Sunday, July 29, 2007

The New Aggie Dispatch

Well, on Friday I left off my freshly-turned-twenty, first born daughter in her new life as an Aggie. She worked hard, applied, got the student loan and everything.

I am proud of her.

I took Thursday off to help break camp in her room, where she has been for 11 years. It was tough for her to take it all apart without stopping to remember little things. She began to get misty along about three in the afternoon, as she got down to some of the final things to pack away. Some things stayed, some were destined for College Station but as the end neared, the emotions ran higher. I did my best to cheer, rationalize and otherwise console her, and on occasion, it did work. Sort of.

On Friday, we (my wife, youngest daughter, the Aggie-ette and her boyfriend and I) set out for College Station. The ride up there passed fairly quickly; I am used to “college” being at least four hours away, and we got to College Station in about half of that time. We arrived at the office for the apartment complex without incident, and she got her key and directions to her apartment. Our small caravan trailed over to the correct building and parked. The anticipation was high, at least for me and I’m sure for the new tenant.

I want to preface this next part by saying that since she was going to be moving in early, we all thought that she would be alone for a couple of weeks. And there was some trepidation on that point.

As she entered the apartment, she found a girl and guy asleep on the couch. The girl got up (fully clothed, thank GOD!) and welcomed my daughter and her boyfriend. My wife was hot on their heels, but couldn’t bring herself to enter at that point. She REALLY got nervous then.

The story is that roomie dearest had thrown a party the night before (celebrating her last night of total freedom, no doubt) and they had been cleaning up since early in the morning. Since we got there at about 2:30 p.m., they had apparently pooped out by then and had taken a short nap on the couch, which was made up like a bed with a sheet, blanket and a pillow.

As we began to move her stuff in, my daughter began to look more and more whipped, shocked and dismayed. She was tired and sad as it was, but the new twist was almost too much.

I have talked with her on the phone and texted her several times already since we left Friday night at about 10:30 p.m. She wants to come home and live her life exactly as it was before. But that opportunity has passed. She has worked too hard and too many things have been done in this direction to turn back now.

She knows that, and things will even out soon. The roommate is moving out August 10.

Roomie is reported to have been arrested for an outstanding traffic ticket; one of her "friends" bailed her out, how nice...besides, only 6 more days of occupation...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wrap Artists

Yes, it seems there is a first time for everything. And last night was the first time in our family's history (and my history, too, as a matter of factoid) to have our yard decorated with toilet paper.

I text-messaged my daughters this morning, "Congratulations, unwrap the house before it rains, EVERYBODY!"

My oldest text-replied at 08:45:12 confirming that they cleaned up. I called to confirm that the action was complete, and she said it was, except for the uppermost tree branches. I asked her if she got the message with the fresh garbage bags I left on the living room floor. She said yes, that and the text message.

The twelve-year-old sent a text message back commenting on the quality of the job, or lack thereof. My impression was similar; it lacked the commitment and verve that a real wrap artist would have expressed. There were only four rolls utilized with rather unimaginative composition.

I suppose I'm lucky, what with having three daughters, one of which is on the way to Aggieland in a couple of weeks, to have only just now been hit by the TP banditos. And add to that, the uninspired execution of the deed, the cleanup was apparently easy on the girls.

That's plenty, now. We're fine, thanks. No more.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fishing Report (sort of)

This morning at 06:15, I was on the water at my favorite fishing spot. The winds were calm, the sky was edging toward sunny and the water was clear. Clear-ish.

As I edged into the smooth water, I noticed a few turns of mullet, but still held out hope that the reds would begin to show up to my little party. The tide was coming in, but was still fairly shallow in the mud flats that I fish, on average calf-deep.

As I planned my attack, the bait shrimp were jumping and skipping ahead of me. The entire time I was casting to unseen quarry, my eyes were scanning for bird activity...nothing.

The mullet and other baitfish were moving, and as a matter of fact, there was more mullet action than a NASCAR reunion event. I think a herd of about 80 mullet of various sizes followed me all around the flats (well, followed just ahead of me). They took great pleasure in twitching and splashing, upsetting smaller baitfish along the margins of the grass.

I will even go so far as to say that it was a concerted effort to throw me off. A mullet conspiracy.

Oh, in spite of all the silly fish exploits, a lone, non-conformist greenhorn redfish took the offered soft plastic lure. From the second I set the hook, it was obvious that he was smallish, but he put up a valiant fight...the only proof I have of my encounter with this brave eighteen inch fish is the tooth marks he left on my thumb.

