Monday, March 24, 2008

Saturday at the Grill

Imagine two beef cutlets, about four inches wide and five and a half inches long. Put them on a very hot grill for about seven minutes, each side.

Now imagine them on the tops of your feet. And there’s no beef. Instead, ‘tis YOUR hide burnt to a crisp, less the grill marks.

That’s my feet. I'll spare you the visual.

Saturday I accompanied my Aggie, two of her friends, my middle daughter, and my 12 year-old to Surfside beach for a Spring Break thingamajig. We brought a grill and some camp cookery equipment, eggs and Jimmy Dean Breakfast Starters. Tortillas, tuna fish and bread, chips, some cookies and a load of water rounded out the supply wagon. Except the tortillas didn’t make it aboard. No worries, we toasted bread on the griddle and topped it with scrambled eggs and sausage onion peppers potatoes mixture. Good stuff.

The wind was light and from the East, not blasting sand into your food as you would expect. The temp was around 70° and the sun was glorious. Salt air, sand, and salt grass filled the air with the scents that are a deep part of me.

Back to the feets. Swollen and red. The kind of sunburn that itches, like when you put shoes and socks on. Yeah, so much fun. The thought crossed my mind to bring some grandpa slippers to work for a little comfort.

My clodhoppers are not quite as distended as they were yesterday, or even this morning. And with my sneakers so loosely tied I nearly qualified as a rapper, my discomfort was minimal throughout the day, considering the doneness of the meat. But the whole thing was kinda worth it.

How? Let’s see: first, all three of my daughters asked me to go to the beach with them, nearly begged me; I got to go to Surfside for the first time this year, and the weather was perfect; I didn’t have to drive; I sat in the sun, threw my cast net, walked with my small one, and ate fresh-cooked breakfast on the beach.

If a little discomfort on my foot cutlets is the price I have to pay, then I think I got off cheap!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Journey of the Tiny Spider

The tiny spider lived on the beach in Mexico. She spent her time spinning webs to catch the petite mayflies that hatched every morning as the dew was sparkling in the new sun. The days were warm and sunny, cool in the morning, hot in the afternoon, and beautiful starry skies all night. There were scores of gnats and miniature flies in the tropical climate, plenty to eat and plenty of time to perfect her many webs.

The silk she spun was so fine, most humans could never see it without the sun glinting off of it or unless it were strung with the smallest diamonds of dew in the early morning mist. She herself was so small she could stand comfortably on the head of a pin without crowding any of her legs.

Something was drawing her North, though. Every evening as she faced the setting sun, she found herself turning to her right to gaze into the vast azure canopy. Every evening she wondered what drew her Northward.

One evening, the wind changed and something compelled her to spin a long web, bunch it up and send it skyward. She lofted her parachute web high into the Southern wind, and to her surprise, she rose with it, higher and higher. Her little home web soon became invisible, as did her little spot on the beach where the stream came to the bay.

To her surprise, she was not afraid to be so high in the sky, and to her delight, she was exhilarated by all the new things she saw. She watched the sea fly by, the wind was so strong and she went faster and higher than she ever knew that she could. She even saw other spiders with web parachutes flying alongside.

In the evening, the wind died down and she floated softly to the surface of the Gulf and she touched the gentle swells with her tiny feet. She was so small she didn’t even disturb the surface of the water. She was so small that none of the locals even knew she was there, so she needn’t fear being eaten.

In the morning, she sent her silk to the dawn and the rising ocean breeze picked her up and sent her back on her way to the mysterious, drawing North.

Her journey lasted for six days and one day she saw land. It reminded her of her own beach so far away. As the shoreline drew closer and larger, she found the wind becoming less intense and her parachute began to let her descend. She had grown tired of spinning more silk to help her sail stay fresh and hold her aloft for days, so she was relieved to be coming down to a new home.

As she alighted on the highest point on the beach, she noticed it was a large man with a sun-hat sitting in a chair. Her silken web caught on the brim of his hat and let herself down. She then ran across his leg to see where it would lead.

