Friday, March 7, 2014

Mike Leigh, my friend, and a caring Educator

prolog: Mike always told me that I would have to write a serious piece ( Instead of my usual funny stuff) when He died. I didn't know that I would have to write this piece this soon. I wrote it and read it at his funeral last Saturday March 1st.

Mike Leigh, my friend, and a caring Educator

Over the years, I had the pleasure of working with and coming to knowing Mike Leigh. Mike spent 36 years educating students with Haywood County Schools. We worked together as we served as leaders in the education association. Mike spent hundreds of basketball games seated on my left side where his difficult job was to make sure that I kept the scoreboard correctly. For the last few years we finally got to teach on the same campus.

Mike had many of traits and skills that made him a fine educator. Some of these traits can be learned in college, modeled from other teachers, or even practiced in an empty classroom; however, he had one outstanding teacher trait that came naturally. He cared greatly about his students! I want to mention a few instances that illustrate Mike’s caring attitude and dedication.

Before I met Mike Leigh, I learned that he was a dedicated educator. My first HJH (now HMS) homecoming pep rally included a tumbling contest with twenty students. Many students could perform round-offs and back somersaults passes across the entire gym floor. When I congratulated the P. E. teacher on their skills, I learned that we were not teaching tumbling in our P. E. courses. He told me of a teacher at Sunny Hill Elementary who had volunteered to start a gymnastics club after school. That was the first time I heard mention of a Mr. Leigh. I didn’t know him yet, but I learned a couple things about Mr. Leigh that day. I knew he was a good teacher as the students had skills and were full of enthusiasm. More importantly, I knew he was a dedicated teacher. You know a teacher is truly dedicated when they are willing to stay after school for free to teach a club. He simply did it because he wanted our young people to experience success and have fun.

Another evidence of his caring heart appeared to me just this school year, Mike told me had a problem with his classroom projector. After taking the projector to my room, I found it worked fine, but his antiquated cord from the computer projector to the projector was faulty. Next classroom break, I returned his projector without a cord and informed him he needed one. He told me to buy him whatever he needed, and he would repay me the next day. I joked about it might cost fifty dollars or more. He said, “Fine buy it! The class learns better when I use it.” Mike, like many of the teachers I know, was in a habit of supplying classroom needs with personal money. Since he didn’t recognize my attempt at humor, I then had to confess. I had several cords in storage, they were inexpensive and didn’t cost me anything, and that his projector would be working the next morning without him having to reach into his wallet. However; his willingness to sacrifice his own money for the needs of students shows another glimpse into his committed teacher character.
I saw evidence of his compassion toward teaching and his students at basketball ball games. His former students would come by the table to say hi to Mr. Leigh. He would ask me about these students to find out if they were learning and staying out of trouble. Those who had gotten in trouble would be summoned to the table for a conversation about why they could not behave at the middle school. If you sat up in the cheap seats far away from our scorer’s table during Haywood Middle Basketball Games, then maybe you never learned a few of our secrets. Secret one, Mike would not use plastic mechanical pencils. He preferred old fashioned wood pencils, and I always had many sharpened ones on hand because on those rare occasions where the Warriors or Lady Warriors were not playing well, he would break a lead and reach for another pencil with every sloppy pass that created a turnover. Secret two, he and I would devour more than a few bags of popcorn on game nights. It was not a secret to the concession stand operators or the janitors who could count the empty bags around our table at the end of the evening. The third secret displayed his great dedication; Mike would grade stacks of papers during the ballgames. He graded if we ate out before the game, during time outs, and in the intermissions. If a team was not in their full court press, he could do a small amount of grading during the game itself. He would grade homework and quizzes all night and not fail to mark the proper baskets or fouls. At the end of the night he would have two completed basketball stats books on top of a pile of graded quizzes ready to be returned to his students. Several years ago, he was reviewing his history quizzes at the end of the night. He found the scores and level of learning a little too low. He felt that his lectures might have been too boring. He handed me a black quiz and ask for computer favor. He wanted me to find a video on the Internet that would cover the same material and be more interesting to his class. Mike showed that video, gave the quiz again, and then had to grade even more quizzes. Other teachers would have just entered the low grades and gone on to teach the next chapter. However, Mike cared deeply about his student needing to learn.
These are just a few of the instances where Mike proved that he cared about the students of Haywood County. If we had a very large meeting room and the time to hear from each of his more than 3000 former students, I think they would all agree that Mike E. Leigh was a teacher who possessed a wonderfully caring heart.

Ray W. Clark

Friday, February 21, 2014

"The Queen and I?" or a Flash Back from Drugs I never Inhaled?

