Friday, July 30, 2010

New York may pass law concerning illegal Dougs

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second story in a series concerning America’s illegal Doug problem.

New York may be the first state in the union to arrest and detain anyone named Doug who has illegally crossed into the U.S. from Canada.

The New York legislature will vote on the issue Monday, with the federal government appealing for an injunction soon after.

“The illegal Doug problem is getting worse by the day, and the federal government is not doing a thing about it,” said a lawmaker who wished to remain anonymous. “They come into our country, take our jobs, marry our women, and the next thing you know there are little Dougs running around all over the place. Well, this has got to stop, and we’re going to do something about it – soon.”

The illicit Doug trade is supported by wealthy Canadian Doug cartels who have used violence and intimidation to further their influence. So far, fighting has remained on the Canadian side of the border, and has only been between the cartels.

If passed, the New York law will make it illegal for illegal Dougs to live and work in New York illegally. It will also give local law enforcement officers the authority to request "documentation" from anyone they suspect is an illegal Doug. Documentation could include a birth certificate, passport or driver's license.

Dougs all across the state, whether in the country legally or not, are watching to see how this all will unfold. Some are even packing their bags and planning to move to southern states.

“If this law passes, this will be a tragic day for Dougs,” said Doug, an opponent to the law. “I’m in this country legally, but the thought of having to produce papers just to prove it is beyond my ability to comprehend. This is America – not Nazi, Germany.”
27 July 2010 -- Illegal Doug problem growing along U.S.-Canadian border

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm in Love With Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies
On Monday, there were two bags of cookies in the cupboard. I opened up the chocolate chip kind and, even though I'm embarrassed to admit this, I ate them in pairs until they were completely gone.

And then I opened up the bag of Sandies, ate every last one of them, and realized that I might just have a cookie problem.

I'm in Love With Cookies

By Tracy Farr

I’m in love with cookies, there really is no doubt.
If there’s a cookie in my house I’ll sniff the darn thing out,
Then plop it in my mouth and chew ‘til it’s all gone, by George.
Yes, I’m in love with cookies. On cookies I do gorge.

If there’s a bag of oatmeal cookies sitting on a shelf,
I’ll pull it down and eat them all at once all by myself.
And if I get a whiff of raisin cookies slowly cooling,
I guarantee I’ll eat the lot, of that I am not fooling.

Cookies full of chocolate chips, or lovely snickerdoodles,
Are here one day and gone the next, the whole kit and caboodle.
I’ve never met a cookie that I didn’t want to eat.
A million cookies in a jar can really not be beat.

I’m in love with cookies, there really is no doubt
If there’s a cookie in my house I’ll sniff the darn thing out.
I really want a cookie now, I need one really bad,
But the cookie jar is empty and that makes me very sad.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eat less, exercise more

Every year, Americans just like you spend billions of dollars trying to turn themselves into gorgeous, finely-tuned hunks and hunkettes who are not embarrassed to be seen strolling along a beach in a bathing suit or string bikini. They spend their hard-earned cash on weight-loss plans, aerobic workout videos and exercise machines, use them for a couple of weeks, then stuff them in the closet and forget about them. Well, now it’s time to stop all that foolishness and try a new old-fashioned way that really works:

“Eat less; exercise more.”

I bet you’ve tried Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, NutriSystems, The Rachel Ray Diet, The Zone Diet, The Atkins Diet, The Macrobiotic Diet, The South Beach Diet, eDiets, The Amazing Banana Diet, The Happy Tummy Diet and a whole lot of other diets that if I were to list them all, you’d start asking yourself, “Is he just making this up?”

If I were to look inside your closet right now I bet I’d find a Thigh Master, an Air Climber, a Power Strider, a Slam Man, a NordicTrack, a JumpSnap, an Urban Rebounder, a Total Tiger and a lot of other exercise equipment “not sold in stores” just gathering dust on the floor.

And what would I find sitting near your DVD player? Exercise videos. Hundreds of them. I betcha money you’ve got Hip Hop Abs, Richard Simmons’ “Blast Off The Pounds,” Crunch Express, Escape Your Shape, Slim in 6, Turbo Jam, Tae-Bo, Aerobic Striptease and Yoga Booty Ballet. You laugh, but you know it’s true. And you also know it would have been cheaper to:

“Eat less; exercise more.”

At first, all those fancy videos and expensive machines seem to give you the results you want. You’re able to cinch up your belt a notch (Glory be!); you look more slim and trim in the mirror (Hallelujah!); and people you don’t even know stop you at Wal-Mart to say how good you look (Back off, buster! I carry mace!). But in the end, that extra slice of cheese cake is just too good to pass up and watching Richard Simmons just gives you the creeps. So what do you do? You spend more money on the “next-best thing” because you don’t believe in:

“Eat less; exercise more.”

