Tag Archives: Culture

Thank God for Bad Samaritans

I own a classic truck.  A good definition of a classic vehicle is that it’s old enough that no one else wants to buy it from you, but not so far gone that it’s ready for the junkyard.   This one’s a 1995 F-150.

Truck

Of course, some dealer would be happy to give me a “good trade” if I bought a new vehicle from them. Some days I’m not sure why I don’t trade it in for something newer.  Typically, these are the days it decides to show its age and act up.

Just the other day, I was driving to an appointment and the truck died in the middle of the road. It was around 8:30 in the morning.  Of course, I was in morning traffic.

It’s a four-lane road, and I’m sitting in the right lane going nowhere with a line of cars piling up behind me and the left lane zooming past.  I can see in my rear-view mirror the cars trying to jockey around me, and I’m avoiding making eye contact with the drivers as they pass (because people are so happy during their morning commute, to begin with).

I try to start the truck a couple of times and let out a few choice curses.   The truck had died on me in a similar fashion about a year ago—the distributor finally kicked the bucket.  My first thoughts were that it died again, and  I should have traded in this piece of crap then.

Luckily I’m near an intersection and there’s a right turn lane.   I decided to push my truck over to let the happy commuters go along their merry way (nobody was honking, but if glares could kill…)

It’s a big truck, and I’m not a big man.  As I’m grunting to get this thing moving (and hoping no one clips my door and kills me),  I’m mentally griping about my fellow drivers:

Where were the good Samaritans?  Surely someone will stop and help me push this beast! 

After significant effort (luckily the road was flat), I get the truck out of traffic and hop back in to collect my thoughts.  I don’t even get a chance to sigh before I look in the rear view mirror and see a car sitting in the turn lane behind me.

Yes, there is a good person out there! 

I wait for the guy to get out of his car.

He looks down at his cell phone and then back up.  He’s just sitting there.

It dawns on me that he’s not stopping to help.  He’s waiting to turn right.

What the hell!

I roll down my window and wave for him to go around.  I guess my truck sitting skewed in the lane, not running, wasn’t a strong enough clue.

Now I’m fuming about the piece of crap truck and my good-for-nothing fellow commuters.  Recriminating thoughts are running through my head:

If I was a young lady, they’d be lining up to help me. 

What about a senior citizen—I’ve got more gray hair than black damn it.

I was full of self-righteous fury. . . until I looked down at the gauge panel and remembered that I needed gas.  I was on my way to the gas station that morning because I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to go into town.  My truck has two tanks, and they were both low.

Surely I didn’t run out of gas.

I flipped the switch to change tanks and turned the key.  The truck fires up.

You know that feeling when you fall on your face, or smack yourself with a rake and look around to see if anyone saw you?  Multiply it by about a thousand, and you’ll know how I felt at that moment.

Sometimes we get caught up in the blame game: Why isn’t someone helping me?  Or we jump to conclusions: It’s the same problem as last time.  We don’t look at the situation clearly and go down the wrong path in our thinking.

All I can say is: Thank God for bad Samaritans!  I would have felt ten times stupider if someone had stopped to help and was standing there when I realized I ran out of gas.

God probably had a good laugh at me that day, and I can laugh about it too—now.  I guess we all need a little reminder that we need to look at ourselves first before pointing fingers.

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I Can’t Afford to Save any more Money

hand-putting-money-in-bank_373x_2x

I went grocery shopping with my wife the other day.  The store had several sales going on:  buy one get one free, buy two get three free, two for five dollars, etc.

As my wife placed each of these items in our cart, I’d ask “do we need that?”  And she looked at me like I was daft and said, “but it’s buy two get three free.” Needless to say, we had a cart full of groceries by the time we made it to the checkout lane.

Yes, I recognize that I am the cart boy.  My job is to push the cart and keep my opinions to myself (Obviously, I need a bit of retraining).  Still, I can’t help wondering how much money do we have to save before we’re not really saving money?  Buy two get three free is an awesome deal, but what if you only need one?  Hopefully, we’ll never need five boxes of Pepto-Bismol.   It would be okay if it were extra bonus packs of Reese’s Cups—Just saying.

I can’t really complain (Even though I am).  My wife doesn’t go shopping all that often and is a frugal shopper.  She actually trained me on how to not spend money(Hmmm, there’s a lesson in there somewhere).  She likes to come home from one of her discount stores and show me the receipt that states how much money she saved.

Whoever came up with that scheme is a genius.  You Saved 23 dollars!  Of course, you had to spend two hundred to do it, but that’s beside the point.

I guess I’m just becoming one of those crotchety old men who complain about money.

Don’t touch the thermostat! 

Turn off that light switch—it ain’t free you know.

What’s wrong with those shoes that a little duct tape won’t fix? 

