Big Dave on Field Dressing a Deer - Road Kill or Not

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 6:02 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: This is a continuation from the previous post, where I was talking with Big Dave about field dressing a deer, in our conversation about preparing road kill.

Here are the notes from that talk:

Big Dave: "Tondy, it don't matter how the deer got killed. Dressing it out is the same. Just the one you shot out in the woods can be field dressed there, but the one you pick up on the side of the road, you got to carry that one somewhere else to field dress it.

"You need some water with you, and some beer, wine or whiskey. You'll need it to rinse off things. like if the bladder leaks urine onto the meat, stuff like that. You ought to have some rags with you, too. And some string. Most of this you'd have in your truck anyways.

"So, you got your deer and you got it where you are gonna dress it out. Ok. Roll it over on its back. Cut a circle around the anus so later you can pull it back, from the inside. You ought to tie it off with string first so it don't leak no deer crap into the meat.

"If it's a buck, cut off his BigDaveDeerprivates and get rid of them. Then cut from his privates up through the ribs, so you can empty out his innards. Don't cut too deep. Just through the skin and the stomach muscles. If you cut too deep you'll go through the stomach and all, and it'll smell real bad. Just don't do it.

"Up by the ribcage, make a big cut so you can start emptying out the guts. Get the cut started and then, put two fingers in the cut to guide your knife, so you're only cutting pretty much the skin. You don't want to cut into his stomach and 'testines and whatnot. Cut the diaphragm loose. It's a sheet of muscle that separates the stomach area from the chest area.

"Then cut up through the ribs, in the center, on up the neck to the bottom of the skull. Cut the windpipe and throat at the base of the skull.

"Then you roll it on over on its side, and pull the guts out. You'll need to cut the fat the holds the 'testines in. That's up there by the backbone. Careful not to cut the 'testines. They'll come out easy, if you've cut everything loose. Keep an eye on the bladder. Reach up inside and pinch it shut while you cut it free with the other hand. If any urine leaks onto the meat, rinse it off real quick with water or beer.

"Cut out the heart and liver from the rest of the guts, and wrap them in rags to keep 'em clean.

"Then, you can skin it and start cutting off the bruised meat, and saving the rest. Give the bruised meat to the dogs. Cut the legs off up by the spine. Same with the ribs. Cut the back straps and tenderloins from the backbone, too. You can throw away the backbone or give it to the dogs.

"After that, you pretty much freeze some and cook up the rest. I know I missed some of what you do, but when you do it yourself, you'll just know by lookin' what you ought to do."

Big Dave on Eating Road Kill for Christmas Dinner

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 7:57 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: After talking with Marilyn about Big Dave serving them road kill deer - and discovering that Doc and Marilyn had served me road kill deer, raccoon and opossum, I decided to contact Big Dave and ask a few questions about eating "road kill."

I had his number in my mobile, so I rang him up. After several attempts, he did finally answer. Big Dave is not much of a talker, and I do find him quite intimidating. I explained to him the purpose of my call, and proceeded to interview him the best I could.

Here is the best I could get on a conversation with Big Dave as to eating road kill.

Tondeleo: Big Dave, I wanted to ask you some questions about eating road kill. Doc and Marilyn say that you are the best person to talk to about it, so here we are... I have never knowingly eaten road kill, but Marilyn says that they have fed it to me regularly. Now I want to know a little more about this strange habit...

Big Dave Kitchen Big Dave: Nothin' strange about it. It's FREE MEAT. Free and fresh from God's big refrigerator - it's December, man.

You people eat food that was killed by having its throat slit at a slaughterhouse. We eat food that was killed by a car. It don't make no difference how it died, long as it's fresh.

But what I'm eatin' aint got no hormones in it and it's raised natural. Organic. That ought to appeal to you. You ain't even know what you're eating, when you buy meat at the store.

What I'm eatin' for Christmas dinner don't cost me a dime. It's just settin' out there waiting for a hungry man to scoop it up and put some meat on the table. I'm havin' deer and fox this year, along with some vegetables I grew in my garden. It's all free.

As for road kill, when someone hits a deer and calls the cops, guess what they do with it? They take it up to Chuck's Butcher Shop who dresses it out an' then they give it to the food banks and homeless shelters! Poor folks eat road kill all the time and they ain't got no problems with it. You gotta eat. I got ground deer in my freezer right now what was given to me by the lady down the road who got it at the food bank. It's free meat.

Road kill aint just for poor folks, like you think. It's for anyone who needs meat or who just would rather have natural raised than the ones with chemicals in it what you buy at the store.

Tondeleo: So, Big Dave, how does one know if the animal on the side of the road is fresh enough to eat, or is even fit to eat at all?

Big Dave: Well, use your head. If it stinks, it aint no good. If it's got maggots on it, it aint no good. If it's smashed flat or its guts are spilled all over the road, I ain't touchin' it.

If the eyes are clouded over with white it’s been dead several hours, but that don't mean the meat's bad. If it still has fleas on it, that means it's probably still good enough to eat. When the meat goes bad, the fleas take off for something better to eat.

Usually on a deer, it only has damage on one side, so you have about most of it that's good enough to eat. You might lose a hip on one side, to being bruised. You can give that to the dogs. They like it fine. I mean they can't tell it's bruised. It just tastes like meat to them.

Tondeleo: How about after rigor mortis sets in... you know, once it's gone stiff. You can't eat it then, can you, Big Dave?

Big Dave: Sure. They go stiff pretty quick. I eat 'em all the time what was stiff when I found them. If they don't stink and they aren't busted up too bad, you can eat them.

You can eat pheasants, foxes, badgers, rabbits, all of 'em. If the blood is red, they are very fresh. If it's fresh, you can eat it. I call it God's Grocery Store.

This interview went a bit longer and I will save if for another posting, where we get specific on how to field dress a deer.

Doc Stevens, Marilyn, Big Dave and Eating "Road Kill" Deer Meat.

Monday, December 21, 2009 11:32 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: I haven't been to the States for more than a month now, and I have been ill frequently - which means that I have been in the survival mode as to my writing for paying my bills. I haven't had time to post anything about Doc and Marilyn.

I did ring them up the other night, just to wish them a happy Christmas and holiday season. It was good to be able to talk with them, and to hear their plans for Christmas.

Marilyn answered the call:

Marilyn: HI TONDY!!! Uncle Doc ain't here. You calling from that England?

Tondeleo: Yes, Marilyn, I'm calling from "that England." Bromley, actually. How are you and Doc doing?

Marilyn: Well... me an' Uncle Doc been shoppin', been visitin' and playin' an' singin' at peoples' Christmas parties so we got some money for presents. We been up to the Dollar General an' Doc got me some clothes an' some other things what'll be a surprise.

I got him a new hat an' some shirts an' socks. Two bags of socks, Tondy! He needed socks real bad. His old ones are all rotten.

We went to the Wal-Mart over to La Plata, too, Tondy! We ain't been there for three months cause we ain't had the time or money. But we got four 50 pound bags of dog food for Dale Junior and Stubby an' Doc got 'em some new collars for Christmas! They're gonna be SO excited Tondy!

Last night we went to Big Dave's an' played music an' sang til real late. I took a picture what I'll email you when we go to the Bryans Road liberry. [I got the pic today - see below] Big Dave was askin' about you an' said to wish you a good Christmas if y'all do Christmas in England. I told him you did.

Big Dave is doin' well. He still ain't drinkin' an' that's a good thing, cause when he used to drink, he could be mean. Now he is a big teddy bear, but don't let on that I told you Tondy! Cross your heart!

Big Dave had cooked up a deer roast from a deer what he found what got hit by a car.

Tondeleo: Road kill? He fed you road kill?

BigDaveChristmasMarilyn: Well it ain't like that, Tondy. If you are out at night an' there ain't a deer on the side of the road an' then you go by in the mornin' and there IS a deer on the side of the road, then you know it's fresh. An besides, it's cold outside, so it's not gonna go bad. We eat it all the time, Tondy.

Tondeleo: Well I wouldn't eat road kill, Marilyn! That's disgusting!

Marilyn: Well, guess what, "Mr. Better n' us?" You've ALREADY eaten road kill! You've had road kill deer, road kill 'coon and road kill possum! Cause if we see it an' it's fresh an' ain't too tore up, we dress it an' freeze it an' eat it. It ain't nothin' wrong with it, an' you've liked it!

Tondeleo: I wish you hadn't told me that, Marilyn! I think I'm going to be sick!

Marilyn: Quit bein' a sissy, Tondy! Meat is meat. All you do is when you field dress it, you cut out the part where it's bruised. The rest of the meat it just fine an' that's what we ate at Big Dave's. He's a good cook an' gave us some deer steaks to take home for Christmas. He's like havin' an extra Uncle. He's a good man an' a good guitar player, too. Plus he can cook, so he's better n' you in some ways.

Tondeleo: I'm sure he IS better than me, in a LOT of ways, Marilyn. Especially when it comes to being able to take dead animals from the side of the road and making savory dishes. I can honestly say that he is probably better than any of my friends. So you can pass my praise on to Big Dave and tell him to have a wonderful Christmas! Tell Doc I'll be talking to him before Christmas!

Marilyn: Ok, bye Tondy! And Merry Christmas - "Mr. Better n' us!"

Doc Stevens: Learning about the Lord from "Toilet Books."

Friday, November 20, 2009 9:25 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: Now that I am back at home for the next few months, I will be posting random talks with Doc and Marilyn and their friends, from the digital recordings I made of them. Some of these are more than a year old.

One thing that strikes me about rural Americans is their connection with religion, even if they are not that pious in their personal lifestyles. Doc and Marilyn seem to pretty much live out their beliefs, even though they are not what one would normally think of as the religious type.

