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Slightly Silly Stories


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      In 2008, I attended the West Tennessee Writing Project at UTMartin, a division of the National Writing Project. We are teachers who write, and writers who teach. We seek to improve classroom practices and student learning by using writing and reading strategies. My group consisted of twelve language arts teachers and myself, the math genius. I realized my grammar might not be up to their standards, so I decided to write stories that would make the grammar experts laugh enough to not take their red pens to my works. I was just attending for the free six graduate hours, and I never dreamed I would enjoy it or be any good at it. Now, I write whenever I can find the time; mostly just the silly thoughts in my head. I have had some permission problems with an anthology so a couple stories still can't be published here.
                                                                                       Feel free to comment on my works, but try not to make me cry!
   R. CLARK

"The Queen and I?"
( A Flash Back from Drugs I Never Inhaled.)

Mirrors on the Ceiling
( Describing a Third Class Motel )

"Dining with The Bard"
(Taking Shakespeare to Los Portales.)

My Late Night Desires
(Out Of Control)

A TERRIBLE DATE at Marlo's Down Under

Eulogy for My Father, Jean A. Clark

I am Important; I Work for The Congressman

Eulogy for A Fantastic Educator, Mike Leigh

My Visit to the Lost And Found Center

I am a Winner
(Gambling Problem? Call 800 533-4700)

I Drive Like a Teenager!

Safety, Then and Now

How to Make a Peanut Butter Sandwich

 
Check back often. We are still trying to move some older pieces published elsewhere to this site. My writer's notebook if full of silly ideas and new writings are about to be completed.
MAYBE! I NEED TO GET OVER MY WRITER'S BLOCK, OR FIND TIME BETWEEN MY FIVE JOBS.

 

Drive Like a Teenage Driver

      Putting your teenagers on the road can be very scary for parents. It can also scare other drivers on the road. In nascar every rookie and thsoe who are not experienced on a certain track are required to paint a yellow stripe on their bumper. Veteran drivers know the driver in front of them might be inexperienced. Something you might consider before before moving inside to pass them at 240 m.p.h.  
      I understand the hidden nuances about teenage driving contained in rock and roll. Many lyrics like “Dead Man’s Curve is No Place to Play!” and “Hot Rod Lincoln” describe plot lines that did not end positively. They must have been written by adults who were worried about young drivers; and these songs like all the music of my generation left powerful images within my psyche. When I was young, my parents wanted me to see these reckless picture stories and thought they might keep me safe. I convey this same important safety message to my children and my students as a trained driver’s education instructor, but I am not the first adult to use the do as I say not as I do line.
      My states driver’s examination is a farce. Two hands on the wheel, check your mirrors, accelerate slowly, keep the radio off, pay attention, don’t speed, and stop completely are the things one needs to consider around that silly little simulated course. Yes, in my state the learners do not even have to drive in traffic, just a few streets behind the driver exam station. No one really drives like that, and I would like to see a real-life test. I want to see a drivers test where you have the seat leaned too far back to reach the brake pedal quickly, one arm around your favorite person, and a BK Whopper in the other hand. Set you music blaring at 80 decibels which is too high to hear a siren coming. Drive twenty miles over the speed limit, and steer with your knee. Those of you are now thinking I could pass that rigerous test are the very ones who drive as badly as I do. I know many drivers could pass this test as I have seen drivers in this position all around town.
      My father would not drive over the speed limit, and my mother would not allow him to do so peacefully. His normal cautious three miles under the limit would be commendable in many driving situations. When you drive like that you might even get pulled over to receive one of those “Good Driver Tickets”. I have heard the police write them, but not-surprisingly, have never seen one! The problem starts when my dad is on Interstate 240 circling Memphis at fifty-two miles per hour when the average speed of the other cars and large trucks is seventy-three miles per hour. He then becomes the traffic hazard everyone needs to avoid. No wonder those drivers that get trapped behind him are extremely demonstrative towards him as they finally beg someone to allow them into the left lanes. Many drivers yell, honk, curse, and sometimes give him the type one fingered salute he never saw in his many years in the Navy. You might also become enraged, especially when you are trapped behind my dad going fifty-two miles per hour and you glance in your rearview mirror. That is where you will see the eighteen-wheeler that is way too close and traveling twenty miles per hour faster than your back bumper is going.
      Another careful, mature driver I know has had his SUV hit in the rear twice lately. He was stopped at stop signs when these events occurred. The people behind him have perfected the California Roll just like I have. This maneuver allows someone to slide through a stop sign by tapping the brakes lightly and slowing to a safe coasting speed, like seventeen m.p.h. Try this well-accepted driving technique at most intersections and there will be no problems. Try it in front of a police car and your wallet will suffer a negative reinforcement. If you do it behind a driver like my friend; you better be prepared to share your insurance information with your new-found friend. His wheels actually stop moving for several seconds. Just like the school busses with the railroad crossing sticker, the state of Tennessee should be making him wear a bumper sticker that states that he completely stops at all stop signs. If you drive behind my friend and come to a four-way stop, you will be there for sometime, he is always polite enough to allow several other drivers to go ahead. His use of the accelerator is slow and constant. He claims it is better on the gas mileage, tires, and it is much safer. I have never seen him pretend to be a drag racer.
      Unlike my friend, I try not to confuse the other drivers by stopping completely at intersections.  My daddy continually told me to drive safely, and to stop imitating drag racing legend Big Daddy Don Garlits who is a childhood hero of mine. At any four way stop I don’t spend much time thinking about whose turn it is to proceed, when there is doubt I step on the accelerator.  You should do this also unless you want to lose your turn and have to wait forever. Those few individuals who are fast enough to pass me on the highway are not irritated. If they have road rage it is never my fault. I have never been in an accident when I was traveling high above the speed limit. There have been a few wrecks close behind me, but I am not sure they were all my fault.
     My bad driving habits come from years of training. All school teachers need a part-time income to supplement their tiny salaries. I spent twenty-five years with Domino's Pizza. I started when it was still my fault if the delivery was late. They used to charge drivers three dollars a pizza if you didn't make it in under thirty minutes. Domino's taught me that sidewalks could always be used as an extra passing lame, and that speed limits were only suggestions. I had another part-time job. For seven years, I drove for the local cab company on weekends. They taught me that if your wheels were fully stopped or leisurely driving below the speed limit then you and and the boss were both losing money. They also taught me that any meal can be eaten behind a steering wheel.
      A few months ago I decided to drive my age.    I wanted to be just like those mature drivers around me. BIG MISTAKE! Two crashes followed quickly,
      First, I had an intersection collision with a gas Jockey. I was in the right lane beside an eighteen-wheel-tanker in the left lane. I would have been ok if I had sped through the yellow or even run that red light, which would not have been a virginal occurrence for me. I am sorry to say that I stopped. I also would have been safer if I had gunned that green light like it was a Christmas tree at the Summer Nationals. Instead I stopped fully and I accelerated slowly, the proper way according to my the driver's manual. That is exactly what put me in danger. The tanker driver remembered one thing and forgot several things at the same instant. He remembered he should have been turning right onto the other highway. He forgot he was in the left lane. He forgot to check his mirrors to notice my shinny red car beside him. He forgot to inform me of his pending right turn with a directional signal. As he made the right turn from the left lane I was in the path of his huge back wheels.  I could see the clearly printed notice of the side of his truck that stated his capacity as 9000 gallons, and I had an extremely close view of the hazardous symbol with 1224. (Which I later looked up to determine that is stood for regular grade gasoline). If I had not shoved the transmission into reverse quickly, I might have found out how much of a dent a large truck can on the top of my car roof, or I could have found out how clean burning BP gasoline really was. I almost went up in my own flaming explosion which is only funny if you are Wiley Coyote. Because I drive a small fast car and the tanker had much more mass, the driver never knew he had hit me. He probably just thought he went over the curb wrong. After my panic settled, I got out to discover the huge, and quite expensive damage a semi can do. The front fender, axle, rim, front bumper, and tire needed to be replaced.
      Next came a more terrible crash. A drunk and stoned driver drove his truck into the side of my car as he was sneaking home avoiding the police at four a.m. The accident report states that he was traveling near one hundred as he shot across the by-pass where I was traveling fifty-seven in a sixty-five. I don’t know why I was not cruising in my usual gait of seventy-five to eighty. If I had been going above the speed limit I would have been several miles down the road before that truck crossed the by-pass. Instead, I was driving in a manner that would make my parents proud. That is the reason I got my first ride in a speeding ambulance that morning on my way to the hospital. What did driving safely like an adult do for me? What did I earn trying to drive like an adult? – A massive concussion, knee surgery, a tremendous hospital bill and three months in rehab. Thanks Driver's Manuel!
      I have discovered there might be advantages to driving what some people would term unlawful, foolish, reckless, or even unsafe. I seem to be better off driving worse than the adults around me. . Even though I am way beyond sixty, I will continue to drive like a teenager. I find it much safer for me!

 

