Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Call me a Croc convert

There's a great scene in the classic 80's Baby-Boomer flick The Big Chill that resonates down to the base of my mildly corrected feet to this day.

William Hurt's character Nick, has just tried on a new pair of running shoes and passionately states something along the lines of, "These are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. I'm never taking these off. I want to be buried in these shoes."

I recently experienced just such a moment when I opened up a Christmas present from my in-laws, found these at the bottom of the box and slipped them on.

--Insert angelic clouds-parting sound from the opening of The Simpsons here--

Now, I've seen my small townsfolk of every size, shape, age and gender sporting these brightly colored rubbery excuses for footwear since moving here 4 years back.

Heck, my daughters even have a pair...or four.

But for whatever reason I never put finding a pair of Crocs that I could honestly feel "comfortable" wearing in public, high on my priority list. By comfortable, I mean, emotionally. Let's face it, neon footwear was no where near the job description I wrote for my feet so many years, and so many pairs of shoes ago.

In fact, my life in bare-footed footwear thus far has consisted of loyalty and devotion to what I've always called slippers. Depending on your age, race, and background, you may know them as one of the following:slippers
Jap slaps (sorry, gotta be part J to use this one)
sherpa slips
oriental hiking boots
flip flops
slip slaps
surfer flats
But now that my tired and middle-aged hang-dog tootsies have felt the stimulating caress and Tigger-like bouncy-trouncy feelings of taking multiple steps across house and home in these wonders of modern Made-in-China barefootin' footwear, I'm afraid my slippers are likely to be relegated to the closet of never-again-wear

-- sharing space with such items as every promotional tee-shirt my old employer handed out celebrating inane corporate milestones, that Jackson 5 Victory Tour concert shirt featuring brother Michael front and center from 1984, and every hat ever given to me since my 5th birthday (I don't wear hats...don't ask, it's a big hair thing).

A quick scan of the official Crocs site reveals that they are offering a fur-lined (fake fur, easy there PETA), version of their bestseller.

Footwear with a "fuzzy removable footbed?"

I do so want to be buried in these things.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Greeting cards have all been sent...

Words of assurance to all those in my family's ever widening circle of influence and one-time-a-year correspondence confluence...those Christmas greeting cards you send to us are well viewed and dare I say, scrutinized to the highest order.

Season's Greetings card traditions were few and far between during my youthful California green salad days. As a family we received plenty of pre-printed card stock cards with greetings appropriate to the season. Picture cards weren't quite the norm yet, and the traditional box cards weren't as yet massed produced en masse in the millions of varieties they are today.

Repeats were common. Photographs were rare. Annual "I can't believe it's been a year since our last Christmas letter" letters were yet to be unleashed on the card reading public.

Mother K would use the cards with the most vibrant colors and thematic tones as decorations around the elf and deer snow diorama village that would sit atop our built in shoe-rack. But the majority of cards were relegated to the rubber band pile, as craft making junk boxes had yet to be invented in our house.

Long about February or so, the cards would be discarded as a group exercise, having once been pressed into duty as holiday cheer via the US Mail, now being pressed together with a series of large and flexible rubber bands.

The dynamic for greeting cards in my in-laws family, and as an extension my own little family unit, couldn't be any further if we lived on Jupiter.

The daily celebration awaiting my wife during the holiday season begins and ends with the stacks of Christmas cards arriving via the post. I have learned over the years to collect them together and set them aside for her to lovingly pour over at her leisure upon returning from the trenches of her job.

She saves the envelopes for me, as it is my job to correlate, aggregate, parse and parcel the names, addresses, and offered contact information from each holiday correspondence sheath.

It's a dirty job, but sum bum gotta do it.

Memories and stories of past exploits flow freely as the cards are collated, the pictures are both ogled and scrutinized, the artwork examined (we have several artist friends who design their own cards), and the names and ages of offspring are registered and commented on. Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays -- all are welcome, all are represented, due in part to our varied associations from our days back in LaLa land.

The entire process is repeated upon the arrival of each family member visitor to the house, ensuring that each card received gets more than it's fair and expected share of human interaction and attention.

The coveted cards are displayed on a gigantic wire rack wreath constructed in the orient for the sole purpose of making something out of nothing (or in this case a wreath out of used Christmas cards), exclaiming their murmurs and shouts of the joyous season to my family for a daily dose of holiday cheer.

Unlike days of old however, our old cards eventually will make their way to the craft materials box or to the paper recyling bins across the way.

Keep those cards and letters coming kiddies...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Canes of the candied variety

I state with some equivocal authority that like most members of the male species, peppermint is not my favorite spice.

Spearmint, fine. Wintergreen, okay...unless while munching a wintergreen lifesaver you are mistaken for a Skoal Bandit user.

Those original Altoids - death mint.

Given that, candy canes have never been on my list of must-consume-during-the-holidays treats.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the iconographic symbolism that the traditional red and white cane of candy represents.

The aroma of a loved one smacking on the hooked candy is pleasing to my minds palate. I enjoy the visions of the holidays that the striped confection offers my ever shrinking grey matter. Heck I even love to watch them get mixed, cooked, and stretched on so many Food Network shows featuring the behind-the-scenes life of our favorite foods.

Just don't like to 'et 'em is all.

So what's the dilemma then?

My daughters.

To their youthfully innocent eyes, candy canes represent the most basic of good-li-ness that this particular season has to offer.

Along with all the fun and frolic the mere mention of the combined wording of "candy" and "cane" suggests, the appearance of which triggers all the enormity of a holiday wherein the overwhelming input of presents far exceeds even their spoiled splendid expectations.

Top that off with the obvious fact that candy canes are indeed candy, and well, you've painted a Normy Rockwell picture of the perfectly edible holiday icon.

Daddy be damned, candy canes rock in my girl's world.

Now egg nog, well, that's an entirely different beast, so don't go and get me started on that delicious monstrosity of raw egg, spices and milk.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A "ro-zu" by any other name...

Wifey and the girl's were off on a girl's-gone-woody weekend with my M-i-L for their annual state park cabin getaway. I had my list of things to do to finish off the upstairs bathroom and playroom, but come the evening hours I felt the need for some proverbial time away from house and home.

I had been listening to NPR on the FM dial most of the day while toiling away upstairs and an ad for what was was deemed a unique staging of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was in production at a theater in the metro.

The Bard's R&J...what could possibly be done to this classic tragic tale of star-cross'd lovers to dub it unique?

How about...Tybalt with a samurai sword!

Yep, this funky staging of J & R's tale of woe was set in post-WWII Japan.

Other than the costumes and ethnic faces, however, nothing else was altered. No Jets and Sharks with dancing feet, no Leo DiCaprio gunplay, and no Zeffirelli nudity.

Okay, Tybalt and Mercutio were both slain with katanas instead of rapiers.

And hearing Willy of the Avon's post-Renaissance English spoken with a Japanglish lilt was at times difficult to grok and jarring to the senses. I did award bonus quirky points for the sushi rolls that Peter, Nurse, and the fair Juliet dined on while picnicking.

Still and all, the familiar storyline, characters, and staging was a comfortable fit and I was able to leave the world of my small town behind for a few hours and enjoy the buzz generated by live performances.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catholics beat down the Methodist

It was a fundraiser to fill the Xmas toy wishes of local children in need. A few bucks got you two different bowls of chili with all the fixins, a hunka-hunka wedge of a home-baked dessert, crackers a-plenty and a beverage.

