Look at what no one is pointing to

Since we no longer have what a sane or sober person would consider a news cycle – I call them news cyclones and end up taking shelter – I have a feeling that we are missing some news that might actually make us better, both individually and as a community of humans.

So I spent the weekend searching for news that didn’t quite make the team, priority-wise, because well, you know.

I cruise Twitter for many nefarious reasons, but I will generally find a couple of good stories on there.

Tucked in between the fist-shaking political posts and comedians trying out their lines in 140 characters, I found a little love this weekend.

The very cool website The DoDo had a story about a movement to donate old comfy chairs to animal shelters.

SAY WHAT?

What a concept, and what a beautiful way to upcycle used furniture. Plus, the pictures wrapped themselves around my heart and made me want to gather up everyone’s old chairs and deliver them to every dog lying on a cold concrete floor.

I checked with the City of Iowa Park to see if this might be an option for the brand new animal reclaim center scheduled to open in the next month or so, and while it is a possibility the jury is still out on space and other logistics.

Stay tuned.

The next thing I found was a tweeted picture of a high school girl presumably trying on a prom dress. She had sent the front and back pictures of her in the dress to the wrong number for approval.

The recipient, apparently the mother of five children who looked about three to 11 years old, texted back a picture of all of her children giving a big thumbs up to the stranger.

Lastly, let’s talk about Alexa. Developed by Amazon as an electronic personal assistant in a little round box, in the past week this artificial intelligence independently managed to freak out the world.

I don’t own one, but I think she sits on your kitchen counter and takes dictation and commands and answers ridiculous and serious questions.

My understanding is she can do everything from timing a roast to giving you the weather, or even breaking up with a boyfriend via text message. It’s like a friend that doesn’t speak unless spoken to. Until she does.

Scores of people last week began to report that Alexa was laughing in a creepy manner without being prompted.

Again, SAY WHAT?

Since I don’t own one, I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have burned Alexa in a tank of napalm had she giggled for no apparent reason, but the odds are in my favor.

Your assignment for the week: Look up. Look behind that thing everyone is telling you to believe. Look at what nobody is pointing to. This stuff isn’t even at the bottom of the news cyclone, but many times it’s buried in the rubble.

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Homecoming time in Texas

It’s homecoming time in Texas, the time of year where you should be wearing a sweater and drinking pumpkin spice lattes, but instead it’s so hot you have to wear fanny shorts and suck on frozen pickle juice to avoid a heat stroke.

It’s the time of year for class reunions where there will be a certain awkwardness because Facebook has outed all the liberals and serious Candy Crush addicts, and everyone there will know who you are.

It’s the time of year when navigating your way around Hawk Stadium requires an absolute lack of personal boundaries or aversion to the sound of bells, specifically those attached to homecoming mums. It’s so crowded at the homecoming games that I understand it’s possible for children to be conceived with less physical contact than you will accidentally receive on your way to the fried corn on the cob wagon.

But even more noteworthy, it is a time of tradition; and rekindling of friendships; and of understanding change and reliving memories that shaped our lives.

You might notice the fact that the school you walked a mile to get to each day – uphill and in blizzard conditions – has changed.

Yes, the kids have it good these days, with a beautiful updated campus and a brand-new auditorium, gym, stadiums and more. They now carry their schoolbooks inside of a freakin’ iPad and enjoy stadium seating on the home side at basketball and volleyball games.

That mile is getting longer and the snow deeper, isn’t it?

But before you start shaking your fist like the old codger you swore to never become, think about this:

When the lever is thrown Friday night to turn on the lights at Hawk Stadium, you will be home.

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You will hear the familiar voice of Robert Wilcox, who has announced Hawk football games more than 65 years. You will hear your fight song and your school song; and you will not remember way too many names of people who have fond memories with you, but you will nod and smile like you do remember.

You may see turf in the place of the real grass you remember from your glory days, but there is a player on the field with the same drive and love for the game you had when you played.

Like me, you may remember sitting in those stands as a student . . . then a parent of a player, cheerleader or band member, and now as a nice return to all the goodness about small towns, including the fried corn on the cob the FFA sells at the home games. Mostly because it is home, but also because it gives us a human contact social media will never replace, and shouldn’t.

