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Harvey

Much Ado About Nothing September 14, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

Yup, I drew the short straw and, obviously, the short elevation. During Hurricane Harvey, my house flooded. My house flooded with water, friends, strangers, dust, spiders, bleach, fans, dehumidifiers, power tools, a handful of tears, swear words that won’t be repeated here, and on the rare occasion, a contractor (although they didn’t usually show up on time, stick around or follow through, so I don’t really count them). Mostly, during Hurricane Harvey, I was flooded in blessings.

From the friend who made me laugh into the wee hours of the storm because he’d turned the Emergency Alert System warnings into a drinking game to the one who, for days, sent me encouragement from the safety of a landlocked, Union-sympathizing state well away from the storm surge, we never felt alone. My next door neighbors spent six hours in the middle of the night bailing out the sinking ship that my house had become then swam home with pruned feet and aching backs to sleep it off, then joined the army that had shown up with the sun to cut out drywall. We’ve been blessed with great people.

About midway through the zombie hurricane that just wouldn’t die, my roof decided to finally pursue its lifelong ambition to be a screen door. Yes, my roof leaked, but I wasn’t air-lifted off of it, so there’s that blessing. I can’t get an adjuster up there, but I’ve got a tarp. And if you’re blessed with a tarp, you can go a long time without an adjuster.

I’ve been able to cancel my gym membership since I’m now on the “Body by Harvey” tone up plan. Who needs free weights when you have a pry bar, a sledge hammer, and small mountain of wet carpet, hardwood flooring and drywall to carry to the curb? I’ll use the money I save on the gym to buy hot dogs and marshmallows for when I light up that bonfire I’ve built in my driveway.

I was blessed because my neighborhood Whataburger was back open after only a day or so. The dehumidifiers dried out my house while making my hair look great. I haven’t seen a single snake. Yet.

And my motto throughout this whole ordeal has been, “Every day without tetanus is a good day.” I’m having a string of those so far. So, yes, I’m blessed.

Sharks, Toasters & Cows

Much Ado About Nothing August 24, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

I’m a certified scuba diver and have been for more than 25 years. But when I mentioned to a friend I was planning a spring dive trip, she immediately reacted in terror that I’d be eaten by sharks. While there is an identified group of people who would be happy to see me eaten by sharks, I’m afraid it isn’t likely. I’m at greater risk from toasters, paper cuts and cows.

Honestly, my odds are better in a school of hammerheads (which are credited with munching zero people and even fewer divers last year) than adding toast to my BLT. Toaster deaths in the US alone were up 7%. In 2007, there were more toaster related fatalities than deaths from polio. According to Dr. Kevin Willie, self-proclaimed statistical genius, “At the steep rate that toaster deaths are increasing, the entire human race may soon be wiped out.” So skip investing in most of your extended warranties, because it sounds like your Sunbeam multi-slice toaster will make them irrelevant.

Those who survive the toaster apocalypse may only meet an untimely end delivered by a grass-chomping, milk-making bovine of death. Twenty-two people die each year in unprovoked cow killings. Of those, 75% were deliberate – may I say premeditated – attacks and just fewer than 20% were gang activity. Yes, multiple cows in a group, working together. Personally, I feel I should eat a cheeseburger in retribution and as a show of outraged solidarity for these senseless deaths.

I’d gladly write a letter to my elected government officials about these problems, except I would run the risk of a paper cut. On average, 10 people die from complications related to paper cuts every year. The best way to avoid becoming one of these victims is to join the modern electronic age and go paperless. However, if you find yourself around sharp paper, remain calm. Paper can smell fear.

Of course, sharks can smell fear and paper cuts. Nevertheless, only one person in the US last year was killed in a shark attack. Although I’m not sure attack is the right word. It seemed completely accidental, and the shark apologized in a written statement to the media. Visibility was low, the swimmer got his leg stuck in the shark’s mouth, it was all just an unfortunate mix-up. Obviously not true about the cows, and you simply can’t trust a toaster now.

