Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tonight I'm gonna cut loose...Footloose

Quick...what song was playing in Ren McCormick's yellow '72 Beetle as he drove Willard around the little town of Beaumont, Texas that got him pulled over by the local fuzz for "disturbing the peace?"

If you don't know the answer to this mindless piece of 80's cinema trivia, get yourself out there and rent a copy of the extremely quotable (in a "so bad it's good" kinda way) Kevin Bacon bubble gum flick, "Footloose."

The relevance of the article above will all come into clear and present view.

Bang your head, mental health'll drive you mad.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Made in Georgia, USA

In our small town we have a Dollar General, which is basically a discount store selling discount merchandise of sometimes questionably discount quality.

They are a pretty big chain here in the Land of the Dollar Stores (Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Doller World, Dollar Plus, Dollar Store, ad. infinitum).

In our Dollar General, I picked a jar of Bread and Butter pickle chips off the shelf and perused the label...

Turning it around to see where these staples of American picnics were lovingly created, I was surprised to see the following...

Truth be told, I wasn't all THAT surprised to find what I believed to be a uniquely red, white, and blue essential of pantries and picnic baskets across our country to have been "outsourced" to the land that originated the Nehru jacket fashion trend.

But it did click over to a memory from not too long ago, when the company I was with outsourced the majority of it's tech support to offshore labor. I understood the economics of it and the reasons behind the companies decision to do so, but it was frustrating to see many of my ex-tech support trench warriors get the polite shove off after many years of dedicated service.

Which brings me to a product which I think has been and will remain to be entirely outsource proof...the Southern Fruit Cake.

My wife loves the stuff, which is why on our recent trek through the Peach State, we had to make a prilgrimage of sorts to this spot...

Honestly, who else in the world would think to create, manufacture, and consume in mass quantities, such a culinary oddity as the Claxton Fruit Cake?

We bought the 5 lb. box from this nice lady, who had been with the company, making and selling the fruited cake of the Georgia gods for twenty-odd years.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Guarding the humble abode

Some people think dogs are the best thing for home security.
Some think a loaded 12-gauge will do the trick.
Alarms. Deadbolts. Motion-sensor porch lights. Wireless remote video camera systems hooked up to a 200 gig hard drive recording device that is secured in a locked "black box" that is buried in the bottom of a closet.

I think I should investigate what it is this fellow has to offer.

Found in the classifieds of the recent Oklahoma Farm Bureau newsletter (we use their homeowners insurance)...

"Don't come any closer or my donkey will kick the livin' cr*p out of you, then bray about it to his fellow asses."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Here come 'da judge(s)

No where is there more election day drama than in the myriad of contests dotting the map across our democratically elected nation.

In my small town, a judge seat is up for grabs between the top two vote getters from the primary of a few months ago.

The incumbent finds herself in a major battle royale to keep her black robe daily wear.

Recently, this ad was posted in the local paper, paid for, by all people, by the third and losing candidate from the primary.

The gloves are coming off.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sausage fingers and ballet slippers

Our 3 year-old has started on her path to grace, strength and agility by taking her first dance class.

She's got the requisite uniform. Leotard with tutu, tights, the proper hair restraining devices, and of course, the ballet slippers.

We tell her it's a ballet class, even though it's more of a movement for 3-year old's type of lesson.. Yet my ultra-aware daughter tells me everyday after class that, "they forgot to let us dance in class again, today." She remains ever hopeful that one day the teacher will get to some grand plies, pas de deuxs and pirouettes instead of telling them to act like an amoeba and crawl around the floor.

The two most difficult pre-class tasks are getting her into her tights (how in the world do women tolerate panty hose?), and tying the laces on her ballet shoes.

Yep, gentlemen. Ballet shoes have laces.

In fact, that's the title of book I'm going to someday scribe that details the sideways world of being a Stay-at-Home Dad.

Anyhow, I've since learned that the tiny laces of my daughter's ballet shoes and the knockwurst fingers on my average-sized man hands are not meant for anything other than a casual impersonal acquaintanceship.

Hard to visualize. Easier to watch...and giggle...and sympathyze. Click here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The State Food of Oklahoma

In my opinion, Oklahoma suffers from an identity crisis in a life or death category. Food.

Our bar-b-que of choice seems to borrow heavily on the Texas style (beef based, saucy, and lot's of it) method of congestive heart failure uber-feasting.

