Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tony C loves chicken, ice cream, gay folks and Jesus...so where does that leave me?

Okay. The Summer of Tony C is taking a commercial break. I've been enjoying a bit of a respite from my blog to regroup, regenerate and refresh for a new season this Fall. Yes...I've missed you most dearly, but it's not quite time for the premier of the new TCT. Not just yet.

But alas, my dear friends know me well. Well enough to know that sitting on the sidelines during the whole Chik-Fil-A fiasco is just not going to happen. No way. Just ain't gonna happen.

(Note to self: Clean up grammar before Fall. Appalachian English is showing.)

Good Lord people...there's nothing in the Bible that even says Jesus ate chicken! Wait. That's not the issue is it? No the issue is once again the Political Correctness Police playing Rodney King (RIP) with our First Amendment rights.

So, the owner of Chik-Fil-A doesn't support gay marriage. That's his opinion, he owns it (the restaurant and his opinion) and gay people need to get their panti...their shorts out of a wad and deal! He didn't say gay people couldn't eat or even work there.

Hey. I sure as heck didn't stop eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream because they support gay marriage. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure Cherry Garcia is served in heaven. At least I'm hoping. Ben and Jerry have the right to believe what they want to believe, and that's a gift from God. Not just my favorite constitutional add-on.

Christians need to calm down too. Where's the love we're commanded to display in our actions and harness in our hearts when we're starting food fights with chicken sandwiches and waffle fries?

Man...those waffle fries are good...

Gays are boycotting and Christians are lining up in the drive thru, and  I'm okay with that. Just please soften the rhetoric a bit. Gay folks believe they have a right. That's cool with me. Doesn't mean you do though, but you can sure have that opinion. Christians believe homosexuality is immoral. While I personally agree with that position, I caution my brothers and sisters who are quick to throw out
 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 as the banner statement of our faith.

Not because the Word isn't truth and irrefutable, but because that passage has a number of sins that prevent a person from inheriting the Kingdom of God. Not just homosexuality.

Let's see...sexually immorality would include adulterers and porn gazers, then there's idolaters (ever miss church to watch your favorite TV show?), thieves, greedy people (sorry Wall Street), drunkards, and...wait for it...slanderers! Ouch. Why do we (read Christians) seems to focus just on the sins we don't struggle with daily?

Not to mention...do you really see Jesus in this picture?


Ouch again. I'm really sorry many gay people will see their only Savior in this light, and that's our fault Christians.

So, is Tony C going to Chik-Fil-A today to show my support for those who oppose gay marriage? Absolutely not. I'm going because I support the God-given right of everyone to have an opinion of their own whether I agree with it or not. God will decide who's lived His way in the end. I just need to focus on Tony C, my own struggles to stay in His will, and being a beacon of His love.

Beacon. That word looks like bacon. Okay! Okay! And I really love that Spicy Chicken Club too...

See you again in September! Tony C loves you!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

They'd be talking about this party for decades to come...

Okay. I've been out of pocket a day or two. I know. But I'm not quitting on you!

Sometimes writing for you comes easy. Sometimes...well...not so much. Funny how the brain works that way. I'm coming off hiatus today because tomorrow is one of those milestone days, and I feel compelled to share a few thoughts. That's right. Tomorrow is...

My birthday!!!



(cue falling balloons and circus music)

Honestly, I'm not one of those narcissistic types that thinks even DisneyWorld should be in celebration for the big day tomorrow, but Mrs. Tony C makes a big deal about birthdays around our home, so I'm not going to be accused of being a wet blanket...ahem...again.

I do, however, have a ton of things to be thankful about including the fact I've made another successful trip around the Sun. When you get to a certain age, birthdays take on more of a reflective quality than a celebratory one. Sure. I love cake and ice cream. I'm a little giddy some people will be losing money again tomorrow since I've reached another birthday alive and mostly intact (pay up suckers!). I enjoy Facebook threads that are focused on just little old me. Who doesn't?

So, I could list the things that I'm most appreciative for at this point in my existence...but...zzzzzzzzz! I'll save that for some sappy sentimental post around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Seems more fitting.

Today, I'm going to share my ideas for my ultimate birthday party if common sense, funding and generally accepted social practices weren't an issue/obstacle. Don't worry. It's still G rated...mostly.

Theme-
That's an easy one...luau style! Who doesn't have fun at a luau? Complete with Aloha shirts for the guys and coconut top/grass skirt attire for the ladies and leis for everyone . Spray-on tanning would be available at the door for the self conscience or snow-blindingly white complected (like my yankee friend David Jonhdrow..I'm sure). We'd need at least a couple of acres of flat, grassed area surrounding a huge pool and hundreds of tiki torches.  Of course, there would be a beach area with brought in soft, white sand and a wave pool complete with water slides.

Food would compliment the theme with a few imu pigs in the ground and every drink having a little umbrella. Those little umbrellas just screeeaaams party! We'd also have ribs and wings galore..and a whole pineapple at every table for people to just slice off what they want when they want.


No birthday cake. Sorry. Way too cliche. Instead, we'd do it Rain Forest Cafe style and when someone was ready for dessert, a molten lava cake would be freshly prepared and served while everyone yelled 'Volcano!' every time one appeared...and without the $13.99 price tag you get at the Rain Forest Cafe (Ouch. I was screaming something completely different when we went).

Entertainment-

Another factor not requiring much thought for me. Aside from the go-cart race track and helicopter rides available to everyone, I'd have a mock up of the Wipeout obstacle course from the TV show for the really brave-hearted. I'd sit and watch my friends try taking on the daunting course and just laugh and laugh as they slipped and slid into mud and water...that would never get old...at least for me!



Music? Hootie and the Blowfish of course! Maybe not completely in line with the theme, but hey...it's Hootie and the Blowfish! Wouldn't it be fun listening to everyone try to get into key with Darius Rucker's raspy, bluesy vocals on the Happy Birthday song? I wouldn't let him do any of that country crap he sings now. Just saying...

Not that she's all that entertaining, but Courtney Cox...whatever her last name is now...would be there to help me do commentary as friends went through the Wipeout course (my friends, not hers). Why Courtney Cox? Because we were born on the exact same day and will forever share that common bond. Well, at least in my mind.

I'd try to work Rick Flair into the mix somehow. I mean, come on! What's a party without Space Mountain? Wooooo! He could be at the memorabilia picture station and have his picture made with the guest as they arrived. All free...of course. Now wouldn't that look cool hanging on the frig?! Wooooo!

The characters from The Banana Splits and H.R. Pufnstuf of 70's TV fame would be walking around in costume throughout the party too. Sure the kids might get a little freaked out by the over-sized, alien characters...but hey...this is my birthday people!

Guest-


The most important factor of the whole gig. An invitation and means of travel would be extended to anyone and everyone I've ever been friends with through the years. All family, naturally, and extended family. Facebook friends. Work customers. The Laker Girls. Steve Mann and the morning crew from the WXSM Sports Monster. Chevy Chase. My blogging friends.  Karl Pilkington and Ernie 'Turtleman' Brown. All the residents and employees of the Church Hill Health Care and Rehabilitation Center. Phil Jackson. Current Vanderbilt NROTC staff and faculty. Vince Scully. My high school English teacher, Shirley Whitt. Shemar Moore (for Mrs. Tony C to watch).

Too bad Andy Rooney died. He'd be on the list for sure if he hadn't. I can just picture him at the end of the huge conga line that's sure to form at some point in the festivities.