Extreme Midget Wrestling

Much Ado About Nothing August 17, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

When Extreme Midget Wrestling shows up near you, I’m sorry, but you just drop everything, change your plans, miss your parent’s anniversary dinner, and give away your tickets to whatever is on the stage at Houston Grand Opera so you can go. How many times in your lifetime are you presented with the exciting opportunity to be ringside for midgets in masks wrestling each other? From personal experience, I’m going to say maybe one, if you’re lucky, and that really may be plenty.

Before anyone gets frosty about the word “midgets,” just don’t. There’s enough hate in the world right now, and I am not going to add to it with this. I’m going strictly off their publicity: Extreme Midget Wrestling. It did not say Extreme Little People Wrestling or Extreme Person of Short Stature Wrestling. Or I would have used that. So just stop before you start.

Recently, I’m pleased to say, I was able to cross this off my bucket list without actually knowing that it was ever on my bucket list. In a poorly air conditioned space in a mostly empty mall in Texas City, I stood in line with one of my best buds hoping and praying that we could still get a standing room only ticket for the event for $25. If there were concerns about the stability of my mental state for jumping on this crazy idea, then paying $25 for it pretty much clears up those doubts.

I’m not even going into what they were charging for beer. Trust me, though, beer is pretty much a requirement with midget wrestling. You could almost get by without actually having the midgets or the wrestling, but if you don’t have the beer, you’ll lose 98% of the audience for an event like this.

So it had what one would expect from Extreme Midget Wrestling. Midgets launching off the ropes to land on other midgets on the mat. Midgets smacking each other in the face with trash can lids and yellow “Caution: Wet Floor” signs that I think they found at the mall. There were midgets in tights and capes and one wore a chicken mask thing. The midget referee would count the “knock-out” to about two before there was a miraculous recovery and Cinderella victory. Those who went ahead to the opera, probably had the same stuff without the beer.

NASA Help Wanted

Much Ado About Nothing August 10, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

NASA has a “Help Wanted” ad out there looking for a Planetary Protection Officer. I’m guessing the potential candidate will have 3-5 years applicable experience and be willing to relocate. With a salary that tops out around $187K, there’s naturally been a flood of applicants. I’m honestly thinking of applying myself, because if Bruce Willis or Will Smith don’t get the job, I’m the perfect candidate and a shoo-in.

I’m actually updating my resume now to indicate my experience with alien beings that speak an indecipherable language, are prone to unexpected fits of destruction, emit strange odors, and exhibit unpredictable behavior. Oh yes, I’ve raised teenagers. Honestly, any mother who has carried a baby for nine months can relate at some level to the whole alien possession thing ala Sigourney Weaver in “Alien” and the entire “Attack of the Body Snatchers” series. Others need not apply.

According to Dr. James L. Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, the job is all about protecting Earth from nasty little foreign microbes that come back on space samples and keeping the Solar System from getting Earth cooties. Breaking it down into laymen’s terms: cleaning woman. Again, who is better qualified than a mom of boys? No one that’s who.

I’ve battled flu germs, strep germs, and germs that cause rashes, fevers, hives, snot, intestinal explosions and whining. There is no microbe that will escape the mother who cannot have the whole house go down and certainly doesn’t have time to be sick herself. I’ve beat down head lice, chiggers, poison ivy, heat chafe and whatever it is that makes boys stink. So let’s just start with “All astronauts wash your hands before coming in the kitchen and use a tissue to wipe your nose!” From there, I think, we can manage the rest.

So right after I finish crafting my cover letter, I’ll pull together my references which include two young men who, under my protection, survived all kinds of microbes and those alien years that lasted through most of junior high and high school. They’ll vouch for the fact that you’re better to think twice than tangle with a mom on a mission. I don’t care what planet you come from.

