Saturday, May 27, 2017


Settling on a pair of gold lamé slide sandals, Karen ambled through the aisles of the Pay-Less toward the cashier to make her purchase. Dull back pain near her shoulder was a reminder of the additional part-time job she had taken on; a paper route in which she delivered the local paper at 4:00 a.m. each morning.

“God, I’m getting too old for this,” she thought.

At 46 years old, overweight, and with chronic sinus congestion, Karen Hornbeck had worked full-time since she was 18 years old. Never having attended college, she married soon after high school, had two children, divorced, and now struggled to make ends meet. The paper route would help her catch up on the credit card debt she had accumulated over the past eight months.

Suddenly remembering the reason for her trip to Pay-Less, she turned and headed toward the men’s department. Her son, Lee, was home for the summer after having completed his first year away at college and had obtained a part-time job at a nearby manufacturing warehouse. Steel-toed boots were required.

“I baby him too much,” she muttered.

But leaving the house before he awoke in order to obtain the work boots he needed was typical of Karen. Lee was her oldest child and had done well by obtaining a small scholarship at a state college. Although it was a ten-hour drive away, Karen had often made the round trip during weekends in order to bring various items she thought he needed. In reality, she was simply a very lonely woman – a reality Karen could not admit to herself.

Having found the size 10 boots, she made the purchase and drove toward his new workplace.

B L I manufactured traffic channeling devices – something motorists see every day but never think about. Now that Lee was working there, Karen began to notice the wooden, triangular orange-and-white objects here and there along the streets of her town. If workers were patching up a street, the B L I barricades would be there, ensuring that traffic would be directed around the work site. Lee’s summer job entailed loading the barricades onto delivery trucks each morning then unloading and storing them as they were returned.  Karen felt a small surge of pride as she noticed one perched over a pothole, its little yellow light blinking away.

Karen pulled into the gravel parking lot of the B L I site and found her way to the entrance of the commercial building. A receptionist, somewhat younger than Karen, gave a friendly greeting and Karen explained that she needed to get the work boots to her son. The receptionist paged Lee’s supervisor and the two women waited for him to return the call.

While they waited, Karen struck up a conversation with the friendly receptionist, Dariece.

“What does B L I stand for, by the way?” Karen queried.

“Barricade Lites, Incorporated,” was Dariece’s response. “But for the longest time, I didn’t even know!”

Mutual laughter ensued.

Friendliness toward others had long been Karen’s antidote to loneliness. However, conversations with anyone were frequently turned toward herself. If someone mentioned their pet, Karen’s response would revolve around an instance about her own. If the other party had been involved in a car accident, Karen relayed a tale of a worse accident that she had been in or knew of.

Finally, Lee appeared and the work boots were handed over. Karen displayed her newly purchased gold slide sandals from the shopping bag, over which Dariece feigned admiration. As Karen was leaving, she and Dariece exchanged pleasantries which Karen interpreted as a friendship being initiated.

“Let’s go out to lunch sometime!” Karen bantered. Dariece replied in the affirmative, mainly out of politeness.

Over the next two months, Karen would often stop by B L I with something her son might need – a lunch, an article of clothing, a forgotten asthma inhaler – And these visits turned into chats with Dariece as Lee would be paged. Smiles or laughter on Dariece’s part were always interpreted as camaraderie on Karen’s.

Soon, it was time for Lee’s return to college and his summer job came to a close. With Lee back at college, Karen was lonelier than ever. She continued with her early-morning paper route, slowly paying down her credit card. A weekend visit to Lee was made within a month after the semester began.

One day in October, Karen was driving along near the B L I location where Lee used to work.

“I should stop in and see Dariece,” she thought.

As usual, Karen had an exaggerated sense of the friendship, thinking her visits were needed. Such was her interpretation of every friendship; a falsity which was the cause of her loneliness.

“Hey, Dariece!” she called upon entering.

There was no reply.

