Sep 20

I have been my oldest son’s Scout leader since he was a Tiger Cub. He is now in his first year of Boy Scouts working on his Tenderfoot.  I have been a Scout leader for about 5 years, which is almost a year longer than I have held any single employment with any single employer in my almost 40 years of existence… how pathetic am I?  Needless to say, the time of the annual “Popcorn Sales” is upon us. Oh, and how Boy Scouts of America (BSA) wants you to sell that popcorn! My oh my, it seems that perhaps the entire reason for Scouting’s existence is to sell that stinking Trail’s End popcorn!

I don’t get it… Girl Scouts sell those delicious little cookies for less than $5.00 a box. So, even if someone has already bought from a Girl Scout, they may be willing to buy a little more from another Scout; after all, who doesn’t love Thin Mints? In the past, when we have actually tried to sell this stinking popcorn, the biggest door-in-the-face we would get was, “Oh, I already bought from so-and-so,” or “my boss’s niece’s son is in Scouts and we always buy from him.” I think BSA needs to find a fundraiser where the garbage the Scouts sell isn’t so outrageously priced. I mean seriously, $15 for a box of microwave popcorn that (the last couple of years we have purchased and it) pops up like crap… seriously, there are always dozens of unpopped kernels and old maids in each and every bag; what a selling point.

After doing a little research, I have discovered why the higher-ups in BSA push for the popcorn sales. When a Scout goes out and sells (or, in many cases, the parents go out and sell) the – seriously – ridiculously priced popcorn and related crap, 30% of those sales go to the Scout’s troop, 30% goes to the Scout’s council, and 10% go to the Scout (in the form of worthless pieces of carnival-type trinket crap) .  Seriously, the council gets 30%? For what… to maintain the summer camps that cost $200 or $300 per Scout to attend (and that doesn’t include all of the extra crap the Scouts have to buy at the camp to get their merit badges).  Scouting is run by (I am under the impression) volunteers.  I volunteer my time to Scouting… and I have never spent more of my own money “volunteering” for any other cause at any time in my life!  I have to pay to go to the summer camp… and sleep in a stinking tent… and eat crappy food… and share a disgusting shower-type complex and filthy, falling apart toilet facilities with tons of other males (and there is something about many males that prevents them from being able to lift up a toilet seat when peeing… so if you have to go “#2”, which on a week-long campout, you will have to go “#2”, you are most likely going to be sitting in someone else’s pee… and when I actually catch one of these idiots peeing on the toilet seat, I will spend an undefined amount of time in a correctional facility for assault after rubbing said moron’s face on said toilet seat)… having a curfew at night of around 10:00 pm and getting up in the stinking morning at 5:30 or 6:00 am… all to help the camp manage the kids!!!  And they have the stinking audacity to charge me!?!  I should be charging them!

At least our troop doesn’t keep the whole 30% that is designated to the troop (at least they better not, because they don’t pay for squat).  I  believe the troop gives part of the troop’s profits back to the Scouts.  The troop’s contribution, along with the 10% earned by the Scout, go into a fund that the Scout can use to pay for all of the camps and camping (our troop has come to the realization that the overpriced crappy trinkets that BSA tries to con the Scouts into redeeming their earnings for… which I’m sure is just one more way that BSA is trying to pilfer funds for unknown purposes; maybe BSA is building a secret underground facility for a refuge for all Scouts for during the 2012 phenomenon… are garbage)  which are required for advancement in Scouting.  At least, I’m assuming that our troop is giving a large percentage of their cut to the individual Scouts, because our troop seriously doesn’t pay for squat!  All expenses for any activity that we do as Scouts are split evenly and paid by the Scouts and participating volunteer leaders… well, except for gas which is apparently solely the responsibility of the volunteer leaders.  I’ve started charging every kid that needs a ride in my vehicle to any function a small fee (that never comes close to covering the cost of actual fuel used), which I feel is looked down on by the other leaders, but if they don’t like it, they can fire me.  Seriously, I have no idea what our troop pays for, except, of course, helping those “down on their luck” pay for all the Scouting crap that the rest of us can barely afford (seriously, if my wife quit her job… and she ain’t making a physician’s salary… our family would qualify for all kinds of free crap: we’d get free school lunches for our kids, we’d get food stamps, we’d get free medical care at the “community service” clinic, we’d get scholarships to the YMCA [among many other places, I’m sure], and we’d get all of our Scouting costs paid for by the troop… and we wouldn’t have to sell a single canister of $50 chocolate popcorn that offers like 5 servings).  Wow, I just really thought about what I wrote.  Maybe my wife should quit her job… we’d be money ahead.  Either my wife needs to quit her job… or she needs to leave my sorry rear-end and find a guy who makes above a free-school-lunch income :)

I am formulating a new life-philosophy.  My new philosophy is: “If you can’t afford to pay for it completely out-of-(your)pocket, you shouldn’t assume that anyone else gives enough of a crap about it to help you out through fundraisers, so you probably shouldn’t do it.”   I don’t mean to sound cynical or anything (yeah right, me not cynical :) ) , but seriously, $25 for an 18oz bag of stinking trail mix?!? How are we supposed to sell this crap? And you want me to buy what: $15 for some sub-par enchiladas and crappy, Play Doh – tasting cookie dough to help send your kid to the private school that I can’t afford?!?  Well, I guess if you buy mine, I’ll buy yours… but if you show up at my door trying to sell me some worthless crap, you had better be willing to buy some worthless crap in return!

