How you can make 2011 the best year of your life

It’s the day after Christmas and my living room still looks like it has been ravaged by a herd of stampeding “Give Me All Your Christmas Presents” wild elephants. Boxes, paper, and crushed bows are flung willy-nilly all over the place, and do you know who has to clean it all up? That’s right – the wife, ‘cause I ain’t moving from the couch until I finish writing this story.

But I really don’t want to talk about my problems today. I want to talk about your problems. That’s right, I know all about them. I see them in your eyes. Because even though the glow of Christmas Day is still on your cheeks (and floor), you’re looking ahead toward the upcoming new year and wondering just how the heck you can make it better than the old one.

Well my friend, here’s my suggestion for making 2011 the best year of your life: Turn off the television.

“You heard what the man said, Harold. Turn off that television and come help me wash the dishes.”

“Huh? That wacko didn’t say anything about washing dishes, Maude. He said turn off the TV and that’s exactly what I’m going to do – after I watch the big game, then “The Wheel,” and after that my favorite shows, ‘cause ain’t nobody gonna make me miss my favorite shows, not to mention the news, and then Letterman. Can’t live without Letterman, and you know that, Maude.”

Yep, I know it’s hard; I know it’s out of the ordinary; I know it’s just down-right heresy in some households, but turning off the television is the first step in turning back the clock to the “good old days,” when people used their imaginations to entertain themselves in order to get their minds off the fact that air conditioning hadn’t been invented yet.

My family and I have been TV-free since 12 June 2009. That was the day analog TV went digital, leaving us marooned in the frozen wasteland of nothing to watch but TV snow. Not that I’m complaining. I like snow. And I much prefer watching TV snow over paying a monthly cable fee for something that I used to get for free.

But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that our lifestyle has completely changed. We are no longer subjugated by an electronic device that spews out 15 minutes of hard-sell advertising per every 45 minutes of mediocre entertainment. We no longer base our weekly schedule on what we “must see” or “can’t miss.” We are free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, or just sit and stare at each other like grandma and grandpa did before they bought their 52-inch widescreen high-definition TV.

Of course, I would be remiss in saying that the Farr family is the only non-TV family in the world, because we’re not. There are millions of people who have banished broadcast television from their homes. They are honest, law-abiding people just like you and me. They live in our communities. Their children go to our schools. They spend Sundays in church, except they don’t rush home after the sermon to spend the rest of their weekend glued to The Tube, or what I call “Farnsworth’s Folly.”

(FYI: Philo Farnsworth invented the first TV in 1928. The very first TV ad was for Bulova Watches which appeared in 1941. The last thing I saw on analog TV was a Jonas Brothers concert, and I still feel like gouging out my eyeballs.)

So what do we do instead of turning on the set? Lots of things. Read books, play games, exercise, try out new recipes, write poetry, fish, take photographs, feed the goats, chase the goats, threaten to turn the goats into sausage, write stories, play music, and spend a lot of time on the computer looking up other things to do besides watching television.

But my favorite activity is thinking of ways to avoid doing those things my wife thinks I should be doing, like cleaning up this Christmas-bombarded living room mess.

“Dear, I won’t be able to help you clean up this mess,” I say. “I really need to go to Lowe’s to pick up some more batteries for these toys. I have no idea when I’ll be back.”

“That’s okay, Honey. I’ll wait,” she says. “I wouldn’t dream of cleaning up this mess without you.”

And that, my friends, is the end of this story.

The Five Christmas shopping ‘Rules of Engagement’

Christmas is just days away, and that means it’s time to brave the wild indoor shopping centers with the hope of getting some serious Christmas shopping done without being crushed to death in Aisle No. 9 during a Blue Light Special. But do you think I’m worried? Nosirree! I’ve got a plan, and as long as I stick to it, I will not die!

My plan is to do all my shopping on Christmas Eve, hitting the stores with military-like precision: attack, attack, attack, take no prisoners, and don’t charge anything until you see the whites of their eyes.

In my opinion, the best time for shopping maneuvers at the local Mega Store is at 11 p.m., when there are only four people in the building – me, Barbara at the cash register, and the two stock boys in the back who always seem to be asleep. At any other time, those two would follow me around, making me “hit the dirt” every time they lob a bag of potato chips or toilet paper over my head. But, even that’s preferable to being surrounded by a horde of mothers, their screaming children and Zombie-like Husbands.

BEWARE: Zombie Men are everywhere! They gather at supermarkets and malls this time of year, and, given half a chance, they will suck the life right out of you.

Zombie Men are easy to spot: They hunch over their shopping carts, their eyes downcast to avoid eye contact with strangers. Their feet shuffle as they walk, and if you listen closely, you can hear them mumble things like, “Yes dear,” “Whatever you say, dear,” “I don’t give a rip, dear,” and “I mean, they look fresh to me, dear.”

Zombie Men used to be regular guys. They went to the feed store, tore engines apart for fun, they always had venison in the freezer. But somewhere along the way, they started pushing shopping carts for their wives – wives who are always agitated, jittery, looking for the best bargain, picking up this can of soup, comparing it with that can of soup, finally putting both cans of soup in the cart, telling her Zombie Husband to speed up, slow down, grab that box of cake mix, “No! Not that one! The store brand because it's cheaper.”

“Yes, dear. Whatever you say, dear.”

Sometimes the Zombie Men accidentally look up. That’s when I see in their faces a wish for me to put a bullet right between their eyes, just to end their suffering. But I have to look away. There is nothing I can do for them. When I go shopping, I leave my pistol at home.

So, to make sure that I never have to endure crowds, bargain-hunting wives, yelling children, and Zombie Men, I adhere to the following Five Christmas Shopping “Rules of Engagement.” If you can benefit from it, fine. If not, don’t blame me:

1. Make a list of items you need to procure (military term that means “acquire”). Do not leave your Fort without a list. To do so, and be stuck trying to decide between the George Forman Grill or a baby Rat Terrier, would mean certain “death by indecision.”

2. Before you make your list, scout out (another military term that means “reconnoiter”) what size your honey wears, because to buy a 20 when she really needs a 10 means certain “death by fuming.”

3. With list in hand, attack at dawn, or as soon as the front door is open. If the store is having a “50 Percent Off Everything Starting at Dawn” sale, then Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!.

4. Once safely inside the store, quickly commandeer a cart. If someone else is using it at the time – well, spoils of war. With acquired cart, head to the ADM (Area of Desired Merchandise), probe the area, acquire your target, lock and load your cart, then head to the extraction zone (somewhere around Cashier No. 4) making no contact with the general population.

5. The only time you can breathe a sigh of relief is when you are safely out of the Combat Zone and back at your Fort. Count your acquisitions (a military word for “booty” which is a pirate word for “loot”), then conceal it under the bed or some other safe place that nobody would dare clean for fear of “death by dust.”

That my friends is the key to safe holiday shopping. I wish you the best of luck, and if you remember to follow these rules, you WILL survive!

All I want for Christmas is ...

Hello dear readers. Time once more for another 700 words of mostly-pure wisdom. But this week I’m going to make it short and sweet because I’m right in the middle of reading a book and it’s getting to the good part.

books in a stack (a stack of books)
What’s a book, you say? Haven’t read one in ages, you say? Don’t have to time to sit down and read a book when there are so many other fun things to do, like watching TV or playing video games, you say?

Holy cow, you have a lot to say, don’t you?

Yes, I like to read books, and I see nothing wrong in doing so. Okay, so sometimes I read books when I should be doing other things (like mowing the yard, washing the car, taking out the trash), but that’s neither here nor there, and maybe we should just leave it at that.

You see, reading works the brain, puts it through its paces, makes it do jumping jacks so it doesn’t get flabby in its old age. Of course sitting around reading all day means your brain is the only thing that’s fit enough to do pushups, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

“Harold, you need to put that book down and do some work around here. I’m not your maid, you know.”

“I am working, Maud. I’m working my brain. Shoot, when I’m 75, I’ll have the healthiest brain in town.”

“If you don’t get your lazy bottom off that couch and help me with this trash, you won’t make it to 75. You might not even make it to tomorrow.”

MORAL: There is a time for reading, and there is a time for doing exactly what’s expected of you without question. Choose correctly, and you’ll live to read another day.

Speaking of digital e-readers (I know – I wasn’t talking about them, but now I am, so keep your shirt on), I love the thought of digital e-readers because they’re cool, they’re hip, they’re now. You can store a gazillion novels on one, take it on your next trip to your Aunt Edna’s who lives in El Paso, and when the “old folks” start talking about whatever they like to talk about, you can whip it out and be knee-deep in Stephen King or Sherlock Holmes in the wink of an on/off switch.

(Do you know how much a gazillion hardback or paperback novels would weigh if you put them all in the back of your Ford F-150 and tried to haul them out to El Paso? Me neither. Sorry I asked.)

The only downside to digital novels is you miss out on the actual “feel” of a book; the swishing of pages, the ease of dog-earing a corner so you don’t lose you place. Just try dog-earing a Kindle and see how much that will cost you to get repaired, bucko.

But the times they are a changing. One day, our children’s children will come across a book in paper form and look at it with awe, never imagining that a book could come in any form but digital. Actually, that reminds me of a child of mine (can’t remember which) who was shocked to find out that Solitaire could be played with a real-live deck of cards.

