SCOOP OF THE MONTH

Scoop's Safety Tips for 2004: 2...count 'em, 2 for the price of 1!  

'Running With Scissors' (featuring Cap't Dan, and the infamous 'Fart-Invesigator' girls'!)

#2)  'Pay Attention While I'm Babbling': in which we meet girls with gravel and 'The Human Fire Hydrant'...all true, of course!

Scoop 2004_#2

 

Running With Scissors

Scoop’s Safety Tips for 2004

 

Camping can be hard work. Yes, you are here to relax, but there are things to be done first. By the time you are reading this, the entire interior of your RV has been cleaned again, including the windows, the water heater lighted so dirty dishes and kids can be washed, sheets and towels are in place, and the refrigerator is stocked. Maybe some steaks are marinating. (Note: Vegans, please substitute the word ‘tofu’). And it’s all because you work hard in order to relax.

            But wait! By ‘you’ I mean the wife or woman in your camping life. (Immediate Scoop Safety Tip: If we are talking about two different persons here, don’t bother reading any further. You’re going to die anyway).

Anyway, you, on the other hand—if you are a seasonal camper--are still trying to get the lawn mower started and wondering if it would be safe to crack open a beer. Don’t do it, pal…at least not out in the open. The future of your weekend and possibly your life is at stake.

            However, if you are like many wise male campers, you have installed a small refrigerator in your shed, the very same shed that holds the lawnmower and ‘needed’ tools, and you have called ahead to your neighbor, begging him to turn the refrigerator on and stock it with beer. If you are a camping genius, you also have a small TV and a chair in the shed, with the TV satellite dish on and humming, ESPN at the ready. You should probably get the mower started and just let it run until the gas runs out, at which point you will have to come out and ‘fiddle’ with it. WARNING: you may wind up sleeping in the shed when your wife catches you, but at times it is worth the price.

            NOTE: If you are just camping for the weekend, you have no place to hide. Your only chance for an early beer is to ‘check something’ under the RV. Noted authorities suggest smuggling a six-pack under the RV and then crawling after it to ‘fix a water leak’. If you have drain valves, you are covered! Just open one up and let some water trickle down. This will work for several hours, unless someone uses the toilet or tries to take a shower. DOUBLE WARNING: Lack of water could void your warranty on the water heater and/or your marriage.  

            However, there are many more hazards to be aware of, far too many for any one camper to be aware of. Thus, it is my job to alert you to other hazards that exist. And remember, don’t make the foolish mistake of thinking it can’t happen to you!

 

BOAT SAFETY

            It had already been a long day as Dan and Shelley Niemann sought to launch their boat so the entire family could spend a fun afternoon on Clear Lake. Mechanical problems had finally been fixed, and at long last it was time to launch!

            With ‘Cap’t’ Dan at the helm and the day’s fun at an end, it was Shelley’s task to tie the boat to the pier. Now, first a note of explanation: Blackhawk Campground owner Harold ‘H.D.’ Whitney had just this spring replaced the wooden piers with a fine set of plastic floating pier sections. “They’re a lot safer and stronger,” explained HD, “and their buoyancy means they can rise with the water level. No one’s going to get wet because the lake rose.”

            Except Shelley. Apparently unfamiliar with floating piers—even though she had walked on one to get to her boat--she jumped out on it with no anticipation of movement. That was a mistake.

            As Cap’t Dan put it: “We all knew my wife was already not in a really good mood, so we just stood there on the boat and watched in stunned horror. It was sort of like watching one of those skate-boarding kids flop back and forth in one place on their board, like a see-saw. I’ve been married long enough to know not to tell her she should have set foot more slowly, so I just kept my mouth shut.”

            Shelley teeter-tottered for what seemed an eternity. “No one said a word,” said Cap’t Dan. “It was inevitable, and the first one to laugh would catch holy hell.”

            It actually only took Shelley a few seconds to flap her arms wildly and capsize. “She had this shocked look in her eyes,” said Dan. “She came up sputtering, and we all tried to look concerned. It was tough.”

            According to an eyewitness NewsHound, it was a stand-off for almost a full 30 seconds. Shelley stood in water up to her armpits and glared, while the rest of the family stood silent in a true test of self-control. The deadlock ended when Shelley spit a small bluegill from her mouth and smiled.

            OK, I made that last part up. About the bluegill. What Shelley did was look down at herself, looked at the quivering boat-people, and, with hands planted on her hips, state loudly: “OK, you can laugh now.”

            “We were doubled over with laughter for a long time,” said Cap’t Dan. “Shelley started laughing then, and I knew it was going to be a great afternoon. She even doubled over, and caught a fine perch this time.”

           

CSI: SALOON SAFETY

            An evening campfire led to an investigative adventure for three women recently. “It could have been both dangerous and embarrassing,” stated a secret NewsHound, on condition of anonymity. “It was very fortunate they weren’t caught, and yes, alcohol was a factor.”

            “We were all joking around the fire,” stated Anonymous NewsHound Dan Ross, “and it got to the subject of the ‘blue flame’. This is an ancient folklore tidbit, that you can light a fart. The Ladies—my wife Sue, and friends Karin Buntic and Shelley Niemann—had never heard of this. They were very inquisitive, though.”

