Monday, July 20, 2009

Shooting at varmints and swimmin' wit da fishes

This police blotter report in a recent issue of my small town's news rag contained a synergistic coupling of ironic and brain tickling hilarity. For your reading (and life lesson learning) pleasure, I present for you my take on the 4th of July police doin's in my small town...

First off, had I written the headline for the first entry, it would have read, "Bike thief, green with envy for yellow bike." Badu-bump.

Next, under lessons learned, I suggest not shooting a firearm in the city limits to scare off would be pickup thieves, until you've cleaned up your doobage and sprayed a good dose of Airwick inside your home.

Finally, apparently in my small town, discharging a firearm in the city limits to kill a couple of destructive squirrels won't get your arrested...but improperly disposing of fish will land you a court date.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A wheeless wagon

While it was at first a little strange to see these "dubs" from the past used as yard and garden decor in my small town, much like fried okra, Dr. Pepper and Ford 150's as the family vehicle of choice out here, I've grown accustomed to their presence.

They must be considered by some to be a highly valued asset to a domiciles exterior ambiance -- valuable enough to be stolen in fact...

Who knows, perhaps some day my Chevy Ralley wheels and Crager SS rims will adorn (litter) the yard of some future dwelling and be labeled as "vintage" and "retro" by it's owners.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some of my best friends are fans

I'm what you call a fair-weather sports fan. When there are sporting events, I'll tune in or turn on -- Olympics, World Series/NBA Championships/Final Four/Rose Bowl, etc. But on a regular full-time basis, organized sports occupies very few molecules in my gray matter.

Unless of course, it's force fed me via my girl's participation (summer softball is allll-most over), and if the kinderfolken of friends/family are playing, we like to turn out to root-root-root for the home team.

On the other hand, I am a spectacle kind-of guy and while watching a game on the tube holds little interest, toss a couple tickets my way and I'll be the first to grab my keyring off the hook in the mudroom and withdraw my life savings for some dogs and a beer.

Case in point, last weekend was the highly anticipated appearance of a legendary LA Dodger to our local AAA club's venue. He was there as part of a fairly successful marketing ploy ("Tastes of the Big Leagues") saluting selected major league teams/ballparks across the nation. Last week was Dodger Stadium week ("Dodger Dogs...hold the smog"-- pretty clever tagline I thought).

Now, normally this event in and of itself wouldn't be enough to get me to shell out the baseball bucks needed to treat my family to a fun-filled night at the ballpark. However, even though we're not the be all-end all of baseball fans, we have a friend who is.

Jon's baseball career started early on, culminating to college ball and a short stint with a AAA club in Vermont. He was a southpaw pitcher, born in LA, weaned on Dodger Dogs with mustard and bled Chávez Ravine blue long before his family relocated to our small town some 20+ years ago.

Attending a game with his family and getting to meet and chat with a storied hero from his past was too much to pass up. And I was there to witness it.

We patiently stood in the meet-and-greet autograph line, missing the first several innings of what turned out to be an exciting match-up between our OKC Redhawks and the Nashville Sounds. C and Jon's oldest son (B, age 5+) stood with us as we surveyed the other 100 or so line standers, summarily judging their Dodger fanaticism level based on what it was they were having autographed and how much blue adorned their bodies.

C held tight to a brand new finepoint Sharpie along with a Dodger ball cap souvie my Wife had acquired sometime back in our LA days. Others around us held various 8x10 glossies, a few caps and jerseys dotted the line, as well as baseballs of various vintages and styles.

From deep down in one of Jon's cargo shorts front pockets, grasped firmly in his pitching hand, was what I believed to be one of the most prized possessions from my friend's youth - a MLB licensed baseball festooned with autographs of a dozen or so members of the 1980's Dodger's.

While the gameplay monikers for the 80's Dodgers may not ring any bells with some, for those of us who grew up in LA during that time period, the roster is etched in our memories...even in the creaking gray matter of those of us who didn't know much about baseball...Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Joe Ferguson, Pedro Guerrero, Charlie Hough, Rick Monday, Manny Mota, Jerry Reuss, Bill Russell, Reggie Smith, Don Sutton, Bob Welch.And of course, the most famous of all Dodgers from that time, Steve Garvey.

For me, it was a momentary jolt of electricity as I stood back and watched C interact with Mr. Garvey, securing autographs on both her Mom's ballcap and her own hand-me-down softball glove.

The major joy of the event took place as I stood off to the side watching Jon step up to the table and pull his prized ball into view. While my eyes witnessed the everyday magic of one hero (a retired ballplayer) meeting another (loving husband, dedicated father), I let my mind drift back to my heady days of youth, when hero's stood proudly on pedestals and games were meant to be played, not paid for."And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The casserole express

Need to keep a tally of food and mercantile that's been rolling into our house since word got around my small town that the "little wife" is hobbling around with a busted ankle.

All I can say is, what a spectacular tradition this is.
  • Oven-warm pecan nut muffins brought over personally by our neighbor lady, who felt really bad that she wasn't home to hear the pathetic screams of my wife as she lay sprawled out off the back stoop with her freshly busted ankle.

  • From a family of cattle ranchers came a mess of Sloppy Joe's, made with ranch fresh beef, complete with buns. The sauce was a sweet barbeque style that was a welcome variant from our normal Manwich style.

  • Mexican/spaghetti casserole with french bread. Think of a Bob's Big Boy Chili size (the last time I ate one of these was at the Bob's '49 in Burbank, with Drew Carey eating one just like it across the way at the counter) with Tex-Mex flair and seasonings. Muy delicioso.

  • Grilled lemon/butter chicken breasts, grilled squash and tomato medley, and yogurt red grape salad with brown sugar topping. This meal was provided by a family with a father who Loves to grill (capital L). Accompanying this grilled extravaganza was an oven fresh, full loaf of homemade wheat bread that was yeasty and chewy and aromatic to the nth degree.

  • Spaghetti with sweet (homemade and fresh) Italian Sausage. The father-in-law of the family who provided this meal is known for his homemade Italian sausage. He's been grinding and stuffing the sausages himself since 1948, and only sells them at a grocery store in McAlester, Oklahoma. The girl's weren't prepared for the sweetness of the sauce, but once they figured out it was supposed to taste that way, they dug it.

  • Lasagna (frozen) Stouffer's makes a good frozen lasagna now.

  • Lasagna (fresh, homemade) with warmed French baguette, bag salad, seasoned croutons and Ranch dressing. Okay, Stouffer's is good, but nothing beats homemade, old family recipe, stack it high and wide noodled lasagna. C's second grade teacher brought this over tonight and we feasted like the Soprano's on a Sunday night.

    Topping this extraordinary meal was a full-sized home-baked angel food cake with chilled fresh sugar-glazed strawberries for dessert.

    Now, I've had plenty of sponge cake in my days (Twinkie's anyone), but this was my first ever foray into the angel food cake arena. Hard to believe, I know, but it's now become C's cake of choice for her birthday cake, and I will never look at the dull and boring squared off bundt cake the same again.

  • A half-gallon of Braum's mint chocolate chip ice cream (Wifey's fave) brought over as dessert to a main entree featuring a slightly used Action Patriot wheelchair.

    The sporty coupe is decked out with cobalt blue paint, low profile 26" tubed racing tires on hardened plastic rims (new tube on the right side), crushed nylon seat and back rest and dual hand-operated hand brakes on each side for superior stopping and locking power.

  • Finally, another family brought over a set of vintage wooden crutches (circa 1950) that had been passed on from grandparent to grandparent and ended up collecting dust in this family's attic crawlspace. While it's not the lightweight aluminum wonders with click-stop adjustment and neoprene/silicone end tips and armpit rests, it fits with my Wife's personal vintage chic style.
  • Big thanks and hoo-haahs to all our lovely friends and neighbors that have participated in the "what's that family going to do for food now that S can't even stand up and walk" parade.

    It's a good thing I can warm things up with the best of them.

    Friday, June 05, 2009

    Hoops Part 1 - I'm in the system now

    One of the many hoops I had to jump through on my way to my recent hard won acquisition of this...

    ..was to be electronically fingerprinted at the State Dept. of Education, wherein my identity and background could be checked with the OSBI.

    I was more than happy to do so, since it's one of those things that I'm glad they're checking before letting anyone near my publicly schooled kids. On the other hand, it unnerved me some to think that my name was now on yet another government "list."

