Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flying bird kids spotted at the library

The kid was clutching two books against his chest as if they contained the key to all closed doors and the answers to all of life's questions.

He entered the inner double doors of the library, the sound of the cool climate controlled air rushing outward as he shuffled around the sensor towers and made his way to the back of the line at the check-out counter.

He was clean cut and appropriately dressed for a 13-year old boy in the midst of a hot summer in prairie land Oklahoma. His eyes reflected both the twinkle of excitement and fatigue of use as he placed both books on the counter in front of the teen-aged library page at the counter.

Unfortunately, the female page with emo-influenced fashion tendencies seemed more interested in moving the line along than sharing in the excited boys enthusiastic attempts at engaging her in a discussion on the books he was turning in.

When he queried the page on whether or not she knew if there were anymore books in the series he just read, she promptly pointed to the terminal nearest him and told him to look it up himself.

I was saddened.

Not by the page and her lack of literary compassion for the young reader. She had a job to do, a line of people to attend to, and probably received dozens of requests a day to engage in conversations on one book or another.

No, what saddened me was that I knew that the boy, who had obviously been enthralled with the series of books he was reading, would find no further books in the series.

The story in the books he returned and was now actively seeking to continue on his literary adventure was about a group of human-avian hybrid kids (known as the flock). That's right, flying kids. The series was James Patterson's award-winning and best selling Maximum Ride series.

Our library has all 4 books in the collection. The boy was returning the last two in the series, meaning his time flying with the flock had come to an end.

He had nowhere to turn for more adventures with the Flock. Nowhere to look for more danger and intrigue. Nowhere to go to continue his literary flight of fancy with Max, Fang, Nudge and the rest of the group.

I watched him walk over to the young adult section and zero in on the shelf location where the first and second Maximum Ride books were located. He picked the first one up and paged through it, hopeful to find some tidbit of text he had missed on his initial read, or perhaps the motivation to read again what he may have read several times over again.

He was floundering and I had to do something.

Recall that I was familiar with the Maximum Ride series and once I finished them way-back-when, I too sought out writings by the author who had created such a fun series. Turns out James Patterson actually created the flying kid characters in two earlier novels that were mega hits with his target reader audience - adults. It was the success of these two novels that inspired Patterson to recreate Max and her flock in a series of novels for young adult.

I went and plucked the two earlier novels off the shelf, recalling the moment I had discovered them some years ago, and the excitement I was feeling at that time.

Now, the weirdness of approaching strangers in my small town has worn off some, but all those years with my stranger radar up and humming hasn't quite shut down. However I had a bigger picture to think of, so I found myself walking over to the new fiction collection where I approached the woman whom I assumed was the kids Mom. I didn't know her, but after a few pleasantries she must have recognized me because she said, "Oh, you're PK's dad, aren't you?"

Children are our common bond between all men...and Soccer Mom's.

The ice broken, I proceeded to tell her about the first two books that Patterson had written (not for young adults) that involved a similar group of flying kids that her son may enjoy reading, now that he's finished the first four books.

She seemed thankful, although somewhat confused since I neglected to mention that I had been watching her son meander around the library since I spotted him in line with the Maximum Ride books -- seemed a little creepy and stalker-ratzi to me. I handed her the books and reminded her that unlike the young adult series, these two were written for adults, but that there was nothing in there worse than Harry Potter, only these kids swear in English, as opposed to Harry and Ron who English. The Queen's English that is.

Oh, shut it ya wanker.

Anyhow, I suggested she give them a quick glance over herself, or at least keep a close eye on the kid as he read them, in case something should come up he doesn't understand. To which she reassured me that her son understands more than she ever did at his age thanks to Wii and XBox 360.


Later on, the kid sought me out and with a big sh*t-eatin' grin on his face and thanked me for telling him about these two books. As much as I was dying to have a sit-down gab-fest about the Max books with him, I could see he was anxious to get in the car and dive right in.

My parting words to him were that the young adult Max would return in about less than a year in a new novel, and there is a pretty good web presence for the novels if he had internet at home.

Should have mentioned the growing online fan fiction movement for the Max series. Could be I was looking at the next Hemingway?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Helping the "one" get through

Spotted this trailer pulling through town the other day and actually did a double-take when my brain thoroughly processed the graphic and text.

A trailer full of swine reproductive hope, that's what that is.

What have you spotted driving down Main Street in your town lately?

Monday, July 28, 2008

The art of lying

In St. Augustine of Hippo's book, "Of Lying," he divides lies into eight kinds, listed in order of descending severity:

* Lies in religious teaching.
* Lies that harm others and help no one.
* Lies that harm others and help someone.
* Lies told for the pleasure of lying.
* Lies told to "please others in smooth discourse."
* Lies that harm no one and that help someone.
* Lies that harm no one and that save someone's life.
* Lies that harm no one and that save someone's "purity."

