Sunday, April 27, 2008
His friends he stays connected to through the internet are both far away and local, male and female. Both Dragonwife and myself overview his communications but leave him a degree of privacy after a point. His local friends have the advantage of calling the house at certain times, normally when I absolutely won't surrender the computer, and due to our knowledge of who he communicates with we haven't been surprised to receive a large uptake in the number of calls with the voice of a young female at the other end. More accurately I haven't been surprised, Dragonwife on the other hand has not taken the phones calls from young ladies asking for our son with the nonchalance that I have. Spoilboy had his "first date" sometime ago escorted by the girl's father to some church function but that was more a friends activity than a boy/girl date where attraction played a factor. None the less it had Dragonwife bewildered and thankfully relieved when it didn't happen again.
All that changed just last Friday when Dragonwife came running into the house after returning home from work almost screaming for me to run to the window to see what MY son was doing. When he left just minutes before he told me that he was going walking with friends, one of them being his video game buddy Luke. Looking out the window with Dragonwife almost hyperventilating I saw that Luke and he had joined up with two young girls with my son and one of the girls each having wrapped one of their arms around each other's waist and were walking very close together. His return to the house a couple of hours later had Dragonwife frantic over what was now HER son and how we should have a talk with him concerning what to do and not to do with girls. Spoilboy and I had that talk long before and frankly I was somewhat bewildered then to find out my young dude already knew far more about certain subjects than I did at the same age. Amongst the talk that evening about girls with Dragonwife breaking open the medicinal wine cooler to calm her nerves we learned that the kids wanted to go to a movie Sunday night. Supposedly one of the two girls would have their mom at the movie to watch over the youngins so nothing out the ordinary would have a chance to transpire.
The rest of the weekend went as expected and Sunday evening I dropped Spoilboy and Luke at the local theater were they quickly linked up with two girls waiting nearby with an older looking women hovering not far away. As the two boys walked away from the starship I was driving I saw my son reach into his pocket and apply lip balm to his mouth with Luke and him soon laughing over something said between them. When I got home I didn't say anything to my wife even though warning bells were going off. I returned to the theater at the prescribed time and found Spoilboy and his lady friend already outside waiting. As much as my son tried to dunk around a column to hide I still saw the young girl and my son lip lock in the extreme with me almost jumping out the car to break up a rather heavy exchange given their age. I guess my son sensing my unease soon came running up to the car and jumped in with the young girl waving to him as we left. The question I asked him was unbelievably rhetorical but some glitch in my brain couldn't help me from asking it. So when I asked him "Well how did it go?" the poop eating grin I received in turn I have to admit I found quite unsettling more so when he pulled out the lip balm and put more on. Now some may wonder what I told his mother once we returned home. Being perfectly honest I want to sleep some tonight so I haven't and probably won't say a word. Hell, I'm having an enough of a hard time accepting that the baby who I saw pop out of his mom has truly now moved into a whole new phase of life. For our own sakes we might tell Dragonwife a year or two from now or when he becomes engaged what I'm sure is still many years from now. There are just some things better kept hidden to protect sanity, life and limb.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
There are times that, as the old saying goes, I feel like some little old mushroom being kept in the dark and fed poop with respect to the lives of those around me. Whether my mushroom-ness is an unconscious act on my part to avoid a whole spectrum of assorted minutia I can do without or a deliberate act on the part of others to avoid bringing the redneck Neanderthal out in public is something for debate. But even then at some point news eventually filters down to me bringing me into the light, at least momentarily. Such an event happened this week while I was over armpit deep in fighting various work related alligators that have a habit of springing forth at the worst times. Dragonwife called me at work to report that her youngest brother who I will call descriptively "Warren Beatty" was finally tagged a few weeks ago , that is he asked his long suffering and totally fantastic girlfriend to marry him, and that now a date in which he will be bagged has been set. She went on to tell me that the happy couple is going to have a small wedding on some secluded Virginia beach mainly attended by family and "just a few friends".
