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A Surprise Ending!

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Last week, we went to spend the after-holiday weekend north of Eureka and Holiday Island. Due to the throngs of tourists, the horse-drawn carriages were operating, despite the heat.

As we went up the scenic loop before leaving town to go to the cabin, we passed a carriage with 10 or 11 middle-aged women enjoying the ride. They were laughing and rocking the carriage with glee. They were dressed identically and were drawing onlooker’s gazes. The driver was keeping a close eye on them, as a couple of the ladies were holding poorly concealed drinks.

A block up the loop, a water main was leaking, and traffic was backed up. I turned around in a narrow driveway and headed back down.

As I took the next corner, my wife gasped in surprise. Ahead of us, we could see that the carriage had overturned, tossing the ladies out. Several were on the grass. The driver was standing next to the carriage, obviously crying a little and upset.

I pulled up next to him and put down my window.

“Hey, there’s no need to cry, sir!” I told him.

My wife looked at me with horror.

“Why not? This could have been fatal,” he said.

“Maybe. But everyone knows there’s no use crying over spilled milf.”

Custom Diamond Painting

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I inadvertently ordered a custom diamond painting that is 40 X 60 cm, which is either about 16 X 20 inches or 0.0020202 X 0.00252525 furlongs, depending on how weirdly you enjoy your specifications. Dawn completed several ‘out-of-the-box’ ones, so I thought I’d surprise her with one I designed.

I should have used a cutout template, as the picture I submitted contained a mass of colors and details that I didn’t take into account. I’m sure Dawn passed out for a second when she first discovered the number of colors and noted the thousands of diamond squares required. I tried counting the squares but kept getting lost at 8,234.

Months later, she’s finished with the herculean artwork. She passed many hours at the kitchen table, hunched over with an applicator pen and a magnifying glass. If you’re searching for a hobby which will either delight or terrorize, this one is for you.

The picture is based on one I created. Dawn’s image was at an event in Fayetteville, while I am wearing one of the most handsome ensembles from the Handmaid’s Tale Collection. We already own a similar wood-panel version of the picture. It’s available for sale for $120,000 if there’s a potential lunatic buyer out there.

After Dawn finished the painting, we made our first attempt at sealing the canvas, using DecoArt triple-glaze to enclose it. Luckily, it worked fantastically, even with me doing the application. Note to those who once enjoyed eating Elmer’s glue: this stuff does not have any appetizing elements in it.

I bought a great frame from Hobby Lobotomy and placed it on the wall of honor near our bar and fairy door. (We rarely see our pixie/fairy named Crowder anymore.)

One picture is of the finished painting on the kitchen table. The other is of it hanging on the living room wall. You’ll note that I overcame my otherwise professional perfectionism and used a picture that reflects the picture window at the front of the house. At my age, it’s risky wasting precious time getting the camera just right.

 

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Note: there is a huge difference in comfort between diamond paintings using square vs. round tiles.

My wife prefers round, for a variety of reasons.

DecoArt TG01-36 Triple Thick Gloss Glaze, 8-ounce Triple Thick Gloss Glaze is what we used to seal the canvas. 8 ounces is more than enough to do a 16 X 20″ painting. You can use it on other things, too, if you’re interested.

I personally think it’s acceptable to leave many of the colors unfilled. I’m hoping my wife will do a diamond painting with the main parts finished and allow me to hand paint the gaps with either white or corresponding colors. I can imagine several creative alternatives to an intentionally finished diamond painting.

 

The Bathrobe Rule

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The Bathrobe Rule:
Some things need only to be seen once.

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Only after writing this to encompass a variety of situations did the overwhelming interpretation occur to me. A given movie: once. A particular place: once. A neighbor taking the garbage out in the assumed cover of darkness while wearing a deficient bathrobe: once

 

It Was Everything

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He sat there in the warm embrace of the relentless sun. The breeze brought a touch of cool relief but also wafted across us laden with the scent of the fast food of the golden arches. The blue sky above might as well have been a lifeless ceiling.

He wasn’t asking for anything, much less my attention. His clothes were dirty, and his posture was one of a young man who’d already done more than his share. It was palpable.

Our mornings were orphans now; his due to monotonous work and mine from the disconnect of knowing he was probably dreading a repetition of the same tomorrow.

