Monday, February 23, 2015

Oil Wells, Roast Beef and the Infirm

             You’ve heard the saying, feed a cold and starve a fever?  Well The Dad’s saying is feed a cold, feed a fever; heck, feed an ingrown toenail.  And just like the way The Dad has predicted “the sugah” will one day take his foot, the croup snuck up on me like a ninja wearing house shoes on carpet, y’all.  And it got me good.  As someone who is held up as the very picture of health and general awesomeness, I rarely get sick.  The last time I had to call in sick to work was 2009, people, and that was only after accidentally drinking the water in a city in northernmost Mexico; some people call it, San Diego, CA.  Whatever it was it turned me into an unpleasantly active airline passenger and I missed two days of work but I came through to the other side 11 pounds lighter and only a half a shade paler.  I believe my complexion is sometimes referred to as “mother of pearl”.
                All I know is that this week I was feeling poorly and the doctor had not listened to what I was saying about experiencing the same symptoms as two women from work and they had near-miraculous outcomes with something called a Z-pack.  Well, Mr. Dr. tut-tutted my comment in that way that makes you want to kick that little stool out from under them while they’re typing and stated that I did not need a Z-pack; therefore I did not get a prescription for said item.  He gave me cough syrup and 800 mg Ibuprofen and told me to get some rest.  Well, I left him with the most sarcastic cough I could muster and fled to the pharmacy in the sketchy part of town because that was the only Walgreen’s I could find in Long Beach.  Fortunately, horking up a lung whilst traversing the parking lot in the hood seems to get you a free pass.  I guess drug dealing gang members need to be in good health to cause mayhem.  Or maybe they liked my teal chinos and my new pebbled leather and suede wingtips.  Being in poor health is no excuse for poor attire.  And, yes, I’m talking to you, every person in line, both in front of and behind me.
                Once I got home, I took my pills and took my place on the bed awaiting blissful slumber that did not come.  Apparently I inherited my father’s constitution and needed something along the lines of a rhinoceros tranquilizer to get me to sleep.  As I lay, cursing softly under my breath, I remembered my father’s remedy for a sore throat; a ham sandwich.  I feel pretty sure you're now wanting some back story.
                When I was in fifth grade, we lived in Burns Flat, Oklahoma.  Our next door neighbors were a family of one mother (Totie) and five sons (Rickey, Dickey, Mickey, Cabbie and Chad).  I am not making this up.  I only mention them as my father did not particularly like Ms. Totie, but my mother considered her a friend.
                I came home one day with chicken pox because Stephanie Comes (yes, I remember her name) came to school with visible pox and infected most of my grade.  But my mother was capable of handling any and all situations so my being out of school for a few weeks wasn’t that big of a deal, right?  I was home for a day or so when something happened.  Not unlike those who live below stairs on Downton Abbey, my siblings and I were not privy to much direct information.  What we knew we had to piece together by listening in on snatches of conversations in darkened hallways.  There were unfamiliar words being bandied about; like ‘hysterectomy’ and ‘emergency’ and ‘bed rest’. 
               Having no familiarity with any anatomy other than our own and with no inclination to discuss such matters (we are Southern Baptist, people) my siblings and I didn’t understand anything other than my mother was to be in bed for six weeks and we were to be cared for by The Dad; the three children (all of which now had chicken pox), a parakeet and a poodle.  We shared the same look Carson gets when unexpected dinner guests arrive.
                The Dad was “running a crew” of welders building and setting up oil rigs and he typically worked 18-hour shifts.  He was home for only a few minutes when I told him that my throat hurt.  He told me to fix a ham sandwich.  I did and I ate it and, by golly, if I didn’t feel better.  So much so, that I ate another one, just to be on the safe side.  My sister (seventh grader and ardent admirer of Scott Baio) asked him what we were to do and he told her that she would have to cook and we would have to help clean.  My sister, always the bravest one, stated matter-of-factly, “I don’t know how to cook.”  The Dad replied, shocked, “What?  Aren’t you 13?  You’re practically grown!   You’ve watched your Mama cook!  Figure it out!”  I stood there thinking I’ve watched the Duke boys get away from Roscoe, too, but I don’t think I could make a car fly.  My sister suggested Ms. Totie could help, after all she had offered earlier that very day.  The Dad said under no circumstances would we take her charity.; we were too proud.  I assume he was using the royal we because I simply did not agree with that statement at its very essence.  The best kind of food is that cooked by others.
                When he left, my sister looked at me and we both looked at my brother who looked at the parakeet and I said, “What would the kids on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ do?”  So we went outside and rolled down the hill.  Surprisingly, that didn’t solve anything.  I offered to make everyone a ham sandwich, but my suggestion was rebuffed.  I ate one anyway.  No wonder I was chubby.
                Ms. Totie, God bless her, came over to check on us and Mother.  She asked if there was anything she could do and my sister burst into tears and said The Dad had said she had to cook supper and she didn’t know how and we couldn’t go tell mother because she was “laid up”.  Ms. Totie hugged us all and said, yes, she would make something in the crock pot and just bring it over and The Dad would never know.  That sounded more than reasonable to us; we had been hiding stuff from him for many moons, y’all.
                When The Dad came home around dark thirty, we set the table and presented him with roast, potatoes, carrots, green beans and rolls.  He looked at the food and then at us and, like a proper British gentleman, ate every bite and never questioned the manner by which the food came to be.  We kept up this charade for six weeks. 
                And I only tell this story to complain that among my new neighbors, I do not have a Ms. Totie, willing to secretly bring me delicious dinners.  I do have Glenn, the surprisingly well-spoken Harley aficionado next door and Justin, boyfriend of a bellicose young woman, below me.  I haven’t actually met Justin; I’ve just heard his named screamed by said woman while I was trying to sleep away my illness.  Glenn referred to her as “Shut Up or I’m Calling the Cops” but that’s probably just a nickname.
                And that’s all I’m saying for now.


