Monday, March 30, 2015

I CAN DRIVE AND CLEAN THE BACKSEAT AT THE SAME TIME

Back in my using days...
A friend was really worried about me one night. They took me to the ER.
At the ER they sent me to the psych ward to talk with a Dr.
He asked me if I used any dope.
“Yes sir:” I figured I’d be honest.
“What does that do for you?” he asked.
“It makes me laugh, makes me funny. I’m like a comedian when I’m high”

"So you are a comedian" he says, and marks something down on his chart.
“Do you ever do anything dangerous when youre high?” He asked.
“Like what?”
“Like drive.”
“Sure doc, but that’s not really dangerous is it?”
“You don’t think driving under the influence is dangerous?” he asked.
I thought about it a minute.
“Well, doc, the stuff I use is the same thing they give fighter pilots”
I thought I had him there but he didn’t even flinch.
“Oh, so you are a fighter pilot now?” he said, and wrote something down in his chart.


Fact is I'm way funnier now that I'm sober. 
And a better driver.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

NO ONE KNOWS LIKE YOU

Two weeks before my sister died I got a call from my ex wife.
“Hi” she says.
“Hi yourself”
““I have some sad news” she says. He voice is under control just enough I can tell its going to be really sad. “Arnold passed away.”
“ Oh God” I said.
“Are you OK?” she asked.
Long pause…the lyrics to a song come to me...

“Holding back the flood
Just don’t do no good
You can’t unclench your teeth
To howl the way you should
So you curl your lips around
The taste of tears and a hollow sound
No one knows like you”

“Are you OK?” she asked again.
“Yeah. No. Yeah” I said.

You are probably wondering who Arnold was.
Arnold was a friend of my ex-wifes family. He was blind since his teens. He done everything from milk cows and pick cotton on a farm to making brooms at Lighthouse for the Blind. I’ve personally seen him repair and replace a radiator on a Ford Van, drive nails, and change out a water heater.
He had been a plumber and a cowboy.
He and his wife ran the sanitation department in Kennedale for years. She drove the truck, he loaded the trash.
And at one of the deepest darkest times of my life, when I had given up,  Arnold took me in. He gave me shelter in a burned out trailer, no electric, no water,  and let me stay in his when the rains came in. It was all under the guise of me taking care of Arnold, but it was really the other way around.  Sure, I mowed the yard, and made him breakfast. But it was his bacon and eggs we were chawin’ on.
And Arnold and I became good friends.

“Are you OK?” she asked again.
“Yeah. I’m OK” I said.
“I want to ask you something” she says. “We are planning Arnold's funeral. Do you think you can do it?”
“You mean, like the eulogy? Sure I’d be honored” I said.
“No, not the eulogy.  The whole funeral.  We need someone to run the funeral.”

Have you ever had the blood just rush from your head to your feet? It was kind of like that.
The most humbling moment I’ve ever experienced. She’s not asking because I’m so great. She’s asking because she knows what Arnold did for me.

“You want me to run the funeral? I don’t know about that. I’ve never run a funeral before.”
“Well, we don’t have anyone else. Just think about it and get back with me” she says.
“Ok. Let me think about it a bit.”
Long pause.
“Ok” she says.
Long pause.
“ Ok” says I.
Long pause.
“Just think about it and let me know tomorrow” she says.
“OK”.
 Long Pause.
 “You know what?” I says. “I don’t have to think about it. I’ll do it. I’d be honored to do it.”
And that’s how I came to do Arnolds funeral.

Good afternoon everybody. I’m so glad you can be here today to honor Arnold. I am humbled to be here.  I was lucky to know him, and proud to say he  was my friend.
This is a good time to go ahead and turn your cell phones to silent, as we all bow our heads in prayer. 

