Rumination XLV – Organic Foods

The RT hears a lot of talk today about “organic” foods and knows it can be a quite confusing to the average reader. Since the RT lives to serve, he’s going to help clarify this situation.

For example, at the grocery store, there’s usually an entire area of the produce section dedicated to organic fruits and vegetables. The “organic” apples are usually adjacent to the “other” apples, and the two look amazingly similar, which can be a conundrum.

Therefore, to save you time at the grocery store, the RT offers the following list of all of the inorganic foods out there. Rather than search for the organic ones, just avoid this comprehensive list of inorganic ones.

The RT’s Comprehensive List of Inorganic Foods

1. Nothing

Well, that covers it. Every food humans eat is organic because it contains carbon – the very definition of “organic”. Whether you are a carnivore, an omnivore or a vegan, everything you eat is organic.

So, unless you regularly eat rocks or metal, your food is “organic”. If the thought of eating metal bothers you, you could eat chalk – it’s a carbonate. Problem solved.

No need to thank the RT for this one. It’s just what he does.

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Rumination XLIV – Today is the Day (2020 Edition)

Today is the day. The anniversary of Riley’s bleed.

Twenty-one years ago today (in about an hour from now, as I write this) Riley’slife was forever changed. Mine was, too.

On that day, my perfect baby boy suffered massive brain damage, which forever changed his life, along with that of our entire family. On that day, my two precious little girls couldn’t possibly understand what lay in store for Riley – or them. Our youngest, who was a couple of years away from conception, would only learn many years later that what happened today would affect his life, too.

Riley has struggled with absolutely everything that has come his way. Well, everything but love. The list of things that he cannot do gets longer every day. But the love that he shows me and his family never wanes. In fact, it grows stronger every day.

My other children are amazing young people. They are talented in so many ways. They have racked up many, many honors and awards. They continue to reach for the stars.

All while Riley is absolutely earth-bound. But yet, he soars above them in his own way. He doesn’t know physics or chemistry or biology or psychology or choral music or cyber-security or all those things his siblings are involved in.

But Riley excels above all of us in unconditional love. He loves exuberantly every day. He laughs – and loves. He plays UNO with whoever will play with him – and he loves. He plays with his 10,000 Slinkys – and he loves. He tells silly jokes – and loves.

John Lennon may have penned the words “All you need is love”, but Riley lives them out everyday. If I was more like Riley, I’d be a better person in every way.

The Bible tells us that we were made in God’s image. And then we messed it up.

But Riley never messed it up. When I look at him, I see total innocence, complete trust and unconditional love. Just like God intended for all of us to be.

So, in spite of the difficulty, in spite of the pain, in spite of the missed milestones, in spite of the lost dreams, I’m thankful. Today may be a sad day, but it’s the anniversary of the day that God touched our family for the better.

That may not make earthly sense, but then none of us were made for this earth. There’s a better world ahead. It may all make sense there, but then again, it probably will pale in comparison with the Glory of my Lord.

Thank you, God, for Riley and all the ways that You have used him to bless me and my family. Help us all to keep trusting You with every step.


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Rumination XLIII – The RT Weighs in on Christmas

There are many, many traditions at Christmas, many of which are simply wrong. In this post, the RT takes time out of his busy Yuletide schedule to set the record straight. 
  • For the record, Jesus (most likely) was NOT born in winter. Shepherds would not have had flocks in the fields in the dead of winter (Luke 2:8). That makes December (and therefore the 25th of same) highly unlikely for a birth date for the Messiah.
  • The Wise Men were not present at the Bethlehem manger, though ever nativity scene on earth depicts it as such. The Magi showed up at the house where Jesus lived (Matt 2:7-12), not at a stable. This would have been some time after his birth. Also, why would Herod kill all babies two years old if Jesus was born yesterday? It’s far more likely that they showed up two years later. 
  • Christmas began as a celebration conjured up to counter the pagan celebration of Saturnalia, which took place around the winter solstice (December 20 or 21). Since the pagans were winding down their let-it-all-hang-out festival on the 24th, why not invite them to a special day at church on the 25th? Not saying that it wasn’t a noble thought, but made up it was. So, Jesus is the “reason for the season”, though in a rather indirect way. 
  • It should be a felony to play Christmas music before Thanksgiving. And, by inference, before Veterans Day, Halloween, Columbus Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July and the Summer Solstice. Only AFTER Thanksgiving. 
  • As a corollary to the previous observation, Christmas merchandise should NEVER have to compete for retail shelf space with turkeys and goblins. 
  • “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” is THE definitive Christmas show. And only the original 1965 version, produced by Chuck Jones, is legitimate. None of the later live-action or re-animated versions are in ANY WAY permitted. However, “Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are also acceptable, but nothing produced after the 1960s is allowed. 
  • Presents are to be opened on Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve. Prithee, tell the RT how one can open presents on Christmas Eve if Santa has not yet arrived to deliver them?
  • It’s DONDER, not DONNER. Donder is one of Santa’s reindeer (look it up). The Donners were the settlers who ate each other in the High Sierras one winter in the pass that now bears their name. 
  • Rudolph is not in Santa’s starting lineup. Santa generally does quite fine with eight reindeer, as laid out in “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”. As noted in the song “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Rudolph is only required on “foggy Christmas Eves”. This makes Rudolph part of Santa’s special teams group and not a starter. 
  • Christmas trees were intended to be real, dead ones, hacked to death from a forest somewhere. None of that artificial stuff. (Note: the RT’s allergy to mold pretty well nixed the real Christmas tree thing when Mrs. Nurse RT noted, upon becoming Mrs. RT, that the RT became ill simultaneous with the introduction of a real tree into their collective home.)
  • No six-year-old child should be forced to endure the entire three-hour-and-five-minute rendition of Handel’s “Messiah”. Mama RT insisted upon exposing the RT to “culture” at a young age and you see what it got her. Thankfully, the RT had a new wrist watch to help her know exactly how long she had been sitting in the performance.
  • Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” is the definitive Christmas album. And maybe “The Star Carol” by Tennessee Ernie Ford. But Hillary Duff’s “Santa Claus Lane” ain’t gonna make it, no matter how many times Walmarts plays it.
The RT is hopeful that this brief post sets the record straight and clears up any misconceptions you may have related to the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. (OK, Andy Williams’ “Personal Christmas Collection” also makes the cut.)
Happy Christmas to all and to all a “good night”. (Yes, “Happy Christmas”. Look it up. That’s how Clement C. Moore captured it in “The Night Before Christmas”.)
Best, The Rambling Texan
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Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories of My Mother – Prima Sectione

The Alligator (Circa 1940)

Our story begins when Gerry Lou was a little girl. Maybe 10 years old, which would have been 1941 or so. Her father, Gerald Lee Brogoitti (Gerald … Gerry … see the correlation?), bought her a little alligator for Easter.