Not a bad plan overall. At least a good start anyway. Maybe I'll keep working on the plan and start buying lottery tickets...the big 5-0 is just right around corner...





Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I'm going off the rails on a crazy train...

Most days, I love my commute to and from work. It's sort of a respite from the rest of the overly interactive world, so drive time becomes me time.

While most days I sail along listening to the local contemporary Christian music station or the local sports talk station, occasionally...just ever so often... I revert to my old ways and push that preset that takes me back to a time when music was...well... music. Back to when bands consisted of at least two guitar players, a bass player and A DRUMMER. A real drummer too. Not some digitally produced facsimile of one. Ah yes. I'm talking about...

Classic Rock!

Wholesome? Absolutely not. Virtuous? Please. Spiritual? Well now...that one is certainly debatable.  I'm on probation with the wife on songs I can teach the two youngest girls due to more than a few stories afoot about the teenager in her younger days belting out AC/DC lyrics at the most inopportune moments. Apparently dirty deeds done dirt cheap and honky tonk women are completely inappropriate verbiage for a first grader...who knew?

As I drove and listened this morning to the sweet sounds vibrating from the cones of paper making up my no-name brand speakers, something came over me that I never recall happening before today. For whatever reason, I found myself not focused at all on the driving beats and rhythmic patterns but rather on the lyrics.

What?

I'm as surprised as you friends! All these years and I've never realized just how ridiculously stupid some classic rock song lyrics can actually be....(gulp)...apparently, another tell-tale sign I'm...(no! don't say it!)...getting old.


Let's examine the line up from my morning commute:

Bang a Gong (Get It On)- Sweet...the classic retitled T-Rex anthem from 1971 that truly epitomized the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll culture of the era. Timeless guitar rifts with a bass line that sticks to memory. Even this old drummer was never fooled into thinking the title was a percussion reference. Nope. Just to accentuate that point...the mid-song sound effect of lighter flicking and gurgling noises. So...that should actually be gang a bong?

Get it on, bang a gong, get it on. Deep stuff? Don't think so...but fun to sing even if there's not an actual gong in the song to bang or you're ignorant of the drug culture...like me.

Stuck in the Middle-  Nice! Gerry Rafferty with Stealers Wheel (who?) pre-solo and of Baker Street fame. That's K-Tel classic folks! My, oh my... makes me remember my very first boy/girl party where matching party hats and napkins weren't involved but a spinning bottle...oops! Sorry. Better not relive that moment...at least here.

Clowns to left of me, jokers to the right...The very words directly apply to my given situation as I sit in my office and write them. Just saying.

All Right Now- One of the very songs that gave me reason to start playing an electric guitar. Wow! The powerful vocals behind Paul Rodgers' whoa, whoa, whoa are nearly lost to the perfect blending of Paul Kosoff's lead guitar, Andy Fraser's thumping bassline and Simon Kirke's simple but perfect time keeping and fills. Thank goodness my local classic rock radio station plays the full 5:29 version with the leading guitar intro and not that hacked up 4:13 version most stations play these days!  I saw Rodgers and Kirke do this song live with Bad Company in the late 90's and consider it one of the greatest moments of my existence...

Slow, slow, don't go so fast. Don't you think that love can last?   Sadly, I must admit I've used that cheesy line...but it was a VERY LONG time ago!

China Grove- Does the very name of the group, The Doobie Brothers, not say enough? Well actually, the reference to a Chinatown located in the real China Grove in Texas is completely fictional...not to mention the reference to samurai in the song, who are in fact, from Japan. Smoke it up some more boys and let those lyrics keep rolling along. Nobody will ever notice!


We're talking about, talking about China Grove. Wo oh oh. China Grove. Brilliant. Just stinkin' brilliant. Who says drug use can't be a positive social influence...




Fat Bottom Girls and Black Betty- I'm lumping these last two together for obvious reasons. Honestly...I love both songs, but I'm a little confused on whether I should actually admit that publicly or not in the present day climate of uber political correctness. Neither of these songs come close to PC acceptable verbiage. I guess liberals just don't understand that using African American Betty would have seriously messed up the meter in the song. Just get rid of the bam-a-lam? Are you crazy! That's the song!

In the same era that gave us Short People...ladies of ...ahem...size can just deal with it in my book.

She's from Birmingham (bam-a lam), way down in Alabam' (bam-a lam).  A dude from England (William Bartlett) referring to my southeastern neighbor state as Alabam' is about as lame as a couple of white guys calling each other 'homey'. Just please stop.


Maybe I just need to stop listening so close and enjoy those classic melodies and jams. Then again...maybe I should have listened more closely all those many years ago. Not sure it would have mattered though...I still would have hated country music.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

I always preferred the taste of Dove over Dial as a kid...

Okay. I'll admit it. Come completely clean. Confession is good for the soul...or is it heartburn...no wait that's charcoal. Anyway, here it goes...

I'm a grade-Nazi.

A what?! ...you may ask. But alas it is I, in mine own household, that holdeth dearest to the true value of one's education.

So why are you talking like you're quoting from the King James Version?

A question most assuredly springing to mind in my beloved to be followed closely by a sudden realization of jiltedess by my Shakespearean banter.


Okay. Enough of that crap. Bottom line...school grades count for something at our house. Period.

While I've blogged pretty extensively about my views on education, the reality is my spoken/written feelings are actually put into practice constantly with the girls. Well...two of them anyway. Bulldog is still at that point she's fascinated with the fact she has toes.

But things will take a drastic turn when she graduates turns 2! Just wait!

From daily checks of the teenager's grades via an online parent portal with real time updates (thank God that wasn't around when I was in high school) to daily quizzing of the Crazy Tomato on addition and subtraction problems along with blended letter combination, the two oldest girls are constantly submerged in an atmosphere of learning.

* Disclaimer: Mrs Tony C does not, nor has she ever, participated in mind-numbing, rote memorization drills that may or may not result in the withholding of daily extra-nutritional treats for incorrect or incomplete answers.

Happy?

So I ask a lot of questions? Big deal. Last I recall...

We were sitting in a restaurant waiting to order. The Bulldog was hard at work turning her developing brain to goo by re-watching the same episode of the Bubble Guppies on the Kindle Fire for the...oh...say 600th time. At least she was quite. Mrs. Tony C was doing her usually octopus act of multitasking. A juggling act of picking up a sippy-cup off the floor, trying to read the menu for her and both girls, all while employing a delaying tactic that will usually temporarily stifle the Crazy Tomato's obsession with public restrooms.

Tony C: (helplessly entranced Homer-style) Wow...they have a big menu.

Crazy Tomato: Mom. I have to go to the bathroom really bad.

Mrs. Tony C: Honey, wait until after we order. How do you spell 'on'?

Crazy Tomato: Aaaa aaaa nnn nnnn...O and...nnn nnnn....N.

Mrs. Tony C: How do you spell 'off'?

Tony C: (completely to myself): Those ribs look good, but so does that roast beef sandwich. Wings! Wow look at all the wing choices...

Crazy Tomato: Aaaa  aaaa fffff fffff...O and...ffff fffff...F. OF?

Mrs. Tony C: Close. Very close. It has two Fs. OFF.

Tony C: OMG Burger? That suckers got four pieces of bacon! Real bacon...

Crazy Tomato: Two Fs? fffff...ffffff...F ...like in FU**.

(CUE LOUD RECORD SCRATCHING SOUND)

Tony C: (looking over my menu) What did you just say?

Crazy Tomato: F daddy...like in FU**.

