Monthly Archives: May 2011

Day 91. Cheese Nips and Relationships

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mystery Hour is Friday night!

I’m eating again. Michelle wants to fatten me up while I’m home. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t eat very much in LA. It’s difficult when I don’t have my own kitchen and don’t want to spend money on eating out. Instead, I don’t eat much and don’t exercise so as not to accelerate the certain weight loss. The mothers in my life don’t like this plan, and admittedly, it is a bad idea.

However, forced poverty is a great weight loss plan…if you want to lose weight. If you don’t, you just wait to eat until you come home.

Today, I had a big breakfast in a big cereal bowl, as well as some yogurt. Then I had a bagel with cream cheese. I also had some leftover spaghetti and then more cereal when I got home. Ooh, plus I had some fries. Oh yeah, then I had Cheese Nips, lots of Cheese Nips. This may be a controversial statement, but I think Cheese Nips are way better than Cheez Its, and not just because they use an appropriate “s” in the name, instead of the inappropriate “z.”

The strangest thing about being home is that I’m really in between worlds. I’m here, but not totally in my Springfield life like I used to be, at the same time, there would be very few people in LA that would notice if I up and left. In these times, I tend to hold on to constants and things that I know. Mostly, that is Michelle. She means the same to me whether in person or not. I can get by with the other uncertainty knowing that she is a certainty. She is my constant. She is Desmond.

That’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it? Relationships.

I have often had the thought, “What did people do for fun in the 1300s, or in a small village in Africa?” They had relationships, that’s the constant. Screw all this other stuff. I keep thinking about Joplin, and I think it applies there.

We need relationships

We need processed, cheese flavored Nips.

That sounded awful.

We need Cheese Nips is what I meant.


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Day 90. Joplin Tornado

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sometimes tragic things happen around you that make you cringe both in their tragedy, and in the extent to which you worry about small things in your life as if they were tragic. You end up feeling a mixture of compassion and embarrassment. 

I had a great day of napping and hanging out with friends today. I went on a bike ride and then came home to check the weather as it was looking bad outside. It turns out it was really bad nearby. Joplin, MO is about an hour away from Springfield and got devastated by a tornado. Most everyone has seen the footage, as it made national news. Tornado watches and warnings happen relatively frequently around here this time of year, and thankfully rarely land. When they do, you hope it is not in a populated area, when they do land in a populated area, you hope it was a small tornado.

This was a big one that landed in a population center.

If you would like to help and live locally or far away, I would suggest donating to Convoy of Hope, which is on the scene, and super efficient with their money.

Here is the Convoy of Hope website

If you live in the area and want to help, Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, my former employer, needs O- blood donations. O- is the universal blood donor, meaning O- donors’ blood can go to people with any blood type. A lot of O-donations were used in the immediate aftermath, as emergency rooms and ambulances keep them on hand for the times they need to transfuse, without knowing the patient’s blood type. CBCO supplies the blood to the hospitals in Joplin, including St. John’s Hospital, devastated in the tornado.

Here is CBCO’s website

A couple of videos highlighting the first person terror and the bird’s eye aftermath.

The enormity of devastation is sometimes paralyzing. The truth is, we can only help in such a small way compared to the overwhelming need. However, that is always good enough.

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Day 89. Mystery Jeff, The Meal, Raptured at Noon, CST

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Probably six years ago, a new breakfast diner opened in downtown Springfield called Gailey’s. It opened in the storefront of a former old fashioned pharmacy of the same name. My friend, who is also named Jeff, and I would go there every Saturday. After awhile I realized that every time after eating there I would feel either a little too full or still hungry. I needed to fix this, so I pored over the menu putting together different items from the a la carte menu. The items seemed to float in space like in A Beautiful Mind, and I could mix and match them.

Finally, I created my masterpiece.

-Two eggs (I prefer over-easy)

-Sweet browns (hash browns made with sweet potatoes. If I used the word, “delish,” it would apply here)

-Bowl of yogurt with fruit and granola inside

I called it the Mystery Jeff. Mystery Jeff is my nickname in Springfield. It was the perfect amount of food for a Houghton shaped stomach.

I soon began a marketing campaign to indoctrinate it into the Gailey’s staff’s collective consciousness. I would order it by name until they knew what I was talking about. After that, I would just look to the server and nod. Eventually, the Mystery Jeff made it on to the specials board. Then, to my great delight, it became a menu item.

Mystery Jeff had made it.

Since that time, upon first meeting me, people will often say, “Oh, like the meal at Gailey’s.” I will say, “I’m the guy.” It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Some people strive to eventually have a building or a wing named for them, I just wanted something that would make people say, “I ate you this morning.”

Soon after, Michelle got her own menu item. On that day, we became a power couple in Springfield.

Today, we got to do our normal Saturday routine. We got up, went to Gailey’s and ate ourselves. Then we walked around downtown and ran into people we know. We came home and took an amazing nap (I haven’t been sleeping well in LA). We went to the grocery store, made dinner, took the dogs on a walk, and watched TV. Normal felt good.

Also, the rapture did not happen.

