Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summertime, and the living is....maddening

Every year about this time, I remember why I love autumn. And it dawns on me how long it'll be before I say, "Kind of a chill in the air this morning, love."

I don't like having to take extra showers each day. I don't enjoy the feel of sweaty legs under my denim jeans. I hate having to park my school bus under a tree to get it cool enough for the a/c to do any good.

I wonder how I made it as a kid. As a ten year-old, I spent every day except Sunday hiking down the railroad track near our house. Didn't wear a hat or bring water with me. The heat reflected off the stone ballast next to the rails, so in effect, you were nailed twice by the rays. Yet I don't remember any problems with the heat. (I just remember getting dangerously close to the after day after day.)

The sad thing is that summer is not exclusive to June, July, and August. Let's face will be November before we smell good again.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Tasty Blast from the Past

How many of you out there remember these?

These were 6 and a half ounce wake-up calls. I so wish Coke still made them. The Coke of today bears little resemblance to these babies. Today's weak representation is a watered-down, sorry imitation of the real thing. Taking a swig of this mighty midget set off taste bud alarms throughout the entirety of your mouth. Swallowing two gulps back-to-back was almost impossible. The power of this stuff was awesome.

I don't know whether extra caffeine was stashed in these little liquid grenades. I suspect that was one factor in its jolt. During the first years of my teaching career, once I had signed in at the office, I headed straight to the Coke machine. Seems like the cost was either 15 or 20 cents. But I did not miss a day. I had to have the rush before I began the day. Often on weekends when I skipped my habit, I'd get a pounding headache...a sure sign that I was addicted to the stuff.

Another interesting thing about the bottles. On the bottom of each bottle was the imprint of what city that bottle had been "born". I used to line up my empties on the chalk tray, sorted by the section of the U.S. from which they had come. Man, I miss these babies.

Anyone else (near my age, of course) want to share memories of the baby Coke?

Friday, May 23, 2008

No more FT's!

I took a group of elementary choral students to Sandy Lake Park today. I think it was my 60th field trip of the year. As I threaded the yellow-hound through LBJ/holiday/Friday traffic this afternoon, I couldn't wait to get 'em safely home and wrap up a safe year of doing trips.

Field trips are where the money is...I earn my hourly wage from the time I leave to travel to the school until I bring my bus back to the lot. Last year, one of the trips lasted 16+ hours. So I'm on the clock even as I read novels, take naps, and ponder life...while waiting on the kiddoes to wrap up whatever trip they're on.

Sadly, however, for most of my co-workers, this is their only job. The newbies start off at $13/hour, so there's no wonder that getting field trips is critical to their budgets. Of course, I have my teacher retirement to draw on. They don't. Our bus lot was rocked with a scandal about a decade ago when it was discovered that trips were being awarded based upon money "under the table". It got real ugly.

But for me and a few of my fellow retired educators, it's pretty much an ideal job. One of the guys is a PhD. So when a bus pulls up in Dallas to board some students, your driver could be uneducated or extremely educated. Of course, how ideal the job is depends greatly on your, uh, clientele. Please don't ever give me Skyline High School students. They send a lot of drivers to snoop out other professions.

BTW, I had to do my best McIver impression today. The rear a/c quit this afternoon, and with a heat index over 100, this was serious. I borrowed a penny, and not because I was broke. I used the penny to open up a panel that exposed all the bus' electrical wiring. I fiddled around with the wires connected with the a/c switch and got it working again. Of course, McIver would have gotten the bus to fly somehow.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Easing Toward Sunset

These are not easy times as my mom advances through her 80's. Physically, she's frail, weighing less than 90 lbs. Mentally, every day brings more confusion to her daily routine, as brain cells no longer work as they once did. Mom has trouble doing the normal stuff of life now. She knows it, too, and it's driving her nuts - adding stress to the situation.

I'm pretty much her caretaker now. Two of my siblings live hours away. My sister teaches school in the area and will give me some help this summer. It's weird. Mom used to never call me. But as soon as we sold her car early this year, she has called me daily, often several times a day. I help her with bill-paying and grocery shopping.

Mom is troubled by the fact that she needs such assistance. She's always been fiercely independent and a real can-do person. When I leave her after a visit these days, she apologizes until I finally have to cut her off. She probably never thought she's ever need to lean on others. (I know I feel that way...pretty foolish of me).

I can't say I enjoy the "inconvience" this has caused me. But when I consider the mountain of love, care, and attention she has given me the last 59 years, I realize I'll never be able to run enough errands to tilt the balances my direction. What a blessing that she and Dad had four kids, with two of them close enough to be of help to her! I shudder to think where she'd be without us right now.

So I thank God that I'm able to "return the favor" as it were. Couldn't happen to a finer lady.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Seems like I'm always on I-30...and one thing that bothers me greatly is the amount of visual pollution on either side of the highway. Are billboards really necessary? They are so embedded in our collective conciousness that we scarcely notice them; it's like we've always wanted them there, like we prefer clutter to neatness. We really do live in an attractive area - wouldn't it be nice if we could see it?