            Because they are Ladies, the trio decided to find this out for themselves elsewhere. “The next time I looked around, they had vanished,” said Dan.

            Sue Ross explained: “We secretly discussed this. We were amazed something like this could be true. I mean, guys know stuff like this, but sometimes you can’t believe everything they say. You know that old saying…the check’s in the mail, etc. And while we briefly discussed putting our behinds to the campfire itself, that would have been very un-Ladylike, and maybe dangerous if for once our husbands weren’t lying. One of us even recalled that Bible story with Moses…you know, the Burning Bush. But then we came upon a Master Plan, and snuck away.”

            Fortunately for the evidence-seekers, the campground bar was close at hand. “The Lounge was full, and there were probably fifteen people at the bar itself, and half of them were men,” said Sue. “This would be a good sampling, in that they were drinking beer. Two of them were even eating pickled eggs, a perfect time-bomb waiting to happen. By the way, I want to state for the record I did not do any of the actual ‘investigating’.”

            The detectives entered the bar nonchalantly, armed with a disposable lighter concealed in Karin’s pocket. With Sue Ross acting as the decoy, Karin and Shelley went to work.

             Karin headed straight for the rear end of one of the egg-eaters. Pretending to drop her lighter behind him, she quickly got off a flame as she rose. “Nothing,” she later told this reporter. “It was a dud.”

              Meanwhile, decoy Sue Ross was trapped.  “This one guy must have been at the bar for a while,” said Sue. “He was very sociable, but I couldn’t get away. Then Karin and Shelley joined me, and they were stuck! But then Karin went for it—she used the old ‘drop-the-lighter’ technique again.”

            As our anonymous NewsHound reports: “Karin made an attempt to ignite a fuel source. However, either the lighter did not work or there was no fuel for the fire. There was also concern about the flannel shirt the subject was wearing. The ‘amigas’ were laughing hysterically and decided it was time to go before they were noticed. I don’t think we have seen the last of these three.”

            Thank you Dan for your anonymous reports. I also want to mention that Shelley Niemann is very close to getting into Scoop’s ‘Cast of Characters’ on my website. One more strike, Shelley!

So let’s review: We now know about pier safety and especially flatulence safety, in that talking to a strange woman in a bar could cost you your dignity plus a flannel shirt. We have also learned that male readers must do their share of the camping work or risk getting into Trouble, which starts with a ‘T’ which rhymes with ‘B’, which means ‘Beer’, which can lead to voiding the warranty on your RV and/or your wife.

Personally, I suggest you get the lawnmower started. Then pay a kid $15 to do the work.

See you in the shed, pal. Make sure the beer is cold.

 Voodoo Update: In my last column, I held a contest, the winner being the person who suggested the best curse to put on a person for the best reason. I offered to let the winner rent my voodoo doll for a small fee, probably a beer. I expected a virtual avalanche of e-mail, since we all know someone who deserves a curse. But what a fool I was! See, I’ve held 7 contests in this illustrious paper over the years, and a total of three readers entered. That’s not a good average. So I’m upping the ante: Thanks to Dave’s Milton Ace Hardware, a $10 gift certificate will be awarded to the winner. Plus you get a valuable ‘Scoop’s Golden Star Certificate’, and a photo of the evil voodoo doll that I think will work as well as the original (Sorry—no guarantees on the curse actually coming true).

            Hurry and e-mail or snail-mail immediately! Only the first 500 contestants will be considered!

           Hey! A big Hello! to the gals & guys at the printing plant. Thanks for reading! ‘Hot off the presses’, right?

 Get your ‘Scoop’ fix anytime at www.scoopjackson.net. Email  scoop@scoopjackson.net.

 

   

Scoop #3 2004

PAY ATTENTION WHEN I’M BABBLING!

             Apparently some of you weren’t listening when I warned you of Safety Hazards in my last column. A virtual onslaught of incidents have happened since then. And I have more bad news: According to an article in The Chicago Tribune, dated Sunday 7/18/04, the FDA has approved two new ‘medical devices’ in case of injury.

 These would be leeches and maggots. The leeches help suck out congested blood. The maggots feast on, and get rid of, dead flesh from a wound. The Tribune quoted Dr. Larry Zachary of the University of Chicago Hospitals. He has used leeches, but not often. “No, thank God. When you start to put leeches on patients’ skin, they sort of freak out a little bit. Wouldn’t you?”

Mrs. Scoop had read the same article. She recently underwent some tests that involved needles, and jokingly asked the nurses if leeches were next. Apparently not in a ‘humor’ mood, they immediately placed her in a psychiatric ward with a 24-hour watch. She gets out next Monday.

OK, I’m lying. But only about the psychiatric thing. The article is true, and the fact is you could be in a lot of trouble if you had some serious dead skin or congealed blood problems. Not knowing about leeches and maggots, but perhaps briefly glancing at a medical journal while on break, local nurses could easily and mistakenly become confused and have a ferret or ugly toad gnaw on you. You wouldn’t like that, would you?

So read on, my accident-prone friends…and let’s be more careful out there in the camping world!

