Friday, December 26, 2008

Betty & Walter

Betty was the oldest of the five girls in Momma's family. She was an x-ray technician when I was very young, then moved into administration and something to do with insurance for a private hospital for children. Work was always a big part of who she was. She was a career woman in an era when everyone was a stay-at-home mom.

She married Walter when I was in first grade. I remember because everyone came to school--the Catholic church next door to school to be exact. It was a big deal to see my aunts and uncles all dressed up. Some of my older cousins got to skip class to attend the ceremony.

Walter is a postcard from the late 40s and early 50s. He smoked a pipe, sported thick glasses, and always wore a white shirt, short-sleeved or long depending on the season, pleated pants, wingtips, and a skinny tie. He was a higher up in the county tax commissioner's office--a career bureaucrat. He had a amazing train track set-up with mountains, bodies of water, small towns, and farms. When we were very young, he would sometimes put on his conductor cap and run the trains for us. He also fed the ducks and other water birds that hung out at a city pond in the park behind their house.

Betty and Walter never had children. As the oldest girl in single-parent family with eight kids, Betty probably had her fill of raising children well before she married. Betty was the typical oldest sister--a bit bossy and quick to point out to her siblings the error of their ways. She was also the one everybody ran to anytime they needed anything. She always helped, and rarely said a word about it--to anyone.

Betty and Walter often hosted potluck picnics, especially around Memorial Day or Labor Day. These were much more sedate than the big Fourth of July blow-outs, but similar in that the aunts and some of my uncles would sit at card tables in the shade playing bridge. It was not unusual to have as many as three tables going at one of these family picnics. From time to time they'd call out for one of us to come sit in for them while they took a break from the game. Most of the cousins know the fundamentals of bridge.

These bridge games were often loud and boisterous, especially as time went on. None of the aunts was ever wrong about anything. Consequently, arguments would break out about proper bidding, what somebody should have done, and the best way to play the hand. The language would be enough on occasion to make a sailor blush. Everybody smoked. Given that the get together was associated with a holiday, alcohol flowed freely, too.

Betty was an avid supporter of University of Kentucky basketball and football. She was thrilled to have nieces and nephews with UK degrees. She praised us for our accomplishments and was quick to offer support to anyone that was struggling for whatever reason. She bought more interview, funeral, and wedding suits for various cousins than you could count.

I don't recall Betty or Walter ever saying a word about me being gay. They knew. Everyone did. My partner and I hosted the annual Fourth of July blow-out at our house for several years. They always came, and they always treated my partner like he was one of the family. Actions speak louder than words. They died, fairly close together, of cancer and were very well cared for--by my cousins--up to the very end.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Momma's Family

Being born in to Momma's family was about the best thing that ever happened to me. Growing up in this huge clan of close-knit people meant I was surrounded by tons of people who loved me like a brother or son. The relationships I had with each and every one of the members of the clan left an impression on me. With so many of them gone, I've decided that I want to devote a future posting to each one. This is the introduction to those stories.

Momma is the baby of eight kids. Her father, a son-of-a-bitch in her view, died at 38 when she was still young. Her mother died while Momma was pregnant with me. Becoming an alcoholic if she wasn't one already seemed a rational choice for a single mother with eight kids to raise in the 1940s. All eight kids adored her. Most of them believe she died trying to dry out so she could stay with Momma for a while after I was born.

Grandma sent the kids away to boarding school. All five girls attended Cardome--a boarding school for Roman Catholic girls run by a group of cloistered nuns. The three oldest girls (Betty, Mary and Peggy--all now deceased) graduated from Cardome in the 1940s. Momma graduated from the Catholic High School in Lexington, KY in 1956. Toodles (also deceased) never finished high school, though details about that are fuzzy, by design.

The three boys attended military school, where they joined a cousin with the same last name. Throughout their years at the military school they were A-sir (the cousin), B-sir (Bobby--the oldest), C-sir (Gene) and D-sir (Ervil Melvin). Bobby died in the Korean War. Uncle Gene is in poor health now, and with Momma, the only ones still living. Uncle Deezer (derived from D-sir and a big improvement over Ervil Melvin) died of cancer many years ago.

Growing up, Momma spent hours and hours on the telephone each day catching up with each of her four sisters and via their wives, her two brothers. Everyone knew everything about everyone else--instantly. It was that way my whole life and remains more or less that way today thanks in no small part to Momma.

Mostly because she could get by with it, Momma was afraid to stay by herself overnight. When Dad got a job as a firefighter, he worked 24 hours and was off for 48. So every third night for all of my life to age 18, we either packed our bags and stayed with one of the aunts (or my godmother--Momma's best friend from high school) or one of them came and stayed with us. Momma didn't start driving until long after me and my sister left the nest. We spent a lot of time waiting for rides to get us home, to school, or to wherever we were spending the night.

Like that wasn't enough, all the cousins were forever being herded together to celebrate various and sundry holidays, birthdays, weddings, and an unfortunate number of early funerals. Fourth of July was the single biggest family blow-out of the year. Deezer hosted a potluck cook-out at his house with plenty of room for the kids to play, an above-ground swimming pool, and a row of tall shady trees at the back of the lot. Between all the cousins and guests, Uncle James (Peggy's husband) could always pull teams together for any sport. Each kid was assigned to the various teams based on his or her strengths which Uncle James was always able to identify. We were all stars.

Christmas varied from family to family. With Momma's fear of staying alone, we got to experience Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the home of each of our many aunts and uncles. We even had our own Santa--Uncle Gene, another firefighter in the family--was the official Santa Claus for Lexington, KY from before I was born until long after I no longer believed. I and my cousins all believed much longer than was the norm. After all, we had home visits from Santa ever year, were waved good-bye to at the end of his letter-reading show on TV (and he always read our letters), and he knew if we'd been naughty or nice and could cite examples.

It was a crazy way to grow up. We had a blast. But it also made it almost impossible to participate in any extracurricular activities. For years I swore I'd never forgive Momma for subjecting us to it. I've since had reason not only to forgive her, but to thank her for what turned out to be an incredible gift. My sister and I spent so much time with our aunts and uncles that they know us as well as they know their own kids. I love them like they were my own parents, and I want to share them with those of you who maybe haven't been so blessed.

That's my gift to you this Christmas and for 2009. I hope you'll enjoy reading as much as I'll enjoy the writing and reminiscing. You'll find, if you haven't figured it out already, that there's absolutely no reason for me to be....

The Crotchety Old Man
Merry Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wild and Free

The BF is off visiting family this weekend. He took the baby with him, so I've been left to my own devices. They'll be back tomorrow, so I'm pretty sure I'll survive.

What have I done with my time? I spent most of the day Saturday deep cleaning half the house. This was one of those take-everything-out-of-the-room cleanings that has been long overdue for quite a while now. Sunday I tackled the other side of the house. Feels good to have that behind me. Shoot, I may even clean out a couple of drawers.

I also went shopping for a bit yesterday. First I went to the grocery store for some essential items. Of course, being footloose and fancy free for the weekend caused me to buy some doughnuts (my personal weakness), a frozen pizza (hey it's cheaper than ordering for delivery), some frozen fried chicken steaks (that come with gravy!), and a half-gallon of one of my favorite ice creams (maple nut--and it was not a half-gallon, just made to look like one). I ate two (of six) doughnuts in the car on the way home from the grocery.

I had two more doughnuts at home then ran out to the mall. Didn't need to do any shopping so much as I just wanted to be out there in all the holiday splendor. I bought 90 percent of my gifts online this year and was missing some of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Ran in to Best Buy to take a look at a wireless surround-sound system. Gave up pretty fast due to information overload.

But mostly what I did all day all by myself and with great abandon was eat. I had my usual morning yogurt with blueberries and a banana while I was cleaning the house Sunday morning. Had one of every free sample at the grocery store (it's one of those things--they're free and regular exposure to all those germs keeps my resistance to colds and flu high). Couldn't resist a cup of cinnamon pretzel bites at the mall. Have you seen these? Yum! They have powdered sugar ones, too. I found out they had a smaller size right after I received my mega cup full. Oh well. Too late.

Since I was on the far end of town anyway, I decided to pick up some Bojangles fried chicken for dinner. I selected the 3-piece (all white meat), with dirty rice and for my health, some coleslaw. It was great, and the last two doughnuts were an excellent dessert. The only problem was I had that around 3 which meant I needed to eat again around 7.

I wasn't hungry, mind you. But fearful that I might wake up hungry in the middle of the night, I opted to do some preventive eating. I popped my frozen pizza in to the oven after I added the last of a pack of pepperoni to it. I cut the finished product into fourths with the idea of leaving half for t0morrow night. Once I ate the third piece, hardly seemed worth saving the last piece, so I ate it, too.

I've been looking for maple nut ice cream for weeks, so I had to have a little bit before going to bed. Just two little dips--and I didn't add the chocolate topping I purchased to go with it. Call me the very picture of self-control. Then I went to bed.

I didn't sleep so much as prayed not to explode. It was close a few times. But I made it through the night and lived to eat again. Today, however, I think I'll stick to salad. I'm kind of partial to the house salad at Zaxby's--grilled (not fried--more of that self-control) with honey mustard dressing. I'll try not to enjoy the Texas Toast, fried onion rings and cheese that come with it. I could ask for them to leave that stuff off--but you pay for it anyway, and in this economy, I hate to waste a dime.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Rush to Judgement

I remain convinced that Barack Obama is the most intelligent man to be elected to the Presidency in my lifetime. His campaign was not only effective, but brilliant. Not since Lincoln have we seen a President comfortable enough with his own ability to govern to surround himself not with those to whom he owes a favor, but with individuals that are *gasp* among the most capable in the nation. It's a new era--an awakening--and it's long overdue.

