The Age of Electrical Outlets in Russia

I learned basic electricity in high school.

Because of this stellar academic achievement, I felt well qualified to plug in a Russian appliance.

The appliance is a Russian Samovar, which is basically a glorified tea pot.

The old ones were lit by oil, but this one was electric.

I felt up to the task.

A little about electrical outlets and appliance cords. In the Motherland and most other European countries, electrical outlets are a little different. Most are 220 (give or take a few volts) and 50 cycles, which really is irrelevant to the point, but because I took basic electricity I felt obligated to let you know that I know what that means.

Sometimes, I’d have to use a heavy transformer that I brought with me from the states to power other stuff I lugged along, like computers and hair dryers.

I soon learned that the main purpose of Russian electrical cords is to thin out the foreign population.

So, I am in my future in-law’s apartment and I have a Russian cord in my hand.

It is the electrical cord to the aforementioned Samovar and I’m trying to plug it in so I can boil some water.

Which, is a necessity.

Did I mention that it was 220 volts?

But I am having some difficulty plugging it in – which was a good thing because…

In my other hand is the other end of the cord. The end that plugs into the device – the tea pot.

Oh, and here’s the thing – both ends of the cord have the metal prongs…

Protruding outward.

One end goes into the wall socket, 220 volts, and the other end, also exposed, is securely clutched in my right hand.

And, it ain’t going anywhere because I have a death grip on it.

Where else would it be, right? Normally one would feel safe holding the other end of the cord in your hand because the manufacturer isn’t trying to KILL you!

At least here, I assume, the manufacturer isn’t purposefully taking advantage of the stupidity of the user!

So the first surge of electricity, which is apparently designed to kill stupid Americans unfamiliar with the safety regulations (or lack thereof), shot through my hand and exited my right foot in the matter of milliseconds.

I don’t know how, but I yelled.

This brought the other people in the apartment into the living room to see what the commotion was about!

As they strolled in, I was able to pry the instrument of death from my clenched hand.

So, thank you Russian electrical engineers for designing a superior power cord for thinning out the herd and for the permanent scar on my hand in the shape of two metal prongs.

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My brother’s bike

It was a Kawasaki 900.

Probably a 1978 or 1979 model.

I don’t remember, but it was a beautiful bike.

Dark blue and way too much power for a teenager to handle. Heck, my 5 horsepower Briggs and Stratton mini-bike that my dad bought for me when I was 13 was way too much power for me to handle.

I was a teenager – maybe the 11th grade – and I don’t want to brag or anything, but I had a motorcycle license. In its wisdom, the State of Alabama wouldn’t allow me to drive four-wheeled vehicles at 14, but driving the far more dangerous two-wheel type was just fine.

David is my brother and he spent a lot of time working on the road at construction sites.

The Kawasaki was also his.

He was a welder. No, he was a tremendous welder. And sometimes during my high school years, he and his fiancée got married and moved to Houston, Texas so he could attend tech school and fine-tune his welding skills. Also, being the 1960s hippy that he was, his hair was longer than his wife’s blond locks.

Sometimes during that time, my dad, mom, sisters, and I made the long drive to Houston to see how they were doing. You never know what dangers lurk in Houston.

They were doing pretty well, just a young couple trying to make it in the world. I don’t remember if he was working anywhere, but he was definitely attending school.

One night, we drove to what must have been North Dakota just to watch a movie at a drive-in theater. They were showing a doubleheader and one of the movies was Ode to Billy Joe. I don’t remember the other movie. Did I mention it took a long time to get there?

David was so good at welding that he worked himself up in the construction industry (mainly paper mills) to manage remote welds on nuclear power plants. I don’t know all the specifics, but I remember talking with him about his job and some of the different things that he did.

One of the challenges of his job was that he had to limit his daily exposure to nuclear radiation. Is that something that you have to worry about in your job? Let me say that again, nuclear radiation was a daily concern for David. I quickly concluded that that was something that I probably didn’t want to pursue.

For some reason, he took a great interest in the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in Ukraine.

Who knows why.

But he loved welding and became an expert. Like a lot of welders, he liked working with stainless steel. We made a lot of stainless belt buckles at the Crossett, Arkansas plant, but don’t tell anyone.

