Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mrs. Gibson's leftovers are worth a B&E charge

From a recent Sheriff's blotter from my small town's news rag...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Questioning the science of it all

As the end of the school year approaches (still hard to fathom summer vacation starting in mid-May for cryin' out loud) the inevitable field trip permission forms start showing up in the girl's backpacks.

This year, C's entire 2nd grade class would be bus-trippin' to the Science Museum Oklahoma (formerly known as the oh-so-70's sounding "Omniplex") for a few hours of hands-on fueling of their creative geniuses and a "face, pulse pounding giant screen adventure" in the states first large-format dome-screen theater.

Once again, I found myself struggling to follow the school busload of kids screaming down the interstate at 10-15 mph over the posted speed limit. Wonder if having leadfeet is a prerequisite for obtaining a school bus driving license here?

Upon safe arrival I was informed that only a few of C's classmates were sans accompanying guardianship and that one such child (well call her Britney, as in Spears) was being assigned to me for safe-keeping during the duration of the classroom offsite. Since I had PK with me as well (by strange coinkidink her school was out...making up for those unused snow days), bringing my grand total for the day to 3 little girls in my charge.

No problem. My two know the rules and regs of amusement park outings and I felt that with my usual level of supervision, they were relatively safe within the confines of the cavernous, but enclosed museum space.

And how difficult could managing one other kid be, even if she wasn't mine?

I soon found out when my temp charge for the day turned out to be a starving-for-attention-and-would-do-anything-to-get-it, constantly-begging-for-candy, pop, ice cream, a gift-shop-item or snack-food-of-any-kind, but otherwise sweet, albeit slightly out of shape, little girl.

Her constant begging tried my patience only somewhat until I explained to her that she wasn't going to get anything that my girls weren't going to get.

And tried it a little more when she covertly solicited the help of my girls in her quest for goodies by verbally trying to convince them that perhaps they too needed a gift shop item, candy, pop, ice cream, beef jerky and souvenir penny of their own.

Manipulative yes, but she had a plan, I'll give her that much.

After an hour watching her lead my girls to the displays that she was more interested in (tolerance and good humor abounds in my girls), amid Britney's protruding-bottom-lip protests I took them all over to the most excellent GadgetTree that features a two-story tree house, the largest oak tree west of the Mississippi and the nation’s tallest spiral slide.

While my girls and just about every other kid in the place ran themselves ragged, screamed themselves hoarse, and burned off a few hundred calories running climbing, sliding, diving, rolling, pulling, and pushing themselves silly on this centerpiece display, Britney pouted for a brief second, then took to pulling my arm off in an effort to lead me away from the play area.

I took a quick second to tap into my sophomore year psychology textbook and just figured that since this wasn't Britney's idea, she wasn't going to participate. Later I learned from a brief conversation with C that Britney was afraid of just about everything this wonder of displays had to offer (heights, slides, stairs, running, jumping, dark holes, etc.)

To counteract the fiasco at the GadgetTree, I feel we more than made it up to Britney by the dozen or so times we rode what for her was the be-all, end-all, coolest thing in the entire museum -- the elevator.

I'm not kidding, folks. She wanted to ride that elevator more than anything and since the building had only 2 levels, you can imagine how quickly Homey didn't want to play that, anymore.

The day ended with a screening of the 70-mm white-water rafting, motion-sickness inducing Grand Canyon Adventure in the Dome Theater.

I broke down and bought the girls pop and popcorn to get them through the slow spots in the river, while giving me a chance to chat with the ultracool grandpop of one of C's best class buddies. Turns out he's a semi-retired body and fender man and fellow gearhead. The Car Craft cap on his noggin was a dead giveaway, and once I broke the ice by telling him that my big bro once worked for that classic car mag, our brains went into vapor lock on projects we had in the mix.

So, the day ended well, the kiddies made it safely home, and I hope my tenuous grip on my patience for all things Britney didn't scar my temp day-charge for the day too badly.

