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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.

 

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W.B.’s Resolution: Find a Rhyme for Penguins

5 Jan

by Roger White

 

Ah, my cosmic cohort, mi altruistic amigos, another calendar has been trash-binned. Another yuletide has been yuled, another new year’s staggered through, another den full of pine needles and confetti swept up, another damn wrinkle found in the mirror. This can mean only one thing: It’s time to hear from the great Willie Bartwhat a nightholin Cowper, former poet laureate of south Hudspeth County and professor emeritus at the Fort Stockton Night School for Girls. The legendary W.B. has agreed to grace us with his poetic rendition of thoughtful resolutions for the year 2015.

 

Please understand, my existential adherents, as I turn this forum over to W.B. that the professor, while still brilliant and incisive, tends to wax a tad eccentric of late. Prof Cowper, a true Renaissance man, spent the greater part of his life as an inventor-philosopher perfecting a type of home insulation crafted from radium-coated asbestos. Take this into account as you glean what pearls of wisdom you can from Dr. Cowper’s musings. I give you the renowned Willie Bartholin Cowper:

 

“Now that 2014’s gone and a new year is before us,

Let’s make some resolutions—because some rocks are rightly porous.

 

“Let’s vow to argue less, to see the other’s position,

Walk a mile in another’s shoes, but don’t catch his foot condition.

 

“Know that Republicans are simply Democrats with their insides turned out,

And Methodists are actually Baptists with a bad case of gout.

 

“Let’s eradicate Ebola with sarcasm and unmanned drones,

Let’s toast the Kardashians with mint tea and scones.

squirrel bagged

“Make an effort to floss more, text less, and put the lid down,

Above all, avoid the squirrels in the road on the east side of town.

 

“Let’s vow to remember what’s important in life,

It’s not fame or fortune or having a trophy wife.

 

“No, it’s about family and friends and love, goodness knows,

And finally squeezing that pimple just under your nose.

 

“Let’s resolve to drive friendlier, to let the other guy in,

And reol nancemember that Nancy Reagan had very weak shins.

 

“Let’s keep foremost in our minds that inside we’re all the same,

Except, of course, for the Norwegians—we all know their little game.

 

“Take time in this new year to stop and smell the roses,

And forget you saw your mother-in-law in just her pantyhoses.

 

“Fill your days with things you love, put petty squabbles aside,

And remember—your sister’s poodle likes to drink formaldehyde.

 

“Be kinder to your neighbors; being friendly’s not that hard,

If you recall, they’re the ones who saw you passed out in the yard.

 

“Be more like little children—worry less and play more,

But try hard this year to blow less snot on the floor.

 

“Be there when your kid learns to ride her first bicycle,

But trust not that new proctologist with hands like icicles.

 

“Don’t be so body-conscious, so you’ve gained a few pounds,

Your hiney is your cushion—it’s meant to be round.

 

“Take your wife out to dinner, or if she’s out of town,

Take your friend’s wife to dinner; we know she’s been around.

 

“Walk a few blocks when you can; clip your nose hairs often,

Eat the pickles in the side drawer before they start to soften.

 

“Tell your mother that you love her; tell your stepdad he’s the tops,

Find your nephew’s medication before someone calls the cops.

 

be a pepper“Consume more uncooked greens, learn to brush behind your molars,

Drink more Dr. Peppers; drink fewer Coca-Colers.

 

“Keep your poise, keep your cool, keep your sense of humor,

Have that weird mole checked—probably not a tumor.

 

“So look for the good in people, but watch for the bad in penguins,

And remember through life’s journey—nothing really rhymes with penguins.”

 

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.

My New Year’s Gift to You: Lessons from a Lamebrain Life

3 Jan

 by Roger White

Ah, my dedicated and degenerate Old Spouser devotees, I get all fuzzy and tingly as we head into a fresh, new year. Then the pharms wear off, and the fuzzy-tingly goes away. Sigh. Anyway, among my new year’s resolutions I actually verbalized this time around are to be less curmudgeonly, to drink less and work out more, and to help out my fellow man when and where I can.

Several grueling days into the new year, I quickly realized that #1 and #2 are simply out of the question. Number 3, however—helping out my fellow man—I can take a shot at with this column. So if you get something out of these pearls of wisdom, please write me and let me know so I can scratch #3 off my list and go back to my beloved callous ways.

Seeing as how the new year is a time of reflection, I figured I could impart a bit of sage advice to you by reflecting on a few life lessons I learned—the hard way—through my years on this quaint little planet. You should be writing this down. Get a pencil; I’ll wait. … hmm mmm hmmm … la dee dah … ahem … yes, a pencil … okay.

Number One: Always smell unfamiliar milk before drinking. I was a high school sophomore. My mom and I had just moved into a small duplex, which had been previously rented by two young bachelor types. After a long, hot, tough day of carting boxes and bulky mom chairs and tables, I opened the fridge and spied a half-gallon mmm milkcarton of milk. Mmm, cold milk. I snatched the carton and immediately tipped it up, opening my mouth wide to receive my refreshing reward. Two large solid clumps of foul mush crashed into the back of my throat and crawled down my esophagus. It was a race to the bathroom. To this day, I shudder at the odor of milk going south. (Related lesson: Never trust anything in your duplex left behind by two young bachelor types.)

Numero Dos: Remember when your office is closed for the holidays. I work for an education-related association, so our days off for winter break are pretty generous. I hadn’t worked for the association long; the Monday after the long Christmas weekend I rose early and battled the city traffic for the long drive to work. I was afraid I was running a bit late, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the office parking lot practically empty. Everyone was apparently moving slow following the holiday. I would first one herebe among the first to the coffee pot! When I found the front doors locked, I started wondering if I’d missed a time change or something. I called the main number and discovered—via prerecorded message—that the offices were closed until the following Wednesday. I folded my suddenly sprouted donkey ears down into my collar and battled the city traffic for the long drive back home.