Once, I texted him a picture of some nice stainless steel work of a staircase at Fort Campbell, Kentucky where I was stationed at the time. It was just a staircase of a new building, but the stainless-steel work was really nicely done. He later told me how he appreciated that I thought about him and his work.

But, back to the motorcycle. I had my own car at the time that I appropriated David’s Kawasaki. It was a 1973 Dodge Gold Duster, had an imitation snakeskin roof, and some type of clear plastic over the seats. The plastic thing took a little while to get used to. The Duster had a slant-six engine and, while I forget the horsepower, it was just a beautiful car, especially for a punk teenager.

I liked my car, but the motorcycle was way cooler. And one day, David made the tactical error of leaving his motorcycle unattended at mom’s house. So, what’s a little brother to do when the older brother is away?

What would Bueller do?

Exactly.

It was loud. Either it didn’t have mufflers, or they were really bad mufflers, or they were just designed to be as obnoxious as possible.

I suspect the latter.

I hate loud motorcycles, but the cool factor was just too much to pass up.

And, like I said before, this bike was way too much power for me to handle. In the 11th and 12th grade, I would leave school around 11 o’clock or so for trade school in Prichard, which was right beside Vigor High School. I studied air conditioning and heating, just like my dad. He had his own air conditioning company and I’m sure at the time I was planning on going into the trade myself.

On this lovely fall day, I took the Kawasaki. As 11 o’clock approached, I sashayed over to where the numerous other bicycles and motorcycles were parked, beside the cafeteria and the track. I climbed aboard the beautiful Japanese creation and started the engine.

Did I mention the mufflers were loud?

My friend Tim Tutton later told me that although he was clear across campus he smiled when he heard the unmistakable sound of the thunderous Kawasaki rocket cranking up.

It was a beautiful feeling, pulling out of campus onto Maple, then Old Highway 43, then the real 43 and heading south.

I was happy just to be able to use it for a few days and show off on a bike that I clearly had no business riding.

How cool was it to be a clueless teenager and ride such a cool bike when you’re 16 or 17 years old?

Occasionally I’d borrow other stuff too like say, blue jeans. If David was foolish enough to leave his blue jeans at my mother’s house, they were fair game. And bonus if there was currency in the pockets!

I have a few tools that he loaned me now and then through the years. I can’t return them to him because he was killed in a tornado last year in Saint James Parish, Louisiana.

At some point, he grew out of the motorcycle riding, like most sane people do. I did (but I am not making any claim on sanity). I was encouraged to stick to four-wheeled vehicles when I almost became roadkill on Interstate 65 over the Mobile River Delta when a lady in a van drifted into my lane. I am so glad I didn’t kick her van like I wanted to.

I’m not sure what triggered the Kawasaki memory. I long ago filed it away in a dusty file folder in my mind. Maybe that’s what happens when you lose someone close. The dusty memories want to seep out every now and then and remind you that they’re still there, longing for a simple ride in the open air.

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Could you please just use the microphone?

I am sitting in church today thinking about my dad. His birthday was earlier this month.

If he had stopped smoking, he would have been 89 years old, that is if nothing else had killed him.

You know those Facebook memes that detail the change in the color and condition of lungs if the owner stops smoking cigarettes? On one side, there’s a horrible looking blackened lung. The other picture shows a healthy-looking lung.

I have no idea why they had to pull a pink looking lung out of a guy just to show that it was healthy. Couldn’t a nice picture have done?

From 20 minutes to 10 plus years, and almost every time increment in between, leaving cigarettes yields a better you – and lung.

At 10 plus years without nicotine, it’s like you had never smoked at all. I’ll always believe that if dad could have stopped, he might be here.

But who’s counting, right?

The church folks have installed new pews and carpet. And, surprisingly, it smells like new pews and new carpet.

It’s nice. Before the new stuff, the back rows were strewn with fold-up chairs and worn-out carpet. (I’ll be honest: I didn’t even notice the new stuff until my bride told me – which makes my constant preaching to her about being situational aware look weak – and unaware).

I can hardly hear the speaker because the microphone is too far from his mouth.

It would be nice if he’d adjust that little problem. I’ve never understood folks who refuse to use perfectly good microphones, wrongly thinking that the conversation level of their voices would carry throughout the room.