Our Lord we thank you for Your presence here today. and come before you this afternoon as friends and family of Arnold Horton. We are here because we love him and miss him and we want to cherish our memories of him, we want to honor his life and honor him and support one another as we grieve his passing - a passing from life here with us to everlasting life there with you  Lord. As you promised:
 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
In the mighty and holy name of Jesus we pray.
Amen.

Then we played a song, and I read Arnolds obituary, and invited Arnolds sister, and Arnolds wife to share which they did. One of Arnold’s sons had written a nice tribute to Arnold, but didn’t want to stand up. So I read that for him.
Then I told my story…

I came to stay with Arnold some years ago. He helped me in a jam I guess you could say. I lived in the old burned out trailer for about a year and a half. Maybe it was longer, it was a bad time for me, a bad time, except for Arnold.
I’d get up in the morning and watch for his porch light to be turned off. That was my cue to come over and have some coffee and maybe fix a little breakfast. Arnold ate a lot of bologna and hot dogs back then. I wish I could say he ate a lot better after I come out here. I can say maybe he ate a little better, but the fact is, if anyone had asked what I was doing out here, I’d have said I was taking care of Arnold. But really, it was the other way around.
Arnold was taking care of me.
But we had us a time, you know, and got to know each other.
It’s the loudest place on earth, Arnold's place at the end of the road, right next to the train tracks.
You might think that out in the middle of nowhere would have been peaceful and quiet, but you might be wrong.
The one neighbor had three German Shepherds and a Chow, and all it took was a cat crossing the road 100 yards down the way to set them to barkin' and howlin' like it was the End of the World.
Then, right across the Railroad tracks there was a concrete plant. In the morning trucks would line up to get their fill and between the low rumble of the motors, you could hear the sledging slurping sound of concrete spilling down from a hopper and into the spinning back of the truck. Later that day the plant would go into production, and gravel would be crushed in some giant machine. It was like the sound of marbles being dropped on a tin roof and amplified enough to make you ears bleed.
So when the dogs got to barking, and the gravel got to crushing, you really couldn't quite hear the train that was coming down the tracks till it was almost on you. But as the trailer began to shake from the vibration of 100 cars filled with coal gliding down the Double-E of the tracks, if we timed it just right we could holler out "There goes that son-of-a-bleep" at the top of our lungs, only you wouldn't be able to hear the "bleep" because the engineer had commenced to blowing his whistle.
When we  timed it right Arnold and I would just laugh and laugh.
But that's not all.
Since this place was "out in the middle of nowhere" it made it the perfect place for someone to put up a Dynamite plant a half mile away. And at various times of the day, starting at 6:00 in the morning, they would test the dynamite and there would be a big boom go off and the shock wave (which could snuff out a candle) would rattle your windows and of course, set three German Shepherds and a Chow to barking their fool heads off.
But that's not all.
There was one thing that could drown out the dogs, the concrete, the train and the dynamite. On Friday and Saturday nights, one, or all three racetracks in Kennedale would start their engines. I was stuck right between all three and you couldn't hear a thing.
When those racetracks started up, I might have missed Gabriel blow the Lords Trump.

Arnold never complained, never had a bad word for anyone. He had the sweetest most pleasant disposition of anyone I ever known. And how he did what he did with his limited vision? I’ve seen him drive nails, do plumbing, pull and replace a radiator off a car. His wife Jackie might say “Arnold, I want you to put that tractor up in my pickup truck, and Arnold  would go over and put his arms around the tractor, grunt, laugh and tell her “I don’t think I can do this Jackie”. But he sure did try. Pauline, his sister was telling me about when he and his brother Waymon were working on a car.
She said: ‘He and Waymon were working on a transmission out in the driveway. It got to be dark, and Waymon said that’s it for the day. Arnold asked him why.
“Its dark out Arnold” Waymon said.
“That doesn’t make any difference to me” said Arnold.
That's just how Arnold rolled. Nothing got him down.

