Thursday, January 31, 2013

Odd Bits - The Angry Inch Edition

Now that I feel like I can string a sentence or two together, maybe we can catch up on some of the juicier news that broke while I was indisposed.

General Benjamin
The Obama administration lobbed the next mortar shell in the Culture War when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that women would no longer be barred from “combat positions.”  The rationale is that in today’s warfare, the “front lines” have essentially been erased and women face enemy attack wherever they are stationed.

I am in agreement with the administration here.  If our military women are facing the dangers anyway, they might as well reap whatever benefit is available, be it better pay or a clearer track to career advancement.  The top priority should be getting the job done.  If a woman is suitably trained and qualified, she shouldn’t be barred from doing it.

I used to say if they really wanted to stop a war, they should send a squadron of Italian mothers into battle, armed with wooden spoons.  There would be so many white flags waving, it would look like laundry day.  The only problem would be if the squadron was from the Jersey Shore, in which case they’d be too busy fighting with each other to make any headway against the enemy.

The Angry Inch
What I’m really upset about is the screwing Subway has been giving everyone.  They've been tap-dancing furiously to walk back the controversy of institutionally short-changing their customers by selling 11-inch “footlongs.”

Subway is claiming “shrinkage;” that their sub rolls start out at 12” but shrink when baked. 

I don’t know… I always thought bread expanded when you bake it.  But regardless, if they really knew about the shrinkage, they would have to disclaim it, the way the burger places do with “quarter-pounders.”  They always have a note, whether in print or on TV, that says it’s a quarter pound before cooking.  Subway didn't do that.

They further claim that calling their sandwich a footlong was not meant to indicate a unit of measure.  This, of course, is horseshit.  Foot.  Long.  Put together, these words indicate a very specific unit of measure.  And they’ve been hyping their $5 footlongs in TV and radio ads for years.  The footlong is meant to be a draw; a calling card, if you will.  I think they knew exactly what they were doing.  They were cutting costs without disclaiming it and they got caught at it.

If I’m Subway, I bring my sandwiches back up to 12 inches immediately, and for the next 6 months, keep a tray full of 1-inch sandwich slices to be given away with each order.  Not that it really matters to me… I prefer Quizno’s anyway.

Maybe This is the Next Generation of the Geico Caveman
You may have heard a few weeks back that there was a scientist working on cloning a Neanderthal and was looking for a surrogate mother, in whom to implant the embryo.  Well, it came to light last week that this was really a hoax, and the story came from a mistranslation the scientist gave to a German magazine.

I think the story is on the level… in fact, I think this guy has already cloned a Neanderthal.  In fact, you’ll see him on TV this Sunday.

Bambi Says, “Call Me”
Yes, the Ratbirds and 49ers are playing in the Super Bowl this weekend.  I am in a no-win situation.  If the Niners win, they tie the Steelers with 6 Super Bowls won.  If the Rats win, I have to listen to Championship bullshit and their gloating fans for the next year.  So I’m holding my nose and rooting for the Niners. 

I also saw that someone ran a computer simulation 50,000 times and determined that the Niners would win.  He also accurately predicted the Giants upset last year, and the Packers smackdown of the Steelers the year before.  That gives me hope.  But if I had to make a prediction, I think the Ratbirds win, just because it would make my life miserable.

On the bright side, I’ve been enjoying watching the press rain on Ray Lewis’s parade by running with this Deer Antler Spray story.  The gist of it is that Sports Illustrated has information from a guy that markets non-steroid alternative healing treatments. One of these is a deer antler spray, which also contains an ingredient that is banned by the NFL.  The guy says that he gave Ray a bunch of these treatments and believes he took them as he rehabbed his torn triceps.

Ray denies he took any of it, of course, and says that he’s passed every drug test.  The rub is that there is no drug test in effect that detects this particular substance.  Only a blood test will, but those are prohibited by the NFL Players Labor Agreement.

Personally, I think it’s all a bunch of hooey, but I enjoy watching the sideshow.  Anything that brings unrest to the Ratbirdians is all right with me.  Besides, I think you can see the answer to the question just by looking at Ray.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Revisiting The Aha Moment

Director's DVD Commentary:  I went into work today and managed to work a full shift, so it seems I'm on the mend.  But I'm not so mended that I have any energy left over to create something tonight for your entertainment (and get it finished before the Pens game comes on).  So I dug up another old, unread post from April of 2009 that I think you'll like.  And if you haven't yet seen my last reconstituted post from Sunday, it's a real rip-roaring tale.  Do check it out.

The news yesterday had a story about a dispute now over the rights to the “Aha Moment”™. You may have seen these commercials by Liberty Mutual where people describe pivotal moments in their lives as their “Aha Moments”™.

I’m not terribly clear what the link is to Liberty Mutual, but in using this phrase, they have incurred the
wrath of Oprah. It seems she is claiming she owns the term and wants Liberty Mutual to cease and desist its use.

If they are wise, they will give Oprah what she wants. It is important to remember that she commands an army of minions, willing to do what she wants, buy what she wants, and most importantly boycott whom she wants. Trust me, Liberty Mutual, it’s easier this way. You got some commercials on; they got noticed, now run along. No one crosses the Big O and lives to tell the tale.

Except me, of course, because those spots got me thinking about the Aha Moments™ in my own life. And at great risk of personal peril, I dare to bring them to you now.

1) Learning to tell time.  I had a great deal of difficulty learning how to tell time as a boy. (Remember, this was long before digital clocks and watches became commonplace.) We covered it in class, my parents tried to teach me but nothing worked. I knew the top-of-the-hour o’clocks, but the rest of the time, I just didn't get it. They would always asked me if I could count by fives.  That was easy!  I could rattle off 5-10-15-20, but I just didn't see how it applied.

Then one day, in 1st grade, I was staring at the clock and bing, I got it. It just sort of clicked into place, making the connection between the numbers and the fives. Been on time ever since.

2) Not giving a shit.  It’s always been popular among students to complain that what they’re learning won’t matter outside of school. I used to as well, until I learned one of my life’s basic tenets in junior year English Lit. We were studying Thoreau and Emerson and learning about self-reliance and non-conformism and it really hit home.

I used to be a kid that killed himself trying to please everyone… being everything to all people. It never worked, least of all for me. Suddenly I realized; it didn't really matter what other people thought. I had a handful of solid friends; I didn't need anything from anyone else… approval, status, lunch money… I had what I needed, so why give a shit what anyone else thought? Bing!