A quick glance over at Mrs. Tony C, and I find her locked up tighter that the hard drive on my last laptop. I wasn't completely sure she was actually breathing. Just staring straight ahead as if time had actually frozen in that very instance.

Tony C: Where did you hear that word? Where?!

Crazy Tomato: I don't know daddy. Why? It starts with F doesn't it? Is it a word?

A defining moment in the dynamic of this delicate daddy/daughter relationship was about to unfold. Try to remain calm.

Tony C: Sweetheart. That is a very, very bad word. Don't ever say it.

The weight of the moment (and my apparent demeanor) dropped onto the little rascal like an anchor. She immediately curled up into a ball of sobbing withdrawal.

Mr. Tony C: (snapping back into the moment) It's okay honey. You didn't know it was a bad word. You're not in trouble sweetheart. Where did you hear that word?

The response was just a series of mumbles and sniffles.

Mrs. Tony C: Sweetheart. Daddy's (evil eye + head snap in my direction) not mad at you. You're not in trouble.

Tony C: Hey kiddo. I'm not mad at you at all...

In an effort to marginalize the moment and not damage the learning exchanges (aka drills), the wife and I decided not to make a big deal out of an assuming innocent enough occurrence. For her use of another word earlier in the year we deemed unacceptable, the Crazy Tomato now has a bar of soap stored in a clear plastic baggy with her name on it in the bathroom. She sees it twice a day when she gets her toothpaste out of the medicine cabinet. A not-so-subtle reminder of the consequence should she decide to repeat offend....and expand her vocabulary.

We figured there are at least a few places the CT could have picked up the mother-of-all dirty words, with the likelihood falling on school. Imagine that. I was hoping for Robert Frost, and instead she can quote Eddie Murphy. Nice.

I worked so hard at not overreacting that day, that I ended up ordering fish tacos. Fish tacos?! I've never ordered fish tacos in my life! What...the ...

All the way home, Mrs. Tony C drilled the Crazy Tomato with words starting in F. She has a harder time letting things go.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Hey to Goober...one last time.

Very few television characters have a lasting presence in pop culture. Goober Pyle, however, makes that exclusive list...


I was deeply saddened to read this morning that George Lindsey, aka Goober, died yesterday in Nashville at the age of 83. Unlike so many other actors, George never tried to detach himself from the role that made him famous on a world stage. He was Pee-Wee Herman/Paul Rueben or Mr. Bean/Rowan Atkinson before those personas were ever imagined.

George Lindsey was the lovable buffoon Goober Pyle.

He had originally auditioned for the role that eventually went to Jim Nabors. The two men  grew up in  Alabama practically real neighbors until the latter moved to Southern California. Jim Nabors is 81 and lives in Hawaii today. The two men will be linked forever as the cousins from Mayberry that both worked at Wally's Filling Station.

Goober Pyle: Yo.

From 1964 until 1992, George played Goober on The Andy Griffith Show and later on the long running Hee Haw. I've always loved the first and have grown to love the latter, but after years of loathing the standard response when meeting people and saying I was from Tennessee...Oh, like Hee Haw?

(eye roll)

We sorely miss genuine characters like Goober on television today. Simpleton in the most innocent of terms. Living life with a sense of wonder and almost childlike. That fact is personified in pop culture slang whenever you call someone a goober. While maybe not fair to the purity of the role, Lindsey's character is a direct result of the slang label. On the other hand, I'm not sure of the origin when using the word in referring to a part of the male anatomy. But I digress...

Much like Elvis Presley, Jughead Jones or even Bugs Bunny, Goober Pyle will live on as a recognizable character for many, many years to comes. Maybe, just maybe, not only because he continues to entertain most all of us with his lovable shenanigans in syndication...but because most everyone has at one time or another had a Goober moment or two themselves.



Lord knows I've had plenty...


Thursday, May 3, 2012

You're only as old as you look...feel...I mean believe, yes believe!

It all started so innocent enough. A little gray hair, weight not coming off so easily, a few cracking joints in the morning, etc...

Then came phase two. A case of gout. What the heck is that? Doesn't that effect only old people. Next came the need for a prescribed 'fluid pill' due to excess fluid build up. Dear Lord. I'm a 'nerve pill' prescription away from being my grandmother...and she'll be 98 next month!

Today, I enter a completely new phase of sun-setting life...today I became...a mall watcher.

gasp

Not a 'mall walker' mind you. Oh no. I skipped that level completely and went straight to going to the mall, parking on a bench all by myself, and watching people go by while making mental observation all to myself. What next? A Hoveround. Oh the humanity!


My written confession might lead to open weeping. I'm glad my dear readers can't see me right now. Shameful.

No. I can't explain why. I thought the Crocs, the ZUMBA, the Just for Men were all great tools to help me fight off that plummet into the old person abyss of condo-living in Florida and Bingo on Tuesday and Friday nights. Apparently not.

The sad part about the whole affair is I didn't even realize I was doing it...mall watch that is...until the task was well under way. It all happened so fast! I went to the mall to get the teenager a pair of shoes, a bite of lunch and then...wham, bam, Son of Sam...I'm anchoring down one end of a bench with a tag team partner on the other end obviously well into his 70s.

Warm weather we're having for the first week of May.

Yes sir. After that nonexistent winter, we might be in for a scorcher this summer.

The weather?! I'm sitting on a bench in the mall talking to an old man about the weather?! Why does my ankle hurt? On no...not gout. Not gout again...

This weather sure messes with joints. Knees hurt so bad I can't sleep at night.

Weather. Knee pain. Maybe that's it. Maybe it's not gout after all. Maybe, just maybe, it's barometric pressure related rheumatoid...arthritis...oh sweet fancy Moses...please be gout! What's happening to me? I need to lie down...no!...I don't need to lie down! I perfectly okay! I'll do ZUMBA tonight, a little bow-chicka-wow-wow later tonight. Yes! I will be just fine...

These young people and their phones. Walking around texting not watching where they're going. Why aren't they in school in the middle of the day?!

Oh look at the time! I'd better be getting back to work myself. Hope you have a good rest of the day sir.

Work? Oh yeah. Good talking to you.

I'm officially avoiding the mall for the rest of the summer. I'm too young to be old! That's right...you're too young to be old Tony C. You're to young to be old. You're too young to be old.

I missed ZUMBA tonight because my stinking ankle is killing me...dang this gout stuff hurts.



Monday, April 30, 2012

Misery loves company...wealth draws it like a magnet.

This morning when I got in my car to head to work, the radio station was set to a local country music station. Stinkin' teenager. Now, I'm by no means a country music fan (shocking, I know) and couldn't even begin to render a guess at who was singing the song violating my ears before changing back to my preset.

Garth Brooks?

Is he still in the business? I just don't know. The incident did, however, take me back to my college days when I was running around the Mecca of country music...Nashville, Tennessee.

Country music made a resounding boom in the early '80s, and the town was completely saturated with the extraordinary influx of higher per capita income. Of course, I was a broke college student working his way through a higher education with a part-time at the local Mickie D's. This particular  McDonald's was located in Green Hills, which at the time, was one of the more affluent parts of town.

Yep. Even rich people eat Big Macs.

This morning, I recalled on my way to work a particular evening of handing white bags out the drive-thru window...a story that has stuck with me through the years. It wasn't uncommon (by any stretch of means) to run into a country music star of the time just doing their normal routines. As a matter of fact, a few years after this particular story I'm about to share, I actually put shoes on Emmylou Harris without a clue who she was and why people I worked with were making a big deal about her. She did have a nice bod, but...

Yep. I worked in a retail shoe department too. Stop laughing.

