Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Hat Legend of Hollow-headed Hamid

I know it is not polite to make fun of people so I usually tease myself if my hair is preoccupied. I don’t wear hats very often so of course that presents challenges if I have need to pick on people who DO wear them. I do not really have anything against folks who want to look their ‘sundae best’ and flip their lids over their fancy ‘nut’ toppings. But can I help it that I don’t trust those heady hat worshipers - I just am always suspicious that they are ‘covering up’ something.

Just look at President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan – have you ever seen the guy without that furry little rat of a hat on his head? Do you think he even has a REAL top to his head, or is that mystery chapeau the beginnings of a new ‘teapot ‘no’ dome scandal’? He seems like a nice enough guy but I bet the ‘Afghan-man’ sleeps in that thing for luck. Yes given his amazing ability to stay alive, you know when nobody is around at breakfast, old Hamid turns his hat over and fills it up with ‘Lucky Charms’ and a double helping of fresh Yak milk.

I had to go to my Scrabble dictionary to find out what that hat is called and it is a ‘Qaraqul’ (25 points). That name actually sounds more like a prescription drug brand, rather than a hat made from a ‘black sheep’s’ wool. I might be ‘going out on a LAMB’ here, but ironically Karzai’s choice of hat-fabric seems to be a perfect idiomatic representation of his political popularity among his fellow Afghanis.

Maybe Karzai should try to lead his country in a Burka or better yet one of those women’s headdresses that circumnavigates the entire ‘melon-headal’ region? This attire makes me concerned, but I honestly have the same distrust of open shirt Europeans, and those flouncy scarves around their necks. In the best case, I know if you pull off that neck scarf, you might find one of those ‘Zip-Loc press n’ seal’ attachment zippers. In the worse case, I fear it’ll be some horrific oozing ‘Franken-stitches’ basement experiment gone awry, that's holding the dude’s head on.

Hmmm, I’m not sure where this post seems to be ‘HEADED’ but my ‘hat’s off’ to you if you stuck through to the end. I’ve got to get some of these macabre images out of my head or it will be HARD to sleep tonight. Perhaps a bedtime story is in order to get my ‘mind off things’? – Let’s try ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Toughest modeling job ever!

I was watching my regular dose of morning news when an intriguing commercial caught my eye. I observed intently as high-fashion models confidently displayed the advertiser’s clothing line with poise and grace. What made these catwalk ‘fashionistas’ so unique was not only their … uh let’s put this ‘delicately’ - bulky waistlines, but the fact that their clothes took TWO models to show them off to their full advantage.

So who were these hard working oversized models? I really don’t know, but one thing is for sure – their high-heeled Mothers are parading them around and are indeed PREGNANT! Now it is one thing to choose your own career but quite another to pick your kid’s even before they leave the womb right? I mean, what if the kid wants to be an intrauterine ENT specialist or even a ditch-digger? Those are such ‘HOLELY’ diverse professions requiring far different skill-sets, from those that a brief 9 month long modeling intern(al)ship can provide.

I thought we had child LABOR laws in this country, because this has to be one of the hardest jobs ever for fetuses. You are kind of all curled up like a snail and your trying to get some rest, but then the music starts and those hot lights raise mom’s blood pressure slightly. As her heart beats a little faster, you too get a little more excited and issue a few celebratory kicks to shake off the grogginess. You secretly wonder if this is the job for you but let’s face it, given your surroundings, the current career options are rather limited and all really, REALLY gooey.

So if you happen to see a high-fashion commercial for maternity clothing, think about what is going on behind the scenes, or ‘inside them’ as it were. Somewhere under all that colorful garb and behind hot white lights, is a little fashion Diva awaiting to celebrate their very first birthday and ‘oh so fabulous’, Fashion week, runway curtain-call! Yes, you might have to slap them once, tell them to breathe, and no doubt, there will be some crying involved while swaddling. But in the end, after you wipe away all the make-up and fancy designer duds, everyone knows that ALL models, deep down, are just big babies!