While the only thing I try to avoid more than a wedding is a funeral but when informed of the wedding's ocean side location I quickly decided that in this case I could make an exception. I religiously follow the rule that a bad day at the beach always is better than a good day at work or one stuck at home. Even when that day at the beach forces me into what I am sure will be some sort of formal attire and having to deal with people I don't know and all sorts of social rules that might as well be high level quantum physics to me. After returning home from work free of my concerns there and my nature being what it is I began trying to figure out an angle that could get me out of the formal ceremonies allowing me to more readily enjoy my usual beach practices. It was then that my daughter, Miss Wiggles, came running into the living room from the backyard holding a brother, or at least a distant cousin, to the Geico gecko screaming that the little guy was hungry and that he needed a honey bun. Various ideas about how to avoid the wedding ceremonies flew through my head as I tried to talk Miss Wiggles into releasing the gecko even as the little guy's eyes were beseeching me to get him away from what I'm sure he thought of as the cute terror holding his life in her hands. It didn't take too long for me to realize that the best plan to accomplish what I wanted involved my little girl standing right in front of me. After some serious negotiating the gecko was returned to the backyard with a small piece of honey bun and my daughter in turn received a tall glass of chocolate milk to go with the rest of the honey bun. I then called my mother-in-law to sacrifice myself for the sake of an uninterrupted wedding.
One thing you have to understand about my in-laws is that each and every one of them are a very structured, controlled, and deliberate person. I do not offer this as a criticism, although they would certainly differ, but just an observation of how their family works. My family is almost completely spontaneous with most plans of any nature not surviving contact with the morning light. They in turn just about plan everything to a microscopic detail at times strangling the life and fun out of what they wish to do. Being honest here but both the spontaneous and the structured ways of doing things have their benefits and drawbacks. Many times my family have meant to do one thing with a last minute minor change in plan ruining just about everything else. On the other hand going on vacation with my wife at times can feel like some timed road march I use to have in the army with her rushing us from one location to another to beat the crowd or make some parade. Holidays like Christmas with my in-laws also are a structured affair with each event like opening presents timed down to the second and Christmas dinner being thrown into a nuclear meltdown panic as someone realizes that a vital ingredient for some gourmet dish is missing. My family in turn would just throw out the failed dish and open a can of Spam. But all things being equal my in-law's desire to have everything perfect with every person in their place and a place for every person often runs slap into the face of reality.
When Mrs. Sunshine, my mother-in-law, answered her phone I began feeling her out about the wedding asking her if Miss Wiggles was going to have any duty in the ceremonies. She said no, and then I asked her what the general idea of the wedding was going to be like. While it is planned to be a simple affair the couple have each written special vows that will be performed with several pieces of music being played that are important to both. As she stayed true to her family's structured nature going into every tiny detail of what was planned I struggled to avoid its mind numbing effects as I was told the various color schemes and flowers that were going to be used along with where and how they would be placed on the beach as water from the light surf would lap over the young couple's feet as they speak their vows. Once she was finished and I took several hits from the beer I had opened about eleven to twelve minutes into her description I asked her if it would be best for Miss Wiggles and myself to hang back at some other location (I was thinking a Tiki bar with a drop dead gorgeous female bartender) to avoid any undue outbursts that might derail the event. Mrs. Sunshine was completely flabbergasted that I would even suggest such a thing saying that all the plans, while not having the children in the ceremonies, none the less required the children to be present. I took a deep breath and opened another beer as I told my mother-in-law that in all the trips to the beach I make with the kids it is habit to let them in general, and Miss Wiggles in particular, to run absolutely wild to burn off as much energy as they can. I also reminded her about how at our last visit to their house we all went to Shoney's for a quick dinner and had to drag Wiggles off the salad bar after she slipped away from Dragonwife and crawled up on it to get more macaroni and cheese after we all said she couldn't have any until she ate her peas. Mrs. Sunshine, in her best Southern accent, said that her granddaughter had certainly outgrown such behavior by now. I almost told her she needed to ask a certain terrified gecko about that presumption but thought against it.
