Friday, July 25, 2008

Wake Up Call

21 Years
It has been 21 years today. I have been a Dad since my oldest baby was born-ed-ed. I remember when they handed her to me. She was looking around with her little eyes, as if she was scoping the whole place out, taking it all in to remember all the details.

We all know that she didn’t retain all of the details from the delivery room. OK, on questioning, she admits that she doesn’t remember ANYTHING about that day. I don’t think she remembers much consciously about even the first couple of years of her life. Heck, I have even forgotten some of the details. Sort of a blur at first. But the excitement and gravity of those first few moments kinda stick with me.

But she has been worth it, up to now, at least. She has made me really proud in her life, developing a good work ethic and learning about relationships and generally growing up.

And today, I don’t really feel that much older knowing that I have a legally adult child, no thanks to everybody at work saying stuff like, “You’re so OLD, you have a legally adult child!”

I guess because it creeps up on you slowly, it isn’t so apparent as if you’d been asleep for, say ten of the last 21 years, and all of a sudden wake up to an upperclassman Aggie “whoop-ing” all the time and making her own car payment.

WHOA, I need to sit still for a minute, after thinking that through and actually typing it out! I have a legally adult child!

And I’m glad. I love her so much.

Happy Birthday, Des!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Part The Second

The damp concrete at the front of my garage door made me sick. I immediately dashed into the house, and was hit by the smell of wet carpet. Ugh. Into the kitchen and the swamp of the area rug. A lot of water.

The familiar culprit sat squatting in the laundry room, and a hint is that the word “dry” isn’t in the name of the appliance. The washer was sitting there, tub full to overflowing with pure, clean water. All over the floor. And it went behind the washer under the wall and drained into the garage, to the right (our left) into the pantry, and from there under the wall into the living room and the corner of the carpet. Right where the cheap computer table sat. And next to that, the cheap entertainment center. Standing there with their feet wet, they looked pitiful.

My immediate move was to run out to get a hose to siphon the still-flowing water from the tub of the washer. The hose on the side of the house was the nearest, and I dashed out to grab it real quick-like. Upon grabbing the fitting of the hose on the spigot, I was aware of the familiar sting of a paper wasp. Dang it! After hopping around a little bit, I tried the fitting again. Welded on after several years of benign neglect. Double dang it!

I rushed around to the back of the house and easily removed that hose. Inside, I dropped the end of the hose into the washer and went back outside to start the siphon. The thought of sucking on that hose with my very own mouth was a little too much for me, and so I got the bright idea to use the shop vac to start the suction. It worked like a dream. Well, as soon as the kinks in the hose were straightened out and the flow got steady. And this whole time, the water to the house was off.

In the time that the tub was emptying and my anger was rising, I went out and turned the water back on. The inevitable air bubbles rattled and sputtered from the kitchen sink and the steady drip into the washing machine miraculously ceased. As I busied myself with vacuuming as much H2O from inside my house, I ran scenarios in my head how this could have happened. I never formulated a better theory than the water simply siphoned out of the water heater (higher level) to the washing machine (lower level).

All while we were splashing around in the same kind of substance a couple of hundred miles away, blissfully ignorant of the activity at home.

The next day I called our insurance agent. She was extremely helpful…for the 23 seconds she was on the phone with me giving me the 800 number for the REAL insurance company. After a couple of calls, they got me hooked up with an adjuster who hooked us up with a “recovery and restoration” company who came right out at about 6:30 p.m. and cut out carpet, ripped out baseboards, drilled holes in walls and toe kicks under the kitchen cabinets, and set up eight big squirrel cage fans and a large dehumidifier that drained into our sink. The noise from the fans was like being at a racetrack or football game for hours on end. The television was pulled away from the wall, and its plug taken over by the fans, so there was silence from the airwaves. Not like we’d even be able to hear it over the fans.

Every day, a representative from the company would come by and check our humidity levels and water in the sheetrock and floors, explaining everything they were doing. Very interesting.

Finally, on Thursday, they came and took away their noisy equipment. I was alone in the house when this finally happened. At first I just sat there and reveled in the silence. Then when my 17 year-old got home from a water polo meet, we moved the entertainment center back to the wall and plugged it in. I reluctantly turned the box back on, not really wanting to destroy the quiet that was left on the exit of the equipment.

So now we camp out with a half-torn up kitchen floor and a living room with 27% of the carpet torn up. And for some reason, I am still worried about the washing machine acting right.

When the new flooring gets installed, I am working on getting a giant Ziploc bag to put the washer in.

