Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where In the Midwest is Genius Thevictorian?

It's a slow news day here in Backroads.

Hick has been on good-enough behavior not to draw my attention. The dogs haven't destroyed anything lately, although there IS a liver and some kind of head laying under the front porch pew. I told Hick about it last night, but went back to my dark basement lair without waiting to see if he flung them into the yard and then returned to his La-Z-Boy to paw at the remote control without washing his hands.

Genius has been safely ensconced in Overland Park, Kansas at his summer job with Garmin, for a week and a half. He's working with the same team, in the marine division, as last year. They requested him. I don't know all the techy details, but that department makes things like fish finders and the like. Last year, the apartment they put him up in was in Olathe. This year, he's a bit closer to Kansas City, which is a plus, though the apartment is not quite so nice. In any case, it's free rent, courtesy of Garmin.

This year, Genius shares an apartment with two roommates rather than one. He got there first, thanks to his college schedule, and of course picked the master bedroom that has its own bathroom. There's no fireplace this year, and the kitchen isn't as nice, but Genius won't be spending a lot of time there anyway. He'll be working a 40-hour week. The apartment complex has a pool and a workout room. AND he's only about 20 minutes from Kansas City.

Here are a few pictures of his home away from home, and a glimpse of Genius that I don't think will spoil his anonymity.







Because he wasn't sure of the address at first, I belatedly sent him two weeks worth of his $6 weekly fast food allowance (started by his grandma) and his weekly $10 worth of scratch-off tickets. Today he sent me a text that he won $102.

I guess my luck is transferable.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

He Probably Preferred the Bakery Counter

Let the record show that Val is no stranger to law enforcement officials.

That is not to say that there are frequent APBs out for her arrest. Nor that she's a subject of multiple investigations concerning nuisance calls, fraudulent insurance claims, or has a habit of crying wolf. I have been on the calling end when my apartment was burglarized, the receiving end when I broke the law by exceeding the posted speed limit, and the investigated end during a round of polygraphs administered at a former workplace. Each personal interaction with representatives of the assorted agencies was of a positive nature.

Likewise, I have brought up my boys to show respect to men of law, whether local, state, or members of a private security force. To do as told first, and ask questions later. Genius had no problem with being followed, and asked to whip out his ID several times on his first casino visit when he turned 21. Nor did he fault the officers who locked up two of his college roommates for the weekend during his freshman year. After all, they DID steal a bicycle and trespass on the construction site of the new chemistry building and (attempt to) run away in handcuffs, all while underage staggering drunk.

I was not pleased with the way a member of the local police force represented himself today.

Oh, don't go thinking Val is in the hoosegow! Or released on her own recognizance. The situation had precious little to do with Val. She was just an innocent bystander. Made to feel like an interloper.

There I was, minding my own business in the back corner of Bill-Paying Town's Walmart. It was shortly after 11:00 a.m. I approached the deli counter with the intent of getting six chicken wings. Val does not live by gas station chicken alone, you know.

At the end of the counter was A Policeman in uniform. Black pants, blue shirt, gun in holster, handcuffs, the whole rig. He was standing at the counter like a customer would, looking over it, talking to three women who work there. I walked up to the other end of the counter, seeing the hot foods through the glass, waiting to be waited on.

The Policeman turned to look sideways at me over his left shoulder. "Yeeesss...?"

"I was just going to get some chicken wings..."

Let the record show that I had no business with The Policeman. I was just a customer waiting to be waited on, with the purpose of procuring six chicken wings. He was obviously NOT going to take my order. So what business of it was his that I was waiting at the counter? If he was conducting an investigation, I presume that Walmart has a conference room available for such important, confidential business.

It's not like I walked up to that group and took out my ear trumpet and tried to eavesdrop. I was the length of the counter from them. At least 10 feet away. So I don't appreciate the tone, and the look, and the telegraphed insinuation that I was a Nosy Nancy, trying to find out what was going on, as if I was shopping in that area and noticed the confab and wanted the scoop.

When I was still in the workforce, and we had parent conferences at night, and ordered in food for our evening meal...parents would often show up at the very minute we sat down to eat, as a group, in the cafeteria. Let the record show that none of us were keen on leaving our hot meal and hotter gossip to get up and traipse down to our classroom and face a possible haranguing from a possibly irate parent. But we did. And we did it in a cheerful manner, as positive as all get-out, because that's what a professional does. You do not make the other party feel unwanted or like an interloper. "Oh, Mrs. Smith. I'm glad you were able to stop by. Oh, no. You're not interrupting. We've been waiting for people to come see us! Come on down to my room, so I can look up Johnny's information."

Anyhoo...I don't appreciate The Policeman making himself the center of the universe. I had no business with him. I only wanted my chicken wings. One of the older of the three ladies said, "I'll get her." And came down behind the counter and took my order, as pleasant as could be. Because she knows the meaning of PROFESSIONALISM.

"What can I get you?"

"Six chicken wings, please."

"Which ones? These ranch ones?"

"No. In the front. The plain ones."

"Drums or flats?"

"Half and half."

"All right. Anything else?"

"No thanks. That's it."

"There you are. Have a nice day, ma'am."

"You too."

Since The Policeman was acting all self-important and top-secretive, right there in the ordering area of Walmart's deli counter, I couldn't help but have my attention on him as my wings were being bagged. I don't know the specifics, but when the younger clerk would start to tell her information about what she said, and what a customer said, The Policeman would condescendingly say something like, "And you want me to...?" I'm not sure why there wasn't a better place to carry out this official business than right there by the hot food counter, but I wasn't even interested until The Policeman turned to me unnecessarily. He could have simply said, in the beginning, "I'm sorry, Ma'am. Could you give us a minute?" That would be understandable. Not the look. And the sing-songy, "Yeeesss?"

Sure, it's not like he tased me and put a knee between my shoulders and buffeted me about the head with a billy club. I just took offense to his attitude. Even all five of the law enforcement officers who have written me speeding tickets have been more pleasant and professional.

I'm an old lady, by cracky! Just what did The Policeman think I was going to do, listen in on his conversation and blog about it? Oh, wait...

Monday, May 29, 2017

It's Not That Funny

Oh, how I wish that title was only about something simple. Like the Fleetwood Mac song from Tusk. But it's not. It's about something Val does not do well. Something serious.

This morning I was looking for Hick, because I was pretty sure I heard his Gator and the dogs barking as they ran alongside. I looked out front, and caught a glimpse of Juno's swishing tail, but the Gator wasn't in the front yard. I stepped out on the porch and found Juno and Jack, and the neighbor dog Copper laying down on the brick sidewalk showing proper respect for our porch while I was present. Even though he sprawls on it like he lives here when I'm down in my dark basement lair.

I still heard a vehicle, and looked right, to the carport. Hick's Trailblazer was parked under the roof, running, and Hick was inside. I know he saw me. He looked right at me. But he sat there a minute, and then turned it off and came up on the front porch.

"I was over in the BARn puttering around, and I saw Tommy standing up on the gravel road."

Tommy is our neighbor, across the road and one house up. He and his mother are the ones I suspect of taking my favorite cat, Snuggles. Actually The Pony's cat, pictured at the top of my blog all these years. She just disappeared one day, never to be seen again. Hick always said he saw her over in Tommy's yard, and that he thought they were keeping her in the house. I didn't pitch a fit, because Snuggles was a grumpy cat, didn't get along with the other four cats OR Hick or The Pony or Genius. She only liked ME, and since we kept her outside, where she was always on the run from her detractors, or hissing like an overworked teakettle...I figured she might as well be happy being a house cat for Tommy and his mom. Because if Snuggles wasn't happy, I guarantee they would have tried to unload her faster than kidnappers ransoming Red Chief.

I haven't mentioned yet that Tommy is no kid. He's an adult, 58 years old (Hick found out today), and has some special needs. He and his mom never had a car, and we'd see them go by in a cab once a week to do their shopping. For the past 3 or 4 years, nobody out here has seen Tommy's mom. Hick and his buddy, Buddy, used to joke that she was probably laying in her bed all mummified, and Tommy was keeping her like something in a movie. Hick and Buddy don't know their classics.

Anyhoo...Hick said that he saw Tommy standing up on the gravel road in front of the BARn field.

"I was getting ready to go to town, so I stopped and asked him what was going on. He told me that his mom died about a month and a half ago, and that he couldn't get ahold of his sister on the phone, and that his brother was out at sea. I don't know if he's in the service or what. But Tommy had to take care of all the arrangements by himself, and his brother and sister didn't find out until after their mom was already buried. Tommy said he was out of milk, and he needed to go to town, but the cab charges him $35, and he only has $2000 left. He said he already walked up to [REDACTED]'s house, but they said they couldn't take him until Tuesday, and he needs to go now, and he didn't know what to do, and he wondered if maybe I could take him. I told him, 'Tommy, I go to town all the time. You don't need to spend money on a cab. I'm going now. I can take you.'"

