Friday, September 28, 2007

Chunkin' a deuce to his farm boy homies

An article ran on the front page of our small town paper this week about the at-risk kids program in our area. Billed as a "credit recovery program," this special school is where kids go to get "caught up," as opposed to the popular misconception that it's the last educational bastion for pregnant teens and troubled youth.

Our local program seems to be doing just fine, touting over 56 graduates in 7 years and an annual enrollment of 10-18 kids.

A group picture accompanying the story was provided by the school, with the one student on the end and his flashing phalanges grabbing my attention...

The online Urban Dictionary defines his little sideways peace sign offering as "Chunking a deuce."

At one time it may or may not have been a bona-fide street gang sign, but like so much contemporary youth-related lexicon, it has been thoroughly homogenized as a simple sign of greetings and/or respect.

Still, I'm wondering how many of my fellow 4380 townsfolk will notice one youth's adolescent attempt at injecting some supposed urban hipness into his decidedly rural environment.

As far as his personal style choices go, he appears to be a perfect candidate for one of the teams of internet tech support agents I managed, many years ago.

On second glance, he's actually a little too normal looking.

Put a ram chip on the end of a 6-foot walking stick carved from a burned out bristlecone pine in his right hand, and sling a Microsoft MCSD study manual under his other, then I'd hire him on the spot...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hurt me Hannah, make me take out a 2nd mortgage

Unbeknownst to me, the offspring of Mr. Achy-Breaky-Heart is now a fan favorite of little girls about my eldest daughters age bracket and demographics.

This little 15-year old moppet has sung, danced, and acted (sorta) her way into the hearts and minds of kiddies across the nation via her Disney Channel TV show, and now that she's launched a nationwide tour her concert tickets have become a hot commodity for discussion along the hushed hallways of the local elementary school.

So, online I went to check out what was available, having been duly warned ahead of time by known Mom's and Dad's alike that I'll not like what I find. Figuring that the OK tickets would be significantly cheaper than those for sale in LA, I started at our local venue first.

Here's what I found at one site for a top dollar ticket in Oklahoma City's largest arena...

That was nothing. Check out the high dollar amount for a top ticket in LA's Staple Center...

Like watching people play black chips on the blackjack table with the same ferver that I'm playing my red ones, I'm well aware that how much you spend on entertainment is all relative to how much you have..or are willing to spend.

So with that in mind as well as a firm belief in the workings of our Capitalist system and 2nd hand knowledge of the laws of supply and demand, I just chuckled at the prices and thought about how fortunate I am (this time) that C wasn't begging me to go and see Hannah Montana live.

Then I chuckled again when I caught a glimpse of the tagline for the ticket agency that was offering these "reasonably priced" tickets.

Just what reality are they living in?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

So sayyeth the 7-year old, "I wanneth an iPod."

I un-boxed my first clock radio at the ripe old age of 10. Before that, it was my parents duty to wake me up and get me on the daily road toward school-dom.

That cheap TG&Y Sylvania plastic-on-plastic radio was my pre-teen conduit to the wonderful world of top-40 music and I can still recall what a marvelous feeling of freedom -- yes freedom, and adult responsibility that beige and orange beauty beheld.

Like "The Jerk's" Navin Johnson discovering his roots while eating a Twinkie and stumbling upon a muzak radio station in the middle of the night, I knew that the music I was listening to, was definitely NOT the newsradio that my Dad listened to on the AM/FM Stereo in the Beauville Chevy Van, nor was it anything near the classical muzak that my Mom tuned in on the Delco AM radio in her '68 Camaro.

No. This was the kind of music that people my age chose as the background soundtrack to their lives.

Soon thereafter, a home stereo system inherited from my recently retired Naval officer Uncle found it's way into my bedroom, complete with direct drive turntable, 4-head cassette deck, 12 slider graphic equalizer, and direct from Japan 35 watt receiver.

For a 40-plus year old guy who still has a cassette deck in his car, less than 10 CD's in his music collection, and a laughingly minimalist iTunes library, my status as an audiophile started out with such promise only to end up as a stuck-in-the-70's-era-still-playing-my-old-vinyl hasbeen.

