Monday, December 31, 2007

We're singing those holiday recovery blues

It's an annual event hosted by the Mother of an old friend of my Wife's, celebrating the end of the shopping/entertaining/holiday season madness, where invitees are welcomed to show up in their most comfy sweats while they gab, snack, sip tea and reminisce on Christmas pasts.

It's called the Poop-out-Party and for the first time ever, S was definitely going.

So we packed up the brood, hitched up the 125 imported horses to our largest stagecoach and barreled up the Turner Turnpike for Tulsa.

Driving straight through Tulsa, we found ourselves in the little big town of Claremore, Oklahoma - population around 19,000.

While S wined and lounged at the Poop-out gathering at a lovely old house set up for rented entertainment called the Pink House, the girls and I got caught up with our old friends from Burbank who were visiting their relatives in Claremore for the holidays.

Long about dinner time, the poop-outs were petering out and wanting a real meal, so off we went to meet our respective significant others at a local Italian eatery, highly recommended by our local hosts. The joint was called...sheesh, I don't recall.

It was semi-Italian sounding, stared with a G...Grimaldi, or Gripaldi, or get the idea. Owned by a tall and jocular Claremore native named Carlos whom I was told is a retired NBA player from the 60's or 70's - not sure what era. Perhaps someone familiar with the area could fill in the blanks for me.

Anyhow, the grub was first rate, the atmosphere spacious and relaxed, and once our girls and all the offspring of our hosts and their assorted siblings were happily situated at their own table with plates of spaghetti and meatballs in front of them, the adults got to relax, unwind, and enjoy the meal.

The following day found our family unit walking the quaint downtown environs of historic Claremore, ducking into several antique malls to peruse the booths of consigned merchandise and grab momentary respites from the crisp northeastern Oklahoma wintry air. We eventually found our way to the Lynn Riggs Memorial statue and museum to 1) view the original surrey with the fringe on top, and 2) get a shot of the girls standing beside the Lynn Riggs memorial statue.

Of these, 1) the museum was locked up tight so no chicks and ducks went scurrying, no surrey and no fringe and 2) why is the playwright of "Green Grow the Lilacs" on which the musical "Oklahoma!" was based, surrounded by mutant overgrown cauliflower?

Perhaps they're lilacs. Go figure. No art critic am I.

For more info on this very prolific and talented native son of Claremore, click here.

To round out the afternoon, we had noon tea at a local historic home and landmark, the Belvidere Mansion. Legend has it the place is haunted by it's previous owner and offspring, which provided eye-darting distractions for our anxious-to-see-a-ghost 8-year old while we toured the majestic 3-storied mansion, shopped in their gift store, and dined on scrumptious house specialty chicken and ham salad sandwiches, killer bowls of homemade soup, scones-a-plenty, and multiple pots of steamy peach tea. The B mansion is a do-again and again kind of place.

And yet, our day outing in Claremore wouldn't and couldn't be complete without a visit with Oklahoma's favorite native son, the late, great Will Rogers.

Up the hill we drove, to what had to be the highest point in the country, for several hours of reflection, recollection, education, and enjoyment at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. Of the venerable Mr. Rogers, I can only say that he would have a reserved seat at the head table at my "Meeting of the Minds" fantasy deceased dinner party -- along with Elvis, Mr. Lincoln, Akira Kurosawa, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Wifey and I left the hallowed grounds with a new appreciation for the wit and wisdom of Mr. Rogers, while the girls came away wanting to become trick ropers.

Next up, we once again take to the Mother Road to see what can only be seen off the interstate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Creative and spicy

My Wife, her two brothers and sister-in-law have an interesting tradition of Christmas gift exchanging that is simple and economical at it's core, but creatively challenging if taken to it's extreme.

Each Christmas a theme is selected and agreed upon, followed by a semi-soft budgetary guideline.

Then the wheels start turning.

Since I officially joined the family 9 Christmases ago and was included in the sibling tradition, the most memorable themes and "gift de la resistances" I can reall are as follows:

A few years back the selected theme was "make it yourself for under $10." Most memorable gift
A CD containing candid tape recordings made on my Wife's newly acquired cassette tape recorder. Notable excerpts include their family Christmas celebration from 1974, my Wife practicing her guitar and singing an original composition titled "Love is like a train," and the siblings countdown to 1975 while watching Dick Clark's New Year's Rockiin' Eve.
Boy, did my Wife have an Okie accent or what.

One year it was surprise gift card pull-from-a-cap. Gift Card Factoid
One in Five gift cards in the U.S. go unspent and unused, netting a $5 billion dollar free-and-clear profit for retailers and businesses.
That's a lot of plastic sitting in the bottom of people's purses, glove boxes, bureau drawers, and office desks.

Last year it was online gift certificates. Net savvy shoppers beware
If you value that zero balance on your credit card then stay clear of place is dangerous. I was drooling over their introductory helicopter flying lesson -- then I remembered I hate flying. Doh!
This year's theme was chips and salsa.
I went with Mrs. Renfro's Green chile salsa and nacho queso dip. Normally, I try to avert contact with Lone Star Statems' but they do make some tasty salsa and salsa products.
Wife went totally MIO with Maria Rae's out of Enid.
Also in the mix were Ponca City localz Head Country with their Garden Rich salsa, another Longhorn offering from the Hell on the Red party dip product line, and three high-QTY offerings from Trader Joe's (via my B-i-L who lives in LA), namely their Pineapple Salsa, a killer Habanero and Lime, and a jar of smoky-yet-spicy Peach concoction.

Chips ran the gamut from Tostitos to On the Border restaurant style chips to some blue corn lovelies from TJ's.

Next years theme is something pickled.

Other than pigs feet.

Oh boy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

An extended family tradition falls to me

Last year was the first Christmas Eve that my Wife could recall not eating tuna salad sandwiches for supper.

The tradition from her Mom's side of the family has always been to gather on the evening of the 24th and to feast on many items, the main course being tuna fish salad sandwiches made by my Wife's Grandmother.

The honor of making the chicken-of-the-sea salad had recently fallen to my F-i-L as the aging grande damme of the family starting showing a lack of interest in the chore. Ever the trooper and purveyor of long-held family tradition, my jack-of-all-trades F-i-L dove in with both hands washed and ready, and produced some first rate tuna salad -- rivaling even my Mom's recipe.

The reason why last year was the first Christmas Eve that my Wife could recall not eating tuna fish salad for supper was because it was the first Christmas Eve without her Grandmother, who we lost on Christmas Eve the previous year.

Faced with the dilemma of not wanting to carry on with the Christmas Eve tradition for fear of her Mother succumbing to the painful memory of losing her own Mother on Christmas Even just one year prior, my Wife went on the hunt for a new tradition to replace the once-treasured/now-freshly painful one of her past.

Discussions involved several family members. Do we incorporate some old with some new? Do we do an indirect nod to the past, while being careful not to be disrespectful to it? Do we do something entirely different this year, then carry on with the old tradition the following year?

My vote was to go 180 on the tradition so I stepped up and offered to channel my Hawaiian ohana and make a down home okazu meal.

Say what?

Okazu...hmm. Kinda complicated, but for anyone who hasn't ever visited Hawaii and had an authentic meal with a typical family, okazu basically boils down to just dishes of food you eat with rice.

My menu for last year consisted of my Mom's Chinese Chicken Salad recipe, deep fried pork/bamboo/water chestnut won tons, deep fried kimchee and cream cheese won tons, Pei Wei's version of spiced chicken lettuce wraps, my own special combination of white and red miso soup, bowlfuls of edamame, and bamboo skewers of garlic/teriyaki marinaded and thinly sliced prime ribeye beef.

I worked my butt off.
The food seemed to be a hit.
Not a tear was shed, nor foul mood detected during the entire evening.

