal behavior.

Mike Doe has been smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day for about 30 years and plans to quit. It’s just that driving a truck 5 days a week for a living leaves him with a lot of time on his hands and frankly, he likes smoking. The only time he smokes is when he is driving and this realization hits him, as he unrolls the window of his truck and flips the smoldering butt out. What he doesn’t realize is that over the course of his driving career, he has tossed out close to a half million cigarette butts, or that at the minimum, one of those butts will take a year and a half to decompose. He is also responsible for the burning of 112 acres on the edge of the Sam Houston National forest 6 years ago.
He has no clue that four houses were also destroyed by him flicking a burning butt out the window of his truck down close to Falfurrias in the late 90’s when everything was so dry. He may be shocked to find out he’s not the only one doing this and that each year 1.69 billion POUNDS of cigarette butts end up as toxic waste.

A long time ago, I came up with a saying I am fond of repeating to… me.  “You can’t save the world, Bert.” No, I cannot change anyone. I cannot force my beliefs about littering on a single soul. I can however pick up trash everywhere I go including parking lots when I’m walking from my Jeep to the door. I can attempt to influence other like-minded people to do likewise through conversation, social media, and this column, but the real answer is education and understanding by those people who continue to drop trash everywhere they go.

My saying helps me cope with people who seem oblivious to the obvious. Take for instance the walker who eats a protein bar or drinks an energy drink while exercising in Jenkins Park and then without so much as a care in the world, drops the empty bottle or wrapper along the wooded trail. Incomprehensible! They go there to enjoy the wooded trail and then they trash it?  I can sum my reaction with one word: huh? This is witnessed every single day by those of us who pick it up.

Like the elephant meal, it can be consumed one bite at a time, but only if the elephant doesn’t continue to revive itself along the way. Each parent, each peer, each casual acquaintance can do their part by either teaching their children, stopping this behavior, or by example and that my friend is the answer.


Friday, August 19, 2016

The Most Monstrous of Misleads

I was 14 when I began my work career and registered for my social security card. The year was 1965 and my family lived in Woodstock, Georgia. My younger brother was 13, and did likewise. This was before child labor laws changed, or heck, maybe not, as like I said, we loved in rural Georgia.

We were grocery sackers and worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for 3 five dollar bills. My Mom took one 5 from each of us every payday as room and board and this taught us there was no free ride in life.  It was a valuable lesson that I’ve written about before and only a reference point.

My next job was at the local Tastee Freeze and each day after school and weekends, my same brother and I toiled in the kitchen, mopped floors, chopped onions, and took out the trash just to name a few of our duties. My mom exacted the same recompense as before and we had no choice but to pay it. Back in those days, there was no such notion as resisting your parents and I can truthfully say, I did not resent the mandatory room and board. Dad turned over his paycheck in its entirety and we were allowed to keep two thirds.

The summer between the 10th and 11th grade, I lied about my age and said I was 16 and had a driver’s license and hired on with my friend with a subsidiary of the Georgia Power Company, as ground men. We were making about a buck an hour if I remember rightly and that was a lot of cash. I had no idea what a ground man was, but quickly learned anywhere the backhoe couldn’t dig, we could with shovels. It was back-breaking hard work tunneling through that Georgia red clay in the same kind of weather we experience here.

Within 10 minutes of arriving on the job, we found out we were moving the equipment 10 miles down the road. My buddy got the 6-wheel drive truck and I got the dodge pick-up with “3 on the tree”. I was already very familiar with the column shifter and we rolled down the freeway like pros. Side note: many of today’s Millennial’s not only can’t drive a stick shift, but also can’t change a flat tire or know where to add oil to their car’s motor.

My Dad had taken a job in St. Louis and we moved quite suddenly and I became a clerk at a milk and bread drive thru, called a Pop-In store. Along the way, I bought and paid for my first car (at 15), 4 new tires, rebuilt the two one-barrel carburetors, a 10-speed bike, a stereo, and my first television.

I cannot recall anyone helping me out along the way as a sponsor or a mentor. I worked and scraped for everything I got. It was the way it was. Many of my friends did not work and they only had what their parents provided. I wanted more and I went in the Air Force, rather than risk being drafted and upon exit after 2 tours in Southeast Asia, I got a job through interviews based on my work career and skills I had learned and have worked non-stop until retirement 2 years ago. The worldly goods I own were earned along the way through constant work and paydays.

A number of times I worked side jobs to make ends meet, or to have extra cash and again, I didn’t have a single soul hand me anything without working for it and this is why I think, in my case, white privilege has been a myth, a lie, and some politically correct fallacy that needs to be exposed for what it is – an excuse.

White privilege went out with the OJ Simpson verdict and Affirmative action and many of us qualified folks witnessed this, as we were pushed back behind less qualified applicants and if that isn’t discrimination, I am a monkey’s uncle. Dare I write it? Dang tootin’, I will. When all across this country, minorities fill top government offices including Fire Marshal and Police Chief positions, white privilege is non-existent. The demographics prove it.

As a person who worked up the ladder unassisted by the system, I refuse to take the tuck head due to the color of my skin. Some reading this will shake their head, thinking I have it so wrong, but I only know what I’ve witnessed over the last 60 years or so.  Sure there have been injustices, but there has been reoccurring behavior which perpetuates the negative responses. “Doc, it hurts when I do this!”  “Well, stop doing it!”