Safety Then And Now

     Safety is not the same now as when I was a child. My version of safety is vastly different than my parent's approach. People think more about safety now than they did a few decades ago. Parents today are more careful with their children than my mother and father were with me. Maybe today's parents are too safety conscious because most of the people my age made it to adulthood with no..only one..er a couple...aaa few, make that a large handful of mental problems. Come to think about it, the latest app for my phone is Facetime therapy. For a couple hundred a month. you can talk with a professional councilor over your phone.
      My children had Tinker Toys with our supervision ONLY! Tinker Toys are basic building materials designed to stimulate a young child’s imagination; however, to a five year-old they look a lot like colorful-sharp sticks. My mother was encouraging me to play with sharp sticks. I was much better at poking those potentially deadly sticks in to the arm of mom's couch than at building that near-impossible windmill. I had to choose whether to build that extremely detailed tinker toy car or just shove pointy rods into my mouth, nose, and ears. I am ashamed to say, I chose the later, simpler task. I was not yet in educated and lacked wisdom. How was I to know that I would need a doctor to get a small orange stick out my ear?
      My children got boxing gloves that were big balloons of air. Then I had to tell my son not to hit his big sister too hard. I should have sent that warning in the other direction! She developed a great left hook. When I was still a young lad, dad bought me a punching bag and two pairs of 8 ounce boxing gloves! One pair for him and one for me. My dad was very successful in Golden Gloves and had Navy Seal training. However, he had never fought someone a third of his height who he loved. That love for me made him lower his guard, and not take me as serious threat. Those readers who have ever watched one of the 'America's Funniest Videos' on TV are way ahead of my narration. Yes, within a week, my tall, athletic, father was being banged in the ear with my right hook because he was scrunched over holding another sensitive area where I landed a lucky left jab. Boxing Gloves; what was he thinking? Did nobody consider safety in the fifties or sixties?
      I had a little red wagon made of real American steel with sharp edges, and weak wheels that could fly off while traveling at super speeds. Dad used to push me down this extremely steep hill to determine if I would steer straight and stay safe or tumble over into disaster. Yes, I believe my father loved me; no one was super safety conscious back then. I once ran over my little brother and cut his Achilles’ Tendon with the tongue of my wagon. Today the wagon tongues are made in China with reinforced rubber with a plastic coating. I don’t think I could hurt my brother with a new, modern wagon, so if it is not tremendously dangerous why would he or I want one!
     My children never got a wood burning set. If they have been given one by a crazy aunt or uncle, my hand would have been guiding theirs. It would have looked like our hands were super glued together. By the time I was eleven, mom had given me both leather and wood burning kits. I am not sure what mom, or the others from her generation, were thinking. They put into my hands two extremely hot; branding iron-type devises, and they assumed I would only use them on leather and wood! Did they not see the potential danger to my special little fingers or other valuable areas of skin around my body? Did they not fathom that I had little sister, a little brother, and a dog all waiting for their first hot burn marks from their misguided sibling and his new toys? I'm surprised my little brother made it to his twenties before he got his tattoo from a professional. With that wood burning kit I could have fixed him up quicker and cheaper. Did they not know that with this much fire power I could burn down the whole house by searing a phonebook. (Yes I am old enough to remember big phonebooks!) I could have taken out a wall or couch with that leather burning tool.?  
      When my daughter was born we bought a steel and plastic attachment for the ironing board that would keep the hot iron and the attached cord out of her reach. I felt I needed to keep my daughter and her tiny fingers safe. My mom just mentioned, "That hot iron will hurt you; don't touch it!" Did mom not realize that that I did not yet consider her all-wise and that I would have to test her knowledge. My right index finger soon learned that parents can sometimes be correct, and irons can get extremely hot.  I still have that tiny scar. All the cabinets and our refrigerator my children could get into were locked with cute little plastic clips that made them difficult for even an adult to open. I was worried about all the things that could happen when that contra ban came in contact with my children. My mother’s kitchen had no such locks, and I was allowed to play with what ever I could reach. Sure I ate some stuff that was not intended to be edible. Dog biscuits really have some great flavors. I hurt my hands on things too heavy or dangerous for me to touch like potato peelers; However, that is what a childhood was all about back then.
      The vac-u-form machine I got for my ninth birthday got even hotter than the iron. This machine would get hot enough to melt a plastic airplane and remold it into a plastic bug. Ten minutes later I could make the bug into a car and later back into an airplane again. My parents even left me alone with this toy. Did none of the adults in charge back then, either in my loving home, down the street, or at Mattel Toys, realize how hot a temperature it takes to mold plastic? Dad simply warned me, "Try not to touch the hot parts or your new new toys until they start to cool." ‘Right dad, want to see the blisters, I think they might still visible on my hands if you search carefully!’ I did have tons of fun with that Vac-u-form!
      Steal-tipped darts are not allowed in professional dart tournaments in my state. In today's tournaments, even the adults throw darts with cute, little, safe, plastic tips. So why did I get a set of full metal, near death capable, steal tipped darts when I was ten years-old? Because my parents loved me, and I asked for them! That's why! I seemed to throw them at several areas that did not include a cork dartboard. I made a few holes in the baseboards and wall paper. Dad just said,”Be very careful with these!” Is it a mystery to my readers how my brother accidentally got his first ear lobe piercing? Mostly, It was my dumb little brother's fault. He failed to count to three, and went running toward the board after the second dart; just as I was releasing the third from my hand in the general direction the dart board. Little brother should have studied numbers more carefully in school. As a mathematics teacher I know those small math mistakes will come back to get a person every time.
      My children’s first playground swing and slide set was locked into the ground with cables so it would be sturdy. It was impossible to tip-over. The soft dirt floor beneath was reinforced with a cork mixture that was considered a safe place in which to land or fall. Daddy put my swing set above the concrete sidewalk and some old, oak tree roots. One leg on the swing set rocked a foot off the ground whenever one of us kids could get the motion high and smooth. This possible deadly calamity must have been funny to my dad; as he laughed continually when we got that swing set dancing above the ground. Never mind the safety issues! School playgrounds were even worse. That cute little merry-go-round led to many a bloody face or sprained ankle at recess time. We even played on real monkey bars back then, no principal or lawyer was smart enough to realize that a student might not be safe hanging off a rough metal pipe nineteen feet in the air dangling over other metal pipes, hard dirt, and other students.
      My siblings and I were given bicycles, skateboards, scooters, pogo sticks, and roller skates. I used to ride my bike down the street at break neck speeds. Little brother would be sitting on the handle bars and little sister holding on to my seat being drug beside my fender on her roller skates. Sometimes to keep down the boredom we would jump a curve in this special family formation. None of us felt any danger because we knew we were immortal. I have also bought these toys for my daughter and son.  Since I consider them priceless and I want to be seen as a remarkable loving father, I also bought a hundred dollars of extraneous items that include: helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, shoulder pads, and gloves that are designed to protect my loved ones. I know how much an Emergency Room visit cost today. A modern hospital visit cost many times what it did in the sixties! Maybe the much higher cost of health care is the reason for all the safety in this decade. I would put my children in suits of amour if I thought they would wear them!
      Times have changed! My new Nisson Altima has shatterproof glass, air bags, and automatic seat belts. It has built in crumple zones in each of the four doors and under the hood and trunk. It came equipped with anti-lock breaks and several computers to maintain control in severe turning situations. It has a dash, seat backs, and a steering wheel that are all padded for extra safety. It even has a reinforced car top incase I flip it wheels up someday. Granddad started my driving lessons in a beautiful blue and silver 53 Chevy Bel Aire. It was huge and heavy. That car had none of those safety innovations. Back in the good-ole days safety was not a big concern. This car had only one major safety feature: a big steal bumper. That was all the safety anyone needed back then, and we turned out OK. (Well most of us.!) Maybe I should load that app where I can get therapy from a professional on the other end of my phone.

 

I am A Winner or
(Gambling Problem? Call 800 522-4700)

     Jacob Lovings reached over to grab a coin and the tickets off the bench seat on his red 99 Ford F-150. Actually it was called red, but one door was green and the hood also just out of the junkyard was a totally different shade of green. He thought to himself, ‘The paint job will be the first thing I buy when my ship comes in!' Never one who would putter around wasting time, he was casino bound on the Interstate at seventeen miles over the posted limit of fifty-five. The coin was needed for the scratching on the steering wheel while he tried to keep in his lane. Many times when his two hands were scratching tickets he would have his knee on the steering wheel.
     When Jacob was done using his coin, he looked down in his floor board. All his trash goes into the floorboard, and not on to the road because ‘Tennessee is to Pretty to Trash.’ Between a couple empty Pepsi bottles he can see eight Green Gold two dollar scratch offs and four Giant Jumbo Bucks that cost him five dollars each. He even had one each of the new twenty and thirty dollar tickets.  None of these tickets were winners! If they had been winners they would have been on the counter at the nearest retailer and not made it to the floorboard. Jacob multiplied quickly; there was eight-six dollars worth of losing tickets on the passenger side floorboard of his classic truck. Today, he was a many bucks over his daily scratch off limit of twenty dollars. Jacob thought to himself, ‘you are still a loser, Maybe you need to call that number.’ He would throw them away before Thelma saw them. She would bitch at him over the Pepsi bottles and other trash much less the wasted wages spent on the lottery. Thelma, his high school sweet heart and wife of 23 years did not know he was a participant in the Lottery. She was a church woman who would never approve. When that ship finally tied up to the Loving's dock, when he did hit it really big, he would lug home a ton of cash and fling it onto her old, scratched kitchen table. He mumbled, ‘I will also have to get her another table when we win.' She might not approve of the fun he was having playing the lottery, but Jacob was sure even a church woman would be willing spend those big wads of life-changing cash.
      It is not just the instant scratchier games, Jacob plays them all. Every Sunday night while Thelma is at church, he stands in line at his favorite convenience store with a hundred and eighteen dollars and his betting slips in his hand. He plays his children's birth dates. Thomas's birthday of January 28th, 1994 becomes 1-2-8 for the three ball game, and 1-2-8-4 for the four ball game. From His daughter Samantha he gets 8-0-3 and 8-0-3-0. Jacob has an older son Frank, but he never plays his numbers being that he was born on January 11, 2001 his numbers which are all ones. He had read in that book written by lottery expert Dr. Clark that 1111 was a dumb bet. At least that is what he thought he read. Jacob was never one to study or read a complete book. He always lets the computer pick the automatic numbers for the Pick 5, Lotto Plus, the Mega, Power Ball, and the Lucky for Life. He dreams about that lucky for life. He was sure that he would soon be the recipient of that $5000 a week for life. Each week it cost Jacob $118 to play all his lottery picks. It seems like a lot of money on his meager salary, but someone in Illinois had recently won over 200 million. Jacob Lovings was surely going to be next in line for the super jackpots. Like the guy on the TV says 'You can't win if you don't play!’
      Thelma, his wife, did not know or even suspect that Jacob had been leaving his factory job every Thursday three hours early. This time inconsistency would allow him the luxury of visiting the Lady Luck Casino just across the bridge in Missouri, nick named 'The Boat.' Jacob remembered reading in Dr. Clark's book that blackjack was the one game where true mathematical intelligence could give a player a slight edge agianst the house. Any accomplished Black Jack Player, like himself, could take a two hundred (all he could get out of his ATM for the rest of the long month) and turn it into a couple thousand in just under three hours. He would have this Thursday also, but the cards just did not fall his way! So he left the Boat after an hour and a half clutching his empty wallet. He never witnessed such bad cards, what a terrible streak of luck! He stated under his breath, "Jacob you are still a loser! Maybe you need to call that number.", as he unlocked the faded green door on his red ride. Jacob had been saying that to himself a lot recently. He could not go home too soon, or Thelma might wonder where he should have been on those other Thursdays. That is why he sat in his un-air conditioned truck in the hot parking lot for another hour listening to the radio. Then he started off toward his single-wide which was crammed full of his adoring family. 
      He was on the off-ramp at his exit on the Interstate when he realized that his nightly chore was still undone. It was after seven o'clock, and it was time for his nightly ritual. He dialed the 800 number. As soon as Jacob heard 'Welcome to the Tennessee Education Lottery' he started punching his numbers. He did not need the computerized prompts from the voice on the other end. He had punched in the same buttons on his phone everyday for 19 weeks, and each result was the same. For 133 days Jacob had ended this phone call as a loser. Star-1-1-1 gets the mid-day Pick Three Contest winners. Star-1-2-1 gets the evening Pick Three. Star-4-1-1 gets the mid-day Cash 4 drawing, Star-4-2-1 gets him the four winning numbers from the nighgtly drawing. Weekly he also checks the Pick 5, the Lotto Plus, and the national Power Ball Jackpot numbers. Jacob goes through all these recordings because he plays them all. Tonight the outcome would certainly be different. Jacob was about to be rich.
      He had to call the Lottery recording immediately. As his phone buttons were being pushed he could hardly believe his ears. He was a WINNER! He had to call again to confirm what he thought he heard. Yes he was a winner! His life was changing for the better. He pulled into a store where he saw the familiar Tennessee Lottery green and gold L sign got out his pick three ticket and got in line. The ticket paid forty dollars, which Jacob shoved into his empty wallet. Now he forgot all about maybe calling that gambler anonymous number that was printed on the back of every Tennessee Lottery ticket. As he left the store he turned and yelled to the clerk and the other ten shoppers, "I am a WINNER! I am a WINNER!"

