How About a Hike Across Antarctica?

When I was a kid, I thought that Antarctica was Uncle Art’s wife. The two were a silly couple, wore the same color clothing, had somewhat the same name, hers ending in “a.” Much like Leo and Lena, Wilbur and Wilma, Moe and Mona.

But then Antarctica turned out to be a continent with no indigenous people, probably because it was never populated like other places. The only humans who live and work there are scientists who study ice, snow, geology, climate, animal life, and boredom.

Animals and fish are quite abundant in the sea, but apart from penguins and parties thrown by scientists, there’s very little wildlife on the three-mile thick sheet of ice that covers the land. No polar bears, for instance, which is good for Colin O’Brady, an American, who on December 26, 2018 became the first person to cross-country ski across Antarctica without any assistance.

Even without polar bears nipping at his heels, this 930-mile trek was dangerous. Given that he started on a summer day, Nov. 3, the sun never set on his 54-day journey. If The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of midday to objects below, can you imagine how bright all that sun was on all that snow and ice? He needed goggles to prevent snow blindness.

Frostbite is also a problem, Jack Frost nipping at your nose. O’Brady is a tough guy, though. He says things like, “Oh, I didn’t need that toe anyway.” And hypothermia. It was -25F the day he began, but it can get a lot colder even in the summer. One needs 6000-7000 calories a day on such a journey just to maintain a healthy core temperature. O’Brady made his own protein-popsicles, complete with all needed nutrients, and maintained an 8,000 calorie/day diet, a thousand more than needed. A spokesperson for Jenny Craig said, “Imagine going on 54-day, 930-mile trek, lugging a 375-lb. sled filled with supplies uphill and still gaining weight! He should have used our meal plan.”

Other dangers include falling into crevasses and getting lost in whiteouts and forgetting where you left your satellite phone. And here’s one most people never think about, “polar thigh!” When you start chaffing in the cold, it doesn’t go away like in more moderate climbs. Plus, you’re doing a cross-country skiing motion every day.

Unfortunately, what happened with Mt. Everest is now going to happen with Antarctica. After many years of just a few people climbing Mt. Everest, everyone has now decided they’ll try it. There’s like a traffic jam at the base, even a book, Climbing Mount Everest For Dummies.

This is exactly what I see happening on Antarctica. Wyndham Hotels are going to go in with Sheraton Hotels and build a location next to the windsock at the Antarctica International Landing Strip. It’s going to be called Wynd-Shear South, (which is also a problem.) As hikers take the route “blazed” by O’Brady, businesses will start appearing, say Starbucks, offering what else but “cold brew.” A new chain called SubZero will offer seal blubber heroes, and the sign at White(out) Castle will say, “Sled in for a Slider!”

Still, a British fellow named Luis Rudd set out the same day as O’Brady from a different point. He also made the crossing, but finished three days later. He was walking in honor of a friend, Henry Worsley, who died in 2016 attempting to traverse Antarctica. It’s a dangerous trip. Even when Royal Southern Ocean Cruise Lines sends you the travel brochure, you may not want to pack your sled.

But Where Are The Doritos?

One of the things that is obligatory as we end one year and begin the next is a listing of the old year’s top news stories. Thus, we have just been through, or are still going through, lists of “The Top News Stories of 2018!”

What is amazing about these lists is that none of them includes the story referenced by the following December headline from a page of the Albuquerque Journal. “Did Unopened Doritos Bag Float in Sea for 40 Years?” Sub-headline, “Package stamped 1979 washes up on national seashore in N. Carolina.”   Click Here 

The National Park Service originally posted a photo of the bag on Facebook saying, “This bag was found last week…on Harkers Island along with other storm debris. The bag design looked odd to us” – I guess National Park Service personnel eat lots of Doritos out there in the park to keep up their energy – “but we couldn’t put our finger on why until we noticed the date in the lower corner – 1979!”

I am utterly dismayed that this story was not deemed important enough to be in the “Top News Stories of 2018!” A Doritos bag clearly stamped as being produced in 1979? At sea for forty years? Its colors amazingly vibrant? What does a Doritos bag have to do nowadays to get a billion hits on YouTube?

This bag has even stood the rigorous scrutiny of the world-famous History of Doritos website. Dora E. Toze, Head Chip Historian, immediately identified the bag as having been used by the company from 1973-1979. She also says, “Nacho cheese flavored Doritos first came out in 1972.” And this bag was clearly labeled, “nacho cheese flavor!”

