There is a billion-dollar lottery out there. Be prepared to win!

It’s Powerball Fever. Well, I don’t know if I’d call it that. I’m not running a temperature. But that’s what lazy local TV stations do to avoid some kind of in-depth piece that might actually report some news. I suppose one fact is often touched by these attempts to cover an interesting portion of a large, multicultural social event. That is the fact that people, lots and lots of people daydream.

You never hear this in a story about a large lottery jackpot, not even from CNN or Fox News:

TV Person: “What would you do if you won that big pot tonight?”

Geek on the Street: “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I don’t know why I even bought it!”

Pants, severely, on fire.

No one buys a lottery ticket without a plan in the 1-in-292, 201,338 chance — those are the odds for a grand prize printed on my two $3-Powerball tickets I purchased — that they will instantly win more money than they likely have sense.

I have given good thought to this over the years. That is mainly because I have never been more than lower middle class. Of course, the IRS or VA will think you are right up there with Mr. Buffett. That’s either Warren or Jimmy.

TV Reporter: “Would you quit your job if you won?”

Geekette: “Uh, probably not. I like working where I am, stocking shelves and sweeping floors, and cleaning up baby doo.”

Please! Give me a gun, Texan! That person is definitely too stupid to live.

If you want to know my opinion — I accept Pay Pal — I feel it would be terribly irresponsible for one not to daydream a little bit. At least have a general plan if you win the lottery. Hell’s bells I have had enough time and plenty of big jackpots to think about it.

Of course, some of the media are trying to rain on our pre-lottery winnings parade with some of their stories. For instance, there is a number that has been used in the media quite extensively that says 70 percent of lottery winners end up broke. The figure comes from the National Endowment for Financial Education. I tried to find a story with that figure on their website, and was unable to do so, even though it was a pretty cursory search. And it seems as if these folks know what they are talking about. I just kind of wonder how they compiled that research. I think that would be fairly interesting. Of course, I’m a geek too.

In speaking with a few knowledgeable people, some of whom either won a lottery jackpot or have advised such winners, I have a very rudimentary plan if I wake up on Thursday only to discover that Hell has frozen over and those released from Hell will have all the ice water they can drink forever. The ice water will be flown into varied strategic spots by the United Nation’s Pig Force — no, not police cops, I’m talking pigs, four legs, big snouts, and wings. And to know that I must have won the jackpot, I will see upon opening my door to the morning sun, a sky covered in rainbows that are periodically s**t out of unicorn asses. Here is my plan.

  1. Take a day of sick leave.
  2. Have a couple of cups of coffee while continuously  and obsessively running the numbers over the “Check Your Numbers” page on the Texas Lottery Website.
  3. Once I am convinced I won this s***load of money, I will try to contact an accountant I know who had advised a jackpot winner. My acquaintance said to NEVER hire an accountant who wants a percentage of your jackpot as a fee. Find someone you trust.
  4. Hire a lawyer who specializes in financial matters. Make sure you run his background and that the attorney has good references.
  5. If the lawyer knows of a good financial adviser or one is recommended to you, take that professional into the flock.

Whatever you do, no matter how much you want to get your hands on that check, or its facsimile, take your time to assemble a trustworthy and savvy team. And you should have already placed a winning ticket in a safe deposit box after making a copy of the ticket. There is a certain period of time for claiming a winning ticket. I have no idea where you have to go to get your money, probably Austin. It certainly won’t be at Azmud’s Fast-R-Mart.

I would set a date for claiming the money and have my team concur. There would be a lot of matters that need attention. You need to figure out what in Sam Hill are you going to do with all that money. Feed the world, yeah, nice try.

I wouldn’t mind a house or two with some acreage in a scenic spot. Buy a couple of vehicles that I might need for a year or two. Investing? That is something that would really make me nervous. I don’t mind spending a dollar or two for the lottery or to win a shotgun from some local volunteer fire department trying to raise some bucks. I would even buy a fire truck for some needy department. All the while you are thinking of where this money might go — an extensive tour of Europe is okay — just giving away money to a relative or a friend outright might not be such a good move. It all depends on taxes. You can bet I’d find a way to help people, especially my friends and family. I’d just have to be wise about.