Now, I realize that my oldest daughter has been exposed to more contemporary music and related media in her 7.5 years of life that I did by the time I flicked on the switch to my first clock radio. And try as I might to keep her somewhat sheltered from the influences (positive and negative) that modern mixed music may have on her impressionable mind, I found myself teetering on a joyful/sadness schizophrenic state when it came time to answer her statement, "Dad, I want an iPod."

Joyful, to be able to share the full richness of experiences that good music can bring into her life...

Sadness, to think that perhaps her taste will run more towards her Mom's music tastes, than her Dads...

Joyful, as she chose an Apple product, although I realize she was probably not aware of the brand as much as the iconic name of the product...

Sadness, as I realized how much of her attention we'd all be missing out on as she pulled the curtain of silence between us with the simple act of donning a set of ear buds...

Joyful, to watch her take yet another step forward in her walk of life...

Sadness, to watch her take yet another step forward in her walk of life...

I was about resigned to tell her that her Mother and I had decided that she was too young for such an expensive electronic device (putting aside the hypocritical fact that she's had her own digital video camera for 2-years now), when the following item appeared in her winning arms the next day...

It's an iPod...of sorts.

Actually, it's an iPod shaped pillow with a built in AM/FM radio and a miniplug that will jack into the headphones port of a real iPod, thus becoming a remote speaker.

She won it at a drawing at her school as a reward for her efforts in a cookie dough sales fundraiser

Since bringing it home and finding an honored place among her stuffed animals and assorted bedtop dwellers, she's never mentioned her wanton desire to own a real iPod.

For now, this fluffy, soft, cushy and officially Apple licensed version is all that this 7.5 year old needs.

Will it suffice until her 10th birthday? Doubtful.

Just wish it had an alarm clock in it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

There's a new Dentist in town...

Last Thursday, amidst the chaos between C's dance class right after school at 4 p.m., PK's dance class at 5:30 p.m., and PK's soccer practice at 6:30 p.m., my wife wanted me to go to the open house of a new dental office on the south side of town.

The reasons I was being requested to attend were many fold -- in no particular order:
- Currently, we drive 50 minutes into OKC for our dental needs. Be nice if we could cut that short by 45 minutes or so.

- The DH that we like at our current dental office will be working a few days a week at the new office in town. She's pretty tough on the gums (even her Dad calls her "The Terminator," when she cleans his teeth), but nothing that a few days recovery time won't fix. I like a thorough cleaning anyway.

- They were raffling off a huge flat-panel TV to everyone who showed up.

- Stuff your face buffet of brisket/turkey/or ham sandwiches, fresh fruit, cookies, cake, chips, salsa and unsweetened tea.

- Need to find out what insurance they take...if not ours, then whose?
So, while C was tapping her toes off at dance class, PK and I joined the herd of townsfolk who were mosin' over to the dental open house.

Not surprisingly, most of the folk there were gentle, elderly, polite and cheerful...and strapping on the free food feedbag with reckless abandon. PK spotted a heaping bowl of mutant sized genetically hybridized strawberries that almost glowed in their red freshness intensity. We'd have to come back for them.

PK and I were one of a few visitors to bypass the buffet and made our way back to the examination cubicle area -- no more rooms, everything is relatively open and new age-y, with large picture windows providing views out onto a 20-tiered flat rock fountain and garden area.

5 chairs, plenty of open space, digitally dimmed overhead lighting, and soft country tunage being piped into the climate controlled air.

While PK tugged at my shirt uttering reminders that the bowl of luscious genus fragaria would be dwindling down to nothing in no time, I stood in awe of the digital scanning x-ray setup.

The entire contraption looked more like a MechWarrior stand-up VR arcade game than a medical device. To work it's see-through magic on my maxillaries I'd just has to rest my head in a suspended harness, bite down on a plastic sensor plate, and my entire lower head would then display on the 19" flat panel monitor in all it's x-ray'd glory.

All I need to know is where to insert my game tokens.

On our way out of the examine bullpen and onto the end of the food line, where a quick glance at the strawberry bowl revealed a definite lack of shortages, we ran into our friendly, neighborhood DH who seemed happy to see a familiar face and proudly showed us off to her new boss as "new" patients.