No, I don’t buy the politically correct brain-washing agenda many white people are accepting as fact. It also embarrasses me when they teach their kids this falsehood. In the words of the urbanites, I want them to “grow a pair” and quit making excuses for people who refuse to step up their game and get off the government dime. It is never too late to become a contributor to society, but you may have to start near the bottom sacking groceries.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Rudeness Pays Mighty Small Dividends

The quickest way to cut off a conversation with me is to say something angry, arrogant, condescending, or rude.  Do it to me and inwardly I wish I could be beamed up and gone. I don’t like it insinuated that I’m an idiot, or a jerk, or a (insert an expletive here).  I wish I could write that I am blameless, because I’m not, but I do believe I earnestly try to be socially graceful.

Almost every issue of the Baytown Sun will reveal a letter to the editor concerning politics and how stupid someone is. Occasionally my name is specifically mentioned as being “unpatriotic, stupid, idiotic, a dolt, a joke, or uninformed”. I marvel at all of this, as its apparent these fine citizens are zealous, passionate, and worked up enough to pound out a letter to the community to, what? Defend their political views with good solid non-accusatory facts? Not for the most part. What they write appears angry and condescending almost every time and we the readers, if we actually read it, feel like we were just slimed.

In their defense, they see themselves as righteous, witty, humorous, informed, educated, and as a spokesperson for their party’s dogmas. I wish I could report that is how other readers view them, but I can’t speak for anyone but me. Although I tend to agree with those who vote against the Democratic Party’s policies, I find both “sides” do not represent me in their “arguments”.

Quite a bit that is written in these exchanges are so offensive that if they were said face to face, it would be a downright physical confrontation. Calling me Mister and then telling me I’m a buffoon pretty much negates the fact that someone started the insult with a social title.  For instance, do I think Obama and Clinton are idiots?  No, not by a long shot. I think they are intelligent and extremely clever manipulators pushing a socialist brand of government I want to steer clear of.

They believe in giant government with hundreds of programs designed to even the playing field, so that those who were not motivated to get an education and a job can have everything you and I have who did our homework. And the working Middle Class gets to pay for it through increased taxes. This is no mean secret and yet, people who make 50 to a 100,000 dollars a year will vote for the very platform that will take food off their own table.

Do I think that people who will vote for Hillary are idiots?  Nope. I know too many good people who are educated and friendly who will punch her card on voting day. What I do find is they should understand for themselves how much they want the government nosing around in their personal lives. If they want more government, then vote for Hillary. I want less government and that is why I am voting for a political outsider over a hardcore political conservative who has more interest in the party lines, than in the people’s wishes. I think both party extremes do not represent me.

I’ve been clear about my stance on this for a long time and it throws me right in the middle of the Tea Party in some ways. To reiterate, I will pay my taxes and obey the laws and in exchange, I want our government to stay out of my life unless there is a disaster. Sure, it is a good thing that they work hard to keep our country defended against enemy both foreign and stateside. It should be a priority of our government to offer stimuli to keep jobs here and a great number of other programs that “offer” a solution, but when they cram something like healthcare down our throats, it gets stuck every time.

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, right, so why do we feel it is socially acceptable to attack each other in print? Do we do this face to face with strangers because their political opinion differs from ours? I personally don’t carry a spare hockey mask around with me to protect my mouth from a violent reaction to my vitriolic political eruptions. What I do as a defense when I meet a person like this (or read what they wrote) is I avoid them. I have no interest in meeting them again or reading what they write in the letters to the editor section on page 4. Because of their sarcastic and acidic diatribe, I simply ignore them and in the occasional Facebook arena, I unfriend them.

As Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins so eloquently put it, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


This letter is a contribution from my SIL's grandfather.  He spent many years in Air Force intelligence working with the CIA and NSA and we are both columnists.

       Sometimes I imagine that I’ve fallen into some deep crevasse miles from where my screams for help could ever be heard.

       It’s sort of analogous to the hopeless feeling I got when I was forced to recognize just how many gullibles, ignorant dolts, mentally deficient ideologues, and morons there are that are registered to vote, and unfortunately for our beloved country, show up at the polls.

      Eighteen-year olds should never have been given that right unless they were wearing a uniform. That said, it’s my opinion we’re at the crisis crossroads of my lifetime.

     If we don’t find a way to blow a hole through ignorance, apathy, bigotry, stupidity and mental laziness to elect Trump even if it’s a perceived by-far the lesser of evils; the party, if there ever was one, is over and gone and my great-grand-kids and yours will be the ones to suffer for mistakes made.

    There are no guarantees except death, and that’s inevitable.  Americans have made some terrible Presidential choices throughout our history. During my lifetime, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama are by far the worst in more than a century! 

     I truly shudder at the thought of another arrogant sociopath, pathological liar, and treasonous criminal succeeding the current arrogant sociopath and liar. Let’s look at some contrasts between the current candidates: the criminal and the annoying egotist.

    Trump wants to build a wall and stop illegal immigration and block refugees from Islamic nations who can’t be properly vetted (See McCarran-Walter act of 1952, which Jimmy Carter used to block immigration of Iranians). Look what’s happened in Europe!

    With virtually no borders, the European nations are being overrun by Muslim peoples who refuse to assimilate into the societies they enter. They follow an extremely dogmatic and misogynistic religion that espouses more hate than love. Gays and non-believers (e.g., Christians, apostates, etc) are to be shunned or killed. Females are nothing but chattel.