Number Three: Always remember that a river runs only one way. For those of you blessed with actual common sense, this one may be a no-brainer. Alas, this is a true story, and if it helps just one obtuse soul out there, then my job is done. Years ago, in our exuberant youth, my wife and I decided to raft down a section of Barton Creek with another couple. The river was running swift, so we parked our cars near a convenient access point near Highway 360, grabbed our rubber rafts, and excitedly set off on our river adventure. The water was difficult to navigate, and my wife and I soon lost track of our friends in the other craft. We crashed into some thick brush about little help herehalfway down the river’s meandering way to Barton Springs, and our raft sprung a bad leak. I soon found myself treading water trying desperately to reach the wife now stranded on some rocks in the middle of the river. I somehow rescued wifey, and we hoofed it down the riverside to our pals at the end of our course. It was then, and only then, that it dawned upon us that we didn’t have any transportation back to our cars. Did I mention donkey ears? The topper: after we hitched a ride back to our vehicles, our friends realized they’d locked their keys in the car. mmyeah.

I hope we’ve learned something here today. I know I have. Don’t write a column unless you have really thick skin. Hee haw.

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.

My New Year’s Resolution: Silence Is Golden

10 Jan

by Roger White

Editor’s note: Leo Kottke replied to this. See the Comment at bottom.

I have one, and only one, resolution that I truly intend to adhere to, as difficult as it may be, for the year 2011. I’ve made serious resolutions with so many New Year’s Days gone by—you know the old standards, losing weight, saving money, drinking less, running more, reading a novel a month, curtailing bodily emissions, actually working at work—all of which have fallen by the wayside within weeks, days, even hours. (Woop, excuse me.)

But this time I mean it.

This solitary promise to myself for 2011, if successfully carried through, could have such significant import and beneficial consequences on not only my way of living and worldview but on those around me that perhaps a groundswell of greater good shall ripple through this land.

I vow, for this year at least, and hopefully on into the days beyond, to refrain from yelling “Free Bird!” at any concert, nightclub show, neighborhood party, school recital, or candidate forum.

Everyone truly hates this guy. Yes, at one time (and one time only) in the distant past, the screaming of “Free Bird!” at public events was original, and even a little funny. I conducted some extensive personal research and discovered the very first use of the “Free Bird!” scream (or FBS, as it’s known in this field). The first official utilization of the FBS in an attempt at humor was executed at the Yo Yo Ma concert with the Orchestra della Scala in Milan, Italy, in the summer of 1980. Near the end of Mr. Ma’s (Mr. Yo’s?) performance, during a particularly quiet interlude, a young man by the name of Arturo Rossingtono loudly and succinctly requested the Skynyrd anthem from the loge section, at which point he was whisked away by Italian authorities and subsequently spent 13 years in federal detention. Italians take their chamber music quite seriously.

In retrospect, it was an ideal application of the FBS. It was a nice, throaty delivery. Sigñor Rossingtono didn’t even laugh at his own joke. The juxtaposition of the musical stylings of Ma and Skyrnyd, the classical ambience and considerable risk factor involved, the exquisite timing (combining the acknowledgment that enough grace time had transpired since the Southern rock band’s tragic 1977 accident with the fact that the anthem was the most requested concert song since “Stairway”), and, of course, the sublime novelty of it all. It was grand.

Unfortunately for the world, the FBS went from sublime to succotash with one use. And if you think audiences deem the scream a tired prank, consider performers. For one of the most extreme reactions to an audience member using the FBS ploy, go to Youtube and look up Bill Hicks and Free Bird. This marvelous comedian, rest his soul, lost his everlovin’ mind during a show in Chicago. It was scary, fascinating, and most definitely not meant for younger listeners.

With this painful instance in mind, I must confess that I, too, did spew forth my own rendition of the FBS recently in a public venue. The twelve-string genius Leo Kottke was playing the Paramount Theater in Austin. Mind you, I adore Mr. Kottke. However, the only song of his I really know by name is “Pamela Brown,” his only single ever to make the charts. I’d had a couple of fizzy lifting drinks. I was happy and anxious to hear my favorite Leo tune. So, somehow, between songs, while Leo regaled the audience with his tales of wit and insight, it slipped out.

“Pamela Brown!”

My wife hit me in the leg, but it swayed me not in the least. At the next interval, it leapt out again. I couldn’t stop it.

“Pamela Brown!”

Leo tuned up some more and then launched into another story. Now, if you’ve never been to a Kottke concert, understand that listening to his stories is as enrapturing as watching his fingers make like Medusa’s hairdo on the frets. Little did I know that this next little talk was aimed at me, however. Leo proceeded to share an experience he had with one particularly stubborn, apparently dimwitted police officer on a rural road. Despite all his protestations and bountiful evidence, Kottke could not convince this country lawman that he did not deserve the citation he was writing.

Leo summed up his tale with a moral: “You can’t argue with a moron.” He then obligingly played the song I so vociferously requested. I sat there in my seat, all three inches tall, looking up, way up, at my wife, sheepish and silent. Silent I remained for the rest of the show. (I later found out that “Pamela Brown” isn’t even a Kottke original. The song was written by Tom T. Hall two years before Leo sang it.)

So, blessedly silent I shall be, for this year at least. If you hear some moron bellowing “Free Bird!” at the next concert, it’s not me, buddy.