Friday, April 29, 2005

Is that jam or jelly?

Some mornings are tougher than others.

When it's a tough one, I can send C to school with a little something to eat for breakfast, preferably something warm.

This morning was a tough one, so I grabbed a frozen dim sum pork bun (char siu bao) from the freezer, zapped it for a minute, and wrapped it up in a piece of foil. Into the backpack it went with a juice box.

Sitting down at the lunch table at her school, C unwrapped it and began to unflinchingly feast, familiar with all sorts of dim sum since early childhood -- we did live in the San Gabriel Valley (LA Chinatown East).

As the kids started to gather around, C showed no signs of distress or otherwise. She was just eating her breakfast.

After 30 secords of trying to figure out what kind of strange donut the California girl was eating, one brave, hybrid corn-fed kid finally spoke up.

"Is that jam or jelly in that donut?"

C won't speak with her mouth full, so she put up a finger, indicating her classmate should wait for a response.

Swallowing she squeaked out, "it's dim sum." She continued, "dim sum -- me and my daddy used to drive our Corvette to get it."

Still nothing.

Stringy-haired brown-eyed girl next to hybrid-corn-fed boy speaks.

"It looks like strawberry. That's my favorite."

C swallows her current bite and says, "it's a pork bun. The pink stuff is pork."

Now, if you've never seen, eaten, or dated a Chinese person who made char siu bao, then you don't know that the filling is indeed, bar-b-qued pork. A "special" sauce gives the outside of the pork a pink appearance once the bar-b-que process is complete -- which gets even more pink when embedded inside a starched white bun. I can them frozen by the dozen from a local (55 miles) Chinese market.

That opened the 5-year olds floodgates of discussion.

"Is it like bacon?"
"I like it when my Dad bar-b-ques."
"What's the white stuff?"
"Where did you get it?"
And the inevitible, "Can I have one?"

C finished her bun, toss the foil, and took a sip of her juice box. I not sure, but I thought I caught a glimpse of her digging the attention from her classmates. Even 5-year olds like to eat weird stuff in front of others.

Or maybe it was just the feeling of satisfied warmth filling her insides with a little taste of her early childhood.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Beautiful death from above

Yesterday I went to see a man about a seat. A bench seat. A seat that will fit myself, and two car seats all neatly in a row. A seat for my new project vehicle which only has a front seat and must accommodate at least three members of my family. It's not a pickup truck. More on that later.

But I digress. On the way down to the nearest town with an upholstery shop (26 miles south), my car was "buzzed" by a yellow and black flying wonder.
It was not one of those deadly stinging harbingers of swollen appendage doom, the yellow jacket (which there are plenty of around here). Nor was it a huge bumble bee bent on mating with my fading black Civic coupe.

Spraying thick clouds of a combination of wheat plant nutrients and fatal doses of insect eradicator from beneath it's short wings, the barn-storming crop duster criss-crossed the highway in front of me, flying, what my landlubber senses felt to be, dangerously close to the ground.

Almost balletic in it's movements, it's back and forth trajectory was interrupted briefly at the end of the field by a sudden bank upwards, only to spin around and head back in the direction from whence it came.

I had to pull over and watch for several minutes.

He must have seen me stop to gaze at his skill, because after several passes closer and closer to the thirsty wheat fields, the yellow/black deliverer of insecticidal ale did several wing spinning rolls, seemingly just for my city slicker wonderment.

I still have no desire to learn to fly, but I will always remember witnessing my first crop dusting at the ripe young age of 41.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Chuck E. Cheeses

The local Chuck E. Cheeses (40 miles is local to me now) is clean, well maintained, well staffed and a joy to patronize.

Parents, pick yourself up off the floor and finish reading this entry.

I was amazed, astounded, and utterly shocked to find this kiddieland/marginal pizza entertainment center as someplace I would actually want to take my kids to. Staff was plentiful, helpful, spoke English, and attentive. Tables were clean, napkin holders well stocked, parmesan cheese shakers filled and sparkling. Floor wasn't littered with pizza droppings. Pizza was actually decent (as compared to frozen pizza). 4, count 'em, 4 staff members working the ticket/toy exchange counter -- and they rounded up on ticket exchange -- BONUS.

All the games worked, even the animatronic floor show didn't pop and crack as much.

Now lets talk about the one and only Chuck E. Cheeses (CEC) we visited in Noth Hollywood.

Umm, lets talk about something else instead, since I routinely use the image of the NoHo CEC's to aid in my porcelin throwned bulimic quest for a perfect set of abs.

Instead, let me quote C. The other day, she saw a commercial touting how CEC's now does school fundraisers (similar to Shakey's Pizza nights). You get your entire school to show up on a certain date, at a certain time, and your school will get a percentage of the pizza intake. Not a bad gig.

