Thursday, January 31, 2008

"It's not at all clear..."

No, it’s friggin’ clear as a bell.

Former Mexican Statesman Joins McCain Camp

By Penny Starr Senior Staff Writer
January 31, 2008

( - Juan Hernandez, the man who served in Vicente Fox's cabinet when the latter was president of Mexico, is now advising Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on reaching out to Hispanics during his presidential bid.

Hernandez is the son of a Mexican father and American mother and has dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico.

He has not responded to requests by Cybercast News Service to answer critics who say a man who allegedly took an oath of office to the Mexican government and has been an outspoken advocate for open borders and illegal immigrants should clarify how his views comport with those of McCain, who reportedly has toughened his views on illegal immigration since entering the presidential race.

"The fact that (McCain) would pick a person who has worked as a foreign government official is very troubling," Steven Camarota, director of research with the Center for Immigration Studies, told Cybercast News Service. "That person has taken an oath to a foreign government, and now (McCain) wants to make him an integral part of his campaign."

McCain's campaign didn't return calls to Cybercast News Service, but Brian Rogers, spokesman for the campaign, has told news outlets that Hernandez is only an adviser and does not have a policy role.

But Camarota said Hernandez's job with the campaign calls into question McCain's claim that he "gets it" concerning immigration after the collapse of the federal government's proposed comprehensive immigration reform last year.

"It's not at all clear if (McCain) believes in securing our borders," Camarota said.

A Rasmussen poll in May 2007 showed that 72 percent of Americans think it is "very important" for the government to improve its enforcement of the borders and reduce illegal immigration.

Some 48 percent opposed last year's immigration reform bill, the so-called amnesty bill backed by McCain and President Bush, while 26 percent were "not sure" of their position on the legislation.

On her Web site, conservative Michelle Malkin said of Hernandez's advisory role: "McCain knew what he was getting and so should Republican voters."

But perhaps Hernandez himself has provided the most fodder for his critics by making countless appearances on television touting his open borders message. posted a video montage of some of those appearances, including one on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on CNN.
br>"If we become a different kind of nation that doesn't open its borders to immigrants, we will lose what makes this nation work," Hernandez said. On another show, he said if Mexicans live and work in America they should "think Mexico first."

But some experts say Hernandez has the right credentials to advise a presidential candidate, including his heritage and experience.

"My dealings with Juan Hernandez have been entirely positive," Dan Griswold, director of the libertarian Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies, told Cybercast News Service. "He is a very thoughtful person who brings a thoughtful perspective to a presidential campaign."

In a May 15, 2007 essay for the Reform Institute, where Hernandez is a senior fellow, he wrote under the headline "Immigration Debate a Test of Our Core Values."

"This debate goes to the heart of what America is all about. Two fundamental pillars of our society are our dedication to achieving prosperity through hard work and our devotion to the Judeo-Christian values of compassion, mercy and inclusion," Hernandez wrote.

"Instead of backing away from these core beliefs and fencing ourselves in, we must renew this spirit through a sensible and effective immigration policy that provides a path to permanent legal status for immigrants who strengthen our economy and society," he added.

It's obvious that bastard's got no real set of political values, and will compromise his way through everything. Now, compromise is what our system is about, but you need a strong set of values from which to compromise. I wonder exactly what his beliefs are.

This had to hurt.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some soldiers had a dirty trick played on them Monday.

You may remember me sayin' that I started a new semester this week. Two classes in Florence and five on Ft. Hood. My regular daily History classes filled up like never before, to the extent that the administrators decided to split my 12:30 to 1:30 PM class into two classes. Thing is, they did this without tellin' me, or most of the students!

Both of those classes are set in a nice big room that's very comfortable to teach in. I was really lookin' forward to a relaxed time. The 11:30 class went like clock work Monday, and then I see this little weasel of a teacher peekin' into the room through the window in the door. His name is Mr. Jeffrey. More about him later.

After the 11:30 class let out I went out into the foyer where people can drink and eat snacks and found this guy out there. He usually doesn't teach classes in this building during the day, so I was puzzled about why he was there. he proceeds to tell me that he'd got an 12:30 class in my room, at the same time as my next class. I'm like, "No the fuck you you don't". I guess I got a little territorial. You gotta hold on to a nice room when you get one. Trust me.

It turns out that the enrollment for that 12:30 class blew up like crazy the week before, going up over 50 students, so the administrators decided to split it into two classes, giving me one and Mr. Jeffrey the other. It's all cool with me. I don't care one way or the other, so long as I still have a class. I get payed according to how many classes I have, so the more the merrier.

Thing is, nobody bothered to tell me anything about it! They made these decisions the middle of last week. Some of the students were actually called by the registrar to tell them they'd been switched to a different class, but they failed to tell the friggin' teacher! What's more, that rat bastard got my cool room, and more students (his paycheck will be larger)! I WAS PISSED!

They sent me upstairs to another, smaller room. It's still nice, but a step down from the other one. Then I found out that the bosses decided that the easiest way to split the class up was to give all the soldiers to Mr. Jeffrey and all the civilians to me. That means he's got a class with about 40 folks, many of whom just got back from the desert, all of whom thought they were gonna be in my class, and now they have to contend with Mr. Jeffrey. Those poor fuckers.

Now let me tell you about Mr. Jeffrey. He's a huge dick! He's a lawyer (I know, enough said). Anyway, he says he's a lawyer. I've never seen anything to support it. He's retired soldier, Vietnam vet, Ex army colonel, who has a ridiculous breadth of knowledge when it comes to just about any kind of history. Now, none of that is not a bad thing. What sucks if you're one of these poor bastards in his class is that he's one of those teachers who thinks if he scares the hell out of his students and loads them up with papers, getting half of them to drop the class or fail, that he's doing a great job teaching. He's the kind of guy the rest of us have to live down.

I swear, I don't know how he keeps his job. It confirms to me the notion that the administrators really don't give a fuck how the students are being treated so long as they pay the tuition and the classes make. Hell, most of them think that if you fail a bunch of students it means you have high standards and you're a better teacher! He comes in and tells the students right off the top that half of them will fail, and then tells them that their first paper is due the next week. Just a huge sweaty diseased prick. There's no two ways about it.