If I could actually sell stuff that I thought was a complete screw-job without any sense of remorse, I’d probably be a successful Schwan’s Man or be selling endless amounts of Kirby vacuum cleaners.  Is this what BSA really wants us to prepare our boys for: tedious, non-gratifying jobs in door-to-door sales?  I don’t have the courage or confidence to sell crap door-to-door; how in the name of everything sacred and holy can I expect my 11-year old to do something that the thought of which makes me nauseous?  I can’t… so it falls on my and my wife’s shoulders to help our son sell this garbage to people we know.  Needless to say, a large portion of the people we know either have health conditions that prevent them from enjoying the benefits of ridiculously-overpriced popcorn products (diabetes and the like), moral stances against eating anything animal-related (and in their obscured minds, popcorn is not a vegetarian treat but an unholy monstrosity concocted of various animal fats and pelts… yes, these friends did far to much “experimenting” in their youths), have sons of their own in our troop, or know those friends of ours who have sons in our troop and have already purchased from those sons!  Once again, if stinking BSA would find a fundraiser that wasn’t outrageously priced… you know, like Girl Scout cookies, where people are willing to buy more than one… it might not be quite so difficult for an average dude with an aversion to selling door-to-door to sell the stuff and save money on all of the crap BSA charges to be in Scouting!

Wow, now that I am almost done with my rant, I would like to say that, overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with my son in the Boy Scout program.  After all, I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m not appreciative of the spot reserved for us when meteors strike the earth and Yellowstone explodes in December of 2012 :)

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Sep 14

I like to read.  Yeah, I’m a dork, ’cause I like to read and I’ve never read anything by Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark, or anything from the “Twilight” series.    Not that I don’t like popular fiction… ’cause I love it… it’s just that I tend to like stuff that makes you think a little bit.  I loved “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and am more excited about the movie coming out this fall than I have been about any motion picture released in a very long time.  Ernest Hemingway wrote in a style that makes me feel ‘comfortable’ reading his work… does that even make sense?  It makes sense to me :)

One of my favorite short stories of all time is “The Egg” by Sherwood Anderson.  I can relate to the father in this story more than I can relate to any single character in any single written work that I have ever read.  I love to laugh, and I love to read… but this story is the only story that I can think of that actually made me laugh out-loud while reading it.  Not only is the story extremely funny, this story is also quite sad.  It is a story of a man who, after marrying his love, decides that he needs to better not only himself, but his family as well.  Of course, we can’t all be  Bill Gates.  We can’t all be successful, no matter who lies to you that we can.  ‘The Egg” is a fabulous story of a man who tries to conquer the American dream but fails… and it’s told from the point of view of his son who has watched the father fail on attempt after miserable attempt to become successful.

The following story is copied in whole from ibiblio.org.  The story, because of age, is no longer under copyright, so I don’t feel legally obligated to link to the host of this story… just morally obligated.

The Egg

By Sherwood Anderson

[1876-1941]

From Sherwood Anderson’s second short story collection, The Triumph of the Egg (New York: Huebsch, 1921), pp 46-63; originally, “The Triumph of the Egg,” in Dial, number 68, March, 1920. [Project Gutenberg has Winesburg, Ohio in wnbrg11.txt.]

MY FATHER was, I am sure, intended by nature to be a cheerful, kindly man. Until he was thirty-four years old he worked as a farmhand for a man named Thomas Butterworth whose place lay near the town of Bidwell, Ohio. He had then a horse of his own and on Saturday evenings drove into town to spend a few hours in social intercourse with other farmhands. In town he drank several glasses of beer and stood about in Ben Head’s saloon–crowded on Saturday evenings with visiting farmhands. Songs were sung and glasses thumped on the bar. At ten o’clock father drove home along a lonely country road, made his horse comfortable for the night and himself went to bed, quite happy in his position in life. He had at that time no notion of trying to rise in the world.

It was in the spring of his thirty-fifth year that father married my mother, then a country schoolteacher, and in the following spring I came wriggling and crying into the world. Something happened to the two people. They became ambitious. The American passion for getting up in the world took possession of them.

It may have been that mother was responsible. Being a schoolteacher she had no doubt read books and magazines. She had, I presume, read of how Garfield, Lincoln, and other Americans rose from poverty to fame and greatness and as I lay beside her–in the days of her lying-in–she may have dreamed that I would someday rule men and cities. At any rate she induced father to give up his place as a farmhand, sell his horse and embark on an independent enterprise of his own. She was a tall silent woman with a long nose and troubled grey eyes. For herself she wanted nothing. For father and myself she was incurably ambitious.

The first venture into which the two people went turned out badly. They rented ten acres of poor stony land on Griggs’s Road, eight miles from Bidwell, and launched into chicken raising. I grew into boyhood on the place and got my first impressions of life there. From the beginning they were impressions of disaster and if, in my turn, I am a gloomy man inclined to see the darker side of life, I attribute it to the fact that what should have been for me the happy joyous days of childhood were spent on a chicken farm.

One unversed in such matters can have no notion of the many and tragic things that can happen to a chicken. It is born out of an egg, lives for a few weeks as a tiny fluffy thing such as you will see pictured on Easter cards, then becomes hideously naked, eats quantities of corn and meal bought by the sweat of your father’s brow, gets diseases called pip, cholera, and other names, stands looking with stupid eyes at the sun, becomes sick and dies. A few hens and now and then a rooster, intended to serve God’s mysterious ends, struggle through to maturity. The hens lay eggs out of which come other chickens and the dreadful cycle is thus made complete. It is all unbelievably complex. Most philosophers must have been raised on chicken farms. One hopes for so much from a chicken and is so dreadfully disillusioned. Small chickens, just setting out on the journey of life, look so bright and alert and they are in fact so dreadfully stupid. They are so much like people they mix one up in one’s judgments of life. If disease does not kill them they wait until your expectations are thoroughly aroused and then walk under the wheels of a wagon–to go squashed and dead back to their maker. Vermin infest their youth, and fortunes must be spent for curative powders. In later life I have seen how a literature has been built up on the subject of fortunes to be made out of the raising of chickens. It is intended to be read by the gods who have just eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is a hopeful literature and declares that much may be done by simple ambitious people who own a few hens. Do not be led astray by it. It was not written for you. Go hunt for gold on the frozen hills of Alaska, put your faith in the honesty of a politician, believe if you will that the world is daily growing better and that good will triumph over evil, but do not read and believe the literature that is written concerning the hen. It was not written for you.