Yes, friends and neighbors, there’s a certain bit of “status” that comes along with being able to say, “I’m on the Jenny Craig Diet, I work out with my Gravity Force Trainer every morning, and when I get home from work I do 30 minutes of ‘Billy’s Boot Camp Elite.’” And what do you get when you say, “I eat less and exercise more”? Absolutely nothing, which is exactly how much it costs.

So next time somebody knocks on your door and tries to sell you a magic elixir that is guaranteed to give you “abs like Superman” or “thighs like Suzanne Somers,” be strong, shoo them away and tell them you’ve had enough of their flimflam.

But when that gentle soul comes to your door, giving you the simple wisdom of “Eat less; exercise more”, invite him in, let him watch “the game” on your HD Big Screen TV, serve him barbecued ribs with all the trimmin’s, and pour him a tall glass of tea with plenty of ice and sugar. And after the game, let him nap away the afternoon on your couch, with shoes off and pillow fluffed behind his head.

And if it’s not too much trouble, may I have some lemon in my tea?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Illegal Doug problem growing along U.S.-Canadian border

Just in case you haven't been keeping up with the news lately, the U.S. - Mexico border is not the only place immigration officials are trying to secure.

Doug Krispy Kreme Neon Sign Signage
To our north, illegal Dougs are seeping across the border at an unprecedented rate, and our federal government seems unable to do anything about it, or they are choosing to turn a blind eye to the situation. Either way, illegal Dougs are here in America, and if we don't do something about them soon, it will be too late.

The illicit Doug trade began to boom two decades ago when American parents stopped naming their children "Doug" or "Douglas." The Canadian underworld saw its chance to profit from this and built Doug farms where pregnant girls are paid money to name their new boy babies "Doug." Once the Dougs mature, they are smuggled across the border to find jobs in retail, thus taking jobs away from Americans.

Most of the Dougs are white males with curly blonde hair who end up working at coffee bars, donut shops and sporting goods stores. A few even find employment at car dealerships and insurance companies. On the street they're known as DGs, Home-Dougs, or Doogie Howsers.

According to informants, violence among the mighty Doug cartels has escalated in recent months, but so far has stayed on the Canadian side of the border.

Doug's Repair Shop
Lawmakers in some northern states are so disgruntled by the illegal Doug problem, that they are considering taking matters into their own hands without waiting on federal approval. One of the proposals is to give local law enforcement officers the authority to request "documentation" from anyone they suspect is illegally in the country and named Doug. Documentation could include a birth certificate, passport or driver's license.

Most northern-state citizens recognize that something has to be done about the illegal Doug problem, but fear police officers might succumb to racial profiling, stopping anyone based on their skin color or curly blonde hair.

So far, the federal government has not made any statements concerning the matter.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happiness is just a spoon full of sugar away

As you are sitting there reading this story, I’m at home sipping on a Dr. Pepper made with real sugar, and wondering why the United States isn’t the happiest country on the planet.

From what I hear in the news, researchers at the Gallop World Poll talked to people in 155 countries – trying to assess their well-being – and from that study concluded that Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands are the happiest countries in the world.

And where did the United States rank? I’m not really sure, but it’s somewhere behind Costa Rica, Canada and Panama. That’s right – even Panama beat out God bless America.

I don’t know about you, but living in a country that’s second rate on the happiness scale does NOT please me.

I’m pretty much a happy person. Most of the people I know are pretty happy, too. And if you are a happy person, and most of the people YOU know are happy, then you would think those numbers would eventually grow enough to tip the country-wide happiness scale in our favor, making America one of the happiest places to live.

Isn’t the United States the home of the Whopper, Braum’s Ice Cream, Domino’s Pizza and Weight Watchers? Aren’t we known for American football, baseball and World Federation Wrestling? And holy cow, Disney Land is just around the corner, and if THAT doesn’t make everybody happy, I don’t know what would.

So here's the deal: We have to turn unhappy Americans into happy Americans, thus putting America back on track to becoming Numero Uno on the Snappy Happy Country list. And here's how we're going to do it:

No. 1 – Since happiness is relative, repeat “I am happy, I am happy, I am happy,” 20 times before any relatives come to visit. If they are your in-laws, 100 reps may be in order.

No. 2 – Always wake up on the right side of the bed, unless you sleep on the left, because if you try to crawl over whoever’s sleeping on the right, you’re bound to get an elbow poked in your ear, which only exacerbates the problem.

No. 3 – Think happy thoughts before you fly to Reno for vacation, unless you’re going to New Jersey, then I don’t know what to tell you.

No. 4 – Never equate money with happiness. Money may appear to make you happy, money can buy that MacBook Pro you’ve always wanted, and money can allow you to indulge in every wish your heart desires. But. Hmmm. I’ve forgotten my point.

And last but not least No. 5 – A quote from American Author Dale Carnegie: “Did you ever see an unhappy horse? Did you ever see a bird that had the blues? One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.”

