Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ten things I Miss About Texas that I'm stuck here in Washington State.

For some reason, God with his infinite sense of humor has placed me far from home under gray, cold and dripping skies. I miss the big old sprawling, boisterous and beautiful state of Texas where I was born and spent most of my life. Here are some of the things I miss about home.

  1. Texas sunsets and fields of bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes
  2. Canoeing Texas Rivers
  3. Sailing Texas lakes (we have actual wind there)
  4. Blue Northers (being that suddenly cold makes you know you are alive)
  5. The Alamo (Texas's #1 sacred place)
  6. Chuy's Mexican Restaurant  (Austin, Dallas and Tyler)
  7. Buffalo Creek Barbecue (Cleburne)
  8. Dinosaur Valley State park (Glen Rose)
  9. The San Jacinto Monument, Battlefield and the Battleship Texas (Texas's #2 sacred place) 
  10. Watching Tornadoes go past and miss me altogether (you know your angel is there beside you at times like these) 
There are lots of other things about Texas I like. Big Bend Country, the wide open spaces of West Texas, the Big Thicket, historic Austin, Ft. Worth Children's Museum and Planetarium, The San Antonio Riverwalk. Shakespeare in the Park in Fort Worth, The Caddo Indian Mounds, The North Texas Irish Festival, Padre Island, Jefferson River Port, Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant in Fort Worth, and Longhorn Caverns just to name a few. I love my state.

© 2016 by Tom King

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Signs You're Getting Old

Age sneaks up on you and pretty soon you're doing stuff you SWORE you'd never ever do in your life. Here are some early warning signs that decrepitude is approaching:

1. You don't have to set your alarm clock anymore, unless you want to make sure you don't get up so early that your grandkids think you must have been a dairy farmer once.

2. You choose movies to watch that won't disturb your nap. British period movies are a special favorite, although you find anything with John Wayne or Maureen O'Hara in it to be soothing.

3. You have a favorite movie that you've never seen the end of.  And that's part of the reason you like it so well.

4. You wear black knee socks with shorts - not because you think its fashionable, but because it hurts too much to bend over and take them off. I mean getting a pair of shorts on is tough enough. Who has the energy left to change your socks?

5. You drop things a lot less often, because it's too danged hard to get down on your knees to pick them back up again. Before picking anything up you look around for some kind of long-handled tool. If you haven't bought a grabber yet, you've had one in the shopping cart at least once.

6. You park out on the far side of the grocery store parking lot in order to (a) protect your car from dents caused by people parking next to you and (b) because the extra walk is part of your plan to get "back in shape".

7. Your memory is so far gone that you actually believe that you were once "in shape". Your stories about the days when you were in shape are the stuff of legend (or more accurately - mythology).  Joseph Campbell once interviewed you for a book he was writing.

8. At least one day a month, you never get around to changing out of your pajamas. Either that or you slept in your clothes. Either that or you wear the same clothes all the time.

9. You realize that you are probably never going to get around to writing the Great American Novel and that not paying attention in high school English probably didn't hurt your career that much or if it did, you really don't care anymore.

10. You develop a sudden interest in the surgical arts - as practiced upon yourself and your friends. You find yourself discussing colonoscopies over meals at four-star restaurants.

The bad news is that it gets worse from here on. When someone suggests going to a monthly bingo game at 6:00 am down at the McDonald's in the Walmart Supercenter, and you think it "sounds like fun", you will have officially topped the hill and begun the long slide down into geezerdom.

The good news? You've lived long enough to become a problem for your children, which is sort of payback for all the misery they caused for you when they were kids. They'll be having that "meeting" down at the I-Hop one day soon to figure out what to do with you. You will not be invited and your suggestions will not be seriously considered.

Smile and go with it (but put in your dentures first; the gums are just not attractive, okay).

