Thursday, September 30, 2004

'The Price of Air’

Considering all the possible terrorists acts we could have (because the feds keep telling us it’s possible… but that we’re also “safer”), not to mention the wide open borders, the record-breaking deficit, 45 million uninsured people, all the unemployment and partial employment, the two different wars we are involved in, I have been relieved that one major situation has been taken care of… we will soon – officially – have a “national tree.”

Whew! That’s a load off.

I have been concerned about this. But, thanks to Congress and President Bush, I will no longer have to worry about it. The “oak” is now our “National Tree.” Well, actually, Bush hasn’t signed the bill yet. But, it’s hard to imagine he won’t… unless we get into a national debate about it.

I’m kind of concerned about the pine lovers and redwood aficionados out there. What about people supporting the dogwood and maple trees? With this legislation they have been overlooked – and without a national referendum (My choice would HAVE to be the “weeping willow”). It’s a shame, I know, but the oak IS in all 50 states. So, it’s an easier decision.

After Bush signs this all-important bill we will have a national bird, the bald eagle, a national flower, the rose, AND, finally… a national tree.

That’s got to make you feel better about things huh?

I know, I know. We still have many important issues to settle:

For instance, we DO NOT yet have a “national astrological sign.”

Outrageous!

Actually, this issue could cause much debate and dissention. After all, do we choose the official date of the signing of The Declaration of Independence, “Cancer,” the date of the signing of The United States Constitution, “Virgo,” or the smaller, yet vocal, group that supports the date of the adoption of The Bill of Rights, “Sagittarius”?

What about the people supporting the other nine astrological signs? Will they be left out in the cold?

What to do?

I can picture many congress-critters running for cover on this issue.

Very few things could cause as much disagreement and dissention as Congress’ choice for a “national cartoon character.” Can you imagine? Cities could be left burning if Congress chose Popeye over Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn or the Road Runner. And, what about the Speed Racer crowd?

What about a “national burger joint”? Or, God forbid… pizza?

Forget about it!

Think of what would happen in the debate about a “national action movie hero.” The Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Swarzaneggar and Bruce Willis factions could cause a second Civil War.

I shudder to think of it.

I know we have a few piddly issues like terrorism, wars, deficits and unemployment but decisive action on tough decisions like these is the hallmark of great leadership (cough, gag).

Well… maybe not.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

‘Final Fantasy’

Tomorrow night should settle the US presidential election once and for all and… either way. Nothing about policy will be involved in this decision… it will all evolve around “perception.”

The polls have not looked good for Senator John Kerry at all over the past month. The efficiency, cunning and dubious, deceitful and deliberate dialogue from the Bush campaign cannot be denied.

You have to hand it to the Bush campaign… they are ruthless and good at what they do… too bad that “what they do” isn’t any good for any of us (except for corporations).

I’ve seen a lot of good politicking and bad in my lifetime. I’ve seen good people win and hold office and I’ve certainly seen my share of bad people winning and holding office. The latter could certainly happen again.

The Kerry campaign hasn’t helped matters much. For some reason, the campaign hasn’t focused on the most immediate matter, concerning most people… the economy. They have allowed the Bush people to set the agenda. An agenda that, unfortunately, concerns lies about the economy and lies about Iraq.

The lies about the economy are the worst so far, because they hit most people immediately and where they live. The Bushies want us to believe their words instead of our own “lying eyes.” Nobody – NOBODY – is doing “well” except the people who own the right stock and the corporations who have Bush’s full attention, devotion and allegiance.

The lies about going into Iraq, staying there and the ever-changing expectations are bad and disastrous for a country that already lost its last war. We should have gone in, removed Saddam and left them to kill each other, but now we will lose another war… after many thousands are killed in the process.

That this profiteering, by favored corporations, and the outright insanity about a “Middle East democracy,” involving Arab Muslims, is being told to a bunch of one-liner, “sound bite,” and simplistic-thinking Americans, who will vote on whether or not to continue the course, doesn’t seem to matter to the ones in charge of the crusade and is simply shameful in its deception about the endeavor.

People are being lied to about a history and outcome that is neither possible nor realistic. Sadly, this lie is working with many voters who love America and hope for good. Neither the love or hope is the truth but it doesn’t matter to the Bushies. As long as the lie works they seem okay with it.

Once again the Kerry campaign is about to fall on its sword in an attempt to bring a semblance of sanity to all of this. But, sadly, none of the sanity will matter as long as the perception is intact for the Bush people.

No. It will all come down to how “they look” or down to how “it seems.” It’s sad, really, that a presidential election will teeter, one way or the other, upon the perception of what is the truth and what is realistic. But, that’s the way it usually is.

One “major” consideration in all of this, believe it or not, is the fact that John Kerry has had a tan over the past few days. Actually, he was at a photo-op, in the Sun, where he tanned so much that he now looks like one of the Oompa Loopas in Willie Wonka (orange, in fact). Sadly, this – and not anything concerning policy, sanity or common sense – will play into tomorrow night’s debate bigger than any other consideration.

No. It will all come down to “appearance,” “image,” “perception,” and “spin.” The most simplistic argument will win the day, unfortunately. The best interests of the United States of America will not factor at all. Our obligations, general well being, safety and sovereignty will not matter. Neither will truth or justice. This is the way it is done. I assure you that, right now, both campaigns are trying to figure out how to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

That’s a shame. A simplistic-thinking and lying president, with a duplicitous and diabolical game plan, may very well ramble off a few one-liners that keep an entire country in debt, in danger, hated in the World, unemployed, uninsured and constantly at war, while an orange-looking sane man may come off as being “inept.”

Only in America can this happen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

'A Family Thing'

Traffic and orders have been picking up, as of late, on my wife’s coupon web site Frugal and Free. It hasn’t been enough to buy a new home and retire just yet but things are going well.

Orders for clipped coupons have begun to trickle in from the targeted fanatics, who – apparently – spend all of their time trying to figure out how to legally remove items from stores for free or at little cost.

It’ll be no wonder (and a bit scary) if and when Michelle does make a success with her new business, as ALL of her targeted customers are… just like her. She understands them, knows them and is hell bent on giving them what they want. This is the essence and makeup of a successful business.

It’s amazing to me, really, because I’ve never been as focused on any one thing in my entire life. This is changing, though, as I am now heavily involved in the “coupon clipping business.” I put together the web site, maintain it and add all the coupons after I register them with PayPal. One dot or tittle out of place and the wrath of several coupon zanies is upon me. If we are successful at building the enterprise I may have hundreds of fanatics on me at once.

I can tell we are making progress because, now, everyone in the house is involved in the business in some way. I am chained to the computer, Michelle is sorting coupons, filling orders and emailing with customers, Sheyanne is clipping coupons for orders and LA is removing the coupon slicks from the papers and struggling with the Frugal and Free message board. While we are all doing this, Matthew just sort of meanders around the house trying to change the subject. Pearl likes to chew the thick plastic wrappers that the newspapers come bundled in.

I hope we get better and faster at putting together the orders because, right now, one order throws the house into chaos. Michelle’s methods of keeping track of the coupons are… shall we say… a bit archaic.

For my part, I simply do what I am supposed to do and hope for the best. I can see that it could be a very good business. I’m hoping that everything will settle into a routine and that everyone will learn to do their new duties efficiently so that we can get our long-range finances on the right track.

It would certainly be a nice blessing to have for our family; a business we all do together, at home and without being at the mercy of a calculating company or a maniacal owner or manager. We’ve had enough of those experiences over the years.

With the way the economy is these days a business of our own is about the only way to go.

Please wish us the best.

I’ll report back on the progress.

Monday, September 27, 2004

‘Chicken Run’

I dream of quiet, the sound only of rushing water in a river, a meadow alongside the river and trout begging to be caught.

I wonder what serenity feels like, sounds like. I’ve often thought I could find out, if only could get away from… here.

Am I in Iraq? Am I on the floor of the Stock Exchange? No! I am in my house in Pueblo, Colorado, and sometimes in the midst of chaos and mayhem.

Okay, okay. It’s not THAT bad. The cumulative effect of it, over the years, has made me tired of it. It’s the children, of course, and my, sometimes, crazy wife who forgets that she’s the adult in the situation. If there is a fight amongst the children she can become involved easily, rather than break it up.

I understand how that can happen. It used to happen to me too. I’d immediately get into one of these…

“What the hell?”

“He hit me.”

“Well, why did you hit her?”

“She hit me first!”

“No! You hit me first!”

“No! You did!”

I’d do something brilliant like send them each to opposite ends of the house… for life.

There was a time when I would immediately get involved, try to break up the dispute and administer discipline. Michelle would tell me to “take care of it” then switch to the children’s side when I settled things.

These days I stay as aloof as possible. I’ve learned my lesson. When Michelle wants me to “settle” something the most I’ll do is suggest that we wait and simply punish the winner of the dispute. This way we only have to deal with one of them. Michelle never wants to handle it that way. So I stay out of it now.

Since the children have gotten older they’ve also become louder and even nervy. Disputes aren’t easy to settle anymore. Try to break up a fight and the next thing you know… you’re in one. This makes for the occasional chaos I mentioned. The children can sometimes get into two and three-way fights and, when Michelle becomes involved, four-way free-for-alls.

But, I’m not a “heavy.” I’m not an attack dog. I never got into fights at all until I had a family. Let them fight about things.

I’ve found that getting involved in the disputes doesn’t cut down on the number of them. However, my tactics these days cut down the number of them AND keep me out of it.

No. These days, while the chaos is going on I sit and dream of that tranquil spot by the river. I’ve never been to Montana but I’ve often thought such a spot like that is located there. It sure is a big state. I’ll bet it’s hard to find people there.

