Monday, June 18, 2018

Casual Dining Restaurants and Tractor Tire Innertubes

I recently read that the phrase dining al fresco (Italian for “in the cool air”) is no longer used in Italy.  Instead they use either fuori or all’aperto.  Al fresco is used to refer to someone dining in jail, if you can believe that.  While I have never broken the law when it comes to food or eating, I have been known to break commandments (thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s cinnamon roll) or commit a deadly sin (gluttony, but just barely).   However, if lying about your knowledge of food or pretending you know what something is when you don’t is illegal, then I, dear readers, am a straight up criminal.  Full Disclosure:  I only know the definition of al fresco because back in the early 2000’s there was a restaurant in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, named after the phrase and they had outdoor seating and I had to pretend I knew that already when I went there with some very fancy friends.

Besides the occasional picnic related to fishing, dining outside of my home during my formative years meant we ate at church, Piccadilly, or a steakhouse.  The Dad still has very specific criteria for food consumption.  In high school eating out meant Sonic, Danny’s Fried Chicken (in Tylertown, MS) and the occasional visit to the Pizza Inn buffet on Sundays when my mother didn’t feel like cooking and answered the siren call of her usual order of one slice of supreme and one slice of peach cobbler dessert pizza.   I say all that to say this, casual dining establishments like TGI Friday’s, Chili’s, etc. were not part of my world, he said trying his best not to sing those last few words.  My limited experiences weren't something of which I was aware, as my mother was an extremely talented cook and nothing beats a good ribeye steak or the mac and cheese from Piccadilly. 

The summer before my sophomore year in college, I attended a yearbook camp on USM’s Gulf Coast campus.  I had recently been selected to serve as Co-Editor of the Whispering Pines yearbook with a very talented and similarly well-dressed classmate (Garland Tullos) at Southwest Mississippi Community College (Go Bears!).  Even though neither of us had edited before, the school felt we could do it.  Or at least, it appeared they did as they  were footing the bill for the trip.  This included paying for our food, therefore, I was in possession of a monetary largesse previously unequalled in my day-to-day life; if I remember correctly it was around $20 per day!  Keep in mind, this was 1989 and I was someone who never ate a Mexican pizza at Taco Bell because it was prohibitively priced at $1.09.

Garland and I, being friendly and delightful, had met several other college editors and decided to go out to dinner one night, to an exciting culinary destination called O’Charley’s.  Long before I became the gastronomic Sacajawea my friends know and love, I was very Southern Baptist in my tastes; everything was fried or covered in cream of mushroom soup, or both.  I had an internal rule that I would follow the lead of the fanciest person I was with, should I ever find myself in an unfamiliar situation.    I don’t remember who I was watching that night, Garland or one of the ladies from East Central Community College, but someone ordered a fried chicken salad with something called ‘honey mustard dressing’.  I wasn't sure how I felt about the name, but I knew I wasn’t a fan of honey or mustard individually.  Unsure of the combination, I was definitely intrigued, and I didn’t want to seem pedestrian, so I took a ‘taste and see’ attitude.  I was feeling very cosmopolitan, y’all. 

When the food arrived, there was cheese toast on the side, and I always enjoy something unexpected and covered in cheese.  I gave the honey mustard the once-over and decided it looked safe enough to taste.  It was delicious as most of you know.  Where had this condiment been all my life?  It’s the same reaction I had when I first discovered salted caramel.  I was ecstatic to have finally experienced it but equally angry that my taste buds had been denied until that moment.

I’d like to believe that I hid my excitement and ate as nonchalantly as someone who had eaten this exact dish the week before.  Full disclosure:  I might have squealed or at the very least ‘mmm-mmm-mmm’ed’.  Garland knows, but will never tell.  

When I returned home I tried to recreate the flavors as I had been unable to find a jar of it at the Piggly Wiggly, much less at B&B Grocery, the discount store where we  often shopped.  My mother kept no honey at home and I couldn’t justify spending money on an experiment, so I made do with what I had.  I mixed yellow mustard with TJ Blackburn Pure Cane Syrup.  It was not great; so sweet it made me shiver.  I thought about just adding sugar to mustard but that was another shivery failure.  As my family’s recipe for Thousand Island salad dressing was simply mixing mayonnaise and ketchup, I tried mixing mayonnaise and mustard together to get the right color.  It wasn’t the same, but it was delicious.  I kept an eye out whenever I went anywhere to eat, but I typically only found it accompanying the ‘rich people meal’ at Sonic.  You may know it as the chicken strip dinner. 