Anyways, reading is fun in my opinion, and I’m thinking, “If only I had an e-reader, such as a an iPad, then I could carry books with me all the time, exercise my brain, do something more worthwhile than watching TV. And since it is getting close to Christmas, and I haven’t made out my Christmas list yet, maybe I should mention again that I could really put an iPad to good use if there just so happened to be one under the Christmas tree with my name on it. Yes I could.”

Well, that’s about all I have to say about the subject. Got to get back to my book. My analog book. My analog book that would be so much easier to carry around if I only I had an iPad. And since I’ve been a pert-near good boy this year, I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t get one.

So what do you say, Santa? Hmmmm?

A Handy-Dandy Facebook Guide for Old People

Facebook friends photo grid
Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is just around the bend, and if this isn’t a good time to lend a helping hand to my fellow “old people,” then I don’t know when is.

Today we’re going to discuss Facebook and what it means for people like you and me. And when I say “people like you and me,” I mean people who are not like “them,” and I think you know to which group I’m referring.

Facebook is one of those magical places on the internet where you can collect “friends,” follow their latest exploits, comment on how silly you think it is for them to bungee jump off a bridge (“especially at your age”), and grow tomatoes all at the same time from the safety of your own home.

To begin with, you must first have the internet. The internet isn’t actually yours, it’s shared by a lot of other people, but it’s okay if you say, “I have the internet.” If you do have the internet, then you’re in business. If not, then go read the comics. It’s much more interesting than this.

Next, you must have a computer. A computer is one of those man-made devices that can’t actually assist you in mowing the yard, but it can help you find out how “the pros” do it, which sounds pretty boring to me. Computers come in all shapes and sizes. Get a big one. There’s less chance of misplacing it like you do your keys to the John Deere.

Attach computer to Internet via cable or mobile device. Turn everything on and hope that nothing explodes.

Okay, so if everything works as it’s supposed to, you’re now on the Internet (not “on” as in sitting on the couch, I hope you understand), you’ve searched for Facebook, you’ve created yourself an account, and now you’re ready to Rock ‘n Roll, but not as in NEW Rock ‘n Roll, but ‘50s Rock, the only kind that really matters.

(CLARIFICATION: It may be possible that I’ve skipped a few minor details between purchasing a computer and being crowned king of Facebook. If so, just give me a call and we’ll sit down and discuss the finer details over a dozen Pittsburg Hot Links. You’re buying.)

Now that you’re on Facebook, the first thing you need to do is take a couple of Advil because you’re going to have a dickens of a time trying to upload a photograph of yourself so everybody can see what you look like. My advice: skip the picture for now. They have a wonderful blue silhouette of a male or female (depending upon whether you’re male or female) which will suffice until you’ve learned your way around the place.

Now it’s time to go looking for some “friends.” I put the word “friends” in quote marks because these people are more than likely not really your friends. They are more like acquaintances, family members, or people you went to school with who still owe you money. Real friends join you for lunch, call you when you’re not feeling well, send you Christmas cards, and go out with you to see movies. Facebook friends make comments about where they’re going on their next cruise, but they never invite you along.

Speaking of comments, the whole foundation of Facebook is based on making pithy comments about what you’re doing at any given moment, and writing pithy comments in response to your friends’ pithy comments. I have no idea what the word “pithy” means, but I’m sure you already know that.

Comments come in a variety of flavors. There’s the “what I’m thinking/doing now” comments, the “spiritual/contemplative/inspirational” comments, the “this is an old joke but I’m going to share it with you anyways” comment, and the “I can’t believe how bad the Cowboys suck this year” comments. Feel free to mix and match, depending on how you feel at the time.

So, now let’s review: First you get the internet; you sign up for Facebook; you collect some “friends;” you make a comment which your new-found friends ignore; you make a comment about how nobody makes comments on your comments, even though you comment on everybody else’s comments; you get your feelings hurt, write a comment exactly how your feelings are hurt, which nobody responds to, which makes you wish you never signed up for stupid Facebook in the first place, and now you hate with a passion the person who even mentioned it to you.

Hmmm. Maybe we should just forget all about this Facebook hooey. Want to go for some hot links? I’m buying.

Walk Across America Part III

Well, I'm still walking. Twenty-six miles to date. Which isn't enough, but I'm doing it. I'm even adding a bit of jogging. At the rate I'm going, I won't make it to Alaska by my 50th birthday.

Hmmmm...The route I'm taking is 5,643 miles long. There are 400 days until my 50th B-day. That means I have to walk a little more than 14 miles every day for 400 days. Well, I guess I can cross THAT goal off my list.

Matter of fact, if I rack up mileage like I am right now (app. 16 miles a month), it'll take me 29 years to get to Fairbanks!

How depressing.

Oh well...I've got nothing else better to do.

Harry Potter and The Seven Books

Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Support Potter Triwizard Champion banner
Okay, since my daughter tricked me into seeing Part I of the the latest Harry Potter movie, (meaning now I'm practically obligated to seeing Part II), I've started re-reading the series of books to get me caught up on what's happening so I can understand the movie I just recently saw.

I got through "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" Friday, and I just today finished reading "Chamber of Secrets." The books were very easy to read, and since they weren't that long, I finished them in a flash.

Now I'm off to read "The Prisoner of Azkaban," but since my evening schedule is getting booked up (work and whatnot), I probably won't be able to read it as fast as the others.

Anyways, I need to finish all the books before July -- that's when Part II of the last Harry Potter movie comes out -- so I can be up-to-date on everything Wizardy.

So, Adios, amigos!

Harry Potter and the Tricky Daughter

She tricked me. My little girl put her arm around my shoulder and said, “Want to take me to a movie? It has a lot of action, violence and mayhem.”

Action, violence and mayhem. Those are the three “buzzwords” that will get me going practically anywhere. And she knows it and used it against me.

“And is it okay if one of my friends comes along?” she asked. “She likes action, violence and mayhem, too. I think you’ll like her.”

Holy cow. Any friend of my daughter’s who loves action, violence and mayhem can’t be too bad. But again, my daughter tricked me.

“And what movie shall we be seeing, may I ask?”

My daughter shifted her weight from one foot to the next. She looked down at the ground and kicked at an imaginary dirt clod. Then she looked up with a pair of sad, puppy dog eyes and said, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

No way! No how! Not in this lifetime! If I die without ever seeing another “Harry Potter” movie, I will think my life well blessed. Get your mother to go. Have some mother-daughter bonding time. You two practically don’t know each other. I’m sorry, what’s your name again?

“But dear, I took her to see ‘Twilight’ because you said there was no way, no how, not-ever-in-this-lifetime way you’d ever go see that movie, and don’t you think it’s your turn for some father-daughter bonding? She’s growing up and some day she won’t even ask you to go to the movies with her. She’ll just go by herself.”

That was my wife. She knows how to plan a heavy guilt trip – and I always buy the ticket.

So, I went to go see “Harry Potter.” I went with my daughter and her friend. They were giggly before the movie started. I kept shushing them to be quiet which only made them giggle more. I called my wife.

“Okay, so we’re here at the theater, they’re giggling, and I think this would be a great time for us to do a little tag-team switch. You know, like in wrestling. The first wrestler’s had enough, he needs to get out of the ring, and he tags in his partner to finish the fight. What do you say?”

I can’t print what my wife said. So, I watched the movie.

Now, I will admit that I’ve read the first couple of “Harry Potter” books, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen the first two movies. But somewhere along the way I got bored with the storyline, and just couldn’t take anymore of the whole witch and warlock thing. I mean, it was nothing like “Bewitched.”

Now, there was a witch for you. Samantha Stevens. I just loved the way she twitched her nose. And Endora, her mother, always making it quite clear that she didn’t approve of her little girl marrying a ... what do they call it in the Potter show? A muggle.

Did Harry ever twitch his nose? Absolutely not one single time. But then again, “Bewitched” never had as much action, violence and mayhem.

The girls stopped giggling when the movie began. In fact, I don’t remember hearing a peep from anyone in the theater (and it was crowded, I kid you not), not a peep through the entire show. And, believe it or not (because I certainly can’t), I sat there and actually enjoyed it myself.

Since I hadn’t followed along with all the books or movies, I didn’t quite understand all the references that were made; I didn’t quite understand who was who or what was what, but that didn’t matter. There was action. Lots of it. There was violence. Good vs. evil. And there was enough mayhem to make you want to jump out of your seat and throw a hex, or at least some popcorn, at the characters who were getting away with it all.

Like I said, my daughter tricked me. She knew I really didn’t want to go see this movie, but she knew I’d probably like it. And not only that, because of her trickery, I now want to read the entire series of books, maybe even watch the movies, so I can better understand what’s going on when “Deathly Hallows Part II” comes out.

That’s right, she tricked me good. Bravo, Rebecca!

The countdown to Black Friday commences

It won't be long now until Black Friday, the busiest shopping day in the universe, and I’m on pins and needles with excitement just waiting for the chance to buy practically anything I don’t really need at substantial savings.

Is there a sale on? @ Lowestoft, Suffolk
I even bought some new running shoes for the day (I told my wife I bought them for exercise purposes, but you and I know the truth). I guarantee those shoes are going to get me in and out of every store within my credit limit, and maybe some beyond.