“Good afternoon your Majesty. My name is Ray. You like my other friends can call me Rayray. As you can see from my shirt I live in Tennessee; however, I love your country.” “I loved my tours through your old castles. I saw the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Warwick Castle the last time I visited England. Maybe you would let me tour Buckingham Palace where you live on my next visit. I think it would be pretty fancy!” “I saw your picture at the National Portrait Museum, I also visited the National Gallery and the Tate. Have you ever seen those great British art works? I am sorry that was a silly question, I am a little nervous as I never thought I would be talking with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth." “On our visit, my friends and I had to go down to Abbey Road where we jay walked across that intersection just like the Beatles did on that famous album cover. Very unsafe, we were almost killed by a speeding taxi and a double-decker bus. Bet that when you did that stunt that they stopped the traffic for the Queen. Can you help me meet the remaining Beatles? How about the Downtown singer, Petula Clark, I had the largest crush on her when I was in junior high.” “Is that your 1977 Mini Cooper parked out front with the Union Jack on the roof. It is beautiful and distinctive; none the less, I really thought that the Queen of England would rate a large Limo. Guess the international budget crisis is having an effect on all of us these days.” “Unlike many Americans, I am a loyal soccer fan. I follow Manchester United, and I am sure they are in for another Premier League Trophy this year! Although, as one of their stock holders (MANU), I think they paid way too much for Wayne Rooney! He probably now makes more than you do! Eight-six million pounds seems very high for a thirty something soccer player." “I have always wondered one thing about the differences of our cultures. Why is it that in your county English is not always ENGLISH? I have always wanted to know why your people call an elevator a lift? What does her Majesty call her Umbrella? a boomershoot, a gamps, or a brolly? I apologize for hogging the conversation; however, you don’t seem to say much!” “Sir your table is ready. It has been ready for quite some time, your friend Louise is already seated. She was showing me the fabulous oil lamp she bought across the street. We did not want to interrupt you while you were carrying on a great conservation with the Queen. Many of our patrons take their picture beside the Queen; however, you are the first to carry on a lengthy chat with her. You do realize she is just a cardboard cutout? Don’t you?” “I do now! She looks so real. Where am I?” “You are at the Pig N Whistle in Hardy, AR. My name is Diane and I will be your server. Sir, if you would follow me I will take you to your table. Louise says she is hungry and ready to eat” The Pig N Whistle is what happens when an Arkansas Girl meets a British Chef, a fellow Disney Cruise employee, and then gets homesick for the Ozarks. The Ashcrofts (Philip and Rebecca) now offer authentic Anglo-American pub food in the middle of the antique district in Hardy, Arkansas. It should be easy to find as the 1977 Mini Cooper (Red with Union Jack painted on the roof) is parked right out front. The walls are covered in British memorabilia, including lots of photos of The Beatles, Diana, and soccer stars. They even have a realistic-cardboard Queen Elizabeth if you want a picture with Her Majesty; or you might even become enamored with her and carry on a lengthy conversation. Ok, maybe that was just me being real special! The friendly owners can be found at the front greeting you when they are not in the kitchen maintaining excellence. They or one of their chefs will actually visit your table to ask about your meal? The service staff is very quick, friendly, and willing to answer all the dumb British cuisine questions you might have. We had no complaints for the kitchen or the wait staff, only praise! Every bite on our plates was spectacular, the portions large, and the prices were very fair. The drinks include soft drinks and real British tea. I still can't believe my ancestors threw that good stuff in the Boston Harbor? If I had been there and got a vote, I would have voted for them to throw turnips, broccoli, or spinach, but not TEA? The good news is that neither the Ashcrofts nor the Queen mentioned our little tea party so maybe they are finally over it! They also carry several domestic and imported beers, and small wine selection. Just like the small pubs across the British Isles, you can order the Full English Breakfast all day long. They have several sandwiches if you just want a quick lunch or can't get over your fear of different tastes from strange lands. If you're new to British cuisine, be sure to check out the British-to-American translator on the back of the menu. With the help of this menu page, I was able to partially translate some of their menu options from English back into ENGLISH. Go ahead have something different you can't order in most towns in our area. You will be glad you drove over for a meal! ANLGO ( British) -- My loose American translation Chicken Tikka Masala - chicken chunks in a spicy orange curry sauce. half British/ half Indian Shepard’s Pie - hamburger casserole with carrots, corn, and peas, topped with mashed potatoes. Swede - turnips Fish and Chips - halibut fillets and fries Cornish Pasty - meat and vegetables in a semi-circle of flaky pie filling - think very large hot pocket Bangers and Mash - smoked sausage hunks in mash potatoes Toad in the Hole - pig in a blanket Carrot Ginger Soup - chicken vegetable soup with ginger Desserts include wonderful cakes and Scones and Cream Tea - powdered doughnuts with jam and tea with milk Bread & Butter Pudding - raisin bread layered and baked in French toast batter Spotted Dick - pudding containing dried currants or raisins commonly served with custard Pig N Whistle 107 E. Main Street Hardy, AR 72542 (870) 856-3769 p.s. Remember Hardy, AR has a population of less than 800 local people, but explodes on weekends with tourist buying antiques and enjoying the Ozarks. So the Pig N Whistle is open weekends, but closed most Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I lost my driving privileges recently for a month, and had to move into a cheap motel near the school where I teach. Please keep reading: I Never have driven drunk and there was no accident! This was a combination a couple speeding tickets, and a car insurance policy that lapsed for two whole days, and an x who learned her angry demeanor from a Marine drill instructor. Some of this was my fault and I take responsibility for those careless actions, and some of this my brain still considers as “being kept down by the MAN!”
What to entitle this blog entry? In writing class we learned that titles are important and can even be loquacious. There were a few other working titles that were considered. (1)“My Unfortunate Incarceration”, A Good Title; however, it was over used by Anthony on Designing Women and it might make most women stop talking to me. They might assume that I really am an X-Con or client as my friend at the Pardons and Paroles Department is required the call them. (2)“My Time in Exile”, I liked this title until my chauffer told me that it made me sound as old as Moses. My eighth grade students think I am that old. A couple students are convinced that I taught Moses some algebra using the desert sand as my chalkboard make that smart whiteboard. So why would I pick a title to brag about my advanced age. I, of course, do not have a real chauffer. That is what I now call a couple friends who might need to drive me somewhere in my own car. Like Blanche DuBois, I am now counting on the kindness of strangers. (3) “My Time Out” was an early title. It told the story and had special meaning as I referee several high school and college sports. Come to think of it, my mother gave the words time out special significance in my early formative years, and that might not be a pleasant memory trail for me to follow.
NOTE TO SELF: In the above paragraph, there are at least five funny ideas and one very unfunny idea for future blogs that need to be put to screen. I must find more time to write.
Once I paid for the room and turned the key I knew Mirrors on the Ceiling would work just fine. This is your average cheap motel that appears in most small towns. This is the type of motel you rent for being with the wrong person at the wrong time. It is a great place to throw a party if you care about your expensive living room furnishings. One look at this motel and I was sure the entire Metro-Narcotics Squad had the address memorized. My father had always used the adjective sleazily to describe such lodgings. I think I have a better understanding of that vocabulary word after my recent stay. The motel is the temporary home of those who break up and need a place to stay until their next payday where they can find a better place! Like maybe a double wide in a noisy trailer park just barely on the wrong side of the tracks.
Actually on a calculator it is a good deal. For the price of 150 a week, I get cable TV, WiFi, and a somewhat clean room. However, the carpet is more worn than the one you would find at the Marriott. It is that dark tight brown woven carpet that motels and fast food establishments use. They mostly use them so that no customer actually can learn how clean or dirty the carpet is without falling into a penitent position. Me I haven’t bothered to kneel yet as I still enjoy mystery in my life.
The cardboard walls were so much thinner than those sturdy walls at the Best Western. Monday, I was glad my neighbor was also watching the WWE so I didn’t feel obligated to turn the TV volume down. I was actually able to mute my sound and still pay close attention to the MIZ-John Cena argument. Which was not near a good or as loud as the argument between the couple in room 11 which was heard at about 2 a.m.
The Wilson World has many more and much sturdier towel racks. I was afraid to hang a wet towel on the one single one wire structure in the five foot square bathroom for fear that management might charge me to fix the entire wall. It already appeared that some other recent tenant might have been charged. I haven’t seen anything that shaky since the swing set in my backyard at age seven.
I was going to ask the owner if they had a gift shop or gym like the Peabody. I wanted to inquire about a Jacuzzi; however, my mom taught me not to make fun of nice people. Thus I kept my questions to myself.
Where I have stayed in the past, I was used to a free continental breakfast or at least a coffee maker in the room. Some place I stayed even supplied donuts with each stay. This motel had a much simpler approach. Why bother about a free breakfast when a convenience store is located just 87 meters down the street. There you are free to buy all the sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits you want to eat for breakfast.
They did have one feature that I don’t remember as being standard at the Hilton. Plenty of great mirrors abound in this room. Mirrors all the way around the bed! The headboard and the footboard were made up of huge mirrors. One mirrored closet area ran the whole length of the bed while on the other side the king size mirrors were attached to the dresser. The biggest mirror was on the ceiling. This mirror was bigger in perimeter and area than the double bed below it. My phone rang the first night and I could see the display light in five directions. Unfortunately, none of these bright views helped me quickly locate my phone in the strange room. This mirror thing is a great idea! I used the mirrors every single night and morning. I now wonder why all motel rooms and all bedrooms don’t employ this feature. We all need many mirrors around our beds. It gives you a great positive feeling, and they are extremely useful when you need to straighten your tie! Yes, I used those mirrors often to straighten my tie, and I was glad they had been mounted on all the walls and especially the ceiling for that intended purpose!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Teenage Driver

I understand the hidden nuances about teenage driving contained in rock and roll. Many lyrics like “Dead Man’s Curve is No Place to Play!” and “Hot Rod Lincoln” describe plot lines that did not end positively. They must have been written by adults who were worried about young drivers; and these songs like all the music of my generation left powerful images within my psyche. When I was young, my parents wanted me to see these reckless picture stories and thought they might keep me safe. I convey this same important safety message to my students as a trained driver’s education instructor, but I am not the first adult to use the do as I say not as I do line.

Even my states driver’s examination is a farce. Two hands on the wheel, check your mirrors, accelerate slowly, keep the radio off, pay attention, don’t speed, and stop completely are the things one needs to consider around that silly little simulated course. Yes, in my state the learners do not even have to drive in traffic, just a few streets behind the driver exam station. No one really drives like that, and I would like to see a real-life test. I want to see the drivers test where you have the seat leaned too far back to reach the brake pedal quickly, one arm around your favorite person, texting on the phone in one hand, a BK Whopper in the other hand, music blaring at 80 decibels, a soft drink and your favorite person’s hand between your thighs, your going twenty over the limit, and you are forced to steer with your knees. Those of you are now thinking I could pass that funny test are the very ones who drive as badly as I. I know many drivers could pass this test as I have seen adults in this formation all around town.

I have recently had the goal to drive better, like my father does. I wanted to make my parents proud of my driving sensibilities; however, it has not worked out! I wanted to silence my protective mother who thinks I still drive like a teenager. My daddy continually tells me to drive safely, and to stop imitating Big Daddy Don Garlits, a personal hero and drag racing superstar, at every intersection. My mother just wants me to drive my age.