I liked this kid, so I played it up to the Doc that "she" was the reason we'd be switching over - if indeed they took our insurance, subtly omitting the fact that we also preferred to get our pearly whites sanitized in-town.

The herd at the buffet line remained a steady stream of humanity, but I did manage to reach in and procure a couple loaded strawberries for PK to stuff into her chipmunk cheeks for our boogie-on-out exit.

Still don't know if we won the flat-panel tv -- we won't.
Still don't know what insurance they take -- need to call.
Still don't know if we'll be switching -- more than likely.

Later that night, PK announced that one of her "tooths" was hurting and that we probably needed to go and get more strawberries.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Forget tipping, lets go wrassle 'em

Seems the cattle rustlers in the area have recruited some members of a greco-roman grappler squad to do their heavy lifting for them...

Seriously though, when I first read the headline for this article, I thought that our local newspaper was rerunning a news tidbit from a past issue -- a very old past issue, which it does on occasion as a novelty.

But as I finished reading the article, the modern methods of which these 21st century cattle rustlers thinned the herd, made the dating of their dastardly deed quite apparent.

Cattle rustling...there must be an easier way to make a dishonest living.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Faster Fly Huntress, Kill! Kill!*

When we first moved into my small town, one of the things I had to get used to was the abundant fly population. They're just a part of life here and we've been dealing just fine.

One gets in the house, I would hunt it down and feel not an ounce of pity for the buzzing beastie as it's lifeless and squished corpse was discarded into the trash bin.

We picnic outside, every item of food must be protected lest it become covered in a black swarm in mere seconds.

The fairly mild and moist summer seemed to have abated the fly population some -- or perhaps the mosquito population boom sent the fly families packing for clearer air space. Either way, as the temps have climbed a bit here at the summer/fall cusp, the flies seem to know that cooler temps and windy conditions are quickly approaching, thus ending their reign of terror on human outdoor activities.

This year, I have two additional PFC's to aid in my war of the flies -- my girls.

Having observed their Daddy exhibit extreme OC behavior when it comes to chasing one of these multi-eyed home space invaders, I fear they've picked up the vibe of sheer satisfaction I derive from tracking down and ending the lives of these pesky pests.

PK's weapon of choice is a lacy pink number, wire handle shaft painted white, with a flexible plastic killing surface in a lattice design.

Don't be fooled by her innocent smile and frilly looking swatter. This Fly Huntress has the reflexes of a ferret and an almost sixth sense as to where her prey will attempt to find refuge from the hunters.

C's fly chasing weaponology centers around a flip-flop design.

The handle is extruded plastic of multiple dayglo hues. The business end of the swatter is a genuine rubber slipper, in matching colors, complete with foot retention strapping and a brightly emblazoned logo for some debugging software (get it, debugging -- fly swatter?)

Who'd a guessed that when I picked this marketing tchotchke up at an internet expo back in the 90's, it would be become my eldest daughters flying pest control instrument of choice, many years and 1300 miles later.

Where PK's methods are all about stealth and prey landing spot prediction, C utilizes the girth and bulk of her slipper-swatter to deal devastatingly deadly in-flight blows. She's all about speed and power.

My wife chooses not to participate in our house cleansing ritual, seemingly content with just swatting away the circling pest if and when one ventures too close to her fragrant smelling head of hair.

That's fine with us.

Daddy and the Fly Huntresses are ever vigilant and at the ready.

* - With apologies to Russ Meyer

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Local radio grins and giggles

I've written before that whenever I would visit a new town for any given amount of time, I would spend an hour or so cruising the local radio stations to get my bearings on what the town had to offer - radio waves wise. The highlight would be stumbling upon a late night radio trainee or microphone nymphette whose obvious discomfort behind the big swivel chair is magnified with each word they stutter and every phrase they awkwardly utter.

I know its train-wreck entertainment at the expense of another, but isn't that what "paying professional dues" is all about?

Though some may consider them to be the bottom feeders of the radio industry -- the local O & O (owned and operated) radio stations that, around these parts are either Spanish language or religion based, provide some tasty fodder for jaded AM/FM digital dial tuners like myself.