Back to McDonald's. With all the new found wealth filling the city, seeing a Ferrari 308 was as common and seeing the infamously flammable Ford Pinto of the day. Made popular by Mangum, PI, the iconic red sports cars were buzzing around everywhere.  I got to see one up close on this evening as I passed a bag of food and drink carefully out to a rather pompous acting recipient who had the same look on his face most parents do the first time they catch the toddler drinking Kool-Aid from an open container on the sofa.

Don't worry jerk. I'm a professional, and your Diet Coke is in good hands.

As closing time approached, a late buzz of the drive-thru bell signalled either the most die hard of golden arch fans or a local co-ed with the munchies. Hmmm.

I'd like an order of Chicken McNoogets and a large orange drink please.

The slow southern draw and mispronunciations of McDonald's newest food craze provoked a giggle from everyone working this pre-headphone evening as it came across the box. I was anxious to interact with this character.

Pull around please.

From the box: Hey partner. Make sure I get some of that honey-mustard sauce if you would.

Please pull to the window.

I went to put the order together, and we all had another laugh in the late hour. What a hoot. Chicken McNoogets. Walking back to the drive-thru station, I watched the Ford Van circa 1978 or so pull up to the window. It was one of the popular vans from the '70s with the teardrop window on the rear upper corner, but this one was also sporting an advertising paint scheme:

 
My eyes trailed from the side of the van up to the driver as I walked closer. Now... I'm standing face to face with none other than Porter Wagoner himself. Wow!

Growing up, The Porter Wagoner Show was regular viewing at our home. I heard not only Dolly Parton, but also stuttering Mel Tillis for the first time on his show. Here was the Wagon Master himself in one of his famous rhinestone jackets with a ring on most every finger! He must be coming from a gig!

He had to turn the van off because the exhaust system was both loud and in need of obvious repair.

Partner. Don't forget that honey-mustard sauce.  (wink)

No sir Mr. Wagoner. I'll put in a few extra.

I appreciate that cowboy.

There is a certain unwritten etiquette when dealing with stars in public. After all, they're just people too and like their privacy. I was pumping gas one day across from none other than Randy Owen of Alabama fame and just coolly nodded a confirmation of recognition and left it at that. There was a certain degree of personal satisfaction on my part for not doting and appreciation conveyed for that fact on his part. Of course, that moment was completely shattered when a vehicle came whipping onto the lot, and a screeching lady with both breast nearly out of containment went running over to him for an unsolicited bear hug.

But this was Porter Wagoner... a Grand Ole Opry staple!

Fighting back the urge to strike up meaningless conversation, I focused on getting him on his way with sauce in tow.

I'm surprised a young fellow like you recognized and old washed up singer like me... 

Okay. Now I'm seriously fighting back my innate sarcastic mechanism that wanted to point out his name was plastered on the side of his van like a mobile billboard. Not to mention, the lift in the front of his hair was peaking somewhere around 8 inches...his signature trademark.

As he fired back up his van and pulled away, I thought about the Ferrari from a few hours earlier. Without a doubt, that jack-wagon had made a ton of money in the country music industry on the foundation built on the back of this falling star who was driving a near dilapidated vehicle.

Both sad and pathetic.

Of course, I found out years later that Wagoner was just notoriously cheap and filthy rich from his early music career and syndicated television show. He also had a serious hankering for honey-mustard sauce...but then, maybe I'm  the only one holding that telling information.

I don't know who these generic, pop-called-country music stars of today are...but they're no Porter Wagoner for sure. He is and always will be an original character of the genre.


* Porter died in 2007 at the age of 80. Misery Loves Company was one of several #1 hits for the singer from 1962.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality” Ayn Rand, Russian-born writer

After comments from several of you about my last post on doing the work, I must admit I came under a great deal of conviction...


Now let me state right up front I've never been a lazy person. That doesn't, however, exclude the fact that on past occasions I've found easier paths to get to a desired result. While my personal creed has most assuredly flopped Mitt Romney-style from the end justifies the means to do the right thing no matter what,  I still tote some baggage that apparently some of you remember quite well from days of old. Ancient history.

Yes. I'm talking specifically about cheating...in school...that is. The other type of cheating is a completely different post/issue.

Not long ago, I received a text message from my teenager while I was at work, and she was supposed to be at school.

What is the Ring of Fire?

Thinking she was goofing off in class with some of her classmates, I quickly responded:

The after-effects of the new hot chalupa at Taco Bell... 
...or the title of an old Johnny Cash song I used to have on an 8 track.

Dad! I'm serious!

So, now I'm thinking she's using me like ChaCha to look smart in front of her friends.

A group of active volcanoes in the Pacific rim that goes along Eastern Asia around to Western North and South America. Why? (True. A better question would be why in the world do I know that?)

Are you sure?

Wait. Are you cheating on a test?!

Dad? Are you sure?

Yes! But I'm not answering anymore questions! Not good young lady...

I'm wondering why a teacher would let students have phones...smart phones at that...out during a test? Is that education today?

The conversation with the teenager had a bit of a tainted feel to it later that day as I lectured on the values of actually learning a school subject (in this case geography) and the attributes of integrity as a foundational cornerstone to one's character.

Ouch. As I remember these recent events and recalled (with some of your help, thanks) my own antics from school...yep...the conviction starts pouring over me in buckets. Granted, I have used one of my former 'creative escapades' to illustrate the importance of doing your own work in school while talking with young people today. The story goes like this:

My very first semester of classes in college included the foreign language of Spanish. In my very first class of said subject, I quickly noted that the professor, along with everyone else in the class, spoke exclusively Spanish the entire class. I was completely lost not to mention embarrassed more than once by my feeble attempts to start adding to my class participation grade.

At the conclusion of class, I immediately went to the professor:

Tony C: I'm sorry. I must be in the wrong class. Is this an advanced Spanish class?

Professor: Hola. Senor Antonio, did you have Espanol in high school?

Tony C: Yes ma'am. Two semesters.

Professor: Did you make an A in those classes?

Tony C: Yes ma'am. Both semester.

Professor: Then Senor Antonio you are in the right class. Bienvenido.

Now the truth of the matter about my high school Spanish grade is that while my transcript shows an A grade in both semesters...Pam H actually made those A's...not yours truly.

A quick trip to the Registrar's Office and a drop/add slip took care of the problem. Well, except now 'Я говорю по-русски...плохо'.

But, I'm not even sure if that's the correct phrase in Russian to be quite honest.  Kids...just do the work! Believe me, you're much better off in the long run...and a much better person to boot.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas Edison


There are a few television shows that get recorded to the DVR for my benefit each week. Aside from my weekday regiment of the PBS NewHour, Tim Allen's new sitcom called Last Man Standing is a weekly watch for both me and Mrs. Tony C.

The premise revolves around a middle-aged father of three girls struggling to relate his old school way of thinking to their more modernized, sophisicated approach to life. His wife becomes the ultimate mediator between 'manly-man' father and daughters due in large part to the fact she is obviously smarter and much more refined than her husband.

Ahem...sounds very familiar. Too familiar actually if you just add Crocs.


The wife recognizes Tim Allen's character has a great heart and always the best intentions with his often hilarious shennaigans. Sort of a remake of Allen's first sitcom character, Tim Taylor, on Home Improvement.

During a recent episode, Allen's character (Mike Baxter) is listening to his middle daughter whine about forgetting her lines during a school play (which he happened to miss) when she finally admits to the fact she didn't really put forth effort to actually memorize them.

What's wrong with you!?  You know you've got to do the work! That's what we do in this family. We do the work!

