Boyz Night Out

Deliver (Oak Ridge Boys album)

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting with four very old but close friends. Our ages range from seventy-two to eighty-three. We enjoy a monthly get together to drink some adult-beverage and to swap tales while sharing a meal. We met on this evening at the Ashford House on 159th Street in Tinley Park, a midway point between our homes.

We sat drinking, and explaining where they were when the tornado ripped through the area. The storm had different effects on each of us. Sherman lives in a heavily wooded area and one of his mature trees blew down and ripped through the back wall of his house. A large branch from that same tree pierced the liner in his garden pond. I laughed, only because this summer he completed repairs to the pond liner caused by a ground-hog that burrowed up from the bottom and chewed his way through the liner to get at Sherman’s collection of bog plants. His further inspection revealed that the tornado ripped the  bark off his Linden trees. Al cut in, “that’s a class-four storm when the bark gets stripped from trees.”

Lou told us his neighbor had a very large Ash tree about fifty feet tall that died from an invasion of the Emerald Ash borer. The tree was dead, and Lou worried that the tree, which leaned toward his house, would someday come crashing through his bedroom. Lou reported the neighbor had the tree removed on the day before the storm hit. He lucked out. Rod, who also lives in a wooded area saw no damage to his property, but picked up many blown down branches. Al reported losing a single butterfly bush planted just three years ago. Al lives on twenty plus acres of trees. Joe told of a roof being blown off at the Mobile Home park just south of town, and the roof of the muffler shop on route thirty raised up several feet then dropped back in place.

Four of us ordered the Thursday night special, a five dollar hamburger the size of a dinner plate, with soup, salad and fries. Sherman had lamb chops.

As we ate we began kibitzing and telling more stories. Joe began by relating a sudden desire to hear the Oak Ridge Boys in concert. They perform in Branson at this time of year, but Joe didn’t have the opportunity nor the cash to go. Just for fun he searched the I-net for the concert schedule and learned that the Boys who were at Branson on Friday would be at the Holiday Star Plaza theater in Merrillville, Indiana on Sunday.  For more fun, he checked the ticket availability; they had eight tickets left in the mezzanine at seventy dollars a piece. “Okay,” he said, “sign me up.” By the time he paid taxes, fees, and seven-fifty to download the tickets to his printer his bill came to $194.00. He did it anyway because it was cheaper than driving five hundred miles to Branson to see them. A twenty-dollar CD would have been even cheaper.

Al chimed in next. “I was talking on the telephone with my sister in Amarillo. One of her good friends wanted to borrow some money, but she didn’t have enough in her bank account. I joked with her that I had invested five dollars in a Mega Million lottery and expected to win that night. At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, I sent my sister an e-mail saying that I had won the Mega-Million lottery and a check would be in the mail to her.

At 7:20 I received an e-mail from the NSA congratulating me for winning the lottery. The e-mail claimed it was from all NSA employees.

At 8:30 a.m. I received another e-mail, this time from the IRS. It said that a normal tax amount would be deducted from my Mega Million winnings, but they knew that I had sold 2 million dollars of houses this year, so I would owe a high percentage of taxes on the gains from the property sales as well as any other income I had.They requested that I pay an extra $100,000 in taxes within ten days, and another $100,000 by January 15.

Later in the morning, I opened an e-mail from the ATF. They said they had verified that I was stocking up huge stores of food including twenty-four frozen turkeys on sale at forty-eight cents a pound at Jewel.

I answered the ATF that I purchased the food for the Frankfort Lions Club annual food distribution to the needy at Thanksgiving. The ATF responded almost immediately wanting me to give them a complete list of names and addresses of the Frankfort Lions and the recipients of the food delivery. Also, I am to include an inventory of weapons possessed by everyone on the list.

Early in the afternoon, The DEA e-mailed me that they knew I recently had $400,000 in my personal bank account, and since I had no job, this was likely drug money. They said their drone had inspected my 21.3 acres of land and found many unusual, as well as some suspicious plants growing inside my house. They said if I was innocent, I would allow them to inspect my property and home. If I didn’t allow an inspection they would get a subpoena to do so.

Later that afternoon I mailed my sister two dollars and told her it was one-half of my lottery winnings.”

A moment of stunned silence overcame the group as they digested what they just heard. Al bust out laughing and confessed that none of the above actually happened but that it could happen today in the big government world we live in.

And that folks, is how Boyz night out goes.

Branson Hiatus

Every once in  a while we need to get away. Peggy and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Branson, Missouri. I fully expected to add posts and cartoons to grumpajoesplace, but learned very early in the trip that my computer was trashed. It needs a reload of the operating system. I now have it at the fixer to try and save my files before it is re-loaded to factory status. In the meantime, I work on my seven-year old lap top; sloooow, verrry slooow.