My father will not drive over the speed limit, and my mother will not allow him to do so peacefully. His normal cautious three miles under the limit would be commendable in many driving situations. The police might even pull him over to get one of those “Good Driver Tickets”. I have heard the police write them, but not-surprisingly, have never seen one! The problem starts when my dad is on Interstate 240 circling Memphis at fifty-two miles per hour when the average speed of the other cars and large trucks is seventy-three miles per hour. He then becomes the traffic hazard everyone needs to avoid. No wonder those drivers that get trapped behind him are extremely demonstrative towards him as they finally beg someone to allow them into the left lanes. Many drivers yell, honk, curse, and sometimes give him the type of salute he never saw in his thirty-three years in the Navy. You might also become enraged, especially when you are trapped behind my dad going fifty-two miles per hour and you glance in your rearview mirror. That is where you will see the eighteen-wheeler that is way too close and traveling twenty miles per hour faster than your back bumper is going.

My parents’s van has been hit in the rear twice lately. He was stopped at stop signs when these events occurred. The people behind him have perfected the California Roll just like I have. This maneuver allows someone to slide through a stop sign by tapping the brakes lightly and slowing to a safe coasting speed, like twelve m.p.h. Try this well-accepted driving technique at most intersections and there will be no problems. Try it in front of a police car and your wallet will suffer a negative reinforcement. If you do it behind a driver like my father; you better be prepared to share your insurance information with your new-found friend. His wheels actually stop moving for several seconds. Just like the school busses with the railroad crossing sticker, the state of Tennessee should be making him wear a bumper sticker that states that he completely stops at all stop signs. He never cut other cars off. If you drive with dad and come to a four-way stop, you will be there for sometime, he is always polite enough to allow several other drivers to go ahead. His use of the accelerator is slow and constant. He claims it is better on the gas mileage, tires, and it is much safer. I have never seen him pretend to be a drag racer.

Unlike my father, I try not to confuse the other drivers by stopping completely at intersections. I also don’t spend much time trying to figure out whose turn it is to proceed, when there is doubt I step on the accelerator. You should do this also unless you want to lose your turn and have to wait forever. Those few individuals who are fast enough to pass me on the highway are not irritated. If they have road rage it is never my fault. I have never been in an accident when I was traveling high above the speed limit. There have been a few wrecks close behind me, but I am not sure they were all my fault.

Recently, I had my first intersection collision. I was in the right lane beside an eighteen-wheel-tanker in the left lane. I would have been ok if I had sped through the yellow or even run that red light, which would not have been a virginal occurance. I am sorry to say that I stopped. I also would have been safer if I had gunned that green light like it was a Christmas tree at the Summer Nationals. Instead I stopped fully and I accelerated slowly, the proper way according to my normally wise father. That is exactly what put me in danger. The other driver remembered one thing and forgot several things at the same instant. He remembered he should have been turning right onto the other highway. He forgot he was in the left lane. He forgot to check his mirrors to notice my shinny red car beside him. He forgot to inform me of his pending right turn with a directional signal. As he made the right turn from the left lane I was in the path of his huge back wheels. I could see the clearly printed notice of the side of his truck that stated his capacity as 9000 gallons, and I had an extremely close view of the hazardous symbol with 1224. (Which I later looked up to determine that is stood for regular grade gasoline). If I had not shoved the transmission into reverse quickly, I might have found out how much of a dent a large truck can on the top of my car roof, or I could have found out how quick burning BP gasoline really was. I almost went up in my own flaming explosion which is only funny if you are Wiley Coyote. Because I drive a small fast car and the tanker had much more mass, the driver never knew he had hit me. He probably just thought he went over the curb wrong. After my panic settled, I got out to discover a small, but quite expensive, amount of damage to my front driver’s side wheel well where the truck tire hit my vehicle. I needed an new fender and a wheel alignment. That’s what I get for driving like an adult.

I had one terrible wreck a few years back. A drunk teenager drove his truck into the side of my car as he was sneaking home avoiding the police at four a.m. The accident report states that he was traveling near one hundred as he shot across the by-pass where I was traveling fifty-seven in a sixty-five. I don’t know why I was not cruising in my usual gait of seventy-five to eighty. If I had been going above the speed limit I would have been several miles down the road before that truck crossed the by-pass. Instead, I was driving in a manner that would make my parents proud. That is the reason I got my first ride in a speeding ambulance that morning on my way to the hospital. What did driving safely like my father wanted do for me? What did I earn trying to drive like an adult? – A massive concussion, knee surgery, a tremendous hospital bill and three months in rehab. Thanks Dad! I have discovered there might be advantages to driving what my daddy would term unlawful, foolish, reckless, or even unsafe. I seem to be better off driving worse than my father and mother. Even though I am way beyond fifty, I will continue to drive like a teenager. I find it much safer!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Dinner Date with Candy at Marlo's Down Under

A Review of a Great Meal and a not so Great Date
My favorite girls' basketball team won their basketball game the previous night, now on to the championship game in Covington. Since the game wasn’t until 7:30, I had some time on my hands. The previous night of the tournament, when I was rushed to make the tip-off, I was forced to obtain a meal at the drive-thru at the Burger King. I seem to eat several meals a week alone in my car, food in my lap, driving at a speed that encourages local law enforcement officers to stop and introduce themselves to me. We all have bad eating habits that need correction.

I was determined to spend this extra time engaged in fine dining and cute company. Tonight I Finally had time for beautiful companionship and a tasty morsel from an establishment devoid of a drive-thru windows, dollar menus, or miniature toys for the young diners. This was an excellent occasion to call Candy who lived near by. I had not met her; however, we had been communicating on Facebook for sometime. I remembered from her profile that she was young, very attractive, and successful. Thus I was about to break rule number seven from the computer class I teach. (#7. Never arrange to meet someone you know only from the Internet! It could be dangerous!) I told myself that number seven did not apply to adults especially since we had been emailing for sometime and I needed a quick dinner date.
To my delight, Candy said yes, and she would meet me as soon as I sent her a text with the address of the chosen restaurant. I did not know where to get a good meal in Covington. I called my friend, a dupty sheriff, to ask him where to get the best steak dinner in town. I expected the obvious yet ridiculous answer of, ‘The best steak dinner in our town is forty miles south in Memphis.' Instead, the answer came quickly; it had to be Marlo's Down Under. I mentioned my excitement about my date with Candy and he explained that Marlo’s would be a large part of a perfect evening. In my true male-hyper style, I got the address and began to text Candy before I received any of the directions.
When I got to the proper street address, on the south side of the square in Covington, the place was a dress shop. I was confused for a moment until I realized that the term down under might mean that the place was located in the basement or Australia. I walked around back and the signs and entrance were clearly marked.
I was seated at the table, received my water with warm-up bread, and I started to go through my standard questions about reviewing a new place. The menu told me about the owner and his building. Ron, the owner, is a rarity among restaurateurs. A great chef usually needs to leave rural west Tennessee to learn his culinary skills in the big city. However, Ron came back to his small hometown to practice his art on the locals. The building is more than one hundred and fifty years old. During the civil war it was a dry goods store. Later it became the storeroom for the small grocery store above. After some lengthily demolition of the worn paneling, the original well-aged bricks are now visible. These old, chipped bricks seem to add a Tara-like atmosphere of charm to your dining experience. There is plenty of seating included in three separated sections, a private meeting room which holds around fifty, an outside courtyard, and a complete bar. The bar is very quiet and can't be seen from three of the four sections, so family diners are not a problem. The establishment is open 6 days a week for dinner starting at five. The kitchen stops serving around eleven, and the bar is open until one.

What about a dress-code? I was still in the nice shirt and tie I wear most days to school so I began to look at the appearances of others. When I saw the extremely robust woman who just walked in to the establishment, my answer was obvious, no hoity-toity dress code here at Marlo’s! The woman talking with the host proved that! This woman was the size of a gold-medal-wining Russian weight lifter, and it was obvious that the local Avon lady had not gotten rich off of her. She was wearing a pink crocheted tube-top, a pair of lime green flip-flops, and a pair of dirty overalls with one strap hanging with unbuckled freedom. As a southern male I have grown to appreciate big sexy hair, but not this big. I took one look at her coiffure and I determined two things about the stranger. I guessed that she drove a fast convertible and that she didn’t carry a hair brush. It was hard to envision the entire hairdo as the backwards John Deere cap hid much of the rear view of her head. I was having problems drinking my water while watching this comical site. I stopped giggling to myself when the host ushered the newcomer toward my table. As she was being seated across from me, I noticed the massive tattoo on her upper arm. No cute little Pooh, Mickey, or butterfly, the feminine type of tattoo that many women sport today. This was a large tattoo containing cobras, knives, skulls, and death. There are only two places to obtain this type of body art: in deadly combat for your country or in the state penitentiary. I tried to not stare at the tattoo, and took President Clinton’s advice: I did not ask where she got it, and I am sure I didn’t want to be told!