I, however, digress. My tale does not primarily concern itself with the hen. If correctly told it will center on the egg. For ten years my father and mother struggled to make our chicken farm pay and then they gave up that struggle and began another. They moved into the town of Bidwell, Ohio and embarked in the restaurant business. After ten years of worry with incubators that did not hatch, and with tiny–and in their own way lovely–balls of fluff that passed on into semi-naked pullerhood and from that into dead henhood, we threw all aside and packing our belongings on a wagon drove down Griggs’s Road toward Bidwell, a tiny caravan of hope looking for a new place from which to start on our upward journey through life.

We must have been a sad looking lot, not, I fancy, unlike refugees fleeing from a battlefield. Mother and I walked in the road. The wagon that contained our goods had been borrowed for the day from Mr. Albert Griggs, a neighbor. Out of its sides stuck the legs of cheap chairs and at the back of the pile of beds, tables, and boxes filled with kitchen utensils was a crate of live chickens, and on top of that the baby carriage in which I had been wheeled about in my infancy. Why we stuck to the baby carriage I don’t know. It was unlikely other children would be born and the wheels were broken. People who have few possessions cling tightly to those they have. That is one of the facts that make life so discouraging.

Father rode on top of the wagon. He was then a bald-headed man of forty-five, a little fat and from long association with mother and the chickens he had become habitually silent and discouraged. All during our ten years on the chicken farm he had worked as a laborer on neighboring farms and most of the money he had earned had been spent for remedies to cure chicken diseases, on Wilmer’s White Wonder Cholera Cure or Professor Bidlow’s Egg Producer or some other preparations that mother found advertised in the poultry papers. There were two little patches of hair on father’s head just above his ears. I remember that as a child I used to sit looking at him when he had gone to sleep in a chair before the stove on Sunday afternoons in the winter. I had at that rime already begun to read books and have notions of my own and the bald path that led over the top of his head was, I fancied, something like a broad road, such a road as Caesar might have made on which to lead his legions out of Rome and into the wonders of an unknown world. The tufts of hair that grew above father’s ears were, I thought, like forests. I fell into a half-sleeping, half-waking state and dreamed I was a tiny thing going along the road into a far beautiful place where there were no chicken farms and where life was a happy eggless affair.

One might write a book concerning our flight from the chicken farm into town. Mother and I walked the entire eight miles–she to be sure that nothing fell from the wagon and I to see the wonders of the world. On the seat of the wagon beside father was his greatest treasure. I will tell you of that.

On a chicken farm where hundreds and even thousands of chickens come out of eggs, surprising things sometimes happen. Grotesques are born out of eggs as out of people. The accident does not often occur–perhaps once in a thousand births. A chicken is, you see, born that has four legs, two pairs of wings, two heads or what not. The things do not live. They go quickiy back to the hand of their maker that has for a moment trembled. The fact that the poor little things could not live was one of the tragedies of life to father. He had some sort of notion that if he could but bring into henhood or roosterhood a five-legged hen or a two-headed rooster his fortune would be made. He dreamed of taking the wonder about to county fairs and of growing rich by exhibiting it to other farmhands.

At any rate he saved all the little monstrous things that had been born on our chicken farm. They were preserved in alcohol and put each in its own glass bottle. These he had carefully put into a box and on our journey into town it was carried on the wagon seat beside him. He drove the horses with one hand and with the other clung to the box. When we got to our destination the box was taken down at once and the bottles removed. All during our days as keepers of a restaurant in the town of Bidwell, Ohio, the grotesques in their little glass bottles sat on a shelf back of the counter. Mother sometimes protested but father was a rock on the subject of his treasure. The grotesques were, he declared, valuable. People, he said, liked to look at strange and wonderful things.

Did I say that we embarked in the restaurant business in the town of Bidwell, Ohio? I exaggerated a little. The town itself lay at the foot of a low hill and on the shore of a small river. The railroad did not run through the town and the station was a mile away to the north at a place called Pickleville. There had been a cider mill and pickle factory at the station, but before the time of our coming they had both gone out of business. In the morning and in the evening busses came down to the station along a road called Turner’s Pike from the hotel on the main street of Bidwell. Our going to the out-of-the-way place to embark in the restaurant business was mother’s idea. She talked of it for a year and then one day went off and rented an empty store building opposite the railroad station. It was her idea that the restaurant would be profitable. Travelling men, she said, would be always waiting around to take trains out of town and town people would come to the station to await incoming trains. They would come to the restaurant to buy pieces of pie and drink coffee. Now that I am older I know that she had another motive in going. She was ambitious for me. She wanted me to rise in the world, to get into a town school and become a man of the towns.

At Pickleville father and mother worked hard as they always had done. At first there was the necessity of putting our place into shape to be a restaurant. That took a month. Father built a shelf on which he put tins of vegetables. He painted a sign on which he put his name in large red letters. Below his name was the sharp command–“EAT HERE”–that was so seldom obeyed. A showcase was bought and filled with cigars and tobacco. Mother scrubbed the floor and the walls of the room. I went to school in the town and was glad to be away from the farm and from the presence of the discouraged, sad-looking chickens. Still I was not very joyous. In the evening I walked home from school along Turner’s Pike and remembered the children I had seen playing in the town school yard. A troop of little girls had gone hopping about and singing. I tried that. Down along the frozen road I went hopping solemnly on one leg. “Hippity hop to the barber shop,” I sang shrilly. Then I stopped and looked doubtfully about. I was afraid of being seen in my gay mood. It must have seemed to me that I was doing a thing that should not be done by one who, like myself, had been raised on a chicken farm where death was a daily visitor.