Earlier this month, when talk rolled around to how we were going to spend Christmas Eve this year, I just assumed that enough time had elapsed for us to go back to the traditional tuna-salad sandwich convention.

To which my Father-in-Law stated, "I'm kinda looking forward to that Chinese Chicken slaw and fried doodads that we had last year."

A new tradition is born, and I have some shopping to do.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

See a hippo hero standing there

Our local news rag devotes more than a few column inches in it's December issues to put into print a collection of "Dear Santa" letters penned by local school kids.
As a collection, they're more than a hoot to read, and I went through 2 cups of java doing so. Here are some highlights I picked out, starting with one from the gift obsessed mind of my own 2nd grader...

For an explanation of who Franny and Newton are, click here.
Next up, a little girl wants a pony...with accessories. This is Oklahoma, after all.

Then there's the kid who is trying to get Santa to clean up his messy doin's.

Something tells me that this next kid is planning on practicing his rod-and-reelin', catch-and-release skills on his pet fish...

And doesn't there always seem to be one kid who wants a hippopotamus?

Reminds me of a trivial factoid I recently heard about this most excellent Christmas song making the regular rotation rounds on the easy listening station that's been playing all Christmas music-all the time since Thanksgiving.The song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" was written in 1950 by John Rox and became a nationwide hit in 1953 when ten-year-old Oklahoma native Gayla Peevey sang the song as a way to raise money for the Oklahoma City Zoo's first hippopotamus. In December of that year the city received Matilda the hippo for Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sharing recipes...the deuce you say!

Every December, about the time our local elementary school teachers are preparing to hibernate for their long and well deserved winter's nap (aka Winter Break), the PTO circles it's wagons and pulls an impressive collection of crock pots together to provide a thank-you lunch for the school staff.

This was my second year of enthusiastic participation in the slow-cookery event.

Last year, however I found myself in the unenviable position of being a day late and a crock pot short. Seems that mere hours before I was to be called upon to chip in with my chipped beef recipe, my slow cooker did the unthinkable and committed suicide while attempting to provide my family unit with an 8-hour yankee pot roast -- complete with baby carrots, migi-red potatoes, diced celery and pearl white onions.

I was not to be denied of a catering opportunity for such a good cause as feeding the hungry educators and schoolyard careerist of my daughter's school, so out came my big gun, my secret weapon, my sure-fire, guaranteed to be eaten first and enjoyed the most recipe -- my Mom's Chinese Chicken Salad.

For those of you who've ever eaten and enjoyed Chinese Chicken Salad, this is better.

For those of you who think P.F. Chang's CCS is a delectable and delicious blend of fresh produce, asian oils, spices, nuts and onion, you're correct..but this is better.

For those of you who swear the Diane Salad at Pasadena's Green Street Restaurant is the best version of this venerable Asian lettuce concoction..., this is better still.

The ingredient list is not overly exotic..if you know where to look in your friendly neighborhood oriental foods market.
There is a fair share of chopping, dicing, slicing, toasting, measuring, mixing, and frying to be done in the preparation of the dish, making the anticipation level of the first bite all that more heightened.

This salad, along with a large, thin crust sausage-anchovy-red onion-garlic Ameci's pizza and an ice cold Arnold Palmer would be my Green Mile meal.

It's good enough to cause the selfish and greedy streak in my inner chef to guard the recipe and preparation procedures of this very special salad as I would the keys to the lock on the very last lifeboat on the Titanic, or the blue star feedback level on my eBay account (267 positives, no negatives).

So you can imagine the hearty laughter of disdain and disbelief booming forth from my being when I was asked to provide the recipe for my Mom's Chinese Chicken Salad that was quickly disappearing from the bowl at the end of the third 6-foot table in the Teacher's lounge.

A quick scan of the other dishes laid out (none of which were salads and all of which were contained in slow-cooking crockery) revealed that indeed, recipe cards containing the preparation secrets of the thickly ladled contents within were shamefully displayed before each and every bubbling concoction.

With a final toss of my salad and a quick flick of the tongs, I make a hasty retreat from the inner sanctum of the Teacher's lounge, not wanting to face the torch wielding mobs I knew would soon be gathering around the soon-to-be-emptied cut glass bowl that had once contained my Mom's ambrosiastic salad to the stars.

Later, when I figured the coast was clear and the angry mobs of salad recipe denied school staff had made their final appearance at the PTO supplied buffet line, I snuck back in to retrieve my bowl and tongs. So confident was I that the bowl would not only be empty, but literally licked clean, I brought not a sheet of saran wrap nor a singleTupperware container for the leftovers.

My confidence was rewarded with the sight of a few drops of dressing resembling a primordial salad ooze, dozing and glistening at the bottom of the bowl.

As I lifted the bowl I found a note, written in threatening black Sharpie on a 3x5 card. On it were the five words every cook longs to hear, but in this particular instance, will never be fulfilled....

"We need this recipe."

Perhaps next year I'll replace my dead Crock Pot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The definition of irony itself is ironic

From the police blotter in our local news rag...

Okay, it would have been utterly ironic had their auto actually been grand theft'd in the robbery.

Wonder if the Cops have any leads? Let's see, I imagine the perp is a female, late-40's, married, no kids, no couch...with a healthy, active social life and clear complexion.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Brown's Bakery

A hard and fast rule at C's school is that outside snacks may be brought into the classroom however they must be prepackaged and unopened.

Yet baked/boxed from a commercial vendor are perfectly acceptable.

When C recently wanted to have a little 2nd grade celebration of her 8th birthday in her class, Wifey flatly refused to go the generic cardboard boxed WalMart bakery route. Since our small town has no other commercial bakery, she turned to our favorite solution for such family dilemmas...we go retro.

Nearby my beloved's downtown OKC office building sits an unassuming bakery that is a total throwback to the service and level of quality our parents and grandparents looked for in their daily pursuit of commercial baked goods.

Ladies and Gentlemen, take a big nostalgic whiff of baked goods from a bygone era and enter the realm of family owned eateries at Brown's Bakery.

Now, while their website isn't an indicative representative of the authentic nostalgic atmosphere and style of it's retro-chic downtown location, the bakery itself is the real deal - as are the folks who work there.

Case in point. A not-quite-so-young-anymore couple saunters through the plate glass doors, and while the male of the two takes a knee weakening tour of the miles and miles of glass cases filled with baked goods of every size, shape, and caloric counting level, the female gets down to business and interfaces with the large, elderly man working his icing magic on a double-decker cake.

While no cupcakes were to be found in the display area, quicker than I can say, "bread is the butter of our lives," Wifey's request for 20 white caked cuppers with white butter cream icing and pink and purple jimmies on top was being filled before our eyes.

With nary a snarl, or huff, or sarcastic sigh from the beefy Baker to be found.

Did they taste any better or fresher than had we sunk our dollars into some Wal-Pastries? Perhaps not.

Did the kids eat the cake portion of the cupcakes with as the same enthusiasm and gusto displayed when licking off every last drop of icing. Course not.

Did I carry my gaze a little higher and step a little livelier as I presented the bevy of paper wrapped wonders to C and her class that day, knowing that we had contributed just a tad to a downtown institution of fine eats and tradition.

You betcha.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Band Trek: The Next Generation

Band Geek:[band] (gēk) noun-
A person who is single-minded or accomplished in high school and/or college musical pursuits, and are thusly felt to be socially inept.

Popular flickers like High School Musical and Drumline and wink-wink Band geek characters like Michelle "One time at Band Camp..." Flaherty in the American Pie Series have gone along way to de-frock the Band Geeks from their perceived cloaks of uber-cootiness.

What Napoleon Dynamite did for FFA Judging Teams, popular culture and a few dirty words uttered by a nympho-teenage flautist have enabled Band Geeks the nation over to hold their heads up high in their declarations for a portion of the coolness factor normally reserved for campus athletes and the cheer squad.

