Monday, March 31, 2008

Keep it in your pants...your weapon, I mean

Several things tickled my darker side when I saw this ad in a recent edition of our local small town newspaper...

First of all, surprise of surprises, it's seems not nearly as difficult to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon here in my adopted state as one would think. Or does it come down to not what you know, but who you know? Same all over then.

Secondly, I didn't realize that 50 well aimed and fired bullets was all it takes to pass the class and get certified. Seems to me that for some, 50 bullets would be way overkill to prove their firearm proficiency. While others may feel that being limited to half a hundred of the hot leaded projectiles wouldn't be nearly enough.

Thirdly, their preference for "semi-automatics" totally set me if I show up with my English flintlock steel barreled blunderbuss, I'm going to get some sort of lesser treatment?

Finally, what Cardinal Richelieu exclaims in the Bulwer-Lytton play regarding the pen being mightier than the sword (or concealed weapon in this case), is honorific ally demonstrated with clarity and not a hint in irony at the bottom of this ad..."Please bring a pen to write with."

Can't get your concealed weapons permit without passing the class and you can't pass the class without taking some notes.

And for that, you'll need a pen.

Friday, March 28, 2008

How's your bracket looking?

The other night at soccer practice (yep, it's that time of the year...again), fellow "Dodger Dog fan" Dad and I were hanging out on the soccer field sideline, making light of our decision to wear shorts even as the southerly wind and 40 degree sunset temps made our respective leg hairs stand up and take notice.

Out of nowhere he blurted out, "So how's your bracket doing?"

It took me more than a few seconds of confused long-term memory brain parsing to figure out his query string and by the look on my face, he quickly realized that I didn't immediately realize what the heck he was talking about.

He was, of course, referring to NCAA Basketball and the Road to the Final Four.

I had to tell him that the greatest influence into my seasonal barely-more-than-slight-interest in college hoops was in vacation mode for the second of two weeks floating down the Rhine River. See, my F-i-L lives for March Madness, which surprised the heck out of the rest of the family when he agreed to take my M-i-L on a 14-day across the pond excursion during the height of college round ball mayhem.

So, without my wife's Dad to provide me daily updates while working side-by-side on our current house project (mudroom this month), of each and every game he's watched (including the Woman's games, which he admittedly finds more fun to watch), I've been in a collegiate b-ball isolation chamber.

Imagine my surprise to find my grad school alma mater making the Elite 8 and favored (somewhat) to get to the FF.

Go Bruins!


Okay, that's enough sports fanaticism for this year. Mushing back to the mudroom now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bird, 4-legged accomplices sought for questioning

From our local news rags recent police blotter...

Now, I may not be a trained investigative professional, but isn't it obvious from the listed series of events, what transpired in my small town recently and what new crime plague has infested our little community?

The cockatiel busted out, freed his two canine henchmen, and went on a crime spree, starting with the Bud Light sign at a local pub.

Stay tuned for further developments. Until then, lock up your beer signs and be on the lookout for the feathered ringleader...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

T-town doins' Spring of '08

We celebrated the end of Spring Break '08 by trippin' up to T-Town for a long weekend.

S wanted to attend yet another Tulsa-based preparatory seminar sponsored by the organization that is hosting her pending cross-OK bike ride, so we thought we'd cash in a couple frequent flyer comp room coupons and see some family-friendly sights in OK North's capital city.

First on our list after picking up S from work in downtown OKC and bombing into town was dinner at Ollie's Station, where I had the strangest Monte Cristo sandwich I've ever eaten.

And I've eaten a lot of Monte Cristo sandwiches in my "trying to avoid as many fried foods as I can with the exception of Monte Cristo sandwiches" adult life.

I'll not go into the finer details of what entitles a sandwich to be dubbed with such an exotic and literary-inspiring title (especially when you can just wiki it here), but Ollie's version of my favorite of all restaurant sandwiches, finds itself dipped and fried in a corn-based catfish fry batter that while strange to describe was even stranger to eat.

But eat it I might, share it I may, and enjoy it I did.

S feasted on Ollie's homemade meatloaf, homestyle mashed spuds, homespun noodle soup, and homegrown fried green tomatoes. The girls ordered and ate, but the one item not on the menu was what attracted and held their attention for the duration of our trip to Ollie's Station...the trains.

Moving, smoking, chugging, and whistling model trains of every scale, era, style and color, encircle the dining area on raised tracks running on specially built platforms attached to the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and running between the booths and tables.

If you are loco for trains, this place is your station. If not, bring your iPod and enjoy the good food and friendly service.

Coming up next, big bags at the breakfast buffet, Zoo people are the same all over, and the best red beans and rice, period.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

30 miles to nirvana

After almost 3 days of constant rain, it's hard to remember back how we spent our final Sunday of the Winter of '08 last weekend...following S on her first long-distance (for her) bike ride.

