Thursday, April 27, 2006

Biological wisdom of a 6-year old

Yesterday, when I picked up C from school, her teacher told me that she had "suffered a little bloody nose" during circle time.

Once in the car I asked her why she got a bloody nose. She told me that she picked a booger and it started to bleed.

Then she said the following.
"That's why I wish I had eyes in my nose, so I could tell if the booger I was picking was going to be a bloody one or not."Find a hole in that logic, I dare ya.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Grocery store fetish

I'm a good grocery shopper.

My first experiences in the supermarket area involved pushing a cart for my Mom as a precocious tweener. Years later I would be retrieving carts and bagging groceries at the same Alpha Beta to the tune of $6.50 an hour. Some time after that I found myself counting the tills, filling the dairy box, and locking up the store as a Night Manager working the 3 to Midnight shift.

I had just graduated high school and was making $13.75 an hour, time and a half on Sunday, triple pay on holidays. I was king of the world, baby.

I worked 7 years in the supermarket (what we called 'em back in the day -- out here, they're called grocery stores) biz and have many fond memories of my hours spent in those wide aisles filled with food and household items.

I also became nearly unbeateable at the Grocery Guessing Game (higher or lower) on The Price is Right.

One might say then, due to my professional experience in that arena, that I am a grocery shopper with a tad keener eye to the goings-on at my local food emporium. That said, a typical foodstuff shopping junket normally takes me less than an hour tops, and that's only if I don't have a specific list or coupons at the ready.

If I had a list and knew exactly what our "little house-not-on-but-nearby the prairie" needed, I would be in and out in less than 20 minutes.

Yep, I'm that good.

Yesterday's foray into the local food and grocery establishment took a record 2 hours 12 minutes.

No, I didn't have a list.

Yes, I did peruse my coupon collection.

But that isn't what took so long.

What kept me in the brightly florescent lit aisles for a good part of my morning block of time was the number of people I ran into (or ran into me) that I knew (or who knew me) or PK new (or who knew PK).

7 people - just about every customer in the store at 9 :30 a.m. on a weekday - stopped to chat, visit, preach, ponder, question, inquire or comment with me, my stainless steel cart full of the weeks edibles, and my rambunctious 3-year old.

There are 11 aisles in my small town grocery store. That makes .63 people per aisle that I visited with.

We discussed everything from what I'll need to get C when she starts softball next week, to why tumbling practice 2 days a week is too much for some people.

We spoke in hushed tones as we discussed the new Wal-Mart Supercenter that is rumored to be coming to town, and gesticulated wildly when describing the recent twister twins that visited 30 miles south of us.

We growled angrily at the gas prices ($2.75 for regular in our town), questioned whether it was too early to get a good watermelon, and generally agreed that the best strawberries do come from California.

I even drew a small crowd as I lectured on the rumor that some soy sauce is made using an enzyme extracted from human hair...only to reassure them that none of the soy sauce on the shelves at our store were that kind.

I don't ever recall my Mom being stopped by anyone while shopping in my youthful days as an apprentice grocery shopper. My Mom is no nonsense, blitzkreig shopper and I'm thinking she gave off a "working-woman-too-busy-to-stop-and-chat" vibe during her outings into grocery gettin' nirvana.

However I do have firsthand knowledge of several mother's of childhood friends of mine who were grocery shoppers extraordinaire, that would spend more than 2 hours per outing cruising the aisles, looking for sales, checking expiration dates, and chatting it up with friends and acquaintances in the wonderous place known as the supermarket.

Janice and Doris, you humble me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

High speed pursuit of a different kind

I miss high speed pursuits (HSP).

Living in So Cal, whenever the news was slow, you could almost always count on a good HSP coming on the boob tube to satisfy your need for some video voyeurism.

Since moving to the prairie, I've yet to catch even one high speed pursuit on tv.

I miss it.

Today, we were treated to some video viewing in the voyeristic vibe due to a pair of tornadoes that touched down 30 miles south off our small town.

