Friday, January 29, 2010

In case of emergency, find the nearest drive-thru

Today’s blog is for all the men out there who have a special lady in their lives.  I am posting this in the hopes to help some of my fellow sons of Adam in their never-ending quest to understand the daughters of Eve.

For thousands of years, men have been trying to understand women, for men are relatively simple creatures, while women are sometimes perplexing.  “Oh, to have a manual we could read”, men have lamented.  “We can program a VCR or rebuild an engine, so with the proper manual, we might actually be able to figure out what she wants us to do.”  Women don’t need a manual for us, but if they did, they could simply pick up a good book on training a dog, as Sandra Dee’s mother did in the 1962 film, If a Man Answers.

In any case, I do not portend to be an expert on relationships, nor do I claim to understand my own wife half the time, much less do I claim to understand women in general.  I do, however, have one bit of information that can come in handy: Sometimes you have to make sure they eat.

I grew up with three sisters, have been married for almost 11 years, and now have a daughter of my own.  I have noticed with each one of the women in my life that sometimes they forget to eat, and the consequences can be devastating unless you see the signs early, and take appropriate action.  My beautiful, articulate, intelligent, and elegant wife can be transformed in the blink of an eye into a force to be reckoned with. 

For some reason, if she goes a bit too long between meals this happens.  Remember Gremlins (the movie, not the automobile) and how if you fed them after midnight they turned evil?  Similar concept, but it is the lack of eating that does it.  I have seen my lovely sisters do the same thing.  Imagine if Nancy Pelosi somehow took a wrong turn and ended up on O’Reilly’s show instead of CNBC.  You get the picture.

When this happens, you have to give them food, and fast.  Often this happens in the car, and so my recommendation is that you find a drive thru as quickly as possible.  Fortunately, my GPS can find the all the nearby fast-food options in under 20 seconds.  Remember: Every second counts.  The longer you wait, the worse it will get.  Here are some tips on handling this situation:

1. Make sure you select a fast-food restaurant that she likes.  You should know which ones are acceptable by now, even if you have only been dating for two weeks.  Don’t make the mistake of going to the one you like best, even if it is the most convenient and she “kind of likes it, too.”

2. Don’t expect a rational answer when you ask her which restaurant she would like you to take her to.  If she is unclear, see guideline #1.

3. No matter what, do not attempt humor when you are at the speaker or at the window.  Now is not the time to make puns, use an alternative accent, or otherwise mess with the person taking your order.  Do not pronounce “Fajitas” as “Fa Gi Tas”

4. Do not be surprised when she takes a long time to pick out what she wants.  Even though you know that she has been to her fast-food joint of choice at least a thousand times before, she will likely take a long time looking at the menu.  This is tough, because, as I mentioned before, time is of the essence.

5. Do not, under any circumstances make a smart-aleck comment when, after staring at the menu board for what seems like an eternity, she ends up ordering what she always orders.  Keep the sarcasm to yourself.

6. Once she orders, it is ok for you to order.  Once they hand you the bag of food, and you hand it to her, make sure that she eats hers first, even if you are driving.  Don’t ask her to help you get yours out and unwrapped until she has eaten.  This is like the warning that they give you on an airplane about the oxygen masks: “If you are traveling with someone who needs assistance with their mask, put your mask on first, and then help your companion.”  She needs the food before you do.

7. Check your order before you leave the window.  If they have messed up her chicken sandwich, it’s game-over for you.

Hopefully if you follow these simple instructions, disaster can be avoided.  Now if only someone could explain what I am supposed to do when she seems mad, I ask her what is wrong and she says sternly, “Nothing.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State bird of Mississippi is…

My wife and I were watching the movie The Blindside and during a scene where the ex-coach of Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron, is trying to woo Michael Oher so that he will come to play at Ole Miss.  As he is sitting in the living room of Oher’s adopted family, Orgeron says. “Do you like barbeque?  We have the best barbeque in the country in Mississippi.  Why, you can get barbeque at a gas station in Mississippi.”  My wife laughed out loud and looked at me.  What she was referring to is Rose’s, my favorite place to eat in Hattiesburg, which happens to be a gas station as well as a BBQ stand.


