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Prine Was Right: Blow Up Your TV

4 Jan

by Roger White

 

“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper,

Go to the country, build you a home…”

—from “Spanish Pipedream,” by John Prine

 

I work for an education association, whose ebb and flow of timelines, lull seasons, and get-it-done-yesterday crunch times generally follows the public schools calendar. This does not mean I get the whole summer off or that I have to take some sort of final exams every semester. But it does mean I get a nice chunk of time off during the Christmas break. Or should I say Holiday Break, or Winter Break, to be properly PC. But if I say “Winter Break,” then I’m accused of waging war on Christmas—whatever that is—by the anti-war-on-Christmas people, whoever they are. Seems there are an inordinate number of highly sensitive, easily offended, extremely angry subgroups of people out there these days, and almost any topic—from eating a hamburger to wearing a headscarf to saying “bless you” when somebody sneezes—is now an emotional mine field of potential hurt feelings and mob-mentality retribution.

reallyFor example, overheard at a local Wal-Mart recently:

“Dammit, Zebulon, these friggin’ Moslems is takin’ over the place. Look over thar, in home improvement. Dang scarf-wearin’ terrurist jee-haddys…”

“Yeah, I here ya, Jebediah. Hey, Zeke! Lee Roy! We got us a … wait, that’s my mom in the scarf. She didn’t want nobody to see her curlers.”

“Oh. Well. That’s awright, I guess.”

But while we’re on the subject, wouldn’t the term “Winter Break” be considered offensive to those folks who deem autumn as their favorite season? We have Spring Break; we have Summer Break; and now with the newly christened “Winter Break” we are kicking poor, unloved autumn to the curb, aren’t we? We have no “Fall Break.” I’m pissed off! This is War on Fall! Anti-Autumn Armageddon! I’m organizing a protest! Where’s Fox News?

OK, wait. Once again, I digress. Anyway, yes, so this lovely fortnight of vacation I get every, uh, late December allows me the blessed opportunity to back away from the grind. To sit in the backyard with a fire in the fire pit, a warm drink in hand, and nothing on my mind but determining how to get the (insert your preferred holiday here) boxes down from the attic without upsetting the raccoon family that has taken up permanent residence up there.

I have found that during this heavenly lull I tend to watch less news on TV and scarcely come near the computer, which is where I usually receive my daily dose of terror, misery, innuendo, and fear-mongering via CNN and other websites.

And despite the season’s family dramas, gift-hunting mayhem, and traffic gridlock gnashing of teeth—not to mention the annual overdose of turkey, libations, and too much party silliness—I find that my anxiety level and blood pressure go way down. Two weeks without Trump, Cruz, Clinton, terrorist plots for world overthrow, Planned Parenthood bombings, Dow Jones doom and gloom, the affluenza teen, Bill Cosby revelations, and viral cat-in-the-microwave stories tend to hit me like a soft pillow in the face. The crap the media spews at us 24/7 isn’t our world.

And all you have to do is turn it off. You can blow it up, if you’ve a mind, but just hitting the “off” button will suffice. Aaah. That’s nice.

So why take only a (insert your preferred holiday here) break from the muck and the madness? I was never much on New Year’s resolutions, but I believe I have one for 2016: Less CNN, Trump, Hannity, msnbc, Fox, and all those “World’s Most Extreme Terrible Things” shows—and more backyard reflection. More walks, more friends, more board games. If you still have the old Aggravation board game gathering cobwebs in the closet, pull it out, dust it off, and get the kids around. It’s fun.

Don’t have Aggravation? OK, Monopoly then. Just try to ignore the fact that Monopoly is based on properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a town practically owned by…you know who. I’m tellin’ ya, if that candy-haired blowhard gets anywhere near the White House, I’m moving the family to…

Time out. Breathe. Forget Monopoly. Stick with Aggravation. Or the backyard fire pit. Aaah, there we go.

aggravation

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious offspring, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

This Year, Santa’s from the Seventies, Like, Man

16 Dec

by Roger White

I must have fallen and hit my head again. Do you hear those mountains? Listen to all that purple. Ding! Ooh, time for cocoa! I swear, from looking at the little calendar icon on my computer, that it is December 2014. That’s what it says, right there on my screen. Yes? No? But as I run down the list of Christmas presents requested by our two offspring types I realize that it must be approximately December 1974, give or take a decade.