School (and life) was so much easier once you don’t give a shit. The yoke of conformity was thrown off and I began to really enjoy life, thanks to English Lit class and a brilliant teacher named Roy Williamson. He allowed me to use his blackboard to get into a limerick war with some Neanderthal in an earlier class. (Whom I destroyed, of course.) He let me post a daily pun on the board as well. He gave me encouragement and a sense of place when I had been floating on the periphery throughout my school life.

I went on to join the school newspaper, which gave me an outlet for my wise-ass writing and more importantly, an audience. While I might have joined the paper without Mr. Williamson’s class, I would have spent too much time wondering if anyone would like what I was writing. Instead, I just let it fly and moved on.

Mr. Williamson retired after that year so I didn't get to take College Composition with him as a senior. Some friends and I visited his house once that year, just to say hi, but I always regret that I never got a chance to thank him for so positively affecting my life. Teachers like that don’t come along every day.

3) Understanding computers
I went through school just ahead of the PC revolution, so to me they were always some kind of inscrutable, mysterious Pandora’s Box, capable of blowing up at a moment’s notice.

I first used a desktop PC in 1992, at the home office of the music retailer I worked for. It was running Lotus and WordPerfect, and a jerry-rigged version of internal email. I learned how to do things bit by bit, usually from the admins in the office. Everything was keyboard oriented… there were no mice.

I never used Windows or even a mouse until I moved to Baltimore in 1997. I picked up some Excel and Word pretty easily, but I really didn't know much more about how things operated. I still hadn't even seen the Internet. But the ability to edit what I wrote in-screen was life changing.

Finally one day I was poking around some of the folders on my work PC and it dawned on me that all the information stored on a computer were basically just like a file drawer system… files, in folders, in bigger folders, in drawers. Bing!

I could find things, file things and do some minor troubleshooting. It was in that moment that I realized that I could actually own one of these things. In August of 1998, I bought my first PC… a training PC if you will. It had about 47 gigs of storage and a 15” monitor. Off I went, not looking back.

Now I can’t imagine life without one. I can keep in touch with friends and family all over the country. I've met people from all over the country. All my Christmas shopping is done online. Heck, pretty much everything I buy that isn't groceries comes from an online store. Plane tickets, hotel reservations, photography, news, weather, sports, music, TV, movies, driving directions… everything comes from my computing life.

There was a time that I thought the idea of my owning a computer was preposterous. Now I’m on my 3rd website. Live and learn, baby. No looking back now.  Maybe one day I'll even pop for that Smart-Phone.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Darwinfish Replay: The Fish Story

Director's DVD Commentary: I'm sick.  It's just a cold; not the flu, but it was enough to keep me home Friday and maybe Monday, we'll see.  But I'm not up to posting anything new this weekend.  The most I can really manage is to wave my hand in front of my face and watch the vapor trails.  Pretty...

But to amuse you, I decided to re-post a favorite story from the early days of this blog.  Dig in, because this is a good one! 

While I was on vacation, out in the farmland outside Toledo where I grew up, I had a chance to do a little pond fishing. Talk about one of life’s simple pleasures… We were just catching and releasing. My buddies and I caught a couple bass and a whole mess of bluegills. Big fun down on the farm! But it reminded me of another time back in my youth,waaaaaay back in the day… when we crossed pond fishing with a commando raid and it produced the story you’ll find below.

The Fish Story
One summer, my parents went on a trip to visit relatives and took my younger brother and sister with them. Because I was the oldest and had a part-time job, I was allowed to stay home. (Rank has its privileges.) I was just out of high school and this was the summer before college started, so it was a given that there was going to be a party of some kind. It was just a small one… my few buds and some neighborhood folk.

One of us caught a wild hair and decided we should have a breakfast fish fry the next morning. Catching the fish would be no problem. Our neighbors directly behind us had a pond, in which we were allowed to fish. In fact, we helped stock it by depositing catfish, bass, and bluegills in it that we had caught elsewhere. But why do something we were allowed to do when instead we could have an adventure? See, there was a pond behind theirs that belonged to some other neighbors who never let anyone fish or swim in their pond. You could see the fish in there; bluegills the size of a loaf of bread, enormous bass, and more, all but poking their heads up out of the water and going “pppbbbbhhhhhhhhhtt!” We had no choice. We were provoked.

So about 10:30, we staged our little fishing raid. A handful of us crept out, rods and lures in hand, and began stealthily fishing in the pond. We could see Mr. And Mrs. Neighbor up in their house, about 75 yards away. The lights were on, so while we could look in, they couldn't see us out in the dark.

We began pulling bluegill out of there immediately; it was just too easy. It was much easier, in fact, than getting the hooks out by moonlight. We had a big bucket that we threw them in, and in no time we had about 5 or 6 in the can. At some point, we saw some motion up in the windows, so we made a dash for it, grabbing up the bucket and hauling butt. I didn't even have my line out of the water. I just ran, with the line dragging out behind me, the hooks pulling up little chunks of grass.

Anyway, we got back to The Barn, (where we always had our parties… but that’s another story) and counted up our half dozen monster fish. The fish fry was on, so now, who knows how to cook a fish? (We weren't much for thinking these things through in those days.) We knew how to filet and bone them, but very little about how to cook them. Our friend Rob, who worked with me at the neighborhood grocery store, said he’d call home to his mom and ask for a good breading recipe. Of course, she wanted to know why, so he told her and came away with the goods. The next morning we had quite a tasty little bluegill feast.

My parents came home that evening, and over dinner, I told them about our little party. Near the end of dinner, the phone rang, and the caller asked for me. It was Mrs. Neighbor, who proceeded to tell me she saw me out there fishing last night and wanted me to pay for the fish we pulled out. She said something about wanting a dollar a pound.

Of course, I denied everything. “What fish? I wasn't fishing!” She proceeded to describe what I was wearing, right down to the hat on my head. Still denying I was out there, that I was fishing, and that I even owned a hat, I finally said something brilliant like, “Even though I didn't take any fish, I’ll still pay you for them if I have to.”

I sat back down and then told my folks about the fishing part of the party, which I had neglected to mention earlier. They basically said, “She gotcha, now ya gotta pay up.” I was resigned to my fate.

Before the table was even cleared, Rob and my other friend Rik pulled up in the driveway. I dashed out of the house and told them everything. I mean, I wasn't the ONLY one out there and I wasn't going down alone. Then I started noticing, as I described the phone conversation, how neither of them would look directly at me. They seemed to be biting the inside of their cheeks. I stopped talking and looked at them and they just exploded with laughter.

I gave them a good cursing out but laughed the whole time. It seems it was Rob’s mom who called, who described what I’d been wearing and heard me lie my ass off to her. Actually, I was relieved not to have to go show up at Mrs. Neighbor’s door.

