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Friday, July 30, 2010

Here Comes Da Judge, There Goes My Lunch

After two days of fun and festivities starring on I Dream of Jury Duty, I’ve come to the startling realization that a jury of my peers is the last thing I want to come across if I’ve done something bad enough to land me in the little gray room where the man in charge wears a black dress.

When I think of my peers, I’m conjuring up images of Penelope Cruz with a Wal-Mart wardrobe.

Would you believe Megan Fox’s non-anorexic sister?

How about Barbara Bush sporting chubby stretch jeans and a maternity top?

Apparently a jury of my peers is likely to be those folks shuffling around Wal-Mart in backless slippers in the wee morning hours, waving a denture cream coupon at a frightened clerk and checking to see if the lite beer is on sale. Or the folks who would have to take donations to collect a full set of teeth who are trying to get the family rate at the cattle barn section of the county fair.

A glance at the photo album on the bottom of the stack is enough to remind me that our family reunion looks more like Night of the Zombie Prom than a Sunday School gathering. A single glance at a table of my relatives--Aunt Rhoda is wiping gravy from her mustache and Uncle Bob can never remember to secure all the fasteners on his overalls—tells me that I’d rather head straight down to the Boogeyman’s Castle than expose my private business to a panel of these folks. To me, the theme is Bring In The Clowns, but to the side of Law & Order, Aunt Rhoda is the author of somebody’s Bill of Rights. It’s hard enough to shop for Christmas gifts for these people; to think they could be the guardians of freedom is like expecting Paula Deen to preside over a Weight Watcher’s Convention.

Now I’ve witnessed a set of jury peers with my very own peepers and the experience left me with a new appreciation for the law. Before I help myself to any more zucchini from the neighbor’s garden, I’m going to stop and consider what kind of splash the evidence will make when presented to the jury. I wish I could say the same thing for the hefty lady that showed up in court to get her photos back from a stalker friend. This was the kind of cheesecake that rots the cherries before you ever get to the graham cracker crust.

But even after my personal experience in the jury end of the hygiene pool, I am a supporter of Freedom, Truth, and the Right to Bare Arms.

But now I know why Justice is blind.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Going, Going, Guilty

I held up a tee shirt with a navy theme and shook my head. “Horizontal stripes are out.”

“Of course. You don’t want to take any chances.”

“And vertical stripes scream, “Cell Block Nine!”

"You wouldn’t want to be cited for bad taste.”

“Orange would be tacky.”

“There’s nothing worse than a fashion police repeat offender.”

“And a jumpsuit would be out of the question.”

The Captain snorted. “Look. You’re going to jury duty. Not a Totally Inmate Barbie fashion extravaganza.”

I knew my stubborn streak could outlast his sarcasm. No contest. No charge. "Barbie’s done a lot of things in 50 years, but I don’t recall Ken ever having to bail her out of the pokey for a wardrobe felony.”

It’s Jury Duty Eve and I’m trying to select an outfit that says “Trial by Jury” without stepping over the line to “Accessory after the Fact.” The Captain doesn’t understand the importance of dressing for an occasion. Any gal can tell you that the right wardrobe choice puts everyone at ease. It’s easy to see who the people person is in this relationship.

Of course, except for a kindred feeling toward Judge Judy and a lightning round session in divorce court a while back, I don’t have a lot of experience with the judicial system here on the outskirts of Sugar Tit. I’m just hoping I don’t get so carried away with the Hammer of Justice that I drive a nail through my foot.

Although I've been keeping a keen eye on the whole Lindsay Lohan jailbird drama, I have more experience with cell phones than cells. When I have a set of bars, I can call out of network. She calls her network from behind bars. But if I use her time table, my term in jury duty will last about ten minutes.

Right now I’m torn between a white sundress to emphasize the importance a clean record and a gray pantsuit to point out the no man's land between right and wrong.

Cap cleared his throat. “If you wear white, you’ll probably spill ketchup all over yourself at lunch and illustrate the appearance of a murder victim.”

He’ll never understand the nuances of Truth and Justice.

“I might not spill anything this time. In this country we emphasize the concept of ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty.' I'm completely unbiased."

What if the Defendant were somebody like your ex-husband, on trial for not paying child support?”

I grabbed a black robe and pulled it on.

“In that case, stand back. I want to be the one that pops open the trap door on the gallows.”