Two different colored bowls (red and green) brimming with the reddish-brown meaty concoction for the ages awaited hungry chili epicureans in the downstairs multi-purpose room of our small town's historic Methodist church.

The red bowl chili was heavy on the ground beef while the green bowl selection held a satisfying mix of chunky and ground beef.

Red was milder in flavor, with a touch of vinegar essence in every bite.

Green embraced it's spicier side by showcasing a welcomed inclusion of finely chopped onions and peppers.

As a control, I tasted each bowl as virgin samplings, downing a good portion of each before topping them off with equal portions of raw onions, hand-crumbled saltines, Louisiana hot sauce, and a sprinkling of coarsely grated cheddar cheese - my preferred bowl chili toppings.

Votes were cast using a double-blind taste test and the winner for best chili was chosen completely by total votes cast.

The Catholics won spoons down.

Variables I felt affected the outcome included the weather, as the digital mercury device was reading in the low-30's that night and the Catholic's chili was definitely leaning toward the spicier side.

Had the competition taken place in the heat of the Oklahoma summer, I'm convinced the Methodist's recipe of stewed meat and beans with the milder piquancy would have emerged victorious in the end.

Entertainment for the event included a discussion with the Methodist church's Youth minister who originally hailed from Boston. While we commiserated on what we missed
about our respective big city birthplaces and discussed the differences between Boston Baked Beans and Cowboy beans, the chili slowly disappeared from the kitchen and $800 was raised to brighten the December 25th morning of dozens of low income kidkins.

Grapevine rumor ensures me that the Methodist's have demanded a rematch.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reading about small town living

As awkward as it is for me to admit, when it comes to making a selection from the new fiction book shelf at my small town library, I instinctively reach for the male authored tomes first.

There is of course no logic to my bias, as female authors are vastly capable of sallying forth the goriest and glorious of my favorite gumshoe genre tales.

In my failed attempt to live my life as unbiased as possible, this is the one illogical bias of luxury for which I plead the 5th on.

Sure, I've read female authors before. Plenty of 'em.

Faye Kellerman comes to mind. Evanovich, Grafton, P.D. and J.A., Paretsky, and of course the grande dame herself, Agatha Christie...I know the names and have often been tempted, but when push comes to shove my hand always reaches for a sleuthing male author first.

Again, no logic.

Stretching my male chauvinist gray matter, I can recall the last book I read that was scribed by a member of the opposite sex. Tulsa based author Billie Letts' selection from '04, Shoot the Moon.

There is some logic here. Letts is an Okie. And while some not familiar with the wiles and ways of our panhandled state may feel that reading books written by, about, and set in and around Oklahoman's is tantamount to punishment gluttony of the nth degree, I call it cathartic information gathering.

Research if you will.

Along this vein, I happened to grab this book off the new selection shelf the other day, tantalized by the title...Ghost at Work (A Mystery)

A quick perusal of the jacket summary revealed three things that eventually led me to swap this selection for the latest Ender Wiggin selection from Orson Scott Card that had found a comfortable (albeit temporary) spot under my left armpit.

Small town Oklahoma setting.
Paranormal detective.
Murder mystery.

Ms. Hart had me from page one and although lacking in the testosterone laced rhetoric that I normally find comforting in a gumshoe novel, following the antics of a crime solving card carrying member of the afterlife was a hoot and and a hollar.

Even found a quotable paragraph that reveals a small town truth penned in elegant Okie prose...
Everybody didn't know everybody, but if you had any prominence at all, you were known. Even more important was the fact that someone always saw you. It was that simple. No matter where you were or what time or with whom or why, somebody saw you. Ghost at Work by Carolyn Hart (pg. 55)

Did Agatha ever write a story that took place in Oklahoma? Hmmm, I wonder.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanks for the instructions...I think

I've always been a read-the-instructions first kind of guy.

I know I may be in the human population minority in this trait, but more times than not I learn something by reading the manual for a new purchase and the other times I find myself going back to the manual when something goes wrong with my initial usage.

Case in point, the daytime running lights on my wife's 4-door made-in-Tennessee import are on all the time, making it somewhat inconvenient when driving through the myriad of lighting displays that are all the rage throughout Oklahoma this time of the year.

I have never figured out how to disable the lights, and every time we find ourselves puttering through yet another spectacle of seasonal lights, I knock myself on the head and state out loud,"Darn it, someday I'm going to read that owner's manual and figure out how to turn off those darn daytime running lights!"

Writer's note - they apparently don't ever go off, and there is no built-in override for the sensor. There is a mod however, that I found on an online auto forum (Tech Service Bulletin EL011-00), as well as a mickey-duck kludgy way to temporarily trick the twilight sentinel.

Yep, instructions are your friend. Unless you don't understand Chinglish. Then, you're in big trouble.

Case in point, today while picking up a prescription at our local small town pharmacy, I was cruising the "gift" aisle (those Jean Nate after bath splash gift sets never get old) and stumbled upon this wonder of Made in China packaging. Pulling my digicam, I snapped these, being careful not to read the text, else the pics would be blurred and fuzzy due to my jelly belly rolled laughter.

A remote toy car that drives up walls! Speed Racer, eat your heart out. Who wouldn't want one of these?

Note the large font and bold lettering - this text must really be important...

Feeling feverish lately? Could be your improper use of batteries. And apparently hair is not something you want to wear when operating this toy.

The intended meaning of the grammar is semi-obvious, however getting only 5 minutes of playtime for 30-50 minutes of charging time seems a bit much to ask a kid to endure...or a grown-up at that.

I'm not sure if "charging under the guidance of adults in charge" is the best course of action here. These complicated steps seem better suited to 8-year old's who can program the clock vcr.

Though I find this stuff humorous as heck, I can only imagine what some Oklahoma prairieland farmer thinks after looking to the directions when the darn thing "breaks down" after 5 minutes of go time.

Is it any wonder no one reads instructions any longer?

And don't even get me started on having to keep a stock of mini-phillips head screwdrivers on hand just to change out batteries. Whatever happened to plain old plastic-flap-that-breaks-off battery covers on toys and electronic devices?

Batteries not included indeed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cribside karaoke

While humming an Elvis Christmas tune to the slanted walls of the empty playroom and slathering on a final layer of mud over the tape lines, I further attempted to fill the quiet and stillness permeating the environment by tuning my portable to NPR's The Takeaway. A roving topic this morning centered on the lullaby in contemporary culture.

The guest was speaking of an online poll she had conducted examining the popular lullaby's of modern parents. The story was intriguing, the results are humorous and the discussion inspired me to jot down a note to my future daughters (the reason this blog exists) revealing the off-key top 10 tunage favored by their loving parents during their early childhood sleepy time rituals.

Out of necessity, our repertoire developed vigor and girth with our first arrival. Combine inexperienced and paranoid parents with a light sleeper and creaky hardwood floors (the arrival of area rugs accelerated the crib-sneak-away ritual immensely) and you have two tired parents with a karaoke list that challenges even the first season of American Idol.

I've included some YouTube links for the more obscure songs listed.DADDY'S FAVORITES
Yellow Submarine - Lennon/McCartney
In my life - Lennon/McCartney
Suspicious Minds - Elvis
I saw her standing there - Lennon/McCartney
That'll be the day - Buddy Holly
American Pie - Don Mclean (yes, I know all the lyrics)
Puff the Magic Dragon - P,P & M
Norwegian Wood - Lennon/McCartney
Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis
In the ghetto - Elvis
Jamaica Farewell - Belafonte
Ma-na-me-na (do-doo-do-do-do)

Just about any Pi Beta Phi sorority song you can think of, ad infinitum.

