Thursday, June 30, 2016

And If You Try Sometime, You Just Might Find, He Says What He Needs

When I was just L'il Val, I had a pet miniature poodle. Of course he was a pet. It's not like he was livestock, or a blood relative. Buster was a black ball of fluff until he got his summer haircut, and then appeared svelte and dapper, prancing through the kitchen, click-clicking his newly-trimmed toenails, with red ribbons tied on each side of his head to give him "dog ears." If you were a girl in the 70s, you know what I mean.

Let the record show that Buster was an Einstein of the dog world. So easy to teach tricks. Recognizing many words, leading to his downfall when one wanted to get rid of him and said, "Is GRANDMA here?" Off he'd run to the front door to wait for my mom's mom to come in. Even when she wasn't coming. Sometimes, Buster would get embarrassed by the old throw the ball but hold it trick, and lay down and put his head under the couch. He knew all of his toys by name, and would trot off to find them when you asked. Ball and Bone were his favorites, orange in color, and smelling of vanilla.

My sweet, sweet Juno is smart in a working dog kind of way. You might say she has yard smarts. Juno sees little need to run after a tossed item and bring it back. She will run sniff it, just in case she's missing something, but she returns empty-mouthed. She's also an accomplished thief, with a doghouse containing all but one of Puppy Jack's toys.

I didn't think Puppy Jack was going to be all that smart. He couldn't seem to master going down the porch steps, choosing instead to leap, stretched out like Superman, off the porch right beside the steps, a distance of about 3 feet into the lava rock that surrounds Hick's rock garden. In addition, he chose to spend his first nights free of his hutch (oh, who are we kidding, EVERY night since he was freed from his hutch) sleeping over on the gravel road in front of Shackytown, some nights up inside the undercarriage of the Gator, even though there are two perfectly good nearly-new store-bought doghouses on the end of the porch. Some days (okay, most days) he won't even come when he's called. At first I thought he might have a hearing problem, but if I was holding him when The Pony started out the door with his food, he heard the faintest snick of the doorknob turning, and tried to thrash himself out of my grip. That dog loves to eat.

Monday, I came home from my DMV mission around 11:30 a.m. I slung my ratty 20-year-old cracked-leather-handled brown purse over my forearm, grabbed my precious 44 oz Diet Coke in that hand, and stepped out of the garage to the side porch. There was Puppy Jack, looking like an abandoned canine orphan. He does that at the side porch. Gets the sad look, ears laid back. Maybe it's trauma from cat-bullying. They hang out there.

I reached up into the cat-kibble roaster pan and picked up three little pieces for Jack. He has to watch his figure, you know, or he can get long-back trouble. That dog will eat anything he can find that is remotely edible. He snarfed up the kibble almost before it was out of my hand. I went up the steps and past Gassy-G the auction grill, rounded the corner past Juno's custom-made house, and put my hand on the kitchen doorknob.

Jack had trotted along behind me. He started around the curved, windowed, table nook part of the house, toward the dogs' food pans. He looked hopefully at me, over his shoulder.

"Oh, Puppy Jack! You silly thing! I'm NOT feeding you any more!"

Jack went around the corner, and as I opened the door, he came back. Looked at me. Turned to head back to the food pans, looking at me over his shoulder again. Persistent little fellow! I went inside, and had not even passed the front counter when I heard Jack barking outside the laundry room. "Arf! Arf! Arf! Arf! Arf!" In his little puppy voice. Where we keep the big metal trash can filled with dogfood.

"Pony! Do you hear Jack? Maybe something is out there on the back porch. A possum again. Or a neighbor's dog. Or he's just barking for me to feed him." The Pony ran upstairs to check it out while I double-cupped my 44 oz Diet Coke and began preliminary preparations for a plate of Super Nachos.

"Nothing there. I guess he DOES want food."

"Wait! That's my phone. Your dad always picks the worst time to text me. Huh. He says, 'I did not feed Jack this morning.' THAT'S what he's doing! Telling us he didn't get breakfast. Go feed him, Pony."

More on this little chow-hound tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Easier Than Pie

Yesterday, I hot-footed it over to the DMV to renew T-Hoe's license plates. Hick has a habit of foisting these things on me at the last minute. I don't mind, mind you, because I you say...retired never working another day in my life! But there's no need for Hick to take that little renewal postcard and hoard it somewhere secret and then trot it out with only a couple days to spare.

Normally, Hick takes care of these things at work. Well, not at work, that would be cheating his employer of honest work for an honest day's pay. I mean he takes the card and vehicle to work that day, has it inspected during the morning, having somebody drop him at the plant, then drop him off to pick up that vehicle at lunch. AND he goes by the DMV near his work to get the license. I know, because I have to dig up the past two years' tax receipts, and give him a check. He's not allowed to carry the checkbook. Laws, NO! M-O-O-N! That spells, "Val has enough trouble keeping track of Hick's debit card transactions, and she's not about to let him roam the countryside with a book of checks, not writing down numbers or saving receipts!"

So anyway, Hick gave me the renewal postcard, and then asked me if I had the inspection certificate. WHAT? Val is NOT the Queen of All Documents! Turns out Hick had T-Hoe inspected while the service department was working on his assorted faulty systems during our Oklahoma trip. He had foisted a handful of paperwork on me (actually left it on T-Hoe's passenger seat) when we picked him up Saturday morning. So he found that, and I grabbed the receipts, whipped out my proof of insurance, and headed for the DMV bright and early (for me) at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

It's no hardship, you see. The local DMV is only a few blocks past the gas station chicken store. And I've been known to drop in there on occasion. The DMV is also behind the dead-mouse-smelling post office, where I needed to pick up some stamps. Keeping Genius in Chinese food money and scratch-off tickets every week is quite stamp-consuming. However...since the dead-mouse-smelling clerks have a penchant for changing their lunch hours all willy-nilly...I missed the stamp-buying window by five minutes. That's because The Pony looked up their hours online and said they were closed from 10:30 to 12:30, so I gave up, when in reality I could have stopped by there FIRST, and gotten my stamps before they closed at 11:00, which was on a printed piece of paper taped to the inside of their door.