Remember when you could buy little bunnies and chicks at Easter – so you could leave them in the garage overnight and let them freeze solid? At least you could before Al Gore started Global Warming – just after he created the Internet. Apparently in the ‘40s, right after the earth cooled, you could also buy little alligators at Easter.

She kept her little alligator in an old cast-iron bathtub that sat out in the pasture behind the house. When her family went to church that morning (or another morning, I’m not certain – as if it somehow matters), the alligator escaped from the bathtub never to be seen again. (I’m fairly certain that it grew to be huge and re-emerged to eat one of my cousins many years later, but that’s another story).

Mom was so distraught, and was such the apple of her father’s eye, that Gerald (aka G.L.) put an ad in the Mt. Pleasant Tribune: “Missing – One Alligator” That way, my Mother knew that her loving Daddy was doing everything in his power to retrieve her beloved pet.

One day at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, which my grandfather owned, one of the good ol’ boys from out in the Sulphur River bottoms showed up. “Dynamite” Harvey (a nickname he received from his method of fishing) was a regular at the store.

Now, had Dynamite Harvey come from Louisiana, I suspect he would have referred to himself as a “coon a**”. Had he been from Arkansas, a “hillbilly” or a “redneck”. Elsewhere, perhaps a “yellow hammer”. In East Texas, saying that someone was from the Sulphur River Bottoms told you everything you needed to know. But according to Gerry Lou, the Harveys were good people.

Mr. Harvey said to my grandfather: “Mr. Brogoitti, I saw your ad in the paper about the missing alligator. I think I found him.” Mr. Harvey proceeded to lead my grandfather out to his pickup. Chained in the back was a real, live, genuine, six-foot alligator, chained to the bed of the truck. Apparently, Mr. Harvey and his brothers caught said alligator themselves and brought it to my grandfather for grins.

I don’t think G. L. took Mr. Harvey’s alligator home to my mother.

In any “normal” sense, that would have been the end of a somewhat hysterical, made-up story. But we’re not done with this one just yet.

Many years later, after Mom had passed, I was at my uncle’s funeral, telling the alligator story to a friend of the family. While I was doing so, someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned to see an elderly woman, who would have been about the same age as my Mother. She had overheard me telling the story and said: “It’s true. My parents gave Gerry that alligator.” Seems that, though her parents gave my Mother an alligator, they didn’t give their own daughter one. She probably carried the resentment to her grave. And I had the gall to even forget her name.

And so, there you have it. Some passing confirmation of the validity of the alligator story – at least one part of it.

Yes, this is my family. Imagine how much fun we had growing up.

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Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories of My Mother – Exordium

(In this episode, the RT begins a series of stories about his Mother, who gave birth to him and helped mold and shape him into the person that he is today)

Preface – Gypsy Railroaders

Those of you who have seen the Steve Martin move, “The Jerk”, will likely recall the opening line: “I was born a poor …” (OK, we’ll stop right there).

My story begins in a similar way: “I was born a gypsy railroader.” At least that’s what my Mother, Gerry Lou, always said about our family.

My Dad, Robert R. McClanahan, was a railroad man to the core. He ate, slept, breathed, dreamed and bled railroad. And he was determined. And he was determined to accomplish three things: 1) to marry Gerry Lou, 2) to provide for his family, come hell or high water, and 3) to run the Cotton Belt Railroad. By the way, he accomplished all three, but it took a long time.

Each time a Dad moved up the ladder on the railroad, we moved on to the next place. We did a complete orbit of these United States west of the Mississippi. So, we traipsed across the country carrying Mom and Dad’s two most-prized possessions: a live banana tree and a slightly-bent steel flagpole, respectively.

This is the story of the McClanahan Gypsy Railroad Family. Well, mostly it’s crazy stories about my Mother, coupled with a few less-crazy stories about my Dad. I started writing after Mom passed away, but have refrained from publishing any of it out of respect for my Dad, lest he think that I was being disrespectful to my mother. With his passing last month, I am now free to share these wonderful stories with you, Dedicated Reader.

A few things you should know about Gerry Lou to help frame these stories:

  1. She was her Daddy’s favorite. He doted on her a lot.
  2. She read voraciously. Everything from The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire to The Bible to what would today be called “prepper” literature to anything and everything published by the John Birch Society.
  3. She knew everything. Or most everything. And what she didn’t know, she made up. And it was hard to tell the difference.
  4. She was brilliant. She may well have been crazy. And sometimes it’s hard to tell the two apart.
  5. I miss her terribly.

The stories that follow will be in no particular order, since I’m sharing them as I become satisfied with the first draft. I’ll try to include dates so you can order them properly, at least until the wall-size Gerry Lou Life Planner hits the market.

Story One will follow soon. Happy reading.

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Rumination XLII – Eulogy for a Great Man

(Once again in this post, the RT yields to his more-balanced alter ego. The RT promises to return to his usual snarkiness in the near future.)

Robert Ray McClanahan – known also as “Buddy”, “Slim”, “Ray”, “Mr. Mac”, “Double-R”, “Railroad McClanahan”, as well as various names that should not be uttered in a church building – R. R. McClanahan was my Daddy.

Dad was born to a school teacher and a sharecropper in Pecan Gap, Texas just before the Great Depression. My grandfather raised cotton with his father in the black dirt in central Texas. The only property he ever owned was a pair of mules. When he died in 1930, he left my grandmother with nothing but three children under the age of six at a time when nobody had anything and things were about to get worse.

My grandmother taught school in central Texas during the school year and returned to East Texas each summer to work her family’s farm. Money was scarce and Dad’s older brother had to go live with another part of the family because no one could afford to feed that many mouths.

My Dad got two pairs of overalls and one pair of shoes at the beginning of each school year and his Mother had to make them last a whole year. They survived on the generosity of others. Dad said that nobody had anything and everyone shared what they had. He remembered those as good times.

He went to school in a one-room schoolhouse, taught mostly by his Mother. When the lessons for his grade were finished, Dad did his assigned work, then worked on the lessons for the next grade. By doing so, he was ultimately able to graduate high school when he was sixteen.

From the time he was old enough to do so, he worked to help support his mother and his sister. At one point, he was making three dollars a week, two of which went to his Mother.

When he lost his job at the movie theater in Mount Pleasant, Texas a month before graduation, he didn’t know what to do. His neighbor, Ernest Sinclair, saw him sitting on the porch, crying. When Mr. Ernest asked him what was wrong, Dad told him what had happened and that he wouldn’t be able to support his mother. Mr. Ernest told him to be at the railroad depot at 5am the next morning, because the Superintendent was in town. Mr. Ernest promised to get him an audience.