Then I get home, flip open the local paper and read this little blurb in our local news rag...

Yep, that's Britney's Grandmother whom our beloved Principal had to narc on, and may be facing a fine and some jail time.

Further conversations with my daughter about our science museum tagalong revealed that both of her folks were apparently in lockup which is why she was living with her Dad's Mom.

This little tidbit of news (unconfirmed btw, but C tells me it's what Britney herself tells people), made me rethink the entire day and had me second-guessing every "no" I said, every mini-lecture I uttered, and every judgmental thought I had about whomever was responsible for Britney's behavior.

Ultimately, it all boiled down to just one question that kept popping up in my mind... just what the h*ll is wrong with some parents?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Signs make more sense in the big city

Migrated out of my small town for a few hours today on an errand and made it out to the big city 40 miles to the north.

For some reason these signs struck me as noteworthy.

So I noted them.

I don't know about you, but when I'm in the market for some framed art, the Blockbuster is the first stop on my shopping trip.

Watching your laundry tumble dry is poetry in motion. So is this laundrymat's name.

These animated billboard signs work wonders in Vegas - how else can you explain Celine Dion's massively successful show on the strip? Maybe they'll work for Jesus too?

I love pizza, but that's one costly pie...oh, it's Pizza Pizza, so you actually get two for that price...
Much better deal then.

Are people who buy bottled oxygen generally visually impaired as well?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Evr'y buddy cuttin' Footloose!

The call came in just after breakfast time from a friend of ours here in my small town, asking if we were planning on heading up to the Middle School to watch the prom kids arrive this evening.

Say what?

Fast forward to 6:30 p.m. and our collective curiosity and thirst for small town immersion found my entire family unit here...

Amid the wonder and excited chaos that was this particular gathering of townsfolk, I was able to disseminate the purpose, history, and etiquette of this small town custom.

Whether you call it an attempt for a last second tug of parental control, or a lavish slathering of attention for the Juniors and Seniors about to embark on their prom, this red-carpetish ritual was both charming and blog-fodder rolled into one..

It goes something like this...
The prom attendees pull up to the entrance of the prom location (in this instance, the recently completed and ultra modern local middle school) in their shiny cars and trucks, the bulk of which I suspect were either borrowed, rented by a 25-year old cousin, or on an extended "test-drive" from a local dealership.

The rico suave prom men have a prepared card containing the names of their dates and themselves printed on it, which they hand to the dude with the mic (me thinks he's the HS principal, but I could be wrong), who subsequently announces the names of the nattily attired attendees all the while welcoming them to their prom.

From there, the valet at the front of a long line of valets in matching white polo shirts, hands the driver a ticket and hurries off to park the recently vacated prom delivery chariot to a nearby parking lot. The valet's are all volunteers, many of which are parents of the lucky prom attendees.

Amid much applause, cheers, catcalls, whistles, whoops and hollers, the formally dressed prom night teens make their way through the throngs of smiling parents, friends, acquaintances and relatives, only to complete their pre-prom gauntlet at the front glass doors of the middle school.

This rotating routine of arrival continued until the final couple disappeared behind the smoked glass doors to the inner sanctum of the social event, the digital cameras were all shut down, and the parking lot cleared as the festive partygoers inside were getting busy.

My informally twisted tally of the 45+ minutes of small town pre-prom fun-ness...Number of burnouts by arriving prom boy's driving souped up cars - 1
Number of stallouts by Valet Dad's as they pulled away, driving some kid's souped up car - 1
Ratio of cars to pickups driven by arriving prom attendees - 2.5:1
Percentage of couples who were color coordinated in their formal attire - 75%

Percentage of attendees who came stag - 15%
Number of prom boys who came with more than one prom girl - 3
Most number of couples who emerged from an extended cab pickup truck - 3
Most popular fashion accessories for prom boys - color coordinated Swinging Vegas-y Ocean's 11 (the remake) style sunglasses and backward trucker caps
Ratio of bubble skirts to all other types of dresses - 2:1
Number of combines, tractors, horse drawn wagons and other more rural forms of transportation used in this years drop off - 0 (Note - I was told in previous years, all of the previously mentioned arrival methods were used and much the crowd pleaser.
Finally, my vote for best vehicle to bring your date to the prom in while parading in front of the collected crowd of 100 or so towns folk...