Ignoring my fear of injury to his pride, I approached and asked if he was okay.

“Waiting to go do some more work,” he said. “My buddies went for lunch and I haven’t earned enough to eat.”

I solved his lunch problem. And probably his supper problem too, the one waiting for a solution after he’d finish working much later.

“Thanks. I never ask for anything.” He looked me in the eye, and I knew he was telling the proud truth.

I nodded, in fear I might I burst into inexplicable tears. I walked back to my car.

He went inside the store next to his perch. Moments later, he exited, tearing the package of his lunch with his teeth and inhaling half of whatever sandwich hid within. In his other hand, he had a large bottle of water. He gulped half of it as he stood there, looking up at the overcast blue sky as if it had just appeared above him.

A couple of minutes later, a beat-up small pickup truck pulled up and the young man jumped into the bed. I could see lawn equipment protruding above the edge of the bed. They drove off without exchanging a word.

I can’t help the sinister cloud enveloping my brother’s sanity. I can’t erase the past or retrieve angry words exchanged in the course of my steps.

I solved the stranger’s problem, though, even if it was not mine to approach.

It’s a nice day, I agree, even as we individually navigate the inevitable perils waiting to befall us.

‘Samesies’ Now Sanctioned For Diplomatic Use

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Enough time has passed for the word “samesies” to transition from light-hearted slang signifying agreement to an official word.

I’m not asking for your agreement.

I’m making the word official in the same way that every other English word has achieved acceptance: because someone says so, usually after a bunch of people insist on using it as a real world.

As President of the American Nuanced Unific Society (A.N.U.S., for short), my pronouncement carries real weight.

If ‘covfefe’ and ‘nambia’ can be used as words, I can’t imagine listening to any objections to “samesies,” which is both adorable and comprehensible to anyone hearing it. It’s vital that we incorporate words that the average older person might be able to interpret.

The next time someone orders something, instead of saying, “I’ll have that, too,” try saying, “Samesies!” Very soon, you’ll see world leaders at a conference table, signing some treaty or agreement, the kind that old people love signing. The Prime Minister will stand, somber face on display, and sign the parchment “samesies” – and everyone will applaud.

A Saturday of Fracas

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Since the cake option wasn’t on the table, Dawn listened to me and opted to get Julia multiple culinary items of interest. I wanted to choose 15 distinct items but Dawn insisted that diabetes was an impediment to my whimsy. I almost forgot to mention we surprised Julia with a nice Chromebook laptop that I stole from Best Buy last Saturday at 12:35 p.m. I’m just kidding; I wrote that last part to determine with what attention you’re reading my post. Chromebooks are awesome devices. If Julia hates it, Darla’s cat Apollo will continue on its quest to tear it to pieces. It’s a win-win for our consumer economy. No sooner than I had started showing Julia how to use the new laptop than the cat somersaulted on top of the pristine keyboard in Julia’s lap.

Note: it is VERY important that no one notices that Julia joined us upstairs at Darla’s in her duster-gown. At any rate, you have to give her the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who can listen to me explain technology without falling into a deep, trance-like sleep is a saint.

 

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After we departed the in-law’s house, Ty decided that we should eat at Pieology, otherwise known as “The Subway of pizza.” Usually, it falls to us to bemusedly stare at Ty and his antics. As this photo clearly proves, Ty is giving his mom Dawn the ‘wtf’ face. (As Phil Dunphy says, “What the fracas.”) I’m not sure what exactly Dawn was saying at this point, as I had just reached that decision point of whether to shove the entire slice of pizza in my cavernous mouth as if it were accidental. Since I’m a multitasker, it was at that moment that I continued to snap a couple of dozen pictures in the hopes that at least one would earn me a Pulitzer prize. I had to choose between wastefulness and gluttony.

 

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I also pranked my stepson when I went to pick up his to-go box. Carrying around a permanent marker and note cards at all times has its advantages when inspiration strikes. I blurred it out because no one needs to see proof that my sense of humor is tasteless. (Observation: your imagination is probably leading you to worse conclusions than what I actually wrote).

Afterward, with horror on my face, I realized that I had inadvertently described the picture of my stepson Ty as “cute.” I’m not sure if he’s getting funnier or those repeated blows I took to the head as a youngster are finally catching up to me.