Lost Cat

Much Ado About Nothing August 3, 2017

Buster Ciampi

Much Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

Filling in this week for Jean Ciampi who thinks it’s too stinkin’ hot to work is Guest Columnist Buster. A distinguished and grateful alumni of the Brazoria County SPCA, Buster currently advocates for animal rights (with the exclusion of squirrels because he believes they get exactly what they deserve).

Recently, I was out patrolling the neighborhood as any good and respectable dog does, sniffing mailboxes, trees, bushes. You know, checking the pee mail. That’s when I saw that someone had stuck a paper on a pole with the picture of a lost cat and the ridiculous claim of a $500 reward. My first thought was that this cat must have swallowed an expensive pair of diamond earrings before it ran away. Because unless the cat is actually a dog, there’s no cat worth that!

Who would pay $500 to have a cat given back? Just speaking from the dog’s perspective, I’d pay twice that for someone to load up a whole litter of cats and haul them off. But that’s just me and I’m a dog. Besides, why would you want a cat that, at best, has zero sense of loyalty and, at worst, has a miserable sense of direction? I’m thinking this cat got fed up with that family and moved in with someone on the other side of the neighborhood that has a bigger food bowl. Face it, that’s how cats are.

Of course, there’s a family that’s obviously upset. No one wants to see a helpless animal suffer – even if that helpless animal is a human. Unfortunately, there are just misguided people who actually prefer cats to having a dog. Yes, that’s stupid and those people should have their trash dumped over and strewn across their front yard to mark them as stupid. But regardless of that, this family, sadly, has an attachment to the cat that probably hasn’t thought about them even once. Because, well, that’s how cats are.

The kindest thing to do in this situation, in my humble dog opinion, would be to gently let these caring though confused people know that, for a mere fraction of that reward, they could adopt a really nice, loyal dog who would be smart enough not to run away and be their lifelong best friend. It may just be time to puppy up!

I Don’t Care Restaurant

Much Ado About Nothing July 27, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

I have brilliant friends. I mean the kind of friends who can solve for X, read Mandarin Chinese, who invent the internet, and can refreeze the polar ice caps with only the power of their minds. But blah blah all that. Who cares about any of that, because my most brilliant friend is the one who told me she’s opening a restaurant and calling it “I Don’t Care. You Pick.” Brilliant, I tell you! Where do you want to go eat? “I Don’t Care. You Pick.” Okay! Let’s go there! It happens a million times a day all over the world. She’ll be rich on the franchise rights alone.

Her new endeavor will likely put a few competitors out of business. The We Always Go There Diner probably won’t last long. I don’t hold out much hope for the We Ate There Last Time Cafe, the That One’s Too Far Grill, or the We Always Go There Taco Shack and Burger Barn. But that’s free enterprise in action, right?

Oh wait, though! Her brilliance doesn’t stop there. Oh no! Then she started telling me about her menu. House specials will include the What’s-In-That Platter, made fresh daily with every possible known food allergen. Substitutions on that one will, of course, be extra. Steaks will always be served twice. The first one will be a dummy steak that will immediately be returned to the kitchen to be recooked “the right way.” Then every meal can be finished off with the Just-a-Small-Piece pie that is the highlight of her Bring Two Forks dessert list.

Kids can choose from the “You Liked It Last Time,” the popular “You Can Pick It Off,” and the “At Least Try It.” The most finicky junior diner, however, might enjoy a large helping of the “It Is Not Yucky.” Each entrée will either be served on plates large enough to push the food around or just thrown directly onto the floor.

Sure there are plenty of problems that plague mankind, but none so grievous as the “What’s for dinner” and “Where do you want to eat” question combo. It’s that one-two sucker punch at the end of the day that puts you on the mat every time. Now finally, someone has found the answer and it just seems so obvious. Why didn’t someone think of it before?

Walmart Donkey

Much Ado About Nothing July 20, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

There are people who shop at Walmart and then there are “The People of Walmart.” Anyone who needs a brisket, motor oil, bath towels, fertilizer, and hydrogen peroxide but only wants to make one stop and get low prices is simply a person who shops at Walmart. People who buy those things then post videos on social media involving all those items and the corresponding police intervention are likely “People of Walmart.”