I’ve mentioned to everyone that I “sure would love to see Montana.” If the children say “yeah, me too” I just stay silent. I’ve mentioned “Montana” to Michelle a few times but stayed vague in my comments about it.

Just to keep everyone at bay and guessing about my future plans I’ve even gone so far as to leave the large atlas we have turned to the Montana map, and then left it laying around for all to see. Sometimes, when I’m not at the computer, I’ll leave the Internet dialed to info about Montana.

I know my movements during the arguments are on their minds because afterward I can always hear Michelle say, “Where’s your father?” I’ve often thought that her fear is that it will take 10 years or so before the authorities pull me out of my Unabomber-type cabin, near the river, me with long hair and a beard, before she has a chance at backlogged child support.

Hey! I can dream can’t I?

I may never actually flee to Montana or anyplace else. But… you never know. What’s more important is that THEY never know.

Friday, September 24, 2004

‘Head of State’

Beep.

“Mr. President, the Vice-President is on the line.”

“Thanks!”

Click.

Hey, Dick! How’s it goin’ painting ole’ John as lax on security?”

“Oh. It’s going fine.”

“You didn’t try to explain what you said to any of them reporters, did you?”

“Of course not. Now, listen… did you push through that new contract for my buds over at Halliburton?”

“A’course Dick! I sent that puppy through this mornin'.”

“Excellent. I’ll talk to you later then. Hehe. Bwahahahahaha.”

“Keep up the great work!”

Click.

Beep.

“Mr. President. Secretary Rumsfeld is here.”

“Thanks! Send'im in… hey, Rummy!”

“Mr. President. Good morning!”

“Everything’s going great in Iraq, right?”

“Well, Mr. President… the enemy attacked several convoys and killed a few of our troops. They also blew up a police station and killed over 50 Iraqis. And, I’m sorry, but they lobbed off a few more American heads this morning and published the video on the Internet. We may have to scale back our expectations on the elections.”

“But… we’re ‘winnin’,’ right?”

“If you like, Mr. President. Say… can we have a couple hundred thousand more troops?”

“No, Rummy, not yet. I told you. AFTER the election.”

“But, Mr. President…”

“Right now just get back out there and tell’em everything’s hunky dory, okay?”

(Door closes).

Beep.

“Mr. President. Prime Minister Allawi is on line two.”

“Thanks!”

Click.

“Ayad, muh man! How’s it going?”

“Mr. President. I’m scared.”

“Aw, now come on. We're winnin'!”

“Huh? Mr. President, there is a fatwa against me. I cannot leave the residence.”

“The press is on you too huh? Well… screw’em! Just tell’em everything’s fine. That’s what I do.”

“But… they want me dead.”

“I know the feelin’. Look, Ayad, I need you over here for a little press thing of my own. We gotta’ tell everyone we're winnin' and that elections will be held on schedule.”

“You… you… want me to tell everyone THAT?”

“A’course! It’s just politickin’. That’s how we do things over here. Just wait ‘til after dark and sneak on over here by tomorrow, okay?”

“Yes, of course, Mr. President. I’ll try.”

Click.

Beep.

“Mr. Rove is here, Mr. President.”

“Send’im on in…”

“George! George! They’re buying it! We’re winning! Can you believe it?”

“YEE-HAAAAW!”

Thursday, September 23, 2004

‘No Man’s Land’

There is no “Iraq.”

For today’s “Iraq” we have the British to blame:

The merging of the three provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra into one political entity and the creation of a nation out of the diverse religious and ethnic elements inhabiting these lands was accomplished after World War I. Action undertaken by the British military authorities during the war and the upsurge of nationalism after the war helped determine the shape of the new Iraqi state and the course of events during the postwar years, until Iraq finally emerged as an independent political entity in 1932.

After a succession of Kings, courts, foreign intervention and dictators – and even up to 1979 – there were plans and negotiations to merge with neighboring Syria. But, Saddam Hussien’s grab of power and subsequent move to dictatorship stopped this.

It was only Saddam’s brutal rule that kept the “country” intact for over 30 years. Not that this was a good thing either. It wasn’t. And, not that he was ever firmly in control of all of it. He never was.

President Dubya’s delusion of a “democracy” in this desert and tribal area is a folly akin to the Maginot Line stopping the Germans and “representative government” in Russia. It ain’t gonna’ work.

He should have known this. The three distinctive (both ethnically and historically) cultures in “Iraq” will all begin killing each other if we ever do leave.

There will also be much intervention from other countries. Only this time it’ll be other Arab, Persian and Muslim countries. This is not good either.

The Turks to the north will never allow an autonomous Kurdistan, the Iranians want the area the Kurds have in Iraq. The Shias hate the Sunnis, the Sunnis hate both the Shias and the Kurds. Arab Muslims to the west will likely become involved as well. And, Israel may bomb the crap our of all of them…

“The shin bone connected to the… leg bone…”

The current conflict in Iraq is nothing compared to what could and probably WILL occur later anyway.

Thanks to Dubya the only thing we can possibly ever accomplish is to postpone the inevitable with the lives of our troops… for many years or for a few months. That’s how ridiculous a situation we are in.

Invading Iraq is almost the same thing as walking casually up to a hornets’ nest, shaking it a bit and standing by, waiting for them to leave.

The only thing that ever made sense was what we WERE doing: Keeping Saddam’s head down with our bombers. He would have died or been overthrown eventually, and the conflagration would have begun without the loss of any of our troops. Events may also have been slower and easier to deal with using diplomacy.

Now, when it happens, it’ll be all at once.

Now our troops will continue to die as long as we are there. When we do leave a Muslim three and four-way civil war and a region-wide war will commence.

Ah, but a “democracy” in the Middle East would be great for everyone.

Sure! It’s just asinine, arrogant and… damn stupid to think that this isn’t the least likely outcome.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

‘The Incredibles’

My son, Matthew, is an interesting cat.

Matthew is 10-years old now but his life had a rough start.

Matthew was born on April 1st, 1994. He came in at over nine pounds and was immediately diagnosed as having a “cleft palate.” This, to the doctors at the scene, was “not a good sign.”

Subsequently, Matthew had problems digesting formula. He began to lose weight. He went from nine-pounds to eight, then seven, then under six. Eventually, he was transferred from the general hospital to a specialized unit at a Children’s Hospital in New Orleans.

I checked in each day, with my wife – who lived at the hospital – just to get the day’s weight. “Was it up an ounce?” “Was it down an ounce?”

We came close to losing him (in fact: by about one day as it turned out). Matthew had a long, slow road to recovery from what we later learned was a “formula intolerance.” He eventually started to gain weight and recover.

One year later Matthew was diagnosed as “Down Syndrome.” After what we had been through before this did not seem to be so bad.

It still isn’t “bad.” It HAS been, however, “different.”

Against all odds Matthew is now a semi-normal sort of guy who has, if anything, a “weight problem.”

He’s instrumental in my life and I don’t know what I’d do without him.

Due to Down Syndrome Matthew has a speech impediment to deal with. For the first few years he was in public school he continued to “babble” out words and phrases. He got quite frustrated that we could not understand him.

During therapy it was discovered that most of the “babbling” Matthew was doing was… perfect Spanish. He had picked it up at school, from friends, and from Spanish television. These days he goes to Spanish web sites on the Internet and understands everything. The rest of us don’t speak Spanish at all.

About two years ago Matthew was consistently complaining that he wasn’t “learning to read” in Special Ed. His repeated and demonstrated inability to read forced us to remove him and set him up in a charter program at home and on the computer. He “caught up” rather quickly, and he is learning to read quite well. Turns out Matthew just wanted to be “homeschooled” like his older brother and sister.

Matthew is certainly capable of the same actions as any child, good and bad. Being parents of a Down Syndrome child has, naturally, caused my wife and I to sometimes be overprotective of him to the detriment of our two older children. But, Matthew can exploit this as any “normal” child would do. He is capable of outsmarting his brother and sister and of causing dissention. He is quite capable of pushing their buttons, making them lose their tempers while he stays cool and gets his way.

I’m not saying there aren’t any problems. There are. They just aren’t what one expects. Down Syndrome kids are capable of finding the abstract in any situation. These problems are never overwhelming but simply take us “normal” people by surprise. For instance, Matthew loves the computer. I plugged in the printer to his computer a few weeks ago and found the system had over 100 print jobs (it took a while and a half ream of paper before I managed to stop it). Matthew had clicked on “print” every time he liked something he saw.

Matthew loves babies. A while back one of the “problems” we had was that whenever I would take Matthew to the store, and he saw a baby in a shopping cart, he would walk over and GRAB the baby out of it. Now, needless to say, this caused problems with other people.

Most people were very understanding. I always expected the worst; police, S.W.A.T., firefighters… a punch in the face. But, over time, we managed to convince Matthew that it wasn't "polite" to just grab other people's babies from them. Now, since he's older, he asks for permission first.

Another occurrence is our trips to the veterinarian, for our dog Pearl. Conventional wisdom says, “Do not approach a dog that is scared already.” But, Matthew, much to our consternation, approaches dogs that are just exiting the examining room and pets them. These same dogs would bite me or anybody else but they don’t bite Matthew.

Go figure.

For years now Matthew has had better checkups at the dentist than our other two, a testament to his fervor at doing the things he has been instructed to do. In fact: The dentist always praises Matthew's efforts, while our other two get worked over consistently.

I could go on and on. But, I believe God gives people of strength and character these unique individuals to take care of. It’s certainly a character building experience.