Anyhow, C finished watching the ad, turned to me and said, "Our school doesn't do Chuck E. Cheeses. We do God."

She attends the Catholic school across the street.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Grocery gettin'

I worked my way through high school and college in the supermarket biz.

Started as a Courtesy Clerk (box boy, cart runner), was promoted to Cashier (checker), did a stint as an Inventory Clerk (night stocker), and after 3 years was one of three Assistant Managers (swing shift). I was 18 and in charge of the entire market from 5:30 p.m. to closing time (2 a.m.) Isn't that scary.

Here in my small town (and from what I gather, across the state as well), when you make a purchase, the courtesy clerks wil carry your bags to your car for you.

Yep, whether it's a single tangerine, or a cart full of sacks.

The best part is the look on their faces when you tell them, "that's okay, I got it," as you take the cart out the door.

One young lad was stunned into inaction. He stared at me like I was a scab crossing the picket line, taking food and benefits from his growing family of 5.

I know I should submit and just let them do their job. I know that they are trained to multitask and the labor schedule is written to accomodate such a luxury as this. I know that they aren't expecting and won't accept tips.

But I'm just not ready to relinquish the right to take the shopping cart for a quick joy ride through the parking lot.

Like a dog hanging his head out the window of a pickup, spit flying off his tongue and sticking to the rear quarter panel like wallpaper paste, I enjoy my shopping cart rides. As they were when I was a kid getting groceries with my folks, then later as a teenager getting paid to round up carts, "parking lot races" still offer unparalleled domestic adventure in low speed, cheap thrills, and uncontrollable danger.

Monday, April 25, 2005

YASTM in Moreno Valley, CA

Small town moments can occur anywhere. This story is proof of that.

My father was driving his hot rod up from his home in north San Diego county last week. He was taking it up to the shop that built it for maintenance. It's about an hour drive, but he was taking it easy in the fog.

One of the rear brake calipers tore loose and he was stuck on the side of the road, just outside of Moreno Valley.

As luck, fate, or divine intervention may have it, a buddy of mine that I used to work with in Pasadena, just happened to be driving into work and saw the bright blue rod on the side of the road. He stopped, offered his assistance and inquired whether or not the "old guy with white hair" way indeed my father.

How did my buddy figure it out? Months ago, I had shown him a magazine article that my Dad's rod had appeared in. As he drove by, I imagine he figured it was a distinct possibility that an old asian guy, driving a blue rod, could indeed be my father.

If this had happened in my small town, I wouldn't even have mentioned it. But the fact that it happened in the huge Inland Empire, is strange and wonderful indeed.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Being Jackie Chan

It's a 40 minute drive to the nearest McDonald's from here.

Kinda nice, since it has made going to McD's an event, as opposed to a quickie drive through which was a common occurance for us back in LA. Obesity avoidance of any kind is a good thing.

While munching on McNuggets and watching my girls navigate the tube-o-rama extravaganza (shoeless, of course), an 8 or 9 year old blonde Okie boy sporting an OU (University of Oklahoma) tee-shirt came up to me, stared me in the face and said I looked like Jackie Chan.

I'm thinking he must have just seen Rush Hour 2 on the DVD in his folks Ford F-150.

So, I played along. Oh, by the way, I'm a third generation American of Asian descent, but you can call me Oriental...I don't get riled up about such things.

Me - "I am Jackie Chan, nice to meet you."
OU kid - "Wow, I like you a lot."
Me - "Would you like an autograph?"
OU kid - "Sure"

I grab a napkin, write down a few scribbles and chicken scratches that may or may not have resembled kanji, and hand it to him. He's thrillled and runs off to show some adult that appears to belong to him, but is more interested in his cell phone than the kid.

While there is a growing population of Asians here in Oklahoma, I am one of two in our small town. The other one owns the Chinese restaurant, but he doesn't live here. So when he goes home for the night, I'm it.

And to prove how small the world is, he moved here from the same LA suburb that I grew up in.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Country Roads

With apologies to John Denver, country roads don't always "take me home."

There are several routes to get to my small rural farming town community. A 4-lane state highway is my favorite route, but it is commonly filled with state troopers.

The fastest routes can be one of several two-lane country roads. Speed limits on these roads are generally around 40-45 mph. But since no one is around, you can pretty much pull an autobahn if you so desire.

Course, you always have to watch out for the huge potholes, washed out sections, random cows wandering by, multitude of roadkill speedbumps (ever seen a familly of dead possums splattered on the shoulder?), combines, pick up trucks hauling cattle, horses, pigs, what-have-you, and the occasional farmer in his Lincoln Town Car (that's another entry for later).