Clinton is smart--actually both of them are smart. But Bill doesn't always think with the right body part. Hillary is widely recognized as one of the most partisan politicos around. President-Elect Obama is too smart to make either of those mistakes. Obama is a new political animal--one with the goal to bring people together from all walks of life to solve the problems we face together as a nation.

So to all my gay brothers and sisters that have exploded over the invitation Obama issued to Rev. Warren to offer the invocation at his inauguration, I say relax and give the man a break. Believe it or not, what other people do isn't always about you. And in this case, making nice with the new Billy Graham and one of the nation's most popular and well-respected ministers is quite likely to help more than hurt in the long run.

Frankly, I find the reaction from the gay community to be disappointing. The gaystapo marches again. It's us engaging in the same ugly tactics and behavior that we've seen from 'the other side' all these years. We have become them, and it's ugly.

Give our new president a chance. Don't rush to judge in light of one little incident. Yeah I've read all the posts about what an affront the Warren invite is to the gay community. If you're that mad, take it to FoxNews or talk radio. Join the rest who will jump on every single perceived slight and are doing whatever they can to bring the man down before he even takes office. But me, I'm going to support the man that I believe is the best hope we've had for equal rights in the history of the United States.

Change I can believe in. What about you?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Things I Should Have Blogged About

The holiday season is always a busy time of year. Even though I'm not traveling and I got all my holiday shopping done early, this year seems busier than ever. I've been so busy that I have missed out on the chance to blog about several items of importance.

I'm thrilled that Michelle won The Biggest Loser. She was an early favorite for me and it was great to see her stick it to Vicki--the nastiest bitch that's ever needed to lose weight. It was also fun to see Ed selected by America over his wife, Heba. They both made impassioned pleas last week for we the public to vote for Heba. Ed got the most votes--86 percent. That made me laugh. Heba won the competition among those sent home early, so I guess it wasn't too hard on her given the $100,000 prize.

Drew Peterson, borderline pedophile and wife killer, has a new girlfriend. They're engaged. I bet she has a collection of pen pals doing time in various institutions around the country. Some women are crazy that way.

While much of the rest of the country is experiencing abnormally low temperatures, here in Athens we're flirting with record highs. Last night it was so warm in the house that I ended up turning the air conditioning back on. Today I have been driving around with the top down on my convertible in a short-sleaved shirt. This kind of winter weather I can live with.

UGA starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, a junior, is acting like he's seriously considering another year at UGA. I hope he and Knowshon Moreno both stay another year. However, with both being first round draft choices, and Stafford looking at something like a $35 million signing bonus, I'm not holding my breath. You can talk all you want about pride and the desire to redeem themselves for a disappointing season. I'm willing to bet that the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day will be the last college game for both Stafford and Moreno.

The BF is heading out of town on Saturday to spend a few days with his family. Tico is going with him. At first, I wasn't real happy about both of them being gone and leaving (needy old) me here all by myself. That little chihuahua has been tap dancing on my last nerve the last few days. It's hard to stay mad at him because he's so adorable. But I do find myself ever so slightly looking forward to a few chihuahua-free days.

Guess that's why they call me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Inquisitive Toddler

Our little baby long-haired Chihuahua is 11 weeks old today. He went to the vet this morning and he's gained a full half a pound since we got him. Now he weighs in at a whopping 2.4 pounds.

His training--of us--is progressing fairly well. He was regressing on his housebreaking. We evaluated our behavior and determined he needed to be taken outside more frequently. Now as long as we remember to take him out every hour or so, there are no accidents. Well--let's just say the accidents are fewer and further between. It's all about progress.

He doesn't have any problems getting in his crate when it's time to go to bed or when we leave the house. He makes it through the night without crying now, but is definitely an early riser. That's OK. We are too, rarely sleeping past 7.

Now he's at the age where he is very inquisitive with a tendency to get in to everything. Keeping him out of the Christmas tree hasn't been too bad. Keeping him out of the presents proved impossible--we've now placed them under a small tree on a table where they are out of his reach. He adores the felt tree skirt, however, and would love to rip the felt appliques from it. He completely ignores "no" when he's attacking the tree skirt which caused us to pull out a new discipline tool--the time out. The first time we put him in time out, we opened the crate after about 3 minutes but he didn't come out for more than two hours. I think his feelings were hurt.

He's a smart little pup. My partner is click training him. You click the clicker during the training practice when he does what you want him to do. This is supposed to make it easy to teach him difficult tricks when he gets older. Seems to be working as he's already got "sit" and "lay down" mastered. Now we're working on roll-over. You can see how he's doing here. You can also see the aforementioned tree skirt.

He definitely adds a lot to life around here. When he's at his playful best, it's awfully hard to even pretend like I am...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, December 12, 2008

Guaranteed Delivery

I got my Christmas shopping done early this year. Don't judge me--I'm not one of those people who always have their shopping done weeks or months ahead of time. In fact, I kind of enjoy getting out in all that mess just days before the holiday.

This year I've dramatically pared down my list. No, it's not about the economy. It's due primarily to a lack of gratitude from the recipients. My niece (8) and nephew (10) are the primary beneficiaries of my holiday largess. He called me twice this year, and sent me several e-mails, including two expressing his desire for me to get well after my surgery and another procedure. Sweet kid. She called once to confirm that we had in fact got a dog. I threatened to send her a lump of coal a few years ago. She informed me that if I did, she'd send me a rotten potato.

I sat down on Thanksgiving Day and ordered most of the gifts I'm giving this year online. I sent a lot of gift baskets. My parents don't need anything, so food or spa gifts are always appreciated. I ended up canceling quite a few orders when I got to the screen where the delivery charges showed up. I don't support highway robbers. Period.

My mother had several Christmas Cacti before she moved to Virginia and was thrilled when they spontaneously bloomed each winter. So being the thoughtful son that I am, I decided it would be nice to send her one for the holidays. Jackson & Perkins had exactly what I was looking for--for $39. I bought two lovely specimens from Lowe's for $5 each a few days earlier, but was willing to pay 8 times as much to have it shipped properly. Then I discovered it was going to cost $15 more for shipping. No thanks. I'll send her $10 and tell her to go to Lowe's.

My nephew is a Pokemon freak. He's been obsessed with all things Pokemon for more than three years. I really don't understand the attraction, but it has made shopping for him for Christmas and birthdays fairly easy. Last year I had a hard time finding Pokemon crap, so when I ran into a new display of all things Pokemon at Kmart a few weeks ago, I loaded up. My niece got a load of crap from American Girl. That stuff never goes on sale, but at least they offer free shipping.

I got all the Pokemon stuff wrapped last weekend--no easy task as it all comes in odd-sized packages. Took it to The UPS Store on Monday. The sales girl was sweet and other than the stud in her nose, a pretty little girl. I can say that because I'm old and gay. She informed me that UPS no longer guarantees regular deliveries to arrive before Christmas. Guaranteed delivery cost twice as much. Given that it was December 8, I told her I'd take regular delivery and if it didn't arrive by Christmas, I wouldn't be using UPS any longer. He got it yesterday.

Sometimes, it's downright fun to be...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Personalized Electronic Greetings

Yesterday I wrote about holiday greeting cards. You'll see in the comments some claptrap about saving the environment and sending personalized electronic greetings. Let me address the environmental crap first.

There are plenty of opportunities to purchase cards made from recycled materials. And at the end of the season, any cards you don't want to save for sentimental reasons can be returned to one of many programs that recycle them for various purposes. Yeah, the postman drives a truck and that uses gasoline and pollutes the air. So sue me.

Nothing says "I'm a cheap and lazy bastard" louder than a personalized electronic greeting. Jesus. It's Christmas. A box of cards is $5 or less. Yeah, stamps are kinda pricey at 42 cents each. If you can afford your high speed Internet access, you can afford a few stamps.

"Personalized electronic greetings" is an oxymoron. There's nothing the least bit personal about an electronic greeting--even one containing naked pictures. Anyone that thinks otherwise has a thing or two to learn about what is and isn't personal.

There's something very precious about Christmas and other greeting cards in my possession from friends and family members that are no longer living. Maybe you have to have lost someone to appreciate the value of a greeting that is truly personal. The value isn't in the words. It comes from knowing that this card was selected, signed, and mailed by the person I knew and loved.

The cards I have from my grandmother contain one word: Grannie. There are no notes, no "I love you's" or other embellishments. Just that one word, written in her distinct hand-writing. I have an entire collection of them and I wouldn't trade them for anything--especially any personalized electronic greeting.

I have a big stack of cards from my Aunt Toodles. She frequently wrote little notes of appreciation, encouragement, and/or support, and usually included some witty or clever remark to make me laugh. I can't read them today without tears in my eyes. If my house was on fire, I would grab them first.

You can keep your personalized electronic greetings, thank you very much. I'll keep my ungreen archaic greeting cards. That's just another reason they call me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Greeting Cards

I send a ton of Christmas cards out every year. It's something I've done for as long as I can remember. Not only do I send cards, but for years and years I typically wrote long letters in each and every one. Throw in all my friends and former coworkers, and at one point my Christmas card list was bigger than the phone book of some small towns.

Most of my cards go to family. Both of my parents have (or had) eight brothers and sisters. Nearly all married, had kids, and lived in and around Lexington, KY. Not only do I have a very large extended family, but we saw each other very frequently. I practically grew up with my mother's siblings and their children. I'm closer to many of my cousins than most people are to their siblings.

