Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Porch sitters who came before me

They came in two sedans. Both were dark hued four doors of domestic origin and recent vintage.

Dressed in black and squinting at the bright afternoon sun, the three elderly couples slowly gathered themselves together and exited their vehicles at the end of my driveway.

The entire group consisted of 3 brothers and their wives, who were all in town to bury a relative that hailed from our small town and whose dying wish was to spend the rest of eternity in our fertile red dirt.

Why these particular people were now standing in my driveway, and would soon be touring my house, answering my barrage of questions and sipping ice cold Dr. Pepper from the only set of matching glasses I have, goes back to 1939 and a childhood friend of my in-laws.

Here's how it goes. A month or two after we moved into our Queen Anne here on Main Street, my in-laws met up again with a childhood friend (call her Beatrice) and discovered that Beatrice's husband of 50 years (we'll call him Buddy) was from the same small town we had just occupied.

Get ready. You ready? Okay, here goes.

Turns out Buddy and his brothers grew up in the very house we had just bought and moved into. Gasp. Sigh.

Since finding out that tidbit of information, I had been wanting to get Buddy and his brothers up to the house for a visit and to pick their brains about what the house looked like when they lived here, over 68 years ago.

I managed to glean as much information from them as I could, however their stay was much too brief, and my list of questions much too long for the casual looksee they had originally intended for their visit.

Among the questions that I hadn't gotten around to asking was the number one question on my wife's list -- "What can you tell me about Frannie?"

Guess that'll have to wait for another visit.

As they made their way out the front door and onto the front porch, the eldest of the brothers paused a moment at the top step and gazed out onto the bustling 4-lane highway running past. He smiled a distant smile and turned to find me smiling right back at him.
"Spent alot of time viewin' traffic go by on this front porch," he said before offering his hand for a heartfelt shake.

"The view is in good hands," I replied as I took hold of his wizened octogenarian hand and we shook our good-byes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Que pasa queso dip?

I grew up on the northwestern finger of East LA which means I've eaten more than my fair share of really good and really bad for you Mexican food. From sit down restaurants, to street taco cart vendors, to all-night sopes stands, my tummy gets rumbly just thinking about a triplet of $.99 carnitas taco with some raw radishes and pickled yellow chiles.

East LA kind of Mexican food.

Not to be confused with TexMex, or Baja Mex, or Connecticut Yankee-ketchup-with-chives-masquerading-as-salsa Mex.

In my small town, we're fortunate to have an honest to goodness family-run Mexican restaurant. While it's technically not a chain-type joint, there are a dozen or more of these restaurants sprinkled around the state -- all owned and operated by different members of the same big ol' Mexican family. How cool is that?

The food is decent, the portions are huge, and the place is always packed, but the menu has been tailored for the local consumer. This is good business sense, from a restauranteur point of view, however this also means there are very few surprises on the menu's offerings, and some of my favorites are AWOL.

What they do include along with the complimentary chips and salsa is something that I've found is served in almost every Mexican-themed restaurant I've eaten here in Oklahoma -- melted cheese dip, or queso as the locals call it.

Basically, it's a spicy, melted, velveety-like cheese product to be used for chip dipping, and tortilla spreading.

Now, don't get me wrong, this stuff is addicting and Okies love their Mexican food as evidenced by the abundance of restarants bearing names such as El Chico, Abuelo's, Chellino's, Maria's, Alvarado's, Serapio's, and Ted's (okay, what happened there? Maybe Ted is short for Teodoro).

But it's almost too much to deal with. Heck, give me a basket of chips, some salsa, this queso dip food product, and a plastic tortilla keeper full of "softies" -- my M-i-L's term for warmed, flour tortillas, and I don't need to order anything to get my munch on.

I'm not sure if the "queso" tradition is an Okie thing, a southwest thing, or anywhere-but-in-East-LA thing. But I'm sure it'll soon make it's way to my home turf, and pretty soon, King Taco and other all night taco stands on Whittier Blvd. will be dishing out cups of the stuff to gringo's asking for a side of "chips and cheese."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lawn bowling...not quite

My small town used to have a bowling alley.

Strike that. My small town still has a bowlling alley. It's just not open for business.

I know the fella whose Father ran the alley for a decade or so, and he's just as sad to see the place closed as I am.

Not that I'm an avid bowler. I think I may have bowled a couple dozen times total in my life. But in a small town like mine, any safe and sane family entertaiment (or distraction) goes into the plus category.

The building is empty now, although I'm ever hopeful that someone with dreams of running an establishment worthy of the Big Lebowski, will see the possibilities in the brick and mortar building and cough up some cash to spread some wax on the now dormant lanes.

