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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bourbon and E-Z Cheese

I cranked open my left eye and saw a blurry, red 7:02, at the same time heard what caused me to wake up, "Mommy I can't wait anymore." Welcome to Christmas with a six year old. Excuse me a "six and three-quarters" year old.

My options were not many, I could remain curled up on my right side, my back to Leslie and Jenna who I know was standing face to Leslie's lying face, and feign sleep. That I knew would not work, being the lightest sleeper in the house, I knew that Leslie knew I was awake already. I could pop out of bed and say, "Let's go!" But I knew Leslie needed more that twelve seconds to get into consciousness. I opted for marital peace and child appeasement, "Jenna why don't you snuggle in between Mommy and me for a few minutes and then we will wake up Blaire and see if Santa came."

"He came. I looked and he came. I can't wait any more," stated as facts she crawled in between us and slowly brought us into Christmas morning 2008. After my imposed fifteen minute waiting period I went down and got Blaire and brought her up into the bed and by now anxiety and angst were barely contained.

I told the girls, "I just hope Santa brought me some cookies, that is all I want." Blaire displaying wisdom beyond her years, beyond many people's years, said, "you all ready got what you want for Christmas Daddy, we are all here together!"

Santa did in fact bring me cookies, a box of Animal Crackers with a little string so I could carry them on my wrist. But deep down in my stocking was something special, a can of Easy Cheese! Oh joy!

When I was a kid our family vacations were often camping trips in the wilds of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri. Later when we moved east we had a couple of vacations where we chartered a sailboat for a week and Mom, Dad and the three kids would share thirty odd feet of cramped space on the ocean blue. Camping trips and sailboat charters have a few things in common: packing in your food you will be eating all week as stores are not abundant and lack of refrigeration. My mom would pack Easy Cheese and crackers for cocktail hour to accommodate the limited space and the beauty of not needing to keep the Easy Cheese refrigerated. Our kids know that vacations are official when Dad breaks out the Easy Cheese and Ritz crackers. Santa gave me a vacation in a can!

Later in the morning as we moved through the Wii Santa dropped down the chimney, with care, and the puzzles and games, and the clothes. Leslie handed me a gift bag with something inside wrapped in tissue, it was from my brother, the girls "Unkey-Monkey" and his wife Diane (Di-Di). Glory be to Christmas it was a bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon!

I have come to realize that having daughters makes birthdays and Christmases pretty easy in many respects. Mainly this is because they like clothes and jewelry, no matter what their age and no matter what the price range. If it is pretty, cute, sentimental, colorful and the right size they are pretty happy. Give my daughter a furry black vest with pink piping and a plastic faux ruby necklace and she is a princess. Boys on the other hand are very picky depending on their age. First they do not like clothes for any occasion. Second you have to make sure the toy or game you are getting them is age appropriate and not a "baby" toy, or one that is perhaps a few years past them and they will either cut themselves or someone else, or blow something up. Boys and gift giving is very difficult.

For me Easy Cheese and Bourbon make a pretty complete Christmas, throw in the Animal Crackers and I have my dinner and dessert for next Thursday when I watch the Oklahoma Sooners thrash the Florida Gators for the BCS Championship. Yep, Easy Cheese on a Ritz and a sip of Woodford Reserve is a pretty good vacation.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Anniversaries, Claw Crackers and Nutcrackers

Sunday was Leslie's anniversary of her 39th birthday, which one I cannot say lest I be removed to the couch, and also Blaire performing in "Nutcracker" for the Long Beach Ballet. She was to be in the afternoon and evening performance however exhaustion caught with her and after spilling her guts twice before lunch we pulled her out of the afternoon performance and played the evening session by ear. After a two plus hour nap she was ready for us to continue our plans.

The plans started with a dinner at Gladstone's in Long Beach before we had to drop her off to get ready for the 8:00 show. When we walked in the waitress told us that until 6:00 they had a pound and a half lobster for only $19.99. I never order lobster as I have never found it to be a good value to taste proposition. Now however I can get 1 1/2 pounds of lobster for less than $20--a very good value proposition that I decided to order. After the usual messy tussle to extract the meat and finishing the meal I determined that my previous decisions regarding the value proposition for lobster were correct. Either I am missing something or I had a not very good lobster last night; it was a bit chewy and a bit flavorless. I prefer crab--especially when picked fresh from my sister's local store in Novato and eaten with linguine and pepper flakes. Even at $19.99 I was disappointed and thought, well you don't need to order lobster again for a while.

After dinner we dropped Blaire off and waited for the show to begin. We had a live orchestra for the performance and despite this being my third, fourth or fifth viewing of the performance in the last three years I enjoyed it--and not just the Mother Ginger scene with Blaire! The Long Beach Ballet puts on a very good production with a great mix of local children and talent, some of our area's teenagers are wonderful dancers, and professionals brought in for some of the main parts. Again, having a live orchestra adds to the evening and the enjoyment.

Getting home very late I think we all slept soundly with visions of nutcrackers, sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers and snow princesses in our dreams.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Twit, Twit, Twittering

So I guess I am twittering now, plus the Facebook thing, and the LinkedIn; I am so connected I must be only two degrees from Kevin Bacon at this point. So you can twit me at if you wish to twit me or what ever it is called. My brother sent me a twit and I decided to check it out because I had heard Hugh Hewitt and several guests on his show the past few weeks speaking about twitter. It costs nothing (but time spent setting up, surfing, etc, etc) and if it can enrich my life (literally if anyone needs a mortgage in California who is reading this) there is no harm in being a twit.

What I can see from my first experience and about twenty minutes is that twitter has a long way to go, a very, very long way to go, to be anything near Facebook in terms of connecting people. It appears several applications are down this evening, it is not easy to search for someone and to "link" them (or "follow" in twit terms). From conversations on the Hugh Hewitt radio show it seems a lot of members of the GOP and conservatives are using twitter to try to close the technological gap on the Democrats--which as was seen in the recent election is huge. From my brief experience thus far twitter is about 1998 in terms of technology. If key members of the GOP are counting on this to return to a majority in Congress then I better get used to Madame Speaker Pelosi for at least four more years.

Anyone out there twit? Let me know some tips as to how to navigate and why I should be using twitter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

BSOD or I Hope You Get The Flu

This is the Blue Screen Of Death, BSOD. Leslie does not know of the BSOD because she's a cool Mac user and hates anything Windows related. I am somewhat familiar with the BSOD having had, like many Windows/PC users, a semi-major viral attack about every 18 - 24 months. Today was the fourth work day in a row that I spent considerable time on the laptop because of a virus I picked up last week. On Facebook. On a video. Stupidly clicking the button to "update your flashplayer." So several hours Thursday with the anti-virus scans and the spyware scans. Friday was more of the same, and then my Internet Explorer died, which introduced me to Mozilla Firefox, which is a pretty cool browser; unfortunately many of the websites in our industry require Internet Explorer. The weekend was somewhat slow as I was busy with house stuff and just ran the anti-viral/spyware. They kept coming up clean. Monday, I worked through it waiting for our IT vendor to somehow save me. Yesterday he took control of the laptop via remote and when I came in today, Wednesday, my laptop was "fixed."

Fixed means that everything was reloaded on my laptop--everything except my settings, you know the things like your labels for Outlook Calendar, instant messenger, Adobe, log-ins and passwords to the fifty sites you visit everyday. So today, I hope, was the beginning of the end to get my laptop back to where it was before I stupidly clicked on the button to update my flash player--which as soon as I clicked I knew I was in for it. Argghhh.

