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OK, Cowpokes, Time for the Fifth Biennial OFPhC

16 Nov

by Roger White

 

I know what half of you are saying: You’re saying, “Well, there it is. He’s run out of material again. Despite the ridiculous wealth of silliness, brain-scrambling absurdities, and downright knuckle-dragging stupidity in today’s world, the Spouseman can’t think of one funny thing to say in this installment. He’s washed up, burned out, run dry, come up empty, on fumes, bit the dust, hit the wall, thrown in the towel, given up the ghost, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible—in other words, he’s kaput.”

 

And the other half, in a rejoicing and ebullient tone, are exclaiming, “Huzzah! The Great and Glorious Spousemaster has heard our pleas and decided to favor us with yet another of his brilliant contests! Another opportunity for mind-expanding fun, mirthful frivolity, and a chance for free stuff! What a kind, thoughtful, and oh-so-creative wordsmith we have in our midst!”

 

And yet the third half of you are still scratching your pants and wondering just what in the hell “run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible” really means. Well, that takes some doing, but here goes: The term to “join the choir invisible” is George Eliot sort ofin reference to the poem penned by George Eliot in 1867 entitled “O May I Join the Choir Invisible” in which the author longs for the afterlife in which he can spend eternity singing hymns “whose music is the gladness of the world.” To be precise, however, George Eliot was the nom de plume of poet Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), who used a male pen name to ensure that her works would be taken seriously, seeing as how female authors of Evans’ time were stereotyped as writing only lighthearted romances.

 

Now, to be even more precise, this term “join the choir invisible” was referenced in a Monty Python skit entitled “Dead Parrot Sketch” (originally aired 7 December 1969) in which John Cleese wishes to return a Norwegian Blue parrot he purchased
Hello POLLYfrom Michael Palin because the unfortunate bird is “bleeding demised, passed on, no more, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker—a late parrot!” Despite Palin’s assurances that the poor parrot is merely “pining for the fjords,” it’s quite obvious this is an ex-parrot.

 

Anyway. For the second half of you, leaning forward in your La-Z-Boys with anticipation, be comforted, for here I bring you the Fifth Biennial Oldspouse Familiar Phrase Contest (OFPhC). For the first and third halves of you, feel free to skip over to Mike Jasper’s column. He usually has coupons for free beer at Boomerz for those who read to the end. And yes, I have received yet another supply of premium glossy bumper stickers as prizes. For those too young, old, sensible, or deciduous to remember, the OFPhC involves a pile of phrases, quotes, movie lines, book titles, common sayings, utterances, and/or bodily function noises that I’ve rendered in a somewhat obscure manner. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to come up with the more common version of said utterances. For example, say I give you the phrase “Croaking before disgrace!” You say, “Death before dishonor!” Get it? See how easy?

 

First three people (I will accept dogs and possums, too) to respond at roger.white@tasb.org with the correct answers each wins a premium glossy bumper sticker (sorry, the “Keep Oak Hill Obtuse” ones are all gone—you get “Jesus is Coming. Hide the Bong”). And you get your name in the newspaper! Pseudonyms are fine.

Exciting, huh?

 

OK, ready and. Go. What are the more well-known versions of these sayings:

  1. In my dad’s home, there are lots of ritzy estates.
  2. You’re not anything except a canine used primarily for tracking.
  3. Birthed Untamed.
  4. A brain is an awful item to throw away.
  5. If glares could commit homicide.
  6. Cease the printing machines!
  7. Blood-pumping muscle to blood-pumping muscle.
  8. Nancy!These cowboy shoes are manufactured for treading.
  9. Subsistence of those in the best physical shape.
  10. Escort me out to the baseball contest.
  11. The evidence is within the dessert.
  12. An opening in 748 divided by 748.
  13. Squatting on the summit of the earth.
  14. Existence is a female dog.
  15. The lively Irish dance is not down.
  16. Four letters after T denotes the location.
  17. I’m as satisfied as a liquid party refreshment.
  18. Here we circumnavigate the perimeter of the plant bearing mulberries.
  19. Twelve a.m. cowpoke.
  20. She spews expletives with as much proficiency as a member of the navy.