"So you took him?"

"Yeah. He's harmless. He asked if I could take him to Walmart, and I said I could, but he'd have to wait until I did what I went to town for, so he said he'd just go in Country Mart. I dropped him off and went to do my stuff and came back for him. I told him when he needs to go to town, to come over and I'll take him."

"So if somebody comes to the door, it's probably Tommy? Because I don't even know what he looks like."

"Yeah. I told him I'd take him. He said he's been trying to get a job, but they all say he needs dependable transportation. I told him there's that SMTS van that takes old people around, and he said that they only go once a week, and they don't come out here. He said he never graduated from high school, but that he has books he reads to learn things. He said he's got a biology book. I think he might just have something like that autism. He's just kind of slow. Surely there's got to be someplace that helps people like that. I told him we have a guy at work who's my janitor, and a van brings him and picks him up. Maybe we can ask your sister's husband's sister at the barbecue tomorrow."

"That one won't be there. And she's retired from Social Security. So I don't know how much she would know. But we can have the ex-mayor call her and ask. They probably refer people to other agencies. I'm pretty sure the EMAA can help with something. They pay people's heating bills and give them air conditioners and get them clothes to wear to job interviews... that's where I would start. You can take Tommy over there to talk to them on Friday, maybe."

"Somebody should be able to help him. And the roof on his house is practically gone. I guess he only knows the [REDACTED]s, and I doubt he knows them very well."

"I'm sure if you tell other people out here what's going on, they can help look out for him, too."

Here's the thing. Imagine how worried Tommy must be. Nobody to talk to, no friends, no way to go anywhere, money running out. He doesn't even know us, but he stood on the road because he heard Hick working down in the BARn. Stood there until Hick went to talk to him. Tommy said he goes for walks. He doesn't have anything else to do except read his books.

Hick is a helper. He has always had somebody he looked out for. When I met him, it was a 90-something-year-old man who lived up the street. Hick went to visit him every Sunday night, taking him supper that I packed up for him. Then the old guy got sick, and his daughter moved him up to Montana with her, and he died. So Hick started visiting my grandma every Sunday night, after her husband had died. He even sorted out her medicine every week, and worked on her house to keep her from giving money to random old guys who came by looking for odd jobs. Once Grandma passed away, Hick helped my mom. And now that she's gone, Hick has been without a human project.

"I always remember how people helped my family, and it means a lot."

Hick and his two brothers grew up in a house without indoor plumbing. Neither parent worked. His dad was blind, and him mom was in the hospital most of the time. Not for anything physical. The oldest brother went to live with an aunt, and Hick got a job at 14 at a gas station/garage. He's done pretty well for himself, and likes to help other people. I don't mind helping, but I'd rather do it from behind the scenes. I'm really not a people person.

"Now I'm going to be worried about Tommy. Surely he's getting some form of income. Social security or something. Maybe you should find out, because if he's not, you can take him to sign up for it. There's got to be something."

"Yeah. They couldn't have just been living on the old lady's check. Because now it'll stop."

It's not that Val is heartless, you know. But there was still one pressing question that she needed answered.

"Oh...did you ask him about my cat?"
______________________________________________________________________

Let the record show that Hick did NOT think to ask Tommy about my cat.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Skipper Walks Into A Store

Friday I headed to the bank to deposit a reimbursement check from Hick's workplace, for some materials he had bought at Lowe's. Since the bank is near a Casey's General Store where I buy scratch-off tickets if I'm in the neighborhood...I stopped to buy a scratcher. Just one. A single ticket. Not so much BUY it, as trade in a winner for it. I like to vary my source.

At the stop sign just before my turn-in, three young boys walked along the road. Actually, two of them walked along the road, and one of them walked IN the road. He was the ring-leader, it turned out. Let the record show that only a block away is a middle school. These youngsters looked to be about 6th-grade size. The first thing I thought of was, "Is school out already?" Because that district just had graduation Thursday night. And this was Friday. And the time was 11:00 a.m.

Let the record show that I've never known a school to let out at 11:00 unless it was for inclement weather. Schools need a certain number of minutes of attendance to call it a half-day. And I guarantee you that it's not just a HALF day. At my school (oh, excuse me, I mean the school where I used to work before I RETIRED), our half-day was always a five-and-a-half sevenths day. We were not dismissed until the middle of 5th hour, which came at 12:45 p.m. Lunches have to be served, you know, before you dismiss for a half day. And even though my lunch period started at 10:53, we were not done by 11:00, nor were the two later lunch shifts. I know all districts' schedules are different, but that seemed a bit of a stretch for school to be dismissed at 11:00. So I figured maybe they'd already had their last day, and these were just 3 boys who lived in the neighborhood.

Until I walked into Casey's right behind them.

Road-Walkin' Ring Leader stepped up to the counter and said, "I want one piece of gum." He picked it up from the under-counter shelf and laid it down, proffering his change. A sandy-haired boy next to him did the same, and therein exposed their truancy. "Me too. This is money I had left from our field day. The school let us out early."

YEAH, RIGHT!

No way did that school let them out early! I'm pretty sure they just walked away from field day, thinking nobody would catch them. Too bad I didn't care enough to blow my loud whistle like ROLF snitching out the Von Trapp family on the roof of the abbey. I doubt the truancy officer would have gotten there as fast as the Nazis, anyway. But those skippers weren't fooling me!

Furthermore, while the two were spending their coins on gum, Road-Walkin' Ring Leader nodded his head, leader-fashion, and told the third young 'un, a slight, dark-haired urchin, "The bathroom is through there." Because, you see, in this old-time Casey's, the bathroom is a single-seater that is accessed by walking into the break room behind the counter, which doubles as the office of the manager. I'm an insider. I worked at a Casey's for six weeks one time. That bathroom is not really for the public, but they'll usually let a customer use it if they ask.

Seriously. If the kid had to go so bad that they'd talked about it on the way to this Casey's, not even two whole blocks from their school...why didn't he just go before left school, when they were being let out early? HUH? Yeah. Gotcha there, boys!

I guess you can't really take the teacher out of Val. Even though she DOES leave her loud whistle at home now, being RETIRED and all.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Can You Guess Hick's Latest Transgression?

Oh, come on! As if I would really ask you such a question. You KNOW that everything Hick does is wrong, so guessing his latest transgression would be a Herculean task. It CAN be done, but will require countless attempts.

Here is a note I found when I returned home after a mere 45 minutes away to pick up my 44 oz Diet Coke and scratcher tickets.


Yes, that note IS written on a paper plate. That's Hick's stationery of choice. At least he used a clean plate. But look closely at the message. Hick's penmanship is just a sliver above that of Joe H's wife. I didn't have trouble understanding it, except for that last part, which I thought maybe said, "Call Thor." Since I didn't see anyone named Thor, I figured Hick meant that word to be "them." That's the problem with that plate note. It lacked detail.

When interrogated questioned, Hick went on the offensive before my mouth had even started harping questioning.

"I wouldn't have picked up and listened, but I was expecting a call from the pharmacy about my medicine!"

"Well, I'm not sure who to call. I went to the doctor nurse practitioner Monday, and to radiology on Wednesday. So I don't know who to call for results. Is it for my blood tests, or my mammogram? They're two separate offices."

"Just go listen to the message."

Funny thing with our phone. If you pick up, it doesn't record a message. So Hick told me to look at the last call, which was a scammer, but the next-to-last number was the hospital number. Used by both radiology and the clinic. So I asked Hick how he didn't remember any details if he picked up and got the name JENNY, and he said he knew it wasn't for him, so he didn't pay attention, because he knew the machine would record it.

So...I called the hospital number. You realize that is long distance from Backroads, right? And I have to call on the land line because we have terrible cell phone reception at our house. You probably also realize that you can't just get a person when you call a hospital anymore. You get that long list of pick this number if you want this. I picked the number to talk to my doctor nurse practitioner. You realize, don't you, that office personnel use this to screen their calls? You never get a person. You get a message that they are either on another call, or they are helping a patient. Though when I have gone to the office, there are always two or three gals sitting at the desk, chatting about various non-work topics, and not helping patients or talking to them on the phone.

I left a message that I didn't know if somebody from their office had called with my test results, and gave my name and number so they could call me back at their whim. THEN I called the hospital number back, and waited for a real person at the end of the endless choice list, and the minute I mentioned that I didn't know if to call radiology or my doctor nurse practitioner, they asked who I saw, and I gave the name, and BOOM I was right back on the answering machine of that office. So I left another message. Because, you see, I didn't know if they were calling to say I needed further testing, and to schedule an appointment, or if it was just a courtesy call with my lab results, which they promised at my last appointment six months ago, and never followed through on.