 

BIG-TIME BUTT GRAVEL

            Kevin and Kelly Possedi were out for a golf cart ride last week, along with daughter Kortney, age 11. Kevin has a really cool cart with big tires and a lift system, so the big mound of gravel used by a local campground for RV pads was irresistible.

            “He was doing ‘donuts’,” said wife Kelly. “I couldn’t stop him.”

            “I was not,” insisted Kevin. “I was just circling around.”

            “He was too,” corrected Kortney. “I know my Dad—he couldn’t help himself. But in all fairness, I have to admit that I myself did not fall off the golf cart.”

            It was Kelly who was thrown from the cart and landed head-first in the mountain of gravel. “She was stuck there,” said Kevin, “only her wriggling feet showing.”

            OK, once again I embellish. Kelly suffered some minor scrapes on her elbow and knee. When she tried to show me evidence, this reporter saw no visible scars. However, the mental scars may be more lingering. “I had gravel in my mouth,” said Kelly. “It was very gritty. And I felt uncomfortable all night long. Kevin insisted I go out dancing, and then people made fun of me, I think. They called my new dance technique the ‘Itch’. When I finally got back to our site, I found I had gravel down the back of my pants! ”

            When interviewed for the final time, Kevin insisted alcohol was not a factor, and this reporter accepts that fact. “Kelly is exaggerating,” said Kevin. “Who are you going to believe? After all, she had gravel everywhere, so she probably has rocks in her head too.”

            We are anxious to follow up on this story, as soon as Kevin recovers from some recently-inflicted wounds.

 

BOUNCING BUTT BRUISES

            In another unrelated butt incident, the infamous duo of Karin Buntic and Shelley Niemann were out tubing on Clear Lake recently. You may recall Karin and Shelley from my last column, in which they crept in to a local saloon, searching to solve the eternal mystery of whether or not you can light farts. Due to a malfunctioning lighter, or perhaps lack of ‘fuel’, they were stymied. They are still searching for an answer so don’t turn your back on these two.

            Anyway, Cap’t Dan Niemann was at the helm of the speedboat, moving along merrily as his passengers took turns flopping about on the innertube. Most of the smarter ones rode on their bellies. Karin, however, chose to go seated.

            “I didn’t feel a thing at first,” said Karin. “I was having too much fun! And then I indulged in some tasty beverages that night. So it wasn’t until the next day that I felt the pain.”

            Karin asked husband Bob to conduct a close-up examination. “Being married to Karin does not lend itself to what you would describe as a ‘normal’ life,” explained Bob, ‘so this was not a flabbergasting request.”

            What Bob discovered was a throbbing bruise the size of a softball on the left buttock, and one the size of a fist on the right. “They were a bright purple, almost glowing,” said Bob. “I didn’t have a flashlight handy, so I got out my lighter for a better look. The softball-sized bruise caught my attention the most. It seemed to cast an eerie, hypnotizing light. I couldn’t stop staring; it was as if I was in a trance. Then the purple bruise spoke to me. “Bob,” it said, “light me. The butt is ready…solve the mystery.”

            Sorry about that. My mind decided to go out for a walk. What actually happened is that Karin was in pain for several days, and further inspections showed the bruises to now be a sickly yellow color. “This is all Cap’t Dan’s fault,” said Karin, “so now it’s time to turn to turn the tables.

               “Yes, we were all tubing, but Dan was going at a moderate speed. When it was my turn, the evil Shelley gave Cap’t Dan the ‘thumbs-up’ to jack the speed up. That’s why I was bouncing all over the lake. And then Dan said, “Oh, it looks like I’m low on gas”, and the motor instantly went kaput. We were stranded. Cap’t Dan’s back-up rescue plan consisted of one oar, so we paddled close to shore in little circles. Once we got in, Cap’t Dan told Shelley to cast the anchor. She flung it out as hard as she could, the rope following. That’s when I noticed that neither Dan or Shelley had ever tied the other end of the rope to anything…it was just ‘there’.”

            Moving with the speed of Catwoman, Karin grabbed the end of the anchor rope in the nick o’ time and saved the day, or at least the anchor. “Shelley will try to tell you she was on shore the entire time,” she told this reporter,” but don’t believe her one bit. And please tell Dan that ‘E’ doesn’t mean ‘Enough Fuel’, OK?”

            We will. And an Emergency Relief Fund petition to purchase gasoline for Cap’t Dan is now being circulating. Please contribute. Or else you’ll have to do the next exam when Karin goes tubing again.

             

SNEAKY TOMATOES

            Seasonal camper and dapper gent Ron Rafe now considers himself a gardening genius. Alas, his self-esteem is about to suffer a crushing downfall, mainly because I’m printing it and he doesn’t know the tale yet.

            Thanks to a NewsHound, I now reveal this startling hoax to the world for the first time: Anonymous neighbor Marcy Windham recently gave Ron some tomato plantings. “They were about six inches tall,” said Marcy. “Ron stuck them in the ground in a very shaded area. I told him, ‘Ron, they need sunlight and water. They just won’t grow there.’ But Ron can get a bit stubborn, and he insisted they would do fine.

            “Well, the next week Ron didn’t come up because his wife Marcia, a dear friend, had to go into the hospital. So I watered and fertilized the little tomato plants for Ron. But then an evil little plan took hold—I couldn’t stop myself.”

