Standing At A Crossroads

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"Whew. We really ARE just at two roads crossing. When you said you wanted me to see what was ‘at the Crossroads’ I thought you two were gonna tell me it was time to think about putting me and Al in a home. I like the idea of a 24-hour craft room and an on-site nail salon, but that’s about it. Besides, they wouldn’t let us take Muffy.

Our plan was sparked after seeing a recent article in Ink Magazine about the Crossroads District. It’s well known for its lively First Friday scene that centers around galleries, restaurants, and other businesses of note in a small area of downtown KC. Inspired, we decided to grab Lou and go on a field trip.

Always in search of local coffee to start any trip, we headed to YJ’s Snack Bar at 18th and Wyandotte, right in the heart of the district. While we waited for coffee and looked over the day’s menu, Lou was mostly interested in finding a restroom so she could “powder her nose.” After a seemingly long time Lou emerged from the restroom, which is plastered with a plethora of playbills.

"Hmmm, I actually recognized a couple of those shows they had posted in there. Remind me to tell you about a concert I went to in upstate New York. It was really muddy and just out in some farmer’s field. The music was good but I can’t seem to remember a lot of the details. And it lasted for days.

"So, you say this is an Arts District, eh? Did I ever tell you girls about the time I dated an artist from Soho? He could draw a mean caricature. Here, let me show you the one he did of me. I look exactly like Jane Fonda! I keep it with me in case I need some ID."

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Coffee in hand we headed out to see some of the sites. “What is this space ship thing on this building? It looks like something right out of ‘Lost in Space.’ That was a pretty good show, you know. That John Robinson, what a cutie-patootie!” We explained that the rocket was a replica of TWA’s Moonliner Ride in Disneyland and boy, did that open another can of worms.

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"Disneyland! DISNEYLAND?! You’ve been to Disneyland, but I’ll be lucky to get you to take me to the State Fair. How will I know who won Best in Show in the Teacup Pig Division if you don’t take me to the State Fair?" Calm down Lou.  We’ve got a plan for that as well.

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"You know, girls, that artist  I dated, he really appreciated my press-on fingernail sculptures and string art. He said my work was ‘groovy.’ He’s the one who took me to that concert in New York. I wonder what ever happened to him… Wait! That’s him!" Lou pointed to the figure on the alley wall. "He looks older, but I’d recognize that forehead anywhere!"

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We continued on our walk, with Lou chattering away. As we came upon the shop of internationally acclaimed fashion designer Peggy Noland, Lou froze in her tracks.

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She peeked in the shop and actually began jumping and clapping. This was a first.  When we joined in the peeking we saw the source of her joy.  Giant fingernail sculptures. “I LOVE the Crossroads!” she yelled.

Barely a block into the trip and Lou had already started begging to head home. While we are used to her impatience, this time was different.

'I'm gonna need you girls to take me back home.  I have some materials to gather so that I can get my project set up before Jeopardy starts.  I have an idea for some new art work. We better go cause we need to hit a couple places on the way back.”

There was no holding her back. We knew we were in for stops at all the Wal-Marts from here to Topeka in order to get enough fake fingernails for her to finish her masterpiece.

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"I’m going to call it ‘Lady Liberty Gets A Manicure.’"

Pleased with her burst of inspiration we couldn’t help but brainstorm the potential placards that were sure to accompany her upcoming show in the Crossroads. “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe the intoxicating smell of nail polish… “

Ok, Lou, we better get rolling. There are supplies to gather, and maybe a 24-hour craft room calling your name.

;)

President Obama Asks, “Where’s The Lou?”

VERY recently President Obama visited our little town of Parkville, MO. When Lou heard that he was just across town she insisted in ways usually reserved for BINGO and bowling tourney time that we “drop everything” and get her down to Parkville.

While Lou has a reputation for being opinionated, she is rarely vocal about her politics, so we were intrigued by her passionate request. “I’ve got a really, really important question that only he can answer.  If I can just ask him, I know it would change everything for me.” Okay, Lou, a few more details would be helpful, but excited by the prospect of seeing the president, we jumped into action and hustled to get to Parkville.