The woman in Brownwood, Texas who rode a donkey into the Walmart there is definitely in the People of Walmart category. It doesn’t matter what she was there to purchase, she was riding a donkey. I wasn’t actually at the Walmart to witness the alleged donkey debacle, but it was on the internet, so it has to be true. Therefore it’s my job as a responsible journalist (hahaha) to report on it.

Interestingly, according to the reports, the woman already had several parole violations when authorities arrested and charged her with a DUI. Wow, drunk? Really? Didn’t see that coming! I question, though, whether Driving Under the Influence includes operating a farm animal for vehicular transportation. Maybe she got busted for the Donkey Under the Influence. It says that animal control took the donkey back to wherever he came from, but didn’t mention if he smelled like 190 proof Everclear or if he could pass a field sobriety test. Maybe the donkey is the real perpetrator and the poor woman is just an unwilling participant. … Nah, probably not.

In this poor, intoxicated woman’s defense, it’s not like she was riding the donkey into a Spec’s liquor store which would have really made it hard to defend her in court. Plus, she’s probably not the first person to show her ass in Walmart. Most people, however, usually leave them in a trailer in the parking lot or at least tied up to one of the shopping cart racks. I mean, this is Texas and those things do happen. And, too, she was wearing more than just flesh-colored thong underwear and Saran Wrap, so she’s ahead of the game on some of the other People of Walmart. Maybe she can get credit for that at her hearing. Because the donkey doesn’t seem to have any priors, I hope he gets community service and sobers up.

Evil!

Much Ado About Nothing July 6, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

There is evil in the world. You don’t have to look too far to find it, actually. I only had to go as far as my own garage. All this time that I’ve been in love with my car (and I do love my car), it’s been quietly festering a hatred for me. And maybe it’s not the entire car that hates me, but for sure the GPS has a desire to see me dead. Recently, it came pretty close to getting its wish!

One night last week I went to a meeting near downtown Houston. I plugged the address into my GPS, believing naively that I’d take the most direct route to my destination. My GPS, however, thought we’d take some crazy joy ride through some weird side streets and loop around through a few neighborhoods before we got to the destination. Since I definitely had somewhere to be, I thought this wasn’t really the time for a nasty confrontation with my car, so I bit my tongue and followed directions.

That was my first mistake. My car now realized what a mushy pushover I could be. When I come out of this meeting, it’s late and dark. I tell the GPS to take me home because I’ve gotten so turned around getting to this place that I’m not completely sure how to get back out. That was my second mistake.

My GPS, hell-bent on taking me down the Trail of Transportation Terror, sends me through parts of Houston that only a truck-mounted automatic assault rifle would make me feel good in. The GPS told me to turn on streets I’d passed two blocks before, to go the wrong way on one-way streets, and to turn onto streets that didn’t even exist. My car had decided I’d suddenly developed a crystal meth habit and needed a dealer, that it was time to make a few bucks “the hard way,” or it just wanted me dead. Those were the only possible reasons it was doing this to me.

I finally made it home in one piece, and I’ve managed to forgive my car. We all have those moments when we go off the grid. But I’m smarter now. Not only do I own a paper map, but I can read it and fold it. Take that GPS! Now who wins?

I’m Dead!

Much Ado About Nothing June 29, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan CiampiIt’s all fun and games until you show up dead. Trust me, I know. You can only imagine my understandable surprise and concern to discover that, sadly, Jean Ciampi passed away January 9, 2015. If you think it’s funny, go Google search yourself and see if you missed your own funeral by two and a half years. If someone had actually notified me of my untimely demise, I would have possibly attended the event, signed the guest book, and tried to piece together what exactly happened that I turned up dead in Ventnor, New Jersey.

What was yet even more alarming was to then discover that since the time of my unfortunate passing, I’ve still been voting a consistent Republican ticket in Florida. I’ve always said, “Vote early and vote often,” so I’ll stand by that. But for the sake of clarity, I vote issues not party lines – even from the grave.