            What Marcy did was replace the tiny tomato plants with three-foot tall tomato plants. Ron showed up the next weekend. He immediately went to his shaded plot. “Whoa!” he was heard to say. He called Marcy over. “You see,” he said, pointing at the towering plants, “I knew they would grow!”

            Marcy revealed nothing about her secret. She was willing to leave it at that. But then Ron had to seal his fate.

            “I had put some grass seed down on a little area,” said Marcy, “and Ron sauntered over and—can you believe this?—casually said: ‘That grass won’t grow…it needs sunlight.’ So he’s talking the exact opposite. But I let it go…for then.”

            During the next week, Marcy decided to just cover the seeded area with sod. “It was unintentional,” insisted Marcy. “It’s just that as soon as Ron arrived, he came over, pointed at the fresh green grass, and said, ‘I told you so!’”

            Marcy is a bit worried that Ron might get carried away with his new-found gardening wisdom, perhaps call PBS or The Garden Channel to offer his talents as a host. “Should I just tell him, or let it go?”

            I’m sure you would agree that Marcy should have bought some flowering tomato plants with tomatoes as large as tennis balls and put them in Ron’s little plot. 

 

THE HUMAN FIRE HYDRANT

            We’ve already read about Karin Buntic, but now it’s husband Bob’s turn. I would have liked to interview him personally, but I really didn’t want to get too close.

            It was only last week that Rosie Kezon was out walking her pet Boxer, Reno. Reno is a big dog, and very friendly, and Bob is a favorite pal of Reno. Rosie’s site is a fair distance from Bob’s, but Reno needs his exercise, and he always wants to visit his pal. But something strange happened that day, something only a dog can understand. So I guess we’ll never know…

            Rosie explains: “I took Reno on all the familiar routes, but he never peed. Not once, and I waited while Reno sniffed his spots. Not a thing, and then we were all the way up the hill to Bob and Karin’s site.”

            Bob was in the yard, unaware of his fate. “Reno was tugging at the leash,” said Rosie, “and I knew he wanted to greet Bob, so I let loose. What happened next was totally unexpected.”

            In an amazing act of agility, Reno stood upright on his hind legs and waited for Bob to pet him. When Bob was within distance, Reno couldn’t hold his enthusiasm any longer.

            Karin describes it this way: “Reno stood like that and his pee just arced all over Bob’s chest. I mean, it started that high and Reno kept going all the way down. Bob was squishing in his tennis shoes, too startled to do anything. The neighbors were falling over with laughter all the while.”

            Target Bob was later heard to remark, “Dogs can certainly hold a lot of urine, that’s a fact.”

            Karin testified that she made Bob strip down immediately and take a shower. “I think his shoes are ruined,” she added.

            Friend Dan Ross wants to add that Reno has high intelligence. “From what I heard, Reno was trying to spell Bob’s name on his chest, just like we males do in the snow. It’s unbelievable how animals can show their affection.”

            “There’s other ways,” said a peed-off Bob Buntic.

           

 VOODOO UPDATE

            Once again, no one has asked me to place a curse with my voodoo doll on some deserving person. Nor has anyone, once again, entered my contest. So I hereby end the contest, and put a curse on all of you. So there.

 

                                    ………………

 

            Got a paper-cut recently, maybe some congealed blood? Don’t worry—relief is on its way. But it won’t be leeches…those little suckers cost money. I checked the leech site out in case I wanted to order some to get even with certain people who made fun of my voodoo doll.  Leeches are $7.70 each, with a minimum order of seven. You must also purchase some special salt, and a Leech Mobile Home. Yes, seriously. There are two sizes: the deluxe one is $159; the smaller version is $119. Now, I’m not knocking this site, but these Mobile Homes look suspiciously like a tall, narrow Tupperware container inside a larger one, with air-holes drilled in the inner one. Someone’s making a few bucks here.

Also, NEVER reuse a leech! Instead, you must dispose of it in a container of 70% alcohol for 5”. So, basically, we’re talking a shot of Jose Cuervo, right?

But Scoop, you ask, what if I’m out on a first date and suddenly remember I have a used leech in my pocket? How can I tell when it’s safe to drop it into my date’s shot of tequila?

Answer: If it’s a first date and he/she is already drinking tequila, you have nothing to fear, my friend. Just remember the 5” rule, OK? Wait until your date goes to the bathroom. This should give the leech plenty of time to pass away. I would also advise you to put a frilly toothpick through it, make it a ‘special’ shot. Blame it on the bartender.

If, on the other hand, you and your date are college students, feel free to introduce the leech to your date as a dare right away. This could become even more popular than swallowing minnows.

So, anyway, I’m not going to use leeches to get even about the voodoo jokes. No, I have a better plan, and I know who you are.

            Reno is coming to visit.

And he really likes you.

You should have entered my contest.          

 

See more Scoop at www.scoopjackson.net. To order leeches, see www.leechesusa.com. Scoop has no further info on maggots, but is interested in any hands-on reports. Scoop does not condone or advise the practice of eating minnows or leeches and wants you to know that no animals or other species were harmed in the writing of this column.