(c) 2004 by Tom King

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ten Ways Your Dog is Telling You You're A Compulsive Neat Freak

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a human by the behavior of his or her dog. My wife and I have been married 39 years. Ours is a mixed marriage.  She's a compulsive clean freak. I am NOT. We've compromised on the deal. I'm now a compulsive hand-washer. I keep my street shoes in a rack by the front door and do NOT wear them in the house and I've developed an allergy to chlorine bleach. Once, I was sitting at my desk while she was cleaning the living room.  She dusted me! I've also been vacuumed, polished and sent back to rewash my hands. I'm 59 years old.

I'm now noticing signs in our dog that may indicate there's more to the theoretical symbiotic relationship between woman and beast than I first thought. Here are 10 dog behaviors I have noticed in canines who live with people who I suspect might be clinical neat freaks, if there were such a diagnosis in the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Here are the diagnostic criteria I've come up with. If your dog shows three or more of the following behaviors, YOU might be a neat freak.


1.  When the dog enters your house she throws herself over on her back and sticks her feet up to be washed.

2.  When you turn on the vacuum cleaner, the dog comes and sits in front of it until you vacuum her down with the upholstery hose and likes it.

3.  When you leave your shoes on the floor, the dog puts them on the shoe rack by the front door.

4.  The dog enjoys taking a bath.

5.  The dog wears more cologne than you do and has her own fragrance.

6.  The dog has a dog bed in every room with washable slipcovers that are washed more often than weekly.

7.  The dog's food costs more than yours and/or she's vegan, has her own toothbrush and a favorite brand of special doggie toothpaste.

8.  The dog has at some time or other worn underpants around the house.

9.  The dog doesn't like for its feet to touch grass or dirt.

10. The dog expects you to wipe her butt after she goes poop (after you pick the poop up with the special plastic gloves and properly dispose of it, of course - and she sits and watches you to make sure you do it).

My dog is beginning to develop a few of these traits, but fortunately, she has me to take her for a walk and show her how the other half lives occasionally. We both know, however, that the rules go back into effect at the front door where our shoes come off and our feet get washed!

© 2013 by Tom King

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Top Ten Lists Reveal the Top Ten Reasons American Culture is Dying

© 2013 by Tom King

If you want to take the temperature of American Culture, go spool through top ten lists - top ten worst movies, top ten funniest movies, top ten reasons you're stupid and I'm not.  You'll get a taste of what passes for cutting edge cultural awareness and good taste in the world of 20 to 30 somethings, who are apparently the only human beings worthy of the attention of advertisers. Either that or you'll take an overdose of something handy and die.

Should you survive with your brain relatively intact, here are ten things that, according to our society's youthful critical class, which are the essential criteria for coolness, at least according to today's most "important" demographic.

1. Drugs - I waded through several "top ten funniest movies of all time" expecting to find stuff like "Some Like it Hot", "Philadelphia Story", "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Odd Couple".  Instead it was usually ten movies about teenagers using drugs, having sex and committing mayhem. The criteria for funny these days is apparently directly proportional to the the quantity of drugs consumed while taking your pants off.

2. Meaninglessness - When looking at the best overlooked films, most under-rated films, best movies of all time, the lists lean strongly toward the dystopian, post-modernist, violent and obscure. The more depressing the ending, the more likely to win the Oscar. Apparently being militantly hopeless is the new cool.

3. Self-Centeredness - The kinds of things that make the top ten lists these days tend to be films, music and television about characters who are not just anti-heroes, but about characters that are anti-human almost. Slashers now have cult followings and any character who acts selflessly in these types of films is quickly revealed to be a self-centered fraud in disguise. Moral of the story?  Everybody is a self-centered prat and no one is to be trusted, not even yourself.  I blame Freud.

4. Immodest Dress - The most admirably decked out in our modern world are those who show lots of cleavage, thigh and nipple, roughly in that order and without regard to gender. Skin tight, liposuction chiseled abs are standard as are enhanced bosoms and buttocks, whether by surgery or steroid treatments. Black is still cool. While I'm growing tired of strategically placed rags, apparently the culture has decided to run with it. Fashion designers are still managing to sell tattered dishcloths as high fashion, however.