Dad was at the depot at 4:30am to make sure he was there on time. When the Superintendent met my Daddy, he hired him as a student telegrapher on the spot, even though he was 16 and hadn’t yet graduated high school. During the final weeks of school, Dad went to the depot every morning and studied railroad, then went to school, then back to the railroad when school was done.

And so began Dad’s career with the Cotton Belt Railroad. He worked virtually every depot in East Texas, sending and receiving train orders via telegraph, then delivering them to passing trains. Each time the Superintendent came through an office where Dad was working, he would comment to those around him: “Keep an eye on that McClanahan fellow. He’s one of the good ones.” In 1949, he was promoted to Train Dispatcher in Tyler, TX.

He was too young to serve in WWII, but joined the Texas National Guard in 1948 when the draft was reinstated (yes, he was a draft-dodger). He served fourteen years in the Guard and rose to the rank of Captain. He became the battalion adjutant and was the Colonel’s “get it done” man.

In 1950, he married his first love, Gerry Lou Brogoitti. She was the daughter of one of Mt. Pleasant’s most prominent citizens and he was from the other side of the tracks. They had met when he was in high school and she in junior high. But once he graduated and she was in high school, it became acceptable for them to date. When she went to college in Commerce, TX, Dad knew he had real competition and “wore out a car” driving back and forth to see her.

My sister Terry Lea came along in 1951, Cindy Ann in 1956 and lastly me in 1959. Dad worked three jobs to make sure that our family had the stability that his didn’t have. The railroad was always #1. He also worked at the men’s clothing store in Mt. Pleasant. And he ran “Mac’s Bike Shop” where he sold bicycles that he and Mom rebuilt. He was determined that our family would stay together, no matter what.

In 1960, he was promoted to his first officer position on the railroad, Freight Agent in Texarkana, TX, beginning the “Trek of the Gypsy Railroaders” my Mom always talked about. He was promoted to Trainmaster in 1965, which took us to Memphis, TN. In 1968, he became Assistant Terminal Superintendent at East St. Louis and our family moved to Collinsville, IL. He then rose to Terminal Superintendent at East St Louis, the busiest rail terminal in the country, before he was transferred to Eugene, OR in 1970 to become Terminal Superintendent there.

During our stay in Eugene, Dad was named Project Manager for a new rail yard in West Colton, CA which was to become the most advanced rail yard in the world. He was ultimately transferred to West Colton in 1971 and our family moved to Redlands, CA. Once West Colton was completed, Dad was named Terminal Superintendent.

Let me pause here, to say that each time our family was transferred, Dad knew that it was coming before he shared it with the family. Mom would say: “Kids, your Dad is cleaning out the garage and you know what that means.” Once the transfer was official, Dad would call a family meeting and let us know where we were about to go.

When the garage cleaning started in early 1974, we knew something was afoot. Dad came home in the next few weeks and told us we were going to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Our response was something like: “WHERE???”

And so, in November 1974, our family came to live in Pine Bluff and Dad became Assistant Superintendent and heir-apparent to the Superintendent of the Cotton Belt. While Pine Bluff was not East Texas, my Mom declared it to be “close enough” because of the pine trees and rolling hills of south Arkansas.

In 1983, Dad was named Superintendent upon the retirement of his predecessor. That skinny 16-year-old kid who met the Superintendent on his private rail car in 1945 was now the Superintendent himself. The young clerk who sat on the steps of the depot and talked with his peers about who he would fire if he were the Boss was now the Boss. The student telegrapher was now the man who called the shots.

Over the next five years, the Cotton Belt went through three mergers in rapid succession, as the rail industry consolidated into mega-railroads. The last of those mergers bought him out. He retired at age 59, after 43 years with the Cotton Belt and Southern Pacific.

In retirement, he helped build the Arkansas Railroad Museum into what it is today. He and my Mom bought and restored rail cars. He ran excursion trains in NW Arkansas. He helped run excursions with the 819. His love for all things railroad never faded.

When my Mother passed away unexpectedly in 2000, my Dad was lost. He lost his first love. He lost his energy and the color in his face. He lost his interest in the railroad. He lost his will to live. My sisters and I were preparing to lose our Dad, too.

But then, a year or so later, his energy level picked up. The color returned to his face. He called me to ask my permission to take a lady named Betty Hickerson out to lunch. They were married in 2002 and life began again for both of them. Ms Betty gave my Daddy a reason to live and she gave my sisters and me another 17 years with our Daddy.

Ms Betty, we are forever grateful for the love and care that you gave our Daddy. We know that this is every bit as hard for you as it is for us. You will remain in our hearts and in our prayers.

While the other kids at school had Dads who were lawyers or firemen or plumbers – or in some cases, members of the Mafia – I had the only Daddy who could get a locomotive out of the ditch. And the only Mother who had to get locomotive grease out of a suit.

Other kids had Dads who took them bowling or fishing on weekends. Our Dad made us go to church, and Sunday school, and gospel meetings.

Others had Dads who taught them how to hunt. Ours taught us the value of hard work and commitment.

My Daddy could dispatch the entire railroad Division single-handedly when the union went on strike. My Dad could determine the cause of train derailment over the phone from hundreds of miles away. My Dad could actually drink railroad coffee. My Dad could build anything, fix anything and organize anything.

My Dad is my hero. He was when I was a kid and he always will be. He was larger than life to me when he was running a railroad and he continued to be when he could only manage a few steps in his walker.

The past few months have given all of us time to be with him, to talk about things that mattered and to say “goodbye”. If you spent time with him, you probably heard him say that he’d had a great life, that he’d had a “good ride” and that he had no regrets. I expect that all of us hope to say that when our time on is finished.

He had a lot of friends. He had a good number of enemies. But friend or foe, everyone I’ve met respected Robert R. McClanahan. He may have fired his fair share of folks, but the ones I’ve met told me they deserved it and that he hired them back later.

I’ve been blessed to see how many lives my Daddy touched over the years. From his railroad and business colleagues to his church family to his friends and loved ones. He made a difference in the lives of everyone he touched.

Robert R McClanahan was a great man and my Sisters and I are better people for having him as our Daddy.

Daddy, we love you and we’ll miss you terribly. But knowing that you are safe in the arms of Jesus and that you are with Mom forever makes this time bearable. We’ll see you soon.

Memorials may be made to

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Rumination XLI – Twenty Years Later

(In this edition, the RT yields the floor to his far more balanced alter-ego. You may rest easy in the knowledge that the usual snarkiness of the RT will return in due time.)

