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Bigly, Bigly Shakeups in My Own Personal White House

1 Aug

by Roger White                                                                              

 

DATELINE—THE WHITE HOUSE(HOLD), AUSTIN, TEXAS

 

In another abrupt move that has apparently become the modus operandi of the White House (that being the house in which ersatz columnist/pseudo-blogger/psoriasis counselor Roger White and family reside), Second-String Dog and Assistant Canine Communications Director Boney Scarapoochy has resigned his position just days after being assigned to the post. Scarapoochy declined comment on the sudden departure; however, when asked about the situation within the White House, Scarapoochy said only, “Rough.”

 

This latest WH shakeup comes only days after White House Chief of Yardwork Staff Rieeince Amoebus and Kitchen Press Secretary Shawn Slicer resigned their positions under what some observers are calling “unsettled circumstances.” Several reports indicate that since his exit Slicer has been seen on occasion smoking cigarettes and talking to buildings on the grounds of Shoal Creek Clinic.

 

The White House comings and goings of late follow a familiar pattern that began in January, when Acting Family Attorney Allie Yates was fired when she made it clear that she would not defend the Whites’ sweeping insulation ban. White had called for a total ban on all attic insulation from particular countries and announced plans to construct an enormous wall along the home’s southern property line to keep out raccoons, possums, field mice, coyotes, and progressive liberals. On the heels of Yates’ departure came the swift exit of Domestic Security Adviser Michael Phlegm in February. Phlegm was ousted when it became clear he had misrepresented his dealings with ambassadors from the rival Circle C neighborhood.

 

The White House revolving door of staff shakeups continued in May with the firing of James Klomey, the home’s director of the FBI (Flatulence, Belching, & Incontinence) and in July with the resignation of Wally Shrub, director of the family’s Office of Neighborhood Ethics. Shrub left soon after stating that the family’s home and reputation are “close to a laughingstock” compared to other domiciles with similar personality-addled heads of household.

 

Despite the rash of firings, resignations, departures, and refusals to accept appointments to high-level positions within the WH, family adviser Smellyanne Blondeway insists that the home is being run like a well-oiled machine. “The home is being run like a well-oiled machine,” Blondeway said, unblinking and immobile while apparently reading from a script. When asked to elaborate, Blondeway added, “The home is being run like a well-oiled machine.”

 

First Lady Susan White did note that newly hired White House Handyman and Overall Fix-it Technician G. Gordon Tiddy was “doing a wonderful job maintaining the interweb connections and things.” She went on to comment that not only are the house’s computers running better than ever but that the “interwebs” connections are so finely tuned currently that all internet activity in homes within a two-block radius of the White House are available for viewing in the home, as well.

 

The White House’s Mr. White emphasized that there is absolutely no chaos within the home, as “the failing Oak Hill Gazette and other liberal rags claim in their fake news.” White went on to say, for no apparent reason, that “I know words. I have the best words.” He added that he does not attend family financial meetings because, “You know, I’m like a smart person.”

 

Roger White is without a doubt the most brilliant, most unbelievably fantastic person with the name of White in the history of everything. Bigly. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

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The Squirrel Who Came in from the Cold

24 May

by Roger White

 

My spidey sense tells me of late that the critters in our attic are not Rocky Raccoon and his pals this time around but creatures far more cunning and insidious: squirrels. Yes, those habitual loungers and loiterers of college campuses and street darters who run straight in front of your car and then suddenly become bewildered as to their destination. That’s right, those squirrels.

 

Three clues have led me to determine that these little bushy-bottomed, nut-chomping rodents have replaced the raccoons as our most recent non-rent-paying top-floor dwellers: (1) the scratching, nesting, wire-chewing, and squirrel squatterscurrying sounds are more lightweight and frenzied (but still as annoying as a Twisted Sister album); (2) that high-pitched chittering and jabbering can be coming only from squirrels—or my mother-in-law (I can’t tell whether the critters are having wild parties or heated family disagreements up there); and (3) they have a spy squirrel who sits on the roof, tipping off the squirrel squatters when it’s safe to come and go.