5. Attitude - Attitude is important in the modern urban dystopia. It seems that you cannot be cool unless you are totally self-interested, chronically negative and pretty danged arrogant about it. Giant egos and abusive manners are hereby all the rage.  Women have, in this attitudinous culture, been freed from their shackles only to submit meekly to being called b%^#$ and wh#@%$. I fail to see how feminists have improved their lot at all, but hey, I admit to being uncool.

6. Disdainfulness - It is particularly important in your search for coolness in today's edgy culture, that you look down on the things your peers all look down upon. You must have nothing good to say about religion, mom, apple pie and country and speak dismissively to anyone who is not approved of by your fellow disdainfuls in the same manner that a superior speaks to a menial (and lets face it, anyone who is not you or part of the cool group is a menial).

7. Criticality - Thanks to the Internet, we can not only share our most private thoughts, talk back to celebrities and be spied on by our mothers, but because we in this free information cornucopia of opportunity, everybody's a bloody critic. You have to watch out though. If you criticize the wrong thing (as I am doing now) and anyone finds out, you may be swarmed by your fellow critics and worse, be dismissed as a cultural dinosaur by the arbiters of what's gangsta, whoever they are.

8. Thugitude - Something about being a thug that brings romance into our lives these days. The sort of music you listen to should support all the above personality traits in addition to helping you to project a vaguely (and, when necessary, not so vaguely) threatening aspect to any of wankers who attempt get in your face.

9. Illiteracy - We are apparently sliding back to the medieval in terms of spelling and word usage. Evidently, those who are really a part of the special group of cutting edge intellects these days have forgone spelling and spell words or use grammar in any fashion that occurs to them. It's a combination of urban street slang, text message shortcuts and creative attempts to indicate to others that you are somehow superior to everyone else. Kind of like pig Latin for thugs. "Wad up, br? Fo Shizzle my dizzle, what a bizzo meet me up the gizzo when you get a clizzo, and yo bro wuz the problemo? ROTFLMAO"

10. Obama Worshipfulness - Finally, you must believe that President Obama represents the only hope for the future of mankind and you must be believe in him no matter what he says or in spite of any evidence that he's an egomaniacal Marxist tyrant to the contrary. Just repeat this mantra, "Obama good, Tea Party baaaad!" over and over until your eyes glaze and you develop an overwhelming urge to eat human brains. Once you have achieved this state, the only thing to remember is to avoid people with shotguns and you are officially off the heezie fo' sheezie and a card-carrying member of the Zombie Apocalypse.

I'm just sayin'


Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Top Ten Favorite Funny Songs

When you sing like I do, you go for funny. No one wants to hear a love song from a voice that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.  I therefore borrowed the Richard Harris talk-singing technique, the only thing that worked for people with raggedy voices before we got those sound systems that automatically correct your pitch if you get lost along the way.  I just love those things, but it does seem like cheating somehow.  So I've always kept an assortment of funny songs in my song bag, though, just in case I was playing guitar and someone mistook me for a singer. 

So, here, in no particular order, are my top ten favorite funny or novelty songs (with links to examples of redentions of same) designed to make you a wildly popular entertainer with children and drunks.