Exactly 20 years ago (as I write this), my young family’s world was spinning rapidly out of control and there was absolutely nothing we could do to stop it.

At 8pm on Friday, January 29, 1999, Michelle and I found ourselves virtually alone in the ER at Arkansas Children’s Hospital with our two-week-old son, Riley, who was suffering uncontrollable seizures. We had no idea why and it would be many long hours before we did. A whirlwind of shock, worry, vaporizing hopes and dreams, anger, helplessness and sadness – interspersed with a million other feelings and concerns – engulfed us.

But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Our life journey began simply. When we married, Michelle wanted a house full of kids, but I wanted only two. You know, the typical American family: Mom, Dad, a son and a daughter. We had already been blessed with two beautiful girls, but I was willing to go one more to round out the litter with a son.

In the spring of 1998, Michelle called me from a pay phone outside a Sears store in a mall in Ohio to say that she was pregnant. She had slipped away from her Mom and a long-time family friend to buy a pregnancy test at a drugstore. After a positive result, she called me in tears of joy to share the news – which explained why she had been nauseated in the mornings. While we were both reeling from the news, she had to hang up because she saw her Mom coming and wasn’t ready to share anything.

We didn’t know that our third child would be a boy. But if he was, he would have his grandfather’s name – or something like it. At least his grandfather’s first name and middle initial. I didn’t want him to have his grandfather’s middle name for fear that someone would actually call him by it. We settled on Riley as his middle name the night before the scheduled C-section. Robert Riley McClanahan would be the second in our clan’s history with the initials RRM.

Riley came into the world the morning of Friday, January 15th, a typical Arkansas winter day. He was every bit as perfect as his two older sisters. Ten fingers, ten toes, round face, rosy cheeks. At birth, Riley was the spitting image of his oldest sister. We took him home two days later, after Michelle had recovered a tiny bit after the C-section.

With the third child, things are almost on autopilot. Changing diapers is automatic. Rocking, burping, patting and jiggling are all muscle memory at this point. Even dealing with cholic is ingrained in Mom and Dad. Except that we didn’t have any of those magic simethicone drops that we’d pumped the girls full of in their first weeks, so I got to make my first post-midnight visit to a Walmart Supercenter to buy some. Nothing to it.

On Thursday, January 21st, an F3 tornado ripped through my work campus, taking down our on-campus electric distribution system. I spent the next several days coaxing a portable generator to provide emergency power to our critical computer systems. My in-laws were in town to see the new baby, so Michelle had plenty of help. We do what we have to do to keep things going.

With that crisis behind me, the next week looked to be a fairly normal week. By Friday, Michelle felt like getting out of the house for the first time after the birth. After I got home from work, we left the girls with a sitter and took Riley with us to the Outback Steakhouse. It was nice to have a quiet moment together after a couple of pretty eventful weeks.

During dinner, Riley became fussy, but it was no big deal. Michelle nursed him and he settled right down. We finished eating, paid the check and headed to the van, planning to go visit some dear friends at the hospital who were celebrating the birth of their second child that morning. As we put Riley into the van, he cried out sharply. It was unsettling to us, but we thought we had possibly bumped his carrier as it passed through the doorway and startled him.

His loving Mom checked his diaper and found that he needed changing. After that, he seemed to settle in and go to sleep. Off we went to the hospital for a visit.

After arriving there, Michelle took the first visit and headed into the hospital while I waited in the van with Riley. It was a cold night, so I kept the van running and the heater going. A few minutes later, I heard Riley spit up and choke. I hopped out of the driver’s seat and over into the second row, where his carrier was strapped in.

This wasn’t my first rodeo, so I checked to see that his airway was clear, then carried him back to the driver’s seat with me. I laid him face down across my knees, so that if he spit up again, he wouldn’t choke on it. Again, he seemed to settle right back to sleep.

Michelle came down a few minutes later to relive me so I could go up and see our friends. When she got in the van, I told her what had happened, and that Riley had scared me a little bit. She picked him up from my lap and when she did, he arched his back away from her until he was facing straight up. Then he went slack. Seconds later, he repeated the cycle. She had me turn on the dome light to give her a better look. In the slightly-improved light, his skin was grey and splotchy. It took Neonatal Specialty Nurse Michelle McClanahan no more than a few seconds to say: “take us to Children’s”.

Children’s Hospital is providentially located less than five miles from where we were visiting our friends and it took no more than ten minutes to get from there to the door of the ER. I dropped off Michelle and Riley and went to park the van.

By the time I got back to the ER, there was no sign of Michelle or the baby, nor was there anyone else – except the security guard, who made me pass through the metal detector before I could go further. Now when, on a Friday night, in January, in the middle of cold and flu season, has the ER waiting room at any hospital been empty? That was the first sign that maybe something incomprehensible was at work.

And now, we find ourselves at the point where this story began. Michelle and I had no earthly idea what was wrong with our son. He was having seizures for no apparent reason.

With an empty waiting room and few patients in the unit, Riley had the attention of almost the entire ER staff. We knew that he was in the right place, being seen by the right specialists. But we still had no idea of what was going on.

One of the staff took us to a quiet room to collect our thoughts. We made three phone calls, I think. The first was to the babysitter to give her a heads-up that we wouldn’t be home anytime soon. She agreed to stay the night, if necessary. The second was to my sister, Cindy, to let her know that something was going on. The third was to a friend who was a social worker on staff at Children’s.

The first report back from the attending physician was that they still didn’t know why Riley was having seizures. The next report was that they had done a spinal tap and found blood in his spinal fluid. The next was that they had done a CT of Riley’s head and found that it was filled with blood. The news was not good, though it did explain the seizures. The question now was: “Where did all that blood come from?”

Now, before this turns into the book that I’ve always said I would write (and appear to have started), let me compress the next few hours and try to bring this “chapter” to a close.

Around midnight, a Neurosurgery Fellow (not a guy; some uber-resident guy) with a thick, Russian accent told us that, unless he drilled a hole in Riley’s head to allow the pressure to escape, our son would die. And how do you respond to a statement like that? You say: “Then you had better drill a hole in our son’s head”

Our social worker friend had showed up several hours ago and had taken complete and total charge of us (she earned the nickname “Sarge” for life). She had lined up a waiting room in an area of the hospital that wasn’t used on Friday night for us to have a quiet place collect our thoughts, away from the chaos of the ER. And far away from the Russian neurosurgeon who was preparing to drill a hole in our son’s head.

When we got to the quiet, vacant waiting room in an unoccupied remote corner of the hospital, we found about 30 people from our church family waiting for us there. At 1am. In the middle of the night. Or very early in the morning. In winter. On an unseasonably cold January winter night. When all of these folks should have been at home in bed with their families.