But as always, a bad day fishing is better than a good day working. No offense, San Jacinto College.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm on to their "Game"

Walmart in Alvin is undergoing a major “face-lift”. I prefer to call it a “wallet lift”. Oh sure, there are rumors that every five years, the stores must go through a makeover. That’s the cover story. I know what’s really going on.

The “upgrade” entails moving EVERYTHING from it’s original position to a completely DIFFERENT location in the store. The ploy here is to get you to walk all over the store to find what you need.

The evil scheme: which I repeat, I am on to, is to force you to browse and peruse every item on every shelf, thereby increasing the likelihood of your finding something ELSE you needed, but were unaware of until the moment you spot it. It’s either that or ask one of the worn-out looking employees, most of whom have only a slightly more of a clue than you do.

This evening, while checking out with only the things I came in for (allright, I did pick up two things that weren’t on the list, but I needed them anyhow), the nice checkout lady greeted me at the register.

Malissa: “Did you find everything OK?”

Me: “When? Tonight? In THIS store? No...but I’m quitting anyhow...”

She gave a nervous, knowing laugh.

She is in on the scheme, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Almost Newsworthy

The middle of the summer reminds me of when I was in the blue collar work force. Strike that; make it the NO collar work force.

I had taken a job as a rock mason in Wimberley with my cousin Mike. A rock mason is a person who wears cutoffs and rock dust, steel-toed boots with crew socks and a dirty gimme cap. They break rocks all day and get paid by the square footage of limestone that they turn into a wall. They only put on a shirt (usually a tee shirt; torn, dirty and smelly) when going inside convenience stores, people’s homes, weddings, that kind of thing.

We were working on a spec house in New Braunfels being built by a local contractor. There were four masons; my cousin Mike, John, Mark and myself, and our laborer, Kevin, Mike’s youngest brother. Each day for lunch, we chose an unlucky restaurant whose mission it was to attempt to conquer our hunger. The establishment was usually peopled with tourists and locals, unsuspecting innocents with no idea that they would be subjected to this group of honyocks. We weren’t boorish or overly annoying, but likely had a definite “bouquet” about us. The entire crew was uniformly dressed in cut off Levis, steel-toed boots and stiff rock-dust-and-salt-encrusted tee shirts. Our hands and unshaven faces were clean and brown, but the margin where the water stopped on our forearms and necks was delineated by the white rock dust and sweat rivulets.

This is all to paint a picture of the rather unsavory appearance that we portrayed individually and as a group. It is not clear how we could be mistaken for anything but a gaggle of construction workers, but that’s exactly what happened.

Church’s Chicken in New Braunfels had drawn the short straw that fine day. As we all stepped out of John’s Land Cruiser in a cloud of dust, we noticed a tour bus pulling into the parking lot. We also noticed a news van from a television station in San Antonio. On our approach to the door, a vision of beauty with russet hair rushed to greet us with a microphone in her hand and a dazzling smile on her perfect face. As she leaned on the handle of the glass door and swept through, looking right at us, each of us wondered why fortune was gracing the likes of us with such a dream. All of us looked at one another hoping not to be embarrassed by the rest of this band of goobers. Surely, we had inspired her to interview these diamonds in the rough. But truly, what could she REALLY want with US?

She bore down on us expectantly, staring straight at us. We even mimed the universal “Me?... Really, ME? US?” inquiries, yet there she came at us swiftly with a singular purpose, drawing a deep breath to utter the words to us that we all longed to hear, “Could you go back out and come back in again so we can videotape you...?”

“WHAT? HuH?...” was our unanimous reply.

“You’re the German exchange students...” and then she repeated the introduction in her musical voice, and while we were enraptured by the sound and vision of it all, we couldn’t help but wonder how we could be German exchange students, especially considering only 10 minutes before we were hosing the dust and concrete off of our hands. I, for one, half-wished I was German at that moment.

Within the next two seconds, a subsequent, equally lovely blonde woman with a clipboard and an irritated expression caught up to the first reporter and said, “Not these guys, THEM!”...pointing about thirty feet behind us to a group of approximately twenty teenagers speaking something besides Hill Country English. THEY were the exchange students, apparently.

As the glow of our brush with the media spotlight faded from our eyes, the two women and their camera guy charged past us to get to the REAL story. We couldn’t help feeling at least a little relief, intermingled with the pang of rejection.

That evening, on arrival back at the house, Mike instructed all televisions to be tuned to the particular station that made our lunch hour so interesting. Sure enough, there was the attractive reporter, relating the story of the German teenagers who made the pilgrimage from Braunfels, Germany to their sister city in Texas. And as the camera panned the interior of the Church’s dining room where the foreign teens milled with their chicken, there we were, the pride of the Central Texas rock mason society. There appeared to be a force field around us, because even in the lunch crowd press, nobody stood closer than about 43 inches from us.

