Monday, January 31, 2011

Coming soon ... weird and crappy weather.

There’s always something to look forward to around here. I just peeked at and we’ve got a 100% chance of severe thunderstorms with hail starting around midnight tonight and continuing into Tuesday ... except around daybreak tomorrow a nasty cold front moves in, the rain turns into a THUNDER SLEET STORM, and the Dallas metro area will be covered with up to an inch of ICE and FREEZING DRIZZLE with STRONG WINDS and temperatures in the SINGLE DIGITS. Snow will start around 1 p.m., and by late afternoon we’ll be invaded by giant killer lizards moving north from the Galapagos Islands and a layer of poisonous fog from a distant galaxy. (Just kidding about the lizards and fog.)

To cheer myself up I just looked at the Chicago Tribune’s website. The poor souls in Chicago are expecting their worst blizzard in more than a decade ... up to 20 inches of snow with whiteout conditions and 45 m.p.h. winds. Jeez, drifts can get TEN FEET HIGH in a storm like that! I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t figure out why so many people live there. Sure, we get rotten weather in Dallas, too, but it lasts maybe 48 hours (we’re expecting 65° and sunshine for the Super Bowl). Chicago will be buried until MOTHER’S DAY.

Incidentally, today is January 31 and it’s finally time to draw the lucky winners of our New Year Giveaway. Watch for our email later today! We’re giving away a number of prizes from our Howdygram Boutique, and everybody who entered will receive our exclusive “Thank You for Reading This” refrigerator magnet, which is destined to be a collector’s item like O.J.’s Heisman trophy.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Panic in the streets.

Sam and I woke up this morning to a power failure in the study. I was the first one into the room, and it was pretty easy to know we had a crisis because nothing was blinking or humming. Not the router or the cable modem or the blue light on the front of my huge external hard drive or the green flashing display on my credit card terminal. The printer was dead, our computers were off, and the lights were out.

No Internet access. No email. NO NOTHING.

Sam always has the cool head in the family and takes a flashlight into the garage to check the circuit breaker, but I’m flailing around in a pitch black room staring at a blank computer monitor. I’m hopeless without Internet access. Holy crap ... I can’t write email, I can’t write a Howdygram post and I can’t even read Dear Abby! Then Sam flips a switch in the garage and the study flickers back to life ... all except the router, which is basically the kiss of death because everything in the room connects to it.

I formulate a serious plan of action and the only logical solution: let’s rip the damn router out of the wall and then go to brunch to Blue Mesa ($16.95 per person), stop at Fry’s in Garland on the way home to buy a new router ($79.95), and I’ll call my Macintosh consultant this afternoon to come over and set it all up ($99 an hour plus overtime charges for working on Sunday). I’m figuring this is a decent bargain costing somewhere around $265. Sam, who never panics about ANYTHING, decides just to sit back for a couple of minutes and drink a cup of coffee, which turns out to be a smart move because the router suddenly comes alive all by itself, and in an instant my universe is back to normal on Bonnywood Drive.

Except I still want brunch at Blue Mesa. They open at 9.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The New Year Giveaway: three days to go.

Just a quick reminder to the procrastinators among you ... our New Year Giveaway ends on January 31, which means you’ve only got THREE MEASLY DAYS LEFT to register for some terrific prizes! These include our exclusive “Thank You for Reading This” note cards, mouse pads, refrigerator magnets and tee shirts. And you don’t have to do anything special to win except sign up here. Thank you and good luck.

In other news ... Jerry Jones, our local crown prince of greed and owner of the Dallas Cowboys and Cowboys Stadium, is rushing to add 15,000 temporary “obstructed view” nosebleed seats built on cheesy scaffolding in time for Super Bowl XLV on February 6.

According to a ticket broker in Plano, these temporary seats are a true bargain at $1,200 and actually come with a bonus ... they’re obstructed, unsafe AND uncomfortable! Ceiling pipes will be directly above your head and you won’t be able to see the players, the Jumbotron or the electronic scoreboard (see photos). If this doesn’t sound appealing, your other options include blowing $500 for the privilege of standing on a stairway landing way above the end zone or a $200 pass to the “Party Plaza,” which is outside on the northeast side of the stadium where you can watch the game on a big screen but there’s nowhere to sit and you’re not allowed inside to pee or buy a hotdog. Even if you beg.
For a total Super Bowl experience it just doesn’t get much better than this unless you’re incarcerated, legally blind or hospitalized. You’re much better off enjoying the game at home for free with a bunch of mozzarella sticks and a beer. Thank you.

Phone calls from outer space.