  1. The Boa Constrictor Song - Shel Silverstein's masterful combination of horror, humor and general grossitude. Extremely popular at summer camps, day care centers and old folks homes. Shel also wrote two other popular novelty tunes - "A Boy Named Sue" and "Cover of the Rolling Stone" - as well as a string of popular childrens' poem books beginning with "Where the Sidewalk Ends" which won an award or two. The version here is by Shel Silverstein himself  and includes several of his other kids songs as well.
  2. Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road - Loudan Wainright III's paean to noxious road kill always gets a sing-along started. I'm not sure why, but children and drunks seem to like singing the world stinkin' very loudly for some reason. Here the inimitable Mr. Wainright sings his classic song live in concert.
  3. That's How the Yodel was Born - Riders in the Sky's Ranger Doug demonstrates the high and lonesome sound made by an unfortunate cowboy who landed a bit far forward on the saddle of his bucking bronc on this painful song. In this instance, yodeling will really make you cringe once you hear how it came about.
  4. Apeman - The Kinks did some really interesting and fun songs during their erratic career. This one was my favorite. It's not screamingly hilarious, but it is a lot of fun to sing. This version is an in-concert recording.
  5. Boomer Johnson - I first heard this cowboy poem about a murderous range cook on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion radio show. I have a tape around here somewhere and got the words and music from that. I found mostly recitations. This version uses a slightly different tune than I do, but you get the idea. Stick around through all the verses for the most satisfying ending I ever heard for a song about a bad man.
  6. When I Was a Dinosaur - This fun song is by the duo, Trout Fishing in America. Keith Grimwood the short and substantial standup bass player and Ezra Idlet, the tall lanky guitar player play eclectic folk/rock hits to audiences of all ages. They're one of the few night club acts that can get away with playing Teddy Bear's Picnic at 2am to a bunch of drunks and get a wild round of applause. This song is always a hit with 5 year olds. 
  7. Waltzing With Bears - My daughter and I used to sing this song together. It's a classic kids song and went immediately to folk status and collected several dozen new verses along the way and the beauty is that there is always room for new and ever more scurrilous verses if you care to add some.
  8. Mad Dogs and Englishmen - This classic bit of parlor humor was written by the inimitable Noel Coward. The faster you sing it the more effective this tongue tangler is.  The link shows Noel singing a lightning round version that takes the breath away.
  9. All I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee - This version is by my favorite duo, Eric and Keith of Trout Fishing in America. This is another one of those that gets faster and faster and challenges you to keep your tongue untangled.
  10. I'm My Own Grandpa - This horrible old song is the chronicle of backwoods marriage run amuck. It's appropriate to end this list with a version of this song performed in riotous fashion by the Muppets.  Keep in mind that circumstances laid out in this song could actually happen all quite legally and given the current run of May/December weddings out there, it could happen again.
 There are a whole lot of other songs out there that could be added to this list. This is just my personal top ten - the ones I've learned how to play. If you have some favorites of your own, please add them to the comments section below.

© 2013 by Tom King

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ten Best Pies and Cobblers(IMHO)

I can resist most desserts. Ice Cream, even homemade vanilla with peaches doesn't make my knees week. Chocolate, I can do without. I can skip all manner of puddings, parfaits and bon bons. What I cannot pass by however is a well-made pie.

By "well-made" I mean one that has a crisp, flaky crust and some manner of fruit inside it. I'm partial to fruit, although there is one non-fruit entry in my list and only one woman in the world who can make it. The list herewith is personal and by no means exhaustive. I've made no attempt to rank my favorite pies in order of goodness. Instead I have included only pies which would be the best in the world at the time I happen to be in the mood for just that one special pie.

The List:

Marie Callendar Razzleberry Pie - This is one of the few store bought pies I include on this list. I include it because it is so danged good. It's a combination of blackberry, raspberry and apples. I can't always find it down at the grocery store, but when I spot one, I grab it along with a tub of Bluebell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream - the only proper ice cream for eating with pie (unless you hand crank up my grandmother's special recipe vanilla ice cream).

Sam's/Wal-Mart's giant bakery lattice apple pie - Wal-Mart makes a huge lattice top apple pie that rivals anybody's anywhere. You can get them at Sam's almost any time and for the price you can't beat it. It's not too sweet and the filling is more fruity than most store-bought pies. It can take days to eat one, they're so huge.

Mama's Homemade Peach Cobbler - Okay it's not exactly a pie. It's better. The recipe is superb, it's more peachy. She goes easy on the spices so that great flavor comes through and the pie filling isn't so juicy that you forget there's peaches in there. This is the way a proper cobbler is made in the south.  Just follow that recipe and you'll be unhappy with any other peach pie or cobbler you ever eat again.  I promise. 

