Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I'm guessing that if you have read a smattering of my writing you would have realized by now that my brain just doesn't work the same way other people's do. For the record, according to Jeffipedia: a smattering is approximately equal to two and a half paragraphs...but they have to be non consecutive paragraphs...and one of them should have been written on a Monday.  Anyway, one of my teachers in elementary school actually said pretty much those exact brain describing words to my parents during a parent teacher conference.  They were so proud.

It is with that abnormal brain, and the totally random and unrelated subjects that go whizzing through, that I will attempt to entertain you today.  I'm not sure I've ever gone through the process on paper with you but I'll see if I can attempt to give you a clearer picture of where my blog ideas come from.  Two weeks ago I was talking to family in Germany about the weather and how the end of our trip was really beautiful weather.  It reminded me of a movie where the weather channel said, "72 degrees and perfect...every day."  Then, a week later in America again, a few of us were talking in the gym after church while the kids were trying to shoot baskets (not doing a stellar job by the way) and I asked, "Did you ever see Pleasantville?  The basketball team is undefeated and every time they throw the ball from wherever they are in the court...it goes in!"  Of course I was the only one to have seen or remember that movie.  (Stay with me...I'm getting there.)  A week after that Sylvia and I were home without kids and decided to look through the movie selection on TV.  Pleasantville!  I decided that this was a must see!  It is a movie about a TV show portraying idealized America from the fifties and how everything is pleasant...go figure.  This movie, like the other I talked about just a short week ago, also had perfect weather all the time.  Then we come to this morning.  (almost done)  As I turned on Facebook to see if there was anything worthwhile seeing, I saw a black-and-white picture of Tony Dow.  Now everyone knows (probably not) that he was Wally on Leave it to Beaver...Sproing!!  All of these past instances came together...perfect weather, Americana, black and white, the fifties, TV show...It reminds me of a story, and now I know what I am supposed to write about today.

Twenty five years ago I worked in San Leandro selling electrical parts.  If you are now thinking, "I've been on roller coasters that had fewer twists and turns" welcome to my world.  In San Leandro I was in charge of the counter.  This meant that I talked to almost everyone and I was supposed to answer questions for the other counter people when there was a question they couldn't answer.  The typical questions were "Do you have this?"  Others included, "How am I supposed to_________?", and "Is it legal to _____________?"  Every once in a while there was a question that I couldn't answer and I had to go to the big boss but for the most part I did OK.  I enjoyed the people who came in with a puzzle to solve the most, and always felt good when they walked out with parts that would do the job.  Sometimes the three parts that they thought they needed could be done with one, sometimes the one part nobody else had was at my fingertips, and sometimes the part we didn't have could be re-created out of three other parts since they needed to get their factory going NOW!!  It was challenging, it was interesting, it got me interested in doing something besides sales.

Before I left working in sales, though, there was a group of customers that stick out in my mind.  They were different in that they weren't grizzled old electricians who knew exactly what they wanted and could recite part numbers through the haze of smoke from the lit cigarette clenched in their teeth.  They weren't helpless homeowners with shards of household items that needed replacing and were hopeful that the numbers on the pieces would help me identify them.  They weren't even work crews who came to our counter because we had popcorn and sodas (and if they were really good customers...beer).  No, this group of characters looked like they were coming straight from a college classroom.  Dressed too nice to be working on fixing things and not nice enough to be going to a wedding.  It seemed at first like they might be on a scavenger hunt for the frat house and were just asking about random things.

I gave them prices, told them what was legal, available, and expensive.  Eventually I was able to decipher what it was they were trying to do.  I forget exactly what they were trying to create but instead of telling me their idea, they were asking about the way they thought they had to do it.  I knew a better way.  "It sounds like you guys are trying to do this....but you don't need to do it that way.  If you take this, and that, and those...you'll have exactly what you need contained in one device that is cheaper, smaller, and looks way better than the Frankenelectrician's Monster you were trying to build.  Will that work?"  They high fived each other and told me to grab everything.  When I was writing their sales ticket I said my usual, "Is there anything else you need to know?"  The quietest one in the group finally piped up randomly and sarcastically asked, "YEAH!  Who played Lumpy on Leave it to Beaver!?"

Without batting an eye, I kept writing my ticket and said, "Frank Bank."

They paid in stunned silence and as they walked out with the stuff he said, "That guy's brain doesn't work like everyone else's."

So now you know.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Today I am going to veer away from the subject of world travel, and back toward what I usually write about, totally random unconnected subjects that I may or may not have personal experience in, or knowledge about. I know that you have come to expect a certain amount of professionalism in your reading material, not necessarily from me but from others, and I do not wish to disappoint anyone, so here we go.  Today I am going to write about something that happened a long time ago...to me.  I don't have any idea what made me remember this particular event, but here it is at the front of my very unusual brain.

I will try to enrich this posting with a spattering of very rich details.  In reading this I may need you to engage your four senses a bit.  Yes I know there are five senses...I am just thinking of you.  Please leave your sense of smell parked securely in the garage of your mind.  You may want to lock the door as well...and park a van in front of that door so it cannot raise...and then you might even want to go around the side to the little window on the side door and cover it with foil...just for the time being, later feel free to stop and smell the roses.  What I am trying to say is that there are no roses in today's blog.