A curiosity in my neighborhood is this house a few blocks away.

I keep thinking that the homeowner may have been the bowling alley's owner at one point in time and didn't have a clue what to do with the bowling ball inventory after shuttering the twin glass doors.

But maybe the heavy orbs have another purpose that I'm not aware of, being relatively new to my town.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chinese Finger Traps awaiting in my laundry

The cold weather has brought out an interesting dilemma in my perpetuous chores of the laundry kind.

Long sleeve shirts.

Specifically, my little girl's long sleeve shirts.

They wash and rinse and spin just fine, tumble dry with the best of the rest of 'em, and even cooperate nicely when pulled from the dryer, literally jumping onto the awaiting miniature plastic hangers of which we now have close to a trillion of.

It's the ones that are rebelliously turned outside-in that cause me grief and make the dozen or so follicles on my arm stand up and take notice.

To turn these anarchistic sleeves inside-in/outside-out for proper wearage, I have to stick my size 10 arm (note - hypothetically speaking, since to my knowledge, arms don't really have a universal sizing standard) into a size 3 sleeve (see previous note).

Like Pooh bear diving into Rabbit's hole for a taste of the good yellow bee sputum, it goes in with little effort...until my man hands get to the light at the end of the sleeve tunnel at which point I either have to stretch the fibers of the wrist area to their maximum sheer strength (borderline bursting), or just back off, pulling what I can of the sleeve out with me. Much like the Chinese Finger Traps we'd always buy at Olvera Street in old Los Angeles for a nickel.

This method of half-sleeve retrieval works okay, but there's still the issue of having to finish off every sleeve end, because I wasn't able to reach the outer limits of the arm hole to do a proper outside-outturning of the sleeve.

Again, shouldn't be an issue, and truly wouldn't be, unless you have to do it a dozen or so times per laundry run. Then, it just gets darn tedious (as opposed to sorting and folding drawer upon drawer of socks).

I've taken complaints from the 7-year old that some of her shirts are stretched out a bit in the arm and wrist areas. I was blaming it on our washing machine until that fateful afternoon when my daughter's caught me with both of my arms up to their long sleeve shirts wrists, trapped for a split second, helpless as a snowman chained to a tanning bed

"Aha" the 7-year old yelled.

New rule in the house -- unless your long sleeve shirt has an iron-on transfer of My Little Pony on it, all shirts must be outside-out when placed in the hamper.

We'll see how long that rule lasts.

Now counting my genes and reading Michael Crichton's, Next

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Okie weddings

In the entire time I've been with my Oklahoman wife (11+ years dating, 8+ years married) I've been to four Oklahoma weddings.

First off, weddings here aren't anything like the dozens of weddings (including my own) that I've attended, participated in, cried at, videotaped, drank, danced, sang, slept, ate, and swam at (by accident...long story).

Wedding's in LA are like proms.

You get dressed up. You get your picture taken. You get a sit-down 4-course meal. You get to dance. You get to sit at a round table for 10 with a Chinese style lazy susan in the middle and chuckle at other people doing the chicken dance. You get to make fun of the hard-as-rock dinner rolls. There's always a sentimental final dance, a traditional light-hearted struggle over who will take home the table centerpiece, at which time you grab your lovely parting gifts and head for the valet parking.

LA weddings are great if you are in the wedding party, are close to the wedded couple or their family, or are in desperate need to do the chicken dance.

LA weddings are not great if you barely know the couple, or kinda know them through a friend at work, or are sorta fond of the groom's aunt, who you know through your therapist group. See, we're talking 6-8 hours minimum of a good Saturday, gone because of a familial obligation or some other quasi-emotional obligation to who knows who for who knows what reason.

Okie weddings, on the other hand, are quick and easy and you don't end up investing an entire day/night to attending the affair.

Case in point a wedding we attended a short time ago.

The bride was an ex-intern from S's office. She was a pretty, bright, and cheerful recent college grad, who endeared herself to my wife during her short time as an intern. She was also a sorority sister, and that blood runs pretty deep out here. Both factors combined to provide us with a familial invitation to the blissful event.

We were actually encouraged to bring the girls as well. That was a first for us, since most of the weddings we've been to normally don't include children (at $35-$100 bucks a head, I don't blame them).

So, on went our fancy clothes, and off into the early Oklahoma evening we went.

We regaled in the ceremony, the pomp and circumstance, the pretty dresses and pretty smiles. The girls dug the bagpipist and we all cooed softly at the eurasian flower girl.

Later, at the reception, several well-wishers came up to me and told me many different versions of the following statement:

You're daughter was so great in the wedding."