Just as we chuckle at the stuttering LA, I mean newsanchors as they do their best to ad lib and improvise meaningful dialogue during yet another HSP, we thoroughly enjoyed listening to the panic inducing Storm Chasing Meteorologist's diatribes as they see how close they can get to the twistin' and turnin' on the ground.

Just as we held our breath as the HSP car jackers weaves their way in and out of traffic on the rush hour clogged freeways, we gasped as the Chopper 4 cam brought to us in glorious HD color the Fujita-2 scale twister taking off the roof of an airplane hanger at the small airport.

Just as we cheered for the jacked car, now running just on rims after getting the rubber spike stripped out for under it, we stood and applauded as the bigger tornado stalled and seemed to take a leisurely break in a freshly plowed wheat field, only to turn into a counter cyclonic twister and peter out.

Even better were the close-ups of broken windshields and dented bumpers, fellas fresh from the local burger stand giving one word quotes, and young girls upset at the damage done to their brand spankin' new Neon coupes. My new favorite game is to listen as weather reporters, in an attempt to differentiate themselves from their counterparts at competiting stations, compare hail size to golfballs or ping pong balls, baseballs or tennis balls, various coins, and other sundry objects.

A highlight of HSP's occur when they inadvertently draw a crowd of spectators, onlookers, bystanders, and the occassional good samaritan in a big rig who uses his 18-wheeler to block the road.

Today's equivalent was two motorcycle jockeys who were heading south down our main street. I was standing curbside taking digi snapshots of the dramatically clouded sky when they motored by. I yelled out to them that two tornadoes were on the ground just south of here.

One of them raised his arm to reveal a small miniDV can under his jacket and yelled back, "That's where we're headin'!"

Chasing tornadoes on bike back. Now that's Oklahoma in a nutshell.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A wow morning

Some mornings, as I'm loading C into the car so S can take her to school, I just look up and say, "wow."

This was one of those mornings.

Friday, April 21, 2006

89'er Day

It's 89'er day in my small town.

It may very well be 89'er day across the state as well, since it's a celebration of the Cherokee Strip Land Run of April 22, 1889, that opened up the unassigned lands to settlement and basically settled the state of Oklahoma in a single cannon shot.

The notice we received from school read as follows:"Friday morning (during our recess) the kindergarten classes will participate in a mock land run. The children may wear western clothes."So last night we had to scramble around the house looking for something "89'er-ish" for C to wear to school today.

Her cowgirl outfit would have been her first choice last week, but this week we've been reading the Little House books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Translation - she wanted to be Half-pint. Pioneer dress, long stockings, pig tails, bonnet, the whole package.

Flash forward to our post-dinner search for something 89'er-rish for her to wear. We found an old, sorta pioneer-looking red printed dress that once belonged to my wife's aunt and was used as a costume in a film project she did awhile ago. A little short by 1889 standards, but suitable for a 21st Century girl. Perfect.

Dark blue stockings, perfect.

Flower print sun bonnet - 3 sizes too small, but C has a small head, perfect.

Black boots. Not lace up, but zippers are the modern day equivalent so all the better. Perfect.

Brown bonnet, red dress, hair in pigtails, blue stockings, black boots and her pink vinyl backpack. The Queer Eye Guys would be rolling their eyes, but our daughter happily marched off to school this morning, adorned in the best Laura Ingalls outfit that her folks could muster.

And to prove that our school''s administrators are ever vigil, the notice they sent home included the following passage near the end that read:
"PLEASE DO NOT send toy guns."We'll all be listening for the cannon firing this morning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cody of the lake Part 2

The day before Easter Sunday, S overheard Cody's Dad (a mixed drink in a plastic thermal mug his constant companion), impatiently tell Cody that morning, "I haven't got time for you today," them promptly climb into his drinkin' buddies golf cart and head off to commune with Jack Daniels.

Recalling last Easter where Cody stood by and forced enthusiasm while cheering the girls on their own easter egg hunt, S made up a little easter basket for Cody filled with some candy, pencils, assorted goodies and a tube of toothpaste. She then filled a dozen eggs with goodies and left them out for him to find in front of the trailer he calls home.