 

I’ve gone over every square, round, and triangular inch of our humble abode’s perimeter, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how these tiny little tramps are getting in. I do know, however, that they employ that scout squirrel on our roof. Not unlike a tower guard, scout squirrel sits there keeping an eye on the human enemy. He chatters out signals decipherable only by other squirrels as to our whereabouts.

 

“Chich-chip-chich-chipchip-cheech!” scout squirrel screams when I near our bedroom window. Two pack members in the grass nod. One of them gives the “OK” sign, and they dart off giggling into the woods.

scout squirrel

“Get lost, ya little snitch!” I yell, banging on the window.

 

Scout squirrel sneers and runs away, chattering. “CHIP-CHICH-CHEEP-CHIP!!” Which sounds much to me like the squirrel version of “Your mother!”

 

And if you don’t think squirrels and other animals are smart enough to act as spies, think again. I read in the news not too long ago about a vulture that flew into Lebanon from an Israeli nature preserve and was captured on suspicion of spying. No kidding. An Israeli game warden who kept tabs on the bird tracked it to a southern Lebanese village. Then the Israelis started getting reports that the bird was being held by locals who suspected it was a spy because it had Israeli tags and devices. Turns out the vulture was part of a conservation project to restore the raptors in the Middle East and had a GPS transmitter attached to its tail. The poor bird was finally released when the locals were assured it was “not carrying any hostile equipment.”

 

OK, not a spy but it could have been. Just like the time last year when the Palestinian group Hamas claimed to have captured an Israeli dolphin equipped with spying devices. They knew it was an Israeli dolphin because of dolphin spythe waterproof yarmulke on its head. All right, I made up that part. The Israelis denied that the animal was sniffing around Palestinian waters on porpoise. (Insert groan here, if you will.)

 

But get this, declassified documents from the 1960s revealed the CIA’s attempt to wire a cat as a listening device, using its tail as the antenna. True story! The project, dubbed “Acoustic Kitty,” was abandoned after the cat was sent into a park to eavesdrop on purported bad guys but was run over by a taxi before it could get into position.

 

And then there’s this: In 2007, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency reported that they had broken up a British squirrel spying ring. Fourteen squirrels were reportedly captured by intelligence officers in the border region of Iran, each allegedly sporbrit squirrelting listening devices. The British Foreign Office reacted characteristically, stating “The story is nuts.”

 

Aha! I would bet good money that our home’s scout squirrel is a surviving member of that British squirrel spying ring! Now that I think about it, his chattering has a certain accent to it, and his teeth, ooh….

 

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

 

 

It Takes a Village to Save the Squirrels

18 Nov

by Roger White                                                                              

It dawned on me the other day, as I was returning yet another socket wrench and assorted metric sockets to my neighbor Jim, that regarding many things about life and the cosmos I’m mostly talking out of my, uh, hat.

This particular moment of clarity came to me as I realized, watching my long-suffering and patient neighbor reseat his tools into their precise positions in his immaculate garage workshop, that as vociferously as I rail against modern society and pine for the days of yore, I would have lasted maybe a week and a half in the a slow squirrelolden times. My family would have lived under one of those quaint covered bridges. We would have subsisted on wild turnips and slow squirrels. Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t even know how to trap a squirrel, much less cook the thing and eat it.

You see, I have no skills. Zero. Nada. Bupkiss. Save helping you proofread your short story or guiding you through the distinctions between the possessive apostrophe and the contraction apostrophe, I’m about as useful and handy as excess nose hair. I don’t build things. My attempts at simple home repair often conclude at the minor emergency clinic. I don’t use a miter box. I’m not even sure what a miter box is.

woopusThe point is, I understand now that I should be thankful to the Large Kahuna that I live in a time and place where hammering nouns and verbs into place can actually put food on the table for me and mine. I’m sure the squirrels are thankful, too. Especially the slow ones. Life in the era of barter and wampum and manual dexterity would have been a tad severe for yours truly. As Quint said to Richard Dreyfuss’s character in Jaws, “You have city hands, Mr. Hooper.” City hands, indeed. And a city brain.

