Sound The Claxon

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Peruvians know how to use their claxons. For those of you who may not know, “claxon” is the Spanish word for Twinkie.

Haha. That’s a joke. Actually, claxon is Spanish for horn, as in car horn, as in “you cut me off about two miles back so I’m teaching you a lesson by blowing my claxon. haha. serves you right, you moron. I bet you’ll never do that again to me or anybody else, because blowing my horn at you is such a great way to prove a point and teach a lesson” type of horn.

For some reason Americans aren’t very good at horns. Car horns are meant to signal, “Please watch out, you are about to do something you will regret and could cause property damage or harm to your body, or in certain cases … death.” That’s how horns are intended to be used. That’s not what Americans do with them, however. Americans love their cars and the only thing they love better than cars is the car horn. Unfortunately, the following are the only acceptable reasons for an American to use their car horn:

1. Somebody must to be taught a lesson. Honk!

2. Somebody needs to look at me so that I can flip them off. Honk! Check this out! HONK!

3. Somebody is about to take the parking spot I’ve been waiting on for a good 7 seconds. Honk! They better not. Honk!

4. Somebody is going 75 in a 70-mile-an-hour zone and I want to go 98, so they better move over a lane, even though that car going 55 is in the next lane, I don’t care they better do it or I’m also gonna start flashing my lights. HOOOOOOOONNNNNNNKKKKKKK!

5. Or, very rarely, watch out squirrel or I might run over you. Splat! Honk!

In other words, Americans are really bad at horn etiquette. I makes sense, I guess. We are horn ignorant. AT least I am. When I was taking driver’s ed, Mr. Moneypenny never taught us about how to use a horn or why. We learned more important things like “staring through the turn,” “slow down, you’re too close to Mrs. Morphis’ bumper,” “parallel parking,” or “driving 98 in a 70-mile-an-hour zone.”

“What is the horn for Mr. Moneypenny?” we would ask.

“Don’t worry about it. If they good lord wanted you to honk a horn, he would have made you a duck,” he would say.

“Huh?”

“Slow down, you’re gonna hit Mrs. Morphis.”

So we didn’t learn to use the horn properly. But Peruvians know how to use the horn. Peru is home to the ruins of the Incan civilization that lived around 700 to 800 years ago. They were able to build some magnificent structures and raise crops that would be the envy of the world. In other words, they were way ahead of their time. That’s why the Spaniards had to come in and show them what real civilization was by building huge churches and introducing small pox.

Somehow, in spite of the Spaniards, the Peruvian  people survived and thrived. Many of them still celebrate the Inca culture and are proud of the Incan ruins that survived the Spanish invasion. Most important of these ruins is called Machu Picchu. This holy site of the Incas was built about 700 years ago and was never found by the Spaniards because the Incas knew they were coming and hid the great site. The first outsider to discover the ruins was some five hundred years later in the early 20th century.

Because of all the ruins, Peru has a lot of tourism. People come from all over the world to see the ruins in Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and especially Machu Picchu. Because of the tourists, the country needs a lot of cab drivers. Because of the cab drivers, people have to use their horns, or claxons. And they use them a lot. A whole lot.

But in Peru, the car horn signals many different things. Unlike in America, the Peruvians use their horns for things like:

1. I would like to announce that I’m coming up to this corner at a speed roughly the same as the final straightaway at Daytona. Please, if you are a pedestrian, do not venture out into the road. Thank you.

2. I would like to announce that even though I’m six cars back at this traffic light that just turned green, I would like the person in the front of the line to go. You’ve already had 2 milliseconds to make a decision, so I am signaling to you that the light is indeed green.

3. I would like to announce that I was already in this lane that you are about to pull into and if you decide to proceed with entering my lane, I will allow it because I will also do it to somebody else 72 times today. Said person will also use their horn to make the same announcement to me at that time.

4. I would like to announce that I am a cab driver and since you are walking on the sidewalk, you might need a ride. Would you like a ride? You can ride if you want? You don’t have to walk? Do you want a ride? No? Okay, I would now like to announce that I am coming up this corner so, you, dear pedestrian, do not venture out into the road or you will die. Thank you.