Last Saturday night, after standing in freezing rain and 0 degree celsius temps to watch our two snowgirls and their dance class gracefully stumble down the icy streets of downtown in the annual nighttime Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade, we spent a few hours downing mug after mug of delicious cocoa and playing games with a multi-generational family of Band Geeks.

The first generation, the parents - two of the nicest people the world has ever known, met while in Band in high school. They had a band romance, developed a band relationship, threw a band wedding, and now have two wonderful, bright, intelligent and adorable band kids.

The eldest of which is dating a fellow Band Geek, who happened to be joining us that evening for cocoa and reindeer games.

While it feels natural to notice a jock parent raising a jockette offspring, or a scientist configuring a math quiz whiz kid, why then did I find quirkiness in the fact that a pair of Band Geek parents were indeed raising a Band Geek?

Internal bias? Old Skool campus classicism? Preconceived notions of what was cool when I was a kid vs. the reality of how hip it is to be able to play an instrument?

Parenting for some seems to come down to what comfort level their skills were as a kid, filtered and translated to adulthood.

While I could never see myself raising a Quarterback or Pitcher, nor see my daughters being drawn to becoming a Band Geek or the Chess Club President, it doesn't mean I won't encourage the heck out of them to do whatever they want to do (legal of course), and introduce them to as many different activities as the world has to offer.

But how I handle myself when they come to me with interests that far exceed anything I would have been interested in as a kid, will be something I imagine I should start preparing myself for now.

I mean, how many kids come up to their folks saying they want to be a "Hot Rod building-Independent Filmmaking-Final Cut Pro Editing-Macintosh Software Programming-Tae Kwon Do head kicking-SCCA GT1 Corvette Racing-North Shore tube surfing-Space Shuttle piloting-Elvis worshiping" leader of the free world?

Well, I have two daughters, so my odds just doubled.

As long as they don't want to be actresses. Anything, but that.

I know, I know, I just cursed myself. Doomed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I See Y

The ice man cameth and so fareth, we are stilleth blessed with powereth.

Fingers and toes crosseth.

Something tells me this fella is going to have a cold drive to work in the morning...

I know these C-7 bulbs are low wattage, but c'mon, least they could do is shake the dangling ice spears off their butts...

Friday, December 07, 2007

When logos go good

With apologies to Forrest Gump, sometimes a logo is what a logo does.

Spotted on a truck rolling through my small town.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Death, taxes...getting the flu

Year after year I get a flu shot, and year after year I eventually get the flu.

This round only took me out for a night and a full day, but in that time I missed out on the following:
  • 4 loads of laundry - 1 whites, 1 pinks, 1 darks/blues, 1 brown/yellows
  • 2 dinners, 1 breakfast - I could have cooked but felt it would be better not to try and spread my germs via meal preparation.
  • 1 full day of bathroom demolition - tearing out the old bathroom to make way for our new huge laundry/craft/mudroom.
  • 3 trips to the dump with the Elky loaded down with lathe, plaster, sheetrock, a steel tub, a pedestal sink, and commode -- all from the old bathroom.
  • Safe Routes to School Meeting - our school is going to give it a try and get some those Walking School Buses.
  • Monthly Board Meeting - the non-profit org board I serve on now only meets once a month, however the Executive Committee (of which I am a member) still meets on a weekly basis.
  • 2 tuck-ins and bedtime stories read/told - lately PK wants me to tell her a story as opposed to being read one (they must always involved a Unicorn and a Pegasus - her rules), and C just wants me to grab my book and read while she reads her book.
  • I did manage to read and relish Steve Martin's latest tome, an autobiography titled Born Standing Up. Much different than the last comic autobio I read and thoroughly enjoyed, Don Rickles' Rickle's Book. Both are worthy of a gander if you're so inclined to find out what drives funny men to be funny.

    Feeling more human this morning, which is good since I'm set to be the computer/audio/visual assistant for my Wife as she makes a presentation for our small town's local Lion's Club at their monthly meeting/luncheon.

    A husband's work is never done.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    A championship season

    It started with sirens in the distance.

    As they grew louder the honking of car and school bus horns soon accompanied the noise.

    Drawing nearer still, the unmistakable cadence of human cheers and chants joined into the mix.

    It was part of the symphony emitted from the caravan leaving my small town on it's way to an historic event, many years, man hours, fundraisers, and Friday Night Lights in the making -- our football teams trek to the state championship game for it's division.

    Facing a bigger team from a bigger school from a bigger town in the neutral territory of a local Universities playing field - a team who took 4 overtimes to defeat us mere weeks ago, is a big deal to the folks of this town.

    My family and I were proudly waving to the passing caravan from the third step on our front porch.

    Everyone in our small town has some connection to our team, whether they be a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, friend and/or acquaintance of someone associated with the pigskin program. And after close to 3-years residence of our small town, we too, find ourselves falling into one of the previously mentioned categories.

    So they'll we'll be, in the chilly, wet weather that's typical of Oklahoma in the magic season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, celebrating our small town's Friday Night Footballers amazing post-season appearance.

    We'll be sitting near the band taking it all in, becoming one with the extended family that is our town of 4380.

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    Baby, it's snow outside

    One thing my brother and I share is the love of a good movie. Not having him around to sit down with and enjoy a good dude flick every now and again is one of the bummers of having moved away.

    We're both "involved" viewers, meaning when a movie is on, everything else is off. During the playing, we'll share a chuckle at something humorous or a grimace over something brutal - quite often both at the same time cuz that's the kind of movies we both like - but discussion is normally left to the end.

    Interruptions are not welcomed.

    Many hours (too many) spent with eyes peeled, mouths agape, minds off watching our old black and white Zenith as kinderkidz have imbued us with extraordinary powers of concentration when it comes to boob tube viewage.

    Perhaps all those multiple viewings of Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, Looney Tunes, Jonny Quest, F Troop (this list can go on and on, but I'm paraphrasing here, so bear with me) disabled that neuron path in our brains that allows human behavior during television viewing. Whatever the case, we're not the type to knit or do crossword puzzles while watching a movie.

    Like I said, we're involved viewers.

    At least we used to be. Something happened on my Brother's Thanksgiving holiday visit (his first ever to my new Okie digs) that was truly remarkable.

    Having found a free time slot to slide a DVD into the old Sony and share a fave flick of mine with my lifelong compadre of small screen cinema, long and about the end of the second act I found my bros attention begin to waver away from the letterboxed drama and toward the view out our front landscape window.

    It wasn't the movie itself, that much I knew. I had selected a modern classic from my biopic/road movie/need for speed collection titled, The World's Fastest Indian, featuring Anthony Hopkin's as Kiwi cyclist Burt Munro whose adventures in breaking land speed records on his classic Indian motorcycle are the stuff of legends.

    So what then could drive my Brother's attention away from the comfort of a cushy couch, a decent flicker on the tele, and the peaceful joy of enjoying a cinematic yarn with his first and oldest movie watcher...


    About an inch of it fell that afternoon.

    The white stuff. Serene, quiet, lithe and graceful, falling from the sky and blanketing the Oklahoma fall landscape outside.

    It had been over 20 years (he guessed) since my Brother had actually seen snow falling.

    My Mom was digging it too.

    I dug them digging it.

    City folk, gotta love 'em.

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Cheops had a sweet tooth

    For those of you who don't have kids in school at the moment, the staple guide of healthy eating has changed somewhat, and I thought it best to let you know.

    PK colored and brought this version home this week. I'm not sure if it's accurate or reflects modern nutritional thinking, but the top of the old pyramid looks about right to me.