Mother decided that our restaurant should remain open at night. At ten in the evening a passenger train went north past our door followed by a local freight. The freight crew had switching to do in Pickleville and when the work was done they came to our restaurant for hot coffee and food. Sometimes one of them ordered a fried egg. In the morning at four they returned northbound and again visited us. A little trade began to grow up. Mother slept at night and during the day tended the restaurant and fed our boarders while father slept. He slept in the same bed mother had occupied during the night and I went off to the town of Bidwell and to school. During the long nights, while mother and I slept, father cooked meats that were to go into sandwiches for the lunch baskets of our boarders. Then an idea in regard to getting up in the world came into his head. The American spirit took hold of him. He also became ambitious.

In the long nights when there was little to do father had time to think. That was his undoing. He decided that he had in the past been an unsuccessful man because he had not been cheerful enough and that in the future he would adopt a cheerful outlook on life. In the early morning he came upstairs and got into bed with mother. She woke and the two talked. From my bed in the corner I listened.

It was father’s idea that both he and mother should try to entertain the people who came to eat at our restaurant. I cannot now remember his words, but he gave the impression of one about to become in some obscure way a kind of public entertainer. When people, particularly young people from the town of Bidwell, came into our place, as on very rare occasions they did, bright entertaining conversation was to be made. From father’s words I gathered that something of the jolly innkeeper effect was to be sought. Mother must have been doubtful from the first, but she said nothing discouraging. It was father’s notion that a passion for the company of himself and mother would spring up in the breasts of the younger people of the town of Bidwell. In the evening bright happy groups would come singing down Turner’s Pike. They would troop shouting with joy and laughter into our place. There would be song and festivity. I do not mean to give the impression that father spoke so elaborately of the matter. He was as I have said an uncommunicative man. “They want some place to go. I tell you they want some place to go,” he said over and over. That was as far as he got. My own imagination has filled in the blanks.

For two or three weeks this notion of father’s invaded our house. We did not talk much but in our daily lives tried earnestly to make smiles take the place of glum looks. Mother smiled at the boarders and I, catching the infection, smiled at our cat. Father became a little feverish in his anxiety to please. There was no doubt lurking somewhere in him a touch of the spirit of the showman. He did not waste much of his ammunition on the railroad men he served at night but seemed to be waiting for a young man or woman from Bidwell to come in to show what he could do. On the counter in the restaurant there was a wire basket kept always filled with eggs, and it must have been before his eyes when the idea of being entertaining was born in his brain. There was something pre-natal about the way eggs kept themselves connected with the development of his idea. At any rate an egg ruined his new impulse in life. Late one night I was awakened by a roar of anger coming from father’s throat. Both mother and I sat upright in our beds. With trembling hands she lighted a lamp that stood on a table by her head. Downstairs the front door of our restaurant went shut with a bang and in a few minutes father tramped up the stairs. He held an egg in his hand and his hand trembled as though he were having a chill. There was a half insane light in his eyes. As he stood glaring at us I was sure he intended throwing the egg at either mother or me. Then he laid it gently on the table beside the lamp and dropped on his knees beside mother’s bed. He began to cry like a boy and I, carried away by his grief, cried with him. The two of us filled the little upstairs room with our wailing voices. It is ridiculous, but of the picture we made I can remember only the fact that mother’s hand continually stroked the bald path that ran across the top of his head. I have forgotten what mother said to him and how she induced him to tell her of what had happened downstairs. His explanation also has gone out of my mind. I remember only my own grief and fright and the shiny path over father’s head glowing in the lamplight as he knelt by the bed.

As to what happened downstairs. For some unexplainable reason I know the story as well as though I had been a witness to my father’s discomfiture. One in time gets to know many unexplainable things. On that evening young Joe Kane, son of a merchant of Bidwell, came to Pickleville to meet his father, who was expected on the ten o’clock evening train from the south. The train was three hours late and Joe came into our place to loaf about and to wait for its arrival. The local freight train came in and the freight crew were fed. Joe was left alone in the restaurant with father.

From the moment he came into our place the Bidwell young man must have been puzzled by my father’s actions. It was his notion that father was angry at him for hanging around. He noticed that the restaurant keeper was apparently disturbed by his presence and he thought of going out. However, it began to rain and he did not fancy the long walk to town and back. He bought a five-cent cigar and ordered a cup of coffee. He had a newspaper in his pocket and took it out and began to read. “I’m waiting for the evening train. It’s late,” he said apologetically.

For a long time father, whom Joe Kane had never seen before, remained silently gazing at his visitor. He was no doubt suffering from an attack of stage fright. As so often happens in life he had thought so much and so often of the situation that now confronted him that he was somewhat nervous in its presence.

For one thing, he did not know what to do with his hands. He thrust one of them nervously over the counter and shook hands with Joe Kane. “How-de-do,” he said. Joe Kane put his newspaper down and stared at him. Father’s eye lighted on the basket of eggs that sat on the counter and he began to talk. “Well,” he began hesitatingly, “well, you have heard of Christopher Columbus, eh?” He seemed to be angry. “That Christopher Columbus was a cheat,” he declared emphatically. “He talked of making an egg stand on its end. He talked, he did, and then he went and broke the end of the egg.”