Anyhoo...I pulled into the parking lot of the DMV and saw that my usual space was available. The one on the end, so I can cheat over the line and not have a car plastered up against my driver's door so I have to squeeze myself tiny like Tim Allen in a no-chimney-house in The Santa Clause to leave and enter my vehicle. There were a lot of cars on the lot, but by the time I had put T-Hoe in "P" and grabbed my purse, THREE people were on the way back to their cars.

I went inside and didn't even have to go around the corner to the counter. In fact, I didn't even have to tear a number off the dispenser. The girl sitting at the window just inside the door said, "What can we do for you?" I wasn't sure she was even talking to me. She had her head turned to look where I couldn't see, in the area where the other two (standing) clerks were stationed. Then she swiveled her head to look at me, and I said, "I'm here to renew my license plate." I laid my paperwork on her counter and handed her T-Hoe's renewal card.

There was a chair for me, but I didn't sit. It was brown leather or fake leather, cracked, torn, and taped. I didn't want to risk that chair pinching my ample buttocks. I guess the low bid process of assigning contracts to Missouri DMVs means that corners and possibly butt cheeks must be cut. Here's how they do it in MO:

The Missouri Department of Revenue currently oversees 177 license offices which are each operated by independent agents. All of the license offices were put out for bid under the competitive procurement process in 2009. Contracts were awarded for one year with three one-year renewal options. The move toward a competitive procurement process of the license offices overhauled the way local motor vehicle and driver license offices are awarded and was one of the first actions of Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration.

I didn't really have time to sit down, anyway. The minute I handed her the card, she said, "Safety inspection." I pushed that over. "Tax receipts for 14 and 15." I fumbled to get them out of their tiny envelopes. "Proof of insurance." Had it ready. "Did you say 2-year?" I didn't, but I said I did. One less trip to the DMV. "Seventy-three fifty. Write your driver's license number on the check."

Whoa! Shouldn't SHE do that? What if I lied? I could have scribbled any ol' number on there! THEY are the ones who gave me the horrific picture on my driver's license! I think THEY should have to look at that hideous thing. So what if I hear a sharp intake of breath, and then she says, "That's quite breathtaking." She brought it on her own self, having that camera set up wrong so my bloated head fills the whole picture part like a balloon about to pop.

Why was this gal acting like she was in a hurry? It's the freakin' DMV, for cryin' out loud! Since when does time mean anything at the DMV? The place where they normally send the average person back home 2-3 times before they decide they have the right paperwork.

"Sign here. There you go." She shoved all of my documents back at me. I swear she was tapping her foot, waiting for me to leave. I didn't even have time to put my driver's license back in my checkbook, or my tax receipts back in their tiny envelopes. I got a firm grip on my bundle of documents, and got out while the gettin' was good.

It's like I was in some bizarro universe, getting ready to drive back home on the highway to my son The Nopy, and text my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Label.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Maybe It Wasn't Alive, But It Was the Next Best Thing(s)

Crazy ol' Val here again with her repeating theme.

As you might have heard, Hick and I took The Pony to Oklahoma last Tuesday for a freshman orientation camp. It was my first time out there, though Hick has taken The Pony on a campus visit before. You know, when he took those pictures of scenery, with a miniscule Pony in the middle.

We were nearly there, perhaps an hour out of Norman on I-40, headed toward our turnoff to keep us out of Oklahoma City, but who's keeping time on a 10-hour drive, anyway? I was struck by the remoteness of the town. Hours across the middle of nowhere. My precious Pony might as well be on the moon, so far away he will be. No short trips home for an hour or two on a Saturday, like Genius has graced us with his occasional presence. My heart was heavy, but I did not want my percolating grief to bubble over, for The Pony's sake. It was his week. A time to be excited about this new adventure upon which he is about to embark.

It's no secret that I am having trouble letting go. If I could, I would lasso my little Pony with my apron strings, and hog-tie him so he can't get away. As I contemplated my near future with my empty nest, tears welled up. I held them in pretty good. So many thoughts rushing through my mind. I had to stop, before those tears overflowed. I looked out at the countryside. We were passing a billboard divided into three panels.

The middle one was a ladybug on a leaf.

Such a coincidence, huh? I'm not sure what that billboard was even advertising. I had not looked at most of them, so wrapped up in my thoughts for so many miles. In retrospect, it was probably for the Myriad Botanical Gardens ladybug release coming up in July. I did some digging with my estranged BFF Google a few minutes ago, and found that event. But at the time, all I could think of was, "A ladybug! Okay. Everything will work out. Calm down."

We went on into Norman and got our room, then went to dinner. We had that night with The Pony before dropping him off at the campus Wednesday morning. He sent me a text within 10 minutes, a picture of the room he was staying in, because I'd asked him to. I just replied OK, and left him alone. I couldn't help but wonder how his day was going. But I didn't intrude. He would communicate if he wanted to. I wasn't going to horn in on his camp time.

That evening, I sat on The Devil's Throne at my laptop trying to soak up enough free high-speed internet to get my money's worth. The TV was on, and Hick had gone to pick up Personal Pan Pizzas for supper. I was waiting for the 2-hour premiere of Big Brother at 7:00, a little sad that The Pony was not going to be able to watch it with me. We look forward to its return every summer. My mom was a big fan, too. I'd call her on commercials to complain about those houseguests. And after the show, to rehash what they should have done. Then I'd call her the next day to share spoilers with her that I saw on Big Brother After Dark, or on my reality TV websites. The Pony is not one to enjoy spoilers. We had set the DVR to record it, but I was NOT going to miss the premiere. It's BIG BROTHER, by cracky!

I made sure I could find CBS on the hotel TV network. The numbers on the guide were not always the numbers of the channel. The Pony and I had figured that out the night before. So I was scrolling through around 6:50, looking for CBS, when I happened upon a documentary channel. I don't know what that documentary was about, but it was going off. The credits were rolling, with an inset of a dude sitting on top of a slide attached to a plastic playset at a playground. He was talking about how things were better now, and he was enjoying life.

As he spoke to the camera, he held out his hand to show a ladybug crawling up his finger.

Sometimes, Val wonders if she is going off the deep end.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Night Not Safe for Man nor Beasts. But Especially Beasts.

It was 8 hours and 40 minutes into our 10-hour drive home from Oklahoma that the bullcrap hit the fanbelt.