    I always thought that Hershey bars belonged at the very top of any balanced diet.
    With almonds for me thanks.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    The scariest of the three

    Following the traditional day of unstuffing the bird and stuffing ourselves, the family unit and I (with the addition of my visiting Mother and Brother from SoCal) dove headfirst with vim and vigor into the retrieval, construction and adornment of the triangular shaped evergreen (read-artificial) pagan icon for the next holiday...the Christmas tree.

    While retrieving said icon from the upstairs storage space over the garage, I also received a Kasey Kasem American Top 40 long distance dedication and request (of sorts) from my wife to hunt down our stereo components.

    We've actually gone all 3-years of Okie residence without the benefit of our little compact Sony stereo wonder and my Beloved felt it was high time we again filled our lives with the sounds that only a 33 LP could provide.

    33 LP? That's right, among the many aged components that make up what I've amusingly labeled as our stereo system, there lies an actual, direct drive Sony turntable.

    A vinyl spinner.

    A record player.

    While we have a wide and varied selection of iTunes downloaded, CD ripped, and pre-recorded on cassette tape Christmas tunes at our disposal, somehow my wife of 9+ years got it into her head that this year, while setting up the tree under which many a wrapped toy will lay awaiting molestation on the morning of the 25th, we should get out the old vinyl Christmas albums, and do it old skool style -- the way she remembers doing it with her family.

    Once a place was found for the dust bunnied geriatric music making components and the speakers were appropriately placed, the honor of the first record to be played fell upon Andy Williams' classic Christmas Album.

    Twelve seconds into "It's the most wonderful time of the year..." we both remembered why the record technology was so easily and happily left in the veritable dung heap of music reproduction technology, as Andy went on to repeat ad infinitum "and gay happy meetings...and gay happy meetings...and gay happy meetings..."

    Sorry Andy. Even a good wipe down of your classic album by my best microfiber spectacle cleaning cloth didn't do the trick.

    Maybe John Denver and the Muppets would fare better.

    Maybe not.

    My 4-year old, intrigued by the wondrous black licorice discs, wanted to do the DJ duties so next out of the pile came this wonder of nostalgic Christmas vinyl.

    After the 7 or so times we attempted to find an unscratched and dust free section of the album that would play for us, PK took a good long look at the album sleeve in question and blurted out with a modicum of authority and a touch of fear, "the one with the glasses is the scariest chipmunk."

    When she's right, she's right.

    The tree was completed none-the-less and we're ready to take the season head on.

    Umm, right after I put up the lights on the house, of course. Has anyone seen the ladder?

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    D-town doings

    Yikes, I completely neglected to put the finishing touches on my Dallas trip post from earlier this month, so here goes the wrap up.

    When last we heard from the intrepid little Okie family, they were facing the dreaded opening day maddening "Crowds of Humanity" (not to be confused with the Cliffs of Insanity) at the American Girl Boutique and Bistro at the Dallas Galleria...

    However, the banner day started off with the peace and tranquility that only a leisurely taken breakfast at the Ultimate McDonald's for Kids could provide.

    Voted by Travel Channel as the Ultimate McDonald's for Kids, this Happy Meal festooned McD's provided enough eye-candy to get the girls off to a fairly decent hyperactive start of the day.

    A post-breakfast/pre-noon swim at the indoor pool in the hotel revealed that my 4-year old retained the bulk of her swimming lessons from last summer and was now into seeing if she could hold her breath under water as long as her Daddy could.

    Just as revealing was my conversation with a paunch-bellied jovial grandfather who originally came from San Diego but had retired to San Antonio. He also was in town with his wife, daughter and grandaughers for the American Girl opening and was taking in the peaceful sites and sounds of the hotel while the women kin stormed the beachhead of the Galleria.

    A few hours later, we too found ourselves standing in a 40-minute line to enter the American Girl store, amid a storm of complimentary water bottle bearing store employees (it wasn't that hot, but they were prepared for it, so props to them), media (local independent news station getting color...must have been a slow news day), and face upon face of young girls, eager to get in and empty their guardian's checking accounts.

    As happy customers exited, an equal number of anticipation filled customers were allowed in. It was all very civil and organized and even though the crowds inside were shoulder to shoulder at times, we were able to navigate the aisles with relative ease and even enjoyed standing in the 20-minute long check out line due to a lively conversation we participated in with other commiserating parents of young daughters.

    Since I'm a stay-at-home Dad with two daughters, I like to think that I'm more in touch with my softer side than many of my male contemporaries. However even I was unnerved by the massive amounts of female hormones flying about this store.

    My F-i-L didn't seem to fare as well, as he pulled an Elvis and exited the building mere minutes after he did his duty by making sure we all had entered the realm of dolldom safely.

    Our bank account was pillaged only a tad, thanks to a last minute gift card from my brother (thanks Bro!) and we were already putting the opening day experience behind us no more than an hour later.

    Later that day while cruising the Galleria, I stumbled upon these incomplete(?) signs while searching for the restroom facilities.

    Sums it all up pretty well, I'd say.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    Holiday kitchen hierarchy

    Last night I was in our local grocery market (avoiding the WalMart SatanCenter - as my wife calls it) picking up some last minute items to complete the gluten-free dishes I'm whipping up for my gluten-free mother who is visiting from LA for the holiday.

    Potato flour, check.
    Corn meal, check.
    Natural chicken stock with no MSG or modified food starch...uh, 2 cans, way in the back.
    Gluten free bread....uh, don't even think it (the nearest Trader Joe's is 8 hours away in Albuquerque or St. Louis, sigh.)
    Mi Madre will just have to make do with cornmeal based stuffing.

    While trying to decide if gizzards and giblets were one in the same thing (gizzards are giblets), I cart-bumped into a young mother who is active in the PTO and innocently asked her whether or not she was cooking for her brood and country this weekend.

    Shaking her head with all the vigor of a 12-year old playing speed Tennis on their Wii, she told me that she hadn't yet earned that right.

    Seems in her clan, the preparation of the extended brood Turkey Day meal is relegated to the most senior of the female family delegates. One has to "earn" the privilege(?) and right to take on such a daunting task, the current culinary throne being shared by a Grandmother and a pair of Great Aunts.

    With a Mother and Mother-in-Law, a half-dozen Aunts, several older Cousins and eager spouses of assorted other relatives waiting in the nutritive wings of the family feast stage, young PTO mom is far and away from being eligible to step into the gourmet spotlight.

    But she didn't seem all the bummed about it.

    Happy Gluten-Free Thanksgiving to all! Who's up for seconds on our crust-less pumpkin pie?

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007


    I figure there are approximately 60 second grader girls in my small town.

    4 classes of 2nd graders at the public school, with 15-17 students per class, factor in the fact that the girls seem to outnumber the boys by almost 2 to 1, then add in the small number of 2nd grade girls at the Catholic school as well as the home schooled kids, and my 60 figure is a decent educated guess.

    I also figure there to be approximately the same amount of pre-K girls in my small town as well.

    Now, assuming that each one of those 2nd grade girls in town have at least half as many doll and/or stuffed animals that my 2nd grade daughter has, and that each of the pre-K girls have equal or lessor amounts as well...

    Then by my math, the entire doll and stuffed animal population generated by pre-K and 2nd graders alone is easily equal to the total human population of my small town.

    Factor in the Kinder, 1st grade, 3rd grade...etc., etc., and were outnumbered by at lease a 5 to 1 margin.

    In reality, it's probably closer to 10:1.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    You're doin' fine, Oklahoma

    After spending the night sleeping like an Egyptian at this unique Guthrie B&B with my family unit, we ended up spending a most special day celebrating our state's 100th birthday stepping up and down the same streets where the historic event actually happened.

    Among other uniquely Okie people, places, things and sites we absorbed this day, was this view from our corner spot of the parade.