 

My Visit to the Lost and Found
Replacement Center

     My friend, Modine was getting still another ignition key made for her Toyota SUV. As she was paying Certified Locksmith (Which was number 4 on her speed dial.) another hundred and forty dollars, she reminded me that she plans on getting these lost keys and all her money she spend on those key back.  She claims there is some silly warehouse somewhere holding everything that she has ever lost or had stolen. She feels all her lost items will be returned some day. She says she read it in some book, but she could never find a mention of it again for me to read. What a silly concept!
       I was hiking the Appalachian Trail somewhere near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I lost my map, and I was as lost as the map. I was right in the middle-of-no-where. Then I came across a tree with a bright red arrow and a sign pointing me to the Lost Replacement Center. I went down that hill to get directions.
     The building had angel statues on both sides of the doors. The place looked much like any warehouse office; except there was no dust and cob-webs. There was a bright blinding light way above the counter. The computer appeared to be top-of-the-line technology. The only mysterious item was that big sign above the desk.

LOST REPLACEMENT CENTER
We have your lost, stolen, and misplaced items.
Take some of them home today!
Hours 11-2 Thursdays and Saturdays

       The man behind the counter was working a crossword book with an ink pen when I walked in. He had short gray hair that seemed to bestow an air of wisdom. He was wearing a pair of $600 Gucci Aviator sunglasses, a University of Tennessee sweatshirt, an expensive pair of Balmain Jeans, and a pair of white and silver Adidas. Those shoes looked exactly like a pair I had a couple years ago, I thought they were stolen by one of my students at the time.

The man quickly put down the book and said, "Hi my name is Larry. Are you Clark? Ray W?"

I was still in a state of shock, but managed to mumble "Yes Sir. Am I in Heaven?"

L: "No. I understand that in Heaven you will have no needs. This is still Earth where you need lots of stuff, I run the place where you can get some of your possessions back."

R: "You have my belongings? How does this work?"

L:"For security purposes, I need to know your mother's maiden name."

R:"What?"

L: "I need your mother's original last name. It starts with a W.

R:"Williams?"

L:"Great! Now that I am sure of your identity; this is how the Lost and Found Replacement Center works."
Larry was talking, but my reeling mind was slow on the uptake. I had to hear it several times before I got the concept. Larry claims to be the expert on all things lost or stolen from me. He claims to know many of the details of my life and has most of the stuff that I lost or had stolen. If I could identify my loss, if the item was on the approved return list, and if Larry had not misplaced it himself, it could be mine again! I could yearn for anything, but not everything I begged for could returned to me. Some items were just gone, like wasted time and loved ones; no one could not return either of those. Today I could only get one truck full. Larry had to follow two rules. He could not return something that would harm me or vastly alter world history. Being somewhat of a smart-butt, I had to put Larry to the test to determine if he could really delineate or return any of the losses of my life.

R:"I can ask you about any thing I lost, right?"

L: "Yes, Ray that is how it works here!"

R: " I once lost my virginity?"

L: "Some of your friends who have been here beefore told me you were hilarious, intelligent, and mischievous. Now I believe them. It was a in black and silver Grand Torino around 1972, and since you were attempting to give it away for several months, can I assume that this is not something you really want or need back?"

R: "Lost my temper way too many times."

L: "Nope can't get those back; besides if you didn't have that flare up back in 1987 it world change world history. I told you I can't do that! Try to get serious, and not make me lose mine."

R: "I lost control of that Gran Torino later that year when the engine blew up. I would love to have that car back!"

L: "It is not here. Allstate called it a total wreck, towed it off, and sent you a check, which you cashed. I do have three keys to that car you lost if you want them for sentimental reasons. I will throw in all the other keys you lost. I have your old car keys, house keys, school keys, and that key to that toybox full of G.I.Joes you had when you were ten. "

R: "I don't need that key. Mom cut if off with a hacksaw. Lost a ball glove when I was eight."

LL: "You traded it to Roy Lee for a 45 of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing about Christmas wishes. Then you told your mother you lost it because you knew she would not ok that trade, and you didn't want to be known as the indian-giver of Hunter Lane Elementary."

R: "Oh, I forgot that! I lost a whole boy scout troop once when I was their camp councilor."

L: " They were only wondered away for an hour, you found them yourself, and the scout leader never found out. So you suffered no real loss."

Next I was going to ask for my high school class ring, but I just remembered that I pawned it at the Big Bear Pawn Shop. I was now beginning to think that Larry surely was obnin-omni-omnni, just plain all-knowing.

R:"I threw twelve interceptions while I was playing quarterback. Can I have those back?"

LL:"I think the number was closer to twenty-nine. No, and don't bother to ask for those 357 free throws you missed or all the games you lost either. Big waste of my time Ray! Let's start with something simple. Ask me for those socks."

I knew instantly the exact socks Larry was talking about. I generally loose socks every time I slam a dryer lid. I know I wear them in pairs. I am sure I get them into the laundry hamper and the washer in pairs. Every time I empty the dryer, and begin to fold my clothes I always find two or three without a mate. I may be missing shirts, pants, and even underwear; however, since those items never travel in pairs why would I notice.

R: "Larry, how did you get them and may I please have my missing socks?"

L: "Now were cookin! I've always worked the returns. Stuff comes in by truck and rail four times a week. I just sort and inventory this crap, I don't know anything about collections, they work out of a different location. I have a small U-Haul truck parked out back. I rented it in your name with all of the coins that you lost under the couch cushions. It has to be returned before noon Tuesday or the next day is on yo$103! Your lost socks, jackets, and shirts take up about 3/4 of that truck. I do have three pairs of pants that you lost. I have never lost my pants especially while I was weraing them. As far as I know there are only one way to loose the pants. First you unbuckle that belt, and second you need to leave some place in a real big hurry. I seem to have everything except for one Tennessee Volunteer sweatshirt. NEXT"

R: "Suduko puzzle books"

L: “I have them. Didn't even bother to work a single one. I'm a word guy not a number person. I do work many of the crossword books that come in. It get very lonely here when people are not dropping by. "

R: "My friend was telling me about her dreams the other day which made me think. I never dream, but I once had one of those purple dream catcher totems. It came with granddad's 57 chevy."

L: "The dream catcher is already hanging on the rear view mirror of your U-Haul along with the lucky rabbit's foot that was on the Grand Torino mirror the night you wrecked it. Guess you used up all that good luck."

R: "What about that chevy, it was my first car."

L: "You sold it for junk after the motor gave out. Your friend Gaf bought it, restored it, and wins trophys at every car show he enters. The smart thing to have done would have been to cover that chevy with a tarp and sealed it up in a room for sixty years. It would have been worth a small fortune."

R: "I am now happily married, but when I was single I lost many girls phone numbers. I should have followed that age old rock and roll wisdom, and sent them off in a letter to myself. What happened to all those numbers? "

"L: Since you found the love of your life, I kept all those girls phone numbers. I get five days off every week, and I am gratefull for that ton of lost numbers!"

R: "What about my friend's numbers like Thomas"

L: "You will have to be more specific. Thomas the teacher or Thomas the lawyer"

R: "The teacher"

L:"O, him sure, in fact I have all the friend's numbers you have lost in your lifetime, just turn on your bluetooth and I will transfer all of them over but two. It is always so much quicker that way."Larry was typing and clicking on his computer then he nodded his head as I went bluetooth.

R: " all but two?"

L: "Rule number one states that I can't return anything that will cause you harm; so Jennifer's number is out! Believe me it is for your own good, and I am saving you bail money. Rule number two states that I can't alter history so you can't have Don Trump's phone number back'"

R:"Fair enough! Sunglasses? I loose a five or six pair each summer. Sometimes I leave them right on the restaurant tables. I was so stupid I left one pair of Gucci Aviators on the top of my car just before I jumped in and tore down the street. while delivering pizzas."

L:" Everything out there is recorded. I laughed at that video for a week! We are still having problems with the sunglasses. I have all the cheap ones you bought at Dollar Tree; however, I never get the glasses that cost you more than $50. They just never get returned for some reason!"

R: “How about all those TV Remotes I lost?”

L: "Ray, Do you still have those TV sets?"

R: "Well no, that was a stupid request, sorry I got carried away! I lost several thousand golf balls! On a bad day two or three a round."

L: "I have fifty-two golf balls, the rest you never counted. Those strokes were not on your score card, so technically because of your dishonesty, all those golf balls were never swung at, never hit into those lakes , and thus never lost."

R: "Delta lost some of my luggage once. Four bags of my stuff. I got to Dallas, but my suitcases went on a different trip."

L: "We run a great operation here, but not even we can determine what the airlines do with all that lost luggage. I do understand that there is a giant factory outlet near Chattanooga where you can buy all your stuff back cheap."

R: "I lost a few bicycles?"

L: "We get so many bikes that I am going to need those police reports along with the complete serial numbers."

R:"Serial numbers? Who keeps those? I lost too much in the Lady Luck Casino on many occasions."

L: "Not considered a loss, casinos are entertainment. Hope you got what ever amount of entertainment those slots cost you."

R: "My cell phones are next. I can't keep from loosing them or having them ripped off. Do you have the red Motorola I lost with the voice mails from Sting and Johnny Depp? I have a new friend who will just flip out after she hears those messages."

L: “Those cell phones will just about fill your U-Haul!, You have room for just a few more things this trip. Hope you get back here again for another truck load, most people don't find me the first time. Tell all your friends that their former possessions are waiting for pick-up!"

R: "Thanks, By the way, Larry do you have my white and silver Adidas? Lost those last year. I thought they were stolen by one of my students."

L: "ah What size?"

R:"10 and 1/2, and they looked exactly like those."

L: Larry looked down at his shoes and then back at me. then said, "Hey we wear the same size. What a coincidence!"

R:" Well, do you have them?"