The ‘syndrome’ & things that go BUMP in the night

I ‘camp’ out (pun intended) in an easy chair that sits next to a large bank of windows. At the crack of dawn, they glare a bit with the rising sun, but usually by then, Midnight zombies like myself have found a pillow to drool on. During the summer months in the Midwest it can get fairly warm and humid even in the evening. Of course the creatures of the night and bugs don’t mind, and in fact some increase their flying sorties ten-fold once the sun goes down and the lights come up inside the house.

This creates an irritating distraction for me in my normally relaxing perch. Those dumb flying insects repeatedly will circle around and dive for the light radiating from my window and ram their buggy heads into the glass. Even if these bug dive bombers had my brain, you would think that after a couple of times of hitting that brick-hard glass, they would be deterred from further noggin-knockin’. But NO, those ‘insane-sects’ would make lousy burglars, because they don’t even bother trying a different window, they simply regroup and fly back in for another brain bash with the exact same PANE.

It probably would not surprise you that I have also created yet another window bumping pest – the raccoons. Everyone thought it was cute at first when they would come up to the sliding door with their masky beady eyes and gently tap the glass for a tasty table scrap. Who am I to deny such polite and adorable creatures, the dental and dietary benefits of commercial cat food? Well that was fine at first. But unlike toothless, hard-luck and tacky street-people who hawk oranges or clean windshields for hand-outs, the raccoons rarely offer me much more than a toothy grin. At least they smell better and are always impeccably dressed in fur.

At times I have resorted to turning off the lights and writing in the dark. I have no problem keyboarding the standard alphabet, but all those weird characters, numbers, hypens, and apostrophes are starting to make Braile ‘LOOK’ good now. I try to mask the blue glow of the computer screen but clearly I need a ‘Windowless office’, or at least insects and animals who better understand Linux, and my need for peace and quiet.

Now if these are not reasons enough for ‘noise-cancelling headphones’ for Christmas, then Santa must already be deaf (or asleep in the other room). Sadly by the end of the year it won’t matter anyway, because around here, even the insects head South for the Winter. I claim they’re the dumb ones, yet who is stuck shoveling snow and scraping ice, in a frigid ‘Kool Pop’-cave for half the year? Did you just hear that crunching sound and those loud, hollow bumps? Don’t worry, I’m sure the insect and animal night-stalkers are just fine and haven’t breached our perimeter yet. Actually, that is the sweet sound of ‘Munchie-hausens’ relief as I blissfully bludgeon my head against a wall and eat Fritos long into the night.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bottom line Pancake Confessional

I think I have been flapping jacks in some form or another for close to 40 years. That is a long time to be rolling in dough and yet still be broke. Through all those years however, pancakes, not unlike the ‘ether’ and wonders of deep space, continue to perplex me on a great number of levels. Oh I know what you are thinking, this boy has clearly gotten into the fermented artificial vanilla and seeing rainbows where pancakes should be. Hey I understand your skepticism, after all, beyond about a quarter of an inch, how ‘deep’ can a fried dollop of flour and milk really be?

Well consider the elitism and ‘special class’ privilege that pancakes receive while cooking. Everybody says ‘let’s MAKE pancakes’, they don’t say ‘let’s FRY pancakes, because frying anything these days is considered unhealthful. Pancakes are mostly just flour, water and a little egg to keep everything stuck together right? I thought all of us already eat that stuff everyday and it is called ‘BREAD’? I don’t see a $5 short stack of 3 pieces of white bread, featured on every breakfast diner menu in America do you?

I have tried both Bisquick and Jiffy brand boxed mixes to make great pancakes at home and overall I guess I like Bisquick better, but the pancakes are NEVER great. I always laugh at myself for buying basically a box of flour with 3 or 4 other trace ingredients for TEN TIMES the cost of bulk flour. To make the best possible pancake I often make them from scratch with a tad more egg for loft, real vanilla extract for flavor, and a teaspoon of oil for consistency. It is important to NEVER over-mix the batter. In an effort to get every last lump out, many folks beat their pancake batter mercilessly like their children. This is a crime and you will pay for such violence with a batch of flat, lifeless, and damp crepes, that only a taste bud-challenged Frenchman could love. On the plus side however, you will raise wonderfully ISO 9001 compliant, quality children that all of society will appreciate.