Had I been sitting with the good Saint Auggie, I would have added a few footnotes to his scholarly thinking tome that included a few rules, such as the following:
  • Assume everyone knows you're lying.
  • If you believe it, it's not a lie (credit George Costanza for that one).
  • Try to know who you're lying to, before lying to them.
  • If caught lying, admit it with a disarming smile, then quickly move on.
  • Apparently, the Service Manager at Bob Howard Toyota in the big OKC, needs to brush up on his Big-L skills.

    The other day my F-i-L went to drop off his pickup for a timing belt change at one of the mega-car dealerships near him. Ever the thrifty consumer, he had let his fingers do the walking and found that this particular Dealer was offering a special on major services (such as a timing belt R&R) so he went against his better judgment and took it to them, instead of to his usual mechanic.

    The Service Manager acknowledged the phone quoted price and all seemed well and good as he handed the keys over and walked off, until he mentioned the dreaded, "vehicle safety inspection," the he'd be ordering performed on the no charge of course.

    Of course.

    Yep, it was the old Columbo fake-exit gotcha.

    Long story short, the timing belt was changed out for the price as quoted, however the "free safety inspection" revealed over $2,000 in additional work that their certified mechanics strongly recommended be done based on their thorough 25-point look-see under and around my F-i-L's 12-year old pickup.

    I don't think I'll be able to regurge in writing everything my F-i-L said they wanted done but somewhere in there was a transmission fluid flush, front brake pad replacement, rotor turning, rear brake adjustment, brake fluid flush, leaky valve cover gasket, fuel injector cleaning, a broken license plate bulb and a partridge in a pear tree. Additionally, they wanted his permission to remove the fuel rails and visually inspect the fuel injectors, "since a Tundra this old would surely have some "gunk" (their word, not mine) built up."

    So, he pulls the Service Manager aside and asks to see a mechanic to go over the truck, point-by-point to discuss the estimate.

    Not their policy, but in this case, he'd make an exception.

    So, the mechanic comes over, and he apparently looks younger than the laptop I'm writing on right now. But he's got the ASE patches on his shirt sleeve to prove he's been fully trained and doesn't seem the least bit stressed about having to "face the customer."

    They go over the points one by one, as the Service Manager nervously nods, thinking he's gonna make enough commission off of my F-i-L's pickup to pay his gym membership that month -- when things start to go terribly wrong.

    The mechanic is actually so apathetic to the questioning about the "strongly recommended" services some other mechanic suggested, that he all but admits he thinks my F-i-L's T-100 is in great shape.

    To which the Service Manager corrects him and says, "Uh, it's a Tundra."

    To which the mechanic retorts, "That truck over his truck, and it's a T-100."

    To which the Service Manager does a double take and says, "A T-100...what's a T-100?"

    Quoth St. Augustine, "rookie."

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Winter view of my house courtesy of Google Maps

    Last year, C's 2nd grade teacher made pretty good use of their in-classroom SmartBoards and Google Maps net tech and turned the combination into an exciting lesson in "the world is a small place and getting smaller every second due to the internet."

    C came home fascinated by the technology that allowed us to see our house from a satellites p.o.v. and was even more marveled when I showed her that she could now see a streeside view pic of our actual house via Google Maps.

    In case you haven't checked it out in awhile, type your own address into Google Maps and see what video grab of your house the Googly-eyed SUV driving personnel took of your humble abode. Heck, if they made it to my small town, they may have made it to yours as well.

    Own own domestic square of small town Oklahoma appears to have been vid-grabbed sometime last winter, as the trees are bare, the grass is brown, and not a dropped leaf is in sight. At least it's a sunny day and the Elky is sitting proudly in the driveway, beckoning middle-aged muscle car aficionados traveling down our street to mutter to themselves, "I knew a guy who had one of those in high school..."

    For obvious reasons I won't post the vid-grab of our house in this post, but I will gladly invade the privacy of the person living in our old house in So Cal and post their pic.

    It looks to have been taken some time ago as well, since I know the construction going on at our old neighbors house has been completed for some time.

    I do miss our palm trees out front, and the sound the dead, dried 26.5 lb. fronds would make as they broke loose and smashed to the ground in the middle of the night..sigh.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    Another day, another year older

    Yesterday, my 45th birthday ended with a phone call from some grad school buddies who were hanging out in the Big Apple where one of them teaches at NYU Film School, and the other was in town to shadow the show runner on one of the many Law and Order tv shows (I don't recall which one). He's directing a Cold Case (another show I've heard of but not seen) and was absorbing as much episodic TV / shoot 10-script-pages-a -day-mojo as he could before his tv drama directing debut in a few months. Meanwhile the NYU professor is off to Ethiopia to shoot a documentary he's been hired to make...helps that he's actually from Ethiopia.