Some of their friends are very "rough and ready" but when it comes to "the things of the Lord," they seem to have some respect for spirituality. A man might be out in a bar every Friday and Saturday night, and even get into fights. But, on Sunday it is likely that he could be in church. If one brings up "the Lord," he will suddenly have some level of respect and reverence.

I asked Doc about this, and how it is that he learns about religion.

Doc Stevens 09Doc: I got one of them toilet books. Marilyn brung it home from church. You set it on the back of your toilet and when you're sittin' on the toilet, you read the page for that day and learn about the Lord and then pray the prayer at the bottom. Sometimes I'm in there long enough to read two or three days worth. It ain't that hard to learn about the Lord, if you got your mind to it.

I ain't too big on prayin' when I'm on the toilet 'cause it ain't respectful to the Lord. But I read about Him there. After I'm done my business, and got my britches back up, that's when I talk to him mostly.

You can talk to God anywhere, Tondy. If I aint got nothing to tell him, I tell him that I am glad I ain't sick, or aint homeless. Glad I got people what loves me and what I love. And I hank him for that.

I ask him what to do. Then I set about doing it. If I get stuck when workin' on a car, I ask him how to fix it an' he usually tells me what to try next and' it works.

Tondeleo: So how does God talk to you, Doc? Is it in a voice like me talking to you, or is it just in your head or what?

Doc: God don't talk to your head, Tondy. He talks to your heart. People what only lives in their heads and brains get anti God after a while. They lose touch with their hearts. Lose they selves. An' they are some of the most miserable people you will ever meet.

But people what lives from their heart is happier. I'm happier. I been both sides of that street. It is better for a man to walk with his God.

Me, I had a lot of bad things happen when I was growin' up. A lot of drinkin' fightin' Daddy dyin', an' some things what is left unsaid. You mighta had bad 'speriences and But God didn't put you here to stay where you was. He put you here to get to where you are goin'.

I figure it like this. He loved me enough to give me life in the first place, even if it's a hard one. All he asks you to do now is love him and help other people the best you can. And do what he says in the good book. If you do that he will look out for you and your people and will bless you and the works of your hands. The preacher told me that one. It's not a bad deal, in my mind.

My Flu Prevention that Didn't Work - and Marilyn's Homebrew Flu Cure that did.

Sunday, November 15, 2009 10:46 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

I have been down with H1N1 the past several days, and it has been dreadful. I came down with it several days after arriving in the States, and a few days after visiting Doc and Marilyn. Doc, as you'll recall, was sick in bed, attempting to "sweat out" whatever it was that he was ill with. He had all the symptoms of H1N1. Fever, chills, aches, pains, coughing, bad stomach, all of it. He had what I am experiencing now.

Doc had refused my homeopathic immune system boosters, calling them "quack medicine," and that he "weren't no duck," so he "weren't takin' no quack medicine." When I told him that it wasn't medicine, and that it was all natural, he informed me that anthrax was all natural and that he wasn't taking that either.

Last evening, I phoned Doc and Marilyn from my sick bed. Marilyn answered the phone.I found out that Marilyn never came down with H1N1, which their circle of friends refers to as "the pig flu."

She says that the Lord kept her from getting the pig flu because Jesus knew that Doc needed her to cook for him and to help him get well. Doc got over the pig flu in three or four days and was back working on cars and singing and writing new songs already.

I asked hmarilyn3er what did she fix for him that made him well so quickly? "Well, mostly I'd cook him beef broth, made from cookin' beef bones in water and garlic an' onions, with some black pepper in it. You cook 'em for about four hours an' then let it soak. I'd give him a cup in the mornin' an' one at lunchtime an' one at supper time an' one about 10 at night."

"I also got lemon juice up at the Safeway's over to Bryans Road, an' put that in hot water with some honey in it an' cinnamon an' nutmeg. I gave him about five cups a day in his drinkin' jar. You gotta flush out that flu so it don't stay in his liver an' such."

I asked Marilyn where she learned to do that. "It's just what people know what lives out in the country an' gots to be their own doctor. We're about almost a hour from a doctor an' we ain't got no 'surance or nothin' so we got to come up with what we know. Some of it is just somethin' everyone out here knows, an' other of it is just what comes up in your spirit to do.

"Like, anything what kind of goes up your nose when you smell it will make you feel better - like cinnamon an' nutmeg. Ginger is good for you. Peppermints. We grow them in our yard. You can smell it. So is rosemary. An' peppers, an' onions an' garlic. Dark coloured fruits an' berries is good, too. Like blueberries an' poke berries. It's just somethin' that you know. You put it in hot water an' drink a lot of it.

"Red clover blossoms is good for you an' my grand mama said it would get rid of cancer. I ain't never tried it but she said it does. She would make tea from it an' drink it 4 times a day an' lived like 15 years after the doctor said she had stomach cancer. It ain't what killed her, Tondy. It was a heart attack."

I don't know how these people come up with their concoctions, but I do know that they seem to bounce back to health more quickly than those of us that go to the doctor seem to. On the other hand, maybe it is the high amounts of horrid liquids and sweating that actually get the flu to want to leave the body as quickly as possible so it can go infect someone else! I don't know. All I know is that I need to end this and run to the 'loo - right now!

Doc Stevens and My Natural Flu Remedy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 3:47 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

In the U.K., H1N1, or Swine Flu is considered pandemic. There are all kinds of responses here, ranging from making certain that we all have our injections that are provided by the government, to wearing masks for protection, to herbal remedies, to simply ignoring it.

Being a bit on the conservative side when it comes to my health, I have opted for herbal preventatives, hoping to boost my immune system enough that I can get through the winter without becoming a host of the Swine Flu.

When I came to the Sates last week for a quick trip, I brought along my herbal remedies. I was surprised at the difference in how Americans are responding to this outbreak. Some of them are refusing the government provided injections, saying that the government may be putting something else in the hypodermics, or that the concoctions have not been thoroughly tested enough.

Others are adamant that EVERY person in the US should be required to receive a flu inoculation. I had a pretty good idea that Doc, Marilyn and their friends would not be in this camp. I was pretty certain that they would opt out of the inoculations all together.

When I got a few hours to be able to visit, I telephoned them, and Marilyn answered the phone. She told me not to visit because Doc had the flu. He'd been feeling bad for a couple of days and had finally decided to go to bed and lay there until it passed.

Marilyn took the phone to Doc so I could offer him some of my herbal treatment. I figured that he might accept it, since it was all natural. When he got on the phone, his voice was gravelly and weak.

I offered my condolences, and then offered to drive to Nanjemoy and bring him some of the tonic I had with me.

He said, "I aint taking no medicine. I'm just gonna drink a lot of juice and lay here in bed in my long johns and wrapped up in blankets an' sweat this thing out."

"I know it's all natural. But that don't mean it won't hurt me. Anthrax is all natural, too."

I told him that he had a good idea, but that what I was offering him wasn't actually medicine, It is all natural and couldn't hurt him.

He was quiet for several seconds and then whispered, "I appreciate it Tondy, I really do, but I ain't gonna take it. I know it's all natural. But that don't mean it won't hurt me. Anthrax is all natural, too. So thanks but no thanks. Come by next time and we'll go out and eat."

I offered him and Marilyn my best thoughts and got off the phone, hoping Doc recovers quickly.

Why Being Out in the Country is Tons More Fun than City Life - poor city people!

Saturday, October 24, 2009 7:40 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: I love rural Americans. They are so different from anything we have in the U.K. or even in Europe. Most of them are fiercely independent. On the downside, this can also manifest itself in mistrust of strangers, bigotry, resentment of the rich and powerful.

Many of them tend to be fatalistic and highly resistant to change. Any change, on any level. Many of them have no drive for self improvement whatever, and would rather watch TV and drink than take a class at the local college or university.

If they had even a spark of ambition or the belief that they could change, they would hop in their trucks, put in in four wheel drive and drive out of the swamp of ignorance that they have called home for as long as anyone could remember.

At the same time they can be very inventive. Just go online and look at some of the inventiveness of the ones who live in mobile homes, or "trailers." Look up words like "redneck" in any photo search engine. You will be amazed at how they can make do with just about any piece of rubbish they can find.

But they don't want "change." The idea is, "Change is bad, same is good." They may not LIKE how things are, but they won't change. They have some other ideas that are similar and that keep them in their well worn ruts. According to them, change is to be regarded with suspicion, and is certain to wreck their established way of life.

"New is bad, old is good." A man can drive his 1985 pickup truck that's rusted out, gets 12 miles to the gallon of petrol, leaks oil, and has exhaust fumes coming up through the floor, and he will swear to God that his truck is far superior to the latest model that gets 22 miles per gallon, has air conditioning, power brakes, is quiet, dependable and has a 3 year warranty. He will look at that new truck and say "Yeh, they don't build 'em like they used to." And what he is saying is that the old ones are better!

Doc Stevens Bushey Taxidermy"City is bad, country is good." I took one of Doc's friends with me to Washington, DC last year, to a section called Georgetown, which is an entertainment mecca. There are restaurants, theatres, clubs, and interesting people everywhere. Darrell just kept shaking his head in disgust.

"What do people do for fun, what live here?" he asked.

I couldn't believe that! I rattled off the list of things to do: Eat, listen to music, dance, take in a play, or a film, etc. He wasn't convinced.

"That stuff ain't no fun," he said.

Exasperated, I asked, "OK, so what do you do for fun in Nanjemoy on a Friday night? There's nothing to do!"

He looked shocked. " Whaddya mean, aint nothin' to do in Nanjemoy on a Friday night? They's all KINDS of things to do! Things what you can't do in this so called Georgetown which ain't nothin' but a bunch of city people."

