Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Barbecues of Dibley in the Downs

The residents of Cloverdale cringe when September 1st rolls around on the municipal calendar. Many pack the kids in the PVan and head to their favorite campgrounds in the mountains. Others lucky enough to have family living in Tamworth on Tide board the Coastal Express for the hour long clickity clack down the railroad track. The many unlucky sods without an escape plan bunker down in their homes for the 24 hours it takes for the atmosphere to clear from the Dibley on the Downs Onion Days Celebration. Wet towels are used as extra barriers in the windows and doors to stop the thick smoke and ash coming from the Dibley barbecues and carried on the ocean breeze directly over Cloverdale like the Fog of Doom Moses summoned to kill the firstborn of Egypt.

Every September 1st the residents of Dibley gather in the hamlet’s Whispering Well Commons. Each family brings its own barbecue, meat and pot luck dish made with onions. The briquets, starter fluid, bloomin onions and corn on the cob are supplied by the village council. All barbecues are fired in unison when the church bell rings 5:00 P.M. Several minutes later a gray-black mushroom cloud forms over the village and quickly rises upward causing Confederacy Air Traffic Control to divert airplanes around the entire Shire. Many liken the cloud to the mushroom cloud of a thermonuclear blast seen in the Confederacy of Dunces Civil Defense Videos all school children must watch, and replayed monthly for the general population on Cloverdale Weekend Television. The video teaches the Confederacy’s citizens to understand the proper steps to surviving a nuclear attack.

1. You learn the difference between normal sunshine and the light of a nuclear blast.
2. You learn to duck and cover.
3. If you survive the blast, you learn how to identify your nearest fallout shelter.

The rest of the video is missing. The scientific community disagrees on the next course of action. Some scientists recommend the distribution of cyanide capsules. It is a quick and inexpensive way for the population to exit a hopeless situation with their grace and dignity still intact. Others recommend taking shelter underground and living as long as humanly possible until help arrives or you die from radiation poisoning, the symptoms of which are loss of hair, teeth and the nonstop hemorrhaging of blood from all the body's exits. Of course there is always the risk of cannibalism. That topic is never mentioned in the educational films. If it was the films would lose their G rating and couldn't be shown in the primary schools.

Every year the Lord Mayor of Cloverdale protests the Onion Festival and every year government officials promise to take decisive action. To date no action has been taken. The indifference to Cloverdale’s complaint may be due to the fact that many government officials are invited to the Festival as guests of honor. After all, it is widely known that no one on Earth does a barbecue better than the residents of Dibley on the Downs. That goes for Texans as well.

“We know how the people of Pompeii suffered,” said Cloverdale’s Lord Mayor from the village’s emergency response bunker located in the basement of the police station. “Listen to these cries for help,” he said holding the phone near the police radio’s speaker. “It breaks your heart doesn’t it? Oh the humanity......”

The phone line went dead after that. I must assume there was too much dust on the wires.

An update will follow tomorrow after we’ve had a chance to return to the village and dig out the survivors. For now, the citizens of Cloverdale have few choices. They can leave town or take refuge in their basements and wait out the coming darkness and ash.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The King Kong at the Kicking Donkey

Get ready to unbuckle your belt and unbutton a few of your shirt buttons if you plan on visiting The Kicking Donkey Pub’s King Kong Burger Night every Wednesday from 7:00 - 9:00 P.M. right here in beautiful downtown Cloverdale.

I think I’m ready for a King Kong Burger. I’m over fifty and have a liking to food. Been that way ever since I was born. You know, eating, breathing, and well you know how it all comes out in the end. So why not give up the celery and carrots for one night and live like a true Roman. Indulge. But the King Kong Burger is more than an indulgement. I consider it a decadent indulgement. Its the kind of meal you would have expected at Caesar’s table along with everything else editable or not.