5. And lastly, I would like to announce that the Spaniards are coming. Please hide Machu Picchu.

Peru is a great place. It’s noisy as hell with horns blaring all hours of the night. But honestly, I never saw one wreck while I was down there. Mostly because they don’t let Americans drive down there. It is again the law, punishable by up to life in prison or death by claxon. Even though all Peruvians seem to drive like maniacs — lanes are suggestions, traffic lights are ignored, weaving in and out of traffic is encouraged — nobody hits nobody. It’s a well-oiled machine. I have to believe that most of the reason why is because of the horn etiquette. I mean, it is annoying listening to all those horns honking, but it just works. I’m sure they have horrific accidents. They have to. The streets down there are crazy but I didn’t see any in 10 days of zipping in and out of traffic in various forms of taxi. They are safe.

And nobody seems to get upset. If somebody pulls over in front of a Peruvian driver, they politely or not so politely honk, pull in behind the car and get on with their day. That would never work here. Other drivers need to be taught a lesson with horns and fingers. And so, we wreck. A lot.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, let’s all be safe out there and take a lesson from the Peruvians, when you see the Spanish coming, sound your claxons and stay away from the smallpox.

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Fine Dining In the Big D

Every now and again, I enjoy eating out at a fine dining establishment. This is something I learned as a kid eating at such establishments as Pizza Inn, Pancho’s Mexican Buffett and the five-star rated Pete’s Grill in Gladewater, Texas. As we say in Oklahoma, “it’s just don’t get no better than that.”

So the other day, I was out and about working and I started getting a little bit hungry. I pulled over at one of my favorite places of the finest of dining, Chick-fil-a.

Chick-fil-a is a great place to grab some haute cuisine consisting of chicken, buttery buns and two pickle slices. It’s heaven on earth really. If for whatever reason I one day found myself facing my last meal, I’m pretty sure that if I had a sack of Chick-fil-a, I could die a happy man.

So, I went in to one of the best Chick-fil-a’s in the nation and ordered the best item on the menu: The Number One combo. “Make it a large,” I said. The number one combo is the classic Chick-fil-a sandwich, waffle fries and — for me — a large Coke Zero.

I grabbed my condiments — two mustards and two ketchups — and a couple of napkins and found my seat at a table for one. A couple of minutes later, my plate of deliciousness arrived and I began the preparations for my meal. My preparations are a little different than some maybe. I like to put the mustard on my sandwich first. I make sure to get a little on the top bun and a little on the chicken too. It is a precise art that I have perfected over the years.

I remember eating my first Chick-fil-a back in the 1970s at the Town East Mall in Mesquite, Texas. Back then the only Chick-fil-a restaurants around were in malls. They didn’t have the stand-alone stores. All of the stores were still closed on Sundays, which makes me sad to this day. But I get it. The founder of Chick-fil-a, which I believe was Benjamin Franklin, made sure to honor his God by closing down on the sabbath. I’ll just have to find a way to satisfy my lustful craving for Chick-fil-a on the other six sinful days a week.

Back to the presentation and preparation. For my waffle fries, I like to spill the fries out on my tray, on a single layer, and spread a commodious amount of ketchup on each and every waffle fry. I love the waffle fries. I love the ketchup on the waffle fries. What I don’t love is trickery.

Let me explain (and I will include photos).

Waffle fries at Chick-fil-a are delicious. Probably the best in the world. Certainly the best in the United States and Nebraska. But there are some rules that Chick-fil-a needs to abide by. These rules are what constitutes a waffle fry and what does not constitute a waffle fry.

First off, a waffle fry must have waffles — holes in the fry. The proper waffle fry should look like tennis racket. I like to put ketchup all across the “strings” if you will. Ketchup should fill at least 60 percent of the holes in the racket.

The fry on the left is the perfect waffle fry. IMG_3291

Unfortunately the fry on the right is some type of communist propaganda trying to pass itself off as a waffle fry. There are no holes. There is no tennis racket. There are no waffles.

In every batch of waffle fries from Chick-fil-a, a couple of the fries will be intruders. I know the good folks at Chick-fil-a — including old Ben Franklin himself — do what they can to prevent this type of calamity from happening. And I appreciate the effort. But when I accidentally bite into one of the interlopers, I almost throw up a little bit in my mouth. They are all wet and gooey and gross. Wet and gooey and gross might be perfect for fries at a Wendy’s or something, but not a waffle fry.

How did I get off down this rabbit hole. Anyway, I enjoyed my sandwich, my Coke Zero and all of the actual waffle fries with the perfect amount of ketchup. The fraudulent fries went in the trash can, where they belonged.