What makes Rose’s my favorite place to eat is their ribs.  They have the best smoked pork ribs I have ever eaten in my life, which is saying something!  I am a rib connoisseur, and have worked on my own recipe for smoked pork ribs for years.  I know that I will get some hate mail over this, but I am convinced that they are better than Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse, better than Corky’s in Memphis, better than the ribs I had at the Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati, better than at the Smokehouse in Kansas City, or any number of other places I could mention.  Their beef ribs, which they serve off the bone, are second to none.  You can also get smoked sausage, an entire smoked turkey leg or an entire smoked chicken.

If you are looking for something a little more healthy than smoked pork or beef, you should try their “chicken on a stick.”

Chicken on a stick

“Chicken on a stick” is basically a shish kabob with Chicken, a potato, pickle and onion which is then battered and deep fried.  Yummy!  Don’t worry, they bring an AED to your table along with your order.  That brings me to something I heard during my first week living in Mississippi.  One of the guys who works with me asked me “do you know what the State bird of Mississippi?”  I replied that I didn’t.  “Fried Chicken.”  He went on to tell me the State Motto: “You gonna eat that?”

It is no wonder that I have gained 30 lbs since I moved to Mississippi.  Almost two years ago, I decided to go on a diet.  After finishing my MBA (which I did while I was working 60 hours a week), I realized that I had gotten to 250 lbs, the most I had ever weighed in my life.  (When I was in college, I weighed only 155 lbs!)  Also, as I was starting a job search, I realized that I needed to lose weight for my self esteem, and so that I could fit in my suits again.  I joined Weight Watchers, and in about 5 or 6 months I had lost 30 lbs.  One day shortly before I left my last company my HR manager saw me.  He had been traveling quite a bit, and hadn’t seen me for a few weeks, and I was wearing black (which according to my wife black is “slimming”.)  My HR manager looked and me and said, “you are looking Svelte, Mr. Smith (he often called me Mr. Smith for some reason).  Are you trying to get in interviewing condition?”  Little did he know…

As I have been once again trying to lose weight (I am not looking for a job this time), I have been increasingly vexed at how good the food is here in Mississippi.  It is not just the BBQ, but there are a surprising number of good places to eat in Hattiesburg.  My real downfall is, however, breakfast.  There are four places (three are gas stations) along the way on my 20 minute ride to work that I can stop at to get a home-made bacon-egg-and-cheese-biscuit. 

Did I mention that I love dessert?  I am quite partial to the fried pecan pie at a little restaurant down the road from work where we like to lunch.  Even Sweet Peppers, a sandwich eatery with mostly healthy sandwiches on their menu, has some of the most amazing layered cheesecakes I have had.

It is no wonder that Mississippi tops the 50 states in terms of obesity.  With all this good food it is next to impossible to stay thin.

My favorite cook at Rose's

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Alternatives to pesticides

On my way to work on Friday, I stopped in at a gas station / diner that is down the road from my work for a quick 560 calorie bacon egg and cheese biscuit, and as I entered, I saw this:

Bag of water

It is a Ziploc bag of water with a penny inside, and it is nailed to wall by the front door of the restaurant.  My mind immediately began inventing possible explanations:  Did a customer leave this behind and the proprietor, being a good Samaritan, hang the bag so that it could be returned to the rightful owner?  Was some kid doing a science project about pennies and their resistance to corrosion?  Was this some sort of miniature wishing well that patrons could somehow drop pennies in?  Was this a urine sample left by one of the workers (who had drank enough liquids to make their urine clear) for their parole officer to pick up?

I could not work it out in my mind, so as I sat at the stainless-steel counter waiting for the cook to make my biscuit, I asked the girl behind the counter what the bag of water was for.  Flies, she replied.

I obviously had a puzzled look on my face because she went on to say that the bag keeps the flies away.  What is in the bag, I asked, wondering if there was some chemical that could somehow permeate the plastic bag and repel insects.  Her reply confirmed what I suspected.  Nothing but water and a penny, she said.  It works.  You don’t see any flies around here, do you?