It turns out the 89 year old man who had once predicted the rapture in ’94 was wrong again. I think the story is actually fairly sad considering all the people who were so  desperate for an escape from their reality that they believed the guy.

However, my two cents.

Even if I were a rapture believing kind of guy, the only category of person I would not believe about predicting an impending rapture is a guy who wrongly predicted it before. Don’t you lose your rapture predicting privileges if you’ve gotten it wrong once before? In my book, that disqualifies you. When we’re born, we’re given a card that says we have one chance to predict the rapture. The card is non transferrable, like an airline ticket. You can’t have another guy’s rapture ticket just because he’s not planning on using it.

Also, the person I would not categorically dismiss, but would bring about suspicion, is an 89 year old guy. When have we ever trusted 89 year olds with math? At a restaurant, my grandpa tips 10%…on accident. He didn’t calculate it. Change fell out and landed on the table when he grabbed his car keys trying to hightail it out of there.

Be careful who you trust.

The only Mystery Jeff that was raptured yesterday was Mystery Jeff, the meal, from the plate into my mouth.

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Day 88. I’m Home!

Friday, May 20, 2011

I’m home! I made it!

Before I get to the mushy stuff, some thoughts on flying.

-Whether the announce it over the loudspeaker or not, I wasn’t going to accept luggage from a stranger and bring it on the plane. Who would do that? One, I’m already carrying way more than I would like. Two, I’ve got the two permissible carry on items, there is no way in hell that I’m going to pay to check a stranger’s suitcase.

-Why do people stand in line so tightly before they’ve started boarding? The same people that hurry on the planes are the ones who hurry off when the plane lands. You can’t have it both ways, people. Either you enjoy being on the plane, or you don’t. I don’t like you.

-I always feel a huge sense of relief when there is room in the overhead bins for my bag.

It is so great to see my wife and be home. There is something about being home, and seeing your wife. I was on the plane looking through old pictures and videos on my phone. A lot of them were from before I left, as I was leaving, and on my trek out to LA. I had the Avett Brothers playing in the background and I was realizing how far away from normal it is that I am in California while my wife, dogs, and house are in Springfield. I’ve quickly adapted, but it was strange to see the moments my life was splitting.

Michelle and I went immediately downtown and got something to eat. We ran into people that we know, which is something that I miss happening to me. We got home, and my dogs were happy to see me.

We were picking up a bit before bed and Michelle said, “Oh, I just remembered, I can’t put your socks in with my laundry.”

Somehow, this hit me as devastating. Yes, I’m at my house, but I’m also just visiting. It feels so strange. I think I’ll get past it as time goes by while I’m here, but I also don’t want to get past it. It’s hard when your dreams are a couple thousand miles away from your home.

For now, I’m home, and I will enjoy it.

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Day 87. New Website Called Speech Bubbly

Tomorrow I head home! I am 90% excited because I get to see Michelle, my dogs, my house, and my friends. 10% of me wants to stay here to be sure to have the time to try to get things done, because I obviously am not ‘there’ yet. Sometimes, I have a tough time when things are open ended.

One week from tomorrow (Friday) is The Mystery Hour for one night only. Be there!

I spent some time today looking up UCB Level 2 classes. I think I may take an intensive class so I can make my way through the classes faster. It would meet 4 days a week for two weeks, three hours a day. We’ll see.

I used to wonder what I would do with a lot of time to pursue all of my creative interests. The answer quite a bit (the answer is also that I would concentrate for 3 minute bursts in between consistent distractions).

I’ve begun another new website. It is based on a bit I used to do for the Mystery Hour. The website is called Speech Bubbly. It is located at

Have you ever looked at pictures of celebrities, or athletes, or politicians and wondered what was being said at the time the picture was being taken? Well, wonder no more. Myself and a team of contributors have cracked the code and can let you know exactly what was said in the moment, or moments before.

Check it out, look around, tell your friends.

If you think it’s funny, don’t be confused, I have contributors helping.

Today, I went to an above average looking Starbucks. I have unrealistic standards now of what patrons should look like.

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Day 86. Burt Machowski Would Approve

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I used to host Bingo. It was a joint venture between the Skinny Improv and other various places. We called it Skingo. I did not host this Bingo as myself, rather, I hosted it as my alter ego, Burt Machowski. 

Burt Machowski is an old man who has been calling Bingo on the circuit for 30 years. Born to a longshoreman and her husband, Burt had been through a lot in his life from the Bingo halls of Tuscaloosa, to the trenches of WW1 (In fairness, Burt was not old enough to fight in WW1. However, he went to France with his wife, Linda in ’72. Rather than stay in a hotel, Burt insisted on staying in a German WW1 trench for the week. They left on day 3 when Linda threw an old mustard gas container at him. Burt survived). Linda soon became his ex, and Burt hasn’t stopped talking about her since.

Burt has a never admired, never imitated style of calling Bingo. Each letter and number combination remind him of a historical fact, quality of Linda, or something entirely random altogether.

Here are some examples:

B9–“Good news, it’s not malignant.”

G56–“1956. The year the Interstate Highway System was begun. Thank you very much Eisenhower, we could be riding in flying trains by now.”

