Archive for August, 2013

New furniture has international flair

My wife gave me my top priority. I had returned early from a family vacation to go back to work. My evening hours were free for honey-doozies.

“Just get the beds situated.”

With two toddlers’ graduating from cribs to twin beds, the task involved an acquisition: I needed to buy a bunk bed.

Unequivocally opposed to paying retail or sales tax, I scoured Craigslist, the modern classified ad sheet which looks like the world’s first Web site. I e-mailed my better half several options.

“Not interested.” “Not interested.” “Not interested.” Then, finally, “I like it.”

I moved on it, emailing Raj, the owner, for a few more pics. He gave me directions to his home near Sea World, the area where 9 out of 10 San Antonio Craigslist items seem to originate. We agreed to meet the following day.

As I strolled up the front walk, I noticed worn sandals on the porch and a pouch of spice over the door. A man came to the door. “Raj” was clearly not short for “Roger.”

I love people of Indian descent. My grad school class was full of them: Mahesh, Manish, Mohsin, Amit, Senthil. Their uplifting personalities aromated the atmosphere. They’d do anything for you, especially if it involved Microsoft Excel. Our modern progress is significantly attributable to bright minds like theirs.

Raj invited me in to see the bed. It had been reverse engineered and stacked against the wall with all hardware secured in a glass Complan jar (“complete planned food in a drink … with 23 vital nutrients”). According to the label, Heinz India Ltd. manufactures Complan in Mumbai. It’s their ketchup, I concluded.

Not until I had loaded the wooden frames into my SUV and began the drive home did I noticed a smell: curry. 

I had noticed a slight curry scent when I entered Raj’s home, but it was less strong than some Indian homes I’ve entered. I had examined every corner of the disassembled bed for structural and cosmetic deficiencies. I never thought to smell it.

By the time I got home, I knew something had to be done. Among Clorox bleach, Old English orange-scented polish, and something called Odo-Ban, you would think the stench would be cured. Not curry.

“The only way to get that out is to bake it at 350 degrees,” one smart Alec friend suggested. It was worth a try.

The headboards and footboards looked like solar panels across my front lawn for the next two days. I even went home over lunch to flip them. But if it helped the smell, I couldn’t tell. 

My family’s return was imminent. Those three-year-olds would need a place to sleep. I took the plunge and installed the curry-scented structure, planning my explanation: “The bed is made from a rare wood found only in the Far East.”

The kids loved their bed. My better half graciously joined in their excitement. When the joyful reunion died down, I felt the question coming from a woman with extraordinary olfactory senses.

“You bought this from an Indian family, didn’t you?”

Miraculously, the question never came; only a memory of a piece of wisdom posted in the kitchen of my youth:

“Worry is the advance price you pay for troubles that may never come.”

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

America, we have issues

An American invention that represents the decline of America: the drive-in restaurant.

My office building backs up to one and I can’t seem to keep my chubby little hands from pushing that bright red button during “happy hour” each day. Drinks are half-price. I’m basically throwing away money if I don’t participate, right?

“Thank you for making my restaurant your restaurant,” the voice rasps through speakers that sound more like Edison’s gramophone than THX surround sound. “Can I interest you in a chili cheese coney dog deluxe this afternoon?”

It’s been nearly a hundred years since that visionary place of man-made miracles, Dallas, brought us the world’s first drive-in eatery. Kirby’s Pig Stand was famous for its pork loin sandwiches. At that time, drive-ins represented the endless innovation possibilities of an advancing industrial economy.

Now, as I await my afternoon tonic at a contemporary iteration, the concept represents the trends of a country on a downhill slide.

1. We’re old. I see as many gray hairs and bald heads driving in as teenagers and twenty-somethings. Their windows may be up and their music may be down, but they’re a force to be provided for in their ever-growing golden years. Send more wage earners.

2. We’re heavy. So heavy, in fact, that the carhops have trouble getting our burger sacks and Route 768s through our car windows. Oh, but it tastes so good, those sodium-enriched tater tots, those chocolate-drenched banana splits.

