Thursday, May 25, 2017

We don't know our left from our right.

I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio Texas. It was so obvious, a cave catfish could see it. I had many lessons prior to this, but marching drove home the point and further on, I'll explain.

When I am warming up a spin class I like to say. "Right arm out!' and then demonstrate it. I hold out my left arm and pull it across my chest and take my right hand and place it behind my elbow and stretch my arm. After ten seconds, I say, "Now your other right arm!" and perform the opposite exercise. The reason I do the opposite is I am facing them and I am a mirror image of what I want. The reason I say "the other right arm" is because no matter which arm you tell people, some of them will do the wrong arm.

One of my brothers would always take a turn to the opposite direction when we were driving someplace as a group. Because of this, we learned to point where he should turn, rather than speak "take a right at the next street." The reason for this is he is ambidextrous and right and left made less sense to him than most other people. When we played sandlot baseball, he was always the one that got the right-hand mitt if there was a spare glove and he throws and catches just as well with either hand.

Have you ever stopped and asked for directions and this well-intentioned person is the last individual on earth you should have queried?  "Yea, go down yonder and take three rights, a left after the curve, then two lefts, and blah, blah blah?"  Marco Polo would have become lost after listening to that fellow.

In BMT - Basic Military Training, we marched and marched and then we marched. When everyone was in step, magic took place. We moved as a unit and with each sharp step you heard the heel of one giant combat boot strike the ground with a precision you learned to love. It is music and the view is harmonious, as each head in front of you sways to the left and right until... What in tha?

Your head is going the opposite way of everyone else's? Is this a good thing under these circumstances? I would think not and I understand the various arguments about being your own person and sticking to what you believe is right, but sometimes, walking in agreement is the simple and best answer.

As a country, we have lost sight of this philosophy. Remember the old adage, united we stand, divided we fall? How about a biblical reference of, "... if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand"? We have went so far to the right or left that people are sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling, "La la la la!" rather than trying to find common ground. Geeze, folks, isn't common ground life, liberty, and the right to choose which App you load to your smartphone?
Is there anything we can agree on anymore without fighting, shooting the finger, and yelling the F word? People have become so passionate that they've forgotten that true happiness and peace comes from the simple things like a soft conversation with the one you love, or a sunset, or sitting around a campfire and adding a new log.

As a nation representing freedom, we have become a concern to our neighboring countries who fear we are ripping ourselves apart and I am with them on this. When a person is afraid to publicly admit who they voted for because they think someone will become violent, we have lost something as a nation. Sure, fisticuffs have went on for decades, but then again, you didn't get ran over by a car after they followed you for four miles either.

Lee College's professor Susan Cummings and I have debated social issues and politics for about 15 years and rarely have we agreed on anything, but you know what?  I like the lady and on many other issues we have chatted like old buddies.  Years ago, she made the statement that we have agreed to disagree and it is the truth. I would rush across the street to help her out of a bind if she needed me and this is how things are supposed to work in this country. We as a nation have lost more than we have gained by bickering and trash-talking each other and it is reaching a very destructive point where we will have to decide if we can actually walk in step or divide.

Debating has turned an ugly course where a brick in hand is needed as punctuation. In my mind, Ted Kaczynski was right in so many ways, but his methods were criminal.  Raise the red flag if you feel like something is wrong and pray for change, but don't become violent and destructive as a means to accomplish your goals. "Then join in hand, brave Americans all— By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!" John Dickinson's "Liberty Song" published 18 July 1768, in the Boston Gazette.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

You ain't seen nothing yet!

I remember when people failed a grade in school they had two options. Go to summer school, or repeat the grade. If they tried out for the cheer-leading squad and didn't make it, they had two options. Try again next year or try something else. If they applied for a job and were denied employment, they either went and took a couple courses to sharpen their skills or they applied for a different job doing something else.

If they attempted to join the Air Force and for some reason were denied entry, they went to the Navy and then the Army and as a last resort, they became Marines (no insult intended or implied). Not everyone will make a good Marine and my hat is off to them for their mission. My point is, they applied around until they got satisfaction.

How many times in a working career do we experience failure to get a position we believe we not only desire, but deserve? When we don't get it, what is our response? Do we become antagonistic and combative or (egads) subversive? Would we rather see the whole business collapse than move forward without us being in the position we felt we should have filled? Do we whine and cry and rally everyone we can persuade to overturn the decision or wreck havoc to show the travesty?