It was MY leg she landed on and I smashed her into butter. I don’t like spiders.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Sunny Shore

Galveston was the destination yesterday, Wednesday, smack in the middle of Spring Break 08. Just getting out of the house was easier said than done, but it didn’t have an effect on the rest of the day. I just thought I was going to need a come-along or a wrecker truck to get them going.

We stopped at Speedy Stop for some gas, drinks, and gum and were soon off to the coast. The weather was beautiful, save the wind from the Northwest. And except for the rude, impatient woman in the gray Camry who HAD to speed up to preclude my merge on to I-45, it was a pleasant drive in to Galveston. We went straight up 61st to the Seawall.

The first glimpse of the Gulf when I come up the ramp to the seawall has always been a special moment for me. The first blast of salt air or sand in your teeth; the wave report from the one who sights the water quickest are all parts of the experience. Yesterday the Northwest breeze (er, GALE) was keeping the salt spray out of my nose, but my eyes beheld a surprise for me; SURF’s UP! Yes, even with El Norte blowing, the waves were a giant blender down there. Usually when the wind comes from Dallas, the waves are flat or at best just gentle swells. I imagine the waves were on Spring Break as well. The water quality was not South Padre or Daytona quality; the sand was roiled up and suspended all the way out as far as they eye could see.

The wind NOT coming from the water afforded me the chance to have the driver’s side window all the way down without blowing my head off as we drove West down the island. Our plan was to play miniature golf at the Magic Carpet Putt Putt right there on the seawall.

We played a full 18 holes on the front course, watching the water sparkle and the golf balls evade the holes. Only a mild case of competition was in evidence as we chased the pretty balls around the whimsical decorations on the course. The giant ostrich that tries to peck your ball out of the hole, the totem pole with sharks and dolphins, the twenty five foot long conch shell, many of which I have seen since I was a kid.

As the frog in the giant fish retired our golf balls, we left to explore the island more. As we drove down the famed seawall, I pointed out in my best geezerly fashion all the things that “used to be”. We stopped on the seawall about halfway down and went out on one of the rock groins, or short granite jetties. The brown water surged and fell, churning like the prop wash of a big ship. I explained authoritatively how the current next to the granite was very dangerous and you’d get beat up good if you decided to go in there. As we picked our way out to the end, we passed small groups of tourists and spring breakers. The spring breakers wearing bathing suits were covered with chillbumps most of the time. Pretty funny.

The surfers were hanging about a hundred yards off the end of the granite, in a line, waiting for the next big wave. The next sandbar held only about three intrepid boarders, apparently unafraid of the gigantic sharks lurking nearby. Not that there WERE ACTUAL sharks out there at the third sandbar, but as far as I’m concerned, no wave is worth the idea of sitting with your legs dangling off your board looking like French fries to a sand or tiger shark. No thanks.
A few of them caught three or four-foot waves, rode for a little way, then kicked out. Not that these are fantastic swells for shredding, but we’re here in Galveston. Not a surf mecca. But the frequency and form of the swells was quite impressive for our geographical location. I was armchair quarterbacking the surfers, of course, since it looked like a lot of nice waves were getting passed over, only to turn perfect. They needed to be in a little closer. Dumb kids.

Down the boulevard we went in search of food. We ended up at Chili’s, mainly because we knew what we were going to get and about how much we were going to pay. The only alternatives were to blindly follow the yellow brick road in to one of the high-end places and blow our budget, or hit a joint with “local flavor” that cooks frozen shrimp in week-old grease and serves wilted lettuce in a “salad”. I’ve been there. Don’t want to repeat that.

Ater lunch, we headed down to the historical Strand. Fairly uneventful, but it was nice just walking up and down the streets watching people. There were tourists galore, with their white legs and sandals, sunburn and sunglasses. Some of the locals were out, as well. Like the lady sporting her fiddle and a milk jug with the top carved out so change could be thrown in to pay for a serenade.