My father seemed to his visitor to be beside himself at the duplicity of Christopher Columbus. He muttered and swore. He declared it was wrong to teach children that Christopher Columbus was a great man when, after all, he cheated at the critical moment. He had declared he would make an egg stand on end and then when his bluff had been called he had done a trick. Still grumbling at Columbus, father took an egg from the basket on the counter and began to walk up and down. He rolled the egg between the palms of his hands. He smiled genially. He began to mumble words regarding the effect to be produced on an egg by the electricity that comes out of the human body. He declared that without breaking its shell and by virtue of rolling it back and forth in his hands he could stand the egg on its end. He explained that the warmth of his hands and the gentle rolling movement he gave the egg created a new center of gravity, and Joe Kane was mildly interested. “I have handled thousands of eggs,” father said. “No one knows more about eggs than I do.”

He stood the egg on the counter and it fell on its side. He tried the trick again and again, each time rolling the egg between the palms of his hands and saying the words regarding the wonders of electricity and the laws of gravity. When after a half hour’s effort he did succeed in making the egg stand for a moment, he looked up to find that his visitor was no longer watching. By the time he had succeeded in calling Joe Kane’s attention to the success of his effort, the egg had again rolled over and lay on its side.

Afire with the showman’s passion and at the same time a good deal disconcerted by the failure of his first effort, father now took the bottles containing the poultry monstrosities down from their place on the shelf and began to show them to his visitor. “How would you like to have seven legs and two heads like this fellow?” he asked, exhibiting the most remarkable of his treasures. A cheerful smile played over his face. He reached over the counter and tried to slap Joe Kane on the shoulder as he had seen men do in Ben Head’s saloon when he was a young farmhand and drove to town on Saturday evenings. His visitor was made a little ill by the sight of the body of the terribly deformed bird floating in the alcohol in the bottle and got up to go. Coming from behind the counter, father took hold of the young man’s arm and led him back to his seat. He grew a little angry and for a moment had to turn his face away and force himself to smile. Then he put the bottles back on the shelf. In an outburst of generosity he fairly compelled Joe Kane to have a fresh cup of coffee and another cigar at his expense. Then he took a pan and filling it with vinegar, taken from a jug that sat beneath the counter, he declared himself about to do a new trick. “I will heat this egg in this pan of vinegar,” he said. “Then I will put it through the neck of a bottle without breaking the shell. When the egg is inside the bottle it will resume its normal shape and the shell will become hard again. Then I will give the bottle with the egg in it to you. You can take it about with you wherever you go. People will want to know how you got the egg in the bottle. Don’t tell them. Keep them guessing. That is the way to have fun with this trick.”

Father grinned and winked at his visitor. Joe Kane decided that the man who confronted him was mildly insane but harmless. He drank the cup of coffee that had been given him and began to read his paper again. When the egg had been heated in vinegar, father carried it on a spoon to the counter and going into a back room got an empty bottle. He was angry because his visitor did not watch him as he began to do his trick, but nevertheless went cheerfully to work. For a long time he struggled, trying to get the egg to go through the neck of the bottle. He put the pan of vinegar back on the stove, intending to reheat the egg, then picked it up and burned his fingers. After a second bath in the hot vinegar, the shell of the egg had been softened a little but not enough for his purpose. He worked and worked and a spirit of desperate determination took possession of him. When he thought that at last the trick was about to be consummated, the delayed train came in at the station and Joe Kane started to go nonchalantly out at the door. Father made a last desperate effort to conquer the egg and make it do the thing that would establish his reputation as one who knew how to entertain guests who came into his restaurant. He worried the egg. He attempted to be somewhat rough with it. He swore and the sweat stood out on his forehead. The egg broke under his hand. When the contents spurted over his clothes, Joe Kane, who had stopped at the door, turned and laughed.

A roar of anger rose from my father’s throat. He danced and shouted a string of inarticulate words. Grabbing another egg from the basket on the counter, he threw it, just missing the head of the young man as he dodged through the door and escaped.

Father came upstairs to mother and me with an egg in his hand. I do not know what he intended to do. I imagine he had some idea of destroying it, of destroying all eggs, and that he intended to let mother and me see him begin. When, however, he got into the presence of mother something happened to him. He laid the egg gently on the table and dropped on his knees by the bed as I have already explained. He later decided to close the restaurant for the night and to come upstairs and get into bed. When he did so he blew out the light and after much muttered conversation both he and mother went to sleep. I suppose I went to sleep also, but my sleep was troubled. I awoke at dawn and for a long time looked at the egg that lay on the table. I wondered why eggs had to be and why from the egg came the hen who again laid the egg. The question got into my blood. It has stayed there, I imagine, because I am the son of my father. At any rate, the problem remains unsolved in my mind. And that, I conclude, is but another evidence of the complete and final triumph of the egg–at least as far as my family is concerned.

What an awesome story. I’d love to receive thoughts and comments on Mr. Anderson’s great work:)

Sep 09

Nebraska is known for producing very few things of value: corn, Johnny Carson, corn-fed beef, Kool Aid, corn syrup, the band 311, Dorthy Lynch salad dressing,  Larry the Cable Guy (oh wait… I was mentioning things of value… scratch that), more corn, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Of course, an athletic director a few years back realized that “Cornhusker” bore a little too close of a resemblance to “corn holer” and, although I believe the official title is still Cornhuskers,  most fans simply refer to them as the “Huskers.”

I want to mention right now that I may be putting my life in danger by writing this post.  If anything happens to me, I hope with all sincerity that someone will look out for my family.  I live in a state where making light jest of something as sacred as the state’s college football team may be considered sacrilege… similar to, say, crapping on the Qur’an in the middle of the Kaaba in Mecca, except I feel the punishment doled-out by the Muslims may be slightly more humane than the torture one would receive from Husker fanatics.