    Note the historic buildings (Guthrie is one of the largest historic districts in the country), the throngs of excited centennial-goers anticipating a parade 100 years in the making (est. 100,000 people flooded into the city), the brilliant blue Oklahoma Fall sky (high of 70 with south breezes) and...

    ...these kids who sat up there, dangling their feet off the 2nd story of that building for the entire length of the parade.

    Don't know if anyone else noticed them, but with all the cops roving the streets and parade route, I'm sure someone with a badge must have spotted them.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Rethinking recruitment representation

    I was quite pleased to discover that Oklahoma had a public liberal science and arts college that was ranked #1 in U.S. News & World Reports America's Best Colleges “Great Schools, Great Prices” list.

    But then I saw their half page ad in a recent issue of Oklahoma Today and had to wonder what the PR / Ad layout person was thinking when they selected this particular photo to represent their university.

    Raising the Standard, indeed.

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Street gang invasion

    It had to happen sooner or later, but a dangerous new street gang has invaded, apparently moving through my small town from their home turf on the westside.

    Sadly, they aren't the romanticized singing and dancing Jets and Sharks from the West Side, nor are they the colors wearing, deuce chunkin', AK-47 slinging, crack-dealin', low-riding Boyz from the Hoodie.

    Nope, these new gangsta's can be easily spotted by their funky spiked hair doos, their penchant for gathering in high places, and an apparent need to rid the world of hunting dogs (maybe they mistake them for drug sniffing dogs, who knows).

    Their weapon of choice are sharpened needles -- not the kind your Grammy hems your pants up with before sewing it tight. I'm talking thick, razor tipped, long as a Sonic Coney dog and barbed needles that these gang members hide in their spiked hair styles.

    Since they've been spotted hanging out around Main Street and in their safe dens around town, the local cops have had multiple altercations with them, resulting in the shooting death of four alleged gangsters.

    Low enforcement officials are warning locals not to approach members of the new menace, and definitely not to touch them, for they seem especially prone to attack when physically touched.

    Fellow street gangsters...I give you...
    The Westside 'P-pines

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Moo juice in motion

    With the addition of an anecdote my pre-k'er unloaded on us at dinner the other night, I can proudly add yet another Universal Truth to our cadre of family wisdom-isms.

    As a race, we are all born, we all love to get mail, we all pay taxes, and we all die.

    And to these I can now proudly add that every member of my little family has witnessed the disgusted thrill of watching someone laugh milk out their nose while sitting in the school cafeteria.

    For me, it was Charlie Okamoto, with Chris Diaz as the inducer of the milky nasal guffaws.

    C got hers in Kindergarten and couldn't wait to tell us all about it after school that day.

    I know not the details of my Wife's foray into the realm of the half-n-half honking, however since she's familiar enough with the syndrome to know the discomfort it causes both to participants and viewers, it stands to reason she too has a skim-sniffer incident in her past.

    As Universal Truths go, I think "sit in a school cafeteria long enough and someone will laugh milk out their nose" may be the truism to hand the aliens when they finally do make contact and ask what the key to our existence is.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    Amerikan Girls on holiday

    Back in the 80's there was a tv miniseries called "Amerika" - 14+ hours of melodrama centering around the concept of what if we had lost the Cold War to the Soviet Union?

    With marketing phenomenon like American Girl and institutions of higher spending such as the Galleria Dallas, the Amerika scenario is a Communist pipe dream.

    Been to Dallas before as a lad and did the obligatory West end clubbing thing as well as frolicking on the grassy knoll within site of the Texas School Book Depository. Dallas was pretty much like any other big city I've visited only it's full of Texan's, which can be good (if you're a Texan) or bad (if you're a normal person).

    Living where we do, only a 5+ hour drive to the home of America's Team (the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders) Wifey and I thought it'd be a hoot-of-sorts to splurge on our oldest daughter's 8th birthday last weekend and take her and her sister on a road trip down to Dallas for reasons soon be made clear.

    Texas vs OSU at home and Texas Tech vs. OU at home meant lots of traffic heading north, and plenty of longhorn plates in the gas and zip stops along the I35 corridor, but other than that our drive down was painless.

    We checked into our room at a suite joint across the way from the Galleria, and unburdened the trunk of it's luggage and pre-wrapped birthday presents (including two new internet-purchased American Girl dolls with almond shaped eyes and hair length and color that matched our girl's).

    A quick late night outing to pick up some bottled water and get my street bearings (something odd I do when I find myself in new surroundings...weird I know, but I like to know where I am) and I happened to drive by our American Doll destination of desire.

    There I spotted a host of security guards patrolling the outer environs of the American Girl shop. Odd since the store wasn't scheduled to open for another 10 hours.

    Not so odd when you took into consideration the groupings of Mothers and Daughters who were bundled up in sleeping bags and fold up canvas chairs, camped out in line at the doubled glass door entrance to the mecca of resin doll and doll accessories lying in wait within.

    Seems our daughter's birthday outing and our on-a-whim desire to road trip down here just happened to coincide with the grand opening weekend of this particular American Girl Boutique and Bistro (the only one of it's kind in Texas, the other B&B is located in Atlanta, whereas the larger American Girl Place's are in LA, Chitown, and NYC).

    So, some fanatics were camping out in line at yet another grand opening of yet another niche store. This is America.

    As a nation, we've camped out for Springsteen tickets, iPhones, Halo 3, and Black Friday sales. Surely the desire to be the first mother/daughter pair in line for the opening of a doll store shouldn't raise more than a few eyebrows.

    And the fact that a few doll devotees would spend the night in the chill of a fall Dallas evening, shouldn't cast any doubts that the following days grand opening wouldn't be anything but smooth sailing and easy going.

    I mean, c'mon, it's a doll shop. How crowded could it be? (Insert impending doom theme from any horror movie here...)

    Yeah, me too....I suddenly got a bad feeling about all this...

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    Jail food is bad?

    Taken from a recent issue of our local news rag...

    Wonder if she's gonna sue the Police Dept. for post-booking indigestion.

    Can you imagine the look on the Judge's face when the arresting officer shows up in court and says, "Sorry Judge, but the defendant ate my homework."

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    A tank of gas to B-town and back

    Two weekends ago, we took the girls on a road trip up to a relatively good sized town called Bartlesville, in the northern quadrant of this wacky panhandle shaped state.

    Since we had a relatively short time to accomplish our mission (this was a working weekend for my wife, if you can call dragging your family along on a road trip "work"), so we had to suffer the indignities of turnpike travel with the promise that we would someday take a real road trip up to the Tulsa area on the Mother Road when future time permitted.

    Tickets, get ya tickets here!
    The first stop on our missive mission was to the Spook-A-Rama at a little slice of kiddie ride heaven known as, what else, the Kiddie Park.

    If there is a place where old State Fair Midway rides for the under 42"crowd goes to be reborn to serve entirely new generations of ankle biters, then this is the place.

    The normally festive atmosphere brought on by the rides, concessions, and pint size scale of everything (including the ticket prices...two bits each!), was getting hauntingly close to a Monster Mash fevered pitch thanks to the "bring your kid in his/her Halloween costume" theme.

    S got what she needed, the kids rode everything they wanted, PK won a prize in a round of musical chairs, and I got to torment the high school aged ride staff who were begrudgingly dressed in ill fitting costumes as well.

    "Free breakfast served from 6-10 a.m."
    A night spent in relative quiet at a local historic motor inn (we avoid chain sleeperies if at all possible), followed by a hot breakfast at 9:50 a.m. (10 minutes before officially shutting down it's complimentary breakfast service -- sorry Waitress, but...could we have more juice please?), and we were off to part 2 of our bonding-in-a-small-import-sedan weekend.

    What's that up in the sky...?"
    On our way out of town, we drove by this...

    Now, I don't know who this Frank Lloyd Wright fella be, but he makes some wacked out buildings...and in Oklahoma no less!