Over and over that  phrase has since buzzed in my head. Do the work! How completely and simplistically profound.

There are a number of positive attributes I get from my mom without a doubt. But, the one dominate principle I learned from my dad is to never be afraid of hard work. A lesson by example from a man who in 35 plus years never missed a day of work for sickness. Not one.

Where has this principle of  do the work been lost?  I'm constantly riding my teenager about her responsibilities around our house. Granted they're not great task but are put in place to help her better understand everyone plays an important role in making up the family. She will have her own some day, and only then will she truly realize the amount of effort required just to get through a single day of living in modern society.



But that fact hasn't really changed in thousands of years.

Sure. Our culture has become less physical with technological advances, but the garbage still has to be taken out! Meals still have to be prepared and cleaned up. No. We don't have to spend a tremendous part of our day working to hunt, kill and cook the food we eat, but we do spend a large portion of each day at a job that pays us so we can purchase the food we need to live.

I work for a relatively small Department of Defense contracting company. The model keeps the number of employees to a minimum in order to maximize the compensation for all of us who work there. To a person, everyone seems to loves it.  But there's a mutual understanding that due to our lean composition, it is vital each employee do his/her job with maximum effort and be willing to pitch in when the occasional overload shows up. That's not my job is not only an unacceptable attitude...it's practically nonexistent.

Unfortunately, I don't see the same demeanor at my church where the typical (to churches) 10% of members do 90% of the task necesary for the church to thrive and function. Such a shame too. In a congregation of over 300 people, so much could be done for God's glory if everyone would do the work  He needs us to do.

What I find most baffling is this lassez faire attitude in today's church bridges each and every generation...even to the surviving members of the Greatest Generation. Christians can't blame just young people for the stagnant state of the American church. We've become increasingly lazy as a whole in our society and as a subset in our places of worship.

A daunting subject matter that undoubtedly will require more addressing in future post. I'm going to leave you today, however, with a thought and hopefully a chuckle.

The thought is this: The next time you're walking down your street, in your office building, around your church or anwhere else for that matter...and you come across a piece of trash on the ground/floor...pick it up and put it in a trash can. Do the work necessary regardless of blame or due credit and don't leave it for someone else to do.

Now here's the chuckle. It's a little disturbing watching this knowing I'm in complete agreement with what Tim Allen is saying for the sake of comedy...but that's a blog post for Mrs. Tony C to write I suppose.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Be kind whenever possible...and remember it's always possible.



A couple of phrases/concepts I've recently heard via television or radio have managed to capture my attention and ultimately have worked into my muses.


Just yesterday while out for lunch, I was sitting at a red light listening to a radio commercial about retirement I'd already heard several times. What caught my attention was the premise being made that until that first day of  a person's retirement, we each face deadlines near constantly. That fact is actually the underlining principle behind students being assigned homework in school.  Learning to meet deadlines while producing quality work is the actual goal of homework...hmmmm.


POW!

As I pulled through the the red light, my right, front tire finally gave up the ghost. Granted, I had been pushing it for quite some time, and that green stuff called Slime you shoot into your tire for a slow leak problem can only go so far. Such is life, no big deal.

Limping into the closest parking lot for the required pit stop, I noticed a female sitting on a bench outside of this particular Walgreens. Duly noted to self. Surveying my surroundings is an old habit from years gone past. Old habits die hard but sometimes prove useful. I found a nice spot in the rear parking lot of Walgreens in the shade.

I opened my trunk and prepared to retract my spare for the task at hand. I'm thinking 10 minutes...tops.

Hey! I can change that tire for a few extra dollars!

From around the corner comes the aforementioned female on said bench, and it is immediately apparent to me what profession the aforementioned female is currently listing on her nonexistent resume. Great. Just great. Rear parking lot of Walgreens with a pro. This kind of stuff ends up news even in the most innocent of circumstances.

Aside from...ahem...services rendered on a personal level, she also boasted of mechanical skills and immediately started digging around in my truck trying to retrieve the jack.

I'll have you on your way in no time Sugar.

Tony C: Ma'am, that's okay. I can do this pretty quick.

Let me just get this jack out and we'll...

Her phone rings.

Hello. Waiting for you. You're late this week. Helping this guy change a flat tire. No! I'm really helping him change his flat tire. Okay. I'll be right here.

By this time, I had managed to fish a $10 bill from my wallet. Yes. A risky exchange, but...

Tony C: Okay look. Here's $10. Just go back to the bench and wait for your...friend. I'll take care of this.

For nothing? You don't have to do that.

Tony C: Yes. I know. I just need to change this tire and get back to work. Besides, what kind of gentleman would I be letting a lady change my tire. No offense meant of course.

Well God bless you mister. I can buy me some cigarettes now. God bless you.

Tony C: God bless you too ma'am, and I mean that with all sincerity. He blesses me all the time even though I don't deserve it.

(Smacking me on the arm) Yep, me too! Ain't that the truth Sugar!

My heart sank just a bit as I watched her walk away and then climb into the truck for her...ahem...appointment. An overwhelming sense of anguish fell over me as I reflected on the fact she was some body's daughter, maybe even a mother.

I'm sure she is well known to the other people around that parking lot for what she is..no, what she does... but I don't begrudge a single second giving her that $10 in front of them. Sure. I just wanted her to go away, so I could change my flat in peace and be on my way. But after the fact and upon reflecting on the brief exchange, I find comfort in knowing that regardless of her circumstances and choices, she still acknowledged an understanding that God blesses us. 

The radio commercial I was listening to when my tire blew out was trying to convey that responsibilities end at retirement, but we all face a last ultimate deadline even in retirement. We can't afford to rest, even in old age, on our responsibilities to God until that final retirement comes. That's true planning for the future.

My next post will look at the other phrase/concept I've recently picked up from...of all things...a sitcom. 

 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Best of TCT- Just listen for hooters to know it's really Spring...

From April 2009

Snow on the blooming redbud tree is not that uncommon in the Southeast.





The air was filled with the sounds of yard work this weekend in my neighborhood. I even noticed one of the neighbors planting annuals around her mailbox...a task she most assuredly will repeat next month. Like many others this weekend, she fell victim to the Calender Spring/Actual Spring trick bag. What? That's right...the Calender Spring/Actual Spring trick bag. Trust me, it got me one year too.

The calender tells people the vernal equinox (aka Spring) happens most years on March 20, as it did this year. Days and nights are of relatively equal length as the sun travels around our planet's equator. Despite the mystical sooth sayings of a certain pudgy rodent in upstate Pennsylvania six weeks earlier, the exit of cold weather is much more orderly, predictable. Everyone in the South knows cold weather hasn't officially ceased until each of the 'mini-winters' have run course because there is a big difference between the season called Winter ending and cold weather ending.

There are three distinct phases, generally speaking, that precedes the departure of cold weather in the Southeast. Granted, this isn't new stuff...Farmers' Almanac has been printing it since 1818 with far more accuracy than that witchcrafty groundhog in PA...and farmers use the phases to determine when certain crops should be planted. The indicator for the arrival of each phase is the blooming of certain plants.

We are currently experiencing Redbud winter here. Although it was a nice toasty 74 degrees on Saturday, the blooming of the Eastern Redbud tree has brought with it a cold snap that calls for a chance of snow just a mere 4 days removed from warmer temperatures. After another brief warming spell, dogwood trees will bloom and with that another cold snap usually around 3 or 4 days long. Last to arrive will be blackberry winter...somewhere around the first of May. The distinct brier can be seen blooming all along Southeastern roadways with promises of fruit for cobblers and pies by July 4th...making the last of the cold spells a little more bearable.