While watching the girls enjoy their visit from the Easter Bunny on Easter morning is always a joy, the look of confusion, then rapidly excelling excitement in Cody's body movements as he scampered about his small yard, gathering up the candy encased in plastic eggs, was a golden moment.

My wife and I smiled into the night, with thoughts of the conflict turning over in the little boys mind. A 12-year old's reality in conflict with the remotest of possibilities that some magic may still exist in this world.

I'm disturbed to think what his teenage, young adulthood, and adult years have in store for him.
I'm saddened to think what will become of this sweet kid who C will always remember as "Cody of the lake."

Cody turns 13 in May.

Cody of the lake Part 1

We spent Easter weekend at my in-law's lake house in the eastern part of the state.

I enjoy just about everything about our weekends out there, from the 2 1/2 hour drive through some really scenic areas of the state, to the walks along the shoreline with the family, to the water recreation sports, plenty of good eats, and quiet time with my wife.

My in-laws run themselves ragged cooking, cleaning,and entertaining the girls, leaving me plenty of time to relax, nap, read, and fish. I don't get to be a lazy a*s very often, so when the opportunity arises, I'm all over that noise.

One of the neighbors is a little boy (he's 12 now, but we've known him since he was about 9) named Cody. He's a handsome kid, with the sweet disposition of a city kid-turned lake kid after being forced to move due to a broken home. His mother ditched him and his Dad when he was just an infant, and his Dad never seems to have any time to spend with him between working (he's a Physical Therapist) and drinking/fishing with his buddies.

It's sad really.

Since C was 3 and started going to the lake house on a regular basis, Cody has always been a gentle, kind, and patient companion to her, entertaining her every whim no matter how silly or girlie it was. Although Cody was lonely and just enjoyed the company, C felt honored that a "big kid" wanted to play with her.

So, whenever we show up, Cody is usually sitting down by the boat dock, riding his atv, or walking the shoreline. His keen senses alert him to our presence almost before our vehicles pull into our driveway. By the time we're hefting our luggage out, he's showing the girls something he found by the waters edge.

Later that first day, the whole family made the 40-yard walk down to the shoreline and since the lake is down over 5 feet, there was plenty of exposed treasures that are normally under 5 feet of water. Cody met us by the water, his treasure search already in progress.

Lake Eufaula is a man-made lake, and there is plenty of evidence of a settlement nearby before the damming of the river took place. We find arrowheads, spear heads, and plenty of large boulders with grinding holes in them where Native's ground their corn way back when. We also find drawers full of shards of pottery, dishes, cups, old bottles, rusted tools and farm implements, revealing more recent pioneer residents.

Cody prefers the living treasures that the water and mud at the waters edge provide. In the first 20 minutes he found and presented the following to my two fascinated daughters:
One Frog a leapin'
One Turtle twirlin'
One water moccassin a snakin'
Two Bluebird's a nestin'
Three Crawdads a crawlin' (one with eggs)
Twenty minnow's schoolin' 'neath the dock.
As my Father-in-Law is fond of saying, it was going to be one "whale of a weekend."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Maundy, maundy

These kids do seem to be enjoying themselves -- Easter madness in our small town.

I've always said there was nothing more fun than carrying a cross that signifies the struggle, beating, and crucifixion of Jesus down Main Street.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fox Collision Center

This commercial is playing in relatively heavy rotation on a top-40 station here.

It harkens back to the 60's style of commercials created by a guy sitting at his piano, ingesting ciggies and bourbon, as he faces a deadline to come up with a catchy jingle for his bosses at the ad agency.

Cheesey doesn't even begin to describe it, but I must give props to the creative team behind it, since I will forever remember the name of this auto body fixit center.

Give a listen and have a great Easter weekend!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Small town movie house

Seeing a movie in our small town's movie theater is like watching a scene that takes place in a movie theater in a movie that takes place in a 1950's movie.

Still following me? Here goes.

I'm accustomed to the very impersonal, anonymous experience of seeing movies in large, mega-seats theaters, where there are usually enough empty seats to afford space for jackets, diaper bags, what-have-you in the adjacent seats. You make your "nest," establish your perimeter, and hunker down in the relative security of "your" few seats.