I didn't have the heart to tell any one of them that my daughter was nowhere near the wedding party at the time, but sitting comfortably and quietly between my wife and I in a side pew on the bride's side.

Besides, PK was way cuter than the flower girl. Just my opinion.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Trippin' to Glassy/Glossy Mountain - Finale

Planting our 8 shoe clad and 4 furry feet (recall that we brought our pooch along for the trek) back onto sea level terra firma brought forth an unexpected sense of familial accomplishment -- not entirely unlike our weeknight routine of getting the girls from homework to dinner to dessert to dishes to baths to books to bed -- which only drives us to an early sack out time.

Water for all, a few rounds of 7-year old "ugghs" and almost 4-year old "eeewws" emitting from within the portable toilet, and we were on our way, leaving the glossy/glassy selenite and gypsum formations behind us.

Next stop...a sod house.

Not in, what I'm going to have to pay some bookuu dollars for someday when I redo my front lawn.

And not just any sod home. Our next destination was the site of the only remaining "soddy" built by a homesteader still standing in Oklahoma.

Okay, cut the jokes and go here since you obviously aren't going to stop chuckling until you see some online proof of it's existence.

Thousands of these sod houses once dotted the landscape and we were on our way to tour this house made entirely of thick blocks of buffalo grass, the entire structure of which was significantly older than our little queen anne cottage.

Well, we would have, had it not been for the Sunday hours curse that seems to follow us whenever we travel on Sundays. Coincidence? Uncanny.

One stop we knew for certain would be open that day, was the Indian Creek Village Winery in Ringwood. S had done a story on this little hidden gem awhile back and recalled their accomodating weekend operating hours.

The girls enjoyed the horse swing made out of old car tires, Franny teased and nipped at a most well-fed basset hound who lived onsite, and we toured the serene grounds, the chapel and soon-to-be-opened restaurant/B&B. The vines in the vineyard were winter bare, but not without a waiting spirit of the fruit to be. We sampled several varieties, and settled on a bottle of Sooner Spirit, a sweet blend of red that made us both suck our tongues dry.

A young, bohemian looking couple pulled up the high stools next to us at the tasting bar and dove into some freshly poured samples of some bone stark, dry wines. We stuck to the muscat we were sampling. Smiles and friendly nods soon turned to introductions and conversations as it often does in Oklahoma, and it turns out this bright, young couple had inadvertently caused us a teeny bit of grief several hours and 20 miles ago.

We just happened to be eating crackers and sipping grape juice with the owners of the Tin Lion Coffee House.

At least we know why they closed their doors on a Sunday.

We left with our bellies delicately pleased with the miniscule amounts of fermented vino as well as invitations to drive out to the Tin Lion (any day but Sunday) to have a coffee tasting soiree in Fairview.

A future roadtrip perhaps.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Trippin' to Gloss/Glass Mountain - Part 2

We pulled into the little area adjoining the information kiosk and read a bit about the Glass/Gloss Mountain State Park. While S ingested and regurgitated the history of the site to the girls, I focused my attention on the significant snake warnings posted everywhere but on my forehead.

These little gems of red and black helvetica text almost scared us away, but the cooler temps of late and relatively mild daytime weather convinced my "afraid-in-my-own-backyard-at-times" brain to heed the warnings, but to proceed with caution.

The park was deserted, but it gave us the uneviable task of deciding which of the 100 or so parking spots to utilize -- the one nearest the trails, or nearest the covered-family sized-porta-potty. Decisions, decisions.

Bouncing out of the confines of her booster seat, C was disappointed that she couldn't run around and play prospector at this outdoor playground, the way she did at our outing to the Great Salt Plains last year.

The gypsum and selenite that covered the ground and sparkled in the bright Oklahoma sunrays (thus the name, Glass/Gloss Mountain) was overpowerfully inviting to our little rock hound, but the signs espousing the need to let the shimmering mineral deposits remain untouched and unpocketed were quite clear and worded without a touch of ambivalence.

A quick round of "do we have everything, and has everyone gone potty before we attempt this unholy climb" found us underway, our leashed poochy leading the way and inadvertently sniffing out snakes along the least, I convinced myself that she was sniffing out snakes.

Our little long-legged, 20-lb pooch hesitated at the first sign of the rickety metal stairs of questionable safety standards. Mimicking her concern at first, she then reminded me to put on my "Dog Whisperer-calm/assertive face" (not all that easy, since I'm not a big fan of heights either), which I struggled to maintain as I quietly encouraged her to proceed along with her pack-leader. Before long she was pulling me up the stairs. Dogs rule.

