Thursday, October 20, 2011


My Uncle Buster congenially referred to me today as a “Mooch” via text.  It hurt my feelings. I can think of no reason in the world that he'd say such a thing other than this: I have successfully mooched off him for 31 years.  However, Ahem. I prefer the term “Professional Interloper.” 

“Mooch” is just so crass, don’t you agree? It sounds slimy and I am most certainly NOT slimy.  Perhaps a touch “musty” or “goatish” on occasion, sure, but never slimy. 

Well, generally not slimy. I got home today from my second “Sleep Study” at Piedmont Hospital to investigate the source of my potentially terminal snoring - and hopped into bed. A disembodied hand reached out from beneath the covers and patted it's way up my neck face and ears, then mussed my hair (ostensibly to determine if I were friend or foe) until suddenly sticking fast, glued to my forehead. 

Ewwwwwwww WHAT IS THAT?!  Tyler shuddered – now wide-awake, pillows erupting in a shrieking crescdendo of goosedown.  YOU HAVE SNOT IN YOUR HAIR!

Apparently the Sleep Study Technician didn’t clean the electrode glue out of my hair.  My bad. I’m just the critically-ill person here. Didn’t mean to offend you with my illness.

Anyway, THAT was slimy, but in general – I reiterate: Not Slimy.

It’s not that I haven’t TRIED to pay my way here and there, but picking up lunch when somebody just planted your cornfield for free are two friendly deeds separated by a little matter of magnitude.  It’s just that the things I like to do cost WAY more than I’ve got to spend. What am I supposed to do? Quit doing them and only do things I can afford???

BAH! I’m an American!

If I can’t afford it, but I want it anyway – then OTHER PEOPLE MUST PAY FOR ME!  It’s in the Constitution.

It’s my God-Given right to kiss on the first date, drive 10 miles over the speed limit with no repercussions, spend more money than I’ve got to do things I can’t afford and maintain a lifestyle of general excess and frivolity.  If people like ME don’t keep up our frantic pace – there’d be nobody to buy Ferraris on credit, rent snowmobiles, or fly to the moon just for fun.  THEN do you know what happens? West Nile. Swine Flu. Mumps. Rubella. End Times. Everybody starves to death. 

The bottom line is: I’m not Mooching. I’m stimulating the Economy! So, don’t do it for me: Do It For America.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Unwary

Tyler D. Ewing, the woman perpetually convinced she's on the very cusp of burglarly, attack and pillage had this to say from bed when I entered the house late Sunday night (and I quote):

"Zzzzzzzzz. Haammphhhhh. Snaaaarrkkkkkggglee. Zzzzzzzzzz."

I've included a brief graphical representation of my movements about the house upon my return from a long weekend of sporting pursuits (below):

I tromped in and out of the house multiple times - slamming both doors each time, opened the fridge, walked in our bedroom and took one shoe off. Then, I sat down and scratched a tick bite on my leg. Yawned. Walked out. Later I brought my overnight bag into the bedroom, dumped its contents on the floor, took my other shoe off, turned the fan on, walked outside, closed the fridge, and came back in with my dopp kit. I rummaged around in my kit for a toothbrush, brushed my teeth and simultaneously texted my cousin Maggie.  Finally, Tyler rolled over and said "Wello! Well, look who's back!"

"I've been home for a half hour. I've slammed the back door 5 times and turned on every light in the house.  You have not so much as stirred."

"Oh? Yeah. Hmm. Yawn. I thought I heard something."

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Say Uncle

Hilarious. Make the guy uncomfortable with newborns hold the new kid. Ok! Fine! I'll do it. I won't like it, but I'll do it if I HAVE to, but that's it. Once. After that: no more holding.

I don't deal with children under 6, furthermore I don't INTEND to deal with children under 6. That's right: I'm an ogre. No, I'm a man. No, I'm an ogre. Either way - they're purely ornamental, right?  Bring them to me when they're strong enough to hold a BB gun and wear a life vest. Until then - they make me too nervous. That's right - I'll take my chances with an armed 6yr-old over a newborn that could cry any minute and make me feel all guilty and weird.

We've got a hospital room full of women over here flipping the tiny thing around like its a football and driving it crazy and it makes me anxious. As if blasting out into the world with a bunch of people hollering at you, blood and guts everywhere, crying, and wailing isn't bad enough - somebody immediately hits you hard enough to make you cry, then 400 people you dont know show up and insist on handing you around in midair for the next 72hrs straight. 

Take me back to the womb, please, Mister. 

To make matters worse - there's a 50/50 chance somebody stuck a vacuum cleaner on your head, then sucked so hard it squished your skull all out of shape. You think THAT didn't hurt? Sweet Lord. "Welcome to being a human! Hurry up out of there, or we'll smoosh your skull." It's your first taste of the world telling you you're too fat and slow. Learn to love it.

Plus, you can't think much, grip anything, walk, talk or see straight and what do you have to live on? Milk that somebody gives you anytime they feel like you may be hungry? If I had to wait on Tyler to feed me when she thought I might be hungry, I'd be dead. Or skinny. I don't know which is worse.

It's amazing any kid makes it out of the hospital alive - what with all that hard floor rushing up to meet you.  That's what's underfoot in the hospital - basically concrete. 4,000 sick and infirm people, newborns, the elderly, bodily fluids skeeting around right and left, half the chairs have wheels on them and you pave the entire place in a slick hard substance?  The emperor has no clothes. Soylent Green is PEOPLE, and when I'm 80 please don't store me in any place sheeted in hip-crushing rubberized concrete. 

Know what happens when you get old? YOU DIE. Fine by me I guess, but I know a caretaker who loves me wouldn't let me slowly break apart over time in a series of high-impact falls.  Make me a tent out on the front lawn. I'll take a tree fort in your backyard. Anything, at all - please just don't put concrete floors in my bedroom for crying out loud. 

Back at the hospital I held the kid, anxiously, until Tyler saw my lips moving and the beads of sweat glistening feverishly on my forehead and she finally said "well, I guess I better get Jimmy on home now", made her apologies and led me out to the car.