    True, we average citizens have been providing our thumb prints for years to get our driver's license renewed, and I know I'm not the only parent in the world to have their own kid's fingerprints on file with the local law enforcement agency.

    However the entire experience of actually being f-printed at the hands of a complete stranger, even if it's for innocent and law-abiding reasons, was slightly more comfortable than the few minutes between the time you realize you need to adjust your shorts, and the instant you get to.

    Guys, you know exactly what I mean here.

    And what exactly am I going to do with a teaching certificate in Journalism (how all my film and tv education and experience was translated into a license to teach secondary level journalism is beyond me, but there you have it)?

    Who knows. But given the number of hoops I jumped through, the number of tests I've taken (still more of these on the horizon), interviews I've succumbed to and paperwork that has passed through my home office, I guess I'd better do something more with it other than hang it on the wall next to my vintage iMac "Yum" poster and collection of American Graffiti die cast cars from the Johnny Lightning collection.

    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Have you seen these fish?

    The dog days of summer are hovering on the quickly approaching horizon and already our small town is seeing a rash of theft and thievery.

    $.81 for three minnows. Seems the bad economy has trickled down to live bait prices as well.

    My only question (actually, I have many but this one seemed the most questionable that I could cull from this police blotter entry) is how exactly did the Bait Shop owner know there were only 3 minnows missing? The bait shops that I've visited (okay, I've been to two in my lifetime) had huge tanks full of the swimming silver fishes.

    Maybe the Rainman is in charge of the minnow tank.

    Wednesday, June 03, 2009

    DO NOT make important decisions

    A broken bone anywhere in the body is called a fracture. You have broken ankle.

    Your broken bones have been put together and held steady by use of plates, rods, pins and/or screws. A cut through the skin over the fracture was made to put these devices into the fracture. Broken bones heal best when lined up and held in place with a cast or splint. The length of time you need to wear the cast or splint depends on which bone is broken and how well your bones heal. This may take 6 - 12 weeks or longer. the metal devices may need to be removed in 1-2 years or before if they begin to cause a problem."
    Wifey is home and resting now, after today's out-patient procedure to get her "shinbone connected to her ankle bone..." went textbook smooth.

    S's ortho cutter was a slightly bulkier and more European version of Jason Scott Lee (in his prime while filming Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) with all the personality of the 750cfm carburetor on my El Camino. Still, I find that surgeons as a group are a right serious lot and truth be told, when staring down the wrong end of a #2 scalpel, I'd prefer less "Hawkeye" Pierce antics and more Dr. Rocket Romano, if you know what I mean.

    Still and all, his prognosis was honest and forthright ("I can't make you good as new, but I'll do my best") and he did manage to crack a smile and mutter the appropriately witty retort when I pulled out the old "Doctor, will she be able to play the violin, when the cast comes off?" joke.

    The title for this post was culled from the myriad of printed and verbally espoused directions, instructions, orders, recovery guidelines and mandates we received from an entire staff of concerned nurses, doctors, and assorted medical personnel during the course of our most trying of days.

    To bad. I think in the fog of anesthesia, some of the most important decisions can be made with little or no regret at all.

    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    Apple Camp

    The email snuck into my Inbox sometime during the daylight hours and by the time I had cleaned enough paint chips from my eyes to gaze upon my iBooks' screen, it was close to midnight.

    Undaunted, I attempted to log into the registration servers that Apple had set up to handle the anticipated Katrina-like flood of online requests for registration into these free Apple-store/Apple-paid-for/Apple-employee-taught workshops for kidkins.

    After the first hour... of refreshing the reg site ad infinitum, I finally made it through and deftly jumped through the several hoops necessary to get C registered in the Moviemaking workshop at the Apple Store near us (there are two in my panhandled state).

    But wait, we can sign up for more than one workshop?

    Dive - dive - dive [klaxons going off here]

    The next workshop reg only took 24-minutes of incessant clicking and refreshing to hit the server. By gosh, I got through again and am now the proud recipient of two, count 'em, two emails from my local Apple Store welcoming me and my child (ages 8-12) to the gleaming bright white store offering all things Apple.

    At only 6, my youngest is not yet of "free workshop" age (just as well since she has a pretty good handle on iMovie already...Final Cut Pro is not far behind). While I'm moviemaking with C, I expect PK will just find a nice Macbook somewhere in the store and proceed to dazzle the surrounding shoppers with her trackpad prowess..."No sweetie, don't drop into the shell here at the store, that's just for home doings...I know you like practicing your Unix commands but still..."

    Of course I'm kidding about that whole OSX shell thing. What do you think I'm raising here, a Unix geek?

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    "Did someone leave a voicemail while I was fainting?"

    We've had two medical setbacks while attempting to get the multiple layers of stubborn, aged, and weathered oil-based paint off of our 114-year old house.

    The first was a stubborn little paint chip that somehow made it's way through my face shield and industrial-strength battle goggles, directly into the upper reaches beneath my right eyelid. No amount of flushing or filling would get that sucker out and about the time my eye had swollen up to the point that I no longer had the double eyelid so coveted by those of my race, I relinquished control of my retinal area to a trained O.D.

    In a matter of seconds the good O.D. F.A.A.O. had flipped up both eyelids while scanning for errant paint chips, and swabbed a good deal of the coating my house laughable called paint out from my corneal crevices.

    Ahh, much better. On to the local hardware shop for some tighter fitting goggles.

    The second medical issue was a doozie. Check it out.

    That's Wifey's ankle bone, which is NOT currently connected to her shin bone.

    She took a tumble off our back stairs while carrying a paint try and roller full of BullsEye 1-2-3 Primer. Actually she stepped the wrong way on a tin jell-o mold that had been embedded in the dirt for several years after it somehow migrated from our sandbox to the dirt area around the steps.

    But the trip to emergency wasn't the highlight of this tragic event.

    Nope, it was Wifey's heroic army crawl across the backyard, up the steps she had just fallen down, through the breakfast room, into and across the mudroom floor, finally emerging out the side porch door wherein she could finally attract my attention with some well placed screams of agony and succor that gets her name into the Annals of Heroic Endeavors.

    See, I was on the other side of the house, next to the roaring air conditioner fan unit, grinding away on the walls, my head fully encased in shielding and ear plugs.

    Couldn't hear a blasted thing.

    Doc says the x-rays were bad. Two breaks he could see, but the D.O. Ortho guy were heading to tomorrow will take a better set and be able to determine if surgery is necessary, if Wifey has a bone pin in her future, and when this blessed event will take place.

    In the meantime, she's hobbling around on a set of ancient borrowed crutches, downing generic oxycodone like it's Pez candy (the yummy purple ones) and trying to get her work done from within the confines of our queen size bed.

    Back at the ranch, the girl's are out of school for summer break, the barren exterior of the house beckons me with every clapboard sigh, and all those cycling rides that Wifey was planning on for this summer will have to go on without her.

    Oh, and the quote that begins today's blog post? An actual utterance from Wifey the last time she got up to answer the call of nature and had to be helped back to bed when the ringing-of-the-ears and glistening-o'-the-forehead almost got the better of her.

    And the phone keeps ringing as the dancers danced.

    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    Not gone, but wishing I were...

    My dry spell of posting has a light at the end of a dust filled tunnel.

    Here's what has been zapping my energy and consuming my grinding days for the last couple of weeks.

    Sorry for the un-neighborly mess, but it seems the previous owners of our 114-year old house neglected to scrape the paint on the clapboard siding down to the wood before repainting...ever.

    So my F-i-L and I are taking grinders in hand, along with a few dozen boxes of 40-grit flap discs, and attacking the caked-on, solidified, and Oklahoma-weather hardened poor-excuse-for-paint that coats our humble abode.

    Some interesting exchanges from drop-in visitors (fascinated by our daily progress) have taken place, some humorous, some irritating.

    The most reflective conversations usually start something like this..."Hey, they are really making progress on your house," or "Wow, they are scraping your house clean, aren't they?"Problem is, there is no "they." There is only F-i-L and I.

    And scraping is hardly the most accurately descriptive word I'd use in describing the process we've had to undergo to remove the mother-of-all old paint from this old house.

    We went to 40-grit flap discs when the 60 just got gummed up after several passes down a couple of clapboards. My F-i-L has resorted to using a propane torch and/or heatgun to melt down the several layers of resin-like coating that seems to occupy the north side walls. And I had to finally retire my new wonder tool that I specifically purchased for the paint removal duties on the house when the specially formulated 3M pads made for the tool ended up costing me more to purchase in the mass quantities that my housepaint from h#ll required, than a day-laborer with a scraper and sharpening stone would set me back.

    Inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot, board-by-board and wall-by-wall, I curse the previous owners of my house in their neglectful ways of paint preparation and vow with every uncovering of naked wooden clapboard that no new paint will be applied to that which was applied with malice and maliciousness by a previous mortgage holder.

    Why, oh, why doesn't Earl Scheib paint houses...

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Joisey Joe comes to my small town

    The time has finally come to get some siding up on our bathroom/tower extension. Keeping it local is what living in a small town is all about, so we made the 4-block drive to our local lumber yard and found our options for siding that matched our 114-year old clapboard cladding somewhat limited, but satisfactorily within our ways and means.

    The fella who helped us wasn't from 'round these parts, as articulated by his dialectally discernible accent, punctuated by his pronunciation of his home state of New "Joisey."

    His tale of pomp and circumstances of how he, his son, and old yeller lab made it from the boardwalks of Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and the Sopranos to our little corner of middle Okie heaven involve the 8.3% unemployment rate in his home state (something like 1.6 million jobs lost), and the opportunities for a fresh start, employment in a field of familiarity, and lower living costs.

    My entire realm of experience and knowledge of the Garden state comes from listening to Springsteen songs, watching Kevin Smith flickers, and undertaking marathon sessions of Diners, Drive-In's and Dives on the Food Network, yet we communicated on a level unique to immigrants everywhere -- of things missed from back home, and the pluses and minuses of where we are now.

    When asked how he's coping with going from New Jersey, which has the highest population density of any state to Oklahoma, which ranks 36th in terms of people per square foot, Joisey Joe commented, "a guy doesn't have to drive very far to be alone with his thoughts out here..."


    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Quiet, testing in progress...flatulance allowed

    A better part of my free daytime hours last week was spent as a TM.

    That's Test Monitor to the untrained.

    The Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCT) are part of the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) testing that instigated a few years ago. The third grade tests consist of Math and Reading with the students writing their answers in the actual test booklet (no scantron answer sheets just yet).

    My job as TM consisted basically of making sure the teachers don't cheat. That's right, I was responsible for each and every test booklet that was handed out to the class of which I was assigned.

    I was instructed not to let a single booklet out of my sight for fear that 1) a test booklet would go missing and end up for sale on eBay, 2) a rogue teacher would fill in the answers for a more academically challenged student and 3) the costs involved with the scandal that would ensue had a booklet ended up in the "wrong" hands, not to mention the financial end of reprinting and retesting test booklets was enough to warrant a full-time test booklet monitor.

    Pretty easy duty for a casual observer, who knew and trusted the teacher that I was assigned to monitor. But given that I was not to talk to the teacher or any student during the actual testing, nor was I to answer any questions related to the testing in any way, my shining personality and sparkling school volunteer demeanor had little bearing on my time spent in-classroom.

    A few observations on the third graders over whom I lorded over via test booklet monitoring for those three days (I'll reserve my opinion on standardized testing and the whole "No child left behind" issue for a more appropriate forum)...
  • Yawning for third-graders is dangerously contagious, and seems to run in sets of three.

  • I can see why Ticonderoga pencils are favored amongst test monitors. Their hexagonal design with six equally flat surface areas provide for fewer pencil desk roll-offs than the rounded-type available in bulk through the Oriental Trading catalog.

  • Almost across the board, the girls finished the reading sections first, while the boys finished the math first.

  • Out of 17-students, I counted 6 southpaws. This seemed like a higher than normal average of righties-to-lefties to me, but I left my statistician hat back in my college statistics 210 class, so who knows.

  • Student farting is more prevalent than one might think in a classroom of 17 third graders. And while the students were so focused on their tests that they were seemingly unaffected by the momentary passing of the gas by their fellow test takers, us mature Test Monitor's weren't so fortunate as the suppression of silly, immature giggles was borderline painful to endure.
  • Monday, April 13, 2009

    The Commissioners, The Famer and Me

    I spotted the familiar face of a fellow Soccer Dad at his desk in the County Assessors office. Yelling across the vast room to each other like drunk OU fanboys, Soccer Dad pointed me to where I needed to go, quantifying his directions with an inquisitive raised eyebrow and friendly warning to just head for the room where "all the arguing is coming from."


    Three of the five County Commissioners were present (enough for a majority voting quorum) as well as the County Clerk and the County Sheriff ("How those new Chargers working for the Deputies?" I asked him. "Oh, they'll do 120 easy," he replied."). In the back I noticed the editor of our local news rag sitting quietly, notebook in hand.

    I was first on the agenda. Agenda? Just what the heck was I doing at a County Commissioner's meeting?

    Seems the artist who wanted to restore "The Farmer" statue had requested a few dollars from the county to go towards the new bronze version of the 33-year old pitchfork wielding quikrete figure. My presence at this meeting was requested to provide some background (what little I had turned up) on the statue and to help make the case for some of our counties taxpayer dollars to be used for the project.

    The artist had raised the majority of funds for the bronze through private party donations, and considering the statue was originally dedicated to the residents of the county, and the statue itself sat in front of the county courthouse building, it didn't seem too much of a stretch to ask the County for a few bucks.

    So, I got up, did my song-and-dance about how the previous perpetrators of the project originally intended for the statue to be made of bronze, and had they followed through with their original intent, we wouldn't be here talking about needing to revamp the existing statue, since a metal Farmer would have stood the last three+ decades with more fortitude.

    My droning went on as I revealed that my digging a few feet deeper turned up a link to an art inventory catalog conducted and maintained by the Smithsonian Institution. Back in 1996 they surveyed our local farmer and categorized him as constructed of "metal" whose condition was in "need of treatment."

    Even the Smithsonian was led astray.

    I also discovered the original artist to be long deceased, but his offspring are still alive and kicking in various parts of the state.

    Had I been an investigative journalist with nothing better to do, my next step would have been to chase down the family lead, along with surveying any surviving American Legion vets from the 70's who may have first hand knowledge of 1) whether or not they did indeed raise the funds for the bronze, and 2) if they did cough of the dough for a bronze statue, were they aware that their promised metal figurine was instead delivered in Quikrete.

    However, seeing the old news hound editor furiously scribbling on his notepad (later asking me which particular issues of "his" newspaper I had found my information in) put my mind at ease that at least somebody would be hunting down leads, and tracking the whereabouts of the missing bronze.

    The next day, this article turned up in the local news rag.

    Funny thing is, the article all but states that I'm the Johnny-on-the-spot, man-on-the-case in tracking down the molds for the original bronze casting, when all I remember saying was that I had uncovered evidence that a mold had been made and that the surviving family of the original artist may have some knowledge of the background of the bronze-that-never-was.

    In an effort to put this "Farmer" to rest, I may make a few phone calls and see what else I can find out about this small town mini-mystery.

    My only fear being, what funny bone this skeleton may be holding onto as I pull it further out of it's 33-year old resting place.

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    OKDad and the Case of the Missing Farmer

    An ongoing project of mine has been to research and write the text for a series of historical markers that dot the sidewalks of my small town's downtown district. It's been a good exercise regime for the research muscles in my brain and has introduced me to the colorful past of my adopted hometown. The experience thus far has also been rewarding in that I'm doing my part to preserve a bit of how we got here and where we came from.

    Although I think the "historical walking tour in-progress" has had little to no impact on tourism, local interest, and citizen apathy, a local artist noticed enough to ask me to contribute to an art restoration project currently underway.

    Back in 1976 when the entire country was scrambling to spend Bicentennial funds being allotted to communities throughout our then 200-year old this-land-is-your-land, a group of "concerned citizens" led by the venerable local American Legion chapter decided to fund a life size bronze of a typical farmer, called "The Farmer."


    The good citizenry rallied around the oh-so-starred-and-striped project, started a fund drive, commissioned an artist from up north to create the sculpture. In the interim, local merchants and volunteers bricked up a pedestal to mount the thing on and a concave backdrop wall was erected behind the entire setup. For good measure they dropped two time capsules into the pedestal and had a bronze plaque mounted on the wall.

    My role in the restoration project would be to research and pen the text for two additional plaques to be placed on a newly constructed pedestal for the statue. Plaque one will tell a little history on the statue itself, while the second one will provide some background on the significance of "The Farmer" to the creation and continued existence of my small town.

    It was while conducting said research that I upturned yet another rock, uncovering yet another skeleton in the closet of my small towns past.

