Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sanity Check weekend...still safe and sane

Just back from a whirlwind 4-day weekend trip to SoCal to unleash the girls on my Mom's deservedly quiet world. S came with us this time -- her first trip back since we made the move over 2 years ago.

What follows is my favorite method of reminiscing about my trip -- a series of disjointed images, memories, sensoric flashes and a few digital pictures for emphasis. If you're not totally confused and out of sorts by the end of it all, please seek therapy at once.So this is what it's like to go an entire weekend without seeing a single OU shirt, hat, bumper sticker, or tattoo...

The danger that a 10 oz. bottle of contact lens solution presented to our friendly and helpful TSA officer, and the salvation that a few free ziploc baggies has brought to all air travelers.

A wonderous ukelele musical concerto while dining on saimin, laulau, spam musubi, poke, and oxtail soup at Bob's Okazu-ya in Gardena.

Sitting among the multitudes of bohemian family units at a Bob Baker Marionette show (celebrating it's 45th anniversary).

How LA OVERreacts to a little rain shower (.10 of an inch downtown). But God, how I love LA when it rains.

The genius of Edsel Ford (in at least 2 instances) and the artform that is the 1932 "Deuce" model Ford.

The pushy (physically), rude (line, what line...I don't have to stand in line), and uncooth (if you're going to flatulate repeatedly in my presence, at least have the decency to squelch your sphincter a bit) methods that certain Asian immigrants display as they manage to continually offend my extremely patient and tolerant wife.

Giving up on seeing my B-i-L's apartment because we couldn't find parking in his Culver City neighborhood closer than 7 city blocks away.

The overwhelming level at which I love and respect my Mom. Admit it fellas...we're all momma's boys inside.

PK rediscovering that camellias are her favorite flowers - they were blooming all over our old house.

The true form and purity of a pastrami sandwich from The Hat - now you know what I'm talking about whenever I mention a pastrami sandwich.

Upon our arrival back at Will Rogers, the news that a Miss Oklahoma had won the Miss America title for a second year in a row, sending my wife into an emotional whirlwind with an overwhelming need to discuss this news with her family at once.

Like any trip home or away from the security of my home base, I'm reminded how terrific my life is, how wonderful my children are, and how fortunate I am to have found my wife to share my life with.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mystery thermos from beyond

There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to come right out and say it.

My wife collects old Thermos'.

She started picking them up at thrift stores and swap meets for a buck or two whenever she saw them and has now amassed a collection that severely outnumbers my vibrating pager collection -- okay, I don't really collect pagers, but it was fun to remember those ancient bits of one-way telecommunication technology from the not so ancient past, wasn't it?

Our upstairs office is decorated in a camping/picnic motif (can I use that word and not be disbarred from the man club?) with the paint scheme reflecting the greens, reds and blacks that are the predominating colors found on all of her thermos'.

Yes, vintage thermos' come in blues, and yellows, and orange hues as well. But my wife has, for reasons known only to the designer elf that lives in her psyche, made the conscious decision to stick with only the red/green/black color palate in her thermos collection selection.

She even has a few displayed in the window of our office that can be seen from the street.

Awhile back we found this lone soldier sitting by the front door.

Not a post-it note or slip of paper with a message on it in sight. Near as we can figure, someone (neighbor, stranger, distant relative...) must have spotted the few thermos' sitting in the upstairs window and decided that we needed that thermos more than they did.

Our first drive-by thermosing.

Weeks later, the mystery still remains as to who left this hot/cold liquid container gift from beyond. And even though my wife is too nice and much to refined a lady to say it out loud, I am none of those things and will blurt out exactly what she was thinking...

Why couldn't they have left a red one instead?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Snowplow Roadkill

The snowplowers in my small town do a great job of clearing the main highway that runs across my front lawn and through the downtown area. I count these fellows and the diesel powered shovers of snow they operate as unsung heroes of road culture geeks everywhere.

A friend of a friend told my friend that they "saw a fella that looked like me out late one night during our last storm, standing on his front porch watching and waving to the snowplows."


