Laningham is a master lyricist. Take his timeless line -- 'I looked in here, I looked in there, I looked in the dirty clothes hamper. I looked in the back yard and found a troop of Cub Scout campers.' ... from a review by a critic now looking for work.

My favorite headline of the year

Donkeys like dragging people

I love that headline — the title of my daughter Rachael’s latest blog entry. It is funny. Check it out. She’s a writer with promise. I also think that would be a great title for a movie, or a band. DOUBLE BILL TONIGHT AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN! LADY GAGA AND DONKEYS LIKE DRAGGING PEOPLE!

Has a nice ring to it.

Kid Quotes: Evan on avoiding work

During dinner conversation tonight, in between comments about one person’s workday and another’s person feeling of being full, our six-year-old enthusiastically announced, “I’m gonna fatten myself up real good so no one will hire me and I’ll never have to work.”

Tomatoes are fickle

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We are trying to grow a few vegetables in this unreasonably hot and dry central Texas Spring. Well ok, for all practical purposes it is now Summer.

The 12 inch boxes are filled with the best dirt we could get from John Drumgoole’s Natural Gardener in southwest Austin. John has Ladybug brand among others and is a wonderful source of natural gardening knowledge.

Anyway, I’ve been watching these two starkly different examples of tomato plants in the same dirt in two different boxes. Weird, huh? Either we bought a small weed resembling a tomato plant along with the real tomatoes, or the lone tomato plant feels very socially isolated and is in deep depression.

When the Orkin man screams, you know things are bad

OK, so it was the Orkin lady, not man. But still, those Orkin exterminators have certainly seen it all — giant bugs, man eating garden snakes, lizards the size of a canoe. My brother Doug and I knew we had a roach problem when our dog would cry at night.

Our house on Bullcreek Road in Austin, Texas was an old pier and beam job, no air conditioner, and a tidiness one typically associates with college-aged men. I’m sure roaches got together once a week at local roach chapters and talked about the best houses to set up shop in. “Laninghams! Bullcreek Rd.!” was most certainly heard over all the chatter and the signup line was like trying to get into the latest Harry Potter film. So after hearing the dog cry a few nights in a row, we finally got up and went into his penned-in area in the kitchen to see what was wrong. I vividly remember flicking on the light switch and seeing the dog dead-center on the kitchen floor encircled by an army of roaches like Custer at Little Big Horn. The roaches scattered after the light came or there may have been dog for dinner at the roach motel.

The next day, we phoned Orkin.

Hello, Orkin Pest Control. May we help you?

Yes, please!

Location?

Bull Creek Rd at 45th

We know the area. High risk. We’ll have choppers there in 10 minutes.

In seemed more like a day to me, but the knock on the door eventually came. We opened it and found the unexpected — an Orkin lady. What were these people thinking sending a woman into battle? Remember, this was 1984. You still didn’t do that. She did look tough and feminine all at once, sort of like Michelle Rodriguez, but not as cute.  Our unease at sending this woman into battle was put to rest when she brandished the exterminator wand. Clearly she was battle-tested, the wand scratched and blemished, the attached tank dented and discolored. This was no academy greenhorn. She was clearly loaded for roach.

Where’s the front line?

Kitchen.

Take me there!

So in we went and waited at the door while she explored hither and sprayed yonder, then paused, looking baffled.

I see a lot of evidence of roaches but no sign of a nest. This is highly irregular.

That last phrase made us wonder if she was British, but I digress. She asked us if we knew of other places where they might be congregating, and then noticed a small cabinet above the refrigerator.

What’s in there?

Don’t know, Mam. We’ve never opened it.

Boys, back into the green zone (living room). I’m goin’ in.

We retreated a few steps back into the sizable room with two simple chairs and the 12-inch black-and-white TV, and waited. Silence for a moment, the the eerie creak of the cabinet door opening.

There’s a box in here! What’s in it?

No idea, Mam.

Well, whatever lives in there is goin’ down. FIRE IN THE HOLE!