Nacho cheese flavor, of course, brings up just how mysterious this bag’s survival was. It’s a little-known fact, but sharks are more attracted to the smell of nacho cheese than they are to blood. Sharks also have no trouble smelling through plastic. How, then, could a bag of nacho cheese flavor Doritos survive forty years in the ocean without a shark devouring it? I checked with Las Vegas odds-maker, Sherman the Shark, and he said the odds against that sack of Doritos lasting forty minutes in the water, let alone forty years, was a zillion to one.

The National Park Service wants to remind us of something important by finishing its post with, “While this was sort of a neat find due to its age, it serves as a reminder that plastic trash lasts a long time, in this case almost 40 years!” True, but what the park rangers don’t tell us is what happened to the chips inside. The headline reads, “Unopened Doritos Bag,” yet, we’re left unsatisfied by all accounts as to what has become of the Doritos themselves.

Did park rangers eat the chips and reseal the sack with an Old Bag Sealer by Ronco that washed up on Harkers Island last year? (A crime under Section F, paragraph J of the Flotsam and Jetsam Reclamation Act.) Or were the Doritos “beamed aboard by Scotty” and the bag left to float unopened for almost 40 years? If so, the bag is now a candidate for display at the UFO Museum in Roswell!

In any event, Frito-Lay, who makes Doritos, missed out on a Super-Bowl-class commercial. They could have sent Geraldo Rivera to North Carolina to open the sack and say, “Wow! Does this remind me of a vault I once opened!” Still, Geraldo might have sold a lot of Doritos, but he wouldn’t have solved the “Mystery of the Missing Chips.”

A D.I.Y Video for the New Year!

Do It Yourself is so big nowadays that it even has its own acronyms. A.A.U.G.H! for those of us who have difficulty following directions; D.I.Y. for those of us who don’t.

You want to make money performing brain surgery without going to medical school? There are D.I.Y. Brain Surgery videos on YouTube. You may need more than one, so there’s a second: “How to Prevent Brain Bleeds with Superglue and a Popsicle Stick.”

There is presently a Do-it-Yourself video for every activity known to humankind, but not all of them are called D.I.Y. Those that deal with nefarious activities have labels such as, “Watch as Thieves Clean Out an Apple Store in 13-Seconds!” (Teenagers can really be quick when you aren’t waiting for them to clean their rooms!)

As you watch these crimes unfold, you learn how it’s done. You have D.I.Y. thoughts. You say to yourself, “This gang of bank thieves is more efficient than the gangs in the other thirteen videos. I think I’ll do it this way. What I need now is a YouTube video on how to find a gang.” And, of course, there are at least 27 of them.

There are videos, even websites, that show kids how to sneak candy into their classrooms at school. If America’s test scores on math and science don’t worry you about the future, kids who aren’t imaginative enough themselves to sneak M&Ms into class ought to.

D.I.Y. includes everything from making gingerbread men to making robots. You can learn how to do handcrafts, start a business, create (or steal) jewelry, and grow a garden on a postage stamp. Every few days I get an unsolicited email from Pinterest saying, “You too can have a backyard garden like one of these!” And as I look at backyard garden after backyard garden, I am reminded of what is wrong with D.I.Y.  IT TAKES A LOT OF WORK!

Whatever happened to the idea of learning a skill that supports one well enough that he/she can pay someone else to do the things you don’t know how to do or don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. Sounds to me like A D.I.Y Video for the New Year: Specialize! (By the way, these videos don’t have to work. You just have to post them on YouTube and you’re done.)




A Christmas Corral

Eight inches of snow fell on Roswell, New Mexico two days before Christmas. Christmas Eve morning the clouds had moved off to the east as Bobby Cratchit sat down at the kitchen table with his first cup of coffee of the day and a copy of the newspaper. It was going to be a lonely Christmas Eve and a lonely Christmas Day. Eileen, his wife of 49-years, had died two years earlier. They didn’t have children, and what few relatives they’d had between them were gone.

Across town, Euben Scrood did not know that he was the great, great, (however many) great grandson of Ebenezer Scrooge. For one thing, he was too cheap to have his DNA tested on But people in Roswell could have guessed it. Euben was a stingy, greedy man! By Christmas Eve that year he had cornered the Chavez County Christmas tree market, doubling prices from the previous year and putting local vendors out of business. The only trees available were on a vacant lot west of town that he didn’t even have to pay rent on. He’d built a fence and called it the Christmas Tree Corral.