Oh, but don’t ever feel sorry for a Down Syndrome kid. They don’t want it. Their overriding concern – always – is to be treated “normally.”

Down Syndrome kids are often viewed as “abnormal.” But, I’ve often thought that, perhaps, it is the rest of us that are “abnormal.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

‘A Simple Plan’

I’ve often been asked about my political party affiliation. “What are you?” “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?”

Things are not always “black or white” but they are sometimes easy. For the record: I am neither.

Both of the main political parties claim to value what I do: Jefferson, Adams, Liberty and Freedom (which are not the same thing but are also not mutually exclusive), the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, fairness, competence, human rights, God and Patriotism.

The truth – and I believe this – is if either Adams or Jefferson could see what has become of us they would die from the sheer sorrow of it.

But, which of the two major political parties holds true to its beliefs and walks its own talk? That’s right... neither.

For instance, the Republicans are consistently against abortion and government growth. The Republicans have been in charge of both houses of Congress for years and, for the past several, they also have had the White House. But, what has grown more than anything else the past few years? That’s right... the size of government and the number of abortions.

The Democrats value “freedom” and “human rights.” The Democrats have been running things, together with Republicans, for many years. But the oppression of the “nanny state” certainly hasn’t led to more “freedom.” There is nothing resembling “human rights” inside a welfare or food stamp office... especially in the restrooms.

So, what’s the answer? What are my beliefs?

To me the answer is obvious: Neither party has anything resembling our best interests at heart. When you vote for one because it is not as bad as the other you end up with even worse choices and prospects the next time out. It’s the old “lesser of two evils” philosophy. And, it isn’t working.

Our choices and chances are continually “dumbed down” every four years.

“But, Kerry, if we don’t support either party we are ‘throwing our vote away.’”

I love this argument, because it’s so easily disprovable. No! Vote a third party or write-in and YOU ARE NOT “throwing your vote away.” That’s just what the two majors, who for all intents and purposes work together, want you to believe. Actually, they hope you either think this or that you do not vote at all.

In our Electoral College system whoever wins a state wins all of the electoral votes. This means that if you vote for Kerry and he fails to get one more vote than President Dubya he gets NO electoral votes, the same as the third parties and Independents.

Does this mean that if you voted for Kerry and he loses the state you “threw your vote away”? In the strict sense... YES! The same way that if you vote your conscience with a third alternative and they fail to win a state you “threw your vote away.”

What’s the diff? NONE. This is just a lie to keep you from voting your conscience; that you will “throw your vote away” if you vote for an alternative.

“But, Kerry. No third party or Independent ever has a chance at election time.”

Through the past 50 years or so that has been true. Because... THE LIE WORKS!

As long as the lie continues working and you reduce yourself to the black and white choice of “Democrat or Republican” nothing will ever change for the better, and the two of them will go to town on us continually, together and every chance they get.

Let’s say it together... THERE IS NO CHOICE BUT TO VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE!

Again...

THERE IS NO CHOICE BUT TO VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE!

You owe it to yourself and your country to consider all alternatives and possibilities:

If you believe that companies and corporations should exploit, rape and denigrate workers with the aid of the government... vote Republican.

If you believe that everyone should participate in the on-going socialist enterprise, regardless of ability, desire, hope or achievement... vote Democrat.

If you believe in the promise of the Founding Fathers and that we should extremely limit the Federal Government to the detriment of the Democrats and Republicans and to the support of Liberty... vote Libertarian.

If you believe that God and God only should be in charge and that only several human beings should decide what it is God wants... vote for the Constitution Party.

If you believe that the plight of chickens, trees and boll weevils are more important than that of children, whose parents cannot find a job and feed them... vote for the Green Party.

If you are "mad as hell" - MAD - and support anybody else who is not in charge... vote for the Reform Party.

If you don't know who to vote for and want to cast a vote for an eccentric egomaniac... Nader's the guy.

If you think that what we have been doing all along is simply ridiculous, and that we should start over using common sense and limited government... write in for me.

If you believe the whole thing is a bunch of rot and you couldn’t care less what happens... write in Mickey Mouse or Daffy Duck or yourself.

But... VOTE!

If you WANT to vote for Bush or Kerry that’s fine, just consider ALL the alternatives and don’t fall for the “throwing your vote away” lie.

VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE always. The only vote you’ll ever “throw away” is the one you do not cast.

Monday, September 20, 2004

‘Good Burger’

A milestone!

Recently, it became apparent that we are no longer a “one-box Hamburger Helper family.” We have graduated to the level of “two-box Hamburger Helper family.”

How did I discover this?

Easy.

We started having fights over who would get the last of the Hamburger Helper.

Can you believe that?

That’s how I knew we were a “two-box Hamburger Helper family.” We didn’t have enough of it. There was a fight in the kitchen over “how much was left of” and “who ate?” all the Hamburger Helper.

The situation was driven home, as always, by my youngest, Matthew, whose first words each morning are, “What’s for dinner?” Answer anything besides “pizza” or “cheeseburgers” or “Hamburger Helper” and you have a crisis on your hands (he will sometimes accept the answer “sausage”).

If someone asks, “who ate all the Hamburger Helper?” the guilty party is usually Matthew.

The kids can fight over “air.” But… fighting over Hamburger Helper?

Wow!

Michelle and I love fine food. Over the years, the two of us have tried many different things, from exotic recipes to the most popular and exquisite items. The odd and inconvenient thing all along has been that the kids… DO NOT enjoy fine food.

I know this because I have tried everything. I once cooked this wonderful Hungarian Goulash recipe. I painstakingly gathered all the ingredients for it and took care, over many hours, preparing and cooking it. I worked very hard and lovingly. The meal was delicious.

Did the kids like it? Not on your life. We had buckets of the stuff leftover until we had to throw it out.

I’ve tried making many other national dishes. But, it’s been the same for everything; Chinese, steak and seafood recipes, Indian cuisine, Mexican, Cajun, German, French, Eastern European… name it.

Give the kids pizza, cheeseburgers or Hamburger Helper, however, and they are in La-La-Land.

I HAVE had some luck running things they didn’t know about through my Fry-Daddy. But, that’s only if I can keep the ingredients secret, which is rare.

I’ll never understand it.

I’ll also NEVER get used to it.

These people need to grow up and go to college. They can eat lots of rotten food there.

I’m sick of pizza, cheeseburgers and Hamburger Helper. I want “Filet Minot.” I want “Stuffed Flounder,” “Brisket,” “Rogan Josh,” “Shrimp Scampi” or “Sweet and Sour Pork.”

But, can I have these things? No! The children won’t have any of it. They want “pizza” or “cheeseburgers.” They want “Hamburger Helper.”

They are out of their minds and… I’m getting there.

Friday, September 17, 2004

‘What’s the Worst That Could Happen?’

Okay. I’ll be the first to say it: WE ARE NOT WINNING the ‘War on Terror’ and WE ARE NOT WINNING the, well… whatever the hell it is we are trying to do in Iraq.

I say “whatever” because I still can’t keep track of all the reasons we invaded. I DO remember that, for 18 months or so before we invaded, every phrase on the news was either “Iraq” or “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

But as for the “reason” Bush hijacked our National Guard troops and sent them to a hostile "country" in the 130-degree heat it’s been (in no particular order):

“Weapons of Mass Destruction”
“To establish a democracy in the Middle East”
“Iraq was a 'gathering threat'"
“To free the Iraqi people”
“So we won’t have to fight on our homeland”
“Because Saddam had a ‘weapons program’”

It’s odd to me that the Bush people portray their guy as “one who never wavers” when we haven’t heard the same story on our invasion of Iraq for two months straight yet.

We’ve had our troops in Iraq for some time now. Some of our National Guard troops haven’t been home in ages; babies have been born, family has passed, jobs have been lost, leaves have been canceled, deployments have been extended… again and again and again.

The one thing that never changes is the condition of Iraq itself. In spite of what we keep hearing the same things happen day in and day out; our guys chase the bad guys into a mosque, they aren’t allowed to attack the mosque, even though they get fire from it, Bush decides to call a “truce,” we let the enemy go and, one month later, we do it again.

We have bypassed whole swaths of Iraq because, if we took them on, we would lose “too many troops” and “too many Iraqis” would die. The “enemy” remains in control of much of the “country.” This has, needless to say, emboldened them.

Now, if Bush had said “we’re going in and kick Saddam’s butt and then we’re gettin’ out!” I wouldn’t have had a problem with that at all. It’s needed doing for some time. We could have gone in, deposed Saddam, installed a couple of friendly new dictators, let the people split into the three countries they already are naturally and skit addled – two months tops. But, then, when we learned there weren’t any “Weapons of Mass Destruction” we started hearing about this “Iraqi Democracy.”

This may have just been baloney but something tells me that Dick Cheney really believed the Iraqis would “shower our troops” with flowers and that Bush really believed he could do something as preposterous as begin an “Iraqi Democracy,” with three separate and violent Muslim cultures that all hate each other.

If these things were not lies then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are stupid and incompetent beyond belief. If what we’ve heard have been lies then the two of them should be retired quickly, if not tried in a court of law.

The two of them also cannot read a map. It was Iran and Saudi Arabia that were mostly behind the 911 attacks. And, while Bush has conned us into an invasion of Iraq, both North Korea and Iran have progressed with their nuclear bomb programs. With “national security” like this we’d do better to have no one in charge of it at all.

The one thing the three distinct Muslim cultures in Iraq hate more than Saddam Hussein and each other is… Americans in Iraq (okay, the Kurds sorta like us). Every time one of our convoys is attacked and vehicles destroyed the people, Shias and Sunnis, men, women and children alike, come out and dance happily around the fire, and if there are burning American bodies near the rubble so much the better.