So how'd we do? Well, here we are, 9 years post our first child, and going on 5.5 years for our second and all I can truly state with any surety of fact and candor is that both of my daughter's can pick out an Elvis tune when played on the radio.

Thank, ya...thank ya very much.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Stick a fork(lift) in it, it's done

As work progresses on our upstairs bathroom roof-raising expansion, we've somehow made it to the stage where we needed to get our clawfoot bathtub into place.

Seeing as how our local football team is tied up with their semi-final playoff game (good luck tonight fellas), and neither my F-i-L nor I was feeling the need to drink some David Banner gamma bomb juice and Hulk out, we resorted to hydraulic power and not-quite OSHA approved tub relocation practices.

Seems just about every farmer, rancher, fry cook and gas/and or oil worker in my small town has some piece of heavy equipment at their disposal. From wild and woolly riding mower attachments to mini-earth movers to hydraulic rammed hay bale lifting spikes, the mobile folks in my small town own just about any tool a fella could ever need.

Several of whom offered to bring their front-loader tractors over to see if the buckets would reach up high enough to make the tub transfer. But we eventually went with the idea of a local sculptor friend of mine who offered up his own personal forklift to perform the tub lifting duties we so required.

The forklifts solid rubber wheels sinking into the soft grass adjacent to our house was problematic, as was the close and dangerous proximity of the power line feeding into the corner of the house.

We managed to find a relatively safe spot to make the transfer, and after fashioning a couple of extension beams to the forks of the lift (a 4x4 fence post my F-i-L picked up along the side of a country road some time ago, and a run of weathered pole fence leftover by previous owners) the tub was hoisted, dragged, lifted and grunted into it's final service spot.

The 1920's era hotel-style clawfoot tub we picked up at an auction several years ago for a hundred bucks and change, and on which I grinded, stripped, sanded and primered, was then in place and ready for finishing.

The clawfeet have since received a coat of hammered steel finish pewter colored Rustoleum (to match the barn board wainscoting), while the tubs exterior has been bathed in several coats of peachtree pink (matching the bathroom ceiling).

As my friend fired up his forklift and made the turn down our driveway onto Main street, in my minds eye I imagined he popped the clutch, pulled a wheelie and cried out a hearty, "Hi Yo Silver, away!" leaving a man and his tub behind in the dust-filtered golden light of the setting Oklahoma sun.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Death in the back of a pickup truck

My girls are very aware that my F-i-L (their grandpappy) likes to hunt for deer, turkey, duck and fish (okay, technically he doesn't "hunt" for fish, but I don't see why we "hunt" for other animals but not the swimming kind...wait, we do hunt for sharks and they swim, oh it's all so confusing).

But I digress. He likes to hunt and likes to cook and eat what he kills.

And the girls seem okay with it.

Perhaps they are still to young to have explored whatever ethical, anthropological and psychological stigmas that may exist regarding the practice of stalking and killing a wild beast for sport and nourishment.

Or it could be that their surrounding environment actually encourages the practice to the point of it being the norm.

Maybe they just like to listen to their grandpa tell hunting stories.

And even though as litt'uns they were as freaked out as I was by the bevy of stuffed wildlife that populate the den walls at my in-laws lake house, neither of them seem disturbed by the fact that the now stuffed creatures hanging up and out in their grandparents vacation home were once living, breathing creatures.

What could have been a pivotal moment in their lives occurred the other day as my F-i-L and B-i-L pulled into our driveway on their way home from a recent hunt and the girls caught a glimpse of a furried hoof sticking out from their pickup's tailgate.

It was a mature doe that my B-i-L shot for the meat, signaling the near future arrival of low calorie low cholesterol low fat venison steaks, sausage, and jerky (deer meat is too lean for a good burger) to our table. Neither him, nor my F-i-L spotted a buck they wanted to take. They are responsible and discriminate hunters and since both have bagged large "8-pointers" in the past they are only interested in bigger bucks with larger racks.

Nope, this doe was strictly for the consumption.

I watched with care and concern as my two girls took in the dead deer. My B-i-L was mindful to cover up the incision where he had field dressed the animal, so they only really saw the unmolested carcass.

At this point I could only spot innocent curiosity creep across their exploring faces. Nothing more or deeper emerged from their initial examination as they touched the soft fur, poked at the hooves, and ran their fingers along the snout.

Other than that, no CSI examination techniques were employed, or comments made other than a few emoted "ewwws" and quietly uttered "eees."

As I was looking forward to a deeper discussion on the dead deer with my 9-year old later that night during our bedtime tuck-in ritual, it was my 5-year old who surprised me with her unique grasp of the situation when she told me later that day..."Daddy, I asked Uncle S if I could have two of the feet of the deer to keep since the deer wouldn't need it [sic] anymore and he said okay..."Naturally, I asked her why she wanted to have the deer feet."To make the clip clop sound when I sing the sleigh ride song..."Apparently audio effects authenticity are important for my 5-year old. Hmmm, should I be worried about this kid?

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
Ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Our 1st winter of discontent...Santa skepticism

Based on preliminary reports and early holiday season observations this may be our first Christmas with a skeptic in the house.

A Santa skeptic.

It appears the irresponsible revelation of childhood fantasy figures that occurred between some swarmy teenager camp counselors and a group of kidkins at camp last summer, has stayed with my just turned 9-year old.

When we were in the process of telling our 5-year old that we were going to see Santa (or one of his "helpers" dressed up as Santa...wink, wink) in a few weeks, our 9-year old chirped up loudly and stated that she wouldn't be doing the Santa gig this year.

So far she's been keeping quiet about the E! True Hollywood Stories behind the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and the Jolly one to herself...meaning we haven't discussed what she overheard while at camp last summer. In fact this recent incident was the first time we actually broached the subject, and so far she's keeping her "knowledge" to herself.

My wife and I are providing a united front and will keep the charade up for the benefit of our youngest...our biggest fear being the older sister pulls a Geraldo and dashes the childhood fantasies of her little sister in one fell swoop of her flapping tongue.

While some may say that 9 is plenty old to have the "talk" about the mythical creatures that populate the fantastical worlds of our girl's childhoods, still others say that 9 is plenty old to have the other "talk" as well -- the one that begins with an S and ends with an X.

This is new territory for us, so we're defaulting to how my in-laws handled the situation for my wife and her siblings -- to this day they haven't spilled the beans about Santa. And having two granddaughters to play along with to continue the fantasy only stokes the traditional fire.

But something tells me that in the sleep depriving hours prior to her long winters nap and the wee morning moments of Christmas morning, the logic, peer pressure, and common sense that is battling for control of my 9-year olds brain, will give in to the remnants of the magic that is childhood fantasy and the hope that only a child can feel via the innocence of youth.

Heck Virginia, if there really isn't a Santa Clause, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, then maybe you can explain the reasoning behind Windoze Vista being the best OS that Microsoft can deliver.

Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow, will find it hard to sleep tonight...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Why I married her

Don't know what your signif other asked for his/her last birthday, but mine requested a couple of traditional items - a home cooked meal and a simple mode of transportation.

Not so unique you say?

Try saying these two words..."shabu shabu."

Pulling together all the fixin's for a traditional Japanese fire-pot meal is one thing when you have well stocked stores of food stuffs from the Orient a mere SoCal freeway interchange away.

Not so easy out here on the wilds of prairieland Oklahoma.