If not for these obstacles, a driver could find many ways to destroy his car on a country road.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Tornado sirens

Out here in "Tornado Alley" our city wide alarm, siren, klaxxon, horn, signal, blast, warning whistle, reason-to-panic-and-kiss-your-wife-goodbye, is tested at noon on Fridays. Figure that we've officially entered tornado season.

I do recall reading a small blurb about it in our local newspaper last week.

Good thing, because when that sucker went off at noon, even though the sky was blue, the wind was gentle, and the clouds were white and puffy, this LA boy had a brief "stranger-in-a-strange-land" attack as the theme song from "The Wizard of Oz" cued up in my sub-conscious iPod play list.

Flying monkeys are whacked. But the thought of old Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the East flying through the air on her bicycle still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

One has to wonder if the man who was married to that actress (Margaret Hamilton) ever had good sex with her again, after she played that role.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Looking for worms

I asked C why she was jumping up and down on the dirt beside our garage.

"I'm looking for worms," she said.

"Worms?" I said.

"Yep, worms," she continued. "See, I jump up and down like this and the worms think there are other worms making all this noise and they come up to the ground."

5 year olds know everything.

File this under "yet another moment I may have missed had I been sitting at my cube instead of being a stay-at-home Dad."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tag Agencies vs. CA DMV

Needed to get OK license plates for our cars.

They have these places here called Tag Agencies, which are privately owned and operated mini-DMV's.

I drove the 1/2 mile to our nearest one (most small towns have at least one Tag agency, some have more). Parked, took my pink slip in, walked out 7 minutes later with my new OK license plate (OK only requires a rear plate). Even had my stickers already on it.

2 days laters, I received my OK pink slip (title) in the mail.

Anyone whose dealt with the DMV in California should pick their jaws up off the floor after reading this.

Oh, and getting my driver's license...little more difficult. but not much. Adding the one step of walking the 2 blocks to the local county courthouse (convenient that I live in the county seat), all told I had my new OK driver's license, in hand, in about 15 minutes. 15 MINTUES TOTAL TIME? They took my picture, printed it out, and handed it to me at the Tag Agency. Heck, they even took several pictures and let me decide which one I wanted to use. IN 15 MINUTES!

If I were in California, it would have taken 15 minutes just to make an online appointment at the DMV (two weeks in advance, of course).

Privatization is a good thing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Adventures in buying an entire roll of stamps

Me - I'd like to buy a roll of stamps, please.
Postal Clerk - Okay, so how many stamps did you need?
Me - Just a roll.
Postal Clerk - Yes, but how many stamps did you need?
Me - Just the one roll.
Postal Clerk - A roll's got 100 stamps in it. You didn't need 100 stamps did you?
Me - Well, not right now, but I'd just like to get a roll now.
Postal Clerk - But how many do you need?
Me - I usually just buy a roll, so I don't have to make too many trips to the post office.
Postal Clerk - But, that'll be 37 dollars!
Me - Okay, that's fine.
Postal Clerk - A whole roll.

I hand her two $20 bills.

Postal Clerk - Let me check in the back and see if we have any.

By now, several people behind me have started talking amongst themselves. Perfect strangers, mind you. People in small towns do that -- talk amongst themselves even though they don't know each other.
She returned with a roll, I paid for them and left.
Next time, I'll tell her that I'm sending out wedding invitations or something to avoid the hassle.
I should have known I was in for it when the old fella in front of me bought two stamps -- just two stamps.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Wasp Killer

Today I killed a wasp with a hammer.
Yes, a hammer.
My rubber flip flop wouldn't do it.
And I hit it hard. Several times.
True, I didn't put all my 200 lbs. of transplanted-So Cal weight into each slap, but I did give it hard enough whacks to kill any ordinary wasp.
I grabbed a nearby hammer and decided to get insecticidal on this uber-wasp.
Now were talking. It's stunned, but not yet oozing like I'd like it to be.
Still in one piece, and still clinging to life.
Flattened and oozing, and off to wasp heaven, or wherever they go when smashed by human kind.

I replaced my flip flop on my foot, hoping that it was embarassed for being so ineffective on a bug.

Introductions all around....

Legend for future postings...

S = my lovely and talented wife,
C = Daughter #1
PK = Daughter #2
P = Father-in-law
G = Mother-in-law

More may be added later as different individuals make it into this blog.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

In the beginning...

Wheat fields and cows pastures as far as the horizon line reveals.
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.
Main street shuts down around 4 p.m. Nothing opens on Sunday until after church services are over (and even then, for limited hours).
40 minute drive to the nearest McDonald's.
We are talking, out there.
Out here.
Just out.
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.
What have I done?