 

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

 

Our Daughter Could Be a Banana Slug, or Maybe a Gorlok

10 Apr

by Roger White

 

There are certain events and milestones in one’s earthly existence that make one realize one is brushing up against one’s own mortality. Wifey and one—I mean, I—brushed up against one of these awareness-of-impending-antiquity events recently when we escorted our youngest offspring to a college and career fair at the convention center. Jamie’s a junior in high school now, and I’m a senior. In life.

It dawned on me, watching the myriad college counselors and admissions folks—some of them looking to be approximately 12 years old—that if our ol Methy himselfyoungest spawn is hunting higher education options, that must mean I’m way past AARP recruiting age. As in dirt, comma, older than. See Methuselah. See Codger. See your Chiropractor.

This preoccupation with my own demise and decay aside, my flabbers were downright gasted at just how many colleges, universities, service academies, trade schools, and other alleged higher ed institutions were represented at the fair.

Did you know, for example, that there is a Colorado School of Mines? At the little table set up for the Colorado School of Mines, I joked with the counselor that some of the school’s most prominent alumni must be Big Bad John, Darlin’ Clementine, and Loretta Lynn’s dad. The counselor didn’t appreciate the humor. I then asked the guy if they were looking for prospective students or prospector students. Again with the stone face. Tough crowd.

Actually, the now-peeved counselor explained, the Colorado School of Mines, a public research university devoted to engineering and applied science, has CSMone of the highest admissions standards in the country. This I did not know. I also did not know that they offer athletics. Their teams are—no, not the Miners—they’re the Orediggers. I went to point this out to Jamie, our college-hunting offspring, but she was long gone, off with her mom at the University of Hawaii table.

I noticed that the University of Hawaii table was jammed with people—young and old—poring over the brochures and literature, which seemed to feature many more scenes of island splendor than actual college information. Questions from prospective students also seemed not so much directed at curricula and faculty credentials as they were concerning recreation facilities and proximity to the beach.

Come to think of it, any college table associated with Hawaii (and there were more than you might think—Honolulu Community College, Leeward Community College, Windward Community College, Windy Leeward Land Ho School for Lei-Making) was overrun with eager would-be island scholars.

At the table set up for Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne (I think that’s, like, overseas somewhere), I noticed that they offered a Masters in Bursary Information. I asked what exactly that was, but I didn’t quite understand the answer. In fact, I wasn’t sure if the friendly muttonchopped representative was speaking English. From the brochure, I found that the ozNorthumbria also offers a PhD in Numeracy. Yeah. I suspect they also feature a BS in Proper Powdered-Wig Wearing (for pre-Law students), and a Bachelor’s of Understanding What the Hell Ozzy Osbourne Is Saying (BS in UWHOOIS).

Some of my other personal faves included the University of Arkansas-Monticello (primarily because their teams are known as the Boll Weevils), Webster University of St. Louis (the Gorloks, whatever a Gorlok is), Scottsdale Community College (the Fightin’ Artichokes), and the University of California-Santa Cruz (the Banana Slugs).

The UC-Santa Cruz lady made mention that despite a budget that is about half the size of similar schools, their athletics program boasted 15 All-Americans last year. She didn’t say exactly what sports that the Banana Slugs were named All-American in, but judging from the neon yellow mascot and the, oh, “relaxed” look in the UCSC lady’s eye, I would bet unicycle polo, dog surfing, and quidditch are among them.

Jamie came away from the fair with tons of brochures, pens, decals, and other freebies but with little notion of just where she plans to apply. Her mom and I figure any decent school that produces an independent Jamie the slugswith an expanded worldview and ability to make large bucks—and that does not require a second mortgage on our humble abode—would be just fine.

UC-Santa Cruz would be cool, though. I would be the owner of a bumper sticker that proclaims: “Proud Dad of a Banana Slug.”

 

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.

 

…Only to Find Gideons’ Flatscreen

23 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Well, I’m back, my fellow existential exam-takers. Just flew in from the far reaches of my psyche, and, boy, are my neural dendrites tired. Actually, I’ve been in Baltimore, but it’s about the same.