That was indeed me leading the cheer and shouting "go-fight-win!" to the triple-team of 3-ton trucks with their plow attachments harvesting the "precipt accumulation" off the roadway. Least I wasn't wearing a tee-shirt, scratching my belly and drinking a Coors.

As much pleasure as I derived from this overlooked form of cold weather entertainment, the resulting clearing of the roads by the intrepid plowers of the fluffy white stuff, always leave a dozen or so fewer available parking spots downtown.

These heaps of snow, ice, sand, dirt, and assorted debris and detritus are placed here by snowplowers on their hurried mission to ensure the safe passage of the road's travelers. Unfortunately, this snowplow roadkill humps can hang around for weeks on end, depending on how directly the sun contacts them on it's 12-hour trip across the sky and ambient air temps following a snow or ice event.

Night after night of partial thaws and overnight freezes can make these disgusting globs into rock hard monuments worthy of the Annual Siberian Ice Sculpting Contests.

The rear parking lots of the businesses don't escape the impromptu ice/snow mountain range upheaval either.

I imagine in colder climates that have larger numbers and more frequent snow events, these snowploy pike's peaks can grow larger than your typical abominable condominium.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Walking in another man's shoes (footprints) in the snow

Now that the pre-Superbowl thaw has begun (did the Dodgers make it to the Superbowl this year...yes, I'm that into it...), I'm starting to see more footprints that aren't mine or Franny's in the snowy/icy sidewalks on one of our three different doggy-walking routes (The Dog Whisperer says to vary your walking routes to provide interesting smells for the pooch).

As my mind drifts to childhood memories of sweltering hot SoCal heatwave nights spent mopping sweat from my brow as I attempt to get some un-airconditioned shut-eye (I love this cold weather), I notice the other footprints in the snow laden ground.

First up is a guy who is both girthy and non-height challenged, as I have to leap forward and sideways to try to walk in his shoes. His snowy indentations literally swallow up my childlike-in-comparison feet -- and I'm wearing my big boots to boot. If Sasquatch lives in my small town, I'm keeping him for myself. Think of the ease he'd have in putting up sheetrock on the ceiling...

Then there's the footprints of someone I've tagged "pidgeon-toe'd Paul," who is in serious need of some corrective footwear, a chiropractic twist of his ankle bones, or a better fitting pair of clown shoes.

Finally there's the "wandering jumper," who's footprints resemble those of a frightened deer that can't decide where to hide behind, so it checks out every shrub, bush, or tree in it's path, before finally deciding to cross the road, only to be wiped out by a couple in a Explorer on their way to dinner at Earl's Rib Palace.

As I turn to look back on the remnants of tracks Franny and I have left behind, my first glimpse at the pooch's pawprints tickles a primal instinct from my cave-dwelling forefathers whose very existence may have depended on their ability to tell the difference between a bear track (yikes) and a deer track (yum.)

While it's somewhat entertainining to judge another man's path when following their footprints, the realities of one's own life should also be examined -- it's all about balance.

My own footprints could be of less depth (15 lbs. or so less would do wonders for my midline), and still show the slightest signs of the big, black, heavy corrective footwear I was forced to wear as a kid when my right foot turned toward my left foot at a 45 degree angle. I don't recall how long I had to wear those corrective clodhoppers, but it was long enough to show up in several family vacation photographs of my brother and I.

Perhaps my prints really don't show this correction at all and it's all in my mind's eye -- but I know it was there in the past, so perhaps I'm projecting that flaw in my current feet laden trackings.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Goofy foot on the ice

As I kid my natural tendency was to be a goofy footed skateboarder.

I broke myself of the habit and learn to lead with my left foot and push off with my right. Although now it turns out that some of the best skateboarders in the sport are indeed goofy foot. Lesson learned...always go with what feels natural in terms of board sports.

Anyhow, due to the 6 inches of recent sleet that turned every road, sidewalk and driveway in our small town into the Ice Capades, I've been forced to slip'n slide my way around the hood during my daily doggy walks without the benefit of studded snow shoes, spiked heels, or the Mach 5's Control B that "sprouts special grip tires for traction over any kind of terrain, at the same time, 5,000 horsepower (yikes!) is distributed equally to each wheel by auxiliary engines.”