Our Chinese fare is favored in lowest-common-denominator tasteless portions via buffet lines as long as the panhandle juts out to the west.

The Mexican food is decent enough, albeit somewhat generic. I've yet to find a greasy, hardcore East L.A. all-night taco stand with buckets of pickled serrano chiles and raw radishes there for the taking.

Burgers are king, sandwiches are aplenty (except for a good pastrami, but I digress), and donut shops are decently represented even though I'm ever hopeful to stumble upon a Cambodian owned house of round fried dough delectibles.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, our land run bred culinary stylings have circumnavigated the idea of coming up with a single representative dish, and instead have chosen to pursue perfecting dishes that other states proudly claim as their own.

Chicken Fried Steak. Fried okra. Chili. Cinnamon rolls. Biscuits and gravy. Brisket. Pizza. Fried Chicken even.

Of this foodie faux paux, a "glass is half full" person may say that we do it all well, so we don't really have to specialize in one thing.

A "glass is half empty" person may remark that we didn't create anything unique, so we had to do a "Made in Japan" and imitate dishes that others have made.

Finally, a "glass is sitting in dirty dishwasher" person my swear up and down that we're a pretty young state and haven't had the time to develop our own dish, so stop 'yer yammering and pass the gravy bowl.

I have it on good authority that the modern classic Onion Fried Burger can be traced to a small town south of here on Route 66. Good as they are, they can hardly qualify as a statewide culinary phenomenon.

What may be of more import on this topic, is that good eats and atmospheric eateries abound across the state on every highway, interstate, or small town backroad you happen across.

Treasures of comfortable food and drink can be found on several corners of my small town's downtown, which serves as a pretty good measuring stick for the taste defying treats awaiting travelers with a gumption for a satisfying case of near gluttony.

However, I'm skeptical that Oklahoma will ever be one of those states that tourists travel through or fly over, saying to themselves, "Someday I'm gonna get myself to Oklahoma and try some of that famous [insert dish here] that I've always heard about."

I don't know. Perhaps my adopted home state doesn't need to be able to have a dish to call it's very own. We're still so busy living down the whole, Grapes of Wrath, mattress-toting-huckster image, that tying our state identity to a particular dish may seem a silly idea when compared to the many other issues facing our states tourism industry.

Now stop 'yer yammering and pass the gravy bowl.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Read a book, eat a worm

My 6 (almost 7) year-old is half way through the first grade in our small town's one and only public elementary school.

She was recently tested and is apparently reading at the 2nd grade level according to both the STAR Reading Test and the CCC Computer Lab Initial Reading Program (impressive huh...just a little name dropping on my part).

Translation... she's being encouraged to participate in the "dot" reading program.

In the school library there stands a special section of books, each of which are clearly branded with circular shaped stickers...dots.

The student who has reached the required reading level gets to pick a dotted book and must read it on their own. Ater which, they take a reading comprehension test on the book and if they answer 7 of the 10 questions correctly the student earns a "dot point."

Still with me?

After accumulating 10 dot points, the student then earns some "school bucks" that they may use to purchase special prizes at the library.

Books and book related materials, I'm assuming.

It was these dot points that the 2nd - 4th graders had earned that prompted the Principal at my daughter's school to eat 4 live worms.

Night crawlers.

Live, night crawlers.

Apparently, sometime before the summer break, in a fit of ego and pride, the Principal agreed to eat 4 squiggling annelidas if the dot earning students accumulated 4000 dot points over a set amount of time.

The retched little over-achieving readers came back with over 5000 gleaming dot points.

Gol'darn. [token coloful local vernacular phrase]

I recently read about a Principal up in Oregon who agreed to spend an entire hour on the roof of her school, for every 1000 books her students read.

The little buggers read 20,000 books. She was up there for a long, cold, rainy pacific northwest day. But at least she didn't have to eat bass bait while doing it.

I talked to the "dude" before the event, thinking that he must have eaten worms sometime in his past for a frat prank, or as a weird football initiation rite (he played college ball on a scholarship in OK...not a small accomplishment here in the land of elevated college football player reverence).

Of couse, he hadn't. And even though he was a local boy from around my hometown neck of the woods of So Cal, he hadn't developed a taste for sushi. Not that eating raw fish would necessarily enable one to consume worms in an orderly fashion, but an uncooked slice of tuna flesh is closer on the culinary evolutionary scale to a wiggly worm, than is say, a porterhouse cooked medium-rare.