    This is the one and only cantilevered skyscraper that FLW designed and it truly is astonishing to look at from ground level.

    We walked around it under a bright blue, late morning, cool and breezy Oklahoma sky and while the girls pulled at our arms and legs to get us back to the car "cuz we've spent enough time looking at this old building," Wifey and I vowed to spend at least one romantic weekend hunkered down in the Inn portion of the tower before we die.

    All I can say is every skyscrapered city in the world must be jealous and envious of Bartlesville, because of the Price Tower that graces it's downtown skyline.

    As our car left the shadow of the wondrous tower, in no time at all we had made the short drive to another wonder of attractions that fails to define itself due to it's varied level and variety of attractions, Woolaroc.

    With the exception of some friends of my Wife who won't take their kids to a Wild Animal Park for fear that some errant water buffalo will scratch the finish on their 8-year old Suburban - c'mon people, live a little, I don't know anyone who wouldn't get a thrill from the 2-mile drive from the Woolaroc entry gate to the museum complex at the top of the hill.

    I'm not a wildlife expert, so I'll not try to channel Bindi the Jungle Girl, but I can say that we saw more four-legged beasties with antlers, racks, horns, mucousy snouts, humps, bumps, hooves, manes, tails, and attitude, all roaming free and pooping wherever and whenever they liked, in those two miles than 14 straight hours of Animal Planet viewing.

    The Woolaroc museum complex itself is astounding and a testament to what oil money and one Okie's love of the west and overwhelming desire to collect and display some oddball art, artifacts, and an airplane, can produce on some of the most scenic property in the state.

    Won't fit in my bathtub
    Speaking of oddball, our final stop in the area was here to go here to view this wonder of miniature shipbuilding madness.

    Anything I write here wouldn't do this amazing tribute and work of model making art justice, but I feel compelled to point out that inside the miniature version of the ships Captain's Quarters, are framed pictures on the walls of the very ship the model is based on -- pictures that actually were mounted in the Captains' Quarters of the full sized doomed ship.

    Hands off the glass kiddies.

    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    The name game

    As part of the research for my small town's downtown historic walking trail project that I'm involved in, I've found that in the 100+ year history of the town, businesses were generally named after the people who owned them.

    Sandusky Chevrolet was owned by the Sandusky family, the Gooden's built the Gooden building and Norma's House of Beauty was indeed owned by a blue-haired coiffure named Norma.

    Where I grew up, as old businesses were bought by new owners, for whatever reason, the new owner's would often times opt to keep just a portion of the previous businesses name.

    A Comfort Inn became "Com on Inn" (remove a few letters, change an "r" to an "n" and you're back in business).
    Phil's Deli became Phi Deli (It was all Greek to me, but there wasn't a gyro on the menu)
    The Luxury Car Wash became Lux Car Wash (wonder what he did with the u,r, and y?)
    Tastee Freeze became Taste Freez (guess he had something again e's)
    Even the market where I worked my first job as a Courtesy Clerk went from Alpha Beta Supermarket to Shang Hai Yau Fat (just try and figure out that one!)

    Much like the "Chinglish" my old work buddies and I would enjoy deciphering when reading instruction manuals for Taiwan-made discount electronic goods, there was humor galore when envisioning two immigrant brothers making the decision to turn their recently purchased "Comfort Inn" into a "Com on Inn."

    While this new business naming short cutting may be prevalent the world over, here in my small town, folks don't even bother with the letter dropping - at least pharmacist don't.

    When Dennis' Pharmacy was bought by Larry Adams, it didn't suddenly become Larry's Pharmacy. Dennis' Pharmacy is still around and doing quite well with a thriving drive-up window clientèle.

    Same thing happened with Tom's Drug. Charley Randall bought out Tom's Drug from Tom, but didn't see the need to confuse his customers by changing the name to Charley's Drug.

    Tom's Drug it was, and Tom's Drug it remains to this day.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    ...and the agony of defeat

    Within the span of two-weeks, my small town has gone from "small" to "a little bit bigger," due to the expansion and world domination plans of two mega-corporations.

    Early reports from the newly opened McDonald's are showing long lines at most hours of the day, McTrash and McLitter starting to turn up in the gutters downtown, wooing of the local non-profits with unsolicited $1,000 checks being handed out to a select few "educational" based 501(c)(3)'s in town (including a check to the non-profit on whose Board I sit on - full disclosure here), and even a temporary shut-down for the first few nights of 24-hour drive through access due to the McKitchen actually running out of food.

    All reports are pointing to the fact that it may take months, even years, for the local community to figure out that our McDonald's is the same as other McDonald's and that it is, in fact, just a McDonald's.

    Fun McTrivia fact...our McD's was the newest McD's to open...for 4 hours. That's right, somewhere, somehow, someplace in the world, Ronald opens a new franchise in the time it takes me to download, install, cuss out, and trouble shoot the latest Windoze Service pack.

    Want some fries with that?

    If that wasn't enough to send the collective blood pressure of the 4380 residents of my small town into control-alt-delete hyperdrive, our newly constructed WalMart SuperCenter just opened it's doors to all the fanfare deserving of the low price leader in the retail industry.

    Here too, people can't seem to get over the fact that it is, in fact, just another WalMart, as opening weekend aisle bombers and cart stuffers were in rare consumer driven frenzied form.

    After school on opening day, I scurried the girls over to get C some AAA batteries for her short wave walkie-talkies, and no kidding, we saw a representative of just about every family we knew in town, pushing a cart and gazing in wide wonder at the feast of capitalistic trappings before them.

    The lighting was hyper white - more than 8800 kelvin by the light meter in my eyes.

    The cement floors were hyper polished - over 50,000 sq feet of floor space, beckoning the question of just how many more "accidental fall" lawsuits will they face this year as compared to their 20,000 sq feet of floor in the old Walmart?

    And the shoppers were hyper excited - you know that look that your kids have in their eyes when they're walking down Main Street, USA in Disneyland for the nth time?

    Same look, only toss an OU sweatshirt over them, add a few lbs. and put them behind a stainless steel Walmart buggy.

    The excitement was tangible...and sticky.

    Meanwhile, back at the old WalMart, the sign on the street was being painted over, the 15-foot tall white letters were being brought down off the store facing, and that night, the lights on their side of the parking lot, which they share with what used to be our one and only grocery store in town, were turned off - rendering the lot into 50% darkness.

    I'm not looking forward to going into the grocery store later today to get some Halloween supplies.

    The air of doom may be too heavy for me to endure.

    But maybe I'm being paranoid. Lot's of small town grocery stores survive just fine when a SuperCenter moves into town...don't they?

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    Same as it ever was....same as it ever was

    And you may find yourself in another part of the world
    And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
    And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful Wife
    And you may ask did I get here?"
    We've all had these moments and yesterday I found myself humming the Eno/Byrne lyrics to myself not once but twice in an 8-hour span.

    No one whispered to me to "build it and he will come..."
    The second half of PK's school field trip involved a slow cruise on the back of a hay bale filled trailer through a maze that was haphazardly cut through the corn field of a local farmer.

    As I took up the rear echelon behind the cavalcade of parents trailing the filled to 4-year old capacity trailer, I was overwhelmed by the realm of the fish-out-of-water senses.

    Like many LA natives, I've bought corn, I've shucked corn, I've cooked it, scraped it off the cob, poured it out of a can, souped it up in chowder, popped, buttered, salted, and stood in line at the State Fair for a roasted ear of it dipped in a vat of greasy, yellow, steamy liquid that in an alternate universe could pass for a butter flavored condiment.

    But all my experiences of the corn nature, up to this point in my life, were with dead corn.

    This was the first time I walked among it as a living entity.