    Oh the glamour.

    Earlier in the evening I cooked up a couple juicy ribeyes on the grill, bacon stir-fried some green beans (from our garden) and made a big pot of sticky rice for my birthday dinner with the family unit. Pepperidge farm coconut layer cake for dessert along with a single big ol' candle to blow out and wish upon. Big present from the girls was a crayon drawing of Lightning McQueen from PK (which looks suspiciously a lot like my El Camino - score), and a hand-sewn collage of the letters in my name on a felt cloth from C.

    Actually, the best present from C wasn't a tangible gift, but a symbolic one -- earlier in the day she checked out and started reading the first book in the Maximum Ride series. Sure she's only 8.5 and this book is written for 10+ year olds, but she's been reading two levels above her grade all year now, and boy-oh-boy, what a great series to dive into. A proud papa-is-a-book-geek moment to be sure.

    Oh the pride.

    Let's see...before dinner and presents the girl's went with some friends to the local movie house (they saw Space Chimps, featuring Okie, Kristen Chenoweth). While they were munching popcorn, I mowed and edged the side and backyard. By the time they got home the temps were in the low 100's so I put away the mower and ran inside for a Powerade slush (nothing exotic, just stick a $.79 bottle of PowerAde in the freezer and let it sit for an hour).

    Earlier still I woke up extremely late (burned some midnight oil on a project in the works) and took the girl's for a veggie omelette downtown followed by a trek over to the library for the last day of the kid's most excellent Oklahoma Summer Reading Program.

    So that was how I transitioned to the next year of my life here in my small town.

    A final note of triumph (or tragedy, depending on your point of view), my Wife called me today to remind me that the "country club" (be sure to say that with your best Thurston Howell the Third voice) where my in-laws are taking us to dinner tonight for a belated birthday celebration, is trousers mandatory. Meaning, no shorts in the dining room.

    I have to wear long pants.

    Oh the horror.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Impressions to shake a chopstick at

    YASTM readers only interested in my impressions of small town life may want to skip this particular post. The original intent of this blog was to provide my daughter's with a journal of sorts written by their dear old Dad to keep and read back on in the waning days of their life when my wife and I are dearly departed and my grown girl's are in need of something to refer to when their grandkids are bouncing on their space-age aero beds and wanting to hear some tales of the good ol' days.

    With that in mind, I sometimes take my own chunk of the blogosphere out for a spin and jot down some impressions of our trips beyond the confines of our small town -- this entry being one such endeavor.

    Talk Story

    You forget how hanging with this side of the family finds one embracing that hidden bohemian side. The thrill of thrift store shopping, the lure of locally grown produce, the morality of only eating the right fish grown and caught under the right conditions, all enter the realm of normal conversations as naturally as weather is discussed back in Oklahoma.

    The theories behind recycling, everyone's passion for books and reading, the importance of restoring old homes, organic farming, holistic fitness, color blindness, financial planning -- are all approached in encouraging and nurturing ways.

    As a family we commiserated over the tragic news, cheered over the good news, and dosed out some good nature ribbing to Uncle B who was the latest victim in a long line of clan members who have stubbed their toe on the flagstone platform on which Uncle T's wood burning heater fitfully rests.

    The older ones are listened to. The younger ones are listened to. Luckily there aren't any teenagers in our midst at the moment either.

    Motto tabenasai - eat more

    We ate newly slaughtered lamb and ribeye steaks newly purchased from Whole Foods, cooked up on Pilot M's newly purchased grill in his newly constructed outdoor kitchen, next to his newly cobbled together fish pond made out of newly molded and poured quickrete blocks.

    We ate pink mochi and inari (football) rice balls by the dozens, lovingly prepared and presented by Auntie K, as she has for the many years and multiple occasions our family manages to get together. I came home with several recipes from this trip, but the one I neglected to obtain was her miso/sesame dipping sauce for fresh veggies. Uncle T cooked up some mean and humongous shioyaki salmon steaks and veggies picked that morning form his garden.

    Wifey (of all people) was craving some authentic J-food so we found a neighborhood S-bar/restaurant where the sushi chef took a liking to our raucous party and sent over a serving platter sized fried mochi-ice cream dessert to cleanse our palates with.

    At the obon festival we feasted on freshly made sweet bean cakes and bowls of steaming udon noodles.