L: "ahhh Nope, guess I misplaced those somewhere around here! Bye now! O, I almost forgot. Here is the map you will need to drive home."

Note to my readers: The next time you are traveling near middle-of-no-where, tennessee just stop in and claim your lost stuff at the Lost and Found Replacement Center. I had a great time there. I plan to go back someday. I could give you directions; however, I have a feeling I might have misplaced that map again.

 

My Late Night Desires are Out of Control.

     My name is Herman. I consider myself a frugal, educated, and well-informed consumer. Before making a purchase, I shop around to get the best deal. I read independent reports to determine the best-made quality products in every field. I shop with a list, and have been successful at avoiding impulse items even when I am in the grocery store while I am starving. All this is true until I get in front of the Television very late at night. I understand that there exist many thousands of other consumers, like me, who loose their funds, their inhibitions and sometime their minds while watching late night television. Then, we become greedy, needy, wanting everything, got-to-have-it, consumers; we become credit card idiots who have to spend-spend-spend. I am sure the TV industry has made extensive studies to determine the exact time of the evening when spenders like myself let down their guard and are most vulnerable. My personal compulsions start at exactly 10:37 and remain until the alarm goes off. Maybe it is the late night news that turns our brains to mush, or maybe just sleep deprivation.
       In early television the commercials were live. Your favorite star would advertise camel cigarettes or Lucy's famous vitameatavegamen. Ted Turner of WTBS in Atlanta and Ron Popeil of Ronco in Los Angeles both claim to have invented the late night infomercial, the most sinister commercial ever. This is the 30 minute version that I can not resist. It does not matter to me who was first and who was second; in a fair and just world, they will both arrive someday in that particular ring of Hell reserved for TV con men. Someone has to pay for this evil gimmick that has been released on mankind. Their invention will be the demise of many a buyer's wallets, including mine.
      The product is not even important enough to be the star of the commercial. Every TV commercial sounds the same. The star of all late night advertisements is hype. This is the type of hype for which many of us poor souls have no amour or shield to protect us. The late, Billy Mays was the best. He was caller the king of the yell-and-sell method of advertizing. He had so much hype and excitement in his voice that when I heard it after dark, I was buying! I am dialing and giving some operator, most of them know me by my first name, my magic 16-digits of plastic. I might not need Oxi-Clean, Mighty Mendit, Washmatik, soft wall picture hooks, spill wipes, or what ever he was pitching; however, his exuberance could probably sell me used Kleenex! Wait I may have ordered used Kleenex because I never keep track of what I ordered or how much it cost.
      I am told by the great hucksters, these demon voices, that, "These items are not available in stores", and late night I never ponder why they can't be found in stores. When these stupendous products arrive in the daylight from Steven, my very-own-personal UPS driver, I realize that many stores would not carry such junk. One classic example would be my pocket-fisherman. After I ordered thirteen, I realized that the Bass Pro Shop probably does not carry a plastic fishing rod that collapses to nine inches, breaks with the slightest pressure, and has less than twenty five feet of weak fishing line. I don’t fish, but I ordered thirteen because I got that 'special deal' that was available that night only! If I ever take up fishing then I will need a better pole, but I have thirteen in my closets.
      Most of these dynamic offers come with a life-time money back guarantee. I have never ask for my money back because at night time in front of my TV I think these products are fantastic innovations, and during the day time I am too embarrassed to ask for my ill-spent cash back. That would mean that I would have to admit I bought these products, usually by the case. To prove my point I offer my music collection. I have purchased many Box Car Willie Albums and still others of some nameless person playing the Pan Flute; both records were critically acclaimed in Europe so to prove I was cool and in vogue, I had to complete that purchase. My Time/Life set of 80's Soft Rock, pitched to me by the ex-super group Air Supply, and My Country Ballads Collection recommended by Kenny Rogers still grows. I receive and have to pay for a couple CD's a week. I know I could ask for my money back or cancel my subscription, but would you admit that these were part of your music library?
      I bought an entire truck load of Veg-a-matics and Salad Shooters at about 3:13 one night when I could not sleep. These products are not worthy of the slowing down of my shopping cart if I even noticed them in Kroger during the day. I eat very few salads and even less french fries at home. I wanted one of each until I heard the magic voice yell, "But Wait! There's more!" After buying the first I could get another at half price. What a deal, but then the MORE included two Ginsu Knifes. This remarkable steak knife cuts through tin cans and shoes. If I had a steak on my plate that was as tough as a shoe or tin can I don't think I would eat it; however, I ordered. I ordered seventeen sets of each when I heard the voice bellow, "They make great Christmas Gifts". That was a total of 34 Salad Shooters, 34 Veg-a-matics, and 68 of those fabulus knives. If your one of my close friends you should be able to guess your next three Christmas Gifts.
      My many purchases no longer fit into the huge walk-in closet in the hall where I used to keep the stuff that I acquired. I need to rent another storage unit for all the stuff I felt compelled to order. I look around the rest of the house, there are piles of stuff everywhere. I have a huge menagerie of late night sensational items. I have plastic can toppers; however, I have never used them as I can easily finish off a twelve ounce drink in a couple gulps.  I have many cute little George Forman Grills still in the box that I never plan to use. I have three Jack Lalanne Juicers; some day when I need to be in better health I might trade in my pepsi for avocado juice. I have many stacks of Stretch Mark Smoothers. Don't ask me why! It seemed like a great deal at 4:17 one lonely night. There are three new highly expensive Eight Pound Orrick Vacuum Cleaners that will never be used. In one corner there is a complete case of Hair in a Can, think of it as black silly string I am saving incase I go bald.
     Then over in a far corner of the bedroom I see the teetering pile of gifts I bought my last girlfriend on Valentine's Day.  She left me two days later, but I keep them because I am sure she will return to me very soon. They were such a romantic gifts that she started to cry. There are 3 each boxes of Genuine Diamondelles and 2 of Cubic Zirconium, magic gemstones that look just like real diamonds but are so much more affordable. They are set on top of her other gifts a Theigh Master and dozen cases of Flush the Fat drinks.
       I have a serious problem, and I have no ability or power to change the situation. I keep hearing the TV telling me "but wait there is more" so it is always on in the bedroom which makes it impossible to sleep.    Come over tonight. Turn off or even better yet just steal my Television. Shove my credit cards down the garbage disposal. Please Hurry! I just found out my cable company expanding its channels. The new package includes QVC, HSN, GemsTV, ShopNBC, Direct Shopping Network, America's Auction Network, and the J.C. Penney Catalog Channel.  I need an intervention from my friends. After that intervention feel free to take home a Salad Shooter Gun and A Ginsu Knife.

 

I am Important; I work for The Congressman

     My name is George Morgan and I work for the Congressman. It might not matter what state because most registered voters do not know their congressman's or congresswoman's name.  I have been here forever. I have worked for four congressmen from three states. I am a very important and extremely busy individual. It is my job to advise the Congressman and make him look good. The pile of work in my inbox is almost seven inches high. I supervise twelve of his employees who work out of the Congressman’s Washington office. There is no time clock in this office so it is hard for me to keep tack of all of those employees. In fact, we seem to be paying a couple people who never seem to show up. I think one of those employees is the Congressman's girl friend, but I am not sure as I have only met her once on a golf course.  Two months ago one of our people quit, and I was still paying him three pay periods later. Good thing it government money and was my money! Those employees that do show up never seem to complete their work. However, we work for the government so no one gets fired unless my guy looses an election!
      The Congressman is always sending over stuff we need to read or research. I never liked to read even when I attended New Madrid County Central High School. I was going to attend college at Southeast Missouri State, but my grades were not good enough for admission. It is a wonderful thing that I found this secure, high-paying job where I don't need much education.
      I get up very early every morning because I am a very busy man. I usually stop for an hour at the JaJa's Cafe to get a Dirty Snowman, my new favorite vanilla coffee drink along with a couple danish.  I enjoy talking to the ordinary-little-people in line there, and it helps my boss when I know what they care about and how they feel. Then I go over to my usual table to meet with several other congressional aids. These meeting are important to the Congressman because he always needs to know how his party leaders will vote. After this meeting, I hang around JaJa's trying to charm that new, cute girl behind that counter. I will ask her out to dinner soon. I get many dinner dates because most of the non-government ladies in this town have never eaten at The Roof. It's the most expensive steakhouse in Washington, maybe anywhere. I can only afford to eat there because Congress has a charge account there, all I have to do is remember to carry my congressional credentials. I live a great life; every morning I see a miniature view of what heaven might be like, complete with beautiful women serving me free coffee and pastries. Actually they are not free. The ordinary-little-people pay nine-fifty for a Snowman, but since I pay with my congressional credit card, it is free for me. The voters back home pay because they know I am important and they would not want me to start my work with an empty stomach and no coffee.
      I am early. It is ten fifteen and I am already at my desk behind a computer. I have a few minutes to work before the others in this office come in and it gets crowded and loud.   I need to get all my work done today because I am running a few days behind. Today I will accomplish great amounts of work, including that budget stuff that is so important for our Nation.  I am responsible for finishing that health care final draft and research the congressman needs before this week's crucial vote. I need to finish analyzing and typing up those final Stimulus Package Bill notes. I have notes and comments all over and I need to make them understandable. I am expected to tell the Congressman how to vote within the next two days. After all, no one expects the Congressman to read this bill; that is why he pays me.  Today I will begin as I often do with a short nap. My naps helps me plan and prioritize my day. I hope some idiot taxpayer/voter does not wake me up with a ringing telephone and some silly question.
      My nap is over and now I turn on my computer. My brain and my mouse hand are facing a big decision.  The wise decision would be to get to that work that the Congressman needs completed. I need to take out my notes and finish the typing of my recommendations. He needs the decision soon. He was worried about cuts in education and teacher layoffs, and wanted me to find out if the package would cover those items. That topic needs more study, and I just can’t find the time to analysis that bill fully. I want to get to the important work of saving our government’s economy; however, my mouse hand clicks on the spider solitary game by habit. Today I will play only ten minutes before I start on the pile of work that is teetering on my desk. Playing this game with one suit is never a challenge for me. I play two suits and on days where I feel much smarter than the rest of the world, like today, I play with all four suits. I must be smarter than most of the world; because I have a government job where I get paid a ton of money to play spider. This morning I got a tremendous amount of work done. I have won ten of my eighteen games of spider.
      I would start working on my Health Care Reform homework; however, I am extremely hungry and I will scoot out for an early lunch. The bill is almost nine hundred pages, and most of that I have not read yet. However, the bill will still be on my extremely expensive mahogany desk when I get back from lunch. I might very well understand it better on a full stomach.  My most pleasing and relaxing lunch is always at Abe’s Rib Eye Barn. The Congressman is always worried about his employees having a relaxing lunch. He has told us many times to take our time and eat a proper lunch. It is a thirty-five mile drive, but I have a car and a gas card supplied by congress. It is a magnificent luxury car except for the ugly driver’s side door. I think that congressional seal with the words “For Official Use Only” is just ugly.  Today I want the fourteen-ounce filet as I am so hungry from all that work I completed earlier today. Abe’s salad bar, including the salmon and smoke oysters, is one of the best around. The steak came cooked to perfection, and I had a double chocolate cake for desert. I never know what to tip the friendly servers at Abe’s. I usually just hand them the federal credit card and allow the girls to place their own tip on the receipt.  The only problem going to Abe’s is that of its location. I have to pass The Farms Golf Course on the way back to the office. I always feel like crying when I have to drive by the course without playing eighteen. The taxpayers are nice enough to furnish everyone in our office a membership, so the least I can do to be a great American is appear on those tees and greens often and not waste taxpayer money.
      There is Armed Services Budget and that Health Care stuff I need to complete, but it will still be there later. Right now I need to ride around those links and tiny lakes. My score was a 106, but I work for the government. The government has taught me to be creative and to use an eraser. Now my score card looks like about three over par.  I need to go back to the office but The Farms has a great bartender, Patrick, that mixes concoctions that will make me feel better about losing three of my golf balls in the lake at the ninth hole. Patrick makes me relax and laugh. He is such a great bartender that I allow him to write in his tip amount. It is not my money, and probably not any of my business how much he makes. By the time I finish flirting with the attractive manager who is always working at the corner booth, and leave the club lounge, it is dark. I need to go to the office, but I also want to get home and sleep. I have had a very long day. There is always more work than I can handle, always more than I want to read. I am going to dial the Congressman and finish this business tonight.

