Friday, March 25, 2005

Corporate Culture Stomp

Evidence that everyone at this office has become un-supervisable:

1. The hallway from the lobby to the offices contains many interesting things. It is a long, dark, depressing hallway that has been christened "The Solarium". Of the Solarium's many wonderful items, my personal favorite rests on the top of a low bookcase. It is a plastic skull, wearing a red clown nose, sitting atop the 1922 hardcover edition of "Etiquette" by Emily Post.

2. On days when everyone else in their right mind has taken the day off - like today - Marty and I have eyeball races. You remember those balls with the eyeballs floating in them? You roll them, but the eye continues to stare straight up. We have a secret collection of them that we race in various venues around the building. The reason we only do it on days when almost no one else is here? We don't wanna share the eye-balls with everyone else and when the boss wants to play, you pretty much have to let him win.

3. The big chart with a thermometer-style, color-in, progress graph that was supplied by the American Cancer Society to show the progress of our collections for our Relay for Life Team hangs in a small foyer outside the employees restrooms. It says:
OUR GOAL IS: Ambiguous
People have started measuring themselves and writing "Ester is this tall" or "Mindy is this tall!" on it.

4. There is a sign directly across from my office door which says: "In case of terrorist attack, WALK, do not run, to the nearest exit."

I am ready to WALK, do not run, home.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Beat with a Stick

Received this stick from Reverendmother:

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451; which book do you want to be? I am assuming this to mean what book would I destroy. It would have to be pretty much anything by Mary Higgins Clark. I am a big fan of fluff mysteries - you know the kind where the main character is some suburban chick with a catering business or a writer or something and people she is vaguely acquainted with start dropping dead? And this happens book after book after book, yet no one considers that this chick may well be a serial killer who is really adept at foisting blame for her crimes on other eccentric townspeople? Yeah. I like that crap. But I can't stand Mary Higgins Clark. I dunno why. I also don't know why I own about half of her books and have read them even though I know they will make me nuts. I just don't have the guts to get rid of them myself.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fiction character? Robin Hood.

3. The last book(s) you bought: The Care and Keeping of You and The Feelings Book, both by American Girl Publishing. Before you drop yer teeth in yer tea - Katie the Fabulous StepKid is that age and her mother is clueless. So, in the best Mrs. Cunningham fashion, I bought books and we have been reading them. (And just in case you are in need of this stuff - I really recommend these books. They are all about plain-speaking, but the way they are arranged make for a really stress-free situation for both you and the kid.)

4. The last book you read: A trilogy of Mary Roberts Rinehart novels.

5. What are you currently reading? "Wake Up America" by Tony Campolo. Don't ask me any questions, I've only had time for the first few pages!

6. Five books you would take to a desert island: I would not use one of my choices for the Bible, because I have great faith in the
1. It by Stephen King - this was the first of his books I read and remains my favorite.
2. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations - "It is good for the uneducated man to study quotations" - Benjamin Franklin.
3. Complete Book of Herbs by Lesley Bremness. I really want to steal
Reverndmother's "Worst Case Scenario" idea. With this book I'll at least know a little bit about what I can eat and what will cure me when I eat something I shouldn't.
4. Complete Collected works of Jane Austen - Yeah, I know. You can't believe I read this stuff. I can't either. I hate romance as a general rule, but I can read her books over and over again. Don't know why. Don't much care. I guess that's why they are classics, huh?
5. Lake Wobegone Days by Garrison Keillor - Another author I never tire of. I love his style and I am addicted to hearing him read his works. Word of caution - When leaving home at 4:00 a.m. for 8 hour drive, don't listen to Keillor. You will just be lulled right back to sleep. The highway patrol frowns on this.

So that's it. Passing it on to

Monday, March 14, 2005

Carne Guisada Burrito, Enchilada Style, With Rice and Beans

You know you are in a rut when:

You go out to lunch with a friend. You go to the same restaurant you have been frequenting at least weekly for the last ten-plus years. You order the same thing you always order.

After you've ordered and are sitting back with some chips and hot sauce, enjoying some good conversation, one of the waitresses comes out of the kitchen, scans the dining room and sees you. She comes to your table and says:

"I didn't hear ya'll come in! But I knew when I saw the cook making those plates that you must be here."

Friday, March 11, 2005


A few days ago, I read a post by Reverenmother that started me to thinking about what books and music have influenced me. I have come up with a couple of classics:

The first is a book whose title I have forgotten. When I was in the fifth grade, I found the book in the church library of Second Baptist Church in
Lamesa, Texas. I probably checked it out five times that year and devoured it each time. It was ostensibly written by J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950’s as a propaganda/recruitment tool for clean-cut, white-bread, American boys. It told about how the greatest crime-fighting force in the history of mankind to date was the FBI – the G-Men. The book told young men how they could become clean-cut, white-bread, American G-Men. (J. Edgar was real big on being clean-cut.) As I understood it, the closest I could come to being a superhero was to become a G-(wo)Man. It never occurred to me that this did not apply in my case and J. Edgar Hoover would have wanted nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with me.