So I was stupid once again and let down my guard and was violated by a virus concocted and sneezed out into cyberspace by some guy with a personality disorder, or perhaps he is just an asshole. There are penalties for spreading viruses, for maliciously disrupting computer activitiy, stealing information and other cyberactivity that is malicious in intent and practice--when was the last time you heard of someone being busted and serving time for writing and spreading a virus?

I Googled virus, virus jail, computer laws virus; as we Google everything these days. I came across this debate on where one guy argues that those who spread computer viruses be jailed and another guy argues they should not. The anti-jail guy says it is a form of free speech, and that there is a college in Canada (figures) where they teach how to write computer viruses, and if they teach it in college then how can it be illegal? Well they also teach nuclear physics but that does not make blowing up a nuclear bomb illegal. And many colleges have ROTC or riflery classes but that does not make shooting someone, except in self defense, illegal. They teach communism in college as well, which goes to show just because something is taught in college doesn't mean it is good.

While I have been trying to be more positive and forgiving and understanding on this issue I hope the jerk who wrote and released the virus I got last week gets a real virus; I hope he gets the flu. The yellow sputum cough and racking vomiting and pounding headache and bones that just hurt and you can't sleep type of flu. For a week, or maybe more. I hope he hurts so that he understands his malady is cosmically caused and he confesses to the authorities what he has done so they catch him and send him to prison.

Have a nice day. May the BSOD not be with you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It Is Mythical, So Calm Down

Despite the really cool Sooner Schooner and the interlocking O-U logo, not to mention the great crimson and cream color scheme, some are bashing on the Oklahoma University Sooners football team for playing in the NCAA Division I Football Championship.
Most of those doing the bashing and criticism are from below the Red River and are supporters of the University of Texas Longhorns with their hamburger on the hoof mascot and color scheme that looks like what I changed from our daughters' diapers after they had pureed carrots. While I say tough skirt steak regarding their not making the Big 12 Championship because of the conference tie-breaker rules, I do feel they have a better argument to be in the "national title" game than Florida does.

Florida lost at home to a crappy Mississippi team, they played Citadel from the mighty Southern Conference (where they were 2-6) in November and played in the SEC--perhaps the most over-rated conference in college football; forget perhaps the SEC is the most over-rated conference. History doesn't play football, but unfortunately it ranks football teams and because of that the SEC teams are over-ranked every year. Florida does not belong in the title game instead of Texas just because the beat an Alabama team that managed to win out through an easy schedule--a really easy schedule.

But in the end it really does not matter who plays in the BCS Championship because the title is mythical since it is not decided on the field but rather by interns to sports information directors, lazy East Coast writers who don't watch any games played East of the Appalachians that kick off after 5:00 their time and computer programmers--in other words those who vote in the myriad of polls it takes to determine who "should" play for the "national championship". "We're Number 1" can be proven in every sport but Division 1 football, so to say it is hollow.

Until there is a playoff the "champion" is a mythical title bestowed by those who are not participants on any of the teams who may lay claim to the title. The games are fun to watch, and I enjoy it immensely when Oklahoma wins its games, but I will refrain from joyous rapture after their victory over Florida sometime in January. That guys who run institutions based on smarts and intellect cannot figure out a way to make a lot of money
and have a playoff for their football teams may say more about the decline of education in our country than it does about the money involved in college sports.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Conspiracy Theories

My hand has been slapped a few times by the publishers and editors of the Long Beach Post because they want me to tie the issues I write about on My Front Porch directly into Long Beach, while I take the position that if you feel we are a global community then every issue relates locally as well as nationally and internationally, they do not tend to agree so many of my thoughts on national and international issues are left out of my contributions. It is their site however it is their content requirements I abide by for my posts. I will use this forum which has one one-hundreth of the views of the LBPost (if I am lucky) to put forth some of my crazier ideas. That said here are some theories I have been ruminating about that pertain to my community only in that they pertain to every community. I use the term conspiracy theory as these go to the dark side of current or perhaps future events; note they are all just my opinions and I have no proof of any of them being real...yet!

Obama ending Hillary's career: A lot of people are wondering why President-Elect Obama would nominate Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. My conspiracy theory is that now that Obama has knocked out the biggest power players in the Democratic Party in Hillary and Bill Clinton he is going for the jugular and finishing them off politically. By nominating Hillary to SecofState, Obama gets her out of the Senate where should could continue her campaign for President in 2012 or 2016; as SecofState I believe she can no longer fund raise for campaigns; as well part of the deal between them is Bill will disclose donors to his Presidential Library. So the nomination and subsequent confirmation shuts off the flow of funds the Clintons have become accustomed to since leaving office--or at least stems the flow from a gush to a trickle. The confirmation hearings could, and should, get pretty nasty if the Republicans on the committee treat Hillary the way so many Bush nominees have been treated the past eight years in Senate confirmation hearings. Who will bring up Vincent Foster first? Campaign donations from phantom donors in New York's Chinatown? Bill's international jet setting with Ron Burkle and "friends" ? By putting Hillary in the Cabinet Obama is able to control her exposure and her message. At some point there has to be a falling out, no one controls a Clinton, and when that happens, when Hillary is no longer a member of the Cabinet her political career is over.

Hillary gets even richer: When she is shoved out of the Secretary of State position my theory is that Hillary finally divorces Bill since she has no more use for him and hits the speaker circuit and corporate boards and makes even more tens of millions. If there is anything the Clintons love more than themselves and power it is tens of millions.

Chavez invades Cuba: Because they never really think things through Socialist dictators do what pleases them and angers their enemies. I think that Venezuelan "President" Hugo Chavez will "invade" Cuba before the end of 2008 to force President Bush to react and probably mobilize U.S. forces into the Caribbean. Recently Russian President Dimitri Medvedev visited both Venezuela (with part of his navy) and Cuba; giving three world leaders who have no positive emotions for President Bush, or the United States, getting together a few months before we transition from Bush to Obama.
"Hey Dimitri, what would you think if I were to send my troops into Cuba to, um...let's say to put down an 'uprising'?" asks Chavez making quote signs in the air.
Medvedev thinks for a moment and says, "Let me ask Fidel and Raul when I see them tomorrow. But I like where you are going with this!"

Pakistani based Islamists Attack U.S. The same group(s) responsible for the attacks in Mumbai last week will try something similar in U.S. after Obama is sworn in as President. Obama is on the record as saying we should go into Pakistan. Attacks in the U.S. based out of Pakistan will force his hand and pretty much mandate U.S. incursions into Pakistan. This will destablize Pakistan, which is what the Islamists desire, further provoking India into a war and also serve as an issue to recruit more terrorists for their suicide missions. With thousands of boys being indoctrinated across Pakistan in terrorist controlled madras school they have plenty of potential recruits.

Big 3 Automaker Threats. The Big 3 automakers will continue to threaten Congress with shutdowns and closure until they get their money, then do it again in ten months to get more. After that with mid-term elections approaching the Big 3 and the UAW will get by on earmarks so their friends (D) in Congress do not lose their re-election bids in 2010 and then continue to create a fully government subsidized American automaker industry.

Vegans and Environmentalists will unite to shut down my barbecue. This is the one I fear the most. In order to reduce the number of animals slaughtered so that I, and hundreds of other Americans, can enjoy the ritual of barbecuing and eating meat, the vegan coalition will join forces with the uber-liberal factions of the envionmentalists to ban barbecuing in California because of the emissions from our grills. Not only does the barbecue emit smoke, if done properly, but it requires the used of wood and you know where that comes from! So I am denuding the forests, polluting the air and killing innocent bovine just so I can enjoy a perfectly tender and tasty slice of tri-tip---I must be stopped!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Being Thankful Can Be Hard

We had a great Thanksgiving. I was able to do what I love to do, cook a big meal, and it was pretty dang good. We had a small table this year with just Leslie, the girls and I and it was perfect. The girls were all sophisticated with their sparkling cider in wine glasses and after dinner we played "I am thankful for...." and we go around the table and you cannot say what anyone else has said. We had fun with it and it made it through about ten passes around the table before it broke up.