What I have discovered is that going goofy foot works for me here.

No, not on a skateboard (of which I don't even own one anymore), but on my shoe clad feet.

Whenever I came to a slight downward incline in the street, sidewalk, or alleyway, I would hold the pooch's leash tight in my left hand, stick my right foot forward, push off with my left, and just glide down the slight hill as if I was on my old clay-wheeled skateboard from the 70's.

Normally, the pooch would retain more traction on the ice than I would (4 feet, low center of gravity, claws, survival instinct, etc.) and would actually aid in my downward acceleration...once she got over the shock of seeing her pack leader shoe skating goofy footed.

Temps hit the 40's yesterday and the sun came out long enough to turn a lot of the ice to slush. Therefore shoe stating wasn't as "totally righteous, dude."

But the ultimate incline is out there, just waiting for the overnight freeze and my smooth souled shoes to go mano-a-mano on the icy sidewalks of my small town.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MLK through the eyes of a 7-year old

Thought I'd share a "masterpiece" that C brought home from school the other day.

At first, I wasn't exactly sure who she was attempting to represent in her artwork. Then I remembered why they were out of school on Monday (other than the ice sheets covering the asphalt), and it all became crystal clear.

Makes one ponder what the good doctor would have thought of joining the honored ranks of Honest Abe, Johnny Appleseed, George Washington, and Jesse Chisholm as a cutout and crayoned work of art done by oodles of 1st graders.

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure his "dream" would have included such an honor as this.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How we spent the Oklahoma Ice Storm of 2007

Once upon a time, we had a vast wall of shelves filled with books, which was packed up, moved, and relegated to the furthest reaches of our garage, since a library was low man on the totem pole as far as our Oklahoma living quarters went.

Fast Forward to last weekend.

Once we finally progressed far enough on the restoration and painting of the library in our house, we were able to retrieve our disassembled beech veneer Billy shelves (Ikea, circa 2002) from the bowels of the south wall of our garage, and proudly erect each of every one of them...

Once S found the box where I had safely hid the bag of hardware needed to construct the shelves, that is.

Fast Forward to this weekend.

Once the shelves were up, out came the 22 boxes of novels, periodicals, children books, textbooks, Time Life Supernatural Series (we only have 7 volumes), my wife's Nancy Drew collection, my Spenser mysteries collection, photo albums, photo albums, photo albums (repeat a dozen additional times), scrapbooks, first editions (one), paperback editions (dozens), autographed editions (couple), atlases, travel guides, dictionaries, some manga, a few foreign language novelas, and a few hundred more things that can be read, fondled, cherised, and used to collect dust and store dollar bills in.

Once the shelves were filled and our library was once again complete, we felt that tinge of joy that comes with surrounding yourself with your own stuff.

Once we've completed a room in our "new-to-us" but "old-to-the-world" home, and fill it with our "old-to-us" but "new-to-the-room" belongings, we can't help but feel just that much more grounded in our surroundings.

Once upon a time I was a single guy, S was a single gal, our daughters were distant dreams, and Oklahoma was a far off land of wild weather, relentless car and furniture tv commercials, and lovely small towns waiting for California transplants. Yep, there's a lot of history on those cheaply made but decent looking Swedish book shelves. Seeing them once again becoming part of the environmental backdrop of our humble abode, warmed us inside, as the mercury dropped and the sleet fell outside.

Bonus - I get a wall back in my garage which will become my welding/metalwork station. Grunt.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Weather mood swings

Last night, as I layered up to take Franny out for her last relief stroll of the day, S commented that the overnight low for that night was going to be around 4 degrees.

She then stated with all the authority of the Weather Person (don't ever call her a Weathergirl...) she once was in a previous life, that tonight's low mercury reading would make for an entire 100+ degree variation in temperature in 4 months.