If freedom is going to ring, I want to crack his Liberty Bell myself.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

The cat is stretched out on the blade of the ceiling fan, revolving in lazy circles in the breeze, one paw hanging over the side like a rudder.

Below, the dog is sprawled in the recliner with an ice pack on his forehead, sipping iced tea through a bendy straw. He’s a black Lab. He’ll dive quite happily into a frost-covered lake on a crisp fall morning, but when the temperature hits 80, he goes into hibernation and requires hourly rations of crushed ice and chicken flavored sports drinks. I don’t want to say he’s spoiled, but I have the only refrigerator with a doggie door. I won’t mention his other favorite snack food, but there’s also a doggie door on the litterbox.

Meanwhile, at my computer, sweat has dripped down my chest, spattered on the keyboard like afternoon in a rainforest, and shorted out the machine. A parched mosquito with a sweatband handed me an IOU for a nibble on a body part to be named later. Outside, earthworms have brought in power drills to make holes in the topsoil on my car.

The teenagers poured themselves through the doorway, swooned into a restless pile of melted flesh and weary boredom and announced, “It’s hot.” Hot is a two syllable word with the second half drowning in perspiration and misery.

These are the same kids that were clustered around the thermostat last winter begging to turn up the heat so their fingers would thaw enough to work video game controllers.

Back then I was the "bad parent" because I just said NO to indoor fire barrels. Now I'm the bad guy because I don't allow freezer burn as a weapon in the battle against sweat. These guys hated it when Spring brought plagues of honeysuckle and rosebuds and Autumn swept in hordes of muscadines. They've got a whine for all seasons.

So now it’s hot. Why didn’t I noticed it before? It amazes me how that fact escaped Reuters, CNN, Fox News, and the local paparazzi. Our smalltown presses don’t miss any news flash from ice cream truck fraud to elevator overpopulation.

I decided to give him a call.

“Jay, the teenagers say it’s hot.”

I heard a noise like a straw passing the speed limit sign in Margaritaville. “I’ll get right on that story as soon as I finish my, um, column.”

“See that you do. Somebody has to alert people to turn on their window fans. You could be the Paul Revere of our times. One if it’s spring, two if it’s summer.”

“Right. In the meantime teach those kids to appreciate the important things in life. Like those little first aid packs that get cold when you bust the bubble inside.”

I hung up. I would cook supper, but I’ve been waiting until the temperature dropped. We haven't eaten since that day in March when a UPS truck delivered a load of chocolate covered pretzels to the wrong address.

With an oven that goes from Warm to Controlled Burn in less than ten seconds, I don’t like to stoke the flames just for the simple act of eating. During the summer, we boost the economy by dining out at any local establishment that boasts a working air conditioner.

I’ve eaten so much pizza lately, my navel has turned into a slice of pepperoni. I’ve had so many tacos, I’ve begun to judge local cattle by their weight in ground beef. And I’ve been eyeing the no-expiration-date sausage dogs at the local 7-11 store.

Meanwhile I'm counting down the days until school starts. Both boys take classes at the community college across town. Let the dean of Robotics decide what the temperature will be. In the meantime, the Labrador has a dandy diversion planned. He's packed the car for the beach. I have just enough time to grab a towel before he backs down the driveway.

And I can tell by the way his ears are waving in the breeze. that he's got the air conditioner turned on to chili dog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Past Tension

“You’re upset.”

“What makes you think so?”

“You’re doing Frito shots again.”

When I’m having what the Captain lovingly calls “the days Homeland Security doesn’t have a color for,” I like to soothe my ruffled hormones with a mixture of Fritos and M&M’s. I take a handful of each and slam dunk them into my mouth like Michael Jordan down the lane at the buzzer. Crunch time. With a candy coating.

I don’t want to say I’m stressed, but I bought a case of each at the local warehouse store and I have them stored in those never-ending watering dishes you get for your dog so that he’s never thirsty. If I play my cards right, I can munch my way through July without ever getting up. I won’t even have to change clothes. I’m wearing stretchy pants and they’ll just grow along with me.

I don't know if I’m more stressed than usual, but I’m so high strung these days that if I flex my pinky my shoes come untied, my glasses fly off, and I lose control over important bodily functions, such as the ability to locate my keys inside my Aigner bag. I sneezed at the office the yesterday and someone had to throw a blanket over me and run for the Bounty. The cell phone in my pocket called emergency services. In Australia.