Because we enjoyed ourselves during the day, Dawn informed me that my penance was to accompany her to a Walmart market for groceries. I wisely chose to drive through MLK and the traffic snarls resulting from the behemoth graduation ceremonies nearby.

Walmart market was the perfect blow to the nether regions after a great day. Balance was restored.
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A Conversation With Crazy

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I recently became acquainted with a gentleman who is one of those unexpected hybrids of pleasant, upbeat, and batshot crazy. He’s older and has wide exposure to the world. Superficially, he’s likable. You’d never know that his cheese slid off his cracker.

There’s one problem: he is certain that all forms of cancer are nothing more than a state of mind. “If you think it, you’ll be it.” I waited until he had uttered a version of the sentiment twice before directly inquiring. I know a couple of anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, and chiropractic enthusiasts, so I’m used to weirdos.

I asked him, of course, if anyone very close to him had died of cancer – or if he had been to a hospice care facility. “No,” was the obvious answer. Since we get along well, I also told him that a great swath of humanity would think he’s crazy and that many would accuse him of being heartless. He’s otherwise very smart and I find myself aligning with his general outlook, at least the one that’s perceptible through regular conversation.

I’d go so far to say that regardless of one’s pleasantness when talking to him about these things, he takes logical insistence as proof that the person contradicting him is a negative person. He’ll even double-down on his thesis and claim that almost all disease is subject to the same self-causation.

Initially, I had great hopes I’d become better-acquainted with him.

As a bona fide nutjob myself, I can tolerate a huge quantity of asininity. I’m an expert at fool impersonation. It’s a herculean task to overcome the idea that someone harbors beliefs that can’t be approached with logic, conversation, or science.

Or, more importantly, the knowledge that it’s sometimes wise to keep one’s foolish ideas to oneself. Yes, I realize that I’m a hypocrite like everyone else.

“The moon is made of cheese.” Why not?

My fundamental problem is that there is a chasm of difference between walking around with a chicken wrapped around one’s neck and denying basic science.

My new acquaintance is the Michael G. Scott of my life: entertaining but absent most self-awareness.

He reminds me of a co-worker from back at my days at a meat processor; that man was convinced that eating one’s own nasal nuggets and taking a sip of your own urine was great for you. We called him the English equivalent of “Snot-eater.” (Thankfully, we didn’t do potluck dinners back then.) I thought he was fairly nuts until I discovered an entire trove of people who believed that the Sun orbits the Earth. People think the Flat-Earthers are dumb; I wish they could have entertained themselves with the lunacy of those who angrily contradicted sense and science so violently.

My new acquaintance is good training for me.

I know that people believe a lot of nonsense.

I guess I forgot.

This will help prepare me for the next election.

Gringo Needs a Taco

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One of the worst restaurant experiences I’ve ever had happened this week. It wasn’t because my stepson was with us, either, because he coined one of my new favorite phrases/restaurant names: “Gringo Needs a Taco,” in comedic response to our increasingly despondent faces as we realized that we were in the middle of a culinary catastrophe.

We have some amazing restaurants in Northwest Arkansas, especially Tex-Mex ones.

Our closest go-to Tex-Mex place, Acapulco, is still closed due to a kitchen fire in January. They claim they’ll re-open in July, although I don’t believe it. Most of the great staff they had have found positions at other restaurants. One of our favorite people surprised us at Las Palmas in Springdale. The other similar eatery on this side of town has never managed much success. (Which basically applies to any restaurant on the east side of Springdale.) I’m convinced that Americans mistakenly believe that the other Tex-Mex place is taqueria-style. It doesn’t help that it’s in a shopping center that seems like the shooting stage for season one of the Walking Dead. By the way, Playa Azul has a buffet some days. It’s great, especially since it’s impossible to find a Tex-Mex buffet anywhere.

The shining grace was an effort by one of our favorite waitresses – one not assigned to our table or area of the restaurant. We tried to reward her with a tip before we left. She noticed that my 4-lb. order of pico de gallo had been left negligently on the serving shelf. Evidently, I’m the only one who orders massive quantities of this delicious menu item. She came back later to hesitantly ask, “Has someone taken your order?” I think her first clue was that we had read the entire first book of the Harry Potter series since we entered. Our assigned waitress seemed like someone had swapped her favorite beverage with a chilled cup of straight white vinegar.