I really miss my old doctor YES, DOCTOR, who scheduled the bloodwork a week ahead of the appointment, and then discussed the results with me in person. I guess that's too logical for the young whippersnapper who took his place, since he always schedules the labs for the week AFTER the appointment, unless you ask to go that very day, and save a trip.

Anyhoo...Hick was released from the hook about an hour later, when the doctor's nurse practitioner's nurse called me back with the results. Apparently, I have the body of a taut, pre-teen Swedish boy. Oh, wait! No I don't! That was Kramer, wearing too-tight jeans.

What that nurse actually revealed were the results of my mammogram (everything's fine, repeat in one year), and when pressed, said she'd look for the bloodwork results. In fact, she was even to the point of putting down the phone (NO!) and taking the elevator up one floor to ask them about it, but then she found it. The only three items she mentioned, after saying everything looked good, was that my fasting glucose level was 92, my total cholesterol was 142, and my good cholesterol (HDL) was 66.

So I guess I'm still kickin'. And capable of kickin' Hick's butt if he doesn't learn to take better messages.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #62 "This Boot Was Made for Clompin'"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. Sit down and take a load off. Fill up that Clairol Foot Fixer that your kids gave you for Christmas back in the late '70s (if you didn't re-gift it, that is) and immerse yourself in Val Thevictorian's latest fake book. It's a shoe-in for literary honors, and you're sure to get a kick out of it. Fake-order yours today!


This Boot Was Made for Clompin'

Claude Hopper is an old sole. He's been kickin' around for a long time, and is pert near pushin' up cacti. Claude has slowed down so much that moss is growing on his north side. But he continues to work. You'll never catch Claude in retirement. His life might have unraveled in ways that Claude never anticipated, but he stuck out his tongue and dug in his heels and put his foot down. He has pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.

Folks tread lightly around Claude. He has a will of iron and toes of steel. Nobody dares comment on Claude's new love, Bistro, a sweet Croc one-tenth his age, who is quite graphic, and not afraid to get down and dirty. Will Bistro let her strap down for Claude? Or will she spurn him for a suitor who will walk all over her? (145 words)

__________________________________________________________________

Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Dr. Scholls..."I must stand firm and insert my opinion. Something about this story and these characters just doesn't gel for me. The plot falls flat, and I predict that this author will get very little support." 

Penny Loafers..."We don't see the benefit of this whole work thing. People give us walking-around money. Looks like this fake author did not research her premise." 

Mary Jane..."Like me, Claude's name defines a generation's footwear. Sadly, mine has taken on more seedy connotations. I am no longer a shining example for little girls on their way to Sunday school. Upon reflection, I wish I could restore my reputation. I couldn't help selling the rights to my name. I was strapped, I tell you! Maybe this Thevictorian woman can help me tell my own story. On second thought...that's about as appetizing as a pair of used shoes from the Goodwill Store."

Mukluks..."This fake book leaves us cold! The mind of Thevictorian must be akin to a vast, frozen wasteland."

Bruno Maglis..."We're not saying she did it. But if she DID fake-write this fake story, Thevictorian needs to be locked up, and the key thrown away. If she can't depict, you must convict! See that Val Thevictorian never fake-writes another fake book!"

Topsiders..."Claude! Get a grip, you big lug! We thought you were thick-soled, and immune to the feminine wiles. Oh, well. Whatever floats your boat. We hope you're not in for stormy seas. Can't say the same for the author, though! It won't be the first time the word "squall" has been associated with Thevictorian."

Odor Eaters..."Claude, we would be honored to feast upon your effluence. You are an American classic. It's the fake writing of that Thevictorian woman that stinks!" 

The Toe-Tapping Shoe in the Opening Credits of My Three Sons..."Doo doo doo DOOOO, doo doo doo DOOOO...That's what this fake book is! A steaming pile of DOOO-DOOO!"

The Good Feet Store..."We would like to partner with Thevictorian, and sell her fake book on the counter of our fine establishment. After all, anybody who would wear a pair of shoes like Claude would likely be in need of our services. AND, anybody who would pay $1000 for shoe inserts is likely stupid enough to purchase this fake book."

Cole Porter..."I wish I could say that I get a kick out of Thevictorian. But I more strongly wish that I could KICK Thevictorian for giving us this poor excuse for a fake book. It is most certainly NOT de-lovely, nor delightful, nor delicious. I guess she just assumed anything goes in the world of literature."

 The Cast of STOMP..."We must put our feet down and declare that this fake book is a piece of garbage! It's rubbish! Trash! We've bin trying to tell as many people as we can. Don't buy this fake book! On the other hand...we'd like to invite Thevictorian to join our act. We could make beautiful music together. She's a portly gal, and probably emits a nice resonance when struck."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: Homeward Bound, a Restaurant Review

Let the record show that having Genius as a passenger did nothing to alter Hick's driving style. He made no effort to conceal the skills that make him a Master Sweaver. My head swayed like a cobra mesmerized by a snake charmer's flute. I really needed a neck brace like those shady rear-end collision victim insurance scammers wear until a crafty private investigator sets off a firecracker behind them and snaps a picture of them turning their head. Or a stack of those copper rings that women in Longneck Village wear for beauty purposes. Just something for support.

Hick is not only a Master Sweaver...he's a squeezer. No, not a geezer, a squeezer! He's not a stomper or a slammer. He squeezes the brakes to stop. Then lets off of them abruptly. So you don't notice too much when he's slowing down and stopping. Then WHAM! Your head snaps back against the headrest when he takes his foot off the brake right before a complete stop, then squeezes that pedal again, with the same let-off. Hick drives me crazy! Heh, heh! Get it?

We hit Genius's College Town at 12:50. Genius was snoozing in the back seat, though how he remained conscious with his own large noggin flopping like a chicken with its noggin removed, I'll never understand. Genius had declared about an hour back down the road that he was not hungry for any lunch, and just wanted to be dropped off at his apartment. Hick, always on the lookout for food that does not come from Val's kitchen, said he wanted to have lunch.

Hick suggested the Tater Patch, which does indeed have good taters and other fare. But I didn't want to take that long. He also suggested the Chinese restaurant where Genius eats most Fridays on the $6.00 that I send him every week (because my mom started that tradition). I didn't want that much food to sit in my stomach for the next two hours of winding two-lane blacktop. I was perfectly happy to wait until we got home to eat a lupper at my leisure. Nope. Hick was not having it. He had to have lunch. He suggested...um...let's call it Pizza Shack, the national chain, because he wanted their lunch buffet.

I told Hick that in Backroads, the lunch buffet ends at 1:00. I'm pretty sure it runs from 11:30 to 1:00. My mom used to take us all there over the summer, all of us meaning Sis and her kids and me and my kids. Since it was now 12:50, I told Hick that I didn't think the buffet would work out. Besides, I didn't want to eat at a buffet.

Of course Hick drove right past his Goodwill Store turn-off after dropping Genius at his apartment. So I felt sorry for him when he noticed, and I said we could go have a personal pan pizza if he wanted. So we stopped at Pizza Shack, and saw that their buffet was still good until 2:00. And by good, I don't mean the quality. Hick said we both wanted the buffet, so I didn't insist on my personal pan. I figured we'd get back on the road sooner if I didn't.

There are times when I can enjoy Pizza Shack's food. A good personal pan being one of those times. I am not a fan of their buffet. The thin crust pizza was not crisp. The pan pizza was mostly dough, with see-through cheese and a couple crumbs of topping. I tried it, and left most of it on my plate. I DID have a decent salad.

Right after we sat down, a woman came in with a little girl of about 4 who must have been her granddaughter. Or a royal princess. First of all, Granny (who seemed to know the server) asked for a sausage pizza to be brought out to the buffet. "She'll only eat sausage." That's not too unusual for somebody to ask for a certain kind of pizza. But I knew Royal Princess was going to be a royal pain. Not really HER fault. But the fault of her enablers for the first four years of her life.

Royal Princess bopped from one side of the booth to the other. Moving just as soon as Granny had her plate and soda set down. She ended making Granny stand up and let her in to sit under her left armpit. Then she wanted to try some pizza that Granny had on her plate. "But you only like sausage pizza. They're bringing one out." Royal Princess declared that she wanted to try that other kind.

Anyhoo...I, myself, favor sausage pizza. Hick asked if I wanted him to get me a couple pieces when they brought it out.

"No. There's going to be trouble. That little girl thinks it's HER pizza."

"She's not going to eat a whole pizza, Val. She's a little girl. And it will be fresh. I'll get you some, so you don't have to get up."

"Well...I know she'll have a fit. But after she gets some...maybe."