Joining FBI was my life’s goal until well into college. At that point I discovered the feds have no sense of humor. (That is a really good story that I will tell you about sometime after the Patriot Act has been repealed.) I did some intern work for the police department and decided that was all well and good, but not really about Truth, Justice and The American Way. So, I went to work for adult probation. It has its flaws – one of the chief of which is that it has been bureaucratically renamed Community Supervision and Corrections – but I like it. It fits me well. And I guess I have to thank J. Edgar Hoover for that. Him and the total lack of appreciation for humor among federal law enforcement personnel.

Another book that has contributed greatly to who I am is And So It Goes by Linda Ellerbee. My good friend Kincaid (kudos, Kincaid!) told me about this book when we were in high school. I read it several times then and it hasn’t left my side since. Ellerbee talks about always having a copy of “Catch 22” on her desk when she worked in television news. Today, Ellerbee’s book sits on the bookshelf in my office, where I see it peeping over the shoulder of people who sit in the chair opposite me.

I was reading And So It Goes during lunch a few weeks ago and realized again how the unusual situations and the dark humor she writes about have always appealed to me. I love close encounters with reality - far removed from soccer moms and minivans - in the company of friends and gallows humor. I know I live in a comfortable, WASPish, middle-class world, (I don’t own a minivan, though I do end up riding in them a lot). But I like to look past my world as much as possible and see what is going on elsewhere. I am lucky to have friends and family who are willing to go along with me.

And we laugh a lot.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

It might be the food.

Last week was the first week of my three month rotation in County Court. Didn't see Frank this time. Towards the end of the morning, we had a hearing on a big ol' boy from Stephenville. (Actually, Lingleville, but who knows where that is?) He had gotten arrested while driving through Fake Cow County with a suspended driver's license. He hired an attorney and was pleading guilty, hopefully to be placed on probation and sent back East with the customary judicial pronouncement of "Go and sin no more!"

My customary perch in the courtroom/basement is right next to the lone window. By this time, my attention had begun to wander outside. Big ol' boy was explaining to the Judge what had happened. I didn't pay much attention, except when he said "I had moved back from Hawaii a couple months earlier and I just hadn't gotten a Texas license yet." To which the Judge replied with a lecture on how it is your responsibility to get a new license within 30 days, etc. etc. He ended his diatribe with - "I don't care where your license was from - Hawaii, was it? Probably got a damn pineapple on it."

"Worse than that," big ol' boy said. "Its a rainbow."

At this point I was leaning up against the window frame, which you can almost feel move as it strained to keep out the wind. Right now there is no sand, but the wind is starting and I remembered this is March and the sand will come. The grass looks pretty good - the jail inmates just finished mowing it for the first time. This bit of grass is one of the few in town that will remain green through the summer. At the edge of my view a couple of those dumb daffodils jumbled around, just waiting to be cut down by the last freeze. The freeze is coming too. Just like the sand.

The hearing is concluded. I make a few quick notes on my courtsheet. The Judge asked big ol' boy if he had any questions. He didn't. "I have one!" I said. "Why in the world did you move back to Texas from Hawaii??!"

"I dunno," he grinned and looked out my window. "There's just something about Texas." As he spoke he twirled his big ol' cowboy hat on his hand. He grinned again, then he turned on his boot heel and followed the bailiff from the courtroom.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

QUIZ: What theologian are you?

I don't know what this means, but it sounds fairly accurate:

"We reject the false doctrine that the church could have permission to hand over the form
of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the
prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day."
You are Karl Barth!
You like your freedom, and are pretty stubborn against authority! You don't
care much for other people's opinions either. You can come up with your own fun, and
often enough you have too much fun. You are pretty popular because you let people have their
way, even when you have things figured out better than them.

What theologian are you?
A creation of Henderson

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Romance In The Car - Part II, or I Fixed Her Van

Perhaps you remember this guy, who sent me the letter from jail about how he'd been arrested for violating a protective order after a joyously tasteful reunion with his estranged wife in the backseat of his car?

Well, today he faced the music in County Court. I don't know how your county court works, but ours is exactly like an episode of Night Court - bizarro characters and all. I got called over to the court house from my extra plushy office because somebody wanted my testimony at the hearing. Doesn't that sound official and Perry Masonish?
Translation: I went into the courtroom where a herd of people were milling around, chewing cud and the judge stopped what he was doing, looked at me and pointed to a guy in the back. "I need you to talk to Frank," he said, and then resumed the hearing in progress. I took my file over to sit by a guy on the back pew. (There are only two pews. Its a small, cramped room in the basement of the courthouse where misdemeanor cases are heard. The Judge's bench is pushed up in a dark corner and it makes you feel sort of hunched over when you stand before him.)

Frank was wearing the ever popular orange jumpsuit and a prodigious number of shackles. I am guessing that was due to the fact that Frank is freakin' messed up. He is fried. He has cooked himself on methamphetamine for just too damn long. When he talks to you his eyes begin to roll around in his head, eventually rolling up to the point that all you see is white. I can't prove it but I swear to you his eyes roll in different directions and at different speeds. Then he makes hand gestures - the more agitated he gets, the more he gestures. I wish I could show it to you, but imagine fingers twisted into claws and swirling around the room with an effect reminiscent of the head spin from The Exorcist.