"Candy", I ask trying hard to keep any trace of confusion, dread, or FEAR out of my voice.

"My real name is Gunch, Modine Gunch; Candy bez my Facebook name. I like these here dinner dates! It’s been a long time since I done eat a good meal!"

This eatery would be a fine place to have great dinner conversations. It is quiet and you can hear yourselves over a small table; however, my date spent the remainder of the evening SILENT. Not another syllable was spoken by my dinner companion that evening. I kept trying, but this date would have as little conversation as if we had been in a twenty-year, bad marriage. I ask if she would like to start with a fried onion blossom to which I got a smile and a nod. I ask her what she did for a living and received a smile and a shrug. I ask about family and hometown and got no reactions at all. My mother taught me to be polite so I avoided the two questions I wanted to ask. I wanted to ask her if she had ever played linebacker for the Detroit Lions; I have no doubt she could handle that position if given the opportunity to tryout. She did not look anything like the cutie on Facebook I had been messaging. So I wanted to ask why she didn’t look like her profile picture; however, I think I already knew that answer. One of two possibilities was true. She either was very talented with Photoshop software or she had broken computer class rule number three. (#3. Never use a copyrighted image or picture without the owner’s expressed permission! It is plagiarism and could even be illegal!) I decided that since Photoshop does have some limits it must be the second reason. Candy, I mean Modine Gunch, never posed for nor owned that profile picture. She took possession of that model-like photo on her profile the new way; she borrowed it with the click of a mouse.
When the onion came, my dinner companion reached in her mouth and pulled out her excessive wad of bubble gum. This fashioniesta had a matching ensemble after all. The bubble gum was the exact same color as her tube-top. She slammed her gum, it had to be five pieces or more, firmly on top of her fine linen napkin. The very same napkin that was still wrapped tightly around her silverware, it would rest there on top of her unrolled silverware the rest of the dinner.

When it came time to order the steaks she pointed at the menu for the 12 ounce Porter House ($28), and I ordered the 10 ounce rib-eye ($24). The steaks were tender. They needed to be as my date was still not using her silverware, only her ten fingers and a pair of very sharp looking teeth. The steaks were perfect and presented in dry rub that adds a spicy flavor. Onion, cinnamon, I have no idea what else made the great taste, and I am sure the rub ingredients are secret. The kitchen knew the difference between medium-rare and medium-well. Mine came with a salad and french fries that I am sure never witnessed the inside of a plastic bag. Modine got a baked potato, and she managed to eat it just like I eat watermelon with two hands and a little messy. For those who don't appreciate a steak, Marlo's serves some wonderful seafood and pasta. My steak was the best I had this year and the service was great!

Patrons from several surrounding counties have learned to love their dinners on the square; however, some of the local people stop by just to indulge in the appetizers and desserts. One server told me she buys their desserts when it is her turn to feed her Sunday school class. I ordered two of fudge brownies topped with vanilla ice cream. Unlike my date for the evening I used a spoon. I Never did see anyone eat ice cream with their fingers, but she did an acceptable job while the ice cream was still firm. It was a great dessert and If I almost ordered another, a raspberry cheesecake I saw on a near-by table.

I ask Modine, a name that seemed to fit her much better than Candy, what she thought of the meal. She wiped her lips right across her tattooed arm, and reached down to pick-up the chewing gum and replace it into her mouth. Then she gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up gesture. The last time I saw her (I Hope!) she was waving at me and walking out that door. I was alone again at my table waiting for the check and contemplating computer class rule # 7. What more can I say! It was great food and an eventful night. I want another date! I plan on doing this again next Saturday. - Marlo’s not Modine Gunch. Next time you need a fabulous meal stop in Covington at the Square. Marlo’s Down Under is well worth the drive!

The Winner

Jacob Lovings reached over to grab a coin and the tickets off the bench seat on his red 99 Ford F-150. Actually it was called red, but one door was green and the hood also just out of the junkyard was a totally different shade of green. He thought to himself, ‘The paint job will be the first thing I buy when my ship comes in!' Never one who would putter around wasting time, he was casino bound on the Interstate at seventeen miles over the posted limit of fifty-five. The coin was needed for the scratching on the steering wheel.

When Jacob was done using his coin, he looked down in his floor board. All his trash goes into the floorboard, and not on to the road because ‘Tennessee is to Pretty to Trash.’ Between a couple empty Pepsi bottles he can see eight Green Gold two dollar scratch offs and four Giant Jumbo Bucks that cost him five dollars each. He even had one of the new twenty dollar tickets. None of these tickets were winners! If they had been winners they would have been on the counter at the nearest retailer and not made it to the floorboard. Jacob multiplied quickly; there was seventy-two dollars worth of losing tickets on the other side of his classic truck. Today, he was a many bucks over his daily scratch off limit of fifteen dollars. Jacob thought to himself, ‘you are still a loser’ He would throw them away before Thelma saw them. She would bitch at him over the Pepsi bottles and other trash much less the wasted wages spent on the lottery. Thelma, his high school sweet heart and wife of 23 years did not know he was a participant in the Lottery. She was a church woman who would never approve. When that ship finally tied up to the Loving's dock, when he did hit it really big, he would lug home a ton of cash and fling it onto the old, scratched kitchen table. He mumbled, ‘I will also have to get her another table when we win.' She might not approve of the fun of the lottery, but Jacob was sure even a church woman would be willing spend those big wads of life-changing cash.

It is not just the instant games, Jacob plays them all. Every Sunday night he stands in line at his favorite convenience store with fifty dollars and his betting slips in his hand. He plays his children's birthdates. Thomas's birthday of January 28th, 1994 becomes 1-2-8 for the three ball game, and 1-2-8-4 for the four ball game. From His daughter Samantha he gets 8-0-3-7. Jacob has an older son Frank, but he never plays his numbers being that he was born on January 11, 2001 his numbers which are all ones would be a very dumb bet. He always lets the computer pick the automatic numbers for the Pick 5, Lotto Plus, and the Power Ball. Each week, it cost eighteen dollars to play his numbers for both the 3-ball game. Another fourteen to experience the fun of playing the twice daily Cash Four contest. Seven dollars each for the weekly Pick five and the Lotto Plus. The remaining eleven dollars is spent on the national game, The Power Ball Jackpot, after all this week someone could win over 200 million., and like the guy on the TV says ‘You can't win if you don't play!’

Thelma, his wife, did not know or even suspect that Jacob had been leaving work every Thursday three hours early. This time inconsistency would allow him luxury to visit the Lady Luck Casino, nick named 'The Boat.' Any accomplished Black Jack Player, like himself, could take a few hundred (all he had left in his wallet for the long week ahead.) and turn it into a couple thousand in just under three hours. He would have this Thursday also, but the cards just did not fall his way! So he left the Boat after an hour and a half clutching his empty wallet. He never witnessed such bad cards, what a terrible streak of luck! He stated under his breath, "Jacob you are still a loser!", as he unlocked the faded green door on his red ride. Jacob had been saying that to himself a lot recently. He could not go home too soon, or Thelma might wonder where he should have been on those other Thursdays. That is why he sat in his hot parking lot for another hour listening to the radio. Then he started off toward his double wide which was crammed full of his adoring family.

He was on the off-ramp at his exit on the Interstate when he realized that his nightly chore was still undone. It was after seven o'clock, and it was time for the nightly ritual. He dialed the 800 number. As soon as Jacob heard 'Welcome to the Tennessee Education Lottery' he started punching his numbers. He did not need the computerized prompts from the voice on the other end. He had punched in the same buttons on his phone everyday for 19 weeks, and each result was the same. For 133 days Jacob had ended this phone call as a loser. Star-1-1-1 gets the mid-day Pick Three Contest winners. Star-1-2-1 gets the evening Pick Three. Star-4-1-1 gets the mid-day Cash 4 drawing, Star-4-2-1 gets him the four winning numbers from that afternoon drawing. Weekly he also checks the Pick 5, the Lotto Plus, and the national Power Ball Jackpot numbers. Jacob goes through all these recordings because he plays them all. Tonight the outcome would certainly be different.