Do you know what our oldest daughter, a college freshman, wants for Christmas? A record player. That’s right. An actual turntable with an actual needle that plays actual albums. I had to ask her again to make sure I was hearing correctly. I didn’t think she grasped what a record player was. Or a record, for that matter. Apparently, they’re all the rage with the college kids now. Who knew? I never crank itshould have gotten rid of my old Magnavox solid state stereophonic hi-fi phonograph with diamond stylus. Ah, those were the days. Put on a little “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks, slap on some Hai Karate cologne, slide on my polyester bell botto—OK, never mind.

Our oldest kiddo, who has Pink Floyd and Hendrix posters in her room by the way, also requested headphones. Not those microscopic little earbuds that can get lost in the inner canals of your cranium, mind you. No, she wants the mammoth vintage-style phones that cover half your head, like those awesome KLH monsters that looked more like heart defibrillators than musical accessories. Remember those things? Your mom could be screaming at you not two feet away that the house was on fire, and all you could hear was Edgar Winter. Yeah, man. Rock on.

awe. some.

Anyway, those giant ear-suffocating mufflers are back, too. Retro is in, apparently. Going down the list, I see that our youngest daughter—she of the Smartphone Taylor Swift Maroon 5 Instagram generation—wants, get this, a Polaroid Land Camera. Seriously. If you need a memory jog, the Polaroid Land Camera was that behemoth box of an instant camera that would spit the photo out right then and there immediately after you snapped it. You stood there and shook and waved and shimmied the photo as it developed in front of your eyes. Remember that? A technological marvel! Instead of waiting a week and having to run to your pharmacy to see that your thumb was over the lens, you got to see your stupid mistake instantly. By the way, Polaroid didn’t call it the Land Camera because you could use it only on land. The guy who invented it was named Edwin Land, who was cofounder of the Polaroid Company. Just so you’ll know.

Oh, and let’s not forget about shoes. Sneakers, to be more precise. Do you know what sneakers our youngest runs around in nowadays? Keds. Old-style, high-top, Johnny Unitas-looking Keds! Except they don’t call them Keds now. And they dang sure don’t sell them for $10 anymore, to be certain. Holy mother of johnny umackerel, they’re high fashion now, produced by hoity-toity outfits with names like Maison Martin Margiela or Steve Madden or some Nordstrom-sounding company called Giuseppe Zanotti—and for only $759.99 they come in gold lamé or day-glo lace or faux snakeskin. I’m thinking if I snag a pair of original Keds from Goodwill and spray-paint them gold leaf, she’ll never know the diff.

So all this retro rage got me thinking about my Christmas list. I might as well go with the flow, I reasoned. Why not? OK, Santa, this year I’d like: 1. Soap on a rope (preferably English Leather or Irish Spring); 2. A Sony Walkman (in lemon yellow or groovy grape color); 3. A Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot set; and 4. A Man from U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox with thermos. If you don’t have Man from U.N.C.L.E., I’ll take Green Hornet, but please try. Thanks, Santa dude.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Twas Just Weeks Before Christmas

9 Dec

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Twas just weeks before Christmas, and all through the pad

The family was doing its darndest to rouse Dad.

With Thanksgiving turkey still digesting, somewhat static,

I was instructed quite sternly to fetch the tree from the attic.

 

Up there amid the cornucopia of raccoon and rat droppings

notreallymyatticI found the ol’ tree, a few lights, and Yule stockings.

I emerged stiff and sore from all the crawling and kneeling,

Yet I was thankful this time I didn’t fall through the ceiling.

 

We set up the faux fir, still tall but a bit thinning,

Then we threw on the tinsel and bulbs and the trimming.

The wife and I then noticed something odd and perplexing,

Our usually gung-ho helpers were too busy texting.

 

Our daughters, you see, are now teens oh so typical,

Self-involvement in this species has reached levels almost mythical,

So I barked, “If you two jokers want a visit from Saint Nick,

Ya better put down the phones and start decorating quick!”

