Orion: A Constellation; A Memory Made; A Celestial Wonder With a Message for a Defective Man

When I woke up this morning it was still dark. I got the coffee going and woke up my kids. I stepped out the back door with my son with the dual intentions of feeding the dog and figuring out whether or not today was a short or long pants day (short pants were fine) and noticed that Orion was visible right over my garage.

I called for my daughters and, when they had stepped out and shut the back door (it was nearly dawn and the light from the laundry room was enough to blind us to the stars) I pointed out his belt and the four stars that insinuate his feet and hands. They couldn’t see it in its entirety. My middle child only saw his belt. I think they might have been having trouble connecting such unreachable dots. Either way, though, I was proud. It felt good to share something like that with them. I stood there staring at Orion long after they’d lost interest and I suddenly remembered that the North Star is part of one of the constellations. But which one? I simply cannot remember. Is it the bright star at the bottom of Orion that denotes his left foot? Or is it part of the Big Dipper?

Thinking about this took me back to basic training and all the times during our land navigation courses that I disappointed my Drill Sergeants (not to mention my Battle Buddies who trudged through the woods behind me in the exact wrong direction) to the point of nearly giving up on me. They never actually quit trying to teach me, but they were certainly frustrated that, hundreds of push-ups later, I still couldn’t sufficiently navigate my way out of an MRE bag when given a map, a compass and a block of instruction.

Then I thought about all the times in my civilian life when, trying to back-track some road-trip route, I swore up and down that I needed to go left when I actually should’ve gone right.  I don’t tend to give in to the fact that I’ve taken wrong turns, and, though suspicions are sneaking up on me, I continue making wrong turns until the web of wrong turns is so convoluted that I can’t even reverse the wrong turn route to get back to the first wrong turn I took. I’ve ended up turning around in so many private drives with no trespassing signs posted that I’m surprised my back bumper isn’t riddled with bird shot. I’m also surprised my wife has never actually thrown up all over the car. She gets car sick, especially when a twisty-turny route is combined with the stress of knowing she’s lost with an idiot who won’t admit he’s lost. She’s a real trooper. Thank God she didn’t know me in my Army days when my poor direction finding could’ve landed our necks under the blade of some radical’s machete. (They never gave me the map in a combat zone, by the way. I made it perfectly clear that doing so would mean certain death.)

As I thought about all these things this morning, staring up at the sky with my children chirping at the periphery of my hearing that we needed to go inside and eat breakfast, I realized I’m a defective man. I don’t have whatever it is they say men have that help them find directions. I don’t have a genetic compass, and for a moment I felt cheated. I mentally shook my fist at Orion for bringing on this realization.

We finally went inside to get ready for school and as my daughters ate granola bars and my son dumped peanuts from the jar to a bowl and back again for some reason, I realized, no matter what I may be missing in my own genes, I have my children. I have my wife. We have a house and food, jobs, cars, our vision and hearing and health. We have hope for the future and a contented complacency in the present.

I may be a defective man, I realized, but I’m perfectly OK with that. Thank you, Orion. Thank you for speaking to me simply by sitting in the morning sky. I mentally unshake my fist at you, you big celestial dude, you.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…step outside in the dark now and then and let the stars speak to you. You never know what they might say.

A don’t…forget what you do have when you’re bummed out by what you don’t have. What you do have is probably pretty great. You might just need to take a few quiet minutes to realize it.


The Venting: Some Illogical Ranting and Raving Inspired by Inconsequential Inconveniences

If you’d care to read on, I’d like to rant and rave wildly about a few things I find mildly irritating.

Let’s start with the two lane drive-thru and the myth that it is faster. The speed of this is a mere illusion. Yes, the lines seem shorter because they bifurcate but there is still only one window. Therefore, even though you may get to place your order faster you’ll still be stuck in the “it’s my turn why are they cutting me off I’m gonna nose in front of them and hope I don’t mash my car I know I finished ordering before them why are they so rude?” bottleneck. And then there’s the “cars are moving through faster than usual because we have two lines converging into one meaning double the orders in the same amount of time so most people are going to have to park and wait anyway” bottleneck. I just don’t get it. One line is just as slow. Two lines need two windows. Just a thought. It really doesn’t matter.