He had to call the Lottery recording immediately. As his phone buttons were being pushed he could hardly believe his ears. He was a WINNER! He had to call again to confirm what he thought he heard. Yes he was a winner! His life was changing for the better. He pulled into a store where he saw the familiar Tennessee Lottery green and gold L, got out his pick three ticket and got in line. The ticket paid forty dollars, which Jacob shoved into his empty wallet. As he left the store he turned and yelled to the clerk and the other ten shoppers, "I am a WINNER! I am a WINNER!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Safety: More than it Used To Be

Safety is not the same now as when I was a child. People think more about safety now than they did a few decades ago. Parents today are more careful with their children than my mother and father were with me. Maybe today's parents are too safety conscious because most of the people my age made it to adulthood with no....only a few, make that a large handful of mental problems.

Tinker toys are basic building materials designed to stimulate a young child’s imagination; however, to a five year-old they look a lot like sharp sticks. I was much better at poking those potentially deadly sticks in to the arm of mom's couch than at building that near-impossible windmill. I had to choose whether to build that extremely detailed tinker toy car or just shove pointy rods into my mouth, nose, and ears. I am ashamed to say, I chose the later, simpler task. I was not yet in school and lacked wisdom. How was I to know that I would need a doctor to get a small red stick out my ear?

When I was still a young lad, dad bought me a punching bag and two pairs of boxing gloves! Those readers who have ever watched one of the 'Funny Video' programs on TV are way ahead of my narration. Yes, within a week, my tall, athletic, Navy Seal trained, father was being banged in the ear with my right hook because he was scrunched over holding another sensitive area where I landed a lucky left jab. Boxing Gloves; what was he thinking? Did nobody consider safety in the sixties?

I had a little red wagon made of real American steel with sharp edges, and weak wheels that could fly off while traveling at super speeds. Dad used to push me down this extremely steep hill to determine if I would steer straight and stay safe or tumble over into disaster. Yes, I believe my father loved me; no one was super safety conscious back then. I once ran over my little brother and cut his Achilles’ Tendon with the tongue of my wagon. Today the wagon tongues are made in China with reinforced rubber with a plastic coating. I don’t think I could hurt my brother with a new, modern wagon, so if it is not tremendously dangerous why would he or I want one!

By the time I was eleven, mom had given me both leather and wood burning kits. I’m not sure what mom, or the others from her generation, were thinking. They put into my hands two extremely hot; branding iron-type devises, and they assumed I would only use them on leather and wood! Did they not see the potential danger to my special little fingers or other valuable areas of skin around my body? Did they not fathom that I had little sister, a little brother, and a dog all waiting for their first hot burn marks from their misguided sibling and his new toys? I'm surprised my little brother and sister made it to their twentys before he got a tattoo from a professional. With that wood burning kit I should have fixed him up quicker and cheaper. Did they not know that with this much fire power I could burn down the whole house by searing a phonebook, wall or couch?

When my daughter was born we bought a plastic attachment for the ironing board that would keep the hot iron and the attached cord out of her reach. I felt I needed to keep my daughter and her tiny fingers safe. My mom just mentioned, "That hot iron will hurt you; don't touch it!" Did mom not realize that that I did not yet consider her all-wise and that I would have to test her knowledge. My right index finger soon learned that parents can sometimes be correct, and irons can get extremely hot.

The vac-u-form machine I got for my ninth birthday got even hotter than the iron. This machine would get hot enough to melt a plastic airplane and remold it into a plastic bug. Ten minutes later I could make the bug into a car and later back into an airplane again. My parents even left me alone with this toy. Did none of the adults in charge back then, either in my loving home, down the street, or at Mattel Toys, realize how hot a temperature it takes to mold plastic? Dad simply warned me, "Try not to touch the hot parts or the new toys until they start to cool." ‘Right dad, want to see the blisters, I think they might still visible on my hands if you search carefully!’ I did have fun with those blisters.

All the cabinets my children could get into were locked with cute little plastic clips that made them difficult for me to open. I was worried about all the things that could happen when that contra ban came in contact with my children. My mother’s kitchen had no such locks, and I was allowed to play with what ever I could reach. Sure I ate some stuff that was not intended to be edible, and I hurt my hands on thins too heavy or dangerous for me to touch. However, that is what a childhood is all about.

Steal-tipped darts are not allowed in professional dart tournaments in my state. In today's tournaments, I throw darts with cute, little, safe, plastic tips. So why did I get a set of full metal, near death capable, steal tipped darts when I was ten years-old? Because my parents loved me, and I asked for them! That's why! I seemed to throw them at several areas that did not include a cork dartboard. I made a few holes in the baseboards and wall paper. Dad just said,”Be very careful with these!” Is it a mystery to my readers how my brother accidentally got his first ear lobe piercing? Mostly, It was my dumb little brother's fault. He failed to count to three, and went running toward the board after the second dart; just as I was releasing the third form my hand in the general direction the dart board. Little brother should have studied numbers more carefully in school. As a mathematics teacher I know those small math mistakes will come back to get a person every time.

My children’s first playground swing and slide set was locked into the ground with cables so it would be sturdy. It was impossible to tip-over. The soft dirt floor beneath was reinforced with a cork mixture that was considered a safe place in which to land or fall. Daddy put my swing set above the concrete sidewalk and some old, oak tree roots. One leg on the swing set rocked a foot off the ground whenever one of us kids could get the motion high and smooth. This possible deadly calamity must have been funny to my dad; as he laughed continually when we got that swing set dancing above the ground. Never mind the safety issues! School playgrounds were even worse. That cute little merry-go-round led to many a bloody face or sprained ankle at recess time. We even played on real monkey bars back then, no principal or lawyer was smart enough to realize that a student might not be safe hanging off a rough metal pipe nineteen feet in the air dangling over other metal pipes, hard dirt, and other students. My siblings and I were given bicycles, skateboards, scooters, pogo sticks, and roller skates.

I used to ride my bike down the street at break neck speeds. Little brother, Mike, would be sitting on the handle bars and little sister, Dorinda, holding on to my seat being drug beside my fender on her roller skates. Sometimes to keep down the boredom we would jump a curve in this special family formation. None of us felt any danger because we knew we were immortal. I have also bought these toys for my daughter and son. Since I consider them priceless and I want to be seen as a remarkable loving father, I also bought a hundred dollars of extraneous items that include: helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, shoulder pads, and gloves that are designed to protect my loved ones. I know how much an Emergency Room visit cost today. A modern hospital visit cost many times what it did in the sixties! Maybe the much higher cost of health care is the reason for all the safety in this decade. I would put my children in suits of amour if I thought they would wear them!

Times have changed! My new 2008 Ford Fusion has shatterproof glass, air bags, and automatic seat belts. Ford built in crumple zones in each of the four doors and under the hood and trunk. It came equipped with anti-lock breaks and several computers to maintain control in severe turning situations. It has a dash, seat backs, and a steering wheel that are all padded for extra safety. It even has a reinforced car top incase I flip it wheels up someday. Granddad started my driving lessons in a beautiful blue and silver 53 Chevy Bel Aire. It was huge and heavy. That car had none of those safety innovations. Back in the good-ole days safety was not a big concern. This car had only one major safety feature: a big steal bumper. That was all the safety anyone needed back then, and we turned out OK. (Well mostly!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Lost and Found Replacement Center

My friend, Modine was getting still another ignition key made for her Toyota SUV. As she was paying Certified Locksmith (Which was number 4 on her speed dial.) another hundred and forty dollars, she reminded me that she planned to get these lost keys back when she visits the return center. She thinks there is some silly warehouse somewhere holding everything that she has ever lost or had stolen. She claims to have read it in some book, but she could never find a mention of it again for me to read. All she remembered was the bright, yellow, rectangular sign. Yesterday, I was out running on the road less traveled, and I saw that sign. I could not believe it, but I had stumbled onto the center. It read:

Stop In and ask for what was stolen, misplaced, or lost during your lifetime!
We have some of those items that can be returned to you today.