I moved to Nebraska in 1992; this was a move that I never expected to make and that has changed my life (in some cases for the better… in some cases for the worse) in monumental ways.  I had recently graduated from college and was rapidly finding out that a business degree from Montana State University was a pretty worthless piece of paper.   I was working for a relatively-large retailer as a management trainee.  This is back when the first George Bush was President and the job market sucked (job market sucking… uh… deja vu?).  Apparently the Bushes were masters at destroying economies and creating stinking job markets… but I lean right and Lord Obama isn’t exactly working any liberal magic to make things better.

TIME OUT:  As I approach 40, one of the few things I have actually learned in my life is that all politicians of all makes, models, sexes, parties and colors SUCK.  No matter how much wind they blow up your hiney, not one single one of them cares a wit about you, your family, or the general state of the Union.  All they care about is either making a name for themselves in history, the power of office, the celebrity of politics, getting a little quality “cigar” time with portly yet cute interns, or money… or, in many cases, more than one of the above.  In the happy stinking joy that is life, politicians create or support a large portion of the “stink” in all of our lives, and anyone who tells you different (especially if it’s a politician) is full of crap.  The fact that Democrats and Republicans cannot, for the minuscule portion of a millisecond, put aside their stupid differences and do what’s best for the average American ( by the way, the AVERAGE American is just plain-old happy with their current health care coverage… thank you very much… and by average American, I do not mean average illegal alien from any country that is not America; to digress, however,  it should NOT cost thousands of dollars to become a citizen… that’s CRAP… I have a couple of friends that are legal-status-challenged who would LOVE to become citizens, but they just can’t afford it) PROVES that politicians do not care about YOU!  If any politician EVER comes up to you and tells you that he or she has your best interest in mind, he or she is boldly lying to your face (unless you have something he or she wants, like money… but he or she STILL doesn’t care about you, only what he or she WANTS!). Wow… got a little off track with this, didn’t I?  Well, back to the game. RESUME PLAY:

Anywho, when I took my dead-end retail job right out of college, I quickly realized that I was going nowhere… until I received a call from a district manager in Nebraska.  Apparently, there was a store in Scottsbluff, NE that needed an assistant manager… and trainees and full-time employees in Nebraska had no interest in the desolate wasteland that is the panhandle of Nebraska, so the district manager in Nebraska, growing desperate, had started calling district managers in other states until the district manager in Montana finally told him, “Uh, yeah, we got this loser… uh… trainee… who would be great for a store in Nebraska where no one else wants to go.  We were trying to figure out what we were going to do with him… uh… where we were going to place him… and Scottsbluff would be GREAT for him… and us.”

So, never even having given a moments thought to Nebraska, all of a sudden I had a U Haul trailer on the back of my truck and I’m moving to what I think may be the land of milk and honey.  Turns out, I was moving to the land of corn… plain and simple, corn.  This was in September of 1992… 17 years ago… 17 GODFORSAKEN YEARS AGO!!!

I found a crappy little apartment in a scary little neighborhood and I started a life in Nebraska.  One of the first things that I noticed was that, on any given Saturday, the town seemed to semi-cease to exist.  Locally-owned businesses locked their doors.  Every other building, whether house or apartment complex or business, hoisted a flag or a banner or some form of intrusive yard decor advertising allegiance to the University of Nebraska football team.  I was astonished… and a little freaked out.  It seemed the entire community… no, the entire county… no, the entire STATE (with large puss-like pockets of true-Nebraska believers spread throughout the entire nation… if not the world) stopped every meaningful motion of life on Saturday to worship a bunch of kids in polyester and plastic uniforms led by a vegetarian of god-like proportions.  The meatless wonder was a fellow named Tom Osborne, and he was likened to the deity of the one called Bob Devaney, one who the mindless throngs of the Husker Nation call the Holy One.  There is a legacy behind the entire story and history of the Husker Nation; a time-tested fable of generous leadership and outreach across an entire state that has stood the test of time and is worthy… oh, who am I kidding, for crying out loud, it’s a stinking game!  A GAME!  Much like chess, or checkers, or croquet… a game.  And yet, you don’t see throngs of people filling stadiums to watch competing teams play Monopoly… but it’s the same concept: one person (team) using skills of little value in the real-life world that would actually benefit society against another person (team) with similar skills.  People of all walks of life in all areas of the world get all worked up over sports, whether it be football, baseball, soccer or whatever.  These fans live vicariously through the efforts of overpaid athletes, whether  they just like watching a good competition or because they actually have nothing of any interest at all going on in their lives.  Whatever the reason, I think the whole thing is relatively stupid.  Not that I don’t enjoy watching a good game of some sort from time to time… but I don’t obsess.  My entire week isn’t ruined if the Huskers lose.  And in Nebraska, lives are destroyed if the Huskers lose.

Maybe it’s because there are no professional sports teams here, or maybe it’s because eating too much corn makes one insane; whatever the reason, Husker fans are rabid.  Don’t get me wrong, Husker fans are, for the most part, very polite (unlike, say, those semi-tarded Colorado Buffalo fans who key your car in the parking lot if they see license plates from the opposing team’s state.)  Husker fans are not rabid toward the competition.  Husker fans are rabid about… Husker football.  Husker fans will boo their own team if things don’t go well.  Old farmer Bob has all the insight and he’s just positive that if Nebraska brought back the option offense that things would turn around.  And Old Farmer Bob isn’t the only one… EVERY husker fan thinks they have the magic answer that will help the team win.  Retail sales in Nebraska actually slump after a Nebraska loss because, apparently, Husker fans are too depressed to spend money after watching the Blackshirts fail.  Discussion about thoughts on next year’s team begin the second the previous season ends and last right up to… well… next year.  The sad thing is, Nebraska has some other decent sports teams.  The Husker women’s softball team always does extremely well.  The college basketball and baseball teams (with a little support) could do well.  You’d think, with the College World Series being in Omaha, that there would be more fans supporting the baseball team just to see them get some homefield advantage in the Series.  The women’s volleyball team rocks!  But the attention hog of Nebraska is Husker football.

