Sunday, February 27, 2005

Only Temporary

One of my shortcomings is this insufferable curiosity about other people and their lives. Some years back, I stopped in a Subway shop to pick up sandwiches for my family and struck up a conversation with the girl behind the counter.

She began telling me about how awful her life is, how nobody loves her, how everything always goes wrong and how there is no bright vista in sight. She basically explained to me that she is the biggest loser in the world.

I walked away from there feeling really weird about the whole thing. I got home and was still thinking about it while I passed out the food to the peckish clan and took my sandwich out to the front porch to eat and reflect.

About halfway through my meal, I bit my tongue so hard that blood squirted from the corners of my mouth. People like her have a way of rubbing off on you.

Luckily, it’s only temporary.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Flying Squirrels

Velociman talks about flying squirrels. Set me into a severe rewind mode as I remembered flying squirrels of my youth.

When I was sent away to reform Catholic Boarding School, it was inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere Arkansas. It was a quaint all boys facility run by Franciscan Friars. Smoking cigarettes, while strictly prohibited on campus (simple possession was an offense punishable by licks), was our main pastime and was done on leisurely walks – off campus – and often in the surrounding woods.

School lore, passed down through the ages, taught us how to catch and tame wild animals of various sorts. Flying squirrels were a perennial favorite. Our technique was to go in pairs.

We would walk through the woods in January and February (the nesting season) looking for old dead trees with holes chewed in them. You would take a stick and tap on the trunk of the tree, and if a squirrel was nesting in it, she would peek out.

Once we confirmed the presence of the nesting mother, one of us would climb the tree and hold a black sock over the hole. The other would beat on the tree with the stick as hard as he could and the mother squirrel would jump out into the dark sock.

We’d gather the babies and take the whole mess back to the dormitory with us where we had, in waiting, a bird cage with nuts and water and seeds prepared for its new occupants. Put mom and the babies in the cage and cover it with a towel for the first week. Mom would raise the babies and tame down enough to leave the cage uncovered, but we could never hold her.

Once the babies were old enough to be weaned, we’d let mom go and the babies would grow into loving pets. We used to play catch with them. You’d pitch one across the lawn and he’d spread out and sail until he landed on the other guy’s shirt.

Some of the guys caught fox squirrels and others caught crows. I did the flying squirrel thing for a while and then traded mine for a couple of packs of Marlboros.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Lake of Fire


Is this Mr. Circabellum?


Hi, this is Janie and I’m calling from Bank of America…


Um, what?


Oh, yes. Uh, really. And, uh you’ve been approved for a zero percent

Approved? How am I approved?

Uh, yes, uh, we have to ask some questions about your birthday and stuff and

I don’t ever have to pay this back?

Uh, huh? Um, no, well uh, yes you have to pay it back there’s just no interest. I mean, you can go out and like buy something for a hundred dollars and you won’t have to pay interest. Anyway, all we have to

Oh, so I’m limited only to things that cost one hundred dollars?

Oh no! No, no, no! You’ve been approved for twelve thousand dollars. I mean, you could go out and spend twelve thousand dollars like immediately

Oh, so you’re recommending that I go and spend twelve thousand dollars immediately? I mean, you’re personally suggesting this?

No! No, you’ve misunderstood. No, I didn’t mean that at all. I was only saying that you could spend that much. I mean like if you wanted to or whatever.

Do you have this?

No, I’m like not really with Bank of America. I’m with Dial America. My credit isn’t good enough. But like you could take advantage of this

Dial America? Where is that? Is it in America?

Well, yeah, it’s all over, but yeah we’re in America. I’m actually in Salt Lake city.

Really? Are you Mormon?

Well, yes, actually I am.

Very Cool. Mormon. Very cool.

Yes. I think so. (giggle)

Yeah, Lake of fire. Very cool.

1956 Chicago White Sox Ball signed by the entire team.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


This site got me thinking about squirrels.

Some years back we lived in an old ranch style house in Lakewood. We didn’t know until after we sold the house to somebody else that the previous owner had blown gray matter all over the place, but that’s a different story and will wait for a different time.

About the second year we were there I started hearing noises in the attic. Investigation revealed that there was a squirrel living up there. I fixed the hole in the fascia board he had chewed and figured that’s the end of it.

No way. That sucker was back in the next day. Somebody said try moth balls. Son of a bitch tossed the moth balls out the hole and into the back yard. I waited with a pellet gun for him to come out. No luck.

I waited in the attic with a flashlight and a pellet gun. No luck.

It got worse. At three in the morning, he and all his friends would chase each other around the attic above my bedroom. Then, they would start scratching the insulation off of the sheetrock. Scritch, scritch, scritch. For hours. While I’m supposed to be sleeping.

Providence has a way of interfering. I got a call from a client in Kansas City. He had a couple of extra dollars to spend and thought of me. I like that in a person. But it made me curious. What do you do?

“I’m a trapper,” he said.

My smart ass answer was, “well, maybe you can tell me how to trap squirrels in my attic.”

“My specialty,” he rejoined.