We we're expected at her folks house 38 miles away at 5:30 p.m. for some smoked ribs and Okie caviar (bean and slaw salad...yum), so we left our place around 2 p.m.

That's about a 10.85 mph average rate of speed, which is more than reasonable for S in her current state of condition toward her struggle to make the cut for the Oklahoma FreeWheel a mere 12+ weeks away.

What we didn't anticipate was the south/westerly wind that came up that afternoon, 10-15 miles per hour -- right into our faces.

Not an issue for the girls and I in my 125 horse powered ricer as we drove ahead a couple miles then pulled over to wait for S to catch up.

But no matter how many times the girls and I cheered and yelled, "Go Mommy, go Mommy!" as we passed by her on her constant "into-the-wind" trek, the wind allowed for no coasting on her part and nagged at her pace with every pedal stroke.

Long story short, anyone who believes Oklahoma roads are flat and void of inclines of any substance then you probably still believe that you should always get involved in a land war in Asia.

Around 5:15 p.m. we stopped 8 miles short of her parent's house, packed up the bike and drove our intrepid biker the final distance. Had we not run short of time, it was still doubtful whether or not S would have had enough wind to make the final 42,240 foot sprint to the waiting plate of ribs and comfort of her Dad's recliner.

In S's own words, she was done.

Chalk one victory to Oklahoma's wind.

Round two yet to happen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The knees, the knees, the knees are on fire!

After 21+ years together (9+ of those in wedlock) my Wife and I finally got our roller boogie to speak.

We had never held hands while tripping the disco ball fantastic (and each other) on the oval floored floodlit stage known as the roller skating rink...until last Friday.

Hard to imagine, I know.

A local roller rink in the big town 40 miles north of us pulled a sneaky marketing ploy and somehow managed to get "free entry with a paying entry" passes tucked into every backpack around town. Since we have two backpacks currently taking up space on the floor by the entry way, two of the inviting scraps of laser printed paper made it into our daughter's hands, soon to be displayed before our eyes.

After a few furtive glances back and forth between ourselves, Wifey and I gave the thumbs up, all the while rubbing our knees as if apologizing in advance for the torture we were about to unleash upon them.

"Wait," you exclaim, "don't tell me you were actually contemplating skating with your children?"

Foolishly, yes. I mean, what's the point of knowing how to do something and not do it when the opportunity arises?

However, I soon learned that the fading memory of how skilled I was at roller skating, didn't mesh all that well with the reality playing out before my squinting eyes (it was dark in there).

I'll not go into any detail of the interior decor of the roller rink, since it looked identical to every other roller rink I've been to or have ever seen in a movie. Get your skates there, too low benches over there, snack bar in the corner, game area in the back, and of course the great wall of balance and dignity redemption circling the designated skating area.

As my eldest took off onto the rink as if she were born on wheels, and my Wife took our 5-year old in hand to help her get adjusted to life on the circular downslide, I managed to retain a few specks of dignity in my roller boogie endeavors by channeling my goofy foot skateboarding skills - roll on left foot, push off with my right.

Due to the taunting I'd receive every 14.2 seconds (the time it took C to make a lap and swish by her old man) to "use both of your feet to push off," in 15 minutes or so I was able to skate with some semblance of smoothness and even managed a glance or two up at the jumbotron video screen that was blaring down upon us as I navigated the northern end of the semi-circle.

In fact it was during Fergie's rendition of that song she sings about missing somebody like a child misses their blanket, that Wifey and I got our fingers entwined for a soon-to-be-nostalgic trip around the darkened oval.

It was a John Hughes moment to be sure.

Final report, I didn't fall once, nor did S. PK was shaking off our attempts to hold her aloft within 10 minutes or so and was practicing her "hops" by the time we were unlacing our skates and longing for a hot bath.

C refused to leave while any Hannah Montana song was playing, and we were handed a bucketful of discount coupons for future visits, of which, I'm sure the girls will be thankful and our knees will curse us for all eternity.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hard water landing

One of the many background checks we performed (school API scores, crime statistics, superfund clean-up sites, oil well contamination, pig and chicken farm proximity, etc.) while on our search for a new hometown forescore and seven years ago (minus whatever it takes to get to 3.5 years) was water quality.

Knowing that the small town we may have been choosing to settle in was predominantly agricultural centered, our fears of increased nitrate levels and farm based contaminates finding its way into the town's water supply were for the most part, unfounded.

Seems it's an issue in the town just south of us, but quarterly water checks (published in the local news rag) provide a calming sentiment to our heightened sense of quality of life checklist (assuming the water reports are true and accurate).

Upon kitchen renovation we installed a reverse osmosis water system faucet in our kitchen sink area for drinking water and felt we were good to go.

What we didn't check for (and honestly, why would we) was the actual water condition.

Condition you ask?