Before I left Lexington for greener pastures in 1996, my long letters went mostly to friends and family that lived out of town. Once I left town, I needed to write a letter in every card. My annual Christmas card became my only contact with many of the aunts, uncles, and cousins that I grew up with. These annual letters were something that I enjoyed writing, and I've heard from many of the recipients that they looked forward to receiving them.

I stopped writing letters in every card several years ago. Those that send me a card are more likely to get one of my letters in return than those who never send cards. Some of my cousins that never send cards have been dropped from my list all together. Friends and family that simply sign their names to a card without even a "hope you are well" are less likely to get a letter from me than those who write at least a sentence or two. One must have standards.

My card list is much shorter now. I've lost touch with some of the friends and former coworkers that once received cards from me. My gay friends are so bad about sending cards that I gave up sending them cards years ago and stay in touch via e-mail and the occasional phone call--if at all. Frankly, with very few exceptions the gay people I've encountered in 30+ years of being out haven't been very good friends--especially when you or they move away. Out of sight, out of mind. With only two exceptions (2 guys that were in the circle of friends I had when I first came out), I get tired of doing all the work to maintain those connections.

In Mom's family, all my aunts and all but one of my uncles have passed away, along with two of my cousins. Most of Dad's siblings left Lexington long before I did. All but one are still living though they are getting really old now--the youngest is in his late 60s. I haven't seen or heard from some of my cousins for decades, and it's been a couple of years since I've seen most of the rest. Time marches on.

The day will come when my card list will be short enough that I'll be able to write my cards in an afternoon. While I have sometimes felt overwhelmed by the quantity of cards that I had to do, it's always been more a labor of love than a chore. Maybe I should reconsider some of those I've crossed off because I am, as always...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, December 5, 2008

Real Housewives of the Ghetto

OK. I admit it. I absolutely love watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta. It's almost like a sketch you'd see on Dave Chappelle's show. Housewives reminds me of the Chappelle sketch about slavery reparations. I'm guessing that's why the Atlanta version of the Housewives franchise has been the most popular. We've all seen noveau riche white trash, which makes the Orange County and New York shows just retreads.

Not since the Jeffersons have we seen African-American women moving on up in a television show. The Jeffersons had class without ever seeming pretentious or like fish out of water. They got out of the ghetto through hard work, and never pretended to be something other than what they were. Well, George did now and then, but the joke was always on him. By contrast, the women featured in Real Housewives of Atlanta climbed out of the ghetto on the backs of their husbands and are totally preoccupied with hiding who they really are...or used to be.

Lisa is hand's down the most likeable woman on the show. Smart, beautiful, energetic, industrious and until the reunion show, the peacemaker. On the reunion show she was ready to kick Kim's ass, which only boosted her appeal in my book. She's the most real to me, and the most comfortable with who she is. She has apparently reinvented herself after a failed marriage, two children (now with the daddy) and a bankruptcy.

DeShawn has got a lot of things going on, with nothing really happening with any of her endeavors. Her foundation and real estate business appear to be more concept than reality. Though she is not the brightest bulb in the Housewives chandelier, she's at least smart enough to know that it's better to let people think you're stupid than to open your mouth and prove it. By the reunion show she had distanced herself (literally and figuratively) so much from the other housewives that she hardly appeared on camera. She just sat on the sofa as far away from the other women as she could get without saying a word.

Kim is like a Nashville streetwalker, with money. A New York Post article does offer some evidence that Kim is, in fact, only 30 years old (29 when the series was taped). As they say back in Kentucky, that girl done been rode hard and put up wet. Quite a few times if you ask me. According to the Post article, she was boinking a police sergeant at the tender age of 16 or 17. Lucky for her it wasn't Drew Peterson. What is it about cops and under-aged women? If you can believe what you read on the Internet, Kim used to call herself Barbie when she dressed up as a nurse and stripped at the Cheetah Club in Atlanta. I'd be willing to bet that's where she met Nene and Sheree.

At the tender age of 19, the Post article says Sheree was busted--twice--for theft. They also report that her attempts to steal a fortune from her exhusband have apparently been thwarted. Once a thief, always a thief. I guess she'll focus on stealing ideas for her new line of clothing now.

And that leaves us with NeNe. I have to admit that I like NeNe. She's a riot. If you search the Internet you'll find rumors that she isn't all she's cracked up to be. She was allegedly evicted from their big fancy house--a rental--and now resides in a condo in a zip code much farther down the economic ladder. On the reunion show, I thought she was going to kick Kim's ass, but Lisa held her back.

The good news is that they're already working on a second season. Given the "we'll never be friends again" feelings of most of the costars, next season promises to be even better than the first. Who knows, maybe Lisa or NeNe will finally get what they've wanted for a while--the chance to kick Kim's ass. I hope so. I want to know what she looks like without that big polyester wig.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And Baby Makes Three...

Regular readers (both of you) may have noticed that I haven't been posting as much for the last couple of weeks. The reason is that we added a third member to our household two weeks ago. After much deliberation, debate, and research, we decided it was time.

All the research helped. In the end we opted for a long-haired Chihuahua. He's teeny tiny and about the cutest thing I've ever seen. At 9 weeks old, he weighs just under two pounds. He's got two modes: full on, or sound asleep.

Having a baby in the household changes everything. Our well-established routines are in a shambles. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done that needs doing. In addition to all the standard chores and responsibilities, along with getting ready for Christmas, we're now doing tons of additional research. We know the formative weeks are important, and we're trying to raise him to be well-mannered and well-behaved.

We learned right away that socialization is important. The more people, places, and things he's exposed to now, the more mellow he'll be when he grows up. So we take him just about everywhere with us. All of our coworkers are crazy about him (at least to our faces!). He's perfectly content to be carried around--especially if he can burrow down into a coat or something so that only his nose and ears are showing.

If you want to see him, check him out on YouTube

Maybe one of these days I'll figure out how to get that to show up on here! Until then, I'm still...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cursed Robo Calls

As an early voter, the best thing about election day was the end to the multitude of campaign ads. Unfortunately, we in Georgia weren't so lucky. With the run-off between Saxby Shameless and Jim Martin, we've been inundated with ads. In fact, on several occasions we've had to endure back to back pro Shameless ads.

These ads, as in the case of most TV ads, are easily ignored. Much harder to ignore are the cursed robo calls. I check my caller ID before answering now, and have my phone set to ignore calls from unknown callers. Even so, I still end up answering a lot of unwanted calls.

With the run-off being held tomorrow, today I've received several robo calls encouraging me to vote for Senator Shameless. The thing that pisses me off the most about these calls is that they deprive me of the satisfaction of telling the caller I wouldn't vote for their candidate under any circumstances.

Beyond that, I can't imagine that anyone listens to these stupid messages. As soon as I know it's a robo call, I hang up. I've checked around and the same is true for everyone I know. Is there any evidence that the damn things make any difference? I can't imagine that they're enough to persuade an undecided voter, much less one intending to vote for a different candidate. If anything, I'd guess they rub people the wrong way enough to get them to vote against the candidate making the robo calls.

Anyway, the robo calls and the nasty ads will all be over in a bit more than 24 hours. Until then, I'm going to be...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ooops... Busted! *blush*

You may have noticed that the ads are gone from my blog. Turns out, AdSense gets a little suspicious when all the clicks on ads come from something less than ten computers. So today they have disabled my account for "click violations". Ooops.

I admit that I encouraged selected (liberal or liberal-tolerant) coworkers and friends to visit my blog, not to read the postings but to click on the ads. OK--I sorta wanted them to read the posts, too, but I really wanted them to click on all the ads. We saw it as a kind of payback for enduring ads in unwanted places. I had visions of retiring from my day job and living on my ad revenue.

The presence of the ads completely changed my attitude about blogging. Before the ads, I would sign on and write about whatever was on my mind. After ads, I was all about my Google Analytic statistics and various strategies for increasing visitors to my blog. I searched high and low for other blogs that I could post a comment on in hopes of luring visitors to my blog. Never mind that this mostly just raised my bounce rate.

Now I'm back to blogging for the pure enjoyment of it. The profit motive is gone. I'll probably get a lot more stuff done that doesn't involve a computer, too. And now that my dreams of an early retirement have been crushed, it's back to work.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For the Love of Hate

When it comes to hate in this country, seems like things have gotten worse since I started blogging and following blogs. Or maybe I'm just getting a lot more information than before. Since stuff I read in blogs turns up in the national news several days after I see it on blogs, or not at all, I'm inclined to believe that I'm getting more information.

Prior to starting this blog, I watched NBC for national news and ABC for Atlanta news (which passes for local here in Athens) on television every day. I read the Athens Banner-Herald every day for real local news (well, for UGA sports and the blotter so I know who got busted). And I faithfully read my weekly US News and World Report (now a biweekly), just as I have for the last 25 years or so--even the articles about countries I've never heard of before.

One thing for sure, I get a LOT more news from gay sources now than before. That means I read all about the latest slights and perceived slights by mostly religious conservatives and the groups that use them to accomplish other objectives (i.e., to elect Republican politicians). Most of what I read appears to be fairly well documented, but I wouldn't call it balanced by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, reading some of these gay blogs is a lot like watching Fox News--you're going to get a particular point of view, period.

Anyway, looks to me like there is a tremendous amount of hate flowing around out there today. I think nearly all comes from the lunatic fringe. Whether we're talking about Nazi Baptists, radio pundits of both persuasions, the Gaystapo, PETA, skinheads, or Paul Broun, these folks really don't represent the views of most Americans. They get attention because their views are so extreme. After all, extreme sells--just ask the folks at Fox News.