My life is routine. I basically like it this way because I know what to expect from day to day and nobody’s ever hiding around the corner waiting to yell BOO. But yesterday I had a couple of weird calls from outer space on my business line that I still can’t explain.

The first one was from an articulate young woman at a consulting firm who called to ask if I would consider selling Ovation Creative’s products in supermarkets. I said, “Probably not. I design websites.” There’s a pause. “For supermarkets?” “No, for bridal consultants.” “Do you ever have any involvement with supermarkets?” “Yes. That’s where I buy my groceries.” She thanked me for my time and hung up.

The second weird call was from a reporter named Michael at The Suit Magazine who wants to interview me next week by phone for an upcoming article on “innovative entrepreneurs in a changing economy.” If I accept he’ll email the questions to me in advance so I can respond comfortably when he calls again. This is a swell idea, and I’d be really flattered by his offer if I wasn’t 100% convinced this guy must think I’m somebody else. (I work at home in a bathrobe and never miss an episode of “People’s Court.”)

I think it’s time for bed now. My sleep schedule is completely whacked-out and I need to get back on track before I start to look like a raccoon. Smooches to everybody and thank you for reading this.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Notice anything different?

I made another font change to the Howdygram. This one gives it a whole new look ... I love it. And although I’m positive nobody else cares about this except ME, I needed a recreational diversion from the growing pile of graphic design work on my desk right now ... and nothing’s more fun than FONTS. For your possible interest, my current client projects include a new nine-page website, two custom blog designs, postcards, four sets of business cards, a flyer, a six-foot trade show banner and two HTML email campaigns. The economy must be turning around (at last) because this is the busiest month Ovation Creative has had for a long time, although November and December were damn good, too.

I was glued to the computer until 4:15 this morning, slept until 9, spent a few hours with Sam and haven’t taken a break since he left for work at 2. My brain is fried. And I’m also really hungry. Thank God the fridge is a smorgasbord of gourmet delights! I can choose from: 1) a nice container of leftover chicken egg foo young; 2) half a tub of Schwan’s au gratin potatoes; 3) a really scary jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise (Sam bought the biggest jar I’ve ever seen in my life ... I think it weighs five pounds); 4) hard-boiled eggs; 5) a huge variety of olives; and 6) Sam’s favorite pepper jack cheese. We also have a box of Wheat Thins, raisins, nonfat milk and a ton of condiments. Condiments are good.

And so I guess that’s it for tonight. I’m going to grab a quick shower, eat a bunch of food and probably try to get a little more work done before Sam gets home. Distractions are always welcome and encouraged, so feel free to send an email if you don’t have anything to do. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A day without Sam.

When Sam’s not here I frequently get into a lot of mischief. Mostly this refers to shopping online, which kept me busy until 3 this morning. I blew a wad of dough (no pun intended) at The Prepared Pantry for a supply of our favorite New York Rye and Black Russian bread machine mixes, bought a highlighted wig (on sale) plus a bottle of styling goo from Paula Young, and came dangerously close to hitting the “submit order” button on for the following essential products: 1) $145 worth of oversized Egyptian cotton bath towels; 2) a pair of coordinating tub mats; 3) a stainless steel Oster convection/toaster oven that’s BIG ENOUGH TO BAKE A 12-INCH PIZZA; 4) a set of four stupid overpriced red mixing bowls; and 5) 3.4 oz. of Calvin Klein Euphoria spray perfume.

In retrospect, bread and fake hair should be more than enough shopping fun for one day. I didn’t really need those last five products, anyway, although new towels would be swell. And the tub mats.

As I write this post Sam is in Houston eating lunch at a sushi restaurant on the Katy Freeway service road and says he plans to head for home afterwards. It’s a 4½-hour drive — about 250 miles — which means he’ll be pulling into the garage around 5:30 p.m., which gives me just enough time to finish my leftover Chinese food, fold a load of laundry, design a postcard mailer for one of my clients and then go back to Overstock for those Egyptian cotton towels. And the tub mats. Plus the perfume (maybe).

Hey, did anybody see a news story this morning about Jimmy Buffett? I think the poor guy finally wasted away in Margaritaville ... he fell off a 12-foot outdoor stage in Sydney and cracked his head. I’m hoping it was a fundraiser for Nose Plugs for Australia (see post).

Thank you for reading this.

A night without Sam.