Of course, this then led me to check Facebook to find out what else I didn’t know about myself. For a split second, I thought I’d become a Spanish-speaking male gymnast managing a Tommy Hilfiger in Venezuela – and not at all bad looking, if I can say that. Obviously, at least in that case, wires have just gotten crossed somewhere causing confusion. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve never spoken Spanish beyond ordering a beer and finding a bathroom.

So back to the George H. Wimberg Funeral Home in Linwood, New Jersey (I’m guessing that’s somewhere near Ventnor. If you’re from New Jersey, feel free to jump in here.) I’m scanning through my obituary and seeing a couple of things that need correction. For example, they got my age wrong. I’m not, despite all appearances, 87-years old. They also got all the names of my family members wrong. But I guess they did go astray on that one critical detail that I’m not actually dead, so I shouldn’t be surprised that they missed the mark on those things, too.

Regardless of all that, from the condolences left online at the funeral home’s website, I see how much people really do appreciate my cooking and baking. I hate that it’s taken this for me to find out, but still good to know. And the indications are that I’m a pretty okay person. Or at least I was. May I rest in peace.

Judgement

Much Ado About Nothing June 22, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

I don’t know why so many people waste their time judging others based on stupid, superficial things like the melanin levels of their skin, their stand on a power greater than themselves or how they cast their ballot. I could care less how well you wear the color orange, what you do on Sunday morning or if you wrote in Mickey Mouse to be governor of Idaho. However, I believe there are real points that separate us all into one category or another.

A friend of mine recently stated that he judged people by how well they navigated the self-check lanes. Yup. That’s valid. We’ve only had about 20 years of watching the demonstration. Where do you go that there hasn’t been a cashier scanning your stuff? It’s not that difficult to replicate the process on your own, especially with the disembodied voice telling you to “place the item in the bagging area.” But, if you can’t get it, and I’m trying hard to accept and love you even with your short-comings, please use the cashiers but try to pay attention next time.

Straight up, I’ll judge you based on your opinion about the designated hitter. There’s something fundamentally wrong with anyone who thinks the pitcher should have a free pass with the bat in a game where the point is to hit the ball to get on base. That’s why it’s called baseball and not Pitcher’s Mound Ball. It just makes zero sense. You’d never have a rule in football that you couldn’t tackle the quarterback. If the pitcher was that precious, there wouldn’t be a whole bullpen full of replacements! Be forewarned that when I’m the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, that mess is going to get cleaned up. American League pitchers might want to start taking batting practice now.

And, I’m not ashamed to admit, I’m probably going to judge you on whether or not you have a library card. How do you not have a library card? They’re free. Then you get to read books that are free. There are movies, too, if you can’t force yourself to read a book. (Force yourself to read a book anyway.) Get a library card!

Of course, there are good people and then there are cilantro eaters. You’re one or the other. And honestly, the other stuff I can probably get past.

Slippery Slope to Luby’s

Much Ado About Nothing June 15, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

I had never eaten at a Cracker Barrel restaurant until this past week. But, too, I’m also the person who never watched an episode of “Dallas” – probably for the same reasons. It took less than 34 seconds to realize exactly why I would probably never go back to Cracker Barrel again any time soon: I don’t ever want to be that old. When you suddenly find yourself eating at Cracker Barrel just know you are on a slippery slope to the Luby’s buffet and a full-care nursing home.

Straight up, Cracker Barrel is basically a senior citizen theme park. Those rocking chairs on the porch are just age-appropriate thrill rides. Think rollercoasters for people over 65. Stopping at Cracker Barrel for dinner is not unlike going on a fall foliage bus tour without having to get up the steps of the bus or obtain a medical release from the six medical specialists who currently file on your insurance. At the end of the day, you still get to eat with a huge group of other old folks then exit through the gift shop.