As for the job, well I will come up with some kind of story. Like, I’m going away for a while. I don’t know when I will be back. Don’t hold my job for me.

Seriously, we are talking about a big freaking amount of money, and not if just one person wins. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see quite a few hitting the big pinata. Even more players are likely to hit “smaller” million-dollar

Yeah, I know the kind of crib I want along with furniture and infotainment system. Haven’t figured out the colors yet.

Good Damn Luck! You’re going to need it.


How’d you like your eggs, hon? With waffles.

During my visit to the Mississippi coast last week, I was taken aback by the number of Waffle Houses I spotted.

If you’ve ever been down South you probably recognize Waffle Houses by their bright yellow color and big picture windows. While they are open 24/7, the zero hour for them is whatever closing time is in their area. Since there are a dozen or more casinos on the coast that are back up and running since Hurricane Katrina, the diners are probably hopping at least some time throughout the day.

Many Waffle House diners are a favorite for those seeking “drunk food.” Some say eating a greasy early breakfast after an evening of drinking helps “soak up” the alcohol. I doubt that is the case but eating and drinking coffee helps make one a well-fed and wide-awake drunk.

I don’t know what the alcohol sales laws are in Mississippi these days. Back when I was stationed at the Navy Seabee base in Gulfport during the late 1970s, the general statute was that one must be 18 or older to buy beer and wine, and age 21 and up to buy liquor. I am sure that has changed as for age, but I don’t know about the hours legal for consumption. I remember drinking beer at sunrise in the bar where my late friend Betti worked. That is kind of like Louisiana laws where, at least in my younger days, one must only show that they were alive.

Map through Creative Commons. Copyright By Nik Freeman
Map through Creative Commons. Copyright By Nik Freeman

Waffle Houses are more than just a “Southern thing” or curiosity. Since they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the stores serve as a gauge for FEMA during disasters. If Waffle House is closed, things have got to be bad.

I came across this map by a geographer named Nik Freeman that shows Waffle Houses by density in “quads,” or quadrants, on U.S. Geological Survey maps. This information is run here courtesy of Mr. Freeman through Creative Commons. Freeman was able to figure where the most Waffle Houses were located. The top 21 quads showed the Atlanta area with 132, Fort Worth was fifth with 25, and the lower end of the top 21 was a tie with Raleigh, N.C., Little Rock, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pensacola all with 16 Waffle Houses each.

Although this information was compiled in 2012, the data helps show that I was not imagining Waffle Houses were everywhere in the Gulfport, Biloxi area. As a matter of fact the Gulf Coast from Gulfport to Pensacola (via Alabama) contained a whopping 86 Waffle Houses over a width of only about 100 miles. If you go “down South jukin’ and lookin’ for a peace of mind,” as Lynyrd Skynyrd suggested, at least you’ll find waffles and eggs cooked to order. You will also find some nice waitress who will call you, “hon.”

Whether you are jukin’ or just drunken head to the Gulf Coast and find the nearest Waffle House. You’ll have no trouble finding one.


Listicles for itchy feets

Spring on the Gulf Coast is a time that is hard to beat. When I say Gulf Coast, I mean the area that extends from the “ArkLaTex” to the Florida Panhandle. It is a grand time of the year although it always leaves me with a case of “itchy feet.”

My feet, figuratively speaking, have developed that old get-up-and-go-somewhere feeling even more this year since, literally speaking, my feet have held me back from doing much of anything.

At last report, my podiatrist said I should go through about two more weeks of taking it easy on my tootsies, or should I say tootsie. My hammertoe surgery was performed about three weeks ago and yesterday was the first time I could even remove my foot from bandaging and take a shower. It, the shower, was “mahhvelous,” as Billy Crystal would say while performing as Fernando Lamas on “Saturday Night Live.” The toe doesn’t look very well, but that is only because stitches were only removed from both top and bottom of the toe.