(When I told this part I looked at at Pauline, and she was smiling so big. People like it when you tell their stories)

Lets go ahead and close out today with a prayer. After the prayer, I’ll invite you all to pass by Arnold, and pay your last respects, say goodbye. Let us pray:
God, thank you for Arnold! You formed him, you knew him, you walked with him through 81 years, and even now we have confidence that he is in your presence.

Thank you that you are a God of mercy, who promises to comfort us, particularly when we lose our loved ones, and so in these moments now, and in the weeks and months ahead, please bring comfort and mercy to all of us as we remember, and share fondly all that Arnold was to us.
Amen 
And that was that. I did the graveside too. Its really quite easy. Its like running an NA Meeting. You introduce yourself, tell folks to turn off their phones, say a prayer, invite people to share and share yourself, then close out with another prayer.



 It was just two weeks later my sister died. I started looking for someone to do her funeral. In a totally inspired moment I thought of Daryl. Daryl had been the champion of the Youth Group where we went to church. He stood up for us all, especially the girls, and kept us straight as best he could. He was like Johnny, in Dirty Dancing, without all the dirty dancing.
So I called Daryl and asked if he could do Lisa’s funeral.
“You mean like a eulogy? Sure, I can do that” he said.
“No, not just the eulogy. The whole thing. I’d like you to stand in as a minister would”
Long pause.
‘Well, let me think and pray on this tonight” Daryl says.
“Sure, take your time”
“When did you say it is?”
“This Saturday”
Long pause.
“I’ll just need to pray on it” he says again.
“That’s fine”
Long pause.
“You know what? I don’t need any more time. I’d be honored to do it”
And that’s how Daryl, who never did a funeral before in his life, came to do my sisters funeral.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SEX AND THE CITY

You know what’s really funny about my sister?
You may recall she passed away back in January after years of being ill.
There was a guy that kept asking her out the last three years. And she would stand him up. And he just kept asking her out.
She finally went out with him one time.
She called me the next day.
“You call him and tell him not to ever try to kiss me again”
“He tried to kiss you?”
“Yes”
“When?”
“When he dropped me off and walked me to the door”
“And you wouldn’t kiss him?”
“No, I’m not that kind of girl”
“its just a kiss Lisa. He’s asked you out a million times. You should go ahead and kiss him, just a little kiss”
I can tell by her voice she’s totally offended.
“I have my boundaries” she says.
“Well, so do I” I say “And I have no intention of calling him and telling him not to try to kiss you anymore. Its not my job”.

I know this guy. He’s had a stroke, walks with a limp and his left arm is mostly immobile. He may be a creep, but he’s hardly a threat. He seems like a sweetheart to me. Hell, if I was girl I’d kiss him, just out of pity.

But then, if I was a girl, I’d be kissing EVERYBODY.

So now I’ve got all her stuff, and this is whats weird.
She has every episode of every season of “Sex In The City” on videotape.
But the last 4 Seasons are unopened.

Maybe that where they get to the kissing part?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"NO WONDER ALL YOUR SAUCES LOOK LIKE SHIT"

I’ll tell you what I don’t miss about learning to be a chef at Luminarias.
The Corporate Executive Chef would come visit from time to time.
I remember his first visit, when I was just a line lunch cook. He had stood at one end of the line watching me. I was nervous as a cat. Chef John Bonner was a serious fellow, but really cool looking in a Dean Stockwell kind of way.
In fact, Chef John Bonner looked just like Dean Stockwell in “The Dunwich Horror”.

After the rush I grabbed a bucket of soapy water and began to scrub the line, splashing water everywhere in an effort to look like the good worker I was. I looked up to see Chef Bonner surveying my work with a fairly critical eye.
I grinned at him.
He furrowed his brow.
“You know Renfro, you sure make a big mess when you clean up” and he turned around and caught the next flight back to Corporate Headquarters in Los Angeles California.