Are we so self assured and righteous to believe that only we can do the job to the point that we would physically strike the other person or wish them and their family harm? Should we hire a attorney to go after them, or a blogger to put into motion a constant barrage of slander against the person who did the interview or better yet, the person who was chosen over us? Would we refuse to accept defeat even though we clearly were not selected, elected, but rejected?

Would we justify our actions by believing everyone got it wrong, but us and those who supported us knowing full well, it would make the company, school, or business less effective because of our well planned public stunts? Would the end justify the means, even if it meant dividing everyone against each other? Would creating a hostile situation satisfy us or be acceptable restitution because we were not selected?

Whatever happened to just accepting the fact that we were not chosen and either go back to the drawing board, or find another occupation?  Why is it, that people who claim to be accepting of almost anything and everything are so outspoken against other things to the point that they turn to violence to get their message across. They claim to be champions of human rights and the first amendment, but they behave in just the opposite manner when arguing their point. They demand to be heard, but scream down anyone who won't agree with them. They proudly crash into assemblies rudely shouting out "My team is better than your team", but pummel anyone wearing a button, hat, or t-shirt with the opposing view stamped on it.

But the greatest weapon they possess is using the misogyny or race card to slander anyone who has the ignorant temerity to disagree with them. This automatically buys them time, as the very implication of this heinous malady makes the person guilty in the eyes of other people like them and for the most part, the Press. Never mind that many people on both sides of the argument do not reach for actual facts; they just follow. What, me read? Why should I read when I can listen to Limbaugh or Pelosi? They will tell me what to think, right?

It's sad, sad, sad days we are living in when people don't have enough moral and ethical history to think for themselves. This is why if you were to pull a random protestor out of any hostile group and have them explain whey there are really protesting, it would be a joke. It would sound like this, "It is history man! I mean, like, look at all the people out here making history!" "What are you specifically protesting against"

"Racism, misogyny, hatred, violence, repealing Obamacare, man!" "Do you have insurance?" "Heck no!  I can't afford it!  Now stand back.  Watch me throw this brick at that racist!"

No, sadly, the day when people backed up, licked their wounds and went quietly into the shadows are gone. They would rather release the dogs of war and rip apart the throat of the nation than let things go a different way than they would have chosen. The liberal and tolerant idealism is a facade that many people sincerely believe is a benevolent philosophy.

The traditional definition was a person open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values. The new definition is one who wants to tear down traditional values and replace it with radical change and do both at any cost.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

There are no sounds of silence

I took a comfortable seat on my patio the other day just about sundown and closed my eyes. It took almost a full minute before I could begin to hear the ambient sounds and shut down my dependence on vision. Most were indistinct because I am used to seeing what makes these sounds. The wind picked up and moved the leaves in the bald cypress, and water oak trees I planted 25 years ago when I moved here. I turned my head and homed in on this sound I usually miss.

I opened my eyes and watched the fresh green foliage caress each and every leaf and wondered if they feel as soft as they look. Off in the distance I recognize the sound of a car revving its powerful motor and I again close my eyes and try and envision the driver, excited about the adrenaline rush they are experiencing. My mind drifts back to 1970 when I came to Texas from St. Louis in a 1968 Shelby Mustang GT350.

At 18, the muscle car had a lot of energy and I pushed the car quite hard a number of times. With eyes closed, I hear this modern car blast down Blue Heron Parkway and wonder if an LEO is running radar at the park. I open my eyes and watch 5 white ibis silently fly over me and they are most likely coming from the pond close by. Lately I've seen a pretty good variety of birds there, including wild ducks.

A distant siren cries out and it sounds like it is on (what I still call) Loop 201. It's most likely going to take the Garth Road exit and closing my eyes, I follow its progress as it goes past North Main. I hope I am never a passenger in one of those and I run a few scenarios through my mind before another sound attracts me.

"Erack erack erak!" The sound is coming from the corner of my house. Its a green tree frog male looking for a mate. I would get up and walk over to find it, but I know its between the gutter and the side of house. Its a beautiful green color and happily undisturbed. Besides, I am comfortable where I am, sitting at the table under the umbrella with my feet up.

A train blows it's mega horn and it drones its deep and lonely announcement of passage.  The German Shepard pup next door imitates its sound and rattles the chain link fence of its enclosure. This sets off my Pomeranian/Papillion mix  and Shi Tzu and they run around the patio screaming in dog language that this is their yard and to stay out. A plane takes off from the Baytown Airport and I open my eyes to watch it. I can't help that I was in the Air Force and want to see every single aircraft that flies over me. I will myself to close my eyes and resume my adventure.