Sometime later Dragonwife came storming up the stairs into the computer room wanting to know why I was doing my best to avoid her brother's wedding, yes her mother called back at some point. While our relationship is light-years from perfect, hell it's light-years from normal, she and her mother know me well enough to have figured out my intentions. In all seriousness I told her that while yes I didn't necessarily have a warm fuzzy about standing on a beach in my one and only suit while sickly sweet music played and dozens of other in-laws I still didn't know after more than a decade of marriage hovered around the happy couple. I did think it would be better if Wiggles and I were someplace else so she wouldn't try to run off and go swimming as they exchanged vows. My wife assured me that she would have a talk with our daughter before hand to prevent her from showing such a behavior. One must always realize, at least with my wife and her family, when talking any further is meaningless. So I told her okay and that as long as she thought she could control Wiggles I would go along with their plans. My son, Darth Spoilboy, who was seriously boggarting the computer working his mySpace page and staying in contact with all his friends online, began snickering since he knew first hand about Wiggles’ nature on a beach. Dragonwife walked back downstairs happy that I had gone her way but unsettled that Spoilboy too thought their plans unworkable. It doesn't really matter to me in the end since I will have my camera and the antics of my daughter and the reactions from my in-laws and the bride's family will make great pictures to post. If I get a video camera I may even get something that might get me some money from America Funniest Videos and no matter what I will find a Tiki bar.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Sometimes though the universe does give warnings.
Anyone not lucky enough to be born with a silver foot or spoon in their mouths quickly comes to learn that some days simply suck. That the nagging feeling people sometimes have certain mornings that they should stay in bed as they throw back the covers and moved to take on the day IS a message from the universe because while most may not start a war for idiotic reasons and lies or meltdown a nuclear reactor none the less nothing they do that day will turn out right. Frankly I have more than my share of those feelings suggesting that God does care for children, fools, and the United States of America as the saying I’ve heard many times goes. I’ll leave the guessing to what category of the three I fit in to y’all. For those needing help, and with the high school graduation rate in some areas of the country like they are I’ll give a vague hint, let’s just say I’m not a child or a nation-state. Sometimes though those feelings just don’t sink through to the CPU in my brain and I can be found almost making an art out of screwing something up. I’ve even at times contemplated applying for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts because some of the things I do surly could be considered.
My most famous screw up goes all the way back to a summer job I had with the South Carolina Highway Department while still a junior in high school. The crew I was part of for the past few hot summer mornings had been pouring cement for a new section of flooring for the massive expansion for the work shop. I don’t remember all the procedures for smoothing out the drying cement we did but it was extensive and time consuming. One part of it though I will remember to my dying day, in fact every time I see one of the fulltime highway department employees back in Georgetown they have taken on the duty of telling the story as loudly as they can to as many people around that will listen.
We had already spent several days on smoothing out the new cement floor when the full timers brought some seriously weird looking device to the worksite. As best as I can describe imagine a large floor fan without its front cover sitting on the cement with a lawnmower engine sitting on top of the back of the fan. Throw in a lawnmower handle sticking out from the engine to guide and control the contraption. The large blades on the thing, resting directly on the cement, were supposed to smooth out the cement a lot quicker than what we had been using the previous day. Me being young and eager to return to jobs located far closer to the beach for reasons I’m sure all can figure out I wanted to get the job finished. The crew I worked with not being anywhere near my age and married was content to lazily sip coffee and eat their breakfast sandwiches. While those guys were very good to me that summer and I thought a lot of them I can describe them pretty well by saying they could have fit right in as extras in the old Hee Haw cast without changing clothes. I pestered them enough to get them to explain the new machine called a cement planer that I hoped would have me cruising down to the beach later that day. They in turn, once I was instructed, sat back and strangely began snickering. The planer started right up and I grabbed the throttle to engage the blades. When the blades started turning I didn’t have the planer balanced correctly and instead of spinning in one spot and moving only where I wanted it with my hands on the handle I starting to be spun very quickly in one spot. Now throw in some sort of throttle lock that my inexperienced hands couldn't figure out so just letting go and having it stop wasn’t an option. So for some time period that to me could have been a couple of hours but was really only a few seconds I felt like some kid on a marry-go-round doing warp speed. One of the guys at some point came up behind me and fingered the throttle some way to get it to disengage. As soon as that was done my savior, and the rest of the South Carolina Hee Haw cast, just about all fell to the ground laughing. The rest of that day my co-workers relived and reenacted my first and last experience with the cement planer to the entire crew that worked at the Georgetown county highway department section. Even the section manger, a close friend to my Uncle George, came out the next day bringing me a cup of coffee to laugh about the event, plus, to send me with the crew doing work at Pawleys Island. So it is with humble respect knowing that some days just suck that I offer:Drivers Flood Station for 35 Cent Gas
(04-11) 19:29 PDT Wilmington, N.C. (AP) --
Traffic was backed up and police were called to control the crowd after a Wilmington gas station accidentally set the pump price at 35 cents a gallon.
