“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

Why Homeland Security has my name on a list
Sunday, August 31, 2008

As I've mentioned before in this blog, I don't like to travel, especially by air. Being up that high, that vulnerable, makes me nervous ... so you can imagine the uneasiness I felt when I recently took my seat on a flight from Minneapolis to Fort Myers and saw this ON THE EMERGENCY EXIT DOOR:

If you can't read it, it says "UNSERVICEABLE: DO NOT USE."

I pointed it out to the teenage boy sitting next to me, expecting to engage a new compatriot in consternation. Instead, he laughed and said, "Dude, that's hilarious!" Ah, yes, the omnipotence of youth.

Being a rule follower and worrywort, I pushed the flight attendant call button, something I've never done in 45 years of flying. ("Bing!") It felt as illicit as pulling a fire alarm.

Now, before I go any further, you need to know that this was Northwest Airlines, which is famous for its surly flight attendants ... the result, I was told later by an NWA employee, of a badly executed merger when NWA swallowed Republic Airways decades ago. Evidently, there were some people who lost seniority, and, well, they've certainly learned to take it out on us, thank you very much. I've only encountered surlier flight attendants on JAT, the former Yugoslavian airline: "You want water or beer? No Coke! ... If you are good man I take shackles off your ankles so you can go to pee."

"Yes?" the Northwest flight attendant said with forced smile, overtly perturbed to have been bothered. "We're preparing to leave."

I pointed to the red tape on the emergency-exit door. "I hope that's referring to the little scratch in the window," I said, laughing nervously.

She squinted to read the writing on the tape. "This is NOT a laughing matter!" she scolded.

The teenage boy started giggling, and she lit into him. "Do you think the safety of all these passengers is a laughing matter?" ... She talked to us in the same tone of voice that she probably used with her boyfriend in high school, when he told her he was taking another girl to prom. That's how pissed off she was.

She stormed down the aisle, toward the cockpit. Great, I thought. We're going to be delayed now, or, worse, told to change planes ... and everyone on this MD-80 is going to hate my guts.

Five minutes passed, and she returned. "The tape," she explained, "is referring to the window shade, not the emergency door. And now we can leave."

"So ... I can't use my window shade?" I asked her, and she frowned before storming off again ... off to slam shut some overhead compartment, I suppose.

That was it: No "Thank you, Ad, for being such a good citizen." No, "Oh, Ad, I wish all passengers were as conscientious as you. Why couldn't my daughter have married you instead of Steve Somethingorother?"

Still, not trusting her or the airline, I watched the door from the corner of my eye for most of the flight.

Later, I wished I owned a roll of red tape that had "UNSERVICEABLE: DO NOT USE" written on it hundreds of times. What fun I could have with that!

Things you should know
Friday, August 29, 2008

1. Just finished Kristy Kiernan's newest novel, Matters of Faith. This author really captures the sweet-and-sour dynamics of family relationships. Publishers Weekly said, "In this tense, well-paced novel about belief, Kiernan explores when faith and love test the limits of family fealty."

Strange word: Fealty. Sounds like something you'd find growing underneath a rock, doesn't it? (For the record, we don't write those synopses; the editors do.)

At any rate, here's the synopsis: At age twelve, Marshall Tobias saw his best friend killed by a train. It was then that he began his search for faith -- delving into one tradition, then discarding it for another. His parents, however, have little time for spiritual contemplation. Their focus has been on his little sister, Megan, who suffers from severe food allergies. Now Marshall is home from college with his first real girlfriend, but there is more to Ada than meets the eye -- including her beliefs about the evils of medical intervention. What follows is a crisis that tests not only faith but the limits of family, forgiveness, and our need to believe.

Kiernan, who also wrote Catching Genius, puts more thought into plot and structure than any other author I know. And when you read her books you get the feeling that you are being guided along a journey by a true pro. She looks at a novel systemically, as an architect would consider the entire building.

ANOTHER THING YOU NEED TO KNOW: When I was having trouble with my blogging software last week my webmaster told me something that I found very nifty: On several websites, if you want to make the type smaller simply hit Ctrl and the minus sign. To make the type larger, hit Ctrl and the plus sign.

AND ONE MORE THING: The sourdough bread from Target is really good. Very sour.

Underwear Wars: Chapter 2
Thursday, August 28, 2008

I promised that I would introduce you all to Dr. Blunt, my friend and colleague known for his flesh-penetrating candor. He has retired to a cabin on the North Dakota-Canadian border, but he graciously agreed to weigh in on the underwear-drawer question posed yesterday: What type of people fold and sort their underwear, and what type of people simply dump them into a drawer?

Ad: Welcome, Dr. Blunt. I haven't spoken with you since my trek across your lovely rectangular state earlier this summer. Let's first talk about the underwear dumpers, shall we?

Dr. Blunt: "Alright, then ... Now there will be exceptions, of course, but the dumpers, I believe are happier people in general. The dumpers have better sex lives and more open relationships with their children. If they drop something and it falls to the floor and rolls under the sofa, it will likely stay there until they move or the house burns down. Dumpers are less threatened by ethnic-design in their furniture. Also, unlike the underwear folders, they don't demand resolution and full, happy endings in the movies they watch and the books they read. It's okay if the protagonist dies. ... These people are more likely to share a milkshake with a stranger. Oh, and underwear dumpers are more likely to own cats instead of dogs. Dogs can be controlled, of course, and cats cannot.

Ad: Very interesting. Now let's move to the underwear folders-and-sorters.

Dr. Blunt: Yes, well, there is a much higher chance that these people are in therapy ... I mean, why else would they be grasping for such unimportant acts of unity and order? They're generally wealthier because they have such tight control over their lives and careers. But that focus also leads them to grind their teeth more and unwisely choose futile battles with their teenage children. They also have higher thread-count in their bedsheets. Oh, yes, and I almost forgot, folders-and-sorters do not like flax seed sprinkled on their cereal.

Ad: Very interesting. Now, I want to talk about that cat thing ... I was noticing that ...

Dr. Blunt: Perhaps tomorrow, Ad. It is time for cocktails.

Ad: Well, I am certainly not going to argue with that.

