Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hanging Bodies, Yankee Re-education & Security

This column originally appeared in the Smith Mountain Eagle on November 14, 2007.

Howdy, Ida B. Peevish coming at you from Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop in the heart of downtown Rock Bottom, US of A, where we’re about midway between two major eating holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving. For Halloween, it didn’t matter much what your hair looked like, but looks are important for Thanksgiving when all those relatives you haven’t seen since last year descend on your house and cast a critical eye on your housekeeping, your cooking, and your looks—specifically how much older you look than you did last year. While we can’t do much about your green bean and mushroom soup casserole or the stains on your carpet, we can get you fixed up enough that your relatives won’t insult your looks as much as they’re generally capable of. So come on down to Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop where we’re running our “Makeover to be Thankful For” special. Now lessee what we got in the mail:

Yo, Ida B. Whassup with all the violence here in the country? I mean, I moved my wife and kids out of a certain big Eastern city (initials might be N & Y) to get away from vermin and dead bodies. And what do I find here? Vermin and dead bodies! Man, like what gives?
My kids put up a bird feeder and all I see eatin’ outta it is bushy-tailed rats. I mean, city rats got naked tails, at least where we come from. Whassup with that? And the dead bodies. All over the sides of the roads. Where we come from, the bodies were in the streets and on sidewalks. (Or maybe in the East River weighted down with cinder blocks. Not that I have ever been involved with that!) At least your dead bodies have the decency to die beside the road. My kids, however, don’t like this any more than they did the city. They’re upset enough not havin’ sidewalks.

And now, Willie-Bob-Hank-Bubba next door got a dead body hanging in his front yard. Whassup with that? My kid’s all upset ‘cuz there’s this dead body bleeding all over the dirt. Gives him flashbacks to—uh, just forget I mentioned the flashbacks, OK? And it’s got horns coming out of its head. Is this some kind of demon that lives in these parts? I somehow thought the country life would be safer. You been here a while, Ida B. Whaddya think? Should we stay and get used to Willie-Bob-Hank-Bubba and his dead demonic thing? Or should we go back to the city?

And by the way, if you need “protection” in your bait and beauty racket or maybe you’re having trouble with folks not payin’ up on time, I know people. Just say the word.—S.O. Prano (new resident makin’ a new start)

Dear Soppie: Obviously you ain’t from around here. Likely it will take you a while to get used to local customs and wildlife. Fortunately Rock Bottom Community College is once again offering it’s “Yankee Re-education” class for newcomers, wherein you will learn such points of Rock Bottom etiquette as the proper finger to use when returning the Bubba wave, what you can and cannot shoot from a moving vehicle, dumpster safety after dark, when to dumpster dive and when to refrain from doing so, what to do when the well runs dry (and where to do it), how to confront loose livestock, and lots of other stuff. These classes tend to fill up fast, so you’d best enroll early. You might also want to sign up for the “Hazardous Plant and Animal Recognition” class, in which you will learn what cute little furry critters you can approach and which you ought not to get near as well as what plants not to hike through (Note: Until you pass this class, do not let your kids pet any furry little black and white animals. They are not kittens. And any plant with three leaves you do not want to get involved with.) If your wife wants to blend in with the natives, tell her to make an appointment at Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop and we’ll see what we can do. If she has a heavy accent, please let us know, so we can have a translator available.

Dear Ida B. We have moved to a really rural area of the county and I am worried about security. We can’t afford one of those fancy security systems. Do you have any ideas about how we can protect ourselves?—Worried

Dear Worried: As a matter of fact, I do. Some of my regular customers down here at Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop were just talking about this. Seems one of them got an email with suggestions to get a pair of men’s boots, size 13 or 14, and leave them on the stoop next to a copy of Guns and Ammo magazine and several very large dog dishes. Then leave a note on the door that you will be back in an hour because you are out buying more ammo and not to go inside because the dawgs attacked the mailman again and you had to pen them up in the house. Now, some of us didn’t think this would leave a strong enough message. Here’s how we improved upon the original suggestion: Duct tape cameras to trees around your property. You might alternate camera placement with “No Trespassing” signs. Also, plant poison ivy around your property. It’s pretty and green and tends to discourage trespassers, or at least it will leave its mark on people who trespass. About 25 feet in from the cameras/signs/poison ivy, put up more signs that read, “If you can read this, you’re in range.” If you have open fields or a big yard, put up signs that say, “Mine Field. Not responsible for accidents.” On your stoop, put up another sign that says, “Walk softly so you won’t wake up the rattlesnakes.” That ought to get the message across to trespassers.