But they came. Just to be with us. To hug us. To cry with us. To tell insanely funny stories and laugh with us. To support us in any way they could. This was the second indication that something bigger was at play.

There are more stories from the next few hours than I have time to write. Remember, I’m cutting this short.

Twenty years ago – right now – we were losing our son. Twenty years ago, we thought that, if he survived the night, he wouldn’t survive a year, or a month, or even a week. Twenty years ago, we never imagined there would be a twenty years later – with or without Riley. There was only that moment.

Twenty years later, we still have Riley. He did survive that night, and the crucial days that followed. And the rough weeks that followed that. And the uncertain months that came after. And the challenging years that stacked up until here we are … twenty years later.

They’ve not been an easy twenty years – not at all. Here’s a short list of what Riley has dealt with in that time:

  • Major loss of brain mass. The bleed he suffered when a blood vessel ruptured took a substantial amount of brain with it.
  • Hydrocephalus. The blood that filled and surrounded his brain after the bleed damaged the surface of his brain, making it impossible for him to absorb excess cerebral-spinal fluid (CSF), which is generated inside the ventricles of the brain. This creates pressure inside the skull and on the brain, causing all sorts of problems.
  • Stroke. Riley’s neurosurgeons performed an emergency “procedure” (which you and I might be inclined to call “brain surgery”) in an attempt to flush the clotting blood from the ventricles in his brain. If they hadn’t, the pressure on his brain would have killed him. During that procedure, Riley suffered one or more strokes that further damaged his brain.
  • A ventricular-peritoneal (VP) shunt. A hole was drilled in the side of his skull to allow tubing to channel the excess CSF from the ventricles inside his brain to his stomach cavity through a pressure-controlled valve under the skin behind his ear.
  • Surgery to correct eye position. One of his eyes was turned in because the nerves that controlled the muscles required to balance the eye position were damaged in the bleed.
  • Poor vision. The alignment of his bad eye is now permanently set, so he cannot track with it. The vision in the other eye is not great.
  • Allergies. Riley is allergic to almost everything: beef, chicken, turkey, pork, eggs, milk, latex, bananas, pineapple, green peas … and the list goes on.
  • Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Possibly exacerbated by the weak muscles in his torso, preventing his esophageal sphincter from closing properly. At any rate, he has bad reflux.
  • Orthopedic Issues. Atrophied muscles in his leg are unable to keep his hip joint in the socket. His leg has been out of socket for years.
  • Scoliosis. As the muscles in his torso have atrophied over time, the curvature of his spine has gotten way out of whack.
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). Riley was recently diagnosed with EoE, which is a weird allergic reaction to certain foods inside the esophagus. Mind you, we don’t know which foods cause the irritation and Riley cannot communicate that to us. This may eliminate many of the few foods remaining that Riley once could eat.
  • Can’t walk. With his leg out of socket and no hope at balance, Riley cannot walk and has been confined to a wheel chair since infancy.
  • Can’t sit up. Riley lost the ability to sit up on his own a decade ago.
  • Can’t dress himself. With damaged motor skills, Riley cannot put a shirt or pants on by himself.
  • Can’t toilet himself. Without the ability to walk or move himself around, he can’t use the toilet.
  • Can’t feed himself. He cannot prepare a meal, though he can put bites of food in his mouth by himself. But if we don’t watch him constantly, he will choke.
  • Has no concept of danger. Riley requires constant attention or he could easily hurt himself. His curiosity makes him want to grab everything, but he doesn’t know that the pan on the cabinet could bust his skull if he pulls it off on top of him.

You know, this list could go on for pages. But here’s a short list of things Riley can do.

  • Love. Riley knows only love. Unconditional love. No hate. No jealously. No envy. Only love.
  • Trust. Riley trusts. He knows nothing else but trust. He trusts his caregivers in every single thing. He never questions.
  • Laughter. Riley laughs and squeals at the simplest things. He doesn’t need the latest and greatest of everything. He LOVES to play with a $3 Slinky. Better yet, he LOVES to play UNO.
  • Charm. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but people melt when they meet Riley.
  • Smile. Riley is almost always smiling, except when he’s overstimulated. And it’s a smile that will melt your heart.

In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

That’s what Riley is. He may be 20 years old, but he has always been, and always will be, a little child. A loving, trusting child. And in his face, I get to see what the Kingdom of God looks like. He is God’s child. He was God’s before he was mine and he’ll be God’s when one or both of us is gone from this earth.

Riley is the biggest challenge that I have faced in life. But, without a doubt, Riley is the greatest blessing in my life, apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

The challenges of the “Riley Experience” have made our family stronger, our time together more dear, our compassion for others more real. We are better people because of what happened to Riley.

God used the greatest tragedy in my life to bring about the greatest blessings in my life.

Yes, I still struggle with it. Michelle will tell you that I do. But when I lay down in Riley’s bed to snuggle him at bedtime, all the fears, the uncertainties, the heartaches, the worries – they all melt away.

Thank you, Lord, for all of my children. But I thank you in a very special way for Riley and the twenty years I’ve had with him. And thank you for their godly, loving Mother  – my wife – who blesses all of us with her gentle spirit and never-ending faithfulness to You.

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Rumination XL – The Rambling Texan’s Flora-Bama Travel Guide

This year has seen more than the usual amount of travel for the RT. Not only has the RT spent time in København in 2017, late summer brought an opportunity to spend a week in Flora-Bama.

Where The Heck Is Flora-Bama?

Now, you may be asking: “Just where in the heck is Flora-Bama?” And that’s a good question, for the RT had never heard of it himself before this trip.

It seems that the southeast corner of the ‘Bama panhandle intermingles with the western tip of the Flor’a panhandle. The state lines in this particular part of the world criss-cross back and forth so often that you need a navigator just to keep up with which state you’re in. Along the way, some enterprising fellow set up a bar right on the state line, named it Flora-Bama and history was made.

How To Get There

To get to Flora-Bama, one must go through one or both of Mississippi and Louisiana. Even if you live in Miami, Florida, your route would inevitably take you through Mississippi and/or Louisiana. Both are delightful places, filled with lovely people with names like Cooter, Bubba and Boudreaux.

And the RT’s travels through the area proved an adage he’s known to be true for a long time: “If a place advertises ‘Clean Restrooms’, it doesn’t have them, or much anything else, for that matter.”


The first thing you need to know is that wherever you may be in the Flora-Bama area, you are either in or very close to Alabama. And that ought to tell you something, right there.