That yearbook camp changed my life in two ways.  Garland and I actually learned how to edit a yearbook and we won the state competition which helped me get a scholarship to MUW, where I edited the Meh Lady yearbook and won national competition twice, which, in turn, helped me (finally) choose Journalism as my major.  It also started me on my journey toward culture and refinement, which has led me to becoming one of the four fanciest people to have ever floated down the Bogue Chitto River in a tractor tire innertube.  Am I right, y'all?  

Monday, May 14, 2018

It's Not Cussing if it's a Direct Quote

              I recently returned to Texas for several speaking engagements and book signings, both impromptu and planned.  Speaking to executives from rural and community hospitals on leadership and team building, I was in Dallas, where I pulled off the previously unheard of hat trick of entertaining and teaching conference attendees at 8:30 in the AM, y’all.  Uncle Dusty can bring the funny regardless of the time of day.  The Dad says, “It ain’t braggin’, if it’s a fact.”  I had several hours to kill before my friend, the esteemed Master Richard Waller, was available to dine, so I sat in the lobby and, in an extremely choreographed nonchalant manner, managed to sell a dozen copies of ‘Almost Odis’.  I did not curse a single time, during my presentation, lunch, book sales or dinner.  This is important to note.

                As you know, dear readers, my blog is G-rated.  I do not curse, as a rule, and I never talk about things that could even loosely be construed as nasty or dirty.  I am a man of high moral standards and my language, while colorful, is not often coarse.  Full disclosure, I do occasionally cuss, but usually only in traffic and, even then, only in response to the actions of someone who is ridiculous.

                The next morning, my tour guide for the trip to Red River County and memory lane was my former girlfriend and one-half of the twins who were my besties starting from 30 seconds after we met in 1982.   The hilarious, sarcastic force of nature known as Juliann (Juli) Wood, apparently enjoys a reputation for using the F-word as a noun, verb, adverb and adjective.  This is also important to note.

                I had a speaking engagement at Rivercrest High School on Friday, April 13, 2018.  While I don’t normally buy into these sorts of superstitious nonsense, there might be something to it.  I forgot to tell you my room at the Hyatt Downtown Dallas was on the 14th floor.  However, seeing as they didn’t number a 13th floor, my room was actually on the 13th floor.  Weird, I know, but what can you do; hoteliers are an odd bunch. 

                I hadn’t been to Bogata, or Rivercrest High, since we abandoned Texas for Mississippi, with literally a moment’s notice in 1986, the summer between grades 10 and 11.  I was asked to speak to the senior class and wanted to make sure I connected with an audience which, admittedly, I barely connected with when I lived there.  Uncle Dusty is an odd bird out in the boonies, y’all.  True Story.  I always refer to myself as Uncle Dusty when speaking to high school and college students, as I started giving advice to my nieces and nephews and this is the moniker they created for me.

                My presentation made a number of points, some of them confirming my bonifides as a former resident of the boonies, showing pictures of me with my sheep and in my football and band uniforms.  I then proceeded to give a little advice.  I won’t put you through my complete presentation, but I will say that Ronny Allsup’s (Brother Ron Ron to the other half of the twins, Denise) only request was, “Don’t get me fired.”  I assured him I wouldn’t do anything to get him in trouble.  He, and several other people, said they didn’t have any concerns about me, but they were worried about Miss Juli and her salty tongue, as she was to introduce me.  Juli was adamant they had nothing to worry about and her intro was delightful and set to the tune of Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’.

                My talk bounced from telling them that my plans for after high school were the slightly vague, “I want to be indoors” and the more specific, “Not hauling hay.”  I talked about being proud of who you are, unless you’re mean and then you need to “Stop it!  There’s enough jerks in the world.”  I told them I was proud to be from Bogata, but I couldn’t wait to leave.  I told them if they left that was great, but if they stayed, that was great, too, as long as they traveled because that’s how you broaden your world view and makes you more aware. 