    The smell of the surrounding living corn plants, the squish of the hardening dirt/mud below my Sketchers, the fragrance of the fuel oil exhaust from the overworked tractor pulling the trailer, and the utter absence of a visual horizon line beyond the tops of the corn stalks and the end of the trail from whence we came and where we were headed came at me in a rush of FieldofDreams fantasia.And you may find yourself in another part of the world,And it kinda freaked me out, in a claustrophobic, looking up at the sky from the bottom of a 6-foot hole in the ground sorta way.And you may ask did I get here?Zoned out without a plan
    Roughly 7 hours later, I found myself standing inside the downtown municipal building before a panel of selected townspeople known as the Planning and Zoning Commission.

    Within 20 minutes of my introduction and a few seconds after I pulled my finger away from the 18x24 diagram resting on the community easel at the conclusion of my presentation, the panel had unanimously voted their approval for the placement of the first of 6 historic downtown walking trail markers that the non-profit group I serve on was proposing to install in the next few weeks.

    Unlike most normal folk, public speaking has never been a weak spot in my repertoire of nerve inducting skill sets. Parallel parking in front of a group of sidewalk onlookers, now that'll get me sweating, but getting up in front of a bunch of people to spout off some fact, figures, measurements and humorous anecdotes (hey, I thought they were funny) is a piece of cake.

    Thus my first ever public presentation to a representative body in my small town came to it's "what the heck and I doing here" conclusion.

    Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Animals are people too

    Last night, while cruising Google Maps looking for info on the fires near my Pops town, I came across these two VERY Google post'em popups.

    Two-legged animals need not apply. No soup for you!

    Horses gotta eat...even homeless ones.

    Just spoke with my StepMom who tells me that even if the evac order came down for their street, not to expect the old man to leave his home and hot rod without a fight.

    I got him on the phone and told him what better way to die than trying to outrun a fire in his big-block deuce, gas pedal floored and head tucked in low wearing his leather Snoopy-helmet and goggles.

    He laughed and said he'd think about it.

    They report lots of ash, smoke so thick it's an effort to breathe, and a quiet stillness that pervades the little cul-de-sac where they live.

    We didn't start the fire

    Pardon my housekeeping as I use my blog to provide a quick update to concerned friends and family members who have been contacting me regarding the status of my Pops who retired down to Oceanside, CA.

    On the graphic below (provided by the local news station down in SD - the same station where the reporter who watched his house burn on national tv worked out of), the little blue hot rod represents approximately where my old man's hot rod is currently garaged. As you can see, as of this afternoon he wasn't in any imminent danger.

    But those Santa Ana's blow hard and strong at times. Hopefully the onshore flow that keeps Oceanside cool and mild (average annual temp is low-70's) year round will keep the sparks at bay.

    Latest update showed a few small fires burning bright around Camp Pendleton, which is just north of his position. Hopefully the Marines will squelch these out with some boot scootin' and not let it get anywhere near the camp's perimeter.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Tally ho, away from RI we go

    All right, let's tally it all up and say so long to the quahog state...Lobster rolls consumed my moi - 3

    Lighthouses spotted to visited ratio - 4:1

    U-turns made from the right hand lane - 4

    Meals ate in a genuine Worcester dining car in the state named as the birthplace of the American diner- 1

    Bottles of locally grown wine decanted and leisurely sipped on the private beach in front of our rental cottage - 1

    Number of times I mispronounced the town where our cottage was...Matunuck, before being condescendingly corrected by a local grocer - 1

    % cleaner the house was upon our return, even though I did a massive Mother-in-Law cleaning before we left - 99%

    Number of grimaces S would dispense every time I'd pick up a carved wooden salty dog figure or lighthouse statue in a tacky nautically stocked gift shop - 100+

    Ratio of ghosts seen, felt, and heard to Walking ghost tours taken - 0:1 (most disappointing).

    Ears of fresh corn purchased at local roadside farm stands, then cooked and consumed on the upstairs deck overlooking the beach - 6 each

    State where we'll be spending our anniversary next year - Arizona

    The Grand Canyon for our 10th anniversary. Not too shabby.

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    A chicken in every pot and a plunger in every restroom

    A cute little sandwich shoppe in downtown Chickasha avoided a bathroom disaster last week by having the good sense to provide a plunger in it's ladies room.

    Whatever we've been feeding our girls, seems to not only be nourishing their little bodies and propelling them to new heights in both school and post-academic activities but it's also producing end product of menacing proportions.

    All I have to say about it is, "ouch."

    Apparently I'm not alone in this area, as fellow Dad-Blogger Dennis' imps have provided him with similar adventures in pottydom.

    When I was summoned by the panicked stricken voice of my 7.5 year old to enter with haste into the normally forbidden realm of the restaurants femme facilities, a quick scan of the focal point of my daughters stressed state revealed a nearing of the rim floodwater state.

    Jumping into action, I pulled up the tank lid and lifted the plunger arm, thus sealing off the water supply that was causing the toilet bowl to reach max cap.

    Made it with about an inch of bowl lip to spare.

    Spotting an industrial strength black rubber headed plunger of plenty tucked covertly behind the rubbermaid trash can in the corner, I motioned for my now near gagging offspring to hand me the wooden handled tool of commodious salvation.

    The hand-off was made, and the black rubber head of the baby plunger was dipped into the toilet bowls baptismal waters. Like a streaming video off the DIY website, the proper tool used properly (albeit one-handed) made short time of the clog of my own daughter's doing.

    All the more reason why if I'm ever appointed to the State Legislature (I'd never run for it...too many skeletons in the old water closet) I'd propose a bill that would require all public restrooms with sit-down type commodes should make available a working plunger to it's temporary occupants.

    Modern high fiber diets deem it more than necessary.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Rhode's Roads 2 of 2

    The first thing I encountered on my initial trek to Rhode's roads was how easily I could burn some rubber from a standing start, quickly covering my lead foot by placing blame on my unfamiliarity with the vehicle.

    Whoa nelly. Gonna really have to watch those speed limits

    How ironic then that the second roady strangeness we encountered were the ridiculously low speed limits that nobody but a ticket cautious tourist in a bright red car was seemingly obeying.

    Roads that appeared to be worthy of a 65 zone, were posted as 45.
    35 mph was a luxury on the 2 lane country roads we took to and from our beach cottage.
    25 zones were everywhere, regardless of there being only one house in sight for dozens of miles.

    No kidding, we and our bright red Okie tagged car were the only ones approaching a close proximity to the posted speeds.

    So, either RI neglected to follow suit with the rest of the country in leaving the federally mandated 55 p.m. max speed limit behind, or more likely, they just want to slow people down on the highways so they won't get distracted scanning their XM Satellite radio dial and miss seeing the state entirely.

    That's right, the Ocean State is a definite "blink and you'll miss it" experience. We made it from Providence, which is approximately in the upper third of the state, to the furthest reaches of the southern coast in 45 minutes --- and that was via strict obedience to each and every posted speed limit. Meaning we could probably go end to end in about an hour.

    Heck, I couldn't get from Malibu to Santa Monica via PCH in that amount of time.
    Here are some other roadway oddities we encountered...

    U-turns from the outside lane. It's funky and if you want/need to make a U-ey, you'll have to know ahead of time where they've constructed these special outside U-turn lanes to do so, but it sure makes it easier to head in the opposite direction while holding a cinnamon donut in one hand while turning the wheel with the other. Inside lane U-turns are virtually impossible in a front-wheel drive car with no power steering while simultaneously grasping a fried dough ring.

    Stone walls lining the property borders - no cattle fence here. The fence builders of Rhode Island old saw no point in deforesting their property just to put up some fences. Instead, they picked up a few million of the VW engine sized boulders and made walls out of them. Whenever we spotted a rock wall in disrepair and running adjacent to a large tree, I'd look over to Wifey and say, "What, Andy? What's buried under there?"
    To which she'd reply, "You'll have to pry it up... to see."
    We both love that flick.