When not preaching the gospel live in-studio or playing a taped recording of last Sunday's early A.M. church service that sounds like it was recorded on little Joanie's SpongeBob Squarepants cassette deck with built in electret microphone, you may be lucky enough to hear a radio swap segment ("Bob Nelson has some 4" stick-on letters he isn't using and would like to swap them for a roll of bailing wire..."), smatterings of local ag news, or even a "What's on your Mind?" call-in session from folks who just have to use up their non-rollover cell phone minutes.

Even the big-town radio stations that get most of it's programming directives from their parent company media conglomerates (Clear Channel, etc.) are fun to give a car-bound listen -- after hours and on the weekends, that is.

For it's at these lower commercial rate time slots that the local stations are less inclined to be under the scrutiny of their megabuck Q-rating concerned leash holders and allow interns and barely out-of-broadcasting school graduates to take over the airwaves.

These swing arm microphone newbies are less concerned with entertaining the 4 or 5 sleep deprived listeners than they are in developing a marketable on-air personality and demo reel.

I can only say how painfully enjoyable it is to listen to these "kids" find their broadcasting voices and I heartily recommend that if you ever find yourself in a smaller than Mega-Metropolis radio market, stay up late one night and flip on the radio in your motel room.

Give a listen and experience a one-on-one adventure with a fellow human being on what may be their introductory journey into the world of professional broadcasting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Fair-ly good turkey leg

A very rare YASTM image of a member of my family.

This goes along with Chris Farley's "fat man in a little suit" sight gag.
Call it, "little girl with a big leg." Vegans, beware -- the following image may make you nauseous.

Fair food...'nuff said.

Monday, September 17, 2007

2007 Oklahoma State (un)Fair

No one should have that much fun in one day. It's totally, unfair.

I'll not bore you with the details of our fun family day celebrating our strangely shaped state's Centennial State Fair (although Tulsa also claims a State Fair of their own, which begs the questions, who's the the Fairest of them all?)

Of all the wonders we did see and experience that day, one item stands out, only because it found a memory tucked deep inside the once fired but long forgotten neurons in my brain.

Rounding the corner in one of many vendor crowded buildings, I found myself staring at this wonder of mechanized, 50's-era marketing cheese whiz and had what amounted to a mental flashback worthy of a vintage acid trip from the '73 Grateful Dead appearance at the Summer Jam in Watkin's Glen.

It's The Personality Handwriting Analysis

Long ago and far away, I attended the LA County Fair with some buddies. As a goof I remember coughing up the buck or so ($5 today...yikes) to get my signature "personalized-computerized-analyzed."

Now recall, this was back in 1977, and the concept of having a computer at your home was still relatively foreign to a good portion of the population. My family had a just released and tree-ripened Apple II (48K, later upgraded to an Apple II+ with 64K) and were just getting familiar with the ups and downs of home computer ownership.

But as I cursively wrote out my name on the "high-tech" strip of cellophane which was then "input" into the slot on the front of the "mainframe," what printed out as my "personality profile," changed my social life forever.

There, on the third line of outputted text, were the words, "You are attractive to the opposite sex."

Don't laugh now, because up until that very moment, no person, place, or thing had ever told me that very phrase. Whether it was true or not, whether or not I believed that this hunk of fortune-teller marketing could tell me this from my signature - was all irrelevant.

Whereas Descartes wrote, "I think, therefore I am," my mind was saying to me, "The computer said, therefore it MAY be true."

Just like the first person who said, "man can't fly," and the guy next to him started thinking about why man couldn't fly and if he could how would he do it, the very idea that there was the slightest possibility that I could actually be considered attractive to the opposite sex, was a mind-blowing and earth shattering revelation.

Don't get me wrong, even at that time I was your typical cocky pre-teen American kid with all the moxie in the world when it came to doing "guy" things.

But as we all know, self-assurance in one area of your life, doesn't necessarily translate to other areas -- especially if that other area involves a giggling gaggle of 8th grade girls.