Sam drove to Houston yesterday morning for an overnight business trip, leaving me home in Mesquite to my own wicked devices. I’ve actually had a productive day. Since Sam’s been gone I finished work on a new client’s website, wrote a Howdygram movie review, posted to my other blog, took a hot shower, brushed a few teeth, answered email, watched Topper on TCM, ran the dishwasher and ate Mongolian chicken and chocolate pudding. (Not at the same time. But I used the same spoon.) At some point I apparently conked out and missed the State of the Union address so I watched most of it afterwards online.
Incidentally, anybody who says President Obama is dyeing his hair must be crazy because he definitely still looks gray to ME. Thank you for reading this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dallas gets ready for Super Bowl XLV.

Okay, so here’s what’s going on with the NFL just in case you’ve been living in a cave. The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers won their conference championships yesterday and will meet in the Super Bowl on February 6 at Cowboys Stadium. This is a VERY BIG DEAL for the Dallas metro area. Restaurants are busy raising their prices, illegal parking lots are sprouting up all over town, and Rick’s Cabaret — a new topless strip club near the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport — is going ALL NUDE in time for the Super Bowl, because that’s apparently what 100,000 out-of-town visitors want most during their stay here. But you’ll have to bring your own liquor to Rick’s, because according to Dallas law you can’t have naked dancing women if your establishment sells alcohol. Yee-ha. What a world.

Also, for your possible amusement I thought I’d include an extremely boring time-lapse video that shows a gigantic “XLV” being erected at the Dallas Convention Center. No kidding, this might be the longest two minutes of your life.

If you’re interested in attending Super Bowl XLV, ticket options include $663,208 for a spot in the owner’s private box with nice sandwiches, $9,680 for a stadium seat along the 50-yard line or $2,376 in the last row of the upper deck behind two pillars and a Jumbotron. Rumor has it that Jerry Jones also plans to sell tickets to people who want to hang around outside and watch the game on a screen from the parking lot at $200 apiece, but I can’t imagine anything more depressing than that ... except maybe shlepping a six-pack to Rick’s to look at naked women.

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Howdy, y’all. At the moment Sam is driving around in the morning frost trying to buy me an Egg McMuffin, except he just called to tell me the drive-through at McDonald’s has a backup of at least 30 cars and is an Egg McMuffin really that important after all. The answer, of course, is YES, IT’S IMPORTANT, but NO, you don’t have to wait, and if you come home right now you can take me out for an early lunch instead. Maybe Pei Wei.

And now, for your possible interest, it’s time to review the three new products I tried this month from Schwan’s.
Schwan’s products can sometimes be hit or miss. This month it was like the good, the bad and the ugly, although nothing was really as bad or as ugly as those terrifying little Angus Meat Loaves back in December (see post), which seemed tolerable the first time I tried them but eventually began to freak me out. It had to be the ingredients, which included CORN SYRUP and HYDROGENATED OILS. And they looked like dog poo. I donated them to charity.

But I’m wandering. The best of this month’s trio is Schwan’s Healthy Creations Bars, which are sugar-free, nonfat and REALLY GOOD, and you get two flavors (orange and raspberry) in the SAME BOX, which is truly a technological marvel. Next best is the Micro-Steam Penne Pasta. This might be the most convenient product ever invented ... attractive, frozen pouches of fully-cooked pasta that you blast in the microwave for three minutes. No water, no draining, no nothing! My only gripe is the size of the pouch. Schwan’s says each serves two, which is only true if you’re cooking for a couple of toddlers.

And last but not least, let’s talk about Schwan’s Chicken Egg Rolls, because we’ve definitely got an issue here. These little spooks may LOOK authentic, but the filling is squishy like mashed potatoes and tastes like BLACK PEPPER. On the plus side, however, I’m awestruck by those microscopic little pieces of diced celery and the sweet & sour sauce packets are good.

Just a reminder not to forget the big FOOTBALL GAMES on Sunday. We’ve got the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field at 2 p.m. (CT) and the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers at 5:30 (CT). Sam and I are ready for a full day of screaming. I might make homemade pizza, but I’m not promising anything. Thank you for reading this.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Welcome to the Big Dud.