Secrets revealed by your underwear drawer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A conversation I overheard recently, one woman talking to another about her peer at work:

Woman #1: "She and I are very different. I mean, we reach the same conclusion, and we're usually on the same page, but we sure have a different way of getting there. Let's just say we probably have very different underwear drawers."

Woman #2: "?"

Woman #1: "I'm sure she folds her underwear. Probably displays them according to color, too ... you know, from light to dark. ... Now, myself? I just throw mine in a drawer. I have this drawer in my bathroom that looks like underwear soup."

So, readers ... is this your drawer? (Click on the different-colored words)

Or ... is this?

Tomorrow, we will have our guest blogger, Dr. Blunt, talk with us about this.

(Incidentally, I found several photos of cats in underwear drawers on the www. Hmmmm. We'll have Dr. Blunt weigh in on this as well.)

Tropical Diary: Post #45C
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This is my friend, Bill.

How 'bout them mangos? ... Fruit salad, anyone?

Don't be a BUTTHEAD!
Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sad but true: I was a fat kid with not many friends, but it wasn't my husky-sized pants that made me unpopular. It was the fact that I was the class tattle-tale.

Whenever the teacher had to leave the room she would say, "Now, Ad, I want you to write down the name of everyone who misbehaves while I am gone." ... And you know what? I would actually DO it! And then I'd get the piss pounded out of me at recess.

I don't know why I was chosen for such an awful task. I'm guessing it's because I am known to periodically exude a rigid, judge-like demeanor. I've always believed in following the rules, and I think those who don't follow the rules should be punished. I have fantasized about being Judge Judy, and if I were an 8-year-old again, I would probably play Judge-Judy make-believe.

So, you need to know that I carry a small notebook in my car with the words "Traffic Transgressors" written on the cover. And I write down the license-plate numbers of drivers who do the following:

Flick their cigarette butts outside the window. There's not an intersection in North America that doesn't look like the ashtray from an all-night party of 275,778 chain-smokers.

PHYSICS LESSON: Just because the butt disappears from your own little world (your car) doesn't mean it has disappeared from the planet. 'Might want to re-visit that second law of thermodynamics.

CHEMISTRY LESSON: They may feel nice and soft and cottony, but those butts are made from cellulose acetate, and they biodegrade at about the rate of an abandoned Honda Civic rusting away in a junkyard.

LAW LESSON: Littering is against the law. ... Judge Judy says: GUILTY! Now, I ask you: How hard can it be to EMPTY YOUR ASHTRAY into a trashcan? When I see you toss your butt out the window, here's what it tells me about you: It tells me you're insensitive, ignorant, self-centered and lazy. ... Pardon me now as I crawl down from this soapbox ... there ... okay now ...

I'm thinking of doing what my friend, Gordon in Georgia, once did when he saw a woman toss her butt out the window during a red light. He got out of his car, picked up the butt, and knocked on her window. When she opened it he said in his polite, Southern voice, "Ma'am, I think you dropped something. 'Thought you might want it back."

Time for another episode of ... AMAZING FOOD MYSTERIES!
Friday, August 22, 2008

We were visiting friends at their mountain vacation home in Kalispel, Montana this summer when we awoke one morning to this surprise in the oven:

"Romeethia?" (protecting identity), I yelled to my friend, goosebumps rising on my arms and the back of my neck because the scene looked so ... violent. "Were we supposed to have potatoes last night with the steak?"

She walked over for a look and gave a good, hard belly-laugh. "Whoops," she said. "Looks like we started cocktails too early."

"You need to call the exterminator," I said. "I mean, LOOK at that. You've got rats or something." Indeed, it appeared that some creature had completely skinned the potato just as you'd skin an animal, then left the hide to rot on the oven floor.

Not sure what to think, Romeethia summoned her husband into the kitchen. "It exploded, obviously," he said.

"But that's not a microwave oven," I said. "Things don't explode in a regular oven, do they?"

"And we must have poked holes in it, anyway," Romeethia said, noting the tine marks in the other potato.

The three of us stood there, crouched at the oven, shaking our heads. Being Floridians, we wondered if this was an altitude issue. Did food explode like this at points higher than 5,000 feet? "Oh, Honey, Damn! The pot roast exploded again. Guess we'll have beef stew instead."

And why just one potato? Why not both?

There was another possibility. When I was growing up in Colorado there was an epidemic one time of inexplicable cattle mutilations. People swore it was the work of aliens ... not hopping-across-the-Rio aliens, but the green variety. I wondered: Should one of us call Homeland Security?

No ... I'm still thinking I smell a rat. Romeethia, because it was in her vacation home, refuses to admit this. But could a rat squeeze its way into an oven? I've heard amazing rodent stories; I guess anything's possible.

Ideas, anyone?

Making Lemonade from Lemons
Thursday, August 21, 2008

I often get asked to be a "celebrity judge" at various events in my community, and, being one of the most judgmental people I know, I always feel compelled to say yes. It is my responsibility as your Self-Appointed Critic-At-Large.

I recently had the pleasure of judging a summertime cocktail contest sponsored by Slow Food Southwest Florida .
I drank some odd and wonderful things, but my favorite was the eventual winner: Cindy Pierce's basil lemonade. I stopped by her house to take her picture and ask her for the recipe.
First you make the syrup:
5 cups fresh basil leaves (The recipe called for 4, but Cindy increased it.)
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
Zest from 10-12 lemons

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium size saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let stand at room temperature, covered, for one hour, then transfer to an airtight container and chill for at least an hour. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on solids. (Covered and chilled, syrup will keep up to five days.)

Then you make the lemonade:

4 cups basil lemon syrup
4-5 cups cold water
2 1/2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (I used a dozen lemons)
Garnish: fresh basil sprigs, lemon zest strips

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and serve immediately over ice.

Ad Again: The basil gives the lemonade a green, outdooors-in-summer fragrance and taste, reminiscent of freshly-cut grass. Cindy found the recipe on Epicurious.com, one of my favorite food websites. It's basically the best of Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines, a searchable database of all their recipes. It's a great place to troll for dinner ideas before heading to the market on your way home from work.
Oh ... Cindy's husband, Kevin, who blogs his current-events-related poems at News and Verse, says the lemonade gets even better when a shot of Maker's Mark bourbon is added!