This all happened Monday afternoon, and I've already had a half dozen students call me or talk to me about dropping his class and getting back into mine. I hope to God, for their sake, the powers that be let them do it. I'd LOVE it if half his students dropped and came back to me. They won't let that happen though. It's a shame.

Another thing, on a totally different note. I started a Government class Monday night at 7:30PM. It went well. I handed out the syllabus and went over it, took roll, gave them a little speech about what I expected of them, and then I let them go. It's the usual routine on the first night. Give them a chance to go and get the book and start reading it, and give me a chance to jet home early. A winner for both sides.

So, when the class lets out I see a soldier hanging back. He's older than most of them. Maybe in his 30s. Probably been in the army for 15 or 20 years. I see these folks all the time. Its' one of the best things about teaching on base. This is the shit I live for, and why I love my job here on the base. I don't ever want to teach anywhere else. Because we're on base, we get fewer of the "I really don't give a fuck" kids right out of high school, like me at that age, just going to school to please their parents, and more of these people who have lived a little and know a few things. It's fun as hell to teach them. Hell, they lived through some of the stuff we talk about.

Anyway, this guy hangs back and comes to my desk after everyone else has left the room. He can't look me in the face. I can see from his expression that he's almost breaking down, scared to death. He tells me that he never did well in school as a kid, was always in remedial classes, and has a learning disability. His wife has bought him a set of tapes about government that he can listen to in his car, and he's gonna try to keep up and give it a try. I tell him to relax. Hell, I was in a lot of those remedial classes too, and look at me now! I tell him he's done a LOT of growing up since then, and that he's gonna surprise himself. I tell him to relax, and that I'll take care of him. Between me and his wife, we'll take care of him.

I see this a lot. People who haven't been in school in 20 years, who make a B or A on their first exam and float out of the room on a cloud. I love it! I can't wait to see this guy kick that tests ass. It'll change his life.

Now, the high school drama. Oh hell, you've read enough for one post. I'll save that shit for later. Believe me, it's good smelly shit. There may well be a parent teacher conference in the near future where I get to tell a few mothers who are bitchin' about their kids grades last semester to kiss my fat hairy ass. It should be FUN! Later. Cheers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

This could suck.

Contractors in Iraq, at the range.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Went to a party Saturday night...

And was asked to make my special party dish. It's something I got from mom, and then changed to my own taste. It all starts with the right ingredients, of course.

Friday night, I went to HEB (our local grocery store) and got a few thinly sliced steaks. I cut them into strips and marinaded them over night in wine, and various kinds of pepper and spices. Before starting to make this party dish, I cooked the steak strips in a skillet, in butter and more spices. Then they were set aside and the construction process began.

The other ingredients are red and green bell peppers, cut in thin strips, home made honey mustard (provided by the wife of a good friend - not sure what she puts in it but it ROCKS), and Swiss cheese (use whatever you like, but Swiss is my favorite). Of course, you need a beverage to keep you goin' in the hectic cooking process. Blue Moon is a great little Belgian style wheat ale, brewed in Canada. I've recently discovered it at another party, picked up a 6-pack, and have since grown to appreciate it.

I spread some flour on my cutting board and open a can of crescent rolls. I use the garlic flavored. I think it gives the treats a special taste. You can see little strips of cheese on the upper left, pre-cut so that I can get a factory line goin' here.

The crescent rolls come in a sheet of 8 triangles. Usually, when I make these for my own pleasure or for a meal, I use a whole triangle and roll it up with a daub of mustard, a piece of cheese, and a good portion of sliced ham from HEB. Once I roll it up I pinch off the ends and bake it for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. For lack of a better tern, I call it a ham and cheese kolache. people love the hell out of those, and 8 of them from one of these rolls will feed about three people easily.

For this party, I'm borrowing an idea from mom. When she makes "pigs in a blanket" (where I got these ideas), she cuts the triangles in half to get more out of a roll. She cuts little Jimmy Dean sausages in half and rolls them up in half a triangle and bakes them. The resulting treats are wonderful. For this party, I'm taking her idea and switching it to my recipe.

I take half a triangle. Squeeze out a daub of honey mustard, lay on a small brick of cheese...

Lay on a few strips of bell pepper, and the fajita beef, and roll it up.

Two rolls of Pillsbury crescent rolls ended up filling my larger oven tray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set the oven timer for 15 minutes. I found that since I was doing twice the load of treats this time, 15 minutes didn't do the trick. I checked them at 15, and then let them cook for a few more minutes.

When I took them out they looked like this. Too bad there isn't a scratch and sniff button on this thing. The garlic smell of the rolls is to die for. They went down well at the party.

Denise also made her party dip. It's great. She blends in a package of Philly cream cheese, sour cream, and taco seasoning, spreads that out on a tray, and then covers it with chopped lettuce, chopped onions and tomatoes, and then a blend of cheeses. She says some folks put refried beans or black olives on theirs, but this is good as it is.

It always goes over well too. The objective is to take a chip and scrape it along the tray, so that you get all this cheesy goodness mixed with lettuce and 'maters in one big bite. It's WONDERFUL!

Sunday was a lazy day. We slept in and lazed around till about 4PM, and then headed down to the Ikea store in Round Rock. I picked up a few nice new beer glasses, and a few little ones for sippin' this or that. Denise got some hangers. Then we went to J.C.Penny's. While I we were there, Jerry Wiley called from Houston (I think), asking me what those shrimp are called at Pappasito's. He was gonna take some friends there and needed to know the details about the shrimp and the good queso dip. I was glad to be of service.

We'd briefly talked about goin' on down to Austin and slidin' in to Pappasito's too, but then decided to try Johnny Carino's there in Round Rock. First, we went to Rudy's and I got about $50 bucks worth of sausage, brisket and cream corn. We'll eat off that all next week. Then we went to Carino's and had a great time. Denise had the Chicken Milano, and I had the Spicy Shrimp and Chicken. Big succulent shrimp and strips of chicken breast in an Alfredo sauce, with noodles, mushrooms and tomatoes.