“Travel+Leisure” magazine reports that a survey of travelers to the 35 largest cities in the United States ranked Dallas as the 10th rudest city in America. This was a little surprising, to tell you the truth, because Dallas always impressed me as being mighty FRIENDLY. But maybe that’s because it felt like such a huge improvement after living in Los Angeles* — #1 on the rude cities list — for 12 years. Here, for your possible interest, are the top 10:
  1. Los Angeles
  2. New York City
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Miami
  5. Washington, D.C.
  6. Boston
  7. Baltimore
  8. Las Vegas
  9. Orlando
  10. Dallas/Fort Worth
And if being voted the 10th rudest city in America isn’t insulting enough, the same visitors rank Dallas’ cocktail hour at #29, says we’re not particularly bright (#28), and we come in next-to-last for people-watching, romance, live music and ethnic food. Apparently the only high point is that we’re slightly prettier than the yahoos in Houston: in the attractive people category, Dallas landed at #21 and Houston at #28. We do get a pat on the back for somewhat decent shopping and barbecue, but I’m not sure that’s much of a consolation because who wants to eat ribs and buy closet organizers with a lot of dumb, snotty, unattractive people. In cowboy hats, no less. Thank you for reading this.

*My apologies to Sam’s relatives, who are all very nice and host swell Hanukkah parties. None of them is rude.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Random thoughts.

It occurs to me that sometimes I can’t think of anything to write about. This isn’t really writer’s block ... it’s more like there’s nothing to report because I don’t actually DO anything all day. I’ll prove my point. Yesterday’s activities included the following: 1) toasting a bagel for Sam; 2) answering email; 3) watching several consecutive “People’s Court” reruns; 4) redesigning the home page banner for a new client’s website; 5) scraping dry skin off my heels; 6) doing four loads of laundry; and 7) eating pretzels. Not exactly an exciting list. To round out an otherwise perfect day I’ll try to finish my TicTac within the next 15 minutes and go to bed so you won’t have to read any more of this crapola.

Night-night, y’all. Seriously.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mazel tov to the Chicago Bears.

They did it. The Bears squished the Seattle Seahawks 35 to 24 in yesterday’s divisional playoff game at Soldier Field. I don’t think anybody in the stands paid attention to the crappy weather (19° with blowing snow), although I got so cold watching in high-definition that I had to make Cream of Wheat and wrap myself in a blanket. The photo below shows quarterback Jay Cutler congratulating Brian Urlacher for being really bald.
The next Bears game is this coming Sunday when they play the Green Bay Packers in Chicago. THIS IS A VERY BIG HOO-HAH FOR ME, and I sincerely hope the Bears can kick those curds right back to dairyland. Hold a good thought.

I’m going to organize some closet and pantry shelves now with a bunch of very cool stuff I bought yesterday at The Container Store. Actually, I placed my order online last week and then sent Sam to the retail store in Dallas to pick it all up. This is actually a very smart way to shop. You don’t get charged for shipping, you don’t have to shlep through the store and there’s NO IMPULSE BUYING ... which is a major issue for me because I love their products and typically want everything I can get my hands on.

Thank you for reading this. And please don’t forget to enter the Howdygram’s New Year Giveaway. Less than two weeks to go before we draw the winners!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marcy's guide to NFL football.

In case you missed it, the Green Bay Packers demolished the Atlanta Falcons 48 to 21 last night in their divisional playoff game. And later today Sam and I will watch the Bears against the Seahawks at Soldier Field. GO BEARS!

I really like watching football on TV and I’m proud to tell you I fully understand the game’s most important concepts, such as interceptions, an incomplete pass, getting sacked, fumbling, field goals, touchdowns, unnecessary celebrations and the difference between a turnover and strudel. I also know what the red zone is, that the clock stops if a player with the ball runs out of bounds and you’re never supposed to grab anybody’s face mask. I don’t think whacking a quarterback in the nuts is allowed, either. You’d probably get a red flag and a penalty for that.
But there are lots of stupid football quirks that I don’t get at all ... even when Sam tries to explain them to me. For instance:
  • Who are all those groupies on the sidelines with clipboards and how much do they get paid. (See above photo.)
  • Why are players required to dangle their drippy mouthguards on national television.
  • What’s the job title of the guy who squirts Gatorade.
  • I will NEVER understand the purpose of a two-minute warning.
  • Why does it take half an hour for the last minute on the clock to run out.
  • Can somebody please explain “rushing”.
  • How come baseball players wear long-sleeve uniforms but football players DON’T, and does this have anything to do with tattoos.
  • What the hell is a “nose tackle”.
If any Howdygram readers can enlighten me on these subjects, please feel free to post a comment or send me an email. Thank you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Everybody wants to smell like Michael Jackson.

Here’s the latest desperate marketing effort from Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson’s grasping, money-grubbing father ... a chance to smell like the late “king of pop”, who by now is best remembered for a lifetime of frightening plastic surgery and pedophilia than for his music.