Many years ago we went to the local animal park for the day.  It was back in the days when places like animal parks were gone to once in a while, had no roller coasters, and you weren't pressured into paying one and a half times the normal price of admission to get a season pass.  When we went it was an event.  If I remember correctly, we normally brought some sandwiches along but I think it had to stay in the back of the station wagon so we would get our hands stamped to be able to go back in after lunch.  (Are you all paying attention?  Sandwiches: taste.  Hand stamp: touch.  I will help you out but you'll have to do some of the work here.)

It was the hottest day of the year (probably not, but I always came home from these excursions with horrible sunburns so I am projecting) and we walked and walked and walked.  We saw the seal lion show, they played music by squeezing bike horns.  We saw walruses waddle around the stage and grunt and growl on cue.  I'm pretty sure it burped for some reason.  We saw dolphins wave at the audience, swim very fast, and jump up in the air to come down and splash everyone who was silly enough to sit close to the edge of the tank. We even saw acrobatic waterskiers who jumped, spun, and made huge pyramids all while being pulled behind a trio of speed boats.  All the while we had fun, we clapped and cheered, and the tops of my ears felt like tiny pieces of curved bacon in the hot sun.  If you didn't notice, all of these things have to do with water.  If you did notice, please put a gold star in the upper right hand side of your computer monitor.  Yes, we were at Marine World for the day.  The big attraction of the day was the killer whale show.  It was a toss up between sitting in the sun listening to my ears sizzle and sitting down in the Splash Zone to get a few minutes of relief when that huge whale belly flopped into the pool and splashed everyone within fifty feet.

When that was all done Dad looked at the guide to see what other things we might want to see.  Like I said, this was a once in a blue moon occurrence.  There was no mention of "next time we will..." because there probably wouldn't be a next time.  We needed to see everything marine related today! As I look back I think it was excitement with a touch of ignorance that suspended my questioning of the next place we went. Deep down I hope that I at least wondered "But what does this have to do with water?" when Dad announced, "There's an elephant show.  Let's go see that."

This is where I need you to really pay attention.  While the marine animal shows had very large arenas with different colored bleachers labeled "Splash Zone" the elephant show had four rows of curved cement benches that almost made three fourths of a circle.  The last section was where the elephants walked in from.  The front row benches were on the same level as the performing area with a cement rim around the edge that was maybe a foot tall and six inches wide and it was close enough to the first row that most people used it as a footrest.  The only thing keeping people from running out onto the "stage" with the elephants was common sense.  The only thing keeping the elephants in was conditioning and the trainer with what looked like a riding crop.  My family, born with an abundance of common sense, did not run out to play with the elephants...we also did not sit in the front row.

When the show started they brought out one elephant to show the small crowd, "This is an elephant."  They had it walk in a circle, turn around, back up, and put its front legs on a giant stool.  Then they brought out another elephant and had it do tricks with the first one.  They both walked, turned around, and stood on stools but this time they picked up a huge log in their trunks.  Impressive!  The only thing I can do with my nose is frighten children when I sneeze.  They did what was expected of them. These elephants weren't shy.  I know that they weren't shy because they 'ahem' did their business 'ahem' right in front of everybody on stage.  These two workers, who quite possibly had the worst job in the whole place, came out with shovels, sawdust, and brooms, and took care of the elephants' business.  (aren't you glad I had you leave your sense of smell locked away?)

We sat the whole time on the third row seats, roughly a foot higher than stage level, eating our stale sticky bricks of pink candy corn.  Then they brought out two more elephants.  Now we have a show!  They had the elephants stand in a row together "Uchoo".  Lift onto their back legs together "Mbat!".  They even bowed together "Undutu".  I am fairly certain that I couldn't even get one elephant to do any of this by simply calling out African sounding words...to get four to do it was impressive.  Then they had the elephants walk together around the circle.  Hmmm...not so impressive.  Then they had the elephants speed up a bit.  OK, now that looks better.  They were actually going pretty fast, and they were really near the people in the front row.  Then the trainer announced that this would be the grand finale.  He would make the elephants spin around while they kept running around the inside of the arena.  He yelled out "UNGAWA" and I'll be darned if those elephants didn't start spinning as they were circling the arena.  What we in the audience didn't know was that these not-shy elephants were not only able to take care of business in front of crowds of people...they were also able to do it while running and spinning in a circle.  One of the elephants decided to display his distaste with the whole idea of show business by doing his business.  Right in front of the crowd that was about two feet away he let loose.  The momentum of his running and spinning flung poop out into the crowd.  It was like watching a demented pachyderm teacup ride at Disneyland.  People screamed and jumped out of the way and the elephant just kept on spinning and pooping.  I'm glad to say that three rows away was the "No Splash Zone" and my family was safe...but those poor kids with the shovels and brooms really earned their money that day.

So there you have it.  My typical type of post.  If you started reading because of the European vacation, be warned, this is pretty much normal for me.  The only difference would be that I would typically try to end with a joke.  I do know one joke about an elephant with diarrhea but you've probably already heard it...it's all over town.