President Obama visited all up and down Main Street…

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…but try as we might to catch up with him, we seemed to always be one step behind.

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Lou let out a squawk and scampered over to the Parkville Artisans’ Studio when she saw a tall stranger walk inside.

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"You just missed him," was the report we got once inside the studio. "Dag nab it all!’ she fussed as the handsome stranger turned out to be "just a guy" looking at the displays. Mr. Obama had started walking south toward the coffee shop.

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We were eager to try to get a closer look but at this very, very time sensitive moment Lou insisted on taking a break after twisting her ankle trying to run up the stairs two at a time. We cajoled and encouraged and even offered to do the “fireman’s carry” in an effort not to miss the chance to shake hands with the president but just like Congress, trying to persuade Lou to compromise is simply immovable object meets immovable object. 

Lou looked around and said, “You girls really ought to bring your artsy stuff in here to sell. You could spiff this place up with some of those journals of yours. I know Christy has that ‘Auntsy’ shop on the interweb. It’s clever of them to name a website after the Aunts of the world. We ARE very creative you know.”  Lou, you may be our aunt, but you’re talking about Etsy, not Auntsy. Here’s my Etsy shop, and although Lou has offered to fill it with glittered marble grapes, faux fingernail sculptures, and crocheted poodle bottle covers, in reality it features handmade journals and sketchbooks: Mom’s Art Therapy.

What Lou didn’t know is that I already have journals for sale at Artisans’ Studio which features both handmade items from local artists and hands-on classes for anyone interested in acquiring skills to make their own art.  ”Maybe I’ll come in here and take a pottery class to boot. I could use some big pinch pots for holding my plastic canvas supplies.”  

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While we were waiting inside the shop for Lou to recuperate, excited Parkvillians were chatting with the president just a few yards away while strolling down Main Street to grab a tasty beverage at Parkville Coffeehouse.

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After about 15 minutes we finally succeeded in convincing Lou that if she would just hobble the two doors down to the coffee shop she could not only see THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, she could ask him her question AND she could do it sitting down, just like she was doing at the studio. So Lou finally got up, limping her way down to the coffee shop yelling out, ”Don’t worry, Renegade, I’ll find you!” Renegade, by the way, is the Secret Service’s code name for our Commander in Chief. We’ve decided that from now on Lou’s code name is to be “Blue Bonnet.”

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Lou made it to the counter and barked at the barista, “Hey Tim, where’s POTUS?” Timothy pointed politely and said, “Well… he was over there.”

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In typical Lou fashion, she took what was said and twisted it into what she wanted to hear. Lou plopped herself down at the table and promptly took “He WAS over there,” and turned it into a script that featured a private audience with the Commander in Chief over an iced tea lightly sweetened.

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By now Obama had departed.  The Secret Service had packed up and stowed all their secrety things that they use to protect him. The three of us sat in total silence.  Lou, in an odd fit of patience, and us, once again in the silence that one finds as they arrive at Wit’s End.

Finally one of us thought to ask, “So, Lou, what was the important question you wanted to ask the president?”

"I wanted him to tell me about the workout routine that Michelle follows. She’s got great arms and I’m planning to buy myself a scooter before summer is out and I don’t want these babies flapping in the wind. Arm dangles can make a noise like a flag a-flyin’."

There is something about sitting at your local coffee shop in the waning shadow of the most influential person in the world watching your great aunt jiggling her flacid arms that can only bring a small smile of resignation.  Dickens had it right, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” 

Ewwww! Spiders!

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The Kemper Museum of Modern Art in Kansas City hosts these spider sculptures by artist Louise Bourgeois. Neither of us are big on spiders and these babies are BIG spiders.  After years of driving by them on our way to smaller, less creepy, things we decided to grab Lou and stop to find out more.  