Naively, I asked just exactly what WAS there to do in Nanjemoy on the weekends?

Darrell began to spill out opportunity after opportunity:

"Well, you and the boys can go coon [raccoon] huntin'. That's fun. You have a few beers, get your dogs an' go out and kill some coons. You can do that ANY night, not just on Friday or Saturday. Bet you ain't even never done that, have you, Tondy?"

I admitted I hadn't.

"You can go deer huntin' at night, too. They's a little easier at night, 'cause if you shine a spotlight in they's eyes, they just stand there waitin' for you to shoot 'em. It's like 'run to the light!'"

I told him I thought that is probably illegal, but Darrell said that you ain't supposed to go ask permission first! You just do it.

"We go up to Scott's Store in McConchie. That's fun. You get people from all 'round, like from Marbury, Pisgah, Welcome, Ironsides. They got bands there an' it's just as good a time as a man could want.

"If you play music, you can get together an' play music over at Doc an' Marilyn's or Schloggie's (I am certain I misspelled that one) or anyone else's place. If you can't play, you can go over an' listen. That's fun an' it don't cost nuthin.

"I like to go out to the barn an' work on my mud bogger truck, when I got the money for parts. I aim to be drivin' it next Spring. Ain't got no mud-boggin' in Georgetown.

"Sometimes, we just get a few guys together an' chip in to put some gas in the car, and chip in more money to buy a case of beer, and then pick up some ladies an' go ridin' aroun' til we're outta gas an' beer. That's fun. There's all kinds of fun you can have right here that you ain't need to go to La Plata, Waldorf, or that so called Georgetown for. I ain't goin' back there again."

What can I say?

Some Malapropisms (words what ain't used right) of Doc Stevens and Marilyn and their friends

Sunday, September 27, 2009 6:21 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas
One interesting and sometimes confusing aspect of being with rural uneducated people of any culture is their misuse of their own mother tongue. It is especially interesting when one is listening to someone misuse their mother tongue when it is not your own mother tongue, so you have no idea initially what they are talking about.

For example, I was visiting Doc and Marilyn and Marilyn invited me inside to have dinner with them. She said they were having "chicken popeyes." I of course thought that she must mean that they were having Popeye's Chicken (which is an American fast food chain), and that somehow Doc had found a way to get some Popeye's Chicken to their house, which is about 20 miles from the nearest Popeye's.

Instead, when we sat down to the table, Marilyn brought out three chicken POT PIES, that she had heated up in the microwave. "Chicken Popeye's." Doc asked me if Brit's ate chicken popeye's and I told him that we did but that we had another name for them.

Another time, Doc was talking about a friend of his who had just gotten another woman in his life. Doc was telling me about it, how she was a short little gal, but was "a beast." I asked what he meant by her being a beast, imagining that she had fangs, a beard, or horns protruding from her forehead. He said, "You know, Tondy. She's fat, round... o' BEAST!" "O BEAST!"

Doc's neighbor's boss, for example, holds him "a cannibal." Ernie brings tools home with him in the company provided truck. But Ernie is responsible for the tools and would have to replace them if they went missing. He is held "a cannibal" for them.

Ernie says his old lady don't speak in "contraptions." She speaks every syllable, not running words together like the rest of them.

One's monthly check comes from "socialist services" over at the "gummit" building in La Plata. LaPlata is in "Chaws Canny Merlyn," which other people refer to as Charles County, Maryland."

Of course, there is the "innerweb" on the computer where one can get e-letters, and see all the stuff out there in "cyrilspace," unless one has "doll up" in which case one cannot fully enjoy "that your-tube."

Oh well. I'm just a Brit. But none of them can figure out why someone from England is not called an "Eng."

Doc Stevens on Wealth and Covetousness:The more you have, the more you want.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 4:02 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: Here is part of a conversation I recorded a year or so ago and never transcribed. Doc was talking about how, as people get more affluent, they tend to not be as happy and satisfied as they were when they were struggling.

Doc: "Ain't nothin' wrong with havin' stuff, Tondy. Nothin' at all. But the more a person has, the more he wants. That's a fact.

Not just the more he wants, but the more he thinks he needs. You take a man what's been broke all his life, and then he 'herits some money. Now he thinks he NEEDS things that used to he only dreamed about.

Now he NEEDS a couple of suits. He NEEDS vacations. Never had one in his life, now he NEEDS one or two a year. NEEDS a big house. NEEDS a shiny new car. NEEDS to have his kids in private school. NEEDS his old lady to quit workin' and to get her hair did every other week. And he ain't never had none of that even one day in his life before!Doc Stevens 88

Now a poor man, when he thinks about having money, dreams that he would be more happier, more relaxed if all he had was more money. He thinks he would be happier and worry less, if he had, say a million dollars.

Poor folks worry, but so do rich folks. Matter of fact, most of the bosses what I've had has been more worried about money and payin' bills than poor folks. And they worried more about the future than poor folks.

Here they are, livin' their dream with their own shop or garage, an' people workin' for them and you find them worryin' more about the customer what went to a competitor, or worryin' about how can they get a bigger shop or a newer tow truck. I mean here is a guy who ain't never had nothin', and now he's got a little bit, he starts worryin' about what he ain't got!

Then, it gets worse, Tondy. Now he is worried about havin' life insurance, and how is he gonna send his kids to college, and his retirement, of which I ain't got one, and stuff he ain't never even heard of 'til he got a little money! You cain't even imagine the things a man will worry about, once his life gets easier an' he gets a few more dollars. Ain't no limit!

Here's somethin' else what happens. Instead of gettin' along better with people, he starts gettin' pickier and pickier! He gets mad at more people an' he gets mad for stuff what don't even matter! He's fightin' for things what don't matter one bit - an' he worries himself sick over it.

Like who is gonna be the Businessman of the Year. Who cares? Or, who else is gonna be allowed to join the same country club what he belongs to now? He wouldn't a even KNOWED about a country club a few years ago! And now he's a member, an' worried that they might let in someone who ain't up to his standard!

I say it's best to keep important things important, Tondy. Like puttin' enough food on the table. Bein' a better person. Gettin' along with folks. Helpin' people out what ain't got it as good as you, and walkin' with the Lord. That's about it. The rest'll take care of itself."

Doc Stevens on Hard Physical Work.

Friday, August 28, 2009 6:05 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: To me, it's nothing short of amazing and a bit sad when I see how hard most of the rural Americans that I have met, have to work, just to sustain a not very lavish lifestyle.

America has many financial programmes that provide assistance, and many people take advantage of them. But, to most of the rural Americans I have met, accepting a handout is considered to be conceding defeat, and they feel that it also threatens their independence.

Over the Summer, I was able to spend part of a day at Doc and Marilyn's, and in the evening we visited some of their friends, all who are hard workers, but who have very little to show for their labours, at least in the material realm.

I asked Doc about how he felt, as he gets older, having to work so hard (mostly as a panel beater) fixing cars in his crowded home- made garage. Of course it is not air conditioned. He has an electric fan that was the ventilator in the 'loo of a government building that a friend of his remodeled (it was being tossed). Even with the stifling hot air being circulated, I know that I would not be able to last more than an hour. To be quite honest, his garage felt more like being in a giant human pizza oven. In the winter, he goes without heat, or uses a wood stove at the back of the shop, which does not heat it at all. It just takes the chill off. I cautioned Doc that as he got older, this would be a danger to his health.

Doc: Tondy, most days I can outwork a man what's twice my junior. But that aint as hard as it seems, cause them boys is gettin' older, too. It ain't like when they was twenty.

Alot of boys twice my junior is about thirty now, and they cain't work hard no more. So I can back off a little and still outwork 'em.

Tondeleo: OK, Doc, I understand... I think. You ARE admitting that you can't outwork a 20 year old, right?

Doc: Heck NO! Most of them 20 year olds, MARILYN can outwork 'em. Most of them what has been through high school aint had but one year of gym class! They get tired just THINKIN' about havin' to do real work. Most of 'em is bushed if they had to run a half mile! It ain't nothin' to outwork 'em!Marilyn 2

Now Marilyn, she been doin' serious work since before I took her in when my brother died, She makes most of them boys look like the out of shape sissies they are! She can work out here in the shop when it's a hundred degrees!

These high school graduates want air conditionin' or they can't work. They want safety goggles. Sun glasses ain't good enough. Got to have dust masks and aspirators when we is sprayin' paint - or they run outside coughin' like they's dyin. But they can smoke cigarettes and weed all day long. And they can talk half a day.

Now, me, I ain't smoke nothin. I ain't drink. I ain't standin' around battin' the breeze all day. I stay pretty fit. So it ain't nothin' when a old man can outwork most men what's twice his junior - specially if they is city boys. Now country boys is another story.

Doc Stevens: Leftovers again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009 7:51 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

This is just a short post. I've been dreadfully busy and have not had the time to transcribe any of my recordings from being with Doc and Marilyn, so I am just posting this short one in order to not look like I have quit posting.

Like a lot of rural Americans, Doc and Marilyn pray before they eat. I've learnt when I am eating with rural Americans not to just begin eating when I sit down at the table. I wait of course until my host or hostess is seated and then I wait for them to either take the first bite, or bow their heads to "bless the food."

"Blessing the food" generally consists of everyone at the table bowing their head and closing their eyes while one of them will offer a prayer of thanks for the food, and asking the Lord to not let any of them get sick from eating it. Well, they don't actually SAY that, but it is inherent in the nature of the prayer. Generally these prayers are mildly poetic or prosaic.

Some of them that I have heard include:

"Thank you Lord for these here vittles. Help us to receive strength and help from them. Amen."