Next time we are taking a dozen or so kites up to the top and get them all flying at different altitudes. What a site that'll make.

Who says Oklahoma is flat? Well, whoever said it was right as Ronald.

Some say the various terrains of the landscape of our state are an aquired taste, while others say you have to be born here to appreciate it. From 1400 feet up, I thought it was rather pretty, in a pioneering spirit/Neil Armstrong kinda way.

Final thought on our descent back through several million years of erosion down to the parking lot....going down a set of steep stairs, with a 40 mph wind in your face, a full bladder in need of evacuation, a springy dog, and two thirsty and tired rugrats is much harder than going up that same set of steep stairs -- word.

Up next...Trippin' to Gloss/Glass/Shimmery/Whatever Mountain - The Road Home

Monday, February 19, 2007

Trippin' to Glass/Gloss Mountain

Yesterday, we took advantage of the 60 degree/sunny day to get some vitamin D and adventure on a genuine family outing.

After a quick study of our Oklahoma map, we decided a road trip up to the wilds of Fairview and the Glass/Gloss Mountains was in order.

Jackets were stowed, dog was pee'd and strapped, road food was packed, and laces were tied. We were off.

First stop, the ghost town of Lacey, Oklahoma. Population 0 (maybe a few spirits left wandering the old high school gym and roadside store, but that's about all that's left of this once thriving Highway 51 community).

Cut north at Okeene and trucked into Fairview (pop. 2700), home of the National John Deere Two Cylinder Show, touted as "the largest working John Deere show you'll find anywhere."

A quick jaunt down the main street (we always look for a main drag in small towns -- gives us a gauge as to how the town is thriving..or not). We did find an interesting looking funky little joint in a newly restored older building that would have been a nice place to whet our whistles and make a potty stop -- The Tin Lion Coffee Shop.

Sadly, they were following the popular trend in Oklahoma of shuttering it's business sign on days of worship.
And such good prices too.

Dejected, yet still in need of a pit stop, we instead answered the spontaneous chants of "chips and cheese, chips and cheese" from the car-seated passengers in the back. S mentioned a potty break for the nth time and relayed a message from our four-legged family member of a pressing bladder relief need as well, so into the Taco Mayo fast-food lot we pulled.

While dipping chips into an exotic mixture of a melted-velveeta-ish concoction of cheese-like product and taking turns flicking on the light switches in the restrooms, we noticed that our little family unit were the only ones dining that weren't adorened in our Sunday best outfits. Apparently, Taco Mayo, the PIzza Hut next door, and the Sonic down the road were big attractions for Fairview's post-church nourishment consumption crowd.

Adequately relieved and nourished, we got back on the road and soon found ourselves heading west through the town of Orienta - not on any map, yet obviously deriving it's name from the strangely named Oriental Railway that once steamed through town, and not for the massive population of Asian immigrants that never made it to this area.

Suddently, there in front of us, loomed one of Oklahoma's geologic wonders...

Insert dramatic music here..

Okay, so they're not the Rockies or the High Sierra's for cripes sake. Remember, we're in Oklahoma.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of...Trippin' to Glass/Gloss Mountain.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Forking of the fondue

My wife has spent the last several years of our marriage establishing some new "family traditions" to pass onto our kids, one of which being a Valentine's Day fondue.

We have a wide variety of cookbooks dating back to when fondue was in it's culinary party-loving heyday (the 70's) that we've picked up at various auctions and yard sales. We have two electric fondue pots, but I'm hoping to pick up one of these babies for our next year's party

For those unfamiliar with the traditionally Swiss Miss dipping of meat, bread, fruit and veggies into assorted melted cheeses and hot oils, do yourself a favor and partake of the Gourmet Sleuth website.

It's a big too-do in terms of shopping and consumable prep time, but my wife seems to dig it, the girls get into it (literally), and my In-law's keep coming back year-after-year. However, due to my In-laws peculiar (or not) avoidance of even the most remotest possiblity of a food swapping occurance in any way, shape, form, we have to forgo the traditional sharing of the fondue dipping pots - lest a stray micro spec of saliva travel from one person's dipping fork, into the bubbling cheese dip, and onto another persons dipping fork.

Even though we put the fondue pots on the table, instead of fondueing your bits of eatums into a common pot, we spoon out the cheese onto individual plates -- whereupon is instantly cools, losing it's required gooeyness by a factor of 100, rendering it virtually impotent as a dipping, scooping, or glopping substance of any kind.

My In-laws claim to have once shared a banana split with each other on a vacation retreat several years ago, but I have my doubts. There is no photographic proof, nor are there any eyewitnesses to the possibly exchanging of salivary fluids via plastic spoons, ice cream, bananas, whipped cream and nuts.

