Saturday, November 29, 2008

About that wedding...

The Time: September 25, 2008
The Place: On the road in central eastern Virginia

Believe it or not it was a dark and stormy night as I drove the starship (the family CR-V) up I-95 trying to find our way to some place called Sandbridge Beach, Virginia for my brother-in-law's wedding. Past military training for me has that when driving the guy or gal riding in the front passenger seat not only is the navigator but carries the job of making sure the driver, that was me, stays alert. Much to my dissatisfaction as I was driving I would repeatedly find Dragonwife reading some culinary magazine using a small book light. Normally keeping my wife preoccupied on long trips is a good thing but since this area was terra incognito for me I would have greatly appreciated her attention due to the severe rain, blasting winds, and heavy traffic I was driving through was seriously freaking me out. Instead I was periodically getting shown glossy pictures of various entrees that strangely reminded me of what the occupants of automobiles looked like in the aftermath of terrible car crashes. At least the kids were quiet with my son, Darth Spoilboy, and daughter, Miss Wiggles, being entertained. The former with his iPod and the latter watching a "Bratzs" movie on the portable DVD player. This was a good thing since I started to see in the rain this looming concrete octopus of several highway overpasses stacked on top of each over with the arms being roads moving off if different directions. In a rush Dragonwife dropped the magazine she was reading and began trying to tell me which of the many series of exits I would soon have to take. I in turn was careening across lanes while praying that we all didn't end up a sticky paste on the wet road because my brother-in-law had to be married in some out of the way romantic place. The MapQuest directions were saying something on the order of five separate exits all less than a mile apart. As usual for the Beach Bum/Dragonwife navigation team we missed one of the exits which I thought would soon have us replaying the old Bugs Bunny cartoon of him tunneling through the ground on a trip, coming up to the surface realizing he was very off course, in some sort of cartoon adventure, and that he should have taken a left turn at Abuquerque. At this point we tried to loop back around but due to rain, unfamiliar territory, and general grumpiness of both pilot and navigator we ended up on some county road which at least had the benefit of being out of traffic. Now I know guys are suppose to be the ones that don't want to ask for directions but I did stopping at several convenience stores hoping that someone would actually know where their store was in relation to the rest of the world. After hitting one in which the store clerk actually admitted to being a local and knowing something about the area we wandered around until we figured he was back at the store snickering about the tourists he sent on a wild goose chase. But since God looks after children and fools we came to a stop at an intersection and accidentally noticed a landmark that matched one on the poorly printed map we got from MapQuest. Back on track we made our way finally to the Sandbridge Beach area stopping at a fantastic seaside restaurant. It was still raining heavily as we tried to enter the restaurant with the hostess telling us that the area all the way toward Virginia Beach was experiencing a tropical storm that suddenly formed that day.

The restaurant was awesome, it was locally owned and operated and not some crappy national chain with mass produced pop culture stuff hanging from every space inside. Surfboards of various styles and lengths hug from the walls, a sign on the door assured us the seafood was locally caught, and the waitress was wearing a tight t-shirt. I don't know who was happier, Darth Spoilboy or myself, since he actually removed his iPod and talked to the young lady serving us along with openly staring at her nicely shaped assets. Anyone who reads me even a little will easily understand I was doing the same thing.

While our travels had been hard the delay its caused was beginning to be welcomed since had we arrive earlier we would have been drawn into Dragonwife's sister cooking dinner for the entire clan. Past history has Dragonwife's sister, Lady Trump, being large and in charge of the kitchen and freely drafting anyone into her service. Past history in such events have Dragonwife and me doing kitchen cleanup with Dragonwife going AWOL soon into the assignment. She would explain that her family doesn't get together all that often and she wanted some time to catch up with them. But since we ended up so late getting in having to stop for dinner we arrived at the house with dinner and cleanup done. I never asked who got saddled with cleanup but several disgruntled looks from the extended family sitting in the living room gave me a undue satisfaction and a general idea of who it was as we came in.