The next day, Friday, it was evident that Cooper was not doing so great. After many months of his deteriorating it appeared that something dramatic had happened over night--Leslie suspected a stroke. She took him to the vet and we were prepared to have to say good bye to him Friday; but a phone conversation between us led her to bring him home to see how he faired overnight. Not so good is the answer.

I could go into details but the result is the same, around 11:00 this morning Leslie took Cooper to the vet with the purpose of having him put to sleep. Before she left we all gathered around him on the floor and patted him, cried tears on him, told him how much we loved him and told him how thankful we were that he chose us to be his family.

Giving thanks at Thanksgiving is not just for our family, friends, food and toys; giving thanks for our pets is right up there--in some families above human family members. Today we learned what being thankful is really all about. It is truly about deep gratitude for the love given and taken, the companionship, the laughs and finally the feeling of deep loss that comes with the person, or pet, responsible for those emotions being taken physically out of our lives.

Cooper is part of God as are we all, he lives in our hearts and our paths will cross again. Bless you Cooper and thank you for such a wonderful life that I was able to share with you.

A sad Thanksgiving weekend for the Smiths, but a happy one knowing how much we have to be thankful for in our lives.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

East Side Sario's...I mean Mario's

This is a picture of the Chicken Marsala I had last night at East Side Marios in Lakewood, CA, to be called East Side Sario's in our house from now on. It appears that I have eaten half my chicken before taking the picture, appearances can be deceiving however since this was taken right after it was set in front of me. I had to put my fork in the picture for a size reference to how small the serving of the "tender boneless chicken breast seasoned with cracked black peppercorns, sauteed with mushrooms and Marsala wine" actually was. For $14.79 one would expect a whole chicken breast for a dinner entree, instead I received what amounted to a half breast, and a small one at that; or at least have the accompanying side dish not be two to three times the size of the protein. The Marsala based sauce tasted like canned gravy and overall the dish was not good. Our server asked how the meal was after service and I pointed to the piece of chicken and said, "I am disappointed in the size of the portion of chicken, is this the regular serving?" To which she replied, "Yes that is the normal least you have a lot of potatoes."

Leslie and I went to East Side Sario's because we had been given a gift certificate for $50.00 and decided to use if for our date night. We had a beer in the bar, great value of a large Stella Artois at $4.49 Happy Hour prices, then moved to the dining area--which was dark and cold. We shared a pizza (New York Classic) which was good, but for the price I would rather spend a few more bucks and get Catalano's (Carson and Orange in Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach). Then had our entrees.

The entrees came with a pretty good salad, Leslie really liked it, I was a bit luke warm as they had a considerable amount of crunchy noodles on top. Then our entrees arrived. Leslie had the Sizzling Chianti Steak which is billed as tri-tip but was not that cut and it was over cooked for her order. Tasted okay but again not worth the price ($15.99--note my pennies may be off on the prices but pretty close).

Will we go back to East Side Sario's again? Probably not, if we do it would be for a beer before eating somewhere else, or if we do eat there maybe try one of the pastas. On the plus side, after $11 for the beers in the bar and the $64 for the dinner with the kindness of the gift card it only cost $25 to discover a place to stay away from in the future. Note that East Side Mario's is a brand of the Marie Callender's chains, further disappointing me given the quality I have experienced at every Marie Callender's I have visited.

UPDATE: Not one to hit and run I did make a comment on the ESM/MarieC's website and the General Manager of the East Side Mario's store did contact me, asked about my experience and offered a free Sunday brunch or dinner for two. I told him I did not make the comments merely to get a free meal, but he insisted and sent us a dinner for two. I admire that he took the time to call and see what the situation was, however it seems he was more upset with the server's comments than that the portions of chicken in the entree are miniscule. Today the letter arrived for 2 free entrees--I don't think we will use the freebies as 1) it feels like I contacted them just to get a free meal and 2) frankly not sure what there is to eat there I would want to go back for--except the cheap Stella's at Happy Hour and friend Julie H. indicates a better deal at Curley's in Signal Hill for Stella!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Coming Back

I realize I have been on sabatical for several months and have let my less serious side fester in the writing department. I have been getting a regular every Monday post out on my more opinionated site (, my section is My Front Porch) and have not taken time to feed this side of my brain. Bad on me but since I don't know if anyone visits this site but me I guess I am the only one who notices.

Facing a challenge in that I would like to write a bit more about national topics and the publishers of the LBPost want me to tie everything into Long Beach in a direct connection. As a result I feel like I am stretching the connection sometimes to get my bigger picture opinion on the issue in. I am the only one who writes from center to center-right on the site, in fact taking all the LB media, print and on-line, I am probably the only one, as such I am of the opinion they benefit from having a perspective not written about in the city. But it is their site and if I want to play it is their rules. Writing that has spurred me to contact them about discussing the issue.

My intent is to be more current on contributing to this space, for me and hopefully some who visit will like it. I have missed several movie and restaurant reviews I could have shared, plus many fun family happenings.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Where's Olive?

After consuming some quite tasty carne asada, or at least my version of the same, and getting the kids to bed last night serendipitous timing while channel surfing brought to to "Little Miss Sunshine." When this movie came out in 2006 it started off as a bit of a sleeper. I can remember recommend it to others while it was still in the theater and most people had yet to hear of it.
While I am neither a Greek nor theater scholar I do believe the Greek tragedy involves ill will befalling a hero, or heroine in his or her attempt to achieve a goal, a conquest or other significant achievement. Little Miss to me is the modern equivalent of a Greek tragedy. Olive, our heroine, is the ray of sunshine to a very disfunctional family whose fates seem to conspire to keep Olive from her goal: performing in and winning the Little Miss Sunshine. While her big brother, parents, uncle and grandfather all her their bags of crap they keep dragging out, Olive maintains her positive outlook.
The line "Where's Olive" is one of the many one-liners, joining "Welcome to hell" and "Go hug Mom" from Dwayne who is silent by choice delivering his dialogue on a small spiral notepad. A very good technique from the director and/or screenwriter to add a significant piece to this film.
Excellent casting, acting, writing and direction if you have not seen Little Miss Sunshine find it on HBO and TiVo it or get it on Netflix--better yet buy it and make it one of your annual viewings. Caution, for those who have not seen it, as charming as it may seem with little Olive as the lead there is significant foul language--particularly in scenes with Alan Arkin dialogue.
Rating: Wide Awake

Regarding that carne asada....some skirt steak pounded flat with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chipolte chili powder, a little olive oil, "daddy-q" sauce, balsamic vinegar, grilled quickly over very hot coals; simple, delicious!
Tonight a large pork loin roast, 3 lbs, I'm slow cooking on the grill for about an hour and a half to two hours. Over night rub of most of the above, coated with balsamic, dijon and olive oil. Will baste with an apple/bourbon version of the homemade sauce to get nice sticky crust as it slowly cooks. Oh, plus a few cups of icey bourbon for the grill master while cooking!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Iron Man and Indiana Jones

Thankfully we have Tuesday nights! Leslie and I have been to the movies more times in the last several weeks than in past....let's see Blaire is 8...past eight or nine years. Having spent the last several years taking eight or nine days to see a movie on DVD watching about twelve minutes at a time before dozing off it is great to sit in comfy chair in a dark theater with some salty popcorn, a cool drink, a great big screen, great sound and watch a good movie. The past two week we saw Indiana Jones and the Something of Something and Iron Man. Both were very good movies, let's start with Indy.