Now when I was but a young lad in the times before central air conditioning (at least at our house), I knew when I heard the hoot of the Hoot Owl outside my window after sunset it would soon be time to raise the windows at night and take off the white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt during the day.

Of course, I now know that scientifically speaking there are no Hoot Owls, just the native Barred and Common Barn Owls, and the louder hoots are timed to their mating cycles. Still, even though Spring officially started March 20, for me cold weather isn't truly gone until the owls have made their presence known...a happier time for us all.

So for this boy from the Southeast, forget the lessons in horticulture related weather...warm temperatures and hooters go hand in hand for me.

Take it for what it's worth.

Monday, March 26, 2012

True love will always find a way...

Today, Candice and I celebrate our 8th Wedding Anniversary, and I'm genuinely most thankful...


In all honestly, I think it would be safe to say most people didn't give us much of a chance to make it past 2 years, but I do understand where they might have been coming from with such a pessimistic forecast. Candice was just short of 20 years old, and I almost doubled that. Aside from that facts of time, no other reason for our marriage not working would have fallen with her. If only I could have said the same...
I will also confess that despite the relative few trips she had completed around the sun, Candice was far more mature in most areas of life than I was at near twice her age. I don't say that very easily either. There's a great deal of shame and humiliation that comes with that confession, but as I stated earlier, there's also a great deal of appreciation that offsets the former.

Looking back over the past 8 years, I know I've grown up quite a bit. While I might have been well into needed changes when I married the love of my life in 2004, God was still working on me in a number of spiritual areas. I was hungry and anxious to serve Him but boy was I unrefined and green. He knew exactly what I needed to help keep me on His intended path...just like He knew what Adam needed in the garden so long ago.

I know this might be coming across as syrupy or even melodramatic, but I believe in my heart that Candice saved my very life and in a number of ways. My path was on a fast-track to self-destruction. Also, I'm not sure I had the intestinal fortitude to endure the scare of cancer and a few other extreme trials encountered as she came into the picture. Cowardice is never an easy thing to admit and can often be found disguised as a seeming noble gesture or graceful exit. It's still cowardice even under those window dressings.

There is an enormous amount of gratitude in that last paragraph accompanied by a certain degree of remorse. She didn't ask for (or cause) any of the trials we endured early in our relationship and could have easily walked away.  There were nights I prayed she would to make it easier for me. I told you I've grown up a lot.

My wife committed to her words 'for better or worse' in front of God Almighty. She locked her answer in, and He knew she was strong enough through her faith in Him to weather the early storms. I praise and thank God for Candice daily. She is the soul of our family. The anchor in matters of both virtue and serenity. The model mother to all three of my daughters...even the one she didn't birth.

My love for her is second only to my love for God, and she helped teach me that's the way He designed it to be. My trust in her is complete and unlike any other person I've known or ever will know. At times in my life, I've jokingly spewed the line love you so much it hurts...she makes that statement real for me. Not hurt as a matter of pain. I just never want to be separated from her and hold to the belief that God made marriage a divine institution because He gives us the opportunity to make our betrothal an eternal union.

Even that doesn't seem long enough.

Happy Anniversary my love...forever and for always I will be in love with you.

  





Monday, March 19, 2012

What movie was that?! You've got to be kidding me...

In one exactly week, I celebrate the anniversary of a life changing event...


While there have been a number of those in my lifetime, the date March 26, 2004 is among the very most important for yours truly because that is the day I married the person who changed my life completely. To honor the occasion, my post this week and next Monday will be focused on Mrs. Tony C...no wait...make that Candice. She is truly her own person outside of the matrimonial title and deserves the recognition of her name being used in my post. She was Candice long before she was Mrs. Tony C...and became My Candice on our wedding day.


I'd like to say that date was my very first rodeo, but as this picture so clearly points out, I was a package deal. Somewhere in the whole process of reentering bachelorhood, I had convinced myself that marriage just wasn't my thing. The relationship with my daughter had become the important focus in my life after given her the short end of my time for far too many years. I moved so she could start Kindergarten at one of the best school in our area without hesitation.

Unlike quite a few before her, I trusted Candice completely with my daughter from the start. Her qualities were exactly the qualities I knew my daughter needed demonstarted to her young self. Candice wasn't threatened or intimidated by the preexisting bond that she walked into that first Summer. Seamlessly, she made a family of two become a family of three and quickly became the anchor I desparately needed in my life. A real blessing from God that I just didn't deserve.

There are a number of years between our ages, so don't let my boyish good looks fool you (eye roll). As she approaches the milestone of no longer being twenty-something, I am coming to my own milestone in a few years of half a century. The age difference has always bothered me far more than her. Most people who know us personally don't even realize (or forget) that I actually went to school with her parents. Now let me state for the record, my 8th grade class was located at the high school during this time, and they both were seniors. I'm not sure that holds much consolation in the overall picture, but it does makes me feel a lot better stating that fact!

While the age difference hasn't been an obstacle for us, the fact remains we are very, very different people. If the proverbial picture is truly worth a thousand words, the difference could best be summed up in this manner:


Candice C
Tony C



Probably the story that best illustrates the difference between my happy-go-lucky, push the envelope, carpe diem attitude in life to her rules are rules, home by 10, goody-goody persona for living happened very early in our relationship.

We decided to go the beach with her parents who liked to camp on their vacations. They had a very nice fifth-wheel camper that was almost like pulling a mobile home to the beach, so we stayed with them in a campground where they had been frequent patrons.

An evening, moonlit stroll with my wife on the beach and a failed attempt to reenact the famous scene in From Here to Eternity left me both frustated...well...you know...and covered in sand. Hey. I don't mind getting a little sandy in the whole risk/reward context of things, but...

No way! Somebody might see us Tony!

So, the equation wasn't balanced despite the fact no one was around to see...well...you know.  We arrived back at the campground around 10:10 or so that evening. Apparently, the cold shower coming off the beach had relieved one of my frustrations, but I still had stinking sand all over me!

Tony C: Let's take a dip in the pool and get rid of the sand before we head back to the camper.

Candice C: Sure sweetie.

As we approached the campground pool, nobody was to be found and a sign was hanging on the 3-foot high gate- Pool Hours 9 am to 10 pm Daily.

Candice C: Oh sorry honey. The pool is already closed.

Tony C: What?! It's just a little past 10! It's summer! We're on vacation! I've got sand in my...

Candice C: Tony! It's closed. We can hose off at the camper.

Tony C: Whatever...(looking around and jumping the low gate)

Candice C: (trying to yell at me but in a whispered voice) Tony! Tony! You can't do that! The pool is closed!

Tony C: Come on Candice. Live a little. Worst they'll do is tell us to get out, and by then, I'll have the sand out of my...

Candice C: (still whispering in a panic) Tony! Get back over here right now. They'll kick us out of the campground! 

Tony C: Pleeeeeeeasse! They're not going to kick us out for swimming a few minutes past close. (taking one last look around) But now this (dropping my swim shorts) might very well get us kicked out!

Candice C: (near tears but still screaming in a faint whisper) PUT...YOUR... SHORTS...BACK...ON...RIGHT...NOW!! I'm mean it Tony! We're going to get in big trouble!

Tony C: (laughing while doing a backstroke across the pool) I'm pretty sure accessory to skinny dipping isn't a crime even in South Carolina.

