Just For Fun

A Car By Any Other Name

My car—the first vehicle I ever bought brand-new—turned one year old this month. Even though I’ve put 19,000 miles on it, tolerated toddler spills and cracker crumbs in the back seat, used it to haul furniture, and driven it in mud, I still think of it as my “new car.”

So I don’t understand why Honda keeps sending me emails about their latest models. Excuse me, marketing department? That thing in my garage is not a pair of jeans or a jar of face cream. I haven’t worn it out or used it up yet. I don’t need to buy a new car this year. In case you hadn’t noticed, I did that last year. At least give me time to figure out how to operate the hands-free phone calling and get comfortable with the backup camera.

But Honda’s latest email did catch my attention. Apparently the newest redesigned version of the Accord features an “aggressive new exterior.” Excuse me, marketing department? Did you not notice the name of this car? It’s the Accord. That means “agreement” or “harmony,” as in “peace accord.” This is the vehicle some people call the “Jesus car” because of the Bible verse where Jesus and the disciples “went with one accord.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help wondering why a car named after peace and agreement needs an “aggressive” exterior. What’s next? The brand-new Oxymoron?

My own Honda is a CR-V. I presume CR-V stands for something; I have no idea what. Maybe if I actually read the owner’s manual I might find out. As far as I’m concerned it’s a Commonsense Reliable Vehicle, which certainly works for me.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the people who market cars and I just don’t think along the same lines. Oh, I could easily come up with names for new car models. I’m just not sure the industry would welcome many of my bright ideas. Like these:

The Mammoth Jack pickup. Dependable, smart, and sturdy; it may not be stylish but will get you where you need to go and haul anything you need to take along. Features built-in social networking; you’ll get to know all your friends and neighbors better every time you help them move.

The Roller Skate sports car. It features miniscule cargo space, enough power to guarantee you that second look from the highway patrol, less legroom than airplane economy class, and a sightline level with other vehicles’ hubcaps. Warranty valid for driving on sunny days, May-Oct only. But all the neighbors watching you polish it in your driveway every week will know exactly how you got through your midlife crisis.

The Bike Helmet micro-mini car. Slightly more cargo capacity than a bicycle; not safe to drive on freeways in winds over 10 mph. But you’ll only need to fill the gas tank every other month, and you can practice three-point turnarounds inside your garage.

The St. Bernard SUV. Your best friend for winter driving; pushes through blizzards and deep snow drifts. Comes in all colors except white; the most popular is Warm Brandy.

The Nanny mini-van. Includes all basic safety features like child-proof door locks and window controls, plus starter system with built-in seatbelt-fastening verification. Backseat upholstery is stain-resistant and sound-suppressing. To insure conflict-free road trips, offers headphones with programmable age-appropriate storytelling, individual environmental controls, snack coolers and spill-wiping arms at each back seat, computerized tracking of who last got to sit by the window, automated GPS “how much farther?” answering feature, and optional but recommended anti-“he’s touching me!” barriers.

The White Elephant pseudo-military vehicle. This bulky, macho super-SUV can’t be easily parked in a conventional space (unless you have no scruples about squashing smaller cars), may not fit in your garage, and offers worse fuel economy than an RV. But everyone will certainly notice that you have it. And because it’s so expensive to buy and maintain, it’s the perfect way to impress the neighbors with your financial ineptitude.

Maybe there’s a reason why I don’t have a career in automotive marketing.

Still, I can think of one vehicle that almost everyone would want: The Transporter. Never mind what it looks like; it gets you there in an instant.

Categories: Just For Fun, Travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

What Kind of Woman Do They Think I Am?

The nice young man really didn’t mean to insult me. All I did was mention that I regularly go to a meeting on Saturday mornings. All he did was ask, “Is that your motorcycle club?”

It was obvious from his tone and his grin that he meant no offense whatsoever. He was clearly teasing, with no sarcasm intended or barbs attached. It was equally obvious that he couldn’t in his wildest dreams imagine me as an adventurous motorcycle mama.

He had no idea that his innocent words were such a blow to my self-esteem. I had not been so inadvertently insulted since the time years ago when a middle-aged man, trying to explain why some people drool over Corvettes in spite of the fact that they have no room to haul recycling or groceries, said, “You just don’t understand, Kathleen—a car like that is a chick magnet.”

What kind of person do these guys think I am?