Leslie loves Harrison Ford and the Indiana Jones series. She met Indy in 1981 when he was chasing around the jungle with Karen Allen. She did not meet me until about 1992 or 1993, Harrison was first, I got that. We saw Harry last week still chasing around with Karen Allen, this time in Peru and the jungles of South America. The beauty of this fantastic tale? It is the Indiana Jones franchise from beginning to end. It is kitchy, it has the predictable one-liners, it has Ford doing a great job being Indiana Jones. Hold on to your hat chase sequences and hold your breath escapes by Ford are just as fun to watch today as they were over 25 years ago. It was it is and that is an Indiana Jones movie; made for thirteen year old boys and everyone loves it. Bravo!

Rating: Comfy on the couch If you are adamant about the sound and big screen and you don't have a home theater system like Shaquille go see it at the theater, otherwise DVD will do you fine. Get the first three in the series from Netflix and have an Indy marathon.

Iron Man was great. I am not much on comic book movies, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Aquaman, wait that was just a fictional movie in the fictional series "Entourage" on HB); so I have stayed away from the Marvel Comics that have been redone by Hollywood. I typically do not like movies from comics, probably because when I was a kid I was a comic book wussy. I did not like the action comics, I liked the comedic comics, Archie, Richie Rich, the stupid ones. I had heard some good reviews on Iron Man but it was not until friend Chuck was in town from Houston and we were having dinner that he mentioned he and wife Michelle had seen Iron Man and liked it that I put it in the Date Night movie rotation. Leslie was game so off we went. Wow, what a great movie. Directed by Jon Favreau ("you're so money" guy in the classic "Swingers", classic being a loose term as a lot of my friends really like it and I never really did, back to Iron Man) the movie is not the typical comic book movie. For one, while it is a bit fantastic at times it is not suspend all belief type fantastic. Secondly the special effects are done very well so they are not annoyingly special effects. Thirdly the acting is very good. And on I go, the writing is well done as well. I, we, liked this movie very much--especially Leslie who loves action movies. Where Indy is kitchy and corny this one keeps you glued to your seat. It was a pleasure to watch Robert Downey Jr. turn in another great performance, and hey spending time looking at Gweneth Paltrow does not ruin any movie. There are two bad guys and both are chilling in their evil. Jeff Bridges has plenty of roles where he is the kind of off-beat, goofy guy but shows again he can play bad guy real, real well. When the guy took our ticket (our Tuesday night guy, about 60 years old and always happy) he said, "best movie we have playing..." he was right.

Rating: Wide Awake see this movie!

On the home DVD front we saw the first two Bourne movies, Leslie slept through most of the first one, I slept through most of the second one, didn't seem like we missed much. Can't wait to get the third one from Netflix this week! zzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some Randomness Heading Into Date Night

The 3 day Memorial Day Weekend was weird, because it was about 60 degrees in Southern California and we had rain! Growing up "away" from here--in Tulsa, Philly and New York, Memorial Day Weekend was always a big event because it was the official start of summer. The pools would open with big events, like tossing a bunch of coins in the bottom of the pool, blowing a whistle and all the kids would dive and collect as much as they could. The quarters and half dollars were usually in the diving pool and only the really big kids, you know like 5th or 6th graders could get those. There would be a watermellon tossed in and whatever kid could get it out got to keep it and eat it. All sorts of different games.

This weekend we honored our nation's veterans and their sacrifices by painting Jenna's room...yellow. I know not exactly the color for veterans, but maybe the official color of the Democrats if they succeed in surrendering to terrorists in Iraq. (Low blow, but really.) Jenna is a trooper and for years has wanted us to paint her room, which was a hand me down from Blaire as we set it up as the nursery and Jenna never moved out. Leslie had painted a fantastic barnyard scene in the room, with a huge barn, cow, horse, pigs, chickens, silo, gorgeous sky and clouds. All this went up in 1999 before Blaire was born. Jenna came along in 2002 and from about 2004 when she started talking on she has asked for a different room. We finally succumbed and painted it--probably because she finally named a color other than pink. So no more barn, but the room is very nice with the blue sky ceiling still and yellow walls. So other than a two and a half hour stint at ballet, church and Home Depot, and painting how was your weekend Dennis? I loved it, a lot of good family time.

A lot on my mind over the weekend as big-bro Mike called on Thursday to let me know he has an amelanotic melanoma. He was typically positive and upbeat, but admitedly anxious. He has fought off a lot of crap in his time, from numerous surgeries on knees, backs, shoulders, to meningitis to a staph infection from the hospital. When this nasty little bugger came along his body must have said, "Okay troops, here's another piece of nasty shit for us to deal with, let's get it done, you know what to do." He goes/went in today for meeting with specialist to see what the options are. I hope they can rip it out, put some Neosporin and a band aid on it and send him home. My buddy and doc Doctor Larry said his dad had one on his arm and while he has a divot in his forearm that looks like the result of a Tiger Woods wedge from the fairway, six years later and no problems. That is what we want, a divot in Mike's back and no more muss, no more fuss. This weighed on my typically over-reactive mind this weekend. A lot of chance to put into use my positive attitude, thoughts and beliefs mantra and direction I have been working on.

I am still in disbelief that our crappy Congresswoman, Laura Richardson, fell delinquent on three properties, had one foreclosed on and in interviews with local rag and the AP tries to blame the bank, blames she had too many jobs in a short time frame (three of which were elective offices she sought), blah, blah, blah. The lack of accountability and personal responsibility from our elected officials is so disheartening. What is worse is she is completely protected and will probably suffer nothing because of her actions. Our district is about 60-65 Democrat, so she knows even a dead person wins the election as long as dead and a registered Democrat.

Date night tonight, Leslie is excited because her main boy will be on the big screen tonight--Harrison Ford and the Raiders part 3 is on the menu. I will post and rate in the next couple of days. I love that we continued our Tuesday nights out after 13 straight Tuesdays earlier in the year for our class at church. The kids love it because they get the cool and fantastic Tracy babysitting, Tracy loves it because she picks up $40 per week to play with the kids for a few hours before putting them to bed (and they go to bed real easy, seriously they have always been great at going to bed and sleep) and we love it because we get one night a week to be grown ups, partners and friends. We said for years, "we need a date night" and always tried to figure a Friday (now MAPN--see below) or Saturday; but Tuesday is great.

Fingers crossed for good news from Mike, hoping that Harrison's latest Lost Ark movie is not one or more Z's on the rating chart.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barbecue Tour! Beachwood BBQ and Johnny is BACK!

A good friend of ours is getting paid to do a barbecue tour of Kansas City and I am jealous. Truthfully he is has been travelling to Kansas City for work and since he happens to be staying overnight has been able to venture through the epicurean world of smoke and pork--but he is getting paid and he is touring the KC smoke spots so I stand by my opening line.
Locally Leslie and I did a mini-tour of local barbecue joints this past Friday and Saturday evenings and since there were some similarities (small, family owned) our weekend excursions provided a perfect opportunity to compare our Friday dining at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach and Johnny Reb's in Long Beach.

Disclosure: I have been a big fan of Johnny Reb's since working across the street in the mid-to lat 1980's. Sealing my personal affinity was game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Our tickets for the series put us in seats directly in back of several guys who worked at JRebs, after the Dodgers lost game six to force game seven they said, "Don't y'all worry bout dogs tomorrow, we're bringin' the pork." And bring it they did. Big pans of pulled pork, sausage, corn bread, biscuits. What a way to watch a game! When the Dodgers opened it up in the 2nd we're holding dripping biscuits filled with pork in one hand a beer in the other and spilling both all over each other--and loved it!