So, once again, we start another football season and, once again, I am not going to go anywhere without hearing every local-yokel’s opinion on the Huskers.  Sunday morning church will be filled with “Wad’ya think of the game?” and all week long it will be “How’ya think they’ll do?”  Honestly, I really don’t care.  I’m from Montana,  so I’m more interested in how the Bobcats did (which is almost always horrible… yet they did kick the crap out of the Colorado Buffs the last time they met :) ) than I am in anything the Huskers do.  However, this is something I mostly keep to myself.  After all, a public beheading at the hands of radical Devaneyists is something I try to avoid.

Yes, living in Nebraska as a person who has neutral feelings towards the Huskers leads to a lonely and secretive life.  My only condolence is the fact that I hate the Colorado Buffs, and the Huskers are going to kick the crap out of the Buffs on Friday, November 27th, which is the day after Thanksgiving and the day before the horrendous atrocity which is to be my 40th birthday.   I don’t expect to win the lottery, I don’t expect to have found any curious fountain of joy, and I don’t expect that my life will have taken a tremendous turn for the better by my 40th birthday… but I do expect that the Nebraska Cornhuskers will have reduced the Colorado Buffalo to the girlish weeping piles of worthless dung that they are… or great and sacred Heavenly Father above… I think I may actually shed a tear if the Huskers lose… nah… the Buffs suck and the Huskers ROCK… am I actually being converted?  Has the fact that the Huskers have one of the most successful walk-on programs of all time (allowing kids from Nowhere, NE to tryout for their favorite team with the hope that they may actually get to live a little bit of the glory… and many actually do!) tainted me?  Do I find it amazing that Bob Devaney actually reached across a state that is severely divided from those in the eastern, more urban, portion of the state that look down on all things rural to those in the western, more rural, portion of the state that are more closely compared to Wyomingites than they are Nebraskans?  Has the fact that Nebraska has won 3 (it should have been 4 if not for bad officiating) Nation Championships since I’ve lived in Nebraska created any sense of wanting to jump on a bandwagon or two?  For crying out loud… I believe I may actually be part of the stinking HUSKER NATION… Lord help me…

GO HUSKERS!!!

Sep 07

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a really good concert.  This is very surprising considering the fact that I live, literally, in the middle of nowhere.  Most concerts that come to this area are country performers.  For example, this past summer for a couple of the big fair-type events, the performers that were brought in to entertain the masses were LoCash Cowboys, Terri Clark, and Jaime Fox.  I know, I know, if you are anything like me, you’re thinking to yourself, “Who?”  No clue, can’t help you with that one.  All I know about the previously listed performers is that they perform country and I have never heard of them.  You will notice that I refer to them as “performers” as opposed to “musicians” and that I refer to the style of performance as “country” and not “country music”.  I think of country much the same way I think of the Barney theme-song; technically, it may be considered “music”, but no one with the intellect above that of a 4-year-old really enjoys it much.  Just my opinion.

Oh, they have tried to bring some good old rock and roll to our area, but they seem to usually fail miserably.  They either bring in acts so washed-up that it’s not even funny (think Pat Benetar) or they bring in those sudo-classic bands.  You know the kind of bands I’m referring to:  Credence Clearwater Revisited where the only original CCR musician is, like, the drummer, and the drummer did not CCR make.  Or, one year they brought in someone with a name like Classic Rock Greats, which was like the guitarist from Air Supply, the drummer from 38 Special, a bassist from The Alan Parson’s Project, and a lead singer named Bob who they picked up from a cover band in Des Moine… or something like that.  Anyway, they are bands that do not interest me.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I learned that Egypt Central was going to be opening for Deaf Pedestrians… in Crap-pile, Nebraska.  I was STOKED!  I wanted to see this concert more than anything I have recently desired.  Now, I’m not a major follower of either of these bands, but I have heard music from both of them, and they kick some serious booty.

I feel obliged to mention the local cover band that opened for Deaf Pedestrians and Egypt Central: Six Shot Lullaby. There… I mentioned them. Just kidding. They really weren’t bad for a cover band from the Podunk… plus the lead guitarist actually came out into the crowd to try to get people into the concert… and he was kind of big and scary… and I live in the same town as him… so Six Shot Lullaby kicked butt, Mr. Guitarist Dude.

Now on to the main acts. Neither of these bands have hit the “Big Time” or had a “major” hit… you know the kind: the song that keeps getting airplay on the adult contemporary station play after play because it was featured in a Super Bowl commercial for Geico where that stupid British lizard gets his heart broken by the sizzling supermodel who decides that “size” really is important as Rob Thomas sings his ever-loving heart out while a full orchestra accompanies the whaling guitar of a past metal-great-reduced-to-Super-Bowl-half-time-status-hero (no offense to Aerosmith, but doesn’t this define them:) Man… I hate that kind of music!

Both Egypt Central and Deaf Pedestrians, however, are amazing talents with tunes you may have heard (unless coloring pictures of Baby Bop has given way to music time and it’s time to sing along with Taylor Swift until teacher says it’s time to lay down on the blankie and take the nappie before recess).
The Deaf Pedestrians (or ‘Deaf Peds’ as they are lovingly referred to by their fans) were the headliner for the show. If you have never heard of this Texas-based band, please click the videos following to get a feel for their greatness.  Seriously, both of the bands I’m talking about are from southern states where I would expect nothing more than country-crap could escape the borders… yet these two rock?!? And from Texas… the Deaf Peds may seriously be the best thing to come out of Texas since… uh, given the lack of anything great to have ever come out of Texas… the Deaf Peds may be it! Deaf Peds have a semi-hit with “Hail to the Geek.”