Hello, I'm Mr. Worrywart
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fay's wrath: Some much-needed rain (without flooding) and ... and ... well, I guess that's it. She turned out to be nothing, really. But I was worried. Oh, boy, do I ever get worked up about things. I've had a lifetime of worrying.

1. As a kid, whenever we drove further than 30 miles, I was constantly asking my mom or dad or whoever was driving: "Do we have enough gas?" And ... ten minutes later: "Are you sure we have enough gas?" And ... 18 minutes later: "We're not going to run out of gas, are we?"

2. My mom tells this story way too often: One night, after I'd been tucked in, my parents were watching television when they heard a blood-curdling scream come from my bedroom. Apparently I ran out, into the living room, holding my arms out in front of me, screaming, "Mom! Dad! There are little HOLES all over my body!!" They finally convinced me that they, too, had pores of their own, and that they were normal. A few nights later, the same Mr. Worrywart came running out of his bedroom, screaming again:
"What, Ad? What is it?"
"I'm CRACKING UP! ... Look! I have tiny cracks all over my hands! Oh, my God, we've got to get me to the emergency room!"

3. Once, I noticed a small leak in the water fountain in the park near my house. I ran home, terrified, convinced that the entire town was going to be flooded, and we all would die. "We've got to call somebody and get it fixed!" I implored my mother. She did make a call ... probably to her friend, saying "cocktails will be early today, please ... see you at 2."

4. Once during my childhood, a cult in Fruita, Colorado claimed the world was going to end. They even gave a specific date and time. I remember being a tightly bundled mess of nerves that fateful night (I had marked it on my calendar, of course.) when being put to bed. My parents did everything they could to try to convince me that those people in Fruita were wrong, and that I would wake up in the morning and all would be fine. And, of course, they were right.

Message to Mom and Dad: Thanks. I love you guys. ... But I am worried about that new tropical disturbance forming off of Africa.

Missing ...
Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm assuming a power failure tomorrow (and day after? Day after that?) after Fay sweeps ashore Tuesday morning. Not sure I'll be able to post for awhile.

Upcoming blogs: 1. What is that substance in the back of Ad's pickup truck? 2. The winner of the Summertime cocktail contest. 3. You know you're from North Dakota when ...

So ... as we say down here in Hurricaneville: See you on the other side.

Stay Away, Fay!

I know most of you come here every day to get a dose of laughter, but I'm not feeling very funny right now. I feel kind of cheated, like the time in first grade when T. S. (protecting identity here) said he'd invite me to his slumber party, and I got to school the next day and realized that he HADN'T!

I went to bed last night thinking we'd dodged Fay's bullet. The cone of probability for the tropical storm had shifted almost 70 miles westward, leaving Fay to do her whirling dervish impersonation over open water. Ahhhh, no problem. Good night, everyone.

Then I wake up and see that the damn thing has moved BACK into our path. So ... remember those kayaks I said I had tied up yesterday? Well, I was lying....I never got around to it because I didn't think I had to. But now, this morning, I will spend an hour outside, schlepping all those things inside that would otherwise get tossed through windows. And I will tie down the damn kayaks.

And I will stay glued to the weatherunderground.com site, charting the speed and direction of Fay until the POWER GOES OUT!!! (Not a big deal for a few hours, folks, but try SEVEN days ... as we experienced with Wilma ... and FIVE days, as we had with Charley) And then we will start sweating like pigs. And then the neighbors will all hang out on the street, enjoying the last of the ice in their cocktails as our un-plugged kids, with no gadget diversion available, resort to (gasp!) playing ditch'em or hide-n-seek, and they will be shocked at how much fun it is. And at night, my wife and I will lay in bed, our bodies sticky with sweat, and when one of us rolls over and runs into the other our skin will stick together like pieces of raw bacon. And we will be kept awake by the sound of frogs croaking and lizards scurrying about inside the house ... hijackers from the potted patio plants I had to bring inside.

But I am probably prematurely obsessing here. It is something I do. I figure if I worry about it enough then it won't happen ... if the Worry Gods see that I'm worried then they will protect me. This is very similar to the story I told you about how-I-keep-the-airplane-in-the-air. http://www.adhudler.com/blog/2008/07/why-delta-should-send-me-paycheck.asp.

I've always been a worry-wart. It drove my parents crazy. But more on this later. I've got to get the lawn furniture inside.

Hurricanes: A Primer
Sunday, August 17, 2008

We've been put on a hurricane watch. Looks like Fay is going to make landfall some time mid-day Tuesday.

They're predicting it will be a category one, and there's a big difference between a cat-1 and a cat-5. Since hurricanes play a big role in my next novel, I'm going to call on protagonist Linc Menner to explain the differences. (I'm lifting this directly from "Man of the House.")

"...There are five categories of hurricanes. A category-one blows up to 95 miles per hour. Some trees will lose limbs. Kiss that gazing ball in your garden goodbye.

"A category-two blasts up to 110. This is when power lines start snapping and swimming-pool cages start to shed their screens. Trees get stripped of leaves. Business' signs get blown out. The older, more brittle asphalt shingles get torn from roofs like pages from a word-a-day calendar.

"In a Category-three, with winds up to 130, you'd better be thinking of leaving town for the day. Mobile homes and anything made of aluminum, which is about half of the construction down here, begins to shred, and the pieces fly through the air like a pair of wayward nunchucks, knocking out windows and slicing through power lines. Lots of storm surge, lots of flooding.

"A category-four is anything with sustained winds stronger than 145. Flooding is so bad that cars and other big things start to float and collide with houses or anything else in their path. Entire trees fall over, ripped up from their roots. The towering live oaks down here aren't as mighty as they appear. Because the aquifers are so close to the surface, there are no deep tap roots that act as an anchor, so these giant trees have root systems that spread out instead of down. I've seen photographs of big oaks and Jacarandas and banyans that simply fell over, pulling their entire root structure, which look like an immense, shallow plate of spaghetti noodles, out of the ground with them.

Me again: Linc doesn't describe a cat-5, but I pulled this from the National Hurricane Center's web site. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ which is our Bible this time of year. We check it several times a day once a storm is marching our way. Anyway, cat-5: "Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline.