I’m afraid they must see me as somebody who:

• Wouldn’t even think of going hiking without a water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, and a broad-brimmed hat.
• Would much rather read about intrepid explorers than follow in their footsteps.
• Shudders at the very idea of ever getting even a teeny-tiny tattoo.
• Went on a roller coaster once in her life and still hasn’t recovered from the experience.
• Thinks bungee jumping is probably injurious to the brain cells, except that the brain cells of anyone crazy enough to try it are obviously damaged anyway.

Sigh. Well, yeah, I guess I have to admit it. I am that kind of person. Mostly.

But wait—there’s more. I’m also the kind of person who has a motorcycle endorsement on her driver’s license. Really.

Back in the early 1990’s I was persuaded by my husband to take a motorcycle safety class. He had the idea that we could putter around the back roads of the Black Hills on his two decidedly non-Harley motorcycles. I made it through the class, too. Here are the main things I learned:

• If you slow down too much going into a sedate little turn in the safety of a level parking lot, you’ll probably tip your motorcycle over.
• If you do tip your motorcycle over, and you’re a slender woman of slightly less than average height, you may not be strong enough to pick it back up.
• Acing the written test about motorcycle safety and operation doesn’t mean you’re qualified to actually drive one.

Thanks to taking that class, I was licensed by the state of South Dakota to drive a motorcycle. Thanks to everything I learned in that class, I have never ventured to drive any kind of a motorcycle on any public road. Both the state of South Dakota and I are better off because of this, even though only one of us is aware of the fact.

I never have bothered to remove the motorcycle endorsement from my license, though. You may suppose that’s because I still harbor fantasies that I might someday use it.

Nope. Never have; never will. Deep down inside, I never think of myself as the type of person who might put on something outrageous in black leather and fringe, hop on a Harley, and roar off into the sunset in search of raucous adventure.

But once in a while, it would be nice to think that other people might possibly think I could be.

Categories: Just For Fun, Odds and Ends, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

What Happens in Sturgis Stays There, Unless Somebody Tells Your Mother

The 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has probably set a new attendance record. Apparently no one knows for sure. Counting motorcycles may seem simple—just count the wheels and divide by two. But what with bikers coming and going at different times and spreading out all over the Black Hills, it isn’t that easy to come up with a crowd count. Especially since, as more and more older riders have switched to trikes, the math gets complicated.

Still, it seems appropriate that several other world records have been set during this year’s record-setting Rally. One was truly impressive: daredevil Doug Danger successfully jumped his Harley over 22 cars. Evel Knievel would have been proud—or at least envious. I just hope this doesn’t inspire any of my grandchildren to go and do likewise.

Another world record wasn’t set at the Rally, but it’s being celebrated here. The record-holder, Bobby Cleveland, has been here all week as part of a tour. People are welcome to rev the engine of his record-setting vehicle: a customized Snapper riding lawn mower that was clocked at 96.5 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats. And yes, it cuts grass, too.

In this spirit of competition, another group of Rally-goers set out to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, too. Their goal: To be the largest number of people ever photographed at once in their underwear.

Yes, apparently there is an existing world record in this category—2270 people. It happened in Salt Lake City. The organizer of the Rally attempt didn’t seem to know further details like who, when, and why. Too bad; inquiring minds would like to know. This inquiring mind, however, decided not to try to look it up. I didn’t want to deal with the kind of spam that would inevitably show up if I did an Internet search combining terms like “photo” and “world record” and “underwear.”

Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on your point of view, the Salt Lake City record still stands. The Rally group all seemed to have a good time, including the reporter who covered the uncovered event for the Rapid City Journal. But they barely mustered 182 people, not much of a thong—er, throng.

What caught my attention about the article was the description of one participant, a Wyoming woman in her early 40’s, who “asked not to be named for fear her mother would see it.”

I completely understand that sentiment. When you live in a sparsely-populated state like South Dakota or Wyoming, no matter where you go you’re likely to run into someone who knows your mother. Or your grandmother. Or your second grade teacher. Which means, if you’re doing something a little odd, like, oh, posing in your underwear with a bunch of other giggling bikers, someone is potentially going to tell your mother all about it. It’s a sort of pre-Internet version of Facebook, just, thankfully, without the pictures.

But in this case, there are pictures, right there in respectable newspapers for anyone to see. If I were the woman from Wyoming, I’d hope my mother wasn’t checking out Sturgis Rally photos with a magnifying glass.