Still and all, with some careful planning, internet mail ordering, improvisational food preparation methods and a hint to the local butcher on the easiest method for cutting ribeye steaks into paper thin slices (slightly freeze the meat first), my wife had the meal she had been craving for since moving back to Oklahoma.

One down, one to go. Next up, a traditional and simple mode of transportation...

I kid you not. This is what she asked for, and ebay be-damed, this is what she received.

The inevitable question being, "What is your wife a clown or something?"

To which I reply, "What, your wife didn't walk on 8-foot homemade stilts, do handstands on a basketball, or ride a unicycle as a kid?"

She has yet to get the uni-legs of her youth back under her, but she's determined to get back on her single wheeled horse by the end of the holiday period, if not sooner.

And yes, I checked to make sure our health insurance card is safely tucked in my wallet.

Happy birthday, Wifey.

Wheel on!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pursuing bowl shaped trivia

It was a small blurb in our local small town news rag, barely 4 column inches long and relegated to the very bottom left hand corner of the front page. I myself glanced at it and recall thinking to myself what a shame it was nobody was vetting a team to challenge our local news rag staff.

See where this is going? Thought you would.

Last evening I received not one, but two calls from localz that I knew, inquiring whether or not I found trivia bowls of a trivial nature.

I chose to join the first team that called me, since I am associated with them through the non-profit .org on whose board of dir. I sit as a member. My teammates on the buzzer bench in all things trivia will be a local artist/businessman, a state cop, and an attorney.

The match is tomorrow and I'll be gearing up for it by ignoring any and all activity that involves taxing my gray matter and focusing my energy on completing the trim painting in our new upstairs bathroom's walk-in closet.

Nothing like some mindless brush stroking to prepare for the regurgitation of vast quantities of useless knowledge - just about the only kind my mind bothers with of late.

Results of the challenge will be forthcoming...unless I freeze on stage and can't recall even one of the states that borders Michigan, or who was it that's buried in Grant's Tomb.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Footloose for a new generation

We had a few hours to kill between the end of school day and the birthday dinner for my turning-9-year old at my in-laws house down in the city.

I perused the yahoo movie listings and found a G-rated flick which the girls had been wanting to see, playing at the theater close to my in-laws, so off we went.

So now my life's journey had carried me to a darkened theater with my two very own moppets, watching Disney's version of teenage angst in music, dance, and song.

With it's catchy bubble-gum pop tunage and Dancing with the Stars inspired choreography, I confess to spending a great deal of the movie catching my two little girls digging the ride, moving their feet and trying desperately to memorize the song lyrics.

The strangest aspect of the entire evening was my realization that 1) we were watching a movie filled with attractive young folk on the big screen and there was nary a hint of skin to be shown
2) we were watching a movie filled with attractive young folk whose biggest dilemma is not whether to have sex with their boy/girlfriend before they leave for college and never see each other again
3) we were watching a movie filled with attractive young folk, none of which seemed at all insecure about a serial killer lurking in the shadows of their high school's locker room

Degrassi Jr. High this was not.

There was one movie highlight for dear old Dad in this musical of high schoolers and it came, in all places, during a moving and angst driven junkyard dance number. While the two male leads were hopping and bopping around their childhood hang-out, waxing philosophical on the simplicity and innocence of their youth, I spotted a junked '72 El Camino as one of the dance stage props.

It looked in pretty decent shape. Totally restorable. A good project car to be sure.

Wonder what junk yard they shot that scene in?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Before XBOX, Wii and PS3 there was...Singer

To quote a line from the famous teen flick, Ferris Bueller's Day off,...

"I asked for a car, I got a computer..."

For my recently turned 9-year old, however, the line would be modified as follows,

"I asked for a Wii, I got a sewing machine..."

A Singer Inspiration to be exact.

She had asked for one awhile ago and has shown periodic interest since our recent stroll through the sewing craft displays at the State Fair of Oklahoma.

The hunt for an age and skill appropriate machine was on, with the ultimate decision being left to the balancing act of bank account vs. gift over-indulgence factor.

She was not going to get a Pfaff, that much we knew, however we wanted a machine that would survive through her initial learning stages yet be full featured enough to carry her into her more productive garment making phases ahead.

The Singer we chose seemed a reasonable, bullet-proof, time tested and quality-proven compromise, the purchase of which also helped me set a precedent for that dreaded day 7 years from now when C asks for her first car ("...a sweet little BMW or Honda S2000 would be nice...") and I come home with a '74 Dodge Monaco with triple-shellacked lumber bumpers, a 10-point roll cage, and a Navy surplus combination ejection seat/quick-deploy parachute.

Hey, I'll paint it whatever color she wants it...with flames even.

Anyhow, after a brief lesson on the operational and safety features of the rapid-fire "machine de la sewing," C took to it like a Kentucky moonshine runner to a V8 Ford and was turning out pillow after pillow for her Webkinz petz in no time. She has since graduated to piecing together a quilt -- of sorts -- made out of material from our scrap material craft bin (what, you don't have a scrap material craft bin?)

Since I wasn't able to take the new machine apart to show C how a sewing machine actually works, the net provided me with the necessary info and then some. Found this graphic on Wiki that shows how a lockstitch is made, which solved a riddle and provided mere minutes of animated pleasure for the girls and I.

I've actually mandated C to learn the machine well enough to give dear old Dad a lesson in the coming days. She seems more than thrilled at the concept of teaching me how to operate a "power tool."

Maybe my days of duct taping the hem up on my Dockers are finally over?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coffee, donuts and draggin' Main with the Father

The other morning on our Friday a.m. weekly donut splurge-fest, we sat in a booth adjacent to a group of elderly gentlemen in their late-60's who were dipping cake donuts and drinking joe with the young priest from the local Catholic church.

The conversation centered on the adventures of youthful splendor growing up in our small town, including country road drag races with their Daddie's Fords, cruising to the smaller towns just up the highway to meet some "townie gals" from a different school, and after-game garage parties that always seem to run out of drinks before they ran out of steam.

Heck, we and everyone else in the fried round dough haven were even treated to a live demonstrations of the "beer bottle dip" practiced by the local 50's greasers whenever Officer Wilson would cruise by the park on a late summer weekend night.

The highlight of the conversation, for me at least, was listening to a few stories of the young 30-something Priest's eventful teenagedom life as he relayed stories of "draggin' Main" with his buddies in a beat up Camaro in the small town where he grew up.

Recently, I heard a report on NPR's "Fresh Air" program centered around Episcopalian minister Barbara Brown Taylor and her new book, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, wherein she describes her decision to leave her job after 15 years as a full-time minister due in part to what she called "compassion fatigue."

Listen to program here.

Think about it.

Being an ordained and recognized spiritual leader in a small town means you are on stage, on-call 24-7-365, with your compassion and sensitivity on display with every casual conversation you have in line at WalMart, every meal you take at someones house, and every piece of fruit or roll of bathroom tissue you squeeze at the grocery store.

While in a larger "market" men and women of the cloth, pulpit, and collar can more-or-less (depending on the chosen faiths prescribed practices for public appearance attire) make their clandestine way outside of the church grounds completely incognito.

Not so in a small town, where their faces are more or less on par in recognition factor with the POTUS-elect and OU Coach Bob Stoops.

Given that pressure and the awareness that a term such as "compassion fatigue" exists, I hope all of the dedicated male and female spiritual leaders in our small town take few mornings a month to dip a donut or two and let the air out of their proverbial collars.