Middle America (and I'm not talking geography) is boring. These folks go to work (or did, before they got laid off), do the best they can to raise their kids, and live paycheck to paycheck. If they hear about the drama around hate and haters, they shake their heads and go on their way. They are not terribly informed on issues that don't directly impact their day to day life. Mostly they don't care to be because they've got enough on their plates as it is.

All this to say that I believe much of the hate-filled rhetoric is way out of proportion. They aren't all out to get us, however you choose to define us. Yeah, hate crimes are up, and Barack Obama has received more death threats than any other president-elect in history. That's probably because 1) the lunatic fringe is larger because there are so many more people and 2) some people that lose their jobs through no fault of their own feel the need to blame someone. Would be interesting to examine whether there are any correlations between the increase in blogging and the increase in hate crimes.

I do what I can through my postings on this blog and the comments I post on other blogs to throw a little water on the flames. I see others that try to do the same. But mostly what I see are hotheads that fan the flames, or worse, fling gasoline on the flames. I don't think that's good for the cause--any cause, including those I'm for and against.

But what do I know? I'm just...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, November 24, 2008

One or Two Religious Conservatives at a Time

This weekend I happened to catch one of the more interesting episodes of Split Ends. In case you haven't seen it, Split Ends is a reality show where two hairdressers swap salons for a few days. Most of the time they swap someone from an upscale, hoity-toity salon with someone from a salon somewhere in Podunk. Yeah it's not the best show on TV, but Georgia didn't play this weekend so I needed some fillers.

This particular episode featured a hairdresser from Worcester, MA swapping with someone from Crescent Springs in rural Northern Kentucky. What made this show interesting was the fact that the MA hairdresser did drag, and the KY shop featured prayer several times a day. Talk about a culture clash....

Things started off fine. But Christian returned to the religious shop after lunch in drag, as Crystal Mess. Sparks flew. Heather, the ultrareligious owner freaked out. Get this--she said a salon was no place for a drag queen, and walked out. Now I don't know about you, but if a drag queen doesn't belong in a beauty parlor, I don't know who does.

The next day, all the other hairdressers were told they were not allowed to talk to Christian, who showed up to work sans drag. As an aside, he's adorable in and out of drag. He asked the owners (Heather and her husband, Fred) if he could talk with them. Heather was a bitch. Fred was uptight, but nicer. If you ask me, Heather was probably worried that Fred might play for the other team which looked like a distinct possibility.

On the final day, when the swappers get to run the shop with their rules, Crystal Mess shows up. Heather has a fit, but doesn't walk off. For his "final challenge", Crystal has to do makeovers for two of the dykiest looking softball players you're ever going to see. He agrees, with the condition that he also gets to do a makeover for Fred. The end result with the two girls is amazing--reason enough to watch this admittedly lame show.

Of course, Crystal puts Fred in drag for his makeover, and Heather cries. Then she prays and cries some more. Wah. Crystal takes her wig off, and apologizes to Heather saying he never intended to hurt anyone's feelings, and that it was all in fun. The icing on the cake was when Crystal asked Heather to pray, and all the hairdressers got together in a little prayer circle. What a gay!

The end of the show is Heather coming around to say that Crystal wasn't so bad after all. I don't think she's ready to vote for gay marriage, but she definitely had a dramatic change in perspective. That's the way we'll win our civil rights--one or two religious conservatives at a time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Aunt Toodles

Everyone should have an Aunt Toodles. My mother (now 70) was the baby of 8. Toodles was the next youngest and four years older. She was fiercely protective of my mother, and from the time I was born, loved me more than just about anything else in the world. At least she always made me feel that way. I can certainly say that I love her more than anyone I have ever known.

Toodles was a large woman. Obese, really, but also pretty and outgoing. She was larger than life in just about every way. She always wore gigantic jewelry and carried huge purses because she felt like it made her look smaller than she was. Especially when I was kid, she usually wore flattering skirts and heels. She also wore Tabu perfume. If you've never caught a whiff of Tabu, it's not the least bit subtle. It hits your nose like a prize fighter.

My earliest memories are scented with Tabu. It's loud and obnoxious I know, but for me it's the sweet smell of love. Toodles was around a lot when I was small. She lived with us for a short time, and spent the night at our house often--into my teen years. She was single, 24 when I was born, and the kind of woman that tended to make a party wherever she was. I swear she lived with us for years, but Mom says it was only for a few months sometime before my sister was born.

I had my own room with twin beds until age four when my sister was born. Toodles always slept in the other bed when she spent the night. She told me about creeping in drunk trying not to make any noise, and of course, waking toddler me up. She'd fall in to bed and wake up with me beside her, and a wet washcloth neatly folded across her forehead. Eventually she found out I was dipping the washcloth in the toilet to get it wet.

For years before she died, we talked on the phone for an hour or so, two or three times a week. Man I miss those conversations! A sample.... Toodles knew that I enjoyed gay chat rooms. I told her it was a good way to meet people. She didn't like the idea of a chat room--couldn't see why anyone would ever want to do that. Now Toodles was about the most social animal I have ever encountered. So I just couldn't imagine why she was so cool toward chat rooms.

So one day I asked her what she thought a chat room was. Toodles explained that you went to chat rooms to sit around naked with other people to watch porn on the Internet. Even with that image of a chat room, she never in any way suggested or even hinted that going to a chat room was something I shouldn't do.

She thought my first ex, Tom, was someone I took on as a project. She felt sorry for him, but was never wild about us being together. I doubt he ever even suspected in the 12 years we were together that she was other than thrilled. She hated my second ex--though Kevin never knew it either. Turns out, she saw right away what it took me five years to figure out about Kevin. With #3--my current main squeeze, she was opposed at first because she was sure this guy half my age was just using me. Didn't take her long to come around. Before she died she told me how happy she was that I had finally found someone I deserved. Now that she's gone, I'm so glad that he got to meet her.

Everyone should have an Aunt Toodles. She loved me absolutely and unconditionally. I don't know what I would have done without her during the early years of coming out. In fact, I really can't conceive of how different I would be without this enormous love in my life. I'll have to blog about her again. There are a million wild Toodles tales to tell. She always wanted me to write a book. She would be thrilled to know I blog--if I could ever get her to understand what that means!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oxymorons and Religious Zealots

I was reading about Elisabeth Hasselbeck of The View on Joe.My.God--one of my favorite blogs. The posting refers to her as a not-very-well-informed conservative. I don't know about you, but based on my experience, I'd say that "well-informed conservative" is an oxymoron.

Back when I was a kid, there were intelligent and well-informed conservatives. The focus then was on fiscal and monetary policy--not society and culture. They're spinning in their graves I'm sure about the crap being put forth as conservative today. But I digress....

Then I read on another of my favorite blogs (Margaret and Helen) that the Republicans have become the party of money, sex, and guns since that's all they seem to care about. I'm inclined to agree. And something about that post made me think of my first ex, Tom.

At the time (and I haven't seen or heard from Tom in at least 15 years so much has probably changed), his dad was the minister of one of those tiny little Baptist churches you find scattered across the south. The congregation, by and large, were other members of his family. Tom had 2 sisters, a brother who shot himself in his early 20s, and more stepbrothers and stepsisters than you could count.

The old man had a house full of guns and a swimming pool in his back yard. I was stunned when I found out that no matter their age, boys and girls were not allowed to be in the back yard in swim suits at the same time. Wasn't proper. Can you say pedophile?

Sex was not talked about, period. Abstinence was the family policy. Every girl in that household got knocked up before her 18th birthday. Sounds like the Palins.

At the time I thought it mighty strange that so much emphasis was placed on sex with so little real information. It occurred to me that the old man must be thinking about sex all the time. Much later I found out that every kid in that household was sexually abused by him. Praise Jesus.

Beware of these religious conservatives that get all bent out of shape about sex. I'd be willing to bet that like Jimmy Carter, they've "committed adultery in [their] heart[s] many times." I'd also venture to say that in many cases, the adultery wasn't confined to their hearts. Unfortunately, there are probably quite a few Tom's dads out there who acted out with children.

That probably explains all the hellfire and brimstone. If I had ever engaged in that kind of behavior, I'd be preoccupied with hell, too. I'd also want lots of guns around--just in case some whacko sex-crazed freak decided to molest me. I doubt Tom's dad believes in karma, but I do, and I hope he got exactly what he deserves.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Biggest Loser

I've been a fan of The Biggest Loser ever since it first came on. Season after season I fall in love with each and every contestant. At the end of the show each week I'm on pins and needles waiting to find out which of my new friends is going home.

I especially like trainer Jillian Michaels. She's just the right amount of tough balanced with just a dash of sensitive. In person she'd probably scare the hell out of me and make me cry. I'm impressed with the way she seems to get inside the heads of the fatties on her team. Her methods get results, too. I'm thinking about getting her work-out video game for the Wii, just to see how it would be to have her yelling at me.

This year there is a contestant that I absolutely cannot stand: Vicky. She is the most mean-spirited bitch they've ever had as a contestant. She has a nasty attitude, and is more into the game aspect of the show than anyone has ever been. I cheered when her husband went home last week. My only problem with him was that he's Vicky's husband. Nonetheless, it was great to see Vicky's alliance with Heba and her husband busted up.

Last night, after three commercials during the weigh in, we learn that Vicky was in the bottom two, and hence, up for elimination with sweet Coleen--the baby of the losers this season. She was in the bottom two because Michelle, the winner of the challenge, earned the right to give someone an extra pound. Vicky got it, and it made the difference.