And thus, with this dawning, came the glow of appreciation for guys like Jim. This may also be a Large Kahuna type of thing, but is it mere happy circumstance that so many of my family’s friends and neighbors are people who can really do things? I mean, criminy, there’s Jim next door, who can fashion anything from an acoustic guitar to a backyard deck from a piece of tree bark; there’s Matt across the street, who’s fixed our computer so many times that when I call him now, instead of saying hello, he simply says, “I’m coming.” There’s our friend Rodney the homebuilder, who put our bedroom ceiling back together that time I fell through the attic. And there’s neighbor Glen, whose truck has saved us so many delivery fees through the years that we’ve been able to buy a new dryer. Oh, about that truck this weekend, Glen…

You get the picture. Sans our friends and neighbors, we’d be out several grand a month just keeping the place running. Ya ever try to bargain with a refrigerator repairman by offering to conjugate his verbs?

I’m astounded at the amazing people around me—not just because they can actually accomplish the things they do with their minds and hands, but because they have such generosity of spirit. I think sometimes if I were Jim, and the clod next door rang my bell yet again beseeching me to diagnose his ailing garbage disposal, I’d seriously consider feigning a communicable disease. Or keeping the lights off until my nettlesome neighbor went away. Not Jim. Not Matt or Glen or Rodney. They answer every time.

i build sentencesSo yeah. Color me humbly mindful that it takes a village. It takes a village of wonderful folks to keep me from having to wear “Will Edit for Food” signs on the streetcorner. I’m earnestly thankful. As are the squirrels, I’m sure.

 

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.

Maybe Stevie Should Be Wearing Waders

4 Nov

by Roger White

 

If you ain’t from around these parts, pardner, let me tell ya something about the statue of the late rock/blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan that stands near the shore of Austin’s Town Lake (or Lady Bird Lake or Vince Young Lake or whatever lake they currently call the river that runs through town): Stevie’s clad in poncho and boots not for protection from the elements. No. That was just his style.

 

But given the weather around here lately, SRV’s garb is more than appropriate. In fact, city officials are mulling over the notion of retooling Stevie’s boots into hip-length waders.

 

Translation: Enough with the dang rain already.

 poorstevie

Photographic proof of the Noah-like blessings we’ve been receiving recently showed poor Stevie up to mid-poncho in floodwater. Down here in the southwest part of town, it was even worse. Our community statue of Junior Samples was inundated up past his belly—and it’s a big belly, people. You couldn’t even read the BR-549 sign for days because of all the dang rain. OK, I’m kidding. We don’t have a statue of Junior Samples. I think. Anyway, it’s been bad. You know it’s bad when you sit on your back porch and watch your neighbors waving back at you—as they float by on their back porches. The tiny whisper of a creek that runs behind our home, normally coyote-bone dry, has resembled something flowing through the Amazon Basin of late. Critters of both the hairy and slimy phylum have skittered and slithered in and out of our little domicile seeking refuge. The cat’s about to have a coronary.

 juniorsamples

And sadly, one of the casualties of all this weather has been our community garden. It seems the small sewage facility that butts up (no pun intended) against our neighborhood garden got so swamped from the deluge that it befouled all of our lovingly tended plots of lettuces and kale and tomatoes and arugula with human waste. That’s right. Soylent Green is people poo! This got me thinking: How nasty must the human body be if we can freely fertilize our cabbages and kumquats with cow patties but we run the risk of plague-like death if we use our own, uh, by-products? Regardless, the warning has been issued by the community braintrust: harvest at your own risk! Poo may be present.

 

soylentschmoylentSo the wife and I, who have a plot in the neighborhood garden about the size of a car battery, now watch wistfully as our little squashes and lettuces and tomatoes and strawberries grow and blossom. Do we dare eat them? What if we soaked our harvest in bleach and then ran it all through the washer and dryer? Who exactly in the neighborhood lives upstream of the sewage plant, anyway? Everybody’s a suspect now. Ya smell that? Smells like the family at the end of Canyon Oaks, doesn’t it? And what is that on our Chinese cabbage plant?! Oh, wait, it’s only dirt. Just forget it, I can’t eat any of this now.

