Hiding in the Shadows of a Paris Cafe

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As I came to the sideline, there she was, the beautiful Jasmine Cho (not her real name). Then suddenly…uh oh, please, not now…

Lately the temperatures in eastern Kentucky have been as hot as the conjunctiva of a Portland rallyer doused with pepper spray.

I took this photo on a very hot day in Paris while atop an open-air bus.  The only breeze was when we were moving about 40 miles-per-hour.  This is the shade we are all looking for right now.

This brings to mind the days I spent in Houston as a student.  Every day in the summer was like this, ninety-plus degrees with breathing in more water than air.  I can’t believe we played basketball outside and played intramural flag football in August. Ah, to be young again.

One particular robustly, sunny and humid Sunday morning in August when the temps had already hit 90 and I broke out into a drenching sweat just walking out of my apartment into my car.  I was on my way to an intramural flag football game.  I  just had enough time to polish off some barbecue Fritos for a healthy breakfast and washed it down with a Coke before going on the field.

It was late in the game and I was playing wide receiver that day and our quarterback, who was being fanned by the center between plays with a large palm frond, thought it would be in the teams best interest to send me on a fly pattern .  If you don’t know football jargon, a fly pattern is the receiver running down the sideline as fast as he can till he runs under the football thrown by the quarterback who is standing peacefully in the shade of his lineman and sipping a cool drink.  When he has his fill, he looks up to find the receiver running like a meth-cooker with his lab on fire.  He sits his drink down and throws the football as far as he can.

Astoundingly enough, this play did not work on the first try.  After I finally made it back to the huddle…he called it again.  The second try was not successful either.  This time I staggered back to the huddle as the quarterback was polishing off his second cold drink.  Much to my displeasure, he called the play for the third time.  Now my face was feeling as if I had a skin peel with a Texas chili pepper.  I was so exhausted, I couldn’t speak to voice my indignation at this recent decision, but I was a gamer and sacrificed my personal comfort for the betterment of the Nittany Lens flag-football team, a motley crew of first year optometry students.

I mustered all the strength and energy that was left in me as I flew down the sideline.  I caught the perfectly thrown ball, helped by the ball being sticky with lemonade from the quarterback’s fingers.  I caught a touchdown to get us back in the game.  They were yelling for me to come and huddle up for the extra point attempt, however I was indisposed as I was stumbling to our team bench looking like Jerry Quarry after taking a well-placed punch to the face from Muhammad Ali.

As I got closer, I could make out the angelic appearance of Jasmine Cho (again, not her real name), the lovely, athletic fourth-year optometry student unfazed by the Houston heat.  As I approached her, she was about to speak to this lowly plebe to whom she never had spoken.

“Nice catch”, came the words from her lips.

I tried to respond with something clever and debonair but no words came…uh oh.

What proceeded out of my mouth was my breakfast of  barbecue Fritos and Coke right next to her pristine sneakers.  Even in her haste to quickly leave the premises, she was cool and unruffled…almost like she expected it.

I wish that was the end of it, but alas there was another demeaning chapter with Jasmine Cho (still not her real name).

Our social fraternity sponsored a fun run (unfortunately this was the real name) in the spring.  I never knew why they called it that, I never had fun running.  Anyway we were to run the circumference of Memorial Park in Houston, a soothing three-mile run in the Texas humidity.

I wish I could blame the next humiliating incident on the heat, but it was just stupidity.  You see my buddy challenged me to run the full three miles, not our usual one mile.  Bear in mind that neither of us had ever run this far and struggled with the one mile, but a challenge was made and I had eaten my usual power breakfast (see above) so I felt up to the task.

As we approached the finish after this grueling affair of walking more than running.  We decided to sprint the last leg to see who would finish ahead of the other.  I don’t really remember who won, I just remember seeing Jasmine Cho (once again, not her real name) standing at the finish line cheering all of us moronic runners struggling to bring an end to this “fun” time.  You see, she had already finished her three miles, probably ate her lunch and looked like she just came from a spa date.  I was just hoping she didn’t recognize me.  I did notice she had new shoes.

I walked up to her, in hopes of redeeming my last encounter with her.  She said something like she was proud of us to finish the race.  In response I threw up again at her feet.

I have since stopped eating barbecue Fritos and drinking Coke for breakfast. As I don’t want to barf at my lovely wife’s feet, who I  may add is more beautiful than the aforementioned Ms. Cho and I am paying for her sneakers.


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Amelia Island Pier in Morning Light

image_1I desperately need me some vacation time…

I am enduring the Facebook pages filled with photos of smiling people frolicking in the surf and eating scrumptious seafood platters.    I am enduring day after day of work waiting for my time in the sand, sun, and waves.

Big Surf Daddy is getting restless.

I introduced  you, my valued throng of readers, to my alter ego a few months ago.   The legend of Big Surf Daddy began in the Hawaiian Islands in 1984.

My friend and I were sitting on a beach on the south side of Oahu watching these large waves pound the beach.   Somehow we got the idea that we could body surf in these waves.   We surmised that it would be a much grander experience than body surfing on the east coast or even better, dare I say, than the beaches of Galveston.

My friend was convinced that we would have no problems making the necessary adjustments from the knee-high waves of the Gulf of Mexico to the twelve-footers on Oahu.

