Sunday, August 25, 2013

Color Of Late Summer A Pre-Autumn Brown Now

From today's Times and News-Star

Somebody named August stopped by and beat my back yard flowers like a drunk farmer would beat a rented mule.

Hurts me.

But experienced gardeners – I am not one – will tell you that this is the time of year when the most valiant of efforts falls short against the late-summer sun and all-around effects of a north Louisiana summer. This year’s was mild by our standards but still hot enough to take a toll and make the bravest plants wilt.

Eventually, they all holler “Uncle!” Am I right?

I was a first-grade flower planter about 15 years ago, got out of the game for a while, and jumped back in this year with wild abandon. But I knew my time was limited, that coleus would fade, that begonias were not eternal. I have eyes and a memory of yards that looked like Oz in July and like a backwoods waste dump in August.

Pick any parish. Mr. Sunshine is undefeated against them all.

But what a ride it has been! If you wish to get into the flora and fauna game, you can do it. I did. All it takes is coaching yourself up, asking your friendly nursery worker a question or two (or a thousand), being willing to spend a little money and accept a few failures, and gallons upon gallons of water from a hose that will feel by the Fourth of July as if it’s surgically connected to your hand.

Watered 45 minutes a day.

I started with a patio hibiscus, a gardenia, and a bougainvillea. Humble. I had only the faintest idea of what each was.

Because our back yard dirt is clay, I had to employ pots, knowing that during the summer I could learn the literal lay of the land. And I learned this: my dirt is hard as a teenager’s head. Also clumpy. Mr. Clump. So I borrowed from my brother-in-law a tiller that is big as Skylab and, at takeoff, as loud. Our wrestling match is ongoing. Meanwhile, I have wheelbarrowed landscape mix hither and yon. What a joy!

As that battle continues – autumn soil prep, as they call it in the gardening racket – the pots flourish. Ours flourished, past tense, though we do have current minimal flourishing; some is blooming because it wasn’t supposed to until late summer, a pleasant surprise to me. Like most of the stuff I’ve planted, I have no real idea what it is. So what I’m trying to say is that God created so much stuff that, if you’re willing to sweat, you can have color and texture and hummingbirds and butterflies all the livelong day, even with minimal knowhow on your first at-bat.

Take, for instance, your Bat Faced Cuphea. (“What?” That’s what I said.) The flowers are little bat faces (not the baseball kind) and surprisingly free flowering. Coleus, in many colors, is perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve planted, as some goes in shade and some in sun and one of them grew so much I thought it was going to eat the house.

Salvia has been disappointing, except for the black and blue: gorgeous. The tricked-up begonias have been hit-and-miss too, but the hits are homers. Daisies are late-summer heroes, like the wild berry coneflowers and calibrachoa and some kind of periwinkle thing that’s stealing the show now. Angel “something or other” is fading but has been a great complement. And the sweet potato vine? Sweet.

The lights are growing dim. Brown is making a move. But … the cavalry – what we call pansies -- are on the way.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Aging Study (And Story) Of Mice And Men

From the Sunday TIMES and NEWS-STAR

Favorite Old Guy Joke.

 Three old guys are out walking.
First one says, “Windy, ain’t it?”

Second one says, “No, it’s Thursday.”

Third one says, “So am I. Let’s go get a beer.”

Say what?

I love me an old dude.

They are on my mind today more than usual because of a Townhall Spotlight report forwarded to me citing a “landmark study that sounds like science fiction” in which “a professor at Harvard Medical School regenerated the brains of aging mice by turning on a switch inside their cells.”

This reads, beautifully:

“The mice, WHO ARE THE EQUIVALENT OF ELDERLY MEN (my favorite part), had all the classic signs of old age: Their brains were smaller… they were going blind... they stopped having sex... their hair was gray... and they couldn’t find their way through a maze or remember where their food was.”