My only disappointment, albeit temporary, was that Col. Bubbie’s was closed. The absolute BEST army surplus store in this hemisphere. Well organized but packed to the gills, this store has anything one could imagine, from military branches all over the world. And it was closed. I haven’t been in there in about fifteen years, but I know there must have been something in there I wanted.

The trip home was somewhat quiet, since we were all tired. The girls thanked me for a great day, and that was as warm to my Daddy soul as the setting sun on my face.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Break PARTY!

Well, a tea party. My daughters were bored this lovely rainy, windy Spring Break. One suggested a tea party, and since I was chef-ing some pizza (OK, WARMing some frozen pizza), we decided to have a dinner/tea party.

The young one found and washed the tea set, I was fixing the pizza, and of course, the seventeen year old was impatiently rushing us along. Our youngest hostess set the table out in a fine spread, complete with the little folded football napkins and pudding with a tiny swirl of whipped cream on top.

We did our best to gather ‘round the coffee table to break bread. Truth be told, the girls did just fine, but I on the other hand had to try to fold up and fit my tree stump legs under the table. I only got up a couple of times, mainly to get more pizza and get some circulation back in my feet. After a few minutes, they felt like chunks of concrete wearing my shoes.

We had a great time. I suggest partying with the girls as much as possible.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blue Moon

Life is uncertain without an alarm clock. Although despised, at the same time, being free of one means being tied to insecurity and wondering if you will ever be on time.

Our alarm clock decided to deceive us the past couple of months. Perhaps it was the strain of the constant brown-outs that our neighborhood is prone to. Or it could have been frustration with always being set fifteen minutes ahead so that our day begins when it should. Whatever the reason, the clock began to race ahead without notice or even a consistent amount of time.

The first day that I woke up to the alarm going off at nearly four o’clock in the morning, more than an hour ahead of time, I began to mistrust our old friend. I would re-set the time, and most of the time my efforts were thwarted by the errant timepiece. I took to using my cell phone as an alarm clock. Hitting snooze gives only five minutes at a time on the old Samsung. Even when it’s time to go ahead and get up, the delicate move of opening the phone and choosing the correct button to stop the alarm, unless done correctly, will get you a snooze and the sound will begin in another five minutes. Not the optimal way to wake up and start your day. Each morning I looked askance at the AWOL clock, now unbound by the constraints of time.


Sunday, the unfaithful clock went off the clock. My wife bought a new one. She said she wanted big numbers so she could see them in the middle of the night. So she chose one with numbers an inch and a quarter tall. In a lovely blue light.

At this juncture, I feel compelled to tell you all that the alarm clock has resided on my side of the bed for the last fifteen years or so. There is another story about the alternate arrangement that I will relate at another time.

When I plugged in the new clock, I noticed that the blue light was quite bright. It was late afternoon, and the glow was unmistakable. How nice. Blue. That will be restful.

When I came to bed, my wife had a wall built up between her eyes and the clock. It was reminiscent of neon at a jazz club. I went into the normally darkened room that is only illuminated by the backyard neighbor’s stupid porch light burning 24/7. I didn’t need to feel my way around or anything. I saw a dime on the floor by the sink. It was an ’84.

After my bedtime routine, I laid myself down in bed ready to sleep. I had already fallen asleep on the living room floor watching Globe Trekker, so there was a head start working in my favor. As I relaxed into the semi-curled-right-side sleep position that I normally take, I realized that the enormous numbers were but fourteen inches from my eyes. Surprisingly, the blue light still seeps through the eyelids quite easily. It was almost like having the moon rise right in my face all night long.

Onetwentyfour, onetwentyfive, onetwentysix...

There is no question about what time it is at any given moment of the night. Sometimes you don’t even need to open your eyes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Crystal City Carrots

I went to my parents’ house for a visit this afternoon. It was just my twelve year old and I. We sat in the back room overlooking the garden. We talked about the birds that come to the feeder, and how many doves it would take for dinner.

After a time, it was determined that we needed to get out there and pull up some of the last of the carrots. They had loaded the Wimberley branch of the family just last week, and there were quite a few left. We reconvened at the back porch and into the “find your garden shoes” area. I squeezed my giant feet into some stretchy shoes and headed out to the garden.