I will never completely understand why pancakes behave so differently than other pan-fried foods. No matter how long I heat the pan, or how much lube I use to season the griddle, the very 1st pancake of the batch, will brown the edges dark and fry the rest of the cake to an uneven splotchy tan. Thereafter the pancakes will grill up to a beautiful uniform golden brown on the first side only, which is customarily known as the ‘TOP’. The second side (or pancake bottom) will stay a pale whitish color when grilled and is very religious since it is rather ‘holey’. Isn’t the pancake batter the same ‘stuff’ mixed throughout - so HOW can the cakes have a top and bottom?

In a perfect ‘make sense’, politically-correct world, if the source ‘batter’ is all the same, shouldn’t we demand that all finished pancakes too, be ubiquitous with the same ingredients, color, and texture on ALL sides? This really draws in the whole ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument, because pancakes, just like people, may be all made up of the same goo, but some clearly have better TASTE than others. Oh what do I know – I’m just an equal opportunity ‘eater’ with years of practical experience. Though for you that DO wish to discriminate, I have developed an easy way to remember which is the top, and bottom of a pancake. Just like people, pancakes have the ‘holes’ in their bottoms!

Why the youthful ‘Y’ people?

I have one of those lucky first names that allows its assignee to remain ageless and never grow old. ‘What’ you say, the Fountain of Youth has always been as simple as naming my children appropriately? Gee if my ancestors, had only known that in the 1500’s, they would have given the ‘Pants of Leon’ back to him before he met those Indians, and died from embarrassment (or that inconvenient arrow).

No don’t be silly, just because you are named ‘Billy, Johnny, Mikey, or Bobby, your child-like moniker won’t really help you live forever. To actually avoid aging, everybody knows you still have to get bitten by a Vampire. And I mean a REAL bloody ‘classic’ vampire, not one of those sparkly Hollywood teen ‘EMO’ ‘Nightlight book’ vamps.

To be honest I like my name ok, but it is hard sometimes to be called ‘Little Billy’ when you have lived nearly half a century and can inadvertently crush any chair ever designed. You see, my family going way back must have all been in debtor’s prison because we have endless ‘Bills’ in our clan. On my father’s side of the family, not only does my Dad possess the same name but his father as well. On my Mom’s side, I had another Grandpa with my name, an Uncle, and even an AUNT named Billie too. You can imagine what fun holiday reunions are when everyone rushes to the formal dinner table, and even with place cards, nobody knows where to sit.

On the up side when you have a ‘Y’ at the end of your adult name, bosses really don’t demand much from you. “Oh yes, Curt & Kent, Congratulations, I think you should handle the international audit of Microsoft! And - uh ‘Billy’ … hmmm?, … can you take Timmy and go check on what’s keeping those club sandwiches - Drew and I are feeling a bit peckish?” Now WHY I don’t know, but if you insist on saddling your spawn with a name that ends in ‘Y’, go with Bradley, Charley, or Rocky (or their feminine alternates ‘Bra, Charla, & Rockette’). While those names remain informal and approachable, they still have an ambiguous air of fast-food sophistication about them. Ok, I gotta go ‘cause there’s a clean-up at table 5. A dumb husky kid named ‘Wittle, Wee Wee Willy’ probably broke his chair again … but then again, I wonder why the boss wants me to take this mop? NOOOO WAAAAYY – wow this job NEVER gets old!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I want my MUMMY

I am not that vain really but I have always had an interest in death masks. Yes I am one of those creepy people who lurks on Ebay looking for Lincoln’s face preserved for all time. Now I don’t want to say our 16th President was ugly but honestly, a mold of the Grand Canyon would have taken less plaster to fill in than all of his nooks and crannies.

Now obviously someone such as myself cannot be obsessed with the preservation of other people’s faces without wanting a chance to mold a mask of my own mug as well. Since I am currently not dead, and for the time being I would like to stay that way, I had to recruit the assistance of my family to encase my face. Obviously there are certain precautions involved here since by definition if you pour a bunch of cement into your nose and mouth and let it harden, you will die. So unlike the cliché, “DO” try this at home but don’t be a 'hard-head' and die attempting it.