Hope Ternall, a widow who had gone to school with Bobby Cratchit years ago, took her six-year old grandson Timmy with her to Scrood’s lot Christmas Eve morning. Having searched unsuccessfully for a Christmas tree lot, she was delighted to hear on the radio that there were Christmas trees for sale on a lot west of town. Her joy was even greater when she found out that Euben also had a one-horse open sleigh, one like her grandparents had owned back in Minnesota. For $20, one of Euben’s underpaid employees would give her and her grandson a ride around the Christmas Tree Corral.

Hope didn’t need anyone to drive her. She was perfectly capable of handling the horse herself. In fact, she and Timmy had successfully circled the inside of the open corral twice when a pack of dogs appeared and spooked the horse. Euben and his employees immediately began doing all they could to chase off the dogs – screaming at them, throwing snowballs, phoning Animal Control  – but the horse knew that it was in danger of being attacked. It ran out of the lot headed north on a snow-packed dirt road.

Bobby Cratchit had never snowmobiled in Roswell. He and his wife had always gone to Angel Fire or Colorado. But given the 8” of snow, he thought he’d give it a try. He was coming from the south on the snow-packed dirt road when he saw the one-horse open sleigh careen out of the Christmas tree lot a hundred yards ahead of him, the female driver flailing her arms and screaming, although he couldn’t hear her over his motor. Behind the sled was a pack of dogs giving chase, and behind them were three men giving very little chase as they slogged through the snow.

Bobby formulated a plan as he sped along. An adventurous sort, back when he was a kid he had wanted to be the guy in the cowboy movies who rescued the young lady in the runaway buckboard. He would ride his horse alongside her rig, speed up and then leap onto the back of the runaway horse, bringing the buckboard to a halt.

Using the same principle as in the movies, he maneuvered his snowmobile alongside the horse and prepared to leap on its back. But there were two problems. One, it had been at least forty years since he’d done any leaping. And two, the situation was unlike leaping from the back of one horse to another. Bobby was closer to the ground on his snowmobile. The back of the runaway horse was as high as his head.

Unable to leap on the back of the runaway horse, Bobby did the next best thing. He tumbled into the sleigh in the hopes that he could grab the reins and bring the horse to a halt. What he had not fully considered was that the sleigh was not only open on top, but open on both sides, nothing to stop his momentum as he somersaulted past Hope’s and Timmy’s legs and out the other side of the sleigh, entangled in a red, white, and green Christmas blanket.

He regained consciousness as paramedics were loading him into an ambulance. “What Happened?” he asked. “Is the lady alright? What about the horse?”

A policeman answered, “The woman and the kid and the horse are okay.” He could say that because even though the horse might have eventually run off the road and the sleigh overturned on the uneven terrain, the throttle of the snowmobile got stuck when Bobby tumbled into the sleigh. The snowmobile sped ahead for a brief while and then assumed a path directly in front of the horse, where the exhaust soon caused the horse to become nauseous and stop. Also, the dogs had stopped chasing it.

At the hospital, Euben Scrood found out that Bobby had a slight concussion, broken ribs, cuts, contusions, and a broken ankle. Also, that Hope had wrenched an arm and Timmy sustained a bump to his head. Immediately, he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Future. The two of them held up a large neon sign that said, “LAWSUIT!” Their pronouncement was based upon Euben’s experience with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

And so it was that a lavish Christmas dinner was held in Bobby Cratchit’s hospital room. Hope was there, as was Timmy and his parents. The food, the tree, and the generous gift certificates beneath the tree were all provided by Euben, who let it be known that he was also going to pay all the doctor bills.

It was a wonderful Christmas celebration! Bobby wasn’t lonely. He and Hope reminisced about the good old days growing up in Roswell. Timmy’s team won the televised football game, and his parents chilled out for once, given that they didn’t have the stress of hosting Christmas dinner at their house. It was such a great time that Timmy asked his dad in the car on the way home, “Why doesn’t Grandma Hope marry Mister Cratchit. He’s a nice man and she wouldn’t be so lonesome.”

Of course, not everyone formed such a great Christmas memory. Euben Scrood worried all day that, in spite of his unaccustomed generosity, Bobby or Hope or Timmy’s parents were going to file a law suit. Also, most Roswellians figured out why there were no other Christmas trees for sale and didn’t drive out to his lot. Others didn’t even know he was there. On December 26, he beheld of the saddest sights he’d ever seen, a corral full of Christmas trees.



