“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

Report from the grocery store
Friday, October 30, 2009

If you like apples at all you need to try the honeycrisp. What used to be a boutique, lesser-distributed apple is now mass-produced, and it puts the others to shame. Crispy as a Fuji, with a taste that is both sweet and refreshingly lemon-like. I've never had anything like it. Put it this way: If we had been in Eve's shoes, and THIS was the apple, we probably might have said, "No way, snake ... I'm not touching that thing ... but, what did you say? HONEYCRISP? Well, then, hand it over."

For those who only buy the pointy red delicious variety: GET OVER THEM. They are: unpredictable and flat-tasting.

Do yourself a favor: Try a honeycrisp. They're everywhere right now.

Being Green on Coconut Drive
Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Florida, our ceiling fans are always on (this one is also running, but the stop-action of the camera makes it appear to be still). So ... when I needed to quickly dry my wife's bras...
From washing machine to woman in less than 15 minutes!

Indecent exposure on Coconut Drive
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When we had the house re-plumbed last week we also had an outdoor shower installed on our patio ... and we haven't showered inside ever since! We love it. I just wonder if our neighbors do, too.

Hey ... THEY were the ones who over-trimmed the hedge! Not me.

Ad's Rules of the Bathroom
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Those who read my last blog know I've had water on the brain ... er ... mind.

Some Ad H20 History: I was raised on the desert-like high plains of Eastern Colorado, where water was very scarce, and even townspeople (as opposed to farmers) monitored rainfall. Whenever it rained -- and it wasn't very often, let me tell you -- the collective mood of townspeople was raised three or four notches.

Well, I've spent most of my adult life on the much-wetter east coast ... but even if you take the boy out of the desert, you can't take the desert out of the boy. Hence, this rule in our house:

When it comes to toilet use ... "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

Seriously, it does no harm to let pee sit for awhile. And think of how much water you'd save in a year.

Water, water everywhere!
Friday, October 23, 2009

When we moved into our humble ranch-style house on the end of Coconut Drive in the year 2000, the engineer who inspected the house for us warned that the pipes were all old (1951) and that water pressure wouldn't be great ... and it would get worse as the pipes filled with rust. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought. The water works fine.

But then, over the years, it became a problem. Recently, my wife and I realized we were always yelling at each other: "Did someone flush the toilet?!?! I'm trying to do the dishes!" ... "Please do NOT brush your teeth; the dishwasher's running."

The pressure is so weak that a faucet will STOP RUNNING if someone flushes a toilet.

How weak is my pressure? My fancy computerized washing machine stops every time it's filling with water and tells me, "Check water tap."

...SO WEAK that my poor wife can't even wash her hair in the house anymore. She has to go to the gym on hair-wash days.

...SO WEAK that I can't even wash my own hair -- and I'm bald.

At any rate, the boys at Rick Fox Plumbing have saved us. In two days' time they re-plumbed the entire house. We feel like we've won the lottery.

When they first turned the water on, I ran from bathroom to bathroom, turning on faucets and flushing toilets to test the flow: "Look, honey! I can flush two toilets AND wash my hands at the same time!"

I told one of the plumbers, "I went outside and played with my hose for an hour last night." He snickered and said, "Well, I hope it's not sore this morning."

YAHOO! Thar's WATER in them thar pipes!! We got us a gusher!

Run For Your Life: Part 1
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The low point of my manhood occurred in the summer of 1986, in a bar in a squatty strip mall in Port Charlotte, Florida. It was called The Rheinlander Haus, run by a black Jamaican man named Eno who wore a burgundy tuxedo every night. A musician named Wayne, in a toupee and understated black tux, played Rat-Pack oldies at the white-Formica organ bar, and a cocktail waitress who looked and dressed like a sex-kitten Pocahontas served up drinks. My friends and I liked the place because it was close to work, and it felt a little like the bar from Star Wars: eclectic and time-warpy and unbelievable to people our age: 23

My fellow newspaper reporter, Thom, and I were sitting there one night, with Wayne at his organ bar, after filing stories for a late deadline, when Pocahontas set down in front of us two pink drinks with maraschino cherries and little paper umbrellas floating in the top of them. I should probably add that we, unfortunately, had both independently chosen that day to wear our pink Ralph Lauren button-down dress shirts.

"These are from the gentleman over there, against the wall," she said.