 

Although I was encamped in the city’s trendy Inner Harbor for bidness purposes, I did partake of some of the local tourist fare, which involved, in various proportions, many images of Fort Wipken WayMcHenry, the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, mounds of Maryland blue crabs (and all the accompanying crab hammers and pliers and crab-innard removers and bibs and things), and thousands upon thousands of orange-clad Orioles fans. Note: Every third street, boulevard, and/or quasi-large building in Baltimore proper is named for Cal Ripken, Jr. There’s Cal Ripken Road, Cal Ripken Way, Cal Ripken Hair Restoration Clinic, you name it.

 

For those of you non-baseballites, Ripken, nicknamed the “Iron Man,” played for the O’s for something like 173 years, and he holds the major league record for consecutive games played. He Call Calsuited up and took the field for—seriously, now—2,632 games without so much as a potty break, or something like that. Anyway, the folks of Baltimore worship the guy. There’s even an Our Lady of the Shortstop Catholic Church near Camden Yard, where parishioners bless themselves with the sign of the 8 and refer to themselves as Cal-tholics. OK, not really. I kid.

 

Anyhow, the city its own self wasn’t nearly as crime-infested as I had pictured it. For many years, Baltimore carried a not-so-savory reputation with regard to one’s personal safety. The pro basketball team wasn’t called the Baltimore Bullets for nothing. They were going to be called the Baltimore Brick Upside the Heads, but they couldn’t fit it all on the team jerseys. However, I must say that during my brief stay near the Chesapeake, I was accosted not once—unless you count the very large, very moist man with the Phil Spector hair and leopard-print thong singing Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby” at the top of his lungs. I wasn’t sure if he was panhandling, making some sort of pro-life statement, or on the run from the Cal Ripken Clinic for Mood Disorders, but I ponied up a fast fiver and got the hell out of there.

 

A bit off topic from Baltimore per se, but I have to report—the Spouseman not having lodged at the finer inns on my own dime for a good while—that I was thoroughly gobsmacked with regard to one particular aspect of my accommodations. Hotels, I have come to conclude, are absolutely convinced that their guests cannot go one fraction of a second without access to a television. Gads, man. There was a TV in the bathroom—built into the mirror, mind you—a TV in the elevator, a tiny telly on each treadmill in the fitness room, a TV on every wall of the lobby, several in the bar, TVs in the restaurant, etc., etc., etc. CNN, Fox News, and General Hospital were everywhere. Live with Kelly and Michael was practically ubiquitous. I didn’t really need that last sentence to make my point, but I enjoy using the word “ubiquitous” whenever possible. I can be obsequious, dare I say insouciant, like that sometimes.

gotta have

With the preponderance of boob tubes, I found it a tad ironic when I read the little sign in the john that instructed me to please reuse my towels. The hotel explained on its quaint recycled-paper missive that it was trying to help the planet and save money—which would, of course, keep their rates lower—by asking that visitors gently reuse their towels during their stay. I kinda figured they could save a bit more if they gently stopped cramming high-dollar television sets into every conceivable space they could find. I, for one, do not require a flatscreen, high-definition TV built into my toilet paper dispenser.

 

On the plane ride home, I actually considered writing to the hotel manager about my concerns, but the tiny little TV in the seatback in front of me was gently playing an Andy Griffith Show rerun. So I got sidetracked. It was a really good one, though. The one where Aunt Bee enters her kerosene-flavored pickles in the county fair…

 

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.

 

 

 

Excitement Is ‘High’ for This Year’s Big Game

27 Jan

by Roger White

Excitement is building to a fever pitch as sporting enthusiasts everywhere gear themselves up for the biggest event of the season—I’m talking, of course, about National Read in the Bathtub Day set for February 9. Seriously, there is a National Read in the Bathtub Day; you can check it out on Facebook. According to the event’s NRIBDonline site, as many as 66 people all across our fair land are planning to attend NRIBD festivities. Mind you, I’m not at all certain whether all 66 of them are going to read in the same bathtub. If so, however, I want photos.