The insurgency has wide support from the people. Shias and Sunnis join together to coordinate attacks against our guys.

It’s not difficult to predict that this behavior will only continue.

But all we hear from Bush is that we are “winning.”

Only a nitwit could not have known any of this might happen beforehand, whatever the great reason for going in and staying there.

Only a nitwit could have failed to know the history of this “country,” which was only barely a country when a brutal dictator like Saddam ran it.

Only a nitwit could have believed that he would begin a “democracy” in a “country” that has never had one, with peoples and cultures who have not only never had one but who also – obviously – DON’T WANT ONE.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

'It'

Sometimes I’m not really sure where I fit in around this house. Sometimes I’m not sure I fit in at all. I’m not sure if it’s a “daddy thing” or if I simply fought the good fight and lost.

One thing’s for sure: I’m not in charge of anything around here.

Sometimes I wonder just where on the totem poll I really am. I figure it’s after the kids and before the dog. But, that’s only because the dog fears me. Nobody else does. They treat the dog like a queen so I may even be below the dog, all things considered.

Think about it; nothing around here belongs to me. If someone wants it, they just take it. There’s not a spot that belongs to me anywhere in the house. My stuff will get moved for someone else’s convenience. Even MY side of the bed is up for grabs. I'm always finding things that don't belong to me left in my spot. If Michelle and one of the children are folding clothes that’s where they’ll put the unfolded ones.

My stuff is always being removed, moved or thrown about. There’s nothing more pathetic than a man who is looking for his pants but can’t find them because they were in somebody else’s way.

I’m like Rodney Dangerfield around here; I get no respect, I’m tellin’ ya.

There was a time I would defend my territory and fight. But, I don’t do that anymore. It isn’t worth the aggravation – my aggravation.

For instance, where my wife Michelle is concerned, I used to attempt debate:

Michelle: Well, I think we should…
Kerry: No, no. We should do it MY way!

That’s all changed after 15 years of marriage, kids and beating my head against a fire hydrant. Now, it’s more like:

Michelle: Well! I think we should!
Kerry: (Like in ‘Coming to America’ and bowing) Whatever you like.
Michelle: Okay. How do you want to do it?
Kerry: However you like.
Michelle: You’re not being serious!
Kerry: (still bowing) However you like.

One thing I’m constantly doing is playing the “are you gonna’ eat that because if you're not I want it game.” The fun part is that EVERYBODY gets to play… and I’m always “it.”

We play this game after I obtain something I want. The item can be Fig Newtons, potato chips or a Mounds bar, whatever. It doesn’t matter that it belongs to me. If everyone wants it – and they always do – it’s in play.

I’m not the sort who gets something like that and immediately crams it into my mouth. That is to say, I have nothing in common with anybody else in the house.

Sometimes I’ll leave the item lying around for days. I always like to guess to myself who will be the first to say, “when are you going to eat that?” Sometimes I guess right and sometimes I guess wrong. That’s because… everyone asks.

Sometimes one of the players doesn’t care if I want it and just takes it when I’m not looking. Sometimes one of the players will ask me about it so many times (even while I’m sleeping) that I’ll just say, “go ahead and take it.” Sometimes I’ll hold out for days and, if I want to tick everyone off… for weeks.

Yeah. It’s a dumb game, but I get to play it all the time.

Now, keep in mind that this game is not played with anyone else being “it.”

I once caused a ruckus by moving the dog’s basket of toys. Everyone, including the dog, was shocked and aghast.

I know the kids are never “it” because they play a different game called “MINE!”

Michelle is never “it” because I’ve been told many times by the kids not to take the last of something or touch something else because “Mom wants it.”

Maybe it is a “dad thing.” Maybe I’ve “lost the battle.” But I don’t care anymore. I just take what I can and hide what I have to. I keep my pants close by. I go to the bathroom if nobody else wants to. I travel the house like a nomad looking for a cave.

Yeah. I’m lucky they let me live here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

‘Takedown’

I was living in Texarkana, Texas back in 1989 when a minimal Hurricane was approaching the Louisiana coast. My best friend, Snyder, was commissioned to drive down to Houma, Louisiana to pick up his wife and kids who were visiting his parents.

The trip had nothing to do with the storm or fears of it. It was simply time to “go get the children.”

I hadn’t seen my mom in a while, so I decided to hook along with Snyder and another friend, Mike, whose car we would be taking.

Now, none of us wanted to venture into Louisiana for any reason. It’s just that this is where we had to go to accomplish our tasks. As Snyder was driving he stopped right at the Louisiana border, north of Shreveport, rolled down the window and hollered above, “Okay, God! We’re going in. We’ll only be a day. Then we’ll leave, okay? Please don’t smite us!”

An uneventful trip to the bottom of the state and Houma made us a bit more confident about the journey. We visited friends, I saw my mom, we grabbed Snyder’s wife and kids and the next day we began the trip back to Texarkana.

We believed God had given Snyder his wish about Louisiana.

We were halfway back to Texarkana, near Alexandria, Louisiana, on a lonely two lane highway when… Mike’s car started to sputter and smoke. The vehicle had thrown a rod.

The place we pulled over at was a little grocery and gas store – the only business around for miles – outside of Alexandria. There we were forced to call for help to Snyder’s cousin, Marty, who planned to make the five hour drive down from Texarkana in his truck with a tow bar and pull the broken car home. Another friend was bringing his much smaller car along to drive the rest of us.

An hour or so later, in the late afternoon heat, while we were waiting and the kids were beginning to cry, the little store closed up and we were left to sit while waiting on Marty and the rescue party.

As dusk began we noticed a few mosquitoes. Then we noticed many mosquitoes. Then, we were inundated by millions of mosquitoes. For what seemed an eternity, we waited as darkness fell, children cried, mosquitoes attacked and storm clouds from the minimal Hurricane gathered above. The heat and humidity made everyone uncomfortable. The lack of food and drink caused additional suffering.

Finally Marty and the rescue team arrived. The mosquitoes continued to bite as we hooked up the car to the truck, piled into the friend’s Toyota and, thinking the worst was over, headed off to Texarkana.

Heavy rain began to fall as we drove through Alexandria and a series of two lane loops that wind through the city. I was in the smaller car behind the truck towing Mike’s car. Up ahead, in the truck, were Marty, his friend and one of the children.

On a curve at one of the loops – in the now driving rain – the truck suddenly went out of control, snapped away from the tow bar and spun several times plowing through a yield sign. Mike’s car gingerly meandered through a field.

Nobody was hurt, thank goodness. But, there we all were again; immobilized and now standing in a minimal Hurricane downpour as the police came and took the truck and Mike’s car off by tow.

Now we had one small Toyota Corolla to carry Marty, his friend and his wife, Snyder and his wife, Mike, three kids and I for five hours back to Texas while a hurricane chased us.

Ten people crammed into a Toyota Corolla.

In spite of Snyder’s plea to God Louisiana was kicking our ass.

That was the longest ride of my life; sitting crammed against a backseat window with two kids in my lap, one of who needed a diaper change. There wasn’t much left to any of us after we finally crossed the state border and got back to Texarkana. It took days for all of us to recover.

I’m not sure why God didn’t answer Snyder’s prayer. I mean… it’s not like he didn’t ask politely. It took many years for me to attempt going back into Louisiana.

The recent Hurricane reminded me of all this again.

I share the story with you. But, there is no moral. I’ve never been able to glean a lesson from it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

‘The Perfect Storm’

If you live near the Gulf Coast of the United States – especially in the state of Florida – you’re having a rough Hurricane season this year.

Right now a monster storm, Ivan, is bearing down on coastal residents and could strike anywhere from Morgan City, Louisiana to Pensacola, Florida.

I grew up in the strike zone end of “Hurricane Alley.” I was there for many storms, near New Orleans, and remember them well. The area I lived in, Terrebonne Parish, to the Southwest of New Orleans, was lucky many times.

In 1969 another memorable storm, Camille, was bearing northwest toward New Orleans the same way this current one is doing. Camille turned out to be one of the worst storms ever to strike the United States, passing just to the east of New Orleans and wiping out the lovely coastal beach town of Biloxi, Mississippi. The surge and wind drove ships – not boats, but “ships” – miles inland and killed hundreds.

What everyone feared then, and now with Ivan, was a direct hit by the storm on New Orleans. For many years the Corps of Engineers has been building dams and levies to control the Mississippi River and all the bayous, marshes and swamp areas and keep the giant river flowing through New Orleans. It takes much effort to stop flooding after the April rains each year. It’s like living in a giant bathtub with a clogged-up drain.

The river has wanted to change its course through a large marshy area to the west, known as the “Atchafalaya Basin.” A strong Hurricane could help this along, and result in 20,000 to 50,000 deaths.

New Orleans is below sea level as a result of erosion (it, generally, is sinking). Its precarious location at the river’s mouth, near Lake Ponchatrain and to the east of swamps, bayous and marshes makes the city especially vulnerable to a strong storm.

In ’69 New Orleans dodged Camille at the last minute. A direct hit by that storm would have flooded the city with two to three story high water for many weeks and killed many thousands of hapless residents and rendered the city uninhabitable.

A category 4 or 5 storm at New Orleans is the biggest natural disaster waiting to happen in this country.

It’s been many times over the years that the locals, where I’m from, panicked at the site of a powerful Hurricane and at the prospect that New Orleans might actually get hit by a storm. Many times they have simply lucked out.

But, as with Camille, Ivan is one of those rare Hurricanes; well organized, large and now roaming the Gulf of Mexico’s extremely warm waters, the kind of storm that comes along only every couple of decades.

