Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall tales from Texas about characters I know and have known. Who knows, you might be one of them.

Archive for the category “Comedy”

Hey Kids! It’s Fun Being Sick


By Phil Strawn

Kids are an intelligent species. They know far more about human interaction and theatrical interpretation than their parents suspect. I can’t put a date on when this anomaly was discovered, but people with fancy degrees first noticed this behavior in the early 1950s. My neighborhood may have been ground zero for their study.

As a bunch, the kids in my neighborhood were healthy. We ate mouthfuls of dirt, sucked on pebbles, and ingested every foodstuff imaginable without washing our hands. This was perfectly acceptable to our mothers. Our young immune system was that of a caveman: we laughed at germs.

The only malady that affected us, kids, as a species, was the Monday morning tummy-throat-aching body-virus. This malady usually broke-out in early October, after a month of school and a thirty-day incubation period. It spread like wildfire through our four-block coterie, mostly affecting boys, but the girls were losing their immunity at an alarming rate.

On the second Monday in October, most of our first-grade class was infected. The symptoms were: headache, stomach ache, sore throat, and body aches. When our mothers asked how we felt, we would point at the affected area and groan, eliciting additional sympathy.

The first morning was the worst, then by noon we recovered enough to watch cartoons and eat some ice-cream, then after supper, the symptoms worsened, and mom made the call for us to stay home another day. Sleeping in was mandatory, and if we were recovered by lunchtime, we could go outside for some fresh air. This bug was known to not last more than 36 hours, tops.

Six-year-olds can’t grasp the enormity of a situation the way their parents can. As a group, we were unaware that our symptoms matched those of the dreaded Polio Virus. Our kindly school nurse, fearing the worse, calls the health department for back-up.

Two blocks away at George C. Clark Elementry, our diligent principal cancels all classes and has the entire building sanitized by a nuclear cleanup team from Carswell Air Force Base. The newspapers are on this like white on rice.

Lounging in bed eating Jell-O, and watching cartoons, my cohorts and I am unaware of our neighborhood pandemic.

Tuesday, mid-morning, a contingent of doctors and nurses from the health department, arrive to access the outbreak. They plan to visit every affected home and test every sick child. Large syringes and footlong throat swab are required.

Skipper, my stalwart best buddy, was the first to break. With two syringes sucking blood from his boney little kid arms, he sobbed and said he was faking it. Roger Glen ran screaming from his house when he saw the size of the needles, and Annie gave a signed confession. The pandemic was over.

Most of us couldn’t comfortably sit for a few days, but we were all healthy until the next school year. That’s when the Chinese Bird, Cat, and Rat Flu got us.

A Performance to Remember


Pictured here is my 17th cousin, Carmalita “Cookie” Zevon. In Texas, if we are unsure of our relations, everyone becomes a cousin. Its a big state with a large gene pool.

In the fall of 1958, the first beatnik style coffee house opened its door in Fort Worth Texas. Calling itself, “The Cellar,” I can assure you that Fort Worth did not welcome its presence or the caliber of inhabitants it attracted. Cousin Carmalita, preferred the name Cookie, was a perfect fit and secured a gig as the first waitress at the new establishment.

Being six years younger, myself and the other cousins had limited interaction during her teenage years, but I know from the sordid family stories and the “almost out of earshot whispers” that she was a real hellion of a girl.

Immersing herself in books by Kerouac and Ginsberg that glorified the new lifestyle created by the “beat generation,” Cookie began dressing in black tight-fitting clothing.

Waist-length black hair and a resemblance to a young Ava Gardner didn’t endear her to the Sandra Dee girls club at school, which resulted in a cliquish form of petulant bullying, so Cookie dropped out of Paschal High School at sixteen to live in sin with her next to worthless hoodlum boyfriend; a motorcycle riding teenage hubcap stealing thief from the north side of town. This decision resulted in her instant banishment from the family. Polled by a phone-in family vote, she was christened the “little trollop.” Her name was not to be spoken at gatherings, and her mother requested all photographs containing images of Cookie be returned to her for proper disposal by fire. Her father, unable to watch her sweet sixteen birthday present, a Ford Fairlane convertible sit abandoned in his driveway, sold it to Frank Kent for next to nothing. Rebellion was not tolerated well in the 1950s, especially in Texas, and our extended family.