Yes, baby! You just know how much I like to shop, and I’m going to shop until everybody else drops, because what would be the purpose if I dropped until I shopped? Wait a minute. Reverse that. Shall we continue? I guess we must.

As I’m writing this, it’s actually a couple of weeks before the Big Event, but my fingers are just dancing across the keyboard in pure excitement over the fact that The Day is quickly coming. Holy cow I’ve never written anything with such abandon.

And that will be the word for The Day – “abandon.” We’ll shop with abandon. We’ll pull out our credit cards with abandon. We’ll swipe those suckers with abandon. And if you just happen to have that half-off coffee maker that I really wanted, but you got the last one on the whole planet, I might just rip it out of your hands with abandon. It’s Black Friday. That’s what people do. All’s fair in love and want.

Now, let’s see. The first thing I’m going for is the 50-inch Plasma HDTV with Realistic Surround Sound that’s discounted at 60 percent off its everyday low price. I have no idea what the everyday low price was, I haven’t a clue how to figure out what 60 percent off of it would be, but I’ll be hog swallowed if that thing isn’t sitting in my living room on Saturday.

“Excuse me, but haven’t you said before that you don’t actually get television reception at your house? That you refuse to purchase satellite TV because you don’t want to have to pay the monthly cost?”

Hey, who asked you? The TV is 60 percent off. It’ll look great in my living room, even if it’s just collecting dust.

Okay, so next on my list is a Black & Decker Lithium-Powered Garden Cultivator (battery and charger not included) with the detachable 24-inch PowerCommand String Trimmer that every REAL gardener should have in their shed, because you know precisely how much I love yard work.

I’m not exactly sure Black & Decker makes one of those, but if it’s on sale, it’s mine.

Tools. That’s what I need next. More tools. Tools to work on my truck. Tools to fix the leaky faucet. Power Tools. Socket Wrenches. Screw Drivers. A Nupla Handi-Hammer Handleless Dead Blow. Yessiree, that’s the ticket. I have no idea what a Handleless Dead Blow is for, but it’s going in my toolbox, on sale or not.

“Is that the same toolbox that is full of old rusty screwdrivers you never use because you’ve misplaced the toolbox?”

Hey, that’s beside the point.

And a grill. Boy hidey, who cares if I already have a grill sitting on the porch. A guy can never have too many grills. A grill for chicken. A grill for steak. A grill for burgers. Shoot, if you go to a fancy restaurant don’t they put three forks beside your plate, even though one will do the job? Then having three grills on the porch isn’t strange at all.

I’m going for one of those honkin’ big 1,000-pound cast iron grill/smoker combos that takes an 18-wheeler to haul around. Just give me 5 percent off the retail price and I’m putting one in the back yard.

Yes sir. Black Friday. Just hours away. And do you think I’m going to miss a single minute of it? Do you think I’m going to let unheard-of deals slip through my fingers? Do you think I’d let mere crowds of pushing and shoving shopping fanatics stand in the way of me getting exactly what I need, even though I didn’t know I “needed” it until I saw how much I was going to save on the regular price?

You bet your sweet bippy I am!

The Cowboys need some AVM

I hear the Dallas Cowboys have a new stadium. I also hear they haven’t shown up this year to play in it. Of course I really wouldn’t know because I haven’t seen a single game. But then again, I have a feeling neither have you.

Cowboy Stadium cost just over $1 billion to build. Now, if there are 53 football players on the regular roster, divided by $1 billion, minus $82 per ticket (cheap seats), times a family of four, plus $200 for snacks (per person), multiplied by 100,000 Cowboy fans (some standing in the standing-room only section) – well, YOU do the math because I’ve done pooped out.

(You can watch a Texas Ranger game for $6 and bring your own cooler. Plus, if you catch a foul ball, you get to keep it!)

There are three keys to winning a football game: Action, Violence and Mayhem. Without a whole lot of AVM (unofficial NFL acronym), a football game is nothing more than a bunch of big men pushing each other around while pretty cheerleaders shake their pompoms at fans to keep their minds off the fact they paid a large chunk of change to watch a bunch of big men pushing each other around.

In case you’re not familiar with the theory of AVM, let’s look at some definitions:

ACTION – A noun; the process or state of acting or of being active; energetic activity; an exertion of power or force; a military encounter or engagement; battle, skirmish or the like.

The word “Action” doesn’t necessarily have to imply “winning,” which is good considering there hasn’t been a lot of it going on in Cowboy-land. “Inaction” I think would be a more appropriate word to use in this situation, and I’m sure you’re already familiar with its definition.

VIOLENCE – A noun; swift and intense force; rough or injurious physical strength, action or treatment. Synonyms include: might, power, impact, and fury.

Let’s use “violence” in a sentence: “If the Cowboys end the season with a losing record, I will do violence on my television and buy me a bigger one – preferably with surround sound.”

MAYHEM – A noun; a state of rowdy disorder; the crime of willfully inflicting a bodily injury on another so as to make the victim less capable of self-defense or, under modern statutes, so as to cripple or mutilate the victim.

Now THAT’S what the Cowboys need!

Of course, I don’t actually get to watch the games (lack of television, lack of satellite, lack of interest), but I can watch vicariously through my “friends’” posts on Facebook. (Yes, I admit it – I’m a Facebook kind of guy. So sue me.)

Anyways, here’s how the game went this past Sunday (Cowboys vs. Green Bay) according to my Facebook friends. I’ve also included my illiterate responses to whatever was said:

JOHN: “I’m waiting for the Cowboys to play. Should I be rooting for them to win for my benefit, or lose to humiliate that idiot Owner Jerry (Skelator) Jones for yet another week? It’s problematic.”

ME: “The Cowboys are playing tonight? Says who?”

BLAKE: “I remember when Hee Haw was the most painful thing on TV to watch. That was before the 2010 Dallas Cowboys.”

ME: “Hey, don’t be badmouthing Hee Haw. Grandpa and his banjo were the stuff!”

MARY: “Has on her comfy Cowboys jammies in hopes it will bring good luck to ‘da Boys.”

ME: “Only time will tell!”

JOE: “Is it possible the Dallas Cowboys can win another game this season?”

ME: “Depends on the game. Football? Probably not. Tiddlywinks? Maybe.”

PAM: “Made the mistake of going from ‘Desperate Housewives’ to this new weekly show called ‘Pathetic Cowboys.’ Thirty minutes is all I can take. Someone needs to cancel this show.”

PAM: “The Texas Highway Patrol is cracking down on speeders going into Dallas. For the first offense, they give you two Dallas Cowboy tickets. If you get stopped a second time, they make you use them.”

ME: “Pam, saying such things is just downright cruel. Keep it up!”

KATHY: “Thinks this game is like a bad car accident. You know you shouldn’t look but you just can’t help yourself.”

ME: “So, I gather the Cowboys are losing? Again?”

And yes, my friends, they eventually did. Packers 45, Cowboys 7. So, I guess I’ve said all I’ve ever wanted to say about football. Anybody up for a game of Yahtzee?

"Lucky" Barganski

This baseball fetish I've recently developed may be getting a bit out of hand. Now I'm writing baseball poetry.

"Lucky" Barganski

By Tracy Farr

“Lucky” Barganski plays centerfield, mostly,
Sometimes he plays third, although just in a pinch.
He loves to snag flies that to catch seem impossible,
He makes it look easy, a guaranteed cinch.

I once saw a game where Barganski was fearless,
He darted and sprinted all over the grass,
He caught flying balls on the tip of his leather glove.
He rounded up grounders with panache and with flash.

And then in the 9th he jumped up in the air
To catch a hard hit going over the wall.
He flew 15 feet, like an eagle, I swear,
I’d never seen anything like it at all.

But “Lucky” won’t be on the roster tonight,
He’s sitting at home on the couch, yes it’s true.
For “Lucky” Barganski , the master at catching things,
Went out last night and came home with the flu.

While we’re at it, let’s junk up the galaxy

God did not intend for man to own goats. God intended man to wish for goats, and when he finally bought them, penned them up in the back yard and then chased them around the neighborhood when they got out, to realize just how stupid he was for buying goats.

But this story is not about goats, God or stupidity. It’s about space junk. Lots and lots of space junk – stuff like bolts, gloves and broken-down satellites that are hurtling mere feet over our houses, threatening to fall out of the sky and bonk us on our heads without warning.

According to NASA, 19,000 objects larger than your cell phone but smaller than a school bus are known to be circling the Earth.

“Ethel, did you hear what that man said? He said there’s a school bus up there in space.”

“No, Howard, that’s not what he said. Now stop interrupting the story, and go back to watching football.”

Most of the big pieces of junk are spent upper stages of launch vehicles or satellites that have just pooped out. These objects are being tracked by NASA and the Air Force’s Space Command. But then there are approximately 500,000 small pieces of space garbage floating around all willy-nilly like, and even though they can be seen by radar, they’re just basically left to fend for themselves, which seems sad in a weird sort of way.

(QUESTION: If NASA can locate an iPod-sized piece of trash circling 1242 miles out in space, why can’t we find Osama bin Laden right down here on Earth? Just thought I’d put that out there.)

“Ethel, that man said NASA has found Osama bin Laden hiding out in space.”

“Howard, will you please just shut up?”