That's right. Four short months ago, we were sweltering in a heat spell that racked up 32 days of 100+ degree weather for Oklahoma's '06 summer season.

So ask me if I'm complaining about this little cold spell we've got going on here. Go ahead, ask me.

Put down your hearing horns and turn down your WonderEars(tm), because you won't hear a single peep out of me.

Cold I can deal with. Even this kind of cold.

At least there aren't any skeeters buzzing around and itching my non-deeted up legs.

We did get word last night that all the trees around my in-law's lake house in the eastern part of the state were down. As in frozen, cracked off and brought to the ground. What a mess.

Always the chipper one, my M-i-L simply stated, "at least we'll have a nice view of the lake for awhile."

These Okie's are hearty people.

Currently boning up on my WW2 history (sorta) by reading The Rising Tide A Novel of the Second World War by Jeff Shaara

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday Funnies

From this weekend's edition of my small town's newspaper...

A local law enforcement officer figures out a way to get his deadbeat brother off his couch and out of his house, and Ms. Clark suddenly finds herself desperately and unexpectedly short of workout bottoms.

Forget the bar scene, singles clubs, or online dating services. It's good to know that finding a wife can still be as easy as placing a $15 ad in the local paper.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The iceman cometh

The last time we had an icestorm here in my small town, power was knocked out for quite some time - weeks to months, depending on where on the grid your house or business resided. Ice accumulation on powerlines and tree branches that are situated too close to power lines are major power robbers out here.

My family and I were not here for that one back in '02 (we arrived months afterward) but the memory of it's effects and the inconveniences of the havoc it wrought linger on.

While standing in line at the local market, picking up some "just-in-case" essentials (water, milk, eggs, oreos...), Ali, the pixyish waif of a checker commented that she thought everyone in the county was in the store last night -- checkout wait times were in the double digits. I joked that maybe everyone must have needed some last minute ice for the weekend.

She didn't get it. It's all in the timing, which in my case, was bad.

If no further posts to yastm are made in next few weekdays (I usually take weekends off), it may be attributed to a lack of power flowing through the new 12-3 romex in my home.

Time to go to the cellar and check on our emergency stores and suppliles. I think the plastic bin full of goodies I set aside for the Y2K crossover is still down there. What is the shelf life (if any) for Spam, vienna sausages, Power bars, and Jolly Rancher candies?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Living with the lie

A cold spell is heading our way with some freezing rain, sleet, high winds and extended periods of below freezing temps.

I expressed concern to my 7-year old about our new canine companion freezing her heiny off on our daily/nightly exercise/pee/poop walks, to which the following conversation ensued...C-"She'll be find Daddy, in fact, she'll probably enjoy the snow and will feel right at home."

Me-"Maybe we should get her some booties to walk in the snow and ice with?"

C-"She'll just think she's back in the North Pole and will probably be wondering where all the reindeer are at."

You may recall that jolly old Saint Nick brought the poochy to our family, so naturally, my daughters assume that she'll probably dig the fur coat piercing winter weather.

I, on the other hand, will be layered up.

The things we do to perpetuate our daughter's childhood fantasy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I use rail ties in all of my decorating...

My wife decided that enough was enough and the "cowboy fences" and the twenty or so railroad ties that one of our 100-year old house's previous owners used to border every flower bed with, had to go.

So we spent last weekend days pulling out the weathered pseudo-buckaroo fence rails and posts, and 16 or so railroad tie garden border. The weekend nights were filled with broadband web slinging, formulating ideas of what type of white picket fence we want to install.

Why W-P-F? We are the All-American family, after all.

That and my wife has a thing against chain link fencing.

It may have something to do with her pre-teen thigh getting caught on a piece of psychopathic chain link, then watching her Dad nearly pass out when she showed him the result of the accidental piercing -- guess he was pretty squeamish as a young father.

Now, I have nothing personal against either railroad ties in garden landscaping, nor in chain link fencing for property border protection.

But I also will live in the same pair of jeans for a week or so (given the occasional shake for dust and sniff for freshness tests), and think that hot rod flat black primer is a valid color for a cars finish.