A few months later, I’d been promoted to First Cook, in charge of sauces, meats, specials, general kitchen stocks and soups.
Chef Bonner came to visit.
He looked at my walk-in, he looked at the Prime Ribs, he tasted my rice. He watched while I diced onions and chopped saffron, and made the chili con queso. Then he got about 10 spoons and went and tasted all my sauces.
He asked how I made my roux. I told him.
He shook his head.
“No wonder all your sauces look like shit.”
OK. Thanks chef, tell me how you really feel!


It wasn’t my Brown sauce, it wasn’t my White sauce, it wasn’t the Bordelaise, the Mornay, the Apple-Brandy or Demi-Glace.
No, it was ALL my sauces looked like shit.

That’s how it goes in the kitchen. Like Janos Kiss would say in his thick Austrian accent after he finished reaming you a new asshole…
”Its OK, guys, lets not be sensitive”

And ten years later, you find yourself telling some young guy, without even blinking:
“Well, no wonder all your sauces look like shit”
God, sometimes I do miss it so.


Here Dean Stockwell calls on The Old Ones in Lovecrafts "The Dunwich Horror"

Friday, March 20, 2015

ON DEFENSIVE DRIVING

I had to take Defensive Driving classes online a while back.  I'd been twenty years without a moving violation. I couldnt believe I picked up a speeding ticket. Normally, I drive like grandpa. You can usually find me in the slow lane, going 5 miles under the speed limit with my blinker on. 
The Defensive Driving Course was slow torture.
You couldn't whiz through it...each page was timed. I had to wait 45 seconds or more after I'd finished reading to go to the next page. By the time I got to the end of a chapter to take the quiz, I could barely remember what the chapter was about, especially since I started playing online poker to help pass the time between pages.
It took about 20 hours to get through it.

The worse part was every so often they would have “Real Life Story” video, like a guy smashing into a motorcycle or something. It was bad scriptwriting, bad acting, fake blood and stuff, and then at the end, to make sure you had watched it, they would ask a question like:


“What was the victims name?”
A. John
B. Jim
C. Joe


or “What size breasts did the traffic stopper in the purple halter have?”
A. Small
B. Medium
C. HUGE

You know, stuff that you wouldn’t know unless you actually watched the video.
And if you got the answer wrong?
You had to go back and watch it again!
AAGGHHHH!
There were a couple times I had to watch 3 or 4 times.

Next time I'll go to one of their classes in person. At least I'll be able to screw up in class. Maybe I can even get D-Hall for old times sake!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

MORE ON THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH

"The university is a public institution, they say, and punishing the students for what they said—no matter how vile—violates the First Amendment’s commitment to “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” discourse.

We are told the First Amendment protects the odious because we cannot trust the government to make choices about content on our behalf. That protections of speech will inevitably be over inclusive. But that this is a cost we must bear. If we start punishing speech, advocates argue, then we will slide down the slippery slope to tyranny.

If that is what the First Amendment means, then we have a problem greater than bigoted frat boys. The problem would be the First Amendment.

No one with a frontal lobe would mistake this drunken anthem for part of an uninhibited and robust debate about race relations. The chant was a spew of hatred, a promise to discriminate, a celebration of privilege, and an assertion of the right to violence–all wrapped up in a catchy ditty. If the First Amendment has become so bloated, so ham-fisted, that it cannot distinguish between such filth and earnest public debate about race, then it is time we rethink what it means.

The way we interpret the First Amendment need not be simplistic and empty of nuance, and was not always so. The Supreme Court unanimously held over eighty years ago that “those words which by their very utterance inflict injury … are no essential part of any exposition of ideas.” And in 1952 the Court upheld an Illinois statute punishing “false or malicious defamation of racial and religious groups.” These rulings, while never officially reversed, have shrunk to historical trinkets. But they mark a range of the possible, where one can be a staunch defender of full-throated discourse but still recognize the difference between dialogue and vomitus."

Full article here, at The Atlantic.