But when this Harvard professor hit the switch in their cells, the tissues and organs in their body -- including their brains -- started to regenerate and grow back to normal size.
From the report: “Even a slight change in brain size would have been a miracle... but what happened was remarkable… The gray hair was gone. So was the poor eyesight and shrunken brains. In fact, there was nothing left that could distinguish them as ‘old.’” (Except the baby blue jumpsuits they wore?)
This “Age-Reversing Switch can be turned on in us too!,” states the report, through increased production of telomeres, “the enzyme that helps you rebuild the ‘biological clocks’ at the end of your DNA.” The report claims that once the mice had their telomerase turned on, shrunken organs grew (hello!), key organs functioned better, the mice got their sense of smell back and, my second favorite part, “the mice went on to live long healthy lives.”
Good for them! And if you wish to try telomeres, good for you. But I want to know if this improved for the mice:
Did they still have to use reading glasses?
If so, were they able to consistently FIND their reading glasses, and how many pair, within 10, did each have located at different strategic reading spots at whatever house or field or automobile or office they were infesting?
Did their butts grow back? (One day I looked back there and someone had stolen mine. It had followed me around for more than 40 years and then, poof!)
Did they become younger than their preacher and doctor again?
Did it still seem to them that Arnold Palmer should be in his 50s and were they still consistently surprised to recall, throughout the summer, that the Houston Astros were now in the American League?
Could they rip the “Only White Tees and Decaf” bumper stickers off their golf carts?
That’s what I’D like to know.
Meanwhile, we males who are getting older (and smaller) can at least appreciate, first-hand, old dude humor, something we couldn’t do back before we discovered the hauntings of ear hair.
For instance: 
One old guy asked another how he was feeling. “Like a newborn baby,” he said. “No hair, no teeth, and I think I just wet my pants.”
And, an old guy was telling his neighbor he’d just bought a new state-of-the-art hearing aid that costs $4,000 but was perfect.
“Really,” the neighbor said. “What kind is it?”
And finally, the show-stopper that I shouldn’t even tell you:
The old man limps into the ice cream parlor, makes it to the stool and orders a banana split.
The waitress says, “Crushed nuts?”
“No,” he says. “Arthritis.”

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why Won't They Test Me For PEDs?!

From today's Times and News-Star
Some people get all the breaks.

And all the headlines.

The rest of us, The Great Unwashed, motor along, breaking the rules, and nobody even notices.

My feelings always get hurt when the sports news is about steroids or “performance enhancing drugs,” which are called PEDs, which we, back in childhood, called PB&Js. If we really needed a boost, we’d eat a whole one. But a foldover would at least get you over the hill.

(I was a strawberry man, preferably preserves instead of jelly. Still am. I still look for the tiny strawberry packets on the table at breakfast restaurants but often have to settle for grape. Life’s no picnic, I tell you.)

For years now I have been on PEDs. Besides PB&J, which was really just a starter kit for the hard stuff, I have advanced to testosterone, Primobolan, cortisone, creatine, castor oil, broccoli and anabolic steroids by the bucket load. You name it and I’ve swallowed it, inhaled it, injected it, or rubbed it in. My buttocks and biceps know every needle within a 100-miles radius by heart, for lack of a better term.

I have used every banned substance (or B.S.) in the book, and would have used some more if I could have gotten my grimy, stingy, greedy little hands on them.

And what do I get for my troubles? Zip. No one even asks to TEST me. What, my urine’s not good enough for The System? I can’t get a test, much less a conviction.

Is my performance that bad? Apparently, the answer is yes. But this is not the same for everyone, as the sports headlines blare. This week, baseball banished a boatload of players for the remainder of the season for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement. (Is it just me, or do you think it’s funny that a drug agreement has the world “joint” in it? Redundant, no?)
PEDs worked for them – too well, apparently.

It is a sad day when we start taking a hard-line stance against people who are just in it for themselves, willing to cheat to get a little advantage. Sure, if I get caught it’ll hurt my teammates. But who cares about team? It’s the new millennium. Is TEAM the American Way? HA!

Take your Alex Rodriguez. A star when he was young -- now a very elderly 38 in baseball years -- and he has cheated as if there’s no tomorrow, which there is for him, but only because of the appeal process. Baseball wishes he were as gone as flannel uniforms. He’s lied and cheated so much that even the liars and cheaters of the world are starting to grow tired of him. Others, like me, are just jealous. I aspire to be a spoiled rich kid of 38 and, right now, it does not look like it’s gonna happen. At least he gives me something to shoot for!

Speaking of spoiled rich kids, you can’t breathe air without hearing about Johnny Manziel, Heisman Winner, college student, oil-money rich and controversy magnet. And – gulp -- won’t turn 21 until December. He’s not the first Heisman winner to fumble – Hello, O.J.!– but he’s the first under-aged one to do it with maddening consistency in the new Social Media world. The world changes, same as football rules do. We follow them or suffer the consequences. Hello, Johnny!

The world changes. The only thing that doesn’t is human nature: spoiled kids still come in all ages, and great teammates are hard to find.

Anybody got an extra foldover?