Others get more religious:

"Thank you, Oh Lord for this food we are about to receive. Bless it for our bodies and and bless us for your service. Amen."

Then, there is the American classic, which many American children are taught, and some adults still say with folded hands and closed eyes:

"God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food. Amen."

After praying over the food, then it is ok to "dig in" and resume a free for all at the table.

Earlier this Summer, I was at Doc and Marilyn's for the evening meal. Marilyn had heated up several little plastic containers that had originally contained margarine, or Cool Whip (an American non dairy substitute for whipped cream). Rural Americans save these throwaway containers, and use them to store leftovers, small car parts, or eat from them as cereal bowls or soup bowls.

As Marilyn sat down, I bowed my head, waiting for her or Doc to pray. Doc picked up his fork and began to eat right out of a container of kale.

Marilyn immediately began fussing at him and rebuking him for eating unblessed food.

Doc jammed the food over into one of his cheeks and stuffed some leftover ham slices into his mouth, ignoring her the best he could.

Marilyn felt that he was truly tempting the Lord by doing this and asked what had possessed him to be eating without blessing his food.

Doc looked at me, rolled his eyes and exhaled. Then he said in an exasperated voice, "Marilyn, this is the third time we've had this here food. If the Lord ain't blessed it by NOW, He ain't GOING to."

And he kept on eating.

Doc Stevens & Cash for Clunkers and the Poor.

Thursday, August 6, 2009 5:33 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: Doc INSISTED that I post this blog right away. He was fuming, and called my mobile phone and told me to record his words and get them posted. It is about the Us Governments "Cash for Clunkers" programme, where they will allow you $4500 for your petrol guzzler, if you trade it in on a new car that uses less petrol. Then, the government has the dealership destroy the engine in the car that was traded in. That is what set Doc off.

Doc: Tondy - I am madder 'n' a one eyed cop in a constipation camp! Them desk jockeys up in the government is allowin' people $4500 for their old cars and pickups if they want to trade 'em in for somethin' what uses less gas.

OK. That's good for folks what gots good jobs, good credit and can afford full insurance, which I cain't. So it aint helpin the poor. No, it's helpin' the car companies what cain't seem to sell cars without Uncle Sam's help. Uncle Sam done give 'em all about a billion dollars each last spring so they wouldn't go out of business. But guess what? They took that money and then once they got it, they filed bankruptcy anyway! Within a couple of months! Where'd they put all that money? Them rich dudes took it.

Now here is what gets me. If you want to get $4500 for your old car DocsTruck or pickup, it's got to be on the road, tagged and insured and it's got to run good. Heck, me an' my friends is ALWAYS tryin' to keep our cars on the road, tagged and insured. That right there, aint easy for a poor man.

But here they take these cars and trucks what is RUNNIN! and is tagged and gots good tires, good exhaust on 'em, nicer than anything I have ever owned, and then guess what they do with them?

THEY RUIN 'EM TONDY! THEY KILL 'EM! THE GOVERNMENT MAKES THEM KILL THE MOTORS IN THEM!

Butch's boy Ronnie told me that. OK, a Suburban was traded in. A 92 Suburban. Newer than anyone 'round here is drivin.' It had good paint on it and he said it ran good. He wanted to buy it. But guess what? This made me cry, Tondy. They took it around back, to the garage an' they made the mechanic drain all the oil out of it, and then pour in water and sand into the crankcase! Water and SAND! And that mechanic had to run that motor and rev it up til it locked up! A perfectly good 350!

He said they has done that for EVERY car what has come in, more than 80,000 of 'em! Someone ought to go to jail for that one! A whole bunch of someone's ought to go to jail.

Here poor folks without good jobs or credit is, tryin' their best to keep something on the road, and Uncle Sam is makin' the car dealers kill perfectly good cars. That is a sin against God.

Tondeleo: Well, Doc, it keeps the dealers from turning around and selling these cars back to the public...

Doc: But POOR people needs cars! We need parts for the cars we got! How about recyclin'? They makes a big deal outta recyclin up there in DC. Here is all they need to do. When the dealer gets that car traded in as a clunker, he can write the word JUNK across the title and turn that in to the MVA. Then nobody can tag that car again. It is just salvage from then on. But at least we could get parts and could recycle them. I am broken hearted, Tondy and had to get you to put this on that innerweb so the people in cyrilspace can read it and stop this mess. Good night.

Tondeleo: Good night, Doc.

Doc Stevens and Big Dave on the Cycle of Poverty: Alcoholism, Drugs, Drug Dealers and Poverty.

5:01 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Doc: OK. A lot of poor folks does drugs, drinks too much and gambles and some steal when they can. People with money say them things is what causes poverty. I aint sayin' that. Those things is traps for the poor and keeps 'em oppressed.

Big Dave: Doc's right, Tondy. Rich people does drugs and poor people does drugs, but it is different. Poor folks are on the edge and have no room for making mistakes. Rich people do drugs for fun or to feel better just like poor people do. But rich people get their doctors to subscribe the pills for them. The cops aren't gonna hassle rich people because they got lawyers, and nothing is going to happen to them anyway. Rich people mostly don't go to jail.

Doc: And ain't all people does things for the same reasons. Some just aint know no better. Like when I was a boy, my daddy gave me beer since long as I can remember. Maybe two or 3 years old. I didn't like it at first an' he would put salt in it to take off the edge. He told my mama that it canceled out the alcohol. I didn't never like beer too much, but it made him and his friends laugh so I would do it. And it made me feel like a little man. They gave me cigarettes too, Tondy. My uncles smoked reefer and when I was maybe 12 they would offer it to me.

I aint never tasted whiskey til Big Dave & Doc StevensI was maybe 12 or 13. I took one drink and I liked it. It just felt right in my mouth and felt like a old friend. I just liked it alot. Drinkin' runs in my family and it is in the blood. So that's how I got started. But that's just me.

Big Dave: I was about 10 or 12. My daddy had a few bottles around the cabin, an' I got a taste for it on my own. Daddy drank it, so I wanted to be like Daddy and I would sneak a drink whenever I could when I was younger than 10. But when I was 10 or 12, my cousin Earl gave me a bottle of whiskey that he'd tooken from somewhere and we went out behind the barn and drank it. Drank the whole bottle!

Doc: Same with drugs. I ain't never been too much on drugs, but a lot of people is. Some of it comes from their own family, their mama or daddy. Older brothers and sisters can get you started. Might be a thing where all your friends does it and you just want to fit in.

Big Dave: Here's somethin' else about drugs, Tondy. Folks what gots insurance when they get down in the mullygrubs or whatever it is that makes them feel bad, they go to a psychiatrist or whatever doctor they go to, and he will write 'em a subscription for some drugs an' they feel more relaxed. It ain't against the law.

Doc: But if a person is poor and gets down and depressed, they ain't got insurance. They might be able to go to socialist services an' get someone to give them some pills. But guess what? That person gots rent to pay, or the light bill. So he or she might be able to get the pills. But then they is needin' money and they got a neighbor or someone who will give them money for it.

But they still got bills to pay. But they still is feelin' down in the dumps. But now they got money to pay a bill and maybe $10 or 20 bucks to buy some weed to use instead of those pills. But it's against the law.

Take that same person, if he got laid off his job, an' he cain't find work, he is a sure target for become a drug dealer. Not 'cause he is tryin' to be a criminal, but 'cause he is tryin' to eat and pay bills. Lotsa times, he ain't tryin' to get someone to start doin' drugs, just he is tryin' to make a couple of bucks off the people he knows what is already doin' them, an' maybe sell them drugs a little cheaper to them. But that still makes him a drug dealer. And it's against the law.

But he ain't thinkin' of himself as a criminal and most the times, he ain't gettin' rich. Heck, he usually ain't got nothin! Most the drug dealers I know ain't got nothin' more than I got. Matter of fact, I got more than a lot of them. I got a bungalow, a little shop for workin' on cars and a little place to grow some veggies. I'm a blessed man, Tondy. I don't do no drugs, but I ain't lookin' down on everyone what does do drugs. I ain't lookin' down on a man who is sellin' some drugs to feed his family when he is desperate. He is wrong, and he might go to jail, and he is deceived. But I care about him an' hope he can get a real job and cut out sellin' drugs and hope he can go through the day without usin' drugs.

Tell you what, without the Lord, I ain't no different or no better than anybody else. Don't ever look down on a man what is goin' through a hard time and the devil is on his back. You pray for him and try to lift him up.

Big Dave: Now someone who sells drugs to kids is no good. That person ought to be stopped right now. He ain't tryin' to pay bills, he is a predator. He needs to turn away from that mess right now!

Doc Stevens on Dealing with the Cops in the USA Part Two

Friday, July 31, 2009 7:13 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

In the previous post, I shared my experience with being stopped by an American cop. When I caught up with Doc and Marilyn, I told Doc about it and he gave me some pointers for dealing with American cops. He has made his share of mistakes with them. Here are some of what he said to do and not to do.

Doc: You don't want to threaten the cop, like by tellin' him you ain't did nothin' wrong and you're gonna take his badge number an' report him, an' he's gonna lose his job. Even if you think you ain't did nothin' wrong, you wait an' tell it to the judge. You aint want to make a cop mad on the side of the road. He can 'cuse you of ANYTHING and the judge'll believe his word over yours. Don't threaten the cop.

Don't get funny or smart, neither. Don't ask' him if he were one of the Village People or nothin' like that. Don't do NOTHIN' that could set him off. You be polite. And if it's at night, like I said, keep your inside light on and let him see your hands at all times. Otherwise he could get scared an' think you're goin' for a gun and he could shoot you right there an' then.This is America an' you might be carryin'.

