Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Rockin' 11 p.m.?

Tape delay is a wonderful thing. Especially at New Year's when you absolutely, positively, must start the new year off watching the waterford crystal ball drop live via satellite in New York's Time Sqare at midnight.

Except in Oklahoma.

The local affiliate station insists on carrying the "live via satellite" literally and broadcast the ball dropping in New York at 11 p.m. local time. No one hour delay to make it coincide with our midnight. No explanation that they are carrying it live, which sends you scrambling to check the correct local time. No warning that your kids will forever wonder why we have to celebrate the new year on Eastern Standard Time, instead of in our own time zone.

Which is why my wife still laughs about being so confused as a kid, wondering what the big fuss was at midnight, when it actually became the new year at 11 p.m. -- according to America's Oldest Living Teenager and his "rockin'" tv show.

So, here we sat at 11 p.m., watching the ball drop and seeing our children jump up and down in celebration of the new year.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Memorable for all the wrong reasons

Christmas day saw the passing of my daughter's only remaining great-grandmother. My wife's grandmother. My mother-in-law's mother.

Grandma Smith was 91.

Some impressions of our surreal Christmas holiday...

Found another home that followed my guidelines for a box of tissue in every room...a funeral home. Hmm, may have to rethink my guidelines.

My brother-in-law didn't anticipate being a pall bearer at his grandmother's funeral when he packed for his trek home for the holiday, so he had to rent a suit. $100. Custom fit. Nicely tailored for 24-hours notice. Good to know of such things.

My 2 1/2-year old finally grokked what was going down and spent most of the funeral service explaining to people what she had recently figured out. Her exact words to people were, "Gramma Smith is dead."

The funeral home wanted to charge $300 for a "family car" to take the immediate family from the church parking lot to the cemetary. Wouldn't have been such a jaw-dropping amount had it not been for the fact that the church was 100 yards away from the cemetary. The family passed on the limo.

I was astounded by the variety and scope of food that distant family, friends, and well wishers brought by. Generally speaking, bundt cakes seem the most suitable of mourning desserts to me.

I was asked to be a pallbearer for the services, and during my long walk down the aisle, escorting the body of one of the dearest, sweetest ladies I've ever met, all I could think about was the time when S took a 2 1/2-year old C to a funeral, and she blurted out "they're bringing in the box," as the coffin was wheeled into place.

In my eldest daughter's short 6 years of life, she's now buried 3 great-grandmothers.

My wife had one-hour to write up an obituary for her beloved grandmother before the local newspaper publication deadline passed. Here's what she came up with...

Rose Louise Smith, long-time resident of Yukon, died December 25, 2005 at Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City after a short illness. She was 91.

Funeral services have been set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, at Saint John Catholic Church in Yukon. Burial will follow at the Yukon Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Yanda & Son Funeral Home of Yukon.

Louise was born April 2, 1914 in Oklahoma City, to John and Mae Wedman.

She was a 1932 graduate of Yukon High School. She married Forrest “Cottie” Smith in January of 1935 and raised their three daughters on the Smith family farm north of Yukon. She had a life-long appreciation for clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics and eventually took a job away from the farm, selling women’s fashions for the Halliburton Department Store in downtown Oklahoma City.

She delighted in music and never missed an opportunity to dance or sing, whether it be square dancing, or taking part in a celebration at Saint Ann’s Nursing Home, where she lived most recently. Louise was an active participant in the Saint Ann’s Chapter of the Red Hat Society. She was an artful conversationalist, and prided herself in staying informed of current events. She also held a profound interest in the wide-ranging Oklahoma weather, and possessed an uncanny ability to predict it.

Survivors include daughter and son-in-law Jxxx and Jxxx Wxxx of Yukon; daughter Tina Harmon of Houston, Texas; sister Marie Wedman of Oklahoma City, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, Forrest, daughter and son-in-law Beverly and Thomas Long, sisters Myrtle Frances Johnson and Aleine Patton, brother Paul Wedman, and great-grandson Grant Hagg.

Peace be with you, Louise.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Dear Santa

Another gem from our local small town newspapers publishing of kids letters to Santa.

5-year old got game.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

All I want for Christmas...part 2

Mailboxes are a big "to do" here in my small town.

In addition to the lawn ornament selection you choose to adorn the street side of your abode with, the mailbox you select rates high on the "who-I-am-and-what-personality-I-choose-to-present-to-the-neighborhood" meter.