 

 

 

Scoop of the Month

 

Mrs. Scoop and I had planned this vacation quite a while ago. Our first stop was to visit 'Big Daddy', the Patriarch of the family, in Long Beach, MI, near Biloxi. Give or take a few minor things, he is responsible for what I am and everything I have today. We were packing luggage when we heard the news that he had passed away.

I'll talk about Big Daddy later, when I'm ready. Mrs. Scoop and I went on to finish our vacation, and that's what follows. I just wanted to mention the sad beginning first...

 

The Gambling Voodoo Blues

vacation tips 2004

 

Scoop and Mrs. Scoop get down with a zydeco washboard in New Orleans

The Trip in Brief: You can read the entire article if you want, or get the salient info here! 

Scoop's Travel Tips:

  • Using a voodoo doll did not help our gambling one darn bit!
  • We think Beale Street in Memphis is better than Bourbon Street.
  • Does the city of Cooter, MO have a sister-city named Bubba? And what about 'The Piney Woods Sanitarium' nearby? We were tired, and we wanted to sleep, but by God, I kept driving until we found a motel far away! I've seen that movie with 'The Pineys' too many times to be comfortable in the area. What's next...'Children Of The Corn Hospice Care'?
  • Graceland gave me the jitters. Let's face it--this is a dead man's house. Yes, I did try the locked bathroom door directly across from the kitchen, because at the time I thought this was where The King died. I just wanted to see, but then I had to pee! You have to follow the instructions on your personal tape-player, and guards are everywhere, so I went with the flow...of people, I mean. When I got to the barn and the shooting gallery/garage, I was about ready to unzip on the straw target dummy when some Japanese tourists came along. Next stop was the Elvis grave itself, which I knew was out of bounds. See, not only would it be wrong, but I would be haunted by nightmares. Twenty years ago, Mrs. Scoop and I spent our honeymoon in New Orleans, which was hosting the 1984 World's Fair. The Fair was OK--it was later described as the most poorly-planned Fair in history--but we had fun. What happened was that I had to pee, so I went behind the Space Shuttle on display. It was twilight, and nobody bothered me. And then, much later, came the news of the horrible Space Shuttle blow-up. I know it's ridiculous, but for one terrible moment I thought my powerful urine had caused it (Alcohol is a solvent, you know). But I had peed on the Enterprise, not the Challenger, so I was OK. But no way was I going to mess with Elvis' grave and millions of fans. Fortunately, there is a bathroom just before you enter the racquetball court...FYI.                      
  • The Po' Boy sandwiches at the Cajun Crawfish Hut in Long Beach are better than those in New Orleans...at least where we ate, and that includes O'Brien's. But if in NO, go to The Gumbo Shop, which is right next door to O'B's. And while I'm on the subject, Yo Mama's (near Dr. Voodoo's) has good burgers, served with a baked potato, but they are not the best on Bourbon Street...unless there are no others. But the bar has a good jukebox.
  • If you are in the Military and going overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan we...or somebody...will indeed buy you all the Hurricanes you can drink at Pat O'Brien's. But if you've had too many Hurricanes and are trying to impress your date with your 'dancing' while nearly falling into my table, I will try to trip you.

     OK...for the rest of the tour, you have to read on. As I'll mention later in Pt. 2, I'll be pleased to include your personal vacation observations, as long as it's about Mississippi on the Gulf, New Orleans, and Memphis. And now my...

     SUPER-SPECIAL VACATION CONTEST!!!

Answer this question and win a 'Scoop GOLDEN STAR Certificate' (very valuable!):

In what movie did the two-timing girlfriend take one boyfriend to be shot by the other at The Piney Woods Motel? For Bonus Points, name as many actors in this movie as you can.

Email with your answers to scoop@scoopjackson.net. Good luck to all! 

 

 

Mrs. Scoop's Voodoo Doll

Mr. & Mrs. Scoop Take A Vacation

I had vowed never to take a driving vacation again (see “How I Spent My Winter Vacation”), but this trip would be a mere 2,000+ miles, merely a short jaunt. And after the sad news had been dealt with, the rest of the vacation was quite pleasant, all things considered.

 So I have only a few short notes here. I make no claims to being a worldly and expert traveler—far from it. These are only the quick observations of my wife and I. In fact, feel free to email with some advice of your own, as we fully intend to visit these places again, under happier circumstances!

 On the way from WI to Long Beach, MS:

            In Carbondale, we stay overnight at The Comfort Inn in Carbondale—so we think. I enjoy it because, while most hotel chains are next to a ‘chain’ restaurant, this Comfort Inn is next to a Krystal’s, which is a step down from White Castles, but it’s still good, and open 24 hours a day. I have only 5 cheeseburgers and a chili-fry…I am in training for other good food ahead. On the return trip, I try to stay there, but am informed there is no Comfort Inn in Carbondale. This is still a mystery to me to this day.