That was the extent of my broadcast debut: a brief moment in the harsh glare of the lights and camera (at that time, the 10 pounds the camera adds were welcome). And it’s very forgiving for rock dust and sweat crust. But for that one transitory instant, when a beautiful (but dim) journalist mistook me for a story, the thrill and confusion made me dizzy and disoriented.

Today, looking back, I am glad that a life of ducking paparazzi was narrowly averted that day. I guess hindsight truly is 50/50...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hindsight is 50/50

That's my new expression.

First, it's sort of true; something either would have worked out or it wouldn't have.

Second, it is a great joke exhibiting the "Norm Crosby" malaprop angle. If someone knows me, they know that I said it specifically. They get the joke. If they DON'T get the joke, then I follow up with, "...Looking back, maybe I should have said 20/20..." thus getting a little more joke mileage out of the line.

I think I'm pretty funny. At least new words are. Or, as Dudley Moore said as Arthur in the movie by the same name, "...sometimes i just think funny things!"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

iPhone Love

I had the occasion to drop by the AT&T storefront here in Alvin this evening. It seems my wife’s phone finally succumbed to the material fatigue that mine did several months ago; it broke in half.

She called and asked if I could maybe go to the phone store and check availability of new handsets, and to see if they were going to give us any trouble.

As I entered the store, I asked the pair of workers if they would be open tomorrow, and if so, what-time-to-what-time. I glanced in the direction of the display by the door. It was a pair of Apple iPhones with a spiffy flat panel display above them touting the features and desirability of the new geegaws. I suppressed the urge to grab-and-dash in favor of getting some other business out of the way with the worker bees first. On completion of the task, I wandered forward like a zombie, my eyes trained on the sleek, utterly cool devices standing at attention.

I am not an early adopter by any stretch of the imagination. If I were, I could not claim the envious title of “geezer”. Nor would I pay $400 or $600 for a phone.

But to touch and explore the wonder that is an iPhone, I was transfixed by the beauty, speed and elegance of the interface and the gadget itself. The simplicity of the workings of the interface is pure Apple. The photo gallery was just like shuffling through small but perfect prints. You simply drag your finger across the screen and the thumbnail-sized prints accelerate then slow to a stop. You scroll like that till you get to the one you want, at which time you tap it to zoom in.

I emailed myself from the iPhone, too. Simple note-taking by tapping a miniature keyboard on the screen, even my hammy fingers made few mistakes. I pressed another “button” and the email application appeared instantly, accepted my email address, and then “whoosh-ed” it off to my gmail account.

The music interface was slick, too. You scroll just like the commercials show, with the same swipe of your finger as the list zooms by, then decelerates to a stop. It shows the album artwork at the same time.

If you’re interested or even curious as to why over 730,000 of these puppies were sold in the first 24 hours, then go by the store and pretend to be interested. 30 were sold in Alvin yesterday.

You don’t even have to be an Apple nut to love this thing. Don’t believe the media attention, pick it up in your own hot little mitt and experience it.

My experience will be limited to the sample table, however, at least until the price drops by $500!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Belated Father’s Day

OK, so it’s been a couple of weeks, and Father’s Day has come and gone. But look at it this way, I am prolonging the joy that was Father’s Day. It DOES come but once a year, this way I can at least drag out the warm fuzzy feelings.

Allright, I’m a lazy slug and a painfully sporadic blogger. It’s not like you’re donating money, right?

SO for Father’s day, I got some really good stuff. My wife got me some great shirts (which everybody at work admires) from Academy . I like them a lot, too. They’re cool and interesting. One of them sports a color scheme that I like, but wouldn’t normally pick for myself. But she (as usual) thinks outside MY box, and I love it.

The girls pooled their money and bought me a shaving kit. Included therein was a can of shaving gel and... (drum roll)... a new FUSION razor with spare blades! I could hardly wait to shave with the beauty. You all know how I feel about the legion of blades that sweep across the battlefield of my face. And since they took the plunge and bought four extra blades, I can shave for over a month with no nicks or cuts.

The first two blades, (10 regular blades and 2 “tricky place” blades) performed as expected. I am fully confident that the rest of my shaves will be clean, close and comfortable. That sounds like ad copy, I know, but it the alliteration coupled with the perfect syncopation sold me on the phrase. Forgive me.

I need to watch out, though, because I have a tendency to race through the act of shaving, thus increasing my chances of unintentional blood donation. Don’t worry about me, I have what seems like gallons. Pity instead the poor hairs that try and take over my jowls and neck at night, only to be mowed down in the morning.

I am invincible! Thanks girls!