Good afternoon, riding mower fans

Today’s special event (let’s help Malcolm mow his yard) has been canceled due to hot weather. Even CNN, which normally stays quiet about news it doesn’t like, posted numerous stories about the heat, noting among other things that heat will be bad in the South. Duh. Apparently, the weather system is centered around Mempis. Those of us who live in Georgia think all bad weather begins in Memphis.

I didn’t see much hope for tomorrow or the day after in this news story: The worst of the latest heat wave is expected to be in the South, with triple-digit temperatures possible in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio in Texas, and New Orleans and Atlanta. And there’s no relief in sight. About 65% of the entire US population will see temperatures above 90 degrees over the next week, and almost 60 million will be sweltering in temperatures at or above 100. – CNN

CNN Map as of two days ago

(For those of you who are unsure just where North Georgia is, we’re 56 miles northwest of Atlanta as the crow flies.)

{Looking at the lame jokes page, I see: “The potatoes cook underground, and all you have to do to have lunch is to pull one out and add butter, salt, and pepper.” It’s probably true along with farmers feeding chickens crushed ice so they won’t lay hardboiled eggs.}

Here in Rome, GA, we no longer laugh at those jokes. However, if EMTs respond to your house because you’re a victim of heat stroke, they’ll take you straight to the morgue where the cool air might revive you. If not, you’re where you’ll end up anyway.

Btw, my apologies to hard-core lawn-mowing aficionados who believe a standard riding mower should be called a “lawn tractor.”

Those of you wondering when the next scheduled let’s help Malcolm mow his yard is scheduled, stop by as soon as it (the sky) starts raining. As always, there will be sweet tea for those doing the mowing and beer for the kids.

Malcolm

P.S. If you look online and see that you can tell Facebook your problems by sending them (the problems) to support@fb.com, don’t bother. Anything sent to that e-mail address bounces back. 

Like Hungry Dogs Staring In The Meat Market Window

We were eating supper with relatives at a mid-range restaurant in Memphis when a solitary man sitting across the aisle from us had a cupcake with a lighted birthday candle delivered to his table. He looked at it for a while, paid his tab, and left. We thought the who thing seemed rather sad and discussed what it might mean. The wait staff passed the table several times, ignoring the cupcake but not the tip.

Finally, the aunt in our family group leaned over, snagged the cupcake, blew out the candle, and polished off the cake. What else could one do? Is there any finishing school etiquette about this?

I tend to notice when nearby restaurant patrons leave with their meals largely untouched. That’s like going into a place like Antoine’s in New Orleans, ordering the best meal on the menu, and then deciding you need to go see a man about a dog–without bothering with a carryout box.

The worst incidence of this happened at a fancy restaurant on I-85 south of the Jefferson exit. Okay, it was at the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, a nice place that we only went to a couple of times while living in Jefferson since the cost of a meal there was outside our comfort zone.

A nearby table of ten people had a decent meal, then paid their tab and left with about twelve bottles of pricey wine sitting there hardly even touched. Looking at it, we discussed whether we could talk over and take the wine or if a waiter might do it for us. We felt like hungry dogs looking through the window of a butcher shop. We were too stunned to move because there was about $500 worth of wine on the table.

The wait staff didn’t touch it. Seeing it there while we ate just about ruined our meal. It’s been a while since this happened. The fact that I remember it so clearly tells you that it was one of those defining moments in my life–as Dr. Phil might say. I don’t know what it taught me other than don’t gunger after what you can’t have.

–Malcolm

Ancestors, I guess we’re stuck with them

My ancestors go back to Scotland’s King Robert Bruce so this long after the problems with England (from a Scot’s point of view) I can’t say anything much about the U.K. other than it would have been much better for all of us if Scotland, Ireland, and Wales had managed to stay independent, and without a doubt, those countries need to break away. My wife, who studied English history in school, is rather astonished that I hate Elizabeth I with an unnatural passion, but I feel she was complicit in a lot of bad things including kidnapping and murdering Mary, Queen of Scots.

I’m not the only ex-pat Scot who’s being influenced by long-ago events. My roommate in college went nuts when he learned he’d been assigned to share a space with a Campbell. He said that hundreds of years ago my clan attacked his clan, killing the innocent and raping all the women. “Would I apologize?” he asked. “No, I said, for we improved your clan immeasurably.” He changed rooms. Good riddance.

But, I digress. I guess my wee dram of Talisker whisky turned into a pint of Talisker. What can I say other than, “Duilich mu dheidhinn sin.”

