Monday, October 29, 2007

Speaking of Movies

I suspect everyone has a favorite line from a movie. Mine is that killer quote from Alan Rickman, who plays the Royal Shakespearian Company actor Alexander Dane (who in turn plays the space alien, Doctor Lazarus of Tev'Meck) in Galaxy Quest. "By Grabthar's Hammer, ..." is such a flexible quotation. These three words, suitably inflected, can prefix almost any sentence.

For example, if Joyce compliments my freshly razored face, I can give her my best queen's English: "By Grabthar's Hammer, ... what a shaving."

Or when commenting on the new asphault patch in the street: "By Grabthar's Hammer, ... what a paving."

Or when driving past a herd of cows: "By Grabthar's Hammer, ... what a grazing."

Or even, when praising Joyce's Saturday morning breakfast: "By Grabthar's Hammer, ... what a biscuit." See, you can use it anywhere! (Yes, my bride of longstanding is also long on longsuffering.)

Sadly, putting up with my cornball humor isn't the worst of Joyce's woes. The old Y-chromasome has been passed on to the youngsters. For a time, our youngest Ben was prone to channeling Jon Heder at the drop of a hat: "You know, like numb-chuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills." But back before Ben began deadpanning Napoleon Dynamite, he slew me with the mother of all punchlines.

Joyce and I were trying to top each other with expressions of endearment:
Bob: I love you, my dear.

Joyce: No, I love you MORE, my handsome husband.

Bob: No, I love YOU more, my gorgeous wife.

Joyce: No, I love YOU more, my sweetheart.

Bob: No, I love YOU more, ...

Ben (spookily accurate Gollum impersonation): "... my precious."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Sam was a German Shepherd/Airedale Terrier cross. He was a member of the family before I was born (on which side of the family I won't conjecture). He was very protective and gentle, especially with me since Dad had introduced him to a rolled-up newspaper for knocking me down as a toddler. My earliest memories are that I simply had a very large (and longsuffering), self-ambulating pillow. Sam had pointed ears like a Shepherd, but his Airedale blood couldn't support the tips, so even when Sam put his ears on full alert, they flopped over a bit. His coat was black and tan, wiry to the touch. His jaws were massive and his teeth could slice through a ham bone like it was a bread stick. He ate everything. Dad one time tossed Sam an orange. Sam caught it in mid-flight and downed it in a couple of bites. We had a six-foot chain-link fence around the back yard and Sam leaped it like a horse clearing a jump. (Picture Princess Margaret clearing at gate at an equestrian competition - Princess Margaret on a horse, I mean.)

Once my two older brothers and I took Sam upstairs (where he wasn't supposed to be). We led him to the end of the hallway and I climbed onto his back and pretended he was a bucking bronco. As I whooped and hollered "Giddyup," Sam calmly walked the length of the hall and sat down with his rear to the stairs, sending me tumbling down seven steps to the landing. My older siblings stood wide-eyed at the top of the stairs, "Are you OK?" I stood and laughed, unhurt. I believe I saw Sam smirking as he trotted past, heading back to the safety of downstairs.

Attempts to chain Sam proved futile. He'd either break his chain or strangle himself trying. Once freed of his chain and over the fence, he'd head for Mount Franklin, a 300o-foot-high faultline whose foothills were less than a mile west of our humble casa. There Sam would hunt wild game, always returning home with his kill and depositing it in the back yard as a demonstration of his affection for us. Usually Sam's kill was a jack rabbit, but one day Sam sacrificed the Willis's cat.

I remember examining the kill. It was a merciful death; the cat had been sliced nearly in two with a single bite. I bragged to Mike Willis (that loathesome bully who was two years my senior) about how my dog had made a quick meal of his cat. Then Dad came home and, after talking to Mrs Willis, sadly told us that Sam had to go. We tried to explain that we didn't like Mike Willis, but Dad was adamant.

A few days after that, as Dad closed the tailgate of his truck, we tearfully said goodbye to Sam. Our lamentation was unrequited -- Sam was all excited about going for a ride. Dad was working on a construction job in Dell City (a small farm community fifty miles east of El Paso) and, in talking to one of the farmers, Dad had found Sam a new home. The last time we saw Sam his tail was wagging and his ears were standing straight up (except the tips). His head was laid on the wall of the truck bed on the driver's side and his muzzle was at Dad's elbow in the open window. He was as happy as a dog can be. Dad pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the street. The construction job took Dad to Dell City several times during the next few days. He reported that Sam was enjoying his new freedom and his position as top dog in that rural community. He assured us that Sam was much happier now. But somehow that wasn't much comfort.