A radio comes on from a few houses down and it's "coun-tree" like they used to play and I wonder if its a CD or maybe better yet, a cassette tape. Shortly after that, I smell meat cooking and there are few smells more welcome than barbecued meat. I sub a class at a gym in Midtown and when I exit that gym usually around 0700, I smell BBQ and donuts and that, my friend, trumps straight BBQ every time. In this case, its almost a sin because the smell is outside a gym. I award myself 10 calories each time I smell it.

Whoa!  The motorcycles these days are incredible machines. I sure hope that fellow can control that missile. Blue Heron's straightaway sure is a tempting quarter mile. I listen and thankfully I do not hear the sound of the bike t-boning a car pulling out of the parking area at the park. I figure it is only a matter of time. The chimney swallows make a hurried pass overhead and I know they are gulping down mosquitoes. Why do the danged blood-sucking insects only attack me and not my bride?

Hank Williams turn into Aerosmith and the pungent odor of cooked meat causes me to open my eyes just as a blue jay lands ten feet away from me and loudly squawks. "I have nothing to give you old friend," I say and it looks at me and launches off like it was shot from a gun.

I wonder what it would be like to have my bride lead me out on the patio early in the morning, say about 0600 and I stay out there with a cover over my eyes until sunset. I bet it would be the experience of a lifetime. I'm reminded that there is a lot more to life than I am currently experiencing and that this simple experiment in vision deprivation, really opened my eyes. I challenge my readers to give it a go.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

What is it that makes you jump?

Phobias, the scary, very real feeling we experience that can be terrifying, right? One definition takes it further: "an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something." We all have one or more whether we will admit it or not.  I know I have one to be sure, maybe two. Seeing a person wildly react to something that doesn't bother us, can be hilarious, I admit.

However, whenever I meet someone who has what many believe to be an irrational fear, I treat it as real, because no matter how bizarre it may appear to me - it is real to them and I try to empathize.

Now before you decide where I'm going with this and you are scared to death of clowns, snakes, and spiders that I plan to dangle in front of you because I'm mean, hang on and let me elaborate. Look at the title of this week's column. What makes you jump? What gets you going? What does it for you when nothing else will? What is your thrill fix?

Scary movies? Death defying stunts? Maximum horsepower with fat under-aired tires smoking rubber on asphalt and you without ear plugs so you can really feel the moment? How about a steaming plate of fajitas and onions that causes your jaws to ache as saliva is released? Maybe it's that beautiful woman you've been married to for (x-amount) of years that really makes your Webley tremble.

You are in control until that 14 point Boone & Crockett whitetail buck steps out into the open and provides you with that once in a lifetime side view shot and you raise your rifle or bow and let one fly! It is quite possible that none of these wonders are what make you jump.  Maybe it's a timely scriptural verse or one of the inspiration parables published each week in the Sun that really gets your shouting shoes tapping.

Jumping is good.  Jumping is what defines us. Every morning I hop out of bed and run to the coffee pot for my first jump. I want that blast of energy from caffeine. It is an amazing drug that enhances my day. My next jump is when I open the Drudge website followed by Google News, and then the Baytown Sun. I want to see what has happened in the world and in my city since I went to bed. It's like a cathartic drug to me.

Sure, irrational fears make us jump and exposing ourselves to them can be both detrimental and beneficial, but why indulge in them when there are so many other good jumps out there? Personally I think people mistake bucket list items as the only viable jump. Experiencing places and things have their place, but if we use them as the standard for a jump, we are setting the mark a bit too high for daily living.  I mean after all, daily living is what we do, right?

Why hobble ourselves with achievements that only come occasionally when we can get all jiggy over life's simple pleasures?  Speaking of simple pleasures, the other day I made a big pot of potato soup with bacon, butter, cheese, onions, and canned milk and then I made a big fat pan of sweet cornbread to go with it.  Holy cow! Boom! I jumped!

Every day of every week we are given the opportunity to make leaps forward. The trick is to seize the moment and not miss it. The other day I was near the VA off Holcombe Avenue exiting 288 and I needed to get in the far left number 1 lane.  I was in lane 3 and came to a halt in the heavy traffic, or I would miss my turn a hundred yards up the road. The fellow behind me didn't understand that I needed to wait and began blowing his horn in what was a very annoying manner. I sat and waited and when the rushing cars finally passed, I moved over and drove unrestricted at least a hundred yards to make my turn. He moved up three whole cars. I jumped and he didn't and I was so proud of myself for being a cool head. It was a victory for me and I loved the feeling I got for not responding.