BTW, railroad ties are heavy, awkward suckers to man handle around a bumpy backyard. I have much more appreciation for the fellas who came up the lyrics for "I've been working the railroad..."

Hefting a dozen of these things out of the flower beds and around my back fence on the alley for a few hours sure made it a "live long day," for this middle-aged buck.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What did she keep her sales samples in?

One of my duties as the elected Secretary of my small town's elementary school's Parent / Teacher Organization (PTO), is to write and publish a monthly newsletter outlining any factoids and tidbits of fundraising jocularity that happen to be currently relevant.

I took it upon myself to put my own spin on the monthly rag, so now it includes photos, the minutes from previous meetings, educational trivia, and beat-you-over-the-head reminders of our fundraising efforts on the school's behalf. Since this newsletter goes home in the backpacks of every kid at school, I also try to include at least a few lines of guilt-tripping pleasure for those parents who feel a 1-hour meeting a month is too much to spend to better their kid's school.

All with a sense of humor, of course.

One added feature that's turning out to be popular is my profile column titled, "Meet your PTO Members," where I include a headshot and three paragraph blurb about randomly selected PTO participants. Kind of my way of putting names with familiar faces and hopefully breaking down some of those awkward walls of shyness amongst the parents.

This column has turned out to be quite an education for myself as well.

To my surprise, through my interviews for this column, I've discovered that the Principal and I are both So Cal natives (dude), the PTO President is an accomplished dramatist and educator of championship forensics competitors, the VP worked for a Fortune 500 company as a Network Operations Specialist, and a fellow member owns and operates a local vineyard and winery.

Then there's this charming and lovely lady who works as a secretary in the school office and has a 2nd grader attending the school.

Of which I would insist that you contemplate the following....would you buy frozen Bull Semen from this woman?

Lessons learned here...don't judge, just be, and, an advanced degree in Animal Science from a major 4-year university may put you on the fast track for a career in preserved bovine reproductive specimen sales.

Presently slashing through The Samurai: The Philosophy of Victory by Robert T. Samuel

Monday, January 08, 2007

What shocks a 3-year old

A few evenings ago, we were all getting gussied up for the nighttime wedding of an ex-Intern at my wife's office.

The kid's were actually invited.

So, out of my normal jeans and a teeshirt Stay-at-home-Dad costume went I, and into the old slacks, shirt, and sport coat that I recently had freshened up at the local dry cleaners (still open, but they send all their cleaning out now).

I selected my tie, and was in the process of making my dull old windsor knot when my 3-year old bounded into the bedroom to show off her "wedding outfit."

It was at this point where she completely forgot about her own glamorous self and fixated her pre-K stare on the flipping and flopping of brightly colored silkened material around my neckly which she muttered...

Daddy, what are you tying a dishrag around you for?"

You can tell how extremely proud I am to announce that my 3-year old had never, until that moment in time, seen her Daddy put on a tie before.

Life is good.

And so was the wedding, but more on that in a future post.

Friday, January 05, 2007

This is a job for a Dozer Man!

Back when we were thinking that we wanted to own some land and build a house in the middle of nowhere (what were we thinking), I had asked several real estate agents who were trekking us across raw, undeveloped land how we would go about clearing enough of the trees to make roads and an area to build a house.

"Just call a fella with a dozer. They'd come out and do it for an hourly rate."

I was further informed that a good dozer man with a solid rig could clear a 40 acre lot (flat, no mountains, gulleys and whatnot) in a day...more or less.

The plot we were seriously looking at was in the eastern part of the state, and had some serious trees growing on it -- the largest trunks had to be at least 10-12 inches in diameter.

"A big dozer don't care much. It'll clear anything."

I have to admit that a part of me was aghast at the thought of letting a hulking mass of greasy machinery (the dozer, not the driver) violently uproot and destroy pristine forest ecosystems and wildlife habitat. But then I pictured Ma and Pa Ingalls chopping down trees one at a time, then pulling the stumps loose with a team of oxen to clear their land for farming, and I calmed down a bit.