I always enjoy going to their garden, the smell of the dirt and the flowers and the knowledge that their hands and planning are feeding my family the goodness and love that you can’t buy in the produce department. My Dad and I stooped to start picking the carrots from the rich ground where they had grown since autumn. My Mother and my daughter moved farther down the row.

I was quickly left in the dust, so to speak, by my Dad’s efficient carrot-pulling technique; soon he’d racked up about forty short little carrots, only slightly larger than the ones you pay a premium for at the supermarket. We gathered the riches into the big wash pan, and moved them to the wheelbarrow to be rinsed.

As my Dad rinsed them off with the pressure nozzle on the hose, he told me of a chapter in his life that I had never heard before. His mother’s niece was married to a guy who worked on the well-known King Ranch. One year in the early 40’s, my Dad was about eight and the whole family went from their Austin home to Crystal City to pick carrots. He said that it was about this time of year, and he remembers all the relatives riding a big stake truck out to the fields, picking carrots all day, and getting back on the truck to take the produce to the processor. He remembers the conveyor belt where the carrots got rinsed off with high-powered nozzles, then to where they got graded, etc.

I was fascinated by this short anecdote, a sidebar in his life. This is further proof that “everyone has a story”. You just have to listen. Especially if you think you already know everything.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Wow, what a day this was. A bluebird day of the first order. As Mark Twain once said, "the day was pretty enough to make a cat laugh." The sun was out and the cloud was skyless. The remnants of the cold front still held the temperature to comfortable levels, but the wind was from the South, with just enough hint of Spring to make one long for time off.

We do have next week off, Spring Break. One of the perks of working at a college. Sometimes though, the weather does not cooperate with the Spring Breakers. I am anticipating a good week off, whether the weather cooperates or not. I have two of my girls off at the same time, so I feel confident we will have a good time.

I just hope all my plumbing, cars, elbows, and everything else stays intact, at least for the week.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

One Night in a Thousand

After the cold front came through during the day, the wind died down late and settled into one of those cold, clear evenings that really are rare in these parts. Especially in March.

I had been inside most of the night, as I usually am these days. Time was, I enjoyed the outdoors as much as possible. Hot and cold were only richer parts of the experience. In the last few years, the cold has affected me more acutely than in the old days. Now, the chill makes me shiver, my kneecaps dancing a jig like the Riverdance group. My arms quake and my shoulders ride just below my ears. Speaking of ears, when the cold wind blows, my ears complain like they never used to.

But last night, as I closed out my blogging at around 11:45 p.m., I heard a low moaning sound. At first, I thought it mght be my twelve year-old talking in her sleep. She does that a lot, usually telling one of her sisters to leave her “stuff” alone in the middle of slumber.

I turned down the television, and heard it again. I began to realize it was nothing less than a hoot owl. It has been years since I have heard one of those, and I can’t even remember ever hearing one while at this house.

I shut off the television set and listened. Sure enough, the hooting was coming from the back yard. I moved to the darkened back door, and listened again. I then opened the door as quietly as possible. I had my trusty Mini Maglite, but I wanted as much dark as possible. All was dark, save the back neighbor’s stupid porch light, which is usually on twenty-four hours a day.

The night was absolutely still.

Not a breath of wind. No dogs barking. No cats crying. No air conditioners kicking on and off.




Only sweet silence, interrupted just barely by the soft “who—who--hoo hoo”.

In between the hoots, I looked up into the sky and saw Ursa Major, Polaris and the millions of other jewels scattered across the small slice of space that I could see from my back patio. But it didn’t look that far away. This is my element.

I turned on and focused the beam of my flashlight, and scanned the trees to the north of me, the direction the owl’s call. The weak beam didn’t reveal the caller, but I could see him in my mind.

Usually I am able to hear some local coyotes caucusing in the near distance, but tonight they were silent in reverence to the clear, cold and still nighttime.

