I go to Colorado every summer to enjoy the mountains, the rivers and to fly fish. It restores my soul, feeds my spirit, and heightens my connection with God.
So, a friend said to me regarding my upcoming trip, “I’d really like to get a picture of a bear. Could you get a selfie with you and a bear in the background?”
I said, “A bear in the back ground?”
My friend, “Yes, just far enough in front of the bear so you’re out of danger.”
Then me “Out of danger? Seriously? How far would that need to be?”
My friend, “I don’t know, I guess enough so if the bear charges then you would have time to get in the car, or something.”
Then me, “Or something?”
I’m not sure about this and have some questions:
How do you get a bear to stop and face the camera?
What’s a safe distance and how do I measure it?
What if the bear attacks and I can’t find my keys?
Does anyone know how to Photoshop a bear?
What’s exactly is a selfie?
Do bears like eating old slow guys?
I Can Imagine
I can imagine being out in the forest, among the trees, with a river behind me, and a bear a half mile away. Sure, picture that. Snap that one. It’ll be one for the books.
It’s not that I’m afraid or anything. After all, I’m an outdoorsy guy, mostly. I’m a naturalist and an avid fly fisherman, I relish the outdoor life with the high mountain air. That’s where I thrive and long to be. All I need is my trusty fly rod, a good pair of wading boots, and a lovely, comfortable, well stocked cabin that’s never out of eyesight.
I’ve been in the Colorado mountains many times. I’ve seen rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, deer, elk, antelope and a wolf or two. I’ve never seen a bear.
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
My back yard had a flower bed between the garage and the pool deck. It had roses, a box hedge, and gobs of weeds and grasses. It was overgrown and ugly so I took out the box hedge, removed the rose bushes, and dug out all the grass. I was careful to get the roots.
It was a tough job but I’m a tough guy.
Except that it hurt my back, gave me blisters, and the thorns scratched my arms. I also got a sun burn and a headache. And I emerged with mosquito bites that looked like the measles. And my good sneakers got muddy.
However, I leveled the soil, laid down a weed guard, and finished with pavers and pea gravel. It looks terrific.
Except, I can’t stop the grass from springing up. It’s not Bermuda, it’s a demon grass. It’s hardy and vigorous. It’s also ugly and unwelcome. Be gone demon grass.
Me Against The Grass
I’ve tried weed/grass killer.
Then I tried a different weed/grass killer.
I’ve tried pulling it up by the roots.
I’ve attacked it with the string edger.
I’ve stood and glared at it while saying hateful things.
And still it grows. It mocks me. Call me Ishmael, for the grass is my white whale and Moby is winning.
Pull up the pavers, pea gravel, and weed guard.
Build something on it.
Extend the pool deck.
Widen the garage.
Some of these may be a bit extreme.
The Final Solution
Sell the house
Okay, we aren’t selling the house. We just bought it nine months ago.
The Ultimate Final Solution
Learn to love the unwanted grass.
But I can’t. I’ve tried. Really, I have.
If the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, then my neighbors must envy me. I have some of the greenest and most fertile grass on the block.
Our great republic has fifty states; some are sparsely populated while others feel crowded. My state is booming, it’s Texas.
Houston has a strong economy, lots of new growth and lots of new people. Business is good, housing is exploding, and we are proud to once again be hosting the Super Bowl.
Most of the attention is given to what’s happening above: the tall buildings and soaring spires of commerce. But the key element, the thing that gets overlooked, are the roads.
What Houstonians want most are roads. We don’t have enough, or at least they aren’t big enough. And, for some reason, our roads end up requiring a lot repair.
The Except Clause
Here’s the except clause: All Houstonians want nice, big roads, and they want the bad roads to get repaired, they just want it done somewhere else. They want the roads they use for commuting to already be big and good to go. The motto is: “Let them build and expand somewhere else.”
Basically, all of Houston is closed for road work.
Well, we moved to the southwest suburbs. For two years a major Blvd was under construction and caused constant conflict. Then the Beltway 8 Toll Road, a mainstay of my commute, underwent a three-year overhaul. Then I-45 began its massive, larger than life, “your children will live to see it finished,” project. And I fought that mess for three or four years. Then we said enough. We moved.
We are so happy. No more freeways, no toll roads, no traffic jams, no anything. Except for this. The church I preach for is on Bay Area Blvd. The city has decided that Bay Area BLVD needs resurfacing, a major, high volume, four lane road. Traffic will be redirected from four lanes to two, so they can work on one side, the reroute the traffic so they can work on the other side. It’s going to be a big mess.