 

Oh, well, on the bright side, I was getting a little tired of homegrown cherry tomatoes and squash. That’s the thing about growing your own that nobody tells you about: When the harvest comes in, boy, does it come in. We had so many cherry tomatoes there for a while, I was eating them with lunch, breakfast, midnight snacks, on my corn flakes. I love cherry tomatoes, but please. Kindly remove those cherry tomatoes from my rocky road ice cream.

 

flooooodAnd now. Well, they’re tainted. It’s all tainted. In fact, when next I visit our little garden, I’m thinking I’ll wear gloves—and a poncho and hip-length waders. I’m with ya, Stevie. Dang rain.

 

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.

 

Keep Oak Hill Odd (and Full of Oaks, Please)

7 Oct

by Roger White

 

Funny thing how towns, neighborhoods, and areas get their names—you know, like Oak Hill. This southwest Austin community we call home contains oak trees aplenty, as does a tiny parcel within the Oak Hill area known as Oak Acres. Now, to get to the lovely oak-lined circle of homes called Oak Acres, you go south on the Highway 290 service road just past Industrial Oaks and turn right onto, you guessed it, Oak Boulevard.

 

Stay with me, because there’s a very good reason the word “oak” is mentioned more than just a few times here. This cool little collection of homes is an agrarian alcove of green land, lush dollops of wildflowers, and—here it comes—lots of grand oak trees. This may not be for long, however, if developers have their way. Spurred on by deep-pocketed builders, the city of Home in Oak AcresAustin is considering a zoning change that would allow for the construction of 80+ condominiums in the small tract of gorgeous land behind Oak Acres. Where now one views a blanket of blue larkspur and evening primrose, wild rabbits, a copse of graceful trees, and glorious, expansive sunsets, one may soon see only the bedroom windows of two-story condominiums and lots of industrial-grade siding.

 

Yes, Oak Acres may soon become Condo Corner.

 

What’s happening, you see, is a sad refrain of what happens to so many treasured places these days. Big-money developers see unused virgin land; virgin land owners see dollar signs; city officials look the other way; and area homeowners see their precious community turned into Cleveland. You hear these woeful stories all the time.

 

In this particular case, the area known as the Harper Park Tract, which butts up against tiny Oak Acres, was recently coveted by a megalithic homebuilder who will remain unnamed. The builder sidled up to the owner of this rural acreage, flashed some impressive dollar figures, you get the ideaand you can guess the rest. The homeowners’ group in Oak Acres has tried to negotiate with the developer (this should be read as “the developers’ high-priced lawyer team”)—but after mutually agreed-upon concessions were ignored or completely changed by the developer’s legal beagles when ink was put to paper, the Oak Acres homeowners decided to fight.

 

Understand, good people, that there are fewer than 40 homes in this charming little neighborhood. This means there aren’t too many folks going to bat for the Oak Acres team. If you’re getting a David-and-Goliath sort of image in your mind’s eye about now, then you are getting the picture. If you’ve never been to Oak Acres, you should go. It’s just a simple circle—one way in, one way out. The homes are unpretentious and appealing; the properties are well-maintained and full of bicycles and toys, front-porch swings and gardens—the pleasant trappings of family life on the rural edge. The lots are about a half-acre or more each, with room to breathe and play. However, if the condos clamber in, at an average of about five of them an acre, the folks here can kiss this quality of life goodbye.

 

yer typical lawyerAs it stands now, the little guys have a petition in place; the Oak Acres folks need at least two city council members to vote with them to oppose the zoning change, effectively blocking a super-majority required to override the petition. What this would mean, of course, is that a city official would have to side with homeowners, not big-money business. That’s always a tough one, it seems. Last I heard was that the city council was planning on meeting October 17 to consider the matter.

 

Who’s willing to go to bat for David? Wouldn’t it be something for the little guys—the homeowners—to win one?

 

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.