With that, I leave you to find your own happiness. As for me, I shall have another real sugar Dr. Pepper. You can never have too much. Happiness, that is.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Building a better blog

I really don't think of this site as a blog. I consider it a place where I can showcase my stories, presented to you in blog format, which technically means it's a blog, so I guess it is. What a bummer.

Anyways, I've been reading a bit on how to make a blog stand out ('cause there are a million other people trying to showcase THEIR stories, just like me, which is depressing, but that's life), and this is what I've learned:

1. Write useful stuff. Nobody cares that you ate a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. What they DO care about is the way you fixed it. In the oven? On the stovetop? Speared with a fork and burned over candle fire? It's the HOW, not the WHAT that matters.

2. Ask questions. You may think that a grilled cheese sandwich is yummy, but it's better to ask your audience (even though it may just be your Mom and Aunt Edna from El Paso) what THEY think about grilled cheese sandwiches. Questions build a dialogue, and dialogues are better than monologues. SAMPLE QUESTION: So, what do you think I drank with my grilled cheese sandwich -- coffee or Dr. Pepper?

3. Write with humor. There are a million and one humorous anecdotes you probably could come up with about cooking or eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Use them. Milk them for all they're worth. Of course, I can't think of a thing that's funny about it, but since YOU'RE the one writing about grilled cheese sandwiches, I'll leave that up to you.

4. Have a contest every now and then. Nothing draws in an audience like winning something. Maybe draw names from those who comment on a certain post. Maybe pose a problem and the person with the correct answer wins the prize. Maybe you could offer to fix the winner a grilled cheese sandwich and have it shipped to them via FedEx or UPS. The possibilities are endless.

5. Post regularly. If you only post stories about grilled cheese sandwiches every other month, nobody's going to read your stuff. But if you post stories about it every DAY, then that's just weird. Maybe vary it up a bit. Write about grilled cheese sandwiches on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then on the other days write about your goats, or whatever else floats your boat.

Okay, kiddies. That's my useful post of the month. Hope it leads you to better writing, but more importantly, I hope it brings your blog fame and fortune.

That will be $5. Please pay at the front desk as you leave.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The ironic side of "Lost"


I am a “Lost” fan. I say “am” because I still think about the show, still watch it in DVD form, and still theorize about the various mysteries that were left unanswered when the show ended.

But do you know what I find the most interesting about “Lost”? It’s the variety of ways our lives, yours and mine, ironically resemble the show in some form or fashion. For instance, I’m writing this story on a computer. In “Lost,” a computer was used to “save the world.” See how ironic that is?

Here are some more examples:

I get up and take a shower every morning, which, ironically, is exactly what Kate did down in the hatch.

After I get out of the shower, I comb my hair, which rhymes with Claire, one of the main characters on the show.

After I eat breakfast, I wash my hands at the sink, which is precisely what happened to Michael’s raft and the freighter.

I have a friend named Ben. He’s not like Ben from the show, but still, his name is Ben.

The show begins with a plane crash. Ironically, planes fly over my house quite often.

Desmond is a Scottish character who likes to read Dickens, and wishes to find his girlfriend, Penny. I have been to Scotland, I have read Dickens, and I’m constantly searching for pennies under the couch cushions. See a pattern developing? Of course you do.

Lock was in a wheelchair, Boone ran a company, and Jack is a doctor. Using the first initial of their names we come up with LBJ. LBJ often refers to Lyndon B. Johnson, former president, and Texan. Ironically, I’m also a Texan.

And I could go on, and on, and on, but I won’t, which is what the producers decided to do by ending the show instead of having it canceled sometime in the future. How ironic.

Yes, “Lost” was a great show, and I think I’ll be talking about it for some time to come.

How about you?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A letter to my wife -- Part II

Dear Susan,

Previously, I admitted to you that it's very possible that I have a snoring and sleeping problem. I also submitted to you my solution to said problem, and now I'd like to continue that train of thought with graphic representation of why my idea would suit both of our needs.

This is a photograph of somebody's dear friend (don't know whose, but that's not the point) who we'll forthwith call "Man on the Beach."

Having a whale of a time at the beach

"Man on the Beach" has a slight weight problem. Not only that, but he probably snores and doesn't rest well due to sleep apnea. Seeing that he's out on the beach for all to see, we can assume that his weight problem doesn't bother him. But it more than likely DOES bother his family.

Wanting the best for his wife and kids, "Man on the Beach" bought an iPad.


Along with the iPad, "Man on the Beach" downloaded apps that would help him lose weight, count calories, chart his progress, as well as teach him the basics of Yoga in the hopes of relaxing before bedtime.

"Man on the Beach" worked hard on his problems, and within MONTHS, totally changed his life.