It wasn’t very long, however, that the temperature in the high 30’s made me realize that short sleeves, jeans and a worn out pair of socks does not invite long gazing skyward. I retired to bed, covering up to combat the chill I received being in the elements.

As I lay down, I tuned my ears to see if my owl would serenade me to sleep. Apparently my prowling around must have encouraged my friend to move on down the line, because the silence was back.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Really, What WAS I Thinking?

I mean really, Jack in The Box tacos, again? On purpose?

Yep, in a moment of weakness, fueled partly by guilt, partly by a gnawing hunger under my ribs, I succumbed to a twelve year-old's plea for off-brand tacos. She called while I was on my way home, and asked me what was for dinner. I looked at the ground and scuffed my foot, figuratively, of course (I was DRIVING at the time). I didn't know what we had, what was frozen and what was not, heck I didn't even know what in the refrigerator had gone south and what was holding fast.

"I just saw a commercial for Dairy Queen tacos," she intoned. Hmm, simple, sorta tasty, approved by everyboy at home. I told her I'd think about it.

Time went by, I stopped at the Credit Union to get the weekend cash and then see what happens. Well, the phone rang again with the same question, and since I don't know what I'm getting with Dairy Queen, I decided on Jack in the Box. The wee lass asked how many was I gonna get, and I countered with, "How many you gonna eat?" She said that the last time she ate four of them. Right.

I rolled up to JnB with the intent to purchase some tacos. Let's see, two for a dollar, I can eat about ten of them...four for the little one, that leaves, hmm, carry the one...let's get 18 of them, just cuz I don't want to break any more than a $10.

Without incident or surprise, I made the transaction and was soon on my way.

On arrival back at the Soderberg ranch, I instructed the hands to grab what they want, cuz I'm eating. My initial take was four, the small one took two at first, and the middle child sat on the internet. Ya shnooze, ya looze, sister.

I downed the first four, and went back for two more. #5 disappeared pretty quickly, and in the middle of it, I remembered what I thought of the last time; no matter how many you eat, you feel like you could eat some more.

After the next three (total of 8) I decided to stop. Immediately following that decision, I was fairly comfortable. No problem. I don't think I could eat anything else, but I'm pretty good.

Let me advise everyone literate enough to read this; don't eat more than seven Jack in the Box tacos at one sitting. Or in one week, whichever is the longest. Note the time of this post, and know that there is some (more) Arm and Hammer cocktail in the future prior to a (likely) fitful night of "sleep".

Eat warily, my friends. Don't fall prey to the wiles of twelve year-olds with access to televisions.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

HydroPhobia: Part the Second

"Call Judy now, she just called me and said to tell you that there's water coming out of the (North) side of your house..."

The words didn’t really have an impact on me immediately. Instead, they floated around in front of my eyes like little Lawrence Welk bubbles for a few seconds. Then as the surface of each of the tiny bubbles succumbed to the air, one by one, the words registered in my left brain. As each one popped into my gray matter and formed the intended thought, they all got on an express elevator and pressed “Basement”.

I quickly composed myself and dialed the number. Larry, an old Waco native, the best neighbor I have, answered.

Me: Talk to me, Larry; Janna just called and said something about a lot of water at my house…
Larry: Ah seen a lot of water coming down ‘tween your and Dwight’s house, so Ah go over there and look, but there wadn’t no hose busted. Ah went an’ turned off your water at the house, by th’ air conditioner unit…
Me: Ulp.
Larry: Ah knocked on yore door, and there weren’t nobody home. Ah didn’t know what else to do…
Me: Gaaah, thanks so much for turning the water off, could you tell anything about where it was coming from?
Larry: Naw, Ah couldn’t tell nothin’ ‘bout where it was comin’ from, Ah just did what Ah could…
Me: Thanks so much, I am headed home now to see what the deal is.
Larry: OK, good luck, neighbor!