The big question, once again, is “will this monster hit New Orleans?” To be sure, Ivan will destroy whatever it hits. But even people elsewhere along the coast – who know about the situation in New Orleans – are concerned about a direct strike at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

We’ll know for sure sometime Thursday morning.

Monday, September 13, 2004

‘The Experts’

Every now and then I run into a “child-rearing expert.”

If you have children you’ve met them. They are the ones who know EXACTLY how you should handle YOUR children. And, by golly, nothing you do to handle your own children is the right way as far as they are concerned.

You’ll notice several things about child-rearing experts:

a). They are usually young and idealistic.
b). They are otherwise very intelligent people.
c). They are mostly single.
d). They HAVE NO CHILDREN themselves.

I used to get irked by child-rearing experts, but not anymore. I can’t help but think that they’ll get theirs someday, when they have their own children and all their expertise comes crashing down around their ears.

I picture them thumbing through a book, looking for clues, as one of their children is cutting something precious with scissors, another is crying for no reason and, yet another, is throwing up all over the expert’s work clothes.

If a child-rearing expert ever gets to the point where they have their own kids the chances are very good they’ll end up like Goldie Hawn in ‘Overboard,’ staring blankly at a wall and muttering “buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh.”

You can walk into parenthood bravely. You can take it on not knowing what to expect. You can be nervous and unsure about it. But, the one thing you absolutely cannot and should not do is start by knowing everything there is to know about it. You’ll simply be fooling yourself.

If the “child-rearing expert” you know is really pompous about his or her opinions on the task of raising children take some pleasure in knowing it will be really rough and eye-opening for them, should they ever try it, because the difficulty in raising children is directly proportional to your “expertise” going in.

I was sort of an “expert” when I was young and single. If I had things to do over I’d pay a lot more attention to what parents went through. I’d listen a lot more closely to those who had already raised their children because these are the REAL EXPERTS.

Ah, yes… “child-rearing experts.” They remind me of the young recruits, never gone to war, who are going to single-handedly “destroy the enemy.” They are usually the first ones to step on a landmine.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

‘New York Minute’

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but never posted it (other topics came up). I don’t usually post on Saturday. But I thought I’d add this one, since it’s still pertinent (back again on Monday!):

---

Well, the conventions are finally over. Thank God!

About 60 days to election, and this one should be a humdinger.

We’ll likely lose either way. But, that won’t matter to the masses. They will choose one of these people to “lead” us for the next four years (BTW, I only have three pledged votes but I still like my chances).

You all know where I stand on the “lesser of two evils” thing. And, if such a choice HAS to be made, then, obviously, the known evil should be booted.

The President’s speech went on and on and on the final night of the convention. He said some impressive things. He said some hilarious things. He said some dumb things. He droned on until one begged for Valium.

What did he say, and what did he really mean? Hmmmm.

This is an old exercise of mine. It’s something I like to call, “Parsing the Acceptance Speech”…

“Mr. Chairman, delegates, fellow citizens: I am honored by your support, and I accept your nomination for President of the United States. When I said those words four years ago, none of us could have envisioned what these years would bring."

Who’d have known I’d be so bad at this job?

“We have seen a shaken economy rise to its feet.”

The economy is “shaky” because of my pro-corporate policies, but I’m blaming it on 911.

“In the work we have done, and the work we will do, I am fortunate to have a superb Vice President. I have counted on Dick Cheney's calm and steady judgment in difficult days…"

Cheney’s a real cool shark huh? I am glad he was at the White House on 911, while I went flying all over the country hiding.

I am grateful to share my walk in life with Laura Bush. Americans have come to see the goodness and kindness and strength I first saw 26 years ago, and we love our First Lady."

I love my “Stepford wife.” She’s worth a million votes!

“A presidential election is a contest for the future. Tonight I will tell you where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years.”

I pray to God that you buy this crap.

“I believe every child can learn, and every school must teach - so we passed the most important federal education reform in history. Because we acted, children are making sustained progress in reading and math, America's schools are getting better, and nothing will hold us back.”

We have further dumbed-down the schools, so as to create the illusion they are doing “better.” Nobody is being “held back.”

“I believe we have a moral responsibility to honor America's seniors - so I brought Republicans and Democrats together to strengthen Medicare. Now seniors are getting immediate help buying medicine. Soon every senior will be able to get prescription drug coverage, and nothing will hold us back.”

I’m still stopping seniors from acquiring affordable drugs from Canada. When they get to the border they are being held back. But, at least I’ve swung a very profitable deal, via government, for my corporate buddies.

“I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people. If America shows uncertainty and weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy.”

True, I’ve helped out the Chinese, Mexicans, Indians, Muslims and Terrorists more than Americans. But, if you don’t vote for me everything will blow up.

“I am running for President with a clear and positive plan to build a safer world, and a more hopeful America. I am running with a compassionate conservative philosophy: that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives.”

I have no plan. Are you buying this “compassionate” crap? I hope so because my government doesn’t care and will not help you.

“This changed world can be a time of great opportunity for all Americans to earn a better living, support your family, and have a rewarding career. And government must take your side. Many of our most fundamental systems - the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, worker training - were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow.”

I hope you are not planning for a chance at better living, supporting your family or having a rewarding career because health coverage, pension plans and worker training are things of the past.

“My plan begins with providing the security and opportunity of a growing economy. We now compete in a global market that provides new buyers for our goods, but new competition for our workers. To create more jobs in America, America must be the best place in the world to do business.”

I support the continued exportation of American jobs to Mexico, India and China.

“We must protect small business owners and workers from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits that threaten jobs across America.”

I plan to take away your right to sue my corporate buddies.

“In this time of change, opportunity in some communities is more distant than in others. To stand with workers in poor communities - and those that have lost manufacturing, textile, and other jobs - we will create American opportunity zones. In these areas, we'll provide tax relief and other incentives to attract new business, and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America.”

My policy of helping my corporate friends causes massive unemployment, layoffs and factory closings just about everywhere. So, I’m arranging tax-reduced corporate kickbacks to several areas where the most voters are located.

“In this time of change, government must take the side of working families. In a new term, we will change outdated labor laws to offer comp-time and flex-time. Our laws should never stand in the way of a more family-friendly workplace.”

Those child labor laws are in the way of my corporate pals. Let’s get the kids working cheaply too!

“Thanks to our policies, homeownership in America is at an all-time high. Tonight we set a new goal: seven million more affordable homes in the next 10 years so more American families will be able to open the door and say welcome to my home.”

Thanks to my policies homes in America average about $250,000. In 10 years my real estate pals will be able to open your door and say, “get out of this home.”

“In an ownership society, more people will own their health plans, and have the confidence of owning a piece of their retirement. We will always keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers.”

I am confident I can manipulate Social Security to the government’s advantage. It’ll be easy because once we raise the age of retirement more older folks will die before they can collect Social Security.

“Because family and work are sources of stability and dignity, I support welfare reform that strengthens family and requires work.”

Because of my policies you may not be able to find work. But, I don’t care.

“This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism?”

I’m trying to scare you into voting for me. Even though I was president on 911.

“This progress involved careful diplomacy, clear moral purpose, and some tough decisions. And the toughest came on Iraq. We knew Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror. We knew his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction. And we know that September 11th requires our country to think differently: We must, and we will, confront threats to America before it is too late.”

My Iraq police came easy, as there was no careful diplomacy, clear moral purpose, or any tough decisions. We knew Saddam wasn’t an “immediate” threat. We also knew there were no “weapons of mass destruction.” But, Halliburton wanted the oil, and we needed to grab it before it was too late.

“In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat. Members of both political parties, including my opponent and his running mate, saw the threat, and voted to authorize the use of force.”

My opponents are really stupid. We didn’t see a threat, but I managed to trick them into authorizing the use of force.

“Our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America. Tonight I want to speak to all of them - and to their families: You are involved in a struggle of historic proportion. Because of your service and sacrifice, we are defeating the terrorists where they live and plan, and making America safer.”

Our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America. Tonight I want to speak to all of them - and to their families: Vote for me or I’ll cut off your combat pay!

“In the last four years, you and I have come to know each other. Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand.”

I’m the president and a corporate elitist, so I don’t care what you little people think.

“You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too. People sometimes have to correct my English - I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called "walking." Now and then I come across as a little too blunt - and for that we can all thank the white-haired lady sitting right up there.”

I’m hoping you will overlook my many flaws. People have noticed that I speak Spanish better than English. But, isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger more of a babbling idiot than me? It’s true I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. But, you can blame that white-haired, battle-axe mom of mine. She’s sitting right up there.

“To everything we know there is a season; a time for sadness, a time for struggle, a time for rebuilding.”

I’ve turned the past four years into a season for sadness, struggle and rebuilding. But, vote for me anyway!

“Now we go forward - grateful for our freedom, faithful to our cause, and confident in the future of the greatest nation on earth. God bless you, and may God continue to bless America.”

Okay. I’m done. I hope you idiots stay faithful and (snicker)… confident. God! Ain’t America great?

-----

Yeah. I’m really tired of this guy. You may be too. Vote for John Kerry if you want to. But, I still think I can do better. So, again, I implore you to support MY candidacy.

Be sure to write in “Kerry R. Fox of Colorado” for president!

“The Right Kerry for Now!”

Sorry, Senator.

Friday, September 10, 2004

‘Neighbors’

Once upon a time when someone new would move into a neighborhood the people who lived there would show up at the new people’s house with an offering such as cake or drinks. The new people would make a point of introducing themselves to the folks who lived there.

The new children and the ones already in the neighborhood would eye each other for a while and then begin playing and running around.