So, jumping can be everything from responding to irrational fear to keeping a cool head when life throws you a curve and to be honest, all of them are learning experiences. Some are fun and some are not. One last jump I need to cover is the one I get by fulfilling my responsibilities. It is the most satisfying of all of them.

For the past month, I've adopted a new strategy that is possibly driving my bride crazy. Cradle to grave. Anything I can do to completion, I do. I do not procrastinate. A simple example is carrying a coffee cup to the kitchen and placing it on the counter. An hour later, I walk by and put it in the sink. That evening, I put it in the dish washer. Now I walk in and put it in the dish washer. Once again, I made a satisfactory jump and this time, in efficiency. Now, start jumping.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Can an old dog learn new tricks?

Last week, many of my readers responded very positively to my column concerning pain and pain management. It appears from feedback that severe pain is very common and a real problem to control and treatment and management can be very costly. Our politicians are making some pain drugs much more difficult to obtain for people who are sincerely dependent upon it to carry on a semi-normal life.

For a long time I've made the claim that anyone who challenges me to define what I believe is my friend. It is the easiest path to throw up your hands anytime you don't agree with something and say, "Sorry, but that's the way I see it and I'm not going to change my mind." I want to challenge you with this column and I want you to ruminate on what I am about to assert.

Steve Wold, better known as Seasick Steve wrote these insightful lyrics in the song, Can't teach an old dog new tricks:
"There must be something wrong with me
What it is I can't quite see
I can't seem to do nothing right.
Maybe I need to change my style
Been this way for a long long while
Maybe there's a few things I ought to fix.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks?"

Before you judge me on what you are about to read watch this amazing video and then chew the cud.
In this video, a man with Parkinson's disease is shaking so badly, he couldn't take a drink of water to save himself. He is offered a marijuana solution and he puts ONE drop under the tongue. Within ONE minute, he begins to calm down. In FIVE he sits up with no shakes and comments that his voice is coming back and then sings. The transformation is incredible or miraculous and the man appears healthy.

If after watching what one drop of this plant's extract can do for just one single disease, you cannot see the need to open it up for expansive research, then Steve's got another set of lyrics for you to embrace.

"Maybe I should leave well enough alone
I might not be perfect but I'm me to the bone
I don't need to change my style
Been this way for a long long while
There ain't nothing that I got to fix
You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

At 65 I do not want to be this old dog that simply refuses to adjust my thinking to adjust to science's onward march, especially when the original information was flawed.  Reefer madness is one of the biggest lies ever pushed on the American public, except maybe the need for underarm deodorant. BO as an advertising term was invented by Odo-Ro-No in 1919 (wisely targeting women's critical self-consciousness) to buy deodorant when all they needed was to bath regularly and wear clean clothes. Offensive body odor is caused by a buildup of bacteria and it simply does not grow that fast. However, stinking is not a crime. Maybe it should be. To substantiate my claim, I haven't used deodorant since 1977.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic in the same category as heroin due to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. What idiot pushed this one past reasoning people? Heroin yes, cannabis, no. I can't substantiate my next statement with cold hard facts, but I am pretty danged sure no one has ever overdosed on marijuana alone. They may have laughed themselves to death, but overdose? Nope.
Now in the early 70's, I smoked this stuff like a chimney every single chance I got, so I am backing up my claims with personal experience. I quit because I turned my life over to Jesus and I felt like it was a bad witness. I haven't smoked it since. However, it is illegal and on top of that and I'll be honest with you here, even if it was legalized - I still will not smoke it again for recreational purposes.

The reason for this is twofold. One, pot or Mary Jane, etcetera, makes a person complacent or lazy, or content to the point that for many, including myself, I become unmotivated. Why go to the beach, when you can go to the beach in your head? Two, it gives you the munchies and that's all I need is to want to eat more than I already am.

But let's look at the hundreds of illnesses, aches and pains that engineered cannabis extracts can cure or remove. I ask those of us who have been led to believe that the medical use of opium derivatives is okay, but marijuana is not, to do a little research. Watch videos of people being given this plant and see for yourself that it is high time to declare medical marijuana legal and pursue it to the nth degree. Remember what I said in my column last week; when putting a gun to your head seems like a viable option to stop pain, you will take whatever you can get, to stop it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A real pain in the neck

I'm hesitant to write along these lines this week, but feel that many of my readers will relate. I like to write motivational, inspirational, and sometimes humorous or challenging columns that have a message or make us want to be a better person. Probably too often I pontificate while pointing out injustices or rude social behavior, but not this week.