I couldn't leave my homey out there hanging. So we put our deformed San Gabriel valley bred noggins together and formalated a strategy for choking the little suckers down in the most gag-reflex-suppressing manner.

And the table was set.
And the worms were purchased.
And the eating began.

I witnessed the event and videotaped it.

Watch it at your own discretion. It isn't pretty.

Our small town school Principal got game.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Drive-thru banking

Try to recall the days of banking convenience before the advent of the ATM.

I'd rather not.

In fact, banking and convenience had little to do with each other, in my opinion, before the worldwide implementation of the automated teller machine.

I came of age in the Me Generation, where face-to-face contact with living, breathing people to access my funds and visit my money was all but outlawed by service charges and additional fees.

So much so, that I came to rely upon the ATM banking paradigm and had, before moving to my small town, wholeheartedly embraced it as the preferred method of my day-to-day financial institution bizzyness.

I know, I know, we all have war stories whereupon the only solution to a financial snafu (caused by the bank, of couse) could be found in the loving arms and soothing voice of a flesh and blood banking representative.

But for the most part, I prefer dealing with the silicon and plastic bank networked automatons.

The locally owned bank that holds my moola in my small town has decent walk-in hours, 5 lanes of drive-up tellers (with expanded hours), yet only 1 ATM machine that is located inside the well lit, camera surveiled, climate-controlled foyer of the bank itself.

To use it, I have to park my car, get out of my car, lock my car (out of habit, not necessity -- not much jacking of 10-year old rice boxes in my small town...now if I had a Silverado extended cab, that would be a different story), and pass through a double set of glass doors to access the little cash spewing wonder.

Insult to injury, the one and only ATM is a one-way ticket -- that's right, withdrawal only.

It won't take deposits!

To make a deposit, I am thoroughly frustrated at having to deal with a pleasant, smiling, always helpful bank teller within the four walls of the bank interior, or at one of the multi-laned, covered and well lit drive-up teller windows via plastic tubes and compressed air.

And then they have the nerve and unmitigated gall to always be ready with dum-dum lollipops for each of my girls in a variety of flavors.

Sigh. Guess I'll just have to deal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Space / Time Continuum in Atlanta

The hectic day of escape encompassing a flight from Will Rogers World Airport to Atlanta, rental car run to the hotel, and check-in to the Hilton was finally coming to an end in the way it should for two married adults, alone and away from their kids on their 8th anniversary getaway....

We watched a movie.

Hey, this is a PG-13 blog, all right.

Which brings me to The Lake House.

Of all the selections on the Atlanta Hilton in-room movie service that were available, this was the one movie that I thought both myself and my beloved could sorta get into.

My wife is a real girly-girl when it comes to movie selections.

Nothing in space (too dark and depressing), nothing with guns or violence (please...), nothing teenage-sex-comedy-ish (too sophomoric), nothing slapsticky (unless Adam Sandler is in it...he's on her "list" -- go figure), and nothing scary, gory or bloody.

"Chick-flick" was coined to describe my wife's taste in cinema paradiso.

Back to, The Lake House.

From the movie trailer, my wife deduced that this movie was a love story where two people had to overcome insurmountable odds to be together in the end.

Same trailer, same tv, same room, same space/time continuum, yet I deduced that the plot centered on a mysterious two-year difference in the time line between two people who were inexplicably communicating with each other across the space/time continuum rift.

Space/Time Continuum? You know. Separate time lines. Step on an ant in one time line, and you may not exist in this time line kinda stuff.

Even a casual sci-fi fan and viewer of Star Trek (any of them -- they loved messing with the STC) can grok the concept. Back to the Future did a pretty good 80's job of introducing the STC to the masses in a way that wasn't too difficult to get a handle on.

I find space/time continuum plot lines interesting to watch, if only to see how the filmmakers have fun with it...even in a love story. Does a little movie called Somewhere in Time ring any bells. Thought so.

Keanu didn't get to say "whoa." Sandra Bullock didn't get to jump a Santa Monica bus. There was kissing and love letters and all the formulaic elements required of a good off-the-rack Hollywood movie.

And then there was the space/time continuum stuff, which I enjoyed getting my head around, but which totally confused my wife.

As many times as I attempted to explain how one character affected change in the other characters life, just by virtue of existing in the same time line, only at different points, she would tell me how silly the whole concept seemed to her.