Next, how about the fact that Halloween is still nearly a month out and yet most stores have given valuable seasonal shelf space away to Christmas already? I wasn’t done shopping for Halloween. It isn’t selfish to demand that we finish one season before proceeding to the next is it? I don’t want to feel haunty and cheery at the same time. It ruins both seasons for me. I suppose I could just do a mash-up and craft some rabid reindeer pulling a zombie Santa in a coffin sleigh with fake-blood fountains spewing from the exhaust pipes. But then I’d feel I was ripping off a popular Halloween-Christmas movie mash-up I’m sure you’re familiar with. Oh well. So much for originality. Boo to early Christmas. If you love Christmas (I do too, but not when it detracts from Halloween) thanks for reading on anyway.

Finally, silly texting while driving deterrents. The science behind the danger involves driver distraction. I guess, then, it only makes sense to distract people from texting and driving by littering the highways with flashing billboards shining quirky mantras about the dangers of distracted driving straight into the “let’s forget what we’re doing and look at the shiny thing” centers of drivers’ brains. Granted, it is a momentary distraction and not a “Gotta-let-the-significant-other-know-about-that funny-slogan-I just-read-right-this-instant” temptation sitting right in the lap or center console. But have you ever been behind someone who suddenly screeched to a near stop to get a better look at something? I think those signs are just as dangerous as the act of texting while driving. Ultimately it comes down to personal responsibility and consideration for the safety of others.  No flashing, distractive sign can instill that. If it wouldn’t further contribute to the problem I’m ranting against I’d print and sell a bunch of bumper stickers that say things like “Quit reading my bumper sticker and drive!” or “I was involved in a near fatal accident because I was paying attention to the humorous slogan plastered on another drivers car instead of the road.”  That’s a good one because the print would have to be really small and drivers would have to get dangerously close  to read it. I sarcastically proclaim that we can only fix the problem by first making it worse. Envision a man shaking his fist at the sky as he stands on a hill overlooking a highway awash in the glow of flashy signs begging people to watch the road and not the signs. And then, as the crashes pile up, clogging the roadway and causing further collisions, picture him laughing maniacally as lightning flashes around him. Probably he drools a little bit. Perhaps he falls to his knees at some point.

I now concede my soap box. Feel free to climb on up and shake your own fist if you’d like.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…forgive my sarcasm and negativity. Ranting and raving is a hobby of mine and I enjoy doing it at the slightest provocation.

A don’t…text and drive, drink and drive, read bumper stickers and drive, read billboards and road signs (other than the ones that advise you of road conditions and traffic rules, of course) and drive, or read this blog post and drive. Just drive. If not for your own safety, do it for the safety of your fellow man


Stay At Home Dogs and Their Mysterious Owners; A Query of the Canine Mind

If you are reading this as a non-dog-owner or as the owner of a dog that isn’t horrified of literally everything, you may not understand the idea that I’m about to present. Allow me to set the stage a little bit for those of you that fall into the aforementioned categories.

I have a very large and stubborn dog. She won’t go anywhere she doesn’t want to go. She is a big weenie. If there’s a broom propped against the wall she won’t walk past it. She’s literally horrified of everything, as I mentioned earlier. When she gets scared her stomach becomes nervous and she can flatulate her way to a house or car free of humans. She’s been on only one car ride with my wife and I. I had to lift her into the car and if it hadn’t been for a random set of earplugs in the glove box that I was able to cram into my nostrils I’m sure I’d have driven off the highway and killed us all.  For these reasons and despite the facts that I love my dog very much and would love to take her to town with us, she’s never been in our car since the day we picked her up. She is a stayin’ home kind of dog.

And there you have a set stage. A whole paragraph just to say “My dog don’t go nowhere.” I’ll now proceed with my thought as I cringe at the triple negative I just committed.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 A.M. and went to the well known 24 hour grocery and goods chain that every town seems to have. I had to get my daughter an apple for school. When I got home my dog greeted me at the door, tail wagging so wildly that her back half reminded me of a derailed train where the rear cars are off  the tracks but still desperately trying to follow the locomotive. She sniffed excitedly at the small bag in my hand and looked up at me with, what seemed to me, an expression of wonder. I had an epiphany. I had a thought I’ve never had before.