It was GOOD. Hers was good too. We started with salads and bread, and I went through two loaves before I was done. I had three Shiners; one at the bare before we got our seats, one with the salad, and one with dinner. Denise had to explain the Shandy concoction yet again. You should have seen the wide eyes of the other patrons at the bar.
The bar tender actually knew what it was, but the other drinkers were like"What did they put in there?" It's always funny.

So, I'm sippin' a Blue Moon in one of my new chilled glasses and she's havin a 7&7 while we watch Dane Cook on Comedy Central. Shit, I can't believe the weekend went by so fast. 7 new classes startin' at 8 friggin' AM.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I'm about to head over to Temple and get dad.

I don't have much time for a decent post tonight, but figured I should put SOMETHING out there. I gave final exams today to the folks in my mini term. Most of them did well. Here's a shot from the phone of my last straggler.

After he finished I rushed home and met the plumbers. After about a half hour and about $80, I'm back to having two fully functioning shitters. Wohoo!

I met a buddy for lunch at a local place earlier today and had a good time listening to him tell me how my Florence kids misbehaved while I was gone. He subbed for me for these three weeks of the mini-term, goin' down there every day and tryin' to teach the kids how to do power point presentations. I'll start back down there Monday, and I'm sure I'll get an ear full from them too.

I've got six new classes starting Monday, two in Florence and five on Ft. Hood. Plus I'm two weeks into teaching a class for Tarleton State University. It's a Senior level Poly Sci class, Constitutional Law. It'll be a fun one to teach. Lots of heated discussions.

Denise and I went to eat at Ryan's last night. It was OK. Nice salad bar, but I've never been a huge fan of buffet style food, unless it's Chinese. Always seems kinda bland. After that we went to Wal Mart so she could pick up some stuff. She needed to get Valentines Day cards for her grandsons and baby stuff for a coworker who is expecting and about to have a baby shower.

As she looked through the cards, findin' one for the 8 year old, I told her I'd help her out. She started lookin' for one for the 13 year old and I told her to put back the sentimental one and look for one with titties on it. I know what a 13 year old boy wants to see. OK, maybe not from his granny, but still.

Then she started lookin' at baby clothes, ooooin' and aaaain' about this and that, I had a blast makin' jokes like "Well, how about a cat carrier. They could lock the little urchin up and forget it for a while". I saw a fancy toilet seat with handles, for potty trinin', I guess, and told her if she ever saw one full size, that would be cool as hell. And the full body things with a zipper down the leg, and feet, all in some sort of fluffy fleece. I told her if she ever found anything like that in XXL Tall, jump at it.

Anyway, after that we went back to the hooch, drank heavily and passed out in front of the TV.

OK, not really. Well, sort of, but not really.

Anyway, I'm late to go get dad. You guys have a great weekend. Cheers.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When I read this I thought about Wally and the Beave. First season when they were both little.

Two young boys walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and proceeded to the checkout counter.

The man at the counter asked the older boy, "Son, how old are you?"

"Eight," the boy replied.

The man continued, "Do you know what these are used for?"

The boy replied, "Not exactly, but they aren't for me.

They're for him. He's my brother. He's four.

We saw on TV that if you use these you would be able to swim and ride a bike.

Right now, he can't do either one."

Thanks Dusty. That was a good one.

Ok, this is just brilliant. Explains a lot!

Want to clean this up, but it's way too early in the mornin' to fuck with that HTML. Excuse the shouting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A friend sent me some "Bits of Wisdom". Figured I'd pass 'em on, with commentary. Enjoy.

But first... Traffic was RIDICULOUS this morning on the base. The down side of having a shit load of soldiers come home from the desert is that traffic in town goes to shit. And they just got home alive from that mess, so they're all drivin' like friggin' maniacs! The sale of fast cars will peak, as will traffic fatalities. Good thing is that all my classes (5 in all) scheduled to begin this Monday are filled up. It's cold, 32 this mornin', and I love the hell out of it.

So, I was drivin' to work this mornin', the sun roof cracked, smokin' the nub of a CAO Brazillia that I started yesterday that I'd pulled from the ash tray when I left the house, and I get behind a big black Good Times van with a Michigan licence plate. There's a Marine Corps sticker on one back window, and another sticker on the other sayin' "fat people are harder to kidnap". I love it!

Anyway, here's the wisdom...

Love is grand!!
Divorce is a hundred grand. Not in this state buddy.
I am in shape.
Round is a shape. Ooo, too close to home.
Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician. Ooo, not nice.
Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels good. Yup, unless you don't have one.
Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand. Way exceeds... Way.
Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Pure wisdom.
I am NOT over weight. I am a nutritional overachiever. Ha! There you go.
It's frustrating when you know all the answers,
But nobody bothers to ask you the questions. Truly.
The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing
at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at
the tempting moment. Sooooo true.
Brain cells come and brain cells go,
But fat cells live forever. Could you stop? Jeeze, I'm losing weight!
Age doesn't always bring wisdom.
Sometimes it comes alone. Sadly, true.
Life not only begins at forty, It also begins to show. Speak for yourself ya bastard. 50 is the new 30, they say.
I smile because I am your friend!
I laugh because there is nothing you can do about it. Live in fear.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Here's some old shots, from before I was born.

Pat's old pictures of his family have inspired me to post some old shots from my family. As you can see, these are from October of 1955. That's five years before I was around. Not even a glint in my fathers eye. These came from one of those books you used to get your pictures back in. We've got boxes of them layin' around. Treasures.

The shot above is one of my favorites from this bunch. From right to left; that's my uncle Macklin (my fathers younger brother), my cousin Shirley, my cousin Mike, and uncle Mack's wife Vonne. Vonne is so friggin' HOT in these shots, and uncle Mack had it goin' on too. What would folks in New York give for those jeans and that shirt today? Vonne wasn't Mack's first wife or the mother of these kids, but she helped him raise them. They had a hard life. Mack was a carpenter and never made much money, and what he made was always goin' for horses and rodeos and such. He was a tough guy.