As Karen rounded her way into the receptionist’s area, the first thing she noticed was lone table where Dariece once sat. A phone, a company directory on a placard, and printed instructions to dial the extension of the person the visitor wished to see were the only objects displayed.

Karen tried three different extensions, only to receive voice mails. 

Saddened and a bit bewildered, Karen slowly walked back to her car -- The crunching of gravel under her gold slide sandals was the only sound in the empty parking lot of B L I.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Vegan Hungarian Paprikas

Back in the 1990s, I was an actual monk in an actual monastery. (Cue the chorus of angel voices here.) Anyway, I taught myself to cook Hungarian food because most of the elderly monks came over from Hungary during the 1950s and I wanted to give them a taste of their homeland. (Also, I wanted to COOK – I was fine with the poverty, chastity, and obedience, but I missed cooking. Hungarian food was my ticket back into the kitchen.)

So, remembering the robust taste of Hungarian paprika, sour cream, and hearty peasant fare, I veganized “Hungarian Paprikas”. Hearty crimini mushrooms take the place of the chicken and I developed a nifty cashew sour cream. By the way, Hungarian food can be pretty spicy (“csípös”) so feel free to oomph up the cayenne pepper.

I’m really pleased with this dish. Not only will it make a Hungarian monk long for his homeland, (it’s THAT good) but we can enjoy it too.

Oh, and here’s a photo of me roller-blading in my habit. In retrospect, it’s not surprising I’m no longer a monk.


(Cashew sour cream: Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in boiling water for 30 min. Drain off water and blend cashews with ¼ cup water, 1 ½ tsp cider vinegar, 1 ½ tsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp salt.)

16 large crimini mushrooms, halved
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1” chunks
3 Tbs Hungarian paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
dash of sweetener if needed

½ recipe cashew sour cream
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
Margarine and oil for frying. (I like Earth Balance)
Your choice of noodles. (Barilla veggie spirals are vegan)

Fry the crimini mushrooms face down in margarine until well-browned. Don’t turn them over; don’t touch them. It’s important that they get really brown on the cut side. After they’re brown on one side, they’re done. You’ll need to do this in two batches.

Add the onions and bell pepper and sauté until slightly tender. Add the spices along with a little oil for frying in order to let the paprika “bloom” which, apparently, is hugely important to Hungarians. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Return the mushrooms to the sauce along with the sour cream and serve over pasta.


© 2015 by Jon Buckner Wheat. All rights reserved.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Josh Duggar Christian Confession Resurrects Ashley Madison Site

The recent confession of repeated infidelity from American Family Association’s poster-boy, Josh Duggar, has not only resurrected the flailing Ashley Madison social networking service for those seeking extra-marital affairs, but has resulted in a huge surge of highly-paid memberships to the online dating service after the notorious hacking of its site.

“When our membership names were hacked and published, frankly, I thought we were done for,” reported Ashley Madison president and CEO, Noel Biderman, known as “the King of Infidelity” who had founded the website in 2001 as a means for married men to connect with women online with whom they could discreetly cheat on their spouses. “Our entire model depended on the secrecy of our subscribers’ identities. When our members’ personal identifications were revealed, I expected everything to come crashing down.”

“If it hadn’t been for Josh Duggar’s confession to owning two subscriptions, we’d be done for! Frankly, he turned out to be our best marketing agent.”

Apparently, millions of would-be, hesitant subscribers flooded the website with highly-paid subscriptions once Josh Duggar divulged his activities on the site.

“We’d had the reputation of posting fictitious female accounts on a regular basis in order to attract married men to our site. This reputation prevented many married men from availing themselves to our services. However, the moment Josh Duggar admitted that he’d actually hooked up with dozens of women from our site, millions of married men knew that our site was legitimate and that they’d be assured of freely committing adultery just like Josh Duggar did.

An anonymous subscriber listed as “Theodore Nugent,” completed an on-line evaluation noting, “Hey, if a loser like Josh Duggar can get laid on this site dozens of times, then you KNOW we all can. Pile on, dudes!”