Hick and I held it together through the afternoon rush hour traffic coming out of Oklahoma City. Forged an uneasy truce through nondescript countryside and off-and-on construction along I-40 toward Fort Smith. Hick did not want to take the turnpike, and as a non-highway driver, who was I to object? We turned north onto I-49 near Fort Smith, and together marveled at the beautiful Boston Mountains. Still cordial, we joked as we crossed into Missouri after I-49 turned into US-71, because a town there had the same name as my sister the ex-mayor's wife. Even the downpour once we made a right onto I-44 near Joplin did not lead to disparaging words.

We settled down for the long haul. Hick said he was fine to drive straight through. Our ETA back at the homestead was 1:50 a.m. I counted mile markers. It's pretty ridiculous for Missouri to spend my tax dollars to pound a signpost every .2 miles with a shiny green rectangle announcing that I have just progressed another two-tenths mile towards my destination. Seriously. I remember when a mile marker meant just that. A MILE between each marker. Oklahoma and Arkansas are more cost-conscious with their road labels.

It was just outside the city limits of Steelville that the bullcrap hit the fanbelt. Hick thought he should drive 70 mph on the 55 mph two-lane blacktop. Aside from it being against the law, it was 12:30 in the freakin' a.m. Nobody needs to drive that fast in the dark on that road after already driving 8 hours and 40 minutes with a couple of pit stops for gas and potty. I expressed my desire to live.

"You need to slow down. You're driving too fast for the conditions."

"YOU need to lean that seat back and have a nap."

"No. I want to SEE how you kill me."

Just then I saw two green eyes shining at me from the ditch on the left side of the road, with a glimpse of a humpy body as the headlights passed over it.

"Did you see that deer?"


"I'm glad he didn't jump out in front of us!"

"Yeah, which is why I've been telling you to slow down. You don't have time to react going this fast."


"SEE? You're driving over the center line! You're too tired, and it's too dark to go this fast!"

"VAL. I drive on the center line in the daytime."



"What was THAT? You just ran over something! It was black. Right in the middle of the road, and you hit it!"

 "It was a raccoon, Val. What did you want me to do, swerve off the road to go around it?"

"No. But if you were going slower, you might have seen it and had time. Or it would have had time to get out of the way."

"I'm not going too fast. These things happen. Animals get on the road."

We were about a half mile past the raccoon crossing, descending toward the canoeing campground at the bottom of the valley, when we passed a guy and a girl standing in the ditch on my right. Kind of leaning back against the grassy hill.

"What was THAT all about? That's creepy! Why are they standing there at midnight?"

"I don't know, Val. Maybe they walked up from the campground."

"But WHY? Unless...they were looking for their pet raccoon!"

We headed up the winding road on the other side of the river, climbing out of the valley.


"DANG IT! You just did it again! What was THAT?"

"A raccoon, Val."

"You hit another raccoon!"

"I didn't kill it."

"No. Not yet. Now he's going to die a slow, lingering death."

"He was layin' in the road dead, Val. I just ran over him."

"Well...THAT was inconsiderate of him."

"Those were some big raccoons!"

"You're tellin' ME! And the undercarriage!"

"Look! There's another one! At the edge of the road!"

"He'd better turn and run the other way, if he knows what's good for him."

The Pony huffed and threw off the fleece blanket he'd had pulled up to his chin for the last hour.

"Why the long face? You just woke up?"

"No. I've BEEN awake all this time. I was TRYING to sleep."

"Well. I imagine it was pretty hard with that giant raccoon carcass bumping up under your seat."


"I TOLD you, I'm going to see how you kill me. And I WILL come back to haunt you. Don't think that I won't. Death will not silence ME!"

It seems we suffered from a bout of car-cabin fever on that never-ending drive. Though not as much as southeast Missouri's raccoon population.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Slap On, Slap Off...THE SLAPPER!

Do you all realize how lucky you are to be reading Val's blog this week? She could have been cooling her heels in the hoosegow. Chillin' with villains and felons. A guest at the Crossbars Hilton. Locked up, with the key disposed of per environmentally-friendly trash service and landfill rules.


"Oh, Val," you say. "Why must you be so dramatic? Everything you do is not a major incident. The world is not as Valcentric as you would like."

Seriously. I could have been arrested for battery at the casino. Here's how it went down.

I had just sat down to play a quarter slot machine called Lucky Duck. It was a 3-reel machine, with a bonus when you hit a Lucky Ducky anywhere visible, not just on the payline. Apparently there were three different kinds of Lucky Ducks, but I couldn't tell them apart in my spinning frenzy. Every now and then, that machine would go crazy and give free spins. I guess if you hit a special duck. AND, sometimes a screen popped up on top with little yellow rubber duckies swimming along.

Hick had told me about playing one of these games. He tried to pick a duck, like the screen said, but nothing happened. And a guy next to him said he had to push a button first. I don't know about Hick and his buddy, but I reached up to poke a duck, and it turned over, and some points wafted out of him. I got to pick three ducks, and their total was my bonus. Simple enough, but I didn't know why it was doing that. I figured I'd just keep spinning the reels (no crank on this machine) and poke the ducks when I got a chance.

I had only put one $20 bill in the machine, and was getting along swimmingly. I was a lucky duck! I was pushing the PLAY MAX CREDITS button, to play 3 credits, or three quarters per spin. All at once, a Lucky Duck appeared, and my machine took to spinning on its own. FIVE free spins! And then the swimming ducks showed up on the top display. Of course a slot machine makes noise when you win something, because the casino wants to trick other idiots into feeding their no-armed bandits money. During my free spins, quite a cacophony emanated from my Lucky Duck

A little old lady came up behind me, and said, "Oh, what you do?" She was short, with a round face and black hair, and either foreign (like perhaps Asian or Mexican) or Native American (which would make ME foreign, I suppose), because she talked with an accent, or some kind of inflection different than what flyover midwestern Val is accustomed to hearing in the heartland.

"I really don't know what I'm doing, but I think I'm doing pretty good!"

Let the record show that the majority of people playing in casinos don't want to make chit-chat. It's one thing if you're filling your free soda (the horror--Oklahoma seems to be in cahoots with PEPSI instead of Coke) or waiting in line, or eating at the food court. But when you're playing, you don't want to be bothered. Maybe you're counting losing spins, so you know when to up your bet to max when the odds are in favor of a payoff. So you don't just walk up to people and start blathering. But Val is a people person, as you well know! So she was polite and responded to Little Lady.