You can see it in those eyes. He rode bulls and trained cutting horses, and he rode life hard. He played hard too, and not always with his wife. Dad told me once that he'd ended up with his first wife after wakin' up with her after a long drunk. She ended up pregnant and so they got hitched. That was what you did back in those days. They had these two kids before they split, and I'm not sure what contact the kids had with her after that. I met that woman briefly once, at a rodeo in the early 1980s where Mike was riding. He ended up a star rodeo rider himself. She seemed real nice. It's safe to say that my uncle Mack knew how to have a good time, and those who loved him and rode along with him on that journey sometimes had a tough time of things.

I was always scared of him when I was a kid, but always loved him, and looked up to him. He seemed mythical to a little kid who grew up away from his family and home country and only knew about these things from stories. He was a real cowboy, and always seemed tough and cool, the few times I saw him while growing up. He was the real thing. In the last 20 years of his life he walked in a permanent stoop from an injury when a bull stomped on his back. Seeing him in that bent posture, with the big barrel chest, those huge arms, and those scarred and muscled hands, he was larger than life. I miss him a lot now.

He didn't go easily, coming down with some sort of encephalitis and losing his mind. He spent his last years in a nursing home, totally out of it, unable to recognize anyone. It wasn't a very nice nursing home ether, since all they had was Medicare. I'll never forget how small and weak he looked in his coffin. His son Mike leaned over him when the service was over, hugged his father and sobbed. They'd never had the words we all yearn for from our fathers. That always hurts when they go and you find it's too late.

Vonne had cancer several times in her life, and the last time it got her. She died a few years after Mack, with Mike and his family taking care of her. Those who were close to her say she never got over Mack's death. They went through a lot together, and in the end he softened a bit. He started to go to church with her, and began to have a closer relationship with his son and grandchildren. Then the disease took him, just as everything was beginning to work out. It's all very sad, but I think it shows that you should never waste any time. You never know how much you'll have.

That's Vonne on the left, and then Mike and Shirley. That's my sister at bottom center, peekin' up into view there. She was about a year old there, and already knew how to vogue for the camera. This must have been when mom and dad brought her home from England, where she'd been born, to introduce her to the rest of the family. Shirley died a few years after these pictures were taken. I'm not really sure why. My sister remembers her, and the shock of such a young death. Mike is still going strong, with children and grandchildren and a great life. His wife Peggy is my barber. I love them all to death.

That's my mom in the middle of that shot, and my sister in the arms of our paternal grandfather. That's Mike peekin' into the shot on the bottom left, and my uncle Mack to the right. That ghostly figure to the left of the picture is my grandmother (talking to Shirley). I remember her, vaguely. I have a memory of all the men in the family standing around her in a close circle, and her looking up through the haze of Alzheimer's. She didn't know her sons any more, but she did recognise me and the other kids. She died in about 1968, and dad wasn't able to make it back in time for her funeral. His brothers told him not to come. They didn't want to have to put off the funeral to wait for him. I remember going to the cemetery when we did finally come home and hugging his leg as he cried. That was the first time I ever saw him do that.

Here's Mack holding my cousin Larry. I'll do another post about he and his brother and my uncle Sam one of these days. That's my grandfather on the right. He attained a mythic stature in my mind growing up, hearing stories from my father. He was a sharecropper and didn't have the money to buy his own farm until my father went off to the Army and sent his pay back home to his family.

The place you see in these pictures is the farm they ended up in. Granddad died of a heart attack some time around 1964, hitching the mules up to the plow behind that garage in the back of this picture. My dad tells me he was found sitting up against a tree in the back yard with a smile on his face. Dad flew home for the funeral, and took his fathers clothes out to the field behind that garage and burned them. He couldn't stand the idea of any other man wearing those clothes. I'll never forget the day dad took me there and showed me the tree and the place where the clothes burned. All these things happened before I could be here and know these people. It's always been as if I arrived on the stage just in the wake of a great drama. That's not true of course, but these stories I heard growing up left me feeling it all the same.

That farm is still there, though not in the family any more. It still looks very much like it did then. The fields around it are still plowed and tall with corn in the growing seasons. They have a corn festival in Holland, and some years I get dad and go, and we look to see if he can run into anyone he knows. I drive him by the old farm now and then, and all the other landmarks of his early life, and the emotions well up in him. Most of the people who meant something to him in his life are gone now, waiting for him on the other side. That's got to be the worst thing about living that long.

Here's a last look at Vonne, Mike and uncle Mack. Check out the clouds in the sky behind them. They make me wish these were good color shots. There's a always a big sky over Texas, and the views can be majestic, particularly when the rain clouds boil up and the sky a hundred miles away and the sun gives them the look of a great painting by Thomas Moran or Albert Bierstadt. That faint line in the field behind them is the road to Holland, where my younger uncles went to school, and where some of my cousins can be found today.

Part of me would give anything to be able to walk into this picture and see these folks again. I miss them a lot. I also think about all the stuff that hadn't happened yet in October of 1955, and I'd like to jump back there and change a few things. You can't go back though, but it's a fun idea.

This has happened to all of us, one time or the other.

I was driving into work this morning, and this dick in a truck pulls out in front of me...

Ok, so it doesn't snow like that here, but there's dicks EVERYWHERE. This guys just got a special gift for it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's a bit chilly here...

I know it probably is there to. So you might need a cozy fire to sit in front of.

Stay warm, wherever you are. Cheers.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Last Saturday.

It was a full day. Denise had been set up by my mom for a pedicure and manicure at her regular place in Temple as a late Christmas present. We had to be over there by 2:45, and we were runnin' late as usual. Before we left Denise got a call from someone and told me we had to go meet someone in the bank parking lot near the house. I was like, "Uh, OK", but I was wonderin' what was up.

We parked in front of the bank and sat there, and I started to think I'd been sucked into a drug deal or somethin'. Denise was lookin' around furtively, looking for whoever it was we were gonna meet. I was thinkin' "Please God, don't let this be a puppy or a kitten. Uh, but some weed might be cool...". Then I see the car slide up out of the corner of my eye and the truth hits me like a brick.