I don’t think that happens anymore.

These days it’s possible to live somewhere and never even meet the people who live nearby. It’s possible not to even meet them until there is a problem of some sort, and then you’re sorry to have met them. I’ve learned that, sadly, your first meeting may involve the police or the dogcatcher – and even then the “neighbors” may not actually show their face.

Over the years, wherever we’ve lived, we’ve tried to get along with the people who live nearby. If they didn’t seem friendly – and most of them have not – we’ve left them alone. We’ve never complained to anyone about anything, we’ve never called any of the authorities on anyone. Still, we’ve had more than a few problems with “neighbors.”

A few years ago we lived in Modesto, California in what we thought was a decent neighborhood. Several houses down from us was an unusual residence where people would come and go fairly often – at all hours of the day and night. Across the street lived a lady who we thought was a good neighbor to us.

Although the house full of strangers down the street was kind of weird we didn’t think much of it until, one day, police units and S.W.A.T. showed up and raided the house full of illegal aliens. Subsequently, we learned they had been busy manufacturing crack cocaine at the house.

Now, in my dream world, a “neighborhood” would be aghast at such an occurrence. But, according to the “nice lady” across the street, the BIG question up and down the street was “who were the snitches that turned in” the druggies?

Because one of the police stakeout cars had parked near our house prior to the raid (a tree in our yard provided shade to the street) we eventually found out that suspicion had fallen upon us. How had we become suspect? Turns out the “nice lady” across the street had told EVERYONE that we had been the “narcs.” We hadn’t had a clue about any of the crack dealings but several days later our cat came up missing and never returned.

After we moved to “beautiful downtown Pueblo, Colorado,” (sarcasm over) we learned we lived in a neighborhood full of weirdoes. Behind us, and across the alleyway, there are two such “neighbors.” The woman (whom my children have dubbed “Moose Woman” due to her decided ugliness) likes to call Animal Control on everyone else. She never talks personally to anyone about a problem. You simply know you have one after she gets involved.

Once I threw our Beagle, Pearl, out into the backyard after she chewed something of mine. Pearl did not like the punishment and yelped for a while. I wouldn’t have left her out there for long but then the Animal Control people showed up investigating a “Beagle in distress” (The "distress" was mine. Pearl had chewed my beloved Sopranos cap). Several weeks later the Animal Control people showed up about the lovable dogs next door because they were "barking too much."

Moose Woman’s husband (I’m guessing here, as they’ve never introduced themselves) likes to strut through the alleyway, hollering out loud to himself and to others about their backyards. The children call him “Lurko,” as he often emerges from behind bushes and such to holler at them for being “too loud.”

Neither Moose Woman nor Lurko have ever attempted to talk to Michelle or me about anything but every now and then after dinner, and before bedtime, when it is loudest in this house, we can hear someone from the alley hollering “Shut up, asshole!” I’ve always guessed that this is Lurko.

Tom across the street has an annoying little dog named Petey, who barks as much as possible. Tom’s a jerk and weirdo himself but even he didn’t deserve what happened to him yesterday.

I’ve written about Tom’s dog Petey before. I’m certainly not a Petey fan. But, I’ve never complained to Tom about Petey. The dog’s antics are just something we’ve resigned ourselves to living with.

But yesterday, when Tom left the house for a while, Petey got loose. He barked like usual but didn’t hurt anything. Someone – knowing that Tom was not at home – called Animal Control. The kids and I watched as they surrounded and snagged Petey and took him away. Now Tom will have to pay ransom to get Petey returned or else they will kill the dog.

The children believe (and so do I) that the new weirdoes who have just moved in next door to Tom called the authorities; a small, unfriendly husband and a large, loud wife who haven’t introduced themselves to anyone and haven’t made any friendly overtures even to anyone's kids through theirs.

Used to be that, if there was a problem with a “neighbor,” you talked to them FIRST about it before calling the authorities.

I guess those days are long gone.

After living in several “neighborhoods,” over the years, I now dream of a house on the side of a hill, surrounded by trees and some open ground. At the side of my dream house is a lightweight, yet effective, piece of short-range artillery, scoped, locked, loaded and ready to shoot when I say “FIRE!”

Thursday, September 09, 2004

'Pumpkin'

Everywhere we’ve ever lived I’ve tried to take care of the lawn or grow something.

When we lived in the San Joaquin Valley in California – where absolutely anything grows – I grew cherry tomatoes. Well, they grew themselves. I never had any control at all. I simply installed a few plants and then the thing turned into a giant tomato bush.

When we moved to “beautiful downtown Pueblo, Colorado,” (sarcasm over) it was August and the lawn was brown, weedy and dying quickly. I hoped to eventually turn the lawn green with grass, like all the lawns on the street.

For three Springs and Summers in a row I used a metal rake to pull up the dead grass and weeds, used grass seeds, shoveled up living weeds and watered the lawn. I also used Miracle Grow and anti-weed agents.

I raked and watered and planted and dug and… watched.

The only result was less grass and more weeds. The experience was so exhausting, expensive and, apparently, futile that this year I said “to hell with it.”

I resigned myself to live with the name my family gave me: “The Black Thumb.”

But, then something funny happened. This year I noticed that something was growing out of the planter, in front of the house, instead of the usual weeds.

The plant looked familiar but it took a while to discover what it was. Then I figured it out: PUMPKINS.

Last Halloween I got the kids some rather large pumpkins, and allowed them to carve them up in front of the house. They made a big mess of course, orange stains, pumpkin parts and… seeds everywhere.

I had made them clean up the mess. But, like usual, they didn’t do a good job and we had orange stains on the walkway for days afterward. The kids also didn’t pick up the seeds. Amazingly the seeds survived Winter, took hold and began to grow.

We had pumpkin plants reaching out of the planter and another pumpkin patch starting in the yard. I was happy that anything besides weeds might grow in the yard and the kids were thrilled of course. So, the children began watering the pumpkin patches on a regular basis. Now, when we mow the grass, we gingerly cut around the pumpkin plants.

The result has been that the pumpkin plants have grown exceptionally well – to the point of taking over the front yard, the planter and even wrapping themselves around the railing on the porch. The plants have made it across the driveway. The vines have grown long and large and to prominence over the entire lawn.

Last week, after faithfully watering and watching, the children discovered… the first few pumpkins have begun to grow on the vines. The kids, of course, are wondering how many pumpkins we might end up with. I’m guessing 50 to 100 pumpkins will nest in the front yard and on the porch.

The kids are very excited.

I’m happy for them. But, I’m never breaking my back over a lawn again.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

'Enough'

It’s really amazing. Frightful if the tactic works. But, at first, it’s simply jaw dropping.

“Did he REALLY say that?”

Yes. He REALLY did.

“Who did?”

Dick Cheney did.

“What did he say?”

Here it is:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

Translation: “Vote for George W. Bush or you’ll… ALL DIE!”

Thought it was bad that two people who dodged the Vietnam War would slime someone who actually did go? We have not seen the worst of it apparently. Now, if you vote for someone other than them we’ll “get hit again” by terrorists – for sure!

I only have one point on Dick Cheney’s point that I’d like to make:

“Glorious George” W. Bush was president on 911, (logistics notwithstanding) right? Bush has been president ever since, right? Because Bush has been “guarding the homeland” since the 911 attacks we’re all “safer,” right?

So what’s Dick Cheney warning us about? Why is he so worried about us? If everything is so much “better,” and Bush has done such a wonderful job protecting the country, what harm can there be in voting for someone else so we can all go back to work?

I may be mistaken. But, wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that Bush trotted out John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge to scare the crap out of us about an “impending attack on the United States”? How could this happen if Bush is doing the job Cheney proclaims he is doing?

There’s one reason and one reason only that Cheney is using this tactic: The only way you can trick a bunch of unemployed and un-insured people into voting for you is to… MAKE THEM AFRAID OF DEATH!

This may be part of a whole new line of politicking by these two.

Bush can visit storm-ravaged Florida and tell the people, “Vote for me and Dick Cheney or, darn tootin’, you’ll have even more Hurricanes!”

Cheney can visit the few remaining steelworkers in Pennsylvania and proclaim, “Unless you vote for me and Dubya, not only might you lose your job, but John Kerry will cause that pile of beams there to fall down and smite you!”

Bush can visit unemployed factory workers in the North and tell them, “John Kerry won’t just let the factories go to China he’ll make you go there too… as ‘slave workers!’”

Dick Cheney can say to seniors who can’t afford medicine, “John Kerry WILL give you the medicines you need, but he’ll also lace them with cyanide!”

I hope people notice soon that the warnings the Republicans like to give us are not “warnings” at all… they are “threats.”

Considering all the bad things that have happened under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, they still DEMAND that you trust them against the alternatives or else, by golly, things will REALLY get bad.

While reading the news today I saw this headline courtesy of the constantly God-speaking Republican Alan Keyes who is running for the Senate in Illinois, by way of Maryland: “Keyes Says Christ Would Not Vote for Obama.”

I guess that makes political sense for the Republicans; scare voters about death first then scare them about the afterlife.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

‘The Buddy System’

Friendship is a hazardous thing.

The hardest part about “friendship” is being able to tell who your “friends” are.

Sometimes the word “friend” is tossed around like the word “neighbor.” The same guy that complains to the Police about your kids, without even trying to talk to you, is the same guy that says, “I’m your neighbor.”

This guy thinks he is a “neighbor,” but he doesn’t do anything that’s… “neighborly.” He is not a “neighbor.” He is just a “jerk that lives nearby.” But, don’t try to discern the difference with him. He won’t get it.