I have seen them kiss each other on holidays and such. But somewhere they must have drawn a line between food intake, and affection giving.

My wife has no such proclivities. When I said "I do," every food item on my plate became as one. As it should be.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Floral delivery, not a recommended career move

I spent the entire morning and part of the afternoon on Valentine's Wednesday making flower, candy, gift, and balloon bouquet deliveries.

No, I'm not moonlighting for the kid's college funds. No, I'm not studying to be a wingfooted messenger of the FTD variety, and no I'm not finally fulfilling my lifelong dream of a career in the floral arts.

I was volunteering my semi-valuable time, my semi-tired body, and semi-black car (gonna finish painting it someday...soon) to our school's Parent/Teacher Group's latest fundraiser -- we got a buck for every item we delivered from the local florist/gift/balloon bouquet dealer in town.

I didn't know what I would be getting into when I agreed with a grin on my face and twinkle in my eye to help with the deliveries. I mean, c'mon, in a town of roughlly 4380 people (add a few hundred more for the outlying communities), how many valentine's day deliveries could the main florist in town possibly have.


We sorted, scattered, carried, packed, drove, searched, ran, and sweated (not an easy task when it's 19 degress out) from 8:30 a.m. to just after 1:30 p.m.

By then, we had made a significant dent in the business and school bound deliveries, but hadn't touched the dozens upon dozens of v-day floral and helium filled tangible love thoughts headed for private residences and homes.

Without our "volunteering" efforts, I'm not sure how this business would have or could have done it all.

Perhaps the delivery mayhem is this way in every florist shop, in every town, in every state of the country on Valentine's Day. I'll have to ask my Brother, as I'm now recalling that he had some pretty good war stories about his days driving a huge, white van around town during a part time stint with a local florist back in his college days.

Big brother...recognize and props for your service.

Between the 8 or so other PTO volunteers making deliveries that day, I estimate we made just over a few hundred bucks for our kiddies school. Granted, there are easier ways to raise some volunteer dollars (trench digging, avalanche rescue, bull sperm collection...), but none of them offer the wonderful experience of seeing the energetic and near tearful faces of ladies (mostly) accepting from you that hand-delivered token of their loved one's massive affection for them.

Nor does it offer the disappointed sideways glances and expressions on the faces of those other women who aren't receiving the few bucks worth of foilage, glass, ribbon, and water from no one in particular. Truth be told, those are the faces that stay with you longer.

Of all the Hallmark Holidays, V-day wears the cruelest shoes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

That's not an underbite...

My 7-year old has a favorite friend (we'll call her Z) whose father and I got to know each other while watching our daughters play softball last summer.

It's a small town, so Z's Dad and I bump into each other now and then around town, dropping or picking up our kids from school, birthday parties, etc.

He's a terrific guy and even though we have almost nothing in common that doesn't involve our daughters, we somehow manage to converse on a wide variety of subjects.

The other day while watching her Cars dvd, C commented about the tow truck named Tow Mater, and how his two front teeth stuck out so. We discussed the differences between overbites and underbites, why they call them buck teeth and other toothy abnormalities that are commonly fixed by braces, oral surgery, and regular visits to the dentist. Hey, when you're a parent, you take any opportunity that presents itself to breech the important subject of personal hygiene.

C seemed to grok the engrossing enamel topic when she suddently blurted out that Z's daddy has an underbite.

To which I then explained that what appeared to be an issue of unfortunate maxillofacial circumstances, was actually a small pouch of a sputum producing dried Nicotiana tabacum plant, wedged tightly between Z's Daddy's lower gum and bottom lip.

Now, I'm not a big fan of tobacco products in any way, shape or form, and I don't profess to understand the addictive properties of the plant, or what drives people to pursue the ingestion, suckage, inhalation, or chewage of those little brown moistened smokeless tobacco wonders, but it is apparently a billion dollar industry -- so who am I to judge.

C just thought it made him look kinda "Mater-like."

Monday, February 12, 2007

A town buries it's mayor

My small town's mayor died last Friday.

He was 68 and just beginning his second year in his first term as mayor.

I knew Mr. Mayor through his wife, who is a fellow board member on the non-profit org we belong to.

Last weeks local newspaper headline touted his wife's accomplishments as being the Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year. This weeks headline announces his death.

I'll not ramble on about the goodness of this man, or the positive impact he had on so many lives. But since "a man’s death makes everything certain about him," I'm instead going to focus my farewell to our fair Mayor on a more personal level.