I ran inside to tell my folks the good news, that it was just Rob’s mom, yanking my chain. My dad said, “Now, what are you going to do to get back at her?

Hmmmm. I agreed that I couldn't take this lying down. Then my dad gave me the best advice I’d ever received. He said, “The best revenge for a practical joke is to make it seem that it worked too well.” 

We sent Rob back to tell his mom that my dad got so mad at me that he marched me right over to Mrs. Neighbor’s house and made me pay her off. Then he grounded me from the car for a month.

She was crestfallen when Rob told her the story… she never meant any harm. Rob must have given quite a performance too; she even woke him up late that night, trying to see if she could shake his story while he was half asleep. Rob held up though and stuck to the plan.

So, cut to the following weekend, as Rob and I were both working at the grocery store. She came in for her regular weekly shopping. I knew she’d want to ‘fess up, busting with guilt. Naturally, I did everything I could to avoid her. She came up to me once, with big sad eyes and a mournful look. I put on a look like someone just killed my puppy, all sad and forlorn. She asked me how I was doing. I just said, “Not so good Mrs. B., I got in pretty big trouble this week, but listen, I can’t talk now… I gotta go.

That’s how it went for the next half hour: her stalking me to try to confess, with me trying to avoid her.

The payoff was set for when she checked out. I arranged to bag her groceries and this was the day and age when bag boys still took your stuff out and packed your car. As we went out to the car, she just spilled it. “It was me on the phone,” she said, “I’m sorry. I didn't mean to cause any trouble. I’m sorry, it was just a joke, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

I just stood there, jaw dropped open, looking shocked.

Finally, I smiled and said, “That’s OK, Mrs. B, because I didn't really get in any trouble, I was just getting a little payback.” Her response was typical of her upbringing as an Italian mother from Brooklyn.

“YOU SONOFABITCH BASTID!” she screamed at me in her high-pitched Brooklynese. “How can you do that to a poor old woman? I oughta kick you right in the ass for that, you had me up all night from the guilt…”

We ended up having a great laugh and happily called a truce. Meanwhile, I was giving mental high-fives to my dad. When I told him the story he was most pleased by the way it played out.

I went on to employ this tactic on numerous occasions, although it was often in the form of advice to others who’d been tricked. It has never failed me yet.
Note: All photos courtesy of ME, although they were most certainly NOT taken at the time of this story. Digital cameras were not invented yet, nor were Windows PCs, CDs, MP3s, or string cheese. We had nothing to do all day but think of ways to torture each other. Those were the days...

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I usually use this post-Christmas downtime to lay low for a couple months and restock my bank account.  This year is not cooperating with me in that regard.

Last week, the Pittsburgh Penguins put their single-game tickets on sale to the general public.  Starting at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, you could go to their website and try to outfox thousands of other Yinzers in an online Battle Royale.

I haven’t been to their new arena yet… well, not inside, anyway… so I’ve wanted badly to see a game there.  Also, not only has Pinky never attended a hockey game, she’s never been to downtown Pittsburgh, so I’ve been looking for an opportunity to remedy that.

In past years, I’ve told myself, “I’ll just wait until spring, when it’s nice, and I’ll look around the ‘secondary’ markets for some tickets.”  The problem is that I never follow through when the time comes because ‘couch inertia’ has taken over.  I haven’t been to a Pens game since 2009, so this has been going on a while now.

So this time, once I took a look at what tickets were going for on StubHub, I let the prospect of grabbing some seats at face value spur a move to action.  The question was which game to go and see?

I wanted something late in the season, so it wouldn’t be too cold to walk around dahntahn.  As luck would have it the Pens are playing the Buffalo Sabres on April 20, which is a Saturday.  And to sweeten the pot, the Pirates are also in town that weekend, playing the Braves.  That meant I could pull off a doubleheader… one trip, two games.

Next, all I had to do was get lucky enough to score some tickets.  Come 10:00 on Tuesday, I was ready to pounce.  The Pens tickets I landed were better than I expected; we’re in the lower bowl, 3rd row, in the corner where the Penguins shoot twice.

Then, I booked a room at the Doubletree, right across from the ice arena.  (I stayed there this past summer when I was in town for the Darwinfish Fry III.)  I wanted to book it early, before the game-day price gouging could take effect in earnest.

I saved the Pirates tickets for last because I figured they wouldn’t be too tough to get, and I was right.  I got some nice, lower bowl seats just to the 3rd base side of home plate.  I’m looking forward to showing Pinky the best ballpark view in the major leagues.

So our trip will shape up thusly: Roll into the Burgh on Saturday afternoon, wander around town for a while and see the sights.  Check into the Doubletree.  Maybe meet up with some of my blog friends for dinner, to prove that Pinky is a real person and I’m not the blogging version of Manti Te’o.  Then we skip over to the Consol Energy Center for the game at 7:00.  Sunday, we find some breakfast in town, and hit PNC Park for the game at 1:30.  I haven’t nailed down the aftermath yet.  We can either come home, or maybe run out to the west side to see my family, then come home Monday.  All told, I dropped about $640 on the trip (so far), but I think I’m getting some bang for my buck.

Now, to make matters worse, the Orioles put their single game tickets on sale the very next day.  It hasn’t been hard to get O’s tickets, but with their newfound popularity, you never know.  So while one part of me said to hold off and pick up seats as I need them, the other part knew that I was going to spend the money either way, so why not get the best seats I could?  Guess which side won.

So there I was again on Wednesday, finger on the button, waiting for the stroke of 10:00.  This time, I was working with Sitcom Kelly, my frequent baseball-watching partner.  We already had some games circled on the schedule… mostly inter-league games.  The NL West is coming to town this year, so I wanted to see the Padres and Rockies, the latter of which, I’ve never seen.  Sitcom Kelly used to live in Colorado, so she wanted to see them as well. 

Note: Believe it or not, I've never seen the Braves either, so with these two teams knocked off my spreadsheet, the only remaining team I've never seen in person will be the Arizona Diamondbacks.  And I would have seen them by now as well, but when I was visiting Tempe in 2002, I screwed up the game time and arrived at the park during the 8th inning.  Stupid Pacific Time…

Anyway, I got pair of outfield club seats for the Padres and Sitcom Kelly got the exact same seats for the Rockies.  We’ll take each other to the Rockies and Padres games, and I also picked up a pair in the lower bowl for a game against the Twins, in the first home series.  All told, the Orioles cost me another $177, which brings the grand ticket and hotel total to $816.