I have been pretty much cooped up recently, that is hopefully ending in another week. One might observe that by reading my previous blather. My Union’s steward training at the end of July is in Albuquerque. It will be nice to get out and get away, despite that our training tends to get rather lengthy. And after reading about the Albuquerque police and its brutal ways, I might just stay to myself in my hotel room after training.

All this said, I have some places I have wanted to visit for R & R but couldn’t for one reason or the other, mostly a lack of funds. With that in mind I began thinking of the various places I have been after listening to sports talk radio hosts who were making a listicle of their favorite “Sports Towns.” With that in mind I shall make my own listicles of favorite places I have been to help prod my sad and itchy feet into happy and (non-itchy?) feet. Some of these places I visited 35-to- 40 years ago so for sure they will have undergone change. But as with gifts, it — supposedly — is the thought that counts.


1. Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

2. Perth, Western Australia

3. Auckland, New Zealand

4. Taipei, Taiwan

5. Devonport, Tasmania, Australia

TOP FIVE MAJOR UNITED STATES CITIES (More than 1 million people)

1. San Antonio, Texas

2. San Diego, California

3. Los Angeles, California

4. Dallas, Texas

5. Houston, Texas

TOP FIVE LARGE U.S. CITIES (From 500,000 to 1,000,000 people)

1. Denver, Colorado

2. Austin, Texas

3. Washington, D.C.

4. El Paso, Texas

5. Fort Worth, Texas

TOP FIVE MEDIUM-LARGE U.S. CITIES (100,000 to 500,000 people)

1. New Orleans,  La.

2. Gulfport- Biloxi, Miss.

3. St. Louis, Mo.

4. Little Rock, Ark.

5. Las Cruces, N.M.

THE REST OF THE BEST (Less than 100,000 people, for various reasons. U.S. and Territories.)

1. Nacogdoches, Texas

2. San Marcos, Texas

3. Hattiesburg, Miss.

4. Santa Barbara, Calif.

5. Estes Park, Colo.

6. Ruidoso N.M.

7. Lake Charles, La.

8. Mobile, Ala.

9. Stockbridge, Mass.

10. Albany, N.Y.

11. Milwaukee, Wisc.

12. Big Sur, Calif.

13. Agana, Guam

14. Surfside, Texas

15. Sabine Pass, Texas

16. Newton, Texas

17. Maydelle, Texas

18. Llano, Texas

19. Wimberley, Texas

20. Lajitas, Texas

*Just as larger cities are ranked more as sentimental favorites, places that I just like, and cool spots on the map, the 20 listed above are not ranked and are merely listed and enumerated.


The Trans-Louisiana express: Unearthing friendliness in the Pelican State

Wednesday saw me take what might be called a “whirlwind trip” to Louisiana. I had to do safety inspections in Lafayette and Alexandria, then drive back home to Beaumont in the same day. It has been awhile since I covered that much ground. My best guess is that I drove about 300 miles. I’ve not had time to study the odometer readings I had to write down for my work vehicle.

The sun was rising above all the huge petrochemical pipe towers when I neared Lake Charles. A perfectly clear morning. It was even more a spectacular sight when summiting the Interstate 10 bridge over the Calcasieu River.

It was on that same trek to Lafayette that I found myself being serenaded by the fiddles and accordion as well as the soulful sounds of Cajun French lyrics. Although I live in what is called “Cajun Texas” this area I found myself in is the real Boudreaux. The station, KBON 101.1 FM in Eunice, La., is a channel I have listened to many times on the internet and somehow just forgot about it.

The two-step Cajun music, as well as a little Clifton Chenier zydeco thrown in, recalled my younger days when I would drive from my Navy base in Gulfport, Miss., maybe once a month or every couple of months to my Texas hometown near Louisiana border. Rather than from this side of Lafayette, I would pick up a station after traveling through Baton Rouge and the long bridges on I-10 of the Atchafalya Basin. I don’t know if it was the same station or call letters. Back then I only had an AM radio in my car. Not only would I heard the music of Acadien but some of the lesser-known songs of “hippy” music, the kind of B-sides or album cuts you hear when someone puts the record on, but aren’t the more popular tunes. Either way: “Looka!” I done found myself in the land of Ca-juns!