I once sat in a large meeting room in San Antonio trying to hear an Army Colonel give a talk about career progression in the United States Army Reserve. I was interested, but couldn’t hear her.

Why?

The first (correct) thing she did was to put the microphone up to her mouth. That’s usually where the human voice emanates.

It was going well for about .02 seconds when she heard her voice broadcast over the speakers and frowned. The next (incorrect) thing she did was to say, “I don’t need this thing, do I? Y’all can hear me, can’t ya?” And she proceeded to put the microphone down.

Well, no Ma’am. No, we can’t hear you.

We can’t hear you now that you removed the one thing that would have allowed your voice to be properly amplified throughout the room and ensure that the audience understands your intended communication.

Unless you didn’t intend to be heard.

Which, I suppose, is a possibility.

But I keep my mouth shut.

Why don’t people use microphones? That’s why they’re there. Why are people scared of their own voices?

Here’s my philosophy: If you are in a profession that necessitates you giving speeches from time to time, learn to love your voice people. Go to a Roger Love seminar or Toastmasters or something. Doesn’t matter. Just get help.

Today!

I think there should be penalties for speakers who really don’t want to speak. Like, you are demoted to private and given the job of cleaning kitchen in Antarctica.

The Army, in its wisdom, made her a General a few years later.

I wonder if there’s a lesson there.

In the pew in front of me is a 12-year-old girl taking an enormous number of selfies. Beside her, is a little boy. Maybe he’s five years old. He’s playing with a toy truck. His mom suddenly looks at his left ear and becomes worried. She jerks his head around, the same way my barber used to rotate my nappy head in the barber chair when I was 6 or so.

I hated that.

The boy continues to play.

The mom says something to her mom, who is sitting next to her. The boy’s mom re-examines the ear and looks more concerned. By the look on both women’s faces, one would conclude that he has something dreadfully wrong with him.

But the reality is, I suspect, that he probably didn’t wash behind his left ear (or right one for that matter).

It’ll probably take a few more birthdays for him to correct this problem.

The sermon is over and another guy is making announcements. I can hear him. Someone is sick and in the hospital. A young couple wants to place membership. Some older member is celebrating a birthday.

It’s been 35 years or so since my dad stopped smoking for good. You know, given his other health problems, he likely would have succumbed to one of them. But, I would have been willing to give the no-more-cigarettes thing a try.

I glance to my left and it looks like the selfies are going to continue for the time being.

I suppose it’s better than smoking.

You go, girl. And kid, please. Wash behind your ears so your mother won’t freak out in public.

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The Russian Lesson

In the next room, I hear the unmistakable chatter of a foreign language.

Actually, I hear my bride, Inna, speaking Russian, which is not all that unusual as she was born and raised in the land of matryoshkas, permafrost, and never ending snow.

Inna is teaching Russian to one of my daughter’s friends, who wants to be a translator. Although she can speak a few sentences, they’re starting with the alphabet. Which of course, is a great place to begin.

My youngest is also sitting in. But she has an unfair advantage because she’s heard Russian since the day she was born from her mother and grandparents. Her grandparents have lived with us, off and on, since her birth nearly 20 years ago.

There’s been a lot colluding with Russians in my life since 1992.

The in-laws have spent most of their time in Russia, where my father-in-law works as a medical missionary.

Russian is a tough language. I can say probably five words – maybe.

My favorite Russian phrase is, “Good day (or good health) to you.”

Here’s how it looks in Russian: здравствуйте.

Pretty scary, right? Hardly a vowel in sight!

Let’s see how that looks in English letters, shall we?  Zdrastvooyte.

Don’t you need more vowels? Apparently, some languages eschew the lowly vowel.

I don’t wanna brag or anything, but it only took me 2 years of law school to learn how to spell the word eschew… and another 2 to know the meaning.

My daughters have had the blessing of growing up hearing Russian.

The in-laws speak a little English here and there.

“Paul.”  “House.”  “Why did you marry our daughter and bring her to this forsaken place?”

Easy stuff like that.

Ever since I heard a tongue other than English, probably when I was in elementary school, I wanted to be able to speak it. I hated it that others could communicate in ways that I could not.

I’ve tried to learn Spanish too many times to count, and all I’ve got is Pablo. See?