Thus began forty minutes of suspense that I do not care to repeat. The whole way, I was guessing and figuring what pipe must have burst. The first suspect, I don’t know why, was the outside faucet on the North side of the house. It’s the same one I broke off with my behind one evening trying to barbeque. If it’s that one, I just need some half inch PVC and some glue and primer, don’t I have some? I don’t know, anyhow, it’ll be twenty-thirty minutes to cut and glue up, wait an hour and it’s all but a memory.

But what if it’s the supply line under the sink in the kitchen? Ugh, how long did the water run before Larry got to the valve? Like the time I had to help Bernadette down the street when her supply line broke; it only ran for about fifteen minutes and there was an inch of water in the kitchen, laundry room and creeping into the living room. And SHE didn’t have carpeting in the living room…OK, shop vac the water out, call the insurance company, get the half inch PVC and a threaded coupling…blah blah blah, contort into impossible angles and try to cut the pipe off straight, then get it all back together. Great, I’ll be looking through the wrong hemisphere of my bifocals, my neck will cramp, my eyes won’t focus, I’ll be laying in water; this could be sorta nasty. Probably take about an hour or two. But we’ll have water.

Hmm, what if it’s the shower hot water supply line that I fixed a couple of years ago in the hall bathroom? Tear out the ceiling again, ugh….wait, what if the pipe in the attic busted? Then I’m up THERE fixing the accursed PVC while balanced on the rafters, these knees…no to mention the bedrooms and hall carpet, and sheetrock, and what about the computer table? Is my Mac OK?

As these scenarios howled in my head, my palms began to sweat and my heart began to race, so much so, that I wondered if I couldn’t join the French Foreign Legion real quick-like. And as I made the turn onto our street, sure enough, the water was running past the curb like the Colorado River. More perspiration. As I screeched to a stop in the driveway, I scanned the garage doors for Victoria Falls coming from beneath them.

Fortunately, nothing. The same report for the North side spigot. But there was a pool of water at the far end, although there was no water coming out of the weep holes of the brick. I mentally ran the plumbing schematic in my brain and determined that there were no pipes at that end of the house. I peeped over the seven foot fence and noticed the swamp in Dwight’s yard. My optimism began to grow, but then again, I hadn’t gotten inside yet.

I entered the house, still wondering what I would find. Coming in from the glorious sunshine of the day, the house was dark and mysterious. Well, “mysterious” may be a bit dramatic, but considering that I may be walking into an aquatic kitchen, the apprehension in my gut was fairly strong.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim-itude in the rooms, I warily eased into the kitchen. There was an amazing lack of water on the floor, and I was bordering on ecstatic. The fears that had followed and hounded me all the way from Pasadena were beginning to vanish. As the relief began to dawn on me, the curiosity rose as well. Where in the heck did all that water come from? Why was there three inches of water in Dwight’s back yard?

I decided to go straight to the source, or the nearest source I could think of. Dwight’s son stays at their house during the day with his aging Grandmother to care for her and run a consulting business. I strode down my driveway, stepped over the Tigris and walked the short distance down the street to the driveway next door. I knocked and Robert came to the door. I asked “Did you guys have a water leak or a busted pipe or something?”
“No,” he said, “the idiot behind us is emptying his above-ground pool, and every time he does it, it floods the back yard. What an idiot.”

Just for good measure, when I got home, I went straight to the back yard and geckoed up the fence in the corner. Sure enough, the siphon hose from Mr. Genius’ four foot deep above ground pool was but five feet from Dwight’s fence, dutifully draining the blue beast. What an inconsiderate loser. It seems that he should have had it drain out to his OWN street.
Well, the mystery was solved and I didn’t have water all in my house. It was four o’clock, the day was beautiful and I was not frantically sawing, gluing and sticking PVC pipe.

I spent some time with my vigilant neighbor, listening to his plans for his new shed and thanking him again and again for watching out for me yet one more time.

HydroPhobia, Part the First

Things have been going fairly smoothly around here the past week or two. Nothing has broken, blown out or gone flat. Even when I figured out I was going to have to take girl #2 in to the Dr.'s office, I wasn't too worried.