I’ve noticed that women react to stress differently from men. When searching for something that he needs urgently and cannot locate in a nano-instant, my husband finds it soothing to toss random objects out of his path and assign creative swear words to best fit the scope and purpose of each object. His trusty Lab waits nearby for moral support, ready to pitch in and chew a shoe or take a nap if the situation merits immediate action.

Curiously, it appears that we also turn up the tension knob over different things.

I get upset because supper is late, somebody’s teacher is threatening emergency action again because of a wildlife sighting in her chair and while she’s at it, a mention of Huckleberry Finn on the back of a cereal box is not the same as reading the novel, and there's a spider sending semaphore signals from a web in the bathroom that would support the weight of Tarzan on a junglewide jaunt. Also, there is a $70 tennis shoe in the litter box.

The thing that worries me most is the shoe.

Why is there just one? And which of those careless cats wore the thing in there and left it? I’ll jut have to watch and take note if I see Fluffy hobbling down the hall in a single Reebok. I see disciplinary action in the future. He's irresponsible with tennis balls as well.

The Captain, on the other hand, is distressed that his DVD of Dr. Who episodes is turned the wrong direction on the shelf--obviously the work of housebreaking ninjas with a time travel complex. It’s not like he can watch any DVDs anyway, because the player doesn’t work without the remote, and I think that’s what I saw peeping through the Fresh Step in the litterbox after breakfast this morning. Fluffy the cat is quite diverse in his hobbies.

All in all I think I’ll take the easy way out when it comes to stress. I’ll cook dinner for the in-laws, redecorate the house, and teach the teenagers to drive all at once. After that, everything else will look easy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting My Good Side

What I lack in skill as a roadtrip copilot, I make up for with a total lack of talent as a navigator. As far as I'm concerned, maps have an unfair advantage when it comes to computing distance since there is always more than one inch to travel in real life, and North is never in the same place twice. So, having no sense of obligation to duty, it remains a fact that when I climb in the passenger seat my eyes drop into the closed position, my mouth hangs open, and I have no idea that I’m of this world until I’m drowning in a pool of drool and my internal Rest Area sensor flashes an emergency signal just as we whip past the official roadside facilities.

Traditionally, the personal riding shotgun holds the title of Photographer General in Charge of Scenic Stuff, and fulfills the duties of securing pictures of Important Vacation Memories, such as the historical marker where my bladder gave way to temptation, roadway turbulence and the 64 ounce Biggie drink I sucked down without sharing three exits back. The saying “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” can be downright embarrassing on an Interstate toll road at high noon.

I’m not a family favorite when it comes to photography because, as a general rule, when I assume the nesting position I adopt when traveling, I end up sitting on the camera, so the only pictures we get are of intimate and not altogether attractive family secrets. So far, I’ve felt no inclination to stage a viewing of family vacation slides.

“What is that?” the Captain made a face usually associated with the consumption of unappealing vegetables as he squinted at the blurry object on the digital screen.

“I’m not sure, but I think it’s the Continental Divide,” I answered, accidentally disconnecting power to the camera by tossing it casually out of the car window.

“Hey! We needed that to complete our Four Corners of America Photographic Display!”

“The only display those pictures would complete could get us excommunicated from the PTA, the Smiling Seniors Sunday School Class, and the 7-11 Coffee Club.”

“The Coffee Club?”

I can call his mother any name I want, but even Juan Valdez couldn’t save me if I abuse his coffee privileges.

“They should use a better grade of ink on those cups. The last time I stood up, the words, “Biggie Size is Better” were tattooed on my. . .”

“Okay, so you drive and I’ll take the pictures.”

We retrieved the camera,which unfortunately was still operational after a close encounter with a lurking mud puddle and swapped seats. While I maneuvered the driver’s seat into dwarf position so that I could reach the pedals without having to hire extra feet, Cap popped his seat back and stretched his legs into the glove compartment. Before I could say “What are these squiggly lines on the map,” he was snoring loud enough to set off the car alarm and signal a passing police cruiser.

He jerked awake. “What’s that noise?” His hair had taken a route of its own, there were peanut shells in his ear, and a Ho Ho wrapper was stuck to one cheek.