Friday, March 13, 2015

THOSE POOR FISH

I’m thankful that the aquarium I saw with the bubbles and the brightly colored fish who could not really swim but only rise and fall a few inches because it was only 3 inches in diameter wasn’t real.
Upon closer inspection, the poor fish were plastic.
Oh, and loafers. I’m thankful for loafers.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

ON THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH

When I was in the 3rd grade we had a big mural going in the classroom. It was Mrs. Grahams class, one of my all-time favorite teachers. Everyone got to put something on it. My contribution was a turtle with wings, which I labeled “Turd” in big letters, right underneath. 

Mrs. Graham was not pleased. 
“Where did you learn that word?” she asked. 
“I made it up” I lied. 
“How would you make up a word like that?” she asked.
“Well, its half bird and half turtle. Turd” I said. 
“Don’t say that word” she said, and frog marched me down to the principals office, where to his disbelief, I recounted my story while he rubbed his chin. 
My mother was called to the school. I stuck to my story. It seemed legit enough. I think maybe I was a better liar back then than I am now. Back then my conscience was a bit cleaner.
But I will never forget the look of incredulity on all their faces. 

Of course, the truth was I had learned the word from the big kid down the street, Johnny Miller. 
The point to the story (if there is a point) is that I never once tried to claim the Right to Free Speech.

Monday, March 09, 2015

ON EASTERN MEDICINE

We turned to Eastern Medicine once upon a time. We had a wicked combination of holiosis and dingivitis. The Dr. took one look at us, twirled his mustache and put his shirt back on. When an Eastern Medical Dr. puts his shirt on, you can be sure its serious.
“Meestair Reenflo, we want you to burn incense all day. Do you have a Neti Pot? You will also need to change elephants. Here is a number for a good used elephant salesman. He will give you top dollar for the old one”
“But Doc, I don’t have an elephant” I pleaded.
“Well, how is it you get to work?” he asked.
“I have a Hyundai”
“Oh, that’s bad, velly velly bad. I want you to go for blood tests. You may have compacted car bowel syndrome”
So he sent me to Dr Shakeyerbootie, a pretty Dr. who did not put her shirt back on. This was encouraging. She drew blood and asked:“Meestair Reenfro, what have you been eating?”
“Why Doc?”
‘Because your blood, eets the wrong color!”
“What color is it doc?”
“Its pink, and CREAMY!”
This did not surprise us. Just the day before we had eaten a gallon of Bluebell French Vanilla. We decided to not say word, and simply shrug our shoulders. That way we could remain the medical mystery that we are.

Recently, we tried the holistic approach. Like you, we were skeptical at first.
We found that rumors that holistic approaches such as Leech Therapy, Blood Letting and Reverse Colonics were in fact not holistic at all, but techniques brought back into use in modern medical hospitals as part and parcel of the Obamacare nightmare, designed to lower costs and ruin the country.
If we had read the bill we would have already known this.
So, armed with this new information we decided to follow in the footsteps of others who this approach had worked for, people like Dennis Rodman, Adolph Hitler and Britney Spears.
And we did well for a week until our doctor told us "No more Arby's"
That, my friend, was a deal killer.


"Dr. Shakeyerbootie will see you now"


"Healthier than a Hyundai"

Friday, March 06, 2015

ON KID ROCK

I've got to like Kid Rock. I knew him before he was Kid Rock. At least, I knew a guy looked, acted, and got just as much or more pussy as Kid Rock. He was my best bud in HS, and we were 10 times the trouble together as we were apart.
On opening night of Spring Break he and I stayed out past curfew, which was a major problem for our hard ass dads. My dad told me "either obey the rules of this house, or leave".
I said "OK, fair enough", packed a bag and went to Johns house, whose dad, predictably, had offered John the same deal, and John was waiting at the curb with his little knapsack.
Man, did we have some fun the next two weeks.
We out Kid Rocked Kid Rock, I guarangodamnedtee you me.