"Hello Congressman how was your golf trip to Puerto Rico ?"

" Hey, that's a tremendous score!"

“Yes sir, I am done with my analysis. Been working on it all week, and that Health Care bill is way too long for anyone to read! The pharmaceutical and insurance companies still have some notes in the margins on some pages that I am not really sure anyone understands; however, it is a great package. Just go along with your speaker (like always) because she is expecting a yes vote."

"Immediately after that vote, your supposed to be with that delegation leaving for your meetings in Europe."

“That should be a fantastic trip! Seven beautiful cities on the itinerary, and I am sure Mrs. Congressman has always dreamed of celebrating Valentine’s Day in Paris!”

" See you in three weeks, and don't worry I will keep your office running at full speed."

 

Prologue: My Professor at the West-Tennessee Writing Project gave us a simple assignment. Write a discriptive essay about a room.

MIRRORS on the CEILING

     It was snowing. The roads had four or so inches, and it was still coming down. This may not sound like much of a problem for my readers way north of that famous Mason- Dixon Line; however, for rural Tennessee counties that have only three dump trucks with scoops it was like a blizzard. My Director of Schools, a dedicated educator, decided that we would have school all week despite the snow. I could not commute my hour drive back to my wife and be assured of being at school the next four days. So I got a room for the week at the small motel two blocks form the school.
     What do I want to entitle this blog entry about living in that Motel?  In writing class we learned that titles are important to grab the reader's attention, and you should always put thought into a title. Maybe I should call it 'My Unfortunate Incarceration'. A Great title; however, it was over used by Anthony on Designing Women and it might make people stop talking to me. They might assume that I really am an X-Con or as my friend at the Pardons and Paroles Department is ridiculously required the call them, Clients.  'My Time in Exile', would make for a great title. I liked this title until the teacher across the hall told me that it made me sound as old as Moses. My eighth grade students think I am that old. A couple students are convinced that I taught Pythagoras using the desert sand and a stick . That title is out; why would I pick a title to exaggerate my advanced age.  “My Time Out” was an early title. It told the story and had special meaning as I referee several high school and college sports. Come to think of it, my mother gave the words time out special significance in my early formative years, and that might not be a pleasant memory trail for me to follow.  Once I paid for the room and turned the key I knew 'Mirrors on the Ceiling' would work just fine.
      There were mirrors on all the walls, mirrors on the headboard, and even mirrors on the ceiling. Not sure if any of these mirrors were necessary, but they certainly brightened up that room. One look at this motel and I was sure the every member of the Narcotics Squad had this address memorized. I was hopeful that no one with the Homicide department knew the address, but I was not sure. The carpet is more worn than the one you would find at the Marriott. It is that dark brown-diamond-pattern carpet that motels and fast food establishments use. They mostly use them so that no customer actually can learn how clean or dirty the carpet is without falling into a penitent position. Me, I plan to pray standing up, I won't bother to kneel yet as I still enjoy some mystery in my life. This is the type of motel you rent when you are with Mr. or Ms. Right Now and at least one of you is married.   It is a great place to throw a party because if they trash your room, its ok, since it is not your expensive living room. My father had always used the adjective 'sleazily' to describe such lodgings. I think I have a better understanding of that vocabulary word after my recent stay. The motel is the temporary home of those who break up and need a place to stay until their next payday where they can find a better place! Like maybe a double wide in a noisy trailer park just barely on the wrong side of the tracks. This is your average cheap motel that appears in most small towns. It is not the Holiday Inn Express or the Ramada Inn. Most these motels have words like view, budget, or royal in their titles. These words are misleading as; there is never any royalty staying there, the view is usually of the trash cans in the alley, and it is usually overpriced.
        The cardboard-thin walls were not like those at the quiet Best Western. Monday, I was glad my neighbor was also watching the WWE so I didn't’t feel obligated to turn the TV volume down. I was actually able to mute my sound and still pay close attention to the Miz-John Cena confrontation, which was not near as loud or violent as the argument between the couple in room 11 which woke everyone up about 2 a.m.
      The Wilson World has many fluffy bath towels, and a complementary robe. They have several sturdy towel rack inside that large bath room. My mirror motel gave me two very thin kitchen hand towels. Once they were wet, I was afraid to hang them on the one single one wire structure in the five foot square bathroom for fear that management might charge me to fix the entire wall when it fell. It already appeared that some other recent tenant might have been charged for that same room damage. I haven’t seen anything that shaky since the swing set in my backyard at age seven.
     The Drury Inn has a free continental breakfast and a coffee maker with donuts in the every room.  When I ask about breakfast, the Mirror Motel told me they had a less labor-intensive approach. Breakfast was at the convenience store across the street. There you are free to buy all the sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits you want to eat for breakfast.
      I was going to ask the owner if they had a gift shop or gym like the Peabody. I was wondering who was going to carry my bag into the room and turn down my bed, but I realized I was talking to myself again. I wanted to inquire about a Jacuzzi; however, my mom taught me not to make fun of nice people. Thus I kept my questions to myself.
     They did have that one feature that I don’t remember as being standard at the Hilton. Plenty of great mirrors abound in this room. Mirrors all the way around the bed! The headboard and the footboard were made up of huge mirrors. One mirrored closet area ran the whole length of the bed while on the other side the king size mirrors were attached to the dresser. The biggest mirror was on the ceiling. This mirror was bigger in perimeter and area than the double bed below it. My phone rang the first night and I could see the display light in five directions. Unfortunately, none of these bright views helped me quickly locate my phone in the strange room. This mirror thing is a great idea! I used the mirrors every single morning. I now wonder why all motel rooms and all bedrooms don’t employ this feature. We all need many mirrors around our beds. It gives you a great positive feeling, and they are extremely useful when you need to straighten your tie! I was absolutely sure my tie was perfect from five different angles. Yes, I used those mirrors every morning to straighten my tie, and I was glad they had been mounted on all the walls and especially the ceiling for that intended purpose!

 

Prologue: My friemeries at the WTWP made the requirement that I combine a food review with a horrible yet funny date! Its called fiction for a reason. I am now happily married and no longer want to date! Guys Candy Devine is still available, but I would finish reading first.

A Terrible Date at Marlo's Down Under

     My favorite middle schools girls' basketball team, The Lady Warriors, won their basketball game the previous night, now on to the championship game in Covington. Since the game wasn't until 8:30, I had some time on my hands. The previous night of the tournament, when I was rushed to make the tip-off, I was forced to obtain a meal at the drive-thru at the Burger King. I seem to eat several meals a week alone in my car, food in my lap, driving at a speed that encourages local law enforcement officers to stop and introduce themselves to me. They are very friendly and very inquisitive. They want to know my name, where I am going, where I have been, and did I know how fast I was driving?....We all have bad eating habits and I need to work on correcting that one.

      I was determined to spend this extra time engaged in fine dining and cute company. Tonight I finally had time for beautiful companionship and a tasty morsel from an establishment devoid of a drive-thru windows, dollar menus, or miniature toys for the young diners. This was an excellent occasion to call Candy who lived near by. I had not met her; however, we had been communicating on a dating site for sometime. I remembered from her profile that she was young, very attractive, successful, and loved dinner dates.



"Call me and lets go out to eat and have a wonderful conversation!"

Candy DeVine
26, Atoka, TN
Body Type: Skinny and Athletic
Status: Single
High School: Lake County
College: Dyersburg State
Interested in: Dinner Dates

     Thus I was about to break rule number seven from the computer class I teach. (Rule #7. Never arrange to meet someone you know only from the Internet! It could be dangerous!) I told myself that number seven did not apply to adults especially since we had been emailing for sometime and I needed a quick dinner date. To my delight, Candy said yes, and she would meet me as soon as I sent her a text with the address of the chosen restaurant.
      I did not know where to get a good meal in Covington. I called my friend, a deputy sheriff, to ask him where to get the best steak dinner in town. I expected the obvious yet ridiculous answer of, ‘The best steak dinner in our town is forty miles south in Memphis.' Instead, the answer came quickly; it had to be Marlo's Down Under. I mentioned my excitement about my date with Candy and he explained that Marlo’s would be a large part of a perfect evening. In my true hyper style, I got the address and began to text Candy before I received any of the directions.   When I got to the proper street address, on the east side of the square in Covington, the place was a dress shop. I was confused for a moment until I realized that the term 'down under' might mean that the place was located in Australia or maybe in the basement. (duh) I walked around back and the signs and entrance were clearly marked.

       I was seated at the table, received my water with warm-up bread, and I started to go through my standard questions about reviewing a new place. The menu told me about the owner and his building. Ron, the owner, is a rarity among restaurateurs. A great chef usually needs to leave rural west Tennessee to learn his culinary skills in the big city. However, Ron came back to his small hometown to practice his art on the locals. The building is more than one hundred and fifty years old. During the civil war it was a dry goods store. Later it became the storeroom for the small grocery store above. After some lengthily demolition of the worn paneling, the original well-aged bricks are now visible. These old, chipped bricks seem to add a Tara-like atmosphere of charm to your dining experience. There is plenty of seating included in three separated sections, a private meeting room which holds around fifty, an outside courtyard, and a complete bar. The bar is very quiet and can't be seen from three of the four sections, so family diners are not a problem. The establishment is open 6 days a week for dinner starting at five. The kitchen stops serving around eleven, and the bar is open until one.