Of course you know what happened. They brought out the sausage pizza. Granny got up. Hick got up. Royal Princess started yammering, "Don't let anybody..." Granny took Royal Princess 3 pieces of sausage pizza. Hick came back to the table with 3 pieces of sausage pizza. He took a large one with about 25 lumps of sausage on it, and gave me two thin slivers with one lump of sausage on one, and two lumps on the other.

I took a couple of bites, but was distracted by the woman at the booth behind Granny and Royal Princess, who was CHANGING HER BABY'S DIAPER on the booth seat.

If you're ever in Genius's College Town, you might want to re-think the Pizza Shack lunch buffet.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: Not-Bubbly and Brew

As different as their personalities, Genius and The Pony received unique treatment from Even Steven during Casinopalooza 2.

The Pony has let his hair grow out. He had wanted to do that since the summer before his senior year of high school, but, what with all the pictures and milestones that year, I was not sure it was a good idea. The Pony's hair is wavy like Hick's (old hair when he had it), and reaches a length where it is uncontrollable and unkempt. Once his valedictorian speech was done, The Pony began cultivating his tresses in earnest. Thankfully, he was out of my sight and out from under my thumb during the messy stage. It now looks better than I expected. As long as he picks it out once, right after his shower in the morning, it falls into ringlets that reach almost to his shoulders now. His hair kind of looks like the album cover of Frampton Comes Alive, only not frizzy, with a tighter curl, and dark brown instead of blond.

The Pony won several hundred dollars on the first machine he sat down at, and then budgeted his money and played some dollar and two-dollar machines (against my advice, let the record show) and kept his gambling stake intact to take with him at the end. Because of his fairly good luck...Even Steven saw need to smite him in other areas.

At breakfast the first morning, The Pony and I, along with my sister the ex-mayor's wife, chose to order from the menu, rather than have the buffet. Sis had a biscuit and gravy, due to the fact that she'd eaten that buffet the previous morning, and had an upset stomach the rest of the day, and this was the one thing she hadn't eaten from the buffet. I had a bagel with Canadian bacon, egg, and cheese, with a side bowl of fruit. The Pony had waffles, and a side bowl of fruit that he gave to me. We had to wait a while to get our menu meals, but we ogled the loaded plates of Genius, Hick and Ex-Mayor, and sipped our drinks while we waited. Sis and I had water, and The Pony had a Sprite.

In the midst of our breakfast fellowship, the waiter came around and topped off our drinks. The Pony, seated at my left, looked out of sorts. "WHAT? What's the matter? Our food will be here in a minute."

"It's not that. He just filled up my Sprite with water."

Indeed. The waiter came back, and was informed of his fizz-less faux pas, and apologized and brought The Pony a new glass full of Sprite. You'd think The Pony could have thanked him, but, being The Pony, he saw no reason to be fake and take the heat off the poor working man. So I did it for him.

On the way down to the ground floor the first night, after taking our stuff to the room, the elevator opened at Floor 1. The Pony stepped out, and Hick chuckled at him and told him to get back on, that we were going to Ground, not Floor 1. The Pony was a bit embarrassed, but it was just me and Hick and a father with a young son on that elevator. Hick had hit Floor 1 by mistake anyway, so it was kind of his fault.

The next evening, as we were headed down, packed in with a few people from the floors above us, the elevator again stopped at Floor 1. Hick was standing right beside The Pony, and this time, HE thought that's where we were getting off. He put his hand on The Pony's back, and pushed him forward. The Pony resisted. It was kind of comical from behind, where I was observing. The Pony kept his feet rooted in one spot, and swayed forward with Hick's push. I felt bad for him. "That's okay. Dad's just trying to get rid of you. He thought he could fool you into getting off on 1 again." As if that would make The Pony feel better...

Genius did not win as much money as The Pony, but he still took home over half of his gambling stake. He gambled longer, but put his money into the penny machines, relying on their volatility and bonus rounds. I had given each boy $20 walking-around money (because I'm a high roller, you know, and I could spare it) in case they wanted to grab a snack while we were all separated.

The Pony spent part of his twenty on a hamburger and fries at the snack bar. That's because he didn't get his player's card that came with the $10 food voucher until AFTER he ate. Genius spent his twenty on alcoholic beverages at the bar. But he got bargains! They had $2 drinks! Which he said is as good as the bad drinks you get for that price at the worst dive bar in College Town.

Genius also saw one of his professors in the lobby of Downstream Casino. He'd had a class where they discussed marketing, and Vegas, and, in fact, Downstream Casino. He went over to say hello, and ran into him a couple more times and chatted.

Genius has a haircut that is most likely called a high fade, and a full beard as well, which I think is the look of most hipster millennial doofuses gentlemen these days. Except Genius doesn't have a long or bushy beard. Just a full one. I wouldn't say you'll see him in the pages of GQ, but he's no troll, and he's a snazzy dresser.

As we were getting ready to leave River Bend Casino, I was slow in catching up to Hick and Genius, who were cashing out their tickets at a machine. As I walked by a row of slots, I saw a man and a young girl (not a child slot-player!) of around college age sitting at machines on my right, along the aisle. The girl had leaned WAY back, and was looking in the direction I was heading. At Hick and Genius at the money-casher. I'm pretty sure she wasn't checking out Hick. I told Genius I thought he might have an admirer, but he just snorted. Because he's cool like that.

Let the record show that NOT ONE casino carded either of the boys as they entered. NOT ONE! Sure, the slot-gambling age in Oklahoma is 18. The Pony just turned 19 in February. And Genius is 22 now. But when Genius has gone to St. Louis casinos with me, you'd think they were going to call out the SWAT team if he didn't present ID. Especially at Ameristar. Their security is outrageous. It's kind of like walking through all those wacky slamming doors at the beginning of Get Smart, the TV show. Not so much physical barriers, but the litany of questions asked by the guy at the podium out front. I think it's probably easier to get through security at the airport for a transatlantic flight than get into Ameristar if you don't look 35 years old.

Anyhoo...I had a grand time at Casinopalooza 2. I think the boys tolerated it well, and at least gave the impression of having a good time. That's about all I can ask for at that age, right?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: The Rage Against the Machine Man

Perhaps you've heard that weirdos have a penchant for seeking out Val. Like carbon dioxide attracts a mosquito, Val must unconsciously exude a freaky pheromone that draws weirdos to her vicinity.

You'd think that I could blend in at a casino. I'm the right age. I hobble around, one foot in the grave, the other foot screaming for a walker. I clutch my cross-body purse across my gut, lest a snatcher try to wrest if from me. I don't make eye contact. I don't engage other gamblers in small talk. I just want to be left alone to feed my money into hungry slot machines.

On our last night of Casinopalooza 2, The Pony had long since turned in for his beauty rest, Hick had tearfully salvaged the last $50 of the $100 in profit he had ventured, and returned to the room, and Genius had drunk his fill of (or exhausted his budget for) alcoholic beverages, and departed to sleep it off. I was alone in the casino! And at 11:30 p.m., I was just hitting my stride.

I sat down at a row of four Hot Red Ruby slot machines. (Here's a 2-minute video of what they look like, and the red screen bonus that is the reason I LOVE the Oklahoma VGT slots. It's nobody I know. Just a random video on YouTube.) I was at the middle right seat of those four machines. Since it was on a Monday night, the casino was not at all crowded. Nobody else was playing at that row, or any of the ones nearby.

I was having a bit of success, hitting a couple of bonuses. If you're a slot gambler, you know how you sometimes get in a groove, and everything is going well on a machine. I was keeping a count in my head of how many spins between wins. Sometimes raising my bet from one credit to two or three. Everything was going well, until the Rage Against the Machine Man showed up.

Rage Against the Machine Man sat down at the Hot Red Ruby on the left end of the row. There was one seat between us. I did not look at him, nor acknowledge him in any way. An old Val ain't safe in a casino full of Rage Against the Machine Mans. I did nothing to draw attention to myself, short of remaining visible, at my machine, playing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could sense angry body language from RAMM. He would throw up his arms periodically. Tilt his head back. Sigh. Swear. Pound his palm on the side of the slot machine. Thank goodness these Hot Red Ruby slots had no cranks to pull, because RAMM would have decrankitated his Hot Red Ruby. Of all the slot machines inside that large casino, RAMM had picked that very Ruby, one seat away from me, to plop down and abuse. There were many, many other Hot Red Rubies scattered around. In fact, I had won $180 off a different one earlier in the night.

Once RAMM stomped off, fuming and bowlegging his way deeper into the casino, much like Yosemite Sam, I leaned back and looked at his machine. He had cashed out $270. I don't know how much he put in. I only heard him win a couple of times. So I'm guessing that he lost money, due to his orneriness. Because to me, cashing out $270 seems like a GOOD thing. But then again, I only put in $20 at a time.