We got an appointment for 9:50 a.m. and in the time between dropping her off at school and time to pick her up for the appointment, I decided I was going to vote. That went smoothly, I used the electronic voting machine and since there was so few people in the polling place, they let me vote a couple more times. It was fun.

After getting my student at the front gate, we got down to the Dr.'s office without incident about 20 minutes early. I figured we were a little ahead of the game. I felt pretty good until we crossed the threshold and saw the crowd of ill and escorts-to-the-ill packed in the waiting room. The wait and appointment went without incident. It just took an hour and a half.

From there we went to the pharmacy to fill the prescribed prescription, and on the way, the patient ate the lunch I had made for her. She didn't want to go in when we got to CVS, so she sat in the car with a window partly down and the radio playing softly. It took about 20 minutes to get the medications, so I called my girl to see if everything was still OK there in the car. She answered sleepily, and when I got to the parking lot, my partner was lazing in the sun with the passenger seat laid all the way back and her eyes were at half-mast. Still no problem.

I got her back to school just as lunch was over with, so she marched off to class. I thought about calling my wife to let her know how the office visit went. There were too many good songs on the radio to turn the radio down; I figured I would call when I was on the road. It was nearing noon, and knowing that it takes a good 40 minutes to get to the office from the High School, I decided it was time to eat. I settled on McDonalds in Wal Mart. No incidents to report yet.

As I was strolling up to the McDonalds, I saw my Sister-in-law wandering around aimlessly. We greeted and she said she was getting her oil changed and was just killing time. After talking for a bit, we adjourned and I went to the burger joint. I was wearing a light fleece jacket, and I only note this because in the past I have taken a mental reminder that the pockets are less than secure. Anyhow, I ordered, sat and began to eat. My Sister-in-law came in and sat down and we talked, looking out the plate glass at the zombie shoppers that arrive without knowing why they even came.

A pleasant lunch conversation later, I cleaned up and went to get on the road to the office. On exiting the parking lot, I was going to call my spousal unit and let her know how the diagnosis went. Where's my phone? I patted myself down; pants-front pockets-back pockets, jacket, shirt (no pocket, check twice anyhow). I stopped the car, got out, patted myself down again, numerous times. Check passenger seat, driver's seat, behind each, down the side, overhead (why? I don’t know, I am starting to panic).

Got back in the car and started to drive, not knowing where I was going. Where was I the last time I KNEW I had it, CVS when I called my child and woke her up from her car-nap did I go anywhere since then no I just dropped her off then went to McD’s in WallyWorld OK I’ll go back to CVS to see if it’s there. Nope, they said nobody turned one in, they called the number anyhow and we heard nothing.

Next. Burger Joint. I’ll bet it fell out of this stupid jacket pocket while I was eating and talking. Dang.

Me: Did anybody turn in a black Samsung cell ph…
McDonald Girl: Oh, yes, here, is this it?
Me: YAY!

So I now get to go to work. I drove the 20x miles to Pasadena and arrived at work at nearly a quarter to two. Everyone welcomed me and said, “Cool, just in time for Kyle’s birthday celebration!” Which was fine with me. I sat down and answered a few emails, got my phone messages, and was then summoned to the KyleFest. We ate cake and cookies and laughed about how young he is, and after a little while, I moseyed back to my cube.

I had just gotten settled in for the rest of the day, when the phone rang. It was my neighbor’s friend.

She said, "Call Judy now, she just called me and said to tell you that there's water coming out of the (North) side of your house..."

Thus ends Part the First. Please tune in tomorrow to see the rest of the tale.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Wordy Guy VI ANSWER!

It warms my heart to see that I had 7 contestants in "Wordy Guy VI"...Four of you were wrong, but the same wrong as the others, which makes me wonder what YOU think is healthy.

The winner of this week's "Wordy Guy" is ARTBYRGF...she was the first to comment with the correct answer.
The correct, official, non-made up answer for salubrious is "B- Promoting health or well-being".

Thank you all for playing "Wordy Guy" and watch for the next installment. I have some good ones lined up and you will impress me if you get them right.