It doesn't have to be this way. Forty years ago, Vermont banned billboards. Also large signs of any kind. Want to put in a Holiday Inn? All that will be allowed you in the way of signage is a narrow, horizontal sign about four feet off the ground. The result is stunning. Folks travelling through the state are presented with incredible vistas, totally free of peeling, obtrusive billboards. The trees and rivers of Vermont can be seen in all God's intended glory.

So I think we need to make this mandatory in the other 49 states. Admittedly, this may not be such a swell idea in Oklahoma...where billboards may actually protect the eyes from uninspiring topography. But if we can imagine world peace or even whirled peas, we can imagine applying Visine to our countryside.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I put in a new garden today...

But mainly I just want you to click on the amazing picture just above. Nice. Real nice.

Oh, yeah. The garden looks great and I'm real sore. I'll wait until June to show you a shot of it. Needs time to flourish, ya' know.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Digs

Ever been around folk who won't shut up about something in which you have no interest? Pretty tough to take, eh? Well, I'm guilty of this heinous crime. I will harrass people with my history of driving tired, old school buses until they're yellow in the face. The only person who understands me is my brother-in-law, Joe. Joe spent one year of his retirement driving for Rockwall ISD and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to drive his route over the Christmas holidays, simply because he loved the feeling of driving the bus.

Well, after 25 years of driving worn-out, old, raggedy, embarrassing yellowhounds, I will be cruising the highways and streets with a 2008 IC 300. With the exception of the black hood, it looks like the above bus. It has way too many amenities for me to mention here - besides, you've already quit reading by this point.

For the first time in my life, I'm wishing for summer to fly by.

I'm a sick man.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cleaning out the sludge

Blame it on my dad. We Perkins men have high cholesterol. We're locked into it by our fiendish DNA. Back when I ran 60 miles a week training for a marathon, I still registered in the mid-200's on the cholesterol scale. A couple of years ago, I was just over 300, all the while watching my diet reasonably well.

My internist put me on Lipitor. The next checkup I was down to 168 or so. But then the checkup after that had me inching toward 200. So a 2nd drug, Zetia, was added to the protocol. After six months, I returned to the doc this week to find out how things were going. It was with a little nervousness, too. I knew in my heart of hearts (what does that mean?) that my sweet tooth (silly phrase, eh?) had gotten the best of me lately. Too many candy bars and desserts had forced their way into my diet. I had been powerless to stop their assault.

I had been fumbling for excuses in my mental prep for the visit with Dr. Dimmitt. "Gee, doc. Think of all the holidays we've had since I saw you in October: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Arbor Day." Or, "At my age, shouldn't I be making concessions to cravings?" So imagine my amazement when he announced that my cholesterol level was a cool 140! I know Dimmitt must have been inwardly impressed with my discipline even though he suppressed his admiration. Even the HDL and LDL numbers were spectacular.

Pass the pie, please.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I Peel for You

First of all, be sure to click on the above image. Amazing!

Stupidity has its consequences. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to differentiate between what's dumb and what's not. I'm currently paying the price for not slathering sunblock on my face at Saturday's airshow. My beautiful mug is peeling like a leper.

When I vigorously rub the sides of my face, I temporarily create white-out conditions around me. I have to stand and clear my lap like a one year-old eating crackers. Now I know what Oklahoma was like in the Dust Bowl days. I was sitting in my bus this afternoon, minding my own business, when a large cornflake-lookin' piece of dead tissue drifted past my face. It was intensely embarrassing.

All of this could have been avoided had I heeded the advice I preached to my kids everytime they went outside. I did wear a cap, but it did little good other than to protect my bald spot. Being 59 years old, I'm not too fond of looking in the mirror anymore anyway, but now it is doubly painful.

Isn't it ingenious how your body lets you know when you've mistreated it?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Road Trip Report

Steve and I had a great time, but the trip tripped out when Steve tripped. We had just been allowed into the area where you can check out the aircraft that will later be flying in the airshow. And stupid me, I set my camera bag down in the general vicinity of where we were standing, and proceeded to take a shot of one of the planes. Steve stepped back to get out of my way and fell backwards over my bag onto the concrete tarmac.

He fell hard and I knew it had to hurt badly. Several nearby airmen rushed up to help him to his feet and true to Steve's incredible nature, he immediately inquired about whether my equipment was damaged. Well, my stuff was okay, but he had banged his hip on the unforgiving surface. Like a true warrior, he shrugged off help and limped around with me for the next hour as we continued to tour the aircraft.

He hung in there the rest of the day; in fact, his pedometer indicated that he had managed to walk over 3 miles before we climbed back in the car to leave. The next 3 hours were spent in wonderful conversation and time flew by as quickly as the wildflowers along the roadside.

Steve felt pretty bad Sunday and I continued to worry that there might be a fracture somewhere, but I'm happy to report (and he is too) that he felt much better today, and put in a full day of errand running.

Crazy guy, he still wants to go to another airshow first chance we get.