Not immediately but soon after my fateful signing with the "Machine," I somehow developed that self-confidence needed for a pre-teen lad to approach pre-teen ladies in social situations. Within a few months, I was racking up local phone calls and handing off notes during passing periods with all the gusto of a lounge lizard lothario.

And I've not looked back since.

Sometimes we have to have the obvious stated to us, before we can start to process what may be obvious to others, but is not obvious to ourselves.

Even if that statement comes from a Fair-born gimmick contraption for a cheap 4 bits.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just keep digging

One of the duties I've "volunteered" for as part of my service to the non-profit board of dir. I sit on is to research and write the text for a series of bronze historical markers we are planning on erecting in our historic downtown district.

Now, I'm a minor history buff and part of what makes me tic is finding out all I can about persons, places, and things that interest me. The more obscure and odd, the better.

Suffice it to say, when we bought this house that was SUPPOSEDLY built in 1910 (I'm coming to that), I dove headfirst into finding everything I could about the old gal.Previous owners - who they were, what they did, how they got here and how they lived while occupying their old / my new space.

The house itself - who built it, when was it built, when was it added onto, what was originally where and how were specific rooms used.

The property - what tribe used it, which 89'er "staked their claim" to get it, what was it used for until the house was built, what treasures are buried underneath the dirt underneath and around it.
The sometimes intense, but mostly sporadic bouts of research mania I've managed in the last 2.5 years since moving here, have turned up most of the above listed information -- at least, most of the above that intrigued me.

The one tidbit of gossip about my house that had eluded my gray matters grasp was exactly how old this house was.

The abstract claims 1910. The previous sellers and Realtor claimed 1910 - a date they obviously gleaned off the abstract. Land records in the county courthouse only list land ownership and even then, no dates were recorded in the log book until the 1940's -- before that, just a listing of the names of the land owners.

No records of any kind of building permit. Nor is there a trace of a construction addition permit -- since we can tell that the rear portion of the house was added on at a date much later than the original construction date.

Any attempts to find previous owners have only turned up one, and as interesting as they were to talk to and visit with in the brief time they toured their old/our new house, their information on the original builders/owners was sketchy, and has since proved to be inaccurate.

The only photographic evidence we've been able to turn up, revealing that our house actually existed at the beginning of the 20th century, was a postcard my wife found and fought bravely for on eBay.

It's dated 1914, and I had to scan the postcard at ultra high resolution, to be able to zoom into the hundred or so pixels that contained the grayscale images of our house.

My quest for proof of our theory that we owned a pre-statehood, 19th century home was proving unfruitful. Now, I know there are firms that can provide an approximate date of a homes construction given suitable samples of lathe, plaster and other materials. But since I wasn't ready to get all CSI'd on my own house, we had all but resigned ourselves to accept the 1910 build date of our home.

Yet, while slogging away through the microfilm collection at my small town's non-Carnegie single-storied brick and mortar library, fate, the genealogy craze sweeping the internet, and the wonderful Children's Librarian at our local library stepped in. Actually she stepped me...carrying a large folder containing a photocopied manuscript.

A few weeks back, a family from "Far and Away" traced some relatives to my small town and ended up sending to the library, a photocopy of a special edition of the town's newspaper dating back to 1895. The original, still in this family's possession, has been in their family for over 100 years.

And there, on the bottom of page 12 of this 112-year old newspaper was a photograph of our house.

While it looks a little different than it's current incarnation -- the gingerbread is all but gone, the additions made sometime in the 1920's aren't yet made, and the porch is wood instead of concrete and brick, but it's most definitely our house.

Our little 19th century house on the pre-statehood Oklahoma prairie.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

300 Spartan's reincarnated with wings

I had mentioned in a previous post the ill fated flights of many a feathered friend during the storms that flooded our county.

The clean up continues, as evidenced by a recent sidebar in our local news rag.

An article in a previous edition cited the fact that during a huge storm, our local avian population will just fly into the wind as long as they can, before falling down dead of exhaustion. Once down, the wind carries their feathered corpses into and against the nearest wall or fence.