                I told them to appreciate their family and friends and to choose relationships wisely.  I encouraged them to debate, not argue.  I reminded them that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.  I challenged them to be the thing they don’t see in the world, whether its kindness, passion, authenticity or honesty.  I specifically said they should never lie; be as kind a possible, but don’t lie just to spare someone’s feelings.  I asked them to focus on doing something they love and not worry about making money and I even quoted Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

                I know you have to make people laugh to get them to listen and remember advice, especially from some random older guy, wearing Kelly green chinos and navy wingtips.  You also have to use stories to connect with people and I was telling them tales of rodeos, involuntary horseback riding and other 4-H-related things.   We had segued into the last part of my talk where I give them ‘Tips on How to be A Decent Human’, like (1) your mama lied to you; you’re not special, rules apply to you, just like everyone else, (2) put the buggy back in the corral at The Wal-Mart or the grocery store, (3) don’t dislike someone you’ve never met, (4) if you get defensive when someone questions your opinion, you might need a new opinion and (5) if you have to exaggerate to make a point, you just proved your point isn’t worth making.

                I was on a roll and they were laughing and loving it and I started telling the story about my cow from 4-H.  You remember the one I told y’all where it was the only one in the competition and still came in third place.  I have told that story many times, especially when talking to groups about making emotional decisions, and I always quote The Dad as having said, “Son, that is a pitiful cow.”  The actual quote is, “Son, that is a shitty cow.”  I have never once used the S-word when telling that story, until that very moment.  I said “SHIT-TAY” right into the microphone, as loud as if I was announcing a boxing match in Vegas, y’all.  I didn’t even realize it at first until the teenage audience absolutely howled with laughter and it dawned on me.  I said, “Oh, no!  Did I just cuss, Brother Ron?”  “Yep,” he said, smiling and shaking his head.

                What could I do, y’all, but try to do damage control?  I said to the group, “Okay, y’all.  I heard that Stanley Jesse is the Superintendent.  If he asks you, ‘Did Mr. Thompson say anything inappropriate, y’all should say ‘No!’.  As soon as I said it, the ring leader, you can always tell who it is, raised his hand and said, “Didn’t you just tell us not to lie?”  Ouch.  Out of the mouths of cowboy babes.  I was excited he had been listening, but shamed I had cussed.  What could I do but say, “Yep.  You called me out.  Disregard what I just said.  However, if anyone asks if I cussed, just say, ‘He did, but it was a direct quote’.”  They laughed and agreed, I exhaled and sat down and looked over at Juli, who was smiling that smile, you know the one.  I asked her, “How do you think it went?”  She smirked and said, “It was shitty” while Denise laughed in the background.
                I’m pretty sure I’ll not be asked to speak at commencement any time soon. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

They Have Those Everywhere, Don't They?