Our house on the water is 4 feet above sea level.

What I'm doing today:
1. Getting all the laundry done now so we have plenty of clean clothes should we lose power.
2. Tying the canoe and kayak to palm trees. (Hey, palm trees are MADE to withstand hurricanes. Look at the post-hurricane pics from history; oftentimes the palms are the only things left standing.)
3. Planning a big meal for Monday night. We generally eat one of our favorite dinners (My family likes pasta bolognese) the night before a storm's arrival because we know it'll be the last real, hot meal we get for the next several days. (No power = no stove.)

What to do with Ad?
Saturday, August 16, 2008

When I go to a reading or literary festival I get put on the strangest panels. Consider the problem the planners of these events have: "Well, Ad's readers are mostly women ... but he's a GUY ... hmmm, he did write that one novel about living in the South. Maybe he's a southern writer. Do we put him on the Comical Kudzu panel? ... He's funny ... but he's serious, too....Wait! He's bald! Maybe we can put him with the crime writers. Jonathon King, Randy Wayne White -- aren't they all bald? -- and he'll just fit in somehow."

It's about to get more difficult. In my next novel, "Man of the House," I take a step toward the Testosterone Side. As I noted in yesterday's blog, My main character, Linc Menner, suddenly realizes that all his years in GirlyLand have taken a toll on his masculinity, and he goes on a tear to reclaim his inner male.

So guys will read it, right? But aren't women more interested in the personality evolutions of a character? All this got me thinking: What literary traits draw men to certain books? And women? I've always thought men are more plot-hungry, women more relationship-hungry in their reading habits. These issues are addressed by author Allison Winn Scotch in her Aug. 12 entry on her blog. http://www.allisonwinnscotch.blogspot.com/ Check it out. (Allison blogs a lot about the literary life and business)

Got to go. Need to make some hurricane preparations. Looks like Fay is heading straight for us.
No. 1 task on list: Re-fill propane tanks so we can cook on the grill once the power goes out.

Truck Lust
Friday, August 15, 2008

Here's a scene from my upcoming novel (Man of the House, release date: Sept. 30) that created some controvery among my editors in New York. Before reading this you need to know that Linc Menner is the stay-at-home dad who's gone kinda testosterone-crazy, and Violet is his teen-age daughter.

"I need a truck," I say to Violet as we inch our way through the sluggish traffic of U.S. 41.

"Dad, you don't need a truck," she says.

"Yeah, I do."


"Lots of reasons."

"So give me one."

"Okay, Miss Smartyboots. Last week, Stan the Plumber's pickup was filled with pipe for another job, and we had to fit the Corian walls for the shower in the van. We couldn't even get the door shut. It would have been easier if I'd had a truck. It was a safety issue, Violet. Safety comes first. Always."

"But the renovation's going to end, and you won't need a truck anymore.''

"Yeah," I say, "But I can always use a truck."

"Well, I'd feel stupid riding around in a truck."

"They're cool, Violet. Look at that one," I say, pointing to a silver Ford F150. Now that's a truck."

"No, I like that one," she says, pointing to the white Chevy Silverado behind it.

"That's a chick truck," I say.

"Dad! Please!"

"There are two kinds of trucks. Chick trucks and man trucks. That's a chick truck."


"Because it's got a back seat. Real trucks don't have back seats. Real pickup trucks are for transporting things. Most of the trucks out there today are chick trucks. That one? Chick truck. There's another and another. They're all chick trucks. Ninety percent of the ones out on the road today are chick trucks.

"Look at that one. The designers steal the space from the bed of the pickup truck to make room for those stupid seats. Look. Can you see that? You couldn't fit a kiddie wagon in the bed of that truck, let along two Talbots shopping bags. Women drive those trucks. Or men who wear gold jewelry. Real men don't drive those trucks."

She giggles. I haven't heard her giggle around me for the longest time. It gives me a warm feeling in my stomach, prompting me to talk more.

"And the other thing? See that pickup over there? And that one? … And that one? You see what they all have in common?"

"What? Wheels."

"Funny, honey."

"No, what?"

"See how the beds are black? They've all got plastic liners in the beds. I hate bed liners. You might as well call them panty liners."

"Dad, they keep the pickups nice, so they don't get scratched. Right?"

"Pickups are working automobiles, like mules. They should be filled with scratches. Driving a pickup truck with a bed liner is like eating barbecue with a bib on. Men who drive trucks with liners are pussies."

Violet looks at a blue Dodge Ram stopped in the lane to the right of us. It's a king cab, but not with a full second seat. It's one of the shortened versions with jump seats you can pull down when you're not storing stuff back there.

I used to like Rams until I saw a posting on truckblog.com. Someone pointed out how the new Ram logo looks just like an encyclopedic illustration of a woman's sexual anatomy, the top of the horns being the ovaries, the mouth being the vagina. They really do look similar.

"What about that one?" she says, pointing to the Ram.

"Better," I answer. "But it's still a chick truck."

"He doesn't look much like a chick to me, Dad. He looks like he could kick your butt. And he's giving us a really nasty stare right now."

"He'd be cowering if I were in my black, full-bed, F250," I say.

. . . . .

Me again: Okay, here's where the controversy came in. There was one major change made in the text. Insert the word "pussy" everywhere you see "chick." That's right, I called them "pussy trucks." The word seemed to better fit my character's temperament. Though my agent didn't seem to mind the word, one of my editors did.

Pussy. Raised by a feminist, the word should bother me, but it doesn't. When we were kids we called each other "pussy" if we were afraid to do something. (Usually it was me who was called the pussy; I was always reluctant to fall in with the crowd, afraid of getting caught.)

Pussy: Is it any worse than the male equivalent: cock?

They both refer to animals at times: Pussy = cat. Cock = rooster.

But, I have to admit ... as sexual terms both pussy and cock are very visual: Her pussy. His cock. Sounds kinda naughty.

(Maybe I should address this at a later time. Can you tell I watched all of season 2 of "Sex in the City" last night? When you watch an entire season at once you tend to become de-sensitized to things sexual because those episodes are SO filled with such words as C and P.)