In the Middle of an Island, In the Middle of an Ocean…

Earlier this year, scientists said they were almost certain that bones found on a Pacific island in 1940 were those of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. immediately had so much traffic that it crashed for lack of librarians to man the dictionary. People wanted to know what “circumnavigate” meant.

There are, of course, other hypotheses as to what happened to Amelia Earhart. (There are alternate hypotheses for everything anymore.) One of my favorites is the following.

For many years some of the most famous, controversial, and, at times, criminal Americans have been approached by a mysterious man in white. This fellow Roarke asks the person if he/she has had enough. “Enough what?” each person asks.

Roarke walks away but returns to confront the person a few days later. By then the man or woman knows what Roarke is talking about. If the person is famous, “enough” is the hassle of constantly being in the spotlight. If the person is controversial, “enough” consists of constant attacks by individuals and the media. If the person is criminal, “enough” is a growing weariness with trying to elude capture.

So, one day in 1937 Amelia Earhart and her flying companion, Fred Noonan, were in a panic. Blown off course in their quest to cross the Pacific, their plane was flying on fumes with no landing strip in sight, only ocean. Suddenly, Roarke came up the aisle of the aircraft from behind the two, stuck his head between them, and said, “Have you had enough?”

Assuming “enough” meant plenty of the threat of approaching death, they both said, “Yes!” (It’s interesting that neither asked “Where did you come from?” or “How did you get on board?” I’d guess it was the sense of urgency that helped them understand the question.)

“Then turn due north, and I’ll have you down safely in a jif.”

Upon debarking the plane, Earhart and Noonan walked into a lavish reception where they met Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Jimmy Hoffa, D.B. Cooper, Tony Soprano, and members of the Lost Roanoke Colony. (Time doesn’t really come into play on this island. It mostly stands still.)

Most of the residents had to pay Roarke a considerable sum to live on the island, but not Amelia Earhart. She was going to have to work to live there. Roarke needed a more enticing way of getting people from the U.S.A. to the island than paddling a canoe all the way from Los Angeles. Would Amelia consent to live on the island and fly newcomers in from the mainland?

As at least one other hypothesis about her disappearance maintains, Amelia was tired of the hassle occasioned by her fame. Plus, given that time doesn’t work on the island like it does elsewhere, Roarke had a supply of modern planes that far surpassed Amelia’s Lockheed 10-E Electra. She could fly her choice to pick up passengers. “Yes! I’ll work for you!”

Some people wonder how Roarke came to have modern airplanes on the island when no one other than Amelia Earhart has a pilot’s license. Well, Jimmy Hoffa and Tony Soprano may be living on an uncharted Pacific island, but they still have connections. It’s easy – load a plane on a truck, then load it on a boat, then drop it off at the island. Pay all involved to keep their mouths shut.

Amelia, like the others, does not age so long as she’s on the island. It’s only when she’s flying to pick up a passenger that she gets a new wrinkle. (From whence we get the movie, A Wrinkle in Time.) Still, she hardly looks 40-years old. And she loves to hear Fred Noonan say from the control tower as she approaches the runway, “De plane! De plane!”

Of all the hypotheses regarding Amelia’s disappearance, the above is known, obviously, as the “Fantasy Island Hypothesis.”  I can’t wait for the movie!


Grumpy Old Men and Women

I have a friend named Morris who lives in an assisted living facility across town. To describe what kind of a fellow he is, I must tell you that he changed his telephone message for the holidays. It says, “You have reached a number that does not accept felicitations. Keep your Feliz Navidads to yourself!”

If you have seen the movie Grumpy Old Men, the Walter Matthau character was patterned after Morris, only Hollywood cleaned him up a bit. He lives to torment his caregivers, putting sugar on his frosted flakes just to “gross them out.” There is a stash of fake-vomit (the rubber kind) in his closet that he strategically places in the hallway. And when people tell him he’s not politically correct, he argues that he is. If he had been the producer, the movie would be named Grumpy old Men and Women.

He also uses reverse elderspeak. If a dining room worker has an accident, he says, “Did we drop the tray of dishes, Dearie?” Or if he notices that one of the rooms is suddenly vacant, he stops by the administrator’s office and says, “Honey, did the staff kill off another resident last night? We need to stop doing that with paying customers.”

Morris was complaining the other day about Christmas music. His opinion is that there haven’t been any good Christmas songs since Eartha Kitt recorded “Santa Baby” Click Here in 1953. He basically likes Christmas carols, which were released centuries ago, but disc jockeys don’t play them as much on the radio as they do secular Christmas songs.