All the better to enjoy your cinema sundae in peace and solitude, even though you're basically surrounded by 200+ complete strangers.

Not so here.

Last week was opening night for Ice Age 2, so naturally, it screened in the BIG 99-seat theater. Anticipating a sell out crowd, I arrived early to secure tickets for myself, my two daughters, and the youngest daughter of our town's Chief of Police (his daughter and mine have since become good friends after the found money incident).

Upon entering the brightly lit movie house, we found... endless wheatfield of familiar faces surrounding us.
Waves o'plenty from friends and casual acquaintances alike.
My daughter's and her friend's name being called out from points unknown.
Casual chatter dominating the pre-darkened theater.
Inexpensive popcorn being noisely consumed, fizzy drinks slurped through elongated straws and large dill pickles emitting an odiferous aroma that filled the nearly packed 4-walls of small town movie house madness.

Smiling, waving, herding, and organizing my pride, we found our way to some seats, constructed our fortress and settled in.

A quick survey reveals non-jaded ticket holders with their gazes glued to the local advertising cards being flashed on and off on the screen. The people and businesses paying $250 a pop getting their monies worth, becoming instant celebrities as their faces and business names appear larger than life on the big screen.

A pair of strapping ranch-raised boys enter, produciing a gaggle of pre-pubescent lassies to perform the traditional "heads turning in unison as they talk, then giggle, then talk, then giggle" routine like a well rehearsed group of Rockettes.

To my left a group of pre-teens enjoying something resembling a "group date" whisper incessantly to each other. I overhear the dreaded phrase, "Don't tell her I told you," and just know there will be serious instant messaging events going into the wee morning hours.

I let C and her friend buy their own kiddie snack packs and let them sit together in the back of the theater, pretending to be older than they are, while PK and I sit down front.

The trailers started, the movie played, young parents laugh out loud with reserved guilt as the movie tickled their farm fresh funny bones. Older folks show no guilt at all, chortled with joy and overall just dug the ride.

The audience was listening and had become completely involved with the flickering animated story of an intelligent talking Mammoth and his friends.

When the credits started to roll and the lights came up. there was applause, there was immediate chatter about the movie and there was the inner peace of being transported to a far off land in a far off time by a far out story.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tinted Windows

In the So Cal of my teenage crusin' days in my muscle bound '74 Nova Custom, there were many restrictions placed upon car owners for type and placement of window tint. We'd go to extreme lengths to not get "popped" for having our car windows tinted darker than legally allowed.

Functionally, window tinting keeps the car cooler in the baking summer sun.
Aesthetically, it looks cool. Least, we thought so. Teenagers...hrumph.

I recall times where my passenger and I would frantically perform the "roll down the windows (no power windows for me) ritual" whenever we were in spotting distance of a black and white.

I even knew of a guy who swapped license plates on his gold, illegally tinted '81 Trans Am with that of his Aunt's gold and legally tinted '81 Firebird. He took her car down to the CHP office as proof of the correction, and got his "fix-it" ticket dismissed.

Here in Oklahoma, it seems that any tint of any kind, placed just about anywhere (except on the front windshield) is legal. Everyone around my town seems to have Presidential limo tint on their pick ups, SUVs, Towne Cars, and 300's. Makes sense here, especially in the baking summer months (that seem to last from May to October).

A street wary product of East LA, I'm not in the habit of staring anybody in the face more than necessary. You learn not to make direct eye contact that may get you a one way ticket to an uncomfortable and/or dangerous confrontation with who know's who (or what). An extension of that is not looking into cars -- especially those with dark tinted windows.

So as a habit, I don't fixate my stare on whomever is sitting behind the wheel of any vehicle. Combine this with the fact that people here must forget that their car windows are protected with the equivalent of SPF 1,000,000, and the results are that on several occasions now, I've been nicely chastised for not "waving" at people in cars that I happen to walk right by.

Sorry people, can't see you behind all that smoked and dark glass. If I don't wave, it's not because I don't like you or don't want to .