Here's one I thought presented the perfect picture of form, functionality, and artistic expression.

It's a small block Chevy.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Another familiar face at the post office

No, not the ones posted on the wall under the "Wanted" sign...

This familiar face turned out to be mine. Familiar to someone else, that is.

The story goes, I was standing in line (4 deep, 1 window open, but I was the only one not grumbling about it -- hey, people, try standing in line less than a week before Christmas at the Burbank Main Post Office -- if you can even get IN the building).

The kindly woman in front of me turns around and says point blank to my face, "don't you live close by?"

Taken aback slightly, I recovered and responded, "Why yes, I do...just a few houses away."

Donning a large grin and nodding her head, she replied, "I thought found my son's phone!"

Let me explain.

Several months back, I found a brand spankin' new flip-up Verizon cell phone lying in a 4-way intersection, open and on. Since I was on my way to drop C off at school, I simply grabbed it, tossed it onto the floor of my car, and zoomed off.

After the fracas of the morning school drop-off (enter from the north, exit from the south, keep the line moving, don't shut off your motor...) I returned home and preceded to try to track down the owner of the phone.

First name on the address list was "Dad." I called him.
Dad - Hello
Me - Hi, I found this cell ph--
Dad - Who's this?
Me - My name is Xxxxx and I found this cell phone---
Dad - Sorry, what -- I don't know anyone -- what -- hold on, my son wants to talk to you.

Some familiar fumbling and tussling sounds eminate from the speaker before the line goes dead. Call dropped.
I call Dad again.
Dad - Hello
Me - Hi, me again.
Dad - Oh, it's that same, you talk to him, I can't hear him that well...

His son gets on the line, we clear it all up and he's going to come by my house to pick it up. Apparently he was on his way to the airport, opened his door, the phone fell out of his jacket pocket, and they've been driving around for 20 minutes looking for it.

I gave him my address, directions from where they were (3 blocks away), a description of my house, landmarks, even a quick rundown of what I looked like (dashingly handsome, early-40's cross between an Asian-Elvis -- before he got really phat, and Bolo, the ugly bad guy from "Enter the Dragon").

I told him I'd keep HIS cell phone on me and to call HIS cell phone if he got lost. He asked for my cell phone #, just in case, which I don't understand why he wanted it, but I gave it to him anyway.

10 minutes later, no sign of them. I have HIS cell phone which hasn't rung. I go inside to find MY cell phone ringing.
Yep, it's them. Why he didn't call his own cell phone is beyond me. Maybe he was short on minutes.

I answer MY cell phone, go back to my front porch to play disaster-movie-air traffic controller and talk him in.

A quick 180 degree scan finds him sitting at the intersection diagonal to me, talking on his Dad's cell phone, scanning the street for me and my house.

I can see his face. I can see his Dad's face. I can see his panic stricken eyes darting up and down the street.

I resort to wild arm gesticulations to get his attention.

His eagle eye spots me. They're headed my way, but have to navigate the 4-lane highway to get to me.

I lower my arms in calm relief. Mistake.

The iron grip I had on the phone a split second ago has been replaced by the unguarded feeling of final release. The phone, their phone, HIS phone, plummets to the ground proximal to my slipper clad feet.

It bounces. I scramble. It doesn't shatter. No harm done.

They pull in to the driveway. Did they see?

Apparently not.

They were in a rush, but very appreciative and the Dad seemed happier than the Son to get the phone back. Handshakes were exchanged, nods and smiles were the norm, and they headed back south, never to cross my life path again.

Until today.

The mother-of-the-son-whose-cell-phone-I-found and I had a nice chat reliving the events of that morning, and she expressed her appreciation for what I did.

Guess she figured that there are so few of us Asian-Elvis / Bolo looking guys in town, that I must have been the one who found/returned her son's phone.

What would my small town do without me?

For a companion story to this one, go here

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A sight of the suburbs, in my small town

Spotted this a few streets down from our house...

Take a closer look...

The sight of the random pair of sneakers hanging from a power line strangely filled me with a sense of satisfying familiarity.

Good to know that kids here are basically the same as those I grew up with in East LA, so many years ago.