I don’t know much about Christmas music, but I got online. The forties and fifties were obviously great contributors to what has been heard on the radio ever since, but I only had to beat 1953 to prove Morris wrong.  “Morris, ‘Little Drummer Boy’ was released in 1958 and ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’ in 1962.”

“Can’t hear you!” he yelled. “Nothing good since ‘Santa Baby.’”

“Then how about ‘Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,’ 1964?

Naw, I never liked Burl Ives.

“You should. For someone who doesn’t like Christmas, you look more like him every year. Must be all that eggnog.”

“I never said I didn’t like Christmas.” Morris sighed deeply, “I just don’t appreciate most of what passes as Christmas music around here. And they play it in the dining room all month.”

“MOST of what passes? I thought you said there hadn’t been ANY good Christmas music since ‘Santa Baby.’”

“There might have been a couple of songs that I didn’t hate, but none of it’s any good.”

“Like what?”

“I forget.”

“You forget? Well, I haven’t forgotten. Last year you told me that you liked ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.’”

“I do like the story; still, Eartha Kitt rules.”

I looked at my screen. “Wait a minute. I’ve heard this song before but not often. It’s got a lot better story than ‘Santa Baby.’ It’s called, ‘Mary’s Boy Child/Oh my Lord,’  Click Here   by a group named Boney M.”

We sat in the common area of the second floor listening to the song. Three ladies got off the elevator and as they walked by, they broke into dance, at least a little bit.

“I hate it when they do that,” Morris said.

“But it’s got a beat to it, doesn’t it?”

“The only Boney M I know is Boney Maroni. Who are these people?”

I flipped to a Wikipedia page. “It says they’re a Euro-Caribbean group created by a German record producer.”

“Germany should have never switched to the euro.”

“So some believe.”

“I can hear the Caribbean sound. Thought it might have something to do with Jimmy Buffet. But Germans do pretty good with Christmas carols.”

“Do you like it? Is ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ any good?”

“Is it new?” he asked.

“No. It’s been out for years in Europe, since maybe the seventies.”

“Then I don’t like it.”

“Why not?”

“One of the jobs we elderly have is griping about the way things are today. If I found something I liked from as recently as the seventies, I wouldn’t doing my job.”

“Which is?”

“Griping that there haven’t been any good Christmas songs released since 1953, ‘Santa Baby.’”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T or There May Be Consequences!

Suppose that in the next few years a group of younger adults, say 20ish to 40ish, gets the chance to visit the Formerly Famous Persons’ Assisted Living Facility. They visit during the evening meal.

In the dining room they immediately see Shirley McClaine (presently 84), Willie Nelson (now 85), Gene Hackman (now 88), Jack Nicholson (now 81), Clint Eastwood (presently 88), Maggie Smith (now 83), Judy Dench (presently 83), Arnold Schwarzenegger (presently 71), and Hulk Hogan (65 and aging fast).

This is a selected group of visiting adults. Each won a contest, and each gets to dine at a private table with one of the formerly famous. But what happens is this: each one of the formerly famous has a mishap during dinner. Coffee is spilled on the table or food falls off a fork or a spoon drops to the floor. That sort of thing.

So, if these visitors talk to them like some people speak to the residents at the NOT Formerly Famous Person’s Assisted Living Digs, they might say something like the following.

To Willie Nelson: “Did you have a nice day, Mr. Willie? We did, didn’t we? But we look tired? We mustn’t forget to take our vitamins every morning and evening.” Not only does he leave the table, but he goes outside, and as he boards a tour bus, he’s singing, “On the road again!”

To Shirley McClain: “Uh oh Shirley, that’s such a nice pink blouse. Maybe we should put a bib on to keep it clean. You agree, right? It’s hard to keep food on our fork.” Shirley, who believes in reincarnation, not only slaps the visitor, but tells her she’s going to slap her again in her next life, only she won’t know it’s her.

To Jack Nicholson: “I’ve seen you in that movie, Bucket List. Not when it originally came out – I don’t think I was born then – but I’ve seen it on TV or Netflix. And we all saw you shuffle in here a few minutes ago. Walking like that, we do need a Bucket List, don’t we? Déjà vu, huh?” Jack chases the visitor down the hall with an axe that he produces from under the table. Even though the young man hides in an empty room, he knocks a hole in the door, sticks his head in, and says, “Here’s Johnnie!”

To Arnold Scharzenegger: “Look, buddy, we really do need to eat our vegetables. We eat way too many protein bars, don’t we? Yes we do. Admit it.” Arnold throws the young man across the room where he lands on his back and can’t get up. Then he says, “I’ll be back…just as soon as I take a nap.”