    The family grows, and my brother loses use of his toe

    We met Hawaii girl M's boyfriend, Perfect Joe. At least, that's what we're all calling him, and no Joe, you have no say in the matter. PJ is a soft spoken gent with a past worthy of a pulp fiction novel, yet he somehow managed to woo and win over our peace corp veteran Cousin M's heart and they are blissfully happy as a surfin', scuba diving Hawaiian couple of the new millennium. Not many places on the globe that PJ hasn't been, and after an extensive interview by yours truly and summation of his whereabouts for the last 10 years of his life, Joe didn't raise an eyebrow or protest one iota. Welcome to the flock PJ.

    We met Baby Kai, the newest addition to the family (even though he's 3.5 years old - told you we were an oft-never gathering tribe), and also learned that Baby Kai (hmm, it's gonna be hard to stop calling him that) will soon be big brother Kai come January -- congrats to T and M.

    Mom brought along her kinesiotape and wrapped any body part on anybody in particular who had a pain or swelling, or phantom ailment. She swears by this stuff and I've seen it work wonders on her as well. If it cures Uncle Y's gout swollen foot however, I'll be a convert.

    We removed and left our shoes at the front entry way for the multiple dwellings we invaded. While this may be an uncommon site in most stateside homes (Hawaii excluded), my daughter's felt right at home with the custom (a rule in our home) and were overjoyed to see the mountains of footwear piling up at the doorway. C took this picture.

    Road Trippin' in P-town

    Took some time off from big family gatherings to pile my brood into our rented Honda Odyssey Soccer Mom mobile to see the sights and capture some local flavor.

    Wifey and I spent an afternoon strolling the historic district (P-town is a good 50 years older than my small town) and got our kicks examining the details on the several square blocks of Victorian and Queen Anne homes. Took some pictures, stole some ideas, and germinated the seeds for our own exterior paint scheme when the time comes (purple is a victorian color, right?)

    I showed the girl's where the Toad tried to buy some of the "hard stuff" for Debbie and where Curt was initiated into the Pharoah's by chaining the rear axle of Officer Holstein's car to the side of a building only to watch it get yanked out from under the accelerating patrol car.

    We cruised the Main boulevard that Paul LeMat, Harrison Ford, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith cruised in their movie personas, Milner, Falfa, Steve Bolander and the Toad, respectively, while Wolfman Jack screeched from their AM radios.

    With my Mom and my brother (call him Wounded toe), we downed omelettes and hot chai lattes at Original Marvin's in the village, drooled with anticipation at our upcoming double-double at the local In-n-Out (which thankfully made it up to NorCal sometime in the 90's), and found some great "hippie" outfits for the girls at a gigantic Goodwill (says S, holding up a skirt and shirt combination not soon sold at Wal-Mart or Target, "only in the Bay Area do kids dress like this...we'll take it.")

    "And we danced, like a wave on the ocean..."

    And, in the immortal words of Ren McCormick in the 80's film classic Footloose..."we danced" -- or more specifically, "we bon-odoried."

    Cousin J (from the TarHeel side of the family) fully festooned in her lovely summer kimono, took right to the traditional circular line dancing and those that didn't dance thoroughly enjoyed watching those that did. The night time temps were on the cool side (Bay Area in the summer), and by 9:30 p.m. the only member of our clan still dancing, fanning, and katchi-katchi sticking was little soon-to-be-6th-grader J.

    She was a sight to behold and made the rest of the family miss the rest of her family (still back in NC, awaiting Round 1 / Dose 1 of radiation) all the more.

    The night ended with hugs and kisses and good-byes for some who had early morning flights, goodnights-and-see-you-tomorrows for the rest of us.

    The girl's were asleep in the back of the import mini a few miles from the church, and not much later their own brightly colored summer kimonos were laying in rumpled clumps at the feet of their Best Western double beds.

    Another unique memory made, another moment carved with care into the bark of our ever expanding and firmly rooted family tree.

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Celebrate the living

    A shroud of sadness enveloped the entire week of family festivities due to some unexpected and horrible medical news from a much beloved and important member of our family.

    That "C" word has struck yet again in one of whom I share my DNA with, which explained the painful absence of an integral family in our expanding clan.

    While all the members of our tribe that have or have had cancer are in various stages of recovery, the contemptible "C" that has invaded my beloved cousin's body is nothing to sneer and jeer at as just another bunch of tumors that can be chemo'd/radio'd away.

    Our lovely Suz has a long road of recovery ahead of her, almost as tough will the trials and tribulations suffered through by her dedicated husband, kids and surrounding family.

    But it's a road she will travel with the same organizational strength, conviction of self-preservation, and dedication of duty that she has possessed from an early age and carries with her today.

    Don't fret S and K. Even in your absence your extended family was able to pull themselves together and enjoyed a wonderful obon, plentiful clan gatherings over food, games and talk, and multiple moments of reminiscent delight and good-hearted laughter at the jocular expense of others.

    We did indeed celebrate the living by honoring dead.

    Living = you, Suz.