    Hillary wants no prevention of illegal immigration and wants to increase the risk of terrorism on our precious soil by all but clearly inviting un-vetted, potential ISIS operatives to come through the currently wide-open and unguarded gates of Syrian refugee immigration. This is just like leaving the doors and windows of your house unlocked in a high crime neighborhood.

  The difference is stark; “Shrillary” wants to gamble our lives, Trump doesn’t, he’s the clear choice here.

    Hillary’s on record as saying outsourcing of jobs to other countries can’t be stopped. What that really means is her husband duped voters and stupid politicians (oops that’s an oxymoron) into helping outsource millions of jobs via NAFTA which helped them get rich.

    Trump says he can stop outsourcing. Maybe he can, maybe he can’t, but we know Hillary won’t! She’s on record! Clear choice, Trump!

    Hillary’s mentor and a person she was enamored of was “Rules for Radicals” author Saul Alinsky. She was an acolyte, interviewed him and wrote her thesis about him and the “Rules”. He was the expert on community organizing and Obama and thug William Ayres were fellow acolytes.
    Trump’s radical ideas are to help us achieve prosperity again, individually and as a nation. Hillary is promising four more years of change without hope. Clear choice, Trump!
   Another contrast, Hillary wants to help Obama transform America into a third world socialist mess (see Greece and France) where the promise is a “chicken in every pot stolen from those who worked for their chicken.”

   Trump wants America to recapture her once premier position as a leader of the free world, regain form as business friendly, again become a manufacturing giant, and rejuvenate a neglected military destroyed by eight years of Obama (that Hillary wants to continue) in order to regain a preparedness second to none.

    Hillary has demonstrated her hatred of our military and her thorough disdain for people who wear the uniform at least from the time she was first lady, if not before. No way in hell should this arrogant, self-centered harridan ever become CIC. Again, a clear contrast to the “Donald” who always shows deference and respect to those who defend.

    Trump repeatedly condemns the fascism of PC that is invading every aspect of our daily lives: free speech is attacked on campuses by professorial nit-wits and their ideologically indoctrinated nit-wit students; majority rights are abridged in favor of the minority at every turn, the end-game being political divisiveness as a means of grabbing power.

     How about perverts having the option to choose whatever bathroom they want with Target stores’ blessings? PC is so fascistically ludicrous some idiots are demanding the right to not ever be offended.

    The ultimate reason why Trump must be the choice is SCOTUS. Hillary can totally wreck the country by appointing activist judges who would abrogate the constitution piece by piece starting with the 1st and 2nd Amendments.  WE MUST ELECT TRUMP AND PENCE AT ALL COST!
Aug 8th, 2016


Friday, August 05, 2016

We sink or we swim

 Something Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox told me when I was interviewing him has stuck with me these many years. He was one of the survivors of the WWII US Navy ship, the USS Indianapolis. If you remember, this is the ship that was torpedoed at the end of the war and had carried the components of the first atomic bomb. Of the crew of 1196 men, only 900 sailors went into the water. 5 days later the survivors were pulled to safety. Many succumbed to their injuries; out of desperation a good number drank salt water and went crazy. Zeb was one of the 317 that kept their wits and survived.

“The difference between those who died and me was I didn’t want to die. I didn’t give up hope. I had things I wanted to accomplish.” Zeb told me he had the same nightmare every night and would wake up sweating. He said one time a crazy-eyed sailor tried to choke him, thinking he was a Japanese soldier. Another suddenly spotted something deep in the ocean and dove down out of site, never again to resurface.

Fate would have it that Zeb and crossed paths more than once before I met him as a survivor of this tragedy.  Call it providence or whatever, but I now believe it was divine intervention.

Zeb was long retired by this time, having spent his time as an Operator at Solvay. I worked next door at a competitor of theirs making the same product. He was big in the Lion’s Club and spent a lot of time raising awareness to the naval tragedy. He stayed busy and I was in his home and later his nursing home room many times. He was full of life and it wasn’t obvious that he still endured those horrible memories. He did his best to put it behind him and move on.

Now I am retired and I am carrying nowhere near the bad memories of this hero and I feel I owe it to his memory to make a mark in life. Remember Tom Hank’s character in epic WWII movie, Saving Private Ryan, when he whispered “James, earn this... earn it.”? No one, but Zeb and God was there for him, but he made it and he made it good. I want to be like that. At my swan song, I want people to tell me I am a good man. I can personally say Zeb was.

What in the heck does all of this have to do with you? Everything. You and me both. It’s a challenge of sorts. Do we really need people to rescue us from tragedy to step up our game? I don’t think so. I think it takes a realization that all of can live cleaner, more rational, less selfishly, and kinder. Start by parking father out in the vast parking lots and leave the better spaces to those who aren’t as spry and physically fit as we are. Baby step it.

Tip not only the person bagging your groceries, but hand the checker a buck and tell her she just got a dollar an hour raise. It is not the great big things that make differences in our lives folks; it’s those little unexpected goodies that come our way that we never forget. I have done this many times and the look of surprise on their face is always worth the money.

Many times we wrongly believe we are living a life of hardship, when at out poorest, we live better than most people around the globe. The traffic on Garth Road has some people so angry, they could bite the head off their favorite Hillary/Trump voodoo doll and when you put it in perspective, it is simply no big deal. Why worry about stupid stuff and on second thought, why have a doll like that in the first place?