We looked at her, confused, then turned to see the mystery man across the room. He was big, much bigger than either of us. I remember facial hair and a Texas Rangers baseball cap. He scowled.

Thom, a 20-something, skinny chain-smoker known for throwing things into ceiling fans during parties, turned and held his glass up the guy across the room and yelled, "These Shirley Temples rock, dude! Thanks!"

We turned back to our beers, a little anxious. Wayne smiled, shaking his head – Oh, those boys! – as he continued singing his very-stylized version of "New York, New York."

But then, though he continued singing, his smile melted, his eyes grew wide and eyebrows arched upward, and he cocked his chin, looking at me, as if to alert us to something behind …

Someone squeezed my shoulder. I looked down to see a beefy hand with dirty fingernails.

"Do you know why I bought you guys those Shirley Temples?" asked the voice.

"No, but they're great, dude," Thom said. "Great joke. Can we buy you a beer?"

He leaned down to coarsely whisper in our ears. "I bought 'em because I wanted to get drinks for the two biggest pussies in here tonight … Out front! Right now!"

He turned and started strutting away, looking over his shoulder to see if we were following orders.

"Holy shit!" I said. "There's no way I'm going out there. I've never been in a fight in my life. I'm not gonna start now."

"He's got some friends who followed him out," Thom said. "Dude, we're in trouble. What the hell did we do?"

"It's me, man," I said. "Rednecks hate my face. They always want to beat me up. Always have."

"How we gonna get out of this?"

"Just go out with us," said a new voice.

We looked across the organ bar at the couple that had been sitting there all evening.

"You guys are no match for that guy, I'll tell you that," the old man said. "He'll eat you alive."

We quickly introduced ourselves to Joe and Phyllis Breinhoff, who had just moved down from Terra Haute, Indiana. Luckily, they were subscribers to our paper, and they were thrilled to recognize our names. And Joe was right; no one would attack two men in pink shirts if they were accompanied by an old man in a Marines baseball cap and a silver-haired woman toting an oxygen tank in a macramé purse.

We ventured outside and found Mr. Shirley Temple leaning against a pickup truck with four or five other Bubbas around him --- and they were Bubbas, indeed. Cut-off T-shirts. Baseball caps. Men muscled from work and bellied from beer.

Those who have never lived in Florida are surprised when I mention its redneck leanings. But, as any skinny, bespectacled, college-educated young man in penny loafers soon learns, when you drift away from the coastal cities of the Sunshine State, into the suburbs and towns, you enter Deep South: Confederate-flag bikinis … barbecue houses … bass fishing … pit bulls on leashes of rope… bars with NASCAR playing on TV. In this world, clean-cut guys who wear pink dress shirts are undoubtedly gay and need to have the cartilage of their faces crushed and rearranged.

Our new friend, Joe, kept them at bay while we walked to their silver Crown Victoria. "You boys go on home," he said. "Don't be messing with my houseguests. Go on! Get out before I call the cops."

We left our car at the Rheinlander Haus and rode with Joe and Phyllis to their home off Midway Boulevard. Phyllis made drinks, a Tom Collins for herself and Manhattans for the rest of us, and we sat beside the pool in their lanai, talking.

"Don't you guys know how to fight?" Joe asked.

"I'm a lover, man, not a fighter." Thom said.

Joe shook he head. "Well, every man's got to learn how to fight. Didn't your dads teach you? You guys' parents divorced or something?"

"No," I answered. "I just never had the need to fight."

"Ever?" Joe asked. "You've never needed to defend yourself?"

My mind raced across 23 years of life, searching for bouts of painful, bloody conflict, and I realized that I'd masterfully, unequivocally avoided physical violence, which lead me to wonder for the first time: What did this say about me? Did it mean I was smarter than most guys … that I could sense when situations were getting ready to boil over and would duck away before fists began flying?

This was partially true, I'm sure, but there was another reality: Those who don't know how to fight are forced to flee, which makes them cowards.

I'd never learned to fight. I was raised by parents who listen to NPR and read The New Yorker and thought that violence represented an inability to quell conflict with brainpower. We owned and ran a weekly newspaper; in our house, words were considered the ultimate weapon. It was boys from lesser families who fought with fists.

If this was true, I had succeeded tonight – Victory again! – yet I could not shake the feeling that I had lost something … if not a battle, then what? My honor had just been saved by a man half a century older than me because I would not (could not?) defend myself.