This is what "Man on the Beach" looks like today:

Mr Muscle

Knowing that I should put my family's welfare first in my life, knowing that snoring and sleep apnea causes undue stress in a marriage, knowing full well that you'd rather have "Man on the Beach" AFTER than "Man on the Beach" BEFORE, I hereby acquiesce to your desires and will buy me -- and I really mean US -- an iPad in order to remain healthy, strong and live a long and satisfying life.

I'll do that for you -- turn apps into abs -- because that's the kind of guy I am.

You're welcome!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A letter to my wife

Dear Susan,

Okay, I will admit that there may be a possibility that AT TIMES I do emit snoring-like sounds that possibly cause you to lose a few moments of sleep each night.

I will admit that it's very possible my slight weight problem may have something to do with all this, and that if I'd exercise and eat right, the alleged problem would go away.

I will admit that if I were in your place, I, too, would take my sharpest fingernail and drive it into the back of my skull until the snoring sounds -- or all indications of life -- stopped.

I will admit that it's more than likely if I DO have a snoring problem, then I might also have a sleeping problem which causes me to gasp for breath many times a night, thus keeping me, and you, from getting a sound sleep.

But, and I'm sorry to say this, there is no way in you-know-where that I'm going to go to a sleep clinic and have people I don't even know WATCH as I sleep, take VIDEO of me sleeping (with the high probability that it'll end up on the Internet), analyse my sleeplessness, then give me a diagnosis that I have a snoring and sleeping problem that can be cured by diet and exercise -- all to the tune of thousands of dollars, some of which is covered by insurance, but the rest not -- which is exactly what I'm admitting to, right now, for free!


I do have an alternate solution.

Instead of spending all that money on something we already know, why not spend $700 for an iPad -- I'd even share it with you at times -- and download a $5 app, a weight-loss, elimate-snoring-in-the-comfort-of-your-own-home app, and save all that money and get a great tech toy that can surf the internet via wifi or 3g?

I hear they have an app for everything.

Sound good to you?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The 'Count Dracula move' is something to sneeze at

All these years I’ve been sneezing and coughing wrong, and nobody felt like stepping up and telling me? Thanks guys!

(WARNING: This essay contains big scientific words and descriptions of bodily functions that most of us politely ignore, but deep down inside give us the heebie-jeebies. If you have a sensitive disposition and can’t stomach big scientific words, bodily functions and/or heebie-jeebies, maybe you should turn to the sports page.)

From what I hear in the news, people have been wrongly covering up their coughs and sneezes for years, maybe even eons, and if it wasn’t for scientists who study this sort of thing, we’d all have died centuries ago.

According to the story (and I know you’ve read it because most people have a morbid curiosity about such things), medical students in New Zealand secretly watched hundreds of people coughing and sneezing at a train station, a mall, and a hospital, and discovered that most people failed “to properly prevent an airborne explosion of infectious germs.”

Let me say that again so it will really hit home: Hundreds of sneezing and coughing New Zealanders, maybe even millions, were secretly watched by medical students who were so intent on gathering “good science,” that they failed to offer a hanky or a “God bless you” to those poor suffering souls.

Now, aren’t you glad you live in America, land of the brave and home of the free drug samples?

To continue, three out of four people who were spied upon as they sneezed or coughed, at least tried to cover their “airborne explosion,” but did so with their hands, which is a big no-no when it comes to being healthy, wealthy and wise.

“When you cough into your hands, you cover your hand in virus," said study author Nick Wilson, an associate professor of public health at the Otago University campus in Wellington. "Then you touch doorknobs, furniture and other things. And other people touch those and get viruses that way," he explained.

I hope you don’t mind, but I lifted that quote right out of the article. I thought it succinctly told the story of the migration of viruses from lungs to hands to doorknobs to a stranger’s hand, maybe even yours, and that’s why you should always wear gloves, even in the summer, or just use your feet to open up doors or cans of tuna.

I want to suck your blood
According to health officials, we should all sneeze or cough into our elbows, which make us look like Count Dracula covering up his face. Unfortunately, only 1 in 77 does that, which is surprising since Vampires and Werewolves are very popular these days. By the way, I would never do the Count Dracula move unless I was wearing a cape, but that’s just me.

Can you imagine sitting in the mall, watching people pass by, and every now and then seeing some guy in shorts, or a woman in a business suit, doing the Count Dracula move, and then carrying on like nothing had happened? I for one would pay money to see a time-lapsed movie of just such a thing; narration by Chevy Chase or Steve Martin; John Williams’ music playing in the background. Shoot, I’d even buy the DVD or Blue-ray version of it.

Oh, and one last thing. In 2007, Harris Interactive did a study to see how many people washed their hands after using the bathroom. Their findings suggest that one in four people don’t wash their hands, and that men are the worst about it. Nothing new there. I thought I’d just throw it in.