It’s not the best budgeting I’ve ever done, but I’ll thank me later.  Having the tickets in hand will force me to get off my ass and go.  I just hope nothing unforeseen comes up that keeps me from attending any of the games.  I’d hate to add to my collection of unused tickets. (Three playoff games the Orioles never got to play last year, and a cancelled Van Halen concert.)

So it looks like it’s shaping up into a fun spring and summer.  We’ll probably fold a trip to see the parents sometime in May, as well.  Maybe this time we can score some tickets to actually see the Pensacola Blue Wahoos play, instead of just wandering around their ballpark.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Tao of Te'o

I’m really disturbed about the whole Manti Te’o story.  You've heard about that, right?  The Notre Dame linebacker that was a victim of a hoax, wherein some dudes struck up an online friendship with him, using the persona of a hot Polynesian babe, and got him to fall in love with her?  And then on the day his grandmother died, the pranksters told Te’o that the girl died of leukemia.

It’s not so much the hoax that bothers me, which was bad enough, but all the people that immediately came crawling out of the shadows to make it worse, by asserting that Te’o was in on it the whole time, as part of a publicity stunt to draw sympathy and votes for the Heisman Trophy.  They denied anyone could ever become so attached to someone they never met in person.

Right off the bat, I was inclined to believe Te’o, because I could totally see something like that happening.  I know for a fact that you can develop serious feelings for someone you’ve never met, because it’s happened to me.  Of course, my things happened some time ago in chat rooms, before Skype, FaceTime or video chatting was common.  I guess I was lucky enough not to get mixed up with a sociopath.

And with Te’o, you have to remember that for all the notoriety that comes with being a big-time collegiate athlete, he’s still just another broke-ass college student.  These guys can’t accept a sandwich, let alone plane fare from Indiana to California, lest he run afoul of the NCAA.  His actions could cause repercussions throughout his school’s football program, so his hands were tied as far as meeting the girl.

Once he found out the nature of his “relationship,” he told school officials, but they sat on the information until after the BCS Championship game.  I understand this as well.  The media frenzy around these kids was bad enough without throwing this hunk of red meat to the circling sharks.  Yeah, he probably shouldn't have mentioned his “girlfriend’s” death again in the media scrum, but I think he was towing the company line to keep the ruse intact.  I don’t think that should label the kid as complicit in the scam.

Others wonder why he couldn't find a suitable squeeze on campus.  The point is valid, but consider that this was a dude from Hawaii, for which Indiana will never EVER be mistaken.  Maybe he just wanted a good lei.

Director’s DVD Commentary: OK, I apologize for that, but how can I possibly pass up such a juicy lei joke?

It’s sad to me that the whole affair had to become national news.  The dude’s got to be mortified by all the attention being paid to his “love” life.  Isn't there something more pressing we could be worrying about?

I’ve got enough material from my own late-90s chat-room escapades to fill a half-dozen posts or more, and I may spill them at some point.  But the thing is; you certainly CAN become attached to someone online. 

I used to visit a particular chat room, along with quite a number of other “regulars.”  We lived all over the globe, but would come together here each night to yap about whatever was going on.  It was just like a real neighborhood.  Friendships were made and broken. Some people acted like assholes.  Some people got picked on and others would flock to their defense.  There was a great camaraderie among us.

I remember one time some newcomer to the room trolling for cyber-sex and acting like a dick.  One of the girls in the room told him he could find all the sexy-talk he wanted by pressing [Alt/F4.]  She took a well-calculated gamble that the guy wouldn't know that [Alt/F4] closes the application.  We LOLed our asses off when his avatar promptly disappeared.

I usually just laid back and tried to make people laugh.  Sometimes I’d rate my night’s work by tallying up how many “LOLs” I got.  (No, I didn't make a spreadsheet.)

There were some people there that were very kind to the newbie that I was, and helped me out a great deal by making avatars for me and sending me various useful programs.   One person actually transmitted the full version Paintshop Pro 7 to me when I asked how I could make avatars too.
Someone made this for me and it became one of my favorite avatars to use.

Aside from the comments in the room, you could also Instant Message (IM) people for private conversations.  I had a number of people I would regularly IM with, and a couple of them turned into, well, I’m not quite sure what to call them.  “Very close relationships,” I suppose. 

I may have had more money than a broke-ass college student, but not by much.  Airplane tickets or hotel reservations were things for which I needed to save up.  And I sure didn’t have the dough to hang on the phone, cooing sweet nothings to some girl in another country.  So we made do on the computer. 

You can get very close and learn a lot about each other just by writing to each other.  I loved to use ICQ, (remember that?) which provided a split screen and real-time responses.  It was cool because you could see the person’s typing appear as it was happening, so could you evaluate their thought process and typing skill at the same time. 

Sitting in a candlelit room and sipping wine in front of your computer screen, you could delve into your deepest self.  Sure some people may have used the distance to create vastly different versions of themselves, but I went the other way and engaged in brutal honesty.

I always looked for any story changes or inconsistencies, but I think my being honest brought out the truth from my chat-mates.  I know on my part, whenever we’d swap pictures, I’d include multiple shots of me from different times, with different people.  I figured that would let her know that I didn’t just pull some random shot off the Internet.  (And how much of a zero would I have to be to pull this mug off the internet to use in place of my actual picture?)

I eventually met a couple of ladies in real life and engaged in some serious monkey business, (no, not both at the same time... I totally would have told you about THAT already), but it took quite some time to get to that point. 

But suffice to say, if something tragic had happened to one of them before we’d met face to face, I’d have been devastated, just like Te’o was.  The people may have lived very far away, but to me, they were right in front of me every night.  So like I said at the outset, I believe the kid.  It could happen.

I bet it won’t happen to him twice…

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Odd Bits - The Expendable Edition

I have a number of things to talk about today, so let’s just jump right in, shall we?  First off…

Hockey’s Baaaaaaaaaaack!!
At long last, the first puck finally dropped yesterday, on the 2013 NHL season.  My Penguins were back in action against the Flyers on national television, and acquitted themselves nicely with a win over the scum from Philadelphia.  (The Flyers are my hockey equivalent of the nefarious Ratbirds.)

It was also a chance for me to break the seal on my new Crosby jersey.

So far, the mojo is holding.  I’ll check it again this afternoon, when the Pens play the Rangers in New York.  Then when they play their first home game on Wednesday, I’ll break out my new black Brooks Orpik jersey.  (Eat your heart out, Cassandre.)

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to do some maneuvering because tonight’s Pens game starts at 7:00, which is opposite the Patriots/Ratbirds AFC Championship game at 6:30.  While I can DVR the Pens while I watch football, this means I will have to stay off Twitter if I want to watch the Pens game, untainted by foreknowledge. 