Of course, if she did indulge in that kind of voyeuristic snooping, she probably wouldn’t admit it. She’d be too afraid that somebody would tell her daughter.

Categories: Just For Fun, Odds and Ends | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cookie’s Chuckwagon Blues

This is not exactly a sad country song, but it probably qualifies as a cowboy’s lament. With thanks (or apologies, whichever is more appropriate) to Nancy, who started it.

 

Cookie’s Chuckwagon Blues

With my chuckwagon and my old Dutch ovens,
I’ve cooked a lot of years out on the range.
But I don’t know about these modern cowboys;
Their ideas of grub is passing strange.

Tex won’t eat no more of my hot biscuits
Because his diet now is gluten-free.
He has a rice cake with his beans and bacon.
Cowboys sure ain’t like they used to be.

Slim is munching carrot sticks and celery.
“I got too fat,” he tells me with a sigh.
“Why, I can’t even see my own belt buckle,
Until I can, it’s no more apple pie.”

High cholesterol is Shorty’s problem,
So now he don’t eat butter, eggs, or lard.
He says, “Trans fat is gonna kill ya, Cookie.
Better buy some olive oil, old pard.”

“More beans,” says Joe, as he comes back for seconds,
And it reminds me of the good old days,
Until he adds, “I need to eat more fiber.”
Whatever happened to old cowboy ways?

I miss the days when me and this old wagon
Served cowboy grub as good as grub could git.
But the day some cowpoke asks for tofu burger,
That’s the day I tell the boss, “I quit!”

Categories: Food and Drink, Just For Fun | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Pepperoni in the Rain

If you’re having a tough day, there’s nothing like listening to sad country music to make you feel better. All your real-life troubles take on a new perspective after 15 or 10 minutes of listening to variations of, “You’re gone, and I’ll never get over it, and I’ve been here in the bar drowning my sorrows for 13 years now, but I still can’t understand why you left me.”

Then there are the times when real life just begs to be a sad country song. The other night, for example, I got a phone call from a family member while she was “delivering pizzas in the rain.”

With a line like that to start with, the rest of the song practically writes itself:

Since you left with all our money
All my luck went down the drain.
Now I’m out in my old pickup
Delivering pizzas in the rain.

My only hope is that one evening
When that phone begins to ring,
I will hear you ask me sweetly
For “a large with everything.”

With my heart as extra topping,
I will rush it to your door.
And the only tip I’ll ask for
Is to see your face once more.

Now, that’s extra cheese.

I don’t know about you, but I feel better already. Except for a slight craving for Canadian bacon and black olives.

Categories: Food and Drink, Just For Fun | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Words to Live By

“Favorite Quotation.” This was one of the blanks to fill in on a bio form I had to submit recently for a presentation I’m giving in a few weeks. I assumed they wanted something uplifting and meaningful, a shining little nugget of pithy advice or witty inspiration that is a touchstone in my life.

And I couldn’t think of a thing. It probably didn’t help that the program chairman needed my response by 5:00 p.m., that I’ve read and edited so many self-help books that their wise adages tend to blur together, and that my favorite poet is Ogden Nash. He certainly is quotable—here’s one of his poems:

Reflexions on Ice-Breaking
Candy
is dandy
But liquor
is quicker

However, the inspirational value of lines like this might not be fully appreciated by someone whose goal is to help a presenter seem capable and authoritative.

I finally found some adequate saying or other, sent it in, and promptly forgot about it. The next day, of course, I remembered several delightful, clever, and apt quotations that I could have used instead.

While I was on the subject, though, I started pondering some of the sayings that do influence my life. If I had been more concerned about truth-telling than pseudo-inspiration in my response, I might have cited one of the phrases (source: various semi-anonymous members of my family) that I actually use regularly. Like one of these:

“Cowgirl up.” Its better-known counterpart, “cowboy up,” means shut up, get on with it, do what needs to be done and don’t complain. “Cowgirl up” means pretty much the same thing, except you toss in a little humor while you’re at it. And wear your best red boots, except in situations where Carhartts are more appropriate.

“I just want this to be oooover!” This loud and deeply sincere bit of dramatic criticism from the back of an elementary school gym was one of the highlights of my son-in-law’s time as part of a touring children’s theatre program. My partner and I have appropriated it and find it useful in all sorts of situations. It can be muttered out of the side of one’s mouth during long-winded speeches or tedious meetings. It can be thought to oneself during dental appointments or invasive medical procedures. Said aloud with a dramatic sigh or eye-roll, it suits a variety of occasions from uphill hikes to long car trips to waiting on hold for customer service. Sometimes, the person who wasn’t quick enough to say it first gets to come back with the response my son-in-law gave from the stage: “You and me both, kid!”