For the first time ever, instead of dreading the vote to see who was going home, I relished it. The cards were stacked in such a way that Vicky's demise seemed certain. Amy, who Vicky had treated like dirt all week for breaking the alliance and voting her husband off the week before, was the deciding vote. After a few more commercials, Amy's vote is revealed.

Rather than voting off the Biggest Bitch, she sends sweet little Coleen (a former teammmate) home, pretty much guaranteeing that the black team will vote her off first chance they get. Having ticked off the blue team the week before, they'll vote her off first chance they get. She needs to stay above the yellow line or she's gone.

I will say it's more than a little annoying that the producers stretch what could easily be a one-hour show out to two hours. To get around TiVo, they have commercials for various products integrated in to the show, along with a regular commercial break any time something interesting is about to happen. Like that's not enough, they repeat the minute or two that took place before the commercial break immediately after the commercial break. Those kinds of tactics are standard with reality shows now, and will likely lead to their eventual demise. Or at least, I hope so.


The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, November 17, 2008

Corporate Bail-Outs

I'm starting to think that corporate bail outs are the new welfare. We've always heard the right complaining that the folks on welfare shouldn't be compensated for not working, etc. I don't agree with that necessarily--poverty is an extremely complicated issue.

By comparison, business is a pretty straightforward. You develop a product, market it to consumers, and if it's something consumers want or need, they'll buy it. If they don't buy it, then you're probably going to go out of business. Businesses fail every day. Life is hard.

So now we're talking about bailing out the big three American automakers. Seems nobody is buying the products they're producing. Wah! For at least the last 20 years, foreign automakers--many now with plants in the U.S.--have been gaining market share because they are selling products people want to buy. It's not just fuel efficiency. Check the dependability ratings provided by Consumer Reports. Many foreign-made vehicles simply do not have the problems of their American-made counterparts.

Fuel efficiency has driven a lot of the switch to foreign made cars. It's not like rising gas prices came out of the blue. We've known for quite a while now that sooner or later, oil production is going to dry up. With China, India and other developing countries exponentially increasing their desire for gasoline, the shortage is probably going to come sooner rather than later. Even if supplies last, increased demand is going to mean higher prices. Have American automakers responded? Nope. And now they want a bail out. Wah!

Helen and Margaret (a very popular blog and one that I follow) today suggested that perhaps the oil companies should be the ones to bail out the auto industry. Great idea! They've been in bed together for decades anyway. While we're at it, why don't we let the sleazy hedge fund managers that made billions of dollars just last year bail out Wall Street? A thorough study of where and how dollars flow would likely turn up lots of other good sources for bail out funds other than tax payers.

The emerging pattern is that corporate entities that failed to exercise due diligence and continued to operate under lousy business plans are getting bailed out with tax payer dollars. What kind of incentive is that? To make matters worse, the same logic is being used to save homeowners that bought more house than they could afford and over-leveraged with home equity loans putting them underwater or upside down on their loans. Wah!

The mantra for welfare reform was making work pay. The new mantra for corporate welfare reform should be about rewarding businesses that succeed. If you don't have a good business plan and you can't move your product, you shouldn't be rewarded with tax payer dollars. That this appears to be happening all over the place keeps me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Movement

I've been watching the news and checking blogs to see if anything bad happened during the simultaneous rallies around the country yesterday at 1:30 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Savings Time). Given the incidents that have taken place since the election and passage of Proposition H8, I was worried. I haven't seen a word about the rallies, and I'm taking that as good news.

I have to say that I am very impressed with the way the simultaneous rallies came together. It was a modern protest, communicated across the Internet at lightening speed. It was not organized by any existing protest groups. It was a more or less organic spontaneous event. To my admittedly limited knowledge, it's the largest such demonstration that has ever taken place. We even had a gathering here in Athens! I hope someone is tallying up participation so we find out how many people were involved nationwide.

I assume by the presence of directions and guidelines about how to (and not to) act at the rallies that I was not the only gay man disturbed by the thuggish behavior we've seen replayed all over the Internet. That makes me feel good, too. For a few days I thought I was a lone voice calling for more civil behavior.

I tuned in the Today Show this morning expecting to hear a report on the rallies. Not a word. Not one single word. There was a short article in the Athens Banner Herald this morning, but no mention of the gathering here in Athens. As of a few minutes age, there is very little on any of the blogs. I've noticed that most of the gay bloggers I read tend to take weekends off, so maybe I'll see more starting this evening.

The one piece of good news I glean from the absence of coverage is that there must not have been any significant thug behavior. If that's the case, it is GREAT news. It demonstrates that we can be sane and rational when voicing our concerns, and that means those concerns are more likely to be heard. It gives me hope that maybe this time, we'll succeed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How Much is Enough?

Today I read about the five hedge fund managers and their testimony before Congress. They made a little money, too. Philip Falcone made $1,700,000,000 managing hedge funds that made tons of money for his co-conspirators...err investors. George Soros and Jim Simon made $2,900,000,000 last year managing hedge funds. John Paulson made $3,700,000,000 last year managing hedge funds. Poor little Ken Griffin only managed to bilk us out of a measly $1,500,000,000.

Criminal--absolutely criminal. Is it possible for someone to make this kind of money without somehow ripping off the rest of us? I don't think so. One way or another, they are stealing us all blind. The financial services industry, the media (or the multinational companies that own them), and the politicians are all in bed together, and we're paying the bill--to the tune of $700 billion plus. Watch how much of that $700 billion ends up in the pockets of folks like Falcone, Soros, Simon, Paulson and Griffin. Nice work if you can get it.

Maybe I'm a socialist--or a Marxist--call me whatever you like. I think that income beyond a certain level should be heavily taxed. Surely a few million a year is enough for anyone to live on. If not, you need some budget counseling and I'd be happy to provide it. In fact, I would be more than happy to provide these hedge fund managers with counseling and I wouldn't charge more than $1,000,000--I promise.

Yeah I know. Taxing the rich quashes productivity. I think that's just a line of bull we've been sold. I say give it a shot and we'll see. It might make some of these greedy bastards find a real job creating value for someone other than themselves and their already wealthy co-conspirators. I think they're all sociopaths with absolutely no regard for the rest of us.

I pay my taxes. I pay my bills. I've never borrowed money I couldn't afford to repay. And today, thanks to the hanky panky of these dudes and others like them, I'm watching the value of my retirement portfolio drop a few thousand dollars every day. Totally pisses me off, and just another reason I'm...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Militant Morons

Yesterday I wrote about my shock and dismay at the attacks by loud-mouthed gays on anyone who disagrees with them. Today I'm going to write about it again. Only this time, I'm starting to get pissed.

I heard that members of the gaystapo (with a tip of that hat to Colbert who I first heard that term from) turned on some blacks at a Proposition 8 rally somewhere. Said it was their fault Proposition 8 passed, and then called them the N-word. The victims here were also gay.

Joe.My.God posted Sir Elton John's views on gay marriage and Proposition 8 today. In essence, Sir John thinks the problem is the word "marriage." The UK has a "civil partnership" which is a legal union as opposed to marriage, which is a religious union. Pushing for gay marriage agitates the Christian fundamentalists, and they react. I'm inclined to agree with him.

Here's a sampling of the comments directed at one of the first openly gay public figures in the world:
"Thanks for the advice, idiot who stayed a closeted queen until he was 50. He's such a fucktard!"
"Mr. John is rooted in the past, as are his music and his influence."
"This queen is so out of touch. Go. Away. Elton. You do not represent the gay community in any way, shape or form. Go. Away."
"Old and in the way."
"Elton John had great music in the he is an old annoying queen. Go to bed, Elton."
"Elton John is a left over 20th Century Uncle Tom who's obviously happy with the scraps mainstream society has thrown his way. Pity that."
"This shitface has no idea what he's talking about."
"Fuck that fat Queen and the shit that spews from her fat mouth."

That's right, go ahead an turn on your own kind.

I guess if you are African-American and gay, you should probably avoid the big rallies planned around the country for this Saturday. You wouldn't be welcome, anyway. It is apparently your fault that gays can't marry in most states.

Keep pushing, you militant morons. In a world of laws and majority rule, you're inviting the kind of push-back that will only make things worse. Keep giving the opposition video clips to incite the masses against us. Go ahead and attack African-American gays and blame them for the way things are. Keep calling anyone who disagrees with you, or perhaps holds a wiser, less combative view nasty names. Go on discrediting the leaders and public figures who can help to make a difference.

I thought this kind of attack politics and negativity was soundly defeated when Obama won the race for President. It may have worked for the Republicans (Bush/Cheney) in the short run, but in the end, it bit them in the ass. The same thing will happen to us. It will unify the opposition and they will push us all the way back to the closet.

Gay pride? Not today. I'm just ashamed, annoyed, and frightened about the future you are creating for me.

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Gay Rights Movement

I will admit that I was disappointed, and even a little hurt, that gay rights propositions were defeated in California, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas. I wasn't, however, surprised. I've been out for almost 30 years now which is long enough to see how far we've come. It also makes me old enough to know that this kind of change happens over a very long period of time.

I'm shocked and dismayed by the words and deeds of some of my gay brothers and sisters in response to these defeats. I understand their outrage. But in no way does that justify the hateful comments appearing on many blogs. Hatred toward Mormons and others that campaigned for Proposition 8 is over the top. Hate breeds hate, and is born out of fear and ignorance. I really thought because of our own experience we were better than that. Apparently not. It's like Karl Rove is now in charge of the gay agenda.