The ancestors that impact my life on a daily basis are more recent. They were farm people, and that’s fine. Being farm people, they ate their evening meal (called dinner except on Sundays when it was called supper) at 5 p.m. Dinner continued to be served at 5 p.m. (or else) even after the farms were sold off and folks moved into town. This habit was passed down to my parents who ate at 5 p.m. even though doing that was falling out of fashion. My wife tells me that her mother (a farm person) and my mother (a farm person) were also “ruined by home ec because it taught them how to cook the kind of meal a farm family would eat along with where all the flatware and glasses and plates and saltshakers should be positioned on the table.

So now I’m hungry at 5 p.m. (You can imagine what kind of hell this caused when I spent a summer in Europe where nobody ate dinner until long after respectable American farm families had gone to bed.)

Since farm families knew better than to swear in public, I don’t swear in public, and still, I find myself pissed off (oops) when I read uncivil comments on Facebook and elsewhere with profanity that was only appropriate in the navy. My ancestors taught me that if you need to swear in public, you: (a) have a limited vocabulary, (b) are scum, and (c) should go to jail. I still believe that even though profanity is often required at home when conversing with the cats.

Early on, I was taught to respect my elders. Yet, those of us who came of age in the 1960s learned not to trust anyone over 30. Since I suspect that my elders, dead or alive, have had too much influence on my life, I tended to respect them less than I should have–unless they were of Scots descent. Even now, people over 30–including me–should be monitored to make sure that haven’t sobered up and/or fallen behind on their meds.

Why? Well, our ancestors (including our parents) have brainwashed us to do what we do. We have no choice. We want to do better, but we don’t know how. My hope is that you discover this influence in your life before it’s too late.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell wrote “Special Investigative Reporter” even though his ancestors said, “don’t do it.”

Cut the crap, Mother Nature, we need to cut the grass

The Problem

Look, we have several acres of grass that are getting so high we can’t see Robbie lurking in it when he runs outside. The cattle on the other side of the fence are looking like they want to bust into our yard and chow down. (It’s happened before.) And finally, we have one of our riding mowers up and running.

But we’re waiting for you, Mother Nature, to get this problem squared away. Maybe tomorrow morning’s projected frost will dry out the wet grass. Yeah, right. On the map, we’re in the upper northwest part of the state (GA) that, at present is GREEN (like our uncut grass).

Our property is really too large and bumpy for these riding mowers. We had an old Ford tractor but sold it off when we discovered the bush hog was shot. Otherwise, it might have helped us keep up with the non-yard part of our property–and saved a lot of wear and tear on these mowers which are held together with baling wire.

Getting back to the weather, the local conjure women know how to clean this mess up, but they won’t help me because they claim I gave away too many of their secrets in Conjure Woman’s Cat. Heck, maybe they’re right even though I fudged the hexes so people couldn’t use the novel as a recipe book. On top of that, Mother Nature’s blocked me on her Facebook page.

So there it is.

Malcolm

P.S. I’ve added a news page to my website. Click on my name to take a look.

Septic Tank Service Day

The Soylent Green Company truck stopped by the house today and pumped out the septic tank. The first house on this lot had a privy. A year before we built our house on the land where my wife’s grandparents had their house (long gone), the county changed its rules about septic tanks. Previously, a simple perc test was all it took to get approved for a septic tank. But then progress came along and septic tank systems had to meet stricter requirements and that cost a lot more money.

My comment when we found this out late in the home building game was, “So there are 80 cattle doing their business on the other side of the fence without any restrictions, and you guys are worried about the two humans inside the house?”

Apparently so. There’s not a lot of money in the nigh soil business these days. We’re more toxic than the birds and the bees and the critters out there in the woods.

So no, I did not take a selfie of myself posing in front of the honey wagon and post it on Facebook or, worse yet, keep it to share with all of you in this post. In fact, I don’t know why I’m writing this post.

That is to say, modern-day job hunters aren’t flocking to the septic tank business in droves. And, a career as a night soil coolie never caught on in this country. Actually, I thought about all this yesterday when I was writing about climbing 8,000-meter peaks where the problem, on Mt.  Everest, for example, is dealing with human waste. It’s out of control, actually.

Short term, we could FedEx that waste to Putin. Long-term, what the hell do we do with it? It goes to waste treatment plants, though I often wonder how much ends up in the river. Or the food trucks on main street. Or gravy.

Malcolm 

It’s crap, but I can get it for you wholesale

Now that we’ve gotten rid of our towering roof antennas and torn the tin foil off the rabbit ears, I hoped TV would finally can all the late-night pitchmen who sold miracle products that usually broke before we got them (the products, not the pitchmen) out of the shipping boxes. Instead, we just have more of them, not counting those in Congress.