Okay, I might as well admit it. When it comes to inspirational words, I’ll take a perspective-restoring chuckle over an uplifting adage any day. It’s sometimes more clever, often more useful, and always easier to remember.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

You Might Have WRSS If . . .

As character defects go, WRSS is a fairly minor one. It’s also geography-related. I assume—though I have no research to back this up—that it affects pretty much the entire populations of states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin; and for Canadians it’s practically a birthright.

The full name for WRSS is Winter Related Superiority Syndrome. It is characterized by the regrettable (but understandable) tendency to feel virtuous and superior just because one happens to live in a part of the country that has severe winters.

You and I, of course, are much too stable and emotionally balanced to be affected by this trait. Or, at least, we are skilled and sneaky enough to keep it hidden. However, if you want to know whether any of your relatives or friends suffer from WRSS, here’s a diagnostic checklist:

1. Have you ever used the phrase, “Cold enough for you?” more than three times in one day? (Extra points if, when other people ask you this question, your standard answer is, “Not quite.”)

2. Do you feel a sense of pride if your home town makes national news for having the lowest temperature in the country?

3. Do you assert that shoveling snow is better exercise than yoga? (Extra points if you genuinely believe this to be true.)

4. Do you find it odd that some people don’t appreciate the beauty of words like “slush” and “thaw”?

5. Have you ever said out loud, in public, that you think insulated coveralls or long underwear are sexy?

6. Do you regard, “It took me 20 minutes to scrape off my car,” as a legitimate excuse for being late for work?

7. Have you ever practiced blowing “smoke” rings when it’s cold enough so you can see your breath?

8. Have you ever asked someone from, say, Florida, how they can stand to live in a place that doesn’t have four seasons?

9. Are you sometimes tempted to go south for the winter, but you would never actually do it because you’re afraid it would make you look like a wimp?

10. Have you ever bragged about being able to perform miracles—pointing out that, for several months of the year, it’s no big deal for you to walk on water?

And finally, here’s how to discover whether your case of WRSS is incurable: You feel acute embarrassment if you’ve made up something snarky about cold weather, only to find that the day you publish it turns out to be sunny with a high of 50 degrees.

Categories: Just For Fun | 3 Comments

“So Rudolph and Darth Vader Walk Into . . . “

“Catalog (noun): A compilation of items you have never heard of and do not need, presented in such a way as to persuade you that you can’t live without them.”

Somebody somewhere must have been selling my address, because an assortment of catalogs have shown up in the mailbox lately. I usually toss them, but the other day two of them arrived just in time to provide reading material while I waited for an appointment.

These catalogs were not selling cheap odd junk, mind you. These, aimed at a more selective and affluent market, were selling expensive odd junk. Like washable cashmere lounging pants, battery-powered nose hair trimmers, indoor flameless marshmallow roasters, and personalized bobblehead dolls created from photographs of your loved ones. Plus a Darth Vader toaster, complete with glowing eyes and the ability to brand “Star Wars” onto each slice of toast.

While each of those had its own particular appeal, two other items caught my attention.

First, the tasteless, creepy, grandchild-terrifying Christmas decoration that no household should be without: the 15-foot tall, animated, inflatable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (only $399.95). Not only does he have an “LED-illuminated bulbous red nose,” but “A quiet electronic motor swivels his head back and forth, implying his natural curiosity, while his pert tail and ears suggest an alertness and eagerness to entertain.” In our neighborhood, that alertness could be a good idea. The real deer who frequent our yard, meeting this outsized interloper, might just decide to test their own natural curiosity and their sharp-pointed antlers against Rudolph’s chubby inflatable legs.

The second item is more utilitarian: a “Cordless Snow Shovel” for a mere $299.99. “Just push a button, and you’re off.” It’s quiet. It has a rechargeable battery. It has zero carbon emissions. (Well, if you don’t count using electricity to recharge those batteries.)

But, wait. We already have two cordless snow shovels. They don’t even need batteries, although their operators may need periodic recharging with hot chocolate. They’re quiet, if you don’t count the occasional grunting, muttering, and whining from their users. I’m not sure about the zero carbon emissions, though; the heavy breathing that accompanies their use must put quite a lot of carbon dioxide into the air.