    Gambatte S & K, and thanks for sending J to us. She is the light.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Going back to Cali...I don't think so;

    I know so.

    Got my traveling shirt on. It's garish; it's green and white striped madras; it's 50's tv test pattern eye-popping. It's also what I wear whenever we're taking the girl's into large crowd-type situations.

    It's easy to spot, easy to follow, and not easy to mistake for somebody else is a crowd. The girl's know it very well (although as of late the 8-year old is flexing her fashion wings and has verbally condemned my traveling shirt on many occasions) and in the chaos that can be the airport at rush hour, I claim it as just one of many safety precautions we take when out in the public with my small town daughter's.

    The reason for our gettin'-near-the-end-o'-summer exodus is a big family reunion too-do back in the Golden State, only this time the family unit and I will be Bay Area boundin' for something called "obon."

    Think Dio de los Muertos, only instead of street parades we have circular line dancing to the beat of a taiko drum and we replace the tiny dioramas of skeletons in daily life with sake baths for our dearly departed's tombstones. Also, no taco and carnitas...just bowls of udon, imagawayaki bean cakes and styrofoam cups full of hot green tea and saké.

    I'm looking forward to catching up with oft-never-seen relatives and letting the girl's catch up on some much needed time with their other ethnic side.

    Be back on the flipside of the weekend.

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    They still sell this stuff...Bazooka Joe

    The gum in which this micro comic strip was wrapped around, was the treat of my childhood.

    The pink substance we thought was bubble gum was hard to chew, lost it's flavor in a few masticating milliseconds, and probably contained more chemicals to make it taste sugary, than it did of actual sugar.

    However since my brother and I didn't get sweets of any kind very often, nor did we even get real potato chips, pop, Little Debbie or Hostess treats in our 5-day a week lunch boxes, Bazooka Joe was the one treat we were given access to on a semi-regular basis, courtesy of our friendly neighborhood barbershop.

    Imagine my surprise when C came up to me while making the rounds at our small town's Dollar General store (not to be confused with Dollar Tree, Dollar Store, $.99 Store, Family Dollar or Hollar Dollar -- okay, I made that last one up) with a multi-pack of the treat of my youth, and asked me if she could bring it home to "share" with her little sister (note, as of late, whenever my 8-year old wants something of questionable price and sugar content, turning it into a "shared" item makes it all the more appealing in her mind...clever girl).

    I being the sucker for retro items from my youth, immediately grabbed it from her and thoroughly examined it for authenticity, aroma, and expiration date. We were at Dollar General after all.

    Knowing that she had scored a major coup in finding a sweet consumable that both she and I were now jonesing for, my daughter covertly produced a second package from out of thin air with all the flair of David Copperfield and announced that she had procured another one for Mommy to share in.

    There's that share word again.

    Little did C realize that to consume the chewy pink bubble producing substance, she would have to endure me droning on and on and on about how Bazooka Joe bubble gum was a minor, yet important component in the happiness of my childhood and why the miniature comic printed on wax paper and carefully wrapped around each individual wad of gum was akin to the greatest fortune cookie fortune ever given.

    Had she known there would be endless reminiscing and multiple tellings of Bazooka Joe tales, I think she would have gone for some Bubble Yum instead.

    Oh wait, remember the rumor about spider eggs encased in the pioneering soft and chewy Bubble that's a story. It all started back in 7th grade...

    Go here and hit the History link for a quick trip down memory lane.

    Note to readers visit...yeah, I know..."Tha Heights" are embarrassing, in a Katie-Couric-using-the-word-"bling" kinda way. But I chalk it up to just another bunch of adults trying to market to kids and failing, and hope they'll figure out that the old market for this stuff is a much more viable target for their advertising dollars.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Seattle to Oklahoma...or bust

    Didja hear it?

    The other day when money finally did all the talking and the path was cleared for the Seattle Supersonics NBA franchise to make the move to Oklahoma City, there was a stirring of the atmosphere unlike anything I've felt before.

    It wasn't the excitement of the NBA bigwigs in finally settling the question of whether or not OKC deserved a pro team.

    Nor was it the excitement of the 11,000 would-be fans who lined up and logged online within 24-hours of the announcement to buy season tickets.

    It wasn't even the excitement of the Seattle fans to be rid of their beloved team whom they've lost much faith in these past few years.

    No, it was definitely more in line with what Obi Wan felt on the fore deck of the Millennium Falcon when the Death Star was test fired on Alderaan and a billion or so Alderaanians were wiped out along with their planet...a great crying out of agony, followed by stunning silence.

    I'm referring of course to the Seattle Supersonics staff and general office workers who learned they either had to move to Oklahoma, or lose their jobs.

    A great crying out, then stunned silence.

