How to clean your house and have fun at the same time!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Our home sits beneath a canopy of live oaks, which means it gets pretty messy. It has been a good five years since I last pressure-washed the house, so I recently asked my handy friend, Fritz, to bring his pressure washer over and help me out. He told me: Okay, but only if you serve Bloody Mary's. And I agreed.
It was a big job ... so we developed what I now call "tag-team pressure-washing." Guy No. 1 washes until he feels a tap on his shoulder from Guy No. 2. Then. Guy No. 1 retreats to the chair in the sun, where he sips on his Bloody Mary. After about five minutes, he returns to relieve his friend, tapping him on the shoulder ... and round and round you go.
By the end of the day we were pretty ... er ... wet. And when my wife went to run an errand she said, "No ladders while I'm gone, you guys -- I mean it."
Probably a good idea.
Further proof that they should make me the next Mr. Clean:
One more Strange (but true?) Florida crime ...
Thursday, November 27, 2008
This one sent to me by a reader in Boise, who saw her share of odd crimes as a northern California resident for nearly half a century. I quote her directly:
"BURGLARY IN FLORIDA (You just can't make this stuff up!!)
When southern Florida resident Nathan Radlich's house was burglarized
recently, thieves ignored his wide screen plasma TV, his VCR, and even left
his Rolex watch. What they did take, however, was a generic white cardboard
box filled with a grayish-white powder. (That's the way the police report
A spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale police said that it looked similar to
high grade cocaine and they'd probably thought they'd hit the big time.
Later, Nathan stood in front of numerous TV cameras and pleaded with the
burglars: 'Please return the cremated remains of my sister, Gertrude. She
died three years ago.'
The next morning, the bullet-riddled corpse of a local drug dealer known as
Hoochie Pevens was found on Nathan's doorstep. The cardboard box was there
too; about half of Gertrude's ashes remained.
Scotch taped to the box was this note which said: Hoochie sold us the bogus
blow, so we wasted Hoochie. Sorry we snorted your sister. No hard feelings.
Have a nice day.
And you thought California was the land of fruits and nuts!"
Ad Again: Sorry, but you CAN make this stuff up, and this is certainly made up ... one of those urban myths broadcast on the WWW. My former-journalist-and-now-fiction-writer mind detects some things that are just too untrue: The names, for one: Gertrude is the quintessential old-lady name ... TOO PERFECT to be true. Same with Hoochie ... although Pevens is very believable because it's unusual.
When choosing names for characters I follow some rules so that the names are believable. Here's one: Names that put us to sleep or make our fiction flat: Kathy Johnson. Brian Jones. Stephanie Smith. Mark Taylor. As a general rule, if your character has an unusual first name, then it's okay to give him a boring last name, and vice-versa. Examples: Sully Johnson, Chalmers Smith. And: Mike Fromong, Mary Hartupee.
Exotic Florida Fauna, Explained
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
So I'm getting some grief from my Florida-cracker readers (Crackers are native Floridians) about calling the Sunshine State the White-Trash Crime Capital of the World. In my defense, I've lived here off and on for 25 years as a journalist and novelist, so I feel I'm qualified to say such a thing. Where else would you see:
1. A mother throw her baby from the car window, over the railing of a high bridge and into the river.
2. A man, claiming that jasmine tea had made him crazy, chasing a neighbor through his house with a machete.
3. A mother, claiming that palm trees (agents of the devil, she called them) were telling her to shoot her children ... so she does.
4. A man who uses his girlfriend's toddler as a toilet plunger, killing him ... and only because he had soiled his diapers.
5. A couple who get arrested after a film-developer at Walgreens discovers photos of them skinning cats alive.
I'm sorry, folks, but these things happen daily down here. There's a reason we have so many famous crime-novel writers in this state; they don't make this stuff up.
So ... why Florida?