Creepy Joe (pictured below, inset) has hired Julian Rouas, a French perfume manufacturer, to create “Jackson’s Tribute” for men and “Jackson’s Legend” for women, both inspired by plants and flowers that grew at Michael’s Neverland Ranch, home to all of the singer’s notorious sex scandals. The fragrances will be available in U.S. stores in March. (Try K-Mart.)
In case you care, an additional news report indicated that Michael Jackson’s family and estate have zero involvement in this idiotic project at all ... it’s just another bogus deal by Joe Jackson, the same scary thug who showed up uninvited on the red carpet at the 2009 Grammy Awards trying to promote a Michael Jackson tribute CD one week after his son’s death.

I hope you’re having a swell Saturday and I think we should all order Chinese food for dinner tonight. Thank you for reading this.

Late-night cravings.

Sam is asleep, the house is quiet, and I have a killer craving for Jello chocolate pudding. There’s a package in the pantry and a gallon of milk in the fridge but I don’t want to make any noise in the kitchen that would wake Sam. So I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to make silent pudding. Oy.

I also want to finish a movie that I turned off when Sam got home from work at 10 ... “Julie & Julia” with Meryl Streep. (Sam doesn’t like Meryl Streep.) Have you seen this movie? I didn’t like the first half hour but eventually it got better. Meryl does an amazing impersonation of Julia Child ... and I’d love to know how they managed to make her look as tall as Julia, who was 6'2". She’s towering over EVERYBODY. Unfortunately, the weaker part of the film is about Julie, a self-absorbed thirtysomething who blogs about cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Amy Adams (as Julie) is dull, all of her scenes are dull, her blog is dull, her life is dull, her marriage is dull and her apartment is dull. I keep wishing the entire movie was devoted to Meryl Streep as Julia Child in post-war Paris but I guess we can’t have everything.

I’m going to try to make some pudding now. Ssshhh.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Important stuff you should know.

I haven’t posted in this category for a long time ... way back in August when I wrote about Remembering Krakatoa. I’m long overdue, and here’s what you’ve been waiting for. I hope.
Theologian, musician, philosopher and Nobel Prize-winning physician Albert Schweitzer was born on this date in 1875 in Upper-Alsace, Germany. Schweitzer was the ultimate over-achiever. Initially attracted to missionary work, he first earned a Ph.D. in Theology and then toured professionally as a concert organist to put himself through medical school. After earning his M.D. Schweitzer and his wife moved to Equatorial Africa and founded a hospital to treat lepers and victims of African sleeping-sickness. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his lifelong philosophy that all human life deserves to be respected and loved. He also had one hell of a mustache.

Also ... Marilyn Monroe and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio were married on this date in 1954. Their union lasted 274 days but actually started to fall apart while they were still honeymooning. Apparently DiMaggio, who was clearly no Albert Schweitzer, became insanely jealous that Marilyn was receiving so much attention from men. No kidding ... he didn’t notice this BEFORE he married her?

And finally, on this date in 1943 Franklin Roosevelt became the first president to travel by air on official U.S. business. Already a frail 60 years old, in the midst of World War II Roosevelt flew halfway around the world on a Boeing 314 called the “Dixie Clipper” to meet with Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco. The secret 17,000-mile round trip took four days each way with stopovers in the Caribbean, Brazil and Gambia. Sightseeing in Casablanca included drinks at Rick’s Cafe and a quick mombo with Ingrid Bergman. Nobody lost Roosevelt’s luggage.

I’m going to take an extremely hot shower now because I’m freezing. If that doesn’t work I’ll probably go sit in the closet and run my industrial-size clothes steamer for a while. Seriously, that sentence isn’t really as weird as it sounds. The walk-in closet in our master bedroom is big enough to sleep a family of four and we have a huge upholstered bench in there so we can sit down to put on shoes and socks. Our closet is actually quite a comfortable destination aside from the fact that it has no snack bar or windows. Thank you for reading this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Charity begins at home.

There’s definitely an “oy” in Illinois. The Howdygram would like to send its condolences to the unfortunate residents of Illinois, whose legislature just voted for a 67% increase in the state’s flat-rate income tax ... EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.

Illinois has been completely broke for several years. Now Illinois TAXPAYERS will all be completely broke, too. And if that’s not bad enough, parking meters in Chicago have been increased to $5 an hour and the city’s sales tax is 10¼%. Frankly, I don’t know why anybody still lives there. It certainly can’t be for the terrific weather and low crime rate. (Maybe it’s for the great restaurants. Except now nobody can afford to go out.)

Australia redefines “down under.” For those of you with an interest in this continuing disaster of Biblical proportions, I thought I’d post a few of the latest flood photos from Brisbane, Australia.