Don't tell him you're friends with a cop, or your neighbor is a cop. Hecops2 knows you is just tryin' to get out of a ticket. I tried that once an' he tol' me to take the ticket to my friend the cop and tell him that this cop wrote it. He were gonna give me a warnin' til I said I was best friends with this other cop.

Don't get mouthy and talk yourself into a ticket. If he's black, don't tell him he's a racist and just stopped you cause you're white and he don't like rednecks.

See, Tondy, when a cop pulls you over, his 'drenlin is runnin' high an' he is nervous cause he don't know if you is gonna try to fight him, cut him or shoot him. He mighta just come from coverin' a fatal accident by someone drivin' just like you was afore he stopped you. He might think he's savin' your life an' you're mad cause now how you gonna pay your rent if you get that ticket.

My friend's boy what is a cop says that cops go from bein' bored stiff to bein' all excited in just a few seconds. He might sit there in his patrol car for a hour just bein' bored an' then he sees a car speed by, an' he thinks you might be comin' from a crime or somethin' an' BLAM! He's out there chasin' you! Just a few words over the radio gets their heart rate boosted up!

Like, how would YOU like to be a cop pullin' over a carload of drunk rednecks at two in the mornin ' who don't want to be stopped, and knowing that your back up might be 15 minutes away - and asleep or hookin' up with his girlfriend? That's how it is, accordin' to my friend's boy what is a cop.

So I try to be as nice as I can to cops, even if I ain't really did nothin' wrong an' I feel like he's pickin' on me cause my truck ain't too nice.

Stay in the car, Tondy. Inside lights on. Hands where he can see them. Don't lie and say you was doin' the speed limit. Don't say you was goin' to the hospital to visit you're granny, cause he knows you're lyin' an' he MIGHT just have you step outta the car an' frisk you an' find some dope on you what you ain't even had, if you know what I mean. It ain't worth it. Judge ain't gonna believe it weren't yours.

Doc Stevens on Dealing with the Cops in the USA Part One

Saturday, July 18, 2009 11:00 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: I am a careful driver, particularly when I am driving abroad, and even more especially when I am in the States. Last week, I was in the US briefly, and got pulled over by a county Police officer for driving 18 miles per hour over the speed limit. He told me that he had also witnessed me running through a red light, which I told him I thought was still amber.

As soon as I pulled to the side of the road, I got out my billfold containing my Drivers License and I got the registration card for the rental car I was driving, and got out of the car, and headed towards the police car.

I felt that I was being cooperative and hopefully demonstrating that I was innocent and friendly. Yes, I confess, I was trying to avoid a summons.

What happened? The copper got out of his patrol car, and began to shout at me to get back into my car, and close the door! I stopped dead in my tracks and said, "I have my driving permit and registration for you, Officer!" He shouted again, this time even louder, "Back in the car, Sir! I am not telling you again!"

He acted as though I was a criminal that was threatening him. I Tondy5weigh maybe 8 stone and am quite small. Do I look like a threat to you? I am not a threat to ANY one!The officer was at least 6'2" weighing perhaps 15 stone! And he acted as though he was threatened by me!

I returned to my car, and he came to my window, which he commanded me to roll down. I did, and handed him my paperwork. I could tell that he was a bit nervous and could see he was sweating. He gave me a warning instead of a citation and told me that the next time an officer pulls me over, to stay in the car, and wait to be approached. I thanked him and continued my journey.

Later, I was telling Doc Stevens about my encounter. I thought that he would not believe me. But, strangely he did. It also was the beginning of several conversations about American cops. Doc knows several local cops - actually American Sheriff Deputies - and has an understanding and a level of respect for them and what they do. I was surprised, actually. I recorded much or our conversation. This begins after telling Doc about the cop shouting at me when I got out of the car and walked towards his patrol car.

Doc: Heck, Tondy, you coulda got yourself shot. That cop thought you were bein' 'gressive. He thought you mighta been high on drugs... skinny as you are, you looked like a crackhead to him... you mighta had a gun on you.. youlooked like you was threatenin' him.

Marilyn: You DO look like a crackhead, Tondy! You look all eat up!

Me: How could I have been a threat to him, Doc? He was a really large bloke! I couldn't have hurt him if I wanted to!

"The worst thing in the world is to be pulled over by a scared cop."

Doc: See, Tondy, in America, when a cop pulls you over, he don't know what you just done or didn't do. Even if you're little and skinny like you. You mighta robbed some place, or kilt your old lady. He is pulling you over for speeding, but you mighta just done a crime, and you migh think he's pullin' you over for that. You might be aimin' to shoot him an' make a getaway.

When you got outta that car, he probably thought you had a dead body or drugs or something you were tryin' to hide or cover up. So he wanted you back in that car. When you're in the car, he at least can keep an eye on you. That's what that's about.

Plus, you don't know where he just come from. He mighta just come from a crime where he busted someone or he mighta been in a fight on the side of the road and been full of 'drenaline. And coffee and sugar. And doughnuts.

Marilyn: American cops eat doughnuts, Tondy. They get them free and free coffee at 7 - Eleven so they could be on a sugar and caffeine high!

Doc: Anyway Tondy, last thing you wanna do is make that cop nervous. He gotta gun, he gots pepper spray, he gots a tazer an' he don't know what you might be carryin'. He ain't scared of YOU, he's scared of what you might be thinkin' and what kind of gun you might be carryin'.

When a cop pulls you over, you best stay in the car, keep your hands on the steerin' wheel and if it's at night, turn on your inside light. The worst thing in the world is to be pulled over by a scared cop.

Even if you is in the car, and reach for your wallet too fast he could think you're going for a gun and might go for his gun. Cause if you DID pull out a gun real fast, he would have to be faster so he could stay alive. So you get your wallet out R-E-A-L slow, like this.

Same with the registration. If it's in your glove box, you tell him. Heck, I sometimes ask him if HE wants to get it out. I ain't wantin' no scared cop feelin' threatened and then shootin' me on the side of the road.

Me: Why would he be scared of you getting your registration? What is scary about that?

Doc: Tondy! This is AMERICA!!!! THE U - S - A!!! WE GOT GUNS HERE! You might have a gun in your glove box and come up shootin'! Americans carry guns under the driver seat, beside the driver seat if you got bucket seats, in the console and in the glove box and in the waist band of they's jeans!

Cops gotta deal with that every day! That's why they is all pumped full of 'drenaline when they come up to the door. They gotta treat you like a million bucks and they also gotta be ready to kill you if they have to! This is AMERICA, boy. It ain't no ENGLAND!

Doc Stevens Independence Day post, "Who Would Jesus Hate?"

Saturday, July 4, 2009 11:59 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: I am spending my free time going through old notes and recordings of conversations with Doc and Marilyn and their friends. Some of the things that are said are not quite worthy of a post, they are just little glimpses into the minds of these rural Americans. This is one of those brief little snippets that I felt was worth passing on.

Doc has strong opinions on people being allowed to come to America to work, and on the American Independence Day, I thought it would be appropriate to post some of his thoughts on immigration and the American dream.

Doc and Marilyn had been playing music at an outdoor barbecue and pig picking outside of Herndon, VA. A barbecue is of course where the meat is cooked over an open flame, and is marinated in a tomato sauce, mixed with molasses, peppers, onions, garlic and other "secret" ingredients. Nearly every American has his or her own recipe for making barbecue sauce. A pig picking is having an entire gutted pig on a large barbecue grill, with a lid on it, and has cooked overnight. The fat is mostly cooked out of it, and the meat is tender and seems to nearly fall off the bone. The pig in its entirety is on the grill, head to tail.

While they were coming back from Herndon, the first thing in the morning after the barbecue party, they stopped at a convenience store, where there were Mexican immigrants out in the car park waiting to be hired for day labourer work.

Doc and Marilyn know what it is to struggle and to attempt to earn one's own living rather than to depend on public assistance. It is particularly difficult for Hispanic immigrants, due to not speaking English for many of them and no documentation. They get taken advantage of by their employers and feel that they have no recourse. It is very sad.

If a Hispanic immigrant does somehow find a means of getting assistance, Americans get angry. But Americans also get angry of they want to work! As Doc explains it to me, all they want is a better life for themselves and their children, just like all Americans do (except those on welfare, Dc points out).

Doc said to me, "I seen a guy with that WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bumper sticker on his truck down there hasslin' the Mexicans and the people what was hirin' them.

He was cursin' them, tellin' them to go back to Mexico, and hollerin' at the people what was givin' them work. And he had this WWJD bumper sticker on his truck!

I'd like to see a bumper sticker what says WWJH. Who Would Jesus Hate. I'd give that guy one of those, if I had one. Jesus aint hate nobody.

I mean Christopher Columbus was a Mexican, well he was a Spaniard, immigrant without no papers. He was just like the rest of us. He had a dream and came to America and it wasn't even called that yet, but he came over to find his dream.

Most the people what's hatin' the Mexicans, their people was immigrants, too, and aint had no papers. So where do they get off just because Mexicans want the same thing?

As long as there is a place where a person can be free to work all he wants and to raise his children to have a better life, people is going to come there to try to make a better life. It really aint right for the first bunch to come over here for all them years without permission, without papers or nothing, and then say "ain't no one else allowed in!"

I say we ought to round up all the Americans what's on welfare and won't work, and what is sellin' drugs to their friends and neighbors, and send them to Mexico. Except guess what? Mexico don't want them!

Big Dave gives Marilyn a Tip about Finding a Good Man ... and more

Thursday, July 2, 2009 10:01 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: In the UK, we don't have the equivalent of the big American backwoods hillbilly. We don't have any backwoods, to be quite honest, and there are no places where groups of people can live unscathed from most of modern society.