I even went so far as to try to act out, right there in room 1707 of the Atlanta Hilton, in my boxer shorts, how the space/time continuum explains an important plot element in the movie.

To no avail.

Note to self. In the future, or at least at some distant point along my current time line, leave science out of any romantic dramady screenplays I attempt to write.

Venus and Mars. Venus and Mars.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Deer playing chicken

At some point all the animals of the roadside communities are going to stand up and try to put an end to the road kill carnage being witnessed on the highways of the world.

For now, it looks like they'll be concentrating on taking out the smaller two-wheeled variety of dino juice burning invaders.

Mark my words, someday they'll grow a deer large enough to take on the family trucksters so popular now. Explorer and Durango drivers, be warned.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Third party verification

Upon our return from the Peach State (more on that later...maybe), we were enthusiastically greeted by my in-laws who had been staying at our place, overseeing the day-to-day operations of getting our girls up and at 'em, off to school and back again.

My F-i-L took it upon himself to do some finishing work on the front staircase that he built and installed almost 2 years ago.

One day after several hours of working alone in the house, he yelled out "hello" to my Mother-in-law who had obviously retrurned home from a long day of shopping and running errands. The girls were at school. The TV was off, radio silent, computers at rest - he likes to work in silence.

My M-i-L's approaching footsteps on our wood floors indicated that she had entered the house from the side door, and was making her way forward towards the front entry way where my F-i-L was working. This fact alone caused him to wonder why his beloved wife of 46 years wasn't answering his initial "hello" greeting.

"Hey, you're home early..." was his next call out.

The cessation of footsteps in the adjoining living room made my F-i-L deduce that the mother of his children had stopped to drop her obviously heavily laden shopping bags.

It was at this moment that my F-i-L stood up and went to check out what damage had been done to their retirement savings account, seeing as how he wasn't getting a verbal response to any of his inquiries.

But no damage had been done. No shopping bags were filled to the brim. No purse overflowing with Visa and MasterCard receipts. No merchandise waiting to be returned now that it saw the light of day away from the bright lights of the mall.

In fact, there wasn't even a trace of my Mother-in-law.

The loud footsteps that my Father-in-law claims to have clearly heard belonged to no one in his current plane of existence.

From what my F-i-L described, he then experienced a massive case of the "heebie-jeebies."

This from the man who chuckles everytime we've talked about "Frannie," or guffawed outloud when we mentioned the myriad of footsteps heard on our wood floors and going up the hidden staircase behind our bedroom wall in the middle of the night.

Later, when my M-i-L finally did return fully laden with shopping bags of every shape and size, she apparently had to force a confession out of my F-i-L when she noticed he was not quite himself during dinner. Yet, he remained tight-lipped.

Later that night, when they were making their way upstairs to tuck the girls in, C noticed that the heavy crystal glass light fixture in the front entry way was swinging to and fro, as if someone had whacked it with a broom.

Problem is, no one had been in the front entry way for quite some time. They were all curled up on the sofa downstairs reading bedtime stories for at least an hour.

Was a window open, letting in a breeze somewhere? Nope.
Was there a convoy of trucks wheeling down the highway recreating the C.B. McCall song from the 70's, causing a 3.2 shaker up and down our driveway? Nope.
Was there a convention of 2 lb. moths making hooey inside the hanging light fixture, causing it to do the locomotion? Nope.

The phantom light swinging was apparently enough to regurgitate a confession from my normally reserved and non-superstitious F-i-L to spill his nail bucket about the equally strange phantom footsteps earlier that day.

Then my M-i-L got the heebies as well.

Today, I spent the day alone in our house, keenly aware of every noise and every light fixture.

Nothing to see here. Nothing to report. These aren't the droids were looking for. Move along, move along.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Aloha means "hello" and "good-bye"

About this time last year, there is about a one-week gap in my blog postings.

Here is the reason.

It's also the same reason there will be a one-week gap in my blog postings this year.

In the meantime, please feel free to explore some postings from the archives. There are some doozies back there.

Here are a few of my favorites, one for each day of our blissful time away...
Being Jackie Chan
6 Degrees of Separation
Where y'all from?
Why did the turkeys cross the road?
Mattress toting hucksters
Oklahoma is a small town
Dipping of the cookies

I'll eat a peach and some peanuts for y'all.

