How to Win Friends and Influence People

 

The alcohol you people drink is called ethanol. This is a molecule that, in highly technical chemistry terms, looks like a hound dog with its leg cocked. Two carbon atoms (black) are stuck together to support an oxygen head (red). Six hydrogen atoms (white) spread out over the molecule to give each of the carbon atoms two feet, the oxygen atom a nose, and the rear carbon atom a tail. Ethanol is small, mobile, water and lipid soluble, so like a dog it can get into all sorts of places that maybe it shouldn’t. Like a dog it can also (sort of) head butt you in the crotch while sniffing to find out, or let others know, where you’ve been.

Ethanol Doggie

And where do you people want your ethanol? Why, in your brains, of course. That’s the point, innit? You might bulldust that you drink for your nose, or your palate, or your stomach or your blood. Rubbish. You drink to get that stuff in your brain. Once in the brain, alcohol acts on the nucleus accumbens. This area is a midpoint between the reward centre of a brain and the parts that make associations and memories. Ah, those memories, right? The good ones that you remember. And then there are those that your “friends” always insist on reminding you about!

Now everyone knows that too much alcohol at once can kill you, but how? It depresses nerve function, makes you sleep and suppresses the gag reflex, so people who are passed out can choke on their own vomit, like rock stars. So if you’re a wannabe rock star but can’t sing, can’t play, can’t grow your hair – there’s always that. The brain also controls things like breathing and heart rate, and enough alcohol can shut down those parts of the brain too. People pass out and their brains simply forget to breathe.

BUT: Alcohol also has its good side, don’t forget! It causes a bunch of dopamine to be released, hot-wiring your brain-ular system.  It makes you feel confident and talkative, because it depresses some shut up! brain functions and deadens the be discreet centre. It also makes you feel good, dunnit? And invincible, right? Erudite, and a very good dancer.

So alcohol is brilliant and worth investing in. Also, depending on what research you choose to believe, a glass of wine per day can either not do any harm, prevent heart attacks, or make you functionally immortal. Long after you finally die, they’ll have to beat your liver to death with a stick. Or transplant it into some lucky recipient who can wake up from their op pre-pickled.

It’s kind of nice to know that – sometimes – relaxation, cheer, wittiness and immortality can literally be bottled. All that’s needed is to take care just how much alcohol you let into your brain at any one time.

Cheers!!

– – Paraphrased from a lovely article by Esther Inglis-Arkell here. It’s worth a visit! It showcases Doug Adams’ cocktail, the ‘Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster’ from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and shows you how to set fire to grog in spectacular fashion. Marvelous stuff!

My ‘Hometown’ Apache Oklahoma

Apache was my ‘hometown’ for a year in 1973 as a Rotary exchange student.

My 1973 Apache memories are recorded here.

Former Apache resident Rebekah Cooksey lived there for twelve years or more about ten to twenty years after me. She wrote “Top Ten Things Heard This Weekend in Apache, Oklahoma” after a return visit to her hometown. Her blog now seems to have disappeared, but I got these extracts from it.

Here’s Rebekah:

Small town Oklahoma defined my early life. My hometown was Apache. Population: 1500. Our school was so small we had no class electives; My class pictures between kindergarten and 12th grade included all the same people, generally in the same position.

I am the youngest of seven kids; Dad was a minister, Mom was a nurse. I think at one point we were actually below the poverty level but I have such great selective memory that period is all kind of blurry. I do remember being laughed at because of my clothes and wishing that we could live in a mobile home because some of my friends lived in them, and their homes were nicer than ours. While I had good friends (whom I still keep in touch with), I always knew I would move away because there really wasn’t anything there for me.

Those of you who actually read my blog (thanks, Mom!) know that my family and I went to Apache Oklahoma this past weekend to attend the annual Apache Fair. Going to Apache is always a bittersweet event for me. Growing up in this small town of 1500 people was mostly a frustrating experience, and I spent my junior high and high school years plotting my escape. But even after almost twenty years of being away, I am tied to this place by my memories, my values, and my dreams for my own children — because the kind of town I ran from is exactly the kind of town I’d like to raise them in, but hopefully with a larger population by a factor of ten!

Why bittersweet? Going back reminds me of the many wonderful things about being raised in a town where everyone knows everyone, where the same families have farmed the same land for generation after generation, where the values are so traditional that Home Economics is a required course for girls and Ag Shop (agricultural workshop – welding, woodworking, leather tooling) is a required course for boys. But, it also makes me sad, because many of the store fronts are boarded up, the family-owned businesses have been replaced by Sonic and Dollar General, and the landscape is dotted with barns falling into themselves, rusted cars and vans, and, in general, signs of the struggle of the lower-middle class.