Wouldn't do to have any of our local religious leaders go postal, or pulpital, as it were.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just a little pinch will do ya

While I suppose the 3rd graders back in our old San Gabriel Valley neighborhood are receiving pamphlets and informational flyers on "How to identify the weapon in your school mates gym bag," and "What to say and where to look when an Asian gang member approaches you on the street," out here on the central Oklahoma prairie, we recently found this informative brochure in our 3rd graders backpack.

Theorizing how many Dads and Grand Dads associated with C's class of 19 students are into the tobacco chewing habit, I'm thinking this particular brochure didn't find it's way into many family discussions once it made it's way home.

Our family, however, did discuss it, finished some of the word games and activities outlined in the brochure, and generally had a good time making disgusting noises as we mimicked the sputum discharge associated with "t'backy chawing."

Monday, November 03, 2008

A small town slumber party

Things we learned from our first slumber party...What a badge of honor it is for a group of 3rd Graders to stay up way, way, way past their normal bedtime...only to be followed up with how they totally crashed and burned the second the first of their band of sisters dozed off to slumber city.

How loud a group of zizzed up on Dr. Pepper and chocolate birthday cake 8 and 9 year old's can collectively squeal...it's ain't Memorex.

The regret of having the party on a Saturday night meant watching the girl's trudge off bleary-eyed the next morning for 10 a.m. church services. Stuffing them full of chocolate chip and whipped cream topped flapjacks and waffles may get them through the first 20 minutes or so, but I imagine the wall will be smacked into just before noon.

Selecting the night that Standard Time returns (fall back) enabled us to entertain the girls for an additional hour. For some, this may have been an issue. For us, it just gave us an extra hour to get breakfast on the table.

3rd grade girls are very aware of the caffeine content of Dr. Pepper, plain M&M's and chocolate cake as well as the sugar content of Dr. Pepper, plain M&M's and chocolate cake.

3rd grade girls don't talk about boys yet...(whew).

Even though Grand Parent's say they wouldn't miss their granddaughter's birthday/slumber party for the world (or at least the birthday part of it), be prepared to sling a 12-pack into their trunk for when they get home and need to unwind their nerves a bit.

Our construction practices on the playroom and upstairs bathroom proved effective against a 7.5 San Andreas Fault temblor...roughly equivalent to 6 third-graders and two 5-year old's on a sleepover.

A hungry 3rd grade girl can actually out eat me, slice for slice, when it comes to pizza.

Cheese pizza outguns pepperoni pizza almost 2 to 1, and when buying pizza for hungry 3rd graders, always go with the more filling hand-tossed crust, as opposed to our family favorite but less substantial thin-crispy crust.

When the morning came the inevitable questions floated through the hallway and crept down the stairs into our ears as we prepared breakfast -- "Where's so-and-so...what happened to she-and-she...did they go home...what happened?, as the remaining slumberettes took stock of their merry band and noticed far fewer heads present and accounted for.

That cry at 3:00 a.m. (now on Standard time...body clock says it was still 4:00 a.m.) from the one girl whom we suspected wouldn't make it through the night, was not nearly as rude as it could have been...due to a unwittingly humorous remark uttered by my 5.5 year old this morning. As we privately relayed the story of how so-and-so woke up early in the morning, panicked when she realized she wasn't in her own bed and through the fog of REM sleep, didn't quite recognize where she was.

To which PK innocently replied..."You're at a sleepover, silly.

Last, but not least, for 9-year old's, square waffles out favored the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles 6:2.

Overall the girl's seemed to have a good time, and through tired and sleep deprived eyes, the birthday girl ushered a sincerest of sincere thank-you moments after our last guest had departed.

On to Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Me, the girls and 1000 Flaming Skeletons

Back in my grad school days a bunch of us would don some festive Mardi Gras masks bought at a discount from the local party supplies store and become spectators in the very wild and always surprising West Hollywood's Halloween Carnaval.

For the open minded throngs who frequent this drag-fest of the costumed drag-gest, it's an unforgettable sojourn into a world beyond the realm of even Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland...at least it was for straight-as-an-arrow me and my equally straight Oklahoma-native girlfriend (now my wife).

The best year we ever experienced was the parade which took place after the release of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (queue Abba music about now). No parade advertised as "off-beat" and irreverent has yet to match that particular Halloween night in West Hollywood.

Which brings me to our families recent parade experience at what many fellow Okie's have branded, the wild and wackiest Halloween parade that Oklahoma has to offer; Ghouls Gone Wild.

While the parade was far outside the pomp and circumstances norm for street festival fair in Oklahoma, both my Wife and I were sorely disappointed in the lack of outrageous costumes (okay, the 10-foot tall Aliens were pretty cool), and politically correctness demonstrated by the participants.

That's right. Not one drag queen dressed as Sarah Palin (or Tina Fey for that matter). Only one George Bush and one John McCain. No Obama's. No Biden's. No Sally Kern's. The corporate sponsored floats out-counted the others by 2:1 and the biggest jeer drawn from the crowd was for a local attorney, his name and law practice grossly gracing the side of the pick-up he was riding in.

Even Pasadena's daytime Doo-Dah Parade would score higher for satirical costumes and flamboyant hi-jinks than Ghouls's Gone Wild.

Granted, the parade was billed as a family affair, and both of our girl's had a great time -- even when the marching zombie's would charge at them, sending them screaming into our arms.

Still and all, the highlight and crescendo that the parade builds to with much deserved braggadocio is the March of the 1000 Flaming Skeletons, led/followed by the boneyard sponsor (and purchaser of the skeleton costumes), Wayne Coyne of the successful local band, The Flaming Lips.

There are plenty of YouTube clips featuring the march, but this clip captures it in essence and won't tax your DSL line to download it.

File this blog entry under, "Things to do in Oklahoma that don't involve OU, farming, hunting, or eating chicken fried steak."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inglewood in 'da hood...serving up good Mex-dishes

Here's what I knew going in...My In-laws had eaten at a new Mexican restaurant (to them) in the small (but growing at a staggering rate) town located about halfway between their medium sized town and our small town.

It was a family run joint, owned by two gents related through the marriage of one to the sister of the other.

One of the owners was from Chicago, the other was from California.

The food was reasonably priced and good. Different, but good.

And most importantly (to my In-laws), the queso was tasty.
What we found upon our first foray into the drive-through pizza joint turned mex-rest was a little taste of the old school and a heaping helping of shared experience hospitality.

The owner, I'll call him Don (as in Don Diego de la Vega aka Zorro), upon hearing we were So Cal transplants like himself, pulled up a chair as if we were family and immediately launched into a discussion on his family history, our family history, the origins of his family recipes, and how he came to this growing Oklahoma town on the prairie, complete with introductions to all his family members that were currently working.

Before becoming an Oklahoma resident three years back, Don lived and worked in Inglewood, CA. Since I had spent a good deal of the summer of '95 in and around his neighborhood working on a movie (bad movie, good experience), we bonded over talk of this all-night taco stand, that corner store, and the many locations we shot at that he was intimately familiar with.

While we discussed, among other things, our shared experiences of our Okie-emigrant status, Don would occasionally whisper directions into his eldest daughter's passing ear and within minutes our table was adorned with items not on the menu, but culled from his own family's table favorites and prepared with speed and aplomb in the restaurant's kitchen.

When S mentioned her love for the fire-roasted green chile rellenos that my Step-Mom prepared, out came a sample of Don's favorite relleno-style dish. After some coaxing I admitted my missed cravings for North Hollywood street carnitas tacos with onion and cilantro relish and a red radish garnish. I was rewarded with a pork green chile verde version of my favorite sidewalk vendor dish that makes my lips curl just now thinking about it.