He explained to me that he is an urban wildlife expert. He tells me what kind of trap to get, where to put it and what to bait it with. He further explains that I should not do my repairs to the fascia until I go two weeks without catching a squirrel.

I follow the instructions to the letter, catch 13 squirrels over a two week period, go two dry weeks with no squirrels and replace the board with the hole in it. I’m one happy camper. I decide to call my buddy in KC and thank him for the perfect advice.

“What’d you do with the squirrels?” he asked.

I told him how I didn’t have the inclination to kill them, so I took them to a park in Little Rock where I figured they would have lots of friends. Plus, I assumed that if they could get across the river, up the ridge, over two freeways, numerous city streets and back to my house, the deserved to live in my attic.

“Oh no.” was all he could say.

“Why, what’s wrong,” I asked.

“Well,” he said with a sigh, “You have to kill ‘em. Once they learn how to chew into somebody’s attic you can’t keep them out. And, once you’ve trapped ‘em, you’ll never trap them again. You’ve caused somebody a real problem.”

So, if you live in the Quapaw Quarter Historic District and you have a problem with squirrels in your historic house, please, please know that I am truly sorry. Really, I am.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Ain't America Great?

The summer of 1980 was one of the hottest on record in the mid-south. There were thirty plus days the temperature topped 100 degrees. So, of course, some promoter decided to have an outdoor concert at the stadium in Little Rock. It was billed as the Wild Hog Boogie, and while I don’t remember all of the bands that performed, I do remember that Molly Hatchet was the headliner.

It was a scab show and the crews were not called through the union local. We were all warned that if we worked it, we would never get another union gig, ever. So, I had the party line when they called. “Sorry, man, I can’t jeopardize my career with the local.”

“Interested in working security?” he fired back.

A quick call to the steward and I had clearance. “Just don’t get caught touching any equipment,” he said.

So, early I arose that Saturday morning of July 12, and made my way to War Memorial Stadium at the appointed time. I was dressed appropriately in a pair of shorts and T-shirt. It was eight a.m. and already in the upper eighties. My post, it turns out was at the bottom of a ramp, just at the edge of the field. Right in the blazing sun. There was a water cooler nearby, so I figured I can survive one day of anything. It’s money, right?

I had worked up a pretty good sweat by 9:30, standing there in the tropical Arkansas summer sun, when a golf cart careened up beside me and the head of security asked me if I’d be willing to guard Molly Hatchet’s tour bus. “What do I do?” I asked.

“Beats me,” he said, “I guess just stand next to the bus and make sure nobody fucks with it.”

So, you know, what the hell. It pays the same to stand next to one thing as another. Besides, maybe there would be some shade. I climbed into the golf cart and we whipped up the ramp, nearly creamed a couple of scabs pushing road crates and skidded in the loose pea gravel to stop next to the bus.

It was one of those large customized tour busses painted gaily with scenes of the grim reaper, or somebody with a large axe, on the sides and the Molly Hatchet logo. Typical rock and roll excess. Diesel engines idling, air conditioner humming.

The driver, the tour manager, I don’t know, some guy got off the bus and gave me a no-nonsense hand shake and invited me aboard. He handed me a clipboard with a list of about thirty names on it. “These are the people that can come on the bus. Or, people that are with these people.”

“Here’s the fridge, there’s plenty of beer, here’s the restroom. TV up there, VCR, tapes, just make yourself at home. Once an hour, get off the bus, walk around and make sure some bastard isn’t carving his name on the side or some crazy shit.”

He opened the door and disappeared into the shimmering heat coming off the asphalt parking lot. Cool. I kicked back and checked out the video tapes. Lots of porn, a few recent releases. Opening the refrigerator I saw that it was nearly filled with Heineken. Those little green bottles looked like heaven to me. I opened one and popped The Warriors into the VCR.

A few guys get on the bus and after dutifully checking them against the list, they come in and sit down. They’re having a few beers and checking out the girls walking past the bus. The windows aren’t tinted and the shades are up and these kids are gawking up into the bus watching us drinking beer and watching them. The crew guys start trying to lure some of them on the bus. They’re reeling in a couple of twelve year olds and have just about got them convinced to come in and check it out when the boss comes back. He’s throwing a fit over the idea of them attempting to get a couple of pre-pubescent girls onto the bus. I’m kind of relieved because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do in a situation like that.

By now it’s full blown afternoon and they’re taking a steady stream of revelers out on stretchers with heat exhaustion. I later heard that temperatures went over 120 degrees in the stadium. The ambulances reminded me of a parade as they wound their way out of the parking lot. I would imagine it was a big loop for most of them all day.

But damn, I’m getting cold! The air conditioner is blasting and I’m just wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. I’m getting out and checking the graffiti artists more regularly just for a chance to warm up. And I’m getting quite a buzz on.

This goes on all day and by the time Molly Hatchet takes the stage and they’re ready to let me go, I’m drunker than ten Indians and watching full blown hard core porn on the VCR. The passing kids are really gawking now.