The man behind the counter was working a cross word book with an ink pen when I walked in. The short gray hair on his head below a very expensive pair of sunglasses seemed to bestow an air of wisdom. He was wearing a University of Tennessee sweatshirt, an expensive pair of jeans, and a pair of white and silver Adidas. Those shoes looked exactly like a pair I had a couple years ago, I thought they were stolen by one of my students at the time. The place looked much like any warehouse office; maybe with more dust and cob-webs than normal. The computer was dusted, and appeared to be top-of-the-line technology. The only mysterious item was that big yellow sign above the desk.

The man quickly put down the book and said, "Hi my name is Larry Lewis. Are you Clark? Ray W?"

I was still in a state of shock, but managed to mumble "Yes Sir. Am I in Heaven?"

LL: "No. I understand that in Heaven you will have no needs. This is still Earth where you need lots of stuff, I just run the place where you can get some of your possessions back."

R: "You have my belongings? How does this work?"

LL:"For security purposes, I need to know your mother's maiden name."


LL: "I need your mother's original last name. It starts with a W.


LL:"Great! Now that I am sure of your identity; this is how the Lost and Stolen Replacement Center works."
Larry was talking, but my reeling mind was slow on the uptake. I had to hear it several times before I got the concept. Larry Lewis is the expert on all things lost or stolen from me. He claims to know many of the details of my life and has most of the stuff that I lost or had stolen. If I could identify my loss, if the item was on the approved return list, and if Larry Lewis had not misplaced it himself, it could be mine again! I could blandish for anything, but not everything I begged for could returned to me. Some items were just gone, like wasted time and loved ones; no one could not return either of those. Larry could not return something that would harm me or vastly alter world history. Being somewhat of a smarty, I had to put Larry to the test to determine if he could really delineate any of the losses of my life.

R:"I can ask you about any thing I lost, right?"

LL: "Yes, Ray that is how it works here!"

R: "Mr. Lewis, I once lost my virginity?"

LL: "Call Me Larry! Some of your friends told me you were hilarious, intelligent, and mischievous. Now I believe them. It was a in black and silver Grand Torino around 1977, and since you were attempting to give it away for several months, can I assume that this is a joke not something you really want or need back?"

R: "Lost my temper way too many times."

LL: "Nope can't get those back; besides that flare up back in 1987 changed world history. I told you I can't do that! Try to get serious, and not make me lose mine."

R: "I lost control of that Gran Torino later that year. I would love to have that car back!"

LL: "It is not here. Allstate called it a total wreck, towed it off, and sent you a check, which you cashed. I do have three keys to that car you lost if you want them for sentimental reasons."

R: "Lost a ball glove when I was eight."

LL: "You traded it to Randy for a 45 of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing about Christmas wishes. Then you told your mother you lost it because you knew she would not ok that trade, and you didn't want to be known as the indian-giver of Franklin Elementary."

R: "Oh, I forgot that!"

Next I was going to ask for my high school class ring, but I just remembered that I pawned it at the Big Bear Pawn Shop. I was now beginning to think that Larry surely was obninificent-omninifint-omnni, just plain all-knowing.

R:"I threw twelve interceptions while I was playing quarterback at Millington Central. Can I have those back?"

LL:"I think the number was closer to nineteen. No, and don't bother to ask for those 357 free throws you missed or all the games you lost either. Big waste of my time Ray! Let's start with something simple. Ask me for those socks."

I knew instantly the exact socks Larry was talking about. I generally loose socks every time I slam a dryer lid. I know I wear them in pairs. I am sure I get them into the laundry hamper and the washer in pairs. Every time I empty the dryer, and begin to fold my clothes I always find two or three without a mate. I may be missing shirts, pants, and even underwear; however, since those items never travel in pairs why would I notice.

R: "Larry, how did you get them and may I please have my missing socks?"

LL: "Now were cookin! I've always worked the returns. Stuff comes in by truck and rail four times a week. I just sort and inventory this crap, I don't know anything about collections, they work out of a different location. I have a 16-foot U-Haul truck parked out back. I rented it in your name with some of the coins that you lost under the couch cushions. It has to be returned before noon tomorrow or the next day is on you! Your lost socks take up about 3/4 of that truck. NEXT"

R: "Suduko puzzle books"

LL: “I have them. Didn't even bother to work a single one. I'm a word guy not a number person."

R: "My friend, Kristi, got me thinking about dreams the other day. I once had one of those blue and cardinal dream catcher totems."

LL: "Already hanging on the rear view mirror of your U-Haul along with the lucky rabbit's foot that was on the Grand Torino mirror the night you wrecked it.

R: "Vallarie's phone number. I lost that a couple weeks ago day after she gave it to me. I should have followed that age old rock and roll wisdom, and sent it off in a letter to myself."

LL: "Which Vallerie?"

R: "Met her at Cody's. She manages the Bullet Factory in Milan and lives in McKenzie with her daughter."

LL:"O, her! Sure, In fact I have all the numbers you have lost in your lifetime, just turn on your bluetooth and I will transfer all of them over but one. It is always so much quicker that way."
R: One?
LL: "Rule number one states that I can't return anything that will cause you harm; so Jennifer's number is out! Believe me it is for your own good."

R:”Sunglasses? I loose a few pair each summer. Sometimes I leave them right on the restaurant tables. I was so stupid I left one pair on the top of my car just before I jumped in and tore down the street."

LL:”Made me laugh for a week! We still are having problems with the sunglasses. I have all the cheap ones you bought at Dollar Tree; however, I never get the glasses that cost you more than $10. They just never get returned for some reason!"

R: “How about all those TV Remotes I lost?”

LL: "Ray, Do you still have those TV sets?"

R: "Well No, that was a stupid request, sorry I got carried away! I lost several thousand golf balls! On a bad day two or three a round."

LL: "I have thirteen golf balls, the rest you never counted. Those strokes were not on your score card, so technically because of your dishonesty, all those golf balls were never swung at, never hit, and never lost."

R: "Delta lost some of my luggage once."

LL: "We run a great operation here, but not even we can determine what the airlines do with all that lost luggage. I do understand that there is a giant factory outlet near Chattanooga where you can buy your stuff back cheap."

R: "I lost a few bicycles?"

LL: "We get so many bikes that I am going to need those police reports along with the complete serial numbers."

R:"I lost too much in the casinos."

LL: "Not considered a loss, casinos are entertainment. Hope you got what ever amount of entertainment you paid for."

R: "My cell phones are next. I can't keep from loosing them or having them ripped off. Do you have the red Motorola I lost with the voice mails from Sting and Johnny Depp? I have a new friend who will just flip out after she hears those messages."

LL: “Those cell phones will just about fill your U-Haul!, You have room for just a few more things this trip. Hope you get back here again for another truck load, most people don't find me the first time. Tell all your friends that their former possessions are waiting for pick-up!"

R: "Thanks, By the way, Larry do you have my white and silver Adidas? Lost those last year."

LL: "ah What size?"

R:"10 and 1/2, and they looked exactly like those."

LL: "Hey we wear the same size. What a coincidence!"

R:" Well, do you have them?"

LL: "ahhh Nope, guess I misplaced those somewhere around here! Bye Now!"
Next time you are traveling near the end of your existance, stop in and claim your lost stuff at the Lost and Found Replacement Center.

My Nighttime Cravings

My name is Herman. I consider myself a frugal, educated, and well-informed consumer. Before making a purchase, I shop around to get the best deal. I read independent reports to determine the best-made quality products in every field. I shop with a list, and have been successful at avoiding impulse items even when I am in the grocery store while I am starving. All this is true until I get in front of the Television very late at night. I understand that there exist many thousands of other consumers, like me, who loose their funds, their inhabitations, and sometime their minds very late at night. Then, we become greedy, needy, wanting everything, got-to-have-it, consumers; we become credit card idiots who have to spend-spend-spend. I am sure the TV industry has made extensive studies to determine the exact time of the evening when spenders like my self let down their guards and are most vulnerable. My personal compulsions start at exactly 10:37 and remain until the alarm goes off . Maybe it is the late night news that turns our brains to mush, or maybe just sleep deprivation.