It’s the same thing with the word “friend.” If the person who uses the word to you doesn’t ever do anything “friendly,” the chances are that they are NOT your “friend.” Be aware, also, of someone who uses the word “friend” too much. They want something from you, or they already have it and want to keep it.

“Friendship” is not always being “friendly.” Sometimes it involves tough love too. But, a good friend is someone who knows when, where, why and how to use this. This is more to do with “maturity,” but that’s a whole other piece.

I survived 20 years in radio, so I HAVE learned the difference between people who say the word “friend” and those who are friends without having to even say the word.

I’ve learned that it’s possible to have a friend and not even know it. And I’ve learned I can want to be friends with someone even though it’s not possible. Sometimes I’ve discovered I had a friend all along. At other times I’ve been stabbed in the back.

I can probably count the REAL friends I’ve had in my life on one hand. Most people would say they have “many more than that.” In many cases that would be true. But, in most cases, these “friends” they think they have would crawl into the woodwork when they really need to be able to count on them.

Friendship is not selfish. Friendship is “selfless.” It’s not “give and give and give,” but it also isn’t “take and take and take.” You can’t be “friends” with someone at all costs. You also can’t take friendship too casually.

Friendship and absolutes don’t always go well together. Friendship is flexible; friendship is firm. Friends should listen to each other not pontificate. Friends should also have their own opinions and assert them.

Tricky thing “friendship.”

Friendship is “tolerance” – not “excusing” but “tolerance.” Friendship is taking the total of another human being – without judging them – and accessing the positives, while overlooking the negatives. Friendship is finding out what you have in common and also learning from what you do not.

Sometimes absolutes DO go well with the word “friendship.” Friendship is acceptance. You have to accept the other person the way they are. Sometimes you have to accept that you cannot. Friendship is respect. You have it for each other – and show it – or you cannot be friends.

Friendship isn’t easy.

A friend can only take so many negatives from another. A real friend also can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can’t put up with abuse in a friendship. You also shouldn’t end a friendship over a disagreement.

Maybe that’s why I’ve had so few REAL friends. It’s rare.

Monday, September 06, 2004

‘Barbarian’

If you follow news at all, and you can get past Hurricane Frances, Bill Clinton’s Big Mac-induced heart problems and the presidential race, you’ve certainly heard about the latest outrage perpetrated by Muslims at a Christian school in Beslan, Russia.

In order to see the truth of the matter there are other things one must “get past.”

You must “get past” the terminology in the press; “Chechen rebels,” “Chechen separatists,” “disgruntled representatives of the ‘Religion of Peace,’” etc. The fact is that these murdering bastards were your basic “Allahu Akbar” hollering,” “Kill anybody who isn’t a Muslim” scumbags (there were at least 10 Arabs amongst the happy Muslim dead).

The other thing one must “get past” is the blame. It seems that almost the entire World press is blaming Russian President Putin for the deaths of hundreds of men, women and innocent children in this Christian school, located in this once peaceful community – and not the ignorant, heartless and cowardly pieces of crap that took over the school and shot fleeing children in the back.

If you can “get past” these things – to the truth – there are some facts that will become crystal clear:

a). There is nothing too low – absolutely nothing – that Muslims will not do.

b). The silence from Muslim leaders throughout the World, over such a barbaric act, is deafening.

c). Muslims – obviously – are responsible for almost every single act of terrorism committed World wide and on a daily basis.

d). No matter what PC politicians claim, Islam IS NOT a “Religion of Peace.”

e). Either we do something to send a message to these heathen or we can expect the same treatment from them in our own hometown.

Make no mistake; the same way that ALL governments have the consent of the people, whether tacit or full-fledged, the Muslim terrorists who commit these daily atrocities have the tacit or full-fledged support of most Muslims. This is WHY there is never any outrage amongst them after such a horror, as occurred against the children in Beslan.

After the 911 attacks the Muslims in most Islamic cities actually took the streets and danced with joy, passing out candy to their own children in celebration. Sorry, but this is not a sign to me that it is only “a few fanatics” who are “hijacking a ‘Great Religion.’”

After this attack against children and babies, the Muslims are simply silent. This is not good enough. They must stop this daily practice of killing people of other religions and other non-Muslims or be forced to do so by any means necessary.

This is where the nuances of the Muslims’ “Religion of Peace” come into play. Because, I believe, that Muslims commit these atrocities together – in the “Name of Allah” – and against others, irrespective of borders. It has nothing to do with a political cause, Chechnya, Iraq or Palestinian Statehood. It is the religion – the death cult – of Islam that is to blame and nothing else.

For instance:

—Muslims versus the Jewish people—

Firstly, of course, are the never-ending and cowardly attacks against the Jewish people of Israel. The “Palestinians (Muslims)” would have us believe that they simply want their “homeland” back. There were never any “Palestinians” who had a “homeland” but the Muslims send their women and children to Israel to “martyr” themselves in the “Name of Allah” nonetheless, killing many innocent men, women and children in the process, in an attempt to “drive the Jews into the sea.”

—Muslims versus Hindus—

Muslims certainly had their chance to join peacefully with the Hindus in India, back when that nation wrestled away British control. They chose, instead, to bring the country to the verge of civil war, and then break away and form their own nation: Pakistan. To this day, the Muslims there still enjoy attacking, beheading and slaughtering Hindus – in Pakistan AND India. There is also a constant threat of war between the two nuclear nations.

—Muslims versus Christians—

Muslims love to kill Christians. In Indonesia, every now and again, bands of swarthy, tongue-babbling Muslims will swoop into a Christian village and behead and hack to death the people there. They’ve done the same again against Christian children with bullets, bombs and knives at the school in Beslan.

—Muslims versus… Everybody Else—

Truthfully, though, Muslims behead, blow up and kill any “Infidel” who is not a Muslim, like they did on 911, like they did in Spain and like they do to those who get caught by them in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, regardless of nationality – the non-religious, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Buddhists alike.

Qur’an 9:5 “Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war.”

Bukhari:V4B52N50“The Prophet said, ‘A single endeavor of fighting in Allah’s Cause is better than the world and whatever is in it.’”

Qur’an 9:112 “The Believers fight in Allah’s Cause, they slay and are slain, kill and are killed.”

Qur’an 9:29 “Fight those who do not believe until they all surrender, paying the protective tax in submission.”

Qur’an 8:39 “Fight them until all opposition ends and all submit to Allah.”

Qur’an 8:39“So fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief [non-Muslims]) and all submit to the religion of Allah alone (in the whole world).”


When not slaughtering innocents of other religions, Muslims love to behead, cripple and torture… other Muslims, the way they do in every single country they run. This would be fine if they would limit their insidious practices to themselves only. But, they do not.

Yes, the “Religion of Peace” is stacking up quite a track record. With this gutless and barbaric attack against innocent children in a school – for Heaven’s sake – these lunatics have managed to cross a line that makes calling them “animals” seem an insult to animals.

And they have every intention of bringing this same behavior, as soon as they can, to YOUR town.

It has become apparent there is only one, single way to handle the billion or so Muslims on Earth: Warn them that with each new atrocity the rest of the people on the planet will, in turn, nuke a Muslim infestation, beginning with Mecca and ending with Islamabad, if necessary. They want to die for “Allah”? Let’s help them expedite their desires. Let’s save them the trouble of strapping belt bombs to their women and children.

The warning and follow-up should stop the constant attacks from the “Religion of Peace.”

If not, so be it. Muslims have made it perfectly clear that it’s either “us or them.”

Fine.

I choose “us.”

Please pray for the people of Beslan.

(Beslan Photos)

(Cleric Supports Targeting Children)

(THEY KNIFED BABIES, THEY RAPED GIRLS)

Friday, September 03, 2004

‘Grease’

The day after the Colorado State Fair whipped my ass, on Wednesday, I had a nice respite.

Several weeks ago my daughter, Sheyanne, announced that Olivia Newton John would be playing at the fair, in the Events Center, on September 1st.

Sheyanne is not what I’d call a “huge Olivia fan,” as she really only knows her from the movie ‘Grease’ (she has seen the film a few hundred times). But Olivia and I go way back, over most of my entire radio career.

I’ve probably played Olivia Newton John records at every station I’ve ever been at - in a variety of radio formats. For instance, when I first started in Country radio I played several she had released in that format. Later, in MOR radio, I played others of hers. In trips through Top 40 radio and later Soft Hits I also played Olivia’s songs. There were even one or two of her older records that were considered “Oldies” when I was relegated to that format.

So, needless to say, going to an Olivia Newton John concert with my daughter seemed a pleasant course of action. Michelle purchased tickets over the Internet and my daughter was very excited. I hadn’t been to a concert in many years so I was looking forward to it as well.

I told Sheyanne about Olivia’s long history of hits, but she couldn’t relate. I knew, though, that she’d enjoy herself immensely.

I was a bit concerned about how Olivia would do. She’s getting up there in years, and I didn’t want it to be like other concerts I’d been to where an artist was merely a sad reflection of their former selves.

I needn’t have worried.

Like usual, Sheyanne made it a fashion event. She looked very cute, in a nice gown and classy shoes (she’s kind of like Imelda Marcos where shoes are concerned). After we got to the fair and paid entry yet again – even though we had tickets to the concert – I purchased a nice flowing hat for her to go with her outfit. She looked a peach.

We decided to go into the Events Center early, which is my usual habit. That way Sheyanne could see the whole thing from the Center filling up to the lights going down.

The crowd was quite diverse; children who love ‘Grease,’ “Mefirsters,” from the 80s, and… old farts like me.

Our seats weren’t bad either (about 30-yards off the right of the stage). We were also located, conveniently for me, near the drinks.