               I have a cousin, I won’t say which one, who inadvertently changed the way my family pronounces the word ‘underwear’.  When he was two or three, he was on stage on a Sunday night at the front of Melbourne Baptist Church, singing with his fellow preschoolers because that’s the one time Baptist children are seen and/or heard in church.  At one point, during the performance, he had to participate in a private act and so he turned around facing the back of the stage, believing if he couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see him.   Once he was turned around he began to pick at his butt crack.  The building fairly shook with the suppressed laughter of the entire audience. 
                Afterwards, when his mother asked him why, he said, “My wunnerwear was in my frack.”  Ever since then when I think of or say ‘underwear’, in my head I’m saying ‘wunnerwear’.   And I’ve been thinking about ‘wunnerwear’ a lot lately, because I have been on the hunt for new undergarments.  As you know, you cannot try these items on in the store, so I have been do a somewhat expensive trial and error process looking for something that should be, and once were, ubiquitous – white boxer briefs. 
                You may be thinking, “They have those everywhere, Dustin” and previously I would have believed you, but I have found this to be untrue.  When you want white boxer briefs, you are left to the ridiculous caprices of designers who are trying to out shine Victoria and all her secrets.  I promise you when you go onto Amazon and type in ‘white boxer briefs’, the first thing that pops up is a pair of red boxer briefs.  That makes no sense.  It’s like in ‘Gone with the Wind’; at the beginning of the book, Margaret Mitchell spends three pages going on and on about Scarlett’s green and white dress and green shoes and in the first scene in the movie, she’s wearing red.  Why?
                And I know you’re wondering why someone with an Imelda Marcos-like love of colored chinos would want mundane under garments.  Well, I’ll tell you.  On a band trip to Opryland in 1987, I wore blue underwear with white shorts.  This should have been private information that was pointed out by everyone.  And by everyone, I mean, that one random girl stranger who said, "Nice underwear!" while pointing and laughing.  I ran and hid by the corndog stand because, well, I was shamed and really wanted a corndog. I can assure you that public humiliation was enough to steer me toward a lifelong attachment to under clothes of the purest white.  This is especially important at this time of the year, as I have unleashed the array of pastels and other muted colors from the confines of my Spring/Summer wardrobe storage and I don’t them upstaged by visible drawers, as it were.
                My preferred brand, after several years of trial and error and a significant amount of money, is Tommy John, typically found at Nordstrom Rack.  As I had been unable to find white ones with the right amount of inseam (I like them almost the same as a bike short, at least reaching to mid-thigh), I gave in and went to Flagship Nordstrom begrudgingly willing to pay full price, only to find my color selections limited to black, gray, navy and bright blue.      After trying to find suitable ones in a variety of brands (Calvin, Ralph, Tommy (both Bahama and Hilfiger) and whoever designs Jockey), I was at my wit’s end.  I was driven to mingle amongst the ‘regular people’ and visited the Target feeling assured that those tried and true icons of under garments (Fruit of the Loom and/or Hanes) would be there, reliably boring as always. 
                To my surprise, they were not accommodating either.  They have a wide array or colors and stripes, but the only white offerings were those of the legless tightie whitie variety.  So, I went back to Amazon, and went down a rabbit hole of names and brands with which I had no familiarity.  I bought many pairs and trialed them, spending a month and over $100 trying them out and discarding the ones I didn’t like into the trash bin as you can't offer them to your friends and apparently no one lets you donate underwear at the Goodwill, even if they are new.  I felt wasteful but I am not about to wear underwear where the legs roll up while I’m standing still and/or where my shirttail comes untucked each time I moved so much as arching an eyebrow at some ridiculous person.  Like you do. 
                But fear not, dear readers.  I have found them, the magic wunnerwear!  I haven’t been this excited about undergarments since my mom bought me Incredible Hulk underoos for Christmas in 1970 something.  They are a brand called Victrix and they are (well done me) 70% bamboo and 30% cotton.  They are so soft, the inseam perfect and you couldn’t coax my shirttail out if you had a fruity drink and a sexy wink.  They are luxurious, seriously.  And, I realize they’re made in China and I should be buying American, but since those MAGA hats are made in China, I seem to be ‘on message’ with America, y’all and isn’t that what’s important?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Through the Drinking Glass: My Trip to Heather Land-land

               Last weekend I had to the unique opportunity to attend a comedy show with literally every woman in Red River and Lamar Counties (in Texas) along with four or five of their inebriated spouses.  I say inebriated as they were selling beer along with sangria, margaritas and hurricanes.  I wasn’t surprised, I guess, people love a good drink at a concert.  The crowd was, in a word, lively.  And seeing as how Heather Land herself was wearing a head band, Def Leppard t-shirt and ripped jeans (an interesting look for a 42-year-old mother of two, said my inner old lady), it seemed to fit. 

                I am somewhat familiar with Ms. Land’s comedy.  I say somewhat when what I mean is I have seen one of her videos; you know the ones where her eyes and mouth are disturbingly large, and she complains about stuff and it’s funny.  And she always says her catchphrase, which was splashed across black t-shirts she was selling, “I Ain’t Doin’ It!”

                The doors opened at six and the show was supposed to start at 7:00 so by 6:53 the audience had started to get “tow up” and I had the time to take my eyes away from the magnificent hairdos all around me and noticed a keyboard on stage.  Does Ms. Land sing, I wondered aloud?  No one seemed to know.  Everyone was wearing flowy blouses, tight jeans, chunky jewelry and buying a disturbing amount of Ms. Land’s unimaginative “I Ain’t Doin’ It!” t-shirts.

                As the clock neared 7:15 I was hungry as we hadn’t eaten in at least two hours during this marathon weekend visit/book tour (buy my book ‘Almost Odis’ on Amazon right now, y’all) but the only option for food was the ubiquitous nachos often found in these venues.  I wasn’t in the mood, so I ate the contraband Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg I had stowed in the inside pocket of my sport coat.  I am prepared like a Boy Scout, people.  Well, more like Chunk from "The Goonies", but whatever.

