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Yesterday, I decided to try to eat at a particular local eatery again. I gave Dawn time to roll her eyes a few times and for her to realize that I wasn’t joking. This place is atop our “Never Again” list, tied with Neal’s Diner and AQ Chicken. Being in New Orleans warped our sense of the ordinary.

We’re still in vacation mode and therefore were willing to eat a little less healthy. Our go-to place near our house is still closed due to a fire. (No, I didn’t start the fire, despite what Billy Joel might say.) East Springdale is the armpit of death for good eateries, and while I’m a fan of Springdale, our selection of restaurants compared to Rogers and Fayetteville is ‘no contest,’ especially for healthy or interesting food. We can’t even count on Subway anymore, as the turnover rate is higher than mathematically possible and they sometimes insist that a napkin is, in fact, a sandwich topping if cooked.

Since the new stretch of Old Wire Road is finished, we can drive easily to many places toward Rogers in comfort. Old Wire Road turns into 1st Street as it enters Rogers. This road is fabulous. We’re waiting on the last leg of it to be finished by Randall Wobbe Lane. At that point, we’ll have one of the most modern roads to get us around and out of Springdale.

We’ve had a few attempts at this local restaurant fail miserably. It used to be a relatively dirty dive, but you could count on decent food, even if the bathroom resembled something you’d find in an abandoned bus station. It moved to a new building. Ever since then, being able to assume you could get both decent food and decent service on the same visit became a dubious endeavor. On our last attempt, we walked out after hearing the employees argue about whether they wanted to seat anyone. It was a bitter discussion, too, not a casual one. Surprisingly, my wife agreed to give it a try yesterday. Because of the rain, cold and the early hour, I ignorantly decided to call her bluff and go. We arrived a few minutes after the restaurant opened. I walked up to open the door for my wife and the door jerked. It was still locked. This was no “it’s 11:01” situation – it was way past time to open the doors. Weirdly, there were 5 people already inside and seated. I’m not sure how they got in there unless supernatural forces were involved.

Dawn was cold, so she went back to wait in the car. Because I had decided I was going to act crazy, if necessary, I called the number on the door. A woman answered. I used the craziest, high-pitched broken voice I could muster and shrieked into my phone, “What time do you open?” She said, “11 a.m.” Using the same stupid voice, I shouted, “We be freezing out here. It’s way after 11.” The woman didn’t know what to say. She finally said, “Oh no, you’re right,” and hung up. When she came out, she said that the manager had the only set of keys and he was both late and missing, as usual. Those words inspired confidence that my culinary experience would be excellent, as you might imagine.

We both survived the experience, although it was touch and go for a few moments. Dawn’s food was strange and mine was wrong but I carefully got my situation fixed without the risk of eating a floor-wiped tortilla.

I didn’t mention the restaurant by name, as you may have noticed. When people ask about this place, I always mention this as the “don’t go” place. I’m not entirely convinced that the Mafia or a Cartel doesn’t own it.

The service there is a crime, anyway.
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P.S. We also tried the Big Orange in the Pinnacle Mall the other day. It was divine. Two people can easily share a sandwich and a side and leave filled – or you can do as I did and eat so much that I almost had to cut a vertical slit in my shirt in order to be able to breathe.

A Rose By Any Other Name

fart face.

*This story is true. Seriously. You will not be smarter after you read it.

Since I was on another visit to the doctor’s office, I chose a spot devoid of other people to wait. I assumed the wait would be long and wanted to be courteous. I just wanted to sit with my eyes closed.

Five minutes later, a woman of dubious appearance entered the vast waiting area and sat a chair away from me. I opened my eyes and nodded toward her. I’ll call her Liz for clarity. Inexplicably, she sat halfway across the otherwise empty chair next to mine. In her arms, she held a baby. Moments later, an elderly lady shuffled in and sat next to the first woman. Thus, all 4 people in the waiting area were now sitting in a space of 4+ seats, in a waiting room comprised of multiple large spaces.

Liz’s phone started going off immediately. I only noticed because she put it in the narrow space between her left hip and my right leg and because the volume was on maximum. It rang, playing a song worse than any song by Kid Rock, if that’s possible. Her phone rang twice and notified her a dozen others.

Another lady entered the waiting room area I was in and sat two seats away from me, leaning on the pony wall by the bathroom. A gentleman came in sat under the television across from the rest of us.

I should have moved but I didn’t really feel like moving. I certainly didn’t want to commit the social faux pas of giving someone the idea that I moved as a result of their presence. I won’t make that mistake again. Emily Post can kiss my butt.