It's a good thing, too. My imagination was about to spin completely out of control.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nine (or Ten) Toes

Tyler has LITERALLY been talking about our 1yr anniversary for 11 months.  As we near the big day (Sunday) she's reached a fever pitch.  A few minutes ago I received this brief communique (no preamble):

As part of our ANNIVERSARY weekend celebrationssss (that's THIS WEEEKEND), I propose we go to Blue Ridge Grill on Saturday night for drinks and a light dinner. I mean, that restaurant IS a foundational element in our relationship journey. Thoughts?

Also: what did you get me for a present? You can tell me, I won't tell anyone.

It's almost like we're reaching some kind of milestone. Normally, I would insert a photo montage of some kind to illustrate our 12 short months of marriage, but I'm not. Instead, let me take this opportunity to remind you: Tyler has a webbed toe:

so she can't wear toe-shoes.

Thanks everyone for your last 12 months of patronage.  Here's to Year Two.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Silage, The Silent Killer

If you’ve spent any time at all in a rural farming community you’ve probably heard the term “silage” ("sigh-ledge"). If not – you won’t know what it is; but now you’re wondering, aren’t you?

Do read on.

The first time I heard the word it was in reference to the large crop of irrigated sorghum standing just behind me on a dove shoot. A man said "just saw a big 'ol rattlesnake back there in that silage."

That bit of information piqued my interest and I felt it worthwhile to follow-up.

Whatt silage? Where?

Yonderways. (vague gesture towards 200 acre sorghum field, 10' high)

Didja kill it ?

Naw. Didn't have a sack to put 'im in.

Uncertain of how to respond, I simply nodded and filed the term away with a mental snapshot of a sorghum field and went on about my business. I know farming. Now, I know "silage" too. I am brilliant.

The next time I heard the term “silage” it was in reference to a corn field. If sorghum is silage and corn isn’t sorghum then corn can’t be silage, can it? I took the SAT. I know words.

Clearly, I am a sharper farmer than the farmer pointing to his corn and calling it silage when, obviously, that’s wrong. I chuckled to myself, pleased with my smart farming sense, and thought “I pity this farmer who does not know his silage from his corn. His cows must be very sickly.” But, I left it at that. Silage = sorghum field. End of story.

This weekend my friend JB stood with me in the bright sunlight surveying a dove field.  It was hot. I mean 101 degrees hot.  So hot, nobody was really talking - just standing; limply draped across the sides of my truck bed praying for rain and waiting on 3 o'clock.  Finally, JB reached into the cooler for a water and broke the silence: "Whoooeeee. It is some kinna’ hot and that pond sure looks nice. You know your Great-Granddaddy Burke Sr. used to fish right over there in that pond."

Uncle John leaned both elbows on the toolbox, fanned himself with his hat and mumbled “he was nearbout blind as long as I knew him. Couldn’t barely see to cast.”

"Yeah, that’s right John. His friend Mr. Blunt used to go down to Macon in his Cutlass to pick him up when he got to where he couldn’t see good, and he’d bring him down here to go fishing. Funny thing was – couldn’t neither of ‘em see good! It was the blind driving the blind!

Well, Mr. Blunt got to where he couldn’t see so bad that he couldn’t figure out where to turn off at to get to the pond. They drove around for awhile until Mr. Burke heard the silage truck go driving by. Now Mr. Burke may not coulda’ seen the driveway, but he sure knew the sound of that o' silage truck headed for the silage pit right by the lake, so he hollered at Mr. Blunt “follow that truck!” figuring it would get ‘em close to where they needed to be.

Now, at this point in the story all I can hear is the term “silage” rattling around in my brain like a pebble in a tin can. It has shaken my entire foundation in farming terminology. What in the blue daisy-scented hell is silage anyway? Where is the sorghum field? What kind of pit does it go in? What about corn? Does that fit in here? Could I climb around in that pit of silage and make little tunnels? Because I’ve always wanted to dig a series of interconnected tunnels and caves in something.  It would satisfy the same urge as making a blanket fort under the dining room table, but infinitely better.

Also: is it dangerous, this silage pit of glorious tunnels? Where can I learn to understand more of mysterious silage? I entirely lost the thread of the story, time slowed, I imagined myself creating an entire kingdom of underground silage tunnels and all I could hear was the thunderous word “SIIIILLAAGGEEEEE” echoing through my brain. I did not understand this silage word and, because I am far too curious, there can be nothing that I do not understand or I will likely die. I felt adrift. Lost. Shaken. Miserable.

I came back to myself in time to hear JB finish “So, they followed that silage truck right on down to the pit…and drove right off the hill into it!” Couldn’t neither of em’ see good enough to figure out what they had done! There they were, nose-first in a silage pit 20 feet deep in the hillside with fishing rods hanging out the both back windows and rear wheels spinning in the air. We had to send a crane down there to lift ‘em out. That about ended their solo fishing trips. After that your Granddaddy would just send somebody down from the shop to take ‘em both.

"Heh heh. JB, I reckon they’re lucky that pit didn’t explode."

WHAT? SILAGE IS EXPLOSIVE??!!? God help us. Is there nothing safe to tunnel in anymore? 
I blazed a quick trail that night to Wikipedia which said:

"Silage is fermented, high-moisture fodder that can be fed to ruminants (cud-chewing animals like cattle and sheep)[1] or used as a biofuel feedstock for anaerobic digesters. It is fermented and stored in a process called ensiling or silaging, and is usually made from grass crops, including corn (maize), sorghum or other cereals, using the entire green plant (not just the grain). Silage can be made from many field crops, and special terms may be used depending on type (oatlage for oats, haylage for alfalfa – but see below for the different British use of the term haylage).[2]Silage is made either by placing cut green vegetation in a silo, by piling it in a large heap covered with plastic sheet, or by wrapping large bales in plastic film."