 In Long Beach, next to Gulfport:

            Mrs. Scoop and I discover The Cajun Crawfish Hut just one block from Mama Scoop’s house. We eat Po’-Boys all kind of ways every chance we get: catfish, alligator, shrimp. The owners are originally from Chicago, and offer Polish sausage as an appetizer. I get them to make it into a Po’-Boy, and thus add a new selection to my menu. I also recommend the deep-fried oysters. Alas, the fresh-cooked blue crab takes 20” to prepare, and we never seem to have enough time. By the time we leave Long Beach and our casino in Biloxi, Mrs. Scoop vows never to eat a shrimp Po’-Boy again—she has been shrimped-out. (Cajun Crawfish Hut, 300 E. Beach Blvd., Long Beach, MS.)

 The Grand Casino in Gulfport:

            Nice, but rates are up because we arrive on the Sunday before Mardi Gras. We don’t win jack, but the dealers are friendly—such a consolation! The lunch buffet is good. It is at this time that two ships collide and block the New Orleans Port, and so thousands of cruise-ship guests are stranded at Gulfport, the only port deep enough to handle the ships. The people are stranded because every room is booked in Gulfport for Mardi Gras, and all buses and any other means of transportation to New Orleans are stuck in a parade, or the drivers are on a float throwing beads. On Monday, returning from Big Daddy’s funeral, our funeral director/limo driver Jason gets a cell-phone call: the ships are offering a 7-day all-expense-paid cruise for $250, apparently to raise gas money. We must decline.

            We deliberately planned to stay away from Mardi Gras, and instead arrive on Ash Wednesday. But Gulfport has its own parades, and it’s fun watching everyone, including myself, fight for beads. No one flashes, at least not in my view. I am disappointed.

            Mrs. Scoop has another shrimp Po’-Boy.

 New Orleans:

            Mrs. Scoop and I had driven here for our honeymoon, and we arrive again for our 20th anniversary and Mrs. Scoop’s 50th birthday. We stay at the Dauphine Orleans (415 Rue Dauphine, zip 70112, ph. 504-586-1800), and are very pleased with the Patio courtyard and the small but delightful room. And now I must digress…

            Mrs. Scoop accuses me of spending too much time on the Internet. Yes, I did print off about 100 pages of itinerary and hotel info, and was dismayed when there was a note next to my computer one morning that said: “No more—just book the room!” I was sad. Rebelling, I dared one last time to check out the hotel that I liked the most.

            Ha! I hadn’t noticed the ‘Reviews’ listed at the bottom of the page (either Orbitz, Tavel.com, or Tripadvisor). Upon further investigation, 35 of the 36 reviews were negative, and terribly so. Here are a few examples: “Had drunk people from Bourbon Street puking outside my window every night!” “Had to crawl over the bed to get to the bathroom!” “Cockroaches crawling on the doorknob and filthy carpet!” In a strange turn of events, one of the reviewers mentioned that “not only was the room decrepit, but when I took a picture of my husband, a ghost appeared at the window.” Mrs. Scoop admitted that I was right to do more computer work, but was sad we “couldn’t see a real ghost.”

            Determined to get the best of everything, I check out ‘Haunted’ and ‘Voodoo’ tours. They are about $55 per person. Two of the tours mention a haunted bar, and upon cross-referencing, I find the same Irish bar on my personal list of ‘Things To Do and Drink Beer At’. This looks like a good plan.

            Anyway, we are pleased to be at the Dauphine. The actual hotel is across the street from our courtyard room, and I’m glad it was that way. We had privacy, a courtyard with birds chirping in the morning, and a quick step across the street to a nice free breakfast. I always brought Mrs. Scoop a nice bagel and some strawberries after I had quaffed 5 or 6 of the Krispy Kremes on display. I also want to mention Stephen “Esteban” Alfonso, at www.alslogistics.com, not only a good man to know at The Dauphine, but also a businessman with a thriving logistics company.

            We check with the staff for dining recommendations, and think we are told to go to “Denny’s”. Mrs. Scoop is aghast, until she deciphers the accent. The restaurant is Deanie’s Seafood (841 Iberville), just down the street from The Dauphine, and we feast on a giant 1/2 platter of whole blue crab, crawfish balls, Creole shrimp, catfish, more shrimp, and other deep-fried goodies for $17.95, drinks not included. Probably not healthy, but plentiful, and we are on vacation. Also…no, we didn’t need tweezers for the crawfish balls—these were big balls, like a shrimp ball thing, or like a…oh, never mind. 

            Even on Ash Wednesday (remember, the Big Deal is Fat Tuesday), the streets were relatively clean and music was flowing on Bourbon Street. At one intersection we had our choice: a blues band, a jazz band, a rock band, or a zydeco band. The washboard won out.

            Several of the bars had drink specials, probably to get rid of Mardi Gras left-overs: 3 16 oz beers plus a shooter for $5, stuff like that. And yes, you can walk the streets with open alcohol, as long as it’s in plastic. And yes, there are sex shows, but we just walk on by, although Mrs. Scoop wonders how they can advertise “Topless & Bottomless Live Acts!”  We figure it’s trickery.

            There are countless shops and historical sites to explore the next day. My cousin Steve had mentioned a Voodoo/cemetery/ghost/vampire tour nearby, and we investigate The Rev. Zombie’s Voodoo Shop, right across from Pat O’Brien’s, home of the infamous Hurricanes. (Zombie’s: 723 St. Peter St.).