Further disclosure: Cheryl Carter, owner and founder of Johnny Reb's, is a friend of our family and has been our girls Sunday school teacher with her daughters for the past year.
Friday at Beachwood was a night out with two couples who we know from the PTA and whose kids go to school with ours. The had told us of Beachwood and Tom's eyes rolled back in his head a bit when he told me about their beer selection. Being a lover of both barbecue and beer Leslie and I were excited to try the place out. Beachwood has a great location, it has about a storefront and a half it looks like, with one side being a bar and the other the tables and sit down restaurant. The place was crowded, but not obnoxiously so, and the single bartender (who someone told me was one of the owners) was doing a great job of ensuring the bar was tended well, taking care of those seated watching the Lakers and those of us standing and conversating.

The bar at Beachwood, or rather the offerings at the bar at Beachwood, is what differentiates this place. There were sixteen, seventeen possibly eighteen different beers being offered. The offerings were not the standard American bar beers (Bud, Coors Light, Amstel Light...) but were small distinct brews ranging from ales to lagers to stouts to Belgian Trappists. It was fun to have a couple of beers before dinner and sip and taste the choices others made and compare.

For dinner Leslie and I both chose a two combo plate with sides so we could share and compare. I chose babybacks and brisket with cole slaw and baked beans; Leslie got the sausage and pulled pork with asparagus and baked beans; cornbread was served with both. The portions were generous and the price was very good (about $15-16 for the combo). The food arrived dry as there was sauce on the table, spicy and mild. In a taste test we could not differentiate between the two sauces. I make my own sauce and am able to adapt for several variations of heat and flavor, so I know this can be done--for some reason it was not at our table. The sauce is very good, and it needs to be as some of the meat products were over cooked a bit and needed the sauce to moisten it up.

The flavor on the ribs was good, but a bit tough and as I said dry. I like moist meaty ribs and these were tight; flavorful but not the texture I like. The brisket was excellent. Three or four slices that were moist and full of flavor. Leslie's pulled pork was dry I thought, the flavor was okay but not something I would go back for at this point. Her sausage links were fantastic and mental note for self, next visit concentrate on sausage and beer. On the sides we were both very disappointed in the beans, a bit crunchy/hard, little flavor--Leslie makes great beans so we always compare those and she wins this round. Her grilled asparagus was terrific and a good addition to the menu. The cole slaw was very good and I will re-order that probably every trip. Leslie tasted Ann's sweet potato fries and said they were very good and she would order next time. We were both very disappointed in the cornbread, very small portion, dry and not a whole lot of flavor.

Overall I would say definitely visit Beachwood BBQ for the beer, taste the various offerings and have fun with it; eat the barbecue because you need to eat when you drink! The beers and barbecue are a great combination and with some good base flavors I think over time the pit master will hit his or her stride and deliver better meat in the future. We will definitely be back. A great place to spend an evening with friends, some great beer and good food--but not great food.

Last August Leslie and I were in Tulsa with Dad and sister Sharon visiting family and friends and attending the PGA Championship being played at Southern Hills. While there I was checking in on emails and whatnot and one evening clicked on the Press-Telegram site to see what was happening back in Long Beach. I was stunned to see that Johnny Reb's had a big fire and was severely burned. We were both sad for Cheryl Carter and the workers, and selfishly sad that we would not be able to enjoy JReb's cooking for some time. Over the several months we kept inquiring of Cheryl how the rebuilding was going and anxiously awaited the re-opening. On more than one Saturday afternoon we thought, "we could get some smoked chicken salads for us and some ribs/chicken for the kids....oh shoot they are still closed."
Last week Cheryl contacted us and invited us to a pre-re-opening party they were throwing at Johnny Reb's to get their legs back and the rhythm between the cooks, servers, etc. and would we like to come? Uh, gee let me think about that and get back to....YES! What time??
The restored Johnny Reb's is just that, restored. The place looks like it did in 1984 when it opened. Same decor, same layout, same ambiance, just fresher and newer. We were pleased to see that the servers were back as were the busboys and girls. It showed the loyalty and dedication of management and the employees to each other that during the closing shifts were taken at other Johnny Reb's locations and everyone worked together to ensure when re-opened the staff would stay together. It is that kind of place.
We started off with the appetizer platter: smoked sausage, hot links, hushpuppies, onion rings and big cup of sauce for dipping. The sausage is so good. This is usually a better way to start with a bigger group than just the four of us, but we missed it!
After that the girls tucked into beef ribs (Blaire--she looked like Fred Flinstone chewing on his brontosaurus rib it was so big) and chicken strips (Jenna--these are tasty as they use the same batter as the fried chicken I believe). Leslie and I went our separate ways. Leslie had been missing the grilled chicken salad, which is loaded with fresh tomatoes, bacon, cheese, chicken-lots of chicken, and other stuff. I went for the combo of St. Louis style ribs and chicken. And they were cooked to perfection, as I expected. The meats at Johnny Reb's are always moist, full of flavor and solid portions. My biggest complaint is that they tend to smother their thick sauce on their meats; I don't ask for it on the side because I like the sauce and it works for me to just scrape it off--I get the right amount on my food and the taste comes through without overpowering the main event. Finally, either biscuits or cornbread--tough choice but you cannot make a wrong one as both are excellent.
My sides were the cole slaw and dirty rice, and both were very tasty; I really like their rice and slaw and they really compliment their meats. Blaire ordered the beans and the contrast in flavor and texture to those we had tasted the night before was very apparent. After almost 25 years Johnny Reb's has maintained great quality. Every item on their menu is full of flavor and served the way I personally like (with the exception of too much sauce for my taste), the menu is broad and never disappoints--at least the Long Beach location. I will say that in the past at work we had ordered large lunches from the Orange location and the quality and flavor has been significantly lower than the Long Beach location. I do not know if this is the store and personnel preparing the food, or if it is because it is large lunch order that requires shorter cooking time and therefore we get food a little before it is finished. But the Long Beach location has never disappointed us.
Welcome back Johnny! We missed you, as did your legions of fans in the area.
Scorecard for the weekend barbecue-off gets titled to our local favorite, Johnny Reb's. The quality, flavor and texture of our meats was better and the sides. Beachwood gets the tilt on the beer, outstanding and worth the trip. As well Beachwood gets the nod for the separate bar and restaurant to allow for comfortable enjoyment of a beer, or two, while waiting for a table to open up.
I rank Beachwood BBQ above Naple's Rib Joint (our last experience there was very disappointing with dried meat, lack of flavor, poor quality--just not that good) but below Johnny Reb's from a food perspective; but I give the newcomer big pluses for the location, the beer and the atmosphere.
Visit both and tell me what you think!

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Normal Day

It is a Friday. May 9th. Mother's Day is Sunday.

The crisis with Iran must come to a head soon, will it take U.S. troops? The U.N. seems incapable of doing anything, or will not since the longer the madman runs the country the more the American nose gets tweaked to the delight of most of the rest of the world.

The incumbent in the White House has incredibly low approval ratings, Congress is right there with him. With a Presidential election happening in six months both parties are gearing up for their conventions and nominating the candidate they feel will win in November. On the Democratic side the initial front runner is getting very negative press--unheard of before this primary season.

Due to the Middle East situation gas prices are fueling inflation in our markets and causing a lot of concern for all Americans, very much in the stump speeches of the candidates.