It’s as if Lynyrd Skynyrd is always there, looking over your shoulder. The widespread availability of shotglasses, refrigerator magnets and license plate frames emblazoned with “Sweet Home Alabama” can leave you misty-eyed. And the pickup truck flying four full-sized Confederate flags (one of which carried the banner “Heritage, not Hate”) provided another helpful reminder.

So, even if you’re on the Flor’a side of the Flora-Bama line, feel free to let the chorus of “Free Bird” rip. Preferably from the windows of a late ‘70s Trans-Am.


The cuisine in Flora-Bama is superb, because they use a very special seasoning in the area: Fried

You’ll find it applied to chicken, catfish, shrimp, pies and pickles. The Family RT was able to isolate the essence in the bottom of a basket of fried pickles in the clumps of “fried” that contained no pickles. Very heady stuff.

They also eat many sea creatures in Flora-Bama, again with significant amounts of “fried” applied: shrimp, crab, fish and okra. OK, okra is not a sea creature, but the RT almost had you.


When going to the beach, be sure to leave the majority of your clothes behind. This requirement seems to apply equally to men and women. The better to see your tattoos, we guess.

Beach Accessories

When going to the beach, you must not forget the number one beach accessory. It’s not sunscreen, or a beach chair, or an umbrella, or flip-flops, or a beach towel. Each of these is important in its own right, but each places a distant second to the really important thing: BEER

Never – repeat, NEVER – go to the beach without BEER. This could result in a fine or possible bodily harm. The only time that bullies kick sand in your face is when you are not brandishing BEER. Have one at 8am and at 8:15am and another at 8:30am. Just keep ‘em coming.

Don’t fret about finding the right craft beer, pale ale or Belgian wheat. Nope, just pick up a case or three of Milwaukee’s Best or Schlitz or PBR. That’s all you need in Flora-Bama.

And after you’ve downed a six (or two), you won’t care about chairs, sunglasses or sunscreen. You’ll can just lay there like a beached whale. Don’t worry, when you come to well after dark, you can find your way back to the condo using the glow from your fiercely-sunburned skin.

Orange Beach

One of the popular spots in Flora-Bama is Orange Beach. Maybe he missed something, but the only thing the RT saw in Orange Beach were the folks that had spent a little too much time at the spray tanning facility. Other than that, it seemed like a pretty regular beach.


When you go to Flora-Baja, you’ll want to pick up some souvenirs. Make sure you get the really good stuff: shot glasses, bells, refrigerator magnets, bottle openers, pickled/preserved baby sharks (I did not make that up), baby alligator jaws, beer hats, wife-beater t-shirts, and anything that has “Sweet Home Alabama” on it.

With these in hand, you can impress your friends with trinkets from your classy vacation.


No, not the Miami Dolphins. The RT wouldn’t be caught dead in Miami.

The RT is talkin’ about the Real McCoy in the dolphin world. Those graceful and adorable aquatic creatures that pop up from the water when you least expect them. The Family RT took a private sunset dolphin cruise and had a great time. The RT recommends that you do the same when you are in Flora-Bama.

In case you are wondering, the RT couldn’t tell the difference between the Flor’a dolphins and the ‘Bama dolphins. They were all chattering “Free Bird” as they went past.

In Closing

The RT hopes that you, dear reader, are not disappointed by the brevity of this travel guide. It’s not that there was a lack of things to write about. Au contrare, mon ami! There was an overabundance of material, from the first visit to a Flor’a WalMart to the final stop at a C-store in Louisiana.

Perhaps another day, my friend.

Best, The Rambling Texan

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Rumination XXXIX – How To Succeed … By Really Trying

The RT’s son recently got a job at a local burger place. Since it was his first job, the RT thought he should offer some fatherly advice about work and work ethic. As the RT pondered these pearls of sage advice, he decided that they should be committed to writing and shared.

The following are principles that are guaranteed to help you succeed in life.

The RT learned them from a skinny kid who went to work for the Cotton Belt Railroad as a telegrapher when he was 16 years old, then retired 43 years later from the same railroad as Superintendent – a position that was called President when he started. That skinny kid/successful railroad man was the RT’s Daddy (aka Papa RT) and he was, is and always will be the RT’s role model.

Some of these principles were shared verbally. Others were lived out in Papa RT’s own life. And the rest come from the RT’s personal observations and experience while applying them.

These principles don’t guarantee that you’ll be rich or that you’ll have everything your heart desires. But they do guarantee success in the real-world sense of the word. They will make you feel good about yourself and what you do. They will create an environment in which you can make a difference. And they’ll make a better you.

Here they are, in some vague semblance of order:

  • Nobody owes you anything. That’s right … Nothing. Nobody owes you a job. Nobody owes you insurance. Nobody owes you retirement benefits. Nobody owes you a raise. Nobody owes you a promotion.  Some employers offer these things and some don’t. But regardless, you’ll have to work for everything you get.
  • It’s not about you. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Get used to it. Your job on this earth is to work and serve and take care of others. Focus on what you can do for others and you may find that your needs get met along the way.
  • Work hard. Don’t be idle. Do your job. Do the other guy’s job. Do jobs nobody else wants to do. Do all that’s asked of you. Then do more. If something needs to be done, do it. Don’t wait to be told. Show initiative.
  • Stay busy. When you’re on company time, you work for the Company. You don’t check Facebook. You don’t do Snapchat. You don’t talk on your phone to your friends. You work for the Company. You do your job. You do what the Company asks of you – unless it’s illegal, unethical or immoral.
  • Make yourself valuable. If you have idle time, learn the other guy’s job. Make yourself more valuable to the company. Minimum skills equal minimum pay. Increase your skills, your pay will follow. Build your skills and learn the other guy’s job so you’ll be the most qualified when the Boss needs somebody to fill a more responsible role.
  • Respect the Boss. Remember that the Boss is not always right, but he or she is always the Boss. And that makes them right in that moment. Unless your name is on the door, you don’t call the shots. The Boss does. Be respectful – all the time.
  • Be on time. No, be early. Stay late. Come in on weekends. Work until the work is done, not until the clock strikes 5pm. Clock-watching is for those who don’t want to succeed.
  • Be honest. Completely honest. Honest to a fault. Prove to the Boss that you can be trusted with little things and he or she might give you bigger things.
  • Admit your failures. Tell on yourself when you screw up. Take whatever comes, then get up and get back at it. The only time you are a failure is when you don’t get back up.
  • Be careful with your mouth. If you work hard and prove yourself, you may earn the right to provide feedback. But don’t be surprised if the Boss puts you in your place if you offer comments before that time comes. Especially if you smart off in so doing.
  • Be an adult. Don’t expect your boss to coddle you, motivate you, encourage you or understand you. Work is not a daycare – it’s a job, where you are expected to perform. Do your job well, and let a job well done be your motivation.
  • Do whatever it takes. Eliminate the phrase “that’s not my job” from your vocabulary. To be successful, make everything your job. If you see a piece of trash on the floor, pick it up. If the sink in the bathroom is a mess, wipe it down. If there’s no coffee, make some. Nothing should be “beneath you”. Show the Boss that you’ll do anything to make the Company successful. Then he or she might let you do something important.
  • Support your coworkers. Don’t cover for a slacker, but help coworkers when they need it. Show the Boss that you care about his or her reputation – and the Company’s – enough to do someone else’s work, if necessary. Be a leader among your peers. Raise them to your level; don’t drop to theirs.
  • Make things better. If you don’t like the environment in which you work, change it. Be the change you want to see. If the company doesn’t appreciate your efforts, then find a new place to work. Don’t complain.
  • Life is not fair. You may do all of these things and not get a single thing for your efforts. But know that you did your dead-level best and determine to keep trying. Stay at it and it will pay off.
  • Hard work always pays off. Even if it doesn’t come with a raise, a promotion or recognition, it makes you stronger. It makes you a better person. And that, my friend, is the real definition of “successful”.