WELL! The thanks I got for being nice was that Little Lady reached around my shoulder and HIT THE 'SPIN REELS' BUTTON ON MY MACHINE!!!

I reacted by flinging up my arm. Kind of like my mom used to do if she had to slam on the brakes when I was a toddler riding in our pink and white 1956 Chevy Bel Air sedan, standing on the front seat beside her. It's a reflex. So when Little Lady pushed my button, my arm automatically raised up quickly without my conscious thought, and knocked her arm and hand off my button.

"Don't touch my machine!"

I didn't scream at her. But I wanted her to know that I did not appreciate her touch. You can't have people walking up all willy-nilly in a casino and pushing your buttons. That is a really bad casino faux pas. I share this tale to educate you on proper casinoquette.

Little Lady looked at me kind of quizzically. But I had made my point. I chatted with her a bit more, just to show that there were no hard feelings.

She said, "I think that what you do. To pick ducks."

"But mine were already turning over when I touched them."

Problem was, she pushed that SPIN REELS button, which was for playing 1 credit. I was afraid that would negate my 3-credit play that had landed me in the bonus. She could have cut my profit by TWO-THIRDS! I don't think she did. I happened to win $150 on that spin. So everything was good.

I'm surprised that security didn't see my actions on the spy cams, and come to escort me out into the 99-degree heat while Hick continued to lose the money I gave him, while sipping free Diet Pepsi all the live-long day.

Let the record show that even after Hick met up with me right before leaving time, and I told him about Little Lady's transgression, I'll be ding-dang-donged if he didn't do the exact same thing! I was trying to finish up at a penny machine, and Hick reached over my shoulder and PUSHED THE PLAY 5 CREDITS BUTTON!!! Of course my arm did the exact same thing it did to Little Lady, only this time it was my left arm.

"Don't you hit my hand off your button!" Hick actually thought HE was in the right! What is wrong with people? If security had come, I would have denied knowing Hick, and complained the he put his hands where they didn't belong (technically true) and let them tote him away to their lock-up.

So there's my gambling tale of almost hitting an old lady (who was probably younger than me), and violently fending off Hick's unwanted touch.

It's a good thing Val carries her lawyer's card with her at all times.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Museum of Natural Misery

All gambling and no learning make Val a happy gal.

Hick seems to have a vendetta against Val's happiness. It is not enough that Val funds his gaming bankroll with hard-won stashes from her own endeavors. And that she is perfectly agreeable to him going out on his own, exploring Goodwills and thrift stores and antique shops. Val would be perfectly happy (SO much about Val is perfect) sitting in the hotel room with her books and internet, chillin' in the air conditioning, plenty of ice water and a bathroom at her disposal. A vacation, of sorts, from catering to the feeding and upkeep of her helpless males.

No, that freedom is not enough for Hick. He must drag Val along, in the 99-degree heat, to walk ten steps behind him and participate in things that do not interest her at all.

Let the record show that Hick DID attempt to appease Val's wishes Thursday morning, the plan being to head to the casino after breakfast, stay until money ran out, have some lunch, and return Val to the hotel. Then Hick would be on his own to explore the city. However...the universe had other ideas.

We got up a half hour later because that's when Hick set his alarm. On the way to the casino, we encountered heavy traffic, so much that we took the first available exit from the highway entrance ramp line. A semi truck had just been involved in an accident, burst into flames, and blocked the only way to the casino! Well. Only way, unless we drove 30 miles out of the way to get there, then 30 miles back. We could have gone to a whole new casino for that distance. Don't you worry about the truck driver. Nobody suffered serious injury, BUT the highway was blocked until after evening rush hour, due to hazmat cleanup crews.

Since it was only 10:15 a.m., Hick decided that we should tour the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Let the record show that Hick had placed that on his exploring itinerary for the day. I figured he would take me back to the hotel, see his sights, and then come back so we could try the casino again. Hick, however, said we would tour the museum, then try the casino again. (I didn't know until late afternoon when I checked the internet traffic reports what had happened on the highway.)

Val does not dislike museums. Val's knees dislike standing. So Hick was well aware that this educational outing was not Val's cup of Diet Coke. Still, he insisted. I'm sure I don't even have to mention that Hick did NOT drop me off at the entrance, but drove merrily to the parking lot, even two spaces farther from the entrance than necessary, and waited impatiently for Val to peel her sweaty butt from A-Cad's leather seat and extract her knees from the car.

Off Hick went, at break-knee speed, down the sidewalk to the first street that needed crossing. He stopped, and in true Hick fashion, took this picture with his phone:

Maybe you can see it, there in the center...a buffalo! A fake buffalo. On the corner across from the entrance to the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. We crossed that street, and then another street, and walked across the vast front pavement to the door. There were numerous commemorative stones bearing names of the museum's benefactors paved right into the pavement.

Again, in true Hick fashion, he told the lady at the desk we wanted two tickets. Without asking the price. Val is not a miser, but she likes to know the price before she purchases something like...oh...I don't know...maybe some $1000 inserts from The Good Feet Store, or a secret new lawnmower. "Sixteen dollars," the lady said. Huh. We could have cut that down to $8 if Hick had let Val sit in the car. But with the temperature at 99 degrees, he probably would have been on the news that night, second story, after the casino-highway-truck fire.

The lady explained the main exhibits, suggested where we should start, and what direction to follow. We meandered to and fro, taking in the history of life and its Earthly beginnings, up through critters crawling out of the ocean and developing legs, as well as the increasing complexity of plant life and the classification of species. Then there was a room about plate tectonics and fossil dating. Pretty much the stuff I've been teaching for oh...let's see...28 YEARS!

We DID see the progression of Oklahoma's native people, with different fossil finds and arrowhead points. That was the best part. Also not-too-shabby was this mammoth statue:

Heh, heh. It was a mammoth statue of a MAMMOTH, by cracky! Here's a little story about the trouble it took to get it in there.

We also took the elevator with the glass back up to the second floor, so we could look down on the dinosaur exhibit:

Hick made me stand around for an hour and 45 minutes! I told him I would be unable to walk through the casino after that workout. My knees ain't what they used to be. I was breaking out in a cold pain sweat by the time we left, despite sitting a couple of times on their really low padded benches, which kind of added to the problem. His answer: "Well, you'll be mostly sitting, there." EXACTLY! And why I would rather be sitting there than standing looking at stuff (some diagrams were the exact same ones I had in my textbooks) I have taught for 28 years.