The Wilmington Star-News reported Friday that hundreds of drivers flooded a BP station for the cheap gas after the price dropped around 9 a.m. Thursday.
Station employee Shane Weller said the price for premium gasoline was supposed to be $3.35 a gallon. He complained that customers paid the cheaper price all day without saying a word.
It was all the extra traffic that led station employees to the mistake around 6 p.m. They found it after calling their district manager, looking for permission to changing the price as a way of stemming the flow of customers.
I've watched the people who work at convenience stores and it is a thankless low paying job in which most customers view the workers less important than they do the slushy machine. I'm sure that some convenience store company has to be researching robotic technology so the human factor could be eliminated all together. So Shane has my respect and sympathy but when you have days like that at least karma has a way of balancing it out for him and the customers.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Pondering how we try and escape from our daily lives but only end up bringing the issues with us. Yes, that is me on the beach wishing some lady in a bikini would walk by.
I also apologize for my numerous errors in grammar that were in this post before I noticed and corrected them. I really have to stop trying to write while under the influence.
When people speak of camping generally images of the wilderness and being away from civilization come to mind. But I have to credit the amazing American inventiveness in taking the suburban experience and shaping it for camping. Joe Cool and the lovely Mrs. Cool picked Miss Wiggles and me up Thursday afternoon for the much awaited adult version of spring break that would take us away from the usual grind of daily life. Dragonwife and my son Darth Spoilboy had caught a plane earlier that day to visit some of her people still living in the greater Virginia, DC, and Maryland area leaving me free of spousal oversight for the weekend. So, while we all were missing Spoilboy, Wiggles and I boarded the Cool’s party express van and made our way down to the coast. The idea was to make it to the camp ground before night fall, get the tent up, then kick back with an extended taste testing of Buffett’s Landshark Lager as Miss Wiggles roasted some marshmallows . Being dedicated parrotheads, Joe Cool and I had recognized some weeks ago that we both had fallen off on our duty in supplying Jimmy with our share of money so he could continue to fly his planes, visit exotic tropical places, and avoid all concert locations easily accessible for us to get to without having to take several days off. Yeah, this has been sort of bugging us for the last several years. He came to Columbia a few years ago but the tickets sold out in fifteen minutes due to the small venue and the prices people wanted for second sales would have required another mortgage on the house, selling a major organ, or going into the high priced gigolo business that neither Joe Cool or I are ready to afflict on the fairer sex, yet. Other larger venues like Raleigh, Atlanta, or Orlando are just too damn far away with tickets still expensive as hell. It just isn’t possible to leave a Buffett concert feeling a really nice buzz or with any money, stagger back to the car, pass out, then wake up early the next morning and drive to work from those locations. Throw in a concert hook up with some beautiful lady parrothead and no matter how impressed the cop might be with your story he, or she, isn’t going to cut you any slack for doing one hundred miles an hour on the interstate. But never the less after making it to the camp ground then putting up the tent and getting the fire going Joe, Mrs. Cool, and I began testing his new offering to the unwashed masses. But as we sampled the fine easy going beer and Wiggle ignited a few marshmallows we began noticing those around us at other very nearby campsites.