Unfazed by their size and the way they instantly transport you onto a movie set for a remake of the Incredible Shrinking Woman, Lou popped out of the car chattering away. “This reminds me of the beehive hairdo Cora Sue got back in 1961. She just never did go to the hairdresser often enough, and one day she went for a shampoo and set and Trixie found a whole nest of spiders in her hair. I’ve never seen a woman jump so high or scream so loud. Personally, I always kept a lipstick and pin money in MY beehive.

"Why would she make a spider sculpture anyway? Goodness landsakes, these things aren’t even cute. If you have the skill and the materials why not make something pretty, like a flamingo or something. They’re bright and pink. I have some plastic ones in the yard next to the gnomes. Maybe I’ll send her a picture of the way I dress them up for the holidays. Artists love new ideas."

"Lou, the artist thinks of the spider as a feminine hero figure, ‘who is deliberate, soothing, and patient.’ She’s walking up the lawn to tend to her baby spider."

"Ha! I could tell you girls a few things about spiders. Did you know you’re never more than 10 feet away from a spider? Or that some terantulas live as long as 25 years? Or that spiders eat about 2,000 insects a year? Or that the Goliath Birdeater usually always eats it’s husband, probably while he’s sitting on the couch instead of taking care of the list she gave him to help mend the broken down web that he never even notices cause he’s too busy watching Wheel Of Fortune and yelling out the wrong answers when you are right in the middle of figuring out the RIGHT word…” 

We tried to redirect her rant by asking questions to find out why Lou knows so much about spiders, but the only answer we got was, “Keep your enemas close, I always say.”

Lou, we’re pretty sure you mean ENEMIES.

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Psych Out!

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"Well, of course you would have to start the tour with dead people. I swear, you girls are always trying to psych me out.” 

Honestly, we weren’t. Today we just happened to start in the basement of the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, MO. And yes, it was indeed the morgue. But come to think of it, that IS where it’s located in most hospitals. While it wasn’t done with the purpose of making Lou’s skin crawl, it was a little enjoyable to see the role reversal. Usually it’s OUR nerves that become frayed when sightseeing together. 

The Glore Museum is an attraction on Roadside America that is just a hop, skip and longish car ride with Lou, from home. It has an amazing history of the treatment of mental illness, and of the State Lunatic Asylum that was located here. 

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Part of the museum is dedicated to the historic treatment of mental illness, not just things that took place at Glore. The exhibit includes racks, cages, boxes, enclosed “gerbil wheel” devices, etc., all expressly intended to calm the crazed. When we got to the “Bath of Surprise” Lou started laughing, and couldn’t stop. The information plackard read, “The Bath of Surprise was a 17th Century device for calming disturbed patients. The patient was dropped suddenly through a trap door and into a tub of cold water.” Lou guffawed in a totally inappropriate manner and told the story about the time she threw ice cold water over the shower curtain on her husband, Al. “I heard it would be a good practical joke. I didn’t realize he would bolt out of the trailer buck naked screaming and yelling down the road. Didn’t calm him down at all (she said with a twinkle in her eye). Too bad they didn’t have the interweb then.”

The next exhibit explained how hysteria in women was believed to have been caused by a uterus out of alignment, or a “wandering uterus.” Symptoms included a desire for education and a spoken opinion, among others. This evoked an expletive-laced commentary from Lou as she stuck out her belly and continued through the exhibit LOUDLY pretending to be drawn this way and that, as if pulled by some invisible force. For once we were in complete agreement with Lou.  We cheered both her outrage and her reenactment of the dangerous days of “Uteri Gone Astray.”

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On the 3rd floor there is an interesting display of art created by patients that had lived at Glore. The collection included a variety of items including an incredible embroidered piece by a mute schizophrenic woman, many amazing clay pieces, and this sculpture, on which the patient wrote different phrases before its assembly. “I wonder what type of glue they used here. I’ve been trying to make an art car myself, you know. I have 782 bottle caps I’m glueing to the trunk of Al’s car. It makes a real statement.”