I waved airily at the officer who had pulled over and was phoning in our tag number to Federal authorities.

“That was the sound of me rounding out our Four Corners of America Photographic display,” I grinned, tucking the camera under the front seat.

There are some vacation memories you want to relive. And some are only good for blackmail.

Friday, July 9, 2010

This Blog Was Brought to You By Approximately the Number 7

Many thanks to Rhonda, over at The Braves Are Getting Restless, for the Versatile Blogger Award. I don’t know if I’m so much versatile as a random multitasker, but versatile sounds so much better when you’re stuck in the same old rut grooming Labs and peeling carrots, which is a lot better, I’ve found, than peeling Labs and grooming carrots because you never get to the end of all those little sticky little layers of hair and besides carrots simply will not do as they’re told.

The rules of play for Versatile Bloggers are such that:
1. I’m supposed to thank the giver. Thanks Rhonda!
2. I’m supposed to list seven things about myself. Luckily the rules don’t specify riveting things or exciting things or even pinky-swear things. I can probably get by with any vital statistics I can still remember well enough to fudge on.
3. I'm supposed to pass this award to five bloggers. I can’t guarantee this one. I’ll try, but I’m somewhat abstract in thought and tend to wander off long before I decide which discipline to use for counting. If I’m holding a doughnut, one hand is occupied, and my counting abilities are restricted by process of elimination.

So let's send our award over to Stace at Betwixt and Between, Janna at Something She Wrote , Beth at Squiggle, and then if anybody else wants to count to seven, feel free to follow along. And then let us know.

1. I’m surrounded by guys. I have the Captain and Sons Chromosome Y the First and Y the Second. Even the dogs are male. On Friday nights after the role playing gamers drift in, I find testosterone hanging from the fixtures like Spanish moss on Southern pines. And nothing will get that up when they grind it in the floor with their duct-taped tennis shoes. I tried Mr. Clean, but that just made it worse.

2. I have strange taste in men. (Sorry Cap.) If William Faulkner were alive today, I’d ditch George Clooney like last year’s Pradas and follow ole Bill from town to town chanting, “Let’s hear that Nobel Prize speech again!” and tossing him copies of my old term papers.

3. While everyone else in the South is making a pilgrimage to Graceland to see Elvis, I’m hanging out a Rowan Oak (Faulkner’s Old Mississipi Home), hoping to catch the faint scent of pipe smoke. Okay, I’ve only been once, but I have pictures.

4. I also love Fitzgerald, Wilder, and Poe, but really, a girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere. But wouldn’t Poe be delighted by the number of chicks adopting a Goth lifestyle today? I saw enough black fingernails at the mall today to send him into a frenzy.

5. I’m in favor of the serial comma. If you’re listing serial killers and write The Boston Strangler, Charles Manson and me (just ask my jade plant how many of his brothers have gone to the great garden in the sky), then you’ve teamed me up with Charlie Manson and there’s not a ficus in the world who stands a chance. Better to separate us with a comma and avoid an ugly peat moss scene.

6. I almost lost my Girl Card because I don’t have a shoe fetish, but I have a double major in earrings and finger foods. Luckily I have both a sister and a niece who churn out jewelry like Rumplestiltskin spins straw, but I’m on my own to find petit fours in a small Southern town where fried pickles are considered a delicacy. (The pickles are pretty good.)

7. I like soggy cereal. Which is a good thing, because with the amount of teeth I have, it takes a village to go through a bowl of Captain Crunch. Oh, sure, if you’ve seen me grin, it looks like I’ve got more than my share, but get past the store front teeth and you’ll find that I have to hire a cast of extras to eat a box of Cracker Jacks. The peanuts I have to subcontract out.

8. I love a good murder mystery. When I was a kid, I would hide all the household knives after an especially good round with Agatha Christie in order to foil any lurking, slobbering psycopaths. After a while, family members would casually ask me, “Where did you put them?” when they went in the kitchen to make a sandwich.

9. I’m rebellious when it comes to counting.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red, White, & Oops

Independence Day is here, and as expected, celebrations of picnics, cookouts, and truckloads of rednecks fueled by the Big Boy sized beer setting fire to things that will blow up are in full force.