    I imagine this blog may be getting a few more search engine referral hits in the coming months as Seattilians contemplating the move may start googling for info on topics previously discussed here at YASTM.

    As an uncooth and uncultured So Cal native, I say welcome oh' drinkers of fine coffees and originators of grunge rock. Come on in, the water is just sure to check for alligator snapping turtles though. And please don't try noodling with a Starbucks caramel macchioato on your breath...our channel catfish are more partial to Folgers crystals.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    The wafting aroma of homemade bread

    My Mom was a working Mom, a symbolic icon of her generation that carried the torch of Rosie the Riveter into the present by demanding to have it all - family, career, investment portfolio and pension plan with her social security # on it.

    The only downside to her grand plan that I can see, looking back on it now, was that I almost never got to wake up to the "wafting aroma of homemade bread" permeating the house.

    Don't mistake my total recall of my Mom made bread, lot's of it. She just didn't make the baked kind all too often.

    I can count on the phalanges on my right hand the number of times she pulled a loaf or two of the yeasty, soft and chewy good stuff out of the oven. Unlike her penchant for taking half of her toll house cookies and freezing them for later, she'd allow us to slice and butter the warm bread then and there, not waiting for an organized meal to consume it.

    And consume it we did. With real butter. Lot's of it. Didn't matter that the stick of Land o' Lakes was rock hard out of the fridge, the heat of the bread and the steam stream rising from the just offed slices would melt the yellow pads in 1.08 second flat.

    As fast as Mom could slice and butter, we'd consume.

    Now, granted, I'm pretty sure very few of the kids that I grew up with had fresh, homemade bread cross their tables on a daily basis, so it's not like we weren't keeping up the Yamashiro's or Chang's down the block. But as an avid reader of books and avid viewer of the boob tube, those Rockwellian images of fresh bread loaves populating the "supper table," strike hard chords in the mind of an LA suburbanite and leave impressions so indelible that even today, they are as tangible to my mind as my first real fight and my first real kiss.

    The smell of 3-cups of rice steaming up in the Sanyo 5-cup rice cooker, that's an aroma that brings it all home for me. And while my girl's will no doubt have sensory memories of our own rice cooker, I wanted to give them the benefit of that "wafting aroma of homemade bread" permeating the 2x4 studs and 113-year old plaster in the early morning hours of our own abode.

    So, I turned to an expert, who luckily for me, works across the street at the donut shop.

    Yes, the donut shop.

    The resourceful couple who lost their donut shop to flooding last year, only to relocate and reopen their heavenly bakery of the round and long confections in an empty pizza joint mere months later, have now reopened their original donut shop (less all the flood damage) as a drive-through beer joint.

    I've seen drive-through convenience stores before, but only in Oklahoma have I seen drive-through beer stores.

    It's amazing there aren't a line of cops sitting across the street, their eyes trained on the pick-up drivers pulling out of the drive-through beer joint as they pop open the can nearest to the top of the sack and take a quick swig before heading down the road.

    But I digress. At this drive-through beer joint, they also serve up homemade sandwiches.

    Hmm, that doesn't seem to quite cut it as a descriptive element for these $4 concoctions named for the great Earl of Sandwich himself.

    No, these are "crack-wiches," since there must be crack in them because they are so good and so addictive and had I been reincarnated as a chicken and come back to this earthly plane of existence, I would gladly sacrifice my feathered behind to become one with the epicurean delight known as the chicken salad at this joint.

    It's that good.

    Oh, and what puts these sandwiches over top of the heap of even the best dagwood you could make for yourself at home is the homemade bread they serve them on.

    Homemade bread that is pulled fresh daily out of the ovens of the donut shop across the street.

    On special days, donut eating patrons are treated to slices of "right out of the oven bread" to tempt them even further down the path of over-carb'd indulgence.

    Slathered in butter and sliced twice as thick as mandated by the robotic loaf slicers at Wonder Bread, the old folk and young alike voraciously scooped the samples from the offered tray and almost immediately start waxing poetic about the bread their wives, or aunts or grandmas used to make and the healing qualities that the wonderful "wafting aroma of homemade bread" would offer.

    All I know is, I'll be making bread this weekend. And if it turns out bad, we'll just walk across the street on Monday morning and get a few wafting aromas to go.

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Why teenagers shouldn't be parents

    My wife's grandmother was a twin, born to a 13-year old bride.

    Life and responsibility for teenagers was just a tad different back in the day in rural Oklahoma when farm hands were needed by the buckboard full and the easiest way to acquire them was to marry and impregnate the nearest freckled face teenager.

    Heck, even as a pre-teen, I recall reeling with horror when the beloved tv crush of my youth, Laura "Half-Pint" Ingalls was all fired up to be a June bride when she was barely 14 -- Pa wouldn't hear of it until she was at LEAST 16.