Ted Turner of WTBS working in Atlanta and Ron Popeil of Ronco in Los Angeles both claim to have invented late night commercials and their natural evolution, the even more evil, infomercials. It does not matter to me who was first and who was second; in a fair and just world, they will both arrive someday in that particular ring of Hell reserved for TV con men. Someone has to pay for this evil gimmick that has been released on mankind. Their invention will be the demise of many a buyer's wallets, including mine.

The product is not even important enough to be the star of the commercial. Every TV commercial sounds the same. The star of all late night advertisements is hype. This is the type of hype for which many of us poor souls have no amour or shield to protect us. Billy Mays, the best of the current announcers, has so much hype and excitement in his voice that if I hear it after dark, I am buying! I am dialing and giving some operator, most of them know me by my first name, my magic 16-digits of plastic. I might not need oxi-clean, soft wall picture hooks, spill wipes, or what ever he is pitching this week; however, his exuberance could probably sell me used Kleenex!

I am told by the great hucksters, these demon voices, that, "These items are not available in stores", and late night I never ponder why they can't be found in stores. When these stupendous products arrive in the daylight from Steven, my very-own-personal UPS driver, I realize that many stores would not carry such junk. One classic example would be my pocket-fisherman. After I ordered thirteen, I realized that Buck and Bass probably did not carry a plastic fishing rod that collapses to nine inches, breaks with the slightest pressure, and has less than twenty five feet of weak fishing line. I don’t fish, but I ordered thirteen more! If I ever take up fishing, I will probably want a better pole; however, I had to order!

Most of these dynamic offers come with a life-time money back guarantee. I have never ask for my money back because at night time in front of my TV I think these products are fantastic innovations, and during the day time I am too embarrassed to ask for my ill-spent cash back. That would mean that I would have to admit I bought these products, usually by the case. To prove my point I offer my music collection. I have purchased many Box Car Willie Albums and still others of some nameless person playing the Pan Flute; both records were critically acclaimed in Europe so to prove I was cool and in vogue, I had to complete that purchase. My Time/Life set of 80's Soft Rock, pitched to me by the ex-super group Air Supply, and My Country Ballads Collection from Kenny Rogers still grows. I receive and have to pay for a couple CD's a week. I know I could ask for my money back, but would you admit that these pieces were part of your music library?

I bought an entire truck load of Veg-a-matics and Salad Shooters at about 3:13 one night when I could not sleep. These products are not worthy of the slowing down of my shopping cart if I even noticed them in Kroger. I eat very few salads and even less french fries at home. I wanted one of each until I heard the magic voice yell, "But Wait! There's more!" After buying the first I could get another at half price. What a deal, but then the MORE included that knife. This remarkable steak knife cuts through tin cans and shoes. If I had a steak on my plate that was as tough as a shoe or tin can I don't think I would eat it; however, I ordered. I ordered seventeen sets of each when I heard the voice tell me that they made great Christmas gifts. That was a total of 34 salad shooters, 34 veg-a-matics, and 68 of the most fabulous knifes ever witnessed on TV.

My many purchases no longer fit into the huge walk-in closet in the hall where I used to keep the stuff that I acquired. I look around the rest of the house, there are pile of stuff everywhere. I have a huge menagerie of late night sensational items. I have plastic can toppers; however, I can easily finish off a twelve ounce drink in a couple gulps. I have many cute little George Forman Grills still in the box that I never plan to use. I have three Jack Lalanne Juicers; some day when I need to be in better health I might trade in my pepsi for avocado juice. I have many stacks of stretch mark smoothers. Don't ask me why! It seemed like a great deal one night at 4:17 one lonely night. There are three new highly expensive Eight Pound Orrick Vacuum Cleaners that will never be used. In one corner there is a complete case of Hair in a Can, think of it as black silly string, incase I ever start to loose my hair.

Then there are the gifts that I bought for my last girl friend before she left me. I keep them because I am sure she will return very soon. I have boxes of genuine Diamondelles and cubic Zirconium, magic gemstones that look just like real diamonds but are so much more affordable. Her Valentine's Day gift is still stacked in one corner of the bedroom. I bought her twenty-four cases of Flush the Fat. It was such a romantic gift that she started to cry just before she left.

I have a serious problem, and I have no ability or power to change the situation. I need an intervention from my friends. Come over tonight. Turn off or even better yet just steal my TV. Shove my credit cards down the garbage disposal. Please Hurry! I just found out my cable company will add three new channels next week, QVC, Home Shopping Network, and the J.C. Penney Catalog Channel.

The Bard Dines at Chango Loco: A Restaurant Review with a Crazy Conversation between Writers

William Shakespeare is my dinner guest today! In a few minutes I will eat atChango Loco with poet, playwright, and actor, William Shakespeare. (Yes William Shakespeare! What’s the value of owning a 1981 DeLorean with a flex-capacitor time machine if you can’t invite a few famous friends from history back for a great bite to eat?)

R: “Hey William. Good to see you!”He has always wanted me to call him William. Not Will, not Bill, or the even more irreverent Willy. For a man who wrote” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet.”(1); he is very touchy about his name. We were once at the Lady Luck Casino when he got very angry when I called him Willy. Claimed he was named William, and that his father and mother had not named him after some silly whale. I sometimes have problems with names; however, after that screaming fit heard by everyone at the tables, I will always remember his name is William!

WS: “Rayray, Most fair return of greetings and desires.”(2)

R: “How have you been lately?”

WS: “I am weary, yea, my memory is tired.”(14)

R: “Lately my memory stays tired, most the rest of my body also. We must both be getting OLD! Are you hungry, William?”

WS “I pray you, question yond man if he for gold will give us any food I faint almost to death.”(3)
R: “Oscar, Can I have my regular booth? Mr. Shakespeare and I are both starving.”

The owner, took me to my booth and just rolled his eyes at the appearance of my dinner guest. You would think he would get used to seeing me in here with strangers from out-of-town. Shakespeare is dressed such that he could pass for a child of the Hippy 60’s. After a small amount of thought, I realize the eye roll may have been for my cartoon Taz tie, and not my guest.

R:”Have you ever had Mexican food before?”

WS “ No it cannot be.”(4)

That is when I decided to take over the ordering chores for the afternoon. This is my turf and not William’s. My dinner guest does speak English, but it is ENGLISH, and he might have problems being understood. Besides, I read about his most famous dinner party and it failed to impress me! Many a bored student was made to memorize this famous entrée invented by those three witches. Exactly why I never let William order the food.
“Fillet of a fenny snake,In the cauldron boil and bake;Eye of newt and toe of frog,Wool of bat and tongue of dog,Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,For a charm of powerful trouble,Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”(5)

Oscar brought us our beginning nacho chips served with a red sauce that is hotter than most of the other Mexican places I have visited and a sweet goat cheese dip that I take home often. Then he asked for our drink orders.

WS:“For God’s sake, a pot of small ale. -- For a Quart of Ale is a dish for a king!” (6+7)

I ordered a Dr. Pepper for myself and a bottle of Corona for my ale-craving guest. Chango Loco does carry imported and domestic beers. They also sell mixed drinks (Great Margaritas); however, there will be no loud drunks here during your meal. It is not a bar, but a fine restaurant with a family atmosphere.

R: “How’s the weather been in England lately?

WS:“Cloudy show of stormy blustering weather” (8)

R: “What do you think of our weather in Tennessee?”WS:“ Fie! This is hot weather!” (9)

As William sipped his ale, I studied the menu for a couple specials. The lunch specials run about $5, and there are more choices that I ever want to consider. The dinner specials come in about $7. They also have wide variety of steak, vegetarian, and seafood dinners on their menu. Their most expensive dinners are below eighteen dollars. There are plenty of seats, and they have two party rooms if your group is having a meeting. Many times, like today, my server is or is related to the owner, the service is always great at Chango Loco. Here, I never have to use my favorite stunt to get the wait staff’s attention. A patron at Chango Loco will never have to use it; however, in some establishments I have found this stunt can be extremely helpful. I simply pick up my empty glass and swirl the ice round-and-round and louder and louder until the wait staff decide that it might really be their job to refill my beverages. If this does not work immediatly I begin to sing (VERY LOUDLY and BADLY!) Feel free to borrow that trick if you need some attention where the service is the opposite of this restaurant

R: “William, to begin, I am ordering a some chimichangas. They are big pastries with meat and beans inside. What kind of meat do you want in yours?”