Oh, now I get it. That’s why we only shovel two tire-width tracks up our long driveway instead of clearing off the whole thing. We’re just trying to reduce our carbon footprint.

Regretfully, I decided not to invest in either of these items. Maybe next year.

But I did think twice about the Darth Vader toaster. One person on my Christmas list, as a little boy, sat enthralled through the first Star Wars movie and, as a teenager, did an impressive Darth Vader impersonation. He just might have loved it.

Categories: Family, Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

You know it’s cold when . . .

You keep the butter on the kitchen counter instead of in the fridge, and it’s still too hard to spread.

You wear long johns and thick boots to a classical music concert.

You notice that everyone else in your row at the concert is also wearing heavy boots. (You can’t be sure about the long johns, but you know which way you’d bet.)

A friend who has two indoor cats and three sort-of-tame outdoor cats now has, “temporarily,” five indoor cats.

You keep your exercise clothes in your car, and it takes the first half of your workout just to warm up your tee shirt.

The cast-iron bathtub is so cold in the morning that your feet are still freezing when you get out of the shower.

A stray wasp in the kitchen sink is so cold it is barely moving, and instead of swatting it while it’s vulnerable, you pick it up with a spoon and put it by the furnace vent.

You decide the attached garage is the greatest architectural achievement since the flying buttress.

You use the warm-air dryer in a public restroom to dry your hands, and it feels so good you get as much of your body under the dryer as possible and stay there until someone comes in and gives you a funny look.

You tell yourself that anyone who goes south for the winter is a wimp, and you pretend your feeling of superiority makes you feel warmer.

You look at the calendar and realize winter won’t officially start for another month. It takes five dark chocolate Hershey Kisses and a cup of scalding coffee to help you recover from the shock.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Finding the Key

I may not be the tidiest and most organized person in the world. (Okay, based on the state of my desk, a photo of which I have NOT included here, an unbiased observer might conclude that I’m not even in the top ten percent of tidiest and most organized people in the world.) Still, I keep track of things reasonably well.

Things like car keys. I have had a driver’s license since 1967. I have owned cars and carried my own sets of car keys since 1970. I’ve kept careful track of every one of those keys. Even when it didn’t matter much, as in the case of the little white Datsun station wagon that could be started just as easily with the house key as the car key. (My then-teenaged son was the one to figure this out; I prefer not to know exactly how or why he made the discovery.)

In my entire driving history, I have never lost a car key. Until now.

I bought a new car last week, my third Honda CR-V. That’s “new” as in “2014, fresh off the lot, only 38 miles on the odometer” new. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought a car that somebody else didn’t own first. It feels luxurious to drive. It allows me to talk on my smart phone with its audio system. It has enough bells and whistles to be exciting, but is still familiar enough to be comfortable.

And, instead of browsing through the manual, learning how to use all the great technology this car offers, what have I spent my free time on since I’ve had this car?

Trying to find the second key for my previous car. In my defense, it’s my partner’s key rather than mine. But since he’s been gone all summer, I’m afraid the person responsible for that key vanishing from the top of his dresser has to be me.

The one place I know it can’t be is in the car. In getting it ready to sell, I cleaned the glove compartment, under the seats, under the floor mats, all the little compartments in the console, the cup holders and side pockets in all four doors, and the “hidden” drawer under the passenger’s seat. I found several fast-food napkins, two stray water bottles, three old tubes of lip balm, a peppermint, and seven pennies. No key.

I emptied out my purse and turned it inside out. I found cough drops and cough drop wrappers, unused but battered tissues, 57 cents in odd change, four faded store receipts, a few expired coupons, and two old grocery lists. No key.

I checked under and between the seat cushions in the couch, two recliners, and the rocking chair. I found a handful of lint, a nickel, an unexpected dollar bill, and an embarrassing amount of popcorn. No key.

I examined every reusable bag I routinely carry in my car, plus every reusable bag that’s ever been in my car. I checked the gym clothes bag, the library book bag, the craft/project bag, the big shopping bag, the small shopping bag, and the three string bags. No key.

I looked in every jacket, coat, and pair of pants in every closet in the house. By the time I got done, I had had my hands in more pockets than a Tammany Hall politician. No key.

But there’s still hope. I’m not ready to resort to this yet, but I know there’s one last strategy that’s sure to work. All I have to do is cough up $150 to make a new key. Within hours, like magic, the old one will turn up.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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