Downstream Casino is very dark inside. Just a bit brighter than McDougal's Cave when Tom and Becky still had a nub of candle to burn. Not like those in St. Louis, where River City Casino is lit like a normal indoor business, or Hollywood Casino, where it's so bright I feel like I'm on the surface of the sun. Downstream is a bit creepy for an old Val, down there alone, with her three menfolk slumbering 8 floors up, and such poor phone reception that in Downstream, nobody can hear you text. RAMM had unsettled my nerves. And believe me, Val has nerves, what with being a RETIRED secondary school teacher.

I moved to a different section of the casino and played some Reel Fever on a machine at the left end of a long row of assorted slots. (Here's a random 2-minute video of the Reel Fever slot.) It kept me going for a while, and then I moved one seat to the right to play a Silver and Gold machine. (Can't find a video of that one.) There I was, happily spinning the reels at minimum bet, having a grand old time like little Gizmo on Christmas morning tooting his trumpet in Gremlins. And then my good time, much like Gizmo's, was ruined...except instead of by Stripe, spitting on me, it was by RAMM, plopping down closer than arm's reach to play that Reel Fever game.

Let's just say that since RAMM and I had last convened, his temperament had not improved. He set down a drink from the bar. The smell of his breath wafted toward my nostrils, and it reminded me of the aroma of the ice cream at High Winds that I told you about yesterday. I tried my best to ignore him. But he was RIGHT NEXT TO ME! He continued his antics of slamming the machine, and swearing at it for not paying him.

I kept playing, although in a discombobulated manner. I couldn't concentrate. So much for counting spins. In fact, I hit a red screen bonus shortly after RAMM arrived, and I could not tell you how much I won, even now. Because when he heard that red screen bonus sound, RAMM REACHED OVER AND STROKED (heh, heh, had you goin' there for a minute, didn't I?) MY MACHINE'S SCREEN!

"Good luck!" RAMM said.

Do I even need to try to describe the ickiness factor in that gesture?

Inside, I was recoiling. On the outside, I nodded curtly. DO NOT ENGAGE. I had to stick to my plan. After about 10 minutes, RAMM cashed out and left. You'd think I would have been relieved. But all I could think of was that RAMM had left my vicinity once, gone to the bar, and STILL showed up again to sit right beside me on my left within an hour's time.

If I didn't know better, my conspiracy-theory-trained mind would have convinced me that RAMM was some kind of cooler, a secret operative for the casino, paid to drink and act crazy and encroach on people that the casino wanted gone. A salaried annoyance to drive away undesirables. But of course I convinced myself that couldn't be true. After all...VAL? Undesirable? No way!

About 10 minutes after RAMM left me, I saw three official-acting people walk down the aisle behind me. You know what I'm talkin' about. People striding with a purpose. Carrying themselves with an air of authority. A woman in black slacks and a white shirt and an ID lanyard, a dark-uniformed law officer with a weapon (or at least mace in a holster) on his hip, and a man in suit pants, dress shirt, and tie.

Here's my scenario. Somebody had complained about RAMM's behavior. Had tipped off security, and they were on the hunt to oust him from the premises. Toss him out on his ear. The Striding Trio WAS headed in the direction I saw RAMM Yosemite-Sam-off toward.

I felt a little safer then, but still went upstairs to call it a night at 1:30 a.m. At least I was able to rest easy, imagining that RAMM was no longer in the building. But what I thought of JUST NOW would have made me sit bolt upright in bed, my eyes bugged out in fear.

What if RAMM thought I was the one who complained to security?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: I Love the Smell of Ice Cream in the Evening

On the first evening of Casinopalooza 2, we headed to the casino where we got free monkeys last time. Surely you remember that place, where Sis almost had a rumble with a bleachy-haired lady who accused her of taking more than her share of monkeys, and being married to HICK!

Anyhoo...this time there were no free monkeys. Ain't that always how it goes? But they DID have the next best thing: FREE PUPS!


That's my free pup on the right, and Hick's free pup on the left. But you knew that, didn't you? Because mine looks all sweet, like me. And Hick's looks kind of cantankerous, like him. I'm hoping he didn't have this one's head stuffed in an inappropriate location like he did with his free monkey.

You could get these free pups after a certain amount of play on your player's card. You just had to go to the service desk, have them scan your card, and pull a pup out of a giant cardboard box waist-high. They had pink and purple pups. Most people around me were getting pink, but I stuck to my old school mascot, and asked for a purple one. The girl had to open another box and dump some in with the pink, and stir them around with her whole arm. Then she reached way down in the middle of the pile, and drew mine out.

As with the free monkeys, you could win from $5 to $100 free play on a scratcher ticket stuck to the animal's ear (heh, heh, I first typed REAR). Mine was $25 in free play! But of course everyone else had $5, and was tapping their toes waiting for me to waste it quickly. Which I did. But then I returned to their toe-tapping area, where they were being those people you hate, sitting on chairs in front of slots that they were not even playing, only to find them EATING ICE CREAM!

Yes, Sundays at High Winds are Ice Cream Social days, it seems. As Sis informed me, "All you have to do is go up to the service counter and ask for ice cream!" Sure, it was in those little cups, to eat with a flat wooden spoon...but it was ICE CREAM, by cracky! Since I thought they were all chomping at the bit to get out of there, I didn't go get my free ice cream. I asked The Pony if he wanted some, because I would have walked up there with him, but he did not.

So there I stood, behind Sis, who was sitting at a penny machine in a row of four penny machines. The ex-mayor was sitting beside her, also eating ice cream. One (vacant) chair over, Hick had just returned with HIS ice cream. And Genius was standing at my left shoulder, happily wooden-spooning his ice cream into his gaping maw.

Huh. "What kind of ice cream IS that?" I asked Sis. Because while I could easily see that Genius's was vanilla, I could not determine Sis's flavor. Hers looked all purply-red. And the smell was something I'd smelled before. I just couldn't place it.

"Oh, it's strawberry! You have a choice of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry."

"Why is yours that color?"

"I think that's the lights on my machine making it look that way."

Indeed. It was. But that didn't explain the aroma. It was distinctly NOT strawberry. I waited. And waited. For those ice-cream slurpers to finish up. I could have played my free $25 more wisely, had I only known they would not be in such a hurry once their blood sugar started to spike.

As I stood, talking to Genius about our next casino, my mind sorted through about 999,999,999,999 different scents...and identified that smell.

ALCOHOL!

That aroma was the byproduct of alcohol processed by a human liver, excreted in the exhaled breath of Genius Thevictorian!

Of course! Genius had partaken of a cocktail or two, and I was standing right beside him! And he was breathing!

So much for that exotic flavor of ice cream that I thought I was missing out on.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Brief Intermission From Casinopalooza 2

Yes, there are still tales left from Casinopalooza 2. But today, we take a brief respite due to unforeseen events yesterday.


I had a little visitor when I went outside for my walk. That's right where I always greet the dogs, and stand to stretch my legs at the steps by the side porch. The dogs were not around yesterday, because they were off to the creek with Hick on the Gator. Good thing. One of their fat, frolicking paws would have smashed that little ladybug.

Since we got back from Casinopalooza 2, I had not been to the cemetery for my weekly visit with Mom. We got home Tuesday evening. Wednesday I went to Walmart and planned on stopping, but there was a funeral tent set up in the vicinity. Thursday, I went by again, but the workers were mowing. On Friday, I finally stopped to visit. Only briefly, apologizing for not getting there sooner. I told Mom that we arrived home safely, what the boys are currently up to, how we had a great time, and that I felt bad about not stopping until now, and how I hadn't sensed her around lately.

Then a woman came walking across the plots, so my visit wasn't really private any more, and I said I had to get going. I knew Mom would understand.

Huh. Now I can kind of sense her presence again. I had a couple of 11:11 clock sightings. And then the ladybug surprise.


I know that it's almost summer, and bugs are flying, and one might expect to see ladybugs around. But to me, a ladybug is not just a ladybug. It could have appeared anywhere, you know. At any time. Just an insect flitting here and there. But this one appeared on my porch, at the very place I stand for five minutes every evening, the day after I mentioned that I felt disconnected from Mom.

It seems like my life in on the right track once again.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: The Brutal Gourmet

Let the record show that ever since the original Casinopalooza, Hick has complained about our dinner the first night. Way back then (in March of this year), we drove to Oklahoma in a convoy of two with my sister the ex-mayor's wife and the ex-mayor. We checked into our hotel in Joplin at that time, and then hit the road to visit four casinos. We started at the one farthest away, and worked our way back to town.

Because we didn't arrive until 3:00 in the afternoon that time, and we WERE there to gamble...three of us were content to grab a quick bite and get back to throwing away our money. Of course the hold-out was Hick. He puts on a good front. He said he'd go along with what everybody else wanted to do. Traveling from one casino to the next, at around 8:00 p.m., we decided to stop by a McDonald's. Hick had even agreed to this before we got in the car.