Maybe the next time we go somewhere, I can arrange for Hick to tour a saw-blade factory.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Devil's Throne

Val misses her dark basement lair.

My nightly blog posts have been coming to you from the Holiday Inn Express. Don't get me started on this one. Though new, it can't hold a candle to the one in Columbia, Missouri. Anyhoo...I miss my dark basement lair. The heater that burns my foot-skin through my Croc-holes. The close proximity to my go-fer, The Pony, on his cheap basement couch. My best old Christmas present ever, my red office chair.

Even though my red office chair is starting to lose the plastic off its metal arms, it is quite comfortable. Just the right height. Adjustable if my back is tweaked from being an old lady. The chair provided by the Holiday Inn Express is also adjustable. If you dare.

Take a gander at this contraption:

Oh, it's modern. It's visually appealing. With easy upkeep. But it is not functional for Val. Those wheels ain't made for rollin'. Not on carpet, anyway. You'd best have that baby right up to where you want it, and turn it sideways to sit, then pivot your legs under the desk. Because you ain't goin' nowhere if you try to roll. Also, that leather or fake-leather or pleather or whatever it is makes your butt sweat.

But the most dangerous and annoying quality of this chair is that if you lean back just the least little bit, IT TRIES TO TURN OVER BACKWARDS! Uh huh. Just get your center of gravity back a tiny bit, and over you go! Or at least you FEEL like you're going over. It happens when you sit down, too. So you must be extra cautious, or put it up against the bed, and then try to make those five wheels roll you to the desk. I do not advise that method. You probably need a teenage boy called The Pony to stand behind you and make sure it doesn't tip over. But don't ask him to adjust the chair with that shiny lever that you can't see down below the right arm. He will tell you he doesn't want to mess with it and risk throwing you out of the chair.

I call this ill-conceived contraption THE DEVIL'S THRONE.

I think Hick would agree.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

High Roller Val and Her Chauffeur, Crumpledstubskin

Perhaps you've heard that Val enjoys a bit of gambling every now and then. What better time to hit the casino than when she's on a holding pattern in Oklahoma, waiting for The Pony to finish his freshman orientation camp? Especially when Riverwind Casino is just down the road, and Hick is here to drive her.

We dropped off The Pony with a fluffy pillow, and a full suitcase on wheels, and headed 15 minutes down I-35 to Riverwind Casino. Let the record show that Val did not have high hopes. No delusions of winning. After all, she rarely wins in Missouri casinos, and the Oklahoma casinos operated by the Indian Nations are unregulated. They can set their slots at zero payback if they so desire. The reviews left on various sites did nothing to pump Val with enthusiasm. Still! It's a CASINO!

Hick pulled into a the closest lot, with just a few cars, very near the door. I was sure it was the lot for valet parking, because there was a concrete barrier at the end closest to the door. AND about 60% of the parking spots were labeled with handicap signs. I was sure Hick needed to get out of that lot before security-in-a-Gator turned on their sirens.

Hick pointed out to poor simple Val that he was NOT in the wrong spot. As he backed up from the concrete barrier, he further pontificated that he was pretty sure valet parking would not let a man walk to his own car and back it out of the parking space Hick was now headed for. AND that space was one of three on that side of the lot that did not have a handicap sign.

"It's fine, Val. Nothing says we can't park here. And it's as close as we're going to get to the door."

Let the record show that the temperature was 99 degrees. And that Hick never once considered dropping Val off at the door. Off a cliff, maybe. But not off at the door. So we parked in that just-vacated spot, and headed inside. I was quite impressed with the bathrooms, so large and full of stalls and tastefully decorated with stone and tile. The free soda fountain was not so welcoming. There were several of them throughout the casino, in little alcove rooms, and they only dispensed PEPSI PRODUCTS! We fueled up on Diet Pepsi, and wandered off to scout the premises.

I did not see my regular slots, of course. Not that I have any regular slots, only having been to the casino twice in the last 5-6 years. We didn't see many appealing quarter machines, so I left Hick and found a penny machine. Of course to play max credits, it cost $1.80! That was 20 different win option payline thingies. Still a reel-to-reel, not a video machine. Wouldn't you know it? It kept hitting little jackpots, paying me back $1.00 for my $1.80. And when I was down to $11.00-and-something of my original $20 hit something kind of good. I don't know what it was, because I didn't understand the game. But I had two winning paylines, and something plus a 4X oval and a 2X oval. I was excited! It kept going and going, that WIN PAYS digital counter. Of course it was dinging and dinging, and people were looking, but then they would see it was a penny machine. The housekeeping lady came by 3 times to check the trash can right beside me. Huh. That was curious.

Because I was kind of a novelty for people to stare at, I sent Hick a text. "I just hit a good winner. I'm going to leave this machine if you want to try it." I knew he would come stand by me then. And he did. He sat down at the machine next to me and fed it a $20. He had lost that, not even playing max credits, before my machine quit dinging. We tried to figure it out. It was counting up the win in pennies. Hick thought I won $50, but it went right past that. After about 20 minutes (but who was counting), the jackpot was finished. Let the record show that I won a jackpot of $112.00 on that play!

Of course, because I'm Val, I did not take the money and run far, far away from those armless bandits. I tried a couple of quarter machines with no luck. Then found Hick again with a new kind of quarter machine that may or may not pay extra when some bingo numbers were hit. I tried reading the rules on another machine like that, but it got stuck and would not take me back to regular play, and I still had $17.00 in it! Also, no attendants came by. Nope. It's not like I was clanging a winner. They were scarce. Not even the housekeeping lady would come over. After about five minutes of inaction, with me poking various play buttons trying to get out of that rules screen, it went back to letting me play regular spins, and I lost my money quickly.

So, at this machine next to Hick, I was having some fun. Again, it paid off here and there, and those surprise bingo spins excited me. I hit a couple of good jackpots on it that I cashed out. I did not, however, use my regular system of keeping track in my head of all the smaller pays, and save that money from my pocket. I was ready to quit after a $45.00 payout, but Hick was still button-pushing. So of course, to keep him company, I kept feeding my machine. Once Hick finally lost every bit of the money I had given him from my gambling fund, we headed for a cashier to cash out my tickets, because we did not know where the automatic ticket-cashing machines were.