The Inverse Sophie’s Choice
I really don’t even know why I’m putting myself through watching the Ratbird game.  The Ratties and Patties are my 2 least favorite teams.  I curse the Ratbirds for making me have to root for Tom Brady and Coach Unibomber.  I really have no choice because I dread the thought of 2 more weeks of Ray Lewis and Ratbird Super Bowl hype.  And heaven forbid they actually win it all.  I might have to rethink my support for an assault rifle ban.

In the NFC, I have another hard choice; especially since the Niners/Falcons game comes on first.  See, if the Patriots win, I’d root for the Falcons, because they’re the only team remaining with whom I don’t have a grudge.  If the Ratbirds win, I’d root for the Niners, because I think they have the best shot at beating them.  Unfortunately, there’s a double-downside to that… A Niners win would give them six Super Bowl titles and tie them with the Steelers.  Also, it would validate that smug frat boy Jim Harbaugh, and by association, his Ratbird coaching brother John.

But I won’t be able to factor that into my rooting, because the NFC game comes on first.  I suppose I’ll just have to aim high and root for Atlanta.  I had the same situation last year, having to pin my hopes on the Giants, and yet they pulled through.  Maybe the Falcons will do the same this year.

Expend This
Last night, I watched “The Expendables 2.”  The first “Expendables” was basically an excuse to get a bunch of aging action stars together for a big smash-bang affair and remember how good everyone used to be in these things.  The big hype was that Sylvester Stallone would be joined by Arnold Schwartzenegger and Bruce Willis (aka, his Planet Hollywood partners).  Of course they were in the movie for about 90 seconds each.

Now, I knew what I was getting into with this movie.  I knew it was going to be far-fetched and ridiculously plotted, and I was certainly right.  It was also kinda fun.  I mean, you had to realize going in that the violence would be completely over-the-top, so much so that it was more “Tom and Jerry” cartoon than action flick.  Every time a bad guy got shot, (and there were literally hundreds), it looked like he got hit with a water balloon filled with Karo Syrup.  There was enough blood spatter to fill an entire season of “Dexter.”

Someone must have showed Stallone some YouTube videos of Afghanistan sniper hits, so the cloud of blood-mist and heads disappearing has kind of become his trademark.

My favorite bit was definitely something one might see on the old Tom and Jerry cartoons.  Jet Li fought off 8 gun and knife-wielding bad guys with nothing but a couple of cast iron frying pans.  It was literally like, “Bong… flip… bong… twist, kick… bong… duck… bong…” He was like a cross between Jackie Chan and Emeril Legasse.

I also liked the recurring references to past movies.  For example, there was a scene with both Arnold and Bruce, (they had slightly more screen time this go-round, up to maybe 3 minutes each.)  They were both pinned down in a shootout…

Arnold: I need ammo.  I’ll be back.
Bruce: You’ve been back enough.  I’ll be back.  [leaves]
Arnold: Yippee-ki-ay…

They also defrosted Chuck Norris for this installment, whose job, apparently, was to show up for no particular reason and get everyone out of a jam.  In the movie, they never really explained who he was, nor how he knew the guys were in trouble, nor how he even knew where in the world they were.  But all of a sudden, there he was, shooting the bad guys and looking like someone colored his beard in with shoe polish.

They dropped a “Lone Wolf” reference with Chuck, alluding to his movie “Lone Wolf McQuade,” but I feel they really missed a bet.  They totally should have worked in some of the legendary Chuck Norris jokes.

It would have been so easy too!  I came up with several the second I heard he was in the movie.

1) They walk in on a card game.  One player lays down his cards, saying, “Straight flush.  Whatcha got?”  Chuck lays down a 2, a 7, a king, a green Uno card and a yellow Community Chest card and says, “I win.”  Guy starts to protest, but Chuck just stares at him and takes the pot.

2) They walk in on Chuck doing pushups.  Guy says, “Pushups are worthless, you need to pump iron.”  Chuck says, “I’m not pushing me up, I’m pushing the earth down.”

3) There were lots of planes and helicopters in the movie.  Chuck could have shot one down using his finger and shouting “BANG.”  OK, maybe they pull back to show that someone else shot it down, but the gag would have worked.

4)  Guys are coordinating an attack.  Guy says, “Chuck, how come you’re not wearing a watch?  Chuck says, “Because I decide what time it is.”

4) I could go on indefinitely.  Luckily, the movie did not.

The Earl of Baltimore
Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver died Friday night.  The news was huge here in Baltimore.  Weaver managed the Orioles from 1968 to 1982, and again in 1985-86, and only finished lower than 2nd place twice.  That’s an astonishing record of consistency.

As a fairly recent Baltimore dweller, I never had an attachment to Weaver.  To me, he was just the guy whose team lost the World Series to my Pirates in ’71 and ’79.  But I always knew that he was a real rascal.  He was one of those old-time managers that knew baseball inside out and knew every trick in the book. 

He was definitely a product of his era, the likes of which you rarely see today, aside from Ozzie Guillen.  He grew tomatoes in a remote corner of Memorial Stadium.  He drank and smoked and challenged his players directly.  If they didn’t do things “his way” (aka, The Oriole Way) he’d find someone else that would.

Back when I used to work at the home office of my record retailing company, my boss acquired a mysterious cassette tape.  One day, he gathered all the guys together in his office and told us he had something we needed to hear.  It was a tape of various baseball managers speaking with the media, in the most profane and hilarious terms.  I figured it was a reel of raw outtake material, from an era when sports reporters only reported what was actually news, as opposed to anything juicy that might embarrass the team or players.

Anyway, this tape, (which I dubbed off a copy for myself) contained rants by Tommy Lasorda, Billy Martin, Sparky Anderson and (Cubs manager) Lee Elia.  Lasorda’s stuff, in particular, was just priceless.  There was one bit where he was asked if he had his pitcher throw at batter Kurt Bevaqua.  Lasorda denied it, and said something like, “And if I ever DID tell my guy to throw at someone, it wouldn’t be a guy like Bevaqua!  A guy who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a fuckin’ boat…”

Anyway, there was also a segment with Earl Weaver, in what seemed to be a profane outtake from his pre-game “Coach’s Corner” radio show, where he answers questions from the fans.  By the end of it, you can hear Earl cracking his own self up.  As a treat for you, I dug it up on YouTube.  But be warned, there is some four-alarm language going on here.