       What about a dress-code? I was still in the nice shirt and tie I wear most days to school so I began to look at the appearances of others. When I saw the extremely robust woman who was having problems fitting through the door. My answer was obvious, no hoity-toity dress code here at Marlo’s! The woman now talking with the host proved that! This woman was the size of a gold-medal-wining Russian male weight lifter, and it was obvious that the local Avon lady had not gotten rich off of her. She was wearing a pink crocheted tube-top, a pair of lime green flip-flops, and a pair of XXXL yellow dirty overalls with one strap hanging with unbuckled freedom.  As a southern male I have grown to appreciate big sexy hair, but not this big. I took one look at her coiffure and I determined two things about the stranger. I guessed that she drove a fast convertible and that she didn't carry a hair brush. It was hard to envision the entire hairdo as the backwards John Deere cap hid much of the top layer from view.

     I was having problems drinking my water while watching this comical site. I stopped giggling to myself when the host ushered the newcomer toward my table. As she was being seated across from me, I noticed the massive tattoo on her huge upper arm. No cute little Pooh, Mickey, or butterfly, the feminine type of tattoo that many women sport today. This was a large tattoo containing cobras, knives, skulls, and death. There are only two places to earn this type of body art: in deadly combat for your country or in the state penitentiary. I tried to not stare at the tattoo, and took President Clinton’s advice: I did not ask where she got it, and I am sure I did not want to be told!

"ccc..Candy", I ask trying hard to keep any trace of confusion, dread, or FEAR out of my voice.

"My real name is Gunch, Modine Gunch; Candy bez my dating profile name. I like these here dinner dates! It’s been a long time since I dun eat me good meal!"

     This eatery would be a fine place to have great dinner conversations. It is quiet and you can hear yourselves over a small table; however, my date spent the remainder of the evening SILENT. Not another syllable was spoken by my dinner companion that evening. I kept trying, but this date would have as little conversation as if we had been in a twenty-year, bad marriage. I ask if she would like to start with a fried onion blossom to which I got a smile and a nod. I ask her what she did for a living and received a smile and a shrug. I ask about family and hometown and got no reactions at all. My mother taught me to be polite so I avoided the two questions I wanted to ask. I wanted to ask her if she had ever played linebacker for the Detroit Lions; I have no doubt she could handle that position if given the opportunity to tryout. She did not look anything like the cutie on the site I had been messaging. So I wanted to ask why she didn't’t look like her profile picture; however, I think I already knew that answer. One of two possibilities was true. She either was very talented with Photoshop software or she had broken computer class rule number three. (#3. Never use a copyrighted image or picture without the owner’s expressed permission! It is plagiarism and could even be illegal!) I decided that since Photoshop does have some limits it must be the second reason. Candy, I mean Modine Gunch, never posed for that model-like picture it was stolen from the girl that should have been my dinner date.

     When the onion came, my dinner companion reached in her mouth and pulled out her excessive wad of bubble gum. This fashioniesta had a matching ensemble after all. The bubble gum was the exact same color as her tube-top. She slammed her gum, it had to be five pieces or more, firmly on top of her fine linen napkin. The very same napkin that was still wrapped tightly around her silverware, it would rest there on top of her unrolled silverware the rest of the dinner.

      When it came time to order the steaks she pointed at the menu for the 16 ounce Porter House ($35), and I ordered the 10 ounce rib-eye ($28). The steaks were tender. They needed to be as my date was still not using her silverware, only her ten fingers and a pair of very sharp looking teeth. The steaks were perfect and presented in dry rub that adds a spicy flavor. Onion, cinnamon, I have no idea what else made the great taste, and I am sure the rub ingredients are secret. The kitchen knew the difference between medium-rare and medium-well. Mine came with a salad and french fries that I am sure never witnessed the inside of a plastic bag. Modine got a baked potato, and she managed to eat it just like I eat watermelon with two hands near her mouth and a very messy. For those who don't appreciate a steak, Marlo's serves some wonderful seafood and pasta. My steak was the best I had this year and the service was great!

       Patrons from several surrounding counties have learned to love their dinners on the square; however, some of the local people stop by just to indulge in the appetizers and desserts. One server told me she buys their desserts when it is her turn to feed her Sunday school class. I ordered two of fudge brownies topped with vanilla ice cream. Modine held up three fingers in my direction so I ordered four desserts. Unlike my date for the evening I used a spoon. I Never did see anyone eat ice cream with their fingers, but she did an acceptable job on all three bowls of ice cream and brownies. When the ice cream was no longer firm she simply tilted the bowl and slurped; just like I did with my Captain Crunch when I was five. Thanks to my sterm mom, I have not eaten that way since! It was a great dessert and I almost ordered another, a raspberry cheesecake I saw on a near-by table. However, on a first date I try not to eat a second dessert so I don't look like a hog! Never mind that my date ate three?

      I ask Modine Gunch , a name that seemed to fit her much better than Candy, what she thought of the meal. She wiped her lips right across her tattooed arm, and reached down to pick-up the chewing gum and replaced it into her mouth. Then she gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up gesture. The last time I saw her (I Hope!) she was waving at me and walking out that door. I was alone again at my table waiting for the check and contemplating computer class rule # 7. What more can I say! It was great food and an eventful night. I want another date! I plan on doing this again next Saturday. - Marlo’s not Modine Gunch. Next time you need a fabulous meal choose Marlo’s Down Under in Covington at the Square, it is well worth the drive!                                     

102 East Court Square Covington, TN       901 475-1124                      http://www.marlosdu.com

 

Prologue: One of my fellow writers decided that my food reviews needed more spice. She assigned me to take Shakespeare to lunch, and write the food review. I thought that sounded too easy, until she told me that that Shakespeare could only speak words that he has already written. That's when I started sounding like one of my childhood idles , Mumbly. I was mumbling words my mother does not want me to speak or type here. Then I started toward the library looking for the Complete Works Of Shakespeare Concordance .

"Dining with The Bard"
(Taking Shakespeare to Lunch.)

     William Shakespeare is my lunch guest today! In a few minutes I will eat at Los Portales in Dyersburg, Tennessee with poet, playwright, and actor, William Shakespeare. Yes, I said William Shakespeare! What’s the value of owning a 1981 DeLorean with a flex-capacitor if you can’t invite a few famous friends back from history for a bite to eat and a little conversation?

R: “Hey William. Good to see you!”
      He has always wanted me to call him William. Not Will, not Bill, or the even more irreverent Willy. For a man who wrote” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”(1); he is very touchy about his name. We were once at the Lady Luck Casino when he got very angry when I called him Willy. Claimed he was named William, and that his father and mother had not named him after some Disney whale. I sometimes have problems with names; however, after that screaming fit heard by everyone at the tables, I will always remember his name is William!

WS: “Rayray, Most fair return of greetings and desires.”(2)

R: “How have you been lately?”

WS: “I am weary, yea, my memory is tired.”(14)

R: “Lately my memory stays tired, most the rest of my body also. We must both be getting OLD! Are you hungry, William?”

WS “I pray you, question yond man if he for gold will give us any food I faint almost to death.”(3)

R: “Oscar, Can I have my regular booth? Mr. Shakespeare and I are both starving.”

     Oscar took me to my booth and just rolled his eyes at the appearance of my dinner guest. You would think he would get used to seeing me in here with strangers from out-of-town. Shakespeare is dressed such that he could pass for a child of the Hippy 60’s. After a small amount of thought, I realize the eye roll may have been for my cartoon Taz tie, and not my guest.

R:"Have you ever had Mexican food before?”

WS “ No it cannot be.”(4)

R: "What's one of your most memorable meals?"

WS: “Fillet of a fenny snake, in the cauldron boil and bake; eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, lizard's leg and owlet's wing, for a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”(5)

R: " I don't think they have all that in their kitchen; however, I remember that broth, Mr. York, my senior language arts teacher made us memorize that.  Not sure why?"

     That is when I decided to take over the ordering chores for the afternoon. This is my turf and not William’s. My dinner guest does speak English, but it is ENGLISH, and he might have problems being understood. My wife and I eat here all the time. I know everything on the menu is great here, and they always fill your plate. Oscar brought us our beginning nacho chips served with a red sauce that is hotter than most of the other Mexican places I have visited and a sweet goat cheese dip. Then he asked for our drink orders.

WS:“For God’s sake, a pot of small ale. -- For a Quart of Ale is a dish for a king!” (6+7)

I ordered two bottles of Corona, one for me and one for my ale-craving guest. Los Portales does carry imported and domestic beers. They also sell mixed drinks (Great Margaritas); however, there will be no loud drunks here during your meal. There is a small bar, but they are a fine restaurant with a family atmosphere.

R: “How’s the weather been in England lately?

WS:“Cloudy show of stormy blustering weather” (8)

R: “What do you think of our weather in Tennessee?"

WS:“ Fie! This is hot weather!” (9)

     As William sipped his ale, I studied the menu for a couple specials. The lunch specials run about $5, and there are more choices that I ever want to consider. The dinner specials come in about $7. They also have wide variety of steak, vegetarian, and seafood dinners on their menu. Their most expensive dinners are below eighteen dollars. There are plenty of seats, and they have two party rooms if your group is having a meeting. Their service is great. I never have to use my favorite stunt to get the wait staff’s attention. A patron here will never have to use it; however, in some establishments I have found this stunt can be extremely helpful. I simply pick up my empty glass and swirl the ice round-and-round and louder and louder until the wait staff decide that it might really be their job to refill my beverages. If this does not work immediatly I begin to sing (VERY LOUDLY and BADLY!) Feel free to borrow that trick if you need some attention where the service is the opposite of this restaurant

R: “William, to begin, I am ordering a some chimichangas. They are big pastries with meat and beans inside. What kind of meat do you want in yours?”

WS: “I am a great eater of Beef!”(10)

R: “Next since you crave shrimp and enjoy hot, spicy foods. You need to have their Camaronesa la Diabla”

WS:“What is it, my good lord? (11)

R: “The devil’s shrimp. Great big shrimp drowning in one of the hottest sauces I have ever experienced.”

     I ordered four beef chimichangas and two of the Camarones a la Diabla” I knew our plates would not be empty long. This place had a great kitchen time. I never have to wait long to be satisfied. I never finish the nachos and dip before the main course arrives.

R: “William, after we last ate at O’Chaleys in May, I took a course for teachers who also want to be great writers. I think I am a pretty good writer; of course, not quite up to your level yet. I even found that I enjoy writing, I wish I could find more time to spend on my creative writings”

WS “Where I will write, All may be well enough. So make the choice of thy own time.”(12+13)

R: “This place is called Los Portales!”