B12–“Steroids. Right, Palmeiro?”

I39–“Look out Poland! German just pulled out of the driveway.”

N36–“As in, N 36 years, God willing, Linda will be dead, but you can be damn sure she will still haunt me.”

069–“Grow up.”

N33–“Larry Bird numerical palindrome.”

I am now a numerical palindrome. Today was my birthday. There is no good way to announce it to people (outside of Facebook). Me, I chose, to go with the tell the biography of a fictitious Bingo caller method. Let’s face it though, there is no good way. It either sounds like you are announcing it in hopes of a big reaction, or it just sounds really sad that you have to tell people.

How do you celebrate if you’re Jeff Houghton in a new environment?

Go to the Beautiful Starbucks.

The unreal beauty helped to remind me of my youth that is passing me by.

After that, I went for a quick run, and then I met up with a few friends at Shakey’s of course. We sat down in Shakey’s only to realize that it is not a buffet at all hours as it was in my childhood, and that the wait staff aren’t concerned with approaching your table. We moved on to a place called Go Burger, which was very good. From there, we went to a bar where we were promised that a friend of a friend was spinning ’90s hip hop. They weren’t playing anything I was hoping for so we left and hung out at a couple other places.

I’m going home on Friday! For 10 days. I can’t wait. It’s kind of put my job search/acting search on hold since I won’t be able to audition or interview for anything. It’s worth it though, I’m really excited.

I wanted to get home B4 it was too late. I O74 people a Mystery Hour…this is proving too difficult

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Day 85. Discomfort=Bad, Discomfort=Better

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

“I’m very concerned about the health of my soul when I don’t experience discomfort.”

This is a quote I’ve been mulling lately. The pastor of the church I’ve been going to said it as a small line in a sermon a couple of weeks ago. I think this is a good quote to ponder, whether a religious person or not.

Isn’t it only natural to avoid discomfort? Wanting to avoid it is inherent in the definition of discomfort I think. Discomfort can be big and tragic or small and minor. Most all of the actions I take are done in an attempt to avoid discomfort. But, with my move out here I willingly jumped off the edge of comfort and into the swirling discomfort below. However, it’s like I reset myself at that point and have followed it up with a quest to once again avoid discomfort and find comfort again.

Natural? Sure. Best? I don’t know.

I think the most difficult things I have gone through in my life have also been the most soul satisfying things I have gone through. They are the things that I have made my way through and can’t imagine who I would be without having gone through them. Isn’t this odd? If avoiding discomfort was a purely a survival of the fittest sort of instinct, then why would I feel better for the discomfort and pain I have experienced? Truthfully, this is a nice thing for hindsight, but living with it in the moment proves more difficult.

All I know is that in my head, discomfort equals bad and yet somehow discomfort equals better.

I think it may be a matter of balance that we get skewed. On one end is seeking out discomfort, which is masochistic and weird. On the other end is complete comfort, whichI find strangely uncomfortable in the long run. I think we all ultimately live in the middle somewhere. The question is, how well do we live in the middle?

I have a tendency to get freaked out by tensions in my life.

Some tensions are freak out worthy.

Yet, I tend to add to that by getting freaked out by the fact that there is tension at all.

I write this not as someone who has figured anything out, but as someone who is trying to work through living with tensions. Here are my tensions, in no particular order: money, work, long distance, when to have children, doing the right thing, etc. Some are greater in my current situation, but they will always be around in some form.


Here’s my new theory I’ve come up with while typing this.

We should treat tensions and discomforts like a frienemy.

You know what I’m talking about, friend + enemy = frienemy. We all have them.  They’re the friend that you also have real problems with. If this is the first you’ve heard the term, I certainly didn’t invent it. If a friend is someone you wish the best for, and an enemy is someone you wish the worst for, a frienemy is someone you’re friendly with, but you aren’t too upset when something goes wrong for them. Your friendship has circumstances where you can’t really find a way out of the “friendship,” but you’re not ever going to be friends friends.

Discomfort is going to always be around, you’re not going to get rid of her. Discomfort is good friends with Soul from high school and Discomfort doesn’t really know too many other people in town. You love Soul, Soul really listens, is fun, can be really deep, and forwards you great Groupon deals. Discomfort is loud, tells you the end of movies you haven’t seen, and always says passive aggressive comments about your appearance.

You’re left with a choice. You can either worry about how to get rid of Discomfort, or you can give up that chore, because forget her, that endeavor is no good for you. Ultimately, trying to plan a weekend at the lake for a time that Discomfort has to work is way too much work. Plus, if you confront Soul about it, Soul might not come around as much because as much as Soul values you, it also values Discomfort. Let’s be honest, there’s a part of Discomfort that you like.  She works at Banana Republic and can get you a big discount (she just won’t let you ever forget you used it).

You’ve got to live with Discomfort.

You can really enjoy the times that Discomfort is out of town.

But when she comes back, don’t roll your eyes and groan when you see her.

Fake a smile and say, “Oh my gosh, it’s so good to see you!”

She’ll respond, “You look great, no one else could pull off those jeans.”

You’ll hug

Soul will be smiling.

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