All in all, there are approximately 4 million pounds of junk floating around up there in our front yard, making us look like the “Sanford and Son” of the universe. All we need is an old washing machine and broken toilet to complete the trashy-neighbor picture.

Supposedly, our space-junk problem is not going to get any better. We keep throwing trash out our little rocket windows, and nobody as of yet has come up with a solution to pick it all up – until now:

I think we need some goats up there. Space Goats. Mechanical, computerized, artificially-intelligent eating machines that will gobble all that trash up there and give us back the pristine space that Newton, Galileo, and Copernicus looked through while discovering whatever it was they discovered.

Space Goats. Tools employed by Space Waste Management – the galaxy’s “leading provider of integrated solutions to reduce waste in space while recovering valuable resources and creating clean, renewable energy.”

Yep, that’s what the company’s website would proclaim. But you and I both know that goats like to wander off from their assigned coordinates, and Space Goats would be no different. They’d probably head over to the International Space Station, munch on some solar panels for awhile, then meander over to The Asteroid Belt and be pummeled to smithereens until they, too, become nothing more than space junk.

Okay, so since the goats won’t work, what we need is some enterprising young whippersnapper to develop a way to bring down all those pieces of junk and sell them at a roadside space junk stand. Maybe call it Billy’s Out-Of-This-World Flea Market.

Welcome to Billy’s. We have flecks of paint, pieces of destroyed satellites, nuts, bolts, screws, even an astronaut’s glove. Anything smaller than a lock nut is $5. Want to take home a complete satellite? We can finance that for you! New stock added every day. Come on in and look around. If we haven’t got it, we can go get it.

“Howard, did you hear about that new flea market out on FM 102? How about you and I go out and do some shopping? I’d really love you for it. Please? Please? Please?”

“Not now, Ethel. I’m watching the game.”

Hey Ron, how 'bout a beer?

Ron Washington looks like the kind of guy you'd love to sit down and have a beer with. And if he'd prefer a Dr. Pepper instead, that'd be alright, too.

Washington recently signed a two-year extension to his contract, and no matter how much Nolan Ryan is paying him, it's not enough.

With Washington in the manager's seat, the Rangers are practically guaranteed another try at the World Series. But more importantly, that means he's going to be staying around Dallas for another couple of years, which means the chances are good of bumping into him and getting to sit down and chat about life, baseball and New Orleans jazz.

And what would be the first thing I'd ask him?

"Hey Ron, you wanna beer?"

(Gosh, I can't believe you didn't see that coming!)

I'm Cold

14 July 2011 UPDATE: Today I'm participating in Writing With Shelly's Poetry Schmoetry Blogfest. I wrote this one back in November when it was cold:

I'm Cold

By Tracy D. Farr

My feet are cold, my ears are cold,
My elbows, knees and nose are froze.
To sneeze would really not be nice.
I'd shatter into chunks of ice.

I originally posted this poem 13 July 2011

Little Sally Rode the Bus

By Tracy D. Farr

Little Sally rode
the bus
to school every morning
without fuss,
even though it
was bumpy,
and smelly,
and hot in the summer,
and cold in the winter,
because Josh,
who sat in seat 7,
was so cute,
and Little Sally was in love.

Thanks for reading my poems.

It's not about winning

A young friend of mine likes watching the Rangers, but has given up going to the games because every time he went, the Rangers lost.

I told him it's not about winning. It's about atmosphere. It's about sitting in the upper decks, eating a hotdog, and watching out for balls heading your way.

It's about summer nights in the park with several thousand other people watching men whack at a speeding ball with the hopes of knocking it out of the park.

It's about history, and patience, and believing in something that really doesn't change the world, but oh does it make the place just a little bit more enjoyable.

It's not about winning.

He looked at me, raised his young-man eyebrows which meant, "You've been smoking something a bit illegal, haven't ya?", and then we changed the subject.

For me, spring training can't come quick enough.

Philosophy 101.5

It's only human to wonder why we're here, what our purpose is, or how we fit in the big scheme of the universe. I know I ask myself these questions quite regularly, and I've never come up with a good answer ...

Until today.

When a snowflake falls from the sky, it doesn't ask what its purpose is. It looks beautiful, we can catch it on our tongues, and we can examine its uniqueness under a microscope. The snowflake doesn't care. It's just doing what it's meant to do.

When a flower blooms by the side of the road, it doesn't ask itself why it's there. We enjoy its color, we stop and take a whiff of its wonderful aroma, and we may even take a photograph of it to hang on our wall. The flower doesn't care. It's just doing what it's meant to do.

When a watermelon grows from the ground, it doesn't ask itself how it fits in the big scheme of the universe. It grows; we wait until it's healthy and strong, and then we cut it from its vine, take it home, and enjoy its taste. The watermelon doesn't care. It's just doing what it's meant to do.

The snowflake, flower and watermelon's job is not to worry about how unique they are, or how beautiful they are, or how delicious they taste. Their job, during the short time they have on this planet, is to bring joy, beauty and happiness to the rest of us.

I know my place in the universe. I know my purpose. Do you?

The Morning After

Rangers baseball
Well, that could have gone better.

The Rangers get all the way to the World Series, The Fall Classic, and don't actually show up. The pitchers couldn't find the plate, the infielders were scratching their crotches, the outfielders were picking daisies, and ...

Wait a minute. I have no idea what I'm talking about. I couldn't even watch the game. I was stuck with watching MLB's Gameday cartoon batter, live from the internet, and he didn't swing a lick. Not once.

It's time for me to subscribe to some TV so I can watch the games next year. I've got to see some sweat. I've got to see some action. I've got to see some half-naked cheerleaders.

Oops. Wrong sport.

Hey, why don't baseball teams have half-naked cheerleaders? That would bring in the audience, don't ya know.

Okay, back to The Rangers ...

There's nothing for me to complain about. They made it to the World Series. And if they made it once, they can make it again. And when they do, I'll be sitting in the nosebleed section, in the cheap seats, but I'll be there, by golly!

So, when does spring training start?

The Rangers need a little help

Dear MLB Fairy Godmother,

I know I'm a bit late in asking this, but if you could look down upon the Texas Rangers tonight and give them a little extra boost, I and a lot of other Ranger fans would greatly appreciate it.

I guess you could say they're in need of a little good pitching. Okay, maybe a lot. But that's not all. I think they could use some magical bats that are not shy about slamming the skin off those balls.

And then maybe the Rangers need a bit of offense -- or maybe defense -- I always get those two confused.

They have a great ballpark, they have a great manager, Nolan Ryan is in their corner, the fans haven't quite given up on them yet, but I think I little bit of pixie, not pixie dust. Maybe just a wave of your magical, forget the wand.

Hell, they just need a bit of oomph, pizzazz, zing, zest and a whole lot of other words that mean exactly the same thing.

So, if you don't mind and can spare a few minutes, could you do your magic on the Rangers? We'd be forever in your debt.


Tracy Farr, I'm Just a Guy

(yep, that should do it!)

I'm a Born-Again Texas Ranger fan! (redux)

With two outs in the top of the 9th, I wonder what Alex Rodriguez was thinking when he stepped up to the plate against the Rangers.

“That’s right – I’m Alex Rodriguez and I’m in the house. Time for you little boys to learn why I get paid the big bucks.” Either that or, “Alex, Alex, I’m your man. If I can’t do it, nobody can.” And I'm sure in his mind he thought it with an Antonio Banderas accent.

But, as we all know, Mighty Casey struck out (I feel quite certain as he headed toward the locker room, A-Rod thought, "I want my mommy"), and now the Rangers are in the World Series, making history as we speak.

Oh, did I mention I was a Ranger fan? Well, to be honest, I never gave them much thought until they were winning, which proves I’m a shallow guy who only jumps on the sports bandwagon when a winner is in town – but I’m sure there are a lot of other “born again” fans out there just like me, so don’t judge me too harshly.

You see, it takes a mature mind to appreciate the game of baseball. It’s not for those of us who are constant channel surfers, or people who need continuous oral or visual stimulation. I’m sure Wall Street financiers detest the game, and it’s too fast-paced for peach farmers.

No, it takes a mature mind to sit and watch practically nothing for hours and then get excited at extra innings where you can sit and watch practically nothing for a little bit longer. But I actually did get excited about the Rangers winning the pennant for the first time, even though I have no idea what a pennant is, or how you're supposed to wear one.

I guess my problem is I just don’t know much about the game. In fact, everything I do know about baseball I learned from the late comedian George Carlin. He said, and I paraphrase, baseball is a game played on a field by men who hit a ball with a stick and run real fast to get home where it’s safe.

(You have to admit, George Carlin had a way with words.)

And now, since last Friday, I’m a true blue Texas Ranger fan, and I think this love affair will last at least for another week. Who knows, I might even buy a Ranger T-shirt, or a sweatband. I might even start quoting stats to my friends and neighbors, and reading the box scores, or whatever they’re called.

“Wow, did you watch that game last night? The stadium was packed. That’s 2 for 3 in the ‘standing room only’ category. And if everybody ate 1.4 bags of peanuts, that’s well over 100,000 tossed bags without relief throwers in the bullpen, not to mention the hotdogs and beer.”