A couple days ago, I drove my 85 year old mother to see her pain doctor. She has to go each month and sit anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in the waiting room to prove she is not abusing her pain drug, which now thanks to recent regulation changes, hydrocodone is being phased out. This highly effective drug has been the only reason she has lived a semi-normal life and she takes it on schedule.

What she gets now is a form of morphine that doesn't address her numerous joint pains, which she itemized with a chuckle. "My shoulder, neck, back, wrist... even my big toe!" Her doctor earlier had explained to her that she was concerned my mother would become dependent on the hydrocodone. My mother, who is in full control of her mental faculties looked at the doctor like they were out of touch with reality.

As she explained to me in my car, "I am 85 years old and I cannot live with pain. I am fully dependent on that medication to relieve it, regardless if the drug is addictive or not." It didn't matter to the doctor and my mother also had this little gem of inside information. "If they were in pain, they would understand."

This conversation took place last month when we went through three days of her running out of hydrocodone because none of the local pharmacies carried the new pain killer. It got very close to a panic situation for her. At the time she was explaining the issue of pain and meds, I was pain free and have been for years, but what she said sounded logical, although I couldn't really relate. People complaining about health issues falls on deaf ears to the healthy.

Sadly, I was soon to be educated why people choose to end their life rather than live in constant pain.

On March 21st, I awoke with a stiff neck. I drove to the NASA gym to instruct a spin class at 0830 and by the time I left, my right shoulder was numb and I couldn't turn my head.  By noon, I was climbing the walls. I have never felt pain that intense and it was one solid long line of agony. No matter what I did or what position I was in, nothing relieved it.

I doubled up on ALEVE and 2 days later I was at the VA emergency room. I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't think of anything else except the non-stop pain in my shoulder and bicep and at first I thought I was having a stroke, but ruled that out for a pinched or impinged nerve.

They set me up for an MRI in 5 days and gave me a small prescription for a weaker pain med named Tramadol.  I took one every 6 hours as directed and ran out Sunday morning, 3 days later. This was 2 days before my appointment. I am convinced the doctor didn't really bother to calculate how many tablets I needed because he couldn't relate. People living in pain are very aware of how many pills they have. The pain came back with a vengeance and by noon on Sunday I drove the 30 miles to the VA and went back into the emergency room.

Through a miracle, I got an MRI within an hour and a sympathetic doctor who prescribed my 5 meds. He asked me what the level of my pain was and I told him it was the one right below crying.

To make a long story short, I have about 8 inches of vertebra that over the years have sustained enough injury that now through a shrinking of the nerve channel it is impinged. My arm is numb to my finger tips and I've had to curtail not only my spin classes, but all gym time until we can resolve the issue.  Being the competitive individual that I am, this is very difficult for me, but the possibility that the pain will magnify past the place where it can be controlled is so scary that I just backed off.

This brings up another subject of medicinal marijuana for pain management. It has been found so effective, for so many people, only those who cannot relate to pain would object to legalizing it. When a person would take a bullet to the head to stop the pain, what in god's name would be wrong with using something that works?

I am one month into this and still numb to my fingertips on my right hand and close to starting a second 16 day blitz of Prednisone, where it feels like I am on fire internally. I have a pain consultation on the 27th to determine a course and it appears it will be acupuncture. I still remain hopeful about instructing spin class, but as I approach age 65 in June, I simply have to realize I am no longer the young buck that still lives inside of me.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Take me home country roads!

Dandy Don Cunningham and Baytown Bert
The Germans call it Fahrvergnügen. The condition starts for most of us at age 15 and if we are one of the chosen ones, it never goes away. It is the love of driving cars, trucks, and anything from a riding mower to a moped. You would think that in this country we would have our own word, but we don’t that I am aware of.

Some of us are like Jay Leno and own far more cars than the legal limit. I say that tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but don’t be surprised when the US government starts fooling with what you can and cannot drive. They will enact some law(s) to gradually remove our ability to physically operate automobiles in the manual mode. Count on it. It will be for the good of the people.

Others fall in love with one or more vehicles and shine them up and pour a good portion of their life savings into them to share at car shows like the one on Texas Avenue last week. By the way, my three favorite cars were the Buick Grand National owned by our own parable sage, Dandy Don Cunningham. Second was the peachy-colored 1953 Mercury coupe who someone said the owner has had for 38 years. It was spotless and beautiful in the extreme.

The third was a black Studebaker that was hot-rodded out and looked like a WWII bomber. Wow! What a car! One of my brothers is a MOPAR man. He has built and raced two Chrysler cars and drives a Dodge Diesel truck that runs the quarter mile in under 12 seconds — maybe 11. Myself and my other two brothers are Jeep guys and baby brother’s is a fully restored 1944 Willys Jeep that saw service in France.