Oh yes, the gift shop. Where else can you get unlimited refills on your ice tea, purchase a cotton/poly blend quilt for $79.99, and pick up a complete collection of Tony Bennett’s greatest hits on CD? Not since the old Stuckey’s sold those weird pecan roll things has there been such a flurry of excitement in the retail world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the food wasn’t good at Cracker Barrel. In their defense, there was no blue Jell-O on the menu. You still have to wait to progress into your Luby’s stage of decline to get that. I will warn you, though, that this is not the place to go if having your food touch each other is going to trigger you. I spent most of my meal digging the green beans out from under the mashed potatoes. This wasn’t a problem for me, but I know this can cause PTSD in others.

The greater concern for me was if I was given an automatic membership into AARP with my meal. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that (regardless of my eligibility). Nor am I willing to purchase shoes with Velcro closures. Sorry, Cracker Barrel, but give me another 20 years and I’ll be back.

Parenting Advice

Much Ado About Nothing June 8, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

As I have just recently graduated my last child out of public schools with no interaction with CPS, the court system, or Federal Law Enforcement Officials, I feel I have credibility to pass along advice to parents coming along behind me. While I believe that half the fun of parenting is discovering new and better ways to screw up your kids and ruin their lives, these are tips to keep them from screwing up yours.

Big Parenting Mistake #1: Teaching your children to mow the yard. Do this and you’re setting yourself up for disaster. After a couple of summers, you’ll be fat and lazy sitting on the porch with an ice cold watching them work like rented mules. Next thing you know, they’ll graduate from high school and go to college, leaving your much older, fatter, lazier self alone to push the mower. Don’t think you’ll pay the neighbor kids to mow because you’re paying college tuition, so you can’t afford those things.

Do not let your children learn to drive. Driver’s training is Big Parenting Mistake #2. Sure, those first few times they run to the store for you on their own is great, but then they start realizing they have freedom. This is a dangerous thing in a child. Suddenly, it will occur to them that they can drive other places besides the store, like out of state. Then one day they get in the car, drive away and don’t come home to mow the yard. That’s going to hit you especially hard if you’ve already screwed up and made Mistake #1. Plus, they took your car.

Have you allowed your children to start becoming free-thinking, independent people? Wow. You’ve just made Big Parenting Mistake #3. This almost completely guarantees that your children are going to screw up your life. Count on them wanting to think for themselves, be independent and not stay home to mow your yard. Probably with your car.

Children with no skills, ambition or transportation are more likely to stick around and take care of you in your old age. They’ll gladly heat frozen pizzas, apply bunion cream and pluck the hairs out of your withered, old chin until you die. And with the money you save not paying college tuition or financing a new car, you can pay someone to mow your yard.

Back to Running

Much Ado About Nothing June 1, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

I use to run – and not just because I was being chased. I actually would run for, I don’t know, I can’t remember why I would do that, but I did. Now, for some reason yet unknown by me, I’ve decided to start running again in earnest. I’ve probably managed to kill off the last brain cell in charge of logical decision-making, and running is the obvious fallout. Here are a few things, though, that I’ve discovered in my recent return to recreational running.

First of all, anyone who tries to sell you the line of garbage about endorphins and improved physical health blah bluh bluhh is probably addicted to catnip and concealing a criminal record. The truth is that running, if done right, will improve your cardiovascular system if, and only if, you don’t die first. As I was slogging along on my last run (which had the appearance of a forced death march), I kept wondering if I’d stay conscious long enough to tell the paramedics that my heart was in much better shape from running before he administered oxygen and the shock paddles.

Then there’s the whole fake news stuff about how you’ll look better because of running. After a run of any distance, I look like I’ve been picked out of the moving fan blades of a jet engine. I smell bad. I look bad. And I have an attitude that doesn’t even register anymore on the bad spectrum. There are encounters with rabid dingoes that are more pleasant than being around me after a run. So unless you really like the wild-eyed, red faced, oxygen-starved look, then no, I don’t look better because of running.