Imagine North America being miniature in size, kind of like a snow globe ... with people the size of molecules. Pick it up and shake it ... and all of those people who have a firm grasp on their lives in all those northern states -- good jobs, good relationships, stable housing -- are able to hold on and stay where they are ... but all of those who DON'T have a firm grasp on their lives all fall downward, through the Southern states, and end up on the very bottom of the continent ... flotsam and jetsam that settles into this peninsula we call home. They often have no relatives or friends here, so there's no one to help them in time of need ... and there's no one to be accountable to. Most of our jobs are in hotels or restaurants or on construction sites and pay barely enough to get by. We have a huge gypsy-like population here, and these people, many with children, move from spot to spot, depending on their jobs and living situations. Teachers down here sometimes see up to a 50-percent turnover in their classrooms in the duration of the school year. Can you say "unstable, unpredictable household?" Do you think these kids -- or adults -- are going to thrive?
So: The next time you're down here on vacation, be especially nice to that waitress or chamber maid. And tip her well, please. Or else you're likely to read about her in the newspaper.
White Trash Diaries: Post #2773B
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Okay, here we go again:
Further Proof that Florida is the White-Trash Crime Capital of the World:
Or: From the "Would-You-Please-Try-to-Control-Yourself?" Department:
This from my hometown newspaper, The News-Press in Fort Myers:
"A 37-year-old Fort Myers man was arrested late Friday after Lee County Sheriff's deputies say after becoming irate that his order at Wendy's had not been taken properly, he punched out the drive-through window. Lawrence Sanders, who lives on a house boat on Fisherman's Wharf, was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief by property damage between $200 and $1,000. According to deputy Felicia Hyde, it was around 9:15 p.m. when witnesses said Sanders came screeching through the drive-through line, parked in the lot, marched in the restaurant and began screaming. He then exited the restaurant, approached the drive-through window and punched it with such force that he broke it, causing about $500 in damage. A witness was able to scratch down the tag number of the Toyota station wagon, which allowed deputies to track the owner to his sail boat, "The Great Duck," which was located near the Bonita Bills boat dock. Hyde approached and asked if he was Lawrence, to which he reportedly replied, "Yeah, I hear you are looking for me, all I did was break a window." He then showed her his hand, which had been injured, cutting his finger to the bone. He was arrested and released Saturday morning on $1,000 bond."
And now, Judge Ad weighs in on the situation: "Really, Lawrence ... even though they forgot your extra pickles is this any way for a grown man to act? What are you going to do next time you're at Best Buy and a salesman mistakenly brings you a DVD of "Gandhi" instead of "Benji," hmmmm? Kick out a TV screen? ... I'm thinking that this court has no choice but to force you to rename your boat from The Great Duck to The Great Dick. No, no ... that might end up being beneficial to you ... so we will call it The Great Schmuck."
Caution: Gross observation that involves poop
Monday, November 24, 2008
Here's something that bothers me:
Tail pipes in the middle of the car. I don't know about you, but I always expect to see poop coming out of them instead of exhaust. The location makes it too reminiscent of an anus. After all, exhaust is the waste product of gasoline ... as poop is the waste product of whatever we eat.
It's just too weird. It makes cars seem more like living mammals ... like gerbils or something.
A love of my life ...
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Yes, my ostrich-skin boots. You need to know I grew up in a state where governors wear cowboy boots, and the town I grew up in in eastern Colorado was surrounded on all four sides by cattle feedlots, so no matter which way the wind blew we always smelled manure. Locals would take pride in telling newcomers, "That smell? Why, that's the smell of money."
So ... though I myself didn't wear boots all those years in Colorado, I feel the right to adopt them as my own in adulthood. I love my boots. I have four pair, two pair of Red Wing work boots (black and brown) and two pair of going-out boots ... the pair in this photo and then a nice pair of lizard-skin cordovan-black boots that I wear with my tuxedo.
Why boots? Consider this line from an essay I recently finished: "... Boots change an attitude better than a new haircut does. I strongly believe that Texans' collective, unchecked arrogance comes from the fact that so many of the Lone Star residents wear boots. Put on a pair; they will defy you not to strut and walk about the world as if you own it."
Why Obama turned Florida Blue
Friday, November 21, 2008
Yes, I am taking personal responsibility for Barack Obama's success in the Sunshine State, and here's why:
When I was getting ready to drive through Florida, on the way to Georgia, for part of my recent book tour I told my daughter I'd agree to let her put an Obama bumper sticker on my pickup truck. (She, like millions of other young Americans, was energized by Obama, and she worked several hours for the campaign.) Anyway, I said to her, "A big, bald guy driving a white utility truck with an Obama sticker on it will cause people to think. It'll rattle their brains a little."