"Silos are hazardous, and deaths occur in the process of filling and maintaining them. There is a risk of injury by machinery or from falls. When a silo is filled, fine dust particles in the air can become explosive because of their large aggregate surface area. Also, fermentation presents respiratory hazards. The ensiling process produces "silo gas" during the early stages of the fermentation process. Silage gas contains nitric oxide (NO), which will react with oxygen (O2) in the air to form nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is toxic.[5] Lack of oxygen inside the silo can cause asphyxiation. Molds that grow when air reaches cured silage can cause toxic organic dust syndrome. Silage bales are heavy, and can fall, roll or overbalance."

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Gator Hunters

Ever been "Gator Huntin'"?  Me neither.

Austin and I dumped an airboat, the most dangerous form of aquatic conveyance in the world, captained by a man I'd never, met into Mobile Bay - a location I've never visited, in the dark; with absolutely no synapse firing in our brains other than a vague sense that we fully intended to capture and kill a live alligator.  I had a knife a camera a life jacket and a flashlight. Austin had a hat on. That, in essence, comprised our entire survival kit.

We left the dock at roughly 930PM with a roar, practiced on floating debris for a bit with the gator harpoon, and we were off. 

Mobile bay is not exactly a backwater location.  It was, in fact, quite populous with fishermen, docks, and bridges. It was also quite populous with alligators. I quit counting inside of 20 minutes at "75".  Between the hours of 10PM and 4AM we saw over 300 individual alligators - probably 100 of which were over 8ft long.  The next day we passed over the bay on our way to dinner and saw...waterskiers.

If there is one thrill I'm not willing to tempt a 12ft gator into attacking me over - its having a big outboard motor drag me all over the pond with boards strapped to my feet. Sounds like a blast, but I don't want to be selfish: I'll let you soak up all that fun for both of us.  To me it sounds about like hang-gliding over the lion cage, but don't let me slow you down.

The airboat guide would basically come flying down the bay with a spotlight then cut the rudder hard towards a set of glowing-orange eyes and kick it. We'd run straight at the gator until he started to get furious, then the guide would swing hard right to put the diving gator on the port side - which is perfect for a right-handed throw.

Our final contestant was successfully harpooned by Austin with what amounts to a modified shovel handle with a detachable harpoon head on it. This particular gator (all 10' 6" 300lbs of him) took two harpoons and about 30' of line w/styrofoam floats, then proceeded to snap the harpoon in half and bite the heads off two steel shark gaffs. After that he bit holes all in the side of the boat and tried to kill me, the guide, and Austin in four-part-harmony.
At one point the guide suffered an attack of some sort and began horsely screaming "GRAB HIS OTHER LEG. GET IN THERE JIMMY DAMMIT GET IN THERE. DAMN YOU" while viciously applying his right Sebago to my posterior.

I was, in short, "reluctant."

In order to comply with the Captain's orders I had to go chest-deep headfirst over the side, grab the gator's left leg, and pull. That put his left eye and my left eye literally 1" apart. At that point two wraps of electrical tape and a college education start to look pretty silly. 

Staring fully into the depths of his unblinking, yellow, reptilian eyes was life-changing. I haven't felt that intensely loathed by any creature since Mandy '03 and I could tell - he really did want to eat me. I've never experienced "wanting to be eaten" by a carnivore before. It was truly refreshing - so much so that I felt it incumbent upon me to mull the moment over from my favorite thinking spot high atop the propeller cage.

Eventually, Austin and the guide got the front of the boat over him and wrapped his jaws shut with electrical tape while I hopped up and down on top of the motor offering sage bits of wisdom. Then, all three of us had to drag the live, furious gator on board and I had to HOLD HIM DOWN while Austin basically killed him with a bowie knife. 

It was exciting.

We returned to the public boat ramp around 4AM, at which point the guide slid the dead 10' 6" gator off his boat with a meaty thud, shook Austin's hand and wished us a hearty good luck with the skinning process.  7AM found us still publicly skinning a gator to the intense delight of 45 various fishermen who showed up that morning to put their boats in at the ramp. It was a four-alarm goat rodeo of epic proportions, complete with commentary.
Hey. wheredja kill that thang
where you guys from
is that hard
did you kill it
is it dead
it dont look dead
wharabouts where you
what time is it
you guys tired
you look tired
boy im glad i aint got to skin that thang
boy that thang stanks
wherebouts you from. not mobile prolly. hey earl wherebouts you think they from
you want all that meat ill tradja some crappie
hey look here ralph
(ralph) dammit lijah - get in the boat
hey fellers can i get a pitchur.
can you guys move over a bit
hey guys wait right there let me go get my kids.
here little tommy sit on the gators head

It was exhausting....
....but I guess that's just part of being gator hunters!

Monday, August 15, 2011

High And Dry

“I think we’re stuck.” Fred announced, happily, from the front of the boat.
His next communication: “Lemme see”, was proceeded by the sound of pockets emptying, then followed immediately by a splash and the sound of thrashing water.

“Yep. I knew it. Stuck, Jimmy! Terribly, terribly stuck!”, he continued, sounding elated.

“I reckon I’ll have to matriculate us off this here sandbar we’ve found.”

A little grunting and straining and the 38-year-old jonboat, purloined from Uncle Buster, once again floated under its own power.

Fred flopped back into the boat chuckling to himself and gave me the “hammer down” signal – a vague tilt of the hand indicating your fellow boater’s willingness to die, should the need arise, and we were once again underway.

The Chattahoochee River, dark-30, is no place to be at full-throttle, but when there’s smoke on the water and the motor is running like it ought - who am I to let off?

Hammer Down.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Dead Man's Curve

Having spent a fair amount of time in Sandy Springs I can say with great confidence: the Abernathy / Brandon Mill Rd. construction project has been a whirlwind of emotion for the locals.

We’ve laughed.

We’ve cried.

We’re ready for it to wrap up.

In my opinion, one of the most important; yet oft-overlooked key elements to any street system is its constancy. By that I mean – when I’m on a blacktop road anywhere else in the United States, I can drive the speed limit with nearly 87.3% confidence that the road itself won’t peter out, suddenly turn into a goat path, run off into a river, or climb a tree.