No, not the Corvette. That thing behind it...

Can't go much better than a motor home with a set of bovine horns on the front gr

Friday, April 18, 2008

American Top Forty redux

On any given typical weekend day as I'm preparing our traditional big family weekly closeout breakfast, I normally flip on the kitchen radio for a dose of NPR to soothe my nerves as I engineer and institute the perfect order of fry bread johnnycakes, King's Hawaiian sweet bread french toast (stuffed with blueberry/cream cheese filling) or the omelette du'jour.

If we've somehow managed to sleep in some (rarely), before NPR's weekend entertainment programs make their airwave appearance, I'll tune into the local golden oldies station.

Oldies (in Rock and Roll lexicon) is a relative term to each particular listener.

Those who lived American Graffiti, look to the 50's and 60's tunes as the soundtrack of their formative years, while those of us who saw American Graffiti in the movie theatre and experienced first hand the rise and fall of disco, look to the 70's and 80's as our music to reminisce by.

My local Golden Oldies station must be chasing the latter demographic group on the weekends, since it has taken to playing reruns of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 countdown from the 70's.

The other day it was 1974 all up in my kitchen and I was flipping flapjacks while Bo Donaldson was telling Billy not be a hero, The Guess Who was clapping for the Wolfman, and Chong was complaining about an earache.

All top 10 hits mind you.

So next time you get all huffy about the ills and shortcomings of my generation, just tune in to one of Casey's AT Top 40's from the 70's and give a good listen. You may change your tune (bad pun, sorry) about us.

Or not.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

DpTet, MMR, IVR, hut, hut, HIKE!

Kindergarten sign-up time approaches in a few days and for our 5-year old, it meant updating her inoculation record to bring her up to specs with the state requirements.

Translation...DpTet #5, IVR #4 and MMR #2

English translation...Diptheria/Tetanus/Pertussis, Polio, and Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.

Parent translation...3 separate shots, two in one arm, one in the other.

OKDad translation...crap, here we go again.

I thought it best to spring it on PK right after picking her up from school. After I broke the news and the lip quivering marathon began, had the drive to the county health department building been any longer than the 21 seconds that it was, I'm positive the crocodile tears would have commenced en masse.

As it was, my 8-year old cheerfully chattered encouraging words to her younger sibling, content in the fact that she had endured such torture a mere 3 years ago and that there were no needles awaiting her through the double glass doors of the local health offices.

Now, when I say, "county health department offices," my friends and acquaintances back in LA would either 1) cringe at the thought of having to endure the mass of people, the utter lack of humanity, endless lines and red tape associated with an unscheduled visit to a county run health facility, or 2) say, "Say what...who in the world hassles with the county health department when you could just pay to get your shots at your doctor's office?"

Work with me here, people.
Just imagine LA County with about 9,986,000 less people (or about 14,000 people)

Now put the entire county health department staff in a single building and put it two blocks from your house.

And staff that office with friendly locals who know you, your family, who your doctor is, when the schools start registering kids for next year, and other relevant facts about the community.

And supply that office with enough doses of the required inoculations so you didn't really have to call to check to see if they did indeed have the required inoculations but called anyway and were informed in a most pleasant manner that they would make sure to set whatever I needed aside for PK (they called her by name).

Finally, don't charge the county residences for any services, get them in and out in 15 minutes or less, heft enough reading material onto concerned parents to keep their tense minds busy while waiting, and offer to make a follow-up phone call the next day to see how your child is doing and if there were any negative reactions to the shots.