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand baseball stats, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Let me wrap up this story by saying this: I’m glad the Rangers made it to the World Series, and even if they lose, they have still accomplished something that my grandpa would have said was "a foolish waste of time enjoyed by rich boys who have no idea what it's like to milk cows, or eat potatoes for a week because that's all you got, or mow yards just to bring in a little money to provide food and shelter for the ones you love. It's just a game."

Yes, grandpa -- but oh what a game.

Walk Across America -- update

Well, on 18 Oct I started my get healthy, get back in shape "Walk Across America" (with maybe a bit of jogging added on), and I've done a piss-pour job of it.

I've only walked 10 miles. I'm still in Key West. I'll never make it to Fairbanks at this pace. And if I DO get there, It'll probably be in a casket.

Okay, so it's time to pick up the pace. Time to get serious. Time to hit the dirt with my new pair of Nikes and log some mileage.

But first -- breakfast!

Hungry Eaters

Well, this is my last poem for "Scary Poetry Month," and I hope you like it.

Hungry Eaters

By Tracy Farr

Tonight's the night that Hungry Eaters
Pose as little trick or treaters,
Dressed in sheets or pirate suits
To hide their hideous attributes.

Hungry Eaters have three eyes
And yellow teeth as sharp as knives.
Their mouths are three feet wide at least
So they can dine on wildebeests.

Their fur is brown, their eyes are green,
They have no ears that I have seen.
They walk around on leathered paws
That hide their deadly five-inch claws.

Hungry Eaters are quite small,
But that means not a thing at all
For Hungry Eaters eat a lot.
They'll eat ten times what you have got.

So if you're running low on treats
When Hungry Eaters come to feast,
There's just one thing for you to do:
Pray they don't come dine on you!

My World Series Game Three Predictions

Anybody who knows anything about baseball is hot and heavy with spouting off how they think Game Three will end, but for some reason, you don't hear much from those who don't know a thing about the game.

Until now.

1. It's going to be a wonderful night for baseball in Texas. Cool, clear -- the perfect weather for hunting or sipping hot chocolate. Maybe brisk enough to warrant blankets and hand warmers.

2. Two of the best teams in baseball will meet on the field in one of the greatest sporting events of all time.

3. A lot of beer and peanuts will be sold. Oh, and hotdogs.

4. There's going to be a lot of throwing, catching, hitting, running, maybe a few errors, and one team will score more runs than the other.

5. The Yankees will be at home watching the game on Fox rather than playing it.

6. The Rangers will be on the field, playing in Game Three of their first World Series -- their first of many more to come.

Okay, so those are my predictions. Tomorrow we'll see how right or wrong I was.

I've Never Seen a Werewolf

I've Never Seen a Werewolf

By Tracy Farr

I've never seen a werewolf
     howling at the moon at night.
I've never seen Count Dracula
     sucking blood with just one bite.
I've never seen a poltergiest
     slam doors or make things float.
I've never seen an ogre
     suck on bones until he chocked.
I've never seen the scary things
     you read about in verse.
But I saw Dad without a shirt
     and that was ten times worse!

Recap of the World Series so far

It's the jitters. That's what it is.

The Rangers know how to play because it's October and they're still playing. The Rangers know how to win because they've done it plenty. The Rangers know how to turn apathetic lowlifes into Born-Again Ranger fans, because that's what they did for me. But, they have the jitters right now, and it shows.

They're in a new place, a new situation, they're in somebody else's house and don't feel comfortable "making themselves at home," and because of it they're down by two games. Down by two games in the World Series.

THE World Series!

The Rangers are in The World Series!

In my book, the Rangers have already won.



By Tracy Farr

Frankenstein, oh Frankenstein,
Was it just luck or by design
That you did make a monster dance
And scare us so we’d pee our pants?

World Series, Game Two

Okay, so the Rangers lost 11-7 to the Giants in the opening game of the World Series. So what! At least they MADE it to the Series.

Yes, Cliff Lee had a bad night, probably the worst in his career. But so what! The Rangers are soaking in everything about the Fall Classic.

Alright, so they committed four errors and looked like little boys playing against the Big Dogs. So what! At least they're still playing in October, which is more than all the other teams can say.

Sadly, I tried to listen to Game One on an internet radio station since I have no television, but the station I chose didn't actually broadcast the game. Pre-game, yes. Actual game, no. But who cares? The Rangers are in the World Series and I can follow along the best I can and still bask in the joy that our Rangers are doing us proud.

The Rangers are in the World Series, and if they don't win a single game, I'll still be a Born-Again Ranger Fan!

(But guys, it sure would be nice to put one in the win category tonight. Can ya work on that for me? Thanks!)

Upon a Scottish Moor

Upon a Scottish Moor

By Tracy Farr

A thousand years, or so, ago
There lived a creature, so I'm told,
Who lived upon a Scottish moor and screamed into the night.

The village folk did hear its din,
But no one dared to search within
The moor to find the wretched beast that gave them such a fright.

At dark all doors were double locked
And when it prowled nobody talked
But listened as the beast did scratch and paw its way around.

And every fortnight it did take
A chicken, pig, or heaven's sake,
A child left unattended, and it never made a sound.

Some said the beast was just a dog
While others joked a monster frog
But that was when the sun was up and courage did run high.

But soon as light turned into shade,
The courage lapsed, did fade away,
And every soul did quake to hear the screaming in the night.

A thousand years, or so, ago
A monster lived, and now I'm told,
It still is heard on dreary nights upon a Scottish moor.

But since I live across the sea,
And doubt the beast will dine on me,
Who cares? It's just a story, but I liked it. Any more?

World Series, Game One

Game One of the World Series and I'm at home without a television.

When analog TV went digital, I was one of the millions of folks that was left without a signal. I tried the converter boxes, but because of where I live, it didn't work. Cable wasn't an option because it isn't available out in the boonies, and I didn't feel like paying for satellite, especially when I USED to get TV reception for free.

But now I'm thinking satellite TV might be worth the money.

I asked my wife this morning if she thought Dish Network could have us up and running before the game started if I called them before noon, and she just laughed. I mean, she laughed hard.

Anyways, thanks to Internet Radio, I'm kicked back, plugged in, and ready for the game. The only thing I'll miss is instant replay and having a stranger spill beer on me.

Ya gotta love baseball!

Beware of Goblins

Beware of Goblins

By Tracy Farr

I thought I heard a Goblin in my closet Monday night.
It scratched and bumped against the door and gave me such a fright.
My mother said, "It's just a mouse. Now go to sleep. Good night."

On Tuesday I do swear I saw the doorknob turn around.
It moved about two inches and it never made a sound.
My father checked the closet, "See, there's nothing to be found."

Wednesday night my closet door creaked open really wide.
Thursday night I saw red eyes a gleaming from inside.
"You're crazy, you just dreamed it," said my sister with a sigh.

Friday night the Goblins came and dragged me out of bed.
They pulled me down a hole and tied me up, and then they said,
"On Saturday you'll be right tasty with our loaf of bread."

The moral of this story is that Goblins like to hide,
Behind the closet door, your children see them, they don't lie.
Beware of Goblins on the hunt, they will not be denied.

I'm a Texas Ranger fan

I'm a born again Texas Ranger fan, which proves I'm a shallow human being that only jumps on the sports bandwagon when a winner is in town.

Sad, I know, but you're the same way, too, and don't even try to deny it. Of course, if you ARE a true blue Ranger fan, then I guess you CAN deny it, but I won't respect you in the morning.

Anyways, it takes a mature mind to appreciate a game like baseball. It's not for those who are channel switchers, or people who need constant oral or visual stimulation. I'm sure Wall Street financiers hate baseball.

No, it takes a mature mind to sit and watch practically nothing for hours and then get excited at extra innings where you can sit and watch a little more of practically nothing.

But I got excited about the Rangers winning the pennant for the first time, even though I have no idea what a pennant is, or how you're supposed to wear one.

And now they're off to the World Series, and even if they lose, they have still accomplished something that my grandpa would say is "a foolish waste of time enjoyed by rich boys who have no idea what it's like to milk cows, or eat potatoes for a week because that's all you got, or mow yards just to bring in a little money to provide food and shelter for the ones you love. It's just a game."

Yes, grandpa -- but oh what a game.

The Bats

The Bats

By Tracy Farr

Little Jenny saw a bat
It landed on her brother's hat.
Soon she saw a hundred more,
And then her brother was no more.

I'd Like to be a Giant

I'd Like to be a Giant

By Tracy Farr

I'd like to be a giant,
But I think I'm not compliant
With the regulations that require
You be three stories tall.

That's 50 feet, to say the least,
And then you must have hairy feet
And smell like you have never heard
Of taking baths at all.

A giant eats a bunch of things,
But mostly bones and things with wings
And belches so profusely that
You'd say he was a jerk.

And for desert he sucks on rocks
And cactus plants, I kid you not,
With slurping sounds that some do say
Can drive a man beserk.

A giant would be nice to be.

Too bad I'm only five foot three. 

Walk Across America -- sort of

In an effort to improve my health and get in shape, I am now on a mission to Walk Across America -- sort of!

Here's the plan: Every week I will walk around my neighborhood, or at the track, and jot down the mileage. At the end of the week, I will add up my distance and plot it on a map AS IF I was actually walking across America.
I began 13 Oct in Key West, Florida, at the Earnest Hemingway Home & Museum, and as of today I have walked 4 miles. (Not a lot, but hey, I'm just getting started).