A sight to behold indeed.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The blowing of the cellulose

"Cellulose settles into voids and gaps, producing a monolithic, blanket-like thermal barrier."
Our 100-year old house had very little insulation. The walls were void of fiberglass. The floors were nil on cellulose. The Oklahoma wind made it's home in our home via the pathetic use of Wal-mart caulk-in-a-tube around the windows.
Something had to be done, and so it began.
The bags of cellulose was bought.
The contraption to blast it was borrowed.
The blowing of the insulation has begun.

My father-in-law was upstairs, adeptly using his man-sized hands to man-handle the long and thick manly hose and remote control (with variable blower manly).

I was outside, standing tall in the back of his 5-year old Tacoma alongside the $50-a-day rented insulation blower contraption. Basically, it's a 55- gallon plastic drum sitting atop a large fan with a hose coming out of the bottom.

Imagine a big, heavy, overweight, ugly, blue single legged octopus.

It was my duty to feed the octopus a seemingly endless supply of cellulose, lifting and slicing open the 25 lb. bags and stuffing the overpriced, minutely shredded-up and compacted newspaper into the hopper, being careful not to get my fingers stuck in the rotating blades of death that mercilessly sends the hapless cellulose onto it's one-way-trip via the blower hose.

The wind ravaged outside, between 20 and 30 mph. Temps were in the low 40's, so I couldn't don my normal attire of bermudas and a t-shirt.

Yes, I felt very wussy putting on an insulated shirt, long pants, and gloves.
Yes, I am ashamed that the many passers-by who smiled and commented, "blowing some insulation?" didn't get to see my fantastic muscular legs.
Yes, I'll turn in my "California Dude" license that states I must wear shorts whenever making a trek outdoors.

But I was warm, it was freaking cold (wind chill put the temps below 29 degrees), and I wasn't too happy anytime the north-westerly blew some precious cellulose out of the big blue hopper and into my already squinted eyes.

We ended up blowing over 40 bags into the old lathe-and-plaster walls, and onto the upstairs floor.

For you home improvement uber geeks, that's equivalent to an R value of 25 for the upstairs alone.

Booyah Oklahoma winter. Bring it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Relatively nice evening. Temp at 11:21 p.m. is a warm 38 degrees. No freezing tonight.

I trek outside the front door, my feet snugly tucked into my $2.99 slippers from Wal-Mart as I step onto the front porch to unplug the christmas decor that currently adorns our 100-year old house on main street, small town, Oklahoma.

I unplug the yellow cord, which puts to sleep both the tall and short vintage plastic Santa figures that my wife is so fond of. Tall Santa is fading fast, the jolly red of his suit and cheeks now a pasty pale pink, as time and use have weathered him to a lighter shade of his former self.

Short Santa manages to stand tall in the winds that nightly whip down the main highway, his position secure in the knowledge that the socks we filled with rocks and dirt are safely tucked away inside his and all of our figures plastic poly-formed feet.

I unplug the red cord which darkens the three plastic snowmen, all of them wondering how they could all possess such distinct facial expressions.
"Happy Snowman" to my left, "Mildly Jocular Snowman" to my right, and "Sad Clown-faced Snowman" hanging out close to the doorway.

The main strings of lights hung below the eaves of the front go dark as well. I prefer the big, old, colorful bulbs to the contemporary look of the hanging icicles, or the saturated hues of the rope lights, or the overpowering brilliance of the walls of twinkling, gigawatt strings of white lights.

Red, green, blue, white, orange.
Red, green, blue, white, orange.
Red, green, blue, white, orange.

I watch the inflatable penguins, in the inflatable snow dome deflate, as I unplug the green and final plug. This was a recent addition to our holiday menagerie, and we seem to be the only one's in our small town to be proudly displaying it on our front lawn. If you've never seen one, look here.

Shut up, it was a gift from a brother-in-law who seems as fond of presenting these types of thing to his sister, as he does tormenting me with these very same things.

The final light display is inside, so I bid my fellow front porch sitters a fond winter's night, and head back inside, my feet cowardly seeking more warmth than my Wal-Mart slippers can apparently provide.

Our 9-foot fake Douglas Fir sits in the front room, it's 1800 pre-lit twinkling white lights filling the large 6"x 6" plate glass window that dominates the front view of the large room. My big toe emerges from the warmth of the discount store bought slipper to adeptly hit the switch on the power strip.

The fir descends into darkness.

Just another night's end in the life of the kitschy Christmas decor we love so dearly.

Monday, December 12, 2005

All I want for Christmas...