Biderman stated: “Josh Duggar made the mistake of using his own company credit card furnished by Tony Perkin’s Family Research Council. Apparently, the FRC was so enamored with Josh that they gave him an unlimited credit card which was immediately identified in the hacking of our site.”

Biderman breathlessly continued: “Since then, all of our new subscribers learned from Josh Duggar’s idiotic blunders and have signed up with ‘prepaid virtual Visa Cards’ that don’t require any identifying information. We’ve even began supplying our own virtual credit cards, thanks to Josh Duggar’s stupid gaffe. We’ve already made a bundle in add-on fees with these pre-paid cards.”

According to Ashley Madison’s marketing director, subscriptions have increased six-hundredfold due to Josh Duggar’s admission. “Our increased revenue can easily pay for any and all lawsuits that have been levied by the hacking of our site. It’s really ironic, but thanks to Josh Duggar, marriage infidelity will increase unabated and remain profitable for years to come.”

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Highway to Heaven

Apparently, a lot of fundamentalist Christian folks believe that Interstate 35 is the “Highway to Holiness” mentioned in the Bible. Isaiah, chapter 35, verse 8 says: “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.”

Now, there are dozens of Christian groups scattered along I-35 praying for lost souls, praying that the naughty adult-type establishments will go away, and praying that God will deign to say that I-35 is, indeed, the highway mentioned in 35th chapter of Isaiah. (They probably think that God had something to do with numbering the chapters, after all.)

I don't know if that'll happen, but I am awfully familiar with I-35.

Growing up in south Texas, my family would often make the six-hour drive north to Dallas to visit our relatives for Christmas or Thanksgiving, most of which was on I-35. I don’t recall it being particularly “blessed,” -- mainly just boring. I do remember that my mom, being a new single parent and not particularly used to driving on interstate highways, was usually pretty tense during the entire drive. Threats of impending disaster were continually conveyed upon my brother and me in the back seat if we didn’t settle down and behave.

My grandmother, "Budgie" -- always firmly implanted in passenger seat -- took it upon herself to provide a veritable feast for the entire trip which was expertly catered in foil-lined shoe boxes. One would be laden with sandwiches (half roast beef and half pimento cheese); another with deviled eggs; yet another with brownies and then there’d be thermoses of coffee and cocoa. Heaven forbid, we’d have to stop and eat at those horribly expensive Stuckey’s restaurants along the way. "Highway robbery!" she'd exclaim.

Those Stuckey’s supplied the only entertainment for my brother and me. We’d play a game called “zip” with the Stuckey’s advertising billboards. The first one of us to see one would suddenly bolt forward and scream, “ZIP!” which was followed by my mom bolting upright and screaming that we had almost caused her to careen off the highway into a fiery crash. And for the record, there were nine Stuckey’s restaurants between Austin and Dallas with ten billboards advertising each restaurant. That's 90 billboards evenly placed throughout the 200 miles -- Doing the math, the result was an adolescent boy suddenly screaming "ZIP" every 2.22222 miles.

Over the mayhem, Budgie would be offering everyone a deviled egg.

Good times. . .

Stuckey's went out of business years ago; probably because everyone’s grandmothers kept us all from stopping at any of them.

Then there was the time when I was sixteen years old and had just obtained my driver’s license. Mom was letting me drive the car along with providing continual visions of impending fiery crashes if I didn’t use the turn signal, or if I played my 8-track of Tubular Bells one more time, or if I went one iota over the speed limit.

I was instructed to stop for gas in Waco, so I exited I-35 and proceeded to run straight through a stop sign at the intersection.


Mom suddenly backhanded me really hard across the chest. (She was a school teacher and employed a very direct corrective theory when it came to her son's driver education.) For years after that, I’d point out that intersection in Waco: “There’s where you nailed me for running that stop sign, Mom.” It became one of our favorite sites.

Soon after college, I moved to Dallas where I lived and worked for ten years. I-35 then became the highway home to see my folks.

I don’t know if I-35 is, indeed, the “Highway to Holiness” as mentioned in the Bible. It seems pretty egocentric for anyone to make such a claim just because they live near it. But for my little family, it sure holds lots of funny and poignant memories.