My pal Larry Houston drives an early 1960’s black Cadillac convertible that if I’m not mistaken(!) is 28 feet long. Another neighbor, Butch Hodges, has a black 1967 Chevelle that he drags all over tarnation winning awards left and right. He cranks it up every once in a while and a few minutes later the seismologists are driving around the neighborhood. 

Motor enthusiasts watch videos and want to hear the motors rumbling exhaust and turn their noses up when they get AC/DC or Pearl Jam for background music instead. When they pull up to a red light and there is a VW beetle in the lane next to them, they unroll the window to once again experience the nostalgic sound.

At a car show they’ll stand and talk to total strangers and grin and blab on about a 1969 GTO Judge they always wanted, or a 1955 Chevy Nomad, that of course had to be competition orange and have Cragar 08/61 wheels. They’ll explain why so few Roadrunners had the Hemi motor and the 383 CU instead (No one could afford the $400 extra dollars).

True auto enthusiasts like to change their own oil because, “They want it done right, dang it!” They can tell you horror stories about work that was done by incompetent mechanics and like to use the phrase, “Buy tools, not labor” when around their friends to impress them.

I haven’t owned a truck in 15 years and I recently bought a 2004 Ford. It’s my first Ford other than one we took over from my parents in law years ago. I immediately fell in love with it. It had about a thousand dollars worth of work that it needed, but I got it at a cut rate cost from a friend and immediately fixed these issues. Now I am driving (get it?) my bride crazy talking about it, looking out the front door every so often to adoret it, and coming up with reasons to crank up the powerful 5.4 liter motor. “Hey baby, have I told you how much fun I’m having with this new truck?” She yawns.

She is not a car person. She uses them to get from one place to another. Can you believe that? “What? You need five bags of bark mulch? OK, I’ll be right back!”

Thursday, April 06, 2017

All the craziness going on these days

When crazy becomes the norm, what can now be considered crazy?
I know it's not just me who sees the craziness going on all around Baytown, Texas, the USA, and the world. Maybe it's always been this way and possibly because of the Internet, we are more aware. Wait, did I just claim we are more aware? Scratch that immediately. We have more information available and for those of us that actually ponder such things, what is happening is universal stupidity, outright criminal or righteous ignorance. People no longer take time to analyze what comes out of their mouth, or so it appears. Even our newly elected commander is guilty.

For instance, during the past election, I heard numerous people say, "I don't discuss politics with my friends." Now this statement is curious, because it implies they only discuss politics with enemies, or strangers. When I pointed this out to them, they stubbornly stuck to that nonsense in a self-righteous defense strategy that honestly did not hold water.

Back on crazy behavior, does it not appear that a whole bunch of Third World countries are living in the old gunslinger days of the wild west? You have North Korea swinging fists in every direction because they have so many natural resources that the rest of the world desires? No, they have nothing anyone wants. They have a maniacal despot for a ruler who is bat-dip nuts. I figure their only friend China will step in and tell the little man to stifle himself.

We have crooked politicians like outspoken two-time former congressman from Houston Steve Stockman, who allegedly headed a complex criminal conspiracy. Boy, nothing has changed over thousands of years of civilization it seems. Our country has people dressing up in clown outfits and creeping around terrorizing citizens and don't even think you can go to Walmart without a camera, or you will miss something bizarre and socially ridiculous. Wait, did I just write socially ridiculous?  Scratch that immediately.

We have organized crime here in Baytown which differs very little from larger cities. They wait and watch and pounce, stealing everything from lowboy trailers to baby formula and justify it as Robin Hood stealing from the rich selling to the poor for personal profit. Talk about low overhead!

Ask anyone you know if they actually stop before taking a right on a red light and they will truly believe they do, but all evidence points to the opposite. Here's another conundrum for us to consider and maybe someone has an answer. How can a couple leave two infant sons in their truck in a parking lot and go into a store for forty minutes?

In all the years I've been driving, I've never once jumped the curb and ran over shrubs and small trees or rolled my vehicle, but evidence is everywhere that it is a common occurrence. I actually wonder what they tell their insurance company. Wait, did I just imply they were insured? Scratch that immediately.

I am just about at the point where I am going to wear racing gloves, Nomex coveralls, and a helmet before I venture out on the streets of Baytown and Houston. A retired Baytown police officer recently remarked on my forum that people beep at him all the time when he is the first car in line when the light turns green. The reason is he can't be sure a car won't come flying through the intersection and plow into him, like the texting driver in West Texas who killed 13 people the other day, including a jewel of our community, Mildred Rosamond.