It turns out that a lady that works with her, and once took my government class, had scored Denise one of those foam cheese head thingies. I saw it being handed over and said something like "Oh HELL no. Get that fuckin' thing out of my car. Then I realized we were in her car. DAMN!

We drove over to Temple and while she was havin' her barnacles scraped off and hooves chiseled I went to get dad and surprised him with a trip to the drivin' range. You should have seen his eyes light up when I broached the idea.

We went to a local place we've frequented in the past, I got us a large basket of balls, and set dad up on the line with my clubs. He quickly grabbed my 5 iron and started to stretch, just like he did for so many years when I caddied for him. I'd tee up the balls for him and he'd hit them, havin' a ball.

This is my dad in his element. I never saw him fly a plane, but I'd bet he was good at it. He sure as hell was good at golf. A shark, if there ever was one. Here's some short video clips showing him hit a few.

Here he is teein' up and hitting my 5 iron. It doesn't go far any more, but it still goes strait down the fairway. That used to drive his friends CRAZY.

And here he is hitting my driver. It's one of those with a large head that makes a nice twang sound when you hit it right. He's saying "If it wasn't easy I couldn't do it."

After a few balls he got tired and sat down behind me and gave me tips as I swung away, finishing the basket of balls. He likes to tell me while he watches me, with the regret thick in his voice, that I had a natural swing as a kid. He had a cut down driver made for me when I was about 6, but I never took to it the way he wanted me to, to his life long disappointment. He tells people I loved to hit them back then, but didn't want to have to go pick up the balls. Truth is I would much rather have been shooting a bow and arrow in the woods back then, but that never interested him. Eventually he stopped payin' attention to what I was doin' when it became clear that our interests were so different, and we didn't start doin' stuff like this till I took the game up as an adult.

He can't see the balls fly off any more so he always asks me how far it went. He can tell from the sound whether it was a good hit or not, and knows from watching me why I shank it or hook it. He's still got it all in his head, but his body has failed him, and it hurts him a lot. He's never tried to pick any other hobby up, and just moans all the time about not being able to play golf any more. In this, as in so many other things, dad's been a great teacher when it comes to showing me how NOT to do a thing. He hasn't had a fun time with getting old. I don't know if anyone really does, but he could have come to grips with a few things and moved on. I hope I have the courage to do that when the time comes.

After picking up Denise, all polished and spruced up, we headed for Austin to meet another blogger and have dinner at Pappasito's. You've seen this stuff before; the brochette shrimp, the enchiladas, and the queso with the spicy beef. Mmmmm.

The blogger we met was Jerry Wiley, from over at Back Home Again. He's a great guy, and his blog is a great read. Check him out. We met a while back when Mushy found out Jerry was headed to Texas to take up a job in Houston and he told him to look me up. I posted about our lunch a while back, when he and I met at the Chinese food place I take dad to on Fridays. We got along fine. He'd been to a Pappasito's in Houston, I think, but now I've introduced him to the good spicy queso and the wonders of the succulent brochette shrimp. He said something about how he could feel his arteries hardening. It was fun. You NEVER go wrong goin' to dinner with the fat man.

After that we went our separate ways, all agreeing to do it again very soon. Denise and I headed up 183 to get ice cream at the marble slab place and stroll through a big Barnes and Noble book store nearby. That's where I picked up that great Deep Purple CD I posted about a while back. It's a bouble CD, recorded live in two BBC radio broadcasts in 1970 and '72. Check it out.

Then it was back to Temple to briefly see the folks again and then we headed back to Killeen. All in all, it was a full day... full of good times, good food and good friends. Is there anything better?

I'll be heading over to Temple again today to get dad and eat Chinese food, as per our normal routine, but I doubt if we'll be hitting the drivin' range again. We've had a "Blue Norther" blow through from the northwest and it's cold and rainy today. You know I LOVE it, but the old dude doesn't do cold weather any more. Too much blood thinner in his medical regimen. Mom will bundle him up and I'll drop him off in front of the place, as usual, and by the time I park the car he'll be seated at our table and be waiting for them to bring him his plate. They treat him good. It'll be fun.

Denise informed me last night that we've been invited to a party in Austin Sunday night, hosted by some folks who used to work with her. We went to their wedding not long after we started to go together, so it'll be fun to see them again. Monday's a holiday, so we're looking forward to a few lazy days of sleeping in and relaxing in front of my fireplace. You guys try to stay warm and enjoy the weekend too. I'll see ya later. Cheers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Took Denise over to Temple a week or so ago and introduced her to a Wilson family tradition.

Mom surprised us all a few weeks back when she said she was hungry for Chicken and ice cream. She needs to be hungry for it to want to go to the trouble of cooking it. It's normally a summer treat, so we were all happily surprised when mom told us she was in the mood to cook it in the first week of January.

You've seen this stuff before. It was GOOD! Peach ice cream and fried chicken.

It didn't last long ether. There was just enough left over to fill a few old margarine cups.

You've heard this before. Mom makes the sauce, and then I show up with a big bag of ice and put the freezer together and get it going. When it stops I see to it that mom gets the first plate...

Then dad, and then the rest of us. There's an ulterior motive in that order of things. The sweetest ice cream is always down at the bottom. I ain't no fool. And yes, my diabetes is doing fine, thank you.

Here's an interesting diversion.

You remember me showin' you that game Whack Your Boss, a while back? Well here's Whack Your Ex. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shootin' Civil War muskets and my new M-1 last Sunday.

Dave told me weekend before last when we'd driven up to Dallas to a gun show that some of his Civil War reenactor buddies were comin' down the next weekend to shoot and that I should show up. Bring my M-1 and show it off. In the meantime he'd rebuilt the shooting range, nailing a new board up to staple targets to in front of that pile of old ties, and he'd set up a table to shoot off of at the 50 yard spot. I was glad to see the place spruced up.