Perhaps with the kids still in bed and nothing too stressful looming on my immediate horizon my brain was free to entertain more idle thoughts than it can after a day full of cares, but I realized that, to my dog who never leaves her own house or yard, I’m a mysterious adventurer who travels to realms she’s never dreamed of and returns with things that, sometimes, she’s never seen or smelled before.

That’s an interesting idea to have, but it is also depressing. All this time I thought she was excited to see me because she loves and missed me. Maybe this isn’t the case at all. Maybe she’s just excited to smell the exotic smells that hitchhike home on my clothes and exude from the bags of wonders I sometimes carry with me.

If you are a person who takes their dog with them everywhere and your dog still greets you enthusiastically when you get home from work, I think you can rest easy knowing it is truly you your dog is happy to see. For me, however, I must be content with the thought that my dog is in complete awe of me. Sadly, I’ll never be sure if me dog even loves me. But, to at least one mind in the universe I’m a superhero who travels to strange places and returns smelling of the unknown, sometimes with armloads of alien artifacts.

You’d think she’d be more apt to obey such an individual, but we can’t have everything, can we?

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…think before you take your dog anywhere. Ask yourself “Do I want to spend time with my friend or be a mysterious adventurer to him/her” It’s a tough choice if you have a dog that even allows you to make such a choice.

A don’t…let your status as dog hero go to your head. It’s possible that dogs greet us out of instinct and have no care at all for who we are and where we’ve been.


The Aliens’ Conundrum

Bruz Pequine (a very rough approximation of his true name) squirmed into his skin-tight flight suit and zipped it from crotch to clavicle. The zipper faded into the metallic fabric and Bruz made his way to Bay {%} (a very rough approximation of the bay’s true number). Foot traffic in the hallways was light, Bruz’s mission being the only one scheduled this particular cycle. The only other being he encountered on the way to his ship was Braz (rough approximation) his co-pilot. They thought a few general pleasantries in one another’s directions as their paths crossed and continued on to the bay in the comfortable silence familiar to consistent comrades.
Upon reaching the ship (the name of which I dare not even attempt to approximate) they found that they were not first to arrive. Brez (approximately) was waiting at the foot of the ramp and although his slit mouth was incapable of smiling, Bruz and Braz understood Brez to be quite excited. He tilted his bulbous head in their direction and indicated a barely-contained desire to dash up the ramp and into the ship to begin his first mission. Bruz, being the boss, projected thoughts we might roughly equate with rolling one’s eyes at Braz. To Brez he indicated, quite professionally, that entering the ship before the rest of the crew arrived would be most impossible due to the security constrictions on the evening’s endeavor that required the presence one Captain, one Co-pilot, one Scientist/Psychologist and one Trainee before the door at the top of the ramp would open to admit anyone.
So they stood in a silence that was now a little uncomfortable as they awaited the arrival of Briz (the true name of the mission’s Scientist/Psychologist). When the final crew member finally deigned to arrive the four crewmen (sort of) made their way to their duty stations and prepared the ship for departure. Brez stood on the bridge between Bruz and Braz, watching intently until the bay doors opened and the ship swept out into space. Brez’s attention turned to the vast panorama of dark nothing dotted by stars. His mind was overcome with awe, not only at the view but also at the fact that he had lived his whole life in the midst of this without ever having been out to view it. He transmitted these ideas to his crew-mates who responded with polite if slightly cynical generalities to Brez and, privately to one another, more of the thoughts we equate to eye rolling. Brez was quite content staring off into space and he did so until the glow on the horizon began to curve upward before the view port.
He looked at his captain who sent him an affirmative thought and when Brez turned his eyes again to the view port the convex haze had become a blue sphere splotted with green-brown patches topped with intermittent gauzy, white swirls. There were some mild rumblings and a bit of a shimmy as the ship passed into the atmosphere and when these had died down Brez indicated that he’d like to know where on Earth their mission was going to take place. Bruz and Braz conferred privately, excluding Briz who wouldn’t care either way as long as a being soon lay on his exam table, and when they had reached an agreement they sent to Brez images of Las Vegas.