So I asked. They said it would take about six months. That sounds suspiciously like ten or eleven months to me.
Yep, happiness is a state of mind. And the state I live in is driving me crazy.
As the summer wears on, it becomes more and more difficult to contain my excitement. Not that my excitement is so big that if it lost containment it would threaten the world.
I’m just excited.
About To Start
In just a couple of weeks the NCAA College Football Season launches. College Football. It doesn’t get any better.
Evidently, all humanity falls into two categories: those who are die-hard, hard-core, fanatical college football fans, and everyone else.
Here are some thoughts regarding our two global groups of humanity.
The College Football Enthusiast
Is better equipped to handle life’s problems.
Has a greater capacity for strategic thinking.
Can recognize the quality of great snacks.
Is usually more successful and climbs the ladder faster.
Generally, is a nicer person and a better neighbor.
The Non-College Football Enthusiast
Prefers to watch reruns of Lawrence Welk.
Goes to bed early and would miss the big games anyway.
Prefers a rousing game of Scrabble.
Is often less successful and doesn’t know about the ladder.
Perhaps I’m a little biased, maybe. But it’s okay; it’s good to be on the side of truth, freedom, and the American way.
Who Else Would Be A Huge Fan?
Simon Peter: he would be big for Texas A&M.
King David, the most victorious King in Israel’s history: Florida Gators.
Judas Iscariot: Alabama, LSU, or maybe Notre Dame.
Apostle John: Longhorn fan, he always sided with deep tradition.
Jesus: he would root for everyone, but down deep: Texas Tech (I know, I just threw that in to score points with a Red Raider friend.)
I Love It
The pageantry and traditions, the crisp autumn afternoons, the packed stadiums with raucous enthusiasm, it all works for me. College football can never start soon enough and its always ends way to soon.
Okay, I Get It
I know, it’s not for everyone. There are people in the world who exist in the other group. And you are good people; I love you, and I want you to have a good life.
What’s the deal about men in capes? Do they keep them warm? Is it a fashion statement? If it is a fashion statement, what does it say?
We’ve Seen Capes
I’m not a super hero, nor have I played one on TV. However, I was the Royal King in a High School play. I wore a crown, held a scepter, and had a cape. I actually felt pretty cool.
I was seventeen. They made me give the cape back.
Who Am I To Judge
But who am I to judge men wearing capes. I still wear banded collar shirts and pleated pants, with cuffs.
Wonder Woman has a cape, but frankly, she’d look good in a sack.
Perhaps the cape is a symbol of authority? Or maybe they have protective properties? Would super man still look cool if his cape didn’t wave like a flag? Batman’s sidekick Robin wears a cape, but it seems superfluous, not super. I think its purely decorative.
I say wear what you want, wear what you like. Wear what makes you feel good. But be modest, and cover up what common decency demands to be hidden.
Fellas, pull your pants up, wear a belt, nobody wants to see the top of your underwear, it’s not a fashion statement, its’ just ugly and in poor taste.
Girls, please don’t wear tops that are designed to reveal your undergarment straps. Nobody needs to see that. Its not attractive, is isn’t interesting, its just tacky.
Men, we need to either lose weight or buy shirts that are long enough to cover our big stomachs. Talk about something nobody wants to see!
To the young: cover up, be modest, and don’t show it off.
To the older: cover up, be modest, you don’t want to gross people out.
There is a heated debate raging across the American landscape. People everywhere are locking horns over the decision between two choices. It threatens to tear the very fabric of our society.
I of course am referring to the hotly contested idea of whether decaf coffee is really coffee.
Here’s The Thing
My Doctor has restricted my caffeine intake. That’s right, I’m off coffee. I’m okay, don’t send cards or flowers, or you can if you want, but I’m not sick. For a month now I’ve been off coffee. If you have followed my blog you know I love coffee, especially in the early morning while I write, blog, and study. It’s my favorite time of the day and often the most productive.
I’ll Admit It
I’ll have to admit a certain bias, a prejudice if you will, towards decaffeinated coffee. Over the years I’ve built up a resistance to the idea of it; believing that decaf isn’t coffee at all, but a distortion, an abnormality, a tragic attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public. But not me, no sir, I have remained true to the faith and not succumbed to the demon beverage.