The Lakers and Celtics are in the playoffs and there is an excellent chance they will meet in the NBA finals, the Lakers with a superstar.

Terrorism is a concern in Europe with splinter groups setting off bombs in crowded areas over the past three or four years.

It is a Friday. Friday May 9th. Friday May 9, 1980 and I have just gotten home from school, I am a senior, and the phone has rung in our apartment and it is my Dad's New York office calling for him.

As Dad talks on the phone I stand at the window six floors up looking over the park. After he hangs up there is a prolonged silence, then, "Your mother died a little while ago."

It was a Friday. Today is a Friday. Friday May 9, 2008. Twenty eight years since I heard those words. Twenty eight years from a scrawny (about six foot 140 pounds), pimply (severe acne), somewhat insecure kid that was somewhat socially inept, to who I am today. At forty six and approaching my 14th anniversary with Leslie, I have lived with her almostas long as I had with my Mom.

This distance in time place in life would seem to diminish the memories of her as life's routine has not included her for almost three decades; but contrarily many memories are reappearing that had been forgotten. This is for two reasons.

First the girls. From the time they were old enough to ask, "Where's your Mama?" we have spoken of their "Nana" or "Nanners" as I would like to think we would have called their Grandmother Nancy, as living in my heart, my siblings hearts and the hearts of everyone who knew and loved her. Just as we all do and will. As well they know Nana lives in their hearts as well. It was very difficult coming to grips with the death of Mom when we were all very young; it has thankfully been less difficult in discussing and teaching the girls. By acknowledging and recognizing her place in our hearts I am able to call upon her spirit to bring back stories from my youth that included Mom for the girls. As one memory is recalled it triggers other memories as well. Happy memories that warm and instill the joy of remembrance.

The second reason for the regeneration of memories forgotten has been my spiritual awakening and learning the past year. A believer in reincarnation for many, many years it has not been until the past year and more intensely the past several months that I have been able to use the tools of prayer, meditation, affirmation and communion with God to properly place my previously disjointed beliefs into a more focused and positive Belief. Without proselytizing nor getting off track to my purpose in writing this essay, my place today has allowed me a more living experience with Mom and memories than I have had since her passing.

It is a Friday. Friday May 9, 2008. A little groggy from staying up too late I eschewed the 4:38 a.m. alarm and did not go for my morning swim. I rolled over following my back up 5:43 alarm and finally dragged myself out of bed at Leslie's initial 6:00 alarm--our home is alarming. After my quiet time of reading and writing with some coffee, the girls were already up when the school day 7:15 "Daddy Alarm" was ready to rouse them from their dreams and get their morning started. While I showered and dressed they got their school uniforms on then we gathered in the kitchen. I made them breakfast and lunch for Blaire to take to school, Friday is pizza day which Jenna likes and Blaire does not. And I shared with them that today was a birthday, or anniversary that was very important to me, their Aunt Sharon, their Unkey Monkey and their Opa. I told them that on this day in 1980 their grandmother, my Mom, had passed away.

"But she still lives in your heart Dad," said Blaire; Jenna nodding her head in agreement. Soon thereafter their Mom came in and gave them hugs.

Yes she still lives in our hearts. Off they went to school and me to work. It is a normal day. A Friday. Friday May 9, 2008; a normal day. Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

All In For "21"

Winna Winna Chicken Dinna!

Last night being Tuesday night Leslie and I went out for our date night (bad on me for not posting review on our excellent dinner with friends Susan and Dan at La Parolaccia on Broadway in Long Beach for our date night last week--we want to hit new place near us that is also Italian cafe style and then I will do a dish by dish comparison; back to the show..). It was movie night so we headed to the theater.
Tuesday night is a great night to go to movies. The ticket sellers and takers we have noticed are more mature than the ones we see on the weekend matinees with the kids, therefore more friendly, engaging and helpful. There are no lines at either the ticket window or the concession stand. The theater is almost empty. The advantage of no lines and no patrons is that you can take your time.

Typically for a 4:00 show with the kids on a Saturday or Sunday we know we need to get there about 3:40 to get in line for tickets and be able to secure four seats in a decent location (personal preference when with kids in a crowded theater is I want an aisle--many of these movies are from Z to ZZZ so I want to stretch out a bit) which means we see all the ads and all the trailers. We learned a couple of weeks ago that the actually movie starts twelve minutes after the posted time on the marquee. Thus a 7:00 movie allows us to hit dinner around 6:30 and stroll into the theater at 7:12 right as it starts. We can do this because not only are there no movie patrons on Tuesday nights but there are no restaurant patrons either.

Last night we saw "21" (official site here; IMDB site here). I had read the book "Bringing Down The House" that was the basis for the screenplay and was excited when they made it into a movie. The book is a great read and while there is some Hollywood license, the movie does a really good job of portraying the story. Kevin Spacey does not disappoint and the kid who plays the lead is very good at creating sympathy when needed. I happened to notice that Kate Bosworth who plays the female lead is somewhat easy to look at for a couple of hours. The plot moves, makes sense and there is no sudden non sequitor taking you into fantasy and ruining the movie.

The only thing that almost ruined the movie were the two jerks sitting a few rows back. With only ten people in the theater everything is magnafied, especially when those burping long and loud, talking in normal conversational voices as if they were watching in the privacy of their living room and otherwise behaving boorishly are directly behind you. Thankfully the theater was empty so we were able to move to seats well behind the jerks and enjoy the film.

One more observation pointed out by my hot date; it is easy to see the connection between the butt that is thrice as wide as mine and the extra large popcorn that you pour the fake melted butter over, then dump out the top half into a carry-carton so you can pour even more fake melted butter into the bottom half, shaking to ensure even coating of the latex like additive then pouring the original back on top. Of course the 64 ounce soda was diet.

Rating for "21" : Wide Awake Go see it.

To refresh the rating system
Wide Awake: Excellent, go see
Comfy on the couch: Good movie, worth the theater money or top of the Netflix list for home viewing
Z: Dozed off for a few minutes
ZZ: Slept through "critical" plot development/resolution
ZZZ: A $10 nap

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mappin' "Anchor's Aweigh!"

photo courtesy of

The beauties of Netflix are many, among them is the opportunity to expose the kids to some classic movies (one of Leslie's plusses is the ability to watch Gene Kelly again, and again, and again, and...) Recently we viewed Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in "Anchors Aweigh" and it remains a wonderful movie. It was an easy one to put in the DVD since both girls, especially Jenna, love "Singin' In The Rain" and this one does not disappoint. Seeing a very young Frank Sinatra crooning and playing the dumb rube from Brooklyn, Gene Kelly performing amazing dance after amazing dance and a great love story plot made for a great MAPN (pronounced "Mappin' " for MovieAndPizzaNight).

Every Friday when we are home we have MAPN and rotate who gets to pick the movie. We started this a couple of years ago and it has become a great routine/tradition for us on Friday nights. We all start to think ahead when it is our week to pick a movie we enjoy. Netflix has really opened up to variety we watch, for some reason it is so much easier to browse and pick on-line than it was to cruise the aisles of Blockbuster. We have seen a lot of the old Disney movies from the Sixties (Appledumpling Gang, the original Flubber, Ugly Daschund...), plus the musicals and movies from the '40s and '50s.

As an added variable we also rotate which local pizzaria to enjoy the different offerings and pies (Dad has a rule: no Dominos! tastes like cardboard!). So while keeping a routine we add some variables to keep it from being a rut.

I envision the time far in the future when the kids are back from college, or visiting over a holiday and we all gather for Mappin', we will have to, it's Friday night!