I made my first trip to downtown Alexandria. It was pretty underwhelming from the area in which I saw it. It’s not as bleak as our county neighbor Port Ar-ture (Port Arthur, Texas), but at least from the view presented from I-49 Alexandria definitely lacked curb appeal.

The trip home was a bit confusing to say the least. I intended to take U.S. Hwy. 165, which would bring me back to I-10 in Iowa (La.) and not a long trip from Iowa back to Lake Charles and the Texas line. But I didn’t see any signs, for some reason, for Hwy. 165. I did see ones for U.S. 167, so that was the road I took. I eventually came to this nice-sized eatery and grocery store that had the look of the famous Buc-ee’s with the cleanest restrooms in Texas. Or so they say. I figured, why not stop, especially since the name of the place is “Y-Not Stop.”

This place was more like Buc-ees than I had imagined. It even had clean restrooms and a couple of terminals in the restaurant from which you could place your order, extract a ticket and sit down. They would call your name and you could pay or you could pay and they would still call your name. That’s not to say it was a knock-off of Buc-ee’s. It just had some similarities.

While waiting I looked at the map function on both smart phones I had with me — a Blackberry from work and an iPhone that is my personal cell — for a road to take me home. My preference was finding Hwy. 165. Both phones proved useless, mainly because the hair-trigger screens are a nightmare for a person with tremors in his hand.

I finally resorted to the old-fashioned way of navigation. I asked for directions.

First I asked a guy sitting across from me. He wasn’t from the area but he did his best. By then I had received a catfish sandwich with a fried filet halved and placed on a wheat bun with the dressings I ordered. I knew I shouldn’t but I also ordered their onion rings. Oh my, they were lightly crusted with a light-brown look and it felt like eating, well, a ring of onion, only one with a light crust of corn meal, flour and whatever secret seasoning that was concocted for this delight.

Before finishing, this big ol,’ good ol’ boy came walking undoubtedly on his way out.

“You need directions to Highway 167? I grew up around here.”

I told him I did. He told me to go down “this road take a right, go over the bridge, you’ll cross under I-49 and you’ll come to  167 in Woodworth.”

Woodworth rang a bell. I had asked directions of the people I met in both Alex and Lafayette. They told me about Woodworth and told me to watch my speed because the place was a speed trap.

“And,” said the good ol’ boy, “Watch your speed when you come to Woodworth.”

I was doubtful about the directions because it put me on a narrow, paved road. The road crossed a wood bridge and it snaked around what looked like a river or bayou that mirrors the larger Red River nearby. This was a reddish-clay type water body and that same redness coated leaves lying about the previously flooded areas. It reminded me of the area around Nacogdoches, TX, where I spent many younger and semi-younger days. Eventually, I crossed under I-49 and came to the town of Woodworth. I saw the speed limit of 35 mph, so I set my cruise control to 30. I finally got out on Hwy. 165, still going 30 for quiet a ways. Good thing, because I saw a couple of police cars had someone pulled over. After awhile I came through the casino town of Kinder, home to the Coushatta Indian casino, then knew I had only an hour or so before getting home.

It was quite an interesting day, despite having a continued bout with a bum knee. I have no idea what’s wrong with it. I am waiting to hear from a specialist about an appointment. I thought about how Texas had the motto: “Friendship.” It was apparently from the days the Caddo roamed the then-virgin pine forests of East Texas. I always liked to think Texas had the friendliest people in the country. It might not seem so these days with our opportunistic Gov. Good Hair, folks like the jackass freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the assortment of nuts that make up the Tea Party arm of the GOP in the Texas and U.S. legislatures.