I have taken the liberty of transcribing the following conversations, which were originally transmitted mentally from being to being as visual ideas, into the rough plain English approximations. The conversations are presented as if they had been verbally spoken. This has been done to avoid confusion and so that I can quit typing things like “they sent to one another thoughts equivalent to derision.” Typing such things makes me feel like an idiot.

Brez: “Las Vegas? Why Vegas?”

Bruz: “Trust us! If you’ve never seen the commotion that ensues when we let people see our ships, you’re in for a real treat!”
Brez: “I trust you, of course, but isn’t Vegas rather close to their Area 51?”
Braz: “Yeah, so?”
Brez: “Well, aren’t they used to seeing weird things in the sky?”
Bruz: “The natives would be immune to wondering, perhaps, but previous missions have shown that there are very few natives of Las Vegas. This place is overrun with drunks from out of town. Vegas sightings are the best sightings.”
Brez: “Drunks?”
Bruz: “Does Broz (you get the idea) not teach this anymore? They feed fruit and sugar to certain enzymes and ingest the resulting flatulence. This causes them to become extremely excitable and unpredictable. Drunk, as they call it. It’s what they call a sport. And Vegas is one of their favorite fields for practicing this sport. So we buzz in fairly low and run the radiation shield. When they notice the glow they film it with their poor quality recording devices. They make exclamations of disbelief. They call out to others and soon large crowds amass in the streets causing uproarious disruption to their transit systems. Some fall prostrate. Some cry. The true beauty of our technique becomes apparent the following morning. They usually fail to monitor their intake of the enzyme’s excrements. This causes them to awaken nauseated with aching heads. Their memories are affected. In this state they fail to remember that our vessel did not actually zig and zag and so when they view their recordings the instability of their cameras due to their drunken inability to hold them still is generally regarded as our craft maneuvering in a way that is beyond the capabilities of their aircraft. It contributes to their belief and in turn causes greater hysteria the next time we do our thing.”
Brez: “I suppose it also helps that most of them are from elsewhere. In addition, a metropolis known for the “drinking” must have multiple ways of disposing of those who aren’t careful. Does this draw suspicions away from us when one goes missing?”
Braz: “It certainly does. Perhaps you, Brez, have the necessary mindset to work in this field. Now, let us focus on the mission. As we go in to hover, notice the large congregations on the roadsides.”
Brez: “Um, Gentlemen, surely we have miscalculated our coordinates.”
Bruz: “No, we are in the right place. No other place on Earth has so many such buildings in such proximity. But I see your confusion. There are no beings.”
Briz (arriving on the bridge from the onboard medical facilities where he prefers to spend his time): “No beings? Preposterous! There are currently over six billion of the beings we are most interested in inhabiting the planet.”
Bruz: “He’s right, Briz. I don’t perceive a single one.”
Braz: “Nor do I, now that it’s brought to my attention.”
Brez: “I see one. There, it just darted across that street. It’s in the shadows there by that large receptacle. I don’t perceive it only visually.”
Bruz: “Got it. There’s some interference. Braz, come in a little lower and run the radiation shield. Let’s see how it responds.”
Braz: “It’s approaching! I hardly dared anticipate this. The most frequent response when we approach this close is fear, Brez. Especially when the subject is isolated from other beings. Quickly, let’s get it onboard.”

After much use of technology that I don’t personally understand, the being is brought aboard the ship with Bruz and Braz and Brez and Briz, all of whom were taught by Broz. He is restrained to a gurney sort of table. The following conversation takes place between the being “Bob” and his captors.