With the sand gone, a good laugh for me and a near stroke victim in her early 20's...we headed back to the camper in silence. Well...except for my frequent chuckles. I shared the story with her parents when we got back (minus my attempted beach folly of course) and even they had a good laugh.

Unfortuately, I got one of the very few sunburns in my entire life the very next day and looked like a cooked lobster the remainder of the trip, so the last laugh was on actually on me.

I just hate it when God is on her side...which is most of the time...


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wait a second! That's not how this is supposed to go down...


March 15 and Julius Caesar are forever interlocked in history...


Long before the famous play that we all are made suffer through in high school English, the real story of the ides of March unfolded in the Roman Senate in 44 BC with the culmination of 60 different men taking a stab at the would-be dictator Julius. Ironically, only 23 wounds were recorded by  Suetonius, the physican who examined Caesar's body post-hummous, with a single chest wound being the likely fatal blow.

Apparently Roman aristocrats weren't accustomed to doing their own dirty work...

The term ides simply refered to the middle of the month for March, May, July and October on the Roman calendar. These dates were often celebrated with a festival honoring the god Mars. But then again, the Romans were forever celebrating something with a festival and parades. After 44 BC, the date took on a completely different context for the Romans, and then again for the world when Shakespeare's play debuted around AD 1599.

The Ides of March have come.

Today, most of the Western world reflects on the events of that tragic day well over 2000 years ago. The date has taken on an ominous feel that is easily understandable. The real question to ponder though is: Who were the real bad guys as the demise of Caesar played out?

Not so simple to answer. While Caesar obviously got the worst end of the deal on the ides of March, the resulting consequences of his murder would ultimately result in the formation of the Roman Empire under his heir, Octavian, who would become Caesar Augustus and the first Roman Emperor. Consequently, that title raised Octavian to the position of deity in the eye's of the Romans. An honor also bestowed to Julius some years after his death...however that works exactly.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Did the conspirators acted on a desire to preserve the Roman republic or in defense of their own positions of power? Regardless, the Roman people were completely appalled that a small group of upper-class aristocrats had the audacity to take the future of Rome's fate into their own hands and rebelled against the Roman Senate.

Excuse me!?

That's right sports fans. Instead of embracing the attempt to save a governing process with representation of the people (said very loosely), the mob rose up and supported a would-be dictator that was the first in a line of several brutal rulers over the Roman Empire. That makes no sense to our society which heralds the greatness of democracy. Why would anyone in their right mind chose a dictatorship over democracy? Wouldn't anyone prefer at least some say in how their government functions?

Maybe the Arab Spring of 2011 will become the new ides of March...but only time will tell exactly how that plays out...for better or worse.






Monday, March 12, 2012

"Only the educated are free." Epictetus


Hi. My name's Tony C, and I'm a huge geek...


Acknowledgement is the first step, so I've been told. Truth is though, I've not always been a geek as I'll define in this post. Quite the contrary. My commitment to new found knowledge has been a development during Act III of the Tony C saga which occurred well after my formal years of the typical institutional education.

That's not to say I didn't learn things in school. Not by a long shot. What I'm referring to is that burning desire to discover and explore new ideas or revisit old ones that are still the gold standard in any given field.

I didn't have that desire during my high school/college days. Too many other things captured my focus during that time...well...actually one group in particular...just so many of them.

Wasted time? Not necessarily. Being in school is somewhat akin to being at a monster truck rally with information being represented as the mud flying around. Just your very presence means some is going to stick to you. Being the resident class clown meant I always had front row seats in high school, so I caught a lot of mud completely based on location alone. Funny thing is...if you act like you're paying attention...you are in fact paying attention. Go figure.

Eventually, I grew up and realized that the amount of knowledge a person has is directly proportionate to one's status of well being in life. That doesn't mean all the smart people make all the money. Not at all. I know for a fact...well...let me stop right there and leave that statement unspoken.

So, Mrs. Tony C and I have placed a premium on education in our home. She's actually an Education major and teacher by profession just temporarily on hiatus for the higher calling of motherhood. Don't get me wrong. She's teaching now on a daily basis to two students near a dear to yours truly. The teenager gets a lesson every now and then too.

We've established a hierarchy of priority in our home that guides every principle or decision. God comes first. Family is next. Education rounds out the list at third. One, two and three. We've yet to come across a situation that can't be prioritized within that list.

I'm always emphasising to the teenager that neither her faith nor knowledge she obtains can ever be taken from her by another person. Both become a part of her very character, and only death (and therefore God) can separate you from that identity. Please understand when I speak of knowledge I'm not exclusively speaking of academia. I know many very intelligent people who never made it beyond high school in a formal educational setting. Information flows freely all around us for the taking, and quite frankly, the more you know...the more valuable you are to society. Plus, an electrician is much more valuable when you have a wiring problem than a professor of sociology. Assumptions being made with that statement naturally.

I started down this muse last night after watching 60 Minutes and a piece on the Khan Academy. A link to the segment is posted below. What an exciting concept! Quality educational instruction available to anyone for the taking and absolutely free. All you need is the desire.

I'm using the site to go back and learn the calculus that apparently didn't stick while I was in college thanks to those stinking cute co-eds. Hey...I starting this post by freely admitting I'm a geek these days...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Never underestimate the power of a good snack food...

Wow...I've not posted in over a week!

Truth be told, I don't really have anything in mind to write about today either. Funny how that works. Some weeks blog ideas roll in like waves on a windy day. Some weeks nothing. Nada. Zilch. It's not that I've not been busy either and let my mind idle. Lots of stuff in the news that catches my interest. Of course, there's Rush Limbaugh's mouth and the reaction he provoked churning out tons of blog fodder. Eh.

The kids are wide open as usual. Always great material. A Crazy Tomato post most always nets twice as many hits as...say...something about politics. Funny how that works too. I've been asked if the Crazy Tomato is as entertaining as the things I write, but those questions always come from people who don't know our family personally. Yes. She's that entertaining.

Mrs. Tony C called me the other day to tell me a great story. The CT wanted her little sister, Bulldog, to play with her in the back bedroom in her playhouse. Bulldog wasn't having any of it because a bowl of Cheez Its was on their play table in the living room. Kid loves to eat!

Being ever industrialist, the Crazy Tomato gets the box of Cheez Its and starts making a line of them all the way to the back bedroom. Brilliant! Her only kink was she placed the snacks too close together giving her mom time to discover the scheme. Doh!

I love that kid...

I must admit my mood of late has been a tad melancholy. Not the gloomy version. More serious. A sure sign I've been watching, reading and listening to far too much news on current world events. I love staying informed, but that crap takes the fun out of cake!

I was sitting at the kitchen table last week working on something with the news on in the living room. I wasn't listen closely, but for some reason, looked up at the screen which I could see from where I was positioned. The screen was filled with a scene of people literally burning as the result of a recent suicide bomb attack in Iraq. Very graphic. Parked right in front staring up intently was the toddler. Oh no! I freaked and ran into the living room in search of the remote. Grabbing her up, I carried her back into her sister's bedroom where she was playing.

Great.

Yes that is the world we live in today, but I'm not ready for that world to invade the sanctity of my peaceful home and corrupt the innocence of my two younger girls. The task of trying to decipher things for the teenager while encouraging the development of her critical thinking is plenty enough of a task for now.

For the two younger ones, an empty box of Cheez Its is all the drama they really need for many years to come... 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because gas was $4 a gallon...

There are a number of reasons we need "a change" of occupancy at the White House (as well as in Congress)...but rising gas prices isn't one of them.