OLD SAYING: A smart man washes his hands after peeing. A smarter man doesn’t pee on his hands in the first place.

To conclude, I have given up hand shaking. Don’t even offer yours. I will look at it with disdain, knowing full well that you’ve just sneezed in it and didn’t wash up after you’ve used the bathroom. I might hug you, kiss you on the cheek, punch you in the shoulder, do the bump with you, bow at you, or run around in circles proclaiming it’s so good to see you again, but I will not shake your hand. Please don’t take it personally.

Of course, if you were to talk to my wife, she’d say I was the pot calling the kettle black, but since I’m colorblind, I have no idea what that means.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Random is beautiful

Just a quick little post so I can continue my string of writing every day.

You see, yesterday I wrote a sonnet about El Chupacabra, and thought it was so good that I just couldn't wait until TODAY to post it, so I posted it yesterday. I told people on Facebook about it, I Tweeted the hell out of it, and in the end -- nobody came.

Ok, some people came, but since it was a "trendy topic" (whatever that means), I thought for SURE my site visitor numbers would soar through the roof --THROUGH THE ROOF!

But alas, no.

Which got me thinking. All you social media people, those who advocate "finding your topic, becoming a thought leader, focusing on one thing and being the go-to person for that one thing" -- for ME, it doesn't work.

I enjoy being random. I enjoy other people who are random. I would much rather listen to someone talk about cleaning up cat barf one day and taking a train to Istanbul the next, than to listen to someone go on and on and on again about whatever subject they're "focused" about.

Random is beautiful. Being random is sexy. Being focused is about as mind-numbing as sorting M&Ms by color, by hand, all day long, seven days a week, and not getting to eat any.

So, you go ahead and be focused. I'm going to stick with being random.

Oh look, there's a bunny rabbit!

Desert Cottontail Rabbit in Anza Borrego State Park.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

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.

The vuvuzela is dead. Long live the vuvuzela

Vuvuzela Day
I'm sorry to see the World Cup end. Not because of the soccer (didn't see a match because we don't have television), but because of the vuvuzelas!

Of course, I know for a fact there are millions, if not billions, of people right now thankful the World Cup's over soley for the reason that they don't have to listen to the vuvuzelas anymore; thankful that there's no other reason to get them out and blast us all to kingdom come.

Well, I beg to differ. I betcha there are millions of excuses for blowing a vuvuzela. For example:

At the end of weddings
Funerals (limited to graveside)
4th of July
Happy New Year
Sporting events such as
  1. Football
  2. Basketball
  3. Cricket
  4. Baseball
  5. Curling
  6. Tennis
  7. Darts
  8. Tiddly Winks
Maybe NOT golf or chess.
Births (Blow a blue one for boy, pink for girl)
About to have sex
Just had sex
A forceful way to say "no" when the boy begs for sex
School is out for summer
Summer is over (a lament)
Foggy night on boat
Used as a mating call to hunt down wild vuvuzelas

See! There are MILLIONS of reasons to use one of those loud, plastic, South African noisemakers.

Got Vuvuzela?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My view on the news may need adjusting

I think I need to get my eyes checked because I would have sworn I just read a headline that said, "First family to vacation on Mars."

On second look, they're going to Maine. But now I'm curious to know how many other news items I've misread recently, misread and didn't catch that I've misread them, thinking, "That sounds a little strange, but it must be true -- I guess."

For instance:

Red Hot Chili Peppers!!!
"Red Hot Chili Peppers to be stored in cool Arctic doomsday vault." Now, I don't know much about the group's music, but to lock them away in an Arctic vault seems a bit overkill, if you ask me.

"Facebook installs 'eject button' for children." Now THAT I could use. You don't know how many times I've wanted on the computer (we've only got one), but some "child" is on Facebook playing silly games. Yep, I could use an eject button. What? Oh, it's a "panic button" to report weird adult behavior. Sorry.

"U.N. and North Korea to meet on sinking warship." Great idea! Get something accomplished before ship plunges to the bottom of the ocean and drowns everybody on board. Talk about a drop-dead deadline. But taking a second glance (U.S. and North Korea to meet on warship sinking), I discovered that I might be a bit dyslectic. Bummer.

Sydney Opera House Close up HDR Sydney Australia
"Australia says Google guilty of privacy beaches." I'm sorry, but if Google is wealthy enough to own its own beaches, why can't they make them private? And what business is it of Australia? They have enough beachfront property to go around, don't they? Hmmmmm....maybe it said "privacy breaches." I'll re-read that one again.

Yes, it's very possible I need to have my vision checked.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Every day is an adventure in Chicago

My Kind of Town
I think it does a person good to have an adventure every now and then. You know, wake up in the morning, do something spontaneous and out of the ordinary – like hopping on a train to Chicago.

“You’re out of your ever-loving mind!”