"Then, what does one do with the stuff that's been cleared?" I asked innocently enough.

"The dozerman will push it into piles, where you can burn 'em or just let 'em sit."

I think I caught a glimpse of what it looks like when such a process is done.

Kinda reminds me of the scene in Dances with Wolves, where LeuTenTen Dunbar and the Tribe come upon the slaughtered and skinned carcasses of bison left rotting in the prairie sun.

Currently housebreaking, Cesar's Way - The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems" by Cesar "The Dog Whisperer" Millan.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cars DVD - so right in so many ways

We gave the girls the Cars DVD (widescreen edition, of course) for Christmas and I finally had time to sit down with them to watch it.

I had seen it once in the theater, but PK fell asleep and had an accident on me during the movie, somewhat ruining my experience (we've since learned to make her go peepee before taking her into darkened places where she may fall asleep).

Pixar hit a home run with me with The Incredibles with the amazing animation, character development, action, and comedy. But what really sold the tale of the retired superhero's to me was the family interaction and virtually all too realistic portrayal of a Dad dealing with his wife and kids. I'm no super hero, but it struck this family man's testosteral chord.

Cars illicited a similar low and rumbly, carbureted reaction from me, and it did it on many personal levels.

I'm a car guy.
I'm a road trip guy.
I'm a closet animation otaku fanboy.
I'm a NASCAR nut...okay, not really, but I do know what the 6-letter acronym stands for, and unlike many hardcore beer-swilling, confederate flag-waving, winnebago driving NASCAR fans, I know and appreciate the bootlegging history, the importance of the names Parks, Byron, and Vogt, and the role that the '38 Ford and the flathead V-8 played in stock car racing's past.

All that aside, the filmmakers managed to squeeze a message out of the modified fish-out-of-water plotline, and it's a message very near and dear to my heart.

I don't live on Route 66, nor do I have a business on Route 66. However, I have invested my life and the lives of my family in a small town on a 4-lane highway, that could easily be swallowed up by urban sprawl and commercial progress.

I know the "paving of Paradise and putting up of parking lots" is occuring all over the planet, however it'll be a sad, tragic day when my little town's historic downtown business district is run into obsolescence by a soon to be built nearby Supercenter, or the town itself is relegated to a slow death by apathetic community members,

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Okie Lawn Ornaments

Keep your pink flamingos, garden gnomes, stone lanterns, and reflecting balls -- these are the ultimate lawn decorations.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Rose parade security

Watching the Rose Parade yesterday from 1300 miles away has a different vibe than watching from our old digs only 7 miles away.

It brought up floppy diskettes full of memories related to my youthful days spent as a Rose Parade Rat both at the parade, as a volunteer working on the floats, sleeping out on the street the night before with a bunch of buds, or tripping over hundreds of lookeeloos at Victory Park in the days following the rolling floral displays New Year's Day jaunt down Colorado Blvd.

My wife reminded me of a particular memory from our trip up to the bleachers on the Orange Grove / Colorado Blvd. corner (that first big right hand turn that has put the kaibash on so many floats in the past) for the 2003 parade.

Security had been heightened since 9/11 a few years back, so purses, bags, bundles, and backpacks were all thoroughly screened before we were allowed to ascend the metal steps to our hemorrhoid inducing cold metal seats on the bleachers.

I got through fine, as did C, our then 3-year old, followed closely by my visiting In-Laws, in town from Oklahoma for the big parade.

My wife, however, was stopped in her tracks.

I wasn't allowed to leave the bleachers once I had entered the secure area, so I couldn't go back down to help her, or vouch for her, or plead with the Security Goombas to let her through in the name of humanity and all that is decent.

What I could do was watch helplessly as my lovely bride of 5-years (at the time) patiently underwent the scrutiny of what was now a collection of Rose Parade Rent-a-Cops.

After they released her, she exuberantly joined us and verbally regurgitated the details of the brief interrogation that went something like this...
Concerned, clenched, and conflicting, Cop-"Maam, may I ask what it is that you're carrying under your coat?"

Cool, calm, and collected Wife - "My baby."

