Superman's Supper

Sunshine, finally! Kids running, running on the playground, after a week of rain. Coats flapping behind them in the crisp wind, they chase each other with glee. They are Superman, they say. Out of the dull suit, hat, and specs. Out of the confining telephone booth. Blasting out to save the day.

Panting, they stop to gather playground pebbles, and carry them up to the play fort. They make little circle piles of pebbles.

"Is that kryptonite?," asks the bundled, shivering playground lady.

"No! It's pizza tonight."

Pizzatonite! Get me some of that fictional element. Kryptonite may be Superman's Achilles heel, but Pizzatonite is far more powerful to earthlings.

Mark Alfred explains:

As Superman tells us in 1959's "The Curse of Kryptonite" (Superman #130), "Kryptonite is my Achilles Heel -- the only substance in the universe that can harm me! It was originally formed years ago when the planet Krypton, the world on which I was born, blew up! A nuclear chain reaction converted every chunk of the exploding world into Green Kryptonite!"


Tolltag trouble served on new plates

The Buick is sporting new plates these days, and I'm trying to learn my new number. After seven years with a license that lent itself to mnemonic devices about Ali Baba's thieves and a memorable year in my junior high career, the new plates read like Eisenhower Administration Scooby DooSpeak. Dogpiled on that, I got an e-newsletter from the North Texas Tollway Authority with a list of common violations for tolltag users. It slowly sunk into my brain that I might be in trouble. Since I'd had to replace my plates, I'd spent two holiday months picking up and dropping off sons at DFW airport reached by driving the George H. W. Bush Tollway.


  1. Don't use your tolltag while driving a rental car.
  2. Check your tolltag account online at least as often as you change your furnace filter or replace your toothbrush.
  3. Update license plate info.
  4. Update credit card info.
  5. Update if you buy a new car. Oh, yeah. That'll be the day.

Tolltags are very useful for those of us with post-elementary school P.E. class traumas due to our inability to throw coins into tollbaskets. We have serious eye-hand coordination issues in stressful timed-response situations like dodge ball and red rover. With a tolltag velcroed to the windshield we can avoid most episodes of turnpike anxiety syndrome.

This new pickle in the works made me want to sell the Buick. By that I mean "to vomit", according to various slang dictionaries. I was glad to resolve it inexpensively and quickly online.


The romaine in Spain and Plano in the rain

Romaine in Plano when they get off the plane! Et tu, crouton? Veni, vidi, vinaigrette. My sons are romaine lettuce junkies. They ask to be driven straight from the airport to the nearest La Madeleine for grilled chicken caesar salad and tomato basil soup.

In Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire...? Hurricanes hardly happen. For ever so long rain hardly happened in Plano. North Texas lake levels are still eleven feet below normal even though it has been raining for the past week. We are glad for the moisture, but we crave a sunshine fix. Just an itty bitty burst of sunshine, and maybe a caesar salad with tomato basil bisque.

It isn't raining romaine, you know...


Learning about mammals

"Safe sex," my ex told our sons, "is the same as scanning floppy disks for viruses before opening them." So much for birds and bees. Sex ed for boys is about technology.

When we divorced our first child custody arrangements divided the important holidays based on educational opportunities. I had the boys every Valentines Day so they could learn that ladies like flowers, chocolate, and men who don't chew toothpicks. The guys spent every Super Bowl weekend with their father for obvious reasons relating to the proper use of the remote control. July fourth was an assigned pyrotechnic internship with Dad, while Thanksgiving was spent with me celebrating old recipes and new traditions.

"Human beings were invented by water as a means of transporting itself from one place to another," wrote Tom Robbins in his first novel, Another Roadside Attraction. And so the story of gender differences for girls is about plumbing. The females are drinking cranberry juice and covering gas station toilet seats with tp while the guys scan their floppies and play WWI dogfight simulation games.

The preschoolers are studying mammals: Kitty cats are mammals. Are you a mammal, too? Write a mammal you know.

A little guy doesn't know how to spell his favorite mammal. He tells me the word he needs to spell. He tells me again. I still don't understand. He tells me AGAIN. Nipple!? Did he say nipple? He knows way more about mammals than I thought! He waits expectantly for me to spell his word, and says it one last time. LEOPARD! Thank heaven his favorite mammal is a leopard.
L-E-O-P-A-R-D, phew!