That was my wife’s first reaction to the idea. I’m pretty sure that’s the reaction every wife has when confronted with spontaneous ideas from their husbands.

“We can’t afford a trip to Chicago. What are you thinking?”

And that’s always the second reaction – the money issue. But since I had my mind set on it – and a Discover Card in my pocket – we hopped on the train for a five-day adventure to The Windy City.

Riding a train to Chicago is not like flying to Chicago. First off, nobody checks your shoes for bombs. Second off, a train doesn’t have wings. It goes low and slow. Sometimes it stops and backs up, which would cause mass hysteria if a pilot ever tried to do that in a 747.

“We’re sorry ladies and gentlemen, but see that freight train beside us, the one with 538,999 cars? We have to wait until he passes us, and then we’ll be on our way to Chicago. Sorry for the delay.”

Navy Pier's Fireworks
The point of an adventure is not how quickly it can be accomplished. The point is the journey, the companionship, the shared physical discomfort which makes the destination that much sweeter. You’ll enjoy the comfort of your hotel so much more after trying to sleep sitting up in coach, listening to strangers snore, knowing full well you can’t hit any of them.

“Well, if YOU snore, I’m slapping you silly,” my wife said to me. “I might hit you five or six times just because I can.”

Twenty hours later, our Chicago adventure continued with a taxi ride to the hotel, a walk down Michigan Avenue, supper at a fancy restaurant, and watching the sunset from the top of the John Hancock Observatory.

“Welcome to the John Hancock Observatory,” the recorded voice in the elevator said. “You are now on the fastest elevator in all of North America. You’ll rise 1,000 feet in 39 seconds, and your stomach will arrive soon after that. Barf bags are not provided, so if you toss your cookies, you’ll have to clean them up yourself. We hope you enjoy your visit to Chicago.”

The second day of our adventure included a trip to The Field Museum, a walk along Lake Shore Drive, and lunch at the best hot dog joint in America – Hot Doug’s, The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium.

“Hi Craig, what’ya been doin’ this summer? Me, I went sky diving. It was sweet. Other than that, I’ve been constantly drinking. Drinking until I can’t remember my name. Have you been to that new club? Me, too. Nice. Oh really? I met this one girl and we hit it off, but I’m not ready for a long-term relationship. What ya doin’ this weekend? Drinking? Nice. Me too. Maybe we can meet somewhere and pass out together like the good old days.”

Chicago at Dusk
That was part of the conversation we heard while waiting 72 minutes in line to get a hot dog. I’d tell you the other part, but this is a Rated PG story. The hot dogs were great, by the way.

After Hot Doug’s, we made our way to Navy Pier, went on a boat ride, ate supper at Billy Goat Tavern (I kid you not), and then watched a fireworks display over Lake Michigan. We took the bus back to our hotel because by this time, our feet were worn down to bloody stumps. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Day Three, our last day, saw us searching for souvenir T-shirts, eating Chicago-style deep pan pizza for lunch, and then making a mad dash to the train station for the long ride back to Texas.

The lady at the hotel asked me, “So, what brings you to Chicago, business or pleasure?” I told her we were just coming for lunch then heading back home. But honestly, we went to celebrate 25 years of marriage. Twenty-five years of riding together low and slow, with just as many stops and backups as the train we were on, but always getting to our destination together.

Like I said, it does a person good to have an adventure every now and then, if only to wash away the dust of everyday living from your shoes.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A letter to my youngest son

Dear Robert,

Will you please explain to me why you're in France, doing all the Frenchy kind of things that French people do, and you did NOT take me along with you? Yeah, sure, you have a French class, but still that's no excuse for leaving home without me.

I mean, I could have carried your baggage, I could have documented your every move, I could have spent some time drinking wine and eating cheese while you were in class. But no. You're there, I'm here; you're eating French cuisine, I'm eating frozen taquitos; you're speaking French, I'm still learning how to communicate in English -- and it's just not fair!

Okay, I'll stop complaining now. I guess I wouldn't be much of a father if I begrudged you this opportunity to travel half way across the world and be in the company of some of the most beautiful women in the world. Speaking of, have you seen very many French women? They sound even sexier speaking French, don't they? Hey, could you send me a photo or two of some you run across? You know, say it's for your old man at home who doesn't get out much any more, and it would do his heart good to see buxom French babes as long as "the wife" doesn't see them. You could do that for me, couldn't ya?

Anyways, I suspect when you get home in a couple of weeks you're going to want to have wine with every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. And maybe a cheese and wine snack before bedtime? I guess I'm okay with that. I don't care that much for wine, but I won't stop you.

Eiffel Tower
How old are you again?

Well, hope you're having a good time. Hope you enjoy Paris this weekend. I'm thinking about going to Paris, Texas, just so I can feel like I'm a little bit closer to you -- and all those French women. The stetson on top of the tower kind of ruins the effect, but I can handle it.