The fire-roasted mixed chile salsa that was his Mother's favorite was too good for words. When I suggested that he should include it on the menu, an astonished look crossed his face and he muttered, "sólo para la familia."*

What could I say to that? So I simply dipped another chip and munched away.

Don's favorite anecdote on opening a Mexican restaurant in Oklahoma involved the numerous "research" trips he and his family took throughout the state, once they decided to open their own joint here. He summed it up in one word...."queso."

Which drew a huge laugh from my So Cal gullet, as I nodded and heartily agreed with him when he proceeded to tell the story of how his family members were surprised that every Mexican restaurant in the state served up the complimentary melted cheesy dip along with the table setting and glass of water.

When I relayed the story of taking my In-laws for dinner to Olvera Street in LA, and how my M-i-L was upset when she found out we weren't getting queso dip with our dinner, Don nodded knowingly and chuckled right along with me.

You Okie's and your queso...I mean it.

*-for family only

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A big dog dies, an old man cries

His owner was toiling away in the garage workshop, filling an order for several mounts that a taxidermist friend had asked him to make. Just a few deer head backing plates.

Nick was at his usual position in the corner of the garage. Not close enough to let the flying sawdust and debris from the radial arm cutter sprinkle his black coat, but near enough to his owner to feel secure in his presence.

This was his spot in the garage. He had a different one in the back of the pickup. Yet another one in the backyard by his house and pen. Still another next to his owner in the duck blind.

In the 12-years he had lived with his owner and the other pack members, he had retrieved a couple hundred ducks in barely frozen over ponds, eaten his fare share of kibble and then some, and most recently been on the receiving end of hugs and playful head pats from one, then another smaller versions of the human kind of which he shared his life.

But on this particular day, as his owner made busy in his woodsmith workshop, Nick laid his huge black head down, closed his eyes and left his owner/pack leader and family behind.

In between saw cuts and router bit changes, my F-i-L noticed his beloved canine companion hadn't moved in a bit and didn't see the comforting rise and fall of the beasts ample ribcage.

"Nick," he called weakly as he crossed the polished cement floor over to the worn carpet remnant in the corner.

"What's the matter old man?"

When it hit him, it was a slow motion moment. There was the inevitable moment of denial, followed by the jolt of emptiness and the pit of heartfelt loss. The tears came to the him soon after as he told his wife the news and prepared to bury his old friend in the backyard alongside the previous two canine family members.

I know this will be my F-i-L's last dog, as he's stated on numerous occasions that very fact, so a part of me can't help but wonder if some of those tears were shed in recognizing the passing of time along with the passing of an old friend.

In telling the girls of the death of the first real dog they ever grew to love as a family member, I found myself deluged with hastily drawn pictures of the big black Lab from my 5-year old, along with a nonchalant shrug from my almost-9 year old.

No worries, I knew that seemingly emotionless shrug would manifest itself as an earful of tearful come bedtime that night.

In closing, I myself find that I owe my F-i-L's big, black Labrador a small debt of gratitude.

He taught my girls at an early age what it meant to be a humane human.
He taught them how to respect, but at the same time how not to be afraid of big dogs.
He showed them how dogs can be more than a companion and family member, but can have a job as well.

Finally, he demonstrated how a wagging tail, when being wielded by a 125 lb. happy dog, can be a knock-you-off-your-feet-then-wack-you-in-the-head-as-you-fall weapon of mass destruction and giggles galore.

So long, Nick.

Good boy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Arizona, take off your hobo shoes

For this, my final installment of my snaps from our recent anniversary trip, I'm drawn to the lyrics of the classic good/bad song, Arizona by Mark Linsday (formerly of Paul Revere and the Raiders...yes THOSE Raiders whose biggest hit was "Indian Reservation").

Listen away in one browser tab, while scrolling through the final set of pics.

Go ahead...it'll make you popular.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Still more AZ pics and posts

A well documented location on Route 66 in Holbrook, a well photographed roadside attraction, and a well worn subject. Still, use your imagination as I did when I snapped this bad boy and titled it, "Final image on the digital camera SD memory card belonging to a missing visitor to Jurassic Park."

Little letters on a big wall - truly a metaphor for the meteor crater on so many different levels.

I shot two versions of this photo...both with and without my lovely wife. Obviously, this is the version with her. Doesn't she have a killer smile? Well, doesn't she?

Sometimes a cool shot just presents itself. Course, sunsets and long shadows make things a tad easier on amateur photogs at times.

If a hotel room maid goes through the trouble of fanning out the top sheet in a box of Kleenex, then it deserves not only a snapshot, but a dramatic setting as well. I titled this shot, "Talking a box of tissue out of committing suicide wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done, especially when it was crying and I wanted to hand it a tissue to wipe it's tears..."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More AZ pics and posts

One of the greatest things about road trips is knowing more or less when and where the next bathrooms are located. I thought this sign was pretty extreme, but it goes back to our family motto (or at least one of them), "Never pass up a rest stop opportunity."

Props to Painted Desert educational marketing staff. The best time to educate young minds is during early childhood education programs. The best time to educate old dudes minds is while sitting on the throne in a National Park restroom.

All that remains of the Mother Road (which some critics maintain led to the popularization of the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest area and the subsequent thievery of the valuable tree-turned-rock resource) in the Painted Desert park are some power lines which paralleled the highway, along with a cool little display erected by the Park's Service.

I know some rat rodders that would pay a pretty penny for that rusty body shell sitting out there.

Quoth the raven...get caught stealing some p-wood, and you may be facing jail time...never more.

This joint in Holbrook, AZ was screaming for a dramatic Edward Hopper pose, so here it is. Call it, "Joe and Aggie's Nighthawks."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

AZ trip redux

Back home in my small town in Oklahoma and pondering next years anniversary jar adventure to Alabama.

Before I do a Velvet Brown and move onto the next thing in life with neither regret nor remorse for that which we didn't get to do or see, here are the first in a series of pics and commentary, posted as promised. I'm not a professional photog, so just deal with the wonky composition as if you were seeing the world through thyne own eyes...if you were me. If you like these, there will be more. If not, it's the weekend so go out and enjoy the fall weather.

Taken on October 5, 2008..."Shucks, any ol' body can get an alky drink at the Big Texan...long as you was born today or later."

What kills me is that the Budweiser folk spent all this money and all that research time in coming up with a surefire, easy-as-pie method to help the sellers of it's product determine proper drinking age credentials. And all it takes to undermine the cost and effort is one doofus who opens the box from Anheuser-Busch and thinks, "ohh, pretty clock...with a built in calendar too!"

It's wacky haiku time...
A swallow swoops
parting the dark clouds
rooms to rent

"When the phone didn't ring, I knew the dame wouldn't call, and that I'd have to find a way to see to it that any other dame who walked into my office and sold me a sob story about her cheating husband and empty bank account, wouldn't be able to tell that I had a soft spot for sob stories. In my line of work, at $40 a day plus expenses, a soft spot like I have won't pay the landlord or keep the revolver in my pocket loaded with bullets."

VonDutch sees all, even from the back of a restored hot rod panel wagon.

Most RV drivers pull a small car or suv behind their rolling land giants, so when they find a suitable campsite, they can leave their home-away-from-home parked and use the car to bop around town in.

I like this guys bop-around-town vehicle much better.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Takin' it easy and letting the Eagles dictate our direction

This a.m. we dined on the free continental breakfast musings that the McMotorLodge chain hotel offered with our paid room tab. While I poured, flipped and manned our pre-mixed and pre-measured waffles, S eavesdropped on the lively conversations occupying the geriatric rotunda taking up 99.9% of the remaining room in the designated free breakfast nook arena.