She might have been Amish, as her shunning ability was expert level.

It seems like we were unwitting participants in a customer dissatisfaction experiment. We felt terrible about the experience. The manager was simply speechless at how badly things had gone and struggled to explain it. He was relieved when I told him, “No harm, no foul,” even as I complimented the waitress who wasn’t assigned to our table. We left and were rewarded with a torrential downpour. Our spirits were so hammered that we all drove to Burger King. As you probably know, its new motto is, “Where Dreams Go To Die.”

Saturday, Dawn and I went to another Tex-Mex restaurant. We walked out after 15 minutes. On the way over, we discussed the consequences of not following our instincts. The person seating walk-ins could not have been more reluctant, with the exception of the admiration and attention she was giving her personal cellphone. The matriarch of the family by the door was throwing eye darts as she uneasily shifted back and forth, waiting, while attempting to corral two young boys. We had the misfortune of being seated in the far back corner. The matriarch and her family received great attention. I could tell that woman simply wouldn’t tolerate shenanigans or inattention. It’s difficult for me to be pushy, though. The manager was so engrossed in something unrelated to work that I couldn’t even let him know that we were leaving.

I’ve been known to get up, go outside, and then go back inside sometimes as if I hadn’t just walked out. Usually, this either makes people confused or laugh. We left. I’m glad we did because our final choice was a delight.

We ended up at another restaurant and were delighted. The food and service were impeccable. We joked with all the staff. I drew pictures on my index cards as we chatted with everyone, even as watched a table of gringos make their faces numb with way too much alcohol. (The one bad moment was when one of the gringos was a little violent with a precious curly-headed little girl. He doesn’t know how close he came to being force-fed a plate.) It was strange to have such a great eating experience after two terrible ones.

As I always do, I ensured that karma was paid forward by tipping the waitress 100%. She was delighted. So was I. Belly full, and smiles for all.

One consequence of a bad dining experience is that I always find a way to pay it forward to the next great person we encounter.

P.S. I didn’t even order pico de gallo at this restaurant, as I didn’t want to tempt fate.

Gringo needed a taco.

A Totally Accurate History of the Accordion

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The accordion is alleged to have been invented in Berlin in the 1820s. Historians have commented how appropriate it is that the accordion would reappear in Germany and might have been one of the forgotten reasons for WWI. A few modern conspiracists believe that accordions are extraterrestrial.

Weird Al Yankovic, Lawrence Welk, Billy Joel, Dennis Deyoung, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, and Meryl Streep are among the most famous modern accordionists.

According to recent historical finds, however, we now know that the first accordion was invented during the Spanish Inquisition in the 1400s. Given that the Catholic church and the Vatican in particular recently shared some of its archive with historians, we were able to read the original “Pope’s Guide To Stuff.”

Torquemada had been the Grand Inquisitor for fifteen years. Although the boot, thumbscrew, the Judas Chair, the rack, and the water cure were effective at terrorizing heretics, Torquemada’s servant noted that the greatest agony seemed to coincide with horrendously out of tune musical devices.

Since country music didn’t exist at the time, Torquemada’s servant diligently worked to devise something even worse than what we know as country music. After two years of working in secret, the servant connected a flame bellows to an intricate series of reeds and metal plates. During his first test, it is reported that he converted 37 heretics, but also 2,527 believers; their collective agony was so great that they simply fell to the ground and confessed their guilt, if only to stop the cacophony of the very first accordion. History tells us that 12,000 cats and dogs instantly died as well.

Due to the increasing number of people falsely confessing as the result of the effectiveness of the first accordion, Pope Sixtus IV decreed that the accordion was to be destroyed. Further, anyone attempting to replicate it would be put to death.

It wasn’t until about 1700 that an Italian re-invented the idea of a piano. It took another century, until 1820, before someone devised a version of the accordion that Torquemada’s servant invented. We know that modern accordions don’t quite match the horror of the one created during the Spanish Inquisition.

The results are similar, however.

Wikipedia asserts that the accordion and banjo are close cousins of the musical instrument world – and for obvious reasons.