That is one thing that fascinates me about rural Americans. Some of them can live geographically near a large city and cultural center, yet be completely uninformed and unaware. Worse than that, they are uninformed that they are unaware.

One can tell this when looking at the clothing,the hair styles and interactions amongst them. There are still many rural Americans who wear their hair (and have their children wearing their hair) in the spiked "mullet" hairstyle of the mid 80's. And they think it is perfectly in style. Of course, in all fairness, in their circles, the mullet hairstyle IS in style, and probably will remain in style for the next 50 years or more.

The same evening that we (myself, Doc, Marilyn and Big Dave) were trying to muddle through an understanding of "you are what you eat," (see previous post), the conversation drifted as it does quite commonly, to dating, relationships and understanding the sexes.

I am always intrigued by both the insights, which many times are shrewdly wise, and help me to understand why these backwoods people are able to proliferate at the rates that they do, and also some of the information that to me is just weird.

After the evening meal,Big Dave Kitchen Big Dave was giving Marilyn counsel on how to find a decent man. He allowed how Marilyn's big problem isn't finding a man, it is finding one that she can respect and look up to: One that is clean and sober, gainfully employed, who is not already married, not an inmate, pervert, lazy or out of control.

Marilyn wants a clean living church man... and she doesn't want one that is ignorant. She has quite a list of traits that she will not accept in a man. She says, "I have kept myself on the straight and narrow and I want a man who's done the same thing."

Big Dave said that the only one who would be fit for Marilyn already came through, but they crucified him, so she'd better learn to settle. Marilyn said she "ain't settlin'" and would rather be alone with the Lord than to be with a man who "weren't any good."

Then, Marilyn said she thought Big Dave was too backwoods to get a decent woman. She didn't see how on earth a woman could kiss a man with a big thick beard like his. Without blinking an eye, Big Dave said "a woman don't mind going through a little brush to get to a picnic." Marilyn said, “Yuck,” and then Big Dave said that the first course on a picnic with him is a obstacle course. But, of course he is worth it. And their "aint no ants at my picnics, 'cause I spray down."

Marilyn started shrieking, Doc busted out laughing, and the dogs started barking at all the excitement, and I was too busy laughing and being grossed out to follow the rest of the conversation. But, as Doc says, "there ya go."

"You are what you eat." Never mind.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 7:09 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: Some humour is universal. Some humour, you only THINK is universal. Like the variations on "you are what you eat," which I thought was universal.

I was eating with Doc and Marilyn and Big Dave one night and I commented that "you are what you eat." And then I said, "So Marilyn, you must eat a lot of bratwurst."

Marilyn: Why would I eat a lot of bratwurst, Tondy? I ain't even know what it is..."

Doc: Marilyn aint no brat. Where you get off talkin' like that at my table, boy?

Marilyn: Yeah, Tondy!

Tondeleo: No, it's a joke, Marilyn. Like, you are what you eat. So you must eat a lot of BRATwurst, because you are the WORST BRAT...

Marilyn: A-w-w-w... Tondy. That was mean. I can be mean too. YOU'RE a Brit. You eat Britwurst, then.

Doc: No, I get it, Tondy. It's like, you must eat a lot of chicken, right? Cause you's scared of everything. That means you eat a lot of chicken. You're a chicken.

Tondeleo: Well, that's the idea, Doc. At least you get it.

Thirty seconds of awkward silence passes. Big Dave12

Big Dave, talking with his mouth full: My boss must eat a lot of skunk monkey.

Tondeleo: Uh... yeah, sure, Big Dave. (I am NOT going to argue with Big Dave about anything. He scares me.)

Marilyn: And Uncle Doc eats a lot of barbecue!

Tondelo: And why is THAT, Marilyn?

Marilyn: Because Uncle Doc LIKES barbecue a lot! So he EATS a lot of it!

What can I say?

Tondeleo's Experience at an American "Seeker Friendly" Mega-Church

Monday, June 29, 2009 9:40 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: I am not very familiar with the American church scene. InTondy3 the UK, we have primarily Church of England, and then some of the non conformist churches, and perhaps some others that I am not acquainted with and to be quite honest, I have never been tempted to go to.

I have read about churches that are known as "Seeker Friendly" churches, but had never been to one. A seeker friendly church is, as I understand it, a church that is geared towards people who don't go to church, and it gives them religion in baby steps, and the programme is based on fun, feeling good, being pleasant, and never making anyone feel uncomfortable - about anything.

In the States, I have met many people who are church goers, and a bloke that I met in a piano bar invited me to attend his church on Sunday morning. I am not used to meeting people in bars who have had a bit too much to drink and who also are evangelical Christians. I commented on this to him, and he said that Jesus drank wine, so he reckoned that he was allowed to have a few pints as well. His girlfriend Chrissie giggled that only self righteous people condemn people for having a few drinks on a Saturday night.

Actually, I wasn't condemning, I was enquiring. I am not certain of all the American standards of piety, and after we talked a bit, I agreed to meet him and Chrissie at their church on Sunday. I have not been to many churches.

On Sunday, I pulled into the car park which was packed with cars. I made my way into the building where my new friend and his girlfriend were waiting for me at the Welcome Center. They introduced me to the smiling couple who were working at the Welcome Center.

They gave me a Welcome Packet which contained a form for me to fill out, with a long listing of areas of interests and hobbies for me to note my level of interest in. There were several full colour tri folds and brochures telling about the many programmes of the church and the various "community groups" and "relationship building" activities that I could be a part of. It was quite a lot, for a church, and many of them seemed to have nothing to do with religion or spirituality. Also in the Welcome Packet was a biro with the church's name imprinted on it and a coupon for a free cup of Starbucks coffee and a free chicken sandwich at a local eatery.

My new friend Ron, and Chrissie, led me to the refreshments table where there was an assortment of bagels, pastries and fruit, as well as bottled water, coffee and tea (well, tea bags that could be dipped in the hot water from the dispenser). I went for a bottled water and a bagel. I tried to eat it before going into the main auditorium, but Ron and Chrissie assured me that at this church, we actually eat in the auditorium part, during the service. Looking around, I saw some of the other people I had seen at the piano bar and at the bar of the Holiday Inn where I have stayed when in town.

The service began with a rock band singing religiously themed 80's style power ballads. Two of the band members I recognized from a local club I had been to, and pointed it out to Ron. He said that these guys did indeed play in some of the local bars and clubs, that the Lord didn't mind.

I was remembering some of the songs they had been singing when I heard them at the bar. I remembered the cups of Budweiser that were sitting on their amps, and I began to call to mind some of the songs they had been singing, which I would not think that a spiritually minded person would sing. Some of the lyrics were quite explicit.

I must confess, I felt that it was out of place for someone to be singing on a Saturday in a bar, and singing about sex, imbibing in several lagers, and using mild profanity, and then to be singing on Sunday morning about having his whole heart, mind soul and strength belonging to Jesus. I kept my confusion to myself. After all, there were several hundred people here, all singing along with the band and having a good time.

After a couple of power ballads, we were finished our food, so it was time to sing along with a PowerPoint presentation, that had intense graphics and the words projected on two giant screens on the wall. It was not too bad. I quietly sang along. Ron, Chrissie and the others were clapping and having a bit of a time at it. He kept asking if I was having fun.

There was a short skit about how we should not judge people, and then the reverend was introduced. He was a round faced balding bloke about 45, I guess. He wasn't dressed like a minister. He was dressed more like he was ready to go to a theme park or the zoo. He had on a loud American tourist type shirt, and short trousers, and sandals. In my mind, it seemed as though speaking for God was not a very important occasion, which to him it may not be.

He spoke for perhaps 15 minutes, about how God wants everyone to get along well, and to never judge anyone, because we don't know where they are on their journey. He let us know that it was important to invite people to come to church, and to build relationships with them, so they could have a good life. His presentation could hardly be called "preaching." It was cool, low key, manuscripted and was very calmly delivered. He definitely did not break a sweat.

Projected on the screens were various Bible verses that were from different versions of the Bible. The initials LNT, TEV, NIV, and the words The Message were noted after different verses. I asked Ron about this and he said it was so we didn't have to learn the Bible ourselves, and that the Pastor picked the easiest to understand versions of the Bible for us. I looked around and nearly no one carried a Bible. The Pastor did not seem to have a Bible handy, either.

At the end, the "Praise Band" played another power ballad and a girl singer sang about how much she loved the Lord. Then we were let out. Ron and Chrissie were tremendously excited about my opinion of their church. It was very important to them that I had fun and enjoyed it. I have never thought about measuring a church by its' "fun quotient." That seems to be an American seeker friendly idea.

I told them it was ok, and was pleasant, but that maybe I was expecting church to be more like church, you know, with bibles, and preaching, and the minister to be in a robe or suit or something that would indicate that his job and message were to be taken seriously. Ron said that I was "old school," and it didn't work like that nowadays, at least not in the States.

I told Ron and his friends that I must be going, and he said he see me at the piano bar, or another bar that had opened up that I might enjoy. I said my goodbyes, and got in my rental car and drove to where my assignment was.

"Tondy - fruit trees is smaller than nut trees. It's so you can reach up and get the fruit. A fruit tree will FEED you. But nut trees is bigger, and all they do is drop nuts on the ground."

I began to think about Doc and Marilyn and the things they said about church. The churches they go to are smaller, but the people seem to be 100% sold out to their Christianity and the Reverend dresses in a suit, because he says his job is the most important one in the world: representing His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He preaches from a Bible and the people mostly have their own Bibles and look up the verses that the Reverend is speaking from. And when I say he preaches, I mean that he PREACHES! He is bringing his sermon with every cell in his mind, mouth and body!