The Cellar grew in popularity and crowds of the literary unwashed and self-absorbed poets made it their rightious digs. High octane coffee and bad poetry create a tolerated misery for the sake of being cool.

Cookie grew tired of the bland poetry readings from ancient books and tried her hand at writing. Engulfed in her rebellion, and possessing a heart full of childish resentment, it didn’t take long for her to dish on everyone and everything she felt had “done her wrong.” Her parents were the main course in her cauldron of teenage hate. She petitioned the clubs owner to let her perform a personal poem about her life. He agreed.

Saturday evening is reserved for the serious night dwelling “hip beats.” They convene and hold literary court to any who will listen. Mixed groups of the hairy educated gather around small tables arguing about poetry, politics, sex and the meaning of life. Old Crow adds the extra kick to the java. An occasional strange cigarette makes the rounds.

Cookie senses the time right and takes the stage cradling a cardboard box under her left arm and a large pair of sewing shears in her right hand. She sets the box on the floor next to a tall stool. Tears stream from her sad eyes, forming dark streams of running Maybelline mascara onto her peach pale cheeks. A tinsel thin string of snot drips from her left nostril resting on her upper lip catches the spotlight, bathing her face an ethereal glow. She gags a few times, composes herself and begins her poem.

Retrieving her favorite childhood doll baby from the box, she places the doll on the stool, produces a small meat-cleaver and beheads the poor toy. A gasp erupts from the crowd. Earlier, for maximum effect, she filled the doll’s plastic head with Heinz Ketchup and potted ham to simulate blood and brains. When the doll’s head is guillotined and bounces onto the table nearest the stage, the ketchup splattered patrons recoil in horror. A beautiful 8×10 glossy photo of her parents is pulled from the box and cut to shreds with the sewing shears. She produces a Girl Scout uniform and rips it to pieces, throwing the all American remnants of the uniform into the audience.

Cookie leans into the microphone, takes a drag from a Pall Mall, and in a low growl says ” I never liked dolls or toys, but you made me treat the little shits like real people. I fed them imaginary food, bathed them in imaginary water, changed their tiny poopless diapers and dressed them in stupid clothes, and for that I hate you and I cut my hair.” With that statement, she grabs a chunk of her beautiful lady Godiva length hair and removes a large portion with the sewing shears. She continues ” I didn’t want to be a Girl Scout, I wanted to be a Brownie, but no, I had to be like the other girls on our street, you know I don’t like the color blue, and for that, I hate you and I cut my hair.” Whack, another large section falls to the stage. ” you hate my boyfriend because he is a bad boy, and he is all that, but I love him and want to spend my life on the back of his ratty-ass motorcycle holding a nursing baby in each arm as we travel west to find the meaning of life.” She then whacks the left side of her hair to the scalp. The audience is on the verge of bolting, fearing her next move may be severing an artery and expiring in front of them. A voice from the back of the room yells “this chick is crazy.”

Cookie ends her act and exits the stage leaving a pile of black hair mixed with ketchup and photo paper. The crowd of poets and hip cats give her a lukewarm reception. This performance was too unhinged for the normally unshakable.

That performance at the Cellar that night was the debut of what would come to be known as “Performance Art.” Carmalita Cookie Zevon performed once more before she and her boyfriend and a nursing baby rode west on a ratty-ass motorcycle to find the meaning of life. We can assume they found something.

Entertainment Is But A Phone Call Away


This past year or so, I noticed that phone calls from friends and family had dwindled drastically. Not that they were that frequent in years past, but now, the calls have almost ceased. The holidays count for a few, and if there is a surgery or accident, that will bring one or two sympathy or curiosity calls.

One can assume that as you age and become a seasoned person, your friends and family are in the same boat, and you can talk about medical issues and health only so much before your head explodes. My sister, bless her heart, does call every few days to chat about nothing in particular, but she is down from four dogs to one and is easily bored. She watches a lot of Netflix.

My multi-tasking son rarely calls. He lives in North Padre Island, by the beach, surrounded by an impressive collection of “man toys.” He and his wife own a business that keeps them hopping, so I get it. The rest of his time he divides between Cub Scouts and baseball games with my grandson. He is a busy young man and appears to have broken all his fingers on both hands, or lost my phone number. I am considering sending him an amazon package with my picture and a burner cell phone.