The human shape on the far left sometimes gets dressed in old jeans and a blue shirt, so the guys can get a few shots off at a Yankee. The steel targets to the right of that swivel when you hit them. Their musket balls flatten when they hit them, while my modern stuff just goes through. We ended up tearin' the hell out of that little disk. Had it swayin' all afternoon. Dave and his dad built this range just after buyin' this land back in the late 1960s. It's a great place to blast away. Fun times.

This bunch of barely reconstructed Confederates even set up a cardboard figure of Uncle Sam holding a government check, telling me "That's old Abe." I just shook my head and mumbled "That's just wrong!", and then Joe here said "I like to think it's the IRS when I shoot at it, and I understood completely. Still didn't shoot at it though. Wrong.

These guys have traced their family histories back and know the battles their Confederate ancestors fought and died in, so it's still a bit personal to them. I guess if they'd won that war the feelings would have diminished by now, but it hasn't. Their knowledge about that time is voluminous, and sometimes I think they take things a bit too seriously. They all portray union troops as well as confederates in their reenactments, but you know from being around them for any length of time where their hearts are. Generally though, it's all in good fun and humor. Once, arriving at Dave's place to shoot after he'd returned from a reenactment, I found him in a Union uniform. I asked him if that was his outfit and he said "only when I'm playin' a target!"

The guy above is Joe Walker. He's retired, about 61, and served in the Navy during Vietnam. He served among other places on the USS Ranger, which is the aircraft carrier that I lived on and taught on a few times in the early 1990s. We have a lot of laughs telling one another stories from those times.

He likes to tell stories about going up north to business meetings back when he was still working. he says that all the Northern guys would behave way too serious, while all the Southern guys would be over on one end of the room cutting up. He thinks that is indicative of some basic difference between Northerners and Southerners. I think there is a difference, but I'm not sure how pronounced it is. I know it did take a while for me to get used to hangin' out with my Yankee cousin in Pennsylvania. Their sense of humor was totally different. I got used to it eventually, getting past the desire to punch someone, and now it's no big deal.

That's my M-1 there, on my bench rest, on the new shooting table Dave nailed together and set up for us to shoot from. Ain't it purdy?

That's Joe shooting, while the other guys reload. I tell ya, this sort of shooting is really fun. The gear is too cool. I don't see myself becoming a reenactor, but the gear makes me want to start collectin' muskets.

One of the guys makes rounds and wads for the muskets that are historically accurate. He makes a batch in different calibers, in different styles typical of Enfields or Springfields, some with "Minnie Balls" and some in "Buck and Ball", and then they shoot them up. I think he sells them at their reenactments. Anyway, like I said, these guys knowledge of the gear and times is unbelievable.

Here's Dave shooting my Garand. After these guys shot for about an hour I brought her out and took a few shots. I got the small round swinging metal target swingin' with a few shots. Thinkin' I should probably quit while I was ahead, I handed it to one of the guys sayin' "Take a turn", and then he handed it to another. They all looked closely at it, oooin' and aaain', and all agreed that it's a very nice specimen, and that I'm lucky to have it. It was fun to let them blast away, and to take a turn with their muskets too. I'm gonna have to pick up one of those sometime soon. Shootin' one is just too fun.

We'll do it again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How to make a Hazlett family Christmas treat...

I got to try this for the first time in Wisconsin. They have it every Christmas and acted like I wasn't gonna be one of the gang unless I went for it. It had me kind of nervous until I tasted it and found out it wasn't that potent. It's good stuff. Denise told me the other night she had a surprise for me. I knew what I was in for when I saw the punch bowl.

Here's most of the fixin's. One can of frozen lemonade, half a can of frozen orange juice, a jar of cherries, a quantity 7-UP (you decide), and the most important ingredient... most of a bottle of Southern Comfort Whiskey. You can do your own thing here. I mean, work on these measurements yourself. Make it to your own taste.

Thaw the frozen juices and mix in about 2/3rds of the bottle of SC, the cherries, and a quantity of 7-UP. You can also put in other fruits and a table spoon of lemon juice, for a tart taste.

Hard to take a clear shot when your doin' it with one hand and you're three sheets to the wind. You can also put all sorts of other stuff in there, but we were havin' the cut down version. We'll save the really fancy version for another day. After all, it ain't Christmas any more. It was GOOD. We'll probably make it a regular celebration.

We killed off most of it that night, and the rest the next. Give it a try. Come up with your own variation and if it's good, tell us about it and we'll give it a try. Hell, if your family has a similar tradition, tell us about it. Cheers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Found some interesting sounds, and some old classics for your amusement.

Got a Jools Holland CD from my girlfriends British family for Christmas. They got to know the sort of music I love when they were here last July. Her brothers Mother and Father-in-law are both rockers from way back, and we had lots of fun listening to Led Zeppelin and Hendrix and Pink Floyd, and other Bluesy guitar stuff, LOUD in my car when I drove them around Central Texas for a week or so. I loved it.

They thought I'd like Holland, and I do. It's sort of light blues/jazz/big band boogy woogy, if you know what I mean. I finally got 'round to tossin' it in the player earlier last week and loved it. That got me looking on YouTube for video, and it turns out he's got a TV show in England and there's LOTS of video of him and others on the site. Among other things, I found this little number. See if you can relate.

God, that's fuckin' brilliant! Looks familiar but can't place it. Hell, Mushy probably posted it on one of his old Friday posts, but I've forgotten. Anyway, That's Nick Cave and Grinderman on Holland's TV show. I always thought Cave was a bit weird, but liked him none the less. He was always hard to quantify and categorize, which is what a lot of folks do to decide if they like something or not. If it doesn't fit neatly into the category of music they like they reject it. Profiling, I guess. Perfectly normal human stuff, but effectively eliminating all sorts of quirky but interesting sounds from most folks experience.

I did that for years, until I guess my ear started to mature a bit. Once you get that genie out of the bottle it's hard to get it to sit still and listen to the same old shit all the time. The world is a wide place, full of interesting sounds and stories. As I think about it now, I guess there's really three categories of folks when it comes to music.