I'm curious. I want to take a poll here. What do you think? Should it be "pussy truck" or "chick truck?"

This'll Be Our Secret, Honey
Thursday, August 14, 2008

My daughter knew things ... bad things ... long before she should have, and it's my fault. One of her first spoken words, for example, would get most kids kicked out of pre-school, or at least sent home for the day.

My wife had warned me to clean up my mouth around our baby-turning-toddler. "She absorbs everything you're saying," she said. "You need to stop cussing in the car."

Yeah, yeah, yeah ... sure, Carol, yeah, thanks a lot for your concern, blah, blah, blah ...

And then one day, some idiot pulled out in front of me in the supermarket parking lot. "You ...!!" I yelled, stopping myself before finishing the sentence with a cuss word. "You! YOU! ... YOU! ... YOU!" (I felt constipated ... unable to finish something I so desperately needed to finish.) "YOU... YOU!! ... YOUUUUUU ..."

And at this point my not-yet-2-year-old daughter pulled the binky from her mouth and finished my sentence for me.

"Douche bag!" she yelled.

Wife, 1.
Husband, 0.

"Body Heat II" auditions: Readers' Choice
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yesterday I asked who should replace Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in a remake of that great, steamy movie, "Body Heat." Readers made some glaring omissions. I was not included in the list, nor was my brother, my mother or my best friend Kevin.

So who would be best? Basically, my screen test would be this: The actors have to make this following scene work ... it is the hottest scene in the movie. (Sorry it's dubbed in Spanish, but believe you me, it's the actions that count here.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcD2Qqtxzow ... UPDATE: Just had a reader say he's having trouble with the link. Here's another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx9CjT8DS9A&feature=related

Now, let's consider your choices:

Charlize Theron and George Clooney: Yeah, Charlize would be a good choice. I remember a very hot scene with her in "Two Days in the Valley." I know I would throw a chair through a window to reach her. Clooney? I guess so, but not really. He seems a little too nice of a guy to play someone as greasy and loose as William Hurt's character. Clooney's too James Bond-y in appearance, too put together, too disciplined. I can't see Clooney smoking those cigarettes, either. Basically, he's just too polished.

Jimmy Kimmel and Hilary Clinton: Okay, but I think we'd have to switch the roles. it's Hilary who throws the chair through the window and Jimmy's inside saying, "I know I'm cute, and I can see why you did that, but who's going to clean up this mess?"

Jennifer Lopez and Brad Pitt: Pitt might be good if he were five or so years older-looking. He's certainly got that bad-boy look to him, and judging from "Fight Club" I know he's very comfortable in Destruction Mode. And Lopez? She's got the body type and the voice, but I'm worried that I won't be able to believe her in the role. She's too much of an off-screen celebrity these days, with bad temper, leaving a trail of demoralized humans in her wake. In fact, I can imagine her throwing the chair through the glass, then screaming at the director about the dangerous working conditions.

Hudlers audition for "Body Heat II"
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

This time of year it gets so steamy in southwest Florida that the sultry movie "Body Heat" (William Hurt, Kathleen Turner) generally pops into our minds. If you missed the movie, it's set in a very-hot, claustrophobic, tropical town ... and the air is so moist and heavy outside that it drives a man and woman to ... well ... to do what William Hurt and Kathleen Turner do so well in that movie: kill and have sex.

In these days of everyone-can-be-a-star-because-we-all-have-cameras-that-make-movies, I was thinking of filming Body Heat II right here on Coconut Drive. We've already got the setting.


Yes, that's Carol, president of the Gannett corporation's southern U.S. newspaper division, luxuriating in our waterfront swimming pool. We blow up a baby pool every summer while our daughter's away at camp. 'Really should put in a real pool, but, you know ... that time and money thing. Oh, the tequila we've enjoyed in this location! ... Lying there, watching the summer thunderstorms roll across the water.

But back to Body Heat. I think it's time for a remake. Whom would you cast in the two roles? And NO NAMES from High School Musical.

Kitchen Secrets #563H and #4P2
Monday, August 11, 2008

As the cook in my family I have spent nearly 20 years serving up meals. In that time I have acquired secrets and knowledge that I feel compelled to share with you.

Did you know, for example, that PICKLES ARE ACTUALLY CUCUMBERS?!? Now, I'm not oblivious, and I'd suspected for quite some time that they were kin of some kind. I would look at them and think, "Hmmm, they're smaller, but they certainly share some common characteristics." BUT IN FACT: As a kindly grocery-store cashier revealed to me one day ... pickles are NOTHING MORE THAN CUCUMBERS STORED IN VINEGAR AND SPICES! So ... the next time you're at a summer picnic you can say with confidence, "Hmm, these pickles are delicious. 'Must have been a good year for cucumbers." And people will know that you're nobody's fool.

Also: The next time that recipe says to de-vein the shrimp ... DO IT! I didn't for years. I thought, "Oh, hell, what's a vein? I eat veins in my chicken and cartilage in my steak. I eat chicken embryos, for God's sake." WHAT YOUR FISHMONGER DIDN'T TELL YOU IS THAT THE VEIN IS ACTUALLY THE SHRIMP'S POOP SHOOT! Yes, that is correct, that black, sandy stuff is the residue of that little shrimp's final meal.

Your observant servant in the kitchen,

Surprise in Miami
Sunday, August 10, 2008

When I was touring with my my first novel, "Househusband," years ago I heard from a friend in Miami who'd read in the newspaper that I was going to be giving a reading at a bookstore in Coral Gables. "We'll be there," she said. "I'll bring my husband and daughter with me."

"Great!" I said. "So much to catch up on."

A week later, I spotted her sitting at a table in the cafe at Books & Books. She hadn't changed much at all ... same smile, same black hair. As she got up and started walking toward me, I noticed a little girl scampering along beside her. "This is my daughter, Sophie," she said after we hugged.

As I crouched to shake Sophie's hand Michelle then said, "And this is my husband."

I looked up and my heart skipped a beat. "Michelle," I said. "Your husband is Dave Barry? ... Dave?"

There he was: the infamous humorist-author-columnist. "Michelle," I repeated. "Dave BARRY!? What the hell?"