See, my small town is filled with hard men and women doing hard work.

Oil field workers, cable linemen, cattle industry, farm work, service, education, church, commercial - the list continues.

And all these folks are drinking, bathing, washing and scrubbing themselves in what has to be the hardest water known to man.

Within weeks of moving in and setting up our Bosch stainless steel lined dishwasher, hard water deposits starting showing up on our glasses (a light haze), inside the jets, and around the drain.

No commercially available brand of detergent or spot-free rinse agent could deal with the massive amounts of minerals that were flowing through our water pipes, so we brought in the big guns...a water softener.

"No one likes softened feels like you can never get all the soap off,"was the biased thinking behind my initial vehemence against getting one. That and the pricey priced price tag.

Fast forward several weeks later and you have one very satisfied family, enjoying, bathing and basking in the slipperiest, softest water known to man. Not to mention this fella who was equally surprised at how quickly he developed an affinity for the slippery skinned feel of soft water showering while all the while marveling at how promptly the mineral deposits disappeared from the household drinking glasses, shower door and dishwasher jets.

Other than the occasional hefting of the salt bags down into the cellar to fill up the softener and hammering into the girls the difference between drinking water out of the "yucchy faucet" (tap) and the "yummy faucet" (RevOs filtered), all things water have been calm in our house and I've felt mentally secure in our H20 intake.

Until, that is, the other day while ponying up to the soda fountain lunch counter at our favorite small town's pharmacy.

Having just ordered a round of orangeades, we were all settling in to watch the Fountain Lady concoct our sweetened orange liquid wonders when PK utters out loud, "Daddy, she just poured water from the faucet into our drink...bleah!"

Oh no, our offspring are water snobs.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hardware heaven

My Father-in-law is one of those guys who can tell you what size socket you'll need for the bolt you were showing to him several days ago.

He's also that guy who can tell the difference between a CPVC and PVC 90-degree fitting just by feeling them.

And he's that fella who grumbles whenever he sees yet another open wall in our house that doesn't have the studs on 16" centers, but will calculate (in his head) exactly how much sheetrock we need to buy to eliminate any waste and still have the bare minimal tape lines.

Yep, he's that good.

No wonder he's hard pressed to find a worker at any of the mega-chain home improvement centers that can come close to answering any question he may be seeking an answer to. Over the years he's learned to seek out the most elderly employee he can find for advice in an often vain attempt to pursue the "with age comes wisdom," methodology.

Yep, he's a hard man to please...hardware wise.

The last person you'd expect to find manning the aisles of my small town's one and only hardware store in search of lost souls of the hardware variety, is the lovely ashen blonde, middle-aged Soccer Mom-ish woman named Darla.

An 11+ year veteran of this particular franchised hardware store, Darla was the one red smocked employee that most of us frequent customers went in search of when we ourselves were in search of a particular item. Experienced shoppers clued in early when somehow any and all unanswerable questions queried of other store employees, always found purchase and success with Darla.

Even my F-i-L would seek her out on his occasional visits to our local nuts and bolts dive, commenting how "...refreshing it was to find someone who knew what the heck they were talking about that wasn't getting paid an engineer's salary."

No higher hardware compliment could be paid than my F-i-L's ravaged-by-one-too-many-saw-cuts thumbs up.

Just yesterday, while putting down our new tongue & groove 1"x4" pineboard floor in our mudroom, my wife put down her hammer long enough to make a finishing nail run to the hardware store as we were getting low on the floorboard securing stock. My F-i-L handed her a sample nail that we were using for comparison and she was off.

15 minutes or so later, S reported that "that lady" at the hardware store (she doesn't shop there as much so she's not on a first name basis with the workers there) no sooner said "hey" when she was asking what we were working on, nodded when my wife finished her description of our project, excused herself with a smile and returned in a minute with a box of 1000 of the prettiest 8d diamond point, bright finish, 2.5" finishing/trim nails you've ever seen (exactly what my wife was handed by her Father mere minutes ago).

Early this afternoon, we heard the sirens and speculated as we watched first the ambulance, then the Sheriff's patrol car, followed by a local police black and white, trailed by not one but two big rigs from the Fire Department, that something bad had happened.

Even on a Sunday, news spreads fast in my small town and by 3 p.m. we got word that Darla had been killed in a car crash just east of town. The car containing her and her boyfriend somehow ended up off the road and in a ditch filled with water runoff.

She apparently drowned.

Tonight as Franny and I made our way downtown on our nightly doggie walk, we detoured off of Main Street and found ourselves standing in front of the corner hardware store.

A single fluorescent light was burning bright, sending 40-watts of cool white glow through the plate glass windows of the store and out into the historic downtown intersection of my small town.