Ex-Mayor had mentioned a couple of places we could eat. A steak house, which three of us didn't really want that late, or to give up so much time. And a restaurant that was local, not a chain. "Your sister and I ate there one time. It was okay. I can't even remember what kind of food they have." Sis said she hadn't really liked it. So I didn't especially want to go there. Hick said McDonald's was fine. So we ate there. It was quick. And nobody got sick.

EVER SINCE, Hick has thrown that back in my face. "We're going to get a good meal this time. I'm NOT going to McDonald's. We need time to visit with Genius and The Pony, too. We're not just there to gamble." Au contraire. Everybody else thought the purpose of the trip was gambling. Not a family vacation. After all, it was not called FamilyVacationpalooza.

Anyhoo...Hick tried playing that "agreeable old coot" routine again. Like he didn't really care where we ate. But I told Sis and Ex-Mayor, "That's how he acts in front of YOU. But all I've heard about for two months is how I made him eat at McDonald's last time. So you talk to HIM. HE's the one who's picking where we eat."

Hick chose the restaurant that Ex-Mayor had mentioned on the previous trip.

This turned out to be a decision as ill-fated as the 3-hour tour of the S.S. Minnow. Except that we eventually escaped the restaurant. Hick (The Skipper) sat at one end of the table with The Pony (Gilligan). Genius (The Professor) was in the middle, across from Sis (Lovey). And I (Mary Ann) sat at the other end, across from Ex-Mayor (Thurston Howell III). Ginger skipped supper that night, watching her figure.

The waiter led us to the back wall of the restaurant, which was covered with windows facing out on the road. I think. The sun blazing through at 7:00 p.m. was so blinding that I could have probably held my eyelids open, turned my head just right, and performed my own LASIK surgery. The waiter proffered some menus to us, and I guess it was our blind grasping that led him to say, "Oh. I can close those blinds for you if you'd like." We did. He did. But only two of the three. Once he left, Ex-Mayor wrestled with the cord and finally dimmed our dining area to a bright glare.

Then ensued a long debate between Sis and the waiter over what was good on the menu. She specifically asked for a clarification between the cod and the catfish. Waiter said that HE would have the catfish, since it was hand-breaded and fried, whilst the cod came already coated and frozen. Ex-Mayor asked if the fajita was any good, and Waiter said that he himself ate more fajitas there than anything else. But that the skillet was also good. So Ex-Mayor got the blazing hot skillet, which was basically a fajita without the tortilla.

Our drinks came out, and then some small plates and a basket of four rolls. Let the record show that there were six of us. The roll-bearer said, "I'll get you some more. We've been swamped. That's all we have." Of course you know who went without a roll. Val. And Sis. The Pony dipped his in the plastic container of butter, took a bite, and dipped it again. THE PONY WAS A DOUBLE DIPPER! Hick chastised him, but The Pony replied, "How am I SUPPOSED to put butter on it? None of us have any silverware."

Then the blazing hot skillet arrived. No other entrees. Ex-Mayor noticed that he had no silverware. As didn't the rest of us, either. "What am I supposed to do, bury my face in the blazing hot skillet to eat?" He let it sizzle. The roll-bearer came back with four more rolls. Hick told him we needed some silverware. "We don't have any. We've been swamped." And he was gone!

Next, the fish began arriving. Sis wanted barbecue sauce for dipping her fries. I told her to stand in line behind silverware and Hick's salad. Because everybody else got theirs (who ordered one) but not Hick. Not that they could eat them, with no silverware.

Then my grilled chicken with mango and pineapple salsa (though mostly diced tomatoes and something really sour, no sign of pineapple, probably due to the place being swamped) came out, with my sides of rice pilaf and steamed broccoli. Funny how I though rice pilaf had something else in it besides white rice and something that made it mushy.

Ex-Mayor demanded silverware, and Waiter came right back with a round of knife/forks/spoon wrapped in a napkin, enough for the entire table. I spent most of the meal coveting Ex-Mayor's blazing hot skillet, although my steamed broccoli was pretty decent. The chicken was one of those frozen breasts, cooked to the consistency of an old boot sole. I didn't dare ask Sis to share her barbecue sauce so I could moisten it for help in swallowing.

Hick finally got his salad as the rest of us were ready to leave. Genius said his fish was okay. It had taken 30 minutes before the rolls even came out. Lucky I was busy counting up my money with my hand inside my purse, so I only complained about 137 times. I'm pretty sure we're not going to eat there again.

I can't wait to bring it up to Hick every time we talk about Casinopalooza 2 or any future Casinopaloozas. Though I HAVE mentioned that my Quarter Pounder was better than my chicken.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #61 "A Matter of Hairanoia, or Just Raising Mane?"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. This week, Val brings you the story of a free spirit. A real fun guy. You'll laugh. You'll cry (from laughing). Get your fake copy today! It's like a breath of fresh air in a fart factory!


A Matter of Hairanoia, or Just Raising Mane?

Ben Me Self marches to his own drummer. Toots his own trumpet. Flouts his own flute. He's one-of-a-kind, and kind enough to give you the shirt off his back...when he wears one. Of course he dons a shirt for school pictures. But his buddies suggest a new hairstyle, minutes before Ben's turn.

It's not the first time Peon N. Theshower and Double-Dip Chip have steered Ben wrong. And it won't be the last. Revenge, however, is sweet. Stowing away with the guys in the wheel well of a Boeing 747, just to visit a nude beach in France, is one of Ben's fondest memories. But his buddies wearing rented Speedos because Ben "forgot" to tell them to bring their own swimwear, is the best. Follow the wacky hijinks of these three amigos, and find out who's really the ringleader. (139 words)

__________________________________________________________________

Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

We 3 Kings..."We traverse afar, and this is STILL the poorest excuse for a fake book we have ever encountered! Thevictorian certainly does not bear the gift of writing."

3 Ring Circus..."Such a conundrum, this Thevictorian woman! Her fake book is nothing but a sideshow in small-town carnival. Yet the fake author's erratic style of fake-writing makes US look like a blue calm sea."

3 French Hens..."What the cluck was this imbecile thinking? Thevictorian's fake book is a real piece of merde. Only yesterday, the 4 Calling Birds called to warn us about it."

3 Sheets to the Wind..."We had to put our beer goggles on to fake-read this one, and even so, we did not bring it home with us at closing time. Thevictorian's fake writing is enough to make us jump back ON the wagon. To make a hasty escape from her vicinity. The off-chance that she might have another fake book fake-published is a sobering thought."

3-Piece Suit..."We are not vested in this fake author's success. We've heard that she has a checkered past, and assume that she has something up her sleeve. Thevictorian needs to zip it, and stop this hemming and hawing about a sequel. She writes as if she's in an altered state, and needs to be soundly cuffed around the head and shoulders."

Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria..."We would sail to the ends of the earth to escape the works of this fake author!"

3 Blind Mice..."We weren't always blind, you know. Not until we fake-read Thevictorian's fake book. We'd rather have our tails cut off with a carving knife (THRICE!) than fake-read one more fake word from this fake author." 

Triple Sec..."I don't find this fake book at all a-peeling! There's nothing sweet about it. It's as if it came from a bitter old woman, trying to make herself mix in by being sweet. Orange you glad I warned you about Thevictorian?"

3 Coins in the Fountain..."Like us, this fake author is ALL WET! Unlike us, she gives the reader no hope. It's no accident that we ended up in this fountain. We threw ourselves in here, in an effort to end it all after fake-reading this fake book."

3 Dog Night..."Mama Told Me Not to Come here and review this fake book. But I will shout it from the Halls of Shambala: Do Not Fake-Buy This Fake Book! I am NOT going to Try a Little Tenderness, because where Thevictorian is concerned, it's so Easy to Be Hard. Anyone who says he wants to Celebrate this author, or sing Joy to the World after fake-reading her fake book, is simply a Liar."  

3 Legged Race..."The writing in this fake book is as awkward as US romping along at a 4th of July picnic at the turn of the century!"

3 Men in a Tub..."Rub-a-dub-dub, no matter how hard we scrub, we can't cleanse ourselves of the stench of this horrid piece of writing!"

Haiku...
"Do not buy this book.
You'll regret it forever.
It sucks really bad."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: And a Little Child Shall Spin Them

Let the record show that Casinopalooza was a monetary success for Val. She returned home with all of her gambling stake intact, and an excess of $213. That's a little less than half as much as last time, but we had a tough session on Monday morning. The ex-mayor my sister's husband says that's because those two casinos are building new hotels, and they tighten their machines. That's highly possible, since the Oklahoma casinos are not regulated like the ones in Vegas, or like ours in Missouri. The Pony broke even, Genius lost about what I won, and Hick lost just a tad more than Genius. But who cares about THEM, anyway? Val's finances are all that matter!