The widescreen LCD tv hanging precariously in the corner of the nook was blasting the news of the latest DOW droppage, and it was fun to listen to the ongoing debate in the room about the upcoming election and who was voting for whom and why whom was voting for him.

Filled to the brim with far too many baked goods and not nearly enough fresh fruit, we left our room card key behind and journeyed to the old section of Cottonwood in search of the soul of the town. We found it a mile or two down Main Street, well away from the glare of the chain motels and WalMart supercenter parking lot lights.

Stopping at a sprawling antique and collectible haven known as Larry's Antiques on Main, both S and I hooted and hollered at each other from one end of the lot, to the second floor of the barn, to room after room of just plain stuff.

This rooftop parking lot of rusty relic'd pedal cars was too good not to digitize.

One item in particular caught my eye, but alas, there would be no room in our import truckster's bonnet for such an elaborate and awkward Arizona souvie...

Leaving Larry's behind, I spied this sign and snapped a shot of it as reference...for an identical sign that I someday plan to build and erect on the front lawn of my Main Street house.

Course, I'll swap my small town's name for Cottonwood...and maybe make Buzz and Todd a little more animated. And paint the Vette the correct shade of blue.

Eventually making our way to State Highway 17 northbound took us to 1-40 where a half tank of petrol later, we found ourselves exiting onto Winslow's stretch of Route 66.

Finding THE corner was easy, as the Mother Road guided us there on her Winslow loop with all the care of a, well, a mother. We hopped out of the car, plopped ourselves down in the plaza and drew next years anniversary destination state from the jar. The corner itself was alive with visitors and shutterbugs, anxious to become one with the lyrics of a 30+ year old song written by Jackson Brown and performed by the band that brought us such classic hits as Hotel California, Sunset Grill, and Tequila Sunrise.

With several cheesy poses of ourselves with the statue, and S standing astride the "flatbed Ford" pickup truck parked next to the plaza, we took our jar (now with one less slip of paper in it's belly) and buzzed over to nearby Holbrook for our traditional wedding anniversary meal...pizza.

The town of Holbrook boasts not only one of the last surviving Wigwam Motels, but also the only exclusively Italian eatery (unless you can claim Pizza Hut as Italian) within a days drive of the AZ/NM border.

Unfortunately, the restaurant wouldn't open it's dinner hour doors for another hour, so we went in search of Holbrook's public library to sit and ponder our next years anniversary state pick. My library sniffing gene proved pinpoint accurate once again as it only took a few right turns and several more left turns to locate the town's public library. I pulled my iBook and shared the joints wifi access, while Wifey got down to brass taxes with the library's copy of Cottage Living.

The hour we needed to kill sped by in record time and our chops were a'lickin for some pizza pie. Now, while some may have theorized that our choices for enjoying a "good" pizza may have seem limited by our location of the moment, the Mesa Italiana restaurant on Holbrook's main drag surpassed our expectations for both product and experience.

The crust was a hand-tossed variety, with minimal bubble burns, indicating someone was actually watching this pizza being baked, as opposed to just sticking it into a conveyor belt oven. The mushrooms were fresh, the veggies sliced, not diced, and the sausage, while served as chunks instead of sliced (my preference) was spiced and flavorful.

We ordered enough p-pie for a filling meal with a few slices left to occupy the togo box and we were once again off.

Bombing straight through the AZ/NM border, with a gas and sip stop in 'Que-town our stamina finally ran out in Santa Rosa where the bright red neon sign of the Sun 'n Sand Motel on 66 beckoned our road worn bodies to it's vintage bosom.

So here we sit, lying in bed, finishing off the rest of our pizza from dinner...just as we did 10-years ago this night.

Oh yes, for those interested, for next years trip we pulled yet another A-name state, Alabama.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

We call them... Super Tacos

The utter stillness of the national park was just the ticket for our previous two nights of not-quite restful sleep. Yes, my wife's 4 a.m. call of the wild introduced a bit of discomfort as the chilly night air rushed into the tent and down to the bone, but once that call was taken, the early morning agenda was open and the phone lines were cleared.

After listening to the modern day morning camping chorus consisting of the beep-beep-beep of backing up motorhomes, an errant car alarm or two, and the whipping flap of 20 lb. ravens hovering nearby in hopes of stealing a campers breakfast, we broke camp, took $2-for-8-minute hot showers at the convenience center a short walk away, and found our way to a nearby cafeteria for way-too-much breakfast at way-too-much prices.

Still and all, we saved a few bucks by camping out the night before, so the splurge didn't bother us, knowing as well that we'd probably skip lunch as the national park foodstuff weighed heavily in our gullets.

The last stop in our Grand Canyon tour was at the Watchtower. I hadn't been snapping as many snaps in and around the GC as most of the other tourists we observed during our stay, but something about the Watchtower brought some life back into my shutter finger. Indulge me a bit and let me post a few here...

Side note here, a great drive leaving the GC area would be via the easterly Desert View drive, and down the hill past the Little Colorado River Gorge. Spectacular views out of every window, tight curves, smooth pavement, and 65+ speeds the entire time.

Growing somewhat weary of ruins and natural wonders, we opted instead to head into the fantastic Red Rock Canyon for a visit to the artistic colony known as Sedona.

The drive down the RR Canyon was full of twists and turns, narrow at times, and dangerous as all get out, only because its so very hard to concentrate on the road when the scenery outside the windshield is utterly breathtaking.

As long as it took to get into Sedona, once there, S and I couldn't get out of town fast enough.

Sedona may be loved by the folks who live there and the busloads of tourist and art seekers who flock to the place every season of the year, but whatever historic remnants of the small artist colony ever existed are now buried beneath the heavy-handed strokes of commercial developers, faux-southwest designers, and million dollar hillside homes that Mary Colter would gasp at with utter disdain.

As did we.

For a town that sits in such a naturally magnificent setting, boasts a roster of some of the Southwests master level artists, as well as a rich history worthy of the great cities in the country, it has become a soulless place.

But, I don't live there, so just ignore my ramblings. Sedona-ites would probably scoff at my small Oklahoma town as simple and soulless as well.

We made our way to the city of Cottonwood which has a far removed section of the towns old Main Street that seems to be undergoing a small nostalgic resurgence. We stopped at a wonderful antique junk shop that was closing it's doors in 5 minutes, that we'll be visiting in earnest when it's doors open in the morning.

S wanted a tub to bathe and relax in tonight so our accommodation choices were limited to chain hotels. Awhile back we passed by a Jack in the Box, a fast food chain that hasn't yet made it to OK, that originated and is quite popular in SoCal. The menu is typical fast food burger and fries fare, but Jack offers something called the Super Taco (now known as the Monster Taco) that is a unique taste sensation.

You Super Taco eaters know of what I speak.

So yes, for dinner we entered a state of denial and bought a 6-pack of the nasty, greasy, deep-fried pseudo-Mexican treats in a slip-out sleeves and finished the bottle of muscat from our campfire last night.

Hey, we're on vacation.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud..."

Alas, no supernatural sounds disturbed our REM sleep last night...however the unnatural man-made sounds of the every hour-on-the-hour Sante Fe rail trains, the drunken college kids hanging out at the bar directly below our room until 2 a.m., and the jackhammer crew several blocks away working from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. straight (yes, I said a jackhammer crew), made for a restless slumber.