WS “How do you Mean?”(15)

R: “It means portals of entrances in Spanish.”

”WS “Find you that there?”(16)

R: “I was introduced to this place by my best friend, Myrtle. You met her on your last visit here in May.”

WS “She’s beautiful, and therefore to be woo’d; She is a woman, therefore to be won.”(17)

R: “Aahh ok, I will tell her you ask about her and said hi! She and I have made this a regular stop for our dinners where we laugh, share, and try to keep each other from going insane.”

WS “I think thou’rt mad. The matter?”(18)

R: “ I didn’t say it was successful. Many of my friends think I lost it long ago. That feeling may get stronger when I tell them about my current dinner companion! I give this place five stars! My meal is always great here, and how was the food that was on your now-empty plate?”

WS “A most delicious banquet! Let all the number of the stars give light! (19 & 20)

      Take William Shakespeare’s advice and visit Los Portales for a wonderful Mexican meal! The Dyersburg location is on Lake Road across from Big Lots. They have other locations across West Tennessee, Southeast Missouri, and Arkansas.

refrences to Shakespeare's part of the conversation

1) Romeo and Juliet II, 2

2) Hamlet II, 2

3) As you Like It II, 4

4) All’s Well That Ends Well II,1

5) MacBeth IV,1

6) Taming of the Shrew Prologue, 2

7) Winter’s Tale IV, 3

8) Henry IV part 2 III, 3

9) Rape of Lucrece III, 2

10) Twelfth night I, 3

11) All’s Well That Ends Well I

12) Anthony and Cleopatra III, 3

13) All’s Well That Ends Well II,1

14) Taming of the Shrew Prologue, 1

15) All’s Well That Ends Well III, 5

16) Coriolanus I, 9

17) Henry VI Part I V, 3

18) All’s Well That Ends Well III,2

19) Anthony and Cleopatra II, 7

20) Anthony and Cleopatra III, 2



 

Prologue: At the West-Tennessee Writing Project, we sometimes give out ridiculus writing assignemnts to each other. My assignment was to write a food review where I carried on a long conversation with an imagionary friend.

 

"The Queen and I?" or a Flash Back from Drugs I never Inhaled?

     “Good afternoon your Majesty. My name is Ray. As you can see from my shirt I live in Tennessee; however, I love your country.”
     “I loved my tours through your old castles. I saw the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Warwick Castle the last time I visited England. Maybe you would let me tour Buckingham Palace where you live on my next visit. I think it would be pretty fancy!”
     “I saw your picture at the National Portrait Museum, I also visited the National Gallery and the Tate. Have you ever seen those great British art works? I am sorry that was a silly question, I am a little nervous as I never thought I would be talking with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth."
      “On our visit, my friends and I had to go down to Abbey Road where we jay walked across that intersection just like the Beatles did on that famous album cover. Very unsafe, we were almost killed by a speeding taxi and a double-decker bus. Bet that when you did that stunt that they stopped the traffic for the Queen. Can you help me meet the remaining Beatles? How about the Downtown singer, Petula Clark, I had the largest crush on her when I was in junior high.”
      “Is that your 1977 Mini Cooper parked out front with the Union Jack on the roof. It is beautiful and distinctive; none the less, I really thought that the Queen of England would rate a large Limo. Guess the international budget crisis is having an effect on all of us these days.”
      “Unlike many Americans, I am a loyal soccer fan. I follow Manchester United, and I am sure they are in for another Premier League Trophy this year! Although, as one of their stock holders (MANU), I think they paid way too much for Wayne Rooney! He probably now makes more than you do! Eight-six million pounds seems very high for a thirty something soccer player."
      “I have always wondered one thing about the differences of our cultures. Why is it that in your county English is not always ENGLISH? I have always wanted to know why your people call an elevator a lift? What does her Majesty call her Umbrella? a boomershoot, a gamps, or a brolly? I apologize for hogging the conversation; however, you don’t seem to say much!”
      “Sir your table is ready. It has been ready for quite some time, your wife Louise is already seated. She was showing me the fabulous oil lamp she bought across the street. We did not want to interrupt you while you were carrying on a great conservation with the Queen. Many of our patrons take their picture beside the Queen; however, you are the first to carry on a lengthy chat with her. You do realize she is just a cardboard cutout? Don’t you?”
      “I do now! She looks so real. Where am I?”
“You are at the Pig N Whistle in Hardy, AR. My name is Diane and I will be your server. Sir, if you would follow me I will take you to your table. Louise says she is hungry and ready to eat”
     The Pig N Whistle is what happens when an Arkansas Girl meets a British Chef, a fellow Disney Cruise employee, and then gets homesick for the Ozarks. The Ashcrofts (Philip and Rebecca) now offer authentic Anglo-American pub food in the middle of the antique district in Hardy, Arkansas. It should be easy to find as the 1977 Mini Cooper (Red with Union Jack painted on the roof) is parked right out front. The walls are covered in British memorabilia, including lots of photos of The Beatles, Diana, and soccer stars. They even have a realistic-cardboard Queen Elizabeth if you want a picture with Her Majesty; or you might even become enamored with her and carry on a lengthy conversation. Ok, maybe that was just me being real special!
      The friendly owners can be found at the front greeting you when they are not in the kitchen maintaining excellence. They or one of their chefs will actually visit your table to ask about your meal? The service staff is very quick, friendly, and willing to answer all the dumb British cuisine questions you might have. We had no complaints for the kitchen or the wait staff, only praise! Every bite on our plates was spectacular, the portions large, and the prices were very fair. The drinks include soft drinks and real British tea. I still can't believe my ancestors threw that good stuff in the Boston  Harbor? If I had been there and got a vote, I would have voted for them to throw turnips, broccoli, or spinach, but not TEA?
    The good news is that neither the Ashcrofts nor the Queen mentioned our little tea party so maybe they are finally over it! They also carry several domestic and imported beers, and small wine selection. Just like the small pubs across the British Isles, you can order the Full English Breakfast all day long. They have several sandwiches if you just want a quick lunch or can't get over your fear of different tastes from strange lands. If you're new to British cuisine, be sure to check out the British-to-American translator on the back of the menu. With the help of this menu page, I was able to partially translate some of their menu options from English back into ENGLISH. Go ahead have something different you can't order in most towns in our area. You will be glad you drove over for a meal! ANLGO ( British) -- My loose American translation
Chicken Tikka Masala - chicken chunks in a spicy orange curry sauce. half British/ half Indian
Shepard’s Pie - hamburger casserole with carrots, corn, and peas, topped with mashed potatoes.
Swede - turnips
Fish and Chips - halibut fillets and fries
Cornish Pasty - meat and vegetables in a semi-circle of flaky pie filling - think very large hot pocket
Bangers and Mash - smoked sausage hunks in mash potatoes
Toad in the Hole - pig in a blanket Carrot Ginger Soup - chicken vegetable soup with ginger
Scones and Cream Tea - powdered doughnuts with jam and tea with milk
Bread & Butter Pudding - raisin bread layered and baked in French toast batter
Spotted Dick - pudding containing dried currants or raisins commonly served with custard
Pig N Whistle is located at 107 E. Main Street Hardy, AR 72542 (870) 856-3769 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pig-n-Whistle.
p.s. Remember Hardy, AR has a population of less than 800 local people, but explodes on weekends with tourist buying antiques and enjoying the Ozarks. So the Pig N Whistle is open weekends, but closed most Wednesdays and Thursdays.

 

prologue: February

, 2014: Mike used to giggle at the funny crap that I write. He told me I would have to write an serious piece when he died. I didn't know how quickly I would have to write this memorial and read it before the packed gym at Haywood High. Mike collapsed while doing what he loved, teaching his sixth grade history class. He died several days later in the hospital.

Mike Leigh, My Good Friend, and a Caring Educator


      Over the years, I had the pleasure of working with and coming to know Mike Leigh. Mike spent 36 years educating students with Haywood County Schools. We worked together as we served as leaders in the education association. Mike spent hundreds of basketball games seated on my left side where his difficult job was to make sure that I kept the scoreboard correctly. For the last few years we finally got to teach on the same campus.
      Mike had many of traits and skills that made him a fine educator. Some of these traits can be learned in college, modeled from other teachers, or even practiced in an empty classroom; however, he had one outstanding teacher trait that came naturally. He cared greatly about his students! I want to mention a few instances that illustrate Mike’s caring attitude and dedication.   
      Before I met Mike Leigh, I learned that he was a dedicated educator. My first HJH (now HMS) homecoming pep rally included a tumbling contest with twenty students. Many students could perform round-offs and back somersaults passes across the entire gym floor. When I congratulated the P. E. teacher on their skills, I learned that we were not teaching tumbling in our P. E. courses. He told me of a teacher at Sunny Hill Elementary who had volunteered to start a gymnastics club after school. That was the first time I heard mention of a Mr. Leigh. I didn't’t know him yet, but I learned a couple things about Mr. Leigh that day. I knew he was a good teacher as the students had skills and were full of enthusiasm. More importantly, I knew he was a dedicated teacher. You know a teacher is truly dedicated when they are willing to stay after school for free to teach a club. He simply did it because he wanted our young people to experience success and have fun.
      Another evidence of his caring heart appeared to me just this school year, Mike told me had a problem with his classroom projector. After taking the projector to my room, I found it worked fine, but his antiquated cord from the computer projector to the projector was faulty. Next classroom break, I returned his projector without a cord and informed him he needed one, and they were terribly rare. He told me to buy him whatever he needed, and he would repay me the next day. I joked about it might cost fifty dollars or more. He said, “Fine buy it! The class learns better when I use it.” Mike, like many of the teachers I know, was in a habit of supplying classroom needs with personal money. Since he didn't’t recognize my attempt at humor, I then had to confess. I had several cords in my storage building, they were inexpensive and cost me nothing. His projector would be working the next morning without him having to reach into his wallet. However; his willingness to sacrifice his own money for the needs of students shows another glimpse into his committed teacher character.
     I saw evidence of his compassion toward teaching and his students at basketball ball games. His former students would come by the table to say hi to Mr. Leigh. He would ask me about these students to find out if they were learning and staying out of trouble. Those who had gotten in trouble would be summoned to the table for a conversation about why they could not behave at the middle school. If you sat up in the cheap seats far away from our scorer’s table during Haywood Middle Basketball Games, then maybe you never learned a few of our secrets. Secret one, Mike would not use plastic mechanical pencils. He preferred old fashioned wood pencils, and I always had many sharpened ones on hand because on those rare occasions where the Warriors or Lady Warriors were not playing well, he would break a lead and reach for another pencil with every sloppy pass that created a turnover. Secret two, he and I would devour more than a few bags of popcorn on game nights. It was not a secret to the concession stand operators or the janitors who could count the empty bags around our table at the end of the evening. The third secret displayed his great dedication; Mike would grade stacks of papers during the ball games. He graded if we ate out before the game, during time outs, and in the intermissions. If a team was not in their full court press, he could do a small amount of grading during the game itself. He would grade homework and quizzes all night and not fail to mark the proper baskets or fouls. At the end of the night he would have two completed basketball stats books on top of a pile of graded quizzes ready to be returned to his students. Several years ago, he was reviewing his history quizzes at the end of the night. He found the scores and level of learning a little too low. He felt that his lectures might have been too boring. He handed me a black quiz and ask for computer favor. He wanted me to find a video on the Internet that would cover the same material and be more interesting to his class. Mike showed that video, gave the quiz again, and then had to grade even more quizzes. Other teachers would have just entered the low grades and gone on to teach the next chapter. However, Mike cared deeply about his student needing to learn.
     These are just a few of the instances where Mike proved that he cared about the students of Haywood County.
Today to honor Mr. Leigh, we filled this high school gym; however, if we had a larger meeting room and the time to hear from each of his more than 3000 former students, I think they would all agree that Mike E. Leigh was a teacher who possessed a wonderfully caring heart.