Zeb told me that one night he awoke and he had drifted about a hundred yards from the larger group. Two 8 foot reef sharks were staring at him trying to decide if he was dead or not. He immediately began to violently swim between them and they followed him all the way back to the group before breaking off. This nightmarish scene was relived every night for over 65 years before he finally passed away a few years ago. And we think we have it rough? Not hardly, my friends.

We sink or we swim folks. You do, I do and it’s entirely our choice which one we make. We can choose to go through life floating and find out where we end up when we get there, or make corrections toward a destination of our choice.

Friday, July 29, 2016

80,000 people and growing!

Holy all that is sacred! We now have over 80,000 warm bodies to bump into every time we swagger across town! That extra 15,000 from 1980 days sure makes a difference and if my predictions are correct, we are going to see a whole lot more people (and each one of them will try to be on Garth Road at the same time) in the next 4 years. It’s guestimated that at least 20,000 more cruise into the city during the day by undisclosed secret sources which I alone (and probably Jim Finlay) am privy to.

The good news is the City is planning to 6-lane Garth Road and then it will only be about as crowded as it is right now. I want to applaud the city planners in that they are really making a go of getting more roads and connecting parking lots so those of us who like to avoid all of that, can get around a bit better. Of course you have to factor in the parking lot missile cars.

By the time most of are reading this column, the SPAC (the Imagine Baytown People) will be huddled over a huge stack of surveys trying our level best to make a recommendation to the city of what we, the citizens want here in the next 5 years. Now this subject has came up numerous times in social media about it not meaning a danged thing and no one will listen and it confuses and yes, angers me a bit when I have to stress just the opposite.

This ain’t Washington DC honey where they ask for input and then do what they danged well please. This is small town big town Baytown and they, our city council want to know what the citizens want and have given everyone ample time to state those desires.

When Nick Woolery told me the Mayor wanted me on this committee, I made it clear that my biggest concern was family amenities and making Baytown a better place to raise kiddos and nothing has changed in that department. I care very little about new stores, motels, storage facilities, car washes, etc, etc. I want more places to take kids and get out doors and enjoy life here.

We need better and more unique Parks, like the one in the Heights called Donavan Park.  People drive miles to take their children there and it’s free. We don’t need more cookie cutter parks, which look the same as all the other ones in Anytown, USA. Geeze, let’s use our imagination on this. We have waterways that are not being developed and we have a lot of them. We need to push the wide sidewalk plans where cyclists can ride their bikes around the city and shed some of the fat that we get from the many new restaurants.

Captain Jerry Jones of the Cedar Bayou Friends is doing his part in planning the second annual Cedar Bayou Voyager event on October 15th and has enlisted the help of Southeast Texas Geocachers (under the expert assistance of Army Colonel (Ret.) Lee Ann Adams.  Of course I will be there representing the Texas Geocaching Association.  Jerry and I go all the way back to the Vietnam War when were both stationed on the same base.

Calypso Cove just about breaks even money wise (according to my other secret sources) and based on how many people use it, I think we need a second one on the north side of I-10 and no, not on Garth road! These water parks are awesome and if you haven’t taken your kiddos to one, try it and see.  I counted 4 lifeguards the last time I was there and all of them were taking their job seriously.

We need more businesses and clubs organizing quarterly Adopt a Site programs to give back to the community and help their members and employees bend over and remove litter. Hey, don a shirt with your business name on it and go down a street and see if that doesn’t advertise your business like no other way. Eleanor Albon will hug you until you are blue in the face, I promise. I enjoy her hugs every time I see her.

Kathy Nelson and her husband are putting Keep Baytown Beautiful on the map with their Beautiful Business of the Week award program and I salute the pair. That is a lot of work to scout out these places, take time for a photo Op, and then go back and retrieve the sign.

Litter abatement is a real problem here as everywhere and the reason for it is many people still believe throwing trash out the window of their car is a good way to keep the inside clean. I ran a test one week on Blue Heron Parkway and each day for one week at close to the same location, I picked up a Nature Valley Granola bar wrapper.  Now I don’t know how long it took that person to eat it after they left home, but they were very consistent in when it went out the window.

I can’t prove it, but I suspect this person has never participated in a single trash bash in their entire life.  Am I a trash bash expert?  No, but here it is nearly August and I have been in one every month this year.

Texas Avenue is coming along as is the Yepez Vineyard and Baytown is making strides to get a geocaching Geotour under the expert eye of Anna Enderli, so we are making progress.  Now, if we can only get the naysayers to see some sunshine and offer suggestions over criticisms, we will be well on our way to making Baytown a city on the move.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Is home cooking a dying art?

Shrimp tacos using avocado, shredded cabbage, black beans, and cole slaw dressing
I like to cook. I guess there are many men my age who feel the same way. I can’t say I love to cook, or I would do it more often. I usually take some recipe and modify it a bit and then in a most humble way, post it on social media along with a tasty photograph and make humble claims that it is my own concoction.

What I have found is people love to talk about food and for good reason. Food, for the most part, is entertaining and a great subject. It tastes good. It has variety. Even when it’s not up to par, it is a subject that can be discussed and even cussed. There is rarely a dull moment when food is involved. Not to attempt to quote Bubba, but food can be prepared in a great number of ways, making each dish a new adventure.

I remember years ago a returning missionary from Africa hit 3 fast food restaurants in one day and exclaimed, “It is hard to beat quality junk food!” Fast food is usually quite satisfying, albeit not the best choice for proper nutrition. In fact, for many, “eating out” has replaced eating at home, or shall I say, “preparing a meal on the stove”?