There was a time when I wanted to learn French. So, as a freshman at Jacksonville State University, I took a French class.

I mistakenly thought that because I was born in Louisiana, some Cajun French would be in my DNA.

It was not.

And my grade showed it. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The Russian lesson is winding down. I am instructed to go to my bookshelf and retrieve books on Russian.

I bring back a few. One is titled “My first Russian reader.” It’s probably more at the later elementary stage though.

Not that I can read it.

But, like Professor Hill reminds in The Music Man, you got to know the territory (if you want to sell band instruments).

You gotta know the alphabet if you wanna read Russian.

I hope the friend takes this lesson seriously. We need more folks like her willing to learn more languages. (They tell me she already speaks French and Spanish so I am sure she’ll get Russian). I know a guy in Colorado who teaches awesome guitar building courses and he also preaches the need for Americans learning a second (or third) language. He lived in Brazil for a while and can speak fluent Portuguese.

My problem with foreign languages is that I really want to learn them, but don’t have the willingness to put in the time.

So, I’m content to listen to others as they learn from an expert.

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An old house, new beginnings, and the importance of securing your horse

Baldwin Square, Satsuma, Alabama:  Before it was a beautiful park with sidewalks dotted with memorial plaques, under a canopy of oaks, moss, and home to a battalion of squirrels, there stood a small wooden house with a detached garage. Or as I liked to remember it – our horse barn.

Never mind that we didn’t have horses.

But we did have dogs who could pass for horses any day of the week in the mind of a four-year-old boy with lots of imagination.

There was no asphalt or cement for the short driveway, only fine granulated Alabama top soil baked in the afternoon sun.

It was also good for mud pies.

Behind the house sat a little one-room barber shop and beyond that, train tracks.

Or maybe the barber shop was past the tracks – it’s been a few years.

My dad hitched rides on southbound trains from the convenience of our backyard. As trains slowed to retrieve the mail, he’d hop on board and ride to Chickasaw, Prichard, or all the way into Mobile for work.

I spent most of my time with my sisters, dogs, and the front yard as it merged into 4th street.

The city post office stood right across from our house, probably a mere 20-30 yards away. I think that the house is still there today, although the Postal Service relocated the mail office all the way across Highway 43, near what used to be a neighborhood store.

I liked the old house better.

Once, as a three or four-year-old, I wandered away from the house and into the parking lot of the post office.

I say wandered, but it was only about 10 yards away.

I heard galloping.

I can’t imagine that there were many buggies left in circulation at the time, but some still non-conformists chose to travel by horse.

Here’s the story of the horse:

I’ll call him Mr. Ed. But because the young rider of the horse now has a grown son with that name, I’ll call him Speedy.

I watched as Speedy dismounted Mr. Ed, looped the rope over a chain-linked fence, and walked inside the post office.

Mr. Ed waited a few moments, tilted his head a few times, un-looped the rope, backed away from the chain-linked fence, and smiled at me, and said, “See ya…”

Or maybe he just winked.

Doesn’t matter.

One second later, he was galloping down 4th Street towards East Orange Ave.

Soon thereafter, Speedy exited the post office with his mail, but with no visible horse on which to return home.

Speedy glanced at me, somewhat accusatorily, I might add.

Did he think that I had untied Mr. Ed?

If he did, I suppose the point was moot as his horse was on the way to Gulf Shores.

He took off after Mr. Ed on foot towards the high school because, well, he had no other visible means of transportation.

The only way I know, or am reasonably sure, of the rider’s identity, is that a few years ago, I told this story to a friend.

And he told me that he was most likely Speedy, the rider who failed to properly secure his horse when he went to get the mail.

Years later, after we’d moved to the only slightly larger city of Saraland, Mr. Baldwin (for whom the park is named) demolished (or moved) that old house.

In 1982, the Baldwin family gave the land to the city of Satsuma and it now serves as a very nice public park.

In August of 1992, I brought a young Russian Princess to this place where I had a kind-of “beginning” in life. That is, my parents had moved from New Orleans to Satsuma when I was four. It’s a stretch, but work with me!

I kneeled on one knee and asked her to begin a new journey with me.

She said yes.

Our girls don’t care too much for this story, especially after the 100th retelling.