To Hulk Hogan: “Hulkie, honey, let’s be careful. We’re getting bread crumbs all over our lap and on the floor.” He then tries to twist this person into a crescent roll.

To Judy Dench: “Can I help you cut your meat. We girls so need our protein at your age.” Dench then gives a line from one of her James Bond movies, “How the hell did you find out where I live?”

To Clint Eastwood: “Ooh, let’s be careful with our coffee, dearie. It’s really hot! We could scald ourselves.” He doesn’t say, “Make my day.” The last words the visitor hears are, “You’ve MADE my day, dearie!”

To Gene Hackman: “Now, hon, are you ready for dessert? You are, aren’t you?” He says, “I’m not your hon, but if you say one more word, I’m going to become Attila the Hun!”

To Maggie Smith: “We’ve hardly eaten anything. Come on, don’t be so contrary. Take a bite.” She gives a line from Downton Abbey in return, “I’m a woman. I can be as CONTRARY as I want to be.”

The above are several examples of what is now called “elderspeak.” Experts urge us not to talk this way to anyone or to let them talk this way to us. It is demeaning. It assumes that the older adult is dependent, frail, weak, incompetent, childlike, AND suffers from memory problems, hearing problems, and energy problems. It also assumes that the speaker has greater control, power, value, wisdom, and knowledge. Some of which is true, no doubt, but NONE OF US WANTS TO HEAR IT!!!

Studies show that when older adults are exposed to elderspeak, their performance levels on various tasks decrease and their rates of depression increase. Even people with moderate to severe dementia can tell when people are speaking down to them, and it causes them to be CONTRARY.

Features of elderspeak include speaking slowly, speaking loudly, using a sing-song voice, inflecting statements so that they sound like a question, using “we,” “us,” and “our” instead of “you”, using pet names like “sweetheart” or “hon,” shortening sentences, simplifying vocabulary, and answering the question for the elderly person. In other words, talking to the elderly as though they are BABIES!

Treat the elderly with respect. The other day I stopped by to visit a friend of mine who has Parkinson’s and a bit of dementia. He’s in a care unit that has a lock on the entry door so the patients, most of whom are still in enough of their right mind, won’t run away. The caregivers were new and didn’t recognize me. After they buzzed me in, I said, “I’m Detective Johnson, here to take Don Harrison into custody.”

There were five or six young female caregivers gathered in the entryway. I wish my garage door opened as fast as their eyelids flew up. Their eyes were as large as saucers and their jaws were halfway to the floor as I walked by and headed toward Don’s room. I said, but not too loudly, “Just kidding.”

After my visit, I came back out to the unit’s entrance. All the caregivers were looking at me with smiles. I said, “I forgot my handcuffs, and Don won’t go peaceably. I’m going to have to leave him with you for now. You  treat him with respect. You know, don’t you, that he’s connected.” And he is connected to an oxygen tank, but it’s alright for them to wonder if I meant the mafia.



Frankenfruit for Christmas?

Tis the Season, and one of the last things that I associate with Christmas is the giving of fruit. (The rest of the year, we throw it at each other. Christmas truce, or rearmament?) Pears from Harry & David, pineapples from Don & Ho, and who knows what all from Butch & Sundance, Thelma & Louise, Penn & Teller.

I, too, have decided to start my own specialty fruit company. I’m focusing on the new hybrids, or what some people call frankenfruit. The Wise Men gave frankincense; thanks to me, Wise Acres will now be able to give frankenfruit.

This, of course, is not my first venture into hybrids. One time I crossed a parrot with a homing pigeon. My thinking was that if the bird got lost, it could ask directions. Turned out that the females asked directions just fine. The males never would.

By the way, what do you get when you cross a mime with an autumn yard-cleaning implement? A silent leaf blower. Mine didn’t work, though. It screamed at the leaves like a blowhard.

My new business venture won’t be up and running this Christmas season – don’t send in any orders for 2018 – but I hope to be by Christmas of 2019. Presently, I’m working on details such as my product line. I have the following in mind:

Plumcots – half plum and half apricot.

Apriums – more apricot than plum.

Pluots – more plum than apricot.

NectaPlums –  plum crazy.

Peacotum – peach-apricot-plum.

Pluerry – plum-cherry. Much different from cherry tomatoes, which aren’t even hybrids.