President Obama has no more to do with the recent rise in gas prices than he had to do with the storm that blew through where I live last night. Now that's an ironic statement of unintended support for a moot position that Obama used himself against W. Bush four years ago. Why do we continue to let politicians insult our intelligence?



Uh...you're probably not going to like my answer here...

We live in an unprecedented age of information. With the click of a few keys, I can summons information on anything from making explosives to an awesome chicken casserole. Biographical information is available on most anyone in the public eye, as well as, information on corporations, legislations and litigations.

But we're just lazy and don't take the time to become informed consumers/constituents. Period.

True or False...The price of gas goes up at the beginning of summer each year because Big Oil knows demand will go up with warm weather?

False.

Demand is much higher across the board in colder months. Sorry....your summer vacation just doesn't have that much of an impact on gas prices. Some. Not much.

During winter months, butane is used as an additive in the production of refined gasoline because it is cheap.  However, butane can't be used in the summer because it evaporates in warm temperatures, so refineries must replace it with more expensive ingredients.

Blame chemistry for higher summer prices...not DisneyWorld or Obama.

True or False...If we drilled for more oil, all our problems would be solved!

Don't think so Sarah. Crude oil is not the problem. We have an abundance of oil overflowing from the North American crude trading hub in Cushing, Oklahoma. The problem is refineries are at near capacity in this country. While refining capabilities have actually decline in recent years do to aging facilities, no new refineries have been built in decades. Not to mention, U.S. exports of gas to fuel-thirsty foreign countries tripled over the past year!

So just build more refineries to fix the problem.

Seriously...think that's going to make gas prices go down? The huge cost of building new refineries would be directly past along to the consumer straight per the capitalism playbook. Hey, I love capitalism, but facts are facts. Besides, who's volunteering to have one of those built in their backyard?

Before you take this post as defense of failed economic leadership from the White House, just hear me out. The danger in blaming the wrong things on the wrong people goes beyond the obvious moral implications. If the electorate links the presidential election this fall to gas prices, what happens if gas prices fall? That's right. Point of contention lost. If Obama can be blamed for higher gas prices then he surely will take credit for lower gas prices, and the emotions of the moment sweep him back into the White House.

The fact of the matter is he has nothing to do with either stinking one!

Become an informed voter. Seek information on issues and don't just swallow what the left and right media sources feed us each day. Trust me. They're not working for a higher, nobler cause. The bottom line is all that matters on both sides, and that profit is sadly boosted when the public debates become toxic and less civil...as well as less cerebral.

I'm not afraid to give credit where credit is due even if that recognition falls on an opposing ideological figure. President Obama has been very successful from a foreign policy perspective.. in my opinion. But, that opinion thinks we were completely within our rights to go into Pakistan, without their consent, to kill Bin Laden. I don't think he has weak knees when it comes to these matters.

I also don't think he is a Muslim or wasn't born in this country. Those are both absurd and purely emotional arguments. Not to mention, we Christians need to be very cautious about blindly judging where another person is with the Almighty. I have no reason to question his proclaimed Christian faith...or at least any more than I did Bush or Clinton...and I shouldn't try to judge according to the Good Book.

My problems with the current administration are much more politically fundamental. President Obama believes government can solve all the ills of society. I most strongly disagree. While that's enough to turn me against his politics, it doesn't have to be bitterly personal.

If I vote for Obama, I know I'm voting for a liberal-minded ideology, and I can't do that in good conscience. Unfortunately, the catch here becomes that while most Republicans stand proudly on that platform of conservative policy making, their actions (read legislation) reflect a different motive. Some claim one thing and do another, and that does makes me mad.

Don't listen to the spin. Read how your public figures vote on the issues that matter to you. Hold them accountable for your vote. Become informed.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

RIP Uncle Worley...and thanks for all the smiles you leave behind.

I love to spin a good story...

For most of us that blog, storytelling is the underlying motivation that brings us back to a blank page to start anew time and time again.


But even the best story can't hold up without interesting, compelling characters. Successful writers are quick to point out the larger a base the central character appeals, the better chance the story will be widely accepted.

A day not too long ago, the Crazy Tomato and I were driving in relative silence as she looked out her window in deep thought.


Crazy Tomato: Dad, are there any real dragons?

Tony C: (playfully) Not anymore honey.

Crazy Tomato: They're all dead? Were there any around here?

Tony C: The last dragon around these parts was killed in McPheeter's Bend a long time ago by your Uncle Worley.

Crazy Tomato: Uncle Worley?

Tony C: Actually, he's your great uncle. You've never met him, but he's a retired dragon slayer.

Crazy Tomato: Does he have a real sword? Can I meet him?

Tony C: You sure can. When you do, ask him about killing that dragon.

Silence once again feel in the car as I quietly chuckled to myself.

Some of you might find lying to a 4-year-old a bit distasteful. Personally, I can't differentiate between the colorful anecdotes I embellish for her amusement and the nightly stories she reads before bedtime.

Fact is, the character of this particular story truly is a larger than life person...or I should say... was. Uncle Worley passed away lasted night at 10:30 after a battle with lung cancer that, unlike that dragon, he just couldn't beat.

Unfortunately, the Crazy Tomato never got to meet and ask him about that dragon.

My uncle by marriage to my father's middle sister, Worley was as unique as human beings can be and the center in many, many real stories that actually require no embellishment from a storyteller like me. He was as genuine as he was free-spirited...as generous as he was caring.

Worley lost his wife and my aunt in 1976 to the same dreaded killer that got him last night. He never remarried. The son and daughter their marriage produced (pictured) before cancer stole my aunt away at an early age are like my brother and sister instead of my cousins. My aunt was a good Christian and loving soul, and her fingerprint is still very much evident on those she left behind so long ago...including Uncle Worley.

Worley travelled the country working for a good part of his life after she passed. Every new town he entered as a stranger he left as a friend. His gregarious demeanor and uncomplicated approach made him not only easy to get to know...but also quick to accept.

He believed strongly in the mission of the Shriners and was stereotypical of the large hearts and good times the group is noted. I recall passing through a certain fundraising roadblock the Shiners were conducting while travelling through a town several hundred miles from my home. As I dropped a dollar in the bucket...

Tony C: Do you guys know Worley B by chance?

First Shriner: From up in East Tennessee? You better believe it. Great fellow!

Second Shriner: That where you're from?

Tony C: Sure is, and he's my uncle.

They both passed business cards to me to give to him when I returned with salutations. That was just Worley.

While on an exercise in Twenty-Nine Palms California during my service, I took leave and travelled to Victorville where he was working to visit. The trip coincided with a visit from his mother and daughter. Worley had been there about 8 months working on a new plant for his employing company. Shortly after arriving, he invited me and my cousin to accompany him to his local "watering hole."  She was very reluctant, but I persisted until she came along while her grandmother rested from the long trip.

As we walked into the bar/restaurant attached to the local Ramada Inn, words simply won't do justice to what I'm about to describe. A live band was playing for the forty or so people gathered and kicking off their weekend. As we walked through the double doors, a scene that Norm from Cheers would be jealous to witness transpired...as the singer for the band literally stopped in mid-song to announce "Worley!"

Glasses went up in salute. My cousin and I paid for absolutely nothing that evening as people went out of their way to buy us stuff. He was well loved when he finally departed California a year or so later, but he was well loved long before then too. That was Worley, and just a couple of the many stories he leaves behind.

I grieve with my family today at the loss of this larger than life character. But much like his wife who left us some 35 years ago, his fingerprint of influence will continue long after the pain of that hurt subsides.

...and he will keep killing dragons as long as I can manage to spin a story or two.