I fully expect it to be scientifically proven someday that the only cure for Facebook will be Texas homecoming games, which will give us a rather cool tourist industry. Mums would make great souvenirs and hot canned cheese poured over nacho chips from Sam’s  and sprinkled with  jalapeño slices grown in hell will be a destination favorite for people who still actually want to talk to other people face-to-face.

And that’s not all. There will be the annual bonfire Thursday night, Homecoming parade Friday afternoon; and Saturday promises a Whoop-T-Do, alumni activities and reunions. Add to that the many great restaurants and shops in town, and I smell the perfect weekend.

We will all be at the largest community gathering of the year where politics, religion and Candy Crush don’t matter. What matters is tradition and respect, and it’s already here.

Welcome home

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Iowa Park’s defacto community center

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I vote for peace and quiet

As I sit here writing on a Tuesday night, I am reminded that many people are currently longing for the good ol’ days. In light of recent events, I am tempted to join them.

With the current state of (forgive me for a moment) politics, it seems escape from our current reality is futile. But I am going to try.

Sometimes I would certainly like to go back to the days of black and white TV. A time when it didn’t take three jobs to raise two children; when the media (and perhaps our very government) was not owned by corporations with interest in who our political leaders were; and when there were three channels on TV and no Facebook and people actually connected in real and honest ways.

Then I remembered that the good ol’ days really weren’t that good in a lot of ways. Women couldn’t vote or own property; and certain heinous crimes weren’t taken seriously, or even reported.

Or,  if you were a person who wasn’t white, well, you were gonna ride in the back of the bus and that was probably the nicest thing that might happen to you that day; and for God’s sake, takeout food was non-existent.

I don’t want to go back to that, do you? As much as I hate the increasingly divisive and disrespectful conversations that all this freedom of speech has afforded us, it is our own fault for not handling the right like it is of tremendous value.

I would ask that particularly during this election cycle (one I pray to the baby Jesus I will wake up from and it’s all been just a dream) we talk about anything but politics while on social media.

OK, that and anything Kardashian-related – I’m looking at you, Kanye. Please?

I know how way too many people feel about the state of our country and how it can magically be fixed with either guns or birth control, but no one can agree on why. Also, I’ve been on social media eight years and have yet to see anyone see the light as shone by an opponent politically.

So in words I actually told my children were curse words, I say  “shut up about it.”

It’s hard enough to stay away from the actual circus the daily news has become, but when you add in rage, contempt and disrespect, there ain’t nobody listening anyway except to respond. We don’t seem to be thinking as much as responding and it is killing us as a united nation, and that is only my humble opinion.

I’m not judging because I’ve seen myself do it. These days,  I only talk about politics with a very few people, and my true friends don’t give a rat’s arse about my politics, nor I theirs. Our friendship isn’t based on that, it is based on laughter. And dammit,  there is no laughter in politics, so it all makes sense.

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Who’s with me?

I do love a good cause, though. Good causes, by their very nature, should have nothing to do with politics, so please tell me about the whales you want to save, and the people you want to feed and how you want to stop bullying. Just don’t politicize it … humanize it.

Anyway, I would much rather watch videos of a cat with a brain freeze from licking a Popsicle, or a grandma telling a dirty joke; a kid who overcomes all odds by making a basketball shot involving eight impossible ricochets and he wins like a year’s worth of Dr. Pepper; or Bruce Springsteen singing the acoustic rendition of Thunder Road.

(Disclaimer: If I die this week, you will find an extraordinary number of Led Zeppelin videos as well as the better part of Beyonce’s Lemonade video series in my browser history,. This is no mistake and what I actually have spent most of my spare time doing.)

So, I’m asking my friends and enemies to  make Facebook “Politics-Free” for one week. Just one week.

Put up pictures of your kids or  grandkids. Show me a picture of your ingrown toenail. Show me a picture of your half-eaten dinner, for God’s sake. Just don’t show me a picture of anyone who is running for president. I swear you will feel better at the end of the day.

I know I will.

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Monkey McBites enable my avoidance issues

That’s right . . . I have avoidance issues, and it’s been a weird couple of weeks.

I walked into my office after lunch a couple weeks ago to the news that the artist formerly known as Prince and now known as Prince again had died.

Immediately I picked up the phone to share the news with my husband, who said, “You called to tell me that?”

“I did,” I responded as if it weren’t already fairly obvious since that’s the only thing I had said. “I thought you would be as upset as I am. I mean, Prince helped kill disco.”