The rental house we were in for the weekend was beyond huge bordering on enormous. It has TWELVE bedrooms with four of them having two sets of bunk beds. Two fully furnished living rooms on the second and third floors, five bathrooms, and two decks again on the second and third floors with a deck area on ground level around the small swimming pool. Since the house was on stilts beside the pool area was a relatively sheltered space for parties that was going to be put to use Friday night. Now some might think we would have most in not the entire Dragonwife clan staying in such a place but it was only my immediate family, Dragonwife's parents, and Dragonwife's sister Lady Trump and her daughter. Mrs. Sunshine, my mother-in-law had some of her family (about six people) in another rental. Warren Beatty Sunshine, my brother-in-law had one for him and his fiancee. His fiancee, the soon to be Beautiful Gorgeous-Sunshine had her family in another house nearby as well. Mr. Sunshine, my father-in-law, couldn't get any of his people to break away from their jobs in Hell or from causing world-wide chaos but had they came I'm sure they would rented another beach house as well. All told I'm sure the wedding was a boost to the local economy.

Early Friday morning Wiggles came and got me out of bed wanting to walk on the beach and watch the sun rise. Since I had about nothing to say in the matter as far as my daughter was concerned I did whatever good dad did in such situations. I put on my shoes and went walking on the cold beach. After everyone finally went to bed the night before leaving the house quiet I swear I could feel the house swaying in the wind and hear more than the usual noise of creaks and groans. The truth to the matter was that as I strolled the beach with my daughter I started talking with another couple also walking around who were old time locals to the area near Sandbridge Beach. What they told me was that when the rental houses were built certain corners were cut in their construction. In a conspiratorial tone I was told that since the rental houses were never built to be family homes the roof trusses and rafters along with the floor joists were spaced farther apart to lessen construction costs. The husband of the couple also floated the idea that if a hurricane ever tore the place up he figured the rental agencies would clean up nicely having the federal government help pay for rebuilding the area . Of course as our conversation moved on to different subjects this couple began expressing their belief in UFO's and how Christ was going to return to Earth in one.

After our walk Wiggles and I returned to the house for breakfast. Lady Trump was once again cooking which brought me a sudden desire to go and find a McDonald's but once I found out it was simply scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes and not some sort of exotic breakfast recipe like the cauliflower spaghetti aglio olio, grilled lamb shoulder chop or salmon mango bango she made for breakfast at my house on several of her past Christmas visits. All I'm sure are fine meals for the most discriminating connoisseur but just don't figure in my menu.

Of course everyone should know Miss Wiggles in the picture and the other pretty little girl is Lady Trump's daughter the delightful Miss Giggles. Giggles gave me a new nickname on this visit and as far as she is concerned I'm not, or ever have been Uncle Beach, I am "Big Tummy." Sadly you can't fight the truth.

I figured I would get saddled with clean up since I was able to avoid it the night before but Darth Spoilboy, never a morning person, really ticked off Dragonwife that morning and ended up having kitchen cleanup much to my satisfaction.

As Friday progressed the various actors and actress in this drama began getting ready for the party that would take place that evening on the pool deck and the space under the beach house we were staying at. One time I described my in-laws as structured, controlled, and deliberate people taking nothing for granted or doing anything without a plan. The one thing I left out was that in such a situation as a wedding my in-laws each want to have the others to follow their plan.

As tables were erected, sound systems installed and checked, and the pool areas cleaned everything was going okay. When it came time for decorating Dragonwife, Warren Beatty Sunshine, Lady Trump, and Mrs. Sunshine each had their own ideas of what to be done. Mrs. Sunshine started out decorating the party area with beach/jungle style garland that looked like jungle vines, seashells and starfish made out of tissue paper hanging from the garland, admittedly obtrusive looking fake palm trees, and my favorite colorful parrots also made out of tissue paper. For my taste I thought it was perfectly fitting for a wedding in which the sounds of the ocean surf was clearly heard, plus I admit I thought it was cool stuff. Once Lady Trump, Dragonwife, Warren, and Beautiful Gorgeous' uncle arrived on the scene a shriek of such decorative distaste erupted I thought someone had died. They each sprung into action ripping all the stuff down giving Mrs. Sunshine such a case of the "vapors" that a normally very socially accepting lady couldn't help but point out in a very sarcastic way that she admitted she was out of her league in decorating since Beautiful Gorgeous' uncle was not only a professional designer but gay. In short, my mother-in-law was rather crabby the rest of the night and beyond which is the reason behind the picture I chose for this segment.