I was appalled by the treatment of the little old lady who foolishly ventured into a gay rally bearing a cross. I don't agree with her beliefs, but she is entitled to them and has every right to voice them. Rude and obnoxious behavior by the big gay bullies at the rally does not help our cause one little bit. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that footage will show up in churches all over the place. Thanks guys. Trampling crosses and roughing up old ladies is going to win us a lot of friends...NOT!

I'm stunned by the hateful and racist comments that are posted on Joe.My.God in response to an article by Jasmyne Connick that dared to suggest equal rights for African-Americans are more important than gay rights. Let me be very clear here--the fact that I am gay is not a choice. That I choose to let others know that I am gay IS a choice, and that's what makes gay rights very different from civil rights for African-Americans.

Other than not being able to marry (and missing out on the privileges that go with marriage), I have never, ever been discriminated against because of my sexual preference. I venture to say there are very few African-Americans who can say that they have never, ever been discriminated against because of their race. It's apples and broccoli--not even in the same food group.

It's interesting to me that the reaction to the defeat of Proposition 8 in California is so much more than any reaction to the losses in Florida, Arizona, and especially, Arkansas. The Arkansas initiative that outlawed adoptions by gays and lesbians was really a much bigger deal because gays and lesbians have been able to adopt and serve as foster parents in many states for a very long time. In my view, it represents a bigger step backward than the marriage initiatives. Why isn't there more of an outcry from the gay community?

Because Arkansas is not California, and doesn't count. I hear a lot about stereotyping--that gay white America is largely affluent. I don't know if that' s true or not, but it sure looks that way. How else do you explain the obvious air of privilege and the strong sense of entitlement that pervades the movement? Much of what I read sounds like something I'd expect from Republicans. Being sore losers is not attractive, and it won't help us move forward.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's the only way to gain respect, and with respect, rights. Strident, bitchy, over-the-top rhetoric isn't helping. It just makes us all look bad.


Monday, November 10, 2008

On Turning 50

For as long as I can remember, folks in my family have said that life begins at 50. By then you're financially secure (or never will be and have accepted it), wise enough to avoid a lot of the crap younger folks step in, and more or less comfortable with who you are. Rather than being depressed, I was excited about turning 50 earlier this year.

The first big gift comes by mail. At long last, I'm finally eligible to become a member of AARP. That used to stand for the American Association of Retired Persons, but now it doesn't stand for anything. It just is. The fun part was requesting a card for my partner who hasn't hit 30 yet, just so he could show it off to all his friends. I've yet to get a discount but carry my card, just in case.

The next big gift, if your smart, is the colonoscopic exam. Let me tell you, I was VERY apprehensive. My mother told me what to expect--only she's a little prone to the dramatic. So my apprehension was way out of proportion to the event, including the day before which by all reports, is the worst part. The main thing you need to know about a colonoscopic is that you want someone with you that you really trust. Turns out, they fill you full of air as part of the procedure. So when it's over, you fart like there is no tomorrow. Interestingly enough, you tend not to remember that part thanks to the drugs they give you.

During my colonoscopic, they removed a polyp and biopsied a lesion. The lesion turned out to be cause for concern, so I had surgery about a month ago to remove it. Found out last week that the lesion was cancerous. That's the bad news. The good news is that they got it all, and I don't have to go through chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Since then, I ask everyone I know that's over 50 if they have had their colonoscopic exam. I'm frankly amazed by the number who have not. I let them know about my experience, and how if I was their age, I'd either be dead or on chemo. I'm proud to report that several have scheduled their exams. If you're over 50 and have not yet had a colonoscopic, I hope you'll call your doctor today to set one up. It's not that big a deal, and it could save your life.

Because I did, I can keep blogging as...

The Crotchety Old Man

My Blogging Experience...2 Months In

OK. I've now been blogging for about two months. During that time I have visited a lot of other blogs. Between what I've seen on other blogs, what I have read about blogging, and what I have figured out on my own, I have learned quite a bit about what it takes to be a successful blogger. Enough to know that this blog will probably never be all that successful.

The main problem is the lack of graphics. This is a text-only blog. For my own reasons, it's probably going to stay that way. I can tell, however, that the lack of graphics is a problem because of what I see on google analytics. The bounce rate for visitors from some sources is 100 percent. That tells me they come, see that there are no graphics, and leave. Fair enough.

Another problem is that I have drifted from my original purpose. The Crotchety Old Man is supposed to be about things that piss me off. Though current events have dictated that I write a lot about politics, those rants are rarely as clever or entertaining as what I write about less serious topics. With the election now behind us, I hope to get back to more humorous rantings.

I'm pleased to announce that I have received (or soon will receive) my first payment from AdSense. I was wrong--they don't hold it until you earn $100. They send you a check any time you reach $100 or at the end of each month, whichever comes first. I'm looking forward to my first payment--a bit less than $7--and know it will come in handy as Christmas approaches. Thanks to any of my readers who click on the ads. It's a bit like wealth redistribution, and if I ever become wealthy, I promise to give back, abundantly.

Forever yours,

The Crotchedy Old Man

Friday, November 7, 2008

Letters to the Editor

What's with the people who write letters to newspaper editors? In all my years I have never found it necessary to put pen in hand for a letter to the editor of any publication. Some of it has to do with the kind of work I do and my desire to keep personal opinions and views separate from the education I provide to the public. That's also why I hide behind "The Crotchety Old Man" rather than post these rantings using my real identity. But I digress...

Leading up to the election there were countless letters warning of the horrible things that would happen if Obama was elected. Now that he is our President-Elect, the letters predicting total devastation and annihilation have started turning up. Hard to believe they are serious--but I know that they are. The letters come from the usual suspects who feel inclined to show the rest of us just how stupid they really are.

Take Andy Totten, of Jefferson GA. Who is this guy? He writes in to the paper all the time, with each letter more ignorant than the last. I should offer to let him take over this blog because he is a LOT more crotchety than it's in my nature to be.

Jeffrey Moss of Winder, GA is another raging lunatic. His diatribes also appear often enough that I recognize the name when I see another letter from him. He and Andy should hook up. They have a lot in common and I think they would make each other very happy. Both are predicting the end of the world as we know it--and not in a good way.

I think Barack Obama is the most intelligent and capable President we've had in a very long time. I'm sure he'll make some mistakes. But I'd be willing to bet his worst mistake will pale in comparison with the long list of mistakes made by George W. Bush--probably the dumbest and least capable president this country has ever seen.

I'll be watching the letters section of the paper. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Totten and Mr. Moss deal with any success. Obama may not solve all the problems the Bush administration has left for him, but I feel certain Totten and Moss will be much better off four years from now than they are today. Or I'm not...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Republican South

I'm hugely relieved that Barack Obama won the election. What a breath of fresh air! His acceptance speech (along with many of his other speeches) made me feel like it is once again possible for us to work together to solve the problems we face as a nation.

I also find myself somewhat embarassed to live in the Republican South. The good news is that Athens is one of 32 blue counties (out of 159) in Georgia. I was frankly surprised to see so many blue counties. Looks like most have fairly high percentages of African-American residents.

The way the final map played out as far as red and blue states, I started thinking about the Republican Party and what they stand for. Frankly, it's hard to come up with much that they are for. Mostly I thought of things they are against.

Republicans are against African-Americans. The McCain gathering on election night was about as white as it gets. Just a glance at the McCain counties here in Georgia and the McCain states in the U.S. suggests to me that racism played a large role for many white voters. Instead of red states, they are really more like redneck states (and counties).

Republicans are against immigration and a path to citizenship for migrants that are already here. Kiss the Latino vote good-bye.

Republicans are against gays and lesbians. I'm still surprised by the apparent joy--make that downright glee that many Republicans expressed when rights were stripped from gays in California (Proposition 8) and other states.

Republicans are against education. The fact that Obama has a Harvard degree made him part of the liberal elite. You don't have to have an Ivy League education for Republicans to be against you. If you get information from any source other than The Bible or Fox News, they are against you. It's in their best interest to be against an educated public, as only the ignorant are fooled by their hateful rhetoric.

Republicans are against abortion and choice. Nope. Republicans don't trust you to make your own decisions. They prefer to mandate the behaviors they find desirable. Anyone that believes the Republican leadership gives a rat's ass one way or the other about abortion or gay marriage is naive. These issues enable them to have a grassroots effort to get out the vote without ever having to go to the trouble of organizing and setting up operations on the ground. All they need to do is push these hot buttons and ignorant religious freaks do the rest.

Obama's big victory, I hope, is the direct result of a country that is sick and tired of hate, ignorance, and fear dominating the national agenda. The Republican pundits are in a tizzy now, and they vow to make life miserable for Pelosi, Reid, and Obama over the next two years. Sore losers once again. Instead of working to be part of the solution, they'll continue to be part of the problem.

In the end, if they keep going down that road, I think they'll eventually self-destruct. They aren't far from it now. And that makes me anything but....

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, November 3, 2008

And the Winner Is...?

No matter who wins elections at the local, state and national level tomorrow, the big winner will be the media. How many millions of advertising dollars have they received over the last 12 months? There are so many Martin/Chambliss and Obama/McCain ads running on every station now that the networks barely have time to get their programming in.

What's going to happen after tomorrow night? With the economy in the dumps, are there enough advertisers out there to keep the television stations going? Or are we going to see another sector of the economy take a dive? Hard to imagine a media bail-out package.

No doubt the 24-hour news channels will lose viewers in droves. Who will watch once the election is over? Barring a natural disaster, there won't be a reason to tune in to hear what the pundits have to say. Maybe we'll get lucky and Fox News will go broke and close up shop.