Let the record show that Val walked out the front door with $300 even from those tickets. Of course, it cost her $240 to win that $300. Still, Val profited $60 on her Oklahoma casino adventure. Not exactly a high roller.

Somehow, playing that last quarter machine, I earned an odd 1 cent. Must have been the bingo. I did not cash it out, but kept it for a souvenir. Hick also gave me HIS total winnings for the day. Which is not really a win, considering I gave him a considerably higher amount than that to play with.

Yeah. Hick should be called Crumpledstubskin. At least he was a good chauffeur. Who got a $149.92 tip.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Last Night's Supper

Thevictorians are in Norman, Oklahoma for an orientation camp at the University of Oklahoma for incoming freshman The Pony. It's a three-day affair that's occupying us for five. He's all hyped-up about meeting new people, as much as The Pony gets hyped-up, and as much as he shows interest in people. It's kind of like turning your heat up from 72 to 73.

Of course the trip has already been fraught with blog fodder! Val, like Tina and Ike, never does anything nice and easy. Let's begin our travelogue with today's tale of The Last Night's Supper.

We got into town late. It was about a 10-hour drive from Backroads, accounting for our bathroom/leg-stretching stops and lunch. We rolled into town at 5:30, gathered our wits and belongings, checked into the Holiday Inn Express, and headed out for supper at 6:15. The Pony and Hick chose Saltgrass Steak House, having eaten there before on their campus visit trip. I was eager to see what fine dining lay in store for me, as I watched us pass up a perfectly good Outback Steak House.

Well. Let the record show that Val was not impressed. Come on! Did you actually think there was going to be any other scenario? That Val would feast upon succulent meat from an establishment where no animal was harmed in the making of her meal? An eatery which served bottomless, free tankards of unicorn milk, and provided fluffy kittens for petting while dinner was being prepared? No. You knew what you were in for by the second paragraph.

Hick held the door open for me to enter. Alarm bells! Let the record show that during the entire trip, Hick never once held open any other door for me. Not at rest stops, not at convenience stores, not at Steak N Shake (where we had lunch and saw that tattoos were a requirement for the waitresses), not at the hotel. He only does this when he does not want to be the one to enter and make a decision when accosted by the greeter.

We were escorted to our table and left to fend for ourselves. Which was a problem, what with me forgetting to bring my miner's lamp. I swear. It was darker than McDougal's Cave after Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher burned their last candle. I thought it was a joke. That surely that seater was going to turn on a light. But no. As she laid down the menus and left, I said, some might say passive-aggressively, "Thanks. I'm not sure I can read in the dark." Hick picked up his menu and told me my eyes would adjust. They did not. I held that menu seven ways to Sunday, trying to catch a glimmer of the sunset coming through a window on the periphery. No luck. I asked The Pony to read it to me. Even he had to twist and turn and catch an errant sunset beam to make it out. I decided on the marinated chicken breast with seasoned vegetables, and a Caesar salad, since The Pony read off my choices and said I was allowed a side and a salad.

It was quite hard to hear him, even though he was sitting at my right hand. There was a raucous family group led by a boozy floozy to our right, and an obnoxious 3-man, 1-woman group next to them led by a raging bore. I don't know why people in Oklahoma (Val, the questionable artist, paints with a broad brush) have to bellow each word at the top of their lungs, like calling a cowboy in from the north 40,000 when the dinner bell in broken.

As the evening progressed, Raging Bore grew more and more vociferous. I saw him accept the server's offer of another margarita. That was the third he'd had since we came in, and from the sound of him, he'd imbibed before our arrival. Val does not begrudge a patron his liquor. But his good time should stop before her bad time begins. He was telling stories about picking up girls, and not describing them in a very good light (which had nothing to do with the darkness within that dining area). His buddies roared mercilessly with mirth. The gal went along with it, making me wonder how he was going to talk about her later. It was like a middle-aged frat party. At one point, Raging Bore bellowed, "And then she threatened to knock me out!" Leading Val to declare, "I'D like to knock him out!" and Hick and The Pony to comment, "WHAT?"

Our drinks (of the soft variety) arrived, and a plate of bread. The Pony was on it like a locust on the Heartland. He had sliced off 2/3 of it, slathered his hunks with butter, and devoured them before Hick could pick up the knife. Hick finished it off, leading Val to declare, "That's okay. I didn't want any bread anyway." And Hick to reply, "WHAT?"

The side salads and my Caesar arrived after a bit. Hick and The Pony's were in large bowls with ranch dressing (what ELSE would you choose in Oklahoma?), and mine was on a square plate. Let the record show that the temperature of that plate was approximately -272 degrees Celsius. (A science aficionado will get that reference.) I think they must have chilled it with liquid nitrogen. Caesar himself was limp, and thus unsatisfying. But the croutons were like 3/4-inch minus, the stones of which driveways are made. Quite a contrast, between breaking my teeth off to nubs, and trying to swallow Caesar, who clung to my tonsils like Dracula wrapping himself in his cape to avoid the sun's rays.

The main course took so long that a different server came out to apologize. Gotta keep those tips coming, you know. I think he apologized. Because I couldn't read his lips in the darkness, and I couldn't hear his words over The Raging Bore Show. When our food finally came out, The Pony had regained his appetite after eating a loaf and a half of bread.

Both Thevictorian guys declared by charade that their meals were fabulous. My marinated chicken was the best fowl I ever ate. The seasoned mixed vegetable, though, were shockingly seasonless. Bland! With the taste of only...are you ready for this...VEGETABLES! I had carrot coins, and green beans, and broccoli. They were passable, as long as I ate them with a bite of chicken. Nobody told me this healthy food quest was going to be so tasteless. And full of roughage. One green bean had an inch-long stem on the end. I tried to eat it. Let nothing go to waste. No need to get the vegetables steamed. But I simply could not chew that stick. Not after the croutons took my teeth.

We didn't get out of there until after 8:30. When we got back to our hotel, I looked up the menu to make sure of the names of our dishes, so I would not violate the Truth in Blogging Law. Turns out those seasoned vegetables were actually SEASONAL vegetables!