The people in these smaller churches are very clear that they no longer go to bars or clubs, and they talk about how the Lord "delivered" them from drugs and alcohol and that "worldly lifestyle." Even though sometimes they can be a bit hokey, I enjoy the simplicity and genuineness of the rural peoples' faith.

Then I remembered something that Doc said about big churches and little ones. One time he walked me to the edge of the woods where they live, and pointed to an apple tree and then to a walnut tree. He said, "Tondy - fruit trees is smaller than nut trees. It's so you can reach up and get the fruit. A fruit tree will FEED you. But nut trees is bigger, and all they do is drop nuts on the ground. A church might be small and have a lot of fruit. One of them big churches MIGHT just have a lot of nuts. So, big don't really mean nothing, Tondy. What means something is if the Lord is there and if the people and the preacher loves the Lord and preaches the Gospel. Then the Lord'll give them fruit."

I didn't understand what he meant at the time, but as I drove down I-95 South through Virginia, I think I began to understand a bit of what he was talking about. Maybe.

Doc Stevens makes a discovery: That Sikhs are not Taliban or Al Qaeda.

Friday, June 19, 2009 5:35 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: Back in the Spring, when I was spending a Saturday with Doc and Marilyn, we went to Alexandria, VA, just outside of Washington, DC, where they did some street performing in the late afternoon. They like to play in Old Town Alexandria because there is a lot of foot traffic, the crowds are appreciative and the police are friendly, and will let them at least finish whatever song they are singing before telling them to move on.

We went from Old Town to Crystal City, which is between Alexandria and Arlington. They set up at the bank which had closed for the day, on the corner of South Eads Street and 23rd Street. As usual, they drew a crowd, and some of the people were dancing and clapping. Doc and Marilyn were in their usual upbeat and high energy mode and people were tossing money into the collection box.

When Doc looked up the block and saw a Police car making its rounds, he announced that they were going to have an intermission, and would be playing again after a break.

As the crowd of locals and tourists dispersed, there was a young Sikh man who stayed behind, probably out of curiosity, having seen maybe his first live, genuine American redneck. He approached Doc and the two began talking. I could tell initially that Doc was particularly wary of the Sikh, and I decided to get Marilyn and take a walking tour of 23rd Street, to look at the maybe 20 small restaurants that line it on either side. I could not bear to think how the conversation between the turbaned Sikh and Doc might go.

After Marilyn and I came back, maybe twenty minutes later, Doc was standing at the bank waiting with his guitar and mini amp. He looked like he had just had an epiphany. I figured this would be a good one, so I pulled out my recording stick. Here is how it went:

Doc: Hey, Tondy and Marilyn - Didja see the towelhead I was talking to? That dude with the turbine ["turban"] on his head?

We noted that we had, so Doc continued:

Doc: When I first saw him hangin' around after we sang, I figured he was a terrorist, one of them Towel a Bands [Doc's term for Taliband]. I seen 'em on TV but ain't never seen one close up. I was ready for him if he tried anything.

But guess what Marilyn? He weren't no Towel a Band. I asked him and he said he weren't and then I asked him how I knew that he weren't one and was just lyin' about it. He told me he weren't a Towel a Band and he came from the wrong part of the world to be one. He told me he weren't no Al Qaida neither, in case I was wondering.

I hadn't thought of Al Qaeda whatever they are, but I told him that if he weren't no Towel a Band, then he must be a fortune teller.

Tondy, he said he ain't no fortune teller, neither. I asked, what ARE you then, and he said he was a Seek [Sikh]. I asked what he was seekin' and he said it was his religion. I let him know that if he would seek the good Lord, he would find him. No doubt.

Marilyn: That's GOOD, Uncle Doc! You was WITnessin' to him!

["Witnessing" means to tell someone about being "born again" in America - Tondeleo]

Doc: Well, I might've been. But I weren't tryin.' That Seek said he liked our music and that is why he stayed! He said he loves American blues and roots music. They ain't got it in his country, but he loves it and would like to learn how to sing it! In fact, he said his NAME is SING! ["Singh," a common name among Sikhs - Tondeleo].

Once I found out he weren't no terrorist, I clomrSinghsed up the knife in my pocket, and told him I was ready for him but now I wasn't gonna cut him. He said in his religion, Tondy, they GOT to carry a knife! GOT to! It's part of their religion! I told him it's a part of my religion, too.

He was a good old boy, Tondy. Just regular like me an' Marilyn. He said whenever I see someone with one of those turbines on his head, to know that it ain't no terrorist, just a Seek. Ain't that somethin? Seeks ain't nothin' like terrorists, Tondy. They are more like us. But they is still seekin. An' I got a picture of him with Marilyn's phone.

Doc Stevens on the Love of Money,Greed, Racism & Immigration

Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:49 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: In the light of the worldwide economic crisis, I thought it would be particularly fitting to post this conversation I had with Doc a few months ago about greed, money, and contentment.

As you know, Doc doesn't have a lot of money or material possessions, but he is content, and works hard enough at enough things that he and Marilyn and the dogs eat well.

I was asking Doc about the why America seems to have sudden;y plummeted from it's position as world leader to a confused giant that has somehow lost its way. I thought his answers were worth posting.

Doc: Tondy, I'll tell ya. It's about payin' the cost to be the boss. You Bodywork 2 gotta pay the cost to be the boss. America used to be a country full of immigrants. In my granddaddy's day, they al was pretty much immigrants, where he lived. In they's houses, they spoke the language of where they'd come from. At home, you might hear Italian, Pollock, German or whatever. They was all first generation immigrants.

But they's kids was American and called themselves American. Didn't call themselves half American like they do now. You can take some office boy what ain't never been outta the US and his parents aint, and his grandparents aint, and he calls hisself a Irish-American. No, he's American.

Same with black folks. They ain't all African American. Some is from the islands, like Jamaica or Saint Lucy. They is also white folks what is African, 'cause I met a white woman from South Africa, and she said she was African, and I said, Whoa sister! You are the wrong color but she said she was South African.

But what made America great, Tondy, was them first generation folks. Immigrants. They left everything they had in they's own countries and spent all they had to come here, to start a new life. They paid the price.

But that second and third generation, they is the ones that lose that sense of bein' hungry and havin' a dream to pull them along. A ot of them is spoilt, and ain't got no work ethic. Some of 'em won't even work. But they's parents and grandparents worked day and night and sacrificed so they could live the American dream. But the grandkids just ain't got that drive.

They ain't got the drive, they ain't got the work ethic, but they want everything that money can buy and they want it NOW. N-O-W, now. And if they cain't get it, they feel like they is being held back and mistreated. That is what has happened to America, Tondy.

These folks is so indulged, they feel empty if there is something out there that they haven't been able to buy yet, or if they find out about some place they ain't been to yet, and then they feel like they is bein' held back. They gotta have EVERYTHING they want and not ever be told the word, "no."

That's why most people in America is so in debt. They want everything right now, when they aint got the money for it, so they makes payments, and they spend more than they make every month.

Like most people gots credit cards. And they can't pay it off every month because they spend more than they make. They can't afford how they is livin.' And they think they gotta have all that stuff. They don't.

That is the kind of people what got in control of our country, and the banks and car companies, and they think they have to have everything and have it all right now. And they don't care who they hurt or have to rip off, and that is how they grabbed millions of dollars for themselves and ran the common people into the ground.

As for me, I think you are rich if you don't need anything. Like I seen a rich dude at the mall up to Waldorf. Me an' him got to talkin' an' I asked him what he was buyin.' He coulda bought half that mall if he wanted. Know what he said? He said he wasn't buyin' nothin. He already had enough of everything. Now, that is rich.

Bein' rich is about having enough that you doDoc Stevens & Car2n't need everything. I got a pickup truck an' my old panel truck. I ain't need a new car. Ain't even tempted. I like where I live, and I like my guitars and my tools and my dogs and my friends and Marilyn. I ain't needin' anyting else. So I am a rich man, Tondy. I ain't needin' nothin'.

Here's a story that my cousin down in Gate City told me.

A rich man dies and wants to take along at least one bag of money with him. It's all he has. He ain't never been very religious - ain't never helped nobody neither. He just made money all his life. The angel of death, he didn't care if the man brought along a bag of money.

So the man stands before the throne of God, up in Heaven, and Jesus asks, What's that? The man said, "it's my money, it's all I have."

Jesus says, to the angel: "Let me see it, bring it here." Jesus takes that bag of money and tries to sit on it. He says, This is too lumpy to be a good cushion."

So Jesus pulls it out from under himself and tosses it on the floor and puts his feet on it. He says, "It's too small to be a good footstool… and it never gets cold up here, so it is no good to burn it for heat."

So he tells the angel to give it back to the man and tell him he to carry it around. It's all he's got.

Tondy, that's the way a lot of people is. That story ain't in the BIble, but it's a good one.

Doc Stevens on Meat Eating, Vegetarianism & Veganism

Thursday, May 28, 2009 12:36 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas
Tondy1

Tondeleo: My friend Clive in Hemel Hempstead has been vegan for the past few years and has finally convinced me to cut out all meat eating. Clive says, "Don't eat anything that had a face." That's his rule. He may go for the occasional clam or oyster, I don't know, but that is his rule. If it had a face, he will not eat it.

I like me fish n' chips, so to ask me to cut out all meat is a big deal. I finally have been without meat for perhaps four weeks, and I think I feel better for it. I still eat mountains of chips, however. The part of Clive's argument that persuaded me to go vegetarian is the violence involved. He asked me how I could in good conscience eat something that had to die so I could live. It hardly seems fair that a cow should have to die so that I could live, does it? Why should a fish die, just so I could have an order of fish n' chips?