When I pull up to the Brandon Mill / Abernathy Rd. light tomorrow morning – where will the lanes go? Each day dawns a new and exciting commute adventure filled with surprises. Last Monday I managed to end up on the backside of Arlington Cemetary before I realized I wasn’t nearly to work. There is a nice little neighborhood back in there somewhere – it’s a pity I’ll never be able to find it again.

Remember when you could top the rise on Brandon Mill without pulling over to pray first? Those were happy times.

I’m not complaining though. I know these things take time. As an educated, long-time resident of the city I have a much broader view. I also take great comfort in knowing that one day my now-unborn children will drive off to college knowing that the interchange will be completed very soon. Of course, that assumes some unlucky motorist doesn’t sail over dead man’s curve at the Brandon Mill / Abernathy intersection and put an exclamation point on my obituary.

For you who are unfamiliar with the intersection and construction project of which I speak – I’ve included a small graphical representation below. You may have to click on it to view. If you click several times to no avail – please stop clicking

Monday, August 01, 2011

Beard Buster

To the woman ahead of me at Wal-Mart with a cart full of nothing but miscellaneous hygeine products, 3 super-size cans of "Beard Buster" shaving cream, and a fistful of coupons; I just want to say this:

Unless you're planning to take a Saint Bernard all the way down to his skin; if it really requires "Beard Buster" - you've got bigger problems than a 20% off coupon can fix.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Elevator Etiquette

Having recently rejoined the HighRise Horde I once again have the luxury of shooting all the way to the top of the building via elevator each morning. The elevator means I don’t have to trudge up 17 flights of stairs, so color me pro-elevator. If I had to climb 17 flights of stairs to get to work I’d probably just quit.

Unfortunately, it appears my elevator etiquette is a bit rusty. Each morning I’m finding it hard to totally ignore the fact that I’m sharing 16 square feet of floor space with 5 strangers and, as we all know, that is the key to successfully navigating a highrise – pretending no one exists but you.

I’ve made all sorts of mistakes lately like looking people dead in the eye, hitting the wrong button and (blatantly) getting off on the wrong floor. All big no-nos. Just last week I got off on 16 by mistake (I was thinking about dinosaurs), then back on to go up to 17 and everybody in the elevator audibly sighed when I hit the button. Sorry to waste your 12 seconds, buttholes.

Give me a break.

I may make the occasional faux-pas, but I’m never just plain elevator-rude. I don’t, for instance, blatantly pick my nose (poorly executed “roundabout” between floors 12 and 14 by a lady in a green jacket on Tuesday). Lady - no matter how fast you cram your finger in your nose and back out again – it still counts! And the question remains: what do you do with a booger so horrible that couldn’t wait 38 seconds? I definitely don’t want it.

I also don’t wink and change into gym shorts between floors either (thanks for that Mr. Tall Asian Guy in basketball shoes) for a split second I thought you were going to try and plunder my carnal treasures. Thanks for not. Hearing the totally unprovoked stranger behind you drop his pants on an elevator is just plain unsettling.  If you don’t have enough alone time built into your day to change your pants solo: join the priesthood and get the hell out of my elevator.

My personal favorite is the loud phone talker who got on with me; then proceeded to loudly coordinate drinks with her girlfriend all the way to the ground floor, hang up, loudly announce “Ok. I’m that girl. I know it’s so rude to talk in an elevator” and stomp off.  By the time she waddled out of the elevator I was the one who needed a drink.

Let me point out that saying something is rude while you’re doing it actually doesn’t make it less rude - it just proves that you’re an insufferable bunghole and I hope a big eagle swoops down and eats you.

Interesting stuff, I know; but what I really want to talk about is this: the door-close-button. IT DOESN’T CLOSE THE @#$#@$ DOOR.

I’m 31 years old and in that entire time I have never, not one time, period, ever seen the door-close-button work and yet, as soon as someone pops through the not-yet-fully-opened door, there is instantly a logjam of grimy pointer fingers miserably scrabbling to get that button pushed.

WHY?!?!?!? Is there a place in the world where the hurry-up-and-close-the-door button works and everybody else in the world has been there but me??? Wait. Am I dead? Is this Hell? I need to go to that happy place because the unwavering faith which led me to unyieldingly engage that button for the first 28 years of my life nearly drove me mad. My New Years’ resolution in 2008 was to never push that Devil-spawned button again and by god I haven’t.

But it kills me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Singed Shingler

Having been a bit slack on the up-keep lately (job change, house change, two weeks of vacation) let me just say: I’m back.

In the last two months I’ve started smoking (meats on the grill), assembled an AR-15 rifle entirely from scratch, cut down two trees, applied for a permit to hunt alligators like "Swamp People", cleaned my workshop, stole an entire aluminum boat from my Uncle John and, the most significant accomplishment of my summer: I signed my wife up for shotgun-shooting competitions and boxing classes.


Having been married approximately zero times in the past – the surprises keep on a’ rolling in. It’s been a month of ups-and-downs. Last week I was shocked and saddened to find that some sort of rodent snuck into the house during an exterior door renovation project and made merry with my turkey feather collection – eating the entire top off my most favorite gobbler beard.

That’s not the big shock though, so hang on; everyone who read the TurkeyRat post knows that rodents think turkey parts are candy. The shocker is this: Tyler didn’t care. What she DID care about is that there was a mouse in the house at some point. I’m standing there in torment, I mean truly suffering over the loss of this magnificent dangly turkeybeard, and all she can do is squeal shrilly over the presence of a larcenous mouse.

I call that INSENSITIVE.

To make matters worse: I also had some of my favorite gear stolen out of my truck this month. Clearly some jaundiced, hell-bound bag of garbage thought he needed some of my favorite hunting and fishing stuff more than I did. Congratulations, sir, you are the owner of several fine things for free. I salute you.

I suffered manfully through the shocking waves of loss and violation that washed over me for a number of days after the sanctity of my vehicle had been violated, then I finally took a break from moping around the house just long enough to clean out the gutters. Unfortunately, I got a late start - so it was over 100 degrees on the roof by the time I got up there.