Three seconds later, we heard the scream. It was horrible, like Janet Leigh in Psycho, but worse. Imagine if Janet noticed she’d just broken a nail while being stabbed by Anthony Perkins — that kind of sream. We heard a sound like running water and peeked around the corner to see an ocean wave of roaches cascading out of the box and down the front of the refrigerator. The Orkin lady blew past us like Wilma Rudolph, her wand flailing wildy, spraying bug killer juice on the walls, ceiling, and us. We followed in hot pursuit, clawing and climbing over each other as we dog-piled at the front door. Getting out of the house was priority one, and it was each man and woman for his/herself. Chivalry was out, survival in.

The Orkin lady was the first to escape. After all, she had a head start. By the time Doug and I got out the door, she had backed out of the driveway and was accelerating down the street, flinging our invoice over her shoulder and out the window while yelling, “GOD BE WITH YOU!!”

All of that, and more, was the inspiration for this …

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4 Dudes Gameday or our own gardening show?

I’m torn. I’m wondering, if I can find the time to do either, whether to do a periodic video podcast about our ongoing home garden adventures, which are substantial, or return to 4 Dudes Gameday production. Thoughts anyone? I’d love to get comments that aren’t about a new hair gel or a no-miss 10k a month home business for a change.

A new day is dawning in Bevoville

Even as we look back upon a miserable Longhorn football season, there is a new light dawning at DKR. Coach Mack Brown has assembled an impressive and exciting new group of coaches and we at 4 Dudes Gameday are excited about Longhorn football prospects in 2011. Let this be the last time we revisit the disappointment of 2010, reflected in our mid-season episode of 4 Dudes Gameday, the only one we had the stomach to produce.

4 Dudes Gameday prepares for 2010-11 season

We have been quiet for a while on this blog. And I have not heard a thunderous complaint, so I’ve assumed it is fine with everyone who already has way too much to read. But make space in your web site consumption schedule because we are about to ramp up the 4 Dudes Gameday series again. And this year we will go beyond Longhorn football while, of course, remaining true to our core focus. Talk to you soon!

Planet Of The Teeth

(Part 1 of a serialized story I occasionally improv with the boys at night)

Paul, Luke, and Evan Laningham woke early one morning. The familiar theme music of their 3 Dudes Adventures was already playing, so they new this would be an action packed day. Quickly they dressed, loaded their backpacks with peanut butter sandwiches and fruit leathers, strapped on their light sabers and Supersoaker guns, and quietly made their way out to the driveway. Their little Peg Pergo Gaucho Jeep waited pathetically in the driveway. Their Mom had picked it up on the side of the road, a discarded, worn electric toy car that had weathered one too many storms in someone else’s yard. It looked worthless to the untrained eye, but the 3 Dudes knew it would transform into a magic flying machine as soon as they put a Gummy Worm into the key hole and started it up.

Luke jumped in the driver seat, Paul riding shotgun, and Evan in the back to cover any intruders form the rear. For where they were going, they would need a driver with ice in his veins and two sharpshooters with eagle eyes. The were headed to … PLANET TEETH!

Luke fired up the Gaucho and jammed it into Fly 1. The Gaucho leapt off the ground and rocketed up above their house, the blast sending Tux the cat somersaulting across the lawn and into one of the bubbling fountains. Evan screamed his usual “YEEEEHAAAAWWWWW!” as they picked up speed, rocketing up through the clouds and barely missing some Monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico for the Winter. One did collide with the Gaucho and took up a seat neat to Evan. He said to the boys, “Dudes, my name is Larry. If you don’t mind I’ll tag along, since I like peanut butter sandwiches and I smelled them in your backpacks.” The boys agreed and gave Larry a toothpick to use as a sword in case they fell into Harm’s Way, a canyon on Planet of the Teeth where bad things always seemed to happen.