To ensure I had access to air, I basically fashioned some cut straws with a built-up taped end large enough to plug up my nostrils. Also for a little extra safety, I put some cotton in the ears and gauze disks over the eyes. Most people spend hours with astringents and acne remedies trying to get rid of oily skin but for this project you need to lube up your face with a little petroleum jelly. I keep my hair fairly short, but if you have bangs, you will need to pull them back and secure your hair so it won’t get coated in goo.

Now out of cardboard I made a tray with a oblong hole in the middle to shove over my face. Oddly this will not feel too unfamiliar for those of you who eat bad fish regularly or over-indulge in alcoholic beverages. The cardboard toilet seat should be fairly snug but you can fill in mistakes with masking tape on your skin along the perimeter of your face. The idea is to make a catch basin for any plaster that doesn’t set-up and harden on your face.

Now the fun begins. Lay back on a pillow keeping your face and the tray horizontal. Have your helper soak some plaster wrap (plaster infused gauze) and apply over your face to help strengthen the mold. You will lose a little definition in your facial features but it will make things a bit easier. Next mix up a batch of plaster of paris until it starts to have the consistency of creamy pudding and then goop it on liberally all over the face. Make sure your helper is mindful to not get plaster in the breathing straws or purposely drop sand or rice down them for fun.

The process hardens faster than you might imagine but you will have to lay there patiently and vulnerable for about 15 minutes so this activity is best not attempted in frat houses or while prone on railroad tracks. There are latex molding compounds you can buy to make a ‘positive’ image from your plaster ‘negative’ mold you've just made, but I simply used a sheet of foil. I guess if I would have smiled more my mold might have had a better attitude. I did try this project one time before with an expensive granular molding compound, but mixing is critical and the product has to be fresh for excellent detailed results. For just some goofy family fun with easy and inexpensive materials, try casting your own mold of your kids’ entire bodies. Don’t worry they WON’T talk back, and anyway, everyone trusts that - MUMMY knows best!

Don’t Sweat it!

I feel badly sometimes that I am not providing adequately for my family. No I am not worried about money since I have my own printing press. We also wisely swore off red ink after that unfortunate incident with the Russian squid on Ritz, and the canned squeeze cheese. Especially with these dog days of excessive heat and humidity, I am more concerned about my lack of laundry prowess with stains, ‘whites and colors’. I don’t mind my well deserved ‘hobo-sapien’ image, but I particularly hate for the wife and kid to have to play ‘rag tag’ too, when they skulk among the general population.

Now this really is not my fault because my mother sent me off to college ill-prepared when it came to laundry. I remember only a single lecture on the subject - all of 26 seconds of it as we approached my dorm. My parents slowed the van just long enough to shove me out the door into the REAL world with a single pink laundry basket and a sample pouch of Woolite. My folks had no sage advice about laundry care except to hang my duds IMMEDIATELY when they come out of the dryer or face the public shame and humiliation of a slow and wrinkled death. I was the only kid in college who was paranoid that my twisted-skivvies would be rendered functionally unusable, if the dryer stopped and I wasn’t instantly present to free them from their hot and airy bondage.

It is not that my parents were holding out on me – they just didn’t know any better. In fact to this day, my mother’s washing machine has a timer with a hot and cold button. The dryer has a timer and a start button – that’s it. No pretty windows or fancy LCD lighted panels to tell ideal temperature settings for varied articles of clothing. No buzzers or bells to tell you when things are done because the machine just stops when it’s finished – isn’t that weird? Who would have ever thought that when a machine was DONE with its work it just turns off? Somebody had better tell my stereo and television about this news flash, because I don’t think they got the memo.