Bob: “All that’s left are freaks! All that’s left are freaks! All thats left are freaks!”
Briz: “I beg pardon, but I’ve no idea what you mean.”
Bob: “You’re a freak. They’re freaks. What happened to you guys? Am I the only normal person left?”
Briz: “Again, I don’t understand. It seems you think we are beings such as yourself in a mutated or mutilated state. Is this what you believe?”
Bob: “…yes…”
Bob: “You’re right. That’s silly. I’m sorry. Its just that I haven’t seen anyone for months. How long have you guys been looking for others? How do you keep this chopper fueled? And for crying out loud what happened to your faces?”
Brez: “…um…”
Briz: “Quiet your emissions, novice. Bob, you say you haven’t seen anyone for months?”
Bob: “Yeah.”
Briz: “Why?”
Bob: “Well, I’m starting to think I’m the last person left on the planet.”
Briz: “Preposterous! We would’ve known if something catastrophic enough to wipe out nearly an entire species occured! Return him to his…whatever he was doing. We need to report back immediately!”
Bob: “Return me! No! No! Aww, come on guys! I’m so lonely. Come with me. We’ll scrounge the buffets or crack open the slot machines, it’ll be fun I promise just please don’t leave me alo…”
“…ne!” Bob finished his sentence as the ship whose name none on Earth can pronounce vanished spectacularly into the clouds. “Never seen a chopper do that.” He muttered distractedly as he kicked a ravenous rat from his ankle. He sneezed twice and meandered in the general direction of the nearest buffet, to busy dreaming the daydreams of the lonely and stranded to notice that his watch was curiously out of synch with the watch he’d just stepped on.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…pray (if you’re a praying person) for Bob.

A don’t…forget to check back for more misadventures with Bob and the aliens who’ve managed to abduct the last living human being.


Perhaps Sasquatch Misunderstands Us More So Than We Him

I’ve had a fascination with Sasquatch/Bigfoot/Skunk-Ape type creatures ever since I read a book about them in third grade. That book left me a horrified mass of slimy flesh quivering under a blanket unable to sleep. I wasn’t even able to roll over because I was convinced that Bigfoot’s big face would be right there at the window waiting for me to roll over so he could, I suppose, scare me more than he already had. I realized that night how polite Bigfoot can be. He didn’t tap on the window or howl or crash through and get me. He just waited for me to roll over, which I never did because I knew he was there but somehow, unless I actually saw him, he wasn’t dangerous. Ah, to have the mind of a nine year old again…

This incident has had me thinking, subconsciously for the most part, ever since. Recently, though, I’ve had some very conscious thoughts about the creature/legend/whatever. I think what sparked it is the Bigfoot tree ornament I bought yesterday. He’s sparkly and smiling and looks rather friendly sitting on a shelf, waiting for Christmas. It just so happened that yesterday I also watched a documentary type show that followed some people on a hunt for a living creature. I was a little disappointed in it. Most of the show followed them on the trip out to Bigfoot territory, which, although not a candidate for statehood, looked every bit as wild and wooly as did Arizona Territory in the frontier days.

Upon reaching said territory, the adventurers simply drove around, stopping at any spot deemed likely by the expert in the passenger seat, to scream at Bigfoot. My wife (who is not opposed to watching Bigfoot documentaries, which raises her lovability levels much higher than the level she has already attained simply by being a wonderful wife/person/companion), and I began a dialogue about the possibility that Bigfoot was about to come out and say hi before people started screaming at him. We discussed the possibility that Bigfoot, being a creature that, at least physically, more closely resembles man than many other creatures, might also have some sort of language. Obviously, if he exists and has a language, we don’t understand it. Unfortunately no one has yet found any sort of Yeti Rosetta Stone. All we really know is that some people have heard some sounds they assume to be Bigfoot and so they replicate these in an attempt to attract Bigfoot.

Does it not then logically follow that, assuming the sounds that have been heard were actually made by Bigfoot, we could’ve misunderstood these sounds? Are we, by replicating them, annoying or offending Bigfoot into hiding? What if the sounds that I heard replicated on T.V. last night were originally made by an unfortunate Bigfoot yelling at his tramp of a wife whom he’d just caught with an Abominable Snowman? What if they came from a Bigfoot who had just been accosted by a large bear and the screams we now use to attract the Sasquatch actually mean “If you come over here I’ll kill you?” Certainly not conducive to a visit, especially if Bigfoot is the polite and kind creature I contend that he is based upon my third grade experience.