Rest in peace, Earl, you were one of a kind.  And somewhere, every dead umpire is going, “Aww, shit.  Look who’s coming…” And now, “Coach’s Corner.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Assault on Common Sense

With President Obama announcing his new gun control proposals this week, I figured it would be a good time to follow up on the last post I wrote on the subject.  But before I could even get started, I read this post on the humor blog, Act Classy, that basically said everything I wanted to say, and completely dismantled the arguments coming from Gun-Obsessed America.

But there were a couple of angles that wasn’t covered, and that brings me to today’s screed.

Have you heard about the NRA releasing videos calling Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for daring to try to curtail assault weapons while his daughters enjoyed armed guards?  I almost spit my Diet Coke when I read about it.

This is one of those arguments that sounds good when you’re at the bar listening to some other drunk, right up until you take a second or two to actually think about it.  The NRA is apparently trying to gain traction for their leader’s half-baked assertion that we should either arm teachers or have armed guards posted at every school across the country. 

It’s a completely invalid comparison.  The president’s daughters are afforded protection just like every past president’s family, because they are attractive, specific targets for terrorist action or assassination.  It’s just a common sense precaution for volatile geo-political world we inhabit. 

It also ignores the fact that the Secret Servicemen are some of the best-trained people in the world to react to a crisis or hostile-fire situation.  They understand having a clear line of fire and possess the skill to hit what they shoot at.  Unlike, say, the average gun-toting yahoo that thinks all the shit in Bruce Willis movies can really happen. 

Here’s a thought… being adept at Call of Duty 3 does not make one qualified to take out a shooter in a darkened, crowded, panic-stricken theater or school library.

Personally, I’m behind what the president is proposing: banning assault weapons and high-capacity clips, and requiring background checks for ALL purchases.  It’s a measured, common sense set of steps.  So of course the NRA is having a fit.

It’s no wonder the NRA is coming up with these preposterous assertions… it’s all they have.  When you can’t win on facts, change the subject.  They use every misdirecting trick and slippery-slope evasion in the book to browbeat the public and politicians into backing away from gun legislation. 

There is not a single, solitary, valid reason why either assault rifles or high-capacity magazines should be owned by civilians.  They are not necessary for legitimate hunting, nor are they any more effective than a standard rifle for self-defense.  (Unless, of course, you’re talking about defending your home against the Zombie Apocalypse, which unfortunately for the NRA, is not a real thing.)  

The only thing they can accurately say is, “But I WANT a big gun that goes budda-budda-budda-budda…” 

I saw one guy on TV complaining that he doesn’t think HE should have to give up his assault rifle because it wasn’t HIM that shot up the school.  “But I didn’t do anything wrong,” he whined to the news crew.

And neither did Nancy Lanza, right up until her disturbed kid took her assault weapon and ended 26 lives.  We have to decide what our priorities are: preventing massacres or preserving our right to go play Army on a shooting range.  If you really need to compensate for what you’re lacking in the sack, maybe go buy a sports car instead.

Another bullshit argument is the old, “But this ban wouldn’t have stopped the school shooting,” (or theater shooting, or any other recent shooting).

Maybe that’s true, but we sure don’t have to make it so goddamned easy.  The problem is there is no way to measure the mass killings that never happened because some nutbag didn’t have easy access to an assault weapon.  Nor can we easily measure how many lives might have been spared if a shooter went on a rampage with a standard revolver, because he was unsuccessful in obtaining a Bushmaster AR-15.

Just because a new proposed law can’t stop every tragedy doesn’t mean we can’t try to stop some of them, or at least lower the body count.

It’s the NRA’s willful duplicity that encourages the rest of the whack-a-loon paranoids out there, like the conspiracy theorists.  Have you heard about these guys that are convinced the Sandy Hook shootings were staged, so that Obama would have a reason to take away their guns?  Guys are actually phoning threats to people they saw on the news, talking about their roles in the situation.  It’s ludicrous.  These are the people we shrink from in fear when it comes to instituting some kind of rational gun laws? 

The NRA is going to make a lot of noise and a lot of threats to vote out any politician that displeases them.  The only way to pass sensible gun legislation is for rational people to make even more noise.  Congress will only cross the NRA if we make them.  And if they (McConnell and Boehner) refuse to allow votes on these proposals, we need to remember their misguided allegiance the next time they run for re-election.

We need to tell the NRA and the rest of their minions to go back to their underground shelters and let the rest of us enjoy a civilized, level-headed society.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Boy Wonder

I know I just devoted a whole post to a kid I knew, (‘past tense’ only because she’s no longer a kid), but you’ll have to bear with me on this one. I don’t have kids of my own, so I have to live vicariously through the children of others. But if I did have a kid, I’d want him to be just like my brother Ed’s boy Daniel, who turns 14 today.

I can hardly believe it. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you know what I mean. One minute your baby’s taking his first steps, the next thing you know, he wants the keys to your car. It’s like that with Daniel. It seems like his trip home from the hospital, his christening and his first steps were all just last week.

I thought it was clear, right off the bat, that the boy looked exactly like his father. Here, you can judge for yourself.
 This is my brother.

This is me with Daniel, at about the same age.  Could be the same kid, but for the styling clothes the boy is wearing here.

Luckily for Daniel, he got his uncle’s temperament. He was the most ‘chill’ baby ever. I think that’s common with the first-born. It tricks the parents into having more. After that, all bets are off.

Daniel was born whip-smart, I think. He knew me before he could even say my name. His parents drilled him on all his family members by using photo albums. In fact, that was one of his favorite things to do. I’d come over and he’d pull out a huge photo album, trundle it over to me, hop up on my lap and say, “Read pictures!”

I was there for his first steps. He had been pretty good with maneuvering around while holding onto a couch or table, but had never flown solo. Then one night, I was visiting during the March Madness tournament and during halftime, my brother and I got down on the floor with him. Ed was holding him and I beckoned him over to me. Next thing you know, he went bip-bip-bip-bip and crossed right over to me. I think it surprised all three of us.
Already, he knew how to wail on sax.

I don’t remember Daniel spending much time with “kid movies.” In fact, I think he was only 3 when he started watching Batman… I don’t mean the TV show or cartoon… he’d watch the movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nic, and sit still for the entire thing. I think the superhero movies WERE his “kid movies.” They certainly made Christmas presents easy to buy.

I remember when he got his toy “Batman-bile.” That’s what he called it, anyway. I said to him, “I think that’s called the ‘Batmobile.” He pondered that for a moment, shook his head and said, “No, it’s the Batman-beel.” I let him have that one, because it actually made pretty good kid-sense.