I just can't (dark tint) and won't (avoid confrontation) see you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Principal wears a Tommy's T-shirt

I'm usually the only Dad who attends the monthly PTO meetings, and my ethnicity makes me stand out even more. When I introduced myself to the Principal at my first PTO meeting about a year ago, we got to talking about how we both ended up in our small town in Oklahoma.

Fast forward to a few months back, when we got to talking one night after a PTO Chicken Noodle dinner fundraiser and had a good laugh when we found out we spent some time in the same town in the San Gabriel Valley.

Seems his Dad lived in the town where I had moved my family from, and he attended high school there, before moving out to Hemet with his Mom. During college, he came out to Oklahoma on a football scholarship and never looked back.

We bonded over memories of pastrami dips at The Hat, Tommy's chili burgers on Rampart at midnight, and Double-double's (animal style) at the In N Out by the high school on Rosemead Blvd.

The next week I found an In N Out windshield decal mailed to me anonymously. It went on the Elky.

I escalated by sending him a Tommy's tee shirt, anonymously of course.

He tells me he wears it with pride on weekend family outings.

Since then, I find him seeking me out at the monthly Parent/Teacher Organization gatherings, where we strangely find ourselves saying "dude" way too often.

So now, not every day, but just about every day when I drop C off at school, I toss one of those quick raised-eyebrow, head-jerking, half-smile greeting nods that only guys do, to the Tommy's T-shirt wearing Principal at C's school.

C is not impressed.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Easter wreck

A year ago this Easter we lost a valued member of our young family.

"Bingbe" was our first ever family car. The first new car my wife had ever owned. The car we brought both our daughter's home from the hospital in, the car we took our first family road trips in, the car we took C to her first day of school in, the car that delivered us safely over the 1300 miles from LA to our new home in Oklahoma.

At the time, "Bingbe" was only 6-years old with less than 55,000 miles on her. Practically brand new for a Honda.

Friends and family have never seen the extent of damage done by the 16-year old in a 1/2-ton pick up, so as a tribute and memorium of sorts, I thought I'd post a photo taken of the car after the wreck.

We miss you, "Bingbe."

The pick up that stopped "Bingbe" in his tracks could have been driven away -- had it not been laid out flat on it's side. It has since been repaired and I'm sure is back crusin' the country roads, with a hopefully more mature and aware teenager behind the wheel.

Them bowties are tough trucks.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A not-so-Young Rider

S came home all excited about seeing an actual newpaper delivery boy on a country road on her way home from work.

The country roads/rural routes are populated by lone mailboxes, standing vigil as a testament to the importance of one's mail identity, even out in the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma.

What tickled her about this particular newspaper delivery boy were several things.

First, he wasn't a boy. He was about our age and nowhere near the minimum age for delivery boy status and responsibility.

Second, his mode of delivery and transportation seemed appropriate to the rural setting.

He was atop a horse at full gallop, the leather saddle bags hanging taut and low from the saddle, stretched full of all the daily news that was fit to print.

She slowed to watch as he brought his mighty steed to a momentary quick trot, deposited his newsprint charges into the waiting mail box, and clicked and kicked the horse into a full-on run down the road.

The pony express lives, if only to deliver this weeks coupons for $.35 off a ground round.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

By the light of the shimmering monitor

The other night we had the first major thunderstorm of the season.

Sure, there have been a few minor skirmishes with rain, thunder, lightning and tornadic activity (there's a new term for all my homies back in LA), but the other night was the first night we got to light the candles.

No, I'm not talking about the candles in our bathroom that combat what Jeff Foxworthy jokingly termed "the invisible wall."

I'm talking about the candles that are strategically situated around our house in the event of the inevitable power outages that will accompany those crackling loud, directly-above-your-head lightning strikes that shake the timbers of our second story and momentarily tear asunder even the strongest of dispositions.

Surge protectors are on and loaded. Flashlights are where I can reach them. Soothing words are prepared to spew forth should my daughters wake up in a startled panic.

Then it hits. The big one.