I came to peace with my decision, and decided to present Doc Stevens and Marilyn with the idea of becoming vegetarians or even vegans. Here is how that conversation went:

Tondeleo: Doc, since the last time we got together, I've gone vegetarian! That means I don't eat meat anymore! I only eat vegetables. It is less violent, and I feel that it is wrong for something else to have to die so that I could live. I think that you and Marilyn ought to consider it.

Doc: So WHY ain't you eatin' meat? You don't want nothin' to DIE?

Tondeleo: That's pretty much it, Doc. The less death on the earth, the better. So I am doing my part to save life on earth. It's a noble thing, really...

Doc: Well, it's noble if you don't think about it, and if you ain't never done no farmin'. For somethin' to die so somethin' else can live is a part of nature. A ant eats a termite to live. A lizard eats the ant. A bird eats the lizard and a cat eats the bird. An' the Chinese carry out might eat the cat. That's how it's set up, Tondy. Somethin' dies so somethin' else can live. Country folks all know that. We LIVE that. But you can do what you like.

Tondeleo: Well, I don't like the idea of taking a life so I can live.

Doc: I unnerstan, Tondy. Takin' a life so you can live sounds bad. But even the Lord gave his life so we could live. That's the way it is. It takes life to give life.

But eatin' just veggies don't mean you ain't killin' nothin' when you eat. When I plow a field to plant vegetables, more things die than if I shot a cow for you to eat. In even one acre of ground, when it gets plowed, hundreds of bugs die. Three of four snakes'll die. Mouse nests with baby mice will be plowed under. It might kill a dozen field mice. A couple of turtles'll get plowed under. You're killin' maybe a hundred things just to plant a acre of food. And they ain't always fast or easy deaths. Some of it is pretty slow.

"But eatin' just veggies don't mean you ain't killin' nothin' when you eat. When I plow a field to plant vegetables, more things die than if I shot a cow for you to eat."

When you eat a cow, it is only one death. Cows don't step on snakes and turtles and mice and all that. Most everything gets outta their way. When a cow is butchered, it's pretty quick, too. I ain't changin' your mind, just fillin' out your information.

Like I ain't eat much commercial raised beef cause it's full of hormones and chemicals and they feed them cows corn. Cows ain't supposed to eat corn and cain't really digest it. Feedin'a cow a diet of corn'll kill it in less than a year. It makes acid and they die of acidosis if they ain't butchered afore they die of it. A cow is made to eat grass. I eat local grown cows. I eat more deer. Deer ain't full of hormones and chemicals. And it's free.

You gotta watch out for farm raised fish, too, Tondy. They put growth chemicals in their food to make 'em grow quicker. You ain't wantin' that. neither. Eat fresh fish. Or you can eat veggies like you're doin'.

Guess what, though Tondy? Pickin' out what kinds of food you will and won't eat is a luxury. Most of us is happy just to eat anything. I ain't too big on Ramen noodles but I eat 'em if that's all we got.My favorite food is veinson and a side of greens and maybe a potato. But I cain't always get what I want. So I settle for eatin' what the good Lord provides.

Now if you got the money to buy just what you want, then I say more power to ya. It ain't hurt nobody an' it makes you happy. Go for it.

Tondeleo: So what are you saying, Doc? Are you actually SUPPORTING me be a vegetarian? I can't believe that!

Doc: I'm just sayin' a man can eat what he wants to eat. If you like veggies, eat 'em. If you like meat, eat it, but be careful where it comes from. But don't think that eatin' veggies saves more life than eatin' meat. It don't. You just gotta know that for one thing to live, somethin' else is gonna have to die. It's sad, but that's life.

I ain't care what you eat, just don't make it a issue for everybody else. Don't come off soundin' like you're better an' smarter than everybody else cause you is a vegetarian now. You eat what you eat, an' me an' Marilyn eat what we eat. Sometimes it'll be the same thing. Tonight we're havin' greens and pinto beans for supper. That's what we're havin' because that's what we got. Ain't makin' no statements, just makin' supper.

Doc Stevens and Marilyn take me to Bert's 50's Diner and teach me about "tipping" the servers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 9:01 AM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas

Tondeleo: Doc and Marilyn have been trying for more than a year to get me to eat with them at a particular "sit down" restaurant down in Saint Mary's County, MD. For once my schedule allowed me the opportunity to have tea with him and Marilyn. It was more than an hour from Nanjemoy at a Fifties themed restaurant called Bert's 50's Diner. http://www.berts50sdiner.com . This is Doc's absolute favourite place to eat when he has the money and the time to go in for a sit down meal. He has been trying to get me to go with him and Marilyn for months. The picture of Bert's 50's Diner below was taken by Ron Patterson.

bertsdiner When we arrived, I could see why Doc is so in awe of it. It is a very American place, with a a real American 50's hot rod mounted on the roof, complete with a flamed paint job. Doc says the car is a 1950 Mercury, and that the right rear quarter panel of the car is wrecked making it totaled (a write off) several years ago. Bert, the owner of Bert's 50's Diner is a car lover. He bought it and had it mounted on the roof of his Diner as an attention getter.

Doc says that he could have fixed that car, because back at the time it happened, one of his fellow Nanjemoy residents, a man called Streamliner Wedding had a Mercury just like it parked in the woods beside the breaker's yard (junkyard) he used to operate there in Nanjemoy. Doc says he could have bought the whole car for maybe 300 dollars back then. It has since been crushed and Streamliner is dead, too.

When we got to Bert's, there was a a small queue of people waiting for an available table, but we only waited five minutes or so. When our server escorted us to the table, Doc was in his glory, pointing out all the automobile paraphernalia on the walls: Old registration plates, automobile adverts, and magazine covers from the 1950's. There were also a lot of 50's music items on the walls - photos of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and other 50's icons.

The menu looked as though it was from the 1950's as well. Doc helped me order a memorable meal. I had (with all apologies to my fellow countrymen) sweet iced tea, which is not bad once you tell your taste buds that this is not tea at all, it is just a syrupy sweet American beverage served American style with plenty of ice. To me it is reminiscent of treacle and water.

Bert's serves huge portions at excellent prices. I wanted to order one of Bert's huge 30" pizza's, but Marilyn said we'd eaten enough pizza the last few weeks and that she didn't want any. I have never seen larger pizza's than the ones at Bert's. Certainly in the U.K., we never have these amounts of food available! Actually, we would find it a bit gauche, but I would never tell that to Doc or Marilyn. To them, having huge amounts of food is nothing less than a fulfillment of their greatest dreams!

I was ready to order smothered steak, but Doc steered me away from it. He said he wasn't sure of eating meat that was smothered, that really you can only trust meat that was shot or killed right, at a slaughterhouse. After thinking about the poor cow being smothered, I was rather put off and ordered Bert's Famous Fish sandwich for $6.25, which included the "fries" [chips]. I managed to get through most of the glass of "sweet tea," which is served American style, at the same time as the meal instead of afterwards as is done in Britain.

Marilyn ordered the All American BLT sandwich with a side order of chips, and of course, iced tea. She had only one free refill of the chilled sweetened tea based beverage.

Doc ordered a Porky Pig Barbecue "submarine" sandwich, which is a sandwich served on a roll that is nearly 12 " long. The meat is pork and the sandwich had cole slaw on it, as well as sliced onions, tomatoes, lettuce, tomato sauce and mayonnaise. This was only $6.25 He also ordered the "full tank" of french fried onion rings, for $3.95. He had two large "free" refills of the sweet iced tea, and finished it all with a loud burp, and considered having ice cream afterwards!

In the States, the drinks are cheaper than in UK, ($2.25 each at Bert's) and that includes as many free refills as you can pour into your body. The portions in the States are easily three times larger than what we get in the UK, and the prices are about half what we pay. So, it is no wonder that Americans, even poor ones tend to be overweight. It is cheap, easy and tasty to become fat in the States. I have put on nearly one stone since coming to the States more frequently this past year!

Also, in the States, for men, it is considered "macho" to be a bit on the portly side. They don't consider themselves "fat" or obese, but rather will refer to themselves as becoming a "good sized boy" or a "pretty fair sized boy," no matter how many decades have passed since the individual WAS a boy.

Our server was polite and friendly, much more chatty than we would Berts2generally have in the UK. Marilyn explained that a large part of the friendliness (which I found nearly off-putting) was in order to get a larger "tip" at the end of the meal. Doc liked her and she realised rather early on that he was the one who was going to be paying, so she paid particular attention to him. At the end of the meal, the bill was roughly only $22 for the three of us. Doc pulled out a $20 dollar bill, four one dollar bills and $5 bill. He told her she'd done a good job and that the extra was for her.

I could not comprehend paying a $7 tip on a bill that was approximately only $20. That is nearly 30%! Doc explained, "Tondy, that girl works hard for her money, and they don't even pay minimum wage at restaurants, these people depend on tips. Some people don't leave nothin', or just a couple of dollars.

"I always tip good. You need to be a giver, not a taker. And you don't never go home at night and wish you hadn't tipped so much. But if you tipped cheap, you might go home and feel bad and cain't do nothin' about it. Always give 'em more than they expect, 'cause there is always some tightwad who tries to chisel them outta their money.

"There ain't nothing attractive about a cheap man. Remember that, Tondy. Being a giver is a good thing. Being cheap ain't nothing that no one likes to be around. It's about havin' style. I'm tryin' to help you have style, Tondy. Give more than you have to, and do it with a smile. It'll help other people what's tryin' to pay they's bills an' it'll make you feel better about yourself. A man needs to do all he can to feel good about hisself these days."