The first bunch are fixated on the music from a certain time in their life, usually their youth, back when things like the length of your hair and style of your music identified you as being ether kickers, rockers, stoners, or whatever. They're still livin' in that time in their mind and won't think of listening to anything else. They don't want to let the side down. My sister is like that. I try to turn her on to stuff all the time and she almost goes into a rage. What can you do?

Then there's the folks who've heard everything and basically have an open mind, but they know what they like and don't want to waste time with anything else. They can develop an amazing depth of knowledge about a certain kind of music, like a scholar who can tell you anything you want to know about the Italian Renaissance. Ask them about something else and their knowledge and interest is limited.

Then there's folks like me. I guess I'm a dabbler. I was introduced to too many things as a kid and I like to listen to LOTS of different kinds of music at one time or another, but I have my favorites. I guess as I get older I'm probably going to evolve into one of the folks in the second category. Maybe that's natural.

As an example of some weird shit that I would've changed the channel on back in the day, here's Cave's rendition of "Hey Joe", from an old TV show from the late '80s called Night Music, hosted by Jools Holland (ironically) and David Sanborn. Used to love that show, but it wasn't on long. I guess they played too much stuff like this for the teenagers who are up watching TV on the weekends.

That harmonica player is Toots Thielemans, who was a famous French jazz player. Listening to it now I love the weirdness of it, but it ain't for everyone. That's cool. No pressure.

Anyway, I also got a CD from Denise. Jimi Hendrix live at Monterey. It kicks ass on a totally different level of ass kickin'. Here's a taste. Love the hell out of this.

You know how you can get on YouTube and surf all day and find wonderful shit to watch and listen to? I've spend whole weekends immersed in it. You click from one thing to another and it all runs together somehow in a trail of logic. I looked for Jules Holland and found Nick Cave. Then I found Cave doing "Hey Joe", then Deep Purple doing "Hey Joe" (I'm gonna try to find and download that), then Hendrix at Monterey, and I'm ending it all with this. Back to the Blues and the golden age of Rock in the end. This wall always be my time in music. There's ultimately nothing better. There I go. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ok, some cool gear. Dig it.

Check out what some soldier is drivin' onto the base these days. It's got stickers and everything. Hilarious.

And a buddy sent this. You gear heads out there will love it.

And I guess this is the future for the logging industry. Freaky eh?

Friday, January 11, 2008

The family and Christmas.

First of all, I can't talk about the people I met in Wisconsin without talking about the man whose spirit filled the house while we were there, and who was constantly the topic of conversation.

Denise's father-in-law "Lucky" Hazlett died a little over a year ago, Veterans Day of '06, after a prolonged illness. His funeral was on his son Jim's birthday. The house we visited is still filled with his stuff, the remnants of his life, and the force of his will was evident in everything that went on in the eight days of our visit.

He was a sailor in WW2, serving on the USS Tabberer (DE 418), and was on board in 1944 when the ship was caught in a huge typhoon and ended up rescuing lots of sailors from other ships that went down. After the war he had a career as a police officer in Racine, and eventually became chief of police in Mt. Pleasant. He was an avid outdoorsman; hunter and fisherman, and much of his gear was still around for me to look at. His trophy deer heads were still on the wall. You can find some of those shots over at FlickR, where I've posted them.

His basement tool shop is a sight to behold, with everything in its place. His model train set had been put away neatly, but as soon as the grand kids got there they had them down and working again. I could imagine the glee in the old gentleman's heart to see that his toys were still bringing joy to a child. He was obviously a man's man, and I found myself wishing that I could have met him and spent some time with him.

By the time he died there were three generations of men in the family who had served or were serving their country with pride. One grandson is in the Marines. Another, following in grandpas footsteps, is becoming a police officer in Minnesota. His own son, Denise's ex husband (on the right above), served two tours in Vietnam and eventually spent about twenty-five years in the Army.

I'd heard about "Lucky" before, but after I got up there and looked around, I was convinced that it was a great shame that I didn't get to meet and talk to the man. I think we would have hit it off famously.

The first folks we met up with when we got to Wisconsin were Denise's brother and sister-in-law from England, who had arrived there the day before. I'd met these folks before here in Killeen when they came over for a visit last July. We got along well and had a lot of fun back then, so their presence helped to break the ice for me in Wisconsin.

The first few days there were spent laughing and joking with the Brits, and getting reacquainted. Then Denise's ex sister-in-law Sherrie and her family arrived, and the place started to get more crowded with both people and dogs.

They had three dogs in tow, including their daughters new puppy who turned out to be the terror of the house. This is Sherrie and little Bently. You've met.

The family set out to decorate the large Christmas tree that had been set up in the living room and whip up a batch of the famous family Christmas punch... Basically frozen orange juice, lemonade and fruit juice, spiked liberally with Southern Comfort. I swear to God, I've never drunk so much in my life. It was a great time.

In the midst of that the word came that Sherrie and Chris' son Jason and the rest of the kids were about to arrive, having driven through nasty weather and road conditions to get there from Minnesota. They had no idea that their Uncle Martin and Aunt Carolyn were going be there from England, so it was an emotional surprise for them when they arrived, and fun for everyone.

I caught this shot of the matriarch of the family, "Ginny", as they all discovered one another and embraced. It's one of my favorite pictures from the holiday.

The next day there was another tearful moment when the boys went off to get dressed for dinner and pictures on Christmas eve and then surprised everyone by coming back in uniform. That's Todd, the marine reservist, being hugged by his grandmother, and then Jason, the Minnesota policeman-in-training, on the right.

You know that's a proud grandmother, and you know their proud granddad is smiling over them all.

At one point we all moved to the living room to take family pictures in front of the tree, and I got a few good ones. Here are the Brits; Carolyn, Martin and Denise.

And of course, they shoved Denise and I out there. The Matriarch insisted on it. I guess she could tell there was an attraction.

Here's the Hunt family; Jason, Amie (Jason's girlfriend), Chris, Sherrie, Laura, and Todd.

I got this hilarious shot as everything was breaking up. Todd's mother and step father are both dead, and his aunt and uncle (Chris ans Sherrie) have basically taken him in as one of their own. He was in the Marines for four years and has been to Iraq already about four times (three or four months at a time). He was in the initial invasion in 2003, and later fought in Falloujah.