"Anchors Aweigh" gets a solid: Comfy on the couch

(See below for rating system).

Start your own Mappin' with your family!

If you are like Leslie and a big Gene Kelly fan here is a site of pictures

Friday, May 2, 2008

True Musings For Friday Afternoon

If the kid is a jerk I bet one or both of the parents are as well. While there is a certain amount of behavior that is genetic disposition, there is a lot that is learned; including but not limited to being rude, obnoxious, self-centered and mean.

Why would anyone raise their children in a church, or school, or community organization, in which they are told they have no hope of success, that they will be the subject of systematic and organized oppression from all directions and to mistrust everyone but "us?" Then while doing this falsely preach "hope" for everyone but your kids--and their ethnic group. Anyone caught preaching and/or teaching my kids they have no hope, are doomed to oppression or otherwise give them the foundation of hopelessness instead of the foundation of striving to be the best and a success will not be seeing much of my kids.

Starbucks Grandes have an average price of $3.00 per cup ($48 total divided by 16 offerings). A Grande drink is 16 ounces. There are 64 ounces in a gallon; there are four Grandes in a gallon. Starbucks costs on average $12.00 per gallon. Think of this when someone you know hits Starbucks, or other high end coffee place, religiously...then bitches about the price of gas at the pump.

Milk is also more expensive than gasoline but is falsely so since it is supported by U.S. government subsidies and guaranteed prices.

How do you get a volunteer to quit? "Please go spend your free time somewhere else?" "We want to put you on payroll so we can fire you?"

I was reminded a while ago of a study a guy I knew did on high achievers. He found there are very few people he would designate as "Happy High Achievers". Most high achievers are very driven, their drive prevents their complete happiness as they are always searching for the next success, the next challenge to conquer that they feel will make them happy. I would rather be happy than be a high achiever; I think I am a happy achiever, let's leave out the "high" modifier.

We have an employee who is really good at her job, call her Judy. Her co-worker in the same position is a perfectionist and really gets bogged on small details that usually are not as relevant as she feels they are, call her June. I told June that Judy is excellent at being really good; I need June to quit trying to be really good at being excellent and be like Judy--be excellent at being really good and every one will benefit.

Often when I am by myself cooking I pretend Alton Brown or Tom Colicchio is either watching or will be eating what I am preparing.

Achieve happiness, be an achieving high happier!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's A Date!

Photo courtesy of
Since Leslie and I have been in the habit of having a sitter the past thirteen Tuesdays for a class we decided to continue the sitter and schedule and actual date night on Tuesdays. In the past we tried to have a couple of Friday or Saturdays a month but often found social and community obligations ate up those nights and then when we did not have those we just wanted to spend time with the kids and relax. No one schedules fundraisers on Tuesdays--and restaurants and movie theaters are empty!
Last night we decided to see a real adult themed movie for the first time since...I think that really bad gambling movie with Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey (sp?), "Two For The Money" I think. So it has been a while. We agreed on "Leatherheads" (IMDB link here), it has sports, football and is historic themed for me and George Clooney for Leslie. For some reason we now get "Entertainment Weekly" at home and they gave it a "C+" so I figured it must be good.

And it was, good that is. The only issue I had with the movie was there were some historical inaccuracies (literary license) but easy to get past those to enjoy a fun plot, good acting, great music from the 1920's and good dialogue. I enjoyed it, chuckled a few times, a laugh or two, overall enjoyable. While a romantic comedy it did not follow the bait and hook to lure guys into a chick flick the way "Forget Paris" with Billy Crystal did (the guys know this one, Billy Crystal is NBA referee and all the promos had funny lines with him and NBA stars--if you saw the trailer you saw all the funny parts and sports aspects of the movie)--that was a total chick flick and I'm still bitter about being suckered in ten plus years later.

"Leatherheads" is a good date movie, nothing overly serious, something for him, something for her, no sex scenes, no violence--except 1920s football, no bogus special effects, no vulgar language--a "sh*t" once or twice is as far as it goes. The comedy is clean and well written, the romance is somewhat subtle and relevant.

I rate this: Comfy on the couch

Rating system: I came up with this for the kids' movies we see where I inevitably take a nap during the show:

Wide Awake: Excellent, go see
Comfy on the couch: Good movie, worth the theater money or top of the Netflix list for home viewing
Z: Dozed off for a few minutes
ZZ: Slept through "critical" plot development/resolution
ZZZ: A $10 nap

Oh, dinner. On a budget we hit the Greek food place in the food court with a coupon--gyro plate and a beer, delicious!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Very Random

** Okay I will admit to voting more than once on the silly poll at the left--I like pie and cookies!

** My sister has a new view from her office, she over looks San Francisco Bay at Alcatraz and Coit Tower.She sent me this pic this morning, I think those are ferry boat that ply the bay between San Fran and Marin County.
This is Coit Tower in the background.

Pretty view.

**My view is of a parking lot, not a bad parking lot view as parking lot views go. I have a standing desk so I am looking down on the parking lot all day watching the comings and goings.

Next to us is a decent size building which houses the Huntington Beach High School District Administration. They seem to employ quite a few people who smoke. Something that has intrigued me are the smokers who do power walking around our parking lot while smoking a cigarette.

I guess that is like ordering a salad for lunch or dinner and then getting a big slice of pie for dessert; balance out the universe.

** Watching this primary season I think the Democrats need to change the name of their party as their selection process for the Democratic nominee is not very democratic. They have disenfranchised all the voters in Michigan and Florida. And their party is set up with "superdelegates" who are beholden to no process or standards for whom to cast their very precious votes at the convention--thereby usurping the selection process from their party members and voters. Maybe they should change the name to the "Authoritarian" Party, or the "Oligarchic" Party. Points to the person who can best rename the party to match their selection procedures.

** Back to parking lots, people driving through parking lots drive like they are on a street, people walking through parking lots walk like they are on a sidewalk. I am surprised more walkers are not run over by drivers.

** Too many people in Southern California complain about the weather. Seriously. In the summer it is too hot, when we finally get rain for the first time since May, April, March in October or November they wish it was sunny. When it rains for the third day in a row they are "so sick of all this rain." It rained last night--after dinner time mind you--and someone this morning was complaining because...I don't know why she was complaining but, "it's April already I am done with the cold (sixty five degrees) and wet."

** My position on taxes is this: I would rather pay taxes in America than any other country on Earth...just not too much.

** I will be 46 in three months, for the first time today someone other than my wife told me
my hair was getting gray...she also told me, "at least you don't have a bald spot." Inside half a decade for me AARP card.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Visiting Jack


I wrote this story November 4, 1995; kind of rough but I still enjoy the sentiments. I hope you enjoy it. DCS