It is convenient for sure and the variety is endless. You can hardly build a salad with the great many items for the price they charge, so why not simply buy it pre-made? If you need 27 items in your salad to make it palatable, then that is a valid argument, but let’s take a look at the cost of this logic.
Pork loin and fresh veggies
Drive through any breakfast place and eat normally and it is anywhere between 5 bucks to as much as $12 for a big boy hunter’s special. If you are a tipper add a couple of bucks to each meal. Lunch is as much as double that and supper, well, you can drop a 50 dollar bill for one person in one day. Or more.

I’m no tree surgeon, but that adds up to a whole bunch of money over a months time. The upside is we got a large variety of foods over the month and probably loved the convenience of it all. When we were done, we either wadded up the bag and tossed it (hopefully in a trash can) or simply walked away and let some minimum wage worker clean up after us.

The downside was it was expensive and get this – our food was prepared by a total stranger who may or may not have personal hygiene as a priority. Yuk! We do this all the time and never consider who is actually touching our food. Now, I am not a particularly skeptical person over this and I certainly eat out, but it is a thought.

I remember hearing a single mother pose a question on the radio where she wondered how she could feed her family on minimum wage. What she cited specifically was the cost of “fancy sliced turkey” and at 7 bucks a pound, it was a travesty. The host reminded her that bologna was a better option based on her income and the lady was incensed to say the least. I happened to agree with the host as there are plenty of cheaper and healthy options.

Chicken quarters costing $2.39
As of late I’ve been trying to eat more protein and less carbs and what I’ve found very satisfying and ridiculously cheap is baking chicken at home. I can buy 3 chicken leg quarters at my local grocery for under $2.50 and toss in a can of black beans or Fordhook lima’s and I have 3 tasty and nutritious meals for a measly $1.25 per meal. Each serving is more than I can eat at one sitting. Now notice this is not organic chicken breasts and fresh asparagus which would probably run that solo meal up to around $8.
The same goes for a large pork loin which is often under 5 dollars. It is a lot of meat. Toss in 2 veggies, a couple of taters and some brown gravy and your meal per person is about 2 bucks, maybe 3.  Rotel makes a product named “Chili fixins”. Follow the directions on the can and you can whip up a very tasty pot of chili in about 20 minutes and eat on it for a few days way cheaper than eating out and even with cheese and Fritos, it is still a bargain meal.

Cooking is fun, but it doesn’t have to be a lost art or time consuming and the financial benefit makes it something we should all consider.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Am I as considerate as I think I am?

Each and every day I marvel at what life is and what I expect out of it. I walk through life – or drive my Jeep on our roads and see the vast skies and the many wonder-filled things around me and I inhale it in a way that is truly an adventure.

I see people around me absorbed in their own sphere and wonder if they “see it” too.  Being the cynic that I am, I find that I prejudge my fellow human, automatically demoting them and this is probably in error. Many appear bored and robotic. I have to remind myself that many are suffering pain, or hardships.

My bride upbraids me regularly for this skepticism and I automatically play it down as humor on my part. The truth is, it isn’t humor. I admit my fellow humans regularly erode my belief that we are upwardly evolving. On a daily basis, what I see is what was depicted in the comedic movie “Idiocracy” and this is wrong of me.

In this futuristic piece, humanity has bred itself mentally backwards to the point that stupidity is the norm. A social retardation is so prevalent that no one seems to notice, and they constantly ridicule each other for being stupider than they are. To quote the synopsis on Wikipedia: “The film tells the story of two people who take part in a top-secret military hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years later in a dystopian society wherein advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly unthinking society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.”

I am a people watcher and according to my bride, someone who reads too much into the casual behavior of those around me. “You think too much, honey!” I watch people and occasionally am guilty of baiting a subject line to see how they will react. I resent the implication that I am a troll or a devil’s advocate, but readily acknowledge that I “seed” the forums and Facebook for opinions.

I want to know what people think, or believe they believe and then often will challenge them to explain what and why they believe. Is that wrong? I’ve always contended that anyone who challenges you to define what you believe is your friend and I still believe this.

We are all floating on the river of life, me included.  I need to rediscover that balance where instead of seeing distracted and complacent masses, I once again discover how incredible people can be. I’ve become a glass half-empty dude and that needs to change.

I have to see the humor around me and be less critical. Now to be honest and I’ve made this pretty clear in the past; I base a lot of my negatives on what people do when they drive their cars and trucks.  And to be frank, I think the behavior specialists will be on my side when I say this is a very good indicator of what a person is made of. Rude and selfish drivers shouldn’t consider themselves kind and caring people. They are not. If you tail-gait and dangerously zip all over the danged place, you are the opposite of considerate. If everyone would keep their distance and do the speed limit, there wouldn’t be a traffic jam.

If a person swerves in and around cars on the freeway, barely missing rear-end collisions and then walk into their job smiling and greeting everyone, they are fooling themselves as to what kind of person they are. They fall into this group, “unthinking society devoid of social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights”.

I would like to sit down with these reckless drivers and have a casual conversation about what kind of person they believe themselves to be and then show them videos of their driving “skills”. I imagine that would be quite a conversation piece. I do not want to imply that I am a perfect example of a driver, but when you are behind the wheel of a lifted Jeep with over-sized tires, it’s kind of a good idea to always imagine you are driving on ice and make deliberate signaled lane changes.