When that didn’t help, I began ticking off a frantic list of my favorite Prince songs: Let’s Go Crazy, Purple Rain and all those songs that butchered the English language by replacing words with letters and numbers. Am I right? I was not, according to my man, and I love him regardless.

Following a 24-hour news cycle of all things Prince – like I needed to be reminded – it was back to all politics, all day.

Like I needed to be reminded.

Because of this, I entered the avoidance phase of that news.  I’ve started looking for anything but those things, as well as anything to do with the Kardashians or reminders that swimsuit season is “just around the corner.”

And let me tell you, avoidance can be a slippery slope, my friend – it catapulted me into my own version of a Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom-esque trip down memory lane.

During my avoidance journey I first  learned about Inky, an octopus being held in National Aquarium of New Zealand. Inky made what is being called a daring escape from his tank through a small gap at the top, then scampering eight feet across the floor and sliding down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that dropped him into Hawke’s Bay and freedom.

It’s not often I can write a story about the liberation of wild sea life that doesn’t involve a child running down the beach pumping her fist.

Nope, Inky the Octopus freed himself with no pomp or circumstance and slipped quietly back into the sea in New Zealand. I have mad respect for Inky and the way he escaped while quietly saying, “you don’t own me.”

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Go, Inky, go.

What followed could not be made up.

I was proof-reading the police story for last week’s Iowa Park Leader – you remember, the one that had a report about a monkey bite at a local drive-through restaurant? Yes . . .  that one.

Well, nobody said a word to me about it. It was just handed to me to read with no warning whatsoever like this kind of stuff happens all the time in Iowa Park (a town that made it on Hee Haw several years ago, by the way).

As I hope you can imagine, this stirred up all kinds of questions and horrible ideas on my part, not the least of which was asking for the headline “Monkey McBite in Iowa Park!” in the largest type possible on the front page and above the fold. I did not win that fight, which I am calling our biggest editorial flub since we misnamed “disc golf” a couple years back in our paper.

Of course, this is why I don’t call the shots here.

But I found out quite a bit about it and found that the person bitten is really doing well considering he or she did not see it coming when they put on their work clothes that morning, and actually sustained very minor injuries.

The monkey was described to me as a Capuchin monkey that resembles an angry old man. Since I have met several who matched this description, I immediately wanted to meet the monkey.

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My inner monkey.

I’m not defending the monkey, but I have felt like biting no one in particular for no good reason on several occasions in my life so we have a little bit in common.

Anyway, it sounds like everyone is fine and the monkey is being quarantined to check for monkey fever or whatever they’re checking for, and I’m sure they’ll find out he was just having a bad day and send him home. Then all will be well.

Except for the scar the employee at the drive-through will probably carry through life that is similar to a finger scar I got after being bitten on the finger by a hamster at the local TG&Y many, many years ago.

The memories came flooding back to the day that I stuck my inquisitive 6-year-old finger between the bars of the tiny cage and the hamster asked me to leave in the only language he spoke – with his teeth. If the verbiage sounds dramatic, it should. Hamsters have abnormally large bottom  front teeth.

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See?

To my knowledge the hamster wasn’t quarantined afterward, but probably sold to another six-year-old whose mother fed it until its life came to a natural conclusion a couple weeks later.

This week, I found myself talking to a great life-long friend who now owns The Community  News in Aledo, and whose father happened to be manager of the Iowa Park TG&Y at the time.

While I wasn’t calling him to help me work through the psychological wounds I suffered as the result of a hamster bite over 40 years ago, the topic did manage to come up.

He told me before their family moved to Iowa Park, his dad managed the TG&Y in Lubbock. In addition to hamsters,  Randy told me, TG&Y also sold live monkeys.

I am not joking, because monkeys are something we rarely joke about in North Texas.

You could, in the 1960’s and 70’s, purchase a monkey at a TG&Y, which I understand is a moniker for Toys, Games and YoYo’s (with a side of monkeys).

Randy said that while in Lubbock, his brother Steve was bitten by one the monkeys in the store after sticking his hand in the cage, or “pulling a Kari” as my family now calls it.

While the monkey was not quarantined, it did die shortly after. Steve, who was also not quarantined, is alive and well and living in the metroplex without a pet monkey, I’m told.

I say all of that to say this: Rest in Peace to  Prince, disco, the monkey who bit Steve,and all news political and Kardashian. Also – Godspeed, Inky.

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