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?

Things I Like to Eat

Several years ago I needed a gross bug-eating song that would catch the imagination of my little students. I'd sing it, they'd think it was gross, barf up their lunch all over the floor, thus giving the janitors something extra to do that day.

So, this is what I came up with. It's more lyrics to a song than an actual poem, but sometimes the twain can meet, and this is as "twainey" as it gets.

Things I Like to Eat

By Tracy Farr

Many many years ago when I was just a squirt,
I'd go out to the garden and I'd play in all the dirt,
And if I got real hungry I just took a look around,
And I ate almost anything a crawling on the ground,


Rolly-polly doodle bugs and hot and spicy ants,
Soft and chewy caterpillars crawling up my pants.
Crunchy little crickets, oh, they never made me squirm
And for desert I'd swallow down a slinky, slimy worm.

When my mother called me in for lunch she gave to me,
A sandwich, chips, a glass of milk and stalks of celery,
But I refused to eat a bite, my mother asked my why
I said, "I prefer to dine on things that creep and crawl and fly,


Rolly-polly doodle bugs and hot and spicy ants,
Soft and chewy caterpillars crawling down my pants.
Crunchy little crickets, ah, they never made me squirm
And for desert I'd swallow down a slinky, slimy worm."

Now that I am married with a wife and family,
I eat steak and chicken wings, corn and broccoli,
But late at night, a midnight snack is what I'm dreaming of,
I head out to the garden and I eat the things I love.


Rolly-polly doodle bugs and hot and spicy ants,
Soft and chewy caterpillars crawling up my pants.
Crunchy little crickets, oh, they never made me squirm
And for desert I'd swallow down a slinky, slimy worm.

(NOTE: It's even better when sung to the banjo!)