Mr. Mayor and his wife were avid collectors of all things -- big and small -- that happened to pop up on eBay which dealt with our small town. Ashtrays from banks, postcards of buildings on Main Street, bottles from the old bottling plant, scarves, diner menus, bags, button, pens, paperweights. You name it, and if it mentioned our small town and was on eBay, he and/or his wife would probably be bidding on it.

And we'd be doing our best to out maneuver his considerable auction handling prowess.

There are several other resident collectors of my town's historical merchandise that have a regualr eBay presence. We're more-or-less aware of each other and have even enjoyed some good natured ribbing and lively ebay-geek discussions while standing in line at the market.

Like a war scarred warrior who is saddened to learn that his most worthy antagonist has fallen and the dream of facing his foe with respect and honor on the field of battle has faded to oblivion, we too shall miss our swashbuckling adversary of online auctions.

While I'm certain that his wife will continue her quest for the ultimate online auction item pertaining to our town's history, it's saddens me to think that she won't have her beloved partner in collecting crime to share her high bid booty with.

Floodstuff will be missed.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Capturing dogs

One of the walking routes I take the pooch on takes us by the backyard occupied by two scottie/labrador mix breeds. One is light brown, the other is black and white -- resembling a larger version of our puphound.

Franny seems to be fond of these two boys, as she jumps and rubs and bounds and whinnies against the fence whenever we walk by. They are not aggressive and enjoy the semi-regular visits from this new little girl in the neighborhood.

Yesterday, we (Franny and I) found them out of their yard, wandering the alleyway behind our house. They were happy to see Franny and frolicked playfully, as I attempted to get a leash on the one with a collar -- only one had a collar on.

I surmised that they had escaped the confines of their backyard and were out doing the doggy free-at-last trail for the day. Figuring that if I could wrangle the one with a collar and get it back to it's owner, the other one would follow it's backyard buddy and go along.

Problem was, I couldn't get a hold of the collared pooch long enough to get a leash attached. I'm not a cowboy and didn't happen to have a lariat handy, so I did the next best thing...I used my dog to lure them back to their house.

It worked pretty well, and I managed to lead my "pack" the block and a half distance to their backyard digs. Upon arrival I knocked and knocked and knocked to no avail - the owners weren't home.

Intrepid to the end, I made my way around the house, examining the easiest way to get the dogs back into their domestic domain, when I discovered that the heavy front gate was unlatched -- this must have been the poochy pairs original avenue for their great escape.

Franny and I casually strolled into the backyard, bringing the panting pair of boys behind her. Once in the back, I found a ball on the ground, tossed it across the yard and darted out the front gate while they gave chase to the bounding rubbery orb.

Having a frontal lobe comes in handy sometimes.

Back home I strolled, feeling pretty good about myself in that all my human experience and higher education had paid off in spades during this canine catch-and-release episode.

No sooner had I arrived back home and was finishing rubbing my sore arm which got that way from patting myself on the back so vigorously, did the duo of fugitive hounds come scampering back into my life and onto my back porch.

So much for my higher station on the brain scale size.

Discouraged, but not entirely daunted, I reached into my pocket and produced a few doggie treats that I use to train Franny on our walks, and offered them to the pair of wandering woofers. They took them.

Ahh, the downfall of man and animal, will be our desire to consume that which is offered to us by a kindly hand.

I managed to lure them into my garage with kibble from my pocket and locked them in, safe and secure.

On the way back from picking the girls up from school, I drove by the now captured dogs owner's house to find a teenage girl and her little sister on the front porch, themselves returning from a full day of reading-writing-and 'rithmatic.

"I have your dogs" I shouted from my rolled down car window. The conversation continued until were able to negotiate the return of the pooches to their righful owner.

So, here's where the story really, this is it.

While walking the brown dog back to his home on a leash, it was obvious that he was not used to being walked. He fought me every step of the way, tugging at the leash, biting at his collar, spinning and running in circles to escape the confines of his nylon strap bondage.

Finally, he just plopped himself down in the middle of the sidewalk, within eyesight of his own domicile.

I could have picked him up and carried him. I could have dragged his stubborn butt down the sidewalk. I could have bribed him further with the remaining treats in my pocket. But this wasn't my dog, so I tried something different.

Regular YASTM readers may recall my reading selection from a few weeks ago...Cesar's Way - The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems" by Cesar "The Dog Whisperer" Millan.

Anyhow, what I did do was access the database in my brain under the heading "The Dog Whisperer" and channeled my inner calm/assertive persona (I use Toshiro Mifune, but Cesar Millan suggest John Wayne, or Clint Eastwood as examples). I stopped pulling on the leash and relaxed my arm, stood straight and erect, looked off into the distance to where I wanted to walk and assumed the mentality of a wolf pack leader.