I detected a new void somewhere deep inside. It would stay with me for years to come.

I looked down at my Manhattan. GIRLYman-hattan, I thought. Then, I remembered the paper umbrellas we'd left behind at the bar, and I hoped Pocahontas would save them for us.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My daughter's visiting for fall break from college, and she brings this tasty college-dorm-food-inspired recipe with her: FATTY TOAST.

That's what she and her friend call it: Take a piece of overly processed American white bread, toast it, slather with butter or margarine, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Funny thing, said my wife: We used to call it "cinnamon toast."

Someone, call National Geographic ...
Friday, October 16, 2009

A sunset ritual performed by one of the natives of Coconut Drive ...
This native had been hunched over a table for hours, feverishly typing gibberish into a laptop ... and then, when the sun started setting in the west, he picked up these two ceremonial rings and started performing the dance.

Twitter Twits
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Says Ad: "Tweeting is like farting ... little expulsions of empty, meaningless air."

Says his fiction-writer friend, Nancy: "Yeah, and how many people really want to smell it?"

What's wrong with Chinese fortune cookies these days?
Monday, October 12, 2009

My fellow author friend, Gonzalo Barr, writes to me:

"...Chinese fortune cookies have become less substantive over the years.When I was a child, you could expect to read a proper fortune, like, "Your future is bright." Then fortune cookies leaned toward the metaphorical, like -- After winter comes spring. Well, that's nice, but what does that have to do with me? But now, now -- fortune cookies are way past enigmatic. They border on the tautological. I'm still waiting for the one that reads -- "You are reading this." Someday I'll get it, I'm sure.

Couldn't agree more. (though I had to look up the word "tautological") It's as if the writers of these fortunes are afraid of being sued for promising things that never happen. They NEVER predict the future in any way.

One thing to help make them fun: Whenever we read the fortunes out loud, we always add "between the sheets" after the fortune. It's kinda naughty but funny.

You are a master of your destiny ... between the sheets.
The tiger in you comes alive ... between the sheets.

Something I miss from childhood
Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday morning cartoons ... back in the day when the only time you could watch cartoons was from 7 a.m. to noon on that one day of the week. I would get up before my parents and turn on the TV and sit there, cross-legged on the floor with a bowl of Cap'n Crunch With Crunchberries in my lap. Mom tried to get us to eat Heartland granola, but, alas, the Cap'n always won out.

I remember Josie and the Pussycats. The Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner Hour. Superfriends. (Batman, Aqua Man, etc.) And all those really weird, kitchy Hanna-Barbara short cartoons like Wally Gator and Huckleberry Hound. Oh ... and Scooby Doo.

It's Saturday today. I need to pay bills and paint the bedroom. But first, I'm going to enjoy my coffee on the patio, overlooking the water at sunrise. And then breakfast: Cap'n Crunch has been replaced with oatmeal, which is supposed to lower cholesterol.

Yeah, right.
Where do they get this stuff?

Scam of the Century
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We were visiting our daughter in Ohio when we walked into a Build-A-Bear store. I'd never been in one. I thought it would be fun: Pick out a nose, and eye colors, and body shape, and color of fur, etc., and custom-build our very own teddy bear.

But then I learned that Build-a-Bear isn't Build-a-Bear at all. Actually, it should be called "Stuff-a-Bear." All you do is pick out an already-made carcass and then stand in a very-long line for the machine that blows stuffing into the aforementioned carcass. They put a little heart in it, too, before sewing it up. I suggested to a little boy that he ask for two just in case one of them should break.

And then comes the scam: The entire store is filled with little bear costumes and toys and outfits ... all which cost much more than the bear himself. Maybe they should call it "Dress-a-Bear."

Or Scam-a-Dad.

Curiosity from the Medicine Chest
Monday, October 5, 2009

Look how the manufacturer strapped these two bottles together.

Don't you think it looks like the space shuttle riding atop the 747 for transport?

A secret about guys ...
Friday, October 2, 2009

I've been watching this for years, and I've finally reached a conclusion about men and spitting. They only spit when they're feeling territorial. Men spit when they feel threatened by some other dude whom they feel is bigger, meaner and/or cooler. This does not include men who are chewing tobacco; chewing tobacco actually requires spitting. You read it here first.