Machinery aside, I think my laundry problem is mostly due to the generic Dollar store detergent that we use. You know the stuff where you get a barrel of Smurf-colored syrup for $3.99, when a 4-load ‘ultra concentrate’ bottle of the major brands require a loan (with references) to purchase. My whites just always look kind of gray and the colored clothes always end up as some form of a hippie rainbow, tye-dye thing. I do try to use those fabric softener sheets but I am too cheap to use more than one at a time. So as soon as I open the dryer, the hot clothes, all cooped up and hyper-charged with static, leap from the dryer and cling to me like stink to a French fishmonger.

It’s obvious, my family is doomed to an eternal life of ‘pit-perspiration’ persecution and neck-ring ridicule. As long as we must endure these hot, humid summers , we too must face the fleeting glances of society’s disgust at our pitiful and poorly laundered plight. Like Hester Prynne and Pearl, my wife and daughter should learn to accept their permanent stained existence … or just simply ‘DON’T SWEAT IT’!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Prime 9 signs it is high time to vote!

Oh boy it’s your favorite time of year again. No it can’t be your birthday (unless you're eight), Christmas (unless you're WalMart), or even Hanukah (unless you're Hawaiian). No it is VOTING TIME again – perhaps the most titillating time of the year for computer-bound bloggers and brainy Hooters girls? Hey don’t scoff at the notion – I covered myself with the ‘perhaps’, on the off-chance that some of you may not agree. In any case, today is the day when we start to see the signs that the worst of the political season is behind us, and indeed there is a glow-stick at the end of the tunnel. So AFTER you mark your ballot, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and review these Prime 9 memories of how you knew it was time to make some really tough guesses … uh CHOICES. Enjoy!

1) You madly rush around trying to choose your candidates based on who has the ‘prettiest’ and most colorful yard signs.

2) Robot auto-dialers have grown tired of repeating their taped messages and simply breathe heavily into the phone - which you find oddly arousing.

3) You vote for your candidates based on how many times they HAVE or HAVEN’T uttered any of the phrases ‘change’, ‘Tea Party’, or ‘main street not wall street’, in speeches.

4) Overnight the daily newspaper has become suddenly only 2 pages thick and devoid of any ‘hard’ news except for the crossword puzzle – oops I forgot, it’s already like that every day!

5) You have to ‘un-stick’ your identification from its wallet window pocket , so the old geezer that checks you in at the polls can fondle it and compare your ‘in person’ weight to the ‘ lie’ noted on your Driver’s license.

6) If your homeless or an illegal alien, you must walk from polling place to polling place casting multiple ballots for whichever candidate has promised you the most cigarettes, malt liquor, and lottery tickets.

7) At Walgreens, there is a rush on fingernail polish and ‘Goo-be-gone’ to try and remove your losing candidate’s stickers from the car’s bumper, office windows, laptop, and your billboard-sized forehead.

8) The entire library system’s collection of 32 copies of ‘Voting for Dummies’ are all returned and re-shelved on the day of the election – inexplicably perfectly crisp and STILL never opened.

9) Global Warming has immediately reversed into a dive towards a new ice age when all of the hot air stops billowing out of those airbag candidates and the moronic TV commentators.

So there you have it the Prime 9 signs that it is voting time again. I sincerely hope you have taken your responsibility to understand the issues and candidates a bit more seriously than my goofy post insights. Our nation depends on YOUR vote for guidance and leadership. Without ‘We the people’ there is nobody left in this Republic to tax and pay for all the stuff that we want for free. So be proud, and help put Democracy in action by remembering to VOTE NOW and VOTE OFTEN!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Milk seems to grow on trees

Despite the popular contention that milk is extracted from mammalian beasts of burden, it is my thinking that the stuff must be growing on trees. The reasoning goes that regular dairy foods of all kinds seem prevalent in every town and store, while even non-standard varietal milk products too, seem to be growing in popularity. Though I don’t often drink it this way, but if milk is left to its own devices especially in warmer weather – just like trees, it will GROW GREEN.

Now I know that most of our milk here is derived from happy cows who are basically kept year in and year out pregnant which results in milk production that humans as well as calves like to drink. I am thankful everyday that entrepreneurs never started breeding pigeons for ‘crop milk’, which is nutrient-rich cottage cheese slime that all good pigeon moms ‘up-chuck’ out of affection for their young. Oddly with human squabs, it is they who regurgitate their LOVE, after their mothers feed them milk or just about anything else.