There you go. Papa RT’s secrets for success. They worked for him and they’ll work for you. And they’ll work everywhere – not just at work.

It’s never too late to start applying them.

Best, The Rambling Texan

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Rumination XXXVIII – The Rambling Texan’s Copenhagen Travel Guide


The RT had an opportunity to visit Copenhagen, Denmark recently to visit his Little Baby Girl, while she was studying abroad. As is the case in most of his travels, the RT made some noteworthy observations which will help other visitors to Copenhagen.

First Impressions

When the RT first touched down in Copenhagen (called København or “koobinhown” by the locals), he was stunned to find out that it wasn’t the world center for snuff or “smokeless tobacco”. In fact, he only saw one empty snuff box on the sidewalk the whole time in København … and it wasn’t Copenhagen … or Skoal (remember what Walt Garrison of the late ‘70s Dallas Cowboys said: “just a pinch between your cheek and gum …”) … or Happy Days. Things were starting out on the wrong foot. Something was, indeed, rotten in the state of Denmark, in addition to the seaweed on the beach.

After meeting up with Daughter RT, it became apparent the she had spent the past six weeks in intensive ultra-marathon walker training, rather than actually studying abroad. She almost succeeded in walking her Daddy to death over the succeeding week, but the RT somehow managed to survive. And what lovely calf muscles we have now. Tak!

The General Populace

You, no doubt, have seen the print ads for Ralph Lauren Polo. You know, the ones with the strikingly beautiful/handsome people with piercing blue eyes, stylish blond hair, striking features and a certain disaffected gaze. As it turns out, all those people are from Denmark. Many folks on the street look as if they just stepped away from a Polo photo shoot (or maybe a fragrance ad, except that none of them were in black and white). After all, nothing says Ralph Lauren’s America like Danish-looking people.

The death rate in Denmark must be abnormally high, because people seem to wear black all the time in order to attend the funerals. Black shirts, black pants, black sweaters, black overcoats … black everything. A stroll down the sidewalk feels like a funeral procession.

Except for the hair. One sees all colors: blonde, black, red, orange, pink, blue, aqua, mauve, cornflower, burnt umber, seafoam green … no, wait. Those last few were from the RT’s Crayola box when he was a kid.

Danes are generally nice people, though they don’t make eye contact and don’t say “excuse me” when they bump into you, step in front of you or shove past you. Apparently, there’s no Danish equivalent to “excuse me”, so they just don’t bother. I guess they didn’t have a Mama like the RT’s who bopped them on the head anytime they bumped into somebody and didn’t say “mine dybeste undskyldninger for at støde ind i dig” (that’s what Google Translate came up with when the RT gave it “my deepest apologies for bumping into you”).

Tattoos and Piercings

It seems that Danish sailors brought home the practice of tattooing from Polynesia many years ago. And then took it to a new level. The RT thought there were a lot of tattooed people in the good ol’ US of A. While that is, indeed, true, there is a MUCH higher percentage of them in København.

Coupled with piercings of every conceivable body part, this makes these folks look like Danish sailors that got caught up in the ship’s tackle box and had to claw their way out.


The local folk in København apparently dig graffiti, as it appears everywhere, including Amager East, where the RT stayed. This initially set the RT back, wondering if he had landed in gang territory. However, the area was otherwise nice. Apparently, graffiti is simply a form of expression for Københavnites. Nothing says “Velkommen” like spray paint.


In Denmark, the people speak Danish, a language not unlike English, except the Danes have done something cute, bordering on adorable. Over time, they’ve come up with a completely different word for everything! It’s not only adorable, it’s also quite fashionable. It sounds remotely like Deutsch, spoken with a mouth full of Life Savers.

They use “ring diacritics” in written Danish (that’s when you have something like extra Cheerios lying around and sprinkle them on top of other letters so you can claim they have a different sound). In addition, they apparently make a lot of mistakes when printing signs and ads, because they have to go back and cross out a lot of their regular “o”s. Then when a complete sentence is finally arrived at, they randomly omit certain letters when speaking, just to keep the tourists guessing.


Københavnites love their bicycles. Really. No, REALLY. There are bicycles EVERYWHERE. And they move FAST. And they WILL run over you. On several occasions, the RT was almost flattened by a speeding bicyclist. So, watch out. Or you could become a statistic.

Interestingly, most of the bicycles in København are of the style that Mama RT had when the RT was a child. Single speed, balloon tires, fenders, wide seat, etc. The kind that Papa RT cranked out of Mac’s Bike Shop in East Texas in the ‘50s. Thankfully, there are few hills, so the ol’ single speed bike does the trick.


The currency in Denmark is the Danish Krone (which makes the RT want to sing a song by The Knack: “M-M-M-My Ka-rona”). And the RT saw many Danes spending their krone on Corona (they do love to drink).

The krone is worth less than the good ol’ US dollar, and quite a lot so. It takes about six krone to equal one US dollar. That means when you go buy a hamburger for 79, DKK (don’t forget the comma; it means the same as a decimal point; and a decimal point means the same as a comma; can a fella get a ring diacritic over here?), don’t worry – you’re not about to drop 79 Simoleans. You are actually only handing over about 12 tamales.

On his last European trip, the RT got pretty good at spending Euros, because they were worth slightly more than good ol’ ‘Merican petrodollars. So, when something cost 10€, you knew you were spending about 11 smackeroos. But with these krones, it was a hard conversion. Dividing by six in his head on the fly ain’t the RT’s strong suit.