My generation X grandson keeps in touch via text, the preferred form of communication for people in their twenties. Sometimes he will answer his phone, and it takes me a second to remember his voice. He sounds much like his father, who passed away seven years ago, and if I am melancholy, it unnerves me a bit, so texting is alright for now. As he ages, actual speaking will replace texting.

My late-late mother, ever the geriatric comedian, in her golden years, remarked on how lonely life can be, and she wouldn’t have anyone to talk with if the telemarketers and scammers stopped calling. I laughed at how ridiculous that sounded, but alas, I may be in that same position.

Medicare enrollment is upon us with a vengeance, and I receive a dozen calls a day, most of which my spam app catches and disperses them back into cellular orbit. I did answer one a few days ago because it displayed a number with fourteen digits, and I was curious who has that many digits. What the hell, have some fun.

The youngish man on the line started his spiel about Medicare, and I could tell he was either “in” or “from” India. I listened for a minute then asked him where his call center might be? he answered, ” Indiana.” Then I asked his name, which he replied, ” Ronnie.” I politely told him that was bull crap, you are in India, and your name is not Ronnie.

He was busted, so he fessed up. Speaking in a pleasant accent, he said, ” yes sir, I am in India, and my name is Aakash. I work at the call center for American Exploitive Insurance.” He seemed like a polite young man, so I continued the conversation.
“Tell me, Aakash, do you have Netflix and Amazon Prime in India, and if you do, have you seen Jack Ryan and The Kaminsky Method ?” I enquired.
He was quiet for a few seconds then responded, “yes, we have those, but we watch only Bollywood movies here. Our movies have much drama, love love, and shooting guns, then everyone dances and sings happy songs. It’s joyously entertaining. India is a happy place, mostly.”
” And what do you mean by mostly?” I say.
I could sense his hesitation and the frustration in his voice, but he needed to vent to someone, and I am three-thousand miles away, and that’s as safe as it gets.

This young telemarketer begins spilling his guts to a stranger, in America, over the telephone, hoping to receive a form of absolution from a non-Catholic, even though I am wearing a black t-shirt and eating Mrs. Pauls fish sticks for lunch so that counts for something. Speaking in a comforting voice, I urge him to continue. He lets it all hang out.

In a desolate cracking voice, he wails, ” my girlfriend lives with me in a tiny, tiny, tiny apartment, and all day, she plays this Brittney Spears person’s records and dances about like a hoochie lady. It is making me a crazy man. Last week for the evening meal, I try to make American Texas Terlingua chili using Indian spices and goat meat, and it gives us both the running bathroom visit for days. We have more nuisance monkeys in our neighborhood than residents. The little mean shit animals dismembered my moped, and then they break into my apartment and eat my James Taylor albums and raid the food closet leaving my home a mess. I have no gun, so I can’t shoot them dead; the mean monkey has more rights than me. I have applied for citizenship in your country, but it takes two lifetimes. I have four degrees from a university but make little money. My life is a hot fresh cow pie residing in the middle of the road.”

I am bewildered by his predicament but yet amused at the absurdity of it all. We exchange pleasantries, and I tell him to call me again next week for another chat, to which he agreed and wished me well.
Who knew telemarketers could be so exciting.

” I Love The Smell of Glue In The Morning”


As if protesters, lollygaggers, replicants, and ill-advised haters can’t get any worse, now we have the “oh so proper” Brits attacking supermodels in public. Fake blood, glue, and glitter are hurled upon the poor women as they go about their daily catwalk through old London town sporting their designer attire. Who knew that being a tall willowy clothes horse is such a threat to humankind. Evidently, it is.  It seems that a group of rowdy youngsters have emerged from their parents’ basements and has taken the antics of those young American scoundrels in Antifa quite seriously.

Their main complaint, as posted on social media is the pollution caused by the manufacture of designer clothing, perfumes, and skincare products hawked by these frail damsels in magazines and on television. When a pugnacious young female protester was asked if she used any of the products she is so vehemently against, she replied “no..never.” The reporter figured as much since the girl sported greasy lice-infested hair, severe acne and smelled like a garbage pail. A young man, interviewed after dousing supermodel “Willough” with Gorilla Glue and Unicorn glitter on her front steps, told the reporter ” I love the smell of glue in the morning.” Referring to the iconic line uttered by Robert Duvall in the movie Apocolypse Now. What he wasn’t expecting was the ass whooping he received from Willoughs Russian bodyguards. Protesting has its downside too. God save the Queen.

 

 

 

 

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