            The shop is indeed spooky, but they do not run the tours…it is a rendezvous point. The tours are only $18, a good deal. We decide to return for the 7:30PM Witchcraft, Voodoo, & Magick Tour. This means I will have to be on good behavior—20 years ago, after an afternoon at Pat O’Brien’s, we had to take a taxi ride the four blocks to our hotel. Those hurricanes are potent.

We check out some potions and voodoo dolls at the shop, but take a pass. We spend the day sightseeing, and find another interesting shop, ‘The House of Voodoo’. (620 Decatur St.—“May The Curse Be With You.”). Mrs. Scoop needs to pee, and I happened to spot a sign that says ‘Bathroom for Customers Only’ mounted over an upright red casket door. I think it’s a neat idea for a bathroom entrance. I tell her, and wait outside.

I should have looked first. Mrs. Scoop is not amused: it’s not a bathroom, just a gaping, dangling skeleton leering at her from inside the casket.

We go back to Pat O’Brien’s, looking for good food. 20 years ago, I ate red beans and rice and andouille sausage every chance I got. We get to O’Brien’s just as they open at 11am and I order my favorite dish. The atmosphere was nice, but I was mightily disappointed. I asked the waitress where the sausage was, and she pointed to some shaved slices hidden in the small bowl. Later that day, starving, we check out The Gumbo Shop right next door. For the same $6.95, I get a big platter with a giant sausage link to cut up any way I want.

The restaurant is crowded, and we are at a small table set right next to a very nice couple. The man is having a …shrimp Po’Boy!. Mrs. Scoop fights against temptation, and gives in. But afterwards, she admits The Cajun Crawfish Hut was much better. So there’s a tip for you—dine in Long Beach for Po’Boys!.

We do some sightseeing again, and visit the French Market. At least we think we do, because everybody keeps pointing us to different locations.  Regardless, we must have seen it, and it was not anything special. I suppose I should have gone there early in the morning to see the produce vendors, but I didn’t, so there. On the way back, we buy some inexpensive voodoo dolls.

We go to The Rev. Zombie’s, only to find it is a walking tour of about two and a half hours. Our feet are killing us already, so Bourbon Street beckons again!

It’s back to Pat O’Brien’s, this time for Hurricanes and the Piano Bar. It’s not really ‘dueling’ pianos, but all the female pianists are great fun, especially the, uh, more-mature gal, who sang some salty songs. Minor Tip: There is a $4 deposit on each Hurricane glass, so remember to get your deposit back…it’s easy to forget after a few of those tasty deceiving devils.

More music, and we are hungry, so we venture to ‘Yo Mama’s’ (727 St. Peter). It’s right by Rev. Zombie’s, and we’ve seen the sign many times, the one that advertises the Best Burgers On Bourbon St. They may be, because they were the only burgers we had, but I would rate mine as only pretty-good. I asked for well-done; it’s a ½ burger, and the middle was rare. You also get a baked potato with your burger, a first for me, as far as a combo. When I asked Mrs. Scoop for her opinion, she said: “That was the first meat I’ve had since coming South, and I needed it!”--no sexual innuendo intended, adds Mrs. Scoop.

 Biloxi:

We check in at The Imperial Palace. It’s on the Bay, and the casino is a boat, albeit a giant boat. We adjourn to our room to prepare for gambling. Mrs. Scoop decides to use her voodoo doll for good luck, and follows the instructions by pinning a small note with a dollar amount to the doll with a white pin.

The voodoo doll does us no good…maybe we forgot to chant or something. My 3-year streak of bad gambling luck continues. But we have a very good meal at Embers, which is as good as Embers at The IP in Vegas. The next morning, Mrs. Scoop leaves her voodoo doll in the bathroom, along with a note to the maid to please keep the curtains drawn, as the AC is slow in cooling down the room.

The breakfast buffet is far better than the one in Vegas, but then I have a horrifying thought: Will we be kicked out? Mrs. Scoop has left a voodoo doll in plain sight, along with instructions to keep the room dark. I return to the room warily, only to hear Mrs. Scoop and the maid laughing out in the hall. Yes, the maid was startled, but then it became a good story to tell.

            I win $96 while waiting for Mrs. Scoop to check out, and that’s my biggest score of the stay. We drive to Memphis to hear some Blues and visit Graceland.

 Beale Street:

            We stay at a Holiday Inn with a great room (Holiday Inn Select Downtown, 160 Union Ave.). Horse & Carriage rides are lined up outside our window. In the lobby, again asking for good food places, we hear a woman with an English accent tell a few inquisitive souls that if they arrive at the bars early, there is no ‘amusement tax’ for the music. She knows her stuff, and I find out she is the tour guide for a group from England. We have a few cocktails back in our room courtesy of our portable bar, and venture out. We will miss the Oscars, but…

            Yes, Beale Street is awesome! We are happy indeed. The street seems to go on forever, music and neon lights spilling out everywhere. We stop at B.B. King’s, right there on the first corner we get to, and that’s the one and only bar we get to that night.

            Starving, we order some appetizers: deep-fried pickle slices and hot wings. The pickles are good, the wings same as in every other bar I’ve been in. I see a few Englishmen and women drift in early to avoid the amusement tax.