Thus begins the wait for the insurance company to make good on the 12 years of premiums that we have paid. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be getting much back compared to what we’ve put in. But on the other hand, we won this round. There is, however, no doubt in my mind where the odds are stacked.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Part the First:

In the late early middle of July, we went on our first family vacation (other than to Wal-Mart) in about four years. New Braunfels was the destination and the famed Schlitterbahn was the main attraction. The excitement built up to Wednesday when we were to leave. All preparations were made, the gear and snacks stowed in the van, and I trotted out to turn off the water, then in to bleed the pipes. Turn the thermostat WAY up, lock the doors and fly off to New Braunfels.

The Schlitterbahn park in New Braunfels is the original installment in what is turning out to be a very popular water park franchise. There are parks on South Padre Island, and Galveston Island, respectively. And according to Dennis, the tram driver, there has just been a purchase on the Mississippi in St. Louis in the range of $50 million and something like 200 acres.

The success of the park is due in equal parts of fun rides and features coupled with the philosophy of the ownership that if people bring in their own food and drinks, the park concessions would not utterly collapse. Sure, the sausage-on-a-stick and corndogs are priced well beyond their worth, but there is a market for them. And the fact that a family can come in and stake a claim on a picnic table (if they’re quick of eye and fleet of foot) to leave their basket of goodies there while they play, and to have the stuff undisturbed hours later is amazing. I saw many families bringing in lunchmeat, soft drinks, bread and assorted snacks. I also saw nobody messing with anything that wasn’t their own.

Another thing I saw a lot of was tattooed skin. So much, in fact that if NOT having ink under your skin were a disease, I’d be part of a rare segment of the population doomed to illness. Guys, girls, old men, young women, teenagers, grandmothers, nearly everyone had some sort of body art/piercing showing on sometimes pale, sometimes brown skin in nearly every conceivable configuration. Some have elaborate sleeves or floral scenes growing from the tops of their bathing suits. Others look very ordered and prescribed, as if by some ancient script of a ritual. Like, ah, a GANG tattoo job.

Still others retain the look of a teenager’s sketchbook. Random drawings of skulls and symbols and math equations and a host of other random marks and letters marched across the tableau of human skin that was paraded in the sun of the Hill Country. I did notice that Texas and America were popular themes. And there were a whole lot of skulls with vampire teeth and glowing eyes.

One guy that I shared the queue to the Dragon’s Revenge for an hour and a half was sporting the “sketchbook” approach to his skin art. One particularly scary and demonic looking skull was on his left bicep, with ultra-long top teeth and an elongated mandible that descended below his inner elbow. I asked him if was intentional that when he extended his arm, the mouth was open, and as he bent his elbow, the mouth ALMOST closed.

He replied, “Naw, a lot of people ask me that, but I didn’t really think about it when I got it done.” I told him, “Well, I think you should stick with the story!”

“Yeah, and I’m thinkin’ of puttin’ in a little bitty Snicker’s bar right here,” he said, pointing to the open space between the jagged teeth of the skull just above the crook of his elbow.

“DO IT!”, I shouted laughing. “You have to do it, please tell me you’ll do it! Will you call me, email me?”

He cackled, as did most of the other people within earshot. “I’ll do it! And I’ll call ya!”

The positive atmosphere of Schlitterbahn pervades the park, encouraging disparate types of people to be friendly and civil to one another.

One other humorous vignette involved a guy who was clearly a gang tough guy. He was in his early thirties, his torso was covered with three inch blackletter text letters across his chest, down his abdomen, across his back and arms and up his neck. He had a blue bandanna folded “just so”, very wide and worn down over his eyebrows. Built like a wedge, and very serious in his visage, this guy was standing in line for the Soda Straws, a simple body slide down the hill into the pool of river water. He looked out of place, to say the least. Especially when compared to the seven year-old white girl with blonde hair and a carefree, chatty attitude standing fourteen inches from him.

After two days of trudging up and down the hills that make up the three water parks of Schlitterbahn, we opted on Saturday for the leisurely ride down the Guadalupe River. My nephew and his fiancĂ© joined us from San Marcos and we went to the Horseshoe Bend of the Guadalupe just down from Canyon Lake. We floated down the cool river, enjoying the beautiful cypress trees, limestone cliffs and the soothing sounds of wrens, cardinals and AC/DC. Some hard-core river tubers had a CD player hooked up to their tubes, blasting out heavy-metal hits from the early 80’s.