The best way to describe it, I’ve decided, is Mayberry meets Sanford & Son, with a Native American twist.

So, in a lighthearted way, I’m going to attempt to share with you some of the highlights of the weekend. Again, while this may appear like I’m poking fun – well OK, it will be poking fun but remember, I grew up here, so I’m allowed to. I’m laughing with my fellow Apacheans, not at them.

# Do you feel that breeze?

apache-wind-farm

There was a lot of controversy over the installation of 150 wind turbines southwest of Apache because of the blight on the landscape. Not surprising: when you have been living with an unobstructed view of the Wichita Mountains for years, and suddenly someone proposes to build wind turbines across the horizon, that’s bound to put a bee in your bonnet. But the Slick Hills (as the foothills of the Wichitas are known) supposedly have some of the best wind in the USA. The Blue Canyon Wind Farm now produces the energy equivalent of powering 60,000 cars on the road, so with the gas price hovering just under $4 a gallon, I don’t think the residents mind so much anymore.

# We’ll have to wait our turn to get on the bridge.

apache-bridge

We actually didn’t stay in Apache for the weekend; instead, we rented a cabin in Medicine Park, a tiny tourist village about half an hour away just outside the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. If you can desensitize yourself to an over-abundance of junked out cars, scrap heaps, and crumbling mobile homes, Medicine Park is quite a cute destination and the natural beauty is astounding. Definitely worth a weekend trip from Dallas-Fort Worth. But my mention here is just about the one-lane bridge that goes across the river in Medicine Park and joins East Lake Drive with West Lake Drive. You don’t see many of these anymore.

# Look, it’s Tow-mater!

In Medicine Park we found what must be the actual model for Tow-Mater from the animated movie Cars.

# Wow! Look at the view from the wastewater treatment plant!

Apache Medicine bluff

The fact that the most beautiful real estate in the area is used by a waste water treatment plant is astounding to me. With a view of the Wichita Mountains, Lake Lawtonka and the surrounding hills, this plot would be turned into million dollar homes (or, adjusted for Oklahoman prices, maybe $250K homes). Seriously, it made my heart sad to see the $32.5m sewage facility sitting smack dab on top of the best view.

Wichita Wildlife Refuge

Wichita Bison

# Hey, Look! The stoplight is working!

apache-stoplight

I remember when the blinking red stoplight was installed at the main intersection when I was in junior high in the early 80′s. It seemed like no time at all had passed before the light burned out. No one seemed to notice, really, and it took years before it was replaced. Clearly progress has been made because the town’s only stoplight was blinking when we drove through town.

# The Apache Rattlesnake Festival drew 60,000 people last year.

apache-rattlesnake-festival

Our little town of Apache is host to one of the largest Rattlesnake Festivals in the USA. The Apache Rattlesnake Festival was created by some local townspeople (one of whom was my high school best friend’s Dad) back in 1986, and features guided snake hunts, contests for the longest/heaviest/ugliest rattlesnake, an ever-growing flea market/craft fair, and a carnival. Last year, they had 60,000 people come through for the 3-day event, and Discovery America was there to film it. Pretty good for this small hometown.

# Mooooo!

Livestock fairs

One of the big attractions of the Fair is livestock judging. Most FFA students have animals that they show at fairs such as this for prize money and bragging rights. This night was cattle judging night, so Jack and Luke got plenty of opportunity to see cows. I think this was the first real “Moo” they had ever heard, poor things. Usually it’s me trying to sound like a cow when I sing Old MacDonald.

Thanks, Rebekah Cooksey for sharing those memories!

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Glimpses into Me — By Rebekah Cooksey from her blog: MyKindOfMom on August 20, 2008

Apache School 2014

Apache Co-Op

Jess on a Field Guide Course

Set in a beautiful sand forest, Ehlathini bush camp is where Bhejane Nature Training courses take place. Up in Zululand north of Hluhluwe village within sight of the north-west arm of Lake St Lucia, the camp borders iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Jess to Zululand Training Course (15)

Jess was assigned a wooden cabin in a mango orchard to share with Lydia from London.

Jess to Zululand Training Course (13)

Jess to Zululand Training Course (39)

Better than a tent, eh Jess? “Just, Dad!” Lydia from London had arrived before her, so got the better bed!

With much trepidation and bravery Jess waved me goodbye and started her first extended spell away from home!

Visit Jess Bhejane (1).jpg


Update: She’s now in Ebandla Trails Camp in Amakhosi Reserve up near Nongoma. She’s out of comms but today they were up on a hill and she borrowed her friend Blessing’s phone and let me now she’s well: Hey Dad, We walked right near an ele herd, and a lioness with a cub, and we’re staying here till Sunday 28th May, and will I visit when they get back to Ehlathini that day? –  “Sure thing my love!”