He got out a while back and went into the reserves where he went to Ft. Leonard Wood and completed MP school. Thing is, he went into the reserves under the stipulation that he wouldn't have to go back to Iraq for three years. Now he's been called up and is going to go back to Iraq again. So, when you combine that with the fact that his folks are no longer around, the emotion of this holiday was peaked, as you might imagine.

At one point in the evening he received a call from a friend telling him that another marine who he thought had been killed was really alive but in critical condition. This brought all the emotions to the forefront and to the concern of the rest of us he started to drink much more heavily and make very disheartening statements about his chances of making it back alive this time.

It tore his family up. I wanted to say or do something, but not having ever been in that situation, and not really being in the family, I felt it was impossible for me to really do anything. At one point he said he was going outside to smoke, so I grabbed a half smoked cigar and followed him out.

We stood in the cold on the front lawn and talked a bit, and I found myself wishing I could have conjured up one of you guys, the circle of vets who read this blog and have become my friends, to take this young man aside and give him the support he really needed. Only another vet who's been there could really understand and be respected in that role. I tried to let him know that I understood why he was feeling the way he was, and that everyone was proud of him, but I felt very inadequate to the task, and I'm sure the things I said sounded trite.

In the end he calmed down a bit, changed out of his uniform and the emotions were shoved back for another day. I think about him a lot now, particularly when I see soldiers here on Ft. Hood coming home from Iraq and others getting ready to go back.

The next morning was Christmas, and it started in a way that was totally new to me. We all held candles and the matriarch of the family read the Christmas story from the bible. Usually they all go to church on Christmas eve, but as "Lucky" became more ill over the years, this tradition replaced the earlier one. It was an interesting tradition to take part in, coming as I do from a family that is religious but doesn't go to church. Weddings and funerals only.

Then Chris set out to distribute the presents from under the tree. He did a great job, making sure they were handed out so that everyone had something to open.

Later in the evening everyone relaxed and I got to hear a few more stories and get to know these people a bit better. I found out at one point that the matriarch of the Hazlett family is actually not the mother of any of these people. She married "Lucky" after their mother had died of cancer. Her first husband had also passed away. She took on another woman's family of four kids, including two teenagers, raising and caring for them all, and has never had any children of her own.

You wouldn't know any of that to look at this family though. These folks are tight, and the love they have for one another fills every room. One new wrinkle this Christmas is the appearance of a suitor. Frank, above, is the brother of her first husband, an Air Force (maybe CIA) vet, and is on the make. So not only was I being introduced into the family this Christmas, but Frank was getting some heat too. You should have seen the hell those girls gave their Mom when she was caught smoochin' on the front porch one evening. It was all in fun, and we were all happy for the both of them.

After Christmas, Denise's daughters Lynn and Chantel, and Chantel's kids flew in from Kentucky and the family gathering got even bigger. That's Martin' above, his back to us, brewing up some traditional British food for dinner; Yorkshire Puddings and Christmas pudding (flaming as it was served), and a few other things. I always love to fuck with them and ask if I can have some butter on my "bisket". Lord, it drives them nutty.

Even though Chris had driven back to Minnesota and taken Josie with him, the crowd was getting a bit big for the old FHB. There were too damn many folks in that little house and the action never seemed to slow down. Every once and a while Martin and I would grab Jason or someone else and hit that nice local pool hall.

Anyway, the kids had a late Christmas with the family the next day, and we played with the dogs, blew the snow off the driveway, swam at the hotel, and all the other stuff you've already read about. And there was more booze and food. God, was there ever more food.

By the end of our stay, the presents had all been taken out from under the tree, and the holiday was winding down. The Brits left Friday after an emotional, tear filled goodbye. Martin was stoic, but Denise and Carolyn are like sisters and very close, so lots of tears were flowing. Sherrie drove them to Chicago and they flew out without any trouble from the cold weather.

On our last day, the Saturday before the new year, Denise's ex husband arrived early from Virginia after his flight was delayed by the snow. When we got to the house that morning I found him on his knees in front of his dad's old gun cabinet showing his grandson Bryce some of the cool gear his dad kept in there. I thought it was a pretty cool scene. I could tell that everyone was waiting to see how I'd deal with the situation, but I'd known coming up there that we would eventually meet, and I was cool with it. I was kind of jealous when he took Bryce out and showed him how to shoot a pellet gun. I'd always wanted to have that sort of relationship with my own grandfather, but it never materialized. In the end, it was time for us to leave to catch our flight. We got our gear together and said our goodbyes. I got hugs from just about everyone and gave her ex a firm hand shake, and we left for the airport.

It was a very emotional departure for me, because I'd grown used to being in that house and felt like I was home there. The feelings were similar to those I'd had when I left Mushy's place after hanging out with him for a week last August. I felt like I was home, but I also wanted to get back to Texas and sleep in my own bed, shower in my own super sized shower, and get the chance to wake up slowly with the woman I love on a lazy morning or two before starting school again.

The flight home started out with the two of us being bumped to Business Class! She noted that our seat numbers were 1A and 1B. I told her that they'd probably run out of numbers and started again and we'd end up at the ass end of the plane. I consoled her with the fact that planes rarely back into mountains. Then we got on the plane and found our seats right up front. What a shock! The snacks and drinks came easily. They spoiled us to the point where our regular seats on the plane from Memphis to Dallas seemed extra small and cramped.

In the end we were happy to see that our bags arrived in Dallas at the same time we did. The three hour drive from D/FW Airport to Killeen was uneventful, and we managed to climb into the sack at around 2:30AM. Home Sweet Home.

Thanks for comin' along on this journey with me. Now it's back to the regular shit you're used to from me; music, guns, and Friday night Chinese food with dad, which, by the way I'll be enjoying tonight as usual. We've got plans to meet another blogger in Austin Saturday night and feast at Pappasito's, so there'll be lots of juicy food pictures up here soon. I'll see ya later. Cheers.