My "Finish Line" is Fairbanks, Alaska -- and at the rate I'm going, I'll get there 27 days after I'm dead.

Wish me luck, and here's to another week of....

Walking Across America!

A new story? Why not!

Okay, so there I was, trying to get my life back in order, trying to focus on the things and people who really deserve my undivided attention, when a little squirrel jumped out in front of my school bus, couldn't make up his mind whether to run left or right, and ended up being vulture food.

Squirrel in a Tree
"Poor little thing," I first thought, and then, "I wish I could stop, bag and tag it, and put it in the fridge for lunch."

(Not really. Just kidding. Sort of.)

So that got me thinking about the universe and our place in it. Is time real? Is gravity an illusion? Do squirrels believe in heaven? (I have my deepest thoughts while driving a school bus through the "Scary Woods" or washing dishes in the "Scary Kitchen.")

Then I started thinking about Gliese 581g, that new planet scientists think they've discovered. It's 20 light years away, it possibly has water, and if it has water, and a temperate climate (which they say it probably has), then there could be life. And if there is life, then there are probably alien squirrels running around trying to make up their minds whether to run right or left when confronted with alien school buses...

And all that got me thinking about how I should really pay more attention to getting these kids to school instead of daydreaming about Mr. and Mrs. Sshderts, out there on some distant planet, who just waved goodbye to their little Blessaty, who is 5 years old, riding to school by herself for the very first time, and they put her on the school bus because they needed a little bit of "together time" before they headed off to THEIR jobs!

It's amazing MY riders ever get to school at all.

Hmmmm. I forgot what my point was. Oh well, it'll come to me later.

Something's Out in the Forest

I wrote these song lyrics a long, long time ago and scared a bunch of kids with it. (I included scary howling in pee-in-your-pants places, which did the trick). Those kids are now college students, and this song is the only thing they remember about me.

I'm okay with that!

Something's Out in the Forest

by Tracy Farr

Something's out in the forest,
Something howls in the night,
It only comes out when it's hungry,
And oooh, it's a horrible sight.

I saw it one night in the forest
Running from tree to tree,
Moving faster than lightning
And it stopped when it saw me.

So don' to sleep
It those trees,
Be still...and...don't even breathe,
It's out to get you!

It's eyes glowed like burning embers.
It's hair all dirty and brown.
A hideous scream did it cry out,
That I ran all the way to town.

So don' to sleep
It those trees,
Be still...and...don't even breathe,
It's out to get you!

There's Something in my Wall

There's Something in my Wall

By Tracy Farr

I find it hard to sleep in my own bed,
For scratching sounds I hear inside my wall.
“I think it’s just a mouse,” my daddy said.
But I think not, it’s not a mouse at all.
It’s probably the ghost of some poor boy
Who died one night alone in this same room.
His parents were not sad, but overjoyed,
And chose to make the wall his final tomb.
And now he scratches softly through the night,
Forever searching for eternal rest.
I hide my eyes beneath the sheets in fright,
My heart is pounding, pounding in my chest.
I hope my daddy’s right, it’s just a mouse.
If not, I'm living in a haunted house.

I Have a New Lease on Life

Having your appendix taken out is easy. First you get sick. Then you see a doctor. The doctor takes out his little Swiss Army Knife, and in 15 minutes or less, you’re right as rain, able to go bowling with “the boys” on Saturday. At least that’s what the brochure says.

But let me tell ya’, the hardest part about having your appendix out is the recovery time. For days and days after I got home, I felt good some hours, and then the rest of the time I felt like I’d been hit by a steam roller. I hobbled around like an old man, moaning and groaning with every step, and I just knew I was going to feel this way until the day I died.

And then one day, like magic, I was well. I felt new again, whole again. I felt like an 80-year-old invalid who had just been told, “We’re giving you another chance at being young again, and you better not muck it up!”

So now that I have this new life just raring to be spent, I’ve been making some plans on how to spend it. And this is what I’ve come up with:

1. I shall never again eat refried beans from a can. Yes, it takes time to make the beans – bash ‘em and smash ‘em, season them, and then cook them – but, oh, they’re so much better than the canned Taco Bell Fat Free Refried Beans with the “How To Make The Ultimate 7-Layer Dip” recipe right on the label. No siree! No more easy beans for me!

2. I shall never let the cat in or out of the house just because he wants in or out of the house. I am king of my castle. I shall not be jumping out of my comfy easy chair just to satisfy the whims of a crazy, can’t-make-up-it’s-mind cat, no matter how much he howls.

3. If my spouse asks me to let out the cat, I’ll say “Yes Dear” and hop to it.

4. I lost 10 pounds coming out of the hospital (I had no idea an appendix weighed that much). I shall now endeavor to not only keep that weight off, but I shall lose more tonnage until I’m able to look in the mirror without closing my eyes and needing Aspirin. And then I shall buff up to where the next time I’m laid out on an operating table, the doctor will say, “What a fine specimen of tone and muscle for a man his age. I just hate to cut into him and mess it all up.”

5. With this new life I feel the need to go out and do things, go places, see the natural wonders of the world…but I can’t because of debt. I therefore shall endeavor to get rid of all my debt in a timely fashion (preferably before I’m dead), so I can enjoy all the things this world has to offer. Sorry family, I’m only giving out rocks for Christmas. Pretty ones, but still just rocks.

6. I’ve always wanted a llama. I think it’s high time I got one.

7. I’ve been pretty bad about paying the lady who throws my newspaper. I know that I should pay on the first of the month when the bill comes due, but I don’t. I wait until I’m so late she starts putting “gentle reminders” in my mailbox, calling me, sending out National Guard helicopters to hover over my house at all times of day and night. But no more. I intend to put my bill in the mail when it’s due, and give that poor woman a break from having to track down another deadbeat newspaper subscriber. At least that’s my plan.

8. And finally, I intend to grill more. Nothing would be worse than lying on my death bed, wishing that I had taken more time to marinate, baste and grill all the good things that just taste better being marinated, basted and grilled outside.

Yes friends and neighbors, it’s good to have my life to live over again. I plan to live it well this time, and make every day count. In fact, I suggest that you go see your doctor right now and tell him to take out your appendix so you, too, can feel young and new again just like me. You’ll be glad you did – eventually.


P.S. This will be my last "Weekly Column" for awhile. I'm taking a break in order to get my life back on track. Adios, mis amigos!

I'd Rather Be a Monster

I'd Rather Be a Monster

By Tracy Farr

I’d rather be a monster than a doctor or a nurse,
Or a teacher in a classroom, really, nothing could be worse
Than sitting at a desk all day, grading papers by the score.
I’d rather be a monster than a bore.

Monsters are such creepy things, so ugly and so scary.
Some are short and some are tall and some are mighty hairier than
Uncle Joe, my mother’s brother, he’s just downright dumb.
I’d rather be a monster than a bum.

If I were a monster I would roam around all night,
I’d sneak inside your home to wake you up and with delight
I’d listen to your horrid screams until you passed out on the floor.
For that is what a monster’s truly for.

But I am not a monster; I’m a kid who’s just like you.
I run around and play all day and ride bicycles, too, across the
Street and down the alley even though they say I can’t.
I’d rather be a monster, but I ain’t.

A month of scary poems

Hey, this is October -- the month of Halloween, witches, vampires, ghosts and goblins, monsters, and all things creepy and spooky that wake you up in the middle of the night.

In honor of the month, I shall endeavor to present you with a spooky, scary, creepy poem each and every Tuesday and Thursday. So let's get after it with a poem I wrote back in July, but will be a perfect way to start off "Scary Poetry Month."

It's called:

El Chupacabra, The Goat Sucker

A Sonnet by Tracy Farr

Down in Texas there lives an ugly beast
With no hair but fangs as sharp as knife points.
He stalks the back woods for his nightly feasts
Of goat blood and gnawed animal leg joints.
It hunts its prey by the light of the moon,
Keeping to shadows from hedges and barns.
Its spine-chilling howl can make old men swoon,
Like man-eating wolves did in ancient yarns.
Very few have glimpsed the beast on its hunt,
And those who have pray to never again.
For its eyes glow red as the blood it sucks,
Its eyes shake the knees of the bravest men.
Down in Texas where Chupacabra roams,
The locals lock doors, and stay in their homes.

Let’s create a hit television show

My Digital Signal
Today, friends and neighbors, you and I are going to sit down and sketch out an idea for a television show that will make us rich and famous, because that’s what we all truly want to be – rich, famous and the creator of a popular TV show.

What? That’s not what YOU want? Oh well, I’ll sketch out the show, and if you change your mind, just let me know.

In order to create a hit show, we have to copy what’s already out there. Sure, it would be nice to create something new and evocative, but that’s not how it works. TV shows that have a chance of making it are patterned after other popular shows because the people holding the purse strings get nervous with “new and evocative.”

Need proof? “The Anna Nicole Show;” “The Osbournes;” “Hogan Knows Best;” “Brooke Knows Best;” “The Bachelor;” “The Bachelorette;” “CSI;” “CSI: New York;” CSI: Miami;” Do I need to continue?