From Batman and Spiderman, he found the Star Wars series. Oh, was he ever into that… One time, when he was about 5, my mom made the mistake of asking him, “So Daniel, what’s Star Wars all about?” Daniel took a breath and then talked for a half-hour straight without coming up for air. It was really kind of an amazing retell, because after all, this is a 6-movie story arc that starts in the middle and then goes back to the beginning and loops back around. Of course, most of it had to do with spacecraft battles, ugly creatures and stuff blowing up. It’s funny how kids determine what’s important about a movie.

Jurassic Park was another favorite, because he was quite the Dinosaur Boy. Sure, he might not have been allowed to watch the part where the lawyer gets eaten, but he hung in for the rest. I tell you, that kid knew the name of every dinosaur that ever walked, flew or swam. I remember one day, when he was about 5, he was showing me some dinosaurs from his massive dinosaur book. I said, “You handle those 5-syllable words really well.” He looked at me and very earnestly said, “Well, I’m a paleontologist, you know.”

Another big interest was anything that had to do with knights and kings. He loved the King Arthur legend and learned all about medieval times and the Crusades and whatnot. One time when they were out visiting my parents, I buzzed my mom and told her that she ought to whip Monty Python’s Holy Grail on the boy. Did THAT ever go over big… Kings, knights, plus rampant silliness? Total win. Mom and her grandson would then stage elaborate sword fights… “Have at you!
Daniel, living the dream at Medieval Times.

Once I knew he liked ‘silly,’ I recommended they show him Young Frankenstein. That was his favorite movie for a while, on the basis of a single line of dialog: “My grandfather’s work was DOODOO.”

Bathroom humor… boys are genetically programmed to find it funny, especially in OUR family. Hell, his father specialized in it.

One time, after he’d been recently potty trained, he was up on the hopper and my brother leaned in and asked if he needed help. Daniel nodded up and said, “Hit the fan.”

Another time, it was the converse situation. My brother was on the can one morning when Daniel woke up, and he called out, “Good morning! How’s my big son, Daniel?” To which Daniel answered, “Fine. How’s my pooping Daddy?

Calling out anyone that farted was another favorite pastime when he was little. My mom says that at least once per visit, he’d announce, “Peepaw tooted…” He nailed my brother like that once, on a plane. They’d just landed and everyone was standing up, waiting in silence for the doors to open. Suddenly it became clear that someone in the area dropped a bad one. Then, in a stealthy but clearly audible tone, Daniel spoke up, “Daddy tooted.”

Daddy actually hadn't tooted, but all eyes were on him anyway. Ed figured that someone on that flight owed him one, for taking the heat.

Daniel must have grown to become an expert on the subject. He showed me the first time I had to babysit him and his baby brother Sam. (I wrote about that experience here, regarding the trauma involved in changing my first diaper.) Daniel told me, “Uncle Bluz, Sam pooped.” I said, “Are you sure he just didn't fart?” He said, “No, his farts don’t smell like that.” I guess a brother knows these things.

This is one of my favorite stories. The family was on a beach vacation, I don’t recall where. The beach itself was huge, so to get down to the water, they had to cross about a 100 yards of burning sand. After making the trek down there, Daniel announced that he had to pee.

Having just recently been potty trained, Ed didn't want him to just go in his trunks and possibly undo all the recent success. But he also didn't want to go across all that burning sand to go back to their room. So he told Daniel, “Just go in the ocean.”

Daniel said, “You really want me to do that?” His daddy confirmed, “Yeah, just go in the water.” So Daniel went in the water, and by that, I mean that he ran down to the surf line, dropped his trunks, arched his back and let loose a stream into the waves.

I bet they don’t cover THAT in lifeguard training.

Not only is the boy smart, he’s always been quick with a retort. He was probably 3 or so, when he took to licking people. We were all together at my sister’s place one summer, and he licked her on the knee.

Bluz Sister very patiently told him, “Some people don’t like it when you lick them.” Daniel quickly replied in the sweetest tone, “But some people DO!

When he was 11, I was over and his dad and I needed to run to the carry-out for 10 minutes. As we left, I told him, “OK, no wild parties now…” He looked up from his video game and replied, “No promises…”

He and his (maternal) grandmother differ on the whole video game thing. She was scolding him one Christmas, about how he should be playing video games that taught him math and stuff. He tried to explain the various geographic themes and battle strategies his game employed, but she wasn't having any of it. Finally he said, “Meemaw, I’m 10 years old, I’m a boy, and I like action!

I know Daniel has already had some girlfriends, but he keeps the details pretty close to the vest. That’s OK with me; I figure he’ll let me know when anything gets serious. In the meantime, I have to smile over his first love, who was, alas, unattainable. But that’s what happens when you fall in love at a family reunion.

Daniel was about 2, I think, when he first met my cousin Angela. (I've written about her before; she’s the one that won on Fear Factor, met my brother and me in Miami for the famous Hurricane Jeanne game, and had her first baby the same week blog sister Cassie had her little Mae.

He spotted Angela and you could just see him get rocked. The next thing you know, he was bringing her little pieces of cheese, grinning up at her and then running away. Since then, every time we’d get together, he’d stick to her like glue. She was great about it too and always made time to play with him.
Daniel at 4, with Angela.

My dad would say, “Boy, you have great taste, but it’s just not going to work out.”
Daniel at 8, with Angela

When Angela got married, Daniel was the ring bearer. (That was neat to me because I was the ring bearer when her parents got married.) Anyway, I heard that on the trolley ride to the church, Daniel hip checked another boy in the wedding party, totally boxing him out for the right to sit beside the bride.
Daniel at 9, with The Bride.

I’m sure one day he’s going to be an amazing boyfriend or husband, because right now, he’s an amazing kid. He’s smart, funny, well-mannered, empathetic, a responsible big brother and has great taste in music. (AC/DC!) I give a lot of credit to his parents, because kids don’t just grow this way in a vacuum.

All I know is that he keeps me entertained whenever I visit and pretty much always has. The boy is going places… I just can’t wait to see what happens next.

More and more stories keep occurring to me as I write this, but I’m already running long, so these will have to do.

Happy birthday, Daniel-san. Maybe one day, we’ll get to see that Van Halen concert.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Visitor

Mentioning my buddy’s daughter Kia, in my prior post about redheads, got me thinking about another old story.  I've mentioned it before in passing, but I thought it warranted its own post.

I've written before that I’m like an uncle to my buddy’s kids; in fact all of us from our little circle of friends are uncles to each other’s kids.  We've been like brothers to each other since high school, so the “uncle” thing just followed.  Especially after my divorce, the highlight of every year for me was to fly out to Toledo and spend time with my buddies and their kids.  We always had great fun.