In my post yesterday I introduced NOSE PLUGS FOR AUSTRALIA, the Howdygram’s brand new charity drive. Here’s what I’m proposing. If every Howdygram reader (including YOU) will send me just $250, I’ll buy some nice nose plugs online and fly to Canberra with Sam to deliver them in person to the Australian government. Your donation also will cover our organization’s administrative fees, entertainment expenses and assorted essential travel expenditures like new outfits for the trip, comfortable shoes, buying postcards, a bus tour of Sydney and an upgrade to first class on Qantas Airlines for both of us because Sam is way too tall for coach. Click here to make your donation now. Sam and I thank you in advance for your overwhelming generosity. G’day, mate.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Don't try this at home.

In an ongoing effort to provide optimum care and maintenance for our expensive electronics, on Tuesday morning Sam decided to bathe his Apple keyboard and wireless mouse with a cup of hot coffee. It didn’t take us long to figure out these devices were either highly allergic to caffeine or dry-clean only, since both were rendered completely useless within five minutes, leaving Sam with nothing else to do but watch “People’s Court” reruns with a bagel. (I was busy doing other things.)
But being a swell and devoted wife, tonight while Sam was at work I ordered a new keyboard and mouse for him from Fry’s Electronics in Garland for store pickup later today after 9 a.m. It’s not likely Sam will get there anytime before noon, however, because he’s still at the office (it’s already after 1 a.m.) and probably won’t get home until sun-up. I’ll leave a light on in the hall.

Incidentally, please let me know if anybody’s interested in contributing to the Howdygram’s new fundraiser: NOSE PLUGS FOR AUSTRALIA. I don’t know where all that damn flood water is coming from, but if the photos I’ve seen are any indication apparently the entire eastern half of the country is now beachfront property (even in the mountains) ... and nose plugs are probably Australia’s #1 need aside from a lot of paper towels.
Click here if you’d like to make a donation, and thank you for reading this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Creativity can make you look really old.

It’s after 5 a.m. and I haven’t been to bed yet. Trust me, I’m not doing this on purpose. I tried to go to sleep around 1:30, but that didn’t work out very well because I’m currently developing a website for a new client — Signature Events by Shelly — and naturally, as soon as I close my eyes I immediately start imagining page graphics, background patterns, navigation buttons, and (best of all) font colors. So I got up, shlepped back into the study, and for the last four hours I’ve been consumed by a firestorm of creativity and mountains of TicTacs. I guess the results are worth it. Shelly’s website looks phenomenal ... but I’ve turned into a shar pei with trifocals and great breath.

Hi, Darrell. Sam’s cousin Darrell is a big Howdygram fan and I wanted to surprise him. I hope this works!

I’ll post again later this morning after I get some sleep. Thank you for reading this. Please drop me a line if y’all find any typos, okay?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mazel tov to the fine citizens of Cheeseville.

In case you haven’t heard the news, it was an outstanding day for football playoffs as the Green Bay Packers squished the Philadelphia Eagles 21 to 16. The parting shot showed creepy Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and his arrogant little pal DeSean Jackson, both injured, limping off their home field with mighty crabby faces. This, all by itself, was cause for an intense celebration here in Howdygramland.

And for all of you happy Green Bay fans, here’s an opportunity to show some team spirit with your own official NFL Green Bay Packers Cheesehead Hat, a genuine bargain at $19.99 that’s guaranteed to fit damn near everybody. As a bonus, you can even flip it upside down and serve snacks in it during the game. Buy yours here at the NFL store.
And now I’m going to empty the dryer, fold a bunch of hot towels and join Sam in the family room for a couple of good movies on TCM. Tonight’s films include The Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart and a Cary Grant movie from 1932 called This Is the Night. Life is wonderful in Texas. Shalom, please floss and thank you for reading this.

A couple of quick Sunday morning updates.

My post about the Charcoal Oven restaurant on January 3 stirred up some interesting responses. A girlfriend from grammar school (Marilyn) emailed the post to her sister, who commented:
I, too, was always HAUNTED by [the Charcoal Oven] even before I knew it was a Twilight Zone or some kind of black hole. I mean, what kind of Jewish kid wants to follow her family into a place with NO WINDOWS that calls itself an OVEN?
And now, for the weather watchdogs among you, it appears that our overnight ice storm didn’t materialize (it’s raining instead) and the winter storm we expected later today with up to five inches of snow has been downgraded to an irritating ADVISORY. This means: 1) No snowman for Sam; 2) everybody at is a pathological liar; and 3) I’m still making my homemade potato salad. Our current weather map looks like this:
Incidentally, even though there’s no ice storm this morning we’ll still skip brunch at Blue Mesa because nobody wants to go out on purpose when it’s 37° and pouring rain ... particularly ME. We’ll just stay inside instead, light the fireplace, eat things and watch a couple of NFL games.