The above you can also get elsewhere. Exclusively, I will be selling the following:

AppleFrapple – a shaved fruit specifically designed for the frappucino conscious. A jillion less calories than in the frappucinos from Starbucks or McDonalds.

Girls&Boysenberries – the first gender-equality fruit.

BananaVanna – bananas in the shape of vowels. A,E,I,O,U, and sometimes Y not order another box? They are wonderful!

MindYourElderberries – a terrible tasting hybrid. Got unruly kids or grandkids? Make them eat a bowlful of these for punishment. They’ll straighten up.

StuffedGooseberries – for those on a diet when Christmas rolls around.  A handful of these instead of the Christmas goose can make all the difference in diet success. Of course, it depends on what Igor, my horticulturist, stuffs them with. Just for fun he likes to sneak in M&M’s.

MangoTangO – mango-tangerine-orange. The taste will have you out on the kitchen floor dancing!

LemonPersimmon – for those who like to pucker up, Buttercup. One may also try our SourPusses – a cross between a lemon and a cat. If cats aren’t your thing, how about a CollieFlower? Sorry, I have digressed into the kingdom of vegetables. That product line will have to wait.

As soon as I develop my frankenfruit product line, the bankers are making me file a business plan. I hate it when that happens. But before I do, I’m going to have to come up with a name for my company. My wife refuses to have anything to do with it, so I’m thinking of Frank ‘n Stein or Boris & Karloff or even Dew y Johnson, which I think would work well with orders from Mexico. It has certainly worked for bananas by Chick y Ta.

Watch for my catalog, however it turns out.




Who Were Those Old People?

Last week I taught a class from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. that involved my going west across the river. After sticking around for conversation and refreshments, it was 8:30 p.m. when I headed home. Dark. Cold.

I chose not to fight the maze of orange wooden blockades, orange barrels, and orange traffic cones driving back across the Rio Grande River on I-40. Instead, I returned home the rectangular way. North on Coors, east on Montano, south on 4th, and west on Griegos.

The stretch of Griegos that I drove along wasn’t depicted in the series Breaking Bad, at least I don’t think. But it was the darkest stretch of my drive home by far. The houses along Griegos are old but well-maintained, with elm trees and fences and court yards around them. There are no dead crows hanging from exposed vigas, but nor are there any signs that say, “Walk Right Up To The Front Door And Knock.”

An elderly fellow one time told me that when he was growing up in New Mexico, a person needed to be careful about approaching a house.  He liked the practice of calling out “Hello, the house!” He’d seen people who jumped down from their wagon or who exited their car too quickly get shot before they made it to the front door. Homeowners had the right to shoot you in times past, and some practices die hard. He advised me to be careful when walking up to a house. The least the owners might do is sic their pit bulls on me.

So, I’m driving along Griegos, which is a two-lane street, speed limit 35 or so, when I see amber taillights blinking on the right-hand side of the road ahead. As I then drove by the car, the driver’s door opened, and the interior lights revealed a young lady in jeans and a jacket doing her best to flag me down.

Whoever she was, she too did not feel comfortable walking up to one of the front doors on Griegos in the hopes of help. I pulled to a stop. It was so dark that I could hardly see the outline of her car behind mine. But suddenly she opened my door and asked if I had jumper cables. Her car had died. She hadn’t run out of gas; she had a quarter of a tank. She didn’t need gas. She needed a jump.

My jumper cables were in my older car, and so I had to go home and fetch them. When I arrived at home, I told my wife Cheri that the girl needed help. Cheri, then,  decided that she was coming with me, and I knew why. If it was an ambush and people were waiting to knock me in the head and steal my money and jumper cables, somehow her presence would prevent them from doing so. I didn’t know exactly how Cheri was going to protect me from such treatment, but I appreciated the company.

The young lady knew how to jump a battery. I hardly had the hood up before she had all the terminals connected. But after several tries, it was clear that a jump wasn’t going to help. What to do?

We asked if we could give her a ride home. No, she lived in the South Valley. She didn’t want us to have to drive that far. Her cellphone was dead, so she asked if she could borrow mine to phone her dad. I don’t always remember to carry a cellphone – Cheri never does – but I found it in a pocket and gave it to her.

This is what she told her father: “The car died, and this old couple picked me up. Can you come get me at the Walgreen’s at Rio Grande and Central?”

He could, and so we were off to Walgreen’s. Cheri and I were concerned, though. We thought maybe that the young lady was on drugs because she mentioned this “old couple” who had picked her up. We were the only ones in the car and had no idea who she was talking about.