Just joshing. As pumped as I am about NRIBD, I’m referring to the big daddy—ye olde Super Bowl. Or as it’s officially called these days: the Super Nokia AT&T Citibank Anheuser Busch Cadillac Dorito’s Coca-Cola GoDaddy Bowl®TM©(all rights reserved, patent pending). Best I can determine, televised pre-game activities begin at 6:30 a.m. February 2, but actual kickoff of the actual game is actually about 8:30 that night. Or maybe the next night, who knows?

The most fascinating aspect of this year’s big game is the intrigue surrounding the teams involved—the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Sure, it’s a matchup of the league’s Number 1 offense versus the Number 1 defense; and, yeah, it’s seasoned veteran Peyton Manning versus young sensation Russell Wilson. But that ain’t what I’m harping about. It’s Denver and Seattle, man. Think about it—teams from two of the vanguard states pushing the envelope for the legalization of marijuana. Talk about a hawks hookahSuper “Bowl.” See what I did there?

Although fans will surely be as high as so many kites for this clash of titans, I would imagine the stadium will be only partially filled—not because some lamebrain decided they should play outdoors in New Jersey in the dead of winter. No, I’m thinking many of the Colorado and Washington faithful will forget where they put their tickets. Or they’ll get lost between their hotels and MetLife Stadium. Here’s hoping they have a crowd cam constantly surveying the stands. I predict many spontaneous Bob Marley sing-alongs, beachball-tossing contests involving bikini-clad girls riding on the shoulders of thin bearded men, and impromptu tantric yoga sessions. Fans will likely attempt “the wave” at some point, but they will get confused when they stand up, and many will simply leave, trying to remember why they stood up in the first place.

I would also lay money on the prospect of hot dog, nacho, and candy bar concessions running dry before halftime. Pizza delivery shops and Chinese takeout places throughout the greater East Rutherford metropolitan area will all be on call for emergency delivery to the stadium.

Rumor has it that the originally scheduled halftime show, which was set to feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has been scrapped to cater more to the cherrygarciatastes of these unique fan bases. That’s right, halftime will consist of the Grateful Dead, Puff Daddy, and a reading of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, as performed by Cheech Marin.

In a related development, a whole host of companies went into a mad scramble to buy television advertising spots when they realized this unprecedented opportunity. Yep, you’ll be seeing ads for Lay’s Baked Dorito’s, Mr. Natural Toasted English Muffins, Billabong Surfwear, the new Chevy Blazer, and, of course, Stoned Wheat Thins.

I’ve heard that the governors of the respective states even lobbied the NFL to have the timing of the kickoff moved to precisely 4:20. If you have to look that one up, then you’re just real square, daddy-o.

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 Curmudgeon Showeth His Crust. Again.

23 Jul

by Roger White

It has been brought to my attention recently by more than one loyal reader of TOS that yours truly is nothing more than a crust-covered curmudgeon completely lacking in human compassion and with all the warmth and fuzziness of a diarrhetic barracuda. And that was one of the more genteel comments. Let me just say in my defense that this is not crust. It’s a fine patina of earthbound experience. Tip: baby oil keeps it soft and supple.

Honestly, I have no problem with humanity; it’s the people I can’t stand. People are the worst. Don’t you just hate them?

As long as we’re on topic, and my curmudgeonly cockles have been stimulated, I figured you’d be tickled to be privy to my latest list of grouses and gripes. Yes, these are the things that brown my lettuce, the things that really grind my crankshaft. Curdle my half & half. Chap my — you get the idea.

Athletes and coaches who thank God for their victory.

It’s not so bad, I guess, when pious jocks praise the Almighty for their health and well-being, but seriously, do you really think The Omnipotent One, tasked with thankya Lordwatching over the vast infinity of the cosmos, gives a greasy rat’s behind whether your squad of performance-enhanced mutants scores more points than the other squad of gargantuan goons? If God gave the nod to your team, what does that say about the other guys? And what about when you lose? Is God a waffler? Did He miss that game?

Bicyclists who don those ridiculous faux-competition outfits and aerodynamic helmets.