  

A memorial to Jean A. Clark 

     Whether you called Jean Clark husband, dad, granddad, great-grand dad, uncle, friend, or just chief; his life had a positive effect on yours. He taught great life lessons!  He told me once he had gotten his wisdom the hard way and it was not necessary for me to screw up my life just to learn what he already knew. All I had to do was ask and listen.  I didn’t receive all his lessons well!  Some I didn’t want to hear especially when I was a dumb teenager.  It is amazing that the older I got and more I went to college it was my parents that seem to get smarter.  Some of those lessons I could not understand until I was grown and a father, and some of his wisdom I am still trying apply to my life.  Jean, my dad, can best be remembered by the lessons he left with us.  We don’t have time to catalog all of his insights, but here are three of the things he wanted us to learn.
     One lesson he taught us was people mattered and you should always be friendly.  My dad was a great listener and loquacious.  That means he liked to have conversations- A lot and with everyone.  In middle school I was actually shy, Dad took delight in helping me to get over it.  He started making me talk with whoever we met in the store or elsewhere around town.  He insisted I try out for all the school plays.  His philosophy was a person needed to be comfortable enough to talk with anyone and knowledgeable enough to keep the conversation going.  Years ago, my Dominos manager, Tamara, and I had a meeting in Memphis one night, and instead of staying afterwards for the free pizza we stopped for a real dinner with mom and dad on the way back.  After dinner dad found out she had majored in European History, he mentioned a book he had read about Napoleon that was still on the bookcase across the room.  She had read the same book in college, so the seating chart had to change.  I left the couch to Dad and Tamara to discuss the French nation and joined mom for our conversation.  A couple hours later the couch conversation was still taking kings, battles, and places that I didn’t remember studying.  On the way home she told me that she enjoyed meeting my parents and had not chatted the history she loved since college.  Tamara was sure he had some formal training in history and thought that stuff he told her about dropping out of the eighth grade was a big joke. When dad first met Louise she received a summary of dad’s naval career and he ask questions about where she had grown up, her children, her ancestry and education.  He gave her the history of six generations of his family and started on mom’s side of the family.  They only stopped their dialogue that night because we had to go home to be up before five to get to work.  Louise claimed dad’s demeanor made her feel relaxed, loved, and important the whole time they were talking.   A few months later when dad came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner I learned that he remembered a couple items about Louise’s early life that were not in my knowledge.           
     When dad was in the hospital around Christmas his male nurse on the night shift told me dad was much less disoriented than he had been four days earlier when he had been admitted. He and dad had talked about the navy and football most of the night till his patient fell asleep.  As dad awoke the stoke nurse came in with her clipboard. I am famous for my tough pop quizzes in my math classes, so I would also grade his answers as he spoke to the stroke specialist.  This grade was much better than the one I witnessed three days before.  He always knew mom’s first name!  He got all his children’s names correct except he was still the only person in the world calling me Raymond. Who was the president? This time Dad knew his name and volunteered the fact to all three nurses in the room that he didn’t vote for that man either time. I think he was about to expound on the reasons for this voting pattern, but the clipboard nurse gave him the next question.  He knew the year.  He didn’t know what he had eaten for breakfast, but when I saw the half empty tray of puréed foods I was not sure what he had for breakfast either so I gave him credit for that answer. He did miscalculate his age, but I (and maybe several of you also) have lied about my age so many times that the truth is starting to escape my memory.  Dad also passed an informal memory test given to him by his night nurse.   Jean Clark had only known this man three days, but he knew he had played defensive end for Corinth, Mississippi, and his college ball at Tennessee State.  Later that day I witnessed him grilling his day nurses on where they grew up, went to school, and about their families.  Dad thought everyone he met was important enough to talk with and people always felt they were important when they had a conversation with him.
      Life lesson number two was you never give-up, you adjust, you practice, you work harder, you get a better attitude, and you might or might not get better, but you are not allowed to QUIT! This rule applied to my mother as dad never quit loving her and taking care of her.  This rule was applied to myself, Dorinda, Michael, and Deanna in many different ways.  We had many things we could not quit; we could not quit ROTC, band, guitar/piano/accordion lessons, swimming, basketball, baseball, boy scouts, girl scouts, school fund raisers, part-time jobs and you could not quit anything else you started or promised to do.  My biggest don’t quit was called school and education.  In my English class Mr. York was wearing out red pens correcting my essays and he told my parents that I was not going to be successful in college if I could not learn write better.  I hated writing and I wanted to give up and drop out of Honors English.  Dad was a great writer, he send long letters from overseas with his great penmanship. Mom once had shoeboxes full of his letters.  It is my dad’s don’t quit attitude that is responsible for me enjoying writing today.  Dad had decided to pay for an English tutor every Tuesday night of my senior year.  Mr. York was a great teacher, but I hated his class, and I could always find something else to do on a Tuesday night so I proclaimed it would be a big waste of dad’s money.  Dad said he had found me another tutor; she was just out of college and could use the extra money so he was willing to pay it, but that if I tried my best his money would not be wasted.  Dad understood me better than I knew.  When the female English teacher just four years older than me manipulated that evil red pen I didn’t seem to protest as much.  The first few weeks I returned to her kitchen table only hoping she would close my manila folder so we could discuss many more topics than the comma splices within my essays, for instance where I was talking her to dinner.  That fantasy, of course, never happened but after a few weeks, I was enjoying writing and by the end of the year the red marks on my assignments had been greatly reduced. This don’t quit advice applied to everyone not just my brothers and sisters.  When I worked on the river boat, the other oiler was from Louisiana, nick-named Cajun.  Cajun could fix everything in the engine room and he didn’t need the manuals full of instructions and pictures I depended on. He was about to leave the company because he had twice failed the math portion of a test he needed for his next promotion and a much bigger pay check.   However, no one around Jean Clark was allowed to quit without trying everything possible to succeed.   I am not sure which took more persuasion, but my father convinced me to give up a few poker games and TV shows during my free shifts to tutor Cajun in algebra.  Then Chief, the only name I ever heard him called on that riverboat, convinced a thirty-seven year old riverboat mechanic to give up some of those same poker games to sit and learn mathematics from a nineteen year old kid. Dad was thrilled with both of us when Cajun passed that Assistant Engineer’s Exam.  Throughout his life time, Jean Clark gave this same don’t ever quit/ keep trying/ get better advice to as many family members, friends, and sailors who would listen.
     The last one of his life traits I am going to speak on today is his compassion and generosity.  He always tried to help others, many times beyond his means!  Dad missed most of my early Christmases as he was busy in some place called Viet Nam.  However, I have a Christmas memory from the first year we moved to Memphis. I was about eleven it was a week before Christmas, and the memory starts with a large empty grocery sack.  I was told to fill it with my unwanted and unneeded toys.  I don’t know how my brother or sister felt at that time, but I was reluctant to give up anything despite the fact that Santa was about to bring me tons more stuff that could never fit into my toy box.  Dad insisted and each of us kids put together a large grocery sack full of old toys we didn’t need anymore.  He decided my sack should include three of my G. I. Joe dolls (excuse me I mean G.I. Joe action figures.) These were the early good Joes too, Joe was still 12 full inches tall and had 21 moveable parts; I certainly didn’t want to give away three out of my collection of eight or nine.  When dad got in the car he had a several sacks of his own full of groceries bought at the more expensive Big Star and not the base Commissary, which was my first clue that whoever we were going to visit was not in the navy.   On the way he ask me if I needed to pee, I said no and told him I was not a kid anymore and he didn’t have to ask me. He asked again and volunteered to pull over if necessary.  Anyone who has ever driven on a long trip with my father at the wheel knows he never enjoyed pulling the car over especially for that reason.  He said he was asking because he didn’t want to embarrass the woman we were going to visit if I had to use the restroom at her house.  We drove just north of Covington and we pulled of the road in front of one of six or seven shacks.  These share-cropper shot-gun shacks have been gone for years; however they were located where they now make those Eskimo Pies I love. I immediately saw why it was important that I not need to pee, it was the late sixty’s and they still had an outhouse out back. There were only two rooms. A kitchen with a wood stove and a huge wash tub. The front room consisted of a beat-up old couch, an oil lamp, and two mattresses lying on the floor.  Because Dad and Mom were great providers, the only building I ever experienced without dressers full of clothes, a TV, a stove, electricity, or running water had been my Boy Scout camp.  Until that day I don’t guess I had ever witnessed true poverty, so dad felt a need to introduce our family to the truly less fortunate.   We were presented to a woman who had four children.  Three boys and a girl. She knew we were coming; however, the introductions were with Mr. and Mrs. and I felt they had not known each other very long.  I have no idea how dad had met her or why he had picked out her family.  Her oldest son and I made several trips to the car for the groceries.  Our families lined up to exchange the sacks full of toys and to wish everyone merry Christmas.  She was overwhelmed by the amount of food!  Her kids were so appreciative to receive our forgotten and neglected toys. I got dad’s lesson that day, help everybody you can especially those less fortunate!  I suddenly didn’t mind surrendering a third of my G.I. Joe Army when I saw that they would be in cherished hands.  People across this room and many others who encountered Jean Clark’s life can tell stories of how they received his generous help in their time of need.
     Those are just a few of the important lessons I got from Jean, my dad.  I learned that people are important and we should always be friendly!  I learned to have tenacity and do my best.  And I learned that I should help others whenever possible. Great wisdom that would make our world a better place if everyone followed his examples.