On my way back from Houston the other day, I was rolling in the middle lane on I-10 doing exactly 68 mph on cruise control when out of the corner of my left eye I saw what can only be described as a black missile coming up behind me. The bespectacled middle age man crossed 3 lanes and my brain registered that he was going to clip the back driver’s side of my truck. Now jerking the wheel on a lifted Jeep at near 70 mph is down-right dangerous, but it was my only option or get quartered.

I jinked and he missed by a whisper and shot off ahead of me, zigging and zagging until he was no longer visible with brake lights signaling his departure. Because of my distress, I’m glad fellow gearhead Dandy Don wasn’t with me and although I didn’t curse, I wanted my justifiable pound of flesh. I took a couple deep breaths and thanked God I wasn’t lying in a twisted wreck. I have no idea what this fellow’s hurry was, but I imagine he was simply driving like he always does.

I think I am a considerate person for the most part. I try to be. If you come to my house, I will offer you a cold or hot beverage and usually pretty quickly. I’ll offer you a seat and try not to dominate the conversation and if you follow me while I’m driving, I stop at red lights and stop signs 100% of the time and always signal my intentions of a lane change. I like to run on cruise control either doing a minimum of the speed limit or with the flow of traffic.

However, I am probably a miserable failure in other considerate behavior and may need to hire on as an extra in Idiocracy II, if they make it. I’ll have to ask my bride. She is truly a considerate person quite observant when I am hypocritical of other drivers.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Is it time to cut the cord?

“Take the risk and… go for it!” Boy, how many times have we heard a well-meaning person say that? If you buy into the current philosophy, it seems that only something extreme will give us an anti-dote for our mundane existence.

Back in my childhood, about the most adventure-based show was Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins and his faithful sidekick Jim. Each week we got a vicarious risky venture that freed us from our boring lives and helped salve over our monotonous existence of school, work and doing chores. We didn’t know we were supposed to bust out. We simply lived our lives and in many ways, well, we were content.

“Don't be a slacker; cut the cord!” Jacques Cousteau brought the world’s exotic fishes and mysterious oceans right into our homes via the expansive 14 inch tube color television and we got our fix up close and personal and boy, it was really something! The next day we went to school or work, happy to live our lives more enriched than ever.

There were no American Ninja or X-Games to expose how pitiful our weak existence is and thank goodness most of us have enough sense to understand that doing stunts like those are not for us. Unfortunately, unless we expose ourselves to something as trivial as jumping out of a plane, we are simply not living – or are we? Every commercial, every movie, and every adventure depicted anywhere says we are missing out and on top of that, a failure in life’s grand game. We are average in every way and should remain as fat spectators. Case closed.

If you didn’t go to Europe or Asia for 2 weeks, cycle the Alps or walk the Great Wall, you didn’t have a vacation. Of course you had to swim with the Dalai Lama or dine on tarantulas and don’t forget hand-feeding the Komodo dragons in the Galapagos Islands.

Phooey on all that, I say.  I do not need 50cc’s of adrenaline coursing through my veins to have a good time. I think breaking out of a routine is a good idea and healthy, but seriously? Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel is for idiots. Becoming a Navy SEAL is for very peculiar people and 99.9% of us will never ever be one, so stop kidding yourself. You don’t need to jog to the top of an erupting volcano dragging a kayak behind you to break out of your rut.

As kids, a simple game of sandlot baseball or a heated board game of Risk would keep us living life to the fullest for hours on end. We played Army or stood on a big log and sailed the 7 Seas and the things we witnessed in our imaginations made these competitions look pretty lame. Wait a second. Do kids still play outside like that?

“Hey, Bubba!  Watch this!” is still quit popular, especially with teens, tweens and 30-weens and if there is alcohol involved… Boom! The entertainment factor is exponentially increased and can only be interrupted by the siren on an ambulance. This last group are the ones who attempt to do the near impossible and I applaud their strenuous efforts, albeit incredibly stupid and reckless behavior is obvious to almost everyone present.

One such fellow came to work one day with a huge knot on the top of his head. When quizzed about the walnut-shaped protrusion, he candidly admitted to attempting a back flip in the middle of the street at night while standing on the curb. Of course he was drinking beer and I stood slack-jawed when he said these remarkable words, “Something told me I could do it.”

I suspect most of us do not need large venues with superstars, or action-packed thrill seeking distractions to enjoy a break from our routines. A campfire with a black cup of coffee at sunrise, or an Astros game on the radio while we fish Trinity Bay may be just the ticket. The absence of adrenaline may be ten times more stimulating than what we are led to believe.

A walk in the woods sans music-blasting headphones may just provide more music as the forest sounds filter into our battered brain. I love technology, but sometimes we need to shut it all off and listen to… nothing. Talk about a deviation from the norm! What does nothing sound like? Most of us can’t recall. We are too busy chasing the elusive golden ring that we will never catch. It’s akin to the state of being “cool”. You will never ever actually become cool, but you can be different.

You can break away and do those simple things that will truly make you happy and no, you don’t have to kiss a King cobra. Doable adventure is not necessarily sliding downward out of control and watching the bushes and trees slap you in the face before you plunge over the precipice. Attainable adventure is a state of mind and can be conquered in your living room. I’ve read books for this very escape since I was a child and it takes no special equipment… and it works every time.

Henry David Thoreau sat outside his cabin all day, from dusk to dawn. He did not get up to eat or use the toilet. He watched everything without disturbance and guess what? He claimed it was the most production and rewarding day of his life. How is that possible?