    Lack of street signs - Rhode's roads are marked for locals, and no one else. Maybe I'm CalTrans spoiled and am so used to having my hand held as I navigate my way through unknown neighborhoods that I've lost my hunter/gatherer instinct and have become sign dependent.

    But really, is having a single street sign at every intersection too much to ask for?

    Just a single sign?

    Hand painted on a piece of driftwood would do it.

    Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to make men guess a direction when they're driving and searching, cuz stopping to ask for directions is NOT, I repeat, NOT an option.

    Next up - Why do lighthouses and those Gorton's Fisherman-looking wooden figures with pipes and seagulls on their Skipper hats depress my wife so.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Rhode's Roads Part 1

    One of the many reasons we take these annual treks is to see America.
    Not to just fly over it.
    Not to drive through it on an interstate.
    Not to let Google maps route the fastest path from point A to point B.

    To get off the beaten path, see things that locals get to see, marvel at things that tourists like to marvel at, and attempt to get a feel for things that make each and every state a jewel in it's own right.

    Which usually puts us behind the wheel of a rental car once we arrive via the convenience of flying the friendly skies.

    In my limited experience, rental cars can be problematic as much as they can be a blessing. The sub-compact selection we were assigned by RI Budget was no exception.

    "Space 12, down this aisle, on your left. Keys are in it, here's your it to the attendant at the booth on the way out."

    Problematic or Blessing? - our two-door domestic Chevy pocket rocket was shod in a chronic "slap-me-with-a-speeding-ticket" red skin. Wifey took a quick gander at the blazing hue and expressed her contempt for red cars, citing some long ago read AAA magazine article labeling them as beacons for ticket happy Highway patrol officers.

    In a classic guy movie moment, my vision went tunnel and only two little letters, slapped stealthily on the side of the door of our $175-per week online rental deal came into focus....SS.

    I quickly checked to make sure we were at the right space and looking at the right car.
    Wifey quickly checked to make sure there were no pre-existing dents, dings, or scratches that we may get tagged with upon our safe, accident free and non-LDW signed rental.

    The coast was clear -- for both of us.

    Wifey got in as did our luggage. I popped the hood and found myself doing a dead eye stare with a 2.0L Supercharged DOHC ECOTEC four-cylinder.

    Everything looks good under here," went my mouth.
    "Vroom" went our rental car.
    "Rhode Island rocks," went my brain.

    Problematic or Blessing? - our rental actually had Oklahoma plates on it.
    Yep, that's right. Two connecting flights, 1500 miles, a half dozen or so states, 2 bottles of water and several bags of peanuts later, we found ourselves sitting in a car that had recently made the same general trip as we had just made.

    Why, you ask, could this be construed as problematic?

    Tell me honestly, all you non-Okie's out there...when you are driving around your own state and spot a car in front of you with Oklahoma plates, what's the first thing that pops in to your head?

    Thought so...thus the problematic label.

    So, here we were, a couple of Okie's, driving a rental car with Okie plates, around a state that is not Oklahoma.

    After making a mental note of which side the gas filler cap was avoid that potentially embarrassing pulling-to-the-wrong-side-of-the-gas-pump situation (been there), we were off and running on the Rhode's roads.

    End of Part 1

    Next up, Rhodes roads Part 2 - Stranger on a strange road

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    A week without red meat is like...

    The day following our return to my small town we gathered up the kiddies and went forth to make a small cash donation to the local Catholic Church fundraiser in exchange for a rib dinner.

    Now, I don't know what kind of beef ribs these were, but we could smell them smoking and brewing and festering over burning wood and coals in jet black rolling smokers for hours beforehand. By the time we got to sinking our pearly whites into the thickly sliced hunks of prime Oklahoma fed, raised, and butchered rib meat, the flesh was literally falling off the bone.

    Those Knights of Columbus boys sure make some good ribs.

    While picking our teeth and sipping our post-fundraising feed tea, the Wifey and I got to talking about our recent culinary choices while in the land of the Rhodes and came to the realization that we had had not a trace of red meat the whole time away on our anniversary vacay.

    Not a rib, nor breakfast steak, t-bone nor all beef wiener had done the downward spiral toward either of our stomachs for the previous 8 days.

    However, the following is a relatively complete listing and description of what replaced the bovine-based consumables in our diet for the week.

    Shield the kiddies eyes, this may get ugly...
  • Quahogs (kwaw-hawg, -hog, kwoh-, koh-, kwuh-hawg, -hog) - native coast clam, fun to say, funner to eat. Also the fictitious namesake of the Family Guy's home town.
  • Clam Chowder - RI-style chowda is clear-broth based (lactose intolerant chowda---heaven in a bowl). Not good if you don't like to see the big hunks of quahog clams in your chowder, but if that's the case, why are you eating clam chowder in the first place?
  • Jonnycakes - flapjacks and pancakes hefty stone ground cornmeal cousin, made famous in an old episode of The Sopranos.
  • Clam cakes - cross between a crab cake and beignet, with bite sized chunks of clam hidden within. Best when dipped into a steaming bowl of RI clear broth chowder.
  • Lobster bisque, lobster roll sandwiches, lobster ravioli, lobster salad, fried lobster, whole boiled lobster (stop me when you get tired, Forrest)...
  • Dunkin' Donuts- with a DD on just about every corner throughout this most miniscule of state, I chose the cinnamon laced fried dough confection because that's what Spenser would have selected. There are two DD's in the metro OKC area so I'm familiar with their quality and selection. Honestly, they aren't the best donuts I've ever eaten, but their ease of access, availability and selection make for a tempting mid-day sugar rush.
  • Coffee milk w/ Autocrat syrup - just think chocolate milk made with a coffee flavored and colored Bosco. So popular, it was recently voted as the official State Beverage, beating out Del's Lemonade.
  • Local wine purchased at a Package Store - I recalled these odd named liquor stores from last years jaunt to Massachusetts. We luckily found a really tasty wine made at a local vintner.
  • Awful Awful - (awful good, awful big - no kidding). Don't ask for a milkshake in RI -- you'll get a flavored milk drink. To get a traditional ice creamy type milk dessert drink, look on the menu for a Cabinet, the ultimate one being the "Awful Awful" from a local chain of creameries.
  • A substantial Italian immigrant population in RI ensures two things - a big Columbus Day celebration and an Italian eatery on every corner not already occupied by a Dunkin' Donuts. For our traditional anniversary meal (pizza), we turned to a local favorite on top of Federal Hill's Little Italy district. Caserta Pizzeria made us a neapolitan-style medium 4-topping special (they only offer 5 toppings, the last of which being anchovies, which normally I would heap on, but this being our anniversary pizza, I went without to keep the peace) as well as their signature Wimpy Skippy -- a folded over spinach filled pizza pie stuffed with cheese and pepperoni. Swigged down with a couple of Narrangasett lagers, color us happy.
  • NY System wieners - mustard, meat sauce, onions, celery salt on a steamed bun. We ordered 2 wieners each and were happy to do it. Also happy to report no negative after effects that night or the morning after. Plus, admit's just fun to say "wieners." Regarding our red meatless week, there may have been some real beef in these wieners, but I'm not brave enough to venture a guess as to what the meat content of these dogs were. Remember, I'm a Spam eater, so I'm definitely a "don't ask-don't tell" processed meat consumer.
  • Drake's coffee cakes - okay, not really a local treat, but when I saw them sitting on the prepackaged bakery goods next to the familiar Hostess products, visions of Seinfeld flooded my head. I've never seen these on the bakery shelf here in OK, nor back in LA, so I had to partake. The combination of the moist cinnamon topping and ultra dry crumbly cake made for a happy food dance moment.
  • Bon apetit.