Americans created the concept of the suburbs several decades ago to remove themselves from the crowded rat race confines of city living. While Mr. and Mrs. Middleclass wanted to leave the crime and pollution of the city behind them they decided to take the conveniences such as stores and all those nifty appliances that kept life civilized above the rural riff raff that still grew and hunted their own food to a certain extent and lived without automatic washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers. Heaven forbid Mrs. Middleclass would ever have to use a wash board, hang clothes out to dry, or wash loads of dishes after each meal. But even with the exodus out of the city it was soon apparent that what they wanted to leave behind had hidden in the various aspects of suburban life they created still leaving many with a desire to escape to a simpler time. Again civilize suburbanites have sought out to escape the clutter of modern life to the camp grounds but find themselves still creating microcosms of the very thing they left behind.
Most should have some knowledge of non-wilderness camping. Just imagine a rather large plot of land segmented off to lots with water and power outlets at each location. Now, understand I’m talking about camping, not some new suburb waiting for another set of McMansions to be built. But admittedly the only difference is the size of the lots and the location close to something like the beach or a lake. Subdivisions prefer locations like farm land or a nice piece of woodland area that use to have real forest animals living there.
The Cool’s party van pulled up to our civilized camp site late in the afternoon Thursday part of a new set of people yearning to get closer to nature without having to do without the coffeemaker or microwave. Our general area of the camp ground had been fairly cleared out leaving us for at that moment without any neighbors to the left or right of us. Across for us though was a tiny hard-shell camper that for years generally defied my understanding because of how small it was until I happen to see one at a gas station one time. The tiny campers of these types turned out to be nothing but a sleeper camper containing a queen size cushion. Any items of moderate size stored in the camper had to be removed and placed somewhere else before there could be enough room to sleeping for just two people. The one across from us sat alone looking for the most part abandoned except for a power cord running to the small AC unit sitting atop it. It didn’t take long to get the five-person tent we brought along up and a fire going with hot dogs roasting as the first of our neighbors showed up pulling a large pop-up camper. The driver of the van pulling the pop-up expertly maneuvered it to the perfect spot to take advantage of every square centimeter of space he had available. Compared to us who had to lift and turn the tent a few times to get it where we wanted it. Of course, the Cools and I had started taste testing that incredible Landshark lager with our funnier moments a few minutes before as we tried to make sense of the color coding on the supports for the tent which for some reason wouldn’t allow a green pole to fit in a red hole.
Once the pop-up camper was in position we were honestly awed by the ballet the mother and five children performed as they off loaded themselves, and the stuff inside the van, and on top quickly and quietly. The driver of the van, obliviously the dad, went and retrieved some sort of corded control pad from the side of the camper and we then watched as the camper leveled itself, raised the center portion, then deployed not two lateral segments but three. My grandparents in their older but not sedentary days had owned a pop-up camper. Theirs was a bear to level on any ground that sloped one way or the other and the center portion had to be hand cranked up and down. The lateral segments, which held the cushions for sleeping, were pulled out and secured with pins. Long story short their pop-up was nothing but a tent on wheels. The one next to us unfolded and expanded to the point I half expected it to sprout legs, arms, a head, then walk down toward the beach like some Transformer. Once the pop-up next to us reached its final shape though the mom and five kids began setting up various folding tables, pulled out a portable grill and small microwave, and from our vantage point looking into their camper we could see the mom beginning to cook from the kitchen inside. A cold chill ran down my spine as I noticed the oldest daughter working from a Martha Stewart cook book as she cut and prepared various ingredients bringing them to her mother inside. You will have to excuse me for my reaction but I have developed some sort of belief that Martha may be the Antichrist and I have no argument with the mom and dad wanting their family to have a good meal but I found the elaborate nature of their cooking a little extreme given the location they were in. Plus, they popped the circuit breaker for their campsite twice trying to use the microwave which sent the mom into a hissy fit.