I knew it was hot, but I practiced mind-over-matter and ignored the scorching heat radiating off the black shingles; the long-term impact of which was: I managed to burn my butt. I mean my right cheek literally looks
like you took a belt sander to it.Seriously - it is raw.

I’ve made everyone who expressed disbelief in the present condition of my terribly singed buttocks take a look for themselves, so you don’t have to take my word for it – drop by anytime.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Fall Ain't So Bad

We forayed out into the wilds of Brookhaven this week to participate in a High Museum Young Patron's get together at Pour wine market and one of those drink-wine-while-painting places.

As a recently-married man, I can say confidently: The Fall sneaks up on you.

I hadn't been confronted with how far I'd trundled down the road to married complacency until I realized, too late, that I had just paid $40 to enter a room filled with 25 easels, 23 women, 32 (open) bottles of wine and a cheese tray.  No man I consort with would stoop to purchasing a cheese tray.  He might show up at your house with a block of cheddar and a pocketknife, but definitely not a cheese tray.

It was a hard moment for me, facing that.

I used to own jean shorts, oakley sunglasses and a superfast boat and here I am in khaki pants, a golf shirt and a smock with paint all over about to sip wine from a plastic cup and paint a tree with purple budding flowers.

Then I looked down and realized: I'm carrying my wife's purse.  My shame was complete.

Like I said: it was a dark moment.  There was a bright spot, though.  When we pulled up to park, my lovely wife flounced leggily out of the car, bent down, popped back up and said "oooooh! look what I got!!" and handed me a wadded up $20 bill she found laying in the parking lot. 

I was ecstatic but she, seeming generally unsurprised, shrugged and said, "yeah, this happens to me all the time."

Heh!! If I had a skill like that I'd put it on my resume: "Can Be Counted On to Find Free Money Often".

The fall ain't so bad, I guess - depending on where you land.


I noticed this photo in a recent report on Art In The Park in Sandy Springs:

and you know what? This kid is playing with a dead fish.

The use of an improvised toy brought back memories. When I was a kid we were so broke - if a branch didn’t fall off a tree in our yard overnight I didn’t have anything to play with all day.

This kid’s folks have gotten even more thrifty and creative: it’s a pet, it’s a toy – its dinner! Genius. That right there is stretching a recession dollar.

It's nice to see parents these days taking a page from my parents' book. One Christmas I didn’t get anything that didn’t come from a garage sale. Later in life Mom used to tell people that and laugh “Heh, heh. He never even wondered why nothing came in a box and everything had scratches on it! Heh, heh.” She thought that was hilarious.

The joke was on me I guess. I was also allergic to milk and eggs – so, I got to be the weird dietary kid without new toys.

Thanks a lot, God.

You could be the lumpy weird kid that smelled like curry and talked about unicorns and if you had cool enough stuff to play with – everybody was your friend. You’d get home from school and four kids would be standing in your front yard waiting on you to break out the radio-controlled cars (I still want one). Chances are good you drove right past me in my front yard frantically waving a magnolia limb over my head.

Later in life this kid’s own parents will almost certainly tease him with this photo, but the joke’s still on them: you should be really nice to the kid who’s going to pick out your retirement home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Blog

I've recently started writing a little blog column for Sandy Springs Patch. So, I've re-run some of this blog's entries and I also write some new material here and there too. 

Now I can piss people off in two separate venues! It's all so very exciting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beau Slocumb Has Left The Building

My first cousin, Burke Lowe Slocumb, IV (“Beau” or “Hey You”) had the unmitigated gall to get critically ill the day before my 2nd 30th birthday.  Going forward nobody in our family is allowed to get extremely ill on or near my birthday month or at Christmas.  Any other time you want to shuffle off this mortal coil you go right ahead; I’ll be along presently.

I told Beau if he sullied the memorial of my birth for all time by giving up the ghost on my most hallowed day of days - I'd be forced to sift his ashes down Ryan Newman's gas tank.

The threat to his good friend and favorite NASCAR driver’s fuel lines seemed to keep him off the heavenly registry for a bit; but it was not quite as long as we'd have liked. On April 8, 2011 with 8 minutes to go in the last lap - Car #8 left us all in the dust.

Boy does it suck when people die.

I got to tell Beau I loved him before it was all over and, surprisingly enough, it didn't even feel that gay.  He said "Huh? Is that a new watch?"

I took it as a compliment.

I know Beau didn’t want to be the first grandkid to set sail on the afterlife with Granddad to greet him at the pearly gates and who could blame him?  You and I both know nobody's Granddad is about to manage his own television set when he’s got a grandkid handy; and eternity is an awful long time to spend changing the channels for somebody else. I’m just glad it wasn’t me or we might have all ended up in purgatory for swearing.

From a family standpoint we’re not at all unfamiliar with loss and the aftermath; but the upside is - I don’t think any of us are particularly afraid to "go" anymore.

I know I’m not. Bring it on!

I’m serious. I plan for ‘em to find my freckled corpse next to the dead body of the lion that killed me. If I’m in a loincloth: even better. No need for the undertaker, thanks, just call my taxidermist.

If you think about it – birth and death are the only things you’ll ever have in common with 100% of the rest of the world. That’s depressing, so I spend a lot of time ignoring the certainty of it all, but buddy it’s coming - and that’s as sure a thing as I know of.

It's inescapable.  Everybody is engaged in at-risk behavior, but you still never see the train coming until you're wrapped around the whistle.  Beau, for instance, did his utmost to kill himself with sheer, wicked, mind-numbing velocity for 25 years - boats, cars, trucks, atvs, motorcycles - you name it - and what got him? Cancer.
  • Uncle Buster can’t climb off a tractor without ending up in crumpled heap under it
  • My cousin Ashley breathes in strange women’s foot-dust all day at her shoe store
  • I can’t understand Uncle John on the phone without a cigar in the outboard corner of his mouth, and
  • Uncle Robert hasn’t taken a deep drag of air he can’t see since 1960.
We’re all at risk for something just by being alive - and I just ate a bag of pork rinds.