                Finally, at 7:20, Ms. Land came out and she was truly funny.  I didn’t really know what to expect but I laughed a lot. She didn’t say her catchphrase, but she had great material, excellent timing and I was enjoying the show. One of the more elderly and intoxicated in the audience started talking out loud and disrupting the show and Ms. Land tried to intervene and stop her.  At one point this woman got down on the floor (to crawl? to faint?) and when some guy came to remove her, her friend (clothed in a nautical striped blouse with bell sleeves) abandoned her friend and decided to stay. 

At one point she mentioned her unsuccessful music career and I realized she was about to share with us a song or twelve.  I felt a little apprehensive, like when you go to see a one-hit wonder from the 80s and you expect them to play their one good song and they start with, “How about something from the new album”.  No, members of Yes, I don’t want to hear a 22-minute progressive rock song, I want to hear, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.  

She begins to play piano and sing, and I was pleasantly surprised that she had a beautiful voice.  As she had been high energy in her routine, I was expecting something vaguely happy and/or bouncy.  What we got was a post-Lilith Fair Sarah McLachlan with songs so plaintive and haunting it made me want to go out and adopt a shelter puppy.  I mean, even with her obvious talent, this music was melancholy, y’all.  Then she played what she said was another song, but I couldn’t tell the difference.  Then she had an intermission.  At a comedy show.  Maybe she was overwhelmed from her own songs.  Who knows. 

                As this intermission was unexpected most people just stayed in their seats which gave me a clear path to the concession stand.  By this time, I was actually hungry, so I had resigned myself to eating nachos.  When I got to the stand, I discovered I could get a combo plate of nachos and meatballs and gravy.  On a paper plate.  Not in a nacho boat or a bowl.  Because that’s what you feed people at an event where there are no tables and they have to eat in their lap.  Do they think they are Ikea?
                After the intermission she returned for more comedy, this time it had a bit more bite as it was about her divorce and life afterwards, but it was also about church and Jesus.  I guess those things pair well in Heather Land-land.  Then there were more songs so heartrending it sounded like the soundtrack to a Nicholas Sparks movie, except, if possible, more sad.  Then she played a Christian song which I’m okay with but bookending Jesus with sangria didn’t seem very Evangelical, which this audience most definitely was.  But they were really into it.  

                At the first note, after Heather said the song was about God, Miss Nautical Bell Sleeves (friend of the removed drunk) immediately stood and raised her right hand in praise, having gotten The Spirit mixed in with the spirits.  It was a bit much to take but I was too weighed down by the meatballs to protest.  At the beginning of the second verse, a foursome of friends drunkenly stood, arms linked in an awkward cheerleader/sorority Jenga fashion and it apparently inspired Sister Bell Sleeves to go full on touchdown for Jesus with both hands in the air, in praise or for balance, I wasn't sure.

                At this, one of our companions (I won’t say his name but it rhymes with Tim Wood) abruptly stated, “I’m outta here” and left.  I concurred and followed as the show came to a close.  My first foray into Heather Land-land will be my last.  I have no issue with alcohol, sad music or a little bit of Jesus, but I’d rather have them individually, not grouped together.  I mean, what am I, The Grand Ol' Opry?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dead Men Don't Dust