Some time after Dad took Sam away (but while the painful memory of that wagging tail was still fresh in my mind), we were visiting our cousins in Carlsbad, NM. My Aunt Harriet decided she'd treat us kids (her son, my two older brothers and me) to a Hollywood matinee production, so we piled into her Chrysler New Yorker and she dumped us at Carlsbad's only movie theater. Showing at the time was a Disney flick: "Old Yeller." It was an absolutely mesmerizing story. Yeller was almost as good a dog as Sam: mischievious, brave, loyal -- just like old Sam. Yeller repeatedly saved Fess Parker's rugged pioneer family from harrowing dangers. But then the story took a horrifying turn when the "slaverin fits" (a.k.a., rabies) poisoned Yeller's mind. Tommy Kirk and I did our best to deny the truth that was before our eyes, but when Yeller nearly bit Arliss's hand off, Tommy Kirk and I had to face our duty. Tommy and I lifted our flintlock to Yeller's crazed muzzle -- Tommy squeezed his tearful eyes shut and pulled the trigger, but I kept my eyes wide open and felt that lead ball hit me square in the chest. Tears streamed down my cheeks, "Why did Sam have to go?"

Despite Fess Parker's best attempts to console us Joel, Roy and I were still straining mightily to hide our wet cheeks from the cousin when the credits began to scroll. We sniffled our way to the lobby where we'd been told to wait until Aunt Harriet came to fetch us. A half hour later; still no sign of the the New Yorker. Then through the theather doors we heard Old Yeller's pleading barks, so we happily trompled back up the balcony stairway. It was thrilling to see Old Yeller alive again, but the second time Tommy Kirk cured his hydra-phobey, that lead ball's shattering my still-beating heart hurt just as much.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Mandeville Shores

Almost two years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the church my brother Roy attends in far north Dallas sent construction materials and work crews to Louisiana. I went with Roy's crew to Mandeville where we did repairs to a flooded church. The main chapel sits on piers, so it was mostly spared, but the annex (which sits on a concrete slab) was filled with muck, so everything four feet and below had to be gutted. Before we returned to finish the job a few weeks later, Roy decided to send out a flier inviting people to join us. He asked for suggestions on how to word the invitation, so I submitted the following:

Mandeville Shores Resort Hotel is located in the heart of Mandeville, Louisiana - just a leisurely stroll from the placid shore of rainbow-surfaced Lake Pontchartrain. Yet it's only a short ten-to-twelve-hour drive from the shops and restaurants of Frisco, Texas. You'll find a vacation at Mandeville Shores the ideal therapy for those who just want to get away from it all!

Resort guests can expect a subtropical climate, trees laden with Spanish moss and storm debris, and all the ambience this petrochemical-rich region has to offer. Mandeville Shores is a favorite among blue-collar vacationers and is renowned for its atmosphere filled with minerals and natural fiber (gypsum grit and sawdust). Your delectable meals will be filling (and occasionally even warm) -- the finest cuisine Sam's Club has to offer, prepared as only a RadarRange can.

During your activity-filled days, you'll feel absolutely liberated from those frivolous resort diversions such as scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, fishing and guided eco-tour excursions. Rather, you'll be engaged in productive activities that are sure to aid you in achieving that trim figure you've always wanted. For the skillful, there's on-the-job training on the proper use of power tools. For the semi-skilled, hand-tool practice and weight-lifting. For the arthritic, therapeutic exercise. For the cerebral ... uh ... a well-deserved break from mental exertion.

After your activity-filled day, at nightfall you'll retreat to your spacious semi-private suite where you'll be serenaded by the stentorian pulmonations of your fellow vacationers. Your abode of worshipful repose will be elegantly simple -- unencumbered by extravagances such as a kitchenette, dining area, shower, cable television, telephone, Internet connection or bed. You and your Christian brothers will sleep in a quaint chapel (that was flooded only as high as the baseboards), and slumber on a cloud of air (if you remember to bring your air mattress and a pump). And this lovely stained-glass-windowed sanctuary is just a short nature walk from the nearest hygiene facilities.

Come join your fellow laborers in the Lord's field - "the fields are white unto harvest" (well, at least white unto drywall dust).

I have no idea whether Roy actually used my travel brochure (but I kinda doubt it).