Liz’s boyfriend Facetimed her and she answered. She immediately started demanding that he explain why he unfriended her on FB last night. He denied it. She shouted and demanded to know who he was texting. He told her he was playing a game. She offered him a bit of poetry disguised as profanity and he calmly replied, “Kiss my ass!” She coyishly told him she was at the doctor’s office and didn’t appreciate that type of language. Going for the point, he pointed out that accusing him of undefined misbehavior was the greater of offenses. Liz became embarrassed and hung up. I don’t think Dr. Phil has enough hours in the day to address what was going on between them. Jerry Springer could fix it in a few minutes, though.

Even though no one was listening, she proceeded to explain in graphic detail what the phone call had been about with her boyfriend. It was more than I ever needed to know. My Jerry Springer reference was apt. “Well, you know how it is, Mom,” she told the older lady next to her. Another bit of information explained.

Within seconds, Liz lifted her hip off the chair and farted, a harsh trumpet. She immediately looked toward her mom and made a face. She looked down at the little toddler in her lap and said, “Jamie, you shouldn’t have!” She turned to the lady to my left, the one leaning against the pony wall, and said, “It wasn’t me. I promise.” The other lady was mortified. I watched her body language after the gassing.

I made no move, nor did I bat an eye. It had indeed been Liz. The smell of old shoes, spoiled eggs, and weird fish filtered through the air. Because I had been swallowing the urge to cough, my need to immediately cough deeply overpowered me. I coughed five or six times, each giving me a deep, shattered-glass feeling in my lungs. The fart was simply too much.

When the coughing fit cleared, Liz was giving me the look. She said, “…um, hello?”

“Excuse me,” I said.

“Well, you’re not excused. There’s a baby here. This baby ain’t got no need to be exposed to what you have.” You can imagine the horrible sound of her voice attempting to be sanctimonious. The fact that she had just farted openly and triggered a coughing fit – and just discussed her sexual misadventures in the waiting room didn’t quieten her.

The gentleman seated across from me openly let his jaw drop open to the floor, like a waiting room Wile E. Coyote.

Because I wasn’t feeling well, I just whispered, “Everyone in here knows it was you who farted.” Arguing with her wasn’t going to bring back my dead nose hairs.

Incredibly, she said nothing else to me. The man across from me said nothing. He simply nodded and gave me a very small thumbs up.

The next few minutes were spent listening to Liz and her mom cackle on about the craziest assortment of subjects and Liz’ phone urgently telling her of important matters.

The nurse opened the inner sanctum door and recited a female name. Lo and behold, it was Liz’s mom who had the doctor appointment. Liz had come with the baby because she was bored. I only know that because she told the nurse while simultaneously berating her mother for walking slower than molasses.

The nurse tried to politely tell Liz that neither she nor the baby should go to the back. Liz insisted, saying she needed to hear the doctor tell her mom to lay off the booze. I winced. The nurse gave up her attempt at being reasonable.

As Liz went inside and out of earshot, the man seated across from me asked, “Did I hear that right? She got on to you for coughing with your mouth covered because she farted on you and she brought a baby here for no reason and went to the back with it after being asked not to?”

“Yes, that’s about it. I’ll add it to my list of reasons I’m ill if it’s covered by Blue Cross.”

The three of us in the waiting room shared a laugh.

“I hope you feel better,” the man told me.

“Me too. Otherwise, the next step for me is cremation.”
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When We Went To Boston

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Boston gets fairly rowdy around St. Patrick’s Day. My wife Dawn accompanied me as I attended an event there three years ago. While we’re not drinkers like so many others who attended the conference held around the holiday, we tried to socialize and give our contemporaries a run for their money. It was likely it would be our only trip to Boston as adults.

The first night, we went to the House of Blues near Fenway Park. It was loud, raucous, and phenomenal. We left before the Dropkick Murphys made their annual appearance mainly because I wanted to get up early the next morning and see the start of the Southie Road Race.

The race was impressive. As is the case most other years, many of the runners dressed in bright green costumes, complete with wigs and shoes to match. People had warned us to be careful around the fringes, given the occasional idiot who might want to start a fight, ‘borrow’ $100 or just cause a problem.

It wasn’t until Sunday night that we had any problems. I wanted to hear some live music at Lansdowne Pub. My wife was a little reluctant. She knew I was going to want to walk the strip toward Fenway. Cities can only be really enjoyed by walking them. By 7 p.m. we were walking along and watching people and admiring the array of brick buildings lining the streets. To knock some time off the walk, we cut through a parking garage near Lansdowne Street.