I kid you not.

This is not your Grandmother's Los Angeles County Health Department.

BTW, the shots went better than expected. PK was thrilled to be able to choose from a wide selection of colorful crayon-brand band-aids, and was actually coherent enough at the end of it all to tell the Skittle-offering nurse that she wasn't allowed to have any chewy candy because of her fillings, but that a dum-dum sucker would be just fine.

She chose a pineapple one. Her favorite. Mine too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

To my small town via Puerto Rico

As I pulled up in front of my small town's one and only remaining hardware store, I noticed a new face smiling at me through the enormous plate glass windows facing the street.

I mustered up a grin and a male-grunt-and-greet-head-nod to the smiling fellow and made my way inside. While chirping my car closed I noticed that Mr. New Smiley Face Guy in the window guy wasn't actually smiling at me...he was smiling at my car.

In the ensuing months since the fateful auto-themed exchange between Mr. New Smiley Face Guy and I through the hardware store window where he works, every conversation we've had during my hardware store runs involve my car, the car he wants to get, the car he used to have back in Puerto Rico, the fastest car in Puerto Rico he knows about, the fastest car he thinks he can make while here, where the closest Pick-a-part is, what cars they have at the closest Pick-a-part, the car he looked at the other day but didn't buy, the car that drove by the store the other day, and the car he owned back in Puerto Rico that is again for sale that he might buy and ship here.

I see what he's doing.

He's grasping for a tidbit, a trace, a morsel of what was his one true passion from his previous life that he had to give up when he relocated off his island homeland seeking better opportunity with his extended in my small town.

I feel his pain.

Or at least, I felt it when I was transitioning to life on the prairie and the opportunities for a great passion of mine (hot rod/car shows and car part swap meets) all but dried up

Not so much a pain, I guess. More like a distraction.

He'll get over it

I did.


Where are my El Camino's keys...I'm going for a drive.

Wait, I gotta fold some laundry first.

Shut up.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Searching for sights and sounds in 3D

Our final day of Spring Break Lost Tulsa Weekend '08 found us face-to-face with a Homeless fellow whom C felt must have had a good stash of plentiful art supplies somewhere in his belongings as she marveled at the "Hungry, please help!" sign which he held aloft at the busy intersection.

From her belted perch in the back seat, she screamed out a sincere, "I like your sign," as I handed him a few bucks and an unopened bottle of water from our back seat stash.

I thought I saw the dude smile slightly as he accepted our hand-outs.

Unaided by a map, GPS, or even a travel guide for directions, we next went in search of a photo op with Tulsa's biggest man standing, the Golden Driller.

S had a general idea where he was located and c'mon, even in a town as big as Tulsa, surely a 76' tall ochroid construction hat wearing figure stands out somewhat.

Turns out finding the Driller dude wasn't all that hard. More troublesome on a ten-fold scale was our search for film.

35mm film.

For our old school, non-digital camera.

Yes, we still own and use one of these.
No, I don't use an abacus to do my taxes.
Yes, I'm aware that watches don't need to be wound anymore.

What can I tell you. S has a theory she developed after our recent outing at the Tulsa zoo where she determined that the use and popularization of digital cameras and cell phones with digital camera is slowing down the average pace that the world turns, a fraction of a second at a time.

According to her, because we as a technologically embracing society don't have to think about wasting a film frame on a picture anymore, we just willy-nilly take more pictures than our alloted lifetime planetary picture-taking time allows.

Do you really need another picture of the polar bear at the zoo?

Is that antelope so beautiful that your absolutely must have a blurry 640x480 pixellated image of it on your cell phone?

Are you really going to take up your hard drive space on your Dell laptop with yet another shot of the penguins in their bleached white habitat?

Time suck theory aside, S just prefers her Olympus mini-zoom to our digital camera offering (at the time), since she detests having to anticipate the lag time post-shutter-button push and pre-picture taking.