Better yet, what if the sounds we use were simply the rantings of a grumpy Bigfoot annoyed by the trespasses of some little Bigfeet? What if, when we howl at Bigfoot in the night, we are actually uttering some horrific Ape-Man insults. Like “Get your skunk smellin’ little Bigfoot butt out of my territory?”

What if we can’t find Bigfoot because we’ve mistakenly insulted him so much that he finds us unworthy of spending his time with?

Just a thought.

Maybe it is all our fault.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…continue to search for Bigfoot if you’re so inclined. It would be nice to be able to redeem our species in his eyes.

A don’t…holler things at him if you don’t know what they mean.

Happy Birthday Honey or Why Didn’t She Kill Me and How I Almost Got Us Killed; A Story in Seven Parts

Part 7

An Ending And Almost Many Endings


I’m as ready for this recounting to be over as anyone who has been following the story. Let me tell you the story of how I almost died. And almost killed my wife. And our car. And possibly a few other people. And then drove well under the limit for about twenty miles so that any witnesses would pass me and put many miles between us.

We vacated our hotel room and found the outside ambience to be quite pleasant and we took comfort in that. We were hobbits (by this I mean we were “off home”) and if we had to go back home, me to my horrible job and her to having to live with me after coming home from my horrible job, at least we could drive home under partially cloudy skies with a beautiful breeze and no rainy looking stuff on the horizon.

We encountered something much worse than weather. Our gps. Apparently it had no idea there was construction going on and every time we turned off to follow the detours it would become huffy and demand that we turn left through those orange and white barrier things they set up to prevent you turning left. Then it would recalculate and order us to U-turn or perform some other illegal traffic maneuver. If you’ve ever used a gps you’ll likely understand. It just goes to reinforce my opinion that we’ve become too dependent upon technology, but I won’t preach about that.

When we finally got out onto a highway we remembered we just shut the thing off and drove. It was a repeat of the trip out with the radio and talking and pointing out things we’d missed on the initial trip. We stopped again in the town in which we’d encountered the country roughers from the first trip post. There was an intriguing sign we’d seen for a place called Hidden Hollow and we had determined to stop on the way back. So we did. And it was all we expected. A hollow not visible from the roadway, hence the name, with a gazebo and a statue carved from a standing tree stump and winding paths that led around these things and back into a wooded area that ended in a small pool that disappeared, or perhaps exuded from, underneath a large outcropping of rock. There were several fry visible in the water and a blue dragonfly seemed to be leading us to the end of the path. It would fly ahead of us, alight upon a branch and then take off again as we got closer. Just a bit of nature that happened to coincide with our approach, surely, but in the serene surroundings it felt like a bit more than it was. The photo attached is one my wife took and I’ve long held the belief that she should sell postcards. If you agree please let me know. I know this is a lot to ask, you not knowing of more than a single piece of her work, but if you at least like this one it’ll make her day to know about it.

We stayed for fifteen minutes or so, just long enough to break up any blood clots that may have been forming during our long sit in the car, then got back in the car and were once again hobbits. The gps tried to put us on a toll road and in the midst of our trying to avoid that we somehow missed a turn and ended up taking a very very back way home. At one point we were at a stop sign and the gps said slight left onto whatever road we needed to be on. I didn’t see that the slight left was across the highway. I also didn’t see the “DO NOT ENTER” and “ONE WAY” signs. The things were fifty feet down the highway! Not right at the intersection! I didn’t see the other roadway across from it! I turned the wrong way down a one way only 65 mph highway! And didn’t notice it until my wife began screaming and pounding the dashboard. I suddenly saw the signs, which by then were quite visible, and pulled off into the median. I considered just driving through it, but that’s illegal, so I just waited out the traffic and did a U-turn and performed the actions described in the first paragraph. I was paranoid the rest of the way home that the Highway Patrol was tracking me from town to town. I perspired from my arm pits the rest of the trip and again almost killed my wife with the foul odor of stress sweat.

Thankfully we made it home, alive and well-ish and our dogs were quite happy and so far we’ve lived happily ever after.

I bid you Adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…let me know if you like my wife’s picture.

A don’t…tell the Highway Patrol that it was me.