    Then there are the teens of the type that C had the misfortune to run into while at Campfire Kids (previously known as Campfire Girls...don't get me started) Camp recently.

    You know the type. Swarmy, know-it-all, why in the world would they be put in charge of little kids in the first place kind of teens.

    Seems a conversation was begun and in the throes of discussion on the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairie, when my little 8-year old believer happened upon the indepth conversation. Not having actually been there for the meeting of the pre-adult minds, I'm not exactly sure what transpired. I was, however, made fully aware of the result after picking up C and PK from camp that afternoon.

    In the middle of a block of NPR filled silence, C blurts out, "When were you going to tell me that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny weren't real?"

    To which my Wife and I slowly turned to each other - that look of abject fear in our faces - and quietly responded, "What are you talking about, sweetie?"

    At that point, she proceeded to relay the meat of the conversation she had overhead between the group of irresponsible (my word) teen camp counselors and impressionable 5-8 year olds about the true existence of the fabled childhood characters.

    We managed to retain our composure and come up with some lame-o answers about believing what you want to believe and the importance of not letting anyone else tell you what to believe.

    Inside, I was slightly panicked, knowing that our 5-year old, a true believer to the nth power, had heard the entire exchange from the safety of her booster seat. To my right, Wifey was fuming with capital F & U.

    We were always told that the moment the kids went off to school, the other kids would break the back of the childhood fantasy icons and we'd only have to deal with it at a secondary level. So we've been prepared for several years, sorta.

    Somehow, our 8-year old has managed to hold onto her belief in St. Nick, the furried egg delivery guy, and the money-for-enamel exchanging fairie'd one, bringing her little sister along for the ride.

    It's been parentally fun, but with this most recent "teen-verified" Santa debunking, convincing them to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," we feared was going to prove fruitless.

    Since the episode, however, we've yet to have another conversation about the topic, hoping that our lack of attention on the subject matter and wholesale dismissal (outwardly) of the ridiculousness of the claims would somehow diffuse the entire topic. At least, neither of the girls have brought it up.

    Inwardly, Wifey is still fuming and as a member of the "surely there must be something I can fix" male species, I had to take some sort of action.

    So, I wrote an email to the Senior Program Director of Camp Fire USA-Heart of Oklahoma Council. Here are a few excerpts......while I understand the importance of involving the youthful teens in supervising the campers, I find myself wondering why they found it necessary to engage in a conversation with my 8-year old on the existence of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

    Surely this is an inappropriate topic for teenagers to be engaged in with impressionable youngsters who are looking for role models and mentors to emulate and trust.

    Imagine the disappointment my wife and I felt when C asked us point blank on the drive home today, "Daddy...Mommy, when were you going to tell me that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny weren't real?" Today some kids told me so and both my Counselor and the Counselor Aide said they were right."

    And all this in front of our 5-year old.

    While we've been able to extend our 8-year old's childhood fantasy world to what some might consider a ripe old age, fending off "truth tellers" her own age is one thing.

    But when a "big teenager" who seems wizened to the ways of the world in the eyes of an 8-year old, shatters their bedtime tales and holiday fantasies with an ignorant and arrogant flap of a teenage tongue, the battle for their belief system becomes a harder fight indeed.

    Now, while many of you reading this may agree that 5 and 8 is plenty old to slough off the childhood fantasies of old and bring the kids into the world of reality and cold hard facts, and that the camp teens provided us with a relatively painless method to introduce the world where the red, round jolly one and his cohorts of while-your-slept present giving don't actually exist.

    Who knows. It may come to pass that as the summer months wane and my favorite season of the year in Oklahoma approaches, when Halloween decorations start making their way into the Dollar General and Christmas lights begin doting the Main Street landscape, we find that our daughters are no longer believers in the commercially symbolic icons of the season.

    I'll be fine with it, but I'm a guy. My Wife may have to go out and punch a few random teenagers to make her feel better.

    Friday, July 04, 2008

    A pair of firsts, on the 4th

    PK was resplendent in her $8 blue with white polka dots Target dress and $7 red/white/and blue hair piece as she stood up on stage and belted out her version of "God bless America."

    30 minutes later she was elated and honored to be crowed Miss Firecracker of our small towns 4th of July Parade festivities.

    A first for her.

    What makes these kinds of victories difficult is the small town conundrum -- your victory equals someones else's defeat -- someone you know and like and would normally be cheering for.

    In this case, PK's only other competition were the daughters of two well liked and well respected couples in town. The first one being the daughter of C's first softball coach and a popular 4th grade teacher. The other was the lovely daughter of our local Fire Department Chief -- and nationally known for the totally YouTubed video of his hanging-off-a-helicopter-skid-while-pulling-people-to-safety heroics.