After a few days of joyous posting (I'm being optimistic here), what will we write about in our blogs? I never intended for mine to be so political. I'm sure that's true of many others as well. For me, I guess I'll have to look around to find things to bitch about so I can remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Who Should (and Shouldn't) Vote?

The Tibby-lama, morning DJ on Magic 102.1, went on a rant this week when he found out that someone dragged an old lady with Alzhiemer's from the nursing home to the polls for early voting. The patient's daughter was concerned since on any given day, the alleged voter doesn't even know her own name. Tibby's position was that it shouldn't be allowed.

Today in the Athens paper was an editorial from John Stossel about how the ignorant and uninformed should not vote. He was a little more reasoned in that he acknowledged how difficult it would be to put forth a litmus test. He suggested that the ignorant and uninformed opt to stay home. The problem with this argument is that in my experience, the ignorant and uninformed are the least likely to believe that they are either ignorant or uninformed.

I think about the old couple I ran into at the doctor's office that got all pissed off when I told them they were wrong about Obama being Muslim and Arab. Or the folks I know at the bottom of the economic ladder that won't vote for Obama because they worry about a tax increase. Or the lady I work with who insists she is neither Democrat nor Republican, but Christian. I venture that any of these would say that I'm the one that is ignorant and uninformed.

I do think it would be interesting if we had a Christian political party. Some would say that we already do--the Republicans. It's more accurate to say that the religious right has been used--raped even, and they're too ignorant and uninformed to even know. Guess that's what happens when you get all of your information from the Bible and/or Fox News.

Unfortunately, there's no good way to screen voters to make sure they are at least moderately informed on the issues. Any test is subject to political manipulation and abuse. That's why we no longer have the poll tests that were once used to keep African-Americans from voting.

I will say this, if the ignorant and uninformed put McCain-Palin in the Whitehouse, I'm going to be one very...

Crotchety Old Man

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gasoline Prices in Athens

I had to go to Jonesboro yesterday. The good news is that you can get to Jonesboro (just south of Atlanta in world famous Clayton County) without ever having to get on an Interstate. It was a beautiful day and all in all, a pleasant trip.

I filled up before I left Athens and paid $2.39 a gallon. Other than a couple of places in Athens, that was the highest price for gasoline I saw all day. In Conyers, gas was only $2.18 a gallon. Outside of Athens, the highest price I saw was $2.28 a gallon.

Gasoline prices are always higher in Athens. It's been that way for a long time, and I'd really like to know why. It doesn't matter which way you head out of Athens, within about 30 minutes you'll find gasoline that is at least ten cents cheaper on the gallon.

Maybe it's because we're a college town. I doubt that's the reason because other college towns don't seem to have the problem. Or perhaps it's because of football--the population nearly doubles here for home games and it would be tacky just to charge more on weekends. Whatever the reason, I'd be willing to bet that it's not because retailers here pay more than retailers elsewhere do for gasoline.

It just doesn't make any sense. There's no conceivable reason why we should have to pay so much more than folks elsewhere in Georgia. It's this kind of crap that makes me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Credit Card Interest Rates

This week the Federal Reserve cut the interest rate it charges on loans to banks to one percent. At the same time, I received notice from my credit card company that they are raising the interest rate on cash advances and over-draft lines to 20.99 percent. Huh?

I do not know my exact credit score. But given the absence of any blemishes on my credit report, ample lines of available credit, and almost no non-mortgage debt, I'm confident that it is at least 720 or higher. So I'm not a sub-prime borrower.

Sounds like highway robbery to me. With mortgage and home equity lending under the microscope, the big lenders can't squeeze homeowners. So now they are looking at ways to rape credit card holders to keep quarterly profits high.

This is not a good time to owe money. Some, such as those who have been in their homes for a while without tapping into home equity or running up credit card balances, will get through the current credit crunch virtually unscathed. New homeowners, those who have taken out big home equity loans in the last few years, and anyone with a lot of credit card debt won't get off so easy.

Folks that are behind with their credit card payments and/or over the limit are going to get hit hard. They'll see interest rates well over 20%, and if they are over the limit, fees averaging more than $30 per month. It's a no-win situation with very few practical options.

The credit card industry pushed hard for bankruptcy reform and finally got their way with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. The bill has cut bankruptcy rates in half here in Georgia, even as the foreclosure rate hits historic highs. Why doesn't the bankruptcy rate mirror the foreclosure rate? Because BAPCPA made it so much more expensive to file that those most in need simply cannot afford to do so.

I know you're thinking that's a good thing, and that the cause is credit card abuse. Wrong. The vast majority of bankruptcy cases are the result of medical expenses, job loss, or divorce. The good news is that an unintended consequence of BAPCPA is that credit card companies are getting less in bankruptcy cases than before the legislation was passed. Careful what you wish for.

Current industry practices are abusive and predatory. The result is that a lot of people are going to run into problems paying off their credit cards, or even paying down their balances. Good for the economy? I don't think so, and that is just another reason I'm...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Win-Win Situation

I keep hearing about Republicans that are threatening to move out of the country if Obama wins the election. I say go for it! That's the kind of change this country really needs. It's also what I call a true, win-win situation.

Several of us middle-aged liberals were talking about the election over the weekend. We're all cautiously optimistic about Obama's prospects. We talked about how we've been optimistic before only to get our hopes crushed. So this time around, we're all trying not to get our hopes up too much.

I wonder what percentage of radical Republican women are blond. I'm not sure why this might be but I have definitely noticed that there seem to be a lot of them. Makes me think of a joke... How many blonds does it take to win an election? I don't have an answer. If you do please comment!

I do know that if I wake up November 5th and learn that we're looking at four more years of Republicans in the White House, I may as well change my name to...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Road Hazards

I wonder how many people with a driver's license never really learned how to drive. I took a driver's education course in high school, and then took lessons from a driving school to help me get my license. I took another course to avoid a fine, and years later another for the insurance discount. That's not to say I'm the world's greatest driver, but I do know the rules of the road and how to drive defensively.

That's a lot more than I can say for many of the drivers here in Athens. So today I want to hit some of the basics for those of you that have not had the benefit of all my education.

Turn signals. There is a device on the steering column (usually). When you push it down or up, it turns on flashing lights on the outside of your car that let others know where in the hell you're going. It's wise to turn the signal on far enough from the turn to be meaningful, but not so far that folks think you just left it on the last time you turned. Newsflash: You're also supposed to use a turn signal when you change lanes.

Headlights. When it's raining, you're required by Georgia Law to drive with your headlights on. This is not so much so that you can see better. The purpose is so that I can see you better. On a cloudy day with fog and rain, it's hard for some of us to see past the hood ornament on our car. Having your head lights on makes you much more visible and that prevents me from running head on into you.

Weaving. Driving on four-lane highways is not like a driving game on Playstation or X-Box or Wii. The fact that you pass everyone and bounce back and forth from one lane to the other (aka weaving) does not mean you are an excellent driver. Contrary to what you may think, the rest of us are not honking at you to express admiration of your driving skill. It's not a race, and being out front does not make you the winner. In most cases, you're not going to get wherever you're going any faster than the rest of us.

Tail-gating. I'm not talking about the big party before a football game. I'm talking about following someone so closely that I can't see your grill (and I ain't talking teeth) in my rear-view mirror. When you pull up on my bumper like that, I automatically slow down to just below the speed limit, just to piss you off. Go ahead and hit me. I've got good insurance.

Speed Limits. The rectangular white signs on the side of the road with a two-digit number on them indicate the MAXIMUM speed allowed on that particular road. Maximum Speed, for the language impaired, means the fastest you can go. Those of you from Oglethorpe County need to know that doesn't mean go as fast as you can go. It means go as fast as you can go but no faster than the number posted--such as 45. Those of you from Oconee County should know that going a lot slower than the speed limit is also a problem.

Hope this little lesson has been helpful. Sharing the roads with people that lack this knowledge is one of the things that makes me....

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Gay.Com Still Sucks

Now that we've had a few weeks to explore and use the new, I find little reason to change my view that it sucks. Apparently, I'm not alone. The main topic of conversation in the few rooms I visit, next to politics, is how much people hate the new In fact, I'd say we haven't seen such a flop since New Coke.

The number of users in the rooms I frequent at any one time is significantly less than what it was before the launch. I'm guessing this is in part the result of non-paying members only being able to be in one room at a time. I suspect, however, that it's at least partially due to a serious decline in visitors. At least here in Athens, Manhunt is now the cruise site of choice. To be fair, Manhunt had already eclipsed prior to the launch so the new is not entirely to blame.

I've always used Gayboi's chat client. It was the only way to prevent the adbots that plagued from harassing me. I guess you could say that integrating a botguard into is an improvement. But it's an improvement that comes with a few negatives.

When using the chat client, if someone made a comment in the room, I could easily find the profile for that person. All you had to do was click on the list of folks in the room and type the first letter of the screenname. Quick and easy. Now you have to scroll down a list that at least on my computer, bounces around a lot in an annoying way.

Another feature I liked was the ability to view all the pictures of those in a particular room. That is no longer possible on the new I will say that it's a bit of a plus for nonpaying members to be able to view up to 3 pictures in a profile compared with only the main picture with the old software.

I also liked being able to see who was in a room before I actually entered it. If that's still possible, I can't figure out how to do it. Instead I find myself popping in to nearly empty rooms and then exiting to find a room with at least a few people in it that chat.

I don't like the way biolines are handled with the new, either. In the past if you clicked on the screenname you could see whatever they put on their bioline. Now only a truncated version of the bioline appears, and you have to scroll over it in just the right way to see the rest.

The good news is that I use exclusively for entertainment purposes. With the new, I find I spend considerably less time in the chatrooms than I did before, and I guess that's a good thing. It gives me more time to blog!