Well, that’s it for this go-round. Remember, you get what you pay for, talk is cheap, and my advice is free.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Halloween, Peasants, Tattoos, Kids, & Toilet Paper

This column was originally published on Oct. 31, 2007, in the Smith Mountain Eagle.

Howdy, Ida B. Peevish coming at you from Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop in the heart of downtown Rock Bottom, US of A, where everybody is getting ready for Halloween, so they have just let themselves go and ain’t making any appointments for beauty services until after the fright season is over. When you’re sweating inside a gorilla mask for four or five hours, a new up-do is the last thing on your mind. Now lessee what we got in the mail:

Dear Ida B. Is Halloween a big deal in Rock Bottom like it is in big cities with all the parties, costumes, decorations, haunted houses, and trick-or-treating?—City Person

Dear City Slicker: Halloween is not a big deal in Rock Bottom because most Rock Bottomites do not generally get involved in anything requiring time, effort, or money. The exception, of course, is Christmas and that is only because they expect to get better presents than they give. Many Rock Bottom houses are already in various states of disrepair so they already look like haunted houses. Some might be actually haunted, but the owners do not make that fact known to potential buyers. As for costumes, residents generally find a look they like and stick with it no matter what. That is why you see so many Rock Bottom men still wearing pastel polyester leisure suits. My manicurist Honey Sue Sweetwater will not wear anything that doesn’t involve a halter-top, so this limits her choice of outfits, not that any of her regular male customers care. As for local teenagers, it is hard to tell if their purple hair, pierced body parts, and ripped clothes are actual costumes or just them trying to “find” themselves by looking funny. Members of the Rock Bottom Road Hunters Association sometimes try to pass their camo outfits off as costumes at Halloween, but many have never worn anything else so no one is convinced they in costume as a bush or a forest or whatever. Trick or treating does not go over well in Rock Bottom because too many folks have bad experiences with guys in masks demanding stuff from them. After you’ve handed over your 8-track player or your credit cards a time or two, you tend not to trust anybody knocking on your door for a handout. While there are plenty of folks out at Slick Water Lake who dress up in costumes and go to parties, what most Rock Bottomites do to celebrate Halloween is buy themselves a big sack of candy, lock their doors and turn out all the lights, and eat the whole sack themselves. This seems to work pretty good for all concerned.

Dear Ida B. A buddy of mine owns a game preserve in a remote area of the county, and he called me to come out and go hunting with him. My cell phone connection ain’t too clear, but I understood him to say we would be shooting red-neck peasants. Ain’t that illegal?—Just Checking

Dear JC: Is it possible he meant ring-necked pheasants? If so, you’re OK. However, if he is in a really remote area and he is feuding with his neighbors, you might want to decline his invitation because of possible legal implications.

Dear Ida B. At age 89 I married a young chick about 78. I don’t know too much about her, except that she lost a lot of weight before we met. She has a lot of tattoos that have gotten so saggy, I can’t tell what they say. They might be the names of former husbands. How can I find out whose names they are without coming right out and asking? She might take offense and then the honeymoon would be over. I thought about kinda stretching her skin out when she is asleep, but the problem is I fall asleep before she does.—Curious

Dear Curious: If all you got to do is wonder what your bride’s tattoos say, I would say the honeymoon is pretty much over. Especially if you’re sleeping through most of it.

Dear Ida B. I have moved down here to Slick Water Lake and really love it. However, my kids and their families stayed up north. How can I convince them to move down here? Having to drive all that way to see the grandkids is a hassle.—Jaz

Dear Jaz: You gotta be kidding, right? Most Slick Water Lakers ask me for advice on how to keep their kids from finding them. Some have even joined the witness protection program, changed their names, etc. However, if you want to attract your kids, my suggestion is offer them money. Lots of it. Few kids can resist the lure of money. If that doesn’t work, maybe you can arrange to have the grandchildren shipped to you. If they are teenagers, their parents are probably at wit’s end and would do anything to get rid of them until they’re old enough to ship off to college. Other than that, I am stumped. Maybe some of my loyal readers will write in with suggestions.

Dear Ida B. I read in the paper that toilet paper prices were rising as of January. Now I have a large family and this will affect me in a big way. Here’s how I plan to save: Every time one of the kids needs to “go,” I will tell him to go to a friend’s house and ask to use the facilities. If all six kids only go at somebody else’s house, that saves me a roll right there. What do you think of that?—Flushed with Excitement

Dear Tightwad: Not much. If you got six kids, all of them probably has a half dozen or so friends each. The parents of all those friends will likely send their kids to your house to “go.” Do the math here. Any savings you thought you might have will be down the drain.

Well, that’s it for this go-round. Remember, you get what you pay for, talk is cheap, and my advice is free.