Pleeeeeze. You’re not in the Tour; the little logos and patches all over your form-fitting body suit are fake and we all know it; and your $750 racing helmet makes you look like a special-needs case. Ya know what I wear when I ride my bike? Shorts and a t-shirt. Works great! Fortunately, with the fall from grace of our own Lancy Pants, some of these pretentious pedalers have ridden into the sunset. Just some of them, mind you.

Republicans AND Democrats.

I hate all politicians, truly. Our whole political system has devolved into entrenched, grandstanding ideologues determined only to curry favor with their followers so they can keep their posh digs and beltway “escorts.” They all preach to the lowest common denominator—mainly fear. Whatever happened to working together—to thoughtfully searching for the most workable compromise? Yes, compromise. Just how and when did that become a dirty word? Look up the definition. Compromise—especially today—is a good thing. It’s how we get along. Someone should read Webster’s definition of the word to members of Congress every day. And then start throwing pies.

Nancy Grace.

I am utterly sick of her fat face. Every time I see her on the tube, I want to slap the Nancethat self-righteous, smug smirk of hers right into next week. Nancy Grace is the reason I still have my foam brick handy to throw at the TV set. Well, her and the Cowboys.

Bureaucracy and all of its attendant inanities.

Here’s an example: Why do we have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms? Who in their right mind thought of lumping these concerns together under one roof? I called up the ATF the other day to ask that very question, but the person who answered the phone referred me to the Department of Frontage Roads, ATF Inquiries and Dairy Products. And why does the Texas Railroad Commissioner oversee the state’s gas and oil concerns? I be befuddled.

Twitter.

I don’t care what’s “trending,” I have absolutely no interest in what Kanye West had for lunch; and I have no need to be apprised of every one of my old college chums’ whereabouts 24/7. Plus I’ve lost all human contact with my two teenage daughters, Lindsey and whatshername.

The Sunday comics.

Calvin and Hobbes is gone; so is Blondie, The Far Side, etc. I used to look forward to Sunday mainly for the funny pages. The words “funny” and “pages” don’t go uh yeahtogether when describing the drek being produced today. Alongside the dull-witted Ziggy and the predictably foul-tempered fat feline Garfield, we have Luann, Get Fuzzy, Candorville, Buckles, and a motley collection of amateur drivel that makes the comic strip that appeared in my college newspaper (whose main character was a cow patty) seem hilarious and incisive by comparison.

OK, that’s about it for now. I feel better. You?

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.

Austin, I Love Ya–But Enough with the Festivals Already

12 Mar

by Roger White

 

Enough. I’m festivaled out. I can’t muster the strength to attach one more day-glo wristband to my tired, old wrist.

 

Don’t get me wrong—I love Austin. I really do. I love the laid-back jeans-and-sneakers milieu; I love the true Tex-Mex food and killer margaritas; I love the endless live-music yummmselections; I love the weather (except for the kiln-like days of July and August); and I do relish the fact that li’l ol’ Austin is the one blue-tinted bastion of rational thought and human compassion amid a red sea of fear mongering and “I got mine—git yers, dammit” mentality.

 

But Austin, enough with the festivals already. As I write this, we’re deep in the throes of South by Southwest (SXSW to you hipsters), an extended music party that runs pretty much all of March. It used to be mainly a music thing, but now SXSW includes films, speeches, hipster nerd gatherings, and all sorts of interactive events, whatever that really means. Seriously, what constitutes an “interactive event”? If I get up from my desk to get coffee, and I bump into Larry at the coffee machine, and Larry says “Hi, Rog, how ’bout them Cowboys? Ha, ha, ha,” and I tell Larry to clam up, doesn’t that qualify as an interactive event? Didn’t we just interact back there? I hate Larry.

 

Anyway, this here SXSIXWI thing sucks in about 18 million people from all over the planet, and it makes getting around town a royal pain in my interactive regions. There is no place to park; every downtown bar suddenly charges ten bucks for a beer; and there are some mighty weird-looking people roaming around. Lots of them. I’m talking weird for Austin. That, my friends, is nuclear weird.