So, the RT came up with this easy trick. First, move the decimal place (or the comma in this case) one place to the left. So, your 79, DKK becomes 7,9 something-or-other. Then add a little over half as much, and you get 12 or 13. And that’s about how many clams it’ll set you back.

See how easy that is? Or maybe Google will come up with some glasses that automatically convert DKK to USD. Until then, the RT is doing it his way. Or maybe you can just divide by six.

Canals and Boats

There are many canals in København, which leads to many bridges, as well. And like any good city with canals, there are boats that ply them constantly. And like any place where boats interact with bridges, there are spans these boats must pass through.

To make the absolute greatest use of the available spans, the designers made the boats approximately 30 Ångstroms narrower and 20 Å shorter than the available span at high tide (did you notice how the RT snuck in a letter with a ring diacritic there?).

This makes for some interesting “interactions” between the boats and the bridges. Just remember to keep your head down, and your arms and legs inside the boat at all times. Or another statistic could be in the making.


As is his custom, the RT arrived right at the peak of summer festival season. On this trip, it was the Mega-Crane, Gaping Hole, Trenching Implement and Sewer Pipe festival. Everywhere was singing and dancing around the heavy equipment and random chasms in the street. It was hard to fight the urge to join in. No visit to any city is complete without a view under the streets and sidewalks.

On the side streets, there were regular exhibitions of large delivery trucks backing up. Every morning. Outside the RT’s window. For real. Beep, beep, beep.

Free Christiana

Now, there is a special place in central København called Free Christiana. It seems that right after Jimi finished playing The Star-Spangled Banner and set fire to his Telecaster back at Yasgur’s Farm, all the hippies who were watching picked up, moved to København and took over part of one of the islands in the city center. They declared it Free Christiana and kept doing all the things they did out at Woodstock – free love, free dope, free STDs – you name it. And because they smelled so stinkin’ bad, the authorities decided just to leave them be. And they’re still there!

Of course, most of the original bunch are now in their 80s, but they had lots of kids and taught them to act the same way. Lots of rainbows, dilapidated trailers, peace signs – it’s all there. So, if you’re in the mood to relive the ‘60s, come on down to Free Christiana; they’ll leave the lava lamp on for you.


It’s a good thing that the RT was in København during the summer, because had the strait between Denmark and Sweden frozen over, and had the RT seen a Swede attempting to cross over on foot, he would have been obligated to hit said Swede with a stick, per Danish law. Not that the RT has anything against Swedes, mind you, but he would have felt obliged to support his Danish hosts.

Suffice it to say that Danes and Swedes aren’t very close, though their fates have been linked for centuries.


København is renowned for its, er, rather “unique” architecture and style. In East Texas, we would just say that it’s kinda weird. There’ll be a beautiful old castle and right next to it will be a funky, boxy structure called “modern architecture”. The RT will take the castle any day.

Danes also have their own “modern” designs for furniture. Very curvy and hip. Definitely more comfortable than a stump.


There are many castles, or slots, in the København Region. Seems as though each king had to outdo the previous one. There’s Christiansborg, Kronberg, Rosenborg, Frederiksborg, Amalienborg, Sønderborg, Dingelborg, Hyperborg and Cyborg. OK, those last three were made up. But there are a LOT of castles.

Christiansborg Slot currently houses the Queen’s reception halls, the Prime Minister, Parliament and the Supreme Court. Its history reminds me somewhat of the famous Swamp Castle in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.

King: I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started, all I had was swamp! Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em! It sank into the swamp, so I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. I built a third one. It burned down, fell over, and then it sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that’s what you’re going to get, lad – the strongest castle on these islands!

Christiansborg and its predecessors were destroyed by invaders, rebuilt, burned down, rebuilt, burned down again, then rebuilt. This one should stand for at least a few more weeks.

Kronberg Castle is the sweetest of them all in the RT’s book. That’s because it was the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Now, don’t be thinkin’ that the RT has gone all snooty on you and started reading Shakespeare. Nope, not at all. But the RT got to see Hamlet Live there and was actually able to understand it. The RT hopes that someone can track down Mrs. Griggs (his high school English teacher) and tell her that he finally gets it.


While you are in København, you’ll probably want to eat some food. The skinke is quite good, as is the kryllen. Or maybe try the fiske. Those are really just ham, chicken and fish, but the RT thought the names were cool. Personally, the RT dropped a lot of krone on is, kanelruller og kaffe. That’s ice cream, cinnamon rolls and coffee to you flatlanders.

Do go to Papirøen (“paper island”) when in København. It’s an old warehouse where paper was once stored. Today, it’s an old warehouse filled with street food vendors … and four million people. None of which can say “excuse me”.

And you’ll want to try a hot dog from one of the many street vendors. It ain’t your regular ol’ ‘Merican hot dog – the kind that leaves the water you boiled it in kinda red. These hot dogs have flavor! Instead of a regular hot dog bun, they cut a baguette in half, make a hole down the center, squirt it full of mayo, ketchup or mustard, and slide the hot dog into it. Pertty cool in the RT’s book.


Yes! Have some please! And smoke them everywhere! Especially while sitting next to the RT in a public place! And please blow smoke in his face! Tak!

Many young people in Denmark smoke cigarettes (as well as other herbs and spices). In an attempt to curb the smoking epidemic, the Danish Government requires not only warning labels on cigarette packages, but also warning PHOTOGRAPHS. These photographs of people coughing up blood, people with oozing chest wounds, people crying over caskets, people being zipped into body bags and people with missing toes (yes, toes) apparently have zero impact on Danish youth, but made the RT want to toss his cookies right there in the checkout line at Netto.

So, please smoke more cigarettes, yes! And please leave your empty packages on the ground as garbage for the RT to see and want to vomit.


The Danes have a special word for toilet: toileter.  This is very handy to know when you need to go.

Like many European countries, the toileters in Denmark have two flush settings/sizes: “Mommy, I go pee-pee” and “Look, I make big doody!”

The RT trusts you’ll know which one to use and at what times. At least you won’t have to pay for the privilege.


The weather in København is quite delightful in summer. Highs in the 60s, lows in the 50s, low humidity, nice breezes, occasionally rain showers. In short, nothing like the summers in the South. The RT could get used to summers like that.

However, the sun never really goes away in Denmark. Oh, it goes below the horizon about 11pm, but the sky never gets fully dark, and then Brave Helios is staring at you again in the wee hours of the morning. This leads to sleep deprivation for little ol’ boys from East Texas. The RT finally had to go back home just to get some sleep.

Final Thoughts

While the RT has no desire to move to København, it’s definitely a nice place to visit. Except in the winter, when the sun never really comes up. That would be tough. You’d be wandering around in the cold and dark, bumping into people who can’t say “excuse me”.

All for now, The Rambling Texan

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