"What's the deal, Frank?"
"I want to get out of jail," he hissed at me.
"I don't think that's gonna happen, Frank. You got a new charge for violating you wife's protective order."
"I gotta get out of jail." His voice starts to get louder. "My little girl is sick and I gotta get out and help her."
"She still livin' with your parents, Frank?" "Yessss." He hisses some more.
"Well, what's the problem?" At this point the freaky-looking guy sitting in front of us turned around and began to tell me how he is Frank's dad and the little girl has kidney disease and she is going to have to have surgery and Frank just needs to get out of jail.
"What are you going to do if you get out of jail, Frank?"
"I'm gonna get the hell out of this county! You people all have it in for me. I am going to Mineral Wells to live with my brother - he's a state cop and he won't let me use. I'm clean now and you just won't believe me!"
"Of course you're clean, Frank - ya been in jail for the last three months! But once you get out you and I both know you won't stay clean. How long did you stay in treatment last time?"
"Three weeks." Lots of hand gestures. Eyes are rolling like dice.
"No, man. How long did you stay at the treatment center before you tried the suicide thing and they took you to Big Springs?"
"Three days."
"Well, I gotta tell ya, I cannot in good conscience recommend to the judge that he just let you out of jail. If he does let you out, you are going into drug treatment."
"I never have trusted you!" His voice keeps getting louder. "You had it in for me from the start, cuz you're Debbie's officer too and she poisoned your mind against me!" Hand gestures, eye-rolling and nods from Dad.

"Well, your doing a pretty good job of getting yourself in trouble without help from me, Frank."
"I don't need no treatment. I'm clean."
"I'm not discussing this with you any further. We'll talk it over with the Judge when he calls your case."

Miffed silence. Dad and Frank begin to grumble to each other. I scoot a little ways down the pew and try to ignore them. In a few minutes, Frank wags an eye at me. "Did Debbie pay her probation?"
"You know I can't tell you that."
"Well she should have." Gestures. Eyes doing the hokey-pokey in his head. "I gave her the money."
This time I am the one yelling in the courtroom. "What are you doing giving her your money Frank? You aren't even supposed to go anywhere near her!"
"Well... she's a mother." He sniffles superiorly and turns his back to me. Frank and Dad grumble to each other some more. Dad starts feeling bold and while sending me eye daggers he tells Frank in a loud voice "If I was you, I'd stay in jail another week and get me a lawyer! Seems like that might do you some good!" No response from me. They grumble together some more. Then Dad stares at me again and says "I drove trucks for 30 years and took that meth stuff because I had to. The minute I quit driving trucks, I quit using it. I think this treatment crap is just a bunch of bullshit!" My eyebrows raised and the deputy who brought Frank up from the jail takes a step closer to us. Frank puts his head in his hands and says "Dad! Stop helpin' me!"

Finally, the judge called our case. I know in your mind you picture a bailiff stepping up to the bar and announcing The State vs. Frank and people standing to attention as their attorneys announce their intentions in the case. In County Court it means the judge looked over at us and said "Y'all ready?"

Frank and I stood in front of the bench with the assistant district attorney. (Night Court, remember? Except instead of Markie Post - the public defender, they get me - the probation officer.) I tell the Judge that Frank would really like to get out of jail. However, Frank has a real big ol' problem with drugs and with beatin' up on Debbie. (Both of Frank's eyeballs appear to be in just one eye socket at this point.) "I don't think we can just turn him loose. I told him if his probation is continued I want him in drug treatment."
The judge nods and starts to ask Frank a question. Frank interrupts with a gesture or two and said "Judge - you know I love that woman - and I gave her my money and look where I am now! I talked to you and you said I could be with Debbie. The only person here who don't want me seein' her is Miss Rachel!" Claws are thrust in my direction.

"Me and the judge in Flat Land County who issued that protective order against you!" I said. Loudly. At this point I get all southern. I can't help it. I don't want my accent to show that badly, but some people cain't understand whut yer sayin' unless yew speak their language and yer raisin' begins to tell and ya start to talk real bad. "Look here, man! Yew are goin' to prison if yew don't leave that girl alone! Ya done been put on two probations fer beatin' her up and now yew got this new charge in Flat Land County for violation' that judges order." I glare at one and/or both of his eyes and he waggles his finger-claws at me.

Suddenly, the constable/bailiff, who has been snoozing in a chair in the makeshift witness stand, wakes up and says "Whut? You gotta protective order against you, Frank? Then what were you doin with Debbie when I arrested you on this probation violation!?"

All eyes, including some of his own, turn on Frank. He ducks his head and grins. "I was fixing her van. You know I love that woman!"

Thanks to Headless for title inspiration.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Damn Daffodils

Posted by Hello

Stupid flowers. Every year the same thing. You'd think you would learn. But no, you poke you little stems out of the ground waaay to early. Then it freezes and you die. Geeze! I know there is an object lesson here about optimism and hope and all that good stuff. But not today. Today you are being stupid. Well, that and dead. Stupid and dead.