Sure, you’ll sleep better (if your calves don’t cramp in the night and cause you to scream obscenities). You’ll meet great people (like the formerly incarcerated catnip dealers). You’ll feel better (when you stop hurting, the toenails grow back and the blisters heal). And think of all the cool fun runs you can join (that cost as much to register for as a case of decent wine, so what really is the better choice?)

So, until this flight of fantastical thinking passes, I’ll be out there setting personal records that can be measured on the same scale as glacier movement. Feel free to tie on your shoes and join me!

Banana Trees and the Road to Hell

Much Ado About Nothing May 25, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

I can’t verify this, but if things continue as they are, I may be driven to the point that I have the opportunity to find out first-hand. But, I’m pretty sure that the road to Hell is trimmed in banana plants, those big, floppy-leafed scourges of the yard. The only thing that could possibly make banana plants more hatefully heinous would be cross-breeding them with poison oak. At which point, we need to tap out and surrender the planet because we’ve lost the war on agri-terrorism.

If you’re considering planting one of these pests in your yard, just go home because you’re drunk. You’d be better off – and definitely happier in the long run – if you simply backed up a cement truck and paved over your entire property. Although, this may be the only way to get rid of the chlorophyll creatures from the pits of someplace unspeakable once you’ve got them.

Despite my homeowners association frowning on such thing, I’m talking napalm, flame-throwers, small nuclear devices detonated from a safe distance across the street. Voodoo and practitioners of the dark arts are also not off the table in my battle against the bananas. Here’s the problem: you can hack them to the roots, dig them out and salt the earth and they’ll still find a way to come back. They’re vegetational herpes. This is truly the price we’ve paid for the whole mishap in the Garden of Eden: God said, “Get out and go live in shame with the banana plants.”

So after two long, bloody years of hand-to-leaf combat, I finally felt I had eradicated the green plague. Then as I’m licking my wounds and trying to recover from the resulting PTSD, the banana plant in my neighbor’s yard has sent up a scout on my side of the fence. Naturally, I’m triggered. The machete has long since been put in a locked location to keep me from hurting myself or others (like my neighbor who obviously shops in the garden center at ISIS Depot).

Unless your family name is Dole and you live in a jungle in Nicaragua, there’s no reason to have banana plants. Propagating this problem should be considered a crime against all humanity and punished accordingly. For the sake of all that’s holy, If you want a banana, go to Kroger.

Last Little Bird

Much Ado About Nothing May 18, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

In just a few days, my tenure as a grade-school parent ends. Despite those times when we just weren’t sure if it would really happen, my youngest son will graduate from high school – We hope. Although, there is still time. Not until I actually hear his name called and the diploma put in his hand, will I breathe. That’s the same time his counselor will stop eating Valium like LifeSavers, the principal will stop considering a career change, and his first period teacher will look up and think, “Oh! That’s who that kid is. His face isn’t familiar.”

I’ve always said he is the child my parents wished upon me. This is the kid that would have qualified us for the elite Navy Seals special ops supreme command of Parenthood if such a thing existed. He has made us battle ready for any level of mischief, mishap, or outrageous improbability. While they say it takes a village to raise a child, I disagree. In this case, it takes a village, a fully functioning medical/surgical facility, an offshore bank, several high level negotiators, a contact at the United Nations, a building permit, and friends with “connections.”

Then just about the time I think I’m on the top of my parenthood game, he’s leaving. He never listened when I told him to clean the bathroom, wash denim separately, or mow the lawn. But when I told him to dream big and chase after it, he listened to that! I pushed him to take harder classes and do his homework on time. Of course, he never did that. But when I push him to be independent, smart and self-sufficient, he’s all over it. What the heck?!

So it seems I have worked myself out of a job — a job with rotten pay, long hours and amazing benefits. It’s a job I have loved more than anything else and one I must have done right. The last little bird in the nest is spreading huge, strong, powerful wings that will let him soar to places beyond what either of us could have dreamed.