It tears my stomach up, I tell you (Maybe I will need all that Pepto after all).

I’m not sure how this happened.  I used to blow money like it was going out of style, and now I wear my slippers until I can feel the floor through the soles (and will go through a couple of rounds of duct tape before admitting defeat).

I guess we all have a little Scrooge in us, and it gets worse with age.  I think I need a vacation from it all.   Wonder if I can get a cheap flight to Vegas?  I hear you can drink for free while playing the penny slots.

 

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Rules of the Road

Traffic Light

I’ve driven all across the country, and I have taken the driver’s test in several states over the years (California was, by far, the hardest test).  I had to renew my driver’s license this past year, which was basically an online renewal form.  It got me wondering how I’d fare with the driver’s test today?  Have the rules changed in recent years?  Driving around Charlotte, it sure seems like it.

So in case you’ve never driven in the Queen City, here are the rules of driving in my neck of the woods:

  1. Proper Lane Etiquette
    1. The left lane is for normal driving and the right lane is for passing unless you are coming up on an exit and then you must drive 10 mph less than the speed limit.
    2. If it is a three-lane road, the left lane is the driving lane, the middle is for passing, and the right lane is for Sonic the Hedgehog style driving (you must be going twice the speed limit and you earn kudos if you do it with your cell phone attached to your chin).
  2. Stop Signs
    1. Stops signs are optional.
    2. At a four-way stop, whoever hits the gas first has the right of way.
  3. Traffic Circles
    1. Unlike stop signs, you must come to a complete stop at every traffic circle (It is okay to stop here and check your cell phone for text messages).
    2. When you decide to go, make sure to do it slowly so that everyone must wait for you to find your exit from the circle.
  4. Traffic Lights
    1. As is common in many areas: Green means go, Yellow means go faster, and Red means floor it.
    2. Stopping at a red light is not required for the first 15 seconds or 3 cars whichever occurs first.
    3. No Turn On Red signs are just for decoration.
  5. Left Turn Lanes (Designated left turn lanes have the most complicated rules of all)
    1. If you are the first driver waiting in the left turn lane, you must play with your cell phone while you wait.
    2. Once the light changes to a Green Arrow, you must meticulously time your approach to the intersection so that yours is the only vehicle that can make the green light.
    3. The normal red light rules don’t apply. Once the first car perfectly times the green light, 5 more cars are allowed to run the red arrow (there is no time limit).
    4. If the light changes to a Yellow Flashing Arrow instead of a Green Arrow, you have the right of way as long as you beat the oncoming traffic to the intersection. Actually, it is like a game of Red Rover.  As long as the chain of turning cars is not broken by oncoming traffic, they maintain the right of way.
  6. Finally, using your cell phone while driving is standard practice. If you are not playing with your cell phone while driving then you are a novice and should be sent back to driving school.

I guess it’s a good thing I could do an online renewal.  I’m not sure I would pass the test today.

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Everything has been Done Before

What is so bad about a cliché?

I see the comment sometimes in critiques — “This is a cliché.”  Some people say it so much that pointing out a cliché has become a cliché.  Is that like the pot calling the kettle black?

My first response is usually, “So what?”  I guess I don’t get why people get all in a tizzy about it, especially if it’s in dialogue.  People do still use clichés when they speak, don’t they?  Or is it just us older people who are stuck in our ways.

So what is a cliché?

A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought, a stereotype or electrotype.

It sounds bad, right?  Or is it?  I think originality can be overemphasized in some literary circles over telling a good story.  The best storytellers know and use every trick in the book.  Old or new expression, does it really matter as long as you tell a good story?  After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, right?

Maybe it’s because I live in the south.  We like our clichés down here, and they’re as numerous as fleas on a hound dog.  It’s part of the vernacular.  Telling a southerner to stop using clichés, is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks.   You might as well be talking to a fence post.

So my advice is don’t get your knickers in a twist over clichés.  Just go with the flow and enjoy the story.  The occasional cliché won’t hurt anything (unlike this post).

Oh well, it is what it is.

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Move Over Shakespeare

shakespeare

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rich patron to support your artistic endeavors?  No more can’t-afford-to-quit-my-day-job blues.  You could be like Shakespeare and have your writing supported by the Queen of England, or maybe Michaelangelo, who had the financial backing of the pope.  Imagine the heights to which your art will soar.

Or maybe, you’ll just waste even more time on the internet.

Patronage for the arts got its start Renaissance period.  It was a status thing for the artist—the richer the patron, the more esteemed the artist.  The patron also got status points for supporting the artist’s work because it was seen as a civic, or even religious duty.  Of course, it also let everyone else know just how rich and powerful the patron was.