Now, the first thing we have to do is decide what show we want to imitate, and I believe, to give it our best shot, the best solution is to imitate them all. A little bit of “Survivor,” a little love and jealousy, someone gets kicked off the show, a lot of backbiting, I think it’s best nobody gets a rose, but there have to be challenges and audience voting to whittle down the biggest losers until we find our champion.

So, I’m thinking the show needs bullfrogs. Not those little bitty ones that jump out of the way of your car, but those big bloated 20-pound monsters that reek of slime, warts and toadstools.

Each contestant must take care of their bullfrog as if it was a baby, and if the bullfrog dies or is lost, that contestant is immediately eliminated from the show. And, oh what fun it will be to catch people trying to sabotage their fellow contestant’s bullfrogs.

Next are the challenges. There have to be races and daring events, and icky things to face that will prove you deserve to be named winner. Maybe lots of mud, an obstacle course, vacuuming up cat barf without barfing yourself – all the while taking care of your personal bullfrog who only wants to escape or dribble bullfrog poo on your hands.

Yes, I think we’ve got a good start on our show.

Of course, the best shows have a little bit of love and romance and jealousy entwined throughout each episode, and I see no reason why our show can’t have the same. I can envision some young hunk falling head over heels in love with some young hunkette who talks baby talk to her little bullfrog. Maybe their hands touch during a challenge. Maybe he offers to hold her bullfrog while she pins back her sweaty hair. Maybe their love blossoms as they figure out a way to “get rid of” another contestant’s bullfrog, and they utter words of devotion that they would never, ever do that to each other – until the final challenge. I can see it, can’t you?

In regards to audience voting, I believe the standards have to be willy-nilly and non-existent. Who cares if Monica won this week’s race while never waking her snoozing bullfrog? Hidden cameras caught her picking her nose, and that’s enough to get the boot. Of course when Monica, the nose-picking contestant, is eliminated, there will be a lot of shocked looks from the other contestants, disbelief that they weren’t kicked off instead, lots of hugging and crying and more hugging, and then the tearful goodbye waves as Monica and her bullfrog are escorted off the set to appear later that night on “Jimmy Kimmel.”

JIMMY KIMMEL: I was shocked that you were the one eliminated tonight, especially after such a great race.
MONICA: I know, it was like a total surprise, but I hold no ill will against the other contestants. We were all best friends.
JIMMY KIMMEL: Oh, c’mon now. You were best friends with Claudia, the backstabbing witch of Ohio?
(Audience laughter)
MONICA: No comment.

And finally, after all the other challengers have been eliminated, the soon-to-be-crowned winner must complete one final despicable act before they can win the moola, drive off in the new car, and fly off to their luxury all-expense paid vacation in the Bahamas. They must roast and eat their bullfrog.

Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen. I think we have a prime-time winner!

Living the high life at the hospital

It amazes me that people can spend their life savings on a hospital visit, and fritter away their precious time watching television.

DSC01166, The Rotterdam and Celebrity Cruise Ship Century
I’ve only been admitted to the hospital a couple of times in my life, and I’ll tell ya’, I try to make the most out of every dime they charge me. Watch re-runs of “Happy Days” when I could be counting the number of needle holes in my arms? What a waste!

Well, it just so happens that I recently had my appendix taken out. Of course, that meant a few days at the hospital in a private room, with an adjustable bed, nurses at my beck and call, and all the IV fluid I could lap up. Not to mention Room Service.

That’s right, I said Room Service. Dial a number, place your order, and lo and behold a “waiter” appears at your door with whatever your heart desires. Every meal adorned with some kind of garnish; every meal offered with a smile; every meal eaten with the full knowledge that nobody’s expecting a tip.

But what bugged me the most about my once-in-a-lifetime hospital mini-vacation was the patient down the hall who just wouldn’t turn down his television. Are you serious? All that opulence and he spent most of his time watching FOX or Oprah?

Well, not me bucko! I didn’t waste one single moment of my precious free time!

Money maketh Man
First on my list of things to do while in the hospital was to bet on how many people it would take to insert an IV into my arm. I wagered that it would only take one person and two tries, but I was wrong. It took three nurses then finally a paramedic to get the job done. I lost count on how many needle holes that came to.

I’m sorry for those who bet with me and lost, but I had no idea Casino Night on Floor Three was part of my package – and I’d never been to Vegas.

The next thing on my list of things to do was to attend the Tall Tale Sound Off at the nurse’s station. My assignment was to convince people that I’d just had a hysterectomy.

“I told my wife I’d had enough,” I said to anybody who would listen. “I’m through with having children.”

Of course, my regular nurses knew the score, but that one student nurse – I swear she had to think it over for a minute or two.

Then there were the Hospital Gown Races: How fast can you put on your gown with both hands? With one hand? With one hand in the dark without tripping over your IV lines?

Not to be conceited, but I do think I now hold the record in all events.

Ballroom Blitz in Orlando, FL
Next came the IV Cart Midnight Disco to the Bathroom event. The winner – the one who could successfully unplug the cart, dance it to the bathroom with grace and style, then back again, while at the same time keeping their exposed backside away from the door, just in case a nurse just so happened to pop in for some blood – was awarded an empty bladder and the sense of a job well done.

That one event in itself is the reason I have self-confidence just bursting from my stitches.

And finally, in all seriousness, I did break my “no TV” rule to watch a little bit of “American Chopper.” Can you really blame me?

Well, I disembarked from my little adventure Wednesday afternoon, Samantha the nurse gave me a final buggy ride to the parking lot, and that was that.

Thanks to all the doctors and nurses at Titus Regional Medical Center for making my stay a pleasant one; but, no offense, let’s not do it again real soon. Okay?

I'm With The Band

This was the first cartoon I did in the "I'm With The Band" series -- but it was in black and white. It sort of just begged to be in color.

It begged, I caved.

Need More Oil?

The little things that make Friday night football great

It’s the little things that turn a Friday night high school football game into an event that shouldn’t be missed.

The Hands
For example, whenever I go to a football game, the first thing I look for is a monster grill near the concession stand belching out mesquite-flavored smoke. If one’s there, it means I’m going to have a freshly-cooked hamburger with all the trimmings. And if I don’t get the hamburger (which is pert near unthinkable), then I’m going to have a blackened hot dog that’s just oozing with flavor.

If there’s no grill on the premises, then that means they’re serving microwaved hot dogs and cafeteria-made burgers and those, my friend, are just not worth getting up for. Sure, I could lay down some cash for nachos or Frito pies, but Friday night football, to me, means burgers or dogs. Anything less just ruins the whole experience.

Next, I love a grass football field. I love how it feels under my feet; I love the way the blades sway back and forth in the wind; I love how muddy it can get when it rains, because football comes into its own when you can’t tell one team from another because of the mud.

A well-kept grass field implies a certain respect for Mother Nature and of doing things “the old tried and true way.” Those plastic astro-monstrosities just don’t sit well with my hamburger.

Football teams can’t function without the water boys (and sometimes girls). Most of the time they are the coach’s kids – fourth or fifth graders who live, breathe and eat up the game just like their fathers. They’re “Johnny on the spot” during the first half, running full tilt to help out the team – but that’s not the best time to watch them.

The best time to watch the water boys (girls) is late in the game when they’re getting a little bored and trying to find something fun to do. Sometimes they grab the water bottles, spray streams of water up in the air and try to catch it in their mouths when it comes down. At other times they chase after monster grasshoppers. But the best fun is when they’re trying to imitate “the big boys,” usually by hawking up lugies and seeing how far they can spit them.

Ah, to be young again.

Another two things I really enjoy at football games are 1) when the high school trumpet players hit the high notes in the Star Spangled Banner without cracking a note, and 2) when the cheerleaders throw something into the crowd after a touchdown and I catch it.

In regards to the trumpet players: I guess it’s not necessary for them to always hit those high notes – we can still feel patriotic if they can’t – but it does make a person stand up a bit taller and salute a bit more sharply when they can.

In regards to the cheerleaders: The one time I caught something that the cheerleaders were throwing – a little football – I felt bad for catching it because it bounced off a lady’s hand right into mine. Her little son looked awfully disappointed, so I did the only thing I could do – I moved to another section so I didn’t have to see his sad little face anymore! Just kidding! I gave the ball to the little boy and his smile made my Friday night football game experience that much better.

NOTE TO CHEERLEADERS: Have you ever thought about throwing “50 percent off an oil change” coupons? Boy, that would get the joint hopping!

Another thing I like doing at football games is listening to the conversations going on around me. Not that I’m eavesdropping, mind ya’, but if other members of the crowd are going to talk loud enough for me to hear them, I’m gonna listen.

The best conversations are the gossipy kinds. Sometimes at a football game you can learn more about what’s happening around town than you can by reading the newspaper. The worst conversations to listen to are the ones where two people are talking to each other, but neither one is actually listening to what the other person is saying. At first, it’s funnier than anything you’ll ever see on television, but after awhile it just gets plain annoying.

Finally, I like heading back to the concession stand during the last few minutes of the game. Sometimes they give away free burgers or hotdogs. And if that doesn’t put the crowning touch on a Friday night football game, then nothing can.

I'm With The Band -- # 22

I decided to use this cartoon again, with some color and new wording, because 1) it keeps the alien theme going for a bit longer, and 2) I'm just too worn out to draw a new one right now. Hopefully I'll have a new "I'm With the Band" cartoon next week!