A Prius? Predictable. A full-size, white F-150? Hardly. So we put it on the left-hand side of the rear window.
The night before I was to leave, a friend came over to visit and remarked on the discordance created in his brain by seeing the Obama sticker on the pickup truck.
"You know what would mess with peoples' minds even more?" he asked.
"What?" I asked.
"Wait till tomorrow. I'm not gonna say."
I awoke the next day to find this on the opposite side of the rear window:
And so I made my way through Florida, a gun-lovin' Obama man ... confounding both Democrats and Republicans alike!
Can't you hear all those heads being scratched?
Tropical Diary: Post #64gV
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Further Proof that Florida is the White-Trash Crime Capital of the World:
Or: From the "Would-You-Please-Try-to-Control-Yourself?" Department:
PORT ST. LUCIE - A Fort Pierce man faces a domestic battery charge after allegedly hitting his girlfriend with a sandwich. Police say 19-year-old Emmanuelle Rodriguez was riding with his girlfriend Friday when he became angry as she drove and hit her in the arm and face with a sandwich, knocking her glasses off. ... The victim nearly lost control of the car because she couldn't see the road and Rodriguez then allegedly ripped off the rear-view mirror and used it to shatter the windshield. Rodriguez is free on $7,500 bail. Police haven't said what type of sandwich was involved.
It is scenes like this that I rip from the newspaper and put into my "Fiction Fodder" file.
Sign of a Crazed Caregiver
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Yep ... what caregiver-parent over the age of 30 could survive without "stickies?"
If you didn't know, stickies replace those memory cells that seem to evaporate with each year.
I find it most helpful to put these on my kitchen counter, which I pass by countless times in the day.
Consumerism Hall of Shame: Chapter 2
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
One day not long ago, the people at Zephyrhills Water in Florida were sitting around the table, stewing over ideas on how to make more money.
Person A: "We need to make bottled water more SEXY! I mean, look how boring this looks:
Person B: "Yeah, who would buy that?"
Person C: "Actually, a buttload of people already do buy it ... if you can believe that! Ha!"
Person A: "But we could get more people to buy it."
Person B: "Yes!" he says, rubbing his hands together greedily. "MORE people! MORE money! But how?"
Person C: "Hey! I've got it!" She takes out her pen and quickly draws this:
"See? we give it some curves, like some sexy young woman, and men'll love putting their hands around it."
Person B: "Brilliant! And, of course, women will like it, too, because the girth will be easier on their smaller hands. And ... OMG! WAIT! Guess what? If we change the bottles to look like this we're actually taking away an ounce or two of space for water. And ... OMG! That means MORE MONEY because we don't have to use as much water!"
Person C: "Yes! And we can change the price. We'll make it EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE ... and we can get away with it because of that sexy new shape!"
Person A: "Brilliant."
Person B: "Yes, brilliant. Time for a cocktail."
Consumerism Hall of Shame: Chapter 1
Monday, November 17, 2008
I have noticed a few disturbing things over the past year or so, and they all involve Corporate America trying to screw us. This week I will be Ad Hudler Devoted Consumer Watchdog. Ralph Nader is getting a little old, after all, and someone needs to pick up the Baton of Consumer Rights and make that next lap or two.
Today: Bar Soap. I switch out bar soaps all the time so I feel I can say I am an expert in this area. And here is the reality: THEY ARE SCREWING US! Think back: Remember when a bar of soap used to linger in your shower for at least two or three months? And you always WANTED it to shrink, knowing how nice it was to break in a fresh bar.
Well, I don't know if you've noticed this, but a bar of mega-mass-produced soap -- and take your pick: Dial, Coast, Irish Spring, whatever -- now appears to last for three days. Okay, an exaggeration, but guys ... really, haven't you noticed how soap these days seems to disappear as quickly as a Lifesavers candy on the tongue? Yes, I am older, and therefore my memory might not be as good as it once was ... and I am bigger than I used to be, more body to soap up. But, no: They've obviously done something to shorten the bar's life. Are they whipping more air into it? I have also experimented with the fancier soaps, the ones you buy in organic markets that are made with things like aloe vera and lavender, etc. And you know what? THOSE soaps last for MONTHS! I'm serious; I end up throwing them away because I grow weary of the smell. So something is definitely wrong here.
