Hats off to you, Early Bird Diners
Monday, January 31, 2011
This past week I stayed in an historic lodge in Sebring, Florida that had seen better days. Peeling paint, threadbare bedspreads, a restaurant closed long ago. My wife has a phrase for places like this: faded splendor.
Splendor ... of the PAST. And maybe this is why the place was filled with senior citizens. Historic photos adorned the walls. There was a table with a jigsaw puzzle in the lobby. The coffee was weak for a generation that knew weak coffee because they had to stretch every food staple ...
... all which leads me to my point: that I have deep respect for most senior citizens. They and their parents helped build the greatest country on earth. They did so by working hard and sacrificing. Conversely, my Boomer generation is spoiled and narcissistic. We have morphed our wants into needs. I wonder: would we have the gumption to fight and win a world war as did our parents and grandparents?
So hats off to you, older Americans. I may make fun of your land yachts and your demands for free dinner rolls and your Sansabelt slacks, but you all have my thanks and respect for helping to create and sustain my own family's good life in this grand country.
From Stevie, my Kansas correspondent ...
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Bedbugs are bad enough, but what if you found this on the chair in your hotel room as he did:
Hmmmm.....Is there an eyelash registry out there for travelers to use?
Eye of the Tiger
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
My high-school friend, Chalmers, invited me to his birthday party ... at a paintball park.
That's "Extreme Rage" written on top of this truck, which was the park's name until it recently was changed to "Oasis Paintball Park." Hilarious 190-degree name-change, don't you think? Did the new mayor come in and say, "If you don't change that angry serial-killer name we're going to come in and shut you down?"
At any rate, I was totally excited ... until I was handed a gun and mask and it dawned on me that this was NOT laser tag but instead a game in which people would shoot paint-filled bullets at me.
Oh ... and it was in the woods. Full 360-degree exposure.
Oh ... and my glasses did not fit under the mask, so I couldn't see a damned thing.
The bruises don't last long, I was told. It didn't hurt THAT bad.
"How do I know who's on my team?" I said. Everyone looked alike: 17-year-olds in blue jeans and dark-colored shirts.
I found on the ground a long piece of plastic barrier tape. Bright pink. And I made everyone on my side tie a piece of it onto the barrel of their guns so I could tell they were on my side. "Okay," I said. "This is now officially the Susan B. Komen Shoot for the Cure."
In the end, I was the last standing member of my team ... probably because I took off running as fast as I could the second the bell went off to start the game. When I returned I found everyone in the "hit" holding pen and then realized it was up to me to win the game.
Except the only standing person on the other team was in a PAINTBALL UNIFORM! Hardcore dude with canisters of bullets around his belt.
Bang. I'm dead.
It's "Moonshine," you American idiots!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Over the past few decades we've slowly been replacing the incorrect American version of foreign cities' names with the proper, more native versions: Peking to Beijing. (I miss the word Peking, I really do.)
There's also Bombay to Mumbai (I miss the word Bombay, I really do.)
There are others; I just can't think of them.
For the record, my hometown of Burlington, Colorado is still Burlington.
And, interestingly, you know who hasn't jumped on this wagon? The Germans, of all people. Those fastidious sticklers for accuracy continue to let Americans absolutely butcher their fine cities' names.
Cologne is actually Koln (umlaut on the o, but I can't find the umlaut key). Koln is pronounced this way: push out your lips, keeping mouth open, and say "cool" with an "n" on the end.
And good 'ol Munich. The real pronunciation is actually closer to "moonshine." Honest. I took six years of the language....though I have no idea why.
A Giant in the Sushi House
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
So my wife and I were at a sushi restaurant the other night when I had to go to the bathroom. I walked up to the door and stopped.
Had someone put magic mushrooms in my dragon roll? Had I gone all Alice-in-Wonderland and instantly morphed into an even bigger Ad?
This ain't trick photography, folks. To get inside, I had to slightly squat and wiggle my way in, sideways.
And inside the bathroom: the cutest little sink I've ever seen. I felt like I was playing in a doll house.
Color me: Confused
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Sure, I know where my car is. It's on ... uhh... blue ... 3? ... uhhhhhh 43?
Yeegods, this looks too much like an algebraic equation. I did not do well in algebra.
I did, however, eventually find my car.
Deluxe Lodging in New Orleans
Friday, January 14, 2011
A new low for the Hilton line of Hampton Inns. I mean, I know they had a bad-ass hurricane here, but I think they could clean and fix things up a little. Please?