Alien Music redux

Have I got a story to tell YOU!

But not now. I'm too tired.

Just got home from having my appendix removed. The doctor said I had "acute appendicitis." Walked in the doctors office Monday morning, my appendix was gone by that evening.

Talk about service!

I just got home today, Wednesday, and plan to be doing some resting and recuperating.

Hasta la vista, mis amigos!

Where have all the vacuum cleaner salesmen gone?

I met my new neighbors yesterday. They came to tell me my goats were loose in their yard, which really didn’t bother them, but you could tell they were just being polite.

Goats seem adept at bringing diverse groups of people together, which is great if one of those groups consist of bikini-clad co-eds who are sharing a house together next to yours, but not so great when the group is a gang of biker thugs who look bent on grilling goat, and yours just happens to be loose and available.

Of course, my new neighbors are not biker thugs or bikini-clad coeds, but they’re new, which means – technically – I’m not!

I’ve been the new neighbor ever since I moved here 18 years ago. And since I came from “the big city,” that means I’m a “foreigner” as well. Everybody else in my neighborhood has lived here since the dawn of time. I doubt they even know my name. If I live in this house until the day I die I’m sure I’ll just be known as: “What was that guy’s name? Oh, well, it doesn’t matter anymore. See the Rangers play last night?”

But being a foreigner is not all that bad, especially if you compare it to being dead. Sure, you never quite understand the language and you never get the “inside jokes,” but it’s better than being stuck in a box, waiting to go to heaven, which is off limits to goat owners because we use a lot of potty-mouth words when we talk about our goats.

ST. PETER: Name.
ME: Tracy
ST. PETER: Occupation
ME: Teacher
ST. PETER: Good. Any pets?
ME: Goats
ST. PETER: Veto. Language skills not appropriate for Heaven.

Does St. Peter have veto power over a person’s life? I’m not sure. Still, I always get a little nervous when people start asking me personal questions. It means they’re about to categorize me as a “this” or a “that.” I should give them wrong answers, just to stir things up a bit, but I would never try that on St. Peter. He probably knows all the answers before he even asks the questions, and that would ruin all the fun. But those other people – the poll takers, the rule followers, the telemarketers and vacuum cleaner salesmen – they deserve to get what they get.

Ok, maybe not the vacuum cleaner salesmen. My vacuum cleaner is broken, there’s no way for it to be fixed, and I could really use one of those guys to stick his foot in my door and pressure me into buying an All-American Vacuum Cleaning System That is Guaranteed to Suck Up Cat Hair and Dirty Laundry Until The Day You Die, No Questions Asked.

Sure, I could go out to Wal-Mart and buy a vacuum on the cheap, but I miss the vacuum cleaner salesman, just like I miss the milkman and the ice cream truck man and the lady who went around selling Tupperware. The milkman is extinct in America, the ice cream truck guy doesn’t come out to my neighborhood because it’s not worth the trip, and the Tupperware lady is now selling Mary Kay – and the last thing I need is a bottle of Vanilla Sugar Satin Hands Hand Cream or Mary Kay Lash Lengthening Mascara.

Domino’s doesn’t even deliver to my neighborhood, but I don’t mind driving into town to pick up a pizza or two. It’s worth it.

Today, we believe we’re getting good service if the cashier smiles at us as we load our own groceries into the cart, but way back in the “good old days,” they actually took your groceries out to the car for you, and then loaded them in the back seat. The milkman delivered fresh milk to your door; the neighborhood kid came by once a week to see if you needed your lawn mowed; and the little girl down the street begged to walk your dog around the block for a couple of bucks.

And America is supposed to be better off with the loss of all these home-grown services?

If a vacuum cleaner salesman peddling his wares were to knock on my door next Tuesday, I’d buy a vacuum cleaner, no matter the price. And if he offered to walk my goats and mow my yard, I’d probably buy two.

I thought about writing a book

A long, long time ago, I thought about writing a series of books like The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew -- something that would be read generation after generation, passed down from father to son, or mother to daughter.

But it's already been done and who wants to be a copy cat? So I decided not to even start.

Later, I thought about writing sweeping sagas ala James Michener and Alex Haley. I'd call my first book "Roots of Alaska." I'd spend years researching historical events, tie them all together with memorable characters, and produce a whopping book that weighed 20 pounds, but everybody would read it because everybody else was reading it.

But do you know how long "spending years" actually is? Me neither. It could be three or seven or 20. And then if it was never accepted by a publisher or turned into a made-for-TV mini-series, I'd die a pityfall, lonely, rejected man which is something I'd prefer to avoid. So I decided not to even start.

And then I thought about writing a horror book like Stephen King or a mystery like Agatha Christie. Those are always fun to read; fun to figure out "who done it" before the investigator finds out, or fun to creep somebody out so much they can never sleep with the lights off ever again.

But I never could figure out "who done it," and if you write creepy books, people look at you a bit sideways -- like they really think you'd eat roasted babies feet. So I decided not to even start.

I thought about writing short stories, but only for a moment.

Newspaper columns? Well, anybody can do that. Just throw some words together, make sure everything's spelled correctly, and you're all set. The newspaper doesn't care what your story's about. They just need something to fill the space.

I thought about writing birthday and Christmas cards, but nobody really reads them. People just look to see if there's money inside.

Well, as you can see, I've turned down a boatload of promising literary ideas, but now I have a BRAND NEW IDEA -- an idea that will set me on the path to becoming the most-read author the world has ever seen.

I am going to start writing signs. Road signs, restaurant signs, airport signs, etc.

Millions of travellers will read my "Do Not Enter" signs. Billions of shoppers will be looking for my "Restroom" signs. And there's no telling how many different translations there will be for my "Swim at your own risk" signs.

I shall be famous. Quitely of course, because I will refuse to call attention to myself and my status, but famous none the less.

Don't worry -- I won't forget where I came from.

Making Headlines Count

Headlines are curious beasts.

Originally, they were designed to impart information about stories in short bites so we, the readers, could decide whether or not to chew on the rest of the story for awhile or turn to the sports page. But over the years they've evolved into crafty used-car salesmen, willing to promise you anything in exchange for a bit of your precious reading time.

Let me show you how a headline works -- in super high-definition slow motion:

First, you open up your daily newspaper (or internet), scan the top of the paper (screen) to make sure you have a recent edition (not last Tuesday's), and then look at the main headline. Your eyes scan the words, you read what is written (unless you can't read, then you just look at the photographs), then your brain yells out either, "This looks like a winner -- stop and stay for a second" or "This is a load of crap. I think it's time to discontinue my subscription."

If you decide to listen to your brain and stay awhile, then the imaginative part of your brain kicks in and tries to determine what MIGHT be in the story before you actually read it. (The brain. Such a curious chap.) If your brain's "best guess" intrigues you, you stop and read it, and if not, you look for the next headline and the process starts all over again.

For example, here are some true-blue headlines I found on the internet the other day (follow the links if you don't believe me. If they're "broken" by the time you read this, then you'll just have to trust me or think I'm a quack) and exactly what went through my mind as I scanned them:

Indonesia's smoking toddler kicks habit -- Toddlers are supposed to kick balls, not habits. And what were the nuns doing while it happened, just sitting around watching the show? Smoking? You mean as in cigarettes? Well, if a toddler can smoke 40 cigs a day (I read the story) and kick the habit by "redirecting his attention to playing with children his own age," then why is it so tough for adults to do? Just go play with some adult friends (I suggest hopscotch) and be done with the nasty habit!

Beck and Palin plan mysterious joint appearance on 9/11 -- Why all of a sudden is there something "mysterious" about joints? You buy some weed, roll it up, get pulled over by a cop, explain that you have no idea who's joint you're holding, it's certainly not mine, then giggle all the way to the police station where you ask if they have any donuts to share because you're hungry. (I didn't read this story. I have no idea what it's about. Just the names Beck and Palin give me the willies.)

Samsung, Toshiba take on Apple with 'iPad killers' -- Japanese companies deploy ninjas to destroy the world supply of iPads. Follow them on Twitter as they live tweet every slap down and karate chop.

Panel: India must secure elephant reserves -- At first I thought it read animal "preserves" and wondered how in the hell do you get a giant pachyderm into one of those little Mason jars? But then I re-read it and thought, "Well, we have oil reserves in case of emergencies. I guess they keep a few elephants back in case of whatever you would need an elephant for. Stampedes, I guess?

Can home cooking be hazardous to your health? -- When my wife is cooking, most definitely! (Just kidding, dear.)

mTripp app for iPhone uses augmented reality -- Excuse me?

American Airlines pilot cleared of alcohol -- Okay, so pilots are cleared to taxi, cleared to takeoff, cleared to land, but now they're cleared of alcohol? And how do the air traffic controllers say that over the intercom? "Flight 106, you are now cleared of alcohol. Sorry guys!"

And finally:

Cup of tea forces jet to make emergency landing -- I can just imagine a hot steamy cup of Earl Gray jumping out of a passenger's hand and demanding to, "See the pilot right now. Tell him I'm loaded with caffeine and I'll take out this whole $#*&! plane if you dare to put any cream or sugar in me!"

Yep. Headlines. Curious beasts. Don't ya just love 'em?