Friday, October 06, 2006

5 little steps

Frannie did a walk-by our bedroom doors last night.

Both S and I were in bed, wide awake and reading. I was finishing up an old Patterson novel on a group of kids who fly. S was reading a Georgia travel brochure.

The girls were 4 hours into their bedtime.

No trucks drove by. No wind outside. Neither the AC nor heater were running. Dishwasher had run it's cycles and was now dormant. Computers all in sleep mode. Laundry was done for the day and both washer and dryer were at rest.

TV was off. Fax machine was off. Nothing in the oven, crockpot or toaster. We have a coffee maker but don't use it too often.

Our small town was asleep. Our street was asleep. Our house was asleep...almost.

Seems "Frannie" was apparently in the mood for a stroll.

We both turned to see what it was. Sorry, we didn't see anything. But both S and I definitely heard 5 distinct foosteps shuffle along the hardwood floor just outside our wide open double sliding bedroom pocket doors.

We both counted them and after all was unsaid and undone, we looked at each other and said simultaneously, "5 steps."

I've normally discounted the other late-night footsteps my wife and I have heard to the musings of two extremely tired parents and the gray matter games that occur between states of consciousness and semi-consciousness.

But this time we were both wide awake. And anyone who lives with hardwood floors knows the sound of stockinged feet walking on them.

Then again, maybe the water heater kicked on in the cellar, causing a slight shift in the ambient temperature which in turn created a ripple effect under the floorboards, making them creak along a logical path of movement in the grain and placement of the wood planks.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

The sixth pocket

I'm a shorts kinda guy.

I hate wearing long pants. Any kind. Jeans, khakis, perm press, 50/50. If the material is covering my knees, I'm not a happy wanderer.

Ask anyone whose known me for any length of time and they'll only be able to count on one hand the number of times they've seen me in long pants.

I have a decent set of legs, I might add.
I know, I know, that's a vainglorious statement for a guy to make, but if I'd heard any other compliments about any other of my body parts, then bet your behind I'd be regurgitating them as well.
Back to my legs. I think they're fairly well proportioned. Not too hairy. Killer calf tone. Good color. The right amount of scars to be manly without appearing deformed.
My best feature.
My one and ONLY best feature.
Both guys and gals have told me so.
Genetics all the way. I can take no credit.
Of course I probably get more comments on my legs because I wear shorts so darn often.
Even on the coldest of days, I would prefer to wear layers upon layers on top, and shorts down below.

I'm a freak that way.

But now, another freakish clothier attribute has invaded my arena of pants length selection.


Somehow, somewhere, sometime, I've become a 6-pocket pants person.

Two on the seat. That's normal.
Two in front. Normal, normal.
Two down below the front with either velcro or button flaps to secure their contents.


What could possibly occupy said pockets, you ask?

Wallet goes in the left rear. Always has, always will.
Money clip goes in right front. Same-ol, same-ol.
Keys, right front. I'm right handed, so that makes sense for a quick Batman getaway in my Civic-mobile.
Right rear. Stays empty. A wise teacher once told me to always keep my eyes open, my options flexible and one pocket empty.

Right front lower pocket - cell phone. When that sucker rings and vibrates so close to a sensitive area, I want my good hand available to stop that madness.
Left front lower pocket - red (always red) bandana/hankerchef. Kids always need something to wipe their hands on. Always.

Maybe I need a purse.

Do my 6-pocket short pants make me look fat?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

High tech baby announcement

Spotted at a Sonic elsewhere in the state.

'Who cares what the weekly deal is, I wanna know how much that 'dern baby weighed?"

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oklahoma liquor law fun

This November, the good people of Oklahoma will get to cast their votes for or against State Question #733.


Here's the skinny.
State Question No. 733
This measure amends Article 28 of the Oklahoma Constitution. This Article deals with the sales of alcoholic beverages.
With me so far?

The amendment we'll be voting on removes the clause from Section 6 of Article 28 that bans the sale of alcoholic beverages by package stores on certain days. Package store sales of these beverages are prohibited on election days while the polls are open. This measure would remove the ban on sales on election days. If this measure passes, package stores could sell alcoholic beverages on election days.

What I wasn't aware of were the other passages in Section 6. They are listed as follows:
Section 6. (a) It shall be unlawful for any retail package store to sell, at retail, any alcoholic beverage:

On the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday;

On Decoration or Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Okie's sure have some fun when they talk about when to get liquored up.