As we traversed the garage, we heard shouting somewhere above us, and then a ‘boom.’ The squeal of tires punctuated the ‘boom’ sound. My wife looked at me in alarm. We decided to move along up against the inside wall of the garage. A few seconds later, a car raced around the corner nearest to us. Simultaneously, a man wearing a green jersey and green top hat stepped from the street outside into the parking garage. A man inside the racing car leaned out the window, pointing a pistol at the top hat-wearing pedestrian.

The pedestrian didn’t move out of the way. The man leaning from the window began shooting toward the pedestrian. At least 5 shots rang out. The pedestrian didn’t flinch. He stood his ground as the shots were fired. The car swerved around him at the last second and popped out of the garage to escape.

My wife and I ran over to the man in the top hat. Our adrenaline was pumping. “Oh my god! Are you okay?” we shouted as we neared him.

“Thanks, mates. Yes, I’m fine. Bullets can’t hurt me.” He seemed to be completely calm. Surprisingly, I don’t think he had been drinking.

He held out his right hand as if to shake mine.

My wife, as always, had a million questions.

“What do you mean, ‘Bullets can’t hurt you.'” she asked.

“My name is Rick O’Shea,” he said, as I shook his hand, and answering my wife’s question.
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Danger: Soup For Lunch

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I found myself being shaken violently.

As I opened my eyes, I felt the cold kitchen floor on my back. The overhead lights blinded me momentarily.

“Hey, X, wake up! What happened?” my wife asked me as she continued to shake me.

I raised myself to a sitting position, trying to clear my foggy head.

As my hands began rubbing my sore eyes, my wife said, “Be careful, you’ve got bruises under your eyes and on your face. Who hit you?”

I couldn’t remember anyone else being in the house with me. As I tried to process what might have happened, I remembered that I was about to eat a bite of lunch. I had gone to the cupboard, which we jokingly call “The Sarcophagus.”

“Aha!” my wife exclaimed just I recalled randomly pulling out a can of soup to open it.

“Look, honey.” My wife held up a partially-opened can of soup as I turned my neck painfully to look.

It was a can of whoop ass.

Surprise! A Humorous Story

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Several years ago, the CEOs of several hospitals in the region attended an NWA Business symposium. During that meeting, they decided to do something to foster a friendlier environment among their respective hospitals.

For the first time ever, each hospital system decided to send several teams, separated by departments, to compete in the first annual Medical Awareness Day (MAD). With such games as Tug-of-War, Engineering Feats, Singing Contest, Cook-Off, Softball Tournament, and Spelling Bee, the CEOs also proposed that each department would compete outside of its normal comfort zone, drawn and assigned randomly to each department.

After a full day of intense competition, the Nursing, Dietary, CNA, Housekeeping, Biomedical, and Support Services were all tied among three hospitals. As the day progressed, the strain of having a good time while valiantly attempting to win each competition had intensified. The day was a huge success. The trophy for the overall winner now waited for a single team to claim it.

For the last competition, the Maintenance Departments from each of the three major hospital chains drew “Spelling Bee” as their realm to compete. The maintenance men all shrugged their shoulders and decided to compete to win.

All three teams sat in a huge “U”, with the CEOs seated up front, given that this would decide the entire crown for the year. The remainder of the 1,500 capacity room was packed with onlookers. As each team began, each of them spelled their assigned words without much complication. They only asked for the definition of a word three times for the first 30 words.

The CEO for Northwest Health held aloft a tiny strip of folded paper.

“This is the last word. The first to spell it correctly wins it all.” He smiled, certain that his team would be crowned as champion, given that the maintenance team from his hospital was next up.

The CEO read the word.

“Could I have the definition? I don’t recognize that word,” the team captain for Northwest Health’s maintenance team asked.

“Sure,” replied the CEO. He pronounced the word and then read the definition.

The Northwest Team Captain stared blankly. “Pass,” he said. “I’ve never heard that word before.”

The CEO then continued asking each member of his team to spell the word. All 6 of them failed.

After Northwest, the Mercy maintenance team did the same, with the same result. Everyone in the room became anxious, knowing that the entire competition could now be won by the maintenance crew at Washington Regional.

The CEO for Washington Regional was smiling from ear to ear.

Starting with the team captain, he asked each person of his maintenance crew to spell the word neither of the other two teams could master.

In succession, all of them misspelled the word. Gasps could be heard among the onlookers.

Finally, the last maintenance person from Washington Regional attempted to spell the word. As he said the last few letters, everyone knew that he had failed. The CEO put his head in his hands in disbelief.

The coordinator for the event, knowing that the moment was being televised on a local news channel, leaned in and asked the CEO, “What was the word none of the maintenance crews could spell? We have to know!”

After a moment, the CEO opened his right palm and laid the strip of paper with the impossible word face-up on the table in front of him.