My initial concern on this whole matter was how Miss Wiggles would act at a very structured event on a beach in which her usual behavior at such a place was to run absolutely wild. Happily, her behavior was excellent except for the fact that the one duty she and Miss Giggles were assigned was to hand out small sea shells to all the beautiful people assembled so they in turn could drop them in some seriously expensive large crystal vase signifying the joining of two people and unity of marriage or some other symbolic verbal crap that I tuned out after about a minute wishing there was a tiki bar somewhere nearby. While the very long winded pastor rambled on who was in turned replaced by Warren and Beautiful Gorgeous who wrote long poetic vows for each other Wiggles and Giggles at some point decided to bury all the shells they had in their baskets. About ten minutes away from having the girls hand out the shells Dragonwife and Lady Trump had to quickly dig up or find more so the girls could hand them out. At this point I tried to slip away but my wife caught me (Spoilboy snitched) and dragged me back by the ear. Yes, Wiggles is annoyed in this picture because she was blowing bubbles with her bubble gum during the vows and had just had it taken away.

A small sampling of the "beautiful people" at the wedding right before the ceremony started which was done Saturday afternoon. I could point out many of the people I have written about but to prevent my life from becoming endangered I will leave it to y'alls imagination which person goes with the names I have created.

After the ceremony was over my father-in-law wanted to quickly retreat back to the house so he could watch some golfing tournament but Mrs. Sunshine, still irked about her choice in decorating being rejected from the day before, was not in the mood and kept his leash very short.

The newly married couple Warren Beatty Sunshine and Beautiful Gorgeous-Sunshine. I wish them all the best for a happy future. After the ceremony both rushed off and reappeared thirty minutes later having changed clothes with an airy rosy glow emanating from Beautiful Gorgeous and a telling shit eating smile coming from Warren. At that point I was at the beer table draining a third or fourth glass from the keg hearing some of the older guys making snarky comments about the couple "sealing the deal". I don't know whether Warren heard this stuff, I actually doubt it, but he yelled something out about never needing Viagra which shut several of the older farts up very quickly.

All told, I still hold to my belief that when the urge to marry comes up between two people regardless of any factor both should go lay down, take a nap and let the urge pass like bad gas.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Maybe its just me, but redundant comes to mind.

There is much in this world that I admit is over my head. How Bush got reelected in 2004, how that expert in the Constitution and geography Sara Palin still has people that want her to run in 2012, and perhaps strangest of all how Joe Lieberman can get on television and say he is still popular with Democrats after repeatedly stabbing President-elect Obama in the back. But as I was waiting in the theater parking lot for my son, Darth Spoilboy, to break his lip lock on his girlfriend ending their date the NPR game show "Wait...wait don't tell me!" was playing on the radio and they mentioned the item in the above video. I really didn't believe what they were describing so when I got home and after forcing Spoilboy into a cold shower I looked up the video.

Now I understand the concept of a treadmill and how it has certain advantages because I have always preferred running on them than running outside. Running outside in bad weather can really suck and I have an understanding that running on a treadmill is actually easier on the knees but combining a treadmill with running outside just doesn't make any sense to me. After seeing this video somewhere I imagine PT Barnum is laughing his ass off.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In the Park- A work of fiction

Author's note: Several years ago Miss Wiggles and I made it into Charleston, South Carolina without Dragonwife and Darth Spoilboy in tow and were able to mosey around that glorious city with no whining about the various crises concerning mountains of laundry and dirty bathrooms at home from the former and missed time with video games and friends from the latter. As my daughter and I strolled around I noticed many different types of people but in a crowd of generally well dressed tourists one young, attractive, and obliviously very well off couple stood out mainly because they were dressed in matching his and her outfits. They were very much in love and very much in their own little world. While this is a complete work of fiction about the events, how I described the appearance of the "young lovers" is true.