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"WHAT IS THIS? WHAT’S A CONDUCT-O-METER??" While we can’t answer that, we feel certain that Lou would peg the meter at one end or the other. Whichever is most indicative of the mood of her "wandering uterus."

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The lunatic asylum included a dental office. Lou wanted to skip by that room really fast and we happen to know why. The last time she was at the dentist they called us to come and pick her up early. Apparently when the dentist inadvertently hit a nerve she “accidentally” kicked him across the room with her orthotic clogs. “I don’t really see what all the fuss is about,” Lou said as we loaded her into the car, “it was just a knee-jerk reaction. I had the knee, and he was the jerk.”

As we left the museum we were all grateful for advances in the treatment of mental illness. The memorable afternoon of a bawdy but entertaining Lou made both of us thankful that snarky, ill-tempered, loud-mouthed, and opinionated are not symptoms recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).  

Eh, that’s probably just the uterus talking…

Kerfuffle in Kansas

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We recently had a chance to check out The World’s Largest Czechoslovakian Egg in Wilson, Kansas, when we wanted to stop for a break on our way back from Denver.  When a road-weary Lou heard we were questing after a peek at the world’s largest egg she perked up. Any roadside attraction that has to do with food, and Lou wants to be in on it. 

  Although the egg isn’t painted yet, it certainly is big. ”Czech egg? I thought Czech eggs were all painted up! What you need here is the World’s Biggest Frying Pan, The World’s Biggest Toaster, and a really huge can of Spam. Then you’d have the World’s Biggest Breakfast for sure. I like ‘em over easy myself but I bet if you cracked this baby all you would have is a scrambled mess. Besides, I can’t get Al to eat them any other way. He always eats scrambled eggs and All Bran. He says it keeps him regular.  If they added the world’s largest bowl of All Bran to this exhibit then you’d also need the World’s Largest Toilet for the World’s Largest…” (WOAH now, Lou!  Just hold it right there…we get the picture.)  

While we were prepared for the World’s Largest Egg and even the World’s Longest Running Commentary that always seems to accompany our road trips with Lou, we didn’t plan on the wind and rain. But in spite of the inclement weather we decided to get out of the car to get a closer look. Lou suddenly decided to be “helpful” by grabbing the camera AND the umbrella while talking the entire time about her egg drop soup recipe that is made with lemon Jello.

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"Just let go would you? I know what I’m doing! …and then you just sprinkle about a tablespoon across the top while it’s boiling…"

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"Lou, I could help…"

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"Lou, can you hand me….OW!"

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(This was taken right before the umbrella blew away…)

After more skirmishing, this experience left everyone wet and grass-stained, the umbrella taking off for parts unknown, and a very testy Lou soaked from her lilac-grey tresses to her rolled-down support hose.

Roadside America reports that the egg was delivered to Wilson in 2012 with plans spearheaded by a local art teacher to get it painted in 2013.  We all know how plans can change and as of June 2014 the all white egg still looks forward to being Czechorated.

After explaining to Lou that, NO, we weren’t going to “wait around to see if they would start painting the egg today,” she begrudgingly returned to the car muttering all the way. “Now I’m all wet! Why can’t you girls just let me handle the equipment from now on? Hey, know what I think? I think we should hit the Waffle House and get us a TRIPLE smothered, scattered, chunked, waffle covered with a fried egg on top!”

Eggcellent idea, Lou!

She’s A Pistol

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"Gun? What gun? I don’t see a gun! The closest we are to a gun is you girls  shooting off at the mouth."

Lou has a potentially dangerous habit of missing the most obvious things.