Aunt Sheila's Homemade Chocolate Meringue Pie - This pie can only be made from scratch. The recipe starts from cocoa and is all about timing. My Sweet Baboo doesn't like meringue most of the time, but for this pie, she makes an exception. It's also good with Cool Whip or Whip Cream on it, but it's absolutely magnificent with meringue. This thing is hard to resist and I don't even like chocolate pie!

Uncle Tom's Lemon Meringue Pie - This isn't one of those fancy lemon cream pies or icebox lemon pies. Those things are way too sweet.  This lemon pie is a simple Jello Lemon Pudding and Pie filling pie. The secret is Mrs. King's pie crust which I cannot now duplicate and despair of ever being able to reproduce. I'm working on the recipe and will include a link later if you want to give it a try. I love this kind of pie.  I get one of these for my birthday every year instead of a cake (another dessert I can easily resist).

Tart Cherry Pie - Most cherry pies are far too sweet and syrupy. I like mine fruity and with a lot less sugar than most folk use. I like a cherry pie that contrasts with the ice cream, not one that overpowers it. With this one, I like a little evaporated milk instead of ice cream so I can taste the cherries properly. I've never eaten a store-made cherry pie that quite makes the grade.

Wild Blackberry Cobbler -  A proper wild blackberry cobbler is one where you went out and gathered the blackberries yourself. This recipe can also be made as a pie or a nice lattice cobbler. Either way it's tart, not too sweet and a perfect framework for a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. It's not nearly as good if you bought the berries. To fully enjoy this you have to be picking thorns out of your fingers as you eat it.
Quick Peach Cobbler - This unique little recipe is one of my guiltier pleasures and, in my opinion, the only thing cake mix is truly useful for. It's made by mixing up cake batter, pouring it into a casserole disk with a thick layer of melted butter in the bottom and then pouring in some peaches. The cake batter crisps on the bottom and side from the hot butter and wraps itself around the peaches to make a nice buttery/peachy cobbler that you can whip up in a few minutes. This recipe offers a from-scratch cake batter, but you can use the kind in the box quite as well. The trick is to make the outside of the crust crispy so you get the nice contrast between the butter and the peaches.

Pumpkin Pie - I love pumpkin pie because it is the only proper pie to serve for breakfast. It's much better after it's spent the night in the fridge and you take it out and eat it chilled with maybe a little whipped cream. It really needs nothing. The kind you make with canned pumpkin is just fine. The only thing is not to overdue the spices. The spices should set off the flavor of the pumpkin, not overwhelm it.  This is a nice recipe. Just adjust the spice to suit your taste.

Southern Pecan Pie -  Pecan pies are rather sweeter than any of the other pies I've included in this list, but, made properly, they absolutely make my favorite pie list. Pecan pie is all about the crust and the nuts. The crust has to be flaky and delicious to offset the sweet filling. I like my pecan pies long on the pecans and short on the filling. I find that 99% of store-bought pecan pie is only faux pecan pie. They put some pecans on top with some cracker filling around them so it looks like more pecans than there are.  In the south, we just drive around till we find a pecan tree hanging over the grader ditch, knock enough off for a couple of pies and take 'em home to shell. There is no excuse for skimping on a pecan pie in the south except that you just don't have any self-respect. If you don't have enough for a proper top coat of pecans on your pie, make brownies instead. I mean really people.....

The secret to a good pie is the crust. Any decent cook will tell you that. Everybody has their own way of doing it.  My wife's recipe is the best I've seen.  I'll add the link as soon as I torture her to get the recipe.
Dang! Now I'm gonna have to go make a pie. And my diet was coming along so well.