"I thought you knew."

We sat and had coffee then went to my reading in the other room. About halfway through the reading, Sophie and someone else's child started getting restless and talking and crawling on and off their chairs. Who could blame them, really? I mean, yikes, having to sit through a reading of something without pictures ... even if the author was very witty and wonderful.

Suddenly, Dave politely stood up and raised his hand. He said in a half-whisper, which everyone heard, "I'm going to take the kids over to the children's section and put on a puppet show for them."

He left, and silence returned. I started reading again but stopped after a few sentences. "You know," I interrupted myself. "Dave Barry is putting on an impromptu puppet show in the other room right at this very minute. I don't know about you, but I want to see it. Reading: OVER!" And we all went to watch Dave as he entertained a handful of kids with sock puppets.

Dave has been on my mind because I'm reading something he referred me to years ago. Back when only Miami Herald readers had heard of him, I interviewed Dave when the Fort Myers newspaper started publishing his newly syndicated column. He told me that a source of inspiration for his irreverent style was Peter Benchley, a humorist from the first half of the 20th century. Well, that's exactly what I printed in the article, and the next day a handful of more-literate readers called to inform me that it was the witty Robert Benchley whom he was referring to. Peter Benchley, of course, wrote "Jaws," which, indeed, has failed to make every list of Best Comedies.

So I'm reading "The Best of Robert Benchley" right now and hearing Dave's voice as I read. And I am wondering: Dave, you stinker, did you tell me Peter Benchley to be mean? To test my knowledge of literature? You bad, bad boy.

"Honey, GET your camera!"
Saturday, August 9, 2008

I had a normal, safe childhood, except for the time my big brother pinned me down and poured Tabasco sauce in my eyes. In fact, the first real emotional hurdle for me didn't come until I was in seventh grade ... and that was the day my mother brought Iona home.

Iona is the name she gave to the 900-pound cement pig she bought on impulse (Does someone ever PLAN on buying a cement pig?) in Denver. Iona Pig is big. An adult can straddle her like a horse and his legs won't even touch the ground. Iona is so big that when she was delivered we had to get help from our friends at the mortuary, who brought over their small crane they use to lower vaults into the ground.

All would have been fine had Iona been hidden in some private, leafy spot in the back yard. But, oh, no, my mom wanted to share her with the world, so she was set right in front of the house, in a rock garden, enjoying the shade of the box elder tree. Visitors could pat her broadside when they walked up the stairs. Unfortunately for me, an adolescent, it was hard to miss her. At the time, the old hotel across the street from us doubled as the Greyhound bus terminal, and it was not unusual for people to ring our doorbell and ask if they could pose with the pig for a picture.

You can see, then, why I'm desensitized to over-the-top yard art. It takes something colossal to make me go, "Wow!" ... and I found just that something in front of the East Grand Forks City Hall.

I call this one "Ma and Pa Prairie." (Sorry, I haven't figured out how to flip photos yet.) No, the horses are not real, nor are the humans who are bedecked in American flag material.

Yes, this would be Paul Bunyan and Babe, his ox. East Grand Forks, across the river from Grand Forks N.D., is in Minnesota. Now ... if I may direct your attention to the large park across the street.

It may look like REAL WATER, but don't be fooled! The two swimming birds are loons. And I think the third is a Canada goose. Looks like we caught him in a little catnap. But now ... my favorite ...

Albino buffalo! Or is it ghost buffalo? Or maybe ... this is North Dakota/Minnesota, after all ... maybe he's simply frozen buffalo.

Hey, Mom ... I'm thinking a 900-pound cement pig would look pretty nifty in this scene, hmmmmm?

Tropical Diary: Post #273B
Friday, August 8, 2008

From the front page of today's Fort Myers News-Press:

"With tail


its legs,

it's Jesus."

Upon further investigation I was both disappointed and thrilled to discover that they did not mean our savior in flowing robes. (I mean, he IS coming back some time, and why not in Cape Coral, Florida in 2008?) No, the story referred to something called the Jesus lizard. Apparently the brown basilisk lizard got his name from a swell trick he can perform. Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhsxo7vY8ac

Pretty cool, huh? Of COURSE they had to name it the Jesus lizard. But I wasn't thrilled to read that these guys can grow up to two feet tall! Now, I don't know about you, but I might be startled, even dismayed, if I were out in my kayak and such a cat-size lizard passed me, running across the water, endangering the peaceful, environmentally-correct outdoorsmen such as myself. I keep hearing the Brit voice of the GEICO lizard from the commercials: "Cherrio!" he would say, saluting as he sprinted past. "Wonderful day to be on the water, isn't it?"

Biologists weren't happy to find the lizard in Cape Coral, which already has a nuisance problem with chameleons and nile monitor lizards. The latter, unfortunately for pet lovers, is proving to have quite an appetite for the small dogs and cats around town.

We want to talk with Ad ... Ad? ... Are you in there?
Thursday, August 7, 2008

If I hear a voice I like I tend to start talking like that. I'm a sponge when it comes to dialect. Maybe it comes from moving all over the country, from Colorado to Nebraska to Florida to New York to Minnesota to Georgia and back to Florida. It's human nature to try to fit in wherever you are. For years people had trouble placing my accent: "Hmmm, he sounds kinda cowboy like, but then he's got those long A's like the people in the movie "Fargo," but then he did just say 'fixin' to,' and the way he says 'hey' ... isn't that New York Italian?"

Call me Sybil.

Now I don't really sound like any of those places. Instead I sound like Eric Cartman and Mr. Wong.

Eric, of course, is the horribly mean, bigoted bully on South Park. And for some reason I have started talking like him. I really wasn't aware how much his voice tone had invaded my own until this past winter, when I was a guest lecturer in the creative writing department at the University of South Florida in Tampa. About two weeks into the class, one student raised his hand and said, "Mr. Hudler, I have to ask you, how much South Park do you watch?"

"Is it that obvious?" I asked, and the entire class nodded their heads in unison.