Spotted this in a salvage yard a few miles down Route 66 from my in-laws place...

Doesn't every good boy deserve the nose cone from a P-40 vintage WWII fighter? At least, it's painted to look like a Flying Tiger.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Small town Christmas parade

The other night, we bundled up the kiddies and made the two-block trek in 39 degree weather to lend our body count to our small town's annual Christmas Parade.

First of all, they still call it a Christmas parade here, not a Happy Holiday Parade, or Season's Greetings Parade, or Joyous Season Parade.

Political correctness has no place in my small town.

The parade consisted of the requisite pickup trucks pulling flatbed trailers, filled with freezing, candy-tossing townsfolk bundled up in either OU or OSU stadium blankets.

We waved, they tossed candy, PK and C gathered it up.

Then there were a couple tractors, a couple classic cars, a couple hot rods, a couple harley riders, the fire department, the police department, three Shriners in wheelie-poppin' dune buggies, an all-female color guard, the high school marching band, the local dance school ankle-biters adorned in holiday wrapped cardboard boxes, a few entries by the main commercial entities in town, and of course, Santa made an appearance -- as a blow up lawn ornament figure on the back of a trailer.

Everyone was tossing candy. Everyone was freezing their smiles off. Everyone was in the holiday spirit.

The girls came home with a half-grocery sack full of candy and this item, being handed out the by local Methodist Church.

I take it Mary and Joseph didn't have spell check on their computer.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Really putting my foot into it

Stumble/bumble stay-at-home-Dad + Lath and plaster walls and ceiling = constant repair work.

My Father-in-law and I were pulling new wire for the ceiling fans/lights. This was the last step in our on-going efforts to replace all the old copper in this house. The old wiring is circa 1940's, non-grounded and generally pretty nasty.

With the floor boards pulled up in the upstairs area, you have to be very careful walking around up there.

Anyone who knows me knows that careful is not in my vocabulary.

And through the floor/ceiling my foot went.

The patch I made and installed was a pretty nifty job (if I say so myself). But it will all be in vain as this will all be covered up by wallboard in the near future -- hiding that nasty 70's cottage cheese ceililng.

S calls me "one-step-forward, two-steps-back" construction guy.

Quote of the day, when my F-I-L came down and saw the hole, he simply muttered, "well, sheeee-it."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Never too young

My Father-in-law tells me that last weekend was the end of deer hunting season (with a rifle...there is also black powder deer hunting season, bow deer hunting season, and they may add wrist rocket deer hunting season in the near future).

Given that, this will probably be my last post of deer kill pics from our local paper for awhile.

Course, it is rabbit season now.
Or is it duck season.

Rabbit season.
Duck season.

Rabbit season.
Duck season.

Picture # 1 - sweet "siblings-on-their-first-hunt" story on the surface. But something tells me that big brother knew a big old buck would be following the doe he "let" his sister take down. Still, they seem pretty happy with their kills, don't they.

Here's the poster child for youth activities in rural environments.

Nightmare #42 - C - "Daddy, I'd like you to meet new boyfriend."

Oh, I'm sure he's a good enough fella...from waaaaay over there.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Buying chickens

Yesterday, I took my mom to our one and only local small town market to get a whole chicken. Being a mom, she wanted to make some homemade chicken soup.

As they will on occasion, the meat department was running low on some items.

Flank steak
Fresh bratwurst
Whole chickens


Our search for a whole chicken to cook and consume reminded my mom of something my dad talked about doing when he was a kid.

A little background first. My dad grew up in a small house in a small camp on the outskirts of a small town on a small island in a small state in the middle of a very large ocean. If you guessed Rhode Island, go back and study your U.S. geography.

For fun and adventure, my dad and his siblings would experiment with the digestive systems of the various animals they would find around the house or neighborhood. One day (I can only imagine what inspired him to think of it) he fed some kite string to a chicken, then excitedly waited to see how long it would take to exit said chicken.

And, when one experiment is a success, shouldn't it be followed up by another?

Taking the end of the string that had not yet fully exited one chicken, he fed it to another. I guess chickens don't have much of a gag reflex, since by the end of his experiment he had 4 chickens "strung" together on the single piece of string.

For those of you who are having a hard time grokking this in your minds eye, it must have looked something like this...

I never found out if he tried to "pull" the string out of the four-chicken-string-kabob.