If anyone has an older bar of mass-produced soap they found while cleaning out their dead grandpa's house or something ... please send it to me. I will conduct an experiment, timing how long it takes for the older bar to evaporate vs. the newer bars, and I will capture it on video. And then, who knows, I just might go all Michael Moore on the soap people and show up on their granite doorstep and demand restitution.
A question for the people at Tanqueray
Friday, November 14, 2008
For years we've been eating breakfast cereals sprayed with vitamins. We've been drinking waters and juices infused with anti-oxidants. So I am left to wonder: Why can't they do the same thing with gin and bourbon and beer? Now, wouldn't that be handy and dandy!
I love finding random photos on the www. But hey ... these girls don't look old enough to be drinking cocktails, do they?
Ants in the pans
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So I invited my Organic-Foodie friend over for dinner, and we were cooking in the kitchen when I noticed an ant crawling on the countertop, which is hard to see because my countertops are black. But I noticed him just the same ... and then another ... and another ... oh, and there was another one, carrying a fleck of oatmeal up the backsplash. The little bastards were camouflaged on the dark countertop, but suddenly I saw an army of them.
I went to my kitchen drawer to retrieve my secret weapon. You know the drawer. Every kitchen has one: the EVERYTHING DRAWER. Here's mine:
Okay, now where is that stuff.....I see yeast and a weather radio, masking tape and hi-liters and tape measures and flashlights and all those power adaptors from long-dead cell phones ... Oh, yes, there you are!!
I plucked my little clear bottle of Terro Ant Killer from the drawer. It is basically borax mixed with sugary sweet stuff, which the little buggers love.
"What are you doing? What is that?" my friend asked.
"Oh, don't use borax in your kitchen! All you need is a little peppermint oil, and you can spread it along the splashboard there where they're walking. And then there's no poison being used."
"And then they'll simply find another place to go," I said. "It's just like putting up a road block. No ... this'll kill em dead! And it's great fun. Watch this."
I poured a dime-size puddle on the counter. Like metal filings around a magnet, they immediately attached themselves and started lapping up the Terro. At this point, when I'm by myself, I start talking to them in my witch-from-Hansel-and-Gretel voice, saying something like, "Yes, my little darlings. Eat all that you want. Yeeeeesssss, isn't that delicious? Now take that poison home to the queen and KILL HER!!! ... Mmmmmmm, isn't that yummy? Yes, my little precious ones ... eat. Eaaaaaaaaaat."
It was very hard keeping this inside my head, but I managed to do so.
$hameful promotion: It's Christmas time, and all of us are feeling poor this year. A thoughtful and cheap present would be a copy of Ad Hudler's newest novel, "Man of the House"
. Floridians have been loving this book because it is set in the hurricane season of 2005. It's been getting great reviews, and The New York Post called it "required reading." I can inscribe a personalized greeting and sign the book on an adhesive book plate, which I can send to you via the good ol' USPS.
--I'm Ad Hudler, and I support this message.
Something we need: Refrigerator Alert System
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
And this is how it works: Every day, early in the morning, an electronic brain in the refrigerator takes stock of things inside that haven't been touched for at least a week. And then it transmits a message to a marquee on the front of the refrigerator door, blinking in red letters as you walk past: "Cottage Cheese! Remember you have cottage cheese in here. Mmmmmm. How about some cottage cheese with sliced peaches? Doesn't that sound good?"
And you think, "Hey! I'd forgotten all about that cottage cheese." Because how many times do we buy something and forget that we've bought it, and it lingers there in some dark corner, behind the pickles and olives and cabbage?
A new blemish in the language
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
There's this very annoying trend among millions of people today that makes me, you know, angry. And, you know, you can hear it in conversations among teenagers and, you know, adults, and just about anywhere, you know, even in movies and on TV. And, you know, I really don't know where it came from, these annoying two words. And I'm not sure why we're, you know, infusing them into just about every sentence these days. I'm guessing that, you know, it's because we've completely devalued the spoken word with all the mindless, unnecessary chatter on cell phones and text messages and talk-tv and talk radio ... and so, you know, we feel the need to make a stronger case for whatever we're saying so we, you know, add a few "you knows" to try to convince increasingly skeptical listeners who, you know, probably aren't listening anyway?