    Every published account from 33-years ago dealing with the creation, erection, and dedication of The Farmer lists the statue as being of bronze construction. Several pictures were taken and published of the artist working on the piece, including one that shows molds being taken of the clay original to be used in the bronze casting process. I even found an account listing the fund raising efforts being made on behalf of the American Legion to cover the costs of the bronze figure.

    Only problem is, The Farmer that stands in front of my small town's courthouse on Main Street is not made of bronze. He's some sort of hardened concrete-plaster hybrid (according to the Artist planning to restore it).

    Had he been made of the brown ferrous metal, no restoration efforts would be needed for another 100 years or so.

    So, what happened to the bronze? He was planned as a bronze. Molds of him were made in preparation for a bronze. Funds were apparently raised for him to be cast in bronze. The papers from July 4, 1976 (the day he was dedicated and unveiled) clearly state he is a statue of bronze stature.

    So, where's the bronze?

    To be continued...

    Friday, April 03, 2009

    A law for everything

    I'll close this week and leave our SoCal Spring Break '09 trip behind with a little reminder, courtesy of the line at one of the great roller coasters at Knott's.

    When an adventurous archeologist from the far flug future, digs this sign up in the dry desert wasteland that our planet is destined to become, what will this artifact tell her/him/it about our society?

    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Steve Martin and the boysenberry

    According to author Heather Waite, Barbie Dolls, blue jeans, the boysenberry, the pill, white zinfandel wine, the square tomato, natural soda, the computer “mouse,” the wetsuit, and theme parks were invented in California.

    Wait, the boysenberry? Surely you jest.

    In fact, comic genius Steve Martin (okay, I'm not gonna argue with you on this point, but when I saw Steve live at the Anaheim convention center right after the release of his first comedy album, Let's get small, only a comic genius could me me laugh as hard as I did) developed what would become his signature comedy style at the same place where the beloved boysenberry was created.

    Ladies and gents, I give you America's first theme park, Knott's Berry Farm.

    According to his recent biography, Born Standing Up: A Comics Life (a great read, btw), Steve developed his live audience entertaining chops here...

    And expanded his repertoire of magic tricks he learned while working at Disneyland here...

    See page 58-59 of the book mentioned above for references to the Bird Cage Theater or listen to an NPR interview with Steve.

    And the boysenberry? Well, seems old man Knott took some dying plants that were crossbreeds of the red raspberry, blackberry and loganberry, figured out how to get them to grow and named it after the guy who brought him the feeble plants to begin with, Rudolph Boysen. Today, all the boysenberry plants in the world can be traced back to Knott's. Pretty cool.

    These amazing facts and other thrilling adventures awaited the girls and I as we took on the park with my Dad and Stepmom in tow, at the end of our So Cal Spring break trip.

    Yes, I did ride the rides...even THOSE rides.
    Yes, we did eat chicken dinners.
    Yes, the girls did pan for gold.
    And of course, we bought some boysenberry preserves.

    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    Begin the Beguine

    I began the dance.

    The dance made it through the first year.

    And a second.

    To a third.

    To here. Now. 4 years since I changed the lives of my family unit and I.

    And the dance continues.
    Play it Artie...

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Traffic legs

    While it had only been a little over a year since I was back in LA for more than a short weekend visit, it surprised me how long it took me to get my rush hour "traffic legs" back under my feet.

    Staying road-rage mellow was a bit easier, however, given the looks Wife and I would exchange with every bumper-to-bumper jam we found ourselves in.

    A sly smile and raised eyebrow was all it took to remind each other that we were only visiting. This wasn't our life anymore and distance, rather than number of cars and time of day, now dictated our prairie land drive time allocation.

    Course, beauty can be found just about everywhere, even on the 10 Freeway.

    I always smiled when I found myself behind one of these highly polished beauties while hightailing it along the freeways and byways of SoCal. In my mind, only LA trucking companies care enough to ensure their trucks (for the most part) are not muddy, road dirt soaked eyes sores.

    Keep on Truckin'...and smiling.

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    At least helicopters don't poop

    There's a classic frenetic montage sequence in Scorsese's GoodFellas, wherein Ray Liotta's character is constantly watching the skies for law enforcement helicopters who are tracking his every move - "All day long the poor guy's been watching helicopters and tomato sauce."

    Our recent trip back to my pre-OK stomping grounds in So Cal had me chopper scanning as well.

    It was a lovely spring day in Century City. The daytime temps were in the low-70's, traffic was light (we were heading west at 10 a.m. when most commuters were heading east), and the smog level was just light enough to make locals sound convincing when they stated, "that's not smog, that's low lying haze..."

    The family unit and I were visiting my B-i-L at his office in the Die Hard Building aka the Nakatomi Building, in reality known as the Fox Plaza. After a quick tour around the building we jumped into a golf cart and trucked on over to the Fox Studios lot for lunch at the lot cafe, aptly named Moe's Grill.

    The inside dining area was abuzz with studio folk watching one of the dozen or so giant wall mounted monitors spewing forth any number of Fox channels, Fox programs, Fox movies, or Fox commercials for Fox channels, Fox programs and Fox movies.

    We chose to eat outside.

    As the girls snarffed on their grilled cheese sandwiches, danced around the grassy areas, and begged us to go exploring among the back lot buildings and fake street facades, B-i-L, S and I had a pleasant lunch.

    Until the choppers came. Three of them. Circling our position like turkey buzzards over a family of freshly roadkilled opossums on a county road.

    While we spouted out guesses for the myriad of reasons so many helicopters would be converging on such a small chunk of flyover real estate (one vote for high speed pursuit, one vote for bank robbery, one vote for nearby filming -- after all, we were on a movie lot) the girls excitedly watched the whirlybirds pass over head, probably wondering where the tractor accident was that caused the mediflight chopper to come into town to take the wounded Farmer to the hospital in the city.

    Okay, I'm theorizing on that last part, but since the only helicopters the girls get to see in the skies above our small town are usually one-way flights to the OU medical center with some unfortunate victim of a heinous tractor accident onboard, you can see why my mind drifted in that direction.

    The choppers finally left, we finished our lunch, the girls got to peek inside a few sound stages and act out imaginary scenes on the backlot, while S and I counted about 358 Prius hybrids in the parking lot.

    Our next encounter with a flight of choppers occurred during an early evening patio dinner atop the Mount Washington home of some good friends. Same scenario. We're eating, talking, drinking, and theorizing why a bevy of the rotored beasts are circling overhead.

    Home invasion robbery, chasing a suspect through a neighborhood, high speed pursuit ending, Keanu Reeves sighting at the Baskin Robbins. Take your pick.

    During the week the girls became pretty good at spotting the whoop-whoop-whooping copters overhead. Once at the cemetary, once at Disneyland, once at Knott's, and several times over my Mom's San Gabriel valley based condo.

    Who knew there were so many tractor accidents in LA.

    Friday, March 27, 2009


    One of the benefits (yes, my fellow small town hovelians --just made that word it-- there are benefits) of living in an area the size of SoCal is the cultural diversity that can be viewed on local television.

    So culturally diverse in fact that I actually witnessed a pop-cultural reference to a fellow small town Oklahoman via a Japanese language drama series broadcast over local Los Angeles tv.

    It's a small world folks.

    It all starts with one of our family's newest favorite people, LB. Her career path enables her to intersect and interact with many of the gentle folk who were elected to run our state government. One such person being State Senator Randy Bass of Lawton. She recently relayed the story of Senator Bass to Wifey and what a story it is.

    In a nutshell, Randy Bass was a major league ball player from Oklahoma who went on to achieve superstar status as a member of the Hanshin Tigers pro baseball team in Japan. He is now a public servant for District 32 in our state, but still enjoys cult-like status in the Land of the Rising Sun.

    The curse associated with Bass and the Tigers is the stuff of sports legend and you owe it to yourself to bone up on the details of the story here.

    When Wifey relayed the background of Randy Bass to me via LB's anecdote, I thought it was interesting but didn't pursue any further research into the matter. After all, I'm not all that huge of a baseball fan (unless you're holding a two-fer of Dodger Dog's in my face), and while the image of a bunch of crazed Japanese baseball fans tossing a statue of Colonel Sanders (read the story) over a bridge into a river makes me shiver with anachronistic delight, the relevance to my life was lost.

    Until the other evening, sitting with my Mom watching a subtitled Japanese language program on local SoCal tv. The dramady we were watching centered around a group of misfit high-schoolers who were attempting to form a baseball team at their school to help keep them out of detention.