Tom King

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Top 12 Famous People with Bad Hair

For some reason, there are a lot of famous people who do not care what their hair looks like.  Well, today is National Bad Hair Day and to celebrate we present this rogues of famous people with bad hair. These are in no particular order of badness. They all have bad hair in their own way.  Some are loveable. Some dispicable. There's no accounting for who has bad hair.

Albert Einstein - Einstein wild and wooly mane of white hair set the trend for fashionable physicists for the rest of the 20th century. His singular hairstyle is now known to my barber as "Einstein hair" and apparently I've got it. Oh, well you could look like someone much worse. 

Abraham Lincoln -  Honest Abe honestly had a most unruly head of hair. It looked much of the time as though Mary Todd put a bowl on his head and went after the loose ends with a hatchet. Still under that ragged hair of his beat the heart of a wise and gentle man.  Lincoln actually made bad hair look good.

Carrot Top - Carrot Top, with his arresting shock of wild red hair has been making people laugh for close to three decades with a sense of humor as wild and unruly as that head of hair. Bad hair can be funny and profitable as Mr. Top has proved.
Daniel Webster - Nineteenth century American politician Daniel Webster was known for his gift as a speech-maker.  Legend has it that he could out negotiate the devil and given some of the characters in the US Senate with which he had to wrangle, he probably could have.  The hair must have been a little intimidating. Later pictures of him show an increasingly angry head of hair framing his face. Knowing Daniel he fixed it that way on purpose to mess with people's heads.

Don King - The wrestling promoter that gave us so many fights of the century that he ran out of century had hair that looked like it was something alive sitting on top of his head.  People didn't like to stand too close. There were rumors that his hair would bite off your fingers if you got too close. People always stood back when they were negotiating with Don. His hair struck fear into the hearts of sportscasters, boxers and arena owners.

Donald Trump - What can we say about the Trumpster?  The man is the king of the ugly comb-over. For someone with enough money to buy the Hair Club for Men, a man who could have all the beautiful women he wanted even if he were absolutely bald, the man who is the financial wunderkind of New York City is somehow absolutely clueless about how bad his hair looks. Go figure!

Adolph Hitler - This guy was so scary that no one dared tell him he wasn't fooling anyone with the comb-over, nor that the moustache looked like overgrown nose hair. 
Mark Twain - American humorist Mark Twain was the champion of the witty remark. His gifts as a writer and speech-maker very likely gave rise to the idea that people with weird hair were highly intelligent, something Albert Einstein would go on to reinforce.

John Adams - Our second president had the dual problem of massive frontal hair loss and massive crown of wild hair in the back. Adams really wanted the office of president to have more regal trappings but George Washington set the precedent for a less ostentatious presentation for later chief executives.  Adams could have used a crown, though, to cover the bald forehead and mash down all that hair.

Colonel Muamar Ghaddafi (or however you spell it) was the very nasty dictator of Libya. Nobody could figure out how to really spell his name. We're not even sure he knew how it was spelled. The Colonel as he was known to his friends and everyone he terrorized during his heyday in the late 70s and early 80s was in danger of becoming as wild and crazy as his hair until Ronald Reagan blew up his house to get his attention. After that he was much calmer, though he did try to develop nukes until George Bush invaded Iraq and hung his buddy, Saddam Hussein. Took a little more of the fluff out of his hair, that did.

Henry David Thoreau - Nineteenth century essayist, poet, hermit and general intellectual guy was author of "On Walden Pond" (not the movie with Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda - the long dull essay they make you read in high school lit class).  Apparently weird hair was deemed sexy, at least by the languid Mr. Thoreau.

Martin Van Buren - Last, but not least, the dull as a post US president with the flamboyant hairdo, Martin Van Buren made whiskers fashionable again. Not a wild success as president, but given the hairdo, one suspects he really didn't give a hoot.

Me - I figure if this collection of guys can get away with having hair that looks like they slept with their heads in a Cuisinart, why do I ever want to spend $15 on a barber? What's the use when you can do the Einstein hair and look smarter to boot. 

I tease therefore I am....

© 2013 by Tom King