Join a gym and do things you never thought possible and by challenging yourself to do what you thought was unattainable, you will experience the adventure you so seek. It is in each of us to succeed, but only we can take that first step into uncharted territory. So, what are you waiting for?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Do Hillary Supporters Endorse SHARIA LAW in AMERICA?

I guess a person would have to be part Dodo bird and part ostrich to not realize things are really heating up in world politics. This week alone Great Britain has decided by vote to leave the European Union of nations and the Republicans are releasing a long-awaited report on the Benghazi terror attacks that killed four Americans.

The sad truth is, if Mark Dice were to stand almost anywhere in Baytown Texas and film people answering questions about these two subjects, it would be embarrassing. Recently, he explained to passerby’s that one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises is to expand Sharia Law in the United States. He does it as a matter of fact and people are quick to give him their 2 cents worth.

His interviewees are Millennials and mostly Caucasians. One person after another agreed with Hillary, although the premise is preposterous and totally untrue.

Mark Dice is doing with politics, what Jay Leno has done for years with history. He interviews people on the street and asks questions and like Leno, it simply proves that people have no clue what is or has happened in the past. They make no attempt to think or reason.

Dice, speaking to an Anglo female says, “One of Hillary’s primary platforms is to spread Sharia Law through the minority communities. Do you think that is the right thing to do in the New World Order?”  Now note, the woman doesn’t want to appear to be racist, so her only viable option is to reply, “Yea, I think so. Yea.” Video after video gets the same response from those fortunate enough to step up to the Mic and be heard. Now note, these people are voters.

In San Diego, California, he again asks a young white man of maybe 25, “What country famously broke away from England to start their own country in the late 1700’s?”  His answer is astounding or should be.  “I have no idea. I don’t know man.”

Another group of people could not explain what the D.C. stood for in Washington DC. One woman ventured, “Dominican Republic?”

“What is your reaction to President Kennedy dying this morning in a car wreck and his I have a dream speech?” The young Anglo man with the headphones grins and admits he didn’t see any of it.  “I’m not even playing with you. But honestly, it is so sad to hear that a President is dying…”

Dice explains to a young Afro-American woman pushing a stroller that we nuked China last week for currency manipulation. She had a very level head and felt like we should have talked it out instead of dropping nuclear weapons on them. A Hispanic male of about 30 felt like China should have talked to Russia before nuking them. “The whole nukes and things just pollute stuff.” Good reason to not nuke another country.

And probably, the most preposterous of all and I am not making this up, is this one. “Do you think if we would have had stricter gun control in the 1300’s, Lee Harvey Oswald wouldn’t have been able to kill Jesus?” The young white Millennial male didn’t hesitate. “No, he would have still used a gun. Criminals will always find a way to get around gun control.” Good point, right?

Most people seemed to believe Jesus died in the 1300’s. I watched Mark Dice get people to sign a petition that read “I AM A MORON!” across the top while he explained anything and every thing from illiteracy to nonsense. Free kosher hamburgers at the Holocaust restaurant sounded appetizing to almost everyone. “It made Schindler’s List as the best hamburg joint!”

Please, please, please. Do not take my word for this. See for yourself and then using your left hand, lift your lower jaw back up and close your mouth. Now raise your right hand and promise yourself you will not be one of these people.

I routinely ask trivia questions on Facebook to the people who follow my threads and some of their answers both sadden me or make me laugh. The reason I say this is because very often, I can see that they simply are not reading what I wrote. If I give them a multiple choice, often I will get answers that are not options. Try that one in the 6th grade and see how successful you are. It is not occasional either, but too often.

Other times, the answer isn’t even close to being on subject. It makes me wonder what is going on in this country that we can’t comprehend the simplest of instructions or remember anything other than sports scores and movies quotes. If people can’t do a quick web search, they are clueless most of the time and mutter “I don’t know.” They make no attempt to think on their own. Mark Dice proves this again and again.

So what is the remedy? You tell me. As a writer of sorts, I don’t have a clue.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The road less taken is now my own

I’ve learned to wait quietly without frustration. Well, about 50% of the time. I can’t say for certain when I first realized I reached this mature stage in life. I most certainly earned it the hard way, as it was not a skill acquired without the accompanying agony.

My list of lessons is rife with obstacles. Having an appointment only means that I am expected to be there for them, not the other way around. Changing lanes to get ahead of someone only invokes the age old law that the other line moves quicker. Try it at the grocery store for a mini-lesson and the lane you jumped to will need the Managers approval within seconds.

Need a quick anything?  Other than Chick-fil-A, you are pretty much out of luck and might as well hunker down and be patient. Cresting an overpass, you see nothing but red taillights and decide to zip down the feeder instead. It’s risky and you are a pro, but soon get caught up behind a fender bender that brings you to a 40 minute halt.

Our fast-paced life takes 2 weeks to grind down to a peaceful state and by that time, the “relaxing” trip to Pago Pago is over and we are still tense. We arrive back in Baytown and with no apparent transition go immediately back to 90 to nothing. There is only one solution besides moving permanently to Luckenbach – learn to slow down or burn up on reentry. You can’t change anything except your perception of your surroundings. The sooner you accept this hard cold fact, the quicker you can sit back and take one for the team.

Almost to the day, I retired 2 years ago and it’s taken me 2 years to slow down. Now some might laugh when I write or claim to have slowed down, but I am not talking about activities, but my perception of life around me. “Slow down bro; you are retired,” has become my mantra. I can “hang out” at the auto parts store and chat with the counter person now instead of ricocheting in one door and out the other like I’ve done since I was 15.