Stinky sweat: Chapter 2
Monday, November 10, 2008
Stupid me. Of course there would be an answer to my sweat problem I explained yesterday. In fact, it appears to be a common problem among weightlifters. I went to ask.com and started typing in "Why does my sweat smell like ..." and the search engine even finished it for me by filling in the word "ammonia." Eureka! Evidently I am not alone here.
I found the answer on bodybuilding.com. The smell comes from your body burning amino acids during a workout, and this can be avoided by increasing the amount of carbohydrates in your diet. I'm trying to distill this as best as possible; the explanation was way too long and science-y for me to understand, but I did grasp the last line, "An apple a day keeps the ammonia smell away." (AD'S READING TIP FOR THE DAY: Whenever you're having trouble understanding a piece of technical writing, always jump to the last line, the conclusion. The writer inevitably boils down all his/her convoluted, way-too-long jargon into one final parting shot.)
I realize now I've been unconsciously avoiding carbs because we're all reminded 24-7 that anything white (potatoes, pasta, rice, etc.) puts pounds on us faster than a bowl of Butterfingers and Moon Pies. I remember the days when I would eat an entire bowl of pasta and grated Romano cheese and olive oil for breakfast. I NEVER eat pasta anymore. And bodybuilding.com still says I should avoid all the bad, over-processed carbs, like pasta. Instead, they suggested I enjoy a piece of "sprouted grain bread."
"What is that awful smell?"
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Sometime in the past few months my sweat has started smelling like a yeasty ammonia with a hint of rat poison and cat pee. I kid you not; it STINKS!
I haven't changed my deodorant or diet. Certainly it's not all the gin I drink ... because we all know I've been enjoying gin for quite some time. So what gives?
And to make things even more confusing, every now and then I have a day when my sweat smells normal with no ammonia-yeast-rat-poison-cat-pee odor at all.
This MUST be related to diet and workout ... but for the life of me I can't figure it out.
Yes, thank you, but where is my ENTREE?
Friday, November 7, 2008
I used to research restaurants before visiting a city, looking for the trendiest, tastiest spots. ("You're going to San Antonio? Oh, well, then you simply HAVE to eat at Nahvo!!"). I always appreciated the creativity of a great chef who would pair ingredients in a way my tongue had never experienced.
Recently, my wife and I took a friend to dinner. She chose a trendy Italian restaurant. Afterward, as we drove home, I said, "It was good, but it wasn't $300-good. Ouch. I'm sick we spent that much money."
Yeah, our days of fine dining are over ... and for several reasons.
2. The novelty is running dry. It's hard to surprise your palate these days. What hasn't been tried? "Oh ... arugula and raspberries ... how interesting. (Yawn)."
Yep. Size. They just don't give me enough food. I'm a big guy. I need more than a sliver of carpaccio and a sprig of organic somethingorother. There have been times in the past when, after a fine-dining experience, I've stopped and ordered a Whopper with cheese in the Burger King drive-through.
4. The best restaurants are often the cheapest. Look for ethnic mom-and-pop operations tucked into the strip malls of America. THAT'S where the good food is: Korean, Cuban, Vietnamese, Italian, etc. Some of my favorite "restaurants" also sell Lotto tickets and air fresheners for your car.
High-Desert Diary: Report from 4,260 feet
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Got back last night from Colorado, where I went to give a reading and book-signing in my hometown. Della, the librarian that hosted me, and her staff and board of directors went all out for me:
Cool, huh? Notice the clever confetti of nuts and bolts. The boots came from Orth's Department Store on Main Street. My mom went in and asked Mrs. Orth if she could grab a pair of boots and borrow them for the day, and she said, "Sure, Joy, no problem. Take whatever you want." That, my friends, is the beauty of a small town, population 3,603. The other beauty of a small town: The days are loooooooooooooong because you spend no time in a car, driving from one place to another. EVERYTHING is two minutes away or less. In the middle of my talk, I went to grab my annotated copy of MAN OF THE HOUSE and noticed I'd left it at my parents' house, and my mom said, "Oh, it's okay, I'll just run and get it." And she was back in three minutes.