On the surface everything about them looked perfect as they crossed the street into the park. The young, highly attractive couple walked down Meeting Street on a hot and humid Charleston day dressed in matching clothes holding each other tightly and intimately silently announcing to the world they were lovers. The man was in a flowery Hawaiian shirt with a black background overlaid with various tropical flowers that suggested style without looking like he was trying to be stylish. Blinding white slacks that had to be brand new, expensive leather belt and some of sort of leather loafers for shoes just oozed privilege and money. Despite the weather the man showed no sign of it affecting him to the point his hair being blown in the hot breeze returned to its exact position looking like he had just left the stylist. The lady was wearing a matching tube top with the same Hawaiian design that was cut low exposing more than a little cleavage. Perspiration from the Southern heat and humidity had left a glossy sheen on the upper portion of her exposed cleavage that if anything added to her grace and sensuality. Her long skirt was the same blinding white as the slacks her lover was wearing but tight enough to show off her legs.

The young lovers moved as if in slow motion oblivious to all the other tourists and residents around them and every now and then would move their hands touching each other in a new even more intimate way momentarily looking into each other eyes reconfirming their love for each other. Passion burned in those looks and before a statue of some Civil War era politician erected in the center of the park they embraced and in the fervor of the moment unable to contain themselves and fierily began kissing and exploring each other’s body. While the world during that time didn’t exist for them the spectacle of what amounted to making love in public did shortly begin to draw the attention of all the others in the park. Old men smiled in envy, old ladies in pastel hats and dresses waving fans as if to cool down their own fantasies looked on prudishly in disapproval. Various reactions could be found in the married couples strolling through the park at that time. Some husbands and wives made attempts not to make eye contact with their spouses as they jealously watched on wishing for all the world that they could experience again just for one moment the same fire. Other married couples saw the young lovers next the statue and looked into the eyes of their spouses and began smiling quietly making a wordless promise that once the kids were asleep they too would reach for each other.

The sounds of city traffic, children playing in the park, municipal workmen tearing up the street nearby, and passing planes on approach to the airport didn’t faze the lovers as they continued to ignore the world and explore their feeling for each other but what did draw them back was the sound of sirens. Their separation from reality ended and what had once been the look of burning passion in each other’s eyes now became fear and worry. For an instant their look changed and they both glanced around like cornered animals looking for some avenue of escape or someplace to hide. But the attention they had drawn had not ended with their display of affection. The onlookers still watched on which brought a hint of redness in the cheeks of the lady and a slightly embarrassed smile in the man he tried to hide.

The young lovers looked to each other again and curiously resigned themselves to what fate the thought approached them. Moving over to an empty wrought iron park bench they sat close to each other finally whispering some words that to everyone else watching were overwhelmed by the normal sounds of a living city. Now like teenagers on a first date they nervously held hands and looked off into space.

The sirens came closer and more distinct separating into at least six to eight individual cars. For some in the park such sounds of approaching authority were a motivating factor to be someplace else even though their ultimate destination of the sirens could be miles away. But the sound of screeching tires and car doors being quickly opened and slammed signified that the park was the destination of whatever authority that had been racing the streets.

The small park was close to perfectly square with streets bordering it on all four sides. At each side of the park two unmarked cars with a flashing siren magnetically attached to roof had stopped with three deadly serious people in suits getting out and walking toward the young lovers. Even in the summer heat both the males and females of the group converging on the lovers carried themselves with an air of dark professionalism. Their eyes were hidden with midnight black sunglasses giving what some of the people still in the park hopefully thought was an unintended look of death stalking it’s next victim. Like wolves they surrounded the lovers still on the bench and with the little earbuds inserted in their ears and the occasional lifting of an arm to speak into some tiny device mounted inside the sleeve of their suit jacket like wolves they covered each other for any possible surprise. More than a few parents rushed to their children who out of curiosity began walking toward the well dressed wraiths. Instead of a reassuring smile or wave as the parents retreated with their children they received a cold appraisal that lacked all human spirit or feeling.