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All in all it was a good day for fine dining and I can’t wait to get back to my favorite Chick-fil-a restaurant again. What is today? Oh crap, it’s Sunday.

Hey, Look … I’m a Writer

For the past nine months or so I’ve been driving part-time as a ride share driver. For those of you who may not know what a “ride share driver” is, let me explain. A ride share driver is a person who picks up random strangers and takes them to random destinations. It’s fun and awkward all at the same time. It’s weird to think about how someone came up with the idea.

CEO: “What if we drive around the city and pick up random strangers and take them places?”

Venture Capitalist: “Do people want that?”

CEO: “I don’t know.”

VC: “But will random strangers want to get in a car with random strangers?”

CEO: “I don’t know.”

VC: “So people would request a random stranger to take them to random places and then maybe another random stranger take them back to a random place …”

CEO: “Like home?”

VC: “Yeah, like home, which is familiar to them but not to the random stranger who is driving the random stranger. Is that what you’re talking about? ”

CEO: “Yeah, like that?”

VC: “Would people pay for that?”

CEO: “I don’t know.”

VC: “Let me get my checkbook.”

In all honesty though, it’s been fun and I’ve met a lot of great people and I’ve made a little bit of money. So there’s that.

The awkward part for most people is the “elevator small talk” people have to make in the car. I’ve been on both sides as a driver and a passenger and it’s just weird. So inevitably somebody will get in the car and say, “So do you do this full time or …?”

And my response is always the same, “It’s $2 extra for meaningful conversation.”

Ha. Just kidding. I usually ask for $5.

Not true.

I always tell them “well, I’m actually a writer by trade.” I don’t know what “by trade” means, but I’ve been saying it for quite some time now. I’m a writer by trade. Like I working at this Starbucks, but I’m actually a cobbler by trade.

“Oh, you make shoes?”

“Yeah. You want whipped cream with that?”

Yeah, I’m a writer by trade. I then go on to explain that I worked in the newspaper biz for many years and when I got downsized a couple of years ago …

Wait. What? What the hell does “downsized” mean?

Good question. I don’t know. I just like the word. It’s better than “laid off” or “fired” or “given other opportunities” or whatever else. Basically, it’s saying the management at the newspaper office decided they needed to save some money, so they chose the person who had the highest salary.

Me.

Haha. That’s a joke. I was the least talented and most expendable. The good news is that a couple of weeks later I was offered my old job back as a new “freelance position” for slightly less than minimum wage.

But I digress.

Anyway, I was “downsized” and I decided not to take another job in the newspaper industry. So I do a little writing on the side and I drive part-time. But basically, I say, “I’m a writer,” which is true but it’s also not so true. I am a writer. For sure. 100 percent. The problem is I haven’t been writing. It’s not that I haven’t written at all, it’s just that I haven’t written very much. After writing several thousand words each week and editing several thousand more for more than a decade, over the past two years, I haven’t been writing that much. That’s the truth. No reason really, just haven’t had the desire to write. I’m a writer without the desire to write. You ever feel that way? Something that you have been passionate about for years and then one day, you reach the burn-out point and you just stop?

It’s hard. Not the not writing part, that part was easy. But the not writing part when I should have been writing part, that was hard. It was easy not to do it — the actual act of writing, which is very hard. But it is hard on you mentally — the actual part that makes you feel whole. It leaves something missing. I guess because something is missing. So, I’m sitting down right now and tapping these keys trying to put anything down on paper, so that I can say “I’m writing.” And when people ask, “what else do you do?” I can honestly say, “I’m a cobbler by trade.”

Staring at the new gate 

I just finished reading a story about autonomous cars. And I am now afraid to leave my home. For those of you who may not know what autonomous cars are, let me explain. Autonomous cars are cars that are completely autonomous. Isn’t that frightening?  

Just kidding. It’s not. It’s the self-driving cars that scare me. And why shouldn’t they? Imagine robot cars all over the road. Driving all fast and changing lanes without looking or signaling. Or maybe even driving all up on your rear end as your going 75 mph in a fast lane down the highway. 

Oh wait. I’m thinking about actual cars driven by actual humans. 

Maybe self-driving cars aren’t that scary at all. By the way, I do realize that autonomous cars and self-driving cars are basically the same thing. Basically. 