Thank you for reading this. What are YOU doing today?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Here comes winter and other observations.

I guess we won’t make it to Blue Mesa for Sunday morning brunch after all. I just checked and there’s a red-alert winter storm warning — in SCARY GIANT TYPE — for overnight tonight and all day tomorrow. This includes: 1) rain for a few hours until the temperature drops; 2) an obnoxious layer of ice; and 3) up to five inches of snow. I can tell you right now that I will NOT set foot out of the house until Thursday at the earliest, which is the first day next week the temperature here will finally get back up to 40°. I don’t do winter. Sam, however, LOVES this stuff. After he makes his snowman tomorrow I’ll post a couple of pictures. It’s MY plan to hang out in the kitchen making homemade potato salad (see my recipe).

Back in August I wrote a post about Marie Osmond that generated a lot of attention online and quadrupled the Howdygram’s visitor traffic for at least five days afterwards. Basically, I commented that I was suffering from Marie Osmond overkill on TV, that her teeth are too damn big and that she looks like a graduate of the Drag Queen Institute of Fashion and Design. Apparently most of the universe agreed with me, validating my undisputed status as the style maven of Mesquite. In any event, I ran across yet another frightening photo of poor Marie yesterday (see below) alongside an article that says she’s currently desperate enough to remarry her first husband. He must be desperate, too. Marie looks like a transvestite who just finished a 90-minute workout.
I’m going to hunt around for something to eat and watch a movie now with Sam. A sugar-free popsicle and William Powell would be perfect. Thank you for reading this. Send a snow shovel.

Friday, January 7, 2011

You blew it. Seriously.

Since nobody paid any attention to the last paragraph of my post on January 5, I was the only BIG WINNER yesterday at the Choctaw Casino. This was an outstanding experience of the first degree. Trust me, I’m not usually much of a gambler. I tend not to spend money unless I’m buying something of value, like kitchen gadgets, Chinese food or fonts.
We started with a very nice lunch at the casino buffet. Even Sam enjoyed it, which says a lot because he’s never been a fan of fish sticks, meatballs and Cheez Whiz. Afterwards we rambled around the casino floor and played various slot machines here and there until we found some good ones with no chain smokers nearby. This was a major accomplishment.

My lucky slot turned out to be a penny machine called “Silk Kimono.” This is basically a misnomer, however, because you don’t bet 1¢. You bet 15, 20 or 30 lines at a time at 1¢ (or up to 10¢) per line. Which means the minimum bet is actually 15¢ and the maximum can be $3 if you feel like blowing large wads of dough. I was betting 20¢.
On my first bet I won $3.50. On my second bet all the bells and whistles went off and I won the Bonus Round ... 12 free spins with a multiplier after each spin that increases the reward. I wound up winning $29.60 on a 20¢ bet. That might not sound like a lot to YOU, but do the math. The screen was making so much noise I drew a crowd. At that point we decided to cash out and head back to Texas with a U-Haul for my jackpot.

The Choctaw Casino is in Durant, Oklahoma, and it’s surprisingly gorgeous. Everything was remodeled in 2009 ... a new hotel tower, new gaming floors, new restaurants, you name it. We were totally impressed. I even joined Club 55 for the senior discounts. Next time we go I want to do an overnight so I can get the breakfast buffet for 55¢. This alone would be worth the trip.

I’m ready for bed now. Sam is already asleep, which is excellent because I want to whisper subliminal messages in his ear about dim sum so he’ll wake up thinking about shrimp dumplings for lunch. It works every time. Thank you for reading this and pass the soy sauce.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Achievements and accomplishments.

Sam has this week off work, and I’m pleased to report that the two of us are making magnificent progress on a variety of exciting projects. Mine mostly have been limited to folding a lot of socks and sleeping late. Sam, on the other hand, bought a five-gallon watering can from Lowe’s so our pansies wouldn’t die, installed ten nice stepping stones in the back yard and took me to lunch at Saltgrass Steak House in Rockwall. From this I suppose a casual observer can assume that Sam and I lead an exceptionally uncomplicated life, which apparently is due to the fact that we are exceptionally uncomplicated people. (Also unmotivated.)

Big plans for the rest of the week include: 1) lunch at Pei Wei because Sam has a gift card; 2) installing new towel rings in the master bath; 3) a trip to the Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma; 4) buying stamps; and 5) I want to make a homemade pizza.