Branson is pure fun. It has to be the entertainment capital of the world. A person can see three shows a day for a week and not see all of them. Each one is better than the last. Even the second tier entertainers are great. We saw a young man, Keith Allyn,  who put on a Neil Diamond tribute. He looked like Neil, and sounded like Neil too. We learned of him one morning at breakfast. He came into our hotel to hand out business cards and to talk up his show. Had he not done this, we would never seen his act.

Who else did we see? I’ll list them all and review them for you.

1.”SIX *****” This act partners six brothers who use their voices as instruments. They do not have a single musician on stage, yet they sounded like a full orchestra at times.

2. “Butterfly Palace. **”  More of a tourist trap than entertainment. It was interesting to walk through a jungle like atrium with white butterflies flitting all about. There were hundreds of them. The image being conveyed was that of snow falling. That is why they used white butterflies. All of them are purchased from Costa Rica in cocoon form. They are hatched in the Palace, and live for two weeks. I learned that a butterfly will not reproduce unless it has its host plant to do it on. Since Palace does not have any of the  host plants, they do not reproduce in Branson.

3. “Neil Diamond Tribute ***” very entertaining and well done one man show.

4.” Tony Orlando  ****and the Lennon Sisters ****”  The trio of Lennon Sisters sang beautifully. They combined favorite songs from the Lawrence Welk show with more contemporary tunes. Since Branson features Christmas shows from November through early December, many of the songs are Christmas Carols. Stage sets are typically loaded with Christmas trees. Tony Orlando combined his hour of both contemporary songs “Tie A Yellow Ribbon,” with a Christmas skit starring Santa Claus and the Nativity. Although in his mid-sixties, his voice was pure and powerful.

5. “The Oak Ridge Boys, *****” The boys are back. All of them are original, and now in their sixties, but one would never know by their sound. It was obvious that this group had done a lot of tour performances. The level of professionalism was astounding, the sound was great, the lighting, and the accompanying band solid. Lead singer Joe Bonsall sang a song in tribute to his parents and for veterans. It was a knock out. Joe sang it with such emotion, that the audience had tears in their eyes. The song is “G.I Joe and Lillie.” Veterans day falls into the Christmas season at Branson and each show pays tribute to veterans. The Boys are on their annual Christmas tour and come back to Branson mid-week to perform in their theater.

6. “Andy Williams, *****” this guy is amazing. He invented the Christmas season in Branson. His Christmas show is without rival. At eighty-two, the Andy performed for an hour and forty-five minutes and sounded great. I thought for sure he was lip synching.  We had front row center seats, and I can tell you he does not lip synch. His voice is as powerful as it always was.  His show emulates his old TV show. He has a few acts coming out to keep things lively and to give him a break. As long as he lives, he will do this show, and I will go to see him.

7. “Shoji Tabuchi, ****” An immigrant from Japan, this man became a first class country western fiddle player. although he can play classic violin, he came to America to be a CW star. He migrated to Branson nineteen years ago and built a theater for his performances.  The theater is a show case venue. He made the restrooms a feature that people talk about as much as they do  his performances. I can only speak for the men’s room which contains a billiard parlor with two rows of perimeter seating to watch  matches. The interior of the elimination room is absolutely stunning.  His show is also stunning. He combines his play with many well choreographed dances, flying angels, and songs by his daughter.

8. “Yakov, ****” Russian born and an immigrant to the US, Yakov is a very funny man. He has a unique way of looking at our culture from his perspective, and to point out the humor.  Like Shoji and Andy Williams, he has been in Branson for nineteen years. He built his own theater and plays to capacity crowds regularly. He boasted of how hard it was to earn “a lousy $100,000.00 a week.”  I left his show laughing for hours afterward. His jokes lingered and the humor kept me in high spirits. In one of his skits he showed the value of humor in longevity. He taped a couple who were married for seventy-five years. He asked what their secret was for staying married so long. The wife answered this way, “never go to sleep angry, stay up and fight.”

9. “Dalena Ditto,”  **** Another second tier performer who puts on a great show. This time she used me as a celebrity walk on. As part of her show, she picks an old fat guy from the audience to fool around with on stage. I was the second guy she picked. She had me sit on a chair facing the audience. She wore long red gloves and a stunning red gown. During her song I felt and saw red gloves against my face and through my hair. The audience was screaming with delight. I helped out by nuzzling the hand against my face. At the end of the song, I learned that the red gloves were on the hands of the male guitar player. Lots of fun. Dalena sings great and is a good looker too. She comes from family of performers. She spoke of her father playing in the Country Western scene.

Joey Riley, ****” Joey has been playing straight man for Mickey Gilley for seventeen years. The two of them are hilarious together. This year, Mickey cancelled his season because of an accident. Joey Riley filled in for him with his own show. He is a talented musician, playing the fiddle, guitar, and the steel guitar. His wit is spontaneous and quick.  He featured his lovely wife in several dance routines. We  spent another two hours of side-splitting laughter.

The worst part of going to Branson is the nine-hour drive home.

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