The camera zoomed in to focus on the word.
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On the strip of paper was written: R E P A I R E D

Airlifted To Payment

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In the last few days, another accident near Springdale started the same conversation about needing a Level 1 Trauma center here in Walmetro. (It’s a reasonable nickname for this area, don’t you agree?) I enjoyed reading the teeth-gnashing commentary on social media news sites. I’m pretty sure that about half the locals misspelled the word “trauma.” I’m not a big freak about spelling like some of my other weirdo friends, but it is worth noting that someone needs to tell everyone that the ED isn’t for erectile dysfunction. (Unless you have taken 16 tablets of Viagra mistakenly. Or on purpose, too, I guess.)

I don’t want to be airlifted anywhere. If I am airlifted against my will, the paramedics should use me as a human bomb. I’ll allow you to drop me onto any local Walmart, where low, low prices won’t be stymied by a falling corpse. (May commerce live forever.) Just leave the door open as you fly over and give me a directional push: no one will know. I’ll just drop in. If the paramedics can drop me through one of the roof skylights, they should get extra points for effort.

A couple of times when I was young, I survived, even on the occasion I might have been technically dead for a bit. During that episode of “Frighten Grandma,” I lived in the middle of nowhere in Monroe County and the only reason I’m here is that some milk or ice cream truck miraculously went by.

The other time, I lived here in Northwest Arkansas, back when no roads came here on purpose and the word ER meant that everyone hoped someone was on duty (and sober) if he or she accidentally shot their own face off. I came out of that one with 160+ stitches. I’m not even sure anyone in NWA knew what a helicopter was back in those days unless they were James Bond fans or Vietnam draftees.

Historical fact: until the 1970s there were literally no roads to get to Springdale. They didn’t want us getting in or out. True story. *True-ish. Okay, it’s totally false, but we’re living in a post-truth period.

Since then, the medical community here has developed to such an extent that it’s difficult to imagine the necessity of being airlifted anywhere. Whether we have a Level 1 Trauma center is immaterial to me. As long as the billing department is operational, I’m sure I’ll get all the required attention I need.

Another fact: if you experience trauma, they always cut your pants off first. It’s not to give you better medical care, as you probably learned on episode 12,367 of Grey’s Anatomy; rather, it’s so that they get to your wallet first.

Let’s be honest about this anyway: it’s likely that if the medical crew discovers it’s me needing assistance, they’re likely to play a round of golf before getting around to transport me. Ever since the infamous incident wherein I recreated the Alien stomach-burst, the paramedics put me on ‘the list.’ (I think they aren’t sci-fi fans.)

I’ll take my chances, especially now that I’ve lived over half a century.

If I am to die, I’ll take a slight risk with the local medical talent here. I don’t want to be in some miserable hospital away from home, imposing a burden on the few people crazy enough to be interested in my early demise. (Not hasten it, I might add, even if they seem to be in a betting mood.) Having spent a lot of time in hospitals, it is important that you understand that they are misery factories for family and friends. The burden and expense of being away from home is completely objectionable to me.

Before you ask, yes, that means I’m willing to roll the dice with my life a little bit if it means that the locals get a stab, so to speak, at me first. Driving through Johnson is a risk and I’ve mostly survived that.

Keep this in mind if something unexpected happens to me. Keep the helicopter for someone else. Feel free to drive me 140 mph down the interstate if you wish, jumping hell and high holler. Everyone needs a little practice driving the ambulance, so let the new guy Jimmy give it a try if you pick me up. An escort by Roscoe P. Coltrane might be nice, too.

While this might have made you chuckle, I’m writing in all seriousness.

Death is no laughing matter unless you’ve made plans to be buried in a jack-in-the-box coffin. I recommend that everyone at least ask their preferred mortuary if they offer such a thing. If only for the laughs.

We have world-class medical facilities here. Don’t fly me anywhere, unless I’m already gone and someone needs my liver – or he/she answers to the name Hannibal Lecter.

A Small Story for Friday the 13th

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He didn’t relish the role foisted upon him.

He didn’t shy away from it, either.

His only concern was that each deserving soul met its end at dusk. Whether guilt or innocence played a role in each participant’s demise failed to register for him.

Life hadn’t altered its casual disdain for the perceived importance each player brought to his or her small part in the universe.

His tired muscles could feel the pull exerted by the thirst for endings, anticipating a busy nightfall. From off in the distance, he could hear the amassing footsteps of those unaware of the unfolding promise of the night.

Each of them expected a demon or the angel of death; none expected a fatigued man with a full face of worry lines and eyes burning with purpose.

He’d greet them all, while pushing them onward toward the great ‘next.’