So Shakespeare had Queen Elizabeth (among other patrons), who can a modern writer turn to for patronage?  There are endowments and fellowships out there, but it seems most of them are linked to academics.  I haven’t seen any Hollywood stars, rich athletes, or socialites offering to fund your next novel.  It seems today’s patrons are ordinary people.

Lately, I’ve seen quite of few anthologies and magazines being funded by Kickstarter or something similar.  People pay upfront for a future product.  Then there is Patreon, which seems to be the newest “thing” for writers to raise money.  It is based upon the patron concept, but instead of a single rich sponsor, you have many fans who donate to your work.  In return, you can give them early access to stories or special content.

I have mixed feelings about Patreon.  First, I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity that could help me with my writing, but this seems like just another thing to take time away from actually writing.  Second, and my biggest issue, is that it feels more like begging for money than having a patron.  Don’t get me wrong, I like money, but publishing isn’t that expensive in this Amazon era.  It seems like just another way to get money out of people instead of selling books (Not that I’m selling a lot of books or making any money, but I figure that’s my issue to deal with not anyone else’s).

I guess it’s my old-fashioned desire to not owe people money.  Patreon still feels like taking a loan to me.  As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend.

Of course, whenever I think of this line it comes out in the Skipper’s voice from Gilligan’s Island.

I would like to think that if the next Shakespeare is out there, he would be easy enough to spot and would be successful without the need of a Patreon page.  Or maybe not.

Anyone out there using Patreon?  Please let me know your thoughts.

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The Perfect Snack

We all have our dietary weaknesses.  That one food that tempts you more than any other.  Maybe it’s a cheeseburger, or pizza, or ice cream.

Reese's

I know it will come as a shock to anyone who’s read this blog, but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my dietary Achilles heel.  I mean, whoever came up with this perfect snack food should be canonized— Saint Harry of chocolate-peanut butter goodness, patron saint of snack time and hyperactive children.

Harry Burnett “HB” Reese invented the snack in 1928 in Hershey, PA.  He worked for The Hershey Company as a dairy farmer but was inspired to start his own candy company.  Inspired is the only way to describe this delicious treat.

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As a fantasy author, I’ve been asked what historical period I’d like to live in if I had my choice.  The answer is easy— anytime after 1928.  Can you imagine life without the peanut butter cup?

“Hey Georgie, finish your porridge and you can have a nice piece of fruitcake.”

No thanks, I think I’ll stay in the modern world and use fruitcake as a doorstop like any sensible person would.

If you have never eaten a Reese’s cup, don’t deny yourself any longer.  Head to the nearest store and grab a pack.  Don’t be fooled by all the choices either.  The standard double-pack is the only way to go.  These standard size cups have the perfect ratio of chocolate to peanut butter.  The minis have too much chocolate and the Big Cup has too much peanut butter.  And don’t worry about the white chocolate, dark chocolate, crunchy, or any other variant.  Why mess with perfection (Although the Reese’s Fast Break bar is pretty good too if for some unfathomable reason the store is out of cups).

I could go on until the Hershey dairy cows come home, but now my mouth is watering and I have to run out for a little bit of chocolate-peanut butter heaven.

“Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter!”

peanut-butter

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Filed under Culture, Food, musings

Food for Thought

 

Eating bugs

I ran across this article on the BBC news feed about eating insects.  People dine on insects in many countries.  It is not that uncommon as it would seem to some of us westerners who are grossed out if our food is one day past the date on the label (and don’t get me started about leftovers).

You see people eating insects on Survivor or Fear Factor and shudder, but is it really that big a deal?

According to the article:

  • Most insects are 100% edible
  • Many insects are high in calcium, zinc, iron, and protein
  • They produce less greenhouse gas than animals
  • Insects absorb the taste of your chosen seasoning and add a satisfyingly crunchy texture
  • Insects could be the sustainable food of the future

I don’t know about you, but I’m game to try most anything when it comes to food.  My criteria are simple:  If it smells bad or looks nasty, I won’t eat it (and if it tastes bad, I won’t eat it a second time).  In the case of insects, I don’t think the smell would be the issue but the looks.

For one, we westerners have a hard time eating something that is looking back at us.  Also, it is a freaking bug.  We’re supposed to smash them, not eat them.  Although, shrimp is just a bug from the ocean, right (maybe not technically, but close enough).  I love shrimp.  Maybe a nice juicy grasshopper smothered in cocktail sauce would be just as tasty.  I’ve eaten escargot after all, and what’s more unappetizing than a snail.

So I guess if I visited a country that had bugs on the menu, I’d give it a try.  If they started raising grasshoppers on the farm down the street, I’m game.  I don’t plan to become the great insect hunter in my yard though.

Maybe it’s time we lose some of our food phobias and give insects a try.

And for you writers out there.  I do tend to write about food in my stories.  Now I have a few more items to add to the menu.

Pass the Beetle, please.

 

 

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