Around here I am blessed with vats of both white 2% milk for the wife and skim milk for the kid. We also stock a carton of shelf-stable Almond milk for I’m not sure what and powdered buttermilk for cooking. Of the chocolate varietals, we have a carton of chocolate flavored soy milk and of course packets of sugar, cocoa, and milk powder to make ‘hot chocolate’. I assume these products come from ‘black beans’, ‘Black Angus cows’, or Coco Chanel, but I am not sure exactly how they are extracted?

I am amazed at the amount of milk marketing that goes on these days. I have been featured on not one, but TWO milk cartons, and I can honestly tell you I am still as lost as ever. I think there is probably something about that milk that grows on trees, which does not make me ‘right’ in the head? Because most of my insanity can be traced back to when I was very young and was hit on the head by a container of milk. Ever since then I have been certifiably ‘COCONUTS’.

The bug-a-day sucker

You know this is not some goal of mine or anything but I noticed recently that on average I find a bug per day in my house. Now what ‘bugs’ me about this is that we spray along the foundation and then at least once per year, we will spray along the baseboards and all of the inside walls of the house. I also give a double dose of ‘death water’ in the garage since everyone knows all insects who don’t fly, drive cars.

The odd thing is that if you go to the garden center and tell them that you found a ‘bug’ in your house, they just scurry away, kind of like a BIG roach. But of course I protest at the dismissive nature of their buggy demeanor, then restate the facts … “no – I find a bug a day in my house so what do I do?” At that point, I can see that I have piqued their interest a tad more and they ask, “What specific kind of bug problem do you have – ants, termites, spiders, worms”? So I say “well you see that’s the problem it is one of EACH of those things and others but only ONE per day and I find them ALL over the house.”

“So you can’t define an entry point like a door or window where they are coming in?” the garden center guy queries. Hmmm, I think to myself – Do bugs need to come in doors or windows like humans, or aren’t they small enough to find any old hole or outlet box to sneak in? Clearly this isn’t helping. I excuse myself and end up buying a huge bag of ‘multipurpose’ killing granules. They recommend keeping any pets away from the stuff so the application by sled-dog is out. This is a man’s job, or more likely a task for the neighbor’s kids when they come around looking for easy jobs to do for quarters.

So for now until I unleash the death granules, which look strangely similar to Grape Nuts, I must go around the house gathering up bugs the old fashioned way. The highest tech method thus far is a little kid’s toy that is amazingly effective at vacuuming up insects. This ‘suck gun’ is great at locking the bugs up in a transparent container for later analysis or slow torture by magnifying glass on a sunny day. I also have a ‘wand’ of sorts that has a little slide door on the bottom and I can trap spiders alive and then take them outdoors to ‘return to sender’. Many times I still resort to a newspaper or magazine to inflict an execution upon crawlies like roaches, but then it requires a spatula to remove the unwanted pest and I use those things to flip eggs in the morning (the spatulas not the bugs). Uh Oh – my spidey senses are tingling … I’m sure somewhere in this house an insect is planning a RAID this very moment. I had better go double check to make sure all the doors and windows are closed and LOCKED!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I have hang ups

I know sometimes you just have to face your demons and put everything out on the table for the world to see. I hope you will not judge me when you find out that indeed, NONE of the hangers in my house match! You would think if you went to the same dry cleaner every week, then at least some of the hangers would look the same? I would pay more attention to this issue, but I usually get distracted by those dry cleaning plastic bags. Did you know that those things make GREAT toys?

Hangers around here are like socks. Despite my best effort to round ‘em up like long lost cattle, it always seems I come back with a hamper full of odd-ball hangers if hangers at all. Is that normal? Do you think there are Australian elves hiding somewhere in the house stealing hangers and ripping out their hooks to make their ‘factory seconds’ boomerang quota? You have to watch those crafty members of the ‘Brotherhood Union of Gnomes, Leprechauns, and Elves (BUGLE). Yeah, they’ll ‘ trumpet’ their work ethic, but as soon as your back is turned, oddly another hanger (and sock) magically ends up missing.