            The band is late, but the wait is worth it: tonight’s show is Ruby Wilson, the ‘Queen of Beale Street’, backed by The Fabulous King Beez, B.B. King’s own band (B.B. will be appearing here tomorrow night). It’s Ruby’s birthday; since it’s Feb. 29th, she claims she is only 15 years old. Ruby is great, the band is great, TV cameras are all around for Ruby’s birthday, and the actual owner of the Club, Preston Shannon, gets onstage for some songs, sounding just like Wilson Pickett, at least to me in my present state of mind.   

It has been overcast and/or raining ever since Big Daddy’s funeral eight days ago, and today is no exception as we head to Graceland…

 Graceland:

            Mrs. Scoop has caught the flu bug that’s been going around, at least up in Wisconsin, courtesy of a certain normally-great niece at the funeral. Mrs. Scoop braved Beale Street with me, and had a good time, but she is weakened, and she waits in the Scoopmobile after I park ($2). I guess I had been concentrating too hard on not getting lost in this worn-down section of the city…I just followed the signs blindly. Now I look around and see one-story buildings in front of me. Elvis’ planes are there—the Lisa Marie and TCB—but no grand mansion. Did Priscilla erect a fortress around the mansion to protect it? How come I can’t see the second story, which every mansion should at least have?

            Mrs. Scoop had been warned by the Holiday Inn staff that Monday mornings are quite busy at Graceland…it’s ‘tour bus’ day. But for once the rain is a blessing—at this particular moment, I am the only one in line at 10:30am. I follow the red canopies and enter the main building.

            I pay the $18 for Graceland only—the Elvis airplanes and cars are two more fees, and Mrs. Scoop is probably getting agitated. I’m directed to an exit, and outside I am told to stand against a painting of the gates to Graceland while I get photographed. (Later, upon leaving, I can buy the faux-photo for $20, and I decline.)

            I am then directed two feet away, and stand in line alone for maybe a minute until a shuttle bus arrives. The door opens and I hesitate…the driver is chatting with an attendant on the bus, and I don’t step on because I guess I’m in a state of semi-awe: I like listening to Elvis--I don’t have any velvet paintings on my walls, but I’m not going to mess with anything doing with Graceland, that’s for sure.

            The driver, a black man of about 60, says: “You it?” and I get on. It’s a short hop from the boarding area to directly across the street. The driver is talking with the attendant, a young black girl, about westerns. I happen to know something about westerns, and I join the conversation. Then it switches to the new ‘Starsky & Hutch’ movie. Everybody’s OK with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, but, the driver says: “Ain’t no way I’m goin’ to see that movie with that Snoop Dog playing Huggy Bear!” I agree, and upon returning home, I check out Antonio Fargas’ site, which proclaims he is the Original Huggy Bear.

            Graceland is a cool place, but I have the nagging feeling I’m invading a dead man’s house. Everything is circa late 60’s or early 70’s; the rooms are cool, but it’s a flashback. Especially interesting to me is the kitchen, which is what you might have in your house right now, if it was built in 1972. It’s nice, with dark cabinets, and I picture Elvis standing there at the counter making peanut butter & banana sandwiches at three in the morning. The bathroom directly across is cordoned off. The ‘Jungle Room’ is neat, as is the entrance immediately inside Graceland, and the pool table room.

            I’m outside now, trying to shut off my ‘Walkman’ audio tour. I have to pee. I’m supposed to go straight ahead to the garage where Vernon held court. There’s an office there, and a smaller addition where Elvis shot at a dummy. I’ve really got to pee, and I’m tempted, until some other stragglers come in. I go out to the racquetball building that Elvis had built for $200,000 (he bought Graceland for $100,000). There’s a small area where he and his gang hung out, equipped with stereo and chairs. Facing this is the high glass wall of the court itself, and inside are show outfits and awards on the wall. I really, really have to pee, so I find an attendant.

            There is indeed a bathroom outside, so I am saved the indignity of peeing on actual Elvis property, which would have been that target-range garage, people or not, or God forbid...the grave! I finish the tour by seeing Elvis’ grave, which has been moved back here to Graceland from its original site. He's there with his parents and his brother, and people are taking pictures and weeping in the slight rain. I get back on the shuttle bus, and there’s the same driver. “You just took the shortest tour in history,” he says.

            Back at the ticket area, I’m presented with a packaged memento that consists of my photo at the faux-Graceland gate, plus a keychain, and some other stuff. It’s $20, and I pass. I take a quick browse through a couple of the tourist shops and buy some postcards. I really want to buy a pair of boxer underwear that has “Burning Love” printed on it, but that’s another pass.

            I snap a few pictures of the ‘Lisa Marie’ and ‘TCB’ as I rush back to the Scoopmobile. Mrs. Scoop is alive, and we head out, back home. We get lost only once, looking for that motel in Carbondale. But an hour later we are in a nice Holiday Inn, using our ‘Priority Rewards’ Program, which we signed up for in Memphis. I’m not one to spout advertising, but we saved $15 on the room, and got a free breakfast. 

            So we got home, and all is well, except there won’t be Big Harold coming down on his golf cart every morning to see how things are going.

            It’s going to be a very tough summer.

                                    

 

New Orleans 1984

 

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