At night they took turns standing guard while their colleagues slept.

Jess & Lydia being brave:

Lions roared in the dark nearby. This scared them, but not as much as harmless spider they found in the wooden camp back at base camp.

Jessie’s Team: She was one of the two teenagers. The rest ranged from low twenties to mid-thirties – and one aged 67.

The course proved very challenging, the lectures long (“and boring, Dad”) and Jess decided not to wait for the exams.

The books and notes were more extensive than I’d have predicted when I booked her on the course:


Ehlathini – ‘in the forest’

Ebandla – ‘where men assemble’

Amakhosi – ‘of the chiefs’

Bhejane – ‘black rhino’

Hluhluwe – ‘thorny monkey rope (creeper)’

iSimangaliso – ‘miracle; wonder; surprise’

 

Old Selfies

Found some old pics from Apache Oklahoma back in 1973.

Dragging Main with my Olympus camera
Dragging Main with my Olympus camera
ApacheOK73 (8)
Self portrait at the Swandas (original “selfie”??) – my last hosts in Oklahoma – Their farm was called “The Swanderosa”(kidding!!).

Tennis Champs

The pinnacle of my tennis career came when I beat a Springbok tennis player in a tournament at the Wanderers in Jo’burg.

Of course, it helped that my playing partner was Free State junior champ Alick Ross, a brilliant left-hander who carried me all the way.

Also, it helped that the “Springbok tennis player” was actually our opponent’s DAUGHTER, not he himself. So the truth is Alick and I beat Ilana Kloss’ FATHER in a tournament back in 1974.

Ilana – who we didn’t beat Ilana kloss

Oh, well, it sounded good for a while there . . .

Unlike me, Ilana went on to greater heights, winning a Grand Slam title (the US Open doubles) with Linky Boshoff two years later. Her Dad had probably passed on a few things he learnt from me. Us. Alick.

Rugby in JHB

I skipped rugby in matric. Then I played one season of high school football in Oklahoma. When I got to Johannesburg I was ready to play rugby again, but as there was little sport at the Wits Tech, friend Glen joined Wanderers club. He had a car, so I joined him and off we would go in his Gran’s the green 1969-ish Toyota Corolla or Corona 1600 to the field in Corlett Drive for practice.

I doubt there were 30 players in u/21 so we made the B side – probably by default; Games I remember were Oostelikes; Strathvaal; Diggers;

At Strathvaal we played and lost and I was removing my boots at the side of the field when a senior coach asked me to please fill in for the 3rds – they were short. The game had already started so I laced up and waited on the sideline for a gap. I ran on as a scrum formed and they got the ball. Moving up from inside centre I went to tackle my man – and was carried off on a stretcher.

Who knows what happened, but at about five or six seconds it was the shortest game of any kind I’ve ever played! Those miners were built like brick shithouses and liked nothing more than explosive contact!

 

 

 

Casa Blanca Roadhouse, Joburg

As students 1974-1977 we would frequent the Casa Blanca roadhouse at the foot of Nugget Hill below Hillbrow when the pocket money arrived from home. Squeezed into Joz’s VW Beetle or Steve’s beige Apache or Bobby’s Mini Cooper S or Glen’s green Toyota, we’d ask the old Elvis-looking guy with a cap, flip-up sunglasses and whispy whiskers for a burger n chips plus a coke; Or a cheeseburger chips n coke 70c, or – as Steve Reed reminded me – “if we were flush, the Dagwood with everything including the runny fried egg. Sheer luxury. Messy, but worth it!”

I don’t have a pic of the Casa Blanca, but here’s the Doll House in Highlands North and the Casbah in Alberton so long:

Every so often you’d be asked “Move forward” and you’d inch forward to make room for new arrivals behind you, till you reached the “finishing line” where you handed back the tray the Elvis look-alike waitron had clipped to your half-rolled-up window and drove off under the big sign on the wall: QUIET. HOSPITAL.

Many years later (OK, twenty six years later!) work took me back to Jozi and I had time to kill in my hired car so I drove around Doories and Yeoville and Hillbrow. Lunchtime I pulled in to the Casa Blanca and I SWEAR there was the exact same oke who had served us twenty six years earlier, with his SAME cap, his SAME flip-up shades and his SAME whispy whiskers! Astonishing!

I told him cheeseburger chips n coke and how long have you been here?

“Thirty six years” he said “but I’m just filling in now”.

Charged me 70c. Plus twenty six years-worth of inflation.