Of course this is the same friend that argued with me that anyone can hit a 90-mph fastball.   All that was needed was a  little practice.   After much dissent from my side of the Chevette as we were sweltering in Houston traffic, he began to muster more faith in his ability to connect with such a small orb flung at such a high-speed.   So we did what any normal twenty-something, less-than-mature, semi-adult males would do.   We pulled into the batting cages on Fondren Road and stepped into the cage named Ol’ Smoky.

Well, my friend looked like a little schoolgirl trying to swat a bee.    He never got close, blamed his shoes and left under a heavy barrage of I-told-you-so’s.    Unfortunately, he was now my inspiration sitting on that beach.

We were a bit curious as to why no one was in the water at this time.

We ventured out into the surf, full of excitement, knowing we were going to have the body surfing experience of a lifetime and all of these other pathetic landlubbers would just have to watch from the sandy shore of Wimpville.

As I caught the first swell, I knew this would be swell.    I just kept elevating and thinking that I had never, ever had this type of  ride on a wave.    At the crest of the wave, something strange started happening.    The internal gyroscope in my inner ear told my brain “This is not right”, as my feet were now more elevated than my head. Then came the roller-coaster type drop and the nose dive into the sand.   “Where is the water?  I was supposed to hit water.”    I hit the sand with my face…then I found the water.    The wave  deposited massive amounts of water on top of me with the force of an elephant stampede.

I finally crawled out of the water, breathless and battered.    I looked around for my friend and could not find him.   Panic set in, for he does not possess the adaptability to changing water conditions as I.

He  eventually surfaced or rather the ocean spit him out like a bad clam.

We sat on the sand looking more pitiful than two Exxon oil-spill survivors.

Staring into the void and wondering what just happened to us, my friend looked down and noticed that the undertow sucked his wedding ring off his finger.   Now most adults with only a functioning brain stem without the attached gray matter would realize they were lucky at this point and just sit in the sand and enjoy the ocean breezes.    But, alas, we decided to try it again.   We knew we would have better results if we just tweaked our technique just a little.

So out into the surf we went….

(See the above description for the results of the second and FINAL attempt).

Somewhere off the coast of Oahu, Polynesian pearl divers are still looking for an oyster containing the legendary ring that is rumored to have mystical powers that control the waves, but all they have found is an old pair of flowered swim trunks with the monogram “BSD” sewn in the waistband.

Legend has it that the winds still call out for the return of Big Surf Daddy to the south shores of Oahu.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Old Pontiac Hood Ornament

One day, a few winters ago, my dad wanted me to go to with him to an old junk yard that had long been forgotten.   It was outside of West Liberty, KY on a hillside where the undergrowth had made a significant advance around the rusted remains of these relics of past Sunday drives, unsanctioned drag races, and returns to the home place from places like Dayton, Fairborn, Xenia, Detroit, Toledo and anywhere else that men and women left the hills of eastern Kentucky for work.

Now my dad has had a love affair with the automobile ever since he was able to peer under the hood or get behind the wheel of an old A-model.   He loves tinkering with cars, driving cars, talking about cars, looking at cars, and watching home movies of cars and their kids.  I did not inherit this love of the automobile.

To me, a car is only for transporting me to where I want to go.  I hate buying them, paying for them, bathing them, fixing their runny leaks and cleaning up after them.  Oh sure, put me in a two-seat convertible on a sunny afternoon on a two lane country road, add a good jazz tune blaring and I would be in such a blessed and enraptured state that Greek gods would find me mythical.

As I wondered with my dad through this junk yard, I saw this old Pontiac with its iconic hood ornament.  I did always like this hood ornament and I photographed it as a tribute to a time when cars really meant something to their owners.  My grandfather always owned Pontiacs.

Pontiacs produced some great cars,  the GTO, Trans Am, Firebird, Bonneville, and Catalina to name a few.

My experience with Pontiacs came while I was in graduate school at the University of Houston in 1979.   I had a Pontiac Astre.   Notice that I did not include the Astre in the above list of classic Pontiacs.  Don’t ask me what Astre means.  I think it is Native American for “raised hood”.

Pontiac made the Astre for three years in the United States.  Mine was an orange 1975 model made either on a Monday morning at 7:00 AM by a hung- over worker who thought he was making it for his just-caught cheating wife or it was made at 4:58 PM on a Friday by a retiring worker on his last day who envisioned his troglodytic, profanity-spewing, tiradic, whip-wielding shift manager driving it off the lot.

One unique experience this jewel gave me was causing a traffic jam at the intersection of two Houston freeways on a Thanksgiving Eve afternoon driving my roommate to the airport.  As an added bonus, it was raining…not just raining but one of those torrential, apocalyptic, southern rains.

The car died and I coasted across seemingly infinite lanes of traffic to come to rest in the exit lane of I-10.

After cranking on the ignition that did not seem to be hooked to the engine and waiting for the rain to let up to a meager downpour, I got out of the car.  Peering back through the drenching rain, I could see cars backed up for miles. For a moment there was a strange sense of accomplishment, knowing that you did something on such a grand scale.

I was snapped back to reality by a long slow parade of angry Texans  realizing that I was the cause of their misery.   My life was flashing by with each extended middle finger.  Luckily they did not lower their windows since they were in a monsoon. However, I could see their faces in twisted agony like thousands of Munch’s Scream going by.

After getting the car started with a screw driver by short-circuiting the starter, which fortunately I knew how to do because I had to do this quite often with this car, I was able to get my roommate to the airport and see his lovely bride to be.  I then called my dad and told him to find me another car to buy when I come home for Christmas break.

Unfortunately, that one was not much better.

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