About halfway there, Paul asked to drive, Luke said “no,” and a scuffle ensued, sending the Gaucho into a momentary tailspin while the boys worked out their issues. Finally they calmed down with Paul in the driver’s seat and half a peanut butter sandwich up his nose. Luke was now riding shotgun, but wearing one of Paul’s shoes for a hat and his shirt was on backward and inside out. They apologized to each other, did a quick head butt, and everything was cool.

Suddenly, a bright orange planet zoomed into view, and they realized that in their distracted state they had not realized how close they were to their destination. Paul jammed the breaks and 60 seconds later, and a ball of flames, they landed in Harm’s Way, hair slightly singed but none the worse for it. The Dudes quickly jumped out of the Gaucho and assumed defensive postures with weapons at the ready. Larry stayed behind, working on a peanut butter and Nutella quarter-sandwich. The Dudes had not gone more than 10 paces from their interstellar jeep transport when they heard the familiar and eery sound of “CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP!”

It was their nemisis, Moley, king of the Teeth, freshly flossed and shoeless, but as frightening as ever.

(to be continued…)

“I’m gonna lay foot.”

Kids say such wonderful things as they seek to find their way with language. I asked our eight-year-old, whose birthday is today, if he feels any different. He said, “Not really. I feel like I’ve been seven my whole life. But I’m sure I’ll feel like I’m eight by lunchtime at the latest.”

Don’t you love the precision and analytical quality of that kind of reasoning? Not long ago I asked him about what it felt like to be standing by and looking into an empty Texas DKR Memorial Stadium where the Texas Longhorns football team plays.  Speaking with an economy of words I never seem to achieve, he remarked, “I’ve never laid foot in a place like this. I’m gonna lay foot.”

One of daughters once asked, when riding in the car while we passed a no parking sign, “Why does it say no ‘P’s?” Clearly, she thought the letter was banned from use in the space around the sign. Another of our sons had a knack in his early years for asking very pointed questions and sometimes using terms uncommon for a 5-year-old. When a friend arrived ahead of his wife for dinner one night, our youngster inquired, “Hi Jeff. Where’s your woman?” And later, when encountering another single friend who was accompanied by a different woman than we had seen him with a few days before, our young Dan Rather inquired, “Is this your wife?”  “No,” replied our friend. “Well, is (name withheld) your wife?” “No,” came the friend again, shifting uncomfortably. Our son finished the grilling session with, “I don’t understand?”

Our friend laid foot right outta there.

I’ll take 500 football games but hold the plutonium

Sales is a tough job. Watching the best at it can be like watching great theatre, or better yet, great focused reasoning. But there are so many things to sell and so few employers unwilling to pay for the art of it. So we get a lot of unintended comedy shows instead. I tried it a few times and really stunk at it. I wasn’t thrilled with the products and was unable to make myself push people. I would just say, “I have such and such which is good for such and such,” and they’d say, “I don’t want it,” and I’d say, “Cool. See ya.” In most sales settings, that is not how you move a lot of product.

In the last few days I’ve heard some doozies. A roofing tile sales guy told me the price of asphalt shingles has gone through the roof “because the primary ingredient, plutonium, is so scarse!” Plutonium? I thought the tiles were made out of paper, oil and ceramic gravel? The primary ingredient of asphalt roofing tiles is “a rare transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94?” Thank you Wikipedia.  I know that it’s used for nuclear weapons and reactors. I had no idea it was all over my roof. I’m not replacing the roof. I’m moving.

Then another traveling salesman shows up yesterday, and as he spins a personal tale more fantastic by the second, he gets to the part where, being a UT football alum, he receives 500 free tickets per season. 500! Even at the cheap seat price of 60$ that comes out to 30 grand in free tickets annually. So why is he selling frozen chicken in my neighborhood? When I asked him what he does with all 500 he said, “I give many away. No way I have time to go, myself, 500 times!” HOLY COW! Do you mean the Longhorns are now playing a 500 game schedule? Quite frankly, I think Mack Brown and company are working cheap.

Gotta run. Here’s comes a Kirby vacuum salesperson wearing a “Gig ‘em Aggies!” t-shirt underneath a hazmat suit. I think I know where this is going.