It had been almost one year to the day since I had last seen Jack. This time I had taken my bride of two months to Tulsa to visit with him, and his wife, in their large home in Tulsa. The weather was exciting, we flew through enormous clouds peppering a deep Midwest autumn blue sky. As soon as we climbed into the rental car I turned on the radio and learned the area was under Tornado Watch. Leslie felt this was an exciting alert, never having had to spend the night sleeping on the couch with her brothers and sisters as mom listened to the radio to see if she needed to bundle us into the bathtub for safety.
On our short drive to Jack's home I felt the nostalgia build as I drove across the town of my birth. Leslie was unusually silent, perhaps sensing my reflection, perhaps merely absorbing the sights along our route. The trees were wearing their autumn colors, branches swirling as the winds became stronger. As we entered Jack's neighborhood, I was pulled between speeding up so that I could see him sooner or slowing down so Leslie and I could enjoy the large homes with their immense yards, so rare in our part of the country, yet so prevalent in Tulsa. I opted for the latter, to please myself and to give my wife a sense of what my birth town was about.
We pulled into the circular drive and knocked on the large door. So many times I had entered this house, with its 1950s design and layout. The by now faded coral, avocado, and gold colors telling of a past time when the home was new and stylish. Jack opened the door, stooped with his age, clutching his keys in his bathrobe pocket, shuffling in his tattered slippers. He smiled that large smile; as I got older and surpassed Jack in size he seemed to physically shrink but his smile seemed to get bigger.
As I hugged him and introduced him to my wife I appraised his deteriorating physical condition. He was thinner, his once thick white hair had thinned considerably as well. He moved very slowly and apparently with caution, stooped and teetering. His face was etched even further marking the map of his life. Physically the man had never been, in my mind, in the best of condition and now he was frail.
What really interested me however, was the state of the man's mind. Jack had always been able to regale us with endless stories of his youth, as well as ours. Life had not always been kind to Jack, but all my life he had always been able to entertain me with stories that inevitably ended with us both laughing. Jack saw humor in many things, and told about them often. This was what I was hoping he would be able to do with Leslie, tell her many of the stories I grew up with.
Jack did not disappoint, he told the stories. A sign of his age entered as he repeated a few, as he misplaced me and my uncle in a few, but for two hours he sat, smoked and spoke. About his family and growing up in Tulsa and Oklahoma at the beginning of the century, about his son and grandchildren, everything I had hoped he would tell her. Leslie listened, questioned and laughed. I was happy, my wife had been able to sit and visit with Jack.
Over the next few days we had several visits with Jack. Fighting the thunderstorms as we made our way the few treacherous miles from where we were staying to his home. Each visit filled with Jack telling stories and Leslie and I listening as we watched the rain pelt the windows and lightening crease the sky. I left Tulsa feeling content that my grandfather had met my wife and that, although aging rapidly, he was still capable of story telling and giving her the history of her husband's family. I had been able to share part of my life, my birthplace, with Leslie and my own stories of living there as a small boy. The feeling stayed with me for a long time, I had visited with Jack.

I was tremendously excited, having trouble concentrating and completing routine tasks. Finally my brother called, waking me in the middle of the night, he told me Jack was with him. I cried and could not go back to sleep. Later that day, as morning broke I kept thinking how much I wanted to see Jack and my brother. Unfortunately my schedule dictated my presence at home to attend to business, causing my mind to wander as to Jack's appearance and well being. I awoke early the next day and quickly showered and dressed. Leaving Leslie I began my drive to Ventura. Similar to my visit to Tulsa last year, it was raining and the traffic was slow. Jack was pulling me through the traffic, across the miles and over the hills. The usual drive was doubled by traffic and after several hours I arrived.
As I walked in the room my brother beamed at me and we did something we never do, we hugged. Not the pat on the back men at times concede to, a real hug. Mike, stepped back and said, "Jack, Dennis is here."
I looked down at him with his body wrapped in hospital garb, eyes shut as he slept, head barely covered with thin hair, and tears welled up in my eyes. This was Jack! How long I had waited for this moment, and here he was. I sat and visited with him for a few hours, most of which he slept through as my brother and I talked and caught up. He appeared healthy for his age, and Mike was excited about his condition saying he would be leaving the hospital later that day. As I left to drive home to tell Leslie about my visit I was elated, the emotion would carry me through the remainder of that day and several to follow. I had visited with Jack.

My dad had called in the spring and told me that Jack had died. It was not a surprise, but a bit of news I did not want to hear. It had touched us before, death. But that was so long ago, another life. I learned about it too abruptly and with too much repetition. High school ended with the death of my mother, freshman year of college with the death of her mother and fall of sophomore year was greeted by the news that mom's brother had died. These were not expected, at least not by a teen ager trying to figure out too many things about life to spend any time thinking about death. Jack's death was not a surprise, but still a shock, and we were able to better understand the tragedy. I was happy that Leslie had visited with him and relieved that his pain and suffering had ended. Our family had become a little less uncomfortable with death, we had experienced this before.

My brother's call that had awoken me to inform me of Jack's arrival had occurred almost one year since I had last seen my grandfather, and about seven months since his death. Jack was the first of the next generation, quite a burden for a little eight pound boy. In a few years he will start hearing the stories of his namesake and from his grandfather, father and uncle. Perhaps one day he will bring his wife to visit my father so he can introduce her and have him tell the stories he had heard growing up.
My excitement and emotion from my brother's call was due to the lack of experience my family has in birth. To this point I was more experienced at losing members of the family instead of gaining them. My older brother, Mike, taught me how to add instead of subtract. What a relief to be crying tears of joy rather than sorrow.
I visited Jack, my grandfather, to introduce my wife and give her a sense of my background. I visited Jack, my nephew, to introduce myself. Life's visits and introductions, from the time of our birth until our death, have purpose.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Game Called

The other evening in our class at church Reverend Peggy distributed a poem about the afterlife, death, all the stuff we all love to dwell on. It made me think of a poem I have always liked very much by Grantland Rice America's first prominent sportswriter (they used to be prominent, today he would be a "celebrity" on various television shows). I love the poem for several reasons. First, it has as its metaphor baseball, a game I love. Growing up I would often sit in the kitchen talking to my mom while she made dinner, it was not unusual for her to have a game on the radio or television as she was a fan of the game. So the tie with my mom and baseball and this poem creates an affinity for me. Second, the imagery is terrific and whenever I see the final scene from "Field of Dreams" when they walk into the cornfield I think of this poem. As I told Reverend Peggy when I sent this to her when the time comes for my memorial/funeral service I would like this to be read--and hope that when the last line is read those listening think, "he played it well, with honesty, character and integrity."

There are two versions of this poem, one from the mid-1920s that Rice published and this one from Babe Ruth's eulogy that was published in 1956 in The Fireside Book of Baseball:

Game Called by Grantland Rice

Game Called. Across the field of play
the dusk has come, the hour is late.
The fight is done and lost or won,
the player files out through the gate.
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
the stands are bare, the park is still.
But through the night there shines the light,
home beyond the silent ill.

Game Called. Where in the golden light
the bugle rolled the reveille.
The shadows creep where night falls deep,
and taps has called the end of play.
The game is done, the score is in,
the final cheer and jeer have passed.
But in the night, beyond the fight,
the player finds his rest at last.

Game Called. Upon the field of life
the darkness gathers far and wide,
the dream is done, the score is spun
that stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor yet defeat
is chalked against the players name.
But down the roll, the final scroll,
shows only how he played the game.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Here We Go

I am not sure what I will be doing with this site. Since I enjoy writing and contribute posts to my professional mortgage site as well as to the Long Beach Post I thought it would be good to have another avenue to express some of my more random and not pertinent thoughts. So last night while sitting in a class for our church (Science of Mind/Religious Scienctist) I scribbled, "start blog for creative writing outlet." My wife has done the same and I like the idea of an on-line journal that random people may drop into and take a peek--sort of like my older brother and I did to our older sister's diary when we would pick the lock and ready how she kissed Dave Mackey the kid next door--E E W W.

So we will see how it goes. My objective is to post some stories I wrote a decade or more ago to see if they seem as good now as I thought they did when I wrote them (before I fell madly in love and got married and my perspective on life changed dramatically). As well just some random thoughts and observations. Put up some different poll questions to see if any surfers drop in on this wave. And just get it out of me.

If you are reading this and it is waaaayyyyyy into the archives that is a great sign.

March Madness starts tomorrow and I run our pool that is 25 years old this year so I have to go make my picks (Kansas over UCLA in the final).

Thanks for dropping in.