Those are best kind.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Duggar Scandal Featured on Celebrity Tours

SPRINGDALE, ARKANSAS - In order to capitalize on the Josh Duggar scandal, GoldLine Tours of Hollywood, in conjunction with the City of Springdale, is offering guided bus tours that focus on notorious sites featured in TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting and the child molestation scandal of Josh Duggar. Springdale’s mayor, Doug Sprouse, explained that a steady influx of tourists and curiosity seekers prompted him to contact the tour bus company in hopes of benefiting at least financially from hordes of onlookers in the Springdale area.
"My wife and I had just returned from L.A. and I remembered how much we enjoyed the tour of celebrity homes," said the mayor. "I figured this would be a great opportunity to generate some much-needed revenue for our fair city."
For $29.95 each ($15.95 for children under twelve), sightseers can board luxury buses at various hotels in the Springdale area and embark on an exciting ninety-minute tour of locations associated with the child abuse cases. The buses pass by notorious sites such as the home of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children, the first house that Josh and Anna lived in as newlyweds, and the police headquarters where Jim Bob allegedly took Josh one year after the molestations came to light.
Highlights of the tour include photo ops in front of the famous Duggar home where the unreported molestations took place ten years ago and the infamous hill featured at the beginning of each episode, down which the children gleefully run along with one on bouncing on Josh’s shoulders. The tour is followed by a picnic lunch (cost included in the ticket price) in the parking lot of the used car dealership that Josh once owned before taking his post with the Family Research Council in Washington DC.
"I can't believe we're really here!" exclaimed one tourist, Mindy Feingold, who drove 20 hours with her husband, David, and their two children from White Plains, New York. "It looks just like it did on television!"
"We were going to take the kids to see their uncle's name on the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington," said David Feingold. "But, historically, this is much more significant." His children concurred. "It was fun, Daddy!" they said in unison. Feingold playfully ruffled his son's hair. "And Jonathan here says he wants to have his own reality show someday. Doncha, slugger!"
"The tourist response has been phenomenal," reported Mayor Sprouse. "It's going to be a real money-maker—much more than the actual reality show ever was."

Owing to the huge influx of tourists, Six Flags Corporation CEO, Mark Shapiro, has indicated an interest in opening a large theme park in the Springdale area. "The tourist season hasn't even begun yet, and the head counts look pretty impressive," said Shapiro. "Interest in the Duggar molestation scandal could certainly give [nearby] Warm Springs a run for their money."

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Christian Baker Refuses to Make a 'Welcome Home Josh' Cake for Michelle Duggar. Cites 'Firmly Held Religious Beliefs'

SPRINGDALE, ARKANSAS -- Reeling from the recent child abuse scandal and having resigned as executive director of the Family Research Council, Josh Duggar, his wife, and three children have left Washington D.C. and returned to the family homestead in Springdale, Arkansas. Adding to further embarrassment, a local baker refused to make a “Welcome Home Josh” cake for his mother, Michelle Duggar, upon his return.
“As a devout Christian, I just couldn’t bring myself to bake a cake for Michelle Duggar knowing it would be used to celebrate the return of a habitual sex offender into their home,” reported Harriet Johnston, owner of “I Knead Thee Every Hour,” a bakery specializing in Christian-themed baked goods. “Mrs. Duggar has been a long-time customer, but when she asked me to bake this cake, I held her hand and told her I couldn’t do it because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Johnston thought for a moment and added, “At first, I thought I’d get persecuted for my beliefs and by not complying with the Consumer Protection Act, but the Duggars and Mike Huckabee have championed religious freedom for business owners in Arkansas for years now. This is the only person I’ve ever refused to serve during my 37 years in business, but I knew my Christian beliefs would be protected.”
Mrs. Duggar was reportedly quite taken aback by the refusal of service from a Christian-owned business. She repeatedly tried to obtain services from other area bakeries, including the local Wal-Mart, but was continually turned away.
“I have nothing against Josh Duggar personally,” said Johnston. “I have a problem with what this cake would be used for – to welcome him back into the midst of all those children. It’s their lifestyle I have problem with. I’ll always say that all children deserve a mother and a father – but ones who would not harbor a sex offender in their home.”