But I had to say, for today at least, our neighbors to the east can be pretty worthy of that “friendship” motto. Thanks to my Louisiana friends.





Boys will be bullies. And, what does Gary Kubiak have in common with Larry Dierker?

Over the past several years I have become somewhat of a listener to “sports-talk” radio. For those unfamiliar with term it literally “is what it is.”

The sports-talk listener fits a certain demographic insofar as it is used for audience and sales revenue purposes. Yet the listener, the typical one at least, is not a guy like me. Who is me am I? Unfortunately, we don’t have the time to discuss that.

Many people who tune to sports radio are hard-core sports fan. They are fans of men’s sports and mainly team sports. One will hardly hear a story or talk about women’s sports unless there happens to be a sex angle involved. Apparently, some listeners also like to gamble on sports. A lot of discussion is often heard about the “line” and the “over and under.”

So you probably know where I am headed with respect to the huge story about Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito. The veteran and Pro Bowler is in the center of a controversy with another player, Jonathan Martin. Incognito has been accused of leaving phone messages using racial slurs and threatening Martin.

Martin left the Dolphins, saying he had enough of the hazing-gone-wild in the Miami locker room. Incognito has been suspended. Many hard core sports fans and some players say boys will be boys.

Some forms of hazing is prevalent in NFL locker rooms and only rises to a mild form such as rookies carrying shoulder pads or getting drinks for the veterans. As one who has worked in several all-male environments — naval ships before women were allowed and likewise for firefighting — the presence of some meager forms of hazing wasn’t a real surprise. I only experienced such behavior during my ship’s crossing the equator ceremony. Some sailors fresh from boot camp, at least during my time, may have found themselves scurrying off to find some ridiculous item ordered by a more senior enlisted. For instance, hunting for “relative bearing grease” or waiting for the “mail buoy.” I was never exposed to such, nor knew much of it happening on my ship. I would only venture to guess why was perhaps that I came onboard as petty officer with almost three years of service. Likewise, I heard of some tepid hazing shenanigans occurring “back in the day”  as a firefighter but never experienced the like.

I was bullied by several fellow students during some of my school years. One little bastard used to act if he was going to hit me with his small car while I was walking home. I also received verbal abuse from several people. The only actual violence was when a kid in junior high punched me in the nose for no reason. I can’t remember any particular reason why I was targeted, perhaps because in my late elementary through junior high days I was a fat kid. I later slimmed down and grew out my hair. Of course, I was targeted for my long hair. No one actually did anything although one girl I went out with said her dad would shoot any long-haired boy who brought her daughter home.

Now I can’t claim to know what all is happening with the Richie Incognito story. You have those who reward bullying, as long as he is a fierce competitor. Incognito is, by all accounts, a tough competitor. He is also known as one of the NFL’s dirtiest players. So we will see what happens with that story.

In good sports news, it was heartening to hear Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak went home from the Methodist Hospital (home of my first spinal surgery) after nearly collapsing on the field during halftime of Houston’s narrow loss to Baltimore. Doctors said Kubiak had a temporary ischemic attack, or TIA.

TIA, also called a mini-stroke, usually lasts a few minutes. It involves a blood clot but it normally dissolves in the body soon after it cuts off blood flow. A TIA usually does not cause brain damage. However, a TIA can be a warning sign of an impending stroke. There is no word on who will take the reins of the troubled Texans.

Kubiak was not the lone leader for a Houston professional sports team to be carted off to the hospital due to an interruption of blood flow to the brain. Houston Astros manager Larry Dierker was rushed to the hospital during the eighth inning of a game they were winning 4-1 over the San Diego Padres. Dierker, a beloved Astros pitcher and later broadcaster, suffered what doctors said was an “arteriovenous malformation.” He suffered a two-part seizure known as “Grand Mal” because a group of blood vessels to his brain tangled. Dierker recovered following surgery to remove the small clump of malformed vessels. The game was suspended until the next time the Astros played the Padres. Too bad that didn’t happen for the Texans. Of course, they might have also blown that chance as well.