Within a minute the lovers were surrounded with some of the authority figures facing outward to block the view to those watching. Suit jackets were finally unbuttoned and one retired military man sitting on a nearby bench that had enjoyed watching the two lovers as they entered the park spotted a submachine gun holstered underneath the jacket with the authority figure’s hand on the pistol grip clearly scanning the surroundings for dangerous intent. The retired military man, a veteran of several wars, knew not to make any sudden moves and prayed that no civilian would either. He knew from experience that behind those sunglasses was not the mind of a human but at best a well trained machine and at worst a cold reptile that was looking for a reason to spill blood. Quietly the retired military man wondered what the two young people had done to draw such special attention to themselves.

The retired military man caught a glimpse of some sort of identification being shown and the complete lack of response from the lovers. Efficiently and quietly female personnel produced restraining devices and applied them to the feet and hands of the lady at the same time male personnel did the same to the man. Equally efficiently they lifted the two and even more quickly moved them in separate directions to cars on opposite ends of the park.

Most onlookers had long since either left the scene not wanting to possibly be draw into whatever was going on or made special effort to ignore it all but none could have mistaken or ignored the final words the two lovers spoke. As they were being carried away the authority figures had overlooked taping their mouths.

“I will always love you!” The man cried out. Clearly his choice of words and tone said that he knew he would never see the woman again in this life time. That whatever fate awaited him she would be someplace else.

“I will never forget you!” The woman cried back less than a second after the last word left the man’s mouth. Her words spoke of an equally sad fate with no hope of redemption.

Whatever authority that had taken them into custody quickly corrected the oversight of not preventing them from speaking with one person in each group producing a clear tape that was applied to the mouth of the person they carried.

The young lovers were placed inside cars, along with the authority personnel and instead of speeding off the drivers made a special effort to leave as quietly and as normally as they could. The flashing sirens were removed and within a mere two minutes the cars had each taken a different direction away from the park. Another minute later it was if nothing had ever happened. A few onlookers whispered questions to each other about what the two lovers might have done. But new people arrived in the park knowing nothing of the recent events, children began playing, old men took up seats and watched young lovers come strolling by, old women fanned themselves and wished they were home, parents watched children and wondered if excitement would ever return to their lives.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day 2008

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.
- Otto von Bismarck, 1815 - 1898

Lord, bid war's trumpet cease;
Fold the whole earth in peace.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just so no one will be confused where I stand.

The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them. Whether chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams.

BARACK OBAMA, speech, Jun. 4, 2005

While it is still early McCain's path to victory is looking thinner by the minute. So forgive me if I start to get contemplative on what lays ahead. It's an old military adage that while winning the battle is hard, winning the peace is even harder. A nearly wrecked economy, a military spread desperately thin fighting two wars, a drug-like addiction to foreign oil, an education system that after decades still falls embarrassingly short of preparing children for the 21st century, and finally and perhaps worst of all an American people that has been polarized and fractured to the point that some people openly question who is "pro-American" and "anti-American".

If Obama does end up winning the election the battle will be far from over. Expectations of a massive progressive agenda will have to be balanced with economic and political realities. Bridges will have to built with those on the other side who are willing to work together in good faith. Along with exposing and isolating those out to sabotage efforts to help the country from either side whether it be spiteful Republicans out for revenge or rogue Democrats out to score points for their own purposes.

A President Obama will still need our support even more then as he tries to knit a wounded country back together and sets it back on a road toward the principles it was founded on instead of a government that just craters to those with access to power and wealth. It will not be easy, success will not come overnight, and some might become impatient with pet issues that are not addressed as quickly or as intensively as they want. This is where we have to act with the same energy and motivation that carried Senator Obama through close to two years of hell to the White House. In other words instead of acting like spoiled children we will finally have to act like the Americans we claim to be. Lets hope we are up to this battle because it will be far harder than just getting Obama elected.