The boss comes and pays me off, gives me the ubiquitous T-shirt and releases me. I stagger out to my car. What a day. I got a snoot full of beer, a t-shirt, didn’t do a damned thing and they paid me for it to boot.

Ain’t America great?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Eat A Live Toad

When I was twelve years old I had a paper route. I guess kids today will never know what that was like. But in those days, papers were delivered by young neighborhood boys. Looking back on the experience, I can kind of see why that’s changed now.

There was no end to the mischief that we wreaked on our paper routes, but the one thing that I still chuckle over was the toads.

It was the summer of ’69 and my route was for the morning paper. If you weren’t at the designated drop by 3:00 a.m. the route manager was on the phone calling you to see where you were. Several of us got our papers at the same corner and would sit on the curb and roll the papers with green rubber bands and fill a pair of canvas bags with a hole in the middle for your head.

By 3:30 you would generally be off, riding your bike and tossing the papers on the porches of the good subscribers. In the cool, dew soaked mornings of Arkansas, there are literally thousands of toads hopping all over the place – a temptation that few red-blooded boys can resist.

Toads have a million uses, which don’t always become immediately apparent, so you just pick them up when you have the opportunity and then they’re there when the need arises. As I would empty one side of my newspaper bag, I would fill it with toads.

My route encompassed about a six block long stretch of four streets and the intersecting streets in the grid, perhaps 180 subscribers in all. By the time I finished my route, one side of the canvas bags was a writhing, squirming mass of toads.

And, each day, the last house on my route had the windows of their car left open in the car port. I would dump the bag of toads through the window and giggle all the way home thinking about that guy getting in his car to go to work and seeing all those warty, piss-smelly toads hopping in the floorboards. I don’t guess he ever figured it out, because he never closed the windows or locked the doors.

But then again, maybe he had a use for the toads and was grateful. I still chortle a little when I think on it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Four Finger Bags

I started washing dishes in restaurants when I was fourteen. Some buddies and I got on at a Kettle Restaurant and took turns filling shifts and making enough money to cop some herb and make that ever-so-important gangsta impression on the young ladies. I’m still amazed at how the pieces of that puzzle still fit together in my life.

For example.

There was a waitress there at the time who turned out to be a major weed dealer. It was great. We could go to her house and like as not there would be her boyfriend and a couple of other guys with a bed sheet spread out on the living room floor with the biggest pile of dried green clumps you ever saw. They’d be smokin’ doobs and weighing up ounces into sandwich bags. A four finger bag went for ten bucks in those days.

You could get a pound for ninety.

Jeff Martin and I split a ninety dollar pound one time, sold enough bags out of it to recoup our investment and still had to put the leftover split into emptied bread sacks. I remember giving a big bag of it to a girl I had a crush on for her birthday.

Truly, it got so bad and wide-open that an undercover cop showed up one day posing as a waitress. We knew something was wrong when she tried to take a large order out to a table in a bus tub. The tip-off passed around the staff and we were instructed by those in the “know” to shun her.

Fast forward twenty years later.

I’m working successfully for a local mailing company as vice president of sales and attending a fancy soiree at the Capital Hotel (President Grant stayed there when he was in town…) and who do I run smack dab into? Little Miss Dopedealer. She was comptroller of a multibillion dollar company.

“I swear to God, if you say anything to anybody, I will kill you. Understand?” she hissed.

And, to this day, you are the only one I have told about this.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Provincial is a term that describes me. I mean, except for occasionally getting mad and boycotting Wal Mart for a few months, I try to do business with Arkansas based companies whenever possible.

I think Burge’s down in Lewisville makes the best ham in the world. Petit Jean Meat Packing Company makes the best sausage and lunch meats and their hot dogs are second only to Nathan’s on Coney Island.

Tyson has some good chicken products and I still boycott Burger King over tossing them the fall on the tainted burgers they served some years back. Folks, assume that hamburger meat has germs. Cook it. Burger King did not cook the meat thoroughly and when people started falling out sick, they blamed it on Tyson.

I kind of went the long way around the block to get to the point that I have tried so very hard to find a good local wine. I really want to find an Arkansas wine that I can be loyal to. Something I can tell my friends about.

All of the products of Post Winery in Altus are too sweet for me. My parents love that stuff and they used to pick it up when they passed through on trips. I’d always receive a bottle of the cough syrup version for Christmas or birthdays. Now you can buy it at Kroger. I have tried most of the varieties available over the last year or so and believe that I’m through trying.

Wiederkehr, also in Altus, seems so promising. I’ve tried several, but am just not getting there. Tonight, I’m drinking their Shiraz, and at first gulp sip, I thought I might have something. Nice bouquet (or bow-kay as they say down here) and a good start on the tongue. But once you swallow, there is a slight bitter taste in the back of the throat and a kind of dry/grit like a persimmon.

For the money, I think Yellow Tail is a good value. Why is it that they can grow the grapes, produce a wine that’s drinkable, bottle it and ship it halfway around the world and sell it to me for less than $8.00, and an Arkansas winery can’t touch it? And costs more?

Anybody recommend a good Arkansas wine?