WS: “I am a great eater of Beef!”(10)

R: “Next since you crave shrimp and enjoy hot, spicy foods. You need to have their Camaronesa la Diabla”

WS:“What is it, my good lord? (11)

R: “The devil’s shrimp. Great big shrimp drowning in one of the hottest sauces I have ever experienced.”

I ordered four beef chimichangas and two of the Camarones a la Diabla” I knew our plates would not be empty long. This place had a great kitchen time. I never have to wait long to be satisfied. I never finish the nachos and dip before the main course arrives.

R: “William, after we last ate at O’Chaleys in May, I took a course for teachers who also want to be great writers. I think I am a pretty good writer; of course, not quite up to your level yet. I even found that I enjoy writing, I wish I could find more time to spend on my creative writings”

WS “Where I will write, All may be well enough. So make the choice of thy own time.”(12+13)

R: “This place is called Chango Loco!”

WS “How do you Mean?”(15)

R: “It means Crazy Monkey in Spanish.”

WS: “Now, God help thee, poor monkey!(16)

R: “I don’t know if there is any significance to that name. I think it is just meant to be cute.

”WS “Find you that there?”(17)

R: “I was introduced to Chango Loco by my best friend, Kelly. You met her on your last visit here in May.”

WS “She’s beautiful, and therefore to be woo’d; She is a woman, therefore to be won.”(18)

R: “Aahh, I will tell her you ask about her and said hi! She and I have made Chango Loco a regular stop for our lunch meetings where we laugh, share, and try to keep each other from going insane.”

WS “I think thou’rt mad. The matter?”(19)

R: “ I didn’t say she was successful. Many of my friends think I lost it long ago. That feeling may get stronger when I tell them about my current dinner companion! I give this place five stars! My meal is always great here, and how was the food that was on your now-empty plate?”

WS “A most delicious banquet! Let all the number of the stars give light! (20+21)
Take William Shakespeare’s advice and visit Chango Loco for a wonderful Mexican meal! Chango Loco is located in Jackson in the Omni Center at 1869 Hwy 45 By-pass. Slow down on the By-pass and look for it between the Ramada Inn and the Waffle House.
1) Romeo and Juliet II, 2
2) Hamlet II, 2
3) As you Like It II, 4
4) All’s Well That Ends Well II,1
5) MacBeth IV,1
6) Taming of the Shrew Prologue, 2
7) Winter’s Tale IV, 3
8) Henry IV part 2 III, 3
9) Rape of Lucrece III, 2
10) Twelfth night I, 3
11) All’s Well That Ends Well I
12) Anthony and Cleopatra III, 3
13) All’s Well That Ends Well II,1
14) Taming of the Shrew Prologue, 1
15) All’s Well That Ends Well III, 5
16) MacBeth IV,2
17) Coriolanus I, 9
18) Henry VI Part I V, 3
19) All’s Well That Ends Well III,2
20) Anthony and Cleopatra II, 7
2 1) Anthony and Cleopatra III, 2

I Work for the The Congressman: A work of Fiction?

My name is George Morgan and I work for the Congressman. I am a very important and extremely busy individual. The pile of work in my inbox is almost seven inches high. I supervise twelve of his employees who work out of the Congressman’s hometown office. There is no time clock in this office so it is hard for me to keep tack of all of them. In fact, we seem to pay people who never seem to show up and complete their work. Two months ago one of our people quit, and I was still paying him three pay periods later. Good thing it was not my money! It is my job to advise the Congressman and make him look good. It takes tons of reading to do my job well, and I never liked to read even when I attended Dyer County High School.

I got up early this morning to roll into work an hour ahead of time and get everything accomplished quickly before the office got busy. I am responsible for finishing that final draft and research. Today I will be at the office early and finished with my duties before some idiot taxpayer/voter wakes me up with a ringing telephone and some silly question. I hope to get all my work done today. I need to finish analyzing and typing up those final Stimulus Package Bill notes. I have notes and comments all over and I need to make them understandable. I am expected to tell the Congressman how to vote within the next two days. After all, no one expects the Congressman to read this bill; that is why he pays me.

I should get to work, but the boss never visits his hometown anymore so I know I have an hour to spare. I am stopping for an hour at the JaJa Café to get a Dirty Snowman, my new favorite vanilla coffee drink. Since I have extra time I will also have a couple of those delicious Danish at JaJas. This is my miniature view of heaven complete with beautiful women serving me free coffee and pastries. Actually they are not free, but since I have a congressional credit card, it feels free to me.A quick glance at my watch shows me that I am now running an hour late for work Must have talked too long to the people in line. I must have spent too many minutes charming that cute girl behind the counter. I now need to hurry to the office and sit behind that stupid computer terminal Today I will accomplish great amounts of work, including that Stimulus stuff that is so important in saving our Nation.

As I turn on the computer I am torn. The wise decision would be to get to that work that the Congressman needs completed. I need to take out my notes and finish the typing of my recommendation. He needs the decision soon. He was worried about cuts in education and teacher layoffs, and wanted me to find out if the package would cover those items. That topic need more study, and I just can’t find the time to analysis that bill fully. I want to get to the important work of saving our government’s economy; however, my mouse hand clicks on the spider solitary game by habit. Today I will play only ten minutes before I start on the pile of work that is teetering on my desk. Playing this game with one suit is never a challenge for me. I play two suits and on days where I feel much smarter than the rest of the world, like today, I play with all four suits. I must be smarter than most of the world; because I have a government job where I get paid a ton of money to play spider. This morning I got a tremendous amount of work done. I have won ten of my eighteen games of spider.

I would start working on my Stimulus Package homework; however, I am extremely hungry and I will scoot out for an early lunch. The bill is almost nine hundred pages, and most of that I have not read yet. However, the bill will still be on my very expensive mahogany desk when I get back from lunch. I might very well understand it better on a full stomach.My most pleasing and relaxing lunch is always at Abe’s Rib Eye Barn. The Congressman is always worried about his employees having a relaxing lunch. He has told us many times to take our time and eat a proper lunch. It is a thirty-five mile drive, but I have a car and a gas card supplied by congress. It is a magnificent luxury car except for the ugly driver’s side door. I think that congressional seal with the words “For Official Use Only” is just ugly.

Today I want the fourteen-ounce filet as I am so hungry from all that work I completed earlier today. Abe’s salad bar, including the salmon and smoke oysters, is one of the best around. The steak came cooked to perfection, and I had a double chocolate cake for desert. I never know what to tip the friendly cuties who are the servers at Abe’s. I usually just hand them the federal credit card and allow the girls to place their own tip on the receipt.

The only problem going to Abe’s is that I have to pass The Farms Golf Course on the way back to the office. I always feel like crying when I have to drive by the course without playing eighteen. The taxpayers are nice enough to furnish everyone in our office a membership, so the least I can do to be a great American is appear on those greens often and not waste taxpayer money.

There is Stimulus Package work to be completed, but it will still be there later. Right now I need to ride around those links and tiny lakes. My score was a 106, but I work for the government so on my creative score card it appears much closer to the par of 72. I guess today I was about three over. I need to go back to the office but The Farms has a great bartender, Patrick, that mixes concoctions that will make me feel better about losing three of my golf balls in the lake at the ninth hole. I always let Patrick write in his own tip also. It is not my money, and probably not any of my business how much he makes. By the time I finish flirting with the attractive manager who is always working at the corner booth, and leave the club lounge, it is dark.

I need to go to the office, but I also want to get home and sleep. I have had a very long day. There is always more work than I can handle, always more than I want to read. I am going to dial the Congressman and finish this business tonight.

“Yes sir, I am done with my analysis. Been working all day, and that bill is way too long for you to have to read! The bill still has some notes in the margins on some pages that I am not real anyone understands, however, it is a good package that will help the economy in our state turn around immediately. Just go along with all your friends and sign it.”

“Now after that bill is signed by the President, when are ya’ll and your wives leaving for that European Trip?”

“How long will you be gone?”

“That should be a fantastic trip! Seven beautiful cities on the itinerary, and I am sure your wife has always dreamed of celebrating Valentine’s Day in Paris!”

“Don’t worry about a thing I will keep your hometown office humming right along.”