 

The one thing I do enjoy about mega-fests such as XXSWXSIW is perusing the band names. Here are a few of the outfits performing this year, I kiddeth you not: The Airborne Death by Death or somethingToxic Event, BadBadNotGood, Bass Drum of Death, Bloody Knives, Bombay Show Pig, The Creepy Creeps, Diarrhea Planet, Flosstradamus, Gringo Star, Idiot Glee, Marijuana Deathsquads, Mutilation Rites, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, Two Cow Garage, Warm Soda, The Wet Nuns, and, of course, Zorch.

 

Somehow I envision Two Cow Garage and Diarrhea Planet on the same bill, don’t ask me why.

 

However, my gentle flock, I’m not here to rail merely against SXSKXIW, but the perplexing proliferation of all these pagan parties all over my picturesque place. Man, Austin is averaging almost a festival a week, I’m telling ya. In addition to SXSW, we have the Austin City Limits Festival, the Annual Kite Festival, Star of Texas Rodeo, Circuit of ACL Dudethe Americas Formula 1 Race, the Annual Bun Run, Austin Marathon, Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Pecan Street Festival, that X-rated Carnaval Skin Thing, the Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin Film Festival, Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and a ton of others I’m forgetting at the moment.

 

Call me old, call me fuddy, call me duddy even, but enough with the glow sticks and the turkey legs and roasted corn and too much cleavage all over the place and waiting in line for an hour to use a porta-potty that smells like a Two Cow Garage. Sheesh. Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Well, if you don’t like the festivals, you don’t have to go, you old coot.” Right you are, but wifey and I have two teenage daughters—two teenage daughters who feel it is their duty to attend every single cotton-pickin’ happening that happens through town.

 

So guess who’s driving in the middle of all this mess, so these daughters don’t suffer the gobbler leglife-altering trauma of missing out on Diarrhea Planet or The Airborne Toxic Event, hmm? That’s right, my wife. Hey, honey, can you pick up a turkey leg while you’re there?

 

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.

 

January in Austin S’not What It Ought to Be

14 Jan

by Roger White

 

I hate this time of year. Absolutely despise it. Might even throw in the word “loathe.”

 

It’s not just because half the trees and plants across the landscape are now dead and brown, looking more like bare nerve endings protruding from the ground than blossoming flora. It’s not just because Christmas has come and gone and yet again Merry Xmas to MeSanta did not see fit to deliver my red Carrera 911. And it’s not just because the Dallas Cowboys again found new and innovative ways to underperform their way right out of the playoff picture for another season. 

 

No, the principal reason I hate this time of year is because of the frenetic over-pollinating behavior of the Central Texas area’s most evil living thing—the lovely juniper bush, or Juniperus ashei, as the ancient Latin allergy sufferers called it. As afflictions go, cedar fever ranks somewhere near the bubonic plague or the Devil Dustheartbreak of psoriasis in my book. It’s not even labeled correctly; it should be called juniper fever, but I guess that doesn’t have the right ring to it. I used to wonder why I never really took to gin as a cocktail ingredient—now I suppose I know. Gin’s chief ingredient—juniper juice—is my arch enemy.

 

Every January, like clockwork, 93.7 percent of my days are filled with sneezing, itching, running, snorting, wiping, weeping, draining misery. My eyes mutate into puffy, sightless slits. My nose becomes a fleshy faucet. Until I receive my annual double-shot in the posterior, by which I am pumped full of enough steroids to win at least a couple Tours de France, I have the unhappy choice of either sequestering myself indoors like a hanky-clutching bubble boy or ingesting enough decongestants to tranquilize a sperm whale. Snotty or sleepy—those are my alternatives.

 Stickemup i mean achoo

Yes, when you see me wearing the facial covering primarily used by bird flu victims and bank robbers, you know it’s cedar fever season. I really hate this time of year.

 

The weather guys aren’t much help, either. They seem to take particular delight in pointing out every year how the insidious explosions of lime-colored pollen dust created by these evil evergreens can be seen from space. Every time I hear that snide meteorological tidbit, I wish I was in space, orbiting miles high over the terrible clouds of congestion. Yes, I’d be floating weightless, drinking Tang, and laughing at the zillions of juniper spores, trying vainly to reach me. And I suppose because I’m in space, I’d be an astronaut, which would be really cool. Hey, what’s this button do?