Something, one day, it could be soon, it might not, who knows?, is going to get us all. If you’re lucky, you might get some warning, but that's about the best you can hope for. 

You can Bible-it-up all you want and you still can't even exactly look forward to the afterlife because nobody has the foggiest idea of exactly what's going on up there (or down there if you're the unlucky sort)  - or if it's any fun at all.  And that's not blasphemy on my part - go give Revelation a spin and get back to me.  I'll give you a hint: IT'S NO HELP (unless you love dragons).

Ever been on a date with somebody who doesn't get what's funny? You think that was bad?  What if God doesn't have your sense of humor? This is ETERNITY we're talking about!  We're not even certain if you get a real, live, body back sometime and, honestly, I need to know.  If I have to spend eternity as some sort of spiritual mist I'm going to be furious.

The whole thing is a huge depressing mystery and you can't get ready for it and you can't take anything with you.  We're talking about the single most important trip you'll ever go on - and you can't pack for it.

The only bit of "estate planning" I've ever heard that made sense came from Dad and all he said was "I plan for my last check to bounce."  Now, that is something I can get behind.  A man with my innate spending abilities was not put here to stockpile money, that's for sure.

Granddad at least went into it with his boots on, metaphorically speaking.  The week he finally killed himself with pork products he looked at me over his second breakfast at 10:45AM and said “Let’s go eat lunch. You drive.”

We headed down to a local seafood place on Pawley’s Island and had a bowl of she-crab soup. We talked over a number of important things a man might talk over with his Grandfather; then mid-way through our meal he looked up and said “I just want you to know – I’m not afraid to die. I can’t wait to see my parents again. I’m 68 years old and I still miss my mother.”

The waitress walked off.

“Well. Ok Granddad" I replied, brilliantly.

A few days later I went to Macon to take him fishing, did something else instead - which pissed him off, I went home; then the next day he made a to-do list (mostly to-do's for other people), went to bed and died.

That was that.

After years of provoking each other out of our immense similarity: I take great comfort in knowing I managed to aggravate him just one last time.

Dad always says funerals are for the living – not the dead. He reckons the dead have too much else going on to worry much with us and I guess he’s probably right.

But Beau: just in case you are reading this - as if failing to leave me anything at all in your will wasn't bad enough – I am forced to concede to you for the final win.  You got the last laugh. With you, Mom and Granddad all gone ahead and my sister pregnant with the ultimate abomination - a GREAT-Grandkid; now I'll never claw my way up to Ultimate Favored Golden Grandkid status. You got us.  No matter what any of the remaining grandkids do - they'll always wonder if you wouldn't have mayyybee just done it a smidge better, richer, faster, or funnier.

You probably would have.

So ride on, Beausie - we love you and we miss you, but we'll catch back up soon.

Until then - do me a favor and tell 'em we all said "Duh Huh."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Precipitation Possible.....Sometime.

Turkey season opens tomorrow. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the closest thing we have to lion hunting in Georgia. Terribly exciting.

I checked the weather and was somewhat disconcerted to find an estimated precipitation of 60%. I was crestfallen at first, but I rallied. What does 60% mean anyway? Initially it sounds like it’s probably going to rain, but is it? It might rain. That’s all I know. We have an entire system devoted to weather prediction and all I can tell you based on my usage of that system is: it may or may not rain tomorrow. 

I wish I had a job with zero accountability for my projections. If I wandered into my boss’s office right now and said “you know what – I bet those numbers I gave you this morning are probably at least 40% correct” he would have something non-congratulatory to say about it.

This isn't about the weather man himself, as a person though.  I actually grew up with the weatherman’s son. He was a prince of a character, as was his dad. All I'm saying is: I do recall that when his wife asked him when he’d be ready for dinner – he didn’t give her a band of percentages and likely times, or draw a sunny smiley face with clouds over it; he said “six o’clock.”

But ask him if it’ll rain?

“Oh it might.”

You know what the most often quoted percentage is on the weather channel? 50%*  A 50% chance means “it may or may not rain. Who knows? We give up!”

That’s quite a tip.

I find it offensive that, technologically speaking, we can put a man on the moon, drive around in vehicles propelled by millions of tiny controlled explosions, speak chinese, domesticate crocodiles, and communicate telepathically and yet nobody is really sure what the weather will do 12 hours out. It might rain. It might not. Who knows?

Even worse: our one weather authority has the audacity to resort to percentage likelihoods that essentially communicate "based on our years of recorded history, satellites literally orbiting the earth, and various scientific techniques: we have absolutely no idea what might happen tomorrow. We hope its not bad."

We’ve spent billions on lunar landings and space stations. Are we allocating our resources to the right places? Really? Are you sure? That ziplock baggie full of moon rocks the space program has generated is neat and all, but would I trade it for knowing whether or not to lug a rainsuit around all day tomorrow?


Right now all I can do is switch off the weather channel, walk outside, then ask myself: "Self: are you getting wet? If yes – congratulations - we have made a discovery: it IS definitely going to rain."

As long we’re talking about moon rocks here, I’d like to point out that the only reason I’m somewhat dubious about our having actually landed on the moon is this: we haven’t completely destroyed the moon yet.

Now tell me honestly: as an American, how long do you really think we can have access to an unspoiled landscape and not strip mine it or something? Not long I don’t think. History seems to indicate that if you give us access to somewhere new: we’re going to kill everything, then pave it.

I bet there is a rich white guy in Washington right now building a slide deck describing how he wants to take more of those rocks right up there and bring them here - right down here to this rock for fun and profit.  Get ready for it. 

Last time I checked we hadn’t dug up anything serious on the moon; I guess that's good, but when we do – I hope they employ our tried and true American method of exploration: dig until something terrible happens, then stop.

At least I'm sure it won't rain on them while they do it.  Well, pretty sure.

*I have no basis for that statement.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So Cute

Hey – guess what? It is true. I’m 30 for the second time, still married – and I’m still mostly alive.

Thanks for wondering.