          Have you ever looked around at your home and in your closets and wondered if an investigatory team like CSI or NCIS could parse out your life based on your furnishings and clothes?  What do you mean, no?  Having recently binge-watched X-Files, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and NCIS, I've been hyper-aware of how my life might look to others.  
          Before Ben and I started dating, he was hesitant to respond to my initial message as he thought I was too fancy, or high maintenance.  When we started dating, and he saw my closets for the first time, he even jokingly began to call me Imelda, as in Imelda Marcos (of the three thousand pairs of shoes).  He wasn't referring to my shoe collection, as the possessor of 'old man feet' I only have 14 pairs of shoes.  I do, however, have 37 pairs of colored chinos, in a variety of colors for all seasons.
Of course, over the past 15 months of our dating, he has witnessed and half-heartedly participated in my shopping sprees, so he has seen evidence that I am a lover of all things clearance-priced, a patron of high-end outlet malls and a skilled thrift store shopper.
          You could look at my new favorite cashmere sweater, which retails for $300, and think I either have lots of cash or lots of debt.  You wouldn't know, unless I spilled the beans, that I got it for $30 at an upscale thrift store in my little neighborhood in Long Beach.  And that's what I'm talking about.  Misinformation such as this might lead those who have been assigned to investigate my disappearance or murder down the wrong path and I couldn't share the truth as I would be dead or missing or both.  And you know I love to inadvertently solve crimes, if you've read my first book, A Gone Pecan.  
          Beyond the clearance sale luxury goods, other appearances can be deceiving.  My home appears unlived in most of the time, because I straighten as I go.  My landlord uses my apartment as the model she shows to prospective tenants as my décor is stylish and my home always tidy.  Everything is in its place and decorated to the Nth degree.  Sister Parish (famed interior designer) once said, "Behind every attractive room has to be a very good reason."  My reason is an unending need to be surrounded by bold, tasteful, erudite awesomeness.  
          However, as Ben (now my fiancé) will tell you, as he does each and every weekend, "BooBoo (my nom de amor), your house is so fancy, why is it that you do not dust?"
          Yes, it's true  I don't dust as much as I should.  If you were to glance about you might notice layers of me, covered in layers of me as everyone knows dust is but the remnants of your own dead skin.  It's science, y'all, it's supposed to be gross.
          I will share with you a mélange of house-cleaning conversations 'twixt my Benjy and me:
          Ben: BooBoo, why is it dusty in your living room?
          Me:  I stopped the cleaning lady from coming over.
          B:  Why?
          M:  I should be able to clean my own apartment.
          B:  Yes, you should.
          M:  But I don't want to.
          B:  But you can afford it.
          M:  I'm trying not to waste money.  We have a wedding to plan.
          B:  It's not a waste of money, it's a service.
          M: I just wish I could save money and have my apartment cleaned by someone else.
          B:  You could drink less Starbucks Iced Tea, to save money.
          M:  That's crazy talk!
          B:  So, clean your apartment.
          M:  You make it sound so simple.
          B:  It is, really.
          M:  I know.  That's what so annoying.
          B:  When I move in, I will help clean.
          M:  You'll dust?
          B:  No, I will mop the kitchen and clean the bathroom.  They need attention as well.
          M:  In my defense, my bed is made every morning, like clockwork.
          B:  It should be.
          M:  Don't I get credit for that?
          B:  You want me to praise you for doing something you're supposed to do?
          M:  Yes.  Yes, I do.
          B:  I will not.
          M: I guess I'll get to dusting.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Is 'Shame' a Setting on Your Microwave?

                I recently became aware of a peculiarity of mine.  I never really paid attention to this little quirk, but now I am cognizant and since we’re friends, I feel it bears discussion.  My shameful secret?  I always stop the microwave at one second; I don’t let it complete the cycle.  I don’t relish the ‘ding’, y’all.  As someone who is always curious about why people do the odd things they do, I had to do a little investigation of myself, thinking back to where and when it all started.

                My family bought our first microwave in 1979, when we lived in Tallulah, Louisiana, in the two-story house directly behind the post office.  It was an old, historical house, but my mother was determined to have a modern kitchen.  She bought a combination stove/oven/microwave unit from Amana, I think.  The stovetop was ceramic and would instantly heat up.  The microwave was affixed to the top and it was huge.  You, literally, could have cooked a full-size turkey, if so inclined.

                We didn’t know how to use it.  For most of the first year, we only melted cheese with it; onto baloney or into sliced wienies, depending upon the preparer’s preferences.  We actually called it a “Cheese Melter”.  My classmates in Mrs. Green’s Fourth Grade Class at Tallulah Academy can attest to my bragging about the giant appliance purchased to melt cheese quickly.  I thought we were so fancy.

                When Christmas rolled around, we bought my mother a microwave cookbook at the S&H Green Stamp store with the stamps we had been collecting at the A&P Grocery Store all year.  With cookbook in hand, my mother began to experiment.  Grits, soups and warmed up leftovers were successes; turkeys and cakes were revolting failures.  However, I couldn’t remember having any ding-averse motivations as a child.  The ding was actually a welcome sound – it meant it was time to eat.  It was the 20th century equivalent of the dinner bell or dinner gong, if you were British and had a butler.