 

Wait, where were we?

 

Oh, yes. Cedar fever. It’s not any fun for those around me, either. The noises I make whilst suffering from this dastardly winter devil have been likened by family, friends, and coworkers to everything from a cow pulling its hoof out of the mud to a garbage disposal attempting to grind up peanut butter. It ain’t pretty.

 

It’s gotten so bad in recent years that I decided to petition the State Legislature for some sort of relief. As of yet, my dutiful lawmakers have failed to respond, so I have now turned to the governor’s office, looking for a proclamation outlawing juniper germination or perhaps the establishment of Planned Pollenhood or something. Unfortunately for me and those of my ilk, our governor is staunch in his right-to-rhinitis views. So I see little hope of a reprieve from the executive branch. Ooh, I said branch. Sniffle.

 

I suppose the only way for me to find shelter from this seasonal snot storm is to my winter homemove away for a couple of months out of the year. So how about this: I’m offering a trade—anyone living in Micronesia, Kaua’i, or the Sandals Resort in Negril, Jamaica, can reside rent-free for the months of January and February in my lovely Austin home if I can live in yours during the same time period. Amenities included, just please feed the dog and the kids.

 

I really, really hate this time of year.

 

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.

 

Should My Friends Keep the Dog or Find a New Pup?

2 Jan

by Roger White

Let me tell you a story. By sharing this story I know that I will feel much better. I’m not sure if you’ll feel better after reading it, but that’s not really my concern. I desperately need to tell it.

These good friends of mine, you see, have this dilemma. They own this scruffy, smiley dog, with the obligatory cute puppy dog eyes. For the most part, he’s well-behaved and has even learned to do some pretty good tricks. But this mutt is a bit of a problem pooch.

confounding canineThey’ve had this dog since about 2004, when they picked him up from eastern Illinois. The little guy showed lots of promise, and he was lively. He’s always been lively and entertaining, scrambling around, causing havoc and fun. But they trained him well—or so they thought. The pup began showing signs of misbehaving terribly, however, at the worst possible times. One cold January in 2007, for example, when my friends were visiting in Seattle, the little fellah did some very smelly business in a most public of places. My friends were mortified and went home in shame.

Back home in Irving, my friends seemed pleased with the pooch as time went by—until almost exactly a year later. It was another cold January, in 2008, as my friends were hosting a bunch of folks from New York, when the dizzy dog did it again. Another stinker. It was yet another humiliation for my good friends.

In 2009, my friends built a new place in Arlington—and this place included a fantastic area where this dog could play. It turns out that this is one of the fanciest places for a dog to play anywhere! They hoped this might improve his behavior. It didn’t. A discouraging pattern began to emerge: Whenever my friends needed this schizophrenic hound to be on confounding caninehis best behavior, he would almost certainly stink up the place. In December 2008 while visiting in Philadelphia, in January 2010 in Minnesota, in December 2011 visiting those same folks in New York—no matter where they took this maddening mutt, he always managed to do exactly the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time, turning what could have been an enjoyable time into a disaster.

A most recent incident may have been the backbreaker, however. While on a nice visit to Washington, D.C., this past December, my good friends were stunned when this confounding canine did it again—right there in the nation’s capital. More smelly awfulness.

Perhaps it has something to do with winter or cold weather. It could be something about public places, being with a lot of people. Who knows? The head-scratching part of this confounding caninewhole ordeal is that the little guy has generally been a good dog. In fact, my friends actually say that this particular pooch has more impressive tricks, statistically speaking, than any other dog they’ve owned. And they really like him; it’s just that his behavior at certain times sends them right up the wall.

And I must say, it’s done the very same to me, as well. I’ve watched this little guy’s antics over the years, and he’s just about given me an ulcer. You see, I’ve been close to these friends for a long, long time. You might even say I’m a fan of theirs. I’ve appreciated them ever since I can remember. They’re proud folks, but they have plenty to be proud of—with a history and tradition of great achievement. They have screwed up royally at times, and the current patriarch can be a bit goofy, but they’re old friends, so what can I say?