But in 2001, when Kia was 10, her parents put her on a plane and she flew out to visit me here in Baltimore.  It’s really kind of amazing that it ever came to pass, especially in this age of hyper-sensitivity toward child abuse.  A 10-year old girl flying across the country to visit a 40-year old man?  Sounds weird, I know.  But it wasn't.  Hell, it wasn't even my idea…

I think the plan started during my visit in the summer of 2000.  I don’t remember who brought it up, but I know I said it was fine with me if she wanted to come out and visit.  I think she took it from there.

In 2001, my Toledo trip was going to be in September, which was later in the year than usual.  We were planning a big “Barn Reunion” at Rik’s house, where all of us old neighbors from back in the day, who used to hang out in our Barn, would get together for a big party.  With our dear friend Brill passing away that January, (12 years ago, last Tuesday) we felt like we needed to get everyone together again while we still could.

So earlier that year, Kia began campaigning to come out and visit.  I know that she was offered a choice between going to some kind of horse show in Columbus, or coming out to see me, and she choose the latter.  I was really kind of surprised.  But the next thing you know, I’m on the phone with my buddy and we’re working out the logistics.  He found that the best deal would be for her to fly out of Cleveland and spend 5 days, so that’s what we did.

Long after the fact, I heard that there was quite a bit of consternation coming from her mom.  That bothered me because she’d known me for quite some time.  I think she was channeling the anxiety coming from her parents, who barely knew me at all.  I don’t think they saw anything but a 40-year old guy, a 10-year old girl and eww.

Memo to all Internet reading people: Not everyone is a perv.  That is all.

Anyway, Kia wouldn't be denied, so off they went.  They loaded her onto Southwest Airlines in Cleveland and she was delivered to me here at BWI Airport.  I even had to sign for her, like she was a UPS delivery.

I had arranged to take time off in and around the 4th of July to accommodate her visit.  Five days is a heck of a long time to keep a kid entertained, just one on one, so I planned a bunch of activities and adventures.  In fact, I probably did more stuff that week than I had during my first 3 years here.

We took at least two subway excursions into downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor.  The first stop was the ESPN Zone, which had the most amazing game room.  It was there I realized that Kia was part monkey.  I figure she gets that from her dad.
Kia on the back-tilting climbing wall.

After that, we went right next door for lunch at the Hard Rock Café.
Kia, posing with some gold records and Madonna’s bustier.

We also toured the National Aquarium, but she wasn't terribly impressed until we got to the dolphin show.
The National Aquarium at Baltimore.  The Hard Rock and ESPN Zone are just behind the boat on the left.

She also wanted to go out on one of those dragon boats you see in the picture.  Now I’m a pretty soft touch but there was no way I was agreeing to that.  I guarantee that she’d pedal for 3 minutes and then I’d have to spend the next half hour trying to maneuver that big tub around the Harbor myself.  No freakin’ way.

Later in the trip, we came back downtown to see the Orioles play the Phillies.  I got a pair of seats in the 4th row behind the left field wall.
I apologize for the crappy camera I had in 2001.

Kia had her own money for treats and souvenirs, so I wasn't worried when she said she wanted an Orioles hat.  I tried to guide her to the inexpensive $5.00 hats the vendors sold outside the ballpark.  Naturally, she only had eyes for the $12 visor, which is all you can really see of her in that picture.  Girls…

For the 4th of July, we spent the day with my brother’s family.  First, we went to their pool, where my 2-year old nephew Daniel charmed the pants off of Kia.  I mean, who can resist this face?
“As Mayor of Toweltown, I must hold All the Towels!”

She mother-henned him throughout our time at the pool, before we went to the 4th of July parade.

In my brother’s town of Catonsville, they have Really Big Deal Parade every 4th.  They usually draw the Governor and a number of state and local politicians, but it’s fun to go anyway.  People start putting their lawn chairs out along the route up to a week in advance.  It’s really crazy.

We walked there from my brother’s house and somehow found a spot to roost.  The problem with a 4th of July parade is that it’s in July, and it’s usually roasting hot.  That year was no exception, so we spent a goodly amount of time trying to find cold drinks.

My favorite part of Kia’s visit came when the parade was over and we were walking back.  The narrow suburban streets were crowded, because the sidewalks were spotty and not conducive to a lot of pedestrians.  Cars were trying to navigate roads crowded with walkers, so it was slow going.

My sister-in-law, Sue, was pulling Daniel in a wagon and this lady in a station wagon was trying to get by.  I don’t remember if she honked or not, but she made it obvious that she was annoyed by having to share the road with a weary mother and child.

Sue edged as close to the curb as she could to provide the lady more room to get by, and that’s when I noticed Kia.  She had her arms crossed and in one of her hands was a can of silly string she bought at the parade.  As the car passed her, she shot out a line of Silly String that stuck to the car as it passed.  It was a very subtle move… I don’t think anyone else even noticed.  I was so proud!  It was the perfect response.

To round out the week’s activities, we had a day at the local ice rink, (which was nice and cool after the heat of the ballgame and parade), and we went bowling.
She wanted a lane with bumpers in the gutters, but as far as I’m concerned, anyone that can scale a backward-leaning rock wall can bowl without bumpers.

In and around all the events I’d planned, we would stay home and watch movies.  I didn't yet have the collection I sport today, but it was still pretty substantial, and chocked full of kid-friendly fare.  I remember watching Jaws, (all the shark parts, without all the talking) and I introduced her to Ferris Bueller.  She liked that one so much, she made us watch it again the next day.

Finally, when her visit was at an end, I took her back to the airport, where her flight was promptly delayed.  We were both pretty tired from the week’s activities, but we were forced to sit there for a couple of hours before she could board.  After 5 days, we’d pretty much talked about anything we had to talk about, so for the most part, we sat in silence.

I do remember asking her what her favorite part of the trip was.  She said, “Staying home and watching the movies.”

It was then I realized that I might have over-thought her entire trip.  Shit, I could have just rented a buttload of movies and saved myself about $200.  Kids…

Kia’s sister Kyrie was 6 that year, and was terribly jealous that she didn't get to come out and visit me too.  The plan was that when she turned 10, she’d get a trip too.  But we all know what happened September of 2001.  They wouldn't be taking any more trips for quite a while.

I see Kia all grown up now, still strong-willed and independent, and the mother of 2 beautiful children.  I know she still makes her Pappy crazy sometimes, but I also see his eyes dance when he plays with his grandchildren.

Next time I visit, I think I’ll hook up the little one with some Silly String.