Walgreen’s was more than five minutes away. We talked to her as we drove along, partly in an effort to determine if her mind was unimpaired. She had graduated from Del Norte High School back when it still looked like a high school. Now it looks like an office building. She was right about that.

She told us that she had recently given birth to a baby. In fact, the reason she was out that night was to meet the father and get her child support, which she had done. She said nothing else and did nothing else that made us think she was on drugs. Still, she had told her father that she had been picked up by an “old couple.”

Further evidence that she wasn’t on drugs was that when we got to Walgreen’s, she agreed to wait in the car with us rather than go inside to wait. I’ve been in that Walgreen’s late at night. It’s spooky even without the Halloween decorations. We waited ten minutes in the parking lot, then her father came driving up. She said, “Thank you,” jumped out the backseat, and was gone.

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. Cheri and I don’t have many adventures, and so we’re thankful that we had at least this one. Her car was gone the next day. I guess someone in her family got it running. And she was a nice young lady to talk with, even though we still can’t figure out who the “old couple” was. My suspicion is that she’s like the young character played by Haley Joel Osment in the movie The Sixth Sense. He said, “I see dead people.” Maybe she’s sees old people that we don’t. We’ll never know.


My, How the Mighty Has Fallen.

After more than a half century of being America’s favorite apple, the Red Delicious has fallen from the Tree of Popularity.

As the end of 2018 rolls around, the Gala will officially be Number One. The Red Delicious will be #2, Granny Smith #3, Fuji #4, and Honeycrisp #5. There are more than 7000 varieties of apples, but I’ll stop the countdown with the top five.

Proof that America is now willing to pay more for crunchier, crisper, and sweeter apples is that the Honeycrisp is expected to rise from #5 to #1 in a decade. This according to those who know about things like horticulture and what make Gallup Polls gallop. According also to those who know that a Honeycrisp can cost three times what a Red Delicious does.

All of this was quite a shock to me. I knew that you’d better eat a Red Delicious when it’s at its ripest else it can go mushy and bland on you in a minute; still, I never expected its popularity to be overthrown by apples that are merely reddish.

The Red Delicious is RED. It’s what the inventors of the color “candy apple red” had in mind as they worked late in their laboratory. “Igor, stop eating the apples! I need them to compare to my paint.”

This switch to the merely reddish Gala as #1 produces problems. The one thing that all Christian denominations believe is that Eve gave Adam a Red Delicious. He could only be tempted by forbidden fruit with a great paint job. And now the most popular is paint-peeling Gala? The Gala, like the Fuji and Honeycrisp, is nothing but a paint-peeling apple revealing a greenish-yellow coat underneath.

And the Granny Smith? Let me just say that Roger Miller had it right when he sang, “God didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.” Every time I have a slice of pie made with green Granny Smiths, I say, “The devil made me do it.”

Walt Disney made the first feature-length cartoon having sound and color. What color was the apple? Bright red. When you’re going to poison someone, you do it with the most tempting apple imaginable. The Wicked Queen gave Snow White a robust Red Delicious, not a gimpy Gala.

And what did Johnny Appleseed plant? Orchard after orchard of Red Delicious. Any other variety wasn’t worthy of his passion. And so now we find out that it’s okay for America to bypass all of Johnny’s orchards and keep driving down the road to Granny Smith’s house for a Gala event? Mapquest can’t even give us a route.

The Apple of My Eye refers to that which we cherish. And for more than fifty years America has cherished the Red Delicious. Now we’re going to discard this grand old apple with no more shame than we discarded the Macarena, pet rocks, bell-bottoms, maxiskirts, and disco. We are a fickle bunch.

We say that something is American as baseball, hot dogs, motherhood and apple pie. What are we going to say now? It’s as “American as baseball, hot dogs, significant others, and apples from Mount Fuji”?

The Big Apple icon is a Red Delicious, not just reddish. I guess they’ll change the lyrics of the song to, “If I can make it there-ish I can make it anywhere-ish. It’s up to you New Yorkish, New Yorkish.”

Worms, of course, find anything less than a Red Delicious hardly worthy of their time, and school teachers are going to be terrible disappointed when little Johnny brings a paint-peeling Gala to school and places it on her desk.

I am so tired of everything changing, changing, changing.

It’s just one change after another anymore. Yet, if An apple a day keeps the doctor away, I might become a bit healthier. I really do like these Honeycrisps. Crisp, with a balanced sweetness and acidity, I imagine the taste is what Eve had in mind all along.