    I had minutes ago finished telling my Mom about the whole "Randy Bass" cult and the Curse of the Colonel in Japan, when one of the characters on the show hits an unexpected home run, drops his bat, tosses him arms triumphantly in the air and jubilantly screams out loud, "RAHN-DEE BAAH-SUU!"**

    So there it was, in digitized living color. A pop-cultural reference to what I thought was a relatively obscure Oklahoma character, that I had only recently been made aware of, and was now being shoved in my apathetic consciousness by the wonders of a subtitled J-tv program.

    Face it, if your name makes it into a tv show as a pop culture reference, you must be something big.

    I give you State Senator Randy Bass, public servant, Baseball god, Colonel Sanders look-a-like (I don't get that one, but okay), and proud Okie.

    **This was my phonetically spelled version of how the non-English/Japanese speaking actor pronounced the name, Randy Bass. Here's another one for you to translate...Maku-do-na-du-do's" -- think fast food and the golden arches.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    The de-EVO-lution of my senses

    Meeting gearheads in my small town is a relatively easy exercise. You alley walk.

    For a three block radius from the main drag in town, situated behind the houses that line the residential streets are driveway alleys. They provide convenient rear entry access for the homeowners, relatively unfettered gathering right-of-way for our bi-weekly trash pick up (you heard me, twice a week my refuse is swept away), and the perfect p.o.v. ingress for garage voyeur opportunities.

    On more than one happy occasion I've struck up friendly conversations with folks both under hood and under chassis while walking the family hound up and down the alleys.

    Once I clearly identify myself as not being affiliated in any way with one of the many religious organizations who prey, um I mean, witness their messages of peace and love via doorbell rings or driveway interventions, my small town neighbors have shown 100% favorable reaction to my alleywalk impromptu gearhead visitations.

    And while the temptation to join my new found motorhead mates in synergistic internal combustion bonding has been great at times ("If you have another ratchet, I'll change the left bank plugs while you do the right..."), I generally scoot on my way content with the knowledge that the fine art of shade tree mechanicking is still alive and running at 8000 rpms in my small town.

    Fast Rewind to last week and my family's brief Spring Break-o-rama at my Mom's So Cal condo digs.

    I spotted this spanking Evo poking it's perky nose out the front of it's garage while taking out the trash one morning. Walking by I noticed a pair of feet sticking out from under the tail of the ramped up rear-end, alongside a shiny new cat-back aftermarket exhaust setup sitting on the floor. Ah-hah, I exclaimed, as my brain signaled some performance modding occurring in the general vicinity.

    My flip-flopped steps combined with the thunderous sound the dumpster lid barked as it slammed shut onto my deposited trash caused the Evo mechanic to look out and around his project. The sight of me smiling like a garage-snooping-small-town-alley-walker must have freaked him out some, as he just kinda scowled, checked around his immediate area to see if something had gone missing, and called (in Chinese, I'm guessing) to an unseen person in the kitchen area located adjacent to the garage.

    I was about to utter, "nice car..." but the survival instincts ingrained in my brain as a born and bred Los Angeleno finally awoke from it's small town slumber. As my gray matter database of city living accessed how my actions could be interpreted and misconstrued as an invasion of privacy, my casing a joint for future theft, or even challenging in an aggressive manner, my feet carried me quickly away.

    Out of the corner of my eye two additional fellows emerged from the kitchen area. I knew better than to turn around for a looksee, but my gut told me that all three sets of eyes followed me on my hasty retreat to "my side of the condo complex."

    So now I'll be on the lookout for any Evo owners on my alley walks in my small town to see if they're all that cranky or paranoid.

    Keeping my distance of course.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    1000 words or more, "What I did over Spring Break" essay

    So, how'd your first day back at school after Spring Break go?

    I figured it was an innocent enough question. My 9-year old hasn't yet developed the swarmy sarcasm of a text-crazed teenager, so I expected a fairly straightforward answer to my probing query.

    Not to be.

    As C launched into her retelling of her day, and how she...(taking a deep breath)

    ...told about a "zillion" kids how the entire family flew to California for Spring Break, stayed with my Mom, went to visit our old house, ate sushi till we barfed, watched Mommy's eyes glaze over at her favorite Thai restaurant as they brought out dish-after-dish of her "deserted-island meal," watched my Mom's treasured dvd of Mamma Mia about a "zillion" times, went to visit several old friends - one of which was C's pre-school heartthrob (she was capital N-ervous), spent a mid-week/hardly-any-crowds day at the OG House of Mouse, spent another where-the-heck-are-the-crowd's day at Knott's, shopped, learned to play Do-Re-Mi on my Mom's piano, ate pastrami dips at The Hat, Hawaiian soul food at Bob's Okazuya, some home cookin' at my Mom's, dim sum from a hole-in-the-wall dive on Garfield Blvd, and along with easily a "zillion" other satisfied customers since 1920, snarffed on the absolutely best fried chicken west of the Rockies at Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

    There was more, but I'm paraphrasing.

    Really, I am.

    "So, did any of your other friends do something fun over the break?" was my follow-up question, overly confident that C's description of our whirlwind week in my old stomping grounds was enough to make even the most jaded 3rd grader take notice.

    "Well, Madolyn told everyone she got a new heifer and they all thought that was the coolest."

    A heifer. Really.

    Sorry Gover-nator Schwarzenegger, your golden state may be cool, but in the eyes of my small town's 3rd grader's, a young female cow is the b-o-m-b.

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Locker room secrets

    "I never thought I'd ever see all of my friends totally was so, so weird!"Those were the first words out of my 9-year old's mouth as she climbed into the back of my two-toned ricer after school the other day.

    The auspicious occasion wherein she was placed in the "so-so weird" situation of seeing her fem-school budkins sans clothing was the community pool locker room. Her entire grade was getting a few hours of away-from-school-and-into-the-pool time courtesy of the principals deep pockets as a reward for passing their 0-9 times tables tests.

    When the note came home indicating the requirements for participation being 1)bring swimsuit and towel, 2)plastic bag to keep wet items in and 3)do not wear swimsuit underneath regular clothing, I knew we'd have to have a talk about the pre-swimming activities.

    And we did.

    However, the reality of disrobing out of her drysuit and into her wetsuit in front of others must not have sunk in, judging by her opening statement upon days end pick up.

    C started going into detail on the events of the locker room tomfoolery, who ducked into a toilet stall to change, who chose to utilize the privacy of the showers, and who was small enough to actually fit into the full-length lockers for a bit of isolation.

    By the time we had rolled home and were jumping into afternoon snack/homework doing time, she started going down the list of who she actually saw sans clothing -- at which point I grew uncomfortable and stopped her flaming lips.

    What followed was an unusual conversation between myself and my 9-year old about the theories behind locker room gossip, the complicated concept of personal space, and the unwritten codes of behavior and privacy that both girls and boys share.

    Truth be told, I was pretty vague on that last point, especially the girls part.

    Okay, I was vague on the boys part too, since, I didn't think it was the appropriate time to explain to her why men tend to favor looking straight ahead, or straight down when we pee or shower in group situations.

    At which point I made a mental note to make sure Wifey brought the topic up at their nightly tuck-in talk.

    Heavens to Murgatroyd. Exit, stage left.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Tastes as good as it looks...a bad thing

    Wifey brought home something called Cain's Ultra Select Green Tea (Japanese style) last night and almost choked up her upper GI track this morning as she was drinking a cup on her daily commute.

    During the phone call wherein she poetically espoused the negative aspects of the green tea, I took a gander at the packaging wherein the most heinous of warm tea-like beverage was contained. Here is what I saw.

    Now, I'm no advertising exec.,nor am I a paid art critic, but c'mon, this is substandard even by my substandard's of packaged artwork.

    However, since the taste of the tea apparently accurately reflects the cheesiness of the packaging, perhaps the artist who created the masterpiece can be forgiven if he was wholly motivated by what lie beneath the folded boxes contents.

    Hard to be creative when you gagging I suppose.

    I'm not blaming Cain's here. Apparently the Cain's Coffee company has ceased to exist for some time now, having been sold to Nestle in 1960, Chock Full O Nuts in 1992, and Sara Lee in 1999.

    Why stymies me is that Sara Lee's coffee and tea division apparently makes some decent selling hot beverage products.

    Yet nowhere on their Brands website can the Cain's logo or product line be found.