Our new digital camera has almost zilch lag, but my Wife is old school and seeks security in the sound of a mechanical shutter opening and closing, albeit at 1/500th of a second.

Finally stumbling through several residential neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Goldfinger tribute statue gone wild, we happened upon a Quik Trip (these places dominate Tulsa -- in fact, I think there's a law in T-town against opening 7-11's or Circle K stores) that had BOTH kinds of 35mm film -- the disposable camera kind and the disposable camera kind with a flash.


Goldie had to wait a few more minutes as our search pattern circle expanded and soon brought us to the electrical sliding glass doors of a CVS pharmacy, where I stocked up on 3-packs of Kodak's finest.

Of course, I'd love to share with dedicated YASTM readers the series of jocular (but all in good taste) photos our family unit snapped in, around and under the Golden Driller...but the roll of film that has those pictures on it is

We wrapped up our morning with Jacque Cousteau's son's latest undersea odyssey offering called Dolphins and Whales: Tribes of the Ocean in IMAX 3D.

Currently, the only IMAX theater in Oklahoma (as we speak a couple are rumored to being constructed in OKC proper) is in Tulsa, and it had been 3 years since C had experienced the gigantic screen and awesome sound that the 15 sprocket hole film format offers.

Nothing beats watching your kidkins reach out to touch the whales and dolphins swimming up to and by them in the popcorn-strewn comfort of a cushy movie theater seat.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

El Cid rides again...still dead

Back in 1991 I happened to snag a couple passes to the 30th anniversary special screening of the recently restored classic film that Martin Scorsese labeled as "one of the greatest epic films ever made," El Cid.

I had only ever viewed the flick before on tv, as a crappy telecine'd print that wasn't even panned-and-scanned, so I was excited to see the newly restored print, in all it's widescreen Dolby sound glory.

Since I was attending the screening as a replacement for the nice lady at the non-profit independent film organization where I often volunteered, I kept a low profile and hid the pre-printed name badge under my sport coat, lest someone mistake me for "Lynette Mathis."

The film was spectacular, the soundtrack immense, and not a single person laughed out loud at the final image of the stuffed, stiff, and very deceased "El Cid" riding down the beach to lead his army to victory. Even the requisite falsetto mingling/wine in plastic cups/bacon-wrapped chicken nuggets post-screening affair was non-heinous.

Before leaving I excused myself to the little boys room and sooner than you can say, "Soylent Green is people," I found myself urinating next to El Cid / Moses / Ben Hur / Colonel "take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape" Taylor / and the former NRA President himself, Charlton Heston.

We didn't speak. He finished before I did, zipped up, washed his hands, did a quick check in the mirror and was out before I had a chance to collect my thoughts and finish the business that I went into the bathroom to do.

Missed opportunity? Perhaps.
Brush with greatness? Maybe
Half way decent story to blog the man off to his maker? I think so.

Charlton Heston was one of the movie icons of my youth and his passing yesterday reminded me of how much "Heston" and his masculine on-screen antics my Dad, Brother and I shared and bonded over in the days of my youth.

Enjoy your eternal rest, Chuck, and we'll continue to enjoy your flickers.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Big bags, the Zoo and the Fish Market

Like finding an old roll of film (remember 35mm film?), running it off to the Fotomat (remember Fotomat?), getting the pictures back and exclaiming, "Hey, remember this trip we took to visit Aunt long has she been dead now?", I neglected to finish my blog entires covering our trip to T-town at the end of Spring Break '08.

Without further ado, here are some highlights...

Our frequent-flyer comp'd coupon chain hotel room came with a complimentary breakfast for all occupants (5-9 a.m.) and as much as I wanted to find a local eatery that served big brawny, American breakfasts served by escapee waitresses from Mel's diner that called everyone "Hon," the lure of anything f-r-e-e for my Wife is as strong as a "75% off Christmas Merchandise" sale in late January.