3. We’re ill. It’s a good thing the always open pharmacy is around the corner. We’re going to need that blood pressure medicine, those diabetes pills. We may be surviving, we may be medicated, but we are still ill. All while health care costs are anything but still.

4. We’re idling. The new economic normal is less than 2% annual GDP growth. Heavy government regulation and taxation discourage the risk-taking required for any greater growth. We’re not dead, but we’re not moving at the pace we once did, even years into a “recovery.”

5. We’re polluting. As we wait for our high-fat, high-cholesterol, high-sugar “sustenance,” our machine motors run, pumping exhaust into the air and dropping oil onto the ground. I’m no greeny, but I know dirty when I see it. Running engines encircling our effective dinner table is not progress.

6. We’re hurried. Too overwhelmed and distracted to prioritize a meal prepared at home, eaten slowly with the most important people in our lives. We’ve consumed our margins, and so our children are being served food by a man with a dragon tattooed on his arm.

7. We’re unpresentable. Tattoos, piercings, dental work courtesy of your friendly local meth lab. An air of desperation marks a generation of humans who can’t see past their next meal, smoke, rent payment or tank of gas. Who will hire them to do more than pass out tater tots?

8. And we’re coarse. From the crude song I hear blasting from the sixteen-year-old’s Jeep to the explicit conversation I overhear from the employees taking a smoke break by the dumpster. We’re a culture on a downward spiral.

All is not lost, of course. There is still a God in the heavens who has made Himself known on the earth. A return to His design is possible. May it start tonight with a laughter-filled, family-friendly, freshly-cooked dinner at home.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

Things are not what they seem

What do you call two physicians with no opinions? A paradox.

I hope that was worth it. My wait just got twice as long.

Paradox. Defined by Merriam-Webster as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.”

I have had a secret love affair with such statements for many years.

Things like “The most important years of a person’s life are the ones he or she won’t remember” (i.e., early childhood).

Perhaps it’s my backwards personality or my twisted sense of humor, but I’ve always loved when things aren’t what they seem.

Paradoxes first popped out at me in early Bible readings: The last shall be first. The “foolish” will shame the wise. Death brings life. Whoever wants to save his life must lose it. The Lord disciplines those he loves. Field laborers sleep better than the rich.

Then I saw them throughout the created world: The burning of a forest can make it more healthy. The tiniest acorn becomes the biggest oak. Eskimos stay warm inside of ice. You can die of thirst in an ocean of saltwater. The sun that makes life possible can burn you miserably.

And soon I saw them in every part of life:

In school. The least attractive 7th graders make the most attractive 21-year-olds. Street-smart C students land better jobs than book-smart A students. How does a sharp teacher get students quiet? By whispering, not yelling.

In sports. The advent of armor-like football padding has brought more injuries, not fewer. With tennis, baseball and soccer, the line is in; with basketball and football, the line is out. Games are won or lost in practice, not in games.

In relationships. We are most drawn to those who let us go. Living together before marrying makes divorce more likely, not less. The shortest marriages come from the world’s prettiest people. The more selfish you are, the worse yourself feels.

In government. Lower tax rates generate greater total revenues because there is stronger economic activity across the board.

In business. The biggest company in the country is based in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sales are best made by asking questions, not making statements. Paying more in employee benefits can lower total personnel costs over time.

In technology. Third world countries have the best wireless networks because they skipped the “legacy” wireline phase. Apple has been successful because it cannibalized its own products. Only a fool would argue now that Apple should never have made the iPhone because it would eat into iPod sales.

Steve Jobs was as much brilliant for what he left out of products as for what he put in them (RIP floppy disk drives and removable batteries).

In everyday life. If you write it down, you’ll remember it without the paper. Fatigue through exercise gives you energy. Scarcity makes things valuable. All-you-can-eat is not very satisfying.

Finally, and most compellingly, in country music. How do you get the most out of life? Live like you were dying.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.


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