Yesterday I had all the coffee deprivation I could take. So I drank the cool aid. I tried my first cup of decaf. I take it black, the way coffee should be enjoyed. Sometimes I’ll put some cream in it, but not sweetener, no, never sweetener because real men don’t use sweetener in their coffee. They’ll use some cream now and then, but not sugar, never sugar. Hear me roar.
This morning I’ve opted out of coffee. I won’t say that the decaf was bad, but I will say that it didn’t taste as good as I hoped. Maybe it was the decaf or maybe being off coffee for a while destroyed my taste for the stuff.
This whole thing has left me feeling disconnected, off my game, and confused. When my Doctor releases me to enjoy such things again, I’m frankly not sure what I’ll do. It’s a dilemma all right.
In The Mean Time
For now I’ll just keep drinking ice water with lemon wedges. It’s refreshing, healthy, and free. But it lacks a certain something. It disappoints and leaves me yearning for something else.
I guess the raging debate continues. But America will have to decide this one without me. Maybe there’s a clear choice and maybe there isn’t.
For now, I’m leaving the coffee alone. I’m sitting this one out.
Chunky couldn’t shake his growing nausea. Unky, his best and closest friend, had left him at the dumpster for that Gurdie May Wastebinder. It was just so wrong.
A Scheming Raccoon
Chunky was in no way happy about losing his friend to the flap-hatted dumpster gal, even if she was from Doofus County and heiress to the Wastebinder Happy Worm Farm fortune.
So he started scheming. He needed a plan, or something better. He thought, “What would make that sappy eyed Unky sit up and take notice?” Some the schemes included:
Setting fire to the dumpster
Leaping table to table in the Moo Cow Drive In
Holding a Main Street rally with local raccoons
But none of those seemed right.
And Then It Happened
While Chunky was scheming, he noticed a big tent at the end of town. It was one of those traveling carnivals. Being naturally nosey, he waddled over and started sniffing around. All of sudden a woman was yelling, “What are you doing here you hairy little varmint?”
She was about to put the broom to him when she realized he was no ordinary raccoon, but a sad, semi-domesticated raccoon, which softened her heart. It turned out she was one of the carny attractions, “Matilda the Yak Woman,” with horns. She invited Chunky in and they became fast friends. She even asked him to become part of her show. He’d wear a little tuxedo and take tickets from the customers.
It Was All Coming Together
Things were looking up for Chunky. If Unky thought the worm heiress was more important than their friendship, then just let him get a whiff of him with the horn-headed carny gal.
Later That Night
Later that night, back at the Doo Bear Inn, Unky couldn’t stop jabbering about Gurdie. That’s when Chunky mentioned that he had met someone too and was excited for Unky and Gurdie to meet her. Well, Unky was a little surprised, and curious, and agreed to go the carnival.
Unky and Gurdie arrived at the big top along with 27 other people; it was a packed house. Then out walked Chunky in his little tuxedo, grinning ear to ear, and Matilda the Yak Woman was introduced. She walked around the ring to the amazement of several. Some clapped, others whistled, and one even fainted, but he would be okay. Then she walked over to Chunky, picked him up and gave him a big kiss on the head. Chunky just turned to butter; kissed by the Yak Woman, the star of the big top.
Unky To The Rescue
The crowd was going crazy. Maybe twenty, or even fewer, were on their feet. It was just so sweet to see Matilda and Chunky together, entertaining the crowd, and striking a blow for animal rights everywhere.
But Unky couldn’t believe it. That woman in antlers had stolen his best and closest friend. So Unky upped and jumped into the ring and demanded she put Chunky down. Chunky, still smiling, wasn’t ready to be put down. So Unky said, “Chunky, you get down right now, and get out of that ridiculous tuxedo, and go get packed cause we’re going home. And he did.
A Bitter Farewell
It was a bitter farewell. Unky and Gurdie May were teary eyed for losing their love of a lifetime. Matilda was sad over losing her hit show; it was the biggest thing to happen to the carnival in weeks.
And Chunky? Well, he was just smug and insufferable: he won his best friend back; and got rid of the flap-hatted woman in the process. And he got to have his 15 minutes of fame under the big top.
He would miss the life of a carnival star, and his little tux, and especially the Yak Woman. But it was time to go home; Unky and Chunky’s big vacation was over. And there was a Moo Cow paper bag with his name on it.
So Chunky got into the bag, Unky got them on the bus, and with memories for a lifetime; they joyfully headed home to Doofus County.
Unky and Chunky got checked in at the Doo Bear Inn. Unky had not seen such fanciness and neither had Chunky.