S was 7 months preggers with PK at the time.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Butterick patterns and the missing jacket button

I have a favorite jacket that my Mom bought for me some time ago. It's soft and warm and brown. I call it my comfort jacket. It's not a fancy name brand, nor would it pass for something a GQ model would wear for a photo shoot, but it fits my life and style to a T and I like how it looks on me.

What more could a man ask for in a jacket.

Then I popped a button. It was torn asunder by a drive-by door frame.

I was home visiting for a spell and my Mom tried to find a matching one. She succeeded in finding something similar and got it attached as well as she could, considering the gaping hole left by the violent exit of the previous button dweller.

These aren't normal buttons. They are more like ogre-sized rivets, which aren't sewn onto the material, but punched through a pre-sewn hole. This hole now closely resembled the 1st Street Tunnel.

The new button/rivet worked for awhile, but one day I looked down and found it was missing as well, gone to the place where all failed buttons and dryer socks end up.

Unable to locate a matching button at the local craft/sewing center at Wal Mart, I trekked into the city (while running other errands of course...what am I, a gas hogging/time guzzling no goodnick?) to where I thought my best chances of finding a matching button/rivet would be found.

A sewing/fabric store.

A quick look around determined this was not the domain of man.

Intrepid consumer that I am, I proceeded past the bolts of brightly colored fabric, touching the velvety looking ones as I sauntered past (kids and men are allowed to do this), bypassing the highly coiffed and bespeckled cutting table ladies with their fiskars at the ready, and onto the button section.

Egads! I found myself suddenly surrounded by the printed smiling faces of thousands upon thousands of models sporting fluoride whitened smiles and snazzy outfits that "could be made at home," but were obviously made by professional seamstresses with major seat time at their Bernina's.

I flashed back to the last time I sat perusing dress and clothing patterns made by the likes of Butterick, McCalls, and Vogue.

(Begin flashback music here...)

I was with my then girlfriend and her mother, watching them flip through dress patterns that they were going to make for our upcoming High School Sr. Prom. I was feigning as much interest as my 17-year old mind could muster under the circumstances, nodding appropriately and speaking when spoken to.

They found one they liked. I of course concurred enthusiastically, already thinking about the sushi lunch her Mom was going to treat us to, when they then announced that all they needed to find was the perfect material of which to make dress out of.

I got to carry the selected packaged dress pattern around as we made our way through the rows upon rows of bolts of fabric -- remember The Matrix scene when Tank asks Neo what he needs besides a miracle, to which he replies, "Guns, lots of guns." and out of the distance materializes more gun racks than all the Bass Pro Shops retail chains combined could muster?

That's how many bolts of fabric we faced. Least, that's the way I remember it.

Finally, a material was selected and they both turned to me to decipher how much fabric we'd need to cover my girlfriend's body, modestly of course.

Palms sweating, I scanned the back of the pattern package for the correct sizing chart, ran my fingers along the corresponding x and y coordinates, and thought I came up with the correct yardage amount for her dress size -- of course I knew my girlfriends bust-waist-hip measurements...I was only 17 but not without some sense of what was important to the female psyche...and that damn line in The Commodores song, Brick House, didn't help much, I must say ("36-24-36, ow, what a winning hand...")

I blurted out the magic number.

Taking this number, my girlfriend's Mother quickly calculated in her head and decided it was wrong. I could see it in her face as she turned to her daughter for corroboration.

Knowing better, I relenquished control of the pattern package over to my girlfriend, who found the same magic number. I was validated.

First, my girlfriend pointed out her waist measurement on the chart, then her hips, and finally her bust size.

To which her Mother replied, "is that it?

It was a quiet lunch at the sushi bar, and I've never mentioned this anecdote to anyone. I'm pretty sure my old girlfriend isn't a YASTM blog reader as well.

Funny what pops into your temporal lobe while stalking a matching button/rivet for your favorite winter coat.

I never did find a matching button. The results are below. It's not pretty, but it's functional. Like me.

Firing up: "Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels and the Birth of NASCAR, " by Neal Thompson