 

With some grousing and squawking we got the house squared away,

We even found our old snoring Santa to put on display.

Then the tree lights turned off, an infuriating quirk,

’Cause I had to find that one lousy bulb that wouldn’t work.

 

merrydogmaThen the dog decided to start eating all the tinsel,

I pried what I could from his mouth with my pencil.

Our cat then pounced on the tree like a leopard,

Causing the whole thing to crash into Baby Jesus and the shepherds.

 

It was about this time I started debating my sanity

As I chased my tinsel-munching dog, filling the house with profanity.

So the girls hightailed it to the mall for some shopping;

 I caught a glimpse in the mirror, my hair flecked with rat droppings.

damall 

On Visa! On Amex! On Discover and Capital One!

Charge away, charge away ’til the buying is done.

To Nordstrom! To Brookstone! To Abercrombie & Fitch!

Charge ’til my credit rating’s down in the ditch!

 

So I propped the tree upright and shooed the animals away

And opened a cold one; this was the end of my day.

I toasted my loved ones as they drove out of sight,

festivusmanThinking, “It’s Festivus next year—Frank Costanza is right!”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Winter Trip–to the Tune of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

7 Jan

by Roger White

 

Come andHere We Go listen to a story ’bout a man named Rog,

For their winter getaway got the car out the garage,

Packed the family up and drove to Santa Fe,

But here’s some weird stuff that happened on the way.

 

’Bout five in the morning just outside Fredericksburg,

With temperature readings like an Arctic iceberg,

Steering got squirrelly and a tire went POP,

Two hundred bucks later we leave the tire shop.

 

We Is NowhereOn I-10 past Sonora I decide to take a snooze,

Wifey’s at the wheel, what have I got to lose?

I wake and we’re smack in the middle of nowhere,

Fifty miles from a town with no gas to spare.

 

Fort Stockton’s now roughly thirty miles away,

With the “Empty” light on we both begin to pray,

Then out of nowhere an Exxon comes in sight,

We laugh and we cry and soon forget our plight.

 

Up 285 into old New Mexico,

Night begins to fall and the wind begins to blow,

There in the darkened road with no time to stop,

We almost run over a New Mexico cop.

 Stop in the Lame of the Naw

Fuzz, that is. Black uniform. Gun and all.

 

Well, the next thing ya know we’re into Santa Fe,

Wife and I relax while the girls go out to play,

We realize we’re now about a thousand in the hole,

For Christmas, we figure, we’ll give the girls coal.

 

Anthracite, that is. Black fuel. Fossilized carbon.

 Everybody loves Coal

Heading back to Texas we drive all day and night,

With fast food in our bellies the car sure smells a might,

We all begin to wonder why this far we did roam,

Next year we figure it’s best to just stay home.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

They’ll Take My Lawn Darts When They Pry Them from My Cold, Dead Hands

26 Nov

by Roger White

Every Christmas season, right on cue, under the guise of “the public interest,” some Grinch-worshiping cults masquerading as nonprofit research groups publish their annual lists of the most dangerous, evil, and malicious child-eating toys of the year. I have a toy bone to pick with these guys—not a large toy bone, just a small one. In fact, it’s small enough to lodge in the throat and necessitate a trip to the emergency room. But nevertheless…

Don’t misunderstand, I acknowledge the need for watchdogs in our society, especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of our tiniest community members. There is surely no call for manufacturing and marketing such items as Mister Mickey’s Mini-Molotov Cocktail Set or Captain Smiley’s Fun with Asbestos Removal. But some of the selections for the naughty toy list are a bit nitpicky, if you ask me.

Take this year’s U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety, for example. The PIRG Nerds spent all of their time from September through November hanging out in toy stores and malls playing with all the toys, games, and gadgets. (Side note: I want a job at PIRG.) According to the PIRG report, “Our investigation focused on toys that posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation, or noise hazard.” The report mentioned nothing about all the obnoxious, overly-sexed, street-walker-dressed dolls aimed at the preteen set—but then, maybe I’m being a prude.