Then I met Mr. Wong, and my voice changed again. Mr. Wong is a still-obscure discovery of National Lampoon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVOsgu9xGGM I discovered his series of three-minute episodes one day while browsing in Blockbuster. Mr. Wong is the former 90-plus-year-old servant of Bing Crosby, who, after Bing's death, is sent to live with a very mean debutante named Miss Pam, who makes him sleep on a wooden plank and fulfill her every need. He asks for money for food and she says, "I thought you yellow people were so sly and clever -- can't you get your own money?" She's awful, really, but I instantly liked Mr. Wong's whiny voice: "But, Miss Paaaaaaam, don't make me drink that dirty tire water or I get malaria." The show is refreshingly non-P.C. and ... well, incredibly racist ... but he is too cute and funny. It is a guilty pleasure of mine. My family is aghast.

Of course few people know who Mr. Wong is, so people look at me quite strangely when I fall into his voice. I mean, a bald, 6-2, 230-pound white man sounding like a 1950s-era stereotype of a Chinaman ... wouldn't you think it odd? Last year, when we visited Asian-heavy San Francisco, my daughter warned me as we stepped off the plane: "No Mr. Wong voice, Dad. It's not appropriate here."

"Why?" I asked. "You no like Mr. Wong?"

And I heard the unmistakable sound of duct tape being pulled off its roll.

Guns are for Weenies
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My daughter can spend hours watching movies set in older times. These movies always have horses as transportation. And queens and princesses. And they're usually very gory with drawn-out battles. "Braveheart" is one such movie. As is "Gladiator." As is the TV series "Rome."

"What?" I finally asked her. "You like men in skirts?"

Insert eye-rolling here.

"What then? If you like violent movies you should try out some war movies. Like the Civil War. They're very dramatic."

She shook her head. "Not interested."


"Because they had guns for the Civil War."


"If you haven't noticed, Dad, real men ceased to exist with the invention of gunpowder."

She went on to say that gunpowder leveled the playing field -- (HA! That one's mine!) -- that it changed all of Darwin's rules. With a gun, you don't have to be the strongest and fiercest to win. All you need is more fire-power.

"Gunpowder took all the valor out of fighting for one's life," she said. "Any idiot can fire a gun."

And then it dawned on me: That's why she loves Stars Wars, in which the fighting is done with light sabers ... which are swords with nuclear-strength, limb-cutting potential.

By the way, my daughter fences ... and she's pretty good, so don't be messing with her. Those rubber tips DO come off, and she can definitely poke an eye out!

Spotted in the Hudler house ...
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A bra tree.
--Latin name: Brasillius Crosstrainerous
Don't know why I felt compelled to share this, but I thought it was kind of cute for some reason. It looks like the child of E.T. (body shape) and Darth Vader (color and swarthiness), after going on a panty raid in a sorority house.
Time for true confessions: What do you REALLY use those bedroom exercise machines for? Come on, share with us.
A clothesline?
A sex toy?
A reminder that you truly are not a lazy person, and that weight loss and firm buttocks are within a week's reach just because that machine is sitting there?

Someone's Gonna Poke an Eye Out

I work out at a wellness center run by a hospital, which means I am surrounded by old people with strained hearts, bad backs, artificial hips, diabetes, you name it. My friends ask me why I don't go to a serious weight-lifters gym with younger people, but I don't want to change. First, the free-weight section is all mine. Other than those little 5-pound dumbbells, the rest of the stuff gathers dust unless I use it myself; there's never a wait for the bench press. The other reason I like my gym is because I meet the most interesting people, some of them precariously balancing on that fence that separates reality from illusion. Here's yesterday's sample:

I was outside, talking with a friend who is bald, like me. An older, stooped gentleman with yellowish skin and an oxygen tube in his nose approached us.

"You need to wear a hat," he said in some eastern-European accent. "The radiation is going to kill your brain."

"Uhhh, well, okay, thanks very much," I said. "Wish I had your head of nice white hair and I wouldn't have to worry about that."

"I am quite serious about this. It can happen in just a few minutes. Your brain will be gone, and you won't even know it."

"Oh, okay," I said, looking at my friend with a is-this-one-of-your-friends? looks.

"Yes," the old man said. "I know about this because I used to be an American guerrilla."

"American guerrilla?" my friend asked.

"Yes, like in the Middle East only for America. I used to be all over the world. Once I was infiltrating Nazi officers, and I didn't have a gun with me, and you know what I did?"

He reached down into the V of his opened shirt. I thought for a minute that he was readjusting his oxygen tube when he pulled out a pen.

"See this?" he said, holding up the pen. "This is a weapon. I killed somebody that day with it. You know how you kill someone with this?"

I took a guess: "Poke it through their eye?"

"Yes! Right into the brain. The eye is a window into the brain. So I pretended I was having chest pains, like this," he said, patting his heart, "and instead I pulled out a pen ..." He nearly lost his balance as he simulated the unsheathing of his weapon from between his breastbones. "And I ..."

"You speared him in the eye?!"I said. "Are you serious?"

"Just like that!" he said, snapping his fingers.

"Did you kill him?" I asked.


I would have probed further, but his rent-a-nurse had gotten out of the car and walked over to us and said, "Mr. Blah-Blah, there you are. I've been looking for you."

As she lead him away he turned one more time toward us and said, anemically snapping his fingers, "Just like THAT! ... Be careful of your brains!"

Indeed, I thought. I certainly will.

TREND ALERT: "Wrinkly-Facebook"
Monday, August 4, 2008

Facebook is filling up fast with the over-40 crowd. I'm seeing more and more middle-agers asking me to be their facebook friends.

Which means one thing: Soon the young folks will flee in defiance. And to where? And then we'll be left in the old neighborhood, wondering where we need to go to be cool and in touch.

I have both a Facebook and Myspace page. I prefer Facebook. It seems to attract smarter, more educated people. Honestly, the invites I get on myspace tend to be mainly from single moms trolling the internet ... and the guys seem to really like that picture of me in my toolbelt. When I log onto facebook I feel like I'm at a singles' bar. 'Can't even print the things that have been said to me.

Oh, what the hell ... I've never censored myself before. Why start now?
One woman said this: "You look like you would make good father and lover so maybe we can get together and I will show you how I make men happy. You will like my ****."
And one guy: "I'm interested in what's beneath the tool belt, sir. I'm a bi-curious male looking to get my *** plowed. Can you help me with that?"