I realize everyone in the world isn't crazy or distracted, but their numbers are climbing. People still tailgate at 70 miles per hour and swap lanes in maneuvers only NASCAR drivers have mastered and I guess only a rude awakening will help them realize not only how dangerous this is, but how inconsiderate and just plain rude. Wait, did I suggest a measure of consideration? Scratch that immediately.

Another aberrant felonious occupation has developed in recent years where criminally minded armed people rob small financially insignificant stores. You never know anymore if you will be a victim when you and the fam are eating a sub sandwich. One idiot robber only got what was in the tip jar. Talk about low expectations!

A friend of mine blatantly explained to me that this armed robbery method of making money is societies fault, because the guy or gal is a convicted felon and can't get work. I was speechless and muttered, "Are you serious?" He was. I told him the reason they couldn't get a job is because they chose criminal activity over working a legitimate job. Wait, did I say work? Scratch that immediately.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Pelly's Cap’n Rusty Bouchet

Holding onto the rotting wooden rail, I stare out across the Houston Ship Channel and watch the puffy carbon-coughing black plume bellow from the single smoke stack of the dilapidated shrimp boat. To say I don’t have my sea legs would be a gross exaggeration. I figured after an hour on the small boat I would be okay, but now I'm not so sure.

“What is the oddest thing you’ve ever pulled up in your nets, Mr. Bouchet?” He throws his bald head back and laughs and his gray scraggly beard resembles a worn out frayed mop with mystery items and coated in tobacco juice.

“After Ike, I pulled in a double wide fridge and that danged thing was so well sealed, I have it in my camp house right now. It was a major haul because it was fully stocked with ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beers. Hey, you want one?”

I declined as I don’t usually drink adult beverages before 7am, but that didn’t stop the skipper, who popped the top on one and consumed it in one lip-smacking draw. Disembarking on the solid pier at Bayland Park is far more important than getting a morning beer buzz.

Cap’n Rusty, as he likes to be called, is a “road seller” of fine fish products and all evidence to the contrary, is a self-proclaimed "guzzillionaire". “I have more money than is rightly legal,” he states proudly and I look at his rusted out 1974 Chevy pick-up with curiosity.  It is a mismatch of 14 colors with more dents than I thought were possible. About the only thing fully intact is the bed and it is loaded down with white coolers. I know it’s loaded because the bed of the truck is squatting and I step away from the rear bald tires figuring to avoid getting my legs blown off if they pop.

His white rubber boots really go well with his weathered green coveralls, which are baggy enough to accommodate a family of Canadian refugees. “My secret to success is my trawler is registered in Monrovia and I don’t pay taxes, nope none at all!” He appears to be very proud of himself too. “Just like those rich peoples what was running for office last year.  Hey, who won anyway?”

Before I can answer, I watch him dump out a box of frozen shrimp, marked “Product of Vietnam” into a vat to thaw. “These are genuine caught in the Gulf of Mexico shrimps!” he explains and to my horror tosses the greasy oil-soaked box overboard. I grab a gaff and snag it back and this tickles him for some reason. "Biodegeneration will dissolve that sonny!" he says and spits a ungodly amount of tobacco juice into the bay and croaks, "Presto!"

“I don’t guess you’ve heard about water pollution?” I ask and again he cackles. Before I can utter another word, he dips a dirty glass into the ship channel and drinks the whole thing, burping loudly.

“It’s a myth, just like those lies about Bill Clinton preying on the women folk. Did I tell you him and me went to the same high school in Ar-kansas?  Sure did and them girls were always pestering him, and he being a gentleman and all.  He was the real victim. I swear to there and back he was. Clean as one of those Buck-Kees terlits!”

I watch as he lights up two hand-rolled cigarettes at once and puffs away, like a steam locomotive. Pulling in the huge net takes precedence over talking and he dumps the contents on the deck. It is an amazing haul of everything from oysters and shrimp to about twenty kinds of fish of every description. “I harvest everything and nothing gets throwed back!” he yells and I’m no expert on limits of size requirements, but I’m pretty sure a 10-inch redfish is a violation.

“You see, some of these laws just ain’t for the working man, fella. A man’s gotta make a living and all of this will either go to the buyers, or it will go to the other buyers!’ Again he laughs so hard, I have to slap his boney back to help him catch his wind. “Here, hold my beer while I drop the nets again.” I wasn't counting, but I think that is number 3. For a man in his obvious 80’s, Mr. Bouchet has energy to spare and for the life of me, I wonder how he can catch anything here at the docks and say so.