On Monday night, The Pony feasted at Steak N Shake, on a garlic cheeseburger, a delicacy of which he cannot partake in Norman, Oklahoma. Hick drove him a few miles into Joplin for that dinner, while Genius and I stayed at Downstream Casino, eating separately at the snack bar restaurant when the mood struck. Genius persuaded me to join him on the Money Wheel games. There were three side by side by side. Penny machines. We were betting 60 cents a spin, hoping to hit three wheels and get the bonus.

Unfortunately for Genius, he hit it quite often, and his bonus was a spin of the wheel, and it kept giving him the Mini Jackpot. Which was $3.00. Heh, heh! There was a lady on the machine between us, and she was hitting bonuses like crazy. Her machine was a little different version, and she was betting $2.40, I think. Anyhoo...she got the money-picking bonus where you touch the screen and pick flying bills. She won $277.00 on her last bonus. And sensibly gave up her machine. Finally. So I moved over next to Genius, and started playing that one, but at 60 cents, and promptly got that bonus. I only won $14, but it was better than $3.00!

So...those machines are popular. The one I vacated was not empty long. An old man and a kid walked by behind me. I assumed they were heading for the buffet. Kids can stay at the hotel, of course. And use the indoor and outdoor pool. And they can walk through the casino to get to the restaurants. That's what I figured was happening. But then the old man and little boy stopped and looked at that money wheel.

"Play this one, Grandpa!" said Little Boy.

"I don't know...how does it work?" said Gramps.

"Sit down. Here. Put your money in there. Then hit this to bet," said Little Boy.

"You do it," said Gramps.

"Can I sit on your lap?" said Little Boy.

"No," said Gramps.

You know kids these days. So savvy with electronics. Little Boy was only trying to help Gramps. But the situation rankled my nerves. This was not right! Kids are not allowed to gamble! I made sure my posture showed my disapproval, although I did not turn to look at them. I am, after all, not a confrontational person. I prefer to stew quietly in my own juices.

I did, however, lean to my right to whisper in Genius's ear. Not to be all sneaky or anything. But because those machines were SO VERY LOUD that he would not have heard me while one of his $3.00 bonuses was playing out. Even though I could hear Little Boy and Gramps, because they had not yet started playing.

"This is SO wrong! A kid shouldn't be here!"

"What? Where? What kid?"

"Don't look now. But on the other side of me. That old man and the little boy. He TOLD that man what to play, and now he's pushing the buttons and explaining the game! A kid is GAMBLING on that slot machine!"

"Uh. That's a little Asian woman."

WHAT? I tried to use my peripheral vision. I couldn't see very well. But it was, indeed, a little woman. Not a little woman in the sense of a dwarf or little person. Just a small woman. Really small. Like actress Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously. Only a woman, not playing a man. Gambling with a man she referred to as 'Grandpa.'

Nevermind.

Oh, and then I doubled my bet to $1.20 a spin, and hit the money-grabbing bonus for a $47 win. And cashed out, leaving Genius there playing with Gramps and Little Boy Woman.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: Arrival and Departure

When we last convened, Val had managed to confuse 33.3 % of her commenters.

When I booked our "free" room, the lady on the phone said that the dates of our stay did not warrant TWO free nights, only one. But that if another member of our party had a free room comp, we could apply that to our second night, and get it free also.

Of course you know what happened.

We met my sister the ex-mayor's wife and the ex-mayor at valet parking on Sunday afternoon. From there we went to the hotel check-in desk. The lady said that my second night would be $98.00, and I explained that "Marilyn" had told me on the phone that I could use another member of my party's free room comp. Sis presented her mailer with the free room.

Well! That mousy little lady was flabbergasted! "You can't do that. I can't let you use this lady's comp if she's not staying in your room."

Sis told her, "Look. I AM her sister! I'm not some random woman she found in the lobby and asked for her comp. I am staying on my husband's comp, and not using mine. My sister here was told that she could use my comp for her second night."

While Sis and I were haggling with Mousy, Hick and Ex-Mayor and Genius and The Pony hung back like proper menfolk, doing whatever menfolk do, lettin' us gals do the work. They ain't so good with words, those menfolk. I didn't use the teacher-eyes in the back of my head, but I imagined Hick slicing off a plug of tobacco for Ex-Mayor, proffering it to him on the blade of his pocket knife. Genius and The Pony, clad in overalls, no shirts, and no shoes, being seen and not heard. Genius, perhaps, sitting on an overturned washtub, whittling a slingshot, and The Pony stretched out on the floor like a boneless hound dog. Both of them soaking in the words of wisdom of their elders. 

It probably didn't help that Sis was wearing movie star sunglasses because her regular reading glasses were up in her room. Mousy was at an impasse, so we asked for a supervisor. Who was an absolute doll, all take-charge and personable, walking Mousy through what to do in order to get my second night free. Sis and I both signed a paper concerning the transaction. Supervisor acted like it was no big deal. THAT is customer service.

Sooo...I got my free room, we took our stuff upstairs, and then hit the road to visit 4 casinos that evening, before coming back to play at Downstream into the night.

Let's fast-forward here over the other stories so that we can get to checkout time. Sis and Ex-Mayor left on Monday morning after breakfast, but Thevictorians stayed until Tuesday. Hick and Genius were mocking me for wanting to take the room cards to the desk.

"Mom. There's a card drop down by the elevators."

"He's right, Val. I always just leave the cards in the room. They'll know we're gone."

"But if I go to the desk, they'll know right then. They can start cleaning so other people can check in early. WE got to check in at 2:45, and it wasn't supposed to be until 4:00. That saved us time to GAMBLE!"

"Do what you want. You're going to anyway."

"I don't see why it matters if I'm standing at the desk, or standing out front waiting for the valet. Besides, I want to make sure the free room is taken care of."

"Whatever."

Good thing I was selfless like that, wanting future free-stayers to get to gambling quicker. I approached the desk and saw the only person working was a short little bald man who looked like character actor John Fiedler. (He was lawyer J. Noble Daggett in True Grit! And Mr. Peterson on The Bob Newhart Show. And the voice of Piglet in Winnie the Pooh.)

Anyhoo...this guy was not nearly so personable as John Fiedler. He was just a walking poster boy for Little Man Syndrome.

"That will be $112 for your second night. Did you want to leave that charge on your credit card?"

"No. That room was comped. We talked to a supervisor when we checked in. My sister used her comp. We both signed a paper for that transaction." I gave all pertinent details concerning names, room numbers, and dates.

Not-John-Fiedler was getting pissier by the moment. He strutted around behind a partition. Came back to the computer. Huffed a couple of times. And dragged a long milk crate kind of bin out from under the counter. He thumbed through about 100 papers, and found the two signed by Sis and me.

"Oh. So your sister SIGNED for the room, even though she didn't STAY in it?"

I should have just told him she did stay in it, that we separated the gals from the menfolk. But I didn't think of it. What's their problem, anyway? They had six of us in two rooms, spending money hand over fist in their casino, and paying for food in three of their restaurants. That's why they GIVE free rooms, right? To bring you in to spend your money?

"We were told by a supervisor that the room would be comped." I have learned not to engage with a person having a snit fit. Just stick to the facts. And repeat them. Often.

"You know, I have no way of knowing this. There is nothing in the computer about it."

"The supervisor told the girl how to put it in the computer. You have the paperwork we signed right there."

"I'll take care of it." Not-John-Fielder threw up his tiny arms in exasperation. As I walked away, I heard him muttering.

I told Sis that we'll probably BOTH be charged, and Not-John-Fiedler will destroy that paperwork. Maybe I should have asked for a copy.

But other than THAT...the facility was beautiful, and we had great time, and I can't wait for my next free offer to go back.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Casinopalooza 2: The Beginning

My sister the ex-mayor's wife and I started planning Casinopalooza 2 immediately after we returned from the original Casinopalooza. Actually...the planning started at breakfast on the last day of Casinopalooza. We both came back with excess cash. It was just a matter of working around everybody's schedule. Even though Hick was the only one of us four actually working.

With Genius heading off to a summer job again at Garmin two weeks after finals, he only had two weekends available, and chose the first one. A fly in the ointment was the fact that he is second university photographer, and would be taking pictures of the graduation ceremony on Saturday. We arranged to pick him up on Sunday, and meet up that afternoon with Sis and the ex-mayor, who were going to Oklahoma (no banjos on their knees) on Saturday. The Pony would drive in from the other side of Oklahoma to meet us there.

Two weeks before our trip, casino offers were rolling in every day. Sis said her mailman probably imagined them to be high rollers. She said the ex-mayor had a free hotel offer at a certain casino. We did not, but she said it wasn't good for Saturdays, so they could only use one night of it, but since we'd be there on Monday night, too, that we could use hers for Sunday night and Monday night.