Again, hope you're having a good time, and thanks for all of the photographs.

P.S. I don't suppose you could bring me home a T-shirt? Just thought I'd ask.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pee, all that you can pee!

My wife and I were having a conversation yesterday morning about something or other (I wasn't exactly listening at the time, 'cause she goes on and on and on and...). Oh yes, vermouth. She was talking about vermouth, which made me think about coffee (don't ask), and somehow we got onto peeing (again, don't ask), and then she left for work all disgusted because women don't understand that guys can talk about doing the dishes and peeing in the same breath -- which IS kindof disgusting, but since she's not here at the moment, I can talk about peeing if I want to.

As she was heading out the door I yelled out "Pee you later, aligator" and it hit me -- a lot of phrases, song titles, and movie titles could be improved upon (in my opinion) just by inserting the word "pee" in strategic places. Such as:

Gone With The Pee
Rebel Without a Pee
Who's Afraid of Virginia's Pee?
Alice Doesn't Pee Here Anymore
The Man Who Peed Too Much
Night of the Peeing Dead
The Pee Hunter
Mamma Peeya
Peein' in the Rain
Pee of the Dead

War and Pees
 Peeter Pan
A Midsummer's Night Pee
All's Well That Pees Well
The Importance of Peeing Earnest
The Last Days of Pompee
The Pee and the Pendulum
The Pee of the Ancient Mariner
The Scarlet Pee

To pee, or not to pee!
Pee, all that you can pee!
Pee ya later aligator
My pee!
Peeing speaks louder than words
Don't hold your pee!
He put up a good pee!
Can you pee between the lines?
Let's pee in the new year.
He saw the peeing on the wall.
It vanished into thin pee.
I have a wait-and-pee attitude
Your pee is as good as mine.

Let it Pee
A Hard Day's Pee
Pee in the U.S.S.R.
I'll Pee Instead
Love Pee Do
Ob-La-Pee, Ob-La-Da
Sgt. Peepers Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Pee on the Hill
While My Guitar Gently Pees

Okay, my thirst for a little bathroom humor is now appeased (appeesed?).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Losing weight on the Coffee Diet

Coffee Beans
According to a generic get-healthy, lose-that-belly-or-die article I read on the internet yesterday, a person's metabolism has something to do with weight loss. I'm not exactly sure what or how this metabolism thing works, but I guess if they say it does, it does.

I usually never read those weight-loss articles. I just fly right over them without giving them a buzz, but this one caught my eye because of the cup of coffee photograph that was associated with it. The big headline read: "Natural ways to boost your metabolism." And for a little kicker: "Drink yourself to slimness."

Now THAT'S more like it.

I skimmed through the article -- it mentioned something about muscles and weight training (yeah, yeah, yeah); keeping hydrated by drinking lots of water (and staying close to the toilet I suppose); cardio-something exercise (more sweating, no doubt); and finally, what I was really looking for: COFFEE DRINKING!

Come to find out, if you can give a boost to this thing called metabolism, your body will help burn off those fat cells, thus making you lose weight, thus making you able to fit in those jeans a little better, and thus keeping that belly ABOVE the belt instead of hanging OVER it. Coffee is an "effective metabolism booster" (quoted straight from the article), and can improve "fat oxidation" -- whatever the hell that means.

The article says drink a cup before exercise to "improve alertness and help fight fatigue," but I'm thinking if I drink TWO cups I can forget about the exercise altogether with exactly the same results. In fact, if I restrict my calorie intake to just coffee (say, a couple of cups three times a day), I'll never be hungry and my belly will never even THINK about hanging over my belt again.

Far-fetched you say? Maybe. But aren't there already diets that make you drink so much of this and so much of that in order to fill you up so you don't feel as hungry, causing you to lose weight -- for a chunk of change because you have to order their product?

Well, if I'm going to spend my hard-earned dinero on something to drink, then I'm spending it on coffee -- freshly ground, piping hot, "just itching to get my metabolism off the couch and out metabolising like it should be" coffee!

In fact, I'm off to have a cup right now. So, adios mis amigos! Me and my metabolism have got some business to attend to.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Learn how to play the vuvuzela

Thanks to the World Cup, the whole world knows about vuvuzelas -- those South African noisemakers that can drive any sane person crazy.

Well, I bought two of them. Red ones. Even wrote a poem about them. And now I've put together a little video to show how easy they are to play.

Want to buy a vuvuzela of your own? You can find some at

Thanks for watching, and have a great, great vuvuzela day!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Billy Goat Tavern

I'm ashamed to admit I have never been a Saturday Night Live fan. I don't know why. I just was never into the John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd kind of comedy. Steve Martin I loved, but SNL wasn't my cup of tea.