If there is a hardware store in heaven, Darla is surely on duty.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Jud Fry lives...and he's eating 'q in the booth next to ours

Regular YASTM readers may recall my eldest daughters foray into the limelight of my small town's Centennial production of "Oklahoma," last year, and how I spent my time at her rehearsals finishing up the final Harry Potter tome.

Tonight, while dining on some chopped brisket and cole slaw at the one and only barbeque joint in my small town, who should walk in but the fella who played Jud "Poor Jud is daid, poor Jud Fry is daid..." Fry in the very same production.

Unlike Jud-the character, Jud-the person (not his real name, but for simplicity sake, we'll keep it that way) was very much alive and was celebrating his Mom's birthday by taking his entire brood and parents out for some plate likin' 'q.

At one point before his table received their food and after we had mopped up every last drop of sauce from our platters using grilled triangles of Texas toast, Jud came over to say "hey." After an exchange of pleasantries, grins and greetings, I opened the can of worms by asking him if he had ever finished the last Harry Potter book.

You see, Jud was just one of the many folk who were closely following my progress on the book at the play rehearsals. While they all sang, and danced, and recited classic lines of Rodgers and Hammerstein's first musical play up on stage, out in the din of the dimly lit auditorium seating, there sat I, Deathly Hallows in hand, excitedly turning page after page in my quest to reach the end as soon as bloody possible.

At the time Jud and I had much to discuss, as I slowly crept up to the point where he had reached in his book 7 reading efforts. At some point during the final days of dress rehearsal, I overtook his own bookmarks position in the hard bound edition resting on his nightstand and it was at that point that Jud Fry became distant and least to me.

So concerned was he that even being in my presence would prove a spoiler to his mental submergence into the world of Harry Potter, that he went out of his way to avoid even making eye contact with me -- this lasted for the rest of the time I spent around the auditorium up until play had it's final curtain call.

Yet here we were, several months later and well past the final word on the final page of the final chapter of the final novel featuring the bespectacled wizard in training, smelling of barbeque sauce and discussing with all the vim and vigor of a couple of D&D playing 19-year olds, our likes and dislikes about the last ever, Harry Potter novel.

Seems appropriate to close this entry with a report from last month that hit the MTV Newswires about Harry Potter fans suffering from acute withdrawal symptoms and showing signs of addiction.


Monday, March 03, 2008

"She likes what I like, but I don't want her to!"

Now that our littlest has successfully navigated through her 5th birthday and has officially turned the corner from toddler-dom into kid-dom (although she's been paying for a Kid's ticket at Disneyland for three years now...ripped), I'm looking forward to seeing what earthly things and otherworldly interests her quickly forming brain starts to zero in on as igniting her solid rocket boosters.

Actually, there's no one more anxious to see PK find her own way in the surrounding world of wonder than her bigger sister, who for months now has been making a point of letting us know that it would be more acceptable to her if the youngest member of our not-quite Brady Bunch would find her own interests instead of "stealing" hers.

I remember as a kid how it seemed to bug my big brother whenever I would take an interest in something he found interesting...with the exception of the original Star Trek tv series -- I was two years younger than my Trekker brother so a lot of the subtleties in the plot lines of the show were lost to me then. Or perhaps I just didn't have enough raging pre-teen hormones to appreciate the mini skirt and tight uniform of Yeoman Rand (yowza!).

Seems that same scenario has been playing out in our home for awhile now as PK's interests in all things cultural (pop and otherwise} have more or less mimicked her big sister.

Elevating the interests of an older sibling to Zeussian status is all perfectly normal behavior, I get that. However there are days when it gets to the point of a heightened sense of frustration for our first born, and during these times we usually steer our discussion on the subject in one of three directions...

S usually taps into her Hallmark Greeting Card commercials vibe and launches into her "Someday you'll look back on the days when your little sister thought you were the best thing since direct port nitrous injection, four core intercoolers, ball-bearing turbos and titanium valve springs...(okay, I added that but you get the point), and you'll long for those days."

A good fallback is usually the "Point out the differences" argument where we walk up to their respective bedrooms and start pointing out the differences between the two...C - blue room, PK - pink.
C - sea landscape theme, PK - dollhouse village.
C - softball gear, PK - soccer stuff.
C - Hannah Montana posters, PK - Hannah Montana posters
...uh oh...ummm, moving on.

My favorite is the "She's your little sister and looks up to you, so you have a responsibility to make sure her interests are nurtured," line of discussion. I know, I know, spoken like a true younger sibling channeling that old "it's not my fault...he/she is older and should have known better," routine. What can I say, old habits die hard.

As you might imagine, my methodology frustrates C the most, especially when I launch into some boring diatribe about how I copied everything my brother/her Uncle Brian used to do, say, think, and wear and how that behavior, however annoying it may have been, eventually led to the development of the person whom she loves dearly and calls "Daddy."

To which she smugly replies, "thanks Uncle Brian."

8-years old going on 16. I am so not ready.