The prize of a family pack of tickets to the Houston Grand Prix was to be awarded, however the event was cancelled yesterday due to scheduling conflicts. We are sorry for dashed hopes.

Monday, March 03, 2008


So my 17 year-old likes animals. Cats, rats, bats (none yet), birds, horses, bunnies, hamsters, the list is as long as Noah’s bill of lading. About five years ago, she whined, begged pleaded, negotiated and finally got a parakeet. The “new” eventually wore off of “Eddie”, and we had an ill-tempered budgie that flung birdseed all around the kitchen.

Then she lobbied for a rat, and finally we let her buy one with her money and the promise that A) she would not let it get out of the cage (short-lived) and B) she would keep the cage clean. We added the last caveat to the contract after she failed in that regard after acquiring a rare Russian teddy bear hamster from her cousin who grew weary of the chores involved with owning a small rodent.

Well, the rat “Cheezer” and “Eddie” were pawned off on some willing patsies, er, families who vowed to love, honor and obey the needs of their avian and rodent-ish charges, respectively.

Along about Thanksgiving last year, the same lass began a campaign for yet another hamster, that she would acquire with her then-boyfriend. She kept teasing that he was going to buy it for her. My reply was along the lines of “he can buy it for you, keep it at his house, and you can visit." We didn’t really want another repeat of the previous experiences when rodents crossed the threshold on purpose, invited even!

She continued her play that she had this hamster, sometimes it was in her custody, others it was at his place. She would also ask if, hypothetically, I would get mad if she had a hamster in her room, but she didn’t but she really did, but she didn’t…but she did, not really, she didn't.

Mind games. I didn’t know what to believe. She would occasionally ask what I’d do if there were a hamster, then quickly deny it, then act as though there were something hidden in the bathroom closet, then when I went to look, she made a giant faux dash to conceal the contraband.

THEN the twelve year-old began the ruse. There is only so much of this a dad can take.

I have even sneaked into the freshly cleaned out closet to try to spot some evidence. There was a little wad of what looked like paper towel or paper litter and it had a chewed look to it, and smelled of rodent. I didn’t tear apart the closet, but looked fairly quickly all over, with no apparent signs of animal life. Only the nagging gut feeling that there was something being concealed from me.

Friday night, I spied the original prankster filling a blue drip bottle at the bathroom sink; the kind of drip bottle that small rodents drink from while trapped in a cage. That was it.

“OK, where is it!”

“What? I don’t have anything” she giggled with indignity while shoving the watering device into her shirt.

“The hamster, “Butters”, I know you have it here, come on. Tell the truth. I am tired of being lied to.”

Clack, her door closed. She came out about three seconds later with her hands loosely clasped, laughing almost hysterically. As she opened her hands, what appeared to be a dust bunny was moving around, and I caught sight of an eye. As my zookeeper approached, I recognized that it was indeed a little gray hamster. So cute, so deceptive.

The girls couldn’t believe that I hadn’t found them out when I checked in the closet and begged me not to tell their mother-unit. I told them that they could have their little secret rat, but if I walk by the room and even catch the faintest whiff of rodent, Butters will have to find a new place to live.

With the information now in hand, something else began to become crystal clear. Nearly every night, I would hear the frantic barking of our Pomeranian, Duchess, from my daughter's room. My usual response was, "Make that little knucklehead shut UP!" Little did I know, it was the dog vying for attention. Perhaps she was just wanting to play with and perhaps taste the tiny thing that was cuter than her (matter of opinion), and at the very least garnering more attention than she was at any given second. While they were showing me the little beast, the dog was begging and barking and whining and staring a hole in the hamster. I wanted to strangle the little dear.

Well, last night, as my wife was looking in all the closets for spare coathangers, she saw the cage in the closet, and did a Muppet Show double take. Yes, she saw movement in there.



She didn’t say to get rid of it, but we agree that if she kept it clean for 2 months, she may be able to keep it clean for longer. But then the adrenaline of secrecy would not be present to keep her level of commitment at its highest level.

We shall see.