I have to believe that if Leonidis and his 300 Spartan's were ever reincarnated, they would have had to come back as some of these birds...never retreat, never surrender!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

We can't go on together, with suspicious minds

YASTM has been getting a lot more traffic lately and since I moved to Oklahoma from the place where both smog and Sig alerts were invented, I became suspiciously curious to find out what gross polluter was causing my hit count to increase.

How's that for some cheesy yet snazzy smog/traffic metaphors...?

So, onto technorati I went and lo and behold I discovered this...

What can I say...but that some fellow Okie bloggers must be on crack.

Best Overall Blog?

Thanks, but c'mon, have you checked out some the other nominees?

I'm a rusted out, oil leaking, 1961 Chevy Corvair driving on the shoulder of a digital tollroad alongside 3 lanes of tricked out, chromed up, smooth rolling and ABS braking purebreds. In a world of CSS stylesheets, custom widgets, pho'shopped backgrounds and YouTubed streamed snippets of depth and desire, I'm a templated, helvetica'd, html'd grungeblogger.

Best Writing Blog?

Hmm, note to self...locate Mr. Hooper, notify him of my blog's nomination, send him a 12-pack of Charmin.

Seriously, thank you to my fellow Okie Bloggers for the nominations. I'll keep writing, if you keep reading.

Heck, I'll keep writing even if you don't keep reading, but I didn't want you to feel the least bit slighted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh, those shimmering lights of the city

My big home town past comes creeping back into my small town life in some indirectly roundabout ways.

A fellow father of a 4-year old and I were standing next to each other on the soccer field sidelines, having a good time watching our respective kickers trying to figure out the rules of the game.

We engaged in the verbal shorthand that men use to communicate with and in less than 5-minutes of conversing, we had each other pretty much sized up, figured out, and knew the boundaries of what could, couldn't and wouldn't be discussed in our short time together as seasonal sideline soccer Dads.

Turns out what we both knew about the rules, the strategies, and intricacies of the most popular foot-based round ball game in the world, could fit into the small slots between the sections on the top of the phillips screwdriver attachment on the swiss army knife in my pocket.

However, he was a baseball fan from way back. Even had an opinion on the only thing baseball I'm relatively familiar with -- the proper way to eat a Dodger Dog (onions drizzled on from the crank-em-on apparatus and yellow mustard).

That tidbit of baseball knowledge led our talk down the path of how he knew of such things and it turns out his folks had done what we did, only they did it 20 something years ago -- made the migration from LA to small town Oklahoma.

All these years later, he still bleeds Dodger blue.

Sadly, his Los Angeleno-native Mom had passed away a while ago preventing us from meeting and commiserating over our shared situation. Had we had a chance to meet, the first thing I would have proudly shown her (well, maybe not the first thing, but I would have probably gotten around to it eventually) was this wonder of kitsch kulture that sits proudly next to the editing station in my office...

A little came in the daily mail without warning or advanced notice of any kind.

The box was large and heavy for it's size and was addressed to my wife..."and family."

Now, I know the sheer joy my wife derives from coming home to an unopened piece of mystery mail -- especially a box of unknown contents. So I let the box remain a black hole for the few hours between it's arrival on our front porch and her arrival home from work.

A brief note inside revealed it's origins and sender's generously humorous intentions. After a quick search for a free edison outlet and the dimming of the 75 watt bulbs in the playroom, the twinkling lights of the city of my youth had come to our small town home.

The only thing missing was a Dodger Dog.

BTW...just what does one eat a soccer game?

P.S. to R and R in Coeur d'alene, thanks for the twinkling bit of home. The girls and I are digging it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dog people can be People people too

Far away from my small town, an acquaintance overheard a once perceived intelligent office mate reveal her true self.

Lesson here was...if you're smart, educated, single and want to draw sneers and behind-your-back ridicule from even a welfare mother with a 4th grade education, say the following statement in a public area of your workplace as a critical dig to a co-worker who rushes home ahead of others at the scheduled end of a workday..."I mean, granted I don't have kids...but I have a house and I have dogs, so it's not like I don't have responsibilities at home...I know people may treat their dogs like kids (in what some might consider a lovely and sickly ironic twist of man's-best-friendom), but for this woman to openly criticize a family man for wanting to rush out of the office to be home with his kids, then compare it to her own empty existence that consists entirely of her job, her house, and her dogs, is sad and demented.