THEN...a couple days later, we both got offers from a bigger casino. TWO free nights! For both of us. The ex-mayor, Sis, and I all got an offer. Hick did not. That's because he somehow lost his player's card, probably left it in the first machine he played. Because I KNOW he got a card. He got the free play, and the $10 in free food voucher.

Anyhoo...the ex-mayor called and reserved their room for Saturday night and Sunday night. Sis wanted me to call and get our room and let her know which of the two towers we were in. She said that the lady Ex-M talked to was very polite. "She told him he had the Buffalo Promotion. He also got a free spa treatment, and $30 in free play, and a free buffet. He says it's because he was so good at that Buffalo game. Remember? With his $7 free play? He kept winning and winning."

Yes. I remembered. I did not do as well. But I won $500 on a single play as Hick and I were getting ready to leave that night. I called about our reservations for Sunday night and Monday night. Well! I obviously did not get the same customer service rep as Ex-M.

"Hello. I got a card in the mail offering a free stay, and I'd like to reserve a room."

"How do you know you have a free stay?"

"It's on a postcard from your casino that I got in the mail."

"Have you ever even PLAYED in our casino."

"Yes. That's how I got the card."

"Do you have a player's card?"

"Yes. That's how they knew to send me the postcard with the offers."

"Do you play here a lot?"

"No. I live in Missouri. I've only been there once. But I wanted to come back, and use this free stay."

"OH! All right. What is the code on your card?"

"DEER3."

"What nights do you want?"

"Sunday the 14th and Monday the 15th."

"Oh. I will have to charge you for the second night."

"Why? My card says it's good for THREE nights per week!"

"Yes. Did you read the fine print? You have three offers per week. One is good Sunday-Thursday. One is for Friday. And one is for Saturday."

"I see something at the bottom, but I'll need a magnifying glass. I'll take your word for it."

"Are you traveling with anybody else? Do they have a player's card? You can use their comp for the second night."

"Just my husband. He has a player's card, but I don't have the number."

"What's his name? Did he GET a player's card? I don't see anything on him."

"He got a player's card, and the free play, and the food voucher."

"Well, I don't see his name anywhere here. There's no record of him playing. Anybody else?"

"No."

"Do you have a military discount? Or AAA?"

"Yes. We have AAA."

"I can give you a discount. If you decide you don't want the second night, notify the desk before noon on that day. Or if you find somebody else in your party with a comp, we can apply that."

SOOO...as of now (writing this the night before we left for Casinopalooza 2) the plan is to use Sis's room comp for our second night. Since they are using Ex-M's for their Saturday session and Sunday-Thursday session. She IS a member of my party, you know. Worst they can do is tell us no, and things stay the same.

Oh, yeah. And Sis had a code of ELK2 on her comp mailer. Pretty sure I'm the low critter in that hierarchy. DEER --> ELK --> BUFFALO. But one thing I know for sure. Ex-M did not get his offers for being really good at that Buffalo game. He got them due to the money he put through those machines. They desperately want him back, because you can't win all the time, you know.

Even though I like to imagine that I can.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Where, Oh Where, Did My Little Dog Almost Go?

The day after my conniption fit over Jack having access to the pool, Hick put the new gate on the steps going down to Poolio, and the handrail, too. It looked pretty good.

"Your dog doesn't like the gate."

"Of course not! You're keeping him from a swim."

"He don't like it at all. He stood there and watched me while I was working on the rail."

"Good. Now he can't get down there."

"I still need to put a latch on it, but I have to go buy one later. I'll put it on tomorrow. It's fine. You can close it."

So all was right with my Jack-populated world. Until I went upstairs at 3:00 a.m., and tossed in a load of laundry, and looked out the laundry room door.

THE GATE WAS GAPPED OPEN EXACTLY ONE JACK-WIDTH!!!

My heart started racing. I turned on the back porch light and scanned the pool for a tiny bedraggled long body. The mood of the townspeople shooting the cannon to raise the bodies of Tom and Huck couldn't have held a McDougal's Cave stubby candle to the sadness in Val's heart at that thought. Thankfully, Poolio was clear of Val's best friend! I pushed that gate closed and planned on giving Hick a piece of my mind the next morning.

Here is a picture I recreated in daylight. You can even see the latch (still in package) laying on the rail beside the gate.


Hick didn't know how the gate got open. It doesn't just swing out. It's pretty stiff. I guess Jack or Juno could have nudged it open.

Here's the gate later that day, complete with latch, and Jack looking for a way down.


 Do you think that Hick tempting the dogs with his supper has anything to do with it?



Now I just have to convince Hick that we also need steps and a gate from the yard onto the deck, like the old-style deck. I don't think he'll want to walk all the way up and through the house and back around the yard or down the basement steps to get to the filter. Besides, what if there's an emergency with someone in the pool? And what if he invites HOS and family over to swim? Going up on the porch to get down to the pool is kind of awkward.

At least the boys and I kept him from his original plan of putting a slide down at the end of the porch, where the dogs are in that last picture, as the only way down to the pool from the porch. The boys used to climb over the rail and onto the back of a plastic bench that held the skimmer and other doodads. Hick did not.

Now that I know Jack is safe...I would pronounce the new deck a success. I think we'll call him Deckster.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

DANGER! Jack Thevictorian!

When we last convened, Hick had pretty much finished the new pool deck. The sun was setting, and he'd gone off, unbeknownst to me, to HOS's place up on the hill. I was minding my own business, walking in the driveway per my evening routine, when Hick and HOS roared into the BARn field on Gator and 4-wheeler. HOS's missus was with them, and his boy young 'un, who is seven.

I finished walking and sat on the porch pew to be sociable. HOS had been assisting Hick with the deck as needed. They were off fiddle-fartin' around in the BARn. HOSMS didn't know what they were doing. I asked her if she'd seen the deck and the steps, just finished that day. She walked around to have a look, and agreed that it looked like a professional job. For around here, anyway.


"I guess they're getting the gate ready, now. It's going to be dark before long."

"They didn't mention a gate. But I guess they could be."

"He can't leave it OPEN like that! Jack'll get down there. As much as he likes water, I'm afraid he'll jump in the pool. He'd drown! The ladder is out, and the water's too low for him to get his paws up on the side."

"Yeah. He wouldn't be able to get out."

"That dog jumps in EVERYTHING! The fish pond, the creek, the goat's water bucket..."

"He always gets in our creek when he comes up to our house. He's always wet."

"I better say something about that gate. He can't leave it open."

I had to get supper, and HOSMS had to get back home for Sonny's bath time. It was a school night. When Hick came in the house for supper, I asked him about the gate.

"I didn't have time to do the gate. I'll work on it tomorrow."

"You can't leave it open! Jack will get in the pool and drown!"

"No! He's not that stupid. Now...if he could reach his head down and drink some of the water...then I think he might jump in. But the water's too far down. He won't do that."

"You'd better be right! Because if I get up in the morning, and my little dog is floating dead in that pool after struggling all night to get out...YOU'LL be the one scooping out his little limp body, and you'll never hear the end of it from me!"

The next morning, I saw that Hick had put the old gate up as a makeshift blockade to keep Jack from the pool.


Good enough for me. I didn't think he'd try to take a high dive through that gap in the rail.


The new gate is up now. But a gate is only as good as the gateKEEPER.
Which is tomorrow's story.

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Let the record show that the comments will be hung up until I am back on the innernets Tuesday night. You can still leave them, and I will post them and answer them then.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Deck That Hick Built

Hick does not live by shacks alone. Hick's Shackytown is smoldering on the back burner now. He's almost done with the railroad car shack, except for painting. But that's not a gleam in his eye anymore. He's graduated to more expensive projects now that he's decided he's going to fully retire. I'm pretty sure that's his goal. Minimum money in, and maximum money out.

Because we (and by WE, I mean Hick, and last year a couple of times, The Pony) use Poolio for refreshing recreation so often during the two months that he's got warm enough and clean enough water...Hick decided that we HAD TO HAVE a new pool deck. Okay. So the old one WAS rotting through on a couple of boards. But since I never get on the deck, I don't see the urgency.

Anyhoo...one thing I'll admit about Hick: he's a pretty good amateur carpenter.

First, he had to tear out the old deck and start laying boards for the new one. Which he made bigger. And added steps down from the porch, instead of up from the yard.


That's a view taken from the back porch, off the laundry room and kitchen area.


As you can see, dark of night did not stop Hick's progress.


Hick's deck wasn't built in a day...but all of this part was. The rail and boards.


Then the floods came, and about the only thing that was accomplished for a week was getting enough rain pumped off of Poolio to remove his cover. Look away! He's hideous!


Hick finished this part in one day, too. The rest of the deck boards, and the steps.


In this photo, the sun was setting, and the rail was yet to come. Which is tomorrow's story!