They figured out the hair dryer wasn’t a rechargeable flashlight. Unky rejected the offer of turndown service. He felt he had been turned-down enough in his life. He gave up on the TV clicker. At home, he just had Chunky go over and turn the knob like everybody else. Chunky fed quarters in the box that made his bed shake. He just lay there with a big smile, for hours.
Then The Magic Moment
The man came to drive them to the dumpster. Unky said, “Yahoo Chunky, we is going to see the bears.” Unky handed the driver his voucher, slipped him a $1.00 tip, and stuffed Chunky in a shopping bag.
Two minutes later, they arrived. The bears were already in the dumpster and ripping the garbage bags. Unky was beside himself with amusement, the bears were just like he’d seen on the TV.
But Chunky was getting irritated and decided to break out. He climbed up, looked at those big, fat, dumb bears and off he went. The bears saw him snarling with that fierce grin and menacing look and froze. They thought they might be killed or worse.
Bits of fur were flying everywhere. Chunky was holding his own until he got paw slapped against the dumpster. He was slug-like; dazed and defeated.
Then out of nowhere, someone walked up and waved the bears away. Unky was amazed the person wasn’t afraid, since most people are skittish around Chunky. And the bears were getting surely too.
The stranger reached down and patted Chunky on his battered little head, then picked him up and faced the van.
It was love at first sight.
She was a fellow animal lover and a nearly handsome woman. She was wearing a plaid hat with the earflaps down; her thick glasses reflected the light in a special way. She was wearing an “I Heart Dumpster Bears” t-shirt, same as Unky. They both got one at the gift shop located in the back of the van. Yep, she was a keeper.
Then Chunky, reviving from the paw wallop, reached up and accidentally knocked her teeth out. “O boy, she’s just like me,” Unky thought. She smiled her toothless little smile and said, “Hi, I’m Gurtie May Wastebinder, who are you?” Then Unky did something so unlike him; he reached up and took his own teeth out. Without another word, Unky and Gurtie May were thick as ticks and walked off hand in hand to the Moo Cow Shack for an ice cream soda.
Poor Chunky was left behind, alone. And he was getting mad at Unky for making a fool of himself. His best buddy was sitting there with that woman with the ear flaps, sharing a soda; and was doing pretty good in spite of not having his teeth.
Unky began telling her about life in Doofus County when Gertie May suddenly lit up and said that she was from Doofus County too!
“Are you related to BoBo and BeBe Wastebinder, of the Wastebinder Happy Worm Farm,” asked Unky? She said, “I sure am.”
Unky, full of glee, blissfully slurped.
What’s A Raccoon To Do?
Chunky felt a certain surge. It wasn’t jealousy or anger. It was nausea. He couldn’t let this flap-hatted interloper steal his best and closest friend. So he set to scheming on how to save his friendship.
Stay tuned for Part 4 and the conclusion of: Unky and Chunky’s Big Vacation
Uncle Unky had won the grand prize for being the 700th shopper at the Food and Such. He received an all expenses paid trip to the Colorado Mountains! It included a bus ticket, some Piggy Puffs and lime soda for the bus ride, a night in the Do Bear Inn (with free cable), some fast food coupons, and a voucher to visit a dumpster featuring some local bears.
Unky was gripped with joy until he found out that Chunky the raccoon, his best and closest friend, couldn’t go, it was a trip for one.
Then Unky had a brainstorm. He would sneak Chunky on the bus and the two of them would go and have the trip of a lifetime.
Unky and Chunky Go To Colorado
In his enthusiasm, Unky failed to think through the complexities of hiding a rambunctious raccoon for a 36-hour bus ride. But Unky stuffed Chunky, along with some candy bars, into a Food and Such shopping bag and stapled it shut. Since his suitcases were Food and Such shopping bags it seemed a good idea. They boarded the bus and off they went!
Here’s What Happened
The bus was making progress; it left Doofus County and was almost to the paved road. Then it happened. Somebody was eating a sauerkraut and Limburger sandwich, with baloney and onions. A couple of whiffs and wham, Chunky was clawing his way out. Pour Unky didn’t know what to do. That delicacy-crazed critter was mad with a mission and couldn’t be stopped.
His little head popped up, he looked around, and took off up the aisle. The passengers took note that there was a raccoon loose on the bus, but in Doofus County, such things weren’t considered all that odd.