Now, all you animal lovers out there that are living perfectly content and fulfilling lives as SIPO's (single income pet owners), don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing you or your lifestyle. Read deep here and see that my war of words is with this woman and those like her who choose to judge another without having a modicum of experience in the other person's parental shoes.

Imagining parenthood, examining parenthood, having first hand brushes with parenthood, and being a surrogate parent Uncle/Aunt is NOT parenthood.

And owning a house and two dogs is not parenthood.

Regardless of how much more I may like my dog than some of the kids in my daughter's classes, I can't help but feel a little dehumanized by a person who speaks out loud, out of turn, and out of ignorance, when comparing the full life of a family man to her "fully rationalized" life as a dog owner.

Some dogs deserve better owners than the ones they have.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Small town elementary schoolyard observations

I'm making it a point this school year to spent at least one lunch a week with the girls at their respective schools.

At PK's school, parents are assigned a day to spend lunch with their child's class, then assist in supervising the kiddies on the playground. Mostly it's a lot of swing pushing, shirt pulling, merry-go-round spinning, tire swing toggling, and ball retrieving.

At C's school, playground duty is not assigned nor expected of a visiting parent. But a foolhardy parent who braves the after lunch recess crowds best be prepared for both extreme mental and physical challenges.

4 classes of 2nd graders, at 17-19 a class, many of which are wanting to show you what they can do on the monkey bars, screaming to see how high you can push them on the swing, and tossing any number of different rubber-based balls at you, hoping to get a game started - can be intimidating.

And this is at a small town school.

The sheer number of school kids descending on the play yard at one time forced me to think on my toes and channel some crowd control techniques osmosified into my brain from too many viewings of "The Dirty Dozen," "Heartbreak Ridge," "Full Metal Jacket," among other films of the basic training/boot camp genre.

Divide and Conquer
First I head to the swings. Sure, it's a gut busting working to get a dozen tykekins into the full swing of things, but there are a finite number of pendular seated apparatuses and those that are without, usually leave the scene. Only caveat here is to make sure your own kid is one of them who gets a swing. Otherwise, the plan backfires and you have to convince your own offspring that waiting for an open swing is a good lesson in patience building skills (right).

Better to lead than to follow
Follow the leader is a good game to play with a mass of rug rats, however if taken to an extreme length of time, the line will fall apart, and you may soon find yourself surrounded by a mob of followers, rather than a neat, Soul Train line.

Spartan's never retreat, and never surrender
Announcing that you need to take a bathroom break, when in fact you just want to get away from the kids, will only draw ridicule and jokes aplenty from the peanut gallery. Best to find a bench to sit down on, grip your chest in pain, drool, cough, and have a simulated heart attack than to invite the ere of bathroom themed taunts from 7 year olds.

Do as I say, not as I do
According to this website, the largest game of Simon Sez took place in China and started with 597 participants.

I bet it was just some Chinese parent visiting his kid's school for lunch and needed to figure out a way to control the hordes.

My own brand of Simon Sez involves full motion (Simon Sez run over to Cole Wilson and stare at his shoes!), lightning fast reactions (Simon Sez touch your cheek [while placing hand on chin]), grossology practitioning (Simon Sez burp as long and loud as you can!), and innocent bystander participation (Simon Sez run over and say "Hi" to Mrs. Lacey!)

It was a hit and by the time the whistle blew and it was time to line up, I had over 80 kids following my every Simon Sez command.

My final command? Simon Sez line up in your class lines while singing "Oklahoma!"


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Celebrating a massacred man

Last weekend the family and I stumbled upon a small town celebration a few towns north of us that rated equally high points on both my quainto and bizarro meters.

Apparently the town was named for a tough Irish wagonmaster and trader of old, who was rubbed out with extreme prejudice back in 1874.

Seems he and his fellow teamsters were hoofing a load of good across the prairie when they were attacked by a band of Indians. The fella who the town was named for was apparently shot, tied to his wagon wheel and burned alive.

Well, this proud little town has a soiree every year celebrating the legacy of the wheel roasted hombre, complete with a parade, quilt show, fair type activities, pie contest, an open rodeo and what they call a "hometown hootenany."