How exactly does it keep the flies away, I queried.  Her reply was even more bewildering: They see themselves in the reflection of the penny, which makes them look larger than they really are and they are scared away.  I asked her if she was pulling my leg.  She answered me by calling one of her co-workers over to corroborate.  Sally, a middle-aged woman came from the back and told me that the bag was to repel flies, but that it was the glare from the sun that repelled them, not their own reflection.  Sally also asked me if I saw any flies around, and I admitted that I did not.  I had the sense to not point out that it was mid-January, which isn’t exactly fly season, even in southern Mississippi.

Another patron also had some wisdom to add: Them mosquitoes must be blind then, cause they come in here all the time in the summer.

Don’t be surprised if you see a Ziploc bag nailed to my patio door.  After all, if it works in January at that restaurant think how great it will be in June when I am grilling burgers on the deck!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The word for the day is "peckerwood"

This blog will be dedicated to all things American, especially the absurd, strange and the inane. I am in no way an expert on our culture (yes, I am a proud American), but as I am coming up on 40 years living (mostly) in this country, I continue to be amazed at many of the subtle (and many not so subtle) nuances of our culture, and so I thought I would start a blog to record some of my thoughts as I come upon particularly strange examples of what makes us American.

Webster defines culture as "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, social group; also, the characteristic features of every day existence shared by people in a place or time." Today’s focus will be on a particular social form, language with one word in particular: "Peckerwood." Today someone called me a "peckerwood" for the first time in my life.

The term "peckerwood" is a racial slur aimed at poor whites in the South, and, according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong!) originated in the 19th century with southern blacks who saw the blackbird as a symbol of themselves, and the loud, annoying woodpeckers as symbols of poor whites. I guess I can be loud an annoying, but I never thought of myself as a peckerwood.

I certainly wasn't offended by the slur. I was more concerned with the guys fist. He had it balled up and he was leaning out of the passenger window to get close enough to punch me in the face.

Here is what happened: My nine year old son and I were out picking up a part to fix the back passenger window of the van that my wife had put her hand through (another story for another blog.) We decided to stop at a convenience store for a couple of items, and I pulled in the first open spot in the parking lot and to my right was a very large and luxurious SUV.

I liked the song that was playing (Behind Blue Eyes, by The Who) and as we sat listening to it, two men came out of the store and started to get in the SUV. The one on the passenger side said a few things to me, but with the window was closed, and Roger Daltry was singing the part about "When my fist clenches, crack it open" (yes, I know, very apropos, but really, that was what was playing) so I couldn't hear him so I opened my window.

The guy told me very colorfully what he thought about me for parking so close to the SUV. That's when he used the term that is the focus of my blog. I looked down, and noticed that, yes the spaces were small, and that although I was a little over a foot from the line separating his parking space from mine, the SUV was almost on the line, which made it difficult for him to get in.

Here is where I made a mistake. Instead of simply apologizing, I told him that he was an idiot. I didn't use that word, exactly, but you get the picture. I pointed out that his car was almost over the line, and that if he had parked in his space he wouldn't have that problem. He said that he was no idiot, along with a number of profane words. I said, that yes, I was pretty sure that he was an idiot. He said, "yo mama's an idiot." (In this blog, I substitute the word idiot for another harsher word that I used. The two are virtually synonymous.)

For a moment I thought I was back in middle school. Before reason could stop me, I replied that his mama was an idiot. I feel bad about that, actually. I mean, I have never even met his mother Although my would-be assailant had insulted my mother, I was fairly certain that he had never met her, and so I didn't particularly take offense. He sure did, however take offense that I would repeat what he had just said and direct it towards his mother. That was the point where he leaned out of his car to get within reach of my face.

The driver (and I assume owner) of the SUV was clearly more mature than the two of us, because he put the car in reverse and left before his enraged passenger could strike me through my open window. Luckily for me.

I guess that's why I looked up the word "peckerwood" this evening on Wikipedia.