But for several reasons, I like it.

Mainly, because it reminds me of home.

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Focus on the Lilies

Sunday Morning: We’re at a little church that we’ve visited several times lately. It’s really just a big country church. They’re a friendly bunch and just good people.

Nothing fake here.

There is one problem, however. And I hate to bring it up.

But …

There are several pieces of artwork on either side of the front wall, on both sides of the pulpit. It’s some kind of metal ironwork with curves and circles.

Actually, it’s a common symbol found in churches. The symbol is a fleur de lis, which is a fancy word for a lily. You’ll recognize it as the symbol that the New Orleans Saints NFL football team uses.

Geaux Saints!

Sometimes churches use the fleur de lis to refer to the Virgin Mary, or to the Holy Spirit, or as a symbol of the Trinity.

But the lily, per se, isn’t the problem.

The difficulty here is worthy of a Sunday-afternoon-long congregational meeting to discuss. Naps would be missed, football games unseen, and meals uneaten.

So, here it is – the big problem:

When I try to focus my eyes, from our pews in the back of the auditorium, the lilies are all just a blur.

I’ve tried to focus, but my eyes get tired and I lose track of the sermon.

I mean, we love the people here and everything. They do lots of awesome stuff – sending medical help to mission fields in Central America.

I just wish they could get the lilies to focus.

I suppose if I believed, as did Augustine, that there were hidden meanings (allegories) behind every chair, tree, or lily, I might think there’s a message here.

I’d thought about asking around in the congregation to see if there was an optometrist who might be able to explain this unfortunate discrepancy with the obviously ill-conceived artwork, but never got around to it.

It’s really distracting!

The preacher is really good and actually elicits thoughts and questions. But just 8 feet on either side of him are out of focus lilies crying out for clarity.

Crazy!

Maybe it’s just my aging eyes.

I’ve been known to see things that weren’t there before and to completely misunderstand the meaning of things.

And sometimes life changing events can overwhelm me and make me unable to see clearly.

And it can be painful.

Sometimes these out of focus events come to me in an early Sunday morning phone call from a very upset brother yelling that our mom has just gone.

And I can’t see clearly.

Or late-night call from a distraught sister that that same brother is suddenly gone.

And I can’t see clearly.

Or a frantic call from a daughter that she was just in a wreck, but she’s okay, but that she’s gotta go because the ambulance is here.

And I can’t see clearly.

I need clarity.

So, today at church, we sit a little closer to the front.

Trust me, it was only because we were late. This would never happen on a normal day when there were perfectly reasonable empty seats in the back of the auditorium.

And there it is again.

Staring at me indignantly and out of focus.

The Artwork.

The fleur de lis.

The Lily.

But, because I’m closer, I see the Lily better.

It’s casting a thin shadow on the wall behind.

Which, from a distance, makes all of them out of focus.

No optometrist needed.

But, at this distance…

At this closer distance…

I can make out the shadows behind each curve.

And it all makes sense to me now.

And I see clearly the metal lily apart from the shadows it casts upon the wall.

It’s a good thing that I don’t really believe in hidden meanings and such.

But the view from here absolutely makes the Lily a little easier to see.

And sometimes the pain gets more bearable.

I’ve never really paid much attention to lilies.

But, today they clearly look beautiful.

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Matches from Mother Russia

Not long after we got married, my bride went to light a candle. And all she had was a lousy made in America book of matches.

To be fair, she had never seen a book of paper matches in her short life. Neither did she know how to operate books of matches, became somewhat discombobulated, and began yelling at me in Russian.

“AMERICAN! What are these things?”

Or something like that.

“Where are the matches?” she demands. “This is garbage. Is this some kind of joke?”

Or words to that effect.

Her face was soviet red.

I pause and measured my words carefully.

“Let me see what you doing sweetheart.”

I take the book of matches, tear one out of the book, calmly strike it, and light the aforementioned candle.

“See, honey. It’s simple. Prosta!

I make my voice imitate a cell phone commercial that I’d recently seen that plays on the Russian word for simple.

Prosto.

“You’re probably used to the wooden match…”

She storms off mumbling something about her grandmother being right about the poor Americans who lived under bridges.

I remind her that we are most certainly not living under a bridge.