We were driving around looking for antiques and stumbled upon the world’s largest cap gun according to Roadside America, located at what was once the Pistol Social Club in the West Bottoms of Kansas City. And even as big as it is, Lou walked right under it without being aware. “I’ve told you girls my eyes aren’t what they used to be on account of all those years working under the flourescent lights at the Piggly-Wiggly.” Well, we have seen evidence of this for years:

There was the time she ran into the fence, WHILE she was building it. And the time she fell in the hole, WHILE she was digging it.  Then there was the time she mistook their pet hamster, Marshmallow, for, well, his name sake.  That one didn’t end well. Then there was the time she backed into the mayor’s car. Picture the scene: looking the way Lou looks, and unable to refrain from an animated critique of city policy WHILE she had his attention, is it any wonder that she was briefly detained by security? But the time she got her hair caught in the drill (while Al was using it) left Lou with both a bald spot and her fallback phrase “I think I just look better in short hair”. So it’s not surprising that Lou didn’t see the gun. What was surprising is what came next.

"That pistol reminds me of one I used to have. Did I ever tell you girls I won ‘Best Bullseye Bodacious Beginner Pistol Packer’ in Platte County? Well, I did. I had to hit a bullseye target while riding a wild bull dressed in a cowgirl costume during a thunder storm. And I have pictures to prove it. Somewhere. I would just have to find them."

We can definitely see the evidence of bull in your story, Lou, but we aren’t sure that its a bullseye. 

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At-At-A-Boy

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"I never did understand those Star War movies. There were too many fast things with lots of dials and talking trash cans, or were they mail boxes, I can’t remember. And that Luke kid! Such a typical teenage boy, always whining and fighting with his father. Makes me glad we never had kids. If my kid whined like that I’d have hit him over the head with that talking trash can.”

We went to visit our friend, Jason, who made this incredible AT-AT Walker mailbox. He’s a welder and an artist, and, if you can’t tell, a Star Wars fan. And because he and Lou have met before, he knew better than to enter into a debate with her. So even when she talked about Han Solo “being too cute for his own good,” he was gracious enough to not kick us off his property. But Lou can never leave well enough alone. 

"I’ll tell you what though, I was a little disappointed in that little green ‘Yodel' character, he talked really funny but he never yodeled. I have a record album of yodeling that could teach him a thing or two. I bet if they gave that girl with the buns over her ears a chance she could have belted it out!”

And that’s when Jason asked us to leave.

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Big Cry Baby

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"She’s not moving, and she’s not talking," we whispered back and forth as we stood awestruck at Lou’s pensiveness. This was not the outcome we had expected when we stopped to see "The Crying Giant" by Tom Otterness at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. This statue has always been one of our favorites, and we thought Lou might like it during our weekly outing with her, and even if she didn’t, we’d be outside where her critique might feel less…critical.

After a couple of minutes we were jolted back into reality. Lou’s contemplation transformed the way a tornado mulls things over before dropping to the ground. “Well, I can totally relate to that statue. It’s just how I feel today. Here’s the thing… Al’s been trying to fix things around the house. Whenever he does that the doo-doo really hits you like a ton of bricks. The last time he worked on a Honey-Do list he wound up supergluing his head to the table and I had to call 911…again. Now I’m wonderin’ why I let you girls drag me out here to look at some artsy stuff that makes me feel like I would have felt if I just stayed home and watched while Al tried to finish my list the right way.”

Since we still had several stops to go before heading back to Flanderland, we decided to try to distract Lou. But she is nothing if not focused.

All of a sudden Lou sidled up to us and smiled really big, a behavior that could be equated to firing a warning shot over the bow of a ship. “In fact, I was just telling Al last night how handy you gals are with tools. And then Al suggested that maybe you girls could come over and help him with his little list tomorrow. Why, I’ll even make you some lunch. I think I’ve got some leftover fish sticks and lima beans in the freezer. Al said he would be so glad to get to spend time with you. Maybe one of you could just run me on to BINGO before you get started. That way I won’t be in your hair while you’re trying to get things done. Whatdoyasay… bright and early, say, about 7:30?”

After many years of swimming against the current we have learned that sometimes it takes more energy to fight than it does to accept the lesser struggle. So we decided to get an early start and help Al with his little Honey-Do list and with luck we could be finished before the freezer-burned fish sticks hit the oven.