 Troy the Dog

I know it has to be difficult for little Tony the mutt. My friends keep comparing him to previous pooches, such as Troy the terrier and Roger the rottweiler, who were fine, fine animals.

The gist of the whole story, I guess, is that my good friends could very well be at a watershed moment here. Do they keep Tony the dog and pray he stops smelling up the place at the worst possible times—or do they find a new pup and hope he has a better pedigree? What would you do?

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.

Nothing Says ‘Thank You’ Like ‘Thank You’

18 Dec

by Roger White  

 

Sitting cozy in my den the other day, admiring the flames in the fireplace as winter raged outside (it got down into the 40s!), I was given to pause and reflect. Seldom am I given to pause, seldomer still to reflect. Yes, I have been writing long enough to invent words. Seldomer is now a word. I shall even copyright it: Seldomer©. There.

I believe at least once a year, everyone should be required to stop whining, cease shooting the finger at the guy who cut you off in traffic, quit yelling at the idiot politicians, and simply be thankful. As bad as things seem to be, as completely insane as the world appears to have become lately, as absolutely untrainable as the damn cat stubbornly cat from hellremains, I still feel like a very lucky guy. I know there are so many things in this world—this nation particularly—that need to change, but for the most part, things are good. People are good, by and large. I must believe that, or I will drive my car into the Palo Duro Canyon.

So I thought I’d share with you my list of the things I’m thankful for this holiday season. This list is not in order of importance, nor was there any payola involved. If anyone on this list wants to discuss payola retroactively, that can be arranged.

I, Oldspouse, am thankful for the following, give or take:

  • “Relaxed-fit” jeans. Not only am I extremely grateful for relaxed-fit jeans, I am most appreciative of the term “relaxed-fit.” Whoever came up with this wonderful euphemism is a marketing genius. Sounds so much better than the truth: “Old & fat-fit” jeans.
  • Affordable second-hand cars with airbags. My daughters are driving now. Nuff said.
  • Affordable miniature GPS tracking devices. My daughters are dating now. Nuff said.
  • Jon Stewart. The last bastion of straight news, of the real story, Jon is. Without him, the man“Breaking Bad,” and “Seinfeld” reruns, television today would be utterly unwatchable.
  • Mississippi. If it weren’t for the Magnolia State, Texas would be at or very near the bottom of many, many dubious lists, such as education, teen pregnancy, idiotic laws, etc. You can criticize Texas for many things, but at least we don’t incorporate the Stars and Bars into our state flag.
  • Five-hour energy drinks. I know, this one may be controversial, but WOW. The wife and I tried a couple of these tiny little bottles of verve one morning. We’d been out late the previous evening, pretending we were young’uns, and oh, how we felt it. On a lark, we imbibed the “energy supplements.” All I remember of the rest of that day is that after our 10-mile morning run, I rebuilt my lawnmower engine, self-audited my tax returns back to 1987, played my girls one-on-two in tennis, then wrote three chapters of my long-forgotten novel. Then I slept for 18 hours. In the yard.
  • Our Bubbie. Now, this may seem to you a blatant attempt to get in good with the mother-in-law, and you know what? It is! But I have to tell you, this gal can cook. Bubbie’s been the primary source of our Sunday night dinners since I can remember, and if anyone can do better things with a chicken, I need to see it—and taste it. Although I have to add that Bub is one of the main reasons I am thankful for “relaxed-fit” jeans. Well, and beer.
  • Beer. Where would we be without beer? Maybe I should rephrase that. Let me just yea beersay that beer has helped me through many, many horrible Dallas Cowboys games. Without beer, I could not stand to listen to my own garage band play. Without beer, our annual neighborhood holiday parties would be intolerable. And I mean that in the nicest way. I dare say that without beer, no one would ever listen to ZZ Top or Billy Squier.
  • My babies—all three of them. You know who you are. Tolerance, patience, forgiveness, and love are mighty, mighty powerful things. For that, and for my three lovely gals, I am eternally thankful. Seldom do I really say how thankful I am for you—and seldomer still do I say how much I love you. Well, and beer.

 

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.