And just as he did when he marched off to Kindergarten, he’s not looking back. If he did, he’d see the endless pride on my face and my heart in my hands. He’s going to be great! And I’ll be okay, too.

Naked Garden Day

Much Ado About Nothing May 15, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

World Naked Gardening Day is the first Saturday in May. So, gosh darn it, we’ve missed it. I’m guessing, though, this is a bigger celebration in areas that don’t have mounds of fire ants. As someone who has had a miserable tangle with poison oak after pulling weeds in my flowerbed while fully clothed, I’m not sure I grasp how this is a good idea. Thank goodness, World Naked Gardening Day has a website (www.wngd.org) to answer that and so many other questions!

Don’t go to this website, however, unless you are prepared to be exposed to naked gardening. Unfortunately, no one warned me in advance. I admit I initially had trouble absorbing their information because I kept thinking: How are these people not getting seriously sunburned?!

While their website does explain why you should garden naked, more importantly, they tell you how! “Find an opportunity to get naked.” Okay, that seems a bit obvious, but then you can naked garden with your friends, family, even your gardening club. Whoa Nelly! I’m not sure what the demographics are of your gardening club, but I’m nearly positive I could kiss goodbye any chance I had at “Yard of the Month” if I showed up naked to the next meeting of my club.

They also suggest you “Do it inside your house, in your backyard, on a hiking trail, at a city park, or on the streets.” Really?! In Texas? Now I see how I win “Yard of the Month.” We’re talking about a prison yard! I hope, too, they didn’t mean Estes Park in Colorado when they said park, because there was two and a half inches of snow that Saturday which gives a whole new perspective to freezing your buns off!

Celebrate World Naked Gardening Day next year on May 5, 2018. Maybe start slow by just watering your houseplants in your underwear. The website does suggest when you naked garden, be sure to “tell someone about your experience… email it to your local newspaper.” Yeah, do that. I double dog dare you to do that! Include your address and phone number, so the local newspaper can send out a photographer (to take your mug shot for the local police department!).

Seriously, if you garden naked, garden smart. Wear sunscreen. Avoid poison oak. That’s all I have to say on that.

French Pedicure

Much Ado About Nothing May 8, 2017

Jean Ciampi - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by Jan Ciampi

After several weeks of back packing through France, my feet were beat. Therefore, the first thing on the agenda after clearing US Customs was to kick off the trekking shoes and get a pedicure. That I could have pulled a fish out of a lake with these toes was likely the prime indicator my feet had gotten out of hand!

I had seen several places during our travels that advertised French manicures. What the heck?! I’m in France! What other kind of manicure was I going to get? I immediately didn’t trust them. This was obviously a sketchy front for the sex slave trade. And you know there’s probably a big market for middle-aged white moms with bunions. People do strange things in France plus the whole ISIS presence, so you can’t be too careful. Just one more reason to go another day without changing my socks because my miserable neglect of my feet was probably all that was keeping me safe.

Back home, I’m in one of those pedicure chairs that always make me feel like I’m on a bad buckboard ride in a horrible Wild West theme park until I can figure out how to turn off the “massage” function. I notice the woman next to me. She must be about to leave for France because she’s having her toenails painted this weird Kermit the Frog shade of green. She must think if her feet resemble a poisonous snake, she’ll be safer. I’m not saying she’s wrong.

Meanwhile, to punish me for my neglect, my pedicure girl has stuck my feet into pans of boiling hot wax. I can only imagine this is how Hans Solo felt in that Star Wars episode where he’s trapped in molten lead. Like Hans, I also know that resistance is futile. Nothing to do but suck it up and hope she didn’t get that cheese grater tool thing out again. I understand the calluses were bad, but surely there are laws to protect me from that thing.

Then on the way out, I stop to throw away those little pieces of foam they stick between your toes. Except I didn’t have my glasses on and I was already out the door when I realized I’d “thrown them away” in some lady’s big purse. And you wonder why I let my feet get so bad.

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