When we arrived the next day Lou met us in the driveway, house shoes practically flying off as she hurried out, waving her list, which suspiciously looked like it had been written out on a roll of butcher paper. “I hope you have all your tools handy, cuz I was able to think of a few more things last night during Dancing with the Stars. You’re gonna need to get busy if you want to get home in time for the 10 o’clock evening weather.” Uh-oh. We hoped she had lots of tartar sauce.

Before we grabbed our gear we needed to get a look at Lou’s list. She herded us into the kitchen where she rolled it out. Literally, rolled it out across the kitchen counter. We realized we were going to need an iron-clad exit plan when we saw just a few of the things she had written down:

1. Build a dog pen for Muffy to keep him from tinkling on the plastic pink flamingos.

2. Hose down and move the flamingos from the back yard to the front yard where they’ll get more fresh air.

3. Patch the roof so it stops leaking into the spare room. The leaks are makin’ my styrofoam peanuts and plastic canvas supplies all moldy.

4. Build a shelf for the bowling trophies cause the cabinet is full.

5. Fix the leak under the kitchen sink because I can’t stand to see Al’s plumber’s you-know-what again. Gawd, Some things just can’t be unseen.

6. Alphabetize the VHS and 8-track tapes.

7. Re-install the Dixie cup holder by the bathroom sink and put the butterfly grippy stickers on the bottom of the tub. Last time Al put them on the window.

8. Decorate my mailbox with my “Spring” mailbox cover and change the goose out of her parka and snow boots and into her bonnet and galoshes.

9. Rake the shag carpet in the guest room…

Oh, geez. The list just kept going and going. We drew straws. dropped Lou at the BINGO parlor, and started dragging out hoses and chop saws. We marched through most of her list, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to attempt the one last item:

43. Call that art museum and get the plans for that Crying Giant statue. I want you to build one in my back yard right outside my kitchen window. It can remind me NOT to give Al any more Honey-Do lists. I’ll just call you two instead.

Oh, Al, NOW we know why you glued your head to the table…

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Go Big, Or Go Home

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"Since these guys are so large and muscly they outta make the faces look like Andy Griffith, now that would stop traffic! Oh, and I tell you I wouldn’t mind a giant Tom Jones in my back yard. He would look great between the toilet flower planter and the yard gnomes.”

Last winter we stopped at Glenn Goodes’ Big People in Gainesfield, Texas. We found Glenn on Roadside America, and we all know Lou can’t pass up a great roadside attraction. Lou was almost amiable to Glenn, and especially liked the story about the giant fiberglass lady. He told us that when he bought that statue she had on a skirt that was so short it was embarrassing, so he lengthened her skirt, and gave her a higher neckline. According to Lou, “I never wear skirts unless it’s a funeral or black tie. Bein’ the athletic type, they slow me down and get in my way, but you two probably wouldn’t understand that. You don’t keep up the kind of healthy lifestyle that I do.”

While Lou has been known to break out her denim maxi skirt with the quilted hem when there is a special event at the BINGO hall, her daily attire is more of a combo of support hose and polyester bermudas. We guess this allows her the freedom required for her “healthy lifestyle.” Which, as far as we can tell, consists of sitting on the couch watching old tapes of Jack LaLanne while eating cheese curls.

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Lou was full of suggestions as we pulled away from Glenn’s Big People. “When Glenn was busy fixing the skirt of that Amazon chick I don’t know why he didn’t give her a duckie inner-tube while he was at it. There’s nothing like always being ready for the beach. You never know when you might have a hot flash and need to cool off in a big hurry. I’ll never forget the time Dora Mae and I were at BINGO and she had such a power surge I thought she was going to get arrested. She kept taking off sweater after sweater ‘til she was down to her slip and support garments. Now that was a skirt that needed to be lengthened! I told her if she had just kept drinking more Kool-Aid she’d be fine. Kool-Aid is so good for you and might have even cooled her off in time for the SUPER BINGO card of the day. But that’s Dora Mae, she never listens.”

Lou, you give such good advice. We’ll be sure to put you in charge of the beverages at our next black tie gala, if you can take time away from your workout and can still find your denim skirt.