That's a handle to the bathroom door. We would have picked it up and put it back on but were afraid of the creatures living in the corner of grime and grit.
AFTERWORD (ADDED ONE WEEK LATER): I received a call from someone high up in marketing at Hampton Inn who discovered my blog and called to say my room would be free because I was dissatisfied. Good response and customer relations -- don't you think?
When it comes to words, Less is often More
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Headline writing is an art form. Having grown up in a five-generation newspaper family and being a former print journalist myself, I know how difficult it is to write a headline that captures the essence of an article in a defined space. The skinny one-column heads are the hardest -- they're almost like haiku.
Well, no one writes headlines as well as The New York Times, and their one-column heads are generally poetry. In an arts section last week they posted a review of the movie "Country Strong," in which Gwyneth Paltrow plays an alcoholic country music star trying to save her career and love life.
Here was the one-column headline in the Times:
I am woman,
It tells us everything. We know that the Times did NOT like the movie -- and that they considered it to be sappy and over the top. The review was horribly written, but whoever wrote that headline (reporters never write their own; the job generally goes to the page designer), deserves a pat on the back. In these days of verbosity, succinct, well-thought-out messages should be appreciated and savored.
In an unrelated note: Here's a shout-out to my readers in and around Estevan, Saskatchewan, who are reading my novel "Househusband" in their Book Club in a Bag program.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
You've poured my beer into a WINE GLASS?!
I'm really at a loss for words.
A word about the word "nigger"
Friday, January 7, 2011
In my novel "Man of the House," the daughter of the protagonist comes home to her father and explains that her teacher has banned reading the word "nigger" out loud as they study "To Kill a Mockingbird." Instead, every time the word comes up in text the students must say, only, "N."
Unfortunately, it's a true story. It happened in my daughter's class at Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Florida.
I thought it was ludicrous to tone down and verbally censor one of the most important books of the Civil Rights era, so I had my protagonist father (who is largely based on me, of course) write this email to the teacher:
...By having your students say “N” instead of nigger when they’re reading passages out loud, not only do you rip the balls off the prose but you also are practicing revisionist history. Whites back then said nigger. NIGGER. It’s an awful word, yes, but if we candy-coat the darker sides of history then we will make them seem more palatable and, thus, more acceptable, thus increasing the chance that humanity will make the same mistakes again.
I write about this now because of the recent news that the publisher of Huckleberry Finn is, in the newest edition of the American classic, going to take out every occurrence of "nigger" and replace it with the more acceptable "slave."
Art's job in life is not only to elevate us but also to startle us and make us question ourselves and the paths we are taking. The word "nigger" reminds us of a very racist, dark period of our history, and if we start to censor and candy-coat the literature from that era then we will soon forget how very bad and frightening that period of American history truly was.
What if we changed the details of the Holocaust? What if we said that only a "smattering" of Jews had been killed instead of millions? It sure would make us feel better, but future generations, our children's children, would have no idea of the immensity of the atrocities that occurred.
If you don't like the book, people, don't read it. But stop re-writing dead authors' books. I'll tell you what: If you do it to me, I'll come back and haunt your ass in a big way.
Signs that your son is going to be a writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
1. He has a clown doll named Toody.
2. He starts an after-school coloring club in second grade but kicks everyone out after 30 minutes because they are not coloring in the lines well enough.
3. He spends hours playing make-believe in his bedroom.
4. He begs Santa for a nativity scene for three years, and when he finally gets one he spends hours every Christmas re-creating the manger scene in full dialogue.
5. He starts a cassette-taped "radio station" for the household, reporting menus of the day and events from work and school.
6. On "B" day in sixth grade he goes dressed as a giant banana, with black knee-high pantyhose over his head to replicate the end of the banana.
(This one's for you, Mom and Dad. Thanks for your patience all those years and for teaching me that weird = normal.)
Food Revelation #254BR5
Monday, January 3, 2011
It's hard to be visually surprised by anything in this day of the internet; we've seen and heard it all. But THIS I hadn't seen before:
Spotted in a small independent grocer's in Nashville: BRUSSELS SPROUTS ON THE COB! Don't they look a little like those hand-held jingle bells you rang at the Christmas concert in elementary school?
Art at 32,000 feet
Saturday, January 1, 2011
The most curious thing on the seat in front of me on a Delta flight yesterday: Skyfitti.
Isn't it interesting? Looks like a rough illustration for an animated Disney character: Devil Bunny? Constipated Bunny? Did an entirely different person leave the red marks?
And the artist was proper enough to do it on masking tape so as not to deface the edge of this TV set.