Next to appear in our area was one of those huge recreational vehicles that could double for a dry land version of Noah’s ark. The driver, like the guy with the pop-up, deftly backed it into his slot with an ease that hid the fact of how hard it actually is taking into account other campers, trees, and the electrical and water hooks ups on the camp site that always are positioned in the most awkward places. These modern campers turned out to be a retired couple and instead of having an ark full of animals limited themselves to a small dog whose parentage had to be a very American melting pot of different breeds. Joe Cool and I helped them move the camp site picnic table closer to the main door of their camper as the awning silently moved into position as Retired Dude hooked up the water and power. For our troubles he brought us inside his camper to offer us a reward of freshly made margaritas even then swirling inside a decorative and more than likely expensive pitcher with parrots flying around the outside. The matching crystal glasses were very much like a set that Dragonwife owned at one time the difference being that Dragonwife’s had long since been broken and thrown away. A small tour of his large camper Retired Dude gave had both Joe and I frankly amazed. In the back was a queen sized bed with at huge LCD screen mounted on the wall. It had a full but small bathroom that reminded both Joe and I that any late night urges to go would require us to walk the distance to the public restrooms. And with me taking care of Wiggles I could expect at least two trips that night. Midway through the camper was an easy chair with its own smaller television a couch and love seat that we were told could all be folded out to supply ample sleeping space for a large family. The kitchen had I believe a full sized stove and refrigerator along with a decent sized table for serving. The paneling, appliances, and the entertainment systems in Retired Dude’s moveable abode was in many ways nicer than my house. My thoughts on such a huge camper ranged from me asking them if my group could sleep over to the strange fact that growing up I had lived in smaller trailers right after my mom and dad divorced and before I moved in with my grandparents. Retired Dude’s wife rejoined us and whispered something to him bringing an end to the tour. Several minutes later though we saw Retired Dude on top of his camper trying to positioning the satellite dish to the certain location in the sky looking for the world like the unlucky soul who years ago had to play with the old rabbit ears antenna on the television set trying to get better reception as other instructed him or her to move in various awkward and uncomfortable positions. At one point his wife, yelling from an open window in the rear of the camper, said that he wouldn’t come down until she could see her show on the Game Show Channel. Joe Cool, Mrs. Cool, and I for a whole host of reasons saluted him as he worked to bring the glories of satellite television to the great outdoors.
Timed passed and early evening brought the owners of the very small hard shell camper across from us back to their camp site. Still visible across the back window of their small car as it drove up was the words “Just Married” in white. Literally jumping out from the car was a young couple who rushed to the small door on their camper and crawled inside but not before exchanging tonsils and feeling each other up oblivious to all around them. After they entered the small camper it bounced around in a jerking fashion but soon that was replaced with a soft steady rhythm. For reasons less of decorum than sheer envy it was then that I took Wiggles for a little walk toward the playground. Along the way we were met by a skateboard gang taking advantage of a couple of hills, campers rushing to the public showers trying not to drop the shampoo or their underwear, people carrying trash to the dumpsters, watched others just trying to store all they brought for the night and still have room to sleep, and listened to the odd collection of humanity as it went about its other usual business. My family had done this type of camping for years when I was much younger and we were guilty then and now of bringing stuff like an electric griddle and a hair dryer but it seemed that a quantum leap had been made since then in how people seem to be bringing everything from home. I described this type of camping once to an old Alabama country boy who was one of my best friends while in the army, Brian Speakman (for once I will use a real name). He laughed it off saying that in no way was camping. Of course Brian and his dad did the real wilderness camping taking everything like food, water, and going as far from civilization as they could for days on end. Even though I enjoyed our recent camping trip I have to agree with my long lost friend. Most everyone that weekend seemed so caught up in keeping the trappings of normal life that nature, and the reason I thought people ventured out away and camped, was lost in the hustle of cooking and making sure the satellite dish was locked on to the right position. It wasn’t until late in the night after people were asleep that as I lay in my sleeping bag I could feel the soft sea breeze blow through the tent and hear the surf off in the distance. Only to be replaced soon after with the soft squeak of the newlyweds across from us start to bounce their little camper again. I think I’ll have to stay with motels rooms from now on. If I have to deal with humanity on such close quarters at least I shouldn’t have to walk two hundred yards to a bathroom.