I’m also getting older every day, I found a gray hair on top of my head instead of just near my ears, I have a few liver spots on my hands and I recently had a nose hair grow so long that I could stretch it all the way to the other nostril. 

I thought that nose hair was worth waking Tyler up at 2AM to look at.

She did not.

The point is: I am officially out of control.

You wonder how a grown man lets himself go to the point he has a small cabbage patch of wiry hair growing from each ear hole and a vague arrangement of multi-day crumbs on his shirt? This is how it starts.
Also, for the record - we are not pregnant.

But your little heart leapt in your chest at the thought of it though, didn’t it? Ha! Sucker. Rest easy - nobody around here is getting pregnant except my sister who is 100% pregnant already and couldn’t possibly be pregnant-er.  Want to talk pregnant? Call her up. Nothing doing over here.

Tyler spent the night with her sister and our young niece recently, came home and announced “I’m not ready for kids”. Generally a situation like that should lead you as a husband to immediately act like you DO want whatever it is your wife doesn’t want (in this case - kids) BADLY – which ordinarily solidifies in the woman’s mind how badly she doesn’t want what you now supposedly DO want – thereby keeping you safe just a bit longer.

I tried that tactic by immediately saying – “Aaawwww!! Well, they are just so cute though! I think maybe we want one next year!”

Based on her statement about not wanting kids yet - I expected a long litany of reasons why kids are a terrible idea, which I would slowly allow to convince me that it's true - kids are a terrible idea.

That did not happen.

Instead, she immediately responded “ok next year sounds good” and flounced off; leaving me stricken and dumbfounded - having overplayed my hand in the most dangerous poker game of all: kid negotiation.  Yet another miscalculation on the short road to complete lack of autonomy.

I tried to recover by spending the last two weeks smugly pointing out the petulant wail of every newborn we come across in a restaurant and highlighting for Tyler the miserable, grim faces of its loathsome parents - to no avail. 

"Awww he's so cute though" she says.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who's Your Indian

Having finally lost all patience with the "Townhouse" situation and my complete lack of accessible workshop space - I proposed a trip to the Tandy leather store for some supplies and a little arts and crafts project suitable for miserable confined Townhouse living. 

I wasn't really paying attention as the man helped us check out, but I noticed the salesman trail off a bit midway through his recital of my purchase, "belly leather, punch set, snaps, leather dye......children's moccasin kit..." and I looked up to find him staring quizzically at me. 

"Is this yours, sir?" he asked. I started to respond in the negative when I caught sight of a hand flapping from across the store "Halloooo!!!" Tyler trilled, grinning over a mountain of leather skins. "Ummm. Those little shoesies are for meeeeee!"

I looked at the package which said "no instructions needed" in bold type and shrugged at the salesman who, girded in his heavily-tooled leather belt, and disgusted, I'm sure, with our amateur purchases - continued ringing me up.

Then, entirely too fast for her to have walked all the way across the store, I heard hissed directly in my ear: "Ah. Can we find a bathroom?"  Startled, I turned to find Tyler standing directly behind me twisting around in her shoes with a look of intense concentration on her face.

"Whoa! How did you get over here that fast?"

"I have to go to the bathroom."

"What? There is a bathroom right there in the back of this store. I can see it."

"No I don't want to go in that one."


"Because. I don't. Also, it says 'employees only' on it. Let's find a Chick fil a."

"What? What are they going to do? Arrest you? Really? A fast food restaurant? What is wrong with you? Go in there."

"No. I can make it until we get home."

"Home is 30 minutes away.  Just a second ago you said you had to find a bathroom immediately. I am confused. What dark magic is this? "

"Well, now I can make it. Lets go home."

From that I can only assume that anytime she has to find a restroom - all I have to do is argue with her and everything is fine.

I am up to that challenge.

Last night we began our leatherworking attempt. I stood at the counter in the kitchen lost entirely in my own thoughts and plans for my little leather pouch, but I periodically heard various frustrated musings coming from the direction of the couch and the rawhide moccasin sewing attempt occuring thereon.  Finally, after about 45 minutes of silence, I heard Tyler D. Ewing, 1/16 Cherokee Indian, grumble to herself from the wreckage of a maimed children's moccasin set:

"Argh. I must not be an Indian after all."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Goodbye Black Widow

Last month the painters managed to unplug my carport freezer - effectively destroying everything in it; in particular: my best preserved specimen of a HUGE female black widow spider.  It was the size of an average pecan and she'd been in there on ice for a number of years.

I feel like that says something about me, but I'm not sure what.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

It Is Not Good For Man To Be Alone

A real man is a complex, many-splendored creature. He is rough and unrefined, yet fits comfortably in a tuxedo. His mane of glorious chest hair bespeaks kinship with God’s lesser creatures, yet he is not bound by it. God made him different. Rather than spend a lifetime pinching fleas, he developed technology, culminating in the electric beard trimmer, in order to subdue those obvious ties to the animal kingdom.

A man is competent, capable, potentially dangerous, strong. A man is not a delicate flower.  A man does not loofah.  A man does not know about soap varieties or why you should wash a towel that serves only to dry water off a clean person.

A real man smells of lye soap and leather and fury and brimstone. 

A man is why we have razor wire. A woman would take one look at 14-foot-high barbed wire and think “I’ll keep looking” – not a man. 

A man spends his first 20-30 years of life evolving into a unique organism entirely capable of caring for himself and dominating his environment (after a fashion). One day, convinced that he alone is in control, he seeks out a mate to affirm his dominance who, impressed with his manliness and general ability to destroy; chooses him as a life partner.

All is well.

Shortly after the elaborate yoking-together process is complete, everything changes. After months of subjection to the dark, mysterious, arts of womanhood; a man finds himself sitting alone in a townhouse on a Tuesday night weakly staring down a sackful of Krystals, no television, no internet, no workshop, and no wife to entertain him with lively jokes and knowledge of where stored foodstuffs are located in the mysterious kitchenette area. Two aligned synapses fire weakly in his primitive brain and the man realizes – “God would look upon this and say 'it is not good'.”