    In '03 Cain's Oklahoma coffee and production plant was closed and even though the grocery story shelves throughout the panhandle state still devote an enormous amount of shelf space to the perceived "Made in Oklahoma" line of Cain's products, they only thing remotely "Cain's" about it is the name on the label.

    Another fine Oklahoma institutional product, relegated to ugly stepchild status.

    At least the ultra-cool Cain's Ballroom is still rockin' and rollin' and swingin' and swayin'.

    Wonder what kind of tea they serve there? Hope it's not green.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Buttoned up

    The deal was, we'd take the girls to see Coraline, if and when C finished reading the book on which the movie was based.

    That same deal worked out pretty well for The Tale of Despereax, the author of which my 9-year old is now listing as one of her favorite writers.

    She buzzed through Coraline far faster than even I had anticipated and no sooner than we had said "my other mother," the family unit was chowing down on multiplex popcorn and watching the credits roll.

    It was a typical movie going experience, at least for us. S was nonplussed (she can't seem to get past animated flicks), PK complained about her feet falling asleep when she forgot to rotate her sitting position, and C and I had a lively discussion as soon as the house lights came up comparing the differences between the book and movie versions (I read the book one night after she finished it...really enjoyed it).

    The next morning I woke up early, scrounged around our sewing kit, got Wifey to play along and we both quickly lay back in bed, our eyes shut tightly and covered with a pair of these....

    PK came downstairs first. Our eyes "buttoned" shut, Wifey and I could only hear what was transpiring, but it was enough to paint a picture.

    Our youngest saw us in bed, eyes buttoned up.
    She pauses, not saying a word.
    She tears off upstairs, heads down the hall and into her big sisters bedroom.
    They talk. They pause. They think. They head downstairs, whispering along the way.

    Upon spying our practical joke, C gave a knowing chuckle out loud and the jig was up. PK later told her that she first thought we were giving ourselves "spa treatments with cucumbers, but then she realized they were buttons on our eyes and that the movie had come true."

    If none of this makes any sense, go check out Coraline at a theater or in the young adult section in a library near you.

    Friday, February 27, 2009

    Haunting our resort room boob tube

    The drive down to Frederick for the Oyster feed was long enough that the Wifey and I decided to make a weekend out of it and find some interesting digs to cohabit with our girlies in tow.

    We ended up at this plushy palace of southwestern Oklahoma charm.

    Wifey had known about the amenities at Quartz Mountain for awhile, and it's reputation as a world-class (and I don't use the "world" word lightly here) artist retreat/colony even managed to permeate the mitochondria in my memory cells some time ago. But who knew a cushy, resort resided in the dramatic mounds and valleys of the Wichita Mountain range.

    We took advantage of their $59 room special (as did my in-laws who joined us for the mollusk madness), spent the evenings exploring the galleries and sharing the heated pool water with Dieter, Greta, Helga and Otto, a foursome of tourists from Munich in search of the real America (not their real names, but hey, I took Spanish in HS, not German).

    Check-out day morning we gorged ourselves on surprisingly edible hotel buffet fare and hiked it off taking in several of the nature trails that surround the resort. The cave trail was a thrill for the girls, while my F-i-L seemed preoccupied with his search for deer, elk, and turkey signs. Several times I noticed him reaching around back for his shoulder slung rifle that wasn't there as he blazed the trail for us, mighty sprightly for a man of his age I might add.

    The only "made-us-go-hmm" moment of our stay came when we scanned the channels of the hotel supplied cable tv and found this image occupying the digital bandwidth on channel 78.

    The image on the tube is exactly as we saw it...frozen in time, no audio, no 60 cycle hum, no character generator scroll running along the bottom warning us of the impending switchover to digital signal.

    Just this image.

    Examine if you will, as we did, and you'll notice quirky details in the picture. I'm toying with an appropriate caption for the shot. So far my choices are:"Laura and Luke enjoying their final cup of coffee moments before being attacked by three enormous french roast coffee beans from behind."

    "Jack Black travels back in time to have a cup of joe with Janis Joplin, but suffers from temporary blindness due to a malfunction in his DeLorean's flux capacitor."

    "Celebrating the release of the seasons 1-3 of the landmark 90's television series Friends on Blu-ray DVD, Ariel and Ishmael enjoy a cup of coffee and attempt to harmonize the lyrics to the theme song, "I'll be there for you."

    Okay smarty pants, you come up with something better...

    And visit beautiful Quartz Mountain while you're at it. If you're lucky, these two will still be drinking their joe on channel 78.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Burping oysters for 20 years

    A referral and personal invite from a lovely lass in Wifey's office who calls the uber-cool burg of Frederick, Oklahoma her home town, found the family unit and I spending a fall-like February day consumed by (and later consuming) mass quantities of bivalve mollusks fresh from the gulf coast.

    It was Oyster Fry time in Frederick.

    I know what you're thinking and I know that look that crept across your face as I strung together fresh seafood and Oklahoma in the same sentence. It's the same look I get whenever we're sitting at a sushi bar in the city and the chef assures us that the fatty tuna is fresh, fresh, fresh -- saying it three times in a row in a charming attempt to assuage our fears of nematode laden raw fish.

    But some casual fryer-side questioning of the man who oversees the transport of the raw oysters from the gulf coast fishing docks to the Frederick community center kitchen in a matter of hours put my mind at ease.

    As did the first, second, fifth, seventh, (uggh), and twelfth bites of fresh, raw, ice cold oysters, dabbled with tabasco and a squooge of lemon juice, with nary of hint of fishiness or aquarium essence to be found.

    And while freshness is no guarantee of a roundworm free dining experience, I made sure to down a half-dozen of the cracker-breading fried shellfish wonders for good measure.

    This being an Oklahoma culinary institution, the brimming platter of fundraising comestibles included a generous scoop of coleslaw, a handfull of Ruffles, some fresh from the can S.E. Rykoff green beans, water and/or tea, all topped off with a squeezable slice of Wonder bread.

    Someone down Frederick way also came up with a red sauce that was the perfect blend of smooth, bite, sweet, and Cajun sassy-ness that they were more than generous handing out for oyster dipping madness.

    While the ratio of fried to raw eaters was somewhere in the 80:20 range, those whom I observed were joining me in the partaking of the raw gems seemed to be imbibing with gusto. Although admittedly, the joy of grossing out fried-only oyster eaters with every uncooked bite/chew/and swallow is almost as enjoyable as eating the little slippery suckers themselves.

    A craft show, art exhibit and personally guided tour of the charming historic downtown district topped off the day and kept us burping oysters into the crisp southwest Oklahoma afternoon.

    Wifey ate and enjoyed her first oysters. C did as well. One. PK liked poking the raw ones.

    Thanks for the day, LB.

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    TLA of the Day

    In four short years I've gone from using such common internet software related TLA's as TCP/IP, FTP, ICQ, LAN, UFS, WWW, RSS, and XML in my daily conversation, to this one...


    -- which I uttered the other day to my Wife at dinnertime while discussing current local events.

    Don't know what PBR is? Well then, I guess you're not from 'round these parts.

    Actually, PBR may be coming to an indoor arena near you. Check this website for a schedule.

    And no, I've never been.

    Big moo cows scare me.

    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Letter box for the week is Y

    Every week, PK's kinder class discusses the traits and characteristics of a specific letter of the alphabet. The payoff comes on Friday when the students are encouraged to bring an item from home that reflects the particular letter of their weekly study.

    Last week it was the letter Y.

    All week long PK ruminated and contemplated on what her show-and-tell letter item would be.

    The obvious items (at least in her 5-year old mind), a yo-yo, a ball of yarn, one of her Mommy's Yo Yo Ma CD's (it was a gift), a yard stick, a calendar ("It's a whole year, Daddy!") were all summarily dismissed as "what everyone else will bring."

    As she ate her breakfast Trix/Yoplait yogurt one morning, it dawned on her that yogurt started with a Y and if only she could bring enough to share with the class, she'd be in like flint.

    Our grocery budget nixed that idea.

    Finally, one night after practicing some yoga moves on the Wii Fit, she announced that instead of bringing something for letter box show-and-tell, she would do some yoga poses for the class.

    And that she did.

    Although we weren't present to witness the event, she was apparently a hit, and may have sparked a budding career as a yoga yogi, leading her other kinder classmates in the Warrior, Triangle and Tree poses, constantly reminding them of the importance of breathing.

    I knew that Wii would be a good investment.