That took about an hour, and as a follow-up to the pace of the Schlitterbahn and even the crowded conditions of the Guadalupe, we opted for a nice, long swim in Canyon Lake. We spent probably three or more hours just floating and talking with my nephew and his gal, bobbing in the waves and getting just a little sunburned, but very relaxed.

On the way back to New Braunfels later that afternoon, we passed a guy in a parking lot selling Fredricksburg peaches. I couldn’t wait to stop the van and buy some of the peaches I have been craving for the last 25 years.

If you know me, you have no doubt heard me lament the lack of good peaches. “Used to be, you could walk into Weingarten’s and tell when the Fredricksburg freestone peaches were in just by the smell.” Phrases like, “big as your fist” and “juicy and sweet” are constants in my lexicon when peachy reminisces surface.

Well, you can imagine my disappointment when I walked up on this guy’s table of racquetball-to-tennis ball-sized peaches. A small basket was five dollars. They did smell like my memory said they should, so I picked out the most likely group and shelled out my Abe. A little chagrined, I returned to the van and reluctantly presented my prize. Everyone marveled at the “compact size” of the fruits, but my middle gal pawed through the prize bag and with no reluctance, pounced on a likely suspect.

“OooOOOooh”, she said, “this is GOOD!” she slurped. This prompted everyone else to partake and sure enough, this was the stuff that memories are made of. These tiny, oversized apricots were every bit as tasty as the old-time peaches of bygone days. Just not as hefty. And more expensive.

We spent five days in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas, but were ready to come back to our home on the Gulf Coast. The trip home was totally lacking in remarkable events. Upon arrival on our street, our little guest (that we had brought along for our youngest to pal around with) had called her parents and they were waiting in the driveway as we rounded the corner. After standing and talking for a few minutes, we were all anxious to get home.

When we arrived in the driveway, we immediately disembarked with our most important items for our comfort in our home.

That was when I saw the water seeping out from under the garage door.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


No, REALLY, tonight I finish the blog entry that I intended to write last week.

Or the week before.

I am so ashamed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Definition Time

blear•y adjective
(of the eyes) unfocused or filmy from sleep or tiredness: you don't want to face the world with bleary, tear-soaked, itching eyes.

THIS is the picture that's in the dictionary. Or should be, at least.

Radio Silence Broken

Yes, it's been quiet here at the GeezerChron, but many things have befallen the author. A vacation, for one. As a matter of fact, most of the next few posts have a lot to do with water.

Please be patient, because there is at least two, maybe three really strong posts coming. If there was any way to guarantee that you'll like it, I would.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Soft Serve Service

I went to WallyWorld last night for a few essential items. Actually, about six essentials and ended up with about eleven total.

After making my choices, I zoomed to the short line and waited; there were only two people ahead of me, so the wait would likely be short. The woman at the checkout counter had a relatively small collection of various produce items. The older woman behind her had two containers of ice cream, a tub of margarine, some bagels, a loaf of bread, and a bag of Fritos.

We both stood by, waiting for what was sure to be a short time before we could make our purchases.

As the minutes dragged by, it became obvious that our wait would be anything but short. Watching the checker and the current customer, there was what seemed like an inordinate amount of banter and contact. The customer lady seemed to be insisting on a personal inspection of every piece of produce in the bags, which turned out to be a sizeable haul. As she stood there smiling, the checker tenderly unwrapped all the fruits and vegetables, the customer pointed out nearly every one on a sale sheet. The smiling, slow-motion checker delicately turned each item to find the code and entered it carefully by hand into the keypad.

Meanwhile, at the next register, the young family of six sailed through their line with a groaning cart of groceries and summer items. At the same time, we were stalled out at the glacial line. It was then that I noticed the ice cream, mainly, and it made me think of my milk warming in my basket. I was wondering if granny was planning on eating the two melty half gallons in the car. Her bread was heading toward moldy, her bagels were going stale, I could hear them turning. The only thing she had in her basket that was not perishable was the bag of Fritos. Come to think of it, they won't go stale for another ten years.

Finally, the negotiations finally came to a close, she FINALLY paid her tab, and the old lady got to put her cartons of milkshake and tub of vegetable oil, along with her stale bagels and moldy bread on the short counter to tally.

It was then that I noticed that the checker was probably a greenhorn who didn't know the codes. By the time I got there, I was a little older, and wishing I could change my sour cream milk for a fresh gallon. Our little clerk was very friendly; achingly slow but friendly. By the time I got through, the little old lady was probably back at her car, eating her ice cream with her driver's license.