Add those disturbances to the half-actualized state of consciousness I slept in as I listened for a phantom bellboy knock at the door, and you'll grant me this word of advice...when staying at the Monte Vista in Flagstaff, get a room on the northeast corner of the building. You may be closer to the haunting dead, but much further away from the sleep depriving living.

Jackhammering at 2 a.m....I kid you not.

We slept in to make up for the lost hours of the evening and barely made it out for 10 a.m. checkout. Trucking out of town on Flagstaff's weird hodgepodge section of Route 66 we found the world's slowest gas pump just outside of town that S theorizes was purposely jimmied to get patrons to come in and c-shop in their c-stop.

The Mother Road kinda disappeared in this area so we hopped on the interstate and found our way to a waiting booth in Old Smokey's Pancake House on Williams' Route 66 nostalgic business loop. Scanning the gluttonous platefuls of food that the other diners were feasting on, we again decided to split our meals and just order what most citizens would consider a single serving breakfast.

Say one thing about breakfast offerings from Route 66 diners, they don't skimp on the portion sizes.

The breakfast burrito with refried beans and single plate-sized buckwheat pancake that Smokey's served up was enough to feed our entire family of 4, let alone the Wife and I.

Rolling out of the town dubbed, the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, we made a 65 mph beeline for what many consider the greatest natural wonder of the world and this middle-aged couples first glimpse of it since our family camping/road trip days of our youth.

Taking in the IMAX flick at the heavily commercialized National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitors Center was fun on many different levels of the entertainment scale.

First, the flick itself offers views of the canyon that only birds and ultralight flyers get to see. Second, the IMAX format was made for swooping aerial canyon shots, POV river rafting footage, and panoramic intervalometered pans of the canyon and surrounding sky.

Finally, sitting among busloads of tourists from all over the world as they marvel, ooh-and-ahh at both the Grand Canyon footage and the huge you-are-there IMAX film format is first rate entertainment in and of itself.

Now, back when we planned this trip, our original intention was to tent camp a few nights in the Arizona outdoors to save a few bucks and air out our camping stuff which had been sitting unloved and unused since FreeWheel back in June. However just about everyone we queried, including those online, told us that if we hadn't made campground reservations ahead of time, there was no way we'd find an open spot within the Grand Canyon National Park.

Yet here I sit in our Coleman 9x9 tent in spot #203 in the non-hookup section of the Mather Campground less than a mile away from the south rim itself. The Park Ranger who checked us in told us that only about 65 of the available 320 spots were reserved and we'd be relatively on our own.


Dinner tonight was a similar thrill ride, as we were told by so many folk that the dining experience of the famous restaurant at the El Tovar resort on the South Rim was reserved for those who made arrangements weeks or even months in advance.

Upon asking, the El Tovar Dining Room hostess told us that if we wanted, she could seat us in 30 minutes with a table that looked out over the rim, and had a perfect view of the sunset over the canyon. Sure it was only 5:00 in the afternoon and the sun wouldn't be setting for another hour, but by the time our creme brulee and decaf was making its way to our table, the uppermost peaks of the canyon's south rim view were getting their last licks of the Arizona sun.

About the GC itself, I'm not going to attempt to tap into my limited public school education vocabulary to describe how magnificent this canyon is, and how fortunate we are to have such a wonder within the borders of our country. Danny Glover said it best in the Lawrence Kasdan's feel-good 90's flicker..."Man, get yourself to the Grand Canyon."

Note - also the source of the line that titles this particular blog entry.

One last observation before the last of our seven dollar rick of store bought firewood goes out and I duck into our tent for what I hope will be a snuggly night amid the ancient pines and fellow campers in our area.

As we searched for a precious parking spot in one of the miniscule lots situated at the top-of-the-hill resorts on the rim, S spotted the now familiar Bullitt Mustang sitting in a much coveted spot beneath the shade of a twisted old pine tree. As I circled the aisles we spotted Mr. Bullitt and his Mrs. making their way from the rims edge toward their car. We exchanged waves and smiles of familiarity and he motioned in that unspoken language of drivers everywhere that if I wanted his spot, it was mine for the taking.

A few minutes later as I pulled into the spot recently vacated by the '68 and prepared my senses for the visual feast awaiting mere meters away at the canyon's edge, the sound of the pristine Mustang accelerating down and away from the parking lot rang in my head like an old friend.

Karma is a wild and crazy thing.

As the stars grow brighter and the skylight is replaced by the ground glow of the three-quarter moon, there are a few hearty tent campers around us (even though the spots directly adjacent to us are empty), enjoying the 40 degree night time lows and listening to the silence of the night - without the benefit of a passing freight train, without the rancor of martini swilling coeds, and without the melodic beating of an early morning jackhammer crew.

The Napa Valley muscat and dark chocolate truffles we purchased at the local supermarket (strange to buy wine in a supermarket again) were the perfect fireside nightcaps.

Bears don't like truffles...do they?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

First one to say, "now that's a big hole," wins.

Chapter 2 of "Okie's are everywhere," occurred at the ticket booth for the Meteor Crater attraction. S was wearing her "Oklahoma - Native America" button up long sleeve while turning over our $30 entrance fee to the nice lady in the ticket booth.

Eyeing the embroidery on her blouse, she cheerfully queried, "Where in Oklahoma are y'all from?"

You guessed it, she was from Enid and after a few minutes of holding up the line, it turns out we knew some people in common.

Tickets in hand, we walked a few steps to yet another uniformed Meteor Crater employee, only to find that he was born in Lawton and still had family back there.

Add these two to the desk clerk at the Blue Swallow Motel whose son lived in OKC, the diner at Joe and Aggie's whose Mom lived in Hugo and the owner of the Rainbow Rock Shop that spoke fondly of time he spends in Hobert visiting friends, and you've got our states panhandled shadow stretching way beyond it's odd-shaped border.

Wifey and I enjoyed "experiencing the impact" at the "world's first proven and best-preserved impact site on earth." The guided tour/hike along the rim was interesting, I managed to say "...now that's a big hole," almost 12 times in a non-sarcastic tone and we found ourselves invigorated by the 64 degree, slightly breezy Arizona autumn atmosphere.

A short road trip after climbing down off the crater rim found us pulling curbside at Flagstaff's historic Monte Vista hotel. A mere 1-block north of Route 66 in Flagstaff's historic downtown, the MV is purportedly one of Arizona's most haunted hotels.

At check-in, S innocently asked the desk clerk if the room we were staying in was haunted, to which she replied, "oh, well yes it is...is that all right?"

Okay, so the fact that she readily admitted the room was haunted was fun enough, but the matter-of-fact tone in which she admitted it was either a well-rehearsed marketing strategy or a spooky reality check that the desk clerks at a haunted hotel must deal with for every patron.

After checking in and dropping our bags in our second story corner room known as the Zane Grey suite (he apparently stayed in this room on several occasions), we took to the streets and alleyways of the historic district, meeting yet more Okie-expatriots from Edmond (antique and collectible shop), and Norman (gift boutique), taking in some iced lattes from a sidewalk vendor, and finding a 50's era Zane Grey novel in a used book store for my room-themed bedtime reading tonight.

We found a tasty Thai joint for a massive meal of coconut/lemon grass soup and spicy eggplant then retired to watch replays of the Presidential Debate.

So here I sit, blogging wirelessly from the Zane Gray room waiting for a knock at the door.

A knock at the door?

Before reading any further, click here, scroll down and read about "The Phantom Bellboy."

The number on our door is 2 - 1 - 0.

"Room service..."