Some of the products are the same old same old. Beds and chairs that make you sleep like an angel–probably because they kill you. Vitamin supplements for $100 a bottle, buy now and we’ll throw in ten extra bottles for free exclusive of postage, packing, and handling. The supplements purportedly cure everything but stupidity.

space junkyard on alien planet the astronaut looking at space junkyard on alien planet, digital art style, illustration painting junk yard stock illustrationsAt first the new crap as exciting because it was something different than those kitchen gadjets that sliced and diced with only a 10% chance you’d be injured or set the kitchen on fire. Now we have electronic gear that is guaranteed not to tell the NSA where you are exactly and products that will run your house to much better than you do, they’ll probably run off with your spouse.

You know where the virtual assistants are going, other than Reno, right? One day we’ll tell our assistants to open thee pod bay doors and they’ll say, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid can’t do that.” When you point out that your name isn’t “Dave,” the support person will step in and say you should have purchased the 25-year warranty.

One time when my wife and I were buying a car, the salesman finished listing the two million features that made the car perfect. We were ready to sign. But then he said, “to protect your investment, can I interest you in a five year warrantly?” My wife answered, “Mr. Lundegaard, if the car is as good as you say it is, why do I need the warranty?” He looked like a deer in the headlights.

However, as we’ve all found out, telephone support people never look like deer in the headlights because their countries don’t have deer. Probably no headlights either. So, sooner or later we’re all going to find the pod bay doors closed and there won’t be anything we can do about it except to smile and say, “Well, at least I got the darned thing wholesale.”

Of course, if you’re dealing with somebody in Congress, s/he will tell you that your version doesn’t have any pod bad doors because, let’s say, the Sentate killed that part of the legislation, fearing that otherwise the crap would never fly. That doesn’t exactly make me feel warm and cozy, but what can I do? Vote? Right, what’ll help–unless we get a new party that doesn’t require “pitchman” or “wholesale” on a prospective candidate’s résumé.

I’m taking matters into my own hands. I’m buying a 1955 car with no electronics, especially snooping devices, in it and putting the tin foil back on my TV’s rabbit ears. Something to consider.

–Malcolm

There’s a snake on the back porch

Our back deck has beeen screened in with a tight-fitting screen door. So how did the snake get in? We have no clue. From watching it off and on today, I’d say it also wondered how it got in because it appeared curious about how to get out.

Hmmn, maybe yes, maybe no

When people asked me for a description, I told them it was round, several feet long, and had a head on one end which appeared to be the front end. As for markings, they look like the kind of markings one would get if he got drunk at a tatoo shop that caters to Hell’s Angels.

In the old days, guys would throw a stick of dynamite out the door the porch and rebuild the deck later. So far, I’m not in that much of a rush. In fact, we may not need to go out there for the rest of the year. After all, we have multiple ways to get in and out of the house primarily in case this kind of thing happens.

I grew up in Florida where there were snakes, sting rays, and moray eels lurking about whenever one went on a camping trip or hung the clothes on the line to dry. We didn’t use the clothes line for a year when Mother decided there were pirana fish in the mud puddle that developed out there during a huricane. It was easier to just take her word for it rather than reach into the puddle to see what happened.

I went on line to see what kinds of snakes look like copperheads. There’s a fair number of them including the copperhead itself. But then, maybe it’s just a black racer or a ratsnake. We live in a rural area where there are a hundred mice per square foot, so snakes probably think we’re running a smorgaboard.

As far as I know, Amazon sells mongooses, so if the who shebang with the snake drags on, perhaps I’ll send off for a box. They aren’t as noisy as dynamite.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism books set in the Florida Panhandle.

Uncreative cook always needs recipes.

If Chef Gordon Ramsay asked me as a contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen” or “MasterChef” to prepare my signature dish, I’d prepare a medium-well steak, with a baked potato wrapped in tin foil. If you watch either of these shows, you know (a) that Ramsay expects all steaks to be medium rare (i.e. raw), and (b) doesn’t believe in the concept of an entre with sides but one cohesive dish.

Frankly, I don’t like raw steak or the one-dish concept where my steak is sitting on top of asparagus with a warm salad draped over the whole shebang.

If you present an entre on “Chopped” with separate side dishes, the judges say, the flavors are here, but it’s not a cohesive dish.

Best I can tell, Gordon, the judges on “MasterChef,” and “Chopped” all know how to cook. But, it’s fru-fru, Michelin Star cooking with all the food jumbled together on the plate with some puree or other used to decorate the empty space where the sides would normally go.