 

No, PIRG’s pet peeves involved amounts of lead, tiny magnets in toys, little toy pieces that kids could swallow, loud toys, and toys that contained something called phthalates. Not only do I not have the foggiest idea what phthalates are, I don’t even know how to pronounce them. Trying to pronounce phthalates produces enough spittle as to discourage me from even investigating them, and I recommend the same for you. This is the “if you can’t pronounce it, it can’t hurt you” school of consumer protection. I will note that the PIRG study reported that the state of Washington had the toughest phthalate protection laws on the books—they went as far as making toy manufacturers that used phthalates spell out the amount of phthalates on the toy. This, I’m sure, caused toy manufacturers in Washington to increase the size of their toys just so the word phthalates could appear on the toy.

As for the rest of the hazards on the list, come on. We’ve become a nation of coddlers. As far as lead goes, I found out after the fact that all of my beloved Hot Wheels cars of the late 1960s were slathered in lead paint. I never ate one of my Hot Wheels cars. I crashed them a lot, maybe even burned one or two to see how neat it would look, but I don’t recall ever licking or munching my toy cars. And I turned out fine. No, really, I did. The dangers of magnets, choking, poking, burning, toxins, all that? Let me just say that when I was a tyke, we had Creepy Crawlers (basically an open hot plate used to cook plastic goo); giant lawn darts, which my pals and I would use as WWII bombs on our toy tanks and soldiers (we wore makeshift helmets on the battlefield); BB guns, which we would fire at each other to reenact famous battles throughout history; stingray bikes with no safety helmets or silly pads; and junior chemistry sets complete with instructions on what to do if you caught fire. And we all somehow made it through to adulthood with nary a scratch.

Well, I wouldn’t say nary a scratch. There was that incident with Jimmy Peterson’s left eye. And, oh, yeah, Bobby Scoggins never could catch a ball again after that one time—and jeez, I forgot all about poor Stevie Blackwell. He was a fun guy, rest his soul. OK, OK, never mind. I suppose some of the old toys are best left in the old days. Who’s up for some Slip ’n’ Slide?!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Of Parades and Fireworks and Your Second Cousin’s Missing Pinkie

2 Jul

by Roger White

 

As the blast-furnace breezes of July waft in, caressing our faces with all the warmth and subtlety of nuclear warhead testing, many of us harken back to the salad days of our youth and those old-time Independence Day celebrations—small-town parades, concerts in the bandstand, dazzling fireworks displays, and your second cousin showing off his missing pinkie finger as he regales you with his annual “cherry bomb accident” story. Why are the days of our youth called “salad days,” anyway? I never came near a salad when I was a kid. They should call them “Milk Dud days” or “Captain Crunch days” or something.

 

Nevertheless, as fond as I am of recreational explosives and intentionally putting oneself in harm’s way for a juicy whizz-bang, I must say that my earliest memory of Fourth of July festivities is not particularly joyous. In fact, it’s downright terrifying. I don’t recall exactly how itty bitty I was, but let’s just say the family mutt and I pretty much met face to face. And this was not a big dog. The family was in the back yard, my older sisters running around waving sparklers in the air. I was perfectly content to spectate; those white-hot sparklers scared the bejeezus out of me. Sure enough, my sister (which one shall remain nameless) placed in my itty bitty hand a sizzling, hissing sparkler, which I assumed would immediately set my entire arm ablaze—after which, knowing my sister, I would be waved aloft, an itty bitty human sparkler.

 

As fate would have it, my dad was bending down near me at that moment, lighting a smoke bomb or something on the ground. In blind terror, I dropped the sparkler—directly onto my dad’s back. Dad, clad in t-shirt and shorts, instantly began yelling and gyrating, doing every move from a Native American war dance to the electric slide. Dad’s t-shirt was a goner; Dad ended up with a permanent little line burned into his upper back, and I a permanent little scar burned into my psyche. To this day, I’ll light any firecracker, bottle rocket, roman candle or any other type of festive munition—but I cannot stand sparklers. Stupid sparklers.