I had two book events: a reading and signing and a meeting with a book club that drove in from Wray, a town about 60 miles north of Burlington. Smart, beautiful group of ladies, and I especially enjoyed the woman who brought a gender-bending Linc Menner-esque perspective to the group: She works the ranch while her husband works at the bank in town.
Another highlight: My town is almost a third Mexican, which means there is AWESOME Mexican food to be had. There's a new restaurant in the old Skelly truck stop on the east side of town, by the state prison, and this is where I had something called "Diet Buster Asada Fries." They were basically the Mexican equivalent of chili-cheese fries: Fries topped with seasoned beef (not ground, but cut), cheese, guacamole, salsa, onions and jalapeno peppers.
It was great spending time with my family, and watching a historic election with them. I wanted to show you a few snapshots of my house ... so you can have some insights into why I am the way I am. First, a photo of the garage roof:
Yes, those are rubber snakes. My mom put them up there to scare away the blackbirds so they don't congregate and poop on the patio. She says they're not working very well, but the bendable wooden snakes she had tied to the bows of the hack berry tree are quite effective.And these are planters my mom has in her backyard. Cool, huh?
"Judy, you look so TIRED! Are you okay?"
Monday, November 3, 2008
Technology we don't need: Video telephones. Yeah, yeah, I know phones have cameras these days, but I'm talking about the telephones from The Jetsons cartoon ... the ones that show the person you are talking to, transforming a phone conversation into a duo-sensory experience.
The technology for these has certainly existed for quite some time. So why don't we all have telephones that allow the caller to see us?
ANSWER: Because we don't want to. And why don't we? I'm guessing it's because we are weary of a world that judges us by our appearance 24-7, and our home is the last bastion of privacy ... where we don't have to look all perfect, and we can run around in our underwear ... or whatever.
So ... another gadget that I'm wondering about: The Kindle. This is amazon.com's version of the e-book. It was supposed to be better than previous e-book incarnations because it shows the page as it appears in print. (Three of my books are available in Kindle, and I had nothing to do with this. They just popped up one day on amazon.) Apparently the Kindle is also special because it can download newspapers and magazines.
But there is a problem here ... I have not seen EVEN ONE OF THEM. Not anywhere! Nada.
Are people using them in secret? Or has amazon.com sold only fourteen of them worldwide?
Really ... does anyone know anyone out there who has a Kindle? And what do they think of it? Curious minds want to know.
Will e-books ever replace real books? The current model is hard to beat: cheap, portable, and you can pass it along.
Go West, Middle-Aged Man!
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Tomorrow I'm flying to Colorado, to visit my parents in Burlington and to do a book-signing at the local library I used to haunt as a kid. There's no bookstore in my childhood town of 3,600, and one of the family's best friends is the librarian ... so the library it is.
The librarian's name is Della. She knows me too well. When I was a weird kid with no friends (I was the class tattle-tale and chubby and just kinda weird overall) I would hang out with her for hours, talking to her as she shelved or stamped books. I'm realizing now that she probably wanted to run and hide every time she saw me walking across the street, coming her way.
Ad: "Where is Della."
Librarian assistant: "Oh, she had to run ... on ... on ... on an errand."
Ad: Well, that is strange. Her car is right there in the parking lot."
Librarian assistant: "Well, uhm ... she walked."
Ad: "Oh, well, then, I will just wait for her. She can't be long. I will just sit here with these Beatrix Potter books and amuse myself while she's gone. I have nothing else to do."
(Della, Meanwhile, is hiding in the bathroom.)
Yes, I said Beatrix Potter. Like I said: I was a weird kid. I often picked books based on their covers, whether I found them attractive or not ... and the illustrations on the small-size B.P. books were to my liking.
Those of you who have read my novel, "All This Belongs to Me" will note that Little Ad's voice is similar to that of the character Ellis Norton's.
OTHER BOOK NEWS: I am researching a book about finding the right college for your kid. I'm thinking of writing it in a travelogue manner, based on the travels with my daughter. Been taking lots of notes. There are plenty of college guides out there but none that are FUN to read.