Monday, February 16, 2015

I'm not saying global warming is my fault, but...

                A proper wardrobe should count among its basics, a navy blazer.  It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, a navy blazer immediately dresses up your intentions.  Khakis, polo and baseball cap is not dressy enough?  Simply add a navy blazer and you are ready for Homecoming at Ole Miss, y’all.  And the reason I even bring this up is that for most of my life I was bereft of a blazer, navy or otherwise, and there were times when I needed to bring my A-game, fashionably, and found myself lacking. 
              I posted a photo recently on Facebook to commemorate the significant hairdos that I and my peers Aqua-Netted (or White –Rained, depending on your brand loyalty) into pillars (literally) of wonder.  To borrow from the Post Office, neither rain, nor snow nor Hurricane-force winds at a football game will keep our coiffures from doing their duty.  Now what that duty was, I don’t remember, but whatever it was those ‘dos were doing it, do you hear me? 
              However, my significant locks were not the reason I take finger to keyboard, it was the lovely ensemble I was wearing in the re-taken photo.  I had been elected Freshman Class Favorite at Southwest Mississippi Community College because this is the South and we love our superlatives.  And I wanted to make a great impression for posterity’s sake.  I mean, what were the odds that this would happen again, I thought to myself.  And an honor such as this required a photo for the yearbook with a proper outfit.  And someone as concerned with my clothes as I was, the math was not on my side.  The following equation will assist you in picturing my reality:

‘Great taste’ plus ‘almost-psychotic need to fit in’ multiplied by ‘too tall/fat to wear my 8th grade graduation suit’ divided by ‘no money’ gives us the fraction: diddly/squat. 

This was a disaster of Biblical proportions!  Okay, maybe not Biblical but it was one of my plagues, people.  Oh don’t look so appalled; we’ve already discussed how shallow I was back then.
            The initial photo’s ensemble was the closest thing I had to dress clothes, which included some off-brand big and tall version of Z Cavariccis.  The pants were aggressively ill-fitting due to the generous pleating at the waist that competed with the pegged-for-you-by-the-manufacturer straight legs which gave the illusion that my torso was sitting atop a hot air balloon mid-descent.  It was a pretty as you would imagine.  If you pair that with a two year-old very tight Miami Vice jacket (in sea foam green, no less) and a plaid tie and you get the picture.  Thank goodness I was on the yearbook staff and refused to have that photo printed, in black and white or color.  Oh, I didn’t throw a fit or anything; I just destroyed the photo and negative in a lab accident, like you do. 
             Now, the reshoot was a bit better due to the borrowing of clothing more, but still not quite, appropriate for the occasion.  You see, America had been getting fatter by the decade and the clothing options were changing, but as an over-achiever, I had been getting fatter much more quickly than my fellow countrymen.  In 1988 there was no size 38 (inches) in Girbaud or Guess jeans.  By 1990, when those sizes premiered publicly, I was sporting a 40-inch waist.  Beyond feeling fat and ugly, it came to pass that the only person the same size as I and with whom I could borrow clothes was my father.  Can’t you just feel my excitement?  If I ever wanted to be a stand-in on ‘Hee-Haw’ or break into the country music scene in 1975, I was ready, people. 
If you look very closely, the jacket is of a fabric that hangs in an interesting manner.  Those in the fashion business call it leather.  Yes, dear readers, I was wearing a caramel-colored leather sport coat.  The pants were forest green and the tie was green, white and pink plaid, but not in that fantastic Ralph Lauren sort of way.  It was more along the lines of the are-there-any-ties-at-Hudson’s-Salvage-Center-that-have-green-in-them-smoke-damaged-is-okay-my-mom-can-get-the-smell-out sort of way that most people shop.  Thus the reality of black and white photographs in the Who’s Who section when you know I wanted that photograph in full color on the front, and every subsequent, page.  Upon revisiting the photo this week, it looks disturbingly like the commemoration of the wedding of some cult preacher and his 5th sister wife who is missing her left thumb.
I ended up wearing that same outfit in my sister’s wedding the following September, where I sang “The Wedding Song” and “Lost in Your Eyes” hidden ever so discretely behind a (rather large) fern.  My sister and the wedding planner both claimed the other had the idea to hide me.  If feel sure they were both telling the truth. 
However, once I transferred to MUW and pledged a fraternity, I had to find a navy blazer.  It was our Delta Sigma Omega uniform, along with our gold and navy striped ties and khakis.  These guys had just gifted me with a chance to be a regular “guy” guy and I was not about to mess this up.  God took pity on my shallow butt and I was able to find a double-breasted navy blazer at Hudson’s for something like $2 due to the fact that it had survived a mudslide in Argentina.
Mind you my significant research into a gentleman’s guide to dressing appropriately had taught me that any man who himself has double breasts, should not wear a double-breasted jacket as it tends to draw the eye to the mid-section and emphasize the girth.  But let’s be honest, it wasn’t the button configuration that brought the attention to my belly; it was the fact that I had a belly.  But it was now a member-of-a-fraternity-belly and that was all that I cared about.  It’s all about having your priorities in place, am I right?
And that’s all I’m saying for now.