It’s raining and the yard needs mowing? No biggie, I’ll do it tomorrow or the next day. That problem will repeat itself countless times and it is nothing to get agitated over. Yes, I realize it isn’t one issue that gets us tied in knots; it’s the stack of 15 problems that set us off like a firecracker. Our normal routines as working people have a queue of problems waiting to ambush us every single day and where does this frustration come to the surface? When we are forced to wait on almost anything.

I have to confess I am not always successful. As an example, this week I was needing to buy an item at one of the home improvement stores.  I searched like a Yorkie going for a rat for all of maybe 10 minutes and the staff was having a large motivational gathering. I couldn’t get help because they were busy getting pumped up so they could help customers. I went to the professional lumber area and stood quietly at the counter and watched 4 clerks stare at a 5th one as they tried to thread a spool of paper on one of the registers.

I’ll be honest and say I didn’t last much more than 60 seconds before I walked off shaking my head. I was within 5 feet of them and they never took their eyes off the paper spool-challenged coworker.  As I walked away, I took a few deep breaths and made my way to the part of the store that ultimately held the tool I needed. When I checked out, the lady asked, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” I chuckled and went out the door as happy as I would have been if someone had put the item in my hand. I deserve an award for patience.

A good deal of my acquired new maturity is due to the time I spend at the gym named after a clock. I can burn frustration with calories and by the time I leave, I simply have little fight left in me – and that carries over to the rest of the day. Sure, taking a drug or something else would be easier, but that is a path I want to avoid. Besides, I get a good blast of endorphins as a reward and I like that opiatic hormone.
Running all over like a fried chicken with its head cut off will not save any of us any credible amount of time and only make us more agitated. Some of us simply need a break to gather our wits, but that my friend is for another column.


Friday, June 17, 2016

When I am old and losing my hair

Well, it’s finally happened and to me of all people.  I’ve hit 64 years of age. It happened yesterday and felt like any other day except my knee was throbbing. The Beatles gave me my first warning way back in 1967 about this time of life warning about losing my hair and being old. Being old. Wow. I guess 64 is old. Younger people think so.

What exactly is old anyway? My good friend Charles Kelm drives a 1997 Chevy pick-up I told him was an old truck. I worked on a Windows XP machine that is old because of the new operating systems and it’s only about 6 years from purchase date. Both the truck and computer still work, but they are slower than current models.

Yea, that describes me… but the older I get, the better I used to be. That’s what I tell people. When Chuck Norris was about 70, he was asked if he can still run 5 miles and his answer was right on the money. “Yea. It just takes me longer.”

“I stepped outta the shower and I got a good look at myself
Pot-bellied, bald-headed, well I thought I was somebody else 
I caught my reflection in the mirror on the back of the bathroom door
I just don't look good naked anymore”

I was at Clyde Casey’s house working on his computer when he told me he is 91.  My youngish 64 looked pretty weak in comparison. Clyde tells me until a few years ago, he could fix his own computer, but these days…

It seems like every day, something else is breaking on my body, so he really impresses me. Granted most of my injuries are self-inflicted including my current knee problem.

I have arrived at the painful conclusion that I can no longer do plyometric exercises. “Plyos” are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power. The only thing that is increasing on me is the regular exploding of my joints. This time it resulted in a trip to the VA for an x-ray and a future MRI. The doc says I am structurally sound, but I may have torn a ligament or tendon. Great.

"I went down to a nude beach for some seaside fun
Stretched out in my birthday suit soakin' up the sun
Then somebody yelled, "There's an old white whale, washed up on the shore.
Sure, I just don't look good naked anymore"

I pride myself on being a fast learner, but in some areas I am a sucker for punishment and evidently slightly retarded in my ability to learn from mistakes. I hurt myself on Monday, but kept going 90 to nothing until 3 days later I couldn’t get out of bed. I thought I could work it out. Don’t laugh, because all of us break the rules when it comes to common sense concerning ourselves.

I simply compounded the problem with repeated classes until I couldn’t bend my leg and by Friday afternoon I was tapping out and crying “uncle”.  I’m almost 64 for crying out loud - and it took this latest act of blind self-abuse to wake me up to that fact.

Speaking of the older I get, the better I used to be, I’ve taken to explaining to my 3 year old grandson, “When I was your age, I already had chores,” or “When I was your age, I was already running a trap line.” It has no obvious effect on him and isn’t actually the truth, but I enjoy reinforcing my false sense of indestructibility and endurance.

I’m waiting on the day when due to my advanced age I am not accountable for what comes out of my mouth and can get away with slightly ribald and delusional comments. Of course, my bride will not be present, or she will see straight through it. “Oh don’t listen to that old curmudgeon; he’s so old he fell off his dinosaur.” Or maybe I’ll write a lot of letters to the Baytown Sun supporting Hillary Clinton and people will know I’ve lost all sense of reasoning and stop reading my fantasies.

The real answer is to modify my physical activities to a more moderate approach. You would think that as many times as I’ve fallen out of a tree would make me more cautious about climbing them in the first place. The real chore is to recognize the trees for what they are – something for a younger person.

My competitive nature makes this difficult, so I simply must cut out the boot camp I attend and stick with weight lifting. It will be difficult at first, but its time has come.

* Ben Colder - I Just Don't Look Good Naked Anymore