Then I gave a little tug on the leash, a quick "tsk" uttered from my larynx, and we were off.

Just like that.

Logically, I'm thinking that the dog just decided at that very moment that he wanted to walk.
Emotionally, my brain is hopping around excitedly to think that maybe there is something to all this "dog psychology'' hooey.
Physically, I just need a nap.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I imagine this may be general information to all those who grew up Okie, but as it turns out the venerable parking meter was invented (1932) and first used here (1935) in Oklahoma.

Don't know if that can be considered an honor or not, but there it is.

One day last week I found myself in downtown OKC, scrambling for some quarters to feed the one-eyed, one-legged, standing silver meter eaters for an hour of Honda parking rental and wouldn't you know it, I was plumb out of 1/4 dollar coins. Too many darn gumballs for the girls at the supermarket.

I being of the masculine gender, didn't think to actually look at the actual parking meter until turning the interior of my car inside out and upside down looking for that single solitary George Washingto quarter dollar that I knew was hiding beneath the decade old french fries, printed out mapquest maps to points unknown and other nameless pieces of car floor trash.

Had I tapped into my inner female and read the darn thing, I would have discovered that these particular meters in downtown OKC took nickels and dimes as well as quarters.

Needless to say (but I will), parking meters that take coinage other than the quarter dollar variety were virtually non-existent in my driving and parking experiences of So Cal. They're out there, but so rare that any Location Manager worth a darn knows to carry nothing but several rolls of quarters in his car for sudden production parking emergencies.

8 dimes and 2 nickels later, my meter was full, my car alarm chirpped, and I had 60 glorious minutes of worry free time to stroll the wind blown avenues of our capital city.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How much has changed in 80 years?

The other night S and I put on our fancy "going to town" duds and made the 2 minute drive over to the multi-purpose room at the local fairgrounds for our small town's annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet...the Chamber's 80th, our 2nd.

This year we arrived WAY early and found a nice pair of unoccupied seats by our neighbor Aunt Helen's niece and her husband.

Wifey and I were the only members of the X-generation at our table, but that's fine with me, since eating with people older than myself normally makes me slow down my dinner consumption rate to a semi-normal pace (Mom always said to eat slowly since it takes your brain 10 minutes to catch up with your stomach).

The dining was decent, the speaker was sportive, my tie went unstained, and I managed to feel full well before my plate was empty, leaving a few bitefuls of spuds, cheesecake, and smoked ham for Ms. Manners.

I spotted many more familiar and friendly faces in the crowd this year which was gratifying and meaningful -- representing the fact that I was starting to develop relationships of substance with people who were total strangers just a very short time ago. Surprisingly, it also put me in a pensive frame of mind, summoning flashes of insecure moments when I realize how far away I am from all that was so familiar to me for so long.

I'm brought out of my faraway funk by my wifely dining companion who pointed out that the 8-page printed program for the evening contains the recorded Minutes from the first Chamber of Commerce Board meeting back in 1927. As I read with deepening interest, familiar names, locations, buildings, and activities started popping out of the 12-point helvetica laser print and into my mind.

I knew these names. I knew these places. I knew these buildings. Some of the issues, however, were fun to ponder.
80 some years ago..
• Mr. Bracken made a progress report on securing a landing place near town for Airships.
• Mr. Martin made a motion that a carnival be obtained for the fair.
• Mr. Angleman moved that we celebrate the 4th of July.
• Mr. Gooden was instructed to order some sugar beet seeds for experiments.
• Letters were read concerning efforts along the main highway corridor to attract more tourists from Canada and Mexico.
• The Chamber, the Board of County Commissioners and Excise Board were urged to appropriate funds to equip peace officers with machine guns and bullet proof vests.

What really struck me was that by looking around the room (with considerable assistance from my elderly dining companions) we were able to identify many 3rd and 4th generation descendents of the very people mentioned in the 80 year old Chamber of Commerce meeting minutes.

Now, 80 years may not seem all that long in the scope of a single families generational flowchart, but it made me think about whether there'll be any of my familial relations breaking bread at the 160th Chamber of Commerce banquet in the year 2087.

If there are, I just hope they have enough sense to eat slowly, and let their brains catch up to their stomachs.

Currently reading: "First into Nagasaki:The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War by George and Anthony Weller.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Can't wait to go to sleep tonight

Do you remember what your high school locker combination was?

This obscure tidbit of information was lost to my gray matter decades (oh god...decades) ago -- until last night when it came pouring into my subconscious mind via a wacky dream, a chance encounter with a '58 Chevy Bel Air and my varsity letterman's jacket.