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mexico Closes Border with Texas Due to Ebola Threat

MEXCO CITY - After learning of the recent cases of the Ebola virus in Texas, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has taken prompt and effective measures to insure that Mexican citizens are kept safe from the deadly virus spreading across its neighbor to the north. 

“We must take all measures to keep our border safe and secure,” stated Nieto. “To that end, effective immediately, no Texans will be allowed across our border.”

Today, visitors flying from Texas into Mexican cities such as Cancun and Acapulco were met by immigration officials wearing hazmat suits and detained for extensive medical evaluations before being refused entrance into the country.  

“I was never so humiliated in my life!” reported Heather Platter of Plano TX, a newlywed arriving in Acapulco for her honeymoon. “This was supposed to be my dream wedding. We spent thousands booking this resort!” 

Similar fates were met by other Texans hoping to enter the country. A group of senior citizens from the First Baptist Church of Dallas appeared visibly rattled after receiving extensive medical examinations by Mexican health officials upon their arrival at Cancún International Airport earlier today. 

“I realize these are drastic measures,” reported Nieto. “But since Governor Perry refused to participate in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, he left millions of Texans with no access to health care. With the rate of Ebola having increased by 100 percent in the recent weeks, I had to take all measures possible to protect our citizens from Texans who might pose a threat to our nation’s health and safety.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Faith Tones Saga Continues

A few months ago, I wrote an extensive piece about The Faith Tones, a female gospel trio who recorded an album in 1964 titled “Jesus Use Me.” Their album cover depicting the three of them in their 1960s hair styles seems to be all the rage across the internet. 

When I was able to confirm that they’re for real and that they really did release this album in 1964, I decided to put my creative writing skills to use. I wrote some pretty extensive bios about each of the members including making up their names. 

The thing was, my entry was a work of creative writing; 95% of it was fiction. So many sites had made some pretty wild claims about them, so I decided to write a satirical piece but keep it "just" believable enough that people might buy in to it. For example, I identified one of them as Marie Samuels. But any Hitchcock fan would recognize that name as the alias the main character used in the movie, Psycho, when she checked into the Bates Motel. 

My blog entry quickly became Number One on Google. I was surprised

A couple of months later, a Wikipedia article appeared and the information from my blog entry was used as fact. (A link to my blog was provided).  And no, I did not make the Wikipedia entry. As a matter of fact, I’ve tried contacting the person who made that entry but have yet figured out how to do it. 

That’s a perfect illustration of why you can’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia. Or on the Internet for that matter.

So, I’m here to set the record straight. Last week, I noticed that a mint condition LP of the infamous Faith Tones album was up for auction on eBay. This album is exceedingly rare – the last one available was over two years ago. 

I read all about how to “snipe” on eBay and watched the auction carefully. Finally, with ten seconds to go, I leaped out of the bushes like a puma and entered my offer.

I won.

The mint condition album arrived in the mail yesterday. The reverse cover contained some bio information on each of the women including their names. 

From left to right:

Marilyn Seidler -- a licensed cosmetologist
Becky Seidler – has a degree in Business
Rosalie Wolff – an Education major at the University of Montana.

Daniel H. Squire - recording engineer
Bud Tutmarc - Producer.

A friend of mine has a turntable that will convert each track into MP3 recordings. That will be my project for the weekend as well as posting the recordings to YouTube. 

So, yes, my fascination with The Faith Tones is real. I would love to know more about these women and their life journeys, for I’m sure we can all relate to them in some way. 

So, I've come clean about the piece I wrote, but my blog entry remains at the top of Google and the Wikipedia article remains unchanged.  Later, I’ll have the joy of making their music available for us all to enjoy. 

The journey continues. . .

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