The thought of self-driving cars is both exciting and a little bit scary. Maybe scary isn’t the right word. Maybe it makes me anxious to think about it. Probably because it’s so new. I don’t understand how they are going to work. New things do that too me. 

The preacher at my church a long time ago use to have a saying, “He was looking at it like a calf staring at a new gate.” Every time he said it we would all laugh and laugh. Most of us didn’t actually understand what that meant, but we would laugh nonetheless. 

Actually if you ever been on a farm, you might have noticed that little baby cows — or bulls — do kind of get that far-a-way look in their eyes when staring at something new, like, for instance, a new gate. They don’t know what to make of it. Human babies do the same thing. If you don’t believe me, watch a two-month old human child as you try to explain Newt Gingrich. That baby-child will look at you like a calf staring at a new gate. 

New things are scary. I imagine the first time people started really contemplating that aero-planes might actually be able to take us from one coast to the other that it was scary. Really scary. 

“We will never be able to fly from New York to Cal-i-for-NI-A in one of those contraptions,” they thought as they sat around the radio on Saturday nights listening to The Newt Gingrich Show. They couldn’t fathom something so “out there” so “futuristic.” Now we fly all the time. In less than 100 years we have gone from a man with giant feathered wings jumping off a barn to taking an Uber to the airport and landing in Madrid, Spain in less than 24 hours. 

That’s a calf staring at a new gate kind of stuff. 

New is hard. But new is fun. Raise your hand if you want to go back to not flying or not getting on the Internet or not taking Uber or having to listen to The Newt Gingrich Show. Now that would be terrifying. 

It’s probably better just to embrace new technology. Embrace anything new. Except that woman in the grocery store line, don’t just go embracing her. She might do a little more than stare at you like a calf staring at a new gate.  

What A Wonderful Life …

Louie Armstrong sang about it. And Pro. Lothar Schafer wrote about it in his book, “Infinite Potential.”

Here’s what he suggests about life and its potential:

“What a wonderful life, in which the playful waves in the cosmic ocean dare you, tease you, and play a game of hide and seek with you, all the time hoping that you will catch one and turn it into a beautiful poem, a painting, a song, or a wonderful act of human kindness.”

So, what are we doing with our “playful waves”?

Black out poetry.

Here is my first stab at black out poetry inspired by Austin Kleon.

I guess it was financially inspired, although that wasn’t the intention.

Enjoy.

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This one is another way Wall Street could work

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This one is one good way to make Big Money

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And finally … A little Funny Money

The Seed In Me

acorn
This photo above is a simple acorn, the seed of the Oak Tree. They are small — only about an inch tall — but within that tiny shell is the potential to be a giant oak tree.

When I was in high school, I almost applied for a scholarship at Oklahoma State University to get a degree in the study of seeds. It sounded good at first, a free education at a large state school. Then I realized something: I would be studying seeds! Seeds! Did you hear me? Seeds!!!

I’m sure I would have been good at it. By now, I would have been an award winning student of the seed. But alas, I didn’t not study seeds. I’m happy that I didn’t because now I can enjoy my current job of drinking coffee and taking naps (not together, of course).

I have to admit that I don’t understand seeds that much at all. I don’t get how they work. How in the world can something so small, something that just a few months ago didn’t even exist, grow into something much larger? From acorns, to tomato seeds to human sperm and eggs, all of these seeds have to capacity to produce something much larger. Everything it needs is inside.

full grown oak tree
A small acorn can grow into a giant oak tree.

The same potential that lies in the seed is in human. I have the potential to do something much larger in the world. It’s easy for me to struggle with my thoughts sometimes and fall into the trap that I can’t do something because I’m not enough — not talented enough, not smart enough, not big enough, not young enough, not pretty enough, NOT (fill in the blank) enough.

But it’s not true.
I
AM
enough.

The same power of The Universe inside the seed, is in me. I have access to the same field of potentiality as the seed. Something small in me can grow into something much larger in this world.

It’s not because I’m special. I am just like you. You have access to the same field of potentiality. We all do. We can take a small seed of thought, of faith, plant it in the fertile soil of potential, believe that it’s going to grow and sit back and watch The Universe go to work in our life.

It’s the Law. And it’s a good law.

Damn, maybe I should have studied seeds after all.

Anyway, now I need to get back to work. I’ve got some seeds to plant.