Well, Chunky found the sandwich eater, jumped into her lap, and attacked her snack. Thinking this rude, she got up, grabbed her purse and began whacking Chunky on the head. “You hairy little varmint, let go of my sandwich,” she said. Chunky wasn’t letting go. So she kept on whacking and Chunky kept on eating. He didn’t really mind, as it wasn’t unusual for people to whack him on the head.
By then, the bus driver had pulled over. He told her to sit down, buckle up, and stop beating the raccoon. Unky, feeling awkward, apologized and offered her his complimentary bag of piggy puffs and lime soda. She wasn’t happy, but she accepted. Then the driver told Unky to get Chunky caged or he would throw them both off the bus. But Unky didn’t have a cage, just the sad remains of a Food and Such suitcase-bag. So he told him to lock Chunky in the lavatory.
This didn’t seem right but what else could he do? So Unky opened the lavatory and wouldn’t you know it, sitting there was the sandwich lady’s husband, just minding his business. He did seem puzzled by the presence of a raccoon with a half eaten sandwich in his hand, and said, “Hey, my wife eats sandwiches just like that!”
Sensing an opportunity, Chunky seized the moment. He jumped on top of his head, curled up and made like a raccoon-hat. It was a sight.
Eventually, the man returned to his seat to comfort his confused and hungry wife. But they enjoyed the unexpected boon of some Piggy-Puffs and Lime Soda.
The remainder of the bus ride was relatively peaceful, although the passengers found it awkward sharing the lavatory with a snippy raccoon.
But the hours passed and finally the driver announced that they had crossed into Colorado. Within minutes, the bus pulled up to the Do Bear Inn. Funky and Chunky gathered their shopping bag-luggage and stepped of the bus.
Unky was keenly aware that the Inn wouldn’t accept Chunky, since the prize was just for one. So he looked around, saw an empty Piggy Puff bag and stuffed Chunky inside. Smiling ear to ear he stepped up to the front desk and checked in.
The greatest adventure of their lives was happening, for one night. But it would be a night they would never forget. Unky would see the dumpster bears and Chunky would get the garbage.
But that’s not all!
To be continued….
Look for Part Three, “Unky and Chunky’s Big Vacation”
It’s uncommon for the good folks of Doofus County to take vacations. Life there is so laid-back and unproductive that going somewhere to relax would just be odd.
Here’s What Happened
One day my Uncle Unky went over to the Food & Such to pick up some frozen pizzas for Chunky. (Chunky is a raccoon and is Unky’s best and closest friend.)
As he walked into the store it suddenly went nilly-willy. The lights flickered, a balloon came down, and it was pandemonium. The manger rushed up and congratulated Unky on being the 700th Food & Such shopper! A grand prize came with the prestigious honor.
Well, Unky was just undone and he nearly lost his teeth. The prize was an all expenses paid trip to the Colorado Mountains. Unky was flummoxed, as he had never been outside of Doofus County, except for that one time when he had to appear in court for Chunky’s drunk and disorderly charge.
The grand prize package included:
A seat on a charter bus.
A voucher for a bag of piggy puffs and a lime soda.
Overnight accommodations for one for one night.
Coupons to local fast food places.
A voucher to visit a local dumpster frequented by bears.
It just bedazzled Unky as he had always wanted to see a bear.
In his jubilation Unky shouted, “Oh boy, me and Chunky is going to see the bears.” Then the hard reality of being a major award winner hit him. The Food & Such manager said, “Sorry Unky, but the trip is just for one, Chunky will have to stay home.”
Unky was crestfallen. For the second time in three minutes he nearly lost his teeth.
He said, “I can’t leave Chunky behind, he’s my best and closest friend.”
NOTE:The family has some concerns about Unky and Chunky’s relationship. But if he makes Unky happy, then we say good for Chunky.
Well, the manager wasn’t backing down; and the Food & Such sure wasn’t paying an extra $17.25 so a raccoon could have a seat on the bus. And he was pretty sure that the bus driver wouldn’t allow a raccoon to get on anyway. So poor old Unky took his grand prize envelope of coupons and vouchers and sadly shuffled home.
Then Genius Fell
About a quarter mile from home, Unky felt something like a blow to the head. It was an idea. He would sneak Chunky on the bus and the two of them would go together. It was pure genius!
It was to be a trip of a lifetime. Unky would get to see the dumpster bears and Chunky would get to eat the garbage. It was a win-win.
Colorado mountains here we come!
To be continued…
Look For Part Two of “Unky and Chunky’s Big Vacation”