Capping the celebration is what is termed as an "authentic recreation of the massacre."

That's right. They recreate the bloody event, live, for all to watch in wide eyed wonder.

The mystery and conflicting historical reports surrounding the massacre only add to the interest of the town and event, as far as I'm concerned. Were he and his party killed by renegade Indians or by White thieves looking to capitalize on the Native unrest in the area?

Custer Battlefied National Monument could learn a thing or two about self-promotion from these small town folk.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Curb appeal

The other day I noticed a young fella with an assortment of paint cans, stencils and brushes wandering the streets and alleys of my small town.

He was hocking his artistic abilities and leaving his mark (for a small fee) in the form of what I've deemed as "curbside address graffiti."

Here are a few samples of his painterly wares...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A marine comes to my small town...then goes

With visions of an anonymous Post Traumatic Stressed jarhead showing up at our door in 20-years with an old, weathered picture of the girls holding a flag along with a letter we randomly sent enclosed in a care package of beef jerky and Adam Sandler DVDs, my fatherly instincts have prevented me from signing up with one of these online "adopt a soldier" services.

As much as I wanted to send a little bit of home to a deserving member of our dedicated and heroic armed forces, ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you how uber-careful I am about letting people (not just strangers mind you, but anyone) into the inner circle of my family's life.

I figure with two daughter's and a wife with some media presence, I'm well within my rights to err on the side of caution when it comes to their safety -- even in my small town.

Selfish, I know. Paranoid, probably. Careful to a fault, you bet.

Fortunately for us and our desire to participate in the homefront efforts, we do know of a young Marine who is currently in Iraq.


He is the nephew of the lady who is the niece of the woman that owns the house next door to us but is currently in a nursing home.

This 23-year old U.S. citizen was living in Australia when the fighting broke out, moved back to the States to enlist, and spent the final 3 months of wearing civies living in the storage room/converted to living quarters attached to the large garage behind our neighbor's house.

We didn't get to know him all that well since he was young and mobile and always seemed to be coming or going somewhere during his short time as a resident of my small town.

I did talk to him once or twice about nothing in particular, along with several requisite "male-upward-head-jerk" silent greetings across the driveway.

But once I heard that he had enlisted in the Marines and was going down to Camp Pendleton, California for his basic training, I told him about a few good places to eat and hang out at nearby Oceanside (where my Dad retired to), where a supposedly sweet and secretive surfing spot is located nearby the San Onofre Nuclear power plant, along with the proper procedures for prepping his car for long term storage.

After getting regular updates on his status and whereabouts from his Aunt, we decided it was time to put together a CARE package to send to the lad. Some research online revealed a bevy of information on what specifically our G.I's in the Iraqi theater needed/wanted and off we went shopping with our list.

While in line at WalMart, the cashier took a quick stock of our purchases and knowingly commented that they too had been shipping items to a loved one serving in the war.

I used this site as a starting point, but ended up gathering tidbits of info from various personal sites of family and webbies who had loved ones serving -- from first hand experience, they posted more specific recommendations on brand names, sizes, quantities, etc.

The strangest thing I found myself purchasing and sending were several tins of Copenhagen snuff. According to an online resource...Copenhagen Snuff in a tin ("Even if the service member doesn't dip snuff, they will be a hero and have more power than the Commanding Officer if they have a 'log' (10 cans) of 'Hagen.' A large percentage of infantry use this stuff and it is hard to get. The stuff they do get comes in a plastic can and tastes terrible. The 'Stateside Hagen' is the most powerful bargaining tool in a field environment!")The girl's drew him a few pictures of themselves and Franny, and we wrote a short letter outlining who we were. In case he still didn't recall, we also enclosed a photo of my two muppets holding up a humongous American flag, while standing in front of the door to the storage shed where he lived during his stay in our town.

We recently heard from the Marine's aunt that he would be rotating stateside for 7-months at the end of October and would be stopping into town for a visit. I told her to tell him that a gigantic rib-eye dinner would be awaiting him at our house anytime he wanted...after he got settled in.

Just hope he makes it back.