The lightning strike that is so close by your hair stands on end, your knees weaken, and your mind quickly questions the obvious fact that you don't need electricity to flush the toilet.

And the lights go out.
And the flashlights go on.
And the matches get struck.
And the candles remind us what our cave dwelling ancestors must have thought about the wonder of fire.

After lighting the main three-wicked waxy wonder in the kitchen, I make my way to the front porch to check to see if the entire street is down. The bank up the street has a scrolling sign that must be on a battery backup (why, I don't know), since it's rebooting message (flashing series of dots) is the only source of light up and down the street.

Everything and everyone else is dark.

After a few minutes (this time), the power comes back in a wave of prehistoric relief. From my view on the front porch I get to witness the reawakening and rebooting of all the systems in the 2nd floor computer lab of the church school across the street.

It gives off an eerie, bad 70's movie special effects glow, as the ceiling and walls of the 100-year old room, in the 100-year old brick building is bathed in CRT mood lighting.

The fun comes in estimating which machines have faster chips, more ram, or quicker hard drives by the speed at which the ambient color of the room changes at different rates.

A real life semi-artsy moment from a geek point of view. I say "semi-artsy" since it's obvious that all the machines booting up are running that lowest common denominator excuse for an operating system, Windoze.

It would have been a truly breathtaking glow indeed, had they been Macs.

However, art is a subjective beast.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ladybugs as Messerschmidts

I have a large mole on my left temple.

It's not growing, not shrinking. It's not offensively large or obscenely noticeable, and I've been meaning to have my doc slice it off for years now, but always seem to forget.

I'm tempted to just do it myself (I've done so with some smaller moles on my neck and a skin tag or two), but this one will require a scalpel of some magnitude and the steady hand of a certified professional to remove with minimal scarring...and pain.

It's spring with a vengeance here. Temps this last weekend hit high 70's, slight breezes kept it cool, and the girls and I planted veggies in the back, ground cover flowers in the front, with only a few blisters to show for it.

Amid this idyllic scenery and setting, I was attacked by seemingly endless wave after wave of ladybugs.

What does my mole and a ladybug mugging have to do with each other you may be asking?

Strange as it may seem, the red and black beetles were all focusing their landing assault on the mole on my temple.

It was ladybug blitzkrieg on the left side of my face.

Dozens of times during the day, I had to flick off the offending red and black beastie that had decided my mole was it's perfect mate ("...such interesting coloration for a fellow beetle.").

Or pehaps my mole looked like a really fat aphid which would provide the lady bug with several meals worth of aphid casserole.

Whatever the reason, next time I go out to do yard work, I'll be using one of my daughters Dora the Explorer or Spongebob band aids to cover up the ladybug bait on my forehead.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A year is not so long

Exactly one year ago today, I had completed my final day of employment at my old company, had completed packing the final bits and pieces of my life in LA into Otto, had completed closing the shutters and doors of bank accounts, credit union accounts, po boxes, etc., and completed my final check of my 10-year old car before heading out on a 1300 mile trip to my future out east.

While the idea of publishing a blog about my adventures in my not-so "Little House on Main Street On The Prairie" didn't occur to me until several weeks into my new life as an unemployed stay-at-home-Dad living in a 100-year old house in need of restoration and not having a clue where to start, I feel that reaching my 1-year milestone as a resident of the great state of Oklahoma is no small accomplishment on my accord.

I'm alive, and well, and relatively more sane than I have been in recent memory.

At times I miss my old life, but don't we all at some point in our lives.
Most times I love my new life, but don't we all hope to at some point in our life.

There have been times where I continue to be amazed and aghast and bemused and befuddled and critical and captivated and disappointed and delighted and exulant and emotional and...(26 letters in our alphabet right? I don't think so).

My family is intact, well fed, decently clothed, often coifed, much loved, and for want of little.

I have made friends, few foes, good contacts for my planned future endeavors involving my return to the film business, and much headway with my attitude towards the importance of just being.

All in all, not a bad year's work.

Time to go make breakfast. Chocolate Malt-o-Meal today.