Sure, the parsonage has horrible green carpet, but we have a roof and such.

She continues her stomping and such.

Two years later…

Eventually, her parents make their way to the land-without-wooden-matches.

As her mother unpacked her suitcase, she unloaded approximately 10,800 boxes of Russian made wooden matchsticks.

Which, is a lot of matches.

My bride had convinced her mother that the poor Americans – in addition to having no taste in carpet – couldn’t produce a simple matchstick. Russians apparently did not use the lowly and simple (prosto) paper matches.

I’m not bragging or anything, but I’ll just add right here that we did beat the Soviets to the moon.

Oh, and we CAN make a pretty good box of matches. Just see Maryland Matches or Diamond Brands!

But, I’ll never experience the joys of using American made matches again because I have about 10,700 boxes of Russian fire-starters left to go through.

Simple.

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It’s a long way to Miami

I am driving into the main front gate at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

On a rare occasion, when the lines are backed up to St Louis, they’ll open additional lines to allow the peasants into work.

They’re considerate like that.

But sometimes I take a back route into the east gate, just to avoid the joy and excitement of waiting in lines.

The downside is that the east route is basically a twisting pig trail designed by a sadistic civil engineer with a love of roller coasters with a little asphalt for fun.

Crazy dangerous.

So, going to work is a choice between risking my life on a Deliverance themed highway or waiting in line until lunchtime.

Hard choice.

So, yesterday afternoon I am driving back into Post when I see a car stopped in the exit lane.

Three guys are standing nearby.

Which is dangerous.

So, I am curious. Why in the Sam Hill are three guys stopped in the exit lane from Fort Leonard Wood?

They all have cameras in their hands taking a photo of something on the ground.

I look closer.

There is an armadillo on the road lying in the position that all armadillos naturally assume.

They were taking a picture of a dead armadillo.

Let me say that again: they’re taking a picture of a dead armadillo.

I don’t know why.

Maybe they’d never seen such an interesting creature before.

Maybe they’re from Manhattan.

I only wish I’d turned around and asked. But really, who wants to add to the excitement of taking a picture of a dead armadillo?

There could be riots.

Last week, on the way back home for the weekend through southern Missouri, I met up with a bobcat.

For some reason, he decided to charge my diminutive Prius while I was doing nothing more than listening to my iPhone play a little Allman Brothers.

Who knew that Bobcats hated Toyotas.

Or the Allman Brothers.

Maybe he thought the Prius was a natural enemy encroaching on his territory and he could eliminate the threat in one fell swoop.

His swoop failed and quickly became soul brothers with the armadillo.

Unfortunately, in the process of taking out the enemy Prius, he caused a considerable amount of damage to the vehicle.

Which isn’t particularly hard to do with disposable cars.

Which leads me to my third point about roadkill.

When we were getting married, I drove to Miami to pick up my bride, who was flying in from Moscow.

When her dad bought the tickets for her, I am guessing that he had no geographical awareness of the United States.

And he surely didn’t realize that they put Miami at the bottom of Florida.

Or, maybe he did…

Anyway, I should have told her to fly into Atlanta.

On the way back to Mobile, we drove through the lovely retirement state. She couldn’t help but notice the incredible number of dead creatures littering the roadside.

Florida, you really need to get some buzzards or something.

Anyway, after a few weeks of diving back to Mobile, she spoke up abruptly after hours of spying the roadside:

“Pumpkin. That one was alive.”

Cute that she noticed that.

I assured her that it wouldn’t be for long.

As I pulled into my neighborhood today, I see the remnants of one of God’s creatures in a pancake position.

Never once considered taking a photo.

 

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Pool frogs and the joys of dislocated discs

Searcy Athletic Club: I am sitting on the couch in the lobby.

Normally, I’d be upstairs working out – in the very limited manner that I do.

My Bride is upstairs in the exercise (i.e., torture) class.

Disgustingly healthy people are passing by me with their fru fru water on the way to the weight room, racquet ball, or one of the classes (i.e., torture room).

They look at me smugly as they sashay by.

Maybe I remind them of a mangled car wreck.

It sure looks that way by their looks.

Meanwhile, one of my lower back disks is continuing to press upon the sciatic nerve going down my left leg like, well, like they do when they aren’t content to stay in place.