Early on I made my way to the souvenir stand, and got through the mob there to buy Sheyanne one of Olivia’s Greatest Hits CDs.

Eventually, Olivia’s show started. She came onto the stage and proceeded to do one big hit after the other. Even though I remembered them all, I was still impressed by the sheer number of them.

Olivia’s backup band was excellent and her voice still superb. Not only had she not lost a single thing, she actually sounded better to me.

Of course Sheyanne was thrilled by the ‘Grease’ music (which Olivia saved for last, and for which most everyone was there). I like ‘Grease.’ But, I was impressed by all the songs I remembered from my early radio days.

Yes. I felt a bit old too.

Suffice to say that Olivia did a great job and everyone there had a wonderful time.

Sheyanne loved it as well. I knew that if she liked ‘Grease’ she’d like the other songs too. Sheyanne has been in her room as much as possible listening to the Greatest Hits CD over and over again since the show.

Good for her. Sheyanne loves to sing. I’m glad that she likes Olivia’s music more than those young, naked hussies they have on the radio these days.

The concert was a good idea. It took some of the sting out of the State Fair’s abuse of me the day before.

And, as for you Olivia… I Honestly Love You too!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

'Screwed'

The Colorado State Fair is held just down the street from us every August, here in “beautiful downtown Pueblo, Colorado” (sarcasm over).

Needless to say, our appearance at least once at this event is “mandatory.”

This year, Michelle begged off going at all. So, it was up to me to bring the children.

I thought I was ready for the task. But, as it turns out, I could never have been.

The plan was easy enough; I was being forced by the children to go early in the day. Good! I believed we’d get it over with sooner. Plus, I thought, August had also been pretty mild so far. So, it would not be too hot either.

Brilliant!

We even took advantage of “Twofer Tuesday,” so as to take some of the sting out of the cost. We could get in two for one and also buy the “all you can ride” bracelets for half-price.

Brilliant!

Since Michelle would be out of the house, I planned to walk the short distance to the fair grounds with the kids, get in, let the kids ride the rides, buy a few trinkets and GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE MAN!

But, fate dealt me a different hand this past Tuesday.

As we bounded out of the house I was pretty confident. We crossed the ever-deadly Thatcher Avenue easily. But, as we walked… and walked… and walked toward the fairgrounds, I remembered that the “short distance” I’d always thought of was actually assessed while riding in a car.

Plus, it was hotter than I’d remembered this year’s August to be. Odd.

I was already winded and warm by the time we made it to the front gate.

I already had two free tickets, so I only needed to purchase one for $5. However, the certificates for the “all you can ride” passes were $20 and not the $15 advertised in the paper. So, instead of $35 it cost $45 simply to walk into the State Fair. I saved $15 on parking. Lucky me.

They didn’t have the “all you can ride” bracelets at the front gate. No. In return for the $20 they gave us a little red slip. In order to secure the bracelets, we would have to take the red slip to some toothless person at a booth in the Carnival area. However, once we got raped and went inside the fair, we discovered that the Carnival area was not yet open.

Already there was grumbling amongst the children.

But, I had also heard cries of “I’m thirsty” and “I’m hungry.” So we made our way to the food area, located, of course, on the far opposite corner of the fair from the Carnival area, separated by nothing but hot, flat, hard concrete.

I felt the Sun beating down on me a bit more fiercely.

We stopped first at a pizza booth. But, they had no pizza ($5 per slice). So, we walked… and walked… and walked some more.

Our second stop was at a refreshment booth. Fortunately, they had bottles of water there. I ordered three for the kids…

“That’ll be $7.50,” the man sneered at me.

“Excuse me? It sounded like you said ‘$7.50.’”

“Yep!” (He was actually proud of this).

“We don’t need Perrier. Just some water.”

“They are $2.50 a piece.”

“Okay. We’ll take ONE.”

As we walked… and walked… and walked through the fair, toward the food court, it became apparent to us that, even though the fair opened at 12noon, nothing inside of the fair was actually “open.” Once again we were victims of false advertising. All we could do by this point was find a tree, sit underneath it and… wait.

While we were waiting, the “A & W” concession decided to open. So, I ordered four cheeseburgers for the hungry throng, $10. We ate them in the shade while staring at the Ferris wheel in the distance, checking it for movement.

Even though we detected no movement I was nagged into submission by my anxious children to walk the great distance back to the Carnival area to check the thrill-ride situation. So, we left the only place with trees and shade and walked… and walked… and walked back to the Carnival ticket booths.

They were not yet open, but some guy we asked there said “a half-hour.” Back to the food court area – on nothing but cement in the now merciless sun – we walked… and walked… and walked.

We stopped at an ice-cream booth (still about the only thing open) and I purchased three small cones with single scoops for the kids, $9. The woman there heavily insinuated that I should also leave a “tip.” I laughed in her face.

By the time we got back to the trees and the shade, I could feel my feet becoming numb. I felt much relief from a metal folding chair I found. I could have sat there all day, but my oldest, LA, started to complain about the ride situation again, noting the time increments in seconds.

“Only one-thousand, one-hundred and twelve seconds until they open!”

“Thanks son… oh my feet!”

After my seconds were over, a gong sounded and we began to walk… and walk… and walk, back to the Carnival area. It was not yet open, but some guy on a golf cart swung by and said, “One hour!”

As we trekked the long way back to the trees, I discovered the only other thing that was open: A beer joint. I happily forked over the $5 for a small cup of the watered-down liquid.

The Sun beat down even harder. That’s when I remembered why I thought August had been “mild”: I hadn’t been out of the house for over a month.

We killed some more time by swinging through the animal exhibits. I actually envied the goats that were lying in nice, cozy cages with comfortable-looking hay (I could have lived with the smell if they had let me lay down there).

After this, many of the fair booths began to open. There was a photo booth, where you could have your photo taken for $35 – without the frame. There was a Teriyaki stand, where you could buy an egg roll for $8. We could have had the kids’ faces painted for $40. Balloons $5, cotton candy $7, felt cowboy hats $20. The heat, exhaustion and animal smell combined with the outrageous prices almost to the point of causing me to pass out.

The $20 “all you can ride” passes had turned into $20 for “all you can walk” passes. The numbness in my feet had, by now, crept into my knees and I even felt pain in my shoulders.

While we were walking, a gentleman with a TV news crew approached me to ask that I tell how coming to the fair on a weekday was better than the weekend. I thought I declined politely. But, the kids later informed me that I “used the ‘F’ word.”

By now another hour had passed and it was time to walk… and walk… and walk back to the Carnival area.

They were finally open, but they also mentioned that they had BEEN OPEN for over a half-hour (the bastards). We got our bracelets and LA and Sheyanne took off, running from one ride to the other. Matthew and I made pain-filled haste to a water machine, which took $2 from me and gave nothing in return. I almost beat the thing to death trying to get my money back.

The Carnival area was situated on nothing but cement, which added about 30 degrees to the overall temperature (now 90+). There was no shade, except for a very small area under a very small tent. There they had these VERY small benches, the kind that rock back and forth if more than one person sits on them. I sat and rocked while Matthew kept saying, “I don’t feel good.”

More and more people began to crowd this small area, hunkering tightly together to get a share of the shade.

I probably should have paid more attention to what Matthew had been saying, because – very suddenly – he threw up repeatedly all over himself and all over the entire shady area. Although we quickly had the shady area to ourselves, I now realized I was in very much over my head with this fair thing.

I hobbled to a “turkey legs for $6” food booth for napkins. But, I was informed that you had to “purchase something” in order to obtain a napkin. One kind fairgoer offered us some of her napkins. Matthew responded by… throwing up some more.

I expected a fair employee to pop out and demand $20 payment and a “tip.”

The other two kids eventually showed back up. I told them that Matthew had succumbed to the heat and that we were off in search of shade. This didn’t bother them much, as they now had Matthew and me out of the way. I told them where we’d be and they promised to check on us “in a while.”

So, as if we were in the Battaan “Death March,” Matthew and I walked… and walked… and walked back to the food court area. There we found a nice shady bench behind the “Roasted Corn” food booth, where they sold corn-on-the-cob for $10 a piece.

I was relieved to simply sit there, while trying to feel my feet. Matthew kept muttering over and over “I want to go home.” So did I, but I couldn’t give up just yet. The kids hadn’t been able to do anything, and I now knew that Matthew and I could not make it home on foot. I had no choice but to wait a couple more hours for Michelle to make it home so she could rescue us.

Matthew and I just sat there for a while – with no sign of the other two. About a half-hour later Matthew started to… throw up some more (he must have raided the fridge before the fair). I got some “free” napkins from a reluctant guy at one of the booths nearby. The corn guy looked at us as if he wished we would leave. But, there was nothing I could do as I was now totally at the mercy of time, heat and… my other two children, who had apparently decided “to hell with them man.”

After another hour and a half – and after Matthew and I got disgusted, uncaring looks from several hundred fairgoers – LA and Sheyanne made the mistake of showing back up.

That’s when I laid down the law and told them that we had to get out of there if more than half of us were to make it home alive. By then the heat had begun to get to them too, so they agreed to the rescue effort.

After another hour of walking… and walking… and walking back to the front of the fair, and then waiting by the phones, Michelle was contacted and agreed to rescue us.

Another hour later and we were safely at home, broke and all lying around the house moaning.

I hate that damn fair. Funny they should use the word “fair.” There’s nothing “fair” about it.

I now have one, whole year.

As soon as I can feel my feet – and I recover from this experience – I’m researching a move the hell out of Pueblo, Colorado. That way we’ll be nowhere near the damn thing next August.