Reservations are required two weeks in advance for the King Kong meal. I called for mine yesterday.
“Kicking Donkey,” a kindly old woman’s voice answered.
“I’d like to make a reservation for Wednesday, September 16th,” I said.
“Is this for a King Kong meal?” she asked.
“Yes. I’ve built up the courage, saved up my money and am on the required celery and carrots diet. You recommend that before anyone attempts to digest the King Kong, right?”
“Yes we do. I’m glad you’re preparing yourself. I’ll take you name and address in a moment but I need a few questions answered first. Are you ready?” The old woman was very business like. I appreciated that.
“Go ahead.”
“Do you have any history of heart disease?”
“Do you have any history of high cholesterol?”
“Do you suffer from depression?”
“Do you have problems with digestion?”
“Well, I have my fair share of gas and heart burn.”
“I’ll take that as a 'no' shall I? If I write yes then I can’t make your reservation?”
“Very good. Now I’ll take your other information.....” She asked several other questions about next of kin and organ donation. The conversation ended with my reservation set for 8:30 P.M.

I am about to tackle one of the greatest gastronomical feats in the Confederacy of Dunces. I'm going to attempt to eat a King Kong Burger.
Now, I’ll need a pit crew, a posse. My gang who’s purpose will be to urge me on until I reach my goal of downing the entire thing. Wow, imagine eating half a cow at one sitting. And to top it off, the several dill pickles that crown the King Kong.

Is it possible? I don’t know. I honestly believe the only way to pull it off is to do what the Romans did. Eat until you can’t eat anything else, excused yourself, make a trip to the toilet and send it all down the flusher. Leave the table stuffed, return empty - ready for a refill.

Well, the day is set and I’m getting in shape for the big event. Wish me luck (but just in case luck is on holiday that night I’ve also made a doctor’s appointment for the following day).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Credo Waits for Grandpa

Credo Chavis lives with his parents and Grandpa at the end of Creek Drive, a dusty unpaved road off Highway 1 outside of Cloverdale. Grandpa sleeps in Credo's small bedroom just off the bathroom hallway on the main floor. Credo sleeps in the guest room in the basement directly under Grandpa. Grandpa refused to take the guest room because of his disability. The stairs were to great a challenge. Credo doesn't mind sleeping under Grandpa's room, except on the days when Grandpa has had one too many beers. The alcohol amplifies grandpa's snoring.

“Some days are better than others.” Credo explains. “One night a month Grandpa drinks too many beers. Its the night when his disability check comes from the government. He gets real mad because the government doesn’t give him enough money for his injury. Its fun to see him open it. He starts swearing in Spanish. I don’t understand what he’s saying but its fun to see him do his mad dance. He stomps and walks and stomps and swears and stomps and shakes his fist in the air. I knows he’s saying something to God but I don’t know what it is. Maybe he wants God to take him because his check isn’t as big as he wants. I don’t think God listens because of his swearing. Anyway, he snores bad when he’s drunk.”

Both of Credo's parents work so Grandpa begrudgingly collects Credo after school in his old Volvo. Every day he arrives at the school one hour early to ensure he gets the best parking spot in the drop off and loading zone. Getting that prized spot is important to Grandpa. Its his way of striking back at life for the intolerable amount printed on his disability checks. Once parked, Grandpa exits the car and walks toward the flag pole’s raised base. He sits down, looks both directions, takes out a cigarette and waits until someone comes close enough to catch him lighting up. He knows its illegal to smoke on school grounds but he does it for a reason. Grandpa is sticking it to the man for forcing him to live on the paltry amount printed on his disability checks. When challenged about his smoking Grandpa transitions into his alter ego, a senile forgetful Spanish speaking old man - a performance he's played so often he can fool even the most hard hearted. Which of course means he gets away with almost anything. If Credo happens to be there he will play along and translates what Grandpa says into English even though Grandpa understands English perfectly well. Grandpa gives him a little pocket money for not turning him in so he doesn't mind.