They actually had a real-life video with (my favorite song of theirs) “15 Beers.”

The Deaf Peds also have an almost-brand-new cd out entitled We’re All Gonna Die.
This CD rocks. My favorite tune on this disc is “”Doomed To You”, but “We’re All Gonna Die”, “Tick”, and “I Hate This Place” (plus more) are well worth gracing the presence of your ears’ time:) The Deaf Peds were near-perfect… ‘near’….

The only thing that could have made the Deaf Peds better than they were would have been if they would have picked a less AWESOME band than Egypt Central to open for them!  The Deaf Peds played a flawless gig.  Very entertaining.  The problem was that their opening act, Egypt Central, was a high-energy, get-the-crowd-involved, in-your-face act that leaned more toward metal than the Deaf Peds quirky alternative hard rock.  Egypt Central has spent a little time opening for acts such as Korn and Disturbed… so they know how to ROCK! The crowd was too pumped to calm down and enjoy the more intricate styling of Deaf Ped’s music.  People actually started leaving during the main act, which is disappointing.  It will be hard to get any bigger-named acts to come to Podunk,  Nebraska when word gets around that crowds disappear during an acts performance.

Anyway, Egypt Central has a semi-hit with the awesome “Taking you Down.”  Here is a video someone created for the song with some pretty cool fantasy CGI stuff.

Even better was the band’s final song, which is a little less intense than some of their other stuff but is the kind of song you would expect to get some serious radio airplay without turning into drivel! I was waiting for this song the entire show and was pretty stoked that this is how they wrapped things up. The song in “You Make Me Sick,” and it rocks way more live than it does recorded, but here you go:

I really hope that the rapid fan-disappearance doesn’t discourage the local radio station (and others) from bringing in more contemporary, non-country performances. I’m tired of all the country crap coming this way. However, I feel a little bad about the comparison I made of country fans to 4-year olds… so I’m throwing in some typical country to make country fans feel at home on my blog:

Ye-hah?

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Sep 04

You all know what Food Stamp Friday is, don’t you? It’s the first Friday of the month after the government has started handing out all the free money to all the families who can’t quite make ends meet… well, free to the families who receive the money; not free to us taxpayers helping to support them. A good portion of these folks are seriously just a little down on their luck and, once back one their feet, they will start contributing to society again. Some of these people are physically or mentally disabled to the point that they will probably never be able to contribute to the capitalist machine in a manner that would allow them to earn a self-sustaining living. I, and I assume most compassionate Americans, have no problem assisting these people live more comfortable lives (there but for the grace of God…)

It’s not the above mentioned people that I have a problem with. The people I have a problem with are the people who  “believe” they are incapable of contributing to society because life has been too hard on them and they feel entitled to the free food that you and I are buying for them. Here’s a little wake-up call: life, in many instances, sucks. Life is often nothing more than a big pile of stinking crap. However, there is more than enough happy and joy to go around… so get off your lazy rear-ends and start contributing. Use the government programs for what they were meant to be… a stabilizing force that helps relieve the stress of starving to death while you improve your position in life.

In the past, there was a slight stigma associated with using food stamps. All of the people in line behind you saw you pull out the brightly colored coupons and knew that they had helped you buy your groceries. Now, if you are on food stamps, you get the fancy EBT card. EBT stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer. It reminds me of other little programs the government has… like taxes. You know, every paycheck there is that line where your employer has magically made some of your hard-earned money disappear and it magically appears in a government account. Well, part of that money magically appears as a credit on a little credit-card-like piece of plastic carried by food stampers. Magically out of your pocket and magically into the pocket of someone else… and now the government is going to be handing out free health care? Yeah, I ain’t even going to touch that viper…  So, now that the government is issuing little pieces of plastic that look like credit cards to steal from the middle class and give to the poor… and the needy… and the big, lazy trailer trash that has learned to milk the system (read: steal from you), how can you spot a food stamper?

Okay, so the way you can tell it’s Food Stamp Friday is to head on out to Walmart and see that it’s 5X busier than normal and you see husbands and wives, or sometimes just a guy and sometimes just a gal, and anywhere from 4 to 12 kids in varying age from newborn to about 16, and these groups of people are pushing anywhere from 2 to 5 grocery carts and taking up entire aisles for huge blocks of time while they decide which flavor of stinking Zinger they want. And, after anywhere from a 3 minute to a 10 minute wait behind these wonderfully colorful people, they decide that they just can’t decide and they get a box of each and every flavor of stinking Zingers… all on your and my tax dollar.   And if you look carefully in their carts, you will find a bounty of prepared foods and snack items.  Can’t these people buy something a little healthier?  Can’t they buy a little pasta and some rice cakes, for crying out loud?  Seriously, if the husband and wife are together on a Friday afternoon at Walmart with all seven kids in tow, you know ain’t none of them working, so you’d think one of them could take the time to prepare a healthy meal!?!  Most of the time, at least half of the members of these families look like they could stand to lose a pound or two…  or fifty.  But, with all the Ding Dongs and Doritos and Mrs. Fields cookies and Little Juan burritos sticking out of the 3 grocery carts they are pushing around… you got to figure weight loss ain’t a priority on their agendas.

Ahh… Food Stamp Friday!  Nothing like a trip to Walmart on Food Stamp Friday to make you appreciate having a liberal, socialistic President in office… except for maybe tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is Food Stamp Saturday, and that’s when the fun really begins…

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