Meantime, the girls are playing babies with the Raggedy Anns and Andys. Four girls ask me if babies come out of your bottom or your tummy. ACK! Can I run screaming from the building? What if my answer warps them for life? "Babies," I say, " come out between your legs."

Mammals have hair. Their babies are born alive and drink milk from their mothers' nipples. Smart mammals back up their computer files and keep a separate checking account. Brilliant ones keep their phones charged in case their mommy calls.


Hunkering reaches epidemic proportions

Gray is good. I love gray. No comments about old mares, please!

Our three-day MLK weekend of heavy winter rain pushed all gray-lovers close to the lemming edge. It seemed like horse blinders were attached to my face with that pink hairstyling adhesive tape we used for spit curls in the Sixties. Gray, an oppressive low-lying cloud resembling an overused kneaded eraser, hemming me in, narrowing my actions and thoughts. If you could watch Kramer feed Rusty the Beef-a-Reeno in the classic Seinfeld "Rye" episode on a twelve-inch black and white t.v. under a failing flourescent light fixture in an underground bomb shelter in North Dakota surrounded by a semester's worth of unwashed gym clothes, you would have an inkling of the grayness of our weekend.

"What are you doing?," we emailed each other.
"I'm hunkering down," we replied all.
"I'm hunkering down."

I never heard such a bunch of hunkering in all my born days. Must be a Texas thang!

"I'm hunkering down... I'm hibernating...I'm hiding under a quilt...I'm making roadkill chili in the crockpot."
"I'm hunkered down... Wearing my son's hooded Hoosier sweatshirt in the house."
Are you hunkered down? Have you ever been hunkered down?
"I'm plum hunkered out and going to bed now."

It has come to this, then. If Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar, we would just hunker down around it and maybe make soup.

Hunker probably derives from Scottish or Scandinavian words for haunches. You have to get down on your haunches to set your guitar on fire. It seems that LBJ popularized the expression "hunker down" during his presidency. Not all that surprising for a man with beagles named Him and Her. I've got some lentils, carrots, and potatoes. If I had a ham hock I could hunker down around the crockpot and make soup.

Even my resolutions are belated

The Christmas cards never happened. The thank you notes have been slow. Already missed Miss Mary Melissa's birthday.

2006 gave me several unpleasant opportunities to learn an important lesson. 2007 will be the year I keep my computer files backed-up. Go ahead and put on your Spandex. Eat your Weight Watchers frozen pizzas. I'll be copying files to my cute little blue Lexar JumpDrive.


Do your John Houseman imitation

We sort blogs the old fashioned way, WITTTH PAPER. I'm chasing paper, and trying to find the reason I've been writing this blog for three and a half years. It's been an extremely satisfying outlet, but now what? What would I have if I sorted out the 999 posts by subject?

And so I sort between more pressing efforts. It's a low-tech project involving print-outs, scissors, highlighter, and stapler. Professor Kingsfield is peering down his nose at my mere mortal approach. Playing the mental roles of God, father, professor, judge, critic, mentor, junior high principal, or conscience, John Houseman voices imperious internal expectations and evaluations.

The Paper Chase was a novel, then a movie and a t.v. series, about an Ivy League law school and Professor Kingsfield in the Seventies. Houseman was a contemporary of Orson Welles, but he may be best remembered for the Smith Barney ad campaign of 1979-1986, with the line, "We make money the old-fashioned way, we eaaarrrn it!”

One son really does not like the NPR voice of authority, Carl Kasell. You may have other suggestions for The Voice of Authority. Besides Houseman and Kasell, I vote for Walter Cronkite and James Earl Jones.


With matching crockpot and shag carpet?

"Your earrings match my dad's car," the preschooler told me. Good thing I coordinated my attire! I love her innocent outlook on a life where the whole world strives to fit in with herself and her family.

I'm still musing about matching when I wander through the gray drizzle into Albertsons to buy a few groceries and some hearing aid batteries. No, they're not for me! They are for my keychain Buick unlocking clicker gizmo. I need two CR2016 3-volt batteries. I like the shazam power of popping the car trunk open before I actually crash into it with the grocery cart. My power hasn't been magical of late. I've had to stand almost touching the car to do my clicker unlocking.

Between the battery counter and the health and beauty aisle, I am slammed back to the Seventies. Featured on the endcap is a big display of Corelle Hearthstone tableware in the those colors we thought were gone forever--Harvest Gold, Avocado, and Burnt Orange! Yes, the Rival slow-cooker decor of yore returns, and it's just as Ford Administration as before. True, Corelle updated the names for its Spice Alley colors to Tumeric, Bay Leaf, and Chili Red. Heaven preserve us from hanging macrame plant holders and waterbeds! My gosh, these square plates match my parents' washing machine. I wonder where I can find matching earrings.