And it all happened this time because of a frog.

And I don’t even like them.

These little green guys love to swim in our pool. Problem is that when they are finished swimming, they can’t find their way out. And eventually, they are pushed over to the skimmer where they drown.

Along with the other thousands of insects.

Seems strange for a frog to drown.

Sometimes I find rats in the skimmer.

I don’t want to see the frogs die.

I don’t mind rats dying.

Sometimes I find the frogs before they drown.

It’s always a nice surprise to look into your skimmer and find frogs still croaking.

So, on this unfortunate occasion I checked the skimmer and there he was. A goodly sized bullfrog who still had a few breaths in him.

I’ll call him Mr. Green.

“Give me at outta here,” gasped Mr. Green.

I obliged and lifted the skimmer. Water poured out revealing a plethora of deceased insects. If only we had had the pool when my daughters were collecting bugs for their eighth-grade science class. But I digress.

I empty the contents of the skimmer onto the grass as I normally do and Mr. Green falls to the grass. He was bloated with pool water of course, but he was still alive.

He hadn’t croaked.

Well, he couldn’t really croak with all that water inside him.

Here’s the fun part; I squatted down and inspected Mr. Green.

He seemed okay.

Well, besides being 12 times his normal size because of the water.

Then I abruptly turned to my right, while still in the squatting position, and felt and heard the sound of crunching cellophane crumpling.

That was my spine.

About .02 seconds later the pain arrived.

I could not walk, or do much of anything else. Except for writhing in pain.

Because I had my cell phone with me I called my daughter who was merely a few feet away inside the house.

She rushed outside to see me in an unfortunate state of agony. Since then: lots of pain, physical therapy, and a few surgical consults.

So, until I get better, I’ll stick to the lobby couch while the bride works out in the torture chamber upstairs.

No word on the whereabouts of the waterlogged Mr. Green but I have a contract out on his family.

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Hershey the Wonder Dachshund

In a few seconds, she’ll be asleep.

She’s lying in my lap all snuggly and warm. Wait – there she goes – fast asleep.

Hershey, our newest addition, is a full-blooded mini Dachshund.

And by full-blooded, I mean temperamental, lazy, and loves to snuggle.

And is ALWAYS hungry.

Oh, and she’s pretty smart too.

She takes several naps every day and has no apparent plans to cut back.

I drove to Georgia to get her.

My oldest daughter scoured the Internet for months to find the perfect mini dachshund.

And apparently, the perfect Dachshund was 600 miles away in south-central Georgia.

On the way there, I drove through Plains, Georgia. I figured I would never get a chance to do that again so why not?

Who knew there weren’t perfectly acceptable Dachshunds in Arkansas?

On the way there, I drove through Plains, Georgia. I figured I would never get a chance to do that again so why not?

It’s certainly not on my usually traveled path.

Americus, Georgia was nearby. I’ve always liked that name for a town.

For as long as we have been married, we’ve had a dog – 24 glorious years. That’s a lot of dog years.

First, there was Snoopy. Snoopy was a girl. I explained that Snoopy was a boy, but my Russian bride was set on the name Snoopy. So it was Snoopy.

I acquired Snoopy I (yes, there were subsequent Snoopies in our family) from a guy in Theodore, way out in the hinterlands of Mobile County actually. But I had to go through Theodore to get there. She made the move to Arkansas with us but then she was stolen. We were sick about this for months.

Snoopy made the move to Arkansas with us, but then she was stolen – twice actually.

We were sick about this for months.

I (kind of) remember the first dog my dad brought home. He was a Chihuahua and he was in my dad’s front shirt pocket. At least that’s what I remember. Because we lived on a busy road, one that’s even busier these days, not many pets lived long at the Swann house.

I’ve witnessed my share of dogs getting run over on Celeste Road. And now my sister tells me that they’re turning it into a 5 lane mega road. I can imagine the number of dogs that it’ll claim in the future.

I’m hoping Hershey will never have to deal with that kind of danger. She does stay outside some, but we live in a quiet subdivision.

The real dangers are hawks and owls.

Plus most of the time she’s lying next to me or another of the Swanns fast asleep, probably dreaming about her next meal.

I’m glad you’re here Hershey.

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