 

While I’m on the memory train, however, I do have tucked away on the seldom-used tracks of my mind a much fonder pyrotechnic piece of the past. In this particular vinaigrette (OK, whatever), I’m about 12, hanging at Lake Benbrook with my middle sister’s boyfriend. He was probably 17 or 18, and he was a mad genius when it came to finding creative ways to blow things up. Bottle rockets were Brian’s medium of choice, and model cars and ships were his canvas. We spent much of that afternoon obliterating a great many unfortunate old hot rods of plastic and faux chrome.

 

Then came the piece de resistance. Or as the French say, the piece of resistance. Just as the sun was starting to set on the other side of the lake, Brian took from his car’s trunk five or six model ships. These were World War II vintage: battleships, aircraft carriers, and the like. Each model ship had a length of string tied to it, with a lead sinker attached to the other end. Brian had given this a lot of thought. He gave some of the ships to me, and we waded out into the lake. By 15 to 20 yards out, we were treading water. One by one, we gently released each ship’s line, and soon we had an armada of model ships anchored just off shore.

 

That’s when the fun began. With two coke bottles as cannons, we spent the good part of an hour firing bottle rockets at those brave battleships. As thrilling as it was to score a hit and watch our targets list and sink, the most exciting part to me was watching a smoking rocket dive just under the water and explode beneath the surface. This was like being on the set of The Longest Day. Of all the professional fireworks displays I’ve seen since, none match the “ooh” and “aah” factor of that special, simple day in my mind.

 

And then there was the time I nearly burned the kitchen down trying to make Rice Krispie Treats in a skillet. Wait, that’s a Christmas story. Oh, well, be safe out there, kids. Remember your second cousin.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

The Nitrous Before Christmas

26 Dec

by Roger White

 

’Twas the week before Christmas, and into my face

I stuffed all sorts of candies, cookies, and delectibles saccharase.

 

The fillings of my molars were hard-pressed to hold firm,

And sure enough one crumbled, oh, how I did squirm.

 

A frantic call to the dentist, dear ol’ Doctor Devry,

Set the rescue in motion, oh, why, Doctor, why?

 

So the doc with her toolkit filled me kindly with gas

For hours full of grinding, what a pain in the ass.

 

While high on the nitrous, why, what should appear,

But Santa and his elves and nine purple reindeer.

 

Away to the rinse basin I flew like a flash

To tell doc of this miracle, this was better than hash!

 

As I rinsed and I spat, Santa called them by name,

On Jimi, on Janis, on Jerry, and whatshisname,

 

To the top of the room! To the top of the office!

When the nitrous wears off, he may try to off us!

 

As round Frisbees before the concert fly

When meet with an officer mount for the sky,

 

So up through the HVAC system they flew,

Santa and his rockin’ reindeer and Jerry Lee, too.

 

And then in a twinkling I heard on the ceiling,

A prancing and pawing, or maybe my brain was peeling,

 

As I drew in my head and was turning around,

Doc Devry came with more gas, whoopee, another round!

 

She was dressed all in fur or maybe it was double-knit,

Man, this nitrous was some really good sh*t.

 

A bundle of tools she had in each hand,

Hell, I didn’t care, I was feeling mighty grand.

 

Her eyes how they twinkled, she was enjoying this parade!

Dentists must study at the School of Marquis de Sade.

 

My droll little mouth by now was quite numb

Even while she made mincemeat of my teeth and my gums.

 

The beard of her chin was as white as the snow,

Wait, that’s her mask, ooh, look how it glows.

 

The light on her head looked alien in a way,

Or somehow transcendent like Faye Dunaway.

 

She had a broad face and she pressed on my belly

To get a better angle at her grinding so smelly.

 

She was chubby and plump, or maybe it was the gas,

’cause now she had three eyes and smelled like sassafras.

 

I laughed as she drilled in spite of myself,

Then I saw all her books melt off the shelf.

 

A wink of her eye and a 360 twist of her head

Made me realize this was best left unsaid.

 

She spoke not a word but kept straight at her work,

While I counted the rhinos and tried not to jerk.

 

And laying her finger aside of my nose,

She said stop sucking on the vacuum hose.

 

Then she sprang from the chair, to her assistant gave a whistle,

“Help Mr. White,” said she. “He’s ready for dismissal.”

 

But I heard her exclaim as she put away her drill,

“You feel happy now, wait’ll you get my bill.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.