An honest mistake for The Pony, seeing as how he was not-seeing in the dark.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hick and The Pony Have the Bread, But Val Provides the Dough!

See this?

That's what happens when you go out to eat with Hick and The Pony. They are Breadertons. And The Pony is also a Butterton.

Here's the second round. I made The Pony take a picture before it was devoured again. However, he still got a slice before snapping that pic.

Let the record show that Val did not partake of that carbohydratey goodness. She has been cutting back, you know. Her meal was marinated chicken with seasoned vegetables, and a Caesar salad. The Pony had an 8 oz ribeye with baked potato, and Hick had a 10 oz ribeye with grilled shrimp and a loaded baked potato. We ate at Saltgrass Steak House.

Greetings from Oklahoma!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Daily 44 oz Diet Coke Traffic Report, Brought to You by the Gas Station Chicken Store

It's not like I can walk down to the corner shop and fill myself a barrel of Diet Coke. Val has to travel for her daily poison. It is a journey fraught with peril. Peril in the form of blood pressure shooting skyward like Jake-Gyllenhaal-as-Homer-Hickam's last rocket in October Sky. Peril caused by people who do not show any interest in complying with the tenets set forth in Val's road rule manifesto.

The journey of five miles began with a single misstep. Oh, who are we kidding here? There were enough missteps to account for a drunken millipede trying to walk a sobriety field test straight line!

I was nearly to the low water bridge when the first noncompliers caught my attention. Four cars and a van sat on the edge of the road. Unoccupied. Every now and then, we have a car of people who try to fish in the foot-deep water. Or a couple of cars where people have met up for some likely unlawful interactions. But this was FIVE vehicles. The van was not even a proper shaggin' wagon, but of a type like the old VW bus, with its windows broken out. I looked down both sides of the creek as I crossed the bridge, and saw nary a passenger.

On to town. A short detour to the Country Mart. Then back to the light to await my release to cross that intersection and procure my delicious daily beverage. A motorcycle was parked in my desired spot, but as I waited for the light to go green, the rider strolled out and picked up his helmet from the seat. He caressed it. Put it on his head. Caressed it some more. Climbed on his bike. Fiddled with the mirrors. My light changed, and that guy was still in MY rightful spot!

I drove around the building to my second favorite parking space. It's by the air hose and dumpster. But NO! I couldn't get to it! A truck hooked to a camper trailer better than a tiny house was trying to back up from that area because a truck pulling a gooseneck trailer holding a backhoe was parked there, the gooseneck still in the road behind the chicken store, while a guy crawled around putting air in the backhoe tires.

I tried to get out of the way by parking in my third favorite spot, overlooking the deep, deep ditch between the chicken store lot and Hick's pharmacy, but there was a white truck hooked to a little trailer holding a lawnmower taking up about five spaces sideways. I shot around the diesel pumps being blocked by the camper trailer guy and eased by the backhoe on the back road to come around to the parking lot again.

I had to wait to make my left turn in, only to see the truck I was waiting on TAKE MY RIGHTFUL SPOT that had been vacated by the motorcycle. Alas. I had to park where I never park, way down front by where the fake 150th Backroads' birthday cake was erected (heh, heh, you know what I said) last year.

I got my soda and two scratch-off tickets, and on the way out, the door was held open for me by a former pupil who was coming in. He asked how I was doing, and I told him, "I have a big soda, and a couple lottery tickets, and IT'S GOING TO BE A GREAT DAY!" Only it wasn't. Well...maybe later it was, when I won $40 on one of those tickets. But I didn't yet know what traffic perils would befall me on the way home.

Back at the low water bridge, the area was now teeming with little children swarming like army ants on the march. The van was now parked ON the bridge, all but blocking traffic both ways, with a canoe strapped to the top. ONE canoe. I assume it worked like a wobbly aquatic clown car with all those kids. I squeezed T-Hoe past that questionable exercise in child endangerment, and headed for EmBee and then home.

But NO! I did not stop for the mail, because there was a white compact car parked under the first No Trespassing sign, with a 44 oz foam cup on the ground by the passenger side, its plastic lid ajar, with the straw still poking through. Oh, the sodamanity! Or the littermanity. The gal behind the steering wheel holding her phone to her nose gave me the side-eye as I drove past. ME! The one who actually LIVES up in there! Heh, heh, the joke was on her. That location gets worse reception than our President at a NASCAR race. Side-Eye's boyfriend/husband/gay best friend/partner in crime was wading his beer belly through the middle of the creek, his athletic (I use the term loosely) shorts sagging to his buttcrack, tattoos fading the the sun.

What was THIS? Several hundred feet on up our gravel road, past the second No Trespassing sign, was a white truck pulling a lawnmower on a trailer parked IN the road. The driver climbed out, looked back at me, left the door open, and walked around the truck toward a little path to a shallow waterfall. A tryst, perhaps, with Beer Belly Tattoo? Or stopping to take a whiz? You can bet that guy does not live up in here. A liver would not bother to stop there, but go on to his place where he lives. Just take that mower on home. Not stop to adjust it or have a tryst with a tattooed beer belly guy or take a whiz.

I must say, I was exhausted from that trip. Good thing I had 44 oz of pick-me-up right there in T-Hoe's cup holder. Good thing I didn't have a fifth of Jack Daniels (for Hick, of course, that's where I pick one up for him occasionally, Val herself being a teetotaler) in my other hand when that former pupil held the gas station chicken store door open for me.

Come to think of it...that might have made it an even greater day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Val Thevictorian Nearly Loses Feet to CROC! No Film at 11:00.

Okay. Not really.

Oh, the "no film at 11:00" part is true enough. But Val was not really in danger of losing her feet. Was that too sensational, that headline title? Never mind. I've got you now.

I have been having some foot trouble. That's right. FOOT trouble. But I am not going to make a visit to The Good Feet Store. Only one of us here at the homestead can afford THAT establishment. That's the guy who regularly takes us to Shackytown. I oughta blast that one-hit wonder and tell Hick to Lipps-Inc it during the tours at the grand opening of my proposed handbasket factory.

Yes. Foot trouble. And I am not going to visit a spa where fish eat the dead skin from my tootsies, nor coat my soles with Vicks Vaporub overnight as I sleep. Either would be cheaper than Hick's inserts from The Good Feet Store, though.