Even though none look the same, I do have a wide variety of clothes hangers. I actually like the cheap wire ones quite a bit because the clothes compact well in our overstuffed closets. No doubt they bend too easily, but that is actually a great asset for an absent minded mental giant like me, who locks his keys in his car so often. Our second most prevalent hanger is the thicker plastic round type. I always wanted someday to color code these to match the color of the clothes. The only problem is that ALL our clothes are issued in a distinct shade of ‘prison’ gray, or have become that way after years of marginal washboard cleaning.

We have some nice wood pants hangers and other odd-ball versions with clips, rubber, or foam padded arms. Quite a few of the hangers have notches or hooks all over them for dress straps or slips. I personally keep my dresses folded in a drawer away from prying eyes, and the only slips that I’ve acquired in quantity are PINK in color. I guess I really need to clean up my act huh? I admit it, I do have a few weird hang-ups in my personal closet. But you have to understand, the bats are my pets, and a source of valuable, nitrogen- rich fertilizer for the garden. I may change someday but ‘don’t hold your breath’ – it’s a lot more fun to play inside a dry cleaner plastic bag and let it do it for you!

Conspicuous Consumption Reset

Although as a rule I prefer to keep things upbeat , airy, and silly, I’m going to hit you with a caveat from the heart. Today the family and I ventured out to an Estate sale. Yes, no big deal since I have written many times about our recreational shopping excursions at garage sales, thrift stores, and even in dumpsters.

But this sale today was a little bit different since it was held in an upper class section of St. Louis (no jokes please as I have already written ALL of them on this topic). Immediately upon entry to the foyer of the house, I knew this was going to be an enjoyable adventure. We were greeted with an ornate giant bronze fountain priced at $8000. Now believe me this hunk of iron WAS expensive but there was no doubt in my mind that it probably cost the owner close to double that. Even if I had ‘8 large’ burning a hole in my piggy bank for a one ton water fountain, I would spend half that amount again just getting it trucked to the house, site prep – well you get the idea.

We continued through the house and though the visual treats of opulence continued in every room, I noticed something else too – ORDINARY things. I mean really ordinary things, like lunch boxes, shoes, kids books, water glasses, kitchen plates – stuff people use EVERY DAY? In the garage, the surprises continued as it was clear the owner was a high-end house builder and a local councilperson for the city. He had won tons of ‘quality’ awards and received recognition from all strata of society for his contributions to helping promote home ownership and ‘develop’ the local economy.

By now, you are assuming this is a tale of a ‘big shot’ who lived beyond his means and suffered the plight of countless other hard-working souls in this recent economic downturn and went bankrupt. Well you are half right, but the story has nothing to do with the economy - the owner was a crook. He ran a Ponzi bank scam to take new home deposits to cover his expenses. He would borrow funds from company accounts to always try and stay one step ahead of his spending habits, cocaine use, and bank fraud crimes. Eventually the FBI got involved and in the end he got caught and convicted to the State pen for a 51 month sentence.

Now what’s the big finish moral to this depressing story? Well I’m sure every day you and your kids are bombarded with ads, neighbors, and workmates who are always ‘in need’ of pitching MORE. You know those folks up the street – the Jones’? Yeah they just bought a new Mercedes and a Pinball machine – “why don’t we have that stuff too since we obviously deserve it?” Do yourself a BIG FAVOR and get off this train to nowhere and FAST. I am all for you blowing your cash any way you please as long as you know that your reserves and lifestyle are adequately in check. If you start finding yourself heading towards a cliff of working MORE simply to keep up with MORE debt, MORE wants, and MORE TROUBLE, then remember this ‘un-fairy’ tale and stop - RESET. Do you think this guy’s kids needed all the best new video games or clothes, or could they have benefited a bit more from having a normal life, with ordinary stuff and an ORDINARY Dad at home instead of in prison? Think about it, I sure did … and then I went shopping – for handcuffs!