I mean, even if I was interested in either, would I dare respond to someone through an anonymous email correspondence? Would you? Isn't that how people end up being shot or poisoned and cut up and stored in Mason jars under someone's house?

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

AD-Vice: Check out the fun, fast poetry at newsandverse.com. Kevin Pierce writes a very witty four-line poem every day based on a newspaper headline/event. Here's a taste;

NEWSWIRE--Starbucks reported its first-ever quarterly loss after announcing it would eliminate 1,000 support jobs and close more than 600 stores.

From coffee rapture, Starbucks has released us
(By shutting stores and laying off baristas).
The count of closing shops, obscene and plenty,
Will leave us now with only spleens to venti.

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Tattoos and the Target shopper
Sunday, August 3, 2008

To celebrate my birthday, my wife and I slipped away to Sarasota yesterday for a night at the Ritz-Carlton. I always like staying at a Ritz-Carlton. I like how everyone always says, "With pleasure," and "It is my pleasure." And everyone, even the chamber maids, are outfitted with those little hidden ear pieces and microphones like the ones you see on secret-service agents, which is their secret to making sure you never have to wait more than 1.4 seconds for anything. Honest to god, they'll even do things like whisper your names into the mic so the doorman you are approaching will know to say, "Have a wonderful evening tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Hudler."

But now to the matter at hand. Yesterday I wrote about Wal-Mart shoppers having more tattoos than their Target-shopper counterparts. Well, it takes a big man to admit this, but I got busted by the stereotype police at the Ritz swimming pool. There was this beautiful mother with her young toddler daughter, and we overheard her tell someone she was pregnant with twins.
Her hair was blond, an EXPENSIVE haircut and color, my wife assured me. Her teeth were porcelain-white and perfect. She wore some kind of designer sunglasses and a diamond bracelet. She used multiple-syllable medical terms when explaining to someone how twins are formed in the body. Oh, and she and her husband were in Sarasota to find a vacation home to buy, and they couldn't have been older than 30. In short: Educated, affluent, and, most definitely TARGET SHOPPERS!!

And then, when I saw her stretch up to adjust the shade umbrella, the flap of her pregnancy swimsuit fell aside to reveal ... A TATTOO OF A DRAGON ON HER BELLY!!

Okay, so apparently tattoos have become so commonplace that even the Target crowd wears them now with pride.

I need to reexamine tattoos. I guess we need some new criteria for judging them. What's cool in tattoos? What's outre? What is considered an artful tattoo? And, more importantly, when Target buyers are penning their love to country and/or mom on their limbs, what is the Wal-Mart crowd doing?

True confession: I've wanted one for about the past two years ... ever since I started power-lifting. My wife and daughter vow they will disown me if I follow through with it.

"What if I get one of, like, Shakespeare?" I asked. "Or maybe Hemingway or Thomas Edison?"

Nope. I guess it's best. I have one friend who says that on Judgment Day everyone with tattoos will get shoved into the Going-To-Hell line.

Hey... send me pix or descriptions of your tattoos. Or your girlfriend's or husband's tattoos. There are some pretty amazing ones out there. I'll post them here. And be sure to say whether you are a Target or Wal-Mart shopper ... so that we can adjust our realities.

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Target vs. Walmart
Saturday, August 2, 2008

I've always loved Target. I've always avoided Wal-Mart.

Target is happy (Who wouldn't like all that red?), and the buyers for Target seem to understand very well that even we cheap folks like our housewares to look stylish and cool. The prep-school tennis moms shop at Target with pride. Targets are well-lighted, clean (even the toilets), and they always smell like new plastic, no matter if it's in Bismark, N.D. or Fort Myers, FL. Target has a house brand of boxed wine that we feel free to serve at parties. Their crusty sourdough bread actually tastes San Francisco-sour.

Wal-Mart: The lighting is grayer, the clientele fatter (Sorry, but it's true. Take a look next time you go in.). At Wal-Mart you will find more tattoos (including butt caps, those tattoos women sport over the crack of their behinds) and parents who are yelling to their children, "Shut up! I said, 'Shut up!'" I realize this sounds harsh, but a self-appointed critic-at-large such as myself needs to point these things out. For the record, Wal-Mart does have some good produce in their grocery section, but the rest of the store feels ... well, it feels more like a communist-government-run supply warehouse where form not only follows function but it is absent altogether.

Wal-Mart: "You want coffee pot? HERE is coffee pot!"
Target: "Coffee Pot? Certainly. Try this one designed by Michael Graves. Or would you instead prefer this French press?"

They're so different that I like to use Wal-Mart and Target as a classification tool. For example, Costco is to Target, as Sam's Club is to Wal-Mart.

Another: Tulsa is to Target as Oklahoma City is to Wal-Mart.

Another: Barnes and Noble is to Target as Books-a-Million is to Wal-Mart.

Another: Rochester is to Target, as Buffalo is to Wal-Mart.

Another: California Pizza Kitchen is to Target, as Arizona Pizza Kitchen is to Wal-Mart.

Hey...what's that sound? Oh, it's the alarm of my stereotype gauge going off.

So do you agree with me? Disagree? Let me have it!

Last night in the refrigerator ...
Friday, August 1, 2008

My wife and I enjoy granola, fresh berries and plain, unsweetened yogurt for breakfast. Because there are two of us we buy one of the bigger, plastic tubs, and it generally will last us for the week. It's always a pleasure opening a container of yogurt and being the first to push a spoon past that placid, smooth surface.

But then ... that next day ... you open it again, and the little depression you created the day before has mysteriously filled with some clear-yellowish liquid ... and you just have to wonder: What the hell is this stuff? And where did it come from? I think I finally have the answer.

Read the container: "Live and active cultures." Okay ... so I'm eating live little organisms, I understand that. And they have to spend all night in that refrigerator, trapped in a plastic container ... with no place to go ...

Are you still with me here? Do I need to tell you about the picture book called "Everyone Poops," that we used to read to our daughter during potty-training?

Of course! Yogurt-culture droppings! What else could it be?

Handy hint: Paper towels absorb it rather quickly. Then again, maybe toilet paper would be more appropriate.