    PK took the crown with pride and I'm sure in her mind, was promising to only use her power for good and to help solve world hunger

    The resulting flurry of activity last night found her sitting 4 abreast on the rear deck of a vintage VW beetle with the three other little Firecracker-royalty during the annual 4th of July Downtown parade this morning.

    Big sister was surprisingly supportive and excited for her younger sibling to be receiving the bulk of the attention for the evening, but I'm sure she'll more than make up for it when she takes to the parade route at the wheel of her decked out and bespangled Plasma Car, as she accompanies me in the parade.


    Apparently, someone nominated the walking trails non-profit board of directors I have served with for 3 years running, to be the Grand Marshal's of this years parade and wouldn't you know it, we got it.

    My first parade as co-Grand Marshal.

    3+ years from LA-immigrant to small town 4th of July Parade Grand Marshal. Scary to think what the next 3 years may bring?

    Thursday, July 03, 2008

    Reading at dusk, rolling in the dirt

    The other night I took the girls to a little poof of educational effort during the summertime hiatus known as "Lanterns for Literacy."

    Sponsored and led by the litany of librarians from our public elementary school, a free hot dog, drink and cold treat await any and all school aged children who want to bring a blanket to a local park as the sun is setting and be read to by selected members of the community.

    For "bigger" kids such as my 8.5-year old, it was merely a chance to hang out with buds in a safe and secure setting, get a few microns of outdoor time when we'd normally be indoors avoiding the biting bug rush at dusk.

    However for pre-readers and the young-uggers that still dig a good readin'-to, it's a must attend event.

    Unfortunately, July in OK means the sun doesn't completely set until sometime past 10 p.m., and the need for actual lanterns is nullified by the brilliant violet, gold and sienna sunsets of the season. But press on we would and read on they did.

    After the books had all been read and the hot dogs were happily digesting in stomachs aflutter on the nearby playground equipment, the big people gathered in small clumps of parental pockets and discussed matters of heightened importance -- such as who the new elementary school principal would be, how your trip to Branson was with all the kids in the Suburban, and whether or not it's going to rain on the upcoming 4th of July celebration at the park.

    Just another small town moment, I'm afraid.

    Me? I excused myself from the gib and gabber to participate in a tried and true tradition whenever I get near a park with one of these whirling deathtraps of doom populates the playground.

    While the chanting kids scream out their own name for the game, "MAKE US PUKE, MAKE US PUKE!", I've always called the tradition, Danger Roll.

    See, as a kid, my Pop loved watching old war movies. John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Van Johnson, all grunts in black and white, shooting up a storm, storming up a beach, beaching a Normandy half track, and tracking the enemy wherever they lay.

    Sure, guys still like watching old war movies, but unlike my Father, I don't really see myself sitting down with my pre-teen daughters and firing up a good afternoon viewing of The Longest Day, or the Sands of Iwo Jima anytime soon.

    None-the-less, of all the life lessons those war movies taught me, the simple "roll away from danger" held fast to my psyche.

    Out in the open and you start taking enemy fire, drop and roll away from danger.

    Motar shells starts raining down at you, roll into a nearby fox hole...away from danger.

    Parachute deploys too late and you are coming in for a hard landing, bend your knees and roll away from your drop zone...and away from danger.

    Basically, there didn't seem to be a danger in war you couldn't roll away from, at least from my adolescent point-of-view.

    I took that very same lesson to the playground as a kid, and it served me well, especially when I found myself flinging off the merry-go-rounds of death as they approached supersonic speed and massive negative g-effects.

    As I was flung off the spinning apparatus, I would hit the ground and instinctively roll AWAY from the point of contact...away from danger. What may be common sense to most was a life lesson learned from hours of war movie viewings with my Dad and brother.

    And as I attempted to explain to the kids on the merry-go-round that I was about to push, pull, and manhandle to supersonic speeds, the theory and practice behind "rolling away for danger" if they should happen to fall off, I realized that without the benefit of this most important lesson in common sense self-preservation, the resulting accidental injury could be life changing.

    So instead, I gave the aging, decrepit go-round a few sturdy common sense pushes for good measure and walked away, amid jeering boos and hisses from the spinning crowd of go-rounding kidkins.

    Who says men never really grow up.

    While my status as a "fun Dad" may have taken a few hits for the sake of safety, the twisting motion of the few go-round pushes I did manage, had a surprising side effect of actually alleviating some of the back pain I've had these last few days.

    Trim work and detail painting in the mudroom (almost finished and ready for the big reveal) always tweeks my back in the oddest places.

    Nothing a few harried moments pushing an ancient off-kilter mild steel kiddie playgroud-go-round wouldn't fix right up.

    And not one kid had to roll away from danger.