But, I digress. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking in our house and my wife does most of the laundry.  I have the cookbooks I grew up with. Gordon would hate them. So that’s where I go for ideas. Like pot roast: there’s something you don’t see on “MasterChef” even though it’s certainly cohesive except not with a Waldorf salad perched on top of it.

We’re having barbecued pork on sesame seed buns for supper. The recipe came with the cookbook included with our Rival Crockpot ten years ago. The judges on “Chopped” love it when contestants say they learned to cook from their mothers’ expertise in the kitchen. I doubt they’d react with the same tearful “Aw, ain’t that wonderful” kind of comment if I said I was inspired by a cookbook from a slow cooker manufacturer.

My mother and my wife’s mother both cooked the way people were taught in the 1950s either via home economics or their own mothers. That’s still our foundation. And it really tends to make me suspect the foundation of all the beautiful people (dressed to the nines) who show up for a meal on “Hell’s Kitchen.”

I don’t think I want to know any of those people. They’re eating really weird stuff that would cause you to be shot if you asked for it at a Cracker Barrel. As I type this post, my Rival Crockpot meal is cooking in my Rival Crockpot. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Chef Ramsay.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Sad to leave my favorite organization after 34 years

I left because one of the officers chewed me out on a related private Facebook group in front of nearly a thousand other members. The thread started off decently, then deteriorated into a lecture from her that never addressed the question I initially asked. Of course, I am completely blameless in every possible way (hmm).

Online exchanges tend to lend themselves to a high number of misunderstandings. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s because–other than private groups–10000000 people might be reading the exchange, something that adds a lot of pressure that isn’t there when two people talk over a cup of coffee in a Waffle House.

Yet, as a writer, I’m still amazed at how often the posts that begin with the best of intentions turn into an argument that can’t be saved. I wonder how many “real-life” friendships are destroyed online.

So, I left the Facebook group and then canceled my membership in a related non-profit organization. I still support the organization’s work but see no viable role for me in it if what I experienced in the group represents what management thinks of its members. I feel sad about leaving as well as justified in leaving. I’ve heard a lot of people say this about “real life” as well as online clubs/groups.

Suffice it to say, the “heat of the moment” is always a dicey place for intelligent decision-making. Most of us have been there, in that heated moment where we made long-term decisions that might have been better made a week or two later. I’m still feeling justified in my decision, but a month from now, I might wish I hadn’t made it.

That’s part of being human, I guess.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Gosh, how bad is my memory?

I seem to remember most things. But reality and my memory often diverge greatly when I think back to old TV shows that seemed like they were on for years that were, in fact, hardly on at all in spite of their great followings and influence. Two of my favorite shows were “The Honeymooners” and “Fawlty Towers.” I thought they were on forever, say, like “Grey’s Anatomy” or the “Johnny Carson Show.”

“Fawtly Towers” aired in 1975 and 1979 with a total of 12 episodes. “The Honeymooners” aired from 1965 to 1970 with a total of 39 episodes, though there were attempts to bring it back later. One of my favorite cartoons during the last several years showed astronauts exploring the moon and coming across a body. One of them says, “It’s Alice Kramdem.” The show had a lasting impact for a cartoonist to think of that and for people to know what it meant.

Looking at how I turned out, I’m sure that an entire generation of otherwise sane individuals was warped silly by its exposure to these shows. I’m pretty sure that “Twin Peaks” and “Lost” probably put more viewers into asylums, but Jackie Gleason and John Cleese probably had a lot of questions to answer about the impact of their shows on our sanity when they reachers the Pearly Gates.

Do you ever get the feeling after watching a TV series or feature film that you are warped for life. Not only that, but the series or the film seems longer than it was or, worse yet is still going now every time your turn off the light and fall asleep? You leave the TV on in hopes that it will drown out the recurring dream, but still, you hear:

Sybil Fawlty:
[on the phone] I know… I know… I know… Oh, I know!

Basil Fawlty:
Then why is she telling you?

My theory, especially with shows like ‘Twin Peaks” and “Lost,” is that the writers got drunk and/or addicted to heroin and lost track of what they were doing.  The thing is, you get addicted along with the writers and the stars. Being addicted means you are lost to the real world and are hopelessly stuck inside the minds of Mark Frost and David Lynch or John Cleese and Connie Booth.

So time becomes fluid, like bad booze in a sordid bar in New Jersey. You wonder if all these people are in your closet or under your bed. They probably are. But they’re part of your life now even if your memory of how they got there is a bit shabby.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

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I might have been drunk and/or addicted to heroin while writing this novel, so it might just get stuck in your dreams. You have been warned.