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blogging Success!

I'm so excited! I checked my AdSense account today. Low and behold, I've earned $2.73!!! Now I just need $97.27 more and I'll get my first check. At the rate I'm going, I expect I'll get that first check around this time next year.

Have to say that the technology AdSense uses to scan the contents of my blog to select appropriate ads needs some work. I wrote about the crappy parents up the street from me, and now see a couple of ads to help you become a better parent. No doubt the last sentence will keep those ads active for a while.

I was happy to see an ad for pet waste stations and bags and another for flushable pet waste bags. That's not where I want to go, but at least it's in the ball park of what I've written about.

There are several ads about theme parties. I'm not sure what I've written about to get them. The good news is that Ann Coulter's ad and others for the Republican National Committee no longer appear.

Take a few minutes to click on some of these ads. What have you got to lose? It might mean I get a check before this time next year, but it's not going to make me rich by any means.


The Somewhat Less Crotchety Old Man

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Silver Lining on the Stock Market

Yeah, the stock market is not doing that well. A lot of people have seen the value of their investment portfolios decline by tens of thousands of dollars. The loss in value is gut wrenching.

For the vast majority of investors, the absolute worst thing you could do would be to convert your stock holdings to cash. As long as you hold on to your stocks and mutual funds, you haven't lost anything...yet. Sell in a down market and you lock in the losses.

That's not much reason for hope. For some of us, the current downturn does have a silver lining. If you have more than ten years until you expect to retire and you're still investing, you may find that the current downturn will be a good thing.

The monthly contributions you're making toward your retirement are buying a lot more than they did a year ago. When the market turns around...and it will own more shares than you would have without the decline. That's dollar-cost-averaging in action. With regular contributions, your money buys less when the market is up, and more when the market is down.

That's what I'm holding on to as I watch the value of my portfolio drop. I'm still contributing each month, and those contributions are going into primarily stocks and large cap mutual funds. I have at least twelve more years to go before I can retire, and that's plenty of time for the market to turn around. When it does, I'll end up with a lot more in my portfolio than I would have had without the current downturn.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ho's with Rich Husbands

Have you seen Real Housewives of Atlanta yet? They ought to rename the show Real Ho's of Atlanta. I don't think I've ever seen such a trashy collection of women. They've all got tons of money. Far as I can tell, it's because they married guys who have recently come in to a lot of money.

Kim, the sole white chic in the group, is the worst. She's totally deluded. She's a 29 year-old overweight chain smoker who dreams of becoming a country music singer. Her best moment so far was when she stripped down in a parking lot to put her party dress on. She's got a rich boyfriend who prefers to remain anonymous. I bet he's married.

Sheree is the next worse. She's in the middle of divorcing her rich husband, who she's going to take for everything he's worth so she can live as well or better as she did when they were married. She's got some idea that she's the hottest thing going. Her ex-husband has wisely opted out of the show, too.

Just found out that NeNe, the wild one, grew up right here in Athens. She's at least entertaining, and seems to see the other ho's...err...housewives for exactly what they are. She married a real estate developer who looks to be quite a bit older than she is.

DeShawn married a pro athlete. They have a brand new enormous house in Alpharetta, and she's in the process of hiring the staff. She needs the staff because she doesn't have a clue about how to get things done. She tries.

Lisa is my favorite. She has 5,000 different career aspirations and is following them all. She's also married to a pro athlete--a football player--but they seem to have a good marriage.

Now I happen to know that there is a lot of real money in Atlanta. I also know that a real southern lady would never consider being on a show like this. In fact, it's the fact that all these women are fish out of water that makes the show so interesting. I'm just glad that I don't live in Atlanta so that I'm free of the embarrassment residents must feel when they see this show.

Wonder how much money they're getting for doing the show? Plenty, I'm sure. Just another reason I'm...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Athens Restaurant Reviews

Reviews of local restaurants have been appearing in the Athens paper about once a week for the last couple of months. By and large I think this is a good thing. Athens has a lot of privately owned restaurants, and many of them are quite good if not excellent.

I have two primary beefs with these reviews. First, I hardly see that his twelve years of experience waiting tables qualifies him to critique restaurants. I waited tables many years ago as a way to make ends meet while I was in school. The "professional" waiters were generally those that drank too much to finish school and/or get a real job. I realize that things have changed a bit since then. Even so, I'd find these reviews to be more credible if they were maybe from a line cook rather than a waiter. The ability to recite specials and carry food from the kitchen to the table hardly qualifies one to be a food critic.

The second beef I have is that he currently waits tables at 5 & 10--Athens most pretentious restaurant. We've gone a couple of times for special occasions and have always left disappointed and hungry. I see all the time where the chef at 5 & 10 has won this award or that award for his culinary skills. He must reserve those skills for competitions because they certainly are not apparent with any of the meals we've been served at his establishment.

We've also never been pleased with anything we've eaten at Momma's Boy. For some reason, the food snobs around Athens rave about this place which I believe, has ties to 5 & 10. I just don't see it.

We really like Knuckleheads which unfortunately, didn't last very long. The good news is that the site is now home to Jot'em Downs which has the best pork ribs I have ever eaten. This is an expansion from the tiny place they had on Whitehall Road, so I'm optimistic that they will last a bit longer than Knuckleheads did.

I like Harry Bisset's on the West End, too. The contemporary atmosphere and easy parking are big pluses. It's also nice that I don't have to fight my way through a crowded bar chocked full of aging drunk frat boys. Together those factors make it a much more attractive option to me than the downtown location.

When company comes to town and we want to impress them with Athens, we always go to The Last Resort. I've heard the food snobs complain about the menu being outdated and tired. Perhaps. But I prefer to think this is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in action. I've never been disappointed with anything I've ordered.

There are lots of other decent places in town to grab a bite to eat. Maybe I'll write about some of them on down the road. After all, I did wait tables for nearly 12 years. Guess that makes me a food critic as well as....

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Parents of the Year

The people that live up the street from me have to be the worst parents I've ever encountered. They are not abusive or neglectful. It's kind of hard to explain exactly what the problem is. Let me recount for you some of the things we've seen from them since they went forth and multiplied.

The first time I saw them was at a neighborhood association picnic several years ago. The little darling was maybe two, and running hither and yon with his sippy cup. At some point, Dad asked the little tyke if he wanted more beer in his sippy cup. There wasn't any beer in the cup--this was just Dad being cute and letting the little darling feel like they were kindred spirits. Start em young I say.

Several weeks later, they had junior out while they were working in the yard. It was fall clean-up time and they were stuffing leaves down a chipper shredder. Junior was playing in the outflow like it was falling snow.

Starting to get the picture?

A year or two later, Mom and Junior would ride their bicycles to the bottom of the street. As Junior was not really able to ride back up the hill to the house, Dad would follow along in the family auto. Once they reached the bottom of the hill, Junior would put his bike in the car and hop in Dad's lap for the ride back home. Like that's not enough, they would race Mom, with Junior hanging out the driver's side window yelling that he was going to win. Yup. Real winners. This was a daily occurrence for weeks on end.

I came home from work several weeks ago and found Mom and Junior camped out in my next door neighbor's yard. They were sitting under a tree on a blanket, and Mom was reading a book to him. How sweet!

A few weeks later, I came home and found Mom, Junior, and a herd of little children tromping through my garden. Not my lawn, my garden. So being the Crotchety Old Man that I am, I went out to see what was going on. Mom-of-the-Year informed me that they were just collecting caterpillars from the parsley plants in my garden. Interestingly, the parsley plants are not visible from the road. But what really chapped my ass was when she told me that she'd given them permission to collect caterpillars from the parsley plants in my yard. I was shocked speechless--which isn't something that happens to me very often.

That kid is in for a rude awakening. He's going to grow up believing the world is his oyster, and any pearls he finds are his for the taking. They have a dog now, and of course, they don't pick up after it. I guess they're entitled to leave dog poop wherever they like, too. It's people like them that keep this blog alive...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Beginnings

Fall is for planting, and that makes me think of new beginnings. I've spent the last few weekends tinkering around in the yard planting bulbs, winter annuals (violas, snapdragons, and dianthus), and new shrubs with a thought toward a new and improved garden next year. I get excited about next year's garden about this time every year.

We cut down all the foundation plantings around the house this weekend. The builder picked them up at Lowe's one afternoon I'm sure. They looked nice when I bought the house ten years ago. In the last few years they've grown to the point of completely obscuring the front of the house. So it was time for a change.

Now my dilemma is selecting new plants. The front of the house is on the north side, so the area gets almost no direct sunlight. I could work around that easy enough. The other problem is that there are two large windows that start about 24 inches above ground level. That means that whatever I plant in front of them should be no more than say 36 inches tall at maturity.

I'm definitely going to find room for at least one tea olive. I already have a group of five tea olives planted on the east side of the house. Maybe I'll find a different variety so I won't feel like I'm going overboard.

I'm also thinking about white camellias. The house is red brick with white trim, so I think that a nice cultivar of a japonicus type would look nice--assuming it gets enough sun to bloom. They aren't fragrant (or not that I've noticed) so I wouldn't have to worry about a scent clashing with the tea olives.

Tea olives and camellias would have to go in the few spots that are not in front of a window. For beneath the windows I'm thinking about some variety of daphne. I'm not sure how well they do here in the deep south, and suspect they need more sun than they would be likely to get here. But I may give them a shot just the same.

Working in the garden chills me out a lot. I haven't been pissed about anything for a few days. That doesn't change the fact that I am, as always,

The Crotchety Old Man
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