Like Howard Cosell, I never Playawayed the game. Playaways are the new game at your library and bookstore, a cross between a book-on-tape and one of those classic game keychain from Basic Fun that you just couldn't resist at Target a few years back.

My Get Smart lunchbox keychain is missing its Thermos bottle lid and the plastic apple, but it still makes me laugh. Spies were all the rage in my Sixties childhood. Back then we expected our intelligence gathering agencies to actually gather intelligence while talking on their shoe phones and shooting bad guys with fake plastic finger and belt buckle guns.

My extended family had Craig 212 tape recorders so we could mail tapes to each other and avoid those expensive long-distance phone calls. If we were lucky those recordings would self-destruct in thirty seconds with a pulsing music soundtrack.

Back in my Sixties childhood, my mom nagged us to take the Kleenex out of our pockets before we threw our dirty clothes down the laundry chute. Nagging is so totally out of style this millennium! Who could possibly remember all by themselves to remove the Playaway from their pocket before it spins, tumbles, and self-destructs? Is this the future of the book? I'm worried.


Technology training with Elroy

My computer is at the vet's. It's power supply has gone crackerdog and flop bot like Mrs. Pumphrey's dog, Tricky Woo, in James Herriot's stories. My sons have let me check my email a couple times on their laptop computers. I can't seem to get my arm length to the teeny-tiny keyboard to cooperate with my bifocals for a view of the itty-bitty screen. I was glad when I learned how to attach a mouse to the laptop. It beats all that thumbing around.

Job applications keep asking me to list the technology training I've had recently. I've had on-the-job training crawling under the computer desk to untangle and disconnect computer cords. I recommend wearing a hardhat for the inevitable head bumps.

More importantly, I've received iPod training from a nineteen year-old. I let him drive if and only if I could select the music on our long car trip this week. He and his brother vetoed listening to my cd collection or NPR. Instead, I received intense training in creating a playlist on his iPod. I got the hang of the menus within menus to stack up songs like old 45s on a jukebox spindle. What throws me is the thumb rotations needed to scroll through the menus. If I were you, and had disposable income to invest in new products, I'd go with the Baby Boomer Ben Gay specially formulated for minor arthritis pain and aches associated with iPod thumb joint exertions. I'm thinking Elroy Jetson would be an effective celebrity spokesperson for BB Ben Gay.

I wonder what happened to Elroy and Judy Jetson when they grew up. Thanks, Joe Barbera, for Spacely Sprockets and Quick Draw McGraw.


Hope for hard-hit rural Nebraska

Driving south on I-35 near the Kansas-Oklahoma border we saw a big convoy of cherry-picker utility trucks headed the opposite direction. The trucks all had lights flashing. Some were towing trailers where workers might sleep between extended shifts. My sons and I hope the trucks are on the move to bring more repair crews to the parts of Nebraska still suffering without electricity since last weekend's severe ice storm.

It's good to get a slushy snowball smack of perspective upside the head! We take electricity for granted. We expect thermostats to respond to our hot-flashy whims. Microwaves exist to nuke fattening diet entrees. We consider the snow-covered landscape in terms of "winter recreation opportunities"*. Kids pout if they aren't entertained by a variety of electronic devices around the clock. How would we survive without refrigerators, homogenized and pasteurized milk, USDA graded beef, email, and rechargeable defibrillators? Some of us get cranky without computers, glue guns, and fruit smoothie blenders.

Imagine how crabby we could get without heat for a week, and without ways to keep our livestock fed and watered. Nebraskans help their neighbors. They remain stoic about the economic losses. Whole towns collaborate to keep old residents warm, and young residents in dry diapers. I have in my lap a photostat of my great-great grandfather's handwritten memoir of homesteading in the Republican River valley in April of 1873. Being stoic is good while sheltering your babies, wife, horses, and oxen in a roofless log shanty. I'm thankful great-great grandparents, August and Dorothea Sasse, kept their children alive in the cold. I'm glad the cherry-pickers are heading north. We wish the residents and the repair crews a quick, safe resolution to their problems.

*A game of shuffleboard to decide between hot cocoa and hot cider is my idea of winter recreation.


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