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Subscriptions down two

    Well, the economic south bound freight train has finally breached the sacred confines of our small town hovels mailbox...and my wife is taking her frustrations out on Martha Stewart.

    Let me explain.

    After making the move to larger pastures, our family mantra has been to streamline where we could, which included taming our magazine subscription splurges.

    I've cut out all of my subscriptions entirely, choosing instead to gather my current info online, at our local libraries surprisingly well stocked magazine section, or while standing in line at the supermarket -- can you believe that Patrick Swayze...he's so inspiring...

    Okay, I do have a multi-year sub to Hot Rod, only because it was a gift.

    Since my M-i-L is a self-professed magazine addict, most of her periodic publications makes their way to our house by way of the weekly underground railway between her armchair and our breakfast dining area.

    And even my lovely spouse had managed to whittle her ever expanding list of interests down to two single, favorite subscriptions -- Cottage Living and Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion.

    Having narrowed her focus down to these two monthly glossies, naturally she reacted to their monthly arrival with vim and vigor. Like a mother hen who loses all but two of her eggs to the sly chicken hawk, Wifey was protective and covetous of the remaining home delivered publications.

    Then the bomb dropped. Twice.

    In the last two consecutive months, S has received notices that both of her beloved magazines are ceasing publication due to dropping subscription numbers and lack of advertisement interest.

    While the notices she received were pleasant and upbeat, promising to credit her remaining subscription dollars with an equal number of home delivered copies of Martha Stewart's Living and Southern Living, respectively, the damage had been done.

    My Wife's outlook on daily mail delivery will never be the same.

    And holding up my latest issue of Hot Rod and offering to share my thoughts on cam selection for a 500 hp small block Mopar build up didn't ease her pain.

    For now I'll just have to be patient and join her in taking out her frustrations by disdainfully criticizing the "yankee-inspired" design sense of Martha Stewart in her monthly rag.

    Could be fun.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Storm basement follies

    The historic high rise my Wife works in has several below ground basement levels.

    On the rare occasion when tornado sirens wail through the alleys and narrow streets adjoining the downtown district, the tenants of her building make their way to the lowest levels of the historic center and sit out the closing tornadic activity in climate controlled comfort.

    Other than the normal conversations that erupt when folks are gathered underground waiting out a passing wonder of Oklahoma weather, modern technology has enabled two-way communication with those on the "outside" as well.

    Fingers fly over miniscule keyboards, sending digital updates and messages of relief or concern to friends and loved ones.

    Cell phones flip, click, flop and slide open and closed as interrupted 9-5er's seek information of events occurring outside the safety of their concrete and steel block size tomb.

    People gather around laptops that are wirelessly streaming the latest video feeds from the local news stations as they kick into high gear and cherish the opportunity to flex their weather reporters muscles.

    Somewhere in the serene chaos, my Wife notices the husband of a friend of hers among the not-quite huddling masses. She described him as "texting furiously" on one of his micro-qwertied electronic communication wonders, while dealing with "a continuous barrage of incoming calls on his cell phone."

    So engrossed was he in his dissemination of both verbal and written digitized information that my Wife didn't bother to engage him in any conversation, but managed to sneak in a quick "hey-wave" of cordial acknowledgment.

    Like most tornado warnings, this one passed, but was soon followed up with a twin doppelganger of duck and cover twister warnings soon after.

    When the third (and final) tornado warning was called off about the same time the guy at the Slade Gravel pit was yanking on the birds tail sending Fred Flintstone for a rail slide down the tail of his brontosaurus, Wifey caught up with "husband of friend" guy on a rare moment of non-communication calm.

    Why the fast and furious phone/text fest during the warnings?

    Turns out the guy works high up in the OKC Thunder organization, and was fielding frantic calls and text messages from panicky and distraught Seattle-ites who relocated here with the team back in July.

    While they may have experienced some nasty winter weather during their previous 8-months as OKC taxpayers, and a bit of rain under the shadow of the Seattle Space Needle back home, apparently the sirens wailing in the downtown area ("Tornado's only strike trailer parks in rural areas...right?") were enough to spook the lot of them, prompting the mass exodus of Seattle Supersonic turned OKC Thunder staffers from their comfy desks and into their designated storm shelters.

    And then the calls and IM's starting pouring in.

    You gotta feel for these people in some little bitty way, as I outlined in a previous post.

    Still and all, this was a serious round of weather, as eight good people down in Lone Grove lost their lives, and more may be found today.

    Whether you came here from Seattle, So Cal, or all points in-between, when those sirens start wailing, life boils down to a few simple things.

    A good lesson to carry through the coming days.

    Friday, February 06, 2009

    Tod and Buzz in the bath

    Blogger's Note - Okay, this blog post should be a two parter, but bear with me here and if you need to, read it over a two-day period to lessen the eyestrain and avoid the brain hurt.

    The original plan was to have the upstairs bathroom be for the girl's to share and for the ground floor bathroom to become the domain of the adults.

    As we have almost (finally) completed the 2nd level interior renovations (Stairway, 2 bedrooms, 1 office, 1 playroom, 2 hallways, 3 walk-in closets, 2 secret hiding cubbie holes, and one huge bathroom complete with two sinks, two-station make-up vanity, walk-in closet, 9-drawers, 12 cabinet doors, and a clawfoot tub) we're looking to bogart the downstairs bathroom as our own.

    We celebrated by installing a new, taller 17" ADA height commode (which would have been a bit of a jump for our littlest to use on a daily basis) into OUR bathroom, while moving the standard 14.5" one into the girl's bathroom.

    Their themed, brightly hued, and somewhat mismatched towels and bath supplies are upstairs; our soothing and natural matching earth toned linens now occupy OUR bath linen closet.

    Little Ponies, Mermaid Barbies, Watermelon scented no-tears shampoo, Lego jetski playset, suitcases brimming with hair bobs, hair beads, hair braids, hair clips, and hair bobbles, - all upstairs.

    Bath and Body works skin scrubs, Mediterranean sea sponge loofah, Arbonne hair products, and oatmeal impregnated bar soaps - downstairs.

    Yep, it's good to have our own bathroom.

    The only complaints have been easily far.

    First, in the hectic morning rush hour traffic that is our house, there are times when making the girls run upstairs to brush their teeth is problematic and downright cruel.
    Solution - get duplicate toothbrushes for the downstairs bathroom.

    Second, the sheer size and number of mirrors we installed in the upstairs bathroom was giving C the willies due to her unfortunate slumber party exposure to the legend of Bloody Mary.
    Solution - I sat in the darkened bathroom with her one night, went through the whole Bloody Mary procedure and proved to her there was no such thing as Bloody Mary...well, at least one that didn't involve tomato juice and vodka.

    Third, there isn't a flatscreen tv in the upstairs bathroom
    Solution - uh, sorry girls, we didn't plan on installing one there. Tough luck.

    Now, don't go all "that's such a guy thing, having a tv in the bathroom" on me. It was my Wife's idea. See, we watch so little tv as it is, that the only time my Wife figured she'd have the uninterrupted time to view a little of the tube, is while she bathed. The LCD models are so compact and streamline, that finding the space in the linen closet was a no brainer and when hooked up to a dvd player, bath time becomes movie time as well.

    Which brings me somewhat circuitously to Tod and Buzz in the bath.

    Awhile back I must have been waxing poetic about our families travels on Route 66, prompting my Mom to send me the dvd collection of the first season of the 60's tv show of the same name.

    Having been born a few years after the premier of the famous tv show about two guys seeing the country from the bucket seats of a classic (then and now) Corvette, I had never seen one full episode in the comfort of my home tv. Unlike Gilligan's Island, Route 66 didn't seem all that popular with the syndicated station guys, as reruns were hard to come by.

    They dvds came in a lovely boxed set, and had I been a single guy, with single guy values, single guy time, and single guy space, I would have run down to the quickie mart, bought a couple dozen diet cokes in glass bottles, some string cheese (don't ask) and a pounder bag of teriyaki beef jerky, plopped myself down in front of the tube and watched every episode of my new prized dvd collection in order.

    Instead, over the last few weeks, I've had the pleasure of discovering the sheer pleasure of Route 66: The Series from the comfort and late night solitude of OUR downstairs bathroom. The roughly 46-minute episodes are broken up into 3 distinct acts, which, when split into 15-20 minute soak sessions, allows me to stretch my virgin viewings of these video gems from the past into manageable and concentrated sessions.