"You just watch and learn fella. Ol Cap’n Rusty will learn you." Sure enough, a wave comes rolling in as a huge ship passes by and the captain lets out a squeal that would scare a sow feral hog. "The nets are full agin!" he yells and hits the switch on his rickety winch. The whole dang boat rocks to one side as the heavy fish-laden net is lifted out of the water and Ol Rusty is going plumb crazy. "Everything sells!"

The near bursting net is hovering over the rotting deck of the boat when he releases it and it is almost full of loggerhead sea turtles of every size.  They thunk and bang all over the place and the spry captain is dancing about throwing them into the ice-filled chests and lockers like Ken Caminiti firing off a throw to first. I'm pretty sure all of this is illegal and I look around knowing I will be incriminated as an accessory. When he sees that I am about to bolt, he cackles and tells me "all these will be in Anahuac before sundown, cause they's be turtle eatin' fools over there."

Well, I'd seen enough and I left the giggling old man and figured it was my civic duty to file a police report. For some reason it wasn't in the today's paper, but that was yesterday and it'll probably be in Sunday's paper. I sure hope he isn't water-boarded because they would be in for a surprise. Anyone who drink water out of Tabb's bay won't be easy to break.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Is behaving badly, the new standard?

I signaled to exit onto North Main Street coming off SH-146 the other day and there was a car rapidly approaching from the flyover off of Spur 330. To be honest, I was exceeding the 60 mph speed limit by about 8 mph, or 68 miles per hour. The fellow zoomed up behind me so I couldn't see anything of his car except the roof, as I have a large spare tire on the back of my Jeep that obstructs my view when cars are close.

I was slowly decelerating down to about 60, as the ramp speed limit is 45 mph. The fellow swerved back and forth behind me trying to decide if he could pass me up and when I subtly countered his possibly dangerous maneuver, he finally shot around me and made an obscene hand gesture. I ignored him in a supreme act of self-control, as I was more curious about what exactly my offense was, than responding to his rude behavior.

He cut all the way to the right lane and accelerated to a stop behind another car wanting to turn right on North Main. I coasted in and stopped in the far left lane and looked over at the guy. He didn't appear to be in any state of emergency, or anything. He was simply driving. The light changed and he immediately got on the bumper of the car in front of him and tailgated up to the next red light. I observed this in my rear view mirror as I headed north.

Someone said a measure of a person is to watch how they drive and I believe it. I mentioned to a stranger the other day something about turn signals and they proudly declared they never use them. They said they don't want to let people know they are changing lanes because "they will speed up and won't let you in". I couldn't argue with that.

I grabbed a basket at Food Town the other day and it was wedged to the one in front of it. A lady came up beside me and pulled the next row cart free and she looked at me as I untangled the carts. "Why not just get a different one?" she sincerely asked. I told her it would just be a problem for the next person and then succeeded in freeing it. She acted as if I was the Lone Ranger and maybe I was at that moment in time.

How many times have you walked into a store or business with someone in front of you and they simply let go of the door even though they knew you are behind them? I was at Patient's emergency room the other day and the opposite happened. The lady in front of me held the door until I could grab it. I joked that she was a true gentleman and she replied, "I was raised right" and maybe this is the explanation to this anti-social behavior.

Who raised these inconsiderate masses that they don't even consider helping their fellow man? That's it. Probably someone other than their parents. The thought never crosses their mind that what they are doing isn't socially favorable. To them they are not being rude. They are simply looking out for numero uno. They want their way regardless of how they get it. If those around them don't like it?  Tough noogies. The Golden rule never crosses their mind.

Remember the old saying about one bad apple? Well, it may appear at times that these self-servers outnumber people with good manners, but I don't think they do. We just notice them because they rub us the wrong way. Good manners will never go unnoticed or unrewarded. A kind word, a simple consideration, or stepping aside so someone else can get a step up can have excellent results and brighten a person's day. When I pay a person for food service or at the grocery store, I usually attempt to say their name and wish them well and this automatically makes our exchange personal and sets me apart from everyone who saw them as faceless and nameless minions.

In our times when everyone wants to be seen as unique and their own person, why not try being kind and considerate? Wow! That would set you apart from many instantly. Why not slow down and let people in instead of accelerating to keep them from taking what you feel is yours? I don't believe poor behavior is the answer to any situation let alone the new norm, but it appears there are a good number of people trying hard to convince me otherwise. Have a nice day!

We don't know our left from our right.

I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in ...