The most effort I've put into curing what ails my barkin' dogs so far is to apply a tiny bit of triple antibiotic ointment. I don't know that it will help, but surely it can't hurt. It's not that my feet ache. They feel fine. But they don't look normal. No pictures. Ain't nobody got a hankerin' to see FOOT pictures unless they're one of them there folks you say...really, really love feet.

My feet are spotted. That's right. Spotted. It started with the left foot. About two days ago, I noticed two spots. Red. Not bumpy. Not itchy. Perhaps a tiny bit rough on top. Kind of round, but mostly irregular. They were about the size of a Cheerio. I would not even have noticed if I didn't look at my feet when I took off my socks. The second day, I had four spots on the top of my left foot. About halfway from the end of my toes to the beginning of my ankle. Again, they were not painful or itchy. I figured maybe a little insect critter had got into my sock when I went out on the porch to play with Puppy Jack.

This morning, I noticed four corresponding spots on the top of my right foot. What. The. EFFFFFF? I called The Pony to look at them, even though I'm not sure I would have done the same for him. I hate feet, you know. As you also know, The Pony doesn't care about helping people. But he came running. Not that he was eager, but he was gaming, and wanted to spend as little time as necessary pretending he had empathy.

"Huh. Do you think something bit you when Jack was chewing on your Crocs?"

"I don't think so. It doesn't itch."

"Look. They're in the same place on each foot!"

"Oh. I hadn't noticed that. I hope it's not shingles or something. That's along the nerves, I think. They would be in the same place on each foot."

"I don't think that's it. Maybe it's from your shoes."

"Maybe. They did feel uncomfortable yesterday. Bring me one. No. It doesn't seem rough in there."

"Huh. I don't know..."

"Yeah. Me either. Oh, well. I'm going to put a little triple antibiotic ointment on there. Just in case. That might help those spots heal. I hope I didn't pick up ringworm from Jack. Not that he has it."

"I don't think it's ringworm. They're not round. But they ARE the same shape..."

"Oh, well. I'll give it a few days."

Let the record show that I also consulted Hick, who said, "I don't know. I'm not a doctor." Huh! After giving advice on everything else under the sun, and even telling me when I was on bed rest for a week while pregnant with The Pony, "I'm sure the doctor didn't mean by 'bed rest' that you couldn't stand up for a half hour a day to make supper and do the dishes." Yeah. He wasn't a doctor then, either, but it didn't stop him from giving an opinion. I went to put on socks and shoes (different ones this time) and go to town for my 44 oz Diet Coke. When I came back and made up my two bubba cups, one of ice water, and one of ice for adding to the Diet Coke through the day, I went down to my dark basement lair.

My dark basement lair has fallen into disrepair. Some of the tiles are cracked and broken. I have one of those clear chair mat thingies. The day before, The Pony moved it for me. Pulled it back out from under my corner desk to cover those broken tiles. "There. Does it roll better now?" It did. Funny thing, though. I run a little electric heater under my desk. Even though it may be 95 degrees outside, the lair has a bit of a chill. You may recall how I had trouble previously because my chair would not stay at the desk, but kept rolling back, and The Pony pointed out that the chair mat was warped from the heater. Now I didn't roll, because the mat was repositioned.

Let the record show that I began smelling a burnt odor. Let the record further show that The Pony lights a candle every afternoon, which may or may not have something to do with what people do in the NASCAR bathroom on the other side of my lair wall. I figured I was smelling the burnt-out match. But it continued. After I'd been down there a couple of hours, I told him

"Pony. I think I'm burning up this mat again. I think the heater is charring a new warp that's now sticking up in front of it."

"Huh. Maybe."

Indeed, there was an area that was a little bit brown. Just like the old warped area. Which, you may think, is neither here nor there. "Why is Val taking us down this rabbit trail when we were talking about her foot spots? I swear, I don't have time for all this filler when I drop by to read a post!"

Well, it just so happens that today when I sat down at my chair on my newly repositioned mat in my dark basement lair, I happened to look down and behold my red Crocs. With their little irregularly-shaped Croc-holes positioned right where those four spots occurred on each foot. The part of the foot that fit snugly in the Crocs, halfway between the end of the toes, and the ankles.

"Hey! Pony! I think I know what happened to my feet! I burned them with the electric heater through the holes in my Crocs!"

I might just take up doctoring, now that I'm retired.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Not Even MACHINES Do Their Jobs Right These Days

Pardon me for being irreverent. But an issue has come to the forefront, and I can't help being reminded of my mother.

I might have mentioned that I stop by the cemetery at least once a week. How Mom made it so easy, what with planning my dad's interment, and the double plot, to be conveniently located between my homestead and Walmart. AND in a row right beside an internal road, so I don't even have to get out. I stopped by yesterday on my way to the bank, and was relieved to see that the ground was undisturbed.

Yes, every day I think about Mom. Something happens that I want to share with her, or run by her, or simply commiserate about with her. And Wednesday, I encountered an issue that would be sure to set Mom turning.

See that? THAT is what is passed off as slaw mix these days! By DOLE. Not even by a store brand. Name brand slaw mix cannot even come in a bag with proper slaw-size pieces! I don't buy a bag of slaw mix so I can mount a search for a Salad Shooter and pare it down to the proper dimensions! I am buying a bag of slaw mix for convenience! I am not buying salad. And I am not buying expensive extra work for myself. If I wanted to chop up my own slaw mix, I would buy a head of cabbage and some carrots else goes into slaw. But not that purple stuff. I hate it.

So look what we have here. Some extra-thick slabs from near the cabbage core. And some parts of cabbage leaves that could be stuffed to make cabbage rolls. At the 3:00 area of the plate, notice the proper size for strands of slaw mix. They should not be too thick, too leafy, or too long. Goldilocks needs to write a review of this slaw mix.

I use this to make my before-mentioned BBQ slaw. Dump some in a bowl, pour on a little BBQ sauce, and you're in business! A tasty, tangy side dish for chicken or pork or as a hamburger topping. Can you imagine a serving of slaw made of these gargantuan segments? I cannot. Unless, perhaps, it would be in a Hungry Man frozen TV dinner. And slaw doesn't freeze well.

I know Mom would have my back on this one.