Suffering with the pain of his abdicated manliness, the man mutely stumbles about the chilly townhouse, blindly grasping at air and throwing in an occasional JUDO CHOP for good measure until finally he tires, lowering his body to sit upon the sofa. Suddenly, mid-crouch, he freezes and hears in his mind a distant female voice whispering “you are not supposed to sit upon that couch."  Instead, he plunks down upon the floor, next to an empty couch, all alone.

As he sits on the floor, next to the couch that must not be sat upon, gazing into the emasculating stack of gas logs that passes for a fireplace and upon which things must not be burned or roasted; he realizes: “I am no longer in control.”

He remains, allowing the realization to wash over him.  All appears lost. 

Suddenly he reaches out and nudges a bowl of "company-only" pistachios off the coffee table; watching gleefully as they bounce and rattle across the floor.  Satisfied, he gets up and puts himself to bed.

That bowl of nuts should never have crossed him.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Simple Simon

I enjoy cooking periodically. I don’t do it all the time, but when I do – I like to make a production of it. I also like to experiment. There have been a few noteworthy failures as well as the occasional success, but what stands out most vividly in my mind is the general shock and amazement our friends exhibit when I do chance upon a winning combination in the kitchen.

I like to cook and I couldn’t possibly care less about football. The horrible truth is out.

Someone asked me not long ago how it came to be that an individual so completely incompetent in so many other domestic areas came to know his way, comfortably, around the kitchen. I hadn’t thought much of it, but when she asked I realized there actually was a turning point. I wasn't born with it. I had an epiphany that led my otherwise peanut-butter-and-jellied feet into the kitchen many years ago – and I guess it just stuck.

In approximately 1991 Mom suggested I assist in snapping the ends off some green beans. I had been reading several historical accounts of pioneer and Native American families about that time so, I calmly responded with “I would, but that is women’s work.”

Did you ever say the wrong thing?

It happened to me.

That afternoon I found myself dropped off smartly at the front of the grocery store with a children’s recipe book in one hand, a fistful of grubby singles in the other and strict instructions not to come out until I had everything I needed to cook dinner for 4 – 5 if I wanted to eat too.

Later that evening I turned out 10 of my signature “Simple Simon Pies” – biscuit dough baked over the cups of an upended muffin tin and filled with a sautéed beef-and-ground-cheese concoction - canned green beans to garnish and $1.38 left over after coupons. Dad was, to put it mildly, “amused” at her diabolical punishments for chauvanism; hypocritical, I think, for a man who grew up with a cook and housekeeper and to this day prepares meals consisting of not more than one food group at a time.

Cooking alone (Mom retired to the couch with a book on parenting) was a bit of a challenge for an 11-year-old as I had to stand on a small footstool to reach the stovetop, but I learned to get around pretty sharp in there. Anyway - I had to…..every Tuesday night that summer.

I guess Mom’s the one to blame.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Most Costly Miscalculation

I rarely ever get sick, but on the odd occasion it happens – its bad. I fall completely apart, my mind goes blank and I devolve into a flailing gelatinous blob of misery. My coping wheels come completely off and I end up, emotionally speaking, deep in the bottomless ditch of ultimate human suffering cursing the fates for bringing me to such low station.  In extreme cases I may even stoop so low as to attempt what, for a man, is the ultimate sign of submission: an immersion bath.

If I had a large readership I might not ordinarily divulge this information, but here goes: this is the only situation in which I can be killed. And yes, that's a hat. And no - I don't want to talk about it.

I’ve been basically well for about 5 years so I guess I was due for a bout of nameless typhoid. Any other day in 2010 you couldn’t have killed me with an axe, but a few Fridays ago I realized I didn’t feel well, so I got in bed and I stayed there…..
....until Wednesday.

I tried everything Tyler could think of to make me feel better, but only one thing worked: Tyler’s full, complete, unwavering, mind-altering focus on my every need.

A man faced with his own mortality can't be confronted with simple daily tasks like toweling himself off after a shower or pouring his own water. Even that brief lack of focus on getting better and I may well have died. Advanced typhomasticolitosis is no laughing matter.

How long has it been since someone brushed your teeth for you? For me it’s about two weeks. It’s that sort of attention to detail that made the difference in my tenuous hold on life and I’m not ashamed to tell you – my singular ability to focus and carry on in the face of immense illness and adversity is why I’m alive today. 

I made one ill-fated foray into the land of the living in order to pick up a prescription from the CVS drive-thru, but I coughed and moaned so loud Tyler got embarassed at the window and took me back home.

After 5 days treading the gray bordelands between Sandy Springs and the Hereafter; my gynecologist, Uncle John, was able to intervene with a timely application of antibiotic and I began the long, slow, arduous process of improvement.

As I sprawled in bed on Wednesday looking back on the immense amount of trouble and misery I caused my lovely young wife during the period of my life-threatening illness - I felt generally satisfied.  Without even intending to - I had set the behavioral stage for a lifetime of spousal indentured servitude during bouts of common illnesses.  I, James G. Ewing, Jr. spent an entire 5 day period completely unencumbered by any of the daily tasks completed by an ordinary person with a modicum of self-respect. 

Life was good.

Then, on my last day of horrific illness - shortly after my bedside lunch, but before my afternoon pillow-fluffing and hot tea; I sallied forth on a strength-building mission into the kitchen.  Halfway down the stairs I overheard the hushed tones of my lovely wife talking with a friend on the phone and I stood frozen, paling in the realization of my first gigantic marital strategic error.

I heard:

"Yeah. He's been a huge pain all week. It's embarassing really. He's had a bad cough and a headache. That's about it, but you'd think he was knocking on death's door by the gigantic nuisance he's made of himself."


"No. He's fine. At one point I actually put a cold cloth on his forehead. It was pitiful. He claims he hasn't been able to come downstairs, but I can tell by the cushions he lays around down here on my clean couch when I leave."

(silence. friend talks for a moment).

"What? No. are you kidding me? I've looked after him every minute for the last few days. Hand and foot. You think I'm missing an opportunity like this?"

"When I'm pregnant he's going to be my slave."

All is lost.