    I had no idea of the dramatic depth and exceptional screenwriting offered by this vintage series, not to mention what sheer joy it was to see familiar locations (in and around LA) as they existed around the time of my worldly conception.

    Seeing the UCLA campus that my Mom and Aunt attended in their younger days was a hoot. And the boarding house where the boys live while passing through LA looked to me to be what is now Yamashiro's restaurant in the hills above Hollywood.

    The series pilot is as spooky an introduction to a tv show as I've ever seen, and having passed through many a dinky and dying town here in Oklahoma where you can feel the eyes of the downtown residents watching you drive by from behind their shuttered windows, I got the genuine creeps as Buzz and Tod fell into the hands of some nutjob local townies.

    While my prospects of spending a few months traveling the Mother Road in a ragtop Vette with my best bud at my side are far behind me, I can't imagine it being anymore fun than my recent sojourns up and down Oklahoma's offering of Rt. 66 with my lovely wife and our two road trip loving girl's.

    As for Tod and Buzz, well, we'll always have my bathroom and Kingman...Barstow...San Bernardino, right?

    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    Richard Noggin called, take a message

    Talking in code is one of those useful skills that we as parents develop early on.

    Spelling out words works fine until the kiddies learn to spell. It's a dark day in the lives of all parents hoping for moments of communicative privacy during long car trips when Junior figures out that putting letters together forms words.

    The Name Game (aka the Banana Song) works until they catch the song playing on the oldies station and figure out the rules lickety-split.

    Pig Latin would work just as well, however I've never been able to fully express myself using that obfuscated language method. Ix-nay on the ig-Latin-pay, or something like that.

    Finally, we've turned to citing words and phrases common to our shared experiences from the past as bypasses to talking about certain topics. You know, say "Spring Break '89" and one or two shared memories pop forth, neither of which may be appropriate for young ears to hear, but help to get a point across about a certain 9-year old wanting to wear a certain inappropriate clothing item.

    Then there are the more advanced forms of code-talking around the all-hearing/all-knowing/all-digesting senses of our offspring.

    When conversing with her current husband about her ex-husband (and father of her eldest child), a friend of ours refers to a person known as Richard Noggin. "Richard Noggin called me today to complain about so-and-so's style of dress..."
    "Ran into Richard Noggin down at the mall today with his new girlfriend and was surprised that the high schooler's were let out early today..."
    "Richard Noggin forwarded another one of those emails to me today about Bill Gates giving away free money for forwarding email..."
    You get the idea.

    Here's hoping there are no Richard Noggin's in your lives.

    Blogger's note - haven't figured it out yet? Okay, here's a hint. What is the rhyming nickname for Richard aka Rick? Next, what body part is represented by the word, noggin? Party on, Wayne

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Purple is the color of irony

    The only public stage auditorium in my small town is of pre-war construction and is located at the site of the recently demolished mid-high school. Sometime in the 60's it looks to have been updated for code and safety precautions, but the inadequate climate control and lack of modern conveniences have rendered the once grand auditorium as somewhat of a pariah in the community at large.

    A future lottery winning purchase on my part indeed.

    Head southwest about 50 miles into OKC proper however, and you'll find a theater showcase worthy of the traveling Broadway productions that successfully make their way to our flyover state.

    The OKC Civic Center Music Hall, specifically the Performing Arts Theater is as nice a theater as I've ever had the pleasure of planting my substantial posterior in.

    A few nights ago, Wifey and I had secured our grubby mitts on a pair of tickets belonging to some season ticket holders for a wink and a smile. In exchange for our profuse bows and appreciable thanks we were treated to the traveling production of Oprah's The Color Purple.

    A kiddie drop off at the in-laws and quickie snarff at a local taco stand found us parking and walking to the theater a comfortable dozen or so minutes before curtain call.

    My lovely Wife and I entered the theater and navigated through the entry way accompanied by an enthusiastic population of lobby loiterers, a good portion of which were of African heritage.

    Scoring donated seats from long time season ticket holders placed us in the orchestra section, shoulder to shoulder with those fortunate hundred or so folks who have delegated a chunk of their disposable income to supporting the live theater experience.

    The house lights dimmed, the string players rosined up their bows, and our journey of discovery into the wonderful lives of Alice Walker's inspirational characters began.

    During the intermission I commented to my Wife that the politely enthusiastic reaction to the play of those we were sitting with was in stark contrast to the raucously ebullient response on display from the upper tiers of the theater.

    While it hadn't dawned on me earlier, I took advantage of the raised house lights to take a studied look around the section in which we were sitting. The majority of our fellow orchestral pit sitters were Caucasian baby-boomers, one or two generations above where I currently stand in the timeline of life.

    For a brief moment I wondered where all the excited faces of color that we saw upon entering the theater had gone to, realizing soon enough that the sections behind and above us were reserved for individual, non-season ticket holding show goers.

    While I didn't make a studied survey of races and ages in every seating section, the irony of the coincidental and non-racially motivated segregation of the audience at this particular show, was not lost on me.

    I'll leave my critique of the show to the more articulate and salaried reviewers of the world, but both Wifey and I were inspired, enthralled and driven to extremes in emotion and hand holding for the duration of the show.

    I was thankful for the comp'd seats and ample leg room afforded us in the orchestra section, but it did sound like the upper tier sections were having a better time.

    And the balcony? Well, that was just one big party.

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    Cultural and generational crossover - with a side of fries

    Back when cartoons were cartoons before they were bestowed with their fancy labels of "animated characters" and "toons," Bugs Bunny was my childhood Saturday morning hero.

    He almost always won (okay, one time his tail was snipped off), almost always had a snappy comeback or one liner retort, and had the greatest opening line ever uttered by V.O. genius Mel Blanc.

    Yet when my Grandfather from Hawaii visited us for vacation, and he huddled around his morning coffee while my brother and I absorbed weekend early a.m. cartoons, it was Wiley E. Coyote that got the old gent laughing.

    I'm talking hearty, from his gut, teary eyed laughter. Everytime that wiley coyote would land at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in a "poof" of smoke, my grandfather's face, burnt brown from a lifetime of working in the blazing Hawaiian sun, would crack open yet another deep crevice and the joyous melody of childlike laughter would echo throughout our small living room.

    And I remember watching him and enjoying his unfettered laughter as if it were yesterday. To this very moment, it's a memory I draw upon when I need a quick spiritual uplift.

    I flashed on that memory the other night, as the girl's and I partook of our Thursday night after-dance class dinner routine. It's normally their eat-out dining choice, but somehow an emerging tradition is breaking through the barrier of free choice and they've been choosing to eat at the downtown burger g-spoon as of late.

    Sure, the burgers are superb (onion fried, cooked through and through on the flat iron before being tossed onto the open grill for a quick flame-ridden charring...yum!) and the atmosphere is family-oriented and relaxed, but it's the glowing humongo-screen plasma displays at each end of the joint that I belief is at the heart of their once-a-week culinary dinnertime splurge.

    Call me a tyrant, but dinner time at our house is a pretty old-fashioned, sit down with the family, talk and eat festival of family-time. "Please pass...," will get you just about anything you need table side, and the latest rule of conversation being limited to non-bodily function topics is seemingly taking effect -- not an easy task with a 9 and 5-year old.

    Therefore, at the burger joint where the girls can catch some junk on the tube and eat it too (simultaneously in fact), well, that's too much a luxury to pass up for their once a weekly eat-out-a-thon.

    I'm on pretty good terms with the owners and my ordering convention has become somewhat of a routine. I hand over the cash for the girls food, he hands over the remote for the tv in the back. Some people don't get that good a service at home.

    While the girl's used to plead and beg for yet another Hannah Montana (or Suite Life of Zack and Cody, or Wizards of Waverly Place, or iCarly) viewing, I'll usually default to the familiar and less-sassy dialogue offered by the Cartoon Network Boomerang's nightly offering of the classic, Tom and Jerry.

    Violent and PETA-unfriendly though it may be, it's visual humor and slapstick sight gags can still make me chuckle continuously, and genuinely laugh-out-loud at times.

    I mean, c'mon, how many times can Jerry make Tom take a bite out of his own tail before you just have to bust a gut?

    And from my vantage point, sitting at the back of the burger joint on a weeknight at dinner hour, there are more than a few adults and elderly folk alike, who seem to dig the physical comedy stylings of one tom cat's ongoing endeavor to make a snack of his best friend and lifelong animated nemesis, the mouse.

    And my grandfather's spirit is sitting right there with me...probably wondering when the Road Runner toon is coming on?