                Surprisingly, I still have my mother’s microwave cooking set, with two pieces I have never used, both cake-related (bundt and cup, to be specific).  I typically only use the large dutch oven to make haystacks at Christmas or queso when the mood strikes, which is about twice a year; more often and I’d be quite a bit chubbier than I am.  And then it hit me.  The reason I avoid the ding is shame. 

                I was always a chubby child, but never actually fat.  The reason was my food intake was monitored by my mother (to ensure a healthy diet) and my sister (to ensure equal distribution, mostly related to Nacho Cheese Doritos).  When I was in high school in Tylertown, Mississippi, and I was actually allowed to go ‘to town’ and participate in (mostly innocent) night-time activities that caused me to get home late, awake long after my family had gone to bed, I began to sneak snacks.  A ding at midnight would have been the clarion call of gluttony; Dusty was violating scripture by eating something outside of approved meals and snacks, knowing full well that I had already eaten something at The Sonic that, at minimum, had included a large order of tater tots and a Cherry Dr. Pepper.

                If I was ninja-like in my reflexes, I could slip into the kitchen, nuke some vittles, stop the process pre-ding and slip away in the dark to my bedroom to savor my ill-gotten gains, enrobed in darkness, hidden from judging eyes.  I guess I thought Jesus had poor vision at night.  It was a nefarious activity, on par with surreptitiously watching Cinemax After Dark or USA’s Up All Night movies.

                For some reason this habit stuck with me through college and into adulthood, even now as I am chasing 48 like it robbed me at the outlet mall.  And that got me thinking they should re-design microwaves, adding a ‘Shame’ setting next to ‘Popcorn’ that gives no notification when the cycle is finished, knowing the intended recipient of the covertly reheated casserole has not left his or her post, impatiently staring, practically stalking their twirling tacos and pirouetting pizza slices like Jack McFarland stalks Kevin Bacon. 

                Ooh, maybe I should go on Shark Tank to tout my idea.  This screams “America”, am I right?

Friday, February 23, 2018

I Got (Sorta) Kidnapped Once

            I remember most everything.  I can describe in detail events from my childhood and teens, college and graduate school.  I can give you details such as who was there, what they said, even what they wore.  I remember minutiae that most people overlook or have long forgotten. 

            My junior year in college, I was working the front desk of the men’s dorm, Fraser Hall, at Mississippi University for Women and received a phone call from a friend of mine named Marcy.  Marcy told me there was a young lady, I truly can’t remember her name, who had supposedly met me at a party and wanted to go on a date.  I asked her to repeat the name and coming up blank, asked her to describe her.  When I still couldn’t remember, I asked which party (off-campus fraternity party), location (the home of my fraternity little brother’s biological big sister) and day of the week (Saturday) as there were many parties to attend in my very active social life.  Still, nothing.

Despite the fact that I was stone-cold sober at all frat parties (I was never one to drink anything stronger than Mello Yello), I was unable to recall this person in any detail.  However, as I was single, I was happy to accept this dating invitation by proxy.

On the night of the date, I was asked to pick up this young lady at her home.  When she opened the door, I had literally no recollection of having seen this person at any point in my life.  She wasn’t even someone I vaguely remembered as a peripheral person in one of my classes on campus.  I said 'Hello' with as much familiarity as is possible when talking to a total stranger.  I then met said stranger’s parents.

Not wanting the night to be awkward, I never mentioned that I had no idea who she was, but she apparently knew me in some detail.  She knew my fraternity, friends, activities, hang-outs, etc.  It was so flattering that I didn’t question the level of staler-esque detail she had about your dear narrator.  The date was as enjoyable as one can be between complete strangers and I took her home after dinner and a movie.  I don’t remember which one.  Sleeping with the Enemy, perhaps?

I didn’t call her after that as the date was weird and awkward.  As far as I was concerned, we were done as a couple.  About three days later, she called me and wanted to stop by the dorm to give me a surprise.  I was cautious but curious as she had mentioned homemade cookies.   

I met her in front of the dorm, where she invited me into her car to get the cookies.  Naively, I got into the car.  I mean, there were homemade cookies.  My stomach is stupidly trusting, y’all.    

So, yeah, she kidnapped me. 

I mean, I got away, but it was still weird. 

Oh, and the cookies were yummy.

Yes, I ate them.

What?  It was free cookies.
I have always had my priorities straight.  Just saying.