Happy Birthday Honey or Why Didn’t She Kill Me and How I Almost Got US Killed; A Story In Seven Parts

Part 6

The Food

There are two facts about our trip to Wichita that compete rather closely with each other for the title of “My Favorite Wichita Fact”. The first, and borderline winner, is the fact that my wife didn’t kill me over the sewer grate. See previous post if this confuses you. The second, which logically shouldn’t even come close to beating out the fact that I left Wichita alive, is the fact that Wichita has many well-staffed non-chain eateries. I do subscribe to the philosophy that good food is equal to happiness and contentment. Or at least that good food contributes much to those aforementioned qualities, thereby giving my surviving the trip a run for its money as my favorite fact. After all, what good is surviving if you aren’t pursuing happiness?

Enough of all that, though. On to the good stuff. My wife and I made a pact that we would eat at no national chain during our weekend away. We did break this vow twice. Shame on us, surely, but there were times we stuck to the pact so spectacularly that it cancels out our betrayal of our own selves.

First there was TJ’s Burger House. We stopped there after attempting to try a ramen joint in the older part of town. Our efforts to procure Asian soup were foiled by the joint’s apparent popularity and lack of parking.  Good for them, I suppose, but not so good for us. Or so we thought. When we found a spot in front of TJ’s we decided it was a universal indicator that we should patronize the place. We did. We are happy we did. The dining room was quite roomy and the grumpy waitress wasn’t really as grumpy as she seemed. She was a bit gruff when we arrived, but we came to realize that, though outwardly she seemed dour and downtrodden, she was quick to laugh and very polite. I did appreciate the fact that she wasn’t overly friendly. I also appreciated that she brought me a very good burger. Not the best I’ve ever had but very very far from the worst. It was well cooked and tasty.

We  broke our pact that evening and had Pizza Hut delivered. Also a good choice even if it did deprive us of a locally-owned dinner.

Breakfast on Saturday happened at Jimmy’s Diner.  The waitresses wore poodle skirts and bows in their hair. The chicken fried steak was the best I’ve ever had and chicken fried steak is my go-to breakfast diner choice. The grits were of a good quality and, unlike the canister of grits in my cupboard, you could tell by taste that Jimmy’s grits were made from corn.

Lunch after the zoo (the one with the offensive chimps and violent fowl from a previous post) took place at Da Cajun Shak. This was the only place we had specifically planned on visiting when we planned the trip. As at TJ’s the waiter seemed a little gruff at first. Upon interacting with him further we realized that not only was he actually Cajun and concerned with providing great service, he was extremely friendly. The menu had many interesting options. I finally settled for the fried gator po’boy. I live by the saying “When in doubt, have a sandwich.” A weak saying at best, but that afternoon it proved its validity. The sandwich was nothing but bits of breaded and fried alligator on a roll of some sort with a sauce of some spicy/creamy sort on the side. I ate the whole thing without the sauce and I didn’t feel like anything was missing. My wife had chicken Lafayette. A much more complex dish and almost as amazing as the sandwich I had.

We had national pizza chain leftovers for dinner that night. Good, but still national chain.

We slept in on the last day of our trip and by the time we had checked out of the hotel, it was brunchish/lunchish time. We agreed to just head for home and stop if we saw something that looked good. We spent nearly an hour following our gps through switchbacks and u-turns and hadn’t even gotten past the Wichita suburbs when we saw a place called Spangles. It was a local chain 50’s themed diner/café type thing. I ordered a gyro, my wife some chicken sandwich. We sat before a life-sized Elvis effigy that appeared both mid-hip-gyration and mid-croon. Soon a team member advised me there was no gyro sauce within a 15 mile radius. A gyro without tzatziki is merely a beef or lamb roll-up, so I instead had a burger, which I think was the better choice anyway. I offer my thanks to that particular branch for being out of sauce that day. I left them what I hope they understood to be a very nice comment card and we went home to a land of food that we know and therefore, though they are good, they don’t feel so adventurous.

I bid you Adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…visit any of the places I’ve described if you visit, or live under a rock in, Wichita. They were all worth it.

A don’t…forget about the ramen joint. If you ever happen to find a way to get in the door, I’d like to know how it was.