Nothing says Freedom like an intoxicated man named Bubba Earl flicking the long lighter and trying to set fire to a fuse the size of a tapeworm that's dancing in the breeze like amber waves of grain. Come dusk, hoards of folks will gather in the shadows of school parking lots to Oooh! Aaaah! and splash a pitcher of, let’s say, lemonade on the proceedings should the pyrotechnics or Bubba Earl get out of hand.

That’s what’s great about the South. It is legal to purchase fireworks in the state of South Carolina without presenting so much as an IQ score to the authorities. The people of South Carolina are perfectly within their rights to light themselves up like the space shuttle leaving for star-spangled skies, and other people have to content themselves with following safety standards and obeying the laws of common sense.

There’s something about not know whether the next bottle rocket will explode in the night sky in a sparkling array of gemstone colored glitz or skim down the pavement toward the spectators like a heat seeking ferret on steroids to make you appreciate what went on at the battle of Bunker Hill.

My apprehension might be due to a small mishap last year when a sidewalk-skidding bottle rocket came close to crossing my Reeboks at a steady clip and lighting up my inseam like a birthday candle. But after all, what is Independence Day for if not for celebrating with an impromptu break dance in the handicapped parking section of the schoolyard? I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the Boston Harbor gang has nothing on me when it comes to open air tea parties.

Uncle Joe is revered around these parts as sort of an expert on the subject of fireworks, having set his leg on fire on at least one occasion in the time honored tradition, and is well-respected in the backyard pyrotechnic community. If this year goes according to tradition, we’ll have quite a few stories and a modicum of minor injuries.

Not too many years ago we shunned his backyard display for an extravaganza taking place just past the intersection and before the blinking red light on the edge of town. Luckily it was held at the fire department because when the pasture caught on fire and all the fireworks went off at once, we didn’t even get 911 dialed before Tiny and Pork Chop responded to the blaze.

So this year we’ll probably go back to Uncle Joe’s. At least he restricts the damage to his own self, as a gentleman should.

I’ll take along an extra pair of pants. And some bandaids.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nothing but Net

I’m finally beginning to understand what all the fuss is, about the World Cup. Here in the United States, where it takes a team of Clydesdales and a professional athlete with a pending felony charge to get a football game rolling, we don’t appreciate the fact that every other country in the world is up to their ankles in a sport where a forward pass takes place at a level where feet are more important that fingers and there is something more spectacular to see than girls with extended ribcages and multicolored pompoms.

And all along I thought the World Cup was half of a really big bra.

In America, when we’re still yelling at our kids, “Don’t grind the crumbs into the carpet with your foot. Pick that up with your hands,” international mamas are saying, "How are you going to dribble if you can't even kick your sister?"

I don’t think these World Cup guys started as babies discovering their fingers. Once they got their toes in hand, they were ready to play. These guys learn to use their feet for fancy ball work better than many of my relatives use cutlery at the family reunion. That’s why we have mostly finger foods; Cousin Earl is still puzzled by the spork.

I don’t want to toot my own vuvuzela here, but my kids have played soccer since they were so small their shin guards doubled as a protective cup. (The vuvuzela is horn that produces an obnoxious noise in support of the obnoxious behavior on the field or in the row behind you. We have something like that in America, too. We call them “Yankee’s fans.”)

Son Two opted out of soccer when he realized that games competed with Ninja Turtles time on Saturday morning (after all, Michaelangelo was a Party Dude), but Son One played until he stretched the envelope of the age limit far enough to require extra postage. Rules state that once you’re old enough to serve in Congress, you can’t play AYSO soccer.

When my kids first started soccer they spent more time chasing the ball into the woods than kicking it into the net. I’ve never seen World Cup play halted for a parent to dash onto the field to tie somebody’s shoe. Son One took his job seriously as a ninja goalie and didn’t allow me on the field even when he was six, but I don't mind admitting that the time he tied his shoe to the string in his pants was a show stopper.

Team USA is out of the competition for this year, but their inspiring play brought the game to our attention like never before. Americans have a dedicated mindset when in comes to sports and I’m sure they will use the four years between now and the next World Cup competition boning up on the rules, finding out more about their favorite players, and planning ways to make a profit by selling bobblehead dolls. After all, the way to our hearts takes a direct path through our wallets.

I hope they never have the games in this country, though. After watching the SuperBowl commercials, I'm convinced that if the World Cup took place in the United States, someone in advertising would try to supersize it and add fries.