In case you didn’t see this story in the news, a rare miniature cow that resembles a panda bear was born this week on a farm in northern Colorado. This “panda cow” is thought to be one of only about 24 in the world. They’re bred solely as pets and can sell for as much as $30,000. The male calf named Ben is pictured below with his mother, a purebred black Angus, and Chris Jessen, her live-in boyfriend.
Incidentally, if anybody wants to give me $10 to gamble for them at the casino this week, please send an email no later than noon Wednesday and attach a check payable to “Marcy.” I always win big at the penny slots. Thank you for reading this.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ah, sweet mysteries of life.

According to a news item I read yesterday on the Chicago Tribune’s website, the owner of the Charcoal Oven restaurant in suburban Skokie died in his sleep on Christmas Day.
While this probably means absolutely nothing to 99½% of the people reading this post, I need to tell you that I grew up one block away from this strange little establishment, which offered frightened customers an unexpected trip to the Twilight Zone for more than 60 years. The map below indicates: A) the house where I grew up; and B) the Charcoal Oven restaurant.
I never knew anybody who ate at the Charcoal Oven. My family never ate there, my neighbors never ate there, and my friends never ate there, either, probably because it was just too damn close to home. When you get dressed up to go out for dinner you don’t want to drive 11 seconds to the next block and park the car.

And so here’s my strange story. It’s a late Saturday afternoon in the mid-1980s, I’m spending a few hours at my parents’ house and dad asks why don’t we all walk over to the Charcoal Oven for an early dinner. Keep in mind ... this is the first time he’s ever suggested it, and he and mom had lived one block from that restaurant for more than 30 years.

Have a seat. You’re entering the Twilight Zone. When we get to the Charcoal Oven it’s around 5 p.m., the parking lot is jammed with Cadillacs, and the restaurant is COMPLETELY EMPTY inside except for one waitress and a busboy with a pitcher of water. We’re ignored for ten minutes before we finally have a chance to ask for a table. The waitress tells us it might not be possible because we don’t have a reservation. There are no other customers. She seats us anyway, gives us our menus, drops off a basket of bread and vanishes for 45 minutes. Dad eventually walks into the kitchen to look for her. She’s not there. And he doesn’t even see a chef.

When she finally comes back from the depths of hell (or wherever she disappeared to) we attempt to order dinner and find out that nothing on the menu is available. If we want food we have to order one of their two daily specials with string beans. It’s another 45 minutes before we get our salads. Nobody asks if we want beverages, nobody refills our bread basket or water glasses (the busboy is gone, too), and when our entrees finally show up they’re room temperature, unseasoned and strangely chewy. Dinner lasts almost three hours. We’re still the only customers in the restaurant.

After we finally flag down Satan the Waitress for our check, she hands us a grocery bag filled with homemade bread (the same bread nobody bothered to refill during dinner) and half a dozen home-grown tomatoes from somebody’s back yard. The parking lot is still full of Cadillacs when we leave.

Conclusion. Mom’s the one who first mentions this because she always loved old Edward G. Robinson movies: THE CHARCOAL OVEN IS A FRONT FOR THE MAFIA. It’s a restaurant with no food, no staff, no customers and no chef ... and a parking lot that looks like a Cadillac dealership. Everybody is probably in the basement running a bookie joint or planning a hit.

So that’s it. Phillip Georgouses died on Christmas Day and one of his daughters will take over the empty Charcoal Oven, Skokie’s oldest Twilight Zone restaurant that doesn’t sell any food. Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Rose Parade, another dud.

I’m pretty much finished with the Tournament of Roses parade. No kidding, this is the second year in a row I was bored half to death ... except this time I actually fell asleep after the first 30 minutes. The floats are too commercial, horses aren’t allowed to poop, everything is too damn slick, and the announcer (Al Roker) never shuts up long enough to let you hear the music. A high school marching band from suburban Atlanta had a girls’ drill team that performed like a line of professional hoochie dancers. And this year’s Grand Marshall? None other than Paula Deen, the Food Network’s southern-fried princess of plastic surgery. You could see her fluorescent dental veneers three blocks away.
Sam and I spent the rest of the day in and out of naps, watched My Darling Clementine and a few old March of Time newsreels on TCM, and then Sam picked up Tex-Mex for dinner from Norma’s Restaurant in Garland. Pretty much an ideal New Year’s Day except that I haven’t been able to warm up, even after two extremely hot showers. Maybe we should light the fireplace. Socks might help, too. Thank you for reading this.