Credo tolerates Grandpa's slow, curb crawling speed on the trip home. He does it to stick it to the man. Credo even tolerates the “crappy” music Grandpa plays. Credo does have a problem with Grandpa’s incessant use of the horn for even the slightest infraction of his driver’s rights. But what Credo really hates is the daily stop they make so Grandpa can relieve himself. Grandpa says he has a weak bladder and can't wait the twelve minutes from the school to home to go. Credo knows he is telling a lie. Grandpa purposely fills his bladder every day before picking up Credo so he can pee on the barbed wire fence surrounding Cloverdale's water treatment plant. He does it to defy the government on account of his laughable small disability payment.

Grandpa stops the car, gets out, points toward the sky and mumbles something in Spanish. Credo thinks he is asking God to curse the water. Grandpa's reasoning, though flawless to him, seems insane to Credo. Grandpa believes that if he must suffer then so should everyone else.

If the weather permits, Credo gets out of the car, leans against the hood and takes in the late afternoon scenery. He listens and waits. Yes, there it is - more swearing in Spanish. Grandpa has to go but finds it difficult. Something to do with his prostrate. A quick 30 second pee for Credo can take three or more minutes with Grandpa. Sometimes longer on the days when he gets his disability checks.

Once relieved, Grandpa and Credo return to the car to finish the last five minutes of the drive home. Credo looks out the window and Grandpa drives with a look of complete satisfaction.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tulip Loves Old People and Children.

Tulip is a nurse at the Almost There Home for the Elderly and Senile in Cloverdale. Her happy and cheerful disposition springs from her love of children and old people. World peace was another plank in her life’s Mission Statement, but because of all the unrest in the world as witness every evening on the Confederacy News, and a recent quarrel with a neighbor over a certain willow tree with an enormous appetite for sky, she removed that sentence from the statement and replaced it with Inner Peace.

Tulip dabbled with Scientology when it made a brief appearance in Cloverdale with the arrival of the Dillard family in 1996 but gave it up when the eldest son lost interest in her as a potential mate. One year later Mormonism was her flavor of choice until Pete Simmons bid all adieu and left the Confederacy of Dunces on the Coastal Express to become a missionary in some distant and unpronounceable geolocation in the Other World. Currently Unitarianism occupies the spiritual void in her life while she waits for the next eligible bachelor unlucky enough to cross her path while visiting an elderly grandparent at the Almost There Home for the Elderly and Senile.

As mentioned in the paragraph above, Tulip loves old people and children. She is surrounded by old people every day at work. She baths them, dresses them, feeds some of them and medicates all of them. What’s missing is children, her own children to be exact. Children yet unborn. You see, Tulip is a woman born to be a mom and according to Tulip's moral principles, motherhood requires a husband. A white house with picket fence follows the exchanging of maritial vows if Tulip keeps to her life's schedule. Give her nine months and her plan envisions a sand box and swing set in the back yard and a twelve year supply of diapers for all her little ones in the nursery.

Tulip has trained to be a mom ever since she started at the Home. She does everything a mom does, including changing dirty diapers. She points out that her ‘babies’ are on the other end of the age spectrum but other than that, it is all pretty much the same.

Tulip is kind to all the ‘old buzzards’ as she lovingly calls the elderly at the Home but reserves a extra helping of attention to those with handsome unmarried grandsons within a sneeze of her age. Family photos kept on the resident’s night stands help her identify potential mates. Several bedside conversations are used to clarify marital status and overall compatibility. Lucky is the grandparent of someone she fancies. They receive extra helpings in the cafeteria line, if they can stand that long. They are read to one or more evenings during the week and occasionally, on the days when they expect family visits, their meds are delivered by Tulip’s alter ego - Tulip the Clown.

During the taking of meds, Tulip strikes up a conversation with the intended grandchild. If she feels a fluttering heart and a change in her blood's chemistry she sits with the family and outlines her special transportation services. For no extra charge she is willing to transport the senior to special family functions. This service includes round the clock and personal service by Tulip herself. She will stay with the grandparent seeing to their needs during the length of the visit. Again, all in the line of duty and because she loves old people and children.

Some day Tulip will meet her Prince Charming. She hopes and prays that day will not come while she's changing out a bed pan.

Friends, I give you Tulip. A proud and valuable citizen in our Confederacy of Dunces.

Cloverdale Weekend Television