Billy Goat Tavern
Thirty years later, I found myself standing in front of Billy Goat Tavern on Navy Pier in Chicago, really not understanding the significance of the place, but knowing that I had to eat there and have my picture taken because I have a couple of goats in my backyard who would be highly upset if I blew the opportunity.

I had no idea what to expect when I approached the counter to order a cheeseburger, and was actually taken aback by the seemingly lack of customer service. There was no, "Hello, welcome to Billy Goat Tavern, may I take your order?" Instead it was just "slam, bam, thank ya' ma'am, NEXT!"

"Okay," I thought, "well at least I got a photo in front of the sign."

And then, all too late, I did my research on the place.

The "Curse of the Billy Goat" I already knew thanks to Chuck Brodsky's song, The Curse of the Billy Goat, but I had no idea the tavern was the setting for one of Belushi and Aykroyd's famous skits. And that the "lack of customer service" just made the place that much better!

When I go back to Chicago, and I WILL go back, Billy Goat Tavern is definitely going to be on my list of places to experience. And not at Navy Pier, but at the original location on lower Michigan Avenue.

And this time I'll "get it."

Monday, July 5, 2010

There are vuvuzelas in the house!

With all this talk about vuvuzelas at The World Cup, I just had to order me a couple.

According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge, vuvuzelas are "plastic blowing horns that produce a loud, distinctive monotone note. Traditionally made and inspired from a kudu horn, the vuvuzela was used to summon distant villagers to attend community gatherings. The vuvuzela is most used at soccer matches in South Africa, and it has become a symbol of South African soccer as the stadiums are filled with its loud and raucous sound that reflects the exhilaration of supporters."

Here's a little poem I wrote about

The Vuvuzela

A vuvuzela is a horn that soccer fans do play,
To make a lot of racket so the ball will go their way,
And if the other soccer team is driving to a score
A thousand rabid soccer fans will blow them even more.
The sound of vuvuzelas really cannot be ignored.

It has a sound like charging rhinos heading for a lake,
Or a hundred thousand elephants, of that there’s no mistake.
Just one will drive you crazy, and two quite mad insane,
A hundred vuvuzelas blown at once is inhumane!
Compared to vuvuzelas 60 hippos sound quite tame.

But vuvuzela players seem to like the hellish din,
They sway and dance and prance around to everyone’s chagrin.
They blow and blow with all their might ‘til they can blow no more,
Until they get their second wind, and then let out a roar.
Their sound is so much greater than your daddy when he snores.

I saw a vuvuzela being played last Tuesday night,
The vuvuzela player played with pleasure and delight.
I said, “You look so happy playing vuvuzela sounds."
He said, “It is the best noisemaker anywhere around.
A vuvuzela can be heard from anywhere in town.”

So, I went out a bought some vuvuzelas, yes I did.
A red one just for me, and some blue ones for my kids,
And when we get real good we’ll start a vuvuzela band,
And blast those things across the state and all throughout the land.
Don’t you think a vuvuzela concert would be grand?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sketches on Train

I'm not an artist. I'm not a cartoonist. I'm just a guy who likes to draw every now and then.

These drawings are from a notebook I keep of ideas. I drew these illustrations while on The Texas Eagle, Amtrak Train No. 21 from Chicago to Texas.

Gino's East Pizza
"I thought we ordered a small pizza." "This is it. And our train leaves in 15 minutes."

On our last day in Chicago, my wife and I wanted to have Chicago-style pizza before we left, and Gino's East was just five blocks away from our hotel. We were cutting it close to train time, but we thought surely we could work it out. And then the waiter said it would take 45 minutes to cook the pizza. And when the SMALL pizza came, it was huge, and thick, and meaty, and delicious! It weren't no Texas pizza, let me tell ya'! We did make it to the train on time.

Hot Doug's Hotdogs
"I'm Ted. I prefer boxers. What about you?" "Nice to meet you Ted. I'm Nick. Superman thongs."

We just had to try a Chicago hotdog at Hot Doug's, the No. 1 hotdog joint in America. While we were waiting in line -- and indeed, the line was out the door and down the sidewalk -- two young men standing behind us started having a PG-13 conversation, verging on X. The hot dogs were excellent!

"Amtrak: We treat every customer like royalty!"

We had a little bit of trouble with our return train ticket. Seemed that Amtrak overbooked and we were left standing without a seat. As we sat in the dining lounge waiting for a seat to open up, I drew this sketch while on hold with Amtrak. Customer service wouldn't refund our money, but gave us a credit on future train rides. To be fair, the crew both coming and going did an excellent job. We were just a bit testy at this little hiccup. We did eventually get a seat.

"You only have one life on this planet and..."

Do you know how long a group of little old ladies can gab into the night?


And finally, do you have any idea how loud those same little old ladies can snore once they stop gabbing?

All in all we had a great trip to Chicago. The train ride was a little tough, but a little bit of discomfort never hurt anyone.

Thursday, July 1, 2010