Let's break this down.Wacky dreams -- we all have them. I look forward to them. The wackier the better.

The 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air -- while taking the girls (Franny is now included in "the girls") for a bright, brisk Oklahoma February walk the other day my eye caught the glint of chrome on a nicely restored grey and black 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air 2-door that was parked on the street.

I steered the girls in that direction and commenced in my loving examination of the 49-year old Detroit work of rolling steel, cloth and rubber art.
Keep the tri-5's -- I'm a '58 man.
The owner came out of his house and we had a nice, car-guy conversation filled with gearhead shorthand, automotive an-acronyms, and obscure drivetrain facts and figures. Small town old-timer and middle-aged city boy, speaking the common language of car and bonding over an internal combustion engine and a simple mode of transportation. I had a great time.

My varsity letterman's jacket - the other day, I dug out my old varsity letterman's jacket from an unpacked box (2-years and we still have unpacked boxes) and hung it on the back of my office chair.

I knew better than to try it on.

The "closing on 30-year old" jacket fit a much slender, fit and younger whippersnapper who wrestled in the 168 lb. weight class even though he was a good 15 lbs. below the maximum allowed (didn't stop me from going 14-2 my junior year...and I was a mediocre wrestler at best).

There you have it. All the pieces to my wacky nocturnal puzzle.

Only my dream state alpha level brain waves (and maybe that cold slice of veggie pizza before bedtime) could tell you how all those pieces could possibly fit together, but it somehow decided that I should have been driving that same '58 Bel Air to wrestling practice, whereupon I had to open my locker to retrieve my letterman's jacket.

In my dream I was, of course, MY 16-year old self, so MY jacket fit fine, MY '58 Chevy drove like a well oiled machine, and MY locker combination flowed from my fingertips as if it were the most common of activities.

Right 16
Left 2x 149
Right 22

Those numbers probably won't open my old locker anymore, but they did open up some interesting avenues of crosscurrent thought between my past and my present streams of consciousness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Men carrying knives

I've noticed that most of the men in my small town carry knives of varying size, shape, origin, and purpose.

Some have neat little holsters on their belt.
Some just pull them out of their pockets when something needs cutting, slicing, dicing, hacking or opening.
My Father-in-law carries a 3" long single-bladed pocket knife that was his Daddy's from way back. It's old as dirt and looks like it's been sharpened by a dry, dull stone a few hundred times too many.

The attorney, the accountant, the banker, the hardware store owner, the artist and the Pastor -- all upstanding town citizens and members of the non-profit Board I sit on -- all toters of finely sharpened blades.

In fact, the only two members present at the recent Board meeting that weren't carrying mini-samurai swords were the OSBI Special Agent and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol chopper pilot -- but they were packing heat -- tools of a different caliber, so to speak.

I guess I need to accept the notion that knives are just another tool to carry a hammer, or crescent wrench...or sickle.

Now where did I put that switchblade I picked up in Tijuana a fews years ago...

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Postage Stamp Sticker Conspiracy

I'm not entirely unconvinced that the convenience and ease of use resulting from the self-adhesive/non-lick-em postage stamps is not a conspiracy of the US Postal System to get parents of small, sticker-addicted children to buy more stamps.

If you haven't already developed the filmstrip in your mind of why I'm complaining about this non-issue today, the following line that I uttered a few minutes ago should provide some persistence of vision...
"I know those are stickers sweetie, but those are Mommy and Daddy's stickers, not for you to decorate Franny's doggie crate with."We paid about $22 for her crate. With the first class stamps that now decorate it, it's worth about double that.

Back to the post office...although I probably won't buy another roll of stamps again. Been there, done that, got a tee-shirt.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Official delegate of the "Fled California" Contingent

Just met another family that migrated eastward away from the Golden State to the Land of the Red Man.

Actually I was introduced to them.

Singled out, more like it.

At a recent PTO meeting I was pulled aside by a Kindergarden teacher and thrust upon the welcome wagon as the conductor of the "Moved here from California" stage line.

After the customary name/rank/serial number niceties were out of the way, we just stared at each other for a second, our LA-bred survival instincts and learned wariness of strangers taking behavioral hold of our actions.

Then I remembered that I was an Okie now (well, at least more of an Okie than these recent transplants were), and had an opportunity to make a welcoming first impression on these newcomers to my/our small town.

What followed was a pleasant conversation of smiles, laughter, anecdotes of familiar moving experiences, and the quick formation of a new friendship.

And even though they're from Lancaster (originally from Brea), I'm hoping they're find this small town as much to their liking, as I have.