I was placed on waffle patrol utilizing the buffets neato pour-and-flip waffle maker (on my wanted list of kitchen appliances just behind the Lil' Orbitz mini-donut making machine) while the girl's grabbed a couple of apples and oranges from the overflowing and seemingly untouched fresh fruit bowl and Wifey poured herself a bowl of raisin bran flakes.

Foregone conclusion that the eggs of the powdered and scrambled variety would be barely edible, so we left those and the biscuits and gravy hiding beneath the steamer lids alone. Four cups of half cran/half orange juice from the neon dispenser and we were fully strapped for breaking our fast.

Other than the large family that sauntered out of the buffet with several of their tote bags filled with bowls, plates, utensils, the rest of the fresh fruit from the bowl, and enough donuts to feed an army of Teamsters and two precincts of New York's finest, breakfast was uneventful.


Our gullets filled and our blood sugar plenty carb'd up, we piled into the family truckster and made a beeline for our planned outing at the Tulsa Zoo.

While the crowds were thick to get into the zoo, the use of open space and smartly laid out displays made the animal park seem downright vacant at times.

We roared our wild animal funk on, waxed nostalgic as we "rode" an earthquake simulator display, and even noted several items that were at the center of a controversy that made national news some years ago. Who doesn't love a good controversy every now and again?

Long about time our feet were starting to feel the need for some downtime, we stumbled into the zoo's fascinating interactive and walk-through depiction of a Masai Village. Somehow, the grass huts and peaceful surroundings of the village found us all waning of energy and wanting of home, so we made a final round-de-round on the carousel and trekked to parking section 3D where our 4-door, 40 mpg safari wagon awaited.

Dinner that evening was at the White River Fish Market for what was the best helping of red beans and rice I've ever eaten.

At a fish market no less.

The onion rings, gumbo, and fried clams were all delectable and near the top of the food scale as well.

But that RB& simple, yet so vast in it's ability to deliver flavors on such a variable scale.

Who knew?

Next up, cetaceans in 3D and what happens when we put on our narc hats.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

...Sergeant Pepper taught his band to play

Three years ago today, I reformatted the hard drive on my loaner laptop, said an early morning adios to the small gathering of compatriots I had known almost my entire 7.5 year stint at the internet company where I worked, handed over my security badge to the guard at the front reception desk and walked out the double doors of my Pasadena cube farm job forever.

Sixteen days and 1300 miles later, while attempting to get settled in to my new life as a stay-at-home-Dad in the land of the waving wheat, I started YASTM with this entry.

At the end of my first year here, I was here.

At the end of my second year here, I was here.

And now, an update from my opening post...

Wheat fields and cows pastures as far as the horizon line reveals. There are a few more housing developments that have popped up around the outskirts of town, a new WalMart Supercenter is up, it's 24-hour parking lot lights polluting the pure black of the surrounding evening sky and the GM dealership that in the southern section of town has relocated even further south of town.No mountains to tell me which way is north. No beach awaiting me at the end of the 10 freeway. No King Taco at 2 a.m. if I so desire. The Taco Bell in town in open 'til midnight, but authentic street tacos al pastor are still sadly lacking from my life.Main Street shuts down around 4 p.m. Nothing opens on Sunday until after church services are over (and even then, for limited hours).A few eating joints in town open up for a few hours to cater to the after-church feed lot crowd, but mostly Main Street is abuzz with golden stillness. Of course, Walmart has always got it's freak on.40 minute drive to the nearest McDonald's.People in town are just now finally beginning to realize that our new McDonald's is just that...a McDonald's. Lines are still long in the drive through and their $1 DVD rental booth is rumored to be making a dent in our one and only local video rental shop.We are talking, out there. Still feels that way...
Out here. Yep
Just out. Say it, brother.

I've moved my family from the urban sprawl of LA and millions and millions of people, to a wheat farming community of 4380 people.We must be closing in on close to 4,500 citizens by now.
Hiho, hiho, onto year 4 we go...